Sunday, July 31, 2016

July 31, 2016

Craig and I celebrated our 41st anniversary last week! What a great blessing to celebrate 40 and 41 years together while serving a wonderful mission in beautiful New Zealand! We are with each other 24/7 and still smiling! That is a testimony to the joy and blessings of the Gospel and missionary work!

Can you find us! We are on the left and I'm wearing a red sweater. The middle two couples are Sister and President Balli (mission president) and President and Sister Haleck (new Area President). President Haleck held these conferences to meet the missionaries in Auckland. I think this is about 1/4th of our missionaries. President and Sister Balli are wonderful leaders. I don't know how he sleeps at night from taking care of all these young missionaries!

There is a popular store here called Martha's Backyard and they sell American food products. There are cake mixes, candy, pop, cereal, seasonings and tons more.  The longer we are away from home, the more willing we are to pay more than double what they are in the States. We come here mainly to get our fix of salsa and dill pickles. This is the last jar of pickles we have to buy for $17.50 before we go home and buy it for $5.  It's worth it though, to have real dill pickles! I can't fit this huge jar in our fridge, so I have to slice up all the pickles and store them in a Tupperware.

Heather was so happy that her water broke and she started labor after only a few days past her due date. It was hard being so far away and waiting for word of her progress. 

Finally, at 2:30 am our time, we got the text that this darling bundle was been born 45 min. earlier at 7:46 am on Thursday the 29th. We are so happy to welcome grandchild #13 into our family! He was 8lbs. 1 oz. and 20.5 inches, and his name is T.J. (Thomas James) and he is perfect in every way!

You can see how obsessed Bryan is with his beautiful son already! We are so blessed to have a new baby in the family! We love you Heather and Bryan and little TJ!  Now we look forward to grandchild #14 coming to Emily and Kenny in October. Can hardly wait for another little boy!

Piroa Falls! We've been here before, but came again with several other Senior couples. When we find an awesome site, we have to bring others to see it. We love this area, called Waipu. If we lived in New Zealand, we would retire here. It is a quaint town out of the city, has beautiful beaches, a gorgeous golf course, and is less money than other areas. We can't get enough of it!

Wouldn't you like a huge driftwood shark hanging in your house. It is very clever and hangs in a delicious Waipu cafe. The artist is a local from Waipu!

Since we are not available, (and truthfully, I've shed some tears about that) our dear friend and neighbor in Saratoga Springs, Sue Chappell, offered to take my place as grandmother to our new baby! She is loving him up! Thank you Sue! 

We have the best the youth in our ward and loved their performance of a Hawaiian dance for youth conference over last weekend! There was so much enthusiasm and commitment to get it right! 

They all did so well after so many practices. Many great women sewed the dresses and pulled together their accessories! We will truly miss seeing events like this, but hope to access them on FB! 

Just a funny joke I found. Bryan Wright made a joke tonight about Craig and I being born in the 1800's, and he thought it was so funny! Just wait 30 years when little TJ is thinking his dad is pretty ancient! Haha! 

We had a wonderful week not only with family events, but also with missionary events. We were able to take a Samoan missionary to get her visa interview at the American Consulate, read the Book of Mormon with an investigator, help a dear family work through a major problem, teach a few lessons, and keep the Sister missionaries from getting soaked on our many rainy days by giving them rides when we could! Every day is a new adventure serving others and keeping warm and dry! 

A great talk was given by our ward mission leader today and he said, "Find where you teach, and teach where you find." Think about that! Wherever you are there are people waiting to be "found" and waiting to be taught the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. We need to find these people, and teach them in our homes. We should always "invite" because we never know when they will be ready to say yes. One sister's brother invited her for 6 years before she said yes to hearing the missionary lessons. 

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is an amazing church and I invite anyone reading this to find out why I say this. Seek out the wonderful young missionaries you see walking and riding bikes and let them teach you.  You can know for yourself if what they say is true, and it will add more truth to what you already know!

Have a great week and keep praying!
Elder and Sister Martin

Sunday, July 24, 2016

July 24, 2016

Happy Pioneer Day! We honor our pioneer heritage and the great sacrifice the early pioneer saints made for the Church and Gospel! Their example of courage, fortitude, and commitment are eternal! 

