Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Our Wake Up Call (#38)

Sister Johnsen was awakened from a sound sleep at 4:00 A.M one morning this week. She wasn’t sure why she was awake, and lay there for a few minutes before deciding to just get up and go to the restroom. After getting back in bed, the thought came to her that she had a text message. Unfortunately her cell phone was in the other room. She had forgotten to plug it in near her bed, which she tries to do every night. So she grudgingly got up again!  And a text message was there, from Karen.

Karen had taken the family car in for repairs, and needed a response about those repairs ASAP. She sent the text and then prayed that Sister Johnsen would see it first thing in the morning. It was a pretty powerful prayer because it woke Sister Johnsen up!  

Later Karen apologized when she realized that it was in the middle of the night for the Palauan people. But for us it was a wake-up call AND a sweet reminder that the Lord still hears and answers prayers!

Speaking of phone calls, Elder Johnsen has been installing the new Encyclopedia Britannica DVD data into the computers at the Koror Public library. He needed another hour to complete the installations and called almost every day, but the nice ladies at the library were never available to have him come back in. Maybe next week…we are learning to be patient with the Palauan time schedule!

On Wednesday, the joint activity for Young Men and Young Women was two leadership activities that Elder Johnsen shared with the youth leaders. The first one was the spider web, and the spectators had as much fun (or more) than the people trying to pass through the web.  The object of the exercise is to have each team member pass through a different “hole” in the spider web without touching the web. Once the hole is used, or the web is touched in an unsuccessful attempt to pass through it, that hole is closed and cannot be used again.  You should have seen the antics when Brother Carlson and President Kesolei attempted to lift Elder Early over the entire web, and he came crashing down on top of the web and onto the grass below. Luckily it had been softened up by lots of recent rain.  Yes, Elder Early got muddy, but not hurt!  Neither team was able to complete the spider web challenge—both teams got stuck getting their last man through.  For both teams it was a wakeup call to realize that they should have reserved the easiest hole in the web for the last man. This exercise is about leadership and communication.

Our Branch President contemplating how he can get through 
Elder Early right before he crash landed on top of the spider web

Ulang successfully makes it over the web- we allowed over the web to be one usable hole and under the web was a usable hole

Elder Early finally made it through

The next activity was the Lava Crossing. In that challenge the two teams have 2 to 3 magic boards which are impervious to the hot lava that we pretend covers the church parking lot.  The teams are too large and the boards too small to ferry all team members across the hot lava at once. If a team member falls off the “magic” boards into the lava, the whole team must go back to the beginning and start over.  Both teams had multiple times when they had to start over, and it was a wake-up call to realize that haste makes waste! Even though it’s a race, planning and communication are needed to complete the journey. It’s not always the fastest, but the most prepared tortoise that wins this race!

It is almost summer here in Palau, and it has been raining so much. The day of the joint activity it just poured off and on all day. But for one solid hour during our activity there wasn’t a drop of rain. What a blessing.

Sister Johnsen is teaching piano lessons to two young Palauan non-member sisters who have two siblings who have joined the church in the last year. Since they do not seem like they have a lot to do, she decided to include a craft with their lessons and brought some homemade salt dough. (Elder Johnsen tells everyone how HE made it.) While one is having her piano lesson, the other makes things with the salt dough and then they trade places. Sister Johnsen also started them on James and the Giant Peach which they took home to read this week.

The salt dough creations, baked and painted.

After looking at both the libraries in Koror, Sister Johnsen printed out a copy of all the Newberry winners since 1950 and is going to find out how many both of these libraries have. Their children’s collections lack many great books and stories. Perhaps a way can be found to increase their children’s book sections. Looking through their collections was a wake-up call for Sister Johnsen because she felt like something could be done to improve these libraries for the sake of these children.

The Carlson’s are beginning their move to St. George, Utah and Eric Carlson, the father of the family, bore his testimony on Sunday. It was his last Sunday here.  He told a story about borrowing his father-in-law’s boat, and then losing the gaff overboard. He was so alarmed at losing it that even though the tide was strong and the current difficult, he jumped in to save the gaff. He knew he was in trouble when he found that the water was about a foot over his head.  Although he quickly reached the gaff, now he had the problem of swimming back to the anchored boat against the strong current.  He nearly exhausted himself in the attempt to swim 50 feet, and after 10 minutes of furious swimming with the gaff in hand, he was still 50 feet away from the boat.  Realizing that insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, he changed tactics.  Diving down to the bottom he used the gaff to pull himself forward underwater.  Of course he lost ground against the current when he came up for air, but now at least he was making real progress.  Finally, exhausted he reached the boat, but had so little strength remaining that he couldn’t pull himself over the side.   After about 10 minutes of rest he gained enough strength to pull himself out of the water and into the boat.  He drew many spiritual lessons from that experience. He expressed that sometimes when things are difficult, and you are out of strength, you just have to hang on.  However, our favorite lesson from the experience was that it was a wake-up call for him to realize that he almost lost his life over a gaff.  He felt that we ought to judge more carefully the importance of the decisions we make in our lives, and be sure that our choices are made thoughtfully. Is that choice really worth it? He suggested that sometimes we make choices, and find that we have a difficult time extracting ourselves from dangerous circumstances.   

President Mecham sent President Kesolie a note this week to say he is coming to Palau for just one day. He will be here to do temple recommends and priesthood advancement interviews, and Elder Johnsen has been making phone calls to line up those interviews. Some of our young men who we were hoping were preparing for advancement have not been as faithful as they should been and suddenly, the call comes to move forward and they are not ready. How unfortunate.  Hopefully, our own personal wakeup call comes well before we have no remaining will to repent and it is “everlastingly too late”.

Graduations have been happening all over the island this last week. Everywhere we go we hear “Pomp and Circumstance” and see cars lining the streets of the schools.  Graduation marks the end of an era, and the hope of better things for these young graduates. However, on Sunday morning a few Palauans set off on a Freedom Walk and a young graduate also got into his vehicle after a lot of heavy drinking. He hit one of the walkers, a 62 year old woman, who was out walking to improve her nation and her health. She died at the hospital, several hours later. It is always a wakeup call when we remember that life is fragile, and the call to leave this earth can happen at any moment.

The young man is in jail charged with manslaughter. Just when he should be starting out he has brought tragedy into the lives of so many families. Even with complete repentance his future is forever altered by the consequences which will follow.   While we might be able to escape the eternal consequences of some choices by repentance, there is a much smoother road in life to follow.  May we heed this wakeup call, “O that ye would awake; awake from a deep sleep, yea, even from the sleep of hell … awake … [and] put on the armor of righteousness. Shake off the chains with which ye are bound, and come forth out of obscurity, and arise from the dust.” (2 Ne. 1:13, 23.)  

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