Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Final Chapter -- August 30, 2016

The final chapter in Dallin's mission has come to a close. It is bittersweet. Part of me is turning cartwheels and shouting for joy that he is home, and the other part is screaming, "NOOOOOO!!! You are doing so well, you are so happy there! Stay another year where I know you are on God's errand!"

Yet, it is time to open the first page of a new book. And so it is.

 It really is him!!

Dallin greets a very happy Robbie at the airport.
Elders Barlow and Johnson 
 Elders Johnson, Rodriguez, and Barlow.
 Panda Express never tasted so good!

Thanks for following our journey. It's been fun!!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Turning the Page -- August 22, 2016

Well. There's no point in beating around the bush. This is the last email of my mission. 

I'm going to fly home this Thursday. I'm going to leave the mission. I'm going to take off my nametag. And all at once, I'll be Brother Johnson again. This is true. I'm conscious of this fact. I understand that I'm going to see my mom this week. I know that I'm going home. I get it. But. I also really don't. Because right now, I still have my tag. I still have a companion. Two, actually. I still keep rules. I still eat more rice than you can shake a stick at. And maybe the weirdest thing about all this is that honestly, I feel completely normal. This has been my life for the last two years, and although it only will be for three more days, it still is.

One of the great cruelties of life are "the lasts". Having to square with the fact that things or people you love are gone and aren't coming back. But the blasted thing about it all is that I'm here at one of the great lasts, the end of my mission, and I'm constantly waiting for some grand feeling to sweep over me. I want everything to be super extra special because it's a last. My last district meeting, last weekly report, last testimony. Cough. Last weekly email. But sadly, I've had dozens of district meetings. I've born my testimony hundreds of times. These things will only be special when they're gone.

But that's okay. Although there's a weird bittersweet sensation hanging over everything I do, the biggest feeling I have is peace. I feel at peace with myself and with my mission. I have made countless mistakes and I know I could have done more. But I do not regret my mission. And I feel that the Lord is satisfied with the work that I've done. And so I am at peace.

And so after all that has been said, after so many eloquent stories and painstakingly drafted emails, all I want to say is that I know that Jesus is the Christ, the Savior and Redeemer of the world. I know that Joseph Smith was called as a prophet to restore the gospel of Jesus Christ in our day. I know that this is the true church. I know that the Book of Mormon is true. And above all, I know that I have a Heavenly Father who loves me.

This is not a unique testimony. There are millions of people who have the same one. It's just another brick in the wall. But it's my brick. And I thank God every day for it.

So now it's on to the next great adventure. I will never forget what happened here, and I will carry shades of my mission within me literally forever. And I'll press onward. Life is a progression and although this chapter is about to close, it just means that it's time to start another. And that's a great gift.

See you soon.

Monday, August 15, 2016

A Reflective Miracle -- August 15, 2016

Dear Family and Friends,

What a wild ride. I want to start by sharing an experience we had this past week.

We've been trying to hit it really hard with less-active members these last few days, and as I was digging through our area book, I stumbled across the name of an inactive returned missionary. We went out to his house and he let us in. We discovered that this guy, Starlin, is married to a nonmember named Rosa. Rosa had talked with dozens of companionships of missionaries throughout the years, and had been on the point of being baptized several times, but something always held her back. Starlin and Rosa have also been trying to have kids since they got married, without success.

Well, we taught her once, and it was an alright lesson. Starlin came to church that Sunday, and although Rosa didn't, he told us excitedly that they'd been to the doctor between our last visit, and Rosa had discovered that she's pregnant. They were both elated. They'd been trying for years and nothing had stuck. Finally there was hope.

But when we got to their house on Wednesday, we heard sobering news. Rosa was bedridden. I don't know what the actual phrase is in English. She was suffering from an "amenaza de aborto" which translated means "threat of miscarriage." Don't know if that's the actual term or not. Either way, it was looking like Rosa was probably going to miscarry thier baby, and they were both really torn up about it.

We talked to her about faith. We talked about how God can work miracles. And then I felt the spirit prompting me to ask her a question. Kind of an unusual question. I asked her if she had the faith to lose her baby. If she trusted in God enough to let him put them through that trial. She thought about it for a good long minute. And she said yes. So we laid our hands on her head and gave her a priesthood blessing. It was one of the most powerful moments of my mission. She told us that she'd see the doctor on the 19 and they'd get a final verdict.

