Sunday, January 31, 2016

January 31, 2016

Craig went to a dental hygienist on Monday and was so pleased with her work. We are blessed to be serving in a country where dental and medical care are close to what we have in the States. Also, the price was pretty reasonable. Not all dentists here have hygienists and we had to call around to find one. Most of the time the dentists do it themselves. 

The dentist/hygienist visit was 5 min. From the Takapuna beach, so that's where we had to go, if only for a 15 min. "look-see". Of course, we were the only ones there in "Sunday clothes" and we got a few stares, but no matter.

This was transfer week, and we knew one of our trio of Sisters would be leaving, and it was Sister Trull. We are sad to see her go, but it was time for her to spread her wings and move on . Three months with her flew by. We are so proud of our Sisters and how hard they work and inspired they are. 

A man in our ward has three newly adopted children (ages 10, 17, 20) straight from Samoa, that he wants the Samoan missionaries to teach. He was so frustrated because they never came. Finally, in his anger he said to forget it. I told our wonderful Sisters about him and they walked straight to his house. He was so happy to see them and said they could teach his children and he would help with the language. He told me, "I was wanting to talk to them, and they were at my door! They were inspired to visit me!"

This was what I thought after talking to this man about the Sisters coming to his home. 
On our mission I've learned to just smile and be quiet about a lot of things, but driving isn't one of those. It takes two to drive in this city; one to navigate, and the other to drive and follow directions from the navigator. I am the navigator, and my poor husband has to submit to my directions all the time. Sometimes he wants to navigate and drive, and then we get in trouble and breaks screech and horns start honking, I freak out and the Sisters in the back seat are praying!  It doesn't happen often, thank goodness! 

A ward member who was a Stake Relief Society President on one of the islands told me that most of the Senior missionaries she knew there were doctors or dentists and she told me this great story. 
She was on her way home from work and felt prompted to stop at the hospital. In the emergency room was a woman and her one year old who could not keep food down. Several doctors were checking the baby while the mother was crying. They said the baby needs a special canned food sold at only one place in the city. This RS President called her husband and told him straightway to go to that store to buy this special food, which he did. Then she told him she needed to go to the temple right then and she didn't know why, but she had to go. When she walked in the doors of the temple, she saw a man staring at her. He came up to her and asked if there was anyone who was sick, and she told him about the baby at the hospital. He left immediately for the hospital. He was a missionary doctor from the U.S. and had just left the surgery when he was also prompted to go to the temple and he didn't know why. He told the RS Pres. that when she walked into the temple, she glowed and he knew she was who he was supposed to see. At the hospital, he cared for the baby, but found that treatment had to be done in New Zealand, so he made all the arrangements for the baby, the mom, and himself to fly the next day to Auckland. Sadly, the baby died two weeks later. It is a sad ending, but many miracles occurred regardless, and good people listened to the Holy Spirit and sprang into action to try to help. 

Elder D. Todd Christofferson and his wife made a surprise visit to Auckland and we got to have a Mission Devotional with them and the Area President. Both the Auckland and the Hamilton missionaries attended. He was supposed to visit the members on Vanuatu, but their airport runway was so damaged that major airlines won't fly there, so plans had to be changed. Our gain and their loss. 
It was a wonderful meeting and at the end of his remarks, he was giving a heartfelt testimony of the Savior, and then stopped and said, "You will soon see me on the TV screen (meaning General Conference), but as one who is before you face to face, you see and hear me say that Jesus Christ is true. He lives. He was resurrected!" Hearing this from him "face-to-face, an apostle of the Lord, was truly powerful! 

After the Mission Devotional, we got to have lunch at our favorite restaurant in the area we serve with a few Senior couples, and President and Sister Balli joined us too. It was a perfect day to eat outside. With still more daylight ahead, Craig and Elder Bath went golfing and Sister Bath and I went to the beach. Only 30 minutes away is Waitawa Beach. With no waves because of the many islands to break them, many were swimming way out. 

Sister Bath and I looking a little sun-burned, but we really weren't. 

Beautiful views of the blue water and islands. None of the beaches have any commercial feel about them. Parking is free, nice clean bathrooms, and no traffic or noise. Very relaxing and peaceful. 

Gaelene recently taught me how to weave flax flowers, so I wove and dyed some (with the help of Gaelene and others) to use in two matching tall arrangements I had signed up to bring for the chapel today. It was fun mixing fresh flowers with the flax ones and I loved sharing in the island customs. 

