Sunday, February 23, 2014

Elder Johnson and Saipan

In mid January 2014, Elder Gubler was released from his assignment as an AP and is finishing his mission just really focusing on serving the people. Eric enjoyed his time with him. Elder Johnson, originally from Colorado and serving on Chuuk, was called to be an AP and Eric's companion. They work hard and but still take time to have fun too, as the picture below shows:

Elder Johnson and Eric in Saipan
 They were scheduled to make their first trip together to Yap, but at the last minute the flight was cancelled, so they went to Saipan. 

Brief History:

Saipan is the largest island of the Northern Mariana Islands, a commonwealth of the United States in the western Pacific Ocean. It is the second largest island in the Mariana Islands, after Guam. It is only 12 miles by 5.6 miles wide consisting of 44.55 square feet. In 2010, Saipan’s population was 48,220. The western side of the island is lined with sandy beaches and an offshore coral reef which creates a large lagoon. The eastern shore is composed primarily of rugged rocky cliffs and a reef. Coconuts, papayas, and Thai hot peppers are among the fruits that grow wild. Local families and farmers cultivate mango, taro root and bananas. The island used to have a large population of giant African land snails, introduced either deliberately as a food source, or accidentally by shipping, which became an agricultural pest. In the last few decades, its numbers have been substantially controlled by an introduced  flatworm that unfortunately also wiped out the native tree-snails.

Traces of human settlements on Saipan have been found by archaeologists ranging over 4,000 years. Saipan was discovered in 1521 by the Spanish, who originally named the island San Jose. The native population shrank dramatically due to European-introduced diseases and conflicts over land and the survivors were forcibly relocated to Guam in 1720 for better control and assimilation. After the Spanish-American War of 1898, Saipan was occupied by the US, but it was sold by Spain to the German Empire in 1899. During World War I, the island was captured by the Empire of Japan and was awarded formal control in 1918 by the League of Nations as part of the South Pacific Mandate.  During World War II, Japan considered Saipan as part of the last line of defenses for the Japanese homeland, and thus had strongly committed to defending it. The Battle of Saipan from 15 June to 9 July 1944 was one of the major campaigns of World War II. Some 20,000 Japanese civilians perished during the battle, including over 1,000 who committed suicide by jumping from "Suicide Cliff" and "Banzai Cliff" rather than be taken prisoner. 

Banzai Cliff

 The local population mostly fought on the Japanese side. With the capture of Saipan, the US was only 1300 miles from Japan and brought Japan within striking distance of the B-29 bombers.

After the end of World War II, Saipan became part of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands  administered by the United States. The island continued to be dominated by the United States military. The military presence began to be replaced by tourism in the 1990s, but still plays an important role in the local economy.

There are 12 missionaries on Saipan: 8 Elders and 4 Sisters. Eric mentioned that he has noticed these cultural differences: In Palau the people are really open, in Guam not so much, and even less so on Saipan. But he really enjoyed the beautiful island and people.

Sending Love to Sister Sam

Going through advanced cancer: the shock, the surgery, the chemotherapy, the radiation, is an  experience that cannot be truly understood unless you have taken the same path. While it is not an experience you wanted to have, or would wish on anyone, when you have opportunities to serve others who are walking that same road, you jump at the chance.  Eric knew I felt this way, and I got a an email from him about Sister Sam whom Eric described as "an amazingly sweet, kind and loving woman". Diagnosed with ovarian cancer, she was going through her second round of chemo when Eric met her. Her hair was falling out, and she had very little money. She was currently using a dish rag to cover her head. Eric remembered that I had scarves and other coverings that I used to cover my head as all my hair fell out during chemo. He told me that even in her poverty, Sister Sam took care of Eric and his companion. Every time they visited her, she always gave them something to take home. He loves this lady, and wondered if I would send her the scarves and my favorite hat that I had used.

I am delighted to help Eric in any way I can on his mission, but this was a request where I felt I might really be able to help.  I sent the hat and scarves, along with an inspiration T-shirt about fighting cancer, and some fragrant lotions. Eric went to visit her and sent these pictures, with her permission.

Her sweet smile made me so happy. I was so grateful to help a sister in the gospel, a sister in need. Prayers out to her for her complete recovery.

Monkey Around in Palau

On one of the visits, Eric and his companion came across a cage:

 And found a MONKEY

They took a moment to interact with the monkey. Not a pet you see everyday.

2014 Palau Part II

Eric and Elder Gubler got to visit and work with the Missionaries assigned on Palau:

There were only two Elder companionships on Palau and the Zone Leaders. But they are doing a great job. Eric and Elder Gubler did splits one day with a companionship and the second day with the Zone Leaders. They were able to visit Members and learn new cultures and observe different teaching styles.

