Monday, March 29, 2010

Mission Week 28/Panama Week 19: Senior Companion--Some Unique Challenges

Hola Familia,
Alright, this last week has made a couple things clear.  This change is probably going to test me beyond what I've already gone through.  First, your speaking opportunity (at Youth Conference).  I think that's way over the top and no one's going to forget this one for a while.  It's a pity I'll have to miss it.  You should get it filmed and put it on youtube or something.  Sounds like it will be quite the spectacle. (Mike will be using some soldiers as a demonstration of courage-an eye opener and attention getter).

Now, some really simple stuff from the mission.  My companion's name is Jose Fernandez from Costa Rica.  He and I have had a bit of a rough start together, given the condition of the area and some other lovely complications, but I think we're going to get along better and better as the change continues.  And, he's not the senior companion; I am!  And no one told me until the day after he got here.  But he's a real laid back missionary that likes to work using his smarts.  he works hard, although a tad unorthodox, and is going to teach me a ton about organizing the mission work here.  He was transferred from Colon, which is basically the Gangster Central of Panama and as such, speaks Maliante, or Panamanian Spanish Gangster.  No one but other Maliante Speakers understand it.

Second off, our friends getting to know the church are numbered somewhat few, and all have quite a bit of work for us to do.  But I'm confident that with my new companion, we'll be able to get things done a little better.  We have about seven houses that let us in regularly and maybe another ten that we'll be checking up on in the coming week.

So Dad.  Remember that lovely little bit about the sister missionary you sent me? Well, I basically just got the same, except she's a sister from Nicaragua.  Since I'm the only person of the four missionaries here that knows the area, I'm basically the leader.  And we both know that when there's problems of any kind, Dad, that it's all the leader's fault, even if he didn't plan it or wasn't informed.  Everyone here has done a thorough job of reminding me of that during this last week.  I have to show them where they eat, where to buy stuff, their area, and tell them things that my companion didn't tell me before he left. 

Given that the culture's different, she was present in my first area and still tries to treat me like an idiot.  She's an overbearing female.  All in all, I'm trying to use service, patience, and caution to try and get along with her, but she doesn't make things easy.  And the fact that I've already had to put up with a bunch of foolishness before she had even arrived doesn't help.  Between showing her where to eat, how to get around, and the actual task of organizing my part of the area, all the while trying to institute new ideas in the ward to try and boost the mission work has proven to be a difficult task.  If things get any more difficult, I might start losing my patience and I'm trying extremely hard not to explode out here. 

Aside from the stress from some of the aforementioned tasks and then a little more with other things I'm not thinking of, I'm actually in fairly high spirits.  My Spanish is good enough that I'm now able to understand about 90% of anything said to me with almost no problems.  I actually interpret for the new American Sister in our area, Hermana Kennedy, sometimes.  She's quite likeable and will get along well in the zone, I think. Better than me, at least.  My teaching is getting clearer and I'm generally able to do what I want without depending on anyone. 

As for the pictures, I'll work to get a data stick filled up for you all this week, and I'll write the ward a letter and send it in a second email soon. 

Ahora, en espanol, si todo de lo que escribio es totalmente suyo, soy impresado.  Casi perfecto y esta usando tensos muy dificiles.  Cuando you regrese a Los Estados Unidos, voy a hablar mejor espanol que los Mexicanos.  Yo creo que las oportunidad de servir una misio seria maravillosa para Madre, por causa do todo lo que ha dicho a cerca de su deseo que ella habiera servido.  Quien Sabe? Carissa, Tambien.  Todo esta bien, mas o menos, aqui y no hay muchos grandes problemas sino arreglar este area.  Buino, voy terminarlo esta carta porge no hay mucho mas tiempo.  Siga practicando su espanol, Padre.  Esta progresando.

Well, I didn't get to all I wanted, but there will hopefully be time for it all next week.  Take care and work hard.  You all are in my prayers.

Your Elder in Panama
Elder Austin Michael Ascura

Monday, March 22, 2010

Mission Week 27/Panama Week 18: Back on Track--Sisters Move In The Area

Hola Familia,
Alright!  That's more like it, everything working smoothly.  First off, thanks for all your help getting the entire mail account thing switched up and taken care of.  I was beginning to worry that I'd have a real three ring circus rigging up a new email account.

