Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Friday, June 25, 2010

Today we opened our envelope from SLC with new “Placas” (Missionary Name Tags). Every month or so Hna. Johnson has to order replacements or extras for missionaries that loose them or that get broken. In today’s package was a new Placa for Elder Thorup. Elder Thorup needed a new one because Dominicans have a hard time pronouncing his name. In Spanish the “h” is silent and they almost always pronounce the last consonant so softly it can’t be heard. They have no word that resembles “Toru” so when they repeat the word back to him they usually say the only word they know that is close, “Toro”. He has given up trying to teach Dominicans a word they can’t say and asked Hna. Johnson to get him a new missionary name tag. No one has a problem pronouncing his name now, he is “Elder Toro”.

It’s been raining off and on all day. Occasionally huge black clouds role in accompanies by lightning crackling all around. This evening Hna. Johnson and I were about to go to the gym to exercise. She asked me if we were going to drive to the gym. I said it’s only 100 yards from our apartment to the front door of the Fiesta Hotel & Gym. She finally agreed that we would walk but she said, “We’re going to get wet!”

We… one of those huge black clouds was raining on us as we walked over to the hotel. Half way there a brilliant flash was followed by a deafening clap of thunder. It was very very close. Hna. Johnson shrieked, “get me out of here!” We probably should have driven the 100 yards to the gym, it probably wasn’t a good idea for each of us to be carrying our personal lightning rods over our heads in the form of an umbrella. Needless to say we picked up our pace to get there.
Thursday, June 24, 2010

Another day of rain, we love it. Even the Elders don’t seem to mind. Elder Colby warned Elder Thorup about crossing the boulevard “27 de Febrero”, he said the water was half way to his knees. Elder Thorup said, “No problem, I’ve got a pair of ‘water shoes’ I can wear!”

I had a new experience at the “Aduana” (Customs). While I was there the lights went out. The package pick-up area I go to is deep inside a very large building with no windows. It was pitch black inside. All of the staff were using the light from their cell phone displays as flash lights to find their way around, ingenious but not enough light to do their work. I was half way through the check out process when the power went off. They told me I would have to wait until the power came back on to finish the paperwork. I pulled my “Maglite” off of my belt to put some light on the paper work. My flashlight literally lit up the room. But to no avail, the Aduana staff said they still wouldn’t work in the dark. Rather than wait until the power came back on I left for the “Temple Store” to make purchases and returned in an hour. The lights were back on by then and I could finish my checkout at the Aduana.

This morning Pres. Almonte had interviews with two returning missionaries. They have finished their two years of service in the Santiago Mission here in the D.R. One is returning to Nizao, in the Bani District and the other is going home to Las Matas in the San Juan district. Since these two towns are in “Mission Districts” they are under Pres. Almonte. He does all of the interviews for departing and returning full time missionaries for all four of the mission districts he is over.

I can’t believe how busy Pres. Almonte is. He has all of the responsibilities of a mission president that oversees 200 missionaries. Plus he has the responsibilities of being the equivalent of a Stake President to four Mission districts! I don’t know how he does it; I don’t know where he finds the time. Being a mission president has got to be one of the hardest (long grueling hours of hard work) jobs in the church. I really admire Pres. Almonte and the selfless hours of service he puts in as Mission President. He is a great man, a spiritual giant.

This evening five senior couple had dinner with the Almonte’s. In spite of the flooded road to get to the restaurant we had a wonderful evening. President Almonte loves sea food so he picked out the restaurant we went to. Pres. Almonte heard that “Marisco Sully” was a good sea food restaurant; neither the Almonte’s nor any of the other senior couples have eaten there before. We were very pleased we found “Marisco Sully”. All of our dinners were wonderful and the price was very reasonable. We really enjoyed the meal, the company, and the conversation. We’ve already made plans to do it again next week!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The island has really taken a pounding from the rain. Today the third tropical depression has settled over the DR since last Saturday. It rained most of the day but was interrupted by brief moments of cloudless skies then it would start up again.

