Friday, September 27, 2013

Week 1 in Panamá - Alcalde Diaz

Hi Everyone,

First let me apologize for not sending this out sooner but I have been totally swamped with work. Ok swamped isn’t a very good word, bombarded or buried might sum it up better. Nevertheless here is the email I got from Sister Carmack with a photo (Mission President’s wife and then Alyssa’s email from Monday. A few other things. I know Alyssa mentioned in an earlier email about only being free at the MTC. I logged on yesterday and it says Panama Mission is free. So that is a really good option to write to her. It will allow to get “mail” in hand. You all know missionaries LOVE and thrive on mail. Please write to her if you can I know it will lift her spirits to hear from you. Thanks and love you all!!

To Family Members of Our Newest Missionaries! 

We welcomed 23 new missionaries to the Panama Panama City Mission in the last few days -- 22 hermanas and 1 elder! They received training yesterday and did a temple session together in the beautiful Panama Temple last night. I made dinner for the missionaries and they slept at the temple annex (Casa de Huespedes) last night. Transfers were this morning and the missionaries met their trainers and took a bus out to their new areas. Hermana Wandell will be trained by Hermana Gonzalez from Guatemala. She has been assigned to serve in the Alcalde Diaz district of the Alcalde Diaz zone. I have attached a photo of her with her trainer.

We were very impressed with how dedicated and prepared this new group of missionaries is. We know that they will do a terrific job building up the kingdom of God here in Panama. We will do our best to take great care of them. We have our own missionary son who is in Idaho waiting for a visa to depart to Denmark for his mission so we know how you are feeling.

If you want to follow the mission blog, the address is I try to update it once a week with new photos. The p-day in our mission is on Mondays, so you should be getting your first email from your missionary then. If you wish to send letters or packages (just be aware that it can take several weeks for a mail to arrive), the mailing address for the mission is:

Mision Panama
Carrasquilla Entrega General 0834
Republica def Panama

We are very blessed to be in Panama to help build up the Lord's kingdom. We thank you for sending us such prepared, worthy and dedicated missionaries. We pray that your family will be blessed while you have a missionary serving full-time for the Lord.

Best regards,

Hermana Carmack
(Mission President's wife)

 Now for Alyssa

Hi! I’m alive haha.
Abby I love and miss you too!! I’m glad you liked the “Stick Abby” pictures, it is really hot and rainy in Panama. Super humid. I feel like I am never dry. Please eat some Chick-fil-a for me since I can't. Can’t wait to talk to you on Christmas.

Please tell Lauren congrats for me!!!!! She is going to make a fabulous missionary !!!
I miss fall soooooooooooooooooo much!!! I will answer your questions later in my email. Okay with the envelopes everyday, the next batch don’t tuck the flap inside because thanks to the humidity the glue is getting stuck to the index cards and we have a new address that will only take 2-3 weeks to get stuff here instead of 2-3 months. I will put that later as well.


I loved the package btw, especially the carmels!
Okay so first day in my area we committed someone to baptism.... yeah crazy right!! Se llama Luis, his wife is a member.

2nd day we went to the temple with our zone, one of our zone leaders is from Austraila!! Kinda cool!! He is super nice too. There are 12 people in our zone.
Panama Temple

Alyssa and her companion Hermana Gonzales

So before we got on the bus to go to our area we went to this HUGE mall called Albrook, they have two food courts that’s how big it is. And they have ... wait for it.. Johnny Rockets (her favorite after Chick-fil-a).. and (thank the heavens) PITA PIT!!!!!!!!!!!!! But it’s not open yet! But trust me as soon as it does you better believe I will be there!!!! Probably the only normal.. I mean American food I will get here.
At our house we get home and get in bed and our sheets feel damp thanks to the lovely humidity. We don’t have any food either... there isn’t a super market in our area. So we usually have like a banana for lunch or doritos or whatever we can find at the chinos (mom and pop type local tiny store).

We have a "pet" mouse in our ceiling and a "pet" cucaracha... but we can’t find either of them to feed them or beat them with a broom or a shoe... I mean to love and care for them...

