Monday, December 31, 2012

Palau’s White Christmas (#68)

While many parts of the United States were experience winter storm conditions, Palau along with the rest of the Micronesia Guam Mission was having its version of a white Christmas too.   All together 22 individuals were baptized in the mission on Christmas day.  One of those was Krystal, the niece of our branch president, and one of Elder Johnsen’s students in his youth Sunday School Class.  At 6:30 P.M. both Krystal and Elder Johnsen were dressed in white as she had asked him to baptize her.
She also asked Elder Johnsen to give the talk on baptism at her baptismal service.  Perhaps inspired by the season Elder Johnsen noted that an often repeated metaphor in the scriptures is marriage where the Savior is often referred to as the bridegroom (see John 3:29), and the church is symbolically the bride.  Elder Johnsen compared the covenants made at baptism to those made by Mary when she was betrothed to Joseph.  She promised to take his name upon her—even though the actual wedding would take place sometime later. She was bound to him with a much greater covenant obligation than just a simple “engagement” binds a couple together in our culture.   Likewise through baptism, we take the Savior’s name upon us, and we promise to remain betrothed and faithful (with oil in our lamps) until the second coming when the cry will heard, “Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him” (see Matt 25:6).  Krystal had a large number of her friends that attended the baptism with her, many of them were all dressed in purple, her favorite color, (which also reinforced the marriage metaphor) the large group was very attentive and reverent.  Both E/S Johnsen felt grateful for the opportunity to be part of the White Christmas in Micronesia. 
In keeping with our usual Christmas tradition, our big meal and celebration took place on Christmas Eve.  At 6:00 P.M.  Eli, Daniel and the Elders joined us for a dinner consisting of “coke soaked ham” twice baked potatoes, Sister Johnsen’s famous layered Jell-O, homemade rolls, and vegetables brought by Eli and Daniel.  “Coke soaked ham” perhaps requires some explanation, we purchase the butt portion of a ham, then boil it for about 9 hours on the stove top in coke (things go better with coke).  All the fat is dissolved out of the meat so you are left with lean sweet tasting ham that is out of this world good!  After rinsing the dishes we quickly launched into games—we played Celebrity, Mafia and Psychiatrist before Eli and Daniel left.

Then the Elder’s opened presents from E/S Johnsen and their family.   

Elder Johnsen was pleased to note that the system's bug that kept him from updating the visibility option for some of our member families was fixed by the church’s system team over the holiday.  So after Christmas he spent some time on his church clicking project.  Now, after a couple hours of work, the LDS online tools show all our Palau branch members names, locations and pictures with “district” visibility.  Elder Johnsen will be talking about use of the online tools during our presentation at the senior conference.  He sent a thank you note to the system team that was so helpful in resolving the problem and received the following note back, “I’m very happy things are working better for you Elder Johnsen. It’s pretty rewarding to hear about how the technology we work on and build helps people in the day to day activities in the church. I’ll admit I had to look up where Palau is located. That seems like a pretty remote area. I hope the Directory and other tools continue to be helpful to you in your labors.”

Speaking of our labors on Saturday afternoon we headed out to Palau’s big island of Babeldaob . We had gotten a lead on where one of our members was staying so we headed north.  Our trip was not in vain we found all the people we were looking for and now have two more family locations marked on google maps.  It has been nearly a month since Bopha passed by with such devastating effect; as you can see by some of these pictures the clean-up is still continuing in some areas.  

