First and foremost, Mom, I want to thank you for the package! It arrived less than 2 weeks after I wrote to you, just in time for my 3 month cumplimes! (You must have sent it right away, and I'm pretty sure DHL is the best because I know several people that regularly packages several months after they were sent.) You truly are amazing, I am so blessed to have a mother like you. All 4 of us have enjoyed watching the DVDs and the Crocs got here just in time. A few days ago, we were over in Villa Palmarjeo (the farthest neighborhood in our area where Carlos, Ababertino, and Tomas live) and a big storm hit, with thunder and pounding rain so loud we could barely talk and lightning so bright that it lit up the darkened house. When it finally let up enough for us to leave, we discovered that all the streets heading back into town had flooded. We ended up having to walk quite a ways to find a passable route, and needless to say, we got more than a little wet.
Your package, among others tings (including, but not limited to, no trips to the hospital and/or injuries) has made this week a definite improvement from the last few. Last week was good, but most of it was still a bit slow because we didn't have many appointments set up beforehand. This week we were able to get back into the swing of things and fall back into our regular routine.
We have visited Altagracia several times, and sadly, she told us that her 'esposo' doesn't want to get married. After that, he started giving us the cold shoulder and Altagracia stopped coming to church, although she still loves to listen to us and still isn't smoking. We were quite discouraged with this turn of events.
One night, we had set up a movie night at a member's house that was meant for Adriana and Sugey, but they wouldn't come with us, so I suggested that we pass by Altagracia's house on the off chance that she would want to come right then.
When we walked up, 5 of her children were running around as usual, Altagracia was sweeping up the trash in the street, and her esposo, Wander, was leaning against the side of the house looking wholly disinterested. When we asked her if they wanted to come with us to watch a movie and eat popcorn, Altagracia said that they were all covered in dirt and none of her children were dressed. It was all true, but we told her that it wasn't important. She still seemed hesitant, so we turned to Wander and invited him... and by some miracle, he agreed.
We watched The Testaments, which is the story of a fictional family in Zarahemla during the time of Christ's coming. Wander was quiet at first, but with time, he talked a bit and even laughed during the movie. At the end of the night, we asked him if he had enjoyed the movie and he said that he did, because he'd seen it several times before. It was an obvious lie, but we smiled and nodded anyway. And then, he took us by surprise by saying that he would come to church on Sunday. I mean, he didn't actually end up coming, but at least now he smiles and waves at us every time he sees us. It's a start.
As for other investigators that need to get married, things are looking a bit more optimistic for 2 couples. First, there's Samuel and Ana, who are a referencia from Branch President Cano and whose oldest son Michael (18) just got baptized. They've been taught by missionaries before, including their 12 year old son Lester, and are pretty much ready to be baptized already. Then there's Johnny, who is Carlos' uncle. He started sitting in on the big group lessons that we have in the streets in Villa Palmarejo. In our first real lesson alone with him, he agreed to be baptized, and when we found out that he wasn't married, we asked him to get married in the second lesson and he said yes! So, now we have 2 weddings to orchestrate - and those 3 investigators pretty much came out of nowhere. I swear, by the end of my mission, I will have achieved the same number of marriages as baptisms.
I also thought I'd update you on Juan, our young investigator in the wheelchair, because I haven't mentioned him since the initial letter.
He is doing amazingly well. For a long time, we weren't sure if he could ever progress because he didn't remember much about what we taught him, and would just repeat the words "porque Crist viene" back to us when we asked him questions. But he kept saying how much he loved coming to church and how much he wants to be baptized, so we started praying for him. We prayed that he might be able to understand and remember and that we would know how best to teach him. We started using a lot of hand signs. pictures, and key words. For a while, we weren't sure if it was helping, then one day he bagan changing some of his answer to match the questions and even using some of the hand signs. Now gradually, he actually seems to be learning the things we teach. He can now define what a prophet is, say what the Book of Mormon is, identify a picture of Joseph Smith, and describe where the church is located. Progress is still slow, step by step, and we're still not sure how a baptism would work, but he has the faith to continue learning and we have the faith that one day everything will work out.
Interesting things that happened this week:
- When we were over at Samuel and Ana's house, Ana took us around back to show us all their fruit trees. We tried cirhuelas, something that looked like a green pomegranite, and guayabas, which are green, golf-ball-sized fruits with pink centers. She was insistent that we pick some guayabas and take them home to make juice with her favorite recipe. We ended up with a cinnamon-guayaba soup, whose strong flavor leeched its way into everything in the fridge. We drank it anyway.
- We had a coconut drinking contest with the other hermanas and our friends at Villa Palmarejo. I ended up with coconut juice all over the front of my shirt, but I came in second.
All my love,
Hermana Kaitlin Olsen