Saturday, April 23, 2016

April 24, 2016

We are so blessed here to have wonderful instruction from great leaders. In my last blog post I quoted a little bit of our Area President's address to us at a FHE. What he said rings so true, and we have talked about it often with members. We also know it is important to share President Pearson's message with our friends and family at home. 

He said, "We must avoid deception and distraction!

How do you avoid deceptions?

FOCUS our lives, and center MORE on the teachings of the Savior. We must develop Christ-like attributes.

How do you avoid deception?   If you don't ook through the same lens as the Father – understanding The Plan of Salvation – you will be lost. We must teach our children how to not be deceived and how discern between truth & error. 


Understanding the true purpose of life is ESSENTIAL. We are living in troubled times.  We need to pray mightily to understand what we can do to teach our children and grandchildren, to help them find a deep, personal testimony of the Savior." 

Since we've been in New Zealand, Elder Quentin Cook and D. Todd Christofferson have visited and spoken to us. Recently, I was told by our Zone Leader that Elder Holland was coming on a certain day and we would all gather to hear him. I was so excited that I rescheduled several appointments to free up that day. A few hours later, I got another got a text message from the Zone leaders saying, "April Fools!" We were so disappointed and felt foolish we had fallen for their prank. It was such a good one though, that we passed it on to all the other Senior couples. Every one fell for it like we did and were not happy to find out it was an April Fool's joke. 

Every 6 weeks is Transfers and the possibility that we have to say goodbye to one of our Sisters. We had a feeling Sister Selwa would leave. She was transferred 4 hours up north to Kaikohe, which is out in the "bush". She was happy for the change, but not too happy when we joked that they eat a lot of fish, mussels and oysters up there. She doesn't like any if that! We will miss her sweet and gentle ways.

We welcome our new Sister, Sister Kilgrow!

We bought ice cream for the Elder's and Sister's because Elder Mahoney, our District Leader, was leaving us too. He is only transferring to the next Zone though. We enjoyed all of our meetings with him and are sad to see him go. 

The Strawberry Farm is our favorite for ice cream and veggies, and they close their doors for the winter in one month. We took Mele for her earned ice cream because she has not used any bad language. We had a FHE lesson with her family about using bad language and Elder Martin challenged the family that if they would use good language for 3 weeks, he would take them to hit golf balls! We kept extending the deadline, but Mele was always the only one able to keep the challenge, so we took her for ice cream. She is a sweetheart and we loved sharing an hour with her over ice cream! 

This is one of the beautiful Norfolk Pines common here in New Zealand. I never really noticed, but Craig's sister Connie, while visiting here, on commented how lovely the tree was, and showed us the dainty star at the top! So cute and made the tree even more special!

We had a baptism last week! The Galu family (there are 5 younger children below baptism age not pictured) has been ready for weeks to get the baptized! We love their humbleness and sweetness and the Sisters did a great job teaching them. Before their first lesson, they told the Sisters they couldn't come to church that first Sunday because they needed to go to their old church to say 
"good-bye", and they have attended our ward since, about two months! Such a dedicated family! 

Connie and Ken had a wonderful time touring the South Island and Ken said he wants to move here! All their plans worked out well and they give praises to their travel agent! They returned to Auckland Saturday and will be with us a few more days before going home! We have really enjoyed their visit and getting to know Ken better! We appreciate them wanting to come to New Zealand (Who wouldn't want to come here).

After church, dinner and short naps, we were able to take Connie and Ken downtown for a quick look before dark and our evening FHE appointment. Hundreds and hundreds of sailboats, yachts, and fishing boats are docked, which is why Auckland is called "The City of Sails". 

A usual scene is Connie taking a picture and the men solving the world's problems! 
Of course, here I am taking this picture! There is so much beauty, more than can be captured on my camera, and we ladies just can't help ourselves!

Mission Bay in the Fall! Not too many people, but the beach still seems to be a gathering place on the weekends for families and kids' fun! Out in the distance is the town of Devonport.

A face only a mother could love? Actually this is our Stake President's handsome and shy son performing with his high school.  I caught this on the Internet and he said I could share it. Don't worry, the "tattoos" are stenciled makeup!

We saw this funny message printed on a tea towel hanging up in the front window of a gift store. 
Some people might think that being with your spouse for 18 months in a tiny apartment, together 24/7, would cause one to want to grab a club, but we are very happy and feel blessed to have this unique time together. When I need a little space, I walk across the street to the mall and go shopping. 