This past Sunday Sister Johnsen not only taught gospel doctrine but also sang a solo in sacrament meeting. The theme of the meeting was resolving to repent; she sang "Whole Again", a Sally DeFord song which added so much to our Sacrament service.  “I come before the throne of God, My keeling soul is filled with wondering awe, As the Savior’s tender mercy heals the wounds of all my sin, I praise the love that makes me whole again. I come in hope, I come in faith, To feel the touch of His redeeming grace, As I offer Him my broken heart He heals the hurt within. And I praise the love that makes me whole again. Alleluia My healing spirit cries as He reaches out His hand to bid me rise, Alleluia! Praise the Healer of all men, Who makes me more than what I was and sees beyond what I am.  And when I fall, He lifts me up, Restores my soul, removes my bitter cup, For He heals my every heartache, and He carries all my pain, And I praise the love that makes me whole again”

As we enter the New Year we hope and have faith that we will move toward more “Wholeness” in our lives with the help of the Savior. “. . .though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18)

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Making Progress- Personally (#67)

Christmas is a time for remembering the Son of God and renewing our determination to take upon us His name. It is a time to reassess our lives and examine our thoughts, feelings, and actions. Let this be a time of remembrance, of gratitude, and a time of forgiveness. Let it be a time to ponder the Atonement of Jesus Christ and its meaning for each of us personally. Let it especially be a time of renewal and recommitment to live by the word of God and to obey His commandments. By doing this, we honor Him far more than we ever could with lights, gifts, or parties."       —Dieter F. Uchtdorf

We actually made some progress on Tuesday night; for the first time in about 6 months we were able to cover all 7 routes with priesthood holders for our priesthood service night.  Including the visits made by Elder Johnsen last Sunday in Airai, we saw or left a message with 123 out of 163 households, and we still have another week to make visits.  

Wednesday night was our YW in Excellence Program.  We held Seminary in the Primary Room so the YW Presidency could decorate the chapel for the big event.  As you can see by the pictures they did an amazing job.

Sister Johnsen helped some the girls prepare for the evening.  She taught crocheting to several of them and they used that skill to make projects which were on display, and which they spoke about.  Elder Johnsen’s favorite project was a purse that was crocheted out of plastic grocery sacks.  Surangels grocery store uses aqua colored sacks and WCTC grocery store uses a sky blue sack. These sacks are twisted into “yarn” and then, using a crochet stitch they are made into useful items.  The purse on display was two tones:  the bottom 1/3 was sky blue, while the top 2/3 was aqua.  It was surprisingly attractive.  You would never know it was made out of grocery sacks!  Now that’s provident living!  
Sister Johnsen also gave what we would consider to be a key note talk in the program.
She described 5 reasons to love Personal Progress and Elder Johnsen thinks that her ideas apply to anyone who wants to make some progress personally in the coming New Year. She found these 5 ideas in a talk by Jan Pinborough on the church’s website. The first reason is because it changes YOU!  One of the biggest miracles of the program is personal.  It is a goal oriented program.  Heavenly Father knows about goals. He has shared his overarching goal with us. In the Pearl of Great price he says, “This is my work and my glory, to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”  If we are to become like him we need an overarching goal too. Most of us would say that our most important goal is to return to the presence of our Heavenly Father. But underneath that goal are myriads of other goals that we can have.  Life is full of things to do, and to accomplish.  

When Sister Johnsen was young her mother talked about writing down goals. She took a Dale Carnegie class and became a real believer in goals. Like her mother, Sister Johnsen loves to set goals and watch them happen. Recently she read a book called, Write It Down, Make it Happen.  This expanded her thoughts about writing down goals. The author says that “writing it down” is not about time management. It’s not about a “to do today” list that will make your feel guilty if you don’t get everything thing done. Rather, writing it down is about clearing your head, identify what you want, and setting your intent. You CAN make it happen purely by believing in the possibility.

Don’t the scriptures tell us that all things are possible to them that believe?  Sister Johnsen said that we can be magicians. We can make real things appear in the real world by setting a goal, writing it down, and working to make it happen.  

Sister Pinborough’s other 4 other points which Sister Johnsen covered were equally insightful.  After the talks and presentations the girls in sang “A Believers Prayer” composed by Sally DeFord.  It is one of their favorites.  As the program ended we shared a wonderful meal that was, in part, prepared by some of the girls as part of their “project”.  Sister Johnsen was asked to bring a dessert, and so she made and frosted two batches of cupcakes, “How about . . . cupcakes?”   It was an amazing night of personal progress on display.

