Sunday, September 13, 2015

Service: a noble adventure

Service: a noble adventure
Darrel L. Hammon

the gang at a gift shop with shop employees
Recently, I had the incredible opportunity to accompany a group of students representing Utah Valley University (UVU) and Mobility Mission to the Dominican Republic (DR). What a marvelous activity it was! 

Frederico and his family (with Abbey and Claribel)
The purpose of the trip was humanitarian. The Mobility Mission works with groups to provide prosthetic limbs to those who need them. I visited Julie Bagley, the director of the program, some months ago. She decided to go to the DR. Since we had worked with the Asociación Dominicana de Rehabilitación (ADR) when Joanne and I served there as Welfare Specialists, I called Dr. Carlos Zometa and made the arrangements. He was so good to work with.

One of the patients and his family (with Julie Bagley)
Only July 18, we trundled to the DR with 17 in our group, mostly students and former students at UVU. Unfortunately, Julie and one of the students had to stay behind in Miami because the student lost her passport. I told Julie I would accompany them and get them to the destination. So, off we went. Ultimately, though, Julie and the student who, through a miracle, received a duplicate passport in record time.

Edith, one of the incredible technicians
I believe the students were shocked when they landed but even more shocked with the driving. The first morning we went to the ADR, they gasped more than once at the crazy driving we encountered. Nonetheless, we made it to the ADR and the incredible people there.

Alan, the Director of the Lab, and Karlita, one of the incredible technicians
When we arrived, we met the staff. Alan was the director of the lab. Two of the young women, Edith and Karl, who were technicians were actually fairly new from outside of the DR. All of the technicians took the young people under their wings, and we began to work.

Brett interviewing one of the patients
Fifteen people were waiting for us in the Santo Domingo ADR. The students measured each patient and then began working with technicians to create the new prostheses. The fifteen patients were wonderful, ranging from young men and women to more mature men and women. We instantly bonded with the patients. They were so appreciative of the attention they were receiving. Finally, they were receiving a new leg. Some had been waiting for a long time; others, not so long, a year or two. Nonetheless, having no leg was a challenge for all of them.

Cindy working with one of the technicians
Once all of the patients had been fitted, the students and the technicians began feverishly working to develop each prosthesis from scratch. We had brought with us the hardware for the knees and the joints. It was tedious, hot work. The laboratory didn't have air conditioning; so, we sweat a lot during the week.
Some of the group with Ana Mercedes
One of the surprises for me was meeting Ana Mercedes. Joanne and I had meet her in 2012 when we took the Spencers, wheelchair specialists from the Church, on a tour to meet some of the people who had received wheelchairs from the partnership between the ADR and the Church. Ana had been a 17-year-old young woman who was on the national basketball team with a promising athletic career. One evening, a stray bullet struck her in the spine, paralyzing her from the waist down. At the time we met here, she was working with a non-profit organization. On one of the days we were at the ADR, I went out the wrong door and saw a young woman at the reception desk. She looked vaguely familiar. When I approached here, I discovered it was Ana, our good friend. She remembered me, and we had such a wonderful conversation. We even met her father. She was now working at the ADR.

Sunset at Bayahibe
At the end of the week, we took a break. I had made arrangements with John our good friend from Scuba Fun in Bayahibe to take us to the Isla Catalina for a day of fun and snorkeling. The night before the great event, two of the students became engaged. As the sun was setting in the eastern sky, he proposed on the boardwalk, overlooking the ocean. How romantic is that?

La Isla Catalina
The next day at sea, we went snorkeling and then on to the Isla Catalina. Spectacular! Many of the students couldn't believe the beauty and the color of the water. Some of us were able to see Captain Kidd's cannons buried, just off the coast of La Isla Catalina. What a sight it was!

The Mango Twins with two of the patients
On Monday, we motored to La Vega, a city about 1.5 hours from Santo Domingo to measure an additional ten patients. What a reception we received.

