Monday, September 19, 2011

Sept 19th 2011

My friends and family, again we meet across the net on this wonderfully rainy P-day!!! :D I am somewhat depressed right now due to the happenings in the sports world which took place this last Saturday in Utah County. I wish the Cougars the best of luck in picking themselves (well, really scraping themselves up) off the ground and pushing forward.

This letter at the beginning of my email was one I wrote at the direction of the spirit. I felt a strong prompting to write it specifically to the Stansbury high school Seminary students, but the words and principles can be applied in our own lives no matter what our age, location of residence or standing in the church. I have a firm testimony that the scriptures are the words of God as given to his servants the prophets. I have loved the two hours every morning to study from not only the standard works but the words of modern day prophets as well. Before I came on my mission I was pretty good about reading my scriptures every day, but that is all I did. My eyes read the words, but my heart and spirit didn't benefit as much as they could have. Now, I look forward every morning to my scripture study and it has become the best part of my day. Sometimes I have the opportunity to study for the particular benefit of an investigator by researching scriptures and the teachings of our current prophet to help resolve their concerns. The scriptures are so inspiring. I hope and pray that each of you take the time to study the scriptures every day. If you aren't currently doing this START NOW!!! Our Heavenly Father has given them to us for a reason and if we don't use them to their full potential we are told that they will be taken from us.

This week was a pretty hard week for me. For some reason I didn't have the "zing" that I usually have. The desire or drive to find people just wasn't there. I remembered a quote from President Gordon B. Hinkley found in Preach My Gospel. Paraphrased he says: If you want to have a greater desire or enthusiasm for the work start by saying morning and evening prayers. I have been good about praying each night but I took the time to examine my prayers and try to improve my relationship with my Heavenly Father and the Spirit. When I did this I felt that my days went a little better (not perfect, but better).

Last week I told you that Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles was coming to do a mission conference for us. I was only correct 50% of that statement. We did have an "Elder" come and his last name was "Cook" but it wasn't Quentin L. Cook. Where the communication breakdown occurred I don't know but even though Quentin L. Cook didn't show up we were privileged to have Elder Carl B. Cook of the first Quorum of the Seventy with us on Thursday. It was a wonderful experience and I realized some more of my weaknesses that I had not previously recognized. SHEESH!!! I am one weak cookie!!! Sometimes I wish the same wish Alma did: "Oh that I were and Angel and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people." (Alma 29:1) But just like Alma, I am just an ordinary man and should be content with what God has given me. We are told that we are given weaknesses that we may be humble. My weaknesses surly have brought me down to be humble and I am grateful for that. The humble heart is more open to receive instruction from the spirit as well as others. baptisms this week. Sorry guys. I know it has become almost an expectation to have at least one baptism each week and I love that about the Uganda Kampala Mission. One problem Elder Goodner and I are running into right now is that people just aren't keeping commitments. In order for someone to be baptized they must fulfill certain requirements among which are attending church. The Stake Conference we had yesterday kind of made it difficult for people to come to church since it was at the Kololo chapel but we will push right through the adversity and hopefully have at least one baptism this coming Sunday.

I love you all, may God be with you.
Elder Winters

Pretty sweet palm tree in the middle of NO WHERE!!!!