This is a shorter blog with a few words under each photo. It's late, my brain is dead, and we have another early day tomorrow. Our days are getting fuller, and longer, but time is going too fast!!!! 

We are so excited though, because, along with the Sisters, we are seeing many successes! We had a fantastic Sacrament Meeting today with great talks and testimonies, and lots of investigators and returning less actives! Its so fun being with them in church and sharing the Gospel! Our ward is really stepping up and inviting others to come! Waterlea Park Ward has a missionary vision! Penrose Stake has a missionary vision too! 

Our own Sister Selwa (from Zambia) was transferred back down our way from up north and it was good to go to lunch and connect again. She is living in Auckland Central, one of the busiest places in Auckland. We loved working with her in our ward and she is one of the best missionaries! 

Why would anyone have a nasty looking giant bug on their roof! When I spyed it while driving down a street, I made Craig stop the car so I could take a picture. I know it's not a Halloween decoration. 

We love taking Alice and Leti to the temple. This time we were proxy for Leti as she was sealed to her parents and it was a special time together! 

Elder Calderwood had a birthday, so we celebrated as a Senior group by going to the movies. We saw Disney's The BFG, and went to dinner at Lonestar. We liked the movie, and nicknamed Elder Calderwood our own BFG (big friendly giant) because he is pretty tall and super friendly. 

We spent part of our last P-day downtown at a World Press 16 Exhibtion, which presents the best visual journalism of the past year. There were amazing photos, but mostly centered around depressing stories. We came away feeling very blessed to live and work in NZ. Also, to be citizens of the most blessed nation, where so many take for granted our freedoms and don't realize how quickly those freedoms can disappear! 

To make us feel better, we went shopping and had lunch. Sister Jackson and Sister Bath are always happy to shop!

Elder Bath and Elder Martin didn't mind following the shoppers! Elder Jackson was doing some service and couldn't be with us, unfortunately.

A nice view of the Auckland Skytower, an icon of downtown.

Last year this time we went to Shakespeare Park for a hike and were surprised to see all these baby lambs prancing about. Last week we came back with our friends so they could see them and although the numbers were fewer, we were not disappointed. They are so cute and seem to be about 3 weeks old. This park is on a narrow pinensula with beautiful views!

I told everyone it was a short walk uphill to see the lambs and it was worth the walk. We also saw some birds I've been wanting to see, the New Zealand Fantail, the Tui, and a Wood Pidgeon! Tui have two voice boxes and make the most unusual sounds. I've heard them many times but had never seen one.

P-day is not complete without time on a beach shell hunting. I got a kick seeing Sister Bath and Sister Jackson bent over picking up shells. I was doing the same myself, only closer to the waters edge. I have quite a collection of shells now and need to mail them home soon. I also need to stop collecting them, but find it hard not picking up "just one more"!

A lovely few from the beach to the hillside at Shakespeare Park where we were with the lambs. It's low tide so the water is shallow and looks like mud, but it's sand. 

We saw these "planters" hanging in a restaurant and thought they were pretty clever.

 A popular expression here is to put the word "as" after different words. For example, "big as" or "sweet as", etc. At the gas station, I like the name of this ice freezer. 

This is so true!  We are so blessed to have great children and grandchildren, and we have learned most of life's great lessons because we were parents! 

Another way to put this is - 
"While we try to teach our members all about the Gospel, our members teach us what the Gospel is all about." 

We teach others about Jesus Christ, but we have learned more of His Gospel than those we've been teaching! Our testimonies have grown so much and we've added greater layers to the foundation we had at the start of our mission. This is one of the great blessings of serving a full-time mission.

We hope you have a great week, serving, loving, working, and doing all you can do for others! 
Thanks you for your support and prayers for us and all the missionaries!

Elder and Sister Martin

Sunday, July 10, 2016

July 10, 2016

Living away from the USA has increased our patriotism and appreciation for the choice land we come from. Even though New Zealand is a very free country and we love the people and living here, we miss our country and everything we are familiar with. 

