TO EVERY THING THERE IS A SEASON
What a blessing the past summer has been. Being with the Young Single Adults in Sunday school classes, temple trips, beach parties, dances, service projects, and the 2015 YSA National Conference made for a busy summer. Young Single Adult activities never seem to end when you are involved with 12 stakes and 83 wards. (Summer = no school = no institute classes = more activities.)
“To everything there is a season…” The stake institute classes started again February 10th and the Universities started back March 2nd.
PICTURE ABOVE: A picture at sunset taken from the balcony of our apartment. The end of summer. School is back.
Sister Perron baked some cinnamon rolls for the students to have as they wandered in and out of the institute building throughout orientation week (February 23-27). Institute classes at the Universities started on Monday March 2nd. Elder and Sister Perron are teaching 6 institute classes this semester. Elder Perron teaches Missionary Preparation, The Gospel and the Productive Life, and Introduction to Family History. Sister Perron teaches Eternal Marriage, Institute Choir /Hymn Appreciation, and of course her famous Cooking Class. Our schedule is pretty much as follows. Since the weekends are very busy for us attending YSA activities and attending multiple wards on Sunday – to be with the YSA in church – we do not teach any classes on Monday. Monday morning on our way into the Institute building we go by the grocery store and buy 10 quarts of milk, 5 loaves of bread, 10 packets of instant noodles, milo (a form of hot chocolate almost), peanut-butter, and jelly. We place this in the snack room for the students to use during the week. We then teach our classes on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Sister Perron holds her cooking class on Thursday so we make another trip to the grocery store Wednesday night following our evening institute visits to the stakes to buy the necessary ingredients for her class. Friday there is no institute classes but we are in the institute building all day supervising the institute, hanging out with the students, and usually we have some kind of activity going on for those who wish to attend. The Institute building is a social center, good place for the university students to study, and a place for gospel learning. We usually leave the building between 6:00 / 6:30 PM. Since we attend stake institutes every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday night getting home between 9:30 and 10:30 PM. Our apartment is basically just a place to sleep. We eat out most of the time except for breakfast and snacks when we return home late at night.
“To everything there is a season…” Welcome back!! The first week of March at the institute building was a festival of activities. Monday, Sister Perron Baked Cinnamon rolls again. Tuesday, Elder Perron cooked pancakes all day to go with the ice cream and toppings (the only way to eat pancakes is with ice cream! (A new-found-truth revealed because of faithful missionary service!) Lest we forget Tuesday was Elder Perron’s birthday. That morning Sister Elly Edwards, institute director and teacher made him a cake. Elder Perron stepped out of the office for a minute and we gathered all the students into the office. When Elder Perron stepped back in the room was full of students singing “Happy Birthday!” Sister Edwards walking in with the birthday cake with candles burning. It was fun to see the surprise on his face. Most the students signed a birthday card for him with sweet sentiments. And sweet Loni brought him a container full of Rocher’s chocolates and a card. Then again that evening we shared 100 cupcakes with the institute students from the Papatoetoe, Tamaki and Otara stakes. I was trying to be sneaky and plan a surprise party for Elder Perron following institute but he saw an email that was sent to me regarding the baking of cupcakes. It was still a great celebration. 100 students sang “Happy Birthday” again, as he stood up and led them like a chorister. It was funny! He has another birthday cards signed by most the students from Papatoetoe, Tamaki and Otara. It was a sweet and memorable day for all of us. The students were too kind to him. Wednesday, Sister Perron served Sloppy Joes for two hours mid-day. Oh yes! It was Elder Perron’s birthday back in the states so there was another day of “happy birthday” messages flooding in from family and friends. Elder Perron celebrated his birthday for two days. Elder Perron “highly recommends this extra-ordinary celebration and suggests any and all readers might want to consider getting into the mission field as soon as possible – DO NOT MISS OUT ON THE EXCITEMENT!” Thursday, Sister Perron baked about seven-dozen chocolate chip cookies. Today was my mother’s funeral back in the states (Wednesday - March 4th in Gooding, Idaho). The day was full of calls from our children followed with Facebook pictures of family members that had been at the funeral. I was able to talk to my sister and my dad! It was a very touching day even though I was thousands of miles away. My heart and prayers are especially with my Dad at this time of sorrow as he journeys the rest of life without his beloved wife at his side. I was told it was a particularly rough day for him.
