Thursday, May 27, 2010

District Conference in Nelson

We have had a busy time lately. Last Friday the young elders stayed at our flat so that we could take them up to district conference on the weekend. We took them to help us do missionary work. We went out to a couple in Granity. She is a member who has not been active for many years and her husband is not a member but they have been very receptive to our visits. We had the elders teach them the first lesson, The Restoration. It was well received. We left a Book of Mormon with the husband as she has her father's in Samoan. We had a great visit. When we got home, we got new material and went over to Bob's place. He wants to learn right from the start. We taught him the first 2 lessons. He was really receptive, as was his son. We had a successful evening of teaching. Bob has had lots of experiences, we just need him to get on the right track and endure to the end. We came home and had a bowl of hot soup and buns. We had an early night as we were getting up good time to leave for Nelson on Saturday morning.
When we got to Nelson, the Relief Society sisters had prepared a light lunch for those who had traveled a fair distance. Blenheim had traveled an hour and a half, we had traveled two and a half hours and Greymouth had traveled three and a half or four hours. The lunch was lovely--hot soup and Maori bread and a savory roll. The missionaries visited and fellow-shipped the young and the priesthood leadership from the district had a meeting. Everyone loves the young missionaries. After the men had their meeting there was a great Relief Society Meeting on Visiting Teaching, which is a lot like missionary work. Then at 4:00 p.m. there was a general meeting for all the members. Our district filled only the chapel. The first speaker was a Tongan. He spoke only in Tongan, which many understood but we did not. But you could feel the spirit of his talk. He was dressed in traditional Tongan. He is working in Nelson at the present time. It was a great meeting. After the meeting there was tea for all the district members. It was a feast, as we have witnessed at all the gatherings we have been at. Robyn had organized it and it was very good. Then we went home with Sarah Venable. Her husband had gone with the youth for an activity. They were going go-carting. I spoke with some of the Greymouth youth the next day and they had a fabulous time.
Above, you can see Ashley Venable, Sarah Venable, and Joshua Venable. They were our hosts for the evening. What a lovely family! They live in a modern home with insulation, double glazed windows and central heating. We had a great visit and enjoyed getting to know this charming family. Ashley is 11 and Joshua is 8. Ashley is so excited to be going into Young Women's in August. That means that when our district goes to the temple in September she can do baptisms. They are going to drive up as a family. We are probably going to fly as it is a 2 or 3 day trip, depending on the hours you drive. That includes a 3 hour ferry ride.
Ashley and Joshua are very bright and polite children. It was a delight to get to know them. The husband, Rob, is the Branch President, in Nelson. He had early meetings. When we were visiting, he asked if we knew Darren Cahoon from Cardston. They had been missionary companions years ago and to my delight I had contacts where I could get the email of Darren and reconnect the two of them.
On Sunday all of New Zealand had conference via satellite from Salt Lake City. Above you can see some of the Tongan men dressed in their traditional dress for Sunday meetings. Elder David S. Baxter conducted the meeting and spoke first. He spoke about the need for unity among the saints. He said we need to be tolerant of diversity. We need our hearts knit together in love. He spoke of 4 qualification:
  1. We need to remember whose church this is. It is the Lord's church and we need to come into conformity with the Lord's will.
  2. We need to strive to be one. He talked about the Saviors heartfelt desire for all of His disciples to be one.
  3. We need to avoid cultural traps. We should be equally yoked, avoid pride, and become like Him. Ask ourselves "What would Jesus have me do and DO IT!
  4. We need to be defined by discipleship.
Sister Sylvia Allred spoke next. She spoke of the importance of families. We need to love and care for each other. We need to have a desire to obey with exactness. Elder Richard G. Scott spoke next and it was powerful. He wanted the residents of New Zealand to reflect on what they do to be blessed to live in this beautiful land. He taught that in order to reach a goal never before attained we must do extraordinary effort to accomplish it. He also taught that Satan has no power to force a determined righteous individual as the Lord will protect him. We need to exercise faith in the Savior and do not fear. He also taught that if we have traditions that bring us closer to Jesus Christ we should treasure them; if the tradition distracts from Jesus Christ we need to put it aside. President Boyd K. Packer, who was presiding at the meeting spoke last. He talked about the need to follow impressions of the Holy Ghost. In conclusion he conferred a blessing on the members in New Zealand. He blessed the children that they would be guarded and watched over by angels. He left a blessing on all the homes of New Zealand that if we live the gospel angels will be there to protect us. It was a powerful meeting. Only way it could have been better would be if those people were physically there.

