The Best Two Years

The Best Two Years

Monday, March 31, 2014

Cincuentenario - A Day in the Life

Querido familia,

It has been an interesting week, as I have not been able to do much walking, so we end up spending the entire day in the office.  But, I can get all my work done, so it is not too bad! 

The things I do as the mission secretary are things like ordering flights for missionaries, and President Carmack when he goes to the other side of the country or to conferences.   I order all the mission supplies from Utah like missionary name tags, pamphlets, books of Mormon, Bibles, stuff like that, and I take care of all the mail.  So now, I can be sure that my mail gets sent when I want it to be sent, and I can get my mail when it gets here, and I don't have to wait until transfers to get it!  Talking about mail, I did quite enjoy the quantum mail, and yes, I did get the green card, the only problem is that there are not a lot of places accept American Express here.  I haven't tried Taco Bell yet.   I haven’t been able to get there within the past week, but let’s pray that they accept it!  Also, is there a security code that I need to use when I use the card?  I tried to use it at Subway, but I needed a security code or something.

This new area is cool!  It is called Cincuentenario, and Panama Viejo, those old ruins of the cathedral, are in my area, so we are always passing by there!  Our house is sweet, we live in an apartment building on the third floor, and there are four of us in the house.  We have hot water, a washing machine, and two balconies, so it is pretty cool!  But, we aren't even in the house that much, we spend more time in the office, and I have a perfect view of the Lego building out my window!  It is one of Donald Trump's buildings here.   He has another one, where we gave the blessing to the guy from South Jordan, and it is shaped like a letter D.

Elder O is sweet; we have really similar personalities so we get along super well!  And, since we already knew each other in the MTC, it was exciting when I came to the office.  He is from Yakima, Washington, and he went to school at BYU Hawaii, and he is making me think about applying there and learning how to surf!  Haha!

Everything with the surgery went well.  I went back to the doctor two days after, and he said everything is normal, and I don't have to go back unless I want to.  He told me that I could walk to the extent of what I could do in my own house with slippers on, but that has been a little difficult, with the secretary work we have to do.  I feel alright, he said I will have pain for about three to four weeks, but it is not terribly bad.  I am really trying to take it easier now so I can get all healed up faster, but everything is pretty normal. 

Our investigator from Nicaragua told us that he didn’t want us coming to his house during the week, but that he was going to come to church on Sundays and we could teach him there.  So yesterday, he showed up with his wife, and we taught them about being united in your family, and having your family being united with God. Then, that night, at dinner with the R family, we had a family home evening with C and his wife, more about being united and having goals in the family that can help us grow nearer to God, and it was a great lesson!  He is progressing well. He is just really busy during the week, so we can only teach him on Sundays. As for the familia Latino, we haven't been able to visit them again because we can't really do much right now with my situation, and they didn’t give us their telephone number, so we can't call them.  In about two weeks, we will go visit them again!  It has been frustrating to not be able to get out and teach, that is all I want to do right now!!!  But, I am doing another type of missionary work in the office, helping other missionaries be prepared to teach their investigators, so I am happy.

I am excited for conference this weekend!   Last conference was my favorite, I took notes, and still look back to them often, and am excited to take more this time.  Sometimes, as I am studying the scriptures, or listening to a talk, I get an impression to write something down.  Usually, I think it has no relevance to anything in my life and I don’t even know why I felt to write it down.   With my conference notes, as I have looked back on them the last six months, I have found that many of those promptings that I wrote down were what I needed during different times of my life.  They weren't needed when I wrote them down, but weeks, or even months later, they helped me learn something.  I have been amazed at the guidance the Spirit gives me, and how I have grown to be able to recognize the voice of the Spirit more in my life. These are things that I couldn't learn anywhere else, at any other time in my life.

As for the office assignment, I will most likely be here for six months, or four transfers, so when I leave the office, I will only have about eight months left in the mission.  As for the weather, it is still hot, but it is getting to rainy season.   Here, the heat doesn’t change a ton, it is a little cooler because of the clouds, but the rain still hasn’t started yet. 

