Glad to hear you guys are doing well, it is so good to hear from you guys every week! So, everything here in Panama is going good! This past week was actually really hard. I get VERY frustrated all the time because of the language barrier. I literally feel like I have learned nothing in Spanish since I left the MTC. I know I have, but it is still really hard. I prayed and asked the Lord that if I studied something about the language every day, that he would bless me to be able to not only speak it fluently, but understand the Panamanians as well. I can understand my companion perfectly, and he speaks fluently, but it is soooo hard to understand native Panamanians because they speak so fast and cut their words!!! But, I have made that promise and if I follow through, I will be blessed with it. As you know, my hearing is terrible, you guys were right all along when you told me not to listen to my music too loud! That is one of the hardest things, I have trouble hearing people even when they talk in English! But, I will be blessed. I speak quite a bit more than most people that have to learn the language already.
So, as you know, there are big spiders here in Panama. I can deal with the small ones, they are all over our house. And I hadn´t had to deal with a big one, until Saturday. We went to the church in the morning to play soccer with some local kids in our branch, and while we were walking, it felt like there was something in my shoe, but I thought it was just my sock bunched up or something. But when we got to the church, I took my shoe off, looked inside, and there was a GIGANTIC HUGE brown spider inside!!! I threw the shoe, and everyone started laughing, until they saw the baseball sized beast crawl out. I just about died! But, I can laugh about it now... so, that was the scary/funny experience of the week!
Today for P Day, we just went to a church in our zone, and played some soccer and ate some lunch of rice, beans and chicken. We do that a lot, it is kind of boring. Price and I like going into the city for P Day, but all the Elders in our zone have already done all that stuff, and they don’t want to go again, so we are kind of stuck doing what they want, which usually involves sitting around in the church doing nothing. But, it is good to have a break during the week, and the best part of P Day is when I get to hear from and write you guys!!!
It sounds like you guys have been pretty busy this last summer! I´m glad it is finally starting to slow down a bit, and that you guys were able to go to the Behunin´s cabin. I´m actually kind of jealous, some of my favorite memories were made at that cabin, like scout trips, and the epic call of duty weekend with Skyler, Josh, Aaron, and Jesse! Dad, thanks for keeping me updated on the Mariners, no one here watches baseball, and when they do, all they watch are the Yankees, because Mariano Rivera is from Panama. Everyone here watches soccer. But, I´m starting to get into it actually, something I thought would never happen! Panama played the USA in the Gold Cup Final yesterday, and, OF COURSE, the USA WON!!! Panamanians are very arrogant, and will not admit that we actually beat them. They always just claim that the other team gets lucky whenever Panama loses. They hate to admit defeat. It is hard to work when Panama is playing, so we usually ending up watching the games. No one wants to listen when the game is on!
Mom, that is crazy how much weight you have lost! Congratulations, hopefully I will drop some more weight while I am out, and we can both look like new people when I come home! Dad, I hope you can still get out and ride your bike a couple nights a week, I really wish I had a bike to ride here, but, we are just stuck to walking. We probably walk between five to six miles a day!!! It usually rains every day here, very hard, for about twenty five minutes, so we are lucky if we can get into someone´s house to teach them before the rain hits. This last week, we got stuck in a really bad storm, and within 30 seconds, we were completely soaked! But, since it is so hot and humid here, it feels nice to get a little wet, it cools us off.
So, we are working right now with a really cool 20 year old guy named Andy. He is from the Dominican Republic, and he works in a hotel in Downtown Panama City. We usually read the Book of Mormon with him, and he is VERY excited to read more! He is my favorite investigator we have had so far, because he is a cool, hilarious guy, but also, he is genuinely excited to learn more, and he LOVES the Book of Mormon!!! I really hope we can baptize him soon! We might be getting transferred out of this area next Wednesday, because it is a VERY safe area, and they are thinking of putting Sister Missionaries here, because they want them in the safest areas. I´m not sure yet if we are leaving, but if we do, I will be sad, because we have found a lot of really cool people here the last couple weeks! Sadly, we actually ended up dropping Nicador as an investigator, because he told us he didn´t really want to change, and now whenever he sees us, he just tries to avoid us. It was sad, but all we can do now is pray for him, and the Lord will do what he sees fit.
As for pictures,I keep on forgetting to take my cord to the place where we use internet, but I have it today, so I will try and send some home. So, more about our area...there is garbage EVERYWHERE!!! There is no waste management system in Panama, so everyone either burns their garbage, or throws it out in the street. It kind of stinks here because of it, but the landscape is still very green and pretty. It is getting into the rainier months here, so I can expect to be getting a little more wet every day! The rainy season is from May to December, but the most rainy months are August to December. As for the laundry situation, no, we just have to buy soap for her to use, and we can use our mission funds for that. It is nice to have clean, nice smelling clothes! When we had to wash them by hand, they didn´t get all that clean, and they didn´t smell that great. I guess it was a good experience to have to do it though. There are a lot of very humbling things I have seen here, that make me truly grateful for everything our family has. We have been truly blessed. I thought carpet and washing machines were normal for everyone, but i have yet to see a house in Ciudad Bolivar with carpet. We truly are such a blessed family.
Well, time to get going. I love you guys soooo much, and I pray for you every day and night!!! You are always in my thoughts, I can’t wait for that moment in 21 1/2 months when I step off that plane, ride down that escalator, and get to see you guys again! I love it here though, and I think I will be sad to leave. I know we had talked about doing a cruise through the canal after I get home, I definitely want to come back here after the mission! I love it here, even though it is so different from back home in the states!!! Know that I do love this gospel. This is still the hardest thing I have ever done in my entire life. I feel alone some days, but I know that I can pray for strength. Every time I do, the Lord buoys me up, and he can do the same for you. He knows exactly what we are going through. I don’t know why the Lord is giving me the trials he is at this time, but I am trying to be humble, and faithful, and look at each trial as a learning experience. That has been a trial for me in itself, learning to be humble, and looking at trials as a blessing in disguise. I want to thank you for everything you guys do for me, for your fasting, prayers, support, and your love for me. I know you will be blessed as well from my service as a missionary . Please give everyone my love! I LOVE YOU GUYS SOOO MUCH!!!
Elder Austin Michael Kipp