To Donnie’s Family:
I was at a loss for words when I learned of his passing, but in the weeks following I have had a chance to reflect on my interactions with Donnie and how much he has touched my life. The truth is that Donnie was a constant in my life who always seemed to appear at a church or school when I needed positive motivation and hope in my life, no matter where I was.
I grew up in Northern California in a small town on the coast called Eureka in Humboldt County. From a young age I was raised in the Catholic church, but I always felt a deeper spiritual connection that I couldn’t explain.
Fortunately, Donnie and his Radical Reality Team held assemblies at our school when I was in middle school and high school and I remember hearing the stories of each team member and how their lives had been transformed by a renewing hope. I didn’t even realize that Donnie was a spiritual person at this time. I remember hundreds of students and staff staying after to speak with Donnie. I literally remember being one of those students and shaking Donnie’s hand. Afterwords I remember thinking, “Wow, that man is larger than life.”
Years passed and life was going well, but it was busy. After graduating college I found myself searching the state for teaching jobs. On August 27, 2007 I was hired in Gilroy, CA to teach PE and Coach. Shortly after, Donnie and the Radical Reality Team came to Gilroy High School where I heard the stories of renewed faith again and was reminded of the longing for a deeper spiritual connection that I felt in my youth up in Eureka.
At the time I was a lost 27 year old man, I wasn’t attending church, I was living for myself in a unfamiliar town where I knew no one. The following year I met an amazing young woman who stole my heart and asked me if I ever thought of going to church. I explained that I grew up Catholic, I had a negative experience at a Christian church when I was younger, and that I would go to church with her, but only to a Catholic church. We attended a few Catholic services and then she told me about a small church that she attended in her youth called New Hope Community Church in Gilroy. The following Sunday we attended and after hearing Pastor Malcolm MacPhail preach one sermon I was hooked.
Although I loved New Hope, it was challenging to understand the idea of having a relationship with God after spending years in the Catholic church. Within months of joining New Hope we came to church one Sunday and Donnie was there preaching. That single preaching transformed my life and has proved as a “Spiritual Compass” as I continue my walk with God and strive to serve as an example of God’s love for my wife, Sarah, and our three children of God: Malaki, Grace, and Elijah.
During that preaching, Donnie spoke about God being Omni-Present. He explained that God is everywhere, all the time. He explained that God is the Father, Jesus is the Manifest of God’s Presence, and that the Holy Spirit is the gift that he left to live in us if we accept him as our Saviour. Suddenly, a relationship with God made sense to me. My wife and I began volunteering at the church. We often recalled that when I was playing on the worship team at New Hope we played a Sunday Night Worship Service that Donnie lead. He had us play the song “Holy Spirit” for nearly an hour. During that time he had hundreds of people who came to the alter to receive prayer and whose lives where transformed.
After years of teaching, today I am serving as a school administrator in Roseville, California. Though it can be a challenge to instill Christian values in a public high school, I am quietly trying my best. I wanted you to know how much Donnie meant to me and will forever mean to me. He literally saved my life, for if I wouldn’t have continued as a Christian, even in the tough times, I’m not sure where I would be today.
Though it saddens me that he has left this world, Donnie’s smile reassures me of God’s grace and that His love is real. Donnie was a legend among men, as I saw even the toughest mentors of mine smile and hug Donnie when they saw him at a school or church. I know that we will meet again someday.
I wish peace to all of you.