I have to apologize for not contacting you sooner. You and PresidentLarsen have been on my mind since I received the news of his passing fromyour family. I forwarded the information to as many missionaries as Ihave contact with, which are not many. I still keep in close contact withElders Ron Gordon and Cameron Jenson and a few other more casually.
In any event I have been trying to think what I could say other than givemy condolences to you and your family. It seems so inadequate. I wish Icould have worked out coming down to his funeral but as with many things Iwould like to do, I could not put it together because of priorcommitments.
I thought it might be appropriate to share an experience or two that Ifeel might help express my feelings of gratitude and loss. While amissionary in Okinawa I made a couple home movie type videos and I havebeen watching them and reminiscing. In one clip Elder Gordon and I aretalking about our day at a Zone conference we had been to with thePresident. Elder Gordon was talking to at the conference and I wassitting in the back with the "BUCH" as we lovingly called him. All of thesudden the BUCH started kind of crying/laughing. He leaned over to me andhe couldn't even talk because he was laughing so hard. It wasn'tdisruptive and no one could see or hear but me and Elder Gordon. As ElderGordon continued on he gave me some eye contact wondering what was goingon and if everything was ok. He though maybe his fly was down orsomething. I just shrugged as to say I have no idea what the deal is. Finally the BUCH is able to ask me if I had seen Elder Hunter's Hair cut. I indicated that I had and he proceeded to laugh uncontrollably whiletrying to communicate to me how unbelievably bad his hair cut was. Ithink he may have even had to leave the room to compose himself. I stillcrack up when I think about that.
Another experience occurred when I was in Ishigaki. I was interviewing asister for baptism and something came up that required she speak with theBUCH. She was an older sister and her whole family was at the Churchbuilding anticipating her passing the interview. It was a little awkwardfor her and Me and I think she was quite scared and nervous. I explainedthe situation the BUCH put her on the phone to talk to him. I am not sureall that was said but I saw in her eyes the love she was feeling from theSavior as she talked to the BUCH. It was an amazing experience. Sheended up getting baptized as did several others of her family members.
On the BUCH's Birthday we decided to throw him a little surprise party,although I think you may have let him in on our little secret because ofall of the food you had ready. Anyway, we all met at the top of the hillyour house was on and then yelled happy birthday when he came to the door.I know the missionaries loved to be in your home, their home away fromhome. We always felt so loved and welcome, especially in the massagechair.
When Gordon and I were AP's he we could tell how concerned he was for yourhealth and well being. He put many responsibilities on us, which I don'tthink he would have done, unless he absolutely had to. Not that he didn'ttrust us I don't think but because he wanted to do all he could for themission and his missionaries. However at this particular time as I recallyour health was especially fragile and we could tell how concerned he was.I think at that time all of his attention was turned to you. It was agreat lesson to me. Even if you have a calling and responsibility, yourfamily and especially your spouse has priority. I have always tried toremember that in my callings. I don't say this go brag but those fewmonths that Elder Gordon and I had to fill in gaps trained us for ourcallings at young ages later on. We both served as Bishops at the sametime a few years ago and we would recall those times to help us through. It turned out to be a huge blessing in our lives. I believe the BUCH bothknowingly and somewhat unknowingly trained us and other missionaries tocarry the work of the lord forward as missionaries and in whatever othercallings he had in store for us. I owe the BUCH a great debt.
Finally, when the time came for me to go home and my parents came to pickme up, the BUCH dropped us off at our hotel in Naha. As I shook his handand then embraced him we held each other for a long time and I sobbed likea baby. I was so grateful to him for the opportunities he had given me togrow and confidence he had placed in me. My mission was a life changingexperience for me as it is for many missionaries, but I attribute much ofthose changes as a result of the way he let me spread my wings.
I thank you and I thank your family for sharing him for those few shortyears.
With much love.
Elder Jim Barnett
P.S. you are welcome to share this with your family, I think it isimportant for them to have some insight into who he was a missionPresident.