We’ve decided that when we get home from our missions, we might want to become full time detectives!! As we have previously mentioned, during our “spare time” we’re trying to find 85 members who are unknown to the branch leadership. This week we set a goal to find two each day for a total of 12. While we miraculously achieved our goal this week, it wasn’t without some challenges.
Early in the week, we went out looking for Randa Sadang. She lives in the blue house between the house with the high stilts and the white house. Earlier when we stopped there we were told to come after 4 or 5 in the afternoon to find her. We arrived a little late, but now they said, “No, she lives across the street.” We wandered around the houses and found two women sitting outside, both chewing and spitting. We asked for Randa, and the women said she was Randa. “Randa Sadang?” She tells us got married and her last name is Andres. By now it is completely dark outside, and we can’t really see the people with whom we are speaking. We talked to her about being a member, and she said she wasn’t. She said she was Catholic. Sister Johnsen asked her multiple questions and found out that the other young woman was also a member. She is a little mentally slow though. We made an appointment to come back the following Monday. I was pretty sure she was the member, but wasn’t positive until we asked for her birth date, got back in the car and checked it. Sure enough, she is a member. This set up our “investigation” for the entire week.
Our next search involved trying to find Diliaur Davis. We got a lead that she stayed at the end of the road past the church behind the left house. So we went to that house and said her name (that’s the first problem, we don’t say the names the same way Palaun’s say the names) and they told us that she stayed in the neighboring village, and they would take us there. We followed them in their car, and when we arrived Diliaur was not there, but some other guys said that she was at the Hospital with her two sick boys. We headed to the hospital (by this time it is pouring rain). Elder Johnsen had been to the hospital and knew the way to the medical ward, so we walked back there, (by this time we’re thinking this really is a small miracle, this poor woman really needs us) and found the Davis room; we went in to introduce ourselves and found that this was not our Diliaur Davis, but another Davis woman about the same age as the woman we were looking for. We asked her a few questions about being a member of the church, and she was really confused but assured us that she wasn’t a member. We asked her a few more questions and tried to help her jog her memory. Finally we realized that we could ask for her birth date to clear up the matter. Oops, wrong Diliaur Davis! We still feel a little suspicious though, how many Diliaur Davis’s can there be on Palau? All was not lost though because as we headed out it was raining so hard we decided to wait it out a minute, and Sister Johnsen noticed that the little hospital store had warm hot dogs at the little snack bar at the hospital entry. We bought that and fruit drink for only 2.19. We need to eat at the hospital every night!
The dynamic detective duo set out again the next day for another adventure, but with the same result. It turned into our second case of mistaken identity this week. We were looking for Maygan Brian’s mother who lived in Meyuns, and who might be able to give us Maygan’s address in Guam. We needed to send her records there. The mother’s name was Marcella so we went down into this group of houses where we thought she lived and asked a little 9 year old girl if she knew where Marcella lived, and she quickly helped us find her house. Unfortunately, Marcella wasn’t home, but the neighbor knew where she worked so we headed over to the cafeteria at Meyuns Elementary School. When we got there we introduced ourselves and told her we were looking for Marcella. She said she was Marcella, but we could tell she was confused about why missionaries were looking for her. She and her companions were all chewing beetle nut and playing cards. We said, “Are you a member of the church?” We pointed to our name badges? She said she was not a member, but again, we were suspicious (as all good detectives would be) about her denial. Finally she convinced us she wasn’t the right Marcella. However, Marcella #1 knew Marcella #2 who lives at the other end of the same group of houses. She drew us a map and within a few minutes we were back near our original location; we found the right Marcella, and she agreed to help us get Maygan’s address. (Maygon’s sister had Maygan’s cell phone number handy so we also got that).
View from Meyuns
Then Carsla, our best Meyun’s helper, told us where to find Witness Umai. This was a slam dunk because she worked at the hospital in homebound services. We went in to the homebound room and no one knew a Witness. We went back to the car to get the full name. When we came back there was a woman sitting there who wasn’t there before. She said her name was Umai. We showed her the name of the person we were looking for and she pointed to the last name and said she didn’t go by that name any more. Oh! We have the right person this time. Next, “Are you are a member of the church, (again pointing to our badges).” No, she wasn’t a member. Now let me just pause and ask any reasonable person on a search of this sort…same middle name, says she has changed her last name…what would you think? We assumed she had “forgotten” like our first find. So I continued to ask questions. She said she remembered talking to the missionaries one time, but she was pretty sure she wasn’t baptized. She was the sweetest, most patient woman, and was trying so hard to help us, but couldn’t really admit to being a member of the church, when she wasn’t. Finally Elder Johnsen remembered the vital test and asked her birth date. Oops, again! Not our woman. So if you live on Palau and you see this older couple charging forward to accuse you of being a member of the church…be afraid, be very afraid!
Some of you may be thinking, those poor Johnsen’s. Trying to find all those people, on a group of islands with no street names, no house numbers, houses tucked in a jungle, different language—and you’d be right! It isn’t easy to find people here. Fortunately at almost every house people are outside visiting with each other (almost no one has air conditioning). So it’s quite easy to strike up a conversation with someone that speaks at least a little English. Secondly, people generally know that missionaries are not the police or FBI, (undercover detectives, maybe). They assume that we have good intent, so they willingly help us by drawing maps, or by having us follow them while they take us to someone’s house, or they willingly give us their birth date so we can verify their identity. Who would do that in Houston, TX? When we arrived on Palau there were 356 names on the branch roster and as of last night we had that down to 319—and we’ve actually added 4 families who are members who were not on the branch rolls when we arrived.
And thus ends the tale of the dynamic detective duo. Stay tuned for next week’s adventure!