Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A Busy Week

I spent two hours last night writing about our experiences for the blog and when I was finished I hit a wrong key and it was lost.  I hit the wrong key when I sing - all the time - and nothing seems to happen.  Singing and wrong key/note is on my mind since yesterday we attended three different wards. All three hours of the block, we then attended a Regional YSA committee meeting and then finished the day off attending a CES/YSA broadcast. Lots of singing. Lots of driving.  The wards we attended were at the top end of our area and the YSA Regional Committee Meeting was in the middle of our area and the Devotional was held towards the bottom of our area.  Area does not sound so big but the Metropolitan area of Auckland - that we cover - has between 1 and 2 million people.  I have driven on the left side of the road - without incident - so much this week that I am not sure I could return home and drive on the other side of the road without incident.

We have been on the "go" this week.  In fact we have been on the go so much that we have eaten dinner at McDonalds, Subway, NZ Greatest Fish & Chips, and Pita Pit.  How disappointing to be in New Zealand and find the same "stuff" we have at home - however this habit of eating out will have to stop - Debbie ordered the fish and chips while I was busy on another matter.  It cost her $16.00 for two pieces of fish and a few french fries... she didn't buy me one because she said, "it cost too much!" - so we shared.  Prices on everything are high compared to home.  We bought a hand held hair dryer and it was $99.95 and an electric toothbrush which was $189.00, gasoline "petro" is about $8.52 a gallon.  BUT IT IS ALL WORTH IT BEING HERE!!!

This past Monday - the first day of our missionary efforts in New Zealand - was "let Bill drive day!"  We visited the area office and then onto the mission office.  We were accompanied by the missionary couple we are replacing.  Their last day!  We met more people than I can ever remember!  After visiting the offices we traveled across the bridge into the heart of downtown Auckland where the Institute of Religion Building is located.  Met the people there and spent time with some of the students.  This is a short version of our day.  We live in a nice two bedroom apartment in Takapuna which is on the "North Shore" of the greater Auckland area and our home ward is the Takapuna Ward of the Harbour Stake.  We will not be in our home ward much at all.  When we go home the members of the ward may not even know we came or left.  We attended church there last Sunday however. 

Takapuna is the home of the Pacific Area Office so we have three general authorities, a mission president, and all kinds of senior missionaries - at least 15 couples who work in the mission and area offices - who all attend the Takapuna ward.  There are many other employees who work in the Area Office but they live in the area and attend church in their own wards.  Every other Monday evening there is a "Family Home Evening" for the senior missionaries which is held in the area office and the Area Presidency attends if they are in town.  What an incredible "Family Home Evening" we had Monday evening.  I will never experience another one just like the one we enjoyed.  After it was over I told Debbie, "Record this in experience in your journal and keep in filed away in your memory."

Our Area President - Elder James J. Hamula, his wife and two of their children - twins boys who have just received their mission calls - agreed to sit as a panel and answer questions from the group about the blessings and challenges of being a general authority; including the blessings and challenges the family has experienced.  This was the most candid and honest look into the sacrifices made by these great men and in this case the family.  The blessings they have received were shared.  The family was very candid.  What a spiritual feast and time for reflection.  I have spent a lot of time around general authorities but one will seldom if ever get such a peek into the thoughts of the entire family as we did.  They all cried and they all laughed!  We truly need to pray for these men but more particularly for their families.

Tuesday we moved out of the hotel and into our apartment.  This involved putting seven suit cases and a big briefcase into a small car.  We had a taxi driver offer a helping hand.  We finally got it all in - had to slam the doors shut and Debbie had one suitcase on her lap but we only had to drive seven or eight blocks.  We then went by the grocery store to buy some supplies.  In the evening we drove to the south end of the Auckland area and attended institute classes at the Papatoetoe chapel where the Otara, Papatoetoe, and Tamaki stakes hold evening institute classes.  There were about 160 students attending - there were six courses of study offered.  Classes run from 7-9 pm and then there is a combined devotional following classes.  We arrived back home about 10:30 and in bed by 11:15.

