The Best Two Years

The Best Two Years

Monday, April 27, 2015

The Best Two Years

Bueno, it is a little weird being this close to the end.  I don't think it will truly hit me until I get on that plane on Thursday, but it started to hit a little when I had to start saying goodbye to people. 

These last few days have been good ones.  I had to go to Nargana to be with Elder M because Elder M, who is a counselor in the district presidency, came to our branch to do district business.  I was there from Friday to today, and it was a great experience!  I got to see two baptisms my last week in the mission, which was great, because they were two teenage girls we found and taught when I was there last time on divisions.  Elder M is an awesome Elder, and we really tried to work hard.  I wanted to go out with a bang! haha!

Today, before I came back to my island, Elder M and I got to go fishing in the ocean with a member named J.  We left at five in the morning in a big canoe with a motor, and went out a couple miles from the island to fish.  Here, they don't use poles, they just use the line and they tie a piece of rebar on the end and hook a couple hooks up, and use sardines as bait.  You just toss it in, hold it in your hand, and wait for the fish to bite!  It was really good fishing, we caught about forty! They were all between six to ten inches long, but we did get a BIIIG red fish on a thicker line we threw out!  It was an awesome experience to be able to fish in the Caribbean Sea, a once-in-a-lifetime experience!!!

Well, as time comes to a close, I have done a lot of reflecting on the last two years.  They have been the best two years of my life.  They have also been the hardest two years of my life.  I would have never been able to push through all the challenges and difficulties if I didn't KNOW that this church was true.  I KNOW for a surety that Joseph Smith restored it in its fullness again to the earth.

Perhaps the greatest blessing of my mission is the relationship that I have gained with my Savior.  He is so much more real in my life now than He ever was before.  I know that he lives and loves me, and that He died for each one of us. That is the testimony that has helped me push through the hard times, and find happiness in the last two years.  I feel good about how I have served.  I can always do better and improve, but I know that I accomplished in small measure the plan for God's children here in Panama.  I love these people more than I ever thought I could, and it will be the hardest thing to leave them, maybe even harder than leaving home…but I am excited to start a new adventure and the next phase of my life!!!  I am scared outta my mind without having work or anything ready, but I know that the Lord will bless me for my service.  I am confident that He will lead and guide me in the next steps of life. 

I am so excited to see you all in three days!  I can't wait to sit back and relax with the family for a few days, and play lots of games!  I also have a lot of movies that I need to catch up on!!!   I love you all so much!  I can't thank you enough for the love and support you all have shown me over the last two years. It means more than you will ever know.   I'll see you in three days!

Elder Austin Michael Kipp

P.S.     I get to go see Ciudad Bolivar tomorrow!!!!!
P.S.S.  I will try to make to the Panama Canal on Wednesday!!!

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Last Full Week and Pirate Hammock Raids

Well family, this officially marks the start of my last full week as a full-time missionary. Feelings are mixed, it is a different time and things are different than I expected them to be. But I am doing great!

This last week was kind of tough.  Elder P and I got sick again, and we couldn't leave the house for three days because of sicky stuff.  But we are all better now!  On Friday, we got on a boat and went to Ustupu, it is the farthest island in the zone, the closest to Colombia.  We went to do three baptismal interviews for the sisters there.  It was a super cool island!  The first chapel in Panama was built there, and Elder O's grandpa was one of the missionaries that helped build it.  So it is a pretty special place!   It is always a cool experience to interview candidates for baptism and see how the gospel has changed their lives.  My testimony in the Savior is always strengthened during those interviews. 

We had to spend the night in the chapel there, and get up at 3:30 a.m. to get back on a boat to our island. We got back on Saturday, and crashed for a little bit, sleeping on the cement floor in the church wasn't exactly "restful".  Then, we went to work.  Sometimes weekends here are hard, because there are days where all the men are required to do work in the community or they get fined.  It usually entails clearing paths in the monte, and takes up about six or seven hours of the day.  Well, that happened on Sunday, and it was tough because we had to do church late.  Here, if there is work in the community, they have always just cancelled church in the past, but we tried to invite everyone we could.  We ended up having a tough Sunday, the community was kind of shut down, and we didn't have many people at church.  But we did see some small miracles, and we have some great things planned for this next week!

So, there was a new thing started in the Playon Chico hut this last week called "pirate hammock raids". Elder P's hammock is next to mine, but up a lot higher.  I am next to the wall.  The speaker we have to play music was on my shelf, and it started acting up.  So,  Elder P starts swinging in his hammock, and grabs my hammock and started swinging it at equal speed with his.  I was not in the hammock, mind you. I was watching intently.  He gets to a rather high swinging velocity, then rolls from his hammock down into mine, failing to think that the hammock would then hurl violently toward the wall where my guitar was hanging.  You can guess what happened next.  He slammed into the wall really hard, and cracked my guitar, but it still works the same!  It was pretty darn hilarious!  So now we do pirate hammock raids on each other. 

