Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Understanding Ugandan Humor - August 26, 2013

Hello America,

Once again, this week has gone by quickly. I really enjoy it when we are busy and working hard. I always feel bad for the missionaries that say every week, "Oh man this has been a tough and long week. I don't know if I can do another one." I hope no one back home is having that kind of experience because that can really lead to a lot of gray hair. :)

One thing I have learned while being on my mission is that humor in Africa is a lot different than humor back home. Don’t get me wrong, both of them are pretty awesome but it just takes some time to get used to African humor. For example in Africa when you are eating dinner and the food is amazing, a compliment would be delivered in this manner. “This is so good, I’ll bite my tongue.” OR “It’s so nice you will bite your tongue."

The first time I heard this statement, I just sat and stared as everyone was laughing. Of course, I gave a token chuckle so I would not offend anyone. Yet now, I find these statements funny. I don’t really know why I find them funny, but I do. The tone of voice is a really big deal in Uganda. A comment can be funny just by the tone of voice. Before I came to Uganda, I didn’t notice the tone that much. But now I really do.

Here is an example of what I am talking about. On Monday night, we were invited to a member’s family home evening. During the home evening, they had a few spiritual thoughts and played some games. To my surprise half way through the appointment, the son of the home (30 years old) looked at me and said, “Alright now it is time for your assignment.”

I looked at him blankly. He repeated that I had to have some kind of assignment. No one is allowed to just sit. I smiled and said, “No problem! What’s my assignment?”

He replied, “Tell us a joke.” I was in the spotlight and I did not feel very funny. So I decided to use a classic joke used back home. This is how the joke went.

Elder Bitter: What do you call a cow with three legs?

Group: uhhhhhhhhh hmmmmmmmm? I don’t know. Tell us!

Elder Bitter: Lean beef! (All Americans get the idea that the cow is leaning because he has only three legs and beef is another word for cow. Lame I know, but it was the best I could do on the spur of the moment.)

Group: Silence and blank stares....

Elder Bitter: (Frantic thoughts: "Aha man, this joke isn’t happening. I can tell!") Hum, ya that’s the joke.

Group: WHAT?? That is not a joke! It doesn’t even make sense! A voice in the crowd says a little disgustedly, “American humor, I guess.”

Elder Bitter: Well that was a failure.

Group: Try again! It’s okay.

At this point, I feel completely lost. What would be funny to these people? In the end, I had to pull out another one of those lame “Laughy Taffy” jokes that are on the outside of the candy wrapper. This failed as well. I just gave up and laughing said, “I’m a joke!” Well that joke worked! Hahahaha :)

Ok that’s enough with the fun stories.

I have one significant story that I want to tell for this week. William called us and said that he wanted to make an appointment with us for a certain day at 7:00 p.m. He indicated that he wanted to talk to us about something. The request sounded ominous. This is very unusual. In Uganda, people wait for you to come to them, they don’t/won’t ask you to visit them. We arrived at his home at 7:03 p.m. He was not there so we called him. He asked us to wait a few minutes because he was almost home.

A few minutes later he showed up. We sat down with William and the rest of his family. We made small talk for a little bit but inside I was dying. What did he want to talk about? I decided to take control of the meeting and find out. I then said something like, "When we talked on the phone, you said you had something you wanted to talk to us about. Do you still have that question or is it okay now?" He then just looked at me, finally saying, “I would love to talk about it.”

The conversation proceeded as follows:

William: "Well, Elder Bitter you know that I can’t be baptized until I return from China."

Elder Bitter: "I know. Is that still okay? Or is there a problem now?"

William: "No, no! No problem! It’s just that I had a few questions I wanted to ask you."

Elder Bitter: "Okay what kind of questions?"

William: "Well to be honest my wife and I have been talking and we want to do a few things besides baptism."

Elder Bitter: Sitting still, nodding head, waiting for him to continue.

William: "Well I want to be baptized into the Church and my wife and I want to be married in your church. And we want to know what we have to do to get married in the temple."

