Monday, August 26, 2013

Another week gone!

Elder Malais and Elder Fullmer listening at zone conference
Who could have known how varied our mission experiences would be?  We were called as Church Educational System missionaries, which means we’re responsible for a successful seminary and institute program, but we also enjoy the privileges of proselyting, working with less active members, fellowshipping investigators, supporting younger missionaries, forming and participating in community activities and councils, teaching music lessons, serving in several callings in the branch, entertaining members and non-members, renting apartments, inspecting and repairing vehicles, maintaining church records, and maybe a few other things that we can’t think of right now.  We love it all!

We don’t want future senior missionaries to feel overwhelmed by our activities though because they certainly do not all happen at once—at least on most days!  We try to have a date night each week even though most weeks slip by too fast for us to fit one in.  We know that sounds a little funny since we’re together every day all day, but having a date gets us out among different people in the evening and we usually have an opportunity to share the gospel with someone.

This week's activities and events remind us again that we are doing the Lord's work and that he is at the controls.  In the midst of all our work, Elder Carter has been able to give priesthood blessings and feel inspiration for individual Saints.

Our Relief Society meeting was a wonderful success.  The Primary presidency was in charge and brought an entire meal (yummy Hawaiian Haystacks) plus taught us how to make a whiteboard to adorn our homes. These boards will help us keep a scripture in front of family members and remind them of various church activities.
Relief Society sisters
Crafty fun!

Seminary is such a joy, and the more students who attend, the better it is.  Sister Carter loves each of the youth and the Book of Mormon, so it's a winning combination no matter which way you look at it. Though we don't teach the institute class, still we get to attend and support the young single adults and our wonderfully prepared teacher.

Elder Carter had the "opportunity" to meet the new doctor at Camp Katuu as he had a sore on his finger that would not heal and a rash on his face that seemed to grow wider every day.  Dr. Taylor identified the problem as staph infection that started with his finger and spread to his face.  After some cutting on his finger, another antibiotic, and specific instructions about care of his finger and face (no shaving!),  we left the doctor's office with a new appointment for Monday, this morning.  For the second visit, the rash on Elder Carter's face was worse and his finger showed no improvement, so the doctor incised a couple of spots on his face, inserted gauze ribbon, gave a new prescription, and explained that he had a resistant strain of staph. We're working on a new regimen and will return to the doctor on Thursday for a third visit.
The start of something big...

Imagine Elder Carter's chagrin as President and Sister Mecham visited Palau for the weekend to find him unshaven and bandaged!  In spite of the health issues, we sincerely loved the Mecham's visit as they taught from the scriptures and inspired us to work tirelessly for the Savior.  They practice what they preach.  Our entire zone shared most of Saturday first in zone conference and then again for the long-awaited baptism of Dori Lynn Midol Melus.  She and Joel were married first and the baptism followed immediately after.
President Mecham

Elder Fullmer, Joel, Jori Lynn

Sister Norgrant, Joel, Jori Lynn, Sister Purcell

President Mecham, Joel, Jori Lynn, S

Sundays are always interesting since we feel involved in so many aspects of the branch.  Our Primary children sang in Sacrament Meeting, and though they're few in number, their voices combine to sound like a mini Tabernacle Choir--at least in our ears!

Our Primary
Perhaps most earthshaking this week was our home and visiting teaching workshop Sunday evening.  Most members of the church would not find this "earthshaking", but for the Palau Branch, this is a major milestone. They will visit about 70 families each month and then continue meeting all the other families on fellowshipping night (formerly priesthood service night).  We feel strongly that as they serve one another as home/visiting teachers, that they can grow from a branch to a ward in no time.

After feeding 12 hungry missionaries Sunday afternoon, we were in the mood for more cooking and more chatting, so we invited a couple of friends to join us on Monday evening.  Eli McCann and Larry Gilson stopped in for a while to eat and talk about ways we can enhance the work on Palau.  We are going to miss Eli so much when he leaves in September, but Larry's wife Barbara will join us here later next month and the work continues to move forward.

Sunday, August 18, 2013


How has four months of our mission passed by?!  It feels strange to think that we entered the MTC a few short months ago with butterflies fluttering in our stomachs yet determined to serve with all our hearts.  Now we feel a little seasoned, only a little, but at least we have a better idea of what we are to do and how we can serve the people of Palau.
Dogs can be lazy, but we have too much to do!
Palau condo?

Elder Dopp and hanging laundry
 Elder Carter doesn't like apartment inspections!

