September 16, 2013
Zone Conference – Elder Ochoa
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!
Elder Austin Michael Kipp