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From the New Zealand Auckland Mission

Joanne and I have had the privilege of know Herschel and Shirley Pedersen for many years. We love them and have learned much of value from them. The Pedersens were blessed with much success when they served in New Zealand where Herschel was mission president from 1987-90. I have never met any couple that have more genuinely warm and lovely smiles.

With a gentle boldness born of love, Herschel Pedersen has been an instrument in the hands of the Lord in helping rescue many less active members of the Church. As a young missionary, mission president, mission representative of the Twelve, and as a senior missionary with his wife, he has had similar success in sharing the gospel.  

Letter to Elder Glen Rudd - Part 11

Sister Matthews and myself are at present teaching three children of an inactive lady, whose name is Conda, and also her nonmember husband. As we went to their home this evening at six, we were to teach them the second discussion. We opened with a prayer, which was offered by a cousin visiting from Panmure. He is about eleven years old. As we taught them about faith, repentance, baptism, the Gift of the Holy Ghost, spiritual and physical death, and how we, without the help of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, would not have the opportunity of eternal life, we felt the Spirit so strongly. At the end of the discussion we asked them to be baptized, all three children agreed. We closed the discussion with a prayer and went to talk with their parents. We discussed with their parents about their childrenfs baptism, and asked for their permission to go ahead with it. Their enthusiasm and the way that they agreed was indeed a blessing.  

We have been talking with their mom a great deal about coming back to church. She is an inactive member. When we first met with Conda, she had actually referred herself to us when she went to the Visitors Center. Upon visiting with Conda the first time, we gave her the Fathers Presentation, she remembered very little from her days in the gospel. As we progressed, we could see flickers of understanding and enlightenment come into her eyes. As we testified and explained about the importance of the temple and the family work which needs to be done, tears came to her eyes. We sang the song, gI Am a Child of Godh and gFamilies Can be Together Forever.h Tears came unashamedly as she felt the Spirit bear witness to her that the only way she could have her children with her forever was through the temple. 

We have visited her since and at each visit she seems to be relaxing more and more in talking about the gospel, from the statement she made when we first met her, gI care about my childrenfs salvation, but not about my own.h 

One day as my companion and I were cycling past this particular hill in our area, she felt impressed to tract out some houses there. We kept that in mind as we had an appointment to keep and scheduled a time to go and tract there. 

The following week (a few days had passed), we rode up that hill and by inspiration, tracted out four houses on that hill. For every success there is a little disappointment and for the first three houses there was little response to our message. At the first house the lady who answered the door accepted our message about the need to keep families linked, but for a reason of her own, that she wasnft going to reveal, she kept it pretty quiet. At the next house the man was drunk and the next house was special. The lady who answered the door was a sweet lady in her late forties, a Maori. 

My companion and I related to her our message about her forefathers need of keeping a record of their ancestors, gwhakapapah or genealogy work. For the next thirty to forty minutes we presented our message and helped her start her genealogy work for her family. We talked about the temple ordinance part of the genealogy sheet, explaining why we do baptisms for the dead, and that itfs essential that these ordinances be done or else they cannot progress. We bore our testimonies to the importance of genealogy work and the need for it to be done. We said a closing prayer and we left, first making a return appointment for a few days later. 

We returned, and after showing her a video, explained how the Book of Mormon fits into the lives of our Maori people and how it is a sacred record of our ancestors. How we are descendants of the Lamanite people, and how this gHawaikih of what our old people talk about, this place far across the sea, before Hawaii, is the place from whence this book is a record of. 

As we finished, my companion and I could feel the presence of the Spirit. Mrs. Hiku nodded her head and felt that it all made sense, that she felt good about our message. We left her a Book of Mormon and she said she would read the passages marked and pray about it. We asked her if she would say the closing prayer, and the prayer that she offered left my companion and I wondering if she had been a member all of her life. The prayer was sincere, warm and powerful. Upon our next visit, we taught Mrs. Hiku the first discussion and she felt the spirit so strongly, she broke down and cried. She knew that it was true and couldnft deny it. She wondered at how we understood her so much. It wasnft us, it was the presence of the Spirit, it was the spirit of Elijah, it was the presence of her ancestors, who wait impatiently for her to be baptized, so that their work can be done. She is the link for many souls to come into the only true and everlasting gospel—many souls, both living on earth and beyond in the spirit world. This I know, that the spirit of Elijah is abroad in this land, that my people can feel it and cannot deny it. 

A week ago my companion and I were checking on a referral. He was a brother of a member of the church, who was visiting our ward from Wellington. When we cycled up to that address, an elderly Maori man was standing in the driveway. We introduced ourselves, and told him that we were sent to see him by his sister from Wellington. 

He said that we had just barely missed his entire family by a couple of minutes. They had left to go up North for a family sports weekend. He then told us about how his wife had died a couple of years ago. He was still missing her tremendously. He talked about his life since her death, his feelings, and his children for the next thirty to forty minutes, and we listened. As I looked at him, I realized how lonely he was. 

