Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

6:30am and we were off to “Translados” at the transfer chapel. Hna Johnson and I gave our parts and had the pictures of all the new missionaries taken within an hour. Everything went very smooth. Pres. & Hna. Almonte conducted the next hour of the meeting while Hna. Johnson & I ran back to the office to photocopy all of the passports. We had to get them copied, laminated and drive back to the transfer chapel before the end of the meeting so we could give the Elders their laminated copies.

When the meeting was over everyone went outside to load the “Guagua” and its trailer. I asked the driver what the Spanish word for trailer was. He said it’s called a “trailer”! (Pronounced “Tray-lair”) Every “translado” the mission hires the same Guagua and driver to haul all of the Missionaries and their luggage to “El Campo”. It will take him the rests of the day to get all of them delivered to their new areas.

The “Guagua” is pronounced “Gwah gwah” . In the Dominican Republic anything that hauls something is called a Guagua. And size doesn’t matter, so all buses, trucks, pickups, etc. are all referred to as Guaguas. They do have their regular names. For example a bus is an “Autobus” a truck is a “Camión” and a pickup is a “Camioneta” but they are almost never referred to by these names. They are all simply “Guaguas”.

Last night Hna. Johnson and I worked a little late getting ready for Translados. But it wasn’t very hard work and we were home by 7:00. However Elder Caldwell and Elder Mesidor, the AP’s, told us they had a lot to do and worked hard until 2:00am getting ready. Then they had to be up by 4:30am to get started on the day. By this afternoon they were really dragging.

In spite of the hard work and the late hours the AP’s love their job, they love being missionaries and all of this is just a big adventure to them. Elder Caldwell said that when they finised all of their work last ngith at 2:00pm they went down stairs to their apartment that they share with the office elders. He said that there were so many Elder in town for “Translados” that they had taken every available bed and mattress including his. So he said he sat down in a corner, propped his head up against the wall and went to sleep for 2 hours.
Monday, November 23, 2009

Very early this morning Hna. Johnson was up baking an apple cobbler for the Elders in the office. You can tell it was very good by how fast it disappeared. Well, maybe not, Elders will eat anything but we could tell the apple cobbler was enjoyed by them right down to the last bight.

This morning the three elders that are going home were in their “Capacitacion” (training) called “Curso de Autosuficiente” which means “course on self-sufficiency” The elders are taught basic skills for after their mission like; how to fill out a job application, how to get a job and keep it, how to make a résumé, how to study in school, how to get an education, how to apply for college and how to take advantage of the churches Perpetual Education Fund. My job was to bring them their lunch. Missionaries love to eat and you’d be right if you thing they were happy to see me.

This evening we were hoping to go to the Senior Couple FHE and have Thanksgiving dinner with all of them but our day was too busy because of transfers. They were expecting about a hundred people to attend because it wasn’t just the Senior Couples but all of the Americans that live, work or have callings here at the Area Offices. Many of the staff members at the Area offices are paid employees and when they accepted the job here in the Dominican Republic they brought their families with them. They chose to hold their Thanksgiving dinner on Monday evening because the Temple is closed all day Monday and all of the Temple Missionaries can attend. If it had been on Thursday, none of them would have been able to attend.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Since “translados” is this Tuesday Hna. Johnson and I had the opportunity to once again assist in transporting Elders and their suitcases around the mission. Two of them were Elder Conway & Elder Báez. Elder Báez, Elder Conway’s trainee, has been a good young and enthusiastic Elder. He will go on to be a very good Elder. He is leaving but I don’t know yet where his new assignment is.

Elder Conway is also leaving my branch here in Neyba. He has been here 2 transfers (3 months) and he will be missed a lot. He is a very hard working Elder, when a member failed to show up to give a talk or teach a lesson, Elder Conway was always right there to fill in and did a wonderful job. Elder Conway will be given another new elder to train. He is going to Bani and will be the Zone leader there. His companion, the Zone of Bani, the Branch and the people of Bani are getting a great Elder.