Friday, the students attended a devotional followed with a Pizza party. This week of excitement was simply the exclamation marks to punctuate the 16 different Institute classes that had been taught throughout the week and will be continuing through the semester: Doctrines of the Gospel; Book of Mormon 1; Book of Mormon 2; Doctrine & Covenants 1; Doctrine & Covenants 2; Music; Mission Preparation; Eternal Marriage; Devotional Series; The Pearl of Great Price; Teachings of The Living Prophets; The Gospel and The Productive Life; Old Testament 2, New Testament 2, Cooking Class; and Introduction To Family History.
PICTURE ABOVE: Sister Perron in our apartment preparing one of her institute classes.
PICTURE ABOVE: Elder Perron and his birthday cake in the office of the institute building. Sister Perron is behind the camera taking the picture. Such a sweet loving companion.
PICTURE ABOVE: Another birthday celebration following institute at the Papatoetoe, Tamaki and Otara stakes. Elder Perron says after you reach a certain age they celebrate your birthday twice a day just so you can remember it is your birthday. A new procedure to improve short term memory.
PICTURE ABOVE: Debbie’s father - Bob Rogers - getting a hug from his granddaughter Kendra with his great grandson Dean looking on. This was at the funeral in Gooding, Idaho. It was a tough time for Dad. In the background is Bob's sister Darlene Rogers Bartlome.
Since our nephew – Elder Perron the younger – has been transferred from the northland (Dargaville) down into the Auckland area (Epsom) we bump into him once in a while when we are out and about. We called him the other day and offered to take him and his companion to dinner. He wanted to know if he could bring his Zone Leaders to dinner also; seems four elders were housed in the same apartment. One of his Zone Leaders – Elder Jorgenson – had previously spent quite a bit of time serving in downtown Auckland so he and his companion used a room at the Institute building to teach four different investigators; three of which were baptized. Elder Perron and I got to sit in on a lot of those discussions and take part so we became very close to him and his companion. It was great to have dinner with him and Tyler. They of course chose an upscale Mongolian Buffet Restaurant. It was very good! Those young men can put away the food! I’m sure we got our money’s worth.
Friday, March 6th – Sister Balli – the Mission President’s wife – put on a women’s conference for all sister missionaries – young and old – serving in the Auckland area. The theme was, “What Manner of Woman Ought Ye to be?” President and Sister Balli spoke to us in the morning and presented a slide show. It was a lot of fun! Each district put on skits teaching some gospel principle. They were fun, humorous, and taught a lesson. While the skits were going on, President Balli, Elder Tibbitts, and Elder Smith – Assistants to the President – were busy in the kitchen helping the caterer chop up fruit, vegetables and chicken and fixing salads for the sisters. I went back there and they were working their little hearts out helping prepare the meal. I was really impressed! We had chicken wraps, salads, fresh cut up fruit, and dessert. Elder Tibbitts is also related – the nephew of our daughters husband. After lunch the sisters were doing a craft so Sister Wallace, Sister Fugal, and I – senior missionaries - left early making a quick stop to buy a few things at the American Food Store on our way back to our mission assignments. Sister Wallace drove us to the conference so she drove through downtown Auckland for the first time as she dropped me off at the Institute. It was quite nerve wracking for her. When we got to the Institute Building she said, “Just get out! Get out!” Later we laughed about that so hard, because it came out way different than what she meant.
On Saturday (March 7th) we had a Regional YSA Devotional with Elder Allan F.Packer of the First Quorum of the Seventy who is visiting the Pacific Area. One of Elder Packer’s responsibilities at church headquarters is over the Family History Department. The theme of the devotional was “Igniting Interest in Family History.” The challenge to those in attendance was to finish their “15 in 15”. Which is to finish their four generation group sheet this year and take family names to the temple. We have been blessed with visits from General Authorities all of a sudden.
ABOVE PICTURE: Elder Allan F. Packer shaking hands with some of the YSA at the Mt. Roskill Stake Center just prior to the devotional.
