The Best Two Years

The Best Two Years

Monday, June 30, 2014

Starving Missionaries? I Think Not.

Hello everyone!

This last week has been pretty good, taking into account that we got to eat at P.F. Chang's and Benihana.
I think I have told you about Brother H, the gringo guy in our ward who takes us out to dinner once a week.  His wife is in Arizona and she comes down to visit every once in a while, because  she works for Copa Airlines and gets free flights.  She is in town right now, so they took us out to dinner to P.F. Chang's on Friday.  I had never eaten there and I liked it! The Hinckleys have traveled the world and eaten incredible food, so it made me laugh when they brought us the food, and they were sitting there talking about how "inspiring" the presentation of the dish was.  It reminded me of the judges on “Chopped.”  It was Elder P's birthday on Friday, so Saturday night, we took a trip down to Benihana. I had never been there before, and we lucked out and got the best chef in the house!  He did all this crazy cool fast flippy knife chopping and cooking stuff and it blew my mind.  P and I split a sushi roll (bomb) and I got some filet mignon (bomb.)  There were eight of us there, and it was a fun time.

Yesterday, we saw a lady sitting with a member family in our ward.  We went over to meet her, and figured out she is their neighbor and just came to church to learn more, so we set up an appointment with her that afternoon.  We ate lunch with that same member family, and they went and got her (her name is D and the family is the T family.)  Her husband came too.  Her husband said he wasn't affiliated with any religion, and she said that they have been searching and trying different churches for years looking for the truth.  We taught them about the restoration and Joseph Smith.  D talked a lot during the lesson, but her husband didn't really say anything, which is usually pretty typical of the guys here.  Usually, the ladies listen more.  So, after the lesson, we asked him what he thought since he hadn't said much, and he said, "Well, it is really logical, what you have told me about Joseph Smith, and it makes a lot of sense. We have been searching for a long time, so we want you to keep coming back and teaching us."  It was a powerful lesson.  The mom of the member family told about her conversion story and how she recognized that the church was true, and we invited them to be baptized in July.  It was an exciting lesson.

So, I am sure you all heard that the U.S., even though they lost to Germany, still passed onto the next phase of the World Cup. Tomorrow they play Belgium, who is pretty good, but I think we can beat them. We are going back to S's house to watch and then teach him and his wife a lesson, so it will be fun! The work really slows down here when a game is on, especially when Colombia and Costa Rica play, because they are Panama's neighbors.  They have both moved onto the quarter finals as well.  Sounds like things are pretty normal back home, except for the war zone in the front yard and mom's surgery coming up.  I hope it all goes well and I will keep praying that it does. 

That is funny that you found C's parents at the temple!  I wrote them a letter a while back, just sharing some mission experiences and telling them that C and I are writing. You should get to know them better. They are awesome people.  Well, it is time to get going. I hope you all have a great week!


Elder Austin Michael Kipp

Monday, June 23, 2014

The World Cup and Not Taking No for an Answer

June 23, 2014

Hola Familia!

Living in Latin America, one grows to love soccer.  The World Cup is everywhere.  President hasn't set a rule on the cup, so missionaries take that like it is ok to watch it.  We only watch the US games.   That is kind of the rule of thumb.  And when we do it, we try to watch them with members, investigators, or less actives.  Luckily, we have a gringo that lives in the building next door!  He invited us over again yesterday with the Zone Leaders and the AP's to watch the game.  It was intense, and we thought the US had it, but in the last fifteen seconds, Portugal scored.  Now the US has to tie or beat Germany, or it might be a little tough for them to pass.

We found a less active lady named S, thanks to a reference from a member.  We contacted her and she got baptized about six years ago, and stopped attending about three years ago. She has a son who is nine, and we have been teaching him, and he is getting baptized this Saturday.  We had a lesson there this last week with the member who gave us the reference.  S has a hard time coming to church because she is a single mom, works until seven every day except Sunday, and Sunday is the day she does all the housework and spends time with her kids. She said that if she comes to church, there isn't time to do everything else.  Well, as missionaries, we don't take no for an answer!  Haha! We had a good lesson with her, and I talked about how I sometimes had to work on Sunday, and how I felt the difference in my life when I didn't go to church.  We promised her that if she put God first in her life, there would be time enough to balance all her responsibilities, and that she would feel happier and less stressed.  Sure enough, she showed up to church yesterday!

That was the most positive thing about yesterday. We found out earlier this week that it is going to cost around $300 to get C married, and so they decided not to do it.  We talked to our Bishop to get help from our Ward and the Stake, but they won't accept the help, and they also want to wait until they return to visit Nicaragua so their family can be there when they get married.  It was a little sad, but I realized that if we hadn't taught them and gotten to know them, they probably wouldn't even be thinking about getting married, and they definitely wouldn't be thinking about getting baptized.  They aren't just thinking about getting baptized, they know they will.  They just need to get married first.

