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!" My brain's having trouble with all this rewiring. In 9 months it can only get worse.

And speaking of 9 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... 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 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.

Received Feb 27th, 2010

Dated: 2/23/10

¡Jaime, mi querida amiga!

I am so sorry I fell behind with the letter writing last week! Just know that the only reason I won't send a letter is because I simply had no time on P-day. (Last week I selfishly got my hair cut. Lo siento. Pero, yo lo necesitaba.)

I sent a friendly reminder to my parents to forward the e-mails, so hopefully they will comply! If not, just send a message to Angie on FB and she can forward it to you. You should be hearing from me weekly, my friend!

It's good to hear about the haps at home. To be honest, I had totally forgotten about the Olympics until someone mentioned the figure skating a couple days ago. As sad as I am that I don't get to see them, you know what I'm going to say... I'd rather be here! And here's the crazy thing: I leave for Panama in 4 weeks! ¡Que loco! (Uno de estés días, escribiré una corte todo en español. Pero para hoy, escribiré totalmente en Ingles ☺. --> okay, not "totalmente."

We've started teaching the lessons in Spanish now! I'm not exactly what you would call "flent" but I get the point across. Hay mucho mas para aprender. Por lo menos, puedo decir que estoy progresando.

So I came to a startling realization last week. I thought I was doing a pretty good job forgetting about myself and focusing on the work but we had a zone conference that taught me otherwise. Our teachers stressed the importance of being a "SER" missionary, not an "ESTAR" missionary. A ser missionary (o misionera) is someone who cares so much about the work that they continue talkign about mission related things while they're eating, in the dorms or in between classes. One of my teachers asked us all to think about the last things on our minds were at night. Mom? Dad? Boyfriend/girlfriend? ... What about your companion? The people you're preparing to teach? Yeah... I realized I was too often trying to take a "break" from missionary work by thinking about things that didn't necessarily apply to the work. (They weren't trying to condemn us for occasionally thinking about home - it was just one of those "good"/"better"/"best" things.) It's going to be a bit of a sacrifice to stop thinking so much about myself but, honestly, this is the most important thing I could ever do and this is my only chance. I really can't afford to waste a minute of it! (By the way, writing to you will never be considered a waste of time!)

I guess there's a part of me that sort of wanted to cling to everything I had before so that I could prove that I was the same person I was when I left. Now I know that was ridiculous because being here has actually made me feel more like myself than anything else. FUnny what the gospel can do for you, huh? :)

Anywho... no worries about your Pal. She's a happy kid. (I mean "Hermana.")

Okay, I know I don't nearly tell you enojgh about the goings on round these parts so today I'll try to make amends! I've decided to do some character profiles for you today starting with:

My companion: Hermana Nicole Graham

I cannot begin to describe my gratitude for Hna. Graham. She really is a gem of a compaion! Aside from being physically ripped, she is sweet, sincere, funny, tall, beautiful and very spiritually attuned. I was sick a week ago and she took incredible care of me, making sure I had water, medicine and peace and quiet when I needed it. That's probably why she's studying to be a nurse at BYU. She has a natural gift of taking care of people. Oh, and she's a fantastic piano player, too. You might hear about this from my parents' email but she accompanied for another Hermana who was singing in RS on Sunday (and I turned the pages! Woot!) She has so many talents. We get along almost nauseatingly well. I love teaching lessons with her because I end up learning so much. She's constantly studying the scriptures or her Spanish textbook, so her example's really motivated me to work harder. (I am, after all, very competitive like that. :)) I can't wait for you to meet her some day!

Hermana Ochs and Hermana Kennedy

These are the other two sisters in our district/room, so they are basically my "other" companions. The four of us are always together at meals, meetings, class and in the dorms. These two are almost as different as Hna. Graham and I are the same. Es muy cómico. Hna. Ochs is a tender hearted sister from California whom I am confinced would never hurt a fly even if the fly was stabbing her in the back. She'd probably just apologize for being in it's way. I absolutely adore her innocence, which I think can sometimes come off as blonde-ness (no offense, James.) I could send you a list of the quotes we've compiled from her, the most recent being this little exchange:

Elders: We're going to Las Vegas.
Hna. Ochs: California?? Awesome!

