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Sunday, August 3, 2014

Funerals and Storms!

I guess we are nearing the end of our Mission, because I'm not writing on my blog as much.  I can't believe we only have a little over two months left.  Where has the time gone?  There were three deaths the last month and all three were within a week of each other.  Sister Marius, an older member who was bedridden, passed away July 15.  She was a member for two and a half years.  We met Sister Marius when we first came to St. Lucia and visited with her frequently.  She was such a joy to be around.  She loved the Missionaries, calling the Elders her Angels and her Grandchildren.  It was her wish to have her funeral at the Church. She was the only member in her family and wrote down specific instructions to where her funeral should be held.  Elder Gubler and I were honored to speak at her funeral and it went very well.  It was well attended and the spirit was strong.  The Missionaries sang a beautiful rendition of "I Stand All Amazed".  She is at peace now and is no longer suffering. We will miss her, but know we'll see her again.  She had a strong testimony of the Gospel and was an amazing Missionary.  I have attached our talks on this blog.  

The other deaths were relatives of members.  Brother Paul from the Castries Branch had a sister pass away.  Sister Joseph's Father passed away and she is from the Vieux Fort Branch. We attended the funeral of Sister Joseph's Father in Vieux Fort.  He was an elderly man of 89 years of age.  These experiences have made me so appreciate the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Plan of Salvation and the wonderful blessings it has to offer us. I know we will live again and will all be resurrected. Life does not end at death.  Sister Joseph is excited to get her father's work ready for the Temple.  Elder Gubler has been assisting the members of the Vieux Fort Branch with their Family History.

We were honored to have Elder and Sister Linton visit St. Lucia.  They are a senior couple serving in Tobago and he is a Patriarch for the Mission.  He was able to give nine patriarchal blessings.  The members who received blessings were so excited and experienced a wonderful spiritual experience.  Elder Morrison, a missionary serving in Castries, was able to receive his blessing and I told him what a great experience to receive a Patriarchal Blessing on your Mission.  He replied back that it was such a spiritual experience like the first time he went to the Temple.  I've never seen someone so excited to receive his copy of the blessing. I love these missionaries.  They are great young men and women who are an example to all. Transfers were last week and we lost five missionaries.  Like I've said, it is sad to see them go, but happy to meet new ones. 

Now the storm part.  Friday, there was a tropical storm warning for St. Lucia.  We warned all the missionaries and cancelled a Branch activity.  We quickly did our errands for the day and waited in our apartment for the storm to come.  After the Christmas Eve storm, we were not going to take any chances.  Well, thank heavens it never came.  It missed St. Lucia.  We were so grateful and felt very blessed.  According to the members, this happens quite often.  They will have a storm warning and nothing happens.

We are so thankful to be out here on a mission.  I want to express my love to my Savior.  It is an honor to wear a missionary badge and represent him in this great work. This work is true and is blessing those lives who accept it.

The following is my talk:

 Martina Marius

Martina (Catherine) Marius was born Nov. 5, 1913, in Souffriere, St. Lucia to Epiphane Marius and Clare Rene’.  Her father passed away when she was five years old and she was raised by her mother along with her two older brothers, Ferdinand and Gilbert in Laborie.  She attended school in Laborie.

She married Clifford Forde and had one daughter Emma. She later separated from her husband.  Wanting a better life for herself, she immigrated to the United States in November of 1975.  She lived in New York and worked as a home health aid, assisting the elderly with their daily needs.  Having retired in the United States, she came back to her beloved St. Lucia to live the rest of her life.  It was her wish to die and be buried here.  While here, she enjoyed outings with her sister Rety and getting to know her Grandchildren better.  Catherine is survived by her two brothers, Ferdinand and Gilbert, two sisters, Rety Garham and Marie Ferdinand.  She is also survived by her daughter Emma Marius who resides in Troy, New York and ten Grandchildren, Lucy, Sharon, Ashley, Monti, Nael Martina, Aaron, Maritha, Fred, Ricky, and Viviane and her great grandchildren and great great grandchildren.

If you don’t mind, I’d like to call Mary Catherine Marius, Sister Marius as I have always called her.  In our Church we consider ourselves all brothers and sisters.  I’ve gathered this information from her family and the former Senior Couples that were wonderful friends of Sister Marius, Elder and Sister Bush and Elder and Sister Gartz and Elder Gubler and myself from the time we spent with her.  

