Sunday, December 27, 2015

December 27, 2015

Just like everywhere, the week before Christmas is a busy one for families. Last minute shopping, visiting family, baking, etc. it was the same here, so we didn't connect with a lot of our people. The week went by quickly though and everyday was full. We had two great Christmas FHE's and lots of quick visits dropping off treats. One house we went to, the mom had been baking all day and she had about a 200 of five different types of cookies. I was stunned by the volume. She was getting ready to box them up for delivery to friends and generously made us a plate to take home. So many members gave us little gifts of candy, and other items, and we were very touched by this. 

One of the highlights of our week was a little nativity skit put on for FHE by the Kata family!
Mary, Joseph, the Inn Keeper, the two Shepherds, the Angel, and little baby Jesus! Sister Trull and Selwa were the directors and I was the costume designer. For a special treat, I made the Martin favorite Mud Pie. The Kata's said they had never done anything like this and loved the family unity and joy this brought to their family. It definitely has to become a family tradition!

For Christmas Eve, a few senior couples got together for dinner at a nearby restaurant called Broncos. They offered a special traditional turkey dinner with dessert, which most of us ordered. Christmas is the ONLY time of the year turkey is offered anywhere!  It is not sold in the stores or served in restaurants. 
One custom at Christmas is to break open these "crackers". Inside is a little gift and a funny joke. We entertained ourselves by breaking our "crackers" and telling jokes while waiting for our dinner. 

We had a really nice time together and no one was shy about wearing their crowns that also came in our "crackers"! At the table from front to back is Elder and Sister Bath, Elder and Sister Calderwood, Elder Martin and I, Elder and Sister Eccles on the left and Elder and Sister Sayer on the right.

Since we couldn't be home waking up with our kids and grandchildren Christmas morning, we met instead with the missionaries at a SUNRISE Zone Devotional! We were going to climb Mangare Mountain for it, but it was raining, so thankfully, we met at the church instead. Even Santa showed up. I told him how skinny he was and asked what diet he was on? It couldn't have been a New Zealand diet! Elder Falatau, our Zone Leader is in the Santa suit picture with us above. We also had a secret Santa gift exchange, which was fun for everyone. I think we all got candy along with a gag gift. Above is Elder Martin wearing Sister Trull's new sun glasses! 

After the Zone Devotional, we went to our Ward Mission Leader's house to watch him get his Hangi ready. I didn't think to take a picture, but here is basically what a Hangi looks like. Three families  loaded their food in this Hangi, because there was plenty of heat to share. Then their food is cooked, about 3-4 hours, dinner is ready! Nowadays, a Hangi is for special occasions, but in the old days, the Moari people made them every day to cook their food. After a nice lite breakfast there, then went home for a nap. 
We were able to do a little service by bringing our former missionary, Sister Nakibae (and her companion) to our flat so they could Skype their families on Christmas!  Since they are newly transferred into their area, they couldn't find anyone in their ward who had internet to help them. Mothers Day and Christmas are the only days the young missionaries can call or Skype their families, so it was very important to help them do this! Sister Nakibae made each of us two candy leis and since she knows I love gardenias, gave me a bouquet of them. They grow plentifully here and she got permission to cut them for me. It was really nice to spend some time with Sister Nakibae and Sister Ohlwiler. 

After it warmed up a bit and the rain ended, we jumped in the car with Elder and Sister Bath for an afternoon at the beach and golf.  The golf course is next to the beach, so we ladies, got dropped off there and the guys went for 9 holes. The golf course was closed but they had an "honesty box" out for golfers that day. Yes, the men were honest. We all met on the beach after golf and had such a nice time, we didn't leave til 7pm. 

There were no stores, except the little dairies (markets) open, and no restaurants, except McDonalds open, so we had a Christmas ham sandwich dinner at the Bath's and played Rook and visited til 2am. That was our Christmas Day!

We got up at 6am the 26th and started Skyping our children. It was fun to chat with our kids and grandchildren on their Christmas and see their presents. We enjoyed that so much, and although I had a few teary moments, overall, we survived the separation! We look forward to all being together in Utah next Christmas! 

I saw this "sandal Christmas tree" on Facebook, and thought how easily it would work in New Zealand for a Christmas tree. Although here it would be called a "Jandal tree"! 

