Thursday, February 26, 2015

Thank you for your prayers February 26, 2015

Dear Friends and Family,

There have been no new updates for us, which kind of is driving us crazy, but no news is probably good news at this point. I want you all to know how very much we appreciate your love and prayers on his behalf. 

There is no way that so many people could be praying for him and not have an effect. I have felt a comfort that is unique and I know it is because of your prayers.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!


Monday, February 23, 2015

Please Pray for Dallin February 23, 2015

Dear Friends and Family,

We would like to ask a special request of you all. 

Dallin is struggling, we don't know why. We are very worried about him, but there are no answers at this time.

We want to ask you all to please pray for him, and if you can, fast for him. He needs divine support and we know that our faith and prayers can help him to heal.

We will keep you posted.

Thank you. Your prayers and faith are deeply appreciated.
Janell "Mama J" and Lyle Johnson

Monday, February 16, 2015

Why the heck do we say the H in Hainamosa? February 16, 2015

DISCLAIMER: Not for the faint of heart... :D
Happy late Valentine's Day! While all of you were out on the town with your spouses and girlfriends, I was locked in a smelly Dominican apartment with two other dudes upon whose immediate singleness rests the fate of their eternal soul. We ate. We drank. We laughed. We had a good time. In fact, we barely missed Valentine's Day. There's a word for that. Hang on..... What is it? Oh yes..... BROOOOMMANCE!!!!!!!!! And companionship.

This email is forever and a day long. Extra points to whoever reads it all.

Cesar's on a Tuesday

Being a couple of white guys walking around the Dominican ghetto, you get catcalled a lot. Whether it be thugs or Jezebels, it's the life of a glorious American specimen such as myself. The other day, though, it was different. I was walking down the street when this guy points at me and starts hissing, "Silla! Silla!!!!" I was fairly taken aback. Silla means chair. I don't let just ANYONE call me a chair. I was rolling up my sleeves and getting ready for it to go down when my comp bumped me and said, "He's not saying silla, he's saying CIA. He thinks you work for the Central Intelligence Agency. The CIA's trying to take over the Republic, don'tcha know." Oh. Well. Okay. I cocked my head. I smiled. And on we went. So hey. If my career as a professional peacracker ends up going down the toilet, I can be a CIA stunt double in cheap Dominican soap operas.

I've finally decided I don't mind singing in Dominican congregations. Okay, maybe we aren't motab, but hey, it's easy- you can pick your favorite key and fit in just the same. :)

So I'm gonna tell a story. It's a throwback story from my time with Elder Miller.

It was a Monday. I had nothing going on on a Monday. Miller and I were finishing up a lesson with a lady named Alexandria. It was a little after nine o'clock- time to go home. We said the prayer, said our goodbyes, and stepped out onto the street. No sooner had my foot touched the pavement when I was suddenly and entirely overwhelmed by an uncomfortably familiar feeling. Pressure, one might say. I had to go. This wasn't some passive old, "Oh, find me a bush and give me two seconds" kind of have to go either. I'm talking defcon-four-close-the-blast-doors-the-kraken-is-about-to-be-released kind of have to go. Alexandria lives on the corner of the area. We were twenty minutes from the house.

My face knotted into a frown. "Oh," I said. I suppose I might have thought of something a little better. But I wasn't really sure how to adequately express the bacterial water polo taking place in my intestines. Miller looked at me. "What's wrong?" he asked. "Miller," I said, "I'm not sure how to tastefully say this. But. Um. We should. Oh. We should get to the house. Like. Bathroom. Now."

So off we went. It was up and down, but I was feeling strong. We were gonna make it. I could feel it. And then, we heard a call. "Elderes!" I look up, and there was the wife of the Elder's Quorum president. We stopped. I looked at her. I smiled painfully. And she started talking. And talking. And talking. It took us five minutes to shake her off. Five minutes is a span of time that is very short when you're snowboarding or playing laser tag or possibly making out. I was not doing any of those things. I felt the first year of my mission go rolling off my face in a cold sweat. But at last we shook her and moved on.

We made good progress, and soon, I could see the corner where we would turn to go to the house. I was holding up alright. We were golden. And then I heard a call. "Elderes!" I looked over my shoulder, and there was one of our progressing less active members. My eyes widened. I felt my heart sink through my shoes. I loved the guy, but couldn't he see that I was in DIRE STRAITS?! Dang it, Carlos!!! GOSHDANGIT!!!!!! I was not okay. But I took a deep breath. In fact, I took two. And I smiled. We only took two minutes to put an appointment with him, but I could practically see the timer to the end of my dignity thundering down to all-naughts. Those were two minutes I did not have to spend.

