Monday, December 27, 2010

M:67/P:56: Recovering From Christmas

Hola Familia,

I´m glad to hear that everyone´s enjoyed the holidays.  I´ll tell you what, I´m feeling pretty out of whack after Christmas.  I´m sure I´ll hop back into the groove of things easy enough, though.  It was good to see you all and hear some familiar voices again.  I´m glad to see we´re still an eccentric bunch of wierdoes.  It´ll be nice to come home in about seven or eight months.  My companion probably could´ve used Skype but his mom wasn´t home while we were at the internet place, so, he decided to stick to the phone calls.  It´ll be a shame that Bray won´t be home for my first Christmas back.  I suppose we´ll just have to wait and see what happens.
As for Christmas out here, I have never eaten so much food.  I´m almost sure I ate ten pounds of food the 24th and the 25th.  Five meals on the 24th and four the 25th.  I was gonna puke.  No joke.  I never want to eat so much again.  But with New Years coming, it´s likely I´ve got one more eat-a-thon left.  I will say, though, it was funny to see my companion and I playing cards and gambling with the food.  Winner got to give the loser two spoons of rice.  I lost a lot.  Most people just served turkey, chicken, and/or ham, nothing too strange.
As for Grandpa, I´m glad to hear he´s still got some of his wits about him.  I do feel bad for him, though.
As for the music here, I´m equally surprised that there´s not more musicians here.  The culture, though, doesn´t make it so easy for people to foster a love for piano and choral style singing.  You´ll see what I mean when you get here.  A couple of the churches have the electric pianos, but very few.  I´ve only seen, like, two.
Well, I´ll keep you all updated on the New Year celebrations here.  Enjoy the rest of the season and take care, everyone.
Your Elder in Panamá,
Elder Austin Michael Ascura


On Christmas Eve morning, we got to speak to Austin on the phone for about an hour.  Afterwards, he walked down to the Internet Cafe, which is about a 15 minute walk from his apartment so that we could talk to him via Skype, something all the missions in the Church were using.  It was really great for us to speak to him and actually see him LIVE.  We definitely noticed some changes in his demeanor.  He had a much deeper voice and he really spoke with alot of confidence about the work he was doing.  We also had an opportunity to see his companion and to listen to them converse back and forth as he did not speak any English.  It was especially great for the kids to test out their school learned Spanish and although they got A's in the class, they found out first hand how different and difficult it really is to carry a conversation.  Austin was more than happy to oblige them as he spoke to them in Spanish.  But it was just as awesome for our family to watch him converse with his companion or just speak in Spanish, something we aren't used to seeing.  It will be fun to have him home in about 8 months.  After about an hour of talking and joking and laughing, we let him go...even if we didn't want him to leave.  But he had 5 dinner appointments scheduled for this day.  Before he left, we sang him and his companion, the Nativity Song, as preparation for our family musical number in Sacrament Meeting on the 26th.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Surprise Call

We received a surprise phone call from Austin and it really was a surprise.  Lisa answered the phone and didn't even recognize his voice.  His voice was much deeper and....just different.  He said is this the Ascura residence?  Is this Lisa Ascura?  This is your missionary.  Lisa thought he was the local missionaries.  It was pretty funny.

Austin called to discuss how we were going to talk on Christmas Eve....That is also ironic because we must have spent an hour on the phone.  Now we won't have anything to talk about on Christmas Eve.  He said all the missionaries were calling on Christmas Eve because the Internet Cafes will most likely be closed for the Holiday, but that he was given permission to talk on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and the 26th.

We talked about everything and it was really goo just to hear his voice.  We had him talk about Panama in Spanish and it was truly amazing.  He had a very nice Latin American accent and was even rolling his Rs.  He said it took him a long time to learn how to do that but he said he has had alot of compliments on his language skill. Braden even got to practice his Spanish and I was thoroughly impressed.  Even Carissa and Desiree got to try out their language from Spanish Class.  We all had fun.

Austin is doing very well. He did mention that he lives close to one of his old areas (Alcade Diaz) and that the area was really a slow area.  He is a little disappointed and frustrated about the slow work in the area, but is optimistic about making a difference in the area.  We look forward to his call on Christmas Eve.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

M:66/P:55: Hoping For the Best

Hola Familia,

Italy, huh?  You´re just all over the place, Dad. I remember everyone looking at me like I was crazy when I told them you were in Paris.  As for that calzone, I´d go for one of those about now.  Especially right now.  Bad days, huh (referring to the Beday toilet)?  Glad to see your keeping your humor fresh.  I remember seeing that when we were in Italy and I had absolutely no idea what I was supposed to do with it.
As for my mugging experience, my companion was in front of me and I think he had one hand behind his back.  I couldn´t see it and I thought nothing of it.  I have people come up to me and ask me for loose change all the time.  The guy only wanted a dime.  When I gave him the quarter I didn´t see the knife until he moved to the side of the path and I saw the handle.  After we got to the bottom of the hill I asked my companion who told me that the guy had the knife out the entire time.  He was super stressed out and I had no idea why.  Imagine that.
As we draw closer and closer to the holidays, it doesn´t look like we´ll be doing much.  I imagine a family or two will invite us over for dinner and we´ll be stuffed.  Other than that, knocking doors and maybe singing Christmas carols to try and get in houses.  As for the Christmas Peeps, still nothing on that.  But they don´t give us mail until tomorrow.  Who knows?
As for the week, it´s been an incredibly slow one.  I´ve been abnormally depressed almost the entire week.  I seem to be picking up a bit after visiting the temple on Thursday.  The weather certainly didn´t help at all.  Usually at this time, there´s little to no rain in Panamá because the majority of the winter has already wrapped itself up.  But we´ve been hit with a cold front from the States that sweeped down Central America and a cold front from Colombia coming up north.  As a result we´ve had almost non-stop rain the entire week.  The bad part was that it was cold and there was a lot of wind.  My companion and I both got a little sick.  I also went to the doctor to get some antibiotic prescriptions for some infections that have worried me a bit.  All I´ll say about it is that this things must have gold inside them or something.  On the positive side, it would appear that it´s working.
We´ve contacted more and I got to know a young Evangelist teenager who I´ve challenged to put the Book of Mormon to the test.  I challenge everyone to do it but this young man is very astute and has a great interest in learning more about God.  I´m hoping that this Wednesday he´s done his part.  We´ll see.  I´m hoping to get to know his father who is an atheist philosophy teacher.  It´s going to be a fun visit.
Well, everyone, I can´t seem to think of anything else to share for the moment.  I hope that you all are enjoying the snow and holiday festivity.  I ask that you all pray specially for me in this area as the president has expressed a special interest in seeing this zone improve.  I´ll need all the help I can find.
Your Elder in Panamá,
Elder Austin Michael Ascura

Monday, December 6, 2010

Assignment 6: Santa Librada in San Isidro

Austin clarified his assignment as being in the San Isidro Zone, which is back near his first assignment in Alcalde Diaz.  Santa Librada is located in the town of San Isidro.

M:65/P:54: Mugged For A Quarter

Hola Familia,

Ben Hall got called to Armenia?  Didn´t see that coming.  Best of luck to him.

Sorry to hear that your trip to Paris has been so sleepless.  I can only imagine how miserable it is to meander through an art exhibit like that.  I hope you´re feeling better and enjoying the French hospitality.  I expect you´ll be home for Christmas, right?

My companion´s name is George Martín Hernandez.  Honduran.  He seems like a pretty likable elder.  I´ll probably get along well with him.  He´s been in the mission for about six months and is already feeling strange for his first Christmas away from home.  It makes me laugh because I was still in shellshock when I had my first Christmas here.  And now I´m already on the downswing for this, my last, Panamanian Christmas.

As for my new area . . . well, I´m not supposed to be negative so I´ll try to be constructive.  It´s a little difficult to find people because our area is actually quite small.  So when you ask where someone lives, they always give the exact same instructions to find their house.  "El Valle."  That part of our area is about 60%, basically.  It also, according to my companion, has been very overworked.  Many of the people we contact have already turned missionaries away before, so they´re experts here.  We have almost no members in our area, so it´s hard to find referrals to work with.  We have a very small teaching pool for the moment and spend at least two hours knocking on doors everyday.  I´ve already had someone ask me for ten cents with a knife in hand.  I gave him a quarter.  And I´ve technically been bitten by a dog, although he only got at my pants.  I found the saliva on my hip after getting to the house.  And not long before, a dog almost mauled my face as he jammed his head through a fence as I walked by.  It´s been a crazy welcoming week.

The area is calmer than the zone of Colón in general but is probably hotter than my last area.  However, most people respect missionaries, regardless.  I knew that one of us was going to get pulled out just because the Mission President wanted my greenish, gringo companion to have a Latino companion to help his already impressive Spanish.  I guess they figured that three months in Puerto Pilón was sufficient for me.  But I am in a new zone, just a note.

