Featured Post

Perfect Imperfection

Tonight we put up our Christmas tree, the first Ravella/Gilbert tree. Actually we have two trees. One is artificial. It is perfect. It has p...

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


The above plaque reads:

This Welcome Center is dedicated to the memory of Troy Gilbert, who was killed in action on November 27, 2006, while serving his country with the US Air Force in Iraq. Through his vision and perseverance this Welcome Center was established in 2005, and he was instrumental not only in its inception but also faithfully served here each Sunday morning welcoming visitors until his departure in September 2006. We are grateful for his selfless service and genuine care for others, and we will always remember Troy as a dedicated pilot, a loving husband and father and faithful follower of Jesus Christ.

"Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers..." Hebrews 13:2

We just returned from our first visit back to Phoenix. As we landed I felt that familiar mix of joy and pain. That city was our home for four years. When we arrived there in the Spring of 2004 Troy and I embraced the ease of living back in the States after being overseas. We looked forward to a new assignment, meeting new friends and becoming first-time homeowners. We could have never imagined what lay ahead of us. I never considered the possibility that I would leave that Air Force assignment without my husband.

We were welcomed there this weekend with the warm and loving arms our precious Arizona "family". Our church, Desert Springs Community, celebrated its' 25th anniversary and we enjoyed being a part of it. The kids and I had the privilege of unveiling the new plaque which dedicated the church's Visitor Welcome Center after Troy. What a special honor to Troy, who poured his heart into creating that very Center. It might be our Southern roots or military moving mentality but Troy and I always felt it was extremely important for a church to be friendly. We felt God's people surely ought to exude a bit of warmth and if we didn't find it, we usually continued looking for another church. When we first stepped into the doors of Desert Springs, we instantly felt that genuine friendliness we sought. The Bible teaching was hearty and we soon joined. We wanted to contribute and become involved. We took it upon ourselves to seek out new faces, meet them, greet them and make them feel comfortable. We served this church in many areas but the mark I hope we (Troy mainly) left behind was that Welcome Center. Honestly, I wanted to just continue our initial method of smiling, hugging and handshaking with the folks at church. But Troy, liking more organization and purpose, came up with an official place people could visit to receive not only a friendly greeting but information and help. He wanted to not just tell new people where their Sunday school class was, he wanted to walk them there. I struggled with the big commitment of setting up and taking down the portable center. With so many little kids Sundays mornings were hectic already. But Troy had a vision for it and commitment to it and he promised he would help get kids ready, take them with him or do whatever needed to be done. And I am so glad he followed through with it. A woman I knew from church came up to this past Sunday after the anniversary service and told me Troy had helped her carry her child to the car and opened the door for her and how much that meant to her. I know he touched a lot of people in ways I never even realized.

Troy's gift of reaching out to others continued while he was deployed to Iraq. Ironically, he flew out of this city, San Antonio, with several doctors who were stationed here at the time. They spent days traveling to get to Iraq with many stops along the way. I think it gave them a chance to get to know each other. And it sparked a desire in Troy to go to the busy trauma hospital there in Balad and visit them. He began spending a lot of time there watching the doctors work on our wounded soldiers. And to my surprise on the enemy wounded as well. After watching his doctor friends patch up an Iraqi who had just been caught launching missiles and planting explosives, he wrote in an email to me,

"But that is the type of People, Country, Air Force and Army we are. That's what makes us different from them."

So true. Troy also volunteered there to help the doctors or just be with the patients. After he died, I received many emails from those doctors he worked with. Here are some of the things they wrote:

"Well, after that first visit, it became common to see Troy in the hospital. I never really asked him why he spent so much time at the hospital. I'm still not really sure why, but it was always nice to see him. He was so positive. Everyone liked to be around him. I was working in the ER the night the call came in that one of our pilots went down and the search and rescue teams were out. It really didn't even cross my mind that it could be Troy, but I found out the next day. I've never seen a group of doctors so depressed before. He touched so many people, myself included. Troy seemed to have a way of making everyone around him comfortable. He always seemed genuinely interested in what that person was saying at that specific moment. His faith was obvious in his conversation. Not pushy. But obvious. He was never negative, which was a true gift around the hospital. Things tend to get cynical here, but he always brought a positive vibe. He was just a good guy. A good man. I only knew him for a few months, but I guess the best way I can say it is that Troy is the man that many of us aspire to be. At Troy's memorial service I learned that he had this effect on everyone. I've never seen anything like it. Thanks for sharing him with us."

Troy showed some of the doctors around the aircraft on the flightline. Many had never seen anything like it before. They all commented on the specialness of the day Troy took them on a "field trip" to the Ops side of Balad AB. Another doctor wrote:

"Despite our very busy schedules we each spent time in each other's element and learned things that we've never seen before. Troy said that he not only enjoyed going to the hospital to visit with us but it was necessary for him to gain perspective on the war and on life in general. He was an extremely thoughtful and insightful man."

And yet another doctor wrote this to me:

"Several of the pilots, including Troy, have been volunteering at the AFTH (hospital). They're not afraid to work either. I've seen all of them holding injured babies, helping to stock, mopping floors and assisting with patient care (changing dressings, etc). They've earned my respect. "

This last one was from an email I received almost a year after Troy's death. It began:

"This is probably the 5th time I have tried to write a letter to you regarding your husband and my short but sweet friendship with him in Iraq... Another thing that impressed me was the way Troy made everyone feel significant and appreciated. As a Christian, I could tell he was living out the second greatest command of loving your neighbor, but he did it in a remarkable way. He introduced me to the guy who packed their gear, the guy who works on the plane, the guy who calls from the control tower, the guy who ran his office where all the pilots headquartered. In each instance, he relayed their importance, significance and the outstanding job they were doing. It was really amazing and in stark contrast to the way some other high ranking professionals treated others."

I remember after he died a friend of his telling me he just knew that Troy was welcoming newcomers to heaven. I am not sure of what he and the Lord are doing now but here on earth it was touching to see that beautiful bronze plaque with his photo and story on it. It will hang in the church in the permanent Welcome Center Troy never got to see.

I think my spiritual gift is hospitality too. But I am not certain that I have stretched myself as far as Troy did. Actually, I am pretty sure I haven't. I hope to, though. And I am thankful for the legacy of kindheartedness he has left behind.

Matthew 22:37-39

Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it:'Love your neighbor as yourself

Do we practice the true art of hospitality - loving our neighbor? What if that neighbor was our enemy? What if we get no response or acceptance when we reach out? One of those doctors wrote that he declined Troy's invitation to tour the flightline that day thinking there would be plenty of time to do it later and he says he wishes he hadn't. He said that was a lesson to him and now anytime he declines an invitation he really thinks about it first.

Romans 12:13
"Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality


  1. He sounds like an amazing man who left a very large and loving footprint on this world.

  2. Troy was my son-in-law and i couldn't be prouder of him.....he always made me feel so welcome in their home, no matter how much i showed up. so for him to me honored w/ this welcome center dedication at Desert Springs Community Church, i can only say, "very well deserved".....a true tribute to a very special man, and my precious son-in-law.