The Best Two Years

The Best Two Years

Monday, February 24, 2014

Through the Lord I Can Do All Things

Hello everyone,

It has been a good week because we had a BAPTISM!!  K got baptized on Saturday and confirmed on Sunday!  It was a spiritual baptism, and it was pleasing to see the results of my labor.   But, it really wasn’t even me that converted her.  It was the Spirit.  I am just thankful that the Lord is guiding me with his spirit to the people that he has prepared for me here in Panama. As Ammon says, “I cannot brag of my own strength and power, because as for my own strength, I am weak.  But through the Lord, I can do all things.”

It is so hot here right now, I think I will have to be buying new shirts soon because they get sweaty, and then the wind picks up the dirt and it sticks to my sweaty shirts and gets them all dirty.  I never knew a person could sweat so much! 

So, this last week I had to go into Panama City for immigrations, so on Thursday night at midnight, I got on the bus with Elder B and our Zone Leader, and we took a 7 ½ hour bus ride to the city.  These buses are cool, double decker buses, but they are freezing inside!!!   They are literally known as the coldest places in Panama.  The buses and the showers ARE the two coldest places in Panama.  I couldn’t sleep at all because I didn’t have a jacket or blanket or anything.  So, we got to Panama City and hopped on a Metrobus to the immigrations building, and we were there until four-thirty in the afternoon because the lawyer for the mission didn’t fill out our papers right, so we had to do the whole process twice.  But, I did get to eat at Taco Bell, so that was allright, and I saw my friends from the MTC, so it was fun to talk to them!   So, we go to Albrook to buy bus tickets for the six o’clock bus, but it was full, so we left Panama City at 8:00 at night, and got back to David at about 3:30 in the morning, and we were dead!  But, it was nice to see the city, it was a little weird because I hadn’t left David for four months and David is so much smaller and quiet.

So about changes, I heard a lot of rumors that I am going to go to the mission office this next change, but I am not sure.  My name was in for one of the secretaries about five months ago, but I didn’t go.  Elder O is the financial secretary and he told President Carmack that he thinks I would be a good secretary.  I am indifferent to going to the office, we will see what happens! I am pretty sure that I am leaving David though.

Well, not much more to report on this week, just that we are finding lots of awesome new investigators to teach, and that I am growing and learning and becoming happier every day!  I love you all so much! 


Elder Austin Michael Kipp

Monday, February 17, 2014

Las Lomas Miracle

Hola familia! 

This week has been interesting.  We were supposed to have a baptism on Saturday, the niece of K, but she didn't feel ready.  We kind of knew she felt that way.  She knows everything she needs to and is worthy, she is just a little scared.  K feels the same way, so, we were a little depressed this week, because they are some of the only investigators we have right now, and definitely the most positive. 

 At church yesterday, we brought K and her two kids.  We got there late, but we got there.   After church, I saw the hermanas talking with her, and so I went over, and the hermanas were asking her how she felt when we taught her.  We asked her how she can show her love for God, because she told us that she loves God, she just is confused.  We invited her to go into a room privately and pray and just tell God that she loves Him.  She was in there about ten minutes, and we were waiting outside.  She came out crying, and we asked her if she would be baptized this Saturday, and she said that she would!   Everyone was crying and so happy.  The words can’t do this experience justice.  I think this experience has been one of the most spiritual and most rewarding and pleasing experiences of my entire mission! 

During church, we showed up about a half hour late because we were waiting for Katherine ad her family.   There were two stake representatives in the meeting, and during priesthood and relief society, they wanted to meet with us and the sister missionaries, because a brother in our ward told them that the missionaries aren't doing anything right now.  They proceeded to interview us about things like what time we wake up, what time we exercise, things that the President of the mission would ask us.  But, President Carmack doesn’t even ask us those things. They just focused on the fact that we showed up late, and not that we were trying to save souls by bringing them to church. it was frustrating because they haven't seen the fruits of all our labors here the past few months.

So, good news, our chapel a couple of weeks ago had over 100 people on Sunday!   There was a counselor from the stake presidency there in the meeting, he has been coming because really, Las Lomas shouldn't exist as a ward because there were not enough members coming to church, and it is the weakest ward in the stake.  When I arrived, they were thinking of terminating the ward here.  Now, there are so many people coming, that they have gotten permission to build A SECOND CHAPEL next to the one we already have to fit all the people that are coming to church!   It is truly a miracle.   The Lord is blessing us so much.   I went through the hardest three months of my life out here, but now I am seeing the results of my labor and the Lord is blessing me!

The service project we did was for the Presleys.  Elder Blankenship and I dug a ton of sprinkler trenches, so I liked the service!  We also built a cement floor next to the house for a car port.  It is always good to give service, and Sister Presley made us the same homemade mac and cheese that mom makes!  Not quite as good, of course!   I made the root beer pulled pork on Saturday, and it turned out alright.  I had to make it with different sauce, but it turned out good, with cheesy bacon french fries! 

So, not much more time to write.  I am happy that you are all happy!  I am happy that you are trying to find more ways to be missionaries and serve the Lord, because in his service we will find true joy and happiness!   I love you all so much!

Elder Austin Michael Kipp

P.S.  Mom, if you could tell me what shirts specifically you want to use, I will authorize the ones I want to keep and the ones you can use.  Thanks! 

Monday, February 10, 2014

Unexpected Baptism

Hola familia!

So, this was a good week, mostly because we had a baptism!  It was interesting, because it wasn't the baptism we were expecting. 

We did the baptism interview for the two ladies who were going to be baptized on Saturday, but they didn’t pass, so we were disappointed.  But, the sisters who share our area were teaching their investigator that got baptized on Saturday, and one of my investigators, J, was there too.  He told them that he wanted to get baptized on Saturday, and it came as a shock. We have invited him countless times to get baptized, but he never accepted.  I asked him on Saturday why he decided to get baptized, and he said it was because he had been praying for weeks to know what he should do, and he finally got his answer.

