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.

Football, Pizza & P-Day

I finally got my first Zone P-day in which we all went out to play football (soccer).  It was exhausting, we were there from around 8:00 in the morning until 12:00.  I am a little bit rusty and really need to clean up my skills. Afterwards, we all got Little Caesars Pizza, it was really fun. 

Arraijan is beautiful. I love it here. Our goal is to find 18 investigators each week that we can teach which is reasonable. We have four that are close to baptism and we are teaching about 25 at the moment. There are 13 districts in the Panama mission.  Three which are in the city, three that are in the boonies by Costa Rica and one that is in San Blas Islands.  The others surround the city.

Doubt Not, Fear Not

Well, another week has gone by and as always, my desk started off clean. By the end of the week slowly but surely it gets buried under piles of notes, old water bottles, and with at least three different books opened.  Mondays are always nice, because I know I get time to clean up and actually see my desk. 

I also finally got my picture with President Uchtdorf. We have a guy in our ward who looks like a general authority in our church. Every time anyone has a question about what a scripture reference is or what time an appointment is they always just say, "Oh just ask Uchtdorf."

We had a reunion meeting for all the new people and I got to see my old district from the MTC this week. That was so cool! They have all lost weight, but they’re all great. It was so nice to talk to them.

I was recently having feelings that I was not sufficient in my Spanish. That I couldn’t do and teach everything that I needed to teach. Questioning how could I be a missionary if I can’t even talk to people in Spanish let alone teach them about the gospel. However, this week we taught a family with a deaf son. He is seven and communicates with grunts, squeals, and sporadic hand gestures. He had found baby turtles that were passing by his house and so he caught them and made a home for them in a bucket. As you can imagine, he was so excited when we stopped by his house. Two new people with whom he could share his newfound joy. He taught us what made them scared. He showed us what they like to eat. He taught us where they like to pass by his house. Each thing he taught us through determination, simple hand gestures and squeals would give him so much joy he could not help but laugh. Let me tell you his laugh just made you smile. It was just a laugh of pure joy. As you can imagine I was very humbled by this investigator. By this teacher. 

As I had been having my doubts about being able to speak, I think of how this young man had the ability to communicate although he is unable to speak at all. Where I can still speak at a basic level and communicate most things. "And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble, and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them." -Ether 12:27

It wasn’t ever my Spanish that was the problem. Sure, it’s a hurdle and I’m still straddling that hurdle and I should expect to be straddling that hurdle for a while. Over time it will become easier and easier and I will be able to jump over it. But it was never my Spanish that was holding me back. It was my doubts. "Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not.-D&C 6:36.

Don’t let your doubts consume you. They can hold you back from so much of your potential. Just keep pushing through with faith. Turn to the Lord for help and I promise you that he will provide a strength equal to that which is asked of you.
This week was our neighbor's birthday so we went over and surprised her with a cake. 
With Elder Vela, we have had one baptism and have four people we are teaching. 

Sweaty or Soaked

Hopefully, this email will go through. The thunder storm has already cut off the power three times at this Internet Café. I finally understand what they mean by a wall of rain. It was a cloudy day, we were walking down the street and then it starts raining, but only on the other side of the street. It literally was a curtain of rain and was like the clouds kept moving. They moved about a foot every three seconds until the rain finally crossed onto our side. Before we could get to shelter we were soaked. But I love the Panama rainstorms. It lets me play one of my favorite games I call Sweaty or Soaked, where a little bit after the storm you judge if a person is still wet from the rain or if they are wet from working hard.

This week I don't have a whole lot to say. My companion is the District Leader and has been having an upset stomach and then by the end of the week, I was starting to get a sore throat.  We went to a pharmacy and were grateful that it was not conjunctivitis which apparently around a third of Panama has had in the past year. If we get that, we are not allowed to leave the house for four days… Mission rule. So whoo!

We did carry on with Ward Council, District Meeting, District Leaders Reports Meeting, Zone conference, Weekly Planning, and Ward Missionary Council. Then we also host English classes two nights a week, which is just so fun. Oh and all on different days, so all I remember this week was a lot of notes, studying, being motivated, teaching who we could with the time we had, and then sleeping.

Although my companion was sick, he remained hard working and was able to come out for our important appointments. One day an important appointment was canceled because the person ended up having conjunctivitis. This is not the first time it happened to one of our investigators either, so we went to their neighbors who were members to sit down and get some water. 

