The Best Two Years

The Best Two Years

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

River Baptism in Ukapa

Hey everyone!          

I guess I better start this letter off answering all of mom's questions from her letter before I forget.

1. We can't proselyte after dark because the chiefs of the island have said no.
2. We do have a lock on the hut door.
3. I have NOT actually rolled out of my hammock.  I am even surprised on that one, but it is pretty hard to roll out of a hammock. But alas, nothing is impossible. 
4. I haven't eaten anything with members yet. There are some HUGE lobster and crab that they catch here!
5. Yes, I have the guitar.  We have a lot of in-house time at night, so it comes in handy.
6. We do sometimes play with the kids, but they are in school during our proselyting hours. 
7. We live in a town.  The biggest thing here is the dock where there are usually two huge Colombian ships that sell stuff like clothes, hammocks, rice, etc.
8. We wash clothes in buckets with water that we boil on the stove
9. We usually work in the mornings on P-Days, then go to internet and clean the house in the evening.
10. As for Christmas, I really do not care. But, if you want me to get it by Christmas, the next time I will be in the city will be December 10th.  So just be sure to get it out early! 
11. No bat yet. But  the fried house cat is pretty tasty.
12. There is a HUGE long PVC pipe that goes all the way across the bridge from the island to the mainland and up the monte to the river. So yes, we drink, bathe and wash clothes in river water.
13. Yes, we have a cell phone and our whole island has good coverage. 
14. We email in the church, it is the only place with internet besides the school. 

So, this last week was interesting.  We went to Tikantiki, where there is a companionship of sisters, for two days to visit their investigators and evaluate their teaching.  I ended up getting sick the morning we came back, so I spent two days in the house with another elder that was on our island, whose companion was in the hospital for a bug bite on his leg.  On Friday, there was a youth activity in another branch called Ukupa, which means small beach.  We stayed overnight on Friday and watched "The Testaments” with the youth, and Saturday morning, we had our baptism!  We did it in the river right next to the ocean, and it was awesome!  It was a really spiritual service, and lots of youth and members were able to attend.  He got confirmed yesterday in church.  I got to confirm him, and it was my first confirmation, so it was a neat experience.

The culture here is really interesting. The Sylas (chiefs) hold congress with all the men on the island every Monday and Thursday, and no one can leave their houses.  Yesterday, all the Sylas from San Blas came and they are doing a big congress today.  So that kind of hinders the work sometimes.  But I guess we have to obey the laws of the land.  Any time we go into the city, we have to get permission from the Sylas to leave the islands. Tomorrow, we are going in to the city in a plane because the transfer just ended, and we have to help the new missionaries buy all their stuff and get all the food for the zone. 

We should be having 2 more baptisms on the 8 of November!  We are being more obedient and are definitely seeing the results, with the less actives and our investigators! We are trying to teach one investigator to read right now, so he can read the Book of Mormon.  He is one getting baptized on the 15th.  There are a lot of interesting ways to give service out here on the islands.   Well, that is about it for this last week... I will try to think of some more good adventures to write about next week!  I love you all and have a happy Halloween!  I will send pictures tomorrow when we go to the mission office.  The internet here is slow uploading pictures.

Elder Austin Michael Kipp

P.S.  I found some epic Mola this week, but you will have to wait until I get home to see it. Sorry.  Hey dad, glad to hear that the biking is going well. Is the ole' knee holding up well enough to play some baseball when I get back?  It's been a while since you have struck me out.... that is a challenge. haha! 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Kuna Culture, Temple Trip and Island Life

Hey everyone! 

This last week was awesome!  We were able to go to the temple with one family from our branch and their two little girls, and our Branch President, T. The family was getting sealed, and all three adults got their patriarchal blessings.  So, to get to and from Panama City and the island, we first have to travel three hours in a motorboat, called a panga, and then travel two to three hours in a car to the city.  The road to get to the dock is the windiest, roller-coaster-iest road ever!  I even started to get carsick!!!

We got to the city on Wednesday morning, and camped out at the AP's house till the session on Thursday.  I saw the new movie for the first time.  I learned a lot from the new movie!  It was so good to be able to go through the temple again.  Then, we got to go into the sealing!  I had never seen one before, and it was really great.  The two little girls were really reverent and happy, and the husband and wife knew that what they were doing was eternal, and that their family would be together forever.  The spirit was strong.  It was humbling to see the sacrifice it took for them to get to the temple.  There were only the three adults, the two girls, and my companion and I.  They are now saving to get back to the temple again soon.  It makes me feel blessed to be from Utah, where we have a temple within a half hour in every direction of our house.

This last week, we were able to get some quality lessons in with our investigators.  We have been thinking of ways to be able to be guided more by the spirit.  We decided that right before every lesson, we would say a prayer outside the investigators house, going over the lesson plan quickly with God and asking for help.  We do it with our eyes open reading our agendas, and in English, so it was a little strange at first.  I can't even pray in English anymore, it is so hard!  After every lesson, we do the same thing, just thanking God for sending us the spirit.  The spirit is offended easily, and I would be pretty offended if I helped two young missionaries teach some epic lessons, and they didn't thank me.  We have felt the increased companionship of the spirit lately. 

We have a baptism this weekend! An investigator named E. He is seventeen, and he has a strong desire to follow the commandments. It is interesting teaching here, we have to teach things really simply, or sometimes they don't understand because they don't all speak perfect Spanish. For that, we have a Kuna book and are trying to learn the dialect a bit. 

