Holy Guacamole

I am sorry that I don't have a whole lot of time this week to write a letter. It has been another great week, a bit rough but good. We have had two baptisms fall, but one stuck and hopefully, we will have another one this week. We have our first official baptismal appointment set with a man named Juan from Aldea. I will make sure that I tell his story after his baptism.

I have loved and read everyone's personal emails. I don't always have time to respond to or read them all on my P-Days, so I have been taking pictures of the ones I don't get to during the week and reading them at home. I loved hearing about Colon's history (the town is named after Christopher Columbus. In Spanish his name was Cristobal Colon). and more about the Kuna. (Many of the Kuna Latter-day Saints share their remarkable similarities through oral history with the events that happened in the Book of Mormon.  They refer to themselves as "the People of the Book.") Next week I will have to tell you about the Butterfly story with the Kuna people. 
I am only able to listen to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Conference talks on my speaker. I spent a bit more time today looking for more talks and music to listen to. I love music a lot and so it has been great to have that.  
In our humble house, well shower...I have found spiders, worms, cockroaches, and mice. I'm just happy when we find water because it is not always there. We now take bets on whether we will be without water or electricity before we return home at night. Normally one of the two goes out before morning. Cold water no longer bothers you once you know that you are just happy if you get a shower before you leave in the morning. 
To answer some of your questions:
Are you getting bug bites at night or when you are out? 
The bugs always seem to find the one place that I barely missed with bug repellent. I have gotten bug bites on my back, my collar line and even in my ear where I did not pay much attention. Normally, I find that I am getting them when I am outside rather than throughout the night.  
Are you getting sick of the rain?
Oh no, It is genuinely my favorite. Except I only fear the bus drivers in the rain. Last time the guy was drinking and driving in the rain at night... but it went well.

I love you guys!


"Mama Said There'll Be Days Like This"

This week was exhausting. We had Zone Conference which we had to get up at 4:00 in the morning to get there on time. We got there a bit early and stopped by the coolest bakery. A chilled morning breeze came through which made it that much better. I did finally end up getting my package that you sent me last month, Woo! This week we went out with the Zone Leaders for Invasions for two days. That is when you go to the other missionaries homes early in the morning to check in on them and make sure they are getting up on time and doing what thy should be. Sadly, just because we got up early didn't mean we got to go bed early. That also meant we had to get up at 4:00 in the morning. We did however, end up getting a foam American Football. We had some investigators who aren't doing what they need to be doing to prepare themselves for baptism. I am covered in mosquito and ant bites. There are so many that I am trying to recognize what constellations they form. I'm am so close to a big dipper. And it was a little bit hotter this week if it wasn't already hot enough. 

I have laughed to myself as I was reminded of lyrics from the Shirelle’s, "Mama said there'll be days like this, there’ll be days like this my mama said..." Yes, this week was hard. Fun at the same time, but exhausting. I took comfort in the knowledge that I was divinely called to be here specifically and that God wouldn't give me anything I couldn't handle. I also took comfort in the scriptures. In Alma 26:27 we read, " Now when our hearts were depressed, and we were about to turn back, behold, the Lord comforted us, and said: Go amongst thy brethren, the Lamanites, and bear with patience thine afflictions, and I will give unto you success." In Jacob 3:1 it says, "But behold, I, Jacob, would speak unto you that are pure in heart. Look unto God with firmness of mind, and pray unto him with exceeding faith, and he will console you in your afflictions, and he will plead your cause, and send down justice upon those who seek your destruction."

We can find joy in the best of days in the worst of days. We can find joy in the worst of circumstances. For we are told In 2 Nephi 2:25” ...men are, that they might have joy." Finding joy is all about our focus. When we focus on the Lord our Savior we find joy. We find joy in his Atonement and our personal role in it, his gospel and what we can do to become closer to him, and the Plan of Salvation where we can progress and live forever with our families. Jesus the Christ is the source of true joy. As I am sharing this beautiful message about an opportunity of true joy with people, I am finding great joy and satisfaction. When we keep this focus of Jesus in our hearts we can find joy every day in our lives.


