November 6, 2016

The Work

Monday and Tuesday were my last days in the office. Between the two of us, Val and I got all of the Church College records into the computer. Val normally works half days, but Monday she stayed well into the afternoon, I think mostly because she knew how much I wanted to get everything in the catalog before I left. Sister Garry will need to finalize our last entries, so there is still a bit more to do on the Church College collection. But it feels wonderful to have had a body of work to do and largely completed it before I left for home.

I also spent time going through some last-minute things with Sister Garry. She and Elder Garry will do a great job. It is nice to know that the project I care about will be left in good hands.

Tuesday Vic and Rangi Parker returned from a trip to the Hawkes Bay area where they presented a fireside over the weekend and also brought back some artifacts that were donated from that area. Rangi has a reputation throughout the Church in New Zealand as the person who has collected historical stories and artifacts. Because of this often people are willing to share with her in ways that they would not with anyone else. Though the museum and records center will house and display materials from all over the Pacific, the seedbed for the collection is the result of Vic and Rangi’s efforts for over 30 years.

Many in the office gave me going away remembrances, and also signed a big card. I appreciate so much this outpouring of love.


Tying Up Loose Ends

The office wanted to have a farewell outing for me, and we scheduled it for Monday evening. I suggested that we go to the Chartwell mall for dinner—the food court there is our favorite. Afterwards we were going to go to the Parkers and watch a movie. However, the Parkers called in the afternoon to let us know that they wouldn’t be home until late, so we enjoyed a nice dinner at the mall and called it an evening. Actually, this worked out better for me, giving me a little more time to organize for my return home.

Tuesday evening Joyce Wheadon took me to dinner. She enjoyed a nice steak, and I had a lovely lamb dish, knowing it was probably the last meal like that I would have in New Zealand. I have really enjoyed the lamb here and know it not as plentiful or as reasonably priced at home. Joyce has become a dear friend, and I hope she will come to the states and visit me.

I spent Wednesday and Thursday completing final tasks before leaving Hamilton. In addition to thoroughly cleaning my apartment, I gave away my food and other household items I had purchased to other missionaries, returned things I had borrowed, mailed a box home, and had the car cleaned. On Wednesday I also had an exit interview with my mission president Jeffrey Cummings. Because our project falls more under the jurisdiction of the Area Presidency than the mission, I have had little contact with President Cummings since he came in July. But we had a lovely visit, and I appreciated his taking the time to meet with me.

I had considered skipping my weekly temple visit because I had a lot to do, but decided that everything would work out more smoothly if I took the time to go. This proved to be the case. I had such a sweet feeling of peace throughout the session. What a privilege it has been to live literally within the shadow of the temple. I am also indebted to Elder McGregor who has done the ordinance work for many of our male ancestors. I left him with several cards and know he will get them done in the next few weeks.

Thursday I washed linens and did the final cleaning of my apartment. It was a very comfortable place to live, other than being cold in the winter, and I learned how to adjust to that.

I have learned in my international travels that it is much better to be near the airport the night before departure, so I booked a room at the hotel directly across the street from the Auckland airport for Friday night. I had planned to stay with Vic and Rangi in their guest apartment Thursday night and then drive with the Olsens to Auckland on Friday. However, Rangi came down with a nasty flu bug that had been going around the office, and I felt I couldn’t take the chance of getting exposed just prior to coming home. Elder and Sister Garry offered to let me stay in their spare bedroom. I was sorry not to spend the final time with Parkers but had a great visit with the Garrys and appreciated their hospitality.

Friday morning the Olsens and I headed to Auckland. We stopped at the area office so Randy could do some business he had, then headed to Devonport, a seaside town that is across the bay from Auckland. We had intended to take a walking tour of this charming city, but since the weather was “iffy” we decided to take a one hour bus tour after lunch. We ate at a nice seafood restaurant—the fish chowder was the best part of the meal. The bus took us through the city, and we saw many charming old houses built out of kauri tree wood. Many of these homes have beautiful decorative features and all are on the historic preservation list because kaori trees take about 1,000 years to fully mature and are no longer harvested. The tour then took us to North Head, an inactive volcano rising above the city, from which we had great views of Auckland city, Waitemata Harbour (Auckland’s port), Rangitoto Island (an icon of Auckland city), and scenes of the bay. North Head served at one time as a major military watchpoint for the area.

After the bus tour Margaret and I took the ferry from Devonport to Auckland, and Randy drove the car to meet us. We ate dinner at a mall in Auckland, then decided to go to a suburb to see a movie we had missed in Hamilton. I was pretty tired from all the work involved in leaving Hamilton, so it was nice to sit for a while. Randy and Margaret then dropped me off at my hotel. I will miss these wonderful people and am grateful for the opportunity I’ve had to work with them. They are dedicated souls and will always be dear friends.


