Youth ministry leader, wife have weathered stormy times

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Soon after Lee Dupre began attending Franklin Baptist Church, two years ago, he became actively involved, even leading the youth ministry. Lee was a natural because he and his wife, Cindy, have four children ranging in age from 18 months to 24 years. Not only that, but Lee understands the issues teens face today, having experienced many of them himself.
I didn’t know much about Lee’s personal life until he shared his testimony for Baptist Men’s Sunday earlier this year. Listening to his testimony, I was amazed at his story of rebellion, followed by total restoration. Married at the age of 18, Lee felt blessed to have a wife who stood by his side through periods of rebellion and “wild living.”
Lee was born and raised in New Orleans. His mom, Carol, was a lady who, in Lee’s words, “loved her kids very much and would do anything for them.” She had the duty of caring for the kids, while his dad, Lee, Sr., was “a lot like the characters on Duck Dynasty or Swamp People,” working hard to provide for his family.
In spite of love and support at home, Lee said his teenage years were really bad and he often wondered how he survived with the chances he took not only with his life, but others’ as well. Partying at night, as a teenager and later married with a family, he said sometimes he was so drunk, he couldn’t even remember driving home. Yet, he knows he did because he’d find himself at home in bed the next morning. He does have some memories of Cindy helping him into the house and to bed.
Lee began drinking at the age of 12 or 13, often telling his parents he was going to sleep over at a friend’s house. Instead, he would be partying somewhere else. Thinking marriage would make him happy, within a year after saying, “I do,” he and Cindy had a son, Lee Dupre III.
That first year of marriage was especially difficult for Cindy because of Lee’s drinking. She tried to leave, time after time, but somehow always came back. Lee credits Cindy’s parents for telling their daughter to go home to her husband, while Cindy, in turn, credits Lee’s parents for telling their son to go home to his wife and kids.
On a visit to Lee’s sister, Kathy, in Florida, Cindy had a life-changing event that gave her the strength to cope. During the visit, Kathy shared the scripture verse from Acts 16:31: “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved and thy house.” Reading the verse together, afterward they prayed. When Cindy went back home to New Orleans, even though Lee hadn’t changed, somehow she felt renewed. Things were better for her because she knew she wasn’t alone.
For the next 10 years, Cindy tried to convince Lee to stop drinking, and at different times he would, only to slip back into his old habits. Cindy said, “I felt like a single parent most of the time, but loving my husband, I stayed. Besides, I didn’t have any place to go. I trusted God for a new husband, but didn’t know it would be Lee.”
Through the years of turmoil, Cindy continued to read her Bible, planting seeds of faith through Lee’s fog. When it came time for their oldest son to start middle school, they both agreed on a private Christian school, choosing Crescent City Baptist. By the time their second son, Dustin, began attending Christian school, Lee and Cindy were periodically going to church.
It was during a church service on August 29, 1999, that Lee surrendered his life to God. The moment he did, the feeling of guilt, shame and fear lifted. He began reading his Bible and almost immediately overcame the desire to drink and, in his words, “learned how to love my wife.”
Not long after that decision, Lee and Cindy had the opportunity to move to North Carolina. They had not even been thinking of moving until a former boss who transferred to Salisbury called Lee, asking if he would be interested in a job. One of the first questions Lee asked was how far Maggie Valley was from Salisbury.
When he was a little boy, Lee’s family often went camping there. Learning Maggie Valley was only a two-hour drive from Salisbury, Lee took that as a sign it was time to move, and he was ready. Another sign, he believes, was the fact their house sold in just one day.
The timing of the move was perfect. Even though Lee was now a Christian, he still had the same old friends with the same habits. He felt the move to Salisbury was a chance to start over fresh. A few years later, Lee’s mom and dad made the move as a result of Hurricane Katrina.
They had seen other hurricanes come and go, but with Katrina’s devastation, there was no doubt it was time to leave. While deciding what to do next, the house in front of Lee and Cindy came up for sale. Now father and son rejoice over the fact they are neighbors, sharing in each other’s daily lives.
From New Orleans to Salisbury is a long way, but Lee is happy he and his family made the trip. He believes this was God’s plan for him all along. And if you ask anyone in the youth group at Franklin Baptist Church, they will agree, too. They look to him not only for advice and guidance, but as someone who has gone down the wrong path and found his way back.
Rebecca Ake, one of the members of the youth group, appreciates having Lee as the youth director because he’s different. “Lee takes the time to listen to us, giving good advice because he understands what we’re going through,” she said. “He likes to have fun and doesn’t take things so seriously, and he knows his Bible. I especially liked the lesson Lee taught about the twelve disciples following Jesus.”
It’s obvious Lee doesn’t just talk the talk, he walks the walk. By courageously sharing his testimony of hope and restoration on Baptist Men’s Sunday, Lee showed others there’s a way back from the pain and heartache of alcoholism. He’s happy Cindy never gave up on him, while Cindy just smiles, knowing it was God all along.

Dicy McCullough’s books are available at local bookstores, and Barnes & Noble. Call her at 704-278-4377.