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, September 28, 2011

Elder & Sister Erekson

Meet Elder Don and Sister Karen Erekson.  They have just come from an 18 month Public Affairs mission in South Africa, and now will spend another 18 months in New Zealand.  We took them on their first outing to see a bit of the beauty that surrounds us here.  It was a beautiful day and we had a great time showing them some of our favorite places.

Huia Point

To see my favorite photo of the day, click HERE.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

More Publicity - BOOKS FOR FIJI

Many posts ago I showed photos of some darling Fiji children reading books to be used to advertise a humanitarian project to collect books to send to children living on small outlying small islands of Fiji.  We are currently in the middle of collecting the books to be sent.  This project is spearheaded by our DPA Eileen in Wellington and we are still advertising in hopes of collecting thousands of books.  I took these photos to use in the advertising.

Fresh Mex with Friends

Our friends and fellow Public Affairs missionaries, Terry and Gae Pearce.  They have almost finished their missionary service and are anxious to return home to their family in a few days.  They have contributed much to moving public affairs work forward in this corner of their world, and we will miss them.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Prime Minister of New Zealand John Key


I have been so blessed on this mission, and a prayer has certainly been answered.  Years ago I met a retired photographer who was on a 'photography mission'.  There really wasn't such a thing, but when he made his wishes known to a church authority, doors were opened and for over 8 years he has been able to use his photography skills to document important events, building and remodeling projects and other milestones of church growth.  I thought at that time, wouldn't it be great to do that.  And now years later, not only am I doing exactly that as part of my missionary experiences, but I'm doing it in the beautiful Pacific Islands.   Before coming, I debated as to whether to bring all my camera equipment, and I'm so glad I did!  I am taking photos, both for assignment and pleasure, every week.

This past week has been amazing.  Early in the week we were in Christchurch where I was able to photograph Mayor Bob Parker at the kick-off ceremony of a project where FamilySearch is partnering with Archives NZ to digitize all probate records so they will be safe from earthquakes and all other disasters.  (See story several posts ago.) 

And then Sunday night, the Prime Minister of New Zealand spoke at a special youth fireside with about 2000 in attendance.  I was the official photographer.  (No pressure there!)  Below is the first of several articles which will appear on the website, with newspaper articles coming later.  (Following the article are a few of the photos I took that evening.) 


Rt Hon John Key and Elder James J. Hamula meet young members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Auckland last night

AUCKLAND, New Zealand —In a special gathering for young members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints last night, Rt Hon John Key, Prime Minister of New Zealand, stressed the importance of having a positive attitude. He told the nearly 2,000 who were in attendance, that the single most important factor in determining a successful life is not ability, rather it is attitude and determination.
He went on to emphasize the importance of learning, saying that "the power of education is absolutely remarkable."

Elder James J. Hamula, Pacific Area President for the Church, echoed this counsel, and then told the youth that missionary service, education and marriage in the temple are "three pillars to a great life."

Elder F. Michael Watson, of the Pacific Area Presidency, told the youth to be the best they can be, and to "make the sacrifice, do the service, and the Lord will bless you."

Prior to the meeting, the Prime Minister and other special guests met and visited individually with a small group of youth from across Auckland.

He told the teens that despite what some may say, the overwhelming majority of New Zealand's youth are "doing great."

The meeting was held in the Latter-day Saints' Pah Rd. chapel in the Auckland suburb of Mt. Roskill.

There are over 100,000 Latter-day Saints in New Zealand, part of a worldwide membership of over 14 million.

 At the appointed time, the Prime Minister arrived with his security people and attending police to the back entrance of the chapel where he was greeted by members of the Area Presidency and Area Seventy.

He was ushered into the RS room where a small reception took place.  He met and visited with about 20 pre selected outstanding youth from the Auckland area.  He took time to shake their hands and visit briefly with each one.

Here is a group photo of the The Right Honourable John Key, Prime Minister of New Zealand, surrounded by youth from the Auckland area as well as Church Priesthood leaders.

Here he is posing with Elder Hamula, President of the Pacific Area, counselor Elder Watson, and area Seventy, Elder Roberts.

He was presented with an extensive Family History album......

....and a framed Family Tree.

He graciously accepted and jokingly said he "hoped we didn't find any convicts in there", and if we did, he apologized.

Listening to a youth speaker in the general meeting attended by around 2000 youth and guests.

After joking about the rugby games since this was held during the Rugby World Cup, he told the youth that the single determining factor as to whether they will be successful in life which is more important than ability, is attitude and determination.  He also urged them to get as much education as possible, and that education is critical. 

Several youth choirs sang impressively.

A quick wave goodbye as he was whisked out the side door.

 Our Public Affairs people did a wonderful job preparing and executing this event which came off 'without a hitch'.   I came home that night and breathed a sigh of relief as I downloaded my photos and confirmed that I got some decent shots and didn't do something stupid, like forgetting to put a media card in my camera! I stayed up until 1:30 am editing and uploading (I narrowed it down to 61 out of several hundred shots), so they would be available for viewing the next day, at which time I received emails from both Elder Hamula and Elder Watson thanking me for the great job!  It has certainly been a week to remember!   

There is at least one person in New Zealand who is NOT a rugby fanatic......the guy who put up this sign!

MORMON HELPING HANDS helped clean up, plant plants and remove graffiti in preparation for the Rugby World Cup.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Brownies To Share

This was a 'staged' photo with two Church employees at the Area Office.  I did this at the request of the other senior missionary couple who are working on an article for a future Ensign insert.