Coming Home

Although it was about a 12 hour flight from Auckland to Los Angeles and then another hour and a half to Salt Lake, the flights weren’t bad. Having traveled for 25+ hours in going from New Zealand to Germany in June has changed my perspective on long flights. My biggest headache was that our landing in Los Angeles was delayed almost an hour due to fog, so I was really hustling to get my connecting flight to Salt Lake. I was running down the concourse and waving at the attendant as she announced my name and the final boarding call. I was the last one on the plane. As I went to my seat I saw a familiar face, but couldn’t place where I knew the gentleman who greeted me kindly. We chatted a bit, then I apologized and said he needed to tell me how I knew him. It turns out he didn’t know me but was friendly because he knew from my missionary name tag that I was going home. But I knew him—he was Phillip Barlow, a professor specializing in Utah history at Utah State University. I have heard him speak before, so that is why he looked familiar. After we made this connection we mentioned several mutual friends and had a nice chat.

Getting off the plane and seeing all the family was a thrill. Since I arrived just before noon, my daughter Deborah had organized a little lunch at her home, so most of the family headed there. We had a great visit, and it was so fun to be together. Mike came to my home later in the afternoon. We watched the end of the BYU football game. I was getting really sleepy, so after Mike left I moved around a lot to stay awake until my normal bedtime. I’ve found with changing time zones that the easiest way to get over jet lag is to immediately get on the schedule of the time zone I’m in.

Saturday afternoon I also met with my stake president to be released from my mission. We had a great visit. President Paul Chamberlain was called last May. He served on the high council with Bob, so I knew him from past association.

Our church schedule is late this year, beginning at 1:00 pm. It was nice to sleep in a bit and great to see all my friends at church.


Spiritual Highlights

In his interview President Chamberlain asked me how I had grown during my mission. I think my greatest growth has occurred from my personal study of the life of the Savior. Gaining greater understanding of the context of His life and His earthly mission has made Him even more real to me. I know He lives. I know He fulfilled His Father’s plan to come to earth, receive a mortal body, teach us through precept and example, and perform His great atoning sacrifice. Because of Him we can repent, improve, and ultimately live again in His and our Father’s presence along with our loved ones we have known here and our ancestors who have preceded us. I know that the Lord restored the fullness of the gospel in these latter days through Joseph Smith, and that we are led today by a living prophet and apostles. I am grateful for the richness of our gospel and grateful for the opportunity I have had during the past year to play a little role in helping to build His kingdom.

Thanks to all of my family and friends for your love and support. I feel so richly blessed by the great people who are part of my life. May the Lord’s choicest blessings be with each and every one of you.

Much love,

Mom, Grandma, Marilyn


Artifacts from the Parker’s trip:




Sister Foster and Peti Transfield holding the card signed by everyone in the office. Peti is a volunteer who has done marvelous work in organizing and distributing the huge collection of trophies we received when the Church College closed:


Sister Jocelyn Garry taking over the computer station:


The temple at dusk–kind of blurry because my camera doesn’t capture far-away images very well:


Last names to the temple:


Lunch with the Olsens in Devonport:


Old Devonport houses made out of kauri wood:




Views from North Head (inactive volcano):







Rangitoto Island:


Pohutukawa tree–will be blooming in red at Christmas:


Ferry ride across bay to Auckland:



Salt Lake airport–grandchildren waiting for luggage:



Family at the airport:




Family at Deborah’s home:






Two youngest grandchildren:


Mike and his new kitty:



Notes left at my home by my Philadelphia grandchildren:



October 30, 2016

The Work

Monday morning Sister Garry and I began working together as I prepare to pass the baton on to her. She and her husband had some good training in Salt Lake before they came to New Zealand, and she is a quick learner. Most of the week was spent working on a variety of things that will help her after I leave.

Scott Simpkins did some conservation training with us on Monday and Tuesday. I didn’t attend most of it because at this point it is more valuable to spend my time wrapping up loose ends instead of receiving training on procedures I will not use. One of our learnings from Scott’s visit is that in the future as the Church establishes other local records repositories, awareness of conservation issues as the project begins is important. There is much we are learning now that would have been very helpful to know as we initially began working with our collections. This being said, this entire project is new for the Church, so we’re all learning along the way.

Wednesday was an interesting day. The software we use to catalog records (EAD) crashed, so we couldn’t do any cataloging work. I used the time to clean up my computer files, which I needed to do anyway. In the afternoon Philip Hague came into the office to help me understand the contents of some files he donated on the library holdings at Church College. I really appreciated his help and also the fresh asparagus he shared with us from his garden.


