Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Today was another very busy day in the office and like yesterday we didn’t get done until after 7:00pm. Hna. Johnson was on the computer all day doing “Apoyos” for all the missionaries. The computer work has to be done now so the system can process everything, approvals from the Mission Pres. and SLC can be obtained so the elders get their money in their account by the 1st of the month. I spent half the day working in the office and the other half on the road around Santo Domingo doing my “Diligencias” for the office. I paid bills, shipped documents to Barahona on “Caribe Tours” (the bus line) and spent about 2 hours at “Centro de Servicio” collecting materials and solving problems. Nothing glamorous or fun, just things that need to get done. It was pretty much a normal day of work, busy but normal.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Hna. Johnson and I left Azua early and we were back at work in the office by 9:30 this morning. There are always a million things to do on Monday. It’s one of our busiest days of the week. And then throw into the mix all of the problems that developed over the weekend like lost credit cards, apoyo (support money) requests, errands for the President, errands for the AP’s, etc. and it makes for a long day. Hna Johnson and I put in 11 hours today and we still didn’t get everything done.

And speaking of “Apoyo” or missionary support money, the end of the month is close and there are a lot of Elders that are running out of money. All weekend and today I’ve received dozens of phone calls from missionaries asking if their reimbursement was approved and the money replaced into their “Apoyo” mission account. Some of the missionaries don’t know how to budget their money and they’ve been out of cash for days and there is still a week left before the end of the month. The end of the month is always a desperate time for some of the Elders.

One of the errands I had to run this morning was to take Elder Small to the “Casa del Conductor” or the Driver’s House. That is where a person has to go to pay the fine when issued a ticket. Last Friday Elder Small was in a very minor fender bender but the fine was still going to be over a RD$1000.00 or about USD$30.00. Elder Small left with a huge smile on his face. When it was his turn to see the clerk and pay his fine, she looked at his documents, handing him his driver’s license back and said “you can leave!” He said he didn’t know why she let him leave without paying the fine. He was very happy about that.

Later in the afternoon the lady that Elder Small hit on Friday came to the Mission Office with the quote for the repairs to her car. It was RD$9640.00 or about US$270.00. President Almonte decided to pay her cash on the spot rather than pay for the repairs, so Elder Small handed her an envelope full of “Efectivo” (Cash) from the “Caja Chica” (petty cash). Elder Small is very glad to have this episode behind him now.

This evening is FHE for the senior couples at the “Casa de Huespedes”. Hna. Johnson and I really like to go but it was too late when we got out of the office again. It seems that all we do all weekend is hurry, hurry, hurry. Tonight we didn’t go anywhere, we needed the break, although at our apartment there were mounds of dirty laundry to do, dinner to prepare and the apartment to clean; so much for getting a break.
Sunday, February 21, 2010

On our way to Neyba we stopped in Sabana Yegua. First we met the Elders there and had Elder Barrett sign documents he needed for his schooling at BYU. Hna. Johnson will be sending them back to BYU on Monday. Next we met with Henry Felipe, he was released as the Secretary of the Santo Domingo West Mission and has accepted the call to be the new 2nd Counselor in the mission presidency. We also discovered that he is no longer working for Centro de Servicio as the South’s Physical Facilities Coordinator. I will miss him in that job. He was my “Go to” guy for all of the problems we have with the chapel in Neyba. He hasn’t been replaced yet, hopefully soon and by someone as good as him.

Back on the road we got to Neyba early enough to stop by the apt. of the Elders to drop off Elder Falor with his suitcases, mattress, desk, chairs, etc. and still make it to church 20 minutes early to set up. Elder Falor is the 5th Elder in Neyba. He is in a three way companionship with Elder Bates and Elder Mateo, the Elder he is training who just got to the mission 5 days ago. Elder Bates is one of those really great, go getter Elders that gets things done and make good thing happen no matter where he is assigned. I am really looking forward to working with him in Neyba.

We had some minor flooding this morning. The chapel’s water pump took 30 minutes to finally work. And when it did we discovered too late that the sink in the kitchen was plugged and the water was left on. We didn’t discover the problem until there was an inch of standing water in the kitchen and it started running from under the door and into the hall. There was a lot of water to mop up. What’s worse… I don’t have Hno. Henry Felipe to call anymore.

