Rene Chelton: Service Is Her Ace
The Sydney Sun-Herald described Rene Chelton, grandmother of three, as “one very fit bundle of dynamite.” She has also been referred to by her local press as “supersport.”
It’s easy to see why: In addition to scripture study and photography, she enjoys jogging, golf, swimming, and badminton. In 1979 she won the Australian Senior Women’s badminton title, the New South Wales Women’s singles title, and the Illawarra Open Women’s singles title (in which she defeated her daughter, Lorraine, for the third successive year), and was one of twenty-two athletes nominated for district Sports Star of the Year. She is also one of the few women’s grade “A” golfers, and in 1979 she won the Nett division of the Wollongong Golf Club Associates’ Championship in Australia.
It was through badminton that Rene initially came in contact with the missionaries. During a tournament in September 1956 in Newcastle, north of Sydney, she was invited to dinner at a home where the missionaries were boarding. “There was something special about them that appealed to me,” says Rene. Although she met with them several times after that, she did not join the Church then.
The turning point came in 1960, after her marriage to Ron Lowes and the birth of their daughter, Marilyn. Rene had been brought up to believe in Christian values, and she wanted to have the baby christened. About the same time, Elder John Lee Haslam and Elder Charles Marvin Reed called at the Lowes’s home. The seeds planted by the missionaries years before in Newcastle bore fruit, and Rene received a testimony that the gospel was true. “When we prayed with the missionaries that day, there were tears in my eyes,” she says. “Ron didn’t realize at the time how deeply I was touched, but a few days later he said he would rather have our daughter brought up in the LDS Church than in any of the Protestant churches.”
Although Ron didn’t join the Church until two years later, Rene wanted to be baptized almost immediately. “The missionaries taught the discussions over a six-month period,” she recalls, “and they never asked anyone to be baptized until after the discussions. I thought they would never ask me to be baptized!”
Rene had two distinct impressions at her baptism: “One, I felt I was of worth to my Father in Heaven; and two, I had come home.”
But Rene’s pathway has not always been bright. In 1963, Ron was afflicted with rheumatoid arthritis and was hospitalized for seventeen weeks. Later, he lost his job, and the family went through a series of financial difficulties. In 1967, Rene went to work part-time to supplement her husband’s meager disability pension. Then Ron experienced complications which eventually necessitated the removal of his legs. He died in 1977, leaving Rene to support their three teenage daughters. Rene had been working part-time at a large department store, and was then offered a full-time job there as an accountant, even though she had no official qualifications.
Rene went on to become administration manager, assistant manager, and acting store manager. But giving her daughters, Marilyn, Lorraine, and Kerrie, a loving home where they could feel the spirit of the gospel was Rene’s highest priority. She used any spare money to help her daughters develop their talents and abilities and prepare them to be capable mothers. Today, she feels great joy in her relationships with them and with her grandchildren.
In 1981, Rene married Jeff Chelton, a driving instructor and amateur photographer. So that she could share Jeff’s interest in photography, Rene joined a camera club. The first year, she won the club pointscore and a trophy for being the most improved photographer.
It was Rene’s example that interested Jeff in the Church. “The example that my wife set in her personal life had a tremendous impact on me,” he recalls. After five years of investigating the Church, Jeff was baptized the same year they were married.
Rene’s example has affected others, too. Through her, many family members, friends, neighbors, work associates, and people who share Rene’s interest in sports have heard much about the Church. Rene’s neighbor, Kim Fraser, not only joined the Church as a result of Rene’s missionary work, but also served a mission in California.
Rene feels the Lord has blessed her through times of success and during times of hardship. “My testimony is undeniable,” she says, “and my initial feelings of love for the restored gospel are even stronger today.”
Lubian Sequi: Giving Street Children a Chance
The twenty-five children who are learning to read and write on Lubian Sequi’s patio are poor—too poor to afford shoes or uniforms or supplies for school. Some have no beds at home; instead, they sleep in cardboard boxes on the ground.
