My great-grandfather, Robert Hill, passed away just a month after my eighth birthday, so I have mostly faint memories of him from my childhood. I knew him as a tough, old Idaho farmer who lost the three middle fingers on one of his hands in a farm accident. A favorite scene on our visits to my great-grandparent’s Ucon, Idaho, farm was watching him retrieve little candies—he called them “hummingbird eggs”—from his candy jar using just his thumb and pinky finger. He would pass out the candies to all the grandkids.
Ten years after my Grandpa Hill’s passing and a year before I left to serve a full-time mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in South Korea, I serendipitously came across a copy of his missionary journal in a closet in my family’s house in Salt Lake City. Until that moment, I didn’t know my family even had a copy of his missionary journal. But there it was. I can still remember the powerful spirit I felt as I flipped through the pages one afternoon and found myself lost in the stories of his missionary adventures. I learned, for example, that he had to sell his pocket-watch to get the money to buy the train ticket that carried him to his assigned area in the mission field. And then I found a brief, hand-written account of a memorable mission experience he had in Nebraska. I was so moved by his experience that I immediately typed up my own copy of it and later took that copy with me when I departed for Korea almost exactly 80 years after my grandfather set out on his mission: