Monday, January 28, 2013

The Dive Bomb

Hey everyone it’s me again. Well this week has been interesting I have been on a lot of exchanges so I didn't spend as much time with my companion as normal. But I will still give you all a play by play of the week.

So we did teach that pastor after all which was pretty cool. We entered in and there were about ten people there and they all had been waiting for almost an hour. The interesting part was that we weren’t an hour late. They just really wanted to hear from us so they waited for an hour for us to show up. It was almost like Christmas morning when you wake up in bed and you can’t wait for the Christmas horn to blow. You’re just so excited to run downstairs and see everyone open gifts J because that is always really really fun to do. Well to start we taught them the doctrine of Christ (our go to lesson), almost everyone here in Uganda teaches that as their first lesson because everyone here already knows a lot about Christ. So we start with the doctrine of Christ and then we move on to things like the restoration. Anyway, the lesson was interesting. They were all very attentive and paid perfect attention and asked very intelligent questions. To be honest though, I don’t think it is going to go anywhere because they wanted to have us come to their church and then two of their members would come to our church. So I think they are great people but I don’t think it will go anywhere.

But one of the days when I was on exchanges this week (where you trade companions for the day) we were walking around teaching and I was just sweating like nobody’s business like I literally was soaked in sweat. But for some reason my back was unusually sweaty like it was soaked all the way through. I couldn't figure out why. But I continued on teaching with my companion for the rest of the day. When the day was wrapping up my companion came and picked me up. Right before I sat in the car he was like “WOAH BITTER! Don’t sit down!” So I just kinda stood there like “uh ok why not....” Then he told me “something dropped a present on your back”. I couldn't believe it! I was so grossed out. Some large flying animal decided to drop a gift right on the back of my nice white shirt! I was just like come on you must be kidding me! So I had to spend some time whipping that off of my shirt before I could get in the car to get taken back to my teaching area.

Well something cool happened this week. My companion and I decided to try to see how many lessons we could teach in one week. My companion had taught 49 lessons in one week before. But I knew that we weren’t going to get close to that because there we had a lot of meetings with mission leaders and stuff.  But we continued throughout the week teaching as many lessons as possible while still going to these meetings. Well we were really pushing ourselves and it was pretty cool at the end of the week we turned out to have taught 50 lessons! yahoo we set a new record for my companion and me!...Which was a cool, fun thing to do.

Dad I forgot to answer your question from like two weeks ago. You had asked me what I had been doing to work out. Well honestly in the MTC I wasn't working out. But now that I am out in the field I am :) I basically inherited my own work out set when I came out here. A bunch of past missionaries had left random pieces of work out equipment in our junk closet. So I was digging through it one day and I found three things; a nice jump rope, a nice set of bars for elevated pushups, and an abs roller-- which is a hard work out. Well I claimed all of those for myself since no one wanted them. So I now work out morning and night every day except for Sunday.

Another cool thing happened this week! I had the opportunity to baptize one of my investigators this last Sunday! I started teaching him m second day here. It was pretty awesome. He was the happiest person ever when he was baptized. It was really cool though. After being put under the water, he like forced himself up. As soon as his head exited the water he gave a huge breath of release. It was kinda cool because you could literally see the difference in him as soon as he was baptized. He definitely knew that being baptized was good for him. He was so happy after being baptized. It was remarkable to see. His name was Moses.

There aren’t words to describe this country. Like I wish I could take more pictures of how humble the people are here but it’s kinda hard. I don’t want to take a picture of how these "homes" are made because I don’t want to offend anyone by taking a picture of their home. A lot of the homes here are made of scrap plywood and tin sheets.

It finally rained here. Woah! All I can say is that it does not rain here. I swear the clouds just dump streams of water. You can literally watch the rain come at you. If the rain is twenty feet away you can literally stand still and watch the falling rain move at you at super rapid speed. I have never seen anything like it. And the thunder and lightning here are insane! It’s remarkable and breath taking and truly deafening to be honest. It’s like a shotgun going off a couple feet away from you. And when you are in a house and it’s raining on the tin roof, you can’t hear yourself yell. When it rains here everything floods. I have to make this letter short so I can email you all pictures this time :)

Monday, January 21, 2013

My First Baptism

Well it is this time of the week again to give everyone a heads up on what has been going on. Haha. Well there has been a lot this week so I will try to remember everything so that everyone can keep up on what is going on here in the PEARL OF AFRICA.