There is a talk by Jeffrey R. Holland called "Missionary work and the Atonement.” He says some powerful things, but for me, among the most prominent things he says, he states: "Anyone who does any kind of missionary work will have occasion to ask, 'Why is this work so hard? Why doesn't it go better? Why can't our success be more rapid? Why aren't there more people joining the church? It is the truth. We believe in angels. We trust in and have seen miracles. Why don't people just flock to the font? Why isn't the only risk in the mission field that of pneumonia from being soaking wet all day and all night in the baptismal font?' You will have occasion to ask those questions. I have thought about this a great deal.  I offer this as my personal feeling.  I am convinced that missionary work is not easy because salvation is not a cheap experience.  Salvation was NEVER easy."

That is pretty powerful!  There were many talks in conference that talked about "causal obedience" to the commandments and wasting time doing unimportant things. When I get back, it will be nice to have a couple of days to rest and spend with the family.  But after that, I don't want to waste any time in getting to the most important things that will help me start my future life and to progress more.  I am excited to be able to apply everything I have learned in my life in a different setting, and to have new trials that will help me progress.  I know it will be hard coming back, mostly leaving Panama, but I know that the Savior was able to accomplish the most when he had the greatest trial in His life.  When he felt the greatest pain was when he earned his greatest victory.  If we look at our trials as a learning opportunity, we will have the strength to endure faithfully. It is hard to put on paper the things I am feeling right now.

This last week is going to be great! We are hoping to baptize one of our converts that got baptized but never showed up to get confirmed.  He fell away for a bit and now he realized that the gospel makes him happy!  We are also going to go to an Island called San Ignacio, where supposedly there were missionaries and a branch, but not anymore.  We are going to go see what's up!  I can't wait to see what this week has to hold!  I know it will be a super great one!

As for when I get home, I really just want to spend time with the family, play some good old card games, watch movies, play a little baseball with dad, and maybe some golf.  I really just want to relax for a few days and be with family.  As for the food situation, I really do want to grill, and maybe go get some sushi with Dad and Lionel, but other than that, I kind of want to eat healthy.  I know mom and dad eat really healthy, and in Panama they eat SOOOO many fried things that I am ready for a health/exercise kick!  I really am so excited to see all the family again! It is going to be so fun!   I love you all so much! Remember that God hears our prayers. The power of our prayers depends on us!


Elder Austin Michael Kipp

Monday, April 13, 2015

A Baptism and a Half

Hello family!

It was so awesome to be able to Skype with you on Monday!  Best birthday present I could have gotten.

This last week was a great one!  We were able to do our Zone Conference in Nargana with all the missionaries, and having just come out of Easter, we decided to focus on each part of the atonement. The Sister Leaders talked about the Garden of Gethsemane, Elder T on the suffering leading up to and on the cross, and Elder M talked about the resurrection. Then, my companions and I talked on how we can apply the atonement in our lives, and help our investigators apply it as well.

My focus was on love.  I learned that Christ suffered EVERY bad thing EVER that Satan could throw at Him. The thing that made it possible for Him to come out victorious was that He was focused on us.  He never once thought of himself, during all the suffering and pain.  His mind was focused on helping us.  We talked about how missionaries have an incredible opportunity to learn more about the atonement, because they have such an incredible opportunity to show love for people for two years.  The spirit was so strong in the meeting. 

We came back with Elder T on Friday so he could do our baptism interview for M. I am pretty sure I explained who Mmis already, but I will explain again.  He is one of the most Kuna men on the island.  He is eighteen and speaks almost no Spanish.  We found him when we were teaching his brother A, and we started teaching him and his other brother R as well.  They LOVED everything we taught them, and they get so excited to learn about the gospel! There is part of the Book of Mormon translated in Kuna, and they love hearing us read it to them.  Well, this last Saturday they both got baptized! (M and R) It was super spiritual!

Then, a funny story.  As we were putting the baptismal records into the system, we come to find out that R is already a member, didn't tell us, and we baptized him AGAIN!!! Funny story... Don't know how that one got overlooked, but we will definitely be a lot more careful in the future. Well, he is reactivated and super excited now, so that is the good thing!!!

I have two weeks left in my area before I go back to Panama City for changes.  We have work to keep us busy.  I love our investigators, and I love the feeling I get when I help other people.  I am definitely trying to make these last two weeks count!  I feel that the Lord is pleased with our efforts.  Never satisfied, but pleased.  We can ALWAYS do better, and we owe that to our loving Savior.  Without a belief in progression and improvement, this life would have no point to it.

I love you all so much!

Elder Austin Michael Kipp

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Operation Birthday: Sector Nargana

Hello family!

So I am now officially 21. It feels a WHOLE lot different than being just a mere 20 year old, let me tell you...

Today has been a rather good birthday. I woke up at four in the morning with a splitting ear ache, and got a blessing from Elder M, and it went right away. When I woke up again, we bought some scones and I proceeded to pretend that they were an ever-so-delicious box of Pillsbury toaster strudel, an Austin birthday tradition. We then proceeded to go to the river to fetch water in a boat by a Panamanian-turned-Kuna crazy teenager who almost managed to crash us into some abnormally large sticks jutting out of the water at the entrance to the river. After making a half hour pit stop to his secret mango spot, and returning to the boat with no mangos, we proceeded forward. We filled up all the tanks, then went back to the house, where we ate a hearty lunch consisting of Spam, patacones, and Frank's hot sauce. After finishing lunch, we proceeded to clean the house, shower, get dressed, and that brings us to now!  Let's just say that Operation Birthday: Sector Nargana will never be forgotten! So that's that.

