Monday, October 2, 2017

A Youth Baptism!

Last Sunday, we had the first youth baptism in the Group. The Group Leader's young son Eliott was baptized at Egan's Park, a beautiful camping spot on a dirt road about 15 minutes from our home. We drove up the week before with the family to check out a couple of different options including the ocean and decided on this spot. The water was a rather chilly 14oC. (57F.) But Eliott was still excited and said he didn't mind. Here are a few pictures of the occasion:

They are a beautiful family and probably what makes it possible for us to even have a group here. Then following that wonderful occasion, we actually had a week where not one appointment cancelled!! That was incredible. We have pretty much decided that missionaries need to plan on at least 50% of their expected dates not coming through. We always try to have back-up plans for our time. But last week was not like that. We had one meeting where the non-member husband came late but we had a good long chat with the member-wife. We had one where the wife ended being busy but the husband came over here for a self-reliance lesson. And then we had a family that showed up an hour late but at least they came, for dinner and a lesson on agency. It was such a good week. That along with a visit to Joy in the care center, working in Sue's garden, having an amazing zone conference, getting to help the Higgins repair a rental unit, sewing etc, etc. We are keeping busy and happy.
And who could complain about the beauty that surrounds us everywhere we go:

These apple trees were lining the road on the way home from Zone Conference.
Kia Ora, Elder and Sister O'Neal

Monday, September 18, 2017

20o today (in C.)

On Fridays, we still go to Whenuakite to the Collin's house to help. They have lots acres with avocado trees, citrus trees, garden areas and lots to do. Sue is the sweetest lady on earth. She is in her 70's and her husband is in a care facility. We usually get there about 9 and work till noon. She then has us come in for "morning tea" and some chatting. Since we don't drink tea, she gets us a lovely drink called lemon-barley water. It's delish. She also likes to make us "mouse traps" which is toast with bacon, sweet onions and Edam cheese or sometimes orange muffins made by chopping up an entire orange (peel and all) and adding it to the mix. We love Fridays! Here's some pictures of her place in the spring: the circular driveway with her house on the left

The garden area, where I spent the morning getting it ready to plant and weeding the part I already planted:

The avocado trees out past the backyard hedgerow:

And some of the citrus trees (from which I picked oranges and lemons):

It's a heavenly piece of property and we always love being there!
Kia Ora! Elder and Sister O'Neal

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Silver Fern

As is evidenced in previous posts, we are quite fascinated by all the different flora and fauna that are unique to New Zealand. One really interesting plant is the Silver Fern which is entirely endemic to this country. It looks like any other fern on the top

But underneath it is very unique:

This plant is used extensively in New Zealand advertising:
The All Blacks rugby team:


And the front of the grocery store:

There was even a vote last year to try to include the fern on the national flag but it did not get a majority in favor. Some say trackers used the fern upside down on a dark night to light up a path. The more we notice this design, the more we see it everywhere.
Kia Ora, Elder and Sister O'Neal

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Table tennis and privet bushes

Whenever we go to serve in the community garden, there's a guy there who is always telling us about how the last two sets of missionaries (specifically the Elder) would join him with a group of other seniors for Table Tennis on Tuesday mornings. Last week, Elder O'Neal finally decided to have a go at it so I walked with him down to the Town Hall. Here's a picture as he's picked out a "bat" and is walking to help set up tables.

Both men and women play but I decided I'd rather go back home and sew some more Boomerang bags. He was gone for about 2 hours and had a great time! And, the man who kept inviting him wasn't even there. On his way home, he stopped at a sporting goods store and got himself a super-dooper bat so he should be a force to be reckoned with next week. He and his partner already ended up in first place last week.
In branch news, our little group finally assigned home and visiting teaching last month and turned in reports for it. That was a first. Elder O'Neal and I visited two families as home teachers, I visited two sisters with Emma as a visiting teacher and I visited two sisters with Kieren as a visiting teacher. All of the twosomes are split like that so that we get as many members in Whitianga as possible. I got to meet one sister, Tere, that we'd tried to visit at least 5 times and never caught at home, but Emma committed her to a visit and she accepted.
Today, Friday, is our standing appointment at Sue's garden/farm. The only times we stay home is if its raining but today was warm and sunny so off we went. She has a long driveway into her place that's lined by those tall trees I wrote about awhile ago. Today we began the lengthy task of removing obnoxious European Privets that grow all over under the pines. Elder O'Neal took a picture of me taking out the small bushes after he'd been through sawing off the large ones.