Alcalde Diaz (picture below is what I found on Google) is all hills and stairs... steep hills and stairs... on the bright side I will have rockin’ legs!! (: Oh it is also in the middle of the jungle, at my house there are bamboo trees right outside my window

Alcalde Diaz

Bamboo outside her window

Almost every person that we talk to tells Hermana Gozalez (whom I love, but it’s hard cause she doesn’t speak much English) that I look like a doll. I am 200% positive that I am the only white person in the whole city because every person stares at me... any way my new nick name is la muñeca, cause legit every person calls me a doll...

The language is a lot harder than I was expecting because the Panamanians have really different accents and to add to that they love to mumble, which doesn’t make it any easier for a poor American trying to learn their language. I literally feel like I learned a different language...
The food from the members is good for the most part. Church here is different. We have over 50 wards (probably more) in one city. Here they have 1 maybe 2 branches in one city. More than half the members are inactive. Others who were here in the past just baptized, they didn’t teach, so we have people who are blessing and passing the sacrament but aren’t worthy to do so. Also it isn’t uncommon to run into someone who is 21 and has 1-3 kids already.
It’s really beautiful here, we live in the mountains and it’s really pretty and green. The mountains remind me of home, just not quite as big.
Our house always smells like mold. There is no hot water. Normally when you take a shower it is hot and then you get out and it’s cold. Here it is the opposite. Luckily the roads here are paved, so it wasn’t too hard to get my luggage here. But the airline broke the handle on one of my bags so I have to yank on it in order to get it up. Oh well at least it didn’t come off or something.
So many people we talk to want me to speak in English because they want to learn, so we are going to have an English class every Friday night starting next week. Thank goodness. I have never been so grateful for a language in my whole life until now...
This is hard work. It’s hard to stay positive but I know it is worth it. Knowing that this is blessing my family keeps me from wanting to go home. I miss you guys a lot. And I’m counting down the days. It’s hard being in a new place with a new language, when you are the minority. You don’t know the culture and it is a polar opposite world than what you are used to. But I know I can do it, it could be worse. At least we have clean water to drink. (finding the positive J - proud mama here J)
We have a baptismal service on Saturday. I think that should help lift my spirits and remind me a little more of why I am here. It’s hard but I know that 16 months from now I will wish I was still here. Please hug my Abby for me. Tell her I love her too! I love and miss you both so much. Thank you for everything. I hope the B.O.M. is going well and that you are understanding it. I love you to pieces! TTFN
Hna. Wandell
P.S. I got to see part of the canal the other day and today we are going somewhere called Causeway (picture below is what I found when I googled it) with our district. I love you I love you I love you!! Be safe!!

The Causeway (according to Google)

Panama City

On the Bus


Panama City

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Week 6 at the CCM, now onto Panamá

Hi everyone!

So this week’s email is pretty short.  But there are TONS of pictures. I knew it would make this email too big so I put the bulk of the pictures on the blog. If you want to see them you will need to click on the link below. She left the CCM today and flew to Panamá. I know her airplane made it there so I am certain she did too but I have not heard anything and don’t really expect to until her Pday next Monday. I know she would love to hear from you. I am sure the coming weeks are going to be some of the toughest. Thanks for your love and support J

Stick Abby at the CCM!

 Her District and Teachers at the CCM

 Still Teenagers :)

 Hermana Howe and Hermana  Wandell

Hermana's Barth, Wandell, Latu and Howe

 Outside at the CCM

Her district and teachers at Independence day celebration

 Red, White and Blue on Sept. 11

 Hermana Barth and Hermana Wandell
 Independence day Celebration

Hermana Barth and Hermana Wandell

Hermana Latu, Hermana Wandell and Hermano Arevalo

Okay Mexican Independence day is CRAZY!!!!!! We had this big fiesta with dancers and fireworks and everything!! It was fun!! Then last night we had something called a Grito that they do every year. The president says something and then the people all yell VIVA and you do it like 10 times. And then there were fireworks all last night!! Crazy!! Apparently the people shoot guns in the air and so they told us we had to go straight back to our houses after so that we wouldn´t get hit.

I gave Hermano Arevalo the book.

