Friday, October 26, 2012

26 October 2012 Habaneros!

Dear Mom and Eric,

Due to hugely limiting time constraints, you both get one letter which will be short.  Sorry!  Bad time management today.

How was it with Grandma and Grandpa over?

I had a habanero two hours ago.  Never do it.  Never.  That was probably one of the worst decisions of my life.  Words cannot express the pain.  We each took a bite or rather the whole thing, and chewed.  Nothing happened for a solid 10 seconds.

And then, death.

I couldn't breathe, my eyes were watering like never before.  My tongue swelled up twice the size.  My nose hurt.  I chugged chocolate milk and panicked when that was gone.  I ate a banana and decided to quit since my stomach was hurting.  Running to the water fountain, I gulped for waht seemed like minutes, all the while struggling to see, and stopping only to breathe.  Each breath sent shivers down my spine as it fueled the fire already engulfing my throat and slowly moving down to my stomach.  I started to feel my stomach churning and sprinted to the bathroom drinking out of the disgustingly dirty faucets.  I didn't care.  It was water or a slow, painful fiery death.  And then it hit.  I threw up all over the sink, and I thought the seeds going down were painful.  Coming back up, already exposed, dwarfed that.  And then it got to my nose.  I was ready to submit myself into the welcoming hands of death.  But, I was not done throwing up.  Twice more would that infernal sensation come over.

Two hours later I cannot eat, my tastebuds hurt, and my stomach is unforgiving.

Wow that came out (the story, ha ha) pretty well.  You have my permission to add it to the blog.  I won't remember all the agony next week.

Lesson learned:  Don't eat habaneros.  It is not worth it.

I have a video but can't send back due to size limitations

I'm all out of time.  Lesson in 30 minutes and need to shower.

Thank you Mom and Eric for writing.  Tell Will he missed a week.


Elder Johnson

Monday, October 22, 2012

22 October 2012

Dear Family and Friends,
It's starting to cool down! It's only 70 degrees out right now - heavenly. 
Yuma is basically an active war zone. (They were landing helicopters in a field for some reason - blackhawks - and had tight tight tight security. For some reason they chose the field right outside and adjacent the "gentlemens club.") 
The Yuma stake was split for the first time ever two nights ago. There was a big meeting and for some reason they gave out maps of the new boundaries beforehand. Lots of people left early. There were many upset people but for the most part it was pretty good. We will be losing three investigators due to boundary changes in wards. We now will cover every ward in the 18th street building instead of 2 there and 1 i the 16th street building. 
I've been asked for more details on who we are teaching and their progress. I'm not supposed to give names for legal and safety reasons so I'll just say this: we are teaching four people right now and all four of them are on date to be baptized. One is being baptized this Thursday. He is an awesome guy who has read the entire Book of Mormon in 4 weeks. He will teach us some things, not necessarily new things, but he understands everything. He is pretty nervous about being baptized. This is the guy who laughs when I butcher words in Spanish which is most of the time. 
The other one is one we "OYM'd" into (spoke to random people on the street, Open Your Mouth). Usually these are less productive ways to find people. But he was excited and invited us over. His biggest struggle is doubting himself and quitting drinking. He had no problem with coffee and tea. He gets answers to his prayers evidenced to how excited he is after he prays and how he gets "goose bumps everywhere!" After this last prayer, he said, "guys, I'm so happy I want to tell you a joke! I almost prayed that God would help my Yankees but they got eliminated yesterday haha!"  He is a very genuine person. He was at church yesterday and the people started talking super deep doctrine. Gahhhhh. Last chapters of Gospel Principles aren't good for new investigators. 
The other is an English person we are teaching. She struggles with her addiction to smoking but has two very good friends in the Church who help her and motivate her. She has gone through more than anyone I've ever met. But she is excited and ready for the first week of November.
Last is one who can be baptized into the Young Single Adult branch/congregation. He is somewhat interested but we are hoping that picks up a bit.
Another is in a part member family. We teach him at his father/mother-in-laws house. When we teach, EVERYONE comes over. Everyone equals about 15 people. Those are the biggest lessons I think I'll teach for a awhile. It has been fun teaching them (we lose him due to the boundary changes) because the whole family joins in in the reading assignments. They all text each other to make sure they're doing it. Good family. 
I've also been asked how I am marking my scriptures. Hopefully the attached pictures make sense. Mom, this would be a good place to insert those pictures, in this area so my "captions" will explain. 

