Monday, September 29, 2014

Lessons in Creole and Gravity

Dear family,

It was another good week and the time really seems to be flying by. We have 6 investigators with baptismal fechas that I really think could go through. Gaby and Yoelis continue to progress very well (15 November), they're reading in 2 Nephi, coming to church each week, and they have both received answers that the church is true. They even share the gospel with their friends, which is how we found Victoria. Victoria is also reading in the Book of Mormon, coming to church each week, and praying to know if the church is true. We often have lessons with the 3 of them and Gaby and Yoelis help us teach Victoria and share their testimonies. 

Our other three fechas are the children of the Familia Santana: Diana, Alberto, and Adalaida (8 November). Diana is reading the Book of Mormon, and the younger two are reading in the Book of Mormon storybook. They're such a wonderful family. We're hoping to reactive their father, Luis Jose, so that he can receive the priesthood and baptize his children.

Interesting things that happened this week:

- We had Sunday school in Creole. It was just us missionaries and 5 Haitians. Two of them are named Leonel and Yulissa. Leonel is recently reactivated and Yulissa is preparing to be baptized. First, however, they need to get visas for the DR (they're not technically legal here) and then get married. All the missionaries in our district are contributing a bit of money to help them out. 

- I fell down a hill and got completely covered in mud. I had to go home and change my clothes. Then the next day I fell down another hill and scraped up my knees. I had to go home because I bleeding all over. That was embarrassing, but it's all good.

All my love, 

Hermana Kaitlin Olsen

Monday, September 22, 2014

Pruning the Vineyard

Dear family, 

So we got transfer calls on Saturday night. And guess what? I'm staying in Ocoa with Hna Martinez for another transfer! We're both really happy about it. When we got the call she gave me a big hug and said that it would have been too soon if I had been transferred.

We're actually not receiving any new hermanas in the house, but 2 are leaving, so there will be only 4 of us in the house now. It'll be a change, but a good one I think. Several other hermana houses are downsizing as well simply because we're losing quite a few hermanas and not many new ones are coming in. 

We also found out that they took all the hermanas out of La Venta because of serious leadership problems in the branch. It makes me sad. They did replace the hermanas with elders though, so at least there will still be missionaries there. 

Leadership problems are kind of everywhere in the south DR - it's partly the culture and partly lack of capacitation (sometimes I wish they could all just visit a ward in US and see how things should be run). In Azua we didn't really have any leadership, in La Venta ambitious leadership had mutated into practical apostasy, and we're even having our own struggles here in Ocoa: people are refusing callings and the branch seriously lacks unity, fractured by picking sides and pointing fingers. (It's no wonder we visit 6 past branch presidents, all either inactive or excommunicated). President Nuckols is coming up next week to talk to the members and capacitate them. 

We also received the news that Parra is going to be shut down (at least for a while), meaning no more church meetings there and no more missionaries visiting. It's an isolated village of 350 members, basically all inactive and all unwilling to change, despite our best efforts. It's like Jacob 5 tells us: when a branch, after much care and pruning, still produces bad fruit it must be cut off for the good of the tree. "And the Lord of the vineyard said: Behold, this long time have we nourished this tree, and I have laid up unto myself against the season much fruit. But behold, this time it hath brought forth much fruit, and there is none of it which is good. And behold, there are all kinds of bad fruit; and it profiteth me nothing, notwithstanding all our labor; and now it grieveth me that I should lose this tree... And it came to pass that the Lord of the vineyard wept, and said unto the servant: What could I have done more for my vineyard?" It's sad but necessary. The members there can still come to church though, they just have to walk into town... but for many that's just "too big of a sacrifice." That's really what it boils down to: the people there are unwilling to sacrifice for their faith.

But despite some of the disheartening changes in the mission, I remain wholeheartedly optimistic about this upcoming transfer. Our area is progressing, we're working hard, and we're putting our trust in the Lord - it's the perfect recipe for miracles.

A Wonderful thing that happened this week:
- I learned that Manuel, Miguela's son got baptized last Saturday!!! When I read the letter, I burst into tears. I'm so happy for him and Miguela!!

Until next week, 

Hermana Kaitlin Olsen :)

A trip to the salon to get some traditional Dominican 'rolos'.

A Dalmation on the roof

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Power of the Calling & the Gospel

Dear family, 

The Gospel changes people. I know that it has changed me, and as a missionary, I'm privileged to see it bring about change in others. A few weeks ago we began to visit a less active couple named Jesus and Lucy. Lucy has some physical problems and has trouble walking and she's a bit slower mentally as well, but so sweet, loving, and innocent (she reminds me a bit of Aunt Lori at times). On out first visit Lucy told us that she wanted them to come back to church, but that Jesus had problems with "drinking and women." Jesus listened to us anyway, but didn't seem all that happy to be there. But now, only 3 weeks later, they've both been to church every Sunday. In our last visit, Lucy broke down and thanked us because she says that since we began visiting them Jesus hasn't been drinking and coming home late and that we got another job to help support them. She says he's a changed man.

Because of instances like Jesus and Lucy, I know that the Gospel has great power in people's lives, but another thing I've come to appreciate over the past few weeks is really how much power comes with being set apart as a missionary. It's an apostolic calling and we are literal representatives of Jesus Christ - as such, it comes with all the associated power and authority of that position, including the authority to speak messianically and promise people blessings in the name of Jesus Christ.  At first it was a bit daunting to tell people what God wanted for them personally in their life, what He expected of them, or to promise them specific blessings through their obedience to His commandments, but now I realize that it's part of my responsibility as a representative of Jesus Christ... and it makes me feel as if I'm just finally realizing what it means to be a missionary. 

