Christmas is a time for remembering the Son of God and renewing our determination to take upon us His name. It is a time to reassess our lives and examine our thoughts, feelings, and actions. Let this be a time of remembrance, of gratitude, and a time of forgiveness. Let it be a time to ponder the Atonement of Jesus Christ and its meaning for each of us personally. Let it especially be a time of renewal and recommitment to live by the word of God and to obey His commandments. By doing this, we honor Him far more than we ever could with lights, gifts, or parties." —Dieter F. Uchtdorf
We actually made some progress on Tuesday night; for the first time in about 6 months we were able to cover all 7 routes with priesthood holders for our priesthood service night. Including the visits made by Elder Johnsen last Sunday in Airai, we saw or left a message with 123 out of 163 households, and we still have another week to make visits.
Wednesday night was our YW in Excellence Program. We held Seminary in the Primary Room so the YW Presidency could decorate the chapel for the big event. As you can see by the pictures they did an amazing job.
Sister Johnsen helped some the girls prepare for the evening. She taught crocheting to several of them and they used that skill to make projects which were on display, and which they spoke about. Elder Johnsen’s favorite project was a purse that was crocheted out of plastic grocery sacks. Surangels grocery store uses aqua colored sacks and WCTC grocery store uses a sky blue sack. These sacks are twisted into “yarn” and then, using a crochet stitch they are made into useful items. The purse on display was two tones: the bottom 1/3 was sky blue, while the top 2/3 was aqua. It was surprisingly attractive. You would never know it was made out of grocery sacks! Now that’s provident living!
Sister Johnsen also gave what we would consider to be a key note talk in the program.
She described 5 reasons to love Personal Progress and Elder Johnsen thinks that her ideas apply to anyone who wants to make some progress personally in the coming New Year. She found these 5 ideas in a talk by Jan Pinborough on the church’s website. The first reason is because it changes YOU! One of the biggest miracles of the program is personal. It is a goal oriented program. Heavenly Father knows about goals. He has shared his overarching goal with us. In the Pearl of Great price he says, “This is my work and my glory, to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” If we are to become like him we need an overarching goal too. Most of us would say that our most important goal is to return to the presence of our Heavenly Father. But underneath that goal are myriads of other goals that we can have. Life is full of things to do, and to accomplish.
When Sister Johnsen was young her mother talked about writing down goals. She took a Dale Carnegie class and became a real believer in goals. Like her mother, Sister Johnsen loves to set goals and watch them happen. Recently she read a book called, Write It Down, Make it Happen. This expanded her thoughts about writing down goals. The author says that “writing it down” is not about time management. It’s not about a “to do today” list that will make your feel guilty if you don’t get everything thing done. Rather, writing it down is about clearing your head, identify what you want, and setting your intent. You CAN make it happen purely by believing in the possibility.
Don’t the scriptures tell us that all things are possible to them that believe? Sister Johnsen said that we can be magicians. We can make real things appear in the real world by setting a goal, writing it down, and working to make it happen.
Sister Pinborough’s other 4 other points which Sister Johnsen covered were equally insightful. After the talks and presentations the girls in sang “A Believers Prayer” composed by Sally DeFord. It is one of their favorites. As the program ended we shared a wonderful meal that was, in part, prepared by some of the girls as part of their “project”. Sister Johnsen was asked to bring a dessert, and so she made and frosted two batches of cupcakes, “How about . . . cupcakes?” It was an amazing night of personal progress on display.
Speaking of personal progress, April was baptized on Saturday right before our Christmas party. April is from China. She is attending school at Palau Community College. Elder Johnsen’s first contact with her was when she called him to obtain an interview for possible admittance into BYU-H. Elder J arranged that with the branch president. His interview with her was transforming. He KNEW by the power of the Holy Ghost that she would be admitted to BYU-H (which she has been). Shortly after her interview she began meeting with the missionaries. She has attended church regularly and is such a sweet girl. He mother flew in from China to attend the baptism—we’ve never done so much bowing!\
We receive the gift of the Holy Ghost after we are baptized. (2 Nephi 31:12) and Elder Johnsen was asked to speak about the Holy Ghost during her baptismal service. He told about helping his good friend, Curt, build a tesla coil. They used it at a science open house to astound the audience by holding a light bulb a foot away from the top of the coil and having one foot of sparks leap the gap and light up the 4 foot florescent light held in Curt’s hand. Elder Johnsen said that getting baptized was like getting a tesla coil—tomorrow when she receives the Holy Ghost the power switch would be flipped to the on position, and like the florescent light the Holy Ghost could give her 10 significant blessing mentioned in the Book of Mormon.
After the baptism we dashed back to our apartment where we were hosting the Branch Christmas Party. The party was fun. We probably had about 60 branch members attend. The Johnsen’s patio was a perfect venue for the party, and we had enough parking. It was a beautiful night (no rain). The food was very good and we had lots of it. We also had about 8 non-members as invited guests including the Doc from the CAT team.
After the dinner was ended, the piñata was a big hit! It took quite a few swings to break it (some members thought Sister Johnsen and Karen used duct tape instead of newspaper).
Elder Fullmer finally put it out of it’s misery after all the children and young adults had taken their best shots.
The kids were eating candy all night (7 lbs goes a long way). “The Nativity Story” was our movie, and we were surprised that nearly 40 people stayed until the end. We had a king size sheet mounted on the wall as our “screen” and the picture size from our projector filled the entire width of the sheet—it was almost like being at the theater (drive- in, since we were outside on our covered patio). At 9:30 the movie was done, but the work wasn’t. We cleaned up until about 10:30, while the Elders hauled all the chairs and tables back to the church and got it set up for sacrament meeting the next day.
Our Christmas program included 3 speakers and 3 special musical numbers . We had a small choir of Primary age girls sing “Away in A Manger.” Elder Johnsen had so much fun watching the faces of the congregation while those young girls were singing; literally everyone was smiling . Minda DeLeon sang a solo of a number and became very emotional. It was very sweet and touching, but Sister Johnsen tried to help her by thinking, “Kitty Litter, kitty liter.” Oh well... Finally our little branch choir sang another Sally DeFord Christmas song, “Would I Know My Savior?” It was a beautiful Christmas service. Eli McCann was the concluding speaker. After telling the story about the farmer that raised an Eagle with a flock a chickens—he encouraged all of us to realize that we all are Eagles, and we are meant to soar with Eagles—we must take our personal progress to new heights.
We hope that each of us will “rediscover the Christmas Spirit” and take into your hearts the LOVE and ETERNAL GIFT the Savior’s life has given to each of us. As President Monson has said, “Today there are hearts to gladden, kind words to say, deeds to be done, and souls to be saved.” We are glad to be part of this work upon the isle of the seas in Palau. We hope that all of you have a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year of personal progress!
- ▼ December (5)