In the Mission Field!

Savannah has moved in to the mission field, and we are so excited for her to begin teaching the people of New Zealand!

Below is a map of the Hamilton New Zealand Mission, and the current area that she is serving in which is in Southern Auckland, specifically, the Papakura Zone.

Here is Savannah’s letter home to us:

I’m so sorry I haven’t written a lot!  We would only get 30 minutes in the MTC and let me tell you that’s not enough time! I miss my companions in the MTC they were amazing and so kind! But I am so glad to be out here in the field! Let me just say I love it so much! I love missionary work and I love the people out here!

So I am in Papakura which is like the Compton of New Zealand haha its pretty sketchy out here but that’s ok I honestly love it. It has made me so greatful for what I have and made me realize how much I took for granted.

So my Companion’s name is Sister Inia and she is a crack up, and she always has something to say its pretty funny! She is really nice and she has taught me so much!  She is amazing when it comes to loving the people! She has seriously shown me so much how to love these people and its really neat because I was praying all the time before my mission on how I could love these people in New Zealand and she has shown me how and so she has been an answer to my prayers!

The weather is humid and I love it!  It doesn’t rain as much up where I am, but today it was raining hard! The members are most definitely feeding us (hahah). We don’t even really buy food because we get so much from the members! The food is kind of different, but they have a lot of the same stuff and a few different things here and there. I cant think of very much right now because I haven’t been able to write in my journal at all this week.

I’m in a car and I’m ok with that except for apparently this is where all the missionaries get fat (hahah) but you know what I don’t even care its funny how when you are focused on the work that’s the last thing that matters, I know a lot of families are getting blessed by feeding us and that’s all that matters!

I got lucky no fleas…..yet. I promise I will send pictures next time! I totally forgot my camera!

I had a neat experience, I was able to teach someone to pray which was really cool and then she prayed afterwards it was really neat to see this. We have two investigators that are trying to stop smoking and so the church has a smoking program. We are doing the program with them and one thing they have to do everyday is pray in the morning and at night.  It was really neat being able to testify that prayer works and Heavenly Father can give us strength when we pray and I could tell that it really touched them, and one of them was the investigator we taught to pray.

It’s always amazing to see how much the members respect the missionaries.  They give us so much and the very best.  It is so humbling. I’ve felt the lords strength so much this week and I know this church is true. I am so grateful for every experience and challenge the lord has given me on my mission so far and I love getting updates I love you guys so much and you know what’s crazy I actually miss you guys a little 🙂   I’m so grateful for each and every one of you and I promise I will have a lot more I just need to get a few things squared up so that I have time to write in my journal 🙂 

Love

Sister Vavla

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Greetings from President & Sister Rudd

We received a great letter from President & Sister Rudd:

Kia ora!  Greetings from the New Zealand Hamilton Mission.

Sister Vavla arrived safely to Hamilton, and is already labouring in her new area. Her companion is Sister Inia.  They will be serving in the Papakura Zone, up in south Auckland.  ​ I have enclosed a picture of the entire group that arrived the same day, as well as a picture with us.  We love Sister Vavla already!

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We look forward to serving with Sister Vavla in this wonderful work as the missionary wave floods this great country of New Zealand!  We need her and are excited to serve together!  Her testimony will grow as she helps others receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and his atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end.

 Arohanui,

President and Sister Rudd​

Last Day at the MTC

Savannah sent home a few pictures about a week ago of her companions taking pictures in the MTC bathroom of all places 🙂

Here was her final email home before leaving the MTC:

Today is my last day at the MTC……crazy right! Its been so crazy here but I’ve learned so much and I feel like a completely different person then when I came here. It’s amazing the spirit you can feel here and the spirit you can convey when you are living righteously! Live worthy of the spirit, He will direct you and guide you and you will never need to fear! My head is so full but my heart is even more right now. I am so excited to go out there and serve.

I had a neat experience.  We have to go teach “investigators” here in the MTC and one of them had a family well we were teaching him and on out last day he was telling us how much the gospel had helped his family and how much more joy and peace was in his home and it was really amazing and I felt this joy I have never felt before.  In that moment I knew why I am out here on my mission. So others can feel the peace and the joy of the gospel again and have the chance to live with their families again.

I love you guys keep up everything you are doing and read your scriptures and say your prayers every day, every day, every day!

Love Sister Vavla

First Letter Home

We were so excited to get our first letter home from Savannah!

