December 23, 2012

I got my boxes!

Dear mom,
I'm trying to send you photos to make up for not giving you the decent package update you deserved. This computer is just being really slow. To be fair, I realized well before your email (Thursday, to be precise) that is was very possible that I had forgotten to give you a definitive update on the wonderful packages you sent me. Yes, I have. Yes, I have already decorated our room (I will send you pictures a different week - for some reason, I have not taken them yet). So you'll only get zero total pictures in this email. Sorry, my bad. Anyways, Merry Christmas to all! We just had our annual Christmas Conference, where president told us to get good desires, the hermana Leyva made hand puppets to convince us to be obedient (they worked!), and we learned about the work of Salvation. Do you have that in Minnesota? It seems pretty cool. It essentially means that members do a lot more work now, which I am so excited to do after the miss. Minnesota won't know what hit it. 

We also played basketball (our zone placed second despite being the shortest) and broke piñatas. It was a good Christmas Conference, though I wish Pres would've let us watch a good 'ole Christmas movie. Seriously, would, "It's a Wonderful Life" really damage our spirituality? That's probably why he's the President and I'm not. This week in total was fun, if not as productive as I would have wanted, though that wasn't necessarily our fault. We did divisions on Tuesday (I went to Ocotlan with Elder Ramos, the shortest missionary in the missionary who happéns to be from, get ready for it, Oaxaca! Go figure!), which is like an hour away. Lots of travel time. We went to the temple on Wednesday. Did I ever tell you that temple trips are becoming a neccesity for me? Cuz they are. Gosh I love that place. But that's two hours away, so more time lost. Then, the Christmas conference, also two hours away. To top it all off, I got sick on Sunday (I'm better now), so we didn't work too much. Luckily, this week looks pretty clear, so we'll get some good work in.

Honestly, all we've got on the schedule is a baptism and a family home evening night for the branch, and they both occur on Saturday. José  is finally getting baptized. His work occasionally gets in the way, but we had a super cool lesson with him on Friday. He's heard all the lessons, so we were struggling to think up what to teach him. We finally decided on lesson five, generally taught after baptism. We were going to teach the temple and family history part of that lesson. Right after we said the prayer, his phone rang. It was his wife, who he is separated from. Apparently they didn't have a happy relationship due to some bad decisions-making by him, which is something he is and has changed. Anyways, ever since he starting taking the gospel seriously, things have been getting better with his wife. This instance was such a case. After the phone call, he told us, "She never calls me in the afternoon." Then he got this super huge smile and said, "I love it when she calls me." Let's hear it for the Gospel blessing families! Looks like Christ is the answer! Hooray! Anyways, he's super stoked for his baptism, as is the branch, and he's also super stoked for family history, and he makes me super stoked too. It's a good thing we've got going.

By the way, we are changing the phone call to 7pm on the 24th. We will be doing skype. We have already found an internet cafe with skype that will be open on the 24th. HOpe that works.

I'm going to write Taggart and Colton their own special emails. I need to go, but have a wonderful Christmas! I'll write Tyrel next week too (is he really going to be nineteen? And how old is Aubrey, I can't seem to remember anymore). Love you all! See you in a year!

Elder Johnson

December 16, 2012

"The mom is coughing"

December is exhausting. There's just so much to do: Christmas Party on the 15th, temple trip on the 12th, Christmas Choir on the sixteenth, a baptism somewhere in there, plus all my normal missionary duties. And I have to somehow do it all while wearing a Santa Hat. I just don't know how I will manage.

I had another great week, just so you know. Things are really working out out here in Miahuatlan (not the prettiest place I've ever been to, but the coldest, which is perfect for this time of year). We keep getting people to Church, despite the logistics. This week, a man named Miguel came, the father of a large family of people who are all interested in the Church. We have a family home evening with them like every week. They are super cool, so I hope to baptized like five people sometime soon, all from that family. As for the other large family that is progressing, the hermano Pedro keeps going to Church. He now has three weeks in a row going to Church and seems a lot more comfortable there. People call him by his first name now, which is also a sign of progress. I think he would easily accept a baptismal date at this point, but we want to baptize him with his entire family and they are not quite at his level yet. Also, a little unbaptized ten year old from a less active family came. We are working with the entire family and they are doing well. We are going to really start teaching the kid, Daniel, this Friday, which, coincidentally enough, is when his mom is having a C-section. We helped her husband  not only go to Church, but also give her a blessing for the operation. The both seemed really happy afterwords. It made me smile.

More progress on the horizon as well: the branch organization presidencies did their jobs!!! We've been giving like weekly training meetings on how to organize and run home/visiting teaching programs. We left the assignments with the relief society and elders quorum presidents to create the teaching companionship's and assign each companionship to less active families to visit. They did it. Now we have to communicate it to the rest of the ward. If this actually gets off the ground, it's gonna be a pretty cool legacy to leave as a missionary. Ejutla will be like one of three ward/branches that actually does visiting/home teaching. I'm pretty excited about it.

So, cool thing: Elder Piereder is super into science fiction fantasy stuff, like me! Okay, so I fell off the wagon a bit in recent years, but he's getting me excited about it all over again. We decided to write a story together yesterday. It's already in the works. It will be positively EPIC! And super high-school! I'm SO excited about it. I haven't goofed off in such an appropriate way since going Halloween caroling four years ago. My life is awesome, I might add.

Umm, I'm trying to think of a cool experience that I had this week. I had a ton, but they are all in my journal, which is at my house, which is not where I am. I do remember a sad thing: the other day, while walking through a festival in honor of the Virgen of Juquila (they literally celebrate December 8th more than December 25th. I AM NOT JOKING), we saw one of those fun carnival games where you shoot at various things with toy pistols. In this game, you shot at various scenes set up using toys and dolls. The sad part was that one of these scenes was called "Table Dance Barbie" and it was a bunch of barbies dressed like hookers pole dancing. This game was marketed to kids. The world makes me very, very sad.

I have to counter that with a good story, I think. THere was that time when we went to go look for somebody, but instead we stumbled upon a college kid who wasn't sure he believed in God. Ooops, I just told the entire story. Better, I think, the one about Georgina, the mother of that unbaptized kid I was talking about (Daniel).  Sometimes it seems like she absolutely loves us and then the next day it seems like our visit is the worst thing in the world. So, on Friday, when we went to visit her (we had an appointment!), it wasn't really a surprise that she, without even coming to the door, told us that she was busy and that we should come back on another day. We were about to turn and leave when I remembered that she had asked for a blessing a week earlier and that we carried oil with us this time. I reminded her about it. She came to the door and asked if we could kind of sort of maybe just give her a quick blessing right then. We happily obliged. After giving the blessing, this was when she revealed to us the information about the emergency C-section and whatnot and all her worries and fears about that. So, we taught her a lesson and reminded her to pray and to remember that Christ knows exactly what she's dealing with and that He is willing to help and capable of helping. Then she asked us to teach her unbaptized son, but we honestly didn't have time at that point. But then, her teenage son asked for a blessing. We gave him one. Then her ten year old. We gave him one. The Spirit was very strong in that house when we left. I hope we can reactivate them all.

Well, about the Christmas phone call. We're looking to do it on the 24th at around 4 or 4:30. We are looking to do Skype again. Let me know if that works. Other than that, just remember: Church is true and I love you all. Merry Christmas!
Elder Johnson

December 6, 2012

A very cool week

I like it here, in Miahuatlan. First, I was a little hesitant, hearing about the problems bringing people to church and about the lack of baptisms, but now that I've gotten to know it, I really quite like it. Yeah, there are some logistical problems, but God makes up for it by providing us with some truly spectacular experiences and people. It's a fun place. But, I'm just gonna get business out of the way first: The two packages have arrived, but I haven't gotten them yet. They are with my zone leaders, who should bring them to me tomorrow, I hope. So don't worry about that. Also, just so you know, my comp and I are looking to do Christmas phone calls on the 25th this year. That's about it for business.
On to the cool stuff. 

