Sunday, May 31, 2015

May 31, 2015

One of the highlights of our week was attending a missionary conference yesterday with Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve. The Auckland and Hamilton missionaries attended, making it a large audience. The best was the location, just down the street from our apartment, at a chapel on the Auckland MTC property. We could've walked if we didn't need to bring the Sisters. 

Before the meeting began Elder Cook and President Gifford Neilson shook all 300+ hands of each missionary. 
In his remarks,, Elder Cook told us that missionaries are "ward and branch builders, not the marketing arm of the church" and we "succeed when we INVITE, no matter what the outcome".
Sister Mary Cook spoke and reminded us "You are your very first convert".
President Coward, an Area 70, said, "Your heart has to grow while you serve. In all your doing, are you becoming disciples of the Lord, FOR THE REST OF YOUR LiVES"?
David J. Thompson, another Area 70, quoted Joseph Smith as saying, "When the Lord commands, do it." And then he said, "Let us always be that person who is willing to step forward."

Craig is loving immersing himself in the scriptures, especially using the new IPad he got for his birthday to cross-reference. It's like rediscovering candy again. I am in charge of the scheduling, making phone calls and texting on my "primitive" phone, along with the normal domestic chores, so Craig can get in all his study time. He does do the vacuuming though, which I'm happy about. I just finished the Book of Mormon and yes, loved it even more, and I'm ready to read it again! I love that President Monson said simply, "If you haven't read the Book of Mormon (or if you aren't reading it), READ IT!"

Every other week we attend Family Home Evening with the other 18+ senior couples who live in the city of Auckland. It is held at the Area Office in Takapuna, which is about a 40 min. drive in traffic. We all take turns as couples planning the lesson and hosting dinner. It's fun to get to know each other and learn about all the different assignments the Seniors are doing. Two couples arrived last weekend, one from Utah and one from Wyoming.  New Zealand was only a stopover because they soon left for Fiji and Samoa. Their assignments were to work in the high schools helping students move on to further their education, which is a huge need here as well as all over the pacific area. 

Service project #2 was last week at the home of Dollie, an older, very fun Chinese widow. We painted the railing on her back deck. Sister Palu and Sister Gila helped, as well as Brother and Sister Keung, who know Dollie and set it all up. 

Dollie isn't a member, but we hope to see her again at the Keungs home. She rewarded us with a dinner of Chow Mein and Din Sum, that she made afterwards. She was very appreciative of the great job we did. 

Today we gave talks in church for Missionary Sacrament Meeting, which I hear is every 3rd Sunday. (Maybe we will be speaking every 3rd Sunday!). Us and the Sisters had 5 minutes to talk. My talk actually was 5 minutes, which may surprise you, but do you think Craig's was? Five minutes is a tough amount of time for him to keep to (and he went over). I was worried we might have to tug his suit coat.  It was also homecoming for a darling girl who just finished her mission to Hawaii, so we needed to give her most of the time. 

I downloaded "Meet the Mormons" on my IPad and we show segments of it all the time with our lessons in people's homes. If you haven't seen it (or have only seen it once) rent or buy it and WATCH IT! Show it to your friends and neighbors!  Each segment is entertaining and has a powerful message that touches people's hearts. We showed the last segment about the missionary mom to a woman (with a son on a mission) and her male partner (common word and situation here for a live-in companion), and they were both so emotional, wiping away tears. They wanted us to return to do a FHE with their family. 

The Gospel of Jesus Christ changes lives, and I'm finally doing what I should've been doing all my adult life, but I made excuses, was too busy, and too uncomfortable. I'm ashamed to think of how much more I could've done to lift my neighbor, with not that much effort. Missions change lives too!

Here is paragraph 3 of the missionary pledge:
"My pace is set, my gait is fast, my goal is Heaven. My road is narrow, the way is rough, my mission is clear.  I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, divided, or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of the adversary, negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity."

