Sunday, 31 January 2016

Tuesday, January 19, 2016. 

These are some of the plants on our deck.  You can see how sad our tomato plant is.  We are keeping it barely alive so we can harvest the 12 tomatoes off of it.  We think it is just too hot and windy for it.                                
We are headed to Sydney Australia.  We flew into Sydney and Elder Johnny Leota picked us up.  He is the Self-Reliance Manager for Sydney and Melbourne.  He was our Mission President when we served in Samoa.  He is also the Area Seventy for Sydney.  It was so good to see him.  He took us to temple housing which is where we are going to stay for the week.  It used to be a motel and the Church bought it.  It was fine.  After we checked in he took us to lunch and then we went to the Service Center to meet people and pick up a van that we would drive while we were there.

We met Elder and Sister Myers and Elder and Sister Jose at the rooms.  They are our Self-Reliance and Education Specialist Missionaries from Melbourne.  He flew them up so we could train all of them at the same time.

These are the rooms at Temple Housing.  Elder and Sister Myers getting into the van we used while in Sydney.

We all met at the Self-Reliance Center to head to the Villawood chapel to do a two hour leadership training on the Pacific Area Education Initiative.

Wednesday morning we headed to Hebersham chapel and spoke to a  group of mums from 10:00 a.m. to noon.  A YM/YW group from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. and a YSA group from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m.  I did not take any pictures.  On Thursday we did the same schedule at Prairiewood chapel.  I introduced us and bore my testimony then Reed did all the training.  He was pretty exhausted each night.  To the left is the group of mums.  We had 70 women there and about 50 children that we provided a nursery for.  I held a one year old boy most of the time.  He was so cute and loving.  It gave me my grandma fix.                                                                                                                                                     
Below is the YM/YW group at the Prairiewood chapel.  We had over 50 youth attend.  We felt pretty good about that since it was in the middle of the afternoon on a week day during Summer break.

Reed presenting during the afternoon
Thursday evening YSA group.  The twins on the front row are both nurses and both returned missionaries.  They had come to a couple of trainings.  They were a lot of fun and we spent a lot of time talking with them. 
By the time the YSA meeting started Thursday night we had 50 there.  They were very responsive and a lot of them talked to us after we finished.  We went home very tired that night.  Reed did a great job.

Friday we spent the day at the Self-Reliance Center training the four couples and discussing next steps.  We all went to the 5:00 o'clock session at the Sydney Temple together.  It was very nice.  We saw Sister Mauga, a single sister we served with in Samoa working at the Temple.  It was so nice to see her.  We did not take any pictures of the Temple.  We were just so busy.

Saturday, January 23, 2016.  Elder Leota gave us all the day off and we headed to the Blue Mountains.  It was about an hour and a half drive to Scenic World where they have a gondola, tram and train you can ride to different views and hiking trails.

A view of the Blue Mountains from the aerial tram ride.

The cliffs had quite a bit of red in them.  There are a lot of Blue Gum trees here, that is why they are called the Blue Mountains.
Reed and Nada standing in front of the Katoomba Cascade Falls.
This is called a Rough Tree Fern.  They are a little taller and the bark much rougher than the tree ferns here in New Zealand.  This was a beautiful hike.
In the Blue Mountains they have these formations they call the Three Sisters.  You cannot get right up to them.

This is a Cockatoo.  He did not come any closer.  I saw some others really close up but I did not have the camera.
They call this rock formation Orphan Rock.
We road the tram one way and then hiked back to the main building.
 A Blue Gum loosing its bark.
The group deciding which trail we wanted to take back.

Riding the steepest train in the world.
A better view of the Three Sisters

This is the track for the train.  It went through a tunnel.  You can see the track coming out of the tunnel.
The Blue Gum trees are so pretty.  The air smells different here because of all the eucalyptus trees.
This is the cable for the gondola ride.  We rode the train down, hiked around the bottom trails and then took the gondola back up to the gift shop.
 A close shot of Orphan Rock.
We took the aerial tram back over to the other side so we could get a better shot of Katoomba Falls.

