Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Another busy day at the mission office. I was off to the Aduana early this morning and this afternoon off to look over a new apartment for the Elders in Los Angeles area, San Geronimo Norte Zone. They have to be moved out of their apartment by the end of this month, one week from now. That doesn’t give us much time to find a new apartment, negotiate a contract and get all of the papers signed.

This new apartment they found is a little small but will do nicely. It has one drawback though. The neighborhood has a lack of reliable water. The city water is only turned on for a few hours twice a week. That means they will be hauling water in 5 gallon buckets to shower, do the dishes and flush the toilet. But they are used to it, such is the life of a missionary in the Dominican Republic, that’s what they are doing now in the apartment they have to move out of.

Assistant to the President “AP” Elder Caldwell from Lehi Utah is going home from his mission next Wednesday. A month or two ago I commented to him about how muscular he is. His neck is so thick he can’t button the top button on his shirt. I asked him what position he played on the football team. He smiled and said, “My sport is rodeo!”

His specialties are bulldogging, team roping and calf tying. He showed me his “Practice steer” and said he likes to keep in practice. He also said that the local university has a “Team Tying” club. He is going to donate his “Practice Steer” to a member of the church that is on the team when he leaves his mission.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

I was up early this morning and on the road by 6:30. I had a rendezvous with the AP’s from the South in Azua. They were there with Pres. Almonte for interviews. On Sunday they were in Neyba and picked up 15 book shelves we had Hno. “Hijo” make for the mission office. The AP’s brought them to Azua where I picked them up to take back to the capital. It was a good opportunity for me to deliver mail to the Elders and Hna’s all over the South. It brought back memories of the weekend trips Hna. Johnson and I used to do because the pickup was loaded with mail, appliances and cases of Books of Mormon.

This morning my trip to the South was very different in a big way. Hna. Johnson didn’t go with me. She stayed and worked in the office. I really missed her as I drove. She helps keep me on my toes and adds an extra pair of eyes while I’m driving. In the D.R. you need all the eyes on the road you can get. I wasn’t the only one that missed Hna. Johnson. All of the Elders I visited asked how she was doing and said to “Saludar a la Hna. Johnson” (Say Hello to Hna. Johnson for me). I think the real reason they missed Hna. Johnson was that she always brings treats for the Elders and I didn’t bring any.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Monday, March 22, 2010

Today was very busy at the office. Mondays are always very busy. Hna. Johnson had her hands full with “Apoyo” (Missionary monthly support money), “Reimbolsos” (reimbursements to missionaries for covered expenses) and end of month apartment rent preparation. It’s a very big job. She was at it all day. Actually she will be at it all week.

I was very busy as well paying bills, balancing accounts, and tie up loose ends on a dozen mission issues. Also President Almonte came into the office a little afternoon and he and I spent almost an hour going down my list of unresolved issues for his consideration. We really got a lot done today.

Today I called Elder Bates in Neyba and found out the new Branch Pres. has been called and set apart to take my place. He is Hno. Norberto Tejeras “Hijo” who I’ve mentioned many times. He’s a returned missionary and very enthusiastic. He is one of the few members of the Branch that holds a current Temple recommend. He will do a great job a Branch President. His only counselor is Lorenzo Roa. He’s an older fellow in his 70’s but he too is full of enthusiasm and comes out to all of the branch functions and attends all of his meetings. He used to live in the capital and was in the Bishopric in a ward while he was there.

I am very excited for the members in Neyba. This may be the jump start they need to move forward and really start to progress in activity and attendance. Yesterday was a District Conference in Vicente Noble and there were 37 members from Neyba that attended. That is just about every active member of the branch. The mission hired a bus in Duvergé to pick up all of the Duvergé members first. 43 Duvergé members boarded and that is just about every active Duvergé member. The bus went on to Neyba where it picked up 37 more and then went on to Vicente Noble for the 10:00am start time of the conference.

This evening FHE for the Senior Couples was very different. It was planned and organized by Elder & Hna. Jones, Area Executive Secretary. We were all invited to eat dinner together at the Dominican Fiesta “All you can eat” dinner buffet. There were 40 of us there all together. Seven of the couple plus single sister are Temple Missionaries. More than half of us have other callings and assignments. It was very interesting to meet some of the Senior Couples for the first time. The food was great and the company was even better. Once again I tried but couldn’t eat it all! Thank goodness Hna. Johnson and I are on a regular exercise routine again. It will take a lot of exercise to work all this good off.
Sunday, March 21, 2010

Today was our second Sunday in our new Branch of Los Arroyos here in the capital. Hna. Johnson and I arrived 10 minutes early, greeted the members, attended our meetings, participated in the classes, said goodbye and went home. Wow, what a difference from attending at Neyba and Duverge. Los Arroyos Branch had about 90 people in attendance today. They are a strong branch with good leaders much different than what Hna. Johnson and I are used to. We are still going through a bit of culture shock.