Speaking of personal progress, April was baptized on Saturday right before our Christmas party.  April is from China.  She is attending school at Palau Community College.  Elder Johnsen’s first contact with her was when she called him to obtain an interview for possible admittance into BYU-H.  Elder J arranged that with the branch president.  His interview with her was transforming.  He KNEW by the power of the Holy Ghost that she would be admitted to BYU-H (which she has been).  Shortly after her interview she began meeting with the missionaries. She has attended church regularly and is such a sweet girl.  He mother flew in from China to attend the baptism—we’ve never done so much bowing!\

We receive the gift of the Holy Ghost after we are baptized.  (2 Nephi 31:12) and Elder Johnsen was asked to speak about the Holy Ghost during her baptismal service.  He told about helping his good friend, Curt, build a tesla coil. They used  it at a science open house to astound the audience by holding a light bulb a foot away from the top of the coil and having one foot of sparks leap the gap and light up the 4 foot florescent light held in Curt’s hand.  Elder Johnsen said that getting baptized was like getting a tesla coil—tomorrow when she receives the Holy Ghost the power switch would be flipped to the on position, and like the florescent light the Holy Ghost could give her 10 significant blessing mentioned in the Book of Mormon.

After the baptism we dashed back to our apartment where we were hosting the Branch Christmas Party.  The party was fun.  We probably had about 60 branch members attend.  The Johnsen’s patio was a perfect venue for the party, and we had enough parking.  It was a beautiful night (no rain). The food was very good and we had lots of it.  We also had about 8 non-members as invited guests including the Doc from the CAT team.

After the dinner was ended, the piƱata was a big hit! It took quite a few swings to break it (some members thought Sister Johnsen and Karen used duct tape instead of newspaper).
Elder Fullmer finally put it out of it’s misery after all the children and young adults had taken their best shots.
The kids were eating candy all night (7 lbs goes a long way).  “The Nativity Story” was our movie, and we were surprised that nearly 40 people stayed until the end.  We had a king size sheet mounted on the wall as our “screen” and the picture size from our projector filled the entire width of the sheet—it was almost like being at the theater (drive- in, since we were outside on our covered patio).  At 9:30 the movie was done, but the work wasn’t.  We cleaned up until about 10:30, while the Elders hauled all the chairs and tables back to the church and got it set up for sacrament meeting the next day.  

Our Christmas program included 3 speakers and 3 special musical numbers . We had a small choir of Primary age girls sing “Away in A Manger.”  Elder Johnsen had so much fun watching the faces of the congregation while those young girls were singing; literally everyone was smiling .  Minda DeLeon sang a solo of a number and became very emotional. It was very sweet and touching, but Sister Johnsen tried to help her by thinking, “Kitty Litter, kitty liter.” Oh well...  Finally our little branch choir sang another Sally DeFord Christmas song, “Would I Know My Savior?”  It was a beautiful Christmas service. Eli McCann was the concluding speaker.  After telling the story about the farmer that raised an Eagle with a flock a chickens—he encouraged all of us to realize that we all are Eagles, and we are meant to soar with Eagles—we must take our personal progress to new heights.    

We hope that each of us will “rediscover the Christmas Spirit” and take into your hearts the LOVE and ETERNAL GIFT the Savior’s life has given to each of us. As President Monson has said, “Today there are hearts to gladden, kind words to say, deeds to be done, and souls to be saved.” We are glad to be part of this work upon the isle of the seas in Palau. We hope that all of you have a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year of personal progress!

