Tuesday, June 28, 2011

June 27th 2011

June 27th 2011
Greetings from Uganda!!!
First of all thanks for all the letters and emails, they are greatly appreciated since I only have 2 hours every week that I can be connected to home. Congratulations to Jimmer for making the Sacramento Kings!!! I'm sure that every BYU fan in Utah will be at the Energy Solutions Arena to see him play in his first game there against the Jazz. So...who did the Jazz pick up??? Kawai Leanard? I hope so, I really like him. Also, HAPPY BIRTHDAY BENJAMIN!!! Everyone, Benjamin is now fifteen years old!!! Watch out for him on the streets of Lake Point now :D 

I guess I will make this email kind of a Question and Answer email...I've had so many questions and I want to make sure I get the answers out so if I repeat myself or say something I've already said in previous emails please forgive me :D
First of all the language...So the official language here in Uganda (as well as the mission) is English. But two other languages called Luganda and Musoka are very common as well. I have learned basic greetings in Luganda (which is the predominant of the two african languages here in Jinja). So if I start out an email in the future by saying "Jabale Sebuls ni Nyabols" you can just understand that I am saying in essense "how is it with you, men and women." haha I've also learned how to say thankyou and your welcome...some things. I think I will include a "word of the week" in each email to follow along with the "plate of the week" and "scripture of the week" themes I am trying to make a habit. So this week the word is Jabale, meaning "How is it with you?" One of the most interesting parts of the language here is the accent. I think I have fully mastered (understanding) the African accent. I still talk like an American and little kids will laugh when I say something funny sounding. One thing I have had to get used to is how they say my last name. Elder Winters is pronounced El-daw Ween-Taws :D I've been used to listening to my name as Winn-Turrs for so long that I sometimes miss my own name even if my companion is talking to me. Another funny thing about the accents is the accent I myself am picking up. Even though Africans are taught English from a very young age their word and sentence comprehension is at a very low level. So...I have learned to talk very slowly and in short choppy sentences to ensure understanding. Also, I've learned to put the emphasis of words and sentences in different places to ensure that the investigator (or member for that matter) gets the point or subject of my message, cuz sometimes they will dwell on a non-important word in the sentence and lose the whole meaning. Am I making sense or is this all just blabber...it sounds like I'm just rambling, but I think I'm making sense. Sometimes when I talk or write I'm prone to over explain a topic or idea just because I feel that I'm not explaining it well the first time when in reality the concept I am trying to teach is coming out just fine and perfectly clear without further explanation. HAHA THAT WAS FUN!!! I haven't been able to talk complicated for a while :D

All right...some of you have asked about my companion and I probably forgot to mention some vital details...lol My first companion here in Uganda is Elder Butawo, he is a 26 year old Elder from Zimbabwe. The reason that the African Elders are so old is that they have to finish school (high school) before coming out. The high school system is a lot different from in the States. High school for Africans starts when they are sixteen and depending on how well they comprehend things could last till about age 24-26. They have six years of high school during which they spend time learning writing, basic math and geometry, history, and music or dance. One thing about these African kids is that they sure know their country and the other countries of the world. I wouldn't be surprised if some of these kids knew more about the United States than some of us do. :) Elder Butawo has been out for 10 months and can't wait to get home to his girlfriend Latisha who is waiting faithfully for him back in Zim (as he calls it).

One of my favorite things so far about my mission has been talking and teaching the members. My companion and I teach two classes during the week. One is on Sunday and is a Teacher Development class. I love teaching this class because it gives me the chance to share the things I learned both at the MTC and here in the field. Our goal is to teach people to be better sunday school teachers but the skills can be applied to missionary work as well. Last week I was able to teach a class on "Teaching from the Scriptures" which was really great. I love the scriptures and it seems like I haven't had enough time to spend in them while I've been out here. We only have 1 hour of personal study time every morning (which seems like a lot, I know it did to me while I was back home). I have come to realize since coming out here that there is SO MUCH scripture available to us not only the Standard Works but modern day scripture such as General Conference. I wish I had more time to devote to scripture study and I want everyone back home to know how lucky you are. Especially you youth and young adults. You have soooo much time on your hands and even though you might like playing video games or watching movies, PLEASE I IMPLORE YOU open the scriptures and learn from them. The word of God will bless your life more than you will ever know. The second class we teach each week (on Saturday nights) is a Missionary Preparation class. This is really fun. We have 6 young men and 2 sisters preparing to serve missions right now. The material is pretty much the same as the Teachers Development class but is geared towards missionary work. We spend about half the time running scenarios and exercises to prepare these prospective elders and sisters for things they will see in the field. I LOVE missionary work, it is so much fun and I really like seeing the fruits of my labors. I have included a picture of Sister Vivian and her sister Patience taken during a lesson at her house. We are hoping that Sister Vivian will be baptized on July 10th which will be at the end of our transfer.