Cultural Notes

Last Sunday evening when we had our dinner at Parkers, Rangi gave us T-shirts with the saying “Kia Ngawari,” which is a Maori phrase from Alma 7:3-4 in the Book of Mormon. It roughly translates into “Be humble, be gentle, be kind, be loving”—the Christ-like virtues. This was a favorite saying of Matthew Cowley, and I have seen in many places the picture of him holding a sign with this saying, including one in our office that I have included in the photos below.

Recently a new round-about was constructed on the road leading to the temple. Circling the roundabout are the words “Kia Ngawari, Be Kind, Be Gentle, Be Loving.” How appropriate for this phrase and its translation to be on this roundabout located by the temple.


Other Activities

A long-time friend let me know several weeks ago that the daughter of her good friend recently married a Kiwi and moved to New Zealand. I have been corresponding through e-mail with this young woman, Cate Malloy, but I was not sure I could get up to Auckland to visit her before I left my mission. However, when we realized that someone would need to drive Scott Simpkins to Auckland on Tuesday for his flight home, Gill and I volunteered for the task so we could meet Cate later for dinner. It worked out well. This is a huge adjustment for her—not only to marriage and leaving her family, but to a new country and new culture. I think she is adjusting remarkably well, and I hope our visit provided her with some validation and encouragement.

Thursday all of us in the office went to lunch at Donovans, a chocolate shop and café in Hamilton. The lunch was good, and I really enjoyed the chocolate brownie I had for dessert—not too sweet. Val had told us about this café, and I’m glad I got to go before I leave. Elder and Sister Micheli, the missionaries from Fort Bridger who I met in Napier, joined us as they were in town for their ward’s temple week. They told us about their annual auction back home, which was held earlier in the day. They, along with a brother and son, specialize in raising breeding bulls, and ranchers come from all over the west to bid on their prize bulls. They derive all of their yearly income from this one-day event, so it’s extremely important to them. I think Elder Micheli said this was the first auction he’s missed, and they were nervous to hear about the outcome. Fortunately it went very well, and I liked learning about their breeding operation. We have some mutual friends in common—people I served with in Germany. We hope to get together for a fishing outing when we are all back in the states.


Speaking of Fishing…

Kerry and Margaret Higgins promised me last fall that they would take me fishing one more time before I went home. Friday was the day. We went to Waikowau, same bay on the east coast with the mussel farms that we fished in the spring. They picked me up at 6:00 a.m. (funny how it is always easy to get up early for fishing), and we were on the water by a little before 9:00. It was cloudy on much of the drive to the ocean, but when we reached our destination the weather was beautiful—we couldn’t have had a nicer day. Like last time, Kerry’s brother Steve met us at the launching site. The fishing was steady, with one of us pulling up a fish on a regular basis. We fished for red snappers, and they have to be at least 30 centimeters long to keep them. We threw several small fish back in the ocean but also hooked a good number to take home.

I caught a couple of fish on this outing that I didn’t catch last time. Once, when I was reeling in my line, it felt quite heavy. As we pulled my line out of the water, I had hooked a good-sized red snapper and a starfish. We kept the snapper and threw the starfish back in the ocean. Later in the day I caught a gurnard, a small, pretty fish that looks like it has wings. We also threw this one back, after I had a chance to get a couple of pictures. I also saw a jellyfish in the water.

The seagulls reminded me of the “Mine, mine, mine” seagulls in the movie Finding Nemo. Steve and Kerry threw out unusable pieces of bait in the vicinity of some seagulls perched on a mussel buoy. They’d fly to the bait and see who could get it first. Then the one who got the treat flew back to the buoy and figured out how to eat it. They’d finally maneuver the piece of fish in their mouths and swallow, and we could see the bulge in their throats as their meal worked its way down to their stomachs. The birds were fun to watch.

We quit fishing around 2:00, having caught a nice mess of fish. On the way home we stopped for ice cream—a Higgins tradition, and I had a passionfruit cone. I really like this flavor and don’t know if I’ll find it in the states. Kerry and Margaret left me with three nice fish—they would have given me more, but I knew I couldn’t eat any more in the time I have left. They came into the house, where Kerry filleted the fish for me, which was so kind, especially since I don’t have a good knife here. Kerry and Margaret told me how to prepare it. I had a delicious meal that night and invited Randy and Margaret Olsen over for dinner on Saturday to help me eat the rest.

I’m so glad I got to go fishing one more time. I love being in nature, the good company, catching fish, and eating it.



