Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Ronnie & Ben Prepare for Baptism - March 24, 2014

Hello everyone! I don't have very much time this week so I will just get down to business.

This week we had some great blessings that I am excited to share. We have been focusing on Ronnie and Ben. We are trying to prepare them for their baptisms which are this Sunday.

For our appointment with Ronnie, we took Kennedy (a new convert that just received a calling in the YM’s Presidency) with us. As we met with Ronnie, we could tell that it was comforting to him that Kennedy was there. AND Kennedy was happy to be there as well. It was perfect. Kennedy has been a longtime friend and he referred us to Ronnie.

Our lesson for that appointment was on the word of wisdom. This principle creates a lot of questions because almost all Ugandans start drinking tea when they are small children. So when they find out that members of the church do not drink tea they are always surprised and confused.

Since Kennedy was there, it made all the difference in the world. As we taught Ronnie, he had the same questions and concerns that Kennedy had before his baptism. Consequently, Kennedy was able to bear a real and powerful testimony about the truthfulness of the word of wisdom and the blessings of obeying it. Also, Kennedy is a sales rep for a health company GNLD (A health and nutrition company based in California) so he was able to discuss the physical blessings of health as well. He also discussed the reasons for always doing what the Lord asks. Wow, it was a great day to see a recent convert teach another interested friend.

This Sunday we waited patiently outside for Ronnie to come to church as we usually do. Church had started and Ronnie being an on-time person had not arrived so we were worried and a little confused why he did not come. We decided to go inside and participate in the meeting. Just as the sacrament was about to start, we see his car race around the corner, he parks quickly, jumps out and runs into church. It was so cool! We knew that he wanted to be there and was not wasting or taking for granted the opportunity to go to church.

The other person I would like to talk about is Ben and his family. They are doing amazing! The whole family is making a great effort to go church together and sit together. It is common for them to come at different times and sit scattered throughout the congregation. Seeing them fill up an entire row on their own and all come to together is another blessing of the week.

Ben is doing a stellar job in his progression in the gospel. He has taken the responsibility of learning and committing very seriously. I can’t even explain how wonderful this is to us. Last week we had the opportunity to sit down with the whole family and teach about family scripture study. As we taught them this principle, it was really cool to see the family put scripture study into action.

Imagine a family crammed in a little house reading 1 Nephi chapter 2. They would read three or four verses together, stop and then one of the children that understood English better than the other members of the family would explain was happening and how it applies to them.

It was AWESOME! This was the first time on my mission I had ever seen a family sit down together and truly study the scriptures trying to learn together. It was just great to see them all move forward in the Gospel and helping each other every step of the way. I personally think that is how it’s supposed to be. The Gospel is meant to bring families together.

I know the letter is short but it’s all the time I have.

The Church is true! The Gospel is true.

Sure love ya all


Elder Bitter

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Reverse Peddle Bodda -- March 17, 2014

Hi Everyone,

I hope that this one gets posted because this letter took a long time to write. I also hope that you get a little chuckle here and there. :)

I’m glad to be here and I’m grateful for all the letters. It is awesome reading them. I really appreciate it. :) This week I have a story :) I wanted to share something that you might not know about Uganda. Here goes! The story of this week is called “Reverse Peddle Bodda”.

In the Uganda Kampala Mission, we are not allowed to ride a Bodda Bodda. What is a Bodda Bodda? It  is made in India. It is basically a motorcycle called a "Boxer".  They range from 100cc-110cc. (110 being the "big ones").  There not quite a DR650 or a KTM 690 but they are trying their best. The motorcycles are huge in size though. They are so large that on average, three people at least can sit on one Bodda. However, sometimes when people are feeling daring, the Bodda will carry as many as 5-6 people! These little mean machines are constantly darting between cars, cutting gaps, running out of gas, running into things such as walls/cars/people, and most of all breaking down.

