Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Emergency Transfer - October 28, 2013

As a missionary, I am always surprised and never know quite what’s coming.

On Monday, (October 21, 2013), Elder Kanthunkako and I came home from a normal P-day. We planned to enjoy our evening and prepare for the next day. In the evening, we started our work out, planning to relax afterwards and enjoy the rest of the evening before we did our reports. As Elder Kanthunkako reached for the phone to make his report, he said, "Whoa, Whoa, President Chatfield called!"

I was confused. Thinking to myself, what are you talking about? He then looked at me and said again, “President Chatfield called.” He threw me the phone and sure enough we had a missed call from the president.

I kind of smiled and then laughed. It’s not every day that you have a missed call from the president of the mission. I called him back immediately. The phone rang and rang. Finally, President Chatfield answered. I let him know it was me and said, “How are ya!” He told me he was great and then asked how I was doing. I told him I was doing well. We then had a warm and friendly chat.

After chatting with president for a bit, he then said, “Elder Bitters, I need you to do something.” I said ok. AND then he told me to pack my bags and meet the AP’s in Lugazi at 6:30 AM the following morning!

I was a little confused at this point but I obviously accepted and said, “Ok no problem.” He then went on to tell me that I would now be the Zone Leader/District Leader in Lugazi and that I was being sent there to take care of some problems that had been going on. (I had no idea about these problems). He then told me that I would pick up three of the Elders in the district and bring them to Kampala and that the fourth elder would be picked up by the AP's since there is not enough room in our truck for everyone.

He then said, “I will fill you in on everything else when you get to Kampala. Do you have any questions, right now?” At this point I was kind of stunned so I just sat there thinking. Finally, I said, “Hum, nope. I’m all good President. I will see you tomorrow morning.” Hahah. So after hanging up the phone, I then went inside and relayed the entire message to Elder Kanthunkako.

We sat there in amazement at the events that had just taken place. Then the reality of the situation kicked in! I had work to do! I had to pack all my bags tonight! I have been in Jinja for about six months so I had a lot of stuff to gather.

At 10:15 p.m., I started packing. I knew that I had a long night ahead of me. I packed and packed and packed until I thought I had everything. I was getting ready for bed and then a thought would pop in my mind of something that I had forgotten. I would stop and pack that item. This happened three or four times.

Finally, I had finished packing everything. I laid down at about 12:45 am. At this point I was exhausted!

I knew that I needed to sleep quickly because I had to get up at 5:00 am. The next thing I knew my alarm was going off. Boy was I tired. It hurt to move. I took a COLD shower so that I could wake up and be alert since I was driving in the dark.

After I loaded all my bags, we hopped in the truck and drove to Lugazi. We arrived at 6:27 am and to our surprise the APs were already there. They had already loaded up one elder. So we hopped out and loaded the other elders into the truck.

Man, it was the quietest drive I have ever had in my entire life. All the way from Lugazi to Kampala, (it is a little over an hour), it was dead silent. A couple of times, one of the elders would break the silence. The conversation would go something like this, “Hey Elder Bitter, look at that motorcycle. Pretty cool, huh!”

I would look but because I was so exhausted my response would go something like "not really." That would be the end of the conversation. We finally reached the mission office and I was able to drop the elders off. They obviously had figured out something was up because they were scared out of their minds.

Each of the missionaries got a personal interview with President. Then Elder Kanthunkako and I got pulled in. Up to this point, we knew absolutely nothing. Then President explained the problems that had been going on and then told us a few things that had recently been related to him by some other missionaries.

After he had explained everything, he told me that I would be over this district and that I needed to get things back on track and rolling again in Lugazi. He also told me that I would continue my responsibilities as Zone Leader but would also be the District leader for Lugazi. (Lugazi is in the Jinja zone). Elder Kanthunkako would stay in Jinja and that the Elder I was replacing would be his companion.

