"Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things; yea, behold, many mighty miracles we have wrought in this land, for which we will praise his name forever." -Alma 26:12

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

12/21/2015 Izumo!!!

Minnasan konnichiwa!
 I've been in my new area Izumo for almost a week now, and it has been awesome. The branch is amazing, and there are actually a lot of young families, which is pretty rare for Japan. We ran into one member as we got off the bus for the first time, and the very first question he asked me was "do you ball?" It was one of the most beautiful questions I've ever heard, because it's been a few months since I've played basketball. He promised that we would go play soon, but it probably won't be until the end of this week or next week.

The biggest difficulty of the new area is that most of our teaching is in Portuguese. I can't say anything yet, so my companion usually just translates what I say into Portuguese. He is an awesome missionary, the same transfer as my last companion. He is a really good teacher, which is good because he will probably be doing a lot of the teaching for the next little while. I've already had some Brazilian cooking from a few of the investigators. They use a lot more meat in their cooking, and it is always delicious!

 A lot of our lessons have been focused on Jesus Christ specifically, since we are in this wonderful Christmas season. It has really strengthened my testimony of the Savior, and I am so grateful for Him. I know that because of Him, we can all return to live with our Heavenly Father. This truly is the greatest gift that could ever be given at Christmas or any other time. This incredible gift was given freely, and all we have to do is follow the teachings of Christ in order to receive these blessings. I hope that all of you will take some time to remember the Savior this Christmas!


Saturday, December 19, 2015

12/14/2015 Baptism and Transfer

Hello everyone!
     I love you all so much, but today is going to be extremely short! New transfers came in today, and I figured I might stay in my area while my companion transfers to a mostly Portuguese-speaking area. When we read the transfers, though, it was the other way around. My time in Kouchi has come to an end, and my new companion will be... OF COURSE, another Brazilian, Machado chourou. My new area is Izumo, and we will definitely be teaching some Portuguese lessons. Too bad I don't know any Portuguese. I guess that is what the Gift of Tongues is for, so wish me luck everyone, I'm going to need it! The rest of today is probably going to be spent packing and preparing to transfer, thus the short email.
     Now that that's out of the way, on to the really exciting news. Yan san was able to be baptized yesterday! We had the baptismal service at 9 in the morning, then went straight to Sacrament meeting to confirm him a member of the church. It was truly a miracle to see everything fall into place with his baptism, and it all went smoothly even though we had very little time to prepare for it. The Lord has blessed us so much in these two transfers working in this area, and we were able to end it with a baptism! I was also blessed to see how powerful the gospel is in changing the lives of those that truly wish to follow it. I know that God is our Heavenly Father, and that He speaks to us through prayer. I also know that Jesus is our Savior and Redeemer, and only through His love and sacrifice are we able to make the necessary steps to return to live with our Heavenly Father.

Baptism of Yan san!

12/6/2015 Diligence

Hello everyone!

This week has been amazing, and has really strengthened my testimony of goal-setting and vision. Since we opened a new mission area in Kouchi a transfer and a half ago, we have steadily built up a teaching pool of investigators. We still have very few solid investigators, and we haven't ever been able to achieve the mission standard of excellency of teaching 20 lessons per week. We have planned, worked, and especially prayed a lot over these past few weeks, and it finally paid off this week! We worked especially hard to find people this last week, and when we finally counted up the lessons at the end of the week we had taught 24 lessons, doubling what we had been able to do just the week
before. I know that this was definitely a blessing from God, and that we would never have been able to achieve our goal without His help. He placed specific people in our path and prepared them to receive our message.

 One of those people that have been prepared by God is Yan san. I have talked about him before in my emails, but we are really excited for the progress he has made. He has received almost all the lessons, and his baptism is scheduled for this next Sunday. We are really hoping and praying that he will be able to be baptized this Sunday, but I know that even if he doesn't get baptized on Sunday, he definitely will be baptized someday. His faith is getting stronger all the time, and we can see the physical changes he is making in his life to follow the commandments of God and walk in the footsteps of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Christmas time is such a great time to be a representative of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, because we can share with everyone the true meaning of Christmas. Speaking of Christmas, the church just released the new Christmas video on their website, and it was really good! If you haven't had the opportunity to see it, I would invite all of you to do so (https://www.mormon.org/christmas). This Christmas season truly is an amazing time to ponder and learn more about the life of our Savior. Right now as a mission we are all reading the first four doctrines of the New Testament (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) along with chapters 11-30 in 3 Nephi of the Book of Mormon. We are reading with a focus on the Doctrine of Jesus Christ, (if you want a hint about what the doctrine of Christ is exactly, look in 2 Nephi 31) and how we can apply that doctrine to our lives. I would invite all of you to join with us in this study, reading each day and pondering on what Christmas means to you. I'd love to hear any insights that you are having as you read and apply the doctrine!
That's all from me, I love you all and hope you have a great Christmas season filled with family, friends, and charity!

Winegar長老よ (Elder Winegar)

