Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Letter


We can’t believe it is Christmas time already. It is difficult to get the Christmas spirit when it is 80 to 90 Degrees and there is no Snow. Two weeks ago, our ward had a Christmas Breakfast at the beach! The Ward we are assigned to is only about 10 minutes from some of the most beautiful beaches in Western Australia. It was a beautiful sunny day and the beach was wonderful. Santa even found us and brought candy for all the children & some of the “older kids” too. It’s hard to realize that we’ve been here more than six months. Our days have become so busy, the time passes too quickly. Hopefully after the start of the New Year, it will slow down some.

To bring everyone up to date, after waiting for several months, we arrived in Perth, Australia the last part of May, to serve an 18 month mission for the Church. What an adventure it was just to get here. Sister Nielsen could not get a fingerprint clearance from the FBI (requirement to obtain a Visa) because her prints were unreadable. After we submitted the third set, the missionary department allowed us to enter the MTC (Missionary Training Center in Provo) on 10 May 2010, with hopes that the clearance would come before our departure date. After many prayers & lots of faith, our Visas came the 2nd (& last) week we were there.

The MTC was amazing!! The Spirit was so strong in every meeting and activity; we did not want it to end. There were about 40 Senior Missionary Couples in our Group. Their assignments were all over the world. It was unbelievable that we could bond and become attached to people we only knew for two weeks. We still try to keep in contact with several of them. One couple has already completed their six month mission at Cove Fort, Utah and returned home.

Our flight to Perth was another great adventure. One I don’t want to experience again. Maybe we can take a boat home!! After our arrival & with very little training, we were given our assignments. Sister Nielsen is the Referral Manager and Elder Nielsen is the Finance Secretary. (I thought I knew a lot about finances.) All referrals are received by Sister Nielsen and then passed on to the Missionaries. She then has to follow-up by phone on their progress. She receives referrals from Temple Square, Visitor Centers, Members, other missionaries, Media Campaigns, etc. We just had a huge “Summer Wonderland - Island Christmas” activity we hope will generate a lot of referrals from the over 800 in attendance.

Elder Nielsen spends most of the day paying bills for the Mission. EVERYTHING in Australia costs more, lots more. The rent for one of our flats (apartments) is more than $3,000.00 a month, with the lowest being only $500. I have to submit payments for rent, utilities, repairs, office supplies, air travel (Perth is one BIG mission) and any other costs of the mission. I am still amazed that our budget is well over $1.5 million.

Working in the office gives us the opportunity to have the missionaries share their marvelous experiences when they come to the office. They have shared many wonderful stories with us. Our testimonies grow each day we are here. The members here are great and have some very strong testimonies. Each Testimony meeting, they line up and have to wait their turn. We have made some wonderful friendships.

Saturday is the Seniors Prep-Day and we try to do some sight-seeing after completing our household jobs. A single sister in our ward has become our tour guide and has helped us visit many of the points of interest in and around Perth. We have visited King’s Park, the old colonial Freemantle Prison, The Ship-Wreck Museum, The Aquarium, Maritime Museum, Kafarella’s Vineyard, The Ngilgi Cave, Leeuwin Lighthouse (the most southwestern tip of Australia, where the Indian Ocean meets the South Ocean) and the Perth MINT ( I really enjoyed this one!! Got to watch a “Gold Pour”, coin minting and even made a personalized coin of our own.) But we have yet to see our first kangaroo or koala . We are told that there are kangaroos all over every golf course. (Haven’t been to any golf courses, though.) We hope to soon go to Whiteman Park where we can see Australia’s unique animals.

Like I said, Western Australia is very big. It is about the same area as all of the western part of the continental United States. From Perth to Broome, the northern most city we have missionaries, is about as far as from Los Angeles to Seattle, Washington. And from Perth to Albany, the southern most city in the mission, is about twice as far as Los Angeles, California to Tijuana, Mexico. Most of the population is centered around Perth (almost 2 million people). And they all drive on the wrong side of the road! And the roads have NO shoulders to allow you to pull over and look at the map. Sister Nielsen has become a very good navigator.

We are grateful for our calling to serve here in the Australia Perth Mission. Our testimonies of the Church and especially the Book of Mormon have grown stronger. We love the work we are doing and know that this is where the Lord wants us to be. We so enjoy working with the young missionaries and the members. It is wonderful.

We will be spending Christmas Day with the nearly 60 city area missionaries, enjoying games, activities and a turkey dinner (cooked by the senior missionaries and Mission President’s wife). We might be on the other side of the world physically, but our hearts are with each of you as we truly wish you a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS.

