Today at church the NZ ladies were having a discussion about how blessed the USA is with technology, education, economy, and other things, and I told them that while my country is the Promised Land, New Zealand is Paradise! I said that in the USA, whenever someone mentions traveling to NZ for vacation, work, or to serve a mission like us, most people talk about how wonderful it is or how they've always wanted to go there. We feel very blessed to be here experiencing everyday life with the Islanders and, once a week, traveling around to see the sights.
Last Saturday we visited the downtown Auckland wharf and shopping area. Elder and Sister Sayer took us to a store to buy All Blacks logo wear. Craig bought a tie and we will have to go back for tee shirts for the kids before we come home. There are so many good things to eat here (like there is everywhere) but since food is so expensive, we aren't as tempted to indulge.
We visited a park/volcano called One Tree Hill, which at the top is a monument to the Moari people and to the man who donated the land for the park. It was sooo windy at the top, we didn't want to stay even to read the words on the monument, which I think were in the Moari language anyway. There used to be a tree at the top but it got vandalized and it's there no more. The park has lots of grazing sheep and some cattle and areas for picnicking and walking. It is a landmark for Auckland and a popular place in good weather.
One Tree Hill memorial
The largest oak tree I've ever seen with tons of acorns on the ground and no squirrels in sight.
Right now, till we get to know more people, our schedule is a little relaxed. We are using a list and visiting people in our Ward who haven't been to church for awhile, to chat and see if there is anything we can do for them. We have been welcomed at every home and have had success at seeing some back to church already. We struggle some with the Island word pronunciation and names because they say them quickly, but if they spell them for me, I get them better.
Our typical day is to wake around 7, walk for an hour at the park, eat, dress, study/read our scriptures, do any shopping (our frig is so small, we have to shop more often), then do visits all afternoon. Have dinner and visits in the evening until about 8. We work with the Sister missionaries closely and they are amazingly hard workers! We love learning from them!
We have had so many spiritual experiences already with humble, loving families trying hard to be committed and obedient to the Gospel of Jesus Christ because they know that is the way for them to be happy and have peace in their homes. One young man happily welcomed us into his home and said he had not been to church in 2 1/2 years and was ready to come back. He struggles with smoking and has been so unhappy. He radiates, though, when we teach him what he's been missing. Another sweet family paid their tithing and bills and had just $20 left for food for the week. They had been obedient and every day someone came over with some food item for them and they didn't even have to spend the $20!
The simple message is that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ know who we are and are waiting to answer our prayers if we but ask with a sincere heart and with faith.
"Ask, and it shall be given you; seek and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: (8) For everyone that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened." (Matthew 7:7-8). I know this to be true and I'm so thankful for prayer!