A moment of pastoral crisis occurred on Christmas Eve 1987. Between the two scheduled candlelight services at the First Presbyterian Church of Bakerstown, PA, there was sufficient time for the one remaining pastoral visit Rev. Donn Ed had yet to make. The house was not far from the church. The family was impoverished. He knew it well, as he already had visited it several times. The single mother and her five little children resided in a small, 2-room concrete block building at the end of a quiet lane. His visit would include the delivery of a bag of groceries, a holiday turkey, and a cash gift of 50 dollars. The church served nearly 50 disadvantaged households in this way every Christmas season.
Donn drove to this family’s home, delivered the gifts from the church and visited a while. Through tears of joy and appreciation, the impoverished mother thanked him for the gifts. Donn struggled with his response. Time seemed to suddenly slow to near stop as he absorbed the suffering that surrounded him. There in the corner was an open firebox fueled with wood from pallets the mother scavenged from local businesses. Across the room on a cardboard box serving as an end table, an evergreen sprig was decorated with pieces of paper string. This was the only Christmas tree the children enjoyed. Crates and planks served as makeshift furniture. The bare concrete walls were dark with soot from the firebox. The window’s poor-quality served more effectively as vents. The concrete floor was carpeted with flattened cardboard cartons. As Donn silently observed these conditions, his heart broke for the children around him. He wondered how life would feel for a young person caught in the grip of poverty.
In looking at the mother as he prepared to leave, Donn deeply struggled for words that would allow him to exit gracefully. Finding none, he grasped at a phrase often used in the pastorate when nothing else could be said. “My prayers will be with you,” he remarked as he opened the door. She thanked him. As Donn walked away from the house, he sensed something that he never felt before. In him, he experienced a conflict between pastoral propriety and the suffering servanthood of Christ whom he ostensibly represented. As he drove away, Donn sensed that the living Lord was entering the house of that needy family.
And then a dream was born…
For Donn, that Christmas Eve encounter changed his life, both professionally and spiritually. One day while reading scripture, Donn came across a definition for “Hosanna.” A literal translation from Hebrew means, “Rescue me now, Lord please!” After contemplation, Donn realized that a life-changing vision was appearing within him. A calling came to him to form a new type of ministry. Shortly thereafter, Hosanna Industries was born. Tools and equipment were gathered. A truck was obtained. An operational location was secured. Volunteers and mission workers miraculously appeared. Donn’s dream had become a reality.
On Palm Sunday 1990 during the worship service at the First Presbyterian Church of Bakerstown, Hosanna Industries officially began. The first three mission workers were commissioned during that service. In 1998, Hosanna Industries moved from its first facility in Bakerstown to its present location in New Sewickley Township in Beaver County. This campus currently serves as the headquarters for Hosanna’s buzz of activities. The volunteer dormitory, chapel, community center, warehouse and trade skill learning center are found here.
In 2015, Hosanna Industries expanded its mission by acquiring property in Richland Township, Gibsonia, Allegheny County. This campus is an eight acre site that contains workshop art studios, a conference hall and offices. It also has a large lake and wooded are for praying and reflection.
Hosanna Industries is using the property to help people grow spiritually and creatively. In reflecting on the past three decades, Donn is grateful of the support Hosanna Industries has obtained from the community and those who have helped the mission grow.
“It is amazing to see how Hosanna has evolved,” Donn states. “God has lead us on a fruitful and fulfilling journey which I hope continues into the far distant future.” “Praise Be to God!””