The Branch Pres. has asked me to attend the Elder’s Quorum and help strengthen them and give them guidance. I did just that but they are a very good and strong group of members. The lesson was excellent and everyone present participated. I hope I can be of some assistance, maybe in home teaching or reactivation. I will look for ways to make a difference.

The same is not true for Hna. Johnson. She has been asked to strengthen and give direction in the Primary. The bishop said that the Primary Presdcy is new and needs help and guidance. After church Hna. Johnson told me that the Primary is definitely in need of help. She was with the Primary the whole time and she said that there aren’t enough leaders, no supervision and basically the hour and forty five minutes she was there was uncontrolled chaos. It sounds like Hna. Johnson has a big assignment ahead of her. And it will be very hard because she doesn’t speak Spanish and none of the Hermanas in the Primary speak English. Good luck Hna. Johnson, you are going to need it in the Primary.

This afternoon and this evening we got to talk to some of our family on the Webcam. Jacob showed off his new son, Joshua. Wendy was asleep in bed, recovering from her C-Section last week. We had a great visit with Jacob and the kids. Joseph, LeeAnn and Catherine are all great kids and they are growing so fast. Little Catherine is a doll, she is only 2 ½ and doesn’t talk a lot but when she does she uses full sentences. We really enjoyed our time on the Webcam with the Johnson family.

Jacob also sent us about 40 pictures of baby Joshua & Wendy in the hospital as well as family group pictures taken at the temple ground before the baby was born. We love pictures from home, especially of our grandkids.

Next we got to talk to Jared, Tere and our grandsons Kyle, Ethan and Tyler. They had great stories to tell about their trip to Texas for Spring break, etc. They are really excited about coming to the Dominican Republic in July to visit Hna Johnson and I. We are very excited too.

Our final Webcam call was to Nathan, Valerie and girls. We had a very good visit with them (Except for the revelation that the national health care bill was passed today, Nathan says he will have to lay off a third of the flower shop’s employees. I hope he was kidding!). We talked for over an hour and a quarter on the webcam.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

We arrived at the Casa de Huespedes at 8:45 this morning. All of our Duvergé friends were all ready to go. I left Hna. Johnson with the Jones’ while I took the Branch members to the bus stop “La Pintura”. Everyone said they had a good night’s sleep that they had a wonderful time attending the temple. Hna. Mecho’s mother kept saying how happy she is to be a member of the church.

Hna. Johnson went with the Elder Ivan & Hna. Ramona Jones (Caribbean Area Exec. Sec. & Asst.) to the Botanical Gardens here in Santo Domingo. It was a tight fit again to get everyone in the mission van but we did it. I left with the Duvergé members at about 9:15 and they were at the bus stop by 9:45. We said our goodbyes and took some final group pictures. These are really wonderful members of the church. They are so full of enthusiasm for the gospel that they just glow. They were telling me that the Elders were having a baptismal service at 10:00 this morning and how disappointed they all were that they wouldn’t be there.

Now that my work was done it was time for a p-day activity. Hna. Johnson has been very excited about the big orchid show at the National Botanical Gardens here in Santo Domingo ever since Elder Small told her about it 2 months ago. She has been hoping it would be at a time when we could go and it turned out to be perfect. Since I had to drive the Duvergé members to their bus stop, Hna. Johnson caught a ride with Elder & Hna. Jones to the Orchid show and I caught up with them later in the morning.

The orchids were fabulous and well worth the price of admission of DR$100.00 or about USD$2.80. I took tons of pictures and Hna. Jones and Hna. Johnson bought several orchid plants. They are beautiful. Of course pictures never do them justice but the pictures turned out real well none the less.

After touring all of the exhibits and buying plants and plant food, Hna. Johnson and I hopped on the “Train Tour” of the whole gardens. That was fun and we got to see parts of the garden we normally wouldn’t get to see. Hna. Johnson and I didn’t leave the orchid show until 12:30pm, by then it was very hot and since Hna. Johnson had been there for an hour and a half longer than I, she was fried to a crisp. A cold shower back at the apartment to get all of the sweat off really felt good.

