Joy To The World

Recently my mind has been running a little bit and so I apologize if I ramble like the Bus Stop Preachers. The preachers who jump on the bus for one stop while yelling with their arms in the air talking about death and salvation. Some of them ask for money, then jump off in time for next bus stop only to jump right on a different bus. 

How much confusion there is in the world about the same plain and simple principles of Christ's teachings. Bless their hearts for sharing their personal testimonies and trying to make a difference. Some of their hearts are in the right place, some are just doing it for money. However, to me, it is just weird that everyone is reading the same set of scriptures and has very different viewpoints on the same subject. 

Something as a missionary that we always do is to invite our investigators to ask of God in faith. If we ask of God he will respond in his own time, his own way, and his own will. Normally through the feelings and promptings of the Holy Ghost. Through him, we can discern the truth of all things.

Alma 12:9 "...It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless, they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him." 
As we live by his commandments and ask with faith he will reveal his truth and unravel his mysteries to us. Of course, he will only do his part as we are diligently doing our part.

I don't have time to write about everything I want to, but a lot has happened this week. We went to Zona Libre today which means that we will not have enough time to clean our clothes and buy food if we use all our time to write. We need to get back to meet with the new bishop in our ward. What a blessing it is to have him. He is very motivated to help us in the work and I love how humble and positive he is. He truly has a great love for the members. 

Happy Panamanian Mothers Day!
Elder Irizarry 
P.S.  Yes they sell a powdered Horchata mix here in Panama. Oh, man is that just so refreshing on hot days. 
And, yes I am sunburnt in December. It's all good because I have Horchata.

A Tropical Wonderland

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Well... except the snow! It’s all good though. I’ve been making sweat angels on the tile floor and I feel a little better. We had Zone P-day which takes up our whole day but we went out in the pouring tropical rain to play some soccer. We came out soaked and then we all went to get some pizza.
This week we had a member who finally found some free time to go out with us. This was great because he had a car (A CAR!) and it meant that we did not have to walk and walk which was such a blessing.  We did get to go and visit some inactive members which there are a lot of.

We had a member that made us Burgers this week, and at the end of a LONG day, I just about cried tears of joy.
Recently, we found an investigator doing Cosechas. It is where we pray to find someone specific and follow solely the inspirations of the spirit. This week we found a woman named Gregoria. She is 70 years old and lives with her nephews. She was once taught by an Elder Dodd’s and Elder Santo’s back in 1993 and had a date to be baptized then but mentioned that about a week before her baptism the missionaries were called somewhere else.  She did not know where to go and with time she eventually joined another church. This week we started talking to her and she remembered all the feelings she had once felt.  We are hoping to set a baptism her and her family by the end of the month. It is such a cool experience to be guided by the spirit.
[Doctrine and Covenants 8:1, 9 & 11] "I say unto you, that assuredly as the Lord liveth, who is your God and your Redeemer, even so surely shall you receive a knowledge of whatsoever things you shall ask in faith, with an honest heart, believing that you shall receive a knowledge... by the manifestation of my Spirit... And, therefore, whatsoever you shall ask me to tell you by that means, that will I grant unto you, and you shall have knowledge concerning it. Remember that without faith you can do nothing; therefore, ask in faith."

Love you guys, until next week,

Elder Irizarry
Giant Grasshoppers are known for getting 6 to 9 inches long here!

Season of Thanks

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone! I hope that you all enjoyed the turkey and mashed potatoes. I hope you had an opportunity to remember all the good things that have happened in your lives as well. Panama does not celebrate Thanksgiving and my companion was curious what this holiday was all about. I was able to share with him the history of Thanksgiving. I talked about the Pilgrims and the Mayflower. I explained why it was such a big deal for the Pilgrims and how Thanksgiving is in honor and memory of the great gift from the Native Americans. I explained the traditions associated with how at dinner everyone goes around the table and says what they are thankful for. How people prepare food as early as the night before and then sneak food but try not to eat much all that morning to make room for the feast later on that day. I shared some of our families’ traditions, like watching the Macys Thanksgiving Day Parade. Having Thanksgiving Lunch and leftovers for dinner, and later on in the day watching a movie or a football game, heading out to a park to play soccer or staying inside to play a board game. Our family finds that if you take a nap in the afternoon it is especially helpful if you enjoy the rush of Black Friday shopping. It was really cool to relive all my old Thanksgiving Day memories by sharing them with Elder Arriaga. 