Waiting at the bus stop (with Dr. Carlos Zometa)
 We met some incredible people. One of the people we met was Frederico, a 20-year-old young man.

Frederico with his mother (Darrel and Abbey)
Abbey and I had the opportunity to interview him and his mother. His words were profound and brought tears to our eyes. He said, "My mother told me that God had a leg for me. Today, God has brought you here." I couldn't barely continue the interview. Such faith from both the mother and the son! Just that moment served as one reason why we were there. We soon met his father and his younger sister. They were so happy that Frederico would be receiving a leg.

"Soy Dominicano" (I am Dominican) was all this man would say (with Julie and Kelsey)
We spent then next couple of days, making the prostheses for these patients. Two days later, we returned to La Vega to fit the patients and teach them to walk. Many of them had brought their mothers, fathers, grandparents, brothers, sisters, nieces, and nephews for the entrega or the handover of the prosthetic limb. What a glorious day for all of us to have been there.

Cindy with Karlita (l) and Edith (r), two of the technicians
The most difficult part was saying good bye to all of the technicians. We had gave abrazos (hugs), shed tears, told each other how much we enjoyed working with them. It was both a sad and happy day, sad because we were leaving eternal friends, happy because we had new friends we would never forget. That is what service is all about: You serve others, you make eternal friends, and you experience things you have never experienced before and ones you will never forget.

Helping people learn to walk
Truly UVU's Mobility Mission changes lives--both the patients and the those who participate. In this case, students and former students. They shall never forget the experiences, the friends, the crazy driving, la Isla Catalina, the smiles on the patients' faces, the grand abrazos they received, the lives they have touched, and the new Facebook connections. All in all, the trip was extraordinary!

Patients waiting in La Vega

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Fatherhood: The Cornerstone to a Successful Family

Fatherhood: The Cornerstone to a Successful Family
Darrel L. Hammon 

Dean and Barbara Hammon
Fatherhood has long been the cornerstone to a successful family. Some years ago in a pamphlet titled Father Consider Thy Ways, we learn: "'Fatherhood is leadership. It has always been so; it always will be so. Father, with the assistance and counsel and encouragement of your eternal companion, you preside in the home" (1973, pp. 4-5).
As fathers, most of us are husbands as well. I sincerely believe that to be a good father, I must be a good husband. If I treat my wife with disrespect, then my children begin to do the same. Our wives are the queens of our home. She has chosen motherhood, one of the noblest and most sacred callings Heavenly Father has ever bestowed upon mortal beings. Being a good husband means being sensitive to her feelings. President James E. Faust gives us this counsel: "I urge husbands and fathers of this church to be the kind of man your wife would not want to be without" (Ensign, May 1993, p. 36).
The Hammon Family, almost ten years ago. A lot has changed.....
 Joanne and I were reminiscing a few years ago about our fathers. Both of fathers have since departed this life, Joanne's father passing away a mere six months after we were married. What impressed us both about each of our fathers was the fact that they would help anyone with anything. Joanne's father would be the first one out on a snowy day and shovel the walks and driveways down their street. Although he was not a member of the church, Joanne's father always got her up in the mornings on Sundays so she would be ready to go to church. At his funeral, numerous neighbors approached us and told us what a wonderful man he was.
 My father taught me the same thing. I remember getting up early and going with him to shovel the walks of the widows and older people in our ward. On his days off, my father would go and help others with their roofs or yards. It seemed like we spent more than our share at the ward farm. Now that I look back on it, it was Dad's way of helping the Lord. 
 Fathers are patriarchs. Patriarchs are leaders in the home. Being a true father means that you are the patriarch of your family. You are the priesthood leader, one whose love for God and the "stone cut out of the mountain without hands" precedes the love for the hedonistic ways of the common culture. Unlike the unparticipating fathers of society, you seek the Lord's guidance in all matters. While others carouse and belittle godliness in the darkness, you kneel quietly in the darkness of your room and talk confidentially to that supernal being, your Heavenly Father. Your feelings toward your children do not entail indulgence in earthly things; rather, you attend their games, help with homework, dance with them in the kitchen, go on bike rides, coach their sports teams, attend their debates, read and help them with their English essays, learn how to do algebra, read and discuss the great literature, pray with them, lay your hands upon their heads and give them priesthood blessings. Instead of doing your will or the will of your friends, you do your Father in Heaven's will. Instead of jumping into your own things, you climb on the trampoline and jump and do knee jumps until you think your knees are going to rot off. Instead of being in the thick of things with every organization in the city, you coach T-ball, play computers with them, and play catch in the backyard.
Hammon boys with Dean W. Hammon from years ago
 I also want to express deep love for my (our) Heavenly Father. Please, for one moment, think of Heavenly Father, that Holy Being to whom you pray. Can you see Him in your mind's eye?  Are His arms outstretched to you?  Is He beckoning you to draw near?  Our Heavenly Father is a loving Father, one who wants to listen to us. In the scriptures, we finally understand His love for us. Hasn't He said, through his prophets and His only begotten son, Jesus Christ, "My children, my children...when you go to earth...teach your children to love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, might, mind, and strength....teach your children to walk uprightly before the Lord...and to love and serve one another (See Mosiah 4:15).
According to President Ezra Taft Benson, "Fathers, yours is an eternal calling from which you are never released....and its importance transcends time. It is a calling for both time and eternity" (Ensign, November 1987, p. 48).
May we understand the power of our sacred calling as fathers, for it is an eternal calling, one from which we will never be released; may we continue teaching our children about their noble birthright.
Happy Father’s Day!