Well, I love you guys so much!  I pray constantly for you, hoping that you are well, and that the Lord is blessing you.  I know He is. I love you all!


Elder Austin Michael Kipp

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Successful Surgery in Panama

Note from mom:  Austin had surgery in Panama City yesterday for a hydrocele removal. The surgery went very well and he is recovering at the mission home.  He will be off his feet and in a wheelchair for a few weeks.  One thing about this surgery that impressed us is that when he was initially diagnosed by the Urologist in Panama City, his case was sent to the Church Missionary Department Medical Advisors in the United States.  They reviewed the diagnosis to ensure that they agreed with it and approved the recommendation for surgery in a foreign country.  Austin's mission president was with him during surgery and assured us that his physician was trained in the United States and that he was in a first rate hospital in Panama City.  Austin is working in the mission office right now and he will be watched over carefully by his mission president and companion.   We anticipate a speedy recovery for him with pathology results in a few weeks. We are very grateful for your concern, love and prayers! Austin must have been feeling pretty good yesterday because he sent us the following letter:  

Hey Family!

Guess I better report first on the surgery.  Everything went well, I had it this morning, and I am still a little loopy from the anesthesia, but I am feeling alright now.  Apparently, when I woke up, Elder O came in and asked me if I was in pain, and I just said, "No, but I saw a freaking cool building while the wheel chair spun in circles!!!" haha!  President Carmack should be calling you guys today to let you know how it went.

We had a great day yesterday!  There is a man from Nicaragua living in Panama, and he stopped going to church about 24 years ago.  He is not a member, but his wife and kids are, but they are in Nicaragua right now while he is working here.  He said he stopped going at about age 12, but that he had felt for the last five weeks that he needed to come to our church.  He was really hesitant, but he came, and we taught him the message of the restoration.  We told him about the Book of Mormon, and he said "well, if I read it and it teaches the same things as the Bible does, I will accept it!"  So, we asked him to read in 3rd Nephi, when Christ does the Sermon on the Mount among the Nephites, and the chapters are compared to the book of Matthew.  He was really excited to come back for next

After church, two Elders in my district, and the Assistants, had a baptism, so we went to the chapel next to the temple to see the service.  I got to do the interview for the lady that the Elders baptized, and it was great to be able to see two people accept the gospel and start on the path of discipleship!  I always love going to baptisms and seeing the peoples' faces right after they come up out of the water.  I remember, right before I got baptized, I asked dad how I would feel afterwards, and he said that I wouldn't be able to frown, only smile.  And I remember trying to make myself frown with my fingers afterwards to see if what dad said was true, and I couldn't do it!

So Courtney is the new Young Women's President?  That is crazy!  She will be a fun Young Women’s President though. I hope they don’t put me into Young Men’s that early! It would be super fun, don't get me wrong, just I remember all the crap that Dan, Kenny, Aaron, Skyler, McRae, Kevin Bacon, and I always did, like rolling tires and starting fires on top of mountains, and other shenanigans! haha!

Mom, I got the American Express gold card, I will only use it for emergencies, but what is the purpose of the green card?  I wanted to ask if maybe I could use it like once a week or something on a small purchase, and you guys could just pay it with the money you would usually put into my account, so that I could build my credit up a tiny bit??  Let me know how you feel about that!

I have once again discovered the fried, meaty goodness of chalupas, and the fiesta fries burrito from Taco Bell.  We don't have ANY meals with members except for Sunday, so all we eat is fast food.  I think I am almost a platinum points member at Subway, which means free bacon, or double cheese, and double point values on EVERYTHING!!

