Tuesday, 24 March 2015

March 2015 - Principal and ITEP Conference

I am going to post about the ITEP and Principals Conference we had here at the Area Office from Tuesday March 3rd until Friday, March 6, 2015.

As some of you may know, Elder Spencer and I are going to be doing two missions for the next few months.  Elder and Sister Aland, the ITEP Area Coordinating couple, left on the 14th of March due to health reasons.  There is not a new couple called yet to replace them.  Bruce Yerman talked to us and then Paul Reid and President Pearson and asked if we could help ITEP with this calling as well as our other mission Education Missionary Specialist Coordinating Couple until S&I can get a new couple for ITEP here in Auckland.  Luckily we know about ITEP and were able to have them show us their responsibilities so it should be a smooth transition.  That is why we were so involved with the principals conference this year.

Reed on our balcony carving little boats to use as centrepieces on the food tables for the principals conference.  Below is the finished product.  The Theme was Embark so that is why the boats and sails.

 We arrived early in the morning on Tuesday, March 3rd and made sure the room was all set up.  For each day we had a different theme, heart, might, mind and strength.  For heart we gave everyone a pedometer and had them keep track of their steps for a treat.  This is to encourage them to keep their hearts healthy.  At each persons place we had a notebook, pen, agenda, cup with nuts, pedometer, agenda bag of chocolate hearts and name tag.
 A carver from Tonga carved everyone a necklace from whale bone that is the shape of a boat like the boat on the flag in the picture above.and they are inside this tapa bag that his wife made.  They were beautiful.  Quite a treasure and wonderful memory of this conference.
Sister Spencer and Elder Aland getting the toast made for the breakfast crowd.  We fed them breakfast and lunch every day and then they were on their own for dinner.  Breakfast was from 7:30 until 8:15 a.m.
Each morning a different principal was assigned to share examples of what was going on in their school with each of the four areas. Tuesday was heart, Wednesday was might, Thursday was mind and Friday was strength.  Then we had a bagged treat that went with that topic each day.  It was great how everything tied together. Ora, our S & I Human Resource person made these boats.

 The conference began at 8:20 a.m. every morning with a devotional. Mika Lola, principal from Pesega Middle School in Samoa was in charge of the first devotional.
 Elder Pearson our Pacific Area President and his wife.  He talked about heart, education, spiritual and temporal self-reliance.  He said you cannot exercise Agency and Ignorance!   Did a great job.  We love listening to him speak.
The principals and area leaders all sat at tables in a U shape up front and all the ITEP couples sat at tables behind them.  The ITEP couples would break out for some of their own sessions. 

Bruce Yerman asked Reed to present what the Education Initiative is all about so the principals are aware of what we are trying to accomplish here in the Pacific Area with our mission.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015 we started at 7:00 a.m. helping Ora get breakfast for all 44 attendees and get all the tables set up with the days treat, might!  They were little candy building blocks.

Ameet Kumar, the new Area TVET Director, was conducting the conference for the day.  It is nice to have him in the Area Office.  The last TVET Director was stationed in Australia so it was a little harder to deal on a daily basis with him.  The green coat is actually Bruce Yermans and was given to him by Liahona High School in Tonga.  Green is one of the school colors.  It is that big on Bruce as well.

After lunch, Sister Spencer was in charge of doing a fun little thing about might.  She called up Michael Carthew, principal in Fiji and Elder Wood to have a sword fight.  They put on eye patches and had a fight like pirates to go along with the embark theme.  They were both the top people with steps on their pedometers so Sister Aland said they might duel for the winner.  They really hammed it up.  It gave everyone a good laugh.

 Michael on the left and Elder Wood on the right.  Elder Wood ended up breaking his sword because he was having too much fun.

On Wednesday afternoon Elder Spencer reviewed all the Literacy Challenges we had introduced in 2013.  Some of the schools are doing pretty well on some of them but he really focused on the writing part this time.  Some of the ITEP couples were not very familiar with them and so it was a great information gathering time for them. This will continue to be a focus in the church schools in the years to come.

Thursday, March 5, 2015 we arrived at 7:00 a.m. again to help with breakfast and get the room set up for the day.  Today we all wore casual clothes because we are going on a field trip.  We had Elder Gifford Nielsen, second counsellor in our Area Presidency, speak to us about covenants.  It felt a little uncomfortable to be dressed casually while listening to a General Authority speak.  He had given us permission so everyone did not have to change clothes and worry about that at noon.

We all grabbed a sack lunch and headed to the bus we rented to take us to downtown Auckland.  We walked a short distance to the Maritime Museum.  We ate lunch then half of us went onto the boat called the Hikianalla which is a teaching boat and they gather information while sailing from New Zealand back to Hawaii. You can see the solar panels and data gathering device on the end.  It was interesting.  Not real big for that kind of distance.

The other half sat through a film talking about the museum and a history of how the first Maoris came to New Zealand.  Then we switched places.

