"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, July 26, 2017

Mission Complete!

Elder Winegar has completed his mission and is returning home!!

He returns July 28th. He will have his homecoming talk at the Beacon Light Ward in the Floating Feather Building on July 30th, 9:00AM.
 Well Done Elder!! Well Done!

Monday, July 24, 2017

7/23/2017 Two years, 730 days!

To Whom it May Concern: (AKA, those who still read this thing! 😁)

It has been an amazing two years spent in the service of my Heavenly Father, and while it isn't over yet, this will be the last time I will be able to write to everyone as a missionary. I just wanted to thank all of you for your many prayers, your awesome examples, and for the super great people you all are. I can't imagine not having met any of you, and I especially wouldn't be the same without the wonderful family that I have been lucky enough to be born into!

So many amazing miracles have happened this week, and I have seen so many changes in both the area we are working in, and in myself while serving others. I guess not everything has changed though, because we still don't have much time today and I will have to be brief! As far as new developments, we were able to meet and get in contact with some really cool people last week. A man that we met two weeks ago, Miyoshi san, was able to come to church with us yesterday and he loved it! He developed some strong friendships with the other members, and he told us he would like to come back next week! He even called us later in the day and told us that he wants to take things step by step, but that he wants to learn more about the church. We also met a young family as well as a young guy our age that agreed to meet and hear kore of our message. Things are looking great in Uwajima, and we can tell that the Lord has awesome things in store for this place!

Since time is running short, I would just like to let you all know of the truths that I have learned these last two years. While we as missionaries have virtually no access to news or current events, we hear often from people about the evils in the world. There are more and more crimes committed, more people hurt and killed, and a constant decline of morals and standards. Music, movies and other entertainment portray increasingly inappropriate material as the normal, and even the ideal way of life. A spirit of service and selflessness have been replaced by selfishness and desires to put ourselves ahead of others.

As work, sports, entertainment etc. begin to take precedence in our lives, family relationships continue to weaken and decline. While this is becoming more common than rare, it does not mean that it has to be this way, nor does it mean that many are not still fighting for values that we have held for so long. Despite negative influences, I have been greatly encouraged and strengthened both by the examples of those great people, and by the promise and help that we receive from God that if we turn to Him, all other parts of our lives will fall into place. More than anything else, I am grateful that there is someone who understands each of us, our trials and pains, happiness and joys better than we can even understand them ourselves. That person is our Savior, Jesus Christ. I know that the way to learn of Him and bring His peace into our lives is through diligent service to help others in difficult situations, constant prayer and supplication for His divine help, and a devoted study of the scriptures, including the Bible and the Book of Mormon, that have been given to us by prophets called of God. If you desire to feel more of this heavenly help, if you wonder if God really is there, I invite you all to think and reflect upon the truths found in the Book of Mormon, and ask God in sincere prayer. Just as it is written within it's pages, I can promise that a man can come closer to God through the Book of Mormon than through any other book on Earth. I testify that Jospeh Smith was a prophet of God, and we are blessed to be guided by a modern prophet in President Monson. I love you all so much, and wish you the best week ever!

See you soon!
Elder Winegar

7/18/2017 What if you hadn't gone?


This week was another busy one, never a dull moment when serving the Lord! I can't believe how fast time is flying, and how it's been almost two years since I first left home and entered into the MTC. A lot has happened since then, and even though I still have much to learn and many more things to experience as a missionary, I am so thankful for the experiences that I have had, for the people I have met, and especially for the relationship I have been developing with my Heavenly Father as well as with my Savior, Jesus Christ. I've seen that growth comes more often through small decisions made consistently and correctly over a long course of time, rather than in one large,
do-or-die type scenario.

This week was no different, and through efforts to help and teach others, as well as strengthen our own faith personally, we were blessed abundantly by the Lord. The highlight of the week came as we
had a "blitz" in Imabari on Friday, followed by interviews with our mission president the next day.
The "blitz" involved 8 missionaries from various areas getting together in one area for the day to visit each and every member while sharing a short message to strengthen their faith in Jesus Christ, and along the way we tried to talk to as many people as possible to introduce them to the church and gospel of Jesus Christ. I won't bore you with too many details, but we met some awesome people and I felt a lot of excitement from all of the members and missionaries as well in sharing the teachings of Jesus Christ with friends and family. The next day's interviews were also really great, we were able
to meet President Smoot and his wife for the second time. President Smoot asked a lot of great questions that helped me to reflect on the things I have learned over the last two years, and shared some experiences that built upon and expounded the answers that I gave. He talked a lot about how missionaries often don't understand the impact they have had on many people's lives, even when we feel like we know the people we have met here pretty well. After sharing a story to illustrate his point, he asked a question that hit me pretty hard. He asked, "Elder Winegar, what would it have been like if you hadn't come on a mission?" I can't say I know the full impact of what I have done while in Japan, but I do know that I would be a much different person today if I had not decided to serve God for these two years. I know that God gives back much more in blessings than that which He requires of us in effort and sacrifice. While I have times where I wish I had been more devoted to the cause I am involved in now, I have never had a single regret for the choice I made to come on a mission, nor for the time that has been spent here. There is nowhere better than to be on the Lord's errand in helping bring happiness to other children of His.
While we all have different families, circumstances, opportunities and choices, we can all ask ourselves a similar question, "what if we had not done...?" If you find your answer to be one of gratitude and joy in the things you have been involved in, continue doing those things! If you find that your time could have been spent elsewhere on a more productive and meaningful activity, I invite you to change even just one thing NOW and do the best thing for you, or your family, at this time. If you have any question about where your priorities should lie, I would like to share one more word
of advice given by President Smoot. "Put God first. When you do so, all things will either fall into place, or they will fall out of your life."
I can promise that what he taught was true, and that when we put God first, the unimportant things in our lives will fall out of place, giving us an increased ability to do those things that really matter.

