“Model of Faith,” Ensign, Sept. 1998, 69
Irene Kealoha Kamauoha Rushing lived as a young girl in Napoopoo, South Kona, Hawaii, raised by her great-aunt “Tu Tu” (Grandma) Kealoha Kamauoha. Their small Church building was five miles away, and they had to walk there. Tu Tu had only partial use of one of her legs, so she, Irene, and Irene’s brother and sister would start before daylight to get to their meetings on time.
The little group would stop frequently so that Tu Tu could rest. At these stops Tu Tu would sing Church hymns in Hawaiian, and as she did so, tears would often stream down her cheeks. Young Irene would ask, “Tu Tu, why do you cry?” Tu Tu always answered, “Because I am so happy.” This confused Irene, who thought people didn’t cry when they were happy. Tu Tu would go on to explain, “My heart is full of love for Heavenly Father.” Years later Tu Tu’s example helped keep Irene firm in the faith even when she was the only Latter-day Saint living in the small town of Lamesa, Texas. Though isolated from other Church members, she read her Book of Mormon daily. When friends invited her to go dancing, she declined because the dances were held in bars. She would imagine Tu Tu’s tear-stained but radiant face and was determined to follow the example Tu Tu had set.
In 1947 Irene married Simpson Matthew Rushing, whose father was a minister of another faith. One day not long afterward, Irene saw a beautiful sight: two LDS missionaries were walking down the street! She still remembers their names—Elder Nelson from La Plata, New Mexico, and Elder Miller from Denver, Colorado. The first thing she said to them was, “May I please have the sacrament?” They informed her of a branch that met 60 miles away and arranged for her to attend.
In 1957 Simpson was baptized. He became the first superintendent of Lamesa’s independent Sunday School. Today he and Irene are members of the Athens Ward, Gilmer Texas Stake, where Simpson served as bishop for several years.
“The gospel is everything to us, and we have spent the best years of our lives serving our Heavenly Father,” says Irene.—Lani Gilbreath, Honolulu, Hawaii