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