Saturday, December 20, 2014

Lost Libro de Mormon

My Libro de Mormon was lost at the Salt Lake Airport. 

It is a regular hard cover. It has my name and email address listed as on the inside of the front cover, however, this account no longer works because I have finished my mission. 

If you have any information please email me at or call me at 801-683-8684.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Last Letter: A Lesson in Universal Truth

Dear family, 

I can't believe that this is the last letter that I will write to you from the mission field. It's strange to think about. In fact, I've been doing a lot of thinking this past week and I've concluded that one of the great universal truths of life as a missionary is that time passes by quickly and slowly all at the same time. To me, it feels as if the summer that I left behind in June 2013 has never really ended, but already this little island is lit up with Christmas lights to celebrate the close of 2014. And at the same time I feel as if I've been here a lot longer than a year and a half because my life before the mission often seems so blurry and distant. Sometimes I even feel as if I'll been here and be a missionary for the rest of my life. So it's difficult to wrap my mind around the fact that my time here has come to a close. It just doesn't seem real yet, and I'm not sure when it's going to hit me. 

I don't know if I've changed all that much either. Sometimes I feel like a different person altogether, but other times I remember that the simple passage of time doesn't automatically imply a notable change. I think I am different though - in the way I see and respond to things and the things I want and hope for - but that's another universal truth: we, as humans, are awful at judging ourselves. So I suppose you'll all have to help me out with that one. 

One thing I am sure of, however, is that this Church is true. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the ultimate universal truth: whether we believe it or reject it, it has been and always will be true. And it is universal and eternal: it is for everyone and it is forever. 

If I could walk off the plane with nothing but this testimony and my memories of the lessons I learned over the past 18 months... that would be enough for me. But, as usual, I have been blessed far beyond the minimum, and I have no doubt that the Lord will continue to bless me as I begin this new, exciting chapter of my life. 

Until Wednesday, 

Hna. Olsen


- Please bring a coat and blanket to the airport. I have no doubt that I will be very cold. Some of Dad's chocolate chip cookies would be nice, too.

Surprise birthday parties for Kaitlin at the Santana home and at Carmen's house

Birthday party

Carmen's kids

Leaving Ocoa this morning, on the way home

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

December 9, 2014

Dear family, 

I'm sorry that I didn't write yesterday. We found out on Saturday that the Christmas Conference was moved to Monday, so I didn't have a chance you let you know that my P-Day this week was moved to Tuesday. So that's where I was yesterday.

The Christmas Conference for all the missionaries in the south (outside the capitol) was in Azua, so I got to visit my old area one last time. It was really hot - I'd almost forgotten the power of the Azua heat - but it was great to spend one last day there.

I got to see a lot of missionaries that I probably won't get to see again before I leave, so I had a lot of fun mingling. President Nuckols also asked me to speak and share my "final testimony." Of all the missionaries finishing this transfer he only picked three, and I was the only hermana. It was nerve-wracking, but it was a good experience.

After the conference we went out to ice cream in Bani and spent the night there with the hermanas in our zone. It was a fun way to celebrate my birthday.

Next Monday I'm planning to visit La Venta, so I'll leave Ocoa early that morning for the last time. I'll spend the day in La Venta visiting with converts and members, and then I'll head to the mission home to spend my final 2 nights there. On Tuesday we go through the temple with President and Hermana Nuckols, have our final interviews, eat dinner at their house, and have a testimony meeting with all the finishing missionaries. And on Wednesday... I fly home. 