After church services were over Hna. Johnson and I went to visit a Haitian family that are refugees. They are Maria Yann & Sany Finilon and they have nothing. Absolutely nothing but yet they are happy. They have 6 kids ranging in age from 17 to 5 years old. It is amazing to me to see little children with big smiles laugh and playing that are truly happy, even though they live in a makeshift shack with a dirt floor. While we were visiting them I filled out a “Needs Analysis” form and determined that the church’s Fast Offering fund will help them buy food for the family. At least until they can get on their feet.

There are so many people here in the DR that live in poverty it really tugs at the heart strings to see them. However most folks here do manage to get by. They have a job of some sort and can pay their own way. But some families like the Haitian refugees have nothing and no one to fall back on. The church’s welfare system, fast offerings fund and humanitarian aid are divinely inspired. These programs benefit so many needy people all over the world. As the Branch President in Neyba I am blessed to be about to help families that are truly in need.

Before we left Neyba we dropped off Eliú Librón at his Grandmother’s home, where he is living. Eliú is very excited. Today I brought a “Mission Application” form from Pres. Almonte for him to start to fill out. He has been preparing for a full time mission for several years now and hopefully he will be able to serve soon. He is the Branch Clerk and does a wonderful job at his calling. He is a great asset to the branch and if he leaves on a mission the branch will really miss him. But two years in the mission field will really make him a better man and strengthen the branch in Neyba in the long run.

When we left Neyba we didn’t go straight back to Azua but instead we headed to Duvergé to pick up
Elder Jimenez and Elder Carrasco, the Zone Leaders. They needed a ride to Vicente Noble to do “Intercambios” (splits) with the Elders there. The Neyba Zone is very large, there are 8 companionships, 16 Elders and the ZL’s have to do “Intercambios” with all of them regularly. It is amazing to me that Elder Jimenez can do his own missionary work and still be responsible for the whole Zone. But he does, in fact he is one of the best missionaries I’ve had the privilege to work with.

Back in Azua Hna. Johnson fixed dinner for us and the South AP’s, Elder Morrillo and Elder Taveras. Normally they spend the night in their apartment in Vicente Noble but they are out doing “Intercambios” too. They won’t even get to sleep in their own beds for 5 days. They are also dedicated missionaries and work super hard at their job as AP’s. Hna. Johnson enjoys feeding the missionaries any chance she gets.
Saturday, February 20, 2010

Here we go again! Another Saturday full of loading, unloading, travel and more unloading. Our pickup truck was loaded to the brim again. We stopped at every Zone Leaders apartment between the capital and Azua office. One difference today was the treat Hna. Johnson brought for all of the Elders. We didn’t get to Price Smart this week so they didn’t get candy bars. This week they all got doughnuts from Jumbo Supermarket. Yes… All missionaries live doughnuts! Hna. Johnson loves spoiling missionaries.

Another first for us on this weekend’s trip, we had a passenger with us. Elder Falor was brought into the office last transfer but has been reassigned to Neyba because of the emergency transfers yesterday. And since we were going to Neyba this Sunday he was able to catch a ride and save the cost of bus fair and the hassle of transporting all that luggage on a bus. It is a huge benefit for him and for us too. We had company to talk to all the way out to the South. It was great to have Elder Falor with us.

Our trip to the “South” didn’t go completely smoothly. It took us three tries to leave the capital before we actually made it past “La Pintura”, the last major intersection before entering the “Carretera” (highway) to the South. The last time we were actually finally driving out of La Pintura when we got a phone call from Elder Small. In our rush to get loaded and leave it seems he had forgotten to load 18 cases of Book or Mormons in the truck. We were already loaded to the gills but we went back to the office and found space for them all. The tailgate of the pickup had so much weight on it I swear the front wheels of the truck were baring touching the ground.

In Azua we met up with the “South” AP’s at the office. After unloading everything we invited them to eat dinner with us at La Esquiñita. They have “The Best Hamburgers in the World” without a doubt! Again it was good food, good company and a good time was had by all. The senior AP in the South is Elder Morrillo. He is a dedicated and hardworking missionary. He goes home next transfer but like all “soon to be released” Elders, he doesn’t want to talk about home. He just wants to keep working and do a good job up to the last day of his mission.