This concluded our time in Kampala. I then drove everyone to their respective areas and I went to Lugazi. When I got there, I kind of figured out that the past elders didn’t have anyone that they were really teaching. My new companion and I are tracting almost all day every day trying to find new investigators. Haha

One of the cool things about Lugazi is that it is a brand new area. It doesn’t have any history yet. So right now we are really building the foundation for the branch. Currently, sacrament meeting attendance is about 40 max. There are only two families in the branch. We are really focusing on finding families. The branch needs some strong, solid members to carry the load of running the branch.

I am grateful to be in Lugazi. It is a nice change. It will be good for me because I had been in Jinja for a while. I really knew the areas of Jinja so it is fun to learn new areas and find new people.

On the bright side, Salome and Geoffrey are still doing well. I followed up and things are still proceeding with regards to getting married and baptized. I was right when I said I didn’t think I would be there for the marriage and baptism. It’s ok so long as they are still on track. That is all that really matters. Life is good for sure. :)

Mom and Dad, I sent a letter with the memory card and I used a tracking number hoping that would give it a little extra protection as far as delivery goes. I love ya all!!!

Keep up the good work!

Thanks for all the awesome letters. A big thank you to Howard and Lori for the get well card. I really appreciated it! You guys are awesome! :)


Elder Bitter

Monday, October 21, 2013

Marriage of Geoffrey & Salome - October 21, 2013

October 21, 2013

This week I have do not have any time for emailing. So I really want to tell you about the best thing that happened this week. This will be short.

We met with Salome and Geoffrey this week and they had the greatest news. They said that they would not be able to pay for the dowry for a long time. (As I mentioned before they have very little.) BIG NEWS—they have decided to skip the dowry. I was shocked!!! No one skips paying the dowry, ever! It is a BIG deal to them. They want to get married and so that is what we are going to do.

They will be married in the church on November 9th and they will be baptized on November 10th. This is the greatest news!

I know that the Spirit really worked on them and helped them have the courage to make this decision. I know the Holy Spirit will continue to help them.

The Lord hears our prayers -- however it is on his timetable, not ours.

The Book of Mormon is true and is Another Testament of Jesus Christ.

I love you all,

Elder Bitter

P.S. Mom and Dad: A letter is coming home with a 4gb memory card. It is full of videos and photos so it should be there in no time!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Car Crash - October 14, 2013

The Lord takes care of his missionaries.

This last Tuesday, we went out to Njeru to do splits with the Elders in that area. In Njeru there are four Elders—Elder Smoot, Mukengashi, Dimingu, and Bawuti. I split with Elder Smoot & Mukengashi while my companion worked with Elder Dimingu & Bawuti. It was a very normal day. We ended the day about 9:30 p.m.

The next day, Wednesday, October 9 was Independence Day for Uganda. After finishing our daily missionary routine, my companion and I packed our bags. We loaded the truck and were ready to leave. As we were getting ready to leave, my companion said, “OH I forgot my pen!” He hopped out, ran inside and grabbed his pen. He then returned and we were on our way back to our area.

As we entered onto the main "highway" which is basically a local street that hundreds of people are walking on and the center of it is used for vehicles. As we were driving along on this highway (which is about as wide as a normal neighborhood street), I looked in my side mirror and at the top of the hill (about 600 yards away) I saw a white Corolla flying down the road. I immediately moved to the edge of the road so that he would have plenty of space to pass me. He was obviously in a hurry.

After moving the car over to the edge of the road, I continued driving at about 40kmh. Seconds later, I then looked in my mirror again. I could not believe what I was seeing! This little Corolla was at our bumper!!! He then realized he was going too fast and he tried to pass me. BUT it was too late to change lanes. He then made sharp turn trying to get around us. At this point, I was no longer watching him in my side mirror but I was watching him through my open window.

As he swerved to miss our rear bumper, he lost control of his car and it began to slide sideways. As it was sliding, he continued to pass us. Since he was sliding sideway and I was driving forward, I could literally see his face. At this point his front bumper was now facing the side of our truck. An instant later, the tires of his car grabbed traction and the car drove straight into the side of the truck. It was as if he had T-Boned us through a red light.