Sister Marius was a giving person, she was very generous with those around her.  She was always concerned with the welfare of others and often took in families that needed help.  She especially loved babies and little children.  Sister Gartz told of times when her grandchildren came to visit they would take them to see Sister Marius.  She would always fuss over the babies and she wanted them to get right up on the bed with her.  I showed her a picture of my little Grandson once and she stared at that picture smiling for the longest time so excited.

I will always remember her laugh.  She was quite willing to poke fun at anyone she felt like and was able to take it as well.  She and Elder Gubler had a thing going on with sardines, he found out she enjoyed sardines so we would bring her some when we visited.  She told us she would always remember us for our sardines.

She told a story of when she was a little girl she was accused of and punished for killing a pig.  Apparently, it was a small pig that someone of her size could have snuffed out.  However she had not killed the pig but was blamed for it.  She was always one to keep score so after awhile she found another little pig and killed it.

Sister Marius was a beautiful seamstress and made wedding dresses.  We spoke with a lady whose wedding dress she made the other week.  She told us about all the intricate work that went into that dress and how beautiful it was.

Sister Marius was raised Catholic.  She was very religious and read her Bible daily.  Prayer was very important to her and she prayed often.  It was in October of 2011 that she first met the Missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  She was bedridden during this time and she had told her house helper to not let any strangers in.  She said that one day her house lady came and said that there were two young men who would like to talk to her and she said to send them in.  You wonder why an older lady who was bedridden, strong in her Religion, very stubborn as you all know, would join another Church in her later years.  The Missionaries taught her and she was converted right away.  Through prayer and study, she knew that what they were telling her was the truth.  That Jesus Christ himself restored his church to the earth again through the Prophet Joseph Smith. 

The first time that Elder Gubler and I met Sister Marius she told us her Baptismal story.  I t was such a wonderful event in her life and she kept a picture of it at her bedside. Elder and Sister Bush relates this story as they were there when it happened. She wanted to get baptized but she hadn’t left her home in over seven years except to go to Doctor appointments.  It was decided to get a stretcher.  So, four young Missionaries and Elder Bush carried her out of her home on a stretcher and put her in the back of Brother Joe’s pickup truck and went to Vigi Beach.  Once there the challenge began.  She was strapped onto the stretcher and the four Elders carried her into the water.  It was a windy day and the waves were strong.  After four attempts, the Elders brought her back to the beach to rest.  We thought she might be discouraged but she was not.  President DeBeauville showed up and said he was prompted to wear white, what a blessing that was.  He was able to help the Elders take her back out, this time with her facing the beach.  They used the waves to help immerse her, this time completely.  Everyone was exhausted, but she was so happy.  She kept saying, “Thank you, Jesus!” and “I have all my angels here with me.”

Back at her home we asked if we had worn her out and she said we hadn’t.  She said her life had been so wicked that the Lord had to scrub her clean.  After her confirmation she bore her testimony expressing love and gratitude through her tears. 

Sister Marius wanted to share the joy she found in the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ with others.  Once she joined the Church, she became the best missionary and usually wouldn’t take NO for an answer.  From her bed she would call her family members and friends and arrange a time for the missionaries to visit them.  When she called it was never a question of would you like to know more about our church?, it was a statement of conviction and a command from her rather than an invitation.  She was never shy.  She said many times the only thing I have left is my mouth and she was quite willing to use it.  She would excitedly tell us of those acquaintances of her who were being taught by the Missionaries when we would come and visit.

She loved the Prophet Joseph Smith and laughingly called him her boyfriend.  She knew he was a true Prophet of God.  Even though she was never able to attend Church, the Missionaries brought the Church to her.  They visited her regularly with Gospel messages and brought the Sacrament to her on Sundays.  The musically talented Elders would uplift and comfort her by singing hymns.  She was always upset with President Mehr, our Mission President, for transferring the Missionaries out, but she always welcomed the new ones that replaced them.  Each morning she also listened to the scriptures on CD and also Conference talks, this is where our Prophet and His twelve Apostles along with other leaders of the Church speak at a Semi-annual conference which is broadcast to all Church members worldwide.  Sister Marius will be an important part of these Missionaries lives, as she is a very important part of my life also.