Sunrise Sunday morning
Cute little name :D

Sept 19th 2011 - Letter to Seminary Students

Hey Guys!!! I hope the school year for you has been as amazing as my time here in Uganda has been for me!!! I guess I'd better introduce myself cuz you're probably wondering WHY Brother "So-and-So" is wasting your precious time reading another letter from another missionary. Haha, so my name is Elder Brandon Winters. Some of you may know me, some may not. My younger brothers are Kyle and Benjamin Winters who you may have seen around. I am from Lake Point but I currently reside in Ntinda, Kampala, Uganda. I arrived in the Uganda Kampala Mission on June 7th after a 3 week stay at the Johannesburg MTC. These four months I have been away from home have been challenging as well as incredibly rewarding. I want to start off by commending each and every one of you for being in seminary today and the whole of this term. I have been asked numerous times by many people what I think prepared me most for my mission. Of course if my Mother was in the room I would usually say something about how my wonderful parents taught me the gospel and raised me with the mentality that mission was not an option but an obligation...and that is totally true....but in reality the seminary program was the real pre-MTC I needed to be ready to serve a mission. By attending all 4 years of seminary you will have the opportunity to cover all four of the standard works which contain the fullness of the gospel. If I remember correctly you are studying the Old Testament this year (forgive me if I am wrong). I challenge you to grow to love this book. The writings and journeyings of the house of Israel are some of my favorite stories to read. I recall the story of Moses and his people as they were traveling in the wilderness. One day a bunch of snakes or serpents came into the camp and started biting everyone. Our Heavenly Father being the merciful God he is provided a way through Moses the prophet for everyone to be saved. All that the people had to do was to look at the brazen serpent Moses raised on his staff and they would be healed. Such a simple task. Such a simple solution to a potentially fatal affliction. So simple in fact that many of the people refused to do it and suffered the consequences. In our own lives today we are attacked on every side by serpents. These "serpents" come in many forms: Drugs, Violent Video Games, Immorality, Pornography and the media we are exposed to on a daily basis. Let us shun these evils as we would a rattlesnake in the mountains. These temptations will only bring us sorrow and grief for the rest of our lives.

We have a wonderful example in the Old Testament of an individual who shunned evil, in fact he ran away from evil. Joseph who was sold into Egypt experienced many challenges during his life but one particularly difficult challenge was the frequent and constant solicitations for immoral actions from Potiphar's wife. Joseph had the right idea when he told her "There is none greater in this house than then can I do this great wickedness against God?" (Genesis 39:9) Joseph understood his high standing in God's eyes and didn't want to do anything which would cause him to fall from that place. In verse 12 we read of Joseph's actions prompted by his righteous desires. When Potiphar's wife's solicitations started to become more than mere verbal solicitations Joseph did the right thing "...and fled and got him out" (Genesis 39:12) We should all learn from the example of Joseph. We may not be solicited by our bosses wife, but we may be tempted by friends or acquaintances to drink at a party this weekend, we may be researching for a school assignment on the internet and an inappropriate pop-up shows up on the screen. No matter what the temptation the examples in Genesis 39: 9;12 can really help us out. Instead of taking "just one drink" ARISE AND GET YE OUT!!! Instead of clicking that mouse button and having our minds polluted by pornography, ARISE, AND GET YE OUT!!! I testify to you that you ARE the "Noble and Great Ones" spoken of in Abraham 3:22-23. You ARE the sons and daughters of a Heavenly Father who loves you. If you could truly understand your true character and potential you would never even think about touching the unclean things of the world. Let us all adopt this motto in our lives whenever temptations arise "...How then can I do this great wickedness against God?" If we do we will have so much more power to resist the temptations of the advesary because we know who's "got our back."

When and if the time comes that we do sin against God he has provided us a way to overcome that sin. "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16) Jesus Christ IS the way. He DID come down to atone for the sins of the world. Through sincere repentance we CAN be forgiven for our mistakes. As we grow and progress in our lives I pray that we will be able to recognize sin and its destructive powers. Drugs, alcohol, pornography, immorality and all the other temptations which easily beset us as teenagers will not bring us happiness. King Benjamin teaches us in Mosiah 2:41 that those who keep the commandments of God are Blessed and Happy. I don't know of anything I want more than to be blessed and happy while in this life. I have a strong testimony of this the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has been restored in its fullness to the earth and we have and will continue to receive the blessings that come from its presence here upon the earth.

You have probably noticed how much I used the scriptures in my letter today. I love the scriptures so much. Each morning I have the opportunity to spend 2 hours learning from these words of the prophets. If we want to know how we should be living our lives, all we have to do is turn to the scriptures, for "...They will tell us all things what [we] should do." (2 Nephi 32:3) The scripture mastery scriptures we commit to memory during seminary have been selected by prophets of God as containing doctrine and principles which we should know by heart. Please don't look at the scripture mastery scriptures as just another thing to memorize. Take the time to understand what they are saying and you will find that committing them to memory will become a lot easier, not to mention more enjoyable.

