Saturday, December 15, 2012

La Frontera: where the Dominican Republic and Haiti mee

La Frontera: Where the Dominican Republic and Haiti Meet
Darrel L. Hammon

Haitian missionaries read to leave MTC with President and Sister Glazier

Every senior missionary should have a day like I did this week. I had the privilege along with Elder and Sister Button, Elder and Sister Ferguson, and Hermano Cuevas of the MTC (CCM) to take the Haitian missionaries to the Haitian and DR border where their mission president and his wife, President Hubermann Bien-Aimé and Sister Maggy Léger Bien-Aimé from the Haiti Port-au-Prince Mission, met us on the DR border at Jimani, fondly known as La Fontera. What a drive and what a place, La Frontera.
On the way to La Frontera. This is a real road
The drive is a long one, through Santo Domingo, San Cristóbal, Bani, Azua, and a host of little cities along the way.

Lake Enriquillo

We drove on the north side of Lake Enriquillo, a large salt water lake that, at its lowest point, is 145 feet below sea level. This side of the island is so different than the other side. It has, according to Wikipedia, “…a hot, semiarid climate with an average annual rainfall of about 24 inches” ( One sees a lot of cacti growing in this area. To me, it reminds me a bit of Arizona. It has its beauty, though. 

Crossing #1
Once we arrived at the border, Hermano Cuevas took the passports and went to complete the proper border crossing paperwork. The rest of us hung around outside, visiting, shooing away the hoards of beggars, and loading the luggage in the mission vehicles. We did give cookies to a few of the young boys who were there. One of the young men who approached us was dressed well and had some cool shades (sunglasses). With a cocky walk and demeanor, he sauntered up to us and stated, rather bluntly in English, “Give me some money.” No please, no nothing. Just “give me some money.” I chatted with him about the virtues of work. He didn’t say a word. For the rest of the time we were there, he just stood around with “that look” and watched us, never cracking a smile or changing his demeanor.

Unloading and loading at the La Frontera
La Frontera is like the wild, wild west. Lots of trucks came into the narrow strip of ground, surrounded by the ever-rising Lake Enriquillo, horns blaring to warn everyone to get out of the way. Other trucks were parked in cramped quarters just across from where we parked our vehicles on top of a pile of dirt that will hold the lake back for a bit more. Dust swirled here and there. Men pushed wheel barrows loaded with flour and other odds and ends toward the border. People loitered around the trucks and cars, some waiting to go across the border; others, just hanging around waiting for something to happen. Little boys, one naked, were swimming in the lake. They had caught some fish and had strung them on a leader line. Periodically, they lifted the fish out of the water, checking to see if they were still there. The young naked boy climbed out of the water, stood on the cement bank, bare for all to see, dried off and began putting back on his meager clothes.

Young man waiting at the border
  There is something mystical, chaotic, and sad at the border town. While it seemed chaotic, I’m sure the people would describe it “as another typical day” on La Frontera. Business continued as usual, both on this side and the Haitian side.

President Hubermann Bien-Aimé and Sister Maggy Léger Bien-Aimé, the Haiti Port-au-Prince Mission
Once the passports had been checked and reviewed, the missionaries were ready to pass from the DR side to the Haitian side. We said teary goodbye to the missionaries, and the young elders and two sisters climbed inside the mission vehicles and off they went. We climbed back into ours and trundled back the way we came, through the little stream, connecting each side of the lake once again. 

Crossing #2

The road is just a raised bed of dirt through the lake to the other side. It won’t be long until it is covered, and the La Frontera will be gone—all the chaos, the trucks, the shacks, the little beggars, all of it, submerged. Or transferred to some other point, perhaps much higher--but still the business of a border town.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Christmas Beneath the Lake: From the Adventures of Bob the Bullfrog

Christmas Beneath the Lake: From the Adventures of Bob the Bullfrog

I just published my first children's book, Christmas Beneath the Lake: From theAdventures of Bob the Bullfrog. Here is the press release: 

Contact: Darrel L. Hammon
809.880.0252 (Dominican Republic)
801-380-3466 (Orem, Utah)

For Immediate Release


Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, November 30, 2012

First-time children's book author, Darrel L. Hammon, believes that Santa never forgets “his children, no matter where they might be on Christmas Eve.” Christmas Beneath a Frozen Lake answers the question that many children ask around Christmas: “Will Santa be able to find me even if we aren’t at home?”

 The mere thought of Santa Claus not visiting their homes, filling their stockings and leaving piles of presents under the tree can be a cause for great concern for many children.  Children may also pause for concern when they discover their homes do not have a fireplace, as, according to all the traditional stories, is the only way St. Nick can get into their homes to deliver his Christmas cheer. 

For Bob the Bullfrog and his family in Christmas Beneath a Frozen Lake, this is exactly the fear the children are facing, as this particular Christmas, Bob’s family finds their home at the bottom of a very frozen lake. Bob and his siblings know that, because of the thick ice, there was no way that Santa could get through. Christmas Beneath a Frozen Lake is the perfect tale of the how one child’s belief in the magic of Christmas can bring hope and joy.

Christmas Beneath a Frozen Lake is truly a wonderful story “I am hoping that as families read Christmas Beneath a Frozen Lake together this holiday season, they spend time thinking about the miracles that can happen no matter what time of the year it is,” Hammon explains. 