We had a really great time.  The temperature was perfect and the Blue Mountains were beautiful.  We headed back to Sydney and stopped in the town called Katoomba for lunch.  It was a nice small town.

Katoomba town center.

We then drove to the town of Leura.  This was a very quaint tourist town.  We walked in and out of all the little shops and just enjoyed site seeing.  We really had a great day.  Reed lost his wallet in this little town.  We did not realize it until Sunday morning.  The lady in the shop where he dropped it found it.  She tried to call us from our business card in the wallet but our phone was dead.  She is not a member but called the local LDS Bishop and he called Elder and Sister Elliss.  We were able to have Elder and Sister Dinger that were going to Leura for meetings pick it up and return it to us.  Nothing was missing.  We felt truly blessed.  We were so thankful to Wendy who went out of her way to find us and return the wallet to us.  Heavenly Father does answer prayers and there are still a lot of very good people out there.
Reed, Nada, Elder & Sister Elliss, Sister & Elder Mackay, (both serving in Sydney) Sister & Elder Myers, Sister & Elder Jose, (both serving in Melbourne) Sister & Elder Leota. 

Reed, Nada, Betty and Johnny Leota.  They invited all of us to their home for dinner.  We really enjoyed being in their home and the food was very delicious.  Reed and I spoke in three different sacrament meetings and then did a two hour leadership meeting Sunday evening, January 24, 2016.  It was our last day in Sydney. 
Below is a picture of a Lorikeet.  He and another one just sat in this tree by the stairs going to our room for a long time.  We stood there talking to them and taking pictures and they never flew off.  There are so many beautiful birds in Australia.
At temple housing you have to clean your own room.  They give you fresh sheets and towels and then you clean the room and leave it ready for the next patrons. 

Elder Leota picked us up at 6:30 a.m. Monday the 25th of January and we headed to the airport.  We arrived back in Auckland at 4:00 p.m.  It was a great week.  We worked really hard while we were in Sydney but felt very good about it.  We felt like those missionaries now understand how to train and work on the Education Initiative.  We had Church Service Missionaries attend a couple of the trainings and some of the Self-Reliance Specialists attended as well.  They can move forward now and hopefully be able to help their people help each other.  The leaders who attended the trainings and the Sacrament Meetings talked to us and to the other missionaries and asked how they could get things started.  If they get started helping their ward members and own families our trip will be well worth it.

We are so grateful for this opportunity and all the other opportunities we have to help the good work move forward.  We feel so blessed and know that Heavenly Father is watching over us.  Reed's wallet being found and returned was a miracle for us.  We felt the promptings of the Holy Ghost over and over during the training sessions and while we were speaking during the Sacrament Meetings.  
We hope you enjoyed reading about our visit to Sydney Australia.  We are well and busy doing what we can to help the good people here in the Pacific move forward with education, training and becoming self-reliant. 
We love you all, until next time.  Love Elder and Sister Spencer (aka Reed and Nada)

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Thursday, January 7, 2016

We attended a meeting today with President and Sister Tanne,r he is the President of  BYU Hawaii, and one of his Vice-President's Debbie and Janie from Admissions.

We were able to ask them all the questions we had and some very good discussions came out of it.  They really are trying to get more Pacific Island students attending BYUH and wanted to know how they could help them be more successful while attending school.

After lunch President and Sister Tanner wanted to tour around a bit.  Paul Reid talked to Reed (Elder Spencer) about places to see.  By the time Reed had finished telling him different places Paul said he had never been to any of them himself and would we be willing to be their tour guides?

Of course we would love to spend some time showing them this beautiful country.
 It was very nice to get to know them on a more personal level.  She was the General Young Women President from 2002 to 2007.  She talked to us about how she was called.  Very nice and personable people.

