Two Weeks Down Under
Things got so busy here I didn’t even post an update last week. So here goes for two weeks!
On July 2 we traveled south to meet with early morning seminary teachers and priesthood leaders in the Dunedin stake. I can’t sing the praises of early morning seminary teachers enough. The work they do and the conditions they put up with are extraordinary and yet they keep on valiantly serving. It is amazing what they do.
On our way down we stopped to see Brea Jones who teaches three students in her home every morning. She prepares to teach each day at 6:00 in the morning, but some days none of the three students show up. And it isn’t like they call the night before and let her know they won’t be there. We had a great visit with her and her husband, Seth Jones, who makes beautiful wood vessels. Elder Johnson and I each bought a bowl from him and will treasure them forever.
The priesthood leaders in Dunedin are on fire. It is a new stake and they are so eager to make things work and to help the members of the stake draw closer to Christ in any way they can. It is so delightful to work with people who are so enthusiastic and dedicated. Their joy in what they are doing is contagious and inspiring. I hope I never again take for granted the many gospel related blessing we have at home. To watch these people do what they do with so much less than what is available for us is humbling.
I did have my first bouts with homesickness this week. Our daughter, Laresa, was in the Hill Cumorah Pageant again with her family and we weren’t here to camp and perform with them. I didn’t realize how much I would miss Pageant until I started getting pictures of our family in costumes and Pageant shirts and I broke out in tears! But I do know I am where the Lord wants me to be and doing what he wants me to do, so I’m trucking on!
The next few weeks are probably going to be the hardest of our mission. Besides missing Pageant we are going to miss the birth of two new grandchildren and the weddings of two more grandchildren. I’m trying to steel myself for the events. We never get mail, but this morning the wedding announcement for our grand-daughters wedding (the reception of which is going to be in our yard at home!) came and again a few tears leaked out as I opened it. Again, I know I am where I am supposed to be and I absolutely love it here, but there are still a few pains that come along and stab at the heart.
The people here couldn’t treat us any better. They’ve adopted us into their families and love us like they do their own nanas and papas. This week the Kinikinis invited us to come early before I taught in Ashburton and have dinner with them. They also invited several of the YSAs and we spent almost two hours laughing, eating, and laughing some more. (The people here love food and it seems to be their way of showing love to each other and us—to share food. So to say they served us a meal would be a gross understatement!)
The Ashburton ward has moved into their new chapel even though it isn’t dedicated yet and it is beautiful. They are so excited to have a nice place to meet, and they just keep growing their congregation. Almost every weekend there is a baptism scheduled. At the rate they are going, it won’t take them long to need to divide the ward.
The Institute program is going along well, but there are a few frustrations with it. I never before realized how directives from headquarters that assume “one size fits all” can impact an area like we are in. We strive to be obedient, but it is very obvious that a situation like ours was never considered when the directives were made. But we are hanging in there, trying our best to be obedient because we know that obedience brings blessings.