That's all for this week! Love from Japan,
Elder Winegar

7/10/2017 Guided by His hand

Hiya friends!

How was everyone's 4th of July? The 4th of July is obviously not super celebrated in Japan, but we made sure to add our own tribute to America with some steaks prepared by one of the missionaries in
Okayama, Elder Stuart. We may have been far away from home, but it didn't stop us from showing a little American pride and taking some time to remember how much God has blessed us in allowing us to live in a free nation.

As you can tell, any week that starts of with steaks is a good one, and this week was no different. We were out of Uwajima for the first half of the week because of various meetings and companion exchanges, but it ended up being a good time. The best meeting of the week was getting to meet President Smoot and Sister Smoot, our new mission president and his wife. They taught us so much from the scriptures about growing in light and understanding through following the gospel path, it was incredible! They are certainly called of God to help this mission, I am already learning so much from them. After all the meetings ended, and we got back to Uwajima, we started seeing miracles all over the place. I still chalk it up to my companion's diligence in going out and looking for just one more person to teach, Elder Anderson is really good about that and I am learning lots from his example. I wish I had time to share all of the amazing things that happened as we were guided to find people to teach this past week, but I will do what I can to give a few simple examples.

After getting back on Thursday, we had an appointment with a man that we met last week, Minamoto san, and he was waiting for us with an open door as we pulled up. He had changed so much in how receptive he was to our message even in just one short week. He even committed to come to church again on Sunday, and came a few days later. The next day some of our plans got canceled, and finding
ourselves with some free time, we decided to bike out to a far part of our area. While out there, we met one couple that called us inside for some water while we introduced our message, and invited them to read the Book of Mormon. We also ran into an older lady that had met the missionaries in Salt Lake when she went over there for business. It was clear to see that there was a reason for our plans to be cancelled earlier in the day.

On Saturday, we tried to visit another lady that had met with the missionaries in the past, but when we rang the doorbell we were answered by her husband who told us she was not home and wouldn't come back until late at night. As we hopped back on our bikes, though, she pulled right into the driveway. We were then able to review with her what she learned from the past missionaries and testify about the prophet Joseph Smith, how he was called of God to restore the true gospel of Jesus Christ to the earth and build up God's kingdom here in the last days. She told us several times of the peace that she feels when she reads the Book of Mormon, and we know that it comes from the Spirit of God bearing witness of truth.

Finally, yesterday, we met a man while going door to door and talked about his life with him. He has had contact with missionaries often before, but was never able to decide to go to church, but since then he has decided that he would be open to going now. We are planning to go with a member this coming Sunday to pick him up and go to church.

We have seen the Lord's hand in our work every day, and we know that He is guiding us to find His children that know not where to find the true gospel; the only way by which we can live with our families forever, overcoming death and sin, as well as guilt and pain in this life. I love being able to share this message with all that we come in contact with, and I know that our Savior Jesus Christ has power to save all that turn to Him and rely on His mercy and grace. As taught by Sister Smoot last week in our meeting, we can rely on the Lord and His power through prayer, study of the scriptures from God's prophets, and through our own attempts to apply the things that we learn into
our lives. I can promise that anyone who attempts to rely on the Lord in these ways will find an added measure of peace and protection from temptation.

That's all I've got for now, lots of love from Japan!

-Elder Winegar

7/3/2017 Meeting new mission president

Hey there!
Nice to see all your smiling faces! You're looking especially good today. Yeah, you. You know who you are. Anyways, it has been another awesome week spent in Uwajima, and now we find ourselves back in the same place we were last week, on a bus going to a far away place. We will stop in Imabari tonight and tomorrow to have companion exchanges with the missionaries there, and then continue up to Okayama again, this time to meet our new mission president, President Smoot!
I can't believe the Welch's are gone, they have had such an impact on me and so many others the past several years, and we will all miss them. In our last meeting with President Welch last week, he took us through 13 steps that if we followed faithfully throughout our lives, we would be disciple of Christ and never lose our testimony of the spiritual truths we have learned on our missions. If anyone wants to know those steps, the best thing to do would be to have come to Japan last week and participate in the meeting with all of us. If that isn't looking possible and you still want to know more of what President Welch taught us from what he learned in three years as a mission president, let me know and I'll do my best to tell you more! For now all I will say is that I love the Welch's so much for all they have done for us, and I will never be able to forget all the things I learned from them. My life has undoubtably been changed from knowing them.
We are super excited to meet the Smoot's this week as well, and I can't wait to see what we will learn from them.

