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The widow’s mite: Texas missionary honored for giving his all during service mission

Elder Caleb Wood serves despite health challenges and his volunteer work has been recognized with a major award

Elder Caleb Wood is serving a service mission by volunteering at Trusted World in Dallas, Texas

Elder Caleb Wood with his mission leaders, Sister Julie Atkinson and Elder Mark Atkinson; and Courtney Weaver, front, operations manager at Trusted World, at the awards ceremony where Elder Wood was given the Spirit of Volunteerism award in Dallas, Texas, May 4, 2022.

Wood family

Elder Caleb Wood doesn’t think his story is special. But the standing ovation said otherwise. At a special banquet on July 21, Elder Wood was named the Dallas, Texas, “Volunteer of the Year” by D CEO Magazine for his work at the nonprofit organization Trusted World.

“I’ve been asked several times why serving is so important to me,” Elder Wood said in his acceptance speech that night. “The more I answer that question, the more I realize my answer is kind of selfish — I like making others happy, and making others happy makes me happy.”

As his grandfather taught him, “We love who and what we sacrifice for.”

Health challenges mean serving is not easy for him physically — Elder Wood, 20, has brain tumors and mobility and cognitive struggles due to complications from the tumors. But pushing through his limitations brings him joy, satisfaction and peace.

His mission leaders in the Texas Dallas East Service Missionary Area, Elder Mark Atkinson and Sister Julie Atkinson, see his perseverance and faithfulness. “People realize this is the widow’s mite. He only serves only a few hours but it is everything he has,” said Elder Atkinson.

Missionary Elder Caleb Wood won D CEO Magazine’s Volunteer of the Year award in Dallas, Texas

Elder Caleb Wood, who is serving a service mission in Dallas, Texas, receives the D CEO Magazine Volunteer of the Year award on July 21, 2022.

Bret Redman

A desire to serve

Serving a mission has been Elder Wood’s dream ever since he could remember, but because of his health, at times it felt like it might be just out of reach. He prayed often to Heavenly Father for a way to be able to serve. 

“He listened to the desires of my heart and the mission door swung wide open,” Elder Wood said. “I love serving a full-time service mission.”

His mother, Andi Wood, said her son “100% believes whole-heartedly that service missions came about for him and many others to be able to serve. The Lord knew he had this desire.”

This November, Elder Wood will have been serving for two years. He’s joined by his family — his mother, his father, Daniel Wood, and his sister, Tayah, 19 — for his assignments at Trusted World, which helps provide resources like food and clothing to schools, police and other nonprofit organizations.

“It’s been a beautiful way to get to serve,” said Andi Wood. “Being able to serve alongside him has been the biggest blessing of my life.”

The Wood family volunteers with Elder Caleb Wood each week at Trusted World in Dallas, Texas

Andi, Tayah, Caleb and Daniel Wood together at Trusted World in Dallas, Texas. Elder Caleb Wood was assigned to serve at the nonprofit organization in Dallas, Texas, for his service mission November 2020-2022.

Wood family

Elder Wood is also assigned to work in the temple each week. His mission experience is tailored to his needs and abilities. He reports to his stake president in the Allen Texas Stake, and Elder and Sister Atkinson also meet with him, handle his day-to-day schedule and hold devotionals and mission conferences. 

Elder Atkinson explained that service missions are built around each missionary’s gifts, talents and interests. It can be very flexible in order to stretch — not stress — the missionary. Some missionaries work 6-8 hours a week, others work up to 50 hours a week; sometimes they move between different assignments, other times they stay at one assignment during the whole mission.

Elder Doug Clark and Sister Michelle Clark were the mission leaders when Elder Wood began his service and helped connect him with Trusted World. “Elder Wood’s reception there, as well as everywhere he goes is literally a glimpse into heaven,” said Elder Clark, who with Sister Clark now serves as service mission support advisers in the Church’s North America Southwest Area.

Two honors

Elder Wood was first recognized for his volunteerism in May, at an awards ceremony with Trusted World. He was given the organization’s Spirit of Volunteerism award for his commitment to serve others above himself and his selfless determination to help others.

Elder Caleb Wood won a volunteer award from Trusted World for his work during his service mission in Dallas, Texas

Elder Caleb Wood, right, receives the Spirit of Volunteerism award from Trusted World CEO Michael Garrett in Dallas, Texas, May 4, 2022.

Mark Atkinson

Elder Wood said when accepting the honor that no one gets through life without hardships in one way or another. “However, I know Heavenly Father sends earthly angels to come to our aid in times of fear, loss, sorrow, pain and grief. Being here at Trusted World is one way for me to be someone’s earthly angel.”

That award then placed Elder Wood in the running for the D CEO Magazine Volunteer of the Year award — its most prestigious award. And when Elder Wood won that honor, he was again wearing his missionary name badge. 

Elder Caleb Wood is serving a service mission in Dallas, Texas, and was honored for his volunteer work

Elder Caleb Wood with his family on the left; his mission leaders Elder Mark Atkinson and Sister Julie Atkinson, center; Melissa McKneely, Elder Jay Jones and Elder Bradley Walton at the Trusted World awards ceremony in Dallas, Texas, on May 4, 2022.

Mark Atkinson

Sister Atkinson said both times Elder Wood has been honored, he has borne his testimony, “and there’s not a dry eye in the audience.”

He says the reason he serves is because God has been so good to him in his life — he has never left his side. But Elder Wood was quite shocked and overwhelmed to receive the Volunteer of the Year award. He felt undeserving when thinking of so many other volunteers who work to help their communities be better, happier places. 

“Any act of service is important because there are so many people in the world that just need to know that someone cares,” Elder Wood said. “I can’t think of a better experience than to get out of my own bubble and help my neighbors feel God’s love. The service experiences alone are the greatest reward.”

An invitation to others

In his acceptance speech in July, Elder Wood issued a challenge: “The next time a difficult day rolls your way, please find an organization that’s mission is to help others and just go volunteer,” he told the audience. “I promise you will leave lighter and happier than when you entered and you will feel sympathy, compassion and love for your neighbors in the greater Dallas area and around the world.”

Missionary Elder Caleb Wood won D CEO Magazine’s Volunteer of the Year award in Dallas, Texas

Elder Caleb Wood gives an acceptance speech after winning D CEO Magazine’s Volunteer of the Year award in Dallas, Texas, on July 21, 2022.

Screenshot from Trusted World Facebook video

Elder Wood told the Church News he would tell other young men and young women who are unsure if they can serve a mission “to take the leap of faith it requires to just try.” He knows if the desire is there to serve, God will open doors.

“A mission is a mission,” he said, adding that his service mission is just as important as a proselytizing one, because in every single way, he teaches the gospel with his actions and his words as he serves others. 

“It’s been exactly the right fit for me, and I know Heavenly Father will find exactly the right fit for all His children that want to serve a full-time mission,” Elder Wood said.

Andi Wood said the timeline of her son’s life is in the Lord’s hands, which makes them even more grateful to have the gospel and the perspective it brings. “He still has things to do, and until those things are done, we look at every day as a blessing.”

Elder Wood has touched so many lives already on this earth. But he emphasized that his story is not unique or special. 

“My trials have just been wrapped up tight in a pink bow, whereas yours might have a blue or purple one,” Elder Wood said. “We both still have a ribbon to untie to get to the prize inside, and there is always a prize inside because Heavenly Father loves us.”

He concluded: “No matter how long it takes to unknot the bow, see the beauty and value in each knot. I promise, it makes all the difference in the world and allows one to choose happiness despite the hardships that come.”

Wood family picture

Daniel, Andi, Tayah and Caleb Wood.

Wood family

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