The Best Two Years

The Best Two Years

Monday, May 26, 2014

Panamanian Drivers Ed, Nurse Kipp and Transfers

Hello everyone!

It's great to hear that you are all doing well!  Some interesting things happened this week in Panama!  First off, I never thought I would have to go back to drivers ed.   But, one of the AP's couldn’t get his license here because his Mexico license wasn't recognized or something, so he signed up to take a drivers  ed class, and I did too, because I can get it faster than sending in all those papers and having you guys take them in for me. So, last Thursday, we started the three day class.  The first day was interesting, they basically just showed us a lot of really graphic and violent pictures and videos of really bad car crashes. The next day, we learned the laws, and Saturday was mechanical stuff.  We took a practice test, and I barely failed.  In two weeks we will take the real test and we have three chances to pass before we have to take the class again.  I think I will still send my papers in to get my Utah license so I can have it when I get back. 

This week was really busy in the office.  We got a new senior couple who are the new mission nurses. When the last mission nurse left, I got thrown all the responsibility of the nurse until the couple got here, so this last week has been spent helping them find an apartment, and getting them all settled in and trained in the office. 

Transfers are this week also.  I won't have transfers, but we have so many things to do.  President changed transfers completely, and now there is no meeting with a video.  On Monday, all the missionaries find out their transfers, and Wednesday they go to their new area. It is going to save the mission a ton of money, and it is going to save an entire day, the day when we used to do the transfers meeting. This transfer and the next will be weird, because all the people that I met when I got here are now going home!  My group is getting to be the older group in the mission, and Elder P goes home next transfer!  This will be an interesting transfer.  We are assuming that many people will get lost because there is not a meeting for them to be able to ask how to get to their new areas.  It will be better in the long run, but this first time we think is going to be a bit disastrous.

C is still progressing well!  We have taught him all the lessons, and he still reads the Book of Mormon. We can only teach him on Sundays, so it has taken a while to get everything taught to him.  We are STILL trying to work on the marriage papers, it is taking a long time, but now it is not a question of IF they will get baptized, it is a matter of WHEN.

I am joining you guys on the weight loss kick!  I have started dieting hardcore, cutting out basically all fat, and all artificial sugars.  We are eating basically chicken and fruits and veggies.  My companion and I get out every morning and run between two and three miles.  We jog for twenty minutes and it is between two to three miles.  There is a park about ten minutes jogging from the house, so we jog there with the Frisbee we got, play for ten or fifteen minutes, and drive home.  I am noticing the results already.   We contacted the drivers ed teacher after the second lesson.  She asked us a lot of questions that she had heard about the church, and we talked to her about the plan of salvation, because she asked us how we help people who are having emotional troubles.  Her husband died a couple years ago.  We explained that Christ suffered all of our pains, and that only through Him can we find true joy and happiness in this life.  She told us that she was impressed that such young men are devoting their lives to serve the Lord. We invited her to church, but we don't know if she went because she lives in the sisters' ward. I know she felt the spirit. I know I sure did.  
Well, that is about all for this week. Tell Riley I say hi, put some flowers on Grandma Vicky's grave for me. I can feel her cheering me on from the other side.    I love you all!

Elder Austin Michael Kipp

Monday, May 19, 2014

HALFWAY MARK and the Panama Earthquake

Hola Familia!

This last week has been interesting.  President gave us a few things to do in the office, and we spent a lot of late nights and early mornings getting it done.  We had a new missionary couple form St .George come on Saturday.  They are the new mission doctors. It will be nice, because I kind of took on the responsibility when the mission nurse left a change ago. They are super cool!  And we never felt the 6.8 earthquake in Panama last week because it was at 1:30 a.m. and we were sound asleep.

We have been trying to use our time a lot better, and try wasting less time in the office. We are trying to get out to our area more.  Although we are called to be the secretaries, our first call is to be regular missionaries.  It is hard to set appointments because we don't know always what we will have to do in the office and when we get out, but we are trying to get more appointments set, and find more investigators to teach.  We had a lady call the mission office this week, saying that she is basically a member and the missionaries visited her for a while.  She said she has taught about the church to people and told them to come, but she has never been baptized, and she is going blind so it is hard for her to get to church.  We are going to talk to her tomorrow, and it will be a sure baptism!

