Monday, August 8, 2016

Finishing My Course

Well, the highlight of last week was that we had the wedding and baptisms on Saturday of the Familia L. F. They are an awesome family and some of the most ready family for baptism of my entire mission. I am so happy we were able to help them get married and baptized before I finished my mission. They were so excited and willing to do whatever it took to get baptized -- they helped organize the lawyer for the wedding and all the paperwork to get married. They also had a family and friend party afterwards in their relatives' home near the church. It was such an awesome day except....

Saturday would have been an even better day if I hadn't gotten sick (again). I was barely surviving from body aches and fever, but I was still able to attend the service and help out a little bit. However, because I was sick I couldn't perform any of the baptisms, so my companion did. I was better the next day, but Saturday I was hating it.

The rest of last week was just fairly routine except not a lot of the branch members were around during the week because they left on an excursion to the temple in Honduras. The closest temple is in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, and the members here in Nicaragua only get to travel there 2 or 3 times per year if they can afford it or if they can get time off of work. Crazy to think how close we live to temples back home.

My companion will still have at least one family progressing after I leave and a couple of other baptisms lined up for the end of August with my replacement. Still, although next Monday will be a long day of flying, this week will be working with the remaining investigators.

Well, it is hard to believe that this is my last time emailing as a missionary. It still doesn't feel real, and honestly, even on the airplane, I won't feel like I'm really going home yet. I have a weird, butterfly knot twist in my stomach thinking about it, but it's just too hard to realize. I have learned so many things on my mission, and I have been told that many things I have learned I will not even realize I have learned them until I am back into normal life at home. I have seen the Gospel of Jesus Christ change so many lives and so many blessings and miracles. I know the gospel is true and the atonement is real. I have learned to rely on the Savior and His atoning power. I have fought a good fight. I have finished my course. I have kept the faith.

Thank you everyone for your prayers and support and love. Can't wait to talk to you all in person next week.

Officially signing out,
Elder Olsen.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Not Trunky Yet, But.....

So this past week in our area, we didn't have any weddings or baptisms. Our one investigator who got drunk the Sunday before last had some more issues and sadly, he moved out and no longer lives in our area. Our second wedding, L., well she hasn't been able to get all of her paperwork yet for the wedding, plus her anti-Mormon fiancee keeps threatening to back out of the wedding plans.

Me and my companion
However, our third wedding is the awesome family that lives very far away on the edge of Grenada by the volcano and they are all ready for their wedding and baptism this next Saturday. The couple will be getting married, and then they and two of their sons will be getting baptized. They are all really excited and plan on having a little family party afterwards at their house (they actually have many extended family who are already members of the church). They have been able to leave cigarettes behind and have sacrificed much to go to church on their own account and they even took out their own papers for their wedding. They still have another daughter and her partner that live with them in their shack and we are working with them still. They have come to church with us and want to get married, but she and her partner have not quit smoking yet. They will continue to work with my companion and his new companion after I leave to hopefully get baptized soon.

So our area is doing pretty well and the whole mission seems to have turned a corner with the new emphasis on retention from our new mission president. He has urged us to focus on real conversions and not just numbers and baptize everyone. It seems like the people we have been teaching these last few weeks are more converted than many others I have taught up to this point, which is awesome.

Me and Elder Nave, enduring to the end.
So last Thursday, we had interviews with our new mission president, President Brown. It also counted as my exit interview from my mission (trunky alert, ha ha!). He didn't even ask about our area or the progress of the missionaries in my district. He emphasized personal conversion because he says that many missionaries in the mission right now lack strong testimonies. For Elder Nave and I (who we will both be flying home together with Elder Hansen), he talked to us about spiritual goals after our missions are finished, like temple marriage, scripture study, and school. He even encouraged us to start thinking about home and making plans even though we still have two short weeks to go. Unfortunately, he will be in Guatemala on August 15th, so he won't be able to drop us off at the airport and it will just be the office missionaries seeing us off. Anyway, that was our week and I am glad we have a wedding and baptism to focus on this next week. Hard to believe that next week will be my last P-Day and my last time to write home to you guys! Have a great week!

Monday, July 25, 2016

So Many Weddings to Plan, So Little Time....

Here is a pic of the volcano behind me.
Well, this past week was rather normal for us -- no baptisms and no extra meetings or anything -- just normal missionary work. My companion is starting to get used to my fast walking and long strides, but he is not particularly happy about the heat. Still he has been a decent companion and he is a fast learner.