May the Lord bless you and be mindful of your needs,

Elder and Sister (DeVon and Judi) Nielsen

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Pictures from Summer Wonderland

Here are some of the photos that were taken at the Summer Wonderland by Elder Johnson from Pleasant View, Utah who has been out here in Australia for about 18 months and has about 6 months remaining.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Summer Wonderland and Ward Christmas Breakfast

We had a ball last night at the "Summer Wonderland" even though I was stuck in the office most of the evening. Dad kept slipping out to take lots of pictures, then finally my work computer crashed and we couldn't access the internet on any of the other computers, so I had to quit. We went out and watched the last of the Polynesian dancers (a group from the Cook Islands), then got to see the last number -- the Fire Dancers. They were fantastic. They figure there were around 800 people in attendance during the evening. I still have to enter the information on EVERY family who had their picture taken -- member or not. Then in about a week, I will drop all the members. This will foul up statistics, but make it easier to track the non-members who attended, but still have a list of all members who attended that can help with fellowshipping the non-members.

This morning at the Ward Christmas Breakfast, we had all the fruit, sausages, hashbrowns, rolls, English muffins, eggs, and juice that you could ever want to eat. Things were cooked on the grill there at Trigg Beach. Then Santa made his appearance, passing out the "lollys" and calling all the kids, including Dad and I, by name, then left to check on his reindeer. Then we took a walk along the beach and took some great pictures. Then it was time for the party to break up. We then drove down a little farther to Hillarys to visit the shops until it was time to go to our lunch appointment. A couple who had been in our temple prep class had invited us to lunch. Talk about getting full!!!!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Summer Wonderland

The Australian Perth Mission is hosting a huge activity tonight here in front of the Temple to our east, in the stake center just across our parking lot, as well as in the park across the street. The plans have been underway for 3-4 months and is called "Summer Wonderland -- a Christmas Event with an Island Feeling." We expect a minimum crowd of 2000 people.  It is a missionary activity where members are asked to bring non-members neighbors and friends. The activity includes a Polynesian show and food, a nativity walk, a chapel tour, church auxiliary displays, and free professional photos.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

King’s Park & Botanical garden

Overlooking the city of Perth and the Swan River, King’s Park and Botanical Garden is Perth’s number one tourist attraction and a focal point of any visit to the state of Western Australia. It is set on a huge 400 hectares (just under 1000 acres) of land, of which two-thirds is pristine native bush.

Imagine the Nyoongar (Aboriginal) people gathered on the hill Kaarta Gar-up (Mount Eliza on which King’s Park is located) overlooking the water … watching … curious … as boats of the early European explorers and settlers arrived, starting in 1829. The Swan River Colony grew slowly until the gold rushes in Kalgoorlie and Coolgardie in the 1890’s. From the park’s beginning in 1895 until 1901 it was known as Perth Park. Then in 1901 the name was changed to King’s Park when King Edward VII rose to the throne at the death of Queen Victoria.

King’s Park was created as a showplace for all the unique flora native to Western Australia. This was a huge undertaking to establish one location for all the varieties to be shown in separate gardens along the walkways, appearing as they would in their natural habitat. For instance, the huge Boab Tree was moved to the park in 2008. The still-living tree only looks dead, because it looses its leaves during the dry season. It lives to a great age, storing large amounts of water.
Another tree which fascinated us, as missionaries in the Australia Perth Mission, was the Tuart Tree. The original Mission Office was located on Tuart Hill, in the suburb of Tuart Hill, both named after the tuart tree.

It is impossible to capture in a brief description, all the unique and fascinating trees and wildflowers. One of our favorites was the state flower of Western Australia, the Red and Green Kangaroo Paw.
A few other favorites were the Bacon & Egg Plant,

the Princess Gum Tree with its honky nuts,

the Gualop Bell,

the Peppermint Tree,

the Everlasting Daisy,

and others, too numerous to count. One which really fascinated us, though, was the Balga Tree which resembles a bad hair day and when in bloom has one tall “turkey tail” sticking up. It has a hollow center, and is said to grow only one centimeter each year.

We really enjoyed the bridge under the towering gum trees. It gave us a beautiful view from above.
Once again our tour guide was Helen Cope from Doubleview Ward. This time we were joined by all the Office Senior Missionaries. Pictured left to right are Elder and Sister Nielsen; Helen Cope; Sister and Elder Crawford from Escalante, Utah; Sister Matuauto, an American Samoan from SLC; and Sister Kruger, from near Birmingham, England.

Another feature of the park that we enjoyed was the water fountain.
The King’s Park Festival occurs each September, with its spectacular display of over 3000 different plant species gathered from across the State, from the South-west region up into the Kimberley. The mass displays of wildflowers in bloom is expected to last for three months or more.

