A Wise Servant

Though born on April Fools’ Day (1 April) in 1904, L. Margaret Horner Gilbert of the Escanaba Branch, Marquette Michigan District, has not spent her life carrying out practical jokes but in supporting all kinds of worthy causes.

In fact, Margaret has been so involved in various efforts that at one point before she joined the Church she held 19 positions simultaneously in religious and service organizations. Her labors have included teaching three generations of students between the years of 1923 and 1969, organizing numerous units of the American Cancer Society and the United Way throughout Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, establishing the Delta County Genealogical Society, and participating in the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Margaret has been honored by ALTRUSA International, a network of professional women that seeks to promote community service, which named its highest honor for outstanding service the L. Margaret Gilbert Award. The mayor of Escanaba has twice declared an L. Margaret Gilbert Day, once in 1983 for her work with the American Cancer Society and again in 1994 to honor her 90th birthday and years of community service.

One day later in her life, Margaret was reading a copy of the Book of Mormon that a friend had long before given her and that she’d only recently rediscovered sitting on her shelf. When a knock sounded at her door, she felt dismayed about the interruption—but to her surprise, it was two Latter-day Saint missionaries. During her conversion process, many branch members fasted and prayed to help Margaret quit a long-standing smoking habit. She served as branch Relief Society president at age 90, and today she is the branch’s pianist and family history center director.

“If there’s a job to do, you do it,” Margaret says. “If there’s a need to fill, you fill it. If I’ve done any good at all, it’s because something needed to be done, so I did it.”Janice Andersen Lewis, Rapid River, Michigan

A Bishop with a Badge

When Bishop Gerrit Muurling of the Haarlem Ward, The Hague Netherlands Stake, observes that reclaiming a life is like reclaiming a polder, he knows what he’s talking about. He grew up in the Noordoost Polder, which his father helped drain and prepare for farming and grazing. Today, flowers bloom where sludge once covered the waterlogged lowlands.

Not only does Bishop Muurling help reclaim lives in the Church, but he also tries to influence his fellow officers for good in his employment as Haarlem’s chief of police. “Police work involves daily confrontation with the misery of others,” he says. “In spite of the best we do, we don’t see much improvement in criminals and other troubled people.”

To help officers cope with the sadness and stress they constantly encounter, Captain Muurling works with a special industrial care team that lends support and strength to police officers. He says that his sense of humor and his belief in the gospel help sustain him in difficult situations.

Bishop Muurling and his wife, Elly Hoekstra, joined the Church after two sister missionaries knocked on their door early in their marriage. The sisters were able to answer many religious questions the couple had and confirm concepts they already believed were true, such as eternal marriage and the Word of Wisdom. “We were amazed when the whole branch fasted and prayed that we would join the Church,” he recalls. The Muurlings have five children.Paul and Shirlee Conners, Frankfurt, Germany

One Tuesday a Month

When Jon Bradford managed an office building in Los Angeles, he didn’t like what he saw on the streets: homeless men and women living out of cardboard boxes. “It bothered me a lot,” he says. “I knew I had to do something about it.”

After moving to Portland, Oregon, Brother Bradford did do something about it. Since September 1992 he and his wife, Ellen, along with their children and some friends, have taken a full-course dinner one Tuesday each month to the Transition Projects homeless shelter in downtown Portland.

With the help of donations by local companies and individuals, the Bradfords buy, prepare, and serve the 100 meals themselves. A typical Bradford menu includes a fresh green salad, shepherd’s pie, and home-baked cookies—a welcome change from the usual soup and bread.

“The Bradfords are unique,” says Lila Wolfenstein, volunteer coordinator for Transition Projects. “They are the only volunteers who are not backed directly by a church or some other organization.”

The Bradfords’ 20-year-old son, Scott, who is now serving a mission in Germany, says, “One person can make a big difference in the world. When I get home after serving the meals, I feel electric.”

Brother Bradford serves in the high priests group leadership and Sister Bradford serves as the Relief Society president of the Willamette Ward, Lake Oswego Oregon Stake.Michael Fitzgerald, West Linn, Oregon

A Call to Arms

When Steve Phipps was 13, his father asked him to dig some ditches on the family farm. When young Steve complained, his father said, “Okay, let’s arm wrestle. The loser has to do it.”

Though Steve could beat anyone his own age at school and quite a few older classmates, his father won their arm wrestle. As Steve dug ditches in the summer heat, he set a goal to beat his father in an arm wrestle someday. “I felt that I would be able to take on the world if I could beat my dad, because in my eyes he was the best,” Steve recalls.

Steve began lifting weights and working out in addition to doing his chores, and by the time he was 16 he beat his father in an arm wrestle. A few months later Steve noticed a newspaper ad for the Pacific Northwest Arm Wrestling Championship. In a match that lasted five minutes, Steve lost to the local defending champion—but in the process he gained the notice of members of an arm wrestling team, who invited him to join.

With more training, Steve began winning local tournaments and some larger tournaments, where his opponents included men who had won national and world championships. Steve did not compete in his first national championship, however, until after college and a mission to Santiago, Chile. “Arm wrestling wasn’t as important as serving the Lord and getting a good education,” he says. He won his first arm wrestling national championship in 1983, missed the 1984 competition because of job responsibilities—“another good lesson in priorities,” he says—and then won again in 1985.

Next Steve set his sights on winning the world arm wrestling championship. Several times he placed as high as third in world championship matches. He rededicated his training efforts and was able to win the 1993 world heavyweight arm wrestling championship. He serves as the elders quorum president in the Federal Way Fifth Ward, Federal Way Washington Stake, and he and his wife, Terri, have a daughter.Gilbert Knight Miskin, Federal Way, Washington

In the Spotlight

  • The U.S. National Council for Social Studies recently named Laura Wakefield outstanding middle-level social studies teacher of the year. A former army captain, she serves in the Florida League of Teachers, recently participated in the National Geographic Society’s Project Marco Polo in Europe, and helped four students win top honors in Florida’s history fair and later compete in a national history fair. She teaches Gospel Doctrine in the Kissimmee Ward, Orlando Florida South Stake.

  • Church College of Western Samoa principal Gaugau Tavana received the Outstanding Dissertation of the Year award in the Social Context of Education division from the American Education Research Association. His dissertation was on cultural values relating to education in Western Samoa.

  • Debra Tisinger of the Moorpark First Ward, Thousand Oaks California Stake, won the 1995 national singles racquetball championship in the women’s 35-plus division. She is a two-time world senior champion, and she and her husband, Kevin, previously won the mixed-thirties national title.