Each and every owner has the exact same Bodda, the only difference between the machines is the way the owner customizes his over-sized underpowered "motorcycle".  All owners get their own custom made seat from one of the local “Bodda tailors”. It can range from a shiny vibrant pink all the way to a light brown with the pattern of outdated drapes. And on top of the seat each motorcycle has a unique horn that plays a song, sounds like a semi, or has been used so much it no longer works.  On a Bodda Bodda,  they transport not only people but they transport beds, chairs, mattresses, chickens, trash, fish, etc. I have even seen a Bodda transporting a Bodda!  Yes, that is correct—a motorcycle can carry another motorcycle.

Now when I say there are a lot of these things, I mean there are thousands. Every three seconds, a Bodda driver will be swerving down the road with 200 pounds of re-bar on it. Sometimes, a visual is so much better than words. See pictures below:
Bodda Delivery Vehicle

Bodda Family Wagon With Optional Luggage Rack

Bodda Taxi Stand (Staging Area)

Finding Your Bodda Can Be  a Challenge
The drivers line up as if they are waiting for a race on the side of the roads. They call these places Bodda Stages. A Bodda Stage is basically a line up (like taxis at an airport) of motorcycles wating for customers. Often the customers are late for an appointment and are willing to risk their life for the mere cost of 1000-5000 UGX (about 50 cents-two dollars)! A daring customer yells, “BODDA!”  and then all the Boddas start up and race to the customer hoping to be the lucky person who gets to transport this dare-devil across the wild roads of Uganda!

Final Note about Boddas:  Every Bodda has lettering all over it with lights attached in all directions so that no one can miss there pimped out neon colored motorcycle. CRAZY!

Here is an example:
Bodda in Showroom Condition
After the above description, the rule to not ride a Bodda makes COMPLETE sense! However, we do have a missionary approved version. It is a peddle bodda or in other words a bicycle bodda.  Instead of transporting 5-6 people, they only transport 1-2 people. Besides that difference they are basically the same but a lot slower and safer. :) A bicycle Bodda uses only the side streets so getting hit by a car is not an option.  HaHa! The bicycle drivers transport people all over town. The small seat in the back is for the passenger.

One day my companion and I were late for an appointment, we knew that our only hope of being on time was to grab a peddle bodda.  We called over two guys. They were looking really tired. This was going to be a slow trip. So we told them to get on the back and hold on tight. We then hopped on the front and peddled like mad!  We were racing down the dirt road, weaving between people, dodging pot holes and swerving around washed out areas trying to get to our appointment on time. As we were riding, we heard MAZOOONGU!!!! MAZOOOONGUUU!!!! and lots of whistles and laughs.  I don’t think they had ever seen a white guy transporting an Ugandan around on his peddle Bodda! LOL

As we were racing through town, every person that saw us would stop dead then start smiling, waving and yelling with excitement as they watched "the Reverse Bodda" race through the streets of Wankaluku (town in Kabowa).  We were making record time! When we arrived at our appointment, the owners of the bikes hopped off and looked at us in amazement. They didn’t say a word. They were stunned at our speed and efficiency. We then thanked them for letting us use their bicycles and allowing us to peddle instead of them. We gave them some money and went on our way :) (Afterwards, Elder Stewart and I got off, we laughed. We were so pumped that we had pulled that adventure off :)

(On my memory card [the one that I sent home] has some pictures of us racing around transporting some Ugandans on these peddle boddas.)
Peddle Bodda Without a Customer

Peddle Boddas Resting

Peddle Bodda Taxi Staging Area
Well that's my story for today :)

Now about the work:

As I remember, I had told you about Ben last week. (He is the only member in the family that is not baptized.) Well he is ready for baptism and will be baptized on the 30th of this month. Ben has been doing amazing. Since he has been attending church, it has made all the difference for him and his family. The whole family (except for Frank, his brother) has been kind of on and off again regarding commitment. However, since Ben started going it has really made a difference.

