Friday, June 27, 2014

Busy, Busy and Even Busier!

This mission is the most wonderful experience.  What a great companion I have.  Everyone in New Zealand is in love with her and she is running – like in anxiously engaged – faster than I could have ever imagined.  It has been our desire to serve a mighty mission blessing the children and grandchildren – actually and figuratively speaking - of the people I served many years ago. Well Sister Perron is so far out in front of me that I am confident this will be a mighty mission.

These past two weeks have been even busier than our usually busy weeks and I would have said that is impossible except I have just lived it.  I believe that the past ten days will prove to be the most pivotal period of our mission; the most pivotal not the most influential.  Without a doubt the most influential is still ahead of us and will continue to take place one on one where we can touch and change lives. 

Let me report on the busy part of our blessed life first and then we will report on the even busier part last. 

Before busy.  Friday, June 13th was our first real night out since we have been here.  Sister Perron and I took another senior missionary couple with us and we went downtown Auckland for dinner and then to the Broadway play Annie at the Auckland civic center.  Delightful evening! 

Now busy.  Sunday a week ago we had an encounter that started our busiest week ever but that is for later.  On Sunday evening we attended a planning committee meeting for a YSA NATIONAL CONFERNCE to be held in February 2015.  As a result of the committee meeting we missed the monthly Come And See Devotional where all the missionaries bring their investigators, new converts, and members bring non-member friends.  It is a missionary fireside where the mission president speaks, sometimes a stake president and they have three or four previously assigned converts bear their testimony.  One of the converts asked to bear her testimony this month was Cherie, a Young Single Adult who was taught her missionary lessons here in the institute building.  She is an incredible young lady!  She spoke for 15 minutes and the senior missionaries who were at the devotional said she was terrific!  Cherie was in the other day and is so fired up.  She said, speaking of her experience at the fireside, “I have never been in front of such a large crowd.”  Sister Perron said, “We heard you did a fantastic job!”  She was all smiles!  

Monday evening we went to a Family Home Evening at the home of Brother and Sister Kohe who are the stake YSA advisors in the Mt. Roskill Stake.  They were recently called and are really working hard and the young people are responding to their love and enthusiasm.  Debbie and I had arrived home to our apartment about 7 o’clock that evening; it was kind of cold so we got into our warm pajamas and was settling in for an evening of hot chocolate and reading.  The phone rang and it was the Sister Kohe wanting to know if we wanted to come over for FHE?  Over meant we would go back over the bridge and through the suburbs.  We looked at each other and continued looking at each other and then said, “we bettered go so we can show our love and support of them.”  Out of our PJ’s and back into suit and tie, back over the bridge into Auckland and onto their home.  It was a delightful evening.  Plenty of food, plenty of deserts, they had a big screen T.V. with a live broadcast of a Rugby game from England; New Zealand’s national All Blacks vs England’s national team.  New Zealand won!  We got home about 10:30; it was an unplanned delightful evening. 

We are at the Auckland City Institute building every week day.  These past two weeks have been final exams at the universities (Auckland University and Auckland University of Technology) and since the first semester of Institute is over we have had no classes to teach but with the new facility being finished we have had all kinds of students here studying for finals and being very proud of their new facility.  Therefore Sister Perron has made sure there are baked cookies, fresh fruit, peanut butter, jelly, bread and milk around.  The kids love her. 

We had a Family Home Evening for the senior missionary couples here in our newly renovated facility this Monday evening.  The missionaries had to drive over the bridge from the Northshore and into the city and find parking but they were all here by 6 o’clock.  Sister Perron had spent lot of time preparing a dinner for them.  What a blessing to let them see the new facility; give them the history of how the church acquired the building almost 40 years ago; its dedication by an apostle of the Lord and how it is now right in the middle of the campus – there are 68,000 students in these two universities.  What a miracle this is. 

There are institute classes still being taught in the evenings out in the stake centers.  This is where most of the students take their institute classes.  We have had to teach about three classes in the evenings in the past ten days because an instructor calls in sick and can’t be at class.  Usually we get about an hour notice.  It is great to teach the students!  You really get a lot closer to the kids when you are teaching them.  I taught two classes on Missionary Preparation and Sister Perron taught another class on Eternal Marriage.  You get me teaching a class on missionary preparation and it is hard to get me stopped when the bell rings.  We have about 800 students enrolled in institute and we know them all.  Don’t know all their names but they all know us.  Sister Perron and I  went into a restaurant Friday night – after attending a Young Single Adult baptism – and our waitress said, “I know you guys, you spoke at our YSA devotional.”  One of her assistants brought us over two bottles of beer and placed them on our table, we said… Oh no. no, that is not for this table.  He quickly picked them up and retreated, went back over and looked at his note, then delivered them to a table next to ours.  We said, “Good try, but we are too sharp to fall for that trick!” 

We have had a 12 stake YSA Regional Activity over this past weekend where about 1,000 YSA attended.  Each stake YSA group had been given an assignment about two months ago to create two talent show performances.  The Saturday night activity was a talent show, a “Star Search” production.  The auditorium was packed.  Before the show started the Master of Ceremonies came out and announced, “This is a Young Single Adult activity so if there are any adults in the audience you will have to move back to top of the bleachers so we can get all of the YSA who are still outside seated.”  Sister Perron and I were seated front and center about four rows from the stage area.  “The kids in front of us turned around and said, “You guys are Yong Single Adults!”  Sister Perron responded, “Yeah, I know we just look a little old for our age.” I quickly added, “Yeah, we are YSA, we have a letter from President Monson telling us we are  YSA - How about those credentials!”  They laughed and said, “Just like we said, you are YSA.” 

