Our Season of Service

Inspired by some friends of our family, the Marshall family has decided to try a new way of exchanging Christmas gifts in 2012. We hope it will become a wonderful family tradition.
For years, the four Marshall children, their spouses, and their parents exchanged gifts every Christmas, but in 2011, we decided the gift-giving tradition may need a change since we are all so blessed and in need of truly nothing. We decided we needed to find a better way to celebrate the true Christmas spirit.

We suggested that we each perform acts of service in the name of the sibling whose name we were assigned at random. Our service will be kept a secret until Christmas Day.

Our friend drew the names for us and notified each of us privately of the person who should inspire our service. On Christmas Day, we reveal who we were given and how we chose to serve by posting our stories on The Marshall Family Season of Service blog.

We hope this tradition will help us focus on serving our communities and each other during the annual celebration of the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

We invite you to come back to our blog on Christmas morning to read this year's service.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Dear Haylee, 2013

Dear Haylee,

This year for my service project I joined in a state effort to collect blankets for Syrian refugees in Turkey. I tied two fleece blankets and had them delivered to a local Mosque. They along with 18,000 pounds of other donated blankets have hopefully made their way to a family who could use some warmth this winter.

We have several members of our ward who regularly travel to Turkey to aid with the Syrian refugee effort. The stories I have heard have touched my heart and I was so happy to help in a small way.


Dear Owen,

This year as I was thinking about service for you I considered 2 things. Your love for food and your ability to help immigrants and other who are less fortunate. For my first service our family participated in a 5k run to support a local food bank. The event was sponsored by our ward and collected several car loads of peanut butter for donation to our local food bank.
For my second act of service our family prepared "care kits" to give out to some of the homeless people that I often meet when I travel downtown. The kids contained non-perishable food items, food, and basic toiletries. Unfortunately I have not had the opportunity to go downtown since I made the kits, but plan to hand them out when I start going downtown every week  early next year.

Merry Christmas!

Dear Terry,

In the spirit of my father-in-law who loves the great outdoors and, especially, fiddling in the yard, I chose to mow yards on my race tractor that does a whopping 11 miles and hour!! For 3 months I was blessed to serve our neighbor by mowing his yard after he was recovering from a heart attack. It was a great blessing and has allowed us to become closer as neighbors and friends. They were very grateful and even attended our ward Primary Program to watch our children. Terry is a great example of service; he always is ready to lend a hand. It's taught us that time spent with people is truly the greatest treasure.

Dear Scott,

I thought forever about what to do in your name this year. There are just so many needs and so many opportunities to help others, it's hard to narrow down what would be "the perfect thing." But then one day I was out cleaning stalls and thinking (It's my favorite time to think. Odd for others perhaps, but perfect for me. :) and it suddenly struck me what I could offer to the whole family!! I as thinking of all we've all experienced and accomplished in the past few years and marveling at what we have become. We've all been sealed in the temple, started families, survived school, gone out into the world and become successful in our chosen fields; we have strong marriages and strong testimonies. We serve the community and at church. I think we've all done fairly well up to this point. But then I began thinking of Mammaw and Uncle Dan and Uncle Pete and so many others. I know they're all proud of our lives, but I wish I had done more to record some of the stories and experiences from THEIR lives. I know the story of the first time Mammaw saw Pappaw, but wouldn't it be wonderful if we had it in her own words?! And what did she think when she held her first child, or how did she feel when she lost her only girl? I can imagine, but I wish I KNEW. And, I have the photos of Uncle Dan's military service, but who are the people standing there serving with him? We'll never know now. How much easier would Anthony's family history be if we had ANY records from his dad or grandfather? What lives they lived! But we have so very little. That's when it occurred to me what to do! Those opportunities are gone but we still have family members here whose lives we can begin to document. So, I gave Daddy a book with questions about his life to answer. I thought I would type them up and give each family a copy. I have done that (the typing but not the distributing), but as I was typing up his answers, I realized there is so much more that could be added to it! Stories he skipped over and answers that need more depth. I guess you could say this will be a continuing act of service for a bit as I work with Daddy to flesh out his record and figure out the best way to bind it all together for everyone to have. Merry Christmas!!

Dear Mama!

When I drew your name I began thinking of the things that I could do.  I settled on being able to give back to those in need through the Greensboro Urban Ministries.  I decided I would volunteer my time to feed those in need during this Christmas season.  I worked with other volunteers to feed 500 people who live in and around the local Greensboro area.  I was very surprised at the dire need that there is in Greensboro.  The Urban Ministries like the bishops storehouse also feeds many people in the area through food donations that that they receive though man different places and charities.  I would like to thank you for teaching me to love others more than myself.  Love Owen.  Sorry for no Pictures.  I was not allowed to take pictures at the location.

Dear Anthony,

As I set out to make my service goal for this year, I thought and prayed and struggled with finding the "right" project. Then as I was reading in an old Ensign magazine, I came across this information about FamilySearch.org,

We currently have a backlog of over 3 million images for active projects that need to be arbitrated. That’s 3 million images and their respective indexes that aren’t published on FamilySearch.org because they haven’t made it through arbitration. They could be published in a matter of days if they were all arbitrated today. It’s just a matter of having enough volunteers to do the work.

That information was from April 2012.  The current backlog is over 12 million now.  