The highlight of the day was a Wildflowers Wonderland Theatre Show entitled “The Adorable Florables. Live actors, performing as various wildflowers, performed a hilarious comedy, which included numerous “plays on words.” Mom even had her picture taken with the actor portraying the state flower, the Red and Green Kangaroo Paw. The show was a “hoot” according to dad. A perfect ending to “another grand adventure Down Under.”

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Farewell to President Maurer

President and Sister Maurer were released from their mission on 30 June 2010. A huge farewell in their honor was held at the Dianella Stake Center on Saturday night, the 26th. The cultural hall was filled to overflowing, with many who wished to bid farewell to the Maurer family. First, an assigned potluck dinner for the hundreds gathered was provided, with each balancing their feast on their laps. As soon as all were fed, the festivities began with a Polynesian theme. Their great love for the Maurer family was felt with the evident preparations made for the evening. 

It was an impressive three hour celebration, with many hugs and tears. They were sad to see their Australia born Mission President and family leave for their home in Brisbane, Australia.

The following Wednesday, 30 June 2010, all the missionaries, except those requiring airline flights to get to Perth, gathered to say their goodbyes to the Maurers. A chili lunch was provided by the office staff (meaning Sister Nielsen also had to prepare a huge pot of Krista’s chili recipe). It was quickly consumed by the hungry missionaries.

A huge cake was prepared by Elder Anderson in the shape of the Australia Perth Mission with flags representing its multicultural make-up. (When walking through the local malls, you might think you are at an international airport. There are many, many nations represented.) President Maurer became very emotional when the cake was presented to him and his wife.

Another memento presented to the Maurers was a mosaic of John the Baptist baptizing Jesus. The mosaic was made up of photographs of each of the missionaries who served under President Maurer’s three year leadership.

Prior to President and Sister Maurer’s departure, the Mission Office Staff (Elder and Sister Crawford, Elder and Sister Nielsen, Sister Matuauto and Sister Kruger) gathered for a group photo one last time.

The following day, the mantel of authority passed to President Paul L. Cahoon, assisted by his wife Tanya.
They are from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, where President Cahoon had been a bishop, and by profession is a dentist. They are the parents of four children.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


On Saturday, August 21, 2010, we had a Grand Adventure, when we journeyed to Fremantle with Helen Cope from church at the Doubleview Ward. Helen, our tour guide, had invited us about 2 months prior to spend a Saturday with her at the Prison.

Fremantle is the seaport for Perth. Sir Charles Fremantle landed there in 1829, claiming the west coast of Australia for Great Britain. The early colony experienced initial difficulties taming the unfamiliar bush and sent back to Great Britain for slave labor to help build up the outpost. Convicts were sent to Western Australia from 1850 to 1868 to assist with development.

The Fremantle Prison was built in the 1850’s by convict labor and decommissioned in 1991. Yet it had been condemned 80 years before its final closure. It was first used as a convict establishment to bed down the convicts after laboring all day constructing buildings in the surrounding area. After the discovery of gold in the 1890’s, local crime escalated and the facility became a prison for 24 hour a day incarceration.

The entrance to Fremantle Prison was wide enough for horse-drawn wagons to transport convicts into the prison, but was too narrow to allow for fire equipment inside the prison to fight fires during the riot of 1988.

Fremantle Prison was to be built on a rocky hilltop. Convicts used pick axes to form limestone blocks to build the prison structure. The 30 foot crown of the hill was leveled to obtain enough blocks for the construction. Note the 30 foot ridge in the background.

A view of cell blocks A and B from the courtyard, which was used as a vegetable garden in the early years.
John, the “jailor”, describing life in the cellblock.

The cells were less than 6 feet long and about 4 feet wide. This photo shows the typical “hammock-style bed” and slop buckets (“honey pots”). They had no running water or electricity.

A typical courtyard for a cellblock for 160 people when let out of their cells for exercise. Not much space to even move around.
The gallows chamber, where 46 men and one woman were hanged for willful murder. The last was a serial killer hung on 26 October 1964.

Prisoners were allowed to visit the chapel 15 minutes daily to help in their rehabilitation. When paint was needed for the murals, sending to Great Britain would require 12 months for the roundtrip. Instead the convict assigned to paint the Ten Commandments sought assistance from the local Aborigines for making paint. The original paint job still remains untouched after 140 years.
We finally received a “GET OUT OF JAIL” card and were released from prison. “Freedom at last!”
We completed the day with a visit to Cicerello’s for their famous fish and chips. We pause for a picture with Helen in front of the restaurant.