The Best Two Years

The Best Two Years

Monday, December 30, 2013

The Best Christmas of My Life

Hello everyone,

It is good to hear that you are all doing well and that you had a great Christmas!  This Christmas, even though it was really different, and I was away from home, was probably the best Christmas of my life so far. It was two great days filled with an incredible spirit and feeling of joy.  We painted two houses, ate countless mountains of rice, visited some members, and played games and watched fireworks.  We celebrated on Christmas Eve by opening up the gifts you guys sent us, and we were very grateful!  I built all the Legos in about ten minutes and have been playing with them making my own inventions!  My companion thought it was really cool that you guys thought of him and sent him gifts as well.  But, the best part of the day was being able to Skype with you!  It was so great to be able to see you guys, you all look so great and happy! Especially mom, you look great!  I was worried that I would get trunky and lazy after talking to you guys, but it didn’t make me trunky at all.  It made me want to go out and work harder! 

We did divisions yesterday, so my companion could go see some of his converts in his old area, and I went with Elder R.  He is from Colombia and only has two weeks in the mission.  It was a little difficult because he is still a little nervous to talk with people, but we had a good long talk yesterday about the mission, and he just asked me question after question.  It felt good to help him.  His companion told me yesterday that when he went back, he was changed.  It is awesome to be able to influence people in a good way every day here. 

Well, there is not much more time to write today.  I have to hop on a bus to get some sushi with my bro Elder M!  I love you all so much, and it is so great to hear that you are all doing well!  Sorry for the short email, time isn't on my side today.

I love you all!

Love,
Elder Austin Michael Kipp

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas is Almost Here

Well, Christmas is almost here!  Can you believe it?  I can't believe this year has gone faster than any other, and it just continues to go by faster and faster.

So, what are the plans this year for Christmas?  Big Christmas party on Christmas Eve at the house, with Swiss cheese chicken and potatoes, then off to grandpa's for Christmas breakfast?  I will be able to call at three (one o’clock there) and I am so excited to talk to you guys and see all the family!  I got the Christmas box as well, thanks for everything you guys sent!  My comp was really grateful for everything you sent him too.  I was happy to see some Slim Jims, I think I ate them all within a couple of days.  I couldn't resist. We have the Christmas tree up and the presents are all underneath! 

We had the Christmas party for the four zones in the interior last Tuesday, and it was great! I got to see a lot of friends from other zones, and we got to hear from President Carmack and his wife Hermana Carmack talked about the atonement and it really made me think more about why we celebrate Christmas.  Hermana Curtis, Elder Hinckley and I sang "Oh Holy Night" for everyone and I played  it on guitar, and it was scary but good!  I love the spirit that music can bring, and I am thankful to have my trusty guitar here with me so I can remember my old days of being a rocker!  Haha! 

Well, I will keep this letter short since we can talk on Wednesday!  I am having a great time right now, this change has been great so far!  I will find out for sure for sure for sure tonight about the surgery, President called the doctor and I will know for sure tonight. So, I will let you know on Wednesday! I love you all so much!

Love,
Elder Austin Michael Kipp

Monday, December 16, 2013

Machete With Love

Feliz Navidad! 

It is crazy that it is already Christmas.   This year went by so fast.  I am excited to see what the first Christmas away from home will be like.  The R family who feeds us lunch five days a week, invited us over for the whole day for lunch and dinner, and we are going to ask them if we can use their computers and tablet to use Skype!  I will know for sure for sure by next Monday, I promise!   We have a Christmas party planned tomorrow with my zone, Bocas del Toro, Chitre, and Concepcion with the AP's and President, so I am excited!  I will talk to president and see if he has been able to get a hold of the doctor tomorrow.  He knows the surgery needs to be done before the end of the year, so I think within the next two weeks I will go in.  I will keep you updated.

So, my Mexi fry companion left this last week.  He left on Tuesday night at midnight so I went on divisions with my quantum brother Elder H and it was awesome!  We worked in his area for the day then came to my area and talked for the whole night until we had to go to the terminal in David at 2 in the morning to get our companions.  My new companion is Elder C.   e is from El Salvador and he is an answer to some prayers.  After last change I started praying for a companion that would be excited to work and wouldn't be disobedient, and he is just that.  He likes to work hard but he likes to have fun, which is essential or I would go crazy!  He kind of has a crazy story.  He has a gigantic scar on his wrist and a ton of scars on the back of his head.  He told me that he was into some bad stuff as a teenager, and one day he was out walking with two friends, and he saw two guys.  One had a gun and the other had a machete.  The guys told them to stop, and then they tried to cut Elder C with the machete, so he blocked it with his wrist, and then they knocked him to the ground and cut him five times in the back of the head with the machete, and shot him in the neck, just below his brain.  So, he is incredibly lucky to be alive.  He said that was the moment that finally changed his life. He was born in the church but just fell away, and now he is back.  He is famous here for his story, and he is a spiritual giant!  I have already learned so much from him! 

As for the investigators, M and his brother have not been found for about a week and a half.  We don’t know where in the world they are!  Other than them, we didn't have many investigators, just a lot of menos activos, so we have been visiting them and trying to reactivate, because the church assistance in our ward has been going down.  We are working with a ton of youth right now too, and we should have three or four baptisms this change, so I am excited!  Kipp daddy misses baptizing people!  Haha!  My companion and I are trying to organize a soccer tournament right now in our stake, where each team has two members, and two non members.  Hopefully it will be a good way to find people to teach! 

