Since the Dukes and I both live in Albany, it only takes 10 minutes for me to drive to their house. So, when I shut my front door behind me at 5:45 and headed toward my car for dinner at 6, I was proud of myself for my carefully-planned timeliness. That is, until I reached my car and searched my many pockets, rifling through folds of fleece. I didn’t have my car keys. I patted those same pockets again hoping that, at the very least, I had my house keys. I didn’t. I had locked myself out of both my car and house.
I share this anecdote not to indulge in my own brainlessness, but to show the warmth and kindness the Dukes exude. I texted them that I was locked out, and had to wait for my roommate to let me back in. The Dukes—Jimmy and Danielle—both texted back immediately, asking in turn whether I needed help, whether they could pick me up, or if I would prefer to reschedule. Though dinner was ready, they decided to wait for me. When I approached the front steps, Jimmy opened the door for me and Danielle welcomed me warmly. Their sons, Jeremiah and Josiah, were playing on the living room floor, shy of their new visitor.
Jimmy and Danielle are both in their early thirties and have been married for over a decade. As we continued to talk over dinner, I learned that they were both born and raised in the Capital Region, but only became friends and started dating after Jimmy sent Danielle a friend request on MySpace. Jimmy works at a credit union, and Danielle works in healthcare. In their free time, Jimmy likes to watch football and Danielle likes to draw. They both enjoy reading and watching movies. They are also both family-oriented—heck, Jimmy’s parents live down the street!—and have been innumerably blessed by the close proximity of their family, especially when it comes to Josiah and Jeremiah.
For as long as I’ve known Josiah, who is 5, it has never been difficult to see that he loves being a big brother—he’s always watching out for those younger than him. But I’ve learned that he is also funny and creative. He drew pictures after dinner, each with an elaborate story (he was kind enough to give me one as a gift). This particular work of art features little round creatures with spindly legs going down a waterslide, with two bigger creatures standing watch. He signed his name and wrote mine next to his at the top of the page.
Jeremiah can’t talk yet, but he doesn’t need to for his personality to shine through. If eating and enjoying food are personality traits, it would be one of his. He ate all that Danielle presented to him, and if she faltered because she was speaking to someone else, he made sure to remind her. He is also inquisitive and curious—his round eyes are always analyzing the people and things around him.
The Dukes first heard of Engage through Jimmy’s cousin, who is acquaintances with Pastor Sean. They decided to see the church for themselves during the summer of 2020, when services were at Washington Park. They were feeling unmoored, and wanted to grow in their faith again. There are many things they appreciate about Engage, including a community that is not afraid to engage with pain and suffering. They are also grateful for the fellowship Engage offers, not only for themselves but also for Josiah and Jeremiah. There are many families with young children at Engage, so Josiah and Jeremiah are in good company. The Dukes serve in many capacities at church now, but they are excited to grow with Engage and see the church expand; their hearts are especially excited to continue sharing the gospel in the city of Albany.
When I got home, I hung Josiah’s drawing on my fridge. Weeks later, it still commands attention among holiday cards and every time I look at it, I think of the Dukes—a generous and hospitable family committed to their faith and sharing the gospel.