When we left on our mission, our Stake President in Utah blessed us that our family would be blessed and protected while we were gone. President Pearson also told us our "family & our loved ones will be in God’s hands while we serve!" We have seen this to be true and know the Lord is looking out for all families of missionaries! 

The church leaders also "hope for a surge in Senior Missionaries " that will rival what (they) have seen recently in young missionaries. Get your affairs in order and get out on a mission! The best thing ever! There is no need to fear over little concerns. The Lord will help you find a way!!! 

"You have been called and prepared to carry on this work.  Once called and set apart you can do whatever is asked." This is so true. I often need this reminder. We love the work, love the people and love the young missionaries!

Blessings be to all our loved ones. A shout out to Lane and Maureen Martin, (Craig's brother) who got married almost two years ago and are leaving this week for their mission to North Carolina as MLS missionaries! Be safe and love your time serving. It goes by way too quickly!  

Love and prayers,
Elder and Sister Martin

Sunday, April 17, 2016

April 17, 2016

The Auckland Mission Sisters were treated to a special Sister's meeting last week. The theme was "We need women who. . .", with a call for women to deepen their discipleship. The oyster and a pearl were used to talk about how we can become more perfect "pearls". Just as the oyster covers the grain of sand sand with layers and layers of calcium and silica that creates a pearl, we need to add layers of gospel knowledge, testimony and service to perfect ourselves. 

The Oyster

There once was an oyster
Whose story I tell,
Who found that some sand 
Had got into his shell.
It was only a grain,
But it gave him great pain.
For oysters have feelings
Although they’re so plain.

Now, did he berate
The harsh working of fate
That had brought him
To such a deplorable state?
Did he curse at the government,
Cry for election,
And claim that the sea should
Have given him protection?

No – he sad to himself
As he lay on a shell,
Since I cannot remove it,
I shall try to improve it.
Now the years have rolled around,
As the years always do,
And he came to his ultimate
Destiny – stew.

And the small grain of sand
That had bothered him so
Was a beautiful pearl
All richly aglow.
Now the tale has a moral;
For isn’t it grand
What an oyster can do 
With a morsel of sand?

What couldn’t we do
If we’d only begin
With some of the things
That get under our skin.

 Author: Unknown
Elder and Sister Balli are in the middle surrounded by all the mission "pearls"! Can you find me?

Last week for FHE all the Senior Couples met with the Area Presidency as they talked to us about their experiences at General Conference meeting with the Apostles. Just one thing of many great teachings President Kevin Pearson told us was

"There is no more room for casual teaching of the gospel in our homes.

The tools of deception & distraction are becoming pervasive throughout the world."

We must teach The Plan of Salvation and the true purpose of life in our homes if we are going to have any hope of preparing for the 2nd coming. The instruction at church is not enough.

"We are living in troubled times. We need to pray mightily to understand what we can do to teach our children and grandchildren, to help them find deep, personal testimony of the Saviour.

The greatest problem our grandkids have may be their parents. We are not done teaching.  We need to look for ways to continue to bring righteous teachings to our family in the days to come.


Hope is always smiling before us.   We need not fear."

These two are here for a visit! Connie (Craig's sister) and Ken Taylor! We have had a fun few days with them before they leave to see New Zealand's South Island. We have taken them to the beautiful beaches, waterfalls and countryside around the Auckland area. A lot of places we've been to more than once, but love to see again. 
Everywhere we travel there are fields like this with of lots of sheep. Connie commented that it looks like a storybook land with the bright green hills dotted with sheep.

We went to the market in Matakana, which has become a favorite stopping place for us on some Saturdays. Lots of items and different foods to buy attract heaps of people to this tiny town. I love the booth where I can buy beautiful and unusual shells so reasonably. 

We went to the Parry Kauri Park to see the almost decimated Kauri trees. It is a park with a walkway through unspoiled jungle, or bush, as they call it. These are the tops of the tree ferns that we are looking down on from a platform. The trunks below them are about 20 feet tall, all growing toward the sunlight. They look like giant umbrellas! 

You can see the tall tree fern over the heads of Craig, Connie and Ken, and lots of dense bush!

This is a grove of young Kauri trees that might only be about 1-2 hundred years old. The oldest and largest tree in this park is 800 years old (the oldest Kauri tree in the country is 2000 years). 

Here's my happy companion. He is a great driver, taking us safely to all these beautiful places! 

This beautiful waterfall is only 35 min. from our home and was a perfect Sunday afternoon drive. Too bad it was raining, but that didn't hinder the beauty of the falls.  

Our grandson, Kendall, wrote this at school. It says "If I can go anywhere, I would go to New Zealand and eat other kinds of candy!" So cute. They like the "weird candy" we've sent in the mail. 

