The Spirit Moves In Wonderful Ways

A photo of Anthony with his mother in their local church building

Anthony Gray had affiliations with the Gospel most of his life but didn’t realise it until recently. His first cousins are members of the Church in New Zealand, and he also has extended family who married into the gospel.  At high school his best friend was a less active member. However, Anthony never saw himself as a religious person, and was not really open to the spirit until January 2012.

My daughter Tazmin Rapana (now a year 12 student) and Anthony had been friends for about a year prior to their friendship blossoming. When Tazmin asked Anthony to attend her little brother Velan’s funeral on the 13th of January 2012, Anthony had no intention of intruding on our grief, and he felt it was probably the wrong time to meet her family for the first time.

Our youngest son, Velan, was born a normal healthy little boy, however he had a seizure which caused a massive heart attack, and was clinically dead for 20 minutes, before they were able to revive him.  He was left with acquired brain injury, unable to see, hear, or speak. As a result of the lack of oxygen to his brain his legs were also affected, resulting in them being joined from the heels to his groin. He could not eat ordinary foods and relied on a scientific solution that was infused via an IV tube.  However, Velan was a blessing to his family, and all who knew him.

Following Velan’s passing we held our traditional Maori Tangihanga and we had our son with us at home for one week, before he was laid to rest.   These traditions are a time for celebration for members of our Church, but losing our son was just so very hard.  It was during the Tangihanga that I received a spiritual prompting from my son, telling me that I “needed to look after his friend Anthony.”  I didn’t know anyone by that name, and when my daughter first starting talking about a new friend by the name of the Anthony, I had not put the two together.

Meanwhile, Anthony decided that it would probably be best not to attend the funeral the following day. He retired to bed that night having made his mind up, but was woken early, “before the birds” he said, to a beautiful morning, that he still remembers as the day that changed his life for ever. He decided that morning he would attend the funeral of Tazmin’s little brother, and proceeded to prepare himself.

He went to a friend’s home to borrow some clothes that would be appropriate to wear to the funeral. The morning didn’t go smoothly, but he now recognises that that was the adversary working. After a few “minor hiccups” he arrived at the funeral.  Later that day he entered a message on his Facebook page saying, “Today I attended the funeral of a little boy. It was life changing.”

There were new things to follow. Anthony attended a few family activities with Tazmin, and learnt about family prayer, and what the gospel meant to her. Her life style was different to his, and he was intrigued and a little overwhelmed, looking into a life and lifestyle that was so completely different to his own.

He attended church that first Sunday after the funeral with Tazmin and our family, and discovered that Tazmin’s father was the Bishop of the Tweed Heads Ward, Gold Coast Australia Stake, at the time. He learned about praying as a congregation, words of counsel and partaking of the Sacrament.

Anthony continued to attend Church. We noticed little changes each week in his dress, in his appearance, and in himself. As his continued on his journey learning more about God and His plan of happiness, we saw Anthony’s life change for the better.

As a family we had our family home evening on a Sunday night, so before we took Anthony home we focused on the basic principles and others gospel teachings that were of real interest to him.

Anthony had also lost a little brother in infancy, so he was particularly interested to know where he was now. Life after death didn’t seem so final with the knowledge he was receiving from our family, and through the Spirit.

Not long after our little son’s funeral, we opened our home to Anthony, and took him in as a member of our own family.

On 21 March 2012 Anthony was baptized by Tazmin’s older brother Savern, who has been an example along with Tazmin in encouraging Anthony to take the next step, by preparing for a mission.   Elder Savern Rapana is now serving in the Adelaide Australia Mission.

Life in the Gospel has been one of growth both personally and spiritually. Anthony’s family has seen a change for the better in him, and we are proud of his journey and the life he now holds so sacred. Anthony had a desire to serve the lord, and teach others to come unto Christ as he has. He hoped to put his missionary application papers in as soon as possible. When the missionary serving age for young men was lowered he was even more enthusiastic to go and serve his Heavenly Father.

Anthony has expressed his love for his Heavenly Father and is grateful that he listened to the spirit that morning in January 2012, to attend a funeral service for a little boy he had never met. The spirit bears witness to him every day that God and Jesus Christ are real, that this journey of life is preparatory for a greater one to come, and the choices we make here are pertinent for our salvation. His understanding has vastly grown, for he now knows God lives, and He hears and answers his prayers. With this knowledge he knows he can live eternally with God and his loved ones again.

Recently, Elder Anthony Te Rare Pukeroa Gray was called to serve in the Philippines San Pablo Mission. He entered the MTC in August 2013.

How blessed we are to have three sons working for the Lord at the same time. Yes, three sons.  We already know that our little boy Velan is working with our Saviour now.  He started his work long before he passed through the veil.