We asked him if we could have a prayer with him before we left, so we went inside. There were trophies of outstanding sports players all around the room. His children are fine sports people. There were photos on the wall of some sixteen to eighteen grandchildren and also photos of his sweet wife. We offered a prayer of comfort and left, making a time for the following week to come back and see him. 

Later, we were cycling past the graveyard where his wife was buried. As we cycled we said, hMaybe we should go in and see his wifefs grave,h but kept on cycling. As we came up to an entrance to the graveyard, we had all intentions of cycling past, but I said to my companion, gCome on. Letfs see.h We parked our bikes, and out of some 300 graves, the first one I walked up to was his wifefs grave. We recognized it by the photo on the tombstone. We werenft guided there by chance, and it wasnft a lucky fluke. We havenft taught the man yet, but know that we have to. His wife was saying something, wasnft she? The thing that we remember the most is this: gI donft talk about her much, my children think Ifm a bit crazy, but thank you so much, you girls, for listening.h 

As we sat here last night going through our pools and our monthly projections, our minds were on the inactive people in this area. The majority of our Maori people are those who are less active in the gospel. Sister Matthews and I discussed why we were sent here to Pukekohe, (1) We are Maoris ourselves, and can relate to these people. (2) We both have talents that we can use. 

What do our people like the most, apart from food? (1) Music and (2) Sports. What are our talents? Sister Matthews is a sports person and I have talents concerning music. In our patriarchal blessings, it says that we both have talents that we should use. And what better way, than to use it as a tool to bring these people here, closer together, in family groups, to support each other as they make their way back to the gospel, as they progress in searching their family lines, as they prepare their families for the temple. 

The Spirit is here in abundance, and we canft deny that, itfs a special feeling to see a family at church consecutively, knowing that they can work towards becoming an eternal family. Families are where itfs at. 

For the last seven to eight weeks, we have been seeing an inactive Maori lady, Sister Wilson. When we first met her, she was unresponsive, quiet, and solemn. Today we are baptizing her granddaughter, and it will also be her second time consecutively to church. When we first met her we presented her with the Fathers Presentation, and there were tears in her eyes. Then we returned to teach her son and grand-daughter. She has been sick for a while, but doesnft seem to worry much about her illness anymore. She laughs a lot, and there is an added glow about her. It works. You open a door by presenting them with the Fathers Presentation, or genealogy work. You return and visit once a week, and leave a prayer and a blessing on the home. You follow up with love and support, get them involved with other members, introduced to other members, they feel the Spirit of Elijah work within them, and they come back. In my own words, gIt works.h 

While tracting this one particular street, in our area, we came across this elderly Maori lady, a Mrs. Williams. As we shared with her the Fathers Presentation she felt the need to know more about this genealogy to which we were referring. We set another appointment for two days later. 

When we returned we met her daughter Freda, who is in her mid-to-late thirties, who was visiting with her. We presented our message about genealogy, tying in this sacred record which was kept by these people, our ancestors. No questions were asked as we presented our message, but heads were nodding in approval and consent as we spoke. 

As moved upon by the Spirit, we bore our testimonies to the truthfulness of this sacred volume of scripture, the Book of Mormon, saying that this is the record which those people, our ancestors kept. As I was about to place the Book of Mormon on the table, when halfway through my sentence, Freda asked. gWell arenft you going to let me read it?h Well, I handed her a copy and gave her a few select passages to read. She said that she would start that very night.  

Freda felt that what we were presenting was true and would try and pray about it. The Fathers Presentation got us in the door. It opened the doorway for us to get in and teach and start her family work. Sister Bryan 

We were coming to the end of tracting this particular street. After a few disappointing results, we met this young solo mother, Wendy. We asked her if she had done any family tree work and she said, gNo.h We asked her if we could briefly explain why we do genealogy work. We explained baptisms for the dead and temple sealings. As we finished, Wendy said, gIfd like you to come back and explain to me about this sealing of children to parents.h Then she went on to say gI have a little boy who died and would be most interested to hear about how I can have him with me forever.h 

We set an appointment and went back the following week. We set out the plan of salvation and explained how genealogy work fit into it. She was impressed about the spirits in the spirit world being taught the gospel and the opportunity that worthy members of the church here on earth, have to go and do the work for them. She stated that she would like to help someday. Sister Bryan 

I was involved in the beginning of the Fathers program in Pukekohe. There the full-time missionaries traded off with members of the priesthood to home teach the inactives. Many came back relating spiritual experiences. One lady, after talking with them, told how her husband kept coming back to visit her. When she saw him, he was holding a small briefcase which contained some of the family records. Before we talked to her, she had no idea what he was doing with the records. Now that we have told her that they needed to be organized and submitted to the temple, she understands what the dream was about.

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