Monday, December 17, 2012

“Living in the Fulness of Times” (#66)

This past Thursday night Angie prepared a great lesson on the signs of the times as part of Matthew 24 in our study of the New Testament.  We discussed that it is important to not only know the signs of the times, but also listen attentively to the words of the living prophets in the latter-days.  “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7).   It came to Sister Johnsen that the words of the prophets are like the satellite that warned us of the coming typhoon Bopha.  We were able to track its progress, and know it was upon us (even at our door) even though the weather Sunday morning would have given no clue that these islands were about to be touched with trouble.  Similarly, the prophets not only give us advance warning of the perilous times of the last days, but by knowing the signs and keeping track of their fulfillment we can know how far the storm of life has progressed.  For example, we reflected on this quote from the opening session of the October 2001 conference where Pres. Hinckley said: “The vision of Joel has been fulfilled wherein he declared:

“And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions:

“And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.

“And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke.

“The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the Lord come.

“And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the Lord hath said, and in the remnant whom the Lord shall call” (Joel 2:28–32).  While that particular scripture’s fulfillment could be repeated in the years to come we don’t have to wonder if it’s fulfillment is yet in the future;  for a prophet of God has declared it fulfilled.  Clearly we are blessed to live in the fulness of times (Eph 1:10) when living prophets are upon the earth and we have the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Speaking of fullness, the big event on Thursday afternoon was a district picnic at long island park followed by district meeting.  We always have a lunch before transfer week, but since the elders had spent all their money on canned goods to prepare for the storm, they were short of cash.  So instead of going out we had a picnic.  Sister Johnsen made two pasta salads and to that we added a  jell-o fruit bowl that Elder J had prepared.  We had tuna sandwiches because everybody had lots of canned tuna.  We borrowed the elder’s big chest cooler and found a picnic table in the shade.  The only problem was that the wind was blowing pretty hard, and it raised havoc with our table cloth. Elder Fullmer took a spill on the slick concrete when he went after the lid to one of our bowls that had blown off in the wind—luckily he wasn’t hurt.  The food was super good, and we had just enough; everyone had their fill but with no leftovers.  We all felt the fullness of a good meal!  

Both E/S Johnsen taught Sunday school this week.  Elder Johnsen actually had 2 investigators in his Sunday school class along with Kessy who was just recently baptized.   As part of the Moroni chapter 6 discussion, we talked about the qualifications for baptism which really seemed to appeal to our investigators who were present.  While we were talking about  Moroni 6:4 where “after they had been received unto baptism . . .  they were numbered among the people of the church of Christ and their names were taken that they might be remembered and nourished by the good word of God, to keep them in the right way” Elder Johnsen was reminded of all the work we’ve done in Palau to find the members, correct our Branch records to reflect people who are actually here, and then to line up our priesthood service night where we attempt to get a message into the home of every member every month.  Kessy (our recent convert) described what she saw on Wednesday night when Elder Johnsen was updating the records.  She said that she saw that we input locations on Google map so we know where each person stays, and we have a picture for most of our members.  Not only are their names taken but we can know them when we see them.  The youth SS class seemed to be very interested in how many points our services and procedures follow that are outlined by Moroni—including the fact that we fast and pray often (Moroni 6:5),  and the priests kneel when they say the sacrament prayer (Moroni 4:2).  Truly the coming forth of the Book of Mormon is part of the fulness of times.  

Our hearts were filled with gratitude when the song the YW have been practicing came off without a hitch in Sacrament meeting.  Elder Johnsen was present for their final practice on Wednesday night when the girls were struggling to stay with the music.

However, the actual performance was better than any rehearsal that he attended.  In our experience that rarely happens.  We had about 55 people in our Sacrament meeting Sunday, and nearly 20 of them participated in the musical number.  It seemed like a great army had invaded the area behind the podium when they all came forward to sing.   

We will conclude with President Hinckley’s words: “We have become as a great army. We are now a people of consequence. Our voice is heard when we speak up. We have demonstrated our strength in meeting adversity. Our strength is our faith in the Almighty. No cause under the heavens can stop the work of God. Adversity may raise its ugly head. The world may be troubled with wars and rumors of wars, but this cause will go forward.

You are familiar with these great words written by the Prophet Joseph: “No unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done” (History of the Church, 4:540).

