Sunday, June 28, 2015

June 28, 2015

You're probably wondering the same as us how this month has flown by so fast! It's the end of June and we are already through 1/6 th of our mission!

I think Craig is happy to stay close to the apartment doing errands on our P-day, but come Friday night, I'm studying maps and googling cool places to visit, anticipating a day of exploration. Saturday found us only an hour northwest of Auckland at Wuriwai Beach. Knowing that the weather might not be too good, we dressed right and had a wonderful time. It was windy and cloudy, but soon the sun broke through. We weren't alone there. Lots of people walking dogs, and about 30 wind surfers out in the water (you might be able to see one behind me in the above picture). If they can brave the water, we can enjoy walking on the sand. 
We thought this would be fun to try, until we saw him blow completely over. He up righted, fiddled with it some and then drove on. 

                                            Craig takes a breather from our walk. This ground looks like mud, but it's black sand. The west coast of NZ has black sand, while the east coast has the lighter colored sand. Behind this mound of sand we were surprised to see a nice golf course packed with golfers. I told Craig that come Spring, he can drop me off at this beach and then golf 18 holes right there. I will be happy and so will he. 

                                          Looking out at the wild and windy Tasman Sea from the nearby beautiful cliffs. On the far left are the dotted remains of last spring's Gannet colony nests. These birds come by the thousands from Australia to lay on their one egg on these cliffs. We will come back to see them in September.

We had a great week finally being able to visit with some members we had been trying to see. One couple with grown children, we were so happy to see at church and their home.  Their son is visiting from Australia. It turns out that this son took leave of his job and is here for three months so he can buy a home for his wife that they won't even live in. Because of home purchasing laws in NZ, you have to work and live here 3 months to get a loan for a home, so he is here to work and buy this home, then go back to Australia. They always wanted this house and it's now available, so he's come to buy it. 

Another great visit was to a woman and her 18 year old daughter. We gave them a short lesson about the influence of Holy Ghost. She got a little teary and opened up about how she had a calling and thought she wasn't getting support from members, so she quit her calling and quit coming to church. We invited them to church and to sit with us, and they came, and sat with us on the first row! It was a perfect meeting, because the daughter is wanting to serve a mission when she is 19, and a newly returned Sister missionary spoke and gave a wonderful testimony about her mission. We are going back to see them this week to do a FHE. 

We were lucky to catch up with another sister who we knew was soon moving two hours away. It turns out she needs help loading up her van in two weeks. She is so greatful we are able to organize some men to help her move. I'm not sure she would've asked anyone to help her or what she would've done if we had not stopped by. She has only lived here one year and has no family near. 

I heard this quote on a video that I love, " Let us be the answers to other people's prayers."

I have to say that we love, love visiting with members in their homes! The spirit of love is there, the children are so mannerly and happy to see us (old folks), but they feed us too much. Fry bead, homemade donuts, coconut buns, sweet bread, and Pizza Hut pizza. Friday we had a game night with a wonderful family and the kids were so happy to learn Spoons and Farkle. At the end of the evening before a prayer, the children sang "A Child's Prayer" and one at a time thanked us for coming to teach them games. Their ages were from 6 to 14 and it was the sweetest thing ever!

We had Family Home Evening at the University of Auckland Institute building with the other Seniors and Craig found a competitative opponent in one of the students there.  It was a close win for Craig, but he said this guy is a better player than he is. 

I'm sorry this photo is blurry, but I was so excited watching this informal Haka performed by some Institute students, I must not have been able to hold my phone still. The women and men were amazing and tried not to spit on us, because we were sitting so close to them. 

This is a great book we bought that is teaching us about the Moari culture, their early church leaders, and the influence of the early missionaries and the church in NZ. There were many prophesies from Moari Chiefs in the 1800's that came true, which greatly influenced so many to embrace the gospel.
In 1883, many Moari from the Wellington area had joined the church, but when the missionaries taught them the Word of Wisdom, about no drinking tea and coffee or alcohol, and no smoking, they all left, except the most faithful. 

I could go on and on, although this post is already too long, but we hope you know how much we love this opportunity to serve a mission. We are trying to make the most of each day we have here. I'm in charge of our daily calendar and it's a big job keeping it full. We are so blessed and feel your love and support. We love our Savior and know we are doing His work. 

I will leave you with this scripture from Romans 8:35,37-39,
"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness or peril, or sword?
Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.
For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, 
Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Sunday, June 21, 2015

June 21, 2015

                                            Happy Father's Day to this wonderful husband of mine. Once a year he deserves the breakfast he loves, eggs, potatoes, and ham. Since we are a day ahead, he will Skype with the kids on our Monday, but their actual Father's Day. He won't be getting his favorite gift from the them - golfballs, but because he's a man who has everything, he's pretty happy hearing from them and a kiss and hugs from me! 

