"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 21, 2016

12/19/2016 Caroling in Japan

Hello everyone, and a Merry (early) Christmas to all!

I hope you are all doing well, enjoying the Christmas spirit, and eating lots of desserts and treats for me! We may not have egg nog and cookies and cakes like we do back home, but this time of year is absolutely the best time to be a missionary and share the light of Christ. Lately we have been bringing caroling to the people of Japan, and it has led to some memorable experiences. Japanese people still haven't adopted caroling as a Christmas tradition, and some don't even know that is a thing at all, but we got a few members together and went knocking door to door asking people if they would like to listen to us sing a Christmas song. We tried everything we could think of, from introducing ourselves in different ways, to asking them what they like about Christmas or if they have a favorite Christmas song, and even tried singing immediately as someone opened the door to us. One lady opened the door and became so surprised as we immediately burst into song that she quickly backed away, pulling the door shut behind her. We had a good laugh about that, and as we continued to try to find someone that would listen to us, we met an old man that came out of his front door to talk to us. He told us at first that he was too old to listen to our song (a response that seems to work for getting out of everything here), but at the insistence of a member, we started singing to him. As we finished our simple song, his demeanor was completely changed, and he told us how good we were (he really must have been too old, and his ears weren't the best). It was a small testimony to me that the light of Christ changes people even in small and simple ways.

That definitely wasn't the only change in people we have been seeing this week, and we are continuing to be blessed by God. We met with Marcos Kyodai and his wife Sachie again this week, and it has been astonishing how different our lessons have become. At first, Sachie had no interest in hearing what we had to say, but through the Spirit her interest level has completely changed and she is now willingly participating in our visits each time we go over. We planned to talk about the restoration of the gospel this past lesson, but we were surprised to find out that it was Marcos kyodai's birthday, and that a few friends were over. We ended up having a lesson with Marcos kyodai, Sachie, and a friend, and we talked about feeling the Holy Ghost through reading the Book of Mormon. They all had great questions and input, and all agreed to continue reading the Book of Mormon.

We also have another investigator, Wada san, that took us out today to visit a real ninja house! There were tons of trapdoors, tricks, and secret entrances. It was just like something out of my imagination, and it was way cool. The best part, though, was definitely on the ride home as we were able to talk about all the things he is learning from his study of the Book of Mormon. We ended up talking about the Plan of Salvation, and he felt so much comfort as we told him that we can see our family again in heaven, and that death is not the end of God's plan for us. Wada san still has some doubts about one religion being true, but I know that he is feeling the Spirit and enjoying the change it is making in his life.

These and other experiences of seeing everyone's faith grow, helps to remind me of my testimony of the Book of Mormon. I know that we can draw closer to God through this book than through any other book written on this Earth today. It has helped me to learn of my Savior Jesus Christ, and my Father in Heaven. I am so thankful for the peace that comes from knowing that my family can be together forever, and I know that it is all because of the grace and love of Jesus Christ. He atoned for all our sins and made it possible for us to overcome the obstacles keeping us from returning to live with our Father in Heaven. I am becoming closer to my Savior with each passing day this Christmas season, and it gives me strength beyond my own, to face the challenges and work ahead of me each day. I know that He extends His help to each of us, and He looks for us to do the same for the people around us. I invite you all to follow the example of Christ in lifting the burden of someone around you in a small way, whether it is a family member, friend, or a stranger, doing something as simple as giving a smile, or something requiring more time like shoveling a driveway for someone who can't, and see how your happiness and light will begin to increase. The small and simple changes will astound you. Once again, merry Christmas, and to all a good night! (Or good morning, depending on what part of the world you are in and when you read this)

Ueno Castle
Fushimi inari
Elder Jones and Elder Wood from my MTC district!

12/12/2016 What is faith?

Minnasan Konnichiwa!

I feel so humbled every week when trying to decide what to write about, and what I can possibly say to help all of you awesome people, but I feel like I end up writing a few short paragraphs that never accurately describe what I am experiencing and feeling while in the service of my Heavenly Father. I hope that you all forgive my inability to put into writing all the things you probably want to hear, and I pray that you can find at least something to brighten your day, or remind you all of experiences you have had in the past as the Spirit brings all things to your remembrance (John 14:26). With that in mind, here is what happened this week!

