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!