Sunday, June 30, 2013

Wheels....and a little mud

Last week we committed to put our shoulder to the wheel and push harder and faster.  We’ve done just that, but not without a bit of opposition.  First, the heavens opened and poured out rain like we haven’t seen in years—or maybe ever!  It poured and poured then poured some more including our first experience with thunder and lightning here on the islands.  Though we had several inches fall, as soon as the sun came out it was as if nothing had happened.  We’ve learned to work through the rain.  Doesn’t that sound like a popular song and a metaphor for life?  We’re always grateful for the rain for it cools this tropical isle just as we’re grateful for opposition that strengthens and stretches us.

In all our travels and visits this week, we’ve learned that the Lord is mindful of each of his children—including us!  We’ve found more church members who have been “lost” for a few months and some for a few years and been able to share again the gospel message of the Restoration.
Betty Hall & Sister Carter
Betty leaves for USA tomorrow!

Betty & Clair Hall
Two of our Southern Utah faithful
Our sports night activities on Tuesday continue to be a success with the young people and gives them a another opportunity to gather together, play a sport, enjoy a safe and wholesome atmosphere, and learn more about their brothers and sisters.  We may not be the best sportsmen around, but we do know how to have fun with those who attend.  We played basketball for half of our time then moved indoors to play a couple of games involving balloons, running, laughing, and making noise.  What could be better?
Father's Day & Mother's Day cards from Madison, Cody, Camille, & Clint.  Thank you!!

Sister Carter’s piano instructions seem to escalate every week.  We have eight young missionaries serving on Palau and four of them have asked her to teach them piano on their preparation day.  Her goal is that all four (and every other student too) will progress quickly enough to play for any church event and for their own enjoyment.  Of course, that can be a little difficult as they don’t have time to practice as she would like them to, but they have the desire to learn and serve that will give them added measures of blessings.  

Elder Dopp conducted his first meeting as district leader this week.  He was organized, made assignments to others, and taught us well from Preach My Gospel.  How enlivening and enlightening is the gospel that teaches our youth to serve, sacrifice, and lead!

We love watching the gospel change someone’s life and were able to witness another giant step this week as Deepak Rijal was baptized by Seth Saterfield, one of the St. George crew working on the compact road.  Deepak, a native of Nepal, has been working on the road also, and according to Seth, was “golden.”  He would study all the Church materials so that when the missionaries taught lessons, he would be prepared and ready for more.  His humility and preparation are an inspiration to each of us.
Deepak & John Jr. (elders quorum president)

Elder Fullmer, Deepak, Elder Gubler

Elder Fullmer, Elder Malais, Deepak, Elder Dopp, Elder Gubler
Several days ago President Kesolei asked us to prepare a presentation about resource management and teach it during the third hour on June 30th.  We had a good time preparing a PowerPoint and dividing responsibilities and felt the Spirit carry the value of this message to the combined Relief Society and priesthood group.  We were delighted that some wanted copies of the entire presentation and almost all requested copies of the slides about budgets.  President Kesolei even asked us to prepare a “repeat performance” for those that were teaching in Primary, Young Men, and Young Women so that all could have an opportunity to learn gospel centered doctrine about financial management.

Elder Carter finished his first month conducting Sacrament Meetings, which is nothing unusual for him, but we celebrated the fact that every assigned speaker attended church and fulfilled their responsibility.  Not only did they speak as requested, but they prepared mightily so that all could be edified.  It’s been another wonderful month of Sundays and every single day in between.  We love our mission!

Monday, June 24, 2013

A General Authority twist…

Another busy, productive, wonderful week with a General Authority twist…

Painting a shed may not seem like an exotic thing to do, but the color of the paint makes all the difference.  Along the driveway towards the church is a large open-air garage which several youth have used as a canvas for their graffiti, so our willing missionaries met early Tuesday morning to improve on the graffiti by painting over it.  In an effort to match the paint already on the shed, we bought a gallon of dark brown and a gallon of white, but while mixing the two, instead of ending up with a tan or pale brown color, somehow it mixed into a lovely deep pink!  While six missionaries used pink-tinted paintbrushes, the rest of us weeded around the church to make it look beautiful and fresh.  The pink looks pretty good—especially from a distance.
Elder Carter, Sisters Masi, Ale, & Norgrant, Elders Gubler & Dopp
Painting completed!

