Dear Elder

{I’ve been thinking about his a lot lately, and then saw a video by the amazingly spiritual and cool blogger, Al Fox, and decided to take the plunge and write this. I also may or may not have laid in bed, curled in a ball, reading her blog on my phone til the wee hours of the morning a couple times.}

Dear Elder,

Did you think that at age 19, you could change a young girl’s life for eternity? Did you realize that a nine year old girl would see you as a super hero in a shirt and tie, and that your black badge was just as impressive to her as Superman’s cape or Spider Man’s web abilities?

Did you know that little girl thought you were utterly insane to leave your family and end up in a little town in Pennsylvania or a littler town in Connecticut? Did you know that she thought you were amazing for the exact same reason?

Elders Gordon & van DykeGreencastle, Penn.

Elders Gordon & van Dyke
Greencastle, Penn.

Did you know that little girl stayed up late reading her Bible the nights before you would visit her mother, and that in that bright sun room, she would soak up every single word you said? That the one question she managed to ask you – did Jesus have a last name? – was a sign that something she didn’t quite understand was happening as she learned more about Christ from you? That she thought the cups with men’s portraits pasted on them, and the bumblebee in the freezer, made her think for days about what you had said and shared? That she didn’t believe you when you gave her a copy of the Book of Mormon that it was her very own to keep?

She’s 20 now, and realizes that you probably didn’t. You may have had an inkling of what was going on inside the little girl’s head as she watched her mom be baptized, and a year later be baptized herself. You probably didn’t realize that a few years later, her parents would be divorced and her life would feel like it was in a tail spin. That she turned her back on God for a while, but the very thought of you and what you had taught reminded her that she wasn’t alone.

That if you could go out into the world to place you’d never been, that she could stay at home and keep it together as best she could.

You probably didn’t realize that your actions would forge in her a belief and a knowledge that actions speak just as loud as words. Bet you didn’t ever think that you’d teach an eternal principle by mowing a lawn or pulling weeds, right?

By showing up on a doorstep and being persistently patient, you gave her eternity in a little blue book and inspired her to keep moving forward. That every moment she’s reading in the Book of Mormon that she’s thanking God that He sent you.

I thank the Lord every night for each of you and think about you often. Mom and I talk about you, and wonder how you’re doing, how you’re probably a wonderful husband and dad, and that your sons will grow up to be just like you.

We joke about how you decided to teach the principle of resurrection by putting a bumblebee in the freezer, tying piece of floss to it’s leg, and then holding it on a leash when it thawed out again as it buzzed around.

And how mom went to drop off sticky buns and chocolate milk every Wednesday, and once found you in a “twine hut” up in the trees. We’re pretty sure that wasn’t a good idea.

We laugh when we think of the mess of flour and chocolate ice cream when you decided to make crepes and gnocchi for dinner one evening for the lot of us.

I still know how to plunk out that tune you taught me on the piano – the one where you use your knuckles? That one.

Mom still has a stash of your letters and thank-you notes.

I still remember recovering from surgery and being in pain, but laughing when  you showed up with a stuffed blue bird and a couple of hours to hang out and keep me company.

The Christmas eve when the lot of you came over for dinner and mom made enough for an army, and leftovers for you to bring home. My heart broke when you called your families and I could see a tear leak from your eye as you wished them a Merry Christmas. Mom comforted you with cookies, and you were nice enough to share.

You probably thought your weak moments were better hidden, but those days you were homesick were the ones where you taught me the most about families and the Gospel.

At first I was bored when you taught me one lesson over and over, because you weren’t confident that you had it memorized and you wanted to practice. I look back and love that lesson best now. And it’s proof that the Lord works miracles, because you came back and recited it perfectly.

You loved Spongebob so much that you had a Spongebob tie with a square bottom. I still think that’s a little weird.

You told me right before I was going to enter the font that it would be freezing cold and it might be better if you just pushed me in. It was nice and warm, thanks. You just laughed at the face I shot you and ruffled my hair.

You introduced our family to ‘fry-sauce’ and we still think it’s gross and a disgrace to french fries.

I’m grown up now, and you wouldn’t recognize me from Adam, but you changed my life. I’m serving a mission in a few months because I can’t think of a better way to say ‘thank you’ to God for sending you to our doorstep. I’m hoping to make you proud, because I’m proud to have known you.

Thank you, Elder. For your 2 years, and for my eternity.

Baptismal DayNovember 23, 2002

Baptismal Day
November 23, 2002

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