Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Pam’s E-mail sent to her family - Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Buenos noches mi familia,
It is in the evening, tho it might not be when you receive this mail. We are doing well, we had 2 fun surprises from Jared, Tere, and Jacob, Nathan, and Valerie when we were in Azua Sunday night. David has found a way to get the internet and he woke me up to tell me that Tere was on the web cam. Then the other Johnsons started calling. It was great.
We had another long weekend by going to Neyba and Duverge. We traveled with Pres. y Hna. Almonte to these towns where Dad was called to be the branch president of both towns. Pres. Almonte seems to think that we will do a great work at both these places, no pressure there! Pres. Almonte drives like a true Dominican. When we were leaving Monday morning he said that I wouldn’t have to be in the same car with him anymore, I tried not to look too worried during our rides but I must have failed.
This morning I made a large apple cobbler (for one Elder loves apple pie but I have yet to find a pie pan). It was mainly for Elder Jimenez for he asked if I make fruit cakes/pies because I kept bring in brownies, cakes and donuts for the Elders. You could actually hear the glee on the phone when Elder Johnson asked him not to leave this morning until we got there. It was all gone within a matter of minutes so I guess it was good. (I never got a taste but the elders had big smiles)
Mom and Dad, your trip sounded like it was a good one. I am glad that your car did well and that the visits were great.
David and I are still soaking up the culture and the interesting things we see. This last week we had a huge rain storm, Elder Johnson and the office Elders were out in it. When things quieted down a bit David said that I would never guess what was in the water puddles in one of the streets. And he was right. I know that he put the picture in the blog, it is the one with the pigs. It is so funny, because you still see horse pulled carriages, cows, horses, chickens, goats all grazing and in downtown areas. It is a hoot!
I hope everyone is doing well. The web cams are great and I would really like to see all of you and your families more on them. We are so excited that this weekend is General Conference. We will not be traveling into the campo so it will be nice to stay in the capitol and hear it in English. Spanish is a beautiful language but I am craving for English and to hear from the general authorities. I missed some of the women’s conference. We were not able to hear Sister Beck’s talk without a lot of breaking up on the internet but got to hear almost all the rest.
Take care everyone. I will probably send out some letters to mi nietos (my grandchildren). We love you. Don’t forget General Conference, it is indeed a blessing to hear from prophets and apostles.
Shrek and Donkey

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Monday, September 28, 2009

Up early and on the road back to the capital, Hna. Johnson and I were back to work in the office by 9:30am. We put in a full day of work and finished in time to head to FHE at the Accommodation Center on the temple grounds with all of the other Senior Couples. We really enjoy our FHE’s with them.

Tonight’s FHE was a presentation by Elder & Sis. Hansen on the church’s new “Youth & Family Camp” near the town of Bonao in the center of the island. Elder Hansen showed us a slide show of the combination; Girls camp, scout camp and family camp on 80 acres of beautiful forest/jungle property. Elder and Sister Hansen will be leaving their mission next week and they still haven’t found anyone to take their places. So… I anyone knows a Senior Couple with a background in gardening, camping and outdoor living, the job of caretaker is available. Hna. Johnson and I figure we’ll put in for it on our next mission!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Yep… It was “Another whirlwind adventure for Shrek & Donkey!” We were up and showering at 5:45am. (It takes a minute to get used to the cold water but by the time you finish the shower it feels good.) This time we road to Neyba with Pres. & Sis. Almonte in their White Camry. It’s very nice, far better than our silver Toyota Pickup. This was President Almonte’s first time to visit Nayba and he did a great job dodging pot holes, motores, dogs, goats, etc. 14 hours, 300 miles and 2 block programs later we were back in Azua for the evening.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

In Sacrament meeting with the Neyba members, President Almonte presented me to the congregation as their new Branch President. My first councilor (my only councilor) will be Bro. Francisco (Pachico) Vasquez. He was the brother that was just released as Branch President! He served for 5 years. He was hoping for a break but it seems there is no rest for the weary, the mission president wants him to be specifically in charge of the branch mission and reactivation program. I guess a change is as good as a rest. My job is to find 10 new brethren to reactivate or convert to be trained in leadership skills so this branch can be made into a ward when the district becomes a stake in a year or two.

