Friday, April 25, 2014

The Church as it is meant to be


April 21, 2014

Querida familia, 

Miguela has been passing through a lot of hard things recently. She still hasn't found work, so she barely has enough money to feed herself, Manuel, and Vladi. She's not receiving any support money from her ex-husband because he nearly cut off three of his fingers and is unable to work. On top of that, little two year-old Vladi got bit by a spider on his stomach. It swelled up, hardened, and became infected. The infection gave him a high fever that lasted several days. 

When we went to visit Miguela she had taken him to the hospital to get it drained, but it was still very swollen and painful, and it was Vladi's third day with a fever. The hospital wanted to keep him there, but Miguela didn't have the money. She confided in us that she was feeling very worried and depressed. She said that she had even been losing her desire to pray and read the scriptures. 

As I listened to her I could feel my heart dropping inside my chest, and then she turned to me and asked why the Lord would permit her to live such a hard life when she was trying her best to follow Him? The quiet sincerity of her question caused my heart to clench further and I felt helpless. I tried my best to share a message of peace and comfort with her, but no matter what I said, it just didn't feel like enough. I asked her if she would like a blessing of health for Vladi, and if she herself would like a blessing of comfort. She said that she did, and that she could do before or after the weekly Liahona class on Wednesday night. 

I left her house with the enormity of the situation pressing down on my shoulders. I felt that it was up to me to do something because Miguela doesn't really have anyone else, but I just felt so small. What could I do?

We arrived at the church for our cita with Yordys and around 7pm and found it still full of people from a devotional that had just finished (which had started nearly 3 hours earlier). We went to talk to Brito, the 1st counselor, about giving Miguela and Vladi blessings on Wednesday. When he asked what the blessings were for I began to explain, but I was beyond words and couldn't hold back my tears. 

Suddenly we were surrounded by everyone there, wanting to know what was wrong. I had to explain several times that I was alright, but that I was just worried for Miguela because Vladi was sick and she was passing through a very difficult time. I explained that she and Vladi both needed blessings. "Well, let's go then!" they all said together. 

"Right now?" I asked.

"Of course!" came the chorus. 

And so we went. We left the church and I led a group of nearly 10 people through the callejones to Miguela's house. When we arrived, they didn't even wait for her to come to the door; they just walked right inside while calling her name. She came out of her room and was surprised to find her little house full of people, but welcomed us with a tired smile all the same. 

I didn't even really have to do anything, just stand up against the wall and watch the Church as it should be: everyone of them comforting and offering their help to Miguela - members who, after a long meeting were probably looking forward to going home to relax, but instead dropped everything to help another in her moment of need. The genuine love and selflessness of the scene before me brought fresh tears to my eyes and I silently choked them back during each of the blessings. 

When Miguela opened her eyes, she looked over at me. She told me not to cry because then she would start crying. I smiled back at her. She stood up and gave me a hug and we both cried together. 

The next day when we went back to check on Miguela, we were relieved to find that Vladi's fever had broken. He was running around and as happy as ever to see us. Miguela said that she felt a lot better as well, and even told us that she felt a renewed motivation to pray and read the Book of Mormon. When I left her house, I felt as if a huge weight had been lifted of my shoulders. 

The rest of the week passed by rather uneventfully: Vladi continued to get better each day and we all enjoyed the festivities of Semana Santa (Holy Week). Some of the local traditions include getting cornrows, going to the beach, and putting up large plastic pools in the street (none of which we were able to participate in, but it did make walking through the streets a bit more interesting). 

We were, however, able to try the traditional dish of habichuelas con dulce (sweet beans), which tastes a little bit like pureed pumpkin soup (beans and cinnamon cloves) with raisins, vanilla wafers, and batata (similar to sweet potato). We got some from pretty much all the members we passed by. Miguela even insisted on giving us some, and I can honestly say that I think I liked hers the best. 

Yesterday, we also had fun teaching Hna Reyes and Hna Pinchardo how to color Easter eggs, which they'd never heard of before. (I think the man in the colmado thought we were crazy when we walked in and asked for 20 eggs.)

Another highlight of the week was the long-awaited and satisfying victory over a bitter foe. I was in the bedroom when I heard all of the other hermanas screaming. I ran into the kitchen to find that one of our rat traps had finally done its job! (It turns out we had them set wrong for a while, so that's a bit embarrassing). After cleaning up, we took it down to show Mario, the member who lives below us. He's heard us screaming and when we told him it was because we had rats he never believed us. He thought we were exaggerating. He believes us now, though. 


Hasta la próxima, 

Hermana Kaitlin Olsen
Watch lines

Victory

Miguela's children and Easter chicks


Miguela's son

Rooftop view

From Kaitlin's rooftop

Cocoa tree

Hermana Stanton's Birthday

20 Eggs to decorate

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