Monday, September 24, 2012

Responding to the promptings of the Holy Ghost (#54)

Sometimes we are in the strangest situations and doing the most mundane work when the Holy Ghost will prompt us on how to do something.  We had one of those experiences last Tuesday while working on a service project at the church.  Originally we had planned to hang a bulletin board in the nursery and do some outdoor painting in the parking lot of the church, but a heavy downpour of rain changed our outdoor painting plans.  During the heavy rain it seemed like a good time to see if we could determine the source the water leak in the Aux. classroom building.  Back in March when we held our open house we replaced two water-damaged ceiling tiles in the YW class room in our efforts to spruce up the building.  Now 6 months later the dripping water has increased in seriousness.  Not only are the ceiling tiles becoming water saturated but the sheet rock and paint in the area under the water drip is being impacted.

In this first photo you can see Elder Fullmer on the ladder in the YW room beginning to pull down the water soaked ceiling tiles.  

After we pulled down the tiles he climbed up into the attic to see if we could find the water source.  At first it appeared it was coming from some insulated pipes that run right above those tiles—since they were wet and dripping, which we believe was the problem reported some months ago to FM—however, upon further inspection, we were able to trace the water’s source.  The water was dripping down on the pipes from a piece of insulation just under the steel roofing. We could see the path of the water as it was running down the insulation it pooled and dripped down onto the pipes and then onto the ceiling tiles.   

In first aid, the first rule of care is “stop the bleeding.” It is the same with leaks.  We looked around to see what materials we might have to stop the leak.  We didn’t have a blue tarp, like we use in the states after a hurricane damage to cover the roof.  But thanks to some sudden inspiration from the Holy Ghost we remembered that we had a couple 4x8 sheets of plywood left over from our shed siding project which we had painted on both sides.   Using a drill and wire we found in the shed, we drilled small holes in the siding at the top and ran the wire thru to basically make an A frame tent hinged by the wire.  We brought the plywood up onto the roof and placed our “tent” over the ridge line of the roof just over the place it appeared that our leak was originating.  Of course, we still had a small opening where rain could enter at the peak.  So we covered that gap with a black plastic trash bag and then created a smaller plywood tent with some pieces of plywood which remained from our siding project.  This we placed over the plastic trash bag to hold it down in the wind.  The end result is shown in the attached picture, it isn’t wholly unattractive and best of all, there is no more water coming into the building!  And our patch hasn’t blown away in the heavy wind and rain which has continued unabated.

Sometimes the Holy Ghost will prompt us to do what is right even when we planning to do something stupid.  In his sacrament meeting talk on Sunday the ex-district president related the story of a time when he and some friends were going out to buy some beer so they could get drunk.  While they were debating their purchase Walter said that he distinctly heard the spirit tell him “don’t buy beer buy- orange soda instead.”  That message is very good advice to anyone debating a similar question today.   

We also had a visitor in church from Hawaii who, some years ago, served a mission in Palau.  He was also on the sacrament meeting program and told a personal story about his dad who fought in the Vietnam war.  Ken described how his dad was very close to the Platoon commander.   They were being picked up by three helicopters following a combat mission; the Platoon commander asked Ken’s dad to come with him in his helicopter.  He was about to do so but the Holy Ghost clearly whispered that he should not ride in that helicopter.  Despite the insistence of the Platoon commander, Ken’s dad resisted and rode back to base in one of the other two aircraft.  Only two of the three craft made it back to base—the one carrying the Platoon commander was shot down with all lives lost.  Ken’s dad owed his live to receiving and following the prompting of the Holy Ghost.