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Memorial Day, May 25, 2015--Annis-Little Butte Cemetery, Annis, Idaho

Memorial Day, May 25, 2015--Annis-Little Butte Cemetery
Darrel L. Hammon

Memorial Day 2015 was again one of those days we spent in the cemeteries of eastern Idaho, particularly the Annis-Little Butte Cemetery, near Menan, Idaho, where I was raised. Both Joanne's parents and my parents are buried there along with my little brother Heber and my niece Alisha. Plus, Joanne's grandparents, uncles, and cousins are buried there as well.

Joanne and her sister Lou Jean
This year Memorial Day could be considered one of those "hit and run" kind of days. Joanne and I along with her sister Lou Jean and husband Lonnie trundled up to Annis for the day, leaving pretty early in the a.m. to visit a couple of cemeteries. One of the most beautiful cemeteries is the Annis-Little Butte, located in Annis, Idaho. Many people were there, placing flowers on graves, visiting with and meeting relatives and friends they hadn't seen in years, and reliving old stories and earlier lives. These stories probably ought to be written down if they haven't already.

We spent some time at Joanne and Lou Jean's parents' grave. This was the first time we had been back after their mother joined her husband in July 2014. It was rather poignant as we stood there and took in the newness of it all. She loved flowers; so, it was wonderful that many flowers surrounded their graves. She can finally smell them now!

Luke and Wilma Boltz
 My parents are buried there in one of the newer sections of the cemetery. It is sometimes hard to believe they are gone and that I am an orphan. I remember when Renae Olaveson Hampton said to me, "Darrel, now we are both orphans." Tears came to our eyes. Yes, I am an orphan; Joanne is now an orphan.

Dean and Barbara Hammon

Next to my parents' grave is my brother Heber's grave. I was deeply disappointed that we hadn't finished the headstone project for him. My siblings and I will visit about this. My sister Delaina and her family were there, visiting Mom, Dad, and Heber. He left us too soon.

Heber James Hammon
Cemeteries are those kinds of places where you can relive the past, seek the future, and experience the present. One of the pasts was my visit to the graves of four from the Tranquilino López Family. Each time I visit the Annis-Little Butte Cemetery, I walked to where Tranquilino, Mario, Juanita, y Benjamin are buried. They were killed in a terrible automobile accident in 1978 in Menan. Graciela, Eduardo, and Bulmarito all survived but not without consequences. Mrs. López was at home. What a tragedy!

