Tuesday, May 20, 2014

A Zone Conference, A Stake Conference and Ping Pong

WOW!   What a week!   Just when you think you have experienced one of the most spiritual weeks ever you find it just keeps getting better!  As always, when you are in the service of your Lord, you seem to be the one that grows the most.   

Holidays are over and school and institutes are back at full speed!  It seems if we are not teaching we are studying and preparing a lesson or a talk.  Last week Elder Perron taught six different classes.  He did a wonderful job in all of them.   

The weekend of May 3rd and 4th we did not have any scheduled YSA activities; we did attend three YSA Sunday School classes in three different wards on Sunday but they were all close to home so Elder Perron and I actually caught up on some sleep.   We got to take a nap two days in a row!  We must have needed the rest because we really snoozed.   And then…..we were off and running again.

 We have had the spiritual experience of sitting in on the missionary discussions the elders have given to a Young Single Adult named Cherie.  She is a student at the university.    Emily, our new convert has been sitting in on the discussions with Cherie and they have become good friends.   Cherie’s mother it turns out is a member of the church but Cherie said they never went to church.   Cherie thinks very deep and asks some really deep spiritual questions.   She started taking the lessons 3 weeks ago.  She committed to baptism the first week.    Her mother has started coming back to church also and is very excited that Cherie has committed to baptism.   Cherie will get baptized this coming weekend.  She plans to travel home to be baptized where her family can attend.  Her home town is down south near Gisborne on the East Coast; it is about a 4 to 5 hour drive and is out of our mission so we will not be able to attend.  Cherie is a beautiful young Moari girl and has been blessed with great faith.  When she has offered prayers at the discussions they have been so powerful and heartfelt.   Praying seems to come naturally to her.  We are so happy for her AND her mother. 

We have another institute student, Catherine, who will be getting baptized this coming weekend.   She is being taught by some missionaries out in the area where she lives. 

Then there is Holly, a wonderful beautiful young single mother of two, who attends the Institute who will be taking out her endowments the second week in June.  When she told me, I asked if we could go with her.  She was so excited because she said she does not have any family that will be going with her.   She asked, “You really will come with me?!”  I am so excited for her!   She is the same young adult that I wrote about several weeks back that Elder Perron and I sat and visited with about understanding the promptings of the Holy Ghost.   I absolutely love these young single adults!   They do have some hard times in their life but they are so courageous and faithful.   They love their Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and have a strong desire to be obedient. 

We have several YSA that have received their mission calls in the past two weeks.   Three are going to the Philippines; one to Manchester, England; one to Perth, Australia and one to Wellington, New Zealand.   We have not been able to get all their pictures as of yet.   There are so many of the YSA taking the Preach My Gospel classes held early in the mornings, and the Mission Preparation classes at Institute.   They are getting ready and they are so prepared when they leave!  Elder Perron said that last Tuesday evening at the close of the institute Mission Preparation class Junior Brown from the Tangaroa Ward, Tamaki Stake was asked to bear his testimony to the class.  He has been called to the Spain Barcelona Mission and was to fly to the MTC in Spain before the next institute class so this was his good-bye to the class.  He bore his testimony then said “I would like to bear my testimony in Spanish, my mission language.”  He bore a fairly long testimony in Spanish seemingly as fluidly as any return missionary would at his homecoming.  Elder Perron was absolutely amazed.  After class Elder Perron visited with Junior and asked him “where did you learn to speak Spanish so well?”  He told Elder Perron “from studying chapter 7 in Preach My Gospel.”   The more Elder Perron pondered on his statement the more perplexed Elder Perron became.  So following the last class Elder Perron sat by Junior during the Devotional and asked “I do not understand how studying chapter 7 taught you Spanish?”  He said “I found a couple of returned missionaries who spoke Spanish, they gave me some instructions and then I have sought the help of the Holy Ghost, I have studied and practiced every day, and I have prayed that I might be able to learn the language.  I want to be ready when I get there.”  Elder Perron commented to me, “This young man is incredible”!   There is no doubt to me the Lord saved the best for the last days.  These young people are so strong, and so faithful, and so smart!  They are very capable of teaching the gospel!  The Elders we work with teaching these young people are doing an amazing job.  They know the principles and doctrines of the gospel, and they are able to express it clearly and strongly.  Oh… We also heard last week that Tyler Perron, the son of our niece and nephew Ray & Karen Perron, from Twin Falls, Idaho received his mission call to the New Zealand Auckland Mission.  He reports to the MTC in New Zealand in October.  Congratulations! 

