Sunday, December 29, 2013

Christmas Gifts

Christmas decorations in Koror
Christmas in the mission field is much different than at home, but how grateful we are for the opportunity to focus more on the Savior and serve our younger missionaries and the people of Palau.  The hot temperatures and high humidity were definitely unChristmasy.  Our outdoor light display brought a festive holiday feeling as Christmas music played in our car and apartment.  
Christmas caroling in the heat

Join in the singing

Another home, another carol

Following lively Christmas caroling, our zone decided to celebrate Christmas Eve with a dinner at the Palau Pacific Resort, an exclusive hotel in this country.  We took several pictures around their decorated tree and entry way, and then found our way to the beach and our table for ten.  We had just ordered dinner when we felt the first sprinkles.  We waited for a few minutes under an awning, canceled our dinner, and decided to find an indoor restaurant since the rain continued to fall.  We watched a couple of our branch members dance at a beach barbecue then drove to the Rose Garden Restaurant where we had a lively discussion, good food, and enjoyed time spent together.
Palau Pacific Resort tree
Palauan dancers under a canopy/photographer in the rain

Christmas day dawned bright and beautiful with calls to and from family members.  The younger missionaries came to call home, and thanks to technology, four of us could talk at the same time.  In between phone calls we helped ourselves to cold cereal and lots of pies Sister Carter made, and treats sent by family members.  We enjoyed sitting around the tree opening gifts together, played a couple of games, then ate some more.  Many missionaries did not receive packages from home YET, but they all had packages to open from our secret Santa event and a Christmas game.
Treats from home

What could it be?

Opening gifts

Making a cake

Puzzle time

Love comes in Christmas boxes

Letters are a wonderful gift

More gifts

In cognito

Family makes us happy
Embroidered head band

Elder Malais

Sister Purcell

Sister Norgrant

 Elders Murdoch, Fullmer, Dopp

Sisters Norgrant, Masiasomua, Ale, Purcell

Elder Malais

Opening all at once

What?  No Alphabits?

Elder Fullmer and Elder Dopp

Elder Dopp

How does this work?

Ready to open

Lots of gifts under the tree

In the Christmas spirit

Bring on the gifts

Christmas music

Sister Ale

Sister Masiasomua

Elder Carter and See's Chocolates

Sister Purcell surrounded by gifts

We gathered again Christmas evening for another baptism, Marsh Henio.  Each baptism is sweet, but how much more memorable to share this experience on Christmas day—the only way to have a “white Christmas” in Palau.
Mars Henio

Mars and Elder Fullmer

Henio and Dativa's family plus Sister Carter

Since the 26th of December here is Christmas in the United States, some missionaries called home and we were able to visit with more of our family.  We are so grateful for Skype and Facetime and that our children carve time in their busy, holiday schedules to allow us a glimpse into their Christmas celebrations.  Our children spoiled us with gifts, cards, letters, and lots of attention.  We love you so much!
Elder Dopp on Skype with his family

We jumped right back into missionary work following the holiday and enjoyed sharing the First Presidency message with many of our branch members.  Saturday evening we gathered for another baptism of two new members:  Antonio Borja and Dildis Melus.  We were privileged to be the witnesses at Antonio and Fran’s wedding just before his baptism.
Dildis waiting for baptism

Dildis' family

Antonio's family plus sister missionaries


Church services seem to involve a little guesswork.  We always start Sacrament Meeting on time at 9:00 A.M., but we’re never sure how many people will attend by the time it’s over at 10:10.  We began this Sunday with about 50 people and ended up with over 110.  Our three new members were confirmed and received the gift of the Holy Ghost and then our speakers were three of the St. George group who will be going home in only two more weeks.
President Kesolei made a giant announcement at the baptism Saturday night as he told the members that the mission would now help them go to the temple two times each year.  Considering that it’s at least $1,000 per member per trip, that’s an extraordinary gift.  Elder Carter added another giant announcement of President Kesolei’s call to serve as second counselor in the Micronesia Guam Mission Presidency.  We’re so happy for him and his desire and ability to serve in this capacity and wholeheartedly sustain him.
Sister Ale and Sister Norgrant with Kessy & Kubarii

President Kesolei’s new calling will bring about major changes in the branch, and we’re looking forward to President Mecham’s visit in mid-January when we’ll find out what those changes may be.  We’re praying mightily that as he calls those to lead the Palau branch in the years to come that we will do all in our power to sustain, support, and love our new leaders.
Brianna Bryner and Crystal Huffaker, our Primary counselors leaving soon

The New Year begins this week, and with it we recommit ourselves to humbly seek the Lord’s direction as we serve here in Palau.  May each of you recognize the hand of the Lord in your lives and rely more fully upon his strength and wisdom as you step forward into a new beginning in 2014.

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