Sunday, October 25, 2015

October 25, 2015

Craig and I with our island Sisters, Sister Palu (Tonga) and Sister Nakibae (Tuvalu). This is Sister Palu's last week before she finishes her mission. I won't tell you yet about how much we will miss her!

Elder and Sister Reeves (right) went home to Australia last weekend after serving for 2 years running the mission office. They welcomed us so sweetly when we arrived in New Zealand and we will miss them greatly. Beside them is our wonderful Mission President, President Balli and his companion, Sister Balli! They make our mission a delight!

When I saw this beautiful amaryllis I had to take a picture. Now that it is spring, I'm on the lookout for flowers I don't see in yards at home. When driving, I make Craig pull over (when it's safe, of course) if I see something unusual I need a closer look at.

One thing the Sisters love to do is service, wherever it's needed.  

Morris is the bearded guy second from the left, and although he is not a member, the guy next to him on the end volunteered us to help him with his lawn. Brother Lawrence is the Ward Mission Leader and he puts to practice Jesus' admonition to serve our fellow man. The grass was about two feet tall and our little army came to conquer it! It was a fun and quick task, and Morris was so appreciative. Yes, I'm wearing a skirt, because I was too lazy to change. 

Love this starburst, pin-cushiony flowering bush, which I believe is a member of the Protea family . It is stunning!

Found this guy at a local park and I was hoping he would spread his feathers for a beautiful show, but not a chance. He seemed perfectly fine dragging that heavy train behind him, and didn't care one bit about my presence. 

This little troop crossed the street in front of our car (Craig slowed down for them) and then waddled off. So cute! Springtime is sweet! 

This is our adopted "Aunty Alice" from Tahiti, and we love her. She has so many relatives, practically the whole island of Tahiti, and they love to visit her in New Zealand. She is constantly picking someone up at the airport and hosting them. Sometimes they stay in a hotel instead of her little house, but she will pick them up to eat breakfast at her house anyway, and then drive them where they want to go. One relative is buying her a new car so she will have it for when they visit.  We asked if we could call her "Aunty" and she would fix breakfast for us! She is so good to us, though, and feeds us lunch often. 

We were with Alice three times this week, and loved it! One day she taught us (the Sisters) some simple island dance moves for our activity Saturday night. The next day I taught her how to make dinner rolls and she taught me how to make amazing tiramisu (a French/Italian dessert). The third day she fed us a delicious Tahitian salad and we taught her a spiritual lesson. Craig told her, "When people ask us where we went on our mission, we will tell them, 'To Aunty Alice's!"

Instead of our usual sight-seeing P-day, a few senior Sisters went shopping for New Zealand souvenirs. We had heard of a few cool places, so we were on the hunt. Sister Sayer drives, so she was our chauffeur. It just so happened to be the NZ Labor Day weekend and a cloudy, drizzly day, so the malls were mobbed with people. Finding a parking spot was next to impossible and there were sales everywhere.! We all found something interesting to buy, and had an international lunch selection from the food court. I don't know if we ate Japanese, Chinese, or Korean food, but it was good. Our husbands, too, got together for lunch, but shopping wasn't on their agenda. 
Saturday night was our ward missionary event. Each Auxillary was assigned a different decade and asked to perform one song, and they could choose their song. Our missionary group had the 80's decade and we performed the Beach Boys song, "Kokomo". Craig and Brother Lawrence lip-synced the words while we danced in the background. The evening was a success! All auxiliaries participated, except Primary, and we had 8 non-member guests attend. Craig was pretty entertaining doing his own signature "moves" during our number!

The Relief society wasn't shy dancing to 60's music and doing the Limbo! 

For dessert, we did something really unusual - we only served bakery cookies and lemon water, instead of having sisters bring gobs of food! They got a night off from their kitchens! 

The following floral arrangements were in the chapel today for services. The incredible thing is that they aren't bought from a shop. Someone from the other ward (that shares our building) provides flowers each week. Most times the arrangements are made just from garden flowers and shrubs. Next year it will be our ward's turn to do it. I am always amazed at their beauty. 

The Sisters have a baptism scheduled this coming Friday. Yaay! It is for a darling 16 year old who's older sister is a member. She wanted to be baptized a few months ago, but her parents were against it. We've been fasting and praying with her for their hearts to soften, so she could have their blessing. 
She is pretty determined, so we will see what happens.