Last week Sandra Beijerling told me about a wonderful nature preserve near their home and was hoping I could see it before I left. I mentioned that maybe I could see it on Sunday after our bring-a-plate lunch at church, but she said the weather report did not look promising. However, I picked up a text message from her right before I left for Raglan saying that the weather was beautiful and we could go for a walk after all. This is a new preserve, having been established in 2014. The land belonged to a farmer who donated it to the government on condition that it be established and maintained as a preserve. This means no hunting or dogs, and no changes to the existing environment. After church I followed the Beijerlings to their lovely home, changed into slacks and walking shoes, and headed out with the family to the preserve. It was worth seeing this lovely tract of land almost in their back yard. Jason, one of the boys, slid down an embankment to get some better pictures of the waterfalls in the little stream. The Beijerlings are great people who have been so kind to me, and I will miss them.

As I was getting in my car to drive to church Bishop Oli Cowley called out to me. He had tried to call me but didn’t get through, so he walked over to invite me to dinner tonight. He is the bishop of one of the Temple View wards who I’ve met a few times on my morning walks. I enjoyed a great meal with this lovely family and appreciate their kindness to someone they really didn’t know and to whom they had no obligation.

Church was sweet today and a little sad as I said good-bye to the friends I have made. The Pururi’s son Asa came home from his mission last Wednesday, so the meeting had a missionary focus. Kerry Higgens, out branch president, had asked me on Friday to share a short testimony along with Elder and Sister Hawkins, a senior couple who are also serving in Raglan. Elder Pururi was the concluding speaker, and I got a chance at the bring-a-plate lunch after the service to visit again with my son Mike’s friend Karamea Pururi. All in all it has been a wonderful Sabbath day.


Spiritual Highlights

This morning I read the talk on joy given by President Russell M. Nelson in last October’s general conference. I was struck by his statement, “…the joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives.” He discussed even in trying circumstances, we can have inner joy if we focus on the Savior and strive to keep His commandments. I have certainly found this to be true in my own life, and believe along with President Nelson that trusting in the Lord and His promises to us do far more to ensure our joy and happiness than living in comfort and ease.

Much love,

Mom, Grandma, Marilyn, Sister Foster


Sister Jocelyn Garry and Sister Marilyn Foster reviewing the cataloging process:


Rangi distributing t-shirts:


Elder and Sister Garry and me with our shirts:


Matthew Cowley holding Kia Ngawari sign:


Roundabout by the temple. The driveway to the temple goes off to the left:


Close-ups of the roundabout:






Sister Foster, Gill, Cate Malloy:


Sunrise on fishing morning:


Boat at the launch site with a clever name:


Boat at the launch site with a clever name cont:


Headed out to sea:


View from the anchor site:



First catch and keep red snapper:


Kerry and Margaret Higgins:


Steve Higgins:


Nice snapper and starfish–we threw the starfish back in the ocean:


Jelly fish:


Seagull with a large snack, trying to figure out how to eat it:





Kerry filleting my fish for me:


Beijerling home:


Scenes from the preserve:








Beijerling family: Kevin, Daniel, Sandra, Jason:


Sister Foster and Sandra:


Cowley family: Rebecca, Oli, Atawhai, Aria, Manasseh, Grandma and Grandpa Cowley:


Aria took this picture:


October 23, 2016

The Work

Although I was out of the office on Monday, I felt good about what was accomplished this week. I finished cataloging a box that turned up in one of our storage rooms. It contained materials from the Pacific Area public affairs office pertaining to temple dedications and re-dedications. I enjoyed getting an insight into all the public affairs work that goes into preparing for the open houses and dedications of temples.

Monday and Tuesday Scott Simpkins, the conservationist who is visiting from Salt Lake, and Gill Ballard went to Wellington to attend a national conservation seminar. While they were gone I updated the list I have been keeping of items we have cataloged that need conservation work. When Gill returned on Wednesday I gave her this list, which she and Scott then reviewed. One of the tricky things about conservation is to assess how important the article is that needs conserving. If it is a paper document with a low to medium priority, we may just put it in a protective sheet and file it. However, if it is very historically significant, we will take additional steps to preserve it. I really appreciate what I have learned about conservation on my mission. It will help me with my own documents and artifacts at home.

During the week I also finished the cataloging worksheets for the final three oral histories that were assigned to me. These oral histories by faithful Saints are always an inspiration to work on. When I get home I may record a few oral histories of people connected to the Pacific.

On Thursday afternoon Elder Peter and Sister Jocelyn Garry dropped by. They are replacing me, though they will be doing a broader range of tasks than I have done. Their first official day was Friday. They are a talented, delightful couple who were born in New Zealand but moved to Canada many years ago. They will be great assets to the work here.

Cultural Notes

I am really enjoying the spring weather. Yesterday and today have been sunny, beautiful days. We’ve had such a rainy spring that the sunshine is particularly welcome. Joyce Wheadon said that the overabundance of rainfall has been hard on farmers, because without sunshine the grasses in the pasturelands don’t grow. This spring the milk production on her dairy farm dropped by a full half during a rainy month because the farmer who runs her place had to put the herd on supplemental feed, which doesn’t give them the same level of nourishment as when they are able to graze.

