Monday, July 29, 2013

Death of a Chicken - July 29, 2013

Hi Everyone,

I have a new companion with this transfer. His name is Elder Kanthunkako and he is from Malay. He is a pretty funny guy and we have a good time together when it comes doing the work and missionary life in general :) The good news is that he committed to run with me every other day. It is not every day but I’ll take anything I can get so that I can keep fitting into my pants. He is a really calm, somewhat shy and very sincere and loving with the people we teach. It is nice to stay in an area for more than one transfer.

Let me think of a funny story of the week that I can relate to you. Hmmmm… I do have one story but it is not that funny but a story none the less. This past week I had the opportunity to do something completely new to me. Anyone who has been a missionary in Uganda knows that meat is pretty expensive -- especially chicken since it goes bad quickly unless stored properly. Elder Seyoum and I came up with this idea for a little personal party for the both of us that included chicken. To put it in perspective, 1 kg chicken meat (already cleaned, prepared and sliced) costs 10,000 UGX. A whole chicken that weighs 5 kgs costs the same 10,000 UGX .

Elder Seyoum and I thought about this and determined that the live chicken is five times the value and would be worth the mess. We assumed that we could just do it ourselves and get a whole lot more. Genius – we were just cutting out the middle man. Well, we purchased a local chicken and did almost everything ourselves. First we "sped up" the chicken’s life span and then took it to a member of the branch to teach us how to remove the feathers and clean the chicken. In Uganda, they cook everything like the gizzard, the back, the feet and the neck (and everything else for that matter).

Ugandans truly believe in not wasting a single piece bit. It was a wild experience. I looked at the dead chicken and wondered, “ How in the world are we were going to get the feathers off?” I soon learned that you just pour hot water all over the entire chicken and the feathers will then come off easily. Just another experience for the record books of things that I thought I would never have to do. In the end it was worth it --just a little bit of extra work. :)

Now - on to the important stuff.

This week was amazing. Elder Kanthunkako and I have really been very blessed and received lots of referrals from Richard. Richard is one of the people that Elder Seyoum and I Baptized a while back. He introduced us to a large group of people this week. This all began by him giving us a phone call and telling us that during our five o’clock appointment he would introduce us to a few of his friends who wanted to learn about the gospel. Of course we were more than happy to meet his friends.

When we arrived at Richard’s home, he gladly invited us in but the home was completely empty. I just figured that the friends invite just didn’t work out. After sitting and chatting for a little bit, Richard just smiled and said, “Well, should we go”? I just said, “Of course, let’s go.” After walking for a few minutes we entered into a little village area. As we rounded a corner, I could not believe my eyes. There were many, many people just waiting for us. About 15 children, about 12 more who were teens/adults and just a bunch of other random people standing around that weren’t necessarily waiting for us but elected to sit and listen to the message anyway.

As we taught these people, they were full of questions and so full of life. In particular, there was a lady named Ruth who really amazed me. She sat in the front, didn’t speak any English but received translation from Richard as we taught. As we taught, Ruth asked questions about the church and I could see in her eyes that she truly cared about what we were teaching. Ruth is quite old, frail and lives very far from the church. After teaching and getting to know Ruth, I knew that she didn’t have the money to take a taxi from her home to the church. I really didn’t think she would be able to make the walk on Sunday to the church.

Boy, was I ever wrong. She not only came to church she made it to sacrament meeting and made it on time. This is very unusual for Ugandans to make it on time for sacrament meeting. For her to cover the distance she likely walked an hour and a half before the meetings started. As I thought about her commitment, I was just really really happy for her. I really think that she is sensitive to the spirit. Because the service was given in English she couldn’t understand what was said. After the service I asked her how church was and if she liked it. She responded with, "balunge no" (very good). Usually we get answers like it was "gendy" (fine). I realized that she didn’t need to completely understand what was being said to feel the spirit.

