“Living here is a little like living in paradise,” said 19-year-old Ben McIntyre.
Blessed with a lovely setting on the edge of the Canterbury plains, Christchurch, New Zealand, enjoys an agricultural rather than an industrial heritage. A beautiful clear stream, the river Avon, meanders through the city, adding greatly to the peaceful atmosphere. The grassy river banks are lined with willow trees that shade the river, and the many pedestrian and cycling paths also add peace and serenity to a visit here. Tame mallard ducks beg for food, and even the occasional brown trout seems unconcerned as it takes a floating insect, hardly rippling the smooth surface of the river.
Christchurch is a city of contradictions. You’d never know that some 300,000 people live here, making it the largest city on the South Island of New Zealand. Even with its size and population Christchurch seems more like a country village than a thriving metropolis.
On the world globe Christchurch appears to be fairly close to the South Pole. American and international supply bases are headquartered in Christchurch. Yet it is known as the “Garden City,” with hundreds and hundreds of acres of parks, domains, and botanical gardens.
Christchurch is 11 thousand miles from England, yet it enjoys the reputation of being one of the most English cities in the world.
It is also a city known for its fine 19th century Gothic architecture. Building after building of the same gray granite further establishes the English heritage, unless you wander into New Regent Street with its delightful, but very Spanish, architecture. The spectacular and modern Town Hall, complete with sculptured water fountains, sits in contrast to the older buildings.
Christchurch is one of the best cities anywhere for a traditional walking tour. Yet in a place with so many seeming contradictions, is it any wonder that walking tours often end up part walking and part bicycling, with even a little canoeing thrown in?
One beautiful spring morning in early December (the seasons are reversed in this half of the world), eight young Latter-day Saints met to proudly introduce their fair city to New Era readers throughout the world. They were excited to show their unique way of life and share their feelings with other young Latter-day Saints.
“We want everyone to know that we are proud of our country,” said Michelle Jones.
“Where else can you go skiing in the morning and to the beach that same afternoon?” added Ben McIntyre.
Early morning seminary helps all of these young Latter-day Saints who attend various wards and schools throughout the city. This class held each school morning not only teaches them the gospel but also brings them together with others who share their values.
“What with only two of us in my high school of 1,100, seminary is a must. I think attending all of your meetings is the best way to keep your testimony strong,” said John Peters.
Like Mormons everywhere, these young people feel as if they are constantly being watched by those around them, and so they are conscious of trying to be good examples.
“We look to the American elders who serve here as shining examples,” said John. These young people are doing their best to follow such examples of missionary work. John had just received his mission call to the Philippines, and Ben had received his call to the Australia Perth Mission. Both of them also have brothers serving in the mission field.
Kevin Thompson and Rob Newman are preparing for missions, and many of these young people have already experienced the joy of introducing someone else to the gospel. Ruth McIntyre reported that several of her friends were interested in the Church. Four of them are currently being taught by the missionaries, and now two more want to come to the discussions.
“I gave one girl some pamphlets and Church magazines, and she read them under the bed covers with an electric torch because she was so excited about the Church,” Ruth said.
Ben and his older missionary brother baptized and confirmed their father, and Ben recently ordained him an elder.
Others in the group were converts themselves not long ago and told how hard it is to become a member when their parents do not know anything about the Church. Without the support and encouragement from home to stay active, they seek the support and friendship of each other and spend as much time together as they can.
“Our other friends are amazed that we can have so much fun without drinking,” said Ben. “I think that is why we are very close here—there are not so many of us, so we stick together.”