We took them to Muriwai Beach to see the Gannett Colony.  It was a little cool but not bad.

There were a lot of baby birds here and most of them are as big as their mothers.

The babies still are very fluffy and are black speckled.

Nada, Sister Tanner and President Tanner with the Tasman Sea and Gannetts in the background.

It seemed like almost every pair of birds had a baby.

We then took them to Parrys Kauri Park.  This is the McKinney Kauri and is 800 years old.  They were very awed.

This Kauri is only 600 years old and about 80 yards from the McKinney Kauri.

We had a very nice four hours with them.  We returned them shortly after six to the Spencer Hotel to have dinner with Elder and Sister Pearson and Elder and Sister Haleck.  We felt a little bad because they were supposed to meet them at 6:00 p.m. and we didn't get them back until 6:08 but we did let President Pearson know we would be a little late and things worked out fine. 

Another blessing of serving here at the Pacific area Office.  We have been able to meet and spend time with many leaders that we would not normally meet or if we did meet them it would be very briefly. 

The time of year here in New Zealand should be Summer but we have had a lot of cool, windy, rainy days.  Hopefully it will be Summer soon.  We love the days when it is sunny and in the high 70"s low 80's and not humid.  That is very nice.

On Saturday the 16th of January we took Elder and Sister Wilkins with us to Whatipu Beach.  This is in the Waitakere but further South.  It is a beautiful drive and the beach goes on forever.  The weather was fantastic, sunny, warm and a light breeze.  It was a very good Summer day!  Reed snorkelled but really didn't see much of anything.  The water to walk in was a little warmer than it has been.  We walked the beach for over an hour and never saw an end in site.  This beach goes on forever.  Beautiful sand and not too wild of waves.

When the tide is in you cannot get to this piece of land.  It becomes a little island.  There is a light house here but you cannot hike up to it.  They have it fenced off.  Nada was looking for a trail but could not find one.

A lot of people were out fishing today.  We saw one man catch a pretty good sized fish.

We had a nice picnic, visited and headed back home.  Reed and I had to attend Saturday night meeting for Stake Conference.  Our old Mission President is now an Area Seventy, Johnny Leota, and he spoke along with Elder Neilsen a member of our Area Presidency and he is a member of the First Quorum of Seventy.  They both did a great job and it was nice to visit with them for a few minutes after.

On Sunday we attended Stake Conference for our Stake, the Manukau Stake.  They are reorganizing our Stake Presidency.  The current Stake President has been called to be the Mission President for Tonga.  The new Stake President is our YSA Auckland 1st Ward Bishop so we are excited and sad at the same time.  He will be a fantastic Stake President but we will really miss working with him so closely in the YSA Ward.  Some of the YSA were in tears.

We have had a busy and good 2016 so far.  We have been working with the Area Self-Reliance Team to write a 5 year plan.  We love the Gospel and love working at the Pacific Area Office.  We are so grateful for all the missionaries we get to work with in Self-Reliance and the Education Initiative out there helping move the good work forward.

Until next time, Love Elder and Sister Spencer (aka Reed and Nada)


December 31, 2015

Reed and I decided to go into work today.  We missed having Trevor and Nichole here when we got up.  It was a little more quiet and lonely.

There were only a few of us in the whole Area Office working today.  We worked until 4:00 p.m. and then headed home.

We went to a nice Thai restaurant for dinner with the Winter's, Whidden's and Henderson's.  We went home for a while and then we picked up Elder and Sister Henderson at 8:45 p.m. and headed over to Devonport to play games and watch fireworks from Elder and Sister Olsen's apartment.  We were the only ones that showed up until about 10:00 p.m. when Brent and Debbie Buckner arrived.  We played Catch Phrase and ate some finger foods.  We watched the fireworks go off the Sky Tower at midnight and it only lasted about 5 minutes.  Happy New Year 2016!  It took us 1 hour and 20 minutes to drive back to our flats which usually takes about 20 minutes. 

