Women Stepping Forward to Serve

Antoinette Hargrove Duke, founder and self-described visionary of the “…But God” Ministry, knows women struggle in secret and encourages them to reach out. Go to butgodnetteworkingforyou.com for more. Photo submitted

By Clint Confehr

NASHVILLE, TN — Women struggling secretly, looking for spiritual survival are invited to a conference sponsored by the “…But God” Ministry late this month.

“It’s a conference for any woman who looks in the mirror and sees herself,” says Antoinette Hargrove Duke, the ministry’s founder and visionary. “We all have a different story.”

Personal stories of depression, divorce, disease, domestic violence, distraction and drugs are shared at conferences organized by Duke, a La Vergne resident who’s served others for years. Faith in God is a common thread among those in pain who find solutions listening to the testimony of women who’ve overcome personal distress.

“This is our 6th annual conference,” Duke says of the Aug. 30-31 Women Stepping Forward to Serve Conference at the Radisson Airport Hotel, 1112 Airport Center Drive, Nashville.

Duke says there was a woman who “grieved after one of the conferences.” That woman was a survivor of breast cancer, abuse and divorce after 11 years of marriage.  However, survivors move on, Duke says. “With the right friendships, accountability and a sharing group you will get past it.” One woman’s testimony “was so sad” — delivered with matter-of-fact statements — “that you had to laugh,” Duke says.

During her own low moments, Duke found herself asking for divine intervention. Her words of prayer included “…but God…” It’s how she found a name for what “God allowed me to birth and develop…

“Volunteers take the ministry to another level,” Duke says. “Without them, and the volunteer board (Vera Finney, Lady April Walker, Lady Donzella Geter) there’s no way this program could work.”

Conference registration is on the web at butgodnetteworkingforyou.com. There’s a “group rate for 10 or more from the same church and the first lady goes free,” the ministry’s website states. A hospitality hour, workshop, sessions and a banquet cost $149. Previous conferences included 75-100 people; 200 might be the limit. About 10 percent are pastors’ wives; ladies who must share husbands with the church. During the conference, senior pastors’ wives are recognized, as are community leaders and cancer survivors.

Duke continues, “‘…But God’ Ministry is two-fold.”

• The non-profit group partners with Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee. During 2016-18, more than 100,000 pounds of food were distributed free in and around North Nashville. More’s being distributed this year. Churches provide facilities for the distribution.

• “…But God” offers training at no charge. Duke is certified by Darkness to Light, a group working to prevent child sex abuse. Educating adults about the prevalence and consequences of molestation includes methods to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to abuse.The ministry offers networking, service, and blends need with opportunity.

Duke is passionate about her ministry. Her struggles include a difficult divorce. She started the ministry several years before the end of that experience.

“…But God” has been affiliated with Second Harvest six years. Its first annual conference was back then.

Duke, 50, is one of eight daughters with five brothers in an Alabama family.

“We didn’t know how poor we were, but we had everything we needed,” she said. Thirteen siblings, now age 44-66, taught each other about life. “It was tough but we had each other.”

Likewise, she says, “There were many encouraging people who motivated me to act on this vision, to develop the ministry by building on pain and purpose.”

Her advise: “Don’t dwell on the pain;” reach out. Duke follows that advice. She reaches out; announcing “…But God” needs a grant writer and more churches in its network that extends beyond Tennessee.

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