All of these events were happening as if in slow motion. He hit the front right corner of the truck and then his car began to turn with the tires lifting off the ground! Then his car began tumbling and flying through the air. It then hit the ground and began to bounce and roll as if it were a basketball that was pumped up too much.

I immediately pulled over. His car had come to a stop upside down. This entire story transpired in about 6 seconds I would guess. Adrenaline was running through my body and I realized that the guy driving the car might be dead! I looked at my companion and said, “You ok?” (I think I was yelling at him.) He said he was fine. So I tried to open my door. It was jammed. Leaning towards the center of the car and hitting the door with all my strength and momentum, the door burst open like party popper. I hopped out of the car and looked at our truck as I was running over to the guy. When I was about to his car, the guy crawled out of the car without a scratch!!!! I couldn’t believe it!

He then began to just yell at me. I think he was trying to put the blame on me. I could not believe the nerve of this guy! The Lord had just saved his life and he was trying to blame someone else. I took the guy by the arm showing him the skid marks, the direction of impact and the lines of where his over-turned car hit the road. I then told him how lucky he was that he had not hit or killed someone that was walking on the road. I then shared with him how lucky he is to be able to go home and see his family because a crash like that should have killed him. After I related all these things to him, he recognized the reality of the situation. It was his fault. AND beside all of this, we had about 70 million eye witnesses that told the police what happened as well.

After talking to him, I realized that he had a good sized cut on his arm. I told him that he should get that stitched up. Before he left, I called the mission office and told them everything. They told me to get his information while reassuring him that we would not sue. His only responsibility would be to fix the truck.

We then took the vehicle down to the mission office after gathering all of his information to get an estimate and start the repairs on the truck. There is a video of the damage on my camera. I will have my parents post it on the blog after I send the memory card home.

Reflecting on the story my companion pointed out that if he hadn’t forgotten his pen, we would not have been in that exact spot so the accident might not have happened. We decided it was the pen’s fault.  My companion and I had a good chuckle after everything had cooled down.

The next day when I woke up my shoulder was killing me, I was pretty confused. I really couldn't think of any reason why I should have such soreness in my shoulder. Then it hit me—I had used my shoulder as a ramming bar. No wonder it hurt! That was four days ago and now it is good again. :)

As I recall the whole experience, it seems somewhat surreal. It was a movie crash but real. This was the first time in my life that I had ever seen a crash like what we experienced which was not on TV. I was so thankful that no one was seriously hurt.

Now I want to talk a little bit about the work :)

This week my companion and I found a great new place to tract. This was super exciting because we had pretty much exhausted the areas we had been tracting. In this area, we found some awesome new people that we are really looking forward to teaching. They are the most consistent new investigators I have had since coming to Jinja. We have worked hard this week because transfers are coming and we wanted to set up the area for the next transfer. Neither of us knows if we are staying or going, we will find out tomorrow. Either way, whoever is here will have a lot of good people to teach.

We have also been helping Salome and Geoffrey understand the importance of being baptized. After talking to some other missionaries about their situation, they told us to help them understand the blessings and protection of being baptized. This made perfect sense. If we really help them understand the magnitude of baptism and how it can bless their lives in this life and the next, then they will understand and be able to make better choices.

When we visited Salome and Geoffrey, we went with one of our members named Richard. When we arrived, we found only Salome at home. We were a little confused why Geoffrey was not there. She told us that he had gone to their village to visit her parents. He wanted to try and work things out so that they could move forward. This was a big break through! I didn’t think he would ever do that. It took a lot of courage for him to talk to Salome’s parents.

The most exciting thing in my opinion is that he went and talked to her parents without us telling him to do it. This shows us and the Lord his true desire to be baptized. He is willing to do whatever it takes to have it happen. I was in a great mood! I know that at some point or another they will be baptized.

I know that I spent most of my time writing about the accident. But I wanted to show how the Lord protects his missionaries. If the driver of the Corolla had been killed, we would of have been in a lot of trouble with Ugandan police. Or we could have been hurt and the work would have really slowed down for us. OR our car could have spun out of control when he hit us. The variables are immense. I know the Lord was watching out for us. He protected all of us.

