The Best Two Years

The Best Two Years

Monday, December 29, 2014

The Fire of Baptism in their Eyes, Cats and Monkeys

Hey everyone!

It was great being able to talk to you on Christmas!  Even though you kept asking me what I want to do when I GET HOME and telling me NOT TO BE TRUNKY at the same time... haha! it was great.

So, I don't know why the cats here have such a fascination with coming over to our house, climbing on our roof, and fighting in the middle of the night. The leaves of the roof really amplify the sounds.  So, our branch president officially declared it hunting season for cats and started carrying around my slingshot and rocks in his pockets so he could be ready. Nothing yet, though. 

This week was pretty good for the work.  We are finding new investigators like crazy, mostly youth, but it is good because a lot of the youth left the island and moved to the city.  And the ones that stayed aren't very animated or excited right now, so we are hoping we can get a better youth program going here in the branch.

The Christmas baptism was awesome!  We had been waiting for a couple weeks, and had to postpone the baptism because R's family drinks coffee and he would drink it in the morning.  But, he finally was able to leave it behind.  It is so awesome to see the change in the lives of people when they accept and live the gospel.  Today, we were walking in the street with Shark and there were some kids who were kind of laughing at us, saying that we are weird for not drinking coffee, so Shark said that we should go talk with them.  Right as we started to talk to them about coffee, who shows up?  None other than R! We asked him why we don't drink coffee and he explained to them, and after that, they said they would read the pamphlet we gave to them.  Member missionary work is so awesome, especially when you have recent converts who still have the fire of baptism in their eyes! 

Tomorrow, we get to go on divisions to another island, with two of my favorite elders, Elder M and Elder M.  I love serving other missionaries and helping them to reach their potential, but I am pretty sure I learn way more from them than they do from me.  We are going to spend three days there so we can do quality divisions and get our money’s worth out of the boat rides.  It will be so fun!

I am truly blessed to be serving out here.  We get to see so many results of our labors, and harvest so many of the seeds we plant.  I am learning so many things that I never imagined that I would learn in my mission, most importantly, I am growing in my personal strength and testimony of the Gospel.  Thanks for all your love and support. I love you all!

Elder Austin Michael Kipp

P.S.  I saw a sweet monkey this week.  It has a mohawk, and they named it Kipp.  It is one of our investigator’s
pets.  I will send some pictures.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Feliz Navidad from the San Blas Islands


It is pretty crazy that it is already time for Christmas again!  I can't believe it, this last year went by so fast! This last week was good, a little hard, but good.  We had another baptism!  A 15 year old kid named S got baptized!  It has been a blessing to be able to see so many results of our work out here. 

Our branch President, T, is a boss. He has been passing through a ton of trials and problems, but he is super faithful.  This last week, their dog bit this really old lady and they had to pay her $100, which for them is a TON of money, and all her hospital bills, and they had to send the dog to another island.  He was telling us how last year, his daughter lost the $1,000 he had worked 8 years to earn, and how this year, they were going to start a business, but with the dog fiasco, he has to wait a little while longer to start it. But, one thing I admire about the people on Blas is that they understand that it isn't money that brings happiness.  T always says that he knows that he Lord is just testing him and that he knows it will all end soon and he will be blessed.  He is a great example to me, when I complain or think little inconveniences are hard, I look at him and get strength to endure. 

My new companion is cool, he is from Arizona.  He has almost the same time in the mission as me, so we will see how long we will be companions for.  He wants to work hard, so that is the most important thing. We are still seeing lots of miracles for our work, so I am happy right now.  I was able to do divisions with Elder T this week, one of our district leaders in the zone.  I was in the office when he came to the mission.  He is the really big blonde kid that is in that picture with me at the soccer tournament.  He is a boss, and I learned a ton from him!  We have gotten along well since he got here, so the divisions were super fun, but constructive as well!  I respect the missionaries in this zone, we have one of the nicer areas in the zone, and the other areas are really hard.  The missionaries that get sent here are pretty strong.

So, about skype, three o'clock my time should be fine!  I am super stoked to be able to talk with you all! This will be my last call home in the mission! (super crazy) We are just going to pass Christmas pretty tranquil here on the island, and set up the Christmas devotional so the branch can watch it on Thursday night. We will have a turkey dinner with the members so it should be nice. 

Well family, that is about all I have time for right now. I can't wait to skype with you guys on Thursday!  I will not be able to call beforehand, I have no phone to do so, so you will just have to be ready at the computer around three (one your time). I love you all!

Remember, the true spirit of the season is felt when we remember not just the birth of Christ, but his earthly mission, and also, when we look forward to His second coming with faith. Espero que tengan una muy feliz navidad, y que sientan el verdadero espíritu de la Navidad. 

Con amor,

Elder Austin Michael Kipp

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Baptism of the Chief

Hello everyone!

We were not able to write on Monday because the internet in our church went out, so we came today to write real quick so you all know that we are OK!

This last Saturday, we were able to have a baptism!  We baptized the syla, (island chief) Syla G, and it was awesome!  You could tell he really felt the spirit, and now he is excited to go out and help us teach his friends!  We are going to get him to take us to the third syla's house, and if we baptize him, all the sylas will be members! 

Elder J got called to be a new AP, now there are four, and so I got a new companion.  His name is Elder O.  He has one transfer less than I do in the mission. He really wanted to come out to San Blas for his entire mission so he is excited and happy! 

Well, I am about out of time.  I am sorry I can't write more today.  We have to go do some visits right now, but I love you all and hope that you have a great week!


Elder Austin Michael Kipp

P.S.  Mom, I will answer all your questions next week… I have to run.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Christmas Zone Conference at the Orphanage

Hello family!

