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