Small arrangement under the microphone on the pulpit. This pulpit doesn't go up and down, so the space was a little squishy. 

The 5th Sunday is Missionary Sacrament Meeting, and it was my turn to talk and Sister Selwa's. We had two Young Men sing a prelude number, and a husband/wife sing an interlude song. The last speaker was a sweet, beautiful returned missionary who served in the Philippines. It was a great meeting, with the Spirit so strong! 

My topic was taken from President Howard W. Hunter's #19 lesson about commitment, specifically talking about being "living members" in the "true and living church". "Living members" are totally committed, press forward in faith, give heed to the Holy Spirit, put Christ first in their lives, strengthen their brothers and sisters, even their enemies, put action into their beliefs, and love one another. Becoming everyday, committed Christians one day at a time. 

Today the Sunday School President admonished the members not to attend the "Gossip Essentials" class in the foyer, and get to their classes. I thought that was really funny. 
It's hard getting older. I feel really good, but my left foot gives me pain and so does my right knee, but my spirit is still young. We walk most everyday, 3-4 miles, but I've still added some missionary pounds. That is depressing! One thing about New Zealand, it does not lack for food. Butter, cheese, cream, chocolate, and more are plentiful! People may not have a car, but they for sure have food! Our Elders and Sisters are taken care of and are only allowed to eat at members 4 nights a week. Otherwise they eat too much. One Elder we met put on 100 lbs. his first year and he lost it all his second year. Today I heard a comment that "missionaries were set apart to teach, not to eat!" Members should be dropping off names of people for them to teach, not dropping off KFC or McDonalds. 

I enjoy looking back at our week and sifting through the temporal events for reminders of the spiritual events. Monday at Family Home Evening, we were reminded that "missionary work and family history work are one great pathway to salvation."  Also, that "we left our families behind to come on a mission so that other families can learn how to be together forever!" That is a beautiful thought. 
I pray we can be even just a little part of this great work, day by day. 

I am thankful to be a member of this true and living church, and to be a representative of Jesus Christ. I'm thankful for the knowledge that Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost are separate, but one in unity. I want to be united with them forever with my family. I want all families to be united, to enjoy all the great blessings we have been promised if we just keep the commandments! 

I am so thankful for all of you, our dear friends and family and pray for you daily!
Elder and Sister Martin

Sunday, January 24, 2016

January 24, 2016

We aren't too good at selfies, but sometimes we just have to take them.
Summer weather has arrived. February is equivalent to our August and everyone is hot. It's still only in the low 80's, and we are enjoying some sun. Our daily walk in the park is starting earlier to beat the heat though. Vacations are winding down and schools are starting again next week.

Brother Ezekiala, a wonderful member of the ward from the Cook Islands, is moving back there and we are sad to see him go. He has a home there and that's where he wants to die. He is a healthy 80-something, hard-working man. We took him to lunch last week along with his daughter, who came here from Australia to help pack up his house. He and his deceased wife raised 12 faithful children and at one time he had 11 grandchildren serving missions at the same time. He is an example of faith, good works, and enduring to the end. 

I have to admit I was feeling a little down last week. I was thinking about the about some people we visit and their continued disinterest in church, others who's progress is so slow, and a few that I worry will lapse back to their old ways after we leave. Then after a lesson, a man said the closing prayer, and humbly thanked God for us, for bringing us from so far to his home to teach him. I was so touched and then I remembered that we are here on God's errand and He is in charge and He will take care of everything.  I just needed a reminder.

This is Elder Martin with Alex, another member of our ward. We visit him every week and thought an outing to his favorite place would be fun for him, and he treated us to a very nice lunch. We brought him here before Christmas as well. 

There is always a beautiful view of downtown Auckland from Devonport. 

This is the ferry that goes back and forth from Auckland to Devonport. I wanted to take the ferry, but was outvoted. 

These darling Sister missionaries from our ward look fresh and lovely. You wouldn't know that they walk everywhere in the warm sun, talking to everyone they meet, without complaint and are stil smiling! Who wouldn't want them in their home teaching the Gospel? They told us about a man working in his garage that they offered to help. He said no, that they wouldn't want to get their hands dirty, but they told him dirt washes off, so he gave them the job of stripping plastic off copper wires. Random, but a simple act of service.