Another past experience was working for Bud Hart.  He is buried along his parents' grave and not far from Joanne's parents' grave. Bud was one of my mentors growing up. I worked for him and his father on their farm. It was an incredible experience working for them. Both my brothers and my cousins Deloy and Terry each took a turn working for the Harts. I think they liked the work ethic of the Hammon boys. 

The famous "Bud" Hart
I also went to visit my Uncle Wilford's and Aunt Beth's grave. Uncle Wilford is my Dad's older brother who loved to carve. I learned much from Uncle Wilford. He was a consummate Scouter and story teller.

Uncle Wilford and Aunt Beth
This is part of the group that was there with us: Joanne's sister Lou Jean and her husband Lonnie, their son Jason and his wife Kim with their three children: Thomas, Blake, and Abby.

The Clan
Cemetery visits can be enlightening and simultaneously poignant, visits that allow you to let emotions gush from your soul. These emotions remind us that we are human and that we are children of a loving Heavenly Father who loves us and fills us with peace and comfort when we need them. Today was one of those days. Families are incredible units, fathers, mothers, cousins, uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews, and friends. And we are continually blessed because of them.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mothers: Women of God

Mothers: Women of God

Many happy Mother’s Day wishes to all the women I know and love, especially my lovely bride of 35 years and mother of our two daughters Anna Rose and Hailey.

I have watched Joanne from the moment Anna Rose was placed in her arms. She has always been beautiful, but at that moment of mother and daughter meeting and melting into one, it became obvious of the connection those two made and then again when Hailey emerged from the pre-existence to this world. I don’t know of anything that is more connective or more poignant than the relationships of mothers and daughters.

Over the years, the girls have spent a considerable amount of time with their mother, doing a host of things, from cooking to camping to playing tennis to watching movies to doing crafts. When they left home to attend college or even after they were married, they called periodically—sometimes frequently—to ask Joanne a question about this or that, a recipe, counsel about how to raise children, how to handle a difficult situation, etc. With ease of an eternal mother, Joanne has dispensed her ever-growing knowledge and wisdom to them and to numerous other young women who she has served throughout her service in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Every day I am more convinced that if the young women would adhere to Joanne’s counsel and incredible example and faith, they would be better women, incredible mothers, and serving citizens. Joanne has and will continue to serve others well because that’s who she is and is becoming. Joanne’s influence on our daughters has been great, and I sincerely hope they continue to follow her example. Hailey recently wrote in her Mother’s Day card to Joanne: “I am me because of you! If they follow Joanne’s example, I know they will be better and more effective mothers and more holistic and loving people, now and forever.

It’s humbling to watch Joanne in action. I know for a surety that our kind and dear Heavenly Father loves her and protects her and watches over her constantly. When I am in her presence, I feel significant and loved and safe, no matter the situation. Her smile is infectious and grand. Her humility wilts me. I can only wish I can grow up to be like she is.

Perhaps, Elder Neal A. Maxwell described Joanne and a host of women throughout the ages most effectively: "When the real history of mankind is fully disclosed, will it feature the echoes of gunfire or the shaping sound of lullabies? The great armistices made by military men or the peacemaking of women in homes and in neighborhoods? Will what happened in cradles and kitchens prove to be more controlling than what happened in congresses? When the surf of the centuries has made the great pyramids so much sand, the everlasting family will still be standing, because it is a celestial institution, formed outside telestial time. The women of God know this."

Joanne is a woman of God! I love her for being a woman of God and loving Heavenly Father in all that she does. She knows He is real and loves His children and wishes for them to come unto Him and enjoy the fruits of eternal happiness. For that is what women of God do: They know and follow His paths, humbly accept His Son’s gracious atonement, and helps others to come to know for themselves of Heavenly Father’s unfalteringly love.