Lubian Sequi is a small, lovely woman with a smile that warms and comforts. On the chalkboard she has written the words Dios Me Ama (“God Loves Me”). Besides teaching her students reading, writing, mathematics, social studies, and etiquette, Sister Sequi begins each day’s classes with a prayer and a lesson from the Bible. She also encourages the children to pray with their families. She provides pencils, notebooks, and chalk for the children who cannot afford them, and she uses many visual aids to help the children learn.
This unusual teacher finds most of her students on the streets of Santo Domingo. “Whenever I see a dirty, barefoot, or neglected child, I say to him, ‘Come here. Don’t be afraid. Where do you live?’” Then she goes home with the child to ask permission for the child to attend school in her home.
Once a month, she invites the parents to an evening meeting where they can see how the children are progressing. She also gives a talk to help the parents spiritually and morally. “Our intention is to teach the parents so that they can teach their children better,” she says. Although it is not Sister Sequi’s primary goal to convert, at least one student’s family has been baptized since coming to her school.
With a college degree in elementary education, Sister Sequi taught in the public schools for twenty-four years. She was also a nurse and a social worker. “I have always had a great attraction to the poor,” she says, “and in spite of my imperfections I have tried to help them.” When she was younger, she sometimes went to the countryside on a donkey, taking clothes to the people and preaching the gospel.
Her experience as a nurse also affected her deeply. “In the hospitals, I learned to love a lot, because there is a lot of love and pain there. Each time I had to take care of a patient, I would ask myself, ‘If he were Jesus, how would I care for him?’ With this idea in mind, I learned to love the sick without fear, nausea, or grief and to see in each person the image of the Lord.”
In 1961 Lubian Sequi founded a vocational school to teach young women skills that could help them live a better life. She still administers this school, where more than three hundred students learn sewing, tailoring, pastry-making, weaving, and other manual skills. The school is supported by a nominal tuition, which varies according to the students’ ability to pay.
Lubian and her husband, Felix, joined the Church in 1980, eight years after they married. They discovered the gospel at a welfare fair held by the lady missionaries. “I was first attracted to the Church by its concern with helping families and also by its philosophy that the gospel is to be taken to everyone,” she recalls. Since then she has served as Relief Society president, and Brother Sequi now serves as the director for the Church Educational System in the Dominican Republic. The Sequis have a son, Gustavo Adolfo, fifteen, and a daughter, Nadia, who is twelve. Nadia often helps Sister Sequi in her work.
Sister Sequi’s greatest desire is to spend her strength working—first for her family and then in behalf of others. “My goal is not to build a house in this life, because nothing is permanent here,” she explains. “I want to build our house in heaven because we will be there forever.”
If you were to ask Sister Sequi’s young students what kind of house their teacher is building in heaven, they would say it is a very big one indeed—with room enough for all those she has come to love.
Lillian Freestone Millett: Seeking Kindred Spirits
Elder John A. Widtsoe must have had someone like Lillian Freestone Millett in mind when he said: “Those who give themselves with all their might and main to this work [of genealogy] receive help from the other side, and not merely in gathering genealogies. Whosoever seeks to help those on the other side receives help in return in all the affairs of life.” (Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine, July 1931, p. 104.)
Sister Millett has unceasingly devoted her time and talents to uniting her family—those who have been, are, and are yet to come. She has accomplished the sizable task and discovered the immense joy of identifying and then submitting for temple work the names of thousands of her loved ones.
Perhaps much of her spiritual strength comes from the environment in which she was raised and the inheritance which is hers. Both sides of her family represent original pioneer stock. After settling in Utah, her forebears were called by Brigham Young to journey to Arizona with the first groups sent to the Mesa area.