The article continued, "How do we fix the backlog? Easy—we just need more arbitrators."

I felt called to help!  And I loved the idea of helping people find their ancestors. But considering I had only ever indexed a batch or two before and it had been years since I'd even done that, I certainly wasn't ready to be an arbitrator.  Experience indexing a variety of record types is the main requirement.  So this year I have worked on indexing so I can become an arbitrator.  Thousands of records and lots of hours later, I can finally say I'm experienced and ready to become an arbitrator!

A couple things about indexing I had previously read about and now have a strong testimony of, are that, indexing allows us to all help one another with our personal family history and also that the names I, and others, have submitted, are not just names...they are people!!  Those names are sons and daughters of God, many of whom are waiting to be found so they can enter into temple covenants and all of whom Heavenly Father wants to bless.  It has been a fun project to undertake and I have felt the promised blessings and spiritual protection from participating in the Spirit of Elijah.

Merry Christmas!


Dear Heidi,

Dear Heidi,

I know how much you and the children love Frying Pan Farm Park and so I made a donation to them in your behalf.  I know that you are creating wonderful memories as a family on your outings there.


Dear Craig,

Dear Craig...

As I thought about Craig I reflected upon his childhood.  I remembered that he wanted to be the town drunk (or a lumberjack) and that his parents paid for some braces that he never received.  This led me to my two acts of service that I provided.  The first part of my service was to give three dollars to almost every homeless person I came into contact with and to talk to them a little bit when I could.  This usually occurred when I was stopped at a traffic light.  I’ll never know what they did with the money, but I do know that I was able to help them have enough money to have some food at their next meal.  They were good people and seemed very grateful.   

 I have also had several patients who were unable to pay for their Orthodontic treatment for a variety of reasons.  I have thus relieved them of what they owed in honor of Craig.  In other words they did not pay for their treatment and were able to receive straight teeth.  The exact opposite scenario of Craig’s youth.   One child was in braces for the second time.  They were removed the first time due to financial difficulties that the family had encountered.  They still owed $2,750 dollars and could not pay due to a job loss.  They came and requested that the braces be removed and planned on returning in a couple of years when they could afford the braces.  I told them that we would complete the treatment as planned and that there was no need to make any additional payments.  In another circumstance, there was a single Mom of four young children who had always wanted braces due to very severely crowded teeth.  I was able to do so at several thousand dollars below the actual cost.  I also made dozens of speech and feeding appliances for cleft lip and palate patients who could not afford them.  They normally cost several hundred dollars, but they were all fabricated, delivered, and adjusted at no charge.  These appliances allow them to learn to eat and speak during developmentally crucial times in their life.  Some of these children are as young as 3 years old.  We generally only make these when they have had several failed surgeries to repair the holes in the roof of their mouth.  The total care given in Craig's honor was in the tens of thousands of dollars.  I wish that I had more patients like Craig who pay for the braces and never come get them.  (Just kidding)  However, it was a wonderful feeling to provide care for individuals who otherwise would not have been able to receive it.  It was a wonderful feeling to see their lives changed and transformed.  What they received was more then straight teeth because it changed their whole demeanor and attitude.  Their improved smile, self esteem, and confidence will surely serve them well throughout their lives.  Thank you for your inspiration Craig!


2013 service from Mother to Gina

Dear Gina,
  I had your name this year, as you already know. I tried to think of a service that I thought you might  have done for someone yourself. I was talking to the girl that does my hair about it and she told me about her church group that was making pillowcase dresses for little girls in Africa. Some of these girls have never had a new dress and I thought how easy it would be to bring some happiness to into their little lives.
  So I looked the group up online, found the address and emailed the lady to see if she would still take my dresses with her. She replied back quickly to say she would be thrilled to take your dresses on her next trip this spring. I have finished 7 dresses so far and plan to continue sewing until time to ship them to her.  I hope to send at least 20 in your honor. I know you would do this for these little girls to bring them such joy because of the love you have for all of the Saviors children all over the world.


Dear Wendy...

Dear Wendy,

When I drew your name this year, I wanted to do something that is something you enjoyed.  Horses were too much of a stretch, I already had a garden, and so I settled on something else.  At the beginning of the year, you were struggling to find the perfect bread recipe.   One day while we were talking about bread and it's methodology, it hit me as to what I would do to serve others in your name.  I would make bread.  And bread I made.  I set out with a goal to give away one loaf of bread to someone in need every week of the year.  I thought that I might be setting my sights too high and thought that if I fell short, it would be okay because at least I would have served a handful of people.

I've been able to look around me and see people in need that I might have never noticed before; a lonely widow, someone recovering from surgery, a mother at her wit's end, a lady down with the flu,  and homesick missionaries.  I've been able to reach out to others; teachers who work so hard for children, an expression of gratitude, just stopping by to say hello, wanted you to know I was thinking of you, howdy neighbor, and thanks for being my friend.

Here we are at year's end.  I think you've figured out your bread recipe. ;)  I think I've figured out mine too.  Just reaching out to let someone know you care is one way we can serve others and our Heavenly Father.  Mosiah 2:17 says, "And this I tell you that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings, ye are only in the service of your God."  More than 50 loaves of bread later, I know that Heavenly Father is aware of each and every one of us.  He loves us.  He places us in each other's paths to help and serve one another.