Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Welcome to Yaguate

March 19, 2012

I'm in the campo!  Well, kind of.  I am now in a small city called Yaguate (Ya-wa-tay) about 30 minutes away from the main city of San Cristobal.  I think it would actually be better described as a small town since it doesn't have the attributes of a typical city here in the DR.  The town of Yaguate is lightly populated and the spaced out houses surround a central town square.  I was surprised to discover however that our area extends for miles over mountains and highways and even to the beach itself.  That's right, we have a beach in our area.  A 10 minute walk will take you out of the town and into what is considered campo: rolling hills blanketed in jungle foliage.  The majority of the people in the campo areas live in shantys or huts made of concrete or wood and they are very poor people.

Due to our area boundaries being absurdly large and the general population being scattered along the countryside, we do a lot of walking.  I would estimate that we walk for at least 3-5 hours a day, which you think would quickly get me in shape me in shape again if not for the greasy, Dominican food diet we eat here.  We had one appointment with a man who lived on a mountain that took us 2 hours to scale.  When we arrived we got a beautiful view of the ocean and we found some American preachers from Pennsylvania (it's weird to met people who speak English so deep in the jungle).  
Unlike in my previous area, all of the work we do here is with less-actives.  I understand that there are over 100 less active members and there are currently only 20 active members attending church.  Our "chapel" is actually just a house with one room, collapsible metal chairs,

and a podium.  I referred to it as a ward until someone corrected me explaining that what we have is actually a "basic community", or something like that.  There are only 2 or 3 acting priesthood holders in our ward and the congregation this last Sunday was comprised of about 15 people including us and the few leaders.  I conducted the music while my companion blessed the sacrament.  Our work as missionaries is entirely centered on reactivation and petitioning for references.  We don't want to risk increasing the less-active count by spending our time fishing for investigators when there is already so much work to do internally.  Essentially, we have to fix the system before we start the engine.

My companion is named Elder Ramirez and is from Mexico, which also means that he only speaks Spanish.  Luckily my Spanish is much improved since the beginning of my mission, but there are still moments where I have no idea what's going on.  What I have learned form experience and from other missionaries is to avoid what they call the "yes reflex".  When someone is under pressure and they are expected to understand the language they will often respond with an answer that detracts attention from them and moves along the conversation, like saying yes or no and hoping that they are right.  I had this pretty bad.  Now that I have some more experience I can at least determine which words I am not understanding and ask my companion what that word means.  Luckily he is patient with me and our companionship functions smoothly.  He is also very nice and a wonderful teacher.  

This last week has been quite the adjustment but it has almost been an amazing experience.  The people that we work with are few but wonderful and there is so much great work to do here.  Being in the campo is really amazing and being able to see so much jungle wildlife every time I step out of the house is exhilarating.  The living conditions are fairly low, the area is huge, and the members are few, but the work is still marvelous.  Some missionaries think that this area is dead, but that excuse didn't stop Christ when he found Lazarus; this area could do for a resurrection.

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