At church on Sunday, we just had a great turn out. We had a lot of investigators come. Sandra, Ruth, Caroline, Teddy, Prossy, William, Ronald, and Hassan all came. We are teaching all of these people already except Prossy and William. It is wonderful when random people come to church and even better when people that you are teaching come.

The church is true

The Book of Mormon is true

The opportunity to learn and come closer to God is for everyone.

God loves us all no matter what.

I love you all.


Elder Bitter / Steven

Monday, July 22, 2013

Death of a Popo Tree - July 22, 2013

To start I want to thank everyone for their awesome letters this week. It is fun to hear from everyone and to be updated on things back home. :)

Today is transfers. We haven't found out anything yet. We will probably find out about the transfer news on Wednesday. I am guessing that I will be staying and my companion will be transferred. He has only four weeks left in his mission. I am okay with staying because the area is nice and a great place to be as a missionary since the people are generally accepting of us. The reason the area is liked by the missionaries is because of all the referrals. The people trust the missionaries. This is such a blessing. The work moves much faster with referrals.

This week flew by! On Saturday morning, my companion said, “Can you believe it is already Saturday!?” I was in awe as I realized that the week was already over and the next transfer was almost here.

As always, I like to start with a story. So you will know a little bit of what goes on in the life of Elder Bitter and Elder Seyoum. Here goes. On Saturday, we went to visit a family recently baptized. As we looked in the compound where she lives, there was a huge lot that was full of the debris from trees that had been cut down. In the yard was one giant Popo (papaya) tree, it was about 35 feet tall!

As I looked at tree, I noticed that this giant tree had burn marks all around its trunk. My curiosity was peaked! I couldn’t help asking about the burn marks. The lady that owned the house told us that the people that cut down the other trees left that giant tree because they didn’t know how to cut something down that big. She said, “They didn’t know how to handle it.”

So their idea was to burn it down. They forgot to consider that Popo Trees are full of sap or juice as they say in Africa. So no matter how they tried to burn or how long they tried to burn the tree, it would not catch on fire. Elder Seyoum and I looked at each other and said, “No problem. We can cut it down for you.” :)

She just looked at us and said "Hum. . .you know how to cut down trees? I don’t believe." After a little persuading, she agreed to let us try. As she went to get the "tools", Elder Seyoum and I discussed how to cut the tree down without damaging anything around it such as the gates etc. We came to the conclusion that I would climb up about 7 feet. I would cut it down from that point; thus allowing the cut portion of the tree to fall without hitting anything but ground. We felt pretty smart.

We were really excited to cut down this tree UNTIL the owner rounds the corner holding nothing but a ponga or machete in American. OHH BOY! We were expected to cut down this giant tree with a machete! I just looked at it, smiled and laughed saying, “Oh well, let’s do it.” In a moment, I am up in the tree bare-hugging the trunk with one arm and whacking away at the tree with the other arm.

This is how it went. Whack! Whack! Whack! Whack! Whack whack! Whack! Whack whack! Hack whack! Whack! Whack Whack! About ten minutes later, it went Whack.... Whack……Whack......... Whack.........Whack....... Whack..... Whack........Then I hear the lady of the home say, “Ahh he is getting tired. Just let him come down. It doesn’t have to get cut down today.”

Right before she speaks, I am getting tired. But when I hear her say those words, my mind yells, “NO, No, no! I am not quitting until I yell, “Timber.’” My effort changes again to Whack! Whack! Whack Whack! Whackwhack! Whack! for another five minutes or so. Then the joyful noise of wood twisting, cracking and then my famous TIMBER!!!!!!!! With one final, fatal swoop of the machete, I took down the monster. All in all it was pretty fun.

After cutting down the tree, we taught her a lesson about Abe Lincoln. This story is basically about if he needed to chop a tree that would take six hours , he would sharpen his axe for four hours then he would spend two hours cutting it down. We related that to life. We need to spend most of our time getting ready for the next life. It was a great object lesson and related so will to chopping down the tree. The family was glad the tree was gone and really liked the analogy.

This week we were really blessed again. We decided to continue finding in this new area we had been working. As we were walking in this area, we came across a guy walking. We stopped him on the road and introduced ourselves. We talked to him a little bit about the gospel there on the street. In just a minute or two, he said, “Why don’t we just go to my home and talk there.”

YES JUST WHAT I WANT TO HEAR :)!!! As we are walking to his home, we ask him questions about his life. We used almost all of my “get to know you” questions.” As we are talking, we walk into his home and he instantly introduces us to a few other people that live in the same area. What a blessing!

As we sat and talked to Kevin, Andrew and Sandra about the the Doctrine of Christ, someone came into the home and tried to call Sandra away. He wanted to talk to her about work. Something happened right then that I had never seen before. She just looked over at the person and said, Can’t you see we are in a meeting right now and were discussing something important.” I was amazed! Stuff like that never happens in Uganda. Usually people are more than happy to just pick up their phone and walk out of the room and talk to someone. But these three people had given us there undivided attention! It was really, really cool. As we continued to talk about the lesson they became more and more engaged until it came to the point that they were pounding us with amazing questions that were just perfect. At the end of the lesson, we asked them if they would be willing to accept baptism and they all accepted it gladly.

After we finished, they looked at us and said, “When are you coming back? We should make an appointment now. :) I was so happy. I just said yes we should. So we scheduled an appointment for two days later. We set it for 5:30pm. Two days later we were walking towards their home around 5:00. We were about 5 minutes away and our phone rings. It was Kevin. He was excited and happy to talk to us. He said, “Hey I just wanted to remind you about our appointment so that you wouldn’t forget. It starts at 5:30.”

That was a first for me on the mission. I have never had someone call to remind me about an appointment and tell me that they are waiting for us. It is rare for an investigator to use their minutes to call for any reason. It is very expensive here. So at this point, we knew that they are really serious and ready for the gospel.

We are still teaching Eve the Gospel and it is going really well. Sadly though we haven’t yet been able to meet her family because they are all so far away. But we haven’t given up.

Well I’m just about out of time and I still want to send a few pictures.

I love you all and things are going great on this side of the world. Hope all is well with you too.


Elder Bitter

Awesome Elders

Popo Tree Under Siege

Service Can Be Fun

Monday, July 15, 2013

Shock Therapy in Our Apartment - July 15, 2013


This week has improved! Life is good now days. :)

Well Tuesday through Sunday was a big improvement from last Monday so life is all good again. I am back in business and ready to write a nice letter to make up for last week’s failure of a letter. :) And to top it off, I have plenty of time to write today so I will tell a few funny stories and some of the more important things of this week.

One of the funny stories: On preparation day as we were going about our morning routine, we noticed that our stove top was absolutely filthy. So we decided we should focus on our kitchen appliances for our deep cleaning efforts.

We started on the fridge, took it apart, and cleaned it thoroughly. (We haven't had power to our fridge for a couple days, so we basically just through everything away. Forced spring cleaning, I guess.) Well after spending some time on the fridge, my companion and I decided that we would move on to the stove top. I wish I had taken a picture or video of this so that everyone could truly experience this like we did.

Well to start, we removed the grate that stands over the burners that is used to place the pans and pots on so it is above the flame. After removing the grate, we scrubbed it clean. We then moved on to the stove top itself. After looking at it, we decided to remove all of the metal burners and the covers. This would just leave a hole where the pipe feeds the propane to the burners. As we removed the burners, I turned around and began mixing some of the cleaning supplies. I felt like a mad scientist trying to come up with the perfect formula! Ha ha ha! As I was mixing the chemicals, my companion says, “Uhhhhhh Bitter come look at this.....”

I stand up, walk over to our stove top and look at it. I literally could not believe my eyes!! The pipes that feed the propane to the burners were home to a couple families of roaches. I couldn’t move! I was just staring at the pipe in amazement as loads of roaches were running up and down the propane pipes.

