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I had no fingers, why would I play?

Couple in Raglan

On the face of it, the Kartchners are just another missionary couple from Utah with a fold-out wallet of family photos. They blend right in with many other Americans who live the dream by serving in New Zealand.

However, they’ve not swapped the 10 bedroom all-American ranch house for a Kiwi beach town vacation. They sold up everything, flew out on faith and arrived with all the financial odds against them. In essence “there was no way we’d financially be able to serve.”

As you can imagine, a series of tear-jerking financial miracles happened; help from their ward and assistance from their family made it possible for this couple who drove a company car and rented a home to find a way to save “just enough for rent, food and gas in the field.”

At the same time they were preparing to serve a mission, the Raglan Branch in New Zealand was praying for a way out of the, almost comical attempts the congregation made at following the Church’s CD hymn accompaniments. “It was difficult to be reverent when we’d come in too soon for the sacrament hymn and all be singing at different times, the room would be scattered with giggles.”

It wasn’t long after arriving that Elder Kartchner was approached by the branch president, “So, your wife tells me that you can sort of play the piano.” A little shocked, Elder Kartchner was now torn between wanting to serve and having to confront a draining fear. “I had no fingers, why would I play?”

His mother strongly encouraged him and his five brothers to play the piano, “though we’d have preferred playing sports”. From age 12 to 18 Elder Kartchner played the piano every other week at the ward priesthood meeting.

However since then, Elder Kartchner had endured a tragic work accident, in which he lost the first joints of all his fingers on his left hand. Now with only stubs on that hand he thought, “I don’t want to play, to be honest I didn’t think I could, it’d been 20 years!”

Elder Kartchner had found creative ways of concealing his disability, so he battled through his mental discouragement to agree to play, even with just his right hand.

“At first I was so nervous, I’d just shake up there. I’ve had to practise for an hour a day. It’s not come easily, but The Lord has magnified my efforts. I still have some limitations, I can’t stretch my left hand out, but I can play some bottom notes, and now it doesn’t sound like I’m handicapped”.

Elder Kartchner feels that like serving in a branch with such wonderful people was the motivation he needed to resurrect his talent. “Raglan Branch is sacred ground for us both. Sister Kartchner and I love these people, it’s been worth every sacrifice.”