Sunday, January 26, 2014

Couples' Conference

Following a wonderful time yesterday with President and Sister Mecham and the other missionary couples, we set out to shop for a few items we can’t find on Palau.  We ended Monday at Elder and Sister Norton’s apartment for Family Home Evening where she fixed a feast of CafĂ© Rio-like food that left smiles on all our faces.  She had invited Brother Gittens, Guam Stake Patriarch, to speak along with his wife who works at the Service Center. 
Chandlers & Brother Gittens
We ate in a place dubbed the Zarahemla Ruins, which was appropriate considering that we ate in the remnants of a home that had fallen victim to a typhoon and was never repaired.  The tiki torches and bright moonlight cast favorable light and charming shadows while the temperatures and breezes were perfect.
Sister Carter, Elder & Sister Crisp enjoying the food

Family Home Evening

Enjoying time together

Elder Norton

Elder and Sister Strother traveled with us to the Barrigada Stake Center where we met all the other senior couples for breakfast before our daily meeting.  Elder Carter opened the conference with a spiritual thought from Elder Hales’ General Conference talk about taking notes as we listen and recording what the Holy Ghost reveals to us. 
Elder Carter sharing 
Elder and Sister Mecham shared their testimonies and impressions of the work in the Micronesia Guam Mission and challenged us to do more.  Bishop Freddie Nicerio, our Seminary and Institute Director, spoke about the challenges and opportunities for teaching the gospel in the islands.
Bishop Nicerio
Sister Mecham

Wednesday morning each couple was given a few minutes to report their labors on their respective islands.  Several couples we met at the last conference had returned home, but those attending this time were:  Elder and Sister Chandler serving on Pohnpei,
Elder and Sister Crisp serving on Chuuk,
Elder and Sister Norton serving on Guam,
Elder and Sister Prince serving in the mission office,
Elder and Sister McCabe serving a military relations mission,
Elder and Sister Strother serving on Yap,
Sister McClellan serving as the mission nurse, and us serving on Palau.  After listening to all of their reports, we determined that we were blessed to serve in “paradise”, but we already knew that!
Learning some dance moves

Native moves

What steps?

Sister Strother
Nortons, Eliasons, Grahams

We were blessed to host Elder and Sister Eliason and Elder and Sister Graham from Tokyo during the entire conference.  They are the medical doctor and psychologist and were visiting as part of their responsibilities to cover 12 missions.  We enjoyed getting to know them better and see another side of missionary work.

We met at the mission home Thursday morning for our final breakfast together before an outstanding, but bittersweet testimony meeting.  President Mecham provided closing remarks and asked each of the missionaries going home before the next couples’ conference to bear their testimonies.  That included the Nortons, Princes, and Mechams!  When we meet again in July we will have a new mission president and office couple plus another couple who will arrive in a few days and will serve on Kosrae.  We need more couples!
In an elevator with Mechams, Grahams, Eliasons, & Sister McClellan

Eliasons & Carters

Sister Carter

Dinner at Tony Roma's

Our final activity was a tour of an authentic Chamorra village where we learned their history, living conditions, and how to weave palm fronds into fish and flowers.  We enjoyed learning about the culture and spending more time together before we separated to our individual islands.
Listening intently
Under a traditional hut

Learning to weave

Weaved a fish!

Sister Carter & Chamorro

Elder Carter near a traditional hut

Learning the culture

Early Friday morning the Chandlers and Crisps returned to their islands while the Guam missionaries returned to their areas of labor.  We spent a little more time shopping, visited with the Princes at the mission office, and left for the airport in the late afternoon. 
Saying goodbye to the Princes

We will miss Elder & Sister Prince!
We were beyond ready to return home to Palau, our young missionaries, and all the members we have come to love so much. When we walked into our apartment just before 9:00 P.M. we felt immediate comfort and peace knowing we were where we were supposed to be.  Sister Masiasomua and Sister Purcell stopped in to welcome us back and share a little bit about the events of the week.  They missed us too!

As we finished laundry Saturday morning, Sister Masiasomua and Sister Purcell met us outside and reported that one of our branch members is in the hospital and not expected to survive much longer.  We talked about the power of the Plan of Salvation and what a blessing it is in our lives to know that there’s so much more to life than this time on earth.  Only a couple of hours later Sister Purcell received a phone call from President Mecham about the death of her grandmother in Utah.  Though she is sad to lose her grandma and not be there to support her mother right now, she is firm in her faith of God’s plan for each of us.  Elder Carter gave her a blessing of peace and comfort, and all of us were reminded about how our lives can change in an instant.

