It’s Christmas in Palau! A few buildings have lights up but that is because they have their own generators. We went out to buy a tree but wanted one that had white lights, and was tall enough to look like a tree, but not too expensive, and we found it! Sister Johnsen made a few red bows, and Elder Adams donated the decorative glass balls his parents sent last year. We like our little tree. The Elder’s packages from home have started to arrive, and they are putting them under our tree.
Elder Roko left for Saipan, and Elder Early came here from Saipan. They switched places. Elder Early is a convert to the church for about two years. It’s so great when young men join the church and then are willing to serve for two years in places all over the world.
Our Branch President asked us to represent the church at a special meeting of the local church leaders to discuss the spiritual health of the islanders. The leader of the group was Dr. Kortiea, and he is a very spiritual and wonderful man. He said that if something is not done differently, the young people on the island will be dead before their parents because of the lifestyle choices they are making. It was interesting and enjoyable to sit down and meet the other leaders and ministers of the churches on the island. It is a good thing to set aside the doctrinal difference and focus on what we can do in concert to help the people we’re called to serve. There will be a follow-up meeting after the holidays.
We also were invited to work with some bright elementary students in Meyuns, one of the hamlets in Koror, as they prepare for the big spelling bee that eventually leads to the National Spelling bee in Washington D.C. We work with them 4 days a week pronouncing words and having them spell them. It is such a blessing to be able to meet and work with them. Elder Johnsen helped the students understand the meaning of the word trajectory by asking: “What is the trajectory of a frog chucked into the jungle? It’s a learning curve, because they never come back”. (Well, the teachers thought it was funny).
Our CES leader came from Guam and gave us an orientation for seminary and institute. Most couples spend an extra 3 days in the MTC getting trained, but since we were called as member-leader support missionaries, we didn’t get it. However, we are over CES here, so Brother Nicerio tried to explain what we are supposed to do. He asked us how much time we spend on CES and we said, maybe 10 % of our time (he was hoping for 25%). He thought we should try to improve that, so Sister Johnsen set the goal to spend 11% of our time on CES. Brother Nicerio has no idea how busy we are.
Our power is still going off and on, but has gotten a little random. It went off at the regular time Sunday, 6:00 PM, so we thought we would just wait until 8 to make dinner because we were making chicken and rice and couldn’t do it on one butane burner. The power didn’t come back on until 8:45. We started cooking a late dinner, and shortly after we started eating the Elders came up, as they often do on Sunday evening, and we shared our dinner with them. It was perfect timing. Some people are saying it will be next July before the power is really fixed completely.
We had our two cute little Palauan girls sing The Nativity Song for Sacrament meeting. It was so sweet; it made Elder Johnsen cry. We hope to have some nice Christmas music this month.
We continue to look for people on the branch list to see if they are here, or not. This week Sister Johnsen made a call to a family and asked if we could come out and meet them. She asked about each of the children and found out that one of them on the branch list had died at 14, back in 1988. Elder Johnsen felt very discouraged by this. He knows that there are supposed to be priesthood actions list to help keep in contact with all the young people. There should be seminary lists, and institute lists, and prospective elder and prospective missionary lists. There are supposed to be visiting teachers to every woman, and home teachers for every family. How does someone die and no one notice for 23 years? As he was reading Talmage’s, Jesus the Christ, this week he felt like he understood one of the Savior’s parables in a new way, and that our experience made the story come alive. Here is what he wrote in his journal:
“Something that Elder Talmage wrote about the parable of the lost coin really struck me as it relates to what we’re doing right now in Palau. He noted that as contrast with the straying sheep, ‘the coin had been dropped, and so was lost as a result of inattention or culpable carelessness on the part of its owner. The woman, discovering her loss institutes a diligent search; she sweeps the house, and perhaps learns of dirty corners, dusty recesses, cobwebby nooks, to which she had been oblivious in her self-complacency as an outwardly clean and conventional housewife. Her search is rewarded by the recovery of the lost piece, and is incidentally beneficial in the cleansing of her house.’ Elder Talmage goes on to explain, ‘The woman who by lack of care lost the precious piece may be taken to represent the theocracy of the time, and the Church as an institution in any dispensational period; then the pieces of silver, everyone a genuine coin of the realm, bearing the image of the great King, are the souls committed to the care of the Church; and the lost piece symbolizes the souls that are neglected and, for a time at least, lost sight of, by the authorized ministers of the Gospel of Christ.’ It is interesting to note that the lost coin was silver which tarnishes when it is neglected. We are not sure that these members understand their great worth. They have forgotten that at their core they are sons and daughters of a Heavenly Father who loves them and who has a plan that will give them eternal life. The beginning principle of the first lesson we teach is that God is our Loving Heavenly father, we are his children; He loves us and will help us make right choices, and through Jesus Christ we can live with God again. Sister Johnsen and I have certainly been doing a lot of sweeping lately—hopefully, some of these lost coins will let us pick them up, and help them knock off some of the tarnish so we may rejoice together. ‘Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.’”
The leaders here on Palau and the active members are the most dedicated and strong saints we have ever met, but there just aren’t enough of them. With 1 active Melchizedek priesthood to every 30 members, it is just impossible to be able to provide proper watch care for all the members. We are beginning to see the inspiration and wisdom of Elder Holland’s call for thousands more senior couples to help with this work. Before the Savior returns to the earth we must help polish these coins and find anyone else who may be interested in the message that the gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored to the earth with all its glory, blessings and authority.