Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Letter received 01/10/2011

(She sends me her calendar "fortunes" once in a while)
My dear Jamie,

I did it! I made it through Christmas without watching “White Christmas” or “It’s A Wonderful Life” and I didn’t cry! YAAAY!!! (Though that did not stop me from quoting them both all month long.) By the time you get this I’ll have almost reached my year mark…that’s insane. If I could do a side-by-side comparison of myself from who I was a year ago to today, I’m sure there’d be a significant contrast, even though I don’t feel like I’ve really changed all that much. By the way, I still need to see pictures of you! The most current photos I have are from January and I’m willing to bet there have been some slight changes in a year’s time. It’s unfair of me to ask you for anything seeing as you’ve been an angel by sending me so many cards, letters and packages already, but it would make me happy beyond belief to see your beautiful face.

Speaking of seeing beautiful faces, I got to SKYPE with my family for Christmas! It was crazy – like I was transported back home for an hour. I saw my Mom, my Dad, Katie, Dave, Samantha and little Taylor whom I have never before met. I even got my parents to show me the Christmas tree and the new deck they put in, so in a way I really did get to be “home for Christmas!” It was near. The funny thing is that far from making me homesick and trunky like I thought, it made me realize how much I really love Panama. Truthfully, I really look forward to being home. I miss you all so much. But…I know I’m going to ache for Panama shortly after I get back. Even though sometimes I’m just counting the days ‘til I get home, I really don’t know what I’m going to do when I leave here. 

 So…I have a little piece of noticias that I think I better tell you…Remember when I said my return date was going to be around June 30th? Well…it’s now looking like it’ll be around August 11th. The way my 18-month mark works, I have to choose to either go home 3 weeks early or 3 weeks later. Since my proselyte card says “June 28” I just figured I’d be going home in June. But my mission mother, Sister Ward, called me the other night and said “the people in Salt Lake” say I have to choose which transfer I want to leave. Most of the sisters who came with me opted for June except for a couple including my dear MTC comp, Hna. Graham. I told Sister Ward I’d have to talk to my family about it and let her know. This has been quite the battle in my mind for a while now ever since the idea of extending my mission crept into my brain about 3 months or so ago. I’ll tell you honestly that I did not want to extend – but I had this feeling like the opportunity might present itself. Lo and behold, such is the case. So I prayed. And I prayed. Nothing. I didn’t feel right about August. But I didn’t feel right about June either. I wished somebody would just tell me what I had to do. Decision-making is apparently not my forte. I had too many “Well, what if’s” in my head. “What if I’m supposed to be back in June for something/someone?” “What if I don’t stay until August? I might regret it forever.” But I think the thing that most weighed on my mind was something one of my MTC presidents told me during my “exit interview” from the MTC. He said, “If you serve faithfully, the Lord will bless you with a fine husband. But if you don’t fulfill your duty, you may end up marrying someone else.” I remember thinking that that was an interesting comment. I kind of interpreted it as, “Don’t go home at the wrong time or you could mess up who you end up marrying.” Basically, I just wanted to be sure that I was in the right place at the right time. 

Whether or not 6 weeks will make the difference in my eternal salvation/exaltation or not, I can’t say. But I reasoned in my mind that the Lord would not possibly punish me for choosing to serve Him full time for just a little longer. So I started leaning more toward August. After talking to my family about it, I feel right about August. Sure, I might not have as much play time and summer fun with you all like I wanted, but I will have 6 more weeks of Panamanian material to tell you all about. Nothing’s “official” just yet, but if I get the okay from President Ward and everything else goes well, I’ll being seeing you in August! And really, after 18 months, what’s a few more weeks?

I just hope you aren’t upset by this. I don’t think you will be. Just hope Marissa and Scotti feel the same way!

So that’s my big news. And you have any big news for me, you just feel free to drop me a line.