As I watched I thought, “Why aren’t these things suffocating from the propane when we use it???” After a few minutes of being totally grossed out and stunned, we grabbed the lighter and turned on the propane. It was like a giant Bunsen burner! I am the mad scientist!

Conclusion of story, the roaches either had a fiery death or ran back down the pipe to some other world. Either way there are less of them now than there was before. Go team--2 points for team Bitter and 0 points for team roach! :)

Second story of the week is about our power. One of our breakers in our house is now permanently broken until the repairman replaces the breaker box. Consequently, some really weird things have been happening in our house. For example the lights work but are really dim like a fancy restaurant. However when plugging something in, the lights go out and the plugged in appliance does not work. We discovered this when I decided to iron my shirt. As soon as the iron was plugged in, the whole house went black. When I unplugged the iron, the lights came back to the fancy restaurant status. We thought it was just the breaker until a few days ago, when I came to the realization that the house may be eating the power. I arrived at this conclusion when Elder Seyoum starts yelling my name. ELDER BITTER, ELDER BITTER!!!!! I walk into the bathroom and he says, “Dude the shower knobs are shocking me when I try to turn the water on!” I thought, “What is he talking about?!”

Of course, I reach out to turn on the shower myself. As I reached forward and touched the knob to turn on the water, I receive a shock that feels like a lightning bolt! In an instant, I think to myself, “I don’t think we have a broken breaker. The house is eating power!” Ha Ha Ha As it turns out, everything in our house that is metal and is a part of the walls is somehow electrically charged.

This is a whole new experience that's all I have to say. The funny thing about the situation is that different areas have different amounts of charge. So the shock is different in each area. (The shower handle gives the strongest shock when touched!) We did not touch everything to discover this important fact. Three experiences were enough.

(NOTE: Fortunately the mission president is aware of this problem as of today.)

Alright enough with the funny stuff :)

This week I once again saw the Holy Spirit work miracles. Elder Seyoum and I decided that we would go and knock a couple streets of "The Big Gates". The Big Gates are areas of homes that are owned by the wealthiest people in the area. To put it in perspective, most of these homes have walls around them that are about 6-8 feet tall. It’s interesting because at the end of these streets is the ghetto again. Right in the middle of the ghetto is big beautiful homes.

As we knocked on these doors, we seemed to get the same answer time and time again. “No,” door closes. “No,” door closes with a chuckle. Another “No,” door closes, and so on. Until we finally came to one that let us in. As we were invited into the home, the family seemed really solemn. All of the members of the family were in their 40s and very educated. This is really noticeable in Africa because very few people speak proper English and carry themselves in this manner.

We sat down and visited with them getting to know a little about them. As we visit with them, we discover that the woman’s husband (who owns the home) actually lives and works in Boston. He is from Uganda though. After talking to everyone for some time, we asked if we could share a short message about The Church of Jesus Christ Of Latter Day Saints. They agreed but they didn’t show much interest.

We started with a prayer and began to teach them the Doctrine of Christ (Faith, Repentance, Baptism, Receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and Enduring to the end). All missionaries in Uganda are expected to teach the Doctrine of Christ the first lesson no matter what. We shared the message and as we got closer and closer to talking about baptism they seemed less and less interested. When we got to baptism, the mother of the home (Eve) cuts us off and said, “I know what you are getting at and we already have our own church. We believe in Christ and I think that is enough. “

Elder Seyoum and I politely smile and said, “That's OK and asked if they would be interested in learning more about our message.” They said very politely, “No thank you.” We accepted that and asked if we could leave them with a pamphlet and say a prayer to bless their home.

After leaving them with a prayer and a small pamphlet that talked about the restoration, we left. I did not expect to see or hear from them again. I just forgot about the experience and continued on with the rest of the week.

When Sunday came around, we anxiously waited at church hoping that some of the new people that we had recently taught would come to church. As the time got closer to starting church, we began to realize that none of the new people were going to come. We were disappointed.

