Day 77 (August 5th) – Monday morning and nothing on our calendar…it’s a hard life.

Monday is actually my cleaning/laundry/errand day.  Yes there are a few errands like lunch and a run to the post office.  With it being a small downtown it makes it easy to do all our errands by foot which also includes our daily walk in the park…

One of our great finds for a restaurant is on the outskirts of the city.  It’s called Wharepuke and its entrance is a bit of a jungle so you really have to be looking for it.  As “regulars” we have become good friends with the waitresses.  It had been several weeks since we had visited the Wharepuke and much to our surprise when we walked in they were just delighted and walked us to our favorite table.  This is the kind of place where you would rather go straight for the desserts.  The one in particular is my all time favorite!  It is called the “Chocpot”  The creator and chief was once Shania Twain’s chef.  It’s like a chocolate lava cake but on steroids!

Day 76 (August 4th) Opononi Branch, New Missionary and a very big tree

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.  Peters birthday

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!

Christi Worsley

Elder HoltScreen Shot 2017-08-08 at 8.04.38 AM.png

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!where is christi

Here are just a few pictures of our drive.  This beautiful Northland does not disappoint.  Sunday drive

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…

buddhastop being scaredtwo huge lies

“We don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate”

I loved this…

Day 71- 75 (July 30th -August the 3rd) – Walk in the Park and Hogwarts Students in New Zealand.

I have had to find creative ways to layer and stay warm on our walks.   Nothing matched but I was warm!walking in layers

Stephen Covey, in his book says that there are some “Sharpening the Saw” activities that should always be done.  Eat right, get enough sleep and exercise everyday…even if it’s bad weather outside.  Much more to Bob’s credit we have done this everyday on our sabbatical.  This was a particularly blustery rainy day but we didn’t want to disappoint Covey so off we went.  Bob captured this video of our rainy and quite enjoyable walk.

Just on the other side of this park is a middle and high school.  Everyday at 3:00 the bell rings and the park becomes, for many, their pathway home or to the Pizza Hut or McDonalds just around the corner.  Every time they walk by we think of Harry Potter and Hogwarts.  The accents and uniforms just make it feel like we are almost there.  Just as Bob turned off the camera a boy walked by with Harry’s glasses…exactly.  In a “Barbara” moment Bob refers to these the school as … Hogworths:)  He may have to watch the movies again.



Day 65 – 70 (July 24th – 29th)

Our next ward to visit was the Moerewa Ward.  It was the largest ward building and the smallest congregation.  There were maybe 20 people.  The room was freezing as it was the coldest morning of the year in the Northland area of the island.  I’m guessing tithing didn’t stretch far enough to turn on the heat.

They passed the sacrament and had an older couple speak and by the time they were done we still had 40 minutes left!  So the Bishop just started asking members of the ward to bear their testimonies.  Bob and I both mentioned when we left that they should have asked us to say something.  We were visitors and could have added some new thoughts to this very tired ward.  I was preparing in my head what I would say because surely he would ask us!  They had a piano and organ but no one could play them.   We did have prelude music which was the counselor’s IPhone sitting on the podium.  I felt so sorry for this tiny struggling ward.  I think they had a total of 2 children in primary and 4 youth. I’m not sure how you keep a congregation active with such a meager attendance and support system.

For our “rest hymn” we sang this Maori song to the tune of “Oh Lovely Deseret”.  We didn’t have the music in front of us so a sister in a few rows ahead came and shared it with us.  I totally rocked the words much to her and Bob’s amazement.  The whole time I thought…It’s  because I did this in the spanish ward every Sunday.  I didn’t know what I was singing but I could pronounce the words better than the Maori sister.  Just sayin…

Now time for our Sunday adventure.  We were off to the small city of Russell requiring a ferry to get us there.

This quaint little tourist town has its own history…Russell walk

Russell was the port for all imports and exports and was suppose to be the capital of New Zealand but some politicians decided it would be Auckland and placed a large duty on all incoming goods.  It crippled the City.  It was known as the Hell Hole of the Pacific Islands in the early 1900’s because with the goods came the liquor and whore houses. Apparently it was a pretty rough place.

Fig tree plaque


On our stroll we found this little piece of history and decided to take a tour.  The missionaries came to proselyte to the Maori’s and found them quite literate so they built a printing press and printed material to teach them.  What was fun was to find that some of our little phrases that don’t make very much sense were made clear through the process of printing.  Let me explain:

Cut and ChaseThe phrase “cut to the chase” originated with the movable type for the printing presses. The letters were arranged in a wooden frame called the phrase. On the box were metal ‘coins’ that tightened the frame and held the type in place. When a phrase was completed the term “to coin a phrase” came about. The completed phrases were put together in a larger frame called the chase. Once the phrases were finished it was time to cut to the chase. Which means that the type was ready to be printed.

upper lower case

This is where they kept all the lettered keys.  They clipped the script in front of the case and then grabbed the appropriate letters.  The “lower case” of the table had the lower case letters…and of course the “upper case” held the upper case letters.