Abby looks so sad in that video. Please tell her to smile for me and that I don’t want her to be sad.

(her answers to Abby’s questions) Abby I love you so much!! And I can't wait to see you again, I will run to you as soon as I see you at the airport. Please be good and smile. I don't want you to be sad. I miss you too kiddo but I will be home before you know it. Yes they have McDonalds here and I only have to go on one airplane. Speaking of which did you like the airplane when you went to Disneyworld??

Now back to mom, our investigators are our teachers. Benjamin = Hno. Muñoz and Gilberto = Hno. Arevalo.

I will miss my teachers and my district, the food (when it’s good), the cold (never thought I'd say that), and the safety. (I asked her what she will miss about the CCM)

I knew he was video-ing us last night. Its fine if you don’t send it. I get the jist. (Her teacher emailed me a video of them singing “God be with you til we meet again”, it is safe to say I cried through the whole thing)

The polka dots was fun (picture from last weeks email), and then on Sept. 11th we all wore red white and blue (see picture). Hermana Curtis is from Florida. She actually understands my humor and I can be myself around her. It’s like a breath of fresh air. She and I are sitting together on the plane.

I sent a picture of our healthy peanut butter and Nutella sandwiches (it’s all they had...)

So the awards we made for everyone, and the girls made each others so it would be a surprise and then we surprise all the elders. Fridal was El Capitan, Ballsteadt the classiest, Faerber the musical genius, Pace the sleeper, Angell the Spanish Dictionary, Parker the exercise guru, Loveridge was grandma's boy (his grandma sends him a letter every day...), Delos Reyes the neon robot, Barth the boy magnet tron, Howe the ballerina barbie, Latu the homegirl.

So I am going to try and find a calling card. If I can’t I will probably still call you but it will have to be really short. I am gonna try to call you between 6-8:30 your time cause I want to talk to Abby. So PLEASE keep your phone next to you. But don't tell her, I don’t know for sure if I will be able to and so I don’t want to get her hopes up that and I want it to be a surprise. I’m gonna send more pictures, sorry this email is kinda short, I don't have a lot of time, I still need to pack. (She did call this morning, it was so good to hear her voice, we got to talk to her for about 15 minutes)

Okay bye love you!!!!

 Hermana Wandell and Hermano Arevalo
 District Awards
 Independence Day Celebration
 The CCM
 The day they slipped in the rain - Ouch, more than one have battle wounds
 Alyssa's Award
 Hermana Latu, Hermana Wandell and Hermano Hoapate
At the CCM
 Hermana Wandell and Hermana Howe

 Hermana Howe, Hermana Wandell and Hermana Latu

 Her District

 More Red, White and Blue
Her Teachers
Hermana's Barth, Wandell, Latu and Howe

 "Stick Abby"
 Nutella and Peanut Butter Sandwiches

 Her District
Alyssa and Sister Doxey
 Still Goofy :)

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Week 5 at the CCM

Hi everyone J

Here is the link to the blog

Okay so before I respond to your email I have a bunch of things to say, I kept notes over the week of what happened so here it goes.

Oh will you tell people that if they want to write me then they should send me a letter, not email me. It takes away from the time that I have to email you and we only have an hour. So give them my mailing address instead of my email address please. I will be able to write letters back easier than email. (I would say write letters as missionaries love letters but if it is the difference between no letter and an email, just email her and tell her to mail you a return letter)

Hermana Alyssa Morgan Wandell
Panamá, Panamá City Mission
Carrasquilla Entrega General AP 0834
Cuidad de Panamá
Provencia de Panamá

We asked one of our investigators how we could help him to stop drinking coffee, and so we decided to try to give something up as well, chocolate... haha that didn’t last long. So we wrote him a note a few days later telling him we had given in but that he should still stay strong and that we knew he could do it and that if he asks the Lord for help he will provide. So then we saw him the next day and he said he got the note. We taught him about the Book of Mormon, which he already believed in!! Then we read the James 1:5 scripture that Joseph Smith read If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” and he was like I want that same wisdom. Anyways then he told us that he was so appreciative of our note and that it helped him a lot because he was able to not drink coffee even though he had an opportunity to. He said (and at this point we were all in tears) that he knows that we are leaving next week but he wanted to know if we could write him a note everyday to tell him to stay strong, because he can’t do it alone right now but he knows he’ll be able to soon and then he said he wanted to be baptized!!!!!! He totally set it up for us!! So we set a date for 3 weeks later and he said he would be baptized before that if he could!! WOOOOO First committed investigator!! He’s fake, and just pretending but it didn’t feel fake!!