Chicheme: A traditional sweet corn Panamanian drink.
In Panama, they have ice cream trucks that drive around everywhere, but instead of ice cream, they sell hot pastries, bread, and a unique drink called Chicheme. [A drink, found almost exclusively in Panama and Costa Rica, made from milk, sweet corn or cornmeal, cinnamon, and vanilla, and often water.]  I still don't know why people are always selling hot things in Panama. I thought it would be like selling popsicles to the penguins, but I've adapted. This week there was a member who stopped a truck that was going by and he treated us to some Chicheme. I finish mine and told him how thankful I was, and that he made our day. My companion, Elder Vela, was drinking his a little slower because he wasn't feeling his best, but it was such a treat. I remembered that he said its one of his favorite drinks that you can get in Panama. Chicheme as it tastes great, is interesting and it's like an ice cold Horchata, but with pieces of corn just floating in there. 
Our Bishop asked me to bear my testimony to a young man turning in his mission application. He asked to share with him why I am here. Well, I gave him a testimony led by the spirit. It was good, but I wanted to say so much more so I will take this great opportunity right now to share a little bit more.  I only have 2 months in the mission field, but I have never been closer before in my life as I am now to Christ, my Savior and Redeemer. The work isn't easy, but you are literally doing Gods work. God provides a way for us to do what he wants to be done and I see miracles every day. He is teaching you to rely on him for strength. As you do so you will create a stronger relationship with him than ever before. 

Before my mission how often did I get to share my feelings about the scriptures, the prophets, or Jesus Christ? Probably more opportunities than I took, but every day I go out into the world and share the greatest news in the world. I talk about Jesus Christ. I talk about his Sacrifice. I talk about his Gospel. I talk about how people can gain a testimony and know without a doubt that Jesus was the Son of God, and gain a testimony about literally any other principle we teach. I talk about Gods plan for us on this world and the next. I teach people that we have a loving Heavenly Father who knows them and is helping them with every chance He gets, as they are obedient. 

Please serve a mission. As we tell the members we baptize, you don't have to be 100 percent ready. In fact, you'll never be 100 percent ready. But once you get that feeling from the spirit, don't hesitate. Go out there. Pray and ask if you want to know if you need to do this and be specific. I promise you will get a response. Turn in your application. You will not regret it. This has already been the best experience of my life and it has just begun. I mean, I don't even know the language yet. It's only going to get better as time goes on.  I say these things with the promise of your Heavenly Fathers love for you. Please ask him for guidance and he will give it to you. 

Fruit Ninja

Leaky Faucet

I feel at times like I am a leaky faucet of questions, one after another and my questions just keep dripping. My new companion Elder Vela has assured me that I am doing well. I'm learning that I have been saying words and phrases wrong and that my pronunciation still needs some work. This has been good for me to know what I need to work on and how I can improve. I really appreciate how he is able to help me with this. I think my Spanish is going to improve a lot with this transfer.

How blessed I am to be in Arriajan, I love this zone, this ward and these people. My favorite day is Tuesdays at lunch. We have a member named Linda who owns a private school. Usually, twice a week she lets us come over to the cafeteria and she will give us a plate of food which always tastes good. The Science teacher is a member by the name of Hermano Vallerino. We enjoy spending time with him talking and learning more about the scriptures. This usually only happens when we are free or he is around and we usually don't have too much time. I do love how he always tries to guide us to the scriptures with responses to questions. He has helped build my passion for studying and searching the scriptures. On rainy days he will share with us a little bit more within the Book of Mormon and the Bible. I have grown to realize that I have never really studied the scriptures. How many prophets and apostles have talked about the importance of diving into scripture study? I have found that it easy to read them at this time in my life but when I was younger is was not so. I think that people take the word study too lightly. If you were told you had to study for your Final Exam in History, you would spend time rewriting the notes from the teacher. You would probably spend time creating flash cards, timelines, and maps. You may try to teach what you know to someone else to make sure you know it. Why don't we study the scriptures in the same way? In the way you would as if your future depended on this test.  

I've seen so many people’s lives changed from reading the scriptures. Reading the Book of Mormon is truly a book from God. This book has mysteries of God. 
Alma 37: 3-4
And these plates of brass...which have the records of the holy scriptures upon them...they should be kept and handed down from one generation to another, and be kept and preserved by the hand of the Lord until they should go forth unto every nation, kindred, tongue, and people and they shall know of the mysteries contained thereon.
D&C 61:7, 11
Seek not for the riches but for wisdom, and behold, the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto you, and then shall you be made rich.  Behold, he that hath eternal life is rich.  
If thou shalt ask, thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things-that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal.

If you do not have a copy, go to and they will send one to you for free. Your local Mormon Missionaries can too. If you read, study, ponder and pray, you will find happiness in your life. 

This week my companion and I got creative and we made a cork board and painted old milk cans to put some plants in them. (The powdered milk is the best here unless you like half cheese/half milk.) We also headed to a USA import clothing store to find some cheap shirts with logos. Our goal is to make it into a table cover or just something to hang up in our room to give it color. Apparently you can get shirts here as cheap as 25 cents. They also have some ties so I’m crossing my fingers that I can find one because this week I designed a mola for a tie. I'll update you when it gets done. 
My neighbors across the street are members and are so nice. Every night we come home and stop by their house and talk with them. They often give us some food to eat and the mother has helped us out with laundry because she has a washing machine. They provide us with a spare mattress when we have another missionary stay the night. They even told me that they have a niece that I could date after my mission. They have such a fun sense of humor and Christ like love for us. They want to help out anyway they can, I LOVE them.