Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Wow, what a long day full of activities! We started off at Elder Glen & Hna. Lilly Whitaker’s apartment at 8:00am. They are the office couple from the Santo Domingo East Mission. We rode with them to a beach called “Capella Beach” about 40 miles east of Santo Domingo. We snorkeled, swam and hunted sea shells until after noon.

The Whitaker’s have been on their mission for over 2 years. When they leave in April of 2011 it will be 2 ½ years they’ve been serving as the office couple in the East Mission. They do pretty much the same things there that Hna. Johnson and I do in our office. The Whitakers have a fun hobby. Each time they go to the beach they collect small sea shells. They use them to adorn pictures then the Elder in their mission use them as gifts for their investigators and Ward members. They really look good when they are all finished. They make hundreds of them at their own expense but there is very little cost to produce each picture.

We had a very good time with the Whitaker’s. We used special scoops and strainers to sift the sand for sea shells. We found a lot and brought back about 100 pounds of them. Hna. Johnson and I kept a small bag of shells for ourselves. The rest the Whitaker’s will use. I got pretty sunburned in a few places I missed with the sun screen. My head, face, neck, and arms were pretty protected but my legs are red as a beet plus a few spots on my arms I missed. I think I’m going to be pretty sore for a few days.

This is only the second time Hna. Johnson and I have gone to a beach since we’ve been on our mission. The first time was last January 19th in Samana. Prior to being released from our assignment in Neyba & Duvergé we didn’t have time to go to a beach or even have a p-day. But now we can take a day off and enjoy the company of some of the other senior couples here in the Dominican Republic.

There really is treasure in the Caribbean. While at the beach we sifted the sand for pretty sea shells and we also found 2 US pennies. But the biggest treasure wasn’t found but lost in the sand of Capella Beach. As we drove back home Hna. Johnson discovered that the largest diamond in her wedding ring was gone. Sometime during the morning it must have come off and is lost for good. She is really heart sick over the loss. She keeps saying, “I knew I shouldn’t have worn it to the beach.” I think it is high time she got a new larger diamond for her wedding band anyway. Now I have the perfect excuse to buy it for her.

This afternoon we were at the Temple preparing the rental clothing for the Elders & Hermanas in the “Las Palmas” Zone when they all go to the Temple with Pres. & Hna. Almonte next Tuesday. The Temple workers really appreciate the help when we line up all of the rental clothes for the missionaries in advance.

After the Temple we were off to the “Feria del Libro” (Book Fair) in the Cultural Plaza in down town Santo Domingo. We paid a visit to the churches pavilion at the fair. The exhibit is all on genealogy and family history work. The building has been under construction for a month and was done and ready to go in time for the fair’s grand opening day before yesterday.

The “Feria de Libro” is a huge event and a great missionary tool. They estimate over a million people will enter the grounds of the Cultural Plaza before it’s over. There are over 200 booths and pavilions set up on the plaza. The public relations missionary for the Caribbean, Elder Mehr, estimates that there will be over twenty thousand people go through our pavilion during the 18 day run of the fair. Those that are interested can have two missionaries drop by their home with more information about the family history work our church does and why.

Next Hna. Johnson and I were off to a store called “Plaza Lama” to try to find silk plants for Hna. Hendricks, the wife of the Santo Domingo MTC. She has a project for Hna. Johnson to do in silk plants. Unfortunately we didn’t find much in silk and this is the 4th store we’ve looked in over the past 2 weeks. She did like their selection of baskets and Hna. Johnson came up with some real good ideas on using them for the project. We will continue our search for large silk plants.

This evening we did something we rarely do. We went out to dinner at a restaurant. I can probably count on the fingers of one hand the number of times we’ve been out to a sit-down restaurant in the past 8 months. It is called “Chef Pepper” and came highly recommended by several people. We weren’t disappointed. We loved the food. I hope we can make it back to eat there again soon.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Friday, April 23, 2010

First thing this morning Hna. Johnson and I were off to Bani with a load of supplies and mail for the South AP’s. We were very short on supplies though, again, Centro de Servicio is out of Book of Mormon’s and most of the pamphlets the missionaries use. But we did have a lot of mail and other supplies to deliver.

The AP’s were in Bani because Pres. Almonte was holding Zone interviews there. President Almonte has to interview every missionary in the mission at least once every “Translado” (transfer, every 6 weeks) so today was the Bani Zone’s turn. Hna. Almonte also does her physical checkup of all the missionaries too. She takes blood pressure, weight, etc. The Elders in Bani were having a good time being together as a Zone, waiting for their turn to be interviewed, talking with old friends & companions, and eating the birthday cake Hna. Almonte always brings with her to celebrate all of the birthdays during the “Translado”.

