Tuesday, December 29, 2015

It's a Sort of Segway -- December 28, 2015

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas! I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and that you all have a happiness and root-beer filled New Year! For us down in Consuelo, it was pretty chill, other than catching some of that upper-eighties Caribbean sun. Can you all imagine how much it would stink to have to shovel your driveway or worry about driving through snow or "being cold?" Haha! It's a good life.

My District
I feel like I should start a feature called Baking Adventures. Maybe something hip, like Kitchen Katastrophe (Citchen Catastrophe?). Pouch Cotato? I dunno. Either way, I reckoned that for a Christmas district meeting treat, we ought to have an apple pie and ice cream. It was actually a pretty great idea except, well, my apple pie experience is limited to eating them. But I had a recipe book, and I can sure follow a recipe! It was going pretty well, but I found myself up a crick when I realized that it called for apple juice concentrate and by jove, I haven't seen apple juice concentrate since the summer o' '14. But I figured hey. There's already apples in it. I just need to pour some sugar water over it! So I did.

Yeah, sugar water is not an appropriate substitute. The pie tasted like. Shortening. Flour. And very thick water.

I bought the ice cream.

Christmas Eve was a different type of day. The powers that be decided to give us electricity all day and all night, which was cool for about the first five minutes of our neighbors playing dembó so loud it was literally rattling our windows from two houses down. For the first time after fifteen months of wishing the power didn't go out three or four times a day, I was sitting there like, "Goshdangit! Can someone please shut off the blasted power?"

Anyhow, Christmas in the mission is a different sort of experience. For starters, people here start breaking out the word "cold" when temperatures plummet to the high seventies. "Just a sip or two" refers to seven or eight bottles of [not root] beer. A great part of the populace dresses up in dental floss and hits the clubs. All to celebrate the birth of Christ.

This is, of course, not the missionaries' Christmas. Elder Leiter and I went to the house of the Bermúdez family, a family that is part member/part investigator. We feasted together on chicken and spaghetti and a Coke knock-off. We cleared the plates and sang Christmas songs and assorted hymns. We then shared stories and testimonies, and there, there was such an incredible feeling.

We were thousands of miles from home. There with no familiar food, speaking in a foreign language, without our parents or aunts or cousins or siblings. There was no tree, no Michael Bublé Christmas music. There was no snow, no hot chocolate, no fire crackling in the hearth. There was nothing that I ever would have associated with the Christmas season.

But there was warmth. There was peace. And sitting there, singing "Noche de Luz" with these people who I've come to love so much, I felt like I was part of a family. I felt full.

And as Christmases go, it certainly could have been worse.

With love,

Monday, December 21, 2015

A Breviloquent Dispatch -- December 21, 2015

Hey! We had a zone activity today and we're just barely getting back, so it's just pictures today. We had a baptism this week and I'm super excited to just keep hitting it hard. I'm finally starting to understand what "getting lost in the work" really means. 

I love you all, hope you have great weeks and I promise- better letter next week!

Much love,
Elder Dallin Johnson

P.S. This has nothing to do with the pictures, but in case anyone's not familiar with their Aramaic roots, Peter is called "Simon Bar-jona." The word "bar" is Aramaic for "son of" and "jona" is the Aramaic form of the name "John." In other words, his name was Simon "Son of John." Yup. The King James translators didn't put it straight, but it's true. Before he was a prophet, Peter too was Elder Johnson. WHOOP!

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Flippant Contactor -- December 14, 2015

Hello family, friends, and random fourteen people from Russia who saw my blog this week! It's been a pretty good week in Consuelo. The sun is shining, the horses are clopping, and, well, I just love the word clop. Haha that's one of those verbs that's purely an English thing. There is no Spanish "to clop" and it's great. But I digress! Onward to the week!

So this week, we've been sick. Both Elder Leiter and I got some sort of stomach thing that's either the Christmas flu or the shady chicken some clueless gringo thought he had fully cooked. I mean, blood doesn't have bacteria in it, right? Haha yeah, if that meat were any fresher, we'd have been picking feathers out of our teeth and our neighbors woulda been very upset. Either way, we both had quite the intestinal issue that was mostly okay except we had to go to the bathroom every, oh, twenty-three seconds. Okay, so it was like twenty minutes, but it was bad. I actually handled it pretty well myself, but Elder Leiter. Well. During companionship study one morning. He. Ah. Welp. There's no two ways to say it. He messed his pants. Hahaha his face was so funny. I'll be honest. I laughed at him that morning. I laughed at him during planning. I'm laughing at him now. But luckily, he's good-natured and he's laughing too!

