The Best Two Years

The Best Two Years

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!

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!

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!!!

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!

Elder Austin Michael Kipp