As for after-mission plans, I´m thinking I´ll go to BYU Provo, at least for the first semester or two.  I was considering Colorado as an option but, at this point, I don´t think I can coordinate everything as needed before I come back given as my friends have been fairly slow to reply to my last letters to them.  As for when I´ll get home, I don´t know when the cut off date is for getting into BYU but I think there is a limit to how much time the president here can shear off my service time.  I would appreciate it if you could find the dates for entering BYU.  If I can´t get in on time, I might end up waiting it out ´til winter.

Well, I´m running short on things to say.  I´m trying to keep cheery out here.  It´s weird going back into the holiday season and being in this climate.  All the change of place and people also is making the process go a little slower.  These next few weeks might be a little difficult.  Maybe even more so because we technically won´t have our Preparation Day until Thursday.  We are going to go the temple but our initially planned date, tomorrow, Tuesday, has been very recently altered to Thursday.  I´m not sure if that´s really a wise idea, especially given that this Monday I should have been able to go to the store to pick up food and other things I´ll need for this week.  Not a very considerate nor well-thought out plan, but I imagine I´ll get through.  I´m also still having some problems with some infections on my hands and my ankle.  I´ll probably go get a perscription for some antibiotics soon.  I´ve already found out the fun way that I get allergic hives when I use dicloxicilin.

Well, everyone, I love you and think about you fondly.  I hope you all are keeping well and enjoying the holiday season.  I´ll keep you all updated on all the fun things going down out here in San Isidro.

Your Elder in Panamá,
Elder Austin Michael Ascura

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Assignment 6: Santa Librada

Santa Librada is a small community in the Colon Province in Northern Panama.  Austin's previous assignment was in Puerto Pilon which is only about an hour away if that.

M:64/P:53: New Area in Santa Librada

Hola Familia,

First off, I´m glad to hear that you all had a good Thanksgiving. It would´ve been a shame to waste a holiday. I´m also glad to hear that the drive back was bearable for Dad and Bray. For me, well, I didn´t remember that it was Thanksgiving until my companion pulled out his cheesecake that he bought specially for the occasion. He was really happy about it.

Yes, I did have changes. I´m feeling really beat for it, too. Packing and traveling and what not is just not good so close to each other. Anywho, my new companion is Elder Hernandez. He´s Honduran. Tonight, I´ll get to know him better. My area, Santa Librada, is in the zone of San Isidro. Having stayed in relatively civilized areas so much makes me think that I´ll be in the city my entire mission. I suppose we´ll see.

As for packages, I got the Peeps package. Any of the other ones, not yet.

This last week was a fairly difficult one. Among the interesting things that happened, we went out to cut tall grass (taller than me) with a machete. With all my macho machete-ing swinging, though, my hands got sliced up by the grass. And unfortunately, the majority of them have gotten infected for the last week or so. It makes it very painful to get things out of my pockets. They´re beginning to heal up a bit now, though. I got Dicloxicilin for it. And I´m pretty sure that´s the same stuff they gave me when I had mono because it covered me in hives just like last time. I think it´s all getting better though.

We began teaching a sister who seems like she lives alone in her house every day and never leaves. She was a reference from the zone leaders and is a very peculiar person. It´s honestly strange coming into someone´s home and then having them unload all their lives´ deepest concerns and other things like that when you´ve only known the person for three minutes. She seems like she really needs people to talk to and help her out. I feel quite bad for her as she´s got a lot on her plate. I hope Elder Alley takes good care of her.

I´ll try to get a Christmas package ready for you all that will have anything you guys want in it. So if you have any requests, tell me soon. That aside I can´t think of too much I could tell you. I built a chicken coop. Out of scrap material. Okay, that aside, I can´t think of anything else to tell you. My brain still feels a little frazzled so I´ll try to make my next letter good. Take care and enjoy the Christmas Season.

Your Elder in Panamá,
Elder Austin Michael Ascura

Monday, November 29, 2010

President's Interviews in Colon

Just a couple of candid pictures of Austin following the quarterly interviews with the Mission President.

Lunch after interviews.  Wonder what he ate to cause that look on his face.

Missionary thugs from the Colon Zone

Monday, November 22, 2010

M: 63/P:52: Last Day in Puerto Pilon

Hola Familia,

Are you all sure Spencer´s home in April? Is that really his end mark? I could have sworn that he still had more to go. As for the others from the Kansas gang, I´m glad to finally have heard from them. What luck that Ian would be going to Peru, too. I imagine that they´ll have at least one run in before Spencer comes home. Corey´s going to Halifax? Hmmm. I think the Canadian missionary that I met in the airport before I got to the MTC was from there. Well, he won´t be hot, that´s for sure. And Kyle´s working up the green to go out? Well, I look forward to hearing where he´ll be assigned. I thought he would go someplace like Halifax, not Corey. And Ben will be up and out soon. Well, best of luck to each one of them.

As for my wallet, it wasn´t my wallet I lost. Nor did I lose the cards you guys gave me. Only the mission credit card. I lost that, my military ID, driver´s license, paper copy of my passport, minister´s license, and my equivalent of a visa card for the country. I´m going to call in tonight, I couldn´t find it anywhere. But the two cards you gave me are both still safe and sound.

As for the pictures I´m going to head over to the members´ house today to sort that out.

As for packages, I´m still waiting on everything. I´m hoping that my Halloween package gets here tomorrow. As for Christmas, there´s a couple families here that have lived in the States for a while. But I´m fairly sure I´ll be pulled out of here soon to give my companion a Latino companion to help him with his Spanish. So I´ll have to scope out the gringos in my next area, I think. As for Thanksgiving, well, I´m pretty sure I won´t even remember Thanksgiving until my companion mentions it. The mission seems to be preparing something for the Holiday season but I have absolutely no clue what it is. Whoever my companion is, I´ll try to get him something nice. But not too nice.

A note on "getting in with the big guy", I am absolutely stuffed out here. Hunger is something I almost never have. If anything, they often overfeed us. I´ll tell you all about it sometime. We had five big meals this last Wednesday. I don´t like eating a lot now.

As for the work, the week was pretty well. Found a couple more homes to teach in, although we would like to teach them more than only one time a week. We had a baptism this last Saturday. His name is Eric Gonzalez. He´s twenty two years old and his younger brother (Eddie) got baptised about five or six months ago. It´s been interesting watching Eric go through the entire process. As for future prospects, we have another baptismal date set and are about to go through the marriage process again to secure everything in place.

Eddie Gonzalez and Eric Gonzalez (Right)

Well, I can´t seem to think of much else to write. For the first time in a while, I actually have a little time left over. Well, I hope everyone at home is taking care and that you enjoy the drive up to Oregon to leave your car behind. I think of you all often, but not too often, and hope you enjoy the holiday season.

Your Elder in Panamá,
Elder Austin Michael Ascura

Monday, November 15, 2010

M:62/P:51: Not Feeling Well

Hola Familia,

I´m glad to hear that Dad and Bray enjoyed Veterans Day together. And it sounds like you (Dad) got milked and whipped pretty good, too (Braden got me to buy him a video game and beat me in every game we played). And as for Thanksgiving, looks like that didn´t turn out too well for you, either. Man, 18 hour drive up, first class snatched away (Braden's return flight to San Diego will be first class, while I got the middle seat), and you lose the car (We are driving the BMW to Oregon for Thanksgiving and leaving it with Lisa). Well, Dad, at least you know someone will be enjoying first class and your BMW.

As far as retirement goes, Dad, that´s all up to you. Depends on whether you want the time or the money, your call. I´m glad to hear that your options are good, though.

As for the packages, Mom, I still haven´t gotten anything. However, the zone leaders might already have it. They don´t give us mail ´til after Preparation Day. Doesn´t make much sense to me, but that´s how they do it.

Spencer coming home in January? I thought he was due home in July. Unless you mean he was extending his mission six months, which I can hardly believe.

Logan got baptised, huh? What a pity I couldn´t be there to see it. I´m curious to see how cute he is when I get back. But that was Matthew´s first baptism? Well, what better choice than your own son.

I am glad to hear that Grandpa appears to be doing alright. I, too, find it a little strange that Grandpa can even be beligerent still (in his current medical condition). He doesn´t look like he´s got the speed to do it.

As for the rain, it was Stake Conference, which means everyone goes in suits. We didn´t have time to go change so we just went to work in suits, and got drenched. I picked it up and it looks fine, though. No damage done as far as I can tell. As for raincoats, those basically don´t exist here. The mission recommends we don´t get them just because it´s such a hot country. And as for the umbrella, I only remember the tiny, tiny one I had back in the MTC that broke a couple months ago. The umbrella wouldn´t have saved me much, though, honestly. I´ve got one now, though. My feet still get soaked, though.

As for my companion, I don´t know why he through up. Most people here say you get sick from just getting wet in the rain. I just think he got a small bug. He´s fine, now. Although, now I´m not feeling so great. I feel nauseated whenever I´m around food. I´m pretty sure it´s not dengue nor malaria. As for vitamins, I don´t even know where to look for those here. Do most pharmacies carry multi-vitamins?

As for the mugging, they were basically high school punks. Might´ve had knives or something. I´ll hope I never have to use the advice, too (tips on how to survive or avoid a gang attack). And thanks for the tips on kelaguen (Guamanian dish made of chicken, lemon, onions, and coconut), too.