                                             New Zealand is known as "the land of the long white cloud", but I would add that it is the land of rainbows too! Most every day I see rainbows. It is also rare to see the sky without clouds. They roll over the land, blocking the sun and most times dropping showers, then move on across the ocean to Australia, I guess. 

The Sister missionaries in our Ward do not have a car and the shoppes are too far to walk, so we spend some time on Mondays taking them for their once-a-week food shop. I use that time to do some shopping myself, but this week we took a little detour with them to this beautiful park called One Tree Hill. We had been there, but they had not, so it was a nice diversion on their P-day! I posted a picture of this amazing fig tree back in April.
                                             Poor Sister Gila (right) had to have two back molars pulled today. Root canals were out of the question because of the price.

Have you ever had Milo? It is very popular here and wherever we go, they offer us some hot Milo. It is similar to hot chocolate, but I like it better. It still needs sugar and a few marshmallows on top, but I don't get an upset stomach after, like I do with hot chocolate. 

                                              We visited a sister who we love her passion, commitment and faith. She brought out her "treasure" to show us and it was a bundle of over 2000 completed Temple names she'd been working on for the last 6 years, since her husband died! She cried as she talked about her deceased family members, since she was the only one in her family who joined the church (40 years ago).  She was a generous hostess, serving us Milo and cookies (biscuits), and insisting we take this Milo tin home with us. 

             We have great fun playing Wizard and Farkle with members. We even found a family that has Settlers and we want to go back to play it with them.  

We were served a nice lunch of sandwiches and fruit by a sweet lady who gave us FISH HEADS last time. We were relieved and enjoyed a spiritual message with her. I've been making treats to take to our FHE nights and made my first batch of Rice Krispy Treats. They weren't too good. Marshmallows are considered candy here and I've only found white and pink colored ones packaged together, so the treats become pink. 

                I could use the white marshmallows only, but then what would I do with all the pink ones? We'll see how everyone likes them. It's a U.S. only treat. 

This is hilarious! We visit a really sweet woman in a nursing home. This is a nice place, not like what I've been to at home. We visit her in the main room and there are a few women sitting around "watching" television. There is also a man sleeping in a recliner. No one seems too alert. Frequently the sleeping man wakes up and starts moaning loudly. No one pays attention. Then suddenly after he starts moaning again a woman next to him yells, "Oh why don't you just shut up! I'm sick of hearing you!" He anwers back, "You shut up!" Then she shouts back for him to shut up, and they go back and forth like little kids until someone intervenes. A woman sitting next to Betty is disgusted with the whole thing and says, "They should just be thankful they have a nice place to live with food and good care!" I was just amazed that seemingly comatose people woke up!

It rained and rained on Saturday, so we didn't plan any outings, but I got to spend the day weaving another basket. Of course it isn't finished, but again, Gaelene was so generous to spend her day off helping me do this. Craig was sweet and did a few odd jobs for Gaelene before going home to watch Hugh Nibley lectures on the Internet that he's hooked on. 

We were asked to speak in a different Ward (in another Stake) on Sunday for their Missionary Sunday. Craig's message was about how the Lord prepares people to hear the Gospel. One example he gave is from a book we bought about the early Moari church converts and leaders in New Zealand. If you haven't heard this it is amazing because there are at least 3 or more different prophesies given by different Moari Chiefs, in 1830, 1845, and 1860 regarding where they could find a church to follow the true God. The 1830 and 1845 prophesies said the church would come from the east, and the ministers would raise both arms up when they prayed. The 1860 prophesy said this too, and added that the ministers would not be paid in money and they would come two by two. They would live, eat, talk and sleep with the Moari and they would write names for genealogical records. These Chiefs told their people to watch for these ministers and join their church when they came. Thirty years after LDS missionaries first came to NZ, in 1884 some Mormon missionaries arrived at this Moari area and after a service, one Elder said a prayer with both arms raised in the air. This was the sign the people were looking for and large numbers joined the church. There was another prophesy in 1881 saying when the missionaries prayed they would raise their right hands. 

Of course we have become very interested in the history of the Church in New Zealand. I am so thankful for my ancestors and the courage they had to join the Church with all the opposition from their families, and leaving everything to settle in Salt Lake City over 100 years ago. I am a product of their faithfulness in raising their children in the Church, and so are my children. We have been so richly blessed! Thank you for all your faith and prayers on our behalf and for all the missionaries all over the world! The stone is rolling forward! 

