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, May 30, 2012

News from Church in New Caledonia

First New Caledonian Missionaries Reunited with Members 
On 27 May 2012 members and guests of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gathered at the Church's Riviere Salee meetinghouse to worship and celebrate the creation of the first stake of the Church in New Caledonia.

A Mormon stake is similar to a diocese in other Christian churches and comprises a number of wards (congregations) in a particular geographical location.

Among the guests in attendance were James A. Tatton and Lyle W. Parker, who traveled from their homes in the United States for this special occasion.

Tatton and Parker say they have had a tender love for New Caledonia and its people since 1969 when they became the first young missionaries of the Church to serve in the territory.
Now returning after over 40 years they are amazed at the growth of the Church and express how grateful they are to be reunited with Church members and friends they have remembered these many years.
Mr. and Mrs. Ngkwaig-Chow were especially anxious to visit with the former missionaries. They remembered meeting these men many years ago while they were serving as missionaries.  
While visiting together on the street in 1969, Tatton and Parker gave the young couple an historical book about Mormons. At that time the law restricted missionaries from preaching the gospel so after visiting for a few minutes they went their separate ways.  

First New Caledonian Missionaries 1

The Ngkwaig-Chows recall how impressed they were with these young men and say that "a seed was planted that day."  Six years later the law changed and two other missionaries knocked on their door.
The couple welcomed the teachings of the gospel and were soon baptized as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

They brought the book with them last Sunday to show the former missionaries how the book, the missionaries and the gospel of Jesus Christ had influenced their lives.

Last Sunday during the first conference of the newly-created Noumea New Caledonia Stake of the Church, Elder James J. Hamula, Pacific Area President, honoured Tatton and Parker.

He compared them to the young missionaries of today, saying, “You will see a difference in age, but you will not see a difference in dedication." "These missionaries represent the commitment of the Lord to New Caledonia. They represent all the missionaries who have come and made sacrifices in their lives to bring the gospel to the people of New Caledonia.”

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Elder Watson Joins Samoans in Marking Major Milestones

APIA, Samoa — Samoan Mormons are joining their friends and neighbours in marking the 50th anniversary of the Pacific island nation's independence. Celebrations will take place in June, but preparations have been ongoing for many months. 

Elder F. Michael Watson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' First Quorum of the Seventy and Pacific Area Presidency will travel to Samoa today for an extended visit. He will meet with Samoan Latter-day Saint leaders, members and missionaries as well as guests of the Church in various meetings.

The Church leader will preside at two stake conferences and will conduct a tour of the Samoa Apia Mission. He has visited Samoa several times previously.

"The people of Samoa are faithful, and want to serve the Lord," Elder Watson says. "This is an important year as Samoans celebrate 50 years of independence. It is also the 50th anniversary of the organization of the Church's first stake."

Monday, May 14, 2012

Life in Takapuna


I am usually so busy looking for a really great photo op that I forget to record everyday events and sights.  So this post is all about where we walk, and eat, and shop and do business in our little oceanside town of Takapuna:

My favorite little cafe, Tai Takapuna
Jeff standing in front of the Pacific Area office building.

 A little vegetable stand where we shop several times a week.

A little park we walk through on our way to lunch.
Coming out of the barber shop.
Despite the sign, this is where Jeff discovered he can buy Dr. Pepper.

Nando's, Jeff's favorite place for lunch and my favorite french fries with peri-peri seasoning.
A new Mexican cafe to try.
Favorite Chinese takeaway.
Pedestrians walk in all directions.
 Somethings always going on in Takapuna.
A stop at the bank.
Hurstmere, the main street.
Whenever we walk down Hurstmere St. at lunchtime this lady is always sitting at that table.  I think she has been there every time we have been there.

Eating lunch at our favorite Italian restaurant.
Women wear interesting outfits here.
Early morning view of Auckland from our flat.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mother's Day 2012

Jeff brought me flowers and made us a lovely roast dinner, one of our standard Sunday meals at home.  It looked funny to see a tiny roast, a bowl with just two potatoes and a handful of carrots.  Although we are enjoying this time together, it was also a reminder of how much we miss our Sunday family dinners with lots of food, family and fun, also a reminder of how blessed we are to have children who enjoy each others company and make time to be together. It was wonderful to talk to and/or receive emails from all our children.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

A Farewell Dinner

Three of our senior missionary couples who work out of the area office are leaving for home shortly.  This is their goodbye dinner.  Elder & Sister Burton, area doctor, Elder & Sister Starley, Executive Secretary to the Area Presidency, and Elder & Sister Rowe, In Field Representative, all have been wonderful missionaries and we will really miss them.  We will especially miss Elder & Sister Rowe who are our next door neighbors.  We wish them all well and look forward to having a reunion some time in the future.


