Friday, March 31, 2017

The Bed and Breakfast

A month ago we got to attend a sealing session at the New Zealand Temple. While there, we met a couple who told us about their cousins who lived just outside of Whitianga. They live on 20 acres in the middle of an avocado orchard that they planted 20 years ago. They built a one room cottage and lived in it for 3 years while they built a beautiful home. Then they decided to occasionally rent out the small cottage. Ten years ago, the husband, Derrick went in for a routine surgery and was given the wrong blood. Somehow, he survived but is now an invalid. So Sue is left with this huge amount of property that she tries to keep running. She does have a daughter, Belinda, who lives abut 20 miles away and comes to help on Fridays. The couple in the temple gave us their business card so we decided to drop by and volunteer to help if we could. We decided to go by about 3 weeks ago and what an amazing piece of property! It must be close to the Garden of Eden! Sue wouldn't let us work the first day but we came back last week and talked her into letting us help. Today her daughter was there and she showed even more things we could do. Here are some of the pictures:

Buddy in the garden area:

The cottage:

Belinda sent me over to pick up walnuts and it kept feeling like someone was watching me:

Then before we could leave, they insisted on us taking some produce home:

I'm not sure what we'd call this root veggie in the front but they called it a "swede", then avocados behind that, oranges and some huge lemons. We also have walnuts drying on the front porch. I guess we can't say we volunteered for free because we definitely got paid. Yum, yum.  Kia Ora, Elder and Sister O'Neal

Wednesday, March 22, 2017


Since arriving in Whitianga, we have become quite attached to our little town and one of the reasons is our visits with Frank. He is a member of our Group but is confined to a care facility in town. I guess he was able to go to Church last Christmas but he can no longer get out of his bed. I think the nurses do put him in his wheel chair while they clean up his room but that totally wears him out. We visit him everyday for 15-30 minutes. I wish he was able to talk more so we could get the lowdown on his wild and crazy life. We do know that he was a cattle driver in Australia years ago until he left in a hurry for tax evasion. He still has three sons in Australia but no relatives here except his ex-wife and he's been in the care facility for 9 years. No one thinks he'll last much longer but he just keeps breathin' so who knows. We try to bring him a little spiritual thought when we go and catch him up on what we're doing. We love our visits.

* L
ess than 12 hrs after the pic was taken he passed away. It will leave a small hole in our day's activities but what a blessing for him!

Then, here is the sun rising over Mercury Bay as I walk the beach in the early morning:

And while I'm walking, Buddy rides his bike up in the hills that comprise Centennial Drive:

Another new day begins and today is exactly 2 months since we went in the MTC! Time is flying as usual.

Our first baptism day!

I spoke a few weeks ago about the two little girls that Elder O'Neal and the young missionaries have been teaching since we got here. Last Sunday was their third time to attend church with their mom so their baptism could be scheduled for today. On Sunday, one of the branch members that also lives in Mania asked their mom, Starry, why she wasn't being baptized also. She had attended all of the lessons and even sometimes answered questions but she had told the missionaries right at first that she didn't want to be baptized because she wanted to keep going to her own church. However, when asked the question on Sunday, she told Nadine she had been thinking about getting baptized herself and felt that she was ready. She then spoke to the Branch president and he called us right after church to tell us the news. So today's baptism was for three sweet girls :

 Aren't they beautiful?? Our small chapel doesn't have a font so here is where the baptism took place:

And all three girls asked Elder O'Neal to both baptize and confirm them. It was so special! Here's the whole group:

We have still not been able to find the father's records but he's perfectly willing to be baptized again so it looks like the missionaries will now go over the lessons with him. So beautiful. Kia Ora, Elder and Sister O'Neal

Monday, March 20, 2017

Hiking and Serving

On Monday we decided to try the 40 minute hike to Cathedral Cove. It was a beautiful day. The drive is about 45 minutes to the parking area and you have to arrive early to be able to get one of the 20 or so spots available. Otherwise you have to park about 2 miles away and hike up to the trailhead. You know those trails where the beginning is steeply downhill and you keep thinking, "All of this downhill is going to be uphill coming back...". That's this one. Here's a picture of a flat spot in the trail:

The best thing about the experience though is the beauty that awaits at the end of the path and here is that view:

This is probably the most crowded beach we've been to yet so the next time we'll go even earlier. This was taken about 10:00 or so. Here's the inside of the arch:

It was so worth the effort to get down there, even the 100 or so stair steps at the end.
The rest of the week we kept busy with visiting and serving. Monday evening was our opportunity to drive meals around to people but we were saddened to hear that one of the ladies had died of a massive stroke since we last took her meal to her. She had been confined to a wheelchair as she awaited a total knee replacement (the socialized medicine here has a long waiting list for such surgeries). After the deliveries, we washed dishes and got to know the new lady in charge, Tanya. It was Val's last day. :(
  On Tuesday, I had a meeting to begin cutting out the fabric for the grocery bags. There were about 12 people in attendance so we got started off with a bang. One couple that showed up even have an industrial cutter so that'll make things a lot easier. While there, a lady came up and asked me if we could help in their community garden. So, we got to do that today. It's a beautiful little spot where they grow things to give to the needy and they also give salad stuff to the soup kitchen. We loved digging around the dirt and we only dug up a couple of things that weren't weeds. 🙊 On Thursday, Elder O'Neal and the young elders, taught the last prebaptism lesson to the two young girls. Their baptism is scheduled for Tuesday and they want Elder O'Neal to baptize them. We're so excited and hoping that we can continue to fellowship them and get their parents ready for baptism as well. The baptism will be in a lovely pooled area of a creek on the way to Coromandel so I'll include pictures afterwards. When Elder O'Neal and the Branch president went over to check out the area on Friday, there were also lots of mosquitoes in residence so I'm getting the repellant ready! And the baptism clothes fit so that's all ready too. Great week coming up!   Kia Ora Elder and Sister O'Neal

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Fast Sunday

Ever since we came home from Hamilton on Tuesday it has rained, hard, everyday, showing us what living here will often be like. The picture from our balcony when its barely raining or misting:

Because we'd heard that the 309 was a little sketchy because of all the rain,  we decided not to take the dirt road to Coromandel today but instead drive on the paved road (only abut 10 minutes longer). We got to the branch building and chatted with the Branch President for a few minutes. He mentioned that he had speakers for the meeting and I asked,"Isn't it fast Sunday? Since we had stake conference last week?". And he answered, "Hmmm. I guess it is." Oh the fun of a small branch..... The meetings in this congregation bring back so many memories of our days in Colorado. Fast Sunday is a time where anyone can have a turn to speak and discuss what has strengthened their belief in Jesus Christ during the last month. There is usually about 45 minutes allotted for that so in small groups (we had 12 attending) there is ample time for everyone to get up whereas in the larger wards, there is only time for a small percentage of everyone. I actually enjoy the opportunity to get up, to "bear testimony " as we call it. I also enjoy listening to others, feeling of their sweet personalities and feeling that confirmation that what they are saying reverberates in my soul. It was a great Sabbath.
     Finally at about 6pm the clouds parted and we saw the sun for a few minutes. We decided to take the chance and go for a walk along the ocean. The full moon rising above the cliffs was spectacular. 

You can also see a bit of the logs, twigs, shells and other stuff that washed up from the sea during all the storms. The beach was littered with it. It was good to see the color of the water returning to its natural blue too. And we didn't get rained on!
Kia Ora (pronounced like "key-oar-a), Elder and Sister O'Neal

Friday, March 10, 2017

100 Year Rain Event

Yesterday it rained, and rained, and rained and today its still raining. I knew its supposed to be a rainy place so I didn't think much of it. Until the Mission President sent out a calling tree to tell everyone to stay indoors. I guess there's been a bunch of flooding between here and Hamilton and between Hamilton and Thames. Good thing we came home the day before! Here's something interesting that happens when it rains:

There are so many rivers that empty into the bay and so much dirt that gets stirred up that it turns the ocean brown! All the wind had also made the waves higher so it was a very angry looking ocean. The news people said the amount of rain we got in an hour period was a 100 year event. It was an adventure and we still went out to visit people here in town and went to the store looking for white fabric. Which is another story. We have a baptism coming up for two little girls, Mandy and Emma (9& 10) but the branch has no baptism clothes. We were told to go to the distribution center by the temple but they don't have any either. They have to be ordered and that can take 6 weeks to2 months. Not good since the baptism is next week. So I figured I could sew something. However the store that has fabric has no patterns so we decided to try the 2nd hand stores or Op Shops. We finally found a woman's tie-around skirt and two blouses so I had to cut them all down and yesterday was a sewing day. Here's the finished products:

I still need to find something for one more skirt and since the blouses are a little see-through I need some little girl's undershirts. Thank heaven I have the use of a sewing machine. It's already been a great blessing! Kia Ora, Elder and Sister O'Neal

