By Emily Jex Boyle
Typically, emails and letters from missionaries inform family and friends of new and interesting details and spiritual experiences from their missions. Yet, for Kathryn Arnett, of Pinetop-Lakeside, Arizona, and other members of the Woodland Lake Ward, Pinetop Lakeside Stake, such correspondence led to an unusual opportunity to reach out to fellow Church members thousands of miles away.
Kathryn’s brother, William Arnett, was serving in the Fiji Suva mission and was assigned to the small and quite remote island of Ambae in Vanuatu.
People living on the island survive largely through subsistence farming and small cash crops and they get their water from wells and rainwater catch tanks. Ambae’s geography is dominated by Manaro, a large and volatile volcano. In 2005, Manaro erupted, spewing steam and ash and ultimately displacing half of the island’s population.
While Elder Arnett was serving in Ambae, he seldom had an opportunity to send emails. His family eagerly awaited his letters to arrive. Those letters told a variety of stories as Elder Arnett explained how he traveled three hours by foot, truck and boat just to get to a grocery store, how he worked with others to build a woven hut with pews instead of logs and how he helped organize Relief Society and other auxiliary activities for a congregation comprised primarily of first-generation members of the Church.
Reading these letters from her brother, Kathryn hit upon an idea. She and her fellow Young Women in the ward had been looking for opportunities to give service. Kathryn began researching the idea of gathering white shirts and ties for members in Ambae. The Young Women project quickly grew, and members of the ward and stake joined in. Kathryn and the other girls also met together and made hair bows to send to the Young Women of the island congregation. The group made about three bows for each of the girls in Ambae. Once finished, the Young Women attached their favorite scriptures and their own picture to the hair bows.
The Arnett family covered the cost of shipping, so the Woodland Lake Ward Young Women could send the hair bows, along with more than 20 white Sunday shirts and 40 ties to the island.
One package traveling from Arizona to a small island in the South Pacific provided one remote group of Heavenly Father’s children physical reminders that they are not alone, but that they belong to a worldwide family.
In a letter home, Elder Arnett expressed his appreciation for the kindness shown by the Young Women of his home ward. He wrote, “Tell the girls thank you again and that they reached out to just about the most [geographically] unreachable Young Women’s group.”