Monday, July 27, 2009

Sunday, July 26, 2009
Next we were off to a branch meeting house for a district conference way out in “El Campo”. The members there were so genuinely happy and glad to see Pam and I. President Almonte presided as a new District Presidency was sustained. We listed to sweet testimonies born by the wives of the newly called brethren and testimonies from them too. There were beautiful choir numbers sung and talks by Sis. Almonte and other members of the mission presidency. President Almonte was the concluding speaker. I was able to understand about 80% of what was said, 100% of the songs and 100% of the spirit. It was a beautiful and spiritual meeting.

The rest of the day we spent with President Almonte, his wife and the Larson’s. We had Almuerso together prepared by Hna. Almonte. She is a ve ry good cook. The food was delicious.

Sunday, July 26, 2009 (Our first full day in the Dominican Republic)

Up at 7:00 we were treated to corn flakes with bananas on top by Sis. Almonte. Pam and I both slept well, the bet is king size and the firmness is just how we like it. Sister Almonte gave us a tour of her back yard and flowers. You just know I took a lot of pictures!

Saturday, July 25, 2009
We finally got to be introduced to President & Sister Almonte. They are wonderful and sweet people. Genuinely loving and caring. They were so gracious to us and opened their home to us while we hunt for an apartment. They saw to our every need. Before bed they served us a light meal called menendar in Spanish. It was after 10:30 when we finished.

It was late and Pam was exhausted after a long day of travel, sitting in a hot plane for 1 ½ hours, and putting up with the extra hour it took for me to search for my wallet. She finally got to bed close to midnight. However the little things the Almonte’s did really helped, like the vase of fresh roses in our room with a note that read, “Welcome Elder & Sister Johnson to the Dominican Republic Santo Domingo West Mission.” Pam started to cry when she saw it! And the note in the bathroom that said “Elder & Siser Johnson, Treat this like your own home, everything here is for you to use”.

I stayed up and used President Almonte’s office phone to all of the credit card companies to cancel the cards I had in my wallet. As it turned out, only one of the four cards had to be completely cancelled. The other three have different numbers assigned to them for Pam, so those three can still be used. At least we can get cash on Monday to rent an apartment, furnish it, etc. The bad news is that I lost about $280.00. The good news is that all of the rest of the contents can be replaced, including my temple recommend, missionary certificate, driver’s license, insurance card, etc.

I didn’t get to bed till after midnight. But all in all we are delighted to be in the Dominican Republic. We are thrilled to be in the home of the Mission President and his gracious wife. And even though I lost my cash, we are both safe, happy, and staying with good people that love us, so what else matters.

Well, next came our first driving lesson in the Dominican Republic! Evidently there are no traffic rules or at least no one obeys them. I really don’t know how we made it to the President’s residence unscathed but we did. It must be the shear driving skill of Elder Larson that got us there in one piece. And it was a good thing we did make it ok. The silver 5 passenger Pick-up truck he was driving is brand ne w. It was purchased this week just for Pam & I. Yes, it is our mission car for the next 18 months.
Saturday, July 25, 2009
Well, next came our first driving lesson in the Dominican Republic! Evidently there are no traffic rules or at least no one obeys them. I really don’t know how we made it to the President’s residence unscathed but we did. It must be the shear driving skill of Elder Larson that got us there in one piece. And it was a good thing we did make it ok. The silver 5 passenger Pick-up truck he was driving is brand ne w. It was purchased this week just for Pam & I. Yes, it is our mission car for the next 18 months.
Saturday, July 25, 2009
Our flight to Dallas/Fort Worth TX was uneventful. Our layover gave Pam and I time to find a breakfast shop in the airport and grab a bit. Then we were off to Miami International Airport and a short layover that didn’t allow time to eat. Pam was a little concerned about our luggage keeping up with us and all of our transfers. Interestingly, twice we got to see our luggage being loaded right outside our cabin window.

