Weaknesses have become strengths for Margaret Hatt of the Wellington stake. In high school, Maggie’s weakest subjects had been music, history, and sewing. But since joining the Church in 1958, at age twenty, Maggie has made these her strengths.
“I never knew a note of music until a member encouraged me to be a chorister,” she said. “Then a colleague at the clothing manufacturing firm I worked for pushed me into taking singing lessons.” In seventeen months, Margaret was touring the country in the chorus of the New Zealand Opera Company. Her fine voice was later heard in principal roles as well as on radio broadcasts.
Margaret decided against overseas music study in favor of her main interest—family history—in which she has had many faith-promoting experiences. Margaret has taught genealogy widely in the Church, as well as evening classes at local schools. Since 1980, she has been stake extraction trainer, a calling she “absolutely loves.”
When fire broke out in the Higgins home, eight-year-old Sam, the eldest child, got the other children out, unplugged the electrical appliance at fault, closed all the windows and doors, and switched on the prearranged danger signal to warn his parents, who were out working on their farm. Damage was kept to a minimum.
Being prepared is a key to family success, Sam’s mother, Janie, says.
The Higginses share-milk 240 cows and care for another sixty calves and sixty yearlings on 250 acres near Waihi. They wish they could employ help, but can’t afford it. “We all work side by side. Working together is a good gospel principle,” Andrew comments.
“And we’ve certainly prayed a great deal to get through,” Sister Higgins says. Her husband adds, “It’s been good for our children to learn that if you want something you have to work for it.”
Andrew, a returned missionary, is Young Men president and Janie is Young Women president in the Paeroa Branch, Hamilton stake.
Using skills learned on his five-year labor mission in the 1950s, “Fiu” Sotogi has run his own construction business for the past nineteen years. Despite recent hard times in the industry, “The Lord blesses us,” he says. “I have never had to advertise. The work just keeps coming. I will never regret those years of my labor mission.”
He has helped with the building of the Church College of New Zealand, the New Zealand Temple, and three chapels in the Auckland area.
Caryl is involved with a different type of “building program,” serving in the stake Primary presidency. The Sotogis have a daughter and three sons, the second of whom is serving in the New Zealand Christchurch Mission.
Even as a child, Lillian Kershaw loved to watch her dad, Sid Crawford, conduct choirs and would imitate him in the mirror. She started singing in choirs herself at age nine.
At age twenty, Lil conducted her first choir of twenty Singing Mothers and has since led choirs of all sizes from twelve to four hundred. She now leads a labor missionary choir in New Zealand. Lil has been conducting the hymns in church since she was sixteen.
A choir that Lil will never forget leading was the Hawke’s Bay Area choir that sang during the visit of President Spencer W. Kimball in 1976.
Lil and her husband, Tom, have seven children and eight grandchildren. Affectionately called “Auntie Lil,” she has taught Maori culture to primary school children and has worked with youth and young adults. Lil also spent two years at Polynesian Cultural Center in Hawaii. In 1989, she directed the New Zealand Temple pageant at Temple View.
Nearly twenty-five years ago, Hilda Harland, now of the Wellington stake, accepted the gospel after missionaries knocked on her door. Although her husband, Jack, did not join until twelve years later, he regularly attended sacrament meetings, gaining a reputation of being “an unbaptized Mormon.”
“I didn’t push him—I just led,” says Sister Harland. “And when I finally could tell the elders he wanted to be baptized, they were around like a pair of rockets!” A few months later, Jack died.
Sister Harland, now seventy-six, is one of those faithful Latter-day Saints who serve quietly and diligently without thought of reward or acclaim. Over the years she has held positions mainly in Relief Society and at present is a visiting teaching supervisor. Much of the success in her branch’s visiting teaching is due to her diligence, as she is very willing to fill in when sisters are unable to visit. “If something needs to be done, I enjoy just doing it,” she says.
Sister Harland has done genealogical research for people overseas who have roots in New Zealand, and she attends the temple often. “The gospel is my life,” Hilda adds, “I’d never be without it.”
Since her arrival in the Rotorua area in 1945, Messines Rogers has seen a small branch where she was the first Primary president grow to become a stake. Over those years, Messines traveled extensively with the district Primary and later with the MIA (Young Women) program. She is thrilled to find youth she worked with now serving as Church leaders. She feels as though she has a very big extended family. “I’ve taught so many children; everywhere I go I am ‘Aunt Messines,’” she says with pleasure.
Her parents set a pattern for Church service, she says. Her father, TeKauru Hohepa, served several local missions, while her mother, Heni, cared for their large family. Every night was family home evening as their family gathered to enjoy music together.
Messines remembers vividly her mother carefully counting her silver and crockery every year to make sure she had enough pieces to set a table for the thirty people they would be assigned to feed at the annual Church conference.
Messines’s nonmember husband, Haratua, has always supported her in her callings, as she has supported him in his work as a community leader.
“I can only say as I look back over my life in the Church that I have had a lovely time,” says Messines, who continues to serve as a visiting teacher.