11/29/2015 Taking the Challenge & Setting Goals

Hello everyone!
     How are you all doing? Sorry it's been a while, our last two P-days have been a little crazy. Two weeks ago, we spent the whole day with one of my companion's recent converts from a previous area. We had lunch, and then showed her around the city for the rest of the day until she had to go home.
     Last week was even crazier than the week before. Among missionaries, there is a famous challenge in our area called the Muroto challenge. Muroto is a city about 80 kilometers (~50 miles) from our city. The challenge is to bike all the way to Cape Muroto and back in a single P-day. We decided pretty late in the week that we wanted to attempt it, but once we decided, there was no stopping us. We started our journey at 6:30 in the morning, and took frequent stops along the way to enjoy the scenery, take pictures, and play games. Our trip there was pretty uneventful, but it turned out to be further than we originally thought. It was 80 kilometers to the edge of the city just like the map said, but we were going to the cape, which added about 20 kilometers onto our trip. I felt pretty good considering we had just biked over 50 miles, but of course we were tired and hungry when we finally made it to Muroto. That was when we learned that there were hardly any restaurants in the city. The only place we could find was too expensive, and would take too long. We ended up just buying some snacks at a convenience store and planned to start the long trip home.
     While we were in the convenience store, we were the recipients of an amazing act of charity. A woman walked up to us, and explained to us (in English) that she had been at the first restaurant we had stopped at. She heard us discussing about what we were going to do, and she followed us to the convenience store almost 30 minutes away. She handed us a bag with a loaf of bread and a bunch of Costco rolls! We couldn't thank her enough, but she quickly left and continued on her way. It was so funny that even on a long bike trip we can have experiences that strengthen our testimonies and teach us gospel principles.
     We started out with renewed strength after lunch, but it didn't last forever. One of the other Elders got a cramp in his leg, and we had to stop for a while until he was ready to go again. He pushed himself really hard, and we were able to barely make it home in time for our dinner appointment with an investigator. I was so exhausted, but I had a really great time. We found out after the trip how far we went, and it was nearly 200 kilometers (125 miles) in just over 12 hours, including stops.
    There are too many awesome experiences to share from the past few weeks, but I recently went on missionary splits with Elder Matsumoto, the Japanese Elder in our apartment. He helped me a lot with my Japanese, and really got me excited to go out and work. We set a goal to teach seven lessons in one day, something that neither of us had done yet. We worked so hard all throughout the day, but at the end of the day we had only taught 6 lessons. We had contacted every single potential investigator, investigator, and less active member that we could think of, housed a ton of apartments, and especially prayed a LOT for success. I was really disappointed that we didn't reach our goal, but I looked back on all the good we had done that day, and I was amazed. Because we had a specific goal in mind, we worked harder than I normally would have. We ended up teaching the six lessons, finding seven potential investigators, and learned a lot about teaching.
     This reminded me of a quote from Elder Ballard about setting goals, something that I wholeheartedly believe. He said "I am so thoroughly convinced that if we don’t set goals in our life and learn how to master the techniques of living to reach our goals, we can reach a ripe old age and look back on our life only to see that we reached but a small part of our full potential. When one learns to master the principles of setting a goal, he will then be able to make a great difference in the results he attains in this life." I am seeking to improve my ability to set goals, and I hope that you will all join me in this endeavor. I know that when we set specific goals and work towards them, we can amaze ourselves with the progress we have made. But please, always remember to set your goals with God, "pray[ing] unto the Father in the name of Christ, that He will consecrate thy performance unto thee," (2 Nephi 32:9). I love you all so much, hope you have a great and eventful week!
Winegar長老より (Elder Winegar)

Elder Winegar is showing where they start their ride from, Kouchi;  Elder Bahr and Elder Madruga pointing to their destination, Cape Muroto.

Panoramic view of Cape Muroto

125 miles in 12 hours! 


11/9/2015 Choose attribute of Christ.

Minasan konnichiwa!

Sorry everyone (or maybe you're welcome), it's going to be a short one today. We spent a lot of this past week biking, as we made it a goal to visit some less active members that live pretty far away. One of my favorite visits with Yasuhara Kyodai, an older man who hasn't been able to come to church for the last few months because he is no longer able to drive. It was so sad to hear him tell us that he would come to church, but no one lives close enough to him and he doesn't want to be a burden to anyone. My companion and I were so determined to help him find a way to get to church, and we are still working to find that way. I was so glad we decided to visit with him, because we never would have known what his situation was, and how we could help him. That long bike ride was definitely worth it.

Another family we tried to visit wasn't home, but we realized that as we were coming home we were near another member's house. We dropped in on her unexpectedly, and asked her what she knew about that family. She proceeded to give us the entire life story of the family, it was incredible how much she knew. She even committed to sending the mother of the family an email asking if she would come back to church. At times like these, I am so thankful for the members and the work that they do. They know so much more than us about the area and people, and there is no way we could be successful without their help. It makes my heart leap for joy when I see a member walk up to one of our investigators at church without being invited and introduce themselves. They probably don't even realize the impact they have, but that simple introduction and outpouring of love often leads the investigator to want to know more about our church and why people act the way they do.

We also had the opportunity to have dinner with the Branch President and his family. We had a really good visit with them, and we shared what we have been learning as a mission. President Welch has been teaching us that if we want to see progression in ourselves and in our lives, we should choose an attribute of Christ that we feel is lacking in our life. After choosing that attribute, we are then to study, pray about it, and act upon the things we learned. I know that this is truly inspired counsel, and if we want to see progress in our lives, who could be a better example than the Savior and Redeemer of the world. My testimony of Jesus Christ has been strengthened so much through teaching his gospel, and I am so grateful for the opportunity I have been given to serve my Heavenly Father. I hope all of you will join in this activity of striving to become more Christlike through prayer, study, and action. I know it will change your life, and you will feel the light of Christ radiate through all at you do.

Winegar長老より (Elder Winegar)

10/26/2015 "Greatest rewards come from our greatest trials."

Hey everyone,

I'm going to have to be quick today, I didn't leave myself much time to email. I just want to share a few things that have happened this week that were great experiences for me. The first was zone conference, which is held about every four months. Welch kaicho and Welch shimai come with the Assistants to the President and they give us a little bit of missionary training. My district had to begin traveling the day before the conference because we are kind of far away from Matsuyama where it was held. It wasn't like a formal training, though, we basically just discussed the section of scriptures we had been assigned to read, and what we had learned from them. It was an eye-opening experience for me, because it showed me that I don't have to go anywhere special to receive missionary training. I can pick up my scriptures anywhere and learn by the examples of the prophets that have come before us.

