[Bible, Ministry & More] The lasting impact of a mentor: Judy Duvall

Madison is the Communications Production Assistant at the Arkansas Baptist State Convention. She has her BA in Christian Studies and a minor in English/Writing from Ouachita Baptist University, and she is currently a student at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary working to complete her MDiv with an emphasis in Women’s Ministry. Madison attends Immanuel Baptist Church in Little Rock, where her husband, Kord Offenbacker, works as the Pastoral Assistant. She loves God and loves ministering to young women. She is passionate about discipleship, encouragement, and training women to know God and His Word deeply.

When I first stepped onto the campus of Ouachita Baptist University as a student, I dreamed of all of the things God would do in my time there. The campus activities and opportunities seemed endless. Where would I even start?

I vividly remember my first semester Christian Studies classes. Growing up, I had attended public school and had never learned about the Bible so profoundly in a class before. This was new. This was exciting. I was eager. And I quickly learned that I didn’t know as much about the Bible as I thought I did.

My time at Ouachita was encouraging, and I look back feeling that the Christian Studies department helped lay a solid theological foundation for me. Yet, as I reflect on my time there, there is a person that had a significant influence on my life: Judy Duvall.

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Madison (left) and Judy (right) at Madison & Kord’s wedding in September

I remember hearing about Mrs. Judy in my Spiritual Formation class that her husband, Dr. J. Scott Duvall, taught. He spoke so highly of her, complimenting how she loves to serve people. Shortly after that, Anna Rosenthal, a Ouachita graduate and former Ouachita Campus Ministry staff, had invited me to join some ladies on a trip to pick out items for the Thanksgiving baskets that the Elrod Center provides each year to the community of Arkadelphia. Mrs. Judy was present on this trip, and I remember thinking, “Wow! She really does seem to be such a strong woman of God.”

The summer after my freshman year, I worked at Kanakuk Kamps, where they strongly encouraged us to pursue discipleship when we returned to our college campuses. I realized I had a great need for discipleship in my life. When I returned to Ouachita in the fall, I met with Mrs. Judy in her office and asked if she would mentor me. We didn’t know each other at all really, so it felt a little strange for me to ask her to mentor me when we didn’t know each other well. But, her reputation was one of godliness and wisdom, and I knew that I wanted to learn from her. I had prayerfully asked God to clarify who to seek as a mentor. After all, who we let speak into our lives spiritually is a big deal – these people will play a big part in how we form our understanding of God. 

I left her office that day, unsure if she would agree to meeting with me or not, but deeply hoping she would. She got back to me that week saying she had spent some time praying about my request, and that she would love to disciple me. I was excited and eager to learn from her. Little did I know what would come from my relationship with Mrs. Judy.

After two-and-a-half years under Mrs. Judy’s mentorship, she has become one of my closest friends and a person that I trust with confidence. She has taught me more about God, His Word and how to obediently trust and follow Him. She has modeled for me how to live as a godly woman. She is someone that I look up to as a follower of Christ, a wife, a mother and a friend. She is wise, authentic, kind, hospitable and thoughtful. Many of the ways I try to minister to young women are modeled after how she ministered so considerately to me. Although we are no longer living in the same city, we certainly stay in close contact – and I know that we will for the remainder of our lives.

I could list out all of the ways Mrs. Judy encouraged me, all of the thoughtful things she gave me or told me and certainly many ways she has helped me (that list would never end)! Yet the most powerful aspect of our discipleship relationship was her presence. She was available, approachable and present in moments where I desperately needed a mentor to listen or speak into my life.

The final command of Jesus to his disciples is found in Matthew 28:18–20: make disciples. The passage says, “[18] And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. [19] Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, [20] teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (ESV). 

For many of us, we don’t truly understand or see the need for discipleship until we experience it. We are commanded to go and make disciples. Oftentimes, we lack obedience in this area for reasons such as not having a strategy for discipleship, not knowing what to teach someone else, not feeling that we have enough time or not feeling confident enough in discipling someone. One thing that I learned from Mrs. Judy is that discipleship is effective, simply by building a relationship. When we build a relationship with someone, that opens the door for trusted learning and growth. That first step of building a trusting, approachable and encouraging relationship can set us up for effective discipleship.

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Left to Right: Dr. Scott Duvall, Mrs. Judy Duvall, Mrs. Madison Offenbacker, Mr. Kord Offenbacker | Photo by Dani Droste

Having a godly mentor can have a lasting impact on our lives. They teach us. They love us. They encourage us. They guide us. Just as Jethro guided Moses as a leader, just as Paul served as a mentor for Timothy and just as Mary and Elizabeth encouraged each other during unexpected circumstances, we too need people that can guide us, mentor us and encourage us in the various moments of life. It is a gracious gift from God to have people in our path that care deeply about our relationship with Christ. 

As a young adult, I want to encourage those in generations above me: my generation longs for mentorship. We might not initially see the need for discipleship, but young people desire to be encouraged and trained by older people in the faith. The years of following Christ that you have are important to us. We want to be taught the Word of God and trained in righteousness; your years of following Christ are valuable and your godly wisdom is something we want to be taught. 2 Timothy 3:16–17 says, “[16] All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, [17] that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (ESV). Mrs. Judy modeled this well for me: her years of following Christ were purposeful, and she guided me to God and His Word for teaching, reproof, correction and training in righteousness.

Begin today by reaching out to someone. Build a relationship. Be a bridge-builder for intergenerational discipleship. Begin and end with truth from God’s Word. Discipleship done well is life-changing and effective. We need people in our lives that can actively walk alongside us in the faith.

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