Okay next thing, I was thinking about how you have a hard time understanding what the Book of Mormon is saying, and this is a total missionary response but I’m a missionary so who cares. Try praying before reading. They teach us here all the time that we are more likely to receive help if we get down on our knees and ask for it. And I have seen it work. One day Hna. Latu and I were trying to figure out what to teach our investigator, and one of our teachers said well did you pray about it?? So we said a prayer and then started looking for scriptures, and literally the first scripture I found was PERFECT!! Also I definitely think that there is a direct correlation between our ability to pick up the language so incredibly fast and how often we pray. On average we pray about 20-25 times a day, sometimes more, and that probably goes up in the field depending on how many lessons we teach in a day. At the CCM only 3 of those prayers are said when we aren’t on our knees, and that’s because you can’t really kneel in a cafeteria that has 300-400 people in it...

Okay next so I ordered some leather scripture cases, but leather apparently rots in panama so I am having them sent to you. The guy needs you to pay for the Fedex and then he’ll send them. Yeah I gave him your phone number (don’t worry he works at the mtc, not some random guy) and he just like calls you up as I’m sitting there!!! But your phone went straight to voicemail...

Okay so more about those scripture cases, he carves them. They are really cool!! I will give you his email so you can talk about how he will send them. That was my souvenir for the MTC they were $43 but they are awesome!! He carves a picture, a scripture, your name and your mission in there. So they will be waiting for me when I come home because I don´t want them to get ruined in Panamá. Oh and his brother lives in Sandy!! Kinda of a small world!! He lives right by Macey´s grocery store on 13th. Okay I am going to email him your email. Sorry I know that is not a lot of explanation and it probably sounds a little sketchy but he has been doing this for years and a bunch of the missionaries buy them. Oh here is the website if you want to go look (I couldn’t make it work)
Next thing Elder Faerber broke his finger and had to go to the hospital. I know that’s not all that exciting but when your days are all the same, little things become exciting..

Hna. Latu and I got yelled at by this grumpy teacher guy. He told us that we needed to be speaking in Spanish and blah blah blah and we were telling our teacher about it later and how the guy was really rude and our teacher knew exactly who we were talking about!! And we didn’t even give him a name!! Haha our teacher goes "oh does he walk around like this??" and then proceeded to walk around with his nose up in the air and walks around like he owns the place. It was hilarious! And then he goes, I’ll tell him not to mess with my missionaries!! haha.

Okay 1 more week and I’m excited and scared out of my wits.. There are things I will miss about the CCM and things I won’t.

Next I don’t know if I will be able to have anyone email you when I get to panama so I will email you right before I leave the CCM and you might have to just wait until my next P-day. But I’ll get there, it will be fine. I have more need to worry about your safety than you do about mine. I’m a missionary. I have like 20 angels guarding me at once. Haha. So if you don’t get an email then don’t panic. Okay?? Okay! Oh and if I can find a pay phone do you want me to spend the money to call or not?? I’m not sure what time it will be at, it will most likely be around 3 in the morning.. Just let me know, but don’t expect it cause I can’t guarantee it.

Next thing, so Sunday morning a moth flew into the cafeteria. Why is this important you say?? Oh well the moth was the size of a small bat... about the size of a mans palm. HUGE!!! (:

Next thing... I learned that on average sister missionaries gain like 60 pounds... which freaks me out, so I am going to make sure I exercise, and try to eat small portions and btw, if I send pics and I start to look like I’ve gained weight, PLEASE TELL ME!! I don’t want to come home looking like a whale...