In case you want to know what’s new with me here, I’ll tell you a few things:

-       Christmas was AWESOME. We went around with one of the Elders dressed up as Santa and gave toys and food to needy families in our areas. My favorite was a little Venezuelan family with 3 little kids in our area. They are adorable and had absolutely nothing at all until we showed u. The parents were in shock and told us they couldn’t’ thank us enough. I’m never going to forget that. And I can’t wait to show you the pictures! This will be a new tradition for me, I think.
-       We still haven’t baptized our family. We had our hearts broken by our Colombian fam, los Aguirre. But…I’m still positive that good things are coming. I only have 2 more weeks here in Marcosa with Hna. Bloomfield and the President’s sending me somewhere else because I’ve been here since September. I’ll be sad to go but new beginnings can be good, too.
-       I’m rekindling the old flame that existed between soccer and me.  Played today with the Elders and I am proud to admit I scored 6 goals. I also turfed it and got a nice scar on my elbow which will go well with the one I already had on my knee. I figure this way I won’t have to buy souvenirs.
-       My new nickname as of late is “Senorita Hawaiian Tropics.” This name came from the nice man in the insane asylum in front of our apartment. (Not kidding.) I have also recently been called Chinese. Many believe I am Latina. My personal favorite is Jamaican. I’m sticking with that one.

So that’s basically the haps for now! AS always, this will be old news by the time you get this. Sorry. I’m thinking better write to Marissa and Scotti, too, but you are welcome to share any and all of this with them! Especially the “big” news. Please tell them I love them!

I love you dear!



Hermana Bloomfield is so beautiful and reminds me very much of you!

Just got done playing soccer with Camilo and his boys, MAteo and Juan-Hose. Camilo plays professionally here in Panama but they're from Colombia. We are in love with this family!

This proves 2 things: 1) I read my scriptures 2) Our house is a beauty

Monday, November 22, 2010

Received 11/22/10

27 Sep. 2010

Querida amiga mia,

!Ayala vida! (A Panamanian expression akin to "oh, my goodness!")

I think it's been like 3 months since I sent you a nice, handwritten letter.

Oct 3, 2010

...And that pathetic excuse for a beginning to a letter should give you an indication as to why it's difficult for me to get everything I want to done on P-days. Wow.

ANYWAY...I feel like I have so much updating to do! Howsabout a quick little recap of events since the last time I wrote:

- I stayed in my area (David) but with a new companion: Hna. Perez from Honduras. Coincidentally, she and Hna. Castro (my old comp) are from the same neighborhood and arrived together on the mission. But the similarities stop there, I'm afraid. That transfer was tough. I don't want to relive it on paper but I will with great happiness tell you all about it one day when I can do a live re-enactment. I added a lot of material to the future novel/CDS drama. It ended all right, though, and I'm happy to say we're on good terms. I never appreciate those so-called "growing experiences" when I'm in them but they always make me laugh looking back. Such is life.

- Good thing from my transfer with Hna. Perez: we had the baptism of 17-year-old Natasha who is a DOLL. (She actually called me a couple of nights ago to wish me a late Happy Birthday. Sweet Kid!)

- We had our first interviews with President Ward, who I'm convinced was sent from Heaven directly to this mission. He's so great - always positive, always smiling and always doting on the hermanas. (Hna. Ward tells him, "Dear, don't make it so obvious." We are very well taken care of and I feel like I've got my parents here.

- President knew things were tough with Hna. Perez, so he moved me from David right into the heart of the city with Hna. Calderon, whom I've worked with before when I was sent to help her out for a week in my 2nd area, Chorrera. I could write an entire letter about Hna. Calderon. I've really grown to love this crazy little Peruvian who's literally half my size. We're quite a pair, the two of us. Sometimes when we're walking in the streets I'll glance sidelong at her and just start laughing because I imagine how strange we must look to passersby.

We just got back from zone P-day! (Hence, the change in ink color.) IT really does pay to be in the Panama Zone for P-days because we have access to just about everything: major historic sites, tourist attractions and malls. Kind of feels like I'm in the States sometimes. It's weird. You're going to have to reteach me how to socialize in English because I've found that I'm incredibly awkward around Americans. This is mostly due to the fact that I'm thinking in Spanish all the time and I translate things literally. Here's a small sample of things I've said:

"I have 22 years."
"Oh...that gives me pain!"
"I have hunger!"

Spanish words are always creeping into my English conversations, but sometimes it works the other way. My companion will ask me something and I'll reply, "I dunno...er...inose!" My brain's having trouble with all this rewiring. In 9 months it can only get worse.

And speaking of 9 months...as that is the time I have left, I now give you the "green light" on that future family of yours. I know I'll be home for little Jamie/Jaro junior, so you're good to go! By the way, HAPPY ANNIVERSARY in a few days! That completely blows my mind. I was thinking today about how you, Marissa, Scotti and I watched "Father of the Bride" the night before your wedding remembering with great fondness how we got all teary and nostalgic. If you play your cards right, we could be doing the same thing with "Father of the Bride II" when I get back...or if Marissa and Scotti are on the marriage boat we could do it with the first. Rest assured that I will not be jumping on that boat any time soon. One of the blessings of the mission has been to teach me how I need to be extremely careful about whom I choose to spend the rest of eternity with. I have to marry somebody who has the same goals, principles, values and who will just be fun around. While everyone is equal in the eyes of the Lord, He made us all distinct and I've learned that humans are like ice cream - certain flavors just don't blend (I say this from experience. Note: papaya and raspberry do NOT go together.)