First of all, I knew to tell you about José Santiage. Coolest guy ever. He is 26 years old and a soldier, but only the most intelligent, thoughtful soldier you'll ever meet. He lives here by himself on the base because his wife refuses to come live with him for some of the past things he's done. So, obviously he needed to make some changes in his life. Enter the missionaries (not us). They contact him in a restaurant and he listens mostly because he likes to talk with people. They give him a Book of Mormon, and he accepts, but only because his mom taught him to always accept books in order to learn more. He started to read and slowly but surely found a testimony. He should be getting baptized on the 22. Now for the story. 

I don't really know him that well. He's always just be super cool and super thoughtful. He talks to everybody, participates in lessons, whether we are teaching him or not, and goes out of his way to come lessons so that we don't have to cross into the military base. Anyways, so we began a kinda confused and random lesson with him (we hadn't planned it well and he's listened to everything like twice). I started talking about enduring to the end at some point and I was explaining how he needed to continue progressing after baptism through things like the priesthood and the temple. I felt inspired to open up to Matthew 5:48, which reads, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in Heaven is perfect." I explained how that was kinda of the goal of this earthly life. He sat there, thinking for a little bit after I said that. Then he began to talk.

He explained to us that a while ago, he had been on the Internet researching the Mormons (never a good idea, right?). He had found an, um, unfavorable website that said the Mormons were bad because they compare themselves to God. It even had a Book of Mormon quote to back it up. Luckily, José recognized this as an anti-Mormon site, but thought, "Well, what if they're right?" He decided to verify the Book of Mormon quote, which he quickly found to be 100% false. Still, the doubt stuck with him. Do Mormons believe they should be like God here on earth? Because that's  weird, he thought. He carried that doubt with him for months. But then, right then, in that random, poorly planned lesson, we had somehow, miraculously resolved it for him. We were like the two bumbling idiots that found the treasure chest by accident. Thank goodness God wants this man to get baptized. Because, for heaven's sake, there was Jesus Christ saying, as clear as day, and in the Bible too, that we need to be perfect. So we better be trying, right?

It was just cool. He gets it (the it being the gospel). He said, "I don't know why, but I just feel happy right now." That made me feel good, which is pretty much how I feel recently. 

Another little success story requires a little bit of explanation. We live in a town called Miahuatlan. Maihuatlan is about 45 minutes away from another town called Ejutla, which is where we go to church. To get there, you have to ride these little vans called Suburbans that charge 25 pesos a person. Miahuatlan is very poor. These people need severe help with their faith. For all these reasons and more, it has been incredibly difficult to get investigators to church, until this week. What happened was we've been working with a family of four for awhile. The father of the family  used to be a drunk. A violent drunk. This caused nasty problems with his wife. They now do not live together, but are also not divorced. They just don't get along well, although the father has completely reformed. That means that whatever he wants to do, his wife immediately does not want to do it as some form of crazy vindicitive psychological revenge. The father  wants to go to church because it is helping him to change; that means his wife does not. It kinda sucks. The miracle, is that after weeks and weeks of talking to them about obedience to the commandments and inviting them to Church, all four came on Sunday, plus José Santiago, which means we had five legit investigators at Church on Sunday. And they participated more than the members.

Anyways, love you all. I keep praying for Uncle Russ. I hope everything gets white soon. See you in a year!
Elder Johnson
P.S. Noche de Hogar mean family home evening. Sorry

November 27, 2012

Things for which I am Thankful

This is an edited version, folks!

 I love this time of season. It brings me back to eight years old again. It also gives me ganas to buy stuff. So if I draw out my personal money this month, just know that it is being used towards Christmas and birthday gifts to myself. My gosh, I'm self-centered, aren't I? I'll try to make up for it by sending you my REAL thankful list, now that I've been able to read all of yours (except for dad's). By the by, they made me cry again. Good going.

1. The Atonement - I am so thankful for this. I believe in Christ. I believe He lived a perfect life.  He made it possible that I might be forgiven. At times, I think I understand it. Then, at other times, I think, "Why would a teacher pass me on my failed test just because my classmate got a perfect?" I think God just loves us too much. He wants every single one of us to become something that we cannot vision nor comprehend. We cannot see it, therefore we do not trust it, therefore we fight against it and put our will in front of His, but it all comes back to the Atonement. Truly, it was the reconciliation between us and God. I am so grateful for it. He loves us, He wants us to love others so that we might feel more love. We, especially me, have some much work to do in learning to live the Christlike life.

2. The Book of Mormon - I have not read it enough recently. I have now read it at least two times in two different languages and I don't get it. It makes me a better person, yet it neither thinks nor acts. It is simpler, yet more profound than all other books. I feel like I have all the stories and scriptures memorized, yet if I read it, I make better decision throughout the day. There is a power in that Book, a divinity that we cannot comprehend, and it is only another example of God's love and understanding for us. If all people read the Book of Mormon, we would not have the problems that we have in the world today. How can anybody say that it doesn't come from God?

3. People Willing to Listen - Getting in a house, whatever house, gives me a chance to do what I love doing: share the Gospel of Happiness with people who are remarkably far away from their potential. I love people willing share a few minutes with me. I don't want much, though they give me water and food and other things sometimes. I just want their time to deliver my message and my invitation to come unto Christ. I am blessed when God entrusts me with one of His precious and valuable children. I do not fully understand my responsibility for if I did, I would certainly be a lot more afraid of it.

4. People Willing to Change - They are few and far between. I am not talking, anymore, about people willing to listen with their ears. There are many of those. Turns out, there are quite a few people in this world willing to be respectful and cordial to tie-wearing strangers. However, there are very few loving and humble enough to listen with their hearts, to truly search out God. We are all so stuck in our ways, yet we know from the scriptures that God's ways are not our ways. Why won't we change then? Therefore, I am thankful for all the people better than me who are willing to listen and to change. Those who stop drinking, who quit drugs, who serve, who love, who take time that they've never taken before for God, those are the people better than me, regardless of their currently religion. I love people willing to change.

5. President - President is not the most compassionate of men. There have been many times when I have gone to him in my mission seeking comfort and instead only gotten the cold, hard truth. It has left me feeling bitter and abandoned sometimes, resentful and angry, but then, after that moment has passed, it leaves me feeling edified. He teaches me. He teaches me to own up to my actions and decisions and to not shift the blame to anybody else. He teaches me to truly repent and invites to do this essential step in my salvation. He has never lied to me, he has never been anything but constant. He has not altered in his stance against immature and unprepared missionaries. He, like the Lord, demands righteous missionaries and because of that stance, I am a far better missionary today than I would have been if I had been left to my own devices. I am thankful as well to the Hermana Leyva, who, honestly, is a cartoon character come to life. She has a Disney princess sized waist, way to much make-up and often makes me laugh, but she cares. She loves as a mother should. She is the yin to President's yang. Together, they are the perfect super team. I hope their son the best as he prepares for his mission in the states. He's a darn good basketball player, by the way.

13. Good Examples - I have many of them. My aforementioned family is the biggest of these examples, but I have others. I have prophets and apostles to guide me, both ancient and modern. Could we really find a better example of Christ-like, selfless service than Thomas Spencer Monson? It's ridiculous how few people there are in this world who know he exists. Watch "On the Lord's Errand" please. It really is an excellent movie. I would also like to mention here missionaries like Elder Day, Elder Gibbons, Elder Bridgeraj and Elder Edwards who are missionaries that really understand what sacrifice is and how to truly serve. Also, I have my friends from BYU like EJ, Shep, Tay-Tay and the gang, who just do their best and don't worry about the rest. I need this many examples in my life. 