Oh, I have been introducing myself with that name Elder Igi Sugi. I go out and tell it to Kunas and they just crack up. I have convinced a handful of kids that I'm from San Blas and I'm Kuna. I think our neighbors thought that was my name for about a week now and just barely found out. They still call me Igi though.

Elder Igi Sugi

I have a lot I want to say so I will go into a little detail about it all:

We have an area in our Nuevo Mexico that has a river. One day Elder Franco and Elder Tenney had the impression to cross it. They called and asked permission to cross it that one time. Elder Tenney was Elder Franco's old companion and my MTC companion and has now transferred. This week we asked if we could go back to revisit that area. Our Mission president said it was good but we needed to baptize three people before we could go. That's just his sense of humor. We have this tribal village, which is not Kuna but a different tribe that we go and teach once or twice a week now. It's really really really cool. It is the only area in all of the Zone has anything like this. Yeah, and I am here!!! 

This week I was given a new apellido (last name). The branch president had trouble pronouncing my name, but he knew the tribal language of Kuna. So he said, "Your new name is, Elder Igi Sugi." Translated meaning, Elder Tell Me. Now when people can't pronounce my name I give them the Kuna version. Any phone call we get from the other Elders is always, "Habla a Elder Igi Sugi." My plan is to convince my Mission President to let me get a name tag with my new name on it.
The trail to the tribal village.
Elder Igi Sugi 
I don't know if you remember the hottest day I had in Panama when I had soup for lunch. This week I think I felt just a little hotter than I have ever felt before. We had a member who fed us lunch one day. Let me tell you, it was so good! He is from Mexico, so it was genuine Mexican food. He had pork, rice, and potatoes. Which is pretty normal here, but he had a homemade salsa. A homemade Jalapeno and Chile salsa. Normally I don't do well with spicy things. But that was the best dang Salsa I have ever had. It was just so delicious. I was literally pouring it on top of my bowl by the spoonful. Oh man, was I ever sweating like a pig. I came out of his house satisfied, but trying to convince my companion that we could walk around shirtless that day.

General Conference was soo good. Different but good. We went to the stake center and it was being broadcasted in Spanish. Luckily Elder Banister from Idaho was in my Zone. We went upstairs and we watched it broadcasted in another room but it was so hot we opened a window with the fan on. While watching General Conference we had the background sound of the Spanish translation below us, the sound of the cars passing by, the rain, and neighbors blasting their music. At one point the rain was so strong we actually lost our connection... On Sunday we eventually got moved to the Family History room to watch it which had an air conditioner. I did miss being with my family on the couch in sweatpants for this Conference, but that nor the many other difficulties I experienced did not take away any from the message. Well except when we lost signal, which literally took away from the message. But I'm just happy it was in English.

We had a day of total strength this week. We had a neighbor who is just finishing his papers, we call Short, who tagged along with us that day. It was going to be great. We started off teaching and we were just killing it. Short knew shortcuts through the neighborhood and we were making excellent time. We then were walking over for a lunch appointment we had when a member who called us over. She said you look exhausted come sit down real quick and get some water. We had some water sat in front of a fan and shared a simple, but strong lesson with this family. When we finished they said, "Oh, after that we cant let you leave without a little bit of food." They gave us an entire lunch. It was just rice and banana. The rice had shrimp and fish flakes in it. Oh, what would I do to have that rice again; best rice ever. Better than coconut rice. We left feeling satisfied and remembered that we still had lunch with a non-member scheduled... So we went over and they gave us not a plate, but a platter of food each. It was about the size of two heads of food. We were dying. I have never tried so hard to eat before in my life. At one time I looked over at Short and asked him how he felt, and he said 'Man, I feel like I have filled my stomach with food and I just keep filling it. I'm now just up to my forehead with food." I loosened my belt by the time we had to leave and I felt like I was waddling like a penguin out of there. We re-named that day to the day of total stomach strength. But hey, we are getting fed.

One day we found some keys on the ground and we prayed and were directed towards a few peoples houses until we found the owner of the keys. Because we weren't directed immediately to the person's house by the time we finally got there, the owner was just barely returning. It was really cool. We found quite a few new investigators through that. It helped build a testimony about how Gods ways aren't always our ways.

