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)

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Youth Minister to Youth:

 "You Are Not Just Our Future, But Our Now!"

Wellington, New Zealand  — 

New Zealand's Minister for Youth Affairs, and Minister for Social Development and Employment, the Honourable Paula Bennett, urged a group of Latter-day Saint young adults yesterday to prepare to lead in the future, and to lead now.

“We have a democracy. What a great country we live in," Ms Bennett said. "If we strive, achieve, and believe we can be great leaders. Why not you? You have been identified as leaders and have a responsibility to speak up for those around you. You are not just our future but our now.”

40 young members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints visited Parliament in Wellington New Zealand yesterday, part of a leadership forum.

The aim of the visit, according to organizer Anthony Wilson, is "to give some of our young people a chance to meet our nation's leaders, but even more importantly, to help the youth develop their vision and ability to become leaders in their homes, universities, workplaces, congregations and communities."

 Young Single Adults from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Young Single Adults in Parliament

 Young Single Adults in Parliament

We have just returned from Wellington, NZ and are still relishing the success of the event we helped organized.  This project has been a year in the making and had so many details to work through that we are pleased it has finally come to fruition.  Every stake president in NZ was asked to nominate 2 of his most outstanding young single adults (YSAs) as delegates for a trip to Parliament.  The purpose was to expose our youth to opinion leaders and to inspire them to become as educated as they can and to make a difference by serving in their communities and government.  

We want to encourage our young people to get involved, stand up and take a stand for moral issues.  Based on the decisions made in Parliament this week, confirmed that our efforts are well placed.  Several days ago Parliament voted to take the first step to legalize gay marriage.  In addition, they voted to make 18 the legal age for legal drinking even though there is a severe alcohol problem among the young people in NZ.  What are they thinking!

But back to our event.  We arranged for our 35-40 delegates to fly, drive or take a chartered bus to Wellington.  The evening we arrived we had a wonderful fireside.  Elder Kevin Pearson, of our Area Presidency was our special speaker, and he was so inspired.  He told our youth to dream big, and to get all the education they could get.  He said 'average' was the enemy of  excellence.  There will always be room at the top for those who work hard and have great determination.  He told them they were accountable for what they made of their lives.

The next day was spent in Parliament.  It was an eyeopener to me to see how well respected the church is in NZ when 25 Members of Parliament took time out of their busy schedules and accepted the invitation to speak and mingle with our youth, make presentations and share lunch with them.  

It was fascinating to learn about how their form of democracy works.  The Speaker of the House of Representatives, the most powerful member of Parliament addressed the youth and answered their questions, as well as the Senior National Party Whip, and the Senior Labour Party Whip.  (We learned the history of the title 'Whip').  We were able to tour parts of the historic buildings and later in the afternoon we observed Parliament in session. (Gives a whole new meaning to juvenile, and disrespectful behavior.)

After a very long and exciting day, we met back at the chapel for pizza, socializing and testimonies.  I could tell by many of the testimonies shared, that this experience will be a turning point in the lives of some of these wonderful, faithful, young people.  

 Dr The Right Honorable Lockwood Smith
Speaker of the House

 Honorable Paula Bennett - Member of Parliament
Minister for Social Development and Youth Affairs

 Elder Kevin W. Pearson
Pacific Area Presidency

 Chris Hipkins, Member of Parliament
Labour Senior Whip
Nicky Wagner, Member of Parliament

 Michael Woodhouse, Member of Parliament
National Senior Whip

 Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi, Member of Parliament

 Anthony Wilson, Coordinator of the event

 Melanie Riwai-Couch, DPA, Elder Pearson, Eileen Mueller, DPA, Su'a William Sio, Member of Parliament

 What a great group of young Latter-day Saints!!!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Interfaith Dialogue with Rabbi John Borak & Elder James J. Hamula

Interfaith Dialogue with Rabbi John Borak and Elder James J. Hamula

Auckland, New Zealand — 
Leaders from two religions, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Jewish faith, spoke to a public gathering in Auckland last night, on the commandment to love thy neighbour.

Elder James J. Hamula, Pacific Area President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Rabbi John Crites-Borak from Amud ha-Shachar/First Light in Los Angeles, California, shared insights from their respective faith traditions on the subject.

Rabbi Borak quoted from the Torah during his remarks and in the question and answer session afterwards.

He suggested that love was something you do, rather than just something you have or feel.  For Jews, he said, “loving and helping others was a religious obligation.”

Elder Hamula quoted from the New Testament as well as from other Latter-day Saint scripture.

He said that losing ourselves in the service of God, our families and others, and in putting the needs of others before our own, help us to become more loving and kind, as well as to find our true selves.

The event was held at the Raye Freedman Arts Centre in Epsom, Auckland. 

Attendees included faith leaders, academics, families and youth. 

The evening was hosted by Elder Mike Roberts, an Area Seventy in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

A third speaker, Reverend Uesifili Unasa, was unfortunately unable to attend.

