"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

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