My parents, as a young couple just out of college, served as teachers at the Church college in NZ in the 1950's and I have 3 siblings who were born there. My dad served a mission to Hilo, Hawaii prior to that. I have a love of the people of those islands - though I have had limited access to them. I have an affinity for their easy ways - very gentle and open (little guile in their manners):
In RS yesterday I shared a story of my Uncle Johnny who recently passed away at age 65 from a massive heart attack. We never knew this about him until his brother shared it at his funeral. My dad sent me a few more details and I thought I would share. I think it is such an inspiring example of a man who was worthy of using and believing in the power of God through His priesthood to bring others to Christ!
Johnny served a mission in New Zealand and the Cook Islands. He had such a great love for the Maori people. Toward the end of his mission he was on an island that had not been very responsive to the missionaries and had even rejected them many times. Then there came an outbreak of Hepatitis. The whole island had to be under quarantine. Johnny himself got the hepatitis. Many of the people on the island had died with a blood count of 1500 or less. Johnny's blood was over 3000. He was so sick and had lost an extreme amount of weight. But he received a blessing to get through it. He was well on his way to recovering when they said they wanted to send him back to America to make sure the hepatitis was all gone. He only had two weeks left on his mission and had put in for an extension to stay longer but the mission president told him he needed to go home and get better care.
Then there came a knock at Johnny and his companion's door. They were told to come quickly, one of the men from the island had drowned and they felt that the missionaries could help in some way. Johnny and his companion ran to the beach at the ocean where the drowned man had been pulled out of the water. When they got there they found out the man had already been dead for over an hour. The doctor had arrived also and pronounced him dead. In the meantime Johnny and his companion laid their hands on his head. Johnny was prompted to bless him to be restored to life. It was the words that came from him but they were not his words, he was only an instrument of the Lords will, concerning this man. The man began to cough and spit out water. Johnny then looked up to see the whole town was sitting and standing on the sea wall, watching the entire event. In a short time the man was able to join his family and friends that witness the whole thing. That very day Johnny received word that he was leaving the next morning to fly back home. He really didn't want to leave. There was such a feeling of love and gratitude for the people, and the people towards the missionaries and the church. The next morning as he was getting ready to leave he thought he wouldn't be able to say good bye. How would they know he was going because of such short notice. As he was about to board the plane several large cattle type trucks came racing toward him full of people from the Island. Honking their horns as they came. As he stood there in amazement the people gave him gifts and leis made of shells. They had stayed up all night long to make them for him. Lei upon Lei was put around his neck, so many they were piled up to the top of his ears. What a great joy it was to be honored that way, but he kept telling them it was the power of the priesthood, not him that brought the man back to life. The greatest gift of all was when he found out months later, when he was back home that this had awakened the whole island to the gospel. The people wanted to be taught the gospel and were being baptized in large numbers. Their minds had been opened and their hearts touched. Johnny had the great joy of knowing that he was a part of bringing many souls unto Christ.