In Miami is when things started to go wrong! Our departure was delayed 45 minutes while we waited for another pilot to arrive that was delayed because his flight was late. Then when we finally got pushed away from the terminal by the service truck with a boom arm hooked to the front landing gear, the boom broke and we waited another 30 minutes until an inspector could certify there was no damage to the landing gear! Next we continued to wait another 15 minutes on the taxi way awaiting our turn to take off. Our departure ended up being 1½ late taking off. Over an hour of that time we sat in an un-airconditioned airplane. It was very hot and humid. But the worst was yet to come…..

When we finally got to Santo Domingo and met Bro. and Sister Larson, the office couple we will replace, I discovered that I didn’t have my wallet! I knew where it was, it was in the pouch of the seat in front of mine. I put it there for the flight because it is too hard to sit on for 4 hours.

It took me about 45 minutes to make my way back into the airplane to search for the wallet. I received help from a couple of airport officials getting past security and customs. Finally inside the plane I found nothing. The cleaning crew, about 8 men & women, were hard at work cleaning the plane. None of them had seen anything. I went through all of the trash bags and found nothing. Then one of the airport officials called all of the cleaning crew to the front of the plan and ordered each one to take off their shoes and empty their pockets. Then he frisked/patted down each one. I was really surprised but grateful for the gesture. After an hour of searching, nothing turned up. I ended up leaving the plane with nothing more than the name and phone number of the airport official that helped me. Monday I will call and see if anything showed up…. Boy, I hate it when I do something stupid!

Saturday, July 25, 2009 (Travel day to the Dominican Republic)

Wow, what a day! We were up at 2:00am, then off in the MTC van with Randy our driver from Singapore at 3:00am. Randy is a returned missionary from Taiwan China and a full time student at BYU. He is majoring in psychology and wants to get his doctorate in sports psychology. He thinks he can do it in about 8 hears. And he figures that’s how long it will be before he can return to Singapore and visit his mother again!
Friday, July 24, 2009
For the past 3 days I have been spending my spare time at the “Information Technology” (IT) office at the MTC. I have been having a number of problems with my laptop computer. Every time we think we have solved a problem we discover that we’ve created a couple of new problems. It has been very frustrating. But with the help of all of the staff in the IT office I think everything is finally working. Not working exactly the way it is supposed to but good enough considering all of the “work-a-rounds” I’ve been doing. At least now I can sink my PDA to the laptop and all of my contacts show up again.
This afternoon we got our hair cut, both Pam and I for the last time stateside before we arrive in the D.R. We did our laundry and packed our bags. We were very careful to distribute the weight this time so no bag is over 50 pounds. Now if we can just get a good night’s sleep before we have to wake up at 2:00am to make the rendezvous with the shuttle that will pick us up at 3:00am to take us to the airport in SLC.

Friday, July 24, 2009 (Our last day at the MTC)

No Classes today, but a full day none the less. Nathan and Valerie arrived at about 9:30am for a visit. They are on vacation on their way to Idaho. They timed their travel plans to coincide with our packing day. It was great to see them. Pam was enveloped with granddaughters! The first thing we did was drive to the Post Office to buy a USPS shipping box and mail ourselves 18 pounds of books to the Dominican Republic. It cost $52.00 but considering the extra weight and expense in luggage, it was worth it.
Next we went to the temple grounds and took a walk there as well as the park and activity field across the street from the temple. Next we went into Oram to a Denny’s for lunch. Well more like breakfast because everyone ordered breakfast items. It was great. After Denny’s we went to two stores for travel items, then we went back to the MTC to say our good-byes. We had a wonderful time together. It was a lot of fun and we won’t see each other for 18 months. I think it will be very hard for Pam but she knows she is in the right place at the right time doing the right thing. She wouldn’t have it any other way. We will be apart from our grandkids but we both know that we and they will be very blessed as we work in the service of the Lord and our fellowman.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
The other couple are Elder Darrell & Sis. Darla Bushman. They have been called to Santiago Chili to be a proselyting couple. They were living in Midland Texas when they got their mission call but they have lived in Idaho and Mesa, Arizona. Bro. Bushman used to teach at Freemont Jr. High. Brother Bushman served his mission to Chili 44 years ago. Sister Bushman spoke no Spanish before her mission call like Pam. Now she has attacked the language training and tutoring just like Pam. Both ladies are going to do great on their missions.
Thursday, July 23, 2009 (Our last day of classes at the MTC)