Wasn't conference just great? I came in with a couple questions. I have always heard that we can receive happiness and strength through the Atonement, but I had always been searching for a clear answer on HOW can we receive those blessings? I knew that they were reachable, but how could I attain them? Well, I sure got my answer! There were so many talks that I really liked. We watched conference in Spanish on Saturday because the internet here was really slow to watch it in English. I can't wait to go back and read it in my native language. On Sunday, we were able to watch in english! I loved the talks by Gerald Causse, Elder Holland, and President Uchtdorf. This conference, I noticed two themes: A Christ-centered family, and coming to Christ. I enjoyed the focus on Christ's divine attributes, because without a knowledge of the attributes of God, we cannot exercise faith in Him unto salvation. 

I am on divisions here in Nargana right now with Elder M!  They had two baptisms on Saturday, and it was great to be able to interview the two candidates, and watch the ordinances. The spirit was strong. These divisions have been very effective, and both of us have learned so much!  Well, I am going to send this and hop on Skype so I can talk with you guys face to face!  I love you all!

Elder Austin Michael Kipp

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Camping in the Monte

Hey everyone!

It is always good to hear that everything back home is going well, and that grandpa is recovering and progressing. There have been a lot of prayers on his behalf.

This last week was a good, but tiring one!  Elder P and I caught some nasty colds a few days ago, so we have been trying to rest up and get better so we aren't out for a longer time.  We are doing pretty well now.  We have been doing a TON of service in the monte the past week, taking advantage of all three elders here to do divisions where one of us goes with a member, and the other two go with a less active or an investigator to help in the monte.  The services are usually just chopping all the grass/weeds around the coconut/banana/plantain/cocoa trees, and then hauling some coconuts back on a stick so the people can sell them to the Colombians.  That is how they earn their living here. 

This last week, our recent convert, V asked us to go to the monte with him and camp overnight to help him cut down a BUNCH of big trees on his land that is pretty far back in the monte.  We called president and he gave us permission.  Elder P and Elder O had to go to Ukupa to do six baptismal interviews for the Elders there. (They baptized six people from that new island they found that is an hour and a half walk from Ukupa.)  So I got picked to go camp in the monte and help V for the day! So, we packed up, and left at four in the morning on Friday.  We hiked for two and a half hours, mostly in the dark, and we started right to work!  We worked the entire day, just chopping away with axes and machetes at huge trees!  It was SUPER tiring!  We just caught some fish from the river and made a fire to fry them up, then sacked out until six the next morning, worked for four more hours, then made the big trek back.  I got back completely EXHAUSTED!!!  But it was great to give service to someone who really needed it!  V said we can go back and visit his land if we come to Panama.  He is going to build a house so we can put up some hammocks and camp a night out there! 

We were able to find more investigators this last week!  We are trying to contact everyone and it actually surprises me how many people on an island haven't met the missionaries, who have been here for thirty plus years.  It is true that there are always people prepared for the gospel, wherever there are missionaries.  We just need to make sure we are prepared to feel the spirit and recognize those people.   Missionaries are always blasted with ways on "how" to work/study/teach effectively, but this week I decided to study "Why" we work/study/teach effectively.  It is all so that others can feel the love of their Lord and Savior, and come to a true knowledge of Him so they can exercise faith in Him unto Salvation.

Well family, that is about all for now.  Utah is one hour ahead of Panama right now, correct? So that means I will call you at six o'clock Utah time, seven my time.  Sweet.  I'll see you next week!

I love you all!

Elder Austin Michael Kipp

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Faith is Power

Nuedi! Nue gambi!  That means hello, how are you? in Kuna. Bien.   I am glad to hear that everything back home is going well. Grandpa is a trooper so I am sure he will be fine in a couple of weeks! 

This last week was a pretty interesting one, as changes week always is!  Coming out of the office, I thought changes week would be normal for me, but it seems I was wrong. We shipped out Tuesday morning for the city, and had to wait until Wednesday to get the money and start the shopping spree.  In the meantime, we found out who was leaving the zone and coming out, and we found out that Elder Oakley and I are in a trio now!  Elder P from Kent, Washington is our new companion!  Since Elder O leaves four weeks after I do, President wanted Elder P to have a lot of time out here to get travel and all the zone things down before we both leave. That means that this change, we will be travelling a lot between all the islands doing companion exchanges with all the missionaries.  And, we will be able to do double work in our area, doing exchanges with the members!  I am super excited to have the new experience!  Also, Elder S from Bluffdale is in our zone with Elder A!  He played football at Riverton High, but I never knew him, but it is fun to talk about Riverton High!