 The topics you see (five sections) are the five lessons in Preach my Gospel. Each other thing is a subsection. I drew lines down the top and bottom of my scriptures in which place I put little stickers, folded over the top. This allows me to find scriptures really quickly. Lets say I'm looking for a scripture about the Book of Mormon. I'll open to that first page of my quad, see my legend, follow the line of "Book of Mormon" topic and end up in whatever scripture I want that prophesies about it. Hopefully that makes sense...kind of hard to explain.
I'll send some district pictures in a minute. It has everyone but Elder Proskine who went home that morning. He was so trunky haha. The pictures are pretty bad since we put everyone's camera on a chair with a timer and ran to get in front... maybe you can crop them a bit.
I think night time crop dusting is my favorite thing to watch. Crop dusting pilots during the day are already awesome but seeing them fly around at night is insane. They get very low in fields surrounded by telephone wires. I can't stop looking at them.
For some reason all the Mexican families did a vegan week this week. Usually we got a lot of meat for dinners but this week was all vegetables. A couple of the families' fathers were complaining about the lack of meat. From what I understand, the healthclasses were offering extra credit for people to try a vegan diet for a week. 
We didn't do habaneros last week. The Sisters got "sick" from that heavenly spaghetti dinner. We're doing it today with the whole zone. It's a BYOH - bring your own habanero. Next week we're doing the Buffalo hot wings challenge. I'm going to regret all of this. 
Is has also been kind of entertaining to watch the tension between Spanish missionaries and English missionaries. The two "groups" tend to not get along. Not entirely sure why other than pride but it's a good laugh. Our zone leaders are actually a "zebra companionship" which means one of them is English and one is called Spanish. Finding people is very different between English and Spanish missionaries. English missionaries tend to get a lot of help from members so they don't spend much time tracting. Generally, Spanish missionaries get lots of food from members but that's about it . The two are trying to figure out a way to find common ground. We'll see how things go.
We run into a problem down here that I wouldn't really expect to find anywhere else. Everyone. Everyone. Everyone goes to Mexico for the weekend. As such, we'll teach a really good investigator and then he'll just disappear to Mexico for three days. You would think they would just live there... We have one investigator who goes to Church down there and lives here that we have been teaching. Apparently the missionaries in San Luis Mexico have been trying to baptize him and steal him from us. We called President Howes to ask what we should do. He said that since he lives here, his Branch President has the keys for the area (geographical) and that he should be baptized here and try to make it to Church here at least once a month and the other 3x in Mexico. He said that the San Luis Mexico missionaries were practicing, "bad form." It was pretty hilarious. There is a lot of rivalry between the Mexican missionaries and us here in Yuma over who gets to baptize who. There shouldn't be but there is. "Poaching" (teaching people outside our boundaries) is just hilarious as whole. Apparently the Mesa and Phoenix missionaries have been found driving 1 mile into our mission. You are never supposed to leave mission boundaries.
Our Spanish branch does a missionary activity once a month where less active members and investigators come to learn. They asked us (Sisters and us) to put on a skit this week for them lasting about 20 mins. We spent probably 3-4 hours planning it before we realized how much time we were doing. So we scrapped the skit and thought we would save a lot of time by doing a sort of choose-your-own-adventure thing to demonstrate how little decisions make big impacts at the end of the day. Naturally, we decided to scrap the skit the day before we were supposed to do it. We ran  out of time to work on it with the Sisters so Sawyer and I said we would put it together ourselves. We didn't think it would take a lot of time. Little did we know.... At 8:30 that night we decided to go out to a gas station and pick up something to help us stay awake. 5 hours later at 2 we were done. The next day was horrriiibbbbllleeeee. The activity went pretty well though. A staggering four people showed up other than us - all active members. Yeah, we're not doing that again.
We went on base this week to pick up someone. It's called "MCAS" standing for, if I remember, Marine Corp Air Station. They have a lot of Ospreys, T-38s, Harriers, Blackhawks, Cobras etc. I got a pretty poor picture of a harrier landing as we were driving up. I was telling Sawyer that I would be perfectly ok if we just spent all day taking pictures. But alas, that's not why we're here...
I've got a sick watch tan. Puts everyone else's to shame.
I heard Mark got glasses? Haha, I can't wait to see pictures of that.
