LDS missionary from Utah dies in Micronesia

Published: Thursday, March 13 2014 1:05 a.m. MDT

Elder Miller Toa poses with his father, Kaiser Toa, and his mother, Vei Toa, outside the Provo Temple on the day in April 2013 when he arrived at the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah. Toa, 20, of Layton, Utah, was nearly halfway through a two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when he died Thursday of injuries suffered in a fall.

Courtesy Toa family

WENO, Micronesia — Kaiser Toa is blind, but he is grateful that in his mind's eye he can still see an image of his son, Elder Miller Toa, who died Thursday while serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"I have been blind for three years," Kaiser Toa said, "but I still have a clear picture of him, smiling as a boy."

Elder Miller Edward Toa, 20, died after falling from a tree in Micronesia.

"Elder Toa, who began his missionary service in April 2013, had been serving on the island of Weno," LDS Church spokesman Cody Craynor. "We are saddened at Elder Toa's passing and extend our deepest sympathies to his family and friends during this difficult time."

Few details about the incident were available Thursday. Kaiser Toa and his wife Vei learned about their son's death late Wednesday, due to the 16-hour time difference between Utah and Micronesia.

"We are waiting for the details to come," Kaiser Toa said, adding that he understood death was a result of blood loss. "We heard he was on a tree and fell off and hit his head."

The father thought his son may have been in the midst of service, which he had made a focus of his work in the Micronesia Guam Mission.

"That was the way he could get people to open up and talk about the gospel, he told us," Kaiser Toa said. "He would help people with their gardens or other things they needed."

The Toas are also grateful for their LDS faith.

"We will miss him so much," Kaiser Toa said, pausing to choke back tears, "...but we have faith and hope in Christ, and we were lucky to have him for that season of 20 years."

Toa earned the Eagle Scout Award as a Boy Scout and graduated with honors from Layton High School. He then worked in a warehouse in Australia to earn the money to pay for his mission. He had planned to study engineering at Utah State University after his mission.

"He was always kind to others, helping and fair," his father said.

"He was loved," his mother said. "He was so loved."

Miller Toa's parents also expressed their faith in a Facebook post during the early hours of Thursday morning.

"It is with much sadness that we let all our family and friends know that our son, Miller Edward Toa, has been called home to Heavenly Father, who needed him more," they wrote. "Our stake president and bishop were here earlier this evening to let us know. We don't have much yet to go on, other than we are waiting for our son be returned home to Utah."

Weno is one of the Chuuk Islands that are part of the Federated States of Micronesia.

The Micronesia Guam mission includes the island nations of Guam, Palau, the Northern Mariana Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia, which consists of 607 islands.

The LDS Church has 4,565 members in Micronesia.

In a letter home in December, posted on Facebook by Toa's mother, Vei, the missionary wrote about the what then was an upcoming challenge of helping a congregation in his area while training a new missionary from Fiji who didn't know English or the local language.

"It's gonna be super hard," Miller Toa wrote, "but that's what's cool about being a missionary. The Lord will help me and will guide me along the way so that I will never be alone, because he is my constant companion! This gospel is amazing! It's so simple and so true!"

Email: twalch@deseretnews.com

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