We have been having problems with our bishop not supporting us, so we had a big two hour correlation meeting with him yeterday and he told us that the missionaries that were here before we got here were super ponch (disobedient) and he lost trust in them.  So, we are trying to gain it back, and he is really happy and willing to help because he can see that we want to work.  Missionaries are only a small part of the work.  Missionary work cannot continue without the members helping, and the bishop is the one who directs the members.  We share the area here with a companionship of sisters, and they asked all four of us to speak on missionary work.  We had to do something big to help the members realize that we can't do it all on our own without their help.  So, we kind of machete’d them a little bit, but with love.  We machete'd the members with love!  haha! The R family is really willing to work and do visits with us, so that will be a good start to activate members!  They are awesome, I hope we can Skype from their house so you guys can meet them! 

So, for the first P Day of the change, we are going to get in some Christmas carnage by playing paintball!!!  We are taking the entire zone, 26 people, to go today after internet!  I am stoked!  Oh yeah, Hermana W is in my zone again, she told me that mom would be really happy about that because mom can look at all of her pictures on her blog. 

Well, not much more time to write.  I love you all!  I hope you all have a good week!  Remember to always keep Christ and his sacrifice in the front of your minds!  Not just at this time especially, but every day of the year. He is our strength, and without him we are nothing.  I am so grateful I have the opportunity to serve my mission at this time, and I know I could not be doing anything better with my life right now! 
I love you all so much!

Love,


Elder Austin Michael Kipp

Monday, December 9, 2013

Feliz Navidad

Can you believe Christmas is almost here?? 

I can't mostly because there is no snow, and I am not smelling the tantalizing scent of mom's mountain of Christmas goodies she always makes.  But, the Panamanians are really starting to get in the Christmas spirit!  In the main part of David, there is a big Christmas tree with lights and ornaments and all the Santa Claus blow up things, and a lot of people have decorated their houses with lights.  The Christmas lights were always one of my favorite parts of Christmas, so it is nice to see the lights when we are walking at night.   Even more that the presents, lights and Christmas goodies, I love the true meaning of the season.   It is a season of thanksgiving and remembrance, and at this time I am especially grateful for the opportunity to serve a mission here in Panama.  I have so many blessings to be grateful for, and the Lord continues to bless me. 

The last week was good, we are still teaching M, and we started teaching his brother too.  M used to drink with his brother and brother in law almost every day.  They would go out and spend 80 dollars on beer and it would be gone by the end of the day.  He told us that he really wants to drop it, and we have been praying for him. He hasn't drank for over a week and a half now.   We went to pick him up to go to church yesterday, but he wasn't there, so now we just need to get him to church before he can get baptized. 

His brother, S, has been a little tough to work with.  He is ALWAYS drunk.  Here, the majority of bad things like violence and stuff start with alcohol.  So, when he is drunk, we don't teach him.  Bad things have happened to missionaries with drunk people, and president just tells us to stay away from them when we can.  But, when he sees us walk away, he gets angry that we don’t want to talk to him.  We found him yesterday, not quite drunk yet, so we taught him, and he told us that he wants to quit drinking, but he feels like he can’t do it because he is weak.  I got the impression to share the story of Ammon, when he talks about how, in his own strength, he was weak.  Have you seen pictures of Ammon?  He is huge ! He then says that through the Lord, he has the strength beyond his own, and that through the Lord, he can do anything.  After sharing the story with him, he said he wanted to pray.  He offered one of the most sincere prayers I have ever heard in my life.  It will take a while for him to change his habit of drinking, but that is why we are here…to help him. 

Other than that, not much happened this week.  We contact a lot, because we don't have many solid investigators.  I  DID get my guitar back this week, so that was sweet!  I love the power of music and the spirit it brings.  Changes are this week.  My companion is probably getting changed, so on Thursday, I will most likely be with someone else!  It has been a good change, a little frustrating, but despite that, I have learned a lot from my companion and we are great friends. 

Well, time is running short.  Gotta go hit up our zone bbq!  I love you all so much!  I am so happy to be out serving right now, and I know that we are all being greatly blessed.  I am happier than I have ever been, which is weird, because the mission is definitely the hardest thing I have ever done!  I hope the best for you all, and will continue to pray for you!

I love you all!

Love,

Elder Austin Michael Kipp

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Thanksgiving in Panama

Hola Familia!

I am writing today, because yesterday, we went to an international park called Cerro Punta, and it was really far away, and when we got back, we didn’t have time to use internet.  It was really cool, though!  It is in the mountains of Panama, so the landscape was really different!  It is really green, and the climate was just like my Utah mountains!  It sure was a nice break from the heat!  We went on a hike through the jungle, and took some cool pictures, then hopped on a bus back to David! 

There are 3 missionaries in the zone that are finishing their missions this week, so my companion and I wanted to do something cool for District meeting today.  There is a lady in our area that makes amazing cakes, and so we had her make us two cakes, one tres leches, and a butter flavor cake with vanilla frosting, and they were so good!  She did a really cool fondant of the Mission Panama logo, and it was a big hit! 

So, this last week has been a good one.   We have been teaching a man named M now for a couple weeks, and he wants to get baptized, but he drinks a lot and so we are trying to help him stop.  He hasn't touched a drop of alcohol for about a week now, so he is making great progress!  He now just needs to get to church, which is difficult, because he lives far away, and doesn't have a car.  We are also teaching his ex-sister-in-law (I think) who is named G, and she is excited to learn more.  She is 21 and has two kids, one who is 5 and one who is 3. We taught her about the Book of Mormon and gave her one, and she accepted to read in 3 Nephi about when Christ visits the Nephites.  It is a powerful chapter to use here in Panama, to help the people realize that God loved his children who lived on the American continent just like the people in Jerusalem.  It is incredible to live in Book of Mormon country.  Sometimes I walk down the streets and imagine that the Nephites and Lamanites were battling on the very ground where I am standing. 