Today was our lasts day of MOS classes at the MTC. They split the couples up yesterday and again today. The ladies learned how to do referrals and mission newsletters. The men got to learn how to open and close areas, apartments/housing, and maintain the vehicle fleet, etc. All afternoon was one long test! We were tested on everything we’ve learned for the past 4 days. No scores were kept but I think we all did very well.
Since the new group of Senior Missionaries arrived last Monday, we’ve been making new friends. Pam and I have had 2 new couples in our Spanish classes. Tonight was our last night of Spanish class too.
Bro. Howard & Sis. Darleen Hamilton’s are from California and have been called to be the office couple like Pam and I. Bro. Hamilton served his mission in Chili 45 years ago. They told us the story of one of their daughters who went to the exact same mission 25 years later and met one of his converts. They are not only still active in the church but one of their sons is a bishop and another is a stake president! Wow, what a great story. A daughter of theirs married an Argentinean she met on her mission. They also have purchased land in Santiago Chili and just finished building a 4 b-room 4½ bath house.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Today we had our picture taken beside Elder Samuel H. Smith, Brother of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Hyrum was the first missionary sent out to preach the gospel in this dispensation from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It was quite an honor to be in the company of and be photographed with such a wonderful missionary with such a powerful testimony.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009
(The following is an e-mail from by Pam to Gene & La Merle Martinez in the Hillside ward. Sister Mary Martinez has been here in the MTC about 6 weeks. She has been called to the Toronto Canada, Spanish speaking, Mission and reported June 10, 2009.)

Hi LaMerle,
What a fun meeting we had today with Hermana Martinez. She saw us walk by in the sea of white shirts in the cafeteria today. She is doing great and learning her Spanish mui bueno. She bore her sweet testimony in espanol and it was indeed bonito. I gave her a hug from me but also a big hug from her mom. We are learning nonstop here in the MTC. We have classes from 8am to 8:30 pm and we leave this Saturday at 3am in the morning, I am not looking forward to that long day of travel and no sleep but you do what you got to do, si. We are sending you an attached photo of your missionary along with us. Please send my love to the ward sisters.
Love, Hermana Johnson

Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Last week’s devotional was great but this week we were in for a special treat. The featured speakers were Elder John H. Groberg, Emeritus member of the 70 and his wife Jean Groberg. They both gave wonderful talks that were motivating and inspirational, just the kind of thing missionaries in the MTC need to hear. Then after the closing song was over Pam and I found ourselves in a sea of senior couple trying to make our way to the door. But it wasn’t just a crush of people making their way to the door. Elder & Sister Groberg were there as we all filed by. It was another one of those special MTC moments. We got to shake their hands and offer our thanks for their words. Yah, we are loving our time at the MTC!
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Today was more of training in MOS “Mission Office Systems.” Pam and I really like this training as it directly relates to the skills we will need in the mission office when we get to the Dominican Republic.
This evening was the weekly Tuesday night MTC devotional in the Lorenzo Snow Building 17M. At the very beginning President Brienholt, councilor in the MTC Presidency, made the announcement that outbreak of the H1N1 Flu also known as the “Swine Flu” that had been rampant in the MTC for the last 3 months was finally under control. Since there were no more cases some of the flu at the MTC some of the restrictions could be lifted. Then he said “we have lifted the restriction of shaking hands and hugging your companion.” At that moment a huge cheer irrupted from all in attendance.

Monday, July 20, 2009
Tonight we had more Spanish language training. It was fun and very unstructured, a nice change. The first half of the evening we told each other stories using the past tense of verbs. We laughed so hard our sides hurt. The second half was a mock Family Home Evening with our wives. Te FHE ended with a game of charades using verbs. It was a hoot!
Exactly 40 years ago today I was in my districts Spanish class in the old “LTM” Language Training Mission in the Knight Mangum Hall being tutored while at that very moment Astronaut Neil Armstrong took mankind’s first footstep on the moon. Since the event happened on a Monday it was later referred to as “Moonday”. A television was set up in the lobby of the MTC (an unprecedented event) so elders and teachers not currently in class could see the history making event. Myself, my companion (Elder Randy White) and the rest of my district missed the event as we were dutifully in class learning Spanish and committing to memory 96 pages of dialog, part of the 6 uniformed missionary discussions.

