Sunday, September 27, 2015

September 27, 2015

Something we thought would never happen was meeting Sister Coe, our Relief Society President from New Zealand, in Utah! We love her and rely on her so much in our Waterlea Park Ward, and here she is on our Saratoga Springs doorstep so far from her home! She visits her daughter every year and it was a joy to be with her at our church meeting with Michelle, her daughter, who lives in Layton, UT! Sister Coe is a dynamic matriarch of her family and the ward. She has an unwavering testimony of the Church and was so valuable to Elder Martin and I with information and help, getting started in our work 6 months ago! She volunteers 3 days a week at the Auckland MTC, Tues. nights at the Family History Center, and one other day at a city office. She is the definition of "service" and has been RS Pres. for 7 years!

This was one of the best reasons for coming home for Mom's funeral - being with all our children, although minus a few in-law children and grandchildren. What a joyful reunion it was after being so far away for 6 months! Christy flew from Kansas City, Taylor from Texas, and Jenny from Arizona. Kenny and Emily drove all night from Arizona. All of them sacrificed time and great expense to be with us and honor their beloved "Granny".  It was a wonderful time together.

Also wonderful, was having a chance to be with all my siblings as we shared our love for Mother during her beautiful funeral service! Carolyn, Kerry, Corey and their families came from California. Stephen and Marty and their families drove up from Cedar City. Sherrie lives in Orem where the funeral was. She was an angel to Mom for the last 18 months, caring for her every need. 

Aunt Bernice, 98, and Aunt Pauline, 95, are Mom's lovely sisters, that I love dearly. Aunt Pauline gave a wonderful talk about their sisterly love and family devotion. Not pictured, but attended also was Uncle Chic, 93, and Uncle Karl, 85. Mom was very close to all her siblings her whole life! All 7 of them have wonderful families, devoted to the Gospel. We are so blessed to be part of this loving family with a legacy of love and dedication to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to His Church!

We took time out to spend an afternoon at Sundance Resort in Provo Canyon, goofing off and enjoying the outdoors, with the fall leaves turning in the background. Butters and Dusty, are a big part of the family, and are with us, but Dusty is black and hard to see right next to Butters.

These beautiful daughters are our pride and joy. This picture taken before Heather got blasted in the face with a football thrown by Taylor! Kenny and Taylor are in the background throwing the football. You can see that Bridget loves Kinley, her little cousin!

We love New Zealand for its beautiful landscape, but Utah has so much beauty too! I love walking along the trail with Dusty, mine and now, Heather's dog, in Provo Canyon, from the lower parks to Bridal Veil Falls! So beautiful, and so close to home!

Also, one of my favorite views is from our Saratoga Springs home, with the golf course, Utah Lake, and the beautiful mountains in clear view. 

Another shot includes the fun pool at the clubhouse, golf course, lake and mountains. These are some of the wonderful reasons why we love summertime in Utah!

This is the entrance to New Zealand just off the airplane in the terminal. It was not as hard this time to leave Utah and our family because we love our mission and our dear friends in the Waterlea Park Ward, and we were ready to come back "home" to them!

We had a little jet lag, and spent a day with other Senior couples exploring the town of Thames. It is a historic town in the Bay of Firth about an hour south of Manukau. It was a beautiful, clear and sunny day, so we had a wonderful time. 

P-days exploring different beaches is always wonderful to me. I think Elder Martin enjoys it too. Just being outdoors in the sunshine makes us happy, and we always find unusual shells.

How would you like these in your front yard? Look in the background at the large guitars too! There are three of them, with one hidden behind one of these giant heads. Not sure what the meaning of them are, but they obviously mean something special to the home owners.

The Pokeno Ice Cream Shop is the place to stop on any trip home from the Hamilton temple or any time you are near Pokeno. This was our first time there, but we had heard all about it. For $3 you get a giant double scoop of ice cream and tons of flavors to choose from. There is always a crowd there, with members is suits and Sunday clothes.

In closing, I want to share a little article about Elder Holland, who recently made his first trip ever to the country of Cambodia where more than 2,000 members gathered to listen to him.

 Elder Holland spoke of four reasons why he would join the Church today if he were hearing of the gospel for the first time.  He stated, “The whole world would join if they knew what I know,” and continued to explain the four following points:

  1. “God appeared on earth, in our time. He called prophets again, like in the old times. He gives authoritative Priesthood to the Church.”
  2. “The Second reason is the Book of Mormon. I would walk, climb, swim, run, overturn any stone, move the forest if I heard of a church that had seen Jesus Christ and had a book of his teachings. The Book of Mormon has 532 pages teaching me more about Jesus Christ.”
  3. “I can have my family forever! … I do not know of any other church on earth that can tell me I can. We can live again together through blessings of the temple forever.”
  4. “This Church has the Aaronic Priesthood, and the Young Women’s program.  Also the Primary, where the children memorize the articles of Faith. Some young children know more than most of the world knows. We need all the help we can get. I want help raising my children.”