And then. The next time we passed by, she was sitting on the couch, and she had a big smile on her face. The doctors were baffled. She hadn't had to wait until the 19th. Overnight, the situation had corrected itself. The threat was gone. It was a miracle. And not a small one either.

And this is just one of the many experiences I've been so privileged to be a part of in these two years. For those who aren't counting, this is my penultimate email. I go home next week.

It feels unreal. I can't believe it's happening. I don't want to.

But I mean, that's life, isn't it? When you're a bright-eyed kindergartner, you think you'll never get out of the public education system. But you do. As a college freshman, that degree seems impossibly far away. But you get it. Being married seems like a distant future. But it happens. Being a father? You will be. And when you start a mission, it also feels like a world that you'll be in forever. But you won't. The end comes. The end always comes, all throughout life. Even to the end. I can't even imagine being on the point of death. But as the scripture says in Alma, "It was appointed to man to die." Everything. Graduation, family, career, and even death, will get here eventually.

And so, if there's any piece of advice that I in my whopping 21 years of life experience could give to anyone, it would be that wherever you are, enjoy it. If you're starting your freshman year of high school, enjoy it. Suffering through finals in college? Enjoy it. Greenie in your second transfer in the field and the end seems impossibly far away? Enjoy that. Focus on the now. Live in the now. Because the future will arrive. But you'll never get this moment back.

Love you all,

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Chocolate Thunder From Down Under -- August 9, 2016

You guys know that feeling you get when you're in school and it's mid-May and there's like two weeks left before summer vacation and you can just smell it in the air? Yeah. After nearly two years. I finally feel that feeling.

So this week, Elder Koerper had to get some medical tests done. We will not elaborate on the specific issues, but he had to get some bloodwork done. The mission doctor does not have the facilities to do such things, so we went to a Dominican clinic to get it done. It was actually very clean, very modern, and all in all pretty impressive. Until the guy had Elder Koerper's arm there, about to stick the needle in, and Elder Koerper popped a question. "So how long have you been a doctor?" The guy looked up at him through his glasses, and quipped cheerfully, "Oh, we're not doctors." And then he stuck him. Haha. It turned out good.

It's been pretty rainy this last two week, which has sucked a
 There's a bridge outside Espaillat.
See those houses by the river?
That's where Elder Miller and I went when
 I wrote that discourse on poverty as a trainee.
bit, because the streets have been flooded. On Saturday night, we had just bought eggs and bread and were walking through the swampy street on the way to our house. I couldn't see the blacktop through the murky water, so I was just kinda shuffling around, feeling my way along the pavement with my foot when all of a sudden, I took a step with my left foot and by jove, the street was no longer there. Well this was unfortunate. My whole left leg fell into a flippin' manhole and I went down hard. Elder Koerper said afterward that his first instinct was just to yell, "SNIPER! MAN DOWN! SAVE YOURSELVES!!!" Elder Beecher was just happy the eggs were okay. Bums. I too was okay! A bit scraped and a lot shaken up. But okay.

Today's a Tuesday. Time's short, which is why this is ever so slightly sporadic and poorly organized. But yesterday, I went back to Verón. I saw some converts, saw some members, and I went to Outback Steakhouse for the first time in my life. I can honestly say that I have eaten a Chocolate Thunder From Down Under. It was heavenly. I think it was life-changing.

Sorry this wasn't very spiritual.

Love you all,
Dallin Johnson

Monday, July 25, 2016

Reaping the Whirlwind -- July 25, 2016

Happy July, errbody. Well. Wouldn't ya know it. I'm writing this from the internet cafe in Espaillat. Yes. THAT Espaillat. My birth area. The one where a very fat, very lost gringo touched down on November 4, 2014.

My great lozzy. What a whirlwind! It's weird to see everything through experienced eyes. At this precise moment exactly one month from today, assuming I don't get hit by a bus or struck by lightning or something, I'll be sitting in JFK International Airport. Eating Panda Express. I know that's really not bragging to any of you (except for Elder Jake Hogan haha) but it seems pretty stupendous to me.

But really, when I first arrived here, I was blown away. The
noise, the smell, the lack of grass, the street vendors, everything was just this Spanish-speaking cacophony and I thought that all things considered, I was probably going to die.

