Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sunday, January 30, 2011

This morning we gave our mission report in Sacrament meeting in the Hillside Ward, Lehi Stake. Hna. Johnson and I were very pleasantly surprised to see so many of our friends and family that made the effort to come and hear our talks. I talked to the Ward clerk and he said that there were about a hundred more in attendance today than they have on an average day.

There was at least one former Santo Domingo West missionary there; it was Elder Justin Bates, my “Trainer”. He has been home for over 6 months and it was really good to see him.

There were others in attendance; like Clara and many of our old friends from the Alma 5th Ward like Chuck & Gwen and Dan Rogers. The Behrmann’s from the Aspen Ward came with one of my old boy scouts, Bear Behrmann and his wife. Scott & Lynette and their sons Matthew & Michael were there too.

My Uncle Ed and Aunt Rose Mary also came. Hna. Johnson and I were so very pleased to see them. Aunt Rose Mary is the last surviving sibling of her generation. She and Ed have been a tremendous support and help for Hna. Johnson as well as the flower shop way back in the 70’s. We think the world of them.

In our talks we spoke of the love, support and prayers everyone had for us. We couldn’t have accomplished our mission to the Dominican Republic without it. We were truly blessed to have their support and be called to the best mission in the world, to work with the best Elders and Sisters in the world and to serve under the great, dynamic leadership of Pres. Juan E Almonte.

We still don’t know what we did to deserve such blessings. To serve with Pres. & Hna. Almonte was a tremendous blessing. We will always consider them our close friends and treasure their friendship forever. Pres. Almonte is a spiritual giant; he teaches and motivates the missionaries under him through the inspiration of the Holy Ghost.

We will also treasure our association with the other Seniors in Santo Domingo. The FHE’s we attended each week with them was a precious part of our week. We also went on trips and tours with many of them. We grew very close to all of them and will consider all of them to be our close friends.

And finally, Hna. Johnson and I love every one of the Elders and Sisters we worked with and consider each to be one of our own children. They really are the Lord’s finest young men and women. It was a privilege to have worked with them all, to feel their spirits, enjoy their successes and sorrow over their disappointments. Our calling to be in the Mission Office put us right in the middle of all the action. It was perfect, we couldn’t have asked for a better assignment as a senior couple.


Saturday, January 29, 2011

Saturday, January 29, 2011
Today Nathan asked me to help with deliveries at the flower shop. With some of my spare time I wrote an e-mail to President and Hna. Almonte. Since we don’t have the internet in our home yet I haven’t had a chance to write the Almonte’s since we returned home. My letter to the Almonte’s included all of our new contact information, both of our cell phone numbers and our new home phone number.

Tonight Hna. Johnson and I were working late, 9:00pm, preparing our mission report talks for tomorrow morning. Hna. Johnson was unable to formulate the words she wanted to say in her talk. She is always prepared with talks and writes her talks out in advance but tonight she couldn’t. In frustration and despair she laid her head on the table and prayed for guidance. During her prayer my cell phone rang…. It was the answer to her prayer!

The phone call was from Hna. Almonte in the Dominican Republic. She and Pres. Almonte had just read my e-mail and decided to give us a phone call. I turned on the speaker phone so Hna. Johnson could listen to everything that was said. Hna. Johnson was so happy, excited and uplifted about the phone call. She said later it calmed her nerves, the call was just what she needed to prepare her talk.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sunday, January 23, 2011

One of the best experiences of our lives has come to an end. This morning we reported to the Stake High Counsel. We spoke for about a half hour about our mission, our experiences, the people we worked with and the members we grew to know and love. We truly did have a wonderful mission.

We have lived a life filled with blessing from our Heavenly Father. Our calling to serve the people of the Dominican Republic was another one of his blessings. We have been so richly blessed over the past year and a half. We loved our mission; we love the people of the Dominican Republic and their beautiful country. We love the Elder and Sister missionaries we worked with and especially all of the office Elders we served so closely with over these 18 months. We especially love Pres. & Hna. Almonte; their kindness, generosity and leadership.

We bear testimony that this is the work of the Lord we have been engaged in for the past eighteen months. This is His gospel. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only true church today. We testify that the true gospel of Jesus Christ was restored to the earth through his divinely appointed prophet, Joseph Smith, Jr. in 1830. We testify that the “Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ” is divinely inspired scripture of the life, teachings and gospel of Jesus Christ. We exhort all that read this testimony to read “The Book of Mormon”; study it and pray for a witness of its truthfulness.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Saturday, January 22, 2011

This morning Pres. Craig Ahlstrom came buy our home and gave us our official release. He asked us to report to the Lehi Stake High Counsel tomorrow morning at 7:30. He wants us to wear our missionary name tags even though we are released. It will be the last time we get to wear them in an official capacity.

He also mentioned that we will be asked to speak on High Counsel Sunday at the Wards in the Stake. We are actually looking forward to the opportunity.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Friday, January 21, 2011

Wow, what a day of travel. We were on the road for over 16 hours. We were picked up at our apartment at 4:00am. Actually he was out front and gave us a wakeup call at 3:00. That was nice. The taxi driver’s name is Antonio, everyone calls him Tony. He has been a member of the church for 8 years. He and his company is the taxi of choice when there is any picking up or dropping off at the Santo Domingo West mission, East Mission, Mission Training center or the Temple. He’s prompt and safe; everyone likes to use him.

