Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Little Miracles...Literally

March 26, 2012

Week 2 in the small town of Yaguate.  Two weeks of living in a small, two-man house with an only Spanish speaking, Mexican companion miles away from civilization on an island in the middle of the Caribbean in a city so small it doesn't even have an official map.  It's actually not as bad as it sounds.  In fact, I'm loving it.  My Spanish has no doubt improved in these last few weeks as I have been rather brutally immersed in it, but there are still occasional moments when the language barrier won't budge and our communication methods are reduced to our hands.  The miles and miles of walking we do each day just to teach a few lessons has without a doubt been the most difficult adjustment so far.  Having lived in the main city of the Dominican Republic for so long, I was beginning to think that I would be able to last my entire mission on the shoes I brought from home.  Now I am just praying I can make it out of Yaguate with at least one pair still intact.

The majority of our area is basically a jungle in every sense of the term, with the exception of some of the typical jungle wildlife such as monkeys or tigers (I was very disappointed about that).  We have often gotten stuck in the middle of rain storms and had to hop from tree to tree or abandoned Catholic church to abandoned Evangelical church to stay dry (gotta love the irony there), but as long as we keep an eye on the horizon we can usually avoid getting too wet.  The trails are more rock than dirt so mud hasn't been a terrible problem, but the uneven roads are definitely not helping the life-span of my shoes.  It has been a very interesting experience to live so far away from any other missionaries, higher authority, or civilization in general for such a long time; I am still debating whether it is comforting or disconcerting that we have three methods of locking our front door, including a steel gate.

There are no major shopping centers in our area so all of our food and supplies are purchased at a small colmado (store) near our house and I do the majority of the cooking, which isn't as impressive as it sounds.  Our meals generally include rice, spaghetti, or sandwiches in various forms and, of course, cereal.  Sometimes when I get a funky fever I make pizza or tacos, but the spice of life is usually suffocated by the strict mission budget.  Sometimes the members feed us boiled plantains, yucca, fritos, or assorted tropical fruits but we try to avoid letting them spend their minimal earnings to feed us.

Since this area is riddled with less active members, we spend the majority of our day working to re-activate them and strengthen the foundation of our basic community.  After much discussion between our companionship, the local leadership, and with our mission president we have come up with a plan to efficiently use our time to help increase the strength of the church in Yaguate.  Our hierarchy of importance when re-activating the less active members here begins with families, then priesthood, and then youth.  We began our search this week and, despite the ridiculous amount of walking, our efforts have been extremely successful.  We found two young boys who hold the priesthood, which would mean that the sacrament would be passed by youth for the first time in years,  and we received a reference for a young boy who is absolute gold.  A member helped us to find three older women who went  inactive some years ago and we discovered that they were willing to return, which spurred the active women in our ward to increase their efforts in building a relief society.  

Our greatest haul was in finding the Reyes Family, or as I like to call them, the Reyes Bunch.  We came upon them in the ward directory and decided to pass by and find out who they are.  We arrived at their small home off the side of the road and found two older women sitting in rocking chairs who made sure we understood that they were catholic, but we nevertheless questioned them about the numerous Reyes' which our records said lived there.  They shouted into the house and out came around 6 children from ages 5 to 15 who had all been baptized and knew that we were missionaries.  We were surprised to find out that there were also 3 others who weren't there that were also baptized.  Essentially we had just stumbled upon our new primary and youth program.  We taught them throughout the week, talked to our mission president, and our basic community now has a mutual program for the youth.  

The grand finale of the week is always church on Sunday.  For a missionary in the DR, to just have one investigator or less active member show up is like watching the very heavens themselves open up and pour out concourses of angles upon the chapel.  Last Sunday we had 19 people attend including us and the leaders.  This Sunday we had 30 people crammed into our small building that we call a chapel.  We had one investigator attend along with 9 less-active members, 5 of which were youth.  Our goal for the Sunday following General Conference is to at least maintain that number.  If we can continue to re-active priesthood and youth, we might just be able to have a full 3 hours of church on Sundays; the collective dream of a humble community.

 This week we will be drilling the youth we have found to come back to church and to attend the activities.  We believe that a solid youth community will inspire the adults to attend and will provide more callings to provide the members with.  We know that "by small and simple things are great things brought to pass" and we believe that through the Reyes Bunch and the other less-active youth in this city, this basic community will find their small and simple miracle.

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