Story Magazine - Winter, 2011
'You don't ignore a call from God'
by Tracy Behrendt, Correspondent
When Donna Dohrmann first felt called to seminary nearly 20 years ago, she wasn't sure it was the right time. She knew she was called to ministry, having recently started supply preaching at various churches. But with a husband, Art, who farmed and two children in western North Dakota, seminary seemed out of the question—no matter how loud the call.
"Art was instrumental in helping me with my discernment process," Dohrmann , '94, said. "I kept telling him that we can't move the land, and he continued to tell me, 'You don't ignore a call from God.'"
Though she feared she wasn't cut out for seminary, Dohrmann and her children went to Luther in the summer of 1990 to begin what would be a four-year journey for the entire family. With North Dakota in the midst of a drought, Art stayed behind, and, in the four years that she attended seminary, he continued farming in western North Dakota. Dohrmann then worked with the bishop to receive her first call in rural New England, N.D.
"If I had not been a farm wife who had lived in a small town, it would have been much more difficult for me," she said of rural ministry. "I understood how important moisture, sunshine and getting the crops in were. Even in the middle of hard work, people still came to worship and tried to be faithful."
After eight years in New England, Dohrmann felt a strong call to return to Bismarck, where she had spent much of her childhood—even if that meant being farther from Art again.
"God's call was loud for me to come to this new place, and I've learned over the years to follow him in faith, whether I understand where we are going or not," said Dohrmann, who now serves at Lutheran Church of the Cross in Bismarck.
Just as she has struggled with being 92 miles from Art, the congregation has also dealt with everyday hardships. But it's in the midst of all this that the church has pulled together. Last year, the church doubled its sanctuary size to accommodate its growing congregation.
"The temptation to give up and walk away from God is very real. And yet hope still persists," she said. "We are all grateful that we continued to listen to one another and we moved ahead. God is doing new things each day."