"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.