As church started I began to feel gratitude that our regular investigators came to church. As the sacrament was just finishing, I look out the window to my left and could not believe my eyes! There was Eve walking up to the door of the church!!!!!! She was dressed in a nice business suit and looked like an educated, powerful women. (Which she is.)

I stood up, rushed to the door and anxiously smiled at her welcoming her to church. She gave me the biggest smile and asked, “How are you?” I told her that I was great and that she was most welcome. I could not believe it! I was overcome with gratitude to the Lord. This was really cool because it helped me realize that even after leaving her home the Holy Spirit kept whispering to Eve to check the church out. It was a really powerful experience.

After I welcomed her to the church, we walked in to sit down. But before we could do that a women that was a member of the church stood up and grabbed her arm and pulled her over to sit with her! I was confused. As it turns out, the lady and Eve were friends a long time ago! I couldn't believe it. It was a huge tender mercy. I couldn't help smiling. Having Eve come to church and have a friend there just made the whole week worth it.

Well that’s all I have for the week. It was good to hear from everyone. Thanks for always writing! :)


Elder Bitter

Monday, July 8, 2013

Some Days Are Tougher Than Others - July 8, 2013

Today was just those days that you really pray never happens again.

Here are the things that happened:

1. We had to drive to Kampala (nothing but traffic the whole way).

2. We dropped off a couple tennis rackets to get restrung. The guy ripped us off AND took forever to string the rackets.

3. My companion’s passport got lost by the mission so we had to go to the US embassy and report it lost and get another one because he is going home in 6 weeks. It took hours upon hours upon hours. After all that waiting, they told us we have to come back on Wednesday!

4. We have to drive back late tomorrow night so we can stay overnight at the AP's flat and wake up early to go to the embassy, then get back to our area to proselyte.

5. We were backing up to leave and some guy decides he wants to jump the gap and drills our bumper. Luckily we have a solid steel bumper that protects our truck. It really messed up his car. So he verbally blasted us. We just looked at him and confounded him with kind and calm words which helped him realize that it was his fault.

6. A police officer pulled us over when we were driving back to our area. There was no real reason to pull us over. She said we were overtaking cars even though everyone overtakes vehicles every day. Luckily we talked our way out of that one.

7. It’s already late and we are just now emailing. We are both beat! What a day.

Today was a crazy! One of the coolest things about a mission is that no matter how bad the day, when you wake up in the morning; it is a new day and you are always happy. It’s like the Spirit comes and calms you down or something while you are sleeping. It’s pretty cool. The Spirit is powerful.

We celebrated the 4th and sang “The Star Spangled Banner.” We made apple cobbler as well. It was pretty awesome! :) The rest of the letter is going to be super short. I’m very tired and today was tiresome.

This week we had three baptisms. It was pretty awesome! We had a member of the branch baptize them. It was a spiritual baptism. Every person that was baptized this past Sunday really had to change a lot and work hard to be baptized. Each of them was very excited and filled with the Spirit --- it was such a wonderful experience.

We have an investigator that is named Charles. He is a wonderful guy and has a great spirit about him. He walks a long distance every Sunday to come to church. People like him really make my mission great. I know that I always say that but seeing someone like him sacrifice and be committed makes me just smile. He wants us to visit as often as possible. It’s so awesome.

I know this is super lame to cut a letter short but I’m really tired and stressed! I can’t think. I am going to go to sleep. Love you all! I know the church is true. The Book of Mormon is true. God is our loving Heavenly Father. Christ did die for us so that we can be free of all of our mistakes as long as we repent of them.


Elder Bitter

Friday, July 5, 2013

President Chapfield Arrives in Kampala - July 1, 2013

Well this week was crazy. We had very little time this week to do anything because there were a lot of emergencies in the zone. We kept getting call after call after call. For example, one of the emergencies we had was three companionships that were completely out of commission because they were so sick that we had to rush them to the hospital. The illnesses could have been avoided but the missionaries chose to be somewhat disobedient when it comes to the health regulations. It was not the contagious germs like the flu but things like not filtering the water or eating something not allowed. They break the rules and boom we get a call at some odd hour of the night. A specific event is one of the sisters did not filter her water because she thought she was immune and she caught typhoid from the water.