And speaking of great Elders, Elder Lewis is going home this transfer. He’s the Elder I wrote about on Oct. 22, 2009 that was in the capital recovering from Dengue Fever. He has been a trainer in San Juan. He rode with us back to the capital from “El Campo”. Elder Lewis has been serving his mission for 2 years and 1 week and will fly home this Wednesday morning very early. Hna. Johnson and I had the pleasure of talking to him and hearing his stories of his mission. It was a great ride in to the capital.
Saturday, November 21, 2009

Saturday is supposed to be our P-day “Preparation day” but for the 3rd week in a row we have had to leave for “El Campo” early and have not had time to do much preparation for the coming week. We did go shopping this morning but we didn’t have time to do any laundry or cleaning. Maybe we will get to it after “translados” next week.

When we got away for “El Campo” we had a full truck load of items to be delivered all over the place. We had stops in the mission areas of Madre Vieja, San Cristobal, Bani Rama II, Pueblo Abajo, and Azua. As usual we delivered the mail but we also delivered bed frames, mattresses, dressers, desks, and washing machines. Including travel time, the deliveries took us about 6 hours.

Our stop in Madre Vieja also included a plumbing job. Elder Cummings and Elder Valdez’s tub won’t drain so I brought some drain opener with me from the capital to get it unstopped. My drain opener of choice is sulfuric acid! It is very dangerous stuff and the fumes are toxic. But with all the precautions taken, it always unstops the most stubborn drain.

Delivering to the Hna. Missionaries is always the best. When we finished delivering two beds, mattresses, chairs, etc. to Hna. Familia & Hna. Gonzalez in Bani Rama II they treated Hna. Johnson, myself and the Zone leaders to sandwiches and juice. The Hna. Missionaries are like that, appreciative, considerate and thoughtful. Now if we could just get the Elders to give us treats when we deliver to them it would be great.

When we got to Azua and delivered a washing machine to the Elders in the area called Pueblo Abajo, they decided that they didn’t want it after all. It seems that the machine we had was old and beat up. Their machine was almost new and twice the size. They decided that they would find a handyman to make the minor repair it needed rather than switch with the one we brought.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Friday, November 20, 2009

This morning early I did my “Diligencias” (errands) to “Centro de Servicio” (Central Services for the Caribbean Area) and to the “Aduana” (Customs office). Both stops took much more time than usual, over an hour each. I’ve never seen such long lines at the Aduana before. I picked up 7 packages for our missionaries there. I also mailed outgoing letters for the missionaries too. Postage for an air mailed letter to the US is $20.00 D.R. Pesos. That’s about $0.56 in US dollars.

This evening Hna. Johnson and I were invited to dinner with Dr. & Hna. Kilgore at the “Casa de Huespedes” (Temple Accommodation Center). Also invited were Elder and Hna. Finlaysens. They are CES (Church Education System) missionaries. They teach at the Institute of Religion on campus of the university here in Santo Domingo. Also invited were Elder & Hna. Berkley. Their mission calling is to microfilm Dominican historical records like birth, wedding and death certificates & other records, etc.

The meal was wonderful and afterward we all just stayed seated at the table and visited, told stories and talked about our mission experiences. It was a delightful evening. It was so refreshing to have stimulating conversations with other Senior couples and hear their stories, etc. We always look forward to FHE and other gatherings with the other Senior couples. Next Monday the Senior Couples are celebrating thanksgiving with a large dinner on Monday evening for FHE. Hna. Johnson and I hope to be able to attend but it’s the night before “Translados” and we never know for sure if we will be available. Hopefully we well make it.
Thursday, November 19, 2009

For the past two days the AP’s have been using my computer to make the transfer changes in a large spread sheet in a .xls document. With all the new missionaries arriving and all of the transfers required, it is a very big job. Both of the AP’s, Elder Caldwell and Elder Mesidor have Excel computer skills and are doing a great job. However, occasionally they run into a formatting problem they can’t figure out and need help. Late last night they ran into a format problem and asked Elder Almonte for help. That posed a problem. Elder Almonte is an office elder and he isn’t supposed to see any of the transfers/assignment changes until next week! Well, to fix their problem he had to see the transfer sheet and all of the new assignments. So…. All day today he teased his companion, made jokes and poked fun at Elder Small about being transferred out of the office, etc. It was a lot of fun and all in good humor.