Friday, September 9, 2011


Visiting genealogist, Judy A. Jones, with Michael Higgins, Pacific Area Manager for FamilySearch

Christchurch, New Zealand — "Family history can be a life-changing experience," according to a leading US genealogist visiting New Zealand. "Learning about your ancestors can bring perspective and understanding to your own life."
Judy A. Jones, a genealogist from FamilySearch based at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, United States, met with Christchurch genealogists last night at the Cashmere Chapel of The Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day Saints. This was the eighth such meeting she has attended in New Zealand over the last two weeks.
Last night she provided updates on genealogical trends and developments, as well as outlined simple steps for beginners to get started.
FamilySearch began in 1894 under the name Genealogical Society of Utah and today is the largest genealogical organization in the world. Its records, resources and services are available to all, free of charge. The organization assists millions of people worldwide in learning more about their family history.
Sister Jones told last night's guests that there are over 2.4 million rolls of microfilm, over 1 million microfiche, and over 3.5 billion images of family history records stored in a vault deep inside a granite mountain on the outskirts of Salt Lake City, United States. Efforts to securely store important family records will make sure they are preserved and will survive earthquakes and all other disasters. The vault itself is designed to withstand a nuclear attack.
In 1998 FamilySearch began digital imaging of records and in 1May of 1999 the FamilySearch website was opened to the public. Just four months later the website surpassed 1.5 billion hits. Over two billion historical records are now available free of charge to anyone in the world on
Sister Jones explained the latest technological advances making FamilySearch easily accessible over the internet on and demonstrated how to use the site. There are nine major links to help find records, tools, training or information that will help anyone discover their family history. Historical records such as census, birth, marriage and death are collected from around the world and have been microfilmed or digitized and indexed. These are now available on the Internet. In addition, there are online catalogues of over two million rolls of microfilm and hundreds of thousands of books and maps from around the world located in the Family History Library collection in Salt Lake City, Utah. offers a variety of free online classes, as well as a collection of family history articles to aid with family history education and training.
Sister Jones says it is easy to get started with four step-by-step videos available to teach the basics. Additionally, for those who want to learn more about how to use these extensive resources, there are over 4,500 FamilySearch Centers operating in more than 100 countries, staffed by volunteers who are ready to help answer questions and assist with research.
We headed down to Christchurch for our 3rd visit, this time to assist with the 'kickoff' and press release for a long term project where FamilySearch will be working with Archives NZ to digitize and preserve public records.  Also, an article appeared in the local paper.  Here is our story and some of my photos of the event.


Mayor Bob Parker scans the first record, a will belonging to one of his own relatives

Christchurch, New Zealand - Mayor Bob Parker today launched a new digitization project spearheaded by Archives New Zealand in Christchurch and FamilySearch, a genealogy website. The project will make digitised images of wills and probate records for Christchurch, the West Coast and Timaru available online, free to the public.

The records currently identified for including in the project range between 1855 and 1998. The nearly 2 million records will take up to five years to scan and are being captured digitally by Family Search and Archives New Zealand volunteers. The first records to be digitized are the 35,121 files from the Timaru High Court.

Christchurch Regional Archivist Chris Adam says Archives New Zealand is committed to moving its services online to provide better and more equitable access to a valuable national and community resource."As part of this transformation we aim to have 90 percent of our high use paper archives digitised and available online by 2018," Chris Adam says. "Working with FamilySearch to digitise the probates will help us achieve this goal."

Michael Higgins, FamilySearch's Pacific Area Manager says these Canterbury's historical records are a vital legacy for this and future generations.

"We are pleased to have this opportunity to work with our friends at Archives New Zealand to rebuild and preserve these historical foundations of our region."

Chris Adam explains that the Christchurch project follows on from the work already underway in Wellington national office where digitization of its probate records has begun.

"For the past two years we have worked in partnership with FamilySearch to have these records digitised and made freely available to the public. Digitising the Canterbury and Westland probate files is the first extension of this project outside of Wellington.

"While this has been planned for some while, the timing has been determined by the Canterbury earthquakes; these have highlighted the importance and fragility of our documentary heritage.

"The probates constitute the single most used record held by the Christchurch office and account for well over half of the items requested by researchers."

Transferred to the Christchurch office from the High Courts in Timaru, Christchurch, and Greymouth the records include all the surviving probate files from Canterbury and Westland.

The project is expected to last five years, with the first of an estimated 1,879,280 images available free of charge on the FamilySearch website from mid to late 2012.

FamilySearch is a genealogical organisation funded by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Read more in today's edition of The Press

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Whenever we travel we try to find material and take photos for stories to add to our Pacific Area Church website.  While we were on assignment in Wellington recently,  I sat in a auxilliary training session in conjunction with Stake Conference (see post below), and decided the subject matter would make a nice informational story.  Here it is:


Sister Jolene Watson teaches Wellington Latter-day Saints about the new LDS Media Library

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — The newly upgraded LDS Media Library will "enhance your life," according to Sister Jolene Watson, wife of Elder F. Michael Watson of the Pacific Area Presidency

Speaking at the Wellington Stake Conference on the weekend, she stressed the importance of using the LDS Media Library — which has been recently added to — to help learn and teach the gospel.

"Advances in media, social networking and technology, can and should be used to inspire, educate and spread the gospel message," she said.
"Now when the Church creates and publishes new materials, everyone world-wide will have access almost immediately."

Sister Watson says the LDS Media Library is full of faith-promoting videos, photographs and music, which are entertaining and fun, as well as informative.

She demonstrated how to navigate the website and encouraged attendees at the conference to spend time exploring the vast resources available and then use them for lessons, family home evening and to share them with neighbours and friends.