May 7, 2012
Two months have passed since I first began working in Yaguate and they have finally begun to burn the sugar cane. Every day we walk for hours along fields packed with bushy, green crops that conceal thick stalks of syrupy sugar cane. In order to harvest them they first burn the entire field to remove the large fronds and then collect the leftover sugar cane which is apparently impervious to the fire. No one worries about uncontrollable fires here because the tropical plants are so green it's actually a challenge to try and burn them at all. Sugar cane is first peeled and then can be eaten by biting off large chunks, sucking out the sugary juice, and then spitting out the dry, stringy remains. It's not an elegant experience nor a snack that would be approved by any sane dentist, but it tastes great and is probably the closest you will ever get to feeling like a vampire.
While I would love to report that our basic community is on fire, the truth is that the work is slow. We have wonderful projections and a promising future in store for this basic community, but we have to take things step by step. We have no investigators despite having contacted the majority of the city now so we still place the majority of our focus on the hundreds of less-actives in our area. Working with less-actives is slow work. Getting them to come back to church is more difficult than just whipping out pictures of fire and brimstone, we have had to be patient with them and have utilized various different approaches to try and convince them to come back into the fold. Sometimes it works, usually it doesn't. Our main method of coercion is service and the primary type of service we do here involves machetes. A "lawn mower" here in the Dominican Republic is defined as any individual who can breathe, crouch for long periods of time, and wield a long, dull blade. The missionaries fit that definition perfectly so we spend many of our morning hours hacking away at the overgrowth in the yards of our members. Luckily we are usually rewarded with fruit that grows abundantly in their yards and we will very often walk home with bags full of mangos, cherries, or plantains. At one members house we were awarded with a fat guanabana, which looks just about as deadly as it sounds but tastes great. The guanabana shell is covered in deceivingly soft spines and has a mushy, white interior that tastes slightly sour. As dignified as I know missionaries are supposed to be, I've never felt so tribal in my entire life eating that fruit like a savage.
In the good news category, The Reyes Family has become surprisingly active in the last few weeks. One Sunday we had all six of the Reyes kids walking with us to church along with Bairum and another youth in the ward. We got a few heads to turn as we herded that group of kids down to what the members refer to as our "House of Prayer." I still am not sure how I feel about the fact that the youth that day almost matched the number of adults that were in attendance. In order to keep them animated to attend we have also been having youth activities involving games, movies, and a review of the principles in the Strength for Youth pamphlets. We have been considering putting up a sign outside the church that says "Mormon Daycare."
Besides the youth movement we have sparked here in Yaguate, our other efforts are not making any significant visual impact. We support the strong members and serve the weak ones but working with hearts is a long-term operation. Every less-active has their respective issue to overcome or resolve and unburying dormant testimonies is a shovel by shovel process. While they often don't seem to understand the importance of what we are trying to do in their lives or have their priorities in the same order as we would have them be, we continue visiting with them and serving them so that one day, when they need what we have to offer them, we can give it to them. Because "we look not at things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal" and everyone, one day, has to wake up from their temporal slumber. We just hope to be the first ones that they see when they do.