So we have District Conference coming up on the 2nd and 3rd of July. This is like Stake conference but on a smaller scale because it is composed of branches not wards. It will be presided over by President Jackson (the mission president) he is also the District President and guides the creation of branches in Uganda, Sudan, and Rwanda. The Jinja zone of missionaries has been asked to provide two musical numbers for the general session of the conference on Sunday. SO I WON'T HAVE TO MISS OUT ON STAKE CHOIR!!!! I know it's not going to be the same as our fantastic Stansbury Park Stake choir but I love to sing so it doesn't matter. On top of that I have been asked to prepare the Primary of the Walukuba branch to sing "I love to see the temple" at the district conference as well (see pic of me pointing while sitting at piano). I don't know why I was asked to do this since I haven't told anyone that I used to work with the primary back home...but I'm glad for the opportunity. I'm so glad that we have a piano at the church building and that I have been given permission to play it whenever I have time. I really miss playing on a real piano, and I miss all my music but I'm glad to have what I do have.

So I guess I will end by explaining each picture as well as giving the scripture and plate of the week...

-5671 is the plate of the week. Pineapple, sausage and an omlet with tomato inside. The pineapple was a pretty good sized one and cost only 1500 shillings (about 68 cents!!!)

-5669 is pretty self explanatory. I love getting letters. It is so much fun to be able to sit down at the end of the day and read about what is going on at home!!!

-5659 So I found a place in Jinja that sells Snickers!!! They are 2800 shillings (1.15$) but it was worth it for a treat.

-5696 practicing with the primary kids in preparation for district conference

-5664 some people have asked what the power outlets look like, hopefully this helps :D

-5677 Teaching Sister Vivian (left) and Patience (right)

-5679 what I call Seussy African chickens (if you don't get the pun go ask your mom :D)

Scripture of the week is: Alma 31:31 and Alma 34:41. These two scriptures talk about having patience with all things. I have been required to have a lot of patience with companions (both my own as well as the two others living with me) and with investigators. Since I KNOW for myself that the gospel is true, I want other people to automatically know it as well. This causes problems during lessons because sometimes people just don't get it and I want them to. These scriptures also comforted me in my homesickness problems, saying that if I am patient with my afflictions (being away from home :D) that I will be blessed and will be reunited in due time.

It has been a great week!!! I miss you all!!! Be safe, know that you are in my prayers. On that note...I know now why missionaries families are blessed so much when their sons and daughters are in the field. Yesterday I counted 37 vocal prayers in which I prayed for my family and friends back home. I believe that God hears those prayers and blesses you.

I love you guys!!!
Elder Winters

Plate of the Week

Power Outlet

Dear Elder Letters

Playing the Piano and Teaching the Primary

Seuss Chickens

Brandon with Sister Vivian and Patience

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

June 21 2011

June 21 2011
Good Morning, Afternoon, Evening, etc...Friends and Family!!!
Greetings from the Uganda Kampala mission!!! I'm loving it here in the Walukuba district in the Jinja area!!! I'm kind of torn though, I really miss everyone and everything at home, but I really love it here too. Have you ever really wanted to be in two places at once!?!?!?!? IT'S REALLY TERRIBLE!!!! :) I've just been telling myself to enjoy the time I have here while it lasts and that I will be back home in 23 months and will then be able to enjoy it there. I guess I'll start by giving a little bit more info about Walukuba and the people and culture. Walukuba, as you probably know, is a village on the North-West(ish) shore of Lake Victoria. It is about the size of Lake Point and since we are a walking mission I have walked every inch of it now. On average we are probably walking 10-12 miles per day with the longest days ending up around 15 miles of walking. I think I've lost a few pounds off of my "gut." :D I'm slimming down but am exercising every day to maintain my muscle. I really should eat more protein but the sources are limited. Peanut butter is about 3.50$ for a small jar so that isn't very economical, beans are plentiful but take a long time to cook and we are never at home, meat is available but only in Jinja Town and again takes time to cook...so I'm trying my best to plan so that I can get a proper diet of protein :D Okay...back to the area and people.

