Legacy of faith continues in Pacific Area, visit from Elder Nelson and Elder Andersen
Elder Andersen also enjoyed the company of Tongan Prime Minister Siale’ataongo Tu’ivakano during his visit to that island nation. The Tongan leader even spoke at a Church-sponsored youth cultural event where he emphasized the role of culture and religion in shaping the youth of Tonga.
“I am aware that the church has its own organizing programs for Young Men and Young Women that prepares them for future roles as members of the church and as contributing members of society,” he said. “I would like to applaud the church for its visionary foresight in nurturing and cultivating the seeds of faith through youth development.”
Elder Andersen said Tongan government leaders also applauded the generosity of the local Latter-day Saints in the immediate aftermath of a Jan. 11 cyclone that caused significant damage to the country’s northern islands.
“They thanked me profusely for all that the members had done,” he added. “The members sent [relief] materials immediately, of their own will, and it made a real difference.”
At each gathering, the visiting Brethren were welcomed by large congregations of smiling members who were eager to learn. Whenever possible, the church leaders shook hands with all who desired.
Elder Andersen said he would never forget the “angelic voices” of the Fijian members or the maturing faith of the Latter-day Saints in New Caledonia.
A French territory, New Caledonia is “an oasis in the Pacific.” The members there have earned renown for their dedication to the temple. They are “a temple attending people” — even though they do not have such an edifice in their own land.
“The New Caledonian members fast, do bake sales, and work all year long, and then they go to the temple for three or four weeks at a time in New Zealand or Tahiti,” said Elder Andersen.
Both Elder and Sister Andersen were able to deliver their respective messages in French during their stay in New Caledonia.
While presiding over various meetings in Papua New Guinea, Elder Callister witnessed the faith of a nation writing its maiden chapters of church history.
“The church is very young in Papua New Guinea, but there are many members there who are absolutely devoted to the gospel,” he said.
Elder Callister added it’s not unusual for Papua New Guinean members living in distant regions to paddle canoes for more than four days to travel to district conferences.
The members and missionaries who gathered for the Feb. 15-16 conferences in Hamilton, New Zealand, enjoyed an added treat during Elder and Sister Nelson’s visit. Elder Glen L. Rudd, a former Seventy, attended several events. He shared remarks in a missionary devotional and at the Hamilton New Zealand Glenview Stake Conference.
Now 95-years-old, Elder Rudd served a mission while a young man to New Zealand under the direction of Elder Matthew Cowley, an apostle. He would later return to the country as a mission president and to preside over the Hamilton New Zealand Temple. He remains a living symbol of the church’s rich history of service and devotion in New Zealand and across the Pacific.
“I called on Elder Rudd to speak at each of those meetings,” said Elder Nelson. “He was inspiring, relevant and crisp.”