By Ashley Scarbrough
Digital Content Editor
He travels the world sharing the Gospel. He has written two award-winning books. But the e3 Partners staff knows Doug for something much greater than his accomplishments. His incredible love and devotion to his family inspires and challenges many. Two years ago, he watched his wife, Catherine, birth their stillborn daughter, Hope. During this devastating time, he took the skill of writing award-winning books to write for an audience of one, his two-year-old daughter Bethany. Recently, Doug Bender took the time to sit down and share his heart for others.
You are known for writing the two I am Second books. What was happening in your life at this time?
After I wrote the I am Second curriculum, they decided they wanted to release an I am Second book. This led to the release of I am Second: Real Stories. Changing Lives. And Live Second: 365 Days with Jesus. In November, almost two years ago, I worked on the final edits of the Live Second book. I also headed up the launch and marketing teams while finishing the final edits of the book. At this time, we found out about the miscarriage. This happened three weeks before the book launch.
How did you and Catherine respond to the miscarriage?
Miscarriage is tough. In a lot of ways, you never get over it. After this busy season of life, I stepped back from work for several weeks to deal with this and be at home. Bethany was only two years old at the time. She noticed mom was pregnant and she expected a sibling. Seeing us sad confused her. During this time, we realized we needed to help Bethany process this whole thing, so we wrote her a book.
You just finished writing the Live Second book offered to viewers all over the world. Now you mentioned that you wrote this small book for your two-year-old daughter. What was this like?
Catherine and I put together a book as a sort of family therapy. The book walks through the story of the miscarriage, the birth itself and it opened up the conversation about being sad. It shares how we found out and has a small drawing of a sonogram, since Bethany was with us when we found out the baby was a girl. There is a line in the book, “It’s okay to be sad.” She still has the book and continues to read through it. She will quote this line often, whenever she is sad or she wants to comfort Catherine and me.
Do you and your family do anything to remember this little girl?
We had to sign a death certificate since she was a stillborn, so we felt like we needed to do something. We named her baby Hope and every November we each buy a balloon to release into the sky and say something to her.
How does this love you have for your family reflect your love for others and the work you do? What do you do currently?
I do what I do because of my love for God. He is in charge. I remember when I went to Panama and met a Bible translator. He used to be an accountant and, at forty years old, decided to move out here to give these people a Bible. All of these Christians I worked with became believers because of him. He just lived in the jungle. He never wrote a book and no one knew who he was. But this people group now knew Jesus because of him. This love inspired me, and my heart towards missions forever changed. Now this past year, I officially came on full-time with the Russia Team. We are opening a new region for e3 Partners into Siberia and the Far East, which is the Asia side of Russia. Vissili, from Russia and a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary, leads the National Russia team. He went out to find friends who might be good partners. This May, we will take our first trip out of four lined up this year. All of these trips will go out to the region of Krasnoyarsk.
So how did you originally get involved in mission work?
The last thing I ever wanted to do was mission work and the last place I ever wanted to go was to the cold. Now, I plant churches in Siberia. At Liberty University, I took a super boring missions class where the professor obviously recruited students as missionaries. But I planned to be a youth pastor. By the end of the semester, I felt I needed to at least be willing to do missions. I really wasn’t willing. So I ignored that and felt this weirdness, like God just stopped talking to me. I didn’t want to go to church, read my Bible, or pray. It was like God shut me off. After a couple of months, I told God I didn’t want to go and I had no intention of going, but if he wanted me to he had to make it clear.
What happened after this frank conversation with God?
Up to that point I felt like God let me do whatever made me happy in life. That was the first time I felt God wanting me to be willing to do things I wouldn’t want to do. It was a tough concept. When I said I would trust God, I realized he was in charge and I wasn’t. Six months later, I went on a trip that I didn’t want to go on to build a church in Panama. One day, in the pouring rain, I stood on the ladder over twenty feet up in the air to lay bricks. I kept thinking how miserable this was. Yet, at the same time I couldn’t get over how amazing it was. If this was what I was afraid of doing, I loved it.
After this honest talk with God, Doug went out on a limb as he signed up for a trip to Panama. Today, Doug works on the e3 Russia team, taking the Good News of Christ to the unreached. To hear more of Doug’s life story, check out his I am Second film below.