Relationship: Friend in Farley dorm the year he came to Jesus.
Word on the UOP campus was that Donnie was placed as the Head Resident in our dorm because he would be a good counterweight to the “God Dorm” of Farley Hall. The year before many students had made decisions for Jesus and Donnie as a known wild man would balance this out. Nevertheless, we (this was mainly Paul Schreiner, Jeff Carter and myself) initiated conversations with Donnie about Jesus and he was rather dismissive insisting that he was already “happy.” I recall many conversations in my room or in his Head Resident Suite. (I always tried to talk in my room because when we were in his room he would regularly jump up to play us a record of some sort to see what we thought. Then he would tell the back-story of the artist or the song. More on Donnie and music later)
Donnie’s version of that year was that I prophesized that he would become a Christian. I don’t think it was quite like that. What I recall saying is that he should become a Christian and that when he did he should become and evangelist. Why did I think this?
1. He loved people. Long before Donnie met Jesus we could see that he loved all people. He loved meeting people and connecting with them. I recall going with him to pick our dorm Christmas Tree and while I was loading it up Donnie got into a lengthy conversation about where they got their trees and the history of the Tree Lot. Jesus already had given Donnie a massive heart for people.
2. He loved to talk. Donnie had the gift of gab and especially of story telling. He had a story, joke or anecdote for every situation and was an enthralling personality. Over the years when we would meet up to reconnect he would always insist on meeting in a quiet place because he was worried that people would see him and want to speak with him. Actually the opposite always happened. Donnie would initiate conversations with everyone in the restaurant and could not pay the bill without trying to get to know the server, the busboy or any other random person that walked by.
3 He had courage. One night Donnie saw a guy making the moves on an inebriated young woman. As they went into her dorm room he was worried about her safety. He thought, “How can I get this to stop?” Most of us would have banged on the doors or windows, but Donnie pulled the fire alarm knowing that everyone would have to leave the dorm. But that’s not the end of the story. When the police came, and went inside, Donnie jumped in the patrol car, turned on the siren and drove around the fraternity and sorority circles until he was apprehended. This concern for justice mixed with some ridiculous courage could be redeemed by Jesus and utilized for Gospel purposes.
I share these thoughts because Jesus did not come to destroy life but to give us abundant life. Like the Apostle Paul, Jesus did not change Paul’s personality or neglect his God inspired gifts; Jesus made them all more beautiful and true.
On a humorous note, because Donnie has introduced so many people to Jesus, when Pastors have met me and learned that I knew Donnie, they always assume that Donnie led me to the Lord. Despite my story, I have been introduced as a convert because people cannot fathom that there were Christians before Donnie!
This should be an encouragement to all of us because when we share the Gospel we never know who might come to faith and where God would take them. Donnie certainly outgrew us, but that should give us courage. Andrew was the one who brought Peter to Jesus, and though we rarely hear about Andrew again, Peter made a huge impact on the world. Many of us are Andrews. In Farley dorm, Paul S. befriended Donnie, and Jeff C. spent a number of nights sleeping on Donnie’s floor because Donnie was vulnerable in the first few weeks after his conversion. We all talked with him, spent time together and prayed nightly for him.
Donnie was clear that this was all about Jesus. If we get too fixated on Donnie, we are missing the point. One time he told me that John the Baptist decided to be a “voice” instead of a “name.” Donnie wanted to be a voice for Jesus and not a name. Despite his organization’s name, Donnie was all about pointing people to the true savior because Jesus had radically changed Donnie.
A final note about Cindy: We used to have dances in our dorm lounge and Donnie would always show up at some point and play some of his records. He loved Roy Orbison’s “Pretty Woman,” and at some point he would dedicate that song to some girl in the lounge. After he met Cindy, he played and dedicated that song to her at one of our dances. At the end of the song, Cindy cynically asked, “How many girls have you played that song for?” Donnie was cut to the heart and immediately broke the record in two. He said, “She is right.”
I like this story because it highlights the wisdom of Cindy and the changed nature of Donnie after he met Jesus. Donnie was “all in” once Jesus got ahold of him and we all marveled at God’s goodness. And because Donnie was so well known at UOP and had his finger in so many pies (Football, bartender for the Pacific Club, Residential Life etc.) UOP has literally not been the same since Donnie converted.
The world feels a lot smaller without Donnie. But it is a lot better thanks to him.
To friends and family
Cindy: In reflecting on Donnie, I realize I have a number of additional stories that your kids may have never heard about their father. I was there the year before he met Jesus and some of these stories are simply hilarious and they might enjoy hearing them one day. Mourning is different for each person but if it would ever help for me to meet your kids (I met your son a long time ago but he won’t remember that), I’d love to tell them more about their Dad.