April 28, 2013

Rushed for Time

Okay, I had to fill out a bunch forms for the mission today, so I kind of got held behind in my email writing, but I'll try to fill you all in on what's happening in sunny Huajuapan (gosh I wish it would rain). First of all, President is determined to ruin my birthday. I was planning on putting some very important baptismal dates that day and then having a lovely dinner and cake with a family that I love from the ward, but no, President wants us in Oaxaca so that we can go to a bunch of meetings all day and spend the rest of my now precious money traveling. By the way, about the money thing: I would love to have my debit cards back, but I also realize that it probably won't be worth it since I only have like three and a half months left. But you might not get any souvenirs if I don't get those debit cards and if they keep in Huajuapan for the rest of my mission which could actually happen. So be ye warned. 

I am not really that sorry that it is still snowing. I am trying really hard to be sorry, honest! But it's not working. As I take my cold showers at night trying to scrub off the sweat of yet another incredibly hot day, I think, with hope in my eyes, "Maybe, oh maybe, that snow will last until August." That would be incredible. So I'll swap you any day now. You guys can come and get sunburned every day and I'll go and enjoy the fresh snow. It will be a good trade, I think. BOth sides will leave happier.

Okay, so this was a hard week work wise considering that we had to use one and a half days traveling to Oaxaca and then another half day trying to do divisions and crazy stuff like that. This week looks like it will be similar. The good thing is that we had another Miracle Sunday. 7 whole people (as opposed to half people) went to Church on Sunday, our record for Huajuapan. Probably is, only two of them are progressing. One is a new girl that we met on Saturday and the rest of her family came too, although they are already members. But, as I've been taught, reactivated inactive families is just as important as baptizing new ones, so let's go Huajuapan. I love this ward. It is small, and funny, and really really old,  but they are special people. They are zealous in their love of the gospel and they have distinctive personalities and testimonies. I truly love them. I could totally end my mission here.

Well, I've already got to go. I hope you have a great week and I hope Amber and Taggart  finish the semester well. I'll pray that Tyrel accepts the snow and....what do you know, it's raining now. I love God :)
See you in two years!

ELder Johnson

April 21, 2013

Sunday Miracles

This week was tough; I won't lie. Work was really slow. I don't really know what happened, but we could not find our investigators. It didn't help that we ran out of credit on our phone and so could only call missionaries. A long time ago, President cut the credit he put on the missionaries´phones in order to cut down on the amount of time the missionaries we talking to their girlfriends (the mission has changed alot since then). Recently, however, all missionaries who work hard run out of minutes because we are talking to the members so much. WE organize appointments, verify references, invite people to activities, etc. So we've run out of credit a week early for the past two weeks. And it makes work REALLY hard. But that wasn't the sole cause of the problems. The members here are being super pilas, but we need to do something to save our investigator pool. They were a bunch of other things that slowed us down - I did divisions on Tuesday (although two people we contacted in Tlaxiaco ended up being the only investigators that went to Church for them), my comp got sick saturday and Sunday, etc, etc.

On the bright side, we did see several miracles for our hard work on Sunday. First of all, more people went to Church on Sunday than on whatever other Sunday during my time in Huajuapan: 58. A lot of them were less actives who we have been visiting. Maybe our work with the investigators hasn't been paying off, but we are doing great at helping the members. Also, =========== got confirmed. she also brought her brother, who is really interested in getting baptized as well but who is under 18 and therefore needs permission from his dad to start talking to us. We're working on that. Also, the members are getting a lot better at helping each other out. We are really starting to see some real love and communication between everybody. It makes me happy. 

