Just like everywhere, the week before Christmas is a busy one for families. Last minute shopping, visiting family, baking, etc. it was the same here, so we didn't connect with a lot of our people. The week went by quickly though and everyday was full. We had two great Christmas FHE's and lots of quick visits dropping off treats. One house we went to, the mom had been baking all day and she had about a 200 of five different types of cookies. I was stunned by the volume. She was getting ready to box them up for delivery to friends and generously made us a plate to take home. So many members gave us little gifts of candy, and other items, and we were very touched by this.
Mary, Joseph, the Inn Keeper, the two Shepherds, the Angel, and little baby Jesus! Sister Trull and Selwa were the directors and I was the costume designer. For a special treat, I made the Martin favorite Mud Pie. The Kata's said they had never done anything like this and loved the family unity and joy this brought to their family. It definitely has to become a family tradition!
For Christmas Eve, a few senior couples got together for dinner at a nearby restaurant called Broncos. They offered a special traditional turkey dinner with dessert, which most of us ordered. Christmas is the ONLY time of the year turkey is offered anywhere! It is not sold in the stores or served in restaurants.
One custom at Christmas is to break open these "crackers". Inside is a little gift and a funny joke. We entertained ourselves by breaking our "crackers" and telling jokes while waiting for our dinner.
Since we couldn't be home waking up with our kids and grandchildren Christmas morning, we met instead with the missionaries at a SUNRISE Zone Devotional! We were going to climb Mangare Mountain for it, but it was raining, so thankfully, we met at the church instead. Even Santa showed up. I told him how skinny he was and asked what diet he was on? It couldn't have been a New Zealand diet! Elder Falatau, our Zone Leader is in the Santa suit picture with us above. We also had a secret Santa gift exchange, which was fun for everyone. I think we all got candy along with a gag gift. Above is Elder Martin wearing Sister Trull's new sun glasses!
After the Zone Devotional, we went to our Ward Mission Leader's house to watch him get his Hangi ready. I didn't think to take a picture, but here is basically what a Hangi looks like. Three families loaded their food in this Hangi, because there was plenty of heat to share. Then their food is cooked, about 3-4 hours, dinner is ready! Nowadays, a Hangi is for special occasions, but in the old days, the Moari people made them every day to cook their food. After a nice lite breakfast there, then went home for a nap.
There were no stores, except the little dairies (markets) open, and no restaurants, except McDonalds open, so we had a Christmas ham sandwich dinner at the Bath's and played Rook and visited til 2am. That was our Christmas Day!
We got up at 6am the 26th and started Skyping our children. It was fun to chat with our kids and grandchildren on their Christmas and see their presents. We enjoyed that so much, and although I had a few teary moments, overall, we survived the separation! We look forward to all being together in Utah next Christmas!
This is what we are NOT missing back home! I have compassion for all of you in freezing temperatures, and although some of you are loving the snow, it is something we do NOT love. I think the temps here are finally starting to get warmer, like summer should be. Today was about 80 degrees and people were using their personal fans at church and commenting about the heat.
In the 2015 Ensign is a great little article called "Navigating the Currents of Life" by Mindy Anne Selu, about making a plan to keep improving your life. It's a perfect motivating message for the new year!
Here are a few quotes, but read this article if you can.
"You don’t have to be doing something extraordinary to have an extraordinary life, but you do have to be doing something."
"The key is to keep moving. Elder Keith K. Hilbig, an emeritus member of the Seventy, said: “The path to eternal life is not on a plateau. Rather, it is an incline, ever onward and upward.”
"As the new year rolls around, people often begin making goals. However, New Year’s resolutions are easily made and broken. Throughout this new year, don’t settle for fleeting resolutions that will be abandoned before you can get all the confetti and glitter out of your carpet. Make serious goals and plans to begin rowing past the stagnant stage of your life. Consider this invitation from Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles: “Use your agency to develop yourself personally. As you discover your gifts and talents, … you must let the Spirit guide you. Choose and act for yourself. Be motivated from within. Make a plan for your life, including education or vocational training. Explore interests and skills. Work and become self-reliant. Set goals, overcome mistakes, gain experience, and finish what you begin.”
Like all of you, I am wondering where 2015 went to so fast! We have already reached the halfway-way point of our mission! If you plan to visit us in New Zealand, you'd better plan your trip now!
Also, like all of you hopefully, we have been so blessed in 2015! Through good times and sad times, we know where our strength comes from. It comes from faith in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and following his example, and keeping his commandments. We are not perfect, but we keep trying.
Enjoy this last week of the year, be safe, and get ready for your new diet next week. We love and pray for yous! Thank you for your prayers for us!
Elder and Sister Martin