Things have changed. I feel at home in these streets. Spanish flows naturally for me now. I understand the nuances, the dips and rises, and I think it's beautiful. There's still no grass, but I forgive Espaillat for not being the prettiest barrio in the whole city.

But after just the few visits I've made, I've received a testimony of sowing seeds. Let me explain. In my two transfers here with Elder Miller, we taught exactly 400 lessons. FOUR. HUNDRED. We worked like animals. I showed up to the house every single night feeling like a donkey had kicked me in the back. And even after all that, we had just one baptism, Wellington. I was so sick of fighting with people. I was about ready just to blow the place up. Do baptisms for the dead.

Then, today, I found out that four people who Elder Miller and
I found have been baptized since I left. Two of the less-actives who we brought back to church have gone on missions. Another couple we taught is preparing to be married and baptized. Walescak, who was baptized and whose husband we reactivated, is preparing to go to the temple to be sealed to her family for time and all eternity. And Wellington continues strong in the church.

And I didn't know about hardly any of it. I wouldn't have even known had I not come back to visit. And it blows me away. I can't realistically take credit, because miracles like that are a composite of the efforts of many members and missionaries and above all by the Lord. His work will always be done no matter who the person is that does it. Anyone could have done what me and Elder Miller did here in Espaillat. But we did it. We were blessed so completely, so miraculously, to be able to do it.

That to me is the miracle of the mission. I used to think the mission was a sacrifice. I gave up girls,studying, music, orange chicken, reading non-gospel books. I gave up my life. 

And so God gave me another life. A better one. Infinitely better. I finally am beginning to understand what the scripture means that says, "For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it." And beyond just me, He blessed His other children through me, even with all my rough edges and unrefinedness. No, in the end, I didn't sacrifice anything at all. I invested it. And I have received one hundred fold every single thing I gave up. I have not been a perfect missionary in any sense of the word.

But that's okay. It really is.

Have a grand week!

Monday, July 4, 2016

¿Qué lo que, papá? -- July 4, 2016

Happy Independence Day! Things are going pretty dandily down here in San Isidro. Speaking of which.

So I'm here in San Isidro! It's still a capital area, and I'm actually only about a 15 minute guagua ride away from where I was before, so it's almost like I just moved houses and go to someone else's church. My new companion is
Me and Elder Koerper
Elder Koerper. We're an interesting companionship. Both tall guys (6' 3" and 6'4") and they can't pronounce our names. I'm JOH-soh and Elder Koerper is Elder Cooper. It could be worse. Elder Orchard was companions with a guy named Elder Croshaw at one point and their names were pronounced almost the same (OH-chah and Croh-chah) I like Elder Koerper though. Direct guy. The week before I got here, he went up an alleyway to bring an investigator named Wanda to church. She said she couldn't, which subsequently peeved Elder Koerper off (this happens often haha) and so, upon emerging from the alleyway, he saw this fruit vendor across the street with his son sitting by him. Elder Koerper crossed the street, pointed at this totally unknown kid and said, "HEY. COME TO CHURCH WITH ME." and the kid was like, "Hey, dad, can I go to the church with the big gringos?" and his dad was like, "Sure." And so he did. And now he has a baptismal date. Welp. I guess it works.

So every Wednesday, we have an english class in the church. Wait. First. I'm going to teach you a word. Conani. A conani is a gang of small children. This is  important. See, apparently something about learning english can't draw one single adult, and so when we showed up to the chapel at 6:30, we were faced with a conani of about fifteen kids. And zero adults. Well, we couldn't go in the church unless we had another adult, so we called some members until we finally got a brother who was willing to come out. In the meantime, the conani was getting restless. They were thirsty and wanted to go inside the church to drink some water. We. Did not care. We were fine just leaving them outside. Everything was going so smoothly until one of them figured out that I had a key. And the pestering began. And the nagging. And the whining. And the weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. I was just about to the point where I was weighing the ups and downs of kicking some kid butts when one of the little gremlins stuck his paw in my pocket and grabbed the keys. I, er, patted his hand and the keys slipped out. There was a quiet clink as they hit the ground.

