Saturday, February 27, 2016

February 28, 2016

Happy Leap Day and Year!!! 

Last week was a good week with some great visits and opportunities for service.
We were able to connect with some people we haven't seen for a while and felt really welcomed. 

One Sister expressed her desire to return to church, has been praying and reading her scriptures, and even set up a night for us to be with her family. Every time we've been in her home we've felt the Spirit with this great family. 

Also, a recent widow, opened up about her pain and struggles of her children with their loss. We were able to leave with a message of peace along with a prayer. We hope she will come to church but that may be a ways off. 

A member called us who should've been at work, but a phone call from her neighbor brought her home early, to a watery mess in her basement/garage from a broken pipe. Because we couldn't get there right away, I called the High Priest Group Leader, who went right over. We got there at the tail end to help a little bit, and were thankful for the quick response of the Priesthood. This woman made lemonade out of lemons. The broken pipe was quickly fixed and she looked at the mess as an opportunity to clean out her basement/garage. 

Yes, they do have Dunkin Donut stores here, but we have never been to one. Since we were meeting the Sisters for Companion Study on Tuesday morning, we thought it might be fun to take them some American style donuts. We bought 5 for only $13 and got a 6th one free! That is why we have never bought any. Thank goodness there is no Krispy Creme here. 

We enjoyed helping the Sisters role play for their lesson that night. They are teaching a new family and they did great. In fact, this family will be getting baptized on March 12!!!  They are a lovely family of 7 children and are truly golden. The first Sunday, even before their first lesson, they apologized for not coming to church. The father said they have to go back to their own church to say goodbye. They have attended our ward ever since. 

This week was our grandson, Isaac's 5th birthday and his father's 40th!! Happy Birthday!!!

A Brother had some questions for Elder Martin about a certain New Testament parable. At his house, Elder Martin was able to explain to him the parable, and I got to hold their baby while his wife put children to bed and caught up on some laundry. It turns out that because this member learned and understood this parable, he expressed appreciation to his father in law for all he had done for them, which immediately broke down years of barriers between the two. Simple service goes along way. 

Zone training last week emphasized teaching repentance. There is a great article in the February Ensign this month about repentance. It says, 
"In our day we may fall into a self-satisfied routine of gospel living. We tell ourselves, “I go to church, I pay my tithing, I live the Word of Wisdom--I’m doing just fine. Without realizing it, we may fall into the trap of ignoring those sins that don’t show to the outside world." 
We all have need of daily/weekly repentance. 

For fun we met Sister Trull and her companion, Sister Lott, and took them out to lunch. It was special to be with her again. Elder Martin is the missionary's "Gospel question/answer-man" and Sister Trull always has great questions to ask him. 

When possible, we show the movies, Meet the Mormons, Ephraim's Rescue  and Cokeville Miracles to families in the ward. We brought these videos from the U.S. and all are true stories with great messages. Everyone should see them. 

We've had some beautiful days, but it was still hot in the sun. The Sisters are smart to carry these giant golf umbrellas to protect themselves from the burning rays. Elder Martin and I have AC and a car so we think it's perfect outside. 

Friday night, with a group of Senior couples, we went to a NZ production of Phantom of the Opera at the beautiful Civic Center Theater in downtown Auckland. We've seen this play twice, in LA and Kansas City, and we were glad to see it here because it was wonderful!!! Yes, Seniors are allowed to attend plays!

No beach experience for us on Saturday, but we enjoyed participating in a bi-stake "Helping Hands" service project. We didn't have yellow vests to wear, but that didn't keep us from filling up a large bag of rubbish as we walked around a huge park. Tin cans, shopping carts and furniture were also retrieved from the bush. This Sister from our ward was working very hard and we stopped to have a picture with her. It was a great turnout of members. 

In addition, members and missionaries went door to door passing out 3000+ crime prevention flyers. One American Elder told me he had good responses from the neighborhood to the flyers, and one bad response by a man who cussed him out in Samoan. Then this very blonde Samoan-speaking Elder answered the man back in Samoan, "Have a nice day", and the man's face dropped! Funny and unexpected!

This is part of the "Helping Hands" volunteers before we went home. Can you find me with my sunglasses on? 

Saturday night was the baptism of Brother Afoa's three adopted children, Rose, James and Solomoa. There was also three 8 year old member baptisms too! It was a great night. The YSA were on the program, but none came forward to sing, so Brother Lawrence called Brother Talea from the audience to sing! Without hesitation, he came forward and sang wonderfully. Never before have I seen someone do that. George is my hero! 

Afterwards, we went with the Sisters to Brother Lawrence's house for Maori fry bread. I brought ingredients for Indian tacos, using the fry bread, which everyone loved. Just spreading American cuisine around!