This week, I started to read the book called "Lectures on Faith" that was written for the school of Elders back in the early days of the church.  It has given me a whole new idea on faith.  I have always looked at the word "hope" with a bit of doubt attached.  But, in Spanish, I realized that the word "hope", "expect", and "wait" are all the same verb. Esperar.  I much prefer the word expect.  Faith is an assurance of things that we can't see. Christ couldn't see the earth before he created it, but He expected that it would appear at His command.  It has changed my viewpoint of faith in missionary work.  Instead of just being obedient and expecting the Lord to shed blessings upon me, I can have those promised blessings at the front of my mind, and really truly expect them to be given me. I can envision results and through my faith bring them to pass.  I don't really know how to describe what I learned, but I recommend reading the Lectures on Faith.  Faith is power.

We are going to start district meetings through Skype this week! It will be a great pick me up for the zone.  We are one of the highest baptizing zones in the mission and we know we can improve even more!  There are so many people prepared in San Blas, and we think that doing regular meetings will give the missionaries the training necessary to find and baptize those people! Things are taking off here!   I am going to give more details on the call home on
April 6th in an email to mom a little later.  I love you all!

Elder Austin Michael Kipp
P.S. Pizza mas an gumbie! ( I want to eat pizza.....)

Monday, March 16, 2015

The Last Transfer, Monte Dog and The Carriers

Happy Preparation Day everyone!!!

This P-day has been pretty great so far!  Elder A(my office companion) and Elder M came from Ukupa and Irgandi to bring things they need taken to Panama City tomorrow when we go in to do the changes shopping bonanza.  We went with them to the monte to walk to a waterfall, about an hour hike.  We took our branch president's dog, Kippcito (Little Kipp) with us to train him to be a monte dog.  He fits in my pocket.  He whined the whole way, he is still pretty young.  He spends every minute he can in our house and he thinks he is our dog sometimes! haha!  The waterfall was really pretty!  We explored for a little bit and saw some cool jungle then came back home.

This last week was a pretty good one.  A very wise missionary once gave me the counsel that I can be a missionary and myself at the same time.  I sometimes get uptight because everything doesn't go exactly how I expect it to, but this last week, I really tried to focus on who I am.  A missionary and representative called of Jesus Christ to preach His gospel.  It helped me to know that even when we have hard times and problems, that the Lord is still at the head of this work, and that if I try to do my part, I cannot fail because He will be helping me every step of the way.  I also figured out that I don't have to be uptight and get annoyed by every little problemito and difficulty, but that I can be Austin Michael Man and a representative of Christ at the same time.  It is better that way.  If I give myself to Christ and His work, He can work on me and mold me into the person He wants me to become.  All I need to do is dedicate myself and give my whole self to Him, because he can't work on what He doesn't have, and he can't have me unless I give myself to him.  (The "Fourth Missionary" talk is great.  It talks a lot about our potential and who we want to become in our lives.)

There are some guys here on the island who we call the "island carriers".  They all have super long hair, speak no Spanish at all, only Kuna, and look like someone just took them right off a pirate ship. They rush across the bridge whenever a plane gets here to carry all the cargo across for the people, and that is their job.  They are all so funny! We were able to start teaching one of the carriers, A, and his brother and two friends. We took Hermano U to the three lessons with them this week, and the spirit was seriously STRONG!  They all accepted to be baptized!  It is great to see people finally find what they have been searching for their whole lives, the happiness and blessing of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

So, this week marks the start of my last transfer in the mission.  I still have a lot of things I want to accomplish, and I have set many goals to accomplish those things.  I cannot believe how fast the time has passed, but I am thankful that I still have a little time left. Time is an interesting thing.  Time seems to run faster with time.  I want to take advantage of every minute I have left to help the people here in San Blas! (I still haven't heard about changes yet, but I am pretty sure I am going to be staying here!)  I want to be as focused as I can, so please help me out!  I am doing pretty well right now.  I don't even feel trunky! Haha!

That is so crazy that C is already home!  Now you all officially know her family better than I do, I am so excited to meet them all soon!  Well, I will let you know about changes as soon as I can!  We leave on a plane for the city tomorrow so I will write a small note from the mission office.  I love you all!

 Elder Austin Michael Kipp

P.S. Remember, Nephi lived in the desert of Jerusalem for eight years with little provisions.  He built a boat starting with literally  nothing, and crossed the ocean all the way to America. He did it all through prayer and the guidance of the spirit.  We can do great things in our lives if we live worthily of the companionship of the spirit and pray to God for thanksgiving and blessings.

I can't believe I forgot to put V's baptism in my letter... best convert ever!  He is super strong! And he comes over to our house every night with Hermano U to pray!  Satan didn't want his interview to go through, but we got all the Skype problems fixed and he got baptized on Saturday!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Twelve People and the Power of Prayer

Hello family!

Thanks for all your letters this week, they really helped me out!  This last week was a pretty good one.   I was able to do divisions with Elder T in Ukupa, the smallest area in the zone.  It is on the Panama coast, it is not actually an island.  I was there for two nights, and we were able to visit Aidirgandi, another town on the coast.  There are less than two hundred people there and after visiting, I am convinced that all those people are totally prepared for the gospel!

We took the branch president and another member who is preparing for his mission with us to do divisions and get more work done.  We were able to talk with the syla (chief), and some other families, and we were able to put eleven new baptismal dates!  Oh, this pueblo is an hour and a half walk from Ukupa, the nearest church.  So, to get baptized, these people have to walk a total of three hours every Sunday to go to church and back home.  We were completely confident that they would come.  And lo and behold, twelve people walked all the way there Sunday morning to go to church!  It was a miracle. 