We visited a older man named Heta who has not been active in the church for a lot of years, and is now living with his daughter. We could tell he enjoyed our visit and told him we would like to come again to show him a great video we have. We also offered to bring him to church if he wanted. He responded by saying, "I don't like making arrangements because I don't want to disappoint people, but I'm home all the time so please come." Not sure what he meant, but the Sister missionaries, who went there once told us we've got to see the tattoo on his arm. Can't wait! 

The Bath's are our P-day partners, and it was nice to meet up during the week for a picture when we had our actual missionary clothes on. We were with them and lots of missionaries for a world-wide Mission Devotional streamed live from Salt Lake City to chapels everywhere in the world.  Unfortunately, technology didn't work well at our designated chapel and with frustration, our Mission President ended the meeting. But first he left us with a short message about setting goals. He said, without goals we cannot gauge our progress, and just being busy isn't progress! Our mission experience will fly by so quickly and we can't waste it doing busy work! We must be setting goals and working our goals! Each day needs to count towards someone's progress in the Gospel of Jesus Christ! 

I had to laugh at this photo. We have a lot of missionary discussions with Senior missionaries while enjoying the beach!

It was off to the majestic Muriwai beach again for our P-day. The last time we were here there was a gale wind and these Gannet birds were just nesting. This time, there was just a little wind and we could see the young Gannets with their parents. 

The older babies have darker feathers, and the newer babies still have fuzzy fluff. These birds mate for life and seem to be co-partners in raising their young. One sits with the baby, while the other flys off for food or whatever. Then it comes back and the other parent leaves. Soon all the birds will take off for Australia, not to be seen again here until next November. 

This is a beautiful view of a small beach on south side of the Gannet colony. This is the Tasman Sea on the west side of New Zealand. 

This is our view on the north side of the Gannet Colony. The ladies spent the rest of the day down on the beach below, and the guys went off to the golf course, which you can see in the distance where it's green.

Sister Bath and now Sister Jackson are my P-day beach buddies. Thankfully, both their husbands love to golf with Elder Martin!  We all had the best day doing what we love.  This beach must be the dog beach because there were tons of people with their dogs, and we were missing our dogs we left behind at home! 

Another fun beach picture that is so true! I never dreamed though, that we would get to serve a mission and also go to some of the most beautiful beaches! How amazing is this! 

Today, the High Priests were in charge of the program at church and Craig had been practicing a musical number for it with 3 other men, and he thought they were singing in a quartet. When it was time for them to sing, Craig joined the 3 other men at the podium and then about 10 more men came up front to sing also, and none had been to any of the practices! It still sounded good, but Craig was completely baffled. 

Also today at church, the older man Craig has been teaching to read since last May, gave a short talk. I was stunned that he agreed to it because he never says more than one word in a conversation! He walked up and gave a short, heartfelt testimony. Afterwards, he told Craig that he was so nervous to speak, but decided to just say what was on his mind and then sit down. He said he was so proud of himself, that he's decided to go on a mission, and he wants Craig to talk to him about it this week! He will be sad when he learns there are no bachelors allowed in the mission field, but maybe that it will encourage him to finally marry?

I will end this blog post with one of many stories I heard this weekend from a wonderful, faithful woman in our ward. Miracles are common among the Island members here, but they are not taken for granted. 
She told me about her young daughter who, years ago, had a serious physical problem that needed attention. They lived on one of the islands at that time and her child needed to come to New Zealand for the surgery. They had no money and sadly, were rejected by the church welfare to transport and pay for her child's surgery. Her sister lived in Hawaii and told her to bring her child there. She took her daughter there and her sister took the child to a doctor. The doctor immediately put the child at the front of the line for surgery the next day. Her daughter was fixed up and when the sister went to pay the hospital, the bill was zero. She asked why that was so and the hospital told her that sometimes the bill is zero. This woman told me with tears in her eyes that when they had extra no money, they paid their tithing and fast offering and they had these blessings! 

I have to pinch myself that we are here serving a mission for the Lord and associating with these wonderful people. When they greet you, it's not with a handshake, but with a loving embrace and kiss on the cheek and I love this! Tonight at a member's home, I was introduced to a young man about 20 and he sweetly kissed my cheek and embraced me with reverence and respect! I had never seen him before. He also had given his uncle a hongi, which is Maori tradition of touching noses and foreheads in a greeting, and a tradition of sharing the breath of life. Another loving and kind gesture! 

Thank you for reading my blog posts. They are lengthy, but a way for me to tell a bit of our life here on this adventure in New Zealand. The Gospel is so true! We love the Book of Mormon and the opportunity to study, and teach, share and invite! We love you and miss you!