This one started off with a real bang, because we had companion exchanges with the Omihachiman Elders starting Monday. My companion left for Omihachiman with Elder Salas, and I was to stay in Otsu with Elder Nevarez. It had been about an hour since we said goodbye to Elder Octaviano and Elder Salas when we got a phone call from Elder Salas saying he had lost my companion while biking to a lesson. We waited another five minutes or so and then got another call. Elder Octaviano had been found, but he had been involved in an accident with a car! The driver had opened the door of his parked car as Elder Octaviano rode by, and he was knocked off his bike as he swerved to avoid the door. We rushed over to meet them and went to the hospital together to make sure everything was all right. Only his hand was hurting, and it turned out not to be broken, so we were all incredibly relieved. I told him that he was never leaving our area again, because he couldn't even last one hour without causing mass-destruction all over Japan!

That was definitely the most exciting part of our week, but we were also able to visit with some members and their families, and we had some great meetings with other missionaries. We first had a meeting in Kobe with people from all over the mission, and then we had another meeting a few days later with all the missionaries from Kyoto zone.

In a visit with Marcos kyodai and his wife Sachie this week, we were able to talk about faith in Jesus Christ. As we asked them what faith was to them, they both answered that faith is trust. We continued to discuss and share experiences about faith, and my companion taught that faith and trust in Jesus Christ leads us to action. I was then able to testify about the actions I have seen taken to follow Jesus Christ in my life. I felt impressed to talk about my mother's example, how she tirelessly gathered us every morning before leaving for school to have family prayer. There were so many times when we didn't come willingly, and if she were me, she probably would have given up ling ago. But she had faith in Jesus Christ that daily prayer would strengthen her family, and so she patiently and diligently continued to bring us together. Thank you so much for your awesome example, mom, you are touching hearts in Japan more than I ever could! I felt the Spirit testify in my heart that this is why God gave us families, and that the power of a righteous mother can change the lives of everyone around them. Just as the two thousand stripling warriors in the Book of Mormon had been taught by their mothers, that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them" (Alma 56:47), I too know that God will deliver us from every trial and tribulation that befalls us if we continue to seek Him. It cannot be a passive plea for help, or a faithless (action-less) cry, but a show of our devotion to put God first in our lives. And when we do that, I know that heavenly powers will follow, raising our potential and blessing us in ways we cannot even begin to imagine. There truly is no better time to seek God than now, especially in this Christmas season. I invite you all actively search for Him this year, and feel His love in your heart through the Holy Spirit. Look for a friend with a heavy heart, or a stranger in need of comfort, and see what you can do to brighten their day. Through following the example of our Savior, Jesus Christ, we will come to know our Father on an even more personal level.

I love you all so much, and wish you a big Merry Christmas season!


12/5/2016 Miracles!

Hello everyone!
As usual, time is short, so let's jump straight to the miracles! The biggest miracle of this week definitely goes to my companion, Elder Octaviano. We visited a member (Marcos kyodai) this Sunday, along with his wife (Sachie), who is not a member. They are both from Brazil, and incredibly friendly people. Even though we didn't have an appointment, Marcos kyodai called us into his home the moment he opened the door and saw us. Sachie also greeted us warmly, but as usual, she quickly disappeared to take care of some things around the house. We somehow got her back at the time we wanted to share a message, though, and my companion shared a simple scripture and bore powerful testimony of the power that the gospel has had in helping his family come closer together. Before we knew it, he had almost the whole room in tears, including Sachie. The Spirit was so powerful, and no one could deny its presence. We invited them to do a family home evening together with us, and they jumped at the opportunity.

Another of my favorite miracles from this week came when we invited one of our investigators, Seiryuu kun, to be baptized. He is 8 years old, and reads the Book of Mormon every day. The only reason he wasn't baptized before was because his mom was worried that he didn't understand everything yet, but when we invited him this time, his mom was completely ok with it. We set a date for the 18th of December, and we are so excited for him! We are most excited to see how this will help their family to be strengthened, and feel the love of their Heavenly Father.
These, and other miracles from this week have really strengthened my testimony of eternal families. I see these people that we are teaching every day, and I know that this is why so many missionaries left their own families, in order to help others to come to know their Father in Heaven, and that there is so much more to life than just suffering through trials and sadness all the time. Just as Lehi teaches in the Book of Mormon, I know that the purpose of life is for us as God's children to find joy. In one of the talks from this past General Conference, President Nelson taught that in order to feel this joy in our lives "we can start by 'looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith'". I know that when I fail to focus on the Savior, I feel more tired, less motivation to carry on, and more vulnerable to temptation. On the other hand, when I make a concentrated effort to remember Jesus Christ in all I do, I feel empowered, and that I am not on my own. I know that the same power and joy can come into the lives of any who choose to learn more about their Savior and Redeemer, and to make Him a greater priority. I hope everyone is feeling joy in their lives, especially in this amazing Christmas season! Love you all, do something to make a friend's life brighter this week!