When I found that out, I looked at her and said, “Come on use filtered water or go buy bottled water. Its so cheap.” (Of course, I didn’t tell her this until she was in the hospital and doing well.) I guess some people have to discover things the hard way. The amazing part is that each and every one of the missionaries that were really sick is healthy now. I am grateful that they are not a worry anymore. They can’t go out but they are healthy enough that I do not feel any stress over them.

This week we drove to Kampala (1.5 hours with no traffic) to meet the new mission president and to say goodbye to President Jackson. It was sad to see President Jackson go. He has shaped and changed this mission for the better. Our mission was struggling but now it is running smoothly like a brand new watch.

When he was leaving, he didn’t criticize us or speak of anything negative. His primary focus was stressing the importance of the work. He apologized if he had not helped us enough to accomplish the goals of the mission. He had nothing to apologize for in my mind. His entire time was spent serving each missionary in this mission. He did a fantastic job. His apology really showed how much he cared for us and how badly he wanted us to succeed and do our best as missionaries and future leaders of the church.

After President Jackson gave his farewell remarks, he left. Sometime later our new mission president arrived. Our new mission is President Chapfield. He is a very nice man and he is from Alpine, Utah. President Chapfield is a really cool guy. He is very different from President Jackson. It was cool and surprising for me to see how he began emphasizing the exact same things that President Jackson had emphasized. I really saw how they both are guided and know exactly what the mission needs. I thought that the transfer from mission president to mission president would be a big adjustment but I was completely wrong.

President Chapfield picked up right where President Jackson left off. There was no hesitation, no hick ups. He was called and prepared to be here. We were literally the first missionaries to meet him and there was no slowing of the work. He just took over and dove right in. We didn’t slow down at all. It was a nice thing to see.

So this upcoming week is a pretty big week. One transfer before me there was a large family that was baptized in this area. The father of the family is named Noah and the mother is named Grace. They and all of their children except one accepted the gospel as soon as they heard it. They have been progressing ever since their baptism. The daughter who did not get baptized is Lillian.

She has struggled to accept baptism. We have been teaching her with her family for some time now. We did not want to leave her out especially since her whole family has joined the church. We worried that she would feel left out and different as time passed. She has finally decided that she wants to be baptized! I was starting to think that she would never choose to be baptized. But as of Sunday, she made her decision to be baptized. It is scheduled for this Sunday. I am hoping that she doesn't lose the desire or get cold feet. I do have great faith in her especially since she has taken time and not rushed anything.

Also this Sunday someone named Fred is to be baptized. Fred was supposed to be baptized a long time ago until we found out that he was having problems with chastity which prevented him from baptism. Ever since we found out, we have been helping him and encouraging him to solve his problem so that he could continue progressing towards baptism. Every single time we meet with him, he asks when can I be baptized and become a full member of the church? When we meet with him last, he told us that he no longer has as a girlfriend and he is now ready to be baptized. I just hope that he doesn't start to slip but holds strong, doesn’t give up and keeps moving forward to his personal goal the come unto Christ.

We have been struggling to get new investigators lately. It is a little different here in Jinja in regards to tracting. Unlike all my past areas, Jinja doesn't have large stretches of homes. Instead it has small little patches of homes here and there. This makes it a little bit more difficult because you can’t knock as many doors in one area. But it’s OK because things always seem to work out. I’m confident that as long as we keep trying, it will work out.

I am really looking forward to this upcoming week because it will be the first full week of complete missionary work since arriving in Jinja. We have had a lot of meetings etc that has broken up the week. But this week will be different. I am really looking forward to it! Just working and not having to worry about meeting schedules etc.

Well I’m about out of time and out of things to say for this week. I love you all. I hope all is well.


Elder Bitter