While we were serving on our first mission in the California North Mission 42 years ago, both Elder and Sister Johnsen became acquainted with a definition of success that has remained with them: Success is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal. This week we’ve seen numerous examples that reminded us and verified the correctness of that definition.
First, we must discuss the completion of a successful mission by Elder Marshall who departed Palau early Thursday morning. By 9:30 p.m. Wednesday the elders had finished their night’s work, and as is our tradition when an Elder leaves Palau, we stay up with them until they have to go to the airport. On this night we played a rousing game of Mexican Train, and at 10 minutes to midnight broke out the sparkling cider which had been chilling in the freezer. We toasted Elder Marshall, and then climbed in the truck to take him to the airport where we presented him with his plastic drinking cup (on which he had written his name) filled with candy.
We took our customary picture with him in holding the sign that Sister Johnsen made nearly 16 months ago with some Palauan farewell phrases.
As we watched him climb the stairs to pass through security, we were reminded of how much growth we’ve seen in Elder Marshall over the year+ that we’ve known him. Naturally quiet and reserved, we’ve seen him blossom into a testifying and challenging missionary. In his final talk in Sacrament meeting he made the comment that two years is “not long enough”. He went home wishing he could have stayed longer—he loved the people he taught!
Earlier in the day on Wednesday, Garland and Charity, two of our young women were at our apartment frantically using our dial-up internet connection to complete their BYU-H college application before the February 1 deadline. Their work got pushed to the last minute because they had it in their minds that the application deadline was April 1. It was only divine intervention that brought the actual February 1 deadline to their attention. We are glad to report that they were able to complete their applications, had an interview with President Kesolie, came back to our apartment the next day for a Skype call/interview with the Mission president, and are all done with the whole thing.
Speaking of the sign that Elder Marshall held in his farewell picture at the airport, we were also successful in giving both girls a serious laugh. While they were here waiting to Skype the Mission President for their second and final interview, they happened to see our well used farewell sign and were reading it. They both said, “We’re done?” And Sister Johnsen said, “We’re done, as in finished with our mission.” They started laughing so hard. We asked them what was so funny. It turns out one of the Palauan phrases that we thought means “I’m Finished” actually means, “I’m full” or “I’m finished eating.” The girls just roared with laughter.
On Sunday night we had Elder Marshall read and answer all the questions in the bowl (another tradition with our departing missionaries). One of those questions is “Describe your worst language faux pas.” Elder Marshall didn’t have a funny language mistake to share, but now we do! But after all was said and done though, it was great for us to be able to help these two fine young women progressively realize their worthy ideal.
We’ve also started working with five 6th grade students at Koror Elementary School for the island wide Spelling Bee which is coming up at the end of March. We were surprised that we received help from the Holy Ghost this week to make our bee preparation run more smoothly. EJ had an idea pop into his head that he should bring his lap top computer to our Tuesday – Thursday classes so that when the students ask, “Definition Please” he can quickly type the word into his dictionary look-up program and be able to give them an accurate, precise, and concise definition, rather than just giving them something he makes up. SJ got some inspiration on how to manage our practice sessions so that every student is continuously engaged and involved on every word, not just on the words where they are the speller. It surprises us that the Holy Ghost would be interested in the Koror Elementary Student Spelling Bee, but we guess we shouldn’t be surprised because He’s helped us in every aspect of our work here in Palau, why not spelling? We love seeing our bright students progressively improve—all of us feel successful!
With Elder Marshall’s departure, Elder Gubler has been named the new Zone Leader in Palau. Early Saturday morning he headed off to Guam for the monthly zone leader training meeting that’s held at the mission office. We have been so impressed with the work that he and Elder Fullmer have been doing in Meyuns. They have another baptism lined up for this coming Saturday. It is no surprise to us that the mission president appointed Elder Gubler as Zone Leader and Elder Fullmer as District Leader. Their work has helped to transform Meyuns back into some of its former glory when it was called Mormon Town. Progressively they have been accomplishing much good together. Now with Elder Dopp joining us, Elder Gubler will move back to Koror where he originally began, and serve with Elder Dopp, and Elder Fullmer will stay in Meyuns with Elder Pauga. We foresee good things ahead in both areas as the elders begin this new assignment.
Today was fast and testimony Sunday. Melody, a recent convert bore her testimony and told of a recent telephone conversation that she had with her daughter. During the conversation Melody’s teenage daughter was complaining about a neighbor. Melody advised her to handle it in a very kind and Christian way. After that comment her daughter exclaimed, “Is this really my mother? What has happened to you?” We know what has happened. Melody has become a light, not a judge. She is filled with the spirit, and it just oozes from her in every way imaginable. The contrast is obvious. Sister Johnsen has been working with Melody the last couple of weeks on learning to lead music and to play the piano, and Melody has made quick progress. She led the music today in Sacrament meeting today for the first time and we all enjoyed the feeling of her success as she develops her talents.
Later on during our 3 hour block Timothy, an Elder, who has recently returned to activity, described in Priesthood the change that has come into his life since he started meeting with the Meyun’s missionaries. He said that he has started reading the scriptures every day, and stopped drinking and chewing. He says that the men who live around him have greater respect for him, and his mother is proud of him. He says his children are showing love, rather than fear toward him, and he’s happier with himself than he has felt at any time in recent memory. He said that AA meetings (which he tried and failed at many times in the past) didn’t help, but prayers and daily reading of the Book of Mormon has transformed his life. The Gospel of Jesus Christ, when acted upon does change people lives for the better, and isn’t that what success in life is all about: the progressive realization of a worthy ideal-progressively becoming more like Savior!
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