News Release

Helping Individuals, Families and Communities in New Zealand's Hawke's Bay and East Coast 

Pacific Area Church leaders meet face to face with lay congregational leaders in Hastings, New Zealand

On 12 June 2021, all three members of the Pacific Area Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints met with local lay leaders from New Zealand's Hawke's Bay and East Coast regions in a special gathering held in Hastings. 

Elder Ian S. Ardern, Elder K. Brett Nattress and Elder Kazuhiko Yamashita led the training. They were accompanied by Sister Paula Ardern, Sister Shawna Nattress and Sister Tazuko Yamashita.

Also travelling with the Area leaders were Elder Allistair Odgers, Area Seventy, and Sister Noeline Odgers; and President Jeffrey D. Erekson and Sister Tina Erekson from the Church's New Zealand Hamilton Mission. 

Sister Fredda Sorensen, Pacific Area Organisation Adviser, also attended, accompanied by her husband, Hans Sorensen.

The focus of the meetings was sharing ways to inspire individuals to follow Jesus Christ.

More than 200 lay leaders attended from Latter-day Saint congregations in the region.

The Church of Jesus Christ has a long history in the Hawke's Bay region. The area became a significant part in the Church’s growth and development in New Zealand.

“You have a great legacy of faithfulness,” said Elder Ian S. Ardern, president of the Church in the Pacific Area.

“Your success as a leader results from your ability to lead and motivate the members under your care. We want you to know that you are loved of the Lord, and we are here to help you find ways to bless the lives of those you serve.”

Young church members and leaders attended a youth devotional in Hastings as part of a three stake leadership conference in Hastings, New Zealand. June 2021.2021 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

Elder Ardern encouraged women to speak up in leadership councils. “Bishops and stake presidents act best when they receive good counsel.”

He added, “Let us go onward with faith and courage. Jesus Christ is our Saviour and Redeemer, and we serve in His name, and collectively make a difference.”

Elder Nattress shared training that taught the importance of inviting others to join in worshipping God and following Jesus Christ. 

He stated, “All of our efforts to serve and lift one another are centred in the Saviour Jesus Christ. We invite all to come unto Him. This happens one by one … one loving invitation at a time. He promises all who come unto Him that He will heal them.” 

He continued, “The miracle of it all is that as we serve one another and as we invite others to come unto Christ, we too find ourselves drawing close to Him ─ which leads to peace, happiness and eternal joy.”

Elder Yamashita spoke about the importance of education and of knowing our divine heritage and potential. 

While training local leaders, he said, “The bishop’s number one responsibility is to focus on the youth. They can express love and appreciation to the youth in their wards as they help them to come unto Christ.” 

Elder Allistair Odgers, Area Seventy, provided guidance for bishops as they interview and minister to the local youth in their wards. “Love is the key in all that we do,” he said.

Sister Fredda Sorensen provided encouragement to women leaders. Sharing examples from the life of Jesus Christ and how He loved others, she said that leaders have the opportunity to turn people to Christ, so He can change their hearts. This can then lead to people changing their behaviour for the better.

Newly called Gisborne Stake Relief Society President, Lesley Smith, said, “Ministering and bringing sisters back one by one is not about increasing numbers – it’s about helping people receive their eternal blessings."

Makere Salu, a leader in the Church's organisation for children, Primary, said, “This [meeting] brought home to me that I can do more. I need to reach out to the one and bring them safely back.”

Pacific Area Local Unit Manager Duran Ormond talks with ward executive secretaries and clerks during the Hastings Leadership Conference to demonstrate software tools that can improve decision making for local church leaders. New Zealand, June 2021 2021 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

A training for clerks focused on helping bishops and other ward leaders to create accurate and timely reports. “The goal is to give local leaders the data they need to make the very best decisions for their congregations,” said Duran Ormond, Pacific Area Local Unit Manager, who led the training session.

During the training, Elder Nattress expressed appreciation to the clerks and executive secretaries for their service. 

He said, “You are key to our effectiveness as leaders. Moroni 6:4 [in the Book of Mormon] provides vision and direction for all priesthood leaders.”

“And after they had been received unto baptism,” Elder Nattress read, “they were numbered among the people of the church of Christ; and their names were taken, that they might be remembered and nourished by the good word of God, to keep them in the right way…”

He added, “This scripture is a great vision statement for stake and ward clerks and executive secretaries. When you know the answer to the question, who can I serve? Then you are more able to seek guidance from the Lord on how to serve.”

Carmen West, from Gisborne, said that the training helped her understand that Church leaders can work together to "make a positive difference" in the lives of individuals, right across the whole congregation.

During a Sunday youth devotional, Sam Marshall, a young man from the region, spoke about his preparations for full-time missionary service.

“The Atonement of Christ means that no matter how I feel, the Lord knows how I feel,” he said.

“The Lord wants us to be the best versions of ourselves.”

Current COVID-19 travel restrictions provided this unique opportunity to bring the three stakes together to meet face to face with the Area Presidency and their wives.

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