So…. After the AP’s were done with my computer today, it occurred to me, the transfer information is on MY computer. I can look at the document and know five days early what is going to happen at transfers. So I did, and guess what….? I found out that Hna. Johnson and I ARE NOT being transferred out of the office! (Well, no surprise there, we will be working in the mission office for another year and two months.)

Elder Caldwell is from Lehi Utah. When I first met him I was impressed by his physical build. And how much he looked like a football player, muscles thick neck and all. So I asked him what is sport of choice was before the mission. I was surprised to learn that he and his whole family are avid rodeo participants. Elder Caldwell’s events are Roping, Team Roping, and Bulldogging. No wonder he is so big and strong.

Elder Mesidor, the other AP is a bright ray of sunshine. Every time he walks into a room it gets twice as bright! He is so personable and friendly that he spreads cheer and a bright smile where ever he goes. He has a wonderful positive attitude and he does a wonderful job teaching and leading the other elders in the mission as their AP.

Elder Mesidor is originally from Haiti. Which means his native language is French and/or Creole. He speaks both which makes him quite unique. Now he is fluent in French, Creole, Spanish and is learning English. A couple of years ago he gained admission to the national university here in Santo Domingo and was a college student before he received his mission call

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Today we spent our time getting ready for “Translados” (Transfers) next Tuesday. I can’t believe it’s already time again. We have translados every 6 weeks and this time those 6 weeks have passed very quickly. We have 16 missionaries arriving, 14 Elders and 2 Hermanas. They will come here from the CCM here in Santo Domingo early Tuesday morning. 2 of the 16 will arrive from the MTC in Provo a day later. Half are from right here in the Dominican Republic and the other half are from the US.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Today Hna. Johnson found time to put up Christmas decorations in the office. She is in her element when she is decorating. There were already several boxes of old decorations in the storage room plus the new decorations she bought last week made for some very nice holiday trim in the office.

Later this evening Hna. Johnson pointed out that her hands didn’t hurt like they used to after working in the flower shop. She thought for a moment then said “that’s another blessing of going on a mission; my hands have had a chance to heal”. She said that they are still tired but they don’t hurt like they used to. More blessings!
Monday, November 16, 2009

Hna. Johnson had a good night’s sleep for a change and feels better today than she has in 4 weeks. So this morning we were up early and off to the capital by 7:45am. We were unloaded and back at work in the office by 10:00, thus ending “Another Whirlwind Adventure by Shrek and Donkey!”

This evening we got to attend FHE with the other Senior Couples at the Casa the Huespedes (Temple accommodation Center). We don’t get to go every Monday night because of our exhausting travels, sometimes we are just too tired. But tonight we went and we were glad we did. The theme for tonight was a sing-along of the great show tunes. Sister Jones is a concert pianist and she does a great job on the piano. They projected all of the words on the wall with a digital projector from their laptop. We sang all of my old favorites like “Your Never Walk Along, The Impossible Dream, What a beautiful World, Unchained Melody, Over the Rainbow, etc. Hna. Johnson and I had a very good time singing and later visiting with all of the other Senior Couples.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Well here we go again, my second day in a row on only 5 hours of sleep. It wouldn’t be all that bad if I could sleep in sacrament meeting like I used back in the Hillside Ward. But now I’m on the stand in front of everyone so I really have to stay awake!

Today we had very good meetings at both branches. My talk went pretty well, I think. My subject was on preparing to go to the temple. This week we are starting “Temple Prep” classes at both branches. So I took the opportunity to prepare the members who will be attending. When I finished the same talk in Duvergé I asked Elder Jimenez if my talk was alright. He said it was very good except the part where I read the inscription “Holiness to the Lord” on the front of the temple. In Spanish it is “Santidad al Señior” but I misread it as “Sanidad al Señior”. I only forgot the “t” but that changed the meaning from “Holiness to the Lord” to “Sanity to the Lord”. I’m sure our Heavenly Father has a good sense of humor and doesn’t care about the mistake. As Hna. Johnson so often says, “of course the Lord has a sense of humor, why else would he have sent me to work with a computer and be the financial secretary of the mission!”

