After Nathan’s family moved into their new home, Gard was the first person he met. The house had previously belonged to Gard’s relatives, and he continued to pasture his sheep in the field next door.
Gard was an elderly man with thinning gray hair, and the many years of hard work in the heat and cold had taken a toll on his body. His fingers were bent and crippled with arthritis, his eyes were nearly blind, and his face and hands were weatherworn. Gard had never married and lived alone in a tiny, run-down home that was actually more of a shack. He had never learned to drive a car, so he walked around town pulling a cart behind him.
Nathan’s family didn’t know if they had adopted Gard or if he adopted them, but Nathan and his younger siblings Angie and Eric enjoyed helping him take care of his sheep, fix fences, or weed his garden. As they worked together he shared interesting experiences from his boyhood, as well as stories about the pioneers who had settled their community.
One warm, sunny afternoon, Nathan and Angie decided to go into the field and chase Gard’s sheep. At the time they thought it was great fun, but they soon changed their minds after Dad had a serious talk with them. Nathan and Angie felt very sorry about being unkind to Gard’s sheep. They humbly went to Gard and apologized. He was kind and understanding, and thanked them for their honesty and courage to make it right with him. From that day on, Nathan and Angie became assistant shepherds and did all that they could to help Gard take care of his sheep.
As the Christmas season drew near, Nathan anxiously shared some news with his family at dinner one evening.
“Gard told me today that he has not had a Christmas tree since he was a boy.”
With that announcement, the family soon outlined a plan of action—Gard would have a Christmas tree!
On Saturday, Nathan’s family drove to the nearby forest for their traditional Christmas-tree hunt. In the past their goal had been to search until they found a perfect blue spruce for their home, but this year everyone felt more excitement than ever before at finding the right tree for Gard. A perfect little spruce caught Nathan’s eye, and everyone approved. They took the tree home to prepare for Gard’s Christmas surprise.
On Monday for family home evening, Mom helped Nathan, Angie, and Eric make ornaments out of felt, glitter, ribbon, buttons, and beads. Then they decorated the tree and loaded it into the back of their truck.
Nathan had never felt such excitement as they huddled together around the tree before knocking on Gard’s door. As soon as they heard the click of the latch, everyone started singing, “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”
Gard’s eyes lit up with excitement, followed by a few tears of joy as he invited them in. He danced from one foot to the other as he helped Nathan and Dad place the tree in front of his window that faced the street. Gard was so excited about his Christmas tree that he left it standing and decorated until March! Nathan and his family felt a warm peace in their hearts as they observed the soft glow of Gard’s tree lights each evening throughout the winter.
While helping Gard plant some seeds in the spring, Nathan curiously asked Gard why he didn’t attend church. Gard replied that he hadn’t been to church for many years, partly because he didn’t feel that he was needed there.
That caught Nathan’s attention, and Dad explained. “Jesus was often referred to as the Good Shepherd. His followers were people who believed in Him, and were sometimes called His sheep. Before He left them, He made sure that each one of His sheep, or followers, was loved and cared for.”
Dad continued as Nathan listened with interest. “Jesus knows and loves each one of us. As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we must also help watch over His sheep by loving and caring for one another.”
Nathan thought for a few moments. Then he said, “Gard is one of Jesus’s sheep, and He would probably like us to help Gard come to church. Is that what Jesus meant about feeding His sheep?”
Dad nodded. “I think that is exactly what Jesus would like us to do.”
“But where do we start?” Nathan asked.
Dad explained that the first step was as simple as just being a friend. “I think that we have already become good friends with Gard,” he said. “Now let’s include him in our prayers and ask Heavenly Father to help us know what we can do next.”
A few months later, Dad was called to serve as the high priest group leader in the ward. In his prayers, he asked Heavenly Father who should serve with him. He felt impressed that he should ask Gard to serve as his secretary.
Nathan’s family was thrilled when they learned that Gard had accepted the call and would be riding to church with them on Sunday.
As Gard continued to attend church, Nathan decided that the feeling he had inside was even more exciting than delivering a surprise Christmas tree!
“Our Savior Jesus Christ teaches us the importance of seeking after the one who is lost.”
Elder Paul K. Sybrowsky of the Seventy, “‘If Christ Had My Opportunities … ,’” Ensign, Nov. 2005, 35.