This is a baby hedgehog we saw drinking water on the side of a country road. We stopped the car to take a look and for photos, and it never stopped drinking or even looked at us. So cute!

I saw this photo on FB and thought it was funny, but corny and a must to share!

This was an ordinary week, but not without extraordinary learning and progression for many!  President Balli told us that the success of a mission is gauged by the growth of the missionary. If this is true, Elder Martin and I are truly successful missionaries! Everyday is a good day!

The Mission prints a "Miracle Book" once a year with miracle stories submitted by the missionaries. Before we go home, we hope to be able to add a story in next year's book about it being a miracle that we never got into a car accident here! We never leave our apartment without a prayer for safety, and we have been saved from disaster many times. Driving on the wrong side of the road is a challenge!

We are so thankful for this opportunity to serve and be missionaries, especially here in New Zealand! We love our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ!  We know this is His true church, restored again in these latter days. Our prophet, President Thomas S. Monson, along with the twelve Apostles, lead and guide this church and it is a beacon of light in the world. The Book of Mormon is true scripture and another testament of Jesus Christ. We admonish all to read it and pray to know for yourselves that it is true! We pray for all of you and love you! 

Elder and Sister Martin

Saturday, February 20, 2016

February 21, 2016

We realize some of you don't really believe we are on a mission, but just on a long vacation! This blog post may reinforce that belief because we finally had some visitors and we took some days off to show them the beauties of New Zealand's Northland! 

Our dear friends, the Watsabaughs arrived in Auckland harbor on this cruise ship after a two-week tour from Syndney to Tasmania, New Zealand's South Island, and the southern part of the North Island. We were so excited to have them here for a few days to show them some of the places we love.

I was surprised at my heightened emotions from seeing these great people we love, so far from home. We greeted each other with long hugs before we took off to get them settled. The guys could hardly wait to catch up on their favorite pastime - golf - so then we drove towards Omaha beach, but had lunch at the Rusty Pelican in Matakana. A perfect day for the beach and golf and getting reacquainted. 

Wanting to make the most of our daylight, we spent Sunday after church site seeing. One Tree Hill is a "must" stop, with 360 degree views of Auckland, and magnificent grounds and trees. 

Piha Beach is majestic with a rocky cliffs and a long black-sandy beach. I was surprised to see so many people there camping, strolling and swimming. Probably because the weather was perfect! 

Craig and RaNae are leaning against the rocks far enough away you can't make them out, and JB is wearing the turquoise shirt walking towards me. The dry black sand burns hot where any sand touches your feet, even with sandals, so were happy to get to wet sand. People with dogs have to carry them over the sand to the grass or road. Their poor little paws would burn. 
A place we had never been to, but heard was great to see is Hobbiton, where they filmed parts of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbits. It is a busy place with lots of tourists, but we all enjoyed it, even though we are not dye-hard fans of the movies. We never even saw The Hobbit movies. 

Hobbiton is located about 2 hours south of us on a beautiful cattle farm that was first transformed into a temporary set. After becoming a popular tourist attraction, and with the filming of the Hobbit series, the set was rebuilt with permanent materials. The owners of the property manage the whole sight seeing operation. 

None of the Hobbit holes have interiors to view. Above is the living, large "party tree" shown in the movie. Under the grassy places where you see chimneys are Hobbit holes, all uniquely painted, decorated and landscaped. 

This is the famous Bilbo's Bags End Hobbit hole. The tree above it is a transplanted tree trunk with leaves individually attached to make it look alive. 

Everyone thought these two were twins. The matching orange shirts were not planned.

The grounds are maintained by college-aged men and women, who also take turns giving the guided tours. 

Thatch roof experts were brought over from England to make these roofs from rushes growing on the farm. They even put fake lichen on the fences to make them look older and authentic. 

A lot of attention to detail, of course. 

Nice view of three Hobbit holes, the large Party Tree, with Bags End at the top with the fake tree behind it. Very picturesque!

At the end of the tour they take us into the Green Dragon Tavern for a drink of beer or for us, ginger ale. 

The next day, we stayed closer to home and went to Hanua Falls and Manukau Heads. Many parks have huge frames like this for picture-taking. Behind JB is the beautiful Hanua waterfall (shown also in our picture at the beginning of this post).

It's amazing that those two white straps stretched across the road keep the cattle from roaming off away from the path. They won't step over them!

We drove 1 1/2 hours to this lighthouse at Manukau Heads, only to find the gates to it were locked twenty minutes before we arrived! The weather was rainy, or we might've walked to it, but we didn't. Live and learn about closing times if we ever go out there again! 

We had such a nice time with JB and RaNae, and we were so lucky there was an extra empty apartment they could stay in, so they weren't so crowded with us. It was hard to say goodbye, but they were travel-weary, and we needed to get back to missionary work. 