The Lord has really had is hand in the efforts of the missionaries in Duvergé. In Duvergé we had a full house again. 10 of the people in attendance were investigators that came to last night’s “Noche de Amistad”. The really cool thing is that 6 of them were from the same family. That is so great.

I had another first for my mission here in Duvergé. I was asked to confirm Hna. Dalmys Perez a member of the church and give her the gift of the Holy Ghost. I was honored to be asked. I had to brush up on my Spanish vocabulary to make sure I got it correct. I haven’t’ confirmed anyone a member of the church in Spanish in almost 40 years.

I had an interview this evening in Duvergé with Manuel Perez, the 15 year old son of Bro. Tuco and Sis. Yazmin Perez. He is a great young man. He is eager and willing to progress in the church and do his part and honor his priesthood. He will be ordained a Teacher by his father next week after he is sustained by the congregation.

It is very interesting that Manuel has been a member his whole life and has never been asked by any of his leaders if he would like to be a priesthood holder! It seems that the Perez family joined the church almost a decade ago in Duvergé and have been faithful members ever since. However about five years ago the branch was dissolved and the elders pulled because of a lack of men to run the branch and the downsizing of the mission. The active members that were left in Duvergé like the Perez’ were told to attend the Neyba branch about 30 kilometers away.

Of course they couldn’t because bus fare is too expensive but when missionaries were reintroduced to Duvergé last spring the Perez family was right there in attendance as usual. But the branch had no Branch President and was still dependent on the leadership in Neyba. And the Elders didn’t think to ask the status of Manuel’s priesthood. It wasn’t until I was put in as Branch President that Hna. Perez approached me and asked if her son could hold the priesthood. Well, now three years late, he will be a priesthood holder.
Saturday, November 14, 2009

We were off for Duvergé at 10:30 this morning on another whirlwind adventure. We had stops in San Cristobal, Azua, Vicente Noble and Neyba to deliver mail, etc. While in Neyba we picked up the chapel TV and DVD player and a BBQ grill to take with us to Duvergé.

At 4:00 we attended an amazing baptism service in Duvergé. Hna. Dalmys Perez was baptized by Elder Jimenez in a local irrigation ditch! Actually it is the local river that has been channeled so it is very deep and very swift. When Elder Jimenez got in the water the current swept him down stream so quickly that his companion barely had time to catch him before he was completely swept away. But the baptism went very well and Hna. Perez is overjoyed to be a member of the church.

This evening we had the “Super Noche the Amistad” in Duvergé. Very similar to the one he had in Neyba last week. We had about 60 members and investigators out and there was only standing room in the chapel. Many were seated outside and watched “The Testaments” through the open window. Afterward we fed everyone hotdogs, punch and cake. Many of the members pitched in to help prepare and serve which really helped a lot. We were so impressed by the willing help we received and we were very thankful that everything went off without a hitch.

One of our biggest concerns was the electricity. The power is off more than half the time in Duvergé and there wouldn’t be a program without electricity. But our prayers were answered and we had power for the whole evening. Ever since we learned that both of the generators I found wouldn’t run, we’ve been praying ever day for electricity. Our Heavenly Father really loves his children in Duvergé because our prayers were answered completely.

It was a long day and Hna. Johnson and I didn’t get back to Azua until 11:30pm. That is only 8:30 Arizona time so when I turned on my laptop computer we got a webcam call from Nathan and Valerie. It is always great to talk to family on the webcam. We love it. Nathan reported that the Gilbert Days Parade was another great success. It was well attended by all the family and everyone pitched in to help.

I am so thankful for Nathan, Jacob and their families as well as all of my extended family for their love and support of this great family tradition. This was the first time in 34 years I wasn’t there to build a float. I am so proud of Nathan and Jacob for stepping up and doing such a good job while Hna. Johnson and I are serving a mission.

Well, I need to hurry up and get these entries in my mission journal finished. Now it’s after midnight and I still have to finish preparing my talk for tomorrow in Neyba. It’s going to be a late night.
Friday, November 13, 2009

This afternoon Hna. Johnson and I went to the “Centro de Capatacion Misional” (CCM - this is what they call the MTC in Santo Domingo). We had our hair cut again by Hermana Furcal, the same sister that has cut it twice before. She does a good job. While we were there we also did several other errands. One was to purchase items at the “Temple Store” at the CCM. They sell most of the same things you might find at a poorly stocked Deseret book Store. There isn’t much selection but it’s the only store like it in the whole country.