We've been doing FHE at a certain member's home once a month, and they have a lot of children ranging in all ages. Instead of the usual lesson from the FHE lesson book, we chose 4 parables from the many that Jesus taught. Involving the parents, we each read a parable and then discussed it.
The Prodigal Son and Good Samaritan were the favorites that brought the most discussion. We really enjoyed this lesson and hope to do it often for other members. 

For our game, we taught them "Farkle", but they already knew it and call it "Zilch". Farkle has a few different rules though, that they really enjoyed. Then I told them about making a "consequence" for the loser, and they really liked that. It was a great evening together and reminded us of how rewarding it is being on a mission and sharing times like this with these great people! 

We love and are so thankful for our Saviour, Jesus Christ, and for his patience and love towards us! We know He is beside us everyday, wanting to help us more, if we will just ask Him more. Our work is His work, and  there is no place else we would rather be! This is the true Church of Jesus Christ and we love the joy it brings into our lives and the lives of others. We cannot be lazy, but must all be dedicated and consistent in our Sabbath observance, which will keep us on the straight and narrow path, enduring to the end. 

Thank you for your prayers on our behalf and for all missionaries. We love you!

Elder and Sister Martin

Sunday, October 18, 2015

October 18, 2015

Sister Coe is our wonderful Relief Society President here in New Zealand, and she was in Utah visiting her daughter the same time we were back in Utah last month. I wrote in an earlier blog and posted a picture about when she came to visit us in Saratoga Springs, where our home is by Utah Lake. When she saw the lake, she was excited to finally see water in Utah. In New Zealand it is rare to go anywhere and not see water. Oceans, bays, harbors, rivers, lakes and waterfalls, and rain, make it so beautiful, so that's why I've posted a lot of water pictures. 

We had a rare privilege last Monday night at our Senior FHE to hear from President Kevin W. Pearson, who is the Pacific Area President and his counselor, President Gifford Nielson. They both had just returned from Salt Lake City where they attended General Conference. They spoke about being trained by the Apostles who each took their turn talking about anything they were inspired to say. 

Just a few they mentioned:
President Eyring said "Heavenly Father and Jesus are watching us and are pleased", but are asking "please, please, please let US help a little more"! 
Elder Holland said "those who get the most out of the Sabbath have a broken heart. For the rest of us, we should be praying for the broken-hearted." We should "pray for others the way we pray for our own and our oblation to the Lord is to plead and suffer for those who need help."
Elder Bednar calls the other Apostles and Presidency "the 14 Captain Moroni's" and he said that "as good as you think they are, they are even better in private"!

A few other thoughts from their training:
*Sabbath day observance will help us keep all the other commandments.
*We live in a age of transparency-information. We need to live in a way we can rely on   the Holy Ghost to navigate through facts about church history that are coming out that we had not heard before. 
*Look up! This is a golden age of the gospel and we are in safe hands and have no need to fear!

Then Sister Pearson told of her encounter in Salt Lake City with Barbara Perry, widow of Elder L. Tom Perry.  Sister Perry said that her husband was told his time was coming to an end so the Lord could call younger apostles to do the work. It was just a short time later that he was gone. 

This young man has stolen our hearts and is leaving for awhile to stay with his grandmother on the South Island.  He is sweet, kind, and loves Heavenly Father. We are sad to see him go and hope it is a good thing for him and that he will come back.

While Craig meets with a man he is teaching to read, I get to take a walk and love seeing this little beach that is totally unaccessible because of the bush around it. 

I saw this crane today, but he wouldn't let me get too close. 

More wisteria. I've been obsessed with all the wisteria blooming around town. I had to take a picture of this bunch on a tall fence with the mailbox in front. 

On P-day a group of us traveled south (even out of the mission) about 40 min. to the beautiful Hanui Falls! We hiked a few short trails to see different views of the falls, and then had a picnic. There was still enough time to drive to the beach for some sea shell scavenging, and then browsing in some shops. 

A panoramic view of Hanui Falls. The small lake becomes a popular swimming spot in the summer. The three people up close are Elder and Sister Sayer and the Sister Byrne on their right.