I cannot tell you enough times. Stay strong, be obedient, hold tight to the Iron Rod, honor your parents, listen and study the words of the prophets. If you do these things you will not be led astray. I promise you that. I love each and every one of you, and I bear my testimony of the things I have written today in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Until we meet again!!! Sula Bulugi (SOO-LAH BUH-LOON-JEE)

-Elder Brandon Winters

Monday, September 12, 2011

Sept 12th 2011

         Good morning family and friends!!! I am actually writing this email as you are probably waking up in time for school. Many of you are probably on your way to work. :D
I don't think I can really say "Happy 9/11 anniversary yesterday" I feel I can say "GOD BLESS AMERICA!!!" Ten years ago yesterday the United States (and the rest of the world) was impacted by a terrible act of terrorism. While the intent was to incite terror and weaken the bonds between Americans, the opposite effect happened. Today we have risen to be a more united country, neighbors look out for neighbors. We have begun to assume the responsibility which we should have been shouldering all of our lives. America is OUR country, not the politician's country. The preamble to the U.S. Constitution states "We the PEOPLE of the United States of America..." We the people have the responsibility to maintain peace and elect righteous leaders. God has promised us blessings when we do our part in our lives, this includes our responsibilities as citizens of whatever country we are citizens of. Let us ALL do our part to take care of our native lands, to keep them beautiful and safe. Our Heavenly Father has created this incredible earth for us to enjoy and dwell on. What are we doing to show the appreciation to him for what he has given us? As a missionary I'm not really supposed to send political opinions home but this is more than just a political opinion. Our countries (wherever we are) have been instituted by God to give us a place to dwell and a place to take care of. The scriptures talk over and over again of stewardships. One of the greatest stewardships we have been given is our respective countries. It is our responsibility to take care of them, to beautify them and make them a pleasant place to live. This is not the government's responsibility, it is each and every one of OUR'S!!! I pray that we as members of the Church will recognize this our responsibility and take it seriously. "Armies may assemble, mobs may combine, but the work of God will go forth boldy, nobly, until it has penetrated every continent, sounded in every ear, and visited every country." It is our responsibility to create a society in our various places of residence that is conducive to the spreading of the gospel. There is no greater work and full time missionary, member of the church and even non-members all the the same god-given responsibility to preach the gospel and keep peace over the earth.
I love the earth Heavenly Father has given us. I wouldn't trade my life on it for anything.

This week, Elder Goodner and I had a wonderful time meeting many people and teaching them how to come to Jesus Christ. One of the things we have been concentrating on right now is finding families. I have mentioned before that Uganda is still a developing area as far as the church is concerned and all the branches around need priesthood brethren to lead the church. So far we have been pretty successful in finding families but the same problem exists which is getting people to commit to come to church, read the Book of Mormon, and pray about the message that we have to share. There is only so much that we as missionaries can do in telling the people what God's will is in their lives but the rest is left up to them. We can't make anyone come to church, we can't make anyone read the Book of Mormon. It is sad sometimes that people feel the desire to be baptized and understand it is important for them but don't want to make the commitment. We have someone we are teaching right now who enjoys having us come and talk with her but rarely reads the assignments we give her from the Book of Mormon, has only come to church once, and isn't willing to make any commitments. These are the kind of people who are only about 60% prepared to become full, active members of the church. One thing I have had to deal with as a missionary is the fact that some people just aren't ready to be baptized. I have planted the seed and sometimes must leave it to germinate and let the next missionary reap the harvest. Each investigator I have I grow to love and care for and sometimes I shout to myself in my mind "WHAT ARE YOU DOING!!! THE GOSPEL IS RIGHT HERE IN FRONT OF YOUR FACE AND YOU DENY IT!!!!???" I think that same thing was echoed in a talk by Elder Mervyn B. Arnold in either last conference or the one before that. The gospel is our guide rail, sometimes we think we know better and jump the guide rail and sink into darkness. If we remain within the bounds Heavenly Father has set for us we cannot fail.