14. The Utah Jazz - They are my pride and joy. I would choose them above everything except for my family and the gospel. That includes all girls, food, technology, and star wars. I miss them dearly. The world is not the same without them. I get why everything else is denied to a missionary, but couldn't they just let me have my Jazz updates. I swear I wouldn't ask for anything more.

15. No Worries - On the mission, I just worry about talking to people. At home, I would worry about careers, family, girlfriend, friends, influences, money, making an impact, resumé, job, temptations, food, rent, where I live, what I study, classes, teachers, how much sleep I get, etc. I am thankful I worry for nothing for two whole years of my life.

16. The Mission - It is such a blessing to be here. I am learning everyday, growing everyday, and being tried by fire everyday. Surprisingly, I have made it halfway through without giving up. That is a blessing. Nobody else I knew before the mission really has done what I have done. I have direction and vision in my life. I have confidence in my God. I need nothing else. Nobody from my highschool can say the same. I should not be bragging about this, but I can't resist. My Church has taught me more than your church and it's because of the mission. I am thankful for every person I've met, every convert that I have, every member who has given me food, and every second of this experience. I love the mission.

17. Mexican Culture - It's fun. It's weird. It's foreign to me still. They worship virgins, love visits, make great food. They are simple, real, intelligent, incredible people. They are soooooo hard working. They make cool clothes. They eat a lot of fruit. I want to keep some of this with me when I have to go back there.

18. Patience - I do not have much of it, but I am grateful for all I have. Mostly, though, I am grateful that other people have it. My mom, my dad, my siblings, my president, my companions, and, most importantly, My God. They have not given up to me. I am very thankful for patience.

19. The Holy Ghost - I drive him away a ridiculous amount, yet he always comes back to gently guide me and counsel me. I could not have accomplished what I have accomplished in my mission without him. He is the way my Father communicates with me. He makes me feel good. That's more than I could every ask for right there. Most of all, when he is with me, I know I am doing alright, for if I weren't, he would be gone. It's good to have that guide.

20. The Light of Christ -  I always have hope. We can always do better, always climb out of the hole that we dug, and always get back to Christ. I am grateful for that.

Well, that's it for this year. I've got to go do a Noche de Hogar. We need to start establishing skype details for the Christmas phone call. Love you all and see you in a year!
Elder Johnson

November 18, 2012

A Political Rant

I can be pretty dumb sometimes. News flash, I know, but I would like to reinforce that common knowledge. I am pretty dumb. Why? I have now served over a year as a full-time missionary and for some reason I think that NOW is a good time to start staying up late. After three consecutive nights of midnight or later bedtimes, I was pretty much exhausted on Sunday. Good thing today is P-day. I wasn't even doing anything important - talking to my comp, writing letters, reading newspapers, etc. I just stayed up late. I will NOT be doing that again this week. I repent; wickedness truly never was happiness.

Anyways, it was kind of a normal week for me. We put four new baptismal dates (all for the 24th), but only two of them I feel confident about. Not that confident, but kind of confident. Good at the very least. We have a new rule in the mission where every missionary has to invite somebody to be baptized every day. Not every companionship, but every missionary. I love it. It used to be so hard for me to bring up baptism in the first lesson. Now I just walk up to people and say, "Hey we`re your local missionaries and we're her to baptize you in the true Church of Jesus Christ!" And the surprising part is that people are just like, "Okay, I'm cool with that." Works like a charm.

So we've mostly been inviting people to baptism. Elizabeth, an investigator who had been dropped by the previous missionaries now has a date. She pretty much got there by herself. After explaining why it was necessary that we have a true Church here on the earth in the first lesson, she's been pretty stellar. She dropped coffee by herself when her non-Mormon friend told her that Mormons don't drink coffee before we even taught her the Word of Wisdom. So, on Saturday, after we brought her to a lesson with Leydi (it was a fun, joint lesson for a recent convert and a progressing investigator), we started talking. We asked her if she was still praying to know if the Church was true. She said yes. We asked her how she felt. She said yes, which, as you might have noticed, is not your typical response to the question, "how do you feel?" So we asked her, "yes what?" And she said, "Yes, I'm going to get baptized." So we put the baptismal date. It was super easy and the highlight of my week (although going to Jalapa for the second time on divisions was fun too).

I also had to make a quick trip to Oaxaca on Wednesday (quick being ten hours there and back in a bus). Don't exactly know what happened, but I had to go do visa stuff again. It was a pretty routine thing, but the best part was seeing some of my old generation buddies. Elder Graves is still just as happy as ever. I love that guy.
I really can't comment much about the election since I'm not there and no longer have an informed political opinion, but let me tell you what I think: I think you are over-reacting. While it may be true that Obama is changing quite a few things and it is possible that the wrong man won, I guarantee that I will not be returning to a socialist country. The fact that Obama won again neither surprises me nor makes me worry for the state of the common American's psyche. This was, from what I heard, an incredibly close race. And, just so you know, the incumbent almost always wins when he decides to run again. In the entire history of the United States, in only two occasions when the incumbent has decided to run for a second term has he lost. 2 occasions!!! That's incredible! Mom, I don't think Romney lost to Socialist America. I think Romney lost to inertia. That's why we still use window's computers instead of a Mac in our family, why Andy Reid is still coaching the Eagles, and why Oaxacans think that constructed houses out of large pieces of aluminum is a viable option for a family. It's hard to change the direction of a large group of people. And the larger the group of people, the more likely they are to stay the same. That's why Romney lost. And that's why Obama's not going to change as much as you think.

Let's think about this: In his first four years in office, Obama changed some things. He pulled us out of Iraq and Afghanistan. He changed the healthcare system. Gay Pride has taken a step forward. And so forth. But has he really changed that much? We're still in wars. What's the difference between Libya and Afghanistan? 

Healthcare is still expensive, but our family can still afford it. And it still works - ask Aunt Kris if you want proof of  that.  As far as Gay pride goes, well, the states may change the laws, but God won't. And in the end, most guys are still gonna like girls. They are far too pretty for that not to be the case. So don't overreact mom. We are a nation of more than 300 million people that don't change that much. Obama's not even solely in charge of the government. In the words of Winston Churchill, no single man or women can "hurt they world. They can't even seriously distress her."

Keep paying those taxes, putting America on your Thanksgiving thankful list, buying those groceries, and casting that ballot. Life will go on. Democracy is here to stay. I guarantee that I will change more lives in my two years than Obama will in his eight. Just think about that.

Love you, love the Church, love the commandments, love prayer. I love this mission. It has taught me so much. 
See you in a Year!
Elder Johnson 

November 11, 2012

Cockroaches in the font

That's right, we're baptizing again! I don't know how long it's been exactly since there has been a baptism in Tehua, but when started to fill up the font, two cockroaches, a ton of centipedes, and a bunch of other fun critters crawled up out of the drain. And then, thanks to our bishop not really supporting us, we had to clean those buggers up by hand. Which we did. But the baptism went wonderfully and Leydi seems happy with it all, which is the most important thing.

Baptism has been a big focus this month in our zone. Like, my second week here, the zone leaders asked me to make some goals for my district. One of the goals that I made was to invite somebody to baptism every day. As I was explaining this to Elder Day (a chill, former snow boarder from Utah - we did divisions on Tuesday (which would have gone great had I not gotten so lost)) over the phone, I heard, "Holy crap, are you serious?" I panicked and thought I had set a goal that was too high and immediately tried to justify my decision. But after I calmed down a bit, Elder Day explained that the reason for his surprise was that he and his comp, in a revelation filled planning session the night before, had thought up the same goal for the zone. So it became doubly important. And now we are inviting everybody we meet to baptism. We haven't seen the upswing in dates yet, but I think that will come this week. Either way, it's been fun to overcome nerves and start just telling people the moment you enter a house, "Hey, we're your missionaries and we are here to prepare you for baptism in the Church of Jesus Christ!" It actually works out a lot better than you think.