This is a Pukeko bird that roams around the parks. I can't get a decent picture of them because they run or fly away, but I love them. They are so pretty with their red legs and beak, and blue and black body.

This Pukeko picture came from the Internet, but it's legs have lost their red color.

This is a glass Pukeko full of toffee (a popular Christmas gift item) that I bought at the Warehouse. Which Pukeko do you like best? I would love to mail dozens home, but not sure if the glass would survive the trip. 

 I found a live starfish while walking on the foot bridge near this pretty park, and threw it back in the sea. It reminded me of the story about the person who saved starfish by throwing them back into the sea. Not all of them could be saved, and he was told that he wasn't making a difference. His reply was that by throwing even one back made a difference in that one starfish's life, and maybe all the generations born to it

I couldn't resist showing off these trees along the water. This is a popular walking/biking trail in Mangare Bridge where we are everyday. 

Wednesday night after FHE with one of our families, our next two appointments canceled. We were with the Sisters and feeling a little sad about that, when we decided to drive up to One Tree Hill for a night view of the city. Sister Palu goes home in 3 weeks and this was a request of hers. These hardworking girls are so beautiful and sweet together. We are suckers for pretty much anything they ask. 

Today after Ward Council, I was as a little discouraged after I made a list of all the less active members of our ward and saw that there was still a lot, and little had changed with most of them. I was doubting what good we were really doing. Then tonight at a missionary fireside one of the Elders said he wanted us to meet someone. It turned out to be a young man we had met several times in the park on our morning walk. We talked briefly a few times and found out he had joined the church in Samoa, and his family disowned him, and he was now alone in this country going to school. We encouraged him to find a church close to his home and start attending again. We haven't seen him in two months and somehow the missionaries found him and helped him go back to church. He saw us tonight and hugged us and thanked us for helping him get back to church. 

We also heard a cute couple talk tonight who hree months ago ended up at the wrong church, the LDS church, and stayed for the whole time because they didn't have a car to leave. Those meetings changed them and they got baptized a month ago and are so happy!

Some people take two steps forward and one step back. Some keep taking steps forward and never go back! It's really not up to us. We are here to serve and do some good. It will all count towards something and to someone somehow. President Benson said, "There can be no failure in the work of the Lord when we do our best. These are His children we are working with. He will not permit us to fail if we do our part."

My momentary discouragement was also because time is flying by and I don't want to waste any of it. We need to step up our pace to the Lords pace and make the most of each day. I am thankful for all our blessings! This is the greatest experience ever for us, even being together 24/7. 

Thank you for your prayers for us and all the missionaries. The work is moving forward!

Love you,
Elder and Sisterr Martin

Sunday, October 11, 2015

October 11, 2015

We get General Conference here a week after the U.S. so today between sessions we went to our favorite park, One Tree Hill, for a picnic and a view of the city. It wasn't a very nice day with wind and clouds, but there were still tons of people there.

These are cherry trees in bloom and picnicing below them are a large group of native Japanese celebrating their tradition of eating under cherry blossoms at springtime. 

Elder and Sister Bath from Sandy, UT, are our newest Senior couple, and they attended both days of conference with us. We were also happy to share some of the sights close to home with them. Sister Bath is the new mission nurse and Elder Bath hit the ground running helping Elder Garth with his million jobs!  See how happy they are to be on their mission! 

This is New Zealand. Isn't she pretty? The north island is on the right and we are located in the neck of the skinny part going up. The South Island has the snow on the mountains. 

Transfer week was while we were in Utah, so at District meeting this week, there were three new sets of Elders, and a new Zone leader. Two Elders were greenies; a Vietnamese from Australia, and a Japanese/Hawaiian from Salt Lake City. 
Our New Zone leader is an American from Italy. Does this sound crazy? 
Our Zone leader, after meeting us, said how he can hardly wait to be a Senior missionary "and serve an MLS mission like the Martin's do"! I think he liked the part about us not having any rules.

Our Tahitian sister took us to the Auckland Fish Market today! We bought fresh salmon that was so delicious when we cooked it for dinner! Fish is very expensive and there are so many kinds. Snapper is popular, and more money than salmon. We also bought smoked salmon. We need to take advantage of the wonderful fresh fish here, and stay away from fish and chips in the restaurants.