And then all hell broke loose. I dropped and covered the keys as the conani swarmed like a school of piranhas, punching, kicking, pulling my hair. One little punk bit my right hand, which logic sort of boggles the mind when you consider the keys were in my freaking left. So here I am. A 6' 3", 180-pound adult 'Murican missionary being mobbed by a group of little Dominican kids like we were in the Walking Dead, I finally managed to stand up and toss the keys to a red-faced-from-laughing Elder Koerper. He caught them, took one look at the advancing conani, and casually tossed the keys on the pavement. They snatched them up and in one cackling horde stampeded into the church. BUM. MOVE.

A picture of the zone Hainamosa
Anyway, today is the fourth of July. Independence Day. Don't really know what I'll do to celebrate it. Independence here happened in February. Last year, I still bought a hamburger, drank Coke, and sang The Star-Spangled Banner on the roof of the Los Solares house with Elder Tillmond. It was patriotic in its own sad little way. I enjoyed it.

But being a foreign missionary has really been interesting on a couple of fronts. On the one hand, I've gotten exposed to a different culture. But it's also been fascinating for me to be exposed to my own culture from a foreign point of view. I could go for a long time about the differences, but the point I really want to touch on is the sameness.

The Dominican Republic and the United States are very different places. Very different. Traffic is organized chaos.
It was raining, so rather than be in the rain
for all of two seconds, that car owner just jumped
the sidewalk and parked under the roof. It's whatevs.
Laws are more like guidelines, anyway. People are sooo open. You walk up to any colmado guy and as long as you're open with him, he'll treat you like you've been friends for years. It's nuts. People here are by and large dirt poor, but if even us, big foreigners from a country with a reputation here for being rich, were to knock on the door of some hovel and say, "Please give us some food, we're very hungry," they would go through hell and back to get us at least some bread and rice. Employment here is sketchy at best and savings plans aren't overly important because you can't save when you're scraping a living. They print bible verses on peanut wrappers. (I once walked into a bathroom in Verón, and all over the walls, people had graffitied things like, "Christ is coming" "Repent!" "Satan is a liar" "There's no happiness in sin" etc. And I'm like. Well. Graffiti's bad. But. Better than American graffiti.) Teenage pregnancy is rampant and families that are divided and scattered all over the place is the norm. I can count on one hand the number of families I've met that were just two parents and all their kids in one house.

And you know what? Their desires are just about the same. They want a job they like. They want stability. They get self-conscious. Girls want to look pretty. Guys act stupid to impress girls. They worry about whether or not the girl who sits in the colmado is gonna reject them or not. They want to learn the guitar. Children dream of being professional athletes. They dream of changing the world. Everyone just wants a happy, healthy life, being accepted and surrounded by their loved ones. They want the same thing.

This is a lesson that should be obvious. That people have the same fundamental needs and desires no matter where they're from. But I know that I always thought of people here or in Africa as people whose entire existence was devoted to carrying water jugs fifteen miles each way every day and eating millet and walking in the bush. And it's not. There are different standards of living, but people are people, and we are no more people than they are. Because from a Dominican point of view, that right there is a hallmark of Americanism. The arrogance.

I don't really know where I'm going with all of this. I'm slightly unfocused. But. We're not in this life to compete with each other. We're all playing the same game. And we're all on the same team.

The Santo Domingo temple grounds

Monday, June 20, 2016

Rushin' -- June 20, 2016

Well, time is short, but here are some pics. Also, transfers are here. This means that Elder Orchard (the rather
diminuitive fellow with spiky hair in the picture of him and me with Jeremy, a member, between us) will be finishing his mission and peacing off to Las Vegas tomorrow morning.

I'm somewhat convinced that Dallin
gets his photogenic nature from me
-- The Kommadant
Speaking of peacing, I've been transferred! I'm going to San Isidro with Elder Koerper, a 6' 4" New Mexican who played baseball in college. We'll still be the zone leaders in Hainamosa. They're going to put sisters in my current area, hence they took both Elder Orchard and I out.

Speaking of which, I tell you what, I'm not very good at handling stress. On Saturday night, there was sooo much to do. We were supposed to compile a weekly report, finish stake conference, pack, make our area book all neat and tidy for the sisters, clean our house to sister standards, and a whole plethora of other things.

And so, as I often do when I have so many things to do, I got home that evening and didn't do one single thing. No, I utilized the ancient stress-management technique of collapsing on the floor and eating a quarter pound of beef jerky. Now, this did not solve my problems, but it sure made me feel better.