Grinding garlic with a mortar and pestle.  
Elder Leiter doesn't know much about cooking,
and, well, everything I cook tastes like onion,
peppers, garlic, and butter. Because.
Well. I put that in everything. But it's whatevs.
Despite any health issues though, he's still quite helpful! On Wednesday night, we decided to make brownies for district meeting. It was going very well until the time came to actually cook them. The degrees on the oven are in Celsius, you see. I was on the phone with Hermana Pérez and Elder Leiter came up to me and was like, "Hey, how much is 375 Fahrenheit degrees in Celsius?" Now, our phone has a converter, but, well, I was on the phone with Hermana Pérez and I was not about to wait two minutes to do the conversion, so I was like, "I dunno. It's five ninths, so..... I reckon it's like 250 or something?" Well, in case anyone was wondering, I am not a mathetician. They cooked at 250 degrees Celsius for thirty five minutes. When we pulled them out, the flavor only hinted at pencil lead, but the consistency was somewhere between pumice and beef jerky. Yeah. 250 degress Celsius is about 490 Fahrenheit. Oops.

Ah yes! That's the sole of my shoe which I
replaced last week. 
I guess you could say
my "sole" was rather "holey"... Bahahahaha!
Okay, sorry. That was bad.
I'm repenting, I'm repenting!!!!!
Anyhow, this Friday night, Elder Leiter and I were out doing our proselyting like good missionaries. We were going to our investigators' houses like we were supposed to. We'd done everything right that day. And all of our appointments fell through. Every single one. We tried contacting, but before long, it became apparent that we were caught in this netherworld of trying to contact in the middle of alcohol central on a Friday night. Not a good environment. Everyone who came to the door was either drunk, uninterested, or a girl in a towel. Needless to say, after about two hours of this, we were getting frustrated. We meandered purposelessly for a few minutes until finally, Elder Leiter just plopped down next to a tree and was like, "Elder Johnson, I need to repent. My attitude sucks. It's not supposed to suck. But this sucks." And me in my nearly fifteen month wisdom was like, "Well. Yes. This does suck. Scoot over." And I sat down. We sat quietly for a little while and then Elder Leiter said, "Elder Johnson, I think we need to pray." And I was like. Well. Can't really argue with a prayer. So we did. Elder Leiter bowed his head and said, "Heavenly Father, we're really frustrated. We desire only to serve thee. Please lead us to thy children who are prepared to receive us." And then we both opened our eyes and looked up.

Right in front of us was an orange two story duplex. I could not explain why, but my eyes were pasted to the door on the second floor. Before I could say anything, Elder Leiter eyed it warily and asked, "Elder Johnson, is it weird to go up to the second floor unannounced at 8:30 at night?" and I responded, "Yes. It's super weird. But I mean. What are they gonna do? Reject us?" 

So we went up and shouted in a friendly Saludos! (In case no one else noticed, I'm fluent in Spanish. That's so weird to think about. Sorry, I was just reminded that I ring doorbells by shouting "Saludos" at peoples's doors. Back to the story now.) We immediately heard a woman's voice through the door (spoiler alert: her name is Sugey- "Soo-HAY")and the following conversation ensued (it was all shouting, hence the exclamation marks):

Sugey: Who's there?!?
Me: The missionaries!
Sugey: Missionaries? What consarn missionaries?!
Me: The Mormons!
Sugey: *pauses* You know this is a dangerous time of year and I can't let just anyone into my house! What do you want?
Me: *shrugs* We're here with an incredibly important message that could bring you eternal happiness!
Sugey: *pauses again* That sounds very important!
Me: Amen! D'you reckon you could spare five minutes for God to change your life really quick?
Sugey: Come to the window so I can see your faces!
*window cracks open*
Sugey: Dang, son. You're white.
Me: No kidding. 
Sugey: Who's that kid hiding behind you?
Me: My sidekick. So can we talk now?
Sugey: Yeah, come to the door.

We started to talk with her about the gospel, and to be honest, those ten minutes were some of the most beautiful of my entire mission. Sugey is the elect of God. She asked all the right questions. She happens to be the cousin of the branch president's wife. And just as we finished teaching that God was our loving Heavenly Father, she stopped us and asked, "Why on earth did you decide to jump a gate and knock on the door of my second story house at 8:30 on a Friday night?" And we answered, "Well. Because we were lost. And so we said a prayer. And God sent us here." 

Sugey's jaw dropped. And then she told us that she had also said a prayer that day. She'd prayed and told God that she felt empty inside and just wanted to feel His love again. And the second she said amen, two Mormon missionaries knocked on her door and told her that God's greatest wish was for her to receive eternal happiness. It was a miracle from all sides. We descended the stairs afterward, sat right back down by that tree, and we said a prayer of humbled thanks. 

Oh, and while we were there, a less-active member happened by her house, saw us, asked for an appointment to meet with us, and gave us a referral. And when we got home, we decided to stop at the colmado to buy some cheese to celebrate, and in front of the colmado, we met another less active who asked to meet with us. Yup. Yo testifico. (I testify.)