We were assigned to read from Alma 5 to Alma 40 before the conference, and during the conference we each shared a scripture that stood out to us the most. I shared Alma 26:27. I'll let you all look it up on your own, but the scripture is about Ammon and his brothers as they go out to teach the Lamanites. Their hearts were depressed because so many people were unwilling to hear their message, but they were told by the Lord that if they will have patience in their afflictions, they will find success. This scripture has brought me great joy, and I have learned that it is true. If we give up in hard times, we gain nothing. If we continue through our trials with a positive attitude, God blesses us with success. As missionaries, we usually don't find success behind the first door we knock. It seems to come after a long day of hard work, and we feel the need to try one more door or talk to one more person. As we follow that prompting, we often find someone that God has prepared for us to teach. It is amazing to submit our wills to Him and follow where He leads us.

One of those occasions was last night. We had tried to visit a few people we had scheduled appointments with, but no one was home. On our final house, we knocked on their door only to see them turn the light off inside, signaling that they weren't in the mood to talk. It was really disheartening, but we tried to keep a positive attitude about it. On our way out of the building, we stopped to say hi to an older lady who was outside her apartment, and before we knew it we were sitting down next to her listening to her entire life story. After about an hour and a half of talking (mostly by her), we said our goodbyes and were about to leave. I wanted to give her a Book of Mormon, so I showed her the book and tried to introduce it to her in my broken Japanese. Most of the time, we get rejected or refused right as they first see the Book of Mormon. People come up with some excuse about how they couldn't take our book, it looks too expensive, they are buddhist, etc. She simply asked if it was really alright if she took it, then gladly accepted it. We made an appointment to meet again next Sunday, and then she called again today to see if we could meet tomorrow for lunch too. I hope she is open to receiving our message, but it was awesome just to see how God opens doors for us if we are willing to walk through them. We never would have met her if we had given up after so many failures, and we would be in the same situation we had been in before. Just like in the scriptures, our reward or our success doesn't come until after a trial of our faith. I know that God will always help us, but we have to be willing to do our part too. Always remember that from our greatest rewards come from our greatest trials.

Winegar長老より (Elder Winegar)

Waiting at the bus stop.  Elders are wearing matching ties.
District all "pink" for Zone Conference.  This district is definitely united!

Zone Conference in Matsuyama.  Mission President Welch and Sister Welch, front row, third couple from left.

Friday, October 23, 2015


This week has been filled with fun experiences, and punctuated by one amazing miracle. I want to save the best for last, so I'll start with the fun stuff. We had two opportunities to kokan (go on missionary exchanges), first with our zone leaders and then with the other elders in our apartment. Our zone leaders are amazing, I wouldn't hesitate to say they are the best zone leaders in the mission. Their names are Dos Santos chourou and Ahmu chourou. Dos Santos chourou is Brazilian, speaks like 6 or 7 languages fluently, and is the iPad technician over the entire mission. Ahmu chourou is one of the most lovable missionaries ever, he just has an awesome personality that everyone talks about. He served in Kouchi almost 5 months ago, and the members still talk about him. I got to kokan with Ahmu chourou, and we basically got to spend the day visiting with members and old investigators that wanted to see Ahmu chourou again. I had a lot of fun, and I also learned a lot about loving the people we serve.

Later in the week, we went on a kokan with the elders in our apartment, and I was with our district leader this time, Bahr chourou. Among other things, we visited a huge apartment complex that was way sketchy. It was a huge white, sprawling building that looked like every once in a while a new layer had haphazardly been added on. None of the layers were straight, or even in line with one another. There were ramps that led from layer to layer, and some that led into a deep basement garage that looked like it was used more for serial killers' hideouts than cars (it only looked like it though, obviously there weren't any serial killers there). There were strange dark alleys between rooms, and junk everywhere. I think you get the picture, but it basically looked like something straight out of a horror movie. I was wondering why there would be anyone here that would want to hear our message, but by the end of the night we had found 3 awesome people that wanted to hear more about what we had to say. There was a mom and her son who live alone,'and the mom has her own stain-glass window "company". The "company" consists only of her, and takes up a small table in their small one-room living space. It was obvious that she loves her son very much, and works hard to support the two of them. We had a good talk with them, and got a return appointment. The next man we visited was a devout Christian, but was way open to us. We both pulled out our scriptures, he with the bible and us the Book of Mormon, and we spent some time talking about God and our favorite scriptures. We ended up giving him a Book of Mormon at the end, and from his response, I actually think he is going to read the entire thing. If he allows it into his heart, I know it will change his life- the Book of Mormon is absolutely amazing, and I've heard countless stories of conversion through it. The last guy was just a quick contact. He said he was busy right then but asked us to come back tomorrow at the same time. These three people were testaments to me that God is preparing His children everywhere- there are no requirements of money, fame, or any other worldly standard. He desires to share His love with each one of us not because of what we have, but because of what we are. We are His children, and He would do anything to help us.

Besides the kokan, we also got to do something special for P-day today. We woke up at 3:30 this morning to bike/hike up a mountain to have a great view of Kouchi and the rising sun. It was way early, but well worth it. Our dendou shunnin kaicho (ward missionary leader) even woke up to come with us. It was great to spend some time with everyone as we enjoyed the amazing scene of God's creations. I don't know how people can look at the beauty of the world around them and say that no one is responsible for creating it. After hiking back down the mountain and doing a few chores (shopping, cleaning, etc) we all crashed for a few hours for a nap. (Actually, the other three elders are still asleep right now)

Now comes the best part of the week. On Tuesday night we taught Yan san again. This was only our second lesson with him, but we could feel his desire to learn of God and Jesus Christ, and to follow him. We decided to ask if he would follow the example of Jesus Christ and be baptized, and he immediately agreed! We still have a lot to teach him before he can get baptized, but his faith is a great example to me. I am so excited to see the joy that this gospel will bring to his life. I also know that he was another person that was prepared to hear our message long before we met him. We didn't do anything to instill in him the desire to follow Jesus Christ, nor can we. We can only follow the power of God's spirit and open opportunities for people to feel that spirit as well. I have come to know that this is absolutely not the work of men, but the work of our Heavenly Father. I am so thankful to be an instrument in His hand, and to serve these amazing people of Japan.