And so. With that in mind. I love you all, but well. I have a bunch of stuff that I've been putting off for two days so. Have a great week!

Love, Dallin

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Sometimes, you just gotta squat -- June 13, 2016

Squat is relative. I'd say that technically only Elders Hutchins and Potokar are squatting. Strictly speaking, I'm whoa-lunging and Elder Zamora would be Tebowing.

I still have not found my camera cord, although I did buy an sd card reader. Right now I'm troubleshooting- Elder Potokar emailed me the attached pic. There will come more photos if I can get this consarn thing working. A ver.

Some Deep Dembow (dem-BOHW) -- June 6, 2016

Dearest Family and Friends,

Well I'll be. An actual salutation? I dunno when the last time I did one of those was, but I mean. It didn't really change the email at all, did it?

Well, it's week five of the transfer, so time's blowing by. Elder Orchard only has two weeks left and I can't believe that the clock is hammering down. It's like when you're surfing and you see a huge wave coming at you- You know it's coming and you kind of want it to get there and also really don't but it's gonna hit you whether or not you like it. Haha I've never actually been surfing before, so I don't know if it really feels like that, but that's what I imagine it feels like.

Let me tell you something. Being in the DR has upsides and I love it and all. But imagine you're sitting there. The Spirit is so thick you could cut it with a knife. You're about to invite someone to be baptized. You're just certain they're gonna accept. And then. Out of nowhere. Someone cranks an amp and your eyeballs start tangoing in your skull because the bass is vibrating so hard. Yeah. So that's a downside. In case y'all don't know what dembow is, I recommend looking up the song Tarzan by El Mayor. I do NOT recommend looking up a translation of Tarzan by El Mayor. Anyway.

So a couple of weeks ago, we did an intercambio with the elders of Sabana Perdida 2, and I was over there with Elder Aplanalp. We had an interesting experience that has been stuck in the back of my mind ever since. We were walking down the street with José, one of the members over there, when we saw a dog jump out of an alley and scare some poor girl in heels right out of her socks. We used that as an entrance and contacted her. She seemed very interested in the gospel and invited us to her house. We accepted. What followed were 90 of the most frustrating minutes of my mission.

She didn't set us up. Not really. But she never had any intention of listening to us. She was a Jehovah's Witness, and she was determined to whip us purple with the Bible. Now, I think she may have underestimated the formidability of Mormon missionaries when it comes to an old-fashioned Bible bash. She never really threw us for a loop, and from an outsider's point of view, I would humbly say that we had the upper hand for most of the conflict.

But from an insider's point of view (namely ours) it was a total failure. We may have handled every cross she tried to throw at us, but if anything, we reinforced her own conviction that she was right and left an impression of Mormon missionaries as pompous and contentious. We should NEVER have tried to fight it as we did. I suppose the important thing now is to learn from it and not repeat the experience.

Now, to be perfectly honest, I don't really know where I'm going with all of this. I don't know why I'm taking valuable time out of your respective days with this lame story, but I guess it just really struck me. One of the hardest things for me to accept as a missionary is how some people refuse to explore things outside of what they currently believe. Or some people who receive a strong spiritual witness of gospel truths eventually reject them because they like smoking or don't want to get married to their girlfriend or whatever. There was a time when I just wanted to grab these people and shake them and just shout, "STOP PLAYING AROUND, THIS IS FREAKING ETERNITY WE'RE TALKING ABOUT!!" And frankly, I still sometimes feel that. But. God respects agency. And I guess it's just a reminder of why we need to be so careful with how we use our own agency.

Anyway. Have a great week, errahbody!


P.S. There was a kind of funny moment there at the end with that lass. Elder Aplanalp tried to give her a Restoration pamphlet and she was like, "I can't accept that. There are images in it that offend me." and Elder Aplanalp was like, "Is that so? Well, does the cover offend you? No? What about this one?" and she was like, "Yes, that one." and so Elder Aplanalp was like, "Arright," and straight up ripped the page out. She started protesting like, "Hey, you don't have to destroy the thing," and then he just started tearing them all out and it was just so unexpected. It was pretty funny. Although I mean, she still didn't accept it, so it's whatever, but it was sort of a silver lining for the experience. That's all.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Sabana Grande de BOOYAH! -- May 23, 2016

Right, so on to the week.