Remember, this is a winter day so I have a long sleeved undershirt, but we still got hot enough that the cool breezes that came through felt pretty good. We spent 3 hours there and came home exhausted and had to rest. Tough duty, right?
Also, a few weeks ago we passed our 6 months mark. We've met so many wonderful people, I'm already worrying about leaving them. Life is great!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

No gold at the end of the rainbow?

We headed out today for another curvy road, 2 1/2 hour drive to Temple View/Hamilton. Our days have now settled in to a schedule of a sorts. Two weeks ago, we took a break and drove to Hamilton to watch a stage production of "Les Mis". Originally, all of the senior missionaries were invited but they all had other things to do so we decided to still go by ourselves. (I know we're about the best "selfie" picture takers you ever saw, right?

Then last Monday we went to visit a less active member and she said she'd seen my picture in the newspaper. What? We'd not even read the newspaper yet, so we went home and got the paper out of the box and found this:

The first 100 of the bags that have been sewn are being given away today! And they even had my name in the article.  Pretty cool. I figure Elder O'Neal and I have constructed about 120 of them now by ourselves. He does all of the ironing and I do the sewing. Our little town wants to be mostly plastic-free in a couple of years. So this is just the beginning.
Saturday, we spent half the day visiting some sweet ladies. One of them, Joy, we visit a lot but its never on a schedule. We got there about 5 just as it was getting dark. She was so glad to see us and eventually told that she'd been depressed all day and had prayed that someone would come to visit her. She told us that was the third time she'd done that and right after that we showed up. That's the kind of stuff we're here for!

Today our trip was a very rainy one and we literally discovered that there is no gold pot at the end of the rainbow since we drove right past it!

Kia Ora, Elder and Sister O'Neal

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Our first Visitors!

This week, we got to welcome our first visitors to our home in Whitianga, my cousin Tyler Hunt and his beautiful wife, Kim. We got to be part of their around the world tour! We took them to Hot Water Beach and Cathedral Cove.

This is just before the 1 1/2 hour hike to see the cove. On the way back, we had another first. As we were huffing and puffing up the 10 flights of steps, a family walked by us heading down. The dad and youngest child were bringing up the rear when I heard the little boy say," Hey dad those were missionaries!" That made my day. Then, when Tyler and Kim caught up with us (they had stayed by the beach a little longer) they said the family was still discussing passing some missionaries on the trail. The little boy wanted to know why those missionaries were old when he though they were always young.
The dad gave him a short lesson on "senior missionaries". We've been here nearly 5 months and that was the first time we were pointed out. So fun!
Kia Ora, Elder and Sister O'Neal

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Still gorgeous weather but cool nights

We have had a rather adventurous week. Two different couples came to us asking for help quitting smoking because they both want to eventually be worthy to go through the Temple so we've been going through all the literature in the 12-step addiction recovery program and a special program designed just to help people stop smoking. Both coupes will be starting the program this week so we are really praying for their eventual success. We know it will be the hardest thing they've ever done.
Last week, there was rain forecast for Friday so we changed our garden service to Thursday at the Collins place. On the drive over, the colors continue to amaze me:

There are signs on the road that advise travelers to be careful since its now winter driving conditions. I'm not sure what that means since there is no snow but it could have something to do with this little road problem, called a slip:

That was on the way to Hamilton about 45 minutes from us and occurred because of rain. They don't even close the road, just put up cones and hope everyone stays away from them. I'm not even sure how they'll fix this one unless they carve the road further into the hill. (And yes, we do drive on the left side of the road.)
Then on Saturday, once we got to Hamilton, we did some shopping and in the evening we attended my second rugby game. Two years ago, with Kurt and Rusti, we watched the Chiefs take on the Blues in Auckland. This time we went with a group of senior missionaries and the game was at the Waikato Stadium in Hamilton. We've discovered we really like rugby. No time outs,  no body pads (ouch), lots of emotion, over in two hours flat and constant action. What's not to like? (The stands eventually got pretty full)

The Chiefs, the hometown team, beat the Aussie Waratahs. It was total fun. My kids are always laughing at the differences there are between a mission for a young missionary and us old folks. Except for a few basic guidelines, we make our own rules (since we know how to govern ourselves!). Every day is a new, wonderful experience.
Kia Ora, Elder and Sister O'Neal