This past week we were really busy trying to prepare for two weddings next week and another one for the week after. We have been talking to a lawyer here and helping the families get ready. As it turns out, one of the guys we were working with from Sabaneta (the one who's fiancee is already baptized and just had a baby last week) decided to go out Sunday night and drink with some of his family who aren't members of the church. So now he won't be able to get baptized this week, but we will continue to work with him.

The other wedding and baptism we are working on is for a lady named L., who I have been teaching since the first week I got here in Grenada. Her fiancee has been super against the church (and he still is) but he finally agreed to a civil marriage so she could get baptized, and we are planning it for this coming Saturday.

We have also been working with a family who literally live on the farthest outskirts of our area close to the volcano. They picked their own baptismal date for August 6th. The only concern is that they have been heavy smokers, but they now have a huge desire to stop and have already quit. So as long as they don't smoke these next two weeks and show their repentance and desire to live the Word of Wisdom, then they will also be married and baptized. They also have many kids that we teach at their house, but none of the children made it to church with their parents, but overall they have been a really positive family.

Having both areas results in us walking a lot more and we have a lot of visits during the day, but I am kind of partial to working more in Grenada where I was at before and that is still where most of our investigators are located.

This next week we will also have our first interviews (and possibly my last) with the new mission president, President Brown.  No Pioneer Day here in Nicaragua, and in fact, I didn't even remember myself until my parent's letter reminded me. Well, that's about it for this week -- working hard, enduring to the end, and trying not to get too trunky yet -- ha, ha! Have a great week everyone.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Double the Work and Double the Appliances in Grenada

So the big news this past week is that we had cambios and I got my last companion. His name is Elder Contreras and he just finished his training in Managua. He is from Guatemala and a pretty cool guy. However, the bigger news is that they combined our area with another one in the district named Sabaneta. They had to combine some areas in the mission this change because about 20 missionaries finished their missions and went home, but only about 8 came in. So now I am in charge of two areas, and to make things even busier, each area belongs to a different branch of the church, so we have two Sacrament Meetings to attend, two correlation meetings, and two branch counsels each Sunday. Needless to say, we are a couple of pretty busy missionaries and my companion has a lot of pressure to learn the areas well so that he will be familiar with them when I leave in a few weeks.

My new companion, Elder Contreras.
Also as a result of cambios, my district has only half as many missionaries now because not only of combining my area with Sabaneta, but also because the Zone Leaders do not have separate companions, but there are just the two zone leaders, Elder Nave, who goes home with me, and then Elder Medrano, who goes home the cambios after ours.

The change is going to be a good one. I feel a little overwhelmed about the two areas because even though they are next to each other, we basically cover half of Grenada. This should be quite an adventure and make the next few weeks fly by. I chuckle because we do a lot more walking now and my poor companion gets so tired keeping up with me that he basically passes out when we get home at night. We will be better organized next Sunday for all of our meetings as we will be in church for 6 hours plus ward correlations for both branches, which makes for a long Sunday. However, if there is one thing I have learned on my mission is patience to sit through long meetings, ha ha, but I'm still always shaking my legs and the benches -- can't stop that.

Now even though we have two areas to cover and super long Sundays, one of the benefits of combining areas is that we got to choose which of the two apartments to stay in, so we moved all the stuff into the house that is bigger and we now have 2 refrigerators, 2 microwaves, 4 fans, and 4 desks, which is pretty awesome.

As for our investigators, we were able to help two of them start the process of getting married so they can get baptized, but the paperwork can take some time. We also picked up some investigators in Sabaneta who are preparing to get married where the wife is already a member, and then he can get baptized as well. So we may have a couple of weddings and baptisms coming up the end of the month. I was also pretty stoked to talk to the family of converts in Sandino that we married and baptized on Valentine's Day 2015 -- their oldest daughter is putting in her mission papers in 2 weeks!!

Well, that's about it this week. Luckily, it really hasn't been as hot here in Grenada as it was down in Rivas, plus I have really enjoyed P-Days here in Grenada as they have a lot more awesome places to eat to choose from. We are supposed to have interviews with the new mission president some time the next 2 weeks, and this may double as my exit interview, but we will see. Well, have a great week back home!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Shark in Granada

Well, we had our baptism last Saturday and all went well. He was super excited to finally be getting baptized, and now most of the family are members, but there is still one cousin struggling with some commandments and we are continuing to work with him. My companion will be heading home on Wednesday along with two other missionaries in our district, but even still the district is having a lot of success and there are more baptisms scheduled for next Saturday. Although no baptisms scheduled from my area. Once the my new companion arrives, we will be working hard to find some new investigators.

Although the shark meat looks like fried chicken, it actually
tastes like fishy, ground beef. Tasty!
Elder Nave is super stoked to go home and he reminds me all the time, ha ha. I hope I get a really cool companion for my last companion. Most likely I will be training a new district leader to take my place, and since I am leaving 1 week earlier than the next cambios, my new companion probably won't be a new missionary.

This past week wasn't very productive because I got sick with a weird, stomach bug that I have had several times before, but this time it seemed much worse and I was laid up for almost 3 whole days. By the time I recovered, we had to go to Managua for my eye check-up, and the eyes are doing a ton better. I think this new clinic had better doctors and they gave me different medicines that seemed to work better. Still, the doctors have been telling me that the combination of sun and dust keep inflaming my eyes, and once I return home it shouldn't be a problem. As of right now, though, my eyes feel much better than they have in a while.

We made some awesome sandwiches this week for super cheap.
Last Tuesday, the new mission president and his family came to Granada for a multi-zone conference with the Masaya Zone. It was certainly different seeing a family of six up on the stand, and President and Hermana Brown seem very nice and much more relaxed. In his talk, President Brown said we need to stop baptizing just to baptize and he wants to place a focus on retaining families, improving Sacrament Meeting attendance, and getting a temple in Nicaragua. He was pretty blunt and said he wants the mission to improve its spirituality as a whole. One thing that is really different is that President Brown said he would be dedicating his weekends to caring for his family, so it is a much different atmosphere already.

One adventure from this past week is that we got to eat shark meat (after I recovered from the stomach bug). Add that to the list of pigeon, turtle, horse, iguana, and chicken heads!!! In the picture you can see that it kind of looks like fried chicken, but it tastes like kind of fishy, ground beef. It wasn't too bad. So I can check off another cool food on my list. We also made some awesome sandwiches for super cheap (only about $2.50 US dollars). That's about it for this week, just cambios coming next week should be interesting.

Don't be jealous of our awesome sandwiches.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Awesome Week -- Baptisms, Pupusas, and the 4th of July!

Her mom and some family friends also from El Salvador came to the baptism.
It was a really nice service, and she asked me to baptize her.
Well, this past week was pretty awesome! We had our baptism and she was super excited all week. Also, the district had two more baptisms, and this next week our district has 7 more baptisms scheduled. Elder Jimenez and I have one of the seven, who is K., the little brother of our baptisms from 3 weeks ago. That would make 4 straight weeks with a baptism, which has been pretty amazing.

After the baptismal service, we celebrated with the branch president
and some other members of the branch by learning how to make
"pupusas salvadoreanias." My companion is from El Salvador also,
so he was super excited and if you ask anyone from El Salvador, they
are the only ones who know how to make real pupusas -- not the same
as the ones Nicaraguans make.
So my companion, Elder Jimenez is getting pretty excited about going home next week. He already has his suitcases packed and has everything arranged in Managua for his trip home, so I guess you could say he is pretty "trunky" and it is getting harder to get him motivated to get out and find people to teach. Even still, we have a lot of people we have been teaching and we were able to bring 10 investigators to church yesterday.

Speaking of church yesterday, the new mission president, President Brown, came to our branch in Granada yesterday. He and his wife sat up on the stand and even shared their testimonies during the meeting. They actually both speak Spanish pretty well, but they do have some pretty funny, gringo accents, and their children don't speak any Spanish at all. However, it was kind of weird to see how white and pasty their skin is as they just arrived from Utah. They are really nice, but we didn't get much time to talk with them after church.

Elders Nave and Marler also accompanied us as they wanted to try
making them as well.
On Wednesday, I had to travel to the eye clinic again for the same issue with my eyes -- red, swollen, crazy itchy, and super uncomfortable. They are going to try 3 new medicines to see it they work any better, so I have a return visit this next Friday. Also this past week, we woke up every morning at 5:00 and went with the Zone Leaders to the church to play soccer or futsal (concrete-court soccer using a tiny ball) for some exercise.

"Pupusas Salvadoreanias"
For the 4th of July today, we had a zone activity and played volleyball at the church, which has a real volleyball net. I had my volleyball, and wow, was I super rusty from not playing a real game since the MTC. It was a lot of fun, and then later tonight we are going to the Zone Leader's house and order pizza to celebrate. In fact, a lot of Nicaraguans wore red, white, and blue shirts today, or shirts with the American flag on it, just because a lot of them really like the USA here. However, no fireworks this time of year, and you can't even find them anywhere to buy, which is a shame. Anyway, sounds like things are good at home. Have a great week everyone and light some fireworks for me!

Having lunch with the Zone Leaders at a sweet Mexican restaurant here in Granada.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Miracle in Granada

My district here in Granada consists of me and my companion, as well as the two Zone Leaders and both of their companions, plus one pair of hermanas and another pair of Elders (so 10 missionaries total counting myself). Every day we eat lunch with one of the Zone Leaders named Elder Nave and his companion, Elder Marler, who is from Idaho and just started his mission. However, Elder Nave and I were in the MTC at the same time (he was in a different district), so we will be going home at the same time. Plus, Elder Nave is from West Jordan and went to West Jordan High School, but he lives closer to Redwood Road.

So the Hermanas and the other, non-Zone Leader Elders all serve in the Sabaneta Branch, which meets every Sunday morning at 9:00 in the chapel, and then me and the Zone Leaders all serve in the Granada Branch and we meet in the same chapel at 2:00 on Sundays.

Anyway, the reason I bring all this up about our district is because we are on fire right now -- this past week our district had 9 baptisms! I don't know if you remember me mentioning, but my companion (who goes home in 2 weeks) started his mission here in Granada. Well, this past Saturday, me and my companion baptized a boy named J. who is the son of a convert who was baptized by my companion when he was here almost 2 years ago. There were also several young men baptized at the same time. I had to call President Russell yesterday and talk to him about some of the baptism interviews for next week, and he told me how happy he is with the Granada Zone right now because of how well we are doing.

There was a scary moment with J.'s confirmation yesterday, though, because he got called into work Sunday morning and his mom showed up to church alone. He works on the boats down at the beach, giving tours on pangas kind of like the ones I would ride in to Bluefields. So we had to run down to the beach to ask him to come to church so he could get confirmed. We tried everything to help make it possible for him to come, but he told us he couldn't. So Elder Nave and I left the beach super stressed out, and then on our way back to the church, his companion called him and told him that 2 of their young men who got baptized had left for Masaya Sunday morning and weren't going to make it to church to get confirmed either.
We got caught in what felt like a hurricane! Elder Nave and I had
to walk almost 2 miles in the pouring rain with lighting all around us to
get back to where my companion and Elder Marler were waiting
for us. I don't if you can tell, but we were completely soaking wet.

So as we were sitting in church, it was about 2:40 and we were in the middle of Sacrament Meeting feeling kind of bummed out, but then I felt a strong impression that we needed to go back to the beach and talk to J. again. I was a little hesitant because we would have to take a taxi and they are expensive, but Elder Ellison (the other Zone Leader) and I went back to the beach. When we pulled up, we saw J. and ran towards him, but he shook his head and told us again that he couldn't come with us to church. I was sad and confused as we watched him wade back down in the water and he started getting another boat ready to depart. We were about to leave when he suddenly turned back around to us and starts walking back to the beach. With a smile on his face, and even though he is sopping wet, he walks up to us and says, "let's go to church." We were shocked, but before he could change his mind, we ran and got another taxi to take us back to the church. We rolled into the chapel a couple of minutes after 3:00 and my companion and Elder Nave were sharing their testimonies and stalling until we returned (kind of like the miracle in Rivas). So at 3:05, J. was confirmed just before the meeting concluded. We were so pumped at this little miracle!

So next week we are planning another baptism of B., who is a Young Woman from El Salvador but her father is from Arkansas. Anyway, she was an investigator we found on our second day here in Granada, and now she is getting ready to be baptized. However, she has lots of friends who are members, so we had some help on this one.

Well, sorry to say that this week I did not eat any chicken head and foot soup, and quite frankly, that is a dish that I hope to never eat again. However, one of my new favorite drinks is Fresco de Grama, or grass juice. The boil this special long grass and sweeten it with sugar, and it is only found here in Granada.

Granada is generally very poor and humble, especially in my area, so the food is very poor also, but I am loving it. I am very happy to be in this area to finish off my mission even though it is extremely hot when it is not raining, and then when it rains it becomes muddy and swampy. Right now it is rainy season and it floods like crazy. The streets become rivers full of mud and debris and it's a mess. Otherwise all is good and we're working hard -- my companion doesn't have a chance to get trunky! Well, lots of other emails to answer today. Have a great week everyone!