My Testimony Knew No Bounds

My Testimony Knew No Bounds

From Chicken Soup for the Latter-day Saint Soul

My Testimony Knew No Bounds

And it shall turn to you for a testimony.

Luke 21:13

A few years ago I had the opportunity to spend five months living and working in New Zealand. While serving as a student-affairs administrator at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio, I was invited to be part of an exchange at the University of Waikato in Hamilton, a bilingual institution where Maori is the second language.

Having never traveled outside of the continental United States, I anticipated the trip with a mixture of excitement and apprehension. Making the necessary arrangements in my home and for my pets for that length of time seemed overwhelming. I questioned whether it would be “worth it.”

After doing some checking to find out the presence of the Church in the area, I was delighted to learn that there were two stakes with more than 5,000 members in the area, significantly more members than there were at that time in the Toledo, Ohio, area. The members were predominantly Maori and Pakeha, and, like me, were in the minority. Best of all, I found out that the first temple in the South Pacific Rim, the New Zealand Temple, was located in Hamilton. I had never lived within ten minutes of a temple! With these exciting pieces of information, I knew this was something I needed to do—a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

The experience turned out to be not only an outstanding professional and cultural opportunity, but a very significant spiritual time in my life.

As a visiting scholar, my work setting at the University of Waikato was in student services, with a specific assignment as a counselor in the Counseling Center. Having worked in higher education for more than thirty-seven years, I was used to having regular interaction with young adults at critical points in their lives—and my experience was put to good use in New Zealand.

Early in the term, a young woman came in to talk to me about her insecure feelings in adjusting to the university community. As she was talking, she noticed that I was using a planner. She immediately asked if I was LDS. Before I could answer, she told me that she knew that Americans who used those planners were LDS. Out of this chance encounter, I developed a very special relationship with this bright and energetic college freshman, an active member of the Church who successfully completed her first term at the university.

I attended the Chartwell Ward in Hamilton. I was warmly welcomed, and within a short time received a calling as the Laurel advisor. What an amazing opportunity it was for me to get to know those wonderful young women and learn more about their culture.

Hamilton was privileged to have some very special visitors that May: President and Sister Gordon B. Hinckley, two of their daughters, and Elder Henry B. Eyring came to Mystery Creek in Hamilton for a regional conference. Members attended one of two sessions, maximizing the opportunity for everyone to listen to the prophet.

It was the first time I had seen President Hinckley in person, and I was thrilled to be in the right place at the right time! President Hinckley was the first Church president to visit Hamilton in twenty-one years. He admonished us to attend the temple regularly, to make ourselves temple worthy and to take advantage of living close to a temple. He said, “If there are men who have not taken their wives to the temple, shame on them! Get temple ready!”

President Hinckley’s words warmed my heart. I delighted in living so close to the New Zealand Temple, and I tried to attend a session at least once a week. Further, I used the temple as a place to work out any concerns or resolve any issues that might have arisen in my life as a result of visiting in a different culture. The process worked! My testimony of temple attendance knew no bounds. I even bargained with the Lord that if He would only see fit to build a temple in Ohio, I would attend at least once a month.

At the October General Conference, President Hinckley announced the building of two temples within reasonable driving distance of my home—the Columbus Ohio Temple and the Detroit Temple in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. What an incredible blessing!

My time in New Zealand came to an end, but my journey was not quite over. A colleague from Bowling Green, a colleague from my exchange institution in New Zealand and I attended a conference in Brisbane, Australia, planned by the Australian and New Zealand Student Services Association. It was an exciting time to meet, share and exchange ideas with professionals from both of these countries. One of my Australian colleagues even dubbed me “the Kiwi Yank.”

In order to return to the United States, I flew from Brisbane to Sydney. The flight to Sydney was a little more than an hour. About thirty minutes into the flight I knew my adventure was not over in a conventional way. A frightening episode caused me to reflect on my experiences of the past several months.

The plane was about thirty minutes out of Brisbane, and I was dozing. Suddenly, a horrific bang interrupted my reverie. One of the engines of the plane had blown as we were flying over the ocean. My first reaction was fear. But then I remembered something very important.

The Sunday before I left Bowling Green, Ohio, excitedly anticipating the five months that lay ahead of me, I had arranged to have my bishop and one of his counselors give me a blessing. As I reflected on the content of the blessing, my fear became calm. Among a list of wonderful things, I was told that I would return home safely. I knew that I had tried to keep my end of the bargain, and I knew the Lord would keep His word.

When I reflect on this time in my life and when I read my journal entries, I count my blessings. Hamilton, New Zealand, was a special place for me to be; I loved the temple, my colleagues, the students at the university and the members of the Church in a different culture—not to mention my excitement at a visit from the prophet. Indeed, my life had been remarkably enriched through this experience. I know for sure the effort was “worth it.”

Barbara Keller

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