Then, I have a cool story to tell. So, last monday, my comp and I were walking through the park to go wash our clothes. We heard a whisper, "those are the Mormons" and so we stopped to see who had commented. It was a middle aged man, about forty-ish. We greeted him in our natural friendly manner and asked him how he knew the missionaries. He told us that he had formerly been a member of our Church. We happily informed us that he still was a member of our Church. He assured us that he wasn't. We asked him why he wasn't. He then began to cite the Bible and tell us that Joseph Smith made it up and that the leaders of the Church have a blood pact to keep the lie going...........................Needless to say, I wasn't sure how to respond. I could do what a lot of missionaries here do and whip out my Bible to "prove" him wrong. I could just let it die there and not respond, like my comp clearly wanted to do. But there were people watching us and I didn't want us to think that this man had "beat" us so I felt like I had to say something. So I bore my testimony. I didn't say much, just that I had heard similar doubt before, that I had had similar doubts before, but that God had answered all my questions through the Holy Ghost. And then we left. We forgot about it and we forgot about him.

Well, that man showed up to Church on Sunday. He was very humble. He said he was just trying to follow where the Lord was leading him and said that he had originally left the Church for job issues, not for Biblical questions. He was an active participant in the classes. He was positive. It was amazing to see the power of a testimony. The prophet got it right in the Priesthood Session of conference: teach the truth through testimony. I didn't do anything, yet the Lord blessed me. I love Him.

Well, I love you all too.  Life is a good thing and there is always time to do the most important things. If you feel stressed, simplify things. Do what my friend Reinaldo is doing right now and cut some unnecessary things out of you lives to make more time for service and for God. You will feel happier and sleep better. Say your prayers, but say real prayers, where you talk to God about ALL of your doubts and worries. Read the scriptures. And remember: family, Church, and service are the most important things.  Stay happy, stay positive. I love you all and I'll see you in two years!
Elder Johnson

April 14, 2013

General Conference is a Miracle

Dear Mom,

I love prophets and apostles. Talking with my comp over the weekend, I really have come to think that the mission changes the way that you see and attend general Conference. We come to understand why it's so important that we have prophets because we teach it everyday. and then, every word of that conference stops being just good advice from old men, but rather a message from God prepared specifically for this time period and for these people. It's also amazing experiencing General conference in another country. The Church is a lot different down here. Not the teaching or the organization or the ordinances, which are sacred things that you cannot change, but rather the way the members carry out the church is different. The bishops do not have time to do be like American bishops because they work Monday-Saturday from 7am to 8:30pm in order to support their son who is on a mission. Members do not have cars to go do their home teaching visits. And then there are the cultural barriers which "prevent" the members from truly understanding the importance or significance of several church doctrines. So it's very different. But one of the things that I love about General Conference is that it breaks all cultural barriers. Everybody "gets it." The prophets truly are inspired by God to preach to the world. Their messages are addressed to everyone and everyone can apply the principles learned in General Conference, regardless of their situation.

I mention this because we had a really cool experience yesterday (actually several, but more on that later). We have this family in our ward. It's a single mother of two daughters, one who's about 20 and the other of 10. The twenty year old has her own baby who's already six, lovingly deemed the GĂ»era. They are a great family, active and caring members of the ward. They LOVE the missionaries. In fact, most missionaries practically live in that house. We don't go so much because we don't have that much time, but we try to visit them consistently because we love them and dang it, they need the gospel too. So, on Sunday, we went to visit them and we decided to do a review of General Conference (duh). As the mother began to share with us her favorite conference talk, I believe it was the D. Todd Christofferson talk about redemption, the daughter said "NO, shh, that's the one I wanted to share." They both had been touched by the same talk and at the same time, they realized that it was revelation specific to the problems they are experiencing in the family. We honestly didn't teach anything in this visit. They taught, the spirit taught, and the prophets kept talking. They told us about their challenges . THey have had and have a lot of them. Much more than our family. But both mom and daughter already wanted to set goals to get better and to begin truly forgiving the people that have hurt them. It was a touching example of how the Spirit touches the hearts of people and causes them to be more Christlike.