We love you all, and thank you for your prayers!
Elder and Sister Martin

Sunday, May 24, 2015

May 25, 2015

We have been on our mission for two months already and time is going by fast! This week especially flew by. Because our assignment here is Member/Leadership, we do a variety of things during the week. Here are some of those things:
** We started helping an older man learn to read. We don't know much about teaching reading, but we downloaded a great program on our iPad and he is really catching on. The only downside is that the program uses American prounouciation and they speak with an English accent here. He is still doing good, and we are having him read the Book of Mormon with us everyday too. We know learning to read will change his life.

** a less active sister we visit, who is in poor health, wanted a blessing so Craig and another member gave her a blessing.

** we were introduced to a Chinese Kiwi widow, who needs some help painting rails and spindles on her deck, so we went to see if it could be a service project. She's not a member, but is so nice and she served us some homemade Chinese dumplings. They were so good. We will do that project this week with the Sisters, and I think we get some lunch too! Totally worth it!

 ** we attended the transfer meeting to drive some Sisters to their new areas. At the meeting, President Bali was so inspiring, telling the Elders and Sisters not to take for granted the miracle and power of the Atonement. That once they truly grasp it's meaning, they won't mind getting up at 6 am every morning and will be anxious to get out of their flats to find people to teach this marvelous message to!

** Friday, I taught how to make Taco Soup at Relief Society. The theme was budgeting and this soup is good for the budget. The women loved its Mexican flavor with sour cream, cheese and chips on top. 

** we had many great visits in members homes and shared spiritual messages. It's good to meet them in their homes and put names to faces. There is a large wonderful family established here with several brothers and a sister and their children. I find it hard to tell the brothers apart and remember which children go to which house. 

We said goodbye to Sister Bonilla (on the right) from Perth, Australia this week. We get so attached to the Sisters and she is our first one to go home. We are happy Sister Palu is still here. She is from Sydney, Australia. These wonderful young women are spiritual giants, and when they teach the gospel, we can feel angels surrounding us. Their testimonies of Jesus Christ are solid and pure and they have hearts of gold. They are out and about, rain or shine, meeting, teaching, and praying with people. We love them and will miss Sister Bonilla. That tree behind the Sisters grows in the Mangare village and someone crocheted and knitted a patchwork "blanket" for the trunk. Quite bizarre. 

Our new Sister Gila is from the island Vanuatu.  She has a sweet, spunky personality and is rock solid in the gospel too. We will love working with both of these great Sisters!

The highlight of the week was our visit with Jericho. He is a Methodist, but he likes to talk to us. He is a divorced dad of three young children and his wife left him and the kids five years ago. He lost his home, and had to quit his job to take care of the baby while the other two children went to school. They lived in a homeless shelter till he could get on his feet again. Now he has a humble home, a car and his own lawn business. He only cares about his kids. He won't marry because he doesn't want anyone "messing" with his kids. They have family prayer morning and night, and he knows God will provide for his needs when he comes up short. When we came for a visit, the children were in bed, the house was tidy, and he served us cake and juice. He had no money for that, but he made it so special for us. We talked about family and prayer, and we offered to come again with a Family Home Evening lesson and treats. He seemed happy about that and we left with a prayer. Driving home I could not speak, I was feeling so humbled by the message we had learned from Jericho that night about humility, sacrifice, and faith in God. 

On a lighter note, P-day brought lots of rain, so I googled "what to do in Auckland on a rainy day", and it said to visit the Natural History and War Memorial Museum, which we did, and so did tons of other people. We spent about 3 hours and learned all about the Maori culture, New Zealand plants and animals, including extinct ones, and about the Kiwi contributions to the Boar Wars, WWI and WWII, and much more. We left our apartment from our underground garage and parked in the underground garage at the museum. Three hours later we drove to the underground garage of the grocery store, got what we needed and drove back to our underground garage. We never felt a drop of the all-day downpour. Below are some photos from the Moari section of the museum, which was the most interesting. 

This is the back of a storage building used for storing food and precious items of the Moari Chiefs. Lots of intricate carvings. 

This a reconstructed actual Moari meeting house or Marae. I couldn't get get these people to leave so I could take a picture, but the walls are intricate woven mats with carved posts in between. The gates are to keep people out of an area that restoration work is being done. Out of respect, shoes are removed before entering. Different towns still have these Maraes today, but they aren't near this detailed. 