One part of our beliefs is that all those who have not had an opportunity to hear the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ in this life will have an opportunity in the next life, that is life after death to hear it and either accept it or reject it. We believe that there is a great Missionary work going on in the Spirit World right now.  She was always excited to be a part of this Missionary work in the next life.
Even though her body was frail, she had a keen mind up until the very end.  I was amazed at her memory.  If you promised her something, you had better follow through, or she would keep reminding you about it.  Last year before Christmas, Elder Gubler and I told her that we would bring up all the Missionaries in St Lucia to sing Christmas Carols to her on Christmas Eve.  After that, each time we visited she would keep reminding us.  Finally on Christmas Eve, things got so busy we were wondering if we had time, but just as we were about to give up on the idea, Sister Marius called and asked when we were coming.  Luckily we were able to go and made it back before the terrible storm hit.

She often told us that she was bad when she was younger, but she had a strong testimony of Jesus Christ and his atoning sacrifice.  She knew that through his atonement and through baptism she was forgiven of her sins and committed the remainder of her life to try and serve the Lord the best she could and keep his commandments. She loved the Lord and would always express her love for her Savior, Jesus Christ. She also paid her tithing faithfully.  The last time we saw Sister Marius, she was so ill, but motioned for Sharon to get her tithing envelope.  She would joke that if you don’t come and get my tithing, I’m going to spend it.

She was called by Elder Gartz to be a youth teacher awhile back.  The Missionaries helped her prepare her lesson and the youth from the Church would come to her home on Sundays, alternating with the young men one week and the young women the next week.  She was a wonderful example to them by being happy and grateful no matter what circumstance you are in.  While she did this only three or four time, it gave her a chance to serve.

We never heard a word of complaint about her confinement and she recognized the reasons the Lord put her in that situation as it was His way to bring her closer to Him. Even when we visited her in the hospital, she would still joke and laugh.

I have felt Sister Marius’ spirit as I have thought about what to say today and I keep on coming up with the same thing and that is This is an open invitation to all of you here today to be curious, ask questions, to listen and find out why she would join this Church during her later years and why she was so eager to share it with others.  Another thing I want to say is she loved all her Grandchildren and although it was difficult for her to show it sometimes, all she has ever wanted was a relationship with you and for you to be happy.
I’m so thankful for the time that we got to know Sister Marius.  I have learned a great deal from her as she was a great example to me also.  I know she is at peace now and is happily reunited with her loved ones who have passed on.  We don’t need to worry about her because she made her peace with her Heavenly Father and applied the Saviors atonement in her life.  I know God lives, I know he lives.  I know Jesus Christ suffered for Sister Marius’ sins, for my sins and for your sins also and I’ll be forever grateful for him and His atoning sacrifice.  I’m so thankful for this time that I’ve had to serve in St. Lucia.  It is a beautiful place and such beautiful people and will be forever grateful for the time I spent with your sweet Mother, Grandmother, Sister, Aunt, Cousin and friend.

The following is Elder Gubler's talk:

 Sister Marius Funeral
We are here to remember Sister Marius’s life and to comfort those left behind. Indeed, all of us have the responsibility to …”mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort”. I have been asked to talk about the spiritual aspects of our lives and to put in context death to God’s overall plan. As I do that – let me take a couple of minutes to reflect on what is the purpose of life – and specifically what Sister Marius did in her life – because of her beliefs – to prepare her for this step.

(Pre-Earth Life: God’s Purpose and Plan for Us)
For ages people have wondered, “Where did we come from? Why are we here? Where are we going?” Sister Marius believed in what is called the plan of salvation. The plan of salvation gives us the answers to these questions. God is the Father of our spirits. We are literally His children, and He loves us. We lived as spirit children of our Father in Heaven before we were born on this earth. We were not, however, like our Heavenly Father, nor could we ever become like Him and enjoy all the blessings that He enjoys without the experience of living in mortality with a physical body. God’s whole purpose—His work and His glory—is to enable each of us to enjoy all His blessings. He has provided a perfect plan to accomplish His purpose. All of us understood and accepted this plan before we came to the earth. Jesus Christ is central to God’s plan. Through His Atonement, Jesus Christ fulfilled His Father’s purpose and made it possible for each of us to enjoy immortality and eternal life. Agency, or the ability to choose, is one of God’s greatest gifts to His children. We choose whether to follow Jesus Christ or not. We are physically separated from God during life on earth, but He wants every one of His children to find peace in this life and a fulness of joy in His presence after this life.  Sister Marius, like all of us, made the choice to come to earth and she was born into this world to gain a body and to learn, develop and grow.

