Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Johnsons come to visit

"The Johnsons Come to Visit" 
By Elder Darrel L. Hammon

One of the great things about being senior missionaries is that your children can come visit and you can go to the beach with them. And that's exactly what we did when Anna Rose, Christiaan, and Emiline came to visit in January. We had a great time and visited a few spots along the way. 

Dedication Site--Elder Ballard in 1978
Elder Ballard's Dedication Memorial--In 1978, Elder M. Russell Ballard came to the Dominican Republic and dedicated it for the preaching of the gospel. Since then, many Dominicans have joined the church. Currently, there are 18 stakes, several districts and a beautiful temple in the Dominican Republic. The dedication site is in a park along the street called Mirador, a beautiful place that overlooks Santo Domingo.

Emline by a really old cannon
El Conde--El Conde is in the Colonial Zone, a very historic site. It is where Santo Domingo originated in the early 1500s. Santo Domingo is the oldest city in the Americas. The Colonial Zone is an incredible array of historic buildings, including a home built for Diego Colon. Because we happened to go on a day classified as a holiday, many of the shops were closed; so, the Johnsons didn’t experience “El Conde” in all of its majesty. Thankfully, the traffic wasn’t as bad that day.

Tres Ojos--Tres Ojos is an underground series of little lakes that the Taino Indians, natives to the DR, participated in religious ceremonies. It is just beautiful inside with lots of rocks, hanging vines, and little lakes, which are also called cenotes. Tres Ojos is also famous because some parts of the Tarzan movies were filmed here.

Emiline at the beach in Juan Dolio
 Juan Dolio Beach--We spend two nights and three days at the Barceló, which is a wonderful hotel in Juan Dolio along one of the beautiful beaches in the Dominican Republic. We ate lots of good food, played on the beach, went snorkeling, swam in the pool, and just relaxed with our family. We ate mostly in the buffet restaurant, but we did eat in one of the restaurants onsite. Christiaan ordered fish and received quite a surprise.

 The Santo Domingo Temple--Anna Rose and Christiaan along with Hermana Hammon were able to attend a session. Ironically, they and two other couples were English-speakers so the session was done in English. But they had a wonderful experience in one of the more beautiful temples in the world. Elder Hammon (a.k.a. "Papa Hammon") stayed and played with Emiline, truly a enjoyable task.

Consuelo Branch

Consuelo Branch—Anna Rose’s favorite place we went while they were here was the Consuelo Branch, a little branch that we sometimes attend. Anna Rose played the piano/keyboard during Sacrament meeting. The children were fascinated with her playing. During Sunday School and Primary, all of the children were gathered around her while she taught them some of the rudiments of playing. Presidente Montero, the Branch President, thanked her then and later thanked us profusely for Anna Rose and her talent. They all wanted her to come back and be a part of the Branch. The sisters in Relief Society were fascinated with Emiline’s blonde hair. One of the sisters just stroked it the entire time during Relief Society. Her blonde, wispy hair is such a contrast to the thick, wiry black hair of most of the people here.

Emiline and her new friend at the Almacen
Bishops' Storehouse--Because we lived above the Bishops' Storehouse (a.k.a. "Almacén"), they were able to take a tour of the Almacén. While Anna Rose, Christiaan, and Hermana Hammon were in the temple, Elder Hammon and Emiline visited the Almacén where Emiline made a new little friend. Unfortunately, we had to leave, and the little girl began to cry. When Emiline and I were driving back to the temple, Emiline said, "Papa, we have to go find her." I tried to tell her I didn't know where she was, but Emiline wanted to go find this little girl. I wish we could have.

Overall, we had a wonderful time with them. It was so good to see them. It was especially fun to see Emiline and note how grown up she is becoming. We were amazed how huge her vocabulary and her speaking ability have become. We see and talk to her each week via Skype, but it is still amazing to have the “live Emiline” in front of us. We shared lots of hugs and kisses. She is definitely the sweetest.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Foreign country, foreign language, foreign culture: Keeping your mission language current

The following article appeared online at

 Foreign country, foreign language, foreign culture: Keeping your mission language current

Created By Elder Darrel L. Hammon 
One of the things that scares the daylights out of senior missionaries is opening the envelope from Salt Lake City that contains the line: “You are hereby called to the (fill-in-the-blank) mission." The gasps and awes burst forth until they realize they will either have to learn a new language or brush up on the one they learned many years ago in the field.

Elder Lynn Snow--RM from Chile
Elder Lynn Snow, who served in Chile in the 1960s when it was just one mission, said, “At first I was elated at the call, and then the reality spread over me like thick cream on strawberries. It reminded me of a cowboy poem: ‘Forgotten More than I Learnt.’ ”

Most missionaries who have to learn a foreign language learn it pretty well before boarding the plane home. While traveling, they vow they will keep it up, speak their language to their children, read all the scriptures at least once a year in their learned language and practice with anyone they can.

MTC missionaries
Unfortunately, when the plane lands, families maul them, matriculation at the university or work begins immediately, and a special young woman or young man appears in one of their classes. The promises of keeping sacred their language dissipates like snowmen on a warm spring day.

The challenge becomes, then, learning or relearning a language when called to serve.

The church’s Missionary Training Center is a good place to start. The MTC offers one-on-one tutoring for senior missionaries. Plus, senior missionaries receive "Grammar Explanations for Senior Missionaries." They also have another binder that has “tasks,” such as “grammar,” “welfare,” “proselytizing,” “temple” and “general tasks.” These tasks come with CDs that walk them through each task with a native speaker who teaches them how to use correct pronunciation.

Sister LeeAnn Call, who serves with her husband in Guatemala, took the course. She said that “language immersion is the most helpful because you can more easily put things in context. My adult brain is still a little slow in remembering all the new words that are thrust upon me. But I'm trying!”

Reading the Book of Mormon, the Liahona and other church publications in the foreign language aloud can be an excellent way to keep up the language and the accent. When the tongue doesn’t exercise the language, it forgets where it is supposed to go.

By reading aloud and making sure words are being pronounced correctly, the tongue won’t forget, or at least will be reminded where it should go.

Speaking the language with others is perhaps the most direct way to keep up a language. It may be the only way to truly practice a language and keep skills fresh. This might be done by volunteering at a branch that uses those language skills. Unfortunately, not all language groups can be found readily in the U.S. Spanish in the U.S. is probably one of the largest groups. However, native Danish speakers are hard to come by.

Elder Rich Call, who is serving in Guatemala, said, “I believe mindset plays a role in this issue — we look at our missions of our youth as times of service and preparation for future service as we gain experience in the gospel. However, do we also view the acquisition of language skills as part of the process of preparation to serve?

"If we were to recognize that our exposure to language is the Lord's attempt to prepare us for future service in his kingdom, just as preaching the gospel prepares us for future service, then perhaps we would be more motivated to maintain those skills with the mindset of being prepared for additional service in the future.”

The best way — still — is making sure not to forget the promises made on the plane as a young missionary. Most missionaries believe they will marry, go to college, have a wonderful family and earn enough money to go on a mission with their spouse.

Those who have kept up their language skills will approach subsequent missions and language requirements with less temerity.