Dear Family & Friends: We are having so many new and exciting adventures to tell you about. We get up around 5:45am and go as fast as we can until bedtime, learning our new responsibilities and having a peek at this BEAUTIFUL country. We hope in this blog we can express how blessed we are to testify of Jesus Christ and serve Him in this amazing corner of the world! HAERE MAI* to our blog, we're glad you are visiting us!.....(*This means 'WELCOME' in the Maori language)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Hamilton New Zealand Temple at Christmas

 Christmas Lights Attract Visitors to "Most Sacred Place"

The Hamilton New Zealand Temple

HAMILTON, New Zealand
— A regular visitor to the Christmas lights display in the grounds of the Hamilton New Zealand Temple was asked: "Why do you bring your family here each year?" The man, of Indian heritage and not a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, replied: "Because this is the most sacred place in New Zealand."

Between 12 December 2011 and 9 January 2012, an estimated 35,000 people will visit the grounds of the Latter-day Saints' Hamilton New Zealand Temple and Visitors' Centre. Guests are enjoying the holiday spirit and are being dazzled each evening by the sparkle of 150,000 Christmas lights.

People of all faiths are travelling from all over New Zealand to the Temple's grounds as part of their annual Christmas festivities.

According to Visitors' Centre Director, Elder Ronald B. Funk: "This is a community activity and people bring their families and friends who are visiting for the holidays to see the lights. They come here because it makes them feel good."

Of the 35,000 people who come to see the lights each season, about 8,000 will also tour the Visitor's Centre to learn more about The Church of Jesus Christ. Elder Funk says "about half of the requests from people to learn more about the Gospel of Jesus Christ come from people visiting the temple grounds at Christmas."

Elder Funk often asks people in the community if they have been to the Visitors' Centre. "More often than not, people will say they come at Christmas time to see the lights. This is one of the key exposures to the Church for people in the community."

"Two years ago one of those visitors came to see the lights, toured the Visitors' Centre and requested to learn more about the Church's beliefs," he said. "Three months later he was baptized and now has been a service missionary for almost a year. This February he will attend the temple and be sealed to his family."

Elder Funk continues: "Last year a relative of a missionary brought three young men who were not members of the Church to see the lights and tour the Visitors' Centre. They were so touched by what they saw and felt that all three were baptized. One is now currently awaiting his mission call."

"People feel touched by the Spirit of God when they see the beautiful lights, and also when they hear music and messages celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ."

The Christmas lights on the grounds of the Hamilton New Zealand Temple are turned on each night at 9:15p from 12 December through 9 January. The Visitors' Centre is open until 11:00pm each night during the season.

Take a virtual tour of the Hamilton New Zealand Temple Visitors' Centre here.

Learn more about the teachings of Jesus Christ. Watch new online videos about the birth of Jesus Christ.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Pacific Women Enjoy New Book: 'Daughters in My Kingdom'

Pacific Women Enjoy New Book: 'Daughters in My Kingdom'

Relief Society Sisters in New Caledonia

AUCKLAND, New Zealand — "Relief Society sisters around the world are finding inspiration from a rich spiritual heritage of faithful and valiant women who went before and paved the way," according to Karen Larsen, a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Referring to the publication of a new book titled Daughters in My Kingdom, Sister Larsen says that "past and present, we are spiritual daughters of our Heavenly Father. Because He loves us and wants us to be worthy of our divine nature and return to live with Him, He has not left us alone in a world filled with temptations, tragedies and trials."
Sister Larsen, who alongside her husband Elder Jeffrey Larsen, are serving as public affairs missionaries for the Church in the Pacific Area, currently reside in New Zealand but hail from Utah in the United States.
"God knows and watches over His daughters and has told us we will receive personal inspiration and revelation when we humbly pray to Him and when we earnestly search the holy scriptures," she says.

"He has also sent us Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Redeemer, who has atoned for our sins and is our beacon of light guiding the way back to Him. I love a quote by Elder James E. Talmage where he says, "'The world's greatest champion of women and womanhood is Jesus the Christ.'"

Julie Beck, General President of the Relief Society has stated: "In order to watch over, teach and inspire His daughters in these perilous times, God authorized the Prophet Joseph Smith to organize the women of the Church. This divinely appointed and priesthood directed organization is called Relief Society."

Latter-day Saint women the world over help each other prepare for eternal life, strengthen families and communities, and provide relief to those in need.

