Monday, May 10, 2010

Dia De La Madre (Mother's Day)

Austin called us about 9pm on Mother's Day, which urned out to be Family Day since we had all the kids listening to him on speaker phone, while anxiously awaiting their turn to speak with their missionary.  We talked for almost two hours.  Mission bed time is 10:30 pm and we talked til about 10:45, but he said it was okay to talk past bedtime for this special occasion.  We even had a 3 way conversation with his grandparents.  We were all thrilled to talk and to hear him speak in such fluent Spanish and all the kids were in awe and are now inspired to continue with their Spanish classes.  They have 6 months to practice for when he calls again in December, and 15 months for when he comes home from his mission to perfect what Spanish they can learn by then. 

Austin said the area he is in now, the Tocumen (pronouced Tuh-coo-min, as we were corrected several times), is a pretty rough area in terms of violence and crime.  His area in the  Mananitas (Man-ya-nitas) neighborhood is divided into half city and half jungle so it makes for an interesting experience.  He mentioned there are over 750 members in his ward but only about 150 members are active and a significant number of inactive members are involved in drugs.

There is also some gang and criminal activity in his area.  Recently, the District Leaders, who live close by, had a fire bomb thrown at their door and burned the door down and parts of the apartment.  Normally, missionaries have pictures of Christ posted on their door or windows and are widely recognized and respected in the community, and therefore, go untouched.  So this fire bomb incident was a mistake (we hope).  Austin does not feel threatened, which gives us some relief. 

Austin did expound a little on his transformation.  Since he came on his mission, he has been more attentive to his leaders, General Conferences, and reading the scriptures, all of which he rarely took interest in before his mission.  He has sinced gained a tremendous appreciation for the Gospel and its importance in our lives.  He did not really mention his testimony and we didn't push it, but the knowledge alone is a start for him and he is satisfied knowing that the Church is exactly what it claims to be.   He also counseled Braden to start preparing for his mission now, and to forsake the world and enter the mission field when his time is up.  Coming from Austin, that counsel was more profound than anything anyone else could offer.  Let's hope the counsel sinks in.

As for pictures, Austin was adamant about the mission rules, which dictates that missionaries NOT carry their cameras during proselyting hours, because missionaries are targets for robberies, which is quite common, not just towards missionaries, but towards Gringos (Caucasians) in general.  But he did say that he would try to take more pictures, at least on P-Days and baptisms.

When it was finally time to say goodbye, it was a difficult moment for all of us, knowing it would be 6 more months before we could hear his voice again at Christmas time.  But we bid him goodbye with respect and gratitude for his divine calling as a servant of the Lord.  He is a tremendous example to us and we are eteranally grateful for his service.

La Familia Ascura

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