My first day on the job as Branch President included my first priesthood executive committee (PEC) meeting. None of the brethren in Neyba knew what it was or that it even existed! Looks like I’ve got my work cut out for me. Branch council, Branch welfare meeting & Youth Committee meeting here I come.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

I’ve known for two months that I was going to be made Branch President in Neyba. At our meetings in Duverge I was in for a surprise. President Almonte sustained me as branch president there too. President Almonte has complete confidence that I will be able to fill both positions. I pray that the Lord will help me fulfill my callings to His satisfaction and the Kingdom of the Lord will continue to grow here in this part of His vineyard.

Duverge has an interesting history in the church. There have been missionaries preaching the gospel there for over 20 years. There has been a branch there multiple times in the past. However jobs are scarce so most of the men with leadership potential move to the capital to find work. There are also a lot of inactive members. At today’s meeting there was a brother there that no one knew. He and his family have been members for 10 years and they just moved back to Duverge. Wow… I could have sworn I was looking at the next Branch President!
Sunday, September 27, 2009

Late tonight I fired up the laptop computer to write in my journal. To my surprise I simultaneously received two webcam calls, one from Tere, Jared & boys and the other from Valerie, Nathan and girls. They had to take turns of course, plus Jacob, Wendy and kids were at N&V’s house too. It was great to see and talk to all three families. The webcam is wonderful. I think the Lord had a hand in its invention just so more senior couples would be willing to serve full time mission all over the world! We love all o four children and grandchildren and relish each opportunity to see and talk to them on the internet.

Last week was the first time I actually got the internet to connect to my laptop computer. I was unable to get streaming video to work so Hna. Johnson could watch the Women’s Conference last night. Streaming audio worked OK so she could listen to the conference fine. Well, tonight when I turned on the laptop I was delighted to discover that the streaming video for the webcams works great! Of course we did have some technical difficulties but it really did work! We were able to see and hear our grandchildren live. What a wonderful piece of technology.
Saturday, September 26, 2009

Every Saturday for Hna Johnson and I is starting to sound like the one before. We start off with a walk in Mirador Park and we take a new trail and see new things. Hna Johnson gets ahead of me because I’m always taking pictures of everything.

This morning after our walk we went to Bella Vista Mall to pay our electric bill called “Edesur”. It’s the government run electric company for the Dominican Republic. Being government run explains why the power is off so much of the time.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

This evening we arrived at Azua office to spend the night. President Almonte and Sister Almonte are here too. They will accompany us to Neyba tomorrow to change the branch leadership. President Almonte has been very busy this week. He just arrived here from Bani where he has been interviewing all of the district and branch leaders and changing all of the leadership. This evening he is conducting a special fireside here in Azua that is specifically designed to help activate less active members. He is really a busy, busy mission president. But he’s not just a mission president. He must oversee the affairs of 5 districts in his mission and all of their branches. I really don’t know how he does it all. But he somehow finds the time and the energy to get it all done. He is a great mission president.

This evening in the Azua office I set of the laptop with the internet and Hna Johnson got to listen to the General Women’s broadcast live from Salt Lake City. She loved it. Over the years Hna Johnson has held callings in the primary, young women and the relief society. She loves all three organizations but her calling of choice has always been with the young women (I think it is because she had 6 sons and no daughters of her own). After listening to the inspiring talks by the R.S. leaders in SLC and to the Brethren, she exclaimed “I never thought I would say this but I really miss my relief society”.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Friday, September 25, 2009

Today was back to work in the field helping Elders with apartment problems. The office elders and I spent almost the whole day in the car doing “Diligencias” (Errands). We did all of the things we had planned to do yesterday but couldn’t. In spite of the terrible traffic congestion that has returned to the streets of Santo Domingo, it felt really good to get so much done.

