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Reverend Donley Hesse – A Student of the Word

BY LOGAN MCCOURTNEY –

Martin Luther, one of the great men that led the protestant reformation 500 years ago, was wrapped up in ministering the Bible to those around him. He desired that the common man could know God through the Scriptures. He once said this about the Bible, “The Bible is alive, it speaks to me; it has feet, it runs after me; it has hands, it lays hold of me.” This type of thinking characterized Martin Luther and centuries later, another gospel minister, Reverend Donley Hesse.

Donley is originally from Minnesota where his dad was a farmer. Like most farm boys growing up he had chores and jobs he had to tend to on the farm. “I milked the cows and put up hay everyday,” recalls Donley with a smile. While growing up, he sensed through different situations God’s leading into pastoral ministry. “I first sensed that call when I was 16. My cousin was a pastor and I received encouragement from people around me. One particular Sunday, a family member was absent from church and when they asked what the sermon was about, I started to tell them and I realized I was telling them almost word for word. They encouraged me that ministry may be something I would be good in.”

After high school, Donley attended college in St. Paul. This is where he would begin his ministerial training and began his learning in what he feels to be the most important subject, the original languages. “The Bible was originally written in Greek and Hebrew and so I started then to learn the languages so that I could get back to the root of the word. I also studied German during this time as well,” explains Donley. After leaving Minnesota, he would attend seminary at Concordia in St. Louis, Missouri where he would graduate in 1957 and receive his first call to serve Calvary Lutheran Church in Rosemount, Nebraska. It was in his first pastorate that Donley would meet his wife, Lois Osten.

The pastor would continue his pastoral ministry for the next 60 years. He would serve congregations in Nebraska, Minnesota, and South Dakota before moving to Mena in 1994. Upon arriving in Mena, he and Lois served at Trinity Lutheran Church. Donley would shepherd the flock and preach at Trinity for 15 years. He retired from the gospel ministry in 2009 and since has been active at the Mena Senior Center and has continued to be a faithful member of Trinity. Among his favorite things to do in retirement is to continue studying the Bible, “I daily refresh myself in the languages and work through books of the Bible. I would encourage any young pastor that he should do the same,” says Donley with a smile.

Trinity Lutheran Church is going to honor Reverend Hesse on his 85th birthday and celebrate his 60th Anniversary of his ordination at their Sunday worship service, June 25th beginning at 10:00am. The worship service will be followed by a reception and potluck dinner in the fellowship hall. There will sure to be smiling faces of friends and family alike celebrating the life of service, “I have greatly enjoyed Mena and the people here. They have been so wonderful.” All are welcome to join the celebration of Donley’s life this Sunday. Trinity Lutheran Church is located at 1010 DeQueen Street in Mena.

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