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!

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!

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!


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!


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!


Elder Austin Michael Kipp