Monday, December 31, 2012

Palau’s White Christmas (#68)

While many parts of the United States were experience winter storm conditions, Palau along with the rest of the Micronesia Guam Mission was having its version of a white Christmas too.   All together 22 individuals were baptized in the mission on Christmas day.  One of those was Krystal, the niece of our branch president, and one of Elder Johnsen’s students in his youth Sunday School Class.  At 6:30 P.M. both Krystal and Elder Johnsen were dressed in white as she had asked him to baptize her.
She also asked Elder Johnsen to give the talk on baptism at her baptismal service.  Perhaps inspired by the season Elder Johnsen noted that an often repeated metaphor in the scriptures is marriage where the Savior is often referred to as the bridegroom (see John 3:29), and the church is symbolically the bride.  Elder Johnsen compared the covenants made at baptism to those made by Mary when she was betrothed to Joseph.  She promised to take his name upon her—even though the actual wedding would take place sometime later. She was bound to him with a much greater covenant obligation than just a simple “engagement” binds a couple together in our culture.   Likewise through baptism, we take the Savior’s name upon us, and we promise to remain betrothed and faithful (with oil in our lamps) until the second coming when the cry will heard, “Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him” (see Matt 25:6).  Krystal had a large number of her friends that attended the baptism with her, many of them were all dressed in purple, her favorite color, (which also reinforced the marriage metaphor) the large group was very attentive and reverent.  Both E/S Johnsen felt grateful for the opportunity to be part of the White Christmas in Micronesia. 
In keeping with our usual Christmas tradition, our big meal and celebration took place on Christmas Eve.  At 6:00 P.M.  Eli, Daniel and the Elders joined us for a dinner consisting of “coke soaked ham” twice baked potatoes, Sister Johnsen’s famous layered Jell-O, homemade rolls, and vegetables brought by Eli and Daniel.  “Coke soaked ham” perhaps requires some explanation, we purchase the butt portion of a ham, then boil it for about 9 hours on the stove top in coke (things go better with coke).  All the fat is dissolved out of the meat so you are left with lean sweet tasting ham that is out of this world good!  After rinsing the dishes we quickly launched into games—we played Celebrity, Mafia and Psychiatrist before Eli and Daniel left.

Then the Elder’s opened presents from E/S Johnsen and their family.   

Elder Johnsen was pleased to note that the system's bug that kept him from updating the visibility option for some of our member families was fixed by the church’s system team over the holiday.  So after Christmas he spent some time on his church clicking project.  Now, after a couple hours of work, the LDS online tools show all our Palau branch members names, locations and pictures with “district” visibility.  Elder Johnsen will be talking about use of the online tools during our presentation at the senior conference.  He sent a thank you note to the system team that was so helpful in resolving the problem and received the following note back, “I’m very happy things are working better for you Elder Johnsen. It’s pretty rewarding to hear about how the technology we work on and build helps people in the day to day activities in the church. I’ll admit I had to look up where Palau is located. That seems like a pretty remote area. I hope the Directory and other tools continue to be helpful to you in your labors.”

Speaking of our labors on Saturday afternoon we headed out to Palau’s big island of Babeldaob . We had gotten a lead on where one of our members was staying so we headed north.  Our trip was not in vain we found all the people we were looking for and now have two more family locations marked on google maps.  It has been nearly a month since Bopha passed by with such devastating effect; as you can see by some of these pictures the clean-up is still continuing in some areas.  

This past Sunday Sister Johnsen not only taught gospel doctrine but also sang a solo in sacrament meeting. The theme of the meeting was resolving to repent; she sang "Whole Again", a Sally DeFord song which added so much to our Sacrament service.  “I come before the throne of God, My keeling soul is filled with wondering awe, As the Savior’s tender mercy heals the wounds of all my sin, I praise the love that makes me whole again. I come in hope, I come in faith, To feel the touch of His redeeming grace, As I offer Him my broken heart He heals the hurt within. And I praise the love that makes me whole again. Alleluia My healing spirit cries as He reaches out His hand to bid me rise, Alleluia! Praise the Healer of all men, Who makes me more than what I was and sees beyond what I am.  And when I fall, He lifts me up, Restores my soul, removes my bitter cup, For He heals my every heartache, and He carries all my pain, And I praise the love that makes me whole again”

As we enter the New Year we hope and have faith that we will move toward more “Wholeness” in our lives with the help of the Savior. “. . .though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18)

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