In this blog post we are talking with Donna Kauffman, one of our speakers for Refresh 2019. Donna enjoys spending time with her favorite people – her husband Bob, daughters, and ten grandchildren. Donna and Bob live in Harrisburg, PA, in their over-a-century old, three-story row house, among friendly Spanish neighbors. She loves watching God transform lives up and down their unsafe street – filled with desperate faces.
Donna has written several personal experience books throughout life’s journey which include The Treasure of Careful Planning, Treasured Meditations for Mothers and Grandmothers, You are My Treasure – A Journey to the Tender Heart of God and her children’s series Cozy Homespun Stories Book 1 and 2.
Joanne Hershberger: Hi Donna, welcome to the Refresh blog!
Donna Kauffman: Thanks Joanne. How fun…
JH: Can you tell us a little about your growing up years?
DK: My growing up years? I grew up in a Mennonite farm family home in Lake Odessa, MI. There were 9 children in our family. I milked cows and tossed around hay bales, though it was not something natural for me… and certainly not the favorite piece of my childhood.
JH: What are some of your favorite childhood memories?
DK: I enjoyed wheat harvest on our little country farm. In the evening the whole family would pile in the car and drive up to the small town elevator. There awaited a long line up of farmers eager to unload their wagons, brimming with ripened grain. On the way to the elevator we would stop by the Dairy Queen and purchase a baker’s dozen (13) of dilly bars for $1. Dad enjoyed 2 bars, the rest of us each had 1, and the bag was empty.
JH: How did you and Bob meet?
DK: Bob and I met in the church basement of Bob’s home church. I was visiting my friend Audrey, in preparation to catch a ride leaving the next morning for Rosedale Bible Institute. Audrey introduced me to Bob, saying he will be going to RBI the next day as well. Bob likes to tell the story that when Audrey introduced me she told him to take good care of me at Bible school, so he’s been taking care of me ever since.
JH: The two of you have spent a lot of your married life in mission work. Tell us about your involvement and experiences.
DK: We were married 1 year and 5 months and had our first baby girl when we left for Northern Youth Programs in northern Ontario. We had both been there prior to our marriage. We spent the next 15 years serving with the ministry.
We moved back to IN for 4 years and then to Faith Builders where we served for 3 years. Bob helped there in administration which is usually the work he has done.
We then spent 11 years in Middlefield, Ohio where Bob pastored a church. From there we went to Heralds of Hope radio ministry in Breezewood, PA, which is where Bob is still working full time.
We have moved 1.5 hours northeast from Breezewood to Harrisburg where we live close to our daughter Christa, where her and her husband have a Spanish church plant and school ministry. Bob continues to work for HoH out of an office from our house.
Every one of the ministries in which we have served have provided us with most blessed experiences. Not always all good, though, always just good. From the rich experiences to the not-so-pleasant ones we sought hard after God and oh, how He has given us so much more of Himself all along the way. That’s Redemption, to me.
JH: What was it like raising young children in the North?
DK: It was a blessed place to raise a family. The girls’ missionary cousins are still among their most treasured friends today. We had many opportunities to minister together, as well as excellent friendships for our girls to relate with.
JH: You’re a planner/organizer; how did you implement these giftings in your mothering? What would you say to moms who feel like there days are simply chaotic and order is elusive?
DK: Well, this is a hard one. You see, being created by God as an organizer I truly have experienced few chaotic days…
Mostly I tell ladies, you know, we are all created so differently. My style and system will likely not work for you. We can glean a few ideas from each other to implement though…
JH: You also made special effort to create memories with your three growing daughters. What were some of the things you did together?
DK: When the girls were very young I did an activity to fill their love tanks around 9:00 each morning. It lasted about 15 minutes. I did that after everyone was combed, dressed, fed and ready for the day. I had a schedule – Monday, we played dolly. Tuesday, it was read books. Wednesday, we rolled the ball back and forth, Thursday was coloring day, etc. Often after their love tanks were filled they would toddle off and play cheerfully for several hours.
We started family night when the girls were toddlers. One child was in charge each Tuesday evening. They would plan the evening meal, choose the person to have prayer for the meal. Plan 45 minutes of activity we could do together and decide what we would do for family devotions that evening. It was usually a delightful time.
