17 different women, 36 crazy children, 0 babies in utero
Adventures, Advice and Questions from a group of Mormon women who met in Queens, NY and have now scattered all over the place.

Friday, July 07, 2006

A Missionary Tragedy

As many of you know, the Church and its missionary efforts just suffered a horrible tragedy. At least in my eyes. I wrestled with the idea of posting about this subject because my writing ability will not do it justice. However, since my words are not eloquent, I am hoping my sincere feelings and concern for these Sisters are conveyed.

When I read about this horrific event, I got physically sick. My initial reaction was disbelief. How could the Lord let something like this happen to two of his daughters who were serving Him faithfully? The response I got was "Bad things happen to good people". Sorry, no comfort there.

I have to admit (and commenters, please do not dwell on the strength of my testimony) that if something like this happened to my daughter, my testimony and faith would be shaken. Would yours? It's just too horrible. It may sound morbid, but I told my husband that I would possibly rather my daughter get killed then go through that kind of abuse for hours. I was really struggling with this and what my response will be to my daughter if she decides to serve a mission. Will I have forgotten this by then? I don't think so.

In a discussion among friends, I was told that Elizabeth Smart received a blessing from the Prophet that she would not be tortured by the memories of her past. Instantly, I was comforted. I'm not over the pain, fear, and questions, but I am comforted. I am sure the Lord is blessing these two Sisters with the same promise and I have complete faith that they will be healed. For now, I can rely on my faith in the Lord's power to heal our wounds, however deep they may be. I will keep these two faithful Sisters in my prayers, as well as all the other missionaries out there who not only give up 2 years of their life, but put themselves in danger, so that they can serve the Lord and share the true gospel.


  • While this is a disturbing event, I don't think that it has anything to do with being missionaries. Women get raped on BYU campus and all over Utah--along with anywhere else in the world. A report I read, said the sisters were on a busy street in broad daylight--not some place dark or dangerous. It sounds like it can't even be attributed to the sisters being foreigners or outsiders in the country: one of them was from Africa. So I hope these events won't cause you to discourage your daughter or anyone else from serving a mission--it could have happened anywhere and to anyone.

    As for why the Lord would "let" this happen to his missionaries, I have no idea. But I don't think it really works that way. I'm not sure how it works, but I don't let myself ask that question most of the time. But I believe he is probably grieving over the event more than any of us.
    posted by Blogger sunny at 7/07/2006 10:53:00 AM  

  • Yes, it's unspeakably awful, although I like Sunny's comment that the Lord is probably grieving over this more than any of us. That's something easy for us as humans to overlook, but it's important to remember how intimately he knows and loves us. (I'm still working on this one, myself.)
    posted by Blogger Squiddy at 7/07/2006 11:33:00 AM  

  • Honestly, I was surprised when I found out that we have sister missionaries in South Africa. It's got the highest rate of rape in the world; more specifically, it has the highest rate of violent rape in the world.

    My initial reaction was anger--not just at the people who raped the sisters, but at the church. All I could think was, "WHY DO WE HAVE SISTER MISSIONARIES THERE?" It's so monumentally stupid. And our missionary leaders are usually so very careful about missionary safety--the U.S. missionaries in Venezuela, for instance, had practically been restricted to their apartments for months before they were pulled out of the country.

    But that's just it, isn't it? The church tries so hard to protect our missionaries. They must have thought the sisters were safe.

    I so very badly want someone to be angry at--not just the perpetrators of the crime, whose faces I have never seen, but someone I know, someone I recognize. Does anyone else feel that way?

    There's no real point to this comment--I'm so torn up about this, I needed to say something. Anything.
    posted by Anonymous Serenity Valley at 7/07/2006 11:34:00 AM  

  • I'm glad that you wrote this post because this is nearly all I have thought of for the last few days. As women we constantly need to be on the lookout, vigilant and aware on behalf of ourselves and our children. I too thought of this happening to my daughter and wanted to vomit. I too would rather that she perish than live through hours of torture - isn't that awful? And I too must admit that my testimony would be shaken, perhaps beyond repair.

    I believe that rape is the single worst offense that can be committed against another person - in my eyes, it's worse than murder. But I have my own reasons for that.

    Then in our discussion I heard about the blessing Elizabeth Smart received and it brought me the same kind of comfort you speak of. The Lord can't protect us from others' free agency...but he can offer us comfort for the pain and suffering we may have to endure. And I agree with Sunny, that the Lord didn't "let" this happen - we can't control the free agency of others, even if we are serving a mission. I have to believe that He will take care of these sisters, that they will receive comfort and support from their families and church leaders...