Elder and Sister Martin

Saturday, January 16, 2016

January 17, 2016

I was so happy this week to find out that a package I sent to Utah almost two months ago, and had thought was lost, had finally arrived. Of course, I could've replaced all the items I thought were lost.  
I imagine how much more intently Heavenly Father feels about the "loss" of even one of His children, who cannot be replaced, and how more joyful He is when they are "found"! A great lesson for us as found in the Parable of the Lost Sheep, Lost Silver, and the Prodigal Son in Luke 15.

Our Sisters are a three-some now for a few weeks, until transfers. They are such a cute and awesome force for the Lord! Our new addition is Sister Placito from Manila, Philippines. These young missionaries are like spiritual machines, doing the Lord's work rain or shine, day in and day out. They are so kind and loving towards us, always asking how they can help. They inspire us to do more. Thank goodness they are little so all three fit in the back of our little car!

The summer weather is finally nice, so it was time to take Family Home Evening outside! We got together with a few families at Ambury Park for burgers, watermelon, potato salad and games. The Sisters wore the kids out till they said, "no more games!"

Who couldn't love these beautiful smiling faces! 

The rugby ball got stuck in the tree and Maui, who is a natural tree climber, climbed up to get it. 
What a beautiful night for a casual time together at the park!

At the temple last week in the Distribution Center, we were able to buy a video called "In God We Trust, a History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in New Zealand". It is a great video narrated by President Sid Goeng and his wife, and only sold locally. It especially highlights the Maori revelations given in the 1800's by several Maori chiefs about how the people would know the true church by the missionaries who would come from the East, learn their language, eat their food and sleep in their homes. We have spent the week showing this video to several families, and they've enjoyed learning about the history of the church here in their country.

The week went by very quickly, with lots of visits and even two commitments from less active men to come to church. Saturday, we planned an excursion with other Senior couples to this beautiful spot. 

We toured around the Goat Island Marine Preserve in the Glass Bottom Boat! This little beach is a popular scuba diving, kayaking, and snorkeling spot, and there were tons of people on the beach and in the water. The boat skipper had to be so careful not to run over any snorkelers, because they are swimming with their heads down and not paying attention to the boat. 

There was 18 of us altogether. We got an eyeful of snapper and red moki, and some sea urchins; nothing too exotic, but fun to see. I started to get a little sea sick from looking down, so I looked up and forward. We also saw several caves on the island. It was a beautiful day and afterwards we went out to eat.

After lunch a few of us drove out to Anchor Bay on the Tawharanui Reserve and found this popular beach for locals! The waves looked fun for surfing, boogy boards and swimming. We parked ourselves on the beach and settled in for the rest of the afternoon. 

The guys left Sister Bath and I, and drove back to their favorite golf course. When they came back to get us most of the crowds were gone. This other section of the beach was pretty much deserted and low tide made the waves break way out there. 

This is the first time I've been warm enough to wear my tankini top, and no, we are not breaking our "Senior mission rules". 

Sister Bath is a fun beach companion, and we are more than happy to send our husbands off to golf while we enjoy the beach! They are giddy with excitement that they get to golf. 

This is what some bays look like at low tide. The boats are left, and the ground is dry enough to walk on out to the water. It's hard to believe that just hours earlier, these boats were floating and the water was lapping at the edges of the shore. 

This is a very thoughtful quote! We've been teaching lessons from Gospel Principles about Judgment Day and Exaultation, and in it we learn that after the Millennium we will be judged and sent to live in the kingdom that we are most comfortable, the kingdom we wanted and deserved! We won't get what we didn't live. Just like this quote that we "cannot pray for something and act less"! 

Today, Sunday, we were so happy that our two men who committed to coming to church, did come, and it was a great meeting for them! We hope and pray it's a new start for them. 

Also tonight were wonderful testimonies and music at the Come and See Fireside. A man who was baptized 3 weeks ago gave his testimony. His wife is a member, but she quit coming to church. When he asked her why, she said, "How would you like going to church alone?" He then realized how selfish he had been for being in his own world and not attending church with her.  He took the lessons and got baptized and now they look forward to going to the temple next year. 

Another couple spoke who were recently baptized. The husband had smoked, drank, and gambled. He even spent many nights in jail. She was an angry wife and their marriage was crumbling. Somehow they're 7 year old son invited the Sisters to their home and that started the process of change and conversion! 

