“Sasha Giles of Queenstown, New Zealand,” Friend, Aug. 1999, 20
Sasha Giles, a pretty nine-year-old with endless enthusiasm and elfin charm, lives in one of the most beautiful places on earth, Queenstown, New Zealand. Her home is near the shore of Lake Wakatipu (Lake of Living Waters in the Maori tongue). Wakatipu is a long, blue lake set between tall mountains in the New Zealand Alps.
Queenstown is a resort city where people come to ski in the winter, and boat, fish, and hike in the summer. On the shore opposite the town is a spectacular mountain range called the Remarkables. Downstream on the Shotover River, jet boats blast tourists through hair-raising rapids, and bungee jumpers leap into a world-famous gorge. Behind the town, steep ski slopes rise.
Sasha’s father, David, captains a forty-two foot schooner on the lake, taking sightseers and fishermen on day trips or overnight jaunts. Sasha has often helped crew this sleek craft. She has also sailed a dinghy along the shore, canoed, braved the rapids in a jet boat, skied on snow and water, snorkled, ice-skated, roller-bladed, hiked, rafted, swum, played tennis and netball, and had a century’s worth of fun in less than a decade.
Her mother, Raylee, says of her, “She has a tremendous personality, and she’s mature beyond her years in many ways. And yet she’s still a little child who cries and laughs and thinks everything about life is just absolutely wonderful and exciting.”
Her father adds, “She’s a very special spirit with a sweet, lovely nature. She’s very obedient and a good communicator and likes talking to adults. She enjoys meeting people and making friends.”
In fact, Sasha is just as good at making friends as she is at having fun. Her best friends are her family. Her parents are firm, kind, loving, and funny. Her brother Scott is the branch president and sets a good example. Angelina, 18, is Sasha’s Primary teacher, and a good one. Ashley, 15, fills the dual role of friend and tormenter. Simba, the large family dog, is another close friend. He retrieves rocks and sticks. Saiko (pronounced sike-o), the family’s temperamental goat, is a living lawn mower who greedily devours the treats Sasha brings.
Everyone in the small Queenstown Branch is her friend, too. The branch meets in a funeral home, and there is so much love in their meetings that at those times this sometimes sad building becomes the happiest place in town. As the branch librarian, Sasha helps the teachers do their jobs better, though the library is only a closet. Her Primary class is small, but not as small as it used to be when she was the only child in Primary.
The branch members support each other with love, comfort, and encouragement. They have many activities together including parties on the lakeshore. They often share a meal together on Sunday after church. Sasha does her part in preparing and serving the food and cleaning up afterward. She does her share of the eating and visiting, too! She especially enjoys teasing the full-time missionaries, and they don’t mind teasing her right back.
A good student, she wants to be an accountant someday because she loves mathematics. She’s also a friend to everyone at school. In fact, she’s a friend to everybody she meets. She once made fifty gingerbread men and gave her friends all the ones she couldn’t eat herself.
Sasha is a hard worker. In addition to her household chores, three times a week she helps to fold and deliver advertising leaflets to about two thousand homes. She doesn’t always enjoy it, but she does it faithfully to help the family income. She does enjoy playing the piano and singing Primary songs. Her favorites are “I Lived in Heaven,” “A Child’s Prayer,” and “I Hope They Call Me on a Mission.” She really does hope to be called on a mission someday. “Serving the Lord would be really cool,” she says, and adds with a smile, “I could get a year and a half off deliveries.”
She also loves to read, especially the Friend, the New Era, a “girls books” series, and the scriptures. Her favorite book of scripture is the Book of Mormon. “I like Ammon because he fought with a sword to defend King Lamoni’s sheep, and Captain Moroni because he was a strong, courageous army commander, and Helaman because he led the stripling warriors.” Above all, she likes to read about Heavenly Father and Jesus. “I love Heavenly Father. I know that we can live with Him again someday. I love Jesus, too. He died for me.”
Sasha remembers to say her prayers night and morning. “I know that Heavenly Father is listening,” she says.
Sasha is full of life and fun and love and joy and faith. Like the mountains around her and the people she loves, she is remarkable.