Read and watch videos about Latter-day Saint beliefs with respect to loving your neighbour at and

Church Leader Encourages Faiths to Work Together

F. Michael Watson

Auckland, New Zealand — 

Elder F. Michael Watson of the Pacific Area Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints invited representatives of other faiths yesterday “To work together, with kindness and dignity, to stand for those things that matter most.”

Speaking at a luncheon at Old Government House at The University of Auckland, Elder Watson shared with luncheon guests an article of faith for Latter-day Saints: “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.”
Reflecting on his decades of service in the Church Elder Watson said “I have had the privilege to see that approach come to life, at the highest levels of our Church's leadership, as they have associated with leaders from other faiths. In Johannesburg, South Africa, we as a Church came together as ‘Helping Hands’ volunteers to simply clean another religion’s building.  It was used during the week to house the homeless at night and on Sunday to worship.”

He added: “I have seen this kind of service in my own life, in my own neighbourhood and community.  It continues here in the various areas of the Pacific.  In Samoa, as preparations were underway for its 50th Anniversary of Independence, members of the Church helped beautify the area for those dignitaries who would come and join in the days of celebration.”

“Last week,” he continued, “we were in Brisbane, Australia, where our youth were invited to come together and clean the grounds of an outdoor movie theatre. That theatre shows good and wholesome movies – the kind that you would take your family to without embarrassment because of language or content.”

Elder Watson also quoted President Thomas S. Monson, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:  “I would encourage members of the Church wherever they may be to show kindness and respect for all people everywhere. The world in which we live is filled with diversity. We can and should demonstrate respect toward those whose beliefs differ from ours.”
Speaking of the world in which we live, Elder Watson cited Elder Jeffrey R. Holland: “Friends, you know what I know—that there is in the modern world so much sin and moral decay affecting everyone, especially the young, and it seems to be getting worse by the day.” 

Elder Watson concluded his remarks by inviting all present “to continue to meet, to talk, to listen and to identify ways we can work together.” 

He urged those present and all people of faith to “humbly but boldly stand up for ourselves, our families, our churches, our communities and nations.  So that individuals can be free to worship as they choose.  And so churches can be free to serve those individuals based on eternal truths, unfettered by the influences of the shifting sands of secularism.”

Other speakers included Rabbi John Borak, from the United States, and Reverend Uesifili Unasa, Chaplain at The University of Auckland.

Tonight [Wednesday 22 August 2012] at Raye Freedman Arts Centre in Epsom, Rabbi Borak will join with Elder James J. Hamula, Pacific Area President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to speak to a public gathering on the subject of loving your neighbour.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Dancing is Allowed...for Senior Missionaries!

 Here we are ready to go to a fancy dress ball put on by our stake.  Missionaries, however, rarely bring ball gowns on a mission (haha), so the best we could do was for me to wear a black suit and for Jeff to wear what he wears every day, (although I thought the kiwi tie was a nice touch).  I haven't taken many photos of us together so I thought I'd take a quick one before our guests, (fellow missionary couples), came to dinner prior to the dance.  
For those of you interested:  I set my camera on a tripod, (with a diffuser on my flash to soften the light),  and we stood in front of a plain gray wall.  I tweaked the white balance to make the color 'warmer' and then I added a textured background so it wasn't quite so boring.  A few other tweaks and in 2-3 minutes I was done.  I kinda like the color wash look.

We had a fun time socializing and eating together.  Here are Elders & Sisters Halverson, Nelson, Ronnenkamp & Bertasso.

Elder & Sister McKinley are in the back.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

4th of July Celebration

Hurray for the Red White and Blue!

A couple of weeks ago we celebrated the 4th of July.  All of our senior couples in the immediate area are from the 
United States of America 
except one.  We had a great social.  We started with the Pledge of Allegiance and a prayer on the food.  Then we ate a delicious all American meal of fried chicken, potato salad, red jello salad and home made apple pie and ice cream.  Afterwards we played an American trivia game.
As much as we all love New Zealand, it is not home.  Home is indeed where the heart is, and being away from home has made us all appreciate 'the land of the free and the home of the brave' even more.  God Bless America!
  Elder & Sister Halverson
Elder & Sister McKinley
Elder & Sister Bertasso
Elder & Sister Passehl
(our Australian missionaries)
 Elder & Sister Nelson
President & Sister Bleak
(MTC President)
Elder & Sister Coles

The Travelling Book of Mormon

The Travelling Book of Mormon
Anasazi Whaanga is a guest contributor who lives in Auckland, New Zealand.  In this blog post she shares her story about a copy of The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ that has been handed from one person to the next over several years.  She explains how one copy of the book is touching the lives of an ever-growing number of people.  A 'ward' is a Latter-day Saint term for congregation.