Con amor, 

Hna Olsen

Kaitlin and Hermana Sanchez

Christmas zone conference

All of the missionaries at the Zone Conference that finish with Kaitlin

3 other missionaries that were in the CCM with Kaitlin

Kaitlin and Hermana Stanton

Ice cream in Bani

Monday, December 1, 2014

Lots of Lists

Dear family, 

This week, of course, was Thanksgiving, and in honor of that I thought that for my letter this week I would share a list of a few of the things for which I've been thankful for this week: 
  • My testimony
  • Strong converts
  • A great companion
  • The gift of tongues
  • The ability and desire to learn
  • My patriarchal blessing
  • Good weather
  • Good health (despite my cold)
  • Shoes without holes
  • My blanket
  • A family who loves me
  • Warm bucket showers
  • Dominican hospitality
  • Guidance through the words of ancient and modern prophets 
  • Skirts with pockets
  • Letter and packages
  • Cold water/ cool breeze on a hot day
  • Quiet time to think
  • That for our Thanksgiving meal I made my first apple pie and stuffing from scratch, Grandma Padley's tarts, and roasted a turkey - all by myself - and it turned out wonderfully
  • Colmados that deliver
  • Pacas (flea markets) that sell long skirts
  • Baby wipes
  • Good advice at the right time
  • Guidance of the Spirit
  • The power of prayer
  • Ibuprofen
  • Bug spray
  • Lucy: the little dog that technically belongs to a member of the branch, but who follows the missionaries everywhere. Literally. She comes to our lessons with us, enters the grocery store to help us with the shopping, sits at our feet while we write at Internet, sleeps on our porch, attends Church each Sunday (no one can keep her out, and even runs behind the cars when they give us a bola (ride). 
  • Members that come out with us and give us references
  • Running water
  • Electricity
  • My mission call and all of the many experiences I've had in the past year and a half: wonderful & difficult, boring & exciting, stressful & fulfilling, disheartening & uplifting... and each of them valuable
  • ... Just to name a few...
And while I'm listing things, I thought I'd share a few more I'd written previously: 

  • When the 2nd counselor wears big-heeled cowboy boots and a Halloween tie to church... every week 
  • There's a dog in sacrament meeting (Lucy)
  • There are at least 10 motorcycles blocking the front entrance
  • There are at least 2 people cutting their nails and 3 people eating in Sunday school
  • When you sing the SAME hymn EVERY week for the sacrament
  • When people leave for a few minutes to go buy fried chicken from the street vendor outside
  • When no one knows how to sing the hymns, direct, the music, or play the piano
  • When "primary" means throwing all the children (& Lucy) in the same room and holding the doors closed so they don't escape
  • When the lesson in Relief Society ends up sounding more like an argument (even though everyone is in agreement)
  • When the majority of the children in attendance are there without their parents
  • When having to correct a little bit of false doctrine in a regular occurrence
  • When the church is practically empty because "it's raining." Ugh.
  • When everyone is related
  • When there are 6-8 missionaries in one tiny branch
  • When you feel amused, frustrated, out of place, and right at home all at the same time
  • "That skirt cost you RD$50? What a rip-off!"
  • When the gas goes out half way through cooking lunch and all the moto-conchos are on their lunch break
  • When the power goes out while you're in the shower.. and then your water slowly trickles to a stop as well
  • When people don't recognize you as a servant of the Lord and just see you as a free visa
  • When you forget to buy drinking water on Saturday night so you have to wait until Monday morning
  • When you can play connect the dots with all the mosquito bites on your legs 
  • When random people yell at you while you're walking down the street because you're either, walking in the rain, walking in the sun, or they just want you to say hello to them. 
  • When the answer to "will you go to church on Sunday? “is "Si Dios quiere"(If God wants). Dios siempre quiere!!!
  • When you have to use the bathroom but there's no water to flush the toilet. I guess I'll wait...
  • When people beep your phone so you'll call them because they don't have minutes (or just don't want to use them)
  • When all you have to eat in the house is rice and beans
  • When the washer is broken so you have to wash everything by hand (or just see how long you can get away with not washing things)
  • When finding someone who is a declared citizen and/or legally married is considered a miracle from God
  • When the music is soo loud you can barely think, let alone share a spiritual lesson
  • When the colmado is out of your favorite snack so you have to walk to the next one across the street
  • When you're in the middle of writing your family and the power goes out... 3 times
  • When you know the sacrament bread was bought at a colmado 5 minutes before the meeting and the water is from the hose out back. At least they blessed it.
  • When people don't know they live on an island and they think NEW York and the US are the same thing
  • When you're getting directions from someone and they say it's really far, but it's only a 5 minute walk
  • When people attend churches based on how close they are to their house, nut what they teach
  • When you're in the middle of a lesson and some Testigos (Jehova's Witnesses) show up
  • When you're eating lunch and someone gets shot outside your house
  • When you ask someone if they'll pray to know if our message is true and they say no
  • When a stranger proposes to you on the side of the road
  • When you're teaching a lesson and they start beating their child
  • When someone tells you they have 30 siblings because their father has 2 other families
  • When you're leaving a lesson and a man tries to kiss your cheek
  • When your opening hymn is interrupted by a rat or cockroach running across your foot
  • When you're teaching a lesson and your investigator pulls out her breast to feed her 5 year old child (or even more awkward, when the child pulls it out himself)
  • When you don't know if someone is their mom, grandma, or sister, or if their husband is really their dad... or grandpa?
  • When you're in the middle of bearing your testimony and your investigator's naked baby poops all over the floor... and they clean it up with their nasty all-purpose mop
  • When you go to shake hands with a one-armed man and he gives you his stub
  • When you're out with a member and you realize that he stopped to pee on the side of the road
  • When someone asks you what their English t-shirt means in Spanish, but it's something inappropriate... so you make something up
  • When you're telling you're investigator that, in order to get baptized, she'll have to either get married or leave her "esposo"... and he walks in. (Dominican men hate both of those things). "Was he there the whole time?"
  • When someone says they know English, but what really comes out of their mouth is pure nonsense... and they're waiting for a response
  • When someone offers you their child... and they're dead serious.
Until next week, 