She is truly a treat :). You'll hear more about her I'm sure.

Hna. Kennedy is a cute, blonde 5'2" ball of fire from Missouri. She's hilarious - I'm always catching her eye in class and busting up because we have very similar senses of humor. She's friendly, outgoing and has an infectious smile. She actually studied French in school so SPanish has been a bit of a transition for her. I love it when she speaks Spanish with a French accent (like "ahntray" instead of "entre.") It's almost as cute as her little Missouri accent when she says, "grassyus, Elder!" I never told you the snoring sotry but here's the gist: one of the sisters in our room had a rather bad blockage of the nasal cavity (snores SO LOUDLY!) and one night I was staring up at the ceiling with bloodshot eyes while this was happening and smoething sort of snapped - I started laughing uncontrollably (I was so tired and all I wanted was some good sleep.) Hna. K. sleeps on the bottom bunk below me and must have been awake too because I felt a sharp poke in the back and pretty soon we were both in tears of laughter. And the snoring ceased. :) We break out into many fits of laughter here. How is that different from the way things were at home? It's not. I'm just spreading my insanity :) .

The Elders in our district

We have six Elders: E. Piena/E. Christinsen, E. Haskell/E. Anderson, E. Rumsey/E. Anderson (yes, there are two.) I have a hard time remembering they're all 19 because they are incredibly mature and respectful - when we're not busting up laughing during our Spanish hymns (we struggle a bit - except with "cuenta tus bendiciones" - it sounds better in Spanish!) They take our trays at the end of every meal, hold open doors and, best of all, make us laugh daily. We're like some quirky Mormon spin-off of the Partridge Family or something. You woudl really enjoy our classes. They are characters!

My teachers: Hermano Zirkle y Hermano Bingham

Perhaps I say this too much but my teachers are AWESOME. Hermano Zirkle took Hno. Anderson's place a couple weeks ago and even though I was devastated about losing Hno. A, Hno. Z is fantastic and I've learned an incredible amount from him in just a few short weeks. I think he cares more about the people he teaches than anyone I've ever met. He has a sincere desire to help the people who are preparing to receive the Gospel and it's really taugth me to open my eyes and look beyond my teaching abilities and more toward the feelings and needs of the people I teach. Hno. Z is also very ADD - and that is truly entertaining to witness. He'll twirl chairs, toss markers and do pirhouettes on the doorstep while he's teaching us. And he does fantastic impressions whenever he tells us stories about his mission (In Bilbao, Spain!). But he doesn't do the "th" thing :(. I love Hno. Z! We get along really well because he appreciates my sarcasm.

Then there's Hno. Bingham - fresh off the mish as of about two months ago - but I swear he doesn't seem 21. More like ...23. I dunno. You'd just have to meet him. He is a hoot. Very animated yet serious at the same time... he's always saying and doing funny things but he never cracks a smile. Oh - except one time when we were singing "Abide with me; 'tis eventide." Yeah, I don't know either. It's a terribly hilarious hymn... We used to have a lot of fun with his Spanish lisp but he decided to stop doing it (probably because we could never make it through a sentence without laughter.) Anyway, we have fun with Hno. B.

Those are my main amigos here! There are many more (thankfully) but devotional is about to start, so I have to call it quits. I'm going to spend you a picture of my district! I hope my 3 favorites (plus Shehan) are doing well!

Let the others know more letters are on the way! I love with all of my little corazón!

Con amor,

Hna. Pallison

p.s. could you send me some pictures of any/all of us?

p.p.s. I love you :)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Received February 11, 2010


My Jamie dear,

After I got your card and letter today, I HAVE to write to you! Seriously, your letters bring a sonrisa to my face siempre. (That's right - I know TWO Spanish words! :) ) You are just amazing and I want you to know that for every letter you send, I'm giving back about 50 hugs. So...keep that in mind, I guess... (I guess that's my idea of payback for your kindness. 50 hugs. There you go.)

Thanks so much for making a blog, too! Holy Cow, I don't know if I' ever going to be able to catch up on all the letters I need to write back to people. It's funny - I'll get letters from friends saying, "I heard you did this..." and I'll think to myself, "How on earth did you know that?" So thanks for being my own personal newscaster. :) You were born for that job!

