We started working in our new area on Tuesday, and things are still quite slow (as expected), but we have no doubt that things will begin picking up soon. We've been doing ALOT of contacting, as well as trying to work with the members that live in our area in order to find references and menos activos (less actives). And apparently there are a lot. I mean, a whole bunch. Pretty much everyone that we've contacted is a menos activo, has a family member that was menos activo, or knows someone that is. This is probably because, technically, the church is in our area (so I find it a bit odd that it hasn't been worked in a few years). But overall, I think we've been laying the beginnings of a good foundation for la obra and have high hopes for this area that clearly has so much potential.
In terms of what the area is like, it looks a lot different from our old area, which - for the most part - was a lot more spread out and dusty, with open fields and an abundance of farm animals. Our new area is about a 30 to 40 minute walk in the opposite direction and it's like a different place completely. The houses themselves are similar in construction, but a lot closer together. They fringe the sunbaked streets in nearly unbroken lines of crumbling cinderblock and rusted tin, zig-zagging and criss-crossing like a lively concrete maze, interrupted every now and then by one of several small bridges that arch up and over the winding canal system. But the most striking difference is the jutting blue peaks of the mountains that rise up above the city and dominate the skyline until their pointed tips fade into the low-hanging clouds.
To our pleasant surprise, we learned from studying the map that the mountains were actually part of our area (all the blank space). And when we talked with Elder Robinson and Elder Aguiniga (former APs) we learned that the one investigator that they had in our area - named Manuel - actually lives up in the mountains and they told us that we could come along for their next lesson with him. So that's what we did, and it was one of the coolest experiences I've had on the mission.
We started out at 2pm and walked along one of the roads until the houses thinned out and the pavement crumbled away and became a dusty path that turned sharply upward, winding deeper into the mountains. As we climbed higher, the dust beneath our feet became clay, the air grew pleasantly cool, and the land around us bloomed emerald green. Eventually, we were surrounded on all sides by the deep blue peaks, and I really felt like I was in another country entirely.
After nearly 45 minutes of walking, we arrived at the small metal shack that was home to Manuel. As we settled down to begin teaching, I realized that the city of Azua had melted away far below us, and all the accompanying noise and chaos seemed to have evaporated, carried away on the fresh mountain breeze. As we began softly singing 'Mas Cerca Dios de Ti' ('Nearer My God to Thee'), a flock of brilliant white cranes flow overhead and I was suddenly overcome in a moment of awe over where I was at that very moment, surrounded by such beauty and filled with the Spirit.
Interesting things that happened this week (really only 1):
- General Conference! A couple of you have asked how that works here, so here's what we did. Our church building shows the live broadcast for all of Azua (4 branches), so some people have to come a long way to watch it - but luckily for us, it's only about a 10 minute walk. There is also no way that we can watch it in English, so I was a bit worried that I wouldn't be able to understand anything that the speakers said. However, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I could understand quite a bit more than I expected and I loved it :) I can't wait until we all get our Conference issue Liahona magazines so I can read the talks in English (which judging by the fact we live in Azua, will be at least a few months).
All my love,
Hermana Kaitlin Olsen