The Lord has given us the goal toward which we work. That goal is to build His kingdom, which is a mighty cause of great numbers of men and women of faith, of integrity, of love and concern for mankind, marching forward to create a better society, bringing blessings upon ourselves and upon the heads of others.” (Living in the fulness of times, Gordon B. Hinckley, October 2001 general conference)

We feel so blessed to be a part of this great latter-day work.

Monday, December 10, 2012

”The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much”(#65)

It’s been a week since super typhoon Bopha, with 155 MPH winds, passed our islands in Palau. On Monday, after a 5 day typhoon vacation, schools in Koror are scheduled to re-open, power has been restored in most location, and lives are getting back to normal.  While there are some areas in our islands that have been heavily impacted, most of the heavily populated areas were relatively unscathed.  That’s not how it was forecast to happen.  Here’s the rest of the story:

Sunday morning, December 2, was our Fast and Testimony meeting.  The storm track was predicted to pass just south of the major populated center of Palau, which is the state of Koror, with the entire island group taking the brunt of the 155 MPH winds.  During our meeting many of the members testified of the power of prayer.  One testimony, in particular, given by our Elder’s Quorum President, John Jr., stands out because of a small part that was played by Elder Johnsen.  John related an experience that happened to him several weeks earlier. Prior to a business trip to Fuji, John had come over to our apartment to see Elder Johnsen to get a blessing prior to his long flight.  He was nervous about flying, and wanted a blessing to comfort and give him peace. Elder Johnsen, as part of that blessing was prompted to tell John to look for opportunities to associate with members of the church while he was out town—that they would be a blessing to him, and he would be a blessing to them. On the first Saturday that he was there, he hired a taxi to take him to find the nearest chapel. He learned that the members in the chapel they found conducted their service in the local language. The next day, Sunday, he hired another taxi, and they tried to find the chapel, but couldn’t. But as they were driving around they passed a woman who was walking with 4 young children. John felt prompted to stop and ask them if they happened to know where the Mormon Church was located. It turned out that she did because she was headed there right then. She got into the car with her children and led them to the chapel (not the same building that he had found the day before) and fortunately this meeting was conducted in English.  He said that it was a great experience meeting with the members there.  As he was getting ready to leave he again saw the woman with the 4 young children, and offered to take them in his taxi to their residence. When he dropped her off, the taxi was ready to take off, but John felt like he needed to get back out and talk to the woman. When he did she told him that she had woken up that morning feeling that she was too tired and depressed to attend church.  But as she prayed she felt assured that if she would make the sacrifice to attend the Lord had a blessing to give her. She told John that her husband was working out of country, and that she had little money and practically no food in the house for her children. She said that her life was really hard.  It meant a lot to her that John would hire a taxi to take her home.  When John heard about her difficulties he pulled out his wallet and gave her $50 dollars to help her. When she saw the money she began to weep in gratitude—for how richly and unexpectedly the Lord had answered her prayer.  Of course, John couldn’t keep himself from handing her another $50.  John powerfully testified that he felt so blessed to have been an instrument in God’s hand to provide a blessing to this woman in need.  In Elder’s Quorum meeting this week John told Elder Johnsen the rest of the story—the taxi driver was so impressed by the conversation that John had had with this woman, and his generosity that he promised that we would attend that ward the next Sunday.  We are grateful to associate with people who really try to follow the Savior Jesus Christ not only in word, but in actual deed.  

When the testimony meeting ended President Kesolei canceled the remainder of our meetings because of the closeness of the storm.  At 1:00 p.m. Sunday afternoon the Elders met with us in our apartment to break our fast.  As you can see Advisory 26 was still showing the storm making a beeline for Palau with most of the islands being hit with typhoon force winds. 

