A visit to the Pacific — People of 'faith and dedication'
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During a 12-day trip to the Pacific Area, Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve visited with missionaries and members in Australia, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand, Tahiti and French Polynesia. Accompanying Elder Andersen during his travels was his wife, Sister Kathy Andersen; Elder Claudio R.M. Costa of the Presidency of the Seventy; Elder Tad R. Callister, Pacific Area President; and Bishop Richard C. Edgley of the Presiding Bishopric.
Some of the highlights of his trip include a visit to Papua New Guinea, meeting with saints from New Caledonia at the Hamilton New Zealand Temple and a visit with the President of French Polynesia.
Papua New Guinea
Early Sunday morning, Jan. 16, Elder Andersen visited Koki Mountain — the site where Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve dedicated the land for the preaching of the gospel in 1983. Accompanying Elder Andersen was a small group of early pioneers in Papua New Guinea, who attended the original dedication. A few of the members were small children at the time of the dedication who now, almost three decades later, are some of the strong men and women leading the Church in their area.
"We thank you for your continued faith and dedication," Elder Andersen told the group. "You have laid a foundation and have helped pave the way for the gospel to take root here in this great land."
In addition to meeting with Church members during his visit, Elder Andersen met with the Minister for Health, Mr. Sasa Zibe, who praised the Church for its recent help during the cholera epidemic. Mr. Zibe expressed admiration for the Church's efforts in helping inspire young people to progress and make something of their lives. Although Mr. Zibe is not a member of the Church himself, he expressed appreciation for what the Church has done for his son, a returned missionary who is completing his degree at BYU-Hawaii.
Elder Callister said Elder Andersen "brought the Spirit and warmth and love of the gospel to the saints in Papua New Guinea in such proportion that their cups were overflowing with profound joy."
Hamilton New Zealand
Part of Elder Andersen's travels took him to New Zealand. During his visit, Elder Andersen was met with a group of 150 Church members from New Caledonia visiting the Hamilton New Zealand Temple. These members of all ages had sacrificed during the year to be able to visit the temple and spend time in a House of the Lord. Elder Andersen was delighted to meet the large group and to speak to them in their own tongue, French — the adults in the temple and the youth in the visitors center.
"It is always remarkable to see the faith of those who give so much to attend the temple," Elder Andersen told the Church News. "The Spirit of the Lord was upon these saints in great abundance."
For many of the members, the opportunity to attend the temple was a great experience with the opportunity to meet an apostle making the experience even more sweet.
Elder Andersen spent a few days in Tahiti where he met with the president of French Polynesia, Mr. Gaston Tong Sang.
"We had a very warm visit where we talked about the role of the family, the importance of the Church in French Polynesia," Elder Andersen said. "And we talked about his personal reflections of Church members and his visit in the temple [open house prior to the dedication] and his respect for the Church."
Elder Andersen and French Polynesia's president conversed in French, which allowed the conversation to be about more personal matters.