Our morning hike to see the sunrise

Kouchi is actually a dangerous place - this week alone I got chased by a dragon and almost eaten by a shark

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Lord works in mysterious ways - 10/12/2015

Minasan konnichiwa,

First of all, I have to apologize to everyone I haven't been able to email. These last few weeks have been crazy, and it seems like there is always something that needs to get done. I will try to keep this email short so that I can have more time to catch up on my other emails.

This has been a great week for missionary work (obviously every week is good for missionary work, right?). We have done a lot of contacting on the street and through housing, with very mixed results. There are the people that immediately refuse our message, those that politely decline, and then there are those who are genuinely interested, and want to learn more. My heart almost jumps out of my chest every time we find one of these people, or when we get a return appointment. In just a few short weeks, we have taken a newly opened mission and filled it with a few solid investigators. We are always striving to find more, but we are feeling like we have a good base to work with now.

One of our new investigators is Yan San. I can't remember if I already talked about him, but I'll tell his story again anyways because it's amazing. We were handing out fliers for english class one day when a man pulled up in front of us on his bike. Without any invitation from us, he asked us if we had a church and if he could come. We told him that he could definitely come! He didn't show up the next week, and we were disappointed that he actually might not come. But then he came to General Conference this past Sunday. We met with him afterwards, and he said that he loved the atmosphere at the church, how everyone seemed like a family. He also told us why he had wanted to come to church. He had some Protestant friends that he was talking to, and they brought up the idea that he should start going to church. He didn't think much about it, but the next day he saw us and was excited to talk to us. Who would have thought that our first referral would come through a group of protestant friends? The Lord truly works in mysterious ways!

Speaking of General Conference, this last conference was truly amazing. I received so much counsel and so many answers to my questions. I know that all of the men and women that spoke are truly called and inspired by God. This is definitely the most I have ever gotten out of a General Conference, as my preparation and focus have been somewhat lacking in the past. I think staying awake through the whole thing might also help, too! All kidding aside, i am realizing now how amazing our opportunity is to hear from God's servants and receive their advice and warnings. I also feel like it is becoming more and more important to heed their words as the standards/morals of the world continue to digress. I know that I need to return to the fundamentals of the gospel. Through prayer, scripture study, and church attendance my life has improved so much, and can improve even more. These things give me the strength to keep going when I feel like giving up, give me direction for my life, and provide opportunities to grow and attempt things I never would have done on my own. I can see them change my life, and I have the added blessing of seeing them change the lives of those I am teaching right now.

It is so hard to be away from my family and friends, people that I have grown to know and love, but it has changed my perspective on what is important in life. I testify almost every day to people how families can live together forever, and I know that I want that for my family. I miss seeing my family after only 3 months, and I know that I will see them again in two years. I can't imagine not being able to live with them for all eternity. That is the joy of our message, that we can all live with our families together forever, and we can all be saved through Jesus Christ and His infinite Atonement.

That's all for my (not so) short email. As always, I love and miss you all!

-Elder Winegar

Monday, October 5, 2015

Veteran missionary! - 10/5/2015

Hello everyone!

     Now that I've been in Japan for almost two weeks now, I'm starting to feel like a veteran! (Just kidding, I still don't know anything). One of the elders in my apartment is going home in December, and we figured out that if we put both our missions together, we would make a whole mission. It really put my mission into perspective, both how much I have left, and how short it really is. All I can do is just try to enjoy it as much as I can.
     I did a lot of that today, and I got to try so many new things. My companion and one of the other elders in our apartment wanted to take a nap today, so Bahr choro took me out to see more of Kochi city. We went to the shotengai first (kind of like an outdoor shopping mall), and had Indo curry. It was way good, I'll attach a picture of it. They give us a bowl of curry and start us out with a huge piece of bread/scone-type thing to dip in the curry. The best part is that the bread was all-you-can-eat, and Bahr choro and I both ate five pieces.
     Then we went to Kochi castle, which was even cooler. Japanese castles are amazing, Bahr choro explained a lot about how they would defend their castles in ancient times, and it sounded way effective. I know I would never have tried to attack one of those castles.
     While seeing the castle was really cool, it couldn't even begin to compare to the people we have been able to help and teach. We are making a big effort to strengthen the members of the church, and even though it's only been a week and a half, I already feel like they are growing in their faith. With six missionaries in one area, it feels like Kochi is being prepared for something big. There are so many people that we have found that have never learned about our church, but have been prepared by God to hear our message. A lot of young people seem to be especially receptive of the spirit. Our most solid investigator is still Okada San, the 15 year old boy that is an absolute genius. He talks about really complex ideas he has had during our lessons, and he already seems to have figured out a lot of the stuff we teach him.
     We are also trying to help a lot of less-active members. We haven't started our efforts yet, but I'm excited to help them return to the covenants they have made to follow God and Jesus Christ. Our teaching pool is still small, but growing every day. One of the most amazing things I saw this week came as we were out housing. We hadn't planned to go housing, but on our way to visit a less-active member, my companion felt we should go knock on some other doors. He made me do the contacting for every other door we went to, and I was pretty nervous. I could barely say more than a few simple phrases about who we were and that we wanted to share a message, but we found a lot of success. In about an hour we had found seven new potential investigators to teach. It was an amazing experience, and it helped my confidence a lot. I learned that it doesn't matter whether we can speak well, as long as we try our best the spirit will do all the important work.
     There were so many other awesome experiences I had this week, but I don't have time to write them all. I am having an awesome time in Japan, it's changing me so much and I am learning lots about myself, this gospel, and my Father in Heaven. I love my mission and this area, and I am so lucky to be here. Thank you everyone for your love, emails, and prayers!