In the weeks leading up to this production the individual YSA groups usually had their own practices preparing for their performance following their institute classes in the evenings; so last week Sister Perron and I would stay around after institute in the various buildings and watch their practices.  Assuring them all we would cheer for them!  Well it became a sweet problem for us.  The week before the show a stake YSA group said they had bought each of us one their logo T-shirts – especially designed for this activity – and wanted us to wear it at the activity.  We said, “Oh man, if we did that we would have to put on 12 t-shirts and peel one off after every performance.”  We thought we were dancing nicely around their request.  Dancing around is one of Sister Perron’s and my talent!  Well at the performance the Mt Roskill stake brought us each a T-shirt to wear.  Now what?  During the show we just placed them under our chairs but when the Mt. Roskill stake finished their performance I could not let them down so I stood up and turned to the audience – which was mostly behind us – and held their shirt up by the shoulders so the crowd could see their logo-design and wiggled their shirt back and forth.  As luck would have it – or would not have it – I was standing right in the spotlight that was shinning from the back of the auditorium onto the stage area.  I held the shirt in front of my face – the crowd broke out in cheers and laughter!  After the show was over and everyone was walking back to their cars a group of kids from the Manakau stake walked past.  Keep in mind it is dark and these Polynesian kids can sing in harmony and can make things up as they go and then break off into parts.  We heard a group singing quietly as they walked past us. Listening we heard them sing, “There go the traitors; we thought they were our friends, but they are traitors, TRAITORS, TRAITORS, but we love them, we love them…  Then they laughed!  Sister Perron said, “Do you believe in repentance?  Can we be forgiven?”  Oh, yeah!  What a fun evening! 

All of the YSA attended their own sacrament meetings in their home wards. The YSA Regional Activity was concluded on Sunday evening with a devotional held in the Redoubt Stake center; there were about 1,000 in attendance. 

On Sunday morning we did as usual, set out to attend multiple blocks of ward meetings so we could be in the YSA Sunday school classes.  In the first ward we attended - during the ward business - a young man with the last name Tipene was sustained to be ordained a deacon.  I turned to look at him.  When the meeting concluded we got caught up in a conversation that will fall into the last section of this blog under even busier so I did not get to speak to the Tipene family.  We go to our YSA adult Sunday school class and the instructor starts talking about having just conferred the Aaronic priesthood on his son and ordained him to the office of a deacon.  It was very appropriate for the lesson, we were in the Old Testament talking about the priesthood of Aaron.  After the class was over I asked him if he was Brother Tipene.  He said, “I am” I told him I had served a mission here 50 years ago.  He asked, “Where did you serve?   “A number of places but in particular I served in Cambridge and there was a Tipene family in Cambridge.”  He said, “I grew up in Cambridge, that would have been my father and my grandfather.”  His father would have been one of the children back then but his grandfather and grandmother was the Tipene family who was so special to us.  I mentioned Cambridge in our last blog and included a picture of the chapel.  I mentioned that there were only 17 members of the church there.  The Tipene family made up about 9 of the 17.  In a town that was pretty anti-Mormon the Tipene family was a warm fuzzy for us Elder Sayers and I.  The night Elder Sayers and I had an encounter with an evil spirit in the boarding house where we lived – this happened about 9:00 P.M. and we left our boarding house and walked over to the Tipene family home.  They were gone, the house was dark.  The other ward members lived too far away for us to walk to and they were not ones we would want to look to for peace and comfort.  We went back by the Tipene home about 10:30, 11:00, 11:30… they were out of town.  Elder Sayers and I finally went back to our boarding house about 2:00 A.M., having walked the streets for about 5 hours. There are many stories in the Tipene family history about how the chapel came to be in Cambridge.  We will spend some time with the new found Tipene family sharing stories.
While we are talking about old New Zealand missionary stories, when I was down here a long time ago, when I was a Zone Leader with a car, a couple did not show up for a baptism and we had the font all full of warm water – no cell phone back then – so my companion and I jumped in the car and headed for their home… on the way I got a ticket for speeding… we picked them up and on the way back to the church I got another speeding ticket… two tickets in about 30 minutes of each other.  Only tickets I ever received… in New Zealand. 

Now I must tell you a story about Sister Perron’s and my first real day in New Zealand.  We arrived early on a Saturday so that was not a real day, fact is it was unreal after the long plane ride and no sleep; Sunday was church so that was not a real day; Monday the couple who we were replacing drove us to Auckland to the Institute, to the Mission office back on the Northshore, and to then onto the Area office, not even close to a real day - like who is supposed to remember who, how and where.  Therefore Tuesday we consider our first real day.  We had the car to ourselves, no one showing us or telling what to do or where to go.  We needed to make some photo-copies of some documents for a reason that I do not remember.  We had been staying in a high rise hotel over the weekend overlooking downtown Takapuna where the mission office and the area office is located – two separate buildings.  I had been surveying the streets and buildings below from the balcony of our hotel room on the 10th floor and had concluded in my mind where the mission office was located based on the quick visit we had made with our guides the day before.  We get into the car and head in that direction.  Remind you, it was the first day driving on the wrong side of the road, lots of round a-bout-s at most every major intersection, lots of traffic in downtown, no easy parking so as we approached the building I said to sister Perron, “you jump out and run into the mission office and ask them to make copies for us and I will circle back and pick you up.”  “Well what should I…”  We had passed the building before she could ask her question and before she could gather her courage to just jump-out into the unknown. So we drive around until we get the plan figured out and she knows what to say and where to wait for me so she can jump back in the car when I circle back to pick her up.  Now we drive up to the building and I say, “Hurry, jump out, there are cars behind us.”  She jumps out and I drive off.  I drive back by and she is not back out of the building so I pull down a side street and wait – not in a parking space but in the street because there is no one behind me so I wait for awhile.  She comes out of the building while I am in the side street and does not see me so she just stands out there not knowing where I am.  Finally I pull out of the side street far enough to see her.  I honk and she comes over and gets into the car.  I said, “Did they make the copies for you?”  “No, that wasn’t the mission office and they didn’t have any idea where the mission office is located.”  I asked, “Well did you ask them if they wanted to know more about the church and if we could come back.”  We both started laughing!  Since that day if we are unsure about where we are going or if we are joking about something I will say, “You just jump out, hurry, jump out and I will circle back.”  It is a sweet private joke and we laugh every time we use that line.

