What of the
Sharing the Gospel
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 6
One of the other special experiences that happened in the Taranaki area was a special fireside that we held. It was held on the Marae in Waitara. President Pedersen and his wife came down for the weekend. Included along with the fireside was a Hangi (Maori Feast). The day before and the day of the fireside was spent visiting all the inactives of both New Plymouth and Waitara. Many were visited and all were invited to come to the fireside. The members of the area had prepared all the food and the entertainment. They had prepared food for 200 people but to our amazement and joy over 250 people were in attendance.
After the Hangi, we were welcomed into the Marae and exchanged greetings with many of those that had come. Different people from the area were asked to speak. Representatives of the different Maori tribes spoke in there own tongue. Though we could not understand them we felt of their spirit as the spirit spoke to spirit. President Pedersen was the concluding speaker which was the highlight of the evening. Many of the inactives were touched with his strong testimony as he invited those inactives to return to church and prepare themselves to attend the temple and renew their covenants with our Heavenly Father. Many weeks after the fireside people were still talking about the special spirit that they felt there that night.
Elder Summerhays gives some experiences over the past six months with his companions and their efforts to reactivate those members that are less involved. I have only begun to realize and appreciate the vision of this great work!
I remember one time when I first came out and my trainer took me down to the laundry mat on P-day to do our wash. It was an ideal situation because the owner/operator of the laundry mat was an _nactive member. We did not know what to even begin to do or say to him to encourage him to come back or come and see what he was missing out on. Now we would jump at the chance to sit down and talk with him for a few minutes and explain to them how they were foreordained to be blessed on the earth at this time, and how all of this was to be because of their faithful and diligent ancestors. Sometimes that is all it takes to explain where their forefathers are at this moment, and what they are doing and what they did when they possessed this land. Like I mentioned, I have only begun to see how the three missions of the church are coming together, but I love what I see so far. For I will one day, (when I return home) have to fellowship some inactive members back into the church, and perhaps part of my own family. I find one family who is practically “begging” to come back. Let me share with you some personal experiences:
In my first attempt to partake in this reactivation program, I was in an eastern suburb in Auckland, (Panmure) I was a Zone leader in a ward with six other elders, so we had a good first run with that ward. The Bishop was anxious to activate the 500 members that were there. As a result of this activity the ward and missionaries did come together and became a stronger force in this great cause. I have seen it! I’ve seen the results. In the first two months of this effort the ward and missionaries together activated 90 people. We had an inactive member from the Black Power (street gang) who was the gang leader. He came along to our investigator class on faith. And six months later he is a faithful temple patron.
My strongest convert so far came from that area. He was living with an inactive member. We taught, baptized and married them. His wife was back in full fellowship and never looked happier about life. They are expecting a baby this month and plan to go to the temple in two months for the first time. The ward I am serving in now is in Huntly and we face a smaller ward with everyone being related to each other and coming from one or two large families. In the first two weeks here we were able to reactivate a family of 10. We had two good family home evenings with them and became their friends. We showed them that we cared and upon the third visit and showed them the video on the Seattle Temple. The family was touched and the father was crying and could not speak. The father was ordained a priest and will be ordained to the office of elder in June. The family is active today.
A faithful temple patron reports the following from Tuaranga: this member saw Matthew Cowley riding down the road on his white horse. Now Tuaranga was one of Matthew Cowley’s favorite places in New Zealand. The message he told this temple patron was that he had come back to tell everyone that he wasn’t received too well in the spirit world, because when he was here as mission president he did not do enough work for the dead and not enough genealogy was completed. He told her to get on with the work and do it now. This happened three months ago.
In August of 1987, the New Zealand Auckland Mission began to combine the three missions of the church into one in hopes of strengthening the members by bringing back the inactives and baptizing the nonmembers. Since that time the Te Kuiti Branch has been strengthened greatly.
In August 1987 the attendance at sacrament meeting was down to 11 members and only Priesthood, Relief Society, and Sacrament meetings were held. As of February 1988, attendance has grown to a stable 35 and has even reached 60 a couple of times. Both Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthood meetings are now being held along with a Gospel Principles class.
Elder Horne reports from Whangarei that things are very successful. The response to the Fathers Presentation was great and really opened a lot of doors that would have stayed closed. However, most of the people that we approached with it were inactive members. It is a benefit when talking with people, (especially Maoris) but for some it is of no interest.
The reactivation in that part of the land was accomplished through the Fathers Presentation and through ward activities. First of all, strengthening their testimonies and then building fellowship. This has caused many who were inactive, because they were lazy, to come back to church. The hard case, (stiff necked people) ones came along at a slower pace. From the time I arrived up there in later November to February, the attendance went from a high of 105 to 179 at the first Sunday in February. We were trying to concentrate on the prospective elders and (their families.) All of the missionaries contributed to this success of all our efforts. The Felts (missionary couple) have really been doing a super job in their work as have Elders Halversen and Williams.
There were many spiritual experiences which have brought about a change of heart among most of those who came back to church realizing the eternal vs. temporal or that many things are interesting and enticing while other things are really important.
Elders Goodwin and Johnson from Whakatane report the following: Drew Vircoe was married to an inactive member. Drew’s father is the bishop in the Anglican Church. Drew became receptive upon hearing the mission of Elijah and of the sealing ordinances. He was interested to hear how the dead are waiting and praying for someone to do the work for them.
The wife became active and is now the primary president. Drew committed to baptism and went to talk to his father, the Anglican bishop. When Drew’s parents heard that he was going to be baptized, his mother disowned him and it hurt his father deeply.
His father then began to show him scriptures in the Bible, but Drew started explaining the Fathers presentation to him and showing him the scriptures. His father began to soften and told him to be baptized.
Drew’s mother is still unreceptive, but his father has helped him prepare over 1000 names for temple processing and has also helped to provide over 200 referrals.
We had gone to an active member’s home to acquire a video tape and were told a story by Sister Tuahine. She had been at the temple and seen people. She wouldn’t relate to us what exactly had happened, but the effect it had on her is what meant so much to us. She asked us for Books of Mormon or how to get some, because the people in the temple had told her to go to Mohuka and give them out. Sister Tuahine had been told to get her relatives and collect the lost sheep from her childhood residency, Mohuka. She was very urgent about it. The spirit is being poured out on the people here in Wairoa, Nuhuka and Mahia. (Elder Olschewski & Elder Swann)