Another thing that has contributed to the baptismal invitation craze was a multi-zone conference we had on Thursday. Elder Alonso from the seventy came. He is the second counselor in the Area Presidency of Mexico and he, before being a general authority, lived in Oaxaca for eight years. He was really cool and really funny and taught us a lot about inviting people to get baptized and asking for references as well as the light of Christ. He talked about how when we are disobedient, the Spirit leaves us. So what motivates us to repent and get the Spirit back? It is certainly not the Spirit because that has left us. It is certainly not ourselves because we are natural men and inclined to sin. It is the light of Christ, or, in other words, the emergency light the turns on in a building after the rest of the lights have shut off due to loss of power. We always, therefore, have an impulse to do good. It doesn't matter who we are, what we know, or what we have done, the light of Christ will always motivate us to do good. That is why we can't just give up after committing a sin, small or large. We will always have something influencing us for the good. Thank Goodness Christ does so much or I would be really lost.
Another fun story from the week. The same day that we returned from the Conference in Juchitan, we were going to an appointment when we saw somebody we recognized on the side of the road. It turns out that it was Raquel, a girl who had been baptized like a year ago but who had never got confirmed. We went over to say hi to her like good, friendly missionaries do. That's when she hid her face.

I first thought it was a joke, like, "Oh, here come the missionaries, let me hide my face and play 'if I can't see them, they can't see me.'" Then, when she refused to uncover her face after good -natured cajoling, I thought she was legitimately embarrassed to be seen with missionaries in public and this was her defense mechanism. It was then when I realized that the truth was that she was crying and she did not want us to see her.

So we talked with her. We listed. We sang her Christmas hymns to cheer her up, right there on the street corner. She stopped crying. She started laughing. She said she would pray. We helped her home. She promised to go to Church. It was one of those times when I just felt like a missionary. When you change your plans and sacrifice your own agenda just to help somebody who is obviously in need, you feel like a missionary. And it is a great feeling. Then I said hi to a Jehovah's witness who had the misfortune to knock our door. He now has a Book of Mormon. I love life.

Elder Johnson

November 4, 2012

"Life in Tehua" or"tormenting goats"

Dear Mom,
You make life in Minnesota seem so cool. By the by, still haven't gotten your halloween box because I am in the middle of nowhere. I look forward to receiving it sometime next week.  I look forward to a great Christmas box as well.(Wink, wink, nudge, nudge).  (Kidding, I am no longer that self centered.    I don't need/want anything.  Except for baptisms.  Can  you box that up?) Also, the giant storm thing sounds cool. Cool as in the sense of interesting, not as "cool that a bunch people are going to lose their homes and possessions because of this." That part certainly is not cool. But it is interesting the timing  and proportion of all this. Also, I am excited that Tyrel is doing so well. I personally think he is just behaving nicely because he knows Santa is watching. And maybe because all of us need a holiday break every once and awhile, including Tyrel. 

Anyway, back to Tehua. Things are really good out here and I don't know why. We had a miraculous nine people come to church on Sunday, which means we should be putting some baptismal dates this week. I don't really get it; I don't feel like I'm doing anything different, but yet I'm having a lot more success. We are teaching more members, finding new investigators, bringing people to Church, and working better with the members. I think it's my companion. He's pretty cool and he works really hard. Here are some highlights from my week: I did divisions twice. First with Jalapa, a beautiful town with a cooler climate, a resevoir, broad boulevards, and nice, humble people. I love it there. I want to live there. Especially if I was living with Elder Cruz, who is the nicest, humblest, coolest Poblano I've ever met (unfortunately, they special changed him the next day). Then, on Friday, I did divisions with Gueingola and Elder Allegretti, a former comp from my time in the trio in la Hacienda. 

I had a little revelation today. I was sitting in the bus on the way to Salina Cruz to go buy my weekly food (we have to travel a half hour by bus just to find a decent supermarket - and then another 30 minutes back in the bus with all our food) and suddenly I thought: if I continue the mission at this pace, I will leave with no regrets. I need to keep working hard, trying to meet goals, get up on time, and try to be positive, and I will go home content with what I did and what I gave. I think that's the important part - if we feel happy with what we gave to the Lord. I haven't been the perfect missionary at times. But I've tried to be a good missionary and I've tried to keep that to a minimum. So now I just need to do it for another year.

My week was great, in short. We also had a day of special changes where everybody in the district except for me was affected by it, yet I had to spend half my day in the ADO, waiting for new missionaries, doing my duty as a district leader. That's another thing I've been meditating a lot on recently. My duty as a leader. I've got a ton of time being a district leader, so I think it's about time I shape up. Plus, I read an awesome Liahona issue that talked about the importance of duty, using Christ and President Monson as examples. Essentially, what's hardest for me is considering the success of the elders in my district my successes and the failures of the elders my failures. I have to edify them and take care of them just as much as I do for myself. And it's hard enough to take care of me. But the Lord and President Leyva have asked that I expand my capacity, so I guess that's what I have to do.

This email is a little all over the place. I think it's time to stop. Some man is tormenting goats near us. Oaxaca is weird. Gotta love it. See you in a year!

October 28, 2012

Happy 25th Birthday!

Dear Mom,

I am a terrible son. Somehow, I can remember the birthdays of all of my siblings, but not of my parents. I am sorry. But, better late than never and I hope you had a very very happy 25th birthday and I hope everybody properly celebrated your existence by bottling tomatoes, washing dishes before putting them in the dish washer, and yelling at poor, confused chickens. I think it should have been an international holiday where even missionaries get a break. Because we need a break. It is hot down here in Tehua.

All right, I will do my best to tell you about Tehua. There is honestly not that much to say. It is certainly poor and very hot and looks about as in ill-repair as the rest of Oaxaca, which means quite a bit of ill-repair. No women have heckled me like that, but I have gotten some "mmm, sexy guerro" comments (guerro is a person with not black hair and not brown eyes) and I am teaching an unusual amount of women. Out of our like 30 total investigators, approximately 25 of them are women. It's kind of weird. We just don't meet guys that often. Anyways, I do really like the house I live in. It is big and spacious and has two floors and a lot of water so I don't worry about running out that much. Elder Carrasco is cool too. He likes toy story, roasted chickens, shirts with pinstripes, and working. We taught 17 lessons this week, which was pretty fun. I look forward to this transfer. We should be having a baptism in like two weeks of an 11 year old named Leydi. She's really cool and really into the church. I hope we can get more of her family to start going too. 

Tehua, by the way, is famous for having a giant statue of a woman at its entrance that was designed to look like the tin man's girlfriend. That's about it.

Other than that, it's hot. I'm tired. I'm going to lose weight sweating so much. My district is pretty cool too. Elder Cruz is the mayor (senior) in Jalapa and he's super pilas (awesome in a church sense). His comp is Elder Beulieau (the bear, like in Jungle book) who is new and who is huge (physically) and who I like a lot. He's friendly. 

Anyways, I've got to get going soon. Love you lots and love the whole fam. Tell Colton hi for me. See you in a year!
Elder Johnson

October 21, 2012

Hello from Timbucktu

So they changed me. That's the big news. Honestly, I wasn't really expecting it. I thought (hoped) I would be staying in my area one more transfer but president kiboshed that by sending me to Tehuantepec. It's a small place (not like a pueblo small, but like not at all big. Bigger than Puerto Angel, but our house is bigger than Puerto Angel too) and it's five hours from the city. So your package will never see me! Kidding! I think!

