March 25, 2012

It's been a busy week in the life of the first counselor in the branch presidency.
Kidding! I'm not actually the first counselor. I just do all his jobs. I had to conduct my very first sacrament meeting this sunday and I also had to count tithing with the President because there was literally nobody else. I was worried though, about breaking rules. I don't think un-set apart missionaries should be doing at least the tithing thing. But oh well - it's over and done. It was at least a learning experience.

This is also the hallowed week of the transfers. I'm staying here in Puerto Angel, but Elder Luna is leaving. He's off to the city to train. I will stop training/being trained for the first time since I arrived in Mexico. I will continue being District Leader. It was pretty much what I expected and it's a good thing because we are starting to find a bunch of young couples with baptismal potention. Also, more kids are coming out of the woodwork to become baptismal candidates as well. It's been awhile without baptisms for me, but I'm thinking this week or the next we´ll have one or two here in Puerto Angel. And there's always Luis Enrique, who just needs to get over being part of the "system."

By the by, I realized something about my letters: I have a tendency to forget all of my cool/funny stories from the beginning of the week and only tell you all about the end, which is actually pretty slow. I'm going to try to change that, though maybe not this week because I'm drawing blanks right now.

Hmm, the week. It's been a week, that's for sure. It's hard to recall the cool stories. We played electricians twice as Elder Luna and I installed an outlet in the house of an eternal investigator and fixed a blown fuse in the house of a new investigator. A former drug attic told us of a story of a guy who was in a coma and had a dream of going to heaven and passing three degrees of "heaven" (yeah we capitalized on the Plan of Salvation set up). One of our investigators and one of our converts fell off the wagon, unfortunately, and started drinking again. Together. Ooops. That was a bad match. Such is the life of Puerto Angel: No priesthood because the men of this town are caught by the plague of alcohol. We'll overcome the plague eventually, just you wait.

Anyway, next week will be a more exciting addition of "Elder Johnson goes to the Beach," I promise. I trying to refocus myself a little bit right now and I hope it shows in next week's letter. Just hope you all know how much you mean to me and that I look up to you and you motivate me to be my best. I'll write again next monday!
Elder Johnson

March 18, 2012

Two Facts Vital to Your Salvation

So, we just got taught a lesson in humility by a drunk man last night (please, read the following story in tones of heavy sarcasm). We were on our way home to go study Spanish and English a bit when we saw a man singing and dancing quite alone in the middle of the street. We thought there was a chance he was inebrieated and resolved not to talk to him, which of course meant that he immediately spotted us and demanded our attention. He quizzed us on our Bible knowledge to make sure that we weren't lying to the people we are teaching. We learned quickly that, contrary to popular belief, we don't know everything. First he asked us this, "What is the name of the Mount of Olives?" Us, a tadbit unsure, answered with what we had learned, "SeƱor, we're pretty sure that the name of the mount of Olives is the Mount of Olives." This was not the right answer and he got a little angry with us. After trying to leave, he caught up with us and asked us, "How many books are in the Bible?" We were absolutely clueless with this question and told him so. He called us liars and idiots and told us to go back to the United States because we can't teach if we don't know how many books the Bible has. We asked him, very kindly, if he could tell us. He replied that he didn't know either. So we left, humbled, by this kind man who took time out of his busy night to teach us valuable spiritual lessons. Next time, we will take the secret way to the house, under the only mango tree that doesn't have ripe mangos right now.
Dont worry mom, the drunks arent dangerous because they aren't capable of walking quickly and we are masters of the "missionary pace." We generally don't have experiences like that, but every once and a while they are unavoidable. As are the scorpions in the bathroom. Don't worry about those either: I already have my bottle of Raid Max and my companion knows how to take off their stings, which is why we brought a scorpion with us in the hour and a half ride to Huatulco in a cramped taxi. They are harmless without the sting and rather docile. I am also wise enough not to get close to them. Tarantulas are not deadly and are not in the house. You just have to watch were you step at night. I should probably talk about something spiritually uplifting to make you feel better now.

So, we've had this investigator named Luis Enrique since before I arrived in Puerto Angel. He's a student at the local college and is very willing to get baptized. The only reason he hadn't was because he wanted his parent (who live in the city of Oaxaca) to attend. Now, however, he says he'll get baptized with or without them. Here's the thing: despite his progression and the time we've had him, I did not meet him until Saturday. Everytime that we visited with him, I was doing divisions with another missionary. Just my luck. Anyway, on Saturday, we talked and he told us that he still wants to get baptized, but he didn't really want to be a member of the church (I know, a little weird). We got to talking about this and he shared with us his two big doubts: first, being part of the church "system." Second, tithing. We didn't have time to answer his doubts then, but we invited to come to the district conference (a district is like a branch but it's for small stakes. Instead of a stake we have a district and instead of wards we have branches). He did and guess what the two main topics were: The blessings of serving in callings and going to the temple (being part of the "system") and the blessings of tithing. Wow, God is watching out for our investigators. We talked to him a bit in the ride back (in the back of a truck with 9 people. Welcome to Mexico) (Also, without the scorpion, which had been captured by the youth of district Huatulco), and he told us that he loved the conference. I'm thinking he's feeling a little less doubtful for his baptism now. It's good to receive divine intervention from time to time. Always look for the hand of the Lord in your lives because it is there. Anyways, I've got to go now.

Dad, happy belated birthday. Sorry I can't do much for you right now, but I am memorizing one of the poems you've given me this week in tribute to all the things you've taught me over the course of my life. Hope you are doing great and know that I'm thinking of all of you. Love you! Bye!
Elder Johnson

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March 11, 2012

Dear fam-fam,
I know you've just been dying for pictures mom. Well, here they are. Pretty, isn't it? I have a surprisingly large amount of pictures of critters here. I just live with a lot of cool animals, except for the terrible dog that lives next door that can get no greater pleasure than barking in our faces EVERY SINGLE TIME WE WALK DOWN THE STAIRS! Other than that, lots of cool animals, including the scorpion that lives in our bathroom. He's cute.