When I got back to my island, I figured out that there are a lot of problems in our island with drugs right now.  It seems like the island has completely changed in a matter of days, and it has been a little difficult for the work.  But, I am trying to keep up the faith.  I know that the Lord is just giving me this experience to stretch me and push me so I can learn and progress. Every time we are faced with a decision in our lives, it means that the Lord is giving us an opportunity to develop, in small measure, His attributes, or do the exact opposite and develop the attributes of the Adversary.  We are trying to make all the right decisions through these trials so we can have the spirit and know how the Lord wants us to handle the work here in Playón Chico.

I read something that hit me in "True to the Faith." It talks about teaching the POWER of prayer, not just the PRINCIPLE of prayer. Something I have tried to do that has made my prayers more powerful is to pray for the guidance of the spirit to make my prayers more meaningful.  I know what God has prepared for me to do and I can ask for His help.  He knows me better than I know myself and can tell me what to ask for that will help me be stronger and happier.  Prayer truly is one of the greatest blessings we have been given, and it is the way that I have been able to grow so close to my Savior.  One of the greatest blessings of my mission is the relationship I have developed with my Savior.  I know God hears our prayers.   It is up to us to prepare to receive our answers, because I know he answers our prayers.

Glad to hear that Grandpa is doing better.  I bet he is pretty glad to be eating something more than ice chips now!  I will keep praying for a good speedy recovery!

I love you all!

Elder Austin Michael Kipp

Monday, March 2, 2015

Lessons Learned of Charity and Love by a 19 Year Old Hard Headed Son

Hello everyone!

Where do I start today? There are so many things running through my mind right now and I can't get my thoughts straight. 

First things first, grandpa is alive.  Glad to hear that.  It is so awesome that dad has been able to be there for Grandpa and Brother R during the time off.  Mom and dad, you are both some of the most charitable people I know and I thank you for your example. 

Speaking of charity, I studied charity and love a lot this week.  I had a lot of down time to study because my companion was sick in the hammock for three days.  I was told by the spirit that we can grow our love for others in three ways:  Praying that God fills our hearts with charity and love, making a constant and whole-hearted effort to show that love to others by serving them, and making a constant and whole-hearted effort to show that love for God by keeping His commandments and serving Him.  He promises that He will increase our love for others if we do these things.

A mission is all about love.  It is the best opportunity that God gives to his hard-headed 19 year old sons to learn how much He loves each one of them.  It is the perfect opportunity for those same hard-headed 19 year old sons to learn a couple things about how that selfless, unfailing love can change lives, not just their own, but the lives of all they show their love to by serving them.  A missionary is given the best possible opportunity to do those three things that will develop a stronger love for God, which will bless him and others for the rest of his life.

I finished the Book of Mormon yesterday.  Scott N's promise stays true.  No matter how many times I read it, every time I pick it up I learn something new. It is an inspired book, and Joseph Smith was called to be God's Prophet and translate it by His power. 

Tomorrow I get to go on a three day division with Elder T in Ukupa!  And we get to go explore another small island and see if we can put missionaries there!  And then on Thursday, we are going to go to ANOTHER island, and apparently there is an apostate Mormon church there that we are going to start fixing up.  I love the work out here in San Blas!

Hermano U is still a boss. There aren't really addresses here or mail on the island but you could just send it to the mission office in my name or another missionary and on the inside put that it is for him on Playon Chico, San Blas, and they will deliver the 

I love you all! Remember, Christ showed unconditional love to all.  If we want to become like Him, we must love all unconditionally as well.   I love you all!


Elder Austin Michael Kipp

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Bautismo Nika

Hello Family!

First things first.  Bautismo nika means "We had a baptism!!!" in Kuna.
This last Saturday, we got back from the zone conference in Nargana,
and Hermano U's daughter-in-law still needed her baptism
interview.  So, we called the elders and we did it over skype! That is
the new thing we have to do for interviews now, so we don't waste so
much time and money travelling to do interviews.  Well, she passed with
flying colors!  She really prepared herself for baptism, we were just
guiding her in what to do to get prepared.  She loves the Book of
Mormon and singing hymns.  She is sixteen and is already married, which
is pretty common for Kunas.  Her husband is Hermano U's son, and
we are still working on him so they can go to the temple someday.
We had the baptism after church yesterday.  It was just us, our
branch president, and Mrs. U.  It made me sad because her husband was
going to come, but didn't want to wait for our branch president, so he
left to go play soccer instead.  But, it was an AWESOME service!  Our
branch president baptized her, and the spirit was really strong.  I
have been so blessed to see so many people enter the waters of baptism
here in San Blas.

We had a pretty good zone conference!  On Tuesday, everyone showed up
to Nargana in the morning, and we had a member cook for all fourteen
missionaries.  Afterwards, we did the conference.  We started off doing
sister and elder training meetings separate, and it gave us a good
chance to really see what the missionaries have a tough time with.
Then, we were able to hear from the District Leaders about how to find
happiness in the work, and how to properly use Preach My Gospel. This
zone we are in is one of the tightest knit zones I have been in, and
all the missionaries are really well prepared to be here. I feel very
humbled to be their leader.

