The New Zealand Wellington mission produced a Christmas fireside for the missionaries to present in their wards and branches. It included a video with music and church produced film and a narration and a couple of songs by the primary. Our Elders did a wonderful job of preparing for the fireside by inviting investigators, less active, decorating the Christmas tree and convincing the branch president to use his big screen TV. They asked Elder Hoagland to do the narration.
We had over 50 people in attendance, including 10 investigators. Here are some of the Tongans waiting for the refreshment following the fireside.
Little Osika got his share of the sandwiches.
Preparing the sandwiches following the fireside.
The three girls in the back sang a song, "Could I hold the baby" while the two children in front played Joseph and Mary. No one in the branch had a doll so we bought one and gave it to little Mele following the fireside. She was thrilled. She had already taken off her "Mary" head gear. We thought the evening a big success.
Other than doing some major cleaning, we have resisted packing in anticipation of leaving for home. As they are not replacing us in Greymouth, we had to give a 21 day notice on the flat. There have been missionaries in this flat for at least 8 years. Our landlord (Kevin) has been showing the flat the last couple of days and got a deposit last night and they are moving in December 31.
We had a conversation with Kevin last night. He has these three rentals on this one big lot that has helped put his children through their university studies. His daughter, 22, just graduated in "physiotherapy" last week after four years and an expenditure of $80,000.00 between her and her parents. Three weeks ago the government cut in half the amount of therapy it would pay for so now there are no jobs available in that field. He was most distraught over the situation. He is also afraid she may leave the country to find work.
This was the last week of school. During our normal hour we spend at the school they had an assembly of the four youngest classes where they exchanged Christmas cards with one person. They were told to talk to each other about what they wanted for Christmas or what they were going to do, etc. Here they are discussing Christmas with each other.
Here is the staff we work with. Mrs. Kitchin is the teacher in room two, Naomi is assigned to Jaese, the little autistic boy behind them. Jaese doesn't wear the school uniform and works alone with Naomi most of the time. There is another little boy with less severe autism that sucks his thumb and plays with trains during class, but is able to do his reading and other things. He is very attached to Sister Hoagland. Allison is an aid who works with several of the classes. They have become great friends to us.
After the card exchange, the children were treated to a mass distribution of chips (french fries) from the local fish and chips shop including tomato sauce if they wanted it. It was delivered in the traditional newspaper wrapping. That was our last day at school with our sweet little children.
Tuesday we went to Westport to find a flat for the new missionary couple. We first went to the local realty office and they had disappointly few to see. They were all three bed room houses which would have been way too big and hard to heat. Fortunately I had emailed the members up there and they had found one place that would meet our needs. There is a real shortage of rentals on the west coast as coal mining has really picked up here. The people that will live in our flat are from South Africa and he will work in the mines as well. Above is the Buller River that enters the Tasman sea at Westport.
Our sweet Sister Williams prepared lunch for us. Here is here festive table.
Our Elders have some responsiblity for Westport as well and they came up with us. Elder Beckwith is from Australia. Elder Palanite (Tongan) is eating his first pickle. He goes home the week before we are through with our mission. This is Elder Palanite's second tour in the Greymouth branch. We love him! He gave Elder Hoagland a beautiful "Maori" designed tie for Christmas at our last district meeting. He had to return home to Auckland (his family lives there now) because of knee problems and then returned to the mission field. That takes some great faith. He wants to join the police force, but he will need to have surgery on that knee to do the work.
This is our luncheon host, Thea Williams. She is an authentic Scott, with a wonderful Scottish accent. We have one more trip to Westport this Sunday.
On the way home we made a stop at the seal colony. It was a rare gorgeous day.
The attraction is to see the little baby seals with their mothers. You may have to look hard, but they are there. When the wind is just right the smell is pretty ripe.
A sign on the trail to the colony.
Sister Hoagland on the way back to the car in the distance.
Tuesday evening they had a program and awards night at Cobden School. All the children were dressed as pirates, complete with made up faces. Here Jaese had just completed his little part. Just three or four words but he did it. The children on the left are in our class.
Some of the pirate songs they sang. Following the program, they gave out awards for most improved student, most diligent student, and highest achieving student. There were also sports awards for the older children. They go through eighth grade. The drums are for the little band the older kids played in. They were very good. There was also a choir that meets after school that performed. Another great thing was that we all sang "Away in a manger" and then "Silent Night". Wish we could do that in school at home!
At the end of the awards ceremony we were surprised with a Christmas card and gift. The card read, "Elder and Sister Hoagland, thank you for your dedication and help with the room 2 children throughout the year." It was signed by the assistant principal and "from the Cobden school staff and Board of Trustees. The gift was a coffee table book of New Zealand. It was an emotional event for us. Our little students cheered as we passed them to go on stage.
Sister Hoagland promised the girls who sang at the Christmas fireside that we would take them to lunch if they did a good job. Here we are at our first visit to the McDonalds in Greymouth. Three happy meals, One hamburger, and one chicken fillet combo, and three chocolate sundaes, $38.00 (27.00 US).
MMM, ice cream sundaes.
I took this picture from the McDonalds as the Trans Scenic train went by. It runs once a day between Christchurch and Greymouth. We came here on that train 18 months ago. It is a beautiful trip through the mountains and the lush valleys of the westcoast region of the South Island.
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