Three days ago I get an e-mail from the vehicle department of the area office - “This is for your vehicle please take care of it.”  Ten minutes later another e-mail comes through “This is for your vehicle please take care of it.”  Obviously the same issue.  I open the e-mail and it is a speeding ticket.  I look at the detail and I do not even recognize the name of the town where the ticket was issued but we do a lot of driving.  But what is going on, I have never been pulled over.  I pull the town up on a Google search.  The town is in the far north of New Zealand.  I open the second e-mail and it is a speeding ticket issued in the same town.  Obviously the same ticket; closer examination reveals no they are separate tickets issued 32 minutes apart.  Puzzled Debbie and I start trying to figure this out.  Some kind of mix up!  We look at the date on the ticket and it is the same weekend that we went up North for the mission farewell of our YSA friend who was going to the Alpine German speaking Mission.  But the town where the tickets were issued from is much farther north so it makes no sense.  Finally we say to each, “we went farther north when we drove on up to ninety-mile beach but we went up one way and came back another way so how could we have two separate tickets.  They do have cameras down here along the road that checks your speed and takes a photo of the car and a ticket shows up in the mail.  So a ticket is possible but not two tickets.  No way!  Then a possibility comes to our mind.  On the way up to ninety-mile beach Sister Perron said to me, “I need to go pottie.”  “Okay we will find a place to stop.” Gas stations have no toilets down here so really it is a McDonalds or such.  Well we are already through this little town and Sister Perron says, “Keep going I can wait.”  “No there is nothing for quite a distance so let’s go back. I saw a sign for a McDonalds.”  We turn around and go back and take care of business and buy a little lunch and head back up the road.  Bingo! There it is.  Headed back into town for the pottie,“click!”  After the pottie break we get back in the car and head back up the road “click!”  Indeed these are my tickets.  I say to Sister Perron, “Next time you have to go pottie I am going to say, “You just jump out, hurry, jump out and I will circle back. Hurry, jump out before a car comes!”  There were three cars that got tickets between my two.  We could tell by the ticket frequency numbers and the time clock indication on the ticket.  In thirty minutes they issued five tickets.  My ticket number one was for 62 kilometers in a 50 zone.  The second was for 61 kilometers in a 50 zone.  That means I was going 38 mph on both tickets.  It cost me $80 for each ticket.  Never has so little cost me so much… except when we bought a hair dryer when we first got here, that was a lot for a little;  I am going to request a copy of the photograph on the second ticket to see if they caught me sticking a handful of French-fries in my mouth. The real story here - my second time around I again received two tickets within 30 minutes.

Now for the even busier portion. I cannot even begin to explain how we are directed by the Holy Ghost.  There are so many simple little things that are answers to prayers that are recognizable after the fact as to our having been guided by the Spirit.  We pray constantly that we will be guided as to where to go, what to say, and to be guided to people where we might make a difference.  Several weeks ago we had a meeting with a member of the Area Presidency about some ideas we thought would improve the effectiveness of the locating, rescuing and friend-shipping efforts of the Young Single Adults. We prepared mightily for that presentation. He encouraged us and suggested we get with the Area Seventy who presides over the coordinating council that covers the stakes in Auckland.  He said he would contact him and set that up if we wanted.  We said no, we will contact him and ask for an appointment.  Every Saturday night we plan what wards we should attend based on what supports and improves what we have been doing.  We decided that we would go first to a ward in the Manakau Stake, where it was their ward conference.  Then we would go to the other wards in that building.  We attended our first block of meetings, the ward conference.  We had a great set of meetings.  The stake presidency was there, we know them well and they are very supportive of us.  We next slipped into another sacrament meeting.  Sitting on the stand was the Area Seventy were going to contact for a meeting.  No official business, he was just there visiting the ward since he had no other assignment.  He could have gone to any one of the other 80 wards.  After the sacrament meeting we approached him, introduced ourselves and said, “We needed to set up an appointment to visit with you.”  He said, "Do you have five minutes right now, we can go into the high council room. I work in Hamilton during the so week nights are out and weekends are usually very busy."  He was obviously being very polite yet dismissive at the same time.  We went into the stake office area and the high council room was locked, no one around.  Decided we could sit in the reception area in the stake offices and visit.  He did not know us and we did not know him, we had never met.  After introductions he started interrogating us.  You say you are working with the YSA and Institute, what did your mission call letter say, what was your assignment.  “CES” but then it was modified while in the MTC in Provo by the missionary department to work with the YSA and Institute.  Who do you report to? How long have you been here? You say you have been in all of my stakes doing this work, why didn't I know you were here?  My reply, “I do not know why you did not know we are here. You will have to check that out with Area Office, CES, or the Mission President on your side of the desk.  As to whom we report to, that is an interesting question.  If we had been waiting for direction we would have been sitting in our apartment for the last four month, just waiting around. But according to our mission call we were sent here to work with the Institute and the YSA and we have received our errand from the Lord and we are doing just that – self starters you might say.  There are about 800 YSA who know who we are and know our names.  We do not know all their names but we know their faces.  We do know your son Spencer, he attends institute in the city and also in the Harbour stake.  Anyway we explained what we have been doing and he was impressed, by now we are twenty minutes into our five minute meeting.  We told him we had asked for a meeting with Elder Pearson and had met with him and he suggested we meet with you so when we ran into you this morning we decided here was our chance to try and set up a meeting.  We then reviewed what we had talked to Elder Pearson about. Our Area Seventy also liked the ideas.  This meeting is now 40 minutes long.  He asks us to send him an e-mail with the ideas in bullet points.  As our meeting ended he said we are going to move forward with our arms locked together.  A good meeting! 

