Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sunday, October 31, 2010 (Halloween)

Today is Halloween but it’s a non-event in the DR. Next Tuesday, November 2nd is “All Saints Day” and it is a much bigger holiday than Halloween. But more important than either of the aforementioned events is Christmas in the DR. Christmas decorations were up in the stores by the middle of October. The season doesn’t end on December 25th. It goes right on full steam until January 6th which is “The Day of the Kings”. This is the day Dominicans traditionally exchange gifts. The Day of the Kings is supposed to be the day the three Wise Men arrived to give their gifts to the Christ Child.

Hna. Johnson loves everything about the Christmas season. Today for Sacrament meeting the opening hymn was a Christmas carol! It made Hna. Johnson’s day! She is delighted that the Christmas season is officially here. Actually she has had a Christmas CD playing in our home’s CD player for the past 3 days.

Today attendance was down in the Los Arroyos Branch. That also meant that Primary attendance was very light too. As a result there wasn’t a single fight among the children over toys, etc. Hna. Johnson was very happy about that.

Hna. Johnson’s lesson in Primary was on how to use our hands. She taught them how to fold their arms and be reverent for prayer and she even taught them how to say “I Love You” in sign language. Hna. Johnson loves teaching her Primary Nursery.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Wow, what a day! Today is our P-day but today we joined about 100 Elders and Hna.’s from the capital to do a very large service project. The service project wasn’t confined to our mission or even our church. It was called the “International Day of Coastal Cleanup”. It included the whole island, volunteers from all of the churches, civic clubs, businesses and government agencies.

The coast of the Dominican Republic sure needs to be cleaned up. There seems to be tons of trash everywhere we look in the DR. The Santo Domingo West Mission was assigned to clean up the Haina Harbor. This is a very busy port with huge cargo ships coming and going all the time. The port is on the Haina River as it reaches the ocean. A few years ago the Haina River in the DR was ranked the #2 most polluted rivers in the world! I believe it, the river is a floating sewer.

The Elders and Hna’s from the capital arrived at the Haina Harbor at about 7:30 this morning. Hna. Johnson and I used our passenger car and the AP’s used the mission van to shuttle all of the missionaries to the spot at the harbor where we were assigned to work.

After a brief orientation and opening prayer everyone went right to work picking up trash. There was no shortage of trash to pick up. It was very dirty work. Everyone was required to wear rubber gloves. To help officials measure the results of the nationwide cleanup campaign we were required to inventory the trash we picked up. The number of soda bottles, styrofoam cartons, shoes and other clothing, etc. Then each large trash bag had to be weighed and recorded.

We worked all morning. We were scheduled to stop a little before noon. We actually had to stop 20 minutes early because we ran out of trash bags. When we finished there was a mountain of full trash bags all piles up ready for pickup.

It was a great service project. Everyone worked hard and had a feeling of accomplishment when it was over. However, looking back at the stretch of coast we worked on for 4 hours, it was still covered in trash when we left. I think it would have taken triple the people and several days to really clean up that piece of beach.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Friday, October 29, 2010

This morning Hra. Amanda Brown arrived in the mission from the Provo MTC. She is “language advanced” so she didn’t go to the “CCM” (MTC) here in Santo Domingo. She speaks Spanish very well so she had no need for the language training here. She has had 6 years of Spanish in high school and college as well as working with Spanish speakers in her employment. Hna. Brown will be a great asset to the mission.

We arrived at the Mission home to give Hna. Brown her orientation at 7:15. Hna. Johnson did the training while I ran back to the office with Hna. Brown’s passport and ministerial card. I made a copy of her passport and then I laminated it and her ministerial card. I was back at the Mission Home in 30 minutes, just as Hna. Johnson finished her orientation.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

This morning the AP’s were up at 3:30am to head over to the Mission Home and pick up the 5 Elders & Hna’s that had flights to catch this morning. They had to be at the airport by 4:30am.

Today was a typical day after “Traslados”. Hna. Johnson was very busy doing all of the required post-Traslado work but that then she had tons of interruptions and phone calls that didn’t allow her to get anything done. Oh well, there is always tomorrow.

