Monday, May 20, 2013

Mountainside Tracting - May 20, 2013

I officially hate the keyboard that I am using right now. The keys are really worn out and hard to push. They sound like a thunder storm when I use them. With each key stroke the whole internet cafe echoes. I thought I would throw in that little tidbit for color.

Now to my email :)

Elder Tracey and I are getting along very well. The best part is that if there is ever any conflict, we both try to resolve it quickly. We just do so much better when we are happy and are really good friends. All in all, it is an awesome companionship.

This week has been awesome as we have been really trying to find the best of the best that will help this ward. We have seen a lot of blessings come. One of my best mission experiences to date happened this week. This is what happened.

Elder Tracey came up to me one day and said, "I just had a prompting that we need to visit someone".
ME: "Alright let’s call them and go see them right now”.
Elder Tracey: "Well we would, but I can’t figure out who it is that we are supposed to see".
Me "Alright let’s figure out who it is”.
Both of us conversed for a little bit then both decided that we should pray and look for a prompting. At first we prayed together and neither of us got an answer. Then we said our own private prayers.

As I was praying I got a prompting that we should go visit someone named George. As soon as I got that prompting I wondered “who in the world is George, I don't even know a George”. I said OK and ended my prayer.

After I walked out, Elder Tracey and I looked at each other and we both just said "did you get George?" It turns out we both had a prompting that we should meet with a man named George. Apparently George is a guy that Elder Hall and Elder Tracey dropped last transfer (about 8 weeks ago). He just wasn't committing to anything and he would consistently cancel appointments. We called him up and he answered. He was happy met with us and now he is taking all the lessons again. I really appreciated that experience.

George is a perfect investigator. He really is everything that you could ask for. He is good at speaking English so we can converse easily. When we talk about the gospel, he understands every little bit. He is just really very quick. Not only is he smart, but he has a very steady job. This is key since we don't have to worry about him having leave due to running out of money.

This week we had two baptisms. We baptized a man named Shebon and a man named Hillary. Shebon is a very powerful man and truly investigated the church through and through until he knew that every aspect of it was 100% true. He has been investigating the church for about the past four months. To have the opportunity to be in the area when he finally got baptized was just such a cool experience. I really appreciated seeing him get baptized because he will stay strong. I know that he will never leave the church because his testimony is so strong.

Hillary getting baptized as well was another rewarding experience for many reasons. To start Hillary is 19 years old and just about to finish his third year of university. He is a very smart young man. He already has a strong desire to serve a mission. He already is planning to turn his papers in once he hits the one year mark after his baptism. Seeing someone so excited about the gospel and already have such a strong desire to go on a mission just really makes me smile inside. I really see how people change learn to love sharing the gospel as they learn more and more about God.

Elder Tracey and I were looking over all the recent converts to the Church in our area and we realized that a lot of them are young men and young women that still live with their parents. We noticed that a large majority of these young men and young women's parents and other family members have yet to be taught about the church. We also noticed that these young men and young women (there all at least 19 of them) have large families that need to learn about the gospel. We thought it would be a good idea to start meeting all these families and start teaching them. This is a whole lot easier to visit and have the adult child welcome you in the door and introduce you to their parents than knock doors.

Elder Tracey and I have just started this new teaching method and began with a young man’s named Billy’s family. It was so much easier. We showed up at Billy's home and he gladly welcomed us in and introduced us to his family. We got to know them and shared a message. We were gladly welcomed back for another appointment in the near future. As Elder Tracey and I left this home, we really realized that this is what the ward needs. There are a lot of members in their 20s, still living with their families who are ready for the gospel.

We still need to tract at times. On Friday we decided that we should tract a new area that hadn’t been touched in a long time (about 9 months). It was such an awesome experience. The area that we tracted was horrible because all the houses were built on this huge mountainside. As we went from house to house it seemed it was always uphill. As Elder Tracey and I went to each home, we began to realize that this area had really just been prepared by the Lord for the gospel. All of the people were so welcoming. Almost every single person we taught had a large family that was ready and happy to learn about the gospel. It was an awesome experience.

One of the best people that we found was a man who initially it seemed did not want to meet with us. His name is Charles. Charles is 41 years old and has four sons that are 19, 14, 12, and 10 years old. His wife doesn’t speak any English and is a woman who grew up in a true African village. As we sat and talked with Charles, he at first he didn’t seem to want to learn. As we just sat and talked with him and joked around a bit, he really opened up.

Charles is struggling to make enough to pay for all his kids schooling. He will always pay for his kids schooling and food before he provides anything for himself. He is a remarkable man. He works day in and day out to serve his family. He is just excited about being alive and able to have a family. As we sat and talked with him we began to realize that he has a deep respect for God and loves to learn more about Him.

He refuses to work on Sundays no matter what the cost because of his deep love for God. This is extremely unusual for Ugandans because most have such humble circumstances that they have to work continuously to survive and to put food on the table. Charles knows that if he gives up Sundays, all will work out in the end.

