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VIDEO: Mission Proves to be a Life Changing Experience

Elder Awanuiārangi Morris was called to a mission in the Philippines. Then COVID-19 brought him home. Now he is sharing the gospel with his relatives.


Three years ago, Awanuiārangi Morris took part in a family gathering and religious discussion at the home of a friend, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Liking what he saw, and more importantly, what he felt, he continued meeting there often. It wasn't long before he was attending church with other Latter-day Saints.  

After meeting regularly with full-time missionaries—young men about his age—and then studying, reading, pondering and praying, he made the decision to become a member of the Church.

"I got baptised in 2017, and it was one of the best days of my life," he recalls.

Fast forward three years.

Awa, as he is known to family and friends, felt the desire to serve a full-time mission. This would mean two years away from loved ones. He put his schooling, career, his beloved rugby and other things on hold and received a mission call to serve in the Philippines Tacloban Mission.


After just 12 days in the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah, USA, where he worked hard learning the Cebuano language, everything changed.

A worldwide pandemic brought about unprecedented changes all over the world, including amongst missionaries.

A March 20, 2020 letter from the First Presidency of the Church stated in part, "We take very seriously the health and safety of our missionaries and of those they teach... In the coming weeks, based upon world conditions, substantial numbers of missionaries will likely need to be returned to their home nations to continue their service."

Awa returned to his family's home near Auckland New Zealand, where he continued his missionary and language studies, while awaiting a temporary reassignment.

Prior to leaving on his mission, he gave many family members a copy of The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ (a book of scripture which is a companion to the Bible).

One of those recipients was his grandmother (lovingly referred to as nan), who lives in Foxton, 550 km south of Awa's family home and 110 km north of Wellington. When Awa returned home, his nan told him, "I want to start reading the Book of Mormon. I want to learn more about why you're doing this, why you're going on a mission."

At her request, they started reading the book of scripture together, long distance. He also began sharing gospel messages and lessons with her remotely.

Eventually, Awa, also known as Elder Morris, was called to serve in the New Zealand Wellington Mission. It wasn't long before he was on his way, not quite knowing what to expect or the blessings that awaited him there.

The New Zealand Wellington Mission is quite large, covering all of the South Island and about half of the North Island. In writing about his first day, he shared, "I was sitting there wondering where [the mission] President felt the Lord needed me. When he told me my area I couldn't believe it!! ...Out of all the places I could have gone, I was sent to the one place my nan lived!!!!!"

He surprised his grandmother with a personal visit. She had read the Book of Mormon and was interested in learning more.

This led to an unforgettable day for both, when Elder Morris had the opportunity to baptise his nan. His Facebook post from that day includes photos and this message: "I wasn't sure if any of my family would ever join me on my journey! This is my nan and I'm so grateful I was able to be a part of her baptism."

He concludes by saying, "God is so good and I'm so grateful I was able to be a part of this special day."

In a recent e-mail to family and friends, Elder Morris shared a favourite scripture: “And whoso receiveth you, there I will be also, for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.” (Doctrine & Covenants 84:88).


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