Monday, July 20, 2009
Today started our training in MOS “Mission Office Systems.” The MOS is being replaced by a newer internet based system but until it is installed in the Dominican Republic Pam and I will still be learning the old MOS. So far it has been interesting and fun. Thank goodness, there isn’t any homework like last week.
Another interesting thing we learned today was a basic course on how to use MS Office and MS Excel. I loved it because I learned tons of new tricks and shortcuts.

Sunday, July 19, 2009
In the evening we attended the “Departing Missionary Devotional” with 348 other missionaries. Again we were very surprised and delighted to discover Elder Brodie Behrmann. He was exclaiming “that’s my scoutmaster!” He was in my scout troop back in the Aspen ward 6 years ago. And now look at him, what a great young servant of our Heavenly Father.
Sunday, July 19, 2009 (Our only Sunday at the MTC)
During the “Departing Missionary Devotional” Pres. Smith read all of the missions Elders & Sisters were departing to and the number of missionaries going to each country. We got to stand with 30 other missionaries as he read The Dominican Republic. Another delightful surprise was when Elder Behrmann stud up with us. Although we are not in the same mission, he is going to the Dominican Republic like Pam & I. He will serve in the Santiago Mission in the D.M. In the whole world outside of the USA, there were more Elders & Sisters going to the D.R. than any other missions save Argentina that had 34 missionaries.

We had two spiritual feasts this evening. First was the “Departing Missionary Devotional” and the second was the Mission Sunday night fireside. Here, again the large assembly hall was filled to overflowing with God’s Army all in suits. If that scene isn’t inspiring enough, the talks at both meetings were great. They fill a person with the missionary spirit and desire to get out there and preach the gospel. Pam and I really enjoyed them.

After our last meeting today we called all of our grandchildren (their parents too) and had nice long talks with each one. Well some of the little ones are only old enough to babble but that’s talking none the less. Pam & I really love our grandchildren. We are really looking forward to getting high speed internet in the Dominican Republic so we can talk and see them with the “Web Cam”. That will really be great.

Sunday, July 19, 2009 This evening at dinner we introduced ourselves to a young Elder in the cafeteria because he looked like President Obama. But he turned out to be the nicest young man and we were really surprised and excited that he is from Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic! His name is Elder Moroni Castillo. His uncle is the Stake President of the Ozama Stake in Santo Domingo, go figure. He told us all about the city and he graciously accepted our request to have our picture taken with him. He was so happy and bubbled over with enthusiasm. He had a smile that went from ear to ear. What a great young Elder. He is at the MTC learning English so he can serve his mission in the San Fernando Valley, California.
Saturday, July 18, 2009 (Our Fifth full day at the MTC)
Today was much different. We started by meeting David & Barbara Cockayne out front and going to breakfast with them. It was a very nice reunion. We had a good time talking and reminiscing the old days. David Cockayne and I go way back to the days our boys were in the Scouting program together. I think I had all three of their sons in all levels of the scouting program. David & Barbara look great. The haven’t aged a bit since the good old days.
Next we walked to the Provo Temple and attended a session before lunch. The session was great, as are all sessions. The Provo temple is beautiful. We really enjoyed our walk around the grounds.
This afternoon we did laundry and wrote letters, e-mail & snail mail. This evening at sunset we took a nice walk around the whole campus of the MTC. The evening are is very comfortable even though today’s high got to 100. While we walked Pam practiced her Spanish phrases again. She is really working hard on her Spanish.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

In the hall outside of the cafeteria there are a lot of pictures on the wall showing the history of Language training in the churches missionary program. I found the picture of the old building I lived in back in 1969. It was the “Knight Magnum Hall”

Pam is having a very good experience with her Spanish tutor. His name is Elder Jorge Chauca. He is from Peru and like all of the tutors, he does a great job.