My new companion is Elder Orchard. He's an ancient missionary from Las Vegas. He's going to finish his mission this transfer. He's 5' 5" and I would conservatively estimate that he benches twice as much as I do. And I'm like. Ten inches taller. So. That's embarrassing. Also, we totally go to the gym in the mornings.

Being a zone leader is one heck of a job. I went up to this place called Sabana Grande de Boyá to do some baptismal interviews. Sabana Grande de Boyá is like Consuelo. It was wonderful. It smelled like cow dung and I felt right at home. I wish I knew how to type a hashtag so that I could hashtag:cachevalleylandof72000cows. Do people still hashtag? I dunno. But the interviews were fairly uneventful. We were told that the guy who was supposed to be interviewed was somewhere on a sugar cane plantation looking for lost sheep (kind of ironic, huh?) and so we didn't even end up getting to do the interview. hastag:campoproblems. BUT! I did get to write in my journal for the first time since transfers. Oh my unborn posterity is going to kill me.

Zone Conference
But it comes with perks! I got to do an intercambio with a trainee named Elder Rosales who's from Honduras and is serving in.... Los. Solares. Yeah. My old stomping grounds. And I discovered something very important. I really love Los Solares. It's not just the bomb-diggety chicken empanadas from a licensed D'Maykel franchise. Nor is it the friendly colmado owner, Freddie, who always told me that everything only costed ten pesos when it did not in fact cost ten pesos. Freddie helps though. No, as I walked down that street in Los Solares, it just felt like home.

Which is an extremely weird thought, because Los Solares is nothing like home. But it felt that way. It's also interesting because, well, it's been nearly a year since I was last there. Everything was so familiar. But also totally different. Some roads that were dirt are now paved. Juice costs like 80 pesos (!!!) New houses were built. There were different people behind the counter at the cafeteria and internet center by the house. It was the same. But different.

I think going home will be kind of like that. I don't mean to talk about going home, but as of this Wednesday, I have exactly three months remaining. That's like. A little over one scout camp season. That's really not long at all. This feeling of being an old man in the mission is odd. Becoming a better missionary has become the object of my existence for the last twenty months, and I'm still doing it, but I'm doing it with the knowledge that in a lot of cases, I'm preparing things here for someone else. The whippersnappers. The greenhorns. The younguns.

And that's okay. It's an important job and someone's gotta do it. Just feels weird is all.

But hey! Love you all and hope you have a great week!


P.S. Sorry for the lack of pictures. I still haven't found my camera cord since being transferred.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Return to the City Slickers -- May 9, 2016

The World's Largest Mojito

This week's epistle will be very short. Apart from finding the world's largest mojito, apparently, I have been transferred. I am going to return to the zone Hainamosa, only this time, I'm going to be in the area Hainamosa. For any of y'all who done forgot, I was in the area Los Solares in that zone from February until July last year. I will be a zone leader there.

Ah! But leaving Verón. I don't really know what to say that I didn't say the last time. Leaving is still hard. I love so many people here.

But! I did want to send that group picture there that was taken yesterday (Sunday). This is a diverse roomful. Without pointing out faces or naming names, in this picture there are orphans, divorcees, widows, widowers, a homosexual, one who had committed murder, and two Mormon missionaries. These people represent broken families and regrettable decisions. They've all made some mistakes, some of them terrible, terrible mistakes.

And all of them are being healed. Because all these people were gathered in one home in the name of Jesus Christ. It seems so ridiculous. But that's just the miraculosity of missionary work.

Also, my mother is legit.


Monday, May 2, 2016

An Email from a Stranger -- May 2, 2016

Bro. & Sister Hafer/Bro. & Sis. Johnson.

Just a quick note to tell you that I spent about an hour and half among your missionary sons this morning in Dominican Republic.  My wife and I are here vacationing and met your sons in Church this morning.  They seemed to be very good young men and a great support for the branch in Pueblo Bavaro.  They greeted us warmly as we approached the church and I was happy to see them interacting with the ward members.  

Elder Johnson played the keyboard for Sacrament meeting and did a great job.  That's a great talent which is now paying off from all the practice.  It made me think of my own 15 year old son, who has been has been taking piano lessons from his mom for many years.  I hope that he will have the same opportunities to serve as Elder Johnson. (My son's first name is Dallin also!)