I had to do my regular Wednesday “Diligencias” (Errands) but I had to make a special trip to Price Smart to fill all of the orders for a lot of missionaries all over the mission. I didn’t have much time, this morning was the Zone Leader’s training meeting at the La Paz chapel. I had to have everything purchased, labeled and ready the office Elders, Elder Huey and Elder Grant. They took the Price Smart items and all of the mail to the meeting before it let out at noon. They also had to stop on the way and buy lunch for all of the Zone leaders for them after the meeting.

This afternoon I phoned the church Mission Department in SLC. I talked to one of the workers there about our need for a replacement couple when Hna. Johnson and I are released in January. She told me no one has been called. She said Mission Presidents usually recruit replacements. And she added they don’t automatically call senior couple replacements unless asked to by the mission.

I was very surprised to hear that no one has been called. I called the Mission Department in July to specifically request a replacement couple. Somehow my official request has become lost and it looks like our mission office may have to go for a time without a senior couple to run the office. At least until SLC can get a couple called, trained and delivered to the DR.

Since there isn’t enough time (less than three months)to get a replacement couple in the pipeline and sent down before we leave the DR, the lady at the Mission Department asked me if we would be willing to extend a month or two while someone is called and sent. I told her that we probably would have been willing to extend but there is a problem. We have two sons and their wives coming in January to pick us up at the end of our mission and they’ve already purchased their non-refundable tickets.

Note to Family and Friends! Is there anyone out there who is prepared to serve the Lord for 18 months on short notice? This really is the best assignment for a senior couple in the world! We love it and so would you.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Tuesday, October 26, 2010 (Traslados)

Today we had our second to the last “Traslado” (Transfer) of our mission. Some Traslados go easy and smooth but this Traslado was one of those where few things went right. We had problems right from the start. We weren’t given the correct number of Passport copies by the CCM. We were given a new Missionary we didn’t know about until he showed up at the transfer chapel. There were so many missionaries to be transported from the CCM that it took two trips and that put our meeting schedule an hour behind.

But the problems aside we had a very successful Traslado. We received 19 new missionaries. The office Elders, the AP’s and the South Ayudantes spent the rest of the day delivering missionaries to their new areas.

We have 9 Elders and 3 Hna’s leaving the mission tomorrow. They are all great missionaries and have served their Heavenly Father honorable. Today they will have lunch with Pres. & Hna. Almonte and then have their final interviews. This evening they will all attend the 6:30 session at the Temple with the Almonte’s.

Unfortunately I didn’t get a picture of every trainer with their “Kid”, but I got a few.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Monday, October 25, 2010

Today is the day before “Traslados” (Transfers) and we are very busy in the office putting the final touches on all of the last minute preparations for tomorrow morning. This morning and again tonight the mission office was like Grand Central Station with Elder coming and going.

This evening’s Senior Couple FHE at the “Casa” was a Farewell Potluck for two wonderful couples. President and Sister Harris have been Temple Pres. & Matron for the past three years. Their 2nd Councilor, Elder Jim Bowcut and his wife Judy are returning home too.

The pot luck was wonderful but the farewell testimonies of the Harris’ and the Bowcut’s were the highlight of the evening. We loved their words of strength and inspiration. Hna. Harris quoted from Psalms 27:4 “One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord…” and her testimony capped off a wonderful evening.

I’ve said this before but it bears repeating, Hna. Johnson and I have been blessed to be called to serve in the very best mission assignment in the world! As the mission office couple we have the privilege of working with a spiritual giant, Pres. Almonte and his wife. We serve in the mission office with the very best of the best Elders in the mission. We are in the center of all of the activity of the mission and have our finger on the pulse of its heart beat….

…. But then add tonight’s farewell and to be in the company of three General Authorities, a Mission President and a Temple President. Things like this caps off a mission of highlights that just seem to keep coming our way. We are truly blessed to be here in the DR at this time and to have the privilege of serving with so many fine leaders and so many other dedicated Seniors. At the conclusion of tonight’s farewell, Hna. Johnson and I looked at each other in awe, wonder and astonishment at the blessings we’ve received while here serving the Lord. Before our mission we had no idea it could be this good!

On our way back home we stopped off at the office to load for tomorrow mornings “Traslado” training meeting with all of the missionaries and their trainers.