A and P weren't able to come to church yesterday, so we will have to move the baptism back a week or two until they can come one more time. They are doing well.  They say that whenever they have a tough time, the Mormons have always shown up, and that is how they know that the church is special. They have been through rough times, but have started to build on the solid gospel foundation.

Not much more happened this week... I finally got the Panamanian drivers license, and we had President's car for three days while he was out in David, so that was nice!  Traffic in Panama completely sucks!  It can take three hours to travel a distance that would be like us going from our house to Scott and Jereme's! But it will be nice to be able to drive!  Well, P-Day is already up, so I should get going...I love you all!


Elder Austin Michael Kipp

Monday, June 16, 2014

My Dad, The World Cup and Motivation

Hello everyone!

There was a man from Arraijan a couple weeks ago that came and gave a speech to us about family history.  I actually wasn't there because we were doing things for changes, but Elder Price told me something really interesting. He said that in the pre-existence, we had lots of friends, but before we came to earth, we picked our best friend to be our dad.  I think that is 100% true!  I am happy that I got to spend so much time with dad growing up.  Playing sports, young men’s, road trips, fishing, and all the other things we did.  Dad, I thank you for making it a big deal to do so many things with me.  It was always one of my favorite things to go fishing, hit some baseballs, or just watch a game together on the tv.  I hope I can become half the father and the man that you are!

This week was good.   We had a zone conference with three other zones on Wednesday in Brisas del Golf. We learned about the atonement.  Hermama Carmack talked about the steps of applying the atonement in our lives, and President talked about how we can more effectively teach the atonement to others.  He also gave us the answers to seven important questions on how to do missionary work.  One of those was "What is our motivation?" and another, "How do we obtain that motivation?" Missionary work is hard, and sometimes taking a nap sounds better than going and walking to appointments in the hot sun.  I learned that the motivation is the pure love of Christ.  There is a scripture in Moroni I think that says we need to pray to be filled with that love.  Because that love is perfect, if we are filled with it, we will have the strong, true desire to share the gospel with everybody.  That is what we are working on right now.  We don't have a lot of positive investigators, and so sometimes it is a little tough to go out when we don't have much planned.  But we go out every day, and I can tell that we are seeing the difference, in the area with our investigators, and in our lives.  We are happier, and we are getting more motivation to get out and teach! 

We are working hard on C's papers to prove that he has never been married, because he is a foreigner and we need to get them sent from Nicaragua.  He is so excited to get married because he doesn't want to be in sin anymore.  That will be an awesome baptism.  We went to go see P and A on Saturday, and they had another cousin die.  That makes for four recent deaths in their family.  At first, they didn't handle it well, but now they are doing great, because they understand the plan of salvation.  We read from Alma, where it talks about the resurrection with them.  They call the Book of Mormon the Moroni Book.  They are a little difficult to teach, because we think they both have dementia, and they don't pay attention for long periods of time, but they do understand that baptism is necessary, and they want to get baptized.

I have never seen a World Cup game before the mission, but now we see them all the time here.  Every house and public place has it on the tube!  Our ZL's have given us permission to watch some games, it is basically impossible to teach people without watching them. You watch it until the end, and then teach because they WILL NOT turn the game off!  We have a dinner appointment tonight with our neighbor Sam, he is a gringo.  He was a black hawk pilot in the military for 15 years! He invited us, the AP's and the ZL's over to watch the USA play Ghana, and then we will eat some dinner and have a family home evening with him and his wife. I think the US has some potential this year!   Well, not much more to report this week. Again, Happy Father's Day dad! What I will do is just bring all the gifts I have gotten home with me because it costs less that way, and I don't have to worry about them getting lost or broken.  You are all in my prayers!


Elder Austin Michael Kipp

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Fried Red Tomatoes and Blessings in Panama Viejo

Well, I am currently sitting in the office with a face that feels like an old catcher’s glove on fire, because we went to the Cinta Costera to play volleyball and basketball again, and we were there for about six hours, and I got FRIED!  I have no sunscreen.  But, the good news is I have lots of aloes and when I got fried last week it turned it into a nice tan, so I am hoping this turns into tan quick, because I basically look like a tomato right now!  But, it is worth it to get out and play some good competition sports.

So, the World Cup is coming up this next week!  In Latin America, basically everything shuts down during the world cup, so it will be an interesting week for missionary work.  We have a less-active ex-marine that lives next door that has invited us over for some of the games.  We accepted the invitation JUST for the purpose of doing a family home evening, and definitely not for the purpose of catching a few glimpses at the U.S. play.