Our Sunday morning began in a much different fashion as Elma Callueng was baptized before all of the regular meetings.  What a sweet way to start the Sabbath!  We would like to have each Sunday start this way.
Elma & Elder Fullmer

Elma & Melody

Sister Carter, Elma, Elder Fullmer

This is the first Sunday watching our new branch presidency conduct all of the Sunday meetings.  We enjoyed all of them and were able to sit together during Sacrament Meeting for the first time of our mission as Elder Carter has been released from the presidency and serves as the executive secretary.

Elder Carter taught the introduction to the temple preparation course tonight and will continue team teaching with Rebluud Kesolei for the next nine weeks.  The temple trip to Manila, Philippines is scheduled for July 15th, and we’re praying that each member of the class will be able to attend.

We’ve learned a lot as this week has slipped by including that we love being missionaries on Palau.  We’re grateful for our family and friends both in the States and on Palau that make this opportunity even sweeter.  “Thank you” seems too simple to express the depth of our feeling, but we hope you can tell how thankful we are for each of you and the contributions you make to our lives.

Happy Elder Carter with See's chocolates.  Thanks Ferral!!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Away from the routine

Carters at the Marriott Hotel in Guam
We’ve been in Guam for a couple of days in advance of our couples’ conference and must admit that our senses are on overload with all of the fast food places, shopping opportunities, movie theaters, people, beaches, and cars.  We’ve had time to visit the dentist, catch up on a lost night’s sleep, walk along the beach, and prepare for a week’s worth of meetings with all the other couples of the Micronesia Guam Mission.
Elder Carter at Denny's
Guam map

It might be enlightening to share a little about the other couples with whom we serve.  Elder and Sister Crisp, originally from Arizona, are on Chuuk with 22 young elders.  They were called as CES missionaries, but like all of us, they wear several different hats.  The big difference on Chuuk is that they and all the other missionaries must be in by 6:00 every evening because of all the alcohol-related incidents.  The Crisps were with us in the MTC and are have served for nine months.
Dinner at the Mecham's

Sunday Lunch

Elder and Sister Chandler from Heber City, Utah have been serving on Pohnpei for the last seven months as CES missionaries, but again, they do all that’s asked of them to give members the support they need.

The Norton’s of Michigan have been serving on the southern end of Guam for almost two years and go home only days following our couples’ conference.  We’re excited to think that they will be relocating to our hometown of St. George not long after their release.

Elder and Sister McCabe serve as military relation missionaries on Guam and serve soldiers on two bases.  This is their TENTH mission and though in their 80’s, they serve with enthusiasm and excitement.  We want to be like them.

Elder and Sister Strother are the newest missionaries.  They’ve been serving on Yap for the last three months as CES missionaries, though they also do whatever the members need.

Sister McClellan, our mission nurse, has been here for several months and keeps far too busy.  The abundance of strange tropical maladies keeps her hopping as she tries to care for each and every missionary throughout this gigantic geographical mission.

Our mission office couple, Elder and Sister Prince, are from New Harmony, Utah.  They have only a few more weeks before returning home after successfully serving all of us and the entire mission presidency.
President & Sister Mecham

Pres. Mecham & Elder Chandler

President and Sister Mecham have been faithfully serving as our mission leaders and will find their way back to Salt Lake City, Utah the end of June.  We are so grateful for their selfless service, inspired leadership, and priceless friendship.  We love them so much.

Though we are grateful to be with the other missionary couples for the next week, we do miss our branch family and young missionaries on Palau.  We are sad to have missed the baptism on Saturday night and the first Sunday with our new branch presidency but expect to hear every detail when we return on Friday night.
Sister Carter on the balcony of the Marriott

We attended the Barrigada Ward of Guam Sunday morning and enjoyed seeing Elder Gubler, one of our former Palauan elders as well as some members we met six months ago.  After the meetings we congregated at the Mecham’s home for a barbecue and chance to talk with all the couples.  We look forward to a week filled with uplifting meetings and heartwarming fellowship with the other couple missionaries.
Our last visit with Elder Gubler on Guam

 Thanks to all of you who so faithfully stay in regular contact with us and willingly offer your love and support!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Change is Certain

We just returned from an organized, well-attended, successful Young Women New Beginnings program held at the church for our two girls who will turn 12 this year.  Plenty of young women helped with the program as they represented values, performed a Snow White and the Seven Values skit, introduced each class, sang special musical numbers and listened to Sister Mecham teach about how we can get help from others just like the YW leaders and olders girls help nurture and train the younger ones.  Many members of the branch attended as did several investigators and the entire Micronesia Guam Mission Presidency.  Quite a treat!