It was a good service.  They asked me to do a musical number with my trusty guitar, so I played ‘Joseph Smith's First Prayer’ to the tune of ‘Come Thou Fount.’  After, I got to be a witness for the first baptism, and then baptize Jorge.  So, everything went well, we drained the font, and while we were changing, the bishop comes in and tells us that there was only one witness for J's baptism and that we have to do it again!  So, we frantically tried to fill the font, but the bishop called Panama City and asked them if the baptism was valid, because there was no one else at the baptism that had a white shirt and tie, and to be a witness you have to be dressed in a white shirt and tie.  So, long story short, the baptism was valid, but it was a pretty funny experience!

I have been reading all the conference talks in the Liahona from October, and my favorite is still the talk by President Uchtdorf in the Priesthood Session called "You Can Do it Now.”  It is about picking ourselves up after we fall and keep moving forward with faith.  One of my favorite quotes comes from this talk.  He said, "Our destiny is not chosen by the number of times that we fall, but by the number of times we pick ourselves up, shake the dust off, and move forward.”  Before the mission, I thought some miraculous perfection was going to happen to me and that I would never have problems.  It is not like that.  I am learning more every day about picking myself up and applying the atonement to help me keep myself from falling again.

Well, time is short. We are going to Boquete to hike a mountain and eat, so we have to get going early. I love you all so much!

Elder Austin Michael Kipp

P.S.  Mom let me know what shirts you want to use.  I still want to wear some of them when I get back, so don’t touch them just yet.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Things Their Mothers Taught Them

Hola familia!

It always makes me happy to read your letters and hear that you are all doing well. That is so crazy that J is going to Qetzaltonango, or however you say it, because that is where Elder T, one of my ZL's in my first area, is from.  It is the mountainous part of Guatemala, so he will love it!  It makes me happy to see him desiring to show his love for the Lord and serve. This  week has been good, we have been really focusing on the family of investigators from Bocas.  They are Nase Indians, and they are super excited to learn more about the gospel.

We have been teaching them for two weeks now, and it was going good.  We had put a baptismal date with them for this Saturday.  Every time we go there, we end up staying forever and talking, and playing with all the kids.  They are all women that live there, three adults and like ten little kids that love to mess around with us!  They always ask me about Utah, and they think that our family is the richest family ever (the mindset of every Panamanian when they see a gringo). 

We went last night to visit them, and we talked about baptism.  K started to tell us that she wasn't sure, and that she didn't feel prepared.  We started asking lots of questions to get to the center of the doubt that she had.  After a while of talking, she broke down and started crying.  It was silent for a while, before she explained that her brother came to visit from Bocas, and told her to be careful about which church she joined, if she ever wanted to see her mother again, who passed away a couple years ago.  She told us that she didn't recognize an answer to her prayers about if the church was true or not. This lesson was the lesson where I felt most guided by the spirit than at any other time in my life.  We explained to her that she will see her mother again. As we asked her again about baptism this Saturday, she said she wasn't ready.  We asked her what she would say to Christ if he asked her to be baptized this Saturday, and she said she didn’t know what she would say.  We asked her to pray right then and there, and ask God specifically if baptism was the choice she needed to make in her life.  She prayed, and then we asked her again what she would say to Jesus if he asked her to be baptized. We explained that as missionaries, we are representatives of Christ, and that we are not asking her to be baptized, but Christ in reality is asking her to be baptized.

Long story short, we have two baptisms this Saturday.

So, I have a question of the utmost importance.  The R family wants me to teach them how to make gringo food, and so I have to think of a succulent dish to make them.  I thought of making mom's root beer pulled pork, because Hermano R loves root beer. But, I need the recipe. ASAP!  Or, another suggestion of something that I could make for them that would be good!

Back to mission things.  I have been loving reading the Book of Mormon right now.  I was reading in Alma yesterday about the stripling warriors. As I came to the part where they talked about what their mothers taught them, it made me think of something that mom told me in the first letter she ever sent me in the MTC.  She told me about how we have the opportunity to look at our trials and difficulties as stepping stones rather than road blocks, and that Heavenly Father has something for us to learn in every trial he throws our way.  I just want to say, like the stripling warriors, "I do not doubt my mother knew it."  The Lord has been making some of the biggest stepping stones ever for me throughout the mission.  I was struggling the other day, thinking that I hadn't grown at all in the mission, and that I wasn't learning.  I knew it wasn’t true, but Satan put it into my mind.  After looking back at my first couple of changes, and where I am now, I truly realized of the growth that I have made, and I realized that I never could make that change anywhere else but right here in the mission.  I am so grateful for the mission, and the opportunity to learn so much as I teach.  I know the Lord kept me here in David for a couple of reasons; to help the Indian family, to help my companion, and to help me learn from my companion as well.  I know that President Carmack is inspired of God, and that he kept me here for a reason, even though he knows about the difficulties that are passing with my companion.

So.   The Superbowl.  It was a little weird not watching it.  But, nevertheless, I made a Superbowl bet with Lionel, the classic "loser buys winner sushi and Mountain Dew", and let’s just say, when I get back, I will be enjoying a delicious free sushi luncheon with a Mountain Dew.  I can't believe that Peyton lost that bad, sounds like the Seahawks defense really was the game changer.  Dad, you have to bug Skyler for me. 

Well, there is not much more to report here from Panama this week, just that I am happy and  loving serving the Lord right now!  I am at the point where I don't want to leave the mission. The blessings and joy outweigh any trial or hardship in the mission.  I love you all!


Elder Austin Michael Kipp