The letter came to us on Monday which was her Tuesday.   We had thought it would come on our Sunday, and we read on the Hamilton Mission Facebook page that many parents had not seen a letter from their missionary.

We heard that a 5.8 magnitude earthquake had hit near Christchurch on the South island around Sunday, and were wondering if that could be part of the delay in communication.   For the MTC, it didn’t sound like that was the issue since Savannah did not mention anything about the earthquake, and all reports suggested that very few felt it on the North island.

Here is Savannah’s letter home:

“Ok, so enough of the suspense I’ll start with the good stuff.   The very first day we get there, President Gibson (president of the MTC) interviews all of the missionaries because guess what there are only 29 missionaries in the whole MTC and there are only 7 sisters! Lets just say the odds are in our favor 😉 just kidding I need to stay focused (ha ha).  Well anyways, because of that he was interviewing us and when we first got to the MTC I was the only sister for a while! So I was the first one. So I go into the office and he talks to me, gets to know me and then he asks, Sister Vavla we would like to call you as the Sister Training leader over all the Sisters! And I was freaking out a little in my head! What! I just got here I dont know anything! I was so scared! But of course I said yes! and most of the time I look around and see some sisters that could do so much better then me but with the strength of the Lord I have been able to fufill my calling. So thats the exciting news! So my companions names are Sister Falani and Sister Meae! And they are amazing and so strong! They are both converts but I would have thought that they were converts their whole lives! I love them so much and the President said sometimes there can be problems when there are 3 companions but we have gotten along so well and we just love each other.

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I honesty have been having a really good time in the MTC and because it is such a small group I’ve gotten to know almost every missionary here! And its been awesome! They are all so strong and are going to do great things! Oh and you know how you guys make fun of how many watches I have, well i was able to give one to my companion because she left hers at home, so there you go I have a lot of watches for a reason! (ha ha)

I love you all so much and I wish I could have been there to see Jared pass the sacrament! I bet he did an amazing job 🙂 I miss you, and yes dad I was in good hands with all those Elders but I think It was the other way around, they were in good hands because I was there (ha ha) they would have been lost without me (ha ha jk jk). I slept pretty well on the plane it was a really nice plane! But of course 13 hours is no fun! I love you guys!”

Love, Sister Vavla

New Zealand MTC

I wanted to give everyone some information on where Savannah is staying for the first two weeks of her mission.   The picture above is the Missionary Training Center located in Auckland on the North island.

This training center serves missionaries staying in New Zealand, and going to Australia, Tonga, Samoa, Fiji, etc.  Most programs are two week programs for those that already are native speakers of those specific languages, and a six week program for those learning English.

Capacity for this MTC is 106 missionaries at a time, but the typical number of missionaries housed is around 43.  Below are some additional pictures of what the MTC looks like:

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At the MTC, missionaries keep busy with class work and meetings throughout the day.   In addition to classroom training, they participate in weekly devotionals by Church leaders, motivational/instructional firesides, Temple attendance, weekly service projects, and personal preparation time to read, ponder and write weekly to family.

 

I’m Here!

We received our first email from Savannah letting us know that she arrived.   I have to admit that I was doing a couple things prior to her letter.   1) I downloaded an app called FlightView, and tracked her plane from San Francisco to Auckland.   2) An hour or so after the plane landed, I was checking my email about every 5 minutes.   Does every parent of a missionary do that, or am I just special 🙂

Her email to us said how she survived the plane trip outside of getting some wine spilled on her during the flight.   Once she landed, she said she got a little nervous, and couldn’t believe that she was there.   She said, “It’s beautiful here!”, and doesn’t think she will ever miss the snow for the next 18 months.

She wasn’t feeling too much jet lag when she landed, but I attribute that one to youth and excitement!

One of her last statements was that she had some exciting news, but couldn’t tell us yet.   The only hint she gave was that it was “crazy”.   I love her attitude though because she closed the letter by saying “I know I can do anything in the strength of the Lord”.

Off to New Zealand

What an exciting time for our family!

Savannah left Denver on Tuesday, February 9th, and arrived in Auckland, New Zealand on Thursday, February 11th.   She basically skipped Wednesday since she is 20 hours ahead of us.   The best way I have found to figure out what time it is in New Zealand is to subtract 4 hours from the mountain time zone, and then add 1 day.

