Monday, May 27, 2013

May Days

Fresh coconut juice for thirsty missionaries!

Hard working missionaries!
Part of the mission experience includes service projects, and we completed a wonderful one this week cleaning the area around the church sign which shows the way to the church.  The trees and bushes were completely overgrown and the sign wasn’t visible coming from the east besides being so dirty that it was difficult to see the letters.  Now it looks great and we’ll need to find some flowers to plant at the base to make it even more beautiful.
Missionaries proud of their work!
Elder Carter in his "civvies"

After Sister Carter taught a piano lesson, we started looking for members and had some great experiences.  We met one of the powerful chiefs on the island—and all by "accident."  We discussed the idea of an interfaith council working to help the youth and families here.  We were definitely led to him!

Sister Carter always enjoys running or walking in the morning, but this week a wonderful thing happened that boosted her spirits and helped her feel the love of this people.  When she turned down one road the first two drivers waved and yelled “hi” FIRST!  She felt welcomed and appreciated and after the first two drivers, nearly every single driver and person on the street greeted her in some way.  Her steps grew light and her heart nearly lifted her above the pavement.
Elder Carter had a bit of a different experience this week as he and a dog had a brief encounter.  The dog tried to bite him, but Elder Carter only suffered some dirty saliva on his leg and a humble apology from the ashamed owner.

We attended the high school graduation of three of our branch members.  The program lasted a long, long time, and while it was plenty warm, we were grateful for the battery operated handheld fans that Jan and Bill Boice gave us before we left.  Thank you friends!!  
Kaytano at graduation

Meeting with the Seventh Day Adventist pastor was a highlight this week.  He was gracious and kind and a willing proponent of an interfaith council and accepted our invitation to have our first meeting at his church. 

We enjoyed another baptism this week!  We have been blessed to see the light of the gospel in Maria's eyes and her countenance change as she was baptized by Elder Gubler and took upon herself the name of Christ.  We hope we exhibit that beautiful countenance as we represent the Savior here in Palau.
Beautiful in white

Maria, Elders Gubler & Dopp

Sacrament Meeting was another spiritual feast as the Winninghams and Leavitts spoke about the sacrifice of the Father and how sacrifice in our lives can be a blessing.  Elder Carter, Clair Hall, and Eli McCann offered a beautiful musical rendition of "Brightly Beams Our Father's Mercy" to add to the already spiritual meeting.

Sister Carter attended Primary and worked with the children on the song “I Love to See the Temple” with Elders Fullmer and Malais playing their guitars.  The kids were darling and are prepared to present a musical number for one of the June Sacrament Meetings.
Some of our Primary children
Another highlight of the week--oh, there are so many--was Seminary graduation.  We have four seniors, two of whom earned four-year diplomas, one earned a three-year certificate (she's only been a member three years), and the last one earned a one-year certificate.  Eight other students earned completion certificates and all participated in the program through speaking or singing.  Afterwards we ate Sloppy Joes until we were so full it was difficult to drive home.  We're so proud of these seniors and their desires to serve missions and attend BYU-Hawaii in the fall and know that Seminary has given them a firm foundation on which to build their lifelong church service.

Senior Sister Carter with the seniors

Chapel ready for Seminary graduation

Pres. Kesolei signing diplomas
Daniel signing certificates

Sunday, May 19, 2013

What happened?

Last night, as we welcomed Sister Ale, a new sister missionary from Australia, Sister Carter mentioned that we had been in Palau for three weeks.  Elder Carter, a more accurate timekeeper, reminded all of us that we had been here four weeks.   What happened?  Time keeps slipping away, and no matter how hard we work, there's always more to do and more to be.
Nancy's recipe.  Thank you!

Careful weight limit?

The Carters are now fully legal drivers in Palau!  We passed the 50 question written test, skipped over the eye test, and completely avoided the driving test, but we couldn't avoid the drivers license photos.  Oh well...

Having fun at Seminary

Still eating?

We love donuts!