Back at the Azua Office we hooked up the laptop and for the second week in a row we had internet service. And we were pleasantly surprised to discover the Grandma & Grandpa Burk a webcam now. Jacob hooked it up for them yesterday. So we webcam’d them and a delightful time watching and talking to them. We love the webcam.
Friday, February 19, 2010

We were in for some surprises today. We’ve had several emergency transfers. A few of Elders have been sick lately and they are coming into the mission office to rest and recuperate. It meant that three of the mission office Elders that have been in the office are leaving us. In fact the only office Elder we will have left is Elder Small. Elder Huey, Elder Gonzalez and Elder Falor are all leaving us.

During my errands today I picked up 8 packages at the “Aduana” (Customs Office). All but one package was postmarked the first week in February. Usually packages take about 2 or 3 weeks to get to us from the states. But today I picked up a package that had a post mark of Sept. 24th! That has got to hold the record for the slowest package I’ve ever picked up at the “Aduana”. The address label was all correct so I have no idea why it took so long. Almost five months for a package has got to be a record of some sort.

Elder Almonte, who worked in the office for over 4 months left last transfer and is now a ZL in San Juan. Hna. Johnson and I visited San Juan once; it is a beautiful farming community. It is in the middle of a fertile river valley nestled in some pretty tall mountains. Elder Almonte called me today and we got to talk about his new area. He said the evenings in San Juan are really cold, not cool, they are cold. He said, “In the evening it is like being inside of a refrigerator. It is so cold at night, I have to wear a sweeter to bed to fall asleep and I have to put a sweeter on my head it is so cold”. He makes me laugh. Dominicans have no idea what being really cold is like. But to a Dominican, a night time low of 62 degrees is really cold.

I got a phone call from Elder Small this evening as Hna. Johnson and I were sitting down to eat our dinner. I had to run over to the mission office. Elder Small was in a traffic accident on his way back to the office. It was a very minor accident and no one was hurt but the lady that was driving the other car and her husband were very, very angry. She and her husband were at the mission office until 8:00pm demanding $10,000. (DR Pesos) on the spot to repair the damage. It would have been funny to hear them rant and rave but they were serious! The accident was Elder Small’s fault and the church’s insurance will pay for the damage but not tonight and not in cash. Having a traffic accident will really spoil your day and Elder Small’s day was really spoiled.
Thursday, February 18, 2010

At noon today Hna. Johnson and I were invited out to lunch by Elder & Hna. Jones. Elder Jones is the Caribbean Area Executive Secretary and Hna. Jones is his assistant. They arrived in the Dominican Republic in June of last year, just a month before we arrived. We eat at the lunch buffet at the Dominican Fiesta Hotel which is across the street from our apartment and only one block away from our office. The buffet was “all you can eat.” I tried to eat it all but there was too much. The food was really good, I was stuffed.

Elder and Hna. Jones come over to our neighborhood several times a week. They have a membership in the Dominican Fiesta Health Club inside the hotel where we eat lunch. After we eat they gave us a tour of the hotel grounds and the health club. I think having a membership would be way cool. After they showed us around we gave them a tour of the Mission Office, the Mission Home and our apartment. Even though they are in the neighborhood 4 or 5 times a week they didn’t know where the mission office was. The whole afternoon was delightful and it was a nice opportunity to get to know the Elder & Hna. Jones.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

This morning I was off on Errands that took me down the road known as the “Malecon”. It’s the coast highway the runs just a few yards away from the cliffs that where Santo Domingo meets the Caribbean Sea. Sometimes when the surf is just right and so is the tide, the surf and the “Blow Holes” are spectacular. I couldn’t resist, I had to stop and take some pictures. I think they are awesome.

Back at the office it was back work on documents and pictures to finish up the paper work for yesterday’s “Translados.” And since my job includes editing and manipulating pictures, I really enjoy it.

One of the documents I got to create was for an Elder that has been assigned to “Elias Piña” a town near the border with Haiti. And because it is so close to the boarder and the Dominican Republic works tirelessly to keep illegal refugees from sneaking across the border. There are military check points every few miles on the highways around all of the border towns. Everyone is required to carry on their person legal ID like a “Sedula” (Dominican Social Security Card) or a Passport to prove they are in the country legally.