I guess I got my punishment for making fun of my teachers' lisps because I lost my favorite teacher last week :( . I wrote to my parents about it, so assuming they're passing along the word, I won't reiterate the whole story. But part of his mission was in Oviedo! I told him all about having one of my best friends do a study abroad there and I was so proud. Yet another connection to you that I can claim. I love it :).

Spanish is coming along! I can pray pretty easily and bear my testimony (I think I may have told you this already) and now we're working on incorporating what we learn into our lessons, so with any luck I'll be in easy conversational modes sometime really soon. (Just gotta pray for that gift of tongues.)

Hna. Graham and I are getting a lot of practice teaching about the Restoration and now we're working on teach about the Plan of Salvation - which is a lot more difficult than you might think. But this is where teaching primary for the last few months comes in handy. It's amazing how much more effective the really basic, really simple lessons are. Like Nephi, I glory in plainness! (Yes, I did just quote scripture. That's what I do now :) )

It made me so happy to hear you bear your testimony in that last letter. It was so sincere and heartfelt - I'm just so grateful to have such an amazingly strong friend whom I look up to so much (I'm sorry... just realized how many "so's" there were there...I'll tone it down!) I'm learning more each day about the power and reality of the Atonement and I can tell you I've experienced those "spiritual smack-downs" frequently here! My eyes seem to water very easily... stranger... I just can't wait to see how this blesses the lives of the people I'll meet in Panama. That's going to be amazing. I can't wait to tell you all about it in SIX WEEKS! (1/3 down w/the MTC already!)

Speaking of the MTC, I'm amazed by how many questions I get about the food. Well, fine. I will tell y'all about the food. It's actually pretty good - but this is coming from the kid whose main staple was previously peanut butter & jelly and the occasional tuna fish sandwich. The only complaint I have is that the time goes by so quickly, I feel like I'm still full from breakfast when it's time to eat lunch and so forth. In fact, Fast Sunday was the first time I actually experienced any hunger here - and even then I really wasn't that hungry. ¿Es loco, no?

But I am definitely doing my best to work off all that gooodness. My awesome, machine of a companion keeps me in pretty good shape with our runs, springs, ab workouts and kickboxing - yes, I said kickboxing. Like Chuck Norris style. (We've only done it once but it was immensely entertaining.)

Okay, P-day is almost over, which is a shame because I had a funny story to tell you involving a snoring roommate and me having a fit of laughter...but I suppose that must wait for another day. Tell everyone thanks for the prayers/letters and I'll write back eventually!

I love you, dear. Keep the Disney quotes coming :) .

Con amor,

Hermana Allison Brewster

p.s. Did you ever know... that you're my heeeee rooooo?

(Felt it needed to be said.)

Received February 6, 2010

Jamie/Angel sent from above -

You, my dear, put me to SHAME! If you only knew how much your DearElder and handwritten letters meant to me - Oh, I just want to hug you! I really wish I could just write you sheets and sheets detailing every single adventure here, if only I had the time.

I'm disappointed in my parents for not forwarding the e-mails! Grr. I'll have to get on them for that. I definitely want to keep you in the know about everything going on here. Really, James, I'm amazed at how comfortable I've been here. I was more homesick in Germany for sure and even then I wasn't that homesick, so that should serve as a good indicator for my comfortableness (?) here. (I'm pretty sure Spanish i messing up my English.)

Did I tell you my teachers both served their missions in Spain? And they are AWESOME. It makes such a difference to be taught by people who firmly believe in the things they're teaching. Plus it's fun to make fun of the Spanish "lisp." :)

(regarding the text above) Evidence that I haven't changed much. :) ("Grathias, Hermano Anderthon.")

P-day goes by fast. We do laundry at 6 to beat the rush, eat breakfast, shower, study, e-mail, go to lunch, go to the temple, study more, practice for choir, go to dinner and go to devotional (which is where I am now, furiously scribbling this before it starts.) Not a whole lot of downtime!

You will be hearing much more from me, dearest. I LOVE YOU!!!!!

¡Hasta luego! Con amor.

