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Quilts, Bows & Beef: Missouri Group Seeks to Bless Rural Ministers

By Dan Van Veen
rural compassion
Team members with Rural Compassion, a nonprofit seeking to bring hope to people living in rural America, meet in Ozark, Missouri. (Photo: Facebook)

Isolation and economic sacrifices are two very real challenges rural ministers face. However, there’s a third challenge that may even exceed the first two: anonymity. “Does anybody even know or even care about what we’re doing out here?”

Steve Donaldson, founder and president of Rural Compassion, believes rural ministers need to know they aren’t forgotten.

“We have had three relatively new partners join the Rural Compassion family who are, in their own ways, saying, ‘We see you. We appreciate you. We care about you,’” Donaldson says. “They include a professional quilter, an archery company, and a cattle ranch.”

Rural ministry

Donaldson, a U.S. missionary chaplain, says rural ministers are among the most economically sacrificial Christian ministers and often fulfill their ministry roles in relative obscurity.

“In rural ministry, there’s a lot of anonymity – it can feel like few outside of your community know you even exist,” Donaldson explains. “So, that’s why we work alongside rural ministers, encouraging them and helping them to serve and pastor their whole community . . . as anonymity outside of your community is one thing; inside of it, it will end your ministry.”

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rural compassion
Steve Donaldson, founder and president of Rural Compassion. (Courtesy Photo)

However, sometimes it simply takes a gesture, the idea that people do care, to help a rural minister and his or her family get through times when the sacrifices start to feel overwhelming.

The quilter

Yes, there is a difference between bedspreads and quilts. In addition to the layers and stitching that make up a quilt, homemade quilts are pieces of art that seem to inherently come with love.

Jody Williams, who attends Rolla First Assembly in Rolla, Missouri, has been making quilts for more than 50 years. Now 68, Williams has made countless lap and bed quilts — she even has her own Facebook page where she displays the hundreds of quilts she has made.

About seven or eight months ago, Donaldson spoke at her church.

“I met Steve through my sister, who worked for him before she became ill,” Williams says. “So, I knew the background of the organization. During the service, he told his story of how he got involved and started the organization. I was very touched. At the time, I was doing lap quilts for missionaries, but I just felt the need to do something for these rural pastors, so I talked to him after the service.”

Volunteering to make quilts for rural ministers, which Donaldson happily accepted, Williams has since designed and created five quilts for Rural Compassion to distribute and is currently working on her sixth.

“My goal is to do one a month,” she says. “And I try to make them with an inspirational base – though I did do one by special request for a pastor who was also a volunteer firefighter.”

“These quilts are beautiful,” Donaldson says. “Jody collects and donates the cloth, batting, and time to make these quilts, and the ministers feel so incredibly blessed.”

Bows and beef

In a rural community, hunting is typically a part of the culture – not to mention, an affordable way to stock a freezer with meat. However, a new, quality bow can come with a pretty stiff price tag.

But Donaldson, through some ministry connections, now has a bow manufacturer who is donating high-quality bows to periodically be given to rural ministers.

“We typically give away things during training sessions,” Donaldson says. “But instead of drawing numbers or something like that, we ask the ministers present to simply write a note as to why a new bow would be so beneficial to them.” In this way, the bow goes to a minister who needs it and will use it.

rural compassion
Logo of Rural Compassion (Courtesy image)

Donaldson has also connected with Selah Farms and owners Buddy and Todd Sears in Archie, Missouri. In the last two years, they have provided eight steers and two more are on the way.

“My great-grandpa was a rural preacher and we saw the struggle he went through pastoring rural churches,” explains Buddy Sears. “We as a family prayed and felt that blessing rural pastors with beef was what the Lord wanted us to do, so that’s what we do . . . usually every delivery (to Rural Compassion) is around 1,200 pounds of beef.”

“They raise and butcher the steers, and cut them into steaks, roasts, and hamburger,” Donaldson says. “We have freezers at our Rural Compassion offices, and we’ll take coolers loaded with dry ice and meat with us as we minister to provide rural ministers with about 35 pounds (varies by the size of their family) of high-quality, grass-fed beef.”

Sears says the reason they chose “Selah Farms” for a name has a biblical foundation. “Selah, as found in the Book of Psalms, reminds us to pause and remember what the Lord has done for us.”

Significance

Donaldson says that the gifts provided by people who have a heart for rural ministers have made a difference.

“It lets them know that other people notice and care about what they’re doing,” he says. “Rural ministers are incredible people – they touch my heart by their humility, hard work, and the way they serve their churches and communities is really impressive.”

Noting that he hopes others will be inspired to encourage rural ministers through their giftings or businesses, Donaldson says that people who don’t have the means on their own could team together.

“For example, a group could reach out to Jody to see what kinds of materials she needs and begin collecting them for her or others may decide to come together to raise funds to help rural ministers further their education — there are countless ways to bless these ministers (contact Rural Compassion to vet ideas).”

rural compassion
Team members with Rural Compassion meet in Ozark, Missouri. (Photo: Facebook)

For now, Donaldson says Rural Compassion and its team of U.S. missionaries will continue its efforts to see rural ministers become “communitarians,” where due to their involvement in the community, the community trusts and looks to them for help whenever the need arises.

“We encourage rural ministers to work alongside law enforcement, fire fighters, school teachers and administration, business owners, and community leaders to make their communities into places where children and families can flourish,” Donaldson says. “It’s a holistic response to the gospel.”

This article was originally published at AG News and has been reprinted with permission.

Dan Van Veen based in Springfield, Missouri, is news editor of AG News.

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2 Responses

  1. There has been several times, driving through different states, taking the backroads, when the Love of God just overwhelms me with peace. I didn’t hear anything, just felt something, each time. After one episode, the Holy Spirit informed me that I misunderstood what what happening, saying, “The Love you feel is the love of God for the people, not that they love him. That’s the problem, lovers of themselves, of humanity, not him.” Immediately, I had to change my thinking to match this truth, helping me see different stories, different people, their sins in rural America and how it was embarrassing the Father. I began to see the Lord’s hand in dismantling so many farmers and ranchers, seeing the unbalanced scales, the great love of the Father for the people, yet lacking in people, the love for the Father, and as the Holy Spirit said, “That’s the problem.” That’s the story of my Native American past all over again, lovers of “Nature,” not adequately loving the CREATOR OF NATURE, not being as Christ required, being perfect as the Heavenly Father is perfect, slacking, being lazy, smoking.

  2. I support a ministry like this if it is truly for Christ. My father was saved as a West Point Cadet in the early 1950s thru Jack Wrytzen’s ministry and the witness of Cadet Lt Colonel Malcolm Chandler. Last time I saw Jack WRYTZEN alive he didn’t remember my father but when I mentioned Chandlers name his fave lite up like a Christmas tree and Jack responded OH YOU MEAN MACK. Now Camp of the Woods is MAGA and so are many of these Rural Churches.

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