This change is almost over, and my companion is probably leaving the area.  When I got here, he was a little disobedient as a missionary.  I have tried to help him as best I can, and he has thanked me a couple times for helping him change.  He goes home in six months, and told me all he wants to do now is work hard to make up for some of the time he lost in the mission from being disobedient.  It feels great to help people, and it just goes to show that we never know who we can touch by being a good example and serving others. 

Thanksgiving was a good day!  There is a senior couple from California, the P's who live in Boquete, which is in my zone.  They wanted to serve us Thanksgiving dinner, so we rode on a bus about an hour out to their house, and we all loaded into their house and ate all the Thanksgiving fixins'!  It was good, but I definitely missed mom's world famous stuffing!  I brought a member's guitar, and we sang songs and played games, then loaded back up on the bus and went home.  It was definitely a different Thanksgiving, but a good and memorable one! 

This week, we found a very poor family, a mom and dad who are both 51, and two kids who are 3 and 6. They live in an old school, and the dad doesn't have work.  He just goes around and finds old bottles and cans and sells them.  And he has a weed eater, and will occasionally cut grass in people's yards with his weed eater or a machete.  So, this last week, we told the ward to collect glass bottles and cans to help them out.  We can’t give them money but we can help them by serving them and finding bottles and cans!  I love serving people!  This last week we also painted a house for Hermana M, the member that feeds us lunch five days a week.  The color of the paint was literally called mustard yellow, so it looks like somebody squirted a bunch of mustard bottles all over their house!  But, it looks good. 

So, no surgery date yet.  President Carmack is still trying to find out if my doctor will be coming out to David anytime soon, because he does come out sometimes, or if I will have to go into Panama City.  I called him yesterday, but the city was closed yesterday for Patriotic holidays, so he couldn't talk to the doctor.  He told me to call tonight and talk to him, so I should know by next week.  He is trying as hard as he can to get it set up before the year ends!  As for the Ipod, not yet.  Things like Ipods are scarce out here in David, so I think I will just buy a USB and convert songs to mp3 on the internet and put them on my USB.  As for Skype on Christmas, I am not quite sure.  Let me talk to my companion today and see who in the area has internet that we could use.  I will for sure have an answer by next week, if not, I will for sure be able to call. 

Well, time is running short.  I love you all so much.  I am so happy that you are going to start working in the temple!  I bore my testimony this last week about the blessings of the temple and eternal families, and it truly is the greatest blessing that I have to be able to live with my family forever!  I love you all sooo much!

Love, 

Elder Austin Michael Kipp

Monday, November 25, 2013

Feeling HOT HOT HOT!

Well, it has been a great, hot week here in Panama!

The rain has pretty much slowed down until next September here.  It rains every once in a while, but not very hard.  We are getting into the hottest months of the year right now, which is what everyone here says, but I didn't think it could get any hotter than it already was!  Well, sweating a ton helps me lose weight!  I think I have lost about 30 pounds since I have been here!  My companion and I are doing this exercise video every day called insanity, and it is killing me, but I love it!

I am jealous that you guys are going to work in the temple!  You two are perfect for the work there, and you will be so blessed.  Being on the complete opposite side of the country, I will not get to go to the temple for awhile, and I have missed it, because in my last area we went almost weekly.  But, maybe I will sneak over to Costa Rica, since their temple is even closer to me than the Panama Temple! hahaha!  Speaking of Costa Rica, we are going to the frontera (border) of Costa Rica and Panama today!  They have a bunch of stores there where you can buy things for really cheap, and I will get a picture with the "Bienvenidos a Costa Rica!" sign! 

I love the zone here.  My last zone was 12 people, and this zone is 26, so it is fun to meet so many new missionaries!  Our ZL, Elder M, is from Sandy and went to Brighton, and he is in the Marines.  He was the one that got me into doing insanity! He also knows where a killer sushi restaurant is out here, so we are going on divisions this week to get some sushi!  The food out here is good.   We eat ojadras, or scones, all the time! They are fantastic, but don't even stand a chance next to mom's scones!  We have dinner every day except Friday and Saturday, so we usually end up getting pizza one night, and eating sandwiches the other.  The food here is really super cheap, so it is nice! 

As for the burning of the pants.....outside, no.  We have a huge concrete slab in the back of our house next to the back door, with a big metal clothes line, so we hung them up there.  We couldn't do it outside, because the police are always patrolling our house, and if they saw us with a big flaming explosion of pants, especially a gringo, they MIGHT just think something is up.  Plus, other missionaries who have done the same thing have scared people, because the people think they are doing brujeria, or witchcraft.  So, if they think that, it could give a bad image to the church, because everyone here knows we are Mormons.  I will send some pictures next week.  I forgot to bring my cable today to internet for my camera.

We are doing good work out here right now.  Our zone had a Noche Blanca (white night) last Saturday, and all the missionaries in the zone who had baptisms for that day baptized.  Our zone leads the mission right now with 17 baptisms in the last four weeks!  I don’t have one this change yet, but we have three investigators planned for December, before the change ends!!!!!  The work our here is moving fast, and I love it!  There is so much to do, so we are always busy! 