This last week has been an interesting one.  We had a bunch of hours of service in the monte and we got super exhausted! And on Friday, our whole zone traveled into Panama City for the Christmas Zone Conference and to get stuff for changes.  I still do not know who my new companion is, but I know it has to be a gringo, so I am pretty excited to find out who it is!  I must say that it was NOT me in the Santa suit, it was a kid named Elder B, and he was a pretty legit Santa.  But, we do have a Santa suit in our chapel on the island so I totally want to sport it on Christmas. 

For the zone conference, we went to an orphanage and sang some songs and hung out with all the kids.   It reminded me of Silver Rush at Riverton, and how the whole town just banded together to help others.  Those were the times that I truly felt the spirit of Christmas more than any other time, and I am so grateful that I will be able to serve others during this Christmas season, and share with them the best gift of Christmas, a knowledge of their Savior and Redeemer Jesus Christ.

The trip to the city was good, we all got in safe and sound, it just took us like seven hours! But, we DID get to hit up the new Little Caesars! And it was AWESOME!!!  Brought me back to my childhood... haha! 

So, the Christmas party was pretty epic because Hermana Carmack cooked like 36 pounds of REAL BACON!  WE just about cried.  It was a Christmas miracle!  The Christmas devotional yesterday was great!  I really enjoyed Elder Christofferson's talk, and also how the talks were centered around the family. After all, Christmas is the birthday of our older brother!  I am really excited to serve others and bring them the joy of knowing that Christ is the greatest gift God has ever given us this Christmas.

My brain is scattered, this is going to be a short email.  Not a lot happens when we come to the city...  I love you all!

Elder Austin Michael Kipp

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Service is the Way to Open Hearts

Hey everyone! Happy Thanksgiving!

Truth is, in Panama almost no one celebrates Thanksgiving, and even less so on an island.  So, we just worked normal that day, and for dinner we ate some pasta.  It was different than last Thanksgiving, but I still really tried to reflect on all that the Lord has given me, and realized that I am really so blessed.

This last week, we tried to work really hard again, after seeing all the success we had last week.  It was a little tough this week, because a lot of our investigators we had planned throughout the week weren't home, or didn't want to listen to us. We really tried to give it our best effort, and at the end of the week we did have success!  Our baptism didn't go through, but we did baptize an 8 year old from a
member family that we had been teaching, so it was great to see another of God's children enter the waters of baptism and make sacred covenants.

Hermano U has progressed a ton!  He gave a talk in church yesterday about overcoming weaknesses. He used to be a drug addict, and he loves sharing his story with people about how the gospel has changed his life.  He is a big help to us, because a lot of the people out here drink or do drugs, and it is a blessing to have someone who has overcome those things through the atonement.

We got to use our machetes this last week, so that was awesome!  I have come to learn that service is the way to open peoples' hearts to the gospel.  Like when Ammon went to King Lamoni and offered to be his servant first, then after the king saw the power and influence he had, he allowed Ammon to preach to him.  That is definitely a good way to find investigators here, because everyone works in the mountains and always needs help.

I will be getting a new companion this Saturday.  President told us that Elder J will have changes. It is sad, because we have seen a lot of success together and worked really hard, but he did his job here. My new companion has to be a gringo, because the Sylas here don't like Latins and won't them live on the island, so I am pretty excited to see who it is!  I am also a little nervous though, I just hope my new companion will be as obedient as Elder Jensen was!  I know the Lord will send the island and I exactly who we need to grow.

On Friday we are officially starting Operation Christmas:  SectorCity, when we go into the city for the Christmas zone conference. We will commence phase: Little Caesars on Friday night, because the first
Little Caesars in the country just got finished!  It is gonna be quantum!

Well, I don't have much more time.  I am glad you all had a good thanksgiving! Have a great week!

Elder Austin Michael Kipp

Monday, November 24, 2014

Beach Baptism, Baby Blessing and Service in the Monte

November 24, 2014

Hello everyone!

Glad to hear that all is well back home.  Mom, that was kind of crazy what happened during your MRI with the allergic reaction to the contrast, but that's good that you´re OK and that they found out what is giving you the pain and numbness!

So I didn't think we would be able to see as much success as we did last week, but this week we were able to do even more!  It was a pretty tiring but pretty rewarding week! We were able to baptize Hermano U on Saturday, and it was so awesome to see. He has come a long way, and he truly knows that the gospel is true.  He is for sure one of my strongest converts, and we already took him out to teach some of his friends. Also, we are going to give him the priesthood this next Sunday, and the branch president has already called him to be the new Branch Mission Leader!

Yesterday was an awesome Sunday. We had ten investigators in church, and 78 people in total, which I think is the highest in branch history.   I got to bless a baby, (interesting but cool experience), we were able to confirm Hermano U, and we were able to give the priesthood to a 12 year old youth.  The progress we have seen out here in the branch and with our investigators has been so amazing.  On San Blas, if you are obedient, the blessings are magnified, but if you are disobedient, the punishment is also magnified.  Good thing we are trying to be exactly obedient.

Today, we did an epic service project in the monte, and we got to row canoes for like an hour to the mainland and hike the monte to cut down trees for someone's house.  We also took our wrist rockets, and the two Kuna guys we were with were pointing out all the wild turkeys in the trees, and we went on a hunt, but to no avail.  But, it was some good practice with the slingshots, and we got to help the guys out getting the sticks for their house! Here we do the most exhausting service projects ever!