    This tragedy has me all turned around inside - so upsetting...
    posted by Blogger chloe at 7/07/2006 12:25:00 PM  

  • I was also quite sad when I read this report. It's horrible to think this happens to ANYONE. As far as the "why" because they're Sister Missionaries I think of it like this. . . there are parts of the scriptures where we read about people being spared horrific ordeals--like Daniel and the Lions den, or Shadrack, Meshack and Abidnigo (I'm sure my spelling was off on all of those). . . Then there are those who suffer the unimaginable. Like in the story of Alma and Amulek when they are forced to watch as women and children were burned alive for believing the gospel and Amulek turns to Alma and says "How can we witness this awful scene? . . . let us stretch forth our hands and exercise the power of God . . . and save them from the flames." But Alma said no . . . and goes on to explain why. Unfortunately, sometimes the righteous must suffer. I think these things have to do with God's purposes and the things that reach beyond this life.

    I feel bad for those Sisters and I have no idea why this was permitted. Along the same lines, I don't understand how the same thing is allowed to happen to little girls as young as 7 months old. . . or how children are being sold into sexual slavery, or being raped, tortured and beaten everyday by their parents. . . but I DO trust in a merciful and loving God. Not that I would be any less sickened and deeply wounded if that happened to my daughter or even myself . . . I'm really not sure how I would get over it. But I do believe that God is aware and He allows some things for a greater purpose, even the tragic, horrible, and down right evil.
    posted by Blogger miggy at 7/07/2006 01:11:00 PM  

  • It makes the atonement seem that much more infinite when you have to confront the kind of pain and sin it involves..... and it makes your testimony and understanding of the atonement that much more important.
    posted by Blogger Em at 7/07/2006 02:30:00 PM  

  • I agree with Sunny, although my first thought was "get all women out of South Africa." Then I thought about what's happened here in my little town.

    I found out about this on the blog, it was in the paper a few days ago saying that the women had been robbed.

    But today it stated that they had been assaulted. News about this has been slow in coming.

    Those poor girls. The mother in me wants to do harm.
    posted by Blogger annegb at 7/07/2006 07:35:00 PM  

  • Danger is everywhere these days. I know the Church tries to minimize dangers as much as possible, but you can never take away the threat of violence(ever see "The Village"?)
    With all the medical issues we've been through I had an urge to demand the Lord tell me why. I realized that we have imperfect human bodies, bodies that we accepted to come here. The Lord doesn't WANT us to suffer or be sick, it's just something that comes with the territory. And the sad part is that sometimes we are at the whims of other people's free will. If Joe Schmo decides to get in a car after drinking, then he makes a choice that may affect the next person to come down the road. Fair? Maybe not. Life? Most assuredly. One of the trials of this plan I guess.
    Every Sister I've ever met has been a wonderful addition to my life. I imagine something happening to any of them and it's difficult. I hope they can recover and that their physical and emotional pain will fade quickly.
    posted by Blogger Mo Mommy at 7/08/2006 08:57:00 AM  

  • I can't even imagine what those Sisters are suffering. And I'm sure their own questions of "why?" will be a whole lot harder to answer than ours.

    I was floored --absolutely floored --when I heard about this. I couldn't believe that two missionaries would be allowed to be put into this situation. I wondered..."where was the Holy Ghost? Weren't they prompted not to be there?" and many other questions entered my mind. But thank you to all of your comments. Many times I've felt that if bad things only happened to bad people, then there would be no reason to be here anymore. All the bad people would kill each other off and us good people (I include myself with half a breath) wouldn't understand anything about
    anything. Wait --wasn't that Satan's plan in the first place?

    I digress...this tragedy sucks, but man, how grateful I am for all the millions of church members that will now be praying for these Sisters. How blessed will they be because of that?
    posted by Blogger Cheryl at 7/08/2006 01:00:00 PM  

  • As someone who was sexually abused, I know that I am more inclined to do what I can to help others who have experienced similar tragedies. I wouldn't wish the experience on myself or anyone else, but it DOES happen. Even though these two sister missionaries have a lot of healing to do, there is some remarkable good that can come from it. It makes one more compassionate.

    We're lucky. We have the Gospel and a huge support system already in place for us. Plus a personal relationship with the Savior.

    If anyone has any ideas as to what I can do or who I can contact about doing something, I'd appreciate it. I have ideas and I want to do something, but I don't know where to go.
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 7/08/2006 01:31:00 PM  

  • Having lived in Africa, my guess is that these women might have been targets because their dress would make them appear wealthy. While one sister was Kenyan, and I don't know the race of the American, remember that S. Africa is multi-racial and I don't think a white girl would have drawn too much attention. But the suits that the sisters in Africa wear would definitly make them stand out and appear rich. Frankly religion in Afica can be a big business, so even if people associated them with a church, they still might think they were wealthy.

