The Best Two Years

The Best Two Years

Monday, November 24, 2014

Beach Baptism, Baby Blessing and Service in the Monte

November 24, 2014

Hello everyone!

Glad to hear that all is well back home.  Mom, that was kind of crazy what happened during your MRI with the allergic reaction to the contrast, but that's good that you´re OK and that they found out what is giving you the pain and numbness!

So I didn't think we would be able to see as much success as we did last week, but this week we were able to do even more!  It was a pretty tiring but pretty rewarding week! We were able to baptize Hermano U on Saturday, and it was so awesome to see. He has come a long way, and he truly knows that the gospel is true.  He is for sure one of my strongest converts, and we already took him out to teach some of his friends. Also, we are going to give him the priesthood this next Sunday, and the branch president has already called him to be the new Branch Mission Leader!

Yesterday was an awesome Sunday. We had ten investigators in church, and 78 people in total, which I think is the highest in branch history.   I got to bless a baby, (interesting but cool experience), we were able to confirm Hermano U, and we were able to give the priesthood to a 12 year old youth.  The progress we have seen out here in the branch and with our investigators has been so amazing.  On San Blas, if you are obedient, the blessings are magnified, but if you are disobedient, the punishment is also magnified.  Good thing we are trying to be exactly obedient.

Today, we did an epic service project in the monte, and we got to row canoes for like an hour to the mainland and hike the monte to cut down trees for someone's house.  We also took our wrist rockets, and the two Kuna guys we were with were pointing out all the wild turkeys in the trees, and we went on a hunt, but to no avail.  But, it was some good practice with the slingshots, and we got to help the guys out getting the sticks for their house! Here we do the most exhausting service projects ever!

To answer mom's questions:  We have some rope hung outside the house to hang our laundry, which we wash in buckets.  The hammock is pretty awesome!  But, it will be nice to get back to a bed.  I can't sleep on my side in a hammock, but it is pretty dang comfortable anyway!  Occasionally, we have blue crabs in the hut.  Elder Jensen has one change less than I do, and I think we will stay together one more change, because we are on fire out here right now!

Happy Thanksgiving!   I will try to hunt a wild turkey to eat in honor of Thanksgiving, but if not, I will for sure make some instant mashed potatoes and gravy with rolls from the bread shop!   I am so grateful to have the gospel in my life, and I am so grateful for the best family that raised me in the gospel.  Tell everyone at Grandma and Grandpa's that I love them.  I will be getting some letters sent out for grandma and grandpa when I am in the city in two weeks.

I am so happy, I am working harder than I ever have in my mission, and I am so blessed by the Lord.  I love you all so much!

Elder Austin Michael Kipp

P.S.  I bought a tight Kuna flute today!

Monday, November 17, 2014

18 Months Already, Baptism in the Ocean and a Mammoth Lobster

Dear Family,

Well, I just realized on Saturday that I was hitting my 18 month mark!  So, we went to Hermano U's house to buy some lobster for dinner.  He is a diver, and caught us a mammoth three pound lobster!  It was pretty tasty!  I will send some pictures!

This last week, everything just seemed to fall into place.  I think it was one of the weeks where I saw the most success and progress in my entire mission.  It all started with our Zone Meeting. We went the day before to do divisions with the two elders.  It was a big party, those two elders are so much fun, and we were able to work with them a bit.  On Wednesday, everyone got there for the conference, and we gave each companionship a topic, one of their strong points, and had them share a fifteen minute lesson on that topic.  It went really well, and the spirit was definitely felt.  It was the first San Blas zone meeting ever, and we definitely saw success.  Yesterday when we reported numbers, the zone had some of the highest numbers we have ever had!   I know numbers don't matter, but with high numbers, it means the missionaries are working more and bringing more souls unto Christ.  We are really excited, the mission has been in a baptism slump this year, and we really hope the San Blas Zone can be the examples for the mission on how to work effectively.

We had a baptism on Friday!  R got baptized!  We went out to a member's private island in the canoe, and baptized him in the ocean.  The water was crystal clear and he definitely got the witness that what he was doing was right.  He progressed really fast!  And he is really excited to teach the gospel!  So yesterday, we did divisions, and my companion went with another member, and I went with R.  He took me to a girl's house who I didn't know, and she told us she wants to get baptized, so we set up a date with her and she accepted!  Then, he took me to his uncle's house, where we found seven new really positive investigators, a whole family that could be eternal someday!  And then, he took me to his cousin's house, where we taught her and her daughter, and they told us they wanted a Book of Mormon.  So we gave them one, taught them the Restoration, and invited them to watch the Joseph Smith movie with us this week.  We ended the week with 17 new investigators, thirteen baptismal dates set, and the highest church attendance we have ever had, 74 people.  We have Hermano U's baptism coming up this weekend, and other baptisms planned up through the end of the year. 

