Tuesday, March 19, 2013


The LAST week of our mission! It is incredible that it is here! We have been SO busy! Tuesday we gave the Elders their final car and apartment inspections. They passed with flying colors! Their apartments and vehicles were the cleanest they have ever been. Way to go Palau Zone!

Wednesday we had a service project at Sister Paz’s house, and helped her move things from a storage room in the back of her house. Everyone worked hard as you can see from our pictures.  One of the things we moved was a heavy accordion room divider. Well, maybe it wasn’t THAT heavy!

Wednesday was our LAST seminary so Sister Johnsen made homemade cinnamon rolls. It was spring break and Daniel suggested that we not hold seminary. He was right on! Only one person came, but more people came to Young Men and Young Women so the cinnamon rolls got eaten.

Thursday we hosted our LAST district picnic. The elders suggested we go under the KB Bridge, and it was a lovely spot. We had pizza from Payless, and everyone said it was the best pizza they had eaten on the island.

We had our LAST district meeting after that. That night we also had our LAST institute meeting where we talked about grace. Elder Johnsen reminded the class of Elder Bednar’s BYU devotional address reprinted in the April 2012 Ensign, where he defined grace as the divine means of help or strength, given through the bounteous mercy and love of Jesus Christ.  Elder Bednar also quoted the bible dictionary definition that reads “It is likewise through the grace of the Lord that individuals, through faith in the atonement of Jesus Christ and repentance of their sins, receive strength and assistance to do good works that they otherwise would not be able to maintain if left to their own means. This grace is an enabling power that allows men and women to lay hold on eternal life and exaltation after they have expended their own best efforts.”  Elder Bednar went on to say that, “Grace is the divine assistance or heavenly help each of us desperately needs to qualify for the celestial kingdom.  Thus, the enabling power of the Atonement strengthens us to DO and be good and to serve beyond our own individual desire and natural capacity.”  Both of us have not only seen the Savior’s redeeming and cleansing power, but also have seen and felt his enabling power as we’ve served in Palau.  So when we say WE did it, we really mean by the grace (enabling power) of the Lord Jesus Christ, we DID it. He was our companion in this work; He deserves all the credit.  (see Jacob 5:71-72)

During our spare time on Thursday both of us worked on our homecoming talks which will be delivered at 1:00 in the Klein Ward on March 24.  (Will it be the LAST missionary homecoming talk we’ll ever give?)

Friday, Sister Johnsen had several personal appointments to get ready to come home, and Elder Johnsen worked on his LAST Priesthood Service Night updating maps and getting the First Presidency message ready. Then, after Elder Johnsen’s LAST missionary haircut, w e went to Meyuns and took Sister Johnsen’s picture.  Here is the one we took on our FIRST week.
The interesting thing about that FIRST picture is that we had barely been in Palau a week, and had just visited a member. We drove down to the dock near that member’s home and sat on a bamboo bench and wondered what we were going to do in Palau. We tried to come up with a list of things, like attend church, pray for the members, and speak in Sacrament meeting.  Elder Johnsen took Sister Johnsen’s picture. We don’t know if you can tell by looking at it, but she was not that happy that day!!  Within two weeks of that first picture we were so busy that we were not sure we could finish all that we planned to do in 18 months.

After the picture at the dock we came home and tried to pack. We have too much stuff! It is going to be interesting to see how we can get it all home.  On Friday night we made mint brownies which used up the LAST of our chocolate chips and bottle of Hershey’s chocolate syrup. That’s what we call provident living!

Saturday we had work at home, but it kept us pretty busy, and we listened to the rain! It was pouring a ton! We had the Kesolie Family to dinner and also our new friends from Hurricane, Utah, Betty and Claire Hall. We played Buzz Words for the FIRST time!

Sunday was our LAST Sacrament meeting with the biggest congregation since we arrived in Palau, we had 84 in attendance, and the LAST time we sang in sacrament meeting with our little Palau choir. It was Elder Johnsen’s LAST time to teach the Palau youth Sunday School class, “How can the Book of Mormon help me strengthen my faith in the Atonement of Jesus Christ”. We got to feed the Elders, Eli and Daniel one LAST time, and WE finally had to sit in the HOT SEAT and answer questions! What goes around comes around…
Monday was our final packing day and our special farewell FHE at the church. They asked us both to speak and to sing. Sister Johnsen sang, I Have Not Seen, But I Believe,” with an accompanying slide show about the Savior.  It was the LAST thing we did in Koror Branch.
After our usual games and final batch of famous Johnsen popcorn, our faithful elders drove us to the airport and stayed with us until we walked up the stairs, (just to make sure we didn’t break any rules before we left) and we were on our way home after 18 months!