This is what we are NOT missing back home! I have compassion for all of you in freezing temperatures, and although some of you are loving the snow, it is something we do NOT love. I think the temps here are finally starting to get warmer, like summer should be. Today was about 80 degrees and people were using their personal fans at church and commenting about the heat. 

In the 2015 Ensign is a great little article called "Navigating the Currents of Life" by Mindy Anne Selu, about making a plan to keep improving your life. It's a perfect motivating message for the new year! 
Here are a few quotes, but read this article if you can. 

"You don’t have to be doing something extraordinary to have an extraordinary life, but you do have to be doing something."

"The key is to keep moving. Elder Keith K. Hilbig, an emeritus member of the Seventy, said: “The path to eternal life is not on a plateau. Rather, it is an incline, ever onward and upward.”

"As the new year rolls around, people often begin making goals. However, New Year’s resolutions are easily made and broken. Throughout this new year, don’t settle for fleeting resolutions that will be abandoned before you can get all the confetti and glitter out of your carpet. Make serious goals and plans to begin rowing past the stagnant stage of your life. Consider this invitation from Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles: “Use your agency to develop yourself personally. As you discover your gifts and talents, … you must let the Spirit guide you. Choose and act for yourself. Be motivated from within. Make a plan for your life, including education or vocational training. Explore interests and skills. Work and become self-reliant. Set goals, overcome mistakes, gain experience, and finish what you begin.”

Like all of you, I am wondering where 2015 went to so fast! We have already reached the halfway-way point of our mission! If you plan to visit us in New Zealand, you'd better plan your trip now! 

Also, like all of you hopefully, we have been so blessed in 2015! Through good times and sad times, we know where our strength comes from. It comes from faith in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and following his example, and keeping his commandments. We are not perfect, but we keep trying. 

Enjoy this last week of the year, be safe, and get ready for your new diet next week. We love and pray for yous! Thank you for your prayers for us! 

Elder and Sister Martin

Sunday, December 20, 2015

December 20, 2015

Merry Christmas from the Martin's!!!

Think about this, Christmas would not exist if we didn't have Easter. So that we can be reborn, Jesus Christ needed to be born.

"Long ago, in a tiny town, He was born. Born to mend broken hearts, born to strengthen our weakness. He was born to free us from our burdens and reunite us with God the Father."

"Jesus Christ was born and gave His life so that every person might have the opportunity to decide his or her own future. He suffered so that we could choose not to suffer. So that we could choose right over wrong, so we could choose to change if we’ve found ourselves going in the wrong direction. We make the most of this gift by choosing to follow Him. To accept His grace through repentance. By making this choice we choose happiness." (From the video, "What I'd Jesus Never Came" at Mormon.Org)

When we repent, we are choosing happiness! 

Happy birthday to me! What a nice Sabbath birthday I had relaxing this morning with MDH (my dear hubby) and talking to a few of our children, then a surprise gift from these two beauties. At church I was surprised to see a birthday shout out for me printed in the bulletin, put there by our sweet Relief Society President!  So then I had lots of birthday wishes from ward members. After church we had a successful caroling event to top off the evening and a wonderful day!

It's time for Elder Bashara to go home! We did a little Zone hopping to say goodbye to this good Elder. He will be greatly missed!  Little did we know they were having a yummy breakfast prepared by the Irvine's, another Senior couple, and the best cooks in the mission! 

For our Senior FHE Monday night, we had a delicious "Cafe Rio" knock off meal, prepared by the Mickleson's, and it was really good! What a treat for us who haven't had Cafe Rio or anything like it for quite a while. 

One of our favorite things is driving missionaries to Transfer Meetings. Sadly, this transfer we had to say goodbye to Sister Nakibae as she was transferred to a different area. She was with us for six months and we appreciated her diligence to the work, her friendship, and her love of the Savior. She will do much good whereever she serves!

We got to say hello to Sister Selwa, from Zambia, Africa who is Sister Trull's new companion! It will be fun for us to work with these two peas in a pod!

Elder Martin is so great at driving on the wrong side of the road now and he doesn't mind driving all over Auckland, like we had to last Wednesday night. A sister missionary, who broke her ankle a few months ago, had her last doctor appointment and we were asked to drive her to it. It's an hour trek in traffic up to Takapuna to pick her up, and an hour back down in traffic for her appointment (that is the area she was in when she broke her ankle). Then we take her to dinner, and another hour back up again in traffic to deliver her home. This may seem like a total pain, but it's all part of what we are happy to do. We are blessed to have a reliable car that takes us where we need to go.