And yes, many other things…
JH: What experiences have profoundly impacted who you are today?
DK: Well, wow, there were sooo many. I would have to say it was the dark places in my life that has brought the sweetest redemption… Oh the glory of what we receive from Jesus if we keep our hearts tender and searching in the blackness.
JH: You mention you have 10 grandchildren. I personally know some of them! I also know you’ve made effort to spend quality time with each of them. What are some real, practical ways you reach your grandchildren’s hearts? What would your advice be to others who are at a similar stage?
DK: Hmm… yes, I have attempted to stay very involved in my grandchildren’s lives. Over the years I’ve done various kinds of things from sending notes to the far away ones, to doing a FaceTime Character Quality, study over a number of months, with the 4 oldest girls. Two of them live close by me and the other two there in VA. With each one I’ve made little parties and taken them on dates, given treats and you name it… Now most of them are growing up and beyond all that cute stuff. Things are changing… It’s right and proper but it does take some adjustment for me.
JH: You currently live in Harrisburg; you mention the deep needs of the neighbors on your street. What are some of the transformations you’ve been able to witness? What does ministry look like for you there?
DK: They say when a Christian family moves to a city street the street cleans up by 95% in five years. We have certainly witnessed that here. When our daughter’s family moved here eight years ago there were loud pelting gun shots sounds through their windows night after night. They witnessed much vile activity just outside their doors. Sometimes five murders in six months. Very much police activity, drugs, prostitution and frightening things all around….
Five years later, it’s just a quiet street… boarded up houses have been cleaned up and restored, murders – maybe one every one to two years now, much less drug activity, little loud music thumping all around.
Today the Lord has opened the doors to a little church brimming with 50-60 Hispanic seekers and folks who have met God in incredible ways… Whole families are getting radically saved. We have a school of mostly Hispanic, 35 precious students, grades 1-11.
Bob and I are extremely busy with our outside of ULM responsibilities so I actually have little involvement in the ministry here. Periodically I help with a wedding as many of our Spanish couples, after finding the Lord, are committing to marriage. Or I help with food for a church meal. I bring my English dishes to add alongside the delicious Spanish fare.
JH: Surely there are times when your physical safety can feel uncertain or you may be tempted to fear. How do you deal with this especially if Bob is away?
DK: It is quite amazing that I rarely feel fear. I do, however, often pray as we drive through these streets toward home after having been away. I don’t usually walk the street without Bob. If the grandchildren come 2 doors from their house to mine, we watch to be sure they get to where they are going safely. We do take precautions. And we depend wholly on the presence and protection of God.
When Bob is away, I pray a little more specifically for His protection and presence to stay right beside me all through the night.
JH: Your daughter has mentioned to me that you’re thriving in your current environment; you love being surrounded by people! How has this helped you feel less isolated and alone?
DK: Oh, this is an amazing place to live as a grandma. As we get older our houses empty out, and for someone like me the house can feel very quiet and alone. I love that just outside my door are people – the school children running around during recess, teachers who pop in for any kind of need they might have, a sharing neighbor dropping off a tempting Spanish dish, a lonely, empty-looking person staggering down the sidewalk needing prayers… Now instead of feeling isolated and alone I love a few moments retreat when no one comes to the door for an hour or two.
JH: You write about some really hard and dark places in your life in your book, You are My Treasure – A Journey to the Tender Heart of God. How have your own experiences impacted your desire and ability to help other women work through difficult things?
DK: Along my 66 years of life I have met Jesus in ways I never could have dreamed. I am learning that living with my hand in His through every joyful and every dark piece of my journey He has more to offer me. More, more of Himself. And I love, love passing that on to other ladies.
As ladies, we often have searching hearts. Sometimes desperate hearts. We long and strive and desire for deeper and more of Jesus – because He is clearly unfathomable. I fully enjoy deliberating over deep heart issues with ladies. I love inviting them to hear Jesus speak into their heart’s need as we pray together.
JH: We look forward to having you come to Refresh! How can we pray for you as you prepare?
DK: If you would like to pray that the Lord Jesus would give me a full sense of quietness and peace about what I’m sensing He is asking me to share.
Thank you so much.
JH: Thanks for your time, Donna!