Friday night we had a farewell party for a couple heading home after almost two years here. This is their third mission, but their first MLS assignment. They have loved their mission and hate to go home! They've served the people well and made lifelong friends. We will be the same as them at the end of our time. Leaving will be tough!

Another thing President Pearson said is that the church hopes "for a surge in Senior Missionaries that will rival what we have seen recently in young missionaries". Leaving home for a mission is a great way for couples to not only serve others, but to serve each other! It is teaching us to appreciate one another as we grow closer together. 

At church today I asked an member how he was. He said it didn't matter how he was, but that he was there. What a reminder of commitment and truth in that statement. Showing up for church is essential! 

We are thankful for all our many blessings, for good health and strength, a supportive family and loving friends. Thank you for your prayers for us. We always need extra blessings to keep us safe while driving on the wrong side of the road. It is still a challenge at times!

Love you, 
Elder and Sister Martin

Saturday, April 9, 2016

April 10, 2016

People ask us how much time is left on our mission and we often don't give a straight answer, because we don't like thinking about it. We are enjoying every day even if it doesn't go the way we want. We always hope it goes the way the Lord wants. There is so much to do and so little time.  

We loved General Conference and the talk "To the Rescue". We have only been on one Rescue Night here and it was a great success! We were able to visit and touch the hearts of many new people who had been "lost". Two different families have been every week to church since that night! Just like Melvyn B. Arnold said in his talk about not having to do a lot of planning, organizing or talking about it, just go out and do it! Get some names and go! In one of the other wards, it is a set event every Wednesday night and even whole families participate! It doesn't even have to be a ward or leadership event, make it a family event and just go visit a less active member! 

We celebrated Craig's 68th birthday Monday by eating at one of the better Mexican places, Mexicali Fresh! Not much fanfare because he wanted it that way. We talked to a few of our kids and it was a good day. 

We had a scheduled FHE Monday evening though, that the Sisters turned into a surprise birthday party for Elder Martin! He was overwhelmed by the attention and treats! Cake and ice cream and pancakes with whipped cream! We ditched the planned lesson and played Book of Mormon Charades and really had a good time. His heart melted as we played "I love you because" and each told him why they love him. "I love Elder Martin because he is kind, brainy, knows a lot, is humble, has the Light of Christ, comes to teach us the Gospel, and smiles a lot"!  We love these families so much!

When we are out on our morning walk, we often see the Irvine's walking and holding hands.  They are another Senior couple living in our building and sadly, are going home after being here almost 2 years. They will really be missed because of all the good they do. This is they're third mission and they are great missionaries! 

This cactus is not in New Zealand, but is at our home in Scottsdale. I have to share it because it is so beautiful! It blooms several times a year and it reminds me of the delicate beauty that can come from a prickly cactus beast!

Sister Trull got some packets of chili mix in the mail and and invited us for a chili burrito lunch! She swears she's not much of a cook, but it was very good. We mostly enjoyed hanging with our little Texas "daughter" and her companion, Sister Tilini, for a little bit. Elder Martin gave them a lesson about the New Testament, while I did the dishes. Soon they were kicking us out so they could get back to work!  We like that attitude. 

This "Mona Lisa" picture is made out of "Jelly Belly" candies, as is the Power Ranger statue below. Interesting tidbits found at the Jelly Belly Store in Rotorua. You can buy anything Jelly Belly there, kind of like the M'nM store in Las Vegas. 

This was the start of an early morning Pday hike up Mangare Mountain with our Zone. Sister Selwa is so cute and stylish. I told her she would get hot in her zipped up sweatshirt and she never did. It stayed zipped the whole time. Sister Placido is her darling companion and we love being with them anytime! 

General Conference was last weekend in the U.S., but we watch it here a week late. No sight-seeing or beach-going because we spent our Saturday watching Conference at the Stake Center, and Sunday too! What powerful and inspiring talks by humble and spiritual men and women! They were all wonderful, but the crowning talk was definitely the last one given by Elder Holland! We were awed by his message, truly inspired wisdom and insight from a goodly man of God! 

I love where Elder Holland said "that the Lord blesses those who want to improve, who accept the need for commandments and try to keep them" and that the Savior is here to help us keep going. "He will help you get back up. He will help you repent, repair, fix whatever you need to fix, and keep going.
His divine love and unfailing help will be with us even when we struggle--no, will be with us especially when we struggle."

"If gospel standards seem high and the personal improvement needed in the days ahead seems out of reach, remember Joshua’s encouragement to his people when they faced a daunting future. “Sanctify yourselves,” he said, “for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.”