In Elder Johnsen’s Sunday School class they reviewed the prophecies made by Samuel the Lamanite and how they were fulfilled at the time of the Saviors crucifixion.  One of his prophecies was that in the new world “many graves shall be opened, and shall yield up many of their dead; and many saints shall appear unto many”.  After the Savior’s appearance to the people in the lands spoken of in the Book of Mormon, he asked to see “the record which ye have kept”.  He observed that the fulfillment of that prophecy had taken place but had not been recorded.  “And it came to pass that Nephi remembered that this thing had not been written. And it came to pass that Jesus commanded that it should be written; therefore it was written according as he commanded.” 3 Nephi 23:12-13  Elder Johnsen challenged his class to remember and record instances in their own lives when they had responded to the promptings of the Holy Ghost.  Sometimes in our darkest hours it helps us to read and reflect on our own experiences where the Lord through the Holy Ghost has given us help and direction.  We know from our personal experiences in life and in the mission field that He stands ready to give is direction.

Even though we already had a birthday dinner for Elder Early and Elder Pauga we decided to have one little thing for them on their birthday.  Since we were going to be at the church on Tuesday morning, Sister Johnsen made blueberry muffins for the Elders. Elder Early got the muffin with the candle.

On Thursday we went for our end of the transfer lunch and then went back to the church for district meeting. Sister Johnsen made cupcakes for everyone and we took a district picture. Elder Pauga is the one with the candle this time. Happy Birthday to our two 22 year olds!
As we complete our week, we hope we can remember that following the Holy Ghost has two parts. First, seeking and receiving inspiration and then follow the inspiration we have received.  That’s our challenge to ourselves every single day.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Stump the Experts (#53)

Elder Johnsen was surprised this month that his picture project actually stumped the experts in Salt Lake. He has been using the windows Snipping tool to create head shots of our branch members, and get them loaded into the online LDS directory.  By the first week in September he had captured about 175 photo’s but had been unable to get them uploaded.  His appeals for system support finally reached the QA Engineers at church headquarters where they have noted all the problems he’s been having, not only uploading pictures but also mapping each member’s location on the LDS mapping tool.  On September 14 Elder Johnsen received the following note back from SLC, “Well, I think you’ve stumped our experts. We just don’t know what to do from our end to make this easier for you. I’ve asked everyone I can find to ask with no success. I apologize and appreciate your patience in dealing with all these hiccups.”  On most of the problems we are experiencing the experts could duplicate the problem and promised fixes in the next release of the directory and mapping tool (next month), but on the picture upload problem they couldn’t replicate the problem in SLC.  Elder Johnsen took that as good news, there wasn’t a bug it was just a dial-up speed issue.  So arising at 4:00 a.m. he began playing around and instead of trying to upload the pictures one at a time, he tried the multiple upload feature and wonder of wonders, it worked.  On his first try he was able to upload about 75% of his head shots.  It took all day, but by day’s end on Friday—all the pictures we had were uploaded and associated with the right person in the directory.  His goal is to have pictures and locations for 90% of the members in the branch by the time we leave Palau.
Speaking of stumping the experts, we just had our second new AC evaporator replaced in our 2005 Corolla. The mechanic can’t figure out what is causing them to repeatedly get holes—we’re sure that Elder Anderson in Guam who keeps buying us new ones and sending them can’t either. What really stumps us is now that we have the Corolla all fixed up:  new AC, brakes, tune up, oil change, new tie rods and tie rod ends, tires, paint job—we just took delivery of a brand new Toyota Yaris this week; it will replace our fixed up Corolla!  You’d be surprised how much running around is required to take delivery of a new car in Palau; it has to clear customs, have all the taxes and fees paid, then you have to get it inspected, titled and registered.  Other than rental cars, this is the first new car that we’ve ever had to drive.  Elder Johnsen has always purchased vehicles which are two or more years old, and then drives them until they’ve lost all value and are uneconomic to repair.  Don’t get too envious about our new ride, here’s what “consumer reports” says about the Yaris, “The original Yaris hatchback scored a dismal 52 out of 100 points in our road tests. Still, that looks good compared with the redesigned 2012 model, which dropped to 41. This spartan hatchback subjects you to a noisy cabin, uncomfortable seats, and a cheap-looking interior. It’s also slow to accelerate and has a choppy, uncomfortable ride. One redeeming quality is its excellent fuel economy of 32 mpg overall.” We’re sure our Yaris must be much better than what they evaluated; our Yaris has 4 doors, it’s not a hatchback, ha.  Our main complaint is we no longer have power door locks and power windows.  When you get in and out of a car all day long, like we do, it really gets old opening the car door with the key (no remote entry like the Corolla), and then leaning across the car to unlock the passenger door.  It’s a good thing both Elder and Sister Johnsen are a spry 62 years old.  