Tuesday started out about as normal as any other day.   We woke, had a nice breakfast, and Savannah made her final preparations.   Most of her clothes and gear were packed, and we just had a few last minute items to attend to.   Around 9am, we made a trip to Walmart for critical items like breathe mints, aloe, and a camera.   Once those purchases were made, we went over to Dick’s Sporting Goods to find one more pair of shorts.   We didn’t end up buying anything, but did get a chance to see Bishop John, and Savannah got to say a final goodbye which was a really nice opportunity.

We arrived back home with a plan to leave for the airport at Noon.    Savannah did her final packing, and the boys and I loaded up the bags in to the Suburban.   Travel down to the airport would require two cars since I was also leaving on a business trip.   You know your Heavenly Father is watching out for you and your family when my boss decides to hold a staff meeting in San Francisco the same week.

When my boss first raised the idea of having a staff meeting, I informed her that I could do it, but it would require me to travel out on Tuesday, and then we could meet on Wednesday and Thursday.   She agreed to the timeline, and I now had the opportunity to travel with Savannah to San Francisco on the same plane!   More details to come on our trip together.

The family arrived at the airport around 1pm, and the parking garage was packed.   The good thing was that the flight did not leave until 3:40pm, so we had plenty of time.   We found a couple parking spots, and made our way to ticketing.   At ticketing, we were able to off load Savannah’s two giant bags which both weighed around 45 lbs. each.  After this, we made our way to security where we took some of these photos:

Everyone was holding it together pretty good at this point until we looked over at Mom.   Becky started to get a little teary-eyed, and then the chain reaction started.   Makayla followed, and then Olivia.   The boys had their sunglasses on indoors, so it was hard to know if they were hiding some tears under their shades.

Savannah and I made our way over to the security line as the family exited on to the escalators.   Josh yelled down to us to say some final goodbyes as we waived back at them.   It was a weird feeling to know that our family would forever change after this moment now that we we would have one of our kids separated from us.

With some time to kill, we made our way over to the United Airlines terminal, and then to one of the restaurants to grab some lunch.   It was great to have some one on one time with Savannah to reflect upon the last few weeks events, and her upcoming mission.   What a blessing it was to travel with her on part of her trip!

Here is a shot of us on the plane to San Francisco:

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After a short 2 hour flight, we arrived in California.   I was worried that I would not be able to go with her to the international terminal, but we found a route that took us to the Air New Zealand gate.   We wandered around for a little while, talked, purchased a sandwich at a small deli, and then had the chance to take this picture:

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It was all starting to become a reality!   5 months after her mission call, she was ready to take a 13 hour flight to a country roughly eight thousand miles away!

After finishing her sandwich, we filled up her water bottle one last time.   Ok…we filled her water bottle up one of three times.   If you don’t know Savannah already, she loves drinking water!   Let’s just say it was good she had an aisle seat on her 13 hour journey.

Anyway, we sat down at the gate, and started looking around to see if there were any other Sister Missionaries around.   There were none to be found, but we did find one young guy dressed in a black suit, white shirt and tie.   The somewhat disoriented look on his face gave him away as a brand new missionary.   I told Savannah that we should go up and introduce ourselves.   She agreed, so we got up, and sat by him.   As we had easily deduced, he was a missionary, and had just arrived here from Eastern Washington near Spokane.

Not too long after, we found another bewildered looking missionary.   The three of us agreed to go sit by him, and introduce ourselves.   At this point, we were doing a pretty good job of gathering the New Zealand bound missionaries together.   This new Elder was from Washington also, but near Seattle.   Both guys introduced themselves by their first names, and I joked with them that they must be new since they both forgot that their first names were now Elder.

Ten minutes from gathering the two Washington missionaries, I looked over my shoulder, and saw four more missionaries coming down the escalator.   I told everyone that it looked like more of their friends were arriving, and they motioned over the four other Elders.   It was really fun to see all of them there, and it was amazing to see the instant bond and brotherhood each of them established in such a short period of time.   Here was two missionaries from Washington, two from Utah, one from Idaho, another from Alaska and a Sister from Colorado.   It was as if they all new each other for months or years, and it made me feel very comfortable to send my daughter away to a foreign land with her six brothers.

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Shortly after, they called her row to board, and I gave my final hug goodbye.   I made my way up the escalator as I watched her walk off to the jet way, and the tears began to flow as I both missed her, was proud of her, and felt pure joy for her opportunity to be a tool in the Lord’s hand.

Her journey was just starting, and I made my way over for a little bit of California comfort food before retiring for the night.

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We sure love you Savannah!