Walukuba USED to have two branches consisting of about 250 people each. They have a beautiful chapel with electricity and running water and everything (that is, when the bills are paid they do) Right now the building is running on a generator because bill payment has been a problem, we have power when we need it but gas, "petrol" is expensive so using the generator isn't the best idea.
Okay...so I said that Walukuba USED to have two branches. Starting about 1 1/2 years ago, people just stopped coming to church. We've talked in PEC about the causes and one possibility is that living circumstances got better so people "decided" they didn't need God anymore...:/ The Book of Mormon warns of this again and again, once the Lord starts blessing people they become prideful and stop praying, relying on God. One of the biggest roles of the missionaries here in Walukuba is to re-activate those members who have gone less active. It's not easy, because once people get in the habit (or out of the habit) of coming to church it is tough to help them change. One of the things we do each day is street contacting. We have a small market near our apartment that is really busy from about 6-8pm at night. Each day we have a goal to contact and invite to church at least 25 people. Out of these contacts we also find less-active members and new investigators that are open to us visiting them and teaching them. This street contacting is successful some days and very discouraging on others. One great contact we had last week was Sister Vivian.

~OKAY~ I have to add a little side note here...The most difficult thing for me here is remembering everyone's names and faces. Here in Uganda (and all of Africa I understand) people are solely on a first name basis. This is all great except...all the women here are named either: Esther, Teddy, Sandra, Harriet or some other name like that...With the men it is just the same: Dennis, Francis, Issac, Joel, Moses...so my difficulty in putting the right names, with the right faces, with their place of residence is almost nightmarish :D I'm getting pretty comfortable with the layout of the village but remembering everyone and where they live has been difficult. I shouldn't be too hard on myself, I've only been here 1 1/2 weeks and I need to give myself time. haha, okay back to Sister Vivian.

Sister Vivian is a 16 year old girl we met at the market while she was on her way back from school (School here is a lot more time intensive than school back in the states, children be glad that you don't have to be at school at 7 and don't get out till 6pm :D) So we met Vivian and talked to her for a few minutes, we gave her a pass-along card with a picture of the Book of Mormon with our phone number on it. We thought nothing else of our simple "contact" until we were on our way home and a woman called us. She told us her name was Sister Teddy and that she was Vivian's mother. She said that when Vivian came home with that card she just had to call us and learn more about the Book of Mormon. We set a time to meet with her and her two daughters and taught them the Doctrine of Christ (2Nephi 31). At the end of the lesson both Teddy and Vivian said they wanted to be baptized and that they would prepare themselves by coming to church and listening to the missionary lessons. Elder Butawo and I were SO HAPPY!!! I know that street contacting is hard and tedious (especially at the end of the day) but it is worth it. "If ye shall bring but one soul unto me how great shall be your joy!!!"

So I guess some of you are probably wondering about the money here and how things work covering my expenses as a missionary. As I was walking to the Internet Cafe I passed an money exchange place and the rate was 2400 Ugandan Shillings to 1 US Dollar. I have been using 2000/1 in my calculations because it is easier but it also gives me a little cushion of safety if I mess up on some of my math :D I have been told that we as missionaries each receive 360,000 Shillings per month to be used for: food, transportation, fast offering (yes we pay that still :D), toiletries, and other living supplies.

I think I mentioned what a mess the apartment was when I got there. I am starting to feel more at home with such essentials as: hand soap for the bathroom, dish soap for washing dishes, hand towels, etc...I still can't believe that the missionaries have been living without these things. Still, I'm the only one that is really taking advantage of them, the other elders are still pulling a plate from a dirty stack, rinsing it off then using it to eat off of. The most disgusting thing is the eating utensils. I actually pulled a set of fork, spoon and knife out of the sink and sanitized them by boiling, then put them in my suitcase to be used SOLELY by me!!! If these other guys want to live in filth they can, but as for me and my house, we shall be sanitary :D

Sorry for the quick vent session...so we are given 360,000 Shillings a month. This is pretty adequate as long as you plan for your expenses. Each time we come into town we have to take a pedal-boda (a bicycle taxi of sorts) this usually costs between 700-1000 shillings one way per person. So we need to budget at least 8,000 per month if we are coming in to email on P-day. We also have a ward member that washes our clothes, this is 5,000 a week or 20,000 a month. As you can see it adds up pretty quickly and if you don't plan you could be out of money two weeks into the month.
So here's a quick Ugandan math problem for you. I can buy 4kg of potatoes for 4800 Ugandan shillings. What is this in US Dollars and lbs? Is it a good deal? Should I include more or less potatoes in my diet from a point of economy?