As for my driver´s license, I might have lost that as well as a couple other pieces of identification. I don´t know what happened to my little booklet that I keep all that stuff in. I´ll scour the house again but I´m pretty sure I lost it or something. That would include my Military ID, my driver´s license, my passport copy, and my visa card thing. And the mission´s money card. I hope I find it.

As for the work here, we´ve made contact with a lot of people that I think will get baptised. I normally don´t like counting my eggs early, but we´ve got one guy who read up to 1 Nephi 8 without us even asking him to. I´m looking forward to seeing his progress. We had two baptisms coming up for this Saturday but I think only one will go through. The one isn´t taking this at all seriously.

Well, Family, I hope you all are doing well and staying out of trouble. My time is about up. I pray for you all every night.

Your Elder in Panamá,
Elder Austin Michael Ascura

Pictures posted by Elder Bryson Alley:

Monday, November 8, 2010

M: 61/P: 50: Rain and Close Call Mugging

Hola Familia,

Well, this week´s been a fairly strange one. But we´ll get to that later.

33 years and you just ran into him, huh? (Referring to a visit with a friend while in Hawaii who I had not seen since July 1977).  What are the odds? That grill place looks like something Yuto would die for. I´m glad to hear that the trip went well. And in not too long, I imagine we´ll all be traveling together again.

I love the Halloween pictures. Apparently, though, no one told me that Dez got braces! What a grin! But I can just imagine how much fun she had goofing off as Superman. The thought of all the bulging muscles makes me chuckle. Carissa´s outfit looks well-done. I should´ve known she´d make her own. Liesy looks very cute in her Mushu outfit. It´s a little odd seeing her as a little kid now and not a toddler. And it looks like Mom´s found a good use for her fur coats, too.

As for Riss and her boy (boyfriend). . . well...

As for Andrew and Sara, he knows them. Kind of funny that she´s watching the blog, that friend of yours. But yeah, it´s the one and the same guy.

I´ll see what´s up with the photos. And I haven´t gotten the Peeps, yet, but mail will be distributed tomorrow, so, we´ll see.

As for things on this end, the work was a little slow this week because it was one of Panama´s independece days. So people were all going to other parts to party and stuff like that. A lot of people weren´t even home. Despite all that, we did find a couple families to teach. We´ve recently just put two more baptismal dates for the 20th. My companion will be able to have his first baptism.

As for other things, I´m sure you guys have heard about the storms over Haiti, right? Well, that hit Colón, too. It rained for three days straight. I´ve never been so wet before. I´ve also never had to walk down the street in ankle deep water before. And I´ve also never had to do all that in my suit. I´ve left it at the cleaners as it got pretty dirty. And through all of it my companion got pretty sick. He had to go to the bathroom to ease his stomache when we got out dinner appointment. First companion I´ve had vomit, yet. I´m feeling alright, but I´m wagering that´s because my immune system is already up to snuff out here. He´s feeling better, though.I also almost got robbed.

That was a strange feeling walking down a street and looking at all the wayward teenagers getting in position to ambush you. Sadly, though, we turned around only to find a dead end to which they followed us. But a local man warned the kids to leave us alone as they started to ask us for small change. They might have had something concealed in their hands as they had their shirts wrapped around them. We got out of it this time but we´ll see what happens next time.

Well, I think that´s the majority of what´s going on for now. I hope you all are doing well and staying out of trouble. Keep studying hard and enjoy the coming holiday season. It´ll be my last one here in Panama. I love you all and keep you in my prayers.

Your Elder in Panamá,
Elder Austin Michael Ascura
PS Dad, in the Kelaguen recipe, are you supposed to be able to taste the coconut? Or is it only for texture? I´m not sure if I´m making it bad.

Pictures Posted by Elder Bryson Alley:  Service project to help build a house for an Elderly Sister.  Read comments by Elder Alley.
Austin and Eddie Gonzalez

Austin and Elder Bryson Alley

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

M: 60/P: 49: Hallowhat???

Happy Halloween Everyone!

I honestly forgot it was Halloween until I passed by a random party that had decorations and signs and all that up. I was literally just thinking, "What are they all dancing for? And why's everyone in orange and black? Are they some sort of company?" I saw the sign for the party. Then when I noticed all the candy I put two and two together.

I'm glad to hear that you all had a good Halloween. How did Liesy's Mushu costume come out? What did Dez, Riss, and her date dress up as? Did you guys do the trunk or treat deal? I haven't gotten the package, yet, but our leaders are a little silly and usually give us mail the day after Preparation Day. As for the seasonal changes, it rains a lot for the moment. After Christmas, summer starts up and it'll just be dry heat. Unless they send me to Boquete, where it's nice and cold.

I'm glad to hear that Grandpa is finally settled in. It is sad that he can't walk now, but you're probably right, Mom. If he can't run around on his own, he probably won't get into as much trouble.

So far, the transfer's been pretty good with Elder Alley. He's very enthusiastic about the work and is ready to work. He's helped to set a good example for me. He's also a pretty funny Elder, too. As a "Bountiful Mormon", it's funny to hear about his totally Mormon high school and all that. He's funny and, once upon a time, was a Star Wars nerd. I imagine I'll probably only be with him for this transfer as it is unusual having two gringos together. I'm hoping he gets the area under his fingers soon.

We've been trying to get long-time investigators progressing this last week. It seems to be working and I think it will be fruitful with time. I sometimes worry if I'm not working fast enough to help people get through the entire conversion process. I'll probably put a little more thought into that to try and improve. We've found a couple more families knocking on doors and they look very positive. I'm really hoping that their enthusiasm is sincere. This next week we'll be focusing on looking for more people to teach as our teaching pool is relatively small. However, this week is a party week, one of the independence days or something, so many people have left to head to the party zones of Panama. I imagine it will mean a lot of empty houses. We'll see what we can do.

I hope that everything on the home front is going well, studies staying sturdy and all that stuff. I pray for you all every night and hope for the best for you all.

Your Elder in Panamá,
Elder Austin Michael Ascura

PS I haven't heard anything about Kyle Wingo or Cory Collins, yet. They HAVE to have been sent already to their missions, right? Have you all heard where they went?

Picture and comments below posted by Elder Bryson Alley:
Elder Ascura tracting in Puerto Pilon, Colon

The picture of the Book of Mormon – that’s in Kuna!  Cool huh!  It’s CRAZY!  And it’s a very super basic language - it doesn’t really translate well at all.  Mostly it’s just conveying ideas rather than concrete sentences.  Like the title is “Mormon Kaiya Purba."  It means...well, Mormon, and then Kaiya means like, language or mouth or writing or communication in general, and then Purba means spiritual or Holy Ghost or something like that, so its like, the “Holy Writings of Mormon”... sort of.  It’s crazy!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

M:59/P:48: New Companion -- An Amercan...Finally!

Hola Familia,

On the topic of your job, Dad, I can´t really say much. I don´t know what it is the Lord wants for you. And really there´s only one way to find out and it involves getting on your knees (referring to contemplating life beyond the Army).  But that´s kind of what life´s about. Out here in the mission, I´ve had to pick up the pieces from so much. So many plans just have the bottom fall through out here. So, we pick up the pieces and try for the next best option. Especially right now´, but I´ll let you know more about that a little later. I hope everything goes well and that you figure out what it is the Lord would have you do.

On Halloween, Mom, they kind of do celebrate it here. However, it´s an American influence thing, like Christmas in Japan. It´s more commercial. Here, the "Walk to Portobelo to Worship the Black Jesus" thing that they did here about four or five days ago is bigger. I don´t really know what it´s all about but a lot of foreigners came to participate. I´ll try to get a picture of the Black Jesus of Portobelo. In any case, I would appreciate the Peeps. And a picture of Elise as Mushu.

I´m very pleased to hear that everyone´s doing so well in school. Although I can´t say that it should surprise me given that their study habits have always been so much stronger than mine were.

I´m glad that you´ve all been enjoying the family time together. I was beginning to wonder if you were going to get lonely, Dad. I look forward to joining in when my time comes.

As for business out here, another transfer has begun and a lot will obviously be changing this transfer. My new companion is Elder Bryson Alley. He´s from Bountiful, Utah and this is his second transfer out here in Panama. He´s a very obedient elder and his Spanish is remarkably developed given his time here. I hope to learn from the example he sets in his dedication.

With all the new ideas that Elder Falabella gave in the last conference, we will be trying a lot of ideas out this change. I´ve almost forgotten how much people just don´t like to talk with missionaries sometimes. They´re so skiddish that it´s obvious that they´re trying to ditch you. It´s frustrating but it makes me chuckle. We´re hoping to get the ward very involved with us this change to really open up the gold mine of teaching. Pray for me that I don´t botch this.

With all the new things going around, what all with a new companion, new ideas, new levels of obedience, and new challenges, I´m hoping that this change will prove to be very fruitful. Already many people have appeared out of almost nowhere to teach. I´m hoping that we can be the teachers that they need. I´m just hoping I can be patient and dilligent enough to endure to that point. We´ll see what happens, I suppose.

