...and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good. The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he? Therefore, hold on thy way, and the priesthood shall remain with thee; for their bounds are set, they cannot pass. Thy days are known, and thy years shall not be numbered less; therefore, fear not what man can do, for God shall be with you forever and ever. (Doctrine and Covenants 122: 7-9)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

August 30, 2011

Dear Everyone,

I am a legit missionary now! I have been in the field since Wednesday (so almost a week now) and I am loving it. England is a funny place. I don't understand what a lot of the people say and they don't have boxed mac n' cheese. Such an odd thing.  They don't have American biscuits, either. Not even at KFC. Imagine a KFC with no biscuts or mac n' cheese.

It really is wonderful here. Even when it rains, which is almost every day. It's already gotten very cold some days, so I envy those of you still in 100+ degree desert weather. But you should be envying me in return because I am in such a wonderful area. The area I am serving in is called Leeds 5 (that's not the city, just the mission area). We live in a tiny little town called Morely. The church building is here and we cover an area with about a 20 mile radius. Leeds City Center is the northern most part of our area, but we rarely do proselyting there because everyone there is just stuck up and wants to shop. It would be like trying to do missionary work at Town Square in Vegas. Just wouldn't be effecient.

The area around, though, is great. It's pretty run-down for the most part, especially in the areas of Holbeck and Beeston, where we do most of our finding. But the people are very humble and generally nice. Apparently there are many parts of this mission where no one will listen and you're very lucky to get into a non-member's home. Not here. There are many people willing to listen. We had 11 new investigators last week. Several of the investigators we work with are preparing for baptism, but most of them struggle to keep committments. That's what yoe get in run-down areas for the most part: very nice people who will listen and want to improve their lives, but really struggle to keep committments like reading the Book of Mormon, going to Church, and keeping the Word of Wisdom. Those three are pretty much consistent problems with all of our investigators. We have two very good investigators though, both of whom are pretty much ready for baptism. One is 12 and the other is in her 30s. They're both really good people. Everyone is really good here, they just all have problems to face, just like everyone. Just like me, or my companion, Elder Bentley.

Oh yeah, Elder Bentley. My first companion in the field. He is a great trainer who knows a lot about being an effective missionary. I can tell he really wants these people to progress for their salvation, not just to produce numbers. I feel the same way.

Some people are a little crazy here, too. One lady was yelling about being forsaken by Jesus the whole time we were in, but then told us to come back because she said I was an angel with a nice face. I think she was very drunk when we spoke with her. Another man has very strong beliefs in aliens and legitimately believes that gorillas may take over the world some day. But they're good people, really. Everyone has to be just a little bit crazy. It's part of being alive.

The members are really nice, too. Very genuine people. They offer us rides a lot, especially as we're walking back to our flat (apartment). The flat itself is nicer than I expected. There is a washer/dryer in the flat, two couches, a full bathroom, somewhat small bedroom, but a separate room for the closets, a kitchen with an oven and stove, and two study desks. In fact, the kitchen/living area is bigger than my dorm at BYU, and there are just two of us living there. We had 6 of us at BYU. I am really excited to be back at BUY in a couple of years. I have learned how to study and go to bed on time. Haha.

Well, I really miss all of you and I am sending pictures home in a letter today since I can't get them on the email. So hoepfully pictures will be up within a week and a half. There will likely be a few on my blog, but my mom will put all of them on my facebook account so you can all stalk me while I'm on my mission. I still love letters! They take about 5-6 days to get here and the same to get back, but it really brightens my day when I see a letter to me in the mailbox. Remember to write to the mission home address (on the side of this page) since I am no longer at the MTC. Thanks! You all are the best!

Elder Winder

August 22, 2011

Thank you for the letters. I really enjoyed hearing from everyone. I will reply to everyone who sends me letters, but it may not be so quick.

I am really pumped up to get to Leeds tomorrow. I am really excited to meet Pres. Lindley and my trainer companion, who I will spend the first three months of my mission with. That's four times longer than my time in the MTC, so hopefully he's a good one, haha.