We were able to hear from Elder Duncan on Wednesday.  What a neat
experience it is to hear from a General Authority!  The biggest thing I
got out of the meeting was that as missionaries, to reach our full
potential, we really need to have a better testimony of the Atonement.  It
is what allows us to develop love and charity, the motives for
missionary work.  He opened our minds to the type of numbers we could
be achieving.  I know numbers aren't important, but behind every number
is a name of one of God's children.  Elder Duncan showed us the video
"Because of Him" about Christ.  Even though we couldn't really see the
video very well over skype, I had seen it before, and during the
video, I really strongly felt the love that Christ has for me, and for
each one of us.  He truly suffered for us so that we do not have to
suffer.  He knows how we feel in every moment of sorrow and trial, and
he knows exactly how to help us overcome them.  He sends us His spirit
to lead and guide us, and to let us know that he has forgiven us and
to cleanse us when we repent.  I feel like I have gotten to know Him
much more personally on my mission, something promised in my
patriarchal blessing.  He is not just a distant person I want to be
there anymore, He has become so real in my life, and He can become
real in all our lives if we open up our hearts and let Him in.

We went to the monte today and my shoulders are suuuuper sore from
carrying some HUUGE logs up and down the hills for a guy who is
building a new house. But, despite how tired I am, I felt great to
give service!

This wouldn't be a missionary letter if I didn't leave you all with
an invitation.  I invite you all to watch the video "Because of Him"
and really meditate Christ's atonement.  Meditate upon the fact that he
suffered for EACH ONE of your sins and struggles personally, because
he loves you. It is what can give us infinite happiness in our lives.  I love you all!


Elder Austin Michael Kipp

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

April 30th is the Day

Hello everyone!

I didn't have a chance to write yesterday because we had five other elders in our area that needed to write as well.  We traveled to Nargana today to have our Zone Conference, so I am writing from the chapel here. 

This week Elder Duncan from the Seventy is coming to Panama, and for our zone conference, we are going to do a skype call with him and all the other missionaries.  I am super excited to see what counsel he gives us!

This last week, we decided to do extended divisions with the elders in Nargana.  My companion came to Nargana, and Elder M came to my island with me for five days. Elder M and I realized we seriously have EVERYTHING in common.  It was actually kind of freaky.  I actually know where he lives in Kamas.  We always pass his house on the way to the B's cabin. This last week was great, we were able to work really hard in the area and we had some really spiritual experiences.  Hermano U is really helping us out a lot by finding new people for us to teach.  We bought him a copy of Preach My Gospel, and he reads up on his job as branch mission leader and is super excited magnify his calling.  We are going to be in Nargana until Saturday, and he is going to visit all our investigators for us while we are out. 

So, I have had a hard time deciding on what day I am going to come home.  In my interview with President Carmack, he said that he is fine either way and that the Lord is letting me decide.  I know the most sensible option for school and work is to come home in April, so I can have more time to work and save up some money for school.  So, I have decided to come home in April.  April 30th will be the exact day.  So be ready!

Well family, I am super short on time. I am sorry for the short email, but we have to get our zone conference up and running today!

Happy birthday Courtney!  Happy Valentine's day everyone!


Elder Austin Michael Kipp

Monday, February 9, 2015

Concrete Jungle

Dear Family.

Well, this last week was an interesting one!   On Tuesday, we loaded up on the plane and went into the city to buy all the stuff for changes.  We got there at about eight in the morning, and went right to the office to get the money.  Changes are always super busy, and the secretaries weren't there until the afternoon, so we waited in a restaurant downstairs.  When they finally got there, we learned that our check couldn't be cashed until Friday, so we basically ended up spending a few days in the city literally doing nothing but sitting in the assistant’s house, studying, and I finally learned how to solve a Rubik's Cube.  It was a little frustrating, but we couldn't do anything we needed to do without the money.

We DID get to have interviews with President Carmack, and I asked him about extending.  He said that the choice is completely up to me, and honestly I am not quite sure yet.  I think I know what to do, but I still have to pray about it a little more, so I will probably let you know next Monday for sure.  It was a great interview, and President gave me some great counsel.

On Friday, we got the money, and we ran to PriceSmart (Costco in Panama) with three of the sisters from the zone, and ran around like madmen trying to find everything for the seven islands before they closed.  Friday was just filled with running around in the truck buying things until about one in the morning, and then the next day we had to wake up at four to get in the car and go to the dock.  Then, from there it was a four hour boat ride to our island. The moment I hit my hammock, I was OUT for the count! But, the good news is that I DID get my package!  Thanks mom and dad!  It was the best!

One night, we did eat dinner with a really wealthy family from Canada.  They bought pizza, nachos, lasagna, cookies, soda and a ton of other stuff.  The sisters invited us to go there with them on Thursday night.  How do I do my laundry on the island?   We heat up water on the stove and put it in a bucket with bleach, soap and fabric softener. Then we let the clothes soak, rinse with clean water, and hang the clothes on a rope to dry.  This last week, I got a lot of good study time, and really felt the companionship of the spirit really strong in my life.  I know that the scriptures contain the word of God, and that if we follow the precepts in the scriptures, we will feel of God's love more in our lives, and we will become more like Him.  Well, I am about out of time.  I love you all!

