This next branch finds us on the other side of the island. It was a 1 1/2 hour drive to get there. So THIS is now my favorite branch! You feel a little like a superstar when you walk into these branches because I think it is so rare to have visitors. I had a lovely chat with the only little girl in the branch. I showed her this picture of my grandkids and showed here how red Poppys hair was. She said “That’s not red!” I realized she took me quite literally. No, it’s more orange…I agree.
It was Fast Sunday and one of the members bore her testimony and then asked us to bear ours. I was so grateful for that opportunity. The strength of these Maori families is so inspirational. Their testimonies are articulate and well grounded in the doctrine. I’m so grateful for the spirit that transcends our worries and goes straight to our hearts, assuring us that we are more than just this mortal experience, that we have eternal parents and family waiting for us to return. It is such a joy to know that this plan is central to the eternal family and that our family, through it all, is ours forever. As a mother, I stand in awe of the goodness of my family. I’m so proud of our children and our in-law-children who have added strength to our family unit and are raising their children in gospel centered homes.
When we entered the church there were two missionaries standing in the foyer. One was from New Zealand and was almost on his way out at 21 months. The other was a young missionary just out 1.5 weeks! You can never be certain if they are struggling but it’s usually safe to say that they are. His name is Elder Holt and is from Castledale Utah. I asked him how he was doing. He smiled and shrugged his shoulders. I promised him that it would get easier and that feeling a little homesick was normal. After church I made sure to get his Mom’s email so that I could her some pictures. Here is our email exchange…
Dear Heather and family,
My husband and I live in Arizona but have been on a 4 month sabbatical in New Zealand. We have been attending a different branch each Sunday. Today we walked in and met your Elder in the foyer! He told us he had been out only 1 1/2 weeks! As a mother having sent out our own children on missions and your son being so freshly out in the field I knew I needed to send his Mom a picture to reassure her that he is just fine! He blessed the sacrament and then bore his testimony first thing. Bless you for your faith and courage. As much as we want our children to serve that doesn’t mean we don’t miss them!
Enjoy the pictures!
Our purpose for traveling so far was to see the oldest and largest tree in New Zealand. They estimate its age at 2,000 years. If you look hard you can see me standing beneath it. It will help you understand the majesty of this tree!
Here are just a few pictures of our drive. This beautiful Northland does not disappoint.
On our way home we stopped for “linner” at this small unassuming cafe. Just behind me were these three tiny pieces of paper with these sayings taped to the wall. I thought they were worth sharing…
“We don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate”
I loved this…