The wooden wedges were called coins and are what they used to tighten all the lettering in the “phrase”.  They were tapped at each end until everything was in tight.  This is what they called…”To coin a phrase”.

Below is the way they sewed and binding into the books.  The rounded binding you so often see in older books is to help strengthen the book so the back doesn’t break.  

Book binding on the end

binding on book

I wanted to try my hand at sewing the book pages together but the tour guide was a bit of a control freak.

Sewing book

Day 64 (July 23rd) Another branch, a tree and Cape Reinga

Next branch…Kaitaia Ward.  We wanted to get to the north tip of the island to see the lighthouse on Cape Reinga.  Knowing this would be a 3 hour journey we picked the ward closest to it.  Bishop Armstrong, clearly of some Maori descent, presided over the meeting which was entirely testimonies of their youth temple trip.  Evidence of the hard work finding speakers in a small branch.  This was the largest branch so far and the building actually looked like a real chapel.

Mauri carving

I thought of Ben when I saw this hymnal.  Some artist found a canvas and started to carve Maori designs in it.  Ben, you now have a new challenge!

After the meeting I caught up with the Bishop and told him that we shared the same last name.  He told us that his mother is Maori and his father is white and that he grew up in Pocatello Idaho, where his father comes from!  I’m going to learn the haka dance just in case we are related:)!

Screen Shot 2017-08-03 at 11.41.46 AM.pngThe road to the cape reminded me of the windy road to Stanley only it was more narrow and very forested.

Cape Light House Location

“You are here”.  The wind was ferocious at the tip of the north island but what we were about to witness made the undoing of my hair totally worth it…

We were told that you could see a straight line where the Pacific and the Tasman sea meet. The sea was named after the Dutch explorer Abel Janszoon Tasman, who was the first recorded European to encounter New Zealand and Tasmania in Australia.  There was no line but a pounding of the two seas created by their currents and waves colliding.  It was amazing to be at a point on the earth where you see two oceans collide.


You can see where the two oceans collide from both the left and right side of the video.Tasmanean Sea

You can see the turmoil of the waters.

Mauri Spirits and tree

Maori history and legend

For Māori, Cape Reinga is the most spiritually significant place in New Zealand.

An ancient pohutukawa tree and a lonely lighthouse mark this special place. 

It is here that after death, all Māori spirits travel up the coast and over the wind-swept vista to the pohutukawa tree on the headland of Te Rerenga Wairua.  

They descend into the underworld (reinga) by sliding down a root into the sea below. The spirits then travel underwater to the Three Kings Islands where they climb out onto Ohaua, the highest point of the islands and bid their last farewell before returning to the land of their ancestors, Hawaiiki-A-Nui.

I was able to capture the tree just to the right of the picture.  As in all things nature, there are great lessons we can learn about strength and perseverance.

tree description


Day 58-63 (July 17-22)

As part of our sabbatical we knew that we would be headed to the south island of New Zealand and that we would be traveling through the location where they filmed the Hobbits and Lord of the Rings movies.  Looking forward to this and wanting to have context to the visit Bob agreed to watch ALL the extended versions of each movie with me (some 4.5 hours long).  It was so much fun!

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So once we finished those off we went for broke and watch all the Harry Potter movies. Lord of the Rings was a rerun for us but we had never watch the Harry Potter movies.

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It felt like we could finally understand and the giberish our kids use when referencing the story like Expecto Patronum or Horcrux or even Butterbeer.  I remember Katy trying to make butterbeer for Halloween several years ago.  Butterscotch syrup was involved as I remember.

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Katy and Annie told me that Harry Potter dies…they were so convincingly sad.  He didn’t die!  I was so relieved because the whole movie I was expecting a very sad ending !!!!

I was facebooking Katy yesterday and shared that I was so sad to see the movies end and I thought about just rewatching them!  She shared with me that this is what they call a “showhole” meaning you would rather stay in the world of the Shire and Hogwarts than reality!  I’d settle for just having those floating candles in the mess hall.  They were obviously drip free and magical (no pun intended).

We are now into American history documentaries.  They have really helped to put context and timetables together.  I’m going to have to lay off the Civil War stuff…I’m having nightmares.  In the end freedom proves itself the most important human need…worth dying for but the suffering is still overwhelming for me to think about.

With history being the theme of this post… we went to visit a local historical sight in KeriKeri.  In this stone shop is a sign that says that as soon as the church bells began to ring on the sabbath the Maori’s scattered!

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Day 57 (July 16th) Another Sabbath…another branch and then a beautiful lunch and lodge.