Thanks for all you all do and I appreciate you all a lot!

Love ya all,

Elder Bitter

Friday, October 11, 2013

Rodents of Unusual Size - October 7, 2013

Hello everyone! It’s good write again. :)

I hope your week went well and that you are happy.

First, “Happy Birthday, Grandma Bitter (Sunday, Oct 13)!

I haven't written about any personal stories for a while so here goes a few:

To start let’s talk about washing clothes. This transfer has been an interesting one regarding laundry. For the past five weeks, we have not been able to hire anyone to wash our clothes (the washing machine has been broken). We have been washing clothes the good old fashion way---by hand. For my companion, who has been washing by hand since he was ten years old, it has not been a problem. BUT for a greenie like me, it has really been a struggle! Ha ha, ha! Last Monday, I set a new record.

On that Monday, I realized I had been lazy all week. Every single white item that I owned was dirty. Four large basins of water were barely enough to cover all my dirty items. At this point it was about 7:30 a.m. As my companion walked by, I asked, “How long will it take to wash these clothes?” He smiled and said, “I could do it in thirty minutes.” I then asked, “How long will it take me to do them?” He indicated it would probably take an hour or so.

I decided that I could do it for an hour. I wanted them done. I had to go out and buy a large bar of washing soap. I then sat down in the shower and got to work. Well after finishing one basin of clothes, my hands were starting to hurt. I still had three more basins to go. Oh well, no big deal. I continued to work.

I scrubbed and scrubbed and rubbed and rubbed until another basin was finished. At this point my shoulders and hands were pretty tired and sore. I really wanted to quit! But I knew I was half done. Stopping would be foolish since the clothes were already wet and waiting for me. I decided to check the time to help encourage me. A full hour and half had gone by and all I had been doing was washing clothes!!!

Well that really got me motivated! I bent over and started washing as fast as possible. After what seemed like a REALLY long time, I was finally finished. It was a great feeling to be done. At this point it hurt to bend my fingers because I had rubbed the skin off of all of my knuckles. My tan on my hands was gone. So I basically spent the rest of the day with my hands covered in Vaseline to soothe them. Throughout the rest of the day, I tried not to move my hands because they were on fire! I had learned a valuable lesson! Wash your dirty clothes every single night so they don’t pile up.

Well this week we saw two of the largest rats I have ever seen in my entire life. If any of you have ever seen “Princess Bride” then you know about the Fire Swamp and the giant rats. I met their cousins in Uganda! I saw the rats this week with my companion, when we were leaving the house on Tuesday morning.

As we we left the apartment, we saw a dog eating some dead animal that looked like a rodent. We decided to check it out. As we got closer, we were both pretty disgusted. It was a giant rat. The rat must have weighed around 4 pounds. The rat’s body was so big I would not have been able to wrap my fingers around its body. (I did not try this of course).

At first I thought it was a possum or something like that. Yet the longer I looked at it, I had to admit it was a rat. I just couldn’t believe it. It was huge! (I have a picture on my memory card. I will have my parents upload it after I send it home.)

A little later we saw one of these monsters as we were driving to a place way out in the bush.  I saw the giant rat sprint out of the bushes and cross the dirt road in front of us.  I couldn’t resist. I jumped on the gas and steered to hit it. I just wanted some more proof of their size. Sadly I missed him. The rats in Uganda are HUGE!

I have two more short stories then I will update you on the people we are teaching.

This week we saw a car that had driven into a ditch that was about 5 feet deep. We pulled over and offered to help them. They wanted to use the mission truck to pull their car out. I told them no. I explained that it wasn’t our truck. As we stood around trying to figure out how to get the car out of the ditch, more and more people gathered around.

Finally one of the guys suggested we lift it out. I thought to myself, “Yeah, right!” Boy was I wrong!!!! As we all gathered around the car, we began lifting in unison and then dropping it. We repeated this action of lifting and dropping over and over. The car was bouncing like a basketball up and out of the ditch.  It was pretty cool to see a car lifted out of a huge ditch by 15 people.

