Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Picking Up and Looking Up

Querida familia, 

Wednesday was the first day that I felt pretty much normal again after my chikungunya, so after some down time I was ready to get back to work and refresh our investigator pool, which means getting rid of the ones that aren't progressing and finding new ones that will (or, at least, finding lots of new ones and keeping the ones that seem promising). So we've asking for references, but mostly doing a lot of contacting, including branching out into a part of our massive area that's never been touched before. As a result, we got nearly 20 new investigators this week (some with more promise than others, but only time will tell). 

As for the investigators we've been working with for a while now, Esterlin has another baptismal fecha, 9 Agosto - we're working hard to make sure this one goes through. We've had several lessons with Esterlin's friend, Elieser, who has come to church  6 times now (he can be a bit hard to get a hold of, though). We also put fechas for 20 September with 2 teenage girls named Gabi and Yoelis. They're friends with one of the young women in the rama and eager to learn. They've been to church twice and are reading El Libro de Mormon together (already in 1 Nefi 13). 

So, I guess you could say things are starting to pick up a bit. And the people in the house all seem to be doing better as well, so I suppose you could say things are also starting to look up, too.

Interesting things that happened this week:

- We're in a drought here. The river up in the mountains that supplies Ocoa with water has nearly dried up, which means we had to cancel our trip to the waterfall. It also means we practically never have running water in the house. For about 2 months now, the water comes about once or twice a week - just long enough to fill our tanks. It's a pain sometimes, but I'm now completely accustomed to living without running water. 

Hasta la próxima, 

Hermana Kaitlin Olsen

A check for Eteneral Life!

The ketchup expires the day Kaitlin gets home

Monday, July 21, 2014

So... I got chikungunya

Dear family, 

So... I got chikungunya. Last Monday night, in fact. It came on very quickly. It started with some minor pain in my knee, but within an hour I had lost all function of my left leg. It was a deep pain that seemed to go all the way to the center of my bones. My left leg was soon followed by my wrists, hands, neck, and finally my right foot. Needless to say, it made walking rather laborious... so I didn't really, at least not for the first 2 days. 

The idea of dragging my stiff, aching body out of bed was rendered even less appealing by the fact that, for the next 3 days, I ran a nearly constant fever ranging from 101-103*F. But I pretty much hibernated through that stage, getting up only long enough to take some Advil or drink some suero (which is literally just IV fluid). 

The final stage (which I am still currently enjoying) is muscle aches and a full-body rash. My arms, legs, neck, and chest are all splotchy and red and itch like crazy. My hands and feet are all swollen and hot and the skin feels raw. It's getting a lot better though, at least now I can make a fist. 

I still limp when I walk, but I can now go out and proselyte. Yesterday was my first full day of work this week. I went to church looking like a giant tomato, but they still asked me to give a talk and lead the music with my splotchy red arms. So, I hobbled up to the front of the congregation no fewer than 3 times.

The rash is the final stage, though. Once it clears up, I can never get chikungunya again (it's like chicken pox in that way). The muscle and joint pain, however, will last another several weeks/months, I'm told. And I'll always have it in my blood, meaning that any mosquito that bites me will be infected. I wonder if that means I won't be able to donate blood for a while when I get home... could you look into that?

Until next week, 

Hermana Kaitlin Olsen
The Chikungunya

Monday, July 14, 2014

Bedbugs, Government Conspiracies, & Family History

Dear family, 

This week we had a cool experience with a woman named Jenny. For some time before we met she'd been interested in family history, particularly in finding out who her grandparents were. She had tried to do some of her own research on the internet, but hadn't been able to turn up any results. One day someone told her that the Mormons could help her.

Being active in the Evangelical faith, she hadn't ever considered asking another church for help, but finally her desire to learn about her ancestors overcame and she decided to visit the church last Monday afternoon. Unfortunately, when she arrived, she found it locked and empty. Discouraged, but determined to make progress she decided to visit an internet cafe to do some more online research. Little did she know that, upon entering the internet cafe that she'd chosen, she would find it full of 6 sister missionaries from the very church she'd just walked away from, all of whom would be more than willing to help her. 

Hna Hildman and I had a cita with Jenny a few days ago. We brought her several pamphlets and papers to help her get started with her family history and ended up teaching a lesson about the doctrine of baptism for the dead. We told her that this special work was only done inside temples and that there was one such temple her in the DR.