I would just like to share one quick thought/experience from this last week, which is something that I learned in our church service on Sunday. Since it was the first Sunday of the month, any one who wanted to share their testimony of God and the Savior, Jesus Christ, were invited to do so. Many people bore their testimony, and I felt the Spirit present, confirming everyone's words to be true. But as the meeting was coming to a close, one Sister got up to bear her testimony. She talked very simply about how she hasn't been coming to church lately, but each time she comes back she is reminded of the thing that has gotten her through difficult years and trials- the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
This Atonement is so broad and so wide-reaching that it is hard to explain simply, and takes more than a lifetime to fully grasp, but it includes the suffering of Jesus Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane and upon the cross in Calvary in suffering for all the mistakes, sins, and misdeeds of all mankind. It also includes His resurrection three days later, breaking the bands of death for us all. Words cannot describe the pain that He experienced, nor the joy that He felt, in saving all of us from physical and spiritual death.
As this Sister shared her thoughts on the Atonement, I felt a special spirit and witness that what she said was true. I felt peace in my heart, and I know that only through relying on the infinite power and mercy of the Son of God that we will be able to find lasting happiness in a world full of despair and heartache. I feel so blessed to be a representative of that same Jesus Christ, and to teach the same everlasting principles and truths that He taught when He walked upon the earth two thousand years ago. I'd like to finish with a scripture, one found in the Book of Mormon taught by the prophet Jacob. If any of you wish to find more peace in life, more surety of things to come, and more stability for yourself and family, I can promise that a study of the life of Christ, followed by applying those principles within your own lives, will lead to that desired result.
"And now, beloved, marvel not that I tell you these things; for why not speak of the atonement of Christ, and attain to a perfect knowledge of him, as to attain to the knowledge of a resurrection and the world to come?"

Good luck in your studies!
Elder Winegar

6/26/2017 Last week with President and Sister Welch

Hello everyone!
As I write, my companion and I are on our way to Okayama (I don't expect all of you to know where that is, but just to paint a mental picture think far), and we will be having a final meeting with our mission president, President Welch. He goes home at the end of this week, it is so weird to think that he won't be here anymore. It has been so amazing to learn from him and his experiences, testimony and advice. Because of that meeting, and other plans for the week, it looks like we are going to stay pretty busy!

Last week was also full of fun and miracles, and they really helped to build my faith even more in the ability for the Spirit to guide us in our lives, and to change the hearts of people that are willing to listen and act.
Some of the best experiences of the week came in Matsuyama on companion exchanges with Elder Dahl. We committed ourselves to talk to everyone in our path while biking to an out-of-the-way part of the area. We talked to a lot of cool people, some with more interest than others, but weren't able to find anyone that wanted to learn more about God at this time. We decided to stop and go door to door talking to people, and we started to find more people that we could tell were in need of our message.
The first lady we met didn't have any interest in our church at first, and was ready to shut the door on us, but for some reason continued to talk with us. She told us how her whole family had passed away except for two daughters that had moved far away from her. She shared how lonely she was, but how she felt obligated to continue in her family's religious practices because she was the only one left to do so. We then were able to teach simply that God has a plan for her, and that through the mercy of Jesus Christ her family can be together again. In the end, she told us that she wouldn't be able to come to church, but we felt that we had given her some much-needed hope.
We then talked to a young man that told us straight up that he had no interest in church. Elder Dahl and I taught about our purpose in life and how we can become more through the help of our Savior, and we felt and saw a big change come over this young man. As we asked what he thought, he responded "I think I'd better come to church now." We exchanged numbers with him, and agreed to meet again.
The last miracle came as we talked to an older man, who told us that he had retired and only engaged in things he liked to do. As we began to introduce our church, he told us that he had read countless bible-like books, scriptures, and religious texts. He told us very certainly that all the religions are the same and that we couldn't do anything to change his mind. All we could do was to share our experience with the Book of Mormon, but as we did so, we knew he felt the truth of his words. Unable to stop himself, he reached out to take the Book of Mormon we offered him, muttering under his breath that he only wanted to see it because it peaked his interest. We also agreed to come back and meet him the next week.
I have seen over and over again the power that the Spirit has to change hearts, and I can guarantee beyond any shadow of doubt that anyone who seeks an answer and confirmation of truth from God will receive it through the Holy Ghost.
I hope you all have a wonderful, Spirit-filled week!
Love from Japan,
Elder Winegar

6/18/2017 Staying in Uwajima

Hello Everyone!
It's been a while since I last wrote, so I guess it is long overdue for a quick update! Transfer calls came and went, and my companion, Elder Anderson, and I will both be staying in Uwajima for another transfer! We are so blessed to be in this amazing place, and to continue interacting with the friends we have made here. This week has probably been the longest amount of time I have been in Uwajima without leaving the city for some type of missionary meeting or other, it has been super nice to stick around for a while.

Last Sunday we were able to participate in the baptism of one of our good friends, Joukou san. He has come a long ways thanks to the prayers of the members, and his own faith to live the commandments God has given to us through prophets. We then saw him confirmed as a member of the church yesterday in Sacrament meeting, and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. Not only has he learned a lot, his whole demeanor has changed as he experienced the happiness and friendship among members. He says that he never felt much happiness before in his life, but that all of the hard things have just melted away, to the point he can't even remember them.

We experienced joy and help from the Lord in many other ways this week, but I especially learned a lot from a comment made by Elder Anderson. We have been able to visit a few members that haven't come to church in a long time, and find out more about why they chose to stop coming. Their situations were all very different, but they all had one thing in common. Once they left their beliefs behind to follow small doubts, they never ended up happier for it. We could see that clearly, and felt frustrated that we couldn't get them to realize the same thing. No matter how hard we tried, they wouldn't accept even simple invitations to pray or read from the scriptures.
As we returned home each day, all I could think about was how strange it was that these people weren't willing to seek happiness, to do the things necessary to find joy again. But then Elder Anderson shared what he was thinking about, how each one of those people had their own difficult situation or circumstance. We have no way of knowing what they have been through in their lives that lead them to the position they are in now, and if we have no love for them and no sympathy for them, we will never learn what they really need help with. I realized that this is exactly what our Savior did for us in suffering for our sins in the Garden of Gethsemane and upon the cross. He first understood what each one of us were going through, our mistakes, our fears, our and our shortcomings, as well as our joy and happiness, then reached out to us in love so that we can overcome our stumbling blocks. We may never understand others' burdens on so deep or personal a level, but I know that I can make a greater effort to love and try to understand the people I come into contact with, and then do what I can to lend a hand.