Hammon’s Bob the Bullfrog character originated many years ago after his daughters' pleadings for a bedtime story. “Over the years, my daughters urged me to publish the Bob the Bullfrog stories. I guess it was just time,” Hammon said. He also sees Bob the Bullfrog having many more adventures and is excited to finally see  them come to fruition. “Bob really represents all of us, and experiences and adventures that we have all had or wish we could have,” Hammon said.

Marcos Castillo, from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, illustrated Christmas Beneath a Frozen Lake. It is his first adventure in illustrating a children’s book, but certainly not his last.

Christmas Beneath a FrozenLake

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving: A Time to Reflect and Give Great Thanks

Thanksgiving: A Time to Reflect and Give Great Thanks
Elder Darrel L. Hammon

Puerto Plata in the a.m.
Thanksgiving is approaching, and we are thousands of miles away from home. No snow haunts our doorsteps--thankfully; no trees are turning their beautiful green leaves for the multicolored reds, yellows, and gold of harvest falls; no pumpkins, carved or otherwise, line our driveway or even our window sill because a) we don’t have pumpkins here and b) we don’t have a window sill. But Thanksgiving is more than turkey, cranberries, stuffing, numerous salads, and pumpkin pie. It’s about being thankful for what you have and/or what you have experienced.

Vision Project in Los Alcarrizos
                In our Family Home Evening (FHE) on Monday night, six couple missionaries sat around the living room of President and Sister Bair, the Temple President and Matron of the Santo Domingo Dominican Republic Temple. We discussed what we were thankful for during the past year. For all of us it was hard to come up with just a few things to occupy our five minutes per couple. In fact, we went over time because we could not give "a full account of these things” And so it went.
                My thankfulness this year includes the following:

33 years--Celebration in Puerto Plata
                My lovely bride of over 33 years—We celebrated our 33rd this year in July. What a great 33 years we have had. They haven’t all been easy, but they have filled with opportunities to serve and to learn together. Thankfully, she is patient with me and overlooks my flaquezas, my weaknesses. Gracias, my Querida, for all that you do, for that you are—for you are truly one of Heavenly Father’s finest. 
Anna Rose, Christiaan, and Family
 Joseph, Hailey, and baby
                My two daughters and their growing little families—Our two daughters are spectacular, they married wonderful husbands, and they are mothers with beautiful, intelligent children. Our youngest had her first in September. We thank you two for being such incredible human beings and for your consistent and ongoing support.

                Skype—Yes, Skype! Without Skype, we wouldn’t be able to watch our grandchildren grow. Without Skype, we wouldn't be able to talk face-to-face with our children and our family members. Skype lessens the challenges for couple missionaries in staying in contact with our families. We thank you, Skype, for allowing us to communicate with our family.

Hermano Zarzuela is second from left
                Our Mission—We always knew we wanted to serve together. Our mission as welfare specialists in the Caribbean Area Welfare Office has truly been a life-changing experience. We have been members our entire lives. We thought we knew about what the Church did. In reality, we knew little of what the Church does throughout the world and its far-reaching service. Having opportunities to be a part of welfare and humanitarian projects and working in the Area Office have opened our eyes and our hearts. For example, watching Brother Zarzuela from Santiago receive a prosthesis in the a.m. and then witness his walking up the stairs in the Santo Domingo Dominican Republic Temple and into a session was one of the most inspiring days ever. We thank the Lord for sending us to the Caribbean Area to serve.

The Díaz/Beloni Family

Cristina, Los Hammon, y Fransica
                Dominican people—We have met some incredible people. Los que trabajan por la Iglesia en la Oficina de Área son unos de los mejores! They stop by our cubicle often and see how we are doing and then stay and visit for a bit. They have become friends and colleagues, ones we shall never forget. Additionally, we have enjoyed visiting people from different organizations who are wonderful people who want to help those most in need. We thank them for their service and for who they really are.

Sister Hammon and some of the sisters from the CCM
                The Centro de Capacitación Misional (CCM)—This is the Dominican MTC. We have had the privilege of working with so many missionaries from around the world who have come to the DR to complete their missionary training for a few short weeks. They are indeed men and women of God. Some of their stories cause lumps to emerge in our throats and tears to stream down our cheeks. Their lives have been filled with experiences beyond their years. We thank them for their willingness to serve despite sometimes severe opposition and obstacles.

Santo Domingo Dominican Republic Temple
                The Santo Domingo Dominican Republic Temple—The moment you drive or walk through the gate to the Temple, you instantly feel at peace from the chaos that surrounds the temple in this huge city. The Temple is gorgeous, the temple grounds immaculate, and the setting stupendous. Truly, the Santo Domingo Temple is one of the most beautiful temples build. Thank you for the beautiful temple.

Relief Society President and President and Sister Muñoz from the Las Americas Stake

                The Love of our Heavenly Father and His Son and their protection—We cannot finish giving thanks without giving thanks to our Heavenly Father and His Son for their protection during our mission. There have been many times when we have physically witnessed being protected and many more times when we know we have been protected. We can thank them often enough for all of the blessings we have received.
                And, yes, there are many, many more reasons why we are thankful during this week of Thanksgiving. Indeed, every day is Thanksgiving for us, and we wish you all a reflective and fulfilling Thanksgiving, not just this week but for the entire year.