Hna Johnson had a whole list of items to buy at the Temple store. Most of the items are for Elders and Hermanas that can’t take the time to go there themselves. We picked up things like key chain vials for consecrated oil, DVD’s of church productions, the new Spanish “Santa Biblia” and garments for some of the Hermana Missionaries.

On our way back to the office we stopped at Plaza Lama, a huge department store to buy some of the last items we will need for our trip to Duverge and Nayba tomorrow. While we were there Hna. Johnson bought Christmas decorations for the mission office. Hna. Johnson had fun making a small budget stretch far enough to decorate the whole office.

Back at our apartment this evening we parked our blue Corolla in its usual spot. It’s really a small parking space and I have to back in. I’m always guided in by the evening security guard that lets me in the gate. He’s a nice fellow but he has a very long shift. He is there from 6:00pm to 6:00am every day.

Our security guard in the parking lot is one of the very few Dominicans that smokes. When Hna. Johnson and I first got to the Dominican Republic one of the first things we noticed was how few Dominicans smoked. We don’t know why, maybe it’s the cost or a culture thing or maybe the training they got as children from their parents, who knows.

Don’t get me wrong. Dominicans have plenty of vices just like the rest of us. For example they drink like fish. It just seems to me that for most Dominicans, smoking isn’t one of their bad habits. When Hna. Johnson and I first got here I was so taken back by the lack of smokers that I started counting the smokers I saw. Mind you this was not a scientific study but the first month we were here I only saw 10 smokers. I the states you can see 10 smokers in an hour every day of the month. I kept up the count for 3 months and I counted exactly 30 smokers. I’m still amazed.

And speaking of counting months… today is 4 months to the day since we entered the MTC in Provo. Hna. Johnson and I discussed how we felt about the past 4 months of missionary service. We were both agreed… we have come so are, seen so much, worked so hard, traveled so far, driven so many miles, met so many people and learned so much that it feels like we’ve been on our mission a whole year. The interesting thing is that we are so busy the individual weeks seem to be flying by. We start work on Monday and the first thing we know it’s time to drive to Neyba on the weekend. Time really flies when you’re busy. Another thing we agree on… we love our mission here in the Dominican Republic. We are so blessed to have been sent to this part of the world to serve our Heavenly Father’s children.
Thursday, November 12, 2009

It was a slow day in the office. Hna. Johnson has caught up with all the work she has to do. This is unusual because usually she is so busy but today she had time to study her Sunday School and Relief Society lessons. She translates every word on every page of the manual! When the instructors read from the manual she can follow along and understand what is being said. I had time to start to prepare for my talk in Sacrament meeting in Neyba.

President Almonte was gone all day to his training seminar with Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the 12. He didn’t get back to the office until after 8:30 and he was exhausted! Tomorrow he does it all over again starting at 9:00am. But he is loving it! He told us that for the rest of the weekend he won’t be available, not even to take messages.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009 (Veteran’s Day)

Hna. Johnson pointed out to me that today is Veteran’s Day. So I would like to take this moment to thank all of the veterans out there, especially my father-in-law Jim Burk (WWII Pacific), for their unselfish service and sacrifice to keep our county free. It is because of these brave men and women that we sleep under the blanket of freedom which was bought with their blood. Thank you Veterans, I salute you!

Yesterday when I told the office elders about the generator I found they said there was another one around on the west side of the office. Sure enough and it’s a big one too. It’s 4 cylinder generator with enough power to run a small home. Unfortunately it is very old and it’s been outside in the rain for years. The gas tank had a pint of gas left in it mixed with a quart of rainwater! The crankcase was clear full of rainwater. I can’t figure out how that got in there. Oh well, my best hope is with the smaller, newer generator.

I spent the morning in my grubbies working on both generators. The one I found in Azua last Sunday is practically new but it has a problem too. The carburetor leeks when the gas is turned on. The engine runs and it does generate electricity great. But I will have to find a repair shop to fix the leak if we are to use it in Duvergé this Saturday.