To answer mom's questions:  We have some rope hung outside the house to hang our laundry, which we wash in buckets.  The hammock is pretty awesome!  But, it will be nice to get back to a bed.  I can't sleep on my side in a hammock, but it is pretty dang comfortable anyway!  Occasionally, we have blue crabs in the hut.  Elder Jensen has one change less than I do, and I think we will stay together one more change, because we are on fire out here right now!

Happy Thanksgiving!   I will try to hunt a wild turkey to eat in honor of Thanksgiving, but if not, I will for sure make some instant mashed potatoes and gravy with rolls from the bread shop!   I am so grateful to have the gospel in my life, and I am so grateful for the best family that raised me in the gospel.  Tell everyone at Grandma and Grandpa's that I love them.  I will be getting some letters sent out for grandma and grandpa when I am in the city in two weeks.

I am so happy, I am working harder than I ever have in my mission, and I am so blessed by the Lord.  I love you all so much!

Elder Austin Michael Kipp

P.S.  I bought a tight Kuna flute today!

Monday, November 17, 2014

18 Months Already, Baptism in the Ocean and a Mammoth Lobster

Dear Family,

Well, I just realized on Saturday that I was hitting my 18 month mark!  So, we went to Hermano U's house to buy some lobster for dinner.  He is a diver, and caught us a mammoth three pound lobster!  It was pretty tasty!  I will send some pictures!

This last week, everything just seemed to fall into place.  I think it was one of the weeks where I saw the most success and progress in my entire mission.  It all started with our Zone Meeting. We went the day before to do divisions with the two elders.  It was a big party, those two elders are so much fun, and we were able to work with them a bit.  On Wednesday, everyone got there for the conference, and we gave each companionship a topic, one of their strong points, and had them share a fifteen minute lesson on that topic.  It went really well, and the spirit was definitely felt.  It was the first San Blas zone meeting ever, and we definitely saw success.  Yesterday when we reported numbers, the zone had some of the highest numbers we have ever had!   I know numbers don't matter, but with high numbers, it means the missionaries are working more and bringing more souls unto Christ.  We are really excited, the mission has been in a baptism slump this year, and we really hope the San Blas Zone can be the examples for the mission on how to work effectively.

We had a baptism on Friday!  R got baptized!  We went out to a member's private island in the canoe, and baptized him in the ocean.  The water was crystal clear and he definitely got the witness that what he was doing was right.  He progressed really fast!  And he is really excited to teach the gospel!  So yesterday, we did divisions, and my companion went with another member, and I went with R.  He took me to a girl's house who I didn't know, and she told us she wants to get baptized, so we set up a date with her and she accepted!  Then, he took me to his uncle's house, where we found seven new really positive investigators, a whole family that could be eternal someday!  And then, he took me to his cousin's house, where we taught her and her daughter, and they told us they wanted a Book of Mormon.  So we gave them one, taught them the Restoration, and invited them to watch the Joseph Smith movie with us this week.  We ended the week with 17 new investigators, thirteen baptismal dates set, and the highest church attendance we have ever had, 74 people.  We have Hermano U's baptism coming up this weekend, and other baptisms planned up through the end of the year. 

This last week was one of the most incredible of my life.  I  learned that the Lord truly does bless us when we are obedient and exercise our faith.  I  learned, yet again, that this church and the Lord's work are true, and that it truly is a privilege to be a missionary here in Panama. I have less than six months, and I want to give it my all so that I can hold my head high and say I did everything I could to build up the Lord's kingdom here in Panama.   I love you all!


Elder Austin Michael Kipp

Monday, November 10, 2014

Boa Constrictors, Bananas and Baptisms

 Hello everyone!

This last week was pretty good! We got a little sick on Saturday and Sunday, so we were out of commission for a bit, but the rest of the week was good. 

It always makes for a good week when I get to break out the ole´machete.  We went to the monte twice this week.  We usually go in the canoe for about a half hour, and then we get out and just chop down a ton of long tall grass and plants around the banana and coconut tree farms.  A couple weeks ago, the guy we were with killed a HUGE boa constrictor he hit with his machete.  It was like five feet long!  So there are some interesting experiences in the monte. Then we usually carry out bananas or coconuts and get in the canoe and go back.  The monte is always really tiring, but it helps me sleep good at night, which sometimes is a little different in a hammock. 

We will be having a baptism this Friday! The guy's name is R, but everyone calls him shark.  He is 24, and he is the one we are teaching how to read.  It has been interesting teaching him to read.  I don't remember learning to read, so we are using this online program meant for little kids, and I hope it doesn't make him feel dumb, but it really is helping him.  He is coming along little by little.  So this Friday, it is his birthday, and we are going to load up in the canoe, and someone in the branch has a really nice private island where we do the baptisms, so we get to head there and have the baptismal service!  I am so excited!  We will have another next week too!  Before I came out here, it had been a while since I had had a baptism, and now we are seeing so much success.  I know it is because of our desires to be as obedient as we can.

We are starting something new in the zone.  We are going to hold the first once-a-transfer zone meeting on Wednesday in Narganá!  We will have the whole zone there!  It will be the only time the whole zone has been together ever.  We will have each companionship prepare a lesson and a practice, and then we will play games and do activities after.  Our zone is having success, but we know that we can do better, and we have high hopes that the meeting will help us reach our potential.

This last week was really good.  I realized that the spirit is what allows us to magnify our calls as missionaries.  If we don't have the spirit, we can't do anything in the work.  If we do, we can do many miracles.  We have seen a lot of miracles this last week.  We have found new investigators, less active families, and we have seen an increased desire in the members to share the gospel and help us in the work.  The branch is stronger than it has ever been, and we are working to get it to the point where it can function without the help of the missionaries. We are ALMOST there.   We are just trying to get the leaders trained on the computers.  A lot of them have never even used the internet, so it is pretty interesting sometimes!

