Monday, August 19, 2013

Acting on Faith

Dear family,

I´m so glad to hear that you´re all doing well, my thoughts and prayers are with you during your time in Kentucky. Jessica, I expect a good letter soon telling me all about your new school/roommates/etc.

I got the package you sent this week! I wasn't expecting it for at least another few weeks, so it was a wonderful surprise! I'm trying to ration the treats (which came through relatively unscathed), so that they last as long as possible. I've given a few of the toys away to the children of some of our investigators, and they absolutely LOVE them (because, sadly, I haven't really seen any toys since I've been here). Mom, I hope you know that I've put all the cards you've sent me up where I can see them every day. And Jessica... your contribution was both hilarious and slightly disturbing. (How could I have expected anything less?) I'm thinking of sticking one on every telephone pole in Azua (although I'm pretty sure that no one here knows who that is). I love you all so much!

All the missionaries here are required to carry a hardback copy of the Book of Mormon in their hands at all times, and slipped inside the pages of mine I keep a lamenated copy of our family photo - that way you can always be with me and I can show you off to all of my investigators. In fact, I talk about you all with pretty much everyone that we meet, becuase family is the one topic here that always breaks the ice.

Speaking of investigators, I promised to talk about a few once we started to establish regular appointments. First, we've been trying to work family members of Tomas, including his wife Juanna, and his daughter Altagracia. We face a bit of a challenge with Juanna becuase she can't read, so we've been encouraging Tomas to read with her as much as possible.

In fact, we have a total of four investigators who can't read, so it makes our job interesting as we try to find ways to in which they can best learn and progress, especially when it comes to their confidence. One of the four who can't read, named Esperanza, was so overjoyed when she said her first prayer. After we assured her that she had done well, she clapped her hands and exclaimed excitedly, "I can learn! I'm learning!" She has such a great desire to learn and we have faith in her. Our job now is to get her to realize her divine potential.

In contrast, we have several investigators who love to read. Cesarina has graduated college in computer programming. She rhighlights the pamphlets we give her and even puts question marks beside the parts she doesn't understand. Julio manages an organic agriculture business, and likes sharing his opinion about economics and politics. He says he's not very religious, but he reads to Bible and enjoys trying to find meaning that no one else has thought of before (it has led to some interesting discussions).

We are also teaching several wonderful families. Samuel and Evelin have 2 young children that always sit on their laps during our lessons. And they have an actual family portrait hanging up on their wall (which is quite rare, considering many people here have neither family photos nor anything hanging on their walls). Altagracia is a single mother with 4 children (ages 2, 4, 5, and 7) who absolutely adore us. When they see us coming from down the street, they scream and run outside to meet us with enthusiastic hugs, and throughout the entire lesson, they continue to cling to us as if we might just float away. They also love to remind us that we're "muy blanca" and poke our skin until their mother tells them to behave.

We also have a very special investigator named Juan, who is 18 years old. He has a problem with the bones in his legs and can't walk. He also has some sort of learning disability, so lessons are very short and simple, and we often have to repeat them several times. But he has such great faith, and a strong desire to grow closer to his Heavenly Father. Every week, one of the ward members named Maximo, walks to Juan's house and pushes him (all the way across town)to church in his wheelchair. Juan has told us several times that he wants to be baptized, however, there are several problems with this. First (and probably the least of our concerns), we're not sure how baptizing him would work becuase he can't stand. Second, we're not sure how much he really understands, and we need to make sure ke knows enough of the doctrine to gain a testimony of its truth. Lastly, he has no support from his family: no one to read to him (because he can't read) and no way to get to church on his own. It is so frustrating and we pray for guidance constantly because he has such a strong desire and we want him to be happy, but I know that with the Lord's help, everything will turn out fine in the end.

Equally as frustrating is that several of our investigators have the faith, or rather, believe the things we have taught them, but have absolutely no desire to act on their faith. Unfortunatly, this attitude seems to be shared by quite a few people here. I have yet to meet someone that say they don't have a belief in God, however, we also have a very hard time finding people who are willing to act on their faith, change their lives for the things that they say they believe, or even attend church. And really, what does our faith mean if we aren't willing to sacrifice anything for it?

I've been asking myself that a lot lately. Each day, am I doing all that I can to live the principles that I say I believe? What would I be willing to give to defend my faith? Eighteen months of my life? But what does that really mean if my heart isn't in it? Here's what I do know. I'm here becuase I believe in the message I am teaching. I'm here becuase I care about the people and I want them to share in the joy that this Gospel has brough to my life. And when my mission is over, and I look back on these eighteen months, I want to be able to say that I worked every day with all my heart, might, mind, and strength to defend and fortify my hard-won faith, to show those I met that this message is not just empty words, and that no one needs to walk away empty-handed. True faith inspires action and sacrifice. So, if you know something to be true, you'd better do something about it.

All my love,

Hermana Kaitlin Olsen

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