Two weeks ago we had FHE with the other Senior Missionaries.  Being senior missionaries and living in close proximity of the Area Office and the Mission Office I think we get extra perks that other missionaries do not get.  The Area office is in walking distance of our apartment.  Many of the senior missionaries work in the Area Office.  There are about 10 other senior couples here, so it is quite fun having so many around us.  At this particular FHE, our Mission President and his wife, President Lekias and Sister Rhonda Lekias gave us some insight into the daily life of a mission president.  It was wonderful!   It was funny, touching, heartwarming, and spiritual as they shared many stories.  Where else but on a mission would you get such up close and intimate experiences?  We will miss them when they leave.   We get a new mission president in July.   They are coming from Colorado. 

This following Monday after that we had FHE with the YSA Chinese Branch.  There were 5 young single adults there.  They are good kids!   Three of them joined the church from being found by the missionaries street contracting here at the University.  How awesome is that?!   These YSA want to find good LDS mates.   Pray for them.   They want to be married in the temple. 

We had a big event at Harbour Stake Institute.  They were kicking off their new semester with a big night where the students could register for their new classes.  They had all the teachers speak about their courses, and then the Stake President spoke.   He was a fun and light hearted speaker getting across his point about dating and finding a mate.  I am telling you this is one subject the YSA are not listening to very well!  Elder Perron and I need to hone up on our match making skills!  A great night, the stake leaders went all out; a nice sit down dinner with beef and pork roasts, rolls, salad, and a delicious chocolate cake with ice cream.  During desert they then played a quiz bowl game with each table competing against the others.  One of the questions asked to name all of the US States that ended with the letter “A”.   There were twenty-two blanks. (It was a trick because there are only 21 states that end in a.)  One of the tables quietly asked me to help.   Yes… I know… I heard a few of you guys back home snicker clear over here!   Yes, I was able to help them, but they were way ahead of me in everything else! Elder Perron was busy helping another table win!   After the dinner and quiz game was over the YSA helped clean up and then they were into playing volley ball and basket ball.   Elder Perron and I left about 10:45 pm and they were still going strong – on a Thursday night!  They wear us out!  This particular stake is very faithful and dedicated to the young single adult program.  They went  from 30 YSA enrolled in Institute last year to 80 enrolled this year.  They want 140 enrolled this next semester.  They had 120 YSA that attended the institute registration dinner.  Pretty good don’t you think?!    They are amazing leaders and I have learned so much from them.  In fact one of them, Andrea, took me shopping the following Friday.   She showed me where to shop for some bulk food.  YEAH!!!   Not quite a Costco but pretty nice!  She also showed me where other wholesale stores were and also a book store and an art store.  I feel so privileged and lucky to be in the know!  Thank you Andrea! 

Elder Perron has taught twice the BYU Pathways institute class on the Book of Mormon. He will be teaching every other week (fortnight as they say here).    We go to the church’s Self Reliant office complex in Papatoetoe to teach this class.  The people get BYU credit for this and they are not all young single adults.  There are about 15 students in this class.  I like it because they ask really deep questions.  They are thinkers, and they want to learn more about the gospel.   

Mother’s day was very nice.   Thank you for all the Mother’s Day wishes, sweet emails, phone calls, and the beautiful flowers.   I love ALL my children.  You are the best!!!   Dean and Wyatt’s video on Facebook was so cute with them holding the “Happy Mother’s Day” sign!  

Now the two highlights of the week.  

 First - We had a missionary Zone Conference on Tuesday (May 13th).   Elder Kevin W. Pearson of the 1st Quorum of the Seventy is touring the New Zealand Auckland Mission and he spoke to us for about 5 hours.  He is the 1st counselor in the Area Presidency.  He will be our new Area President in July when Elder Hamula who is currently our area president moves onto his new assignment which will be in Salt Lake City at church headquarters.  First Sister Lekias and then President Lekias, our mission president and his wife spoke.   She did an object talk that I will never forget and that will always help me be a better missionary.  She held up a green banana and a nice pretty yellow banana.  She likened it to investigators being ready for the gospel.   Some are ready now, some are green and will take awhile to ripen but they will ripen.  She said the yellow one was once green but now is ripe.  Elder Pearson even took that concept farther when he spoke and said if you take the ripening affect from a 1 to 7, maybe this person is only a 3 right now, but he will become a 7.  He said that all of us in the pre- mortal existence were taught and trained and accepted the plan.   We just don’t remember it.  He told us of a funny story of a person he once met that wasn’t even a 1 yet, but someday he might be a 1.  We all laughed! 