I am happy.  I know why I am here, to help others come unto Christ and be perfected in Him.  I am so thankful I have the opportunity to preach the gospel and become converted as well.  I love you all so much!


Elder Austin Michael Kipp

Monday, November 3, 2014

Panama Independence Day and Branch Administration

Hello family!!!

This was a pretty interesting week.  It was changes week, so we headed into the Panama City on the plane on Tuesday, and we were there until Saturday.  For changes, we have to go to Price Smart, which is the same as Costco, and buy all the food for all the missionaries for six weeks, and we have to get all the other stuff like hammocks and machetes for the new elders in the zone, and their flip flops and everything.  Having my driver’s license makes it nice because we can use the truck to get around.  We stay at the assistant’s house when we are in the city, and it is fun to hang out with all the other missionaries that live there!

We got back on Saturday, and we dropped everyone off at their islands, and got back and it was about time to get back to the house for the afternoon, so we sacked out.  Sunday was good.   We had an investigator in church, the one we are teaching to read.  He is getting baptized next Saturday, so we are trying to get him reading the Book of Mormon before he gets baptized.  Hermano E has to wait one more week to get baptized, because he had to go diving for food yesterday and couldn't come to church.  He doesn't feel quite prepared yet, but he totally is.  He understands the Book of Mormon super well, and he has had a dark life in the past and really wants to change. He knows the church is true, and is excited to get baptized!

We do a lot of administration in the branch here.  Sometimes we have to teach the leaders here how the church here is run.  We enter all the donations into the computer, and we are trying to get a home teaching program started.  We have gotten six new people called and set apart within the last two weeks in leadership positions, so the branch is really starting to progress!  The next goal is having three hours of church, right now we only have two hours.

Halloween was good!  Elder Jensen and I swapped name tags, and we got to go to the temple with the rest of the missionaries from the zone!  The new elder on San Blas is named Elder M. He is a bigger kid, and he is hilarious!  He is the happiest missionary in the whole mission, so we are excited to have him out here!  It is the Independence Days and Flag Day for Panama in November, so today there was a big parade on the island, and all the school students marched around the entire island and there were marching bands and everything. The whole month of November is basically a big party in Panama, there are like five national holidays throughout the month, so it is pretty interesting.  Well, that is about it for this week!  We are excited to have time to work this week, and we have some high hopes for the island this change!  I love you guys!

Elder Austin Michael Kipp

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

River Baptism in Ukapa

Hey everyone!          

I guess I better start this letter off answering all of mom's questions from her letter before I forget.

1. We can't proselyte after dark because the chiefs of the island have said no.
2. We do have a lock on the hut door.
3. I have NOT actually rolled out of my hammock.  I am even surprised on that one, but it is pretty hard to roll out of a hammock. But alas, nothing is impossible. 
4. I haven't eaten anything with members yet. There are some HUGE lobster and crab that they catch here!
5. Yes, I have the guitar.  We have a lot of in-house time at night, so it comes in handy.
6. We do sometimes play with the kids, but they are in school during our proselyting hours. 
7. We live in a town.  The biggest thing here is the dock where there are usually two huge Colombian ships that sell stuff like clothes, hammocks, rice, etc.
8. We wash clothes in buckets with water that we boil on the stove
9. We usually work in the mornings on P-Days, then go to internet and clean the house in the evening.
10. As for Christmas, I really do not care. But, if you want me to get it by Christmas, the next time I will be in the city will be December 10th.  So just be sure to get it out early! 
11. No bat yet. But  the fried house cat is pretty tasty.
12. There is a HUGE long PVC pipe that goes all the way across the bridge from the island to the mainland and up the monte to the river. So yes, we drink, bathe and wash clothes in river water.
13. Yes, we have a cell phone and our whole island has good coverage. 
14. We email in the church, it is the only place with internet besides the school. 

So, this last week was interesting.  We went to Tikantiki, where there is a companionship of sisters, for two days to visit their investigators and evaluate their teaching.  I ended up getting sick the morning we came back, so I spent two days in the house with another elder that was on our island, whose companion was in the hospital for a bug bite on his leg.  On Friday, there was a youth activity in another branch called Ukupa, which means small beach.  We stayed overnight on Friday and watched "The Testaments” with the youth, and Saturday morning, we had our baptism!  We did it in the river right next to the ocean, and it was awesome!  It was a really spiritual service, and lots of youth and members were able to attend.  He got confirmed yesterday in church.  I got to confirm him, and it was my first confirmation, so it was a neat experience.

The culture here is really interesting. The Sylas (chiefs) hold congress with all the men on the island every Monday and Thursday, and no one can leave their houses.  Yesterday, all the Sylas from San Blas came and they are doing a big congress today.  So that kind of hinders the work sometimes.  But I guess we have to obey the laws of the land.  Any time we go into the city, we have to get permission from the Sylas to leave the islands. Tomorrow, we are going in to the city in a plane because the transfer just ended, and we have to help the new missionaries buy all their stuff and get all the food for the zone. 

We should be having 2 more baptisms on the 8 of November!  We are being more obedient and are definitely seeing the results, with the less actives and our investigators! We are trying to teach one investigator to read right now, so he can read the Book of Mormon.  He is one getting baptized on the 15th.  There are a lot of interesting ways to give service out here on the islands.   Well, that is about it for this last week... I will try to think of some more good adventures to write about next week!  I love you all and have a happy Halloween!  I will send pictures tomorrow when we go to the mission office.  The internet here is slow uploading pictures.

