After lives filled with illness, faith brings couple together for miracle match

Sunday , September 10, 2017 - 5:00 AM

JANAE FRANCIS, Standard-Examiner Staff

WEST WEBER — Bailee Gibson and Marcus Wilkins are two people who choose not to see trials as stumbling blocks.

Instead, they choose to see miracles.

Engaged to be married Dec. 15, the two 21-year-olds believe they are a match made in heaven. They believe finding each other was a miracle that resulted from their faith.

“If you only have a particle of faith, it counts to Heavenly Father,” Gibson said. “He will bless you and then you will have more for the next time. Through all my trials, He’s helped me to grow.”

Gibson, a lifelong West Weber resident, was born prematurely with an incompletely formed heart, she said. A life-support tube in her right leg at the time is blamed for closing her growth plates in that leg, causing her to need frequent, painful surgeries as she grew up.

While she’s had several surgeries on her heart, she’s hoping to one day get a heart transplant.

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Wilkins, who Wednesday moved here from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in preparation for the wedding, was diagnosed at two months of age with Diamond-Blackfan anemia, a hereditary condition that causes low red blood cell counts.

His family had a choice to either turn to weekly blood transfusions or to give him steroids, Wilkins said. They chose steroids. 

“It’s something that I hated for a while in my childhood, but I pressed forward,” Wilkins said of his health afflictions. “Honestly, it has gotten me to where I am today. It is something I am grateful for now. It has shepherded me.”

The two each have shortened life expectancy. They each worried how they would find a spouse who would understand and have patience with their trials.

They say they now can see God’s hand in their meeting and success in dating.

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, they met on church missions they served in the Provo MTC Referral Center. They taught missionary lessons to investigators over Skype, on Facebook and other online venues at the center.

Each believes miracles kept them alive long enough to have served missions. They believe serving in the same mission together was also a miracle.

Gibson said she told all who would listen her whole life that she would serve a mission for the church, even though others doubted her.

“We didn’t think she would live that long,” said Gibson’s grandmother, Debbie Jones.

During the six-week wait for her call after putting in her paperwork, Gibson said she once predicted she’d go to Provo.

She received a mission call to speak Spanish in Denver. Then she received a second mission call a week later. 

Gibson said she later learned from her stake president that the first mission call had come as the result of human error. Even though she had looked forward to speaking Spanish, Gibson said she felt from the moment she saw it that the second mission call was the right one.

Wilkins was baptized at 14 during a battle with anemia that worsened in the next two years, said his mother, Tommie Wilkins.

Just when she believed her son might survive at 16, Tommie Wilkins said he announced with deep resolve his desire to serve a mission.

“I prayed, ‘You are going to let him serve a mission?’ He’s almost died three times, and I kept him alive,” Tommie Wilkins said. “I distinctly remember the Lord telling me, ‘You are not the one keeping him alive,’” 

Tommie Wilkins also remembers well a night her son was told by his stake president and bishop that he would not be allowed to serve because of his health.

“He said, ‘I would rather die serving the Lord,’” she said.

After a few days passed, she said Wilkins developed a new attitude and decided he’d be willing to go on a service mission he knew would be scaled back in some ways from the typical demands of teaching missions.

However, the MTC Referral Center then opened, and Wilkins was able to get the approvals he needed and serve where he could teach lessons online.

But not until more delays came his way.

First, his stake president was released, causing a delay.

Then, the MTC president was released, causing more delays.

And finally, the mission president was released, causing even more delays, Tommie Wilkins said. 

Wilkins eventually left about a year later than planned.

While Wilkins started his mission about 18 months before Gibson, they served simultaneously for the last seven months of his mission — time he would have been home had his call not been delayed, they said.

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Wilkins was Gibson’s zone leader, guiding a group of missionaries with whom she served while she was on her mission.

Gibson was supposed to serve for nearly another year, but she said she came home early, just a few days after Wilkins left, because of anxiety.

She now believes coming home early was also a miracle because had she still been on her mission, she wouldn’t have started messaging Wilkins for the first time, which led to the two beginning to date.

At first, their dating was through messaging and online chatting.

But then Wilkins decided to visit the area in May to see people in the Provo area with whom he had served his mission.

In the eight days he was here, he said he only ended up going to Provo for one day because he wanted to spend so much time with Gibson. Before he left, he asked Gibson’s parents, Ron and Andrea Gibson, if he could marry their daughter.

He returned six weeks later to take her home to meet his family. He asked her to marry him just before they left.

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Both said they realize their story of a whirlwind romance is hard to believe, but they testify they didn’t flirt on their missions.

“We were both super obedient,” Gibson said.

Wednesday, Wilkins moved to West Weber to live in an apartment in Gibson’s grandparents’ home on the same property as Gibson’s childhood home.

The two plan to live in the home and eventually help the grandparents as they age.

Wilkins has started work for Gibson’s parents. Both plan to attend college at Weber State University in January.

Tommie Wilkins drove with her son to move him to the area and stayed to visit with the Gibson family.

During her visit, she said she remembers telling her son that she never thought he’d find someone with faith as strong as his.

“He said, ‘No. I found someone stronger,’” she said.

You may reach reporter JaNae Francis at jfrancis@standard.net or 801-625-4228. Follow her on Twitter at @JaNaeFrancisSE or like her on Facebook at facebook.com/SEJaNaeFrancis. 

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