Two days after sustaining serious injuries in an unprovoked shooting near Birmingham, Alabama, a full-time missionary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints wrote a message to his parents, who had rushed to his side.
Elder M. Michael Fauber — who couldn’t talk because of a breathing tube inserted down his throat — wrote that he was not afraid.
“To me, that’s what faith in Christ means,” said his father, David M. Fauber.
The 18-year-old from Dayton, Ohio, serving in the Alabama Birmingham Mission, was hospitalized after he was shot multiple times on Friday evening, Dec. 3. He remains at UAB Hospital in serious but stable condition and is slowly improving.
David and Rachel Fauber of the Kettering Ward in the Dayton Ohio Stake were able to communicate with their son after doctors lowered his sedatives following two surgeries the day after the shooting.
“We were just talking about what he had been through and that he wasn’t afraid,” David Fauber said. “He asked me, ‘Am I going to die?’ And I said, ‘I don’t think so. Are you afraid?’ He said, ‘No. I know that if I do, I know where I will go.’
“That’s the amazing thing.”
Police have not yet identified a suspect in the shooting, who entered a Latter-day Saint meetinghouse for an activity and started shooting before fleeing in a vehicle.
On Friday evening, Dec. 3, Elder Fauber was in the Birmingham Alabama Stake Center in Vestavia Hills with two other missionaries and a group of people interested in learning more about the Church.
As part of a weekly athletic activity, basketball was being played in the cultural hall.
Alabama Birmingham Mission President Chad W. Allred told the Faubers that seconds before the 8:30 p.m. incident their son testified “to the young man who ended up shooting him about the Savior and about the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.”
The family expressed appreciation to the other missionaries at the scene who administered first aid and a priesthood blessing to the fallen elder. “They knew what to do to help kind of stop the bleeding and help him make it to the hospital,” David Fauber said.
The missionary was taken to UAB Hospital, with three surgeries over as many days to address his injuries, which could have been fatal.
Elder Fauber was hit by four bullets in the shooting. “Two of the bullets struck him in the right side of his chest,” David Fauber said. “If they would have been on the left side, they would have hit his heart, and that would have been the end of that.”
Also, doctors were stumped for several days about a scratch on the missionary’s head, knowing he hadn’t hit his head after being shot and going to the ground. Closer examination revealed Monday that it was a fifth bullet that had just grazed the head, David Fauber said.
“If that had been a couple of inches over, that would have been fatal as well.”
David and Rachel Fauber shared their expressions and feelings with the Church News four days after the shooting — he via phone after recently returning to Dayton to resume his teaching at a local high school and to care for their three young children. She remains in Birmingham to attend to her son and shared her thoughts through Kathryn Sherman, the Dayton stake’s director of communications.
Another miracle for the Faubers was how they received the news of the shooting when they took a late-night call Friday from President Allred.
David Fauber described an ensuing “sense of peace,” after the mission president said “there has been an incident where your son was shot.”
“There were no tears, no fear, no despair,” the father said. “Of course, we would prefer for him to live, but if he were to die, he would die serving the Lord.”
Sherman relayed that Rachel Fauber has felt a sense of sustainment — “just feeling strength to get through every day — one thing and the next thing and the next after that. He just got his breathing tube out, and now there’s something new they have to take care of.”
Elder Fauber began his mission with at-home training in early July before arriving at the Birmingham mission later that month. He had graduated from high school the month before his call to serve.
“Elder Fauber is full of faith and a desire to serve the Lord — he will just go and do, without even a thought,” Sherman said. “He’s willing to stand up and do whatever is needed.”
He has enjoyed playing sports, particularly baseball, and played the trombone in concert and jazz bands in high school. He had worked since age 15 to save up money for his mission service.
His family has lived in the Dayton area for several generations — his father a counselor in the stake presidency and his grandfather recently called as stake patriarch, Sherman said. “They are really a pillar of strength in our stake and in our community as well.”
The family expressed appreciation for the love and concern shown by Latter-day Saints and others — in Birmingham, in Dayton and across the globe, ranging from a card left on their door with money to help out with expenses to thousands of emails and text messages.
“We’ve gotten messages from all over the world — people telling us that they were fasting and praying for him and for us this past Sunday in their ward or stake,” David Fauber said.
Specifically in Birmingham, he continued, “Everywhere we went, there were people who understood our situation and were there to help — angels on this side of the veil. There were people in the right places and at the right times to help out.”
The parents have been staying in the mission home, with access to meals and transportation through mission leaders and local members, Sherman said. “And they’re getting great treatment at the hospital, too.”
Some of the medical professionals working on Elder Fauber’s behalf had a greater appreciation for the patient, knowing of his call and service.
Rachel Fauber said the family learned that the lead trauma surgeon who first attended Elder Fauber is a returned missionary, as was Monday’s anesthesiologist. Also, a Latter-day Saint neurosurgeon helped counsel and direct the mission president in early efforts Friday night, she added. “We’ve been grateful for their support.”
The lead surgeon, David Fauber said, had served a mission in Houston, Texas, years ago. “He mentioned that when Michael came in, he saw the damage and it wasn’t looking good. He was kind of in tears and said, ‘I remember my mission, and this really affected me.’”
The investigation into the shooting by the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department is continuing. Authorities are following physical descriptions of the shooter as provided by witnesses at the meetinghouse.
“We’ve got good information that we believe will lead us to a suspect,’’ Deputy Chief David Agee told AL.com on Monday. “We do have evidence that detectives are following up on.”
The individual had entered the gymnasium and played a couple of basketball games with the group. Then, unprovoked, the gunman — who hadn’t been seen by witnesses at any previous weekly activity at the building — started shooting before fleeing in a vehicle.
No one else was injured. Counseling has been provided to the two other missionaries and offered to anyone else at the scene.
As of midday Tuesday, Elder Fauber is now without the breathing tube — alert, attentive, responsive and speaking with a raspy voice and sore throat because of the tube’s insertion over several days.
David and Rachel Fauber know their son’s recovery will be lengthy.
“She believes there are still some concerns — it’s going to take a long time when you’ve been shot multiple times,” Sherman said.
Added David Fauber: “He’s not completely out of the woods yet, and doctors are hopeful that he’s going to have a good recovery. But whether he does or does not doesn’t change the way we feel about the Savior or the gospel.”