Well so we flew out on Tuesday and the flight in general was pretty uneventful (luckily there was no throwing up or anything like that). To start I had the opportunity to sit next to a lady that was from South Africa. She was a flight attendant so she had flown to Uganda many times. I had the opportunity to talk to her all about the country. She was pretty funny. I honestly had no idea what she was saying a lot of the time but I tried to get the gist of what she was saying haha. One thing I remember her saying was it is HOT in Uganda and I just sat there and was thinking I may literally die on this mission haha because in South Africa I was roasting when I was inside an air conditioned MTC haha. But to say it simply I had no idea what was coming my way hahaha. That flight went by pretty quickly because the lady and I talked most of the way about Uganda and all of the places she had flown to. She told me all about all the places I would be going on my mission and she informed me all about the things I should do and not do.

Well we finally landed. What a relief we entered the airport! Anyway, we were all going across the border where you show your passport. After about thirty minutes of waiting we finally made it through. We then did our head count and realized that we were two short..... Whoops.. Well we all split off into companionships to look around to find our two lost sheep hahaha. After looking for about twenty minutes none of us were able to find them anywhere. We then started to think up all the possible places they could be. We realized that we never saw them make it through customs. We instantly all new that they were stuck and were being interrogated or something (I laughed I know I shouldn’t have but it was kind of funny)…so we continued to wait. After waiting for another couple minutes we decided to walk to the border control and look for them there. It turns out that the border patrol lady had told those two missionaries that she had always wanted to learn about the church. So they hopped right on top of that. They were pulling out pass along cards, pamphlets, and book of Mormons. The lady had enough literature that she could have read all month and not been able to finish it all hahah. 

After finding our lost missionaries we then proceeded to leave the airport where we were greeted by our mission president. There isn’t anything too crazy to tell about that. The exciting part involves our road trim. Well we load our bags into two 12 passenger vans that were being driven by local members. As soon as we hit the roads I knew that I would not have to worry about dying from diseases because I knew that I would probably perish before getting to the apartment hahaha. The roads here are INSANE. There are no center dividers, no yellow lines, No nothing. There are not even those little reflectors.

Well since there are no lines or reflectors, you would think that the local drivers would still have some sort of laws that govern the road or something. Furthest thing from the truth. Our drivers were driving these vans like they were brand new Ferraris. They were constantly dropping gears, swerving between cars, driving on the wrong side of the road to pass slower cars (which weren’t really slow, they just weren’t at hyper-speed). If we tried to pass a car and there was a car one hundred yards ahead driving towards you, you wouldn’t slow down and return to your “lane”. Instead, you drop a gear, floor it and start flashing your Brights at the person coming hahahaha. Basically, driving here is like one big game of chicken. The whole drive here I just couldn’t help but think back to the days of when Jon and I would play Need for Speed Hot Pursuit 2 (it’s a racing video game where you drive around and dodge cars all day).

Well we finally made it safe at last--such a good feeling. Oh yea. Side not, the roads here are also completely unpaved. They are simply wide dirt roads covered with ruts and very large pot holes…so that added to our adventure. That little card that was given to me that says DO NOT RIDE BODA BODAS (motorcycle taxis) was good advice. Those guys are insane drivers! I don’t understand how they even make it through the day. They race around so fast it’s remarkable their little bikes can even handle it hahah

Well we then arrived to a place to stay and slept for the night. Then next day we met with the Mission President and we were given our new companions. I was paired up with Elder Facer. He is from southern California and lived about 30 min from us in California.

After that we had training all Wednesday. Not much to say there. It was really spiritual though. Thursday came and it was now time to get to the missionary work. We started looking over everything and we noticed that all of the people that they had been teaching were starting to either go completely A-WALL or they were getting baptized. So in simpler words we were running out of people to teach which meant we needed to find new people to teach…and fast.