Culture is interesting here.  The island has three governing chiefs, (sylas) and they hold Congress with all the men on the island every Monday and Thursday. Also, the chiefs do not let us preach after dark, so that is a bit tough, but it gives us lots of good study time!

Mom, we shower in a concrete stall with a bucket, we cook our food on a propane stove, and I do not believe there are any poisonous snakes in the river.  But, I have seen some starfish, lobster, jellyfish, and dolphins out here. We have electricity from six to ten at night, and there is a PVC pipe with water from the river on the mainland that is shared between three other families, and if it rains, there is not water in the pipe, so we have lots of gallon jugs we fill up and we wash our clothes and cook with that water.  And yes, having a machete is pretty flipping sweet. 

Well, it is about time to get going. I hope you are all doing well!  Dad, that is awesome that you are in Young Mens again!  When I come back, I may just be going with you guys on some campouts, teaching jungle survival skills to the young men. haha!  I love you all!


Elder Austin Michael Kipp

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Huts, Hammocks, Machetes, Patacones and Panamanian Plumbing

Hey everyone!

So, the first full week on the island was an interesting but great one!  Just so you all get an idea of how living is here, we sleep in hammocks in a hut, our shower is a bucket of water that we fill up with water from the river, and our bathroom is a metal shed built over the ocean.  I love it out here!

This last Friday, we finally got to go to the monte, (mountains or woods) and I was excited because I finally got to use my machete!  We went to help Hermano B cut down some plants on his farm and carry some bananas and plantains back to the island.  We traveled in a canoe for about half an hour, then walked a couple miles in the monte.  We chopped the grass down for a couple hours, then loaded the bananas on a big stick, and carried them on our shoulders back to the canoe.  It had to be the most exhausting service project I have ever done! Pushed me to my limits!  But it was good, the guy gave us some plantains and we made some patacones! (fried platano chips)

We had district conference this weekend, so President Carmack came out on Saturday morning, and stayed in our house until this morning.  I couldn't understand most of the conference, because they spoke in dialect, but President spoke about how we need to always remember Christ, and how that is one of the most important parts of the sacrament.  If we are always remembering Christ, we will be more in tune with the spirit and less likely to commit sin. 

 We have had a great week!  Definitely saw some miracles this week.  We traveled to another island on Wednesday to go visit with one of the companionships of sisters in the zone for the day.  They have learned the dialect, and taught a couple lessons in Kuna, it was super cool!  We are really trying to be as obedient as we can, and it is definitely bringing blessings.  I have gotten so much more out of my studies, because we have the spirit with us so strong when we are more obedient.  We have some incredible investigators right now, and we should have four baptisms coming up toward the beginning of November!

We get to go to the temple on Wednesday because a family on the island is getting sealed!  I am so excited! I have never been to a sealing, and it has been a while since I went to the temple! I am also going to try and send a couple things home like letters and a few other things.   Well, I am running out of time... I love you all!


Elder Austin Michael Kipp

Monday, October 6, 2014

Living in a Grass Roof Hut in the San Blas Islands

Hello everyone!

So, these last few days have been interesting.  I met up with my new companion, Elder J on Tuesday, and on Wednesday, we got to work buying everything for the missionaries in the zone.  We had to go to Price Smart, which is the same as Costco, and get all the food.  We eat things like mashed potatoes, canned chicken, pancakes, rice, pasta, and we drink tons of powdered Gatorade and lemonade.  After we had bought everything, we had to go get things like machetes and sheaths, sandals, Crocs, and hygiene supplies. 

Out here, we wear either flip flops or these nice Crocs that look like boat shoes, and we can roll up our pants if we want to.  We sleep in hammocks,  which is still taking me a little to get used to, and we live in a grass-roof hut, which is awesome!  Our island is pretty small, so most people know the missionaries.  We had to set up General Conference in the church.  There is a translator that went to Salt Lake to translate conference into Kuna, but luckily we got to watch it all in English in the Branch President's office.  It was awesome!  One of my favorite talks was from Elder Uchtdorf in the Priesthood Session.  It talks about looking inward and asking "Is it I?"  I also enjoyed Elder Klebingat's talk about the six steps in increasing our spiritual confidence.  It was a great couple of sessions!

After the last session yesterday, we saw a guy in the back of the chapel who came in on a trading boat and saw the church and decided to come in.  He is from Colon, and he knows a few members.  HE started to ask us lots of questions about the Prophet, and we explained to him about how God has called a prophet in our days, and we gave him a Book of Mormon. There was a member there with us who nailed it with his testimony, and the spirit was strong! It made me see the benefits of member missionary work, which seemed to be a trend in lots of the conference talks.

My companion is awesome!  Elder J is from Collinston, Utah.  He is awesome!  We had a talk last night and planned for this change, and we both committed to give it our all.  We do A LOT of hard service projects here, like going to the monte (mon-tay) or the mount, to get bananas and coconuts, and to chop down stuff to make farms, but we both made the commitment to get out and find people to teach, even when we think we are too tired.  We want to live up to the challenge of serving with all our heart, might mind and strength.  We get to go do divisions on the other islands in the zone!  We are going to go to another island on Wednesday, so I will take lots of pictures!  I love it here! I am so happy! This is the happiest time of my mission!  I love you all!


Elder Austin Michael Kipp