Elder Austin Michael Kipp

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Name Game

Hello family!

This last week was alright, we did have two baptisms, which was the highlight! Two of Hermano U's sons were baptized, A, who is 17, and A, who is 14. The Hermano baptized both of them, so it was really cool.  He has two more older sons that aren't baptized still, so we are working with them.  We have had so much success through his family!  I think he might be the guy from my dream, but in the dream, the place I am in doesn't look anything it does here.  But I think it could be him.

So, the new fad on the island is to name things Kipp or Kippcito, which means little Kipp.  I officially have two dogs, a chicken, a bird, a squirrel, a monkey, and now a baby named after me.  It is Hermano U's new game to name things Kippcito!  It is pretty dang funny!

We were sick a couple of days this last week, and that kept is cooped up for a little while, so we didn't get to do as much as we had planned.  We did have mission leadership council this week.  We do it over Skype with all the other zone leaders and sister leaders in the mission.  President Carmack is really starting to crack down on some things, and I have been waiting to see those changes for my whole mission!  It is going to help the mission baptize more.

Well, I am about out of time today.  I am sick today, so I want to go sack out for a bit before we make our trek into the city tomorrow to buy the things for changes. And oh, I do not have changes, so I get to stay out here one more transfer!!!

I love you all so much!

Elder Austin Michael Kipp

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

"Ask and Ye Shall Receive."

Hello family!

Mom and dad, tell the family up in Washington that I say hey!   This last week has been great. Elder T is still with us.  His new companion gets here tomorrow so he will be going back to his area tomorrow. It has been a ton of fun having him here, and I have learned a ton from him! He is an awesome example to us. 

This last Saturday, the baptism streak kept hot and we were blessed with four more baptisms!  We baptized four youth.  It was a really awesome service, and they all looked super happy afterwards.  Elder T, Elder O, and I were all able to baptize one of them, and I baptized the other.  I have been blessed to see so many of God's children enter the waters of baptism, and I owe it all to the Lord and the Spirit.  They are blessing us for our efforts to be more obedient. 

We had a Seventy come to the mission a couple weeks ago, and really say some things that were hard for some of the missionaries to take.  Our mission isn't baptizing much right now, and the mission is not reaching its full potential.  The Seventy put out a lot of rules and a lot of the missionaries are having a hard time accepting what he said as truth. I have a hard time seeing missionaries that don't accept what a servant of the Lord commands them to do.  I liken it to the scriptures in the Book of Mormon, when a prophet was sent among the people, they rejected him.  Our mission could be so much more successful, and more importantly we could change so many more lives if we listen to the counsel of our leaders who are called of God to help us.

We saw a pretty cool miracle this last week.  We went to two other islands with Elder M and Elder M. Elder M is in the district presidency, and he wanted to visit the branch presidents, so we took elder T and went with him.  Chak drove the boat.  We got done, and we were coming back to our island in the dark.  All of a sudden, the engine dies, and we realize that we are out of gas!  We shake the gas tank, pump the tube connecting to the tank and the motor, and nothing. Bone dry.  We decided to say a prayer, and then Elder M started to pump the hand pump again.  At first, nothing, but after a minute, the tube filled with gas, and we had just enough to get to a hotel close by and buy some more.  The Lord literally gave us the extra fuel we needed to get back.  It was a total testimony builder of the power of faith and prayer, and all that experienced that miracle were greatly struck by the spirit that was felt.  "Ask and ye shall receive."

This week is the last week of the transfer.  We are going to have two more baptisms and then we will head to Panama City to do the whole transfers purchasing routine, and I will find out if I stay or I go.  I love you all!  And mom, I will send some pictures of the hut right now, and the two dogs named Kipp.  I officially have two dogs, one monkey, and one squirrel named after me now. 

I love you all!  Go Seahawks!


Elder Austin Michael Kipp

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Obedience and Service Bring Blessings

January 19, 1015

Hello family!

This last week has been an interesting one.  We are in a trio with one of my favorite Elders, Elder T.  His companion went into the city because he has medical problems, so we are waiting for Elder T's new companion to get out here.  It has been interesting learning how to work in a trio, but it has been fun!

This last week, we have been able to find a ton of new people to teach!  The whole mission has the goal to start working with and baptizing families.  We are really working hard to try and teach the whole families of all our investigators, and this week we have put up a lot more baptismal dates through the efforts.

I think my faith has been strengthened out here more than in any other time in my life.  These few months on San Blas, I have tried hard to be obedient and trust that the Lord will bless me. He truly has.  Even though it is the hardest part of my mission, every day we see small miracles that make it worth all the struggles and difficulties.  Obedience and service truly do bring blessings. 

I love doing service!  We were able to go to the monte (mountains) a couple times this week and do some work for our branch president and Syla G.  We had to walk for over an hour, and we carried a ton of coconuts to the river and back in a canoe.  Elder T came with us, but here they don't sell boots big enough for him, so he did the entire service in flip flops.  He has had a ton of difficulties and trials in his first six weeks here, but his attitude is always so positive, and I think that attitude is one of the most important factors in missionary work.  If we are constantly complaining about our circumstances, we will lose the spirit and we will not be able to do the will of the Lord.  He has been a great example to me of enduring to the end. 

