All the Chiquita bananas you will every need in Changinola.
A banana boat song I would sing when we ever had district meetings always cracked us up. It was Day-o, Day-o Daylight come and me wan' go home.... Come, mister tally man, tally me banana, Daylight come and me wan' go home.... I have had a few times where laughed as I imagined my great-grandfather as he sailed over from Puerto Rico to New York City on a banana boat.  I am so grateful to have served in this area and will miss banana land very much.  I am now leaving the banana fields and heading to the mountains.

On Splits!
Yesterday I said goodbye to Elder Amaya who was super cool. We had a lot of hobbies in common and there wasn't a free moment when we weren't talking. They actually closed my last area Almirante. Almirante has a few people planning on getting baptized, and luckily the branch knows the people. Elder Amaya will be close by along with Elder Lopez and they said they will go out to baptize them, so I think that’s all under control.

I also had to say goodbye to the beautiful Changuinola where I have literally served half of my mission.  This was kind of sad to say goodbye to but... I did get to move to somewhere nice where we actually have clean water AND A SHOWER. Literally, I got transferred from one of the poorest areas where the houses are sinking into the water to a tourist site. Almirante was also a tourist site and pass through town but the sites there were places we didn't get to see because they were all on the beach and well as missionaries, we can't go there.  

I have been asked why I have not been sending pictures as of lately. Well, I've been working on that. I actually need to buy a new camera. The house we lived in got robbed in Almirante as well as getting trashed. The neighbors happened to see everything and knew who it was and so we reported it to the Police.  I did not get my camera back and I don't know if they will ever find the guy. As well, in Changuinola there weren't cameras to buy but now that we are near the city of David, I should be able to get a camera there. 

My new area Boquete or Volcán is amazing because you are up in the mountains. Elder Vela had told me about this area and mentioned that it was super dope. It is one of the only 'Cold' areas in all of Panama. Volcán was closed until recently and from what people have told me, we live on the top of a mountain so even when it is sunny, there is always a misty breeze coming our way. And at night you actually get to use a comforter!! YEAAA!

Info online from family:  The town of Boquete (pronounced bow-keh-tay) is nestled in the highlands of the fertile province of Chiriquí in western Panama. It’s a town of about 6,000 people and a retirement haven for expats looking for a simpler lifestyle. English is commonly spoken and many International Living readers have already relocated there. Boquete is a microcosm of bliss. Flowers of kaleidoscopic colors blanket the hills and towering mountains form breath-taking vistas. In the distance, you can see the stunning Volcán Barú rising up through the misty clouds while the Rio Caldera flows through the town, soothing residents and visitors with its gurgling sound. Because of its location in the mountains, Boquete enjoys a cool climate, and this draws Panamanians and expats alike to this gem. Due to the elevation, daytime temperatures are generally in the 70s F and 80s F, with cooler nights. The spring-like weather makes Boquete ideal for full-time residents and snow-birders alike.
Retire in Boquete, Panama

My new companion is Elder Nevas who is from Argentina.  I met him when he was training my Dad (or what we call our first companion).  He is super funny and although I don't know a whole lot about him I think this will be another great companionship. I will be able to tell you more next week.  I left last night and just barely got here this morning so don't have to much to tell you yet.  

To follow up on last weeks question: For whatever reason and for the 3rd time on my mission, people have thought that I looked like that chef guy from Ratatouille.  But that’s another story.  I enjoyed the great guesses my family sent my way. (Mogli, Aladdin, Prince Charming, Flynn Rider, Robin Hood, Stitch 626, Gaston, Kuzco, and Kronk).  

Planting The Seeds

This has been a weird week because I haven't slept much in my own bed due to a ton of divisions. Missionaries go on divisions and we often change companions for a day. This helps up to learn new things, to teach a new area, to someone; if someone is sick, or well for just about cualquiere other reason you can think of.  This week, I was able to go back to El Empalme to teach the other Elder about a few people. It is an hour away, but it happens to be the closest missionaries we have to us. I loved being in my old area and I was able to see many people that I had taught and was able to see how they had progressed. I talked to the Ngobe family I baptized and they were just like, “LIVE HERE, with us!”