Spider webs are everywhere here. A week ago Saturday I washed my car, and already I am getting some spider webs on my car. I took a couple of pictures on my walk of a car with spider webs.

Other Activities

I took a personal day on Monday to travel with Joyce Wheadon to meet her brother Robert Nicholson, who lives in the seaside town of Mt. Maunganui. The only other Nicholson sibling that I haven’t met lives in Australia, and I am glad I got a chance to meet Robert before I come home. He is a very kind soul who lost his wife to cancer many years ago and finished rearing their daughters. His current job is driving BMWs (nice job!). When people need their cars serviced, he leaves them a loaner car, drives their car to the service center, and reverses this process when the service work is completed. He doesn’t know his schedule very far in advance, so I’m glad we found a day we could visit. On our outing Joyce and I also drove through some of the busy Port of Tauranga area. The government recently spent about 300 million dollars dredging the port to make it deeper and therefore accessible to larger ships. This investment is already paying off, as this port is the only one in New Zealand that can accommodate extremely big vessels.

With BYU playing Boise State on Thursday night in the states, we were able to watch it Friday afternoon. The game started off on a poor note for BYU, and we were thinking about watching until halftime and them going to a movie. But with a couple of interceptions it became interesting, so we watched until the bitter end. BYU lost by a point, but it was fun to be cheering together.

I knew that Saturday would be one of my last days to play in New Zealand. I had picked up some discount coupons for the Buried Village, which is the archeological dig site for the huge volcanic eruption of 1886. I’ve written about this before, but for review, in the early morning hours of June 10 a big earthquake hit the area near Rotorua and was followed by a volcanic eruption of the three peaks of Mount Tarawera. As well as destroying several Maori settlements, the ash completely buried the pink and white terraces, which had become tourist attractions for visiting Europeans. Buried Village is near the terraces. Elder Olsen said this is the only archeological dig in New Zealand, which isn’t surprising when one considers how young this country is.

In addition to being beautiful, what made the pink and white terraces so appealing was that a boiling hot spring flowed from the top of each of them. As the water made its way down the terraces it collected in pools, each a little cooler than the one above it. Visitors would start bathing in the lower pools and gradually move up higher as they became accustomed to the higher temperatures, then descend. It was a wonderful thermal experience.

We first went through the museum at Buried Village, then took the walking tour of the area. In addition to dig sites and recreated structures, the area has a beautiful trout stream that at one point turns into some great waterfalls. Gill didn’t hike to the waterfalls, and when we rejoined her at a viewing point, she motioned for us to be quiet. She had spotted some kereru pigeons and tuis. We were able to watch these birds for several minutes, and I got better views and pictures of them than I did at Zealandia. It always thrills me to view birds and animals in the wild.

Today (Sunday)

We had our annual Primary program for our sacrament meeting service today. Because we have such a small Primary (four children today), the young men, young women, and missionaries helped supplement the program. I was asked to give a short talk along with the elders, and the youth quoted scriptures and sang with the children. It was a nice program and although I will have one more Sunday in the branch, a nice way to end my service in the Primary.

In the evening Vic and Rangi hosted a “bring a plate” dinner to welcome the Garrys. I had bought a leg of lamb a few weeks ago, but realized I probably wouldn’t have the time to cook it or the space to invite people to dinner. So I cooked it for our dinner tonight. My mother occasionally cooked a leg of lamb, and the aroma in my apartment brought back some nice childhood memories.

Spiritual Highlights

Two things really touched me in connection with our Primary program today. I was asked to speak on the topic of Jesus Christ is my Savior and Redeemer. I decided to briefly relate the story of feeding the 5,000 and the ensuing Bread of Life sermon. This sermon is always very moving to me, and I think a real low point in the Savior’s ministry. After His unmistakable declaration that He is the promised Messiah and the ensuing rejection of Him by most who heard His sermon, He asks His disciples if they too will forsake Him. Peter responds by giving his great affirmation of Jesus as the Christ. I, too, know that Jesus is my Savior and Redeemer, and the Savior and Redeemer of the entire world.

The second thing that stirred my soul occurred as I was practicing “We Have Been Called” before the service began. I realized that I will soon be finishing up my missionary service and thought of what a privilege it has been to dedicate this past year to the Lord’s service. I have been greatly blessed, and though I know there are some things I could have done better, I am grateful for this opportunity to contribute to this latter-day work. It will be a tender time when I turn in my missionary name tag.