The sunset as we headed to the Olsen's flat in Devonport.  They live in the building you can see to your right on the 10th floor with a great view of downtown Auckland and the Harbour Bridge.

View of the Harbour Bridge from their flat.
Fireworks that they shot off the Sky Tower at midnight to welcome in 2016.
Happy New Year 2016.

It is hard to believe that 2015 is all over and a new year has begun. 

We had a lot of wonderful experiences during 2015 and some very difficult and sad times.  Loosing three siblings in one year has been part of the challenges we have had to face during our mission. We are so grateful for each of them, Lynne, Paul and DeLeuw.  We love them and miss them but are so grateful to know that we will see them again one day.  That death is not the end.  That families are Eternal!

We were blessed to have Christy, Devree, Trevor and Nichole come and spend time with us and share in our mission experiences.  That was definitely a highlight. 

We were blessed to visit our dear friends in Samoa twice and visit the beautiful country of Tonga as we helped our missionaries and the schools in those two countries.  We were also able to visit Brisbane, Australia and work with a wonderful Self-Reliance Manager, Carl Maurer, Elder and Sister Johnson and many other wonderful missionaries and leaders there.

We have been able to meet so many new and interesting people.  We have attended weddings, gone to the Temple with some of our YSA, participated in many celebrations and had many new cultural experiences.  We are blessed to be in meetings and be taught by our Area Presidency on a regular basis.

We are healthy, happy and so grateful for all we have.  We know The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true and we love being part of the great missionary force helping the work to move forward.

We love you all and hope all of us have a wonderful and prosperous 2016.   Until next time.

Love Elder and Sister Spencer (aka Reed and Nada)

Thursday, December 24, 2015, Christmas Eve. 

Trevor, Nichole, Reed and I headed over to the Area Office so they could see where we work and meet some of the people we work with.  We then headed North to Parry's Kauri Park.

Nichole's grandparents had served a mission here many years ago and so there were certain things she wanted to see.  They wanted to see a Kauri tree so this is a great one to see.  It is over 800 years old called the McKinney Kauri. 
 A great shot of a Silver Fern.

 We headed farther North and the holiday traffic was horrible.  It also rained harder than it has the whole time we have lived in New Zealand.  We headed to Matakohe to visit the Kauri Museum. Reed forgot to put the battery back into his camera so we only had Trevors.  The furniture and pieces of Kauri in this museum are fabulous.

Trevor and Nichole sitting in the carved out trunk of a Kauri tree.
We then headed back towards Takapuna and detoured over to Muriwai Beach to see the Tasman Sea and the Gannett Colony.  It kept lightly raining on us but we enjoyed ourselves anyway.
The baby birds have hatched and are growing.  They are very fuzzy and have quite a bit of black on them.

We had a really nice day even though it was a little cool and rainy.  We headed home and stopped at Carl's Junior for dinner.  Not a very fancy Christmas Eve dinner but we were tired and hungry and we did not want to go home and cook.

We went home, talked for a while, got Christmas all out and headed to bed.

December 25, 2015.  Merry Christmas.  When Nada opened the bedroom door there was this crashing noise.  Trevor had decided to reverse roles and he did traps for us.  We were truly surprised.

Trevor had stacked up Reed's wood that he is going to carve with and tied ribbon to them.  He tied the ribbon onto our bedroom door handle so when I opened the door they all tumbled over.  When he heard the noise he yelled at us to go back to bed.  It was fun.
Trevor, Nichole and Nada waiting to open gifts.  Nada is trying to connect with Chrisyt so we can open the gifts from her.
Reed passing out the gifts Christmas morning.
Trevor and Nichole opening some gifts Christmas morning.

I got up and  made our breakfast casserole and had it cooking while we opened gifts and called all the other kids while we opened the gifts from them.  It was so nice to have Trevor and Nichole here with us and not be all alone.

