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

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