At the beginning of Elder Pearson’s instructions, he said he had been fasting, praying and preparing for this mission tour.  He invited the Spirit to be with him and with us.  He prayed that we could all be taught by the Spirit.   Then he proceeded to say he really wanted us to listen closely and take notes about the things the Spirit would inspire him to say.  He said during the course of the morning while listening to his words the Spirit may even bring thoughts to our minds about things he wasn’t even talking about, but pay attention to those thoughts and write them down because that will be the Spirit speaking to you about things you personally need to hear.  I immediately had a thought and decided I would just write it down in my notes.  Elder Pearson continued on very softly, being lead by the Spirit, covering some very personal instructions.  My heart was so touched because all of us senior missionaries were sitting in the seats on the right side of the chapel with all the young Elders and Sister missionaries seated in the center rows of the chapel.  I thought he would give some specific related instructions to the young missionaries, but no… they were for me.  I know they were for me because for about 3 to 4 weeks I had been praying about some personal things that were of a concern to me, things I did not understand.   Every question that I had been asking the Lord was answered very specifically in those first five minutes of Elder Pearson talk, the confirmation by the Spirit was overwhelming.  Elder Pearson’s comments and the confirmation by the Spirit had to do with the very thought I had written when Elder Pearson said “you will have impressions write them down.”   And then after those tender quiet Spirit filled minutes, Elder Pearson looked up and smiled and said….”okay, let’s get on with what I have to teach you today”!   I was in awe.  It would not have mattered if he said anything else that day, I had been spiritually touched, spiritually fed, and my personal prayers had just been answered by someone who didn’t even know I needed to hear those words.   I am sure that others could generally use what was said, but not specifically word for word what I needed to hear.   Another treat, when we ate lunch Elder Pearson sat with the senior missionaries and it was like sitting with a friend you had always known and would always know.   Elder Tibbetts – a member of our family since we have been adopted into the Stevenson family and who is the Zone Leader of the Whangarei Zone – and his companion came and sat at the end of our table by Elder Perron.  I did not get to visit with Elder Tibbets very much just because of the way we were sitting. Elder Perron was not able to visit with Elder Pearson as much but we both enjoyed our lunches and our visits!!!!   Elder Tibbetts is a very fine young man and a very good missionary.  A note to remember Elder Tibbetts sang with a small group of missionaries – two elders and three sisters – at the Zone Conference.  Elder Perron said, “I didn’t know you sang.”    Elder Tibbetts said, “this is my first time.”   Whether it was or not he did a good job.   After we ate, it just so happened that Elder Pearson and I were the only ones standing there and I said with a tear in my eye, “I just want you to know that what you said in the beginning today,  was just for me.  I have been praying about that for weeks.  And my prayers were answered today.”   He looked at me and said, “You know that was the Spirit talking?”  I said, “Yes”.  He then wrapped both his arms around my shoulders and gave me a hug.  It was the sweetest thing ever.   I’ve been hugged by a general authority!  It was the pure love of Christ.  Elder Perron was standing beside us by now and he smiles at me because these are things he has experienced many times and I am crying and he knows exactly how I am feeling.  I cry even as I write and think of that experience again.  I know that our Heavenly Father knows each of us individually and is aware of our wants and needs.    I have never felt it as strongly as I did that day. 

Second - Today (Sunday, May 18th) we attended the Tamaki Stake for stake conference.  (This was a broadcast conference to all Stakes (28) Districts (4) in New Zealand with President Thomas S. Monson presiding.)  Words cannot explain the picture of the faithful people or the Spirit that attended these meetings this weekend – the Saturday session and the Sunday Session.  These great saints prepared for this conference all week.  Monday was Family Home Evening where every family in the stake was asked to discuss the purpose of stake conference.  They were reminded that “It is in the home that we form our attitudes, and deeply held beliefs.”  Each family was asked to help make sure stake conference was known to all families and friends.   Tuesday was Individual Ward Rescue Night where each family in the ward was asked to go and share a message that will inspire and motivate other families to attend stake conference.  Wednesday was Stake Leadership Training.  Thursday was Youth and Parent Workshop Night where all youth and their parents met on a stake basis.  Friday was a Tamaki Stake Dance, it was held in two separate chapels with three wards assigned to each building.  The people love to dance!   Two weeks earlier Elder Perron and I had been asked to share our testimonies at the Saturday night session.   We were honored and did not want to take up much of their time as they had many speakers on the program but the Stake President insisted we sit on the stand and take our allotted time.    