Next thing, its Mexican Independence day sometime this week! How awesome is that, that I am here during their independence day?? We are having a fiesta on Thursday (:  (I know someone oyt there has to have had the same thought as me, “I thought that was Cinco de Mayo”, So I Googled it. Turns out September 16, 1810 is Mexico’s Independence day from Spain. Cinco de Mayo is a celebration held on May 5. It is celebrated in the United States and regionally in Mexico, primarily in the state of Puebla. It originated with Mexican-American communities in the American West as a way to commemorate the cause of freedom and democracy during the first years of the American Civil War and today the date is observed in the United States as a celebration of Mexican heritage and pride.)

Okay crazy thing happened today!! We were at the temple and there were these two elders standing there that are actually out in the field right now. So we said hi, well one of them was white and he caught my eye because he looked somewhat familiar. So I looked at his name tag, his name is Elder Patey.. hahahaha so I was like uhhh your dads name wouldn’t happen to be Ken would it?? Totally his son!! Crazy!! And it was funny because Elder Ballsteadt was like down the street a little walking up, and so I was like hey Elder Ballsteadt look who it is!! Cause they know each other.

Oh I forgot to tell you the funny part about Hna. Barth knowing Ben. After we found out and we both said we love that kid for 10 minutes straight, I was talking to Hna. Howe and I was like "Ben Brockbank is the nicest human being on the planet, if I could give one gift to the world it would be to know Ben Brockbank." And then I was like "actually no, I would give them the gospel, and then I would give them the gift of knowing Ben. Ben is the greatest human being to walk the face of the earth, except for Jesus." (anyone who knows Ben would agree)

Okay now I will respond to your email.

Not sick anymore, sorry you are sick. Thank you for taking those to Zach for me (flowers and a Panama flag on his grave). I knew Kenna (her friend got her call to Detroit, MI) was going and I’m so excited for her! Tell her I say congrats please!!

Thanks for letting me know! I will look out for him, and yes I know Hna. Palmer is from there (Ventura, CA) (: I’m excited for my package!! (I got an offer from a sweet friend of mine to take something to Alyssa as her Nephew left for the Mexico MTC yesterday. I know it was hard day for his family but I am so grateful for his willingness to deliver something to Alyssa – on a side note, it just goes to show how we see small blessings everyday. Literally 5-10 min. before Tammy came in my office and told me her nephew was leaving on Tuesday I received and email from my other friend who’s daughter is already in Panama telling me her daughter’s wallet was stolen in Panama and she didn’t know how she was going to get her a new debit card, J one of those blessings, it is now or will be shortly in Alyssa’s hands who as you know leaves for Panama next week)

I figured you would like the mosquito thing (: I love that you are doing things to help other people. It definitely takes your mind of things to serve your brothers and sisters who are not quite as blessed as you are. I think that will be really good for her  (Abby) to learn.

I WOULD LOVE TO BE A TEACHER HERE!!!!!! (I told her to enjoy her last week at the MTC as she will probably never go back unless she went as a teacher) Oh my gosh I totally forgot!! We watched a devotional that Elder Holland gave in Provo when dedicated 3 new buildings there. I cried the whole way through the dedicatory prayer!! He was blessing it that it would always be a place of safety and that no one could ever come in to hurt or make afraid. He asked that that there would be angels guarding the gates to protect the Lords servants from any harm. And I just knew that a very similar prayer had been given here. This really is one of THE SAFEST places on earth. And you can totally feel it and you can totally tell. I wish I could remember all that he said. It was amazing. Also he said that we should come home with at least one convert, ourselves. You could try to find it if you want. (I couldn’t find a video but I found a story ) It is from January 15th (I think, I know it’s January) of this year.

I’m sending some more pictures. Yesterday we all wore polka dots so we took pictures, so that’s what that is (:

Please tell Abby how much I love her and that I miss her! SHE´S SO STINKING CUTEEEEEEE!!!!!! Hug her for me please!!

Only 73 more weeks!! Keep her safe for me please! Thinking of you guys and giving each of you a big hug when I get home gets me through the hard days. Thank you for everything!! I love you so much!! The two of you are literally the best friends that I could ever ask for! I love you I love you I love you!!!

I have to go now, I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU!! (: TTFN!! Hug the Abbster for me!!

Hermana Wandell and Hermana Curtis