Don't get me wrong - I want to get married. Every time I see a cute little family sitting together in church, I think, "Aww...I want that!" But I can wait for it. We'll see what the Lord's plan is.

What I want to know is how was your first year of marriage? I'm sure you could tell me a thing or two. I have in my mind this picture of you with your professional job (which I want to hear more about!) coming home at the end of the day, making a delicious Jamie meal and then sitting down on the couch to watch a football game with Shehan. Is that an accurate picture?

I sure miss you and that hubs of yours. I'm sure you're doing great and getting excited for your Hawaii trip - and yes, I want pictures! I'm happy that you're both working hard and having fun while I'm away. You certainly deserve to enjoy yourself.

Thank you so much for your insights in each letter you send. I'm always impressed by how spiritually mature you are, James. What you said about being sober and waiting on the Lord in your last letter really rang a bell with me. I think there's definitely a balance that has to be struck in life. We can't be too frivolous but neither can we be too serious. I have my moments on the mission when I'm too tightly wound and just need to enjoy myself - but if I'm having too much fun I start to feel guilty. The trick is finding the right time for everything. (See Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. I'm not making it up.)

I miss you and I wish you could be here with me to...

...to see how incredibly crazy busy this mission life s as it is now October 17th and I have been writing this letter for nearly a month. Man. I'll probably be handing this to you when I get off the plane if I continue at this rate.

So right now I'm listening to "I'll Go Where You Want Me To Go Dear Lord" and thinking of how we sang this in church when I was filling out my mission papers. I had no idea that a year later I'd be here writing to you from my leaky little apartment in Panama. It's crazy all of the parallels that exist between the mission and the Plan of Salvation, actually.

I left my home, my family, my friends and everything that was familiar knowing it was going to be hard but trusting that it would all be worth the sacrifice. I get to learn and progress, experience a lot of trials and blessings and meet many different amazing people. I can't say I was fully prepared for everything that's come along but I also can't deny that absolutely everything has, in the end, been for my good. Though there are many things I wouldn't care to relive, I'll always be grateful for the experiences I've had here. The mission molds you in ways you don't even realize. It's an incredible blessing and my perspective's been widened a little. In the same way that I want to make my parents proud and return with honor at the end of my mission, I want to "return home" with honor at the end of all things to my Heavenly parents. That'll be a happy day, don't you think?

I could go on for pages but I think I better finish this letter before the end of the year, so we'll just leave it at that with a promise that you will be hearing more in the future.

Already past the halfway point, James. I think I'm gonna cry. This place is my home. These next 8 months will be awesome for the two of us. I have no doubts.

I love you so much.

Hasta pronto,

Hermana Allie Brewster

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Photos received July 31, 2010

The Jehovah's Witness Hat!
This is with my trainer, Hna. Tracy. A testigo de Jehova gave her this hat after trying to fight with us...it was a funny story. :)

p.s. note that I am soaked from the waste down thanks to the Panama rain

Me encanta el templo de Panama!

Abril 2010
Zona: Arraijan

April 2010

My first (and only) temple trip with my first zone in Arraijan.
14 zone baptisms = TEMPLE TRIP!

Golden Retriever @ the beach! :)
Chorrera p-day May 2010

My week in Biancheri w/Hna. Calderon from Peru.
I got to help out with 3 baptisms!

P-day @ la playa in my 2nd area: Chorrera
May 2010

The Hermanas of la Zona David:
me, Hna. Castro (my comp), Hna. Marini, Hna. Ochs (MTC district) Hna. Dalton, Hna. Zamora, Hna. Breedlove (MTC friend,) Hna. Garcia
Zone Conference - July 2010
Zone: David

The baptisms of Joselyn & Christian in Arraijah
(Hna. Tracy, Joselyn, Anthony, Christian, yo!)

