June 20, 2008, Friday
It has been an exciting and interesting week since we left the MTC. We left Saturday evening at 5:00 pm and had wonderful flights from Salt Lake City to LA and then to Auckland, NZ. We had fitful sleep and our legs and feet swelled but we must have had enough sleep because we stayed awake until 9:30 pm.
We arrived a little late at Auckland and we missed our original flight to Wellington but were booked on the 8:00 am flight an hour later. The plane took off on time but just before we were to land we were informed that Wellington was fogged in. We flew around for 45 minutes and then returned to Auckland. We were able to get a standby ticket for 1:30 pm and we were successful in arriving in Wellington. Our Mission President, Pres. Finnegan met us and took us to the mission office. While in route he told us we were going to serve in the city of Graymouth on the west coast of the south island.
We spent some time at the mission office where we gave them information about us and they took us to the bank and got us set up there. We are having trouble right now with getting money transfers but we are making progress. In the evening we had a wonderful dinner at the mission home with Pres. & Sis. Finnegan, and the office couples, Bro. /Sis. Pearson, and Bro. /Sis. Wilkinson. It was followed by a very spiritual evening where all of us gave examples of how the Lord had blessed our families since we made the decision to come on our missions. What a great spirit was there and some of the blessings described were truly amazing. President & Sister Finnegan’s son (30 yrs old) had a serious alcohol problem and has it under control and has been married with a baby on the way. Another reported a chronic back pain problem that has now been controlled with new medication. Another couple reported that they were delayed in coming to NZ because of visa problems and were diverted to the family history library for one month. During his free time he worked on a line that they were having difficulty with and was not having success. He said at one moment he clicked on something and the names of two additional generations come on the screen. Later he told people what had happened and they asked him where he found the information and he hadn’t written it down. Neither he nor the professionals could find it again. There truly are Miracles in family history work. I am convinced those on the other side are working to help us find them so they can have the ordinances of salvation performed for them.
We stayed with the Wilkenson’s for two nights. The second day in country we spent at the office. We are learning how cold it can be in a flat. Living areas are the only ones heated by electric space heaters. No central heating. The windows are all single pane and most people still use draperies to keep out the cold. Not with much success I might add.
We were fortunate to have Sis. Wilkensen set up the travel to our field of labor. We had to take the ferry from Wellington to the south Island across the Cook Strait. It was such a beautiful day and the view of the harbor magnificent. The day before was so windy we would have been very sick but the sea was moderate today. What we didn’t have to do was take a tourist train through the wine country and along the east coast to Christchurch, where she had arranged overnight accommodations at a Church Education System (CES) couple, the Greens. They met us at the train and fed us a light supper, warmed our bed with electric blankets. They were full of information about our branch and told us we would be teaching early morning seminary to five wonderful high school children. We will feed them breakfast every Friday morning. It will be a great challenge for us. The last two couples in the town only spent three months each there, but the ones before them spent their entire mission in Greymouth.
The next morning we boarded another tourist train and traveled through the beautiful New Zealand Alps to our town. What a wonderful trip. We were not able to get very good pictures because the train windows were highly reflective. The alternative travel would have been a direct bus ride from the ferry to Greymouth with no alps. Thanks Sister Wilkenson.
Our first day was taken up with getting banking and internet problems solved, washing a week’s worth of close. We dry them on a rack on sunny days. Fortunately we have had some beautiful days the last three. Our flat is very nice and is spotless. We have two recliners and a sofa, a table with six chairs and more pots, pans, dishes, and other stuff than we know what to do with. We may take an inventory and give the excess to the members. Many are from Tonga and are dirt poor. Our branch president works on a tree farm where he trims limbs and plants seedlings, not unlike the Mexicans in the US, only for less money. Some one said he gets a dollar a tree. He has to work very hard. Sister Kinikini works nights as a nursing home. She met us at the train with the Elder’s. The Elder’s brought our car for us and we took them home. Sis. Kinikini gave us a beautiful fruit basket with apples, kiwi, bananas, grapes, and mandarin oranges. These wonderful people would give the shirt off their backs. We invited her to go to lunch with us. She wanted to pay. I told her in our culture when you are invited the person who invites pays. They have four children. She invited us to see their boys play rugby on Saturday, so we hope to be there. Other less active members are there too so we hope to meet them.
We got a call last night just before ten from the Elders in our town who said we were having district meeting at our place in the morning. It was great. The Zone leaders and the other two elders in Graymouth met together and had a spiritual meeting, reading from the scriptures and instruction from the Preach My Gospel manuel. Two of the Elders are from Tonga. One is from Samoa but prefers Tonga as that is where he joined the church. We all discussed how we came on our missions and what was the hardest to leave behind. These young Elders are so great. The other Tongan did not speak English well but he gave a beautiful spiritual thought. His favorite thing to do in the mission field is finding people to teach.
We found snow!
8 hours ago