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.

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