Speaking of getting older, we celebrated two birthdays this week, both Elder Early and Punga are turning 22 so we turned our typical Sunday dinner with the Elders into a birthday party.  Here you see the two Elder’s about to blow out their respective candle on the birthday cake. 
 We stumped the experts; they couldn’t guess what kind of jello we used in the poke and pour cake (it actually was a white cake with strawberry Jell-o and vanilla pudding frosting).  Sister Johnsen had great gifts for both Elders.  Elder Early, after wearing short sleeve white shits for nearly two years, got a royal blue long sleeve dress shirt with matching tie (he’s going home soon).  And Elder Punga received construction paper, colored sharpie pens, envelopes and stamps he is our artist and has a girl back home to whom he regularly writes. Sister Johnsen is the best gift giver! For dinner we had the famous GrandmaFay chicken pot pie recipe, with fruit salad, and brown sugar muffins.  It was an awesome meal.  Elder Johnsen was especially glad that there was one serving left over—that’s one lunch he won’t have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich this coming week.  

This was another super busy week for us doing member leader support work.  We had branch council this past Sunday so Elder Johnsen spent considerable time updating the budget so that could be reviewed.  He also updated the October calendar, prepared the agenda and found out about the Fair which will be held at the end of the month at the midtown Bethlehem Park.  We were considering having a booth as a follow-up to our open house which we held about 6 months ago.

Of course, Elder Johnsen also taught his usual Sunday school class—Sister Johnsen wrote an 11 page primary program, got the YW ready to sing a special musical number in Sacrament meeting, and also prepared and delivered a great talk about Temples in Sacrament meeting.  At the end of September Sister Johnsen will be teaching a temple preparation class.  We have a group of nearly 10 members who are preparing to go to the temple over the thanksgiving break.  Given the limited economic circumstances of most of our members it is a great blessing that the church can help with travel expenses for first time temple attendees.  

Elder Johnsen’s tried to stump his Sunday School class asking them what it would have felt like to have been numbered among the righteous Nephites who were waiting for the promised day and night and day with no darkness, which was the Sign predicted by Samuel the Lamanite Prophet of the Saviors birth in the holy land.  The wicked part of the people set aside a day when the righteous believers would be killed if the sign did not appear.   They were not stumped at all as to what they would do—some would hide, others would prostrate themselves before their enemies, others would fight rather than die passively.  We supposed that the wicked would wait until night fall to do the dirty deed—then we speculated what the wicked man would be thinking as he sat at his grinding wheel sharpening his machete waiting for a night fall that didn’t come.  What would he be feeling when at the setting of the sun it was as bright as noon day?  We supposed that it would be much like how the wicked will feel at the time of the saviors second coming.  We hope that some of the work we are doing will help us and the Koror Topside Branch prepare for that day—no one will want to be among the wicked when that day comes.

We are not stumped about what to do this coming week. The work list is so long!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Ahh…Nature! (#52)