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Today we finally got to go over to the west coast of the north island of New Zealand. The town of Raglan is supposed to have some of the best surfing in the country but the waves weren't very big today. Here's our views from the cliffs above:

Plenty of people out trying to surf but just not enough water propulsion.
Before our drive to the coast, we went into Hamilton to try to find the International Food store. We'd found the address online and it looked huge but we kept driving back and forth on the same road till Elder O'Neal noticed a small sign that said "American Candy". Following the arrows, we did find a tiny, one room store at the back of a huge warehouse, with some American food such as the Costco size bag of M&M's for $38.00! We'd actually gone looking for graham crackers which they do not have in stores here. In there, we found 3 boxes of the cinnamon kind for only $2 a box. We didn't even look for the expiration date, we just bought all three. We're so silly, but we both really like graham crackers!
After that purchase, we both found a place to get hair cuts. In the midst of that, the lady cutting my hair, who was VERY talkative, told us that she had cousins living up near Whitianga. We then discovered that her cousins are some people on our inactive list that we've been trying to catch at home for weeks. I'm sure talking to her was no coincidence. Now when we find them home, we can tell them we know their cousin, Sandra!  What a great day its been.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Stake Conference weekend

Our stake is the Hamilton stake 3 hours away from our home. Imagine, in Utah, traveling three hours for church! However, 12 of us from the Whitianga Group made the trip and even came Saturday, stayed overnight, and attended sessions. We had 10 over to our little apartment for lunch. Here's a picture of this place they give us to stay in whenever we make the trip into Hamilton.

It's small but the price is right (free). After everyone left and drove back to Whitianga (except us), we were invited over to a senior missionary couple's (The Parkers) house across the street for dinner and dessert. We told them we weren't hungry at all but they still wanted us to come over. They are actually residents of Temple View, the town that surrounds the Temple. They are Maori descendants and have been assigned by the Church to compile a history of the island. They have been doing that for about 30 years and now are close to having a museum of history open up in a huge building being constructed across the street from the temple. Anyway, I did get a picture of the view from their glass porch:

I am daily amazed at the beauty of this Island. Kia Ora Elder and Sister O'Neal

Thursday, March 2, 2017

One lane bridges

I took the following picture to illustrate an interesting phenomenon here. Out in the country, they have mostly one lane bridges so in order to make it safe to cross them, they have this sign when approaching the bridge

It's a good thing Sister McGregor in the mission office explained them to me or I would have been so confused. If you're in the lane with the little red arrow, you have to yield or "give way" to anyone coming. The lane with the black arrow has the right-of-way. And remember, they drive on the left side of the road.  Pretty cool.

A day around Cook's Beach

Today we decided to drive over to Cook's Beach instead of taking the ferry. The drive is about 35 minutes but then we have our own car and don't have to have someone come get us. We first went to the Higgins so we could find out where a less active woman lives somewhere by them. They told us when we got there that they were taking us out to eat at Hot Water Beach. It didn't take much arm-twisting to get us to go. Hot Water Beach is about 10 miles from there and is the most interesting place. Close to the ocean water is about a half mile of sandy beach where people take shovels and dig themselves sand pools. Then water comes up in the pools that is warm, or hot, or cool, depending on how close you've managed to get to the hot water that bubbles up from the ground. It's the oddest thing and totally free! Anyone who comes to visit us will have to get dragged there! After eating at the cutest little restaurant, we stopped at an artist gallery just down the road. We then went to another place we need to explore called Cathedral Cove. It's a natural arch that you can hike down to. We only stopped at the lookout from directly above so you can't actually see the arch. But I did take a panorama of the lookout:

Hot Water beach is to the right, Cook's Beach is to the left and Cathedral Cove is right under this lookout. When Captain Cook first came to New Zealand in the mid 1700's, he landed at Lonely Beach. Because of his exploits in New Zealand, many places have the name of "Cook". Here's another picture of the actual beach at Cook's beach:

The tiny beach in the bottom middle of the pic is Lonely Beach. While we were at the overlook, we could only see about 5 people out on the 3 mile stretch of Cook's Beach. The water was pristine. Afterwards we went back to the Higgin's house to go over the Branch list. The list is a huge mess with about half the people on there being unheard of to anybody. However, we also have a lot of the less-actives we want to try to meet. When we go to stake conference in Hamilton this weekend, we plan to get a more up-to-date list. After we did all the sightseeing and got through the branch list, we drove by the sister's home we had gone over to see but she wasn't home. So maybe tomorrow.
Kia Ora, Elder and Sister O'Neal