On Sunday President Faaeteete Lavea –the stake president – spoke.  He said after the Saturday session was over he said his best friend came into his office and stood around until the president said to him, “It looks like you have something on your mind, what is it?  His friend said, “President that meeting went five minutes overtime.  I t was not a good meeting, you let it go over five minutes, the speakers were no good did you know it went overtime.”  Yes I know it went five minutes overtime, there is a clock on the wall, you know there is a clock on the wall because you were obviously watching it.  Now let me ask you a question? The President then replied, “The Speakers were very good, the Spirit was very strong!”   Then he asked his friend , “What did you do to prepare yourself for conference?  Did you fast and pray to prepare yourself for conference.   Did you read your scriptures? Did you hold your family Home Evening?  Did you prepare?  If you did you would not just be  worried about 5 minutes.” Then he asked the congregation what they had done to prepare for stake conference?  He asked if they were prepared to get the most out of conference?  Had they prayed for the speakers?  Did you fast?  Did you read the scriptures?  Did you pray for inspiration?  Did you pray for answers to your prayers?  The spirit was powerful and his talk was powerful.  The Stake building was full with chairs up onto the stage and they put chairs in both foyers. 

I have learned a lot from these faithful saints.  I will never take Stake Conference as casually as I have before.  The Polynesians also love music.  The only way to say how it sounds in a meeting when they sing is that their voices sound like honey to me.  And yet they were admonished by their Stake President to sing out, to sing louder.  He complimented the choirs… they sang beautifully!   They had 3 different choirs sing.  The YSA choir, the Johnstone Ward choir, and the Tamaki 4th Ward choir.  He said, “God loves music!”  He pointed out that “speakers are for you and me.  The music is different.  We are praising God, expressing love and gratitude to God through the music.  God loves music.”  And then he quoted a couple of scriptures about God and music.  It was wonderful!  These are just little quips from his talk.  He was so sweet and loving and yet very direct in all he said.  During the broadcast from Salt Lake City we heard from Elder Dallin H. Oaks and President Thomas S. Monson.  President Monson shared many memories from New Zealand starting in 1965 and moving forward.  Elder Perron has a picture of President Monson, himself and President and Sister Barnes – his mission president – taken in 1965 when Elder Monson visited New Zealand – President Monson said, “Those are memories never to be forgotten.”  I looked over and Elder Perron had some tears running down his face.  President Monson talked about love, telling us to love one another, testifying through stories that love is the catalyst that brings about change. “Love is the balm of Gilead that heals.” “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”  

Then tonight we went to the Regional YSA Committee Meeting for an hour.  After that we attended a CES broadcast with Elder Russell M. Ballard speaking.  I would encourage all to listen to his talk off the internet.  Very powerful!  He talked about the Family Proclamation, Marriage, Technology, and Pornography.      

This blog is long and full of information.  That is how this week has been for me.  So full of spiritual experiences, my bucket has been filled to the brim and is over-flowing.  I need to sit back and digest it all now.   

God Bless You.  We love you.  We pray for you and hope all is well!

Aroha nui,

Elder and Sister Perron
A Postscript by Elder Perron:

 At the Sunday session of the Tamaki Stake Conference President Faaeteete Lavea spoke so eloquently without any notes.  He shared that when he was a bishop he went to a PPI with his stake president and the president said, “Bishop you look tired and burdened down, do you have any problems in the ward that we need talk about?”  “President I have a whole list of problems.”  I shared with the President my first problem.  He asked me, “Do you have a solution to that problem, do you know what the answer is?” “No President.”  The solution to the problem is LOVE, you love that person, and that family.”  Do you have another problem, “Yes, President” and I shared the problem with him.  “Bishop, do you know what to do to take care of that problem?”  “I want your advice so that is why I am sharing this with you.”  Bishop the answer is LOVE.  You love those people.”  I shared with the President another one of my problems.  The President said, “Bishop the answer is LOVE.”  I started to catch the idea; I was seeing a pattern here.  I folded up my paper and said, “I have no more problems that we need to discuss.”  I already knew what his answer was going to be.

About an hour later President Monson was talking to us about love.  There is no reason the stake president shared his experience with us, he was speaking without notes – except he was directed by the Spirit! 

Also at the Tamaki Stake Conference on Saturday evening where Sister Perron and I shared our testimonies  I told two short stories about spiritual experiences I had 50 years ago with a Samoan family in the Auckland 2nd  Ward and then another experience I had with Bishop Percy Harris, a great Tongan leader in the Auckland 2nd Ward.  Somewhere during my comments I indicated that all of the people I knew back then have since passed away.  Later in the meeting President Reid, a counselor in the New Zealand Auckland Mission presidency spoke.  He said Elder Perron stated that all of the people he knew had passed away.  Not true, when he mentioned the Auckland 2nd Ward my head jerked up.  Fifty years ago I was an eight year old boy living in the Auckland 2nd Ward.  Bishop Harris was my Bishop.  I do not recall Elder Perron specifically but I was always hanging around the missionaries.  I couldn’t wait to get to church just so I could be around the missionaries.  Elder Perron was one of them! 