Will it be the LAST time we ever see Palau? We don’t know, but we wish the Carters well as they begin their missionary service here and pray that the grace (Enabling Power) of the Lord Jesus Christ will attend them, as He has attended us, during their service!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Isn’t the Gospel Wonderful? (#78)

For over a year now Elder Johnsen has been teaching the youth Sunday School class.  In 2012, the lessons were from the Book of Mormon, and he totally loved teaching that material; he was sure nothing could top that experience.  It has been an unexpected surprise for him to find how much he’s enjoyed teaching the new, “Come, Follow Me” lessons to this youth SS class.  It’s been an even greater joy for Sister Johnsen (who normally teaches in-service) to find that Elder Johnsen can use the material for our monthly in-service lessons. This past Tuesday we invited all the branch leaders and teachers to join the seminary and institute teachers for our monthly in-service lesson.  EJ reprised a lesson he taught in youth SS. To begin, he had Eli and Daniel demonstrate how US babies are fed in a high chairs (most Palauan families don’t have high chairs).  They really hammed it up; it could have been a skit from one of those TV comedy improv shows. The class was laughing SO hard.
Then he had the class read D&C 88:122 and contrasted the teaching styles, where a teacher just spoon feeds the learners, to a class where everyone is engaged, and students and teachers are edifying each other.  After the opening EJ assigned each participant a section from page 4-5 of “Teaching the Gospel in the Savior’s Way.”  Each student was to find a scripture that supported the “Savior’s way of teaching” discussed in their section. Then each person taught their section to the rest of the class. The lesson didn’t end until 8:30 (about 30 minutes longer than usual).  To close the meeting EJ asked each participant “What will you do in your next lesson to emulate the Saviors methods?”  SJ made an insightful comment about something she read about how people learn and how the brain works from an interesting book called, Evolve Your Brain.  She pointed out that the book suggests that research shows that we learn better when new information connects to something that we already know. Sister Johnsen said that this shows how brilliant the Savior’s teaching was. He always connected his teaching with something that people knew. He shared simple stories, parables, and real-life examples that made sense to them.  He helped them discover gospel lessons from their own experiences, and from the world around them.  He spoke of fishing, of childbirth, of working in the fields.  To teach about watching over each other, He told stores about rescuing lost sheep.  To teach His disciples to trust Heavenly Father’s tender care, He urged them to “consider the lilies of the field.” (see Matt 6:25-34) We felt good about the class. It was our final in-service on our mission in Palau, and we have a greater appreciation for the Master teacher, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

By Wednesday morning we had finally finished collecting all the supplies and tools needed to construct stairs down the slippery slope that leads to the Tervet family home in Ngerbeched.  The slippery slope was even more slippery than usual because it rained before we arrived, and also rained during our work.  While the Elders worked on the increasingly soggy slippery slope, Elder Johnsen was reminded of one of his favorite children books, "Horton Hatches the Egg" which is about an elephant named Horton who agrees to sit on an egg for the good-for-nothing, lazy bird, Maysie, so she can take a quick vacation. What he soon realizes is that the bird is not taking a quick vacation; she flies off to the beach and decides to never come back. Horton sits on the egg through the rain and the snow, and even when his friends ridicule him, he stays on the egg because "an elephant's faithful one hundred percent."  No matter how tough times were, Horton stuck to his word and followed through with his task until the end.  Likewise the Elders were faithful 100%, even though the work was hard and the rain poured down on them. We were pleased with the result as shown in these photos.

On Friday night we had Clair and Betty over to play games and eat food. They are two North Americans from the St. George Utah area. They are here in Palau with a mostly LDS crew working to repair the compact road (the road that circles the big island of Babeldaob).   We ended up playing Mexican train. About 1/3 way thru EJ got a call to go give a blessing to Jose Evangelista, so Clair was his companion. While the guys were gone Betty told Sister Johnsen the story of how she had just gotten up from her prayer to Heavenly Father when the telephone rang and EJ was calling to invite her and her husband over to play games. She had been asking Heavenly Father to bless her so that she could enjoy her time here in Palau more.  She felt that the Lord had heard and answered her prayer. Just a coincidence, right? We have come to agree with the idea expressed by Gerald Lund that a coincidence is when we can’t see the levers and pulleys being pulled on from the other side of the veil. Elder Bednar called those type of coincidences, Tender Mercies (see “The Tender Mercies of the Lord”, Ensign or Liahona, May 2005, 99-102).  After the blessing the boys came back to the apartment and we finished our game. The party broke up about 11:00 and was super fun for all involved.  Elder and Sister Johnsen always say, “It’s all missionary work.”

