I've mentioned before that every other Monday is a Senior FHE at the Area Pacific Office, and each couple takes a turn preparing the meal and activity. Last Monday was our turn and for 45 people we fixed one of our family favorites, Hawaiian Haystacks. It turned out great and we had a lot of help from some of the other couples. They helped make rice and buy rolls and even came early to help set up and stayed for clean up. For some people it was their first time eating Hawaiian Haystacks, and for others it was a reminder of home. I'm mad that I didn't take pictures of the tables because they looked so nice with fresh flowers, Hawaiian leis, and sea shells for decoration. Elder Martin prepared a Pictionary game with scripture characters that was really fun. We also had a service project where everyone brought school supplies and we put kits together for missionaries to take to some of the remote islands that don't have anything for the kids.
There were two of these on both sides of the chapel today. Roses are blooming everywhere, and lilies are plentiful. Someone graced us with these beautiful arrangements today.
This was Temple Week in our Stake, and from Tues. to Sat. people go to the Hamilton Temple. If they can't get off work, they might go one day, but many families go for the week. There is housing nearby they can reserve that is cheaper than hotels. There is a Temple Week twice a year that coincides with Stake Conference. Next weekend is Stake Conference, which is a whole weekend event, starting with a big dance Friday night, games and activities Saturday morning, leadership meetings in the afternoon, the adult session that evening, and the regular session Sunday morning. Should be amazing!
There is a very less active family that we've had difficulty catching anyone home and sadly, the father just died after a lengthy illness. He was in his early 50's and being cared for by his parents at their home because his wife and kids busy with school. We hesitated going there, but were so well received and so glad we did. Many in the ward helped with food before leaving for the temple, and the services were held at the cemetery. Hopefully, now the family might be more receptive to coming to church???
This is Hahei Beach, with lots of little islands out in the distance. It was lovely, but we stayed only a short time because we wanted to go to Cathedral Cove.
The cathedral rock just off the sand. How do plants survive up on top?
We weren't the only ones on the beach this week in our clothes, because the wind was a little chilly. The water is so blue and clear and the many tiny islands offshore made it a beautiful setting.
View through a gigantic arched cavern to the cathedral rock on the other side. This cavern separates the two secluded coves.
This is the other beautiful small beach on the other side of the cavern. See the kayaks on the beach? I would not attempt kayaking in an ocean with waves. I would topple over for sure.
We had heard that the New Chums Beach was also on a top 20 list of beaches in the world to see by a UK magazine, so we didn't let the obstacles of the trail stop us from getting there. It was a difficult 30 min walk across a fast moving stream, along a rocky shoreline (if any of us had slipped on these rocks, it was a concussion and/or broken bones and an airlift to Auckland), and a narrow, unmaintained traiil of thick protruding roots (easy to trip on if not careful). Sister Mickleson lost her balance on a rock and was going down, when friends and a stranger grabbed her just in time.
Gorgeous view from a lookout point above Coromandel Town down below, where we had a nice lunch and did a little shopping before heading home. The winding road home along the coast was difficult but we had a good driver in Elder Sayer, who kept awake and alert, even while the rest of us were dozing. An outing is not complete without ice cream someplace and Pokeno is the best place to get it.
A popular town to stop after a trip to the temple, Pokeno has two ice cream shops right next to each other and they are both jammed all the time. $3 for two giant scoops of ice cream draws a big crowd everyday!
I must say we were pretty tired getting ready for our 1:00 pm church today! My calves are sore, and I'm very achy all over. Not sure why, since I walk everyday. Must be from a combination of sandy beach walking, up and down trails, and bruising from the seat belt from jerking sideways on those winding roads! It was a fun time though, with the Sayer's, Mickleson's, and Byrne's, and we saw some amazing country. We had the blessing of President Balli, even though we were completely out of the mission the whole time! We love President Balli!
We were invited to dinner after church today, which was nice. The food was Chinese -chicken, rice, vegetable dishes, prepared by a Chinese/Moari family and all very good.
Afterwards was the monthly Come and See Fireside, planned by the Presidents Assistants. It is always a very spiritual hour-long meeting, with lots of musical numbers. The primary speaker was a recent convert who told about being in "the jaws of hell", in jail, and praying for relief. When he got out, he was miserable and on house arrest when the missionaries came by and asked if anyone in the home needed help. He asked them to help him and that started his road to baptism. He said the Elders came to see him everyday for 9 months and never missed, even with transfers. He was very humble and inspiring, with a very strong testimony of Jesus Christ and the Book of Mormon!
We know that our primary reason for being here is not sightseeing, or beach hopping. We take very seriously our calling as missionaries and make the most out of every day working with the members to come to Christ. The little trips are wonderful, but the most wonderful part is hugs from the children, teaching lessons, doing service, and feeling the Spirit as we help others feel the Spirit!
Today in Gospel Principles class, the lesson was about temples and family history. One man told about when his parents were sealed in the temple with all 11 children. They were dairy farmers up north in the central part and it took 2 days to get to the temple in 1958 when the temple first opened, because the roads were so bad. When they got to Auckland to spent the night, they saw the ocean for the first time! He said it scared them to see so much water. The next day they traveled to the temple and he said how he would never forget coming into the Sealing Room and seeing his parents kneeling at the alter waiting for all 11 children dressed in white, and how they barely fit around it. We could only imagine that joyous scene and event!
Another woman told about how she had been raised Catholic, and to please her husband, joined the LDS church (it is common here for women to join their husband's church). She went with him to the temple to have their family sealed, but said she didn't feel anything, since in her heart she was still Catholic. The night after her second time attending the temple she had a dream. In her dream a woman dressed in white came to her. She asked her what she wanted, and the woman said her name and wanted to thank her for doing her ordinance work in the temple that day. Immediately after the dream she woke her husband and told him about it. She said that night was the start of her conversion to the Church.
What a blessing it is to be missionaries among the lovely people in the Waterlea Park Ward! We have so much to learn from these wonderful, faithful people! We cherish the lifelong friendships we're making here and now!
Sorry for this long blog this week! If you make through to the end, you are amazing! We love and appreciate your prayers and support. We love our Saviour and strive to keep His commandments! It's a crazy world out there and there are less and less places of safety! We need the Holy Ghost with us continually to be safe, spiritually and physically! We pray for you as you pray for us!
Elder and Sister Martin