After the meeting Sister Perron and I was visiting with Sister Reid –she teaches Institute in the Harbour Stake – and she indicated her husband’s head jerked up when I said Auckland 2nd Ward fifty years ago.  I said if he was 8 years old at the time I was showing him some magic tricks - I was pulling money out of his ears.  Those kids flocked around, It was a way to get the kids to invite their friends to church and have the non-member children to try and get their parents to bring them to church so we could introduce them to the gospel.  Sister Reid, said “You have to be kidding me, President Reid is always pulling things out of the grandchildren’s ears.”  I said, “I would have a coin in my hand, show them the coin, then I would snap my fingers flipping the coin up the sleeve of my suit coat, show them my hand was empty, then while talking I would let my arm hand down and the coin would fall back into my hand, then I would say, Oh their it is, it is in your ear, reach over and act like I was picking  it out of their ear and then open my hand and say, Yup, it was in your ear.”  DO THAT AGAIN!   HOW DO YOU DO THAT?  She said, “You guys were together, that is one of his tricks!”

 I guess everyone I knew isn’t necessarily dead!

We have started an “ANNUAL PING-PONG TOURNAMENT” at the city institute building.  This past week we had a drawing for the seeding of the competition.  Everything was done as scheduled for anyone who wanted to witness the seeding.  Names were drawn one at a time and put one the board, THEN names were drawn to see who would play the first set of names drawn.  Elder Perron plays BOB the same BOB of “chop-stick fame” a few blogs back.  Bob is a great young man from China where Ping-Pong is a national sport.  My concern is that I may have all of China mad at me when I take Bob out in the first round.  I will let you know how that goes in a later blog.

 I don’t know who Sister Perron is playing, my mind went into overload when I drew Bob; I do not recall much of anything else that happened on that particular afternoon. 
Mother's Day corsage and candy rose made by the young women

Flowers for Mother's Day!    Thanks!   :-)

Rugby being played every Saturday morning across the street. Picture from our deck.

 Harbour stake institute party

Harbour stake institute party

Getting ready for the Ping pong tournament. 
 Elder Perron is praying Bob won't show up! 

I am READY!!!!!

The drawing for the matches!

The lovely ladies preparing dinner for the YSA

The crosswalks downtown on Queen street. 
You cross every which way!  So cool!

We are going to this play in June with some other Senior missionary couples. 


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

A Spiritual Ward Conference Experience

The Universities (Auckland University and Auckland University Technology) where the downtown Institute of Religion is located has been on holiday for two weeks and although institute classes are still taught – things have been slow.  Sister Perron and I have taught a couple extra institute classes because a couple of teachers took advantage of this slack time and took vacation. 

Monday we attended FHE with the other senior missionaries in the area office.  Sister Perron and I just seem to wander when ever and where ever we want to wander – if we can find a place where a group of Young Single Adults are gathered we gravitate there – so this is just the third time we have been with the senior missionaries.  Nice evening! 

Tuesday the institute director – Brother Soalai – walked into my “office space” and said, “This is great, Sister Perron is down there in the institute class playing the opening hymn on the piano.”  I smiled and said, “That is nothing, she is also studying the Samoan language!” Later In the afternoon Sister Perron and I walked down to Queen Street for a late lunch / early dinner before heading out to the Great South Road chapel for evening institute classes. 

Wednesday - every week - Sister Perron teaches a “Celestial Marriage” class and I teach a “Doctrine & Covenant” class.  

The week night institute classes out in the stakes were still well attended virtually unaffected by the University holiday so Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights were busy as usual.  With no prior notice we did have to teach a couple of classes that we had not planned on – seems  a couple of teachers were away with their families – but give me some time and I can “fill it with something useful and close to the original subject of study.”   

 Friday was ANZAC DAY – similar to our memorial day where Australia and New Zealand honor their war veterans.  It is a national holiday in both countries.  Sister Perron and I took a leisurely drive out through the countryside and along the ocean where we had not previously been.  We had to watch the clock pretty closely because we had to be back in Auckland for Emily’s baptism.  Emily is the Korean girl who has been taught the missionary lessons at the institute building - picture of Emily in a previous blog. 

Other than Emily’s baptism which we will treat in a paragraph or so later our biggest event on ANZAC DAY was in the town of Thames where we stopped to get some lunch.  We went into a mall to eat at the food court so we could make up our mind walking around rather than driving around.  At the food court some ladies belonging to the “Red Hat Society” were assembling for a luncheon.  We have run across this organization in Sacramento, California and many other places we have traveled.  They were so cute that Sister Perron just had to go over and visit with them and we had to take their picture.  They were happy to have their picture taken!  Photo included below.  A look at the photo will just make your day.  If not something is wrong with you! 

