While visiting Gallipoli, Salvation Army officer Major Phillippa Serevi discovered a family connection she’d never known about.
Earlier this year, I had the privilege of going on a Salvation Army ‘Footsteps of Paul’ tour to Greece and Turkey. This was a precious chance to see for ourselves some of the places written about in the New Testament and for the events of the early Christian church to really come alive for those of us on this tour.
When I left Fiji, I mentioned to my sister in Tahiti that I was going to Greece as part of this tour. She was really excited for me.
Before the trip we were all asked if we had any relatives that had died at Gallipoli. We had the chance to visit there and two of our tour party, Lieut-Colonels Ian and Lynette Hutson, wanted to share a time of reflection and prayer at Gallipoli. They told us they also wanted to acknowledge relatives as part of that time. I didn’t really know anything of my family’s history. I had left that responsibility to my sister, since she was the oldest. So I couldn’t tell them anyone from my family.
We had our time of devotions and then were encouraged to take some quiet moments to reflect and look at the graves before heading back to the bus for our next stop. I’d seen enough and was making my way out of the graveyard, walking past these two headstones, when suddenly I had this urge to turn back and go and look at one of them.
I turned around and went to the first headstone. I saw it had my maiden name, Munro, on it. Then I saw the initial J. I called Major Vyvyenne Noakes over and said, ‘Look at this! This person has the same surname as me … and I had a great uncle called John.’
Major Yvyvenne said, ‘Wow, isn’t that amazing!’ She encouraged me to take some photos. I wasn’t sure if there really was a family connection so I said, ‘I’ll need to contact my sister as she knows all the family history.’
My husband took some photos and I messaged my sister. The next morning she replied, saying: ‘I hope you are sitting down Phillippa. It’s Pa’s brother. He died in Gallipoli. Are you in Turkey?’
It turns out my Pa had two brothers. One was left in Australia and the other (whom we’ve never heard from) went to South Africa. My Pa came to Fiji—where my family still lives. I had forgotten to mention to my sister that I would be visiting Turkey, so she hadn’t even thought to mention my great uncle.
It was so weird. I kept asking, ‘How did this happen?’ After all, I was going to walk right past that grave before I felt led to stop. It was such a shock to look down and see such a familiar name, my family name, there on that grave!
This was most definitely a God moment for me. God prompted me to stop and turn around.
I shouldn’t be surprised, though. God often does things like that for me. He does amazing things in my life and I have had many encounters with people where it quickly became obvious God had led us both to that moment.
I’m so grateful I was obedient to the Lord’s prompting. Look at what I would have missed out on! A chance to honour my great uncle and the sacrifice he made, giving his own life so that others could have a better chance at freedom.
Just another reminder to trust and obey when the Lord leads me!
by Phillippa Serevi(c) 'War Cry' magazine, 25 September 2017, p11
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