Well, I don't have much more time this week to write, but I love you all!


Elder Austin Michael Kipp

P.S.  Utah State online classes are definitely an option so I can save money!!!  I will have to keep thinking about that one


Monday, January 12, 2015

The Angry Sea, Colombian Ship, Pangas and Miracles

"The sea was angry that day my friends... Like an old man trying to send back soup in a deli!"

Hello everyone!

This last week was pretty interesting.  We had four other elders in our house, and we were planning on getting out Wednesday to go to the zone conference.  So they got there on Tuesday, and then we figured out that no pangas (passenger boats) could go out because the sea was too wild.  So we prayed and prayed and we decided that we were going to try and find another way to do the zone conference.  I won't tell the whole story, but it was a crazy, prayer-and-fast-filled couple of days, and we literally looked into every option to get to Narganá.  We even talked to the small red chicken biplane that brings chicken to our island from the city. 

Well, the Lord answers prayers. We got on a Colombian boat (a big boat that sells stuff to the islands, like hammocks and food) and we set out.  The sea was angry, and so we sat in the middle on top of the cargo hold, and there were a couple times that I thought we were going down.  We made it all right, though, and the conference was a huge success!  Two of the assistants came out, and all the missionaries were really excited to see each other. The meeting was really spiritual as well.  I talked about a talk from Elder Ballard called "Mental Tenacity", it talks a lot about being creators of circumstances, and not creatures of circumstances, and leaving the excuses behind to have a good attitude about the work, no matter what the difficulties are. My companion talked along the same lines, and we didn't even plan that one out. It was a real spiritual meeting. We have a boss zone. 

The ride back was pretty interesting.  We got in a panga, because they lifted the panga ban, and set out.  The waves were pretty big, and the boat was jumping, but we all got back safe and sound.  We saw so many miracles, and the Lord definitely answered all our prayers. Oh, and I WAS able to get my Christmas package.  The assistants brought it out!  I already created my own Lego ships.  Also, Elder Fish, a missionary who finished in June and was on Blas for a year, is here visiting with his family and brought  me Swedish fish, beef jerky and sunflower seeds!  So mom, if you could send some with Hermana W, I wouldn't mind one bit! haha!

We did have a baptism this week.  Yamilsia got baptized, she is around thirty years old, and she has come a long way. It was a really spiritual baptism. We have been blessed with baptisms every week of the change so far!

Well, that is about all I have time for... Mom, the pictures of the hut will have to wait until next week.... sorry!  I love all you guys!


Elder Austin Michael Kipp

Monday, January 5, 2015

Two Baptisms, New Years, Noriega Dolls, and Always a Missionary

Hello Family! 

This last week was great!  We started the week off by going out to Narganá to do divisions with Elder M and Elder M.  We helped them move out of their church and into a house, and we helped them get a good start on the work in the area.  It is hard out here December through February, because the schools are out and everyone goes to the city to visit family for those three months, but we got them some good leads on some positive people!

We also did mission leadership council there over Skype.  They talked about working with the members and baptizing families.  The mission has a goal to double the number of baptisms this year that we had last year, and if we work with members and try to find more families to teach, we will do it!  We have our zone meeting with the Blas zone this Wednesday, so we are hoping that helps the missionaries in the zone to be excited about working with members and finding families!

Coming back from divisions was crazy! The tide was super high, and we got soaking wet!  My companion got really sea sick!  Hopefully it calms down Wednesday so we can travel.  Pray for us that the wind and the waves will calm down so the chief will give us permission to travel.  If not, we can´t do the zone conference.

So, we had another baptism this week!  Two, actually!  Hermano U's wife and daughter got baptized!  It was the first family baptized in 2015 in Panama!  It was great to see a family enter the water, and I hope we can get them to the temple in a year.   I would totally come back for that one!  We have been blessed to see so many results here!  We have two more baptisms planned for this weekend, so we are pretty excited! 

New Years was pretty interesting.  We spent the day moving the elders into their new house, and eating GRILLED CHICKEN, MASHED POTATOES, and RANCH!!!!!  It was the best dinner ever!  Well, on San Blas anyway.  We don't get anything like that on our island, so it was awesome!  Here for New Years, everyone makes life sized Noriega dolls and burns them on New Years.  It was pretty interesting.  Not too many fireworks on the island, but there were a few small ones to watch. It was a good New Years!

This year, I have made it a goal to never pass up a chance to share the gospel, whether I am a missionary or not.   I never want to stop doing missionary work.  I challenge you to do the same.  We have chances every day to share the gospel with people.  It can be something small and simple like sending a text with a scripture in it to somebody, or a small act of service and an invitation to learn more.  I challenge you to take advantage of all the opportunities you have to share the message of the gospel!

Well, I am about outta time.  Dad, I sure hope you get feeling better! Mom, I keep forgetting to take pictures of my hut.  I will get one to you next week, I promise!

I love you all!


Elder Austin Michael Kipp