This week began with the unexpected arrival of a new mini-missionary for Hna Reyes. Her name is Hna Paniagua, and sometimes we affectionately call her Hna Santa Cena. She's from another part of the capitol and is probably one f the most quiet Dominicans I have ever met. Although Hna Reyes wasn't too happy to receive another mini, they work well together and she's very sweet.
As for happenings with our investigators, I think I've mentioned Raysa is my letters before. She is the First Counselor's wife and has been investigating the Church for many years. She is the only member of her family that isn't baptized, but you would never know that she's not a member unless someone told you.
When I got to La Venta the other missionaries had essentially given up on her: they would visit her occasionally to share a scripture and just visit, but there was no invitation to progress. When Hna Erickson left, I decided that I wanted to get to the bottom of why she wasn't baptized, so I began working more actively with her.
Since then I've had a lot of very open spiritual discussions with her about baptism and her eternal progression. We found out that, simply put, she has a fear of commitment and tends to doubt the strength of her faith, but there is essentially nothing holding her back from being baptized (which is both encouraging and, at the same time, disheartening - I'd like to lean toward the former).
We had invited her to pray about a baptismal date... She prayed - always does - just not about a fecha. (Personally, I think it’s because she knows what the answer will be and she doesn't want to hear it.) So, this past week we had a wonderful lesson with the whole family, where they all shared their testimonies. At the end, I invited Raysa to fast to receive a baptismal date. I said that Hna Stanton and I would fast for her at the same time and I invited the entire family to join with her in this special fast. They all readily agreed and we set our next cita for a few days after when we had planned the fast.
Yesterday we had the follow-up cita and it went very well. Everyone shared about the experiences they'd had during the fast, and I'd love to be able to say that Raysa finally received her answer and agreed to be baptized, but unfortunately she's still got her head in the sand. I say that it went well though because Raysa admitted that it was the first time that she's ever fasted, even her son (recently returned from his mission) said that it was probably only his third time going a full 24 hours. They all talked about it was very spiritual, how it helped them feel closer as a family through beginning and ending the fast with a kneeling family prayer. That's why I say it went well: anything that helps to strengthen a family is irrefutably a success.
As for other investigators, Cristian continues to eagerly progress. He says our visits are too short, even though they are usually about an hour and a half long because he asks so many questions and insists on reading 1-2 chapters from the Book of Mormon together before we leave. The only obstacle for him is that he works on Sundays - ONLY Sundays. We taught him about keeping the Sabbath Day holy and he seemed to take it very well. He said that he is going to try to find someone to switch shifts with him so he can work another day. We're praying and crossing our fingers that everything comes together well.
But of all that happened this week I would definitely say that the highlight was last Monday night. Last Monday we had Family Home Evening with Presidente and Hermana Rodriguez in their house (just us missionaries, Presidente Ramirez, Joseph, and Yakeline).
It was actually a surprise for Presidente Rodriguez, so Joseph coordinated it all with Hermana Rodriguez. When we arrived at the mission home that night, she let us in and sat us all down in the living room. She said that President was still working on a few things and that he would probably be done in a few minutes. So we waited... in slightly uncomfortable, anxious silence.
When Presidente Rodriguez walked into the room and found is all there, he was definitely taken off-guard, but recovered quickly and welcomed us into his home with a round of handshakes.
What we did was essentially set up like a Family Home Evening, but it was really more of a small, intimate farewell devotional to thank them for their service and express our love for them. President Ramirez presented a slideshow of photos encompassing their 3 years of service (especially their contributions to the growth of our little branch) and each of us missionaries took turns sharing our testimonies and thanking them for everything they've done. There were lots of tears shed (especially on the part of Presidente Rodriguez). At the end, we sang them a special musical number and Pres. Rodriguez shared with some parting counsel - or final exhortation, if you will - to keep focused on the work with all our heart, might, mind, and strength, and endure to the very end.
As we were leaving President took turns shaking our hands and saying good-bye to each one of us personally. He thanked Hna Matteson and me for all of our hard work in Azua. He said that, when we got there, there were only 4 active priesthood holders in the branch, and when we left, there were 19. Because of that, very soon it will become a ward and Azua will become the first stake in the South.
When he got to me, he took my hand, looked into my eyes, and then broke down into silent sobs (which, of course, meant that fresh tears welled up in my eyes as well). We stood in silence for a moment, his hands holding mine. When he finally managed to lift his head and speak, his voice was soft and sincere. He thanked me for my hard work and my love for the people. He said that I was a wonderful missionary and that I would see miracles on my mission. I smiled and told him that I already had.
As we drove away, President and Hermana Rodriguez stood outside and waved to us. The image of them slowly fading away into the darkness is one I don't think I'll easily forget.
It was a wonderful way to say good-bye to them. President Rodriguez truly was a great mission president, loving and dedicated - they both were - and I look up to them both immensely. Being able to spend time with them one-on-one was an amazing privilege because I came to know and love them both better. My only regret was that it was probably the last time I'll ever see them...but whether that be the case or not, it was a beautiful experience that I am very grateful to have among my treasured mission memories.
Until next week (on SKPYE!!!),
Hermana Kaitlin Olsen :)
|FHE with Presidente Rodriguez|