This marks one of my favorites days here in the Bay of Islands in the Northland.  Thanks to Roy, he told Bob of all the hidden treasures and places to see while we were here. Thanks to Bob, he remembered all of it.

Bob outside of church building in Mauri

This makes our third branch to attend in New Zealand.  Bob is standing in front of what we thought was the chapel.  As it turns out, this is the building for all the classrooms.  The chapel was a stand alone small building just to the left.  The bishop was so wonderful and made us feel so welcome.  It did get a little awkward at one point because Bob and I lingered in the back next to the missionaries and it formed a sort of reception line where everyone that came in shook our hands.  I think they may have thought we were from Salt Lake representing the Church!

I mentioned that the Church is the same no matter where you go…well that is true of the curtains in the Church too.  Everywhere we go the curtains are the same.  Different color but the standard pinch pleat on a rod.

True to form and much to our delight we caught another deacon playing with a spinner!  I nudged Bob to get a video of it.  We needed proof of the phenomena!

Church curtains are all the same

This nice young man and brother were kind enough to let us get a picture of them before the meeting started.  We quickly began to realize that the strength of these small branches was with the Maori families.  You can tell from their talks and testimonies that this faith goes back several generations and they are rock solid in the gospel.  Just a side note…the piano player was another missionary.

Bob with two native boys at Church

The Matauri Bay branch was my favorite branch so far to attend.  I left wishing we could go back the following week.

After church we jumped in our car and headed to the ocean.  This is considered the best beach on the north shore.  It had a great campground and the sand was perfect.

Our last adventure of the day was to have lunch a Kauri Cliffs Lodge.  The golf course is listed as 38th in the top 100 golf courses in the world.  I felt a little bad that I don’t really care about golf and how there so many people I know that would have loved to have seen it!  Roy said the view was amazing but the food was not that great.  Well…I beg to differ.  We called ahead to make reservations and when we arrived the property manager was waiting outside the lodge to greet us !  He took us to a private patio with a fireplace and table set for two.  This is my kind of place!!!!  I’m really leaning into the plantation look for our Brownstone.

The food was amazing, the views outstanding and the welcome made it a perfectly perfect day.   Edge of Ocean

The property manager gave us blankets and a golf cart and let us drive around the course and go the the cliffs edge to see views like this.  Breathtaking in every way.  I told Bob that this will be the place we come for our last evening in the Bay of Islands.  It just doesn’t get any better.

Days 51 – 56 (July 10 – 15) Working the Sabbatical, Rugby and the demolition of a magnificent forest.

Paik and Roy, the owners of the home we are staying in were with us the first three days of our stay.  It gave us a chance to break bread, watch the NZ “All Blacks” rugby team and talk about our faith and the churches we belonged to.  Our first night we watched “our” team play…only to end the game in a tie.  This was very upsetting, mostly for Paik and Roy.  Though I admit, I found myself rooting for a team I didn’t even know and for a game I didn’t understand.  And that is the magic and power of sports!

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Below is a formation they call a scrum.  I have no idea how they came up with that name except it kind of sounds like scrunch which is what they do.  The two teams weave themselves together like a giant round doily.  The guy in blue on the right of the picture throws the ball in and then they, without collapsing, try to get control of the ball. You know how wrestlers get cauliflower ears…so do the Scrum team players.  This is a sport bigger than football and is played all around the world.  Apparently we have a US team…who knew!?

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The game was great fun to watch but I think I’ll stick to football.  Both are brutal games but at least we wear helmets!

Below is the Anglican church that Paik goes to each Sunday.  It was built in the late 1800’s and was once a bustling church with its own graveyard.  Hearing that there were Mormon churches in the area she was anxious to know the size of our congregation in Paihai when we got home.  We were sheepish to tell her only 75.  She was startled that it was so big!  Her active congregation that Sunday was 20.  She asked me what was the age range of those that attended our service.  I told her it was made up of old and young, families with babies, teenagers and older couples, missionaries and visitors.  She would be blown away to come to an Arizona ward! I wasn’t sure how to break the news to her that their were probably 10 more units just like the branch we attend in the surrounding areas within an hour away of her home.  They hired a consulting firm to figure out how to grow their congregation, especially with the youth. They have none.  I’m not sure how long they will be able to keep that tiny chapel open but it is a sad thought to shutter those doors to its history of faith.


Many may not know this about Bob.  He has a tremendous connection and love of nature. Roy told him about the Manginangina preserve which became something we really wanted to see.  It was both magnificent and tragic.  New Zealand was naturally a tropical forest, so dense you could hardly walk through it.  The forest was filled with the majestic Kauri trees and because of the over-harvesting of the forest, it is almost extinct.  At the risk of sounding like an over zealot tree hugger, it made me sick how we Anglos came and raped their forests all in the name of capitalism.  There was no regard for the health of the forest, climate and animals.  They just clear cut most of the north island. This small reserve was saved only because the terrain was to difficult to get the wood out of it.