There is so much natural beauty in the Republic of Palau, but sometimes nature rears an ugly head.  Last Monday, Elder Johnsen and the Elders were asked to come to Ida’s home. She is a member of the church born in the Philippines.  Her home had a large tree fall on it.  Unfortunately, there was only one small chain saw with a dull blade to cut up the tree, so after watching and waiting for 30 minutes for the first cut of the tree trunk to be made, the elders grabbed hand saws and machetes and attacked the fallen tree from the top down while others were using the slow chain saw on the trunk.  You should have seen the wood chips fly!  When all the wood was finally off the roof, a neighbor, who had watched all the manual labor from his lawn chair, ambled over with his big, new, powerful chain saw and in about 20 minutes cut up the big chunks of tree that the Elder’s had, in two hours of work, hauled off the roof. The wood was then loaded into a couple of trucks and taken to the dump.  
Speaking of nature, our bird is back.  Outside our front door, we have a potted tree which is about 5 feet tall and is supported by the railing of our second floor patio and sheltered from the rain by the overhanging roof.  It must be a perfect place to build, because this is our third nest. Every morning Elder Johnsen waters the tree. The mother bird, having grown accustomed to his face being about 6 inches away from her nest, doesn’t fly away.  The two little blue eggs hatched and now she has two hungry little fuzz balls with yellow beaks to feed.  All day long we see the mother bird fly back and forth feeding her growing babies.  It won’t be long before the babies will be gone and the cycle of life will begin again.  
Usually cats and birds don’t go together, but they do at the senior couple’s apartment in Palau.  We’ve been adopted by a stray tom cat which Sister Johnsen has named “Slumber”.  We were first introduced to Slumber when we came out of our apartment and saw him sleeping on some boxes in the storage unit outside on our deck. At first as we walked by he’d make a dash for the stairs, but like the birds he now just remains sleeping.  Sister Johnsen is always organizing things here and that has included our storage area.  She made a nice little bed for Slumber with a comfy towel but the cat wasn’t interested in that.  So we just spread the towel on his usual box and as you can see he is living up to his name—this picture was taken about 11:00 a.m. so he must have been exhausted from a long night of tom catting around town. 
The beautiful trees, that provides betel nut for the people of Palau, cause death and disease. Previously we’ve written about all the betel nut palms which dot the islands and that the nuts are “chewed” in Micronesia.  Consequently, a common ailment is throat/mouth cancer. One of our members just baptized in 2010 is in misery because his cancer is causing him untreatable pain, and the cancer will probably soon take his life. If he had only heard and obeyed the gospel earlier.  
betel nut palm
John Thing, 1st counselor in our Branch Presidency, was telling Elder Johnsen on Sunday that he believes that joining the church actually saved his life.  Five years ago, after being taught about the Word of Wisdom by the Elders, he gave up “chewing.” Unlike many of the investigators here, he quit cold turkey rather than gradually tapering off.  After he stopped “chewing” he noticed that he had considerable mouth pain which was being covered up by the effect of the betel nut.  He went to the local doctors about the pain, and after some testing he also was diagnosed with cancer.  While this was going on he happened to meet an LDS cancer specialist who was visiting the branch.  He was here on some sort of special assignment. They got talking about John’s cancer diagnosis and this doctor had him come in for additional tests. This doctor ended up pulling some strings and got John a flight to Hawaii for an operation and treatment.  John feels that he’s cancer free and alive today because he joined the church and kept his commitment to live the gospel!  

Both Elder and Sister Johnsen taught Sunday School—both asked their class the same question:  “If you were a salesman but all you had to sell was misery, how would you do it?”  Elder Johnsen’s youth class thought the best approach was to make people believe the misery would never come, so have all the fun you can now.  Sister Johnsen’s adult class thought the best way to sell misery was just to lie about it.  We have observed here that the only thing that the adversary has to sell is misery—it may take some time for the misery to show it’s ugly head, but by and by it does appear.  As Alma in the Book of Mormon teaches his son Corianton, “Wickedness was never happiness.   And now, my son, all men that are in a state of nature, or I would say, in a carnal state, are in the gall of bitterness and in the bounds of iniquity; they are without God in the world, and they have gone contrary to the nature of God; therefore, they are in a state contrary to the nature of happiness.” Alma 41:10-11  One of the great messages of the Book of Mormon is to stop choosing the natural man way of life, and give up those carnal desires and come unto the Savior. (Mosiah 3:19)