After breakfast we got ready for the day and headed to the Waitakere.  First stop Karekare Waterfall.  You can see the Pohutukawa are blossoming and the red is so vibrant.  This year they did not blossom as much as they did last year during Christmas time.
Nada, Trevor and Nichole at Karekare Waterfall.  There were quite a few people out hiking and enjoying the sun as we were for Christmas.
We hiked down to Karekare Beach.  This was the view along the trail.
Walking along the beach.  Once we got our feet wet the water was not so cold.
Next stop Kitekite Waterfall.  It is about a 25 minute walk/hike to these falls.  You can see the falls off to Trevor's right.

Below Reed and Nada in front of Kitekite Waterfall.  There were quite a few people in the pool at the bottom of the falls today.  It had warmed up quite a bit.

Reed and Nada with Kitekite waterfall in the background.  It was much warmer today.
We hiked out a different way than we went in.  We were glad we went in the other way because there are over 200 steps here and going down is much easier than going up.  It is a beautiful hike.
Last stop of the day was Piha Beach.  We walked along the beach and the tide was way out.  We went to the side of the beach that has always been blocked when we have been there by rocks and water.  There was a cave over there that went all the way out to the ocean.  It was fun.  There were a lot of starfish along the walls and other sea creatures.
Reed went out into the ocean and had us stand in the cave and took our picture with the beach on the other side.  The waves were starting to come in a little farther each time.

Above is Reed, Nada, Nichole and Trevor standing on a ledge we hiked to with the Tasman Sea behind us.  It was a beautiful day to be at the beach.  Here in New Zealand, on Christmas day families meet together and eat but a lot of families go to the beaches together.

We had a wonderful Christmas Day, hiking and enjoying the Tasman Sea.  We headed home to a very nice Christmas ham dinner I had put in the crockpot before we left.

Christmas 2015 in New Zealand was a wonderful day made even better because we had Trevor and Nichole with us and we were able to talk to each of our other children and grandchildren and Reed was able to talk to his Mom.  We are grateful for the birth, life and Atonement of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Saturday, December 26, 2015, Boxing Day.  We got up and called all the kids and watched them open gifts from us because today is Christmas Day in Utah.  Then we packed a lunch and headed to Cathedral Cove.  We met the Ahokava's and Tracy, Connor and Marly.  They had never been there.
Reed and Connor getting ready to swim.
We hiked down to Cathedral Cove.  Trevor and Nichole getting their feet wet.  It was a gorgeous day and lots of people were enjoying the beach and the water.
Trevor and Nichole on the other side of the cave.  It is so beautiful here.
 Everybody having a food break.
Reed and Paea coming out of the water after a dip.  Reed kept at Paea until he finally went in with all his clothes on.
We enjoyed our time.  Getting ready to leave.  Nada with a sail boat going past in the Pacific Ocean.
Looking back down as we are hiking out.
You can see how many cars are parked.  Some of them, including us, illegally.  They made a killing on parking tickets, $60 each, that day.  We had a great day.  It is about a two and a half hour drive out to Cathedral Cove but the scenery all the way and the hike and cove when you get there are well worth it.  We were glad to spend time with Paea, Lola, Tracy, Connor, Marly, Trevor and Nichole.  We think this is such a beautiful place and were excited to share the day and sites with them.

Sunday, December 27, 2015, we actually slept in a little bit.  We packed and headed a little early to church.  We stopped at One Tree Hill so Trevor and Nichole could get a great 360 degree view of Auckland and all the surrounding area.
Trevor and Nichole got a little sunburned yesterday.

After church we headed to Lake Taupo to spend a couple of days. 
Monday, December 28th we got up and headed to the wharf at Lake Taupo.  We took this boat out for a two hour ride on the lake to see the Maori carvings.
Reed enjoying being in the front of the boat.  He loves being on the water.
The carvings were done in the 1980's by some local artists.

