I brought a piece of our culture to the Caribbean with the celebration of Halloween this week--I think our Panama Hermana in the house is still trying to understand the purpose of my jack-o-lantern decorations haha:) I hope you all had a fun holiday and are happily sugared-out:) We went to district meeting on Saturday in appropriate missionary costumes, and the Ocoa Hermanas were Belle, Rapunzel, Tiana, and Snow White, it was fun. Then we had a great Fast Sunday and started off teh week right by meeting our contacting and lesson goals, so wahoo!
The mosquitos have been getting more dangerous lately--one of teh Hermanas in our zone has been in teh hospital for over a week because of a dangerous mosquito-contracted disease called dengue. So teh govenerment has been asending people this week to protect homes, and I definitely use a bunch of bug spray. In addition to mosquitoes, the Dominican Republic has tons of ants, lizards, roosters, chickens, mice, and cockroaches. And clouds. It´s crazy. In Ocoa, the sky will be perfectly clear at the beginning of the day and it´s super hot, but by 4 pm, the whole sky will be covered in clouds; I finally got to see the moon the other day for the first time 3 weeks when it cleared up! Who would have thought it would be a privilege to see the moon? So anyway, you learn to carry an umbrella with you everywhere because you never know when it´ll rain:)
We had an awesome discussion with our investigator, Karla, and her mom about Personal Progress! We brought the Young Women's President, and Karla´s mom, who has never participated in lessons, was super supportive of it and of Karla getting baptized, so happy day! She will officially be baptized on November 14th!
Yesterday, we talked about the 10 commandments and keeping the Sabbath day holy with Alexander and Mario, and I think we finally got the message through those teenagers´ skulls. They have the same boss, who is now making both of them work on Sunday mornings during church, so we talked about having faith that God can provide a way and will compensate for their loss (of money) with other blessings if they have a sincere desire to keep teh Sabbath day holy and not work. That´s the biggest culture problem with Dominicans: they do NOT like to keep commitments, especially when it comes to attending church. They will be blunt about the unimportant things; people will straight-up say, "You´re prettier than her," "Here´s a homemade acne remedy for your face," and "She´s losing weight, but you´re not." But when it comes to the stuff that matters, they´ll get so vague, and if they do promise to do something, it´s a blessing if it actually happens. That´s teh biggest reason why we have to stop teaching people and why they go inactive. Sure, they all believe in God (nearly everyone is Catholic or Evangelical), but once they hear the message of the restored Gospel, they typically disappear/avoid us or just won´t keep the commitments we extend in general, like reading the Gospel pamphlets, the Book of Mormon, praying as a family, or coming to church. So besides being very physically demanding. that is the trial of this mission. That being said, it was an absolute miracle when we had 8 investigators and 7 less-actives come to church yesterday!!
One of the things I hold onto is the fact that 99% of the people in Ocoa invite us into their homes. I am so blessed. That is every missionary´s dream. I´m so grateful that the people are loving and welcoming. Maybe they don´t accept the Gospel when we teach it, but at least they let us in. So no, we´re not baptizing people every week, but we´re introducing the Gospel to their lives and giving them the opportunity to accept it. It´s their choice--missionaries can extend teh invitation and only do so much. We won´t foce them to accept it, and God definitely won´t. That´s why we have agency, which is central to the Plan of Salvation. Elder David A. Bednar said, "Agency is the ability to act, not just be acted upon." I love that! We have to choose to act on our faith and do something about what we know to be true; James 2:17 says, "Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone." I know that if we act upon our faith, we will have the ability to receive so many blessings and miracles in our lives. God want to bless us--He´s just waiting for us to act and ask. I know He lives and love us, and I love you all!
Hermanas Gomez (Snow White), Gonzalez (Tiana), Dibble (Rapunzel), Randall (Belle)