Today we got the chance to go to Zona Libre. A strip mall of about twelve blocks. It was ridiculously huge and after getting completely lost I bought a pillow (because in the 1st two houses I lived in had them, but apparently that was something we were supposed to bring), a speaker, and a backpack. It was a good trip.

I love you all and I hope you had the chance to watch General Conference. If you didn't please take the time to listen. This conference was really cool.

Elder Igi Sugi

Megan-What can I share with you before you get here in three weeks? Just so you know, you can get Liahonas every time you go to the Mission Offices. You normally go about once every month. You get Spanish Scriptures at the MTC, but the Small Spanish Quad is a nice investment. I love having a backpack and YES, sisters do wear boots here.  Make sure you have a pillow, a positive attitude, and a big laundry bag. The one thing that I have loved having is my camera. You are going to love it here!

A New Week of Goals & Transfers

This week I've been called Slim Shadey, one of the Men in Black, and Correy Heart as I wore my sunglasses at night.
Firstly, I want to tell you about the great success I had to have this week. Tuesday I went out with on splits or divisions with the Zone leaders. Elder Vasquez is such a killer. We worked hard that day and we were able to commit four of our investigators to baptism. 
Elder Vasquez
Wednesday, was a day of total strength. We push ourselves more on this day, and more specifically on finding new investigators. We set a goal of twelve new investigators per companionship mission-wide. Elder Vela and I set our goal for eighteen. We got twenty-one, new investigators. That's more than we find in a normal week. The Lord has big plans for Panama. 
Thursday, it was like someone was trying to stop us. I don't know if you remember a few weeks back, but I said I was sick and I was just thankful I didn't contract the Spanish Pink Eye which is about a four to six days of recovery. If you catch it you are confined to your home until you get better. Well..., Let's just say that this week when I did get Pink Eye I was thankful that it wasn't Dengue which is so much worse, but I am good right now. I did accidentally pass my cold on to Elder Vela though... So he is stuck there. I'm So Sorry!
Today we had transfers and I just finished my training. I guess that means I am a real missionary now! Wooo no more training wheels. I was expecting to stay here in Arriajan with Elder Vela, but the Lord had other plans and now I'm with Elder Franco in Colón. We are in an area called Nuevo Mexico. I literally just got here and threw my bags inside the house, ate, and I'm here writing. But I'm excited.  The place I am living is small... Okay, let's just say this... My house before was a house and I now live in an apartment. The apartment is about the size of a big bathroom with 2 concrete walls that separate the bathroom the bedroom and the kitchen. It is all concrete bricks and well it has the most amazing view I have seen here.
Hopefully, my pictures will be able to upload, this computer doesn't like my SD card... So the pictures may be a delayed.

Elder Irizarry
Climbing the hill to take one last look at this amazing city!
Elder Vela and I in Arrajian.
My new companion Elder Franco in Colón.

Sick and Serving

At the beginning of this week, my throat felt sore. Because of this, the first half of the week we tried to stay indoors as much as possible. The Zone Leaders said we should not leave until I feel better, but I just became too stir crazy. We stayed in most of the time but went to our important appointments. After telling our neighbors, I was feeling under the weather, they checked up on us to make sure I was doing alright. Then they got me some weird unlabeled medicine and I have no idea what that was, but I feel better now. To be fair in Panama anytime you order medicine at the pharmacy they take the box of medicine and just take the pills out of the box. A lot of what I remember from this week was staying inside studying and sleeping but my thirst for knowledge has only grown this week. I closely relate to the words of Phil Collins’ song ‘Strangers Like Me’ from the movie Tarzan, ”I can see there's so much to learn. It's all so close and yet so far... I want to know; can you show me. I want to know about these strangers like me. Tell me more, please show me.”