This last week was one of the most incredible of my life.  I  learned that the Lord truly does bless us when we are obedient and exercise our faith.  I  learned, yet again, that this church and the Lord's work are true, and that it truly is a privilege to be a missionary here in Panama. I have less than six months, and I want to give it my all so that I can hold my head high and say I did everything I could to build up the Lord's kingdom here in Panama.   I love you all!


Elder Austin Michael Kipp

Monday, November 10, 2014

Boa Constrictors, Bananas and Baptisms

 Hello everyone!

This last week was pretty good! We got a little sick on Saturday and Sunday, so we were out of commission for a bit, but the rest of the week was good. 

It always makes for a good week when I get to break out the ole´machete.  We went to the monte twice this week.  We usually go in the canoe for about a half hour, and then we get out and just chop down a ton of long tall grass and plants around the banana and coconut tree farms.  A couple weeks ago, the guy we were with killed a HUGE boa constrictor he hit with his machete.  It was like five feet long!  So there are some interesting experiences in the monte. Then we usually carry out bananas or coconuts and get in the canoe and go back.  The monte is always really tiring, but it helps me sleep good at night, which sometimes is a little different in a hammock. 

We will be having a baptism this Friday! The guy's name is R, but everyone calls him shark.  He is 24, and he is the one we are teaching how to read.  It has been interesting teaching him to read.  I don't remember learning to read, so we are using this online program meant for little kids, and I hope it doesn't make him feel dumb, but it really is helping him.  He is coming along little by little.  So this Friday, it is his birthday, and we are going to load up in the canoe, and someone in the branch has a really nice private island where we do the baptisms, so we get to head there and have the baptismal service!  I am so excited!  We will have another next week too!  Before I came out here, it had been a while since I had had a baptism, and now we are seeing so much success.  I know it is because of our desires to be as obedient as we can.

We are starting something new in the zone.  We are going to hold the first once-a-transfer zone meeting on Wednesday in Narganá!  We will have the whole zone there!  It will be the only time the whole zone has been together ever.  We will have each companionship prepare a lesson and a practice, and then we will play games and do activities after.  Our zone is having success, but we know that we can do better, and we have high hopes that the meeting will help us reach our potential.

This last week was really good.  I realized that the spirit is what allows us to magnify our calls as missionaries.  If we don't have the spirit, we can't do anything in the work.  If we do, we can do many miracles.  We have seen a lot of miracles this last week.  We have found new investigators, less active families, and we have seen an increased desire in the members to share the gospel and help us in the work.  The branch is stronger than it has ever been, and we are working to get it to the point where it can function without the help of the missionaries. We are ALMOST there.   We are just trying to get the leaders trained on the computers.  A lot of them have never even used the internet, so it is pretty interesting sometimes!

I am happy.  I know why I am here, to help others come unto Christ and be perfected in Him.  I am so thankful I have the opportunity to preach the gospel and become converted as well.  I love you all so much!


Elder Austin Michael Kipp

Monday, November 3, 2014

Panama Independence Day and Branch Administration

Hello family!!!

This was a pretty interesting week.  It was changes week, so we headed into the Panama City on the plane on Tuesday, and we were there until Saturday.  For changes, we have to go to Price Smart, which is the same as Costco, and buy all the food for all the missionaries for six weeks, and we have to get all the other stuff like hammocks and machetes for the new elders in the zone, and their flip flops and everything.  Having my driver’s license makes it nice because we can use the truck to get around.  We stay at the assistant’s house when we are in the city, and it is fun to hang out with all the other missionaries that live there!

We got back on Saturday, and we dropped everyone off at their islands, and got back and it was about time to get back to the house for the afternoon, so we sacked out.  Sunday was good.   We had an investigator in church, the one we are teaching to read.  He is getting baptized next Saturday, so we are trying to get him reading the Book of Mormon before he gets baptized.  Hermano E has to wait one more week to get baptized, because he had to go diving for food yesterday and couldn't come to church.  He doesn't feel quite prepared yet, but he totally is.  He understands the Book of Mormon super well, and he has had a dark life in the past and really wants to change. He knows the church is true, and is excited to get baptized!

We do a lot of administration in the branch here.  Sometimes we have to teach the leaders here how the church here is run.  We enter all the donations into the computer, and we are trying to get a home teaching program started.  We have gotten six new people called and set apart within the last two weeks in leadership positions, so the branch is really starting to progress!  The next goal is having three hours of church, right now we only have two hours.

Halloween was good!  Elder Jensen and I swapped name tags, and we got to go to the temple with the rest of the missionaries from the zone!  The new elder on San Blas is named Elder M. He is a bigger kid, and he is hilarious!  He is the happiest missionary in the whole mission, so we are excited to have him out here!  It is the Independence Days and Flag Day for Panama in November, so today there was a big parade on the island, and all the school students marched around the entire island and there were marching bands and everything. The whole month of November is basically a big party in Panama, there are like five national holidays throughout the month, so it is pretty interesting.  Well, that is about it for this week!  We are excited to have time to work this week, and we have some high hopes for the island this change!  I love you guys!

Elder Austin Michael Kipp