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Donald J. Sandstrom, 1956.

Credit: Brazil immigration card, retrieved from Ancestry.com.

Sandstrom, Donald John (1928–1999)

By Milton Hook

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Milton Hook, Ed.D. (Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan, the United States). Hook retired in 1997 as a minister in the Greater Sydney Conference, Australia. An Australian by birth Hook has served the Church as a teacher at the elementary, academy and college levels, a missionary in Papua New Guinea, and as a local church pastor. In retirement he is a conjoint senior lecturer at Avondale College of Higher Education. He has authored Flames Over Battle Creek, Avondale: Experiment on the Dora, Desmond Ford: Reformist Theologian, Gospel Revivalist, the Seventh-day Adventist Heritage Series, and many magazine articles. He is married to Noeleen and has two sons and three grandchildren.

First Published: October 18, 2022

Donald J. Sandstrom was a pastor in Massachusetts, a missionary in South America and East Africa, and president of three conferences in the United States.

Heritage and Education

Donald Sandstrom was born in Brooklyn, New York, on January 6, 1928. His parents were Siegfried Moritz Valentine Sandstrom and Ruth Edna (Mohlmann). His father was of Swedish heritage, working in Brooklyn as a clerk in a manufacturing company when Donald was born. Donald’s only sibling was Dorothy Jean (b. 1926).1

A change in his father’s employment took the family to Connecticut, where Donald received his primary and secondary education in public schools. He was baptized on May 4, 1940, at Bridgeport, Connecticut, by Horace Beckner. Donald earned a bachelor of theology degree in 1948 at Atlantic Union College (AUC) in South Lancaster, Massachusetts.

Early Ministry

On August 30, 1949, Donald married Hildegard Mae Reinhardt at Windsor, Ontario, Canada. They had met at AUC where she completed an associate’s degree in secretarial science earlier in 1949. The couple would have four children: Donna, Richard, Ruth, and Carol.2

Sandstrom began ministry in the Southern New England Conference, serving as associate pastor of the New Bedford district (1948-1950) and then pastor of the Fitchburg district (1951-1956), both districts located in Massachusetts. He was ordained on July 5, 1952, by Elder Lewis Lenheim at South Lancaster.3 One highlight of Sandstrom’s ministry in Massachusetts was leading the Fitchburg Church in the final stage of retiring the debt on their house of worship, celebrated with a service of dedication on November 1, 1952.4

Missionary to South America

In 1956 Sandstrom accepted an appointment as secretary (director) of the Education, Sabbath School, Temperance and Young People’s departments of the North Coast Mission in the North Brazil Union Mission.5 Though not yet formally trained as an educator, one of his roles was overseeing several elementary schools. Another endeavor was helping to train members to conduct Vacation Bible Schools, using the Child Evangelism Manual produced by the General Conference.6

Sandstrom served as president of the mission from January 1960 through August 1961.7 His task included visitation over jungle roads by truck and horseback to initiate evangelism in remote villages such as Estrada para Lago Limpo in Maranhão State.8

During a one-year furlough, Sandstrom completed a master of arts degree in education at Andrews University in 1962. The Sandstrom family then returned to Brazil, this time locating in Belem, Pará State, where the North Brazil Union Mission had its headquarters. Elder Sandstrom led the union Education and Young People’s departments for four years.9

In 1966 Sandstrom was elected president of the Inca Union Mission. The union’s vast mountainous territory included the nations of Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru. It had nearly 40,000 members in 153 churches.10 One of the world’s most destructive earthquakes, 7.9 on the Richter Scale, occurred in Peru during Sandstrom’s term as union president. It struck on May 31, 1970, causing more than 60,000 deaths. The worst affected areas were to the north of Lima, locale of the Inca Union headquarters. The churches at Chimbote, Huaraz, Casma and Huarmey were completely destroyed. Others were severely damaged. Peru Mission Academy and Inca Union College also suffered badly. Sandstrom arranged for the mission plane, the “Fernando Stahl,” to fly aid to besieged areas and church members rallied to supply meals for thousands of people.11

Further Homeland Service

After five and a half years in the Inca Union Mission and 15 years overall in South America, Sandstrom accepted a call from the Texas Conference to serve as youth director, beginning January 1972. A prominent reason for the Sandstrom’s return to the homeland was to facilitate the education of the four children.12 With all except Carol now teenagers, Hildegard Sandstrom took part-time secretarial work in the Texas Conference office and would do so intermittently at administrative offices where her husband served in subsequent years.13

In the fall of 1973 Sandstrom returned to conference executive leadership, this time as president of the Greater New York Conference, which had 44 churches with a total membership of 6,662.14 During his term of just over four years the number of churches increased to 51 and the membership grew to 7,239.15 In February 1978, Sandstrom transferred to the presidency of the Northern New England Conference, a slightly smaller constituency with headquarters in Portland, Maine.16

Administrative Assignment in Eastern Africa

In 1981 Sandstrom was appointed secretary of the Afro-Mideast Division with headquarters in Nicosia, Cyprus.17 His term witnessed major organizational changes. Soon after his arrival the Afro-Mideast Division was divided and Sandstrom found himself secretary of a new entity, the Eastern Africa Division, with an office in Nairobi, Kenya. The territory consisted of Ethiopia, Djibouti, Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. The constituency numbered 226,400 members in 1,177 churches.18