 Anasazi & Sophi
(used with permission)

Four years ago, the young women in our ward spent an evening with two sister missionaries while they shared the gospel message with investigators.  At the end of the evening, I let them know this experience had inspired me to share The Book of Mormon with Sophia, a friend of mine from school.  One of the sisters gave me a copy of The Book of Mormon and encouraged me to give it to Sophia.
The following day I carried it around school in my bag, but was unsure as to whether I should give it to her or not.  At lunch I met up with Sophia and our school friends, and I had the impression that now was the time to share it with her. As I grabbed the book from my bag, I said, "Sophia, I really want you to have this."
She said "thank you," but I knew she simply thought it was just another book. 
At that time, however, the thought entered my mind to be patient, everything will be fine, and she will thank me one day.  At that moment I knew there would come a time when this book would become very important to her.

After leaving high school we went our separate ways and didn't keep in touch.  But then this year I received a text message from Sophia telling me she had been studying the gospel with the missionaries and she had made the decision to be baptised and join the Church.  I was overwhelmed with joy.

I witnessed Sophia's baptism in March of this year.  Afterwards, we talked about the effect this book has had on both our lives.  She thanked me for making the decision to share The Book of Mormon with her.  Later, she came to my home and shared her conversion story with my family.

She then told us that The Book of Mormon I gave her is travelling from one person to another.  She said her sister Gwendolyn read that same copy of The Book of Mormon a year earlier and was baptised.  Then the book was given to her cousin Lorraine who read it and was also baptised.  Currently, Lorraine's sister Crystal is reading 'our' Book of Mormon as part of her gospel study.

Sophia and I marvel at how this simple gesture of inviting a friend to read The Book of Mormon has led others to hear and accept the gospel message.  Sophia said that 'our' book is going far, and now we refer to it as the 'Travelling Book of Mormon.'

ITEP in the South Pacific

Elevating Education for South Pacific Youth

Auckland, New Zealand — 
The International Teacher Education Program (ITEP) was organized in 1997 to assist and encourage teachers working in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ school system to improve their teaching skills.  

The primary goal of the program is to elevate the quality of education provided to students in the South Pacific.
ITEP is unique as the faculty comprises retired educators, school administrators and university professors who volunteer as missionaries for an 18-23 month assignment.  

Currently, there are 10  ITEP couples living on site and working with teachers at 15 Church schools located in Kiribati, Fiji, Samoa, and Tonga.  Their primary responsibility is to help teachers improve their skills by teaching university courses and helping them qualify for advanced degrees and teaching certificates.

The couples are supervised by Elder Steve Ronnenkamp and Sister Janis Ronnenkamp, based in the Pacific Area Office in Auckland, New Zealand.  Elder Ronnenkamp, a retired school administrator from the USA, says, “The purpose of Church schools is to assist the youth to reach their earthly and eternal purposes and to help them progress spiritually, physically, emotionally, academically and socially.”  

He continues, “We are grateful for the outstanding work our ITEP missionaries are accomplishing, in improving the teaching and learning in the Church schools.”                                                  
Education is a key goal for Church members in the South Pacific and worldwide.  Elder James J. Hamula, Pacific Area President of the Church has said, “Our goal is that every youth [and] young adult in the Pacific Area finish high school and then pursue either vocational or tertiary schooling.”  
He goes on to say, “The rising generation in the South Pacific need to be educated.”

ITEP is sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and operates under the direction of the Pacific Area Seminaries and Institutes of Education in partnership with the Dean of the College of Human Development at Brigham Young University – Hawaii. 

Area Public Affairs Conference

We have spent many hours organizing our annual Public Affairs Conference where we brought our National Directors together from every country for training and PA area updates.  We've arranged air transportation, accommodations, the program, the food, etc.  We've prepared run sheets, travel schedules, program outlines.  We've arranged activities, ground transportation,  purchased gifts, made name badges, and a thousands other things. 

 Our conference started in Takapuna at the Area Office.  Our first contact in SLC, Kim Woodbury, traveled to join us for our conference and we received great training from her as well as headquarter updates.
Here is our group from New Zealand which includes our Area 70, Elder Robers, and our multi-stake directors Melanie, Eileen, Michael, and Jared.
We then flew to Melbourne, Australia for the main part of our conference where we brought in the National Directors from all the Pacific countries.  Elder Hamula, our Pacific Area President, started with a keynote address to begin our conference.

Our National DPAs shared some of their successes and challenges.
I gave a presentation on how to take publishable photos.
Jeff was asked to bear his testimony.
After our meetings one day a few of us took a drive to the temple grounds.
Melbourne, Australia Temple
We then flew to Sydney to have training with the Sydney multi-stake PA Council.
That day we ate lunch up in the Sky Tower.  The restaurant makes a full revolution every hour.
Even though is was a very dull and cloudy day, I took a few snaps from the Sky Tower.
The Sydney harbor is beautiful.  The Sky Tower in on the left.
Here is one of many photos I took of the Sydney Opera House.
After all our conference responsibilities were over, we took a couple of days to rest and recuperate.  One day we took an all day tour.  Our first stop was a wild life park.
We also visited the Blue Mountains.  This rock formation is called The Three Sisters.
Sydney, Australia Temple

We had a successful conference and a great experience associating with so many dedicated and talented saints and seeing a bit of Australia.