Elder Austin Michael Kipp

P.S.  I found some epic Mola this week, but you will have to wait until I get home to see it. Sorry.  Hey dad, glad to hear that the biking is going well. Is the ole' knee holding up well enough to play some baseball when I get back?  It's been a while since you have struck me out.... that is a challenge. haha! 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Kuna Culture, Temple Trip and Island Life

Hey everyone! 

This last week was awesome!  We were able to go to the temple with one family from our branch and their two little girls, and our Branch President, T. The family was getting sealed, and all three adults got their patriarchal blessings.  So, to get to and from Panama City and the island, we first have to travel three hours in a motorboat, called a panga, and then travel two to three hours in a car to the city.  The road to get to the dock is the windiest, roller-coaster-iest road ever!  I even started to get carsick!!!

We got to the city on Wednesday morning, and camped out at the AP's house till the session on Thursday.  I saw the new movie for the first time.  I learned a lot from the new movie!  It was so good to be able to go through the temple again.  Then, we got to go into the sealing!  I had never seen one before, and it was really great.  The two little girls were really reverent and happy, and the husband and wife knew that what they were doing was eternal, and that their family would be together forever.  The spirit was strong.  It was humbling to see the sacrifice it took for them to get to the temple.  There were only the three adults, the two girls, and my companion and I.  They are now saving to get back to the temple again soon.  It makes me feel blessed to be from Utah, where we have a temple within a half hour in every direction of our house.

This last week, we were able to get some quality lessons in with our investigators.  We have been thinking of ways to be able to be guided more by the spirit.  We decided that right before every lesson, we would say a prayer outside the investigators house, going over the lesson plan quickly with God and asking for help.  We do it with our eyes open reading our agendas, and in English, so it was a little strange at first.  I can't even pray in English anymore, it is so hard!  After every lesson, we do the same thing, just thanking God for sending us the spirit.  The spirit is offended easily, and I would be pretty offended if I helped two young missionaries teach some epic lessons, and they didn't thank me.  We have felt the increased companionship of the spirit lately. 

We have a baptism this weekend! An investigator named E. He is seventeen, and he has a strong desire to follow the commandments. It is interesting teaching here, we have to teach things really simply, or sometimes they don't understand because they don't all speak perfect Spanish. For that, we have a Kuna book and are trying to learn the dialect a bit. 

Culture is interesting here.  The island has three governing chiefs, (sylas) and they hold Congress with all the men on the island every Monday and Thursday. Also, the chiefs do not let us preach after dark, so that is a bit tough, but it gives us lots of good study time!

Mom, we shower in a concrete stall with a bucket, we cook our food on a propane stove, and I do not believe there are any poisonous snakes in the river.  But, I have seen some starfish, lobster, jellyfish, and dolphins out here. We have electricity from six to ten at night, and there is a PVC pipe with water from the river on the mainland that is shared between three other families, and if it rains, there is not water in the pipe, so we have lots of gallon jugs we fill up and we wash our clothes and cook with that water.  And yes, having a machete is pretty flipping sweet. 

Well, it is about time to get going. I hope you are all doing well!  Dad, that is awesome that you are in Young Mens again!  When I come back, I may just be going with you guys on some campouts, teaching jungle survival skills to the young men. haha!  I love you all!


Elder Austin Michael Kipp

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Huts, Hammocks, Machetes, Patacones and Panamanian Plumbing

Hey everyone!

So, the first full week on the island was an interesting but great one!  Just so you all get an idea of how living is here, we sleep in hammocks in a hut, our shower is a bucket of water that we fill up with water from the river, and our bathroom is a metal shed built over the ocean.  I love it out here!

This last Friday, we finally got to go to the monte, (mountains or woods) and I was excited because I finally got to use my machete!  We went to help Hermano B cut down some plants on his farm and carry some bananas and plantains back to the island.  We traveled in a canoe for about half an hour, then walked a couple miles in the monte.  We chopped the grass down for a couple hours, then loaded the bananas on a big stick, and carried them on our shoulders back to the canoe.  It had to be the most exhausting service project I have ever done! Pushed me to my limits!  But it was good, the guy gave us some plantains and we made some patacones! (fried platano chips)

We had district conference this weekend, so President Carmack came out on Saturday morning, and stayed in our house until this morning.  I couldn't understand most of the conference, because they spoke in dialect, but President spoke about how we need to always remember Christ, and how that is one of the most important parts of the sacrament.  If we are always remembering Christ, we will be more in tune with the spirit and less likely to commit sin. 

 We have had a great week!  Definitely saw some miracles this week.  We traveled to another island on Wednesday to go visit with one of the companionships of sisters in the zone for the day.  They have learned the dialect, and taught a couple lessons in Kuna, it was super cool!  We are really trying to be as obedient as we can, and it is definitely bringing blessings.  I have gotten so much more out of my studies, because we have the spirit with us so strong when we are more obedient.  We have some incredible investigators right now, and we should have four baptisms coming up toward the beginning of November!

We get to go to the temple on Wednesday because a family on the island is getting sealed!  I am so excited! I have never been to a sealing, and it has been a while since I went to the temple! I am also going to try and send a couple things home like letters and a few other things.   Well, I am running out of time... I love you all!


Elder Austin Michael Kipp

Monday, October 6, 2014

Living in a Grass Roof Hut in the San Blas Islands

Hello everyone!

So, these last few days have been interesting.  I met up with my new companion, Elder J on Tuesday, and on Wednesday, we got to work buying everything for the missionaries in the zone.  We had to go to Price Smart, which is the same as Costco, and get all the food.  We eat things like mashed potatoes, canned chicken, pancakes, rice, pasta, and we drink tons of powdered Gatorade and lemonade.  After we had bought everything, we had to go get things like machetes and sheaths, sandals, Crocs, and hygiene supplies. 

