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