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! 



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