Much love,

Mom, Grandma, Marilyn, Sister Foster


Elder Peter and Sister Jocelyn Garry:


Spider Webs:



Shore at Mt. Maunganui:


Ship sailing to Port of Tauranga:


Robert Nicholson, Sister Marilyn Foster, Joyce Wheadon:


Group at Buried Village:



Wisteria in bloom:



Model of the white terraces. There were also pink ones–must have been beautiful:


Typical home furnishings prior to the volcano:




Maori whare (home), reconstructed as it would have been before the volcano. Notice the height of the ash surrounding it. In this village 70 of 120 homes were completely destroyed, and the rest heavily damaged. Only the meetinghouse remained intact, and it is now in a museum in England


Oven and cast iron pot in a whare:


Hotel cellar–storage area for spirits:


Bottles, some with ash:


Hotel oven:


Hotel employee house:


Fireplace in employee house, surrounded by ash:



Site of another whare:


Part of a storehouse:




Poplar trees. These were so damaged that they eventually had to be cut down for safety reasons. But new growth is coming out of the old stumps:


Trout stream:








Scenes from an overlook:




Keraru pigeons:





Leg of lamb roast:



October 16, 2016

The Work

We found another box of materials to catalog, this time files from the Pacific Area public affairs office dealing with temple dedications. It’s fun to go through all the notes and see how much work went into planning the open houses and other events associated with the dedications. Some these records pertained to newly-built temples; others were about temple re-dedications that followed renovations.

Joseph Monsen came into the office on Monday. Since he directs the Church History Department’s preservation division, Gill showed him the work she has done to properly manage and store our artifacts. In the afternoon some of the group went to see the new building. They were fortunate enough to see the workers install the basketball jump circle from the Church College of New Zealand. It is positioned in the entry area of the building and will be a real nostalgic piece for many who visit. Gill and others were able to get some pictures, which was fortunate, because as soon as the installation was complete the circle was covered so that it won’t be damaged as additional work continues in the area.

Scott Simpkins came to New Zealand on Tuesday. Scott is one of the chief conservators for the Church History Department. He, Joseph, and Gill spent a lot of time during the rest of the week visiting various museums in the North Island, talking to conservators and other museum folks, and getting a feel for how museums function here. Gill got a lot of validation for the way she has organized and stored our artifacts. In addition, Joseph and Scott have been able to see first-hand some of the challenges we have and learn that what are best practices in Salt Lake may not be as important or as feasible to implement here on the same scale as in Utah. This will help us going forward—not that our support in Salt Lake has been bad, but sometimes folks there are not fully aware of our realities.

Before our Salt Lake visitors came, Elder Olsen said that he wouldn’t let them go home until they had addressed three issues for us: our need for equipment to scan large documents, how to address the issue of humidity control, and what to do about bugs. On Friday we all met together for Joseph to give us their report. He said he would solve our scanning equipment problem (hooray!). As to the humidity in the new museum and artifact storage area, Joseph took a very practical approach. We will have to monitor it for a time and then take corrective steps if needed. And the bug issue was interesting. All the museum folks that Joseph, Scott, and Gill talked with told them that “You will have bugs.” They said pests need to be controlled, but it is not practical to think that we won’t have to deal with them. They gave us several suggestions for mitigating the bug problem.

Joseph also gave an explanation of roles people fill in Salt Lake as they handle the collection there and suggested that we follow a similar model. People will have assigned areas of responsibility, not be “jacks of all trades,” which will lead to better management of our facilities and the collection.

A final note: some “snakes” appeared in our office during the week. Gill and Sister Jacobsen sew various items that they use when packing artifacts for storage, including stuffed cloth cylinders. Not sure who decided to perk the cylinders up a bit—see the pictures below.


Other Activities

Monday was my birthday. As I was parking my car at the office, I was met by Daniel Beijerling who gave me a birthday remembrance from his wife Sandra. It consisted of a card, a little bouquet of flowers, and a beautiful colored pencil drawing she had done. I didn’t know that she knew it was my birthday, so I was very surprised. The picture is one I will treasure, both for its quality and for the love it represents. I’ll get it framed and hung when I get home. For the past couple of months Sandra and I have met almost weekly for lunch. I wish we had started doing this earlier in my mission. I will miss her when I come home.

In the evening the office gang went out to dinner, both because Joseph was in town and to celebrate my birthday. I had a wonderful meal, as did the rest of the folks. Randy and Margaret were most generous. How fortunate I have been to work with all these good people.

We went to dinner again on Wednesday after Scott’s arrival. The Jacobsens and I got to the restaurant before the rest of the group, so we walked a short distance to see some Maori statues by a prominent building. I love the way Kiwis incorporate art into their urban areas. At dinner I sat across from Joseph and we began talking about where we lived. When I told him I lived in Holladay, he asked if I had children who had gone to Olympus about the same time he went to high school in Orem (sad to think I am that much older than he is!). I replied “yes,” and he said he had some good friends who went to Olympus and mentioned a couple of surnames. One was of a family that lived in our ward, and it turns out their oldest son and his wife are best friends with Joseph and his wife. Small world, and always fun to make these connections.

