Saturday, February 16, 2013

Our Mission: An Overview of Abundant Blessings

Our Mission: An Overview of Abundant Blessings
Darrel L. Hammon 

Recently, I awoke at 5:00 a.m. and contemplated our past 18 months. I thought about the many experiences we had. Since we have been home, many people have asked what have been the highlights. I think I will try to numerate some them, not just for their benefit, but for my benefit and edification:
Sister and Elder Hammon
§  Serving with Joanne—Ah, the sweetness of her spirit and her willingness to get up every single day and try to do the Lord’s work. I know it was hard for her, not knowing the language, not being able to communicate the way she wanted to, and feeling helpless when I was trying to drive. While she couldn’t communicate as well as she would have liked, she did communicate with them through her incredible spirit. When she bore strong testimony in Spanish, the spirit touched every single person who was there. They knew that she knew. So many of them wanted to give her abrazos everywhere we went. It was wonderful: spirit to spirit, heart to heart, hermana a hermana. I am and will always be blessed to have Joanne as my eternal companion. I do want to go on other missions with her. Thank you, Joanne, for being the best companion I have ever had.

Albania, her mother, friends, and los Hammon
§  The people—I love the Dominicans and the islanders. Yes, I complain about their driving and their lack of what I have considered “adherence to any laws,” but I love them. We love their brown faces and extraordinary smiles—las sonrisas Dominicanas. We loved the poses of the little girls when we wanted to take a picture, their little beads in their hair, the curlers, the five people on scooters, their genuineness to help us when we really needed it, their numerous abrazos and love they shared with us. It is no wonder when the Lord said to the missionaries, “You need to learn to love the people. If you don’t love them, then the spirit cannot work as well with you to bring to pass my work and my glory among them.”
Los Glazier, McDermid, Hammon, Brown, and Shaver--just a few
§  Senior Missionaries—We made so many friends among the senior missionaries. If I were to name them, I would invariably leave one out. We have gone on excursions with them. We have prayed for and with them. We have snorkeled with them. We have eaten with them in a variety of places, both good and bad and unique. We have traveled to the frontera (the border) with them. We have cried with them. They have become our eternal friends.

Cristina, Los Hammon, y Francisca
§   The Area Office—Ah, the Area Office. I love those people—Indhiana, Vicente, Victor, Hermana Dominga, Carlos, all of the Césars, Benjamin, las Elizabeths (Berroa y Baez), Jonnathan, Yadira, Francisca, Dayanara, Fidel Filpo, Wendy, los Gemelos, Katy, Rosana, Roxana, Grace, Cristina, Alysia, Benjamin, Ronaldo, Presidentes Morla and Segura, Rufino Díaz (his wife and Sara), Wagner Paniagua, Inés, Socrates, Arihanny, Wendy, and all the rest. You know who you are. What would I do without having met these people? They always stopped by and brightened my day. Some people say there was always a line of people outside the door of our cubicle, wanting to hablar con Elder Hammon. I thoroughly enjoyed visiting, despite not getting as much done during the day. I think they felt comfortable coming by and visiting. I hope they enjoyed it as much as I did.

Santo Domingo Temple
§  The Temple—Friday night at the temple was a spiritual boost for us. We anticipated Friday nights. They came often and quickly. Working with the people there—Hermanos Almonte, Trindidad, Peña, Rotellini, Leavitt, Larsen, Despain, Schopp; Presidentes Bair, Casanova, and Muñoz; Hermanas Olivero, Upia, King (incredible woman), the wives of all of the brethren above, the patrons who came, and the rest of the hermanas y hermanos.. Often, we wouldn’t have very many who came to the sessions, but the ones who came were faithful and willing to serve. 
Los Hammon y Hermanas
§  The CCM—We love the missionaries! We love being with the, meeting them for the first time; teaching them; having them teach us; witnessing the light grow in them; then seeing them in the field, doing what they do best: teaching the principles of the Gospel of Jesus Christ; being a part of their endowments and helping them through their first experience in the temple. Ammon was right: “cuán motive tenemos para recocijarnos porque ¿pudimos habernos imaginado, cuando salimos de la tierra de Zarahemla (Wyoming), que Dios nos concedería tan grandes benediciones?...que hemos side hechos instrumentos en las manos de dios para realizar esta gran obra” (Alma 26:1-3). We have been thoroughly blessed by being with these extraordinary young men and young woman. It is no wonder the Lord’s work rolls down the mountain…. Working with Elders Swapp and Button and President and Sister Glazier has been a marvelous assignment that came as a blessing to us. We didn’t ask for it; it just came quietly and without fanfare, and we tried to serve in the same fashion.
Hermana Miranda, los Arias, hermana, y los Rotellini
§  El Almacén del Obispo—What a wonderful assignment this was! We were able to work with Hermano y Hermana King; los Rotellini, los Arias, and Hermano Miranda, José, and the host of other volunteers that came week after week to help the coordinators. I enjoyed visiting with those who came, many of them with their children.  We made friends, eternal friends.