So we slipped on our shoes and started walking and talking to everyone we saw. One thing I learned very quickly about the culture here is they don’t like to say no. They will do whatever it takes to avoid directly saying no. So when you would ask them to come join you for church they would say "I will try” or “If I have time I will come” or “I don’t know we will have to see" Which translated into American English means "I’ll pass” or “no thank you” or simply “no".

But to be honest the people here love the gospel. They are always willing to listen about the church but they don’t really want to change religions. They just enjoy hearing about Christ. My companion is a way good guy. He knows know to just keep going. So no matter how many times I was told no we would continue to just keep going and eventually, we would find someone to teach. The more people you teach, the more chance you have to find someone that will come to church.

So as the day went on we began to find people that would actually have a desire to come to church. This is always the best feeling in the world because you then realize that it’s always worth asking everyone. Well out of all the people we have been teaching there are three people I would like to talk to you all about. The three people are Joseph, Brian, and pastor john.

When we were tracting we were walking down one of the "towns" here. As we walked we were greeting people and talking about the gospel. We then saw a stalky built guy sitting on a stool leaning against the
wall with his shirt off. My first thought: “there is no point in trying to teach him because he will just say no” but that was wrong! haha. As we introduced ourselves he wanted to know everything. He was
truly anxious to learn more. He was commenting on everything and wanting lots of clarification. He was asking very in depth questions and then out of nowhere he was like “I want to come to church with you.” That was an awesome feeling. We barely had to do anything. The Lord had truly prepared him for the Gospel. He is now coming to church next Sunday and he has been reading all the literature we gave him and he has been keeping all the appointments (they call appointments programs here) we have set up with him. So I am extremely excited for him.

Brian is someone that my companion has been teaching for the past couple weeks. He has been very receptive to the Gospel and has been very committed to coming to church and keeping his commitments. He is a very honest man. He tells us his concerns so we help him get through them. He has been doing amazing at keeping all the commandments. He has apparently changed a lot from when my companion first met him. I really wish I could have met him before so that I could see the changes my companion has seen.

But that is not the coolest part. On Sunday I had the opportunity to baptize him. It was really an awesome first baptism for me. Him and I get along really well so he was happy and I was happy. We baptized him in a large metal tank that looked like an empty American dumpster that had been cleaned out. His name again was Brian Mugabe (How to pronounce Moo-Gah-Bee). There was a little humor to the baptism though haha. Me being a rocky at this whole baptism thing—I kind of forgot to tell him to plug his nose and close his mouth when he went under. So I dunked him under the water and he came out spitting water out of his mouth like a broken drinking fountain hahaha. All the missionaries there were giving me a really hard time about it hahah but it was good in the end. Brian was happy and I was happy :)

Well pastor John is a really interesting story. We were walking through one of the "Towns" again and saw this family just sitting and talking. So we sat down and started teaching them. They were really receptive so we asked if we could come back another time at the end of the lesson. At the end of the lesson an older guy walked up and started basically yelling at us in a different language. We had no idea what he was saying but it seemed pretty obvious that he didn’t want us there. After him speaking for a little while a friend of his started to translate for us. Well apparently he wasn’t mad at all! Apparently he was welcoming us in the name of Jesus…so he must have been very happy to see us. He then asked if we could set up an appointment and teach him and his whole congregation (about three families worth). I was like “wait what???” But sure enough he wants us to teach his whole congregation about the Gospel! So we will be meeting with them tomorrow and teaching them all. We will see how that goes :) we’re both really excited about that haha

I know that I keep saying "Towns" so I think I should clarify what that means. There are large long buildings here that have tin rooms (I’m in Mutungo). The buildings are usually about fifty yards long. They are divided up into a ton of little homes that the families live in. Each home is about ten feet by ten feet. The people that live in these homes are so humble it is remarkable. They live their lives so simply yet so happily. They are all amazing people. If they accept the gospel or not I can’t help but love them because they are always so kind and so welcoming. They are filled with love. All the little kids in these areas, whenever they see my companion, yell Mazungoo!! (Pronunciation Ma-zoon-goo) which means white person. They are always running and jumping. They are so happy it blows my mind. The simplest things mean everything to them.