We then took everyone onto a sail boat called the Ted Ashby.  The sails were being repaired so we only got to go under motor power but it was still fun.  We sailed out and under the Auckland Bridge in the Auckland Harbour.  We were on the water for a little over an hour.  Everyone had a great time.

 The boat with the white hull is the Ted Ashby which is the boat we went out into the harbour on.

 There are over 2000 sail boats and yachts moored here and it is only one spot in the bay.  No wonder it is called the city of sails.  The beautiful skyline of Auckland in the background with the Sky City Tower standing above all the other buildings.

 This is the Auckland bridge.  They bungee jump off of the tower on the right side of this picture.  Just beautiful with the sailboats in the foreground.  We have to cross this bridge every time we leave the North Shore which is at least every time we go to church or into town.  During rush hour traffic it is very congested even though there are 8 lanes of traffic.

This is a Russian Yacht.  It has been in the harbour for a few weeks.  The guys sailing on the Ted Ashby, the boat we were on, said they thought it was the biggest yacht in the world.  It has two helipads and a place underneath like a garage that holds another boat.  It has 52 crew members.

 Above left is the principal from Moroni High School in Kiribati.  She is standing in front of a ship that was made in Kiribati and sailed here to New Zealand.  Above left is a small canoe.  They must have just sat on the top because the inside is barely wide enough for a leg.  Sister Spencer walking over the bridge to go see the Volvo Ocean Race boats.  They were not here on Saturday so we wanted to see what they looked like.

These are the six Volvo Ocean Race boats.  They are painting them and doing repairs before they start the next leg of their race.  We thought they would be much bigger.

 Friday morning, March 6, 2015 we began the last day of the conference with a Kava ceremony conducted by the four principals from Samoa.  Real Kava contains a drug and the brethren have asked them to stop using it.  The Kava ceremony is performed by a Matai (chief) and usually his daughter (Taupo) mixes the drink and they give it to honoured guests.  Those receiving the kava express some sort of gratitude, take a drink and then it is passed on to someone else.  They used apple juice this morning.
 Reed was chosen to represent all the missionaries by receiving the cup of apple juice and expressing his thanks to those who attended and participated.
 The ITEP couples showered Elder and Sister Aland with small gifts.  Most of them were very simple but held some kind of memory they shared with them when they visited them on their islands.  Here Elder and Sister Sumner's gift was a song he wrote to the tune of Book of Mormon stories and we all sang it for them.  It was a very nice tribute.

Bruce is leaving the Pacific at the end of this year so the principals showered him this last day of the conference.  It was very kind and endearing.  This is the Tongan group presenting him with gifts.  It is very much the Polynesian way.  They are so thoughtful and caring.

It was a great ITEP and Principals Conference.  Since we will be working with all of these couples and principals it was very nice to meet them all face to face and get to know them.  It helps to know the personalities behind the emails and names.  We are so grateful for all the work these principals and missionaries do for the people on the Islands.  We love these people and want so much for them to be successful and grow stronger in the Gospel.

After the conference ended at noon some hurried to catch shuttles to make their flights.  The Tongan principals wanted to go shopping.  Nada went along to get to know them better.  Oh my, little did she know it was going to be a marathon.  Six hours later and the back of the van full of pans, appliances and food we dropped them off at their hotel and she went home where Elder Spencer was waiting and crashed.  It is nice when the thing you have worked so hard on comes together so well.  We will enjoy having a break.

We are so blessed.  It is amazing how many wonderful experiences we are having.  The Gospel of Jesus Christ is true and we are grateful to be part of the hastening.  We love you all.  May The Lord watch over each and everyone of us.  Take care until next time.  Elder and Sister Spencer (Reed and Nada)

Thursday, 19 March 2015

March 2015 - All about the visit from Elder Bednar and Chinese New Year!

I am going to try to catch up on some of our blogging.  We have had a little more breathing room these last two days so I am using it wisely before all the business returns.

We were so blessed to have Elder Bednar here from Tuesday, February 24 through Thursday, February 26, 2015.   We were able to attend a meeting where he spoke with all the missionaries in the New Zealand Auckland and New Zealand Hamilton Missions.  We were all asked to arrive one hour early and then he was about 20 minutes late because of speaking at the MTC.  This meeting was at the Chapel adjacent to the New Zealand MTC.

The parking lot was full of Toyota cars.  All the missionaries came in their own cars from the Hamilton Mission.

This is looking from the Chapel to the New Zealand MTC.  We assume these flags are of the countries where these missionaries who train here go to serve.

Before the meeting started we found Nada's nephew Elder Jeffrey Barker.  He is serving in the New Zealand Hamilton Mission so it was fun to be together and visit for a few minutes.  He is happy, busy, healthy and doing a great job.  It is great to see these young missionaries so excited to be in the presence of a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles!

Elder Barker on the right and his companion Elder Gutke
Elder Spencer, Elder Barker and Sister Spencer.  He is a great young missionary.  We sent these pictures to his parents so they could see how good he looks.