Reed really wanted to be on a sail boat but by the time we decided to go out on the lake the sail boat was all booked out.  We had a great time anyway.

We left the lake and headed to Aratiatia Dam to watch them release the water to create the rapids
We watched from the dam then hurried to the lookout down the river to watch the rapids.  It really is a powerful site.
You can see the dam in the distance.  The water is already slowing down.  It all lasts about 25 minutes.  We went and saw Huka Falls and then headed to Rotorua.
We went to Te Puia for the Maori experience.  This is the Marae they welcome you to and perform in.
They took us over to where they were cooking the food, Hangi, to let us watch them uncover it.

If they were cooking this in their yard it would be covered with burlap sacks or banana leaves and dirt.
The family comes out and does a welcoming song and dance.
They sing and dance and explain some of their culture to you.

Then they teach the women how to do the poi dance and have the men come up and do the Haka.
Trevor and Reed up learning the Haka.  Trevor was an unwilling participant.
We had a very nice dinner with  music and met some interesting people at our table.  Then we headed to the mud pits.  Rotorua is built on land full of thermal activity like Yellowstone.  This area has their own mud pools and geysers.
This geyser behind Nada is constantly going off.  There was supposed to be a big one but it started pouring rain so we didn't see it go off.
You can see all the steam in the air and smell the sulphur.

We really had a good time and Trevor and Nichole enjoyed learning about the Maori culture.

Tuesday, the 29th we got up and headed to Hobbiton.  Trevor and Nichole were very excited to be here.  It was fun for us to be with them because they had watched all the movies and read the books and knew all about the characters and scenes.
Trevor and Nichole in Gandolf's Gap.  This shot is in the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies.
This was our fourth time coming here and was the most crowded.  We had Sonny, the same guide that we had when Christy and Devree were here.  He does a good job.  He is talking to us about different scenes they filmed here.

This is the only Hobbit Hole you can actually step into.  They are all empty inside.
Trevor and Nichole standing in front of Samwise Gamgee  home.
Nada and Reed on the bridge to the Green Dragon.
They have finished the Mill House and filled the lake back in.  It is very picturesque.  We had such a great time here together.

We left Hobbiton and headed to Waitomo Caves.
We went into the Glow Worm Cave.  They do not let you take any pictures inside the cave.  Just as you are coming out on the boat they let you snap a picture.  We saw thousands of glow worms.  It really is quite spectacular.

We drove back up to Hamilton to attend a Temple session.
We went into the 6:30 p.m. session and the Christmas lights were on when we came out.
They still had the Christmas lights on and the Nativity up for one more night.
Trevor and Nada with the Christmas lights in front of the Visitors Center.  What a busy full day we had.  We enjoyed every minute of it and arrived home very tired.     
Wednesday, December 30, 2015, Trevor and Nichole packed up to get ready to head home.  We had a good breakfast and then took the bus to downtown Auckland.  We walked around and they did some souvenir shopping.  We went up into the Sky Tower.  We did not get to eat because all the reservations were too late for us to get them to the airport.
We went to Elliott Stables for lunch and took the bus back to Takapuna.  We put their suitcases in the car and drove down to Takapuna Beach so they could at least see where we walk all the time.  We arrived at the airport shortly after 5:00 p.m.  We got them all checked in with no problems.  We visited for a bit then walked with them to security and had to say good bye.  It was hard to have them leave.  Only a few tears were shed.  We loved having them here and will miss them so much.
We are so grateful for our family and for their love and support.  We had a wonderful holiday with Trevor and Nichole and are so grateful for them taking time out of their busy lives to come and be with us.  It will always be a wonderful Christmas memory for us.
We hope you all had a wonderful holiday season.  May The Lord continue to watch over and bless all of us.  We love you.  Elder and Sister Spencer (aka Reed and Nada)