May you be blessed in your lives as you try each day to keep the commandments, serve others, and love your families and your neighbors. Thank you for your prayers for the missionaries! We love you!

Elder and Sister Martin

Sunday, April 3, 2016

April 3, 2016

Last Monday we got to Skype all our kids, which was Easter Sunday there, and catch up on all their activities. It was fun hearing about where the Easter Bunny hid the grandkid's baskets. Most all found one of theirs in the dishwasher. That must be the Easter Bunny's favorite basket-hiding spot. We are so happy our children like to get together for holidays even when Mom and Dad arent there. 

Because of Easter school break, a lot of people here were out of town Monday and Tuesday after Easter, so we had a slow start to our week. We found time to take the Sister missionaries for for their P-day shopping and ice cream cones at the Strawberry Farm. 

I will say that we left with a great feeling after every home we visited last week! The Spirit was with us in every lesson and we are always so well received. One man said he will come to General Conference with us next week. Another man has started coming with his adult daughter and this was their 3rd week. Another family has recommitted to reading and praying together!  We found a less active sister and she's been to church 3 times, has quit drinking and is trying to stop smoking! For every member who isn't willing or ready to progress, there are others who are on their way! We are just so blessed to be able to help a little bit on their journey.

We finally were able to visit a sister we've seen at church, and have tried to set up a FHE with, but it never worked out. She surprised me with a decorative, woven tote she brought from Samoa for me! The generosity of members here is so amazing to us! 

The Freeman's are a new Senior couple from Utah as of one week, and we were happy to have a nice lunch together and show them around a little bit.  They are MLS missionaries like us, so we tried to give them some good tips. This main one is our favorite, "Go do as much good as you can do!"

We took the Freeman's to One Tree Hill, and as we drove through a different entrance, saw that it is also called Cromwell Park. Notice how narrow this opening is! Thankfully, most of the cars here are narrow too. We drove through a beautiful row of trees with long branches creating a canopy over the road.

One thing we love about New Zealand is the beautiful old trees!

We celebrated Sister Placido's birthday with a lovely lunch provided by Sister Tematua with her killer, delicious chocolate cake!!  

We love our lessons and lunches with sweet Alice Tematua (left) and her niece, Moana.
She knows we don't like fish heads (ha) and always makes us very healthy food. Her desserts are something else though. This chocolate cake and her tiramisu is amazing, and our downfall!

Sister Jackson asked me, "Are we going to miss this when we go home?" Duh, of course. P-day was rainy in the morning, and because Craig requested it, we stayed close to home today.  Later, we drove to Takapuna for an early dinner by the beach, and we loved a relaxing time there.

After dinner, we went to this movie. It premiered at Sundance a month or so ago, and just opened in New Zealand. We think it was filmed on the South Island and we enjoyed it. It gives you a little idea of "out of the city" life here and what "the bush" looks like. It's a humerous story based on a fiction book, called "Wild Pork and Watercress", written by a well-known NZ author, Barry Crump. 

Tonight was this amazing full-arched rainbow across the city. I was on our balcony and sadly, couldn't get a picture of the whole rainbow. Winter here is the start of rainbow season. Last year, because of the moisture, I think I saw them everyday. 

Another cool picture of the Redwood Forest down in Rotorua we visited with Heather and Bryan a few weeks ago. We can't believe how fast their time here came and went! 

I loved the Woman's Broadcast from General Conference with the theme of service. There were so many good quotes from the talks. This poem wasn't from the conference, but I heard it at a fireside talk given by Sister Keung and think it goes well with service:

"Christ has no hands, but our hands
To do His work today;
He has no feet but our feet
To lead men in His way;
He has no tongue but our tongue
To tell men how he died;
He has no help but our help
To bring them to His side.

What if our hearts are busy
With other work than His?
What if our feet are walking
Where sin's alluremeant is?
What if our tongues are speaking
Of things His lips would spurn?
How can we hope to help Him
And hasten His return?
                  (Author unknown)

Our mistake after retirement and before our mission was being too "busy" doing "other work than His"! 
We were not busy enough in well-doing, and we pray we will step up our service when we come home. Our hearts have grown with love for this work and the people here. We knew it would happen, we were told it would, and it has! 

We pray for you daily, we love you, and miss you!  We are so truly blessed to have the fullness of the  restored Gospel guiding our lives! We try not to take it for granted, especially when there are so many in the world suffering from wickedness, and lacking in Spirit. The Lords army of missionaries are working hard to change that, but everyone needs to help. Let's DOIT! 

Elder and Sister Martin