Alright, a little explanation of pictures attached...In our back yard we have quite a few trees. I went exploring around last week and found that we have two banana trees, one of them that will have ripe bananas in probably 2-3 weeks. I included a picture of the bunch that probably has 50-60 bananas on it. We are going to have a banana feast when they are ready!!!! We also have a few mango trees, but mangos grow VERY slow and the elders in the transfer before us picked everything so we probably won't have mangos available this transfer. We also have an avacado tree. They don't look anything like the black avacados we have in the states. These are a bright green and will remain that way all the way up to when they are ready. The best way to know that an avacado is ready is to look at it. If it is hanging from the tree, it is not ready, if it is on the ground it is ready :D I've started to look around the tree every morning for avacados then put them in the refrigerator to keep until we are ready to eat them. YES, I have become an avacado eater, I know I had a reputation of hating avacados in the US and I probably still will when I get back :D These fresh from the tree avacados are great!!!
Also I've attached a picture with the two senior missionary couples and a recent convert (Alice) One of the senior couples is from Alberta, Canada and when I asked them if they knew any Vances they said they did. Sister Shipley knew Jim Vance pretty well and went to his wedding. So any Vances who read this...maybe you could let Jim know that I met the Shipleys and that they will be coming home to Alberta in 2 weeks.
Okay, I have to remember what each photo is, I can't see thumbnails on this computer so I'm going off of numbers, hopefully I explain everything clearly, if I don't just use your imagination to come up with the most interesting explanation you can :D As you can see, I have photographed the "Plate of the Week" again. I think I'm going to keep doing this just because it is fun. I hope all my Lion House friends are proud of me :D I've learned a lot working there and no elder that works with me is going to complain when it is my turn to cook :D

Okay, that's all for now folks!!! Just a quick scripture for you. Remember in the New Testament when Jesus is talking to Peter?
Jesus: Do you love me?
Peter: Thou knowest I love thee.
Jesus: Feed my sheep.

I always like to apply scriptures to myself and my life (1Nephi 19:23) so here goes my interpretation of the scripture.

Elder Winters: Friends and Family, do you love me?
Friends and Family: Thou knowest that we love thee.
Elder Winters: Fill my mailbox!!!

I am thankful for everyone that has sent me letters through DearElder.com. That is the only way I have gotten letters so far, for those who have sent something through the pouch it must be taking a REALLY long time. Keep the letters coming and keep me informed. WHERE DID JIMMER FREDETTE GO IN THE NBA!!!! YOU GUYS ARE KILLING ME. WHO TOOK THE NBA CHAMPIONSHIP THIS YEAR!!!! Heat? Maverics? I guess I'll have to wait till next week to find out. Make sure you tell me!!!
Be prepared next week for a story with prehistoric significance!!! (Just thought I'd keep you guessing :D)