Hna. Olsen :)

Lucy in the background proselyting


Thanksgiving pie

Thanksgiving dinner

Lucy at the church

Helping an investigator with the wash


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Half a Dozen Converts Enter the Temple

Dear family, 

This week was super busy and seemed to fly by. First, on Tuesday we took a trip to San Cristobol, Hna Martinez's old area. There was a baptism there and she got permission to go. So we left Tuesday morning and spent the day visiting her old investigators and members there. And I was quickly reminded how fortunate we are to be in the cool climate of Ocoa because, within minutes of being there, we were both covered in sweat. 

Hermana Martinez even took me to see a doll maker that I'd heard about. She makes cute little clay dolls and she even makes them especially for missionaries (with little plaques and carrying Books of Mormon). 

After the baptism we spent the night in the hermanas' house in San Cristobol and returned to Ocoa the following morning.

In the days that followed, we had a lot of help in the work from Gaby, Yoelis, and Victoria. They all just love spending the day with us and being missionaries. They put on their skirts, carry their Books of Mormon, and of course, proudly wear their future missionary plaques. They love to bear their testimonies, share scriptures, and testify in the lessons. I'm always impressed by how quickly they've learned and how much they know. Lately, we've even been doing splits with them, meaning that one of them goes with Hna Martinez and the other goes with me so we can cover more citas and they get to be our companions for the day.

We were even with them on Thursday when President Danilo, the President of the DR, came to our area to inaugurate a new school he funded. The streets were lined with people holding I <3 DANILO signs, all eagerly awaiting his arrival, and the air above was full of helicopters. It made getting to our cita a bit challenging because we had to squeeze our way through the crowd, but we managed... and when we least expected, Danilo himself drove past, waving out of the top of a large black SUV an followed by a wake of cheers that erupted as his caravan passed by. 

But the best part of the week by far was a trip to the temple on Saturday with all 6 of our converts. It is one of the best, most fulfilling feelings as a missionary to be able to enter the temple and see all of your converts there dressed in white and smiling back at you. We were even fortunate enough to be able to enter the font area to hand out towels. So we sat right in front of them and watched all 6 entered the font to be baptized for their ancestors. When they came up out of the water, we wrapped a towel around them and gave them each a big hug. It was tender, inspiring experience. The entire day - watching them perform ordinances in the baptistery and watching them play outside on the lawn in the temple's shadow - I just kept thinking to myself, "I have been so blessed as a missionary. It just doesn't get better than this."

Con amor, <3

Hna Olsen
Noche de Hogar at Victoria's house with her 111 year-old great grandmother

Noche de Hogar at Victoria's house with her 111 year-old great grandmother

Doll maker in San Cristobol