We had a really cool experience at a lesson this week. One of our investigators has been struggling to make that commitment towards baptism so we planned what we thought would be a great lesson to address all his concerns. As we sat down with him and gave the opening prayer, I felt as if we should teach on temples and eternal families instead. We did. At the end of the lesson, he had accepted a baptismal date and was excited. It is always great to have experiences like these where the spirit directs the lesson in a totally different way than you planned or even wanted. That lesson was also greatly helped by a letter I received earlier that day. I won't say who it was from except in the response to it later today, but sharing your story honestly was exactly what he needed to hear too. After the story (I didn't read it, just paraphrased), he said, "I can totally relate to that. It sounds like me." I hope it was ok that I did that but I think it wasn't just luck that your letter got here literally 10 minutes before we went to the lesson. Thank you.
We had some really interesting food this week. Not weird, just interesting. The one that comes to mind now was potatoes wrapped in a tortilla, deep fried, drowned in Mexican dry cheese (worst cheese on earth) and who-knows-what-else. I've found that the trick to tricky food is to put lots of hot sauce on it. And since Mexicans put hot sauce on everything, finding it on the table isn't a challenge.
So I have these gummy vitamin things that I take in the mornings. I took two, one day this week and then Elder Sawyer did something to make me laugh. I did it too and felt my nose start to burn. Finding gummy bear vitamins in your nose isn't a pleasant feeling. He was dying of laughter, I was dying of pain. 
I found my favorite line in all of scripture. We were reading out of the Spanish Book of Mormon in Alma chapter 5 and we found this golden gem. In verse 26, it says, "Habeis sentido el deseo de cantar la cancion del amor." That basically means, 'have you felt the desire to sing the song of love?' I can't remember the context but we both just lost it. We told some of the young men to use it since it will for sure get them a second date.
I don't know if I've mentioned it or not, but polyester ties are HUGE in the tempe mission. They call them "proselyting polies" and use silks only for important meetings. Psh. Those ties went out of style for a reason. I'm one of two in Yuma that wears silks. Elders down here use polies since they can be washed. I just don't get my ties dirty... There are some absolutely hideous ties. Brands like platypus and lumberjack are big.
I had a realization this week. Well, one of a few. But we were walking around talking to people and I started to think of excuses not to talk to some sketchy people. A thought, or rather lyric of a hymn, popped into my head. "Who am I to judge another." I can't remember the rest of that line but it applies haha. It's something like don't judge others when I too am imperfect. 
We had a woman come up to us this week and say, "will you baptize my daughter?" That's any missionaries dream moment right there. We have been teaching her and getting her ready for baptism. The mother  likes to yell at her daughter during the lessons when she isn't paying 100% attention. Her daughters are 9 and 11. Super distracting. Anyway, it's an uphill battle every time the mother is there. We were going to push a baptismal date for the 2nd week of November but then due to the ward changes, we lost them to another set of elders. We are the only missionaries who lost investigators to the boundary changes...
We also had a woman say, "I'm dying soon so come by some time. I need to go sell some 'stuff' now though so probably next week." That was an interesting one. She was ~60 year old woman who you could tell was doing some strong drugs.
Our district is going to invest in some cheap hockey sticks this week to play during P-Days at the church. Hopefully I can find some space the budget to make it happen. Sawyer plays hockey as well.
Chil de Arbols are death. Death. Never again. I really do think the members here give us hot foods just because they enjoy watching me suffer haha. That's ok though, member trust, right? 
I've also started to pray differently for our investigators. Instead of asking for them to get an answer, we are now asking for them to be able to recognize the answer they get. Two very different things. Anyone can feel good but it is harder to recognize that as an answer to a prayer assuming that feeling comes in relation to a prayer. As soon as we started doing that, our investigators started progressing much quicker. It is intriguing to teach and then apply the principle to ask for specific things during prayers. It really does make a difference.
Alex, there is an Israeli here! I told her about you.
I've started to dream in spanish. You'd think that'sm a good thing, right? Well it's worrisome because I can't even understand what I am saying in my own dreams let alone those around me haha.
The Police department has started posting cop cars in our apartment complex 24/7 for the last couple of days. Something's going down!
How do helicopters fly upside down?
Thank you so much for the letters this week John, Mom, Eric, Annie, Doug, Katie and Sister Hines. They mean a lot! John, I'm writing you back at your work address (return address) so I hope that works.
Con amor,
Elder Johnson