Out here, we wear either flip flops or these nice Crocs that look like boat shoes, and we can roll up our pants if we want to.  We sleep in hammocks,  which is still taking me a little to get used to, and we live in a grass-roof hut, which is awesome!  Our island is pretty small, so most people know the missionaries.  We had to set up General Conference in the church.  There is a translator that went to Salt Lake to translate conference into Kuna, but luckily we got to watch it all in English in the Branch President's office.  It was awesome!  One of my favorite talks was from Elder Uchtdorf in the Priesthood Session.  It talks about looking inward and asking "Is it I?"  I also enjoyed Elder Klebingat's talk about the six steps in increasing our spiritual confidence.  It was a great couple of sessions!

After the last session yesterday, we saw a guy in the back of the chapel who came in on a trading boat and saw the church and decided to come in.  He is from Colon, and he knows a few members.  HE started to ask us lots of questions about the Prophet, and we explained to him about how God has called a prophet in our days, and we gave him a Book of Mormon. There was a member there with us who nailed it with his testimony, and the spirit was strong! It made me see the benefits of member missionary work, which seemed to be a trend in lots of the conference talks.

My companion is awesome!  Elder J is from Collinston, Utah.  He is awesome!  We had a talk last night and planned for this change, and we both committed to give it our all.  We do A LOT of hard service projects here, like going to the monte (mon-tay) or the mount, to get bananas and coconuts, and to chop down stuff to make farms, but we both made the commitment to get out and find people to teach, even when we think we are too tired.  We want to live up to the challenge of serving with all our heart, might mind and strength.  We get to go do divisions on the other islands in the zone!  We are going to go to another island on Wednesday, so I will take lots of pictures!  I love it here! I am so happy! This is the happiest time of my mission!  I love you all!


Elder Austin Michael Kipp

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Zone Leader in the San Blas Islands

Como están todos? Espero que se encuentren felicez y edificados después del dia de reposo ayer!

These are my last few days here in the office!  I have loved it here so much, and have been able to have so many unique experiences here.  It is bittersweet to be leaving.  I love what I did, but I want to get out and work hard in the field again. 

I learned an essential truth this week.  I don't know how I never realized it before, but I believe that it is crucial to our salvation.  Actually, I know it is. I learned that to gain salvation, we need to do more than just avoid committing sins and doing bad things. That alone will not be enough to merit salvation.  If we wish to achieve eternal life in the Celestial Kingdom, we need to avoid sin AND abound in good works, serving others and showing love for them.  This new understanding gave me a whole new outlook on my entire life.  It gave me a purpose, more than just idly passing time obeying commandments.  Judgment will be a review of ALL the works we have done in our lives, not just a review of all the sins we have committed and which we have repented of and which we have not. When I finally understood this principle, I gained a new excitement to dedicate myself more to the Lord and serve more with more love.

This week, we visited C, and he is still doubting.  He has received witness from the spirit that the church is true, but he doesn't think it is the ONLY true church.  I really think he knows, because he has felt the spirit so strongly, but he is still not willing to take that step of faith and be baptized. He is a dry Mormon!  Yesterday, he was explaining the Book of Mormon in the gospel principles class to the other investigators.  He told us that he KNOWS the church is true, but he can't support the doctrine that it is the ONLY true church, and for that reason he has not been baptized.  But, I know he will.  HE IS GOING TO GET BAPTIZED!

So, the moment you have all been waiting for.... Where is Elder Kipp going?????  I am headed out to the San Blas Islands as a Zone Leader!!!!!  I am super excited and happy!  It will be culture shock and a totally new experience.  My companion is Elder J, and he is a super awesome missionary!!!!!  I am more than excited to go there!  They don’t wear regular shoes there so I need to buy some Crocs and a leatherman tool.  I can get a ton of cool mola!  Speaking of mola, I got a SICK (which means awesome) mola tie last week from a hermana in the sisters ward that is in our district.  But yeah, I'm going to Blas so I will take lots of pictures.  We went to the Panana Canal today, but you're not going to believe me. It was closed.  But, I will be sure to get there and get some pictures before I come home! 

I was praying for you and mom this week, and the spirit told me,"They're in my hands" and that gave me peace to know that the Lord is taking care of both of you.  Well, that is about it for this week. I am so excited to start the Quantum adventures on Blas!!!   I love you all! Don't forget to prepare yourselves for General Conference this weekend!!!


Elder Austin Michael Kipp

Monday, September 22, 2014

Panama Travels, Chickens and Lobsters

Hey family!

This last week was probably the busiest, but one of the coolest of my entire mission!  We had zone conferences this week, and Hermana Carmack wanted us to make Family Home Evening kits for the entire mission, but we weren't able to get the toner for the HP printer until Saturday.  So, we had to stay up late for four nights, printing and laminating almost 2,000 papers and burning 130 DVD's for all the missionaries.  It was super exhausting!  We had the conference on Wednesday, and it was great! We talked about four tips that Elder Nelson gave about "Preach My Gospel", and also how to find new investigators and goal-setting.  It was a great conference!

We asked President Carmack a couple weeks ago if my companion and I could go to the Zone Conference in David, so he gave us permission!  We drove out on Thursday afternoon with the AP's!  Before, we stopped at Rico Burrito and ate this burrito called the MataBurro, and it is a huge 18 inch burrito!!!  So that filled us up for about two days.  We got to David late, and stayed at a cool member's house with a bunch of missionaries that had traveled for the conference.  We had to run errands during the conference, so we didn't hear much of it.  Afterward, I had called the R family and K, my convert from Las Lomas, and we went to visit them! It was so good to see them!  The elders were taken out of that area two changes after I left.  There are still sisters there but a lot of things have gone downhill.  I told President to send me back if they put Elders there again!  It was really good to see the people from David! 