I invite you all to do the same in lifting and loving your neighbor, a friend in need, or even a stranger. If we pray for an increase in love while we do so, we will learn a little more about how God feels for each of His children.

Hope you all have a service-filled week! Love from Japan,
Elder Winegar

5/21/2017 Lasting peace and happiness...

Happy Monday everyone! (or Sunday, depending on where you are in the world)

I can't believe how fast this week has flown, there was just so much awesome stuff packed into a short time! On Tuesday we headed up to Matsuyama to spend the day with the zone leaders, Elder Dahl and Elder Nakamura. I was with Elder Nakamura, and we had a great time together studying, serving others, and teaching together.

On Wednesday and Thursday we met with some new friends, a young family that we found the week before, and Jouko san, and old man we have been meeting with lately. We shared a short message with the mother of the family, and were able to give her a Book of Mormon, inviting her to read it. She said she would, and we decided together that we would come back next week and meet her again to see what she learned. I'm excited to see how her family will be blessed through her faith!
Jouko san is incredible, he met with us a few times this week and even came to church by surprise! He originally told us he couldn't come because of a cleaning project going on at his apartment, but he told us on Sunday that he woke up really early to clean his portion of the project, and then left to come to church. His faith is so strong, and we will continue to meet with him and teach him about Jesus Christ. He tells us that although he had always believed in Buddhism, he is now Christian at heart! He is so awesome!
We concluded our week in the best way I could imagine, as we were blessed to hear from an Apostle of God, Elder Dallin Oaks, this past Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday we had a special meeting for the missionaries, and Sunday was a devotional to the entire country of Japan. We had been looking forward to this meeting for a few months now, and it didn't disappoint! I first heard about him coming when I was in Wakayama, though, and I got more than I bargained for when I transferred to Uwajima. Fun fact about Uwajima, it is one of the furthest areas away from the place where the meeting was held, and from the mission office as well. Thus, we spent a total of 18 hours traveling to and from the meeting.
Despite all the traveling, it was totally worth it! We learned so much about joy, and Elder Oaks taught us that if we are not finding joy in the gospel and teachings of Jesus Christ, even in our most difficult trials and circumstances, we need to re-evaluate our lives. I know that the purpose of all of God's teachings are to bring to pass the eternal life of man, and to help us to feel joy as we go through life. Elder Oaks also talked about how the world is becoming more and more dangerous, with wars and rumors of wars in every country. He then taught an important principle about peace. Peace is a commonly promised blessing throughout the scriptures as we follow the teachings of Jesus Christ, but people often think of peace as an absence of war or conflict. According to the words of Elder Oaks, there is a different kind of peace that we can have as a result of living a gospel-centered life. Amidst all the wars raging around us, and conflicts being started, the promise of the gospel is a continuous peace within our hearts. No matter what our situation is, or what we are called upon to do in the service of God, we can know that in the end our afflictions and pains will be for our good. This faith comes from knowing the character of our Father in Heaven, and knowing that He loves each of us and has a plan for each one of us.
I add my testimony to the words of Elder Oaks that the only way to lasting peace and happiness is through the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ. As we continually look to Him and pattern our lives after the way He would live, we will know for ourselves that we are not forgotten by our Savior, and that we will return to live with our Heavenly Father and our families in peace and happiness. I love the opportunity to teach others of these simple truths, and I feel the truth of it in my heart as I do so! I pray for the same peace to come to each of you, and invite you to remember the example of Jesus Christ even as you go about your busy lives and schedules!
Love from Japan,
Elder Winegar

Monday, May 8, 2017

5/8/2017 New Area--Uwajima!

Minnasan konnichiwa!

Sorry it's been awhile! Today I am writing from wonderful Uwajima! We had transfers last week and I was surprised to learn that both my companion, Johnson 長老, and I would be leaving Wakayama. I was so sad, especially after starting to see some of the results of our work and really having everything start to pick up.

I made it to Uwajima on Thursday in the afternoon, and met my new companion, Elder Anderson. He is super awesome, he has been in Japan for about 7 months now and is good at everything. He sings, plays guitar, ran track and played basketball in high school, and is a genius. He is going to Utah State when he gets home, too, so I will probably see him there! We spent the first few days going around to meet some friends to whom we are introducing the gospel and teachings of Jesus Christ. First I met Jouko san, a really nice older man that has had a lot of difficult experiences in his life. He says that he wants to feel the peace that we have promised will come through the love Christ has for him.

Next I met Taniwaki san, a really fun guy that just seems to love everyone and everything around him. He came to our English class, and we all had a fun time learning together. We still haven't gotten an opportunity to talk about the church with him since I have been here, but we are meeting with him this Wednesday to continue teaching him.

Finally, I got to meet all of the awesome members here in Uwajima on Sunday! There were about 40 people at church, and they are all incredibly friendly and welcoming. I also came at a great time, because this is the first week after moving from the old church to a new building! Everyone was so happy to be in the new building, it was so much fun to see everyone's smiles throughout church that day.

Before church we had a lesson with a recent convert, Brother Ishida, and the discussion that we had reminded me of something taught in the last General Conference. Brother Ishida brought up the fact that it is difficult for him to remember to pray every day. He can remember to pray before going to bed, but any other time he says that his mind is far from thoughts of God or prayer.