Hna. Johnson is still beset by computer program problems. So today was another day of frustration for her. This was compounded by the repeated requests from the financial controller at Central Services asking for multiple financial reports of all kinds. It seems there is no end to the reports that need to be researched, completed and submitted to Central Services. But Hna. Johnson is a trooper. She hangs in there and without murmuring a little, does it all. That’s right, without murmuring a little….. No, she murmurs a LOT. (haha!!!) When the computer finally gets fixed, life will be a lot easier for her.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

This morning the office Elders and I had big plans to go out and fix a lot of problems with the Elders apartments. But it seems that nothing ever goes as planned in the mission office. Early in the morning the mission president called to say that it was a national holiday and that the streets would be choked with cars leaving for the holiday. Therefore he didn’t want any of the missionaries out and about. They were to all stay in their apartments for the day.

The president was right. Everyone was gone for the holiday. I needed to pick up some pictures I had printed at “Price Smart” and the city streets were deserted. I’ve never seen so few cars on the road…. Well will the possible exception of the time Hna. Johnson and I left for “El Campo” at 4:30am.

While I was at “Price Smart” (the Costco of the Dominican Republic) I picked up a couple large pizzas from the food court (just like the one at Price Club) for the elders in the office. They were great pizzas.

The national holiday today was “Santo Mercedes” the patron saint of the Dominican Republic. I’m sure there are a lot of people that worship their Mercedes but they don’t live in the Dominican Republic. There are very few Mercedes here. However “Santo Mercedes” day can and is used for worship. Since this holiday lands on a week day this year, the Santo Domingo Temple has added extra sessions to their normal endowment schedule. A day off from work is a great day to serve the Lord and your ancestors too.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Pam’s E-mail letter to her family on Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Hola everyone,
Thank you to all who have sent an e-mail, what a treat. Mom and Dad, thanks for keeping us posted on your travels. And Gary, your pictures are awesome, thanks for sending them. This past weekend has been another long week. Yes, our weekend seemed like a week. We try to meet as many needs as we can for the missionaries. Today, Monday morning, as we were returning home, we started going over what we had done and we thought what we had done was last week. We are getting in a lot of service hours and they are starting to blend together. But as I was thinking about the time we are giving to travel long distances just to meet with a small group of people or to deliver irons, mail, food, cell phones, whatever we need to do to be the best help. I kept on thinking of the scripture in Mosiah 2:17 which reads “…when you are in the service of your fellow beings ye are in the service of your God.” I know that you do not have to be on a mission to be of service to your fellow beings or of service to our Heavenly Father but it put ever thing into perspective as I wondered if my service is of good or if it really is important. And I can testify to you, my family, that what we are doing and what you have done or are doing (especially for us) is important. I know that by simple works we can make a difference and I know if the work is of good report it will be accepted by our Lord.

We saw our first big traffic accident this weekend; you would think there would be a lot more. We have seen some near misses and some large trucks fallen into their deep ditches that they have but not rollovers and multiple vehicles like we saw this weekend. There were 2 police cars and an ambulance there as well and the sad thing is to see is that these official vehicles are some of the most beat up vehicles, just like the taxi’s.

We have seen our scooters and motores (mow-toe-ray) haul some interesting and large things. It is not unusual to see them with 2-5 people, or hauling large objects (like double size mattresses or washing machines). But today in our travels back to the capitol, we saw a motore with two baskets one on each side. And in these baskets, each one had a goat inside that was hog tied and they were sitting on their bottoms with their legs and heads out of the top of the baskets. They actually were quite content looking; it really was the fun spot of the day.

I can’t think of anything more to bore you all with so I guess it is time to say good-bye. We love you so much and many times when I am saying our family prayers the tears just seem to pop up when I pray for my family. Sometimes I don’t quite make it through. I can’t express to all of you the love we have for our parents, our children, our grandchildren and siblings. You all are our true treasures of life. Take care everyone.