The activities are going good.  English is still hard to teach, but my comp helps me out a ton because he speaks alright, and he learned in a classroom, so he knows how it is taught.  We are starting this week to have everyone sing a song in English, so it will be fun!  Also, we play soccer every Wednesday at the church.  Most of the guys that come are youth and not members, so we give them all a restoration pamphlet, and it is their ticket to get in.  Before we play, we discuss the gospel for twenty minutes, then play.  We had group night activity on Wednesdays after soccer, but everyone just ended up leaving, so now we are doing it before soccer.  We moved the real group night to Friday so more members could come.  It is a small lesson, a game, and some sort of treat afterward.  We are really trying to work hard to get the members involved, because the most effective way to work is through and with them.  Both of my baptisms so far have been member references! 
Thanks for putting the extra money in the account.  I am not quite sure what I am going to do about Christmas presents yet.  I will definitely get you guys something for Christmas, but I think I will just bring it with me when I come home, then I don’t have to pay expensive package and shipping costs.  But, I will send something home for Christmas for sure! 

Thanks for everything, the prayers, fasting, support, everything.  I love you all so much, and I want you all to know how happy I am right now.  I read my mission call the other day, and it says that greater joy and happiness than I have yet experienced are awaiting me as I serve the Lord in His labor of love among His children.  That statement is true.  I am so happy here right now.  I love you all so much!

Love,
Elder Austin Michael Kipp


P.S.  The guitar is in my last area. I will have it in two weeks! 

Monday, November 18, 2013

I Miss the Snow

Hey family! 

So, I have been a little sad this week, on account of the lack of snow here in Panama.  It's November.  But it is 95 degrees. It just doesn't feel right...I miss the snow!  But, I guess the rain will just have to do! We are in the rainiest month of the year right now, and it rains every single day here!  Mom, I will definitely trade you right now if you want???

So, this past week has been great, just great.  Our baptismal dates we put with the kids last week are still there, but the kids aren't really showing much interest.  I don’t know what to do to get them excited, just pray and keep visiting them and bringing them to activities and the Lord will do the rest.  Only after we do all we can, he will take over and help us.  We found some good people this last week, and put another baptismal date for the end of this month, with a 21 year old lady named Esther.  She was super receptive, but we haven't been able to visit her since. We are going back tomorrow, and I am hoping she still wants to get baptized! 

So, the big six month mark was hit this last week!  My companion hit 18 months this last week too, so we ordered a pizza from Domino's.   There is a tradition in the mission that at 6 months, you burn a tie, 12 months a shirt, and 18 months, a pair of pants.  So, we did just that!  The pants wouldn't light, so we proceeded to soak them with sunscreen, the only flammable thing in the house, and they went right up! 

This last week, I have really been focusing more on prayer. The only way I can be a successful missionary is through prayer and divine guidance.  I read in a Liahona that we can improve our personal prayers by asking for the spirit to help us pray, and by seeking the Lord's will instead of our own.  Instead of asking for things we want in our prayers, we should be asking for things that are in accordance with His divine will. I have noticed a big difference this week, in spiritual guidance.  It has seemed easier to teach people, I can answer questions better and understand more of what people are saying.

We had Stake Conference this past week, and Elder Amado from the Seventy, the Central America Area President, came to speak.   In the adult session, it was all about how the members can get involved with missionary work.  President Carmack came as well, and said that to be a missionary, we don't need to plan a big long lesson, all we need to do is open our mouths, and speak simply and sincerely about the gospel. And the spirit does the rest.  On Sunday, it was about how we can improve ourselves through repentance and daily use of the atonement.  It was a great conference! 

The English classes are interesting.  I learned it naturally by speaking, so I never learned it in a classroom setting.  My companion got an English book in the MTC, and he speaks, just with a super Mexican accent. So, he usually teaches and I help with pronunciation. We are starting a thing where each week, we are going to pick two people to choose a song in English, and they have to practice it and sing it for the class! It should be a fun one!  I am going to be rocking some Backstreet Boys next week with one of our baptismal candidates named Jeffrey. 

I talked to President Carmack yesterday, he is trying to get my surgery set up, I am not sure of the date yet. I will know by next Monday though!  He should be calling you guys, is what he told me. I love you!

So, that is about all for this week.  I love you all so much, and pray for you constantly.  I know you all pray for me, so thank you.  I can truly feel the strength.  I hope all of you can take the initiative to open your mouths, and help share the gospel to others.  You will be so blessed, as I have been.

I love you all!

Love,
Elder Austin Michael Kipp


Monday, November 11, 2013

Teaching English, Working Hard, Playing Soccer and Loving my Mission!

Hello everyone!

It has been a great week out here in David!  My companion and I get along great.  It is just a little hard getting to know a new area that is so much bigger than my last area.  My comp wants to work, but it seems like he only wants to work with the people we already have.  He really doesn't want to do anything to find new people, like contacting, so it can be a little frustrating at times.  We did commit six youth to baptism this last week!  They are between the ages of twelve and seventeen, and are all excited.  We just need to get them to go to church now! 

