Fulfilling his mission

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 18, 2005

Derek Hubbard gave his life to help the people of South Africa.

Now-even in death-the legacy of a 45-year-old missionary who lived for a short time in Selma will protect the people he loved.

Last week Hubbard- who was born in Michigan- was stabbed to death during a robbery attempt in the poverty-stricken South African town of Durban.

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“He was just a very loved person,” his sister Linda Marshall said. “He was always happy, always excited about God.”

Hubbard spent three years in Selma as the choir director in Linda’s church where her husband Bishop James Marshall is the pastor.

“He was very upbeat, very optimistic,” Bishop Marshall said. “What motivated Derek was he had a great desire to see people saved. He would always say it’s all about the souls.”

Hubbard’s life was spent searching for more souls to save.

Though he was born in Michigan, it’s hard to say exactly where he was from.

Hubbard spent time in the ministry in Selma, St. Louis, Louisiana and Houston before finding his calling in Africa.

“He just fell in love with the African people, he just loved being over there,” James said.

Several churches in the U.S. supported Hubbard’s mission with love offerings-money sent to help the missionaries live.

But he all but refused to spend the money on himself.

“He actually lived with the people who were in the most poverty stricken area,” Linda said. “He started building churches and helping feed the people.”

Linda said part of Derek’s inspiration came from his time in Selma.

She said coming to the south was the first time he was exposed to real poverty, but even that didn’t prepare him for the first trip to Africa.

“He had such a burden because the people there had nothing,” she said. “He would say ‘you’re rich. If you’re living in a house, you’re rich compared to what they have.’ He gave up everything to go over there.”

In his years of service, Linda says, Hubbard touched lives everywhere he went. Thanks to someone pulling strings at the state department, the missionary’s body is already on its way to St. Louis for his memorial service, but Linda doubts the 1,800-seat chapel will be able to accommodate her brother’s mourners.

“My family has had emails from South Africa apologizing about my brother’s death,” she said. “At the funereal there is supposed be representatives from Africa. We find ourselves comforting the people.

We tell them, ‘God is good.’ We’ve been saved so we kind of just talk about God. We tell them my brother has gone to a better place.”

Linda remains remarkably composed talking about her brother, only wavering slightly.

It seems that the family is still drawing strength from the baby boy who went halfway around the world to save souls.

“He was like the heart of our family,” Linda said. “Whenever we had anything, he was in the midst making everybody laugh. He was a comedian.”

He was also fearless. Because of open borders, Durban has become a city filled with migrant Africans desperately scratching for a way to live.

But there are no jobs to accommodate them and many turn to crime in order to survive.

“Durban has become, over the last six or seven years, very dangerous,” Linda said. “Derek had no fear as far as man.”

Maybe it was that lack of fear that attracted the Masai to him.

The tribe famous for hunting lions with only their spears honored Hubbard with the gift of a spear and cloak.

Hubbard was able to move among the tribe when other missionaries were not.

“People were shocked, they couldn’t believe that they would let him in,” Linda said.

Derek- who spoke three African dialects as well as Spanish and English- will continue to help the people of Africa even in death.

“There have been so many love offerings pouring into St. Louis, they just want to give,” Linda said. “Even though he is gone people are still wanting to give to South Africa to help the people there. He would always say, ‘it’s not about me, it’s about helping people and seeing people closer to God.'”

The Marshall’s Church- Christian Grace Apostolic- will hold a memorial service for Hubbard a week from Saturday at 6 p.m.

For more information, contact Marshall at 872-8267.

Hubbard’s church in St. Louis is the City of Life Christian Church.

It can be contacted at (314) 995-9797.