Dad you asked what I eat here. Well to be honest when I cook for myself I eat eggs and toast, bread and peanut-butter, or bananas hahaha. I live simply I guess. That’s about every meal for me when I cook for
myself. But I have treated myself to this thing called Rolex (just like the watch). It’s a Chipati (really thin bread almost like a tortilla that is really soft). It has eggs, peppers, tomatoes, and parsley in it and some other stuff. It is honestly amazing. It is for sure one of my top ten favorite foods of all time. It seems very plain but the flavor is unreal. You should look it up and see what is actually in it and let me know hahah

It’s insanely hot here by the way. My shirt is always glued to me by the end of the day and the collar is brown hahah. It is so humid and so hot. I literally have to drink water constantly or I think might just melt away. Oh I almost forgot! We had nine new investigators that we tracted and taught this week come to church. That was a very nice feeling of work paying off.

Well I think that is about it for what has happened this week. I’m sorry I didn’t reply to everyone’s emails personally I just had a lot to say this week and time is always limited because there is a lot to do.

I love you all
Elder Bitter

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Last week in the MTC

What a sad day….I log on my computer and I don’t have a single email from my family hahaha That’s ok. TJ emailed me so he covered for all of you. So you all better tell him thanks cause if he hadn’t emailed me you would be in trouble :)

So this has been a pretty hard week honestly. My companion throughout this week has been on a downward slope. He first started not studying in the morning and then he started sleeping though studying times and through class. So I and everyone else tried to encourage him to continue on and keep working. But then Tuesday came around and everything changed. We were in the middle of studying and he started making whining noises and tossing and turning so I assumed he was having a bad dream. I decided that I would do him a favor and wake him up so that his bad dream would end. But no matter hard I shook him or poked him he would not wake up. I continued to try and try but to no avail. Then he started getting very weak and limp. We then assumed that it was GI--it's a sickness that has been going around our MTC and a lot of people have been out of commission because of it. He eventually came to and we asked him what was wrong. So after he awoke from his nightmare thing he told us that his stomach was in a lot of pain so it was definitely GI. So he slept all day to get better.

But then the next day came around (now Wednesday). Instead of his stomach hurting it was now his heart. He was unable to really do anything. So all day once again he spent his time in his room all day sleeping. Then sports time came around and we all were out playing soccer like we do every day. Then out of the blue my companion is walking around outside. He then continues his walk around outside until he faints randomly and just hits the ground. So at this point President takes him to the hospital because we’re beginning to think it is something much more serious.

They left for the hospital right then. They returned about 5 hours later. There were no results. He turned up totally ok. There was nothing wrong with him….no sickness…nothing.

Then comes Thursday. He was now saying that his head was killing him and he couldn’t think. He again was on his bed sleeping and was unable to study because he was in and out of sleep. So then he went in his nonresponsive state again. He would not respond to poking talking or anything. He was completely inside of his own head. There was no way to communicate with him at all. Then he rolled out of his bed and started shaking like crazy. I’m not sure what it was but I instantly remember Val Gardner telling me a story that one of her friends was shaking just like this and she rolled her friend on her side and she stopped. So I decided to roll him on his side and he instantly stopped (Val is a nurse).

At this point we really needed to figure out what was going on; so President asked us to pull him into his office again. So Elder Swacina and I carried him upstairs again and he basically spent the whole day in President’s office. President had many nurses and people coming over to find out what was going on.

After about a full day they were able to come to the conclusion that the stress of his mission was just too much for him and he broke down. So he needed to go home. There was really no other way. It was a really hard day in all honesty because my companion and I were really close. He didn’t speak English super well but we were always able to talk and get along. It really just put a damper on the whole week seeing him fall apart like that. It was really quite a bummer.

But we all know that him going home is a good thing because the stress is just too much for him and no one really wants to see someone go through something like that. So he left Saturday to go back home.

