Sunday, January 29, 2012


Well, as they say, into each life a little rain must fall, and you don't expect your mission to never have any trials; so I think I'll share one with you, hopefully with enough humor included to let you know we have survived and aren't discouraged. One day as I sat at our computer, I saw a "creature" dash by me out of the corner of my eye. I screeched, of course, and told Elder Farnes that we had been invaded. I gingerly peeked behind the TV (which we use only to show LDS videos) and saw what I thought was a kitty...and then it ran into the kitchen, letting me see a lot better that it was a RAT...about 10 inches long...and that didn't include the tail! We called our landlady, and she brought over a plastic trap that was supposed to clamp over the rat's head, and then we could dispose of it just by squeezing it open (like a clothespin). Well, the rat made short work of that trap, setting it off just for fun. So, then we bought two wooden traps and baited them with cheese. Within a few days, the cheese was gone, the traps had not been sprung, and "Harold" (we had named him by then), and pushed one of them into the middle of the kitchen as if to say his plate was empty and he'd like some more. The war was on with the score at this point, Harold-3, Us-0. We went and bought a huge rat trap and, this time, baited it with peanut butter because we were told that it would be harder to remove than cheese without setting it off. And we waited...about a week! One night we heard the trap go off...but the next morning, we found the trap empty, the peanut butter licked off it clean, and NO sign of Harold.
A couple nights later, about midnight, we could hear all this racket coming from (we thought) the kitchen. Twice Elder Farnes got up to see what Harold was doing, but he couldn't see a thing. The next morning, once again at my computer, I glanced over to see that ALL of our individually-wrapped hard candies were gone from the bowl on our magazine table. Harold! The noises we had heard during the night were from Harold sliding the candy dish all over the table, hitting our printer, while he emptied it! I was beside myself...and then it got worse! That night we could hear strange noises under the couch, and we knew it was Harold. While I ran into the bedroom and stayed on the bed in terror, Elder Farnes jumped up and down on the couch to get Harold out...which he did, only to have Harold move to the stuffed chair next. That night we slept with the living room door closed between us and the living room/kitchen area. Harold-5, Us-0. The next day we headed to a store and bought rat poison...and within a week Harold had bit the dust...but he still had the last laugh. Our poor flat reeked from his decaying body, but even with the elders help turning everything in the place upside down, we couldn't find him. We did find his "home" in a crawl area under one of the cupboards in the kitchen, and that has been permanently sealed now. We also found most of the candy (lollies in New Zealand) with some of the wrappers in the bottom lining of our couch. In Harold's "honor" I have written the following ode:

Hark! The "Harold" rat is dead!
Slain by the rat bait he was fed.
Thought he could live in a missionary flat,
But Sister Farnes would have none of that!

Now his days of terror are o'er,
Harold the rat we'll fear no more.
Here's hoping that it'll never be
That Harold was a she and not a he!

Saturday, January 28, 2012


We our learning our role as senior missionaries here in the Hawkes Bay area, and as we've heard from other senior couples back in Utah, each mission is different and you are guided more by the Spirit than anything in the areas in which you are assigned. We have eight wards and four branches and, because of the size of our area, we still haven't been to all of them. One particular ward, though, the Korongata Ward in Bridge Pa, has captured our hearts. This ward is almost entirely Maori (well, actually, all of them are), but at one time the entire town of Bridge Pa were Mormons, and the Church built a beautiful chapel there (pictures below). Now, though, with a lot of the older people dying, people moving away, non-LDS moving in, the attendance at church has fallen significantly; and we want to help them fill it again! Tonight we met with Bishop Sadler, a very young but dedicated bishop, who is thrilled that we want to work with his ward. We already have appointments for this coming Wednesday and Thursday to teach some non-LDS that are relatives of active LDS in Bridge Pa. One of our greatest supporters is a wonderful 80-yr old lady named Mary Reid, who lives in a 100-yr old home in Bridge Pa that used to be part of the MAC (Maori Agricultural College, church-owned) until it was almost destroyed by the 1931 earthquake. Sister Reid's husband bought the one standing building that remained and turned it into their home. Many of you have heard about Matthew Cowley, an LDS apostle who was loved by the Maori people...he spent many hours in that home. Sister Reid's sister, "Hop", was the first seminary teacher here, and her daughter, Viola, was the first seminary graduate. "Hop" passed away several years ago, but I have to tell you how she got her name: she was born with a club foot, turned completely the wrong direction; so an aunt came over one day, grabbed the baby and twisted her foot, breaking the bones, but turned it around. Then they splinted it, so it would grow correctly. For a long time, this little girl had to hop around, and everyone called her "Hoppy". That was shortened to "Hop" as she grew older, and I don't remember ever hearing her first name. Last night at our stake celebration of 100 years of seminary in the Church, Sister Reid spoke in behalf of her sister, and Viola spoke about being the first seminary student. She told us how her "Auntie Hop" would go through the town whistling "A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief", and all the seminary students would wake up and know it was time to go to seminary. The tunes Sister "Hop" whistled changed at each corner, but it was the same songs each day, so the youth all knew when it was time for them to be in their seats for class.

