"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

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