Then to add to the week we had a meeting on Saturday that was basically to inform all of us of the sicknesses and diseases we will probably get and the ones we should avoid. Then we had a meeting that was about getting mugged because they are kinda common. So all in all it’s been one of those weeks ya know.

But there was something that really made the week a lot better. I was kinda in a worn out state so I decided to go in my side pouch bag and look for a snack to eat (the good stuff that Sarah packed me) :) then when I was digging through my side pouch I found a letter from Jon and everything in the letter was perfect for what had been going on. So Jon really came to the rescue this week so I really love you Jon and I really appreciate your letter. That was awesome.

There has been a change of plans. We are now going to the airport on this upcoming Tuesday and we will be flying to Uganda. Everyone is planning on calling home in the airport so if I do have the opportunity to call home when I’m at the airport it will probably be pretty late…like midnight where you all are so I’ll try and call if I can and say hey.

I’m feeling pretty good now though. The spirit works wonders in overcoming hard times. It isn’t just a guide but it really is a comfort.

I really hope that you all are having a good week.

Kari: I’m excited for you to have the opportunity to go on a mission

Anne: Remember to always share your smile. You’re an amazing girl

Jon & Sarah: You are a perfect example to all of us for what we should all aim to do

Mom: You have been a huge spiritual guidance throughout all of our lives and I really love that.

Dad: You are amazing. Your humor and love is amazing and your guidance throughout my life has helped me so much on my mission

Give TJ my love. He is amazing.

I love you all,
(Elder Bitter)

Friday, January 11, 2013

Temple Day

The MTC mom sent two notes this week. Below are the pics and the letters.

Shelley just wrote to me on facebook (which I rarely have a chance to look at) and told me that she is a family friend. I will tell Elder Bitter tonight at dinner. On our last mission...we served with Shelly and she was an amazing missionary.

I love connections! Here is a photo I took just a few minutes ago of some of the Elders moving new bedding to the garage.We are gearing up for an increase in missionaries.

Sister Janet Reber
South Africa MTC

Tuesday all of the missionaries went to the Temple. Nine were there for the first time. It was a wonderful day. Sister Chokoe was able to do baptisms for the dead after the endowment session was completed. This was a day that the missionaries will never forget. 

This group shot is of all of the missionaries in the MTC. If you click on the photos, they will get larger.

Monday, January 7, 2013

White Ants

Dear everyone,

So I am not allowed to send pictures yet because the president doesn’t want me downloading stuff onto the computers so I have to wait until I go into the field. So sorry about that and I will have to work on taking pictures because at this point all I have to show is a couple pictures of the MTC and a few pictures of the landscape and the not too much so far. It was pretty cool this week we had a huge migration of butterflies! There were like millions of them flying around-it was like the air was painted white hahah.

Oh so a fun story for everyone. So we were sitting in class doing some personal study and this huge flying insect flew into the room and it was a super slow flyer. So Elder Morris decided to catch it. After catching it Elder Mosuba took it and ripped off its wings and just threw it in his mouth and chomped on it like it was a piece of licorice hahahah. I started going crazy trying to figure out why in the world he would ever eat that. Well apparently he is from Uganda. And apparently these big insects (They call them White Ants) are really common in Uganda. They live for about two days or so. They crawl out of the ground and then they sprout huge wings (the whole insect is about the size of half my pinky when full grown. But apparently they are really plentiful in Uganda and they catch them like crazy and eat them all the time. They say to get full on them you eat about two cups worth. I was like " this common that you just snatch them out of the air and then just eat them?" Elder Mosuba and Elder Kasikka went on to tell me that they basically make traps that catch them and you usually catch with one trap about a milk jugs worth of white ants. So apparently it’s impossible to go hungry in Uganda because they kind of eat anything that isn’t poisonous hahah so I guess I won’t be going hungry any time soon :)

So I’m not gonna lie when I was preparing to turn in my mission papers I was always really worried that I was going to gain a lot of weight on my mission. That has been like one of my biggest fears for a really long time so I have been asking around and apparently I don’t really have to worry about that one :) so I’m really grateful for that one not gonna lie hahah

Oh yea I forgot when writing letters there are more rules then we knew
1. Must be only one sheet of paper.
2. It cannot be lined so it has to be like printer paper
3. When you are going to send it you cannot put it in an envelope.
4. Fold it hot dog style and then tape the long edge with one piece of tape.
5. Write the address with elder bitter and a return address.

