Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Springtime here in Australia is beautiful and especially here in Cairns.  The temperature has been absolutely perfect.  It is about 75-80 degrees and the humidity stays around 70%.   The evenings get down to about 65 degrees and it is delightful.  The summer is coming and we understand that the temperature gets hotter, and the humidity is even higher. We can endure this, as we had high temperatures and high humidity in South Africa and know what it is like.

The summer is  also the rainy season and even the season of potential Cyclones (Hurricanes back home).  Because we are on the coast,  Some Cyclones have hit this area in the past.  Some of the church members (who live in the beaches cities and have their homes in low elevation areas) have been evacuated in the past.  We live in a higher elevation area and should not have any problem if any of these tropical storms hit. Although it may be kind of fun and unique to experience one of these Cylcones.  Below is an awesome sunrise one morning!

Many of the homes here are built above the ground and seem to be elevated like on stilts. (from a foot to many feet above the ground elevation).  We always thought this was prevent water from getting into the home, but recently found out that people build their homes above the ground to get air flow under the home.   It makes it much cooler when the air can flow underneath the home and less expensive to run air conditioning or fans.  Here are some of the homes that show this.

We work with all the branches in the district. (Thursday Island, Innisfail, Atherton and 2 here in Cairns).  Because we are here in Cairns most of the time, we attend both Cairns Branch church services, council meetings, missionary correlation meetings and as many of their activities as time permits. Cairns 1 Branch had their annual Brisbane Temple trip this past month.  We have been actively helping them ready themselves to attend the Temple.  Many of the new converts were able to attend and had researched many of their ancestors in the Family History Center here in Cairns.  They were so excited to go and do some of this vicarious work for their family members that have passed on.  Tears of joy attended them as this work was completed.

92 Branch members got on a bus to travel for 20 hours to Brisbane and attend the Temple. 20 new members, who had joined the Church within the last year, had the opportunity of doing baptisms for their ancestors.  Several Young Men and Young Women also attended with the group.   Over 800 baptisms were performed and 300 confirmations.   Debbie and I had the opportunity to teach a family  the Temple Preparation Classes and prepare them to go through for their own Endowments and have their 4 small children sealed to them.  What a great joy it was to be with them in the Temple and watch them receive these Sacred Ordinances. (especially tender when the 4 small children were sealed to their mom and dad).   Along with the baptisms and confirmations there were 6 new Endowments, 2 family Sealings performed and 17 Patriarchal Blessings given.  Because we belong to a District, we do not have a Stake Patriarch.   Arrangements were made, and 5 Stake Patriarchs from Brisbane were at the Chapel next to the Temple to give these blessings to 17 of our Cairns 1st Branch members. It was an amazing experience.

One of the new converts to attend the Temple was John Manatan.  A convert of about 6 months, a  rough Australian Torres Strait indigenous man.   He has had a rough life and the gospel of Jesus Christ has completely changed him.  The Holy Ghost touches and changes the internal spirits of these unique people, but their exterior appearance sometimes does not change.  John told us he had not had a a haircut in over 30 years.   We prayed as to how to approach John and what to say to him as to not offend or cause him to rebel.   We used Elder Oaks talk on BYU grooming standards and expressed the importance of how your physical tidiness and cleanliness in appearance can effect your spiritual growth and well being. We shared how Sacred the Temple is and you naturally would want to feel and look the very best you can before you enter.   The conversation was incredible and he was so willing to change and prepare both spiritually and physically to enter the Temple and do the work for his ancestors.  Below are pictures of John before and after.

Our work here is so varied, we seem to do everything.  We even have a home teaching assignments in both Cairns Branches.  One of the families we home teach is a single mom who has 10 boys (8 of them still living at home and the oldest is 22 and the youngest is 3)  We recently had a family home evening with them and Debbie dressed all the boys to appear as Lehi's family in the wilderness and told the story of when Nephi was commanded to build the boat to travel to the America's.  The pictures show the event.  We had a wonderful evening.

Please continue to pray for the missionaries who are serving throughout the world. Our work is so critical and important and we need all your support and prayers.  Thank you so much.  We love and miss you will write again.

Ren and Debbie
                                        Here are some streets and businesses named after us!!