So, you remember the snail I found a few weeks back??? Well...I found another one and took it home with me to keep in an ice cream container. I have been feeding it grass and keeping the humidity high in his "habitat." I want to see how big he can get. Right now he is about the same size as the one I found first, but in about 2 weeks time I hope he will be quite a bit bigger. Elder Goodner and I have named him Gary in honor of the great television show only viewed by intellectuals known as SpongeBob Square Pants!!! ;D If you don't know what I am talking about, ask one of your "more" intellectual friends :D Missionaries are constantly attempting to find ways to make life interesting and enjoyable in the mission field. This is just one of the ways we have brought some fun into our apartment. The other is we are trying to find a strong rope and climbing figure 8 caribeener so that we can repel off the side of our 3rd floor apartment. That is still in progress and I'll be sure to keep you updated on the results ;)

So I guess the news of the month, or mission so far is something my Grandma Vance asked me about. I was debating long and hard how I should break/leak the news and even contemplating keeping it a secret till I get back but since she asked here it goes...;D So my Grandma asked me if I have filled out since I left, she was looking at some of the pictures and trying to decide so I guess I'll help her and all of you out. The short answer is yes. The real question is HOW MUCH??? Okay, with this answer I don't want you to pass out (although my Mom probably will :D) I don't want you to think I am becoming obese or anything ;) Okay here goes...Since I arrived here in Uganda I have gained a total of 25 Pounds in 4 months. Most of this is in my legs but I have been working out every night and eating really healthy and I'm pleased to announce that the results have been miraculous. This morning when I weighed myself after waking up I tipped the scale at just over 150 pounds. I am really happy with how healthy I am and I hope that I will be able to maintain the muscle I have gained and even bulk up a little more before I come home. I was too small to play football in high school and college was even out of the question, but if I keep working out and eating a great diet I will be in pretty good shape to maybe play some football during college!!! I have been doing some plyometrics (jump training) which has been really helping me strengthen my legs and increasing my recovery time during sprints and throughout the day walking everywhere. YAY!!!! Okay, consider my personal bragging moment over :D

My prayers are with all of you as you go throughout your lives and deal with trials and afflictions. God is our loving Heavenly Father. He knows perfectly what is best for us in our lives and he blesses us accordingly. As we obey the counsel of the prophets we will be blessed and will have the strength to overcome any adversity that comes our way.

President Thomas S. Monson is God's prophet on the earth today. He talks with God daily and we will have the wonderful opportunity to listen to him coming in October. Please ALL OF YOU!!! Make it a priority to listen, watch or read the proceedings of the October General Conference. Our Prophets and Apostles will speak to us, they will let us know God's will in our lives. There is nothing more important we can be doing on the 1st and 2nd of October than sitting with our families to hear the word of God.

May God bless you in all your labors.

Elder Winters

Outside an investigators house during a rain storm

After a long, hard, muddy day!!!

Our egg carton. Things have a habit of dissapearing from the fridge :D

In the taxi on the way to Zone Conference

An abandoned car during a rain storm

Eating sugar cane with a member

Baptisms of Mirium (Left) and Rose (Right) Brother Oakley (Center) baptizing

"Divine" The daughter of an investigator

November 2010 Conference Issue (Pg. 4) "Elder" Kyle Winters in Stockholm, Sweden :D

Monday, September 5, 2011

September 5th 2011

Well my wonderful family and friends!!! Yet another week has gone past and I sit here in the internet cafe to communicate with you!!!! Every day of this week seemed to drag by for me. I don't know why, it's probably just in my head...but now it is over and a new week begun. One thing I am very grateful for is the fact that time continues to move forward regardless of what we are doing, how we feel, or where we are. Every week I think to myself "I am one week closer to being home" but this past few weeks I have started thinking as well "One more week of people's lives being touched is in the books." I know that what I am doing at this time is the best thing I could be doing. I am where God wants me to be and I pray that I will have his spirit to be with me to guide me to those people who have been prepared to receive the gospel.

