First of all, we really want to thank all of you who have emailed us, sent us cards, written us notes from Relief Society, kept us in your prayers, and enjoyed our blog. We are loving our mission, as you know, but we do miss home, and it is SO good to hear from you. Thank you all for caring...it means a lot to both of us.
Quite a few have asked us what our "typical" day here is like in New Zealand. That's not as easy to describe as it sounds, but I'll do my best. We were called as "member and leadership support" missionaries, which we found out in the MTC means "anything our mission president wants us to do"...and since we've been in the mission, it's also just about "anything we want to do". The latter is because President Kezerian trusts his senior missionaries a lot and lets us use our own discretion to get involved in whatever and wherever we should be helping. So here's a list of some of the things we're doing:
1. Working with less-active members (who, generally, are a lot less than "less" active): this a large part of our work and probably also the most difficult, although we love it. We have met very few less-active people who do not have testimonies of the Gospel. They still love the Church and believe that it is true. Most of their problems stem from hurt feelings, succumbing to addictions, or simply getting out of the habit of coming to Church. They are always very nice to us, and we are overwhelmed by how everyone welcomes us so warmly into their homes. The reason it's hard for us at all is that the progress they make is so slow; but we can't give up because we just want them to receive the blessings we feel will come into their lives if they return to Church activity. One of the most successful "tools" we use is holding Family Home Evenings with their families...Elder Farnes brings his ukelele from his first mission to New Zealand 46 years ago, and we sing hymns with them, play games, and teach a gospel lesson. It's a more relaxed atmosphere, and the families really enjoy it and ask us to come back weekly in some cases. The children pull on their parents' heartstrings, and that makes the family desire to go to Church together.
2. Working with the young elders and sister missionaries: We do a variety of things with the young missionaries from mending their clothes, inspecting their flats, taking them to appointments if biking is too far, helping with transfers, and even giving medical advice and counseling. We do belong to a district that has four elders plus us in it, and we meet for about 2-3 hours every Wednesday morning for district meeting...where we take a "back seat" because they need to learn leadership skills. The district leader gives us various assignments, which we carry out; but he's in charge, not us. We really love these young people and enjoy watching them grow into their responsibilities. Every six weeks, as missionaries are transferred or finish their missions, we hold a dinner at our flat for our district. Inspecting the missionaries' flats is a time-consuming project because they are spread all over Hawkes Bay, so it takes us a couple days to complete the rounds, which we do every six weeks. And since the missionaries, church-wide we're told, are not the best at cleanliness, we've also now been asked to do surprise inspections, too. In addition, Elder Farnes inspects the cars, but there are only 3 in our area. Fairly often, the young missionaries ask us to accompany them to visit various families that they feel need an extra boost of encouragement or have problems the missionaries don't know how to handle.
3. Helping in the wards: occasionally we're asked to teach a class, which we love to do; and if speakers don't show up for sacrament meeting, we often become the standby speakers. It's also very humbling to see how we're respected in all the wards and branches we attend. The person conducting always acknowledges our presence, and we try to shake as many hands as we can before the meetings start and participate in Sunday School, Relief Society, and Priesthood meetings. We also go to as many ward and branch activities as we can to get to know people and make ourselves available to families with less-active relatives. We are invited to weddings and funerals, too, even though they don't know us personally ...they feel honored if we attend, and we feel honored to be included.
4. Teaching new investigators: primarily, we're supposed to leave the proselyting and teaching of non-members to the young missionaries; but occasionally, we get requests from people who want the senior couple to teach instead. Right now we are teaching two non-members, and it's going really well. One has committed to be baptized on April 28th, and the other one will be baptized soon, too. Her sister is already a member, and she's quite excited about the Church and is coming to all the meetings. Elder Farnes won't be doing the baptisms because both of these converts have family members who can perform that ordinance. We'll just be there to share their excitement. In our zone, we go to all the baptisms, once again because it shows the new members our support.
5. Firesides: we're also doing more firesides, mostly in wards who are anxious to hear the story of how this former Catholic nun became a Latter-day Saint missionary. I still have the slides of the ceremony of Investiture, and they pictures and story seem to fascinate people. There are non-members who attend these firesides, too, but they will never be offended by anything I say because I loved the Catholic Church and appreciate the foundation I received there.
Well, I think that's about all. Because of people's privacy rights, we are not allowed to post names or pictures of those families we are working with, so that's why I don't go into any real details; but we are having some incredible experiences that will affect the rest of our lives. We love the Gospel, we know it's the Plan of Happiness, and we love sharing it.