Elder Hafer also is a great missionary.  The branch is very small and so he was busy doing much of the "ward clerk duties"; helping set up chairs, counting attendance, passing the sacrament.  His blue eyes were very striking among so many dark brown eyes.  It was easy to see his is a great help for the branch.

In sacrament meeting a new convert was confirmed.  Another very nice woman and her two young sons were attendance and they announced that they were scheduled for baptism in another week.  And another woman, a convert baptized just two weeks ago, said the closing prayer.  It seems they are having considerable success.  Its wonderful to see!  There was a great spirit as the members shared their testimonies.  I could feel it, even if I only understood 2% of what they said.  My wife helped fill in the gaps for me since she speaks Spanish.

Thanks for raising strong young men.  Here's a photo!

The cool thing that happened was that the man who sent this to us also gave them a referral via text. 

He said:

"Elders, we met a security guard here at the hotel, who says he's a member of the church. We think he's been a member for about 6 months. He lives in Higüay. Will you contact him, or the elders in that city, and follow up with him? We'd love to hear how it goes. We gave him a Book of Mormon, and would like him to get involved with the self reliance program. We're guessing that he needs some fellowship. Here's his contact information: 123-456-7890 Edgar "Manuel".  If you mention to him that we met him in the parking lot of Barcelo Punta Cana, and our names,  he should remember us.  Thanks."

It's worth like.... 7041 words. -- May 2, 2016

Makes me think of the song "If a picture's worth a 1000 words, ....." The Kommadant

Hello! Well, I would write a long, well-thought-out letter, but unfortunately, I'm still suffering from a severe cramp in my right wrist from last week's dissertation, so I think these pictures ought to describe the week pretty thoroughly. Ta!

Cubicle Matrimony

Because he is Jorge.

It ain't every day you find a 3 kg bucket of Nutella


Wind in your hair always makes the picture sexy. Right?

Thursday, April 28, 2016

A Really, Really, Really, Really, Really, Really, Really, Really, Really, Really, Really, Really, Really, Really Long Miracle -- April 25, 2016

Happy Tuesday! I couldn't write this yesterday because yesterday was a crazy Monday and I can't wait to tell you all about it. So. Let's get to it.

At 12:45 pm yesterday morning, Elder Hafer and I found ourselves in a judge's office in the Verón city hall with our branch president and a lovely couple named Jordanny and Nailín. They were getting married in preparation for their baptism the same night. And the fact that I could write this last paragraph is a miracle.

Unlike the vast majority of our human interactions in the
mission, Jordanny actually contacted us. He stopped Elder Hafer and I in the street and was like, "Hey, you guys are Mormons, right?" and we were like, "Well. Yeah. Mormonazos." And he was like, "Cool. I have a buddy named Fernando who's a Mormon and he's pretty legit." So we were like, "Hey, that's awesome. Do you have any specific questions we can answer for you?" and he was like, "Yes. What do I have to do to get baptized?" After we picked our jaws up off the ground, we were like. "Wow. That's the best question we've gotten all day." And so it was. We met his wife, Nailín, which actually complicated things somewhat because, like roughly ninety-eight percent of all couples under the age of 25 who live together in this country, him and his wife were not married. But they were both very receptive and they love each other and so they agreed to get married and then baptized. This was back at the end of February. Everything was going so smoothly.

Then the hiccups started. The initial marriage/baptismal date was set for April 9. Things were proceeding pretty well until the last Sunday in March, when we were going to announce the baptism. Jordanny pulled me aside and told me that they had had a fight and that they were going to call off the wedding. It was nothing serious, just a lover's quarrel where they both said things they didn't mean. And so, they still wanted to get baptized, but they were going to get separated in order to do it.

Well I wasn't about to swallow that. We'd planned to go into the office on Tuesday to put the appointment to marry them and I get very grumpy when I have to change my plans. I don't consider myself a terribly stubborn person, but. Well. I don't always put my mind to it, but when I put my mind to it, I could challenge a brick wall to a staring contest and. Okay. I probably wouldn't win, because, I mean, let's be real here, it's a brick wall, but I would stare at a brick wall for a couple of hours, which is more than most people would do. And so Elder Hafer and I went to their house on Sunday. And Monday. And we battled with them. Elder Hafer talked to them about how much God loves them while I looked for scriptures in the epistles of Paul because if you want to rebuke someone, Paul's your man. And when Tuesday arrived (Tuesday being the day we had to go put the appointment) they were still very set on separation, so we went that day too. Finally, defeated and out of any other ideas of what to do, we left them a heartfelt testimony and told them to call us if they changed their minds.

