Monday, June 30, 2014

The Field is White (Despite the Drought)

Dear family, 

This week there wasn't a lot of significant events I feel like - but it was a good week, don't get me wrong. We have been working hard and are beginning to see some of the fruits of our labors. We had 5 investigators and 9 less actives in church yesterday, which is definitely an improvement from when I arrived here in Ocoa (although Esterlin wasn't there, so his fecha fell and we haven't been able to find him). 

I feel like I always get sent to areas where the work is going through a dry spell. I opened my first 2 areas in Azua, so we were basically starting from the ground up there and understandably it took a while to get things going. When I arrived in La Venta they didn't have many investigators because they'd all been baptized, which is great, but it still meant that we had a lot of work to do. Now I'm going through practically the same thing here in Ocoa, but we're definitely making progress. 

Sometimes when I was still a newer missionary I used to think that perhaps all these dry spells meant that I was doing something wrong, but the more I've matured as a missionary and the more I've prayed and pondered about it, I know that's not true. I've learned that sometimes all your hard work isn't reflected in your numbers, but that doesn't mean you're not working hard - you know it and God knows it.

I think that I've been sent to all these dry spells for a reason. I've always been focused on tangible results and numerical outcomes (if my academic history says anything about me), but I think that I needed to learn to see past the quantifiable results of our efforts and remain positive and motivated regardless of what the outcome appears to be on paper. Sometimes it's easier said than internalized, but I suppose that's true of many of the lessons the Lord sees fit to teach us: they can't be learned in a single day, but with continuous effort over time we gain greater understanding. 

Hermana Hildman is still working on learning this and can sometimes become easily discouraged, and as a result, homesick. But she'll be all right. I would diagnose it as an average case of "beginning of the mission blues":  when you're called to sow the seeds rather than reap the harvest and the months (or years) of work that lies ahead of you seem to stretch out beyond the viewable horizon. I'd be lying if I said that I couldn't relate, and maybe that's also why I'm here: to help her learn the lesson I feel as if I'm still learning, or perhaps to learn it with her. 

Whatever the case is though, I know that we're both here at this time for a reason. I know that if seeds are never sown the field will never be white for the harvest, and just as importantly, I've learned that sometimes the field is white just over the horizon, but we'll never see it unless we keep pressing forward with faith. 

Interesting things that happened this week: 

- The avocadoes outside our window are finally ripe so we were able to pick some! We used a coat hanger to hook the branches and pull them toward us. It worked marvelously and we ended up with an armful of aguacates!

- I realized that I actually prefer bucket showers now ever since I decided to start warming the water up on the stove. 

- Did you know I've been keeping a dream journal? I'm using that little notebook you bought me in London and I've written down EVERY dream I've had since the beginning of this year.

All my love, 

Hermana Kaitlin Olsen
Picking avocados from bedroom window

Picking more avocados

Sister Hildman

The Field is White

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

1 Year on the Island!!!

Dear family, 

It's official! This week I hit my one year mark on my mission! I can't believe it - the time has flown by so quickly!

I got to spend my year mark on intercambios with Hna Nodal for the day! She's now serving in Bani and came up to do intercambios with her companion, Hna Fernandez, who is the sister leader in this area. It was really great to spend the day with her and see how far we've come since our time together in the CCM and Azua. We work very well together and we've both learned and grown so much in these past 12 months - it was amazing to see the difference - but I know that there's still a lot of learning and growing to do in the next six.

As far as investigators go, we were able to put a baptismal date with Esterlin for the 12 of July. He may or may not have some issues with chastity, but I'm optimistic and he's very excited as well. At church on Sunday they announced a branch temple trip for the end of July and asked people to raise their hands if they would be able to go. Esterlin raised his hand. I really hope his baptism goes through so he can be there. 

Interesting things that happened this week: 

- On my year mark, I finished the Book or Mormon for the third time in Spanish! I feel like I understand it better every time, and I'm pretty sure that, by the time I get home, I'll be more familiar with it in Spanish than in English.

- We had a zone activity today. We went to the beach in Nizao! (That's why I'm so late writing). It was so gorgeous and we were the only one's there! I'm sending lots of photos - they will do it more justice than my words will.

Les extraño y les amo con todo mi corazón!

Hasta la próxima semana, 

Hermana Kaitlin Olsen

1 Year mark

Hermana Nodal and Kaitlin

At the beach

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

June 16 - A bit sick this week

Dear family, 

I've been a bit sick this week, so I didn't really have a chance to write out a nice letter, so please excuse the briefness of the bullet points that follow.

