Sunday, February 26, 2012

Getting Wired in Palau (#24)

On preparation day, Elder Johnsen successfully set up a wired local area network for our FHC desktop and laptop computer at the church. The dial up connection comes into the desktop computer. The FHC laptop computer is connected to the desktop by a network cable which we have been using at our apartment. He had to leave the computers on and connect to the dial-up internet most of the week because it took so long to download windows and other updates on both computers. He stopped by the church several times each day to check the progress and get the computers going again, because the various windows updates initiated a system shutdown to automatically install but of course the computers don’t automatically sign back in with the administrator password.

While it is possible to network in more computers (we’d need a different router), having more than two computers share a dial-up access point would basically be fruitless since the response for multiple simultaneous users would be SO SLOW. Our next task is getting a working printer in our FHC. We actually have an old Dell 1710 which Elder Johnsen tried to get working, but after getting it installed he found out why it was sitting on a shelf in the clerk’s office—it won’t pick up any paper from the paper feeder—it’s going thru the motions with no results. We may have to resort to using our friendly repair guy at Palau Community College. We really want to have our FHC operational by the time we hold a building open house at the end of March.

This past Tuesday night Elder Johnsen taught a class on spiritual health at the Relief Society monthly activity. In this class he reviewed the elements that Dr. Hibbard had taught the sisters about physical health the month before and then for each item on the physical health side he had an counterpart on the spiritual health side of the board. For example on the physical health side where was a comment about the importance of eating “whole” food (whole grain, vs white flour, etc) on the spiritual health side he suggested that the spiritual equivalent was reading direct from the scriptures rather than just reading commentaries about the scriptures. He illustrated the point by sharing the following story:

In 1967 Sister Romney suffered a serious stroke. The doctors told then--Elder Romney that the damage from the hemorrhage was severe. They offered to keep her alive by artificial means but did not recommend it. The family braced themselves for the worst. Brother Romney confided to those closest to him that in spite of his anguished, personal yearning for Ida's restored health and continued companionship, above all he wanted "the Lord's will to be done and to take what he needed to take without whimpering."

As the days wore on, Sister Romney became less responsive. She had, of course, been administered to, but Elder Romney was "reluctant to counsel the Lord about the matter.“…He fasted that he might know how to show the Lord that he had faith and that he would accept God's will in their lives. He wanted to make sure that he had done all he could do. She continued to fail.

One evening in a particularly depressed state, with Ida unable to speak or recognize him, Brother Romney went home and turned as he always had to the scriptures in an effort to commune with the Lord. He picked up the Book of Mormon and continued where he had left off the night before.

He had been reading in the book of Helaman about the prophet Nephi, who had been falsely condemned and unfairly charged with sedition. Following a miraculous deliverance from his accusers, Nephi returned home pondering the things which he had experienced. As he did so he heard a voice.
Although Marion Romney had read that story many times before, it now struck him this night as a personal revelation. The words of the scripture so touched his heart that for the first time in weeks he felt he had tangible peace. It seemed as if the Lord was speaking directly to him. The scripture read:
Blessed art thou, . . . for those things which thou hast done. . . . And thou . . . hast not sought thine own life, but hast sought my will, and to keep my commandments.

And now, because thou hast done this . . . I will bless thee forever; and I will make thee mighty in word and in deed, in faith and in works; yea, even that all things shall be done unto thee according to thy word, for thou shalt not ask that which is contrary to my will. [Helaman 10:4 5]

There was the answer. He had sought only to know and obey the will of the Lord, and the Lord had spoken. He fell to his knees and poured out his heart, and as he concluded his prayer with the phrase, "Thy will be done," he either felt or actually heard a voice which said, "It is not contrary to my will that Ida be healed."

Brother Romney rose to his feet. It was past two o'clock in the morning, but he knew what he must do. Quickly he put on his tie and coat, then went out into the night to visit Ida in the hospital.
He arrived shortly before three o'clock. His wife's condition was unchanged. She did not stir as he placed his hands upon her pale forehead. With undeviating faith, he invoked the power of the priesthood in her behalf. He pronounced a simple blessing and then uttered the incredible promise that she would recover her health and mental powers and yet perform a great mission upon the earth.

Even though he did not doubt, Elder Romney was astonished to see Ida's eyes open as he concluded the blessing. Somewhat stunned by all that had happened, he sat down on the edge of the bed only to hear his wife's frail voice for the first time in months. She said, "For goodness' sake, Marion, what are you doing here?" He didn't know whether to laugh or to cry. He said, "Ida, how are you?" With that flash of humor so characteristic of both of them, she replied, "Compared to what, Marion? Compared to what?"

Ida Romney began her recovery from that very moment, soon left her hospital bed, and lived to see her husband sustained as a member of the First Presidency of the Church, "a great mission upon the earth" indeed
(F. Burton Howard, Marion G. Romney: His Life and Faith, pp. 137 -42).

In many cases the Lord speaks to us and answers our prayers when we’re reading the scriptures. Michael Wilcox teaches, “When I pray, I speak and God Listens, When I read the scriptures, God speaks and I listen”.

We had two more baptisms this week; Elder Johnsen had the opportunity to speak. The spirit was in rich abundance. There is such a feeling of joy felt that these occasions. While we have had some disappointments this has been a week of great spiritual highs. We’re wired in Palau! We wish that all that we talk to would accept our invitation to “come and see” (John 1:46).

Sunday, February 19, 2012

So This Is Missionary Work? (#23)

All week we were asking ourselves…so this is missionary work? We had some of the usual downs and some really great ups.

We had an inactive member cancel with us for the third time and schedule to see us in a month. We were stood up by another inactive member. We had rescheduled our CES In-service only to realize that it was Valentines Day. Oops! Are we romantic or what!

But we had some great experiences too. We had a FHE planned with a part member family. Sister Johnsen wasn't too sure about it, and then when it was time to go, it was raining really hard. But we made our way to their place, gave a simple but fun object lesson and then played a couple of games with the family. We enjoyed a treat together after a kneeling prayer. They told the Elders that they wanted us to come back and have Family Home Evening every Monday.

We were just ready to go out for the day when we got a call about teaching Seminary on Wednesday night. Elder Johnsen has a branch presidency meeting on Wednesday night so Sister Johnsen had to teach. That took care of our morning. But it was fun to teach the youth. After seminary is YW/YM and the YM had a great activity planned, but the YW were going to cancel and Sister Johnsen just felt like they shouldn’t because there were 3 nonmembers there. We came up with some fun games and the girls had a great time. By the middle of the activity 6 non members were present. It would have been terrible to cancel. The 16 girls (this is a TON for a Wednesday night) enjoyed playing balloon volleyball and text book stomp. The Elders ran to the grocery store and got some treats for us.

Thursday night is our institute night and we have added a game and a treat to the night to try to encourage more people to come. We played a game that Mitch calls “Pounce” but it’s basically double solitaire, or in this case quintuble solitaire (we had 5 decks of rook cards.) Sister Angie told a great story at the end of her lesson about an older man who walked with a cane and who was baptized several months prior to his death. She was at the baptism and was asked to bear her testimony after the service was over. She said that was the LAST thing that she wanted to do, but she said yes anyway. As the service progressed her reluctance was replaced by a feeling of most exquisite joy, so much so that by the time he slowly made his way down to the font she was practically jumping for joy. She was almost jumping up and down telling us the story. The memory of it was very vivid for her. After the baptism she noticed that he made the climb up the stairs and his way to the changing room without use of his cane. Then it was time for her to bear her testimony and she shared not only her feeling of overwhelming joy at his baptism, but also how much her testimony meant to her—it was one of the great spiritual experiences of her life. Several months later she felt doubly blessed when she realized at his funeral that he was then in the spirit world, and perhaps he would have the opportunity to share his testimony with some of her departed relatives and she was glad that he would remember her and be able to share with her departed ancestors Angie’s enthusiasm for the gospel and her testimony of its truth.

So this is missionary work? On Friday morning at 9:30 a.m. we headed out to camp Kattu for the civic action team handover ceremony. For the past 30+ years the USA govt. has had a 13 member civic action team working on Palau. Each team works 6 months and then they are replaced by another team. Our friend and church member, Mitch Hibbard, has been a member of the Army team that was replaced by a Navy team at the change of command ceremony. The event was attended by the who’s who in Palau. The President of Palau spoke, the US ambassador to Palau spoke, and particularly mentioned the work that Mitch had done; he totally busted the record of patients seen by any civic action team doctor. She said that Mitch visited every state in Palau and also all of the outer islands where he ministered to every resident. In his 6 months he worked with over 1200 patients which are more than double the patient count of the next nearest action team doctor. While all this praise was on going; both in incoming team and the outgoing team was standing at ease in the hot sun while all the spectators were in the shade under a canopy. President Kesolei was on the program to offer the benediction. Sister Carlson was there; she is the ambassadors right hand (wo)man. Minda was there to present a thank you certificate to the team from the Airai state government. We felt quite at home. They had a huge feast of food prepared but Sister Johnsen and I couldn’t stay to enjoy it since we had lined up a luncheon engagement with an inactive member who unfortunately stood us up. And we were saying, “Are you kidding me right now? We missed the crab salad and got stood up.

The big event on Saturday was our Meyun’s Spelling bee celebration party at Kalau gym. The facility was great. We started with snow ball fight which according to the kids was their favorite game of all time.

We ended up with 10 party goers which made it perfect for our teams, 5 on each side. They had a lot of fun with the dice straw bean game, we played balloon volleyball, I Never, and Do You Love Your Neighbor. Sister Johnsen sang “ In My Own Little Corner” and “Jesus Was No Ordinary Man” to the kids. Elder Johnsen gave a prayer on the food and what a spread of food it was: fried rice, potato salad, hamburgers, chips, cookies, ice cream, and candy bars. What’s not to like? In spite of being exhausted we stopped by the Hospital to visit with the Oei’s and give them some leftovers which they really appreciated. When we got home we had dishes to do, and we needed to prepare dinner for the elders which was on Sunday. Sister Johnsen made some homemade rolls. We did more dishes and then worked on the routes for our upcoming priesthood service night. The Elders are working on a new mission record as of yesterday. They were already at 31 member present lessons for the week. It feels like there has been a turn in the work here in Palau. Missionary work has been going very well. We have another baptism lined up for this coming Friday.

So, this is missionary work? We couldn’t have predicted it. But we have had a super great week!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Boy oh Boy! (#22)

We had an exciting week! Jocelyn and Nolan had their little baby boy which they named after Nolan’s two best friends and Jocelyn’s brother- Spencer Clayton Scharman. He was a little early, but we were pretty happy to have him here. We don’t know what we would do without Skype, cell phones, text messages etc. It is so fun to see the new baby despite the fact that we are so many miles away.

Sister Johnsen has been feeling increasing concerned about the amount of work there is to do (we just added a weekly marriage class to our already busy week) and wondering if it wouldn’t just be so much easier to support the ward in the many assignments that we have and worry less about trying to activate the many lost members. She had a serious conversation with the Lord about it and the next day in District meeting Elder Adams spoke about the importance of being diligent and doing everything we could in the service of the Lord. This felt like a direct answer to prayer. Elder Adams said that one of his companions always wrote the same thing on his 6 week planner, “A short time to serve; a lifetime to remember.” So we got busy again planning and calling and trying to find and fellowship the members of the Topside Branch.

Saturday night our Meyuns students participated in the spelling bee. We had practiced words that were really hard and almost completely ignored the simple ones, but round one started out with very simple words and our kids tried to spell them like they were complicated. It was sort of upsetting. We have been working with them since November. They should have been the top spellers there. The surprising thing was that none of the words that were on our study list were actually used in the spelling bee. We are hoping that they will let us help again next year. We know we can do better.

This week as we visited members, some at home and one in the hospital, we heard some great stories. We stopped at Sister De Leon’s house and after we read her a story from Divine Signatures she told us her conversion story. Her husband had invited the missionaries to come to the home and teach. Every time the missionaries would come Sister DeLeon would go out the back door. Her husband complained saying, “They can see you go out.” She said she didn’t care, but he convinced her that it was rude. Finally she agreed to listen to the missionaries. She said that it was unique reading the bible since that’s something that they never did in the Catholic Church. They decided to go to church and she felt that this was the right church for her, but she wanted their entire family to join and her sons were not home at the time, so they waited 9 months until everyone could be taught. Finally the whole family joined. It wasn’t long after that they were all members when her husband stopped coming. That didn’t stop Sister De Leon. She made sure that the rest of her family joined her at church every Sunday. The next big crisis was her oldest son who was planning to go to a Catholic college. Sister De Leon had heard about BYU Hawaii and wanted him to go there instead. He wasn’t happy about it but finally decided to go. A year later he was called on a mission, and he was the first Micronesian missionary. He served in the islands. Her other son also went on a mission, but he was called to the states in Fresno, California. Her sons are still faithful; one of them is currently serving as a bishop somewhere in Texas. After we departed Sister Johnsen and I were talking and realized that even when there’s someone sneaking out the back door, there is still hope! The people we are visiting haven’t been visited for 10 years or more. Sometimes we encounter a little resistance when we try to meet with them; we suspect that some of them are sneaking out the back door to avoid us.

We also visited Sister Oei several times this week; she is in the hospital. On fast Sunday last month she bore her testimony and told us that Father had told her it was time to come home and that even though she didn’t want to he said it was time. She has been in the hospital almost all month since that testimony. While we were there she told us about how her family members were prisoners of war in Indonesia and that her family had done something and the Japanese guards said they were going to slit their throats. They told them that they would let them live for one more week and then they were going to kill them. Sister Oei said her mother prayed to Heavenly Father and that when the called them back in a week they told them that they had decided to let them all live.

In Relief Society this week one of the stories was about a woman who had had a dream when she was called to be the Relief Society President. She said she didn’t think she could do it and that night she had a dream that she was carrying a heavy burden and the Savior came and carried it for her. We talked for a minute about dreams because Evangeline Andrews had related a spiritual dream in Sunday school. One younger sister who hasn’t been very active since we got here has been called as one of our Gospel Doctrine Sunday School teacher. She told us how she had a dream recently and said it was more like a nightmare. She said that there was a tsunami and she tried to pick up her boys and run with them. She was very frightened. Then there was an earthquake and she was even more terrified. Then there was a light in the heavens that started to descend and she started feeling very guilty and knew that she needed to come back to church. It has been so wonderful to have her with us every Sunday. We feel so blessed.

We had our first convert baptism this year. The branch President’s step daughter, Jenny, was baptized and it was a wonderful service. Sister Johnsen was privileged to talk about the Holy Ghost. It had been raining most of the day and again just like the last baptism (child of record), it stopped raining when we had to step outside to baptize Jenny.

On Saturday Sister Johnsen is working with Madelsar (pronounced Math e sar) on her singing, and to help her prepare a song for Sacrament meeting. They have been practicing “How Firm a Foundation.” At first Madelesar was singing so softly you could hardly hear her, but she is now singing out. Next we worked on her breathing and her posture and then on several other things. Next she sang “How Great Shall be Your Joy” by Janice Kapp Perry. Sister Johnsen recorded it and then they listened together. On the first song her sound is kind of pinched, but after trying a couple of things and then changing over to the second song, her voice was so much more beautiful. She was so excited and so was Sister Johnsen. After the practice Madelsar said to Sister Johnsen, “I thought singing was easy…”

On Monday nights we are trying to have a family home evening with different families. Two weeks ago we met with a woman and her daughter and Elder Johnsen talked about evidences of the Book of Mormon. This Monday we met with the family of one of our Meyuns spellers. The mother is a member of the church but most of the family members are not. Elder Johnsen taught a lesson on family unity and we played a couple of games and ate homemade chocolate chip cookies.

Last Monday the branch had a Branch Family Home Evening for Mitch Hibbard who is leaving this week. We will not only miss his doctoring but also his leadership and his great stories. We forgot to include his story about traveling to the outer islands and being caught in a terrible storm. He said he crouched on the floor of the boat and sang, “Master the tempest is raging…gasp gasp…the billows are tossing high…” He was pretty scared. While he was visiting these distance locations he was served fruit bat and described to us how they serve the stomach first because it is filled with the fruit. Every part of the bat is eaten including the fur. He said that he ate the whole thing.

Boy oh Boy has it been a great week in Palau!!

This is a picture of some captive fruit bats we walked passed one day as we were visiting members.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Our Faith- A Strong Support! (#21)

This week didn’t turn out the way we expected. Sometimes, despite our other plans, life happens. This week, Elder Marshall came down with a serious case of congestion and pink eye. So basically all our plans were disrupted as we found someone to stay home with Elder Marshall while Elder Johnsen became companions with Elder Adams. They actually taught some good lessons together, a couple of them were to an investigator who will be baptized this coming Friday night.

On Saturday afternoon Elder Johnsen went to President Kesolei’s house to help them move to their new place while Sister Johnsen had a singing practice with a YW in the branch. President Kesolei had a truck that was supposed to be there at 1:00, but it was 45 minutes late. By 1:30 the Elders had carried all the packed boxes out of the house and had them ready to load as soon as the truck arrived. So instead of standing around waiting, Elder Johnsen went exploring with Kali (Kesolei’s 9 year old daughter). We’ve decided that Elder Johnsen is really a 9 year old trapped in a 61 year old body. In back of the Kesolei’s house is a Mangrove Swamp, which is a tangled mass of trees that can live in the shallow salt water which at high tide put them in 2-4 feet of water, and at low tide the muddy bottom of the ground is exposed. This adventure was at Low Tide.

As Kali and Elder Johnsen worked their way back into swamp Elder Johnsen noticed what looked like 2’ long pointed stakes coming out of the muddy ground. They reminded Elder Johnsen of steel rebar coming out of a footing. In the mangrove swamp the trees grow at odd angles which made it fun for both Kali and EJ to move from tree to tree, root to root, keeping their feet out of the black muddy ooze of the ground below. Kali took the low road, but the high road about 5 – 10 feet above the muck seemed to be the best route to EJ. At one point Kali told him to watch out for a rotten branch, but he felt certain that it would support his weight without breaking. However, remembering his Boy Scout rock climbing training (3 points of contact) he made sure as he put his full weight on the questionable branch that he had a secure hold on another branch so if the one gave way he wouldn’t plunge into the muck and be impaled by the pointy things sticking out of the muck (which are called pneumatophores). Just a Kali predicted, after moving about 5 feet farther into the swamp on the questionable limb, it gave way with a loud crack and EJ found himself dangling over the ooze suspended by his arms just like we did when we were kids playing on the monkey bars at school. He quickly was able to move to another spot where he had all four of his extremities in contact with something solid and safe. The experience in the Mangrove Swamp reminded us of our institute lesson on Thursday night which recounted Job’s experience of having every prop pulled out from under him. His wealth was lost and all his children were killed; a short time after that his body was covered with boils. He was having nightmares, his friends deserted him, and the Lord stopped answering his prayers. Yet he never lost faith; he hung on to what he knew. In Job 19:26 we read, “And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.” Having the faith to hang on to what he knew saw Job through to the end of his trial, just as hanging on to the branch above saved EJ in the mangrove swamp.

We watch for little miracles and find we have them every day. Wonder of wonders we found Apollo Gurvey. The story of his discovery is quite unique. We had no phone, no address, no place of employment and he’s from Yap. So we were thinking that he might have moved back to Yap. However, President Kesolei remembered that he had come to church one time about 10 years ago to get married. So the idea came to us that maybe we could find his wife’s name down at the court house associated with his marriage to her. We actually found that and also that his last name is not as it appears on the branch list, rather it’s Mengloi. So using that as a lead we looked in the phone book, but didn’t see any Mengloi’s. The next day Sister Johnsen was looking in the phone book for another “M” name and found about four Mengloi’s. We don’t know how we missed it the first time. We began calling all the Mengloi’s in the phone book (our usual practice) and on the forth number we found him. The person on the phone knew that he worked out at Palau Pacific Resort. On Wednesday Elder Adams and EJ went out to PPR and had a nice meeting with Brother Mengloi, got his “address” at least close enough so we think we can find it, his picture and also his party line phone number.

Friday was our “First Friday Flicks” night. At 5:50 we were off to church to get everything set-up, make punch, set out tables for the games, and for Johnsen’s famous popcorn. We also set up the projector and computer/sound system. It basically took the full 40 minutes that we allowed. The first movie in our series was “The Best Two Years.” It is a comedy about 4 elders serving in Holland. We had about 30 people come, 7 of them were non-members and 3 of them are being taught by the elders. While the turnout was a little lighter that what Sister Johnsen and I were expecting, it certainly exceeded the 1 person we had at last month’s first Friday Filipino FHE which this replaced. We played games prior to the movie and everyone had a great time. Two of our institute students brought a young woman from the Japanese embassy. She laughed just as hard at the movie as the rest of us, and told her friends that she felt something different than she has ever felt before. We ran out of popcorn and out of drinks (although I’m quite sure everyone had enough). So next month we might have to up our quantity a little.

After church on Sunday we had a baptismal service for one of our 8 year olds who is the daughter in the Tervet family that was baptized about a year ago. Her dad has cancer of the mouth from chewing beetle nut before he was baptized. It doesn’t look like he qualifies for “off island” treatment.

Sister Tervet said the closing prayer, and in it she thanked the Lord for leading her to His true church where “we’ve been loved like we’ve never been loved before”. As she hangs onto the gospel we know she will find the strength and support she needs for her faith!