I hope that everyone's week was a good one. Sometimes I feel so distant and far away (probably because I am...8,500 miles away :D) and I only get news from home once a week. There are times that I feel helpless, like I wish I could help out with problems happening back home but it is not in my power to do so. Helplessness is not a good feeling and I have been doing my best to rely on God and have faith that he is watching over all of you as I am away.

It sorta feels like I am having a contemplative day today, sorry for all the personal thoughts and feelings. You probably want all the juicy details of the week including the "plate of the week." I guess I'll move onto that right now.

So we weren't able to have a baptism this week, we had a family (man and woman) who were scheduled to be baptized but it didn't work out. The man, Sam, is SO POWERFUL!!!! He is truly Stake President material. He has even started an "Anti-Coffee crusade" at his workplace. He has a few people on the bandwagon and is making progress trying to get others to follow. I hope and pray that he will be able to be baptized and progress in his learning in the church.

So I need to apologize for my possibly offensive story last week ;D jk I realized that the visual image of Elder Winters peeing on the side of a building like a common Mutt could be somewhat disturbing and potentially destructive to my search for a wife upon my timely return from Uganda. So, I would like to respectfully request the story and its accompanying mental images to be stricken from the record or your minds. :D Instead you can dwell upon the incredible snail I found as a result of the aforementioned event which never took place :D I was talking with an investigator and showed him the picture I took and he said "Hah, that is nothing, you just wait till you see a really big snail." I am still waiting and I guess that they will get bigger as the rainy season moves on.

So one of the pictures I attached is of several African kids playing in a drainage ditch during a rainstorm. I think I mentioned that the rainy season has officially begun and we have rain storms nearly every afternoon. Well, this drainage ditch was about 3 feet deep and it had water RUSHING in torrents through it. One of the younger kids jumped in a few yards up stream and was carried down until he he the bend in the ditch where he was able to hang on. I have to admit that I do love the rain storms they just aren't too much fun to work in. I have a rain poncho but with rain coming down by the gallon per square inch per second (if that makes any sense...) it doesn't do much. Usually we try to find somewhere to shelter us until the storm breaks but sometimes it lasts longer than 20-30 minutes so we have to get going to our appointments

So Elder Goodner and I are teaching two "Nyabos" (Ladies) who have daughters the same age as my youngest sisters Sophia. It has been fun to visit them over the past 7 weeks and see how much the children have grown. It is the weirdest thing knowing I have a younger sister who I left as a drooling baby and will come back to her a walking, talking toddler. I am able to look at these little African babies and see a little of what Sophie is like now. Events such as sitting up, rolling over, etc...So these two babies can sit on their own now, how is Sophie doing? Or what can an American baby do at 5 months old? It would be interesting to see what impact the different cultures and lifestyles have upon the maturing of a baby.

Well, I am hoping to have a great week this week. Hopefully we will be having a double baptism this Saturday (not Sunday this week) with Sister Rose and Sister Mirium. Keep the prayers coming, I will keep my prayers ascending up to heaven for all of you. I don't know what is going on in each one of your lives but God knows and he will bless you as you keep the commandments and live faithfully.

Until next week, "God be with you till we (email) again!!!"

Please feel free to write me using --- Elder Brandon Winters, Uganda Kampala Mission. I will do my best to answer questions the week I get letters!!!

Elder Winters

A security guard we are teaching

The FIRST sidewalk I have seen in Uganda!!!

Sister Mirium and her child (same age as Sophia)

Kids playing in a drainage ditch during rain storm

Sister Dorothy and her child (same age as Sophia)

Jack Fruit (Plate of the Week) Tastes like a mix between Banana and Mango but way different texture