We had a baptism two weeks back, I forgot to mention that. She´s a very strong convert and her story is the classic diamond in the rough story. We´re trying to teach part families and friends and neighbors of the members here in our effort to find people to teach. 

Well, I´m doing well, although, I´ll admit I´m a little stressed. I´m sure that things will even out soon, though. Things here are going to be difficult, but I´m looking forward to finally being able to improve the work here a little bit. I´m hoping that everything there goes well and that you all keep moving on and progressing. I keep you all in my prayers and think of you often...but not too often.

Your Elder in Panamá,
Elder Austin Michael Ascura

PS My companion seems to have something called impetigo or something. It´s a skin infection or something. Mom, do you know what it is and how to deal with it?

Monday, October 18, 2010

M: 58 / P: 47: Bad Timing

Well, Family, I don't know how much time I have left. Thirty minutes doesn't allow for much talking so if I wrap up quickly for some strange reason, you'll know why.

Wow, that's an interesting exhibition. And a ship that went down for weather? That's peculiar. Well, maybe not in Sweden. But it is strange that the crew was still fairly preserved. (Referring to a Shipwreck in Sweden that I sent him pictures of)

Enjoy Hawaii. It's like Panamá in weather (Heading to Hawaii for a conference in Nov).

I still keep Grandpa in my prayers. I don't figure I can really comment much on what's going. I hope for the best for him.

Riss with a boyfriend? I imagine he's a pretty nice guy. You can give him the father-boyfriend talk cleaning the pistol, right? I heard it works like a charm. She looks good in the photo. I'll have to hide it away from the other elders.

Braden is certainly still as vain as he was when I left. But he is more ripped. His work is paying off. His grades don't surprise me. And you're probably right, he probably didn't study.

On the thought of photos, I need a mailing address to send them to. I don't know where you guys live. And I'd appreciate a family photo sent through e-mail to show you guys to the families here. My other photos got worn out.

This week Elder Falabela from the first Seventy came to our zone conference. From what I understood, because I had to leave for the majority of the zone confere

FREAK. times up.

Love you all,
Elder Austin Michael Ascura

Monday, October 11, 2010

M: 57/ P: 46: Finally, A Testimony

Hola Familia,

Okay, first things first, apparently the person who was going to send the photos wants to FedEx it now because he gets a good deal on it. So if you want photos, as you all undoubtedly do, you'll have to send me a mailing address.

As for Sweden, I can only imagine how a Guamanian guy would do over there. You're completely out of your elements. And eleven bucks for a Big Mac meal? That's ridiculous! But I imagine that's because everything's in Euros.

I'm glad to hear that Mom's doing well and that Grandpa's a little closer. It's a pity, though, that he doesn't seem to be improving at all.

As for Braden's Chem exam, I'm thoroughly impressed but not at all surprised. That kid's got a good head on his shoulders and has always had an easy time breezing through scholastics. He's just got to make sure he doesn't slip up. As for the ref's bad call (referring to BYU-San Diego State where Braden is an SDSU Fan), I hear a lot of that here talking about soccer. You wouldn't believe how many bad calls there were in this World Cup. And I didn't even see much.

Beethoven's house, huh (Referring to Mike's trip to Bonn, Germany where Beethoven grew up, followed by a week in Stockholm, Sweden, where Mike is currently located)? Interesting. It's kind of interesting to see the place where all that music was made. I listen to his stuff a lot out here.

As far as testimony's concerned, it's been a hard fight but I've finally got it nailed down. I've got one. What more can I say?

As for the baptisms, every mission has its challenges, Dad. You went to Hawaii. I'm here in Panama. They're very different places. I'll try to keep things moving smoothly out here.

As for my companion, I think he's going to try to write you all a letter. We'll see how that rolls out. And I've heard they might try to send him home still for treatment. I'm going to try and find out and I'll keep you all posted. I'm sorry not to have written much this week, with thirty minutes I can never seem to get everything done that I want to. I hope things at home are still going well. Keep working hard and don't let things get too crazy. President Uchtdorf gave a very good talk on that Saturday.

Love from your Elder in Panama,
Elder Austin Michael Ascura

M: 56/ P: 45: Companion Stays Despite Medical Needs

Hey, everyone!

My companion is very relieved to remain here in the mission. But now the trick will be getting him to work hard. He´s very in with the members but he also likes to "stay in with the members". He´s a good worker, though.

I keep Grandpa in my prayers. I don´t know if there´s much else I can do for him. I think the trip for Mom would be good for her.

I, too, warned Braden about letting his guard down. That was my mistake my last semester up there. And I paid for that one. I´m very surprised to hear how busy he´s keeping himself up there, though. You bought a PSP? Well, Dad, I would have absolutely no problems with inheriting that either. Although I´m not too sure, myself, what all the great games series to get for it are.

This week we´ve had a number of people show potential for baptism. Our hopes are high and we´ve got three baptismal dates set. Our challenge with that will be to follow through on those dates and to help our investigators with whatever challenges that will arrive.

As for Conference, I hope you all watched it. Every session was amazing. I took a lot of notes. I even had to listen to one session in Spanish. Although, I didn´t understand nearly as much, though. I was very mentally distracted that session. But it was a very good experience for me.

Well, my time is almost up, so I´ll wrap up. I did get the E-mail from Miu. I´ve already written her. As for the photos, I guess I´ll have to take a look into what´s going on. I hope you all continue working hard and staying true. I love you all and think of you all often.

Your Elder in Panamá,
Elder Austin Michael Ascura

Monday, September 27, 2010

M:55/P:44: Good News For My Companion

Hola Familia,

To start off, my companion, through what I would consider a very lucky stroke, will be staying here. A family from his country has volunteered to pay for his injection treatments. Right now, I´m just waiting for the call that says when he goes in. A little about his condition, the tumor before was benign. It seems to me he´ll have to get these injections regularly to keep this tumor under control. But for the moment, I´ll be staying with him here in Puerto Pilon. As for what the members think of him . . . I´m fairly convinced it´s his energy. The members here didn´t care about elders until this elder got here. But we´ll see what happens.

As for the Island festival, I´m thoroughly surprised about how many Guamanians there were. I had always figured Guamanians to be a very small ethnic group. I´m glad to hear that it was a very good show, though. Pity that I couldn´t see it but I suppose there´s next time. I´ll be waiting to see that shirt.

As for the area, we are teaching people but our teaching pool is somewhat small. We recently had two baptisms. I think that two or three more should happen before the transfer ends. This week was a little slow with my companion sweating bullets about what´s been going on lately. But this week I´m going to see if I can distract him from his problems with work. I´m hoping it proves fruitful. As for my investigators in Las Mañanitas, one Brother finally got baptised and the other ten (the Indian family) are all listening to the Elders. It´s looking very good for at least half the family. As for MTC buddies, I got to run into all five other Panama-bound MTC buddies. Elder Warburton has finally stepped down from Finance Elder and is a District Leader in Chitre, I believe. Elder Stewart and Elder Laidler, I don´t know much about them but they seem to be in good spirits for the moment. Elder Gretsch is the new Finance Elder. Elder Morris is still in San Isidro as a District Leader. They still play soccer for P-Days. All the time, basically. And as for the language, they treat me about the same. It´s just now I understand basically all the Spanish.

As for Grandpa, I hope things improve. I´m still praying for him.

I´m glad to see that the girls are alright up in Oregon and are lending Mom a hand. It always seems like Mom overworks herself. I wish she had a better work schedule but someone´s got to take the nightmare shift, I guess.

As for the photos, I was under the impression that the family had already sent the photos. I guess they were mistaken when they told me they already did it. I´ll jump on that and try to get them sent your way.

Well, I´m not sure I have much else I can say. I´m feeling a little sluggish, but I´m ready to fix stuff up. I hope you all are keeping well up in the States. I pray for you all every day.

Your Elder in Panama,
Elder Austin Michael Ascura

Thursday, September 23, 2010

M: 54/P: 43: Companion's Medical Problems

Note: Interesting that Austin would right just after my last entree.

Hola Familia,

First, I´d like to explain the delay. This last P-Day, the zone decided that they wanted to go to the Free Zone that we have here in Colón Centro. The plan was that we would all get there, meet up at an internet place, grab money and get lunch, and then head over to the Free Zone to buy things we obviously don´t need. I was thinking of getting some shirts and pants. Maybe some shoes. But one of our zone leaders apparently didn´t have the money to buy anything so he herded us back to our area and they played soccer. We arrived late over there and they were leaving the internet place as we arrived. So they told us to use internet later. And this week has been a very peculiar one. In the midst of trying to actually get some missionary work done and a very unorganized schedule along with some very depressing news, I haven´t been able to sit down to write until now. Honestly, I´m not even sure if I technically should be here. Probably not, but I´ll just have to make sure I don´t need to do this again.

I´m really sorry to hear about Grandpa. Honestly, it doesn´t surprise me how the workers there reacted; although I am a little surprised to see that Grandpa´s still got a little fight in him. I don´t know if there´s much I can say, really. I´ll keep everyone in my prayers. 