My other cool Sunday experience was that I got my first Mormon.org reference! So the Church launched this website a LONG time ago with the intention of using it to share the gospel more efficiently. With the time I've been giving to explore, I had come to realize that it is a rather effective online missionary. Problem is, I had never, ever seen nor heard of results of this website. It looked great and contained great resources for investigators, but I had never seen an investigator actually begin to talk to the missionaries because of this site. Yesterday changed all that. AS I was finishing a lesson with a less active member of the ward, I received a phone call from an unknown number. I answered. It was a girl named Haley, speaking English. It didn't sound like very good English, so I assumed that it was what it normally is, somebody who just wants to practice their English with the missionaries. And when that is the case, it means that the pseudo-English speakers will not understand my English because I speak quickly. So I continued speaking in Spanish and she continued in English. After about a minute and a half of not understanding each other, she finally said, "I'm sorry, I really don't understand much Spanish." That's when I finally learned that she had contacted us through mormon.org and was actually interested in listening to the Gospel. Fifteen minutes later, we were in a nearby park, talking with her and she pretty much told me that she loves the Church and that she wants to know more. She's already read up to Alma 32 in the Book of Mormon. She seems super pilas.

So Sunday was a good day, essentially, what with Conference and all. I, personally, loved Elder L. Tom Perry's talk. Oh, I should mention that I had to watch this entire conference in Spanish. In my previous three conferences during the mission, I watched in ENglish, in a special little room filled with English missionaries. This time, I stayed in my ward instead of going to Oaxaca in order to save time and money. So I was consigned to Spanish, but it was still good. I just missed a good part of Elder Holland's emotion. But back to L. Tom Perry. It was a wonderful talk on Obedience and lIberty. I love that he said that liberty is happiness and eternal life. Those are the two things we want more than anything and the only way to get them is through obedience to God's laws. Essentially, L. Tom Perry said that true liberty is the ability to choose whatever consequences we want and not what the world thinks, which is choose whatever actions we want. You couple this talk with the Prophets talk on obedience and it's a powerful one two punch of truth against the youth culture of today.

Also, and this makes me feel old and disconnected from the world, I was alarmed by how many authorities told us to disconnect from our electronic devices. Maybe I was blind to it, maybe it was because I lived without a laptop and an Iphone, but I didn't think the world was so lost in virtual reality 20 months ago. Obviously, it's a major problem now. It's a big enough dilemma that God felt He had to repeat this counsel many times in general conference. And now that I think about it, I just taught a lesson with a less active family and while they weren't reading scriptures or answering question, the two oldest children were glued to their phones. It's a shame that they didn't go to conference. It makes me glad that Dad is such a wise man. I specifically remember an instance when we were coming back from some family outing and all of us kids plugged in our headphones immediately and Dad got a little angry because we didn't want to talk about what we had just done or at the very least listen to music with the rest of the family. I remember that he told me that when I plug in to my ipod, I was denying myself opportunities to reflect, meditate, and grow from the experiences I have. It's very good advice that I didn't understand then, but that I think I understand a little better now.

Anyways, just so you know (this is a long email) =========== got baptized last monday! Yay! And her dad went and her two brothers and now we just have to get her confirmed this Sunday. I will be waiting patiently for my last box of the mission and, well, I hope you are all great. I'll see you in two!

Elder Johnson

April 7, 2013

The Little Mermaid

Dear Mother,

I just realized this week that our house doesn't have any fans. It sucks. Straight up. It's stopping me from sleeping at night it's so hot. And no previous missionaries have bothered to tell the secretaries that we don't have fans. I hope to get this problem fixed as soon as possible. In other news, we had changes yesterday. NOt that you'd notice, here in Huajuapan. I am still with Elder Babb (It's a good thing I love this kid - before this I didn't even know it was possible to be with the same companion for more that two transfers) and I am still in Huajuapan. Elder Teig still has to report to me. The only "changes" I have are that I will now report to an Elder Humphries instead of Elder Rivas and that Elder Teig's companion is now Elder Sanchez instead of Elder Romero. While I love my area and my comp, I'm a little worried. I have a tendency to get bored of routines and I have a tendency to fall into routines. This is not a good combination, especially since this is the first time since the beginning of my mission that I've had to stay in the same area for three transfers and the first time ever that I've been with the same companion for three transfers. I'm going to need a lot of help staying focused and motivated.

