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