Thank you, Joanne, for being a woman of God and for being the most incredible mother I personally know.

And so it is….and so it will ever be!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

General Conference in the Conference Center: A Hallowed Place

Conference Center: A Hallowed Place
Darrel L. Hammon

The LDS Conference Center

There is something about attending General Conference in person. Despite the crowds, both on the grounds of the Conference Center and on the sidewalks, a sense of anticipation creeps upon you. A sense of awe and immense happiness permeate the entire place. Today was no different.

Los Hammon y Los Hernández
We had the grand opportunity to accompany President and Sister Hernández, former President of the Santo Domingo East Mission in the Dominican Republic. They are wonderful people with incredible testimonies. Although they are from Puerto Rico, they now live in Dallas, surrounded by their four children and their families.
The Conference Center from the outside
Once inside, we encountered a mass of people, all there for the same reason: to listen to prophets, seers, and revelators teach us about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Since this was Easter Sunday, we also knew we would hear much about Christ's Atonement and how important it is in our lives and in the lives of the people around us.
Each person had a ticket with a section number written on it. We headed in that direction. I had to stop at a different door and check in my camera case. Numerous volunteers were standing as sentinels—everywhere—ready to answer any question you might have. They were kind and gracious and always pointed us in the right direction.
Inside view of the Conference Center
Soon we were moving with the flow, up the elevator to Terrace Section. Our seats were on the far wall, stage left. No matter how many times I enter the Conference Center, I am awed with the structure and the construction and just the immenseness of the place. Over 21,000 people can enter and be comfortable. The acoustics are phenomenal.               
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir
 At 9:30 a.m. sharp, the “Spoken Word” began with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing. No other choir in the world is like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Their sound is unique because they sing with power and authority. Each of them has been called to the Choir. This is their calling, and they sing beautifully, especially our favorite “Consider the Lilies”—so melodious and incredible. We could listen to it over and over again.
 At 9:57 a.m., the crowd hushed and stood. We watched our dearly beloved Prophet, Thomas S. Monson, enter the hallowed Conference Center. The humble silence hung from the ceiling and lingered long and reverent. Then, he took his seat, and the entire 21,000+ people took their seats. Within a few minutes, the conference began with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir filling the Conference Center with their awesomeness.

The Mackenson Noël Family from Haiti
After the opening prayer, President Henry B. Eyring announced that President Monson will be the first speaker. President Monson stepped up to the pulpit and began. He revealed  three new temples to be built in Abidjan, Ivory Coast (Côte d’Ivoire); Port-Au Prince, Haiti; and Bangkok, Thailand. Joanne and I looked each other, and I had Joanne repeat: Haiti! Haiti! We were ecstatic! I immediately emailed Mackenson Noël, our good friend who lives in Haiti. His return was also immediate: “Darrel! Thank you. We are blessed. We learnt to suffer with joy; then the blessing comes!!!"

English Daisies
Soon, the morning session was over. We cried, we laughed, we leaped for joy, and we felt the spirit as we listened to President Monson, Sister Rosemary Wixom, Elder José A. Teixeira, Bishop Gérald Caussé, Elder Brent H. Nielson, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, and President Dieter F. Uchtdorf. All talks were enlightening; Elder Nielson spoke about his sister who had left the church and then returned after 15 years of being gone. His parallel life with the “Prodigal Son” was comforting to us.
Outside, the people were milling about, standing and visiting about what had just gone on,  and some just observing the release of the thousands of Saints who had come today to listen to their beloved Prophet and other General Authorities. 

Garden near the Conference Center
We bid farewell to los Hernández and headed to the parking garage. We stopped and stood on the lawn that overlooked the temple. Literally hundreds of people were there: taking pictures, admiring the temple scene, smelling flowers, and just basking in the quiet reverence they had recently felt. They wanted to keep it close for a few minutes longer.
The Salt Lake Temple
Yes, Conference time is an incredible time. We were so blessed to have spent it in the Conference Center and soaking up the unwavering spirit that lingers there always. It’s almost palpable. Joanne and I know the Savior lives and atoned for our sins. We love Him and our Heavenly Father. We know that to love Them means that we obey their commandments. And we will continue trying to do so. 