Elder Bitter: (Thinking: "YYYYEEEEEESSSSSSS that’s the best thing I have ever heard on my mission!!") But I stay calm and just smile and say, “I think that is a perfect decision!” :)

William: "We would really like you to be there for it."

At this point I was pretty pumped! I explained to him that when he returns from China, I might not be in Jinja but that I would try in every way possible to be there. I would do this by speaking with the leaders in the mission. It was probably the best appointment for me on the mission yet.

Most likely, I won’t be in this area when he gets baptized. But it doesn’t matter because he will be getting baptized which is a saving ordinance and he will with time be getting married in the temple. It is so awesome for me to think of William and Sarah getting married in the temple forever. I am stoked! I would love to be there but we will have to wait and see the outcome. William and Sarah will go far.

To continue the amazing appointment, they then smiled and said, “This is a special occasion so we prepared something special.” (WOOT! WOOT! GO FOOD!) They had prepared Posho (This is not special. They eat it with everything.) and a special sauce that is made by the locals from this village. Apparently, it is hard to get the vegetables used for this sauce. In the sauce was Okra and g-nut mixed with a few spices. The sauce is simmered for a long time. It was pretty awesome! I don’t know if I will ever have that dish again but it may be my favorite sauce from Africa. It had a unique, intense flavor. I also liked the texture.

William and Sarah are just awesome and I really love visiting them. This letter kind of revolved around them but it was such an important step that they made this week. I was so happy for them. I just had to share it in detail. I hope everything is going well back home and that everyone is happy.

When times get tough, remember the Lord can help us. All we have to do is follow the advice in the bible in James 1:5. “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” It’s really true. If we need something or we don’t know what do, all that is needed is to pray to God with faith and He will answer us.

I love you and appreciate you all.


Elder Bitter/Steven

Smacked by a Motorcycle - August 18, 2013

I'm back again with another report from the Jinja Uganda Area!

This week was a really busy week but it turned out to be a good week. I have a few stories.

This week we cooked the fish I bought. It was pretty awesome! :) I froze the fish since we bought it on Monday and we knew that we would not be able to cook it until Wednesday. After thawing it, I took it out of the warm water and it was as if it was alive! Crazy!

Then I cleaned the fish and sliced it open. I finally decided to stuff it with onions, lemons, seasoning, pepper, salt, and a little bit of sugar. I don’t know what led me to put sugar inside of it. It was a random impulse. A thought popped in my head saying that it would help it crystallize and make a nice crisp outside.

After stuffing the fish full of goodness, I grabbed the biggest pan we had in the house. I set the fish in the pan. The fish was too big! I was a little irritated by this fact. What should I do? Finally the thought came to me to cut off the head. With the dullest knife in the world, I did the deed. It now fit the pan.

I lit the oven and dropped that bad boy in and let it bake for a little while. After about 45 minutes, the apartment smelled amazing! I decided to check on it even though I was told to cook it about an hour. It was cooked perfectly. The meat was tender and moist. It tasted unreal! It didn’t look as cool without the head still attached but it was still an overall success.

Next story for the week: My companion and I decided that we would go on splits with the Njeru Elders. We called Sunday and told them that we would be coming out to visit them on Tuesday. We let them know that we would be working with them the whole day. Elder Kanthunkako (my companion) split with Elder Smoot and I split with Elder Dimingu. We were having a successful day. At 2:00 p.m. we were to meet with the other companionship for lunch.

We decided that it was time to head to the meeting spot. We were walking with traffic so that we wouldn’t get honked or yelled at. When all of a sudden, WHAM! I got nailed by a motorcyclist that decided he wanted to drive on the shoulder where people walk and was driving in the WRONG direction. I was talking to my companion not paying attention because I thought we were safe. Boy was I wrong! He hit me head on and nailed me!

When the motorcycle hit me, I just spun in circles as if I was a ballerina. Finally I was able to plant my other foot standing there in amazement. Elder Dimingu was stunned and was staring at me. He finally said, "Uhhhh are you okay???"

I moved my body cautiously, eventually realizing that I was TOTALLY OK except for my shoulder was a little sore where he hit me. :) I then turned around. The motorcyclist had somehow not crashed and was still flying down the road occasionally glancing back. He must of really wanted to get somewhere! Go team! No injuries, just another weird story.

