Today in OPC History

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October 11

Clarence and Dorthea Duff

The front page of the October 11, 1935 edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer and many other papers and radios across the country heralded the news that a Philadelphia girl’s wedding was attended by Emperor Haile Selassie in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Clarence Duff and Dorothea Kuehner, who later served as Orthodox Presbyterian missionaries for twenty-seven years, were married the day after Italy invaded Ethiopia. Reporters covering the war from news organizations around the world recorded the wedding, but embellished their story, erroneously saying the emperor attended the ceremony and gave them his blessing and that the couple took up housekeeping in a tent “because of the dearth of living accommodations in the city.”

In truth, forty guests attended the wedding at the headquarters of the Sudan Interior Mission, where 35-year-old Clarence, a missionary, and Dora, a 27-year-old bookkeeper, worked. After sampling their five-layer wedding cake, they changed into their riding clothes, climbed onto their steeds which had lilies stuck in their saddles, and, in a shower of rice, rode off to their honeymoon camp. They tent camped near waterfalls and a deep gorge four hours outside the capital city. After the honeymoon, they saw a procession of soldiers march on the way to the front. In letters to their families, Clarence urged them not to worry: “We are just as safe here as we would be at home. The only thing that really matters after all is to be in the place of the Lord’s will.”

They remained in the capitol, which was occupied by the Italians after Selassie fled to England in 1935. Their son, Donald James, was born in March 1938, a few months before they were forced out of Ethiopia on August 21, 1938. Their daughter, Dorothy, was born in October 1939 in the States.

A few months earlier, Clarence was received by the Presbytery of Philadelphia of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. His family had been founding members of Nashua OPC in Western Pennsylvania. During World War II, they bought a house trailer and Clarence served as a home missionary in Denver and Oak Creek, Colorado. Unable to return to Ethiopia, Clarence and Dora served in neighboring Eritrea from 1943 to 1970, which is described in Clarence’s book God’s Higher Ways. He died in 1982 and Dora in 2000.

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