Last Sunday when the first tropical depression was over the island the Provence of San Juan was hit very hard with torrential rain. One of the apartments we rent for Elders in the San Juan Zone is close to a creek that overflowed its banks. They had 3 feet of standing water in their apartment. It subsided quickly but a lot of their personal things got wet and all of the Zone’s pamphlets and Book of Mormons were reuined.

Today during my trip to Citi Bank I missed a good photo I wanted. A “Motor” (Motorcycle) from a local “Comado” (Neighborhood Store) drove past me in the pouring rain. The driver had a bag of groceries in his hand he was to deliver. As protection against the rain he wore a trash bag with holes cut for his head and arms. He wore a plastic shopping bag on his head. He wore 4 shopping bags with holes cut in them, 2 on each arm. He wore shopping bags on each of his shoes to keep them dry and he held his feet up in the air as he drove through 8 inches of standing water. The grocery bags were all from different grocery stories. He was very colorful as he drove through the rain. And they were all out in it. I saw no reduction in the number of “Motores” from any normal (dry) day.

Also, on my way to Citi Bank I was about 3 blocks out from the office when I noticed two men walking in the pouring rain without umbrellas. Even from a distance and in spite of the poor visibility I could see they had missionary name tags on. I pulled over and gave them a ride. They were Elder Colby and Elder Fleurime on their way to the office to input baptism records into the mission office computers. They were drenched, really soaked to the bone. They should really get a couple of umbrellas.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010 (Traslados)

Well, it happened again, another surprise at “Traslados” (Transfers). When we got to the transfer chapel this morning at 6:45 we discovered that our mission had been given a missionary we weren’t expecting. Yesterday we were very surprised to discover that one of missionaries was missing so we would be short one, now this morning we find out we will have another missionary. The reason is that one of the missionaries at the “CCM” (MTC) in Santo Domingo was supposed to leave for Puerto Rico. However her Visa did not arrive so she will be working in our mission until it does. It’s great though. She will fit into the place that was already prepared for the Hermana that didn’t make it to the CCM. Pres. Almonte and the AP’s can handle any unforeseen turn of events without batting an eye.

Still, we only received 5 missionaries today. That is the smallest group we’ve received since we’ve been here. The total number of missionaries in the mission has dropped to 194 but next transfer it will go up a little bit. We seem to be holding pretty steady between 190 and 205 missionaries.

Our five missionaries came to us from the USA (1) the Dominican Republic (2) and El Salvador (2). They are all great young missionaries. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, they are the Lord’s finest. It is a privilege to be here and to work with them.

We finally have our Mission Office credit cards back! After weeks of working with “Centro de Servicio” and SLC, the block has finally been lifted on both of the mission office credit cards. It has been a struggle for Hna. Johnson to keep the mission on a solid financial footing without them but late this afternoon we finally received an e-mail from Hna. Fildel Filpo, the brother in charge of all the credit cards in the Caribbean Area, that all of the problems have been fixed and we can finally start using the cards again. Yahoo! Good work Hna. Johnson!
Monday, June 21, 2010

It’s the day before traslados and it’s very busy in the office. Last night Pres. Almonte was doing his regularly scheduled interviews of all of the office Elders. Afterward he was talking to the AP’s about all of the changes that were planned for Tuesday. Then he announces a whole new set of changes. He changed almost everything. The AP’s have been on the office computers since Friday preparing all of the documents for the traslado; things like move schedules, bus schedules, fleet schedules, transfer board, new zone lists, phone lists, etc. Most of it had to be redone from scratch. The AP’s were up until 2:00am working on the various projects and they still had more to do this morning.

Then this afternoon we received another shocker. Hna. Hendrick, wife of the MTC President, called Hna. Johnson this afternoon to touch base on tomorrow’s traslado. Quite by accident we found out that one of our five new missionaries isn’t even at the MTC. It turns out the missionary was a no-show when the whole group arrived 3 weeks ago, but no one bothered to tell SLC or us. This means that tomorrow we will only be getting 4 missionaries instead of 5 and the AP’s have more work ahead of them to fixing all of the traslado documents again. They may never get to sleep again… well not really; this last fix only took them a few minutes change. Even so they are both hard working and dedicated Elders. I’ve never heard them complain once about their duties, the hours they have to put in or anything.