This afternoon we received a phone call that sent the mission office buzzing. The call was from Elder Jones, the Caribbean Area Executive Secretary. He told us that Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles will be in Santo Domingo tomorrow thru Sunday. He will be conducting a Mission President seminar for all of the mission presidents in the Caribbean area. Elder Jones called to remind President Almonte to be in the Temple chapel at 7:45am dressed in white. President Almonte commented to the AP’s after the phone call, “I’ll be there at 7:00!” He has been anxiously awaiting the seminar since he heard of it a week and a half ago.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Today was another Zone Temple trip. This time the missionaries came in from the Zones of Barahona & San Juan. It’s a very long bus ride to get here so they were an hour and a half late getting to the temple this morning. But they made it and afterward they all went to the mission President’s home for a great lunch. Sometimes I’m asked to help shuttle missionaries back and forth but not today. I had some business to discuss with Pres. Almonte so I did get to see them at the mission home right after their lunch. It was great because I got to see my old friend Elder Bates who is now a Zone Leader and a “Trainer” in Barahona.

I also got to see and visit with a couple other elders I know well. Elder Lewis from San Juan was there, he is completely recovered from his Dengue Fever and looking great (See Oct. 22nd). I also got to see Elder Dixon who is also serving in San Juan (See Oct. 26th). He is completely recovered from the collision with the motorcycle and he’s doing great too. His forehead is completely healed and when the redness is gone in a few months he won’t even have much of a scare.

I really love these Zone Temple trips. When these elders get together, greet one another, renew old friendships, etc. there is electricity in the air. You can really tell these missionaries love each other and love the work of the Lord. Sometimes I just like to stand in the back ground and watch it all unfold and feel the emotion of the moment charged by the spirit. It is a testament to these Elders and Sisters and the work they do for our Savior and His church. I have been truly blessed to be here and be witness to moments like these.

Last week while Hna. Johnson and I were shopping at Jumbo; we bought a cheap DVD player for our apartment. The apartment came furnished including a 25 year old TV set. It does work and we’ve wanted to be able to watch DVD’s from the Mission Office’s library. Well, tonight I finally managed to get the two machines to work together. The technologies are so different it was like hooking a horse and buggy up to a sports car. But tonight I finally got them to work and Hna. Johnson got to watch her first DVD on the TV, “Mr. Krueger’s Christmas”. She likes it a lot, she actually watched it twice!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Monday, November 9, 2009

Before we left the Azua house this morning I was refilling our jug of drinking water out on the patio. A large yellow object caught my eye so I went over to investigate. Wow… what a discovery, hidden in a corner behind a bunch of other stuff was a 1000 watt portable generator. It looks almost new with very little wear. I don’t know how many years it’s been sitting there but the gas tank is bone dry. I think that’s a good thing, the last time it was used; it ran until it drained every drop from the tank. The oil dipstick is right on the “Full” mark and the oil is so clean I can hardly see it. I’m hoping that when I buy a can of gas it will fire right up.

I’m excited about the discovery of the generator because of what Elder Jimenez told me just before we left Duvergé. He said that the power is almost always off at the Duvergé chapel. That means the super activity next Saturday night might be ruined or canceled. He suggested that I ask around and see if I can find a 1000 watt generator. Well, talk about an answer to prayer, this is it. If the generator will run, we are in business.

On our way in to the capital Hna Johnson and I stopped in the pueblo of Nizao. The church has two braches there and the mission has 4 Elders. We stopped there to check on a new apartment for Elder Garcia and Elder Cuadra. The apartment they are in now has been without power for 3 weeks. They found a possible new location and it looks pretty good. There are some problems with it but nothing we can’t overcome.

Next we went to the home of the Duaño (landlord) of the apartment they are in now that doesn’t have power. We discovered that the problem with the power might be easier to fix than moving the Elders to a new apartment. I’ll be checking it out in the next few days and keeping our options open.

We didn’t make it to the office until 1:30pm. But we still had a full day of work to do. As soon as we arrived Hna. Johnson went to work on all of her Monday morning tasks like entering reimbursements for the Elders, balancing the petty cash, writing checks, etc. Even though she has not fully recovered from the loooong, hoooot weekend she still got all of her work done at the office. She is a trooper.