As we taught Charles he became a better and better person in my mind. He just turned out to be such a remarkable person. He committed to come to church on Sunday.

When Sunday rolled around, he not only came to church, he came 40 min early. He sat and read the pamphlets that we had given him as we taught him the past two times during the week. He happily stayed during the sessions and he fallowed along in his bible as the speakers gave references to verses in the bible. The speaker might say, “I’m now going to read from Mather 16” and Charles would look at me and ask me to flip my bible to that chapter. He would take it and follow along as the speaker read the verse. He is just such an awesome man. I really can’t say enough about him hope that he continues to progress the way he has been so far.

Charles has been prepared for the Gospel. I really love this guy. He has no desire to do anything but serve his family and come closer to God.

I’m just about out of time and I am pretty tired of this keyboard. I think that everyone around me is pretty tired of this keyboard as well. I have to go.

I love you all

I appreciate all the emails from everyone. You all are awesome.

I miss you all and hope all is going well for each and every one of you.

The church is true

God loves us.

The Book of Mormon is True


Elder Bitter/Steve

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Helping Stella -- May 13, 2013

Good Morning. It is nice to be writing another letter home.

This week has been nice. My companion and I have really been trying to find people in the ward that have stopped coming to church. We have been giving them good friendship so they will develop a desire to come back to church and renew their baptismal covenants. In addition we have been looking through all the people taught by the past missionaries and have been trying to determine which ones are really ready for the gospel.

This has been an interesting experience in spending so much of our time finding the less active and spending less time finding new investigators. I really struggled with this for the first week. I was kind of confused because I knew that a missionary’s job was to bring people to Christ and that meant finding new people to teach and helping them to have a spiritual confirmation of the truth. In Entebbe I learned that it is not all about finding new people. I want to talk about a member of the Entebbe ward whose name is Stella.

Stella has been a member for about five years. A few months back she was offended and left the church. I don’t know what happened and don’t think it really matters. What matters is that she left. Elder Tracey and I have recently decided that we would focus on just two or three less-actives at a time and help them in coming to church again and to have the faith that they once had. Stella was the first person we started to really focus on.

When Elder Tracey and I started teaching Stella, she seemed kind of angry and frustrated to see us. The only reason I think that she let us visit is because most Africans are afraid to say no to anyone for fear of offending. At first, her desire to meet with us seemed low. It was amazing to see how she has changed over the past week or so. At first she really seemed irritated but as we continued to call her and ask if we could come meet with her, she softened. The answer on the phone changed from a, “sure”.... to a happy response that went something like, "today?!? what time?!? ok ill be ready". Elder Tracey and I have not really done that much. All we have done is visited, shared a spiritual thought and invited her to church.

After a few invitations to church she eventually decided that she would come. She came to church this past Sunday. It was a really cool experience and showed me that our job as missionaries is to bring people closer to Christ. Our job is not only to find new people but also to help those who have fallen away and bring them back. Seeing someone come back is one of the most satisfying things in the world. When Stella came to church again, it brought a wonderful feeling to the church service. It is very important to bring the lost ones back.

Elder Tracey and I have really been trying to try and find the people who are not only ready to hear the gospel but will also help this ward grow. I truly believe that everyone is ready for the gospel. Some will take it slower than others. This is OK and is kind of like eating. Some can eat really fast and some can barely eat two bites in five minutes. Either way, everyone needs food in some way or another. We are not too worried about how long a person may take. We are more concerned if they will be a support to the ward or a burden to the ward. We are really striving to find the people that will help this ward grow.

We hope that this will not only help the ward become strong again but also help the missionaries in this area in the long run. We believe that if we find people that will be a support to the ward that in the long run they can help us and the future missionaries find all of the less-actives and bring them back.

Time to change topics.

The people in Uganda are awesome -- especially when it comes to helping the missionaries. There are two young men in this ward that are truly a blessing to us when it comes to missionary work. One is named Billy and another named Jimmy. If it was not for these two young men we would not be able to accomplish any of the things that we have been doing lately. I know that these two guys deserve more blessings then I can imagine. If not for them, we would not be able to visit half of the less actives that we have been visiting. We would not be able to visit as many people in one day because they help us find short cuts through trees to all of homes. These two young men are both preparing for missions and to be honest I think they are more than ready. Wherever they go on their mission, their areas will be blessed by them. This is because they both know how to work extremely hard and they both have such a strong spirit with them.

It is remarkable to see the hard times that these people face and how much it prepares them for the gospel. I truly believe that the lord has prepared these people for the gospel. They are so humble that the gospel and learning about Christ and the Father is the only source of light for them. They look forward to every minute of learning.

A perfect example is from this past Sunday when we were singing hymns during church. The power went out so did the lights and the music from the key board. We became an acapella choir. The people here did miss one beat. Everyone smiled and then began to sing louder, and louder, and louder. It was a cool experience. I loved it.

Well that's all for this time.

I love you all.