Saturday, we drove back to Panama City, and President gave my companion and I permission to go to Darien, in the middle of nowhere on the east side of Panama, so the AP's let us take the car to drive to my companion's birthday party with the members out there, and it is basically out in the middle of nowhere.  Before we left, one of the members let me kill a chicken, so he tied up the feet and hung it in the tree and let me cut the neck.  But, I ended up cutting the entire head off!  But it was cool, I killed my first chicken last week!

Yesterday, we talked with C at church, and he said he wants to get baptized, but his wife, who is still in Nicaragua, told him she doesn't want him to because she wants to "take that step with him together.”  So, he is having difficulty accepting her choice because he wants to get baptized.  We are going to try to get him baptized this weekend, but it will be really tough.  Pray that we can get him baptized soon!

I keep learning more and more about the Atonement.  It is something I need every day.  This week I learned that we cannot benefit from the mercy and love of the atonement until we love and show mercy towards other people, and we cannot be forgiven until we forgive others.  Humility is another thing I have tried to study and develop throughout my mission, because I have realized that I can be really prideful sometimes, when I go against the Father and do my own will instead of His.  I am so thankful for the Atonement and the ability to be forgiven.

So yeah,  I am leaving the office in a week and a half.  I very well could go out to Blas, but it isn't sure.  One of the ZL's is going home at the end of this transfer, so we will see.  But now it really doesn't matter to me. I am excited to get back to working in the field, wherever the Lord sends me.  Time is up.  I love you all so much!

Elder Austin Michael Kipp

P.S.  We had another multi-zone sport activity today.  I put on sunscreen, and have come to the conclusion that the Panama sun is unblockable, because alas, I continue looking like a lobster.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Zone Conference in Cardenas

Hello everyone!

This last week was a pretty good one!   Zone conferences are coming up, and President Carmack has given us permission to go out to David to help at the zone conference!  I am stoked!  We are trying to print and laminate 1,800 Family Home Evening papers for Wednesday, so it has been a busy couple days and we still have a bit more to go, but it's ok. 

This last Thursday, we planned a dinner with a less active family, the Y Family. Back in the day, they were super active and even did baptisms in the temple! We shared with them the Easter video called "Because of Him" about the atonement, and the son just ended up randomly putting on a temple video that lasted for almost 45 minutes. When we were done, the lady said that she is retiring in two years, and that she wants to work to the point where she can work in the temple when she retires!  I hope we can get them there!

We also visited C on Thursday.  It was a really tough lesson, he has very interesting beliefs, and so it seemed like there was a bit of contention as we discussed the things we know to be true and as he testified of his beliefs as well.  We were direct with him about our purpose on earth, and we asked him lots of questions that made him really open up and share his beliefs with us.  We finally got to the core of C.  Toward the end, he said that he thought he and we were going to have to go our separate ways in the near future. We were sad, and talked that night that he hadn't progressed and we decided we would drop him for a little bit and see what happened.

On Sunday, he came up to us and told us that the lesson on Thursday impacted him so much, and that he was finally feeling with his heart and not thinking with his brain.  He said he was almost ready to tell us on Thursday to fill the font and baptize him, but he still has a few doubts.  He immediately asked us to help him this week, and we are working to get him baptized on the 20th of September, which will be a "White Night" for our entire zone, (where lots of investigators get baptized in one big service.) That was the biggest step C has taken in a long time, and I really hope we can get him baptized soon because I am leaving the office on the 1st of October!

I read a really good book about the Atonement this week called "The Peace Giver.”  I recommend that you read it.  It has given me a completely new look on the atonement, which has become one of my favorite things to study.  I am happy.  My companion is so great, we get along awesome and I am so happy living and serving the people of Panama right now!  I love you all!

Elder Austin Michael Kipp

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Anything Can Happen

Hey everyone!

How have you all been this week?  I am glad to hear that mom is getting the issues with the surgery worked out, and that dad is ok after the accident.  I have been praying for you guys a lot this week!

This last week was consejos, so we were pretty busy getting everything ready on Tuesday.  We had to get all the mail organized and things like that ready to go, and on Wednesday, we were able to listen to President Carmack talk about the importance of "Preach My Gospel". It was a great spiritual meeting.  He talked a lot about the importance of doing companionship study, and using “Preach My Gospel” and the Book of Mormon to find answers to our investigators' questions and doubts.  After the meeting, we ate Papa Johns and took tons of pictures.  Most of the Elders and Sisters that came to Panama with me were there, so it was fun to talk with them all and see how they are doing!

There is a gringo from Salt Lake living here, named R.  He is not a member, but grew up in Sandy, so he knows quite a bit about the church. The mission nurses, the M's, from St. George introduced him to us a couple weeks ago, and in Saturday, we invited him to a park by the coast to play some pick up basketball with some locals. We are really trying to open the door a little more before we start really teaching him the gospel, but we share a small message with him whenever we see him, a short scripture or a hymn, and he enjoys it, but just is not too interested in coming to church yet.  We will keep getting to know him and see what happens. 

We were able to meet with C's boss D this week.  C gave us his reference and we took him to the temple a couple weeks ago.  We met him in his office and taught him about the restoration.  We thought it was a bit of a shaky lesson, but at the end he said, "Well, it is hard for someone to accept the message of Joseph Smith right off the bat, but anything can happen!"  He definitely is curious to learn more and is reading the pamphlet and praying.  He says he wants a little bit of time before he comes to church, but I know that he will come around soon.  C is still a tough one.  He came out and told us of some more doubts he has, so we are studying hard to help him.  He has a hard time accepting the Bible, but says he believes the Book of Mormon, and we are working to help him find scriptures that will help him progress toward baptism.  He is a really intelligent man and I know that he will eventually realize that this is the only true church on the earth.  I want to help him so much it is not even funny!