Since taking the lessons and his commitment to being baptized his whole family is completely active in the church. This past Sunday all eight people in the family came into church together and sat next to each other and stayed for the whole service. It is really amazing to see how people change when all are committed to the same ideals. Not only have they all become more active in the church but on top of that Michael the recent convert has had a struggling business for a long time that has really started to take off and has become really successful.  This is such a blessing because it allows the children to enjoy life (instead of working and worrying) and they have what they need.

The other person that we are teaching is a man named Ronnie. He was refereed to us by our recent convert Kennedy (the guy that we baptized about two months ago). We have been teaching Ronnie for the past few weeks and he finally came to church. Ronnie is 30 years old and is a successful business owner. The great part about him being a business owner is that he has a flexible schedule.
This past week he finally accepted a baptismal date and came to church as well. He was happy to be there and sat right next to Kennedy. Kennedy was very supportive. We were so grateful.

On top of that Kennedy this week was called to be the secretary in the Young Men presidency which was really cool. I could tell that he was nervous.  Elder Stewart and I sat down with him and talked to him about his calling and what he would be doing. After talking to him he became very confident in his abilities to do the calling that he was given. It was pretty cool!

They will big difference in the church. They are both very stable and have the ability to be flexible. They are both very smart people. I know that they will really help the church out a lot and it will be great to see :)

I sure love you all


Elder Bitter

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Pull Up Bar From Scrap - March 10, 2014

Hi All,

I have spent a lot of time transferring photos from my companion’s memory card to my card so the bad news is that today's email will not be as long as normal. The good news is that I will be sending home another memory card :) So there will be lots of photos and videos for everyone to check out once my parents uploading them. :)

I have two short stories for this week.

The first story is about a couple named John and Rita. On Tuesday Elder Stewart and I were walking down the road and this guy just came up to us with his arms open for a hug. We reached out and shook his hand to stop the hug from happening. He then proceeded to tell us that he is a member of the church and has been looking for the church in Kabowa. Of course, we were happy to see him and we gladly went to his home. After we sat down, he told us that he has been a member of the church for about seven years and that he has been in Iraq for the past two years or so.

We then started asking him a little bit about his conversion. After visiting with him, it seemed like maybe he was not a member. He used terms like the “father” at the church and other terms we don’t usually use. Well at this point we are super confused.

After conversing some more, we asked who baptized him and he said an elder. We asked if there were two and he said no just one. We are still pretty confused but we are planning to check with the ward for his records.

The other story is that my companion and I have slowly but surely been collecting pieces of plumber pipe (about 2mm thick and ¾ in in diameter). After we had enough we made a door frame pull-up bar and it is awesome! :)

The work is looking good. This week Ben came to church for the fourth time. Ben is the last person in his family to be baptized. His father was baptized about six weeks ago. We have been working with this family for some time. If all continues as it should, Ben will be baptized on March 30th. This will be awesome because this will mean his whole family is members. This is very unusual in Uganda! :)

Well that’s all for this week. Mom and Dad a memory card is coming your way.

Love ya all!


Elder Bitter

Monday, March 3, 2014

Cow Guts - March 3, 2014

Time is flying by. This week, I was trying to think of an entertaining story and I came up with one! I think it is pretty funny.

About four weeks ago a family (recent converts) invited us over for lunch. They indicated that they wanted to prepare something special for us. We accepted because how often do missionaries get free food? When we arrived at their little shop, we sat down ready to partake of this "Special meal". As we were sat relaxing in their little hut, we were trying to guess what the family was cooking. I could smell the food but I did not recognize the smell. In Uganda they only cook about six different foods so it is pretty easy to guess but this time I had no idea.

As we waited, I started to get a little bit concerned since I didn’t recognize the smell. Tthis probably meant I hadn't eaten it before. I have eaten just about everything a person can get their hands on in Uganda. Some things I ate just once just to say I had tried it. There a few specific foods that I have not eaten because I had crossed them off my list of edible foods.

