Thank you all for your kind comments about our anniversary. We appreciate you taking the time to send best wishes!
Some of you may have seen this picture already and wonder why it's on my blog, but I wanted to show you the fun that some of our kids are having without us. Unfortunately, Taylor and Crystal, and Christy and Paul's family were not able to join with this group. They had their own kind of fun. We thoroughly enjoyed every photo and every video of their trips, and felt a little sad to not be there. We are also sad we will miss next summer's activities too. We know our children would rather have us serving this mission than be with them, and we are so privileged to be here in New Zealand! Besides, it's a small sacrifice to be here, while our whole family reaps the blessings!
For two weeks Elder Martin and I got to substitute teach English to Chinese students. It was so fun and they are so excited to learn. These are adults who have been in NZ for a short time and have very limited English speaking abilities. The Chinese Elders meet and invite them to attend. The class meets twice a week at a church with two different sets of Senior couples. They asked us to come back to class next week, but we told them we had different duties as missionaries, and we lived 30 min. away.
Since traffic gets so bad, we left home early for the English class and did some exploring at the beaches in the area. This is north Auckland, in an area called The North Shore. There are different bays along here with lots of houses and neighborhoods. This is Brown's Bay or Brown's Beach at low tide. What looks like mud under my feet, is lava rock that flows way out to the water. High tide covers this with water and there is a sandy beach area. One of the ladies we visit lives to talk about growing up at Brown's Beach and swimming everyday when the tide was up. I'm not exactly wearing beach attire, but it was fun to take a short walk to have a look.
Every night last week we had Family Home Evenings with fun, lively families who never had one on their own, for not for a long time. We could really feel the Spirit with them all, and enjoyed sharing a message and a game. One family thanked us for seeking them, and they having been coming to church. Missionaries do the happy dance when their families come to church! We also had a dinner night with the older single sisters singing hymns and watching a church video.
We visit a couple in their 80's once a month and the husband is very ill from strokes. We came one day and learned he was in the hospital. Then we returned two days later, and the family had brought him home to die. In their younger years, they were a big part of the ward, faithful and serving. We had a lovely visit with the wife and left with a prayer. She told us her husband told her he loved her before slipping into a coma, and she knew they would be together forever, and was at peace. Such a sweet woman! He died the next day with his children and wife beside him. Such a blessing!
We have a list of people who never come to church and we try to visit one or two of them each day. If they aren't home, we go back another day. At one house a lady opened the door, saw us and said the man was dead since March and she wasn't interested. She had a phone to her ear with a fake conversation so we wouldn't talk to her before the door shut. We were sad he was dead, but glad to find out.
Another house, the man is gone for 8 months, but we had a happy chat with his Catholic grandparents. They gave us a bag of limes from their tree and I'm loving fresh lime in my diet coke! So good!
We have a new Senior couple here from Texas and, to get to know them better, another couple hosted a pancake breakfast. We crammed 12 of us into their tiny apartment and enjoyed eating and visiting.
It was a beautiful day, so we all went to the Botanical Gardens 10 min. south and for a nice walk, and a look at lovely "winter" plants and blooms. The Gardens are free, which made it even better.
Above is an aloe plant like I've never seen. I love the spiral design it makes!
We saw poppies in lots of different colors, but I love red ones!
We called these guys the "three stooges"; Brother Irvine, Brother Martin and Brother Sayer. They found a bench to sit on every 5 min. and were having a good time together.
They had several varieties of Protea flowers, which are native to South Africa. The white ones above are giant and amazing! I love the pink and black one below.
Lastly, this pink giant Protea. We want to go back in the spring and summer to see more beautiful plants. The rose garden was huge and will be gorgeous when it blooms! We love that the Gardens are so close and free! One negative is that it is located just out of our mission, but only by a little bit.
To end the day, we went for Mexican food at a local restaurant. It's the only place we've found that comes close to Mexican, and the price is right, so we are happy! It's fun to be with other couples and everyone is very supporting and helpful.
I say this a lot, but it just amazes me how fast each week flies by. Everyone leads busy lives and days are like a blur. What matters most in our lives is if we are praying and reading our scriptures everyday, having Family Home Evening once a week and attending the temple. Doing those four things will keep us and our families on track. We didn't do all of them all the time, but we worked at it continually. We pray each of you can fortify your homes with these activities.
We love and appreciate your love and prayers for us!
Linda and Craig