Monday, May 28, 2012


Today, we've decided that Elder Farnes and I want to share with you some of the greatest blessings we have had since serving our mission here in New Zealand.

1) THE ACTIVE CHURCH MEMBERS:  We absolutely stand in amazement at the incredible dedication of the active Church members.  Many of them have several callings, some of them very time consuming, and yet you never hear them complain.  They serve willingly, cheerfully, and have strong testimonies of the Gospel and love for the Savior. They have set examples for us as we accept callings in the future when we return home and make us want to be more dedicated missionaries while we are here.  Our testimonies have grown as we've watched the valiant way they serve the Lord.

2) THE LESS-ACTIVE CHURCH MEMBERS AND NON-MEMBERS:  New Zealand people understand hospitality and graciousness better than we've ever seen anywhere. Everyone, from store clerks, to gas station attendants, to slovenly-dressed homeless on the street, treat us kindly.  We are welcomed into homes, offered something to drink, often served meals, and treated with much respect.  Even when people are not living the Gospel as they understood it when they were baptized, they still love the Church and plan to return "someday".  That someday part can get a little frustrating, but they still love us to come by, leave them a message, pray and sing with them, and just visit for awhile.

3) THE YOUNG MISSIONARIES:  How delightful it is to work with the young elders and sisters, who come from all over the world, and often are recent converts to the Church themselves.  They are so dedicated, love the Gospel, and sometimes have very little support from home because of poverty-level living conditions.  Yet they are happy, love what they are doing, and have lots and lots of energy.  Often, they are also learning a second language, and we struggle to understand them.  Some of them only knew a few words of English when they entered the MTC, but it's fun to watch them as they progress and their confidence increases.  The cute Tongan missionaries really struggle with the "th" Faith is always "faif", thing is "fing", think is "fink".  They do okay with "this", "that", "these," etc.  However, the Spirit they have far outweighs the mispronunciation.
(Clyde says it's the "voiceless th's"'ve gotta be a speech therapist to really comprehend).

4) PRESIDENT & SISTER KEZERIAN:  We couldn't have better leaders!  Everyone loves President and Sister Kezerian...they are so optimistic and loving, and they really inspire all of us to be better missionaries.  President Kezerian can speak on any topic with absolutely no notice, and he's very inspiring; plus, he has lots of people skills and talks with everyone. We think he could convert all of New Zealand single-handedly.  It would not surprise us at all if he's called as a General Authority someday, although most missionaries  probably think that of their mission presidents.

5) OUR FIRST BAPTISM:  This past Saturday, 26 May 2012, our darling 19-year old visitor from England, Paige, who's spending a year here with her sister and brother-in-law, joined the Church, and she was just "golden".  She was so happy she cried most of the time.  I was asked to give a short talk on repentance, and Elder Farnes confirmed her. Paige was baptized by her brother-in-law, Everard, who is a member of the Korongata Ward bishopric.  It was a real honor to share in Paige's conversion, and she will be a stalwart member of the Church.  She loves New Zealand, and we won't be surprised if she decides to settle here permanently.

6) OUR FIRST WEDDING:  The reason this is SO big is that marriage has become less and less the norm here in New Zealand.  We meet so many people who introduce themselves as "partners" and, unfortunately, those on welfare or claiming tax credits receive more than married couples, so it's a real challenge for them to accept that they can't be baptized until they are married.  So, we're teaching a real nice guy, Wiremu, and in April (see previous blog), he and his partner, Larissa, were married.  Wiremu wants to join the Church but is struggling with giving up smoking, but we know he can do it, and everyone is trying to help him.  They're a cute couple, and last Thursday (24 May 2012), they had their second baby, a little girl; their little boy Thomas is about 18 months old.

7) HABITAT FOR HUMANITY:  We have volunteered for 3 hours every week at the ReStore now for almost seven months  and have really enjoyed our experience there.  It's been a "silent" way of doing missionary work because we aren't there to preach the Gospel, except by our example.  We've made lots of friends, they see we're conscientious, dependable workers, and now they're asking more and more questions about the LDS Church because they can see that we're "normal" people, enjoy life, are good-natured, and don't appear like we are weird or belong to a cult.  Having Mitt Romney running for President of the USA doesn't hurt either...we get a lot of questions on that matter.  Our duties at the ReStore involve sorting donated items, washing donated dishes, toys, etc., dusting and vacuuming store areas, organizing displays, etc., even picking up trash outside to make the place more presentable.  These "Op-Shops" are very popular in New Zealand, and there at least eight of them right here in Hastings, run by various churches, the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, hospital groups, etc.  Most of the Maori people buy the majority of their clothes and household items at op-shops.

8) GOSPEL STUDY:  When you're serving a mission, you're really blessed to have 24 hours a day to devote to serving the Lord...well, except for some sleeping and eating time.  But you're not worried about everyday matters, so you can concentrate on what's really important in life...making right choices and understanding the purpose of life and our relationship with our Heavenly Father.  We read the scriptures faithfully, watch General Conference addresses, write talks to be given at Church meetings, study Preach My Gospel (which is an amazing manual), and then visit lots of people and talk about the Gospel.  You can't help but grow in your understanding of God's love for us and the gratitude we owe Him for all we've been given.  We've developed some great study habits we are determined to continue when our mission is complete, not to exclude, of course, the valuable lessons we've learned and the need for the Holy Ghost to guide us as we teach.

9) OUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS:  And last but NOT least, how much we appreciate all the support we have received from our wonderful children, their spouses, and our adorable grandchildren!  We miss them all so much, but we love the faithful emails we receive from them, lots of which have darling pictures attached.  Our extended family members and our dear friends all over the USA, especially in our ward at home, have also been so supportive...we appreciate your emails, your prayers, and your encouragement.  Though we love our mission, we do have rough days sometimes, get a little homesick, and you always cheer us.  You should see how we light up when we get that little bundle of notes from the American Fork 14th Ward members...and they always arrive at the right time! You're all an essential part to the success of our mission.