As for your island festival, you shouldn´t be surprised that the Guamanians might not be . . . authentic. I mean, you are in a country of predominantly haole-folk, no? Without studying, we wouldn´t know the difference between a Hawaiian and a Tongan. Which reminds me, you might be able to meet a friend of mine from the mission. I don´t know if he´d be there but a friend recently finished serving here and returned home to San Francisco. I think the festival might be a little far away to involve him, but who knows? His last name is Haupeakui. I never heard his first name. 

As for gangland, like I said, my part is relatively safe. I´m keeping my eyes open, but I usually don´t have to worry about too much according to my companion. As for the members, they take way too much care of us. Mainly because of how much they all like my companion. He´s a very high spirited Elder. Very friendly. Which concerns me because with all Elder Sanchez´s recent problems, I´m afraid that people have forgotten that he has a companion. It´s funny and frustrating at the same time. They give us rides occasionally. They feed us too much. As for weird foods, I´ve only got pork butt, chicken gizzard, and cow liver on my list. And octopus, if that counts as strange food. Has my palette changed any? Thank goodness I started eating salad every day in the MTC to learn to control myself. Now, I´m basically a normal person in terms of my diet. Boney meats, salads, and all. When I go home, I´ll still be so accustomed to eating chicken off the bone that it won´t be a problem. Salads? Salads here aren´t exactly the greatest. Most people use cabbage and carrots and just slosh a bunch of mayonnaise on top and that´s the salad. I laugh about how far I´ve come, too, Dad.

As for what´s going on here, I´ll explain. This week before was a tad slow. This current week is a bit slower. Why? Becuase there´s been a lot that´s been screwing my companion up. To start off, he had a brain tumor a year back. He had to go home and everything to get it treated by injections. The tumor caused him to have massive migraines and seizures. Doctors said he was fine and that it wouldn´t come back. So he returned to the mission. A year later, or more appropriately, about two weeks ago, he had another seizure. I´ve never treated seizures before. That was a really weird experience, let me tell you. We went from clinic to clinic. Until eventually, we just brought him to the biggest hospital that was close by. 

I had to leave him with the President and Area Seventy for a couple days while he went to go get scanned in a special medical clinic in Panama City. The scans showed signs of a cyst developing that could grow into a tumor again. After receiving a blessing and getting scanned again, scans showed nothing. Then three days later, the hospital called us telling us that they had made a mistake and that he still had the cyst. President Ward was furious. 

So, that shook my companion up a lot. Then my companion got his "Dear John". Now, he´s awaiting a call from the president that will tell us if he goes home and won´t return to Panama to seek free medical care in Costa Rica or if he stays here in Panama to receive a costly treatment of injections again. He and I are both fairly sure that he´s probably going to go home. I feel bad for him in that he really wants to finish his two years here in Panama. Moreso when I remember that all the slack´s going to be on me soon.

Honestly, I feel a little lost at the moment. Nothing too serious, but if he goes home, I´m really going to have to straighten up my act. If I don´t, this area´s going to plummet. I suppose I´m just a little nervous with what I consider as a probable outcome. I´m not very good at managing the companionship still and I´m still not entirely sure how to work effectively. So I suppose this will be my opportunity to see what I´m made of, right?

In any case, I hope you all are doing well and are still going to Church every week. I pray for you all every night.

Your Elder in Panama,
Elder Austin Michael Ascura

M:54/P:43: Hump Day: 1 Year Down and 1 More Year To Go

Well, 16 September was Austin's Hump Day, meaning he has passed his halfway point on his mission and is on a roller coaster heading downhill in terms of time.  They say that once you pass your hump day, the time appears as if it is going by faster and faster as you approach the completion of your mission.  Unfortunately, we did not hear from Austin this week.  This has happened once before and it was because the Zone changed its Preparation Day for the week to accommodate another activity or event such as going to the temple.  However, all was not silent this week.  The Mission Presiden't Wife, Sister Ward, posted pictures of some missionaries taken from over the last several weeks so we were able get a glimpse of Austin...washing dishes and clowning around.  But he looks happy and healthy and that is what matters to us the most.  He did say he was in a crime infested area so we are somewhat nervous for his welfare, but also feel assured of his safety just because he is a missionary in the service of the Lord.

Elder Sanchez is Austin's Companion and is the 2nd guy from the right.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Puerto Pilon, Colon

M:53/P:42: Puerto Pilon, Colon

Hola Familia,

Colón! I´m in Colón! I´m gangsta now!

Well, there´s the new transfer. I´m now in Puerto Pilon, Colón. Colón is generally known in the mission as the crime center of the country. The missionaries in Colón Centro hear the gunfights between rival gangs somewhat frequently. Here in Colón is where I think all the drugs and Jamaicans get into the country. A lot of people get deported from the States back to Colón so a lot of them speak English, too. Fortunately, I´ve been sent to a safer part of the city. My companion is Elder Geovanny Alonzo Sanchez Garcia. Elder Sanchez is Costa Rican. He´s a very upbeat elder and is extremely enthusiastic about the work here. Unfortunately, though, he´s in the city for a little bit on problems of health. It´s been an interesting first week here. I would fill you in but he hasn´t even told his own family, yet, so I´ll tell you all when he does. But for the moment, I´m with the zone leaders. And we´ll be buying a rollaway bed because sleeping on marble tile isn´t so fun. But I wouldn´t let them give me their beds so I can´t blame anyone. But I´ll keep you all posted on what happens here. There´s a lot in the air right now and no one is sure how things are going to turn out.

Well, Dad, if you´re going to be travelling so much, I don´t know if there´s much of a point to getting a home telephone line or cable unless it´s extremely cheap. As for the PS3, I won´t lie, I´d love to inherit that when I get back (hah, fat chance, Kid). But honestly, I´m not sure if it´s the best buy for you. An Xbox 360 can give you about anything a PS3 can at a lower price. A PS3 offers higher game graphics but doesn´t offer too much else other than a couple of exclusive game series that you´re not even into. It´s also a Blu-Ray player, so that counts, too. I´m beginning to forget all my videogame knowledge stuff, so I suppose you could just e-mail one of my buddies and ask them what they think or talk with a store clerk in GameStop on what they think between PS3 vs XBox.

Braden tells me that his classes are pretty easy so far. And that´s EXACTLY what I thought my first semester. But he´s only got one 200 course, so, it shouldn´t be too much for him. I, too, am curious to see how he takes to the college life. I wouldn´t bother him too much, though, on his embarassing parent phase thing, though. Someone in the family has to be the "cool guy", right? But with church, it doesn´t surprise me that the ward´s pretty filled with old people. Lot of people like California for retirement. And with a college so close, I would wager that anyone that can go to the singles ward would.

I´m sorry to hear that Grandpa will be so cut off. But I´m afraid that there´s not much to be done about that now, is there? I hope things go well for him and the family. Katrina´s gettin´ ready to tie the knot, huh? That´s a shame. I kind of had fun telling missionaries I had a single Asian cousin about their age. Oh, well, I´ll live. Where did he serve?

As for schooling I´m thinking that BYU will be mandatory for, at least, the first semester.  But San Diego´s on my list of options. I´m waiting to see what happens as I continue looking through plans.

Well, I´m not sure what else I can talk about. I´ll try to find a member that can help with the pictures but it might not be this week since I´ll be with the zone leaders for a little while. I hope things continue well State-side and that you all are working hard and moving forward. I love you all.

Our missionary apartment in Puerto Pilon, Colon
Your Elder in Panamá,
Elder Austin Michael Ascura

Monday, September 6, 2010

M:52/P:41: Transfers Are Here

Hola Familia,

Well, everyone, the end of the change has rolled around.

The shoes came and are comfy. And they are lasting much, much better than the set I bought here.

As for things at home, I hope things go well for Grandpa, too. Say "hi" to Ernie for me. Liesy´s not entering school, yet, no?

Well, this letter might be short. This internet place doesn´t allow for us to use much time. But regardless, I think I can cover the majority of what´s going on. First off, I´m likely heading out this Wednesday for another part of Panama. Unless I´m training, I´m fairly sure I´m done here in Mañanitas. It was a really great area. This last change I didn´t have any baptisms but I´m fairly sure this next change is going to be extremely successful for whoever is in this area for the next change. This last Sunday, we finally had another family come to church as a family. After months of waiting on them, they´re finally coming to church and I think the wife, who´s never come before, is extremely enthusiastic about it.

Well, my time is almost up. I love you all and hope things are going well. Sorry not to have written more.

Your Elder in Panama,
Elder Austin Michael Ascura

Monday, August 30, 2010

M:51/P:40: Last Week Before Transfer

Hola Familia,

Hey, everyone! This might be my last week here in Mañanitas.

Well, Mom, reading the Book of Mormon isn´t an easy habit to pick up. Even out here in the mission, making sure to read it everyday is a little difficult sometimes. I would expect that with all the responsibilities and hectic matters of life combined with the distractions that the mission normally cuts out, it could be called a Herculean task. But it´s not impossible. And if it ever feels like you can´t seem to find the time to do it by the end of the day, start reading in the morning. If you make the effort to read the Book of Mormon, even just a little bit every day, you´ll find that you can make the time for it without letting everything fall through.