the Díaz-Beloni Family
§  Consuelo—Our first assignment was incredible. Meeting President Montero and his lovely little family and to soak in the love they provided, even for the short time we were there. One of the experiences I cherish is meeting the hermana who sat by me one day, and I helped her read and find the scriptures. Afterwards, she said to me: “You have taught me more about the scriptures today than I have learned over the past three years since I was baptized. The spirit overwhelmed me. She read hesitantly, but she read. Plus, meeting the Beloni-Díaz family: Hermano y Hermana, Samuel, Ana Maria, and Junior. I still remember the first day in Consuela and meeting them and going to their home and witnessing Samuel receive his Duty to God and Ana Maria receiving her YW Medallion and the pride in the eyes of her parents. Can there be a more delicious thing than to witness the Gospel in action? I don’t know of much more. 

Presidente Reynoso from the Puerto Plata Stake and Elder Hammon
§  Training and Capacitación—Oh, this is probably one of those things I could do every single day. I love to train, teach, and facilitate. It animates me. It charges me. It makes me want to do better. There is nothing better than to look someone in the eye and watch them “get it” and then participate. We so thoroughly enjoyed going to the branches, wards, districts, and stakes throughout the Caribbean Area and meeting with the great leaders there. When we were in Elder Cornish’s office for our exit interview, Joanne looked at the board that had all of the stake presidents, mission presidents, and district presidents. She said, “We know so many of them.” It was an honor and a blessing to work with these fine young men and the leaders of their different units. We only hope and pray that some of the teachings we shared with them will stay in the minds and their hearts so they can continue to become the great leaders they are. We always prayed hard for the local leaders that they could rise to the occasion and bless their people through revelation and counsel from God.

The original Spanish class

§  Spanish class—My Spanish class, wow! From the first day, I enjoyed going in and attempting to facilitate Spanish learning. 

In the end....Our Spanish Class
      I know it was difficult for many of the hermanas in the class, but they stuck with it, week after week after week. They came, they participated, and they went home and attempted to speak the language. I know learning a second language is a difficult task. It is challenging to all of us, including me. There were/are/and will continue to be times that I cannot understand someone; so, I have to have help. I ask them to repeat or slow down. Often, that doesn’t help with some people. 

Constanza project--winter supplies from Puerto Rico
    Humanitarian Projects—We thoroughly enjoyed being a part of the humanitarian projects. Our first project—el Liceo—was a good one because of the involvement of the Las Americas Stake. They wanted to do the project, and they did the project. As a consequence, the director’s husband was baptized, and good will spread throughout Las Brisas. The vision project with Dr. and Sister Christiansen was spectacular. We were able to travel to Puerto Rico to pick up the equipment and then on to Dominica and St. Kitts for the closings. But we also had the opportunity to travel with the Atkinsons and Haws to a variety of projects, including the prosthetic project with Innovación Ortopédica and those good people there. What better work than to help the poor and the needy. The Lord has taught us that we must help the poor and needy or we will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

Presidente Olivero, Bennie Lilly, Elder Dominguez, stake leader
     Working for Bennie—We cannot say enough about Bennie and what he has done for us. We probably had the best orientation of any senior couple. He had his list of things for us to accomplish. We met with him frequently in his office and even more frequently in our little cubicle. He also was praising us and really giving us rein to do what we needed to do or what we thought we needed to do. What can you say more about that? Since there hadn’t been anyone in that position before, we created the job description with Bennie’s guidance.

The market
§  Fruit and Vegetables—We will miss the fresh mangos, guineos (banana), piña (pineapple),  lechosa (papaya), and many other fresh fruits and vegetables. We will miss stopping at a street light, rolling down the window and handing over our pesos for pineapple or aguacate (avocado), or for whatever they were selling. We’ll miss going down to the vendor on the corner and buying guineas. That’s one of the beauties of the DR, the ability to buy almost anything from someone.