Ah nature! It can be so beautiful and sweet, or so dangerous and life threatening. It just depends on our choices—may we all chose well.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Shedding the Old, Beginning Anew (#51)

After what seemed like weeks of work procuring materials, priming the wood, tearing off the old—we finally got the siding on the back of the shed replaced.  It felt like it took all summer to complete the project since we only spent one morning each week working on it and some weeks we couldn’t work because it was raining.  You should have seen Elder Fullmer and Elder Johnsen out in the hot parking lot cutting the 4x8 sheets of plywood to the proper size with a tiny hand saw.  You’d be surprised how much work it is to cut wood with no power tools and a dull hand saw.  Elder Johnsen always says, “Work Will Win When Wishy Washy Wishing Won’t”.  
Speaking of shedding things, we’ve been going thru over 20 years of old records found in the branch president’s office.  Normally the church has us retain records for the current year and the prior 3 years, but before Elder and Sister Johnsen felt that they could throw away the records (at the recommendation of the service center) they wanted to make sure that everything on the records had been recorded.  Here we see Elder Johnsen taking a break from the data entry. 
 He probably spent 20 hours on the project for the members that still reside in Palau.  We sent a huge stack of paper to Guam where our partner and friend, Liz Giddens, at the Service Center processed 1, 099 records which included Child’s Blessing, Aaronic Priesthood ordination, Melchezidek Priesthood ordination and Baptism with Confirmations.  After making sure all the information was properly recorded, we felt comfortable shedding all those old records.  They literally went up in smoke because we burned them in the same fire which consumed the old siding from the shed.

Elder Johnsen also used the snipping tool to capture face shots of many of the members that we’ve met over the past 11 months.  He now has about 175 face shot photos with the member’s name.  The next miracle we’re praying for is that we’ll be able to get the LDS on-line directory to accept the member pictures and also their location on LDS maps (but that’s a story for another day).

Elder Fullmer told a wonderful story in Testimony meeting on Sunday.  He and 3 brothers were skate boarding with two of the younger brothers riding on the front of the long boards, and two of the older boys were actually doing all the work of making the boards move.   It was getting dark and so it was a little hard to see. They came to an intersection and they couldn’t see any cars, but suddenly his older brother told them not to cross but step back 3 paces, which they all did. Just at that moment a jeep came careening around the corner without the lights on, and actually ran over the tip of the shoes of one of the younger brothers who was sitting on the front of the long skate board. It they hadn’t moved back 3 paces the results would have been disaster.  Elder Fullmer said that later his brother said he heard the voice of the spirit telling him to say, “Move back 3 steps.”  If we will just shed our sins we can remain close enough to the spirit to hear the warning voice protect us until we complete our mission on the earth.  Nephi says “that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance” 1 Nephi 1:20

We also began shedding the carefree days of summer.  Our local community college is back in session and so is our weekly Institute.  We’ve begun teaching institute at Palau Community College in room #59 of the Smuuch building on the PCC campus every Thursday night at 7:00.  Smuuch in English looks a lot like smooch and most of the North Americans refer to the building by that name, but this is not the kissing building!  Smuuch is the Palauan name of a fish and the uuch is pronounced with an ooh sound as in Boo.  It is wonderful beginning the study of the Savior’s life as recorded in the New Testament.  Angie is a great teacher, and we are going to have a great year learning about him. 

Finally, the entire Zone of Elder’s welcomed Sister Johnsen back to Palau after a break in the states to attend an important wedding.  As she shed her suitcases she read a card signed by all of us.  Perhaps Elder Gubler best captured how all the Elder’s felt about her return, “Sister Johnsen, you are the best!  You do so much for all of us.  It’s amazing how hard you and Elder Johnsen work.  Thank you for giving all of us a mother here in Palau!”
Maybe, no matter what we’re currently doing, it’s time to shed the bad and move forward to better. “If ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot.”  Moroni 10:33.  We testify that it is only in and thru the Savior that we can be made perfect.