Received July 31, 2010

Date: 19 de julio 2010

Mi querida Jaime,

So I'm reading my family's email today and my mom says, "Natalie says if we want to hear more about your mission we should be friends with Jamie on Facebook." Apparently, you've been doing a good job at keeping everyone informed of the goings-on, and it is for that very reason that I choose to write to you so often (and also because I love you but that goes without saying, right?) I was lying here on my bed listening to the rain pelt our roof, wondering what I should do while my companion sleeps (ahhh, P-day...) and I just really felt like writing to you. So here goes!

First things first, how goes it with you? Last I heard you were working on evening out your tour for Hawaii this October, which is entirely unfair, by the way! How fun for your family though. You'll be sure to take pictures, yes? I've been told Panama is very similar to Hawaii... just probably a bit dirtier. We do have plenty of palm trees and coconuts. The funny thing is that we have pine trees right next to palm trees. Not sure if that's normal but I like it just the same!

Sounds like you and Shehan are doing pretty well and you've got nothing to worry about job-wise. Truthfully, I never worry about you, James. You've always been intelligent and self-sufficient, so I know you're going to be just fine. I haven't the foggiest idea what I'm going to do when I get back so keep your eyes open for me, ok?

I believe that in my last letter I cited some...difficulties...with my dear companion, right? Well, this transfer has been a 180* turn around. My comp is Hna. Castro from Honduras and she and I have gotten along like the best of chums. I credit much of this to the fact that we have a very efficient system of working together: she cooks all our food and I wash all the dishes. :) You know me - anyone who feeds me is a friend forever! I'm taking some good notes, too, because I plan on making all of these things for you some day. Just you wait! We're going to have tejadas, avena, patacones, gelatina con helado, juevos con tomates, arroz con pollo, chichas, batidos de galletas and much much more! I will be a cooking fiend.

I wish I could tell you we had an amazing conversion story for this transfer but truthfully we are struggling a bit to get people to keep commitments. I do, however have high hopes that we're going to see some changes in the next transfer with our investigators. It's a slow process but the journey's well worth it. The important thing is not to get discouraged because that is definitely one of Satan's greatest tools. I've had my moments where I've though to myself, "What on earth am I doing here? This is nothing at all like I imagined it would be." We have our days when we're soaked from the waist down in rain with leaky umbrellas and mud-caked shoes, walking for miles to get to a house only to find it locked up and empty. Investigators who say they'll come to church end up getting mysteriously ill between the hours of 9 and 12 every Sunday morning. Appointments are canceled. Baptismal dates fall through. All of these things have happened to me on a consistent basis. HOWEVER...I will always be grateful for that small little prod of encouragement that says, "Cheer up, Hermana Brewster! Something good's on its way." And that has always been the case. The trick is to look for the good things.

I think Sister Brewster just needs to stop worrying about Sister Brewster and then everything will be fine. :)

("She's got... hiiiiiiigh hopes! She's got... hiiiiiiigh hopes! She's got hiiigh, applie piiiiie in the skyyyy-y-y hopes!)

You asked me if there was anything I needed in your last letter, but don't worry about me - I am just fine! All I really need is an occasional line or two informing me of your well-being and that is all. (But if you happen to find some miracle makeup that doesn't melt off your face at the first sign of humidity, thus evading what I affectionately refer to as "Panama face," that would be all right.)

I'm including a few pictures to show you what I mean by "Panama face." You'll understand.

Well, dear, tengo que irme. Te quiero con todo el corazón como de costumbre y yo deseo que sabe cómo dio gracias yo soy para su amor, la amistad y el apoyo. ¡Eres mi favorito!

Hasta la próxima carta,

tu amiga,

Hermana Al

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Received July 9, 2010


Dear James,

Every time I write to you I think, "You know...this letter's going to be pretty outdated by the time she gets this." But oh well! The important thing is that you know I love you and I am so very grateful for your faithful letters to me :). I don't get letters very often because everything has to go through our mission office first and it is a pain. But it makes it all the more special when I do get letters. Speaking of, have you heard/seen much of Marissa and Scotti? I have yet to hear much from them here in Panama. But I understand it's a busy time for one and all. I just hope you all know how much I love and appreciate you even though I'm "out of sight/out of mind." It's pretty pathetic - I keep the three pieces from all of your blankets (the ones I gave you, M, S @ Christmas) by my pillow and the other night I couldn't find the piece from your blanket. I had a mild panic attack: "WHERE'S JAMIE??" Luckily I found it. :) Just know I think of you often.