Kauri forest


They found that the trees that they could not cut down still had value in the gum they produced.  It was highly sought after for varnish.  They took what was naturally produced and then scarred the trees so they would produce more, killing the standing trees as well.  They gum of a Kauri tree is used for Stradivarius violins.

I’m standing on a trunk of an old Kauri tree that was used to carve out one of the war canoes used when Europeans came to colonize the land.  Now you see just the stumps dotted all over the farms that have replaced the forest.  I’m all for industry but this just became senseless greed and I feel some shame that it was my conquering ancestors that ravished this land.  When I say my ancestors I mean Bob’s.  Grandma Christiansen could sing but both of father and father-in-law were in New Zealand logging these forests.  One of the sons was killed logging these very forests.

Day 50 (Sunday July 9th)- Ward cruising and our Maori Members…

Bob and I wanted to get a big picture of how the church was doing on the island and so decided we would to go to a different branch each Sunday and then do some sightseeing after.  This will be our second sabbath in NZ (LDS Tools has been great to find our way to branches on the island!) and decided to visit the Bay of Islands branch.  This small branch is in Paihia.  Paihia is a very small beach town just 25 minutes from our home in KeriKeri.   The shops and hotels look like they have been mothballed waiting for the summer tourists to arrive.  It was the first time Bob and I paused to consider if it was safe to park our very obvious rental car and take a long walk on the beach.  Paihia Ward Building

This is a shop the church purchased along one of the arterial streets from the beach.  I am standing in front of the chapel and to my left is the primary/RS rooms.  There were probably 75 people in this little room.  In place of cushioned benches we sat on folding chairs.  The pianist was a missionary serving in the area…which was true in Auckland too. Though singing does not require a piano, it is still a nice touch to the spirit.  I found myself grateful, probably against his will, took those piano lessons.  It was a blessing to the small branch.  We were greeted by so many of the members as we walked in.  Unlike Kauai, I imagine they don’t get a lot of visitors to their branch.  The talks were wonderful. Though you hear it over and over again, it is true, the church feels the same, no matter where you are.  The branch was made up mostly of Maori’s.  I think there were maybe 2 or 3 people who were not Maori.  The counselor got up to conduct and you could see that he was very nervous.  He must have been new to the call but then he got up to give a talk and you realized these people cycle through talks and callings much faster than a large ward.  It is all hands on deck for these small branches.  When we settled in for the meeting we found ourselves right at home as we watched the deacons in front of us with their spinners!  Good heavens, they are everywhere!

Having just toured a museum on the history of New Zealand the day before, we were acquainted with the practice of the tribal tatooing but were so surprised to see that it is still practiced today.  Though I didn’t want to snap a picture of the couple across the isle from us at church, they both were tatooed, his entire face and her, her chin.


The Meaning of Ta Moko – Maori Tattooing. Ta Moko was like a history of a person’s achievements and represented their status in their tribe. It was like a resumé. … Ta Moko was worn by both men and women. It was applied to the face and buttocks of men, and to the chin, lips and shoulders of women.

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The makers of Moana did their homework when it came to tribal customs and what they mean…

Pauia Beach Walk

This beach is just a stones throw away from the chapel…

Day 49 (Saturday, July 8th)- Settled into our new home for the next 6 weeks.

My expectation of the Bay of Islands as that is was a “bay of islands”.  You know, the seaport kind of small town peninsulas with white bungalows and surfboards.  The north island is known for being warmer so I was imaging just a bit cooler Kauai experience.  And though it is true that the ocean is close from either side of the island (an hour drive side to side), Keri Keri looks and feels more like small Mayberry with one main street that connects everyone.  If you want to dine out the restaurants are open (at least in the winter) from 12-2 and 5:30-9:00 and only on 5 days out of the week.  We have shown up several times to a restaurant closed on Wednesday.  The greatest part of this city and the whole of New Zealand are the people.  They are polite and friendly and make you feel right at home.  There is a strong Mauri influence in the smaller cities on the north end but KeriKeri is, as it turns out, is the Scottsdale of the islands and so you see mostly white people with an altered dialect of the english accent.

We spent our first few days getting to know the city we would call home for 6 weeks. Our first adventure was a Saturday to the local outdoor market.  The breads and pastries were amazing.

I’m so grateful for the influence and courage of other people to live lives worth emulating.  I watched this Ted Talk that I have printed and marked up.  I want to take up more space in this world then “just the place where my toes are”.  It’s worth watching:

The art of being yourself | Caroline McHugh | TEDxMiltonKeynesWomen

The art of being yourself | Caroline McHugh | TEDxMiltonKeynesWomen