The work out here is strong.  Our ward is starting to support us more.  In this area before, there have been some really disobedient missionaries who haven't done any work, and the members lost trust in the missionaries after a while. But, when I got here, I told my companion that the best way to have success is to work through and with the members.  So, we are doing more activities with the ward now, and we always invite the investigators, so we can teach them, and so that the ward can see that we are working, and so that they can get to know our investigators.  President Hinckley said that every new member needs a friend, and I know the activities we do can help the investigators make friends in the church.  For our activities, we do a Group Night activity every Wednesday, where we teach a short lesson, play a game that relates to the lesson, then make a treat after.  On Saturdays, we have started teaching English classes.  Have you ever tried to teach English?  It is dang hard!!!  But, it is important that the people learn it, because it is the language most spoken in the world, and it will help the people here get a leg up on competition for jobs.  We are also opening the church every Saturday after English classes to play soccer on the court outside.  All the churches here are enclosed with gates, and the church has the best court, so EVERYONE in the town shows up on Saturday afternoons to play!  I am starting to like soccer more, even though I can't play it to save my life! 

Another main focus here is the less active members.  In our stake, we have 3,800 members, and guess how many are inactive???? 3,200!!!! So, a big focus of the missionary efforts in all of Panama is to reactivate the less actives.  Being a region dominated by the Catholic church, a lot of people join the church, and then stop going, and start attending the Catholic church, because they have friends or family that go there.  It is frustrating, but it has been interesting to learn about different religions as we teach people, and understand their beliefs better. There are a lot of Catholics, Evangelicals, Baptists, and surprisingly the Jewish faith is very strong here as well!

Well, time is running short!  I am doing great out here in David, loving the area, the work, my house, (it is bigger than the last one!) the members, my companion, my investigators, everything!  I am starting to learn how to love people for who they are, and for who they can become.   I love you all so much!!!

Love,
Elder Austin Michael Kipp

Monday, November 4, 2013

Do You Know the Way to San Jose de David?

Hey Family!

It is good to hear that you are all dong well!  So, changes this past week.  It was a little hard to leave Ciudad Bolivar after being there for four months and working so hard there, but I was excited to see where I would be going.  So, I stayed at my zone leader's house on Tuesday night with some other elders who had changes, and then we woke up early and got on a bus to go to changes.  It was a good meeting, and Elder W, my MTC companion, got called to Ciudad Bolivar!  I was super excited about that!

So... I am now in DAVID!  It is in the interior of the country, on the complete other side.   It is the second biggest city in Panama, but really isn’t a CITY in my eyes.  It kind of reminds me of the town that Marty McFly travels to in the first Back to the Future movie.  It is super quiet and different from the city, but I like it.  My companion is Elder P from Mexico City.  He is cool, but he doesn't really want to work, so I am going to try to get him excited. He kind of just wants to sit in the house, which is hard.  But I will try to get him excited!

The zone of David is one of the highest baptizing zones in the mission, so I am excited to work here.  I am in a ward now, not a branch, but you can't really tell the difference.  It is a fun area, and I can see mountains (well, what Panamanians CONSIDER mountains) from the front door of my house!  Our house is bigger than the last one.  It has one big bedroom, a small exercise room, kitchen, bathroom, and the entry room.  I like it, it is kind of dirty and old though... at least we have a laundromat close so we don’t have to wash the clothes by hand! Luckily, the stores and church are within a ten minute walk of the house, so that is nice!  We have been having a tough time finding people in their houses when we have appointments to teach, so we have only taught a couple lessons so far, but it has been good.  I am excited to see how the work picks up here!

So, snow in Utah?  I miss the snow a ton!  Maybe you could find a way to send me some for Christmas?? haha!  This will be my first Christmas without snow!  I will most likely spend Christmas out here in David….Halloween too.  I miss going out on crazy adventures with the friends, Halloween soup, and parties with the family and trick or treating.

Well, time is running short.  I love you all so much!  I am excited to get to work here in David, teach people, and learn a little more myself.  Thanks for all the prayers, and everything else you all do for me!  I Love You!

Love,
Elder Austin Michael Kipp

Monday, October 28, 2013

It Is My Time to Move On

Hola familia! Como estan? espero que estan bien!
ahora en ingles.

Hey everyone!  how are you all?  From the sounds of all the emails, it sounds like life is starting to slow down there in Riverton.  It is weird being here October,  there isn't frost on the ground, and it is 95 degrees.  I am gonna miss Halloween on Thursday, it has always been one of my favorite holidays!

So, it is for sure that I have changes this week!  It feels bittersweet, because I love this area and the people, and I have worked so hard here.  But, I am excited to get another new comp, area, and more amazing people to teach!  It has been a good three changes here in Ciudad Bolivar, but it is my time to move on to somewhere else.  I think it will always be one of my favorite areas, with two of my favorite comps.

Today, we are hanging out with the zone for our last Pday with everyone.  We tried to watch a movie today, but it was a pirated movie and didn't work.   Everyone here only has pirated movies, music, and video games!  We are at Los Andes right now for internet, and we are going to go play some soccer afterward.  Oh yeah, did you hear about the World Cup match with the US and Panama?  Where the US scored two goals in the final minutes to win!! CRAZY!  And now, people here give the gringos even weirder glances! 

This last week was good.  We had a temple trip this last Thursday, and it ws great!  I hope I can stay close to the temple throughout my mission, so I can continually go.  We have been so blessed to be able to go so many times here in this zone.   We have had some good lessons this last week.  We taught Andy about the temple, because he is preparing to get his recommend!  We also have found Brother Ledezma's sister, and have started teaching her. She is very Catholic too (most of the people here are) but she is really interested when she listens to us.  We taught the other Catholic family last night, the Marin Family, a little more about the Book of Mormon, and they all promised to read it and pray, so I am excited to see what happens!  I have also learned a lot about prayer this last transfer, and how it is necessary not just in the mission, but throughout our entire lives, to help us know exactly what God wants and has planned for us. He truly does answer prayers.

