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. 


1 comment:

  1. Elder and Sister Perron: How we love reading your blogs and being immersed in the Gospel life you live every day. Thank you for sharing your special and personal spiritual experiences with us and for the beautiful examples you are of ambassadors for the Lord. We love you at the temple, I can only imagine how much the YSA in the Auckland area love you there!! If you run into Kaye or Kevin Davies in Auckland somewhere, let them know you know us - Kaye is my sister. I keep forgetting where she lives exactly. They just bought a 'fixer-upper' and are fixing it up! There are also the Bedfords in Hamilton - do you get to that area? Your wonderful words of memories of New Zealand so many years ago brings back memories for me - we went to the New Zealand temple as a family to be sealed in 1962 - ate vegemite and cheese sandwiches for Christmas dinner because we had no extra money after paying for the trip for fancy food. It tasted like manna to me! I was almost 16 years old and we had been members of the church for 2-1/2 years. Some day I will share with you the miracle that made the trip possible.
    Thank you again for sharing your incredible lives as missionaries for the Lord. We love you and we pray for you daily. Let me leave a thought with you from I believe Pres. Hinckley: "Sometimes when I consider what tremendous consequences come from little things ... I am tempted to think there are not any little things." The Lord is ever mindful of His children and all of their needs, thank goodness for we need Him in every part of our lives. May God bless you and keep you and may His countenance shine upon you. Keep up the great work! With love, Bob and Glenys Rasmussen