This afternoon the office Elders picked up some oil paintings from an investigator in Haina. We found out from Elder Thorup that a few months ago he and his companion, Elder Gomez, tracted out a painter. They taught him and his family the lessons but they have still not been baptized. However he offered to paint a picture of Elder Thorup and his companion teaching the gospel. The price was very good, $800.00 DRPesos or about $22.00USD. It turned out so good that several other Elders have commissioned similar works. I wouldn’t be surprised if Hna. Johnson doesn’t send me out there to find him someday soon!

We left for FHE early this evening and it was a good thing too, it rained all the way there and all the way back. The rainy season is definitely upon us now. The satellite Doppler shows a large tropical depression sitting right over the whole island and a second one is covering the rest of the Caribbean Sea.

FHE was very good too. It was taught by Hna. Brenda Parker, wife of the Caribbean Area lawyer. She taught us the importance of doing family history (genealogy) work. She is an expert and a great resource for any of us that wants to learn how to use the new Family Search on line. Family history work is very important, “Redeeming the Dead” is one of the three main purposes of the church. However the other two, “Perfect the Saints” and “Preach the Gospel” are occupying all of our time at the moment, so I’m afraid that “Redeeming the Dead” will have to wait until we get home.
Sunday, June 20, 2010 (Father’s Day)

I taught the Elder’s Quorum lesson this morning in the Los Arroyos Branch. The subject was on the life of Christ. A note to the instructor at the beginning of the lesson said there was too much material to cover in one class; the manual was right. The life of the Savior would take its own manual and a year or two to teach it. But in spite of that, the manual had the lesson material very well presented. As brief as the overview of the Savior’s life was, the lesson manual still quoted over 40 different scripture passages. Of course we didn’t have time to look up each one but by the end of the class all of the material was covered and the brethren in the class participated and contributed a great deal. The best part was at the end when a few of the brethren and I got to bear our testimonies of the Savior.

Hna. Johnson had a good time in the nursery today. The little children really like her and they run into her arms as soon as they see her coming. She has games, coloring books and simple lessons for them.

She had a much better experience in the nursery today than last week. Last week older children were running loose in the hall and would come in and disrupt the class and try to steal the toys, games, crayons, etc. She caught one of the little boys and he refused to give her back one of the toys. Hna. Johnson said he got mad and spit on her! Nothing like that happened today.

This afternoon and evening we spent almost 3 hours on the webcam with our family. Hna. Johnson got to see and talk to her dad, Jim Burk for Father’s Day as well as her mother Betty Burk. She got a bonus too, her brother Gary Burk was at the house to visit so she got to talk & see him too. We all had a very nice visit, we talked for an hour!

We also received several phone/Webcam calls from several of our sons wishing me a Happy Father’s Day. It is always great to spend our Sunday afternoons and evening talking to and seeing our family on the Webcam.

A month or so ago Hna. Johnson discovered an electronic greeting card service. It is called Blue Mountain eCards. They have all sorts of eCards to choose from, all with animation, music and everything. For a nominal fee they will deliver her greeting card to anyone she wants on the day she wants with her personalized message. It’s a great service and she loves it. For example, weeks ago she sent Father’s Day cards to all of the dads in her life to arrive today. We all got them just like she planned!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Saturday, June 19, 2010

We got home late last night and discovered that the power went off in our neighborhood at about 11:00pm. We set up fans in our bedroom to try and keep cool. It was very hard to sleep in the heat compounded by a very load party going on outside of our apartment window. This is the second weekend in a row with very, VERY load Dominican Rap music blaring through our window.

The power did finally come back on so we slept in this morning. We got a late start cleaning our apartment. We didn’t clean it last week so the project was a must for today. Last week I discovered dust mop heads for sale at Price Smart. They had no handles just the washable mop heads. I kept an eye out all week for a dust mop handle but evidently Dominican’s don’t dust mop, they sweep. I was just glad to find the dust mop heads at Price Smart. After I rigged a makeshift dust mop handle My apartment cleaning chores became instantly easier. Especially since a dust mop cleans a floor much better than a broom, the whole apartment is cleaner than I’ve ever gotten it before.