That day we also visited with Billa, the young single adult from Tonga that had served his mission in Idaho Boise Mission. We have mentioned him in previous blogs. He was very happy to see us but seemed extremely stressed. Elder Perron took him aside and asked him what was wrong. He was worried because the family he was living with did not want him to continue in his education. Remember he has just received a scholarship! In addition the family (his extended grandfather) would only allowed him to attend one church meeting a week. He had received one hiding because he had disobeyed. This limit on church attendance meant no more Institute or YSA activities. He is the Stake YSA male rep and so this was limiting his ability to fulfil his calling. He was quite upset. Said he needed to find a new place to live. Elder Perron asked him if he had talked to his Bishop. “No, I am too shy and embarrassed!” Elder Perron saw his stake president at the meeting and told him of the situation and followed up with the stake president by email giving the stake president a quick summary of the situation along with Billa’s name and ward. The stake president emailed back that he had forwarded the information to his bishop and told him to meet with him during the week. Next time we saw Billa – a few weeks later – he was bright, enthusiastic, and cheerful. The bishop had helped him find a new place to stay. He is a testimony to us that when you are obedient to God’s commandments and diligent in serving in every way you can, the Lord is aware of your needs and blesses you. We have seen miracle after miracle in Billa’s life. He is so faithful and diligent!
Monday 9th Was at the institute building as usual but in the evening we attended Family Home Evening with the senior missionaries at the Area Office.
March 13th Friday . Cyclone Pam hit Vanuatu as the equivalent of a Category 5 hurricane and is likely the most destructive disasters in Vanuatu's history. Vanuatu is an archipelago nation consisting of 83 islands in the southwest Pacific Ocean, north of New Zealand and east of Australia. More than 6,000 Latter-day Saints and 31 congregations live in Vanuatu, spread among the 65 inhabited islands. There are 250,000 people who live in Vanuatu. The first reports out of Vanuatu were of total disaster.
Early reports from Church leaders in Fiji and Tuvalu confirmed that all missionaries in the Fiji Suva Mission were accounted for and safe. All the missionaries in the Solomon Islands and New Caledonia areas were also safe.
In the Vanuatu Port Vila Mission – which took the direct hit from the cyclone – all missionaries were accounted for and safe except for 11 elders serving on the island of Tanna with which no contact had yet been made. President Brewer – mission president indicated that all missionaries were notified before the cyclone arrived and moved to the safest location in each respective island.
Let me here paraphrase a report that I heard from some of the senior missionaries serving in the area office discussing a report from President Brewer, mission president in Vanuatu:
Initially all the cell towers were down and out all through Vanuatu so there was no communication. We did have a satellite phone in the mission office but it was tough getting through at times. After about two days we were able to talk more easily and account for all missionaries on the island of Elfate; where the mission home is located. Soon there after we had accounted for all the missionaries except for 11 missionaries located on the island of Tanna. After about four days we were very concerned about those elders. There were no communications of any kind coming from Tanna and we could not fly in yet.. President Brewer would try calling the elders cell phone several times a day but no answer there was no answer. You can imagine the anxiety of the mission president and the church leaders.
On the fourth day the president called the zone leaders cell phone again. The zone leaders answered and reported that the missionaries were safe and accounted for. The phone call lasted about 15 seconds.
President Brewer was in town – Port Vila the capital city – so he stopped by the stopped by the cell phone company to thank them for getting the cell phone towers up in Tanna. They said, “We have not been able to communicate with Tanna and we have no cell phone towers up in Tanna. We have not been able to get any of our people out to Tanna. President Brewer told them he had just communicated with his Elders on Tanna via cell phone. They said, “there is no way.” President said, “I know the Elders phone number, it was their cell phone that I called.” No one could explain what had happened. Then someone noticed President Brewer’s black name badge and commented. “You can call it whatever you would like, insinuating a miracle.”
Several days later the Church chartered a small plane and flew from Port Vila to Tanna. There were two missionaries on board with food and other supplies to give much needed relief to those suffering from the effects of Cyclone Pam. The plane was also be used to bring the 11 missionaries on Tanna back to Port Vila.
A NOTE OF INTREST: Several weeks after the Cyclone passed through Vanuatu I had a young single adult who is a regular attendee at institute come into our office. He introduced another university student to us. The student was from Vanuatu, member of the church, studying at the University here in Auckland as an exchange student. He did not know there was an institute building. I asked him if he had been in Vanuatu when the cyclone hit. “No I was here in Auckland” but he said, “all of the people – member and non-member – sought shelter in our church buildings because they were virtually the only buildings of concrete construction. My family is all safe!” Many Church members and others lost their homes and are sheltering in Latter-day Saint meetinghouses.
