By Nancy R. Elliott
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. —
You might have seen them determinedly walking the streets of Anderson, or riding their bicycles — two clean-cut young men wearing suits and ties with nicely pressed white shirts.
That air of calm determination they display is exactly what it seems. These two are on a mission.
Elder Jacob Bighorse and Elder Troy Gajdos are missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They are two of about 63,000 young people serving as LDS missionaries worldwide. They’re here in Madison County to serve and to win souls. It’s part of a two-year stint each one of the men is serving in the Midwest mission field.
“Monday through Sunday they are full-time service. For two years they are here to serve the Lord and offer the Gospel of Christ,” said Kyle Morey, director of public affairs for the 400-member Anderson LDS church that has embraced the missionaries during their 6- to 12-week stay here. There are 650 LDS members in total in Madison County, with two congregations, in Anderson and Elwood.
Morey, who is CEO of Anderson’s Chamber of Commerce, knows the drill. He served his own LDS mission in southern France in 1995-97. He said the mission starts with three weeks of intense training.
“They come out with the knowledge of the Gospel and how to teach it,” said Morey.
Elder Bighorse, 21, hails from Flagstaff, Arizona. Elders are men 18 years or older who have been ordained to teach and perform other LDS functions. Bighorse landed in Anderson about a month ago, 15 months into his mission.
He served in Hoosier places such as Bedford, Plymouth, and Indianapolis prior to his arrival here. Bighorse said that he took up the mission with gratitude.
“I can bring the happiness (God) has brought me to other people. ... This is what God wanted me to do.”
Elder Troy Gajdos, 20, from Alpine, Utah, has been in Anderson for two months, 14 months into his mission time. He has also served in Muncie and Beech Grove.
“You have a lot of fun — seeing the change in people. When you see that change in someone — seeing the happiness,” said Gajdos.
That’s not to say it’s an easy task for the youthful duo.
Both young men will have little contact with their families while serving their missions. Although they both have several siblings and parents, they’re only allowed to call home twice a year — on Mother’s Day and Christmas. They can email family on Mondays.
There’s no dating. The two share one cellphone. They mostly walk or ride bicycles to local destinations. Each are allowed a budget of $140 a month to cover food and miscellaneous expenses.
“Being on a budget is what’s tough, making sure we live frugally, cooking for myself,” Bighorse said. “Even though it’s simple stuff, I still mess it up.” Luckily, his cooking skills are only put to the test for breakfast and lunch, as members of the Anderson LDS congregation arrange dinners.
For Gajdos, the tough part is “overcoming natural man desires” like sleeping late, riding a dirt bike or going to the movies.
For all that, no one’s complaining.
“As we really dedicate ourselves — we come to love the mission,” said Gajdos.
”It goes by fast when you don’t think about it,” said Bighorse. And neither one has much time to think about it. They spend every day busily engaging members of the community and of the church. They serve any which way they can – anything from helping someone move, doing lawn work for an elderly couple, teaching, cooking and serving up lunch at The Christian Center, to working with people to help them overcome addictions.
The two are enjoying their stay in Anderson.
“I think it’s a wonderful place. ... There’s a lot of humble people here, so abiding,” said Gajdos. “I like the city — the classic city feel, the history.”
“It’s very historic. I definitely love the courthouse,” agreed Bighorse. “I definitely love the people, they’re very humble. They do have a strong belief in God and Jesus Christ.”
At the end of their two-year missions, the men will return to their home turf. Bighorse plans to attend school to study architecture. “I love to build things.”
Gajdos wants to go to Utah State University for mechanical engineering. Restoring classic cars is high on his list of priorities.
For now, though, both of the young missionaries share firm convictions about their choice to go on a mission.
“It’s been the best decision,” said Gajdos.