I did not feel Bullet points were sufficient.  Yes I needed to respond with bullet points but these ideas needed to be fleshed out with Sister Perron and my reasoning and thought process. These suggestions have to be shown to be sustainable over the long haul and not just a program that dies when we leave.  So I started fleshing out the proposals with Handbook citations, footnotes, and the rationale behind the proposals.  A week of intense work packed around all the other things we do.  Several nights going to bed late and then waking up with thoughts going through my mind so getting up and working for two to three hours.  Finally I had it completed.  Sunday evening, one week after our original meeting; that is the good news, the bad news we are in the middle of the YSA Regional Activity.  How am I going to get this packet to him before he leaves for Hamilton where he works?  It had been one week and no bullet points sent off.  In all I had prepared three separate documents, 19 pages in all.  We drove by the Area Seventies home to drop off the packet Sunday night on our way to the 12 stake YSA devotional.  No one home!  At past events we had not seen our Area Seventy at the event and this event was being held in a stake center not in his coordinating council.  Well guess what we ran into the Area Seventy at the devotional.  I told him I had a packet to give him after the meeting.  He said great. Thank you!  After the meeting he got out a side door before we could get to him since we were trapped in the crowd of YSA, our friends.  Well at about midnight I sent Elder Coward an e-mail with the three documents as attachments; wondering what he might say about missionaries still up at mid-night.  I got up at 5 o’clock in the morning.  Elder Coward had already replied to my mid-night e-mail saying he had received the information. By 10 A.M. he had read and responded back to our proposals.  He even expanded my proposal by suggesting we needed to have the Stake Presidency involved and he would take care of making sure they attended the kickoff.  I replied back answering a couple of his questions and telling him I would have recommended several other things but did not want to ruffle feathers because I have been just an observer up to now.  He fired right back "You ruffle all the feathers you want and tell them I told you to do it!”  Bottom line we are now working in step to improve the finding, rescuing and friend-shipping of the Young Single Adults and getting them involved in institute.  In the email he thanked us for our devotion to the YSA here in New Zealand. 

I will share one more example of being guided by the Spirit.  It happened Sunday when Sister Perron and I “got caught up in a conversation after sacrament meeting” that prevented me from catching Brother Tipene.  I said we would tell of this experience under the even busier part of this blog.  This is the Sunday morning after the Saturday night YSA Regional Activity and the same Sunday we finished the material for the Area Seventy.  Sister Perron and I got home late Saturday night and were tired.  We decided that on Sunday we should go to the Hibiscus ward here in the Harbour stake.  It is close to home.  Sister Perron has wanted to visit that ward for several weeks but there was always a reason that sent us somewhere else.  Sunday morning we went to the Hibiscus ward.  After sacrament meeting a man who we did not know turned to shake my hand just as I turned to shake his.  As usual he saw the black badges and wanted to know about our calling.  We told him we worked with the YSA and the Institute in the 12 metropolitan stakes.  He said come out into the foyer, I want visit with you about what you do.  We go into the foyer and talk several minutes.  Then he says, “I work in the Area Office and just two days ago Elder Pearson came to me and gave me an assignment.  “I need you to develop a template to be used for all future YSA National Conferences. These conferences have to be life changing events and not just social gatherings. I do not know how you will do it, just get it done.” Elder Pearson is out of the office travelling for the next month or more and would like something when he gets back for his review.  I want you and Sister Perron to come into the area office on Wednesday so we can meet and share ideas.  I knew somewhat of his assignment because Elder Pearson had shared some of his concerns about this when we had visited with him several weeks ago. 

Well going into the area office for a meeting like this is not one you just go in and wing something.  Sister Perron and I spent a Monday and Tuesday with some intense preparation, another late night session and a couple of sessions after waking up and writing down impressions.  With diligent, prayerful, effort we can make a difference that may have an effect for years to come.  Now our Sunday morning run-in at another one of the 80 wards we could have attended was not coincidental.  Our meeting in the Area Office on Wednesday was a great experience.  We will let the professionals build the templates but our understanding of the YSA – not the program but the young adults - has proven invaluable.  Prayer, hard work, and a willing, obedient heart is all the Lord requires.

 We love all of you!

 Aroha Nui,

Elder & Sister Perron
My sweet companion cooking me breakfast while I type on the blog. 
 The mission was never this good last time around!  Love my companion!!!!

In blue President Key, 2nd counselor in the Redoubt Stake presidency.
The sister is from the Mt Roskill Stake.   Both are adult leaders guarding the entry from the performance hall into other parts of the school.  We (church) had rented the hall from a private college.  Love the leaders!!!!  President Key is so involved with his YSA that if they were all like him we would be serving in Africa, there would be no need for us here.

Happy birthday cake from the office administration at the Institute
This bird was yelling at all the other birds to come jump on the roof of our car and we would throw out bread crumbs to them. And they did! 
I think we had about 15 of these birds on the top of our car as we tried to drive off.

 YSA Regional activity.  Heaps of kids!

Performers at the activity.  Great singers!

More Performers

This guy stole the show.
He got up and started doing the Tongan cultural dance to this song.
Everyone was screaming and cheering him on.  The spot light is even on him.  
He loved it and hammed it up!

This was the finale act and it was really good! 
 Some kind of Latin mash dance I think they called it.

Heaps and heaps of YSA!   We love him.  We know most all these kids!  :-)
This board is up stairs in the Institute.  Everyone wrote a greeting in different language.  I thought it was pretty kool!   If you enlarge this pic and look at all the different language, it's pretty neat!  I write "como este.  Muy bien. Gracias.  Que pasa?!"   Aren't you proud of me Duke, Jeff and Jennifer?   Bahahaha.   Oh and Wyatt too!  My two-year-old grandson has started speaking a lot if Spanish since going to a Spanish speaking teacher at his preschool! 



Thursday, June 12, 2014

Talofa! Malo e lelei! and Aloha!