This week my companion and I continued to teach a few of our best investigators. Out of all the investigators, the ones that I want to talk about are William, "Julius, James, Janon", and Ronald.

William is the man that we will not be able to baptize because he is leaving for China soon which doesn’t allow enough time to teach him everything. But he has asked that we continue to teach him until he leaves. He plans to get baptized when he returns from China.

William is a stellar guy. He is a middle aged man that works really hard and is successful. The best part about William is his spiritual capacity. Every time we teach William he has questions that go far beyond the average person. He also reads everything we give him. As we were teaching him this past week, my companion and I had come up with the idea that we should get a hold of all the different Ensigns, Liahonas, and any other church publication we could find. So while he is in china, he could read and learn and continue to grow in the gospel.

After teaching him, we told him about the different publications that we would like to get for him to read while he is in China. He just sat there quietly. I started to get nervous worrying that it was a bad idea or something. Finally he smiled and said , “I would love that.”

He then explained how he had been reading a few of the publications when he visited the church in Kampala a few days ago. He had wanted to get a hold of some more but did not know how to do it. It was such an awesome feeling to see his desire to learn more. I was happy!

Julius, Janon, and James are three people that live together and are all from the same village. Last week I had told you of only Julius and Janon. However this week Julius and Jannon (for short J&J) introduced us to one more person that lived with them. The person that J&J introduced us to was James. James is just like J&J but he is just a little bit shyer than the other two.

Teaching the three J's (Julius, Janon and James) is one of my highlights of the week. They are welcoming and receptive to the gospel. They never appear bored or try to entertain themselves. They are always engaged and happy to see us.

We recently taught them the word of wisdom and talked to them about tea especially. The next time we visited, all of their tea packets were gone. We asked them about them and they told us that they have no use for them anymore. In Uganda, tea is the breakfast drink for everyone. They don't really eat breakfast, but instead just take a cup of tea. Someone so willing give up tea is just awesome. Usually it is a lesson that we have to teach time and time again to help them understand the importance of the principle. The three J's only needed to be taught once. Nice.

Ronald is a person we have been teaching since the first week of this transfer (that was a weird way of saying we have been teaching him for about five weeks). We have been teaching him about two to three times a week and he has been coming to church regularly. This past week he had decided that he was ready to be baptized. We had taught him everything, he has a testimony and he has been keeping all of his commitments. Also Nice.

This past week Ronald was baptized. It was an excellent baptismal service. Some baptisms will only generate a small turn-out. This time there was a good turnout which is great for the person being baptized since it is a once in a life time experience. It was a great time to have many people there, hearing great talks, and everyone singing nice and loud.  I was happy for him.

It was a fast week -- a little bit stressful but turned out really nice over all.

I have no complaints.

Church is true.

Thanks everyone for your consistent emails. It is awesome :)

Love ya all,

Elder Bitter

Monday, August 12, 2013

Baking Biscuits and Preaching the Gospel - August 12, 2014

Hello People

Another week in Uganda has passed. It was a nice week over all. This week we were taken care of in a lot of different ways.

But before I tell you about our experiences teaching, it’s story time as always. :)

I don’t have any crazy stories but I have two stories that are kind of cool. One of my favorite foods for breakfast while living at home was biscuits and gravy. Since I have been on my mission, I haven’t had them at all. I have missed warm soft biscuits. SO this week I decided that I was going to learn how to make good biscuits. So I kept trying and trying and trying to make them. Every time they would come out of the oven like hard baseballs.

Well after a few attempts and a lot of wasted flour, I finally got it down! I now make amazing homemade biscuits. They impress even me! Of course I must remember that I haven’t had any biscuits in such a long time my taste buds may be deficient. But they are just perfect--a nice golden, crispy outside with a fluffy soft inside.

