Monday, 19 January 2015

Kia Ora, today is Tuesday, January 20, 2015.  We have been in New Zealand over two months.  Sometimes it seems like we have been here a lot longer than that!

I am going to blog about New Years and some things that have been going on during January.

Well the week between Christmas and New Years here at the Area Office is very quiet.  Almost everyone takes that whole week off so we had the office pretty much to ourselves.  We actually got quite a bit done.  The weather has been beautiful, cool in the evenings and nice around 75 during the day.

On Wednesday,, December 31st, New Years Eve, we worked most of the day but in the evening we went to Elder and Sister Brown's apartment for games, food and to watch the fireworks.  They live in Devonport on the 10th floor of an apartment building.  They have a beautiful view of the harbor and downtown Auckland.  At midnight they do the fireworks from the Sky Tower.

Looking from Brown's apartment window across the bay to Downtown Auckland.
We didn't arrive until dusk and it was fun to watch all the lights come on across the water.  It really is a very beautiful skyline.
Elder Beckkstead playing a Minute to Win It game.
Nada with pantyhose on her head trying to knock down all the plastic cups in less than a minute.  She did it in 45 seconds. 

Below they had a clock on the Sky Tower that we could barely see counting down the time.  Right at midnight the fireworks started off the deck on the 54th floor of the Sky Tower.  They were nice but only lasted about 10 minutes.  The 20 minute drive home took about 45!


On New Years Day, we drove down to Takapuna Beach.  Reed snorkeled and Nada walked along the beach for an hour.  It was so nice.

Later that day we went to an open house at Elder and Sister Winters for some snacks and to wish everyone a Happy New Year.  After that we took Elder and Sister Aland with us and we went to The Auckland Botanical Gardens.  Most of the gardens, parks, museums and beaches here in New Zealand are free and they are always busy.  They are very well taken care of it.

 Nada walking through the gardens.  We will have to make sure we go during Spring next time.  A lot of the trees and flowers were already finished flowering.
 We wished they had the types of plants labeled a little better with the common names.

 Very interesting tree.
 The rose garden was flowering.  There was this nice arbor and then they had quite a few different types,

Beautiful.  If it looks like this now after the main Spring blossoms have finished imagine how beautiful it must be during Spring Time!

On Friday, January 2, 2015 we packed a lunch and took Elder and Sister Winters with us to the Gannet Colony at Muriwai Beach.  It was very interesting.  These birds come to these rocks and lay their eggs about October.  After the eggs hatch and the birds get strong enough they head to Australia about February - March.  It was very interesting to watch them.

 We could see these cliffs from the path by the parking area.  All those white sports are birds.
 Reed and Nada on the trail to the Gannet Colony.  The black sand beach was very nice and the water was beautiful.
 There were so many birds.  Each had their own spot.
 Close up of the Gannet Bird.
 You can see the little fluffy babies.
 These two Gannet birds just kept playing with each others beaks.  It was interesting.  We don't know if they were mating or what.
 There were little caves all along the cliffs.
 Reed in his new wet suit that he got for Christmas.  The water here is not very warm.  He only went in for a few minutes.  He said the undercurrent was very strong.

 The water kept flowing in and out of these caves.  There were three of them there together. 
 The water was mostly out here in this cave Nada is standing in.  When the tide comes in you cannot get into these caves.

You can see the tide was starting to come in here.

 Sister Winters made this drawing in the sand.  It was a beautiful black sand beach.

On Saturday, January 3, 2015 we made a trip to the Hamilton Temple.  It takes about 1 hour and 45 minutes to get there.  The people come early so you usually need to be dressed and ready for the session about 45 minutes to an hour before it starts.  We had a nice session and decided to check out the town of Raglan for lunch.  We drove for about an hour and arrived in this little resort town on the West side of the North Island.  It was definitely a touristy place.  We ate lunch, walked around and then headed to Bridal Veil Falls. 

This is a picture of a hotel and restaurant in downtown Raglan.
 This is Bridal Veil Falls.  There is a place to take pictures from a lookout right at the top of the falls, then midway and then from the very bottom.  This is from the midway view
This is from the platform at the bottom of the falls.  The river running along into the falls is not very big or fast but it does create for a nice waterfall.  Reed climbing over the rail to get that perfect picture!

We went back to work and it was on full throttle.  Everyone was back by January 5th and we are starting to feel like we are moving forward.  We have written a handbook for our Education Specialist Missionaries to use and help give them direction.  It is kind of hard to develop a strategic plan and programs when we already have missionaries out there on the Islands serving and wanting to know what they need to do! 
Our mission is like going to work everyday 8 - 5 sometimes longer.  Then we have the weekend off which is when we shop, clean, go to The Temple and try to discover new places.

On Saturday, January 10th we cleaned and did some shopping then decided to go on a hike.  We hiked up to One Tree Hill.  It is where there is a monument erected by a British Officer  to honor a Maori Chief.  It was a volcano (there are 48 volcanic cones in the Auckland area) and where a main Pa, a fortified camp, of a Maori Tribe who lived and defended this area.  It is one of the best 360 degree views of the entire Auckland area. 

 This is the Pohutukawa Tree or more commonly called the New Zealand Christmas Tree.  It is mostly done flowering but the color and blossoms have been fantastic to watch bloom.

 One of the great views from the top of the hill.  One Tree Hill is the highest hill around the Auckland area.  There are numerous bays and harbors you can view from here. Everywhere you look there is water! 
 Reed and Nada from the monument area at the tope of One Tree Hill.  We packed a lunch and ate it while we were enjoying the view.
This is the monument erected in honor of the Maori Tribe at the top of the hill.  It was a beautiful day for a hike and a little Maori history! 
On Monday, January 12, 2015 it was our turn to host FHE for all the senior missionaries serving in the Auckland Mission.  Reed did a lesson about the history of the saints in Samoa and what we did on our last mission and what our new mission is all about.  It went very well.  When you are in charge of FHE you also prepare a light supper for everyone since we have it at the Area Office conference room and it begins at 5:15.  Nada fixed a chicken pasta salad, rolls, fruit and oatmeal no bake cookies.  It was a success!  We served 35 people and had a great time. 

The picture to the left is the break room at the Area Office and where we have the light supper after the FHE lesson.  Nada and Sister Aland setting the tables.  When you host you do the meal and supply all the paper goods as well. 
On Saturday the 17th of January it was Stake Temple Day and since we work with our Stake President we thought we better go.  We arrived at the Temple at 7:45 and the chapel was already full for the 8:30 session.  People stood around until they took us to the session.  There were 180 people in that session.  Reed said he figured the room with the balcony could have held about 10 more people.  It is great to see these faithful saints in the Temple.  We visited a museum in Hamilton, had lunch with a couple we met on the street who were members, Julia and Eric Wilcox. It is amazing how many people recognize that missionary badge and stop you on the streets to talk and shake hands.  We then visited the Hamilton Gardens.  They were very different and we did not have our camera, if you can believe it.  We will have to go again and we will share pictures then.

We are happy and busy.  The Gospel is True.  We are grateful to be able to serve a mission here in New Zealand and help the Lord's Work continue to move forward.  Until next time.  Elder and Sister Spencer aka Reed and Nada


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