Lots of love,
Shrek and Donkey

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

This morning the office Elders and I were on the road to half a dozen apartments in the far North and West part of Santo Domingo. We investigated more plumbing problems and we delivered more mail. It never ceases to amaze me how the Elders and Sisters in this mission can tolerate such terrible living conditions and still do such a great job representing the Savior and His church.

These are hard working missionaries that work tirelessly without a complaint. Leaky pipes in the apartment is no problem, they use buckets to catch the drips. No water in the apartment is no problem, they save water in 30 gallon plastic trash barrels to bath with. Rats, ants, mice, cockroaches and other pests are no problem, besides there is little or no food in the apartments for the vermin to steal anyway. No electricity is no problem, they use candles at night, besides they don’t have any electric appliances anyway. These young men and women remind me a lot of my deacons at scout camp; they live for the adventure. At the end of the day they give thanks for their successes and blessings, and then praise the Lord for their converts.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

This morning we received a call from the four Sisters in Herrera Ward. They need desks, chairs and plumbing problems fixed. So the two office Elder, Bates and Almonte and I were off before noon to the Sister’s apartment. We got the desks assembled with some difficulty, considering we had the wrong parts and almost no tools. But the job got done. The plumbing problems are a problem. Without any tools I couldn’t fix the 3 different leaks. We will have to call a real plumber this afternoon to do the job.

This afternoon we were able to finish the move of the Elders in Los Alcarrizos III Ward. It took all afternoon and into the evening but the documents were all signed and delivered. We spent a whole hour at the home of the Lawyer for the Landlord. He picked apart every sentence of our standard 2 page rental contract. He would read a line and say something like, this won’t due, we can’t agree to this or why is this here? Every time we would patiently explain that this is a “Form” contract intended to be used by us for ALL of our rented apartments and that we can’t change anything. He would grumble and say something like, well OK, then read the next line or two and start the process all over. In the end we didn’t change a thing and he finally agreed that the landlord could sign it.

This afternoon’s apartment move was done during a thunder storm, a real gulley washer. This was the first really big tropical storm I’ve been in since arriving in the Dominican Republic two months ago. It was actually a great storm. The lightning was striking all around us while we moved furniture to and from the apartments. It was really a spectacular light show. Of course we were all soaked but it was worth it.

Since I was out so late with the apartment move, Hna. Johnson had to walk home by herself in the torrential down pour. She was soaked to the bone too. At least the lightning had stopped by then so it was a little safer. By the time I got home (about 7:30pm) her clothes were all hung out to dry, they were still very wet.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Last night Hna. Johnson went to bed as soon as we arrived back at the Azua office because she had a terrible headache. However she wasn’t able to sleep because the power had been off in the house for hours before we arrived and our bedroom as well as the whole house was very hot. The power finally came back on at ten minutes to midnight, so we were both finally able to fall asleep once the air conditioning came back on.

On our way back to the capital we made a stop at the Sisters apartment in Bani to deliver an ironing board to them. You might think this would be an easy task but you’d be wrong. First, directions are very hard to understand in Spanish over a cell phone. Second streets don’t have signs saying what the streets name is. Third, we don’t know where the sisters live. Fourth, the sisters don’t know where they live! They don’t north from south so they could only give directions like, “turn left at the yellow 2 story building”, etc. It was a real adventure but we finally found the apartment.

Back at work in the mission office we received word from President Almonte that the 2 Elders whose apartment is in the Los Alcarrizos 3rd Ward must move out as soon as possible. We spent the rest of the day helping find them a new apartment and preparing a mountain of paperwork. Opening a new apartment for Elders is time consuming and very difficult. It is complicated by the fact that two sets of lawyers are usually involved. Then we have to “Close” the apartment they are moving out of. This too is very time consuming and requires another mountain of paper work. But if we can get all of the contracts signed and delivered, all of the utilities signed and turned on, deposit checks signed and delivered, the Elders will be moved by tomorrow.

