Above, the Gilmers (from left) Justin, Sunny, Hannah, and Tom
March 2021 – Sunny Gilmer’s name suits her well because she definitely adds a ray of sunshine to American Family Association’s donor support department.
AFA supporters may already be familiar with Sunny. After all, she and her coworkers are the first line of communication with ministry donors. They answer donor phone calls, sort incoming mail, field callers’ questions, and record donations, subscriptions, and other pertinent ministry data.
It might sound like an overwhelming position, but after two years in the department, Sunny told AFA Journal it is truly a rewarding job.
“Talking with our friendly AFA supporters,” said Sunny, “and helping them with their questions are the best parts of my job. But I also love the freedom I have here at AFA to share my faith with others.”
In her quiet, unassuming way, Sunny shared how she first accepted the Lord through a local Campus Life ministry in her central Illinois high school. Then in 1982, after graduating from Illinois State University, Sunny moved to Dallas, Texas, where she met and married Tom Gilmer.
Making a home in Mississippi
A few years after they married, Tom accepted a job in the up-and-coming furniture industry in Tupelo, Mississippi.
“Family was one of our major motivations for moving to a small city like Tupelo,” Sunny explained. “We were young parents, and I was working full time, driving daily to downtown Dallas. The thought of being able to stay home with my children in a slower-paced life was a definite draw.
“Plus, Mississippi put me a little bit closer to my family back in Illinois. So Tupelo was the perfect choice for our family.”
Consequently, their children, Justin (30) and Hannah (25), were raised in Tupelo. They moved away for college and jobs, but both children still value time with their parents and especially enjoy traveling with them.
Since family and faith were always significant cornerstones of their home, church attendance became a natural part of life for the Gilmer children.
At one time, the Gilmers were members of Lee Acres United Methodist Church. During that time, AFA founder Don Wildmon was Sunny and Tom’s Sunday school teacher.
“We learned so much from Brother Don and Mrs. Lynda,” Sunny remarked. “Most of all, we learned how to walk consistently, day by day with Christ.”
Finding a place at AFA
At one point, the Gilmer family became neighbors with Tim and Alison Wildmon’s family. But Sunny did not think about working at AFA until a few years ago, after both of her children had graduated from Mississippi State University.
By then, Tom was leading a Bible study with a small group from the Orchard Church of Tupelo. A couple of AFA employees were dear friends and members of the group. So one night, Sunny simply asked if they knew of any job openings at the ministry’s home campus.
Now, two years later, Sunny is an integral part of AFA donor support, and she loves her job.
“It’s not just a job,” Sunny said. “I feel like I am part of the AFA ministry family.”
She added, “Not many people here at AFA know that I battled and survived breast cancer 17 years ago. So each new day really is a blessing to me.
“That’s why I try to keep Colossians 3:12 in mind as I work with our donors: ‘Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.’”
And that’s exactly what you’ll get when Sunny Gilmer answers your phone call – kindness, gentleness, and patience.