Iona Wikaira—Kaikohe, New Zealand
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“Iona Wikaira—Kaikohe, New Zealand,” Ensign, July 2019

Portraits of Faith

Iona Wikaira

Kaikohe, New Zealand

Although she faces challenges as a corrections officer, Iona finds strength and stays calm through faith in Jesus Christ.

Christina Smith, photographer

Iona Wikaira

I’ve worked as a corrections officer for seven years. I worked at the women’s prison for one year; then I transferred to an all-male prison where I’ve worked for the past six years.

One of the touching stories from my time as a corrections officer is when I saw a mother reunite with her children. She hadn’t seen her children for four or five years. You could see in the eyes of the children the tears and the hurt from the years of being apart. The reunion was overwhelming, but as a corrections officer, you don’t show emotion. I found that really hard. I had to actually look away to compose myself and get myself together. Being a mother myself, I couldn’t imagine being away from my children for years and not be able to see them, talk to them, or even share how I’m feeling with them.

As a corrections officer, you have to be strong. You have to be able to protect yourself and take control. Sometimes things can become contentious, so you need to be firm when you communicate with others. Especially when you talk to inmates and de-escalate challenging and sometimes volatile situations. This might make some people think that I’m a tough, hard person, but I’m not that way all the time.

At work I feel like I’m surrounded by the world, but when I leave work and I’m at home or church, I feel different because of the spirit I feel. One of the joys of living the gospel is that you don’t have to be of the world. You’re in the world, but you don’t have to be with the rest of the world.

I always love when it comes to Sundays because I’m able to be in church and get a spiritual feast and remember our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I love that I’m able to have that for myself. I enjoy serving in the Church and all the things that the gospel has going for us.

Once upon a time, I was of the world, and I learned many hard lessons. I’m so grateful now to be fully active with both feet in the gospel of Jesus Christ. I often wish that all the people at work would be able to feel the joy I feel as a member of the Church.

I’ve found that when people in your work environment know that you’re a member of the Church, they will have respect for you and the Church when they see that you don’t let your standards drop because of the environment you’re in. That’s why it’s important for me to try to be a good example of a Latter-day Saint.

In each situation, I think, “How would the Savior like me to behave?” or “How would He like me to deal with this?” In all my experiences, I try to make sure that my actions reflect what the Savior would do. This helps me be a lot more level-headed and a lot calmer even in all the chaos of a tough work environment.

I’m grateful for my Savior and Heavenly Father for the challenges and the trials that I’ve been able to overcome through having faith and believing in Them. Every time I’ve gone through trials and I’ve said a prayer, I’ve always felt peace in my heart. I know that I can’t live without Them. I always acknowledge Their hands in everything I do.

Iona Wikaira

Iona loves the sport of waka ama—the New Zealand term for outrigger canoeing. Iona loves to be out on the water, away from the pressures at work.