Happy Birthday to Elder Fullmer! We had our Sunday birthday dinner for him and had our usual poke and pour cake which we haven’t had for so long that Elder Dopp had never eaten one! He missed all the poke and pour fun we had!  Wishing Elder Fullmer many, many more!

The other big event this week is that we learned that our replacements will be Allan and Kristine Carter from St. George, Utah.  (Yes, they know all the construction crew that is here fixing the compact road).  Just a coincidence, right?  They are a very talented couple in drama, music, and church leadership. If we would have had 100 couples to choose from they would have been our first choice.  It is such a relief to know that our “relief” has been named, and that our little branch in Palau will have such capable senior couple assigned to assist with the Lord’s work here. We fully agree with the sentiment they expressed in a recent email to us, “Isn't the gospel wonderful, and we have this opportunity to share it with the entire world?”  We sing in chorus, “Oh, it is wonderful, wonderful to me!” (Hymn 193). (They say they will be keeping a blog, so you mothers of the missionaries in Palau can still keep up with your sons!)

Monday, March 4, 2013

Stayin’ Alive (#77)

With less than two weeks left here in the mission, we are continuing our work here in Palau. There is always so much to do.  This past Wednesday we had our combined YM/YW Joint Activity.  The young men leaders were in charge, and Daniel taught the attendees CPR.  We had a really fun time watching the procedure, and then some of us actually practiced on the “dummies.”
We learned that when you are giving the chest compression, you can count quickly: one and two and three and…etc. Or you can to keep the appropriate speed and pace, by using the mnemonic technique of singing "Stayin' Alive" by the Bee Gees. Just match the chest compressions to the pace of the song. This particular disco classic has 103 beats per minutes and can stay in your head easily as you perform CPR.  

We are doing just that in our missionary work –Stayin' Alive. This week we’ve been trying to find a new apartment or house to rent in Airai for new Elders or Sisters that will be arriving at the end of the month.  Lowering the age of the young missionaries has resulted in a surge of missionaries coming into the Micronesia Guam Mission; new areas are being opened up.  We also did service at the church this week which involved weeding, patching cracks in damaged walls and spraying for bugs.

Elder Johnsen was heavily involved in priesthood service night visits. In addition to organizing 140 visits this past Tuesday night, he personally visited more than 40 families. On Friday we hosted our final “First Friday Flicks” night. We popped our final 5 pound batch of popcorn, and mixed our final 3 gallon cooler of Kool-Aid.  We enjoyed our biggest turn-out of members and friends who watched the hockey movie, “Miracle.”

For Seminary and Institute we not only attended class and provided refreshments, but also updated CSTAR for attendance and reported scripture reading.  We stayed up past MIDNIGHT on TWO consecutive evenings this week and played games and provided treats to the elders who had 2 a.m. flight departures from the airport.  The first night we stayed up because the visiting AP’s had to go to the airport, and the next night because Elder Gubler had to go to Guam for the monthly Zone Leader’s meeting. Coming and going on Palau is complicated by the fact that all the flights leave in the middle of the night!

On Saturday our month long marketing efforts paid off as we opened bids for two old mission cars offered for sale and received record amounts.  Elder Johnsen also spent several hours with Line, from the Guam Service Center, touring our building and noting not only the work that we’ve done to improve the building, but also listing the items that still need to be corrected. On Sunday we cooked a turkey dinner for the Elders with homemade rolls, baked potatoes, fruit salad, vegetables, frosted brownies and chocolate tapioca pudding.

This past Sunday was a payday! We had 79 people in our Koror Branch Sacrament meeting.  At least 10 of those were people that have been visited for 17 months but have never come to church.   We’ve felt the Lord’s guiding hand in those we’ve found and visited. We’ve felt urgency in the work, and have been blessed to not only know what to do, but also find ways to DO IT NOW.  

There is a rumor going around that Sister Johnsen is trunky, but we don’t know how that got started!

We know that the real reason we are able to stay alive both physically and spiritually is because of the Savior. He blesses us and the work, and we will continue to the beat of “Stayin Alive” during the final weeks in the mission.