April 16, 2012
Five weeks in Yaguate have come and gone faster than I could even learn how to say ¨Yaguate¨ properly. We've spent almost our entire time re-activating less-active members and strengthening the active ones. When we weren't outside hiking from house to shack to shanty, I was usually found in the kitchen. This transfer I have done all of the cooking in the house and I have expanded my Dominican cooking abilities. The members in our area are too few and too poor to have us over for dinner very often, but they are always supportive when I ask them for recipes or cooking techniques. When you live in a home the size of a large closet with a companion who you can hardly understand, you have to at least keep the meals interesting if you want to retain sanity. This week I made my first Mangu with boiled and mashed plantain and yucca. It looked like a dog vomited in a bowl, but it tasted fantastic. Or maybe my tastebuds have just been in the DR for too long...
These past few weeks we have been trudging through Semana Santa (Easter Week here in the DR when everyone is on vacation) and General Conference Weekend, which is practically impossible for these people to attend due to distance and cost. Now we are working hard to remind our members and less-actives that we do still have church on Sundays and that it is free. We even entice them with free bread and water. This last Sunday we were actually given the opportunity to speak in church, but with only 15 people in attendance including us and the leadership it felt more like a fun little get-together than it did sacrament meeting. Not that we can't feel the spirit every Sunday, but when the Sacrament is passed in 10 seconds and the Bishop sleeps through the majority of the meeting it can often feel a tad informal.
About 4 weeks ago we got a reference for a 12 year old kid named Bairum who turned out to be gold. We have been teaching him almost every day and he learned everything quickly. He has a friend his same age named Omar who we re-activated and who we hope will pass the sacrament with Bairum once he has the priesthood. This last Saturday, Bairum was finally ready and we were able to baptize him. We and a small group of members took a van to a chapel 20 minutes away and I was able to perform the baptism. It was a really great experience and we hope that Bairum will be able to stay active in the church and strengthen the youth program in this basic community.
From my previous area, Las Caobas, I recently learned that Santa (an investigator who I had worked with for 5 months as she escaped her abusive husband) was finally able to get baptized. Apparently she called the police on her husband and he once again hid from them and escaped. As this was the fourth time he had had the police called on him, he finally decided to leave the house of his own will. Santa was baptized about 2 weeks ago, 6 months after the initial day I contacted her with my trainer. Even though I wasn't able to be there for her baptism, it is a wonderful feeling to know that I was able to help her to eventually escape from her terrible past and embrace a brighter future. We know that "whoso believeth in God might with a surety hope for a better world" (Ether 12:4) and as a missionary I have had the privilege to witness faithful investigators find just that.