Puerto Plata in the a.m.

     The country—The beaches in Bayahibe, Juan Dolio, Puerto Plata, and Samaná; mountains in Jarabacoa; the fields in Constanza and San Francisco de Macoris; the Zona Colonial and all of its incredible forts, hospitals, churches; Consuelo; las Terrenas; Tres Ojos; la Frontera and it uniqueness; and many, many more. The Dominican Republic is just an incredible place.

Truly, our mission was an adventure of a life time, and we were abundantly blessed.

Vista Mare in Samaná
Isla Saona--Bayahibe

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Farewell to the Dominican Republic: Hasta la Vista

Farewell to the Dominican Republic: Hasta la Vista
Darrel L. Hammon

Bennie presenting the plaque with Lisette from the HR Office
 Before we left the Dominican Republic, Joanne lamented, “One of the things I hate most is goodbyes.” Goodbyes are hard to say, hard to receive, especially when you have grown to love the people, and we love the people in the Dominican Republic and throughout the Caribbean Area. Our goodbyes came in a variety of ways:

Clase de Español
 The Spanish class. Darrel had fun teaching/facilitating the Spanish class. We had class on Monday and Thursday afternoons. We started with a small group, and then more came, which we enjoyed. The most challenging was the diversity of the students. Some were new and just learning; others had been in the country for several months; others were returned missionaries; and others had served previous Spanish-speaking missions. Overall, they were/are a good group who loved to practice, hated to practice, and enjoyed each other's company.

Los Haws
 They all came over to the Almacén del Obispo (Bishops’ Storehouse) for dinner. Los Haws, the humanitarian couple, threw the party. Everyone had brought fixings for taco salad. We ate until our hearts content. Then, the Haws sang a song while Elder Haws played the ukulele. When they were done, Elder Haws began the quasi-roast. They were so very nice. It ended up like a eulogy. Tears came to our eyes when Reid Cornish stood up and told us how much he loved us and that he had a picture of us in his room. He is such a sweet young man. We truly appreciated all of the words they spoke to us and about us. 

Los Lows y los Hammon
 Senior missionaries. On Monday evenings, all of the senior missionaries attended FHE. Our despedida (farewell) happened on Monday, January 14, 2013. We shared the stage with the Lows from Canada. We did our best to check the tears. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always work, especially when Joanne’s tears flowed easily and often, and she shared her testimony in Spanish before I did. We have thoroughly enjoyed meeting and working with all of the senior missionaries in the Area. They are incredible people with huge hearts and incredible talents.

Hermana Hammon speaking at the Devotional
 Area Office. We spoke at the Area Office Devotional on Tuesday before we left. There were tears and laughter. Joanne bore her testimony in Spanish. Darrel spoke about the People of Ammon and how they accepted people into their fold. That’s how we should be: loving and kind people, willing to accept anyone into our fold like the Dominicans have done to us. We both shed a few tears. We then dedicated a PowerPoint presentation to them. It was full of pictures we had taken along the way of everyone in the office. The presentation was about 10 minutes long. They loved it. Afterwards, Daniel Almeida, Director of Temporal Affairs, said he learned things about his people he hadn’t known before. 

We received a beautiful plaque, and Joanne received a Mary Lantigua doll. It truly was a great event. We gave and received lots of abrazos.

Elder Hammon speaking at the Devotional
 Dinners. We had dinner with the Ruckers, Eickbushes, and Buttons and all their guests. The food was good, the company even better. We have made some eternal friends as we served, and none better than the senior couples and missionaries with whom we served. They are spectacular!

The Berroa Family from San Pedro District, Kennedy Branch
Private goodbyes. Several people came to our office to say goodbye and give us their abrazos. We all shed tears of sadness and happiness, sadness that we were going, but happiness knowing we were going home to family and friends and we could utilize technology to visit with our new friends, anytime, anywhere. One private goodbye came in a Facebook message, saying she couldn’t say goodbye because the tears wouldn’t have ceased.

Then, on Friday morning, January 25, 2013, Bennie Lilly came by very early, loaded us up in RAV4, and took us to the airport. He stayed with us until we walked through customs.  Thanks, Bennie! You’re the best!

Cristina, Joanne, Darrel, Francisca
 And so it went. How we loved our mission, but the goodbyes were sad, just like Joanne predicted. The best thing, though, is the technology. We told them all we could stay in touch via email and Skype. And since our departing, we have had messages via a variety of venues from some of them.