"Like that?" she asked, pointing to a corner of the room behind us. I assumed she was trying to point in the direction of the chapel and began to explain the difference between a temple and a normal meetinghouse, but she cut in. "Yes, I know. The temple is in Santo Domingo, La Bolivar. I've seen it." Again, she pointed to the corner.

This time, I turned around and discovered that she did indeed know what she was talking about. There, on her wall, was a framed photo of the Santo Domingo Temple. I was obviously surprised and asked her where she had gotten it. 

"My cousin is a member of your church. He gave it to me and I thought it was beautiful, so I put it on my wall." She paused for a moment and her tone softened. Ï never knew what they did inside... but now that I know, I think that's beautiful, too."

I'm not sure what will happen with Jenny, but what I do know that the Lord works in many ways to encourage people to learn more about the Gospel and that, as missionaries, we can't take the cookie-cutter approach to finding people and introducing them to the church. Everyone and every situation is different, but this Gospel is for everyone, no matter their situation.

Interesting things that happened this week:

- We found out that the lice kits you sent me after the incident in Azua also work to get rid of beg bugs. Many thanks for that.

- I don't know if you've heard, but there's an epidemic here of a sickness called chikunguya. It's transmitted by mosquitos and similar to dengue, lasting for up to a week and causing high fever, skin rash, swelling, and pain in the muscles and joints. The people here, however, refuse to believe that it could be caused by mosquitos, opting instead to refer to it as a virus and formulate their own [not so sound] theories as to where it came from. Two of my favorites are that chikunguya is (a) a government conspiracy designed to increase the economic demands for medicine, or (b) one of the 7 last plagues described in the book of Revelations. So... of course no one is using repellant or sleeping with a net... and they wonder why it's an epidemic.

Hermana Kaitlin Olsen

Monday, July 7, 2014

"We Then That are Strong"

Dear family, 

This week I'd like to share with you something that I've realized recently. I've realized that I am resilient in the face of change and stress (well, at least more than the average person). And this isn't to say that I've been stressed lately, to the contrary, it's more of the fact that everyone around me seems to be while I'm doing just fine. 

Hermana Hildman can sometimes get homesick and discouraged, and the other people in the house are either frustrated, depressed, confused, or also homesick and discouraged... and all probably a bit overwhelmed with mission life. We had a house meeting the other day to try and open up some channels of communication, which to my observation, was a significant portion of the problem so it was a good thing... but I still felt out of place siting around the table with them and being the only that didn't really have to be there for personal reasons. 

This also isn't to say that I don't find the mission to be difficult at times. Of course it is. I'd be lying if I said I had never been frustrated or discouraged, but that's to be expected. It's part of the mission - it's also part of life - and I try not to let it weight me down or hold me back. And I've certainly never considered going home.

I suppose I adapt easily to change and, when needed, I've learned to adjust my thought patterns and find constructive solutions through a bit of introspection and cognitive reorganization (it's still a work in progress, though).I've never been the companion who needed comfort or encouragement always the one required to give it. Sometimes I feel as if I'm not very skilled at that though, so it’s probably something the Lord felt I needed to learn anyway.

In my last interview with President Nuckols I was talking to him about the situation with the other hermanas and he shared a scripture with me. Romans 15:1 reads: "We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak and not to please ourselves." I'm trying to take it to heart: thinking of others' stresses as my own and putting them before myself.

It's great advice for mission companionships, but also for relationships in life in general. I could easily just observe the fact that those around me seem to be struggling, thank Heavenly Father that I'm not, and then keep moving forward - but that's not the Lord's way. How often have we heard that we must "bear one another's burdens, that they may be light... mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort?" 

My patriarchal blessing tells me that I have a "sacred duty to raise up those who are down in spirits and lift up those who need to be lifted up." Sometimes I wondered about that part because I've never considered myself very adept at giving comfort, but Romans 15:1 has helped bring that into focus for me. It is my duty as one of the strong to help those that are weak. As one who has, I must give to those who have not. That is the Lord's way: where much is given, much is required. And I have been given so much. So even if I'm not great at comforting people or openly expressing my love, I 

can still be that strong pillar needed to hold up the house, but more importantly, I know that I never have to rely completely on my own strength: "Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things." Alma 26:12

All my love, 

Hermana Kaitlin Olsen
Giant Mango

Kaitlin and Hermana Hildon

Zone conference July 4th