Monday, September 21, 2009

While I was on the road with the office elders working on the move, Hna Johnson’s computer was finally fixed by Carlos Rubio, the church’s computer expert for the whole Caribbean Area. At least we hope it is fixed. Usually when Bro. Rubio comes to the office to work on the office computers, he causes more problems than he fixes. We’ll see how things look tomorrow.

But speaking of Hna. Johnson. She got fun mail today! A package arrived in the mail from Nathan and Valerie. Hna. Johnson was like a kid on Christmas morning opening presents. We asked Nathan to send batteries for her camera weeks ago, so they were in the package. But there were other things she wasn’t expecting. Valerie sent her two puzzle books, her favorites. And the best of all; Sammy, Lizzy & Rachel all sent hand drawn pictures for Grandma, some where even signed! Fun mail from home is always the best!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

We concluded our first set of Sunday services in Neyba at noon. Before we left for Duverge we asked all of the families if they would stay after to have their pictures taken with Hna. Johnson and I. Everyone was happy to pose with us and when we get a name with all of the faces it will help us remembers everyone’s name.

After the picture taking we had 3 hours before the services started in Duverge. So, Hna. Johnson and I stopped under a large shade tree on the road to eat our lunch. We made sandwiches and eat them on the tailgate of the pickup. It was a beautiful spot for a picnic and except for an occasional passing car or “Motore” (the Dominican word for motor scooter, pronounced “mow-tow-ray”) it was very tranquil.

Next we spent the rest of our time reading and studying the Book of Mormon in Spanish. It’s one of the things we’ve been doing to help Hna. Johnson learn Spanish. We also studied the titles of the Spanish hymns and wrote their English equivalent in our Spanish Hymnals. It was a very well spent couple of hours.

When Hna. Johnson was set apart as a missionary by our Stake President, Craig Ahlstrom, she was given the “Gift of Tongues”. But having the gift given to you doesn’t do anyone any good if they don’t put forth the effort to make it happen. Ever since that blessing, Hna. Johnson has been a real trooper and studies very hard to improve her Spanish language skills. As it says in James 2:20: “… Faith without works is dead” Hna. Johnson has the faith and she is doing the work to receive the blessing of the gift of tongues.
Sunday, September 20, 2009

Today was another long day in “El Campo” full of mishaps and near misses. We left the Azua office at about 7:00am and said the line from the movie “Shrek II” that has become our hallmark… “Shrek and Donkey off on another whirlwind adventure”. Fortunately today was pretty routine and all went very well.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

We started our Saturday with our usual walk in Mirador Park. For the second time in two weeks we parked in a new spot and walked a part of the trails we haven’t been on yet. The park is over 5 miles long so there is always something new to discover, explore and photograph.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Originally we had planned to leave early for Azua in “El Campo” but there were too many things to load at the office. Like last week we had mail and supplies for the Elders and Sisters in half a dozen of the little towns along the way. Also we discovered an e-mail that said Nathan & Valerie have a webcam now. So we decided to see if we could connect and we did. It was great. Hna. Johnson… I mean Grandma Johnson was in her element! She had a wonderful time talking to and seeing her granddaughters.

A month and a half ago we started spending our Saturday nights and half our Sunday nights in the rented house we call the “Azua Office”. It is half way to Neyba which is where we attend church every Sunday. The Azua office is nice except that the electricity fails half the time. Today was no different. When we got there the power was off and didn’t come back on for another3 hours.

Back when we started our weekend treks to Azua, the mission president told me he had high speed internet service (DSL Modem) and I was welcomed to hook up my laptop to it any time. For the past month and a half I’ve been trying and couldn’t make the internet work on my laptop. Well…. Miracles do happen. Saturday evening I was finally able to make it work! Hna. Johnson and I are overjoyed. It means that we will be able to use the webcam to see and talk to the grandchildren back in Arizona.