Now I studied about a lot of different subjects this week. I want to talk about the importance of teaching youth. I was always told that youth are important and that their opinion will shape the world when they become older. Now at times, it's funny to think that these kids will be our next generation of leaders. We had a kid we interviewed for Baptism. One of the questions for baptism is: “Have you ever committed any serious crime?” He squirmed a little in his chair and said, “No… H-h-have you?”. I have never heard my companion laugh that hard before. I was outside in the backyard and I even think I heard him fall out of his chair. Apparently, he asked his brother and received the same response. 
Our Mission President understands the importance of teaching youth, as he was a convert. I have a testimony that when you teach someone the principles of the Gospel from a young age they grow up with the peace and the answers to a lot of the big questions in life. When we teach them the standards and principles of the church a lot of the worldly habits become undesirable for that individual. And I have such a great opportunity to teach these precepts to youth as I had been blessed to have learned them when I grew up in the church. The Prophet Gordon B. Hinckley always stressed the importance that nothing is more important than raising your kids. I recently read a talk from him entitled “Stand Strong against the Wiles of the World”. If you’re looking for something to read while you’re at a bus stop or on a lunch break, it’s not very long and by all means, print it out. I’d like to share a quote from him.  

Set an example for them [Your Children]. That will mean more than all the teaching you can give them. Do not overindulge them. Let them grow up with respect for and understanding of the meaning of labor, of working and contributing to the home and its surroundings, with some way of earning some of their own expense money... I do not hesitate to promise that if you will do so, you will have reason to count your blessings.”

I can’t tell you how many church talks there are about teaching the youth. I can’t tell you how many studies have been made about raising your kids in this environment versus that environment. I can’t tell you how many teachers and leaders have influenced my life and my decisions. I guess what I’m trying to say simply is don’t shy away from your opportunities to teach; especially as a missionary.

Now I will answer a question by popular request… “How is my Spanish coming along as I am to the end of my training?” Umm… Well, I don’t sound much different. But I understand so much more. I understand a decent amount of conversations when I pay attention. I definitely understand more about religious conversations than normal small talk. It is a process but I’m learning. I know you will ask, what are some of my stories? Well, let me tell you just about this week.

·     Last night, we had a taxi driver who misheard us when we said we wanted to go to Calle Negra, but I guess he heard Calle Larga. There was already someone else in the car so he said he would take us there right after we drop off this woman. But we kept going and going and we soon hit the boundaries of our zone. We called the zone leaders and they just told us to get out of the car. We stopped him and reminded him that we just needed to go down five blocks. That was when we found out he wanted to take us to a city about a 20-minute drive away. We got out and paid him, had to take a bus back to where we got the first taxi and then flag down another taxi to get us to Bishop’s house that night.

·     We had an investigator who told us on Sunday that he had a divine dream confirming that baptism was the right decision. He asked us to come by his house on Tuesday to hear about it. That was the worst news you could have told me. For those two days, I didn’t think about anything else. It’s was like I was a kid again on Christmas morning. Just sitting under the tree waiting for my parents to get up so I could open up presents. Knowing full heartedly that even if I waited another minute, hour, or day it wouldn’t change what was inside. But nevertheless, the thought was always in the back of my mind as to what it would be? Finally, we went over and let me tell you, I was so excited. While we were there his son kept asking me questions and I became distracted at the beginning of the lesson. I didn’t realize he was talking about his dream and by the end, he realized I didn’t hear the story.  He decided to retell the dream again but I thought he was just talking about this weekend and didn’t realize it was his profound dream. So right as we were leaving I said, “Oh you didn’t tell us about your dream”. My companion just died a little inside. He then went and told in incredible detail for about 10 or 15 minutes about this dream… for the third time. My Spanish is not quite there yet, but ehh I’m getting there.

I would love to bear my testimony about how the Lord is all-knowing and sometimes his way isn’t in line with our ideas. There have been many times where I have been prompted to say something I normally wouldn’t have said to an investigator or gone down a path that I didn’t even think was a path. When we listen to him he blesses us and uses us to bless the lives of others. Oddly enough, our neighbors were sick as well and a decent amount of time we were over there and kept them company and comforted them. They helped us and we helped them. I just have a feeling that we were supposed to be there. I am just very grateful this week I was sick so that I could be used as his instrument and also that I had the chance to study more.