On Monday morning we drove with the Elders over to Christchurch for our Christmas Zone conference, which included all the zones on the south island. In the morning we had some words of importance from our mission president concerning the work and then he gave us a short talk about the nativity. He went through all the important elements of birth of the Savior, from the linage of Joseph and Mary who were cousins, the significance of the shepherds, the wise men and their gifts, etc. It was very beautifully done.
I have learned a great deal this year about Mary. For one, she worked in the temple from a child to the age of twelve. She was an Old Testament Scholar evidenced by the fact that her words of praise to Elizabeth alluded to 14 different Old Testament references. She was weaving the veil of the temple when Gabriel appeared to her. She was very temple oriented.
Following the president we were shown a film on the prophet Joseph Smith, in honor of his birthday. After a wonderful lunch, we all participated in a nativity presentation. Each district was assigned a scripture and a hymn which told the story from early prophesies of the birth through the rest of the story.
The conference concluded with a "Dan Jones" segment, where missionaries were selected to stand on a box and preach to heckling crowds. Dan Jones was a terrific missionary and an interesting character in the early history of the church. Look him up. Look at the video to see how that went. Even our mission president was a big heckler.
We had traveled from Christchurch by train when we first arrived in Greymouth, but it was winter time and prior to any snow fall so this was a much more beautiful trip. We could also stop when ever we wanted too. It is not unlike driving from the Willamette Valley to eastern Oregon, with all the green on the west side and the more desert like conditions on the east side, although you would not call Christchurch a desert area. That is why they call our side of the mountains the bush. All the mountains and valleys are lush with foliage. The following is a great piece of engineering that made the drive much easier than in years past. This shows how that handled a slide area and a water problem. Before building this the route was very windy and through an even higher pass.
This is the valley just before we make the climb to the summit, which is called Arthur's Pass.
We found these Kia mountain parrots at one of the view points. I guess they are kind of a pest too as they climb on your car and peck at your rubber window insulation. The tourist on the left is from Israel.
Here is an environmentally friendly viaduct just before the pass that again made for a shorter and straighter route.
Just past the summit we found meadows of these wild flowers. It was very beautiful.
This is the national park just east of the summit.
On our way we cross many one way bridges. The best view of the river and the mountains is right in the middle of the bridge so they do have a turnout area if you want to stop on the bridge.
Another picturesque spot was at Cathedral Rocks. This is a new home but right next to them.
More Cathedral rocks.
These next two pictures are also from the west side of the summit.
Elder Bair called these cows Oreo cows.
Here is the stake center where we held the conference. It was in a beautiful setting. I am taking the picture from a bridge that you cross to get on the property. It is only one lane so it must be a mess getting out of there when church or conference is over.
This is taken from the same bridge leading to the Stake Center. We just happened upon this wading juggler. We were wondering what he was doing there but as time went on we figured it was an easy way to practice as the balls float and he doesn't have to chase them all over. He doesn't even have to stoop down as far.
This is the couple we stayed with while in Christchurch. They had a little three bedroom duplex that was just 6 years old. It was very nice but there was only one bathroom. Fortunately the toilet is in a separate room. There was just one sink, but a separate glass enclosed shower and a tub. As you can see their garden was beautiful. This is Jack, Peggy, and Helen Thompson.
The first video is of Sister German from Delaware. The distinguished heckler is President Joliffe. Next is Elder Koito from Kiribati, pronounced Keer-ee-bahss. Sister Joliffe is in the foreground.
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