PICTURE ABOVE: Computer enhanced image of Cyclone Pam passing over Vanuatu with Fiji and New Caledonia being sweep by the outer edged of the storm. Australia is off to the left and the North Island of New Zealand is in the bottom center of the of the picture.
PICTURE ABOVE AND BELOW: Some of the first images coming in from Vanuatu
PICTURE ABOVE: Young Single Adults and missionaries in New Zealand assembling emergency relief packets to be shipped to Vanuatu. Elder Tyler Perron is in the middle of this picture at the far end of the table. You will notice him by his red hair.
On Sunday the 15th Elder Perron and I attended a Sunday evening cottage meeting for the Young Single Adults in the Waterview Stake. The evening consisted of a general opening session; the attendees were then divided into four groups; the groups then rotated through four different presentations located at different rooms in the building; presentations lasted twenty minutes each; there was a closing session and then a light supper in the cultural hall. The four area of focus was self-reliance, mental, physical, and spiritual wellbeing. Elder Perron and I were located in the chapel; our presentation was on “Spiritual Well Being.” To make a difference in twenty minutes we focused on a statement of President Gordon B. Hinckley: “
“I have had the feeling that if we could just encourage our people to live by three or four covenants everything else would take care of itself. …
“The first of these is the covenant of the sacrament, in which we take upon ourselves the name of the Savior and agree to keep His commandments with the promise in His covenant that He will bless us with His spirit. …
“Second, the covenant of tithing. … The promise … is that He will stay the destroyer and open the windows of heaven and pour down blessings that there will not be room enough to receive them. …
“Three, the covenants of the temple: Sacrifice, the willingness to sacrifice for this the Lord’s work—and inherent in that law of sacrifice is the very essence of the Atonement. … Consecration, which is associated with it, a willingness to give everything, if need be, to help in the on-rolling of this great work. And a covenant of love and loyalty one to another in the bonds of marriage, fidelity, chastity, morality.
“If our people could only learn to live by these covenants, everything else would take care of itself, I am satisfied.”
The quarterly Young Single Adult Regional activity – involving the twelve stakes in Auckland – was held Saturday and Sunday March 21st and 22nd Saturday was a sports day involving track and field competitions. Once again Elder Perron and I were asked to bring our first-aid-kit and skills. We only had one injury. Irae – a young single adult from the Henderson Stake pulled a hamstring in the 100 meter dash. Elder Perron had ice on it and wrapped before you could bat an eye. He looked like he knew what he was doing. Quite impressive! Who ever thought that first aid would be even a portion of our mission? It was a fun day hanging out with and watching the YSA compete in all sorts of events from the high jump, touch rugby, 100, 200 and 400 meter sprints, gunnysack races and a tug of war. And only one accident! Whoo hoo! It was a beautiful day weather wise also – no rain and not too hot.
PICTURE ABOVE: Elder and Sister Perron manning their "first aid" station at the Regional YSA activity. Nice day sitting under a canopy with a gentle breeze keeping us comfortable. We got their early - just waiting for SOMETHING to happen.
On Sunday at the Regional YSA Devotional, Elder Kevin W. Pearson of the First Quorum of the Seventy and Pacific Area President spoke. Elder Pearson announced that they will be creating two YSA Wards in Auckland. One in the South Auckland and one in North Auckland. YSA from the Papakura, Manurewa, Redoubt, Manukau, Papatoetoe, Otara and Tamaki stake will combine to create the Auckland YSA 1st Ward and be a unit in the Manukau Stake. The YSA from the Harbour, Waterview, Henderson, Mt. Roskill, and Panmure stakes will combine to create the Auckland YSA 2nd Ward and be a unit in the Harbour Stake. The YSA are free to choose if they want to move their records to the YSA wards or remain in their existing conventional wards. There is quite a bit of excitement and a lot of mixed emotions among the YSA. Many have callings they love in their home wards and do not want to leave. Others are worried about the travel and cost because it will take them 35 to 40 minutes one way to get to their new ward. I think it is wonderful and I hope the YSA will give it a chance. The YSA Wards will be organized Sunday May 3, 2015.