Lillian, a contemporary of Spencer W. Kimball, was the oldest of eight children. She was born in Safford, Arizona, on 15 February 1896. From her mother, Charlotte P. Freestone, she learned kindness, sensitivity, a sense of independent generosity, and the deep comforting spirituality that has guided her throughout her life. Her father, George L. Freestone, a strong and energetic man of inherent goodness, moved his family to Gilbert, Arizona, near the turn of the twentieth century because he had seen Gilbert in a dream and knew he should move his family there.
Lillian married her childhood sweetheart, William Howard Millett, on 29 August 1917. He worked for many years as an inspector for the United States Department of Agriculture in California. He later became a hay and grain broker and also served as a dairy commissioner for the state of Arizona. The family grew to include six children (Howard, Lyal, Teddy, Ethel Mae, Donald, and Richard), twenty-seven grandchildren, and sixty-three great-grandchildren. She considers this immediate family and her extended family the focus of her life. For Lillian Millett, perfecting the Saints begins at home.
At an early age Sister Millett became impassioned with the idea of becoming acquainted with her kindred dead through genealogical research. She has said that she used to “scribble pedigrees in my school books.” After she finished her formal education, her interest in research heightened.
At the age of twenty-one, Lillian received some genealogical records ordered by her grandfather, James Freestone. This event was the catalyst that changed her feeling about genealogy from a passionate interest to an incredibly active involvement. Because of her fervent spirituality and stalwart faith, she began to enjoy success in her endeavors.
She felt on many occasions that divine intercession allowed her work to proceed. Her response to miraculous events is typical of her sweet, humble nature: “When you work with records, there’s a power; there aren’t words to express what you feel.”
Before Lillian’s husband died in 1958, they served as temple workers (beginning a year after the dedication of the Mesa Temple). During this 25-year period, Sister Millett also arranged for members to do baptismal work for the dead at the temple, and her son Richard recalls vividly that he and his brother were baptized for the dead some fifty to one hundred times each on many Saturday mornings.
Sister Millett acknowledges that because of her husband’s foresight, their real estate and other investments have provided the needed funds for her to compile many books of remembrance and other family records.
Lillian taught her children at an early age to keep a book of remembrance to record sacred experiences. To assist others in the Mesa area to do likewise, she pioneered a “Youth in Genealogy” program, entitled “Who Am I?” which was used extensively by many local stakes. She also assisted in the establishment of a branch of the Church Genealogical Library system in Mesa.
With the arrival of the computer age, grandchildren and family members encouraged Sister Millett to make use of modern technology to preserve and expedite use of her astounding collection of records and related materials. She received help from a computer program personalized for her by her grandson Ronald Millett, who has helped create similar software for Churchwide distribution. As a result, at age eighty-eight, not only did Sister Millett rely on a computer, but she also involved her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren in her newfound technical skill—electronically recording the family’s history and genealogy.
Sister Millett has compared her lifelong commitment to genealogical work at home with preaching the gospel as a full-time missionary. In her mind, the time and expense involved as a full-time genealogist and the concomitant rewards are comparable to those who labor with nonmembers in bringing the gospel to them. And Lillian has not just answered a “call” to a stateside mission. She has made three trips to England. As she says, “In that way, I have become acquainted with the people in Yorkshire, for example, and know how they differ from people in Cambridge.”
Brigham Young University has also benefited from Lillian Millett’s generosity, expertise, tireless energy, and determination. A favorite lecturer at BYU’s Campus Education Week, she has also inspired and instructed thousands at numerous other locations as part of the Churchwide Education Week Program.
As her grandson Timothy Millett described her: “Grandmother is unique. Her will is stronger than iron, and her drive is more powerful than a bulldozer. … Her sense of humor is keen and her laugh contagious. Optimism is Grandmother’s way of life, and a smile has become a permanent feature of her face. You cannot be in her presence without coming away with an uplifted spirit and feeling motivated to do your best.”
She is still going strong today at ninety-one years of age. Throughout her lifetime, she has honored and served her God and has loved and given to others by selflessly preaching the gospel, perfecting the Saints, and redeeming the dead.