 As we said our goodbyes, Dayanara who works in the Area Office Finance Department said to Joanne, “This is why I don’t talk to the senior couples. They come and then they leave, and you never hear from them again.” Joanne told her that would not be the case with the Hammons. We want to stay in contact with them. We love all of them. They truly have become part of our family.

Santo Domingo Temple
In essence, though, there really are no real “goodbyes,” just “hasta la vista.” And we wait anhelosamente for the day when we see you all again, either in the Dominican Republic, the isles of the sea, or here. Remember: Nuestra casa es su casa. We salute you all.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Hogar Mercedes de Jesus: A Place of Refuge

Hogar Mercedes de Jesus: A Place of Refuge
Darrel L. and Joanne B. Hammon

Some of the youngest
Christmas is meant to be shared. On Christmas Eve day, we went with a group of senior missionaries to Hogar Mercedes de Jesus, an orphanage. The curious thing about many of the orphanages in the DR is they do not adopt out their children. Instead, they raise them. They stay at the orphanage and go to school. 

More young ones
The oldest young woman at Hogar Mercedes de Jesus is now going to college, studying to become a teacher. She is call “la voz” or “the voice.” She was the spokesperson for the group of 23 children, ages three-years old to twenty-years old, boys and girls.
"La Voz" (the Voice)
The theme at the orphanage is Sembrando Amor y Esperanza (Sowing/Planting Love and Hope).
Hermana Button. Where was Elder Button?
Sister Bair, the Santo Domingo Temple Matron, had organized the trip. Previously, she had contacted the nuns and made a list of the children with their ages and sizes. 

President and Hermana Bair (Temple President)
Then, during Family Home Evening, we each chose a name or two or three, purchased some items for the children, and then wrapped the gifts. 

The middle group of young women--8-11
That morning we drove out to the Hogar Mercedes de Jesus and walked to the little pavilion where the children were waiting for us. They came out to greet us. They were absolutely beautiful—beautiful smiles, beautiful countenances, beautiful children of God. We fell in love immediately. 

Presidente y Hermana Casanova (Counselor in Temple Presidency)
First, the seniors climbed onto the stage and sang a few Christmas carols to the children. After awhile, a few of us took our sheet music, climbed off the stage, mingled with the children, and urged them to sing along with us. 

Los Dunford
Some were anxious to sing along; others did not know the songs or were too shy. It was wonderful just to listen to these angelic voices.

Los Larsen
After we finished singing, each couple called the child’s name they had selected to receive their present. 

Los Despain
It seemed that each child cautiously stepped onto the stage, taking the gift and then posing with the missionaries as we all snapped pictures. 

Los Hammon
 We enjoyed every minute of it.

Los Rees
After the gifts were given, we then handed out a bag of candy to each of them. Then, President Bair stood up and said, “Now, we have a gift we want you to come up and take and then give it to someone you will see today or tomorrow during Christmas.” That was exciting to watch.

Once we finished, then they all took the stage and sang several Christmas carols to us. Again, their angelic voices wafted throughout the air and then just hung while we soaked in the wonderful words. Their smiles lighted up the room and touched our hearts. Yes, these are definitely children of a loving Heavenly Father. 

Children singing to us
After the children finished singing, Hermana Rosa (Sister Rose), one of the nuns, took us on a little tour of Hogar Mercedes de Jesus. She showed us the computer lab that the Church had donated through a recent humanitarian project; the bedrooms where six young women shared a room and one bathroom; a smaller room where the youngest children shared a room and a bathroom; the library with its precious few books, which the children cannot check out although they can read them there; and the garden where they grow bananas and some vegetables. 

Los Ferguson
As we walked through the rooms and the building, we all commented on the wonderful spirit we felt there. Perhaps, it was the strategically placed signs on the wall that stated “Paz” (Peace), “Alegría” (Happiness), “Amor” (Love), “Esperanza” (Hope), and “Disponibilidad” (Availability or ready to help).

Hermana Mahon
Soon, it was time to go. As we drove away from Hogar Mercedes de Jesus, we breathed in the contentment we shared on the eve of Christ’s birth with some of his most blessed children. Thanks to the Hermanas (the Sisters) of Hogar Mercedes de Jesus! They are doing such an incredible job with these young people.

