By Heidi Thulin
On Field Media
In July 1980, she and her husband, Loren, moved to Kenya to work at Kijabe Hospital. Back then, doctors and nurses did the administration for the hospital, and they desperately needed qualified business individuals to help them. Three years later, after her first daughter was born, Donna left the office and jumped whole-heartedly into the housing ministry, where she arranged accommodations for the staff and oriented people to living in Africa. She enjoyed the organizing, the planning, and the challenge of making things work with the limited resources available.
Then, after twelve years of living and working in the beautiful green escarpment of the Rift Valley, Loren became the director of AIM’s services ministries, requiring the family to move to the busy city of Nairobi. Donna quickly found herself feeling just as lost as the people she’d previously been orienting. They no longer lived on a compound, their daughters didn’t have any friends, and they needed to drive downtown to go shopping. “It should have been a positive challenge to me, with my personality,” she says, “but I was completely overwhelmed by what we had to adapt to. I knew there’d be change, but how significant it would be to me, I didn’t realize. And I just cried. I said when we walked into our new house (and it wasn’t like it was a hut!), ‘I don’t know how to do this.’” But every moment, God helped her work through the changes and taught her that the move was about ministry to others, not about her.
It was this personal transitional struggle and her experience assisting other people adapt that molded her into a perfect candidate for spearheading a new orientation program for AIM missionaries. For many years, new missionaries arrived in Africa with uninformed expectations of how their new lives would look. As a result, Donna researched several organizations’ training courses and helped create a three-week cross-cultural studies program that exposed fresh missionaries to topics like culture shock, security, health risks, African worldview, and Islam.
Donna, with her husband’s essential partnership, loves leading each Africa-Based Orientation course. “It’s this people part that really makes it significant for me,” she explains. “I get to meet all the new full-term members of AIM and give them the tools they need to navigate their new life. It’s incredibly fulfilling. And what’s even better is when I see them a few years later, thriving in their new home, engaged with their neighbors, and sharing God’s love in the local language!”