This is the front end of a Waka, or giant canoe used for traveling between islands. This one held 140 men. They were hollowed out and carved with stone tools from giant Kauri trees. The picture below is the tail end of the Waka. It's hard to see how big it is. There are intricate carvings all along the each side and on the ends.  Even the water balers and oars had detailed carvings. 

These are decorative, flat wooden clubs once used by the Moari in hand to hand combat to split heads open. Then they took those they killed and had a cannibal feast!

Missionary Pledge, paragraph two:
"My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, my future is secure. I am finished and done with low living, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, and warped goals. I no longer need pre-eminence, positions, promotions, plaudits, or popularity. I don't have to be right, first, recognized, praised, regarded, or rewarded.  I now live in faith, lean in His presence, walk with patience, am uplifted by prayer, and labor with power." 

I am so thankful to be on the Lord's side, one of His soldiers, thankful to be a missionary! 
Have a good week dear family and friends! 

This is a giant 12 foot Moa, which is now extinct because the Moari ate them all. They resembled the ostrich, and with their size, provided a great feast!

Monday, May 18, 2015

May 18, 2015

America, don't be frustrated with your cable company, because at least it isn't Vodophone, which is what we have here. We might get our faster, unlimited wifi back on in 3 weeks, and hope they will credit us, but in the meantime, we have to buy limited wifi again from the office downstairs. We shouldn't complain about their price, that we get kicked off all the time, or that it's slow as tar. We should be happy we have SOMETHING, which I am. 

We start out each day with a fast 3-4 miles around the nearby park. It makes us happy to get a good walk and we're thankful we have this park so close and not have to traverse the city streets. I started noticing all the different kinds of mushrooms around the trees and have found about 10 different kinds. This one is my favorite. 

This is the baby version of the one below. Isn't it the cutest little mushroom ever?

I'm amazed how it grows out large and flat and turns orange. 

We brought a few games with us and are slowly teaching them to a few members. They are Wizard, Rook, 5 Crowns, and Hand and Foot. Craig has also made quite a hit with his card tricks. Games are a great way to get to know people and have some fun. We play short games like Spoons and Party Pictionary when we do Family Home Evenings, and the kids love it! 

The people here love to feed the missionaries! We have eaten at a few homes and all have been good meals. We've had burgers, drumsticks, good vegetables, pork, leg of lamb and fish heads. The fish heads are a delicacy with some islanders. We don't want to gross you out, but know that the texture and technique of eating fish heads was not appealing. Our hostess didn't seem to mind because that was more for her, because she LOVED THEM! She fixed us other food that we did like!

People are so welcoming and they really do want to listen to our message and they have lots of questions. It's amazing to me that we can visit with them with all their chaos and have good visits. Some homes we drive up to I think, ok, this is scarey, but when we are talking to the people, they are so nice and I forget what I thought. Some are never going to be different, but we are doing what we can. 

Last Saturday, from downtown Auckland,  we took the ferry for a 40 min. ride to Maiheke Island with another Senior couple and had a wonderful time. The weather was sunny and perfect! We rented a car and drove around the island stopping at some vistas and some beaches. We had really good fish and chips for lunch. Below are some pictures.

 is the Maiheke Harbor. There are a few giant homes on the hillsides. The drive around the island is about 90 minutes.

There's a few vineyards on the island. It Is winter, so the vines aren't producing now.

People keep their boats out in the bay. We saw a sea plane fly and land, then dock on the beach. After a little while it flew off. We found some nice shells on this beach. I'm hoping my souvenirs will be a cool variety of shells.

A view of downtown Auckland from the ferry as we entered the harbor after a fun day. I would like to go back when it's summer! Now I need to find a great place we can go next week. I'm wearing Craig out! 

Here is the beginning of a missionary pledge. I will add another part each week:
" I AM PART OF THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE UNASHAMED. The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made.  I am a disciple of Jesus Christ. I won't look back, let up, slow down, or be still." 

We will get better in our missionary efforts each week as we meet more people and gain their trust. As we bring the Holy Ghost into their homes and their lives. As we testify of Jesus Christ and His love for them. Many people's circumstances seem impossible to change, but we won't give up on them. Our job is not to give up on them!