God loves His children. He hears our prayers. And He answers them. 

Have a grand week,

P.S. We went to the temple this week as a mission. 

The MTC in the DR is adjacent to the temple and this was in the MTC kitchen. 
Yup. That's about right.  Translation-Top: In the MTC, Bottom: In the field

Monday, December 7, 2015

How to Train Your Greenie -- December 7, 2015

Happy Holidays! It's been Christmas here since August, but whatever.

So last week, the entire zone of San Pedro hopped a guagua and sashayed on off to La Romana for a zone conference. We were just cracking jokes and telling stories and having a grand old time and then we got there, ready to be spiritually fed, when we were met with rather grim news. Every missionary would be forced against their own will and good judgement to receive a flu vaccination. No. Nononononononononononotokay. 

Now. It's not the vaccine. I'm not afraid of vaccines. Heaven knows I'm one of the most well-vaccinated human beings on this planet. I'm a kriffing vaccine sanctuary. See, you know how every now and again, you have to get a physical or something and the doctor's like, "Ah, by the way, Mrs. Johnson, I see your son is a bit behind on his hepatitis G and also, we have a deal today on the meningacoccal excruciatis vaccine. No one's actually gotten that since the Dark Ages, but it causes blindness." My mother (out of the love of her heart and because she's a saint) has always said -and I'm paraphrasing here- "Oh yes, please shove a sharp foreign object into my innocent son's body and pump him full of this neutered bacterium. Or virus. Whatever." *smile*
I have been vaccinated against meningitis. You know what meningitis does? It causes cervical cancer. CERVICAL CANCER. For those of you not very familiar with their human anatomy and physiology, I don't have a cervix. But on the other hand, I'm not a carrier of meningitis anymore. Yippee. She also tells me I've receive Gardasil. I don't know what that does, but dang it, I've got it.

No, I just have a problem with the needles. They make me want to rip my nose hairs out by the roots. Not that that would help anything, it just seems like an appropriate reaction. So I tried to dodge this malignant flu shot. Everyone else went in the door to the left with the unvaccinated, and I slipped in between two other elders and went into the door to the right. My brilliant ruse was actually working until the doctor waltzed into the chapel and was like, "Has everyone here gotten the vaccine?" I sort of slouched down and then some wise guy was like, "Hey, Elder Johnson hasn't gotten it!!" I was busily pretending nothing existed, but then everyone started staring at me and the guy was like, "Don't worry, Elder Johnson, it won't hurt. Even the sisters did it." Ha. Ha. Ha. If that guy thinks shaming me in front of two zones and over a dozen sisters is gonna get me strapped to his table. Well. He's right. I got the shot. Goshdangit.

And for the record, the word "kriffing" is a Star Wars curse and is NOT considered profanity in our galaxy. 

(As the maintenance manager of this website, I feel to clarify some things. First of all, contrary to the oration of a far superior writer than myself, meningitis does NOT cause cervical cancer. Meningitis is when organisms invade the membranes and fluid surrounding your brain and spinal cord, creating inflammation, which in turn causes headaches, fever, vomiting, mental cloudiness, and sometimes death. Suffice it to say that Dallin shall not be subjected to said illness as a result of my enthusiasm for subdermal innoculation. It is true, however, that he is immune to cervical cancer, resulting from a precautionary encounter with Gardasil. And so it is. Read on.) 

Anyway, in other news, I'm training! My son's name is Elder Leiter, and he's great. He played hockey and sang in choirs and such and it's all very awesome. Fun, too! If our neighbors spoke English, they'd probably think we were a pair of Cockney drunks with an Irish roommate, but as it is, they just think we're idiots.

But training is sometimes an adventure. We contacted a guy in a colmado and this lady comes up and listens for a while. She seemed nice and all, but she was definitely a. Um. Woman of the night? Anyway, she piped up all of a sudden and was like, "Hey, do you guys receive visits in your house?" Elder Leiter, bless his Spanish, piped up and went, "No, but we can come to yours!" Hahahah that was a fun situation to correct.

And then we were walking in the street and there was a guy playing the saxophone. Elder Leiter wanted to compliment his playing, but he mixed up the words and said, "Hey, guy. I just wanted to tell you that you are dang good-looking with that saxophone." Haha at last, after nearly fifteen months, the language gaffes of the week aren't mine!!!!

Also, since we're working like animals, we walk quite a bit. My seasoned feet are used to it, but Elder Leiter's are covered in blisters. Haha part of me feels bad, but another part is secretly very happy that he's so beat up. Every blister or evening where he's so tuckered out he falls asleep right in his chair is like a point for Elder Johnson. Haha I'm such a great dad.

