Celebrating 40 years of Church education in New Zealand

More than 2,000 Church members gathered here recently for the Church College of New Zealand and labor missionary reunion - celebrating 40 years since the college first opened in 1958.

The reunion, a long-awaited celebration for many members who traveled from other parts of the world, was the culmination of months of organizing by 20 committees. Even though the Church College alumni and labor missionaries, who worked in New Zealand on a Church-service basis constructing LDS facilities, are two separate groups they shared the reunion.Ken Strother, acting president of the Church College alumni association, reminded the visitors of the vision and labor of love that culminated 40 years ago with the dedication of the Church College in New Zealand and the first temple in the Southern Hemisphere.

Audrey Beisinger traveled from Utah to be reunited with the missionaries who built the Church College under the direction of her late husband, George R. Beisinger. Accompanying Sister Beisinger were eight of her nine children and their spouses.

The entertainment and talent presented throughout the weekend was one way to measure the event's success. There were different choir performances, cultural presentations, a pageant, and three concerts. Participants called the concerts magic, noting that audiences of hundreds cheered and clapped through the hours of entertainment.

An 80-voice choir also presented a program of hymns during the weekend event. After the choir sang, the large reunion group was divided into smaller testimony groups to give more people the chance to speak.

Many of the testimonies shared common messages: For alumni it was appreciation of the parents who sent them to the Church College, the love of family and the gospel, and the strong bonds of their Church College friendships. Former labor missionaries spoke of their love for their missions, the love they have for each other, and the memories they treasure of their leaders, friends and work crews. They also spoke of the influence their testimonies have had in their lives and the lives of their families.

During a closing concert at the reunion, the audience sang, "Now Is the Hour," a traditional farewell song.

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