Saturday, we went to Shakespeare Park with Elder and Sister Bath, and it was a great day for these wind surfers because it was so windy. There were swimmers and sun bathers, but still much too cold for us! One of those kites got away from a surfer and it came swooping down towards Sister Bath, who was sitting on the sand, landing not too far from her. Getting hit by one of those kites would be frightful! 

We drove to a different beach at Wenderholm Park and the air was much calmer. Notice that we are fully dressed. Summer has started, but it's not warm enough for sunbathing yet. Craig loves the weather, but Im waiting for it to be a little warmer! 

They should call this "shell beach" because the ground is solid shells.

We love seeing this bird on beaches, and here are some babies. We have no idea what this bird is called, but it's striking orange and black colors make it so interesting!

After an afternoon of beach-hopping, we had a casual dinner, saving room for dessert at Giapo's, an unusual and very expensive ice cream shop. Mine is afghan chocolate ice cream dipped in a caramel-chocolate sauce and covered with chocolate-coated corn flakes with a cookie hat attached to the side. Craig's is  a chocolate hazelnut ice cream covered with a powder made from crushed nuts, and then topped with an egg-white swirl, toasted with a blow torch, and hazelnuts added all around! 

Elder and Sister Bath shared the day with us and helped make it a fun birthday celebration! Sister Bath had the same ice cream as me, and Elder Bath's was a strawberry something that was melting way to fast ! 

We loved seeing this rooftop Santa, along with all the other Christmas-lit homes in Ponsonby, a suburb in Auckland. 

This is a photo from a week ago at our ward Chirstmas in the Carpark party. Brother Ikamau, a gentleman from the ward, told us how he thought we fit in the ward and that we mixed well with the members. That was a nice compliment. He liked our dancing at the ward party. You can see that Craig was getting his moves on to the song, "Girls Just Want to Have Fun"!

This tree "ornament" I bought sums up how it is here with Christmas in the summer. 

This is a photo shared on FB by a sister in our ward in Saratoga Springs, Utah, that reminds me of the beauty of the lake and mountains right outside our door back home. Christmas, as we are used to is snowy and cold, so different from in this part of the world. 

Whether it's summer or winter, the true meaning of Christmas is Jesus Christ, and He doesn't care if we celebrate in shorts or a winter sweater. Today in church, in a talk given by a member of the bishopric, he said, "With the hustle and bustle of shopping for one last gift, take time this week to get on your knees and thank the Lord for your trials this year, and for your blessings."

At our Transfer Meeting this week after relating a true Christmas story, President Balli told us, "Share a message of the Savior, serve others, share a gift if you want, but don't miss the opportunity to share your testimony of the Savior this Christmas!" That's something we didn't do much at Christmastime in our pre-mission life! We are loving the opportunities now everyday to share our testimonies. The new star helped the shepherds and wise men find Jesus. Today, missionaries are "stars" helping others find Jesus. We are the light; lighting the way to Him. 

We are so thankful for our Savior, Jesus Christ, and His love for us. A love so unimaginable, that He 
would atone for our sins and make it possible for us to return to live with Heavenly Father. From the baby Jesus to the adult Jesus, the message is the same, Jesus Christ is "The Gift"!

We love you all and pray for you  a safe, and wonderful Christmas with those you love!
Elder and Sister Martin

Sunday, December 13, 2015

December 13, 2015

I had just finished my blog, and somehow it was all erased! It's too late to write it all again, so this will be a short version. 

Christmas has come to Auckland, and we found it on Franklin Street! Everyone decorates their homes here and it was fun bringing the Sisters. The downtown Skytower lights up in Christmas colors, making a festive backdrop. 

Sister Trull and Sister Nakibae are enjoying the lights of the season!

This is my favorite! I always wanted a surfing Santa, ever since John Glenn Elementary's "holiday" program featured a "Surfing Santa" theme! Notice that he is wearing sandals?

All the missionaries went to the temple this week. They get to go once a year, so Craig and I went to Hamilton the night before our day to go.  Like other temples, the NZ temple is decked out in beautiful lights. People come from all over to see it.

It was a highlight of our mission to be in the temple with the hard working, wonderful Elders and Sisters. We love the Spirit we felt with them! 