As for the dog, she had a surgery? What happened? I´m glad to hear that she´s getting better.

I´m glad to hear that the adjustment phase is going well over there in Oregon. Good luck with the new job schedule and don´t overwork yourself.

As for San Diego and the schooling, I can kind of imagine what it was like. I would say that the majority of people were leaving when I entered college but there were a couple that were entering. As for the baggage, it was very similar in Idaho and even the MTC. You´d be surprised how much a rich kid gets left with when he finally splits ways with his parents. A coed dorm? I would definitely cock my eyebrow a bit at that but I won´t say anything. I hope that everything goes well.

As for the new car, I could hardly believe the subject of the e-mail with the pictures. BMW, I thought. Impossible! We´re too cheap for that! But I was wrong. Regardless, whatever I get when I get home is alright. I´m not very interested in getting a super crazy car right now. If it runs fine and it doesn´t destroy my wallet, I´m satisfied...even if it´s a Taurus.

Well, time is very short now, so I´ll try to get something from my end down. The new family that we´re teaching, the big one, all live in that one house. All nineteen of them. Some of them came to church this last Sunday, but I´m not sure if they liked it. I don´t know why they decided to have talks on the temple this week. But I´m worried that they´re only listening to us because they like us. That´s the reason they haven´t thrown us out of their house like all the entire neighborhood is telling them to do. What did you do with cases like this, Dad?

Well, my time is spent. I hope all is going well in California and Oregon. Make the effort to read the Book of Mormon and it will pay off. Promise. And as a missionary, I am authorized to make promises like that. I love you all and will write again in a week.

Your Elder in Panamá,
Elder Austin Michael Ascura

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

M:50/P:39: Things Are Picking Up

Hola Familia,

Another week in the field completed.  Well, Mom, I´m sorry to hear that the date´s been set (for Grandpa). I know that this entire ordeal has been difficult for everyone over there.  If anything ever happens to you in your golden years, we´ll take care of you.   Remember, you´ve got a doctor in the making over there...and doctors mean that there´s gonna be green.

Punching out wrong at work? I suppose I can see how that would cut into the paycheck, but what happened? I don´t imagine that punching in and out should be at all that strange if you´re not spending three hours eating.  I´m glad that the new dog is providing good therapeutic help.

As for the teeth, since entering the MTC, I have brushed, flossed, and rinsed every single day; even bought a gum massager. I´m pretty meticuluous and touchy about my teeth. Hope Des doesn´t get too much silver put in.

Still have to come to work to use internet, eh Dad? Tough break. Braden better take advantage of the target practice while he can (referring to XBOX 360 Sniper Game). And as for the new job, I hope the adjustment phase isn´t too rough. You always seem to make things manage. Although telling people that you work with software isn´t as fun as telling them you make weapons. Enjoy your Eurotrips!

You guys are looking for cars? What happened to the gray one we had? I never heard what happened to it. Pick a winner, Dad, we´re talking about my inheritance here.

Braden got invited for Christmas and Thanksgiving? Wow, that guy is just going to be all over the place, isn´t he? That reminds me, though, do you guys already have plans made for my homecoming holidays? I sometimes wonder where I´ll be then.

Workwise, the week was somewhat mixed. We´re having an extremely hard time getting a hold of a lot of people we thought would be excellent baptismal candidates. So I´m getting a little stressed out as all the plans I had are beginning to fall through the floor. However, the week is also with good news as well. We found a house with 19 people in it. We only talked with 9 or so, but those 9 were extremely positive. We made a very good first impression, so I´m hoping that my companion has a ball with that family after I leave (anticipating a transfer in September after 4 months in the area). We´re also working with members a lot to find the incomplete families that have gone inactive. Here in our half of Mañanitas, there´s an unbelievable amount of less active families, so, there´s a lot to be done here. Mañanitas has a lot of potential. I´m actually kind of sad to see it go now.

On a side note, we found, for a second time, a spider about six or seven inches big in the house. It was hiding in my companion´s shoe. He had absolutely no fear of humans whatsoever. So we took that as a hint that we needed to clean the house. And we burned the garbage. The garbage truck never passes here. It´s a national health problem that they´re trying to fix. So we burned ten bags of garbage.

Hmmm. What else can I recount . . . I´m honestly not sure. I always try to pick out things to put in these letters but I can´t remember what it was I wanted to say when I finally sit down. I´ll try making a written list this week to see if that helps. All in all, it was a surprisingly sobering and difficult week. But, as things often do, with perservering persistence, things improved. I´m looking forward to this week.

Hope things are going well back home and I hope you don´t get too lonely out there, Dad. And as a note, if you guys aren´t reading the Book of Mormon, you should be!  Take care, everyone.

Your Missionary in Panamá,
Elder Austin Michael Ascura

Monday, August 16, 2010

M:49/P:38: Slow Week

Hola Familia,

When I had found that there wasn´t any e-mails from you all, I figured that it was for the reasons you all mentioned. Waiting for the internet companies, craziness of settling in and adjusting to the new surroundings, and stuff like that. I don´t take it too personally. I´m pretty chill like that.

Anyways, it´s good to hear from you all. This last week has been fairly interesting in how it´s turned out. Although I feel I´m going to have to stretch a little further to make my plans work here in Mañanitas. But first, about you guys.

Looking forward to the package with the shoes. I bought a pair of shoes but they´ve already got a hole in the bottom. They look nice and work fine. I just still get wet. Regardless, it´ll be nice to have some products from the USA on my feet. I can´t really think of much else to ask for. Most of the things I´d like that I don´t have are things I shouldn´t have. Like a PSP or a 360 or something like that. So I don´t think sending me that would be a good idea. Don´t worry too much about sending me stuff.

As for Grandpa, is he still at the farm? I was under the impression that it was decided that he´d go to the nursing home. I hope he´s still doing alright and that the issue doesn´t tear everyone apart.

As for your new job, Mom, I´m slightly surprised that it would be that big of a jump in the technology. I would´ve thought that the East Coast and West Coast would be pretty even on stuff like that. I hope that the adjustment phase continues to improve.

A new dog? Bailey? I definitely don´t remember that dog. But that´s alright, I guess. If she´s friendly it doesn´t matter. Even if it isn´t the doberman I wanted. I hear she´s well received in the family.

As for San Diego, glad to hear that your adjusting well out there and that you´re partying it up with your buddies. And you found a Chamorro grill out there? Wow, I never would´ve thought you´d find that nearly anywhere.

Spice up life? Whoa, that sounds like a mid life crisis line if I ever heard one. Wait, you´re going to be out there for three years? I definitely missed that detail; I thought it was only one. Oh boy. Well, I wouldn´t be opposed to a sweet ride (referring to the 'toy car' I am planning to buy). Buuuuuut I´ll be switching the music out (Guamanian music) on that baby in a heartbeat. Not everyone on campus has to know I´m Chamorro.

You guys let Braden go to New Jersey alone? Wow, you weren´t kidding when you said you would be stricter with me than everyone else, were you? Anywho, hope that he enjoys his time out there and doesn´t do anything foolish. I would imagine things would get pretty quiet out there, though, without Braden asking for money. But you can never play too much 360, right? I recommend the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 though. Braden bought it, so it should be somewhere out there. I´ll have to show you all how it´s done out there when I get back, though. I´ll school you guys without even warming up.

Fishing, huh? You just can´t keep away from the ocean, can you Dad? Kind of like my mission president. He was a big surfer before coming out here. Anywho, don´t get too sick. I don´t know how deep sea fishing would be.

Well, I´m definitely starting to run low on time. I´ll make sure to use the ideas that are possible in this area. I´m thinking I´m thinking that I´m starting to get the hang of teaching better.

The work here? Summed up as "I need to visit more houses." Hope you all are keeping well. Sorry to not talk much about stuff out here.

Your Elder in Panamá,
Elder Austin Michael Ascura

Lunch after interviews with the Mission President

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

M:48/P:37: Looking to Spice Up Teaching Methods

Hola Familia,

To start, there´s a little good news in one of the families in this area. I don´t know if I mentioned it before, but there was a family we visited a while back. However when we visited, the lady basically threw us out because she said she wouldn´t have anything to do with the Church. I had figured that she was resolutely never going to come back and considered looking into those papers of renunciation. She´s a fairly stubborn lady by nature and I figured we would never be able to get in the door to explain. But I was mistaken. And I´m quite glad I was. On a whim, we passed by just to see what would happen. Turns out she really missed the Church and had no hard feelings. She just couldn´t continue to pay tithing without a job. So we quickly explained everything about tithing and she´ll be coming back to church this Sunday. And we´ll be teaching one of her older sons. High five for finding future priesthood bearers!

Oh, I just remembered. I recently recieved a package from the ward in New Jersey. It was labeled "Scripture Care Package". It was filled with candy and other assorted foods/other general care needs. But the best part was all the scriptures attached to everything. There were more puns than I thought you could find. I mean, those were jokes on the same level of those that Dad tells. And I happen to really like puns and bad jokes. It was a really pleasant surprise and I´ll have to now do something particularly special to show my gratitude. I´m still working on what it´s going to be.

