Growing up in Northwestern Montana, Donald Woody didn’t attend church. It wasn’t until his junior year of high school that he would start reading the Bible and pursuing a relationship with Jesus Christ.
The recently installed pastor at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Hyrum recounted the courtship with his wife, Rachel, and time spent in the Army as impactful moments leading him into a now 20-year career as a Baptist minister.
“I did not grow up in a Christian home. I grew up in a lost home. My parents didn’t go to church,” Donald said. “I ended up meeting my wife in a study hall we had together. She started sharing about her church and her faith. I was intrigued, mostly because she was a pretty girl, but her testimony really touched me.”
Donald said after numerous conversations about faith Rachel invited him to attend a youth group roller skating outing. After spending an hour riding with the family to the event, he got to know Rachel’s family and her father, who was a Baptist minister, and started his journey toward becoming a Christian.
It was only a few short months after attending his first church service that Donald said he gave his life to Christ.
Unlike many teenagers their age, Donald said he asked Rachel to marry him as the two were preparing for their senior year in high school, and the two formed a plan to join the Army to get their life started and earn money for college.
“We went on a one month honeymoon and then we both went into basic training. It was the hardest thing to do after just getting married,” Donald said.
After basic training in Georgia, the Woodys were stationed in Hawaii with Donald serving in communications and Rachel in administration.
While serving in Hawaii, Donald said he began to feel the call to ministry and knew it was something he wanted to pursue.
“It all started there in Hawaii and then we were transferred. I went from paradise to El Paso,” Donald said.
While in Texas, Donald was called to be an associate youth pastor and the tug to get into full-time ministry just kept pulling at him.
Within a two week period in the summer of 1998 the family packed up all their possessions, along with their three children, and drove to Hagerman, Idaho, where Donald’s grandfather lived.
“For two weeks I looked for jobs and tried finding something. Nothing was coming up and none of my military past was working,” Donald said. “We ended up going to church in Boise one weekend and were informed that the church in Glenns Ferry needed a preacher. It wasn’t a call, but I was going to fill in and help out where I could.”
Donald was tasked with filling in the following Sunday — and possibly more if needed — as the church looked for a pastor.
While he can’t remember what he taught about that Sunday, he can vividly remember the 15 or so congregants in the pews and the potluck following the service that changed his life.
“They started asking me questions at dinner and then they stopped it after about 20 minutes when one of the guys said he was ready to call me as the pastor,” Donald said. “It caught me off guard. I asked if we could pray about it and maybe give it until at least Wednesday.”
The congregation agreed to give it a few days, but told the family they could move to the parsonage and live there until a pastor was called — even if it wasn’t Donald. By Wednesday, the church had extended a call to Donald to serve as their pastor.
After 13 years of growing the church and witnessing his parents and grandfather come to faith, the family followed a call to serve as the pastor of Greencastle Baptist Church in Pennsylvania where he spent seven years before the call from Emmanuel.
“Here I was in Pennsylvania and things were going great there and the church was fantastic and I got contacted by Rob Lee, the director of the Utah Idaho Southern Baptist Convention,” Donald said. “Utah wasn’t on my radar, but I knew if this is was where the Lord wanted me I would end up there, so I sent in my resume.”
Heading into his first month serving as the senior pastor, Donald is getting acquainted with the valley and the Hyrum community as he works to build relationships that he hopes lead people to Christ.
“I think for me, it is about getting to know the people and getting plugged into the community and investing my time and energy and building a trust and sharing the love of Christ. No matter where you are, my ultimate goal is to share the gospel and bring the truth to people,” Donald said.
Looking inward at the Emmanuel congregation, Donald is still getting to know the members and the talents they bring to the church body, he said.
“My biggest thing for the church right now is praying for the workers in the harvest. We are asking the Lord to send workers and people who want to get out and do ministry,” Donald said. “I have never been a real high-pressure, bang-you-on-the-head-with-the-Bible guy, but I will share my faith and the truth.”