Anyways, I don't have much time to write this week, thanks to the changes and the long bus ride. I just want to talk about blessings. I receive a lot of blessings and last week it got to the point where I felt like I didn't deserve them. God was blessing me with new investigators left and right and helping my investigators to progress as well. I felt like I was failing Him, like I wasn't working hard enough or obeying strict enough. All I know is that there is a law irrevocably decreed in heaven upon which all blessings are predicated and I am determined to obey that law here in my new area. I want my new area to be as cool as my last area. La hacienda really was just becoming super pilas. We just found a super sweet new investigator named Jeny who had already been to general conference and church, who understood things, who asked question, and who had real, genuine interest. Also, a bunch of new investigators went to church and I was teaching like at least three other lessons and a lesson with a member per day. We were finally starting to see the benefits of all our previous hardwork when President had to go and mess it up by sending me to Tehuantepec.

Anyways, my new companion's name is Elder Carrasco. He is from Sinaloa Mexico and has 13 months in the mission.  I don't have any worries about him. I just have worries about dealing with the heat again. The itsmo is always hot and I'm in the center of the itsmo. I hope I make it. Anyways, love you all. Excited to hear about Colton and sister missionaries and Tambert. See you in a year!

Elder Johnosn

******Everyone notice that Riley has been in Mexico so long that he's even forgotten how to spell his own last name!*************************

October 14, 2012

My LIfe Has Changed Forever

So, as you might have already figured out, my life has changed dramatically recently. President Monson recently announced that all male missionaries can leave on the missions at 18 and all female missionaries can leave when they are 19. He said that being the prophet of God, inspired, and with the intention to save more souls than ever before in an increasingly perverse world. He also said it, I'm sure, without even bothering to consider the social impacts it was gonna have on BYU. Think about it! The guys won't be a big deal. All it means is that there are going to be a lot less freshmen guys living in the dorms these days. I mean, it's weird for return missionaries to live in the dorms and it will be weird for 19 or 20 year old pre-missionaries to be at BYU considering all of the "So when are you going on the mission?" questions they are bound to get. So I don't know how that will work out, but it will be a little different. The big difference will come with the girls. Before, girls were going to BYU with the idea that they were gonna be there for three years. Three years is enough time to get married, in the BYU world. It's certainly enough time to find a serious boyfriend. Three years, if you are motivated and driven, is enough time to graduate from your major or find a career. One year, simply put, is not. A TON of BYU girls will now be serving missions, which I have a sneaking suspicion was the Lord's intention. And who does that leave the return missionaries to date? Well, if you are me, none. Because I just so happen to come back just in time for these new limits to take full effect. This next year, the last of my mission, will be a year of adjustment and preparation. People will still be getting used to the idea. They will already have plans, already have signed up for classes, already have started classes, and most of them will not have the will power or the mindset to just throw all those plans and classes out the window in the first moment. Things don't change that fast. But, after a year of adjustment and preparation, all of those Utah high school seniors will have been able to change their plans and their mindsets. Girls will arrive at BYU with the same mindset that many men used to arrive at BYU with: I'm here to have fun, get a start on my career, and prepare for my mission. And it will change the social world. As my house companion Elder Allegretti bluntly stated, I'm scared of change. 

Anyways, other than those fears, I think it's a great thing. I'm really excited to see what the new dynamic mission will be like by the time Colton gets there (for what it's worth (it's really his decision), I think he should take advantage of the 18 thing), the mission is gonna to be a lot more mixed. It's not going to be 95% elders and 5% hermanas and seniors. It's going to be a lot more mixed, probably still a majority of Elders, though. A lot of different talents, challenges, and changes. It's going to be, dare I say it, a modern mission. I think it will be really cool. And, after the announcement, we just had a ballin' conference. Sorry, mom, you missed the best part. Priesthood Session rocked my world. President Monson just dominated the last talk. I got so amped to just share my testimony after that and be a good person. There is a really good way to know that he is a Prophet of God, and I think Moroni said it best. Whatever persuades us to do good, whatever is uplifting, or edifying, whatever brings the Spirit into our lives, that is from God. President Monson does that. He doesn't need to expound doctrine like a scholar. He doesn't need social life changing announcement. He just needs to be the good person that he is and do what he does best: bring the Spirit. I love him so much. 

Anyways, what I gathered, overall, from this conference, is that we need to be worried about spiritual apathy. The talks, while they very much were directed at non-members, were also directed to us.  The basic, come unto Christ, faith, repentance, baptism thing aren't things that we, as members, have already done. They are things we need to do. I feel that we are spiritually apathetic in this day and age. Perhaps you and dad no because you are smarter, wiser people than us, but really, my generation. Justification has become so easy. Words speak louder than actions. We all just want to get along, so I better not do or say anything that could offend anyone. What I mean is that we are not in danger of being Cain; we are in danger of being sophisticated neutrals. How do we stop that? Getting back to basic and helping, boldly, our spiritual apathetic counterparts to do the same. We have had too many deep doctrine debates that have numbed the simple, quiet power of a prompting of the Spirit. The mind trumps the heart in nearly all people, myself included. We need to get a testimony by feeling the Spirit and become converted. This isn't a complicated thing. God works still as He did before cellphones and internet, before archeology, before universities, before reading. He works through the Spirit and while that may be boring, it is perfect. It is undeniable and distinct. We need to wake up and become Spiritual sensitive people, all of us, members and non-members, and feel the strength of a testimony that comes through the Spirit. It will help us with our very modern problems and lives, if we only let it. That's what I got overall. I'm so excited for the liahona. 

Anyways, transfers are coming up next week. I think I might stay, but it'll be fun to see if I go somewhere. Still working, looking for that next baptism. I do have a request for my next package. I don't want to justify my actions, but, just to explain, recently I went a little crazy. Maybe I hit my head. Maybe the truck actually did more that scrape my elbow. Maybe I haven't slept enough. But, suddenly and unexpectedly, I have found myself in a charitable mood. I have given away a yo-yo, an umbrella, all of my pens, all of my hangers, an empty journal, and, most importantly, 5 or six of my best ties. While I don't need or want replacements for the other things, I would like to have a full complement of ties. Just so you know that that is becoming a priority.

Love you all. Times they are a-changing. See you in a year (by the by, on Wednesday of last week I officially had spent an entire year of my life living in Mexico. How many people my age can say that they've lived in Mexico for a year by themselves? Neat, huh?)!
Elder Johnson

October 7, 2012

Deported and Hit by a Truck

So I just found out that I have a supposedly serious problem with my visa. I have to be in the mission offices tomorrow at 8:30 to get it all figured out. Man, it would really suck to get deported right now. I'm just starting to get into that missionary groove again. I knocked off two other baptisms this week, found yet another 11 new investigators (not contacts mom - I make about 10 contacts a day. A contact is just talking to somebody and getting a verbal agreement for a return visit. A new investigator is somebody you've actually taught a lesson to and who accepts another visit), and helped my district do the same. It's a good time here in la Hacienda. I'm just happy that I have a companion who is willing to help me out when I no longer have the energy to think up new ideas. It's much different from my other companion. Therefore, I have just sort of thrown myself into the work here in la Hacienda.

We are continually talking to people these days. When we see a family in the street, we just stop and talk to them. We are constantly talking to people and constantly asking for references. We have plans and back plans and back up plans for the back up plans and we never, ever spend extra time in the house. I'm finding it hard to give my companion his proper language study time. This is especially important for me since President gave my comp the goal of completing six modules in the English study program before the next interview. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, we had interviews this week. Mine, as usual, lasted like 30 seconds. Either President really doesn't worry about me or I really am just incredibly boring in Spanish, but it always seems that I get the short interview. I'm fine with that. It's certainly much better than a long interview trying to resolve obedience issues, I guess. 