Hna. Johnson and I usually take the office Pick-up when we go to the “South” to make a delivery run. But this time the office Elders needed to go to San Cristobal to negotiate the termination of a house rental contract. So Hna. Johnson and I took our personal blue Toyota Corolla. This was a first for us. After the office Elders finished there I had them go to the “Temple Store” for me which I normally do on Friday mornings.

When the office Elders and Hna. Johnson all got back at noon we had lunch together. Today is Elder Barquero’s twenty-second birthday. Earlier in the week Hna. Johnson asked him what his favorite dish was (Hna. Johnson has a tradition of preparing her son’s favorite dish on their birthday when they were growing up). Elder Barquero told her it was Lasagna so Hna. fixed us all a large lunch of her home made Lasagna. It was very good. Elder Barquero loved it, Hna. Johnson treats all of the office Elders and AP’s like her own sons.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

In the office today Hna. Johnson spent most of the day inputting “Reimbolsos” (Reimbursements) for the missionaries. There were a ton, the most she’s ever had in a single day’s entries. I spent a lot of time on the computer making a map for Elder Fitch in San Juan/Mesopotamia. Every “Area Book” is supposed to contain a detailed map of the area. But the Mesopotamia Area has never had one. In fact there are none available at the map store. I created their map from the satellite view of San Juan in “Google Earth”. It is fun, I enjoy making maps.

Today we got word back from the states on two of our Elders that were sent home to recover from serious illnesses. Elder Danny LaMoure (See January 27, 2010) went home in February. He has made a complete recovery and will reenter the mission field. However he will not be back in the Dominican Republic. He has been reassigned to the serve in a Texas Spanish Speaking Mission. This is really good news. Elder LaMoure will be a great missionary.

The news about Elder Joshua Cummings of Farmington, UT. was not as good. (See January 25 and February 26, 2010) He is still very ill but at least the doctors have finally diagnosed his problem. While he was serving in Madre Vieja he picked up a parasite called a “Hook Worm”. This is a particularly bad critter! But now that they know what they are fighting against he will get the correct treatments so he can make a full recovery. Our Prayers are with him as he fights this parasite.

For the second week in a row the “Noche de Amistad” failed to materialize at the “Los Arroyos” Branch. But again I got to watch the youth in the parking lot make games for themselves with a half flat basketball. Hna. Johnson was inside with the Primary President and her two daughters, Jana (1) and Yana (3). They are really cute, real dolls.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

In addition to our regular Monday work load Hna. Johnson and I spent most of the day preparing for our next “Translado” (Transfer) even though it is 3 weeks away. We prepared all of the “Ficha Placas” (Picture Plates) for the President’s large transfer board in his office. He is already starting to think about “transfer scenarios” and where he will put the 11 new Elders and 3 new Hermanas that will arrive in our mission on May 11th. The Lord has a real hard worker in President Almonte. It is a pleasure to work in his shadow.

This afternoon at 3:00 Pres. & Hna. Almonte came into the office. They don’t make it into the Mission office very often so it was nice to visit with them. The President had an appointment with our account executive from “Orange”, our Cell phone provider. The President has been seeing specials offered by the competitor to Orange, “Claro” by Codetel. After the meeting Pres. Almonte told me that he was satisfied with our current contract and that we weren’t going to change companies. The account executive from Orange must have done a good sales job because Pres. Almonte is always looking for a way to save the mission money. He is very frugal and doesn’t waste a cent of the Lord’s money.

However his personal money is a different matter. He is very generous with his own money. When he was Stake President in La Vega he would us his own money to charter buses for his stake to use on all day excursions to attend the temple. Before he was called to be Mission President, Pres. Almonte owned several companies. He is a lawyer, a contractor, an investor and an architect.

An interesting thing happened while Pres. Almonte was in the office. His laptop is acting up and the church’s computer expert, Carlos Rubio, in Centro de Servicio hasn’t been able to fix all the problems. It still works but he’s been shopping for a new one. There is no computer in Pres. Almonte’s personal office so I let him log onto the internet with my laptop. He has seen my laptop before and even used it on occasion but this time he pointed to my laptop and said, “That’s the laptop I want”. Within minutes we were pouring through Costco’s website and looking at laptop’s for sale.