Friday afternoon we wanted to show our guests a little of New Zealand. We were fortunate that the rain abated for a time and we were able to go to Bridal Veil Falls. This is always a nice, nearby spot to take visitors. I had never hiked to the bottom of the falls, so several of us did this. Some stairs, but nothing close to hiking Whanu Pichu in Peru! I enjoyed the view of the falls from the bottom. Afterwards we went into Raglan, saw several seashore sites, then ended at our favorite fish and chips place. I wish we had something this good in Salt Lake, but if we did I’d probably get fat. I had lemon fish with kumura fries.—enough to fill me up plus take home for dinner today.

This morning I got up at 4:45 a.m. to be online when the tickets became available for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas concert. I got right on the site and didn’t have any trouble getting tickets for Thursday night. My daughter e-mailed me later in the day asking me if I got tickets and saying that people at her children’s soccer games had not been able to get them. I don’t know if I was just blessed or if for some reason it was easier to get them when applying from an international site. Anyway, this concert has always meant so much to me, and I am grateful I will be able to go.



With only three Saturdays left before I head home, I didn’t want to let this one pass without doing something fun. I decided to visit Hamilton Gardens. I think this is the treasure of Hamilton, because the gardens are beautiful, extensive, and open to the public for free. I enjoyed watching the ducks, viewing the azaleas and rhododendrons, and admiring all the other spring foliage. Much of this I had seen before, but things are always different with the change in seasons. I also dropped by the rose gardens, even though I knew they would not yet be in bloom. A few roses that have emerged, but this area will be gorgeous in three or four weeks. I hope I can visit again just before I leave, as I think many of the flowers will be out by then.

In the afternoon the Jacobsens, Olsens, Wilkeys, and Rowan got together in our office conference room to watch the BYU-Mississippi State football game. It was Rowan’s first time in watching a full game, and when asked how much he enjoyed it on a scale of 1-10, he gave it a 7. BYU didn’t play particularly well, so we were all quite relieved when they won in double overtime.


Spiritual Highlights

This week in my study time I have read about the transfiguration when Jesus took Peter, James, and John on the mount. I was particularly touched to be reminded of the height of grandeur Jesus and His disciples experienced on that occasion, only to be followed by His descending into the depths of sorrow when so many rejected Him. I have so enjoyed this study of the life of Christ. He has become ever more real to me. I am grateful for His life, for His love, and for His great atoning sacrifice on my behalf and the behalf of all mankind.

Much love,

Mom, Grandma, Marilyn, Sister Foster


“Snakes” in the office:



Birthday dinner:


Maori statues in Hamilton:



Closeups of statues:






River by restaurant:


Lunch with Sandra Beijerling:


Joseph Monsen and Scott Simpkins at Bridal Veil Falls:


View of the falls from the top…


…and from the bottom:



Raglan shore with surfer:


More ocean scenes:



Joseph Monsen, Sister Foster, Scott Simpkins at our favorite fish and chips place in Raglan:


At Hamilton Gardens, mama duck on the pond:


Ducklings sunning on a rock:


Duckling swimming in the pond:


Later in the day, duck family headed to the pond:


…and back in the pond


Turtle enjoying the sun:


More scenes from Hamilton Gardens:











October 9, 2016

The Work

It always feels good to go back to the office on Monday. I’m finding that our cataloging work is going a little faster than I thought it might. I still hope to get all of the Church College of New Zealand paper collection cataloged before I go home. After I leave my replacements will need to audit the collection before it is published in the Church History Library Catalog and also before we move into the new building. I know they will find mistakes, but I will feel really good about my efforts here if Val and I can get the initial work completed.

One of Gill’s projects this week was to clean up the bricks we brought back from the Maori Agricultural College. They look nice and I hope at some point they will be part of an exhibit in the new museum. The exhibits we will have when we open are already set, so the bricks will not be part of the initial displays. However, as we refresh exhibits in the future, I suspect we will have opportunity to display them.

Elder Olsen has provided great leadership in helping us prepare to open our local Church History Center. It will be the first of its kind in the world, so there has been a steep learning curve and lots of unknowns to deal with as we have planned and prepared for our opening. One thing Randy did last week was declare a moratorium on taking in new collections and recording oral interviews until after we move to the new building. This will give us the time we need to complete the processing of what we already have prior to our move.