This week, work-wise, was really slow. Many of the appointments fell through or were very late and the schedule got thrown all over the place. Combined with a little laziness made for a mediocre at best week. But that´s the miracle of repentance, isn´t it? I suppose I´ve got one more scolding to go in the week for it but the next week will be much better. On the plus side, however, we are finding more people to teach and finding more ways to get the members involved in the work. So the week wasn´t a complete loss. Regardless, things still need to improve.

Ah, other good news. One of our recent converts didn´t die. We were almost sure he was going to. He had gotten sick and we haven´t seen him for the last two months. But he seems to be better, although we couldn´t find him on Sunday to bring him to church. Regrettably, he hasn´t given up his smoking. He still hides a pipe in his back pocket. But we´ll be teaching his wife soon and she´ll be able to help us with that. Regardless, it´s good to see him again. Most people don´t do so well with dengue fever. I wouldn´t think that elderly people would live through it.

Well, I´m sorry that my letter this week is lacking in content. I could complain about a member who´s constantly pestering me to play Warcraft 3 with him but I don´t think it´s a good way to use the space. Just for a reference his name starts with "N" and rhymes with "Noriel". Whoops, I totally did not just say his name right there. He´ll be reading this later. I´m not sure why, but he likes reading my letters now. I hope you all are keeping well and staying strong. I´ll look for more to write in my letter next week.

Your Elder in Panamá,
Elder Austin Michael Ascura

PS: Hey, Dad, my lessons are starting to get boring. I could use a tip on pepping it up a bit. And I know you´re good for it.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Panama Mission Blog

Sister Ward (Mission President's Wife) sent out an email announcing the new Mission Blog that will contain pictures of the mission.  We were able to catch a couple of pictures of Austin, one of which he is participating in a Samoan Slap Dance along with other missionaries, including President Ward.

Elder Ascura during one his missionary training sessions

Missionaries learning how to slap dance.  I guess this is one exception to the rule when missionaries can "shake it"!

The Mission blog is located at:


Monday, August 2, 2010

M:47/P:36: New Companion From Mexico

Hola Familia

Glad to hear that Dad and Braden made it to San Diego without any problems. I didn´t expect anything bad to happen, but even so it´s good to hear it´s all fine.
As for housing, Dad, don´t feel too bad. It could be worse. You could be living in houses with tin roofs. They aren´t that bad, but they don´t keep out all the critters and the like. This won´t be the first time that we´ve been financially stretched, so, I´m confident we´ll come out on top without many scratches.

As for the indians, I´ve heard that the normal Panamanians consider to the indians´ hygiene to be generally . . . low. I haven´t gotten to know any of them yet, so I can´t say, but it honestly wouldn´t surprise me with all the rumors.

As for cooking, I had no idea how it was going to turn out. The members all loved it and now all of them are clamoring for recipes and having me come over and cook for them sometime. I´m thinking about just cooking at a church activity to make it simpler. I don´t know if it´s the same kelaguen you make at home, but I liked what I made. I´ll make sure to cook some for you and we can compare.

As for the family splitting up, I know it´s hard for you. But it´s not for too long so we shouldn´t need to sweat it out too much. We´ve been doing this for years now. Liesey looks to be a striking similar little person with me, huh?

Working with international projects, huh? Now I get to wow the Panamanians even more with what my dad does. By the way, they still don´t think you´re my dad. Hope the new office has a nice view and that the guy who has to frisk you is gentle. That sounds like a pretty high level responsibility.

And Mom, don´t worry so much about not writing me last week. I enjoy hearing from you but I understand you´ve got some hefty stuff on your plate for the moment. Even if you didn´t write me, I know that not a day goes by that you don´t think about your 6´2" baby.

As for the work, the first week of another transfer is down and things are looking pretty up. My new companion is Elder Andres Chuc from Yucatan, Mexico. He´s got almost the exact same amount of time in the mission because he, like Elder Fernandez, got here the same day I did. He´s a pretty likable companion and we´ve gotten along very well for the first week. We´ll see if this keeps up.

We´re running low on baptismal candidates and it looks like we might not be able to find many for August. We´re waiting on a lot of extended family of recent baptisms to get married. The majority of the people we teach are very positive up to now. I´ll make sure to keep you updated on that. We´re also making a lot of effort to involve the members to try and solve the inactivity problem. That combined with trying to gain the bishopric´s trust is becoming a little tough. But I´ll get used to it, I imagine.

As for funny stories, today I got my hair cut. And the plastic part definitely fell off right before he started cutting. And now I´ve got a military haircut. I´ll try to think of funny experiences over the next week. A lot of this week has just been trying to introduce my companion to everyone.

Well, I hope everyone is doing well and moving forward. This transfer is likely going to be pretty tough, but I think if I´m going to finally break my year mark, it´s going to have to be a make or break period to see how the rest of my mission is going to end.

Your Elder in Panamá,
Elder Austin Ascura

Monday, July 26, 2010

M:46/P:35: The Work Moves On

Hola Familia,

Well, another transfer has drawn to a close. Now, this one might be a little short as I´ve been a little drawn out in using my time today.

First off, an explanation. The possibility of extending my mission? Someone else did it. I don´t know why but upon thinking about the idea it sounded interesting. I´m still not sure on it. In any case if I did do it, it would allow you to visit the country at a time that wasn´t winter. And the winter rain here makes activities a little troublesome. Secondly, making a member mad. I joked with her and left the room "angry"-like. She got angry. According to her grandchild, though, she´s waiting for us to come back and is no longer angry. My companion says she´s likely trying to make us squirm and beg for forgiveness. However, she does not know how prideful and stubborn we Ascuras are! I´ll keep you informed on the situation.

As for the shoes, I would appreciate it. I´m probably going to buy another pair soon here simply because I´ve worn the two I have ragged.

Pictures? I´m going to try and get another disc made and get it in the mail. Plus could you send me the e-mail address of Bishop Nielsen? I imagine you still have it. I´d like to at least send one letter to him and the ward in New Jersey.

As for achievements for the week, we had another baptism, although not really a convert baptism. Just a member who had a daughter of nine years of age. The interesting thing, though, is that I had a hole in my pants. You could fit a football through it. Imagine me running around organizing the baptism with a notebook covering my backside. It was pretty funny. Stories from the mission, right? The next transfer should yield a great deal of success, so I expect more stories for you all soon.

As for the cooking experience, that was a lot of work. And food. We had enough to eat for two days. Are you sure that was for four people? In any case, the members here loved the kelaguen (Chicken mixed with coconut, onions, peppers, and lemon) and the soup (chicken and vegetables). I´ll be making Spam and eggs today for a different family.

Well, my time is basically run. Sorry for not writing so much. I hope you all are keeping well. I´m learning to enjoy the silly hardships that come with the mission. Sorry to hear the things are getting so rough up there. Good luck in California. You all are in my prayers.

Your Elder in Panamá,
Elder Austin Michael Ascura

Monday, July 19, 2010

New Mission President

Craig Lindsay Ward, 62, and Lonna Adamson Ward, five children, Panama Panama City Mission; Huntington Beach 4th Ward, Huntington Beach California Stake. Brother Ward is a counselor in the stake presidency and a former counselor in the California Long Beach Mission presidency, bishop and counselor, high councilor, seminary teacher and missionary in the North Argentine and France Paris missions. Retired owner/manager, Wards Furniture. Born in Long Beach, Calif., to Karl Moroni and Ethelyn Lindsay Ward.

Sister Ward serves as a stake Young Women secretary and is a former ward Young Women president, counselor in a ward Relief Society presidency, ward Primary president, ward music chairman and family history consultant. Born in Idaho Falls, Idaho, to Dale and Inez Howard Adamson.

M: 45/P: 34: In the Dog House

Hola Familia

Well, Mom, I didn´t think it would take you too long to get a hold of a job. You already did it one time and I would expect it to be much harder in New Jersey than out there in Oregon. As for Grandpa, I hope everything goes well in taking care of him. I´ve heard that he seems to be doing a little better. Your efforts look to be rendering results. I also hope you don´t overwork yourself. You´ve got a habit of doing that.

Adventures for the week . . . well, Dad, you aren´t the only guy in the dog house. A couple weeks back I made a recent convert very angry by accident. Yesterday we visited to deliver a letter from the missionary who baptised her. She closed the door on us without even talking. So we sent the letter in with her grandchild when he left to buy something at the corner store. I honestly don´t think she should´ve gotten angry, but we´ll see if the letter softens her up a bit. I´m hoping so, but apparently she´s a loose cannon and gets upset extremely easily according to my companion.

Speaking of cooking, I had intended to cook for that family here today, but my companion, as he often does, scheduled something else for the day without asking me anything. So I´ve decided to buy the ingredients today and cook Wednesday when normally they´d serve us dinner. I´m going to try the Guam Soup and Kelaguen. Which reminds me, getting coconut all nice and fine like you do it at home is really hard without that stick of yours. I practiced with a cheese grater. Takes a long time.