It was just about a year ago that I bought my laptop on line at Costco and the same computer is still there today only a little cheaper. As President Almonte looked at the pictures and description he was as giddy as a little child in a candy shop. He commented, “We don’t have anything like this here”. After he looked at them all he really did want a laptop just like mine. But President Almonte wanted double the gigs so he chose one with 500gigs for an extra $150.00.

Now I get to phone/webcam Jared & Tere to tell them that they will have a little extra weight in their luggage when they come to Santo Domingo in July to visit us. President Almonte is willing to wait until then to get his new laptop.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Monday, April 19, 2010

All day Friday & Saturday and half a day on Sunday President Almonte was in a Training seminar with the Area Presidency and all of the Mission Presidencies of the Caribbean. It was a great seminar. Today President Almonte called a Zone Leaders training meeting and taught the same material to the AP’s as well as all of the Zone leaders in the capital. Normally Monday is p-day for the missionaries but President Almonte doesn’t let the grass grow under his feet. Every time he has an Area Mission President’s training meeting he immediately starts to use the material to train his Elders. He does a great job too.

Hna. Johnson and I don’t get to attend any of the Zone training meetings or District meetings. We have our hands full with office work, especially on Mondays when there is always extra to do. And since we got out of the office a little late we got to the Gym late and so we missed FHE with the other senior couples. Oh well, we’ll try harder next week. We like FHE with the other seniors.
Sunday, April 18, 2010

Rain and more rain. Yesterday afternoon when Hna. Johnson and I went to work out at the Dominican Fiesta Gym is was sprinkling. It was raining harder when I finished on the “Nordic Track” and Hna. Johnson finished on the “Tread mill”. It was really coming down hard we went to the pool to finish our workout as we usually do. I did 16 laps freestyle and Hna. Walked laps in the shallow end for another 15 minutes of our workout; all in the rain.

The rest of the evening it continued to rain off and on; sometimes light and sometimes real hard. When we left for church this morning it was still raining and finally stopped at about 4:00 in the afternoon. What a nice and welcomed rain. The weather patterns have definitely changed. According to the chart I found next month is the true beginning of the rainy season but this day long rain was surely needed in this country.
Saturday, April 17, 2010

We had kept this day on our calendar free because our “Dueña” (landlord) told us last week that she was going to have an air conditioning unit installed in our living room window. That was great news. The summers here are stiflingly hot and humid. We really need the AC in the rest of our apartment not just in the bedrooms. But unfortunately I talked to Nieves last night and found out the installation would not happen today so Hna. Johnson and I spent the whole morning cleaning our apartment.

After lunch we headed over to the “Zona Colonial” again (See: Saturday, March 13, 2010). This time we took the tour of the 16th Century home (Museum) of Don Diego, the son of Christopher Columbus. The tour was only a hundred pesos each and that included an electronic device that hung around our necks. Through earphones we could hear a recorded message in English of every room and artifact in the building. It was very interesting and informative. It was well worth the price and enjoyable.

Next we headed over to the Temple. Like last Saturday, we pre-sorted and prepared all of the Temple clothes for the missionaries that will be attending the temple next Tuesday from the “Los Caobas” Zone here in the capital. It is very helpful to the Temple staff to have everything pre-laid out for them when so many missionaries converge on the temple at once.

When Hna. Johnson and I left the temple we experienced one of those “Tender Mercies” that Elder Bednar talked about in his General Conference talk in April 2005 Click to see talk
(See also: Monday, January 18, 2010) We accidently ran into two couples from Duvergé that had just come out of the Temple! Tuco & Yazmin and Alexis & Dehika Mendez. We had no idea they were coming to the Temple today. We were with Tuco & Yazmin when they took out their own endowments on Wednesday February 10. Alexis & Dehika have only been members of the church since last July so they were there to do Baptisms for the dead. They are really looking forward to this July when they will also be sealed as a family.

Hna. Johnson and I were ecstatic to see all four of them at the Temple today. The last two times they came to the Temple it was part of a Temple excursion put on and largely paid for by President Almonte. But this time they came all on their own with no help from us or the mission. They planned it, paid for it and pulled it off because of their own personal desire and drive to attend the Temple and feel the spirit of the Lord there. We are so delighted and pleased with the progress they have made since last summer.

And speaking of “Tender Mercies” I forgot to mention one that happened to me last Thursday when I went to the Aduana to pick up packages for the Elders. The story starts the week before when I was given the wrong package and I had to return to the Aduana and exchange it for the correct one. In the Aduana the packages are not in my possession until they are loaded into the trunk of my car. However I do get to move all of the packages from one inspector’s table to another during the process so last week I decided that for that brief moment I would look at each one of the names on the packages to make sure they are for our missionaries. So last Thursday I did just that, as I moved the packages I glanced at the names on each of the nine packages to make sure they were all for our mission.

