Monday, November 23, 2015

Message from President and Sister Granger

This is what the Mission president sent everyone this week.   Elder Benry has been out for less than a year and is fairly new to the church.  Everyone that knew him said that he was the happiest, most loving person in the world and if anyone had to go, it would be him because he was ready.

My Dear Elders and Sisters,
We have some very sad news to share with you today and we are heartbroken to have to write this email to you all.
Last Friday, November 20th, on the Island of Santo, Vanuatu, Elders Dakunimata, Ratu, Benry, Daniel and Ned were involved in a vehicle accident.

Elder Katum Benry from the village of Saetsiwi on Tanna, Vanuatu was killed instantly. 
Elder Ratu sustained injuries.
Elders Dakunimata, Daniel and Ned suffered shock and minor bruising.

Sister Granger and I were on Tanna when Elder Dakunimata rang us with the news. We could not believe what we were hearing. We didn’t want it to be true. We immediately arranged for a charter flight to take us to Santo straight away to be with our Missionaries.

When we arrived at the hospital in Luganville there were lots of hugs and tears as we met with the Elders and let them know we loved them and were there for them and would help them. The other missionaries from the Zone were there as well as some members from the Church and relatives of Elder Benry.

Elder Ratu was a priority as we met with the doctor to determine the extent of his injuries and what needed to be done next to help him.
The hospital in Santo does not have the equipment necessary to give doctors a proper diagnosis of his injuries. The Missionary Department worked very hard to make all the plans necessary so that Elder Ratu could be taken by Air Ambulance from Santo to a hospital in Auckland so that he could get the best treatment and care possible. 
Elder Ratu was able to talk to us and tell us that he was coping okay. We arranged for him to speak to his parents. Elder Iauko and Elder Oten stood watch over Elder Ratu in the hospital all through the night in case he needed anything and he was airlifted out on Sunday evening.
We are hopeful that the injuries Elder Ratu has are not serious and that he will recover quickly without any lasting damage.

Elders Dakunimata, Daniel and Ned did not want to believe what had happened. They were overcome with grief and loss. We talked with them and reassured them and comforted them as best we could but they are taking it very hard.

As Sister Granger and I contacted Priesthood leaders and families and the Brethren at Area Office to make all the arrangements needed to help these Elders and also to take Elder Benry home to his village on Tanna we came to know that the Lord was with us and blessed us with many miracles to make the way easier as we tried to take care of everything. The right people were sent into our path and challenges were smoothed so we could accomplish our tasks.

A plane was chartered to carry Elder Benry home and Sister Granger and I were privileged to travel along with the coffin to Tanna where family and other missionaries were waiting to load the coffin onto a transport and begin the long drive up the mountain to Saetsiwi for the funeral and burial.

The District President of Tanna, President Morgan, had talked with the Village chief and offered on behalf of the Church to assist Elder Benry’s family with anything that they needed during this time. There had been some misunderstandings before but the Lord softened hearts and the spirit helped us to say the right words. We were able to organize to provide a bullock and a pig and other food as offerings of respect so the family could make a traditional feast.

The Chief also gave his permission for us to conduct a small funeral service for Elder Benry. It was a simple but meaningful service. 
After the service the chief thanked us for our help in returning Elder Benry to his family and for the gifts from the church.

Elders and Sisters, this is a hard thing for us all to bear. Many of you knew Elder Benry personally and remember his bright confidence and cheeky smile. He loved his Mission and loved being with his fellow missionaries. He was loved dearly by his family.

As we delivered his body to the waiting arms of his parents and family many of his aunties gathered around the coffin weeping and saying over and over – ‘He gave his life in the service of Jesus’.How true that is.

Elder Benry made the sacrifice to come on a Mission and share the Gospel with others because he had a love for the Savior and a testimony that was growing stronger every day. He was a young man who had a purpose in life and had committed himself to the service of the Lord.
How grateful we are for his time with us all and the memories we will have of him.

Elder Benry’s work as a missionary extends beyond this life because as a result of these events the Lord has sent the spirit at this difficult time to soften the heart of Elder Benry’s village chief and others and pave the way for the work of the Gospel to move forward in that part of Tanna. 

We may all be spread across three different countries and many different islands but may we be unified in our desire to follow the example of Elder Benry and be mighty missionaries with mighty testimonies as we continue to serve and teach the elect people of the islands of the Vanuatu Port Vila Mission. 

May the Lord comfort and bless us all as we come to terms with the loss of this great young missionary who always had a smile on his face and a sparkle in his eye as he served.

I invite you all to offer a prayer for the family of Elder Benry that they may be comforted in their loss; for Elder Ratu that he will recover quickly, and also for the other three Elders involved in the accident so that they may have peace and comfort as they struggle with the experience.

We love you and pray for you every day
President and Sister Granger.

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