Las Hermanas

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Feliz Navidad! Merry Christmas Santo Domingo, the Dominican Republic, December 2012

Feliz Navidad! Merry Christmas
Santo Domingo, the Dominican Republic, December 2012

Is it Christmas time already? It’s hard to imagine Christmas when it is 84 degrees with 67% humidity. It has “cooled” down some. In fact, we can open our windows each night and let a little of the 74 degrees in. It actually feels cool. What is going to happen when we arrive home from our mission in the dead of winter? We are not looking forward to that.
Now for the family stuff—
Anna Rose, Chistiaan, Emiline, and William
Anna Rose and Christiaan welcomed a new baby boy in April. What a treat it was for Emiline to have a baby brother. She loves “baby William” to pieces. Of course, he loves her right back. 

Emiline and first snow
We just hope that love continues after he learns to walk and get into things.

Little William
 William has bright red/orange Andersen hair and a smile that encompasses his entire face. He is just a happy, happy baby.
Hailey, Joseph, and baby Clark
Hailey and Joseph had their first in October. Because they had just moved to Verona, Wisconsin, where Joseph began working for Epic, Joanne went to help Hailey with the baby. It was fortunate that she did go as Hailey had some complications. 
Hailey and Clark
Baby boy Clark entered the world kicking and screaming. He has since calmed down a bit, sleeps through the night, and loves his mother immensely.
We enjoy talking to both daughters via Skype. We thank Heavenly Father for Skype and technology. For couple missionaries, we can visit with family members whenever, which is a good thing. Each week—or sometimes even more often—when we visit with Anna Rose and Hailey, we can see how the babies grow. Unfortunately, we cannot reach through the screen and kiss their cute little cheeks. Emiline and William like talking to us; Clark just stares at the screen—remember, he is just two months old and very adorable. 
LaWane, John, and Nicole
John, LaWane, and Nicole Boltz, Joanne’s brother and his family, came to visit over Thanksgiving. They brought down hearing aids, items for school kits, and clothes for some humanitarian projects.

The Hunters and the Boltz Family at the hospital
 We took the hearing aids to a hospital that serves the poor. 

Walky, her mother, grandmother, niece and nephew, LaWane, and Nicole
Some of the clothes went to a young woman in Consuelo, the branch we used to attend. She received her mission call to Mexico and needed clothes. The other clothes will go the Mission Training Center (Centro de Capacitación Misional—CCM) here the DR; and the school supplies will go to a school. Many of our Latino and Haitian missionaries do not have many clothes when they arrive. Thanks to John, LaWane, and Nicole, many of them will now have a few extra clothes to take back to their missions.
Now for the mission stuff—
Elder and Hermana Hammon with some sister missionaries in the CCM
We have been serving as Welfare Specialists in the Caribbean Area Welfare Office and living in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic for the past almost 17 months. We have had life-changing experiences. We have been able to travel to Trinidad, Puerto Rico, and Jamaica to train Priesthood and Relief Society leaders on welfare principles, councils, and the Addiction Recovery Program.

Elder y Hermana Hammon and Dr. and Sister Christiansen, vision specialist from SLC
Also, we accompanied Dr. and Sister Christiansen, a vision specialist from Salt Lake City, to St. Kitts, Dominica, and Antigua on a fact-finding humanitarian vision trip. What a wonderful trip that was to meet with ophthalmologists, hospitals, and other vision specialists on those islands to see what they need to take care of the poor.
Elder and Sister Hammon with member from St. Kitts
Most of our welfare training has been here in the DR. We love visiting with leaders about welfare principles. We also have been doing a few firesides. We did one for a young single adult group and then it began to expand. The last fireside we gave was for parents in one of the stakes here in Santo Domingo. 

Clase de Español
Darrel teaches a Spanish class on Mondays and Thursday afternoons. He also tutors two Church employees in English. Plus, he serves as a counselor in the CCM presidency.

Santo Domingo Temple
       We have a beautiful temple in Santo Domingo. We work in there on Friday evenings, truly one of the best experiences we have enjoyed.
Overall, we are having an incredible experience and keeping very busy. We enjoy being on the Lord’s errand and acting as instruments in His hands. Lamentablemente, we are scheduled to return to the USA on January 25, 2013. The time continues to fly by.

Hermana y Elder Hammon by Poinsetta tree
During this Christmas season we express our love for each of you and thank you for your prayers, thoughts, emails, blog replies, and Skype calls.  May the Lord bless you always as you do His will. 
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Sunrise in Bayahibe