This next story is super short. On Wednesday we were tracting in the evening. It was getting dark. As we were walking along the road, we would greet people hoping to set up an appointment or/and invite them to church. As we passed one man, I stuck out my hand to greet him. Then WHAM he slapped my hand as hard as he could and said “NO!!!” and continued walking. I wasn't mad. I wasn't confused. I was completely shocked! In my entire mission experience, I have never had anyone slap my hand as a greeting. Crazy!

This week was another speedy one. We had the opportunity to do some tracting and to continue teaching our regular investigators. We have been focusing on trying to find more people who want to be taught more than the one lesson. This goal has not been going all that well. I am grateful for the people we have been teaching.

As I have mentioned before, Lydia has been coming to church for a long time and has been doing really well. She has accepted everything that we have taught her so far and she has really enjoys learning about Christ. Lydia can read. This is very exciting because she can read the Book of Mormon without us. Over the past five weeks, she has been reading the Book of Mormon. Over this time she has changed and loves the gospel.

One thing that I have learned on my mission is that as people read the Book of Mormon and really want to know if it is true, they will receive an answer. And more than that, if they read the Book of Mormon with and honest heart and open mind, it will testify the church is true and the Book of Mormon is Holy Scripture just like the Bible.

One thing I wish I had done more of before I left on my mission is to read the Book of Mormon to learn not just to read. As I have studied, I have learned so much. I have learned things that I would never imagined possible. I've noticed that on almost every single page of the Book of Mormon there is something to help us become better. When I apply to principles that I learn, I become a better person.

To finish off, I will write about Salomé and Geoffrey. This is the couple that I mentioned in a previous letter that has to pay a dowry before they can marry. While this is a sad thing, I am so happy at their commitment to pay the dowry quickly so that they can be married. Often when a couple is faced with this type of test, they just give up on getting married. But not so with Salomé and Geoffrey, they are scrimping and saving so that they can pay for the dowry. They want to be baptized. Their desire is solid.

As we teach them a new principle, they both commit and stick to it. They try to apply everything they learn. It will take them some time to pay dowry but I know that at one point or another they will be able to pay it and will be able to be baptized.

Thanks everyone for all of the Emails. I really appreciate it!!

I love ya all!


Elder Bitter

Friday, October 4, 2013

Salome and Geoffrey - September 30, 2013

Hi All,

I lost track of time this week. I feel as if I emailed everyone just a few hours ago! I do not have a lot to say because the week has been pretty uneventful.

In the past few weeks, we have had a lot of our investigators decide that they are no longer interested in the church. It has been kind of a bummer. Consequently, we have had less people to teach and more tracting to do.

One family that we have been teaching for a long time is Salome and Geoffrey. They are a younger couple in their late twenties. They are the most humble, kind people in the world.

We have taught Salome and Geoffrey everything that they need to know to be baptized. The holdup is that they are not married. So Elder Kanthunkako and I have really been working on getting them to get married. They had committed to get married on October 12 and to be baptized on October 13 (Grandma Bitter’s birthday). They were happy to accept the commitment to get married and be baptized. However as time went on, they shared with us their problem.

The problem is that in Uganda when a man and woman get married, the man is expected to pay the woman’s parents a dowry. The man sits down with the parents and they negotiate a settlement of cows, chickens, goats etc. This is difficult for the young couple.

The same is true in Geoffrey and Salome’s case. The parents refused to let her get married until he paid a good portion of the dowry. This young couple have very humble means so the payment of this dowry will take a long time. After they explained the situation, I was afraid that they would lose hope and give up.

Thankfully, I was wrong. They said that they still want to be married in the church and be baptized. It was just going to take a little bit longer because the parents would be very unhappy if they disobeyed them. So the good news is that they get to continue on learning about the gospel as they try to pay the dowry.

This week my companion, a few other elders and I had a meeting for our mission. It was a great! It lasted for about 5 hours and it was a very productive. We discussed how the mission is doing and how things are moving forward and our weak spots. As I was sitting in the meeting, I kept thinking the Lord’s church is amazing.