I have enjoyed my time with Elder Kelley even though he and I are nothing alike. He is very, very quiet and rarely smiles. Elder Kelley is a good person though who has been through a lot in his life. I have learned a lot from him. I am thankful to have had him as my first companion on my mission. I have really enjoyed the MTC in general. I am really close to several elders, some of which will be in Leeds, and some of which I may never see again. The schedule is just as tough as it was on day 1, but I am pulling through strong.

I am really loving it here. I did get to practice proselyting last Wednesday. Oh boy, was that an experience.  I got rejected pretty quickly all but one time. One man listened to what we had to say in the park, but eventually wasn't interested at all because he had no belief in religion. So the park didn't go too well. HOWEVER, the train ride to Manchester Picadelly (downtown Manchester, where we were) was a different story. After being too nervous for much of the ride there, Elder Kelley and I had a very good conversation with a Hungarian couple for about the last 15 minutes of the ride. We were sitting and the train was full when they got on, so naturally we offered them our seats. This was really the first thing that opened up a conversation with anyone without having to walk up to them and speak with them about the gospel, which is what we had to do for everyone else afterward and had too much of a fear to do beforehand. The couple had been married for about a year and though the man spoke decent English, I doubt the woman understood a word we said. He asked us several questions about our missions and we were able to reply with doctrine. He accepted a Book of Mormon and a passalong card. He said he would request a copy in Hungarian when he returned home. We were so excited to speak with him we forgot to get his name! No one after that was very receptive, but we put in our best effort and so we considered ourselves successful. That's what makes successful missionaries: committment.

I love you all and I am very excited to write you soon and tell you how real missionary life is.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

2nd Week, April 16, 2011

Hey everyone! I am through with my second week here in the MTC and I will be leaving into the field next week! So if you write me, use the Mission Home address on the right side of this blog because by the time the letter gets to England, I will likely already be in Leeds. That, or I will only wait a couple of days to get it. Letters take a long time to get here. Just so you know, when you write, make sure to put an international mail stamp on the envelope and not a U.S. stamp. Otherwise it'll be sent back to you for lack of postage. I'm a little jealous of my friends here because they've all received letters and I haven't yet, so please, please, please write me! I really look forward to hearing from you guys!And you can send me e-mails too, I just can't email back (but I can write!). My e-mail address is alexander.winder@myldsmail.net and if you write me that way I can print off the e-mail and read it later.
Anyway, about this week. I wrote about what the schedule is like here last time and it hasn't gotten any less intense. But you know what? I am still absolutely loving it. The Spirit works through you when you're working hard. I have felt the Spirit so much more greatly this week than the first week.

I am learning how important missionary work is. We are helping people change their lives. We are helping people find eternal life, and there is no work better than that. I've also learned that no matter how much I study, no matter how thorough my lesson plan is, no matter how profound the words I say are, I do not convert people, and the truth of what I'm teaching does not come through me. I teach simple gospel truths and the Spirit testifies to the investigator that it is true. I have to be ready to throw everything I prepared for out the window and teach what the investigator needs. One of the main things we focus on is that we teach people, not lessons. I think I said that last time, but it is so important. If we don't teach by the Spirit, why would anyone want to listen to us? They want to know the truth, and we can testify that we know the truth, but in order for the investigator to know, they have to have their own confirmation, and that comes through the Spirit. I know I talk a lot about the Sprit, but it is absolutely central to the success of missionary work. It wasn't until last night that I really understood how that works. I thought teaching by the Spirit meant praying during our planning meeting and coming up with the perfect lesson plan, but that's completely wrong. We prepare a lesson, we talk to the investigator, we find their needs and we teach to their needs, even if it means literally tossing our lesson plan out of the window. And then we testify. And then when the time is right, the Spirit testifies. And that is a real thing that you can feel happening in the moment. I know that because I felt it last night, even though it was a practice investigator. Next week we begin teaching real people with real problems. We don't get feed back on how to improve our teaching or the knowledge that it's just a practice situation if we mess up. The Spirit is the perfect teacher. Know how to teach through the Spirit, and you become a successful missionary. There's no other way to become a successful missionary.

