"I've done thousands of these since I first came here in 1964," the Texas evangelist and Guatemala missionary said on Monday evening just before the second night of revival at Sadler's Chapel Methodist Church in Dexter regarding the chalk drawings he does as part of every sermon. The reason, he said, is that the drawings, each one different and each of a person in the Bible, serve as teaching aids.
"I started with chalk as a small boy," Donaldson said, "because I have always liked to draw."
The religious nature of his drawings, he said came from the influence of his father, a minister. "His influence showed me to use the drawings as tools to introduce the message," Donaldson said.
He added he took no more than eight minutes to do a given drawing. On Monday evening, the drawing he did of Jesus on the cross took about four minutes.
But why a picture? "It's very effective for teaching because people remember what they see longer than they remember what they hear," Donaldson said. "People have told me they remember the sermon I gave when I did a given drawing even after 30 years."
The sanctuary in the church had several of his drawing on display, thanks to the loan from the homes of people to whom Donaldson had given the pieces.
The chalk drawings have also served Donaldson well in his ministry in Guatemala, where he has lived for the last 46 years. "I had a television show in Antigua, the city where I live down there," he said, "and I used the drawings to go through every book of the Bible from Genesis to Revelations."
Donaldson originally went to Guatemala as a bush pilot, flying pastors all across Central America and even as far south as the Amazon basin. "Yes, I flew the same area as in the movie 'End of the Spear,' he said.
The movie, based on the book Through Gates of Splendor, details the 1956 missionary work, and murder, of four missionaries and their pilot in the Amazon jungle by native tribesmen to whom they had been ministering. And while Donaldson was not featured in the movie, he said he had flown some of the participants in the mission of forgiveness undertaken by the surviving family members. "I flew Rachel Saint," he said, "and I flew the killers."
Rachel Saint was the sister of Nate Saint, the bush pilot who had flown the missionaries to the Ecuador jungle where he and they were killed.
Donaldson and his Guatemalan wife Lilia have been married for 37 years. The couple has two daughters and five grandchildren.