After lunch we did our usual grocery shopping. But we also stopped at a nursery to do some plant buying to decorate our apartment a little. We’ve driven by a small neighborhood nursery several times in the past but this is the first time we’ve actually stopped in to take a look. Hna. Johnson was delighted with the huge selection of plants they had for sale. She picked out some really nice house ones for our apartment. She has some great decorating ideas.

Friday, June 18, 2010

This morning first thing I was off to Centro de Servicios, Citi Bank and Print City. There were lots of errands to run and they all had to be in the right order. I couldn’t pick up the missions large printing order at Print City until I picked up their check at Citi Bank. I couldn’t pick up the check at Citi Bank until they were done printing at 10:30. The only place I could go at 9:00am was to Centro de Servicios because they were the only thing open that early.

“PME” or “Predicar Mi Evangelio” (Preach My Gospel) is the manual every missionary uses to teach investigators. I remember receiving one back in my home ward in Mesa when they came out years ago. Our mission prints a pocket size version for each of the new arrivals every tranlado. This morning I was at Print City picking up a large printing run, 50 copies, of the “PME” manuals. The Elders carry this pocket version in their back packs everywhere they go so they can always pull it out and study any time they have a spare minute. The pocket size or “Pequeño” in Spanish, is a great recourse for the missionaries.

Hna. Johnson and I are working constantly preparing for “Traslados” (Transfers) next Tuesday. It’s hard to believe another traslados is already upon us. I’m always hurrying to finish my projects at the last minute. But Hna. Johnson is much more organized than I am, she starts a month early getting every detail ready. When traslados get close, she’s putting the finishing touches on her project while I’m just starting some of mine.

This afternoon at 3:15 we headed to the “Casa de Huespedes” and the “Temple Tienda”. I had lots of supplies to purchase for all of the missionaries. Next Hna. Johnson and I got our hair cut by Hna. Carmen Furcal again. This schedule of getting our haircut on the Friday before traslados has turned into a routine for us. It works very nicely into our schedule.

While at the “Casa” I also met with Hno. Ramirez who is one of the managers at the “CCM” (Spanish for MTC or Mission Training Center). Among his other duties he makes sure all of the new missionaries get a “MyLDSMail.com” e-mail address they will use throughout their missions. This traslado there are two Hna. Missionaries that haven’t been about to get their new e-mail accounts set up. These are very necessary because the new arrivals have to be about to e-mail the mission president with their weekly letters and progress reports.

I also discovered that Hno. Ramirez has a side job. He makes “Has Lo Justo” (Choose The Right) rings. I’m considering having one made. The “Tienda del Templo” (Temple Store) stopped carrying the “HLJ” (CTR) rings last year. If anyone wants one here in the DR the ring must be custom made.

This evening we were invited to the Berkley’s home for dinner and games. Kathleen & Jim Berkley are from Brigham City, UT. They are the Senior couple here in the DR doing records preservation. I found their stories of their duties very interesting. Using very sophisticated cameras and computers, they spend their whole day making photo copies of very old Dominican birth, death and marriage records.

We arrived at the Berkley’s apartment as soon as we were done at the “Casa”, about 5:30pm. We went out to dinner at a great little Chinese restaurant near the East Mission Office.

I love Chinese food and it seems the Dominicans do too. There are Chinese restaurants and “Pica Pollo” (Chinese Fast food) places on every corner here in the DR. I read an article that said that many years ago Dominicans took a liking to Chinese food. Mom & Pop corner restaurants or “Pico Pollo” restaurants sprang up everywhere that were owned and operated by Chinese immigrants. Today these “Pico Pollo” restaurants are still run by the second and third generation of Chinese. I find it very interesting to listen to a Chinese person speaking perfect “Dominican Spanish” to their customers but then they turn and speak Chinese to the kitchen staff. It’s great.
Thursday, June 17, 2010

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

First thing this morning I was off to “Caribe Tours”, the largest bus line in the country. The San Juan Zone leader, Elder Hernandez, sent an envelope on the bus for the mission office. Normally the AP’s in the South would bring it in but San Juan is so far away that the AP’s don’t make it out to them every week. All of the missionaries in the Zone had a lot of “Reembolsos” (Reimbursements) to turn in to the office for repayment. The Elders all over the mission have to pay their electric, water and gas bills and they are all reimbursable. But paying large bills like that causes a problem for many of the missionaries. They don’t have enough money to spare for these larger expenses so they really need to get the reimbursement back soon.