Hma. Brewster :)

Friday, January 29, 2010

Received Jan 29, 2010

Dated: 1/26/10

My most beloved Jaime (yes, that was intentional) -

WOW. I don't even know where to start! this has been the craziest, busiest, most challenging yet most fulfilling week of my life, hands down! And I haven't even been here for a full week yet, which utterly blows my mind. (You know, I'm not used to writing letters by hand yet, so I apologize for the atrocious penmanship :).)

I have to tell you, I'm absolutely positive I made the right decision in coming here because from the moment my parents dropped me off on the curbside until now, I've had a strong sense of purpose and belonging here. And I can tell you that I've never felt more pushed to the max spiritually, emotionally, intellectually and even physically (I'll explain later.) I never fully appreciated the fact that missionaries have such limited time, but now I fully understand that. To give you an idea of how busy we are, I took the letter you gave me Tuesday night to the MTC and this morning (my first P-Day) was the first opportunity I had to read it. I'm not joking. We're up at 6:30, we go to breakfast, class, gym, lunch, more class, dinner, various meetings and service projects, plan out the next day, set goals, get about 20 minutes to read and write in our journals then it's lights out at 10:30. ¡No tengo tiempo! But it really is god to be busy again. In fact, I'm feeling pretty guilty about all that time I wasted lounging about in pj's and the like for the past few months.

(Those days are long gone!)

Thank you so much for your letter - for BOTH of them (I almost cried with joy when I got a letter from from you on my 2nd day! You are the absolute BEST. I send my hugs.) You have no idea how badly I want to respond right away when I hear from you and it kills me that I have to wait for P-day to roll around. But that obedience thing is proving to be a blessing so far. :)

I absolutely cherish your letters because it makes me feel like you're here (well, you ARE here as long as I am.)

What you said meant so much to me. As a new missionary still learning the ropes, I know I have a long way to go before I reach the potential I'm aiming for. But you're giving me the hope I need to get there. :) You definitely give me more credit than I deserve. Don't think for a moment that I could've been as happy and cheerful as I appear to be without you as my wonderful friend. Take that away and there's a gaping hole in my life. You are my sister, Jamie, and very, very dear to me. I couldn't do this without you!

If there's one thing I'm learning while I'm here that I think would be of benefit to you (well, it's ALL beneficial) it's that we can't lose patience or hope with ourselves. The things that we struggle with internally that we don't think others will understand or relate to are not there to make us feel guilty or bad about ourselves. You're right when you sat that there's a reason for the trials you're having right now regarding the temple. One week at the MTC doesn't make me an authority on spiritual topics by any means, so don't think I've got all the answers, but because we're always talking so much about how much God loves us and wants us to be happy, I have no reason to doubt that. I constantly feel inadequate here ("Oh man...I have no idea how to start teaching about this...", "That person seems to be getting this so much better than I am...", "I don't have what it takes to talk to investigators...") But I try not to think like that. They tell us here all the time not to ever compare ourselves to others. The fact is that we've all got things we're dealing with and so we all have different strengths and weaknesses. What comes easily to one person may seem impossible to another. The one thing we can take comfort in is the fact that if the Lord gave us these weaknesses it's because He knows we have the strength to eventually overcome them - provided we trust in His power to help us with that, of course. We definitely can't do it on our own.

All right, I don't want to sound too preachy here, so let me just tell you that I love you so much and I know you're going to be just fine. Let's just keep praying for each other, all right? :)

Oh man...I have so much I want to tell you and absolutely insufficient time! I've been writing this since laundry this morning and we've just got done with lunch but we're about to leave with our zone for the temple...Ay, yi yi! Not fair! I was hoping to get a chance to tell you all about how cool my classes have been, how much Spanish I've been learning, what my companion and the other Hermanas are like...all that and so much more! I did get a chance to finally e-mail mis padres today and I asked them to forward it, so e-mail them and they can forward it to you: or

Tell Marissa and Scotti that I LOVE THEM VERY MUCH and that I'm sorry I couldn't write to them today, but yours is the only address I have anyway. (Like a dote, I didn't get those before I left. Bah!) Share with them everything I said, okay? Their letter will come once they give me their addresses!

Happy Christmas, Ron! I love you. :)


Hermana Brewster :)