(The Creation and Our Life on Earth)
Under the direction of Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ created this earth as a place for us to live and gain experience. In order to progress and become like God, each of us had to obtain a body and be tested during a time of probation on the earth. While on the earth we are out of God’s physical presence. We do not remember our pre-earth life. We must walk by faith rather than by sight. We have the moral agency or the ability to choose between good and evil. This made it possible for us to learn and progress. While on this earth God also provides us the opportunity to have children, as is evidenced by Sister Marius’s daughter, grandchildren and a great growing legacy of great-grandchildren.
Life on earth is an opportunity and a blessing. Our purpose in this life is to have joy and prepare to return to God’s presence. In mortality we live in a condition where we are subject to both physical and spiritual death. If not for our Savior Jesus Christ, death would end all hope for a future existence with Heavenly Father. While we are in mortality  we have experiences that bring us happiness. We also have experiences that bring us pain and sorrow. These experiences provide us opportunities to learn and to grow, to distinguish good from evil, and to make choices. God influences us to do good. We also have influences on this earth to do evil. We need God’s help to choose the right and to repent of the mistakes that we all make. We cannot overcome the effects of physical death and the effects of sin by ourselves. We are helpless without the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Without the Atonement of Jesus Christ Sister Marius and her loved ones would not have the opportunity to be together again. Gratefully Jesus Christ has made it possible to return to our Heavenly Father and to be with our loved ones.
(The Atonement, The Spirit World and the Resurrection)
We will all suffer physical death, but Jesus Christ overcame the obstacle of physical death for us. By virtue of Him suffering in Gethsemane, dying on the cross, and then overcoming death through the power of the Resurrection Christ overcame all. He provided a path for us to take for us to return to live with our Heavenly Father.  The reuniting of body and spirit is called resurrection and is a gift promised to each of us. To fulfill the plan of salvation, Christ paid the penalty for our sins if we choose to accept it. This is called the Atonement. As we rely on the Atonement of Jesus Christ, He can help us endure our trials, sicknesses, and pain. We can be filled with joy, peace, and consolation. All that is unfair about life can be made right through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Only through the gift of the Atonement can we return to live with God.
Even though Christ conquered physical death, all people must die, for death is part of the process by which we are transformed from mortality to immortality. This is evidenced by Sister Marius’s passing. At death our spirits go to the spirit world. That is where Sister Marius is now. She no longer has her physical body. But she has her spirit body and continues to live. When she left this earth she went to the Spirit World where those who have passed before greeted her with open arms. I can only imagine the sweet and joyous welcome she received by her parents, grandparents, other family members. We remain in the spirit world until we are resurrected. Resurrection is the eternal joining of our physical and spiritual bodies. Just as Jesus Christ was resurrected – every person who has lived or will live on this earth will enjoy the blessings of being resurrected ourselves. This again comes to us because of Jesus Christ.
Through the resurrection all people will become immortal—they will live forever. Immortality is a free gift to all people, whether they are righteous or wicked. Eternal life is not, however, the same as immortality. Eternal life is a gift of God available to God’s children through the Atonement of Christ. It is exaltation, which means living with God forever in eternal families.  During our mortal lives we make choices. We have the opportunity to live in God’s presence, become like Him, and receive a fulness of joy.
In the Book of Mormon Amulek testified Alma: 34: 31-32  31 Yea, I would that ye would come forth and harden not your hearts any longer; for behold, now is the time and the day of your salvation; and therefore, if ye will repent and harden not your hearts, immediately shall the great plan of redemption be brought about unto you.
 32 For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors.
Concerning the resurrection: As the Apostle Paul said, "For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality." (I Corinthians 15: 53)
This is also what Alma referred to as he explained the plan of salvation to this son Corianton: "The soul shall be restored to the body, and the body to the soul; yea, and every limb and joint shall be restored to its body; yea, even a hair of the head shall not be lost; but all things shall be restored to their proper and perfect frame." (Alma 40:23)
