A blur of activities and preparation for Christmas, yet we feel somewhat un-Christmas-like with equal parts hot temperatures and humidity. We’re grateful for this season of the year and our focus on the birth of the Christ child as we look for more ways to serve Him and His children in the beautiful isles of Palau.
|Elder Carter wishing all a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!|
|Delivering hygiene kits to hospital (Minister of Health)|
|Hygiene kit assembly|
Monday evening several branch members and all the missionaries gathered at our apartment for a dinner hosted by Betty and Clair Hall. Betty wanted to cook for all of us one more time before their departure to the States on Wednesday morning. All 20 of us enjoyed her generosity and thoughtfulness as we ate lasagna, salad, bread, and her famous four-layer dessert. We will surely miss them in the branch!
|What shirt size?|
|Good food/good company|
|What size again?|
|We eat well.|
|Kids had fun too.|
|Betty at work.|
|Who needs chairs?|
Tuesday evening all of the missionaries and some branch members entertained at Bethlehem Park as part of the community Christmas celebration. We sang eight Christmas carols to a delighted audience. We think they liked our singing, but they especially enjoyed Santa’s visit following our performance.
|Sister Norgrant, Sister Purcell, Sister Masiasomua, Sister Ale|
We hurried from the park to do some home teaching to a less-active brother, and we were so happy to see the light of the gospel shine in his countenance. We’ve been visiting him for about three months now and feel blessed to see the gentle but sure transformation as he remembers his testimony and the outpouring of heaven’s blessings upon him.
|Koror at Christmas|
Sister Carter said goodbye to her Palau High School class last week, but they asked her to return on Wednesday so they could finish the party they started last week. Together they reviewed what they had learned over the semester in preparation for the final exam on Thursday, took pictures, ate ice cream, and then delighted Sister Carter with Palauan dances and giant farewell cards. She left part of her heart with each one.
|Giant cards presented by beautiful girls!|
|Showing some dance moves|
The last Seminary class for 2013 concluded Wednesday night with the challenge to read and pray about the Book of Mormon every day during the holiday break. We’re already looking towards our opening class/party on January 8th and are pushing hard to make sure we have even more students attend faithfully. Institute completed this semester on Thursday night with a lesson followed by pizza and treats to celebrate the season.
|Elders & Kaytano before he leaves for his mission|
|We will miss you!|
The branch Christmas party on Saturday night was a smash! Elder Carter, ever the accountant, counted all 91 members and investigators who chose to spend their Saturday evening with us. The Primary began the talent show with a couple of Christmas carols followed by the full-time elders showing their Palauan dance skills taught them by several young boys. We’re pretty sure the chapel neighbors had to hear the peals of laughter crashing through the windows, especially when it didn’t stop during the entire dance routine. Melody Lee sang a famous Philippine song called “Christmas in Our Hearts”, and she performed with no accompaniment. So brave! She was followed by the sister missionaries and several other sisters demonstrating their outstanding Samoan dance skills. All those practices were definitely worth it! Raphia Ngiraked sang an original Christmas song and accompanied herself on the guitar. She knows how to sing from the heart. The Antonio girls presented a beautiful authentic Palauan dance. Each missionary companionship then hosted games that brought even more laughter and squeals of delight. Everyone ate cookies, cookies, and more cookies washed down with chocolate or strawberry flavored milk to end the fun-filled evening of love, fellowship, and celebration of Christmas.
|All the right moves|
|Knock off the ornament|
|Hang the ornament|
|Jingle in the trunk|
|Follow the leader|
|Beautiful Samoan dance|
|How low can you go?|
|Melody can sing!|
|Ready to start|
We had lots of sweet surprises at the branch Christmas party including Maylin Obak's visit from St. George. Originally from Palau, Maylin moved to St. George just before we left on our mission. We met her three days before we entered the MTC in April and she gave us a beautiful and practical introduction to Palau. Now it's an extra blessing to meet her in her homeland and introduce her to many new members.
Sacrament Meeting Sunday morning was the culmination of many months of music rehearsals and preparation. Eleven speakers quoted thoughts from General Authorities about the birth of Jesus Christ and his love for each of his children. They spoke about how we can find peace in this life through keeping the commandments and serving those around us with charity and love. They testified of the reality of Jesus Christ, the only Begotten Son of the Father in the flesh, and his mercy as he willingly offered to come to earth, teach us the way home, then suffered the Atonement that we might live with him again. Between the speakers, the choir offered three different musical gems that were medleys of famous Christmas carols. The sister missionaries sang “Mary’s Lullaby” and Sister Purcell sang a solo of “Mary, Did You Know?” accompanied by Elder Malais on the guitar. The Young Men and Young Women sang “Still, Still, Still” while the Primary sang three short songs from the Primary songbook. The congregation were included too as they sang “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing” and “Angels We Have Heard on High” between a couple of the speakers. We felt a wonderful spirit inspired by word and song and feel ever more deeply the profound nature of the Savior’s sacrifice.
|Young Men delivering treats to Primary|
We pray that each of you have been touched by a word, thought, or hymn this week that will help you bend more humbly before Him who gladly ransoms us as we daily repent. May the “Spirit of Christ” fill your hearts and homes as you celebrate this season. Please remember that we miss you, but our thoughts of home are miraculously replaced with joy serving the Savior in this singular time and place. We love you!