We were back in Auckland in time for Emily’s baptism.  Emily is a student at the University.  Four weeks ago she did not know about Jesus Christ.  As the missionaries taught her she accepted their challenge to read the Book of Mormon and it converted her to Jesus Christ and to his gospel which is having faith in Christ, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end.  She accepted a date for baptism and did not waiver; she also attended general conference while she was investigating the church.  Her parents were and are very upset with her for joining the church but they did attend her baptism.  Her father does not speak English.  At the baptism we sat by them and visited with them; Emily’s mother doing the interpretation for her husband.  They do not go to any church.  At the conclusion of the baptismal service Sister Perron handed me the Ipad and we showed Emily’s parents a picture of the Seoul Korea Temple.  Her father took the Ipad and read the address of the Temple in Seoul.  He knew exactly where it was located.  They seemed a little comforted to know their daughter had not joined some cult only found in New Zealand 

Emily was confirmed on Sunday, on Monday she walked into the Institute building by herself and signed up for two institute classes.  On Tuesday she attended her first institute class and there was a returned missionary in the class that had served his mission in Seoul, Korea.  They started visiting in Korean.  This past Friday Emily was back in the institute building with a member friend and a non-member friend who was taught the first missionary lesson.  Emily is all smiles!      

Saturday – Back to the Saturday which was the day after ANZAC day. (I kind of jumped forward to this past Friday as we talked about Emily.) We took another road trip – Sister Perron and I drive around so much we do not seem to be satisfied just sitting around the apartment when we get a day off.  We got with Elder & Sister Wallace – who came to New Zealand the same week we did but they are stuck in the area office – and have not seen much of New Zealand the four of us drove back up to the Bay of Islands and visited the Waitangi Treaty Grounds where it is beautiful and where the country of New Zealand came into existence.  We had a good day visiting and sharing stories and experiences.   

Sunday – April 27, 2014 – “One of the most spiritual experiences of our lives!” 

Every night, every morning, and before we leave our apartment we pray that we will be “guided by the Spirit” as to where we should go; we pray that we might be “given by the Spirit what we should say and do” as we interact with the young single adults, their parents and their priesthood leaders.  Our responsibility to seek for and prepare for this guidance weighs heavily on our minds.  With 12 stakes, 80 + wards and 8 separate Institute programs it would be easy for us to run from pillar to post; get caught up in a set routine and think because we were busy we were doing a good thing.  But we REALLY want to serve a mighty mission not just serve a mission.  With that in mind here is what we try to do – if we get some traction in a certain stake we try to follow-up with that stake.  For example on General Conference Sunday we attended the Waterview Stake in the morning expecting to see Emily – a Korean girl who was investigating the church and who had committed to attend conference.  Emily was not in attendance at the Waterview Stake building as expected – see previous blog – so in the afternoon Sister Perron and I decided we would go to the Tamaki Stake to attend conference and to see if we could see Elder Tibbetts – a Zone Leader and a member of our family who we had not yet met.  At the Tamaki Stake we saw Elder Tibbetts, BUT Emily came running up to Debbie, she had been brought to the Tamaki Stake building by friends instead of the Waterview Stake building.  We were guided by the Spirit to visit the Tamaki Stake. THEN immediately after the conference session was over we heard a member of the stake announce a stake YSA committee meeting which was to be held later that afternoon in the high council room.  SO WE THEN stayed and attended the Stake YSA committee meeting that we knew nothing about prior to that announcement.  THEN on the following Tuesday evening we made it a point to attend the combined stake institute where the Tamaki Stake YSA attend.  We had been to that combined stake institute 9 times previously but now we had a unique tie to the YSA from the Tamaki Stake. THEN on the following Sunday (April 27) we felt we should plan to attend three separate ward block of meetings in the Tamaki Stake – giving us three YSA Sunday School classes where we could even become closer to the YSA in that stake.  There are three buildings in the Tamaki Stake, we pondered as to which building and which wards we should attend.  As we prayed for direction we settled on attending the building where the Johnstone Ward, the Tamaki 1st Ward (Samoan), and the Tamaki 4th Ward (Tongan) met.  We did not know which ward met first but we knew the first block of meetings was at 9:00 A.M. 