Since the next day was our p-day, we drove an extra mile south of Hamilton to Rotorua, a town on a lake with lots of geothermal hot spots. There are also hot springs, mud pools and lots of other exciting things to do there.  With our limited time, we took the cultural route and visited one of the Maori village shows and dinner. It was great and the food delicious. I loved the Pavlova the best, of course!

Craig was chosen as one of the Chiefs. Here, the warrior is making intimidating movements to them to determine if we are friends or foe. If he thinks we are foe, then they will kill and eat us! 
Here is the Maori chief looking out over the crowd. I think he's hoping he can eat us!

The Chiefs are learning the Haka. They are a little slow, but doing their best (for white guys).

This is a face only a mother could love! Thankfully, all the facial tatoos at this village are makeup! 

This couple are singing a love song. Afterwards we got to see the Haka. Sitting on the front row with the Chiefs, I was sure they would spit on me, because they get so worked up, but all was good!

We had a couple of hours on Saturday to look around the town and loved this rose garden!

Next to the rose garden is the Government Garden with lush grass, perfect for a game of croquet. This group is part of the Croquet Club and they play on Saturdays. In the background is a beautiful iconic building that used to be a famous bathhouse, but now houses a cafe and the Rotorua Museum. 

Craig got a try at swinging the mallot, but never did get that ball through the hoop. It must be harder that he thought! The ladies were very nice to invite us back to play with them sometime! 

Because it was cloudy/rainy, we had a poor view of the Rotorua lake, but it is a big part of the town landscape. 

There are about 18 lakes in the area, and this is one of three we had time to drive to. They were all beautiful and pristine. We had so little time to do much and will have to come back to Rotorua.

We made it back home in time for the ward Christmas party. They know how to do it right with this creative and classy stage provided by a member who is a truck driver. The evening started on "island time" (one hour late) and soon all the chairs were filled. There was singing, jokes, skits, great food and a fun dance. The DJ did a fabulous job keeping the tunes going and everyone hopping! 

Craig said it was the best Christmas party he has been too. It really was a good time by all!

Last week was spent mostly spreading some Christmas cheer with a message, treat and the video, 
"A Savior is Born". If you haven't seen it yet, do so on It's like a video Christmas card! 
We love our regular lessons with different members, and the temple was fantastic! 

We had a short companion study with our Zone Leaders, and Elder Martin got to give Elder Ward his "leaving the mission pep talk". He is bold and direct when he tells departing Elders and Sisters how they need to take advantage of all they have learned on their missions and to go home and DO THE HARD WORK! Take a hard major, hard classes, do more than they think they can, because they are not the same as they were before their missions. They need to invest in themselves and their future. 
This message is welcomed and hopefully, heeded! 

We hope you are enjoying December and leaving time to do some special events with your families, centered around Jesus Christ, and the true meaning of Christmas! Go caroling, volunteer, give service to a neighbor, have fun shopping, do some baking, enjoy your family! The month is half over already!

Happy birthday to our darling granddaughters, Lindsay and Lauren who are turning 16!!! this week!
We can't believe it? For their party, instead of gift-giving, their friends came over and they put together 100 breakfast and lunch snack sacks for the Ronald McDonald house for families staying there. Talk about a good service project! We are very proud of those two! 

Enjoy your week. We love you all and miss your association this time of year!
Elder and Sister Martin

Sunday, December 6, 2015

December 6, 2015

This spot is a newly built beach and walking trail right in the area we serve. It's in the Manukau Harbor, so theres no waves and the water laps up like a lake. It's a nice place to pop over to eat our lunch and take a quick walk after, before we get back to work. 

We downloaded this new video and have been going to member and even non-member homes to show it to whoever is home. We leave a plate of Christmas treats and this card with the web site, so they can share the video with others. We call it our "video Christmas card" and want to just spread the good word about what Christmas is all about. 

Heather turned 24 last week. She is our baby and even wth my "old eggs and worn out genes", she turned out pretty smart, accomplished, and darn cute! She brings joy to our family. 

At Christmas time, the "Easter Lily" is blooming everywhere in many yards!  Of course it is not called an Easter Lily here!

This is a not a great photo, but these are some darling women, and we enjoy our visits with them. Alice, on the right, is "Aunty" to these two sisters. One lives in Tahiti and the other, the Cook Islands. When they found out that Aunty Alice was in the hospital, they flew to her the next day! We love their stories of life on the islands and their many trips around the world. The middle sister, loves Costco and says they have the best hotdogs. She has connections for cheap flights and will fly to LA for a weekend just to shop! One time she shopped at Home Depot and shipped windows and other updated items for her Bora Bora (second home) island home! From Tahiti, they take a small power boat to their other home. When they want dinner, they pick from their garden and go fishing. Simple life! 