When I got back to the mission office, Hna. Johnson and I sorted the packages. To our dismay the inspector that cuts open the packages tore off the label and packing slip of one of them. There was no indication inside or out who the package should go to. That is when the “Tender Mercy” happened. I have no short term memory. If someone tells me three names in a row, I can remember the first one, half of the second and none of the third. But the Lord’s “Tender Mercy” was upon me that afternoon. I sat down to make a list and I remembered every one of the 9 names I had seen for only a moment hours before. It was a small but very important miracle. Had it not been for the Lord’s “Tender Mercies” some Elder in the mission wouldn’t have received an important package from home. The Lord is very merciful.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Thursday, April 15, 2010

This evening I got to see Elder Sanchez (See April 5th and April 7th). He is in great spirits even though he still looks scrapped up after he was hit by a car but at least the scabs are all off from his “Road Rash”. He is already being sent back to work as a missionary. The Capital AP’s were taking him to his new area here in the city. On Monday April 5th he was hit by a car. On Wednesday April 7th he was sent home to recuperate and recover. This evening he is back at work in the mission fields. What a resilient Elder!

Friday, April 16, 2010

This morning I went to “Centro de Servicio” and to the “Tienda del Templo” for my weekly “diligencias”. My stop at Centro de Servicio was unusually quick. I had very little business to do there. I dopped off mail and picked up mail and that was about it.

But my stop at the Tienda del Templo took two hours. I had an unusually high number of orders to fill for many, many missionaries. Word has gotten out to them that there is a special being run on the price of garments. The old price was $60.00 pesos each, making a pair $120.00 or about $3.30 in US Dollars. But now the price has been reduced to $25.00 pesos each, $50.00 per pair or USD$1.35. That is a huge discount. The “Tienda” has had such a run on the Garments that they had to put a limit of 4 pair per person. However they let missionaries have as many as they want. I had one Elder that ordered 15 pair! The trunk of my car was full of orders for missionaries.

This afternoon I took my mission car, 2008 blue Toyota Corolla, to the car was. It is interesting that here in a country where Spanish is the national language, all car washes are called a “Car Wash”. The one I went to is named “Le Car Wash”. There are car washes everywhere, in the city, in the country, even very small towns will have a car wash and everyone is a “Car Wash”.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Also interesting thing about car washes, they are all hand washed. There are no mechanical car washes in the Dominican Republic. This afternoon my car wash cost me $200.00 pesos or about $5.50 US Dollars. They did a good job.
Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Good news from Elder Cesar Valdez, he’s feeling better (See Monday, April 12). He saw the Area Doctor as well as a couple other specialists and has been receiving medication. I don’t know yet when he will be heading back to his proselyting area in Tamayo.

Tonight Hna. Johnson and I went to the “Noche de Amistad” (Friendship night) at the Los Arroyos branch. They hold it every Wednesday night at 7:00pm. Tonight there were a lot of members there, about 30 or 40 I think. However the brother in charge couldn’t come and there was no water in the building so the toilets couldn’t be flushed to the Branch Secretary sent everyone home at about 7:45.

But the youth still had a great time playing in the parking lot while they were there. A large group of youth were playing a real rough game of keep-away with a half flat basketball. Three of the young boys were doing back flips on the grass. The slope of the hill was very steep and as they ran up the hill to the top they jumped and did a back flip back to the bottom of the hill. They were having a good time showing off. And there was another group of about 6 boys spinning tops, winning points if they could strike a “target top”. It brought back old memories; I haven’t played that game since I was a kid.
Tuesday, April 13, 2010 (Hump Day)

Today was our “Hump Day” in the mission. We arrived at the MTC in Provo, UT on the 13th of July. We didn’t do anything special (no tie burnings, etc.) just a regular day in the office of work, work, work. It is hard to believe that half of our mission is already over. Where does the time go? The weeks just seem to fly by, probably because we are so busy doing the work of the Lord. And we wouldn’t have it any other way. We love our mission, we love the missionaries we serve with and we love the Lord. This is exactly where we are supposed to be, at exactly the time we are supposed to be here. Every day of the year we are reminded by the little miracles we see that this is His work and he directs this mission through His inspired servants like Pres. Juan E Almonte.

This evening we did celebrate after a fashion. We went to our local video rental store and rented the new Disney movie “The Princess and the Frog”. After we got back from our evening workout at the Dominican Fiesta we watch it. It was good, we liked it.