The rainy season has officially started here!  We had a tempest strike yesterday during church, so someone drove us to lunch, and we didn't get out for about three hours!  At that time, we start our weekly plan, then go to dinner, so yesterday we didn't get much done.  We did get to teach C in church, so that was good!  We are still in the process of getting him married, so we will see what happens this week with that process.  We have had a lot of investigators not progress that we have had to drop this week, so it has been hard.  But we are trying to open our mouths more and talk to everyone about the gospel!

It is crazy that I have already been out for a year! I feel like I just started a couple of months ago.  Now I am going downhill!  There are a lot of things I want to accomplish in this next year. They always say the second year goes by faster than the first, so I better get working hard!  I actually haven't burnt my shirt quite yet.  We went to a little food truck for dinner right outside our house that night with the Zone Leaders, the AP's and a missionary who went home in October but just got back last Thursday.  They make bomb cheeseburgers and arepas!

Glad to hear that the diets are going so well!  Way to keep true. It sounds like you are both having great success!  I am trying to form a diet with Elder H as well. That guy is a health NUT! He loves working out and he is huge and he is obsessed with eating healthy!  So we will see how it goes!

Well, not much to report this week.. We are going to the Cinta Costera today to rent longboards and bikes with the zone, so we gotta get going!  I love you all!

Elder Austin Michael Kipp

Monday, May 12, 2014

Setting Goals and It's All Normal Now

Hey everybody!

It was great to be able to talk to you all yesterday!  I was really excited that Sydney and Dallas were there as well, because I didn't get to talk to them at Christmas!  I was looking forward to Riley's dinosaur surprise, but I guess I will just have to wait a couple more months for that one.
Everyone looks great, and you all sounded so happy!

Well, I am trying to think of things that have happened that I didn't tell you guys about.  After being in Panama for a year, things that were weird or different when I came are now normal!
Last night, my awesome companion and I had a great weekly planning session.  We have been struggling a bit with getting planning and studying done.  We are really busy, but we are trying to not use that as an excuse.  We had some great divisions with our Zone Leaders this last week, and I learned a lot about planning and preparing for those we teach.  Last night, we set ourselves some challenging but reachable goals for the week, and we are trying to get everything done in the office so we can do it.  We have the potential to do great things, but we haven't been living up to our full potential as of late.  We are always trying to set a goal to improve in something. 

Today, we went to help a gringo family move.  They live in the sister’s area in Cardenas, and they are moving out to Boquete.  It is known as the paradise of Panama.  It is up in the mountains, and the weather is nice and cool up there.  It was good to be able to give some service.

Well, not much more to report on for today.  Just want to wish mom a very Happy Mother's day! I am so thankful for you, mom, and everything you have done for me in my life.  You are the best mom a kid could ask for! I love you all so much!


Elder Austin Michael Kipp

P.S.  Practice your Spanish everyone!  You're all en Panga! haha! 

Monday, May 5, 2014

Paper Airplanes, Balboa and "I'm Goin Down!"

Hi everyone!

So, this last week has been pretty normal, but, there was a pretty funny experience we had last Tuesday!  We went to the hospital to give blood, because a branch president from Darien was sick and needed blood.  So the AP's picked us up and told me that I was going to give the blood.  I wasn't nervous because I have had plenty of experience donating plasma, so I am pretty much a boss at this now.  My companion the whole time was saying it sucked that I had to give blood and that he didn't want to give blood because he doesn't like needles and all that jazz.  But when we got to the hospital, they said they needed two people to donate, so my companion got volunteered. 

We get in there, and they stick him first.  We were snapping pictures on the assistant’s iPhone because it was the first time we had both given blood.  They stuck him first, then me.  Everything was going well, and my companion said he started to feel a bit sick.  He called the doctor over because his bag was full, and he wanted to get off the machine.  After they cut the tube, he got super sick, and he started to pass out.   I looked over and asked if he was alright, and he was trying to keep his head up and he kept saying, "I'm goin’ out man, I'M GOIN’ DOWN!"  I was laughing, and he had the iPhone so we couldn't take any pictures.  They gave him ammonia to smell that woke him up, and he was fine but he just had to sit there for a while.  He didn't actually pass out completely, just like halfway, but it was super funny!