This evening Elder Small (Companion to Elder Colby and Elder Barquero - a threesome companionship) got separated so he had to spend the evening with us in our apartment. We really enjoyed having him over. Of course Hna. Johnson invited him to eat with us. She makes great tostadas. Then afterwards he joined us in our nightly scripture reading. We rounded out the evening by playing “Go to Heck” until his companions came to pick him up at 9:30. Hna. Johnson and I love Elder Small as well as all of the missionaries. We consider then all to be our sons.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Friday, March 19, 2010

Wow what a busy and wonderful day today was. All morning I was at Centro de Servicio talking to people to resolve a host of problems. Dayanara, the chief accountant for our mission, had 4 problems on her list to resolve. Jarne German, the controller for Neyba & Duvergé had 3 things on her lsit. Carlos Rubio, the Caribbean computer expert, had 4 pressing matters on his plate. And finally Angel Cordero, the Caribbean Fleet manager had 3 unresolved problems with worked out. I was at Centro the Servicio almost 3 hours and I still had 2 more stops to get in before I could head back to the office. So much to do and so little time.

I was late getting back to the office so I had to skip my lunch. At 1:30 I had to meet the members of the Duvergé Branch at “La Pintura”, a very busy intersection where all of the buses from “El Campo” drop off their passengers. It’s a zoo. It is a 5 way intersections so clogged with traffic, mostly busses, that it usually takes 4 light changes to make it through. But I found our Duvergé bunch patiently waiting on one of the corners.

I picked them all up in the mission van. The van seats 11 and we needed every seat plus we had to have room for luggage and Hna. Mecho’s wheelchair. We got some exciting news from Hna. Mecho. Last Saturday her mother was baptized. It’s taken the family 8 years but now they are all members of the church!

We also picked up Hector & Iris Mendez and their 3 children. After the parents go through the Temple for their endowments; the family will be sealed together for time and all eternity. Last month when they saw Tuco (Hector’s brother) be sealed to his wife and family it gave them the extra push to become Temple worthy and have their own endowments taken out.

Hna. Mecho and Hector & Iris are all three first time temple goers. Also on the Temple excursion to are the three from last February, Tuco & Yazmin and Hno. Tomas Moquete. I dropped all 10 off at the Casa de Huespedes and got them signed in to their rooms. I had to hurry back to the office and pick up Hna. Johnson to be back in time for pictures outside the temple before they had to go in at 5:00pm.

We did experience a glitch. Hector & Iris and their 3 children were supposed to meet President Almonte before the temple session to have their final interviews and get their recommend’s signed. I made phone calls for a half hour before I finally reached Pres. Almonte and found out that he was having interviews and wouldn’t be able to attend. This required some last minute maneuvering. The final interviews and signatures on the recommends were done by Hno. De la Cruz, counselor in the Temple Presidency. I found out from Temple Pres. Harris that this is done in cases of emergencies.

And…. What a special night at the temple! Hna. Mecho in her custom fitted Temple clothes was one big smile. I can’t say enough about her and her wonderful spirit. She is undoubtedly the hardest working missionary in the church. She goes with Elders to all of their teaching appointments. She teaches and bears her fervent testimony. She is a wonderful asset to the branch. And now she has been through the temple for her own endowments. This was a true miracle in and of itself, considering the problems involved like distance and travel, as well as clothing.

After the endowment session Hector & Iris were sealed to their children. The ordinance was performed by Hno. Anatano, one of the Temple sealers. He did a great job. It was very special to see them all kneeing across the alter from each other. Also with us in the sealing room were the 3 former missionaries that taught the family the gospel 6 years ago. It was another special moment for everyone there.

The blessings of the Temple are simply wonderful, especially for a family that lives so far away that they might never attend had it not been for the dedication and hard work of Elder Jimenez. He alone deserves a lot of credit for these two Temple trips by the Duvergé members. It simply wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for him. Elder Jimenez has known for some time that this would be his last Translado in Duvergé so he has really put on a push to make it happen. He’s great, a real disciple of the Savior.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Thursday is my regular day to go to the Aduana. We had 10 packages to pick up. On my way back I stopped at the Citi bank to pick up checks for venders, Dueños and petty cash. The petty cash check is critical. Since IMOS makes it so hard to pay bill with a check we are spending tons of cash. When I got back to the office with the cash, everyone turned in their receipts they’ve been holding for reimbursement. By the end of the day our week’s worth of petty cash was all gone. We can’t get another petty cash check until next Wednesday.

Today we worked on the Final preparations for the Duvergé Temple trip tomorrow. Hna. Johnson has been in touch with the Temple Pres. and his wife (Donald and Diane Harris) about the special temple clothing Hna. Mecho needs since she is so small. One of the Temple workers, Sis. Svenson, is a seamstress and has been altering cloths for her. She found an old dress that was torn and due to be discarded. She has cut it down to Hna. Mecho’s size. All of the other robes of the temple have also been modified just for Hna. Mecho. It’s been a wonderful work of love by the temple staff. If it weren’t for these good volunteering folks Hna. Mecho wouldn’t be about to afford to attend the Temple.