At the end of the day the coolest thing that happened, was we ran into someone I knew. To backtrack, one day on a bus ride I was sitting next to a kid and we started talking. This young man was super sharp and had a desire to learn English. He asked me to practice with him and so I did during the entire bus ride as we talked. At the end I gave him our number if he ever wanted us to come over and share a little bit more about the gospel. So… it ends up being that he tried DM-IM-Facebook chat everything he could to connect to our phone. Unfortunately, we have this brick style phone so we couldn't even do anything except get texts. Luckily, he ran into the missionaries later and told them about me and how he wanted to learn more. Now back to this week… We showed up at his house, and when I saw his face I said, hey’ we've talked before, I don't know if you remember me, but we talked in a bus going here. He just ran and gave me a huge hug. He had been telling the missionaries serving here about me and asking who and where I was. They had no idea, and said that I was probably on the other side of a 13 hour bus ride in the city somewhere. This young man expressed his gratitude of the day that we had met and told me how if we had not talked that one day, he would have never talked to the missionaries. How much these teachings have now changed his life and how he has plans to get baptized this next week. It was a heart touching moment! 

Then I also had divisions with Elder Lopez, my companion from El Empalme, but in a different area. We got to the house of one investigator where that man said, “HEY, you guys look like Mordecai and Rigby.” YEAAH I wasn't ever expecting that reference, but we died laughing. It was super fun being with him again, we both have become better missionaries since the last time. One of the highlights was when we were teaching someone who was on the point of baptism and one of their family members, a pastor, told them a bunch of garbage and they just had a lot of doubts about baptism. But like a few changes back, where we had a powerful lesson filled with the spirit answering every single one of his questions and explaining WHY. It was just like a Kame-hame-ha right through his doubts. After we left that lesson, we just looking at each other and then said, wait where did you learn that?

One last highlight, this week I was told that I look like a character from a Disney movie.  This character I have been told I looked like two other times.  Here’s a hint: It happens right when I need a haircut.  I'll give you a week to guess who it could be.

Trust In God

Alma 38:5 (….I would that ye should remember, that as much as ye shall put your trust in God even so much ye shall be delivered out of your trials, and your troubles, and your afflictions, and ye shall be lifted up at the last day.)    

Here is a fun experience I just recently had.
This week a few members of the church were starting up a personal fundraiser so they could raise money to rent a bus in order to afford a trip to the Panama Temple in the city. (WHOOO! 13 hours sitting on a bus.) One day all our appointments were falling through one after another.  We finally got to a point in the day where we were going to go visit a reference we had for a family. This was a father that had seen a member family of eight and had heard a little message and thought that he was interested in learning more. This man asked a member to contact the missionaries to see if we could come over. We just didn't know where he lived and so we went over to the member’s house to get directions.  When we got there the dad exclaimed, ITS A MIRACLE! -Wait what? He then went on to explain that God sent us here just in time to help. Then we said, “Can you wait for about twenty minutes, we have time, we just need to teach this Dad who wanted to learn more.” The man was not home and so una vez we left and so the work began.

The ward member started explaining that for this activity we would help him bring wood to make a fire so they could prepare tamales. We thought, yeah, this will be no problem.  He went on to explain that there were a few dead trees behind the church so let’s get going. In reality, we start walking to the church and then he flagged down a taxi. We get into the taxi and head into the middle of nowhere. (Nuevo Paradiso- where you would see a house every three minutes of walking.) We get out of the car and look on one side of the street where we see that it is a straight wall of tropical trees. On the other side, there is a small dirt cut out and a burnt down house. (Apparently, it was his old property.) As we got out of the taxi, another father met us who happened to be a burly man with a huge gut and who was just lugging a chainsaw over his shoulder. He was by his three sons, the two younger were 11 and 13-year old sons, Angel and Nefi, who look like twins, and happen to both wearing similar outfits, and carrying two machetes and the oldest son was carrying two gas tanks with him. We then headed out back down behind the burnt house, down a hill and over a ditch about 5 feet deep where a tree fell over and slid down into the river. We follow this ditch by cutting and hacking with machetes a pathway in which we can cross to get there. The foliage, vines and poison ivy making it a tough path to create. 

At one point, their dad climbs up on one of the three trees that fell down. My companion and I are at the bottom of a hill, with walls of trees on both sides with the only path you can see is the one we cut through and the river. The river is running fast because of all the rain (oh, did I mention that it was raining), and the father is straddling two different trees with a chainsaw cutting another tree all above this river. We just hauled up what he cut to the hill in the rain and mud and in our white missionary shirts which are now brown dress shirts. Another member helped by taking the wood to the church. All I can say is, that I think that Panamanians are the offspring of Rambo himself. 