Love you all,
Elder and Sister Martin

         Gaelene made me these roses made from flax. I want to make some of these too!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

June 14, 2015

We had a special early morning hike and testimony meeting on top of Mangare Mountain last week with our Zone. As you can see we all wore missionary attire for the hike, and if you saw my shoes, you would see mud, and bits of cow poo from the trail. It was impossible to avoid cow pies completely. In the picture behind us is the area we work everyday, with the bay at low tide. It is lovely and we are so blessed to be here.

This is our Zone, minus three Elders cut off the picture. We are so impressed by the spiritual maturity and commitment to the work these Elders and Sisters have. They are from Brazil, England, the U.S., Australia, Samoa, Vanuatu, and other places, and are all 20 and younger! Elder Martin told them about how his own mission 50 years ago shaped his testimony and character for the rest of his life, and their mission can do the same.

We also had our first Zone Conference last week. It was a spiritual feast reminding us that as missionaries, we need to acquire the four "loves": love our companion, love the people, love the Mission President, and love the Lord. We especially liked the part where they talked about bicycle and driving safety, and gave demonstrations of cleaning products and how to use them. Apparently, as wonderful as these young people are, many do not know how to clean. There are problems with fleas, bed bugs, cockroaches and mold that they have to attack. That stuff they don't write home about. 

We had some great Family Home Evenings last week. One home the mom has a Partner, but she comes to church every week! For our FHE she had her children there (one is on a mission). She had also invited her mom, and 3 cousins.  We had a great time and she made the best apple crumble ever! 

Another lesson was at the home of the single dad who is a Methodist. We talked about families being together forever and he loved our message. We showed him the Mormon Messages video called "A Father Indeed", which is fabulous, and could be his story. We hope to do a FHE visit there once a month. Take the time to watch those church videos. They are powerful!

We are so amazed at how strong the youth are in this ward. Even from troubled families we see good kids, and they are at church even without their parents! One home we would be happy to teach just the children and send the parents away.  They are so eager for the gospel and love to read the scriptures, while the parents are nagging at them the whole time to be good, are gloomy and barely show an interest. 

Here is my finished Kete, woven from native flax. It has many flaws, but I'm pretty happy with it, although I can't take all the credit because it would be in the garbage without the help from Gaelene, my teacher. She loves to make these, so I hope to continue learning. This is a good activity while Craig is golfing. Also since Gaelene is single, Craig is doing some handyman jobs to help her out.

It was going to be good weather so Craig and I decided to travel 3 hours north for an overnight trip to the Bay of Islands. We heard it was a "must see" place and we were not disappointed. Along the way we stopped at a few beaches and then spent the night in the town called Russell, on the Bay of Islands. It was the first permanent European settlement in the early 1800's and developed because of trade and whaling. It was known as "the hell-hole of the Pacific" because of no enforced laws and the rough nature of the sailors who came there. 

The Bay of Islands is a natural harbor and contains 144 islands with numerous peninsulas and inlets. I couldn't get a great photo of the whole bay and islands, but if you google it, I'm sure you will see gorgeous pictures. 

There are lovely homes along the beach of every size, and then we saw this primitive spot with a small Bach (batch) on the right, a canopy for the table, and a trailer tucked back on the left under a canopy. Not much luxury, but functional.

Here is the ghetto trailer park with about ten of these in various conditions lined up along the road in permanent spots. We were amazed, but hey, it's a prime location and some people are ok with staying there. Maybe they rent for big bucks too! 

This is another giant fig tree planted 150 years ago along the Russell harbor.  People and car ferries shuttle across the bay from Paihia, which is on the mainland, to Russell. 

We drove across the country to the western side, which only took about an 1 1/2 hours, and this is the road through the Waipoua Kauri Forest, which is like a rain forest of dense tree ferns, palms, and trees. We wanted to see the Kauri trees, which are similar to our redwoods in age and size. 

This is Tane Mahuta, a 2000 year old kauri. A person would look tiny next to its trunk.

 It was a weekend of driving, but we saw a lot of countryside and know where we want to go back to spent more time. We are saving a drive up to the tippy top of NZ for next time. We saw how most of the population is in Auckland, and few reside in the smaller coastal towns and inland farm towns. There is so much grazing land with cows, horses, pigs, goats, sheep and llamas. We saw wild turkey too. There are no scary wild animals in NZ to worry about, and no little critters like squirrels, possum or raccoons to run over. Also, no deer to dart in front of your car. There are lots of birds around that make a lot of noise. 

People say that the South Island is so different than here on the North Island, but we won't get there until after our mission. We ARE focusing on our prime purpose for being here, but appreciate a little diversion every couple of weeks. We love the strong spirit of love and generosity here and the find great joy in the work. 

Here is the last of the Missionary Pledge I've been quoting (author anonymous):
"I will not give up, let up, or shut up, until I have stayed up, stored up, and paid up for the cause of Christ.  I must go until He comes, give until I drop, preach until all know, and work until He stops me.  And when He returns for His own, He will have no problem recognizing me. My banner will be clear!"  

