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!


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