After conference, there was another lovely luncheon. This time it was provided by the members of the Nelson branch. It was like pot luck. Here they call it bring a plate. When I first heard that I thought that you were to bring a plate to eat, but now I know you have to have something on the plate. Above you can see some of the people after the meal. They hang around as if they don't want to return home as it will be a while before we see each other again.
These boys are mainly from Greymouth. They love their pictures taken. I started with one and soon had a group. It was a great occasion.
On Monday we looked for flats for the Nelson Elders. Their flat as no heat, except the small electric heater, and a very poor shower. It only does cool water. If you turn it to hot it just drips out. Above you can see them having a picnic on the living room floor. From left to right you can see Elder Booth, Elder Mataupu, Elder Fullmer, Elder Berryman, Elder Sacco, and Elder Tamale. They are eating mussels, boiled chicken, boiled lamb, fried steak, fish, and chips. They also had apples supplied by the members. We shared some of their food also.
This flat also has limited lighting. We discovered the next day that one breaker was shot and replaced the breaker and the whole flat now had light after we replaced 10 light bulbs.
The next morning the elders had interviews and we stayed at the flat to meet the property manager. She was impressed with how nice the elders kept their flat; but appalled at the conditions they were living in. As we were replacing light bulbs the one in the toilet blew the main breaker so the flat had almost no power. We were able to get that fixed after visiting with the property manager.
It was a drizzly day as we returned home to Westport. The mist in the air is kind of pretty as you can see from the above picture. We had beautiful sunny weather on Wednesday. We made lots of visits that day. I love sunny days. On Thursday is rained and blew all day. We aren't getting flooded here on the West Coast like it is on the east coast but the wind is cold. The residents told us that there would probably be snow on the mountains that we can see from our flat. And sure enough, when the clouds cleared there was snow on the tops of the mountains. I guess winter is coming whether I like it or not. We just have to wear lots of layers and stay warm and enjoy the journey.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Nature--It's Power and It's Beauty and Other Things!

Last Thursday, in the wee hours of the morning we were awakened with a loud bang. We leaped out of bed to see what was going on. A loud and ferocious wind had started. It had been blowing when we went to bed, but not like this. We looked out the window in the dark to make sure the car had not hit the fence. We were afraid that the roof of our flat was about to blow off. Then the fire alarm rang, and we found out later that someone's roof had blown off. There were sparks like lightening from trees hitting electric lines. I was afraid. Finally the wind calmed a bit and we were able to get back to sleep. Then at 8 a.m. or so another wind hit and more alarms rang. We found out later that spring tides had washed away some of a local park where campers and motor homes were. A woman was down at the tip watching the waves and saw this huge "King Wave" and she knew there would be trouble and she called "111". The waves came in and washed a good size motor home on its side and the next wave righted it again. The fire chief was there and saw the wave coming and thought "I'll hide behind this motor home for safety." The wave washed him into the flax bunches. It just shows you the power of Mother Nature. This was just spring tides. What would be a Tsunami be like? I am not sure why they call them spring tides as it is definitely Autumn here. On our trip to Greymouth this day the sea was wild and in some places the splashes from the waves were hitting the roads. Heaps of damage was done from the wind and the waves. One driveway out at Carter's Beach lost 20 Blue Gum trees and the paddocks had trees uprooted. Trampolines were on roof tops. It was just incredible.