And so when we see Sister Marius again we will see a whole and perfect Sister Marius. She will walk and talk with her family and friends.
And what will be her condition until the time of the resurrection? Alma provides an answer in the same chapter 40, verses 11-14:
"Now, concerning the state of the soul between death and the resurrection--Behold, it has been made known unto me by an angel, that the spirits of all men, as soon as they are departed from this mortal body, yea, the spirits of all men, whether they be good or evil, are taken home to that God who gave them life.
"And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of those who are righteous are received into a state of happiness, which is called paradise, a state of rest, a state of peace, where they shall rest from all their troubles and from all care, and sorrow.
"And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of the wicked, yea, who are evil--for behold, they have no part nor portion of the Spirit of the Lord; for behold, they chose evil works rather than good; therefore the spirit of the devil did enter into them, and take possession of their house--and these shall be cast out into outer darkness; there shall be weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth, and this because of their own iniquity, being led captive by the will of the devil.
"Now this is the state of the souls of the wicked, yea, in darkness, and a state of awful, fearful looking for the fiery indignation of the wrath of God upon them; thus they remain in this state, as well as the righteous in paradise, until the time of their resurrection."
And so, we need not pity Sister Marius. She is at peace now, and will rest from her struggles while she waits in paradise to be reunited with her family. In spite of a crippling condition, she lived valiantly to the end of her life on this earth, trying to submitting himself to the will of our Father in Heaven, mostly without complaint, and  trying  to show  patience, long suffering, and kindness to those around her.
Our pity should be reserved for those whose souls are crippled by unrepented sins, whose limbs are twisted and withered by greed, or envy, or infidelity, or unrighteousness in all its forms. Those are the people who are truly handicapped and whose progression will be limited, if they fail to reach for the light and shun the darkness.
Let us have clean hands and a pure heart, and submit ourselves to what comes to us in life with hope and faith in a loving Heavenly Father.
President Monson, President of the Church of Jesus Christ has said: Every thoughtful person has asked himself the question best phrased by Job of old: ‘If a man die, shall he live again?’ Try as we may to put the question out of our thoughts, it always returns. Death comes to all mankind. It comes to the aged as they walk on faltering feet. Its summons is heard by those who have scarcely reached midway in life’s journey, and often it hushes the laughter of little children. But what of an existence beyond death? Is death the end of all? … My brothers and sisters, we know that death is not the end. This truth has been taught by living prophets throughout the ages. It is also found in our holy scriptures.”
President Monson also said:“If we are well prepared, death brings no terror. From an eternal perspective, death is premature only for those who are not prepared to meet God.”
And he also said:“Death lays its heavy hand upon those dear to us and at times leaves us baffled and wondering. In certain situations, as in great suffering and illness, death comes as an angel of mercy.”
I would like to conclude my remarks by reading the words of the hymn in our hymn book called “I stand all amazed”
I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me,
Confused at the grace that so fully He proffers me;
I tremble to know that for me He was crucified,
That for me, a sinner, He suffered, He bled and died. O it is wonderful that He should care for me
  Enough to die for me!
  O it is wonderful, wonderful to me!
I marvel that He would descend from His throne divine
To rescue a soul so rebellious and proud as mine;
That He should extend His great love unto such as I,
Sufficient to own, to redeem, and to justify.
I think of His side, pierced and bleeding to pay the debt,
Such mercy, such love and devotion can I forget?
No, no! I will praise and adore at the mercy seat,
And testify all my desires He doth fully meet.

Sister Marius

Three of my favorite people, Sisters Samuel and
Shelton and Brittany Henry.

Elder and Sister Linton

Zone outing

Zone outing, Elders Day, Morrison and Glade.

Zone outing

Sister Samuel and Shelton

Elder Hansen couldn't quite lift the cannon.

The whole zone plus Denzel DeBeauville.

District meeting

The missionaries that transferred out, Sister Shelton
and Samuel and Elders Morrison, Glade, and Reyes (he
finished his mission and returned home to Australia).



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