Anyways, ================== has not gotten baptized, but that should happen today or tomorrow. I'm not that worried about her. SHe's cool and excited about it. SHe'll get baptized, it just might take a little longer than we wanted. But that's what patience is for! :) We tried to do an activity on Saturday. It went......okay. The good part was that ALL of our youth showed up, including an investigator. The bad part was that our teacher who had volunteered to teach us capoeira (brasilian dance/matial art mix) didn't show up. OOps. So we played charades instead. Of course, the super strict bishops wife showed up to teach seminary right as I was trying to convince everyday to guess "The Little Mermaid" without words. I will let your imaginations do the work.

I am very much looking forward to general conference on Saturday. It will be a great way for me to start the change right. It will allow me to set goals and to teach investigators. It will be, as it always is, a spiritual feast. I can't believe I used to sleep through it. I love General conference with all my heart might mind and strength. I especially look forward to reinforcing my testimony of the Prophet. Honestly, every time we listen to President Monson talk, we should get on our knees afterwords and ask God if he really is the prophet. I promise it will be a good boost to your testimony. WE all need to be reminded every once and a while.

Well, I signed up for classes on Friday. I'll send you my schedule in a later email. Essentially, I took dad's advice and will not study all of my remaining required generals in this semester. I took Aubrey's advice and took a reading series class which is just go and listen to famous authors read their works every Friday for an hour. It's a one credit class. I took Taggart's advice and took Spanish 321. All in all, it seems like a pretty good schedule to me: not to hard to start off with, but filled with chances to progress. I should also have time to find a job. I just hope I can find a job that I like.
Well, I've got to go. I love you all and I look forward to seeing you sometime in the distant future. See you in 2!

Elder Johnson

April 3, 2013

Perfectly Timed Conference

Let me tell you, sometimes, they just perfectly plan some things in the mission. I was falling into habits and routines again (not bad ones, but habits and routines nonetheless). Habits are kind of bad here. If you aren't trying constantly to improve, than you are not being the missionary you should be. Right as that starting happening to me, they went and did a special multi-zone conference with a seventy. Now I'm a happy, healthy, oriented, missionary full of good goals. I love the mission. It keeps me moving. And it makes me a little scared to go home when I won't have so many people trying to make me better. I'm going to be in charge of me in a few short (years) and I'm not sure I'm ready for it yet. I've got to make good use of these last couple of (years). 

So we got to listen to Sister and Elder Martinez. They both gave really good talks about having a good attitude and about asking for references. Essentially, as a mission, we seem to have accepted the lie that if we couldn't knock doors, we can't find new investigators. WE need to do better than that and start to ask for more references, but with the right attitude too. We have to remind people of the  joy of the gospel and the power of the Spirit in conversion. It's a good message and I look forward to putting it in practice every day this week in every lesson. That's the goal, at least.

We also got a little advanced news on the changes that we will have next week. President announced in the conference that we will be opening all the areas that he has closed recently, including Huajuapan 2. That means that Elder Babb and I will probably stay here one more change, but not as companions and that they'll send us two new missionaries. It should be fun. I'm excited for it.

I'm very solid on my August 7th return date. Count on it. What I don't know is what time I will be home on the seventh. I could get home in the afternoon. I could get home at like 11:30 at night on the seventh. Who knows. I don't really want to know anyways. I'm glad you are feeling better though Mom. And I knew you weren't trunky for me since the moment I heard about a wedding. It's kind of a big deal. We haven't had a wedding in the immediate family ever. We have had a return missionary. 2+2=4 mom :)

The transition for Tyrel is scaring me mom. I don't know how this is going to go. I just imagine him doing something super boring like building pickle boxes and that idea doesn't please me. I want to know what happens to him, but I only want to know the good things. 

========== did NOT get baptized because she had finals in Tehuacan until today. WE should be baptizing her on like thursday or friday this week. Finally. she might even get baptized on the same day that Alex gets baptized.
Well, I've got to go. I'll tell you how my classes go next week. And changes. Love you!
Elder Johnson