Saturday, June 11, 2016

A Perfect Autumn Day in New Zealand

 After several days of gloomy skies and rain, the sun finally came out today.  It was a beautiful fall day in New Zealand.  This morning Larry and I took a walk out at one of our favorite places, Tuft Crater.  We enjoyed the colors of the changing season and crunch of falling leaves mixed in with lush evergreens and fern trees.

Then this afternoon we got together with Elder & Sister Graham and a cousin of theirs who was visiting, Parker Andrus.   The Grahams are fairly new here, having replaced the Whiddens to serve at Area Mental Health advisors.   Parker is originally from Utah, but currently lives in Japan.  He is a sales manager with accounts throughout the Pacific Rim.  Since he was here for a couple days on business, he decided to look up the Grahams.  

We all went together to One Tree Hill, a place where we always take newcomers to get a good view of Auckland and the surrounding area.  Generally we drive all the way to the top, but today the road was gated off for runners who were participating in a race.  We didn't mind parking in the car park half way up and walking the rest of the way up the hill, but we certainly weren't going to try to run!   We enjoyed visiting and taking in the views

I've been at the top of this place many times, but it never gets old.  From the monument platform you get a 360 degree view, and on a clear day can see all the way to the Coromandel.  We enjoyed sharing this special spot with the Grahams and with Parker.

 When we came back down we introduced them to their first taste of New Zealand ice cream at the Creamery  (to die for!) and then walked over to the big fig tree we always like to see.

While we were walking down the hill I was sharing some of our experiences from our mission with Parker and he was telling me about his own heritage - with a mix of Samoan and Scottish on his mother's side.  As he said that I could feel the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.  Where was his Samoan ancestor from?   From the island of Tutuila - where we so recently were.   While there, we had worked with a lady whose ancestors included a local island lady and sailor from Scotland.   Could it be the same?

Suddenly this chance encounter of our meeting Parker seemed bigger as  we might be the exact people he needed to meet to make the connection to that long ago relative.

I'll have to do some digging to find out more details about Parker's family and then reach out to the people we met in American Samoa.  But this very much seems like one more time when we are put in the right place at the right time to help someone make connections.   The list keeps growing of times when it seems so clear the Lord has used us as his instrument to help people find their family lines:

Sometimes it's just us doing our assignment, as we would expect.  We've helped many stake presidents, bishops, high counselors and others to find family names to submit for temple work.  That aways is a special blessing for us.  But there have been other times when the circumstances came together in such remarkable ways that we couldn't help but believe the angels on the other side were guiding our words and our steps.

Dallas Olsen's family in Fiji
Raj and his Father-in-law in Labasa
Jual Franks who I met at Cape Reinga
Sister Loveless's great aunt who she has always felt such a special connection for

 It is such a blessing to be part of this sacred work.  Through the blessings of the temple, families really can be eternal.

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