Well, the Elder in question is a Haitian national. A few years ago he came to the DR illegally, attended the University, was converted to the gospel and is now on a mission. But he has no passport, no “Sedula”, nothing. When he came into the mission President Almonte had a document drawn up by the church’s lawyers that said the Elder was a full time missionary for the church, that he was under the care and protection of President Almonte and that he was completely supported financially by the church. (In the US we say “he is being sponsored”) This document is sufficient to keep the Elder from being deported for the length of his mission. The problem was; it had no photo proving who the Elder was. That’s where I come in. I got to create an “official looking” document similar to a driver’s license, with name, address, picture, etc. Now when he is stopped by the border patrol he can prove who he is, on the spot, instead of being taken down to the police station. I had a good time making it. I get all of the fun jobs!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Hna. Johnson and I survived our fifth “Translado”, but barely! Lots of small things seemed to conspire against a neat and orderly “Translado.” Vehicles were late, Elders were late, luggage was late, etc. And this Translado had a new twist we haven’t had to deal with in the past. It really sent Hna. Johnson head spinning. We received an Elder from the CCM (Spanish for MTC) that wasn’t supposed to arrive until next Translado. Sure, we often get Elders and Sisters sent to us early from the CCM because they are “Language advanced” but at least we know they are coming. But this Elder wasn’t even supposed to start his mission until March 30th! The CCM couldn’t explain why he was there two months early. When we called SLC they were mystified to say the least. Dumbstruck might be a better term. No one can explain why or how this Elder got into the CCM two weeks early.

But the “Translado” did finally get done, but not until this evening after 10:00pm when the last truck returned to the office. And the Elder that is here 6 weeks early is a really enthusiastic missionary. He is from Costa Rica. He managed to arrive in the Dominican Republic without an entry Visa! Go figure! But he is here now and will be a great missionary. He has been assigned to work in Neyba. Hna. Johnson and I will get to work with him every weekend we are in Neyba.

And speaking of the Missionaries in Neyba, this Translado had another surprise for us. Elder Bates has been transferred to Neyba. Yes, our old friend from the office that literally was my trainer in the workings of the office when Hna. Johnson and I arrived back in July. Elder Bates will be training one of the new Elders. We are thrilled and delighted to get to work with Elder Bates again.

This evening Hna. Johnson and I webcam’d our daughter-in-law Tere and our grandsons. Tere and Jared are babysitting Alex while his parents, Dan & Mindy, take Delaney to Gamage to see the Broadway musical “Mary Poppins”. It was Delaney’s birthday on Sunday and this is her birthday present. She loves “Mary Poppins”.
Monday, February 15, 2010

This morning was another very busy one for Hna. Johnson and I. Since tomorrow is “Translados” there is a lot to do to prepare. We made 5 stops on our way into the capital from Azua. We delivered more supplies to the missionaries, we delivered luggage and picked up more luggage, we delivered mail and picked up more mail.

The South AP’s did the same on their way to the capital from “El Campo” except they left at 5:30 this morning. They had to be on time to get Elder Ikahihifo and the other 4 missionaries that are going home on Wednesday to the “Curso de Autosuficiente” which means “course on self-sufficiency”. It’s a class that teaches departing missionaries how to make a personal résumé, get a job, get an education, fill out a college application, apply for a loan from the “Perpetual Education Fund,” etc.

You wouldn’t think a self-sufficiency course would be necessary for highly motivated, hard working returned missionaries. However I was very surprised to find out that only 40% of our missionaries are North Americans. Over 50% are native Dominicans and most of them were raised in conditions that most Americans would consider extreme poverty and many have little or no education. They will return home to the village they (and their parents before them) grew up in with little or no prospect for improving their economic condition. That is why this course is so important. The Lord really takes care of his missionaries.
Sunday, February 14, 2010 (Valentines’ Day)

Today in Duvergé we discovered that two of the Elders assigned there were gone. Elder Larsen started his mission here and has been in Duvergé for 3 transfers. He was sent to Barahona last Friday, which is very unusual because “Translados” doesn’t happen until next Tuesday. The other Elder mission in Duvergé was Elder Jimenez. He was in the capital at a special Zone Leaders conference with Pres. Viñas, the President of the Caribbean Area. He will be back to work in Duvergé tomorrow. I phoned him and he said the Zone Leader training meeting lasted 5 hour and was wonderful. He went on and on about the things he leaned and the great instruction and insight into the mission work. He said it was “Super Good,” he loved it.