Those three things are:

1. Cow intestines

2 Chicken feet/heads

3. Cow feet (OK, I already ate this one)

I was sitting there hoping and praying that it wasn't one of those things. We finally heard the scraping of pots. We were ready to discover what was behind Door #1. As Frank brought in the food -- it was cow intestines and rice. I remember looking at the tubes and the chunks of "food" that had hair like tentacles (the tentacles are supposed to push food down the body—and not meant to be eaten in my opinion) on them.

Elder Terry and I just looked at it and laughed with dismay. In Africa if you don't eat what has been prepared, you are not welcome back. It is considered super offensive not to eat. So we both took out our cameras and took videos and photos of our first experience of eating cow intestines. As the camera was rolling, I was laughing because I couldn't believe I was going to eat it. "Mmmh cow intestines!"

Well long story short I ate it all and kept it down! Wahoo! Go team! My ability to keep down unwanted things has improved!!! :)

Now it’s time to talk about the work.

This Sunday was pay day for all the work from the past few weeks!! The week started out searching for people to teach and just a few appointments in a day. As we were searching for people, we would get invited in and try to teach a “personalized” lesson so it would not be repetitive or boring to us or the listener. As the week progressed, we found some great people that seemed promising.

One of the referrals we were given was for a guy named Frank (not the same guy I wrote about above). As we shared with him the gospel, things seemed promising. After the lesson, he committed to come to church and to meet with us again. We were really excited for Sunday. Over the past few weeks the number of investigators at church has really been low. We have tried to do everything that we could think of to increase the number. We really prayed that all would work out and that people would start coming again so that we would have people to teach.

When church finally rolled around, we were really anxious to see if Frank and others would come to church. The Lord blessed us on Sunday. A lot of the people that we had been tracting over the past few weeks (including Frank) all came to church. The investigators at church were awesome and it was such a great feeling to see all of them there.

I’m so grateful to be with Elder Stewart. He is a great guy. I really enjoy Kabowa a lot.

I hope that all is well back home. I love ya all.


Elder Bitter

William's Long Walk of Faith - February 24, 2014

Let’s start with a few SHOUT OUTS:

Happy Birthday Mom!!

And Happy Birthday Hunter!!

To start I want to tell a cool story. Two weeks ago, we tracted into a guy named William. He had a serious drinking problem. We sat down with him and shared a simple short message about “life is about change” and a little bit about the church. Well two Sundays ago to our surprise as sacrament meeting was starting in walks William. He was dressed up and prepared for the church service. During the service, he is taking notes like crazy.

After seeing him at church, we decided to continue to visit him. When we met with him the second time, he explained to us that he had always wanted to get off drinking but he hasn't been able to do it. We talked to him about the gospel and how it can help you accomplish all things. We also told him that this kind of problem takes time and that he will need to rely on the Lord and put forth a huge effort to be successful.

After this appointment, he came to the next appointment somewhat tipsy. We then explained to him that we would not be meeting with him unless he came sober. He started working on it. Believe it or not, when it comes to committed investigators he is really one of them. He has truly kept ever commitment that we have given him! It is remarkable to see the change in his countenance over the past two weeks.

Our last visit, we talked to him some more about his drinking. He said that he is really trying to stop and that he is having trouble with it because there are times when he doesn't have work and he is just bored. Then he falls back into the habit. We gave him a Book of Mormon and told him that every time he gets bored or wants to drink he should read his assignments. We gave him a BUNCH of readings hoping that he would use it to still the raging habit.

We then invited him to come to stake conference which was last Sunday. The stake center building is about a forty minute drive from where we are working. We weren't sure if he was going to be able to make it because of the cost of transport for a taxi. Most of the investigators from my experience rarely come to stake conference because of the travel expense. On Sunday, we arrived at the church about two hours early so that we could watch for any investigators and recent converts.

At 9:30 to our surprise here comes William drenched in sweat. He came with Book of Mormon in hand and the biggest smile on his face. He came up, shook our hands and said, “I’m glad to be here.” AND he was sober! Not a single whiff of alcohol on him. It turns out that he had walked! The walk must have taken him at least three hours. It was cool!

I think that William is going to make it all the way and have a really strong testimony. He is awesome and is just a great guy. He is willing to make the change in his life that is needed.

