City Lifestyle

Want to start a publication?

Learn More

Featured Article

Two Brothers, One Family.

How the Williams family is giving back.

Article by Robin Belley

Photography by Jennette Jenkins Photography, Jamie Williams

Originally published in Gilbert City Lifestyle

This story began with a chain of fortuitous events - as if it was meant to happen. Catching up with one of our friends we had not seen since before the pandemic, we suddenly realized that we had more in common than we thought. Discussing our plans now that the travel restrictions were lifted, my friend mentioned that he had spent some time in Bolivia as a missionary years before. The same year, one of my uncles had, only a few miles away from each other.

This led to a discussion about Bolivia, the time spent there, and the missionary program he was on; the program of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints - certainly one of its most recognizable characteristics. The program is something that many people around Gilbert are familiar with, either by being part of the Church or by having friends or neighbors who are. Not being members of the Church ourselves, I inquired if someone would be willing to discuss the program and how young men and women of the Church prepared, and the impact it had on their lives.

This is how we were introduced to Jamie and Tarik Williams, their sons: Joshua, Jesse, Dallas, and Clayton, as well as their daughters: Olivia, Vienna, and Adelaide.

Meeting Joshua and Jesse was an interesting experience. You see, for them, this story began 18 years ago halfway around the world in Ethiopia. As Jamie puts it, she was reading an article about the humanitarian work being done over there and had suddenly an overwhelming feeling that she needed to do something. After some research, she came across a pilot program that arranged for the international placement of orphans. Nearly two years later, Tarik and her made their way back to Ethiopia to meet Joshua and Jesse for the first time, and as Jamie recalls: “That moment overwhelmed me…it was a long process, but I knew they needed to be part of our family”. For the last 18 years, the two brothers have lived and thrived here, in Gilbert.

Sending your child to college is an experience that many parents can relate. However, seeing your child off for a period of 18 months for women and 24 for men sometimes to countries far away with limited communications can be a heart-wrenching experience. It used to be more difficult, as Jesse states, but with new technologies and the pandemic experience, we are all now more comfortable using remote conferencing tools and long-distance communications. Still, having 4 of your 7 children leave the nest for an extended period of time is a challenge.

This is the sacrifice the Williams are making. While Vienna is returning from her mission in Washington, DC; Olivia is currently in Uruguay doing humanitarian work. Josh and Jesse are each preparing for they own journey. Jesse will be heading East to Maryland; Joshua, on the other hand, will be closing the loop and is heading back to Ethiopia for the first time.

Missionary work is voluntary. Missionaries fund their own missions — except for their transportation to and from their field of labor — and are not paid for their services. While in the field, missionaries avoid entertainment, parties or other activities common to their age group as long as they are on their missions, they can focus entirely on the work of serving and teaching others.

The Church and the Williams family have been kind enough to let us share in the journey and their experience. We hope to tell you more about their journey and give you some updates as they share their lives with the world, and maybe share with us what they are learning along the way.