Thanks for everything,
Love Elder Winters

Tear in the Pants

Banana in Backyard

Plate of the Week

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

June 14 2011

Hello Family and Friends!!! Greetings from Uganda!!!
It sounds like you got an email from the mission home letting you know we are safe and sound. I'm glad they sent that, especially since all the internet in the entire town was down yesterday (P-day) :( I hope you guys didn't worry too much when nothing came through from me on Monday. I guess we will never know if the internet will work or not so the only thing I can tell you is that: no news is good news...so please don't worry if something doesn't come through one week, we will try to get into town and email sometime during the week if P-day doesn't work but sometimes we won't be able to do that.
Well first things first...the flight from Joburg to Entebbe (Kampala) was great. We flew on a A-319 operated by South African Airways. The plane is even a little smaller than a 737 (like what Southwest flies) but the flight was only 4 hours so it wasn't too bad. My favorite part was coming in for landing because we descended over Lake Victoria. I don't know if you can see it on Google earth but the airport is right on the West side of the lake and the runway comes right up to the water. You'll have to check out the picture I took, there are lots of small islands where people have little huts. It's really cool, having your own island!!! There were also a lot of canoes and small fishing boats people were using. Kind of an auqa-life of sorts. :) When we got out of the airplane the first thing I felt was a stifling, wet heat :/ We landed at about 7pm and the sun was just going down but it was the hottest feeling I have felt in a long time. I'm told that it is only about 85-90 degrees at the hottest times of the day but with 60-80% humidity depending on the time of year that can feel a lot hotter. We were greeted at the baggage claim by President and Sister Jackson, as well as the Assistants to the President. (For those who care, Elder Rennie was the first person I saw, cuz he's like 6' 6" or something crazy tall like that :) We were shipped around the Kampala area to various missionary apartments to stay the night, then in the morning went to the Mission Home (Nakawa House) for Breakfast and a day of orientation. This was the first time I met my new companion!!! It was kind of funny because I walked into the room and saw him and said to myself, "he's the one...". His name is Elder Butawo, he's a 24 year old from Zimbabwe. I am his 3rd "Greenie" so he knows all the "tricks." He has been in our area for 3 transfers now so he knows the people as well as the area really well. I've been told to not tell you my specific area is so that you can try and guess but I want to tell you really bad so here it goes. I am (as the email from the mission home told you) in the Jinja zone. My specific area is a small village called Walukaba. It is about a 2 1/2 hour drive from Kampala. I LOVE BEING IN A VILLAGE!!! I don't know what the Lord has in store for me but I hope that Walukaba or other small villages like it are in my future. My favorite part about being in Walukaba is that everyone is always around. I've heard that the Kampala missionaries have the hardest time meeting with people because there is so much to do in the city. We have been working with a recent convert who has been coming around with us to our visits. His name is Moses and he was baptized 2 weeks ago. He is really excited about missionary work and plans to serve once he has completed his schooling. I guess here in Uganda (and all of Africa for that matter) you take schooling when you can, that is the reason that most of the African missionaries are several years older than us from America.
So one of the coolest things about the missionary work we are doing right now is the way we are doing things. All I can say is to look out for Preach My Gospel 2 (second edition). In the last six months the church has changed the way missionaries approach potential investigators. In the past, the Restoration has been the main focus. Now, we are focusing in on what is called the Doctrine of Christ. I would like to challenge all of you to go read 2 Nephi chapter 31, this is where the Doctrine of Christ comes from. Our main focus now is on people and giving them the desire to be baptized. No matter whether it's a contact or a first scheduled lesson we are teaching the Doctrine of Christ. This means that we will read through several specific verses of 2Nephi 31 about Christ's baptism then talk to the investigator about following Christ's example of being baptized by immersion by someone holding the proper authority from God. The statistics prove everything. Today, I went on splits with another missionary while my companion (who is a District Leader) had some training to go through. We found two people (both by knocking on doors) whom we taught the Doctrine of Christ. They both committed to prepare themselves for baptizm by receiving the missionaries and learning the lessons. We have a tenative date of July 3rd for both these individuals. I hope this gives you a good idea of how effective the Doctrine of Christ lessons are. Most people (unless their Muslim) want to follow the example of Christ, and when we read to them from the scriptures the example Christ has given us they willingly submit to follow that example.
Okay, a little bit about my apartment...We stay in a house with two other missionaries. Each companionship has their own bedroom then we share a bathroom and kitchen. I included a picture of the exterior of the house as well as our kitchen. The little colorful lizard thing is our Gecko friend. He stays in our bathroom above the curtain rod. I guess Geckos are very common here and it is likely we will have 6-7 running around our apartment at any given time. Our kitchen (and rest of the apartment) was a mess when I arrived!!! I don't know how the other elders have survived in such filth. It's not like it is a dump, it's not the nicest of places but with a little cleaning up it will be. I took 3-4 hours on P-day to do some cleaning. Imagine this...there is not ONE hand towel in the entire house, not one bar of soap, not one speck of dish soap!?!?!? My food budget is going to be a little slim this month because I got some soap, towels and other NECESSITIES at the general store in Jinja Town. I hope that we can get this operation turned around and make the living circumstances livable :D
As you can see by one of the pictures, I'm doing just fine with eating. I'm grateful I actually listened to my Mom when she was teaching me how to cook. The other elders were eating Ramen noodles and toast :D The plate you see there is: rice, chicken (we actually killed and gutted it...:/ story for another time) raw carrots and cole slaw. Needless to say, we ate like kings last night.
THANKS A MILLION for the letters sent through www.dearelder.com. They got to me on Sunday, which was lucky because I'm two hours away from the mission home. I guess that some of you have sent your OWN letters through the pouch system and this is fine (I haven't received them yet but I'm sure I will), but it sounds like DearElder is the quickest way to contact me (other than email of course...) So thank you: Siera, Tali, Aila, Sister Fridley, Brother Fridley, Jessie, Erin, Stephanie, and anyone else I can't remember right now!!! It is soooo fun to be able to sit in bed before going to sleep and reading a letter from home. To be honest I really am missing home. I miss the people, I miss the climate (IT IS SOOOO HOT HERE!!!! I haven't been dry since I arrived) I miss the good food, I just miss Utah PERIOD!!! I know that Uganda is where God want's me right now so here I will stay, but I will be very glad to come home to all of you my Friends and Family.