We saw the Relief Society in action this week as one of our dear members was in the hospital and the family needed meals brought in. These generous women know how to do food well, and spring into action when there is a need. They did the same for a funeral the week before. We are in awe at their service and generosity! 

I'm in love with all the wisteria I see growing all over. I finally had to take a picture. 

I shared my new-found talent with Sister Sayer and Sister Bryne. They did great and were quite happy with their Ketes! Thank you to Gaelene, my generous teacher, for providing the flax for us to use! 

We had interviews last week with the Mission President and he asked us what our feelings were about our work so far. At the time I was feeling a little discouraged, but Craig was more upbeat. Our work is like a slow trickle. Later that night, I made a list of at least ten ways we are having an impact, so I feel better. President Balli got out his Preach My Gospel and reminded us that our success is measured by our commitment, not by outward results of our efforts. I thought about a comment made by a woman in testimony meeting last month where she said how happy her family was when we came for Family Home Evening and how special our message was to them. I need to remember that we represent Jesus Christ; we wear His name on our badge, and our message is His message! We are committed! We need to pick up our pace, though, because time is going by so quickly! 

We brought the movie, "Cokeville Miracle" from Utah, and have shown it to a couple of families. It is a true story and so good, teaching about prayer, the love of family (in this world and the hereafter) and the faith of children. We highly recommend it.  

Friday, we had a movie night with one of the active members, and showed them "Meet the Mormons". They loved it and thanked us for coming. They said they were humbled because they "know we could be spending our time elsewhere" and we chose to be with them!  We truly felt privileged to be with them! 

On a family note, we got good news that our son, Taylor, was offered a job transfer to work in the Phoenix area! We are so excited that he and Crystal will live closer to our family. When we bought our home in Arizona, never did we imagine that any children would live there, let alone 3 of them! We are looking forward to getting more details about their move. 

Today is Emily's birthday! Happy birthday Emily! You're as beautiful as ever! 

We thoroughly loved General Conference this weekend. The presentation of such great wisdom, from every speaker, must move us to action! More prayer, more scripture reading, more service, simplicity, and more love!  Read and re-read the talks, and make them a part of our lives! 

Here are a few quotes from Saturday's sessions:
"Are we making decipleship too complicated?"
"Start where you are!"
"What's in the Old Ship Zion that we should hang on to?"
"Joy in our life is proportionate to how centered we are (to Jesus Christ)."
"How do we make the Lord's ways our ways?"
Ask the Lord, "What lack I yet?"
"Never deliberately fly into a thunderstorm (temptation)."
"We don't marry perfection, only potential!"
"I didn't raise my children on money, but on faith!"
"If you want more than you now have, reach up, not across."
"To all mothers everywhere, I say thank you. You're doing better than you think you are!"
"The world used to fight for our children's energy and time, but today the world fights for our children's identity and mind."
I could name a ton more quotes. 

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is simple. Simple to read, to feel, to share, and to do! 
May we all strive to follow Christ, simply!

We love you, we thank you for your prayers, be safe!
Elder and Sister Martin

Sunday, October 4, 2015

October 4, 2015

Leaving our mission for two weeks helped us realize how precious the time was that we had left here in New Zealand! Our children didn't seem as sad when we left this time because it is now for only a year instead of 18 months. How quickly does a year go by?  Many ward members here expressed happiness that we had returned and said they missed "the white couple" on the second row! Also, we had such a compliment during Fast and Testimony meeting today when a young soon-to-be missionary told how touched his inactive dad had been after we had presented a Family Home Evening lesson and game of Charades in their home. He is excited to be leaving soon on his mission to Guam so he could "do what Elder and Sister Martin are doing, sharing the gospel and touching lives." 

We freely give of our time and means to be serving here, with no thought of reward or compensation! Our rewards and blessings are so great though. We serve in a wonderful ward and love the members. We appreciate so much being welcomed into their homes, even by the ones who don't really want to see us! Each day we leave our apartment with the ward list in one hand and our planner in the other, just visiting members. At night we have specific appointments teaching lessons and sharing Family Home Evenings. After being gone, we're playing catch-up with much to do to make up for lost time!

