How can these two realities coexist?! One family endures some of the greatest tragedies possible while still stepping up to form pillars of the church at the same time!?
About four years back a man with military haircut and his talkative wife 😉 followed two energetic girls into our church. Fresh in town, they had arrived from Bloomington, Indiana. Little did we know how much God just blessed Cornerstone!
Don quickly surprised me as one of the few men without seminary training who really knew his theology. Then I learned he simply knew facts about everything! If you know Don you’ve probably heard the phrase, “let me tell you the story behind that” many times.
Anne also surprised me as a rare person I had to talk out of generosity. I had to learn to rephrase prayer requests to her this way:
“Anne, I’m not asking for you to go out and buy us a car….but will you pray for the car repairs we are struggling with?”
or another example…
“Anne, please don’t go out and buy a $1500 projector for the church, but will you pray that God provides?”
Anne, like her mother Gwen had/has the gift of generosity. From day one at Cornerstone she gave, from cookies, to cubbies, to VBS.
Over 4 years I’ve grown to respect this couple tremendously.
While Don and Anne have enmeshed themselves into the fabric of Cornerstone, their lives have endured tragedy. Within the first year Don’s sister died. Over the next 4 years the Nelsons endured multiple deaths including the surprising passing of Gwen, Anne’s mother. Throughout all of this, Anne and Don have humbled me with their endurance and honesty.
3 years ago Don filled a huge need in the leadership of Cornerstone
Late 2014 I had a problem. A founder of the church just stepped off the elder/leadership board and we needed another leader to step in. While Cornerstone had an abundance of Godly men, the demanding guidelines of scripture made our search difficult. Elders share in the work of ministry, so the vacacancy strained the remaining leaders in many ways.
Praying through the membership of the church we kept running into one name. We’d note the name and then pass it by saying, “He’s too new.” Finally we couldn’t deny it, God kept bringing him back to us. So we called Don in for interviews.
April 2015 Donald Nelson joined the eldership of Cornerstone Bible Church
In the following 2 1/2 years I have thanked God countless times for leading us back to this man.
What I’ve learned from Don Nelson
The elders meet 1-2 times a month every month. So I’ve gotten to spend a lot of time learning from Don. Add to this the dozens of AWANA nights, Men’s Bible Studies, and other events Don has contributed to, I feel I have something to say about Donald Nelson by proximity at least.
Between political activism, a career in the Army reserve and employment as an ocupational therapist, Don gives life to the phrase, “jack of all trades.” Tag onto all that a year spent learning at Emmaus Bible College and he also makes a great elder. I think God has given Don a brain gifted in holding spades of facts. Yet, despite not sharing Don’s gift of knowledge I have learned from his tenacity for truth.
I admire and Cornerstone benefits from his knowledge of theology. I love having someone who I can count on to preach at the drop of a hat if necessary (at least on the judgment seat of Christ 🙂 ).
Truth told and lived will change lives and communities.
You can count on Don to make things happen. Partially because it’s usually Anne that reminds him a hundered times. But also because Don works hard, commits to things and gets them done.
Don has persistantly worked in Occupational Therapy and the National Guard for decades. He retired from the Guard last year, I appreciate that service.
Not many know but Don also volunteers at the local Crisis Pregnancy Center. He mentors men who want to learn how to parent well. Yet another example of service.
“Pure and undefiled religion is this…”
God had big plans for Don and Anne. After preparing them in nearly a decade of marriage God connected them with two separate birth mom’s. Now they model for us the beauty of adoption and love. Every week I learn what love is when I see how hard Anne works to love and care for her two girls. Despite Anne’s losses and full schedule she works to give and live her best for them.
I love how adoption has impacted families throughout Cornerstone.
Every holiday and birthday Don and Anne go out of their way to make sure I get encouraged in some way. And they don’t do it just for me. It’s hard to keep track because they keep secrets but I imagine nearly every family at Cornerstone has benefited from the love and encouragement of the Nelsons.
Ok, I totally wanted to just write about Don here but Anne kept sneaking into everything I had to say about him. So now you have my first two-person profile. Thanks Anne. Seriously.
I haven’t exhausted all the Nelsons have taught or meant to me. I simply wanted to share a little of their blessing to me and say thanks.