-Elder Winegar

Kochi castle

statues of samurai next to train station

Indo curry

Monday, September 28, 2015

First Week in Japan - 9/27/2015

Minasan konnichiwa,

After a seemingly endless flight, I finally made it to Japan! We were on three different planes for a total of over 15 hours. The second flight was the worst, because we were on the plane for about 12 hours. Then, when we got to Korea, we learned that our flight had arrived late because we were flying against a headwind. We had about 5-10 minutes to get through customs and board our next plane before it left. Looking back, it probably was pretty funny to watch 15 gaijin sprinting through the airport with all our luggage. We never would have made it normally, but Heavenly Father looks out for His servants. When we got to customs, we were bumped to the front of the line, and we all made it through quickly.

When we finally made it to Japan, we were met by the Assistants to the President, Elder Barr and Elder Takahashi. They were both amazing, and they even brought us dinner for the bus ride to the mission home. We didn't get to the mission home until well after 12:00 in the morning, so we were all way tired. We immediately crashed on any space we could find and we were out until morning.

In the morning, we decided to go for a run, which turned out to be a bad idea, at least for me. I was feeling really sick that morning (not exactly sure why, but I blame the Korean plane food I ate- it was terrible!), and I had to stop about halfway through the run. Wood choro stayed with me, and of course, we lost the group. We weren't sure where to go, so we just chose a street and kept walking. We had barely walked for a minute or so before we ran into a nihonjin. He greeted us in English, which was surprising. He then told us he was a member of the church. We had seen maybe ten people that morning, and one of them just happened to be a member. We asked him where the church was, and he gave us some general directions. We took off thinking we would be able to find it, but we quickly got lost again. After a while, we decided to stop and pray to our Heavenly Father for help. During the prayer, I kept having the same thought- go back down the street we had just come from. I told Wood choro, and we started back. We had only gone one street away when Barr choro and another Elder came riding by on bikes. Our prayer was answered so quickly, it was absolutely incredible!

We spent the next few days training in the mission home, which was actually pretty fun. We even had Costco pizza one day! On Thursday, we found out who our new companions would be, and what area we would be in. My companion is Madruga choro, he is from Brazil and he is an awesome missionary. He has been out for about a year, and I am learning so much from him. My area is Matsuyama, and the Kochi mission. It's crazy, because we are starting a new mission there, so we have absolutely no contacts to start with. It is also the biggest area in the Kobe mission, so I'll be getting a lot of exercise riding my bike. We probably won't even work much outside of Kochi city. The other thing is that Kochi is way far away from the mission home.

We traveled the last half of Friday to get there, and we didn't even make it halfway. We had to stop at another area and stay the night in the missionaries' apartment. In the morning we started traveling again, and we finally got to Kochi around 1 o'clock. The other missionaries in our area, Bahr choro and Matsumoto choro were there to pick us up. They are both really fun, and great missionaries, too. Bahr choro is our district leader, and he is from Arizona. Matsumoto choro is from a place near Tokyo. We all stay in a small apartment, which is pretty tight, but still fun.

The first thing we tried to do was to get a bike for me. I didn't realize how hard it was going to be. We went to the bike store, and we spent almost 3 hours there. The basic problem was that there weren't any bikes big enough for me. The mountain bikes were almost big enough, but the frames were shorter, so I would hit my knees on the handlebars when I turned. The road bikes were long enough, but they weren't high enough. They couldn't order any longer mountain bikes, but they could get bigger road bikes. Then they told us that it would take over a month to get here. So basically, nothing was working. Here is where the story gets good, though. Madruga choro was looking through a catalog for a bigger bike, and he found one that seemed like it would be big enough. He asked the manager if we could get that bike, and the manager seemed confused. He said he had never seen that bike before, but he would try to call his supplier to see if they had it. It turns out that they did, and that they would be able to get it here in about a week! I have seen the Lord's hand in my life so much this past week, and this was definitely one of those times. It reminded me of the scripture 1 Nephi 3:7. We were trying to do the Lord's work, and He provided a way for us to accomplish it more efficiently, just like He did for Nephi.

On Sunday, I had to bear my testimony and introduce myself in Sacrament meeting. I think I did it without embarrassing myself too much, and it was great to meet the members, even if I didn't understand much of what they said. They were all so amazing, and so friendly, too.

Later in the day, we went out teaching. We met a group of kids in the street playing a game sort of like tag. We played with them for a while, then Madruga choro told me he wanted to invite them to eikaiwa (English class). I said we should take them to the church and give them a tour right then, and he agreed. We invited them to come, but they were really hesitant. We promised them some treats we had in the fridge if they came, which worked perfectly (of course- it was a bunch of teenage boys). They seemed afraid to come into the church, but they eventually came in. We gave them a tour and their promised treats, and invited them to eikaiwa and church. I hope they all come- that would be so amazing.

That pretty much brings me up to now, sorry for the long email. A lot has happened, way more than I can possibly write. We are working really hard to find people to teach, and I am always super tired when we get home. It has been an amazing experience so far, though, and I am loving every second of it. I hope everyone is doing well!