Gaelene had a tree-trimming party! Several friends, the two Sisters and us came to decorate, sing Christmas songs and eat good food! It was a fun evening. We aren't putting up a tree this year, and we have no space for a tree anyway. 

After quizzing lots of people, we have found that everyone celebrates Christmas different. Trees and gifts are not mandatory. Santa isn't a big deal like at home, and gifts come from the parents, not Santa. We have only seen outdoor lights on two houses. Indoor decorations are very simple or even non-existent. One thing everyone does, is get together with family and have lots of their favorite food. They might play games, take a nap, go to the beach, it's all about what you're used to doing. At church, we enjoy Christmas songs, and are even having a Caroling Party soon. We are looking forward to enjoying Christmas with wonderful people in our ward. 

Sister Nakibae and Sister Trull truly tied together and getting ready for Christmas. 

Elder Martin leading us in Christmas songs. 

We heard about this great market an hour away in a cool little town called Matakana, and got there early on our P-day, but still had trouble finding a parking spot! We went with another couple, and the men promptly left us to shop (with cash even) and they and found a local golf course to play nine holes. We all had a great time and so did they! Elder Martin is hooked on that golf course now! 

One of the popular things to do at this market is EAT! Everyone is eating something from all the different vendors. Sister Bath and I decided on crepes, and they were delish! Of course we got the chocolate banana with custard and cream! This is a natural, organic, gluten free, range free chicken, fresh, whatever, market, so it must all be healthy. No diet Cokes in sight! 

I saw some cute oriental ladies trying to eat something for lunch with a fork and spoon. 
They must only be used to chopsticks, because surprisingly, they didn't have a clue how to use those utensils. They were holding them together like chopsticks to maneuver their food to their mouth, instead of scooping or stabbing like we would do. Funny! 

I wouldn't normally find a toilet sign interesting, but since these kind of signs in the U.S. usually say "Restrooms", it is a little interesting, but moreso when you see how cool these public toilets are, in the photo below. 

These are probably the most photographed public toilets in NZ! We saw so many people taking pictures, myself included.  Another interesting thing about NZ public toilets is that they are most often clean and well -stocked with toilet paper. I don't cringe at the thought of using them, like I do at home, especially beach bathrooms! Also, the stall doors are attached with good locks, and there's a place to wash up, with soap even! 

After golf, shopping and lunch, we went to Omaha Beach, which was nearby. We visited this beach last month and loved it! A little nap on our beach towels, a walk along the water to find cool shells, and some time to relax and visit, made for a perfect ending to our day! 

Along the beach up in the dunes area, are several of these statues, all different. Maybe they are protecting the homes behind them, or just cool beach decoration, I don't know.

Back at the market, I just had to take these pictures because I've never seen orange hair or the purple/blue combination below. Just something different to share. I don't think I'll be doing the same. 

One thing I am realizing as the Christmas season unfolds, is that I am not stressed about time, I don't have a big list of things to do, places to go, or things to buy. I did some baking, got a few things mailed home last month, and we put together a little 12 Days of Christmas for the Sisters, but I've never had so few things on my mind during December. Each day we are concentrating on bringing a Christmas treat and message to different people, giving our Family Home Evening lessons, Gospel Principles lessons, doing some service, and just enjoying the message of Jesus Christ and the wonderful Gift that He is!!!  Why is that so hard to do when I am not a missionary? 

The Sisters asked me if we always do 12 Days of Christmas gifts for someone, and I said NO! I've wanted to, but never had the time, or taken the time! So I want to say to all of you reading this blog, to stop doing what you've been doing that makes you too busy to serve others and celebrate the true meaning of Christmas. Frantically decorating outside and inside EVERY room of your house, buying, and wrapping tons of gifts, buying and preparing tons of food, and falling into bed exhausted every night is nuts. Try to simplify and do less of the stuff, and spend more time enjoying your family, giving simple service to your neighbors, laughing, singing, praying and pondering the miracle and magnificence of Christ's love for us and the wonder of the events that lead to His birth, life and death. 
I am in awe daily of His love for me and our family. 

Enjoy your week, and merry joyful, happy and wonderful Christmas! 

Elder and Sister Martin