News Story

Former Latter-day Saint Fiji Mission President Reunited with Convert

12 years on, Elder Ian S. Ardern, now the Pacific Area President of the Church, was thrilled to learn recently that a young man he baptised is now leading a congregation

Elder Ian S. Ardern, President of the Pacific Area of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, had a joyous reunion with Rahul Bhai Solanki in Suva last month.


The occasion was a devotional in the Suva 3rd Ward (congregation), presided over by Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

On 17 June, 2007, Elder Ardern—who was then serving as President of the Fiji Suva Mission—baptised Rahul Solanki.

Solanki is now serving as bishop (lay minister) of the Suva 3rd Ward.

Rahul was taught the restored gospel of Jesus Christ by the missionary assistants to the president before he was baptised.

After President Ardern and Rahul became friends while attending church services over several weeks, Rahul asked the mission leader to baptise him.

Justin Matthews, one of the assistants to President Ardern in the Fiji Suva Mission, taught Rahul and his wife, Charlene. 

Matthews remembers their meeting 12 years ago: "One morning while serving as missionaries in Fiji, my companion and I found that everything we had on our calendar for the day had fallen through. We had no confirmed appointments. We decided we would pray about what to do. We both felt impressed that we should look at the map of our area and pick a route to go do some tracting (knocking on doors) and talk to people on the streets along the way.

"Out of an exceptionally large area in the busiest city of Fiji, we picked Fulaga street. Along the way, we ran into several distractions that almost pulled us off our course. It was a super hot day, we were sweating like crazy, we were hungry, and we had a lot of work to do in the mission office. However, we knew we needed to walk Fulaga Street because the Spirit was so strong in our heart and mind that someone needed to see."


He continued: “We talked to everyone we saw along the way. However, our efforts felt less than ideal. We then saw a woman who was standing at the bottom of her driveway, so we went and talked to her. Her name was Charlene. She told us that she grew up in the Church, but married a Hindu man and never went back to church. We asked if we could come and visit her and her husband. She expressed great concern that her husband would never allow it because of his family’s strict observance of Hinduism.

"The Spirit whispered in my mind to ask her if she cooks Indian food. We shared with her that we loved Indian food and convinced her to invite us over for dinner with her husband, Rahul. The first night we met Rahul and Charlene for dinner the Spirit was so strong and we immediately developed a deep, loving relationship with both of them. Over time, Rahul became more and more interested in the gospel of Jesus Christ…Rahul accepted the gospel and was baptised.


"The evening after Rahul’s baptism, we were having dinner with Charlene and Rahul. Charlene asked if we remembered the day we met her at the bottom of her driveway. Of course we did. Charlene then told us, 'Let me tell you what happened that day. I was at a point in my life of deep despair. I felt lost. I felt a great deal of darkness and lack of direction. I decided to call in sick to work that day. I was kneeling and praying to Heavenly Father, which I had not done in a long time. I pleaded for his help and direction. When I stood up from my prayer and looked out my window, I saw you two walking down Fulaga street.'

Matthews continued: "Heavenly Father does know each and every one of us and is trying to do all he can to bless all His children. What an amazing example of how Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ answered multiple prayers that day and sent down heavenly light to bless Charlene and Rahul for the rest of their lives and eternity. Rahul is currently serving as the bishop of one of the largest wards in Fiji. His life has been filled with a desire to minister and bless others."

President Ardern remembers the day Rahul was baptised in his book Lessons Learned: "As part of the baptismal service Rahul stood and bore his testimony. It was obvious to all that he was not going to be a 'half-hearted' member of the Church. He would not play out his membership on the half-way line; he was already showing that he was going to give his all to the Kingdom of God on the earth."

Rahul Solanki was called to be bishop of the Suva 3rd Ward in Fiji five years ago.

The congregation has a very large and active youth program. Through Bishop Solanki's leadership, they make sure they are with the youth having activities three or more times a week. The youth go to the temple weekly, take part in service projects and sports regularly, as well as their weekly youth activity.

At the time of writing this article, 56 individuals have joined the Church in the Suva 3rd Ward this year, many of whom are youth.

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