On top of that great experience, Elder Stewart and I had another really awesome experience. Over the past week, we had been trying to figure out what we needed to do to improve as a companionship. We wanted to find the best people to teach. After thinking about it we came to a conclusion and immediately implemented this change. As we started to tract it wasn't going all that well but we recognized that sometimes it takes time.

As we continued on, we came across a man named Julius. He was just leaving his home so we stopped him and started talking to him. He had been looking for the TRUE CHURCH of GOD for some time now and had attended pretty much all the different faiths. As we continued to talk to him we asked if we could sit down with him and he accepted. (His job has something to do with orthopedics. His company is based in Egypt and he is over the area of Uganda.)

At our next meeting, we taught him the restoration and he seemed to accept it. He told us that before he could really accept this into his heart he needed to pray about it. But he will still continue to meet with us.
The coolest part of this whole thing was not that he was some smart guy that was looking for the true gospel but that the Spirit was there during the whole lesson. This is the first time I found myself praying for my companion (even though he was doing a great job) as he shared and I believe he was praying for me as well. It was awesome. I know the Lord cares and really wants us to succeed. BUT he really wants us to put forth the effort and make changes first as well.

I hope that this all made sense. I really love you all and hope that everthing is going well back home. Be happy and enjoy life.


Elder Bitter

You Never Know Who Will Listen to the Message - February 17, 2014

I’m back and ready to roll.

Well this week was transfer news and there are some big changes for me and my companion!!!! Kidding! We are both staying and we are totally happy with it. Lame missionary joke. : )

I could serve with Elder Stewart for a long time and be totally good with it. Elder Stewart is an amazing guy. He loves the gospel and loves the good things in life. He is one of those people that can really make a difference in the world but doesn't have any idea that he can.

Another cool thing about Elder Stewart is he sees everyone and cares for them. He never looks at the situation with his feelings in mind. He is only out here to serve. It is remarkable to watch. Elder Stewart is going to help the Kabowa Ward a lot because of his selfless service to the ward and to God. His primary goal is to help others come closer to God.

This week went by so fast. It seems that my mission is going by faster and faster. Every day seems to rocket by. Elder Stewart and I have really been trying to increase the amount of people we have to teach on a regular by doing a lot of finding again. Sometimes this can be tough, miserable or boring. However because of the great relationship that we have together we just go to work, smile and keep moving. I learned a lesson from our tracting.

I learned that you never know who will accept the gospel. This week we contacted and found a lot of different people. As we taught the people, in my mind I would think, “They will be interested or they are not interested.” I made this judgment from the feeling in the lesson. But I learned on Sunday that sometimes even though the Spirit is not in the lesson, it doesn’t mean that the Lord and the Spirit have given up on that person.

For example this Sunday we had three people come to church. (This was awesome!) However, the surprising part was who came. It wasn't the people that we thought would come. It was those who had not seemed interested in the least during our discussions with them. In fact, we had the impression they just wanted us to leave.

I learned that the Spirit does say, “Yes, this person is interested.” BUT as we do our small part regardless of how it appears, the Lord will then continue to work with them and their needs. The gospel is really for everyone. It is great to watch His Work move forward.

As we were walking to an appointment, we saw a less active (Jospeh) that has been avoiding us. We saw him in his garden. We both stopped. We both just knew that we needed to talk to him and see how he was doing. We started chatting with him. We were shocked. He did not try to make excuses so he could get away from us. In fact, he seemed happy to see us.

After chatting for some time, he actually invited us in allowing us to share a message. At this point we are amazed! In the past we had done everything that we could possibly think of to meet with him. We meet with him twice last week. I was so excited I could barely stand it!

On Sunday, 15 minutes into the meeting we look over and in walks Joseph!!! He was dressed to the T! He had the biggest smile and looked happy! We were so excited to see him. He stayed the whole time and loved it!

I love ya all and hope that all is well back home and that your all being taken care of! Have a good one!


Elder Bitter