There were around twenty people attending and a few of those, like us, were visitors. The leaders and members there were very welcoming, but we could tell it is a struggle for them to keep things going with so few people. It reminded us of our early days in Paw Paw Branch back in Michigan.
Both Larry and I were invited to bear our testimonies which we were happy to do. After Sacrament service was over we headed out so we could get on the road to Invercaragill.
At the encouragement of the Sister McClean we took time to walk through the Queenstown gardens on our way out of town, knowing it was unlikely we would ever be in that beautiful city again. We were very impressed. The trees, shrubs, flowers and pathways were truly spectacular. By this point we had seen so much beauty I almost felt my ability to take it in and fully appreciate it was exhausted. Still, the calm, peaceful feeling I had as I walked through those gardens is something I hope to never forget.
When we had begun planning this trip we made several attempts to contact someone from the branch in Invercargill that we could meet with, but we never got a response. We knew their FHC had been closed for several months since their building was undergoing some renovations, Still, we had hoped to get in touch with one of the leaders so we could at least hand off the electronic files we put on all the FHC computers and to learn what their plans were going forward for their center. With no prior arrangements in place we figured we would just take our chances when we got there and see what we might find.
It was on this part of our trip we had another interesting thing happen. Larry had originally made reservations at an inexpensive motel in town. However, after talking it over we decided to cancel that reservation and find something a little more charming as the motel he had found had been very bare bones. We didn't need fancy, but we didn't want ugly either!
So we did some looking on line and had found a place called "Down South Cottage" on HomeAway that looked nice that was in our budget.
Being totally unfamiliar with the area, we had no idea what this might be close to. When we arrived we discovered that the new accommodation we felt drawn to when we looked online was just down the road from the LDS church we wanted to visit. It was just one more in a long line of little blessings that made this trip - like our whole mission - feel guided from above.
Once we got settled into our place we decided to go on down to the church on the off chance that someone might be there. We knew this was a long-shot as it was late in the day on Sunday afternoon long after all the meetings would have ended. As expected, there were no vehicles in the carpark. However, one of the back doors was standing wide open, which rather surprised us. Then we saw a bicycle propped against the building so we knew someone was indeed there. We went on in to see who we might find.
Imagine our surprise when the person we found in the building was James Stapleforth, the Family History Center Director we had been trying to contact. He also served as the ward clerk so he was there working on some reports. He was happy to open up the center so we could put the training resources onto the computers and take inventory of the equipment. Then we worked with him to help him submit a family name since he had not done this in quite a long time We had a really good conversation with him and felt like everything on our South Island adventure was falling in to place.