Friday, February 19, 2016

Family History in Bream Bay

We were invited to come up to Bream Bay Branch (in Whangarei Stake) to help with a scheduled Family History event.  They host a family history night on the third Friday of every month, which is fantastic, especially for a small branch.  (Their average church attendance fluctuates between 30-50 people).  While we have done stake trainings in Whangarei, this was our first time in Bream Bay. We were very impressed by the eagerness of the members to engage in Family History work.  

'Bream Bay' is loosely used as a collaboration of the three major towns that satellite the metropolitan area which are RuakakaOne Tree Point and Waipu. The physical bay itself geographically spreads from the mouth of Whangarei Harbour (Bream Head), 22 kilometers south, to the southernmost point of Waipu Cove (Bream Tail). The area also inhabits 3 native reserve islands, located just off the coast of Bream Bay: the Hen and Chickens Islands and Sail Rock Island.

The general area is made up of Ruakaka Beach, Ruakaka Township and Marsden Point. Other Bream Bay localities such as One Tree Point, Takahiwai and even Waipu are often included in general conversation regarding the area. (Latitude -35.8833, Longitude 174.4000)
Ruakaka Beach, October 2005.
Ruakaka Beach lies near the mouth of the Ruakaka River which boasts a rare bird reserve and popular summer camp ground.  It is primarily a residential area made up of a mixture of permanent homes and beach shacks.
The Ruakaka Township was developed off the back of the Marsden Point Oil Refinery expansion in the 1980s where services were required to support the large influx of workers from all over the world involved in the project. A government requirement for a percentage of revenue invested in the project to be spent on the local community allowed for provision of services not common in communities this size (e.g. squash courts, sports grounds).
The Marsden Power Station Village was built to support the Marsden Power Stations (A & B) which have since been decommissioned. The area is now promoted as beachside living.

The Whangarei Stake is very dear to us.  Of course, we love working with the leaders and members where ever we go.  Still, we have had some particularly special times in the Northlands.  So we were excited to head back up that way again.

 The meeting we helped with went very well.  Everyone had a really good time.  President Ashcroft is a wonderful leader who most definitely understands the vision of this work.  His wife and daughter both serve as family history consultants.

The congregation rents a large home on One Tree Point Road.  They have converted the garage into their chapel and various rooms of the house serve for Primary, Relief Society, Youth, Sunday School and other needs.  They have done a wonderful job adapting the place to meet their purposes. Apparently the old meeting house they had was very close to the ocean, so much so that at high tide the car park would get flooded and small land crabs would scrabble across the floor of the church.  This place is much nicer, and was a comfortable gathering spot for all.

In a rural branch where many of the members live quite a distance from where they meet for church, it is often quite a challenge to get people to come out for evening meetings during the week.  Robert Phillips, who serves as Branch President from neighboring Wellsford Branch, and his wife came to help as they are both very active genealogists but have not yet been able to generate much interest among members in their area.

The Ashcrofts can certainly understand the struggle it is for many people to come out after a long day.   Sister Ashcroft teaches Early Morning Seminary and then works during the day teaching High School French.  So by the time 7:00 PM rolls around she is often feeling fairly spent.  But you could never tell that by her demeanor.  She was so kind and friendly, as if there was no place on earth she would rather be at that time than in this meeting.  Her enthusiasm for helping other find their ancestors was infectious.

We loved the buzz of engaged conversations as members shared stories with each other about their families.


Best of all was the joy expressed when members found particular ancestors in their family lines that they could submit to do proxy ordinances for in the temple.  

Our hearts were full throughout the evening as we felt the blessings flowing. Family History is so much more than just names and dates.  The love and joy that filled those rooms was tangible.   When we finally got back to the little bed and breakfast where we were staying we were tired, but so happy.  It truly is a privilege to be part of events like this. 

The beauty of the Northlands is undeniable.  Nevertheless, it is the spirit of the people that keeps up going back again and again.  

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