We turned the corner, and there was the house. I reached into my pocket and pulled out the keys. With shaking hands, I opened the first lock when we heard a shout. "Elderes!!" I looked over. It was the bishop. Now. I love the bishop. I strongly suspect he had something important to say. But there comes a time in every man's life when he needs to give up immediate concerns and follow his heart. Which heart, incidentally, was in the process of flaming into a burning conflagration of animalistic terror. I left the bishop behind and hauled up the stairs. I pulled out the door key, stuck it into the lock, and twisted it viciously.

And then. Something happened. Right there.
Before my eyes. The key. That half ounce of brass. It twisted off. And broke in the lock. Cold fear swelled within me. I slowly turned around, and my eyes met Miller's. I looked at him. I looked at the sky. I looked down. I figured I was probably about to die. I carefully considered my options for last words. I threw my head back. "NOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" I howled. I proceeded howling, using very polite invectives. It was over. My fate was sealed. I knew my limits. I could feel the pressure reaching critical mass. It was time. I had no more rational thoughts within me. My eyes wildly swept the porch, looking for anything. ANYTHING. And there, I saw the washing machine. I looked at it. I looked real hard. I steeled myself for ultimate indignity.

And then Barlow and Areas showed up with a back-up key, and this story became the story of how I ALMOST had to think of an appropriate euphemism for leaving a dark load in a washing machine.

Anyway, as the subject line suggests, I'm being special transferred. Elder Lora finished his mission, and there aren't enough missionaries to send me a new companion. So they're sending me from Espaillat to Los Solares, an area in the zone Hainamosa.

To be completely honest, I'm not happy about this transfer. Not one bit. They put me in a trio with Barlow and Froude, and we were having a fantastic time. They even told us we'd be together indefinitely. Indefinitely ended up meaning four days. Now they're shipping me off in the middle of a transfer to go be with my fourth zone leader companion. Taking me out of an area just when we're started to see the fruits of two transfers' labors. No. I'm not at all happy. But there it is. There are a lot of things I'll miss.

On the bright side, since I'm leaving tomorrow, I can finally send the sketchy stats I've been keeping track of. Mom, you may still want to cover your eyes. So, as it turns out, Espaillat B is one of the most dangerous areas in the mission. We live in the armpit of the capital. In my two and a half transfers here, I've been in two traffic collisions. I've seen two people get hit by cars. We have been followed by thugs seven times. I've watched three stabbings, two shootings, and had one run-in with the Dominican Mafia. We've received several dozen death threats and people have attempted to rob us twice, albeit unsuccessfully. Oh, and I suppose I did once get sideswiped by a four year old on a bike.

Oddly enough, I'll miss that too.

But of course, the thing I'll miss the most is the people. It's bizarre how much I love people who I've only been working with for four months, but I do. I really do.

First, the missionaries. Elder Froude is a crazy kid and has cracked me up a few times. 

Elder Barlow came and saved my life. I would probably be lying in a Dominican psychiatric hospital if he hadn't come along and helped me get through my training. A couple of Barlow quotes. One- "The pain of discipline is less than the pain of regret." And two, he told me that the word "bloody" was a swear word. I said no, bloody is only a swear word for the British, and dang it, we're AMERICAN. And Barlow threw his agenda down on the table and shouted, "NO! That's like saying that porn made in England isn't porn in America!!!!" Haha yeah. That's Elder Barlow. 

And of course, the Dominicans themselves. We have Francisco. He's our ward mission leader. He's a convert of four years. The missionaries then actually contacted his brother, but when they went to his house, his brother wasn't there, so the missionaries asked if they could teach Francisco. Francisco agreed, and in a matter of months, left smoking, drinking, and his girlfriend in order to be baptized. Today, he's one of the most devoted members you'll ever meet.

Then, we have Wilson. He's an investigator who actually contacted us. We were walking past a colmado one night when a roaring drunk came up to us and said in slurred English, "Hey, you all are man of God?" We told him we were and he said, "Hey, come by my house. I want to change my life." The first two times we did, he was still absolutely smashed, breaking out in random tirades and swearing in English. We actually wanted to drop him. But something told us to go back that third time. We did. We went back to visit a man being crushed under the pressure of a bad relationship, a horrid boss, and a crippling alcohol addiction. That was December. Here we are in February. Wilson is now a man with a stable romantic life who is his own boss, working out of his house, and making a pretty penny doing it. He hasn't touched alcohol since December 23, and he's got a baptismal date for the 28th of this month. I leave his house after every lesson with a smile the size of Pakistan.