    Of course, that does not address what these women have been through, just my contribution. I am sure there are many members in S. Africa grateful for the presence of sisters. I'm always happy to have them in my branch.
    posted by Blogger a spectator at 7/08/2006 02:32:00 PM  

  • As Serenity Valley put it, sending girls on missions in South Africa is the very height of idiocy. It is the most dangerous country in the world that is not currently under invasion by the U.S. Army. It has the highest rates of murder, rape, robbery, and carjacking in the world.

    A decade ago, under the apartheid system the Western world apparently decided was evil, South Africa was a safe and orderly country. In fact, it was the safest and most prosperous country on the continent. That all changed in 1995.

    Whites are very noticeable in SA; the proverbial sore thumbs, being less than ten percent of the population. And whether those Whites live in Cape Town, or on a rural farm, they are extremely vulnerable to attack by Blacks. Don't anyone try to tell me it's a class thing, either. They are attacked only because they are White. The president of SA, Thabo Mbeki, has made numerous speeches calling for the extermination of Whites in Africa, just as has Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe, and Nelson Mandela before them.

    Before anyone gets their knickers in a wad about my un-PCness, let me state that I have known personally a number of Whites who left South Africa for America, and have had the opportunity to speak with them at length about the situation there. I'm only telling it like it is. You don't have to like it.

    The way I see it, any church that would send unarmed missionaries to any part of sub-Saharan Africa is sending them on a suicide mission. God does not protect the foolhardy from their own folly. Any of you parents whose children are asked to go to such a place should raise some very serious questions if you value their lives. I am not exaggerating in the slightest.

    Here are two links that tell a little more on the matter:

    posted by Anonymous Mike in CO at 7/08/2006 03:22:00 PM  

  • This tragedy is all I can think about and it makes me ill. I served a mission in Guatemala City. I don't buy that this incident had "nothing to do with being a missionary." I have never been so vulnerable in my entire life as I was as a missionary. You live in the streets for 11 hours each and every day. You knock on doors of strangers and enter places that not even locals dare to enter. I was threatened and catcalled every day. I was chased with machetes, had a knife pulled on me, stalked by one man from area to area and physically attacked once. I was afraid. I had vivid and terrifying nightmares on a regular basis that something like this would happen to me. My greenie and I cried ourselves to sleep at night in one particularly dangerous area. I asked to come in earlier at night and was told "Sister, we are blessed when we obey the rules, not exceptions to the rules." I prayed to come home in a body bag rather than experience something so horrific.

    I understand that this can happen to anyone at anytime. I understand free agency and how those who choose to abuse it often cause others much suffering. But I have never felt so afraid before my mission and since. Not even when I lived in Queens! I now live in a secure home, I drive a car that has automatic door locks and there are security cameras pretty much everywhere I go. I'm usually with my husband. It could still happen, but I'm not as afraid.

    HOWEVER, I have also never felt so incredibly protected as I was on my mission. In one area we had a mysterious dog who would appear each night as we left our appointments and walk us home. No matter where in our area we were, he was usually there waiting as we finished our day. He would lead the way and growl at anyone who looked threatening and then wait until we got inside safely before he walked away. I have no idea where he lived, to whom he belonged or how he knew where to meet us each night, but I'm sure he saved us from many frightening times.

    I also remember feeling the presence of guardian "angels". I wrote home many times of strong spiritual impressions telling me that nothing could harm me because I had hosts of angels protecting me. I also never wrote home about the frightening things.

    To mike in co: I don't think Serenity Valley meant that sending sisters to So Africa was at "the height of idiocy." Give me a break. Have you been a mission president before? Are you a prophet? Have you personally been guided by God where to send Sister Missionaries? You could pull up your fancy stats on any major city in the world and raise the same argument.

    The way I feel about the safety of my personal mission is probably unique. I believe most sister missionaries don't feel the same amount of fear. Regardless, I, like thousands of other sister missionaries, was spared and blessed beyond comprehension to come home unscathed.

    I am also with Sunny and the idea that "God is grievivg over the event more than any of us". He loves all of His children equally and is a just God. I don't know what punishment will be given to these men, but I'm sure God has something pretty good in store for them once they're back in his court.

    Would this shake my testimony? I really hope not. From my own experience with personally related issues, God gives us strength when we need it the most. The atonement is real and it is amazingly powerful and healing. I add my own prayer for these Sisters to many others. May they not be haunted by this event anymore.
    posted by Blogger Krista at 7/09/2006 07:06:00 PM  

  • Mike in co--wow! get some perspective. If I was a white South African whose family had gotten rich on apartheid for generations, I would leave, too. And feel ashamed. And be totally paranoid, as your friends seem to have been.