Unfortunately we were not able to make a connection with any of our sons and their families. Oh well, maybe next week. However I
Friday, September 18, 2009

Hna. Johnson and I worked all day in the office today. I got a lot done unfortunately Hna. Johnson’s computer is still only half alive so she couldn’t do very much. We left the office early and did our shopping and laundry to prepare for another long weekend in “El Campo”.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Today was another interview day for President Almonte. This time the interviews were all held at the mission office. It really causes a lot of disruption in our office duties but we love the missionaries and love having them with us for the morning. Two of the sisters had birthdays so there was birthday cake again after the physical checkups were done. It really is wonderful to be in the middle of all these great missionaries, to watch them greet one another, to hear them talk and tell stories of their missionary experiences. Language is no barrier when the spirit of the Lord is so strong.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

One of our “diligencia’s” (errands) today was a stop at the Temple. Hna. Johnson drops off the “Ropa” (clothing) list for the Elders and Sisters that will be attending the Temple with Pres. & Hna. Almonte on Friday morning. Almost every Friday the President & Hna Almonte takes a different Zone to the Temple. To help out the temple staff with the task of selecting the right sizes of clothing, Hna. Johnson prepares a list in advance to give the clothing desk. This practice of taking a different Zone each Friday is great. And it doesn’t matter how far out in “El Campo” the Zones are; all of the missionaries get to attend the Temple at least 4 times a year. We are truly blessed to have a temple within the boundaries of our mission. The spirit it brings to the Temple patron, missionary or not, is very sweet and precious. The missionaries really look forward to their turn to attend with the Almonte’s.

President and Hna. Almonte are sure hard working and dedicated servants of the Lord. They do a wonderful job of seeing after the spiritual & physical welfare of their missionaries. At least once between transfers (every 6 weeks) Pres. Almonte has a personal, in-depth interview with every missionary in the whole mission. During the interviews Hna. Almonte does a physical checkup on the missionaries. She records a brief health evaluation including blood pressure, weight, etc.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

While Hna. Johnson and I were at the Temple today; we stopped in at the MTC’s bookstore and bought the new “Santa Biblia” published by the church with all the LDS footnotes and cross references. This long awaited publication was finally made available to the Spanish speaking members of the church all around the world the day before yesterday. Since we left on our mission last July, Hna. Johnson and I have been sharing my old “Santa Biblia” I used 40 years ago on my mission in Mexico. We haven’t purchased another Spanish bible because we wanted to wait for the new edition printed by the church.

In the states we take our scriptures for granted. If we are reading a passage of scripture in the New Testament, we just expect the footnotes to cross reference with the D&C, Book of Mormon and the Pearl of Great Price. This new bible with its footnotes and cross references tying all 4 Spanish standard works of the church together will really be a blessing for all Spanish speaking members and missionaries all over the world.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009
The following is Hna. Johnson’s E-mail home to her family.