I hope I didn't bore anyone with this long novel but I just had to get it out. Please continue to write (DearElder) and email (if you have my address) I love to hear from you.

Elder Winters

Flying over Lake Victoria

Brandon's First Companion

Brandon's House Guest

Exterior of Brandon's Living Quarters

Kitchen of Brandons Apartment

Yummy Yummy FOOD!!!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

This is a letter from the Mission President of the Uganda Kampala Mission. It was received after Brandon arrived in Uganda.

9 June 2011

Dear Brother and Sister Winters.

We want you to know that our son,Elder Brandon Winters, has arrived in the Uganda Kampala, Mission. I was very pleased to note the preparation,worthiness and commitment of your son to be obedient and to serve the Lord honorably. He spent his first day at the mission home where we had lots of special training and food.
Elder Winters is a choice young elder, eager to be an excellent missionary.  His Testimony is strong and I am honored to have him serve in our mission.  Elder Winters is laboring in the Walukuba District with an excellent trainer, Elder Butawo.  Sister Jackson and I will see Elder Winters in a timely manner at Zone Conferences, and I will have an interview with him on those occasions.  This is a wonderful mission and know that Elder Winters will have an interview with him on those occasions.  This is a wonderful mission and I know that Elder Winters will be successful.  We pledge to keep our eyes and hearts open to his needs.
Telephone contacts and personal visits to missionaries by friends and relatives are inappropriate and contrary to long standing Church policy. Full-Time missionaries have made a commitment to devote their full time and attention to proclaiming the gospel, and any such contacts during the time they are serving detracts from their effectiveness. We invite you to write to Elder Winters regularly.  Mail should be addressed to Elder Brandon Winters, Pouch, c/o The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Uganda Kampala Mission P.O. Box 30150, Salt Lake City UT 84130-0150.
Thank you for teaching, nurturing and sending forth this fine young Elder. He will serve the Lord, honor the Winters family and other loved ones.  We will encourage him to write home every week, but the mail will be slow, so be patient.  The Missionary Department has authorized E-Mail to the family once a week and we are grateful for this added blessing.  May the Lord bless you with peace and assurance that all is in His hands.

Yours Sincerely,

President Eric C. Jackson
Uganda Kampala Mission.

This is Brandon's first mission companion.

Brandon with the Mission President and his wife.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Sunday June 5th 2011
Hello Family and Friends!!!
This week has been a blur!!! It seems like just yesterday I was in church and it was actually 6 days ago :D I guess I'd like to start with the happenings of the week then I'll finish off with a spiritual thought.

The highlight of the week was haircut day. A lady from one of the local wards came in and cut all the missionaries hair. The BEST part is that it was actually recommended that we cut our hair fairly short, so I have my 1/4inch haircut back!!! The only thing that was a pain in the neck (literally, haha) was that when she was trimming up the back of my neck the lady totally cut it up. It looks like I was attacked by a mad tiger. :D So a really funny thing happened this week. One day as we were showering one of the African elders walked by and he was totally wearing a Hooters shirt from Salt Lake City. He told us that he bought it because it had the words Salt Lake City on it and I believe him. President Christenson (MTC President) told him he couldn't wear the shirt in public so I decided to trade him one of my T-shirts for the Hooters one. So I now am the proud owner of a Salt Lake City Hooters T-shirt (see pic). lol From that experience I have really been learning selflessness. Most of the African elders have come on their missions with 1 suit, 1 pair of shoes and 3-4 shirts. I am so grateful for the blessings I have received because I was born in the United States, it has been humbling for me to see the gratitude of the Africans even when they have so little.