As he shared his difficulties with us, I remembered times where I had felt the same, that it was just too hard in my busy life to make time for prayer or scripture study, or time to spend with family members and friends. It is in those thoughts, however, that I am able to recognize where my priorities lie. If my goals in life are really to have a stronger relationship with God and with my own parents, brothers, and sisters, why do my actions not always reflect that? It is so easy to become caught up in all the little things that need to be done, but I am slowly learning what I should have known all along, that all things are not of equal importance. I know that over anything else, I desire to become more like my Savior Jesus Christ in loving and serving selflessly, and to help my family in any way possible.

As I thought about the sometimes difficult to overcome gap between what we want to do and what actually happens, I remembered the words of Elder Gary B. Sabin, saying the following, "If we are not able to be “all in” the way we are presently walking, then maybe we need to run; maybe we need to recalculate our route. We might even need to make a U-turn. We might need to study more intently, pray more earnestly, or just let some things go so we can hang on to those things that really matter. We may need to let go of the world so we can hang on to eternity."

I know that through all of these things that I am learning, I want to do exactly what was said by Elder Sabin. Even if it may require giving up things that I want, or even giving up being in situations and circumstances that I am comfortable in, I know that God has a plan for each one of us that goes far beyond what we are currently involved in, and what we are currently capable of or comfortable with. I invite you all to think about the same thing this week, if your actions are in line with your end goals, whatever they may be. And if you find out that you have strayed from your desired course, then change! I can promise that even simple acts can lead to great results!

Love from Japan,
Elder Winegar

4/17/2017 Happy Easter!

Hey everyone! Happy Easter!!!

The time is short and list of blessings from God is long, so I will do my best to keep it brief so that you can all go back to enjoying your day. This week we had zone Conference from our mission president, and we learned what our new Book of Mormon challenge is. I'm not allowed to say what we are focusing on yet, since some zones haven't had their conference yet, but I'm excited for the topic and for the chance to read the Book of Mormon again. 

After zone conference, we went to Sennan and worked with the other Elders in our district. I was with Elder Campbell, and we had some great discussions about what we learned the previous day. We also got a chance to talk to a lot of people on the street, and one family in particular that we ran into seemed to have a lot of interest in our message. As we explained what we do as missionaries, how we try to help everyone learn about Jesus Christ and receive the blessings of stronger families, she told us to come back again when we were in the area. 

Then, returning home, I spent the day with Elder McEwan. He is also a great missionary with solid teaching skills, he taught me a thing or two about teaching people with enthusiasm and boldness! We also met with a member that hasn't been coming to church lately, Itani kyodai, and had a great meeting. He was happy to see us, and we talked about following God's guidance and God's plan for us even when we have a hard time seeing past our own imperfections and the imperfections of others. He understood what we taught really well, and we hope that he will be at church next Sunday. 

Finally, a miracle to wrap up the week, as we were going out contacting people in our missionary records and going from house to house, we got a call from a young man that said he was close to the church and could meet us that night if we had time. Without hesitation, we took off for the church as fast as we could, telling him we would be there as soon as possible. We introduced ourselves, and went inside the church to talk together. The young man, Tooru, had met with missionaries before and wanted to follow Jesus, but hadn't been able to meet lately because he had been in the hospital. We talked about the doctrine and teachings of Jesus Christ, and invited him to be baptized if he learned that what we were teaching was true. He said yes! We are working now towards helping him make the first steps to following Jesus Christ and strengthening his relationship with God. He is a little busy with work, so we will have to work around that, but we are so excited for him! He told us that he wants the feeling of relief that he knows only can come from Jesus Christ, knowing that all of his past mistakes and guilt have been washed away, and that he is accepted by God. 

This week being Easter Sunday also gave me some time to reflect on the joy that I have felt from knowing that Jesus Christ is willing to forgive me of my sins and help me to be more than I could on my own, even when I can't see that value in myself. I know that I want to follow Him and His teachings forever, because of the peace and relief I have felt. I am thankful to know that He has overcome both sin and death, having been resurrected and now has the power to help each one of us if we just look to Him for assistance. I am so grateful to be a missionary for Him, and to teach others of this grace and mercy. I hope all of you take some time to reflect upon the joy and peace you have felt, the happiness in your family, and give thanks to God and Jesus Christ for the abundant blessings we have all been given. Have a lovely Easter!

Love from,
Elder Winegar

Thursday, April 6, 2017

3/27/2017 God grants miracles according to our faith.

Minnasan konnichiwa!

Quick update on transfers: I and Johnson chourou both stayed in Wakayama! We are going to have another amazing transfer here together, and see so many miracles as we go. Not a lot of time this week, so I'm going to jump right into some of the miracles of the past week.

On Thursday we had a lesson with a member, and he told us as we talked that he was planning on saying some very hurtful things to another member the next time he saw him, because he believed that he wasn't following the example of Jesus Christ as well as he should have been. We taught and testified about God's love for each of His children, and we did everything we could to help this member to see that there was a better way to deal with his anger. We were guided in what we needed to say to him, and he said without any prompting from us that he felt it would be best to find a different way to share his feelings with the other member.

We were able to meet with a friend that is not part of our church later that week, and talk about the purpose of missionary lessons. He is living in Kobe, but for some reason has been coming all the way to Wakayama to meet with us. We explained the importance of going to the church in his area, because that is the way that God works. He has always, and always will be a God of order. At first our words were not greeted with much enthusiasm, but as we promised him of the happiness that would come from following God's laws, the Spirit filled the room and his whole demeanor began to change. By the end of our meeting, he decided that he would go to Kobe's church, and begin meeting with the missionaries there.