A Change in the Pacific Area Director of Temporal Affairs

Recently we had a change in leadership at the Area Office.  Our current Director of Temporal Affairs, Paul Coward, has a new assignment to oversee the rebuilding of the Church College property in Hamilton.  Our new DTA is Elder Oaks.  We met him at a recent Devotional along with Elder Zwick, a member of the 70 visiting from SLC.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Assignment in Samoa

 Our Most Challenging Missionary Assignment So Far

Several months ago we were given the assignment to coordinate all aspects of a 3 day 'Law and Religion' Conference to take place in Samoa.  So before we knew it we were on our way to Samoa to meet with our team there and begin to coordinate our organizational efforts.  After about 9 days, we came back to New Zealand and continued our work via emails, and conference calls, then returned to Samoa for 10 additional days, to complete final arrangements and follow through with the conference.  Here was a part of our task list to oversee and complete with our team: design, print and send out invitations and informational flyer (take photos for flyer); advertise in local media; secure venue; prepare venue with traditional decorations, floral arrangements, etc.; set up for 150 people, seating, discussion tables, podium, head table, audio-visual equipment, name tags, place tags; hire caterer to provide food for 150 to include lunch, morning & afternoon 'teas' for 2 full days of conference, and arrange 2 special sit down dinners, including entertainment, for guest speakers and His Highness, Head of State of Samoa; make sure proper protocol is adhered to since His Highness will be attending and providing the key note address; coordinate hotel accommodations and flights for speakers coming from Europe, the United States, New Zealand, Tonga, Fiji and others; purchase gifts for speakers; arrange transportation from airport to hotel and from hotel to conference venue; coordinate program; collect and compile bios for all presenters and distinguished guests; print program and bios; prepare and distribute 150 packets with program and other conference information to attendees; be the go-to people to resolve problems, handle last minute tasks or requests; be the conference 'greeters' and 'gophers'; take photos of the event and follow up with articles for media.

And to add an additional challenge, we had to accomplish it all in a foreign country and culture that we don't understand, trying to learn the nuances and subtleties, and at times working with people with limited English skills, (although most Samoans in these academic circles speak excellent English).  PLUS, we had no previous skills or experience as event planners.  We compiled 'Run Sheets' and lists upon lists of all that needed to be done, and lived in fear that we would forget something important.  Luckily we had a group of people who were more than willing to help and advise.

And after a very long, exhausting and fulfilling 10 days, the result was a very successful event that  brought together influential leaders to meet, talk, and begin to bridge differences, something that has not happened in the past.   An immediate outcome of these efforts is that Elder Hamula has been invited to return to Samoa next week for additional one on one meetings with key people.

Why would the Church be involved in such an endeavor?  To get a great overview and without mentioning specific situations,  please read Elder Hamula's remarks in the previous post.

Here are a few of the hundreds of photos I took of where we were and who we were with:
This is Aggie Greys Hotel in Apia, Samoa, where we stayed along with all our out of country guests.  It is a hotel with a long history and has welcomed most of the distinguished visitors to Samoa for many years.  (This photo was taken just before sunset.)

Beautiful Lofi was our contact with the hotel, and she worked tirelessly to make sure our guests were met at the airport with leis, presented with gift fruit bowls in their rooms, and did everything to make sure we were comfortable and well taken care of.

One of two special dinners for our presenters and special guests.

Here is Elder Hamula visiting with His Highness, the Head of State and special guest at our dinners and the conference.

Our guests were fed well!

George Hunt, part of our Samoa Public Affairs team, and Elder McKinley, missionary from SLC whose assignment is to assist the Pacific area legal counsel.  He and Sister McKinley have an office close to ours.  He was excited to be in Samoa and have a chance to wear his lavalava!

The beautiful fale on the National University of Samoa campus where the conference was held. Jeff is checking out the venue and discussing what preparations needed to be done.