While we were waiting for Elder Bednar to arrive, Reed asked permission and went up and took pictures of all the missionaries in attendance.

Reed is on the stand and taking a picture of all the people in attendance.  You can see the chapel is full of young missionaries into the cultural hall and the senior missionaries are sitting in the very back of the cultural hall.

The picture to the right is all the missionaries from the Hamilton Mission.

The missionaries on the left are all the missionaries from the Auckland Mission.  They divided the chapel right down the middle.  The young missionaries were having a great time acquainting themselves with each other.  This chapel is actually in the Hamilton Mission.  Right across the street the Auckland Mission boundaries begin.
Elder Bednar is a great teacher.  He had asked the missionaries to read four articles before this meeting and then proceeded to ask them questions about what they learned and how they felt.  Then he opened it up for questions from them.  He had his wife, Elder and Sister Robbins and himself answer the different questions.  He was trying to help us all understand that The Holy Ghost is the teacher.  We all learn differently and The Holy Ghost helps us understand what we need to know.
We were able to hear him speak again on Wednesday evening, via satellite to all the stake centers throughout New Zealand.  We could have been in the Redoubt Chapel where he was but we didn't want to fight all the traffic so we went to a closer Chapel.  Again, he had members read some articles and that is what he discussed and asked questions to the audience.  He also let them ask him and other leaders from the Area Presidency questions.

Thursday, February 26, 2015 Elder Bednar came to the Area Office to hold a special devotional.  We were sitting right up front.  It was broadcast to all the service centers throughout the Pacific but we were blessed to be in the same room.  This time he spoke to us about Joseph Smith being a true Prophet and the translation of the Book of Mormon.  He told us to read it and let The Holy Ghost bear testimony of its truthfulness.  He also told us to buckle up because the hastening of the Lord's Work is here and it is His work, not the brethrens.   Really inspiring!  When the meeting finished, the whole Area Presidency and their wives, Elder and Sister Bednar and Elder and Sister Robbins lined up and we all walked past and shook hands.  It is always a wonderful feeling and blessing to be able to shake an Apostles hand!  This was a very spiritual week!

Friday and Saturday, Nada helped Sister Aland get things ready for the principals conference that will begin on Tuesday. 

Elder and Sister Winters and Sister Spencer.  They are the Humanitarian Missionaries and we are all in the same office.  Sister Winters fell and broke her wrist in two places. 

On Saturday, February 28th, we took the ferry over to Auckland to see the boats from the Volvo Ocean Race.  There were tents and all kinds of booths and make shift buildings for this event.  However, none of the boats were in yet because the wind had died done and they wouldn't be into port until after midnight.  It was fun to be among all the excitement and advertising anyways.

 They had big displays and exhibition tents all over the wharf.  They are brining the boats in for repairs and so the crews can rest.  They have a tent set up for each crew.

 We decided to take our picture in this frame with the city of Auckland behind us.  Elder and Sister Aland, Sister and Elder Spencer.
There were a lot of people on the wharf today.

We walked through downtown Auckland to find an eating place called Elliot Stables.  They use to be horse stables and they have turned them into an upscale food court.  Bruce Yerman wanted us to check it out to take all the principals to next week.  There were some very nice restaurants there.  We ate at a Venezuelan restaurant.  It was very delicious.  The owner squeezed us fresh lemonade which was wonderful.  It was a very warm day and we had been doing a lot of walking so it was very refreshing.  We ordered a dish called Holy Guacamole.  It was almost too much for four of us to eat!

We walked up to Albert Park to check out the Chinese Lantern Festival.  It was a little early and you could not see all the lights on yet but we were tired and didn't want to stay much later.  As we were leaving there were lots of people coming.  We were able to enjoy it without all the crazy crowd.

 These are watermelon lanterns.  They were very colorful
 They had lanterns that were figurines, dolls, fish, all kinds of animals.  The whole park was covered in lanterns.

They had different colors and kind of dragons.  They were at the entrances.
You can see that it is starting to get a little darker because you can see the lights in the swans and fish.

These fish lanterns were very cute.  They were all quite large .  Next year we will have to go later in the day so we're not so tired and want to stay until dark.

They had different people demonstrating and selling their art.  This man is cutting these paper designs like snowflakes but much more intricate.  They had different performances. It was quite the festival celebrating Chinese New Years!  Sunday night they had fireworks to celebrate the last day of Chinese New Years.  They shot them from the Sky City  Tower.  Reed took pictures from our apartment.  Not quite as close as from Brown's apartment on New Year's Eve but you could still see them.

Well, another busy and enjoyable week.  We had spiritual highs, a lot of work, enjoyed time with good friends and learning about other cultures.  We hope you enjoy sharing some of our experiences and it encourages some of you to serve a mission.  There is so much to do and learn.  We love you all.  Until next time.
Elder and Sister Spencer (Reed and Nada)