The Best Two Years

The Best Two Years

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

I Gave Him My Mission Shoes

Hello family!

This last week was the craziest week in the office so far, but also one of the best!  It was changes week, so we had to get everything ready for 31 new missionaries coming!  There were 22 new gringos and 9 new Latins. On Monday, the first group came, and we went to get them from the airport.  Sometimes I just have to chuckle a bit when I see the new missionaries and see how lost they look, and I look back and remember exactly how they feel! 

We did the training meeting, then Tuesday morning, we did it all over again with the nine Latins that came in the morning.  We did the training, then they went to their areas.  On Tuesday night, the new gringos came, so we went to go pick them up from the airport.  I didn't stay at the airport because another Elder had to get things from the office.  There is a new gringo, Elder D, who is 6'10"!  He is the biggest in the mission and has a full-ride to play basketball at BYU after his mission, so we will definitely have to look out for him!

We took the new elders and hermanas to a hotel to stay, and it was bad because they lost both of our reservations, but we got it all worked out.  Wednesday was another day of training, and getting the old missionaries dinner and ready to go home the next day.  One of the new gringos is getting trained in Cuidad Bolivar!  I am so excited for that kid!  We found out that I am training a new general secretary in the office now! That means I will be leaving the office in six weeks, and that Elder O will stay in the office for almost a year.  It is going to be bittersweet to leave the office.

My new companion is Elder A from Bountiful.  He has one change less than me, and I have wanted to be his companion my entire mission!  We are really similar and unified in our companionship, so I am so happy! He is going to be a great secretary!

This last week, we found a menos activo family that we have been looking for  the Y family.  It is just the mom and the daughter, who is 23. They used to be really active, even the missionaries lived in their house for a while!  We set up a dinner with them for this week, and we are going to get them to come back to church activity!

This last Sunday was great.  I have been thinking that when I take the sacrament, I should be able to feel the same way I did at my baptism because I am just renewing those covenants.  If I do not properly prepare myself, I am losing out on an opportunity to truly and correctly take the sacrament so that it purifies me.  I have had some good experiences these last two weeks trying to prepare myself more for the sacrament.

I had to get some new socks, and I had to get my shirts altered, and I had to get my old Danskos fixed because there was an Elder here who has had a really rough mission, and his shoes were going out, so I gave him my mission shoes because he didn't have any money to buy other ones.   It felt really good. And I want to be able to use the new Danskos when I come home, so if I can get the old one fixed I can wear those the rest of my mission.  And changes week is a little expensive so some of it was spent on that.

Well family, know that I am happy.  I am excited that we have positive investigators right now to teach and that I get to serve as a missionary at this time in my life!

Elder Austin Michael Kipp

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

I Love to See the Temple

Well, I am writing late (11:00 PM EST) because it is changes week and today was crazy!!!!!

I am glad to hear that you are doing so well!  I want to wish mom and dad a Happy 28th wedding anniversary!  I am so happy that we get to be an eternal family.  One of the saddest things here in Panama is to see incomplete families and young kids growing up in single-parent homes.  I am so grateful to both of you for raising me in the gospel and for staying true to your covenants and being incredible examples to me of good parents and spouses.  Also, Happy 3rd anniversary to Court and Ryan!  Man, it seems like just yesterday you two got hitched!  I was looking at the family pictures from the wedding the other day, and I sure looked like a BOSS that day! haha! Ryan, you sure picked well!  Court, thanks for picking me such an awesome brother-in-law!  I can't wait to get back and hang out with you guys again!  Happy anniversary to everyone! 

This last week has been interesting.  We did have a great day Saturday, my companion and the other Secretary, Elder M went on a panga adventure with the assistants to an activity in San Miguelito, so Elder G (the tight Mexican raised in Las Vegas) went with C and his boss, D to the temple in the afternoon.  C, an investigator, gave us the reference!  It was so cool to see C excited about his friend learning the gospel! D is awesome!  Basically just like C, but I think he will actually progress faster.  Carlos is a hard one, he comes to church, prays, and reads the Book of Mormon, it is just a little tough helping him understand some things.  The temple was a great experience. We were there alone, because the temple is closed for a month.  We were able to walk through the gardens and talk about some of the functions of the temple.  The spirit was definitely felt.  I love to see the looks on peoples' faces and hear their comments when they see the temple and feel the spirit there.  It truly is the House of the Lord.  I see both those men in white!

Today, the fiasco of changes started!  There were six gringos that got here this morning from Mexico, so we went and took president's car to the airport to pick them up.  We took them to his house and gave them a training meeting.  One of them is into all the same things I am, all the same bands like Def Leppard, Sum 41, Rush, Blink 182, and he plays guitar, a Gibson, and he is being trained in the Panama zone, so, I think we will get along pretty well!  That took up most of the afternoon, and now we have to get ready for tomorrow, one group of nine that come in the morning from Guatemala, and 18 more at night from Provo!  Also, I will be getting a new companion this change because Elder O is going to train a new financial secretary this week, so we will see who it is!

This week has been a week of reflection, and a week of spiritual enlightenment.  I chose to do a personal study on the atonement, because it is key for missionaries to teach, and I believe even more key for them to apply in their own lives.  I read from the four Gospels about the crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus, and as I studied it deeper and prayed, I felt the love of my Savior.  I learned a little more about how I can apply better the atonement in my life.  It was a great experience.  Well, that is about all the time I have. 
I love you all so much!

Elder Austin Michael Kipp
P.S.  Names here for cities are so weird.  A direct translation of two cities are "Sugar Bread" and "Little Saint Michael" !!!!! haha!  

