Hola mi familia!
This last week was good, it started to get a little easier and I found that I had a bit more of the correct desires to go out and share our message. It has been a very rainy week, and when it is rainy, it is super humid! But, that is all part of the fun, I guess... We had divisions this last Thursday, so I went with our Zone Leader, Elder M, and worked in his area of San Vicente. He is kind of a jerk, he talks bad behind Elder P’s back all the time, and just doesn’t treat people well in general. But, it was a good experience to have to speak all Spanish for really the first time here! It was super rainy the entire day, so we got completely SOAKED to the skin! We just contacted the whole day, they didn’t have any appointments set up, so we just gave out a lot of pamphlets and shared our testimonies with lots of people. It was a good experience, and I felt really happy that day! I slept at their house that night, and then the next morning Elder Price and I were working together in our area again. We went out and taught one of our investigators the commandments that day, because she said she wanted to be baptized on Sunday! So, yesterday, I saw my first baptism in the mission! It was really good, her name is Yamaly, she is 17, and she has been raised by her brothers and sisters, (who are into drugs and different things), because her mother has been in jail for the last seven years. She said she did a lot of bad stuff in her life, but that she knew that she could change through Christ. It has been amazing to watch that change!
So, mom, we sleep in a house that is one big room, with a half wall between where we sleep, and where we hang all our clothes up. Then, there is a small bathroom and shower too. We have two beds, a small table, some shelves, and a sink in our room, but it is home. There are no windows, just holes in the wall, so we have a fan to keep it cool in there. There are tons of bugs, like ants, cockroaches, and spiders, but I am starting to get used to them. I haven’t seen any huge spiders yet, so I am surviving!
As for where we shop, we don’t have to buy much, because we eat with the members for every meal except on P-days, and we don’t ever eat breakfast. We only have to buy hygiene stuff and snacks if we want them, and meals on P days. There are little stores all over Panama called chinos, because they are ALL owned by the Chinese population of Panama, which is rather large. They are like convenience stores, they are small, and have no doors, just big metal grates they close at night. So, we buy everything we need there. There are four or five in our area. Our area is about a half hour out of the city, but with all the terrible traffic, (there are no driving laws, and Panamanians are crazy...) it takes between an hour to an hour and a half to get there. It is probably the same distance from our house as downtown salt lake is from where you live. At night, it takes us about two and a half hours to get back, because the traffic is terrible! Luckily, we don’t have to go into the city much!
We don’t have a ward, it is a branch, and we have about sixty to seventy members every week. Our church is a ten minute walk away, on the main stretch of road that runs through Ciudad Bolivar. It is a small building, just a small chapel, which has no benches, and a couple rooms where classes are held. We use chairs in the chapel, and there is no piano, so we sing hymns a’capella. The church is divided into two separate parts. The chapel is on one side, and the classrooms on the other. It is a nice church, a little bit newer, just a whole lot different that a Utah church!!! There is a concrete soccer field on one side, with goals, where the local people play almost every night! It is fun to come and watch them, and sometimes play. I am definitely getting into soccer! Every time we go to someone´s house, soccer is on. The USA beat El Salvador yesterday 5-1, they are in first place in their division I think, and they are in the same division as Panama! So, they might play each other soon!
So, not much time left, just know that I am feeling happier and happier each week! It gets a little easier every day, but it is still the hardest thing I have ever done! But, I can give up two years of my life so that I, and others, can have eternal life. I read your letters a lot, and the scriptures you share with me are always perfect for what I am going through. Dad, I particularly enjoy Mosiah Chapter 3, and mom, I loved the parable of the donuts you sent me last week! Know that I have a strong testimony of this gospel, and I know we are all being blessed by the Lord at this time, as are the propel I am teaching. I love you guys, please keep me updated on the goings on in Riverton, sorry I can’t write more today, we are at a Mall called Los Andes, and our internet time is almost up! I love you all so much, thank for your love, prayers, and support for me! I love you all!
Elder Austin Michael Kipp