We arrived at the building ten minutes early.  As we were walking into the building a Polynesian sister seeing our “black badges” asked if had come for the conference.  Sister Perron said to me, “Is it their stake conference, if it is perhaps we should go to another stake so we can attend other wards where there will be YSA Sunday School classes.”  “No this must be a ‘ward conference’ because next month all of the stakes in this area are having a combined Stake Conference that will be broadcast from Salt Lake City with general authorities presiding.”  We continued into the building where we experienced “one of the most spiritual experiences of our lives.” 

Let me preface this experience with this.  Once when Elder F. Enzio Busche, a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy, came to the Anaheim East Stake to preside over a stake conference when I was the stake president he commented to me, “I do not understand the mindset of the American saints. In Germany where I was raised members might not come to church every weekend but when there was a stake conference everyone would come.  Our attendance on a conference weekend was much higher than on non-conference weeks.  Here in America when there is a stake conference the saints seem to think it is a day off because generally attendance on a whole is down.”  We all know what he said is a fair representation.  THEN as a member of the stake presidency I participated in at least 134 ward conferences and have attended many more.  You have all been involved in and attended ward conferences so you have your own experiences to draw upon. 

When Sister Perron and I walked into the chapel about 10 minutes before the meeting started there was prelude music already being played.  All the choir seats on the stand were full, the congregation was all seated; the chapel was full.  We were met by a Polynesian sister who was wearing a beautiful flower corsage who escorted us to our where there were a few seats left in the chapel.  The sight before us was extraordinary.  Everyone on the stand – including those in the choir seats – had fresh flowered leis around their neck there were a few people in the congregation with flowered leis around their neck.  After Sister Perron and I took our seats in the back of the chapel – in the overflow area - a Polynesian sister brought two fresh- flower leis and placed them around our neck.  She had seen our black badges and consistent with their cultural heritage - where their elders, “older people” are respected, coupled with their respect for missionaries – we were treated with the utmost affection.  There were young missionaries and sisters in attendance but they had not been given leis.  I only point this out to show there is order and protocol in their cultures.  As I sat there tears came to my eyes and ran down my cheeks, I could feel their love and respect for their Savior; their love for each other and their love for Sister Perron and I.  As I sat there I could not help but gaze at the beautiful flower bouquets that were placed in front of the podium and across the front of the chapel.  Those fresh flowers plus the flower leis – bright yellow, bright lavender, bright red, and pure white - around the necks of everyone on the stand created a visual image which cannot be described adequately, and the beauty was accented by the sweet prelude music; it was obvious that indeed we were in a very special place.  At the front of the chapel – on each side of the choir seats – the walls were built at an angel to the congregation where projectors could be used for presentations.  On one of those walls a peaceful picture of the Savior was projected.  On cue, unannounced, the first six rows of the congregation – all Polynesian – rose and sang a prelude hymn, “Come Come Ye Saints” a powerful, moving presentation. When the Bishop stood at the podium it was an impressive sight – a tall dark Polynesian man, dressed in a dark blue suit, white shirt, bright yellow flower lei around his neck, wearing a bright pink tie. All the members of the Bishopric wore the same pink tie.  A real show of unity!   He welcomed everyone to the “Johnstone Ward Conference.”  He announced the program and then the ward choir sang the opening hymn, “Love one Another.”  When the choir stood to sing the first six rows of the congregations – from wall to wall stood.  The people on the stand in the choir seats remained seated and did not sing – momentarily confusing – but quickly I figured out those were the stake visitors seated on the stand and recognized as special visitors by their flowered leis.  I was still trying to comprehend how large the ward choir was and enjoying their music with my head bowed when all of a sudden my head jerked up and I said to Sister Perron, “this is phenomenal.”  The choir sang the hymn all the way through reverently, then it was repeated with the sisters singing – “As I have loved you” then the men in the choir repeated “As I have loved you,” the choir finished the hymn in this same fashion with both men and women singing together.    Not until you have heard a Polynesian choir where the men are such powerful, beautiful singers have you ever heard this hymn so moving.  The men in the choir were all dressed in dark suits, white shirts and as it turned out - pink ties!  The sisters wore white dresses or a white blouse and a dark skirt.  The stake presidency had been given white leis, another attention to detail.  After the sacrament they had five speakers.  ALL FIVE were individuals who had been previously assigned to bear their testimony.  These five members had all been prepared by the members of the ward and their priesthood leaders and had taken out their endowments just five days prior.  These were not missionaries or others who would “naturally” take out their endowments, these were members who had been sought out and prepared.  There was one brother and five sisters.  One Sister was in her 70’s and her husband had passed away 14 years earlier.  The brother was a husband and father of three children.   The others were mothers with families.  Each of the testimonies of these five people was heartfelt and full of love for their Father-in-Heaven and the members of the ward.  They all loved their Bishop!  This ward had PREPARED for and WORKED towards making this conference “something special.”  As the meeting progressed the Spirit was so strong that it seemed to me the walls of the building were moving in and the congregation was being surrounded by a pillar of light.  I thought to myself – the people outside of this building have no idea what is happening in here.  Then I remember thinking, the people in this building who are not in this chapel have no idea what is happening in here.  At the conclusion of their testimonies, the Bishop rose and bore a strong, short testimony!  A member of the stake presidency concluded the meeting by simply asking the people to commit themselves to reading the entire Book of Mormon within the next 90 days. The choir then closed the meeting by singing “Master the Tempest is Raging.” At the conclusion of the sacrament meeting I whispered to Sister Perron, “If I had not been here I believe this congregation might have been translated.” 

