Friday, June 26, 2009

Zone Conference

It was a beautiful day today with plenty of sunshine and NO WIND. I helped President Kinikini pick up and deliver a load of coal to a branch family. Sister Hoagland and I went to support our primary boys in their rugby matches this afternoon.

President Kinikini asked me to speak this Sunday on anything I thought the branch might need. Having just been called as the branch clerk and seeing how out of balance our fast offering income and outgo is, I thought that would be a good subject. While we were together I took the opportunity to give him a taste of what I had in mind. He is a very good man and supports what I am going to say.

We were in Nelson this week for zone conference and stayed with the Venables. Rob is in the district presidency and in country about three years from England. He said that he has tried to change the way fast offering funds are used but has had very little success. It seems to be treated as a slush fund for people who run a little short with no accountability on the part of recipients.

We had a good zone conference this week with good counsel and training. Sister Hoagland and I had to role play in front of the group. Sister Jolliffe played the part of a 14 year old. Our role was to commit her to study and pray to gain faith in Jesus Christ. I think we did all right, but it does take you out of your comfort zone. We were told that we would be giving a work shop next conference. The Nelson branch provides lunch for our meetings and it was great.
Here are two of our students arriving for seminary. You can see that it was pretty cold that morning. We had had a week of 32 degree weather. Poni is wearing one of the girls shawls and her flower in his hair. They have no issues with their masculinity. All the students used our scale after class and all were at least 20 pounds heavier than me. These are big people. They have been pretty lax on their attendance lately. We are concerned but considering there is little support at home, we are grateful that they come at all.
This is the road into downtown Nelson. The tide was out but still we had a beautiful view. Sun is very low in the sky here a good deal of the day making driving challenging at times.

Elder Gibbons is from England and President Jolliffe was his stake president. President Jolliffe set him apart for his mission and has been his mission president for almost a year now. He returns home in October. It should be noted that our mission is sending home nearly one missionary per transfer for not following mission rules. They are not fooling around anymore. One was sent home with the option to continue his mission later for not telling the mission president what his companion was up to.
Sister Vea and Sister Lynch are wonderful. We inspected their flat this week while in Nelson. Sister Vea, who is Tongan, keeps asking me to help her get transferred to Greymouth. I think she could do a great work here. Sister Lynch is from Australia and been out 6 months.
Friday night we had a branch activity but we didn't have many there. Sister Araia did a great job organizing games and we all had fun. We had way too many refreshments and for some reason the Tongan families, other than the presidents, did not show up. I think we had more non members there than members.
Activity over and kids playing around.
Our Moni cleaning up.
Mafi went to district conference and we introduced her to President and Sister Jolliffe. She learned that she could be called on a mini mission if there was a need. She was so excited at the prospect that she has borrowed one of our "Preach My Gospel" manuals and is studying very hard. She came to church dressed like a missionary and even borrowed Sister Hoagland's name tag. She is so fun.
Here are our girls after church. We are always happy when Ofa comes to church. The branch is making a concerted effort to get members to the temple this year. Ofa has expressed a desire to go as well, but not being a member she can't do baptism's like the others. We hope that is an incentive to work on her father who will not allow the children to join.

We are loving the work and the Lord has blessed us richly. This week we have been here for 1 year. We have had some great success with the "Lost Sheep" program by finding many who are still here in the branch and obtaining addresses for those who have moved. We have cleared 32 of the 53 names given to us to find.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

School Days

Memphisand Milahn Morgan were baptized Sunday. They are daughters of a Less active Maori Sister. They are now an addition to our ever growing primary. Our Elders are working very hard. We have another less active Sister that they are working with. We will be having a work project at her home this week. She has two daughters and two sons that are unbaptized.
At school one of the children threw up on the floor and panicked the staff. There was a substitute teacher, an aide, and an aide for a special needs child in the room besides Judy and me. The teacher moved all the children away, one aid took the child out, the other ran out speaking over her shoulder, "someone watch Jaese" (the special needs child). Of course the children all wanted to watch him and the first two to approach Jaese were promptly rebuffed by him. He has autism. I just went and sat down near him in a stuffed chair that they have in the class room library where Jaese loves to look at books. I said to him, "what are you reading." He immediately came over and sat on my lap, which he does with his aide all the time, and began to show me his book. You would have thought me a miracle worker. A teacher from the class next door, the school secretery, The sub and aides in the room all thought it wonderful that Jaese had taken to me. They even went and got the school camera and took our picture along with Sister Hoagland using our camera. The school secretery told me the next day that it was a wonderful picture and was going in his student file.

