I love hearing from all of you. It sounds like it was an eventful week in Kentucky and I'm glad everything went well. Jessica, I can't wait to hear more about your new school/roommates, etc. I pray for you every day :)
Mom, I'm glad you had an opportunity to have a missionary experience. You know, you're always welcome to give people like that the address to my blog if they seem interested. Dad, thanks for the roadtrip photo and travel safely to South Africa. Also, tell Grandma and Grandma that the photos of the clocks are absolutely gorgeous!
As for my week, I can't believe that I've already been on my mission for 2 months! We celebrated on the 20th by buying a pizza (it didn't really taste like America pizza, but we loved it all the same) and watching The Work & The Glory. But I think the best part of the day was out leson with Altagracia.
Let me start with last Sunday. We had invited her to attend church and she said that she would come, however we weren't sure if she actually would because she had told us that she was a bit nervous becuase she didn't know anyone and she can't read. So, when we showed up at her little blue house on Sunday morning, we were shocked and overjoyed to see 5 of her children running toward us in dresses, their hair done up and huge smiles on their faces. To give you an idea of how wonderful and rare this is: about half the members (including the Branch President) usually wear jeans. Needless to say, we were quite proud to walk them into the chapel that morning, especially when we saw the mission president and his wife sitting up on the stand.
As the meeting began, Hna Matteson and I were both praying silently that Altagracia would be able to feel the Spirit and that she would hear the words she needed. That was when President Rodriguez stood up to speak, and the first thing that he did was have all the visitors stand up so that he could welcome them, and then he talked about the importance of befriending them and helping them. It was perfect, exactly what Altagracia neded to feel comfortable - as were the rest of the lessons, which talked about having charity and unity. As we walked her home, Altagracia had a smile on her face as she talked about all the "wonderful things" she heard, and insited that we come to visit her the next day.
So we did. We talked about church, her life, her faith, and her desires. She has had a difficult life, and often struggles to care for her 6 children, but she has a strong desire to grow closer to her Heavenly Father and a firm belief that this will bless her family. So that was it. By the end of that lesson, she had expressed a desire to be baptized. and the very next day, I got to extend the official invitation her her to prepare to be baptized on the 28 of September (which, of course, she eagerly accepted).
Since then, we've met with her neary every day (becuase despite her offers, we can't actually meet with her twice in the same day). And every time they see us, her children run over and ask us if we've come to take them to church. Altagracia is a golden investigator, especially prepared for us by the Lord, and Hna Matteson and I pray every day that she may continue to grow in her knowledge and testimony as we help her prepare for her baptism in the coming weeks. I'll make sure to keep you updated.
We also had a fun P-Day this past week. We had a zone activity at a local finka, which is essentially like a orchard. In the morning, we met up with the 8 elders that make up the rest of our zone and all of us piled into a member's truck. He drove us a little ways outside of town and slowly down a rocky dirt road lined in palm trees, the foliage around us growing thicker and brighter as we made our way deeper into the finka. We ended up walking a little way through the trees to reach a small shack that is sometimes used during the harvest.
That was where the member keeps the giant cauldron and a stack of fire wood that he used to cook us sancocho, which is a traditional Dominican stew. He hadn't really brough much with him, so a few of us helped him gather up the necessary ingredients, including picking guineos (plantains) and digging up yuca (a potato-like root). We then watched with interest as he grabbed up one of the many had been wandering among the trees, chopped it into pieces with a machete, and threw every last bit of it into the cauldron.
While we were waiting for the sancocho to cook, we took a walk and some of the elders pointed out all the different kinds of fruit trees there were, including coconut, mango, cherry, plantain, and some others we couldn't identify. Eventually, we came across a tall limoncillop tree, its branches heavy with the small green fruits. People here eat them like candy - biting them open, discarding the peel, sucking on the soft fruit, and then spitting out the pit.They're a little weird and a bit slimey a t first, but I've grown to really like them.
We returned to the shack before the sancocho was finished and relaxed for a while in the warm green light that filtered down through the trees above us, telling stories, sucking idly on limoncillos, and laying on a threadbare hammock strung up between two palm trees.
Interesting things that happened this week:
- We cut Hna Preisler's hair. Over 10 inches of it, in fact. Hna Matteson was eager to chop the pony tail, and then I trimmed it up and evened it out, even framing her face. I think that it looked pretty good for my first time, and she was decidedly happy with the result as well.
- The four of us sang a hymn at the baptism of one of Hna Nodal and Hna Preisler's investigators ('La oracion de profeta' to the tune of 'Come Thou Fount'). I even had a solo part, which I only agreed to becase no one here knows how to sing. But seriously. Even when the members have no idea how a song goes, they still sing at the top of their voices. The first time that I heard them during sacrament meeting, I could hardly recognize the song and Hna Matteson and I couldn't help but laugh until tears were running our faces.
- We found out that we get to go to the capital twice in the coming week (which means a lot of time on a crowded guagua): Temple trip on Tuesday, and on Thursday, we have an Hermana Conference for all the sister missionaries in the West... and I've been asked to speak - wish me luck!
All my love,
Hermana Kaitlin Olsen