Thank you all for the birthday wishes, you are the best family I could ever ask for! I hope everyone has a great Christmas this year, and if you haven't already seen this years #LighttheWorld video and calendar I highly recommend it. We are pumping the members of Japan up for it, and we are so excited to see what happens as we share the light of Christ!!!
Love you all so much!


11/22/2016 Winegar Choro turns 20!

11/20/2016 New companion, Elder Octaviano!

Minnasan konnichiwa,

That was my friend Tatsuhiro kyodai! He says 'hi' from Otsu! We had transfers last week, and it got a little busy, so I wasn't able to send an email, so sorry about that! I stayed in Otsu, but my companion Elder Kawajo transferred all the way to Okayama. My new companion is Elder Octaviano, from São Paulo, Brazil. I don't know why I keep getting Brazilian companions, but I sure am lucky. Elder Octaviano can do pretty much anything. He plays violin, guitar, piano, tennis, sings, studied physics in college, and is really humble. We are going to have a fun transfer here for sure.

We didn't have a whole lot of time last week since transfers were on Thursday, and then we had Stake Conference on Saturday and Sunday. It still was an awesome end to the week, though, especially since we got to hear President Welch talk. In the last meeting meant specifically for new members and investigators, we talked about the way we study the Book of Mormon, and I want to share what President Welch taught. He said that the first thing we must do before studying is to pray to God for help in understanding what we are reading. God's thoughts are higher than our thoughts, so we have to seek his help in understanding His words. Second, it is not about how long we read, but about pondering on what we read, thinking deeply about what the scriptures mean, and how they apply to us. The real power comes into our lives when we focus on the application. I know that what President Welch said is true, and that when we study the scriptures with the intent to act we will begin to progress in our lives and feel a joy much greater than what we feel now. I know God loves each and every one of you so much, and just like Tatsuhiro kyodai said, '[you are my] best friend!' Tchau tchau!


11/7/2016 "Love is the center of all that we can do"

Minnasan Konnichiwa!

This week was fantastic, the only down side was that most of it was spent away from home. We had three separate meetings this week, two in Kobe with our mission president and his wife, and then a zone meeting in Kyoto. I learned so much to the point that my small head couldn't take any more, and I couldn't even begin to write it all here. One of the things that stood out to me, though, was the importance of showing love. Love is the center of all that we do, love for our brothers and sisters, and love for our Heavenly Father. If we aren't feeling the love and joy of the gospel, there is no way we can expect anyone else to do so. When we do have this love, it changes our obligations into opportunities to serve God and others.

I also got to see some long-lost friends at the meetings in Kobe! I got to spend time with both Elder Wood and Elder Jones, who came to Japan at the same time as me. They are still as awesome as ever, and are such great examples to me! I also got to spend a lot of time with Elder Matsumoto, and we even went out and worked together on Wednesday night since we were staying in Kobe. It was so much fun! So much has changed since last year when we lived in the same apartment, I almost can't believe it. Missions change people for sure.

Like I said, that was most of our week, but once we got back to Otsu we still had some good experiences. We had testimony meeting on Sunday, and I had an opportunity to bear my testimony. As I considered what I should share, I remembered something from studying the scriptures a few days before. It came at a time when I was feeling the stress of all of the small things and responsibilities we have to fulfill as missionaries. I was wondering how to accomplish all that was before us, when I read Mosiah 4:27. "And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order." I felt so much peace in that moment, and I felt in my heart that God knows me personally. He knows my abilities, my desires, and my situation. I knew that even though I am far from perfect today, as long as I am diligent in following His commandments and teachings, I can become like my Father in Heaven. I know the same is true for all of you, and I hope you feel the same peace as you search the scriptures. Love you all, see you next week!


10/31/2016 Halloween!

Minnasan konnichiwa, and Happy Halloween!

This week went by so fast, I don't even know what I should talk about today. I guess I should start with a big HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my little sister Tessa. I can't believe you are 13 now. Just not right. But congratulations anyways.

We had a few Halloween parties this week, one for our English class, and one held by the church and put together by the young men. In our english class we talked about halloween, and played some games. I realized how little I knew about halloween when the students kept asking random questions about why kids ask for candy and what other things do we do besides trick or treating? We also didn't really have any halloween themed-games planned, but it was fun nonetheless. The halloween party put on by the church was mainly just a costume contest and dinner, but there was plenty of good food and fun.