It is remarkable to see the Lord prepare each of us to serve missions. The preparation is throughout our whole life. He gives us experiences that help shape and strengthen us. The church has been set up by the Lord. Every possible situation there is a solution. The work moves forward like a smooth running clock. It is smooth and efficient.

Well that’s all I have this week. I hope that everyone has a great week and that things are going well.

I love ya all!


Elder Bitter

No Fun Stories This Week - September 24, 2013

Hey friends and family, it is good to be back. I love everyone’s letters and emails.

This week was good as well as disappointing. I think that is part of missionary work sometimes. The disappointments sure help us remain humble and challenge us to never give up. One thing that I have realized about myself is that when something doesn’t work out, I want to work even harder so it will work out next time.

This last week we have been focusing a lot of our time on two people. They are Tony and a woman, named Lydia. Tony was supposed to be baptized about two weeks ago. He was exited to get baptized from the very beginning. As we have been teaching Tony over the past few weeks, he has gained a stronger and stronger testimony. As his testimony grew, you could see a change in how he carried himself and the way that he would talk about the church. For example he used to say, “How are things at your church?” We would respond by saying, “It is not our church. We are just missionaries for the "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints". However, as time went on, he would say instead, “How is our church doing?” Or “When can I visit our church again?”

He seemed to be proud to be a part of the church. This was cool. We could also tell that his praying had become more sincere and more frequent. Originally when he prayed it was rough and it was evident that he felt silly praying. This gave us confidence that he was doing his part.

As his baptism date got closer, he got more and more excited. Then two days before his baptism, he told us that his family discouraged him from getting baptized. Apparently, his family has been a member of the same church for years and no one has ever left that church.

After he had heard this from his family, fear took over. I do understand the fear. It cannot be easy to be the first person to make a change in faith that is tradition in your family. We asked him to really pray and ask God what he should do. He committed that if he got the prompting to become a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints that he would continue forward. We have been helping him to understand the Spirit better and encouraging him to pray sincerely. We are really hoping that Tony (38 years old), will be able to move forward in faith and listen and recognize his spiritual promptings.

The other person that was supposed to recently be baptized was Lydia. Lydia’s story is cool. A long time ago, a missionary met Lydia and her friend on the street and made her promise that one day in her life that she would visit the church. After a long time, she decided it was time to fulfill her promise. We met Lydia when she came to church for the first time.

As she told us her story, we were so happy. Over the past few weeks, we have been teaching her the Doctrine of Christ. At first, she showed little interest. But as time went on things began to change. Instead of us asking when we could meet with her again, she started asking us when would be her next lesson.

This was such a great experience for us. The best part, however, is when we were teaching her the commandments. She told us that she had decided after graduating she was going to go out and break all the commandments to make up for lost time. (She had been spending a lot of time studying never leaving her room.) She shared how these desires have changed and now she wants to serve a mission after she graduates.

What a change in motives and desires! She has even recognized the change. The first few times she came to church, she refused to take the sacrament. She said, “I don’t feel right taking the sacrament.” We didn’t argue with her. We told her to take the sacrament when she felt ready. Well this last Sunday, she took the sacrament!” Afterwards she said, "As I took the sacrament, I felt different. I felt good. I really feel like things are changing in my life and I really feel like I am changing". That was one of the most exciting statements I have heard on my mission.

There are a lot of things that are exciting on a mission. For me one of the greatest things to see is the change of heart that comes to a person as they learn of the Doctrine of Christ. When you see the Spirit teach, guide and love, it is a really exciting. But it more exciting when the person recognizes the change and from whence it comes. Often people do not see it because it is gradual but those that are really aware of the Spirit see it and acknowledge it. This is amazing.

When Lydia noticed the change, it was so exciting. I feel that she will be baptized. I hope she will continue her course of learning the teachings of the Savior and that she will continue to draw closer to the Lord and find happiness.

Sorry I do not have any funny stories. This is what I wanted to write about this week. I hope the letter was enjoyable. :)

Lastly, congratulations Sarah on new baby! :)

I love you all and hope that all is well back home.


Elder Bitter