Marslands great in ministry, marriage

Fresh out of military service in Korea in 1952, Dale Marsland of Sherwood attended a Fourth of July Dance at Mouse River Park, where a young Minot woman caught his eye. His inquiry about her led to an introduction, and the rest is history.

Dale and Donna Marsland were married on Feb. 7, 1953. Their initial acquaintance had blossomed into something more as students at Minot State University.

Dale, 83, and Donna, 80, consider their 60 years together to have contained an ordinary share of ups and downs and daily routines that haven’t been especially remarkable.

“We have never done anything earth-shaking, but we really had fun,” Donna Marsland said. Their partnership in ministry has been one area where they have felt particularly blessed.

The Marslands started their careers by opening a real-estate firm. Donna was one of Minot’s first female real-estate brokers and Dale worked in construction.

Then a health crisis changed the direction of Donna Marsland’s life.

“I came to realize I really had been blessed to still be alive. So I wanted my life to go in another direction,” she said. “I thought there was something I should be doing because I had been given this great gift of life.”

In her search to find her mission, she came to realize that ministry opportunities were all around her.

“I realized that I was supposed to do whatever was at hand,” she said. Over the years, she also discovered that no ministry is more or less important than any other ministry.

“Whatever any of us does, you never do it on your own. Whatever we accomplish, it’s because somebody else helped us,” she said.

Donna Marsland became involved in campus ministry, conducting Bible studies at MSU in the early 1970s. She moved on to other pursuits but in the mid 1980s, she returned for another 17 years with Campus Ministries. The organization represented seven mainline Protestant churches, and Marsland was the first lay minister to fill the on-campus position. While there, she worked to organize a Women’s Resource Center on campus and served on a six-state board for national campus ministry.

“He was very involved in that ministry with me,” Donna Marsland said of her husband. “He’s really been very, very supportive and engaged and involved. I think we both enjoy people. That’s a big part of it.”

She and Dale took MSU students on mission trips to Mexico for many years. The students helped bring water treatment to the poverty-stricken region and offered Bible school to children.

“Sometimes we would take student nurses so they could help with health care because people down there have no health care,” Donna Marsland said. The people had little in the way of material goods and often went hungry.

“But the faith of the Mexican people is incredible. Students would be crying because they would see how the faith of the people just shined,” she said. “We had some students who went two or three times just because they got so much out of it.”

Marsland also involved students in a ministry on Fort Berthold Reservation.

Having had several years of training in pastoral care, she pastored a Presbyterian church in Westhope for a time and has served as a hospice chaplain.

“Hospice really teaches you to treasure today and the people in your life. None of us is guaranteed tomorrow,” she said.

Dale Marsland has been involved in a variety of enterprises over the years, including operating an oil-field business with his son during the oil boom of the 1980s and in selling school buses.

As a high school student, he had worked as a school bus driver for about $17 a month, which was big money in those days, he said. When Nedrose School was in need of bus drivers a number of years ago, he came out of retirement to spend 6-1/2 years transporting students.

“The kids loved him,” Donna Marsland said.

“And I loved them,” Dale Marsland said. “That was a really rewarding job.”

He resigned, though, when he and Donna went to Sitka, Alaska, for several months in 2005 to volunteer at Sheldon Jackson College, which later became a fine arts camp. Built in 1878, the Presbyterian school was the oldest college in Alaska prior to closing in 2007. When the Marslands were there, Donna worked in a facility similar to a YMCA while Dale assisted with building maintenance.

“All the buildings were wood,” Dale Marsland recalled. “They were old, and they needed a lot of maintenance.”

“We worked hard,” Donna Marsland added. “We got up at 6 in the morning and put in a full day’s work, but it was really worthwhile.”

Donna Marsland now is team leader for a visitation program at First Presbyterian Church in Minot. The program pairs volunteers with members of the congregation who due to age and illness are unable to otherwise participate in the church community. In addition to coordinating visits by volunteers, Donna and Dale pay visits to nursing homes and assisted living centers.

“The person that’s blessed the most when you visit these people is the person who is doing the visiting,” said Dale Marsland, who also makes 25 to 30 pounds of fudge to deliver to shut-in residents at Christmas time.

The visitation program includes occasional social gatherings at the church for the volunteers and their elderly participants.

Donna Marsland grew up in Minot under the wings of First Presbyterian Church. After she and Dale were married, they lived in her old neighborhood and, for many years, in the house where she grew up. As a young couple, they played a small role in the organizational process of constructing First Presbyterian’s current church building.

They raised three children and have seven grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren. The Marslands, who have had opportunities to travel around the United States and to eastern Canada and Europe, still do some traveling to keep up with the activities of their now scattered family.

“We are going to start slowing down,” Dale Marsland said.

“We say we will rest when we get old,” Donna Marsland added.

“It’s pretty hard to figure out just where ‘old’ starts,” Dale jokes.