Anyways, back to the working theme. Flor and Charbel got baptized and they were so ready for it. They are just the most pilas people ever. They've given us two great references now, the second of which is her daughter and her grandchildren, which are three of our 11 new investigators. I think they might be our next baptisms too. Right now we're kind of at the stage of the work where we baptized the people who were ready and the rest of the people are just starting the process. I hope to get some good things going, especially with General Conference this weekend. General conference is always a good way to get investigators amped about baptism. Good timing, I think, right?

Just so you know, I hate how the Spanish spell check on this computer tells me that I am spelling every word wrong. It is really distracting and now I don't know if I am actually spelling words wrong.

Other that that, it's been a pretty normal week. I ate a caterpillar with new investigators the other day during divisions. I also got hit by a car (it was a truck that was turning a corner - I saw the truck and successfully avoided it but I didn't see the long steel poles sticking out the back and they nailed me). Mostly, I'm just tired from walking so far, talking so much, sleeping too little, and getting rained on all the time. And now I'm going to do it again for the next seven days. Welcome to the mission life.

By the by, you should know that every time you tell a Tyrel story these days you make me cry. Really embarrassing, honestly.  Hope everybody is doing well. Love you all. I want to meet Amber too, though I'll probably be meeting Mrs. Johnson by the time I get back. See you in a year! :)
Elder Johnson

September 30, 2012

Gummy Worms and Cream Cheese

I feel like a kid again. I am officially in love with gummi worms. I just bought a half a kilo at Chedraui (not at all a waste of money, thank you very much) and I've already almost eaten all of them. They are good. Also, another rediscovery by your favorite missionary teaching in the most remote part of Mexico is cream cheese. My Guatemalen companion (who is awesome, by the way) explained to me that something that he quickly learned on his short mission (he only has six months) is that cream cheese tastes good on anything. Through careful investigation and research, I have thus far been able to conclude that this theory is correct. Surprisingly enough, cream cheese IS good on gummi worms (if you think this is weird, just consider that I've eaten the heart and liver of a chicken and been told that it was a "treat." Oaxaca changes people). 

Anyway, I'm gonna give you all a quick run down on the week because it's picture week! Yay! Anyways, this week was great. Lucio got baptized and despite the fact that I had to make a program on the fly (Elder Piña did not give me the program template that we had worked out), it all ended up pretty professional and everybody felt good. I was happy for him. He showed me the can he has to already start saving up for his mission. Second of all, Flor and Charbel are still awesome. They should be baptised on Thursday so that Charbel can go with the young men on a campout. They are super pilas. Flor even gave us a good reference. Which leads us to number 3 on good things for the week: We finally found 10 new investigators!!! This has been tormenting me for weeks now, the fact that I couldn't comply with President's obviously inspired goal for the mission. Everybody else seemed to be achieving it and achieving it generally seemed to be accompanied by some sort of miracle, yet I could not do it. So this week we did it. And yup, it came with a small miracle.

On Sunday, we started the day with six new investigators already in the bag. We needed to find four more in one day. We found one in the morning after Church (an atheist that Elder Piña and I had found who had expressed interest in the Book of Mormon but whom we never returned to visit). We still needed three more. But we had some fixed appointments with two families that we had contacted earlier in the week. I was confident it was possible. The first family (of four) wasn't there. The second family (of seven) didn't want to listen to us except for the inactive mother. I started to get nervous. Time was running out. But I kept my head. There were three old investigators that lived in the same house that we had found in the area book. WE went to visit them and.....they didn't want to listen. So we asked for a reference from a nearby member and he gave it to us! Yay! We went immediately to visit them. The father of the kid opened the door and immediately started yelling at us. I didn't listen to much, but he said a bunch of things about us not having the truth, trusting men more than God, and hypocrites that go to our church. Essentially, it wasn't an uplifting or encouraging 5 minutes. Didn't really make us want to go contacting, that was for sure. So, feeling a little desperate, I pulled over to say a little personal prayer. I didn't want to be the only companionship in the zone without enough faith to meet the goal. I begged God for three new investigators. I promised Him that I would do whatever he asked of me. The first thing my companion said after the prayer was, "We could go contacting, even though I hate doing it." So we went to knock doors. On the first door, which was partially opened, we saw a man in a hammock. When we knocked, instead of getting up, he called for somebody in the house. Nobody left. Not encouraging. We waiting a little bit more and finally a girl opened the door. We presented ourselves and asked if we could share our message with her right now. To our surprise, she said sure. I thought, hey, it might not be three, but it's a start. It's one. We sat down and started to talk. Right as we were about to begin, the mother in law of this girl walked in. We invited her to listen. She, too accepted. But then she went into the house. We thought she was going to stay there. She didn't. She came back out with her sixteen year old daughter and all of the sudden one new investigator became three. And La Hacienda 1 found 10 new investigators in one week.

The point of all of this is that God hears and answers sincere prayers, first and foremost. I prayed a lot this week and I felt really good doing it. God always answers, that I know. Second, God will bless us if we make the sacrifices. I didn't have to ask for references or talk to people in the street or endure a drunk guy's conversation. None of those endeavors turned into new investigators. But I did them because I wanted to do God's work and not mine. I did what I didn't want to do because I knew it was what God wanted me to do. And you know what happened? God blessed me with what I wanted above all, 10 new investigators. Didn't come from my efforts. They came from His. I'm just glad they came. 

Anyway, here's a quick review of the picture: I went to a museum and took a lot of pictures, I baptized, I ate food with people, I contacted a really cool, really rich house, and I don't remember what else is there. I love you all and I will keep praying for Tyrel! Hope he does better!
Elder Johnson

September 23, 2012

Change is Good

I got special changed AGAIN! And, like with all other previous examples, I actually didn't change areas. It was just my companion who got moved. Elder Piña is off to Donaji as the senior companion while I wait here for the arrival of Elder Tzub, the former companion of one of my favorite ex companions, Elder Luna. The only things I know about Elder Tzub are that he is from Guatemala, he is pretty chillaxed, and he looks like a brown Tom Cruise. Other than that, it's a complete unknown for me. Still, I'm excited for the change. Elder Piña and I weren't the most dynamic of duos. He got pretty critical of me, and I got pretty sick of him, so we definitely weren't working with Maximum Power, like Sunny Joe Jim used to say in dad's favorite wave race videogame. I'm excited to just be able to throw myself into the work again and rely on some faith without worrying about whether or not my companion is going to throw a hissy fit. It'll be fun again.

We did have some encouraging things going on in the area, though. Two of our investigators, Flor and Sharbel, are super ready for baptism. They just have to go to Church the required number of times, really. They have testimonies, they go to all activities and invite their friends, they read the Book of Mormon, and they pray. They even only accept jobs that give them Sundays off. We've hardly had to do any work with them. Really, they've been one of God's miracles for me, just a perfect example of how God prepares people. 

Also, Lucio, Zuri's brother, is progressing really well as well. We already have his approval and his mom's approval of a baptism scheduled for this Saturday. Just got to review everything with him and see if his dad gives the OK. And now, I have a new companion who is totally willing to do the work to try to get 10 new investigators. I'm super excited for this week, if you can't tell. Sometimes a change of pace is all you need to get excited again. I love being a missionary. 
A lot of funny things happened in the recent weeks but I can't seem to recall them. If I ever do, I'll give you a shout out. Other than that, I'm through talking about this last week. I'm ready to shelve it and get on to the new week. I love you all and I'll see you in a year!