So we had our first concussion of the MTC on Thursday :) We were playing basketball during sports time and my companion Elder Tuckett took an elbow to the head. He went to the deck and was there for a couple seconds then he got up and we kept playing. Later that evening he was complaining of a splitting headache and we decided that he got a concussion from that hit. We gave him a priesthood blessing and waited to see how he felt the next morning to decide whether or not to give him any medical attention. His headache had gone away by the time he woke up. I know that the power of the priesthood and faith of the recipient is real. God loves us and knows our needs, he has more blessings in store for us than we will ever know and he is just waiting for us to ask him. "Ask and ye shall receive, knock and it shall be opened unto you."
So on Saturday (P-day in the MTC) we went to the Joburg mall. It was MASSIVE!!! It had to be at least 2-3 times as large as Valley Fair mall. The number of people there was incredible too, if you tried to stop walking to look at something you would get swept along with the crowd. The thing that made my day is that I was able to find some SourCream and Onion Pringles!!!! I have really missed snack food, we have three meals a day here at the MTC and no snack foods. We have only been out to a small grocery store once and that was the first week we got here. I don't know what things are going to be like in Uganda but I hope I will be able to find pretzels or chips somewhere or else this is going to be a long 2 years:D

So this is the last email you will receive from me at the MTC, I will include pictures of our group in the next email. Sorry if I forgot to tell you when I'll be leaving the MTC, I can't remember a lot of the things I say in emails...So consider this the official announcement. I'll be flying out of South Africa for the Uganda Kampala mission on Tuesday June 7th, 2011. My stay at the MTC has been great but I am ready to leave.
On Thursday we had a great fireside with Elder Jeffrey R. Holland (well not really, just DVD but...) One of the coolest things he said was that "Missionaries and Apostles are the only individuals who are elligible to receive revelation for both members and non-members of the church." I had never thought of that before, it is pretty cool that Heavenly Father trusts me, a teenage young man to help the rest of his children come back to live with him someday.

One of the exercises we did this week was on addressing concerns. The teachers gave us scenarios such as "Your church doesn't allow women to hold the priesthood, I don't want to support a church who is sexist..." We were then told to search the scriptures to come up with an answer to their concern. My companion and I had some great scriptures and insight to support our churches stand. When our names were called we started to walk up and I felt a prompting to leave my scriptures on my desk. I did that and then grabbed my comp's and put them down too. I told him to just trust me and we walked up to the front of the room and took our seats. We bore simple testimony that we have a Heavenly Father who loves us and knows what is best for us, we testified of the First Vision and the Restoration of the gospel. After we had finished this we simply got up and sat back down in our seats. The room was quiet for a few minutes, then the teachers said, "I think you guys get the point." I'm glad that I was in tune enough with the spirit to receive the inspiration of what to do.

I'd like to finish by speaking to all the young men from age 0-30. We had a lesson on the priesthood and how we were all foreordained to become priesthood holders (see Alma 13) We talked about how for 2-3 billion years (purely speculation, don't take that for doctrine...:D) we have been preparing to serve missions for Heavenly Father. This really changed my perspective on my mission, it's not just two years of my life, it's two years of my existence. I have been preparing since the minute I was created from matter unorganized. I want every young man to prepare today and continue to prepare to serve a mission. If you don't I will fulfill the prophesy found in Malachi 2:3. There is your scripture chase for the week haha.

Well, I'm glad I had my full time this week. It was nice to get everything out. The next time you hear from my I will be in Uganda (or Ethiopia, Rwanda, Djibuti, or Sudan...:D)
I've had some people ask about the best way to contact me. I think emails, for family are the best way to contact me quickly. Letters sent via the Pouch or DearElder.com are another good way to reach me, I can read them at my leasure and send a reply. So the short answer is...please email me as much as possible if you have my address, and please send me written letters as often as possible.

I love you all!

Elder Brandon Winters