And just take in the beautiful island

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

2014 - Palau Part I

As part of the assignment as an AP, Eric and Elder Gubler had the opportunity to visit Palau. Eric recorded flying off Guam in the tiny island hopper. They were airborne, then down again:

   Flag of Palau
History of Palau
Palau, officially the Republic of Palau, is an island country located in the western Pacific Ocean. It is geographically part of the larger island group of Micronesia. The country's population of around 21,000 is spread across 250 islands forming the western chain of the Caroline Islands. The most populous island is Koror.
The country was originally settled around 3,000 years ago by migrants from the Philippines. The islands were first visited by Europeans in the 18th century, and have been a part of the Spanish East Indies in 1885, sold to Imperial Germany in 1899, conquered by the Imperial Japanese Navy during World War I, fought over in World War II, made a part of the United States-governed Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands in 1947, voted against joining the Federated States of Micronesia in 1979, and gained full sovereignty in 1994.

See how beautiful and green Palau is as the Missionaries get their first glimpse of the island:
 And drive across a bridge that connects a large expanse of water:

There are only two Elder companionships on Palau, so APs went on splits with the Elders and the Zone Leaders on Tuesday and Wednesday. On Thursday and Friday they were able to see a couple sights. Unfortunately, most of the beauty of Palau lies underwater and Missionaries are not allowed to go into the ocean except to baptize.

There was only a small Branch on Palau, but the people were wonderful and faithful. Everyone there speaks English, but some of the older locals can still speak Palauan. English is taught in all the schools.

The Missionaries were able to have lunch at a local place
Enjoyed the local scenery and residents.

They had an opportunity to visit many different homes from the prosperous
to the humble.

The Last Baptism in December

Eric was delighted to have two baptisms after Christmas. He was honored to baptize Kayleen and confirm Jamie:

Elder Gubler, Jamie, Kayleen, Eric

Kayleen is Chuukese and Jamie is from Lemitrik, an outer island of Yap.

Christmas 2013

Eric is approximately 17 hours ahead, so he was spending Christmas Eve at the Mission Home:

Fortunately for us, we were able to Skype with him on our Christmas Eve. Our whole family and dear family friends Jake Dargie and Aaron Allen were gathered in our living room to talk face to face with him through Skype. Jake linked the laptop to our big screen TV so we had an up close and personal talk with my favorite Missionary. It was wonderful to see him so relaxed and happy. I don't think Eric has ever been happier in his whole life. It is such a joy as a parent to witness. After our hour was up (much too fast) I cried for 30-45 minutes. I miss him so much, and seeing him and speaking to him made it worse. As much as I love getting to Skype I understand why we only get to do it on Christmas and Mother's just hit me with such force that he was gone. Still, I wouldn't miss one moment of getting to Skype with him and the family.

Eric spent the day with his companion, Elder Gubler, doing visits. The Missionaries on Guam gathered at the Mission Home for Christmas dinner.

As part of the Christmas celebration, a native missionary led the other young men in a ceremonial fight display:

And one lady they visited did a quick song for them:

Monday, February 17, 2014

A Different Family Home Evening

Monday night is typically the night for Family Home Evening*: a night that our Church leaders have asked members to set aside to spend with their families. It's a time for teaching spiritual matters in the home, as well as serving others and just spending quality time together. Family Home Evenings strengthen the family.

The first Monday that Eric spend with Elder Gubler, they found a family that was having a very different night than Family Home Evening. As they were walking, they came across a man drunk and still drinking alcohol as he sat on his front porch. They approached this man to speak with him. They found out he was married with several beautiful children. They felt impressed to tell the man that his children were looking up to him. Then Elder Gubler made a bold request: he asked if he could pour out the man's alcoholic drink. He agreed, and Elder Gubler poured it out. They stopped by again the next night, and the man welcomed them in, and they had an amazing lesson on the Restoration of the Gospel.  They dropped by again on Thursday, and had a lesson with the family about the gospel of Jesus Christ. On Saturday, they had a lesson about the Plan of Salvation.  This sweet family came to Church that Sunday, and afterwards they had a lesson with Eric and Elder Gubler about the Sacrament. The next week the man shared with them that the previous Sunday he had prayed and asked God to help guide him and direct his life - he was sad and needed help. He said the very next day the missionaries showed up and poured out his drink. He said he cried later that night, and shared that from that night on, he has not drunk any alcohol. When his children asked for ice cream over the weekend, he was able to buy it for them because he had not spent all his extra money on alcohol. He said this made him so happy to be able to say yes. He had not bought his children ice cream in a long time. It made Eric and Elder Gubler so joyous to see the love of the Savior guide them to this man's home that Monday evening. They hope that Monday nights for this family will now be Family Home Evenings.

