Monday, January 28, 2013

Tender Mercies of the Lord (#71)

This past week Elder Johnsen had a unique experience.  It all began on Tuesday when we were on our usual early morning walk. A woman suddenly drove in front of us, stopped her car and pulled over and got out of her car.   The young mother introduced herself and  commented on how healthy and thin we both looked—she said that she has watched us over the months we’ve been on Palau, and was happy to get to know us.  While we were chatting she gave us an invitation to a spiritual revival to be held each night at the SDA church.  Elder Johnsen was already scheduled to teach first aid at the Relief Society meeting on Tuesday evening, Wednesday is his branch presidency meeting, seminary, YM/YW and Sister Johnsen’s birthday dinner and on Thursday we have institute, but we decided that on Thursday we’d just divide and conquer. Sister Johnsen handled institute and Elder Johnsen would attend the spiritual revival.  Paul Brace, from Boston, was the guest revivalist.  Elder Johnsen was seated next to Paul and his wife on the flight from Guam to Palau as we returned from the senior conference.   He carried on a lively conversation with them on that plane flight.  When Elder Johnsen walked into the SDA church building on Thursday he was surprised to see how many people he knew, so as he walked in he went over and said hi to them.  When the Brace’s spotted him they both came over and warmly greeted him and Elder Johnsen was seated next to Mrs. Brace.  During Pastor Brace’s opening remarks he had Elder Johnsen stand and introduced him to the congregation.   It was the warmest possible greeting anyone could have received.  Pastor Brace comments were about preparing for the Lord’s second coming, and Elder J didn’t hear any doctrinal differences that made him uncomfortable.  

After the meeting the local pastor, translator and many other members warmly thanked Elder Johnsen for coming.  It is easy to see why the SDA church in Palau is flourishing if all visitors are treated as warmly as Elder Johnsen was.  When he returned home Sister Johnsen asked him what he felt about the meeting.  EJ commented about the warmth of his greeting and farewell, but sadly noted the lack of the spirit present.

Elder Johnsen contrasted that lack with what he felt the next morning as we opened our little zone conference meeting. There were just 8 of us present, the mission president and the 6 missionaries. As we sang the opening song he felt the spirit so strongly come into the room, tears came to his eyes.  Just as Elder Bednar said in April 2005 conference talk called, “The Tender Mercies of the Lord.” To Elder Johnsen’s mind came this verse from the Book of Mormon: “But behold, I, Nephi, will show unto you 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.” Like Elder Bednar, Elder Johnsen knew that he was experiencing just such a tender mercy.  A loving Savior was sending him a most personal and timely message of comfort and reassurance.  This IS God’s work and we are in His service.  Elder Johnsen was first on the zone conference program. In his talk he quoted Alma 33:22-23 where Alma told the Zoramite poor what the seed was they should plant—faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and in his atonement.  He also related that teaching to Alma’s great Chiasmus in Alma 36 where the turning point of the chiasmus is when Alma the Younger’s mind caught hold upon the thought of Jesus Christ—that He could deliver him from the pain he was experiencing.  Alma deliberately is using the focusing power of the Chiasmus to direct our attention to the central message of the importance to him of the Savior and His atonement—as it should be to each of us.  

After his talk EJ sat down but immediately had to get up he felt like throwing up—so he went home and slept for the next 4 hours straight and missed the rest of the Zone Conference and spent all the next day in bed.  

Zone Conference Role-Playing
It was another tender mercy that Sister Johnsen was NOT incapacitated by the flu.  On Saturday she continued her work with Pam Tervet who was scheduled to sing, “I Have Not Seen but I Believe” (which she performed beautifully on Sunday)  For the past 16 months that Sister J’s been serving as branch music leader we’ve had a special musical number almost every available week.  Every week she works with a solo or ensemble group to prepare for an upcoming performance in addition to insuring that our branch choir performs monthly.  Music has continued to be a big part of our service in Palau and while we have both occasionally performed, 95% of the music has been performed by locals who we have found to be very happy and excited to share their talents.

Speaking of tender mercies we served taco’s for Sunday dinner to the elders.  Now to those people who live in the USA, tacos doesn’t seem like much of a miracle Sunday dinner, but on Palau it takes about 3 separate miracles to happen at the same time—we NEVER (except for this one time) have fresh good iceberg lettuce, we rarely have tomatoes, nor sour cream. No one sells taco seasoning (Sister Johnsen got some from the states), only about ½ the time we can get flour tortillas but on this one week all the tumblers aligned in an improbable jackpot of tacos.  

While President Mecham was here for Zone conference we also were able to confirm with him our departure date so we can begin to make our arrangements for returning home to Texas.  We have a backlog of doctor and dental appointments to line up.  We feel that it is also a tender mercy that we’ve been sustained physically during these past 16 months.  

Sister Johnsen celebrated her second birthday in the mission field. We went out to dinner at Sarah’s Yum Yum which was reported to be good and where we have never been before. We won’t go there again; did Elder Johnsen’s flu come from the grilled salmon?  Sometime a restaurant gets a bad rap from coincidence.    

It week of little blessings and mercies and we were glad to be able to experience them.

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