One of the really awesome things from this week was that we were able to meet with two less-active members that I had been wanting to meet lately. The first, Corazon shimai, is really busy with work right now, and said we could meet on the condition that it was only for ten minutes. We readily took her up on her offer, and even though it was short we were able to introduce ourselves and share a short message from the Book of Mormon. She said that she felt good talking to us, wanted to meet more, and especially wants her children to learn more about God since they don't go to church much right now. We set up a return appointment, and will probably be able to meet with the kids as well next time!

The second less-active, Marcos kyodai, was baptized by my trainer, Elder Madruga, so I always wanted to meet him. He lives a little far away, so spent a good amount of time biking out to his house and finding the place. We expected to talk a little at the door, and then head back home. When he opened the door, he let out a laugh of excitement, and hurriedly invited us in. We spent almost an hour just getting to know him and seeing how he is doing. He has felt too tired to come to church lately, but has been feeling like he needs to go back. We then got into a discussion about the Book of Mormon, sharing our favorite prophets. He loves Alma for his boldness in teaching and testifying, and I could feel the joy he had from living the gospel and learning. As we left, he told us that he was so happy we came, and that he would be coming back to church!!!

The whole way home, I was feeling the same joy and happiness that he told us he was feeling. I know that the way to finding happiness and joy in this life is through true worship of God and having a sure knowledge that we are doing what He would want us to do. Any other happiness is only temporary, and cannot give us the sense of fulfillment we all desire. I testify that we can all find peace, safety, love and happiness in our Savior Jesus Christ. I love you all so much, have a sugar-filled Halloween!


Eating onabe.
Eikaiwa halloween party.

10/17/2016 Seeking Comfort through Jesus Christ

Minnasan konnichiwa!

This week has been full of blessings and tender mercies of the Lord. So many blessings, and always so little time to share them all. I'll just get right into it then!

As I said last week, I have been focusing more on my prayers lately, and we continued to see more miracles this week as my companion, Elder Kawajo, and I strove to put our trust in God more fully. There were almost two different, distinct types of blessings seen throughout the week. The first was a continual strengthening power, giving us energy to continue onward where we otherwise might have faltered and turned back from our planned course of action. One of those sources of strength was definitely Elder Kawajo. He fearlessly stops people to talk to them in the street, even when he doesn't know what he will say to them. He also is showing me how to love people more fully, caring about their individual needs more. And finally, he frequently just begins a task wholeheartedly when I am sometimes tempted to put it off until later, or wait for something until I am better prepared. He is teaching me a lot, and I am so grateful to have such a great companion!

The second blessing was one that had nothing to do with our own actions. Throughout the week on about three different occasions, random people began showing up at the church wanting to learn more or seeking some form of help or comfort. I know that our increased desire and efforts to show God how willing we are to work helped prepare us to see these miracles, but they really couldn't have been accomplished by our power and effort.

The first was a woman that lived nearby, and had always known the church to here, but never had any interest. A month or so ago, though, her youngest daughter passed away, and she remembered the church. She came looking to see if anyone was inside, and we happened to stop by just a few minutes later to look up an address of someone we wanted to visit that day. The guidance from God through the Spirit was so clearly visible, I couldn't even begin to deny it. We were able to testify that through Jesus Christ she and her daughter, along with the rest of her family, could be united together forever. She gave us her phone number, and agreed to meet again if she could get permission from her husband.

The next day we were studying in our apartment, when a phone call came from a member. He told us there was a man waiting at the church, and he wanted a copy of the Book of Mormon. We excitedly ran out the door and biked to the church as fast as we could, and were able to meet with the man and explain a little about the Book of Mormon before giving him a copy. He said he would read it, and contact us again soon.

Finally, as we finished church on Sunday, a man came in and began talking to one of the Sister missionaries. Many people had seen him at church activities before, and some even knew his name, but no one had ever taken much time to talk to him. As we sat down with him after church he told us that he was in a pretty tough situation with some people in another church. He wanted to get away from them, but each time he tried to sever ties with them they would become angry and almost violent. He came seeking our help, and asked over and over again if we would help him. We told him we would do everything we could, and he was so relieved.

All three of these meetings strengthened my testimony that no matter what problem we are faced with, the gospel of Jesus Christ can heal us and endow us with power to do things that we can't do on our own. We can find comfort from life's problems and unfairness, from infirmities, pains, sorrows, and even death. We can learn of the truth of our own potential and divine nature. And above all, we can learn of the love our Father in Heaven has for us. Truly, all things that are wrong in life can be made right through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. In the words of our Savior Jesus Christ,

"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

I know that we can find this rest unto our souls, and that only through Jesus Christ can we find the lasting happiness we desire. I love you all so much, but not as much as you are loved by your Heavenly Father and elder brother, Jesus Christ! I invite you all to learn something new about them this week, and strengthen your relationship with them!