Our first Seminary class this week began with nine of us, and with the addition of three latecomers and three other adults, it was a good showing for the initial lesson.  Teaching the Book of Mormon is an honor and responsibility, and the willing attitudes and love of the students made the evening a great event.
Getting ready to pose

Immediately after Seminary, the Young Men and Young Women had a farewell party for those leaving our branch:  Mitch Hibbard and Joseph Rue, both members of the military serving at Camp Katuu; Daniel Sowards, our amazing former Seminary teacher and Gospel Doctrine teacher  leaving for New Mexico Sunday night;  Risong and Ulang leaving for BYU-Hawaii on Monday; Ulang, our YW president,  going to Taiwan the 3rd of September for her advanced degree,  Eli McCann, our YM president, leaving for the States and another job in Salt Lake on September 6th; Seth and Kirsten Saterfield leaving for another job mid-September.  We’re feeling quite a sense of loss from all these good people leaving the island, but know that others will have to step forward, fill their shoes, and help the church grow.
Cake is supposed to make leaving easier.

Four leaving Palau (Daniel, Mitch, Eli, Joseph)

Arisei, Mitch, Elder Carter

The Institute opening social was perhaps our best attended event since we’ve been on Palau!  About 50 people attended, and like one sister said, it was almost better than Sacrament Meeting.  We ran out of food, but not until everyone had a dish full or else they came in past 7:30.  We had new members, investigators, and less actives, plus all those that are leaving within the next few days. 

Enjoying the night

All smiles

Fun for everyone

Missionaries & members--winning combo

Elder Carter, Risong (Charity), Sister Carter
Kirsten & Seth Saterfield

Friday morning we drove to Camp Katuu to watch the change of charge ceremony.  We’re so happy for Mitch Hibbard and Joseph Tew since they’re on their way to see their families, but sad for us since they’ve been such a valuable asset to our branch and to us personally.  Mitch has been our “doctor on call” and helped Elder Carter deal with a few health issues in the last couple of months.  The ceremony itself was well done.  They had tents set up for the spectators and the two teams stood in the sun in their heavy duty, long-sleeved fatigues, combat boots, and visored hats.  The weather was really great though and we had cloud cover most of the time and enjoyed a slight breeze that kept us comfortable in the shade. 
Mitch & Joseph in the 2nd row

Friday evening was quite unusual for us as we met Daniel and Eli at Palau Pacific Resort for the dinner buffet. What a great opportunity to spend a few moments with our friends before they leave our island.  We were able to watch the sun set while sitting near the beach, eating good food, watching Palauan dancers and singers, and talking with these men who have grown into our hearts. We will really miss them. 
View from our table

Daniel and Eli invited the Young Men and Young Women (and us) to their apartment for a farewell breakfast Saturday morning.  Immediately after, we started our monthly trek to Babeldaub.  Though we don’t get to see as many members as we would like, the ones we did see on Saturday were glad for the contact and to know that the Church has not forgotten them. 
Enjoying breakfast together
We love Sundays and the opportunity to gather with the Saints to renew our covenants, build friendships, and learn from one another.  Daniel, Eli, Rilong, and Ulang shared tearful, heartfelt testimonies plus our trio of Elder Carter, Eli, and Clair Hall sang “Joseph Smith’s First Prayer” and brought a sweet spirit to the meeting and enlarged our hearts with the blessings of the gospel.  Our hearts are bursting with love for our fellow Saints as we pray for their success and joy in the new chapters in their lives. 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Birthdays and More

Between many missionary moments, we celebrated Elder Murdoch’s birthday on Tuesday and Elder Malais’ birthday on Friday.  We ate cake last Sunday then again on Thursday to honor both elders, plus a little sugar seems to improve every event.  Elder Murdoch is our youngest missionary (just turned 19) while Elder Malais is our oldest (just turned 24), and both are dedicated, hard-working missionaries who want to bring the light of the gospel to every single person on Palau.
Elder Malais ready to eat cake.

Since many members of our branch are here on temporary assignment from elsewhere, we inevitably have to say goodbye, and this week was no exception.  We wished farewell to Kelsey Leavitt, who  returned to the U.S. so she could be home in time to start college.  Her mom, Cassandra, accompanied her but will return in time to speak in church the middle of September.  Mitch Hibbard and Joseph Rue, members of the U.S. military serving for the last six months in Palau, will be leaving us Friday.  Both spoke in church about the power of personal revelation, bore their testimonies, shared their love for the branch members, and allowed each of us to feel a powerful Spirit and a desire to improve our lifeline with heaven.   In addition to their talks, the branch choir sang a “Love at Home” medley.  It was a difficult piece of music which changed keys several times and employed parts of four different hymns.  Honestly, we were concerned how it would sound, but when they performed, something magical happened as their voices blended to add more fire to an already powerful meeting.
Part of our branch choir
As the new school year has begun, so has our teacher in-service meetings.  The first of the year was held at our apartment Tuesday evening, and we enjoyed a marvelous turnout!  We worked together for an hour learning how to teach in the Savior’s way, and we think that all of us felt renewed and ready to work harder to improve our teaching.
At in-service meeting