Wednesday night was the Seminary party to celebrate the end of a successful year of learning about the New Testament.  Daniel Sowards, our wonderful Seminary teacher, brought enough pizza, drinks, and dessert to feed an army, and he must have guessed correctly because only a couple of crumbs remained--and the ants would have feasted if he hadn't cleaned so well.

Our living room air conditioner, which has been a bit testy over the last few days, finally gave up the ghost on Thursday afternoon.  We were blessed that outside temperatures were fairly moderate, the sky was cloudy, and rain had fallen for a few minutes, but that didn't keep Elder Carter from practically running to the landlord's door to report the catastrophe.  He can be persistent, and that paid off with a quick service call.  They removed the unit, took it to a shop, and said they could have it re-installed on Monday.  Of course, that was unacceptable, so Elder Carter committed them to return it the next morning at 8:30.  Missionary training pays!!  They DID return on Friday and we had air conditioning by 9:30 A.M.
North shore

Sister Carter on Babeldaub
Beautiful scenery

We ventured to Babeldaub, the big island adjacent to Koror, on Friday to visit members in remote villages, but we must admit we were a little disappointed with our lack of member contact.  We were blessed to visit with many nonmembers who were kind and helpful while on our safari, but success found us when we least expected it.  While searching for the home of a member on the north end of the island, we happened upon a member working nearby.  We know it was divine help that brought us to him and feel that his faithful parents on a distant island had prayed for this blessing.
Eli & Daniel looking chipper at 2 A.M.

Saturday started extremely early, 1:00 A.M. to be exact!  We met Eli McCann and Daniel Sowards at the prearranged meeting site before the start of the Palau Marathon.  Only 18 runners competed and two of them were from our tiny branch!  The race started on Babeldaub at 3:00 A.M. with the temperature hovering around 85 degrees with almost 85% humidity.  As former marathoners we feel somewhat qualified to say it's the most difficult marathon course we've ever seen:  hills, hills, and more hills, with about a half mile of flat causeway 23 miles into the race.  Eli and Daniel, along with other runners we met along the way, finished on a sandy beach at the Palau Pacific Resort.  We had been their support car supplying them with drinks or whatever else they needed while our six younger missionaries manned three different aid stations for the half marathon race.

Ready to run ANOTHER 26.2

Post race -- woo hoo!

We decided to celebrate our early day and good feelings about serving the runners by going to breakfast at a nearby restaurant, so the eight of us sat at an ocean-side table and watched a storm move across the bay dropping bucketloads of water over the next few hours.  Though the scenery was spectacular, we determined to have breakfast at our house from now on.

Saturday night we witnessed our first baptism on Palau, the adult son of our Relief Society president.  What a spiritual, uplifting experience to be associated with him, our missionaries, and the supportive branch members in attendance!  We are so blessed!!
Baptism of Boney

Our Sacrament Meeting on Sunday was one of the most enlightening we have ever attended.  All three speakers spoke about the blessings of the temple, and with the nearest one in Manila, Philippines, their testimony was backed by their sacrifice and commitment.
Sister Norgrant & Sister Ale

Elder Carter & Sister Masi

Following a wonderful day of meetings, all eight of us missionaries met for dinner at our apartment and heard the good news:  a new sister would be joining us immediately!  Sister Masiasomua and Sister Norgrant met Sister Ale at the airport at 7:55 P.M. and brought her home to our apartment to meet us and the elders.  They will be a threesome until next month when another sister will join us.  We are so happy to welcome her and know she'll be a wonderful addition to our missionary force.  With the addition of two more sisters, we know the work will push forward as never before and that the spirit of the Lord is reaching into the hearts of these humble people and opening their eyes to the need to repent and focus on family.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Mother's Day and.......Mother's Day

Elder & Sister Carter at Japanese ruins
Living in Palau but still having ties in the United States is a lot like living within the movie Groundhog Day. We celebrated Mother's Day yesterday (Sunday) and again today (Monday) by having the young elders and sisters call home.  This is one of their two days a year to talk with their families, and we noticed a couple of similarities among all the calls and Skype opportunities:  utter frustration when the phone or technology did not work or was terribly slow, yet heavenly elation when they saw and visited with family members.  You might think that talking with family at home would take their mind off of missionary work, but not our missionaries!  They remain focused and true to their callings and we think they may be even more committed to work harder than ever to represent the good names of their families.  We're so proud of them!!