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Baptism and the Power of the Atonement

Hey everyone!

This last week has been a different week.  One thing that I have learned in my mission is that the best progression spiritually comes when we open our mouths to teach and testify of the gospel.  Our testimonies grow when we share them.

We are trying to reactivate five less-active families that our Ward leaders chose for us. We have the R family, the L, the Y families and a couple others that we have not been able to find. Whenever we go, we try to help them realize the importance of the gospel in their lives, and the blessings the gospel brings.  It is effectively done by helping them remember what they felt like when they were baptized.  It is an unforgettable feeling.  I remember when I was baptized, I asked dad how I would feel after, and he said that I wouldn't be able to be sad, just happy.  I remember my friend Braden got baptized first, and when he came out of the font, he passed me on the stairs and he was smiling.  Well, I went in the water, got baptized, and when I came out of the water, I felt those indescribable feelings that I am sure we all remember from our baptisms, the feeling of being perfectly clean.  I was in the dressing room changing, and I tried to see if dad's promise was true by trying to make myself frown with my fingers, but I could not.  I was smiling, happy, and clean.  I think sometimes that as members of the church, we have the opportunity to have that experience every week as we take the sacrament. We are being cleansed and purified again.  When the less-actives realize that they can feel as happy as they did when they were baptized, they want to come back to the church.  It is incredible to see the spirit that is brought back into their lives as they remember the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ and promise to be better and follow Him more.

The changes I have seen in myself over the last year have been incredible, and I owe it all to Christ's atonement. But even more amazing than the changes I have seen in myself, are the changes I have seen in other people. The atonement does not just give us forgiveness of our sins, but it gives us the opportunity to change our hearts and be more devoted to God. Seeing someone display that inward change by the outward ordinance of baptism is probably the thing that has brought me the most joy in my life.  I haven't baptized the most people ever, but the people I have baptized have been able to truly transform their lives by correctly applying the atonement and letting the Lord into their hearts.

I have a song from EFY called "Let It Begin.”  There are some lines I really love.  "To start is the hardest, but it's something that only you can do. Healing starts within, just let Him in, and let it begin."  Another line says, "just remember, mistakes from the past don't define us, they refine us."  Those lines help me realize that to the Lord, it doesn't matter what we have done, but that it does matter where we are willing to go and what we are willing to do. We need to be willing to take that first step of courage to let the Lord in and heal our hearts.  This last week has been filled with experiences of trying to apply the atonement.  It has been marvelous;  a hard week, but one of great profit and learning.

Dad, I wish you best of luck on the job hunt!  Keep it up on the biking, and maybe you will be able to beat me when I get home!  hahaha!  Mom, I hope everything with your healing process continues to get better. We are definitely praying for you here.   I love you all so much!

Elder Austin Michael Kipp

P.S.  I look like a lobster again.  We had a multi-zone, seven zone soccer tournament this morning . Our team won. Five and a half hours of soccer.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Obedience With Exactness

Hello everyone!

I hope you all had as great a week as we had here in Panama! This last week was a happy week. Sometimes, I get down on myself and get sad because there are things we aren't able to do, or things we do that maybe we shouldn't do, just like all missionaries fall every day in some things.  I’m sad when people do things they shouldn’t.  I have to try to help people,  but I also have to let them make their own choices.  But, this week, I have been trying to focus more on all the good that I have been able to do, and not on the sad things. It has made so much difference in my life and in our companionship and in the lives of the people we are teaching!

There was mission leadership council this last Wednesday with the Zone Leaders so we had a lot to prepare for. That always means one late night before, but it is a good opportunity for us to serve and help out.  In the conference, President and Hermana Carmack talked about obedience with exactness.  Before, this mission was recognized as one of the most disobedient.  Other mission presidents would say they didn't want their missions to be like the Panama Mission because of the level of disobedience.  That has changed.  There has never been a time in this mission where the missionaries have been as obedient as they are right now.  It is tough, because the mission had the least baptizing month in July.  So, President Carmack talked about how we need to be obedient with exactness.  We talked about how do we get the desire to be obedient? We have to try the Lord's promise that he will give us the spirit when we obey, and that the presence of the spirit in our lives will make us happy; therefore ,making us to want to be more obedient always.  It was a great conference.

We have found some great people to teach! Especially C, he is the one I talked about last week who moved here with his Nicaraguan friend and they are renting the house from F. We had a great lesson with him this last week about the Plan of Salvation, and invited him to be baptized on September 1. He said that if he gets an answer to his prayer to be baptized, then he will be baptized that day! Pray for him that he can get his answer! He will be an amazing leader in the church!! We took him to the temple last night with President Carmack, and he was AMAZED at the feelings he felt there.  As we talked about saving ordinances for the dead, I was able to share the experience about doing Grandpa Max's temple work , and how I didn't feel that he had accepted it until the end of the endowment session, and I knew for a surety that de did accept it.  It was a great experience to be able to feel of the spirit outside the temple.  I hope to go again soon, I haven't been for a while!

This is a really happy time in my life.  It makes me real happy to hear that dad is doing good with his exercise and fitness goals!  You'll be skinnier than me when I come back!  I can't wait to go biking, fishing, play baseball, and basketball again with you, dad!  And mom, I am glad to hear that your recovery is going so well! We have been praying hard for these problems to recover quickly.  We have "put ourselves to much prayer and fasting" and have noticed the difference.  Fasting once a week is a great blessing. 

Well, I feel like I have so much to say but no time to say it all!  I am happier than I have ever been!  I love you all so much!

Elder Austin Michael Kipp