"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

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)!