It is good to hear that BYU started off the season running!  Beating Texas by that much is pretty crazy!  And the Titans too!  Let’s hope they can have a better season this year.  Speaking of sports, tell Lionel to write me so we can make some sushi and Mountain Dew bets! haha!  Well family, it is about time to hop off, it is mission wide cleaning day so we gotta get going to clean the house!


Elder Austin Michael Kipp

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Learning and Progressing

Hello family!

This last week has been alright.  Trying to balance training in the office and working in the area is a bit difficult, but we are definitely trying to do our best! 

This last Tuesday, we had an appointment set with C.  We were in the office finishing some stuff before we went, and President Carmack was in the office late, so we asked him if he could come with us to teach him.  He said he was glad to.  We decided to teach C about the consequences of sin, and the necessity of the atonement.  It goes along with the creation and the fall.  President Carmack said he felt that we needed to read from 2 Nephi 2.  We got to C's house and began to teach him.  He opened up, and explained a lot of experiences that he has had that have helped him to gain a testimony that Jesus is his Savior.  We were able to discover some of his doubts as we read from 2 Nephi 2, some doubts that are now going to help us help him progress toward baptism.  The Book of Mormon is powerful.  C also told us that he has troubles with the Bible, but we testified to him that the Book of Mormon is what will help him clear up those doubts.  He reads it with G, his friend who he lives with and is a returned missionary of two years.  Ever since that lesson with President Carmack, C has been more open with us discussing his doubts and problems.  I know that he realized that the Gospel is what can help him find peace, and that he can turn his problems over to Jesus Christ to help relieve the weight of his burdens. C is awesome!

We also visited L and A this week, a couple we have been teaching for a couple months. They are not married and she is trying to finalize a divorce with her ex who lives in Colombia, so they can't get baptized until then. We watched a video called “Together Forever” that talks about eternal families. They really want to keep learning and progressing.  They have a one year old baby and family is really important to them. We are going to take them to the temple this Sunday night to talk more about eternal families with them. They will get baptized, the divorce just needs to get finalized so they can get married first! 

I'm glad that dad is ok after the crash.  That is a little scary; just glad that everything is alright with him and the other people who were in the accident.  I am so sad about dad's layoff and hope he can find a job soon.  Also, mom, I hope you can get everything worked out with your finger and the nerve test!  We will be praying here that everything can get figured out fast!

Well, time is running short.  We are going with our district to hit some golf balls at a golf course and then we have to go to the store to buy some things. Oh yeah! There is a store here called Riba Smith.  It is all imported stuff, and they sell Reese's! And gushers! The only store I have seen that carries lots of American goodies.    I love you all!

Elder Austin Michael Kipp

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

I Gave Him My Mission Shoes

Hello family!

This last week was the craziest week in the office so far, but also one of the best!  It was changes week, so we had to get everything ready for 31 new missionaries coming!  There were 22 new gringos and 9 new Latins. On Monday, the first group came, and we went to get them from the airport.  Sometimes I just have to chuckle a bit when I see the new missionaries and see how lost they look, and I look back and remember exactly how they feel! 

We did the training meeting, then Tuesday morning, we did it all over again with the nine Latins that came in the morning.  We did the training, then they went to their areas.  On Tuesday night, the new gringos came, so we went to go pick them up from the airport.  I didn't stay at the airport because another Elder had to get things from the office.  There is a new gringo, Elder D, who is 6'10"!  He is the biggest in the mission and has a full-ride to play basketball at BYU after his mission, so we will definitely have to look out for him!

We took the new elders and hermanas to a hotel to stay, and it was bad because they lost both of our reservations, but we got it all worked out.  Wednesday was another day of training, and getting the old missionaries dinner and ready to go home the next day.  One of the new gringos is getting trained in Cuidad Bolivar!  I am so excited for that kid!  We found out that I am training a new general secretary in the office now! That means I will be leaving the office in six weeks, and that Elder O will stay in the office for almost a year.  It is going to be bittersweet to leave the office.

My new companion is Elder A from Bountiful.  He has one change less than me, and I have wanted to be his companion my entire mission!  We are really similar and unified in our companionship, so I am so happy! He is going to be a great secretary!

This last week, we found a menos activo family that we have been looking for  the Y family.  It is just the mom and the daughter, who is 23. They used to be really active, even the missionaries lived in their house for a while!  We set up a dinner with them for this week, and we are going to get them to come back to church activity!

This last Sunday was great.  I have been thinking that when I take the sacrament, I should be able to feel the same way I did at my baptism because I am just renewing those covenants.  If I do not properly prepare myself, I am losing out on an opportunity to truly and correctly take the sacrament so that it purifies me.  I have had some good experiences these last two weeks trying to prepare myself more for the sacrament.

I had to get some new socks, and I had to get my shirts altered, and I had to get my old Danskos fixed because there was an Elder here who has had a really rough mission, and his shoes were going out, so I gave him my mission shoes because he didn't have any money to buy other ones.   It felt really good. And I want to be able to use the new Danskos when I come home, so if I can get the old one fixed I can wear those the rest of my mission.  And changes week is a little expensive so some of it was spent on that.

Well family, know that I am happy.  I am excited that we have positive investigators right now to teach and that I get to serve as a missionary at this time in my life!

Elder Austin Michael Kipp