On Saturday morning we went out of Westport a bit and came to a former Scout Lodge. Since there are no scouts in the area at the present time it has been donated to a group called "Island Creek" Association. They maintain the property and let it out for camper groups and do catering campstyle for various groups. The leader of the group is Frank O'Connell. He is the husband to one of our less active sisters. The first time we went to visit them he said "My wife belongs to your true church and I belong to the other true church." He is quite a character and we have visited lots with him He loves LDS DVDs. He has seen more than me. His favorite ones are "The Best Two Years" and "The Other Side of Heaven". He has a complete set of "The Work and The Glory" and has read the set several times. But we can't get him to read "The Book of Mormon". Now to why we were out at "Island Creek Camp Lodge". The group was splitting felled trees for firewood to sell to the community. We had quite a group here for a service. The weather was just lovely. You can see the pile of rounds they were splitting. They said that they did 5 cords of wood in about 3 hours. Elder Archibald worked outside with the log splitter and I worked in the lodge preparing lunch for the group with another branch member, Thea Williams. We did soup, sandwiches and savories. I made a type of sandwich that is quite popular here in New Zealand. They call it cream cheese and onions. You have grated cheese and to that you add a bit of boiling water to kind of melt the cheese. Stir it and add more water until it is just right. Then add a bit of chopped onion. Then you put this mixture on bread and they just gobble it right down. I have never made so many sandwiches in my life. 4 loaves of sandwich bread and 4 dozen buns. We also did egg, and ham, and luncheon(looked like bologna) and tomato and then some with all the mixtures on one sandwich. After the group had worked for about 2 and 1/2 hours it was time for a break and lunch and then it was back to work. It was nice to be of service in the community.
While we were still in our working clothes we journeyed out to Iain's place. He is an inactive member who has a small farm as well as working at Solid Energy on the hill. He lives in a bus with no power or running water. He seems quite happy. He has pigs, chooks, 1 sheep, 20 or so Beefies (beef cattle), and 2 dogs. Above you can see one of his beautiful roosters. We had a great visit and as we were leaving we asked if he would be at meetings on Sunday. He said, "That depends on whether I am invited." We extended an invitation and told him that he was always invited. The next day he was there much to his mother's delight. In fact she was surprised because when he came to town for his morning shower she said he was grouchy. It was so nice to have him there. We love him.
Above, you can see Elder Kaufusi packed and ready to go home. He left Hokitika on Monday morning. We drove him to the airport. President Kinikini came over to their flat to say goodbye, but he will see him again as he goes back to Tonga quite a bit and the villages are not far apart. They aren't really villages, rather small cities. We had been teasing him that we were keeping him here in New Zealand for a while longer so he could help us out. He had mixed emotions this day. He was so excited to see his family but he loved the members he worked with on his mission, especially in Greymouth. His bag was a bit heavy and he did some repacking at the airport. They are only allowed one bag that can be 20 kg. to fly to Tonga. His was 25 kg. He didn't seem worried because he has cousins that work at the airport in Auckland that they would get it on for him. He only had clothes in that huge bag. But there were lots of levis for his cousins in Tonga. I guess they are really expensive there. We never heard back so we are assuming he made it home okay. We told him to think of us during his eternal summer while we were going into winter. He assured us it was going to get colder as we are only in Autumn yet. So far we are warm with the heat pump and our one blanket. We discovered an electric mattress cover that works to take the chill off of the sheets when it is really cold. We will let you know "how cold does it get."
In the above picture you can see Elder Sacco, Elder Fullmer, and Elder Kaufusi. This is at the airport just before Elder Kaufusi was leaving. It turns out that we are distantly related to Elder Fullmer.
Here we are with Elder Kaufusi. We hope to be able to see him in Tonga on our way home. Depends on whether we can work out travel. We will probably never get back to this end of the world. As Elder Kaufusi boarded the plane the pilot shook his had and said "Well done." It was touching to me. We don't have a picture of it but we do have it on video.
After the airplane had gone we went into Hokitika for lunch and then took the Elders out to Hokitika Gorge. Neither had ever seen it and was pretty even on a cloudy day. We walked down the trail, across the swing bridge, and around the trail some more to get to the prettiest part. Here Elder Sacco is inspecting the water. Elder Fullmer did also, and they each got some great shots of them and the water. It was a great day for them and us. As we were driving out we could see snow in the tops of the Southern Alps. Winter is coming. But it is still so beautiful.
On Tuesday we went north, we think. We tried to see many less active on our day. At the end of the road was Oparara Basin. We did about a 1 km. hike into this large limestone arch. It is the hugest one in New Zealand. It is 200 m. in length, 49 m. in width, and 37 m. in height. It had bush growing all around. Merle hiked a bit more along the trail and it came out into daylight on the other side. The water flowing through was a rich brown color. There was gold in the river at one time and probably still is.
We hiked through this amazing rainforest to get to the arch. At times you had to cross foot bridges. You could see and hear babbling brooks. The rocks were covered with moss and there were fungi growing all around. According to a natural history photographer, autumn is the time for fungi and the West Coast has an abundant supply growing in the forests. We saw them and they were beautiful in color. We will have to pay more attention when we hike in the bush. I am not sure how much more hiking we will do as Merle's hip has been bothering him since this day. After we had seen this beautiful basin we were once again on the road and finally we found someone home. We had a great visit with her. This lady lives all alone, through a trail and on a mountain side. She says she is never alone though. She has only a radio and books and a phone. Her stove is broken right now and we worry about her keeping warm but she says "No problem." Coming back we tried to do a few more visits but no one was home.

Wednesday the elders were doing exchanges and so the District Meeting was here in Westport. After the meeting we fed them because they have long trips back to where their area is. In the picture you can see Elder Tamale, Elder Fullmer, Myself, Elder Archibald, Elder Sacco, and Elder Berryman. Elder Tamale is Tongan from Auckland, Elder Fullmer and Elder Sacco are both from Utah and Elder Berryman is Maori from at the present time Mesa, Arizona, but he has spent lots of his life here in New Zealand and is related to the McDonals. As you can see, it was a beautiful day this day also.
Here you can see Elder Tamale, Elder Fullmer, Elder Sacco, and Elder Berryman. Elder Tamale and Elder Berryman are the Zone Leaders for our Nelson Zone. I dispense ginger capsules frequently as many of the Elders get car sick on our winding roads. Ginger works really well and does not make you drowsy. We had a great District Meeting. You should hear the singing. It sends chills down your spine. We are healthy and happy and busy. We are always either doing missionary work or branch work. We look forward to this weekend going to District Conference in Nelson, about 2 1/2 hours away.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mother's Day In New Zealand