10) HUMOR:  You know, I just have to share some humor here, kind of a postscript, I guess, but it's also a precious part of our mission.  Some of the older, very loyal members of the Church, particularly in Bridge Pa, practically "fight" over us. They love the senior missionaries, and we know it's the badge and the calling, not just the two of us.  The two ladies we took to the Temple with us have "bragging rights" that will last for quite awhile. Another lady, the cute 93-year old in one of our previous blogs, "winks" at her friends and then hurries to sit with us first before they can.  She won't just shake our hands or give us a kiss on the cheek either...she wants to HUG Utah!!!  And if I try to visit with someone besides her, she kicks my leg to get my attention, and then starts talking just as fast as she can.  They try to outdo each other on who gives us the most food to take home, too, and it gets embarrassing, but they love to spoil us and say we can't deprive them of those blessings they'll receive.  Another lady gave me an $18 box of chocolates for Mother's Day (and that's not a big box, it's just that chocolate, like almost everything else, is really expensive here).  We gave one lady one of our laminated bookmarks, and now she's showing it to everyone and claiming that we love her the most!

Saturday, May 12, 2012


What a great week we have had, one which will stay in our memories forever.  We drove to Hamilton on Tuesday, May 8, taking two of our dear friends from Bridge Pa with us:  Mary Reid, 83, and one of her daughters, Viola, who lives with her (pictures of them in previous blog entries).  It's a 4-hour drive, but beautiful scenery, and we enjoyed good weather most of the way.  When we arrived in Hamilton, we dropped Mary & Viola off at another daughter's home (Tootsie), checked into our hotel, and then went to lunch.  Much to our delight, we found a GOOD Mexican restaurant, Amigos, within walking distance of our hotel, and feasted on a dinner of fajitas.  The funny thing is that, in the USA, we are used to "pigging out" on chips and salsa prior to our dinner arriving.  Well, we were each served FOUR chips, along with a tablespoon of salsa to share...obviously, left us plenty hungry enough to enjoy our meal when it arrived.  After lunch we went and picked up Mary & Viola, so we could attend the 4:30 pm session at the Temple.

We did arrive before dark, though the days are getting a lot shorter now that winter is almost here, but I took these pictures after the session when we came out of the Temple.  Each stake in New Zealand has two weeks each year that are "theirs", and a good number of the faithful members spend the whole week up there.  This was both Hastings' and Flaxmere's weeks, and that's one of the reasons we so easily got permission from President Kezerian to attend.  And our experience was one of the highlights of our mission.  We knew almost everyone in the Temple and were greeted so warmly, as always.  We were asked to be the witness couple, and when we got to the celestial room, the tears were brimming over for both of us as we shared this incredible time with friends we have grown to love.

After a good night's sleep, we went to another session the next morning (May 9, my birthday!) at 10:00 am and again were asked to be the witness couple.  This time we enjoyed having 44 new missionaries from the Auckland Missionary Training Center join us.  We  also got to meet President and Sister Blake from the MTC and a new couple from Hamilton, Elder & Sister Hayward, who were leaving the Hamilton MTC the next day to join us in the New Zealand Wellington Mission.  Hamilton is in the Auckland Mission, and that is why we needed special permission to travel there.  What a great way to celebrate being alive

This picture in the middle was taken during the summer by another missionary couple in our mission, but we really liked it, so added it here.
Here's the New Zealand Temple during daylight hours.  Across the street from it is a Visitors Center, and on another side of the Temple is the Church College, which is closed now to students, but is still functioning in some areas like Church History.  Being avid BYU fans, we were excited to see a building named after Bronco Mendenhall's grandfather...which, by the way, Bronco will be in New Zealand in June, and we will be attending a fireside he is giving in the Flaxmere Stake!
In the Visitors Center, there is a beautiful, large statue of Christ like we see in most of  our Visitors Centers around the world.

Across from the Wendell B. Mendenhall Library is the Church History Museum of New Zealand, and there we were given a fascinating tour by Rangi Parker, a lady who has been collecting pictures and other memorabilia about the Maoris, the missionaries, and the Church for years.  She is so knowledgable and can name every person in every picture.  There were lots of pictures of our good friend Mary Reid, when she was young, and also her husband (now deceased) who played for the All Blacks rugby team.  We also watched a video of the building of the Temple in New Zealand, an amazing story that once again brought us to tears.  As going-away presents, Sister Parker gave us three DVDs that are just priceless.  The first is a DVD of the Danny Kaye show back in 1966, where the Maoris first performed in the United States.  Mary Reid was part of this group, and they spent three months in the USA touring and performing.  The second DVD is one of President Monson visiting New Zealand in 2010, and the third is a compilation of Maori music and scenery put together by Sister Parker...all of them treasures we'll be anxious to share when we get home.  Elder Glen Rudd, a Seventy who also served here in New Zealand, had one of the first Book of Mormons translated into Maori that he decided should be in this museum, so it was given to Elder Dallin H. Oaks to deliver personally to Sister Parker.  Here is a picture of Sister Parker and then Elder Farnes holding that precious book.

Much as we hated to leave, we did need to get back into our mission area, so we drove back to Hastings after visiting the Church Museum.  I'll stick in a couple pictures of the scenery, though it's hard to capture their full beauty in pictures.  Everything is so green, and there are lots of lots of rolling hills, dotted with mostly sheep but also some cattle.  Other areas are thick with lots of bushes and wild ferns and beautiful rivers.