Let's see, now; where to begin.  Ah, almost forgot.  Happy Birthday, Riss (Carissa).  I know it's a bit late, but I did remember it was your birthday when the day came.

Well, Braden, I am thoroughly impressed by your progress.  That is a pretty tight setup you got working; keep up the good work. (no idea, what he is talking about with Braden. That's a secret brother association going on there).

Spencer (Elder Broomhead in Panama) and his search for Jews: I don't know what it is with him and Jews.  Glad to hear that he's doing well.  And almost got pickpocketed???  Man!

I'm glad to hear that almost everything has been smooth sailing in the home life and hope you all continue to work hard and watch out for each other.

Now, some current events.  In our area, we had a house we lived in and a house that was being prepared for a different pair of missionaries.  Because the last missionaries were relocated for emergency changes, we were sent two Sisters (Sister Missionaries), one who is not yet here and another who was in my first area.  But, because of the neighbors of the new house, the mission had us move all the things from one house to the other and viceversa.  And I don't mean just my clothes and bags; I'm talking bed frames, mattresses, the regrigerator, tables, etc.  After that, we had to assemble the Sisters' beds, which are really tiny as a bunk bed.  I'll have to get the one Sister settled in today and make sure that all my stuff is taken from the house.  I'll likely be called for anything the Sisters need. I doubt that I'll get a thank you for what I've already done for them; oh well.  At least we had the help from a Brother in the ward.

As for today, Elder Castillo left and I have a new companion, Elder Fernandez from Costa Rica.  He arrived here in Panama the same day as me.  He's the senior companion and the new District Leader. I'm curious to see how he works.

Well, I'm running low on time.  Remind me about the experience (that changed his attitude) and anything left you'd like me to do in the next e-mail.  I don't know if I'll remember everything.  You all are in my prayers and I wish you all the best.

Your Elder in Panama,
Elder Austin Michael Ascura

Monday, March 15, 2010

Mission Week 26/Panama Week 17: Glitch in the Email

Last week the church upgraded the LDS email accounts and I think there are some glitches in the system.  We sent Austin 3 letter emails over the week that never made it to his email account, which I verified by logging onto his email account.  As you can see, there is some stress and frustration, not just for him, but for us as well, when he doesn't receive mail.   But we sent him a pouch mail thru, explaining the delays in email, and hope it gets to him by next P-Day.

Hola Familia,
Did you write me this week?

I'm not sure there's much to write about this week, so this one will be very brief.  Regardless, I didn't have any messages in my mailbox, so did you all write me at all or what?  Anyway, if you all have successfully dealt with my account change thing, please verify if it works and send me the log in information.  I can't seem to get in from here.

I received a call from the Mission President this week and it seems I will be staying in Chorrera.  However, I think he might have implied that I won't be receiving a new companion, which is slightly odd as Elder Castillo already has three or four changes here.  Sisters will be coming to replace the two elders pulled from here and will be taking our house.  So we'll have to move our stuff to the other house we've been preparing.  I guess we should have made it a little nicer. 

Well, sorry for the lack of pictures this week.  I forgot my camera.  I'll get them next week.  Hope you all are keeping well; you are in my prayers.

Your Elder in Panama,
Elder Austin Michael Ascura

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Mission Week 25/Panama Week 16: Almost Six Months and More Shuffling of Missionaries

Dear Family,
I don´t know what it is with Panamanian Internet; It hates sending my letters. I´m going to hope this one doesn´t get eaten.

First current events. This P-Day we actually did something different as a zone. We went on a rather long and upward hike. The view was really great from up top but, sadly, I had forgotten to bring my camer with me. After the hike, we went to the beach. Although there wasn´t much to do as we´re not allowed to swim as missionaries. Some played football; others just sat around. Elder Oliver, another Gringo, and I made a sizable sandcastle. I´ll try to get a copy from him this next P-Day.

Today, two big things happened. The first is that Elder Abarca, our third man was pulled out. He is headed in to Santiago, around the western central part of the country. The assistants came and picked him up at four o´clock in the morning. The second is that our landlady, a small mousey elderly lady from the ward, had us pack up all our stuff and move it to the second half of the house. Our house is divided in two and she rents the two sections out seperately. The second half was recently vacated. I´m not exactly sure why she had us do it, but my companion has a fairly convincing theory. The second half, our current quarters, is smaller and also a little uglier in that it doesn´t have a lot of little touches here and there to make living there easier, such as a toilet paper holder or places to hang my shirts. So he supposes that she´s fixing to nab a tennant as soon as possible by giving someone else the nicer half of the house. Effective, but sadly, we get the short end on that one.