But in all seriousness, Elder Leiter actually has quite good Spanish for only having three weeks in the field. He gets the point across and he teaches with the Spirit. I really feel lucky to have him as a companion.

So that's us! Things are going really well. We have eight baptismal dates and things are only looking up. Oh, and it's eighty-five degrees outside :) Keep it real and have a grand week!


Monday, November 23, 2015

Three Moments of Charity -- November 23, 2015

Right. So. I try to keep most of my emails pretty lighthearted and funny. To be honest, I sometimes worry that if I didn't, people would stop reading them. But, I was sitting here, basking in the glory of the prospects of a missionary Thanksgiving and I just wasn't feeling it. So. Well. Whatever. This is what I've had on my mind all week.

Whenever I hear returned missionaries speaking or I read other missionaries' letters, it sounds like their missions are just these incredible spiritual experiences where every day they go out and teach the gospel and stretch out in the glow of the guidance of the Holy Ghost and even though it was hard, they love every minute.

Well. That hasn't been my experience. Maybe that's because of my own attitude or the geography or the culture of this particular mission. But for me, a mission has been hard. It's been really hard. I'm finally to where I can say that I love it, but it took more effort than I care to admit to get there. It's funny, though, because perhaps the most important moments in that process weren't manifestations of angels or mind-blowing spiritual experiences generally or Eric Weddle himself descending upon a winged wolf to carry me along specifically. The most powerful moments on my mission have been small. So small that the people who did them might not even remember. They weren't grand acts of valor or courage. It was always simple charity. Today, I want to share some of those moments. Three. Yes. Three moments of charity.

Me and Elder Miller
First, I think it's only appropriate that we start at the very beginning. I started my mission in Espaillat with Elder Miller. Training is a tough time to begin with, but there was one particular day in which we walked into our house's colmado after a long day to buy a Coke. I approached the counter, pulled out fifteen pesos, and pointed at the fridge. The guy quipped something. I just kinda stared. Another customer started laughing and shot something at the colmado dude. He then smirked and quipped something else. I had no idea what the crap was going on, but before I knew it, the entire colmado was rocking with the sound of people laughing at the lost gringo. I was already tired and my mind was fried and I was sick of Spanish and being catcalled and I just wanted my freaking Coke. I just turned around and walked out empty handed.

Me and Miller climbed up the stairs to the house, not saying anything, and quietly planned. We finished and I walked to the back room, took off my tie, and flopped down on my bed, facing the wall and hating everything about my existence. Five minutes passed when I heard Miller's voice. "Johnson. I made you a sandwich in case you're hungry." He paused when I didn't respond and then continued. "Hey. Those guys are all losers. You're a great guy and you're gonna be a fantastic missionary. I'll be out at the desk if you need anything." And he left.

I turned slowly around and looked at the plate he'd left me. It was a signature Miller triple decker PB&J. Those things were so thick and I didn't even really like them. But. I looked at the sandwich. I looked at the empty doorway. And everything was okay.

A couple of months later, Miller was gone. I was still in Espaillat with my second companion, Elder Lora. Most of you probably don't even know I had a companion named Elder Lora because, well, I wrote a grand total of one sentence about him. See, we didn't get along. We were together for three weeks and it's fair to say that we were not friends. It wasn't his fault. He was just unhappy because with less than three weeks left in his mission, he'd been transferred to a new area with a greenie American whose Spanish was less than incredible. I'd have been unhappy too.

Despite any companionship friction, though, I loved Espaillat. I loved it with all my heart. I still do. And at the beginning of that transfer, I'd been told that although my companion was going to finish his mission, I'd be left there indefinitely. Well, three days before he was out, the office called me and told me that, psyche, sorry for no warning, but I was going to be transferred. I'd be leaving. I hadn't told anyone. There wouldn't be time to say goodbye. Heaven knows what was gonna happen with the area. We'd be whitewashed. And I was furious. FURIOUS.

Elder Barlow
My reaction. Wasn't great. I. Um. Starting yelling. Everything went kind of fuzzy. I said some unkind things to Elder Barlow. And may have been using. Er. Colorful metaphors. His untainted ears were burning. But I essentially ended up storming back into the room, once again, and flopped down on my bed, seething.

About a half hour later, Elder Barlow stuck his head in gingerly. "Johnson? Are you calm?" I was like, ".......yes." And he said, "Hey. Um. We talked with President. He says you can stay until Tuesday. It's not perfect. But. You'll be able to say goodbye." He waited a second and then said, "And also. You should know that it was Elder Lora who made the call."

When Elder Lora left that Thursday, he left while I was in the shower. He did not say goodbye. He didn't take a picture. Didn't write in my journal. And as far as I know, he and I will never meet again and he probably doesn't care. But I will never forget that moment.