Sports Night began with only one basketball and a whole bunch of lively kids, but by the end of the evening, we were blessed with two more balls as a member of the national Olympic committee donated more for our program, took our picture, and will place it in the newspaper.  We are so grateful since our one and only basketball cost $40 and the branch doesn’t have a big budget.
Some of our basketball players

Relief Society and Priesthood Service Night coincided with Sports Night, which made it a treat to be at the church.  Over 30 youth were outside playing basketball supervised by a few adults while 15 women were taught how to be healthy and happy, and later ten men gathered to visit each member’s home to deliver a personal invitation to attend Branch Conference.  What a gathering!

We’re not exactly sure, but we think we had a small earthquake on Wednesday.  When we arrived to practice a piano duet, two rows of tiles were raised the entire length of the chapel.  Our church caretaker said that he left at 3:00 and when he returned only 30 minutes later, the floor was damaged in such an unusual way and the grout was forced up and out from between the tiles.  We tried to ignore the damage during Young Women as we reviewed Personal Progress and spent time together learning how to humble ourselves, pray always, and delve into the scriptures daily.

Sister Norgrant made the late-night flight to Guam to spend a couple of days to learn how to be a missionary trainer and pick up her new companion Sister Purcell.  Both sisters were blessed to arrive on the same flight as Elder Ringwood, President and Sister Mecham, and President and Sister Hales.  Several members of the branch were on hand to welcome our contingent at the airport and place handmade leis around the necks of our welcome visitors.  Sister Masiasomua, Sister Ale, Maria, and Sherlyn worked diligently for many, many hours to make these beautiful leis as a token of our love and appreciation.  We think that Sister Purcell, our newest missionary, felt welcome and secure knowing that she was in the right place at the right time with the right people.
Sister Carter, Sister Kesolei, Sister Mecham at Palau Airport

Not only was Saturday Elder Dopp’s 20th birthday, but it was also the Palau Zone Conference for us missionaries.  Imagine our delight as we were blessed to meet and be taught by our mission president and wife, a member of our mission presidency and his wife, and a General Authority.  They taught the entire morning the ways of the Master and inspired us to repent, improve, find and teach those the Lord has prepared on these islands.  After the meetings, we spent an hour together enjoying a baked potato bar and enjoyed the privilege of spending as much time as possible with our leaders.
Elder Ringwood of the First Quorum of the Seventy
President & Sister Mecham

Elders Fullmer, Hales, Carter, Sister Norgrant
Elders Dopp, Malais, Sisters Purcell, Masiasomua, Mecham

Sunday morning dawned bright and nearly cloudless as we prepared and attended our meetings.  Elder Carter conducted Sacrament Meeting and did an outstanding job pronouncing some very difficult names for sustaining.  All of our guests and President Kesolei spoke for a couple of minutes each.  The choir sang “Where Can I Turn for Peace” and Eli and Sister Carter played a piano duet of “Come Follow Me”.  Though the meeting went over our regular time limit, the spirit was strong and the crowded chapel emptied slowly as all wanted an opportunity to meet Elder Ringwood and continue the sweet feelings of the service.
Sister Carter and Eli McCann

Elder Ringwood, President and Sister Mecham, President and Sister Hales, President and Sister Kesolei, and Mitch Hibbard came to our apartment for dinner Sunday afternoon which gave us another opportunity to visit with them on a much more personal basis.  They are dedicated to the service of the Lord, and we are blessed to know and love them.  Sharing June 23rd , our wedding anniversary, with them makes it an even sweeter, more memorable day for us.
Sister Norgrant, Elder Gubler, Elder Fullmer

Our Sisters:  Purcell, Masiasomua, Ale, & Norgrant
Elders Carter, Malais, Dopp, Sister Purcell
Monday preparation day was a blessing in so many ways.  First, we were able to Skype with four of our children and tried with a couple more.  We love seeing our grandchildren, especially those babies that change every single week, and hearing news of family events.  We’re grateful for heavenly blessings poured out upon our children in our absence. Second, after a quick piano lesson for Elder Malais, we played games with our eight young missionaries and learned a little more about our newest addition Sister Purcell. Third, as the young missionaries walked out the door, the Kesolei family walked in to share Family Home Evening and dinner with us.  Fourth, after a busy, productive, thought-provoking, and inspiring week, we are ready to put our shoulder to the wheel and push faster.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Missionaries at work!

It’s a good thing we like variety because this past week has been filled with various activities, events, meetings, and programs, not to mention our member visits.