We did divisions this week with the other Elders from our district, and I went to their area, Balboa.  It is one of the poorer areas in the mission, but I like those areas because the humble people live there.  We gave a blessing to a lady who is going through problems with nerve damage in her brain, and it is affecting her desire to continue on with life.  It was powerful. We contacted some really strong members of another faith, and they got into a heated conversation with us in the middle of the street about baptism and told us that we couldn't know the truth because we are so young, but they have been studying the bible for forty years.  We bore our testimonies that we are representatives of Jesus Christ, and respectfully and directly invited them to "keep studying", then left them there and walked away.  The spirit was strong and I don't know how they were able to deny us like they did.  I listened to the Book of Mormon talk by Jeffrey R Holland, when he says that he wants it to be clear, that when he is at the judgment bar, he testified to the world that the Book of Mormon was true.  I feel like that when I testify to people of the Gospel and they don't accept it.  Elder Price always used to look up at the sky and wave when someone would reject us, and he said he did it so at judgment day, he could show that video of him waving outside their house to let them know he gave them the opportunity to accept the gospel.

Today for Pday, we went with the entire zone to a family’s house in the Zone Leader's area.  They bought us pizza, and then we went out to a park with a basketball and futbol court, and played for a couple hours.  All the gringos played basketball, so it was fun to play a good game with people who know the rules and know how to play.  It started to rain pretty hard, so we stopped after a couple of hours, but it was good to get out.  Since I have been in the office, not many p days have been spent outside the office!

We have found the new entertainment of throwing paper airplanes off the roof and seeing how long they stay in the air and how long they travel.  We usually write little messages on them like, "be happy, be Mormon!" and write the reference.  How cool would that be if someone got to know the church through one of our paper airplanes?

So, this Sunday, we will be able to Skype.  I am thinking I will call about six my time, so that would be about four your time! Let me know if another time works good.  We will be here for a while because my companion is going to call earlier in the day I think.  Well, not much more to report on... I love you all!


Elder Austin Michael Kipp

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Colon Jungle, Contacts and Baptisms

Hey family!

This last week has been a good one, the end of the month is always busy for my companion.  He is the financial secretary and he has to pay all the bills by the end of the month, so a lot of time is spent in the office.

This last week, we really tried to get family home evenings going in the member’s homes.  One of the main focuses of our mission right now is trying to work harder with the members, and get them excited so they will start doing the missionary work as well.  It has been a little bit of a struggle trying to involve members here, but it has been a great learning experience for us and the members as well.  We were talking to President Carmack yesterday, and he said there are about 3.6 million people in Panama, and about 10,000 active members, and 40,000 less actives.  He said that if we could get 20,000 members to contact 175 people, we could have the entire country contacted in a year and a half.  One of the hardest things for me is opening my mouth and talking to everyone, but my companion and I have set a goal of trying to talk to everybody we can about the gospel, whether it be taxi drivers, people on the bus, or people in the street.  It not only helps them have the opportunity to receive the gospel, but our testimonies are growing as we are sharing them more.

Yesterday, I got to see Colon for the first time.  I had always wanted to go, and President called us after lunch to have us go with him to pick up a sister who was being transferred areas, and he couldn't go alone.  It rained really hard, and Colon is the most jungle area of Panama, so it was really cool!  It reminded me a lot of Ciudad Bolivar!

After we got back from Colon, we met up with C, and we took him to the temple.  Every Sunday, President does temple tours for missionaries who want to bring investigators.  We are working on getting C married, and so we thought it would be perfect to take him to the temple.  I learned a lot of new things as well, as President explained the significance of different things of the temple, and C had a great time.  We are getting the papers ready this Sunday for them to get married, then we should be getting them baptized within the next few weeks!

We also found a reference this week that we had been trying to find for a while.  His name is A and he lives basically right next to us!  He went to church a couple times in another ward, and he loved it!  We taught him the restoration and he accepted to be baptized on the tenth of May.  We might be able to baptize him sooner if we can get all of the lessons taught to him! 

Well, not much more to report on…have had a good week, and I am excited to see the effects of the hard work we have been putting in!  I love you all so much! Tell all the family in Washington Hi and that I love them!


Elder Austin Michael Kipp