Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Doing it Wright in Palau! (#49)

We have learned something important about enduring to the end as we send Elder Wright home to Arkansas. Palau was his very first area and his very last and there were no other islands in the middle. He was Zone leader here for so long that at last count he had made 20 round trips from Palau to Guam.  We are very proud of him and the great work he did in Palau. We want to spotlight his last week here with us.

On the last Sunday before an Elder leaves us to go home, we have a special dinner, and have them sit down and answer questions. For his special dinner Elder Wright only requested that Sister Johnsen make the poke and pour with the white cake and the lime Jell-O.  We ate more than that, but that was all he specifically requested. One of the questions was “Describe your mission low point”. It was interesting to hear him tell us how the hardest week (the week where his grandfather died, and several beloved investigators dropped) was followed by the best week. That contrast reminds us of one of our favorite movie quotes from Shadowlands, “Why love, if losing hurts so much? I have no answers anymore: only the life I have lived. Twice in that life I've been given the choice: as a boy and as a man. The boy chose safety, the man chooses suffering. The pain now is part of the happiness then. That's the deal.”   We think that sometimes we have to endure some hardship to get to success. We have to endure the bitter to taste the sweet.  The memory of the sweet is entwined with the memory of the bitter. That really does seem to be the deal.   In last week’s Gospel Doctrine lesson the Book of Mormon contrasts two figures:   Amalickiah who resorts to all manner of wickedness to gain power, and Chief Captain
Moroni of whom Mormon writes, “if all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto Moroni, behold, the very power of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men.”  We can’t appreciate the great goodness of Moroni without seeing in contrast the great wickedness of Amalickiah. 
Elder Wright reading and answering questions
On Monday night the branch wanted to have a FHE for Elder Wright. Sister Johnsen set up a craft table so that everyone could “Write it to Wright!” expressing their appreciation to him, and saying their goodbyes. Here is the table of workers, and the pages all ready to be assembled. People really liked having an opportunity to say something to Elder Wright as he was leaving.
Several people also stood up and paid tribute to Elder Wright, and then they asked him to speak. We got lots of group pictures that evening.
Tuesday, John Jr., our branch Elder’s Quorum president and Seth Carlson, the branch mission leader, came over to our deck with a feast. They brought Palauan caught mangrove crab and furnished a great lunch. Everyone wanted to do something special for Elder Wright. (If you ever come to these islands you MUST try the mangrove crab—it’s outstanding!)
Wednesday night we all stayed up until Midnight so we could give Elder Wright a big sendoff.  He beat us all in one last game of Mexican train.  He ate his last helping of famous Johnsen Popcorn and chips with Avacado dip.  At the airport, we took a district picture that we didn’t have time to take last Thursday at District Meeting, and gave Elder Wright his “special” cup that we keep in the apartment with his name on it.  Sister Johnsen fills the cup with treats for the plane ride back home.  (Each of the Elders has their own cheap plastic 16 oz. cup with their name written on with a sharpie; that’s what makes it “special”, ha) He also got to have his picture taken with the sign that we used for Elder Adams.  If you look carefully you can see that Elder Wright’s name has been pasted over Elder Adam’s name. We’re all about provident living!!  It’s now part of our “send-off” tradition. 
We wanted to get one last shot with Elder Wright before we hugged him and sent him on his way! We know everything is going to go Wright for this young man! Good Luck Elder Wright in all you do! BTW, we didn’t get into bed until 1:30 A. M.
Of course our week didn’t end then—on Friday morning we headed out to Camp Katuu for the charge of charge ceremony.  The U.S. keeps a contingent of about 15 military personnel on Palau who serve here for 6 months performing needed community service and infrastructure projects.  The departing team (Community Action Team) was from the U.S. Navy, Seabees.  They were replaced by an incoming Air Force team.  Every 6 months there is a formal “change of charge” ceremony.  We like to attend so we can get the name of the “Doc” (which provides free medical care to our elders and members) and also hob knob with Palau’s movers and shakers—when else would we be seated right next to the President of Palau and the U.S. Ambassador?  Actually the main reason we go is that Elder Johnsen likes the free food.  He always asks, “What is the best kind of food” his answer is “Free Food!”
On Friday night we also had our own change of charge ceremony here in the Palau zone.  Elder Fullmer arrived, Elder Early became the new Zone leader, and Elder Gubler has been called as the new District leader.   
The work continues. “The standard of truth has been erected.  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.” We hope we can continue to do a Great Work here in Palau, and that we can do it “Wright!”

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