We really need rain here in the capital. The park across the street from our apartment is completely brown. Most of the trees have lost their leaves and the grass has been dead and brown for three months. This is a stark contrast from when we arrived in the DR in July last year and everything was lush and green. I remember describing the countryside as more jungle than forest. Well, not anymore.

We have only had two significant rain storms in the DR since October. One storm around thanksgiving and the second that lasted 3 days at Christmas but I think the weather patterns are finally changing. For the past two weeks we’ve had some cloud cover (off and on) over the capital. Some of the clouds have even looked black and threatening but the most we’ve gotten out of them is a couple of sprinkles. However last night we had a nice thunder storm and downpour that lasted an hour. It wasn’t much but it will be welcomed relief for this parched country.
Monday, April 12, 2010

This morning Hna. Johnson and I left early for Bani to make a mail & supply run to the South AP’s. On our way back we stopped by the ZL’s (Zone Leaders) of San Cristobal and Madre Vieja to drop off mail and supplies to them too. It was very reminiscent of the old days when we made the trip to the “South” every weekend and delivered supplies and mail. We were back in the capital and back to work by 10:30. The only difference from the old days is that we didn’t spend the night in Azua, it was just a quick trip out and back.

We have another sick Elder in the mission. He is Elder Cesar Valdez in Tamayo. He is having lower abdominal pain and swelling and he came to the capital today for an ultra sound to see if they can find the source of the problem. He actually feels pretty good and is still able to work. He is in very good hands.

It always seems like there is a missionary or two always sick in the mission. But considering that there are about 200 missionaries in the mission, one or two only represents one or two percent of the missionaries that are ever seriously ill at the same time.

This evening we attended FHE with the Seniors in the “Casa” again and were spiritually fed. Elder Ivan & Hna. Ramona Jones (Area Exec. Sec. & Asst. Sec.) were in charge tonight and they had a church hymn theme. For the last half of the FHE we were given the opportunity to stand up and tell a story about our favorite hymn and then we all sang it together. Wow, the stories were wonderful, the music was inspiring and the refreshments were delicious.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

This morning in the “Los Arroyos” Branch my elder’s quorum lesson went pretty well I think. At least I think all of the men in the elder’s quorum understood what I said and I think I understood them very well. This was my first lesson and I will be teaching the second and third Sunday each month from now on. This was a very good experience for me. It challenged my Spanish language skills and made me stretch the limits of my ability.

I was a little apprehensive about the lesson and being able to get the quorum members to participate and spontaneously comment and add their feelings to the discussion. And I was worried that if they did speak openly and freely about the gospel subjects that I might not understand their comments well enough to keep the discussion on track and not let them get off on some non gospel tangent. Well, my fears were unfounded. Everyone participated and were very eager to add to the discussion. There are several returned missionaries in the quorum and they all helped keep the discussion on track. It all went very well.

Hna. Johnson is still struggling with the primary. She told me on our way home that the children are completely out of control. They won’t do as they are asked. They will simply get up and leave the primary room if they want and run the halls. She is very frustrated as are the other primary leaders. Today Hna. Johnson said she really had to clamp down on their unruliness. For a time she even blocked the door and even though she couldn’t speak to the kids in Spanish she let them know they couldn’t leave. They weren’t very happy about and she said one of them even spit on her.

Well, over the years I’ve learned that when it comes to a battle of wills, you don’t want to take on Hna. Johnson. She will win every time. Some of the children weren’t very happy with her but there was control and order in the primary today. Hna. Johnson says they still need more adult help in the primary. Hopefully they will get more leaders called soon.

This afternoon we invited the office Elders over to our apartment for dinner. Hna. Johnson loves to feed her adopted sons. She prepared a pot roast with mashed potatoes and gravy, canned corn & green beans, dinner rolls and “lemon-lime aid. It was a great meal. She topped off the meal with hot apple crumb cobbler with vanilla ice cream. Mmmm Gooood! The Elders loved it.

While the Elders were waiting for the meal to be put on the table they were very busy on the phones collecting their end-of-week reports from all of the elders in their districts. Next the AP’s started receiving phone calls from all of the Zone leaders from the whole mission with their reports. This is something they do ever Sunday afternoon and today was no different. All four of the elders were very busy and they do a great job. When they leave this afternoon they will go back to the mission office and input all of the numbers. By tomorrow morning the mission’s proselyting statistics for every companionship will be in front of the mission president. These are very hard working and dedicated Elders.