-Elder Winegar

me, Madruga (top left), Bahr (bottom right), and Matsumoto (top right)

First day at the mission home with our whole group

our last district picture with our teachers

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Final days in the MTC - 9/17/2015

Konnichiwa Minasan!
    I can't believe the time has already come, I'm off to Japan in less than four days! We got our flight plans on Friday last week, and I thought they had made a big mistake. My groups' flight plan says that we are flying from Salt Lake to Seattle, then from Seattle to... SEOUL, KOREA?!? They sent me to the wrong country! But then we go from Korea to the Osaka airport. I'm not sure why we have to fly over Japan into Korea and then back, but it sure is cool to say that I've been to Korea. I just hope we don't get lost over there, I know even less Korean than I know Japanese. We leave the MTC on Monday at 5:30 in the morning, and we will get to Japan at about 8:30 at night. It's going to be a long flight.
     So much has happened this week in preparation to leave, and we've been pretty busy trying to learn as much Japanese as possible, pack, and say goodbye to all the amazing friends we've made here. We still find time to have some fun, though. Yesterday morning, our branch president came to play basketball with us. I figured he would probably surprise us, but he has to be in his late 50's or early 60's, so we weren't sure what to expect. He absolutely destroyed us! He was so good, and he wasn't afraid to play a little rough. One of our elders hurt his finger when he was trying to catch a pass from President Daniels, and when he went to the doctor to find out how bad it was, he learned it was fractured. I feel so bad for him, especially since we are leaving so soon, but he is being a great sport about it. And how many people can say their branch president broke their finger?
     Also, this week I got to help give a Priesthood blessing to one of the members in my district. He has had some health issues in the past, and was worried that they were starting to resurface. He wanted to receive the blessing so that he would have health in Japan. His companion gave the blessing, and I felt the Spirit so strong while he spoke. After the blessing, the elder that was receiving the blessing said that so many things he had worried about were answered by the blessing. I am so grateful for the power of the Priesthood, and the miracles that it can perform. 
     It feels so weird to be leaving already. Everyone here shares the same feelings; we are excited to go to Japan, but sad to leave such a great place. The days feel long, but the weeks feel short. I have learned so much here, not just about the language, but about the gospel and about myself. I wish all of you could have the same experiences I'm having now. Missionaries always feel sorry for us when they hear we will be in the MTC for 9 weeks, but we are the lucky ones. Wish me luck, I'm definitely going to need it!
-Elder Winegar

Sunday, September 13, 2015

11 days until departure! - 9/10/2015

Minasan konnichiwa! 
     The countdown has officially begun, I'm now less than two weeks away from leaving to Japan! I'm so excited, I can't wait to experience the culture of Japan and meet the amazing people there. If I've learned anything over these past weeks in the MTC, it's that I don't know how to speak Japanese. If I'm going to have any chance of being an effective missionary, I'll definitely have to rely on the Spirit of our Heavenly Father to guide me.  
     I have felt His guidance throughout my time at the MTC, and especially in this past week. Our devotional speaker talked about how we can become bold missionaries, saying that to become bold, we must first humble ourselves before God. He also talked about how everyone has feelings of inadequacy, and shared a scripture to help us overcome these feelings. In 1 Corinthians chapter 2, one of the greatest missionaries ever talked about how he felt like he wasn't able to speak effectively enough to share the Gospel. During this chapter and verse 27 of the previous chapter, he says that through the Lord, he can be made strong in all things. I know this doesn't just apply to missionary work, any time we have trials and struggles in our lives we can turn to the Lord and He will strengthen us. He answers our prayers if we pray with a sincere desire and exercise faith in Him. During our testimony meeting after the devotional, one of my district members said something I really liked. He said that he learned from the devotional that we must "Be strong enough to stand, diligent enough to kneel in prayer, humble enough to ask." These words were so true to me. We can't succeed in this life without God's help and guidance, and we must submit ourselves to His will in order to receive it. 
    Well, I'm running out of time, so I have to wrap up. I hope everyone is doing well at home, I'm having an awesome time here, and it's only about to get better! I'll make sure to bring everyone something home from Japan, you'll just have to wait a couple of years for it!
Elder Winegar

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

7 Weeks Already! 9/3/2015

Konnichiwa Minasan,
I can't believe I'm leaving for Japan in less than 20 days! Time has flown since I've been here, but I am so excited to go to Japan. I'm still studying hard, and trying to learn as much Japanese as possible, but I'm sure I will be confused a lot when I finally get to Japan.
This Sunday we had a bit of a sad moment when we received news that one of the companionships in our district was going to be split up and switched with a companionship in another district that was having some struggles. We had never heard of anything like this happening before, and we were devastated that we were going to lose one of our brothers. We knew that it was for the best, though, and we were all prepared to do whatever it took to help the struggling elders. Just as the switch was about to happen the next day, we received word that the companionship had worked out their differences, and got permission from the Branch President to stay together. We were so excited to learn that our district wouldn't be split up after all. I learned that God may sometimes ask us to make sacrifices, but if we show our willingness to embrace a challenge, that may be all that is necessary.
At our devotional two days ago, we got to hear from another apostle! Elder Dallin H. Oaks came to speak to us, and it was one of the most amazing talks ever. He shared a lot about how we can improve ourselves as missionaries, but he also talked about what we can do to always feel the Holy Ghost in our lives. He stressed how important the Holy Ghost was; how it guides us, teaches, comforts, and especially verifies the truth of God's word. He said that by focusing on the sacrament and Jesus Christ's atonement, we can always have the spirit to be with us. To receive this blessing, we just need to follow the guidance found in the sacrament prayer. First, we must always remember Jesus Christ. This gospel is not meant to be lived only on Sundays and then hidden away for the rest of the week. We are supposed to emulate Christ in all things, letting our light shine forth to the whole world. This is the next part of the prayer, taking Jesus Christ's name upon us. Finally, we have to keep all of God's commandments. We are not told to pick and choose a few of our favorites to follow, exact obedience is required. If we do all these things, God promises that we can have His Spirit to be with us always. I know that this is a blessing I want in my life, both during and after my mission. Elder Oaks' talk was so inspiring, and it made me want to improve my efforts in following these counselings.
Those were definitely the two most eventful moments of my week, but there were so many other awesome experiences throughout the week as well. We got to skype with church members in Japan for the first time yesterday, and we had a "doctrinal deep dive" with our Branch President. I was amazed by how much we learned from the scriptures, and in such a short period of time. I'm definitely going to have to step up my scripture study if I'm going to get to that point. Finally, Kyle Collinsworth came to the MTC again. This time he just ate dinner and hung out with us, which was awesome. I told him that he should come play basketball with us one morning during our gym time, but I'm not sure if he's going to follow through. Of course, he's probably afraid we'd show him up, or something like that. As always, I miss you all so much.
Elder Winegar

Thursday, August 27, 2015


Vui Choro [Elder Vui] is from Samoa, and his mom sent us all lava lavas, so of course we had to take a picture in them.