So Brad and Joe are the home teachers?  I am sad I am not there to particpate in those lessons, which I am sure are pretty entertaining!  I am thankful for both of those guys, they both helped me a lot before the mission, they are some great friends.  Tell them thanks for me.  So, not much else here in Panama to reort right now, just that I am doing so great, loving the mission more and more every day!  I love you guys so much, and pray for you all the time!  I can also feel of the strength of your prayers for me, and am so thankful for them.  I love you all!

Love,
Elder Austin Michael Kipp

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Tempest is Raging

Hey family!

How are you all?  I am doing great here, just trying to avoid the tempest that is raging outside right now! October and November are the worst months for rain here.  I think we get more rain here in a week than Utah gets in an entire year!  Luckily, our roof doesn't leak, so we stay dry!  Storms here can come out of nowhere! We look outside in the morning to a sunny day, and we go out and within 20 minutes a storm comes and we are completely soaked!!

This past week was a great one!  Our only fan broke on Monday, so we had to go on Wednesday, when we received our money, and buy a new one at Los Andes.  I looked at the prices for speakers and they aren't too expensive, ten or twenty dollars, but they didn't have any Ipods there, so I will need to check today when we go to Albrook.  Also, could you put a little extra in my account around Christmas so I can get you guys some cool Christmas presents?

We are still teaching the Catholic family, mostly the dad because the mom and two kids are super Catholic and don’t really want to change.  We watched the restoration video with them this last Tuesday, and the mom had a lot of questions, and it just seemed to me like she was trying to prove us wrong.  She seemed a little disappointed when we used the bible to answer most of her questions, (haha!) but she was happy to have her answers!  The dad is starting to read the Book of Mormon, and the mom is coming little by little.

Henry, the gringo who feeds us dinner on Fridays, made us some gringo breakfast for dinner on Friday; southern style, with hash browns, grits, sausage, bacon, English muffins, eggs, and juice.  It was probably the best meal I have had here in Panama, and a nice break from rice and platanos!  He said to tell you guys hi, he is from Florida, around the Orlando area, and he served in the army for forty years, so he always has cool army stories to tell us at dinner! (Well, to me, because my comp doesn't speak English and he speaks little Spanish). He served in Panama and Colombia right after the invasion by the U.S.

So, we had the opportunity to go to the temple this last week AGAIN!  I have been blessed to be able to go so much!  I will be sad when I leave this area, and I probably won’t get the opportunity to go as much, depending on where they send me.  I SHOULD be leaving my area next Wednesday, but it is not a sure thing yet.  I am 95% sure, because President Carmack only wants people to stay in one area for no more than three changes, and this is my third change here.  (Can you believe it?  Three changes, and five months already!!)  So, I am anxious to see where I go, to get to know more of Panama, and more people!  Maybe I will go out to San Blas!!

Elder Ochoa, the one that talked in General Conference, gave a mission conference here about six weeks ago, and he talked a lot about improving and trying to be better each day. He said, "Always try to be better tomorrow than what you were today."  He gave us examples and things we can do to better ourselves, and I have really been trying to put them in practice, and it is starting to show.  We are being rewarded, even if the rewards don't come in the forms of baptisms, we are being blessed with spiritual knowledge and strength beyond our own.   I have started reading "Jesus the Christ" by Elder Talmage, and it has been a great learning experience to learn more about the life of the man who I represent and whose name I carry on my badge every day.  I would recommend reading it if you haven't, or reading it again if you already have.

Well, time is almost up. We are going to the Panama City Hard Rock CafĂ© for lunch today, so we have to get going!  I love you guys so much, and pray for you so much! I love the mission right now, and I know that we are all being blessed!

I love you all!
Love,

Elder Austin Michael Kipp

Monday, October 14, 2013

Hard Work Pays Off!

Hey guys,

Sounds like it was a pretty crazy weekend with everything that went on at Grandpa's!!  I am glad to hear that everyone is safe, I have put Riley and grandpa’s name in the temple too, and I am going again on Thursday, so I will put them in again.  I will continue to pray for everyone, and hope that everything works out for the best. 

So, it has been a rainy week, like usual, and it has cooled down a bit.  It has been a nice alternative to sweating about five gallons a day!   We have been contacting a TON lately, because we don't have many investigators who are progressing, and it has finally started to pay off.  The first two weeks of this transfer, we would contact for almost an entire day, and we would be lucky to find ONE person who wanted to listen to us.  But, this last week, we found TWELVE new investigators, and the week before, we found six!  All our hard work is finally starting to pay off!  We went back to the catholic family this last Tuesday, and the mom wasn't there, so we taught the dad, and he got REALLY excited about the restoration, because before, he told us that he was wondering how he could know what church was true.  We set a baptismal date for the 26 of October, and he accepted on the condition that he receives an answer to his prayers that the church is true.  We dropped by yesterday, just to give him a Book of Mormon, and we have an appointment tomorrow with him where we will talk more about the Book of Mormon.  I hope we can get him baptized on the 26th, because I am most likely leaving my area on the 30th, but I won’t find out until the 28th. 


Not much more time to write today... we have a busy PDay.   We are going to Albrook Mall to go bowling, eat, and then go to crepes and waffles for dessert!  I will look up Ipod prices and speaker prices today and let you know how much it is here.  Thanks for everything, I love you all so much!!



