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God Keeps Opening Doors: Oklahoma Chaplain Serves at Home and Abroad

Donnetta Hunter was a 37-year-old mother of two teens when God opened the door for her to enter the ministry — she hasn't looked back.
She didn’t exactly feel qualified, but she didn’t want to disappoint him by refusing. Preaching her grandfather’s funeral was something she never considered — there were at least three AG ministers in their congregation — until he made that request of her.

That one request, that one promise kept led to Donnetta Hunter experiencing a totally new life in ministry.


Hunter’s father served in the Army in Germany, and her mother joined him there and taught English composition to the Army company clerks. After the military stint, the family settled in Woodward, a small town in western Oklahoma.

Growing up she attended First Assembly of God in Woodward. There she taught Sunday School and was involved in many different ministries, including Girls Ministries. At the time of her grandfather’s request, she was married, raising two teenagers, and serving as a secretary for a cell phone company in Woodward.

Although the funeral could have been an intimidating situation for anyone not accustomed to giving a eulogy while also ministering to those in attendance, God’s anointing was present. Recognizing God’s anointing on her message and life, the church leadership asked Hunter to consider becoming the church’s youth pastor.

She was initially hesitant, wondering what her sons, Dana, then 17, and Derek, 12, would think of their mom being the youth pastor, but they were supportive, as was her husband, Dan.

Hunter began ministerial training through Berean College, now part of Global University, eventually becoming ordained in 2002.

“Isn’t God amazing?” she says. “I started ministry as a 37-year-old woman, and it just took off from there.”


Hunter served on the church pastoral staff for 20 years, the last five years as outreach pastor. In that capacity, she began volunteer chaplain duties with the police department. As in many small towns, Woodward did not have a regular chaplain for law enforcement and first responders, but the program has grown; four chaplains now share duties.

Hunter also did volunteer ministry at the county jail and led Bible study at a juvenile girls facility in Mooreland, Oklahoma. While serving at the facility, she started a parenting class. When the court system learned about her class, they made it the official class for parents wishing to regain custody of children. Nearby counties heard about Hunter’s work, leading to additional referrals and a request for anger management classes.

“People get out of jail with no job; they’ve lost their kids,” Hunter says. “Many times, it’s just stupid mistakes, and they really want to do better.”

In 2012, a major tornado struck Woodward. Hunter pitched in to help at the hospital, ministering to families dealing with trauma or loss as the hospital did not have a regular staff chaplain. A man serving alongside her during the disaster turned out to be the hospital CEO, and he asked if she could return and follow-up with families and patients, so she continued as on-call chaplain.

Realizing she was keeping extremely busy in the community, Hunter resigned her church duties in 2018. That, however, led to a problem — loss of her income. But God was at work. In 2019, Humanity Hospice opened in Woodward, and she was hired as part-time chaplain. The position has since grown to fulltime, with part-time assistants.

A huge part of hospice ministry is bereavement follow-up, keeping in touch with families, and resourcing them as they journey through a full year of “firsts” — holidays, the loved one’s birthday, etc. Hunter also facilitates “Camp Comfort” for children who lost a loved one during the previous year; last June, 10 of the children who attended had lost a parent to suicide.

The two-day camp offers music therapy, pet therapy, and art therapy. Although Humanity Hospice must abide by regulations that prohibit specifically mentioning faith, the children see hope through her.

“You can’t be full of Jesus yourself and not leave a mark,” Hunter says.


Transitioning into the paid position has been a blessing for the Hunters as Dan retired from working as a mechanic. He now puts those skills to work helping with various jobs at the church. He also serves as a deacon, something he did not do while Donnetta was on staff to avoid any appearance of conflict of interest. He also covers things on the home front when she is busy with chaplaincy calls.

“I have the best husband on the planet,” says Donnetta, noting her and Dan’s 46 years together and how they are enjoying time with their now-adult children, four grandchildren, and soon their first great-grandchild.

Although there is plenty to do in Woodward, Hunter says she also looks forward to helping each year with the Europe International Youth Camp, iYouth, which started in 2001 as a camp for missionary kids (MKs) to connect with other MKs across Europe.

The camp was held in Switzerland the first few years, and the location now rotates between different countries in Europe; the last few years it has been in Germany. Ukrainian youth in particular benefited from the most recent camp as it provided a restful, calming week away from bombing threats and other stresses of wartime and unrest. Some campers return as adults to help, and in 2023, the first young adult camp was held.

Hunter is presently assembling her team from several U.S. churches for the 2024 camp, with the theme, “Chosen.” The camps are an impactful missions experience — one young woman from Woodward even met her future husband, from Rome, while volunteering. Hunter was honored to officiate Haley and Cristian’s wedding, held in Oklahoma.

“Donnetta has a passionate gift of sharing the gospel in a personal and fun way,” says Chad Phillips, Europe regional leader for Convoy of Hope. “It’s fun to see how the European teenagers respond to this American woman! Her love for each person is obvious and it touches the lives of the young people, no matter where they are from.”

Hunter is thankful for the networking and support connections through the national Chaplaincy Ministries. She recalls a patient who had requested his ashes to be spread at a NASCAR track, something she was uncertain how to accomplish, but by reaching out to the national office, she connected with Chaplain Dan Schafer who was able to make it happen. Chaplaincy is starting to gain visibility at the district level in Oklahoma as well, hopefully leading to more individuals choosing to become chaplains.


Currently, there’s no shortage of duties for Hunter in Woodward. With the hospital under Integris Health management, they are requesting more rounds; and of course, hospice ministry means calls for funerals.

Hunter describes hospice as “being in God’s waiting room,” sharing Scripture, prayer, and hymns as believers prepare to transition to heaven. However, she also encounters many people with no church or spiritual connection, as culture becomes more secularized even in the traditional Bible Belt of the U.S.

In some cases, the funeral for an elderly relative who was a believer is an opportunity for wayward family members to realize “Grandma’s faith” won’t get them to heaven. Even when Hunter is unsure of the deceased person’s spiritual condition, though, she offers the hope found in Christ.

“A funeral is often a room full of people of whom the majority don’t know Jesus,” she says. “They’re hurting; they’re ready to hear.”

“Donnetta puts others’ needs as a priority,” says Melinda Brock, Integris Human Resources strategy manager, who also attends First Assembly of God. “She comes at times of need, whether a tragic event or an end-of-life situation. She is also there for our employees, and even during the very difficult and stressful time of Covid, she spread positivity throughout the building.”

Donnetta Hunter, now 64, doesn’t plan to slow down anytime soon. As long as God keeps opening doors, she will keep walking through them into whatever ministry He leads.

Cynthia J Thomas

Cynthia J. Thomas worked for Assemblies of God U.S. Missions for six years before becoming primary caregiver for her father, a World War II veteran. She has served as a counselor for victims of domestic violence and women facing crisis pregnancies. Cindy and her husband, Phil, a schoolteacher, volunteer in youth outreach and have three adult children and one granddaughter.