Class makes us all pretty tired sometimes. There's just nothing we can do about it.

Minasan Konnichiwa,
     It's crazy to think about it, but I'm now over halfway done with my time at the MTC. It feels like I just got here yesterday, but I've also learned so much from my time here. I am starting to feel more confident during our teaching appointments (not prideful, I don't want to be struck down:), and I am beginning to be able to express how I feel about this gospel and how it can bless our investigator's lives. I still have a long way to go, but it's coming along. 
     This Sunday, we were able to hear from Stephen B. Allen again. He spoke our first week in the MTC as well, and I enjoyed this talk as much as the first. One story he shared was about a young boy that was taking a road trip with two of his friends. He was driving on a long, straight stretch of highway and everyone was getting tired. His friends were asleep, and his eyes were starting to close, so he tried to find ways to stay awake. He realized that since the road was so straight, if he looked in the rearview mirror and watched the line on the road behind him, he could continue to drive the car this way (great idea, right? What could possibly go wrong?). Out of nowhere, a semi-truck roared in front of him, scaring him out of his wits. No accident occurred, but if it had, it would have been deadly. Elder Allen compared this story to our lives- if we keep focusing on past mistakes and challenges, we are bound to end up in even more trouble.
    On a lighter note, we challenged one of the other districts to a volleyball game, and it caused some interesting problems. We won, of course, but that wasn't even the best part. One of the people in the other districts is from Eagle, her name is Lauren Riggs. She was in my seminary class one year, and she is also friends with Brennan. At one point, she and my companion were both going for the ball, and they collided through the net. Both got up and were fine, with no apparent injuries. But when we saw them later that day, Riggs Shimai had a HUGE black eye (yes, I'll attach a picture). It was so funny, everyone was teasing Messick Choro about it, but he and Riggs Shimai took it pretty well.
     That's all I have for this week. Mom or dad, if you want to make sure Brennan hears about the last story, that would be great. I'm sure she'll get a kick out of it.
Love you all,
-Elder Winegar

Halfway point! 8/20/2015

Minasan Konnichiwa!
     I can't believe I've already been in the MTC for over a month! Time flies here, I feel like I just got in a couple weeks ago. It helps that they always keep us so busy. I gave my first talk in Sacrament meeting on Sunday, which was pretty tough. Our talks are supposed to be 3 minutes in length, with a scripture, a couple sentences from Preach My Gospel, and a testimony ALL IN JAPANESE. Oh, and we aren't told who is speaking until the meeting starts. It was actually a great experience for me though, because I could feel Heavenly Father strengthening me so that I would have the courage to say what I know to be true. My companion and I also got to teach Priesthood meeting (luckily, that one is in English). Later that night, we had a special devotional. The Nashville Tribute Band (if you haven't heard of them, you should look them up- they are amazing!) gave a short concert, and all of us in the choir got to sing a couple songs with them. There were over a thousand missionaries in the choir that day. They brought such a special spirit through their music, and they truly knew that Christ was their savior and redeemer, and that God is our loving Heavenly Father.
     Our Tuesday devotional was pretty great too. Elder Echo Hawk spoke about what we need to do to become better missionaries. He said that we need to decide right now that we will never be afraid to open our mouths to share the gospel, and to act in a way that would be pleasing to our Heavenly Father. This is something that I have been trying to work on, to put my trust completely in the Lord and let Him guide my words and actions. 
     Other than that, things are still relatively the same. We are still teaching lessons almost every day in Japanese, which is really tough for me. I've gotten so much better at answering questions posed by the people being taught, though. I still have a long way to go, but there are so many people willing to help me out. I found out that we get to skype with native Nihonjin in a couple weeks to teach them a lesson- I'm sure that will be a fun experience. 
     Thanks again for all your letters- it's really great to know how everyone's doing and that home is still home. 
-Elder Winegar

Thursday, August 13, 2015


Minasan Konnichiwa! (Hello everyone),
Hope you are all doing well, I don't have too much to report on this week. We are studying hard all the time. We are trying so hard to learn both the language of Japanese and of the spirit, and even though some days are harder than others, I believe we are are always making progress. It's still really difficult for me to communicate effectively with our Japanese investigators, but when I rely on Heavenly Father for help, He has made it possible for me to understand what the investigators are saying and feeling. I guess that's all part of the gift of tongues.
Anyways, our devotional speaker this week was Elder C. Scott Grow. Yes, we all had a laugh about the name too, but he was an incredible speaker. He talked about serving the Lord with all our heart, might, mind, and strength. I especially liked how he compared the story of Nephi to missionary work. When Nephi was commanded to get the brass plates from Laban, he was willing to do whatever it took. He wasn't discouraged after his first two failures to obtain the plates, and he continued to rely on the Lord for strength. I am striving every day to have as much faith as Nephi had, and I know that if I can do this, miracles truly can happen.
One thing that I've thought a lot about since I've been here is that I wish I would have been more willing to share the gospel before my mission. I know that I'm going to love the people in Japan, but there is a part of me that wishes I was able to serve both in Japan and back home. While we were at choir practice this week, our director told us that we should be sharing the gospel with enthusiasm, not with apology. He used a great analogy to describe his point. He said if we were going around handing out gold bricks, we wouldn't be saying 'I have some gold bricks here if you want some, but I understand why you wouldn't want any'. I know that the gospel is worth more than all the gold in the world, so why should I be afraid to share it? I hope you all can feel the same way, and you won't be afraid to teach others about this amazing gospel that can bless their lives so much. It gives us purpose in life, helps us to be constantly improving ourselves, and we can always turn to our Heavenly Father for strength and guidance.
That's all I have to say right now, I miss you all and hope you are having fun out in the real world. I can't wait to get to Japan, but I guess I still have a few weeks to go.
Elder Winegar