Love,
Elder Austin Michael Kipp

Monday, October 7, 2013

I Pushed Myself and Sat Through All Five Sessions

Hey family!

So, remember my childhood and teenage years, when conference never exactly was the most entertaining thing ever for me?  Well, I pushed myself and I sat through all five sessions and I discovered something. It is the greatest thing ever!  I loved conference, I felt like so many of the talks given were meant exactly for me!  It was so incredible being able to hear so many things that can help me be a better missionary, and a better person.  I took so many notes and have studied them almost nonstop since the conference was over.  My favorite talk was given in the priesthood session by President Uchtdorf. He talked about repentance, and he said something that really struck me.  He said "Our destiny is not shaped by how many times we fall down, but by how many times we get up, dust ourselves off, and continue moving forward."   I have learned that to have the spirit with us constantly, we should be using the atonement of Christ daily to be clean, not when we just commit the "big sins".  By daily use of the atonement, we can enjoy renewed spiritual strength and guidance in our lives.   I also enjoyed all the other conference talks, of course, and this was by far my favorite conference of all time! It was a little different though, as Elder Holland didn't give his usual "Fire and Brimstone, Repent Ye Repent Ye kind of talks! haha, and I was also shocked that no new temples were announced! But, there are so many in construction, and being ready to be started. I have been blessed to be able to go through so many times on my mission, and I will have three more chances in the next four weeks to go! It is a great experience every time, and I always learn something new.

We found a cool family this week, they are SUUUPER Catholic!  We were out contacting in the pouring rain, and no one was home, or just didn't come to the door.  We finally found a house with the door open, and they immediately invited us in, and asked what they could do to help us, and we told them we wanted to help them, by inviting them to come closer to the Savior. They shared some of their views on baptism and different things like that, and they are EXTREMELY Catholic, but willing to listen. I know God puts prepared people in our path as missionaries, and so I have faith that they will progress!  Their son was playing guitar when we got there, and my companion just happened to tell them that I played, so they asked me to play, so I busted out some shreddage!  Haha, it is nice to be able to play music, I have a guitar in our house, and music brings me such a peaceful feeling. 

I am jealous that you guys got to go to Washington and that it is starting to snow!  Mother, please send me a cooled package with snow for Christmas, some of the members are asking me to show them what snow is like! haha! That is awesome that you can get up to Washington to help grandma and grandpa so much, I pray for them all the time!  I show everybody here pictures of the grandparents, and everyone thinks that Grandpa Gary's epic beard is sweet!  I call him Quantum Santa Clause Grandpa!  Well, time is running short! know that I love you all, and that I am doing so great! The language is coming, as is the gospel knowledge and guidance by the spirit. I am happier than I have ever been, and I can’t wait to see the growth I will experience as I continue on in the mission!  I love you all!

Love,
Elder Austin Michael Kipp

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Gift of Tongues

Hey everyone!

So, this past week has been a little interesting, on account of not being able to speak English, but I am finally starting to feel confident with the language, and actually speak really well for my time in the mission. The gift of tongues is definitely a real thing! Also, my comp is super quiet, and Elder P talked a ton, and didn’t give me much of a chance to talk in lessons with people, so now I am talking more than ever with people, and it is great.  Q is teaching me new ways of sharing the gospel, and it is great to see and learn how different missionaries use different methods to share the gospel. 

We have been having a really tough time finding people to teach, and we don't have many interested investigators as is. It seems like any time we go to visit someone, they are not home or not able to talk to us.  We fasted this week with our zone, and we fasted to help us find new investigators, and we did just that!  We found a really cool lady named Olga this past Thursday, who lived next to some members and they talked to her about the church, and she is super interested. She hasn’t been able to sit down and listen to us yet, because she was really sick, but we are going back this week. Yesterday, we went out after church to do some visits, and went to visit an inactive member we found last week.  She wasn’t there, so we stood out in front of her house for a bit deciding what to do and we decided to walk down to a little circle where we had never been and contacted a guy who was sitting in front of his house drinking. He invited us in and told us that he had no religion, but listens to all religions.  We explained about how God is Elohim and Jesus is Jehovah, and the creation of the earth as explained in John Chapter 1.  He got really excited and told us that in all his study of the bible, never had anyone explained things to him with such clarity and never had it made as much sense to him as it did when we were teaching him. His name is Alfredo, and we are going back on Wednesday to teach him!  I am super excited!

As for the whole debit card thing, I had some clothes I bought, and the rest was cash I took out, so I still have the money and I haven’t really spent 87 dollars!  We did go to Causeway last week again, and I did rent a motor scooter again with Elder J, and he crashed it into a curb coming out of the parking lot!  Not really crashed, just lost control and started running alongside it trying to catch up, and fell over!  I was already gone, and looked in the mirror, and he was laying on the ground and it was hilarious! 

Not much more is happening here right now, it has been raining a ton, and we started eating on Friday nights with a gringo from Florida that lives in our branch. He gives good American food, and it is good to talk some English with him!  He was in the army, and served in Panama and always tells us crazy stories from his army days. 

Well, time is running a little short. I love you all, and am happier than ever out here!  In Jesus the Christ, it says that Panama is the Promised Land that Lehi came to, so I am serving somewhere pretty dang cool! I walk down the streets and imagine that 2200 years ago, the Nephites and Lamanites were battling on that very piece of land!  Well, I love you guys! I continue to pray for you all, and hope the best for you! 

Love you all!