We contacted a reference this week;  well, she actually called the office and asked her to come visit her! Her name is A, and her mom is named P.  They are from Trinidad and Tobago, and have wicked Jamaican-type accents!  P is 91, but looks 60, and A is 58.  The missionaries visited them a long time ago, and they loved going to church and they have incredible faith in Jesus Christ.  They have had a hard time lately, with a lot of deaths in their family, and something about a sister that lives in California and they don't know if she is dead or not, and lots of family drama.  We talked to them on Monday about the resurrection, and we committed them to baptism for the 28th of June!   Yesterday, we got the impression that we had to go by and visit them. We tried calling, but no one answered, so we went anyway.  When we got there, they told us that A's brother in law had just passed away that morning, and they were pretty distraught.  I am glad we followed that prompting to go over there.  We talked more about eternal families.  I love teaching people that death is NOT the end, and that we can see our loved ones again.  They love it when we sing, so we sang "Families Can Be Together Forever" and shared some scriptures about the comforter from John 14. Talking with them reminds me of talking with Grandpa Gary because they are so goofy!

Today, at church, C and his wife, M brought us the copies of their documents to be able to get them married!  It has been a spiritual battle for them, trying to decide if they wanted to get married. They really wanted to do it in Nicaragua when they move back in October, but they don't want to procrastinate the day of their repentance, and have realized that it is important to get baptized and married now.  I AM SO HAPPY!  We are seeing some great success here in Panama Viejo!  We are also preparing F, an older recent convert to go through the temple in a couple weeks!  The missionaries who baptized her go home in July, and they will be so happy to see her in white!  I am loving so much this mission right now!

I am glad you are all doing well.  I pray for you all often.  I am glad you are getting out and riding and exercising more.  My companion and I are still running every morning, so maybe we can do some 5 or 10K's when I get home, and some big bike rides. I wanna do another fifty miler sometime!  Well, that is about all that has gone on this last week. I am so happy right now.  I am noticing a big difference as my companion and I are trying a lot harder to work more in our area. The blessings and results are starting to come here in Panama Viejo!  I love you all!


Elder Austin Michael Kipp

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Rainy Beach Ball & Member Missionary Work

First off, Happy Birthday Mom!  I hope you have a great day playing with Riley!  Tell him hi for me, by the way. Your birthday letter will be sent pronto, I am still waiting on a part of it.   So, the great spring swamp cooler fiasco finally started, eh?  That thing has gotta be on its last legs by now.   I thought it was going to spontaneously combust when I was back home.

The weather here is cooling off, it is pretty cool today.   It started raining at about eleven last night and into the morning.  We woke up at six and went to a park on the coast with a basketball court and a volleyball court to play with the ZL's and the assistants.  We got there and it started pouring, so we hid in this tiny shack and watched the lightning strike out over the ocean.  Some of it was striking pretty close!  But, it stopped raining, so we went and played volleyball in the sand with big puddles and then got in some basketball action.  It was good to get out and get some exercise!  I wish I had a bike to practice so that when I got home I could keep up with dad!!

So, changes.  We started on Tuesday, when the new missionaries got here.  They were in the MTC in Guatemala with J, and they said he was the most famous gringo there and that they loved talking with him!  There were 12 Latin elders that came, and one Canadian elder, who is a genius.  He got perfect scores on the ACT and SAT and has basically already graduated from college at age 19!  We trained them on the basic functions of the mission, ate some epic Papa John’s, and we stayed at the guest house next to the temple that night with them. On Wednesday, all the trainers came in to take a training class with President Carmack.  Elder B who was in the MTC with me is training and opening an area at the same time in Colon, so it was good to see him! Wednesday night, all the missionaries that were going home stayed at the temple, and we did too.  I got to see Elder C and Elder P before they went home.   It was good to be able to reminisce with them!  All day Wednesday we were receiving calls from missionaries who didn’t know how to get to their areas or find their new companions, so it was a bit crazy!  Without the changes meeting, the companions don't meet up at the temple anymore!  One of the best parts of changes week is that we get to go to the temple usually twice.  I missed it while I was out in David, and notice the difference in my life when I can attend.  I hope to work in the temple when I get back from the mission.

Yesterday, we had a meeting with our Bishop to try and get things going with the members in our ward.  We are trying to set up dinners with the members, and do family nights in their house and have them invite the investigators, so they can start opening their mouth to teach the gospel, and so that we can get more investigators.  We have a standard every week in the mission of 15 lessons with a member, seven referrals received and seven contacted, three investigators progressing, and 5 less active families visited. We made a deal with Elder P that if Elder O and I reach the standard, he is going to buy us Benihana’s (he wants to have a going away party there before he finishes the mission.)

Well, not much more to report, we are just trying to get things going with these members, because without the members, there is no missionary work.  One of my favorite scriptures is Moroni 9:6 and it talks about the commandment to be diligent in laboring to preach the gospel.  It is the responsibility of every single member to preach the gospel, not just the full-time missionaries.

I love you all, and hope that you have a great week!  Happy birthday mom!


Elder Austin Michael Kipp