Week 2 at the MTC (8/6/2015)

Elder Winegar and companion Elder Messick - MTC

Hey everyone,
Just writing to let you know that my week was better than yours. Last week I told you how Kyle Collinsworth's dad was in our branch presidency, and that I was hoping Kyle would come and give a devotional sometime before we left the MTC. It came a lot sooner than I expected, he showed up late Thursday night for a surprise devotional. We were told by our senpai (older missionaries in our district) during dinner to go right away to the devotional, and not to tell anyone. We rushed over as fast as we could, and heard most of his devotional.
One of the things he said that really struck me was that here in the mission field, God is the coach of this team. Unlike mortal coaches (yes, even Greg Popovich), whatever play He calls will work every time, no matter what. We must put our faith in Him, and be willing to act on whatever promptings He gives us. Afterwards, I got to talk to him a little, and I even got a picture with him (again, I will send pictures once I have an SD card reader).
While it was awesome to hear from Kyle, he wasn't even the best speaker we heard that week. For our Sunday night devotional, we were able to hear from Sheri Dew (I'm guessing mom will be the only person to know who she is, but she is the owner of Deseret Book). She was an amazing speaker. My favorite part of her talk was when she challenged us to gain a greater understanding of Jesus Christ as our Savior and redeemer. She asked "Are you willing to engage in a spiritual wrestling" to know if these things are true? If we truly have a desire to know more about this gospel, and we express this desire to Heavenly Father, He will bless us with answers.
Again, Sheri Dew was an awesome speaker, but still not the best. On Tuesday night, we were told to get to the devotional early and to find a good seat. We weren't told who would be speaking, but we were given certain instructions if it just "happened" to be an apostle. When the meeting was about to start, President Russel M. Nelson walked into the room! He gave an amazing talk about how we all need to become living epistles of God, shining bright for everyone to see how the gospel has blessed our lives. He told us that to have a true witness of the gospel, we must have the doctrine of Christ written in our hearts. Just from hearing him speak, I knew that he is a true apostle of God, and that he spoke with the spirit.
Other than that, my week has been pretty uneventful. I feel like I'm adjusting to life in the MTC, and I'm so grateful to be able to feel the spirit so frequently throughout my time here. I love to read all of your e-mails, keep them coming. Hope everyone is doing well!
-Elder Winegar

Thursday, August 6, 2015

First P-Day (7-30-2015)

Hey Everyone,
I'm so glad to finally get a chance to talk to you! It's also great to have a day to slow down and relax a little bit. It feels like it's been nonstop since I got onto the plane. First of all I have to say that I love flying! I'm looking forward to going to Japan.
The first day, most of our classes were in English, but I was so tired from the long night of packing that I was falling asleep all day. The next day, classes were almost entirely in Japanese, which was (understandably) difficult for all of us. One of our leaders shared this saying with us that day: Those called to preach in their own language come back and become scriptorians, those that speak a language easier than their own come back and become linguists, and those called to preach the gospel in Japan come back humble. I can definitely testify to that! Not only am I unable to understand much, I can't even read the language. I have definitely felt the gift of tongues, though, and I have learned so much already.
I have been blessed with an amazing companion (Elder Messick), and a great district. I would send pictures, but I don't have an SD card reader. We have already grown so close, and I can always feel the spirit during testimony meetings and classes. We have an awesome teacher too. His name is Kosaka Kyodai (Brother Kosaka), and he is a native Japanese speaker, so I'm hoping our Japanese will sound pretty good. We have already been teaching a Japanese "investigator", which has been really hard. I don't understand much of what is said, but my comp took 4 years of Japanese, so he is able to help me out.
I have no complaints about the food, they never run out and they have lots of options. I am still getting used to the tight schedule though, there is always something to do and somewhere to be. I do enjoy being forced to go to bed by10:30 though- much better than late nights studying. Our branch presidency is amazing too- here's some exciting news- Kyle Collinsworth's dad is in the presidency (For the uncultured among you, Kyle is on the BYU basketball team and is tied for the NCAA most triple-doubles in a single season and career). I'm hoping he'll be able to come give a devotional to our zone sometime. I haven't gotten to play basketball as much as I would like, but I did get to play with Aaron Piscione (in Wyatt's ward), which was really cool. Wyatt is on a different schedule than me, so I haven't seen him much. He is already leaving next Tuesday, which seems so weird to me.
Anyways, I'm having a great experience here, and they are keeping us all really busy. It's been great to hear about everything that's been going on at home. Wish you all luck, and tell everyone I love them and miss them. Please forward this on to anyone who wants it.
Elder Winegar

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

7/15/15 - One Week to MTC!

Colton Winegar has been called to serve the people of Japan in the Kobe mission of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

He will report to the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah on Wednesday, July 22, where he will stay for eight weeks before going to Kobe.

Details of how to contact him (letters and e-mail) will be posted as soon as they are available. Updates from his mission, including pictures and excerpts of his e-mails, will be posted on this blog. If you want to join us in following Colton's adventures, you can either subscribe on this page to get email notifications from FeedBurner whenever we update, or send an e-mail to calledtoservekobe@gmail.com to be added to the blog's mailing list.

We are very excited and proud of Colton!