Gae's first photo, from hotel

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Prime Minister John Key Visits MTC

We have had a very busy and exciting month. We are starting to feel like we have a better grasp on our public affairs assignments. Our little public affairs group in New Zealand comprises our director, Richard Hunter (full-time Church employee), and two other senior missionary couples: Pat and Paul Streiff, and Rosalie and Stan Nance. The Streiffs are longtime friends whose home is near the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon in Salt Lake. The Nances are currently from Star Valley Wyoming, but they lived in Bountiful, Utah for many years.

Each couple is assigned to support specific geographic areas of the Church. Our current assignment is Hawkes Bay and Hamilton in New Zealand, and the Cook Islands. We continue to build relationships in all three areas. The Church Public Affairs is organized in a Director of Public Affairs in each stake who report to a Multi-Stake Council who in turn report to the National Public Affairs Council. In the case of smaller countries like the Cook Islands, where we have about 1800 members, there is one Director of Public Affairs for the Country.

The Church has just completed a new missionary training center (MTC) in Manukau, a suburb of Auckland. An open house was organized for members, especially for the 14 to 18 year olds. The open house was coordinated by the Nances, which is outside the normal purview of Public Affairs – but they were assigned the job by Elder Tad R. Callister, Pacific Area President. In the end, this turned into a very good opportunity for Public Affairs.

The Prime Minister (equivalent of President in the US) was invited to come to the open house and kindly accepted our offer. All of us at New Zealand Public Affairs worked on different aspects of the special VIP session set up for the Prime Minister. There was a choir of about 20 young missionaries who sang the New Zealand National Anthem with Maori and English verses upon his arrival. On his way in, he shook hands with several senior missionaries and the Mission President (Porter) and his wife. Gae was in that group and got to shake the hand of Prime Minister Key. After a twenty-minute meeting with President Callister and three other Church officials, the Prime Minister shook hands with each member of the choir, chatting and joking with them. He was running late, but he spent the extra time greet each young missionary and listen to a parting song. They sang the Primary song about the armies of Helaman: “We’ll Bring the World His Truth”. On the way out, he posed with a couple of “missionary bikes”, but declined to demo them.

We worked hard on getting the press to come to this event, and we were able to get one photographer there from a chain of newspapers. The editor that I talked to who sent the photographer produces two Sunday papers, so I don’t know yet if anything got published. We also were able to get a higher level editor/reporter from a Chinese language New Zealand newspaper. This newspaper also has a website, in Chinese, that gets 20 million hits per day, obviously mostly from outside New Zealand. Who knows what the eventual outcome might be from these seeds.

Terry found a young man who will be in the first intake into the new MTC on 2 September. His name is Ross Pokere and he is enthusiastic and prepared. He is just itching to get going. You can read an article about him at  right now, or longer term at

This is getting long, so I’ll just summarize some of our other happenings.

- We went to Hamilton (2-hour drive) and visited our Multi-Stake director there. We also went to the Temple, see photo.

- Terry spoke in Sacrament Meeting in our Albany Ward. The talk was on the assigned subject of judging righteously.

- We went for an overnight trip to Rotorua with the Streiffs for a p-day. The girls shopped, the guys fished, and we had a good time. In one of the spots we fished, there were 24” to 28” rainbow trout cruising around us, but we could not get a strike.

- Terry and Paul Streiff went back for another p-day, hired a guide, and tried the same lake near Rotorua. It was windy and rained all day. This time we got 8 and 6 strikes respectively, and Terry had a 26” to 28” fish on for about ten minutes, got it to the edge of the lake, and lost it. The fish jumped twice and was clearly visible from time to time in the very clear water. So sad.