We love you!
Elder and Sister Martin

PS - These are some fun pictures of a party of about 20 on the ferry heading to the island for the weekend, all dressed in 60's costumes. They were celebrating the woman's 50th birthday! They were a fun group and what a great theme for their celebration!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

May 10, 2015

Happy Mother's Day moms, aunts, sisters, daughters and friends! We are a day ahead of you in the States so I already enjoyed a lovely day with a celebration of moms at church. Mothers Day is a big event here with bouquets for sale everywhere, candy and perfume. I'm so happy I won't have to endure the usual Mothers day/Christmas/Valentines Day Pajama or giant teddy bear commercials on TV. Two generous families think I need to fatten up because they each gave me a box of Cadbury chocolates.  Craig wants me to give them away, but I can eat one or two (or three) a day and enjoy them for a long while. 

We visited two lovely ladies in two different rest homes this week. Both were in their 80's and had many children. When we asked if we could visit them often, their eyes lit up and said "would you please". One of them, we found out, only gets visits from their kids if they need something. I don't know what that could be because they don't have anything. I know it's the same story for elderly at home, and I have been guilty of neglecting my mom at times, but please try to visit the elderly and not assume their children are filling their time.

We were introduced to The Strawberry Farm, which is going to be the death of us! They sell produce grown on their farm AND they have luscious ice cream cones! They take two scoops of vanilla ice cream and you have your choice of strawberry, blueberry or mixed berries. They put whatever you choose in this special mixer with the ice cream, pulverize it and pour it into a waffle cone and it is heaven! I love the mixed berry. Thankfully, they close mid June til August for winter. Tons of people come there. Also I discovered that cilantro is called coriander here. I couldn't find it, but then I saw it here with that name! 

More about food. We invited a man to dinner at our place that we meet with and he is coming back to church. He's from the Cook Islands and is a big guy and I fixed him fajitas, a beans/rice dish and chips and guacamole. Mexican was a first for him and he was licking the bowls clean. Please someone come here and open a good Mexican restaurant!  With him in our tiny apartment, there was room for no one else. Also we ate dinner at two homes this week. One place we had burgers and really good potatoes. They eat beets on burgers and sandwiches here in case you love beets and want to try it.  The other home we had Butter Chicken, which is an island recipe.  We tried our first taro ( an island staple, like potatoes), which wasn't our favorite, so we ate it with rice. So nice and generous of these people to invite us. 

We visited a woman who had not been to church in a long time and at first got a chilly reception on her porch. After a very short chat, before leaving, I commented about a beautiful plant on her porch that resembled an agave, and that opened her up for a very nice visit. Surprisingly, she said we could come back. Finding common ground in a non-threatening way, breaks down barriers and leads to relationships. We'll see.

Instead of our P-day, we joined in a service project out on the bay at Ambury Park. We were restoring a bird habitat for the Dotterill, which is native to that teeny, tiny island and was losing it's nesting area from years of erosion. Men, teens and women from church, armed with shovels, rakes and wheelbarrows shoveled tons of crushed shells back on the island for the little birds. Many women were like shoveling machines, keeping the men with the wheelbarrows going as the old ladies raked the shells out evenly over the ground. We saved the park $20,000 by not having to hire a tractor to do it. 

The people in the background are shoveling the bank of crushed shells into the wheelbarrows and I'm raking the shells. It's dark colored because it's wet and will dry out white like the other. 

Afterwards we had a bbq of sausages and onions in a bun provided by the park staff. These are the Sister Missionaries we work closely with. They are darling and we  love them. Both are from Australia. 

If any of our senior friends are thinking of serving a mission for the church and want to come to New Zealand, we can get you requested because they need more of Seniors here.

"There is the sin of omission, the sin of commission and the sin of no-mission."