(Elder Perron’s additions to the blog post are in blue print)

 Kia Ora!  (Maori;)  Talofa! (Samoan);   Malo e lelei (Tongan);   Aloha! (Hawaiian);   Hello! (English) 
Sister Perron left out –  Fijian: (Ni Sa Bula) and Niuean: (Faka  A Lofa Atu)

We are happy!  Serving a mission is awesome!  We love being in New Zealand.  We love the young single adults.  We love their leaders.  We love the Stake Presidencies.  We love the other Senior Missionaries here.  We love the gospel of Jesus Christ.  We love being members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  We see the happiness and joy it brings to individuals and families who put the Lord first in their lives.    We love the fun that we have in the church.  All the activities that are available for us to mingle, mix, associate with, serve and learn.   We truly feel blessed.  We know that we have a kind and loving Heavenly Father that loves all of us.  We are thankful for Jesus Christ’s sacrifice and atonement. LIFE IS GOOD! 
Truly we believe the words of the prophets: “Adam fell that man might be; and men are, that they might have joy.”  We are OVER JOYED!

I will find out if Sister Perron loves her companion, she was not mentioned it in this post so far.

Tuesday, June 3rd, Elder Perron and I celebrated yet another wonderful year of marriage.  Eight big ones!  Some of you are going to say, “That’s all!”  Others will say, “It’s been that long!”   We say both these things!   Someday it feels like it’s been forever and other days it feels like it was just yesterday!  Either way it’s been eight delightful years!

Others will say, “Who cares!” but we do!

We had a very interesting cooking class this week.  We made a Tongan drink called , Otai.   It is a fruit drink and very good!   It is a favorite made usually during the summer and on big occasions.  I enjoyed it.  If you want to give it a try you can pull it up on the internet.  We made ours with apples, which seems to be a favorite around here.   Unfortunately I didn’t get a picture of it.  Darn…because it was interesting! 

It is best if you drink it with a spoon. 

Saturday we went to the temple in Hamilton with a young single adult named Holly.  She took out her endowments for the first time.  Holly is an amazing young lady.  She has had challenges and trials in her life and they have only made her stronger.   She has two beautiful young daughters.  We love her and applaud her for the living her life the way she does, setting an excellent example for her family and peers.  Woo hoo Holly!! 

Sister Perron obviously wanted me to tell you about our trip to Cambridge following the Temple endowment session.  The beautiful village of Cambridge most notable for its thoroughbred horse stables is blessed with trees, parks and array of specialty shops and cafés located 17 miles southeast of Hamilton on the banks of the Waikato River.  I served in Cambridge 50 years ago.  Back then the town was so anti-Mormon that the city officials were trying to pass an ordinance prohibiting the Mormons from building a chapel in the town.  Those were the days when the church had what was known as building missionaries serving throughout the South Pacific so the church leaders erected a building in Cambridge virtually overnight.  When I served in Cambridge we had the new building and only 17 members of the church.  It was in Cambridge 50 years ago where I had an experience with an evil Spirit.  The residence where Elder Sayers and I lived back then is gone. So much has changed but so much is the same!  Sister Perron and I drove around the area, took a picture of THE church building, finally concluding our visit eating lunch at a sidewalk café. 

Sunday we went to our usual three blocks of church meetings.  It is great though.  One of the wards was a Tongan ward where the sacrament meeting and Sunday school class was in Tongan.   In another ward there was one of our favorite young single adults and institute student, Kasia.  (Pronounced like Asia with a “K” in front of it).   She is from the little town of Albion, Idaho.  She didn’t think we would know where that was.  Of course we do!  She is over here studying at University of Auckland getting her doctorate.  She is an amazing person!   I will send a picture in the next couple of weeks.  She actually left Sunday evening to fly back to the States.  She became an “Auntie” for the first time and she was going home for two weeks!   She was so excited!  We kind of had an instant bond with her since she is from Idaho!!!    Another ward we went to there was another Institute student, Katrina, a new convert as of January.  She taught the YSA Sunday School class which was on the Old Testament.  And Wow!  She did a very good job!   At the third block of meetings our Institute Director, who is also in the Stake Presidency of that particular stake, was visiting this ward and speaking!  What a treat for us we thought… except then he called us up to bear our testimonies.   Every meeting was great that day!  Sunday evening we went to a YSA Devotionals put on by Mt. Roskill stake.  The speakers were the New Zealand MTC President and his wife, President and Sister Tarawhiti (pronounced Tara-fee-tee).  Talk about amazing!  These people are older than us and were so full of energy.  President Tarawhiti definitely hit it off with the young single adults.   He was dynamic, fun and a to the point speaker.  This is President and Sister Tarawhiti’s  fifth mission.  Previously they presided over the Papua New Guinea mission.  If you want to look that up, it is a hard mission!  They loved it!  We were so glad we were there and got to listen to them speak!  

Monday evening we missed the Senior Missionary Family Home Evening.  Some young single adults had planned a FHE here at the Institute and we needed to stay and lock up.  Our new area President, Elder Pearson and his wife were speaking at the Senior Missionary FHE and I really wanted to go.  Elder Perron has been a real trooper this week because he has been fighting a cold.  Kendra will be proud, I have been treating him with essential oils and I think he is getting better faster.  He won’t admit it, but I think it has been helping!  J   I have felt sorry for him because I know he is exhausted but he just keeps pushing on.   Today is only Wednesday and he is doing great today! 

There is nothing but love and harmony in this companionship, therefore I am enduring the essential oil treatment; it matters not whether it works or DOES NOT work since life is all about being happy.  Therefore you can take it to the bank - I am a HAPPY camper! 

Good news!   The Institute repair and remodel was finally finished on Friday.  They have been doing final touch-ups the last two days with internet and such, but finally it is done!!  The youth are loving their remodeled facility!!  Where before it has been pretty quiet around here, it is really busy now!   Pictures below of this astonishing event! 

We have seen the youtube video of our Stake Presidency all the way over here promoting their youth conference!  The young single adults put it up on the big screen TV here in New Zealand and watched it!   Yeah, you are famous!   J  For those who don’t know what I’m talking about it was on Deseret or youtube.  If you want to watch our famous Stake Presidency from Idaho, go to Meridian North Stake Youth Conference 2014, on youtube and you will see a cute video!  You guys rock!!

We have only been here three and a half months and Sister Perron talks like a young single adult already; without a doubt, a gift of tongues. 

Well that’s it from us here in Kiwi land.  We love you.  Thank you for all your support. 

