Elder Kevin W. Pearson is a member of the Seventy and is the Pacific Area President. After almost 5 months, we had not met him yet, but this week I was able to shake his hand at three different events. He and his darling wife attended our Senior couples FHE on Monday night, our Auckland Mission Conference on Thursday, and Time Out For Women on Saturday. Now I feel like he's a dear friend! He gave one of our favorite talks at the April 2015 General Conference called "Stand By the Tree". If you haven't read that talk, read it! If you have read it, read it again. He is a humble, powerful man!
Recently, two new Senior couples arrived in the Auckland Mission, and we're awaiting 3 more coming soon! It's so fun to get to know and welcome others to this wonderful mission! We also had two couples just leave because their 18 months were over.
I love these blooming agaves, and I've seen quite a few of them around. Emily said they look like something out of a Dr. Seuss book. They are just amazing to me and I saw this one on my favorite walk along the bay in Mangare, where we work. Sometimes if I don't get my walk in the morning, I will sneak one after lunch along the Kiwi Esplanade (don't you like that name?). I have to wear my missionary clothes and bring walking shoes, but it's so pretty and peaceful.
I don't know what this is tree is called, but it's another favorite plant I see in lots of different places. I would like to take one home for our yard in Arizona! Surprisingly, we see cactus growing here. Even with all the rain in the winter, they seem to survive.
My entusiasm for weaving has spread to Sister Palu and Sister Nakibae. Gaelene was so generous to invite the girls over to teach them to weave bracelets and a Kete (Maori basket). They were quick learners and now have a home-made souvenir from NZ!
Wednesday we kept our calendar clear to go to the temple in Hamilton, about a 90 min. drive. We try to go every other month, and it's a beautiful way to spend the day. Since missionary transfers were on Thursday and we were losing some of our Elders, they organized a District dinner Wednesday night at a place called Burger Fuel. It was our first time eating there and Craig was very impressed with the burgers. Elder Staniscia, from Brazil, left for the Cook Islands, and Elder Hall, from England, was going home after serving a great mission! Elder Bashara, from Sydney, was going further up north to Whangarei. Missionaries love making silly poses in pictures, but these are great guys and we love being with them. They are so accepting and sweet to us, and gave us a framed picture of our "King of Hearts District".
What a spiritual feast it was Wednesday, with the temple, dinner with our District, and a FHE with one of our wonderful families. Their enthusiasm to learn gospel principles makes it fun to be in their home. Afterwards, at our appointment with a man we see each week, he told us we were sent from above to help him. In his prayer he thanked God for us, and asked for courage to lead his family to come back to church. The Spirit has really touched him and we see some real progress in his growth. It's time to invite him to come to church!
When two or three gather, there must be food! This photo is after the transfer meeting, where brand-new missionaries were welcomed, and others were sent off to their new areas. We also had a Missionary Conference that afternoon, with the presenters from Time Out For Women speaking to us! We love these dear Sisters. Sister Gila (on the left), serves an hour away in Henderson, and we are so happy to see her at mission events. Sister Nakibae and Sister Palu are with us almost everyday. We are so happy they didn't get transferred and will be in Mangare at least another 6 weeks!
Way back in April, when we first arrived, these 3 Sisters and I (the woman on the far left is a guest) bought tickets for Time Out For Women, which was coming to Auckland. This was a whole day of music and inspiring presentations by very accomplished professionals, put together by Deseret Book. They hold them all over the U.S., and every year in Kansas City. I have never gone before and think it is funny that my first time going was here in NZ. Instead of driving and paying for parking, we decided to take the train to downtown Auckland. You can see how empty the train is, and that is because it is 7am on a Saturday!
TOFW was a crowded event, but we were lucky to get the center third row, which gave us a good view of David Archuleta, who was one of the musical presenters. All the Sister missionaries in our mission got to attend free if they brought someone investigating the church, who also got in free! They were so excited to get to see David Archuleta! All the presenters were wonderful and I recommend this event when it comes to your area! I will have to go again in 2017, once I get home.
One of the highlights of the week happened at church today when the cutest little girl from a family we visit, came to church with her family, and walked up to the front row to sit with us. We are so happy she stayed for Primary, even though her family had to leave! She is so sweet and loving, just like her brothers and parents! Also, as I was co-teaching the Gospel Principles class with Craig, I had an overwhelming feeling of love come over me, for the people in this ward and this country. I also felt sadness that we would have to leave someday, even though we miss our family so much. This time here will fly by.
Brad Wilcox, one of the TOFW presenters, spoke about having humor in our life, and said
"If we can laugh at it, we can live it!" We all have our ups and downs - daily, weekly or monthly - and that is how we learn and grow, and cope in our lives.
We pray for you, and we feel the strength and blessing of your prayers! Thank you for your sweet comments each week. They make me feel like we aren't so far away!
Elder and Sister Martin