I´m glad to hear that the house work is moving along. I saw the two pictures and noticed that you´re starting to grow out the beard. I almost didn´t recognize you for a moment. Landscaping and stuff like that is often what we do for service here. Moving cinderblocks for the house wall, digging a hole for a septic tank, moving the dirt from the hole away from the hole, cutting lawns with machetes . . . stuff like that. I look forward to seeing the Ascura abode soon.

Hearing that the girls have transitioned well doesn´t surprise me. It becomes second nature with all the practice we´ve had. Uh-oh, time´s running short. Gonna have to work fast. Des has to remember the fat lady´s part so she can show me when I come home (referring to a skit Des did at Girl's Camp). As for Braden, I´m pretty unsure, too. Don´t let go too much.

Well, I´m about out of time. There never seems to be the time I want when I have a lot to say.

I´ve actually got 14 months left. I counted the changes wrong. I´ve actually recently seriously considered lengthening my time. Still thinking on that. As for the baptisms, it´s not the results that bother me but the process.

Love you all and hope you´re keeping well.

Your Elder in Panamá,
Elder Austin Micahel Ascura

Monday, July 12, 2010

M: 44/P:33: More Baptisms

Hola Familia,

Glad to hear that things are going well with the settling in. I´m beginning to forget things about the States but I remember that the moves were always hectic. I hope that you get all the things you need done by the men before they head out. After all, it´s only fair, right? I did it when I was at home.

I´m glad to hear the neighbors are nice. The dog business doesn´t surprise me much, though. Here, the people don´t even care. But then again, there´s dogs everywhere. My vote probably doesn´t count for much for the dog, but I vote Doberman. They´re nicer than you think, Mom. And they´d keep the neighbors´ dog away, I think. But if you end up with a wiener dog and the brownies don´t work, I think a bear trap would be most effective.

I´m also glad, although not at all surprised, to hear that the family is so well-received for the big move. Although, I have always thought that it was strange that we were so much older than everyone else. Except Aunt Laura´s kids. They´re bigger than I am now. Who´d have thought?

As for Spanish speakers in the ward, a lot of people go Latin-side for their missions, so it doesn´t surprise me that there´ll be a lot of us. But it´ll provide good practice after the mission, something that a lot of missionaries lament about as their Spanish leaves them. We have actually found a couple more families. I expect two baptisms by the end of July and a possible six or so in August. The rest of the prospective baptisms will likely be in September. I will also likely be here in Tocumen for the next transfer. My companion, Elder Luquez has been here longer than I have and is much more likely to be transfered out. The work here has picked up, but we need to shape up as a companionship to accomodate all the people who seem ready to be baptised soon. We aren´t visiting them as often as we should, but I´m hoping that we´ll remedy that this week.

As for the cooking experience, I´ll likely do it this coming Monday. I´m not yet completely prepared and I´d like to maybe test a couple things before actually serving them the dishes. I´ll keep you posted on how well-received it is. But yesterday, we had a bit of an activity after church for some very positive investigators and some recent converts. We met at a member´s home and had pizza while watching The Testaments. Afterwards we played a couple games that I´d never heard of. I had to do the macarena as a punishment in one of them. They practically cheated to make me do it. Too bad they didn´t get it on camera. They said I did it well. It was fun, but it cut into a lot of the work time.

Well, I´m drawing to the end of my rope on what I can write for this last week. I hope that everything continues smoothly and that you all are keeping well and strong in the faith. I´ll make sure to keep Grandma and Grandpa in my prayers.

Your Elder in Panamá,
Elder Austin Michael Ascura

Monday, July 5, 2010

M:43/P32: New Mission President

Hola Familia,

So the move is finally underway, huh? Well, it´s about time. Glad to hear everything´s more or less gone smoothly. I imagine that it´ll be even more fun trying to explain where I´m from now that the family will be in two parts. With the big Argentina-Germany game that passed by, everyone talks about it with me because I was born in Germany. USA might have lost, but, hey, I guess I still qualify for the winning team, right? I imagine that this World Cup will be German now, but we´ll see. Anyways, it always does seem to turn out funny how we end up missing the things we didn´t like when we had them. But it´s not the first time we´ve moved, so I imagine that you all will be just fine.

As for Liesy, I´m pretty sure she´ll have me lauging a great deal when I finally head back home. I´m kind of curious to see in what other ways she starts resembling us.

Dez, that little player. All cool while the boy sobs it out, huh? Heartbreaker.

As for Oregon, I think it´ll feel real strange not to head back to that farm to visit the family. I might not have had the one home thing but I think I´d still feel nostalgic returning to areas I´ve been before. That place has a lot of visits invested in it. It´ll be kind of sad to see it go. I hope Grandma isn´t getting overworked with Grandpa. I´m glad that you´ll be able to help out out there, Mom. As for the job, I just hope that the initial weeks of the job isn´t as troublesome as it was in New Jersey. I think that if you can get your foot in the door, you´ll make friends just fine out there. Even if no one says so, you´re a likable person. I learned to be sincere from you.

Anyways, about the news of the mission. President Madrigal has officially left and been replaced with President Ward here. We will have our zone conference tomorrow and interviews soon afterward to get to know him. I´ve heard from someone that he plays hard ball, which is a big contrast from what I had expected: a more relaxed president, even though President Madrigal was pretty laid back. But that´s just rumors. I suppose we´ll see soon.

Right now, it´s raining pretty hard, but it rains on and off in the winter here in Tocumen. Apparently the closer you are to the ocean, usually the more mild the winters are. I´d like to visit Santiago in the winter, though, given as it always seems like there´s storms out there. Just as a note, Dad, if you all are shooting to get me out of here in July or August, that means you´ll be touring the country in winter time. With lots of water. Just something to consider.

As for the work, we´ve had a number of very probable baptisms arise recently, but I don´t know if if we´ll get everything taught and down in this change. We have an entire family that says they´re ready, so it´s a bit of a big deal. Whole families are hard to find. Apparently, they were being taught right before I got here but I had only visited their house once. I´m curious to see what brought about thte change in heart. Other than that, work has been a little slow, though. We need to get back to knocking doors and finding more people to teach. We´ve exhausted so much of our investigators that our usual tactic of always heading to the regular houses doesn´t provide enough work for the day. I expect that this week will be a little better. I hope so, at least.

Thanks for the recipes, Dad. I´ll see if I can plan with the family for a day to do this and we´ll see if I´ve got the Ascura touch with cooking.

Well, I hope everyone´s doing well with all the travel and change. Don´t forget to pray! :D

Your Elder in Panama,
Elder Austin Michael Ascura

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Mission Week: 42/Panama Week 31: Week 3 Again

Hola Familia,

I´m glad to hear that the move is progressing. The ending stress of cleanup is always good. It reminds me when everyone ditched me in Idaho with the apartment to clean before the winter. As for Braden´s graduation, it sounds like you all had quite the field day on that one. I guess that just makes it more memorable, right? Congratulations on finally making it out of high school, Braden. Enjoy your summer.
As for pictures, I´m finding more opportunities to take them but sending the CDs hasn´t been an easy thing to get to. Our P-Days have been disappearing a lot faster than I plan. I should be able to get everything in the mail this coming Monday. But I make no promises. I´m horrible for remembering this kind of stuff. In my own defense, the computers and internet in this country are absolutely horrible. And we only have thirty to forty minutes a week to get our stuff done. It is mathematically difficult to send pictures.

As for the work out here, we´ve more or less exhausted our pool of "easy baptism" investigators. We´ve hit the point where we have few options other than to knock doors now to find people to teach. A good number of the people we´re currently teaching love the message we bring . . . but aren´t married to their "spouse". I tell you what, this problem is going to kill me because it´s about the most common problem you find. Everyone out here shacks up and starts the family but they forget to get the paperwork done.

Among one of the more interesting things coming around out here is the coordination between the ward and the missionaries. With all the recent baptisms, it´s becoming necessary to involve members in our teaching to insure that the recent converts don´t inactivate the moment my companion leaves, given how attached everyone is to him. The bishop has obviously been a little irritated by the lack of members we take with us but he hasn´t done much to fix that as far as I can tell. However, this week we received a list of sisters´ hours that they can come and visit with us. We´ll see if things improve and the missionary work here skyrockets as it should or if this is going to be a dead horse to recussitate. We´ll see.

Ah! I almost forgot to ask about this. Apparently the members in this area are very accustomed to missionaries cooking a meal for them before leaving. Given that a lot of gringos pass through here, I´m not sure I want to cook them a stereotypical American dish. Do you have any suggestions on a meal they won´t forget? I´ll likely need a recipe and I´d appreciate it if the instructions are really specific.

Another random question from the members, do we have malt drinks in the States? I´ve never tried one until I got here, but I think we should have something of the sort.

I was going to ask about something regarding missionary work but I apparently didn´t write it in my planner so it will have to wait for the moment. I hope you all are doing alright and that you guys don´t overstress yourselves out as you finish the move. Good luck with everything.

Your Missionary in Panama,
Elder Austin Michael Ascura