Last Monday night was very difficult and bittersweet. The branch put together a despedida for me (good-bye devotional) and everyone was there, even some of our investigators. When I walked into the church and saw them all waiting there for me, my heart quivered in my chest because I knew that would be the last time I'd see them all there and that they had all come just to say good-bye to me. As I walked up to them I was enveloped in hugs and handshakes. There wasn't much to be said, but that's all right because I didn't have the words anyway.
I sat down and noticed sadly that Miguela hadn't come. I had a bag of photos and a note for her (as well as some for Angelo, Estefani, and Yordys). I figured I would pass by her house afterward.
I was trying my best to put on a happy face and was doing pretty well until they decided to sing 'God Be With You Until We Meet Again' as the opening hymn and I lost it. It also didn't help that part way through the song Miguela walked in with Manuel, silent tears streaming down her face, and took a seat in the back row, then refused to look at me.
After Presidente Ramirez shared a short message about missionary work, he told everyone that the time was now theirs to get up and share their thoughts. Raysa was the first to go to the pulpit. She thanked me for not giving up on her and helping them grow closer as a family. Eddy stood up and spoke about the night I showed up at the church crying for Miguela. He said that he would always remember me as someone who was "willing to bear one another's burdens, mourn with those who mourn, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort." Humberto spoke about the time he went out with us and we couldn't find #23, but how I wouldn't give up until I found them. Joseph and Hermana Matteson spoke, and then even Yordys got up. He thanked me for my patience and good humor while teaching him and said that, one day, he hopes to develop some patience of his own.
Several people called for Miguela to get up, but she silently refused, I turned around to look at her and was crying. That's we\hen President called on me to get up share my testimony. I walked up to the pulpit with a lump in my throat and turned to face everyone in the room. There weren't very many dry eyes and it was hard to look at them. I don't remember exactly what I said and it probably wasn't very eloquent, but I expressed my love for them, told them what I special spirit there was that little branch, and how I would always remember them and my time there in La Venta.
Then (as you all already know) Joseph has prepared a slideshow featuring photos from my time in La Venta and the photos you sent him of when I was younger. It ended with the video clips you sent him of you guys saying hello. Everyone loved them - there was a huge chorus of "aaahh!" and even one exclamation of "so sweet!"
When it ended and the closing prayer was said, there were a few moments of complete silence and no one got up from their seats. Finally, people began coming up to me and saying good-bye. Yakeline brought me one of her empanadas because I had told her that hers were my favorite. Raysa's son, Viktor gave me a photo of himself with a note on the back thanking me for all the work I'd done with his mother.
Finally it came time to say goodbye to Miguela. She came up to me and didn't say anything. She just wrapped her arms around me and sobbed into my shoulder. Even Manuel was crying and joined in on the hug. I gave her the envelope of photos and she broke down. She pleaded with me to write her, even if it was just one line. I promised I would. She told me not to forget her and I told her that was impossible. And it really is.
The next morning at 6:30am I packed up all my things and got on a bus. I was the only sister missionary. The ride was almost 2 hours. I got off the bus in Bani and met my new companion. From there, we got on another smaller bus which climbed upward into the mountains on winding roads for another hour until we reached our final destination. As we drove into town, we passed a sign that read: "Welcome to Ocoa!"
My new companion's name is Hermana Hildman. She's from Idaho and came into the field the same time as Hermana Stanton. She's super sweet and easy to get along with. Although she didn't know any Spanish coming in, she knows quite a bit now and is always willing to put herself out there and speak in lessons, which really is a breath of fresh air.
We live in a house with 4 other hermanas, but even so, out area is massive compared to La Venta. We walk a whole lot, and because we're in the mountains it's a real workout (which is probably good for me).
On my first full day here, we decided to go to a part of our area called Parra, which is a tiny village on the top of a mountain where basically everyone is a less active member of the church. To get there, you have to cross a river, jumping from stone to stone, and hike up a rocky dirt road into the mountains (about an hour). By the time I got up there I was pretty thoroughly exhausted but it was more than worth it because the journey is absolutely gorgeous.
Ocoa is hands down the most beautiful area in the mission. It is surrounded on all sides by striking lush green mountains and everywhere you turn there are fruit trees and tropical flowers. There is even a mango and an avocado tree right outside my bedroom window, close enough to reach out and pick some fruit off the branches. I'm told there's even a waterfall and some caves up by Parra. It's also a bit colder here, so I usually have a sweater on in the mornings and evenings. But I love it here already. I'm so excited to get to work!
Until next week,
Hermana Kaitlin Olsen
|Kaitlin's new area Ocoa|
|Kaitlin and Hermana Hildon|