Tuesday, September 29, 2009

MTC Week 2: "Adjustment to the Lifestyle Continues"

Hey everyone!
Doing laundry again. REALLY hoping that my whites get white again. Cream colored shirts and garments are no bueno. Nearly all my white clothes were essentially ruined. Bleached 'em today, hoping for good results. Adjustment to the lifestyle continues.

The dorms here are still four to a room. I got three jokers here, too. All of them had girlfriends when they went out.
- Elder Stewart just got his Dear John and now he's trying to reverse it with a "You're a distraction" letter.
-Elder Warburton just had a casual girlfriend.
-Elder Laidler, my companion, has a hardcore girlfriend he's been dating for years. She's out on her mission, too, though, so the down time will only be about seven months between them in two years. They seem really close, really, but I am curious to see what happens when she's off and he's not.

I understand most of what they do here and why they do it that way and only have minor problems with it. I'm still a bit of a loner out here, but I'm not too worried about it. Apparently, I already command a great deal of respect. Everyone seems to be very fond of me and my tactful reserve and occasional witty outburst, including my teachers...

Just so you guys know, I only get to check and write e-mail on Mondays, my P-days. I'm adjusting my diet as best I can. Lots of fruit. Trying to institute vegetables more. Actually ate a whole salad; even more, a spinach one. I think I might actually like spinach. I don't like feta cheese, though, I learned that. That aside, I think my diet is fairly balanced and I'm trying to avoid fatty foods and desserts for the most part. I did finish off all the cookies, much to the happiness of my carb-cutting companions.  Every day for gym, I've been running 2 miles. I don't know if I'll do any weight training here, unlike my roommates who are determined to be ripped when they come home.

... I press forward (as a missionary), for the Lord has made a promise. Things are getting MUCH easier for me, though. I've been writing in my journal every day. Spanish is coming along fairly alright. I've relearned 80% of what I learned in High school, minus some of the vocabulary. With time, though, I think I'll be alright. Some of the other missionaries are getting really stressed over the Spanish. I think I'll have to sit down with them one-on-one at some point to help.

I'm glad to hear that my pride and joy machine (computer) is now neatly tucked away, although I wasn't too worried about it. And despite what Dad thinks, I better still have my colored shirts tucked away, too! My companion had an ingrown toe nail. I got to accompany him to a foot doctor and watched him kill some of the root. Took pictures for him too. I'm not sure how to send you all pictures nor can I open the pictures Riss sent me on their computers. You'll have to send actual pictures. The only way I can send you guys pictures is if I have them printed.  Speaking of which, I'd appreciate it if I got a picture of you guys.  My bulletin board is empty and I think my roomies need to see how brown my Dad is.

Well, I think that covers most of the week. Hoping my clothes are white again.

Your Missionary in Training,
Elder Austin Michael Ascura

MTC Week 1: The Making of a Missionary

Austin's second letter was full of promise. He is a bit overwhelmed with the transition to missionary life but is courageously attacking challenges head on. He is still charming and humorous, even amid challenging circumstances, and it will be exciting to compare his letters months from now.

With Mike currently in Afghanistan and Austin on a mission for two years, our family is filled with joy and pride from their service to God and Country, but empty as a result of our separation. However, with four kids still at home, life is still abundantly filled with excitement and anticipation as we balance activities between home, work, school, church, and oh yes,...teen social life. Again, we express our love and appreciation for your thoughts and prayers for our family, and especially for our two men away from home. An excerpt from Austin's letter is posted below.
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...So far, being in the MTC has proven to be quite the roller coaster emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually, I've got a batch of missionaries who are determined to get fit in the MTC. Exercise is almost daily, paired with being unaccustomed to waking up before 11 AM, it's been a little rough. The food here, while good, is also throwing a wrench into my system. I'm currently sick after getting a flu shot. I think I'll check on whether chills are supposed to be a side effect. I'm holding up, though.

Mentally, this has been especially trying as well. They have REALLY piled on a ton of things to remember. Rules, planning, Spanish, gospel lessons, schedules..., it's a lot to take in. I expect by the end of this week that I'll have this stuff down, minus the language. That might take a tidge longer, but I seem to be doing very well with the Spanish. I should be at the same level I used to be at in high school by the end of the week. Gospel lessons shouldn't be too hard to get down once I learn the words in Spanish.

Emotionally, I've had a lot of conflicting feelings. Being homesick, missing family and friends, actually having free time, and such things are all part of the tough things in being a missionary. I think the pressure will go down with time, especially once I'm in the field. The longer I'm out here, the easier the mission itself seems to become. Not to say that this will be a breeze. There will still be a language barrier and the challenge of living in Panama, which I hear is 80% jungle. (I heard we get machetes. Crossing my fingers.) But I'm feeling confident in my abilities to be a missionary.Having a trio of zany missionaries as roommates is helping this experience to remain a little less stressful, given the extreme change of living conditions.I will try to write my next letter in both Spanish and English. My love and the best of luck to you all out there waiting and watching for me.

Elder Austin M. Ascura

MTC Week 1: Day One: Confusion, Mistakes, and Surprises

We received Austin's first letter from the MTC yesterday afternoon and it sounds like he is off to a great start. We were considerably worried, as any parent is about their missionary being in a new environment and chained to a missionary shadow 24-7, but Austin's letter put our hearts at ease. Parts of his letter are listed below:

I'm settled in after some housing mistakes and a bunch of confusion. I have to go get the correct room key still! Everything's alright, though. Oddly enough, I already have to do maintenance work on my blue suit. The top button popped off when my collar got caught on a stair rail.

Guess who was the devotional speaker for day numero uno? Elder Holland! It was funny because the Canadian guy I was paired with for the day, Elder Alexandre Morin, and I knew the entire day who it was while everyone else was circulating rumors about it being President Monson, who I guess was at BYU yesterday.

The food here looks to be pretty edible and I've already tried to adopt a healthier diet. Excercise will start up soon enough and hopefully my blue suit will fit a little better again. I think that sums up about everything for now: Confusion, recording mistakes, and surprises.

The MTC seems to be filled with young, motivated, and enthusiastic youths; I can't help but feel that some of the enthusiasm is a little contagious. But I intend to stay focused on my goals out here and I intend to outwork any other missionary I come into contact with. I hope you guys at home are hanging in alright and that school and work aren't seeping away your sanity while I'm here in Provo. I look forward to the coming weeks and seeing who my companion here will be and hope to write as much as possible in terms of letters and journal entries.

I love you.

Your Elder in the Field,
Elder Austin M. Ascura

PS: please post on the blog that e-mails are restricted for family only so that my friends aren't too disappointed for not receiving e-mails already. I'd appreciate it if any mailing instructions for Provo are posted as well so that they can have their consolation prize.

Elder Ascura's Journey Begins...

Last night (September 14, 2009), Austin was set apart as a missionary by the Stake President, President Tim Pettitt. It was a wonderful blessing with lots of promises and revelation as to what to expect and how best to succeed on his mission. Afterward, we had a late dinner at the Olive Garden, which was Austin's choice, and had a great time. We gave him his missionary journal and a missionary study guide as going away presents, especially since he really couldn't have anything else. He was thrilled.

Carissa, who has the best penmanship of any of us, prepared the journal by filling out the administrative portion; no one can read Austin's extraordinary scribbling skills.





Before bed time, Austin performed his first priesthood ordinance as an Elder and missionary by giving Carissa a blessing at her request, to help her stay focused in school and church. Austin did a fabulous job and from the blessing he pronounced, left no doubt in our minds his blessing was truly by inspiration.

This morning, Austin finally left home for the mission field at 5am, in a limousine that he and Mike chartered to the airport, courtesy of the government since Mike was departing on his military assignment. It was much harder the night before thinking about him leaving us for two years than actually saying goodbye.


This morning was more of a blissful and happy send off knowing he was off to serve his Heavenly Father with all his heart, might, mind, and strength, and that we were placing his life in the hands of the Lord. He arrived at the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah around 5pm and was immediately off and running trying to get settled. We did not get to speak to him, but spoke to the main office who confirmed Austin's arrival, and that he would be in touch with us by email as soon as he gets settled in. He has only been gone several hours today, but we miss him dearly as if he has been gone for months.

Austin's Parting Thoughts

Dear Family and Friends,

My missionary service officially begins tonight at 7pm when I am set apart as a missionary by my Stake President and for the next 15 hours or so, I will have the coolest missionary companion in the world, my Dad. We leave tomorrow morning at 5am and will be traveling together to Dallas, Texas and then we will split up. He will be on military assignment and I will head to the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah for about 8 weeks. Since I received my mission call I have had a lot of people ask me what my thoughts are about serving this mission so I hope my parting remarks will answer everyone’s questions.

To begin, I wasn't too sure what to think of the whole process of a mission call. I'm not really too sure why, either. Regardless, the entire task of completing the process and everything was so drawn out that had I been as eager as I often was as a kid, it wouldn't have lasted for too long. But once the actual paperwork was sent in and all the prerequisites were finally taken care of, there was a unanimous feeling of relief knowing that the process was completed and all I had to do was wait for the call to tell me where I was going to serve. The possibilities were baffling. It could have been anywhere as local as Pennsylvania or as exotic as... well, nearly anywhere. The stretches of African lands, the towns of Europe, the forests of South America, or the metropolises of Eastern Asia were all possible. Now, to follow the precedent of my aging infatuation with Asian culture, naturally, I hoped to serve there. A Japanese, Korean, or Chinese speaking mission was what I was hoping for. But because I had hoped to go there, I sort of knew I was naturally not going to be sent there.

In May, I finally received my mission call and prior to opening up the letter, I couldn't help but pore over my predictions as to where I would go. I knew I would go foreign and speak a new language, and I also knew that Central/South American missions were fairly common. A friend of mine, Spencer Broomhead, who was also my roommate at BYU-Idaho, is currently serving in Lima, Peru. But I also thought my Dad's prediction was right: Western Europe; France or perhaps Italy. Imagine my surprise to see Panama City.

I honestly knew next to nothing about Panama. I knew a girl from Panama when I was in junior high, but other than her, the only other thing I knew about Panama was a little trivia about the Panama Canal. So over the next few months, the stress of submitting paperwork was over and the mission buzz in the home receded into a temporary lull, allowing me to relax a little and reflect on the now known destination. I knew I had to relearn Spanish. I hadn't had any intentions of relearning it before, but with the versatility of it as a language, this in itself would prove to be a blessing in my life after my mission, given I retain my knowledge and practice. I guess everyone is worried about learning a second language because that's all anyone seems to mention when I tell them about my mission location. To be honest though, I feel I'm a bright enough kid that picking up a language, especially one I've already studied, shouldn't be too difficult. I will feel quite foolish if I prove myself wrong.

All that aside, I'm a little nervous about the trip as a whole, but not really too worried. I expect that whatever comes my way, I'll successfully pull through regardless how rough the challenges are. Now as I look forward to my upcoming adventure to Panama, I have only one real personal goal besides figuring out where I will be going in Panama. The next two years will give me the opportunity to labor in the service of the Lord and hopefully allow me to recognize and realize who I am, where I need to go, and how to successfully perform my duties as a missionary. All other thoughts can wait and will hopefully fall in place in time.

In closing, I don't know if I can offer very much in terms of advice except keep your eyes, ears, and heart open, and proceed forward with hope and confidence, while anticipating an exciting and spiritual transformation. I intend to return a changed man, hopefully for the better. See you in two years…and don’t forget to write!

Elder Austin Michael Ascura

The Temple Endowment

Austin received his temple endowments on July 16, 2009 in the New York Manhattan Temple. On this day, Lisa, Austin, and I got up around 4:30 to a beautiful summer morning and made the hour or so drive to the Manhattan Temple. Everyone at the temple knew exactly who we were the moment we walked in the front door, greeting us by name without any introduction from us. It was quite a spiritual experience, not just for Austin, but for Lisa and I as well.


Before the session, the Temple President, William J. Frost, conducted an office visit for Austin and I, while Lisa waited in the Chapel. President Frost was quite emotional from the start as he expressed his love for Austin and confided that he felt a much greater and special feeling for Austin today than he had previously towards anyone as the Manhattan Temple President. President Frost briefly discussed the purpose of the temple endowment and the significance it has on our lives, bore an emotional testimony, and then closed by having me bear my testimony to my son.

Afterward, we were sitting at the rear chapel waiting for the session to begin when an older gentleman sitting in the front row got up and made his way toward us. He shook Austin’s hands and said, “So this is the missionary”, and began speaking to him in Spanish. He chuckled knowing Austin didn’t understand a word he said. He introduced himself as Elder Christofferson and after some small talk, gave Austin his best wishes and returned to his seat with his wife. Lisa asked who he was and that started a funny argument between us. I said I thought he was the local regional representative but Austin insisted he was a member of the Twelve Apostles. After going back and forth for several minutes, I finally got up and asked President Frost, who confirmed that he was indeed, Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Austin said he knew that was Elder Christofferson only because he gave the Priesthood lesson in church the previous Sunday, which was based of Elder Christofferson’s last talk in General Conference.

After the session, we sat in the Celestial Room for quite awhile talking about the various principles of the Gospel with Austin. It was truly a joyous occasion for us to escort our son and to observe his spiritual growth in the temple unfold before our eyes in such a short time. He would later go through the Portland Temple in Oregon with his mother while on vacation, and while I was in the Middle East; it was a very special temple session just for mother and son.

The Mission Call

For our non-LDS friends, service as a missionary is one of the most anticipated church assignments young men in the church strive for. Missions are open to men between the ages of 19 and 27, women after the age of 21, and to older retired couples. They length of missions will vary depending on the type of mission, but are normally 24 months for young men and 18 months for women and older couples. Although most missionaries are called to serve proselyting missions to teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, there are other types of missions such as serving at LDS visitor centers, historic sites, humanitarian, education and training, employment, and health care. Austin will be serving a proselyting mission. Missions are voluntary, not mandatory, and is normally financed by the missionary and his or her family. To find out more about LDS missions, check out this web site:

http://lds.about.com/od/programs3foldmission/p/lds_mission.htm.

Although every missionary has a dream list as to where he would like to serve throughout the world or what language he would like to speak, the decision on where a missionary is assigned rests with the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. So in Austin’s case, he was involuntarily assigned to serve in the Panama Panama City Mission for 24 months as a Spanish speaking proselyting missionary.

Austin received his mission call on May 21st, 2009. This was supposed to be the most exciting day of his pre-missionary experience, to receive his missionary assignment. But when the mission call came in the mail, Austin was actually calm and cool about the whole event. When we first saw the “envelope” from the church, we knew exactly what it was, but we waited until Austin came home to allow him the opportunity to take that exciting walk to the mailbox to pick it up himself. When Austin came home, we asked him to go get the mail and we followed him with a video camera to capture the experience. He knew what all the hype was about and had it been anyone other than Austin, that person would have ran to the mailbox, plowing down everyone and anything in the way to get to that envelope. But No,…not Austin. He was actually pretty relaxed and nonchalant. He picked up the envelope, opened it as if it were any other mail and read through it without any emotion whatsoever. He said he was excited but you definitely couldn’t tell by his monotone voice. Not to worry though, the rest of the family made up for Austin’s lack of excitement. We were ecstatic!

Perhaps before he leaves, Austin will give us some insight to that exciting day.

Bienvenidos a todos!


Welcome everyone and thank you for visiting Austin’s missionary blog. We wanted to create a way for everyone to keep informed of Austin’s mission as he labors in the Panama Panama City Mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and we thought this was the most efficient and fun way to do it. Initially, Austin will maintain his blog site until he enters the missionary training center on September 15th, 2009, then management of the site will rest with the family. We will provide updates, stories, pictures, change of addresses, and whatever Austin provides so you can stay up to date with his mission. This is an exciting time for Austin and our family as he embarks on this sacred journey in the service of the Lord, and we know that through your support, thoughts, and prayers, he will be triumphant and faithful til the end. We express our love and gratitude to all of you who have played a role in helping our son and missionary grow and prepare for this sacred work, and look forward to having you be a part of our family for the next two years.


Mike, Lisa, Austin, Braden, Carissa, Desiree, and Elise
La Familia Ascura

Monday, September 28, 2009

First Impressions at the MTC

Hey everyone! Doing laundry again. REALLY hoping that my whites get white again. Cream colored shirts and garments are no bueno. Nearly all my white clothes were essentially ruined. Bleached 'em today, hoping for good results. Adjustment to the lifestyle continues. The dorms here are still four to a room. I got three jokers here, too. All of them had girlfriends when they went out. Elder Stewart just got his Dear John and now he's trying to reverse it with a "You're a distraction" letter. Elder Warburton just had a casual girlfriend. Elder Laidler, my companion, has a hardcore girlfriend he's been dating for years. She's out on her mission, too, though, so the down time will only be about seven months between them in two years. They seem really close, really, but I am curious to see what happens when she's off and he's not.

I understand most of what they do here and why they do it that way and only have minor problems with it. I'm still a bit of a loner out here, but I'm not too worried about it. Apparently, I already command a great deal of respect. Everyone seems to be very fond of me and my tactful reserve and occasional witty outburst, including my teachers, who are aware of what a rough time I'm having out here. We had an elder go home a couple of days ago due to psychological stress problems. Meds were illegal in Panama and they weren't curbing his anxiety. The leaders here decided to send him home after counseling with some therapists and psychologists and such. Nice kid, though.

Just so you guys know, I only get to check and write e-mail on Mondays, my P-days. I'm adjusting my diet as best I can. Lots of fruit. Trying to institute vegetables more. Actually ate a whole salad. Even more, a spinach one. I think I might actually like spinach. I don't like feta cheese, though. I learned that. That aside, I think my diet is fairly balanced and I'm trying to avoid fatty foods and desserts for the most part. I did finish off all the cookies, much to the happiness of my carb-cutting companions.

Every day for gym, I've been running 2 miles. I don't know if I'll do any weight training here, unlike my roommates who are determined to be ripped when they come home. As for my testimony's growth, things here are really hard for me. Almost everyone talks about how enveloped in the Spirit they are and here I am thinking I'm numb or something. But nevertheless, I press forward, for the Lord has made a promise.

Things are getting MUCH easier for me, though. I've been writing in my journal every day. Spanish is coming along fairly alright. I've relearned 80% of what I learned in High school, minus some of the vocabulary. With time, though, I think I'll be alright. Some of the other missionaries are getting really stressed over the Spanish. I think I'll have to sit down with them one-on-one at some point to help.

I'm glad to hear that my pride and joy machine is now neatly tucked away, although I wasn't too worried about it. And despite what Dad thinks, I better still have my colored shirts tucked away, too! My companion had an ingrown toe nail. I got to accompany him to a foot doctor and watched him kill some of the root. Took pictures for him too. I'm not sure how to send you all pictures nor can I open the pictures Riss sent me on their computers. You'll have to send actual pictures. The only way I can send you guys pictures is if I have them printed. Is that what you guys want? Speaking of which, I'd appreciate it if I got a picture of you guys. My bulletin board is empty and I think my roomies need to see how brown my Dad is.

Well, I think that covers most of the week. Hoping my clothes are white again.

Your Missionary in Training
Elder Austin Michael Ascura