Sister Perron forgot to mention our visit with Elder Pearson of the Area Presidency.  We had some ideas that we thought worthy of discussing – related to the YSA and Institute – and Elder Pearson was gracious enough to meet with us.  We spent an hour in his office.  Sister Perron thought she had been translated but she was not.  I know she was not translated because she is still chasing me around with oil! 

Out e alofa ia te oe  (We love you)

Elder and Sister Perron
Elder Perron reviewing my blog post
(Should I have written that in blue?)


"I love the rain!  I didn't know I loved rain!"


Lunch in Cambridge at a sidewalk café

THE church in Cambridge 50 years later. Still looks really nice!

Temple day with Holly.

Old institute students lounge

New Institute students lounge!!!!!!!!
Yes we love it!

Looking pretty sharp!

What more can we say, "We really like it!"

 Can't get enough pictures of it!  The students really want to hang out now!

We have two TV's. 
Bob and Emma programmed them today to play Mormon messages
and nice music throughout the day.  Pictured Bob, Emma, and Ricky working on a TV.
That's a glassed off study room at the end.


The Ping pong table will stay upstairs in the old lounge. 
This just makes our new one look soooo much nicer!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

A Busy Week Filled With Blessings

This has been a very busy week filled with special blessings.   The weekend of May 23-25th we went up-north to the part of the country referred to as the Northland.  We made the trip to attend the farewell address of our good friend and young single adult, Mitchell.  Mitchell is a fine young man and we are very proud of him.  He is going to the Alpine Mission which takes in Austria, Switzerland, and southern Germany.  He was born in Germany and his family lived there until he was 9 years old therefore he knows the language somewhat.  He will not be in the MTC to learn the language he will by-pass that part of the MTC experience.   He has lived in Provo, Utah most of his life.  His grandparents moved from Provo to New Zealand in about 2005, and he has been living with them and was attending the University down in Auckland.   So we met him while he was attending the Institute at the University.  Mitchell’s older brother served a mission and his younger brother is currently serving a mission but until recently Mitchell did not contemplate a mission in is future.   He is an incredible young man, plays the piano, is well read, knows the gospel very well and is now very excited to go on a mission.  Mitchell will forever be special to us and I believe we will occupy a special place in his heart.

Mitchell’s grandparents live in Kerikeri but are members of the Okaihau branch, about a 30 minute drive from where they live.   It was wonderful visiting their small – 50 member – branch.  Come to find out Elder Perron had some connections to some families there from when he served here fifty years ago!  Mitchell and his grandparents invited us to dinner where Mitchell fixed a soup for us by himself.  His grandmother has been teaching him to cook so that he will know how to fix some dishes while he is on his mission.  He did a great job, it was delicious! 

We also found THE chapel in the Maromaku valley.  This is the story of the chapel:  Fifty years ago when Elder Perron was here on a mission, he and President Barnes were sent by church headquarters in Salt Lake City to talk to the branch and arrange to build a new chapel for them.  These good saints in this valley were all 100% tithe payers.  One of the laws of the land at that time was the church contributions could not leave the country and had to be used for the good of the Saints here.  When these faithful saints living in the Maromaku valley were told they were getting a new chapel they said they “didn’t need one” and that we should build one somewhere the people needed one.  Elder Matthew Cowley had helped them build the small one room chapel they had and they didn’t want a new one!  Years earlier the families had donated land for their little building, a large Kauri tree was donated for the lumber from which the old church was built.  President Barnes explained to the members that SLC had not told him to build a church for anyone he had been told to build a chapel for them.  “We do not need it and will not attend it if it is built we prefer to attend the one we have!” Elder Perron returned home in 1965 and did not know if a chapel had ever been built.   I think we saw that the new chapel in question was finished in 1968.   It was very euphoric for Elder Perron to go back and see the new church.  The old church had been moved onto the grounds behind the new church and still there as part of history.  We had to drive quite a distance into the countryside to find the church.  The church just sits out in the middle of the countryside – rolling hills – with scattered farm throughout the valley. 

 We also had a nice weekend.  We stayed at an ocean side hotel in Paiha on the Bay of Islands.  They were having bathtub boat racing that Saturday, but we didn’t stay to watch it instead we drove farther north and saw New Zealand’s famous 90 mile beach.  Now that is a big beach!!  Beach in both directions as far as you can see and then there is more and more beach beyond.  It was a little windy, but we collected some seashells, took pictures, and had a wonderful time! 

 We had to drive quickly back after lunch, a 4 hour drive, to be back at 7 PM to attend a National Young Single Adult Conference meeting.  They plan on over 1,000 young single adults attending this national event from all over New Zealand.  They go all out on this event.  It is mind boggling to me the logistics involved.  It will be held Feb. 5-8th, 2015.  We are mostly a support system and sounding board and go to for anyone serving on the committee, so no BIG responsibilities like the others.  

 While you were celebrating Memorial Day and the beginning of summer back home, we were beginning to feel the effects of winter coming on in New Zealand.  I had prided myself that I had not felt cold yet.  It was a little amusing to me that the weather had dropped to the mid to low 60’s and everyone was wearing large winter coats, boots and scarves.   BUT the last four days I have hardly been able to warm up!  When it gets cold, and the humidity is at 90% it’s cold clear to the bone!  And there is very little heat in most of the buildings.  I have figured it out though – when in Rome do as the Romans.  So you wear your coat, gloves, and scarves in the buildings!  One day I was so cold, we left Institute early so I could come home and warm up!  Our apartment is quite a bit warmer than the bigger buildings at the churches and Institute.  The other apartments act as an insulator and helps keep our apartment warmer.  Then we have a portable heater set up in our living room that does a great job of keeping the whole apartment warm.   

 I was a little bit under the weather this week.  We came home early two days from Institute and Elder Perron went and taught the Book of Mormon class by himself Thursday evening.   I had just a little bug I’ve been fighting. 

