My beloved family. Today I greet you with the warmest and purest form of aloha I can find in myself. I know it is a word that in today's society is often associated with tourism, and fun... but for me today it means exactly what it was meant to mean from the start... love. Especially the love of God (Aloha ke Akua). I know I am not a "local" here or "pure Hawaiian" but still I feel a very deep connection with this place and so I say to you all as sincerely and fervently as I can, how much I love you, and while there is no combination of words that could truly express that feeling of love I have for you all, perhaps the closest one I can find at this time is simple, Aloha.
I hope and pray that you can all feel how much I love you and how grateful I am for all of your service and sacrifices on our behalf. As missionaries we sometimes can take for granted just how incredible blessed we truly are to be here. With all of the prayers for protections as well as the food and shelter and other blessings that come to us on a daily basis we truly are kept "in the hallow of [His] hand". While events have been less than ideal this past week I nevertheless want to start by assuring each of you that I will be ok. To be honest I have struggled a lot this week especially with the news regarding sweet Benjamin's passing and the knowledge that I will never get to see him face to face in this mortal life. But He has assured me COUNTLESS times, that "it will be ok." True the Spirit often speaks in a still and small voice, but regardless he is not ashamed to repeat something over and over and over again until it truly sinks deep into your heart. And that one phrase has done exactly that. It took quite a bit of time and much more heart ache than I would ever care to go through again, but I know now, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that no matter what the outcome of future events in life may be, that "it will be ok." and I trust Him when he says that.
Now then, I apologize upfront if anything I say sounds insensitive in any way, shape, or form. It is not meant to be. I have wept and cried as much as anyone this past week. When President pulled me aside at our Zone Conference I assumed it had something to do with the upcoming transfers or my companion or something else, but the few soft-spoken words that followed was definitely not was I was prepared to hear and it was everything I could do to stop from breaking down in front of the other 40 missionaries there that day, (although a few small but very special tears were shed as we sang 'aloha oe' to the departing missionaries and I thought of little Benji and his unexpected departure into the eternal realm.) That being said what I wish to share with you today is meant to be comforting and I hope that the Spirit can speak peace to your heart as it has mine.
I was studying my scriptures the other day after receiving the news and came across a small and subtle lesson in one of the verses but one that at the time had so great an impact on me as to carry me through all of the pains and sorrows I was feeling that day. I just started reading in the book of Alma in the Book of Mormon and when I came across Alma chapter 4 Verse 14, which reads:
"Looking forward to that day, thus retaining a remission of their sins; being filled with great joy because of the resurrection of the dead, according to the will and power and deliverance of Jesus Christ from the bands of death."
As you look into the context of it too... this was a group of people who at the time, were suffering "all manner of afflictions" not even from the Lamanites (their most common antagonists) but from their own people!
Now, as I read this, I will be honest, I was really struggling to feel of the "peace and comfort" that is supposed to come from the Holy Ghost. I prayed over and over again that I would be able to feel of that "succoring" which is promised to us so many times in the scriptures and by prophets and I couldn't seem to find it. I cried and cried and felt no arms wrapping around me. I told myself over and over that I could push through it but then found myself crashing time and time again, not having sufficient strength to "carry on" by myself. I kept on trying and doing what I could to cope with the mounting stress of everything both on the mission and with the news of Benji's passing back home but felt completely overwhelmed and seeming to have nowhere left to turn... when I came across this simple verse. Then, it finally clicked... what I knew all along but seemed to forget in the face of my sorrow. The "peace" and "happiness" and "great joy" that the scriptures so often talk about come not from an immediate deliverance but rather from a SURE knowledge that someday, sometime, we WILL be conquerors of death, of sin, of trials, of accusations, and everything else that weighs us down in this life. For "in all these things we are MORE than conquerors through him that loved us." (Romans 8:37)
I know now more than ever that the "perfect brightness of hope" that the scriptures talk about is exactly that, hope for a future day. I have often listened to and taken consolation from a song by Rob Gardner on Mom's cd: The Lamb of God, entitled "Sometime We'll Understand" and I know that while today and perhaps for many years yet to come we will all grieve over the loss of our precious little Benjamin, that surely sometime we WILL understand, why God, in His great glory, would call back His little son so soon. But regardless of when that day comes, as it surely will come, I pray that we might all be able to feel the peace the Gospel brings and most importantly the peace that Christ's Atonement can bring into our lives. True we may all face many more sleepless nights, many more bitter tears and broken hearts. True we will often have to suffer feelings of abandonment, betrayal, sorrow, and grief. But I pray with every fiber of my being that each of us (myself included) will be able to hold onto hope, that somehow, sometime we will understand the purpose behind all of this. I pray that until that day comes, that we can all feel the peace and comfort that can come right now from trusting in God and His timing.
Even amidst the suffering and sorrow and anguish that is still present in my life at this time I now feel GREAT peace and comfort from on high and I know that God truly does love me, just as He loves each and every one of His Children. I promise, that that same comfort and peace can be felt by every one of his children if we will "come unto Him" and "cast our burdens upon Him". I promise that if we will follow Him that He will guide us safely home. I promise that we can do all things through Him, who gives us strength. I promise that there is a balm in Gilead and that His bowels are filled with mercy and that He is full of grace and truth. I know this to be true. I pray that we can all feel that special peace and comfort that comes from believing and trusting in good things to come and do so in his sacred name, Jesus Christ, amen.
I hope that each and every one of you knows how much I love you and how much I miss you. While this has been a trial and has not been easy to get through it has also given me a renewed sense of purpose out here as I know that there are SO many out there suffering from similar or even worse trials than these who do NOT have that same peace and comfort that comes from the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ and Priesthood ordinances to seal families together for eternity. I pray that we might all be able to call upon the character of Christ at this time within ourselves and turn outward in the service of others when the natural man within us would do anything to turn inward and gratify self. I can promise that if we will all lose ourselves in the taking care of other people, even at this trying time, that He will take care of us and we will be able to find ourselves in the end.
After all this is what Christ did for us. Even when faced with the ever mounting stress and pain and sorrow and anguish of everything He went through, He pressed on knowing that what He was doing would be for the welfare and salvation of others. His sustaining strength through his loneliest and longest of trials was a knowledge that He was helping others! I pray we can find small and simple ways to do likewise. I love you all again so very much and if there is ANYTHING else I can do to help or support or comfort or serve you, PLEASE let me know. Thank you again for all that you do and for the sustaining strength which you help supply, you are all a vital part of my life, just as He is. I love you and pray all of God’s blessing be upon you this week and many more to come.
Mahalo nui loa and Aloha au ia oe!
-Elder (Luke) Powell