Have you found a job yet??? What are you and Shehan planning for your first summer together? Any good movies out right now? I think I barely realized it was summer time in Utah. Crazy thought! Just in case you want to know, my return date is June 28, 2011 - this time next year I'll be coming home! Yikes! WE both know how fast a year goes so I better make the most out of this mission while I can! My greatest fear is coming home and feeling like I didn't do anything or that I didn't give it my all. I'm not going to let that happen. These next 12 months will be well spent!

I know I wrote to you about my companion in the last letter but I don't remember what I said. But oh man...Jamie...if you only knew the stories I have for you :). These past 5 weeks have been... well, I can't even describe it! But have no fear because I've been writing down everything I plan to tell you someday. You and I will have a ball recounting my 2nd transfer in the mission, I promise you. Hna. Chevez...ha ha ha...just remember to ask me about this particular period in my life, ok?

Anywho, I think I' finally adjusting to mission life in Panama. This is starting to feel more familiar to me and the language is getting there. I still feel like an old woman asking everyone to repeat things but it's almost always impossible to discern every word of the Panamanian dialect. I'm pretty sure they've erased the letter "s" from the alphabet. My companion loves to correct my pronunciation (among other things.)

me: "Restauracion."
Hna. C: "NO. !RrrESTaOOracion!"

Bless her heart...always so patient. (All right, the sarcasm is still pretty prevalent. I'm working on it."

We've had a fair amount of challenges in this area. WE have tons of people who throw doors in our faces and we have trouble getting people to commit to coming to church. Lots of people think that a place like this would be humble and receptive but Panama is very different from other countries because it's so diverse. Especially in my area, Chorrera, where it's busy and close to the city. Personally, I'd prefer to go somewhere more quite and peaceful, but the mission isn't about what I want or what would make me most comfortable. I'm called to serve here and if there's only one person in the whole city whom I can help, my duty is to find that one person. Easier said than done, I know, but it's good to remind myself every once in a while of why I'm here.

If there's one thing I've learned from my comp (and believe me, I have learned many things) it's that Satan's greatest tool is devastation. (Actually the word in Spanish is: "desarimo" but I can't think of the English equivalent for some strange reason...) It is so true. If we feel discouraged we can't do much. That's only one thing I'm extremely grateful for - even when I'm at my lowest point here, there's always a glimmer of hope in my heart." I recognize the challenges as they come and just say to myself, "All right, Lord. I know good things are coming!" I've always trusted in that. There's always something good on the way!

Another thing I've been grateful for is the constant feeling of support from the Lord. It seems like the more difficult the situation, the greater I fell the Lord's presence in my life. I think maybe that's why we pass through trials. We need something to prove to us that we're never left alone. I was reading an old conference talk by Elder Holland about ministering angels - both the ones we can't see and the ones we can. He says the Lord always sends help to us in our times or need. We're never left alone. Before I went into the MTC my dad gave me a blessing that morning and he told me that during the blessing he felt the presence of family members beyond the veil more strongly than he ever had before. That has given me so much comfort, Jamie. I can't tell you the number of times I felt comforted from an unseen source. I'm sure I have help from family members but I'm also sure that you are behind that too. You're one of my angles, too. Every time you pray for me and every time you write to me I feel so uplifted. I promise you I can feel your prayers and that they really are helping me.

I'll never be able to tell you how much that means to me. I pray for you every night and I hope the Lord's pouring out all the blessings you deserve or being such a fantastic friend to one of His missionaries.

I'll try to send you pictures soon so you can see how utterly beautiful I am with my crazy hair and makeup-less face (it just melts off here. There's no point.) You might get a good laugh! Ah, humility...I just hope some man will still want to marry me someday after viewing my mission pictures.

Well, love, another P-day draws to its close. Heigh-ho Heigh-ho...back to work I go!

Hope this letter finds you happy and well. Never forget how much I love you!

Hna. Pallison.

p.s. Our neighbor speaks English and always puts on Disney movies for her kids. Ahh! The temptation!
Satan knows my weakness..

Monday, March 1, 2010

Photos! Received: Feb 27, 2010

Comments: This picture was taken by Kyoko (our Japanese "investigator" at the TRC) at the temple. The three sisters on the left are going to the Phillippines. Hermana Graham is next to me.

Comments: District 42 B!

(top to bottom & left to right)
Elder Christensen
Elder Rumsey Elder Hasken
Elder Anderson Elder Anderson Elder Piena
Sister Graham Sister Kennedy Me!
Sister Ochs

This was taken outside of the temple. All of the Hermanas are going to Panama and all of the Elders are going to McAllen, TX.