Two great stories of people who recognized the simple truths of the Gospel and were courageous enough to listen as the Spirit testified to them that it was time to change, and change they did. May we all be courageous today, and make the necessary changes in our lives that will bring us closer to God! 

We love and pray for you each day! We love this opportunity to serve. It is a great blessing that we cherish! Service, whereever it is done, is a great blessing! 

Elder and Sister Martin

Sunday, January 10, 2016

January 10, 2016

For a lot of New Zealanders, last week was still part of Christmas break, so many people were away, still had visitors or were just unavailable for us to visit. We don't mind the break too much, because the roads are uncrowded and easier to travel. In the U.S. we are so used to straight and fast roads, but that is not the case here. Most roads have curves and there are lots of roundabouts. The main motorway (freeway) going through Auckland is often contested at any time of the day. Soon when schools open again from summer break, traffic will be worse.

I learned something new this week, weaving flowers. It is fun and easy. The green dries brown and they can be dyed or left natural. I hope to use them for the chapel with fresh flowers when it is my week to provide the flowers. Thank you Gaelene!!!!

Our beautiful Sisters have been teaching this wonderful Tongan woman, but she left for Tonga, back to her husband and children. She embraced the Gospel and plans to get baptized in Tonga. To say goodbye, we had a great FHE with her and the family she's been staying with. She loved coming to church and even started paying tithing. She's seen great blessings and miracles come into her life from her faith in Jesus Christ and from all she has learned. We hope to see her again in June when she is returning. 

Every couple of months the mission president has interviews with all the missionaries, including the Seniors. We passed our interview this time and are glad we don't have any assignment changes. President Balli is a great leader, and he and Sister Balli work endlessly, tirelessly, they love the missionaries, and are always so happy! Being responsible for 150 young men and women missionaries is a tough calling. Our previous stake president, Sione Tuione, was just called to be the new Tongan Mission President, and is another great man! 

We visit a man who is a recent convert of a year and a half, and is less active. He struggles with faith and has many doubts. He is a prime example of someone who should "doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith" as Pres. Uchtdorf said in his Oct. 2013 conference talk. Something very simple and profound happened to him when the sister missionaries were talking to him on his doorstep. They don't even remember what they were talking about but he said his heart was pierced by the first and second commandments,  "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind",  and "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." It was a revelation for him that maybe all those doubts and questions don't matter if he can live these two great commandments. 
We hope to help him move forward from here and get him back to church. 

This is such a lovely view of the Hamilton Temple, which still has this Nativity scene displayed. 
We made a trip there this week with two lovely ladies for a wonderful occasion. 

We were privileged to drive Leti (middle) to the temple to be sealed to her late husband. It was a sacred occasion for her, and she has been looking forward to this for many months. Her friend drove up from Roturua as well. Leti is a wonderful and generous woman that we love teaching the Gospel Principles lessons to every week, and we are thankful she wanted us to be a part of her day. 

To show their appreciation to us, Sister Trull and Sister Selwa made us breakfast for dinner Friday night. It was very sweet of them and delish. How did they know Elder Martin loves breakfast food! 

I saw this picture of Salt Lake City with all the snow they've had,  and while I think this view is magnificent, I'm glad I'm here and not there! 

This is my view, which is equally magnificent, considering there is not a cloud in the sky. We haven't seen a cloudless sky for months!  Just an hour before there was complete cloud coverage. Now I wish I had a hat and my bathing suit! We had fun watching some boys haul a queen-sized blow up mattress out into the water to ride the waves on. They had a blast with it. 

Saturday, we went back to Omaha Beach with several couples. This has become a favorite spot because the golf course is 2 minutes away, and that makes fun for all, either golf or the beach, or both! 

Love this variegated hybiscus from a member's yard. She plucked it for me. 

I love this quote. We are told though, that the object and design of God is for our happiness; hence, The Plan of Happiness! Only by keeping the commandments can we truly be happy. 

Also, in our lesson today about Exaltation, it said, "The time to fulfill the requirements for exaltation is now". I realized that I'm at an age where "now" really does mean now! Time is running out and I had better complete more of those requirements! I have been able to read the Book of Mormon twice in the last nine months and that has been a blessing. It is now #1 on my book list, and I'm ready to read it again! I know the Book of Mormon was written for us in these latter days and it is truly another testament of Jesus Christ. There is just so much to read and do, and so little time! 

We are so happy to be in this beautiful place, the "dessert" of missions! Stay warm, all our loved ones, and be safe! Thank you for your prayers! 

Elder and Sister Martin