Sister Perron and I found out later – during the block – that the sacrament meeting was not the only focus of the conferences; the ward had been preparing and participating in cultural events for the entire prior month; fasting and prayer; contacting less-active members; choir practices, REALLY seeking out and preparing people for the temple; 100% visiting and home-teaching; ward activities focused on uniting ward members; the preparing of fresh flower leis, preparing floral arrangements, prayerfully selecting  the pictures to project on the wall. Sister Perron commented to one of the sisters in Relief Society what a spiritual experience attending this ward conference has been. The sister commented – just like she knew – “the Spirit has been found in paying attention to EVERY little detail.”  I told the Bishop what a great thing it was for to me to see a ward where so many people had been prepared to go to the temple. He said, we have another member who is also ready to go to the temple but he wants members of his family to go through with him and they cannot be here until June so that endowment is schedule during the first week in June.  Now that the conference sacrament meeting is over the conference is not over.  The following Tuesday evening there was a family game night and then on the following  Friday night the entire ward was having a swim party at the Otara indoor pools. The Bishop said to me, “The swim night is for the children!”  What a Zion people.   

 Sister Perron and I were guided by the Spirit to a place where we were blessed by assembling ourselves with saints who through preparation, prayer, and fasting with a purpose had called down the powers of heaven. 
We attended the Johnstone Ward Swim Party on Friday evening where we visited with the ward members as we all sat around watching the children have fun! 

The stake president as it turns out is a member of the Johnstone Ward so as our punishment for keeping the ward from being translated he asked us to  speak in the Saturday session of their upcoming stake conference.  There was also a very special bond created with a couple of our institute students who are members of the Johnstone Ward who were so very happy and excited that we came to their ward.  They expected to see us at institute but not at their ward.  Another side blessing for us – A few blogs ago we sent a picture of one of our YSA–INSTITUTE sisters who was leaving for a mission to Tahiti and is currently in the MTC in Provo.  Her father is the Bishop of the Johnstone Ward.  How great it was to meet this sweet sisters parents.  Blessings just keep coming – or I should say the blessings just keep getting bigger and BIGGER.  

I will close with a sweet moment that Sister Perron and I happened upon in the foyer of a chapel.  It must have been General Conference weekend.  There was a crowd in the foyer visiting as they were leaving the building, and in the middle of it all there was a little three year old boy just crying his eyes out!  He was standing on the floor, hanging onto his mother’s leg.  Sister Perron leaned down to see if she could find out what was the matter? His mother said, “He is very, very sad that there is no Primary class today.  He wants to go to Primary!  He does not understand why there is no class.” 

 Some of us cry to get out – the best of us cry to get in!        

 Aro ha Nui,
Elder & Sister Perron

 "We love our picture taken!"
Johnstone Ward conference...one of three beautiful flower arrangements on the front stand.

Elder and Sister Perron with a partial group of night Institute students! 
We love the crazy awesome youth!  :-)

A WWI monument to the Veterans.  We visited on Anzac Day. 
Elder Perron especially enjoyed it because 50 years ago he baptized a 70 year old WWI
veteran while on his first mission to New Zealand.

On our drive we stopped and chatted with some fishermen. 
They were having a good fishing day!   Look at that smile!

The red hat society.  We talk to everyone!

Emily's baptism.  Andrew, one if our YSA baptized her.

Emily after her baptism
My awesome companion fixed ME a wonderful Sunday dinner. 
It was so pretty I had to take a picture of it!
The leis we were given at the conference. 
They were handmade by some of the members.  They smelled so good!

The Johnstone post ward conference pool party.

Johnstone Ward Conference Relief Society Meeting. 
This lady is the Bishop's wife, sang in the choir (hence the white dress and corsage). 
We had sent earlier a picture of her daughter preparing to leave on a mission to Tahiti. 
We had just put the puzzle pieces together regarding her daughter prior to this picture being taken.