Elder Johnson

September 17, 2012

Hey familia,

First, my favorite news of the week: DAVID SENT IN HIS MISSION PAPERS!!!! David was my ward mission leader in Fortin and he is one of my best friends here in the mission. He had a lot of problems trying to get his papers in and I tried to help him and be a good example. He finally turned them in and called me to tell me about it. I'm so happy he could overcome girlfriend woes, obstinate parents, personal struggles, and other problems to get those papers finally sent in. He's gonna come here to la Hacienda tomorrow in order to help us out with the work all day. I'm excited for that. We've got some good citas tomorrow.

In other news, we also had a zone conference on Friday. It was about time. We hadn't had a multi-zone conference for like six months before this recent one.  It shaped Elder Piña and I up. We got to obeying a little more and working in faith a little bit more. This last part has really been a problem recently. See, we've had this goal of 10 new investigators for a long time now. I've never achieved. The majority of the time that I haven't achieved it, I've been with Elder Piña. I know it's possible to achieve and I know that contacting is a big part of achieving it. How do I know? First, because everybody else who achieves it (quite a few) achieves most of it by contacting. Two, contacting is an act of faith and the Lord requires faith in order to receive any blessing and especially a blessing like the one of the goal for new investigators. And all this has been a problem for us.
When Elder Piña first showed up, we contacted a little bit until one day, after about twenty minutes of contacting, we came to a crossroads. We had scheduled a backup plan to go visit a less active. I, as the senior companion, felt the need to continue to look for new investigators instead of going to visit this lady who we hadn't even told that we were going to go visit her. I wasn't aware of Elder Piña's views on the situation (we only had one and a half weeks together at this point) and we decided to keep contacting. That's about when the Spirit left us and Elder Piña got angry at me. There I was, contacting, oblivious to the fact that Elder Piña was inwardly fuming, Eventually, after I realized that he wasn't helping me at all and that after every door he would walk as fast as he could around the block without knocking any doors, I decided to ask him about it. In the end, he essentially told me that after like 4 rejections he gets sick of contacting and he likes to follow the plans that we put instead of changing them last moment.

Point is, ever since then, we haven't really contacting. For fear of inviting contention to the group, we haven't contacted. And we haven't found 10 new investigators. We've done everything else, but we haven't contacted. We haven't had the faith to knock doors until we find that family of five who is just waiting for us to visit them. It's been a thorn in our side and part of the motivation behind our deteriorating relation with our zone leaders. After the conference, where we heard countless stories of companionships successfully finding 10 new people by contacting, we got our act in gear and contacted the rest of the night. We actually found some pretty promising looking people. And, at the very end of the night, when we went to go buy some hamburgers to take back to the house (those pizzas did not fill me up), the lady making the hamburgers told us she wanted to talk with us. Turned out to be a family of four. Can you say blessing for contacting in faith? I certainly think so. I want to be a faithful missionary all this next week in order to finally, finally achieve the goal. It would be like a dream come true for me.

We did have a good day on Sunday too. Six people came to Sacrament meeting, a pretty high number. Three should be accepting baptismal dates this week and one of those three might get baptised before the week is over. It's looking pretty hopeful in La Hacienda again. I'm very happy about that.
Anyways, got to go. I love you all. See you in a year!

Love, Elder Johnson 

September 9, 2012

Normal Changes Mean Nothing

Hey mom. So the big news is that there is no news. I'm not changed, neither is my companion. Elder Piña and I are together for another six weeks. But we're not in a trio anymore! As of 9 oclock today, Elder Allegretti will have his own companion. So nothing to worry about there. I'm actually pretty hopeful about it all. We had five investigators at church on Sunday (despite limited work. Older companions are hard to deal with sometimes) and four of them are progressing. It's possible to baptize all four this month, but I think more realistic that we only baptize two. Which would still be pretty cool. 

We went to Plaza del Valle today. That's where the temple is, but we didn't go to the temple. We went shopping. We had permission from prez to go and look for new shoes for Elder Piña, so we went. It was really, really fun. It was like being back in America again. There were malls and Subway, air conditioning and paisley ties. It was an incredible afternoon. I bought nothing. But I enjoyed myself. And my companion did buy a slick looking pair of new dress shoes. Now his socks won't get wet everytime he walks in water. 

Honestly, not much cool happened this week. The neighbor kid broke his nose in front of us while we were eating tacos one night. I learned how to read eyes. Aminta (one of our newer-ish investigators) went to Church and read lehi's dream. It was kind of a tough week for me, to be honest. My two companions kind of shut down and I lacked the fight to motivate them. I'll do better this week though. Elder Piña at least seems ready to work. We should be having a mission conference soon, the first one in over six months. I'm super ready for one. I need to hear the word of God again. 

I've been pondering a lot the scripture Nehemias 6:3. Said Nehemias to his enemies who were begging that he stop the work on the wall in order to talk to them, "I am doing so great a work. Why should the work cease, and I come down to you?" (Something like that - I've been pondering it in Spanish and I don't have my English scriptures handy and I'm too lazy to lok it up). We are doing a great work here in the mission. If we keep ourselves spiritually walled in - studying every morning, saying prayers, obeying rules, teaching lessons - Satan can't harm us and the work continues. But if we consent to come down to talk to him - get up late, disobey, etc. - the work will cease in some way or another. It's the same at home. We are constructing great things - homes, families, careers, eternal lives - and it's pretty easy to protect ourselves. The moment we decide to come down, spiritually, is when the work will cease and we will stop achieving our goals and desires. So keep working, and keep constructing, brick by brick. It's what life requires.

Sounds like everybody is doing great at home. I hope to hear a first week of school report from Colton (kidding! He'll probably have enough homework). Sounds super interesting in Oklahoma. And I hope Taggart gets married soon! Love you all and I'll see you in a year!
Elder Johnson

August 26, 2012

Look at my Shinny Shoes

My life is getting shook up again. I live currently in a house with three other missionaries. Our ward, which we share, is divided into two parts. We work in our part, they work in theirs, and we only really see them at night. We are two different companionships. Now, however, ONE of the other missionaries is getting special transferred away and we are becoming a trio. Our area is combining and we still have to work out the food. Life is weird. Other than that, things are normal. I revisited my centro area today in order to celebrate my companion's 18 month mark. We went with permission and everything. Let me tell you, I cannot believe that I spent three months there and NEVER got my shoes professionally shined in the Zocalo. Totally worth fifteen pesos. I'm surprised people aren't contacting ME with these shoes on. I can imagine it now, "Buenas tard....VAYA! Por favor, me puede enseñar sus zapatos?! ¡Que bonito! Son divinos! Dónde adoren Ustedes a Jesucristo? Quiero conocer más porque sus zapatos brillan tanto." Essentially, I'm looking for a big week of success this week because my shoes are really shiny and nice looking.

The negative part of such a superb shoe job is that now I don't have that much time to write, but I'll do my best. We tried finding new investigators this week. We did okay, ending up with six, but none of them are really screaming "baptize me! Baptize me!" So, we'll probably try to find more new ones this week. The cool thing is that one of the people that we found is Italiano and his sentences are like 70% Italian, 20% Portuguese, 10% Spanish, and 100% unintelligable. Honestly, don't even know if he wants us to come back. But we are. Because we'd be terrible missionaries if he does want us to come back and we don't. I don't want to take that risk. At least his Mexican wife speaks perfect Spanish. That makes things easier.

Other thing that happened: I baptized a niña escrita on Sunday. I've been teaching her non-member mom (Ade) and so she picked me to do the baptism. It was really quite a sweet baptism and I could tell that all of her non-member family members that came (like 5 in total) were really impressed, especially since the eight year old cousin asked his mom when he was going to haqve a baptism. Unfortunately, they do not live in our area. It's a bummer.