They came back later to play a rousing game of Catch Phrase where we all laughed long enough and hard enough to give our abs a great workout.  We're  pretty sure that Elder Dopp earned the award for the funniest response--and we'd share it, but it's one of those "had to be there" situations.

Elders Fullmer & Malaise working on Sunday night dinner
Elders Gubler, Dopp, & Carter eating hearty

YM's project

This past week has been filled with more member visits, work for the branch, Seminary, and YM/YW.  We had fifteen attend and collaborated well to help Daniel with a work project.

YW with beautiful smiles!

Youth working together
Heat + humidity + hard work + missionaries = accomplishment!

Speaking of work projects, we met with our district to help an investigator with her garden and then later in the week we drove to Babeldaub to help a member dig a septic tank hole.  It was a beautiful day to enjoy the long drive into a pristine section of this beautiful country.  The missionaries worked hard but came away knowing they had accomplished much good and enjoyed the physical change to their routine.

Missionaries at work

Friday evening the branch held a priesthood commemoration meeting where they roasted hot dogs and had a short program and enjoyed the fellowship of 14 brethren.  A nice, modified Fathers and Sons activity.

Elders Dopp, Fullmer, Gubler sweaty, but happy
We were visiting with a pastor from another faith when we received a text from Sister Norgrant and Sister Masiasomua that they needed a vehicle accident report form from us.  Our hearts almost flipped out of our chests wondering if they were all right.  They quickly assured us that they were okay and explained that someone had run into the back of their car, which pushed them into the stopped car in front of them. The instigator of the accident drove off, but the sisters were able to copy his license plate number so that he was apprehended later in the evening.  Quick thinking sisters!

Mother's Day, May 12th, was awash in meetings.  We started at 7:50 A.M. and wound up the time at the chapel around 5:30 P.M.  Sister Carter played the piano for Sacrament Meeting and both of us talked.  Sister Carter talked about "mothers who knew" from the stripling warrior story and Julie Beck's 2007 Conference talk and sneaked in the opportunity to talk about her mom.  Elder Carter talked about our homes as a refuge and defense and gave several examples from our family too.  

The six missionaries came to our home for dinner at 5:30, ate and enjoyed each other's company, then left for work an hour later.  They are being blessed for their faithfulness--and so are we!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

First Sunday in Palau

Our body clocks are still way off.  We got up early, went for a walk to downtown Koror, and had a chance to get a feel for this new area where we will serve for the next 18 months.  This place is gorgeous with glimpses of the ocean available from almost every vantage point.  Our apartment boasts a large patio or lanai and if it weren’t for a bunch of very tall palm trees, we could see the ocean clearly.  The area reminds us a little of Mexico with its colorful homes built with a multitude of materials, but somehow more orderly in tiny hamlets.  The street leading to our apartment reminds us of Positano, Italy because it’s so steep and winding and we even have bougainvillea besides plenty of other beautiful fragrant flowers, acres of greenery, and lots of jungle with all the attendant animal sounds—nothing life-threatening that we know of!

The people here are so friendly.  When we go running or walking we usually wave or say "hi" to every person or car that passes and almost every single person responds positively.  One main road throughout the islands doesn't allow much shoulder space--close to none.
Elder Gubler & Elder Dopp in front of Koror Chapel

Sister Norgrant & Sister Masi on Meyuns

Palau's multiple daily rainstorms give us a great relief from the heat, and the heat's not all that bad unless the sun shines directly for a long period of time, and that hasn't happened yet. We're still in the dry season so it only rains two or three or four times every day.  