    I was a white girl living safely and conspicuously in sub-Saharan Africa for more than 3 years. I have no doubt that I will be again, too.

    I have also lived in DC, which is no picnic--check those stats.
    posted by Blogger a spectator at 7/09/2006 09:17:00 PM  

  • I'm just confused as to why Mike in CO feels the need to capitalize "Blacks" and "Whites"...
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 7/09/2006 11:24:00 PM  

  • "I'm just confused as to why Mike in CO feels the need to capitalize "Blacks" and "Whites"..."

    For precisely the same reason one would capitalize "Asian" or "Arab" -- proper English. Or should that be "english?" I didn't make the grammatical rules. I just follow them to the best of my ability.

    The effort some people put into being offended or indignant is a constant source of amazement for me.
    posted by Anonymous mike in co at 7/09/2006 11:41:00 PM  

  • "If I was a white South African whose family had gotten rich on apartheid for generations, I would leave, too. And feel ashamed. And be totally paranoid, as your friends seem to have been."

    That's the stupidest thing I've heard today. Apartheid was not around very long, for starters. And it was not, as many Americans seem to believe, slavery, but very similar to segregation, which, if I recall correctly, didn't end very long ago here. Instead of spouting off some rhetorical nonsense, it wouldn't hurt you to learn a little history, would it?

    The Whites who profited from the system were primarily the English-speakers -- the British. The Dutch/German/French descended Boers were set up for a fall from the beginning; their land was grabbed by the Brits. Read up on the Boer War. My friends are Boers.

    "I have also lived in DC, which is no picnic--check those stats."

    Ah, yes, one of the highest murder rates in the USA. Also, about what, 80% Black? So, what is your point, exactly?

    Frankly speaking, I don't see any point from you at all. Your tone suggests you take umbrage with what I said. Excuse me for passing on what I know, and believe to be useful information -- information that could save lives. Do you have a problem with saving lives? I don't get where you're coming from.
    posted by Anonymous Mike in CO at 7/09/2006 11:55:00 PM  

  • Thanks everyone for your comments.
    Mike in CO - I think you just want attention. You like shock value. No problem with that. Just don't be surprised that buttons are pushed after you desperately want to push buttons.
    My opinion after just returning from South Afric, is very different. I went to church in one of the worst townships there and had an incredibly beautiful experience. The members were all deeply spiritual, loving, humble, beautiful people. I was overwhelmed by how happy and nice these people were to us.
    You can spew all the stats you want, but really, that is just proving most of our point. The Lord protects missionaries. There is no two ways about it. For some reason, that I can't comprehend, these two sisters had to endure this attack. But your links prove that it is statistically impossible for the Church to send missionaries to these types of places and expect them to come home safe. Yet thousands do, year after year. Obviously, the Church leaders know more than any statistics can infer.
    posted by Blogger Melissa at 7/10/2006 08:08:00 AM  

  • Mike in CO - I have yet to read a NY Times or Wall Street Journal article that refers to particular races as "Blacks" or "Whites". It just sounds bigoted to me...
    posted by Anonymous suzanneinnyc at 7/10/2006 01:22:00 PM  

  • I think Krista touched on one of the most troubling points of this tradgedy. We seem to believe as members of the church, If you go on a mission, you will be protected. I even remember seeing a cartoon once of a missionary with angels all around him protecting him from all the bad stuff. Many missionaries have experiences just like Krista's where they have truly felt angels watching over them.

    Then something terrible like this happens to missionaries and we are not quite sure what do with that belief. I think this is where we might feel like a part of our testimony wavering. Can God protect missionaries? Of course. I think He can protect anyone at anytime. But he can't stop all the bad from happening because he has to protect our Free Agency as well.

    Instead of building a part of our testimony upon the belief that God protects missionaries, which does not always hold true, we should build it upon something more firm. Sharing the gospel with others is one of the most important things you can do in your lifetime. Not just because of the immediate blessings, but because of the eternal consequences.

    Our sunday school lesson this week was about Job. I thought the lessons we can learn from Job were very timely and applicable. When every horrible thing kept happening to him, he did not turn away from God because he knew God and knew the blessings of righteousness are not necessarily given in the way or timeframe we would choose.

    Thanks for posting about this Melissa. I think it has been very cathartic for people to be able to think and speak on the subject.

    My thoughts and prayers are with the Sisters and their families.
    posted by Blogger TftCarrie at 7/10/2006 09:07:00 PM  

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