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.
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