About a month ago, we began teaching the Familia Santana, a single father named Luis Jose and his 3 children Diana (15), Alberto (14), and Adalaida (12). Luis Jose is a less active member and we're hoping to reactivate him through teaching his children. The problem was that Luis Jose always works Sundays and Diana has a Sunday morning class for school, so they said that unfortunately, they would never be able to attend church. During one of our lessons, I felt impressed to promise them that, if they tried, the Lord would prepare a way for them to attend church. When Sunday came, my companion and I were overjoyed to see the entire family walk into sacrament meeting. They told us excitedly that Luis Jose's boss had let him switch shifts and the hour of Diana's class had been changed to later in the day. Now they have both been to church twice, Adalaida has been 3 times, and Alberto has been 5 times. They are reading the Book of Mormon and praying. We're hopefully going to set a baptismal date for the 3 kids this week.

Not only were the Familia Santana and Jesus and Lucy at church this week, but Gaby, and Yoelis were also there. In fact, we had a grand total of 8 investigators and 5 menos activos in church. It's days like that that remind me why I came out on my mission... and that all good seeds, when planted and nourished, eventually bring forth good fruit.

Interesting things that happened this week: 

- I met a 111 year old women yesterday. She's the great grandmother of one of our investigators. 

- Last Monday we went and toured a workshop where they make jewelry with larimar (the precious stone only found in the DR) and I bought a pair of earrings and necklace. 

- I designed a Christmas ornament for us to give out to the family this year. I'm having Rubio make it out of wood. (I hope you haven't already bought some). I'm sending a photo of the design; let me know what you think :)

Hasta la próxima, 

Hna Kaitlin Olsen

Christmas ornament Kaitlin is designing for the family

Kaitlin with some of her investigators

Investigators and less actives at church this Sunday.  Jesus & Lucy far left.  Luise Jose far right & their 3 kids to the right of the girl in the green shirt.  Gaby and Yoelis to Kaitlin's right. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Where Two or Three Are Gathered

Dear family, 

Interesting things that happened this week:

- Viaje al Temple (Temple Trip). We had to be at the temple at 8am on Wednesday, so we spent Tuesday night in Bani with all the other hermanas in our zone - all 14 of us in one tiny house - then we got up early and caught a guagua (bus) to the capital. It was a wonderful day. We got to visit with all the other missionaries. Before the session, we had a devotional with the temple president in the Solemn Assembly Room. It was a very special and unique experience. President Nuckols had to get permission from President Monson himself to let us all in.

- Yesterday we decided to attend church in Sabana Large, where the elders work. It's a 20 minute ride away - if you can a bola (ride). They hold church a 4pm in a liceo (high school) and there were about 15 people in attendance. We got to see a family who got baptized the previous day confirmed as members. Afterwards, we went over to their house for spaghetti, watermelon, and hobo (a fruit). There is such a special spirit in the tiny little church meetings in places like Sabana Larga and Parra. It has taught me that the church can flourish no matter where it is planted. "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them"(Matthew 18:20). 

All my love,
Hna Olsen

P.S. Today there are exactly 100 days until I come home:)
At the temple

At the temple

All the sisters in Kaitlin's zone at the temple

At Rubio's

Eating salami and fritos at Rubio's house



Monday, September 1, 2014

Thousands of Butterflies

Dear family, 

Thus week the drought ended all at once. A blanket of clouds rolled in, the heavens burst open, and it rained for 3 days and 3 nights straight. All the Dominicans (who are inherently terrified of getting wet) hid in their houses until the sky cleared and the sun came out once more. 

As the rivers in the streets drained and were absorbed by the parched earth, the men hurried to the fields to plant their seeds and the women rushed to collect water at the nearest source. We passed by Carmen's house that day and found her and the children eagerly hauling water up the mountainside. So, we descended with them to the small stream, filled our buckets, and helped them carry water up to the house until their tanks were full. (After my mission, I will never again take indoor plumbing or continuous running water for granted.)

Now, in all of Ocoa, there is clean clothing hanging up on lines everywhere and water spilling from the doorways of freshly scrubbed houses. The flowers are blooming shades of blushing pink and violet, the leaves are greener, and the air is alive with butterflies - literally tens of thousands of bright yellow butterflies in great clouds floating through the streets and dancing all around us day after day, always heading in the same direction. I think it may be some sort of migration, and it is truly a magnificent and beautiful sight to behold. 

As for how the work is going, Hna Martinez and I continue to get along splendidly and work hard together. She is so kind and loving, and I don't think I'd mind another transfer here with her. We make a good team, there is a lot of work to be done here in Ocoa, and I feel like perhaps my portion of it isn't quite finished. 

We finally managed to find Esterlin this week and I was heartbroken to find out that he had enrolled in a Sunday-morning accounting class at the university and will be unable to attend church for 3 months. He says he still knows that the Church is true, but that he doesn't feel ready to be baptized. It's sad to see how hard Satan works on people after they gain a testimony - sometimes I feel like he manages to knock their feet right out from under them right as they're approaching the baptismal font. We did, however, manage to set a baptismal date with Carmen this week. It's for 4 October... hopefully she can keep a firm footing until then.
Con amor, 

Hna Kaitlin Olsen

P.S. We spent the afternoon at the beach today, so that's why I'm writing later. It was beautiful and relaxing. I can't wait until you guys get to see a Dominican beach :)
Kaitlin and Hermana Martinez

The Chapel

P Day on the beach