Monday, December 14, 2009

Mission Week 13/Panama Week 4: First Baptism

The letter below contain excerpts from Austin's letter.  For various reasons, we felt his entire letter, which contained some personal observations of various aspects of his mission, that we felt should not be posted publicly.  However, if you would like greater insight to his letter, just send us an email to mascura1@msn.com and we would be happy to share that with you. 

Austin is beginning to experience the many challenges associated with a mission (finding people to teach, missionary oriented Branch/members, local support, customs and traditions, etc, not to mention still trying to learn the language), which he is learning to deal with.  We are optimistic that as a result of his experiences, he will grow spiritually and become a powerful instrument in the Lord's hands.

Hola Familia
I like your advice on doing more than just teaching or proselyting when we meet people.  (We were talking about what he could do with the people he teaches.  He was looking for ideas on what he could do beside constantly teaching, especially with students who will not commit to baptism yet.)  I think that could help the mission out here.  This week has hit me a little hard.  It's been kind of unproductive and I've learned a bit about the mission that's a little depressing.  Apparently, we have about 45,000 members in the nation, of which, only 5000 attend church on a regular basis.  I guess alot of people convert and then fall by the wayside (for one reason or another).  There's alot of work to be done here.  A LOT!

I had my first baptism yesterday.  I forgot my camera, but I will try to nab pictures from my companion.  His name is Richard.  He is 8 years old and his grandmother takes care of him and brings him to church. 

As for food, a couple times I felt pretty bad, but I've been adjusting alright so far.  I don't think the pain is even regular anymore.  Just every other week or so. 
(Austin is a very picky eater.  Before his mission, his intake of vegetables was almost NIL and he did not eat any kind of meat that had gristle or that was attached to bones.  But he was determined to try to change all that by indulging in the foods of Panama to, as he said it best, gain the full experience of a missionary in a foreign country.)

What is your advice with dealing with wards? 
(Note: Austin is asking for advice from anyone on dealing with local church members and leaders.  He is looking for ideas on how to inspire members Branch and Auxilliary leadership [Elders, Relief Society, etc) to help them improve membership retention.)

Finding golden people here might be alot harder than I anticipated. I mean, I thought I had found a couple, but it has been extremely difficult just to meet them again.  But, I guess that's where patience and diligence factor into the work.

I'll try to get things pulled together (letters and pictures) and send them.  Keep me in your prayers and the people of Panama, too.

Your Elder in the Fields of Panama,
Elder Austin Michael Ascura

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