Editor’s Note: We spent the past two weeks in New Zealand, where we enjoyed the scenery, the people and even the cold weather. While there, we attended church and had a wonderful experience. This post is about that visit.
For the past two Sundays we visited the Riccarton, Christchurch, New Zealand Ward. What a great, marvelous and humbling experience that was for me!
The people were so friendly, and warmly welcomed us into their congregation. We appreciated how many came to talk with us before and after the meetings---asking where we were from and how long we planned to stay in the country. And although we were just visiting, we were treated like ward members. My husband was even assigned a companion during priesthood meeting and sent out right then to visit some less active members.
One of the songs we sang at church was “Dear To The Heart of the Shepherd” I wasn’t expecting it, but the song made me cry. For two weeks we had driven all over both islands and had a constant scene of sheep before our eyes. Suddenly that song took on new meaning to me. I am sure I will never sing any song again about shepherds, sheep or lambs without it touching my heart.
And I thought all those basketball activities were a waste of time!! :-)
One of the sacrament speakers the second week was the recently called young men’s president, Paora Winitana. He told how he and his brother joined the church when he was 12 and his brother 14. Lacking family support and friends in the church, they soon fell away. However, a couple years later he became friends with some boys who were members and they invited him to attend their weekly mutual activities.
And every week they played basketball. He said he was not good at it, but he wanted to fit in so he practiced and over time became much better. He became so good in fact, that he currently plays for the Christchurch Cougars, in the New Zealand National Basketball League.
He also served a mission to Sydney Australia, was married in the temple and now has a beautiful wife (also a returned missionary) and three very cute little boys.
A Sweet Little Tender Mercy
Our first week in town we were impressed as we listened to a newly called counselor in the bishopric. Although very young, he was a great speaker, had a good sense of humor and knew and understood the scriptures well.
On our second week, we learned he served in the Brisbane, Australia mission, and his time there overlapped with my son, who also served in that mission.
What a sweet blessing it was to us when we visited with him and learned he and my son were companions!! Of all the places we could have attended church, what are the chances we would be in his ward, and meet him? He told us the companion he had before Ryan was very difficult, so he has always thought of Ryan as a gift from the mission president. That was so nice to hear.
A Humbling Moment
One of the most humbling moments for me came during relief society. During announcements at the beginning of class, everyone was asked to pray for the people and the animals in the Gulf of Mexico that a solution would quickly be found to the oil spill, and lives and livelihood would be saved.
I was so touched by that. I wasn’t’ even praying for that, yet here, thousands of miles away in another country, the people were praying for our nation and our people. I thought that was so very sweet.
Finally, although I have traveled around much of the world and attended church in many countries, it never ceases to touch my heart at how the gospel is the same no matter where you go. We studied the same lessons, heard talks on the same subjects, sang the same songs and felt the same sweet spirit.
It was wonderful.
So to the members of the Riccarton, Christchurch, New Zealand Ward, with a full heart I say, Thank you!! Thank you!! We loved our vacation to your country, but most of all we loved meeting you!!