Elder Martin and I are a little slower at this work than the younger missionaries, but the message is the same, as well as a lot of the results.  We pray Jesus Christ accepts our offering! 

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

Sunday, June 7, 2015

June 7, 2015

The New Zealand Temple in Hamilton on a rainy day. The temple sits on a hill overlooking green, grassy fields just outside the city. The flag pole on the left has a New Zealand flag at half-mast to honor Elder L. Tom Perry's passing. I kind of look like a black shadow here in front of the temple. 
We cleared our calendar on Wednesday and went to the temple, which is 90 min. south of Auckland. It's out of our mission, but Pres. Balli gave us his blessing. We hope to go every two months. It is a small temple, the first built in this part of the world and dedicated in 1958, with the same size and design as the Swiss Temple. In a year or so they will close it for a major two-year remodel. We had a great day, rain and all.

Craig is carrying my red bag, not his!                    

On of our favorite and successful things we do with the members, active and not, is come to their homes for Family Home Evening. They don't know what to expect from the "old" missionaries, but after the hour we are there, they realize that Craig and I are the "fun" missionaries! We do a spiritual message, a game and Craig wows them with his card tricks. We've been teaching lessons about the promises and blessings of observing the Sabbath Day and of attending church. The game we've been playing lately is charades, using Old Testiment prophets. The kids love it!

Another great family we had FHE with has lots of children, and we had a great time there even with a little chaos. The dad made us fry bread with jam and it was delish. Sometimes we make an appointment, and the husband forgets about it and doesn't tell his wife. Then there is a surprised look when they answer the door, but most times we are still invited inside and have a good time. 

Meeting people in their homes helps us put faces to names, and children to parents. The children treat us very respectfully, and can also see that we teach the Gospel in a fun way! We are building relationships, showing an example, and they have great trust in us! 

Sometimes in the afternoon, if Craig makes a wrong turn, we end up at The Strawberry farm and have to get an ice cream cone! I know I mentioned this before, but here is the picture! Vanilla ice cream blended with frozen strawberries. Yum! Craig always wants to share one, but I say no way, I want my own!

Sadly, the farm closes next week for the winter. We are going to miss this snack for the next three months til they open again. They also serve giant pancakes with ice cream and chocolate sauce on them, but we haven't tried that yet.

We are truly lucky to serve in this beautiful town, called Mangare. We found a wonderful 30 min. trail around a lagoon and it's a nice walk after our lunch anyday. 

We are not wearing walking clothes or shoes, but the trail is kind to our feet. On Craig's right are flax plants and they grow everywhere. They were once a very useful and important plant to the native Moari people. They used them for multiple everyday items, like rope, medicine, and basket weaving. A sister in the ward agreed to teach me and others, how to make a Kete, which is a tote basket made from flax. She and I cut the flax, saying a prayer first, to give thanks for the flax. Then we split thin strips from each leaf. Those were then boiled and some were dyed purple. It was a lengthy process getting the flax ready to weave and Gaelene did most of the work. 

This me and Sister Brunson, another Senior missionary, working on our baskets. It took all day and I still didn't finish, and I needed Gaelene's help most of the way. It was really fun, but hard on my weakling fingers. Unfortunately, my first project was a big beach bag size basket with a purple pattern, so it took longer than we thought. I still have a little bit left to do before it's finished. I will take a picture of it and show you next week.

This is wonderful Gaelene with tables crowding her living room and bits of fibers all over her carpet, and she did this out of love for us and love for the art of weaving. I want to make another basket in a few weeks, but it will be smaller and more manageable.

When I look back at our everyday experiences since coming in New Zealand, I get choked up seeing how precious our time is here, and how precious the people are! We've heard comments from ward members about "how thankful they are we are here, what a blessing we are to them, how nice it is to learn from mature missionaries who have wisdom and experience". I don't know about any of that, but I know we are gaining way more than we are giving. The scriptures come alive, service is fun, we love being Companions, I love how I'm always greeted with a hug and kiss on the cheek from the members, and we learn so much about humility, obedience and love from the younger missionaries! 

I'm so thankful for communication from God to me, through personal revelation! How did I dare live one day without it, when I would neglect my prayers or scripture reading? Without that daily spiritual dose to keep me connected to God, I was like my dumb cell phone connected only to worldly messages and my own prideful ways. I'm still prideful, but I get humbled more easily. 

Thank you for all your support and prayers for us and for missionaries all over the world! This is God's work and the Church grows and grows because it is The Church of Jesus Christ! We are thankful to be His representatives and wear name tags with His name on them. Be faithful, be bold in your testimonies, and be obedient to the Commandments! We love all our dear family and friends!

Elder and Sister Martin