Today was Mother's Day in New Zealand. It was a beautiful sunny day, the likes we have not seen for quite a few day. As it was the second Sunday of the month, I was the speaker. As many of you know, this is a difficult day for me but I made it through. Today I spoke of the prophet's mothers from Joseph Smith to our current prophet, Thomas S. Monson. I had enjoyed doing the research and I think that the congregation, although small, appreciated the knowledge and the importance of mothers in all our lives. The priesthood surprised us after meeting with a meal that they had mostly prepared themselves. In the above picture you can see Bonnie, Thea, Reg, Levi, myself, Lyn and Joy. It was greatly appreciated.
In the above photo you can see Matah and her new baby brother Toutouwai. His name means Black Robin in Maori. These are the two darling children of a couple we met on the street. They used to live in Christchurch but moved to Westport in January. They know and love Elder Hudson, who at the present time is in Blenheim. When he goes home next year they want to send him money to come back to see them. I was blessed to hold the little guy for all the while we were visiting with the family. I have missed holding babies. The next day after visiting with this family I became so sick for 4 days. I had the flu and a bad cold. It really knocked me for a loop.
I would like to share the story of the Black Robin. It is an amazing story of survival.

Long ago, hundreds of Black robins (toutouwai) lived on the Chatham Islands. They sang in the forest and ate grubs, weta and worms on the forest floor. Then people came. They burnt the forest to make farmland.

Cats caught the robins and rats ate their eggs and chicks. Soon all the robins on the main Chatham Island were gone. Just a few survived on Little Mangere Island.

Little Mangere Island is tiny. Its cliffs are 200 metres tall, keeping it safe from rats, cats and people. But it was so small and wind-swept that the forest was dying. The robins’ tiny wings were not strong enough for them to fly away to find another home.

This is the story of how the back robin made a comeback!

Now there are about 200 Black robins singing in the forests of Mangere and South East Islands.

* The main population of black robins now lives on South East Island, which has more homes and food for the birds because it is much larger and has more forest area than Mangere Island.

* The total of 200 black robins was from both islands. It's not possible to get an exact count because many of the younger birds do not have coloured leg bands.

* There are no rats, cats or possums on Mangere or South east Island.

* All the black robins alive are descended from just one pair, Old Blue and Old Yellow. Old Blue lived to be 14 years old. She was the female.

What a marvellous story of conservation and survival! The fostering programme used to save the black robin was so successful that it has been copied to save endangered birds around the world – how lucky New Zealand is to have such wonderful conservation officers and volunteers!

I had wondered why anyone would name their child Toutouwai but after reading about the Black Robins I know why. I thought you would enjoy the story too.

Every day when I look out our window I see these birds. I am reminded of the Windex commercial at home where the crows are talking and the guy hits the window. I can just hear these birds mocking us.
We were in Nelson this week for Zone Conference. The above picture is of Elder Booth, a new elder, and Elder Mataupu leaving their flat for an appointment. Every time they leave their flat they get a work out. It is so steep leaving the Cherry Avenue flat. The flat is up in the hills of Nelson. When we call the elders in the evening we can hear them puffing as they ride their bikes the dark and cold.
Above you can see a praying mantis. I am fascinated with the bugs that are all over New Zealand. I am learning to take better pictures of what I see and I wish I could share all the pictures with you. Elder Hudson helped me with this picture.
Here is our new Nelson Zone. Front row, myself, Elder Archibald, President Jolliffe, Sister Jolliffe. Back row: Elder Tamale, Elder Fullmer, Elder Kaufusi, Elder Booth(in the back), Elder Sacco, Elder Berryman, Elder Hudson, Elder Mataupu, and Elder Kavaefiafi. We have an awesome Zone and had a wonderful conference. We were taught about the importance of Integrity in everything we say and do. It is not always easy to be full of integrity. Elder Worthlin said that he knew of no higher praise than any many could receive than that he had integrity. It is the light that shines from a disciplined conscience.
We have had a slow couple of weeks as far as working with inactive and non-member people as I have not been well but we have been busy when we were healthy. Yesterday we travelled to Greymouth for tea with the Kinikini's. Sister Kinikini's mother was returning home today to Tonga. Her visa was running out. She lives in the same village as Elder Kaufusi who returns home with honor on May 18th. We will truly miss him. He has been here ever since we got here and we have really gotten to know and love him. We truly love what we are doing, although days like today we do miss our family but we are blessed here in New Zealand.