Gorgeous tulips

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Hymns: Enlivening Your Spirit

Hymns: Enlivening Your Spirit

The lesson Joanne and I gave today in our 15-year-old Sunday School class was “How can I use Church music to learn about the plan of salvation?” President Boyd K. Packer one said, "Music can set an atmosphere of worship which invites that spirit of revelation, of testimony.”

I would dare say that each of us has a particular hymn that enlivens our spirit, buoys us up, reminds us of a sacred happening or event, and creates in us a sacred feeling of doing what the Lord wills. Probably one of the most powerful hymns to me is "We Thank Thee OGod for a Prophet."  This sacred hymn struck a sensitive chord to me in 1977 in Santiago, Chile.

It was the time of Chile's area conference, and we had traveled almost 18 hours by bus to reach Santiago from southern Chile. In a huge auditorium, 10,000 people were visiting and waiting for the area conference to begin. As I sat there listening and watching and participating in conversation with my fellow missionaries, the noise sounded more like a dull roar I was accustomed to at basketball games.

Just before the appointed hour, however, something happened that I will never forget. Like a light fog on a still morning, the quietness swept over and settled on the entire congregation. To my left, President Spencer W. Kimball entered through a small door. Instantly, the entire congregation rose simultaneously while singing "We Thank Thee for a Prophet." 

Never before had I felt such a spiritual awakening as I did on that day. The words to that sacred hymn reverberated through the auditorium and entered my heart, enlarging my spiritual substance, encouraging me to do better. The spirit spoke truth to me, and, I suspect, to all those who were there: Spencer W. Kimball is a prophet of God.

Each of us needs to contemplate those sacred moments. We have all had them. And at times, we all require that sacred moment of contemplation—to remember who we are and whose we are and whose care we truly are in and who is the greatest, yea even the least among us.

In that same area conference so many years ago, a wonderful choir composed of Chileans, many of them with the blood of Lehi richly running through their veins, sang Parley P. Pratt's magnificent text put to music by John E. Tullidge, "An Angel  from on High."  Its glorious message spoke of the restoration:

An angel from on high
The long, long silence broke;
Descending from the sky,
These gracious words he spoke:
Lo! in Cumorah's lonely hill
A sacred record lies concealed.

Sealed by Moroni's hand,
It has for ages lain
To wait the Lord's command,
From dust to speak again.
It shall again to light come forth
To usher in Christ's reign on earth.

And makes the remnant known
Of nations long since dead,
Who once had dwelt alone.
The fullness of the gospel, too,
Its pages will reveal to view.

The sweetness of this hymn rose quietly and penetrated the hearts of all those who sat there—for, indeed, these were remnants of "nations long since dead."  They had "blossomed like a rose" (Doctrine and Covenants 49:24); they had accepted the gospel, and its light had empowered them to make subtle and great changes in their lives. The power of this hymn could not be mistaken.

The hymns of the church are, in essence, grandiose texts, yes even poetry, highly symbolic and unequivocal language that reverently proclaim the gospel truths. These texts have been put to music that reverberates of spirituality, of a sense of adoration to the most High God and His works.

Many sacred hymns teach about Christ's birth, His lineage, His life on earth, His miracles He performed, the importance of good works, His resurrection, His immortal attributes, His atonement for our sins, the final judgment day, His kingdom on earth and in heaven, His love for us, the second coming—all gospel truths.

The First Presidency has said: "Some of the greatest sermons are preached by the singing of hymns.  Hymns move us to repentance and good works, build testimony and faith, comfort the weary, console the mourning, and inspire us to endure to the end...” (Hymns, pp. ix, x).

So sing away and learn about gospel truths and be inspired!