For Sister Larsen, Daughters in My Kingdom "is about ordinary women, who with faith and fortitude, did extraordinary things."

The book's preface states: "The value of this book is not so much in the dates and facts it provides but in the purposes, principles and patterns it teaches."

"As we read and share their stories," Sister Larsen adds, "we will discover we have much in common, and we too, are capable of accomplishing extraordinary things. We will come to realize our power and potential as daughters in His Kingdom, find joy in living righteously, and will recognize the important roll we have in building up His kingdom here on earth."

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Dunedin Chapel Open House

Dunedin Chapel Open House

This past week we flew to Dunedin to assist our DPA Suzanne with an open house.  Often, areas will hold open houses to invite the community to see our chapels, and learn more about our beliefs.  It is a good time to invite opinion leaders, government officials and the media, in an effort to build relationships and make friends for the Church.

Dunedin Chapel

President Smith

President Weepers

Elders Sayers & Skewes

President Smith, Sister Gillies, President Weepers, Elder Skewes
President Smith, MP Clare Curron, Sister Gillies, Elder Skewes

Baptismal Font

Young Men

Young Women


Young Single Adults

Relief Society

Family History

Provident Living

Monday, December 5, 2011

Service With a Smile

Service With A Smile

Sunday, December 4 2011


WELLINGTON, New Zealand - Spending a long day sorting, labeling, packing and lifting heavy boxes of books does not seem like something to smile about, but for a group of missionaries, enthusiasm and smiles accompanied a long day of hard work.

The missionaries, who are serving in the New Zealand Auckland Mission, joined 'Mormon Helping Hands' volunteers, to box and load over 42,000 children's reading books donated by individuals and organizations throughout the lower part of the north island. Within a few weeks, the books will find their way to children living in remote villages of Fiji, where educational resources and reading books are in short supply.

"We are grateful for the much needed service provided so willingly by the missionaries, said 'Books for Fiji' Project Director Eileen Mueller. "The day's work could not have been completed without their help."

Helping their neighbors, communities and even people in far away countries, is a part of missionary life and a way these missionaries put their faith into action. They talk about looking to Jesus Christ as their example and what it means to serve others:


"I think this is a great opportunity to help out our brothers and sisters all over the world. I know that books are a very important way to learn and study. I love helping others whenever I can." - Elder Strantz Wihongi


"It will probably mean a lot, knowing that there are people around the world that do care for them and know their needs and will help in any way we can. It will help them feel a special love from their Latter-day Saint brothers and sisters. " - Sister Burengarenza Taabua


"There really is no joy equal to the joy that comes from seeing a smile on another caused by you, or to see a life touched by your efforts. If everyone cultivated the attitude of 'helping hands', our world would know no selfishness." - Sister Jessica Cameron


"We are taught to follow Christ, to follow in his footsteps. We know Christ is our greatest example in all things and what greater service was rendered to us all than the Atonement? He has paid the highest price for every soul. The least we can do individually, is to help each of these souls live more fulfilled lives. As those in Fiji feel the touch of 'helping hands' they will seek to know more about the work of God and his Gospel." - Sister Jessica Cameron

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thanksgiving Dinner

Tony, a very nice young man who used to work at the area office, is from California, but now living with his family in NZ.  He and his wife Loretta graciously invited the senior missionary couples to join their family for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.  We had turkey and all the trimmings.  Everyone contributed and it was all delicious.  We enjoyed being in their home with their children and grandparents.  After dinner we all shared some of the many blessings and things we are thankful for.  It was the next best thing to being with our own families!   

Saturday, November 26, 2011

'Books for Fiji'-(first delievery)

 Our Most Amazing Experience Yet!

Approximately 42,000 children's books were donated, collected, sorted, and packed by individuals, organizations and churches throughout the lower half of the north island in New Zealand.  This was a combined community effort headed by Mormon Helping Hands.  The books are now in a container, on a ship, in the ocean and on their way to Fiji, where they will be distributed to schools on the remote outer islands where children have some text books but no reading or picture books.

The World Report crew from Salt Lake City, who is responsible for the wonderful stories we see on TV in between Sunday Conference sessions, will report on this amazing project during April conference.  They were in Fiji for only two days and wanted to get footage of the books arriving and being given to some of the children who will be recipients.