This chapel was dedicated in 1965 by President Hugh B. Brown. It is the Stake Center for the Hastings Stake, and two wards meet there: the Korongata Ward and the Flaxmere 1st Ward, but the two wards are in different stakes. The Flaxmere Ward is in the Flaxmere Stake. We have those two stakes in our area.

In Hastings, the town we actually live in, we are busy visiting less-active and part-member families. One of the most successful things we are doing is holding Family Home Evenings with them, and the families seem to really enjoy it and beg us to return weekly. Elder Farnes still has the ukelele he bought when he served his first mission here in New Zealand, so we always take that with us. The Maori people love to sing, so we always sing a bunch of Primary songs (I've typed up about 18 of them and made copies, so everyone has the words). One family, where the mother is Samoan and not LDS, we started the evening with "I Am A Child of God" and she just loved it and asked if we could sing it again. Later on in the evening, while we were playing games with the kids, we saw her over in the corner, still singing that beautiful song. Now she wants to take the lessons from the missionaries, and we are thrilled. We can teach the lessons, too, but President Kezerian prefers that the young missionaries have that experience, which is fine with us. Along with singing, we also give a gospel lesson and then play games with the family, sometimes on the iPad because there are so many LDS apps with wonderful spiritual games and puzzles. Some amazing things about these wonderful Maori people: they welcome us into their homes like we were family, and we cannot leave without their feeding us, which is so humbling because they have so little but love to share anything they have with us. One evening, after the FHE lesson, they brought Elder Farnes and me a large glass of orange drink, a cup of Milo (like cocoa) and THREE pieces of cake each! And there wasn't any for them, so the NINE of them just watched us eat. We never want to offend them, so we must accept their hospitality, but we did eat only one piece of cake each. The following week we called ahead and told them we were bringing the treat this time. Other families have fixed us entire meals. Their hospitality cannot be matched. We both love the Maori people.

Thursday, January 12, 2012


Our district in Hastings consists of four elders, two sisters, and us. Our zone leaders live in Napier (about 30 minutes away) and usually come to our district meetings about every other week. Our meetings are held at the Hastings LDS Church on Heretaunga St, usually at 10:30 am, every Wednesday morning. None of the missionaries in Hastings have cars, so everyone is on bikes except for us. Obviously, for travel distances, the zone leaders also have a car. Gas is close to $9.00 a gallon, so even the zone leaders use bikes on P-Days. We seniors foot the bill for the gas we use in addition to $150/month charge for the automobile. We drive an air-conditioned 2010 Toyota Yaris, so we're not complaining. Hastings is pretty flat, so we like to walk as much as possible when we're just running errands.

This is Elder Kim (Korean, but from Auckland, NZ) and Elder Nelson (SLC), our Zone Leaders. They are both great examples of dedicated missionaries.

Introducing Elder Haynes (Australia), our District Leader, and his companion, Elder Fukofuka (Tonga). Elder Haynes goes home this coming Thursday, 19 Jan 2012, and he never talks about going home...he is serving valiantly right up until he flies out. Speculation has it that Elder Fukofuka will be our new DL, and he will also be great...comes from a strong Tongan family who has sent out several missionaries. He has a younger brother who will soon be serving in Pennsylvania.

Here's our sister missionaries: Sister Itaia (ee-ty-yah) is from Kiribati and wanted to be a nun. She prayed to know if that is what she should do and met the LDS missionaries the next day. She has only been a member a few years. Sister Palmer (from Austin, TEXAS, a kindred!) is the senior companion, and her father is the Mission President in one of the Washington State Missions.

And last but not least, here's our newest missionary, Elder Hogge from Alpine, Utah, who has been here five weeks; he is a twin, and his brother is serving in Florida among the Haitian people. He is so enthusiastic and will be a super missionary. His trainer is Elder Tebau, another missionary from Kiribati, and everyone loves him. He is so funny and has the happiest disposition all the time.

This is our district in front of our flat, and it's hilarious to get a group picture with everyone in it. The elders balance about 5 cameras on top of our mailbox, then scurry to get in the picture before all the flashes go off. It's amazing we get any pictures this way, but they're pretty good at it.