Donald Wentworth spent 35 years as a mason before coasting into retirement. He figured he would do a lot of fishing and lounging around. Then an unexpected visit to church led to a new calling. As he thumbed through the Bible, reading the words and listening to the preacher's message at Hicks Road Baptist Church, Wentworth felt moved to do more.
"From that moment on, I believed that God had a mission for me," said Wentworth, 70, of Port Richey. "I learned that God wanted me to be a messenger and a witness for him."
Wentworth grew up Baptist, and his wife, Rosemarie, had been raised Catholic, but neither had been to church in years. It was his wife who felt the pull to return to church about a decade ago, which sent Wentworth on a new path.
"There was something missing in our lives. Going to church filled that void," said Mrs. Wentworth, 73. "Together we did it. It was like a thousand pounds of rocks got lifted off your back."
Wentworth began studying the Bible more, and the couple started volunteering with the assisted living/nursing home ministry run by Aripeka Baptist Church. They visit residents at west Pasco senior living facilities during the week, and Wentworth leads Sunday services at Emeritus at La Case Grande in New Port Richey. About 20 residents attend.
"They can't go to church, so we bring church to them," he said. The couple supports the ministry with their own income.
Wentworth is not an ordained minister. He evangelizes from the heart, after renewing his study of Scriptures.
He graduated last month, amid a sea of students a third his age, from Saint Leo University. He earned a bachelor's degree, majoring in religion, minoring in philosophy, after having earned his associate's degree at Pasco-Hernando Community College. He was inducted into the Delta Epsilon Sigma honor society and received an academic excellence award in religion.
"I hope that I can be an inspiration to other senior citizens," said Wentworth. "God works in mysterious ways and he blesses us according to his will."
Wentworth was born and raised in Tampa. He and Rosemarie married 10 years ago. Both were married before. They have seven grown children between them — he has two sons and a daughter, she has three daughters and a son — living throughout the United States.
Growing up Baptist, being married to a Catholic and attending different churches, Wentworth said he developed a diverse outlook on life. He preaches about unity. Catholics, Baptists, Protestants all go to heaven, as long as you are a Christian, he said.
He had a prison ministry for a while, visiting the Pasco County Detention Center and speaking with prisoners about the Bible and God. Now, he focuses on the assisted living ministry.
"They have been very faithful and administering to the assisted living/nursing home facilities," said Pastor Joe Simms of Aripeka Baptist Church. "Donald is just very dedicated to learning all he can and using it to help people. We need a whole world of folks like that."
Mrs. Wentworth talks lovingly of her husband's grace with people, the way they listen when he talks.
"He doesn't think he's doing much," she said. "I say 'Donald, you should see the look on the people's faces, they get what you're talking about.' "
"He's not talking above your head," she added. "And he just doesn't realize how gifted he is."
Wentworth speaks slowly and modestly of his role, attributing it all to the work of Jesus Christ. He believes he's having an effect at La Casa Grande, and a few people in particular express that.
"They are very emotionally involved, and I find that very rewarding," Wentworth said. Their responses also help him feel he's following the right direction.
"I'm just an average person doing something God wants me to do," he said.
"Faith in Motion" is a regular feature about an individual or group doing something inspiring in the course of a spiritual journey. Story ideas are welcomed, via e-mail. Send them to Mindy.Rubenstein@yahoo.com.