Wow I can`t believe Stephen is going to get his mission call this week that`s insane. It`s going to be so cool for him to find out where he`s going and to know where he`ll spend the next two years of his life. Make sure and shoot me an email Thursday night and I`ll have the Elders in the office check me email to let me know! This week that passed is called the "semana santa" and it starts Thursday and ends on Sunday. My companion put it well when he said "even though it`s supposed to be about Jesus all the Panamanians use these days off for is to drink beer" ha-ha.
Ok so to give you the lo-down on Easter here in Panama. It starts on Thursday with parades of Jesus and a lot of the people actually carry crosses in the street and have the roman guards behind them whipping them (that`s something I didn't see last year), Friday there are more parades, Saturday is normal and then Sunday Easter. To be 100% honest here in the city it`s not huge because most of the people that live here go to visit their family members in the interior of the country and out there it`s completely insane! Yesterday being Easter Sunday was awesome. Our bishop caught wind that it would be my last Sunday there in the ward so when we got to the Chapel he called me into his office and asked me to speak. I was assigned the topic of the atonement and I think it went pretty well! Ha ha sometimes I feel like I`m in a dream because a year and a half ago if someone would have asked me to give a 10 minute talk in Spanish I never would have been able to do it but now it`s almost something routine! I`m so blessed to have come here to this country and to have learned this language.
Ok so being in the office I do know my change. I know where I`m going and who I`m going with and it`s actually a really weird feeling. I`m going to be a Zone Leader in a Zone called Colon. It`s about an hour away from the city but just directly across the country. Panama City sits on the Pacific ocean and Colon sits on the Atlantic side. My companion is going to be Elder Aguilar, from Mexico, and it`s going to be super fun because he`s been in a few of the same zones with me in the past. I`m excited and honestly a little nervous for the opportunity to get out and be the leader of an entire zone but I`m looking forward to the new challenge and the change in lifestyle from the office.
The highlight of this week has been yesterday with our baptisms. Between the 4 Elders here in the office we had 6 baptisms yesterday and it was wonderful! Our family of 4 that we've been teaching progressed all the way to baptism and we couldn't be happier about it. Iris, Kaitil, Hidekel and Nilka were all so so happy to be baptized and the most amazing part was to hear Iris (the mom of the three girls) bear her testimony after being baptized. She got up and said how grateful she was and then with tears in her eyes said "I know this is the church of God and it`s where he wants me and my daughters to be" It was such a simple yet powerful testimony and not going to lie it made me a little teary eyed as well. I feel really good about my time here in the office and for as unhappy as I was when I got here it`s going to be just as hard to leave. Once I decided to make my experience in the office the best it could possible be things started working out and I learned things that I never could have learned in another spot in the mission. I`m so thankful to my mission president for having the trust in me to take on this kind of special work in the mission and to my Heavenly Father for doing everything to get his children baptized and just using me as a tool in his hand.
I think the biggest lesson I've learned in the mission is that this work has nothing to do with me. It doesn't really matter how many lessons I have in a day, how many people I contact, or how many references i receive as long as I`m obedient and do what the Lord asks he blesses us with baptisms. He lets us be first hand witnesses of the change and happiness that the gospel brings into the lives of people. I`m so grateful for everything that the Lord has given me and for the blessing my mission has been in my life. I love you all so much and am so thankful for all the support and love that you have all offered me.