Highlights of the week:

- We got to go the Temple with our branch. We spent the entire day there! We got to watch some baptisms and even do an endowment session. Afterwards, we even got to go out to eat at Wendy's (which is ironically considered a fancy restaurant here). On our way back to Ocoa, our guagua (bus) popped a tire and we were stuck on the side of the highway for a little while next to a mango mall (a long line of tables piled high with mangoes). We made it back all right though - it was an adventure.

- I picked up a tarantula because the elders didn't believe me when I said they didn't scare me. Probably wasn't the best idea, but it didn't bite.

- We got to help one of our investigators make a rug out of an old rice sack by sticking strips of pink fabric through it with a nail and then tying them into knots.

- We went to Parra for church on Sunday morning. It's so far away from the pueblo (town) that they have their own little meeting up there. We had to leave the house at 7am to make it up the mountain in time for sacrament meeting, which is held in someone's house.

Until next week, 

Hna Kaitlin Olsen
Temple Trip

Temple Trip

Fixing the flat on the bus

Making a rug

Kaitlin and Hermana Hildman

A trip to Wendys!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Purple Tarantulas & Mountains of Mangoes

Dear family, 


This week has still been a bit slow, but maybe I'm still just getting used to the slower pace of the campo again. We have several progressing investigators, the most noteworthy being Carmen. Three of her children have been baptized recently and she wants to get baptized, too, but she's not married to her 'husband.' He's willing to get married, but in order to do that, he first needs to be declared (he doesn’t have a birth certificate or a SSN). So we're working on getting him declared, but to do that we need to find his nomadic father, who could really be anywhere. 


Then there's Esterlin, who also has expressed a desire to be baptized and even brings friends to church, but may or may not have some problems with chastity that need to be resolved first. We'll see.


There's also Marisol, the sister-in-law of a recent convert, who is very interested and also has lots of questions for us, but still hasn't come to church. Time will tell with her as well.



Interesting things that happened this week: 


- We went to Bani for our zone meeting and decided to walk through town center to see an old cathedral there. There was also the annual Mango Festival going on, and there were literally mountains of mangoes everywhere (Bani is the mango capitol of the DR). 


- While walking down a certain street one day we saw several large, bright purple and orange tarantulas. Most of them were dead.


- I've been focusing on studying Spanish grammar more and been working my way through a practice book. I've also been using that Oxford dictionary you sent me. I'm learning a lot because I want to have a really solid grasp on the language by the time I finish.


- I've been doing pretty much all the cooking for the 6 of us because I'm pretty much the only one that knows how to cook in this house. They were pretty much eating like cavemen before I got here (i.e. Top Ramen and canned soup). I've been cooking a lot of Dominican food because some of the hermanas have NEVER TRIED IT! Sometimes I feel like their mother (partly because I also have to remind them to pick up after themselves).


And that's pretty much it. Sorry for the short letter. Love you!



Until next week, 

Hermana Kaitlin Olsen

Taking a bola (ride) down the mountain

Cathedral in Bani

Monday, June 2, 2014

Second week in Ocoa

Dear family, 

This week was still part of the process of adjusting to the new area: the nature of the work is unique in every area and each one has its own way of operating.  For example, in Ocoa we work a lot more with menos activos (less active members) because there are just so MANY of them. They’re about 100 or so active members in the Ocoa Branch, but if everyone who had been baptized were active, there would be over 650. We still work with investigators as well, but when I came in the other hermanas didn't have very many, so right now we're trying to build up our teaching pool. And of course, I'm still trying to learn the area because - as I mentioned in my last letter - it’s massive. We probably walk 2.5 to 3 hours a day between citas (and that's if everybody we planned is home), but I'm getting used to it and beginning to learn my way around. 

One significant thing that happened this week though, was the arrival of our new mission president, President Nuckols. We had a zone conference with him and his wife last Wednesday in Bani, and I have to admit that I'm super pleased with them. I think they're super sweet and that they will be good for this mission. They're from California, but they've lived in many places, including France for 5 years. They both speak French fluently, so oftentimes when President speaks he slips in a few French words now and then. Hermana Nuckols doesn't know a lot of Spanish, but she's learning. (And it's weird to admit, but I think that I may have better Spanish than both of them). He is a 6 ft 8 an outdoor adventurer, who loves surfing, biking, and mountain climbing, and she loves to cook, garden, and scrapbook. They're super cute together.

After the conference they gave us all a ride home in their car and we talked with them about the mission (because they're still learning the areas). On the hour ride up into the mountains, they both just kept staring out the window and commenting about how beautiful it was. And, seeing as this area is still fairly new to me, I'll admit that I was doing the same. 

Con amor, 

Hna Kaitlin Olsen
Kaitlin's room

Kaitlin's desk

President and Sister Nuckols

Part of the new area