Sister & President Corbitt, Elders Leiter and Johnson
Fast forward to the next training, only this time, it's me in the trainer's shoes. My son, Elder Leiter (said like Lighter), is incredible. I love this kid to death. However, being a trainer can be stressful. Especially since I am also a very involved district leader, my nights are crazy. I sometimes stress a lot because I'm so busy trying to take calls, motivate six women who I can't directly interact with, making plans, and trying to assure the zone leaders that yes, we are doing fine and yes, everything is getting better.

Last Wednesday, it was our first full night in Consuelo. My shoes were filthy and I had to get them cleaned because Thursday was district meeting but there was just no time. I was trying to get everything pulled together and there were just so many problems and I was pacing furiously on the back porch trying to figure out how on earth to say "shotput" in Spanish to the zone leaders (one of the sisters' investigators with a baptismal date fell because he had to go train for the Olympics. Seriously.) and by the time I finally finished, it was past lights out, my shoes were still filthy, I was nearly in tears, and I was sick of being a district leader. 

Exhausted, I shuffled slowly toward the room, ready to collapse, when I noticed my shoes. They had been scrubbed clean of all dust and scuff marks, brightly polished, and were sitting next to the door, ready for district meeting. I peeked into our room and there was Elder Leiter, lying on his side, sound asleep.

Especially in this time of Thanksgiving, there are things about home that we might be tempted to miss. All the food will be missionary-cooked. There will be no football. There will be no board games. There will be no family for any of the missionaries of the Dominican Republic. But there will always be little moments of charity.

And I will always be grateful for that.


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Pic-y, Pic-y..... -- November 16, 2015

Sister Perez standing on a chair, trying to be
as tall as me.
Hello! It's gonna be a short one because today is transfer day. Speaking of which........

The September Macorisanos
I'M GONNA BE A PAPPY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Elder Polanco, sadly, is being transferred. But I'm going to be a trainer!!! When you're in the mission, your trainer is your dad and your trainee is your son. I don't know who my child is or where he's from, but I know that he's gonna be born tomorrow sometime around 9 AM. WWWHHHHHOOOOOO!!!!!!!

That's one dang big plantain!
But! Since my nonfacetiously-stated beloved companion needs to pack and say goodbye and it's a rough day for him because it's always hard to leave your first area, I have little time.

So I'd just like to tell the story of the two baptisms we had on Saturday. 
Their names are Angela and Miledis. They were so prepared, always in church and seminary and doing good things. They are the elect of God and the whole branch loves them so much. They're the daughters of Haitian immigrants and they live under such humble circumstances. It was a testimony to me every Sunday when they arrived at church after the more than thirty minute walk. 

They love the gospel and they were simply ready. It was a wonderful service and everyone just felt so much love.

Anyway, I love you all. Have the grandest of weeks.

Con cariño y mucho ánimo,
In the ZONE!!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Fanny Fracas -- November 9, 2015

Happy Monday, errahbody! It's been a pretty good week. We preached the gospel. It rained a smidge. And I also learned the important difference between a "barita magia" (magic wand) and a "batida magia" (magic milkshake). If that's not success, I don't know what is. 

I love my area. I really do. It's reminded me a bit of home. It's full of nice people. It's also confirmed to me just how well the gospel of Harry Potter has been preached throughout the world. We were teaching a less-active guy out in the boonies of the boonies where there aren't even roads, just trails. Nor are there cows. Just pigs that look like cows.

And somehow, we got on the subject of childhood disappointments and I mentioned that perhaps the saddest moment of my life was my 11th birthday, when I ran to the mailbox to find I hadn't gotten a letter from Hogwarts. My muggleness was confirmed when Dumbledore didn't reply to the letter I sent to him (although in hindsight, that kind of makes sense. I turned 11 in 2006 and since Harry started school in the late 90s, he would've been a sixth year in 2004 or 2005 at the latest, which means that chronologically speaking, Dumbledore would've been too dead to respond..... Holy hippogriffs!!!!) Before long, we were deeply engaged in a conversation about whether it's possible to Apparate to safety if you fall off your broom and if so, why don't people do that from the ground? Why isn't high-altitude Apparition sky-diving a thing?

And then the ridiculosity of the situation hit me. 
We were sitting under a guava tree in front of a corrugated tin shack in a rural suburb of a rural suburb that would have to at least triple its average daily income to be classified as "poor". Talking about the feasibility of Aparition skydiving and lamenting in turn, "I never liked Malfoy," and "Severus didn't have to die like that." Haha so that's Consuelo for you.

Oh, it's also the area where my mission dad died. (went home) Yup.