Thursday, we had many of our appointments fail. I think we actually broke our record and hit fourteen appointments who canceled or just weren't home. We found a lot of time to walk around the streets and talk about what we thankful for like our investigators who are progressing, this beautiful weather and our unique mission. We went on and on throughout the day. Similarly, to Thanksgiving, we didn't each much during the day. We actually both fasted until dinner and luckily were fed by Hermana Chiru. Her food is always a highlight of our week when we eat at her home. When she cooks, she cooks for the family and all the extended family in the four neighboring houses nearby. She made us a Cordon Blue with rice and salad. REAL SALAD. I had a real salad for the first time here. Thanksgiving was just a good day. It just brings such a strong spirit and family bond that prepares you for Christmas. 

Last Tuesday I went on divisions with the Zone Leaders and the weirdest things happened. First, we stopped at a sister’s house for lunch, she happened to be a return missionary from Los Angeles, California. We had such a great time talking with her, then we met a person who recently was moved to Panama who didn't speak much Spanish. I was able to teach my first lesson in English which was so cool! When we were leaving we ran into Michelle Morris who is the cousin of Brian, who we baptized last month. They used to live in the same house, but she and her mom moved. Oddly enough, she moved into the area of the Zone Leaders. When we were leaving her daughter ran at me full speed, well as fast as a 10-year-old Kuna girl can run with a backpack filled with books flopping around. The entire time screaming "Mama it's Igi Sugi!," as she jumped to give me a bear hug. That made my entire week. They refused to let us leave until Elder Cruz the Zone Leader set a time for me to come back and visit them. It just felt like I was supposed to be there. The last thing that was surprising was when we were walking in the street as someone started blasting their music which is normal here in Panama. The great part was that is that is was Christmas music. My mind froze and as I thought about how it seemed like my family and I had just celebrated Christmas. I could not believe that a year has gone by so quickly.  

Recently, the weather here has been really nice. It has not been any hotter than 80 degrees.  It has reminded me of a California weather. I have adapted to the weather here and at times have been surprised that it feels like they need to turn down the AC at church. As Christmas is right around the corner, I have come to accept that it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas in a tropical sense. 

President Current switches companions up all the time and we have the possibility of changing the week before Christmas. I love this area, and Elder Arriaga is cool. It will be interesting to see what happens. If I do end up moving I know that it is all good. 

I gave a talk in church this Sunday and it that was pretty funny how awful it actually was. I prepared scriptures, quotes, and wrote bullet points with what I wanted to share. It was about missionary work and it was about 70% love 30% machete. I little overkill, but it was going to be perfect. Normally, I get a little nervous speaking in front of big groups, but nothing bad. However, this last week I don't know what happened. I got up there and my mind just freaked out. So, as you can imagine my Spanish wasn't very good and I forgot where I was going, so my mind freaked out and my Spanish went haywire. I was glad that the microphone was having troubles, and so hopefully they didn't have to hear it. Oh well, another thing I can be thankful for this week.

I just want to say thank you to everyone who has brought me wonderful memories that I cherish about this time of the year. Reliving the Thanksgiving Spirit was pretty magical. 

I love you all,

Elder Irizarry

Colón, Panama

This week, I have been working hard but have very little time to write. I did get a haircut and Christmas package which was great. Here a few pictures of Colon. Hope you all have a great Thanksgiving!
Colón (Spanish pronunciation: [koˈlon]) is a Panamanian city and seaport beside the Caribbean Sea, lying near the Atlantic entrance to the Panama Canal. It is the capital of Panama's Colón Province and has traditionally been known as Panama's second city.
Like most of the Caribbean coast of Central America, Colón possesses an extremely wet tropical climate owing to the powerful, wet trade winds flowing onto high mountains throughout the year. Unlike most parts of this coast, however, February and March are sufficiently dry that Colón fits into the tropical monsoon climate category rather than a tropical rainforest climate as found in most Caribbean coastal areas. Nonetheless, the June to December period, with an average monthly rainfall of around 16.3 inches, is so wet that Colón rivals Honduras’ La Ceiba as the wettest sizable city in Central America.