Part of every important event are beautiful floral arrangements of tropical flowers and ferns.

After speakers and conference attendees are present and in their places, His Highness, Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Ta'isi Efi, Samoa Head of State arrives with his body guard.

He is welcomed by a close friend and one of our Public Affairs representatives in Samoa, Tupuola Sola Siaosi Hunt, (who is a high ranking Matai (chief), and luckily for us, he goes by 'George'!)  His Highness is looking right at me while I am taking his picture and I was a bit nervous, half expecting his body guard to tell me that was not allowed, but he didn't.

Samoan protocol says that His Highness must have a special chair and table in the front where he can view the proceedings.  On the first day of the conference he brought his wife, and she is sitting in a similar chair just out of the left frame.  (As you can tell, the fale was a photographer's nightmare.  It was very dark on the inside, and very bright outside.  I couldn't use a flash, so most everyone is dark, and it didn't help that most were dark skinned as well.)

 His Highness reading his key note address.

Answering questions after his address.

Giving his closing remarks at the end of the conference.

And my favorite photo...............
His Highness
Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Ta'isi Efi

I turned around just in time to snap Jeff shaking hands with His Highness.

The media interviewing His Highness during a break.

Paul Morris, Professor of Inter-religious Understanding and Relations in NZ and the Pacific, Victoria University, NZ.

W. Cole Durham, Director, International Center for Law and Religion Studies, Brigham Young University.

Elder James J. Hamula, Pacific Area President, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

 'Aisea Taumoepeau, former Attorney General and Minister of Justice in Tonga, spoke about Tonga being A Christian country.  As part of his powerpoint presentation he talked about the following law in their country's constitution:

I found it fascinating that an entire country feels it is important to keep the Sabbath Day holy and that any agreement or contract entered into on a Sunday shall be null and void. 

Distinguished panel of local church leaders.  Taimalie Sapele Fa'alogo, President of the Pesega Samoa Stake, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is speaking on the right.

Letuimanu'asina Dr. Emma Kruse Va'ai, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, National University of Samoa.

Dr. Va'ai with Alisi and 'Aisea Taumoepeau, both are former Attorneys General and Ministers of Justice in Tonga.

Craig Christensen, area legal counsel for the Church, conference attendee, and Lynda Newland, Senior Lecturer, University of the South Pacific, Fiji.

Brenda Heather-Latu, former Attorney General of Samoa, and our legal consultant in Samoa.  She is not a member of the Church but her views on religious diversity and religious freedom coincides with what the Church is trying to accomplish.

Mark Moors, our National Director of Public Affairs in Samoa.

Chairman of the National Council of Churches in Samoa.  There are three main churches recognized in Samoa.  Many other churches have a presence there, but are not allowed in the Council.  Even though the LDS church membership is around 30% of the entire population, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not have representation on the Council.

Taufa Vakatale, former Deputy Prime Minister of Fiji. 
(she was so tiny you could hardly see her behind the podium.)

President Fa'alogo, Brenda Heather-Latu, and Jeff.

 Dr. Maureen Sier, Inter-faith Development Officer for the Equality Department of the Scottish Parliament.

Panel discussion with leaders of various churches with a presence in Samoa.

Discussion groups became animated as participants discussed opposing views of how to handle the diversity of religious beliefs in the Pacific.

There was time for presenters and attendees to mix and mingle and develop valuable relationships......

And a final comment.  This conference was attended by many influential religious leaders from Samoa and other countries.  In addition, the speakers and presenters were some of the most brilliant minds in the field of law and religion in their countries.  Yet we could not have pulled it all together and provide a platform to share and learn and begin to build relationships and bridges of understanding without our great Samoan team who handled all the logistics and made Jeff and I look like we knew what we were doing.  George Hunt, who is in several of the photos above, laid the groundwork with the influential people in order to make it possible.  And the person who worked tirelessly for days, taking care of every detail that we forgot, and even took several personal days off work to assist us is this beautiful and gracious young lady Motisha, here with her husband and supporter.  Thank you to Motisha, we could never have done this without her!!  We will never forget her dedication and willingness to help us, always with a smile on her face.   I will remember the many times she said, "Don't worry about that, I'll take care of it"....and she always did!!!

P.S.  After a few days to recover and recuperate, we will be back in the office preparing for another conference of a different type to be held in Melbourne, Australia!  Did we mention that missions are great fun???