Yesterday the Elders had another baptism in Duvergé. His name is Jose Mendez and today I got to confirm him a member of the church and give him the gift of the Holy Ghost. Ironically, later in the meeting I was the third and final speaker and my subject was on the gift of the Holy Ghost. Later in Sunday School the lesson was No. 8 in the new “Principles of the Gospel” lesson Manuel titled: “The Gift of the Holy Ghost”. I think the subject was covered pretty well today.

After the block we were off to Neyba after picking up the luggage of Elder Astacio who is being transferred to Bani. While in Neyba we also picked up the luggage of Elder Batista, Elder Bird and Elder Smith, they are all being transferred out of Neyba. The last Elder in Neyba, Elder Carrasco, is being transferred to Duvergé. In fact Neyba is being “White Washed,” a term that means all of the missionaries in an area are pulled and replaced with new missionaries that know nothing about the area, the members or the investigators.

This is the second time Duvergé has been “White Washed” since we’ve been serving here. You might thing that “White Washing” an area would hurt the work but it really doesn’t. “White Washing” areas are actually quite common. Since all companionships have cell phones, help and advice from the old missionaries is only a free phone call away. Plus every area keeps a detailed teaching log book called the “Area Book.” This book is kept on file in the apartment of the missionaries for as long as there are missionaries teaching in the area. In the book the new missionaries to the area can find out everything about who, when and where every investigator was taught the gospel. If they were not baptized, the book says why not, etc. The “Area Book” help the work go on smoothly and maintains continuity when an area is “White Washed”.

While we were in Neyba we stopped at the home of Hno. Victoriano Diaz to give him his new wheelchair. I taught the family everything I was taught at the clinic about safety, maintenance, etc. Hna. Luz was there too. She’s the counselor in the R.S. Prescy that has been helping the family through these difficult times. She is very helpful. Hno. & Hna. Diaz were very appreciative and happy to get the wheel chair. They expressed their thanks over and over to me. This will really help the family in many ways including helping them attend Sunday services together.

Back in Azua this evening we got to Webcam our family for the first time in 5 weeks. The internet connection to the Azua Office has been down all that time and I’ve been on the phone with the telecommunication company “Codetel” every week to get them to fix it. Now, finally we got to talk to and see our family. It is wonderful, we really enjoy the webcam. We also phoned our granddaughter Delaney. Today is her 4th birthday and she sounds so grown up on the phone. We’ve got to convince Dan to set up the webcam so we can see Delaney as well as talk to her.

And speaking of our family… It must be said that today is Valentines’ Day and they have all been working very hard for the past week with one of the busiest holidays in the flower shop. They have but in lots of overtime and worked without complaint to make the flower shop successful. If it weren’t for their tireless efforts, Hna. Johnson and I wouldn’t be able to be here in the service of the Lord and his children in the Dominican Republic. We are truly blessed to have such a wonderful family that loves us and supports us on this mission.
Saturday, February 13, 2010

This morning Elder Small and Elder Huey got to go to “ASODIFIMO” (Asociacion de Impedidos Fisico-Motores, Inc.), the same place I went to on Wednesday. The Francoms, the humanitarian missionaries, asked if we could supply translators for this morning’s wheelchair event. Both Elders were delighted to go. Elder Small said this is the first time he’s been asked to do “real translating” and he’s been on his mission for 22 months. Elder Huey has only been in the mission for 5 weeks! Both Elders did a great job. They were a tremendous help to the SLC team because none of them speak Spanish. All full time Elders are expected to do community service work and this day of translating certainly filled the bill.

This afternoon we had another loaded pick-up of supplies and mail for the Elders in the “South” (also known as “El Campo”). We were sure stacked high and loaded inside and out.

There is a new area being opened next week with the “Translado” and we are delivering some of the required furniture and appliances for the new house there. We have the new refrigerator, mattresses, desks and kitchen utensils. We didn’t have room on the truck for their bed frame nor their washing machine. We’ll take it to them next week if we don’t figure out a way to get it out there sooner.

