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