Story number two: So in Uganda and especially in Jinja, fish is extremely inexpensive. The reason is the River Nile starts in Jinja. I decided since fish is plentiful, I should learn to cook fish. I bought a fish. It still had all of its parts, so I plan to gut it. Then I am going to slice onions and lemons into discs and put them inside the fish and sprinkle some random spices as well. I will then bake the fish whole. (I am thinking of the most recent Spiderman movie.) I will be sure and take some pictures of my first experience cooking a fish.

Now let’s talk about the important stuff because we are not really here to learn about food. Although I have to admit good food is nice.

As I said earlier, this week was a good one. I want to start with Sunday. In the Jinja Zone, there are some people that haven’t come to church for a very long time. My companion and I had decided that we would try to focus on one or two people encouraging them to come to church. One of the people that we chose was Celine.

We chose Celine because her husband and daughter come to church every single week. We wanted to see them go to church as a family. We decided to walk to their home on Sunday morning and then walk to church with them. (We had invited Celine to attend church with us earlier in the week.) They live a long way from the church (about 1.5 hours). We started walking from our house around 7:00 a.m.

The walk felt like forever. When we arrived at their home, the father, Wilson and their daughter, Millicent were there but not Celine. At first, we were disappointed. But we chose to not let it show. We walked with Wilson and Millicent to church. As we were walking, we were stopped by people that would say, “I have wanted to learn about your church. Could you teach me?” or “Hey I was once taught by missionaries. Can you teach me?” This happened over and over again. It was a really cool experience.

We had been working hard to find new investigators and we had found some. But none of them really seemed to have a strong desire to learn about the gospel. At first I didn’t really notice the blessing. But after church, I realized that even though Celine didn't come we were truly blessed. This experience really taught me that we work, the Lord provides in His way.

This Sunday was the best in my mission thus far. It wasn’t because the speakers were great, or the weather was cool or anything like that. But this Sunday, we had a great turn out at church and a lot of investigators came as well. Some of the investigators we had just tracted out earlier that week. The icing on the cake was that they stayed for all three hours! It is common for people to leave after the first hour.

For me the most exciting of these people that we tracted were Julius and Janon. They live together and are from the same village in Lira. (SUPER HOT THERE) On Tuesday, they welcomed us into their home and allowed us to share a message with them. As we shared, there wasn’t anything overwhelming or amazing about it. But they listened, thanked us for the massage and asked us to come back. At the second lesson, we taught them the restoration and about Joseph Smith.

During that lesson, it was just about the same again. No amazing feeling. We wrapped up the lesson and left. When we have lessons like that I usually find that really happens. I guess I’m a doubting Thomas. On Sunday I was happily proven wrong. When they rounded the corner of the church dressed in their best with huge smiles, I burst into a huge grin. I was touched to see them dressed up knowing their humble circumstances. They gave me a warm handshake and continued into church. They listened intently during the meeting with huge smiles on their faces.

William is still coming to church and is progressing. He has really changed his attitude towards the church. He used to despise the church and wasn’t very supportive of his family being members. He now wants to join the church. He is an amazing guy. He will be a great strength to the branch. I’m excited for him. :)

Overall life is good out here. I have been trying to learn how to make the local food lately not because I love it so much or anything like that (laugh out loud). But it would just be cool to share it with everyone back home. For example I am learning to make Kalo, posho, maltoke, lots of sauces, and rolexs for everyone yahoo!!! The one food that is really awesome though is Injera. I can’t make that because I do not have the ingredients. But there is a restaurant in Salt Lake that makes it in case anyone wants to try it out.

Well I’m just about out of time again. I love you all and I really appreciate all your emails. I hope all is well in the land of the free and the home of the brave. :)


Elder Bitter

Monday, August 5, 2013

Mechanical Distractions - August 5, 2013

This week was unusual. We had to travel to Kampala for a meeting. It took most of Monday. The unique part of the day(s) is told below.

When I first arrived in Jinja, I was given a truck to drive. After driving it, I realized there were a lot of problems with the truck. While driving the truck, a ridiculously loud popping noise was coming from the front, right side of the truck. Also, it would pull to one side so hard that I would grip the steering wheel as if there was no power steering. The last problem was vibration. After driving it, I called the mission office and requested some maintenance on the truck. I requested an alignment check, a tire rotation, the oil changed and the steering column repaired. I knew that all of these things needed to be done. The truck had really been neglected by past missionaries.