We have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of some visitors from the Church History Department in Salt Lake to help us deal with some sticky issues here and provide training we need. Saturday Joseph Monsen, the director of the preservation division, flew to Auckland. Olsens picked him up at the airport, and tonight we got together for a “bring a plate” dinner at the Parkers. I knew Joseph before I retired, and it was great to see him again. We enjoyed a nice meal, good conversation, and a beautiful sunset. Next week Scott Simpkins will join him. I look forward to our opportunity to learn from these visitors and expect to have some very productive time with them over the next two weeks.


Other Activities

Spring weather is in full bloom and I am thoroughly enjoying all the beautiful foliage I see on my early morning walks. Some of the trees, shrubs, and flowers we have at home, but many of the plants here I know I will never see in Utah. This is truly a drop-dead beautiful country, which makes the frequent rainfall worth it.

Monday night a few of us senior missionaries had a family home evening in the Church offices downtown. We hadn’t gotten together on an informal basis for several months, so it was great to be able to relax and enjoy each other’s company. Elder and Sister Jacobsen organized this event. We played pool and ping pong, which I found I can still play decently, and enjoyed a great meal. Such good people are serving here, and it’s a pleasure to be with them.

When I received my mission call, my son Mike told me he had a good friend and work associate who had moved to New Zealand—her father was born here, went to the states, and then the family moved back a few years ago. I discovered early in my mission that her family attend our Raglan Branch, but I had never had a chance to meet her. On Friday Lani, Karamea, and Ashley Pururi and I met for brunch in Hamilton. We had a lovely visit. Karamea is a very bright, talented woman, and I can see why she and Mike are friends. I also think she has a beautiful name.

Our weekend movie was The Magnificent Seven. This is a remake of a classic western, and we were afraid it would not measure up to the original. But I really enjoyed it—just don’t try to do a body count (lots of folks get shot, but the violence isn’t overly graphic). I especially liked the ethnic diversity in this new version.


Cultural Notes

A few weeks ago I wrote about the rise in housing prices in New Zealand, especially in Auckland. I heard a report this week that home prices are continuing to rise, only now predominately in the areas outside of Auckland. The median house price for the country is $515,000 New Zealand dollars.

Major changes have occurred in my neighborhood since I arrived almost a year ago. At that time small homes built for teachers at the Church College lined the street behind my apartment building. These have all been razed, and work is moving forward to build new homes on the street. I’ve enjoyed watching this transformation, and wonder if at some point my building will also be replaced. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned before that my building is affectionately referred to as “the nunnery” because it was built to house single female teachers who taught at Church College.


Spiritual Highlights

Because of the significant time differential between Salt Lake and New Zealand, general conference sessions are officially broadcast here the weekend following the meetings in Utah. We can pick up sessions earlier than that on the Internet, and prior to Saturday I had been able to listen to the general women’s meeting and the first session on Saturday. After doing the laundry and running some errands Saturday morning, I listened to the afternoon session and the priesthood meeting talks.

On Sunday we were invited to watch the remaining sessions in our Raglan Branch. We met at 10:00 for the first session, then had a nice lunch together, then watched the final session. Because we were viewing the meetings from a DVD, we didn’t have to wait two hours between the first and second session. I really enjoyed being with my branch family to watch conference.

I find that the older I get, the more I treasure the opportunity to participate in general conference. One theme that was prominent for me in this conference was the encouragement to repent and improve. This message of repentance was given in positive terms—not in the spirit of hell fire and damnation, but in the spirit of a loving God who wants us to become the best we can be. I’ve thought a lot about the conference messages that focused on what we can do as individuals to be better—to reverently worship God and serve our fellow men. This message is a great comfort to me, especially at this time. As I suspect is the case with many of you, I have had a lot of anxiety about the political situation in the states. Conference helped me remember that I need to be an informed citizen, but my focus needs to be on the things over which I have control, not on events swirling around me that I can’t do much to change. I can show my love for the Lord by reaching out to Him in prayer, studying His words, and listening with real intent to those He has ordained to lead His work at this time. I can better serve my fellow men by being a little kinder, a little more aware of the needs of those around me, and uniting with other good people to serve His children. I’m finding as I focus on these things that I have much greater peace. I know God lives, that Jesus Christ is His Son, and that we can receive guidance from the Holy Spirit. I believe in the Second Coming of Jesus to the earth that He spoke of to His ancient apostles, and with that coming He will overthrow the evil that exists in the world today. The world likely will continue in turmoil before this day comes, but ultimately good will prevail. This gives me great hope for the future, even if sometimes the near-term looks bleak.

Much love,

Mom, Grandma, Marilyn, Sister Foster


Bricks from the Maori Agricultural College:



Joseph Monsen and friends at dinner at the Parkers:


Sunset from Parker’s window:



Spring has arrived:





These are considered weeds, but they are very pretty:



More spring flora:


















Ashley, Lani, Karamea Pururi, Sister Foster:


Housing development behind my apartment:


Building site contoured for the foundation of a new home: