Tuesday, September 29, 2009

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

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