This cover unites two remarkable women of missionary zeal and vision, but of vastly different talents and personalities. The cover is addressed to Miss Dunkelberger, The D.M. Stearns Missionary Fund, 21 W. School Lane, Germantown, Philadelphia, Pa. U.S.A. and it was sent from the Sydney suburb of PETERSHAM/ 10.30 PM 17 AP 2( )/ N.S.W which cancels a single and a pair of the red 1½d KGV head stamps. The reverse was not seen (Figure 1).
The story of the association of the two women starts with the beginning of the Ministry of D & D Missionary Homes and its founding visionary, Alma Doering, a feisty, head-strong young missionary whose sole purpose in life was to serve God. The Chicago born Doering (1878) became a pioneering missionary to the Indian reservations of the Lake Superior region in 1898. Her first trip to Africa was in 1900, but before arriving in Africa she stopped in Europe for 6 months for nursing training, learning about tropical diseases. After arriving in the Belgian Congo she eventually was granted permission to travel into the inner Congo regions, working with the fierce Badinga tribesmen. From 1904-1907 she was on furlough in the USA regaining her strength. In 1907 she made her second missionary journey to Africa and settled in British East Africa for 3 years, but her main focus over nearly 25 years was missionary work in the Congo. This was interspersed with travel to every province in Canada, 47 States in USA and 13 European countries raising funds and enlisting the support of new missionaries.
In 1929 at a New Jersey Bible Conference she met a young lady named Stella Dunkelberger, who had been listening to Miss Doering speak about the need for missionaries to have a home as a refuge when they were on furlough from their missionary work. Stella’s excitement began to mount and she shared Alma’s vision for providing homes to missionaries on furlough. Stella had been working as secretary and bookkeeper for the D.M. Starns Missionary Fund in Germantown, Pennsylvania, and when Dr. Stearns died in 1926, she had carried on his work under a Board of Directors; in this work, two duplexes had been acquired in the town, for a dual purpose: office space and an office for Stella, and for use as a haven for missionaries travelling to and from a foreign mission field. That night Stella hastened to speak to Alma, the two became immediate and committed friends, Alma moved in to one of the Stearns homes, and D & D Missionary Homes was born by the use of both woman’s surname’s initials.
Although Miss Dunkelberger and Miss Doering shared the same vision for helping missionaries, they had vastly different talents and personalities. Miss Doering was fearless and outgoing – willing to challenge other Christians to do their duty for missions. Miss Dunkelbeger was too shy to speak in public, but she knew how to handle both money and business matters with great skill. As secretary and bookkeeper for the D.M. Stearns Missionary Fund, which was committed to getting 100% of designated funds to the missionaries, Miss Dunkelberger had learned how to use the difficult procedures for sending funds overseas and having them delivered to the missionaries. These two single ladies – each blessed with different interests, talents, and abilities, working together with a shared vision of providing temporary homes for foreign missionaries, became a dynamic force for missions.
There was a short paragraph in The Evening Independent April 24, 1937 which provides the middle initial for both, of particular importance in that it further identifies Stella Dunkelberger. It is headed: Mission Worker Speaks Sunday: “Miss Alma E. Doering, pioneer missionary among cannibal tribes in the Belgiian Congo, and field secretary of the Unevangelized Tribes Mission of Africa will tell of her thrilling experiences at the vesper service Sunday afternoon at the Westminster Presbyterian church. Miss Stella C. Dunkelberger, who is editor of two missionary magazines and who maintains and sustains 200 missionaries in the foreign lands will also be present at this meeting. The young people of the church will have charge of the worship program.” (Figure 2).
Miss Doering’s final trip to the Congo was in 1938. She and Miss Dunkelberger sailed together and spent a year doing mission work. After returning home, Miss Doering, because of health issues, was no longer able to serve as Director for the Unevangelized Tribes Mission, but her ministry was not yet complete.
Miss Doering and Miss Dunkelberger continued to live in Germantown, PA and traveled frequently to St. Petersburg to see the new ministry and help where they could. Miss Doering was the primary fundraiser; calling on friends and acquaintances she had met during her years of mission work to help her finance the construction of homes on the D&D property. By 1954, there were 11 small cottages, a chapel and a utility building on the original piece of property.
In 1953, Miss Dunkelberger passed away, and Miss Doering was left to continue on alone with the work of D&D. In 1954, Miss Doering moved from Germantown, Pennsylvania, to the D&D property in St. Petersburg. As funds became available more property was added and buildings built.
On April 18, 1959, at her 81st birthday celebration, D&D, which was then 10 years old, took possession of the 20th home. During that celebration, Miss Doering mentioned that she had lived a full life and had only one regret. She said that when D&D started, she had asked God for 10 homes and He had given 20 – her regret was that she should have asked for 20 homes and He might have given 40.
For several days before her death, Miss Doering was longing for heaven as she talked about her life, saying that her work was done. On Sunday afternoon, July 12, 1959, Miss Doering slipped into eternity while sitting in her favorite rocking chair, in her small cottage on the D&D property; the picture of a life well-lived, with a strong finish.
Stella C. Dunkelberger has authored 2 books:
Crossing Africa in a Missionary Way (1935) and Crossing Africa Being the Experiences of a Home Secretary in Primitive Parts of the Black Continent (1935).