This past week a wonderful previous member of the ward passed away. She had lived a full life and spent her last years over in Australia with her daughter. The family brought her home to NZ for her services and burial. There were so many loving tributes to this dear woman from friends in the ward and her large, caring family. Wednesday night was a Ward Service in a home, for her family and just ward members to express their feelings. Thursday night was the Family Service for anyone to attend, where each of her children and their families spoke or sang and gave their own tributes. Then Friday morning was the funeral and burial. Of course we didn't know this lovely lady, but it was wonderful to see this outpouring of love for her. 

This sweet man is "the woodcutter" with his dear wife. You can't leave Auckland without visiting their shop and purchasing some of his carvings. They are Christian and from Palestine and he uses native wood for carving all kinds figures. He even has a "Mormon section" with ornaments of the NZ Temple the prophet, Moroni. Saturday, several of the Senior couples went to his shop and I bought a cute set of little carved kiwi birds, and some other things for Christmas gifts. 

Driving along the countryside, we see more beautiful green, green hills and fields. Our last destination on Saturday was a trip back to Muriwai Beach, because it was the time of year to see the Gannet colonies nesting after wintering in Australia. 

All of the white dots are the gannet birds sitting on their nests. The males are flying back and forth getting nesting material to fortify the nests, while the females sit. Maybe they take turns on the nest while each hunts for food. When we came here two months ago we just saw empty nests on these cliffs.

With all the birds back, there is a stench in the air from them, even with the tremendous wind blowing. Next month when the eggs hatch and there are more birds, plus warmer weather, it must stink really bad.  We were told there will also be no ground showing between the nests because of the volume of birds. Talk about overcrowding! You can see the angry looking waves of the Tasman Sea.

The wind was incredible out there. Up on the distant cliffs are homes even! Not sure if I could stand living there with the constant wind. 

On the north side of the gannet covered cliffs, down below is the black sands of Muriwai beach, with a nice golf course just up over the low bluffs. Not sure how good the golfing is with so much wind, but the parking lot looked full. It's impossible to see, but the water is filled with wind surfers. Of course, they love and need the wind. 

We ran into Elder and Sister Reeves, who are just finishing their two year mission as office support in the Mission office. They live on Kangaroo Island in Australia. We love it any time we get to be with them, and will miss them very much when they leave in two weeks! 

Here is sweet Mele, who turned 10 today, and we, along with the Sister missionaries, got to help her celebrate with her family. Mele's family are so happy for her today, but sad too because their mom is in the hospital for a few days. She was very much missed by all of us! 

I thought I would share this great advice from Elder Ballard, given last month at a Regional Conference we attended in Utah County, where he talked about simple, personal habits that keep us “rooted, grounded and connected” to the Lord Jesus Christ.

He said “I would be shrinking from my duty if I did not warn you of the challenges we face today. There are two powers in the universe. One invites us to choose the right and experience eternal joy and happiness. And the other invites us to choose the opposite, bringing sadness and regret.”

He spoke of a small grove of giant Sequoia trees planted on the BYU campus some 50 years ago. He said these trees can grow to between 164 and 279 feet high in the wild and live to be over a thousand years old. He said “that their unique and resilient bark protects the trees from forest fires and also repel bugs and fungi that can damage and kill a tree.” He then talked of one of these trees that died last year. The campus arborist wanted to know what killed the tree. He found that the construction of the nearby Life Sciences Building shifted the underground aquifer and the feeder roots no longer were able to obtain the water that was needed, therefore the tree died.

Elder Ballard said, “this is a perfect analogy to what happens when stalwart Church members, the very elect from all appearances, seek to stand tall and erect in faith, but die spiritually.” He counseled the Saints to always let their feeder roots obtain their nourishment from the well of living water, even from Jesus Christ.

We are trying our best to bring the message of Jesus Christ back into the lives of members who have lost their way for awhile. If we leave homes with a message of love and hope, having invited the Holy Spirit, a spark of remembrance begins. We never know what will happen, either now or later, but we can't give up. We don't want to give up!

We love you all and appreciate your love and prayers for us an all the missionaries around the world. There is so much good happening from all the service rendered. At a time when there seems to be so much evil, there is also much more good!

Have a great week, and we will too!
Elder and Sister Martin