Thursday, June 7, 2018

7 Weeks

Our time in this beautiful, wonderful country is drawing to a close. Last week we went to what may be our last zone conference. As we sat there, we marveled at the Spirit that is felt in those meetings. President Cummings and his wife are always prepared with such touching, wise counsel and our interviews with the President after the conference always makes us feel so loved and appreciated.

While we were in Hamilton, our Stake presidency wanted to thank us for our service and take us out to dinner so we met with President Anderson and his wife, President Hamon and his wife and Elder and Sister Mumford at a Chinese restaurant called Victor’s Place. Our table was a big round one with a lazy Susan in the middle so we each ordered a dish and all shared. We had great food and even better company.

We intended to stay for a few days but once we get away from our home we seem to just think it would be great to get back. So, although we had driven there on Tuesday, we came back on Wednesday. We did manage to fit in a visit to the Temple as well so our two days were pretty well packed.
Because we were not home until late on Wednesday, I missed my sewing group but I got to go today. Trish, the sewing teacher and spearhead of our sewing group, insisted that she take a picture of the one thousandth bag I’d sewn, so here’s that pic:

Of course I’m still sewing and adding more bags to the effort to make the peninsula plastic-free but when school is out for the next break I will hand in my sewing machine and be finished. I have about 4 more weeks. It will be sad to say good-bye to all the sweet friends and fellow seamstresses I’ve met at the school. 

Kia Ora, Elder and Sister O’Neal

Thursday, May 17, 2018

John's Baptism

Over a year ago we began teaching John. His wife is a less-active member to whom he’s been married for 30 years. They have three children that are grown and are legal guardians for two grandchildren. John was ready for baptism a year ago but he got a nasty virus that attacked his heart. He’s been trying to regain his health ever since then. A month ago, Elder O’Neal again challenged him to be baptized and he accepted! On Saturday, 13 May, we drove down to Hamilton, 3 hours away, so we could go to the chapel of his in-laws and use a font (the rivers up here would be way too cold). It was a beautiful service. We even got permission to also give him the Gift of the Holy Ghost  and the Aaronic Priesthood since his family wanted to participate in the ordinances. John is in the middle, Liam the nephew on his left performed the baptism and Graeme (his father-in-law) to the left of Liam confirmed him. Elder O’Neal bestowed on him the Aaronic Priesthood and ordained him to be a priest.

Then on Sunday we had our monthly FHE where it was our last turn to host🙁. We were only missing 3 members of our group and had 14 attending. There’s always way more food than we can eat. And it was a delight to have John’s family attend and get to know us all.

Also, for the last year or so, Elder O’Neal has been able to volunteer in Bruce’s panelbeating shop (body shop). Bruce has not been to church since he was 14 or so and keeps accusing Elder O’Neal of trying to get him to go back to church (which would be awesome). Actually I think Buddy loves playing with all of Bruce’s tools and having access to them has also helped him to fix lots of things for others. It’s been a win-win situation. P.S. We snuck this picture when Bruce wasn’t looking.

We love it here! Kia Ora, Elder and Sister O’Neal

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

A short trip to Gisborne

This week, we had a zone conference in Hamilton. Whenever that happens, we try to pack as much as possible into the time away from our Peninsula. We left Monday and arrived in time for me to get a haircut and stop at a craft store for some thread and then buy a bit of food from the store. We then checked into our home away from home at the “Nunnery” (called that because many years ago, single women traveling to attend the Temple would stay there)

Tuesday we spent most of the day at the Temple and then went out for dinner with a member that Kurt introduced to us 3 years ago when we were here, Grant Pearse. Wednesday was our all-day conference with a visiting General Authority, Ian S. Ardern. We were also delightfully surprised to meet up with a missionary we served with a year ago when he and Elder Osborn were living in Thames, Elder Mortensen 

We loved getting to catch up with him. He’s now serving in Cambridge and will be out until September and then go home to Hawaii. On Thursday, we picked another Sr. couple, the Mumfords and headed to Gisborne.

We saw a sunset and then a sunrise the next day. At that place in Poverty Bay, they claim to be the first people in the world to see the sun rise. We had a delightful trip and ended up by stopping at Rere Falls on the way home.