We can't believe the number of dogs on the islands, and none of them look well fed! Most are as laid back as the people, but some growl and bark as if we were their next meal. Now we always carry a few rocks and that seems to warn them off faster than anything.
Elder Malais & Elder Fullmer at  chapel
Sister Carter with cousin from Hurricane:
Clair Hall

Our first Sunday at church was a rare gift, and we look at it as a tender mercy from our Heavenly Father.  Elder Carter attended branch presidency meeting while Sister Carter greeted members arriving for Sacrament Meeting.  Within a few minutes, three or four large vans pulled into our tiny parking lot, and imagine our delight when a large group of St. George people spilled out of the vehicles!  How joyful seeing the saints from home mingling with the saints on Palau and wishing us well on our mission adventure!

That first Sunday brought another amazing blessing.  We met a Delta Airlines pilot, his wife and daughter, who attended our branch while on a three-day layover. We talked for quite a while and gathered his information to give to Nathaniel so they could talk about airlines.  When we told Nathaniel about our new acquaintance, Nathaniel had already met him some months before and knew his son from his UVU experience.
Lunch near the ocean
1st district luncheon

We've been going with the younger missionaries to meet the members and a few non-members too. What a great experience! We talk to almost everyone on their doorstep since they have no place except the floor to sit on, but we're okay with that because it's cooler outside than in! We're struggling to pronounce and remember names, but the language is becoming more familiar. Pretty much everyone speaks English, so communication is not a problem except listening closely to their soft voices.

The branch is small, but if we can help the members understand and feel the power of their commitments, then it will grow. Last Sunday we had over 90 people attend and had to place chairs in the hallway. We hope to do that every single week!

Two outstanding branch members, Eli and Daniel, have been especially kind to us, invited us to dinner, and given us such insight into our roles here. We're grateful for their service as YM's President and Seminary teacher. Just last Wednesday we had 15 youth for YM/YW and made posters to help with a community project. Their leadership and direction help the youth make better choices plus they inspire us to do more and be more.

We're blessed to be sharing the gospel with the people of this area and those blessings multiply exceedingly when we're surrounded by six stalwart missionaries:  Elder Gubler, Elder Dopp, Elder Fullmer, Elder Malais, Sister Masiasomua, and Sister Norgrant.  We work hard but have fun together too when we share games and food on their preparation day.
Along the shore in Meyuns

We're busy with members, commitments in the branch, piano lessons, community events, service projects, spending time with the younger missionaries, Seminary, Institute, preparing lessons and talks.  We are speaking in church this Sunday and are grateful for the opportunity to talk about our own mothers on Mother's Day and recognize that we could not serve with our whole hearts if it wasn't for our loving and supportive family.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Air Time!

Air Time!

And we're not talking about being on the radio..... Thursday, April 25th, we gathered our belongings from the Marriott, met the Crisps with their menagerie of suitcases, and boarded our van to the Salt Lake Airport.  We arrived with plenty of time to spare before our flights, so the four of us sat in a wi-fi area and tried to take care of last minute emails and phone calls before temporarily losing contact with family and friends.

We felt a little separation anxiety when Elder and Sister Crisp left for their gate and we walked toward ours.    Our flight to Seattle was a smooth two hours.  Sister Carter spent the entire time talking to the man seated on the other side of her.  They talked about religion for a few minutes, but he wasn't too interested in the church.

Our two-hour layover in Seattle passed quickly and then we were on the way to Tokyo with just ten and a half hours in the air.  We must admit the flight seemed long even though we tried to sleep, read, or otherwise pass the time.
Crisps, Carters, and carry-ons

Another two hour layover in Tokyo, but at least we were reunited with the Crisps before flying the last two and half hours to Guam.  President and Sister Mecham met us at the airport, and what a welcome sight!  We were so grateful that they stayed up late (midnight) to meet us, escort us to their home, and offer warmth and hospitality.

Saturday, April 27th, we met with President and Sister Mecham, Elder & Sister Prince, and Bishop Nicerio for orientation.  Afterwards, Elder and Sister Olsen took us to their apartment for the evening where we visited and talked mission and family experiences for a couple of hours.  We spent the night there and attended church on Guam with them the next day.