A couple of other funny things happened before our hour of service was over. The teacher next door brought in a bottle of a coagulant and said, "this should congeal everything but I can't do it," and immediately left the room. I didn't think she meant she didn't have time.
After things got back to normal, I went to help the children with a writing project. I was working with a boy named Alex who just had to show me his loose tooth. He could move it to a 45 degree angle so, being the guy that I am, I challenged him to pull it out. Sure enough within 30 seconds it was in his hand. I had him get a paper towel to stop the bleeding and he came back with wad the size of a golf ball in his mouth.

The staff express appreciation for the work we do at the school so I guess we are helping, but we see these children with their parents in the grocery store and other places in town and they greet us, "hello Elder and Sister Hoagland." In the future we hope when they see name tags on missionaries they will have positive thoughts and be receptive to them.
We have been assigned to inspect the missionary flats in our zone. On Friday we drove to Blenheim to inspect the Elder's flat there. It is an eight hour round trip through beautiful mountain valley's on the other side of the south island northeast of Greymouth. I discussed last week how that area has developed a very large vineyard and winery business. The first vineyards begin about 45 minutes west from town. There are some really large vineyards covering the valley floor.
The northeast part of the island has been having some pretty heavy rains. This creek was really flowing and some locals were also taking pictures.
We had to drive through some standing water. The white blotches in the photo is the spray from the wheels as we drove through the water.
Here is some more of the local flooding.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Nelson District Conference

We have been putting an effort into the "lost sheep" program and have found 8 people here, in Australia, Christchurch, and Nelson. We have had help from members, the Elder's and our own efforts.

Monday was a National holiday, "Queen's Birthday", which meant we had no school, library and our piano students were not home. We did have a birth. Sister Tau, the mother of our three non member seminary and institute students, had a baby girl. We visited her at the hospital around noon. She had the baby 12 hours earlier. She was home by 5:00 when we visited the family.

Tuesday we had our seminary and school activity as usual. Institute was held after 8:15 pm as Mafi had to work late. Ofa was also there but Mafi came so tired I'm not sure she was even there. As usual the teacher gains the most.

We have become aware that the four of our five Togan families have no heat in their homes. Last winter we did not get into their homes like we have the last 9 or 10 months. Sister Hoagland wore knit gloves to teach her piano lessons at the Aho Langi home this week. We go there twice in a week to teach three different students. While she teaches I have been trying to teach their daughter Mele letter recognition. She is a tiny 6 year old, and it has been slow going.

Here Sister Hoagland has finished playing a word bingo game with the children at Cobden School. I played a dice board word game with two boys. One of the real pleasures is when these sweet little children ask you if they can read to me during reading time. They are so eager to read to us.
During Piano lessons at the Kinikini's I was able to capture their new adopted baby's first steps. If you check earlier pictures you will notice that she has put on some weight in the short time she has been here. It was interesting that she was not sure about us for the first few times we were with her. They tell us that she was not used to white people.
Here is Louann on her way down.

This weekend was district conference in Nelson. We had a good group (23) from the branch attend the conference. Of course 15 were children. We had a good leadership meeting Saturday afternoon and a workshop for all members shortly after. The district booked an activity center for all member's children from 4 thru 17 during the session. They really took care of those of us who were from out of town. They had food for us when we arrived and tea (dinner) for all district members after the meetings. Then again they had lunch for us before we left for home on Sunday.
The Greymouth branch was in charge of clean-up after the evening dinner. Fortunately the locals stayed around and helped.
We stayed with a wonderful English family, the Venables. Above is Sarah, Ashley and President Rob Venables who were our gracious hosts. When we got to their home we had a nice visit with them and the branch president from Blenheim, President and Sister Prasad. Both couples have been in country nearly three years.
President and Sister Presad are a wonderful couple who are Fijian Indians. They have three wonderful children, one daughter 11, and 14 and 15 year old boys. They work for President McDonald, a member of the district presidency who lives in Blenheim. He has really taken them under his wing, providing them with visa help and we were told that he just finished a new house for them to move into. He is a farmer by trade, but Blenheim area farms have all been turned into vineyards. That raised the value of land to the point where he had to turn his farm into a vineyard as well. This caused him some concern but I understand he was counciled that as long has he produced only the grape, it was ok.
Laid out on the couch is Joshua Venables (7) and the two Presad boys, Justin and Jaron. We did not get a picture of the daughter, Jaslyn.
Manui & Aho Langi with their children. Lesili, Selesi, Hola, Meleane and Mele. Mele was named after Mele Toli, as their fathers are best friends. I think I told you the the Toli's moved to Australia last month.
Puta and Tama'a Langi were married last November. The children joined the family a couple of months ago. Instant family for Tama'a.
Puta and Tama'a are still like newly weds.
This is to show our son-in-law that his truck can be found in New Zealand as well. This is the parking lot at the Nelson chapel.