Part-way into his term of office, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe were added to his field, enlarging the constituency to 435,000 members in 2,238 churches. His main office transferred to Harare, Zimbabwe, and the Nairobi premises became a branch office.19 Sandstrom returned to America in time to attend the mid-1985 General Conference Session in New Orleans, Louisiana, where he was a member of the Plans Committee.20

Final Years

After the General Conference meetings Sandstrom accepted appointment as Trust Services director for the Texico Conference. With headquarters in Amarillo, Texas, the conference territory included nearly all of the state of New Mexico and a substantial portion of western Texas.21 The fluency in Spanish that Sandstrom gained during his final assignment in South America served him well in working with the large Spanish-speaking population in Texico’s territory.22 In August 1988 he was elected president of the conference, a position he held until his retirement in 1991.23

Donald and Hildegard Sandstrom retired to Florida and became members of the Lady Lake SDA church. Donald passed away on December 12, 1999, in Zephyrhills, Florida, aged 71.24 Hildegard was 91 when she passed away in Greenville, Tennessee on December 10, 2019.25

Sources

Brewer, Nathan F. “Dedication of Fitchburg, Massachusetts, Church.” ARH, December 25, 1952.

Case, Charles C. “Training VBS Personnel in Brazil.” ARH, March 12, 1959.

Dart, G. Charles. “Don Sandstrom is MV Secretary for Texas Conference.” Southwestern Union Record, February 26, 1972.

“Donald John Sandstrom.” FamilySearch. Accessed September 6, 2022. https://www.familysearch.org/tree/pedigree/landscape/G62S-DHL.

“Donald J. Sandstrom obituary.” Southern Tidings, July 2001.

Muir, Wellesley. “The Peru Earthquake.” ARH, July 30, 1970.

“Regular Missionary Service.” ARH, December 10, 1981.

Sandstrom, Donald J. “Advancing Under Difficulties.” South American Bulletin, July-September 1961.

Sandstrom, Donald John and Hildegard Mae. Secretariat Missionary Files, RG 21, Record 114942. General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Silver Spring, MD (GCA).

“Sandstrom Accepts Conference Presidency.” Southwestern Union Record, October 14, 1988.

Seventh-day Adventist Yearbooks. General Conference of Seventh-day Adventist Online Archives. https://documents.adventistarchives.org/yearbooks/Forms/Allitems.aspx.

 

“Standing Committees of the Session.” ARH, July 3, 1985.

Notes

  1. “Donald John Sandstrom,” FamilySearch, accessed September 6, 2022, https://www.familysearch.org/tree/pedigree/landscape/G62S-DHL.

  2. Donald John Sandstrom and Hildegard Mae Sandstrom Biographical Information Blanks, August 25, 1966, Secretariat Missionary Files, RG 21, Record 114942, GCA.

  3. D. Sandstrom Biographical Information Blank, August 25, 1966, GCA.

  4. Nathan F. Brewer, “Dedication of Fitchburg, Massachusetts, Church,” ARH, December 25, 1952, 16.

  5. D. Sandstrom Biographical Information Blank, August 25, 1966, GCA.

  6. Charles C. Case, “Training VBS Personnel in Brazil,” ARH, March 12, 1959, 18-19.

  7. D. Sandstrom Biographical Information Blank, August 25, 1966, GCA

  8. Donald J. Sandstrom, “Advancing Under Difficulties,” South American Bulletin, July-September 1961, 7-8.

  9. D. Sandstrom Biographical Information Blank, August 25, 1966, GCA.

  10. Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook of 1967, 202.

  11. Wellesley Muir, “The Peru Earthquake,” ARH, July 30, 1970, 1-2.

  12. G. Charles Dart, “Don Sandstrom is MV Secretary for Texas Conference,” Southwestern Union Record, February 26, 1972, 11.

  13. Hildegard Mae (Rheinhardt) Sandstrom Biographical Information Blank, February 10, 1981, Secretariat Missionary Files, RG 21, Record 114942, GCA

  14. Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook for 1975, 29.

  15. Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook for 1977, 33-34.

  16. Donald John Sandstrom Biographical Information Blank, February 10, 1981, Secretariat Missionary Files, RG 21, Record 114942, GCA.

  17. “Regular Missionary Service,” ARH, December 10, 1981, 22.

  18. Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook for 1982, 79.

  19. Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook for 1984, 81.

  20. “Standing Committees of the Session,” ARH, July 3, 1985, 30.

  21. “News of Texico Workers,” Southwestern Union Record, October 31, 1985, 12L.

  22. See for example, “Southwest Camp Meeting Held in El Paso,” Southwestern Union Record, October 9, 1987, 10; D. Sandstrom Biographical Information Blank, February 10, 1981, GCA.

  23. “Sandstrom Accepts Conference Presidency,” Southwestern Union Record, October 14, 1988, 11; “News Flash!,” Southwestern Union Record, June 1991, 18.

  24. “Donald J. Sandstrom obituary.”

  25. “Hildegard Reinhardt Sandstrom,” Find A Grave, Memorial ID 205390208, December 11, 2019, accessed September 14, 2022, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/205390208/hildegard-sandstrom.

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Hook, Milton. "Sandstrom, Donald John (1928–1999)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. October 18, 2022. Accessed February 29, 2024. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=3G6F.

Hook, Milton. "Sandstrom, Donald John (1928–1999)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. October 18, 2022. Date of access February 29, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=3G6F.

Hook, Milton (2022, October 18). Sandstrom, Donald John (1928–1999). Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved February 29, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=3G6F.