Irizarry Missionaries

Soaked wet after falling off the boat into the river. 

My cousin left the MTC to Panama last week and meet up with some other missionaries heading to Panama.  She mentioned that they all had time to bond and she met an Elder Hanks whose middle name was Irizarry. This is his mothers maiden name, whose family is from Puerto Rico which probably means that we are cousins.  

What a week! Elder Arriaga is my new companion, he is from Mexico and we are working hard. When he saw our house he about died, so we went through a deep clean of everything this morning and what a relief that was.

We had a meeting with the Bishop this week and made a bigger effort to meet the members. It has been a good week. I took Elder Arriaga to Aldea. The water was crazy high and we had to take a panga or a canoe across and of course I got cocky so I rode it standing up. I thought to myself, hey, I've skateboarded, wake boarded, and practiced rowing for a little time and it should be no problem.

The guy paddling us across and I were having a conversation and I asked him where he lived. He pointed over there and for whatever reason, I turned my foot to look and lost my balance and I fell into the river. Yeah, it had a current and was no longer knee deep, so I actually was swimming to get to the other side. We thanked the man and made it safely. Luckily my scriptures are fine. It's only my hymn book that was totally soaked.  We couldn't find anyone to cross to get home and so we walked across and it was about up to our plaques. Elder Arriaga is in love with the area and now wants to baptize everyone there. I feel good things are going to happen there. 
Wednesday we dedicated a day just to find people. We literally were walking for ten hours and we found many. I now think I know just about every part of my area. Its kind of big, but that's a good thing!!!  There is one part we have that I did not know what was at the end of the street. I always just thought its because we were on a hill and we never really wanted to walk up much more of that hill. Well, we were motivated to find the end. So we were hiking and hiking and about halfway through we remembered that we needed to call the bishop. Due to the canoe incident on Tuesday our phone has had some problems... and of course about 2 weeks ago is when they decided to replace our 2-year-old phone with a new one. Now we couldn't call bishop and due to the slight inconvenience, we were a little more frustrated than we should have been. We went back to work and went looking for people,  but were not feeling anything. Normally it means one of two things. One, there isn't anyone here at this moment, or we don't have the spirit with us. After taking a pause and reconsider everything we took a deep breath. We then turned for guidance once again from the Lord. After the reminder of why we were here as missionaries and a little repentance, the spirit was back. We were directed to a family of eight that lived in the middle of nowhere. We would not have been able to find this little shack of a house without the guidance of the spirit. It was just such a great experience. 
When the Spirit is guiding you sometimes you don't always recognize it. Even as a missionary we sometimes do not recognize the influence fully of the spirit in our life. You can always tell the difference between when you have it or when you don't. As you take a step back in this life and remember why you are here and what your purpose or goal is, all your decisions are easier. And as you turn to the Lord for guidance he always gives you what is sufficient for what you need to overcome your trials. Joseph Smith taught that its necessary for man to look forward to something bigger to come in order to persevere your trials. Whether that means just waiting to pick up a nice cold soda at the end of a long day, surviving finals to be rewarded with till Christmas break, or waiting for the blessing in the life to come, its what keeps us sane.

Please enjoy your time and look for happiness in all things. By all means, stop and smell the roses. But when it gets hard, just remember, "...that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.(D&C 122:7)" The Lord promises us that he will never give us anything we can't endure. Just keep working at it. It will get better with work and patience.

Oh and also concerning the hill, we made it up to the top. That took forever..., but it was well worth it. We found an abandoned resort called "The Crowsnest". And so without trespassing, we walked around the fence line until we hit the front of the motel. There was an elevated platform with a bunch of seats. What a view it had of the Canal. You could see both sides of the canal and about all of our area. I can only imagine the sunset. But wow!

Con Amor,
Elder Irizarry