Preparation day included a trip to the Ngardmau waterfall.   It didn’t take long to drive there and we started hiking almost immediately.  It was a perfect day—a little warm—but we hiked down into the valley and the base of a waterfall that showered water on Elder Malais and Elder Fullmer as they were brave enough to climb over the rocks and take the brunt of the force.  Sister Norgrant and Sister Carter waded through the pond and sat on a big rock at the base of the waterfall and kept their feet in the water enjoying the shade and the cool mist of the falls.  All the other missionaries stayed on the observation deck where the mists kept them cool too.
Sisters on the train
On the way to the waterfall

Return trip--hot but happy!
The hike out was a little tough, but nothing too bad, and Elder Gubler and Elder Dopp were hardcore as they hopped up the uneven and root-infested steps.  We took a short drive to the village of Ngardmau and enjoyed hand dipped ice cream at the local store. 
Elders on the "train" at the waterfall

On the drive home rain started falling in sheets in front of our cars, but only for a few feet, and then the sky would clear for a few hundred feet, then the curtain of water would begin again.  The boundaries of the rain were so precise that it appeared they had been sliced with Cutco knives! 

Elder & Sister Carter at the "love" tree

After ice cream happiness!!
After setting up for water volleyball for sports night, we waited for everyone to arrive.  By the 6:00 P.M. starting time, only two kids arrived, but within just a few minutes over 30 people showed and loved the opportunity to use towels to throw water balloons over the net at each other.  Everyone got wet, including us, but all had a wonderful time laughing, talking, and fellowshipping, plus we had several nonmembers attend. 
A few ready for water volleyball!
The qualities of Christ was the topic of our district meeting, so we were able to look up specific scriptures, name the quality of the Savior, and then share a thought about how we can emulate that quality.  Elder Carter also led an insightful, short discussion about prayer.
District lunch (every six weeks)

We held the first Summer Cinema this week and had about 20 people attend.  Family-centered, wholesome activities are a main focus for us, and though they’re a lot of extra work, we’re happy to see the members bring their nonmember friends and families to enjoy the spirit of the Saints.

We set up a booth at “International Night” to provide additional exposure for the church.  We enjoyed greeting members and talking with those interested in the church.  We even met a couple of members who were here visiting for a few days and a couple who are working on Palau for a short period, plus a member who has been “lost”, or at least his records were.  It’s at these times that we wish we were multilingual and could speak Korean, Japanese, Malaysian, Chinese, and especially Palauan!
Roast pig for International Night
Speaking of exposure, the two local newspapers printed another picture of the missionaries and branch members picking up litter at a local park and adjacent roadways.  We love the positive press. 
Another work project

Work, work, work!

We need more shovels
President Kesolei invited us to attend his daughter’s Gnasech, a cleansing ceremony after her first baby.  The word itself means ascend.  It was an interesting episode in so many ways, but the funniest part was watching Elder Carter drink fruit bat soup, a requirement of all the men in attendance.  And yes, a whole bat with the head, pointy teeth, sharp claws, and hairy body was cooked in a broth.  Hours later, as we talked about the ceremony, Elder Carter finally realized what he had tasted and was sure he was sick, but once he stopped thinking about it, he was fine.  Oh the power of the mind!
Sister Carter participating in ceremony

Fruit bat soup

Ready for a taste?

Tasting?  It's good?
Jenny, Elder & Sister Carter
Our Sunday meetings in this little branch could easily be defined as spiritual feasts.  One of our Seminary graduates was the youth speaker while a “temporary resident” couple were the main speakers in Sacrament Meeting.  They both spoke about “Let Us Be Men” and the need to stand for our beliefs.  They spoke so humbly and were prepared in such a marvelous way that we all felt the spirit of their message to “be men” and share what we have.  Our Primary children were few in number, but they lovingly and valiantly sang for their fathers in celebration of Father’s Day and the Young Women provided a special treat for each father and father-to-be.
Some of our branch choir members

Our second missionary open house Sunday evening was spiritual and enlightening as we focused on the Plan of Salvation and saw the film “Man’s Search for Happiness”.  Though the film seemed ancient to our young missionaries, the message still powerfully answers the questions “Where did I come from? Why am I here? and Where am I going?  

We are grateful to our loving Heavenly Father for answering our questions, filling our hearts with confidence and peace, and providing us energy and guidance as we serve to spread His restored  gospel to the people of Palau.  
Elder Carter remembered on Father's Day

Soon to be 20 year old Elder Dopp!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Baby Blessings!

We’re blessed to be called missionaries for the next 18 months, but even more blessed to be called grandparents!  We were blessed this week with the birth of a grandson, Alessandro, on June 4th.  We found out via email on June 5th that Eleesha and Davide delivered by C-section and Alessandro weighed in at 6 pounds 11 ounces.  We know he’s beautiful even though we won’t see him in person until he’s toddling around the house 18 months from now.  We’re grateful he’s finally here, that Eleesha and Davide are adjusting to a newborn, and that we’re able to see pictures and communicate though we’re half a world away.

