Saving Grace

A tattooed man walks up to Stuttgart’s St. John’s Eagles Nest — the preschool portion of St. John’s Lutheran School, which is a part of St. John’s Lutheran Church. He presses the security button and woman walks to the door. Doing her best not to stereotype, but she asked if she could help him before opening.  

“I’m the new pastor, I wanted to come in and visit the children,” Pastor Donald “Don” White, of St. John’s Lutheran Church says laughing. “I believe I scared her. She was a little hesitant.”

He also rides a motorcycle, when the weather is convenient. And six years later he still laughs at that story. 

He is not your typical Lutheran pastor in a southern town. That is until you meet him, speak to him, listen to and worship with him. But, what you see is what you get. And as far as knowing the Bible and the ways of the Lutheran belief… he can even work in the Word of God during an interview for a local magazine. 

Lutherans are a very conservative family, but that is what Pastor Don believes Sunday worship is — a family coming together.

So what called him to Stuttgart? God, of course.

“My answer every time I am asked: God,” he answers.

After spending 21 years preaching in Kansas at Herkimer, Natoma and Atwood it was the calling from God that led him to Stuttgart. Although his hometown will always be Gillette, Wyoming where he was raised. Being relocated is called the Doctrine of Divine Call.

“The Lord let me know that this was where I needed to be. I had never stepped a foot into Arkansas,” White says. 

So he and his wife, Bonnie, moved here. His wife, he explained, is very large inspiration of why he became a pastor. 

“We were not raised Christian,” and shrugs his shoulders when asked what denomination his family was, expressing that God was not particularly a big part of his family’s life. 

When they were married in 1982 his wife and had children she told him, “I want us to go to church as a family.” 

He was ordained June 27, 1991. 

“I didn’t go hunting this down, it came to me,” White explains.

White says his best part of his job, or calling, is leading worship.

“I love to preach to the family (the congregation) it needs to be fun, but serious. As often as possible I try to get a laugh,” White said smiling. 

But there are times for laughter and times for serious matters. And unfortunately that means confrontation, which happens to the worst part of his job, so to speak, he explains. 

“Anything involving confrontation,” he said when asked what was the disliked, if there were any, in the role of a pastor?

Figuring it would be sickness or death, he said, “No…the one thing we all have in common is that we are going to die. I have no problem speaking on that,” he says about talking to grieving family and friends of the deceased, because he is there to bring God’s comfort. 


But to lighten the mood, Easter is his favorite day of worship.

“Without Easter we have nothing to celebrate,” White explains. 

After Easter is All Saints Day, and remembering those loved ones that have passed on.

“Angels can fly, because they take themselves lightly,” he says. 


So a tattooed, motorcycle-riding pastor who loves to visit families at their homes leads the family of St. John’s Lutheran Church. 

And that will be the case until the Doctrine of the Divine Calling leads him to a family. 


History of St. John’s Lutheran Church:

On May 30, 1882 a number of Lutherans met in the home of Mr. C.F. Rittman for the purpose of organizing a congregation. The Rev. C.F. Obermeyer of Little Rock was present and presided at the meeting. The congregation was organized as St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Missouri Synod, Unaltered Augsburg Confession of Clearpoint, Arkansas County. In the absence of a church building, services were conducted for some time in the homes of members, though the matter of building a house of worship was immediately discussed. On Sept. 14, 1882, the congregation by vote selected the Armbreuster Tract, which is now Lone Tree Cemetery; the building was dedicated on March 11, 1883. It wasn’t until 1885 that the congregation decided to move the church to its current location in Stuttgart. The original building was moved so it is said, “By rolling the wooden church building across the prairie on wooden logs and ox team.” 

What a sight that must have been.

St. John’s has such a rich history and heritage; the above excerpts don’t even begin to scratch the surface. So much as happened since that first wooden building was drug across the prairie.

— Excerpt above taken from Concordia Publishing House 

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