The mission office accepted the request and said that at the next ZLC, we could drop the truck off at a repair shop. We arrived in Kampala safely and without any problems which was a relief. We left the truck at the repair shop and made our way to the mission office for the meeting.

After the meeting was over (Tuesday afternoon), we asked the office if the truck was ready. They told us that it wouldn’t be done till 7pm that evening. My companion and I just sat in the mission office for a few hours. We then we called the repair shop hoping the truck was done. They told us that they had driven the truck after the requested maintenance and repairs and it was still pulling to the right and the vibration was still there as well.

The shop informed us that it would not be ready until the next day. The bushings in the truck were dead and they needed to be replaced. They indicated that it would be done on Wednesday afternoon at two o ‘clock. So we spent another night in Kampala and traveling back to the mission office in the morning. Finally 2:00 p.m. arrived (waiting is a slow game). We called the garage and they indicated that it would be done around 5pm.

After exchanging a few words, we learned that no matter what we tried to do; we would not be able to speed up the process. This garage is the only one in the whole city that can handle these types of repairs. So we waited! Right at 5 p.m., we called them and they informed us that the truck was still not ready. The vibration was still there.

It wouldn’t be done until Thursday at 2pm.! ARGH!! We said, “What is the problem now?” They had found parts of the mounts had been broken and pieces had fallen off which was causing the vibration. The process repeated itself! Slept at the AP’s flat, went to the mission office to wait, and called again at 2:00 p.m. After waiting for a little bit, we decided to go to the shop and sit there until they had it finished. A visual reminder if you know what I mean. (The manager had given me his word that the truck would be finished at two.)

We arrived at 1:45 but didn’t get the truck until about 3:30. They had all of the parts set out for us so we could see the true damage and problems. It was an impressing array of damaged parts. I’m glad they found the problems and were able to fix it. In the end, I felt it was a great blessing that they were able to find all the problems and that we had been safe driving that truck before fixing it.

After I drove the truck, I could tell that the problems were fixed. It was a long week over all. This left us with only Friday, Saturday, and Sunday to proselyte.

We were able to visit William. He is a father of six and a successful provider. His wife is a member of the church. She hasn't been coming to church for some time; however, recently has started to come to church again. When she started coming again, she asked us to come and teach her husband about the Gospel. This is one of my favorite things to hear! It is so much easier when someone introduces you to an investigator.

When we met William he was really welcoming and kind. He had nothing but great things to say and was happy over all. As we taught him, he gladly accepted the message. One thing that President Chatfield has really taught is to teach with boldness which leads to a greater chance of acceptance. We are not to be pushy or rude but let them know how important the truth is for each person. I have really noticed that as you teach with boldness but yet kindness, people can really tell that the gospel is real and is important.

William gladly accepted the challenge to be baptized but sadly his baptism date is going to have to be a bit farther out because of his work. He is traveling to China in two weeks for a teaching job for about three months. He will then bring the students that he is teaching back to Uganda with him. They will then study in Uganda. I was kind of sad when I found out because we do not have enough time to teach him everything.

Yet after contemplating, I realized that it’s OK :) We will continue to teach him until he leaves for China We will give him a lot of reading material so that he can read during his flight and when he is there in China. But I know that the missionaries that are here when he returns will have a great person to teach and he will really progress in the gospel nicely :)

I really look forward to teaching him some more until he leaves for China. I can see him being a great strength to this branch. He will lift and support the branch.

And on the plus side we are invited over to his home for another appointment and he is going to feed us :) so no complaints there :) I already know what is on the menu its Kalo and some sauces to dip it in :) When you eat that stuff, I am guaranteed not to be hungry for a long time. I have never eaten anything that stays in your stomach for as long as Kalo. It’s probably because our bodies say, “What in the world do I do with this stuff?!” It’s all good and tastes alright. No complaints there :)

I hope all is well back home and I hope that everything is going smoothly.

Love you all

Elder Bitter