I arrived in the Canada Halifax Mission in July 2018 with my husband, Richard Low, the new mission president.
Elder Harvey and Sister Aileen Priest were serving as the housing couple for the entire mission. Housing needs for both senior and young missionaries included apartments in far-off Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Maine, and Nova Scotia.
This was an incredibly busy and demanding calling for senior missionaries, but the enthusiasm, optimism, and dedication shown by these two dear friends was inspiring. We knew they were willing, happy workers, and we were excited to hear their amazing faith-building stories.
Here is one
Greenwood is a charming little village of about 5000 located in the lush Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia. Almost forty years ago, in February 1983, Brother Priest was released as Kentville Branch President, and then called as the first branch president of the new Greenwood Branch. Meetings were held in the library of Kingston Elementary School, several kilometres away.
In 1984, a year or so after the branch was organized, President Priest was told that if the average attendance at sacrament meeting was at least 40 for three months they would be eligible for a new chapel to be built. Diligently President Priest kept track of attendance, and at the end of the three months he told a non-member husband that they needed him to attend the last Sunday, which he did, and the average for the three months was exactly 40.
District President David Evans instructed President Priest to look for a 3-acre parcel of land, which the Church required for a building. He checked several places with no success, and then remembered that a man in the community, whom we shall refer to as Mr. J, had developed a subdivision and perhaps might have some land.
President Priest, in conversation with Mr. J, discovered that he indeed did have a 2.9-acre lot, that he had reserved for himself, but said he would sell it for $35,000, which was much, much more than the land was worth at the time.
The Church Building Department in Indianapolis instructed President Priest to offer $22,500 to Mr. J, which he did. The response from Mr. J was: “Tell those people that I will not sell this land for less than $35,000.”
President Priest recalls: “I didn’t say it to him, but to myself, ‘We’ll fix you. We will pray.’ The following Sunday we all raised our hands and agreed that we would pray for him to sell it for a more reasonable price.
“Well, Monday morning he phoned me, and I thought he might have another lot of land, but he said he would sell the original lot for $26,500. I called Indianapolis and they said to change the number on the papers and get Mr. J to sign it.
“Later that day I met him in his hay field where he was cutting hay, and on the hood of my car, we signed the papers. After he signed it, he looked at me and said, ‘I just felt I should sell it to you.’”
After the lot purchase another problem needed solving
At that time the Greenwood Branch building budget assessment that members of the branch were asked to contribute was $4,500. With only three elders in the branch; President Harvey Priest, Brother Larry Sproule, and Brother Hans Peter Mogenson, the $4,500 seemed lofty.
As a man of faith and action, President Priest, surveying the situation, realized that half of the 2.9-acre plot was treed with towering pines. He felt inspired to cut down the trees. With the help of the two missionaries serving in the branch they cut all the trees into logs and sold them to a local mill for the amount of $4500!
President Priest testifies that “the Lord was behind all this, years before in preparing this work.”
The Greenwood Branch building was started in 1985, and when completed in 1986 the branch took possession.
Our Greenwood memories will be forever
As mission leaders we frequently visited this beautiful, little chapel nestled in the pine forest. There were many occasions for Church meetings, missionary meetings, and interviews.
Everywhere inside and outside this church were many evidences of the love and appreciation the members felt for this house of worship. Examples were perfectly manicured flower beds, a neat and shining kitchen, up-to-date bulletin boards, and even a candy dish on the table in the Relief Society room that was always stocked with scotch mints.
Having heard the story from Elder Priest, we never ceased to be touched by the spirit of consecration and faith manifested by these Saints that resulted in the lovely Greenwood chapel where they could worship the Saviour.