This country never disappoints!  Kia Ora, Elder and Sister O’Neal

Monday, April 16, 2018

Our new Branch Presidency

After a month without a Branch President, we finally had a new presidency sustained and set apart. On March 25th, we attended the Coromandel Branch where Samuel Napia was sustained as the President with Kohai Renate as first counselor. President Napia actually lives in Thames about an hour away from Coromandel Town and was going to a different branch until our Stake President called him to travel up to our branch for his new calling. He and his wife, Robyn are a wonderful addition to our little congregation. Kohai (on the left) was a first counselor for President Hammon too and he is a great assistant. 

Our second counselor to President Napia is Steve Higgins. He attends the Whitianga Group and will also be the new Group Leader. He was sustained the same day but while attending in Whitianga so he is not in the same picture.

It is great to be correctly structured again. Our group in Whitianga will even be returning to the 2 hour block and new callings have been made to have a Primary president and a Sunday School teacher again.  And here’s a beautiful picture of the road between the two towns, lined with Gum trees, as we travelled from one to the other.

Kia Ora, Elder and Sister O’Neal

Monday, March 19, 2018

Branch Conference

Once a year our Coromandel Branch and the Whitianga Group meet together at the chapel in Coromandel. We receive Stake visitors from Hamilton and are treated to some wonderful counsel from them. Since our Branch president passed away a month ago, we thought we might get a new Branch president as well but we did not.
Our Stake leaders are still working on that. We did however manage to get everyone together for a congregation picture, which hasn’t happened in many years. And afterwards we had the traditional “big Feed”. Most of the active members of the Coromandel Branch (along with the Stake Presidency):

This was just the dessert table, which Buddy went to first (no surprise there, right? And then to finish out our already awesome day, we welcomed some friends from our Colorado days for a visit: Chris and Shay Harger. 

    Kia Ora, Elder and Sister O’Neal

Thursday, February 15, 2018

President Hamon’s funeral

Early Sunday morning, our thoughtful, loving Branch President finally succumbed to the affects of Leukemia and passed away. We found out as we arrived for Sunday service in Coromandel town. He had been diagnosed nearly a year ago but had been in remission for several months. About three weeks ago he began complaining of back pain and was not able to make it to Church for the last two weeks. We had visited him last Wednesday though and he was still his usual chatty self. Even on Saturday, he had called Elder O’Neal in the afternoon to be sure we had everything figured out for the meeting on Sunday. That call made the announcement less than 24 hours later quite a surprise! He had been either the president or a counselor for the last 25 years so this will be quite a loss for our tiny Branch. He lived in Kennedy Bay about 25 minutes north of Coromandel and the funeral service was held there. We were invited inside the Marae this time so I could take a few pictures.

Each of the wooden carvings on the wall depicts a different god and each god has a story told about in the woven tapestries to the side of each carving. Above each figure is a small plaque with the name of that particular god. Even the ceiling contains murals ascending from each god to further clarify that personality.

Elder O’Neal was asked to give a small tribute which he did by telling about how “Uncle Eric” had given him a hand carved cane and how special it would always be to him.

And then after the service, his body was taken to the cemetery in his own car. What a great idea!  

It was a very special experience.

  Kia Ora, Elder and Sister O’Neal

Monday, February 5, 2018

The beautiful summer continues

We continue to enjoy this wonderful country. Our gardening days on Fridays are such a delight. Yesterday we picked lemons, avocados, plums and apples.

This is just one of many apple trees. We also had the opportunity to see the arrival once again of the Navy ship the HMNZS Mannawanui. This is technically its home port but this is its last visit as it is being decommissioned at the end of the month. Some residents are petitioning to get it sunk off the dock here so it can become an artificial reef. Here is the ship as it pulls up to the wharf:

And then, not surprisingly, we are always finding new gorgeous beaches around here. As we left the garden, we turned right instead of left (to come home) and drove to this hideaway. It’s called “Sailor’s Grave Beach” and actually has a sailor’s grave from 150 years ago over on one hill. The town of Tairua, close by, celebrates the anniversary of the man’s death every year. We did not walk over to get pictures of the gravesite but here is the beach:

This one has waves large enough for surfers and we watched a few out on their boards. Next time we’re bringing our lawn chairs so we can just relax for awhile.
Kia Ora, Elder and Sister O’Neal