We did a really cool activity this last week, where our entire zone went to a place on the coast called the Cinta Costera, and we set up a sound system with microphones in a big park, and we walked around contacting pretty much EVERYBODY that walked by!  We also had people playing guitar and singing with the microphones, so I got the chance to sing a couple of songs, ”Come Thou Fount,” and a mashup of “How Great Thou Art” and “Oh My Father,” and “Called to Serve.”  It was a great activity!  It helped me get over my fear of contacting people, and I had some cool contacts placing Books of Mormon with some people!  It was a spiritual activity.   Well, not much more to report this week.  I am glad to hear that Vince is home safe from Afghanistan, tell him that I say thanks for serving the country and that I love them both!  I love you all so much!

Elder Austin Michael Kipp

Monday, March 17, 2014

Surgery is Scheduled

Well family,

This last week has been a good one!  It is a little different being in the office, sometimes we are not able to get to our area because we have deadlines that need to be met, but we find satisfaction in the fact that we get the opportunity to help the entire mission help others. 

This last week, we decided to go out to visit a recent convert, but on the way, Elder O saw a family sitting outside, and felt like we needed to get off the bus and contact them.  We did, and ended up teaching the restoration.  Their last name is Latino, literally.  We mostly just taught the mom and she seemed excited to learn more, but she is studying to be a missionary for the Evangelical church, so it will be a little tough.  One of the toughest things about teaching here in Panama is that literally every person has a church, and they have a hard time accepting that more has been revealed through the restoration.  There are a lot of myths here about Mormons, and so it is hard to clear up the ideas that people have about the church.   But, it also makes for some really powerful experiences, when someone realizes that Joseph Smith was a prophet, and that God has revealed more of his gospel in the latter days.  We have another appointment with her tomorrow.   I think it will go well!  We asked her to be baptized at the end of this month if she gets an answer that the things we have taught her are true, and she said yes!

Yesterday, we had stake conference, and it was a broadcast throughout all of Central America. Elder Dallin H. Oaks and Richard G. Scott talked, and Bonnie L. Oscarson as well.  They talked about the culture of Central America, and being more committed to come to church.  I liked especially what Elder Oaks said about the sacrament.  He said that the main purpose of the sacrament is so that we can have the Holy Spirit to be with us ALWAYS.  We can only have the spirit if we are repentant and clean, and the sacrament helps us repent and become clean.   It is awesome that Riley understands what I am doing here in Panama!  Teaching little kids about Jesus! haha! I miss that kid!

So, last week, President Carmack talked to the four of us in the office, and told us that he thinks that it would be better if I was companions with Elder O, because we both have similar personalities, and because he has to be in the office more because of his responsibilities with the finances, and I am still learning, so we can stay in the office a bit longer.  Plus, it will give me a good chance to recuperate best after the surgery.  Which, I have an appointment with the doctor today, and we should be getting that all scheduled, so I will let you know tonight when it is going to happen.  (Surgery is scheduled for Monday, March 24) The mission will be paying for everything and it will be a simple procedure.  They said I won’t even be in any pain.  I just won’t be able to walk for two to three weeks.  It works out alright because I can stay in the office and learn more about my work here.)

We had some legit Mexican food for lunch yesterday with a cool young couple from Mexico. It was some of the best food I have had in Panama!

Well, not much more time to write today. We are going to a Zone PDay to play sports and eat pizza at a park in C├írdenas!   I love you all so much!


Elder Kipp

P.S.  Tell Trev I say Congratulations and that I am proud of him!! That is so awesome!! 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Mission Secretary & District Leader

Buenas tardes familia!!

So, this last week has been interesting!  I had changes, so I packed up everything and said goodbye to all my friends in David, and we ended the night with a baptism that the sister missionaries in my area had.  It was great!  So, I got on a bus for the city, and saw all my old friends at changes!!  We got on a bus for the temple, and went to changes, and I found out that I am the new general secretary!  I am right in downtown Panama City, so I love it!  Also, Elder O is in the office as the financial secretary, so it is crazy fun!

It was a busy couple of days.  We had to help with changes, getting all the old people ready to go back home, and getting all the stuff ready for the people going to San Blas on Tuesday. Elder J is going back to San Blas again, he was there about six months ago, and Hermana B, the sister missionary that was in my area in David, is going out as well!   It was interesting changes!

