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

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Mission Week: 41/Panama Week: 30: Schedule Change/More Baptisms

Hola Familia,
As the subject says, sorry for the mixup in schedule. I had no idea that I´d be writing on Tuesday instead of Monday. The Mission President had his last interviews with everyone over this last week and will be leaving later on in the week. Our new Mission President, President Ward, and his wife will be arriving July 1st, if I´m not mistaken. I am kind of sad to see President Madrigal go, as he´s been a very helpful source of support and guidance out here but his service here is finished here. But now I´ll have the opportunity to learn from someone else. I´m fairly curious to see what happens when he finally arrives.

Well, Winter has officially started here with the first day long torrent. We had two baptisms set this last Saturday and the storms did not deter us. But I´ve come to the conclusion that umbrellas aren´t going to keep me dry. I was almost completely drenched by the rain. And the fact that I´ve burned through four umbrellas in the last two weeks isn´t exactly encouraging. I´m beginning to wonder if pneumonia is worth all the money I´d burn buying umbrellas.

Anywho, I got to try a Panamanian dish the night of the baptism called "Pa´ Ella", which means "For her". Oddly enough, we served it for Father´s day. I wasn´t sure if Father´s Day was celebrated the same day in this country as the States, as so many seem to be different in different countries. But seeing it´s the same, Happy Father´s Day! Sorry that I can´t be there to do something, but I suppose you´d prefer me out here for the moment. Anywho, the food was really good, but the best part was that it had octopus in it. I´ll try to snag pictures from my companion, since he has pictures of almost everything on his camera. Octopus is really chewy, as a sidenote. But the winter weather is much more bearable than the summer as it´s much wetter and cooler. It´s just that I have to walk in the rain. And it gets cold, walking in drenched pants at night, after a while.

Workwise out here, the majority of our likely baptisms have gone through but we´ve got a couple more that will probably be baptised in July. But the emphasis of our efforts will likely be centered on finding new investigators. We´ll also be trying to work out a functioning system of work between the missionaries and members to make sure that the converts don´t go inactive right after confirmation.

Before I forget, the shoes are 10.5s and Dockers. The Dockers last much longer and work better than the second set. Hope it gets here soon. I might have to buy a second pair of shoes out here, anyways. With getting soaked and all, you have to switch off to let them dry.

Well, I´m not sure if there´s much else I can think of to write. It seems that I always remember the things I want to write here after I leave the computer. I did have one question from the scriptures. My mission president didn´t have an answer on this one and neither has anyone else, so I guess it´s up to you guys now. One of the other elders has an investigator that asked about a passage in the Book of Mormon that says that Jesus would be born in Jerusalem even though the Bible is abundantly clear that he was born in Bethlehem. Any suggestions on the topic?

Ah, I remembered one of them. One of my baptisms out here, the older man, was very sick this week. I was kind of worried that he might have died, but I think he´s beginning to recuperate now. His eyesight kind of disappeared and he had something like a big fever and cold, and I discovered that he´s rich. Just some interesting notes out here. We´ve visited him a couple times while he´s been sick but I wish the ward would´ve helped a bit on that. A lot of the members out here don´t get word of this stuff or just don´t feel like they can be bothered.

Well, things are improving out here, more or less. I think the work shouldn´t be too slow in the coming weeks, but we´ll see, I suppose. I hope all of you are doing well this summer, doing whatever it is you all happen to be doing.

Your Elder in Panamá,
Elder Austin Michael Ascura

Monday, June 14, 2010

Mission Week 40/Panama Week 29: Birthday and Baptisms Celebration

Hola Familia,

Thanks for the congratulations on my birthday, everyone.  I didn´t tell anyone out here when it was because I had intended to just work. Out here, the people love the missionaries so much, they´re williong to acommodate them in almost any manner thinkable; even if that manner is very counter-productive to the Work out here. Regardless, I got to go to the Temple here and Albrooks, as well. Albrooks is a very large mall. There, I bought myself some things for my birthday and now I think I´m satisfied. Thanks for the fifty dollar bonus, Dad. My plan to work on my birthday, however, failed, as it was the last day of the transfer. Everyone except me thought that my companion was going to leave, so we spent almost the entire day saying good bye. Someone even baked us a pineapple cake. But he didn´t leave. So, we just wasted a day. But that just means less of a day wasted the next time, right?

Thanks for the complement on the language, Mom. I still have a bit of an accent, but I´m fairly pleased with what I can do in Spanish. I just have to keep working to improve the accent and the vocablulary. If I get good enough, I´ll be able to get jobs just because I´m bilingual, I think. But we´ll see.