We spent most of the week preparing for a presentation and a meeting we had requested with Elder Pearson – a member of the Area Presidency – about some training for YSA leadership.  We wanted to be fully prepared because if you get a 15 minute audience with a general authority, you want to make every second count.   Elder Perron was very prepared!   Also we were preparing for three lessons we taught that week, and for our YSA fireside presentation on Sunday.  So when we weren’t teaching or attending classes, we were preparing.  I have a lot of admiration for Seminary teachers and Institute teachers that teach every day!  Good and bad news came to us on Friday as we went to meet with Elder Pearson.  The bad news was that something came up and he wasn’t in the office when we went in for our appointment.  The good news was that he DOES want to see us and we rescheduled.  The other good news is we are already prepared for that appointment!   

One evening we were at Stake Institute and Elder Perron went to his usual class, and I was still in the hall and an Institute teacher had not shown up.  There was a young man really wanting to go to that class.  I said, “There is a really good Book of Mormon class with a lot of students at the end of the hall, why don’t you go join them?’   He kind of looked around and then walked outside.  I thought oh great, we are losing him!   He walked back in and looked in the room again.  I said, “If you want to go to that class, I’ll teach it.  He said, “Yes, I do.”  It was the “Preparing for Eternal Marriage” class.  I thought okay, I can’t believe I just said that.   I pulled up the class lesson on my phone, he knew which lesson they were on, and it started out just him and me.  Within five minutes there were 15 students in there.  I said a long hard prayer that the Spirit would be there and that he would help me teach.  The student that gave the opening prayer said the sweetest prayer and thanked Heavenly Father that I was willing to teach and to please be with me, that I might be able to teach them the things they needed to know.  After class I told Elder Perron that that was probably the best lesson I have ever given.  The Lord blessed me and the Spirit was there.  Close to the end of class and during a discussion the young man, that had wanted so badly to attend the class, shared that he has only been a member since January.  He was 24 years old.  He loves the church and is so thankful he found it.  Prior to being a member of the church he had been involved with drugs and alcohol.  His wife had left him, and they had one child.  He had always blamed everything on his wife and that things were her fault.  But now he knows that it wasn’t, and she did the right thing in leaving him.  She has found someone else, but he wants to be a better father for his son.   He wants to learn and know how to have a good marriage and eternal family, and with God’s help he knew he could do that.   He was so sincere and humble and you could tell he was determined to make that happen.  My heart was so touched.   With odds against him, and with no other support than his ward family, he was standing strong and firm.  My prayers are with him that he can be successful in his righteous desires.  

 Another day a class was cancelled at the Institute, and Elder Perron had walked down town to get his hair cut.  A girl walked into the office and asked where her teacher was.  I didn’t know the class had been cancelled and neither did she.  I told her if she would like to have class I would teach it.  She said yes she would.  (I should learn not to ask.)    It was the New Testament class and the lesson was on The Plan of Salvation which I am very familiar with.  I was so glad that she wanted that class.  It was just her and I; she really wanted to learn and she asked good questions and we discussed in detail this gospel doctrine.  When we were all done she thanked me two or three times for taking the time and teaching her.  In fact today she was in the President Soloai’s office – the institute director – and told him about our lesson.  They both came out of his office and thanked me.  And I just said, “I am so glad we held that class together!  It was wonderful!”   The students think they are the ones that learn and benefit, but I feel like I was the lucky one and the one that benefitted the most! 

 This week for our cooking class was really fun!  Our YSA, Bob, taught us how to make REAL Chinese-fried-rice with Spam.  It was delicious!  We made three big batches and it was gone fast!  I also made chocolate chip cookies.  Bob tasted one and asked, “Why are they soft?”   I said, “Because they are supposed to be!”  He goes, “Ummph”, as he takes another one.   That was so funny to me! 

Friday night we went to Aeorview Ward YSA dance.   They had done a great job of advertising and this ward dance was bigger than most stake dances.   The gym for the dance and the courtyard/patio where they had the food was packed!  It was loud and lively!  They were having a good time!  It’s just like at home though.  The young single adults had to be fashionable late.  At 7:00 pm there were only about 10 people there.  It was that way until about 9:30 PM and then they just kept pouring in!  We left about 10:45 pm and the event was rocking and rolling! 

 Saturday during the day Elder Perron and I went to the quaint little seaside village of Devonport.  It is only seven miles from Takapuna where we live.  It is so picturesque.  We walked around the beach, the pier and all the little shops.  I found some pretty gloves in one of the little shops for $40 with the fingers cut out.  I wish I would have got them!  My hands are always so cold, especially inside the Institute building!   I thought that was too much to pay for half a glove, but now I wish I had, because you still need the tips of your fingers to type and write and they would have been perfect!   I guess it will be a reason to go back!   J  We went into a famous, glass artist shop.  The artist has some of his art displayed in Corning Museum in New York.  He made some beautiful jewelry and for my birthday and our anniversary, Elder Perron bought me some really pretty earrings I had found for $25 each.  I felt like that was a steal, especially for around here!  Then we went to lunch at a really quaint, pretty restaurant in a really old hotel right there on the ocean on the ocean front.  It was so fun!  Then we hiked up Mt. Victoria, one of the highest volcanoes in the Auckland area which is right there in Devonport.   You had the prettiest 380 degree view from the top of the harbor, the ocean,  and the towns below.  Vickie Worthen, from our Hickories Ward in the Boise, and who lived here a year ago, told us she loved to ride her bike to Devonport and then hike up the volcano.  I don’t know how she rode her bike 7 miles and then hiked up the mountain, because the hike was pretty good for me!  The whole day was charming!   