So, being in the Panama Zone, Elder P is my Zone Leader so I get to talk to him a lot!  I have a lot of friends in the Zone, so it is fun!  I am also a District Leader now, so I get the chance to learn and grow more, and apply that to help other missionaries learn and grow!  So, it has been a crazy busy couple of days!!

Elder O and I decided to get out a little office stress today for P Day, so we hit up the golf course!  There is a course called Summit Country Club close to the temple, and we went to the driving range!  It was a cool course, cut out of the jungle, and it was fun to be able to hit a bucket even though I didn’t hit very well. 

Well, not much more to report on, just trying to learn all my office duties right now, and trying to remember everything I have to do to make the mission run smoothly.  We get to eat Taco Bell a lot, which is good!  I finally got to go to the temple and saw the new video!  I understood more of what Heavenly Father wants for me.  I felt great after.  I felt empty inside after not being able to go to the temple for so long... but, now I am a ten minute taxi ride away!!!

I am thankful that mom and dad get to work in the temple, and help with the missionary work that is going on on the other side of the veil.  It is a great experience to see the blessing that President Arens gave me coming true in my mission, to see and feel that people on both sides of the veil are cheering me on.

I love you all so much!!! 


Elder Austin Michael Kipp

Monday, March 3, 2014

Triple Zone Conference and My Trusty Guitar

Hey everyone!  How are you all on this fine and lovely day?

I am doing well, I just figured out I have changes, so I am both happy and sad.  Happy to get to know more people and a new area, but sad to leave the area that I have helped change and progress so much.  I think I have changed more in this area than I have at any other time in my life, so I will always look back on my time in David with gratitude to the Lord for giving me the opportunity to serve here, and for the trials, blessings, and miracles I have passed through here. 

This last Friday, we had a triple zone conference with the President of the Central America Area, Elder Carlos Amado.  He is known for being a speaker who machetes a lot, so a lot of missionaries were saying they were a little nervous about what he was going to talk about.  But, as it says in the Book of Mormon, the truth is only hard to the unrighteous.  The Lord knows the desires of my heart to be obedient, and that I am trying, so I wasn't nervous.  It was one of the best conferences I have attended, and I had the cool experience of singing “Oh My Father” to the tune of “Come Thou Fount” and play it on the trusty guitar.  Hermana W sang with me and it was great!  Elder Amado talked about learning to understand the language of the spirit.  He talked first about how the gringos learning Spanish have a hard time, and then macheted the Latin missionaries because they are not learning English, and told them that it is a commandment for them to learn English.

He also talked a lot about marriage and life after the mission, and he said that we should get married as soon as we can after the mission, not to wait. That freaked me out a little! haha!  But it was a great conference, and as I have tried to put the things I learned into practice in my life, I have felt so much happier these past three days! I am trying to be as obedient as I can to the mission rules right now! 

Yesterday we made the mac and cheese, and it turned out good!  Not as good as when mom makes it, but it was good, and everyone loved it!  We made it with the Riasco family, the same family we ate Christmas dinner with, and the root beer pulled pork with. They want to come visit so they can eat mom's cooking! 

Going back to school eh?  That is awesome, I know you guys will do great!  I am super excited to get home and go right off to school!  It talks about education in my patriarchal blessing, and I really am anxious to get back and begin studying.  Speaking of that, as you know, all things will be happening at Utah State after the mission, but only if you can help me apply there while I am in the mission.  Could you guys look into that please?  President gives us permission to use internet to apply for colleges, but I don’t even know where to start, plus I don’t have any of my transcripts.  If you could look into that for me, I would be very grateful!  Thanks!

Also, Tyler emailed me, and told me he has a job waiting for me when I get home with L and M's trucking company!  I just told him Sundays off, and I am in…quite a blessing to have connections like that.  Well, not much more time.  I will let you know next week what comes of changes!  I love you all so much!

Elder Austin Michael Kipp