Monday, October 15, 2012

Who is on the Lord’s Side? (#57)

During a baptism this week Elder Johnsen was asked to give the brief talk to welcome the new member, Jonathan Tamangmow, into the branch.  He chose for his topic the question Moses posed to rebellious Israel after he “…cast the tables out of his hands, and brake them beneath the mount” upon returning to camp finding Israel worshiping a golden calf.  Moses asked them, “Who is on the Lord’s side?” (Exodus 32:26) Elder Johnsen said to Jonathan that by being baptized he had stepped over the line onto the Lord’s side.  Now he was under covenant to stay on the Lord’s side.  He mentioned that Jonathan might be tempted by tobacco, betel nut, or to sleep in on Sunday rather than go to church. He told him that he might want to drop out of school, or be dishonest, but whatever the challenge he should remember to stay on the Lord’s side of the line and that he would enjoy a more abundant life than if he gave in to the enticements represented by the golden calf.  Elder Johnsen read the first 3 verses of Hymn 260 as he concluded his welcome talk, but the second verse seems to be especially pertinent to our little branch in Palau, it reads, “We serve the living God, and want his foes to know that, if but few, we’re great; Who’s on the Lord’s side? Who?  We’re going on to win; No fear must blanch the brow.  The Lord of Hosts is ours; Who’s on the Lord’s side? Who?”
Speaking of the Lord’s side, we were so happy that the bugs in the LDS mapping tool were corrected this week.  On three separate days Elder Johnsen has spent 2-3 hours each day recording the member locations using the church’s on-line mapping tool.  Since the google map for a given area takes so long to load using dial-up what he uses as his go-by is our priesthood service night member maps that he created.  Those paper maps have the member names and locations by geographic location.  It is much easier to keep the computer google map for an area open and then just jump to the various member names in the directory who live in that area than to try to mark the locations alphabetically. In some cases the area where the member lives was under cloud cover, but since we have GPS locations for most of our members we still can mark them with precision (after he converts the degree, minute, second coordinates into decimal, which is what the church marking tool uses)  So far this week he recorded exact locations for all the members in Airai, Meyuns 1 and Meyuns 2, plus a few members in some outlying areas that we just visited on Saturday (we visit members who live too far out to be visited during priesthood service night).  In addition to locations we’ve also been working on loading member pictures.  So far Elder Johnsen has created and loaded 201 head shots of our member’s. He has only 90 more go and we’ll have a picture of every member in our branch directory.  During our spare time each week we’re working to track down those members and take their picture.   We’re hoping that this effort will make it easier for subsequent missionaries, and also persons called into the branch leadership, to find and come to know the members in their watch care.

We held a CES fireside this past Sunday in our apartment.  Elder Holland entitled his fireside address “Israel, Israel, God Is Calling.”  He is such a passionate speaker.  He very powerfully challenged listeners by saying “We never leave our religion at the door,” which seemed to us to be just another way of saying, “Stay on the Lord’s side, no matter what.”    

Eli McCann from Salt Lake City spoke in church on Sunday. He’s a new branch member who is working in Palau for a year as council for the Supreme Court chief justice.  He mentioned in his talk that he had served in Ukraine on his mission.  In one very small branch where he served there was a little girl named Yana. She was about 9 years old but she would walk all alone to church every Sunday. (as Eli was telling this part of the story, Elder Johnsen caught 9 year old Carein’s eye who had, as usual, walked to church all alone as she does every week; she gave him a knowing glance). Eli said that they had no other children that attended, nevertheless, little Yana would stay for the entire 3 hour block by attending adult gospel doctrine class and then stay with the Relief Society during the 3rd hour.  The elders told Yana that they couldn’t have a Primary because she was the only child there.  The next Sunday she brought with her 6 non-member friends so that they could have a Primary. The Elders helped them get it going. Yana was later baptized, and was thrilled to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.  When Elder McCann leaned that he was being transferred from that area he purchased 7 CTR rings; one for Yana and her 6 friends.  When he gave the ring to Yana he asked if she knew why he was giving her that particular gift.  She had put it on her finger and looked down at her hand and thought for a while. Then she asked, “It is so that I’ll remember you?”  Elder McCann said that was part of it. Then he asked her if she knew what CTR stands for. He told her it stood for “Choose The Right.” Then he said he was also giving her the ring so she would remember to always choose the right. Yana looked down at her finger again and thought. Then she looked up and said to Elder McCann, “But I don’t need a ring to remember to choose the right, I have the Holy Ghost.”  Elder McCann then said, “That’s right, you just keep the ring to remember me then.”  The story brought a powerful feeling into our meeting.  I think we were not only touched by the faithfulness of this little 9 year old girl, but also touched by her insight.  She knew how to stay on the Lord’s side. The spirit bore witness that we must all do likewise!  

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