Love,
Elder Austin Michael Kipp

Monday, September 23, 2013

Two Years Really Isn't Long Enough

Hey fam!

So, this past week was interesting, but great!  We had cambios, or transfers in English, on Wednesday. Well, Elder P had cambios so on Tuesday, we didn’t do much except pack up all his stuff, and visit some people in the area so he could say bye. Then, at night we went to play some soccer at the church with some of the young men, in the pouring rain! Afterwards, P went to stay at the ZL's house, and I went out to San Vicente with my Quantum Buddy Elder J, because his companion had changes too, and we were not allowed to go to the changes meeting.  So, I stayed there Tuesday night, and then we waited in San Vicente for the ZL's to call, and we went to meet our new companions!  My new companion is Latin, his name is Elder Q, and he is from Ecuador, and he speaks absolutely no English! But, I am finally comfortable enough with my Spanish to communicate normally, and I know it will only get better with a Latin companion!  I am sad that Elder P is gone, he is in Chitre, in the province of Herrera, and he loves it!  Sometimes, I forget my companion can’t speak English, so I will start rambling off something to him in English, and he just stares at me really weird.  My companion is a convert of four years, and no one else in his family are members.  Imagine telling your family that you are leaving for two years to serve a mission that they don’t know or want anything to do with?  He sure is smart in the gospel, and I respect him for his desire to serve! He goes home in December, so he will die (finish the mission) in Ciudad Bolivar.

So, this last week with Elder Q was great! We don’t have many people with baptismal dates right now, the area is pretty hard, and so we ended up contacting a TON! But, we met some really cool people, and it was great! We actually found Hermana Ledezma's sister in law, who is Catholic, but we talked to her for about an hour, and she invited us back this week, so we will see where that goes!

We had the opportunity to go to the temple again this week as well!  I have been able to go four or five times in the past change, which is more than most people get to go in their entire mission!  So, it has been a great blessing! I can finally understand the entire video in Spanish! We haven’t gotten the new video here yet, still the same one as before.  But every time I go, I learn something new and profound that I didn’t know before, and I love the temple!

So, Dad, check out the Titans whomping on the mighty Chargers! Any other time, I root for the Chargers. But, my titans are finally starting to play!  Also, did the Yankees win yesterday?  Mo's last game?  Also, Pettite is retiring too, right?  I don’t like the Yankees, but those guys are flipping legends!  Also, what happened with BYU?  I heard they lost to Utah!  What the heck?!!

Well, time is running short. We are cruising out to causeway for P Day today!  I love you all, and I am finding more happiness and strength in every day of the mission!  Time is flying by.  I hit three months in Panama this Wednesday!  Two years really isn’t long enough to give to the Lord. Well, I love you all!

Love,
Elder Austin Michael Kipp

Monday, September 16, 2013

Zone Conference – Elder Ochoa

September 16, 2013
Zone Conference – Elder Ochoa

Yo family! 

It is good to hear from you all, and that you are all doing so well! 

This past week has been good.  It has been hot and sweaty, but it has been good!  We are rewarded for doing hard things!  I have begun to recognize the hand of the Lord in my life much more, especially with the gift of tongues.  Sometimes I still feel like I have learned nothing of Spanish here, but when I look back on it, I can understand pretty much everything, and I have learned so much since I got to Panama.  My comp speaks fluently already, and he has taught me a ton!  I can communicate with pretty much anyone, now it is just words here and there that throw me off.  Everyone here tells me I speak better than any other gringo that has come, and I am learning more every day.

 We had a Zone Conference this past Friday at the chapel by the temple, with six zones.  Elder Ochoa from the Seventy came, and spoke to us.  He is the second counselor in the Central America Area Presidency.  He spoke to us about obedience, because this mission has a reputation for being a bit disobedient. He told us about when he was a mission president in San Pedro Sula, Honduras.  When he got there, Preach my Gospel had just come out, and the mission was baptizing about seventy to eighty people a month.  He decided to start implementing Preach my Gospel immediately, and changing some rules that the last president had, to make the mission more obedient to the mission rules set forth by the church.  After his three years as president, the mission was baptizing 435 people a month, and it is still one of the most successful missions in Central America.  He is trying to teach President Carmack his methods and implement them to this mission. It was a good spiritual conference, and I can tell a big change is about to come over the mission!

So, I got one package this last week with some pictures and the drivers license information. There is no way I can get that form back in time, but I won’t need to drive for two years, so it doesn’t really matter to me right now. The pictures are great, mom you look so different!  In a good way, of course!  I will check with the AP's again at changes about my package, and I should be sending a letter that day too. As for the Christmas tree, I most likely will not get it, but I am not sure. Package rules here are kind of strict. There are not set rules, but the ladies are strict with what they will let pass or not.  But, we will just have to see!  Also, about the Christmas in Panama, I think it is a great idea, but it is not a good idea as a missionary to do it. Missionaries are not supposed to give anything to people, especially money or anything of value, just the gospel.  It has been done before, and ended badly.  Sorry, I was excited for it too, but I have been advised not to do it. 

So, Andy got the priesthood this last week!   He was ordained to the office of priest, and it is good to see him taking the next step in the gospel to grow closer to the Savior!  He is truly progressing a lot, and I think he wants to serve a mission!  It would be great for him to go out and share his love of the gospel with others. He could be a blessing in the lives of so many people!  Well, time is running short.  Thanks for everything you do for me, praying, fasting, everything!  I love you all, and I can’t wait to hear back from you next week!


Love,

Elder Austin Michael Kipp