Our last stop was in Azua at the “Pueblo Abajo Branch” chapel. Both Azua Zones were having a joint baptismal service so it was real convenient for Hna. Johnson and I to deliver the mail and supplies to the Elders because they were all in the same place. What was really cool about that was the baptismal service. Between the two zones they are planning to have 12 baptisms this evening! Wow, that is great! The Branches in Azua are really growing. I know that President Almonte is hoping the Azua District will be made a Stake sometime soon.
Friday, February 12, 2010

We are still preparing for “Translados” next week but I had leave this morning to run my usual end of the week errands to “Centro de Servicio” and the bank. Hna. Johnson and I finished our work in the office early so we could go back to the “Casa de Huespedes” to get our hair cut. We left straight from there to Price Smart to do our weekly shopping for ourselves and the Missionaries that have placed orders. We will be delivering them all tomorrow when we head to “The South” also known as “El Campo”.

We didn’t get back to our apartment until late, so we had a late dinner. It was after 9:30 when we finished dinner and finished reading our chapter in the Book of Mormon in Spanish. We just finished reading Alma chapter 7, one of Hna. Johnson’s favorite chapters. Verses 23 & 24 are two of her favorite verses in the whole Book of Mormon. Verse 24 says: “Y mirad que tangáis fe, esperanza y caridad, y entonces siempre abundaréis en buenas obras.” Words to live by.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Today was a dull day in the office after the excitement and wonder of yesterday. It will be a day we long remember. And it must be said that all of yesterday’s success and triumph was due in large part to only one person, Elder Nardo Jimenez. He is a leader among followers. Before he was assigned to Duvergé he was an AP, (Assistant to the President). He loves to serve the Lord and the people where ever he has been assigned to work. He has maturity and the wisdom of a man twice his age. He is much older than most other Elders, he is 25, and he uses those extra years of experience, wisdom and compassion for the Savior. When Elder Jimenez first heard he was going to serve in the Duvergé Branch he told me, “Are you ready for the Duvergé Ward?” And that was no idle boast, he meant it!

I have watched in awe and wonderment as Elder Jimenez has taken the lead in the branch to teach leadership skills and teaching skills. And especially in preparing those wonderful members for their trip to the temple he methodically worked to increase spirituality and a love of the Lord. He started back in October, made a plan and has followed through with every step. Elder Jimenez is a wonderful example of what the Savior meant when He said, “If ye love me, feed my sheep”. A lesson we should all learn.

Yes, today was a dull day in the office but I did go to the Aduana (a day earlier than usual) and picked up 8 packages for missionaries. Hna. Johnson and I spent the rest of our time working in the office getting ready for “Translados” (transfers) next Tuesday. There is still a lot to do to get ready.
Wednesday, February 10, 2010

WOW!!! What a day. I started off at “ASODIFIMO” (Asociacion de Impedidos Fisico-Motores, Inc.) a charitable organization the church partners with to do humanitarian work in Santo Domingo. Elder and Hna. Francom have arranged for them and two other similar charitable groups to distribute wheelchairs to the needy. The church provides the wheelchairs and the training for their staff and they do the rest. They conduct interviews, evaluate needs, take measurements and if a person qualifies, they get a brand new wheelchair that they normally wouldn’t be able to afford. Then the recipient is taught proper care, maintenance and servicing of their new wheelchair. A great deal of care is taken by the church to make sure these wheelchairs are not given away to anyone or used to sell for cash. It’s a great program that benefits many lives of members and nonmembers alike.

I walked out of “ASODIFIMO” with a brand new wheelchair. Not for me, of course, but for Hno. Victoriano Diaz in Neyba. Hno. Diaz wasn’t able to come all the way to the capital so I had to do all of the paper work for him. I got the training so I can go back to Neyba and teach Hno. Diaz and his family how to take care of the new wheelchair. They are going to be so delighted when I take them the new wheelchair next Sunday. It is going to be a huge blessing not only for Hno. Diaz but for the whole family.

The next event of this “WOW” day was our trip to the Santo Domingo Temple with the members from Duvergé. They arrived by charter bus this afternoon at about 2:00pm at the “Casa de Huespedes” (Accommodation Center) on the temple grounds. On the bus there were 5 Elders, 20 branch members and one stowaway!