These, and hundreds of other small miracles throughout the days continually convince me that God grants miracles according to our faith. If we are willing to work to receive the blessings God offers to us, He will shower them upon us more than we have room to receive. I also know that we can't work on our own schedule, not just when it is convenient for us, but in the way God has shown us to find true happiness. I know that way is found only in the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I love this gospel, and I am so thankful for the blessing to teach these simple principles to others every day.

Much love from Japan,
Elder Winegar

3/20/2017 God has specific plans

Minnasan konnichiwa!

This week is transfer week again, I just transferred 6 weeks ago so I will almost surely still be in the same area, but we will see what the Lord has in store for me and my companion. Elder Johnson has only been in the area for two transfers now, so we think that he will stay as well. If we both stay, it's going to turn into another amazing transfer!

Our last week was pretty eventful, but not very much of it was spent in Wakayama. We went on companion exchanges twice this week, traveling to the areas of Kawachinagano and then Gobo. I was first with Elder Hemi, and it was so much fun to work with him again after living in the same apartment for 6 weeks last transfer. We met some awesome people as well, the best was a young boy that we talked to about his belief in God. He thought that God exists, but he didn't know what kind of being God was. We introduced him to the Book of Mormon, telling him that it is a way to come to know God better. He took it with so much excitement, and walked off with the book in his hand, flipping through it as he left.

We also found some awesome people in Gobo, especially two young kids that played basketball with us. We talked to them about developing a relationship with God, and they seemed way interested.

Although that was most of our week, it was great to come back to Wakayama at the end of the week and be back in our own apartment. Experiences going to other areas and places just help me to have gratitude for the place that God has chosen for me to be, and for now that is Wakayama. I have seen how He has a specific plan for me, and a plan for each of His children. I know that as we trust in His timing, His ways, we will find the success that is waiting for us. I love being a missionary, and love all the things I am learning along the way.

Love from Japan,
Elder Winegar

Ping Pong night

Deguchi kyodai and Elder Hemi

3/12/2017 Baptism

Minnasan konnichiwa!

How is everyone doing? This week has been one of the craziest and busiest I have had in a while. Lots of appointments and plans, to the point that we looked at our schedule at the beginning of this week and wondered "how are we going to fit this all in?" It ended up being a lot of fun, and only thanks to the grace of God were we able to actually do everything we needed to.

On Monday we headed up to Kobe in preparation for a meeting with President Welch, and stopped on the way to have lunch with some really good friends. Tuesday was the meeting, and we received so much training, knowledge and strength from President Welch, Sister Welch and the assistants. My favorite takeaway from that meeting was a comment made that these people we meet and teach every day are our brothers and sisters. When we remember that, the difficulty of talking to people, of doing hard things goes away. The motive of our work should always be this love for our fellow man.

After getting back from Kobe, I got to go on a companion exchange with Elder Matsumoto! I can't believe how much has changed since I first met him a hear and a half ago in Kouchi, and I can't believe that he will be going home in just a few short weeks. I again learned so much from his example, he taught me this time about being bold and teaching people what they need to hear, doing so from the scriptures.

A few days later my companion and I got to meet another good friend from way back. Kosaka kyodai, our teacher that helped us learn Japanese before coming to Japan, came and visited us! He almost seemed a little disappointed that he didn't really need to speak English to us anymore, and kept remarking how weird it felt. It was so good to see him again, though, he is one of the best people ever.

After a week full of great meetings and old friends, we were blessed even more to have the baptism of our investigator, Okamoto san. He has progressed so much in the short time we have been meeting with him, and has a strong desire to repent and live the rest of his life following God's commandments. He has such a cool story, I can't even do it justice in one email. Suffice it to say that he came seeking out the missionaries, seeing that he wanted more happiness in his life. He is going to be a devoted member for the rest of his life, and the other members will be such a blessing to him.

I just want to end today with my feelings of gratitude towards all of you, family and friends. Seeing so many old friends this past week has shown me how blessed I have been by the Lord to have come into contact with each one of you, it has forever changed my life and who I am. Love you all so much, talk to you again next week!

Elder Winegar

The Good Guys

Some of my favorite people

Zone training meeting

Okamoto san's baptism

3/5/2017 Busy in Wakayama

Minnasan konnichiwa!

I apologize for the lack of frequent emails lately, luckily today we are heading up to Kobe for a meeting tomorrow and found ourselves with a good chunk of time on the train to make up for past weeks. Since coming to Wakayama, we have been pretty busy with trying to find new people to meet with us, as well as continuing to build up our other friends we have been meeting with. This past week was spent similarly, and we had some really great experiences come out of that.

Starting from Monday, we went early in the morning to a nearby zoo and did some volunteer work, raking leaves and picking up trash. From there, we biked over to a yakiniku restaurant (literally "cook meat" restaurant) with some church members and had lunch. Needless to say, we enjoyed that.

The next day, we met up for the second time with a new friend, Uzeki san. We first met him on the street, and he told us how he came from China about a year and a half ago, and loves to learn English. He even watches movies and tv shows in English. As we introduced ourselves and our church, he told us that it was destiny that we met that day. We agreed that it was definitely part of God's plan for us, and we got his phone number so that we could meet up again later. This second time we met up with him, we talked more about God's plan for us, comparing it to his life and how we are all searching for happiness. He loved it all, and when we invited him to church he said he would come if he was able to.

We then got to celebrate the birthday of the Bishop's wife, Vi shimai. She invited us over to her house on Wednesday, and we ate some delicious food from the Philippines with her. She and the Bishop kept us well entertained with jokes and fun the whole time we were there.

Another highlight of the week was meeting multiple times with Okamoto san. Since he lives in a senior citizen's home, we can meet with him pretty regularly, and he has really started to brighten up and change visibly from the time he was first met up until now. He knows that God exists, and that Jesus Christ is his Savior. He still has trouble understanding the Book of Mormon, but he really has faith to do what God wants him to, and he especially wants to feel forgiveness for past mistakes and sins in his life.