Apart from that story, we had a baptism this week of a young man named Reynaldo. He lived on the streets almost all his life. He was eventually adopted by his aunt, but never really got along with her. He has had many hard experiences throughout his life. After teaching him, we have seen a huge change in this young man. He really carries the light of Christ in his eyes. He has made huge sacrifices to be where he is now. He has even gotten a job to support the family. I am really impressed with him. 

I had my birthday this last week and as a treat for the money sent from my family, I decided to buy myself, Captain Crunch! Cereal here is a little expensive, and milk is even more so. All the milk is a little sour and to get good milk it costs a bit. So I splurged and had a good birthday.

Now every week we take a bus to go to Changuinola Centro for a small conference and along the way I heard a few bands that I haven’t heard in a while. We hard Earth Fire and Wind (By the way you can never be sad listening to them), we heard One Republic, and from the Backstreet Boys. "I want it that way". And that is what I think I want to talk about today.

As I explained to an investigator this week, "life is filled with getting more responsibility and more responsibility." You learn as it goes. You get thrown into a situation: sometimes weird, sometimes sad, but almost always a little uncomfortable. And you learn to cope with it. You adjust. You become good at the task or situation. You get comfortable and then you get thrown something different. Every time with a curveball. And that’s how God works. A lot of times we think to ourselves how or more commonly why. I have learned a few things on the mission that help me.

1) 1 Nephi 3:7 He will never give us a trial too big that we can't overcome. It's doctrine. He can't be a loving Heavenly Father and ask us to do something crazy, like build an Arc without providing a way or the means to do so. As it says in Luke 18:27, And he said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.
2)  Isaiah 55:8-9  The Lord has a plan for every single one of us and the choices that God makes are his to make. I can't change the will of God no matter how much I want or how much I try. Neither can I change the past. However, I do have the agency to decide how I want to act and react to every situation.
3)  2 Nephi 26:23-24 God will not put anything stupid in our way. Every little trial has a purpose to it.  Ether12:27 says we are given trials to help us learn and grow, but most importantly to be humble. Just like Job of ancient times we too are given trials that make us stop and ponder, Why me? If I'm doing everything right, Why Me?  What am I supposed to get out of this?
4)  Alma 38:5  The Lord gives us trials so that we can learn and grow our faith. So that we can turn to him. Eter12:6 We can't gain a testimony until we really have a trial of faith. 

Just like Christ our Savior was faced with many trials, we are as well but to a lesser degree, but we are asked to 2 Nephi 9:18 bear the crosses of the world. We bear our personal small token of a sacrifice he bore. I know that God loves us and has a plan for every single one of us. He wants to help us and wants the best for us. That’s why he sent his son. Alma 7:11-12 to help us get back to him, but also so through his sacrifice that he gave, we can feel peace during the worst of times. Please turn to him in prayer. I promise he is there with open arms. 

I pray for you and love you,
Elder Irizarry

Another Busy Week

I am sorry that the Internet is slow today because I had a lot going on this week... I wrote something but it doesn't want to send. I do not have all the time in the world and so I will write to you next week.  One quick highlight, I ATE TURTLE Sunday! That was super good.

World Cup - Panama

It has been a crazy week, we started off the week by taking a road trip to David. I was able to see Elder Franco, Elder Reyna, and Elder Arriaga a few of my past companions which was cool. I also saw Hermana Updike who was in the same district as I was in the MTC and she was my cousin’s first companion here in Panama. She gave me the updates on where everyone is and how they are doing! That was super nice.

In this month of June, Panama as a mission has made it a goal to baptize the most people in church history for the duration of one month. I have been seeing a lot of times during the week when I have been listening to the small promptings and have received big blessings. We have been guided to find some really special people and some old investigators who have re-sparked their interest.

Late last night we got a phone call from Elder Lopez, he asked us what our plans were for Monday.  Well, Umm, not a whole lot, we will be cleaning, writing home and going to the clinic.  Well, he said, you will never guess what, President Current gave the entire mission permission to see the World Cup game tomorrow in which Panama is playing against Russia. It starts at 10:00 and so change your plans. My companion and I were both like Wait, What? Yeah, VAMOS PA'RUSSIA!  
We went over to the nicest members house we knew. One with air conditioning which is like one in a million over here. We watched it on the big screen, and even though we knew they weren't going to win the game.  1. It was on television, in which I have been able to watch for a year.  2. Everyone in that house was Panamanian so it was a lot of crazy fun energy and overall a really great time.

And... then we went to the doctor and they took out my toenail.