Provided by Vai Sikahema
“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13
Last Wednesday evening, as Guatemala was being pummeled by rain, Elder Siosua (Josh) Taufa of Salt Lake City and his companion, Elder Rodriquez of Honduras, were just wrapping up their evening of proselyting following their weekly preparation day in the village of Catalina.
Their apartment, which they shared with two other missionaries, was getting drenched from a leaky roof, so Elder Taufa volunteered to go patch it up while Elder Rodriquez remained in the apartment. When he finished a mish-mash job of covering the hole with cardboard, wood and whatever he could find, Elder Taufa started climbing back down when suddenly he lost his footing. Instinctively, he threw out his hands for something to hold and his right hand grabbed a live power line that hung haphazardly on the roof.
Elder Taufa lost his life at age 20 in a foreign country where he voluntarily went to serve, on a roof he was trying to fix so he and his fellow missionaries might have some relief from the elements.
That same evening in Salt Lake City, Elder Taufa’s father, Aiveni, or Ivan, was just returning from a long day at work, a sergeant on Gov. Gary Herbert’s security detail. He walked into his home about 11:30 p.m., interestingly, the same time zone as Guatemala. Ivan popped his head into the family room to say hello to his teenage daughters, Siosiane, Luluku Elisiane and Lavinia, who were still up working on the computer and playing music on their iPods. He then ducked into the kitchen and warmed up leftovers from that evening’s dinner.
When he finished eating, he retired upstairs to their bedroom where his wife, Sulieti, was still awake waiting for him. They greeted each other warmly, chatted briefly about each other’s day while he brushed his teeth before kneeling in prayer and going to sleep.
A little more than an hour into their slumber, they were awaken by a soft knock on their door about 1 a.m. from their girls, who simply yelled, “Mom and Dad, President Kinikini and Bishop Tu’itupou are at the door!”
“As we came down the stairs and saw our bishop and stake president standing at the door, my heart sank,” Sulieti recounted to me. “I first thought, ‘Oh no, is it Aiveni’s parents? Or my dad? (All live in Salt Lake City.) Did something happen to them? Then I thought, ‘Is it our missionary? Is he in some kind of trouble?’ ”
President Elini Kinikini of the Tongan North Stake and Bishop Siosaia Tu’itupou of the Riverside 2nd Ward were invited to the living room where they somberly and directly shared the tragic news that their second child and second missionary son, Elder Siosiua Andrew Taufa, had lost his life in Guatemala earlier that evening. Sulieti let out a cry that brought their daughters running into the room, but Ivan remained stoic and steadied himself by bracing the armrest of the couch.
With the help of their priesthood leaders, he calmed his family’s tears and their anguish.
“I didn’t know what else to do but be a rock for my little family,” Ivan told me.
They gathered and knelt in prayer, with Bishop Tu’itupou offering a heartfelt and solemn prayer in Tongan.
A few hours later, at 6 a.m., without a wink of sleep, the Taufas attended the Salt Lake Temple, where they had been married nearly 23 years ago, for an early morning session.
“Our son had offered his life as a sacrifice and we went to petition the Lord for his grace, his mercy, his healing power through the Atonement, determined to offer whatever else he required at our hands for his sake,” Ivan told me. “We left that morning more soothed and more at peace with our son’s passing.”
Ivan Taufa is a trained killer. Literally.
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