Kaytano's parents and President Kesolei
Every Wednesday we meet with the Young Men and Young Women to enjoy an activity.  This week Daniel Sowards taught powerful tips about nutrition and exercise with cute demonstrations from a couple of our young men.  Afterwards, we all heard and saw a rare thing:  Kaytano Edeyaoch read his mission call.  Everyone gasped, clapped, and cried together when he read that he would serve in the South Africa Johannesburg Mission and would report on November 28th to the mission training center in Africa.  We’re grateful to his parents, all of his Young Men leaders, former missionaries, and friends who support Kaytano and helped him reach this point in his life.
Kaytano reading his call from the Prophet

Thursday we attended a public forum held in the Palau Cultural Center regarding crime and violence in this country.  Hundreds attended with us, but Ibedul Gibbons (the high chief) asked us to serve on the steering committee which consists of about 15 people.  What an opportunity to teach about home and family values plus extend the church’s presence within these islands.

The Seminary opening social on Saturday evening was a bittersweet affair since only 25 of the 75 we planned for attended.  Those who came did have a good time and we were able to serve leftovers to the missionaries on Sunday afternoon, so that was a little blessing in disguise.  Regular Seminary classes begin on Wednesday, and we are praying mightily that the youth will attend and gain a testimony of the Book of Mormon.
Project underway
Winning structure

Working together

Dinner is good
Toothpick competition

Finishing dinner

Why are we so blessed to participate in every aspect of missionary work in this paradise of Palau?  We appreciate the variety of experiences we enjoy every single day and are deeply grateful to our family and friends who support us through prayers, letters, packages, and living their lives in accordance with the teachings of the Savior.  We love you!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Change is hard

According to the weather experts, July through November constitutes rainy season for Palau, but we’ve decided that it might last all year long.  We’ve had lots and lots of rain, and not just the ”gentle drops from heaven” rain but “torrential out of coal black skies” rain.  We don’t mind though because it cools the temperature, feeds the greenery, and makes each day more interesting as we don’t know how often or how long it will last. 

The cataclysmic news of the week is the transfer of Elder Gubler, one of our zone leaders.  He has served on Palau for the last 16 months and has brought such a feeling of unity, cooperation, hard work, dedication, love for the gospel and the people that we’re deeply saddened to lose him but are equally elated that he will serve just as diligently as an assistant to President Mecham on Guam.  We received word of the change Tuesday afternoon and met together with all the missionaries in the evening to tell him goodbye.  We shed plenty of tears, but a major consolation was the thought that he would serve in the office for a few months and then be transferred to Palau again to finish his mission.
Elder Gubler, our amazing zone leader!!
Elder Gubler & Arisei

Sisters Ale & Masiasomua

Elders Malais & Dopp

On Wednesday evening we met with the other missionaries again to hear news of the transfer and learned that  Elder Fullmer, our other zone leader, will remain in Airai and Elder Malais will transfer there to be his companion.  Elder Dopp, our district leader, will train a brand new missionary.  Elder Dopp traveled with Elder Gubler to Guam for training and to meet his new companion.  He and Elder Murdoch returned on Friday evening to a rousing welcome at our apartment and plenty of questions so we could get to know Elder Murdoch as quickly as possible.  We can tell already that he will be a wonderful addition to the missionary force on Palau!
Missing Elder Gubler already!!

Others supporting Elder Gubler in his new calling

Missionary work--and fun...
Elders Fullmer & Carter

Sisters Norgrant & Purcell

Elder Carter & Elder Gubler

As always, the highlight of the week was the baptism of three young people into our branch.  All three are Primary age and come from part-member families, so we’re grateful for their willingness to learn about the gospel, repent, and be baptized by one holding the proper authority.  Nothing is as beautiful as seeing everyone dressed in white to perform these sacred ordinances.  On Sunday we were able to participate in their confirmations plus the blessing of a new baby and then listen to the inspired testimonies of our branch members.  What an amazing opportunity to gather with the Saints, feel the Spirit, and recognize the Lord’s hands in our lives as we sincerely seek him.  We love our Palauan family! 
Gobi & Sister Carter

Sisters Masi & Ale & Gobi's family
Sister Purcell and Sister Norgrant, Kamalani & Rainer
Our newest elder blowing out the candle!

Elder Malais, Gobi, Elder Dopp
Elder Murdoch's birthday on August 6th