If those aren’t followed it usually just gets tossed out hahahaha so a heads for you all hahah

And apparently others are allowed to email me while I’m in the MTC. I just can’t email them back so if people want to email me here is my email at the end of the email just put your home address so I can write you letters back. Once I’m out of the MTC I’m pretty sure that I can email people back.

Now back to the the important stuff. So it’s kinda crazy how humble the people are here like its truly remarkable. You can go around and talk to anyone about the Gospel and they will always listen. They don’t always accept it but they will always listen. I was talking to some of the missionaries who are from Uganda and they were telling me that the people in Uganda love white missionaries because they have read the bible and often times have never seen a white person before so they see us as like special or something. So they are always so ready to receive the Gospel from what I have heard. We had a speaker come in yesterday who had recently returned from his mission in Uganda. Apparently in Sudan (which is part of our mission) there are easily over 7000 people who are waiting to be baptized. They are not yet allowed to be baptized though. The people there have received Book of Mormons already and they have read them and are waiting to be baptized but due to some laws and the location of these people they cannot be baptized. So many people have been waiting for over 14 years to be baptized but still cannot be baptized. These really faithful people are remarkable. They are holding church meetings and reading from the book of Mormon every Sunday for multiple hours. They have literally no money and many of them walk for a day or so to meet for Sunday. When we sent missionaries there to try to figure out a way for it to work for them they attended one of the "stake centers" they had built. It was basically a huge room with mud walls. Those missionaries that were not allowed to baptize the people were greeted by nearly 1500 people all hoping to just hear their words even though they knew they would not be able to be baptized at this time. So that is real faith in my opinion--waiting for almost 14 years and just going to church and reading the book of Mormon. That really blew my mind. So the field is truly white and ready to harvest.

So a little fun fact now. They have this stuff hear that is called POP--it is so good. It’s like ground up corn that they make into a portage looking substance that it so dense that you can cut it and hold it like bread. You all should look up the recipe online and check it out. I think it would be something different for dinner that you would all like to try.

Well I’m sorry if there are any spelling errors or stuff like that but I really have to type fast while I’m in the MTC because they only give us a very limited time on the computers in the MTC. And I’m sorry if I didn’t respond to everyone’s questions in these emails.

And thanks Brendan it’s good to hear from ya. And thanks for sending all those Kari :)

And Jon yes the pillow tie worked awesome I slept so well on it :)

Well I love you all I really hope everything is going good back home.

Elder Bitter

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Another Love Note from the Mission Mom

I asked one of the missionaries how they were doing with fasting (many are fasting for their first time ever).
He replied, "I am enduring".

We are all fasting together.  Elder Bitter led our MTC choir practice on Friday.  He is a man of many talents!

Sister Janet Reber
South Africa MTC

Saturday, January 5, 2013

A Note From the Mission Mom

January 5, 2013

Note and pictures from Sister Janet Reber (MTC Mom)
Here is Elder Bitter at FHE, talking to the nurse with Elder Ramoshaba...and then getting a shot.  

See how brave he is!

I ate breakfast this morning with Elder Bitter and Elder Paki.  Elder Paki told us that he lives in a small village and attends a Branch of the Church.  There aren't any jobs, so to earn money he killed crocodiles and sold the skin.

Elder Bitter is likable and fits in well.  Everyone just started their fast.  It will be a 24 hour there will be no food available until tomorrow at 5:00.  For many it will be their first time to fast for 24 hours.  It is always a humbling experience for them.  I look forward to our testimony meeting tomorrow.  Every person will bear their testimony.  We are one of the few Branches of the Church where we know exactly who will be in attendance!
Elder Bitter at the Johannesburg MTC Family Home Evening
Sister Janet Reber
South Africa MTC