Wednesday we went into the Institute building in downtown Auckland to meet with the Director of Institutes for more detailed orientation than we had received on our brief visit on Monday.  We found out that we were teaching an Institute class on the Doctrine & Covenants.  We had one hour to prepare.  We did great!  During orientation we found will be involved at the institute every day but we have an assignment with the YSA out in the stakes also so we will not be tied to the  institute building all day.  We will be at the Auckland institute building every day (M-F) from 2-5 pm and will be responsible for locking up the building when we leave.  We will be at the institute from 12 - 5 on Wednesday because we will be teaching a class.  We also have some desk work helping with the records.  After locking up the building Wednesday night we drove to the Rua Road chapel where we attended institute classes held by the Waterview, Henderson and Mt. Roskill stakes.  Classes were from 7- 9 pm with a devotional held after the last class.  We arrived back home about 10:45 and were in bed by about 11:30.

Thursday after spending the day in the Auckland institute building getting to personally know and interact with the students (we see some of the students we have met in the evening institute classes out in the stakes here in the building)  we drove to the Redoubt Stake center where we attended Institute classes held by the Maurewa, Papakura and Redoubt stakes.  These three stakes are actually in the New Zealand Hamilton Mission but since the institute is directed by the Auckland director of Institutes we have an assignment to work with them even though they are out of our mission boundaries.  What an incredible experience we have had these past three nights.  We have been in the classes with the students.  We have participated in their classes.  Most of the students we have met are Tongan, Samoan, Moari, some Asian and some Caucasian.  They are all so kind and loving.  They come in all shapes and sizes, are all dressed in whatever they have to wear; it does not  seem that any of this matter to them.  Many of the institute teachers are young returned missionaries - Elders and Sisters.  We attended a great Book of Mormon class... it was on the "Liahona and Faith"... we were all running around the building and the grounds getting text clues and texting the answers back to the instructors and waiting for the next clue to be texted back to the group... classes were divided into six groups... we had to depend on the cell phones devices, the directions from our teachers texted to the groups, and we had to learn patience, waiting for a response.  It was very effective and exciting to be involved with... Debbie and I were on different teams... we were both running through the halls of the building, and through the parking lot... I had to stop and apologize to a Stake President for running in the building.  His comment, "You bettered get going, the group is getting away from you."

Friday we had a spiritual experience that we have recorded in our journals.  Our assignment is to RESCUE Young Single Adults and where possible get them involved in institute.  Our challenge, we have approximately 6000 YSA, 2800 active, and 700 attending institute.  The Area Presidency wants a focus on YSA as a group and not just on institute.  Debbie and I spent most of the day at the institute building in Auckland, doing some desk work, interacting with the student who were playing table tennis, playing the piano, just hanging out and many who were studying.  About 4:40 I walk outside - let me describe the location of the institute building - the church bought the building and dedicated the institute in 1977, at the time it was seven or eight blocks from the University of Auckland.  Over the past 37 years the University has expanded and the institute sits in the middle of the University.  The University is not like a campus that you might think of because it is made up of many high rise buildings and virtually no grass or trees except at the very center of the old campus.  As such when you step out of our institute building you are actually on the campus, standing on a typical big city street, but where we are located the street has been blocked off and a courtyard like atmosphere exists. ANYWAY at about 4:40 pm I stepped out of the building to enjoy the weather for a few minutes.  I then went back in the building (3 story building) and went upstairs and said to Debbie.  Let's go outside for a few minutes.  She replied, "I am in the middle of a project, lets wait until I get this done."  I said, "That can wait, let’s go outside!  Bring the camera and we will take a picture!"  We walked outside and took a picture or two and were standing there looking at them to see if they were keepers; a young lady walked up to us and said, "Are you missionaries?" "Yes!"  "I am from 'up north' and I am a  member of the church but have been inactive for several years, my friend who came down to the university with me is also a member but is also inactive, we were talking and said we need to get back to church.  I came by the institute but I lost my nerve, I couldn't go inside.  I then saw you two standing here.  My friend and I want to come back!  We took her inside the building and gave her information, wrote down her phone number because she does not know where she will be living; they had just registered for school.  She was so happy!  She said several times, I would not have come inside the building; if you hadn't been standing there I am not sure I would have made contact with the church.  I am so glad you were standing there!"  The Spirit directed us to stop what we were doing and to go outside. If Debbie had not have come out with me we would not have been missionaries standing there.  I by myself would just have been another person  standing on the street. The prayers of some parents who live "up north" were heard by the Lord and the young girls were touched by the Spirit to return; the Lord had us standing on the campus in the right spot at the right time…a very spiritual experience.  Rescue has started.  