10 reasons to serve a Senior mission:
   1. Its good for your health.
   2. It pushes you out of nest.
   3. You can be a small pebble in the Rolling stone.  D&C 65:2
   4. It exercises your mind and delays dementia.
   5. It's a faith booster.
   6. It's a blessing to your family.
   7. Your grandchildren will think you're greater than you are. 
   8. You'll be on the fast tract to celestial kingdom.
   9. You get to drive the IRS crazy with Legit deductions.
  10. You'll be showing your gratitude to a Father who gives us all. 

#10 is my favorite reason because we have been and still are so blessed, and serving full-time is a great way to show truly how thankful we are. 

We love and miss you all!
Elder and Sister Martin

Sunday, May 3, 2015

May 3, 2015

This week we met a man named Jericho, who belongs to another church, but he asked the Sister missionaries to his home to learn about our church, so we went too. His wife left the marriage 5 years ago and took EVERTHING, but she couldn't have their three young children. He was now homeless and quit his job so he could care for them and the youngest child is autistic. He reached out for help and eventually rented a home, bought a car, and owns a lawn care business. It was a delight to sit at his damaged table, in a sparsely furnished, humble home and hear him talk about his faith in God and the power of prayer! He knows everything he has is a blessing! We hope to see him again this week. We have much to learn from him!

We never know what we will find when we knock on the door the first time of someone who hasn't been to church in a while. It is always wonderful when the door is opened by someone happy to see us. That is how we met Maria. She is so pleasant, but more than that, she is a saint.  When her mother died she took the responsibility of caring for her 48 year old handicapped brother that she bathes, dresses and feeds. She would never think of placing him in a home. We hope to visit her often and invite her to come back to church. Whatever happens, she is a joyful giver and God is blessing that home, and we also have much to learn from her. 

On a more worldly note, we finally moved into our permanent apartment in the same building, but on the 11th floor. It is the same design and size as the other, but has a nice view of the east and south parts of the city and a wonderful breeze. Our other view on the 2nd floor was the west and north roofs of the parking garages. We bought our own bedding and giant-sized towels AND we now have a decent sofa! Because mold is a problem in NZ, we have a heated towel rack that dries and and warms our bath towels. Never seen that before. We also scored with a better parking space underground.

Its not fancy, but it's perfect for us! 

We actually serve our time in a place 10 miles north/west of Manukau, called Mangare and it has a few interesting places we took the Senior couples to on Saturday for P-day. The first was Ambury Regional Park, where we walked on a trail along Mangare Bay through fields of sheep, cows, Clydesdale horses, pens of bunnies, and roaming chickens. It was lovely but we had to watch our step from all the sheep poop. The rest of the park is for camping, picnicking and BBQing. 

There was a Blue Heeler herding the sheep. Their bleating was all different pitches and we even heard a funny falsetto bleat. 

Our next stop was Mangare Mountain, which is more like a mound, but was a volcano that blew 18,000 years ago and was once home to a Moari tribe. It provided a perfect lookout for other marauding tribes coming to pillage and enslave them (and eat them at a cannibal feast). There is a winding trail to the top and it is a popular hike and piece of history. 

View of the bay from the top of Mangare Mountain. 

Down below was inside the volcano. It's hard to get a clear perspective, but it is a lovely place. After all our walking, we were ready for food so we drove a mile to the little Mangare Village to a yummy cafe we like to eat at. They serve a variety, burgers, pasta, and steak, but I like the curry dishes and Hokey-Pokey ice cream! 

We are thankful to be able to communicate with our kids and loved ones through What's App, Facebook, Skype, emails and this blog. We can stay connected and it doesn't seem like we are far away. We are thankful for Wifi!! We don't get any informative news on TV here, but I'm ok with that. 

I want to end with this great quote from Elder Dale G. Rebound from the April 2015 General Conference. It is great! 
"My invitation to all of us is to evaluate our lives, repent, and keep on trying. If we don't try, we're just latter-day sinners; if we don't persevere, we're latter-day quitters; and if we don't allow others to try, we're just latter-day hypocrites. As we try, persevere, and help others to do the same, we are true Latter-day Saints. As we change, we will find that God indeed cares a lot more about who we are and about who we are becoming, than about who we once were."

May we lift ourselves and others by doing all we can, and then leaving the rest up to The Lord!
Love You!!!!!