Five years ago, Annie Luo arrived in New Zealand with only a vague understanding of who Jesus Christ was.
She had only heard and seen depictions of Christ in foreign movies.
One day while walking along Mairangi Bay, I heard singing in the distance, she said.
“Their smile and voices were so beautiful that I was deeply impressed.”
They were two sister missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“They were singing a hymn and when they finished, they asked if I wanted to learn more about the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Annie was curious but, “I could not tell if I believed in God since it was hard for me to believe what I couldn’t see”.
There was also another obstacle in the way. Annie was about to return to her hometown, the Guangdong province of China.
“I told them if I had a chance to come back to New Zealand, I would go to church.”
When Annie returned to China, she didn’t think about that experience again.
“The environment in China is totally different and all my friends and family didn’t believe in God. So, I never thought one day I would believe in God.”
Three years later, Annie felt like she needed to quit her job. She decided to move back to New Zealand to study.
“Half a month after my arrival, I met missionaries on Queen Street and was invited to church,” she said.
Annie was eventually baptized into the Auckland Third Branch in February last year.
“From the Book of Mormon to the missionaries and members around me; I saw the light which guided me to the truth,” she said.
“Heavenly Father knows everything. He wanted me to know I’m His daughter. And missionaries were His hand to let me know who I truly was.”
Annie is one of the many hundreds of migrants who have moved over from China and embraced the gospel.
Just like Annie, Tony Liu met the missionaries when he first arrived in New Zealand. He was baptised 20 years ago and went on to serve a mission in Wellington. He married his wife in the Hamilton, New Zealand Temple and is now the President of the Auckland third branch.
“As the branch president, I’ve seen a lot of miracles,” Tony said.
“There are amazing conversions. People are touched by the gospel and a lot of people are searching for it but like the scriptures say, they don’t know where to find it. But once they find the gospel, they embrace it,” he said.
Many Saints have gone back to China to establish the church, including Ying Zhe Zhang who is the leader of a local group in China. His parents were later converted and baptised.
“It’s great to see the gospel established amongst the saints who speak Chinese,” Tony said.
“My hope is that the branch will not only touch the lives of the Chinese people but that even if they don’t stay in New Zealand, a seed is planted.”
“The Chinese language, even after translated, is hard to understand. In church we have specific meanings on how to practise the gospel.
“The branch is here to serve and strengthen the saints. Our goal is to increase our missionary efforts.”
There are currently 16 Chinese speaking missionaries in Auckland.
Auckland Mission President James Walker said the Chinese branch plays an “important role” in helping bring people to the gospel.
“The gospel can’t be fully taught in China, so the Lord is taking them out of China and in places where they are exposed to hearing the gospel and that’s what’s happening in Auckland.
“People who come over from China are spiritually sensitive, so they come here, get exposed to the gospel, join the church and return back to their native land.
“That’s why a branch was created here and why we have Chinese speaking missionaries. The Lord will continue to reveal to us how we can reach out to them.”
The Auckland Third Branch was first established in Auckland in 1995 but was discontinued in 2001.
It was established again in 2013 and has been running for five years.
The Chinese work is growing all over the Pacific, including Australia where there are a total of five Chinese wards and two Chinese branches.
The Auckland Third Branch meets every Sunday at 1pm at the Scotia Place Chapel, Auckland City. All are welcome.