Sister Linda K. Burton, Relief Society general president, and Sister Rosemary M. Wixom, Primary general president, traveled to New Zealand, Tonga, Samoa and American Samoa from Feb. 16-26 — visiting members and participating in leadership training.
"We quickly learned the Polynesian people in the Pacific Area are warm, receptive and faithful," said Sister Wixom of the visit.
Assisting the women with the visit were members of the Church's Pacific Area presidency: Elder James J. Hamula, Elder Kevin W. Pearson, and Elder F. Michael Watson — all of the Seventy.
For Sister Burton — who had lived in New Zealand as a teenager — the trip also left her sensing a "touch of home." In fact, during one meeting, Sister Burton met a former classmate from the Church College of New Zealand.
During their trip, the women — who were accompanied by their husbands, Craig Burton and Jack Wixom — focused many of their remarks on the 2013 goals of the Church's Pacific Area — to save the rising generation, strengthen families and the priesthood, and to increase and sustain conversion. "Wherever we went we talked about the Plan of Salvation — His plan for us individually and this path we are walking back to Him," said Sister Wixom.
The women visited the Church schools and temples in Tonga and Samoa and witnessed the Church's humanitarian efforts in the Pacific.
In New Zealand, Sister Wixom visited the Starship Children's Hospital. An 11-year-old Latter-day Saint boy in the hospital awaiting heart surgery talked to her. "When I get scared, my dad reads to me from the scriptures," the boy explained.
Sister Burton visited Ailsa Margaret Coutts, a woman who had just celebrated her 100th birthday in New Zealand.
Both women spent time with young mothers and young single adults. The young mothers' children were tended during the meeting by the single adult members, who then shared their "sweet spirit of testimony" with the general auxiliary leaders.
Sister Burton and Sister Wixom also met other LDS children in their homes, witnessed a Primary program in Tonga, and were greeted in American Samoa by children "singing their hearts out," said Sister Burton. "It was beautiful, a real highlight."
In addition, a poignant moment for both Sister Burton and Sister Wixom came during "rescue visits" — where they had the opportunity to meet with and counsel Church members who, for various reasons, were not participating fully in the gospel of Jesus Christ or who were participating in the gospel and enduring difficult trials with great faith.
"I had an overwhelming feeling that Heavenly Father loves all His children," said Sister Burton of the visits. "No matter where they are — on or off the path — He wants them back home."
Sister Wixom said during the rescue visits, the people in the room taught one another. "Their testimonies lifted each other."
And the women met with a family of nine who had lost their home when a cyclone hit Samoa on Dec. 14. Church members had helped the family rebuild.
In the end, the entire trip was an experience neither woman will ever forget. "We loved hearing their stories. We loved feeling of their faith and hope," said Sister Burton.
"The Polynesian people represent a culture of love and respect," said Sister Wixom. "They love their children, they love each other and they love the gospel of Jesus Christ. It was beautiful to witness."