The Book of Mormon reminds us of how choice our nation is, and we take for granted all the freedoms we enjoy. It is difficult to watch from a distance the turmoil, political strife, and suffering caused from the evil, dishonesty, pride, etc. of our people! We pray for our nation everyday!

The weather was so nice on the 4th, so we played hooky with the Baths and went to Omaha beach. The guys golfed while Sister Bath and I roamed the beach. I am finding the cutest little shells in the tide pool. 

It was a beautiful day and we loved it being at one of our favorite beaches. 

For dinner we went to Rusty Pelican and discovered it was "Burger Monday" and had a great meal. We love sitting by the fireplace to warm us up. 

Driving by downtown Auckland on our way home and to our evening appointments, we were pleased to see that New Zealand honors our Independence Day with red, white and blue lights on the Skytower! 

We had a surprise visit from Sister Nakibae and Slade. Missionaries are pros at "selfies", especially goofy ones, and anytime is the right time for a photo! 

Keeping in touch with our transferred Sisters is a priority for us. We want them to know that we still love and care about them so we drive to where they live and take them with their new companions to lunch. Sister Trull is loving her mission!

This little cutie is one of nine children in the family and his mom called him her "little Chinese son". 
We were so happy to attend his family baptism last Wednesday! Simple and sweet! 

Senior MLS Missionaries take on several roles. We are chauffeurs, teachers, child physiologists, marriage counselors, cooks, gardeners, storytellers, Internet technicians, seamstresses, repairmen, 
and much more. Depending on the day, the person, the need, we are out doing "as much good as we can do"! 

I had to resurrect my knitting skills to teach a sweet sister in a nursing home. We visit her every other week and she asked me to buy her some knitting needles and yarn so she would have something to do during the day. Happily, we returned with the supplies, no sure if she would be able to knit, but she remembered how to do it! I'm hoping to go back and find her knitted scarf completed!

We bought the DVD, "Joseph Smith, the Prophet of the Restoration", which is an hour-long movie. We showed it to about 10 families last week and love seeing it every time! It is a great tribute to Joseph Smith and an important story to tell over and over. We know that everyone who sees it has a greater love and appreciation for Joseph and the early saints!

While our men were working outside trimming the grounds, a few sisters from the Waterlea Park Ward were in the kitchen preparing lunch at the Te Puea Marae for the second time! We peeled and chopped onions and potatoes and did anything else needed for the meal? We were a small part of God's army! 

Saturday night we went to dinner with the Baths and Jackson's at Lone Star in Manukau. Then we played Hand and Foot with the Baths. The Jackson's are serving in the mission office, Sister Bath is the Mission nurse, and Elder Bath is her chauffeur and bike repair specialist! They all are dedicated and hard-working missionaries, so a day or night off is a treat! 

This is how our kids spent last week without us! They gathered from Missouri and Arizona to our home in Saratoga Springs and had the best week together! They celebrated the 4th of July with a parade, swimming and fireworks, went hiking, boating, camping, off-roading, and much more that we don't even know about! We are just thrilled that they wanted to be together. I don't see Kass in this picture, but know she was with the family most of the week. 

Family is the greatest blessing! I got a little homesick thinking about all of our kids gathered together without us, but we love our Waterlea Park Ward family here! We know the work we are doing is pleasing to the Lord and is important! We wouldn't change anything! 

We continue, with the Lord's blessing, to stay healthy and happy and committed to this work! 
Thank you for your prayers and support!!!!!

Elder and Sister Martin

Sunday, July 3, 2016

July 3, 2016

Happy 4th of July everyone! We hope you have a safe and wonderful weekend celebrating the birth of our nation. Pray every night for our country to be be able to keep our freedoms, so valiantly fought for by brave men and women through the centuries. We talk to a lot of people in NZ who are watching and praying for our country to survive. As leaders of the free world, if we go under, they go under too!

I thought this was pretty clever and a good reminder for Independence Day!

We love Sister Coe, who served 8 years and was just released as Relief Society President. She saved us when we first came on our mission, by helping us know who and where to visit! She was the heart and soul of the Waterlea Park Ward, as most Relief Society Presidents are! 