If we were paid for talking, we would be raking in the dough since we’re visiting with members and nonmembers every single day—and loving it!  We’ve met almost all of the members of the branch, even those in remote villages on Babeldoab.  We spent many, many hours searching for some that haven’t been contacted in quite some time, and were blessed for our efforts finding almost everyone home.  The weather even cooperated and only rained while we were driving or in someone’s home.
Speed bump memory

Village road
A big negative was the giant crash of Sister Carter’s computer!  Though she backed up all the information, still all of the programs are gone and will likely stay that way until a return to the U.S. to install those pricey programs.  Fortunately, Elder Carter’s computer is still up and running so we don’t have both hands tied behind our backs!

A Monday (preparation day) highlight is playing games with the missionaries.  All nine of us played some wild card games for a couple of hours, which gave us the opportunity to learn more about one another and each of their journeys to the mission field.  They are faithful and true and one of our greatest joys is watching over them.

Monday evening we visited with President and Sister Kesolei at their home and enjoyed their company along with the stories of Mitch Hibbard, another former St. George man now stationed in Palau for a few months.

Sister Carter continues to teach piano lessons and added three new students this week.  Preparing to teach is a breeze, and feeling a breeze is what she hopes for on hot, sunny afternoons.  The tropical heat is so manageable while moving, but sitting in one place for very long can be a sizzling experience.

Elder Carter on Meyuns

While Sister Carter teaches, Elder Carter works at the church updating records, preparing agendas, recording minutes, watching training videos, and may even run an errand or two.
Sister Carter on Meyuns causeway
Since no Wal-Mart, Costco, or K-Mart exists on Palau, we frequent Surangel’s Department Store or WCTC which stands directly across the street.  Prices are a big bump up from what we’re used to, and it was especially clear to us this week as we needed a basketball for sports night at the church.  We found the least expensive one on the island at only $37!  The funny thing about this purchase was that after shopping around and seeing prices close to $100, we decided that $37 for a basketball wasn’t bad, paid the money, then watched the ball carefully as the sun set in the west so we wouldn’t lose it in the jungle next to the church.
Easy two points
Smiles for sports night
Sister missionaries play ball too
President Kesolei hosted a representative of the church who administers humanitarian aid and a member of the mission presidency who also runs the service center in Guam.  They were only on Palau for one day and had some productive meetings with government officials.  While they were in town, one set of young missionaries locked their keys in their car—along with their spare set!  That’s bad enough, but then to have these two church officials witness the event was even more humiliating.  Bad timing for everyone!
The more the merrier??
Smile through the pain!
One of the blessings of having a threesome among the sisters is that Sister Norgrant is able to jog with Sister Carter while Sister Masi and Sister Ale play basketball.  They all get to do what they want and Sister Carter has someone to talk with as she’s working out.

Elder Gubler, our zone leader, shared information from the recent zone leader conference on Guam.  He traveled there for three days and returned with lots of information including 25 ways to be a better missionary.  As he shared what he learned with us, we determined to do all we can to work harder and smarter to bless the lives of our members and support our younger missionaries.

Twenty people attended the First Friday Flick this past week, and a couple mentioned that they’d never seen such a large crowd.  We were happy with the turnout, the popcorn made by Kaytano and Skarlee, two of our young men soon to be full-time missionaries, and the movie The Ultimate Gift.  The message of the movie was powerful and a couple of the adults mentioned that they wouldn’t mind seeing it again with all of their children.

Saturday morning we met a couple of members from the branch plus all of the missionaries for another clean-up project at Long Island Park and the surrounding roadways.  It was a beautiful morning, cooler temperatures, no rain, plus Surangel’s generously donated all of the garbage bags for this and many more service projects.
Clean up crew

Sundays are interesting because they’re filled with a multitude of responsibilities and meetings, but the Spirit we feel is so powerful that there’s no denying its heavenly foundation.  Following branch presidency meeting, two brethren spoke in Sacrament Meeting about the power of the Book of Mormon and the priesthood while the brethren of our branch choir sang a stirring rendition of “Ye Elders of Israel”.  Their participation in word and song was a blessing to all of us.  The balance of our regular Sunday meetings flowed smoothly as Sister Carter taught singing time in Primary and helped them prepare to sing for their fathers next Sunday.
Rare sight--most bury their dead in the front yard
We are grateful for the gospel of Jesus Christ and a living Prophet who called us to serve on Palau.  Bounteous blessings flow into our lives every day as we work with, serve, and love the people.  We feel peace knowing that our family at home is held in the Savior’s hands, and that they are surrounded by others who will come to their aid in our absence.  We love our mission!
Elder Carter on causeway

Sister Carter in Babeldoab