This week was the best of times and the worst of times in the Texas McAllen Mission. November 8th will forever be remembered as the best day and the worst day this mission has had.
Tuesday we held a Valley Wide Zone Conference with all but two zones of the mission in which Elder Claudio Zivic of the 70 was presiding and offering instruction. Elder Strong, Walker and Harris were in attendance at this zone conference and we were all instructed and inspired by the leaders of this great mission and by Elder Zivic who brought instruction from the general authorities of the church to direct the missionary work. It was a wonderful conference in which he recognized us for our efforts and the great success that the many faithful missionaries have gained in the Texas McAllen Mission. My personal favorite quote from him went something like this, "We would love it if every mission in the world could have the success that you are having here. You have nearly doubled convert baptisms in the matter of two years. This kind of growth is not seen in many missions in the church. President Trayner, you are doing great things here!" Yes, those were the words we heard from Elder Zivic, among many other counsels on how we can make it even better.
Even at one point in his training he called on Elder Walker to come up to the stand and teach us how to tie his shoe without being able to demonstrate. He used this as an example to show us the importance of practicing and roleplaying our teaching and demonstrating to each other how we will do things so that when we actually teach lessons we will be prepared. Elder Walker had us all laughing at his facial expressions and his fun personality as he roleplayed this with Elder Zivic.
The Conference was held in McAllen and afterwards we departed back to our own areas to work for the night.
Unknown to us at the time, but around 7:30 that same night, Elders Strong, Walker and Harris (a trio serving in Donna) were hit while riding their bikes after leaving a lesson in which they had set a baptismal date. Elders Strong and Walker passed away this horrible night and Elder Harris was in critical condition in the hospital.
We found out through a phone call from a member on Wednesday morning at 6:46am. To be honest, that was the begining of the longest day of our lives. My companion, Sister Mazey was in the same MTC district with Elder Walker. She knew him very very well, and had served under Elder Strong as zone leader. Though I did not know these two elders personally, I knew who they were and as with all of the missionaries in this mission, they are family.
Many thoughts start to run through your head when you recieve news like this, and among them was the thought "why them? how could this happen?" But those thoughts were quickly removed by the comforting knowlege of hte plan our heavenly father has for us. These two elders were examples of the believers, livers of the gospel and defenders of truth. Their love of missionary work was recognized by all around them. God had a plan for them and we now have to accept this as part of it. We sat and we cried and we cried, and tried to pull it together to study. We attended our district meeting as normal and held back the tears. It was one of the most spiritual district meetings i have had on my mission just because of the renewed sense of urgency and great importance of this work. Bearing your testimony of the plan of Salvation takes on a new meaning when you are living what you are preaching.
A special meeting was called for the brownsville and harlingen zones in the harlingen chapel at 1:30 that day. We went and sat in the chapel waiting for presidents arrival for about 45 minutes with all of the other missionaries. That was a meeting I will never forget. I can not forget the tears streaming down the elders faces and all of the hugging and statements of "I love you" that were heard that day. Though two of our brave soldiers were transfered to heaven, those of us left here were brought closer together and strengthened by one another.
It seems that the last section of the Doctrine and Covenants was written about our two great elders. D&C 138:55-60 reads,
55 I observed that they were also among the anoble and great ones who were bchosen in the beginning to be rulers in the Church of God.
56 Even before they were born, they, with many others, received their first alessons in the world of spirits and were bprepared to come forth in the due ctime of the Lord to labor in his dvineyard for the salvation of the souls of men.
57 I beheld that the faithful aelders of this dispensation, when they depart from mortal life, continue their labors in the bpreaching of the cgospel of repentance and redemption, through the sacrifice of the Only Begotten Son of God, among those who are in darkness and under the bondage of sin in the great world of the dspirits of the dead.
59 And after they have paid the apenalty of their transgressions, and are bwashed clean, shall receive a creward according to their dworks, for they are heirs of salvation.
60 Thus was the avision of the redemption of the dead revealed to me, and I bear record, and I know that this brecord is ctrue, through the blessing of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, even so. Amen.
As president trayner said, "we can not control the great transfer board in the sky." God has his plan, and we are trying to learn what is part of it and accept it. In the meeting President and Sister Trayner both spoke to us, as well as a man from LDS family services that the church flew out here from Florida. I don't know if there was a one of us that was not in tears that day, but the tears did not fall without hope. We all have the hope strong and the faith strong that it will be ok.
Elder Harris, also was there with us that day. We were able to shake his hand and he bore his testimony to us. Our love goes out to him and he truly is an example because of his strength and continued desire to serve.
Sister Mazey upon looking through her journal found a quote from Elder Walker, on meeting God again at judgement, he had said, "I want to want it to happen." (Oct 28, 2010 - see below). As well she found his favorite scripture that he had told her while they were in the MTC, which is Moroni 10:34, which reads,
Elder Walker was truly ready and needed in Heaven to further the work of preaching the gospel to the dead. There is so much more work to do there than there is here and he needed them.
We have talked with many people this week who have expressed their sadness to us for our loss this week, and we know that the work here will continue to move forward. Great things are happening in this mission. The spirit is here with us and nothing will stop it from progressing. We pray for the families of Elder Strong and Walker and have a renewed desire to be the servants that God wants us to be.
I am doing well, don't you worry. Glad to hear that Spencer is back and doing well. Sorry I don't have time to talk about much else. Thanks for being awesome. I love you all so much and hope you always remember to accept whatever Heavenly Father puts in our paths.
ps. remember: WalkSTRONG
The following is from Melinda's companion, Sister Mazey:
Last night I had the humbling experience of rereading some journal entries I had written during my time with Elder Walker in the MTC. I'm not sure how to express how much it means to me now so I thought I could send you what I wrote; maybe his parents would appreciate it:
My Journal Entry October 28, 2010
My Journal Entry October 28, 2010
“Wow so many things were awesome about today but the part that really hit me was during our teaching experience with Elder Walker and Elder Brown. I did not realize until this last week that you can feel the spirit even in fake teaching situations. Since then I have really made it a goal to teach and ask questions according to the spirit. We were practice teaching “Francisco” and “Gordon” about the Plan of Salvation – mainly the Resurrection. I then had a question come to my mind along the lines of how they envisioned, personally, reuniting with their body to meet God. Elder Walker…told me something afterwards I did not expect to touch my heart so deeply. He said that the one question was so strong for him that it made him reflect on himself as Elder Walker not as Francisco.”
Next page of my Journal says:
“On seeing God again at judgment:
‘I want to want it to happen."
This is our motivation to be righteous, have faith, and endure. We are on our way back to Heavenly Father now!”
I hope his family treasures this memory as I do.
|Page from Hermana Mazey's journal|