So I was pretty tired last Thursday. We'd been out in the pouring rain all day and I was cold and ready for bed. I flew through the calls with the sisters and zone leaders and peaced out of consciousness a half hour early. Well, I'd been frolicking through raspberry fields in Dallin Happy Dreamland for only an hour or two when when all of a sudden, I was jerked awake by a noise in the kitchen. First it was just a quiet tapping. A gentle noise. Like little celestial teardrops. And then I could hear the sound of ripping. And then something that sounded like a sort of choked screaming. Welp. I wasn't sure what the Freddy Krueger was out there, but I was sure that I was gonna stay right the heck under my sheet and calmly figure out what to do about my urine-drenched trousers.

Well, I'd only been there for a couple of minutes, right about the time when the pleasant part of having wet yourself wears off and you're just cold, when I heard the voice of Capt. Henry Pearson Crowe echoing in my ears, "You'll never get the purple heart hiding in a foxhole! Follow me!" Goshdangit inspirational World War Two quotes. Fine. FINE! I didn't know what was interrupting my field frolicking with the sounds of the folks in Tartarus, but I was gonna find out. Or it was gonna kill me. Whatever. I threw the sheet off and dragged my sleep-drunk derreire into the entryway of the kitchen. I stared intently into the darkness for a second. The ripping and yowling stopped. And then a sleek black shape shot out of the shadows and darted toward me.

Okay. So. I have to clarify. I wasn't exactly sure what to do in such a situation. My constitution when it comes to dark spirits and hellhounds and other ethereal thingies that want to kill me isn't really. Um. Bulletproof. So I contemplated my options. I could cry for help. Maybe try to beat the snot out of the thing. I briefly considered vomiting. Finally, I made a split-second judgment call and decided on staggering backward and inhaling sharply, sucking what felt like a liter of spit into my windpipe and nearly choking to death. If this sounds like a stupid reaction to you, well, stuff it. It was unconventional, but darn if it didn't work. That sucker ran right past me and jumped out the window. And that was when I realized, heart pumping and red-faced, that it was a cat. . . A FREAKING CAT!!!!! It had come in through the window and choked on a chicken bone it scrounged out of our trash. GAAAAHHH!!!!!

Apart from that, it was sort of a good week. It was a good lesson on perspective. It rained and rained and rained and was a very large pain in the buttocks. I got sick and we spent one day in the house where I spent all of my free time in bed and the other half in the bathroom. There were a couple of fights with people. One guy who looked like the goldenest of golden contacts stopped us in the middle of our first lesson and was like, "Would you doubt that I'm one of the gods of the Apocalypse?" And I was like, "Uh, yes?" and he kicked us out of his house into the aforementioned rain. We got rained into the branch president's house with a chorus of children who were either impersonating drunk walruses or singing Christmas carols FOR FOUR HOURS!!!!! This week very well could have sucked. 

Elder Walters kissing a "fanny"
But then, we were able to share the gospel with many wet and muddy people who needed a pick-me-up, we learned an important lesson about how to let down people who think they're deities, I got yet another dose of appreciation for good health, and we got some quality bonding time with the friends of our branch president's family. Oh, and we had two investigators pass baptismal interviews which means that I'm baptizing for the first time in four months and more importantly, two children of God are going to make the first covenants with their Heavenly Father. Huzzah!!!!!

Yeah, it was a good week.

Hoping y'all have one of your own,

Monday, November 2, 2015

Legal Victory and Broken Cocces. Cocci. Coccyxes. Whatever. -- November 2, 2015

Hello, all! Time is short and we have souls to save

! Allow me to tell the tale of how I got my green card!

So this last week, Elder Walters and I had to do an intercambio (companionship exchange) because as of September 24, we were both illegal immigrants. Now, it's not really because we're afraid of getting deported or anything (one of Elder Polanco and my's investigators who's a cop was like, "Yeah, you guys are missionaries. The police force couldn't care less about you.") but the mission's very into "following laws" and "not incurring criminal charges" so we did it. Elder Walters and I had some extremely important business to talk about, such as the best flavor of Mountain Dew and the preferred hour for an after-midnight Beto's run, and we ended up staying up a wee bit late. By the time we'd slept through our alarm, we had only twenty minutes to get up, get ready, get dressed, and get on the bus. We threw everything on and sprinted to the bus stop. The bus was nearly full, so without really being too choosy, I just went up to the front where the fellow directed me and Elder Walters was seated near the door. The bus set out and off we went. 

Well, about five minutes in, I started to hear regular grunts that coincided with every bump in the road. Well that's odd. So I looked back, and there's Elder Walters, his elbows crammed into his right armpit, a look of pure squashed anguish on his face, sitting next to the largest woman I had ever seen in my life. I say with total impartiality and love that if this woman fell into the ocean, a passing pod of sperm whales would be like, "Dorothy! We thought you were dead!" And it just so happened that in the process of having his pelvis compacted into a quantum existentiality, a rigid steel bar in the seat was jammed right into his. Er. Coccyx. Suffice it to say that for the rest of the day, Elder Walters was the butt of many jokes.