We then have Walescak. She's the most spiritually in tune person I've ever met. Her husband is actually an inactive member, but they've never gone to church, read the Book of Mormon, or even discussed the doctrine of the church. She'd never even heard of the word of wisdom, but after the first lesson we had with her in which we talked exclusively about prophets and the restoration, she just decided to give up coffee and alcohol. She didn't know why. She said that it just felt right. She and her family have seen incredible growth in love in the household and success in their respective jobs. When I said goodbye to their family last night, she started crying and that made me want to cry but I couldn't because crying's not really one of my strong suits and I felt like a total jerk for it.

Beyond that, I'll miss fighting with the owner of the Colmado across the street. I'll miss our crotchety old landlady, America, and our second floor apartment. I'll miss our neighbors, who smoke so much hookah that you just walk in front of their house and come out smelling like an Alabama blueberry plantation.

Dang it all, I'm just gonna miss Espaillat.

But such is life. The road goes ever on. And on for me right now means Hainamosa. So. Hobey ho.

Monday, February 2, 2015

The Beauty of You -- February 2, 2015

Saludos, amigos!

With new transfers come new companions and new experiences. The faces change but the work moves onward. I am tired of word of wisdom violaters, but hey. Charity and all that. Oh. And guise. Hey guise. I speak Spanish.

Happy Groundhog Day! I don't know whether the groundhog saw his shadow or not back in the States, but as it happens, the Dominican groundhog is either too lazy to look for his shadow or too smashed to see it. It's always summer here.

I received my new companion. His name is Elder Lora. He's Dominican. I like him and he likes me.

We had a Carribean-wide stake conference. We all gathered in the church and streamed the hour and a half long meeting. It was. A bit laggy. I'm not saying our internet connection was slow. I'm just saying. Longest. Four. Hours. Of. My. Life.

So as many missionaries do, I have a journal for old companions and housemates and such to write in. Miller actually wrote a whole pageful. There were many good phrases there, but there was one in particular that stuck out to me. It made me think. I'm gonna share it with you. As a matter of fact, I'm going to give it its own paragraph.

"Always remember to just be yourself. God created you to be you."

Well. We hear that phrase all the time. "Be yourself." That phrase never really made sense to me. I get what people are trying to say when they say that, but we don't really have a choice in the matter. I'm Dallin Johnson, and whether I'm putting myself out there or not, who else exactly can I otherwise be? Well.

We can try to be someone else. Someone better-looking. Someone smarter. Someone funnier. Someone more socially gifted or athletically talented. Maybe we want to have a musical talent that makes peoples' jaws drop. We want everyone to like us. We want to be America's Idol. We want to win the Super Bowl. We want to be smarter than a fifth grader.

We can work at it. We can develop talents. There is definitely effort to be put forth, and we should always try to improve. But there are always going to be some things that are out of our reach. And there it is right there. You can dream and dream and dream, but you CAN'T be anyone other than who you are.

So what now? Well, I can't speak for anyone else's faults. But for me? I am one heckuvan imperfect person. I'm at a loss for words all the time. I live with my foot in my mouth. I do and say things without thinking and find myself surrounded with embarrassing and socially awkward moments. I'm not particularly overburdened with the gift of physical coordination. When I dance, double amputees slap their foreheads. When I play basketball on a nine foot hoop, I think I should try to dunk it and then that little voice in my head reminds me, "Hold up, Johnson, you have a three-inch vertical." There are times when I feel so inept I want to go headdesk until either my skull or the desk breaks. But I don't, because it's bad for the desk and my threshold of pain is not that high.

I'm not perfect. But you best believe I have me a DANG fun time at being imperfect. And I strongly suspect that God doesn't particularly care whether or not people approve of the way I go about living life, so neither do I.

So quit worrying about it. Some people will like you, some people won't, but when it all comes down to it, it doesn't matter. There are only two opinions of you that matter- your own and God's, and not necessarily in that order. So stop dreaming of being other people. If God needed another Tom Brady or Andrew Lloyd Webber or Stephen Hawking or Tom Hanks, he would've created another. God created you because he needed a YOU.

So be you. And don't be ashamed of you.

Still keeping the hope,

P.S. Yes, yes, I'm acutely aware of my countless and incomparable other good qualities, such as staple-removing, balloonshopdancing, pea-cracking, and being an all-around handsome beast. I was trying to make a point, dang it.