One experience I always want to remember from our recent trip to Fiji is the time we spent with Raj and his father-in-law, Dharam, in Labasa.
We had been somewhat disappointed by our time at the Family History Center in Labasa on Wednesday 7 October. We spent an entire afternoon there when no one came. We were able to use our time productively as Larry was working on the PKI reports and I had things I could do. But we really wanted to help members with their family history.
The following day as we prepared to head back to Suva. We packed up our things and got checked out of the hotel a little after 10:00 AM. We then walked around the market some and bought some fruit. We were just killing time as we had no appointments or any specific things to do. Still, we had a very strong feeling there was someone we needed to help. We just didn't know who that might be.
So we walked over to the chapel and sat in the courtyard reading Preach My Gospel. We prayed together, asking Heavenly Father to help us find someone we could teach and to help us know the right words to say.
We saw an older man sitting on the opposite side of the courtyard so we went to talk to him. We often hear people talk about receiving "spiritual promptings". I suppose everyone experiences this in their own personal way. It's hard to describe exactly what it was that we felt that morning as we walked across the courtyard to where this gentleman was sitting. All I know is that when we absolutely KNEW we needed to talk with him. There was just one problem with that. He did not speak any English.
The man we felt so drawn to was of Indian decent and only spoke Hindi. (There are many Fijians of Indian descent around Labasa and in Suva - these are descendants of the indentured servants who were brought over from Calcutta by the British between 1879 and 1916 to work the sugar cane fields. Native Fijians have retain most all of the land in the islands, so the Indian population have become merchants or laborers.) We had a My Family book in Fijian, but even that was of little use. We tried our best through gestures to explain who we were and that we were hoping to talk with him about family stories. He smiled and nodded, but just said again “No English”.
Shortly after this, one of the workmen that was there to do the power washing of the roof noticed us and asked if we needed the Family History Center to be unlocked as he had the key. We said yes, so he opened the door. Then he looked over to the man we had been trying to talk with and told us the gentleman was his father-in-law. The workman, Raj Naidu, told us his father-in-law, Dharam Raj, was not a member of the church, but it would still be good to get his information about family history. We said we would very much like to work with him.
So Raj took a break from his working and brought Dharam into the family history center. Acting as interpreter, Raj helped us get the information about his father-in-law’s parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. Dharam also knew the details about Raj's ancestors since the two families had been well acquainted for many years. Three generations of Raj's family were all from Labasa, but those before had come from India. We took photos of Raj and Dharam to add to FamilySearch and thanked them both for sharing their stories with us. Then we helped Raj submit one of his great-grandparents’ name for temple work.
We told Raj about how it had felt very important to us that day to find someone we could teach about Family History. We told him of our prayer asking Heavenly Father to guide us to the person He wanted us to help, and then feeling strongly we should try talking to Dharam. Raj explained that normally his father-in-law would not be with him on a work day, but that particular day Raj had felt a strong prompting that he should bring Dharam with him. We told Raj that with the information Dharam had provided there were now several names in Raj’s wife’s family who could have temple work done for them. Raj said it was a miracle to him that we were there on the one day that he brought Dharam with him and that Dharam was able to provide all the details of their family. We felt like the whole experience was a very clear answer to our prayers. When we left, each of us felt like we had been guided to be there at that particular time to accomplish this work.
It is so humbling to know that our prayers truly are heard and answered. This work we are involved in is not our own. It is the Lord's errand we are on. We are deeply grateful for experiences like this that remind us of that.
Beyond that, we often feel the presence of people's ancestors in the room when we work together to add names, stories and pictures to their family trees. We can feel the sense of urgency and excitement like static electricity in the air. In my mind I can still hear Raj's soft, lilting voice with the Hindi accent saying what a miracle it was to bring us together that day. To others it may have seemed like chance or coincidence. To us, these are the sort of experiences that we can never forget. We are so grateful for this calling. We know that families truly can be eternal and is is a tremendous blessing to be a part of bringing that about.
|Raj with his pedigree chart and ordinance request form after submitting a family name for temple work|
|Our time with Dharam was truly an answer to prayer|