I am really excited to get into the field, and even though it's so far away at this point, I'm so excited to come home. Not that I don't want to be here; there's nowhere else I'd rather be right now. I can't wait to come home and face life with all the growing up I'll have done here in England. I have learned so, so much the last two weeks about the gospel and myself.

I miss all of you so much. I won't let it distract me, but really, I can't tell you all how much I miss you. You all know who you are.:) I wish I could send pictures but that's more of a challenge in a 30 minute email session than one would think. I am going to fill my SD card up a little more and then I'll send it home in a letter, and all the pictures will be up from that.

Thank you all for your support and prayers! I love you all, and please please please please please please please please write me!!!!

Love, Elder Winder

Sunday, August 14, 2011

First set of photos! Received August 12, 2011

Just arrived at England MTC, July 5, 2011

Time to go to bed!

Waiting to hear about companionship.

Helaman District

Waiting at Atlanta Airport

Just got my nametag! (Taken before he left)

Saturday, August 13, 2011

First Week ! 08/10/11


It feels so good to be writing home today! It's been a long first few days here in the MTC, but let me tell you I have absolutely loved it. I have learned more about myself, the gospel, and teaching in the last six days than I think I ever have. I don't have too long allowed to write, so let me tell you a little bit about life here.

I used to think going to school seven hours a day was tough. Here, we have a 15-hour work day. We wake up at 6:30 am, and we have an hour to get ready, run (if we want), shower, etc. before breakfast at 7:30. We have meetings (full MTC and district) from 8-noon with short bathroom breaks in between. The we have lunch for 45 minutes and go to class from then until 5, when we have dinner. After dinner, we have investigator study and planning until 9:30, after which we have an hour to prepare for bed. Lights are out at 10:30.

It seems like a ton of work and it is, but I have already realized that when I follow the schedule exactly, I am blessed with endurance, and when I neglect to follow the schedule, even going to bed at 11 instead of 10:30, I feel really groggy and unmotivated the next day. Sometimes (a lot of times) I goof off a little too much, too, and then work is hard to get done as well. That is mostly because there are so many great missionaries here and we all love to have fun. Believe me, it's not the idea of a mission to suppress all fun in a 19-year old boy's life, but we are on the Lord's time and He doesn't exactly condone laziness.

Most of the time we just try to have fun with the lessons and that's usually okay. Like, we have to pretend we're investigators a lot so the other elders in our district can practice on us, and we usually end up goofing around when we're pretending to be another person rather than take it totally seriously. I was a man named German yesterday and I accepted baptism halfway through the first discussion. The missionaries practicing on me had no idea what to do. It was funny, but really doesn't' help the practicing go along. Another time I broke out laughing in the middles of a serious discussion because of something one of the elders in my district said earlier.

I love my district a lot. There are eight of us, so four companionships. Two of the elders in my district don't speak great English, but they are great missionaries. Elder Reina is from Madrid, Spain, and probably knows just a little more English than I know Spanish, but he is one of the funnest elders I know here, and Elder Methorst is from the Netherlands, and he is very gospel knowledgeable and is also really funny. In fact, most of the elders here are funny. We all know how to have fun, and I love that about the group of guys here. It'll probably change when we get into the field and get paired up with guys who have been on their missions forever and actually know how to prioritize. But I'm excited for that, too.

Having a companion is something to get used to. Like, really used to. Some companions hit it off really well right at the start and work super well together. That hasn't been the case for me so far. My companion, Elder Kelly, is probably the quietest guy here, with me being one of the loudest. He has a good testimony of the gospel though and we've gotten him to open up a bit. He has some great stories to tell from his life. It's just getting him to speak up and make conversations happen that he needs to work on. But we get along pretty well.

Because the MTC here is so much smaller than Provo (like, ridiculously smaller), we know basically everyone here, including the MTC presidency. President Walker is a really great man who knows the scriptures better than possibly anyone I've ever met. And guess who his wife is? President Hinkley's daughter! Yea, like Gordon B. We didn't find that out until Sunday.