Holland closed his remarks by inviting everyone to accept God’s gift. “God is giving us a gift,” Holland said. “Please accept it. Don’t miss your chance.”

I love this and believe with my whole heart and soul that these 4 reasons are all true! We are so blessed today because our parents, grandparents, great grandparents embraced the Gospel and taught us to love the Savior. We pray that our children and grandchildren and so on with continue in this faith and be forever blessed! 

We pray that our dear friends of other faiths will be strengthened in their love of the Savior by reading the Book of Mormon! It is truly a gift for our time!

Have a great week. We pray for you as you pray for us, and all the missionaries around the world. Love, 

Elder and Sister Martin

Saturday, September 12, 2015

September 12. 2015

My sweet mother decided it was time to go, and died peacefully this week on September 8. Craig and I felt we needed to return home for her funeral and left Thursday. That afternoon we had a District send-off lunch and the Elders gave me this beautiful bouquet. It was so very thoughtful of them, but since I couldn't take it with me, I was happy to gift it to a dear friend!

This is a fun selfie taken earlier in the week at District Meeting. Missionaries love to take pictures of other missionaries and we are always honored when they want a picture with us, the Seniors. 

Elder Fitzsimmons is going home to Utah next week and will already be gone when we return from the USA, so we had to get a picture with him. He is a great young man working hard in the Niuean ward. The Niuean Island is one of the smallest countries in the world and is a pacific paradise! We love District Meetings and learn so much at them!

It was so strange getting on a plane for home after being gone 6 months and seemed like a dry run for when we really go back in a year. I don't even like thinking about that! It was a joy to see this sign though, as we entered our homeland. We are happy to be in the U.S. for a short time to honor our mother, and reassured our NZ members that we have a return flight on the 23rd! 

I know my daughter loves me when she stocks up on one of the things I've missed in NZ! Diet Cherry Coke! On our way home from the airport, we had to stop at Maverick's for a much anticipated 44oz! 

We had a wonderful service for Mom and it was a great reunion with all my siblings. Also, most of the grandchildren and half the great-grandchildren were there!  All of our children came, which was wonderful for us! They loved their Granny so much, and would've come even if we couldn't be here! 

I loved all the talks and we had wonderful music. Craig, Christy, Brian and Kass sang Mom's requested song, "How Great Thou Art"! Mom wanted all the grandchildren in attendance to sing, and we had a lovely solo by our niece, Kimberly Strand! 

I have to share these pictures of Mom showing that she was young at heart. These photos are part of Christmas cards she sent out a few years ago.

So many people besides her family, loved "Granny". There's so much Good I could write about her and I'm happy to say, we had a few chuckles during the services today! She will greatly be missed! 

Proverbs 31:28 
"Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her." 

We are happy she is with Dad again and know it was a happy reunion! 

Thank you for all your prayers and sympathy for our loss! You are all so kind and generous and we love you. Have a great week! 

Elder and Sister Martin

Saturday, September 5, 2015

September 6, 2015

Happy New Zealand Father's Day! Craig got to celebrate Father's Day twice this year! It was Fast Sunday, so he didn't get his favorite breakfast, but there were many tribute testimonies to Fathers! 

Occasionally, one of the Elders or Sisters has a dental or doctor appointment and we always offer to take them. We like getting to know the missionaries and helping out. For the kids coming from the Islands where they don't have adequate dental care, the Church gives them 6 month checkups. If there is a problem more than a cavity, and the family can't pay, the tooth is extracted. This week we took a Sister for a filling, and an Elder to the doctor for a monthly shot. Elder Martin and I have our 6 month dental checkup and cleaning appointments next week. Another first in NZ! 

There is an 8 year old boy who's mother has a drug problem and is not a member.  We've been wondering how to help him have contact with the Church with little or no support from his mom. Thankfully, we started having FHE once a month with a close neighbor, who invites this boy and his younger siblings to join in. He's a smart boy and happy to learn. We hope this helps both families. 

We have a TV in our apartment, but we never watch it. Craig can't believe he doesn't mind leaving it off. In the evenings and after our morning walk, time is spent making phone calls, reading (scriptures, Church publications), and planning lessons. We catch up with the news and financial reports on the computer, and I write in my journal. I admit to getting on Facebook once a day, but we've committed to making these 18 months a special time for putting the "normal" aside, and doing what will help us help others. Sometimes, I find it a nuisance to grocery shop or do laundry, but those things can't be helped. 

