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 LDS.org 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.

A New Companion

I am getting a new companion!  Well, I genuinely couldn’t be more excited. There are three things that I hoped for that came true with this change. 

1. I wanted to stay in Arrajian, I’ve heard it is the nicest area in all of Panama, but also, I love my Bishop and the landscape and the people and just everything about Arrajian so much. I have been told by just about everyone I have one of the best wards.  I definitely agree. Bishop Bravo reminds me in many ways of Bishop Spears back home. The first time we met was on my first Sunday. I had determination in my eyes and I was going to ask, “Hey, I’m new here, what do you need us to do in this ward.” I got up and couldn’t remember any Spanish. We just made eye contact and he gave me a big hug and said, “Welcome to the ward, I’m so excited to have you.” Honesty, Bishop Spears has a close spot in my heart. My Favorite Bishop, but Bishop Bravo is a close second. He has a similar sense of humor too. We share a ward with two other Elders. So, there are four Elders in two wards. 

2. I occasionally have the chance to talk with the Church Regional Manager for Panama. He organizes the agenda for when anyone comes in for a Visa. I wanted to talk to him one last time. He has a unique testimony and it is just inspiring to listen to him. He encourages missionaries to search deeper for answers to their questions. I have loved learning from him and know that he is one of the reasons the Lord has put me in Arrajian. 

3. I also prayed that I would have someone to help me with training and with my Spanish. 

I was ecstatic when I found out that Elder Vela is my new companion. He is the red head in the picture down below and he is from Mexico. He is bilingual and has already helped me quite a bit with my Spanish. He was from the other companionship within the ward. I am still in Arrajian and in the same ward just over a different part. Their house is so cool! First off it is not a ten-minute walk from the start of the street to our house every night and morning. We have a wider area, but we live in the center of everything. We have a green coconut tree in our backyard and while every house in Panama has fans, we have an AC unit, I am so happy!!! 

Panama Is A Blessing!

Compared to the last few weeks, this week seems rather uneventful. We had zone conference and I absolutely loved how spiritually uplifting and motivating it was. It was also great because they feed us as well. They spoke about being obedient to the mission rules. Since then I have been more diligent with my personal study. During the last week and the weeks before I would be walking, talking and taking the occasional picture; this week I have used flash cards that I carry around everywhere. While we are walking from one appointment to another I am studying. My goal has been to memorize many new words every day. As I have turned to the Lord and asked him to help me I have flown through these flash cards like I could not have imagined. My grasp of Spanish grows a little bit every day and now I am understanding significantly more this week than I did last week.

When I was younger, I learned a small little rhyme. (Find a penny, pick it up and all day long you'll have good luck.) While in Panama I have found a penny every day this week. I viewed this as good luck or a blessing in my life. While some days I may have seen one, other days I found 3, 4 or 5 pennies. On those days I knew something good was going to happen and as I put forth the effort to make my days filled with good luck. I found better results and had a more positive attitude. In life sometimes we have only one penny worth of blessings, but that shouldn't limit us. We shouldn't say, oh, man, I have been given only this penny, and just walk past not picking up that penny thinking it's practically worthless. If you put effort into making a penny you find on the street motivate you to work harder, or look harder for your blessings in your life you will find more success and more happiness. Some day that penny will lead you to another and another creating a cycle of blessings. Don't walk past that one penny. Always be thankful for your blessings, even the small ones. 

This week I questioned myself a bit one day. I was like oh man a mission can be rough at times. For example, am I tired at the end of the day? Some days couldn't end sooner. Is the heat a challenge? Yeah, but not as much as the Spanish. How bad is the Spanish? Well, it’s getting better. I heard my bishop say watch out for this family. They have a rocky past. He actually said watch after. I still have a lot to learn. Do I wish I didn't have to search five to six stores just to find tortilla chips or jelly? OH YEAH! Always! Then I think to myself, but Jacob, isn't this everything you asked for in a mission. A challenge that I will grow from, an opportunity to learn a new language. The beautiful floral scenes and the humble homes. And the crazy stories to tell. Panama in many other ways is the mission I always wanted to go on, but never realized that it was the mission I truly wanted. How blessed am I! 

I would love to leave a bit of advice for any other future missionaries. This week I went on divisions with Zone Leaders so we were in a trio. That night we were fed a meal at a member’s house which is always so great. But there was something about those beans that didn't sit well in any of our Mexican, Peruvian, or American stomachs. We are not allowed to track door to door... so we ran down the streets looking for a member’s house or even an old investigators house. Let me tell you, if every day you looked for investigators with the same intensity we looked for a toilet, then I have no doubt that you'll have several new investigators before the end of the week.  
Love you all- Elder Irizarry

Tips for Future Missionaries:

I like the CTR Clothing DryMax and the Darn Tough socks.

They have not come in use yet unless you are using them to dry your clothes.  I've heard that many of the areas outside of the city and suburbs have problems with electricity. Find one that can plug in or run on batteries.

You'll definitely want a pair of boots for the rainy season.  Other than that you will want a very comfy shoe.

Make sure you bring some with you to the MTC.  I did hear that the girls had them but we didn't. This mission home will give you around five and the rest you can buy here.  They are really cheap.

I brought a few lights. A flashlight, and small Mila saftey LED light, a head lamp and a blow up solar lantern.  I love the small light that I hang on my bag. I ordered it from ILC travel outfitters. It's powerful enough to light the road as I am walking at night. The headlamp has been helpful at night because there have been a few times that I've washed my clothes in the dark.