Elder Benson - South Africa Jo-Berg Mission

Elder Benson - South Africa Jo-Berg Mission

Monday, December 26, 2016

'Oku ou 'ofa 'ia koe, Elder Latu

Getting a phone call at 11 pm from your Mission President is never a good omen.  But the last thing I was expected was to hear the bitter news of the missionary that I guided and trained, Elder Latu, had tragically died in an accident while enroute to join us for Christmas.  Here's the memoriam from the mission that I've attached:

In Memoriam: Elder Nofo-I-Lelenga Latu (1997-2016) - The outpouring of love and prayers for our dear companion and friend, Elder Latu—who died in a tragic car accident on Thursday—has been overwhelming and so appreciated. It has also been a genuine godsend to our missionaries who have been understandably devastated by this tragedy. Elder Latu was a phenomenal, consecrated missionary who inspired and lifted all he came in contact with. Every day and in every way he was all about doing the work of the Lord. He truly gave "the last full measure of devotion." And his radiance and effervescent spirit will be sorely missed. His unflinching commitment to his God and his religion can be best stated with the words of another similarly committed young person, Joan of Arc: “Every man gives his life for what he believes. Every woman gives her life for what she believes. Sometimes people believe in little or nothing, and so they give their lives to little or nothing. One life is all we have, and we live it as we believe in living it…and then it’s gone. But to surrender who you are and to live without belief is more terrible than dying – even more terrible than dying young.” Elder Latu certainly gave his life for what he believed in. And his stellar example will continue to inspire and lift us as we mourn together and work through this painful event. It will no doubt also help us as we collectively rise from our sadness and become even more committed to sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ—which gives us the the clarity and certainty of knowing that Elder Latu's spirit indeed lives on. I will never forget the day we met Elder Latu and first saw his ever-present smile on a bright and beautiful morning this past August at the mission home in South Africa. Nor can I ever forget the stirring tribute to him yesterday morning, on Christmas Eve, where every missionary in Johannesburg gathered to reflect on Elder Latu's life, and on the 100-day reading of the Book of Mormon which culminated that same morning.... Elder Latu's last journal entry in this study book reads, "I am so grateful for the joy I find in this work." Please join us as we continue to pray for Elder Latu's family in New Zealand, and for the missionaries who mourn our loss yet celebrate his remarkable life here in South Africa. ‘Oku ou ‘ofa ‘ia koe, Elder Latu.

I took this photo during our first week together in KaNyamazane.  It really captures the energy and commitment he had to the work, holding his arms out ready to take on any challenge to come.  Serving with my 'son' and brother Elder Latu was an experience to be remembered and cherished for eternity.  However much I wish God hadn't called this mini-transfer for him to return to his Heavenly home, I know this is what God has in store for him.

"...Wherefore [Elder Latu] came forth [with Elder Benson]... and began to prophesy unto the people, for [they] could not be restrained because of the Spirit of the Lord with was in [them].  For [they] did cry from the morning, even until the going down of the sun, exhorting the people to believe in God unto repentance lest they should be destroyed, saying unto them that by faith all things are fulfilled - Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God."  -Ether 12:2-4 (adapted by President Dunn)

Our entire mission coincidentally ended our 100-Day Book of Mormon Challenge, and completed the Book of Mormon together on the 24th.  As Elder Higgs stated, the final verse of the Book of Mormon is as if Elder Latu spoke to us:

"And now I bid unto all, farewell.  I... go to rest in the paradise of God, until my spirit and body shall again reunite, and I am brought forth triumphant through the air, to meet you before the pleasing bar of the great Jehovah, the Eternal Judge of both quick and dead.  Amen."

Elder Latu: energetic, fun-loving, charitable, and Christ-like.  Your legacy will live on in the SAJM and in our hearts.  May God bless you in your journey onwards until we shall meet again.

Elder Zachary Benson

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