Hola Everyone,
We have made it through another week but not without mistakes. Sooner or later, we hope to get this calling down. When the President comes down on the elders, they call it a boche (bow chay). And they have this fun hand gesture when they receive it or say it. A boche is a chastisement. Well, a few days ago the President came in early to the office, about 7:50 am. I told him that he came in early today and he just smiled. Well, the elders started hastening up to the office and then there was lots of activity. A man came to the office, who had an appointment with the president. All of a sudden, all the elders and David were in the office. David came out a couple of times getting some files and then returning quickly to the office. They were in there for a few hours. I didn’t know whether to feel relieved or what and then the elders came out and the man and then David came and asked me to come in the office. I have to tell you all, I was a little concerned because like I said, I made some mistakes. Was this my boche? The president looked at David and started talking very seriously, Ok , I’m dead. David translated, and the president was expressing his gratitude for our labors and complimented me on how well I was doing on my computer skills. OK, now I started to cry. The pressure was a little too much. This man is so amazing and so forgiving, cause like I said I have made some mistakes.(big and small)
One of the mistakes I made was I forgot to pay the light bill on the Azua house.(they don’t mail bills, just put them on the doorsteps or in the fences) So this last week, David and I did not leave on Saturday. We left on Sunday morning at 4:45am to head out to all our meetings and destinations. Also, the APs in the south had a slight accident in their truck when backing out (yes, they got a boche), so the truck has been getting repaired (one of David’s assignments is vehicles and he had lots of fun driving around and getting estimates). So, without a vehicle, we have became more of a help for them to deliver supplies and mail to missionaries in surrounding towns. So our day went like this, oh before I tell you that, David always says this saying when we leave; “Shriek and donkey off on another whirlwind adventure.” The first time he said it I asked who is shriek and who is donkey. But that is our motto every time we head off on assignments. Ok, back to Sunday. We left at 4:45 am, went to Vicente Noble and drop off things to the APs (brownies where included from Hna Johnson), meetings in Neyba (mail, supplies and brownies), we visited 3 families, off to Duverge to deliver mail, supplies and brownies (and a sad message we would not be with them for meetings) off back to Vicente Noble to the branch there,(met some wonderful people there) off to Azua Oeste(west) and Azua Este(east) seek and find elders to deliver mail and supplies, off to Bani to seek and find elders and deliver mail, supplies and inspect a new apartment for them to move in to. When we got home, we were tired but I have to say the elders were happy to see us and that made it all worthwhile.
My weekly traffic story is that on Sunday night when we finally made it back into the city, I started counting and pointing out all the taxi drivers that do not have lights on. (most of them have had so many accidents that they just don’t have lights) We were stopped at a very busy and large intersection and as I was doing this, some guy on rollerblades goes whizzing by, now mind you, he is in the middle of four lanes of traffic, most cars going very fast, some with no headlights and the roads here are full of pot holes. Is he crazy, yes! But not alone in craziness, 2 more came soon after. Dominicans either have no fear or just plain don’t seem to care, I haven’t figured it out yet. But until you have experienced this kind of driving it might just be a little unbelieving on how insane it is.
We love you all and thank you for all the prayers. We really feel the support. Take care and be safe and be healthy and know that we think of you and pray for you as well.
Much love,

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The mission is a very large “corporate” account for “Orange” so I get special treatment. My customer service agent at their headquarters down town is “Madelen”. I only had to wait in line for 45 minutes before seeing her today. She helped me with my order for 15 replacement phones.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

One of my duties in the office is to oversee all of the mission cell phones. It’s a big job; there are over 90 phones in the mission. The mission president has two on his belt! Our local cell phone company is named “Orange”. Their American parent company is Alltel or AT&T, I’m not sure. Their advertising is everywhere. They are a very aggressive company. They hire people to where orange uniforms and approach cars stopped at stop lights to sell them cell phones, phone accessories and calling cards. It is truly a bazaar scene at intersections, not to mention very dangerous!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Monday, September 14, 2009

Today we received 2 e-mail letters, one from Nathan and family and the other from Grandma Burk. We really love receiving mail from home. We wish we could receive more mail from home but it seems that everyone is really busy and it’s hard to find time to write. Oh well, we will keep watching the in-box and hoping.

Today the computer expert from the church’s central services came to reconnect our network in the office. We were sure glad he because our main computer’s hard drive is 99.9% full and it is running very, very slow. It sounds like it has a virus to me. Unfortunately the expert, Carlos Rubio, said that it can’t be fixed! On Wednesday he will return, wipe its hard drive clean and start all over again. That will put Hna. Johnson even further behind schedule. Although it will be very good to finally get the computers running correctly. Hna. Johnson has been calling for help for weeks now. She hasn’t been able to access the mission’s bank account nor do several of her very important jobs that are time sensitive to get done.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Wow, 15 hours on the road today. Normally the drive to Azua takes us about 2 hours, this morning it only took us 1 hour 15 minutes. Then we went on to Neyba and got there in record time, all because of the light traffic so early in the morning.