A member of our ward went into the hospital with flu-like symptoms and found out she has cancer. We dropped off a get-well card, and in it wrote words of encouragement and support. Not thinking too much of it, we later got a text message from her thanking us for our timely words. They were just what she needed to hear at that moment and it really strengthened her. She has since thanked us again several times, because it meant so much to her. A simple card of encouragement can mean so much!  I will try to remember that!

A man who rejected the Church thought he had gallstones and found out he has cancer and 3 months to live. We visited the home and he was too ill to see us, so we spent time with his wife. I think she needed the visit more than him. Most times the spouse and caregiver need extra support and someone to talk to. They are exhausted emotionally and physically, from holding it all together, and have their own fears. They have lots of family and ward support, but we hope to be able to help in some small way. 

We teach an inactive man once a week, and we are seeing him recognize that the days of his procrastination need to come to an end. He hasn't been to church in about 40 years, and rationalized that because he reads the Book of Mormon every day, he is ok. Our lessons have become a weekly reminder that he is not ok  Like the man I wrote about above with cancer, who this man is good friends with, the clock is ticking and time may be running out. None of us knows the future, and now is the time for us to prepare to meet God. 

Friday night the High Priest Group hosted a Father's Day Luau and feast! They honored the fathers with a lei and a dance with a child or loved one.  We are dancing near the back. 

These two men with Craig never married or had children, but were honored as well, and two wonderful women danced with them, making their night really special! The one on the right told Craig he never married because he wanted to see the world. When asked where he went, he said "Christchurch". Christchurch is on the South Island. Funñy! 

Before the meal picture of all the food trays with our Stake President Young-Yen. They served a whole roasted pig, roasted chicken, sweet-sour pork, egg foo young, chop suey, amazing rolls, fried rice, green salad, potato salad, taro, donuts, cookies and cobbler with ice cream. Most of this food was prepared by one woman in her kitchen and there was enough to feed double that attended. She had a couple of helpers, thankfully. The party lasted til 11:00, but we had to leave at 9:30 to get the Sisters home.

Driving from one appointment to another, we happened upon this flock of birds along the waterfront. Sorry you can't see their detail, and I don't know their name. New Zealand has lots of birds. There is a historical marker we read that in the early 1800's a Maori tribe traveled from the east side of the country (up at Auckland Bay) to this west side (Mangare Bay) to investigate the great noise they heard, and found it was from birds! 

Traveling back to KawaKawa Bay on Saturday with the Sayer's, we stopped to take pictures of these fun mailboxes. This is a puffer fish!

A Lego smiling guy!

A lighthouse with a little fisherman on it. At the base is a small solar panel that lights it up at night.

We found this nice Wharf with men fishing at the end of it. There is a small island out there that is owned by a family. How fun would it be to have your own island! 

The wind made for a crazy-hair day

Elder and Sister Sayer's are great adventurers with us! They are from Idaho and have six months left, and Saturdays spent exploring are very precious to them. 

View of Kawakawa Bay in the distance. Those boats are moored out that far. When it's low tide you can almost walk out to them. 

Random outhouse at a parking lot in the park. There are nice bathrooms at the beach, but this must be for emergencies. Never seen one like this. 

Unfortunately, Saturday night while eating at a nice restaurant with some other couples, my Church (dumb) phone, that I am very appreciative of, must have fallen out of my coat pocket and just disappeared! I have no idea what happened to it. I can't imagine someone wanting it, but it is gone! I was embarrassed to call Elder Reeves to report it missing. I should be able to get another one, but I do feel really bad for losing it. 

I really liked this quote from Elder Holland:

"God expects you to have enough faith and determination and enough trust in Him to keep moving, keep living, keep rejoicing. In fact, He expects you not simply to face the future (that sounds pretty grim and stoic); He expects you to embrace and shape the future--to love it and rejoice in it and delight in your opportunities. God is anxiously waiting for the chance to answer your prayers and fulfill your dreams, just as He always has. But He can’t if you don’t pray, and He can’t if you don’t dream. In short, He can’t if you don’t believe.” Jeffrey R. Holland

Say your prayers, dream and believe. Sounds simple, and good advice. 

We love you all and appreciate your love and prayers and support. The Elders we took to the doctor this week told us that the Auckland Mission isn't really a mission because everyone is so nice to them, and they don't get doors slammed in their faces! Maybe your prayers are softening people to at least be nice! 

Elder and Sister Martin