Finally, at church on Sunday we participated in the young men's class. They are all preparing to go on missions someday, and were all pretty confident in their ability to do everything that entails. We challenged one of them to teach everything they know about the Atonement, in 5 minutes or less. He started out pretty confidently, teaching how the through the power of Jesus Christ we can be forgiven of our sins and mistakes, and return to live with God. Then after about a minute of stalling and filler words, he realized he had nothing more to say. As he made it to a grand total of 2 and a half minutes, we asked his friend to continue for the next 2 and a half minutes, expanding on what was said already. He too stopped after about a minute, out of things to say. We talked about how it was unexpectedly difficult to teach about these concepts, even more so when someone has never heard it before. But then we asked the last young man what he thought about the exercise, and he bore a simple, sweet testimony about what he has been learning about the Atonement in his daily life. The Spirit was so present, all joking was put aside, and every person in the room was listening intently. It never ceases to amaze me the power that can come from following the teachings of Jesus Christ, the peace that will come to our hearts.

I want to leave you all with my own conviction of this principle, that through the Atonement we will be blessed with strength beyond our own, to become more than we ever could have on our own. The power of the Atonement saves us from our sins and mistakes, but also enables us to actually act as Christ would act, even to become as He is. I notice a profound difference in the times when I pray in faith, acting on the knowledge I have, in contrast with the times I doubt what I have learned to be true. I can say without a doubt that an effort to learn more about the life of Jesus Christ, followed by an application of what you learned will always provide greater access to this spiritual strength. I invite you all to try it and see if it isn't true!

Until next week,
Elder Winegar

Okonomiyaki (cabbage pancakes, better than it sounds in English) with the fam

Service at the Zoo
Vi shimai 's birthday

2/20/2017 Happy Late Valentine's

Minnasan konnichiwa,

Happy late Valentine's Day! Last week was still pretty busy after we had transfers, so I apologize for not sending out an email. I did make it safely to Wakayama, though, and have been here for about a week and a half now. It seems to have been a lot longer than that, especially since it has been a busy week. We started off this week with companion exchanges, I was with Elder DesChamps, and Elder Johnson was with Elder Konishi. We talked to a lot of people, and met with one of our friends, Okamoto san. He is doing well, and has a strong desire to learn about Jesus Christ and God. It is still a little hard for him to understand the scriptures, but he has come to understand so much more in just a few visits.

We also had companion exchanges to end the week, we went up to Kobe to work with the elders there for a day. I was with Elder Westhoff this time, and he taught me so much. He really taught me how to be bold in talking to others, remembering that what we have to share with them is worth the possibility of a few awkward moments in the street while trying to tell them what we know to be true. That is something I will definitely need to apply to myself, because I still often hesitate or shy away from maki contact with some people.

After that, we finally were able to go back to our area, and spend some time in good old Wakayama. I still don't feel completely used to the area, but I love the people, and I want to make a difference here. We'll see how that goes, I guess! Talk to you again next week.

Elder Winegar

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

1/6/2017 Transferring to Wakayama

Minnasan konnichiwa!

Another 6 weeks has come and gone, which means it is the dreaded transfer week again. I am going to be leaving this wonderful Otsu area later in the week, and heading to Wakayama. I have really come to love the members and people of this beautiful place, and it really still hasn't sunk in yet that I will be gone soon. We have seen so many miracles this transfer, and so many exciting things even in the past week. One of my absolute favorite things to do as a missionary is to teach about the Book of Mormon, and we were able to do that in meeting with a new friend, Noriko san. She recently started coming to eikaiwa, and picked up a Book of Mormon that was lying out on the table in the entranceway to the church. As we talked to her more, she really seemed to have interest in what we were talking about. We met this week on Friday, sitting down and talking all about where the Book of Mormon came from, and why it is so important in growing closer to God. Just like the Bible, the Book of Mormon witnesses of Jesus Christ, showing us how we can be more like Him. As I read and talk about these scriptures, I see how there is power in the words, how God teaches us and answers our questions through them. It amazes me that no matter how many times I have read these same passages, I always learn more when being taught by the Spirit. 

Even with cool experiences like this and many others in this wonderful area, I am looking forward to going to a new area, and I will be even more blessed by my new companion, Elder Johnson! He and I came to Japan at the same time, so it is going to be a great time! Even with this, it will sure be hard to leave Otsu. I have been studying more this week about God's plan for us, and while I could easily stay in Otsu for the rest of my mission and be happy, I know that the Lord has more experiences waiting for me, more things that I need to learn. I have seen my faith grow that He knows better than I do, and I trust and know that God never asks us to leave a good thing behind unless He has something better in store for us. I am so excited to see what is planned for me, and to meet some new amazing friends.
Until next week!
Elder Winegar

Seiryuu's house

1/30/2017 Seiryuu baptized!

Minnasan konnichiwa!