We'll end the week with good news: I did get my package. I am really enjoying the iPod and the certs. My companions, even the one from El Salvador, have already identified me as an addict. Which I am. Proudly. I hope they last the year....but probably only gonna last a transfer or two. So I'll be wanting more in my christmas package, wink, wink, nudge, nudge. Love you all and hope you are all great. 

 See you in a year!
Elder Johnson

August 19, 2012

Back to Business

Anyway, I really went a week without informing you about ANYTHING that has happened to me as a missionary. Sorry. So, here's my life in a nutshell: my new comp (he's not that new anymore) is Elder Piña, former zone leader, bilingual before the mission, very smart, very sarcastic dynamo. He is anincredibly good teacher. He has a lot of experience. The problem is, he's junior. And he knows it. While I would be perfectly content to follow his lead in planning and in the lessons, he doesn't allow it. He knows, understands, and respects the authority that the senior companion has. So I go along, bumbling my way to several lessons and trying desperately to find some new investigators (we failed epically in our 10 person goal this week - only 2). I feel like I do a lot of things wrong sometimes. But hey, I am learning a ton about how to ask good questions and how straight to the point you actually can be. 

However, we have managed to have a little bit of success. First of all, the other day, we were at Zuri's house (she's one of our recent converts). We had brought her the conference addition of the Liahona and were showing her all of the prophets and apostles (you know that page where they have all the apostles and seventy and whatnot? Yeah, that page). Her mom happened to be home and passed by and saw all the old men and started to ask some questions. Who are they? What do they do? How do you choose them? She was super interested (okay, maybe not super, but definitely pretty interested). She had a ton of the same views that we do and was really, really impressed by our prophets and apostles. 

Other sign of success: Ade. Ade has gone to church for five years. There are few people outside of us, the bishop, and the relief society president, who has wanted to give her a calling for years, who know that she isn't a member. And the thing is, she has work to do before she can become a member. In our first meeting with her, she told us that she didn't believe in Joseph Smith, some of the commandments, or that Jesus Christ came to the Americas. Those are all essentially things to know before being baptized a member of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But we're working with her. We read 3 Nephi 11 with her and she started crying and said that she hadn't ever been able to read the Book of Mormon before with any sort of level of interest and now she didn't want to put it down. She thought it was beautiful. That's the power of the Book of Mormon for you. 

And so we continue in La Hacienda and in the mission. Things are just sort of going. I am content. I am not looking forward to any specific day or event, but, even more surprisingly, I don't need to. I am fine where I am in the mission. I am happy just to do what the Lord wants me to do in my own little section of the vineyard, wherever that may be. I feel like I will be 12 for a long time. I don't ever really want to think of myself as 18 or 20 or 16. I want to be 12, with just as much ahead of me as behind me, forever. I'm still learning, I'm still feeling the Spirit, I'm still meeting amazing people and seeing amazing places, and I'm still eating weird foods (I just found out that I've eaten a lot of cactus during my mission), but those are all secondary things. I just like being me and trying to help other people be them, children of God as they are. It's a good way to live.

I end my email with something I learned in Priesthood this week. We were talking about Abraham, who was asked by God to sacrifice Isaac. The teacher asked us why we thought that God would do that. He carefully explained that God is all-knowing. He already knew that Abraham was going to obey. So why did God even put him through the trial in the first place? Now, really, there are probably a million reasons why. But I liked what he said to answer his own question: God did it not so that GOD would know how faithful Abraham was but that ABRAHAM would know how faithful Abraham was. We never really know our capacities until we are pushed to them. This is the purpose of our trials. This is why Peter said that the trial of our faith is "much more precious than gold." Because after this event, Abraham could continue, knowing that whatever God would ask him to do in the future, he could and would do. Because he had already faced his hardest trial. He passed. Let's not depreciate our trials futher. Let us embrace them as the gifts that they are. Let us learn to know what we are capable of. We have divine potential. I think we are capable of quite a bit.

Well, love you all. Haven't received my pacakge yet, but maybe I will tomorrow. And if not tomorrow, for sure by next week. I hope you are all doing great and I'll see you in 1.
Elder Johnson

August 13, 2012


Okay mom, I'm going to keep this brief. First of all, we had two great baptismal services this week for Karla, a 15 year old for the world's little engine that could family, and Zuri, an 18 year old who never stops talking. But enough about me. I want to talk about tyrel.

Sounds like you and dad have had big weeks. Lots to do. Lots of changing going on. Dad mentioned some big changes at work, but failed to tell me exactly what they are. Aubrey is moving and taking her cat with her. She will be your first kid not to live in a mostly mormon community by herself. THat's pretty big to me. Taggart got a job (Way to go!!!). And then you have Tyrel. Tyrel is tyrel. He's always been that way and always will be that way. And I, personally, wouldn't have it any way.

I miss Tyrel a lot these days. I tell people, readily, unashamedly, and truthfully that Tyrel is my favorite, pus on his face or no.  I don't really want him to change. The truth is, even if he did start having conversations and did stop stimming, he'd still be Tyrel. And that is the world's greatest thing. Mom, honestly, God has blessed us so much in that stimmy little boy. He is our rock, our little version of our savior. Taggart, in his thanksgiving list, wrote beautifully that Tyrel has never judged him and never will. Tyrel is innocence.  He may flap and stimm and click when we say words that end in k, but, really mom, we couldn't have it any other way. We need Tyrel.  Who loves us always? Tyrel. No friend, companion, ex girlfriend, or other brotherly, routinely checks to see if and when I am coming home. I may lose friends, fight with family members, grow apart from everybody I used to hang out with, but Tyrel will always, always, always be there, stimms and all. He may not be a miracle child, but he is no less of a miracle for me. I worked with him, I say to my companions. I work with Autistic kids, I say. What a pathetic description of the priviledge I used to have.

 I know that he loves peace and quiet, just like his dad (could Heavenly Father really have picked a more perfect pair? They really will ride off in the sunset together, dad reading his Louie Lemoire book with his monoscope and tyrel cuddled beside, little recorded still clutched in his hand). I know what his real laugh sounds like, when he loses control and just starts to giggle. Taggart and I used to have that stupid breathe in laugh. Tyrel's is a giggle. I speak Tyrel. I may have forgotten most of my music, but I still can quote every last mario character down to the voice inflection. I realized that the other day. He's no different from any other kid really. We just have to get to know him. 

I don't cry very much. That's been true here in the mission. I'm not one of those that cries at every spiritual moment, every testimony, every baptismal date. I just don't do it. I cry when I talk about the Resurrection. Almost without fail. Why? Because, thanks to the Perfect life of Jesus Christ, thanks for the perfect plan of Redemption, thanks to the fall of Adam, every man, woman, and child that has ever taken on a body in this earth will be Resurrected. Tyrel is one of them. And when we are resurrected, we will take on resurrected, glorified bodies, leaving behind pains and sicknesses, heartattacks, aching hips, crappy kidneys, and Autism. In that day (and we WILL be together. We are not losing any one of the seven, I promise), we all will reunite, and every single one of us, almost simultaneously will turn to our brother Tyrel, to hear, for the first time, what he really has to say. I made a mistake earlier in this email. I said he may not be that miracle child you wanted. I was wrong. He will be. Just not in your time table. In God's. Miracles happen. God is a God of miracles and will reward your faith and diligence and patience. And one day, you will wake up and tomorrow will be the day of that miracle, whether it's the resurrection or before. Read Mosiah 24 for the power of faith and patience.
And you know what the first thing Tyrel will say will be? "I love you Mom. I love you Dad. I love you Aubrey. I love you Taggart. I love you Riley. I love you Colton," just like he says right now. And then he'll probably ask to see if anybody else is coming, just like he does now. I certainly hope that's the case. I love him, I love you, I love our family. Truly and sincerely.

And I'll see you in a year.
Elder Johnson