Of the 20 members, three: Hno. Tomas Moquete, Tuco, Yazmin are getting their endowments. Tuco & Yazmin will also be sealed to their 4 sons; Manuel (15), Manuel (12), Manuel (7) and Manuel (5). Yes all 4 sons have the first name of Manuel, so does their father but he goes by the nickname, Tuco. Ten of the 20 will be doing baptisms for the dead. Three are children under 11 years of age and can’t do baptism for the dead and we have one invited non-member guest, Macho’s caretaker, her mother. The stowaway was a 15 year old niece of Tuco & Yazmin. She was told she couldn’t come because she is inactive and would not qualify for a temple recommend but she snuck onto the bus and came anyway. She got to take a 10 hour bus ride for free.

Hna. Johnson and I got to the Temple at about 4:30pm. When we I approached the temple we turned the last corner before the gate. Hna. Johnson pointed out something we had never seen before; there was a couple in a suit and wedding dress having their picture taken on the lawn in front of the temple. We’ve seen this sight often at the Mesa Temple but never at the Santo Domingo temple. When we parked the car and went to greet the Duvergé members we were very surprised to discover that the bride in the wedding dress was Yazmin. She wore the same wedding dress she was married in 17 years ago. She looked gorgeous in it. And how fitting to wear her wedding dress, after all she was going to get married again but this time for time and all eternity.

President & Hna. Almonte were with us in the endowment session. Also in attendance was the former Elder that baptized Tuco & Yazmin in Duverge 7 years ago. I got to be Tuco’s escort and President Almonte was Hno. Moquete’s escort. Hna. Almonte was Yazmin’s escort. Just how often do you have a sitting Mission President attend your endowment session, let along be your escort. And then have the Temple President personally give you your orientation. WOW!

It was a beautiful and wonderful endowment session for all three members as well as for the rest of us. It was truly a rare experience for Hna. Johnson and I to be with these members from Duvergé, to feel their spirits and their enthusiasm. They have worked so hard and prepared so well to make this temple trip possible.

The endowment session was wonderful and so was the sealing immediately afterward. All 4 young sons of Tuco and Yazmin were brought into the sealing room all dressed in white. The “wonder & Awe” was obvious on their faces as they knelt at the altar with their parents to be sealed for time and all eternity. Afterward the Sealer had them all stand and look at their reflections in the big mirrors on either wall in the ceiling room. The little 5 year old couldn’t see so Pres. Almonte picked him up so he could see the reflections of his family go off into infinity.

Public drinking fountains are unheard of in the DR. The water isn’t safe so there are no drinking fountains here like there are in the US. However here at the temple all of the water is purified with reverse osmoses and is perfectly safe. When we first entered the temple Hna. Johnson & I as well as Tuco & Jazmin’s 4 sons were all in the waiting room. I left the room and stopped and got a drink from the drinking fountain. Hna. Johnson told me later that the two youngest boys had eyes as big as silver dollars. They had never seen a drinking fountain before let alone see anyone drink from one. They both hopped up and began to explore this wonder that shot a stream of water into your mouth. After they figured out how to make it work the 7 year old put his mouth straight over the nozzle and took his first drink. Hna. Johnson got up and showed him how to drink without touching the nozzle. Hna. Johnson said the two boys were very cute. For the next several minutes they attempted to master the technique. The best the youngest could do was to bob his head up and down at the stream of water and lap at it as his tongue went by.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Today I had a lot of errands to do to get ready for the Temple session tomorrow with the members from the Neyba Branch. One stop was at the “Centro de Servicio”. Fourteen of the members from Duvergé are going to do baptisms for the dead. Several of them are very new converts and their “Limited use Recommend” has to have their membership number on it. I had to go to Centro de Servicio and talk to Quimerio Fernandez so he could go into the host computer and get them for me. New converts have to wait a year to go through the temple for their endowments but they can do baptisms for the dead immediately. They are all very excited and anxious to come to the temple.