New Beginnings


Young Women
Preparing for the program


Last Sunday evening Joanny Kesolei called about having a potluck dinner for the road crew who will be leaving soon.  She wanted to offer a small token of our love and appreciation for all their efforts to support the branch and serve faithfully in the church far away from their homes, so after a couple of other phone calls, we set Tuesday evening for the event.  Many people attended and brought massive amounts of food, which we eagerly consumed as we talked and talked and then talked some more.  Plenty of tears were shed as the chances of these Americans returning to Palau again are minimal, but the friendships and the lessons shared are forever.
Elder Fullmer

Sister Masi, Sister Purcell, Rayda

Clorinda & Frauline

Andy & company

Elder Carter

Missionaries & members

Tommy Sakuma

Kraig, Calvin, Camden

Happy trails to the American crew!

Elders being elders

Sisters & friends

Celebrating together
Camden & Calvin

The Huffaker's

A disturbing event occurred sometime Tuesday evening at the party.  Sister Carter’s wallet was taken out of her purse.  We all searched the church and the grounds for any sign of it but with no success, so we made the short trip to the police station to report the theft.  We’re praying that whoever took it will have a desire to repair the damage, return the contents, and clear their conscience.
Police report is no fun

As Wednesday evening was the first day of Seminary for 2014, Raphia Ngiraked, our Seminary president, surprised us with a dinner prior to our lesson.  What a fun surprise to find chicken curry, rice, and banana bread to sweeten an already sweet event of being together for another semester of Book of Mormon study.  Eleven of us enjoyed a hearty meal and an inspiring lesson as each student contributed to the discussion, helped with reading, and shared feelings about principles of the gospel.
Food & friends at Seminary

Three of our missionaries (Elder Fullmer, Elder Dopp, and Sister Masiasomua) returned Monday evening from mission training in Guam and brought a wonderful addition to our work in Palau.  They hosted the assistants to the mission president, our very own Elder Gubler and his companion Elder Hadder.  They were able to be with us four days.  What a grand reunion to be with Elder Gubler who had served so faithfully for most of his mission here in Palau.  He seized the opportunity to visit with members and recent converts and wish them well before he returns to his home in Utah next month following an honorable and fruitful two-year mission.
Elders Gubler, Fullmer, Hadder, Dopp, Carter

Pres. Kesolei & Elder Gubler 
Elder Gubler, Elder Carter, Sister Carter

Saturday morning we met with President and Sister Mecham plus President Davis of the missionary presidency in a zone conference.  They arrived Friday evening and were able to stay for the rest of the weekend.  Elder Fullmer and Elder Dopp, our zone leaders, conducted the training and stressed the importance of working with members and how we can encourage their deeper commitment to the work.  President Mecham offered an inspiring lesson about the gathering of Israel.  He termed it the “longest Sunday School lesson you’ve ever had”, but it was fascinating to follow the Bible chronology of prophets as he walked us through the first gathering and how we are involved in the second.  We are grateful for inspired leaders who dedicate their all to the Lord.  He and Sister Mecham left their family, home, careers, friends, neighbors, and country, to serve the people of Micronesia and all of us missionaries for three years, and they have diligently and ably moved the work forward in this part of the world.  We are grateful for their leadership and example of righteousness.
Elder Fullmer 

Role playing with Elders Dopp, Fullmer, Davis

President Mecham

Elder Dopp & Elder Fullmer

Sisters Norgrant, Ale, Masi, & Elder Murdoch

Sister Purcell conducting & Elder Malais playing

Sister Mecham

Sister Masiasomua bearing her testimony at zone conference

Saturday evening  Elder Carter conducted the baptismal service for Hideo Tonal Michael, our first for 2014, and the first baptism performed by Elder Murdoch.  We know this will be the first of many.  Hideo had many friends from Palau Community College come to support him in this giant step in his life.
Hideo & Elder Murdoch

Hideo & friends

Hideo, friends, & missionaries

Humble elder

Look at those socks!

After serving for eight and a half years as the Koror branch president, Rebluud Kesolei was released today along with counselors John Thing and Elder Carter.  Rebluud is another example of selfless service, especially as he now serves as second counselor in the Micronesia Guam Mission Presidency, the first Micronesian to ever serve there.  President John C. Thing will now lead our growing branch along with Jerry Knight and another counselor yet to be named.  Elder Carter will remain executive secretary.  We’re sure several other changes will take place as the new leadership calls others to teach and serve in all of the auxiliaries.
Micronesia Guam Mission Presidency

Change in branch presidency

Cleaning out the office

President Kesolei released and President Thing sustained

We’re grateful to serve with our Palauan branch family, dedicated missionaries, and selfless leaders and can readily see the hand of the Lord directing this work and taking care of our family at home.  The windows of heaven have surely been opened and poured out so many blessings that we don’t have room to contain them.
We love our missionaries!