Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Half a Dozen Converts Enter the Temple

Dear family, 

This week was super busy and seemed to fly by. First, on Tuesday we took a trip to San Cristobol, Hna Martinez's old area. There was a baptism there and she got permission to go. So we left Tuesday morning and spent the day visiting her old investigators and members there. And I was quickly reminded how fortunate we are to be in the cool climate of Ocoa because, within minutes of being there, we were both covered in sweat. 

Hermana Martinez even took me to see a doll maker that I'd heard about. She makes cute little clay dolls and she even makes them especially for missionaries (with little plaques and carrying Books of Mormon). 

After the baptism we spent the night in the hermanas' house in San Cristobol and returned to Ocoa the following morning.

In the days that followed, we had a lot of help in the work from Gaby, Yoelis, and Victoria. They all just love spending the day with us and being missionaries. They put on their skirts, carry their Books of Mormon, and of course, proudly wear their future missionary plaques. They love to bear their testimonies, share scriptures, and testify in the lessons. I'm always impressed by how quickly they've learned and how much they know. Lately, we've even been doing splits with them, meaning that one of them goes with Hna Martinez and the other goes with me so we can cover more citas and they get to be our companions for the day.

We were even with them on Thursday when President Danilo, the President of the DR, came to our area to inaugurate a new school he funded. The streets were lined with people holding I <3 DANILO signs, all eagerly awaiting his arrival, and the air above was full of helicopters. It made getting to our cita a bit challenging because we had to squeeze our way through the crowd, but we managed... and when we least expected, Danilo himself drove past, waving out of the top of a large black SUV an followed by a wake of cheers that erupted as his caravan passed by. 

But the best part of the week by far was a trip to the temple on Saturday with all 6 of our converts. It is one of the best, most fulfilling feelings as a missionary to be able to enter the temple and see all of your converts there dressed in white and smiling back at you. We were even fortunate enough to be able to enter the font area to hand out towels. So we sat right in front of them and watched all 6 entered the font to be baptized for their ancestors. When they came up out of the water, we wrapped a towel around them and gave them each a big hug. It was tender, inspiring experience. The entire day - watching them perform ordinances in the baptistery and watching them play outside on the lawn in the temple's shadow - I just kept thinking to myself, "I have been so blessed as a missionary. It just doesn't get better than this."

Con amor, <3

Hna Olsen
Noche de Hogar at Victoria's house with her 111 year-old great grandmother

Noche de Hogar at Victoria's house with her 111 year-old great grandmother

Doll maker in San Cristobol

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

3 Baptisms, 2 Trips to the Hospital and 1 Month Left

Dear family, 

Last Monday night we received word that Nermis and Diana, a mother and daughter that we helped reactivate in October had been in an accident and were in the hospital: a pot of boiling water had spilled on them while cooking. So early the next morning we went to see them. We found them at a clinic that was relatively near our house but that we'd never passed by before. While there we sang hymns, shared some words of comfort, and offered our help in any way. The next day we visited them at home. I baked brownies and brought them what was left over of the burn ointment I had from when I hurt my foot (because I noticed they were using the same kind). They're both doing a lot better now, but Diana (whose burns were more extensive) will be out of work for a few weeks while she heals.

It actually ended up being convenient that we had decided to visit Diana in the hospital earlier in the week because in the early hours of the morning on Friday I began running a fever and throwing up every few minutes. Hna Martinez talked with the doctor and she said that if I didn't stop throwing up by 11am that we should go to the hospital. So, when 11am came around, fortunately we knew right where to go.

This hospital was better than the one in Azua. They even put me in my own room. They put me on an IV and gave me several medications for my stomach and to stop the vomiting. They drew blood to run some tests and I spent the day there under observation. At around 7pm I decided that I wanted to go home (and that was probably what felt like the longest walk of my life). I continued to run quite a high fever for the rest of the night, but by the morning it had broken and I felt better. They concluded that it was probably food poisoning and so I'll be on antibiotics for the next couple of days. As of now, I still haven’t eaten very much, but I'm feeling a lot better. 

And it was actually a good timing that it happened on Friday (and not Saturday) because the next day was the baptism of the Santana Family: Diana, Alberto, and Adelaida, and by then, I was feeling well enough to go. 

The service was well attended and started nearly an hour late in typical Dominican fashion. Yoelis and Victoria gave the talks, and then we were able to witness the wonderful and joyous sight of the 3 Santana children entering the waters of baptism one after another. Each had their turn while the other 2 and their father watched attentively from the top of the white tile staircase that sank into the clear blue water. And when all had been baptized we gathered them together for a family photo and a soaking wet group hug. And what a beautiful, tender moment it was, because it wasn't just a group hug, it was an embrace that meant something: it was a family completed, a family that now stands together on the straight and narrow path that leads to eternal life.

All my love, 

Hna Kaitlin Olsen
Baptism of the Familia Santana

La Familia Santana

Making arroz con leche

Monday, November 10, 2014

A Glimpse Into the Future

Dear family, 

This week has been unbelievably busy. Hermana Martinez and I have been running all around trying to help people get ready for their baptisms.

The highlight of the week, of course, was Victoria's baptism on Saturday night. We had a surprise Zone meeting that day in Bani so we were crunched for time preparing everything. We ran to the guagua station after the meeting to make it back to Ocoa as soon as possible. When we got back we ran to clean the chapel, fill the font, and find baptismal clothes for Andy (to baptize Victoria). Then we had to run home to bake brownies and prepare a musical number. And while doing all this we had to orchestrate the baptismal interviews of Diana, Alberto, and Adelaida (so they can get baptized the 15 Nov), as well as have a meeting with the stake mission leader who happened to be in Ocoa that afternoon. But fortunately we managed to get everything done in time: the chapel was sparkling, the font was full, the brownies were still warm, the Familia Santana passed their baptismal interviews and Victoria's baptism went off without a hitch. 

It was a bright, joyful service with nearly 25 jovenes present. Gaby and Yoelis gave talks and did an amazing job - they already speak like experienced members - and Victoria shared her testimony as well. When she got up she could hardly speak, but after a few moments to collect herself, with tears streaming down her cheeks, she shared a simple, heartfelt testimony and a firm declaration that she would "never stray from the path and [would] endure to the very end of her life": those beautiful, promising words that every missionary yearns to hear from their convert. 

And you know what? I really believe she'll do it. I truly believe that if I could glimpse into Victoria's future 50 years from now, I would see a faithful, dedicated member who had touched the lives of many throughout half a century of diligent service in the Church. And that's not just biased missionary optimism speaking. Her testimony speaks for itself... and something in my heart tells me I can trust in her words.

All my love, 

Hna Olsen

P.S. I'm so glad to hear that you were able to find me an apartment! It sounds wonderful. Thanks so much!

P.P.S. Thanks so much for the package for my converts/investigators. They all LOVE their scripture markers - it's helping them read a lot more (Hna Martinez included - haha). They also love their Future Missionary pins. They all wear them a lot, especially Yoelis, who wears hers EVERYWHERE.

Yoelis with her future missionary pin

The Santana Family with their scripture markers

Monday, November 3, 2014

November 3, 2014

Dear family, 

This week went by very quickly. Of course, it was Halloween and we got together a party for the branch. It was fun to teach everyone how to celebrate Halloween. When we told them about trick-or-treating, they couldn't believe that you could just go door-to-door and people would hand out candy. We set up a mini-version of it in the church and they all loved it.

This week was also National Day of Service in the DR and we spent half a day helping out in the local Asilo de Ancianos (nursing home). We cleaned, cooked, gardened, and sang them hymns. 

It was also fast Sunday yesterday and Gaby, Yoelis, and Victoria surprised us all by getting up to share their testimonies. They did so well! Gaby shared one of her favorite scriptures (Moroni 7:33), and I don't think I've ever seen anyone as excited to be baptized as Victoria is.

We got transfer calls a few days ago and I found out that I'm staying for a third transfer with Hna Martinez, which means I'm going to finish my mission here in Ocoa! I can't believe how fast the time passes.

Interesting things that happened this week:

- We passed by Carmen one day and she asked for my help for a school project (she's still finishing high school). She said that she had to give a presentation on the Dominican poet Salome Urena and she needed a visual aid. She showed me a picture of her and asked if I could draw it on a large sheet of poster paper. So I did. It only took about 25 minutes. When we saw each other a few days later she said, "I won!" I asked her what she had won. "My presentation," she said, "It was a contest and I won! Your drawing is going to be displayed in town center during a fair in a few weeks!" Surprise, I won an art contest I didn't know I'd entered. Ha-ha



The widow (Isabel) from last week's letter
The father (Robinson) from last week's letter

Struggling father (Robinson) from last week's letter
Halloween at the church

Cleaning the nursing home

Cleaning at the nursing home

Church yesterday