While the Watsabaugh's were here, we did manage to attend a Special Zone Training by the AP's and the Mission President and his wife. It was a very inspired meeting, emphasizing the need to personally study Preach My Gospel, exercise more faith in "finding, and being bold in teaching repentance. 
A good quote from Elder Maxfield was, "You can't have one foot in the mission and one foot out of the mission."
Sister Balli quoted from 1 Nephi 2:10, "Be firm and steadfast and immovable" which takes great effort. "We are the Apostle's companions in the work of a missionary."
President Balli admonished us to not "compartmentalize" our sins, thinking we can commit a small sin because we are doing many "good" labors. 

Also, a woman that we've visited twice a month since arriving last April, died, and we were happy to attend and speak at her funeral. She was so kind to us and was excited to hear about all the places we visited on our P-days. She was 80 and in poor health, and the only church member in her family, having joined a few years ago. We are very sad about her sudden death, and will miss our visits with her. 

The darling children from each ward performed traditional dances from different islands. Our ward celebrated dances from Fiji. We didn't get to attend, but I saw these pictures on the ward Facebook Page.

So cute!

So fierce!
To celebrate our upcoming Ward Conference on Sunday, we had a ward campout Friday and Saturday at Ambury Park, which is located within our ward boundaries. There were many large family tents set up, and we had a really nice borrowed 4 man tent. 
There were lots of games played; team relays, tug-o-war, football, and volleyball. A big BBQ, Friday night with breakfast and lunch on Saturday. Also a service project Saturday morning. There was lots of free time spent relaxing, mingling and visiting. 

Craig is solving the worlds problems with the High Priest Group Leader, Brother Lameko.

George and I are talking a while, with the campfire in the background. Don't you love his machete? 

After breaking camp and lunch, and although many families had already left, we, "the chosen ones",
posed for a group photo. See if you can find Craig and I! (Hint, I'm the only blonde)

Ward Conference today was very nice and well-attended. President Young-Yen, our Stake President, gave a powerful talk relating our successful ward campout activity to Enoch's righteous city. He talked about about keeping the Sabbath a day Holy, and keeping the commandments. 

We love our ward family and the welcoming and good people that they are. They have strong testimonies and teach their children gospel principles and obedience. We have a huge youth group and soon to be many full-time missionaries. It seems we have much more to learn from this ward than they do from us, but the best is working together a day at a time. 

We love our mission and the opportunity to serve. This is no ordinary church, it is the restored Church of Jesus Christ! It is not a break- off of any other church, it is unique and was brought forth in these latter days through Joseph Smith, who received the keys of the Priesthood, with authority to act in God's name. "God IS great!"

We love and appreciate you!
Elder and Sister Martin

Saturday, February 6, 2016

February 7, 2016

Rain or shine, we enjoy every day of our mission. Today was Fast and Testimony Meeting at church and Brother Talea paid Craig the nicest compliment. He said, "Elder Martin, he's the man! When he comes to visit, he brings sunlight to our house!" It doesn't matter if it's raining because we bring the "light of the Gospel" with us!

The Sisters are having great success with finding and teaching and look forward to a big month with lots of lessons. We met a family with seven children at our Stake President's house who are ready to hear the Gospel lessons. He is a minister in a non-denominational Samoan church. The Sisters invited  him to church on Sunday, but he said, "I can't go this Sunday, because I have to go to my church to say goodbye to everyone. I will be at your church the next Sunday." Wow!

Monday was the Auckland Anniversay holiday, so our ward had a party at Okahu Bay. We got there at 8am for good parking, but the weather wasn't good. Soon the clouds parted over downtown Auckland and Craig got this great photo of the city across the bay. No one seemed to care that it was cloudy and rainy and the kids were in the water after having a yummy breakfast cooked by the men, and a game of football. The bishop's wife brought a free-standing ladder and took it out in the water to hold while the kids jumped off of it. Soon the adults were jumping off of it, and that's when it got a little scary. 

A group in this Waka came by and gave us a show, rowing and chanting very impressively. The sun came out around noon, just as we were leaving. A great party!

Giant balloons at the park by the beach. Such a fun holiday with so many people out enjoying the beaches. 

We took Sister Nakibae and her companion, Sister Ohwhiler, out to eat Tuesday. They aren't in our Zone, but we miss seeing them. They talked us into going to an Indian takeout, and it was soooo good! We were happy to try new food because we seem to eat at the same places.

A Samoan couple moved into our ward and the husband struggles with English. Craig offered to help him with his English, so we went there the other day for his first lesson. He was dressed in a white shirt and tie, ready to learn. His wife helped with some translation, and also served us a delicious drink. With teary eyes he expressed appreciation that we would take the time to help him, and said how no one has ever tried to help him like this. We said we were happy to come every week. We hope he does his homework too!