But we are once again legal law-abiding citizens! Sorry for the ever short epistles! Life's rugged in the campo. Hit it hard and keep moving forward.


P.S. The word "coccyx" is GOLD when you're playing hangman.

P.P.S. Yes. That is a photo of me ripping pantyhose in half with my teeth. The crap I do for this zone.....
District leader bites stocking

Monday, October 26, 2015

A Week of Shooting Sports Business - October 26, 2015

Forgive me, all. But just some quick week highlights. The DR doesn't celebrate Halloween. Luckily, I do. 

And so, my district does :) We set about making us some jack-o-lanterns. Since pumpkins weren't available, we had to improvise. In case anyone was wondering, no, pineapples are not easy to carve out. 

"Pumpkin" guts
So. We made a mess carving papayas and pineapples and got juice everywhere, but it was super fun and we still brought it to a spiritual finish. 

Also, we set a baptismal date with a girl that we hope to turn into baptismal dates with her entire family. 

Um. We got charged by a goat. 

Did some yardwork with machetes. 

And we picked guavas from a tree by throwing rocks at them. I'm told that guava picking is a shooting sport here in the DR. 

Oh, and the intermediate hymn yesterday in sacrament meeting was Angels We Have Heard On High. Yup.

Sorry for the lazy writing and all, but. Well. That's my rap.


P.S. As it turns out, my house actually does have oven racks. For some silly reason, I hadn't checked on the roof.

Monday, October 19, 2015

The Cows of Consuelo - October 19, 2015

¡Buenas! Un amigo me comentó que no he escrito casi nada en español en mis cartas. Bueno. Es cierto. Así que, para que sepan, SI. Soy capáz de escribir en español. Tal vez mi ortografía no sea perfecta, pero ¡sean tranquilos todos! Mi español se entiende y más que nada, ha sido una buena semana :) Lo siento a todos que no entiendan el español. Les prometo que no lo haré así otra vez. Props to whoever doesn't need google translate for that.

Greetings! A friend told me that I have written almost nothing in Spanish in my letters. Okay. It is true. Just, so you know, yes. I can write in Spanish . Maybe my spelling is not perfect, but no complaints! My Spanish is understood and above all, it has been a good week :) Sorry to all who do not understand Spanish . I promise I will not do so again. Props to whoever does not need google translate for that.

So Monday night (two weeks ago) I was busily packing my bags to transfer out when all of a sudden, my eye started to hurt. So I figured, well, what the heck. I'll just go to bed now and finish packing tomorrow. So I did. Now. There's a very important thing you need to know. My eyes are brown. Both of them. And when I went to bed, they were definitely both brown. This is a detail that will become very important in about fifteen seconds. Fast forward to the next morning. I woke up, and I made the startling discovery that I couldn't open my right eye. This caused me to worry some, but it's well-known that I'm no doctor. So I solicited the help of Elder Vasquez. Who also is no doctor, but whatever. It went more or less like this (by the by, the word "que" means "what"):

"Elder Vasquez!!!!!!"
"I can't open my eye!!!!"
"Come here! I'll open it!!" *peels it open*
"Your eye!!!!"
"It's green!!!!!!"

And so it was. Let me tell you something about me. I usually don't mind when like spiders or colds or other things get involved in my life because, well, all things gotta live, you know what I'm saying?

But the second you get my eyes involved, shiz gets real. By the time the clock struck noon, I had the biggest, baddest eye infection killing meds I could find going ham like SEAL Team 6 on that garbage. Not to mention I was rockin' the ruggedest patch that was missionary permissible. I actually requested a full on black strap Nick Fury-style eye patch but got denied. Alas. I made it look rugged anyway.

Anyway, after that whole fracas, I finally arrived in Consuelo, and I absolutely LOVE the campo. Gone are the huelgas and incessant noise of the big city. Gone are the giant guaguas that weave through traffic like motorcycles. Gone are silly luxuries like "electricity" and "running water" and toilets that flush both types of regular waste that exit all humans and it's perfectly normal so much so in fact if it doesn't happen you should probably see a doctor and MOM YOU CAN'T EDIT THIS SENTENCE. 

See? Even the strays are cows
I will grant that there is also no glass bottle Coke, the Christian raves are without equal, and the majority of the area smells of cow dung. But then, I'm from Cache Valley, the Land of 72,000 Cows. I'm right at home :)

Also, my new companion, Elder Polanco, is very fresh, with only three months in the field. He's Dominican, from the northern part of the country, and he's a little firecracker. Love him to death. 

