Thursday, October 20, 2011

First Week (#4)

While mission rules allow more flexibility in the schedule for Senior couples, Sister Johnsen and I are trying to follow the same schedule as the young missionaries. We arise early, exercise and try to begin personal gospel study by 8:00 a.m. Then at 9:00 we begin our companion study.

I decided to re-read “Jesus The Christ” by James E. Talmage during my personal study. My first complete reading was 40 years ago while serving in California as a “young” Elder. Talmage begins, not with the birth of Christ, but rather describes the Saviors pre-mortal role as creator and his appointment (foreordination) to be the Savior and Redeemer of mankind.

As I thought of his antemortal Godship (a Talmage phrase) and his lofty status in heaven with God the Eternal Father; I was strongly struck by how marvelous it is that he was willing to come to earth to do for us what we could not do for ourselves to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.

In the Book of Mormon Lehi is asked by God to give up his gold and precious things and depart into the wilderness to fulfill his purposes. (one of the main reasons that Laman and Lemuel murmured so much was that they had to give up so much). In a much smaller measure this mission for us is our wilderness experience—we’ve left our precious things behind, not just our swimming pool but also our precious family members to do God’s will. The scriptures are really coming alive as we liken them to ourselves.

We stopped to order a map and had to come back the next day to pick it up. We decided to try to give the woman that helped us a pass-a-long card. We talked about what we could say during companion study and Gail came up with the great question to ask her. When we got there we weren’t sure we would be able to introduce our idea. Then the women said something about recognizing Mormon missionaries. We were able to ask her what religion she was. She said she was Catholic but that she gone to a Seventh Day Adventist school and that her husband was a Protestant. Then Sister Johnsen asked her the great question, “Have you ever had a question that has never been answered” in all those religions. She said, “Yes!” (but just then all her co-workers returned to the office) We gave her a pass along card with our name and number on it and told her to call us if she ever wanted the answer to her question. We have been praying for her every single day. We’re looking forward to returning to buy a map of the big island so we can have a follow-up discussion.

We are in charge of CES as well as our official call as “Leader and Member Support”. We went to seminary last night and the entire lesson was in Palauan, because one of the 12 students can’t speak English. Sister Johnsen felt frustrated and remembered that she had put a 1 on the “interested in speaking a foreign language” box on the mission application. (1 being not at all interested and 6 being very interested.) Then when the lesson was over Sister Kelosie, who taught the lesson, and is he Branch Presidents wife, sat down and talked to Sister Johnsen about her family and her troubles and difficulties and they had a regular conversation like any two North American Relief Society sister’s would. We have an appointment to show “17 miracles” at their home this coming Monday night (a time when Sister Kelosie’s 19 year old non-member daughter will be with them)
We are hoping to visit all the members, but this is difficult because half the people on the ward list are lost—from a North American perspective everyone is lost because no one has an address but at least on ½ the names we have what village they live in. (none of the streets have names and there are no house numbers) On the “lost” members we are not even sure what Palauan state they live in! However, we are making a start.

We stopped to see Carlsa today. She has worked a teacher but is staying home to take care of her aging mother who needs care for 24/7. When I say “home” don’t picture your home. Carlsa lives in a structure that is about 4 feet off the ground. Her front door has completely fallen off the hinge because of termites. A mango tree fell on the back side of the house and it is like being outside while you are inside. They asked the owner of the property, on which the “house” sits, if they could fix it. He said yes, so the church gave them some supplies. Then he changed his mind. It seems like a little wind would blow the whole place over. The other night it rained so hard that it woke both Sister Johnsen and I up. I can hardly imagine how Carlsa felt in her “structure.” We think we will go talk to the owner of the property to see if we can help change his mind.

The people are so poor here, but not all of them have living arrangements like that. Many do though and Sister Johnsen is constantly asking herself, how can the gospel bless people who have such hard, impoverished lives? How does Carlsa continue to trust and believe in a loving and caring Heavenly Father in her dire circumstances? And yet, as we taught her and her non-member mother a brief lesson the spirit let all of us know that He does love them and He is aware of them. Maybe God’s love is more easily felt when there are no doors or windows to keep it out.

We have been asked to speak in church this Sunday, and Elder Johnsen has been asked to be the Executive Secretary/Membership Clerk/branch Presidency helper. They are a little short on helpers. Because I brought a computer file filled with talks, I am ready. But Sister Johnsen has to prepare her remarks (and no doubt it will be the best).

Sister Johnsen says she feels like she understands why the Lord is interested in family love and solidarity. If you lived to be 100 you would not be able to figure out the way relationships work around here. Carlsa’s brother, Wilhelm, lives with them. He is a member, but we couldn’t even talk to him, he was like a ghost in that shanty. He has a daughter Carney who is not a member. We wanted to meet her but she lives with her sister. “Oh, so Wilhem has two daughters?” No the other girl is a half-sister but NOT Wilhelm’s daughter. If you think that is confusing, you should see what this branch list looks like.

1 comment:

  1. I think that the comparison drawn between yourself and Lehi's family is very poignant and apropos! Its awesome that you are finding such deep meaning in this experience so far-- and that your heart is so in the right place about all the challenges of this particular area. You are amazing!!