* Click to learn more about Family Home Evening.
Click to learn more about the Restoration of the Gospel.
Click to learn more about the Plan of Salvation.
Click to learn more about the Sacrament.

Learning to be an AP

Eric with Elders Sofele and Gubler

Elder Solfele finished his mission as an Assistant to the President (from now on short titled "AP"). When he left, Eric was called to fill his position and be a companion with Elder Gubler. This is Eric's 6th transfer and Elder Gubler's 4th transfer as an AP. Eric can learn so much from him and Elder Gubler is very kind.

Eric wrote home that he was surprised, excited and humbled to have the opportunity to serve as an AP. As one of his duties, he will travel to other parts of the Mission by air. Eric loves to travel and this is a rare and precious opportunity to see the Mission that he would not have otherwise had. He has served 17 months on Guam, and now he will get to see other islands and interact with different cultures.  Eric doesn't stay at the Mission home, but at an apartment close by. He was  also super happy to have a washing machine where he is now staying. BONUS.

Assistant to the President

In December we received this letter from the Mission President:

"Dear Elder Hadder:

I am pleased to extend to you a call to be an Assistant to the President in the Micronesia Guam Mission. I am grateful for your obedience, hard work, and the respect you have earned from you fellow missionaries. I look forward to working with you in this very important assignment. Please remember that all leadership assignments are callings to serve and minister to others, not for your personal gain or reputation.

You will be expected to assist me in:
-  Helping plan, prepare, and present training for missionaries in conferences and meetings, as directed.

- Traveling to locations in the mission with your companion to train zone leaders through example, instruction, and companion exchanges.

-  Training other missionaries and conducting companion exchanges, as directed.

-  Assisting in the effective operating of the mission office and in missionary transfers.

Continue to be obedient, humble, and diligent in the work. The Lord expects you to maintain the highest standards of missionary conduct, and to continue to be exemplary in your own efforts to invite others to come unto Christ, particularly in your own proselyting area. Establish and maintain positive, cooperative, and close relationships between you, the missionaries in the mission, and local priesthood leaders.  Local priesthood leaders and members are an essential key to our success to "invite others to come unto Christ, and remain steadfast in Christ to the end." Be a leader in every sense of the word. Be resolute and committed to following all rules and directions contained in the Missionary Handbook and Preach My Gospel. Exemplify teaching by the Spirit with boldness and conviction.

May the Lord bless you as you magnify this new assignment and continue to serve Him with allyour heart, might, mind, and strength.


Stephen F. Mecham
President, Micronesia Guam Mission"

December 4th Transfers

Eric wrote that as much as he loves the area he has been in, he is ready for a change. December 4, 2013 is transfers, and he is hoping to get moved to a Chuukese island.

Teaching in Zone Meeting

With his Mission Mamma, Sister Norton

A few days before transfers, Eric was told to pack all his stuff. So he knows he will be moving out of the Dededo Guam Zone area. He has had the opportunity to be a part of 30 baptisms by his count, and he has loved the work. He measures true success, however, by the feelings of those he serves. He has tried to keep that focus.

He werote that the weekend he baptized two people, Roeely Ranten and Jackson Aritos, the whole ceremony was in Chuukese. He then was able to translate the Ward welcomes in Sacrament at the pulpit. Elder Ringwood of the First Quorum of the Seventy was there. He was a little nervous, but his Chuukese has gotten really good and it went well.

Thanksgiving 2013

Thanksgiving on Guam was a wonderful time for the Missionaries to gather at the Mission home for a wonderful meal. I do not know who made the watermelon carving above for the dinner, but it is a work of art!

We asked Eric was he was thankful for and this was his answer: "I am thankful for my parent's openness and willingness to listen to the Missionaries. I am also thankful that I have been able to learn about this at an early age. I am thankful for awesome parents that are both fun, but responsible. I am thankful for my life as an American. This is just luck, and I am very thankful for the fortune in that. I am thankful that I have such good friends and Elders Allen and Dargie are the best things in my life besides my actual blood family. They provide a level of comfort and support that I am very grateful for."

November Baptisms

 Eric was so thankful to be a part of baptisms in November 2013:

The baptismal services for Rosely Ranten and Jackson A. Aritos were completely in Chuukese. 

Baptism of Rosely Ranten

When the Ward made the announcements during Sacrament service, Eric got to translate in Chuukese for the congregation. He has had lots of opportunities to use his Chuukese. He also got to meet Elder Ringwood of the First Quorum of the 70, as he was presiding on the stand that day. Elder Ringwood serves as the Area President for the North Asian Area.