So I'm a district leader now. Every Thursday, we have district meeting, and this was gonna be my first full district meeting. With six sisters. So I figured I'd be the coolest district leader ever and make homemade cookies from a prepackaged mix for my district, right? Right. So the problems started about the second I tried to do anything. Missionary ovens as a rule go largely unused (not in Espaillat- we used it to store our garbage bags) and as such are occasionally missiong some relatively important parts, such as the burners, the floor, or the dial thingie that turns it on. Ours is actually pretty nice in that it's only missing the top burners and unlike some ovens *coughLosSolarescough* it doesn't blow up and burn half your arm hair off when you light it (all mission ovens are gas and have to be lit by hand. With a match. It can get. Exhilarating.) but it was missing the rack. Now, I'm no baker, but I reckoned that roasting cookie dough over an open flame, while perhaps cool at campouts and Occupy Wall Street, probably wasn't very conducive to, you know, making cookies. With no rack available, I clearly had to make one. 

This. Is not as simple as it sounds. I'd heard that Elder Thacker once made an oven rack with a fan guard, but both of our fans were made of plastic. I hunted through the house for perhaps fifteen minutes when finally, my eyes settled upon a slat of ceramic tile. Bingo! However, I quickly discovered that it was too wide. It didn't fit in the oven. I was just about to give up all hope when suddenly, I had one of those capital-A-Awesome Dallin Ideas. All I'd have to do was take it out back and punch it in half! Brilliantbrilliantbrilliant!! So I did. And. Well. Yeah. I sliced my right hand wide open. Blood was pouring down my hand. I was dumbfounded. Where had my brilliant plan gone wrong?? Well, I figured I had better put a bandaid on it or something, but then I recalled that fortunately, I didn't have any bandaids. In fact, I had zero bandage-like things. But I had to do something!

I was just about to rip up a shirt when Phase Two of my capital-A-Awesome Dallin Idea took shape. I didn't have any bandages, but I did have a tube of super glue! I grabbed it and shakily tried to screw the cap on, but, well, I didn't do it so well (I'm not at my best in the presence of things like blood or needles or knives or other things that. Uh. Uh. Uhhhh. Can't even write about it....) and I didn't open the neck of the tube properly. I pulled it away from my bleeding right hand and examined the tube. A little off-center but it didn't look too bad. I gave it one more experimental squeeze, at which point it exploded, sending a flood of Industrial Strength All-Purpose Super Glue streaming down my left hand. Sealing it shut.

And then the phone rang. It was two of the sisters in my district. I had to answer it. But with what?? I had zero hands!!! I sat there, quietly thrashing around and muttering curses as I tried to figure out what to do. Finally, I hit the answer button with my elbow, sending it spinning to the edge and just slammed my head down on the counter, pinning it there. "Hermana Pichardo!" I said, projecting as much of a smile into my voice as I could. "Hello! It's so wonderful to hear your voice!" She talked for about five seconds when mercifully, the phone fell to the ground and exploded. I looked at it. Looked at my hands. And decided that the sisters could survive one night just fine. 
I staunched the bleeding, unstuck my left index finger and thumb, fixed together two of the broken pieces of tile with a coat hanger, and although I didn't finish baking until almost midnight and took nearly an hour more to get the glue off of my consarn hand, my district had a flippin' plate of peanut butter chocolate cookies. And they ate every. Single. One.

In other news, our hero of the week is a member named Ana. First, you need to understand a cultural aspect of Consuelo. There's a definite culture difference between the capital, which has about four million citizens, and Consuelo, which has less than forty thousand. That's about the difference in size between Logan proper and Dallas. The biggest difference religiously is that here, it's much more likely that people will let you in to listen to you BUT it's much less likely that they'll actually listen to you. See, one of the ingrained philosophies of Dominican culture in general but the campos in particular is that when someone who talks about God comes around, you should listen to what they have to say, regardless of what church they're from. However, whereas in the city people are more willing to change different in their perspectives, in the campo, a person's religious background is usually very deeply ingrained in them. This is perhaps the biggest challenge that faces the mission work.

Enter Ana. She is perhaps the best member missionary I've ever met. We went out and visited with her and her brother, and she was absolutely fearless. She would march right up to the house of any neighbor or friend and she would tell it to them straight. In two weeks of our efforts, we had found maybe six new investigators. In just one day with this courageous sister, we found nearly a dozen new investigators who not only listened with their ears, but listened with the hearts. This is not a person who has ever been a full-time missionary. She never learned how to speak eloquently and she never had the kind of education that many of us were privileged to receive. But she spoke with the strength and power of the Holy Ghost, and she was able to touch the hearts of many. May we all follow her example.

That's it for now! Have a grand week, and keep being awesome.

Paz y buena voluntad, "Peace and goodwill"
Dallin Johnson