Today my other errands included a trip to Citi Bank to pick up several checks. I also paid 4 other mission office bills. It seems like my whole day was spent driving around town in bumper to bumper traffic or waiting in a long line somewhere waiting for my turn to pay a bill.

I did have some fun today. I ordered a new camera on line from Costco to replace the one I ruined when I dunked it in the ocean last Saturday. Jared & Tere will bring it with them when they come to visit us in July.
Tuesday, June 15, 2010

This morning we had a full day of work planned in the office but early we received a phone call from the AP’s in the South asking us to meet them in Bani at noon. They are completely out of petty cash and need it replenished. They also needed 6 cases of Book of Mormons and 2 cases of “La Restauración” pamphlets. And they always need the mail. Hna. Johnson and I were glad to go. The drive time is only an hour out and an hour back so we didn’t miss much work.

This afternoon I went to the camera shop to talk to the repairman that made the estimate on my camera’s repair yesterday. He told me that the water shorted out a very powerful capacitor that discharged all of its energy into the printed circuit board and fried it. That’s really bad news. He said considering the cost and the result; it’s not worth repairing. He recommended that I buy a new camera.

We got word today that another Elder has been in the hospital for the past 3 days and the doctor says he does have “Dengue Fever”! That’s really bad news. “Dengue” is the same thing Elder Lewis had last summer (See August 19, 2009). Dengue is a disease carried by mosquitoes. The World Health Organization and other humanitarian organizations and funds are fighting Dengue all over the world. Worldwide 100 million people are infected each year and 20,000 die.

This week I read that the richest man in the world, Carlos Slim, and the second richest man in the world, Bill Gates, teamed up with Spain to donate $150 million to fight Dengue fever, malaria and malnutrition in Latin America. Five years ago Bill Gates funded a project that discovered a revolutionary new way to kill the Dengue carrying mosquitoes. Unfortunately none of this progress in the fight against Dengue will help Elder Flake right now but at least progress is being made against the decease.

There are 4 or 5 different variations of Dengue, each one progressively worse. The worst form can cause death. The local name for the disease is “Break Bone Fever”. They call it that because the fever is so bad it feels like your bones are breaking! To my knowledge This Elder is the third missionary that has had it since we’ve been here in the Dominican Republic. The Caribbean Area doctor says there are dozens of missionaries that get Dengue all over the Caribbean every year.
Monday, June 14, 2010

I took my “drowned” camera into a Dominican camera shop this morning. It was only about a mile from the office. The estimate on the cleaning and repair came back at $3850.00DRPesos or $107.00USD. I was sick on Saturday when I submerged it in the ocean and I’m sick again now that I’ve seen the price to repair it. Tomorrow I will actually get to speak to the camera repairman and get his opinion if it is really worth repairing.

Tonight we had a very good FHE with the other senior couples at the “Casa de Huespedes”. The lesson was given Hna. Lia Cioban. She is a single sister that has been called to work in the Santo Domingo Temple. She is from Romania and in addition to her native Romanian she speaks about 5 other languages including Spanish.

Hna. Cioban’s lesson was a guided tour of her home country of Romania. Her “Power Point” presentation was as beautiful as it was interesting. It made me realize how little I know about other countries. In pictures projected on the wall she showed us the culture, history, art, politics, architecture and beauty of the people of Romania. The really special part came at the end when she told the story of her introduction to the gospel, her conversion and baptism. Hna. Johnson and I really enjoyed Hna. Cioban’s testimony and her FHE lesson.