 Saturday night the Papatoetoe Stake YSA Stake was having a Polynesian luau with native dance performances, dinner and followed by YSA dance.  An institute student had invited us to watch her perform.  After our long day and hike I almost said, “Let’s stay home tonight”, because I was so tired.  BUT I thought we need to do this, so out we went again at 7:00 P.M.  I was SO glad that we did not miss this event!  We got there just after it had started  and were standing in the back of the gymnasium  trying to see what YSA were performing and who we knew when some gentleman motioned us to follow him and he carried two chairs to the front row and sat us beside the Stake Presidency front and center.   Immediately afterwards the Stake President and his counselors were at our side greeting and meeting us.   I am always amazed at their courtesy and respect for us.  I love these people so much!   Seven YSA wards had prepared costumes and dances for seven different islands.  It was exciting and exhilarating!  Parents and families had come to watch and they were cheering on the performers, and it was a lively exhibit!  So much fun!  They had tables or booths set around the walls of the cultural hall with items from different islands.   Afterwards we tasted several different island foods.  Some I really liked, some were a little different to my taste buds.  We left this event probably about 11:00 pm.  The dancing was going strong when we left.  Once again the YSA were having a great time! 

Sunday we got up early and left for Sunday meetings.  This day we only attended two wards – The Isileli Ward –Isileli is Israel in Tongan so obviously this ward was a Tongan ward.  Two YSA girls interpreted for us during the Sunday School lesson, that was really nice!  We then attended the Favona Road Ward which was English speaking.  Both wards were in the Papatoetoe Stake. 

Following the two ward block of meetings we returned home where we brushed up our presentation we were asked to give at the Aeroview Ward YSA fireside later in the evening.   Part of the brush up consisted of a short nap.  The fireside - which was mostly musical - was outstanding and the Spirit was so strong.  Until you have heard Polynesians sing in harmony you cannot begin to understand what I mean.  They sing like angels!  It is so beautiful!  Then I spoke and presented a slide show I had set to the music, “Have you received His image in your countenance”, and Elder Perron finished the meeting with his talk and a wonderful story.  He, of course did an excellent job!  The youth love him!  Someone said there were about 500 young single adults attending the fireside.

Monday was a holiday, the Queen’s birthday.  It wasn’t her actual birthday, but the day they celebrate it here in New Zealand.   So we went grocery shopping, and then planned an impromptu FHE inviting four other Senior Missionary couples in our complex to our apartment.  We had a chocolate birthday cake, nothing but the best for the Queen.  The rest of the food consisted of chicken tacos, homemade refried beans, homemade guacamole dip, chips and all the usual trimmings.   We had Hawaiian music playing for the background music.  We are well diversified; celebrating the Queen’s birthday eating Mexican food with Hawaiian music.  If you work with the YSA you enjoy anything and everything.  Following the dinner we had a short gospel lesson then we played the noun game and laughed so hard.  My kids will know what that is and be proud of us!  One couple said that was probably the most fun night they have had.  J  Obviously that couple serves their mission locked away in the Area Office. 

TID-BITS from Elder Perron:
Throw back to the old-days.  When Sister Perron and I were visiting the Okaihau Branch up north for Mitchell’s farewell there was an older gentleman – 80 years old – who was blessing the sacrament, he was of European descent.  Immediately after the sacrament meeting was over he went over the microphone and Velcomed everyone to Sunday School – for OUR benefit he told everyone where the Sunday Scholl classes were held.  He had a strong Dutch accent.  After the block of meetings was over he introduced himself – Brother Vandenberg.  During our visit he indicated that he had joined the church here in New Zealand about 52 years ago.  I said, “Really, I was serving as a missionary here 50 years ago.”  As we visited I found out that he had been hired by the church just after his baptism to care for the church grounds at the chapels in Auckland –there were not very many chapels in Auckland back then – he also took care of the lawn and flower beds at the mission home and office which were both in the same compound back then.  Then it came together.  When I was serving in the mission office 50 years ago President Barnes indicated to us that the grounds-keeper was a new member of the church and wanted us missionaries to visit with him and befriend him whenever he was around.  Fifty years ago I visited with him every week for six or seven months.  As we shared memories, we talked about Tia Wihongi who was the mission matron and cooked the meals back then.  He said, “Oh yes, Sister Wihongi would take me into the mission home and feed me whenever there was food left over from one of the meals.”  Good memories!   

As promised last blog The church has nothing to worry about insofar as China is concerned.  The Institute Table-Tennis tournament is ongoing.  As reported I had to play Bob like in China-Bob.  I was concerned that if I took Bob out in the first round that all of China would be upset with me.  I have included a picture in this blog of me firing some heat Bob’s way during our match.  When the match was over – I came in second and Bob came in next to last.  You will notice in the picture Bob still has his jacket on while playing me.  Later he took his jacket OFF and fired some blasts at some other players that would have killed me it he had hit one of those at me!  The Lord does look after his senior missionaries! 

Baptism – Catherine one of our Institute students was baptized last week-end.  We were unable to attend because we were up-north for Mitchell’s farewell but the missionaries reported that they have NEVER seen so many non-members attend a baptism.  We will have to count up and see how many she influences.  Just last night during institute Catherine was answering all kinds of questions in the Old Testament class.  She is on fire! 

Baptism – Cherie, the young single adult who was going south to the Gisborne area to be baptized where her family lives did go south and was baptized.  The missionaries reported to us that she is the happiest person they have ever seen.

 It seems to me that in the eyes of these young missionaries every new baptism is the BEST they have ever seen.  Everything that is good is better than good, it is AWESOME.  Kind of nice hanging out with the BEST, most AWESOME group of people I have ever seen.  Visit again next week!  

Aroha Nui,

Elder and Sister Perron
From the top of Mt. Victoria you can see  a volcanic island,
Rangitoto that is in the Hauraki Gulf near Auckland.

Another view from the can see the sky city of Downtown Auckland
where the City Institute is.

Master chef Bob at work cooking Authentic Chinese fried rice

Bob cooking fried rice.
Latu, master chef, made Polynesian style chop suey! 
We stopped at this little village on our way to north New Zealand. 
Any of the Perron brothers would have loved it!
Elder and Sister Perron with Mitchell
Bother Vandenberg and Elder Perron


90 mile beach

The Oceanside motel we stayed in Pahia north New Zealand

THE chapel in Maromaku Valley.
50 years ago Elder Perron came to tell the faithful saints they get a new chapel.
The old one room white chapel behind the church is still there.

Maromaku valley where faithful saints live on their small farms

Elder Perron sending Bob some heat! Bob still beat him!