Earlier that day we attended a meeting called by Elder Coward, our Area Seventy, to discuss weekday parking problems at the Scotia Place Chapel. Attending the meeting was the Waterview Stake President, the agent bishop of the Scotia Place Chapel, the director of the Family Services Center – which is located beside the chapel – and the regional physical facilities representative and Elder Perron and I were representing the Institute which is located about four blocks from the building. Since the Scotia Place chapel in a two story structure with VERY limited parking with hotels and apartments all around it – everyone is trying to park there. Not just members but hotel guests, apartment dwellers, anyone needed a parking place and seeing an open space, church members working downtown, university students, institute students. Parking is very tough to find in downtown Auckland. The local church authorities in consultation with the regional physical facilities representative put a vehicle towing policy in place. As a result some YSA iuniversity/institute students had their cars towed and it cost them $300 to get their cars out of impound. The Area Seventy did not like the towing policy so he called the meeting. It is a difficult problem but I am sure there will be a solution.
Most exciting – the weekend of March 21st seemed to be the weekend of proposals, engagements, and announcements. It was so fun because I received a Facebook private message from Tom that he was going to ask his girlfriend to marry him that weekend. Then his twin brother, Dave, passed through our office and told us he was going to ask Emma to marry him on Saturday. I was so excited!! I see Emma every day and visit with her and it was all I could do to contain my excitement! Sure enough they came through with fabulous, exciting, proposals and I got to hear first-hand from Emma. When we walked through the institute doors on Monday she was waiting in our office for us to tell us exactly how it had happened and show us her beautiful diamond clad finger! Then later on Monday, Michael Vea announced his engagement however he had told me the week before that he was going to ask his girlfriend when we were in our New Testament institute class. He shared with me a spiritual experience that had just happened and he had the strong impression that she was the one and he was not to waste any more time but was to ask her to marry him. And then Wednesday at Manukau Institute Manu came up and said, “I asked Hannah to marry me this past Monday and she said, Yes!” We could not be happier for these couples. We have been watching them and hoping this would transpire! We are like two of the happiest “Grand-Perron’s” there are!!
Monday 23rd. Sister Perron and Sister Wallace drove up to their hairdresser together. She lives about 45 minutes north along the Hibiscus coast. Her shop is in her home. The Sisters only got part of the day off - they were both back at their assigned posts in the afternoon.
PICTURE ABOVE: Sister Perron is working on a project. Elder Perron is still relaxing - however he says taking these pictures does contribute to our Family History.
On Friday the 27th we travelled to Hamilton to attend the temple with Kaiwhia – a YSA from the Tamaki Stake – as she was taking out her endowments. Her father died a few years ago and Friday would have been his birthday and so she took out her endowments on his birthday. What a sweet sentimental thing to do. It was a special day for us to be there with her.
Friday evening after returning from the temple we went to the Saineha ward – a Tongan speaking ward – where they were celebrating the wards 30th year anniversary. This was the first Tongan Ward in New Zealand. The Young Single Adults – and many others – were preforming cultural dances. Thus our invitation. What a celebration!! When the Tongans put on an event they go all out! Loni invited us because she wanted us to be there and to watch her perform. The colourful costumes, the decorations, the hospitality, the feast. I have never seen such a celebration! What a delightful experience. We were sitting on the chairs along the sides of the cultural hall happily taking it all in, when they came and invited us to sit at the head table that was all decorated, and piled high with food and four or five roasted pigs lining the table. We tried to decline but I could tell we were upsetting them and so we sat at the table like a king and queen. I cannot tell you how much I love these cultural events and celebrations. They are truly a delight. The people are not inhibited, they dance, they sing, they laugh, they perform, and they are cheerful and happy as can be! They are beautiful!
PICTURES ABOVE AND BELOW: Saineha 1st Ward (Tongan Ward) birthday celebration!
PICTURES ABOVE AND BELOW: There was - and always is - plenty of food at a Tongan celebration.
PICTURE ABOVE: Elder and Sister Perron were treated with great respect and shown an abundance of love from these great saints!
PICTURES ABOVE AND BELOW: Everyone participated in the celebration.
PICTURE ABOVE: Loni - third from the left - invited us to come watch her group preform. Loni is a member of our student council at the university institute.Saturday 29th We hosted the Massey Ward YSA party at the Institute Building. These kids keep us young at heart!
Sunday we went to a YSA cottage evening at the Papatoetoe Stake. The YSA had spent the weekend doing service work at the Auckland Botanical Gardens. We were not at their service project. However the culmination of the weekend was a nice devotional with get to know you games and great spiritual talks by Bishop Leuluai of the Papatoetoe 1st ward and two returned missionaries.
Elder & Sister Perron