As the arrival of the large shipment could not be coordinated with the crew's tight schedule, we arranged for a second mini-book drive and then delivery of these books for the crew to document.  Jeff and I and Eileen, our Director of Public Affairs who was in charge of this project, took 200 books with us to Fiji, and added the 2000 books collected over the previous weekend by the Church primary school in Suva.  Our DPA in Fiji arranged for all of us, the books, the WR crew, dignitaries from the Fijian Ministry of Education, and two Church stake presidents to make our delivery to a remote island school.  Read some highlights of our experiences and see a glimpse of what we saw on the most amazing adventure we have had so far........ 

Loading boxes of books onto one of two small boats that took us to the island.

Second boat containing the 3 men of the World report crew plus their equipment.

The tiny island of Bau seemed very far away when we were in a tiny, overloaded boat with no life jackets.  Bau Island is a 'chiefly' island and we were told the most important island of Fiji, because it is the island of the first King of Fiji, and today, one of his descendants is the chief.  One has to get special permission to go there, and permission is not often given.  It was an honor for the Church that the Ministry of Education thought our donation important enough to obtain permission for us to go to this particular island. 

Island children unloading the books and carrying them to their school.

We had to observe very strict protocol while on the island.  First of all we had to be presented to the chief and formally be given permission to be on the island, present the books and take photos.  We had to walk single file, men in front, women in back to their meeting place.  We were not allowed to wear shoulder straps of any kind (shoulder bags, camera straps), no hats or sunglasses, women had to wear dresses.  We were told we could not stand on higher ground than the chief.

Darling children along the way were curious and friendly.  It was obvious they don't get many white faced people on the island.

We saw several traditional buildings with very steep roofs.

This is a horribly blurry photo and I felt I risked my life taking it!  We were led single file to this large, open 'meeting room' with woven mats covering the floor.  There were about 25 men seated cross legged around a large, decorated bowl, called a kava bowl.  The men in our party were given specific places to sit to the right of where the chief would sit, and the four of us women were barely tolerated and sat in the back.  We were required to bring the chief a gift of kava.  This is a root that through some process of cooking and mashing, becomes a narcotic drink.  It is legal and as common as coffee.  The kava ceremony lasted about 45 minutes with much talking, and clapping.   The chief eventually came in and sat down in the front, under a large photograph of his ancestor the first chief, who was a cannibal until he converted to Christianity.  There was more talking between the person in charge of the ceremony and our representative, a Fijian stake president of the Church who also comes from a chiefly line.  We had no idea what was said because it was all in Fijian, but we were told that we honored the chief and told him why we had come and asked permission to be there and make our donation and asked him to accept our gift of kava. Then he accepted our gift, welcomed us to the island and thanked us for the donation. Pretty soon the drink was brought in and poured into the kava bowl.  Then a smaller bowl was filled, words and rituals took place, then the kava was presented to the chief to drink.  Then it was  ceremoniously presented to one of our representatives as honored guests to drink.  Part of the ceremony must have been to tell the chief that we do not drink kava and could one of the other people who came with us (several people from the Ministry of Education accompanied us), accept and drink the kava on our behalf.  I guess this might have been a delicate situation so as to not offend.  Anyway, after about 45 minutes of sitting on the floor with aching knees, the ceremony was over.  We had permission to deliver the books, take photos and 'film' while there.


It was very interesting to watch the children opening the boxes of books.  They opened them very carefully, and almost reverently started reading the first book they picked up.

I love the look on this young girl's face. She looks like she is seeing pictures of things she has never seen before.

Here Eileen is enjoying the 'fruits' of her year long efforts.

We had a brief 'handing over' ceremony and then the children sang a song to us about the beauty of their island.  What was really beautiful was their singing.  They were excellent singers and harmonized beautifully.  We were very touched. After the ceremony they led us to a room and fed us lunch.  We didn't recognize any of the food except a fish with head and tail intact.  Jeff ate a little so as not too offend, but I didn't, and of course we didn't drink the water.  Jeff was lucky and did not get sick.

We are standing in front of the Tomb of the Kings.  This sits on the highest point on the island and houses the remains of all the Kings.  We were not allowed to get closer.  The day after this trip we were able to met with the Minister of Education in his office.  He is a close adviser to the Prime Minister.

Later that day the World Report crew were able to take footage of the beautiful Suva, Fiji Temple and also interview Elder Wakolo, our wonderful Area Seventy who is Fijian.  We were also able to attend a temple session.  We had a wonderful trip with many more experiences and we will be anxious to see if this story is included in the World Report next April.