“Temple covenants make the inevitable adjustments to married life easier,” declare Vaughan and Shauna Greening of Gisborne, who are celebrating their second wedding anniversary this month.
Vaughan and Shauna were both nurtured in active LDS families. Vaughan served a mission in Sydney, Australia. But most important, says Shauna, “the temple vows we have taken keep us working all the way.” The Greenings married in the Salt Lake Temple but returned soon afterwards to Vaughan’s hometown of Gisborne. Vaughan is a wood-carver, and they are members of the Gisborne First Ward.
Vaughan competes in triathlons and finds the temperate New Zealand climate and the scenery decided pluses for all the running, cycling, and swimming he can fit in. He also enjoys volleyball and basketball with the Church and the community; he is a member of Gisborne’s top community basketball team.
Shauna works with intellectually handicapped children in the local community. “I’ve always had a special love for the intellectually handicapped,” she says. “They always have so much love to give back.”
Shauna has served as a ward music chairman, as a member of the ward activities committee, and as a Primary teacher. Vaughan has been ward executive secretary.
Lorrie Odgers from Christchurch has a firm testimony that the Lord cares about individuals. Converted to the gospel when she was a young mother, Lorrie was the lone member of her family in the Church for ten years before her four children were baptized. During difficult times in those ten years, she felt the Lord watching over her through the service of “some very faithful visiting teachers.”
Today, one of Lorrie’s sons, Allistair, serves as her stake president in the Christchurch stake, and her other son, Milton, is her bishop. Daughters Andrea and Maree both serve in the Relief Society.
“The Lord helps you in every situation if you let him,” says Lorrie, who has been single for nine years. She cites the time she missed a bus on her way to a Church meeting. She prayed for help, and immediately strangers asked her if they could give her a lift into town. She told them to drop her off wherever it was convenient, and without knowing Lorrie was LDS, they stopped right outside the chapel.
“I’ve lived half my life out of the Church and half in, and I know there is an inner peace that comes from having a personal relationship with our Heavenly Father. Living a spiritual life gives you peace and confidence,” says Lorrie.
Lorrie has served as stake Young Women president and is now a stake missionary. Besides this, she teaches sewing and pattern drafting and sells sewing and knitting machines.
When William Roberts and his wife, Norma, were baptized in 1952, William told the missionaries: “Yes, I’ll get baptized, but don’t ever ask me to do anything.” But after nearly four decades of Church service, he says, “it doesn’t matter what calling we have in the Church, the responsibility is ours to serve to the capacity the calling demands. The great thing about the gospel is the change it brings from your former life to a more purposeful one.”
The Robertses are quick to point out that they have been richly blessed for the service they have given. Bill has served as president of the New Zealand Temple and of the England Leeds Mission, as first counselor in the first stake presidency in New Zealand, and as president of the Auckland stake. He has also been a regional representative for New Zealand and Samoa.
Brother Roberts says his wife has been his “right arm” through these years of service. She has served in the Relief Society as both leader and teacher.
Eru Brown from Waiouru is a man who thrives on exercise. This year he ran his eighteenth marathon at Rotorua. And when he’s not running, he might be found skiing, mountain climbing, white-water rafting, parachuting, or canoeing.
Though he enjoys all these pursuits, Eru is not just a pleasure seeker. Keeping fit and being involved in adventure training are important parts of his thirty-five-year career in the New Zealand army. For thirty-one years, he has been a military physical education instructor, and now he is command regimental sergeant major at Waiouru—the second highest noncommissioned officer’s rank in the New Zealand army.
Brother Brown is enthusiastic in encouraging Latter-day Saints to be physically fit. “We need to look after our bodies and be balanced in our lives,” insists Eru. “Fitness can help you feel good in your self and more able to cope.”
He is just as enthusiastic about being the Gospel Doctrine teacher. “It’s a neat job,” he says simply.
Eru’s wife, Toots, is not a Church member but usually accompanies him to Church and encourages him to pay his tithing. Toots has also joined him in marathon running.
Eru is surprised how few LDS members there are in the New Zealand army. Waiouru camp has 3,000 people, and there are only three active families among them. “The active members are certainly a force for good,” he says.
City dwellers Pete and Liz Cammock and their three young children have had a year in the country while Pete has been completing a book for his doctorate in philosophy. “We’ve used this time of peace to study and apply the basic principles of the gospel, and it has worked very well,” Pete explains.
Without television and rushing to and from other commitments, the Cammocks have enjoyed a thorough reading of the Book of Mormon with their children, well-planned family home evenings, and lots of family work and play activities. There has been time to cultivate a garden and to be involved in the local community—Liz as a kea leader (a pre-Cub Scout group) and Pete as a Scout leader. In the Rangiora-Kaiapoi Branch of the Christchurch stake, Liz has enjoyed being nursery leader; Pete has taught institute classes at Canterbury University.
Pete and Liz are both returned missionaries. Pete is a lecturer in management effectiveness at Canterbury University. Liz also enjoys part-time university studies, which she combines with caring for her family, and running and swimming to keep fit. She is a frequent marathoner.