To say the least, this week has been challenging, but I have determined to keep a positive attitude and trust in the Lord because I know that He never gives us obstacles that we are unable to surmount.
On Monday and Tuesday we hit a few hiccups with several of our investigators. First of all, we found out that Altagracia isn't legally married to her husband, which is a frustratingly common occurrence here in the DR. Sufficient money and the required legal documentation (i.e. birth certificates) are very hard to come by, consequently, legal marriages are few and far between. However - married or not - people still refer to one another as esposo/esposa (husband/wife), which makes things pretty confusing. Unfortunately, this puts Altagracia's baptism on hold until further notice because she doesn't have any papers, and even if she did, she would still need to find 3500 pesos. It took Tomas several months to get married so that he could be baptized, and I'm pretty sure that he had most of his papers and some money together already.
We're having this same problem with two (possibly three) other investigators. It's frustrating that many people here don't see the need for marriage because "papers" and legal documentation don't really mean much to them and their way of life. However, it is even more frustrating when we have an investigator like Altagracia who would love to be baptized, but doesn't have the means to first get married to the man she loves.
On top of that, Julio and Cesarina, two of our star investigators, are being evasive. They actually read the things we gave them, remembered our citas (appointments), and asked pertinent, thought-out questions, but lately, we haven't been able to find either of them. Julio is even reading the Book of Mormon, although I'm unsure whether he's reading it as a sacred text or a secular history because he seems to have a lot of questions about the politics and dynamics governing the relationship between the Nephites and the Lamanites.
Our one ray of light within our investigators this week is the family of Samuel and Evelin (who are legally married, by the way) and their two darling children. We gave them a Book of Mormon and Samuel told us that we could come back in a week so that he would have enough time to read all of 1 Nefi. They are also praying to know if the tings that we have taught them are true, and we are eagerly awaiting the day that they receive their answer. I have pictured them many times dressed in white and preparing to enter the waters of baptism together.
Even though it is disappointing when things aren't going smoothly with investigators that clearly have so much potential, I try not to get discouraged. I know that I am doing my best and working as hard as I can, so the Lord with take care of the rest.
On Tuesday evening, we decided to drop by Adriana and Sugey's house because they still hadn't come to church. We ended up giving them a boche about obedience to God's commandments and observing the Sabbath Day. Afterwards, to lighten the mood a bit and to remind them that we were only there because we care about them, Hna Matteson started a conversation about cooking because she knew how much they both enjoy it. Mother and daughter ended up having a lively, good-natured debate about the best way to make ojuelas, which are a little like funnel cakes. We left their house with the recipe written in our agendas and a promise that we would try that night and tell them how it turned out.
When we arrived home a while later, we stopped by the colmado before heading upstairs to buy some oil and something called roya, which we're pretty sure is baking powder. We made the dough before Planning so that it could have time to rise, and once it had risen, we set a pan of oil on the stove to heat up and began rolling the dough into balls. We weren't sure how long it would take the oil to heat up, but when we saw a few wisps of smoke, we threw the first bit of dough in, and sure enough, it bubbled to life.
And that's where my week took a turn for the worse. When I dropped the second bit of dough into the pan, a significant portion of oil bubbled up over the rim and splashed down onto my bare foot. At once, the pain was searing and I hobbled desperately over to the bathroom to run my foot under some water, but the shower stream - as feeble as it was - was unbearable. So, I grabbed the empty shower bucket and let it fill up a bit before tenderly slipping my foot into the tepid water. By that time, I was beginning to realize that this was more serious that I had initially thought. The pain was terrible and everywhere the oil had touched, including three of my toes and a portion of the top of my foot, had turned bright white.
Hermana Nodal found me doubled over in the bathroom with tears streaming down my face. Ever the aspiring nurse, she immediately took charge of the situation, instructing Hna Matteson to call the APs and then staying by my side until they arrived, speaking comforting words and even coaxing out a few feeble laughs.
When the APs got there about 20 minutes later, they took one look at my now bright red and white foot and determined, much to my dismay, that I needed to go to the hospital. So, they called someone with a car, and while we waited they gave me a blessing (which, of course, included some more oil). When the car pulled up a few minutes later, I insisted that I could walk down by myself. And I did, despite the white hot pain of removing my foot from the bucket of water.
When we arrived at the hospital, I also walked myself into the ER: that same barren room where I spent the night not a month earlier and where I had sworn I would never return. Yet, here I was again. And, of course, one of the nurses recognized me. (I think I hold the mission record for the most of number of hospital visits in one transfer.) I was shown to a bed, and as I sat waiting, I inspected my foot under the pale fluorescent light and noticed with trepidation that several large blisters had begun to form.
A nurse approached me a minute later to give me a shot for the pain (and I'm not even going to mention that, despite my protests, it was in my butt). A moment later, she returned wearing latex gloves - and I knew what that meant. Over the next few minutes, I had to grab onto the edge of the bed until my knuckles were white, using all my willpower to sit still while she prodded, popped, and peeled off my skin.
I left the hospital a few minutes later with my foot wrapped in gauze and a tube of burn ointment in my hand. The pain that had been like a red-hot branding iron was just beginning to subside, although I could still feel waves of heat clawing their way of my leg with each heartbeat. By the end of the night, however, the pain had ebbed to a manageable level and I was feeling much better.
Needless to say, I haven't been out proselyting this past week because I am unable to wear a shoe. But don't worry, I've been getting plenty of rest and I've been talking with and sending photos to the mission doctor in Santo Domingo. He has given me explicit instructions, has put me on an antibiotic, and says that my foot looks like it is healing nicely. And after the initial pain of that night, it really hasn't been that bad. Hermana Matteson and I have been spending our days reading, writing, drawing, talking, and watching the few church movies that we have. I've been learning a lot of things that have helped to fortify my testimony of the work I have been called to do, as well as things that I can apply in our lessons once I am able to get back out and teach (which should hopefully be within the next few days).
And, of course, last night was the end of the transfer (every six weeks). So, as Azua tradition dictates, we had a campfire on the roof to wait for the phone call from the DL that would let us know who would be leaving and who would be staying. As we roasted hot dogs and marshmallows under a blanket of stars, we talked about all the progress we had made together and all the possibilities of what might happen in the upcoming transfer.
By this point, I was certain that I in fact wouldn't be training anyone this transfer because I had missed my last week and it would be unfair to put a new missionary with a trainer who couldn't really leave the apartment. My bet was that everything would stay the same - and I was right. When the call came and we heard the news, we all cheered... because, despite a few bumps along the way, this truly has been a good transfer, I have learned so much more than I can convey to you through my letters and I have grown to love Azua and its people, including all the quirks, inconveniences, oddities, and even the frustrations.
The mission is the time to test the scope and depth of my abilities, to struggle through the hard times, to rejoice in the good times, to put my trust completely in the Lord, and to grow stronger every day. I testify that the Heavenly Father knows each and every one of us better than we know ourselves. He knows what we are capable of handling, and with His help, there is no mountain too high to climb, no storm too powerful to endure, nor journey too far to complete.
All my love,
Hermana Kaitlin Olsen
P.S. People's #1 advice when they hear about my burned foot?... Rub some oil in it.
Ha! Uh, no thank you... although I do appreciate the irony.