We are sad to lose the Sayer's this week from our mission. Their time is up and they left for home. We had a special FHE in their honor with the other local couples on Monday night. Then Craig and I got to take them to lunch for our own little farewell. They were our "fun" MLS couple when we got here and have been such an example of service and good works. They will truly be missed.

We taught a woman from the Cook Islands about God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost. She isn't a member, and although she was taught to believe in the Trinity, she still believed they were separate beings, but that God was an "Energy". After a discussion and quoting scriptures for an hour, Craig finally asked her, "When judgment day comes and you are sitting across from the Father, what will he look like?" She said, "A light?" Then we saw the "light" go on in her head as she realized what we were talking about. She then understood about God, that "His body, His eternal spirit is housed in a tangible body of flesh and bones (see D&C 130:22). God’s body, however, is perfected and glorified, with a glory beyond all description," and we are made in His image. We hope to tell her more this week. 

We made friends with a Senior couple from South Africa, who are serving a 2-year mission in the Soloman Islands and he sends me updates of all the work they do there. After reading the email below, I can't help but think how blessed our youth in the US are with readily available, quality education, that many demand free. Our spoiled youth need to appreciate their educational opportunities.  

"Anyone who is a stranger to the Solomon Island culture, or from the Islands, would not be able to grasp how difficult it has been to get these students to Vaiola College in Samoa, and the obstacles that have been placed in their way.  The poverty, and battle some of these students and their parents have in raising the money to send their children to a Church School is unbelievable!"


-        One set of parents moved out of their home, rented it out and lived in a tiny leaf house to save the money to pay the required portion of the fees.

-        One of the male students is the only church member in his family. He has worked as a security guard to raise the money, and also has grown vegetables and sold them, as his “guard money” was insufficient.

-        Another family borrowed money from the mother's employer to pay her portion of the fees.

-        They all had to pay for their passports, medicals, and  Police Clearance.

-        Not one of the parents has a motor vehicle, so the students had to catch   busses and/or walk to get everything done.

-        Some students battled to find birth certificates.

-         All the students attended a two hour English class every Friday afternoon since last March with Sister Nish to improve their English.  She also required them to read a book every two weeks from our Self-Reliance library.

-        There were many miracles getting tickets and visas in the nick of time.


The following are comments recorded from each student at the airport;

-        Jeremy- (2nd year student)  “I am very grateful for this opportunity to complete my studies at such a good school before going on mission”.

-        Rose- (2nd year student)  “I can’t wait to get back to daily seminary studies, I have really missed seminary during the holidays”.

-        David-  “I can’t thank Heavenly Father enough for this opportunity, I never believed I would get on the aeroplane”.

-        Nicola-  “It has been my dream since I heard about SOCS from Sister Nish, to go to a Church school and mix with so many other church kids”.

-        Rayna-   “To have decent teachers that come to every class and teach us will be wonderful (as Rose has told me)”.

-        Arnold-   “I stay on the island of Malaita and my forms were late, my parents couldn’t find the funds, I never had money for a passport. It is a miracle that I am here at the airport”.

-        Samson-  “I am a recent convert and cannot believe that I am about to go to a Church School. The Lord just continues to bless me and I am just so grateful”.


The Treaty of Waitangi is another holiday observed on Feb. 6, but celebrated on the closest weekend and Monday. It is to celebrate the signing of the treaty between the British and the Maori back in 1840. 
This event was at our local park. Those men knelt and the people stood on the stage for about an hour while talks were given by different dignitaries. We left before they were able to perform. 

From our weather app. we were promised sunny weather on Saturday, so we went north to Omaha Beach. The guys went golfing and the ladies hit the beach. We had moments of intense heat where I almost got in the water, but then the clouds came and cooled us off. When it started raining, we climbed in our shade tent for cover. This photo is our view from inside looking out. 

This photo, and the one above is us in our tent. A woman walking on the beach chuckled as she saw us huddled together, and asked to take our picture.  She also wanted to get in with us. 
We had a great time! 

I love this quote from one of our Prophets. We can't be "offended" or put off by the church. God's ways are mostly never popular and are becoming less and less. We have to decide who's side we will be on, and we choose the Lord's, and will follow the Prophets. That doesn't mean we are blind sheep, but we recognize the Shepherd's voice and know Him and He knows us! 

We are so thankful for the blessing of knowing who we were before this life, what we need to accomplish here on earth, and what awaits us after we leave this life. We are at peace knowing we will be with our loved ones forever. Keeping the commandments and serving others will bring us our greatest joy!

We love you all and pray for your good health and safety. Be good and humble!
Elder and Sister Martin