Elder Hafer and I were trudging melancholaly (I dunno if that's actually a word, but it's pretty fun to say) down the road, not saying a word. It was really kind of depressing. Finally, Elder Hafer said, "Well. What do we do now? We were gonna go put the appointment, but...." And then it hit me. What were we doing? Who were we to take the celestial task of touching the hearts of God's children upon ourselves like that? And so I said, "Elder Hafer, we are going to say a prayer and then we are going to see with the eye of faith and act with that knowledge that God will touch their hearts. Sometimes God's children make silly choices, but NOT TODAY. They are going to get married, and we're going to prepare the way for Him to bless them." And so we did. We had fought with them for three days and they still hadn't said yes, so we went and we put that appointment anyway. We walked out of the office at about three thirty pm. At five, our phone rang, and it was Nailín. "We changed our minds, we're getting married!" And the ensuing dancing on the part of Elder Hafer and I (which took place on the median between a busy highway, I'll have you know) attracted such attention that a truck of tourists literally stopped to take pictures. Now, I don't know if that means that we forgot our place as representatives of Jesus Christ, but it felt awfully good.

Despite this victory, they didn't actually get married and baptized on the ninth as planned. On the sixth, Nailín's oldest son was hit by a semi. He lives in the capital, and due to their economic situation, they had to take him to one of the atrocious public hospitals there. We're told that because of the hectic nature of these hospitals, if the sick or injured don't have someone healthy with them and something happens, the doctors will take hours to get to them, which can result in serious complications and sometimes death. So being the excellent mother she is, Nailín immediately rushed off to attend to her son. This was not a problem we would ever fight her on, but once we were assured that her son was alright and was expected to recover, we were very worried about their spiritual well-being and so we once again turned to the Lord and supplicated him for help. He answered in the form of President Ahmad Saleem Corbitt.

President Corbitt went to the hospital to visit Nailín. He told us afterward about the experience. He went in and got to know Nailín some and then asked her son if he would like a priesthood blessing. He responded that he did. Now, they were sharing the room with about ten other patients, and so President asked them all to turn off the TV and other distractions while he did the blessing, which they did. It's one of the blessings of being in such a proudly Christian country. President blessed her son and then, with everyone looking on, he turned and asked if they wanted him to pray for all of the children there.

And so it was that the entire pediatric ward in the Dario Contreras Hospital in Santo Domingo bowed their heads and listened in reverence to the humble, heartfelt prayer of a Mormon mission president from America. I wasn't even there and it's still one of the most precious moments of my mission.

And so, finally, yesterday, Jordanny and Nailín were married by the law and then baptized as the newest members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The service was so beautiful. Everything went perfectly. Well, apart from the fact that I had to baptize Jordanny three times, which kind of boggles the mind when you consider that I dropped him on the second attempt. The problem was that we were baptizing him in the kiddie pool, which is fine if you're five foot four, but where Jordanny is about six feet tall, the water only came up to about two inches above his knees. We wised up and the third time, we moved to the adult pool and it worked much better.

Experiences like this only reinforce my testimony. In spite of all the struggles and challenges we faced along the way, it's been a worthy fight. Every time we visit them in their home, we can feel a spirit of love and peace that did not exist there the first time we crossed that threshold. The Lord has helped them to find a love and devotion to him and to each other that I want emulated in my own marriage whenever that day comes. It's a miracle how He's been able to change them in so little time and I can't wait to see where they'll be in the months and years to come.

So! Another week has passed out here in Verón. As of myself, I just feel full. Full of empanadas, full of happiness, just full. The mission isn't easy and there are times when I feel frustrated. But I know where I'm supposed to be and I thank God every day He allowed a dingbat like me to be a part of this miraculous work.

I hope you all have the grandest of weeks.

Amen, hallelujah,
Elder Dallin Johnson

P.S. If you're reading this P.S., you're also a testimony to me of the miracle of enduring this email to end, and I congratulate you.