Next I was off to the “Casa de Huespedes” (Accommodation Center) at the temple and arrange for the overnight rooms for all 20 of the members that are coming. Then I had about a half dozen other stops along the way for the mission office, the bank, etc. Back at the office I confirmed our Temple session time with the Temple secretary as well as the branch’s baptistery appointment with Pres. Harris, the Temple President. Everything is coming together very well. Tomorrow will be a very good day in the Temple for the members of the Duvergé Branch.
Monday, February 8, 2010

This morning we left Azua headed West instead of East back to the capital like usual. We were headed for Jimaní and a rendezvous with Pres. Anderson of the Caribbean Area Presidency. But we had to make a couple of stops along the way. First we stopped in Sabana Yegua, about 10 kilometers west of Azua. We had to drop off a rent check to Elder Barrett and Elder Wilson. The rent checks were due last Friday but IMOS was late Authorizing and printing so we finally got the check to them today. Their Dueño should be very happy now.

Our next stop was in Duvergé were I needed Hno. Tomas Moquete (my 1st Counselor in the Br. Prescy) to sign a Branch check for the humanitarian effort in Jimani. All of the Humanitarian aid for the members in the hospital will now be funneled through the Neyba Branch. A few weeks ago everything was being paid by the mission and the mission was being reimbursed by the Area. But now it will all be paid by the nearest church unit which is Neyba.

We arrived at the planned rendezvous, an “Isla Bomba” (Island Gas Station), at 10:45 this morning. The gas station is about a quarter mile before the border with Haiti. The gas station and convenience store was very busy and had a flurry of activity was going on all around it. There were several bus loads of white people from many different countries. Inside the convenience store I bought Hna. Johnson a cold 7-up. The customer in line in front of me was speaking Dutch (I think), he paid with US Dollars and was given change in Dominican Pesos. At one point there were 5 busses all being gassed up at the diesel pumps. Some were headed into Haiti so they were topping off their tanks. Others had just come from Haiti and filling their tanks here because this was the closest station to the border.

Shortly after our arrival the “LDS Emergency Services” car arrived with President Andersen 2nd counselor in the Area Prescy, Bennie Lilly the Area Welfare director and Steve Roberts director of humanitarian aid here on assignment here from SLC. They have been in Haiti since last Wednesday and were returning to the Area offices in Santo Domingo. Bro. Jones, the Area Executive Secretary, asked Hna. Johnson and I if we would meet them at the border this morning and give them a ride back to the capital. Of course we were delighted to help. Brother Steve Roberts and the driver returned to Haiti so we only had two passengers with us on the way back to Santo Domingo.

On our way back through Duvergé we made another stop to pick up papers from the missionaries there. This time we met them at the “Internet Office” in town. Since today is P-day all of the Elders are writing letters home to their parents and families as well as their weekly letter to President Almonte. They are also filing their weekly reports on Pres. Almonte’s website. It is very important that all missionaries have access to the internet. This internet office is typical of many small towns all over the DR. The missionaries pay by the minute and they are supposed to get all of their internet work done in under an hour.

We stopped at the Azua Office for a “potty break” on our way and discovered that Pres. & Hna. Almonte were there. Pres. Almonte is in “The South” conducting interviews with all of the Elders & Hna.’s in the two Azua Zones. It was a very fortunate and chance meeting. We stayed for a while and Pres. Almonte& Pres. Andersen had a nice visit about the mission and missionary work in general.

We were with Elder Andersen and Bro. Lilly in the van for about 5 hours and they talked to us at great length about Haiti since the earthquake. They told us how much better things were in Haiti for the Saints there. For quite a while now the Church’s relief & supply distribution system has been functioning very well. The members in Haiti are getting the food and supplies they need to live on. Elder Andersen said that all of the Port-au-Prince wards are holding their full schedule of meetings even though they are still being used as relief shelters. He said that Sunday attendance is up 125% now compared to before the earthquake.

President Andersen told us that the news media has published the statistics of the dead and injured for many of the denominations in the earthquake area. He said it is truly a miracle that so few latter-day Saints were killed or injured in the earthquake. The news report said that there were almost 10% casualties in the Catholic Church but only 1.5% in the Mormon Church.

Another fortunate coincidence today was our stop in Azua coincided with the arrival of the Codetel DSL repairman. We haven’t had DSL in the Azua office where we spend our weekends in 5 weeks now. I’ve been calling and calling Codetel with no results. At least now there is a real repairman here and maybe Hna. Johnson and I will have internet next weekend so we can “Webcam” our grandkids again.