Today was a very long day in the work of the Lord but we got everything done we planned. We dropped off supplies, mail and treats (fudge brownies) to the AP’s in Vicente Noble. We attended services in Neyba, we visited Duverge and delivered the mail, supplies and treats (fudge brownies) to the 8 Elders in both communities and we visited the homes of three less active members of the Neyba Branch after church. We made and ate ham sandwiches under a shade tree in the central plaza in downtown Neyba. On our way back to the capital we delivered mail and supplies to the 10 Elders in the communities of Azua and Bani. We met with a duaƱo (landlord) to inspect, do the paper work and approve a possible new apartment for the Elders to rent in Bani.

While driving I dodged a thousand motorbikes, ten thousand pot holes in the road (no kidding), hundreds of animals on the road like goats, cows, horses, donkeys, chickens, dogs and an occasional pig. I navigated our vehicle around a washed out bridge and 7 different sections of road washed out by flood water; all without incident. So all-in-all it was a very good day for Hna. Johnson and I in the service of the lord.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Last night Hna. Johnson and I went to “Price Smart”. It is only 4 miles away but it took us a half hour to get there because of the traffic. “Price Smart” is the Dominican Republic’s version of “Costco”. When we went inside we felt like we were back in Mesa at our favorite Costco. We will definitely be shopping a lot there. The Mission office already has a member ship so we don’t even have to signup.

Then this morning we went to a different store called “Carrefour”. It was huge with a large sign on the street that announced “The very best in French shopping”. Ya…. You guessed it, it was the French version of “Wal-Mart”! The best part of this store was that it had a very large parking lot. Most stores here have very little parking. Another advantage was the single level of the store. Many stores in Santo Domingo are spit level and cover many floors. We went to Plaza Lama a couple of weeks ago, it was about the same size as “Carrefour” but it was on 4 levels, which made shopping hard.

This afternoon as we prepared for our usual trip to Azua we received a phone call from the AP’s over “El Sur” to let us know they forgot to pay the Electric bill and the power was cut to the house we spend the night in. So it looks like we will do the whole trip in one day. We will leave at 4:30am tomorrow and get back after dark. Without any electricity for AC, sleeping is impossible in Azua. So it will be a long day tomorrow.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Friday, September 11, 2009

Today started out like all the other days at the office, with high hopes of getting scheduled work done. But then Angel Cordero, the vehicle manager for the entire Caribbean Area, walked in the front door. Myself and the office staff didn’t know it but he had called a meeting with all of us and President Almonte for this morning.

You can expect that wh en someone that important makes a personal visit to your office it isn’t going to be pretty. In Dominican Spanish; he gave us a “Boche”. That means a chastisement. But it turned out not to be very bad. We’ve only been mission reports, missing filing deadlines, and failing to report accidents; that’s all! Now that we know what to do, we’ll do a better job in the future.

Friday, September 11, 2009

The morning ended on a high note for Hna. Johnson and I. President Almonte asked us to stay with him in his office for a few minutes for a personal visit. He told us how much he appreciated all of our hard work and especially how well Hna. Johnson is doing her work on the computer. It was very kind of the President to take his time for us in this way. It made Hna. Johnson cry.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Another routine day at the Mission office, which means nothing goes as planned and I end up spending all day on the road. This time Elder Bates and I delivering water tanks, ironing boards, refrigerators, among other things, to various Elders here in the Capital.

One of the areas we we nt to was way out in the nor th west corning of Santo Domingo. While we drove the streets I was very surpised to see sidewalk flower venders everywhere. So you know what that means, Hna. Johnson got more fresh flowers to arrange for our apartment.

Then later in the evening we treated ourselves to ice cream at the corner “Bon” ice cream shop. We’ve had it several times and it is really good. If I’m not careful I’ll gain back those 14 pounds I’ve lost since the start of our mission.