The last leg of our journey occurred Sunday afternoon as several of the missionaries loaded our heavy luggage and us into their cars, drove us to the Guam airport to catch our flight to Palau, which was only another two and half hours in the air away.
Elder Dopp & Elder Gubler
Sister Masiasomua & Sister Norgrant

We were the last people through customs, but imagine our delight when Elders Gubler and Dopp were there to greet us and take us to our apartment where we will live for the next 18 months.  They drove a crew cab truck, which was a good thing since we had so much luggage and our two tired bodies.  We spent a few minutes talking with them and our darling sister missionaries, Sisters Masiasomua and Norgrant.  Though we enjoyed every moment, our eyelids were heavy and our bodies demanded a good night's sleep.  Oh, the joys of a real bed with clean sheets!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Internet in Palau

Internet in Palau!

We're celebrating internet access today at our apartment in Koror, Palau and can now update our blog and share some of the miraculous experiences of our first few days serving the Lord in this tiny island republic.

Let's take a step back to our MTC days (oh, that seems so long ago!) and review a few events of the last couple of weeks.

On April 21st we met Elder & Sister Hansen, new arrivals at the MTC headed to Cove Fort.  They had already dropped off their living quarters there and met our friends Elder & Sister Christensen, the directors of that visitors center.
Micronesia Guam Missionaries
Elder & Sister Carter going to Palau
Elder & Sister Crisp going to Chuuk
We had a rough revelation today that our friends Elder & Sister Crisp going to our same mission will fly on different flights!  They fly through Portland, Oregon and we through Seattle, Washington.  This stress may have added to Elder Carter's nerves since he woke up with a toothache.  Ouch!  He felt much better after a yummy dinner at Clint & Camille's home and visiting with Mick, Ariel, Abby, Madison, Cody, Isaac, and Ezra.  We skipped a farewell fireside to be with family, but the time was well spent with those we love!

Monday morning, April 22nd, we began a new training sponsored by CES.  Brother Anderson, one of our amazing trainers, taught us in the way of the Master and demonstrated truly masterful teaching.  We learned about a five step process for preparing and presenting lessons and how our teaching needs to be student-centered.

Allan visited a dentist and found that the toothache was sinus related--thank goodness!  We were fortunate to run into George & Dixie Whitehead who were at the MTC in language training for their mission which begins in July, and know they'll be a powerful influence for good among their missionaries in Mexico.

Our CES instructors helped us practice all the steps they had been teaching, and we made it through with only minor cuts and scrapes.  We were humbled enough to truly feel the Spirit at the Tuesday evening fireside where Elder David Evans (member of the Seventy) spoke.

Elder & Sister Bell
Elder & Sister Bird
Wednesday, April 24th, was one of the most bittersweet of our experience so far.  We were instructed by powerful missionaries from the church offices (Elder & Sister Bell), met their replacements (Elder & Sister Bird)) and know they'll be just as wonderful, but then had to say our goodbyes to our CES and military couples that we've studied with over the last ten days.  We're all off to our various assignments spreading the gospel message wherever the Lord has assigned us.
Mick, Ariel, & Abby

Nathaniel & Carla

Clint & Camille
Isaac, Madison, Cody, & Ezra

Grandma & Grandpa with Isaac, Ezra, & Abby

Wednesday evening we planned to meet with Mick, Ariel, Abby, Madison, Cody, Isaac, Ezra, Camille, and Clint for dinner and to say our final goodbyes before our flights on Thursday morning.  Imagine our surprise and awe when Nathaniel and Carla stepped out of their cars and met us at the restaurant to visit with us for our last couple of hours with family.  Sister Carter cried her eyes out and Elder Carter was noted for a few tears of his own.  Nathaniel and Carla flew from Houston, Texas to spend a couple of hours with us and wish us well on our mission adventure.  We took pictures of us and the babies then somehow made it back to the hotel to pack and grab a few hours sleep.