Last week was a very sad week for our mission. On Tuesday, August 30, Sisters Valerie Bentley and Natalie Love were in a car accident and Sister Bentley was killed. Sister Love was driving on a highway with a 55 mph speed limit. She turned left to pull into a driveway and didn't see the white SUV coming toward them. The driver of the SUV didn't even have time to step on her brakes, she was so close, and crashed into the missionaries car still going full speed. Sister Love suffered some broken ribs, a punctured lung and some cracked vertebrae which did not threaten injury to her spine. We don't know what injuries the other driver received, just that they were not life threatening. Sister Love has been released from her mission while she recuperates at home from her injuries. It is anticipated that she will be gone a month to 6 weeks.
In the office we were informed of the accident not long after it happened, but we didn't know Sister Bentley had passed away until the next morning. All the missionaries were informed by the President's assistants, but weren't given any details. On Thursday, Amy sent me a link to a Deseret News article about the accident with most of the details, as well as some heart breaking interviews with Sister Bentley's family and friends. It read in part, "Vanessa Bentley is the fifth of Steve and Debbie Bentley's seven children and the third to serve an LDS mission (her two brothers both served missions in Ecuador).
"She sort of stuck out in our family," said her faither, Steve. "She was blonde; the rest of us have dark hair."
Her father said she had "an infectious laugh and a beautiful smile, and a real way with people."
That ability was noted by a non-LDS woman in Ithaca, N.Y., who met Vanessa when she and her missionary companion served in the soup kitchen there. She wrote to Vanessa's parents to tell them how impressed she was with the kindness and compassion so clearly manifest through her service. "She said even the priest who was over the soup kitchen was impressed with Vanessa," her mother, Debbie, said.
A former high school basketball player ("she was tall and lanky," her father said), Vanessa worked for the BYU audio-visual department while she attended college. "One time I was watching a basketball game on BYU-TV and I saw one of the players run over Vanessa and her camera," Steve said. "I immediately texted her to see if she was OK. Within a few minutes they were talking to her live on the TV. She said, 'I just got a text from my Dad asking if I'm OK. So yes, Dad, I'm fine!' "Rowberry says she remembers watching Vanessa wrestle with the decision of whether or not to go on a mission. "She had been talking about it for a long time, but when the time came to make the decision she considered it very carefully for a long time," she said. "But when she got the call, she couldn't wait to get out there. She loved the Lord, and she was excited to serve him."
And she was doing it well, Steve Bentley said. "Her mission president told us that she was a great missionary — humble, obedient and hard-working," he said. "She did everything she was asked to do, willingly. We just have to assume that Heavenly Father was in charge of this last transfer."
Neither Bill nor I had met this fine girl, but her passing affected all of us like she was family. She was part of our mission family. We were very busy taking care of details, phone calls, etc. Sister Love's parents came to take her home. She was unable to fly because of the punctured lung, so they took the train home. While they were here, Bill drove the three of them up to Ogdensburg where the sisters were serving and helped them pack up all the personal effects in the apartment. I was going to go with them, but during the night we both got the impression that I shouldn't go. We prayed about it the next morning, our impression was confirmed, so with the promise that we will drive up there in a few weeks (after the leaves start turning autumn colors), they went without me. It was a good thing I didn't go because every inch of the inside of the van that wasn't occupied with people was packed tight with their belongings.