This is going to end up being a short email, since we traveled a bit to play basketball with some missionaries from another zone. We spent most of today playing basketball, and ended with a little touch rugby. It was such a good time, and I was able to meet up with some good friends. My old companion, Elder Kawajo was there, as well as Elder Jones from my MTC district when we were still in Utah. Because of that, we don't have much time to email today, but we have some exciting news to report. Our investigator, Seiryuu, was baptized yesterday. He has such a strong testimony, and has a great love for the scriptures and Jesus Christ despite being only 8 years old. Besides the fact that we got to witness an amazing kid become closer to his Heavenly Father through baptism, the best part of the baptismal service was the effect it had on his mother, who is not a member. As we walked out of the room with everyone, I saw tears in her eyes. She thanked us for all that we are doing to help her son, and I knew that she felt the Spirit touch her heart and tell her that this was God's church on Earth.
There were so many other amazing experiences throughout the week, large and small, and they all continually testify to me that God cares about each and every one of His children. I often worry that I won't be good enough to help someone in need, that I won't know the right thing to say at the right moment, or that even if I do my best it just won't be enough, but it is after those thoughts that the Spirit and scriptures teach me that God can make up for any shortcoming or fault that I have. This is not my work, I will never convince someone into believing God through great speaking ability or teaching ability. Only God has that power to change people's hearts. The only reason my effort matters at all is because that effort qualifies me to have that same power to change my life, and by so doing give people an opportunity to do the same. I love the things I am learning here, and I love the opportunity to grow closer to a loving Father in Heaven each day. I hope and wish the same and more for all of you!
Elder Winegar

Elder Kawajo, Elder Jones (in the back)

Preparation day activity

Seiryuu's baptism!

1/23/2017 "God will add His power to His servant's efforts." President Henry B. Eyring

Minnasan Konnichiwa!

This week was another busy one, as we had interviews with our mission president on Thursday, and then a zone meeting on Friday. I received a lot of great advice from President Welch, but the one that hit me the hardest was the importance of learning from past experiences, good or bad, learning from them, and then moving on without dwelling on them. I always learn so much from him, and there is still so much I am able to learn. Time seems to be flying by, there never seem to be enough hours in the day!

We were finally able to meet with one of our good friends, Seiryuu, he finally made it back from China this past week. We are calling to confirm with him tonight, but as of Saturday he said that his dad gave him permission to be baptized next week! We are so excited for him, and hope that his parents will follow his awesome example.

We have seen a lot of other amazing miracles this week, but in spite of all the miracles God shows me daily, for some reason last week I was feeling a little discouraged with my abilities to talk to people, teach, etc., and it was a good opportunity for me to reflect on how the Lord can magnify my abilities and efforts far beyond anything I can do alone. As I was reflecting on this idea, I read a talk by President Henry B. Eyring, and he shared these words, "God will add His power to His servant’s efforts. Hearts of people will be touched to make the choices that will bring them along the gospel path toward happiness and away from sorrow." I felt the truthfulness in his words as I looked back to see all the times God has lifted me up, strengthened me when I was weak, and gave me courage that I didn't have before. I am so thankful to know that God is looking out for my well-being, and that He is working for the benefit of every person that has ever lived or ever will live on the Earth. I am thankful for the words of His prophets that guide us closer to Him.
I hope everyone has a great week, one filled with snow, laughter, and the Spirit! See you next week!

1/1/2017 Christmas, New Years

Merry late Christmas and Happy New Years Minnasan!

I hope you are all having a fabulous start to your new year, with family and friends, new goals that will (hopefully) be kept all throughout the year, and maybe even some American food! It was definitely different spending New Years and Christmas in Japan again, especially since New Years was a much bigger event. Christmas is basically celebrated by just by eating a Christmas cake, while on New Years almost everyone in Japan has the day off and they all go to visit a nearby shrine or temple.
It is also big to go and watch the first sunrise of the year here. We missed the real first sunrise, but we went out today with about 15 other missionaries to see the second sunrise of the year. It sure sounds less cool, but it was just as pretty. I can't believe how often I take for granted even he simple beauty around me, and today's experience gave me a little time to stop and realize how amazing it is that every day we have a new sunrise, a new opportunity to become someone new. We can put aside our past mistakes, and we can strive once more to love our family, give more attention to our friends and those we meet throughout our busy days that are in need of a friend. I am so thankful for each new opportunity to do better, especially since I have so far to go in order to become the person that I want to be!
I just want to share one experience from this week, a lesson we had with a member on Monday. His name is Soeda kyodai, and he is one of the most amazing people I have met in Japan. He is always helping us out with lessons, visiting investigators, sometimes giving us rides, and just a really friendly person. We wanted to thank him for all that he did for us, so we bought him a simple present and brought it to his house. As always, he called us in and sat us around his table since it was cold outside. As he opened his present, we just saw a huge smile come over his face and he thanked us over and over again. It was so special to see how happy he was from a small present, but it was even better as we then shared a simple scripture with him about Jesus Christ, and then got into a discussion about the true meaning of Christmas and how we can be more like the Savior. Soeda kyodai shared his feelings about his own family, and how he cared about them so much and wanted them to be more happy. It touched me to see his concern for them, and I know that this is how our Heavenly Father looks at us, with His only desire being to help us become who we have the potential to become, and to find joy. He loves us so much that He sacrificed His Only Begotten Son for us, to save us all from the evil, sin, and unclean things of the world, and to help us to find those things that will bring us the most happiness, filling our lives with light and love.
I know that each new day, and every new experience has been given to me for my growth and benefit by a loving Heavenly Father, through the gift of His Son Jesus Christ. I am so thankful for the time that I have each day to strive to be more, to lift others, and I am grateful for wonderful family and friends that forgive me even when I make mistakes. There are so many things to be thankful for, and as we show our gratitude, God only promises to rain more blessings upon us. I invite you all to take a little time to thank God in simple heartfelt prayer for the things you are grateful for, and the good things in your lives.
Once more, I wish you all a stellar start to your new year, don't forget to write!
Love from Japan,
Elder Winegar

Second sunrise in 2017!

Dinner with the Hayashi family.

This kid is the best (Seiryuu)!