News Story

Kiwi Young Adults Gather for Fun, Friendship and Faith

Four-day conference attracts one thousand young adults

Over one thousand young adults from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gathered for a four-day national convention in Hamilton, New Zealand last week.

With this year’s convention theme of “Isles of the Sea,” young people from New Zealand, Australia and the few that traveled from further locations, celebrated the diversity in Pacific island cultures.

At the commencement of the convention individuals were given different coloured wristbands, indicating which country (or US state) they represented during the convention. The locations were Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, Hawaii, Cook Islands, Niue and New Zealand.

Attendees ended their first night with a dance in downtown Hamilton and the opportunity to meet others with whom they would spend the next few days.

Guests were treated to a beach day on the first full day of convention. Water-slides and other beach activities were available for anyone who wished to participate, along with volleyball and rugby.

In the evening, guests were treated to a traditional hangi dinner (Māori style) as they listened to bands play local hits along with some traditional R&B and reggae music.

Friday morning started with a devotional to help remind those in attendance of the purpose of the gathering, and to help them get excited for the day’s activities.

Attendees were split up into different groups based on the country or state they represented. The groups were then taught about the culture and traditions of those places by guest presenters.

While some were fed and taught about local dishes, others were taught the history of weaponry and arts of their countries.

All attendees, regardless of the place they represented, learned a traditional dance, which they performed later that evening.

Aucklander Rozaleigh Moana said, “I think my favourite part was learning about the heritage of the islands, not only Church-related history but indigenous history; language; culture; food; dance; and even the meaning behind the dances.”

The dances and placement of locations helped individuals learn a culture different than their own and appreciate the diversity of others offered in the South Pacific. Between the chants, dances and languages, nothing was the same, but overall, all in attendance came in union to enjoy the evening’s entertainment.

“Experiencing and representing my heritage in a way that I have never [done] before was really special to me,” Moana added.

Saturday was filled with a variety of speakers for guests to hear from on a wide range of interesting topics.

One presenter, Al Fox Carraway, author and public speaker from the United States, spoke to individuals about facing adversity, embracing the gospel of Jesus Christ, and how to adapt to change.

Carraway was baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 2009. After experiencing some tough challenges, she felt inspired to move from her small apartment in New York to Utah.

Carraway has since written several books, spoken to large audiences throughout the world, and met with individuals from all age ranges and demographics to help remind them of the blessings awaiting them as they embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Aside from hearing the spiritually uplifting message Carraway delivered on Saturday, individuals had the opportunity to participate in Zumba classes, obstacle courses, a giant water-slide and other activities.

Guests ended the night with a 1950’s themed dance with a DJ, 18 piece orchestra and vocalists. Sporting 50’s attire and hairstyles, attendees danced the night away.

For the final day of convention, over 1000 young adults attended Sacrament meeting as part of their typical Sunday services.

That afternoon, members of the Pacific Area Presidency, Elder Ian S. Ardern, Elder K. Brett Nattress and Elder Kazuhiko Yamashita and their wives, Sister Paula Adern, Sister Shawna Nattress and Sister Kazuko Yamashita also spoke to the young adult convention goers.

Although this event was put together primarily for Latter-day Saints, a few friends from other faiths also attended. The experience was meant to lift and edify all those who came and to remind participants that God cares about his people on the isles of the sea.

Organizing committee member, Va'a Magalogo, said he was happy to see young adults come together and friendship one another despite knowing each other for just a few days.

Magalogo's major role was helping put together the cultural festival with the different nations on Friday and the different workshops on Saturday.

“It was cool to see people who weren't of the isles of the sea fully involved," Magalogo said. “The most rewarding part for me was to see everyone participate.”

Malgalogo said as a young adult, events like convention helped him make lasting friendships that helped him in different aspects of his life, church included.

‘“At convention everyone could just share the load,” he added.

Jeremy Hawkins, a visitor from Hawaii, summed up the convention in this way: “I just love everybody’s smiling faces and everybody having a positive attitude.”

Newsroom contributors: Thomas Madrigal, Alisa Gubler, AJ Shepherd

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