****(I accused Riley of looking very sober in some pictures his mission president's wife took of him meeting Elder Scott and posted on facebook)*** Mom, what you mistook for soberness was actually reverence. Maybe tiredness as well. I had a great time and learned a lot. I certainly was not as sober during lunch when I got to talk to all my old pals. I met an Elder Kraft from Valley Center California who knows Beau. It was a wonderful conference, although it only lasted 9 hours. 9 hours in Oaxaca, 21 hours on a bus. NOt a good ratio, despite the large numbers of disney movies that we got to watch to and from the conference. I did get my box and I'm already sick from all the candy hearts, they do have daylights savings down here, as I found out one Sunday when I woke up a whole hour earlier than I had to. I think that covers all the business.

Oh my gosh, Avril Lavigne's "complicated" just popped on the radio here and I just got sent back into time. It's awful. Anyway, Joel now is super excited to get baptized from what the Pochutla Elders tell me. Dora is frustrating me a bit because she hasn't come to Church in two weeks and can't come this week because instead of Sacrament meeting, we have a district (we are not a stack, but a district here) conference in Huatulco (like an hour and a half away) this Sunday. But nevertheless, the work rolls on like a stone cut out of the mountain without hands (recently read the book of Daniel, who is a boss. Read it, Mom. Wonderful part of the Old Testament. He's like the Old Testament's John the Revelator mixed with Joseph of the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat).

I'm going to tell you all about Satornino this week. Yes, it's a weird name. Weird names are in abundance down here. Anyway, Satornino is an alcoholic whose wife is cheating on him because he cheated on her one and who is slowly losing his family. We met him a long time ago and it started off great. We had one lesson (which, I won't lie, I thought went kind of poorly) with him and for the next week he said he felt more peaceful than he had in his life and he didn't have any desire to drink and we put baptismal dates with him and his wife and we were saving their marriage. Then, instead of going to work one day, he decided to go drinking. And then he stayed out drinking for over a week. Like, didn't return to his house he was so drunk for over a week. So we visited him for the first time in like a week and a half yesterday and he didn't want to talk to us. But as we got going, he started opening up and sharing his feelings. We taught prayer again and a couple of things seemed to hit him this time that didn't the first time: that prayer doesn't have to be long, you say what you want to God, God is listening, and you feel really good during and after. We now wants us teaching his family again. Let's hear it for the power of prayer!

Anyways, I've got to go. HOpe you enjoy the pictures and the jabber. Love ya!
Elder Johnson

March 4, 2012

My weakness...

Mom, the Oscars do matter to me, as it turns out. Something I've learned here on my mission. I really, truly, honestly, love movies. But I cannot watch them. It only becomes a problem when we enter a house with the intention to teach and the first thing they do is bring up the recent movie they watched. Because then I go off, talking about movies for a good fifteen minutes. And then these investigators stop being investigators and start just being my friends and then I don't do my job as well as I could. So, yup, I guess the Oscars matter to me. But anyways, on to life.

So, I've run into a problem here in Puerto Angel. We did divisions with the zone leader last week and Elder Gonzales gave me a piece of advice that I've quickly and subconsciously become obsessed with. He told me that there are three types of investigators that we should really focus ourselves on and use our time with: Investigators who accept baptismal dates, investigators that go to church, and investigators who do both. Here's the problem: we don't have very many of those three. So I am constantly looking for new investigators. My all-world patience with my struggling investigators is slowly (quickly) vanishing. Instead of sticking with it until the change, I teach three lessons and then start looking for newbies. And Puerto is small. But life goes on.

We do have several cool stories/happenings of the week. First of all, my companion has conjunctivitis, so we went to the doctor on Friday. The doctor lives in Pochutla. We visited two (count 'em) places: the doctor and the pharmacy. We found three (count 'em) references for the Pochutlan Elders. Way to go with open your mouth, Elders! Third, Joel, the kid who did not believe in God a week ago, is ready to be baptised. He has done a lot of bad things in his life (more than I am legally entitled to say), but he wants to be baptized and he wants to change his life. I hope he stays active.

As for my investigators, our coolest would have to be Dora, the sister of three guys who my companion and his former companion tried to teach. We found her one day when we went to search for one of the drunks in my first week. She is progressing awesome. She loves the doctrine of the resurrection because whenever she thinks of her dead mom, she imagines her young and perfect again. She loves reading the Book of Mormon because it takes her away to a "real place." She knows going to Church is important. She will probably be my next baptism in two weeks.

Also, English is coming in handy. We were walking at like 8 oclock at night the other day. Note: Here, in Puerto Angel, 8 is bedtime. It makes it really hard to proselytize. I'm pretty sure nobody here works either. They just lie around in hammocks, finding money in the giant papayas that are falling like giant, dangerous, and delicious bombs. Anyway, walking at night when nobody was awake when all of the sudden a teenage girl jumped out at us and requested help with her English homework from the Guerro (person who does not have black hair, brown eyes, and dark skin). We are teaching her family tonight. We've also started English classes and we have like 8 students, an all time high for me.

Anyway, I've got to go. This weekend I will be getting on a bus for 10 hours to arrive in Oaxaca to hear an Apostle of the Lord speak, go to the temple, eat a good lunch, and then get back on a bus and drive another 10 hours to make it back to Puerto in time to bless the sacrament. I'm excited. Love you all. Bye
Elder Johnson