We also listened to a Provo MTC fireside broadcast with Elder Bednar, and it was a really great fireside, probably topping all the ones I had at BYU even. He talked about knowing when we were actually feeling spiritual promptings and when it was just us, and the basic answer was that as long as we're good boys and girls and going out and working, it'll be the Spirit. We can be guided by the Spirit without even knowing it at the time, which I though was really cool. In hindsight, we can see a lot of things we do were guided by the Spirit. We just have to be obedient and always try to be like Christ.

Well, we do't have a lot of time to write and I wish I could send pictures (forgot the card upstairs), but I love you all and please write letters! Please please please please please! I'll write again next week.

See ya in (almost) two!

Elder Winder

FIrst Missionary Email ! 08/05/11


Hello family and friends!

I am typing this email from the Missionary Training Center in Preston, England. It is beautiful here! I stepped off the plane and felt the first cool breeze I had felt in maybe months. It is humid but not hot. Probably around 70 degrees.

The flight from Atlanta to Manchester, England was very long, but I sat next to Elder Griffiths, who is in my same mission, and we had some good talks the whole way when we weren't sleeping. There were actually several missionaries on that flight, as opposed to the five I flew into Atlanta with from Vegas. I didn't get a good count, but there had to have been about 25 of us just coming from Atlanta to Manchester, including about 5 sisters. I am only aware that one of the sisters is in my mission. I am forgetting her name, but she is from Bullhead City and flew in with us from Vegas. I have met about six or seven guys going to Leeds in total. They are taking all the northern England missions this week, so only missionaries going to Scotland/Ireland, Leeds, Manchester and... something else (Birmingham?) report today. The missionaries who reported three weeks ago are already out of here as of Wednesday, so I missed seeing my friends Elders Tingey and Polo, both serving in London. I won't have any trouble meeting the other elders though, I don't think. They all seem like fun, outgoing people. There is only about 50 people in the MTC here, so I could get to know all of them plus the MTC presidency really well in the 19 days I'm here. That is one big difference from the Provo MTC. We still have exercise five days a week though, and we have access to the stake center nearby which has a basketball court. So I am not completely away from basketball despite living in England now.

I had to change my shirt as soon as I got here because I spilled marinara sauce from the in-flight pasta dinner all over my shirt. I didn't bring any bleach, so hopefully it comes out, ha ha. I have felt a little clumsy the whole way here, actually. I accidentally let my suitcase fall into the same lady twice, and as I was taking out my boarding pass to get on my flight to Manchester, I promptly spilled my soda and pizza all over the floor (the pizza actually also burned the inside of my mouth fairly bad as well). But really, I am loving it here so far, though that could be because I am not traveling anymore at this point, ha ha.

It's really beautiful here. I haven't seen so much greenery in my life. Like I said, the weather is cool and a little moist and I will cherish it greatly coming from the 100+ degree weather. The temple is literally right next to the MTC and we will be going there twice while we are here. I won't be going the the entire time I'm in the field, so that'll be really nice. I share a dorm-style room with five other guys who I haven't met yet (or I may have and just don't remember the name).

I have been highly fascinated with all the British people here. I guess that's because it's England. We had some British elders on our bus from the airport to the MTC and they poked fun of us for only associating England with Harry Potter and soccer (but really, who wouldn't, they have a stadium literally every few miles!). Still fascinated with them though. There is one talking in the room I'm in and it's a little distracting. I'm sure I'll get used to it, being in England and all. Also, little known fact, the actor who plays Neville Longbottom is from Leeds. I'll let you all know if I baptize him or something.

I hope I don't get any tomatoes thrown at me while I'm here. One of the Elders said he had a friend serving in Leeds that got tomatoes thrown at him on two different occasions. That would be an interesting story, though.

Well, life is good. I don't have much to talk about or much time to do so anyway, so I will have much more to write on Tuesday (my p-day).

Love you all and please write me!

Elder Winder