We are at the local Marae, which is a Maori meeting house, sacred to its members. In most communities throughout the whole country there is a Marae. The Te Puea Marae in Mangare Bridge, where we serve, recently opened its doors for short term relief to the homeless. Many of whom were sleeping in their cars or under bridges. A multi-Stake effort was put in place last week and next to help out at the Marae, cooking meals and helping with general cleanup. We were proud to wear our Helping Hands vests and represent the church in this effort. 

Here is our group from the ward. Elder Martin was in charge of making fresh bread crumbs and I was a chopper, cheese grater and dish washer. We prepared the most delicious meal, and had a fun time together. We will have another opportunity to serve here on July 9. 

Last week was very rainy and we were thankful for a good car to keep us dry. We went to an appointment and were surprised to find the sisters there. They had changed into lava lavas, and were drying out their skirts and shoes. They were soaked by the torrential rain and had to wade through puddles of water as they walked to each appointment. 

At the end of the day we took the Sisters to dinner and we all had soup to warm us up. We have discovered how good and filling Laksa soup is! It's yummy because it's made with coconut milk, noodles, and we added extra vegetables! 

We love meeting with families 6 evenings a week and sharing gospel messages. We spend one night a week with the Galu family of 7 children, and they love the games best! We taught them Spoons last week and get such a kick from seeing them so competitative and having so much fun! We've also enjoyed sharing favorite cookie and brownie recipes. A favorite is our simple Texas Sheet Cake! 

Sister Nakibae is from Tuvalu, a set small islands close to Fiji, and she reached her one year mission mark in June. She has served with or near us the entire time, has never had a car, and says she "loves walking".  Before her mission she hated walking, but now she loves it. Walking has helped her stay in shape too! She also loves the rain, which is good, because it rains a lot. We hunt her down with her companion for lunch occasionally, so we can stay on touch. 

We don't like to talk about it, but our time to leave beautiful New Zealand is getting close. We plan to travel to the South Island, to Brisbane, Australia, and to Sydney, after our mission so we made those travel plans last week. We are excited to go to the South Island for two weeks, since we've heard how beautiful it is. It can't be more gorgeous than the North Island where we've been, but we are told it is.
Our return flight to the U.S. Is October 27! That is hard to believe!  

We were so happy to celebrate Lana's birthday! She could be our daughter, but we treasure her as a friend and sister in the gospel! We love her beautiful family and all the wonderful times we've share with them! We've also played a lot of games together!

Our 4th of July celebration was with the other seniors, including President and Sister Balli. We had traditional BBQ food that we all miss - hot dogs and burgers, potato salad, baked beans, and apple crisp. We played a game where we had to guess who did what from a previously prepared list of experiences. These are pretty amazing people and here are some of their experiences:
"As a teenager, I spent 4 days lost and wandered in the mountains."
"I helped catch a bank robber."
"I was a ten cow wife."
"I was an amateur horse trainer and barrel racer."
"I won the gold medal in trap shooting at the Summer Olympic Games."
"I have fished for and eaten piranha."

We went to the movies after our party and saw "The Legend of Tarzan". Some may not like it, but it was a different twist to the usual story, and we liked it!  I like how the movie starts with Tarzan in England a few years after he and Jane married. I don't know how he kept so fit, having adapted to civilized life and resumed his title of Lord. It's a classic story though. 

These are a good handful of the handsome and dedicated young men from our ward! They attend a pre-mission class every Sunday at 6:30am. Most all also attend early morning seminary during the week! They are the future leaders of the church here in New Zealand!

We love the Pacific Islands and living so close to its beautiful beaches! Mostly, we love the Pacific Island people and Kiwi's here in New Zealand! What a blessing they are to us. It's a challenge every day finding and serving, and "doing all the good we can do"! Of all the messages we leave with each home, the most important is helping members be strengthened in the first principles of the gospel, 
which is faith and repentance. We encourage church attendance and coming to partake of the Sacrament each week! Nothing new or different from what we all need to be consistently reminded of!

We hope your summer is going well, as you enjoy family vacations and opportunities to travel! We pray for your safety and good health and feel your prayers for us! 

We love and miss you,
Elder and Sister Martin