Christmas moments: A soldier in Egypt

In 1944, with World War II raging, Capt. Robert L. Simpson, USAF, hoped to be transferred to the South Pacific where he could perhaps associate with the Maori people he had grown to love during his mission in New Zealand. Instead, he was transferred to Egypt. Shortly after his arrival, he learned that a battalion of Maoris was stationed next to him. He quickly met them and found that he was personally acquainted with 25 of them from the mission field. His counsel in their native tongue was comforting to them.

Still, life for a soldier in Egypt was lonely, so far from family and friends, especially as Christmas neared.

One day as he visited the Maori Battalion, "one of the officers in the officer's club was standing by a large pile of gifts that had been shipped over by the Red Cross of New Zealand.

"He said, 'Capt. Simpson, would you like a little gift from New Zealand?'

"Rummaging in this pile of thousands of gifts, he found one and gave me a little gift.

"I said I would be very happy to receive this gift from New Zealand."

Capt. Simpson, who later served in the Presiding Bishopric, as Assistant to the Twelve and as a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy, took the little gift to the American air base.

"The night before Christmas I was all by myself," he recalled. "All my of buddies were in town celebrating. I was there thinking about Christmas, and what it meant to me, about the Savior and about New Zealand. I decided it was time to open my little gift from New Zealand. As I opened it, an aroma told me there was a fruit cake inside this tin, and there was a little note on top.

"I opened the note, and it said: 'To our fighting forces overseas, May God bless you. May God be with you.' It was signed by the presidency of the Relief Society of the Tamaki Branch of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"Of all that big pile of gifts, the one that came to me was from the Tamaki Branch. I can't tell you what that meant to me, and the love that came into my heart on that Christmas Eve, in far away Egypt." — From The History of the LDS Schools in New Zealand, an interview in 1992 by Rangi Parker. Elder Simpson died April 15, 2003.