As for an update on the work, things look like they´ll be kind of slow here. This last week, while interesting, was very slow, probably due to being in a trio. We have no set baptismal dates now and will probably be working to set them this coming week. I´m having a lot of problems with people that just want to "listen to the word of God" here, Dad.  Everyone here thinks we´re representatives of God but they also think that everyone else is, too. Everyone here just thinks everyone´s right and therefore they don´t need to change. Your thoughts on the matter?

I´m a little unsure what they´re going to do with our area now that Elder Abarca´s gone. With the entire area as our area again and Elder Castillo fairly due to be changed, this one´s in the air. My expectation (and hope) is that the entire area will remain one area and that they will bring me a new companion. Whether I´ll be training or the junior companion again, I´m not sure. Around the six month mark, many Gringos start training the newcomers, but I expect that I´ll be the junior companion again. They might bring another companionship here and keep Elder Castillo here and have each of us train one of the newcomers to the area. Who knows? Either way, I think the next change will hold a lot of responsibility and pressure on me. But I think I´m ready for it.

On to business at home, I´m glad to hear that the house is already going to be prepared for living.  I hope that the house and all related dealings work out well. I hope moving and readjusting to a new school isn´t too hard, either, especially for Riss. Those are a tough two years to adjust with. While I´m glad you want to take my advice, I would like to point out one thing on what I said. What I intended to emphasize wasn´t giving more freedom to everyone, although that´s certainly a related topic. It was more of learning about what motives, dreams, and desires your kids have and helping them to achieve what makes them happy.  Between you and me, Dad, we got a lot of differences in opinion, but I still think you and I are both looking at the same end goal, more or less. What´s different are the details in how that´s accomplished. Regardless, I think those are acceptable conditions. I´d just like to add here that my attitude on some things might have changed a bit due to an odd experience. I might share that in the next e-mail, though.

I promise I´ll send pictures this coming week and hope you all are doing well and working hard. And Dad, I still remember those five dollars you gave me when I was just a little boy (referring to our talk about feeling sorry for ourselves and the hardships we experience, which when compared to others who are less fortunate than us, actually aren't as bad as we thought). And I still think you´re the best Dad in the world.

Your Elder that was in a trio but now isn´t again,
Elder Austin Michael Ascura

Monday, March 1, 2010

Mission Week 24/Panama Week 15: Another Trio--MTC Buddy is Transferred

It is interesting how the new missionaries are shuffled from place to place without notice.  It was extremely difficult for Austin to move so frequently while trying to plant his feet firmly in the language, mission, and work.  The frequent moves especially with Austin struggling this early in his mission was a great concern for us. But especially at times like these when we don't see the big picture, it is important to recognize, trust, and sustain the Mission President and pray that the frequent moves were by divine inspiration.

Hola Familia,
Guess what?  I'm in a trio again.  Elder Morris just had emergency changes and is getting flown to the other end of the country.  So the area we worked so hard to get ready for two sets of Elders is now back in our hands again: Elder Castilo, Elder Abarca, and me.  I think things will be kind of weird this change with two Latinos and a Gringo, but who knows?  I'm not even sure that this will be the norm for the change, either, but for now, we three cover all of Chorrera Centro again.

As for other things, we had three baptisms this last week.  Two were a somewhat elderly couple that we had been working with forever to get married, stop drinking coffee, and then be ready for baptism.  The other was a youth related to a member who asked to be taught by the missionaries.  As for future baptisms, I think we might have another two soon, but I'm not sure.  We'll see.

I got the package this week (the one we sent in the 2nd week of December).  So far, I'm not in dire need of anything, so if you want to send anything, just know it takes a little while.

Well, time's running short and I still have to write a response to Riss, so I hope you all are keeping well.  You all are in my prayers.

Your Elder in Panama,
Elder Austin Michael Ascura

PS: Austin did not mention the quake in Chile, his ability to write after the quake is an indication he is safe and well.