As Elder Johnsen offered the prayer (which included a blessing on the food) he asked for protection from the storm. As he was praying he had a powerful spiritual witness that the Lord heard his and many similar prayers that were being offered by the families of the missionaries serving, the mission president, and other area authorities for the protection of the missionaries.  At 5:45 p.m. the local authorities cut power in all areas of Palau but our phone line continued to work. So, at 7:00 Elder Johnsen was able to download the latest advisory.  Advisory 27 shows what we consider to be a remarkable change in the storm’s direction.
Right at 1:00 p.m., while we were praying for safety, the storm made a jog straight west.  The storm continued on that due west track until it was safely past Palau, at which time it resumed its west northwest track as it plowed into Mindanao, PI.  So instead of Koror and our missionary apartment being hit with typhoon force winds we were only buffeted by Tropical Storm force winds—which was bad enough.  For about 8 hours, 10:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m. the wind was howling, trees were being uprooted and falling, 8 foot waves were coming over the reef and battering the northeast coast line causing considerable damage. You can see that Toby’s house, where Elder Johnsen enjoyed a little shut eye under a big palm tree a couple weeks ago, is a total loss.
The benches that he rested on have been swept away, but it could have been so much worse, all of Palau could have looked like that.  Our biggest complaint was that with our windows boarded up and no power we were too hot.   

Monday was our preparation day.  Early on we pulled down the plywood covering our windows—it felt so good to get some air circulating through our apartment.  We had a great game of Mexican train on our apartment patio with the Elders who had all sheltered together.
The police had asked people to stay off the street, so we complied.  The power was off; many roads were blocked with downed trees and power lines, so there wasn’t really anywhere we could have gone even if there hadn’t been a curfew.  The elders decided to go for a walk in the neighborhood and that was when it started to rain. They came back drenched, and didn’t venture out again because it poured the rest of the day.  
On Tuesday morning we headed over to the church to begin clean-up efforts.  Eli and Daniel joined all the missionaries and for 3 ½ hours we worked to cut up and haul away all the downed trees and storm debris.  The parking lot was covered in shredded leaves, but we found a great solution—the power washer was the perfect tool to clean up the mud, leaves, and other wet storm debris.  We ended up with a huge pile of organic waste which 3-4 years from now will be magnificent black dirt!
This picture shows many of us taking a much deserved break drinking green coconut milk.
We have quite a pile of green bananas. There were so many banana plants knocked down you can basically call this our banana storm.  We predict a future famine in the land not of bread or water (and not of hearing of the word of the Lord) but rather a coming banana famine—it will take months for all these downed banana plants to get big enough to produce.  Meanwhile, we’ll be feasting on the plentiful supply of green bananas currently available.  

On Wednesday afternoon the power came on at the church so we tried to hold seminary but less than half of our usual students were able to attend.  While we were walking up the hill from our apartment on Wednesday morning during our walk we knew they were trying to get the power back on in our neighborhood due to burning ashes that were falling from the sky. Sister Johnsen looked up and was shocked to see the dried end of a palm frond resting on a “live” power line.  The current passing through the palm has set it on fire.  We rejoiced that evening when our power was restored.  Three nights sleeping without air conditioning was a little trying.

The elders have definitely not been able to teach as many lessons as usual this week, but if we get credit in heaven for helping people clean up storm debris we’ll all be in good shape.

A powerful lesson was lived, and reinforced in our minds:  that prayer is heard by our Father in Heaven. These prayers were a huge blessing to a woman in Fiji and gave peace and safety to us and to the people of Palau.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Waterfalls, Windows, and Wastebaskets (#64)

Monday was our preparation day, and  Karen’s last day in Palau—a perfect time for a zone outing to the waterfall at Ngardmau.  Even though Elder and Sister Johnsen had recently taken a group of single adults and CES directors there they were still excited to go again. Two of our Elders (Fullmer and Pauga) plus Karen had never seen the highest waterfall in Micronesia.  It was a great day to be at the falls.  The Elders worked on a dam to make the water under the falls a little deeper.  Several of our group stood under the heaviest flow of the falls and got the most vigorous water massage that you’ve ever seen.  The water was coming down so hard that Elder Pauga’s neck was red and he’s Samoan!
We even got to explore the upper part of the falls which is rarely seen by tourists because it is protected by a sign that says danger.  This last picture of Elder Fullmer shows that the danger was greatly exaggerated.  Elder Johnsen’s mother would always say that the forbidden fruit tastes best—we don’t know about that but it was fun visiting the top of the Ngardmau waterfall.
Our next stop on our Zone P-Day activity was to stop out at Toby’s beach—the elder’s threw the football around while Elder Johnsen got a little shut-eye.  Hey, that’s what you’re supposed to do on your P day right?  That night we stayed up late to take Karen to the airport. It was hard to see her go. See you in 16 weeks, Karen.
Tuesday was our service project and it also had a lot to do with water.  We washed windows at the church—the chapel windows were not so bad but we’re not sure that the family history center, library and the branch president’s windows had ever been cleaned—that’s not possible, of course, but they were super dirty.  But all it took was a couple of hours and some elbow grease and they are squeaky clean.  
Tuesday was also our Priesthood Service night in the state of Koror.  Elder Johnsen has put together 7 geographic routes totaling 140 households—in one single night we attempt to visit them all and leave first presidency messages or Liahona magazines with the family.   On the previous Sunday night Elder Johnsen made visits in the state of Airai where 18 households reside—for the first time ever all 18 families were home—not bad for one night of home teaching!  The elder’s quorum president and his son who accompanied Elder Johnsen couldn’t believe it!  Tuesday night was also the night that we received some alarming news—a storm was brewing and was headed for Palau—most of the families that we visited hadn’t heard the news and we’re glad we notified them.
The remainder of our week has been consumed with preparation activities associated with the typhoon Bopha bearing down on Palau—as we write this Advisory 25 has been released showing that the storm will arrive at about 4:00 a.m. Monday morning with 145 mile per hour winds.  The center of the storm is projected to pass over Peleliu about 20 miles south.  The system is so large that Typhoon force winds will buffet all of Koror as well as the entire “Big Island” of Babeldaob where we just played on the beach last Monday.  As we write this all our windows are boarded up, we’ve stocked our shelves with canned food, we have 20 gallons of filtered drinking water on hand, and we’ve even filled a 33 gallon wastebasket with water tap water to insure that we’ll have water to flush the toilet and wash ourselves and our dishes.
The car is filled with gasoline.  Elder Johnsen even purchased an inverter for the car so we can charge our cell phone and laptop computer.  When a storm half as powerful as this one passed through Houston, our power was out for a week.  We are expecting and have prepared for a much worse result with Bopha.  We’re much better off than over 90% of our members—we live in a concrete apartment building (although it has only a steel roof).  Most of our members live in wooden frame houses covered with galvanized corrugated steel.  The trees here are very tall, it’s been 22 years since the last typhoon brushed these islands—we foresee widespread damage caused by the combination of wind, rising water, and falling trees.  Assuming that power, water and internet access are restored by next week we’ll try to  include some before and after pictures—we took the “before” pictures today while we were on our usual morning walk.  

Tonight we had our 12th baptism of the year, a young woman, Keisy, with whom we have had the opportunity to work in the Meyuns spelling bee, piano lessons, family home evenings, summer game nights at our apartment, and other activities, was baptized.

We are reminded that water can be beautiful when it falls from a high rock cliff, it can be helpful when cleaning building windows, it can be lifesaving when it filtered and used as drinking water, can help with sanitation when we use it to flush or clean our bodies and it also has powerful symbolic meaning when we participate in ordinances such as baptism and the sacrament.  “And the Father said: Repent ye, repent ye, and be baptized in the name of my Beloved Son.  And also, the voice of the Son same unto me, saying: He that is baptized in my name, to him will the Father give the Holy Ghost, like unto me; wherefore, follow me, and do the things which ye have seen me do”. 2 Nephi 31:11-12 We express our gratitude for the “living water” provided by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.