We had a young man who is leaving on his 2-year church mission this Wednesday speak to us in church today. He shared part of his dad's conversion story as well as a few others told by some of the leaders of our church. They got me thinking about my own family's story of how we came to be members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and all that has meant for me ever since.
The first thought I had was of the Deaf elders who came and taught our family of this gospel that has had such an impact on shaping me into the person I am today. I am so thankful that those elders would give up two years of their lives to search out families like ours who were in such need of the message they had for us. And then somewhere in the back of my mind I had a faint recollection of another elder who was there - one who was not teaching in ASL, but in English. One who would come with the two Deaf elders and teach us kids. Maybe he was a signing elder, I can't remember that part, but I know he was funny and kind and patient. He had blonde hair and a huge grin that was ever-present. I remembered how much we loved having him in our home, both before we were baptized and after.
Throughout the day I kept thinking about this particular elder but couldn't remember his name. It was driving me crazy! Then, as we pulled into the driveway after church, it came to me. Elder Gilger! I tried to remember where he was from (maybe Arizona? No, that was Sister Curbishley) but all of those little details were erased from memory. Still, I couldn't stop thinking about Elder Gilger.
After dinner I had a vague recollection of a Christmas card he had sent our family being in a box of things my mom had given me after my Dad died. I went and dug out some photo albums and envelopes filled with newspaper clippings and such, and there he was!
I wanted to contact him, tell him what our family is up to and see where the last 32 or so years have taken him. I tried Facebook but couldn't discern the faces there from the one in my head or on this Christmas card. So instead I decided to do the next best thing. I decided to write.
Dear (Former) Elder Jeffrey Gilger,
It has been many, many years since you served your mission in Los Angeles California. I just wanted to let you know what an awesome gift it was that you and the other elders shared with our family. A year after we were baptized, our family was sealed together forever in the Los Angeles Temple. This has become especially significant since my Dad left us much too early after a battle with the worst kind of brain cancer just over ten years ago. Is there any greater gift than that of a family becoming a forever family? Just 10 short years after that sealing I was able to be sealed to my own spouse for time and all eternity. There are so many more details that I would love to share, so many more blessings and miracles that I have experienced as a result of your willingness to serve a mission 30+ years ago, and I hope that someday I will have the chance to tell you of those in person. For now, I just need to say thank you.
All the best,