Elder Hawkins (my VC director) is amazing. He is all about getting the community interested and involved with the church and the VC. He decided to join the Interfaith Council here in Hamilton so that he could build relationships with the leaders of other faiths. Seeing as this month Hamilton will celebrate it's 150th anniversary, Elder Hawkins had this idea to host a devotional with the interfaith council about how religion has shaped the growth of Hamilton. The idea was to have the devotional at the VC and have the different leaders from the council come and share with everyone the contributions that their religion has made to shaping Hamilton. Sounds simple enough right? Well as the plans started to come together for this thing they realized that it was going to be much bigger than they has anticipated so instead of the VC they moved it to the biggest Chapel in Hamilton. The devotional was held last night and there was so much that went on I don't even know how to describe it.
Before the devotional, Elder Hawkins invited all the religions leaders and a lot of community leaders and even some people from the Church Area Office in Auckland to a reception where they served the most amazing food and it allowed everyone to mingle with one another. President and Sister Rudd were there as well as a lot of other important people for the church. The eight of us sisters serving in the VC had the special responsibility of escorting the "VIP's" as we called them to the reception. When Elder Hawkins was explaining what we had to do he said "You have a very important job and I trust you. You sisters are classy, and poised, and beautiful and so I need to you charm these people and make them feel welcome and comfortable. You're going to be the face of the church and missionaries in Hamilton." When the people would walk through the doors I would introduce myself (we got special permission to not be with our companion) and then talk to them as we walked and I tried to be as warm and friendly as possible. We would escort them to the reception and give them their name tag and then head back and do it again with the next person. Doing this I met the mayor or Hamilton, some members of the City Council, and some religions leaders of other denominations. I really enjoyed it! After the reception was finished Elder Hawkins gave everyone a CD of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir to say thank you and then we were responsible for taking the VIP's into the chapel and seating them in the proper order at the front. It was tricky and half the time we didn't exactly know what we were doing but we tried to do it as peacefully as we could and somehow it all worked out.
After all of the craziness we were able to sit down and enjoy the devotional. It was a very interesting night. For Music there was a Methodist Tongan Youth Choir, a Catholic Quartet, an Orchestra Ensemble from the stake I am serving in, and a youth choir made up youth between the ages of 12-18 also my stake. The most powerful moment for me and my favorite part of the whole night was when the youth choir sang "Stand in Holy Places". There were about 50 youth in the choir and they sounded amazing. The spirit was so strong as they sang and so powerful and the message of the song was so special. I know everyone that was there felt the power of it. The rest of the program was six mintute presentations from denominations such as the Catholics, Methodists, Buddhists, Jewish, Islamic, Anglican, Hindu, and of course LDS. The man who spoke on behalf of our church was Elder Thomson the area seventy who also lives in Hamilton. His of course was my favorite and he bore a powerful testimony at the end. He said "No matter what our religious beliefs are, we are brothers and sisters, children of God, our Loving Heavenly Father. He is real and He loves us." At the end of his presentation we sang "I am a Child of God" as a congregation to close the meeting. It was so powerful. Imagine a congregation made up of all these different faiths and backgrounds all singing "I am a Child of God". It was an experience that I will never forget.
At the end of the devotional we stood at the door and greeted the people as they left. Everyone seemed to really enjoy the evening and they all seemed most impressed with the LDS youth choir. I heard so many people raving about it. It was a really great evening and in all over 850 people attended. It was massive and the turnout was incredible. I am so grateful for the experiences that my mission and serving in the Visitors' Center has given me. I have been able to be a part of so many amazing things.
So that was the main thing that happened this week. Other than that we just had a normal great week of teaching and finding people. I love missionary work and I love teaching people the gospel. I am so happy to be on a mission! We really have the truth in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and there is such a significant power that comes from it. I am so blessed to be a part of this great work.
I love and miss you all!