News Story

Youth in California Help Elderly Kiwi with Family History

91-year-old Francis Van Den Berg, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, living in northern New Zealand, had been concerned about getting the temple work done for his ancestors. In the fall of 2017, Francis received a treasured gift of genealogy from a relative, his niece’s husband, Ewoud Shuitemaker, who had researched and compiled a large amount of family history.

Pamela White began assisting Francis with his family history. Thanks to the many new record hints now available through Family Search, a lot of progress was being made with the Van Den Berg family line. Francis shared with Pamela his concerns over getting his ancestors' temple work done, and he worried he might pass away before the renovations of the Hamilton New Zealand Temple were completed. Francis didn’t have the money to travel to another country where there was a temple, thus making his opportunity for temple attendance bleak.

Pamela’s husband, Aubrey White, said, “Pamela could not put his family history work down. Francis’ ancestors were excited, their presence could be felt. She would work late into the night. These ancestors were very persistent, not relenting until their names were typed and reserved. Pamela does not find names, she finds people, always being able to connect on a higher level.”


In June of 2018, just one month before the Hamilton New Zealand Temple closed for extensive renovations, Pamela and Aubrey White took nine youth from the Bay of Islands ward (congregation) to attend the Hamilton temple, a distance of 368 kilometers, four-and-a-half hours travel, to perform baptisms and confirmations for some of Brother Van Den Berg’s ancestors. But there was still heaps more to do.

In July, 2019, Elder Joseph and Sister Ann Allred, senior missionaries in Auckland, New Zealand, serving as Family History Specialists to the Pacific, had scheduled a weekend in Paihia to hold a Family History training. Sister Allred noted, "With activities planned for both the youth and adults, we experienced firsthand how Pamela served the members of her ward. Her enthusiasm was contagious and her dedication to family history was evident. Pamela told us about the 'anxious ancestors' of Francis' and of his concern for the temple work to be accomplished."

Immediately, Sister Allred thought about a group of youth from California who might be part of the solution to this challenge. She had been introduced to Debbie Justesen through a mutual friend, sister missionary Marion Wright. Debbie told Sister Allred of the enthusiastic youth from Roseville, California, who were going full steam ahead, researching their ancestors and performing proxy baptisms in the nearby Sacramento California Temple.  

Francis shared that he loves the scripture in The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ 1 Nephi 3:7 and believes that the Lord always provides a way. In fulfillment, the Lord orchestrated the connection between Francis Van Den Berg in Kerekere, New Zealand, and the youth in Roseville, California. Using family search, the ancestors’ names were ‘shared’ with the youth, who accepted the invitation and printed off the names, ready to take to the Sacramento California Temple.  

In all, 188 of Francis' ancestors have had their temple work done and have been joined with their families for eternity.  This experience is summed up with a message from Debbie, “Our youth are so excited to be of service to this sweet Brother Van Den Berg. These youth just beam as they think about the service they are able to perform; it truly is ministering at the highest level.” 

Pamela passed on a thank you from Francis: “Francis wishes to say how touched he is that others would be so kind and generous to him and his family. He was so overwhelmed.”

Newsroom Contributor: Ann Allred

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