Wesley Luelf Duewel was born in St. Charles, Missouri (a suburb of St Louis), on Saturday, June 3, 1916, to God-honoring parents. His father was an evangelical pastor, Bible college president, and radio preacher. His mother was a godly woman with a deep and meaningful prayer life.
Wesley made his first profession of faith as a five-year-old, and soon thereafter was called by God, in the midst of his sandbox, to serve as a missionary to India. Throughout his life, he made many more life-changing decisions based on his increasing spiritual maturity that became evident in his heart, through his youth experiences; young adult education; professional preparation, up to and including, his election as the fifth president of OMS; and into his writing ministry following his presidency.
Wesley relied primarily on prayer and a sanctified sense of God’s guidance as he met and married his first wife, Betty Raisch, in 1939. He discovered she had claimed the life verse that he had: “Enlarge the place of your tent; stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes. For you will spread out to the right and to the left” Isaiah 54:2-3a. This promise served as a predictor of his eventual worldwide ministry.
his time at God’s Bible School, Wesley prayed earnestly for “an effectual door”
to open for him to serve in India. By 1940, Wesley and Betty Duewel were among
the first group of seven OMS missionaries who sailed for
Wesley and Betty underscored their work with prayer, and within two years, he helped found the Allahabad Bible Seminary. It was into this prayer-filled home that their son, John Wesley, was born in 1944. A daughter, Christine, joined the family two years later, and Darlene was included 10 years following.
As Wesley taught for 22 years at the seminary and served as its principal for 15, he and Betty carried a special burden for a praying, spirit-filled church in India. After a quarter of a century, there was one church for every year they labored in love, with about 60 members each, and three small Bible schools in three states of India.
Returning for an OMS Board meeting in 1964, somewhere over the Pacific between Honolulu and Los Angeles, Wesley prayed again: “Oh Lord, give us 1,000 people who will commit themselves to pray for 15 minutes a day for at least one year, specifically praying for our OMS India work.” God honored that prayer with 1,500 people from 30 nations who prayed over the next 12 months. It was a spiritual jump-start that broke through strongholds and opened the way for the Gospel to advance like never before.
The growth and development of the Evangelical Church of India (ECI) was slow, starting with one church every year for the first 25 years, then increasing to one church every month over the next 25 years, then one church every week over the next 10 years, then three churches every week over the next 10 years. Today, the ECI consists of more than 5,276 churches and 8,018 house churches, with a membership of more than 750,000 and growing at the rate of approximately 4½ churches weekly. There are also 13 Bible schools and seminaries. The deeply embedded prayer habit sown by Wesley and Betty during ECIs foundational years made the difference.
Dr. Duewel concluded his 13-year organizational leadership tenure in 1982 with a mission-wide emphasis called “Decade of Harvest.” The next 10 years was one of the most fruitful eras of productivity One Mission Society had ever experienced. Following his presidency, Wesley was led to expand his writing ministry. His first major book, Touch the World through Prayer, has become a modern-day classic; circulation has reached nearly one million and Dr. Duewel’s ten subsequent publications have exceeded 2.5 million in circulation printed in 58 languages worldwide.
After Betty passed away in 2008, Wesley married his long-time secretary, Hilda Johnecheck, who faithfully worked at his side in the Duewel Literature Trust, a not-for-profit, self-funded ministry.
“You can stand beside the great evangelists of our day; accompany any missionary to the remote reaches of the earth; contribute to the ministry of any pastor or evangelist in the world; or mediate the healing of Jesus Christ to the sick, ill, or faint of heart anywhere on the globe. Prayer is not the only thing you must do. It is the greatest thing you can do.” Indeed, God enlarged and stretched, lengthened, and strengthened Wesley’s ministry beyond anything that he, his parents, his wives, or his colleagues could ever have imagined. He was a man of many peers, but few equals.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen (Ephesians 3:20–21).
Hilda, John, Christine, Darlene, as well as your children and grandchildren, be assured of our love and prayers for you during these days. The entire worldwide OMS family expresses our profound appreciation for Wesley’s tireless service for God and his kingdom. We pray that the Holy Spirit’s presence and comfort will uplift and strengthen you during these days of mourning your great loss. We know, however, that you do not grieve as those who have no hope. We rejoice with you, imagining how wonderful to Wesley’s ears were the words spoken to him by Jesus, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” And we rejoice with you in knowing that someday we will not only join Wesley in worshiping around the throne, but thousands and thousands of those whom he touched, through prayer, around the world.
For Esther and me personally, we had read some of Dr. Duewel’s writings and heard about him. But it wasn’t until we came to OMS in 2014 that we met him. We knew right away that we were in the presence of a great man of God, a spiritual giant! What a joy and honor it has been to pray and interact with him, to be inspired and challenged by him, and to see him finish well. The life he lived, and the way in which he lived it, will continue to be a poignant spiritual challenge to us and many others. We are so grateful for the life and ministry of Dr. Wesley Duewel.
We rejoice with you as his family and express deep gratitude to our Lord for a life extremely well lived for God’s honor and glory,
President, One Mission Society
To view a video tribute of Dr. Duewel, created by OMS in 2007 for the honor of being name the first Lifetime of Service award: