Thursday, May 31, 2012

Bon Appetit! (#37)

Poke and Pour Cake:  After their preparation Day, Elder and Sister Johnsen were invited to President Kesolie’s house with the other Elders for fish and rice on Elder Adams LAST Monday. Elder Gubler ate the eye socket on the fish, but President Kesolie couldn’t talk him into eating the eye. Sister Johnsen brought a…poke and pour cake.  

Peanut Butter Cookies:  Sister Johnsen had 3 visiting teaching appointments on Tuesday, and she always tries to bring something with her for her sisters. After teaching Elysia and Eleanor Antonia a piano lesson, she set out to deliver the peanut butter cookies, and left Elder Johnsen at the church to make copies of the Race for Life for the upcoming Priesthood service night. Unfortunately the printer broke shortly after he got started.

When Sister Johnsen stopped at one of her sister’s houses, Tessy, to deliver the cookies, she found it was Tessy’s birthday. The Meyuns Elders were already there, and Tessy gave us all dinner to take home.

We stayed up late to help the Elders remain awake so that they could take Elder Gubler to the airport. He had to go to Guam to train for a new missionary. We got to bed around midnight.

Red Rooster for dinner: Sister Johnsen was supposed to have a piano lesson but the student didn’t come, and Elder Johnsen was also at the church waiting for the copier repairman who didn’t come. Then we met all the Elders for dinner at the Red Rooster. It was Elder Adams LAST dinner in Palau. We ate on the balcony, and saw the best sunset we’ve seen since we have been here in Palau.

We decided to actually go to the airport with the Elders to see Elder Adams off. Sister Johnsen made him a sign and filled his “Elder Adams” plastic cup up with candy for the trip. Each Elder has their own plastic cup at our apartment, and they have written their names on the cups. We let Elder Adams take his cup with some treats inside. We got in bed at 1:15 A.M! (We don’t even stay up that late on New Year’s Eve).

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread: Someone gave us a ton of bananas that were going bad fast. On Thursday Sister Johnsen made 6 loaves of banana bread and there were still some bananas left over, so Elder Johnsen made a huge bowl of banana and strawberry jello with lots of bananas. Tessy had asked for Sister Johnsen’s recipe for banana bread so Elder Johnsen delivered two loaves of banana bread to her, and then Elder and Sister Johnsen gave the other three loaves away.  There was only one left and Elder Johnsen thought he should have at least one because it was his idea to make the banana bread in the first place.

The copier repairman came and explained what the printer problem could be and said we could get a part from the USA which “might” fix it. We just need to order it and wait until it comes!

Chocolate Cake with White Mountain Frosting: Elder Johnsen tried to fix the copier himself but to no avail. You should have seen him, he looked just like the Xerox repair men he remembers from his old days at ExxonMobil—they would come and work on the copiers all dressed up in a white shirt and tie.  He pulled the automatic document feeder and the scanning bed off the copier to see if the repairman might have overlooked something easy to fix, like a broken belt or so other problems. He learned from the internet that these were common problem for our copier, but everything looked fine; he decided that  maybe the repairman knew what he was talking about after all.   Elder Johnsen still needed about 130 copies of the 4 page talk by President Monson. This would cost about $48 to copy at the local copy shops and it isn’t in the branch budget.

Sister Johnsen made a layered chocolate cake with White Mountain frosting to welcome our new missionary to the island. He and Elder Gubler arrived on Friday night about 8:45. We all went out to meet them. Then we brought the elders to our apartment for cake and to get a little bit better acquainted with our new missionary. His name is Elder Pauga and he is from Hawaii. He has a firm handshake and broad shoulders. Elder Johnsen guessed on the way home from the airport that Elder Pauga was a rugby player, and he guessed right. Elder Pauga has moved around a lot and seems very comfortable in new situations. We are really happy to welcome him to Palau.

Apple Crisp & Brownies: Sister Johnsen had two piano lessons on Saturday morning and then she and Elder Johnsen went out to visit members. They were back in the afternoon so Elder Johnsen could be Elder Wright’s companion while he filled the font for the baptism that night. Elder Early took Elders Gubler and Pauga and introduced them to their investigators—not only did Elder Gubler get a new companion but he also is getting a new area as they are now working in Meyuns.  

Sister Johnsen stayed home and….you guessed it…cooked!  The Elder said they needed some desserts for the baptism that evening. Sister Johnsen decided to make apple crisp because she hadn’t made that one while on Palau.  Elder Johnsen was helping peel, core, and cut up the apples but then he had to go. Sister Johnsen had to take over that job and didn’t think about the fact that the butter that was mixed with oats and flour was supposed to be cold. By the time she got the apples ready the butter had melted. But that was only part of the problem. The recipe called for ½ stick of butter and she added ½ cup of butter. Now she had to decide what to do, so she double that part of the recipe and globbed it on the apples instead of sprinkling it on.

The plan was to next make a mango crisp, but after that crisp catastrophe, her cooking confidence cratered, Sister Johnsen made brownies from a box. The apple crisp and brownies must have tasted OK because we didn’t bring anything home with us after the baptism.

The Elders have been teaching one of the high ranking members of the Seventh Day Adventist church here in Palau, and he came to the baptism.  Sister Johnsen was asked to lead the music for the evening. While Jacquline was dressing after her baptism the Elders asked Sister Johnsen to lead the group in a few hymns. They suggested two, but when they were almost over Sister Johnsen didn’t know what to sing next. It came very clearly to her that we should sing, “I Believe in Christ.” We are always thankful to Elder McConkie for writing the lyrics to a song that expresses to our non-member friends our strong belief in the Savior. Elder Johnsen said later that this was the very best song we could have picked. That is because Sister Johnsen didn’t pick it, the Spirit did.

Roast, Carrots, Potatoes and finally, the Mango Crisp: Sunday is our day to have the Elders to dinner and we have never had a roast here, so we made our pot roast with carrots and potatoes like we do at home.  Elder Johnsen was determined to use the mangoes that a member had given us, so we made the dessert on Sunday afternoon. Unfortunately no one, except for Elder Johnsen and Gubler, liked it that well. It will not enjoy a repeat performance.  (Elder Gubler is like Mikey in that old Life cereal commercial, he will eat anything!)

Chocolate Chips Cookies and Popcorn: When the Elders came back on Sunday evening Sister Johnsen had made some cookies and even though Elder Johnsen had just finished a long YM planning meeting in our living room he was willing to make some of his famous popcorn (because no one wanted any more Mango surprise).

What a delicious week!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

May the Force (of Faith) Be With You (#36)

The new air conditioning in our car sounds like we have Darth Vadar trapped under our dashboard.  Whenever the AC compressor kicks on there’s a heavy breathing sound that the dark side made while wearing that black mask.   But it keeps us cool, and since Elder Johnsen doesn’t hear very well, he doesn’t even notice it; so Sister Johnsen is just learning to live with it.  But with all the heavy breathing as a daily reminder, suddenly we are seeing everything from a Star Wars perspective:

“In a Galaxy Far, Far Away.”  Elder Adams, our District leader, is going home on Wednesday so he decided to transport us far from home in Koror for a District Preparation Day activity.  We drove for over an hour to the far north of the big island and spent the day at a member’s place which is right on the beach. We ate fish and rice out of leaf bowls, collected shells, rested in the hammock, and built things in the sand.   We explored the beach, swung on a rope over the ocean water, and climbed on the rocks.  It was a day apart from our work, and seemed like a galaxy far, far away.  

“I’ve got a bad feeling about this one.” Tuesday Elder Johnsen went shopping to get food for the RS Visiting Teaching convention. Sister Johnsen was asked to cut up the fruit and vegetables for the healthy snack after the meeting, but only six sisters came and, unfortunately, Mona, who is the President, and the only member of the RS Presidency at the meeting, got called into work so she had to leave after 30 minutes. Fortunately, she had handouts that we were able to read after she left.

“We’re going in and we’re going in full throttle.” The first week we were in Palau (seven months ago) we stopped at the local college, Palau Community College, looking for volunteer opportunities. This week they finally called us and asked if we could come in and talk about ways we could assist them.  We stopped by and visited Das (the Human Relations Manager) and got a short tour of the college, and saw the library. It is actually for the entire community and very nice. Now we see why the other library is so small and insufficient. People can and do use the college library.  Das said we also might visit his wife who worked at the Behavioral Health Center, and also volunteer there. He gave us a number, and we went over the next day.  After an interview with the manager of that facility they want to use Sister Johnsen to do some training for their counselors.  Das wants Elder Johnsen to teach a personal finance workshop to the facility at PCC. After seven months of waiting we’re going at full speed!

“Help me Obi Wan; you’re my only hope.” Friday night was our big seminary graduation and institute honors program, celebration dinner, and game night. Elder and Sister Johnsen have been working for weeks on the program and the awards and the menu and the games. Friday was the most intensive day; we worked from 9:30 in the morning until the ceremony started at 6:30.  Earlier in the day, one of the girls came to the house to learn the song for the musical number.  She had never heard it. Then our one and only graduate called to say he couldn’t come because he had another graduation program to attend at 7:00. We were a little dismayed by this because we had moved the graduation ceremony three times to accommodate him, but after a little cajoling he agreed to skip his HS graduation event and come to his seminary graduation (he was one of our main speakers).   10 minutes before the program was supposed to start one of the girls who was both speaking and singing called to say she couldn’t come. (she actually came to the meeting a little late, but just in time to give her talk;  that call increased our anxiety).  When the meeting was scheduled to begin neither one of our other speakers was there, and we only had one of our singers. Finally, 10 minutes after the scheduled start time one of our singers showed up, but she was going to leave early because she also had another graduation commitment later in the evening.  So what do you do?  Elder Gubler captured the moment for us with the picture he took at 6:30. We had one person there. We had made dinner for 40+. 


“Use the force Luke.”  Elder Johnsen said it took a lot of faith to start that meeting.  At 6:40 he had two of the three singers and none of the speakers. But after he started the meeting everyone showed up, and we ended up with close to 50 people.  The food was excellent (everyone raved about the Hawaiian Haystacks and Sister Johnsen’s poke and pour cupcakes) and the game of bloody knuckles was very fun. We had compiled review questions from the Old Testament, and there were two teams of about 10 at each table. Each table had answers to 40 questions.  Elder Johnsen read the question, and after the correct answer was located, a runner from the competing tables would dash up to the front of the room and grab for the largest point total (we used a 3 and 2); Sister Johnsen verified that the runner brought the correct answer.   The competition got very intense, and the kids had a really good time (the bloody knuckles part comes when both runners grab for the 3 at the same time).  Once we got rolling the program came off just like we had planned it.  Nearly everyone who had attended seminary or institute was present to receive their awards.  We couldn’t have been more pleased.  Sometimes you just have to use the force of faith!

“Do or don’t do, there is no try” President Kesolie asked Elder Johnsen to “try” to take a look at the branch budget. While operating within a budget is old hat for most of us who have lived and worked in wards and stakes in the USA, that’s not so true here in Micronesia.  So he spent a few hours on Saturday seeing where the budget money has gone over the past couple of years.  It was very helpful to the branch presidency as they reviewed the information in their meeting on Sunday. We will be reviewing it again with the auxiliaries in branch council next week as they, for the first time, establish a plan for spending for each of the organization, and keep the total within the budget allowance.

“Yes, the force is strong with this one” On Sunday we pulled out the farewell questions we first used on Elder Barlow who left Palau to go home shortly after we arrived here.  We gave all the same questions to Elder Adams since it was his LAST Sunday in the mission field. We heard lots of his mission stories that we hadn’t heard before. It was interesting and fun!  If you need a good laugh, ask him to repeat his answer to the question: “What was the worst thing that happened to you on your mission?”  He has a cockroach story about his apartment in Guam that will blow your mind.  We will greatly miss Elder Adams, the force of faith IS strong with him!  

Monday, May 14, 2012


Lights! Camera! Action! Ok…just ACTION.  Our sixth graders were both thrilled and terrified to perform their plays, skits, and readings on Friday, May 11th. Behind our makeshift curtain they waited for their turn to go out. Luckily Sister Johnsen was behind the scenes. She literally had to give several of them a gentle shove to get them to go out.   They loved it though!  It was very fun for them and for us. Even though AMATUER hardly describes the effort, we felt great about spending these past weeks preparing for the performance. We hope that some other group may ask us to help them out in the fall.

The ACTION continued when Elder Johnsen and 11 year old Alfonze Roberto were out in front performing their song for the Aaronic Priesthood Commemoration night.  As the opening number for the program, they sang the Primary song, “The Priesthood is Restored”.  Actually, Elder Johnsen had more to do than just perform…he prepared the program, made the invitations, passed out the program parts, then bought and cooked the food. There were about 20 people there so they considered it a big success.   

Our institute teacher came down with a case of Chicken Pox so on Thursday Elder Johnsen sprang into ACTION again and quickly prepared the lesson about the book of Daniel. Thanks goodness for an easy topic. It is always faith promoting to learn about Daniel and his three companions, their challenges, and example.

Sister Johnsen promised that on Wednesday night she would set up the DVD from the Church’s annual broadcast for Young Women. After spending several days looking for it, she finally decided to take ACTION and go with something she knew about.  When no one from the YM’s program showed up, she invited the YM to join with the YW and learn about how to prepare and present a talk in church.  Sister Johnsen covered many parts of the procedure for giving a talk including something she learned from Karen’s Texas A & M public speaking class. Karen learned that people can only see about 10% of how nervous you are.  On a whim Sister Johnsen confided to her class that she sometimes wears a long shirt when she has to speak so no one will know if she is shaking. At the end of her presentation she asked the group, “What’s the one thing you are going to do when you give a talk?” (Correct answer:   give a great introduction).  Cullen’s Carlson thought he would be helpful with his answer:  “Wear a long skirt!”

The air conditioning went out in the car last week so the Johnsens haven’t been driving around very much, but their ACTION item list for things to do at home is so long, they kept very busy. After waiting almost all week for the parts for their car to arrive from Guam, and then getting the mechanic to come and start work (the ONLY one on the island who dares to pull the dashboard to replace an AC evaporator), it was the end of the week before the car was repaired.   It was finally finished and Elder and Sister Johnsen are ready for ACTION again.

Saturday morning Elder Johnsen started wondering what the branch did for the sisters on Mother’s day; so he texted President Kesolie, who was off island, to ask about it. President Kesolie said the young women usually gave the mothers flowers so Elder Johnsen contacted the YW President, and she said that because she had been gone all week and because she was so busy she wasn’t going to be able to do anything. Then Elder Johnsen asked Sister Johnsen if she would be willing to cook something for the sisters. Sister Johnsen had already planned to make homemade rolls, a birthday cake, and twice baked potatoes for Elder Adam’s birthday. To that she added a batch of peanut butter cookies, lemon bars, and chocolate chip chewies.  She was baking from about 11, or was it 10, to 4 in the afternoon with virtually no lunch break. The water was still off from 11 to 5 so dishes (lots and lots of baking dishes) had to be washed with the stored water that is kept in the apartment.

When Mother’s day dawned, Elder and Sister Johnsen put together 18 small plates of cookies and bars. They attached a quote from Elder Ballard to each plate, and took them to church. Later that day they had a birthday dinner for Elder Adams!  Everyone sang “Happy Birthday” and Elder Adams blew out his candles. When the Elders came back in the evening Elder Adams opened his birthday gifts. He just turned 21 and only has 9 days left in the mission field! Way to go, Elder Adams!

Another ACTION-packed week for the Johnsens!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Bad to Good, Good to Better (#34)

We were definitely trying to be “good” this week because the two Assistants to the President visited Palau for three days.  Of course, Elder and Sister Johnsen couldn’t resist donning their newly constructed pig noses during District meeting, and treating the Elders to real drama as part of their “area accountability” report.  For some reason the Elders didn’t laugh when Elder Johnsen lifted his right arm and sniffed his armpit and asked, “Do I smell bacon, oh, it’s just me”.  

The AP’s left at 2:50 A.M. on Friday morning, and Elder Wright left for Guam and his Zone leader’s meeting at 2:50 on Saturday morning. The Johnsens’ are part of the detail that helps departing Elders stay up until they leave for the airport. It’s really late duty! We were pretty tired by Saturday, but we’re still trying to be really “good” helpers.

It’s a little harder to go from “good” to “better” when the water goes off 6 hours a day. We have to fill our bottles early, and do our dishes because we aren’t going to have any running water all day long. One family in the branch has had no running water for 2 weeks, and others don’t get it until 9 at night.

Then to top off the week, on Saturday the air conditioning in our car went out, and the Elder’s had the starter on their car go out a few hours later.  It seems like the only time we call Brother and Sister Anderson in the office in Guam is when something goes wrong!  The Anderson’s are really “good!”

Speaking of Bad to Good, Good to Better . . . Elder Johnsen has been doing quite a bit of thinking about Elder Bednar’s address in the April Liahona where he wrote that “The grand objective of the Savior’s gospel was summarized succinctly by President David O. McKay . . . to make bad men good and good men better, and to change human nature. Thus, the journey of mortality is to progress from bad to good to better and to experience the might change of heart—to have our fallen natures changed.” (see Mosiah 5:2).  Elder Bednar then quoted King Benjamin’s teaching in Mosiah 3:19: “For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord”.  Elder Bednar observed that when we put “off the natural man” we are moving from Bad to Good.  When we “becometh a saint” we are continuing the grand objective of the gospel and life’s journey to make “good men better”.  Both parts of the journey require the Savior’s atonement, the cleansing power to move from bad to good and the enabling power to move from good to better.  It was interesting to Elder Johnsen that King Benjamin constructed a Chiasmus (Hebrew poetry) right in the middle of his address to his people—if you take out the verses which are not part of his address there are the same number of verses before the Chiasmus in Mosiah 3:18-19 as there are after those verses.  It’s as though King Benjamin not only wanted to give double emphasis to what President McKay and Elder Bednar said was the grand objective of the Gospel but also let us know it is central point of the gospel.  When you couple the idea of Bad to Good and Good to Better with Lili Anderson’s “Choosing Glory” concept of the three realms moving from Telestial behavior to Terrestrial and from Terrestrial to Celestial you really begin to see what the prophets are trying to teach us.  Elder Johnsen really likes teaching the gospel to his Sunday School students in Palau. He’s learning more than they are!  

The District President for this area is President Mecham, who is also the Mission President, and because this mission is so spread out over many islands, he hasn’t been able to visit us since January. One sister needed a temple recommend so Elder Johnsen set up a skype video call from our apartment with President Mecham and she got her recommend renewed in this innovative way. We hope there isn’t anything in the handbook about getting temple recommends over the internet.

We find the work that we get to do in the mission field is not what we’s “better!"