Elder Bitter/Steve

Monday, May 6, 2013

Mystery Transfer Out of Rwanda - May 6, 2013

I have a story for you all.

This past week was transfer news and we found out if we were staying in our old areas or being shifted to a new area. It is always exciting to find out this kind of news. Last Tuesday we were anxiously waiting for transfer news to come. You never know what is going to happen. Elder Terry and I were walking to an appointment and Elder Andres, a senior couple missionary gave us a call. When I answered the call he responded, “Hi Elder Bitter, may I speak with Elder Terry. I handed the phone over to Elder Terry and Elder Andres then told Elder Terry to walk a little ways away from me so that he could speak to him privately. This was really weird because that had never happened before. I wondered what in the world was going on.

The conversation ended and Elder Terry relayed that Elder Andres just told him the transfer news but said that he wasn’t supposed to tell me. I was dumbfounded. We then continued on with the day and I was just wondered why I couldn’t know the transfer news. It was really getting on my nerves and I was wondering why I was not good enough to know. After a little while I just got over it and stopped worrying. It ended up being a really good day over all.

That night was possibly the last night that Elder Terry and I would be together so we threw ourselves a little party. We cooked all the food we had left in the apartment. We made pancakes, oatmeal and mashed potatoes. It was pretty awesome. After we had eaten we were still just chilling and the phone rings. We thought that it might be the Assistants calling to give us the transfer news -- rather, give me transfer news since Elder Terry was already in the know. Once again I pick up the call and it’s Elder Stefenhagen who is just another missionary in the area. Elder Stefenhagen was in a foul mood and asked to speak to Elder Terry.

At this point I was convinced that no one wanted to speak to me. I continued eating I gave the phone to Elder Terry. Elder Terry then speaks to Elder Steffenhagen and I hear my name over the phone. At this point I was wondering what was going on or why Elder Steffenhagen was bugged. I needed to know what is going on! Elder Terry then hangs up the phone and says that Elder Steffenhagen just got called by the Baileys and they told him the transfer news as well. Talk about a serious communications leak in the system. President Jackson and the Assistants are the only ones who are supposed to know the transfer news.

Elder Terry looks at me and says, “Well, I think it’s getting late and you really need to know the news or you might have some travel problems. He said, “Elder Bitter, you are getting transferred. You need to pack your bags because you will be boarding a plane soon. Well apparently I was sent a plane ticket for the next morning. The only reason that he hadn’t told me was because Elder Andres committed him to secrecy. Once he said that, I went and packed my bags. We stayed up talking for a little longer then packed it in for the night.

The next morning (Wednesday) I patiently waited for the AP's (Assistants to President Jackson) to call me with the transfer news. I expected a conversation like, “Hey Elder Bitter, you need to pack your bags since you are leaving on a flight in 3 hours” (or something like that). One hour goes by and they don’t call, two hours pass and they don’t call, the third hour goes by and they never call. Elder and Sister Baily show up with their truck to take me to the airport. At this point I still don’t know where my plane is taking me and I definitely don’t know about my new area. I hop on my plane and it takes me to Kampala so part of the mystery is solved but still do not know where in Uganda I will be serving.

After landing I went to the mission office with no phone and just my suitcase. No one is there so I wait for the APs or President Jackson to show up. It turns out that the APs were doing new
missionary trainings with President Jackson at the time. Time goes on and I wait: 30 min, 1 hour, two hours, and so on until about 4 hours pass by. The APs finally show up at the mission office where I have been getting older. They start talking to me like everything is normal. I eventually cut them off and ask them when I am going so I can find out my new assignment (it’s now 7pm Wednesday evening). They were shocked that I did not know my new area. I just looked at them and said, “You never called anyone in Rwanda to tell them their new areas. The only reason I got on the plane is that I received a plane ticket by email and the Baileys gave me a ride to the airport.

The APs just looked at each other with a look that said “whoops, messed that one up”. hahaha
I finally found out my new area assignment – Entebbe, which is about 20 miles south of Kampala. To put a long story short, the APs told me that Entebbe is an area that needs to be fixed. It got really messed up about 6 months back and my job is to regain the trust of the ward and get this area back on its feet. I’m the new District Leader of the area and have responsibility for one other set of missionaries.

My new companion is Elder Tracy. He is an opera singer and apparently is pretty good at it. He was going to be on ‘America’s Got Talent’ but his mission report date came before the day he was to perform. I really like this area. The ward has a lot of fixing that is needed and a lot of trust building to do. I have a feeling that I might be here for a while until we can get it all rolling again. This is my new home :) My companion is awesome and my new area is good.

I know that this will be a good experience. I know it will take some time but that it will be good as new in just a few months. :)

I love you all and hope that all is well. Sorry this email didn't talk a whole lot about our investigators. Now I don’t have any in this area. We are just working hard to get it going and building up some steam.

This will be an amazing area and I am happy to have the opportunity to serve here. :)

I love you all.  I look forward to calling home.


Elder Bitter