Tonight Hna. Johnson went to the Fiesta gym to work out again. This makes 3 out of the last four evenings to exercise.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Hna. Johnson has been asked by the Mission President’s wife, Hna. Almonte to design several silk floral arrangements for the Mission Home. This is right up Hna. Johnson’s alley and of course she was delighted to accept the job. So, this afternoon we took a couple of hours off from the office to go shopping for vases and silk flowers. Ya… we like to shop! We went to a couple of our favorite stores, La Sirena and Jumbo. But, there is a new store in Santo Domingo that just opened for the first time last month. It is the IKEA! Hna. Johnson has been looking for an excuse to go to the IKEA. Well, buying materials for the silk arrangement was as good an excuse as any.

Later this evening we went to our branch’s “Noche de Amistad” (Friendship Night). Noche de Amistad is like a ward activity night and open house rolled into one. Members, missionaries and investigators meet at the chapel for an activity, games, singing, or just about anything fun. The Branch Secretary, Hno. Jean Pierson was in charge of tonight’s activity but he was late because of car trouble. It wouldn’t have mattered if he had come in his car anyway; he wouldn’t have been able to park it in the church parking lot because someone dumped to wrecked car right in front of the driveway. Hna. Johnson and I had to park on the street.

The Noche de Amistad went pretty well considering Hno. Pierson didn’t have anything planned. What he ended up doing was inviting Hna. Johnson and I to introduce ourselves and give a message. We enjoyed getting to know the members that were there and the evening’s activity went pretty well.
Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Well, it’s either very busy/hectic or very routine/slow in the mission office. This morning was both. Remember “IMOS”, our office computer’s “Internet Mission Operating System”? Well, one of the things that broke up the dull routine was the discovery by Hna. Johnson that our “old friend” IMOS (I hope you can recognize sarcasm when you see it) pulled a real doozy this time. Somehow some other church unit’s bills got mixed up with ours and they were added together. Our cell phone bill should have been pretty small but somehow IMOS wrote the check for over a half million pesos or USD$14,000.00 to “Orange” our cell phone provider. The discovery sent Hna. Johnson into her “Seek and Destroy” mode. The e-mails were really flying back and forth from the accountants at “Centro de Servicio” and our mission office. The error took an hour or so to straighten out. We really hate IMOS!

There is one good thing that has come from all the mistakes IMOS has caused. Hna. Johnson is an expert at using the office scanner and e-mailing scanned documents now. Just another notch on Hna. Johnson’s belt of office tasks learned while she has been serving here in the mission office. A few months ago she didn’t even know how to turn the scanner on much less use the thing.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Monday, March 15, 2010

Mondays haven’t seemed the same since we quit going to Neyba and Duverge for the weekends. Now we get to the office at the usual time, do our work and get home in time to go to FHE with the other Senior couples at the “Casa the Huespedes”. We are still going through a bit of culture shock. We are grateful to not be driving ten to twelve hours on the weekend but we will always miss our friends in Neyba and Duvergé.

One nice thing about leaving work at 5:00pm instead of 6:00 is the extra time allows Hna. Johnson and I to get our exercise. This evening we went to the Gym at the Dominican Fiesta and worked out. Hna. Johnson walked the treadmill and I swam laps for a half hour. We were back in our apartment, showered and in the car heading to FHE on time. In the past we usually didn’t get out of the office until 7:00 or 7:30. We were always too late to go to FHE with the other Senior couples.

This evening was a very special FHE at the “Casa de Huespedes”. (But then again they’ve always been great!) Elder Bowcut, Counselor in the Temple Presdcy., gave the lesson. It was inspirational, faith promoting and awe inspiring. He started out by saying that the most important souvenir that the Senior couples should take home with them from the Dominican Republic is a love of the people and an understanding of their culture and history. Yah… He’s right about that!

Elder Bowcut told us the history of the church in the Dominican Republic starting with the very first convert in 1978. He talked about the growth of the church until 2000 when the Temple was dedicated. It was fascinating to hear the stories. But the best was yet to come. He introduced two families to us that were some of the very first converts to the church. These “Dominican Pioneers” are good friends of the Bowcut’s and he invited them to FHE to tell their story of conversion to us. It was wonderful.

The first to speak and bear their testimonies to us were Hno.& Hna. Melendez. Bro. Melendez has been a member of the church for 30 years now and has served as a counselor to the Temple Pres. for four and a half years. The next to speak was Robert & Norma Reyes. Two of their daughters Karla & Khoina were with them tonight. Bro. Reyes is currently the Temple Secretary. Their stories of conversion were so powerful and touching that there wasn’t a dry eye in the room. It was truly a marvelous experience to hear them speak and bear such moving and fervent testimonies. Hna. Johnson and I really enjoy going to FHE with the other Senior couples.