Catching Up with Donna Shelenhamer

WMU is honored to interview Donna Shelenhamer, a longtime Girls in Action leader. Donna has taught Girls in Action for 52 years and counting. She felt a calling to missions when she was young and wanted to share her passion, so she began teaching first- and second-grade GA groups and fifth-grade boys in Sunday School. Her most vivid memory from teaching GA is something that occurs at every recognition service: she always says, “This is the best group I’ve ever had!” and genuinely means it every year.

Throughout the years, her calling has kept her passion alive for teaching first- and second-grade GA groups. Her greatest challenge while leading Girls in Action has been keeping up with change; she works hard to adapt her teaching styles and keep current. She immensely enjoys making missionaries come alive to the children in her class. She emphasizes that missionary stories are not just stories—they are about real people. She teaches about where the missionaries live; the people groups they minister to; their customs, food, and culture; and she makes their story relevant so that when the GAs have grown up, the story is still memorable. Donna’s most influential mentor in her years as a GA leader was her mother. Her mother taught GA groups and prayed for someone with a calling to come help her—and Donna was the perfect fit. Donna’s favorite song is “Jesus Loves Me” and she says, “Because Jesus loves me, I can love others. Jesus is my greatest strength.” Donna makes it her goal to instill in every GA in her class that Jesus loves them.

Donna advises other GA leaders not to give up, whether they are having a hard year or are just beginning to teach. She recommends building a team (it can take some time to form a seamless group), finding a prayer partner, and finding a mentor to help guide you along. She also recommends that you read all of the material you receive for your GA groups when you receive it, begin organizing it, and prepare materials in advance. She wisely says, “GA isn’t just 1 hour on Wednesday nights.”

Donna has taught many young girls over the years and has even taught the daughters of her students. Many young girls are happy to come to her class and say that Donna taught their mothers. Some girls from her classes have grown up to be missionaries. One GA moved to Africa to become a missionary and even returned to the United States to speak at Donna’s 50th year celebration at her church.

Donna has taught her 3 sons in Sunday School and her daughter in her GA group. Donna’s daughter is now a dear supporter and prayer partner with her, and her sons make a point to come to her GA events.

Donna is praying for someone with a calling to missions to teach GA and share her passion for missions.

Michael Ann Peavy serves as a fall intern with the Children's Resource Team. 

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