The events of the past two weeks have made me think back to a time when Elder Dixon and I were attending a Christmas dinner for the firefighters in our city. A terrible fire in another state had resulted in the loss of several firemen's lives. There was such a feeling of unity and brotherhood with the fallen and the families of the fallen. I have felt a very similar feeling here at the loss of Sister Barnard and the injuries to Sister Beckstrom. Even those who did not know them felt the loss.
President and Sister Bennion have been very attentive to those serving here. I asked President Bennion if I might share the following story he shared with us.
"Sister Bennion and I want you to know how much we love each and every one of you. We know more deeply than ever how dear you are to us and to our Heavenly Father and His Son. We’d like to share with you a couple of missionary stories that are dear to our hearts and can be applied to this difficult experience we are all sharing with the Barnard and Beckstrom families.
In 1894 my great-great grandfather, Ezra Clark, sent one of his sons on a mission. John Alexander Clark was called to serve in the Ottoman Empire, which included Turkey and the Holy Land at that time. After learning Arabic in Syria, his first assignment began in about August 1894 in the town of Haifa, located about 100 miles north of Jerusalem. But, he contracted smallpox and died in February 1895. The family was not permitted to have his body sent home to Farmington, Utah due to the smallpox epidemic, and his body was hastily buried in a small Christian cemetery in Haifa, next to John Haag, a missionary from Payson, Utah who had died there two years earlier. Ezra Clark was brokenhearted, but he paid for two identical headstones to be built and installed on the graves of the two missionaries. Each tombstone is about 5 feet tall including a 3-foot Greek-style pillar sculpted to appear broken, symbolic of being cut down in the prime of life. Elder Clark’s mission appeared to be a sad failure.
In the 1970’s, the church began the process of trying to achieve formal recognition in Israel so that the church could buy land and build buildings. Much opposition was encountered. One of the major hurdles was that Israeli law stated that no new religions would be permitted unless they could prove that they had been established prior to 1948 when the Jewish state of Israel was established. The headstones for these two missionaries provided the necessary evidence, formal recognition was achieved, and the BYU Jerusalem Center is the result.. . . A seemingly fruitless mission cut short by tragedy bore precious fruit nearly one hundred years later. The Lord is truly in charge, He knows all things, and He guides His work of salvation. “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes” (Proverbs 3:5-7)."
We know that the Lord is in charge. It is not always easy, because we cannot always see the Lord;s plan. I know that I want things to go in a manner that makes logical sense to me. It just doesn't work that way.
I had the privilege of arranging for flowers for Sister Barnard from the Mission. We chose a living plant. That is the message-she is alive and is continuing the work she was called to do.