Saturday, this seems to be our p-day, when we find one.  We have no official P-day and all Saturdays will not work because our calendar is fast filling up with YSA activities.  Anyway this was our P-day this week.  This weekend happened to be the Annual Polynesian Cultural Event held in Auckland - it runs Friday, Saturday and Sunday - and is called PASIFIKA FESTIVAL.  This is a festive atmosphere where every Polynesian country (Tonga, Samoa, Cooks Islands, Tahiti, New Zealand, Tokelau, Kiribia, etc.)  has a village set up where cultural dances and music performances take place, cultural foods are for sale, and booths displaying the arts and crafts of each country are available to see and purchase.  The event is held in a park that is about 40 acres surrounding a lake.  Four senior missionary couples carpooled and went to the event.  Left at 9 am and returned about 3 pm.  A good day.  Debbie and I met many members of the church who recognized our "black name badges".  We found one of our YSA students working in one of the booths selling food. After the event we went shopping and bought a dutch oven and a mix-master. We have got to have all the equipment for "Fun and Food" if you are around the YSA.

Sunday, a very busy day... recited above somewhere.

The best part of this blog.  Today, Monday, 10th March, when we arrived at the institute the young lady we met on Friday had not been in to register so Debbie called her at the phone number she had given us.  She answered, said she was just going into a class (at the University) Debbie invited her to come over to the institute and get one of the cinnamon rolls she had baked (Debbie baked about three dozen rolls that we brought in this morning.)  The young lady said she would be over after class.  Sure enough she showed up.  She picked out a class she could attend.  Debbie then took her upstairs and introduced her to the students who were hanging out.  They all accepted her with open arms.  Sitting in the room - a regular around the institute - was one of her close cousins.  It was like a family reunion.  I went up stairs to visit with her about 45 minutes later and she had a big smile on her face, her cousin couldn't wait to tell me that she was her cousin.  A very close relative.  I turned to the young lady who approached us on the street and said, “See there, your Heavenly Father loves you.”  She is back.  When she left the building she stopped and collected a cinnamon roll that Debbie had saved for her!      

One of our YSA's working in a booth at the Pacifika cultural event

Trying some of the cultural food called "Hangi".  It's cooked in the ground  
To me it was like our foil dinners over the camp fire only this had chicken, pork,
  beef, and cabbage, taro, potatoes, and pumpkin.

Dancers representing the Cook Islands

The Senior missionaries that went to the Pacifika Cultural Event

Sister Perron using her clerical skills at the Institute office
The Institute of Religion building

The Area CES directors we met with on Friday.
The gentleman on the left of me just got called to be mission President in the Philippines. 
The one on the far left is our Institute director, Newman, that we work directly with. 
All of them are awesome awesome people!

This was Sister Perron's team from at Institute on Thursday night.
We were winners!   But then again everyone was a winner.  :-)

This is our awesome YSA at the institute on Thursday night at one of the Stake Centers. 
The one in the middle with the white shirt holding the Book of Mormon was the teacher
along with the gentleman to the right of him. They were the ones that taught the "liahona" lesson.  They were cute when we took this picture.  They said, "no hand signs"!  This is going to the USA."  And then laughing they said, " we're going to be on the Ensign!"  They are so awesome!!!!



  1. Uncle Bill and Aunt Debbie, You are so very awesome. Thank you for serving, for your obedience and for touching the lives of others because of it. I love you both, Kitty

  2. Amazing adventure, opening eyes to God. The sacrifice Of your time will effect a lot of lives.