As for the moving, I hope that everything goes well. Don´t overstress yourself out, Mom. You´re already loading up your workload.

As for the work here, even though I feel like we´re not doing enough, it somehow seems to keep moving forward. We had two more baptisms this last Thursday and have placed four more dates, all of which seem very probable to go through. But, as always, I´ve got a bit of a hunch of what some of our future problems will be. But we´ll see. The baptism was odd as we had to baptise as a team, my companion and I. Both of them were very stubborn and apparently afraid of drowning. We had to baptise both of them twice because they kept kicking and reaching upward. I couldn´t help but laugh. And for one of them, I had to baptise using a chair and had to say the prayer on my knees. It was apparently nothing anyone had ever seen before. I´d certainly never heard of it before.

As for why she (97 year old Sister) wants to come to America, she just wants to go there. She´s old and feels like Panama doesn´t offer much to her anymore, so she´d like to get out and see the world. Although, she doesn´t see very well, so I don´t imagine it´d be easy to show her the world.

Well, what other things have happened here . . . one of our buses almost caught fire. Some idiot had to scream "The bus is burning!" and then everything went crazy. Women prancing about in a panicked frenzy, people tossing their children out the windows, sixty obese people trying to jam themselves through the exit at the same time. I was practically laughing the entire time while everyone was scared out of their wits. Apparently, a while back an entire bus burned down with everyone inside, so the people here are a little spooked. It doesn´t help that the emergency exits on the sides and tops of the bus have been sealed or removed.

Well, I think that marks the highlights of the week. A new transfer has begun and our current mission president, President Madrigal, will be leaving in the next few days. The month of June will be president-less and President Ward will arrive with his wife in July. I hope you all are keeping well. I keep you all in my prayers each night.

Your Elder in Panama,
Elder Austin Michael Ascura

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Mission Week 39/Panama Week 28: Temple Day

Hola Familia,

I´m not in changes, don´t worry, don´t worry. We got to go to the temple today so P-Day was on Wednesday instead of Monday, although Monday might have well have been P-Day. Nothing got done.
Nevertheless, going through the temple was an interesting experience. Doing the work there in Spanish felt a little odd because I had become so accustomed to it in English before. Although, it proved to be a very rewarding experience. I think I might have learned some interesting things after the temple work when I just pondered sitting inside.

Afterwards we visitted a part of the Panama Canal. I basically know how it works now. It proved to be a very interesting exhibit, overall, especially because we were able to watch a couple ships pass through. Quite an interesting piece of human work, there, and valuable as well.

I got the Peeps package. They were a little stale, but American confectionaries are always very welcome here. I think the other packages will arrive timely and I most likely will not be going anywhere.

I´m glad to hear that the move has more or less gone smooth and that the transition looks to be without unpleasant surprises laying in wait.  I would imagine that Mom would be very excited to finally LIVE in Oregon after all this time. I mean, wouldn´t you be pretty happy if you got to live in Guam? Well, maybe that´s not a good example. What if they came to live close to you?  I think you might like that.

I saw the pictures of Prom, winter, Rednecks, and Braden´s tattoo. Braden´s looking schnazzy, although I thought things with Chelsey had kind of fallen by the wayside. Liese´s looking cute, but given she resembles me so much, that shouldn´t be a surprise. I had a good laugh at the Redneck oven. As for the tattoo, I don´t know if I would´ve gone with that font but we´ll see how things go from here, right?

As for work here, being week six of the transfer, it´s likely that this will be somewhat of a slow week. But we´ll have two baptisms tomorrow that likely won´t go inactive. One is a 97 year old lady that wants me to bring her to the States. Both my companion and I will have to work together to baptise her. The other is an elderly man about sixty or seventy years old. We´ve been trying to baptise these two for weeks but the man had a problem with tobacco and the woman just disappeared for a week and a half or so. There´s the wife of the man that listens to us, but it might be a little difficult to progress with her. The relationship between him and her has been a little rocky.

Well, I won´t lie, but my CD of pictures still isn´t in the mail. But it is written. I will try to get that out the door this next Monday paired with the long-due letter for the ward.

I hope things are going well for you all and that you enjoy the summer. Out here it´s winter and my body still feels like I should be in summer break. It´s a little unnerving, honestly, but I´ll get used to it. I hope. Keep me in your prayers.

Your Elder in Panamá,
Elder Austin Michael Ascura