Donna Angle | 14 Years of Planting Trees
By Kate Berkey - May 24, 2018
Posted in Children's Ministry, NMC Staff, Stories from NMC, Discipleship
It’s been said that sometimes we plant trees under whose shade we will never sit. So often this is true in ministry as we walk with people through the joys and the messes of life. Day after day, we care for others. We try to help guide them. We use wisdom and discernment to know the best ways to walk alongside them. Day after day we try our best to show up for others. Show up and show the love of Jesus.
Day after day we plant trees.
It’s hard work. It’s grunt work. It’s not often glamorous. It can be painful.
For 14 years, Donna Angle has been doing this kind of work. There have been highs and there have been lows. There have been moments of pure joy and moments of agonizing pain. Nevertheless, she has been showing up and showing the love of Jesus. For 14 years, Donna has been planting trees under whose shade she may never sit.
In 2004, Donna joined the NMC staff working with our preschool kids. Before she came on the team, she was a children’s librarian for over 20 years as well as a professional storyteller. For years, she wrote her own stories and told them to captive audiences of children around the community. It was a way she connected with kids and cared for them, feeding their imaginations with beautiful words and pictures, helping them to see a bright and colorful world around them.
When Donna came to our team, she brought the same energy and joy that she had working as a storyteller and a librarian. It was a kind of energy and joy that loved to see kids experience new things in the world, new and beautiful things. Under her leadership, our preschool ministry has thrived. Our kids have learned about Jesus in the most creative ways through activities and stories and themes that Donna so carefully crafted.
But if you ask Donna about all of this, she would be the first to say that this thriving has nothing to do with her.
“This is not my ministry,” she told me once. “It’s His.”
As she told me this, she held out her hands, stretched open, palms up. She told me that when she open-handedly offered the work and the kids and the programming and the ministry to Jesus, it thrived. It was when she tried to do it on her own that things began to break. And so she strives to live in that posture—hands open, stretched out, releasing everything that was never in her grasp to begin with.
Because of this posture, the Father has guided Donna’s work in some remarkable ways. The years haven’t always been easy or exciting. In fact, she has experienced many times filled with pain or struggles or simply the everyday, mundane. Most weeks and months and years have simply been about showing up moment after moment, planting trees in the lives of kids and families.
When she thinks about the most meaningful moments from the last 14 years, she sees faces of boys and girls, moms and dads, families. That’s been the joy of her job—walking with families, being a mom, a grandma, a friend, a guide, a coach. For her, it has been an honor to be welcomed into so many homes. Over the years, she has been able to offer advice to first-time moms, to parents struggling to know how to handle their child’s behavior, to parents trying to be the spiritual leaders of their home.
Most certainly there have been highs and lows, but for her, the joy has been found in building relationships with families. It has been found in having the opportunity to build trust with a family and speak truth and love into their lives. It has been found in having the chance to provide a safe environment for the kids, one in which both the shy and the outgoing kids have a place. The joy has been found in helping to meet the needs of the entire family—kids and parents alike.
Donna would also be the first to say that she has incredible volunteers, people who help her pull off this kind of care and ministry week after week. It’s those who serve alongside her who also create safe environments, who walk alongside families, who love and support parents. She would be the first to say that it’s a team effort, one she could never do on her own. It’s under her leadership, though, that this team thrives, because her hands are not clenched tight. They are stretched open, palms up, releasing everything that was never in her grasp to begin with.
At the end of this month, Donna will retire from her position at NMC. Although she’s not exactly sure what this next season will hold, she’s anxious for the chance to step back and dream, to cast a vision for what life could look like in the coming years. When she thinks about the kids she has had the opportunity to be with over the years, she only hopes and prays that they would know Jesus as their forever friend, their superhero, their great, big God.
“I may never see that fruit,” Donna told me, “but I can commit to modeling Jesus for them.”
It’s not about sitting under the shade of the branches. It’s about planting the tree in the first place.
Thank you, Donna, for the trees you have planted.