We had 2 layovers for almost 3 hours each at the Miami and Dallas/Fortworth Airports. But everything went off without a hitch. The first layover in Miami was longer than scheduled but the pilot made up the extra 30 minutes when he caught a favorable wind.

Then came the grand reunion with our family and friends at Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix. There were about 20 people at the airport to greet us on our return. I told Hna. Johnson that 42 years ago when I returned from my mission to Mexico I felt like kissing the ground. Hna. Johnson said she just wanted to kiss her grandchildren.

We all left the airport and went to the flower shop for a pizza party and Texas Sheet Cake for dessert. While we were there even more friends and relatives showed up. It was wonderful, he had hugs all around.

Our mission isn’t officially over until we have our interview with our Stake President, Craig Ahlstrom. But today does mark the end of a grand adventure for Hna. Johnson and I. For a year and a half we served in the West Mission Office as well as in other special assignments from Pres. Almonte. We’ve grown to know and love the people of the Dominican Republic. We’ve laughed and cried with them and shared in the trails and successes. We have truly loved our mission and the time we have served.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Our last day in the mission, we fly home tomorrow. Today was very busy we started with breakfast at “The Pastry” for all sorts of baked delicacies! Usually I only buy bread and sweets at The Pastry but this morning we indulged in all of the empanadas, stuffed rolls and meat filled breads. They were great.

Next we were off to the “Colonial Zone” here in the capital. This is the area of Santo Domingo that was settled by Christopher Columbus at the end of the 15th Century. The streets are very narrow and many of the buildings are still standing from the colonial days. Some of the buildings are five centuries old.

We visited the oldest Cathedral in the New World. I would imagine that it was a humble building compared to the huge Cathedrals of old Europe but it had beautiful architecture none the less. We’ve been here before and I’ve always been impresses with it.

We also toured a former church that is now a mausoleum and shrine to the fallen heroes of the Dominican Republic. We got to watch the changing of the guard with all of its pomp and ceremony. It was free except for the tip I gave our tour guide. We enjoyed the building and the tour a lot.

Next we were off to do all of our souvenir shopping for our families back home. Nathan & Valerie and Jacob & Wendy all had several purchases to make for their children as well as the families that are babysitting their kids. Hna. Johnson also had a list of items to buy for the several missionaries that had placed orders. They really like the “Conde Bags” to carry their scriptures and teaching materials in.

This afternoon our “Dueña” (Landlord) came over to inspect our apartment. Her name is Nieves Henriquez and she has been a wonderful Dueña. We have enjoyed the apartment very much and especially the convenience of living only two blocks from the mission office.

Our Dueña found nothing amiss in the apartment so we will be getting all of our deposit back. That is a good thing because the cleaning deposit was equal to two months’ rent or $1700.00USD.

We ended the day with President & Hna. Almonte for dinner in the mission home. They also invited all of the office Elders to join us. Hna. Almonte is a wonderful cook and the meal was superb. There was plenty for all and we went away stuffed. The food was very good.

We had a wonderful evening with the Almonte’s. We introduced our sons and daughter-in-laws to them. We sat around and reminisced about the good times we’ve had together while serving the Lord in the Dominican Republic.

One of the highlights of the evening was a book I had prepared for the Almonte’s. Last month I ordered a “Blog2Print” book of every picture in by mission blog. It contained 1500 photographs of the mission from when we arrived in July 2009 until the second week of December 2010. The book has over 250 pages.

President Almonte was excited when he received the book. As he turned the pages and we talked about individual events on specific days he was so overcome with joy he had tears streaming down his cheeks. We were all choked up a bit to see the Mission Pres. so happy with the gift. He continually thanked Hna. Johnson and I for the book.

But all good things must come to an end. We had to leave because we must get up at 3:00am to head for the Airport at 4:00. We said our final goodbyes; Hna. Almonte and Hna. Johnson simply embraced each other and wept. It was hard to leave but we do have plans to see them again when we attend a mission reunion the Almonte’s are planning for October General Conference 2011 in SLC.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

It was another busy and full day for us. First we were off to Juan Dolio Beach which is about 30 miles east of Santo Domingo. When we got there we were sad to discover that the heavy surf had churned up a lot of silt and there was no visibility for snorkeling.

In spite of the murky water we still had fun swimming in the surf and playing in the sand. Hna. Johnson walked the beach and managed to find a lot of pretty seashells. We had a lot of fun.

After the beach, we went out for lunch at “El Mesón” restaurant. It is right across the street for Juan Dolio Beach and it is one of our favorite places to eat. We’ve never been disappointed with anything we’ve eaten there. The service is very good, the servings are big and we went away stuffed.

Back at our apartment this afternoon Hna. Johnson and I started packing. We also did laundry loads; there is simply a ton of things to get done before tomorrow.

This evening we went to the Los Arroyos Branch and attended their “Noche de Amistad” (Fellowshipping night). Los Arroyos is where Hna. Johnson and I have been assigned to attend and work for the past 10 months. I’ve been teaching the Elders Quorum and Hna. Johnson has been the Primary Nursery Leader.

Tonight’s program at Los Arroyos was a tribute to Hna. Johnson and I. All of the Branch leader from the Br. Pres, on down, lavished us with praise. I don’t know if we deserved it but for sure they have really appreciated our service in the Branch. The feeling is mutual; we really love the members in the Branch.

Our last stop was at the Mission Office on our way home. The AP’s had a going away present to give us. The Elders and Hermanas of the mission all wrote us a thank you note on some very large cards. It was very nice.