Monday, October 15, 2012

15 October 2012

This was the first picture Paul sent home today.

Good thing his mom has his passport at home. . .

Paul's pretty curious about this border. . .

Here he is:  Elder Paul Johnson

Ever an airplane in the group of photos.  He really should become a pilot, not a politician some day.

He was pretty excited to hit the 100 mile mark on his new bike.  I suppose that is 100 miles since about September 4.
Dear Family and Friends,
Transfer two has begun!
And I am...
Staying in Yuma! So relieved. I love Yuma. Elder Heathcote is leaving but everyone else is staying. In fact, they're adding two new members down in Somerton, the second closest town area to the border. But I'm staying in the "city" so I'm happy. That means my address is staying the same so feel free to send lots of letters!
I was flipping through the letters you have all sent me (thanks!) and I found one I didn't notice. At least a part of one I didn't notice. Mom, you mentioned a picture you got of Grandma and me hugging? Could you send that to me? Gracias.
I went down to San Luis this week on exchanges. That is the city on on on on on on the border. I asked Elder Allen what all the lights were outside the back window (They have a house down there for the missionaries. Place is a dump) and he said, "Oh, those are the border lights!" Two blocks away was the border. We went by the next morning and I got some pictures. Now I can plot my way to sneak across! They say that no one sneaks back into Mexico. The town is an interesting one with the majority of signs being in Spanish. Elder Sawyer was "born" there (started his mission) and loves the place. It has lots of fields and it is humbling to see the men out there working all day, literally 16 hours, in these fields. They take them out in buses with trailers of porta-johns. These guys do real work. I'm impressed by how hard they work to put food on their tables. I can't believe that anyone would think of them (mostly illegals) as bad people. They're so humble and rush to give us water even when they can't afford enough food for their families. They won't take no for an answer. I think we can all learn something from them.
 I've mentioned in previous letters about how crazy things happen when we recount the story of the first vision and recite it word for word. When I was in San Luis, a really nice Mexican family, very obviously drunk, invited us in. As we recounted the vision, the spirit was strong. I realized nothing was happening as we were nearing the end of the quote. Right before we said the last two lines, the door flew open and four loud kids ran in. The spirit was gone and the opportunity was lost. he works hard against us. Just interesting how it happens over and over and over.
The stars in San Luis are also very bright. I was in awe and tried to remember all the constellations that I had memorized only last year for my Astronomy class. Couldn't do it. What is the constellation that looks like a W in the sky? The name starts with a C...
Nothing big happened this week crime wise except for police storming a car dealership with guns drawn three blocks from home. I wanted to go take pictures but Sawyer, probably wisely, said we should get to our lesson. But don't worry, we're safe.
We have met one of the most interesting religions down here. They are called the Ba'hai. They have a book out called "Vibrational Medicine" if someone wants to send me one :) We can read that stuff on P Day.
Lots of Jehovah's Witnesses. Jay-dubs. We went to one house to teach a lesson as JWs were walking out. It was hilarious, they gave us an awful look. Apparently they lose many investigators to us. I want to sit with one and talk about what they believe. Everytime we find a JW maganize on the road I pick it up and read it. Interesting, to say the least. But to each their own!
Can someone send me in-depth stories of family history from both sides of the family?
I saw a plane flying over us doing an aerial refueling the other day. I tried to snap a picture but it focused on the tree nearby.... They have been doing flight orientation this week so many many many T38s, F16, F18, KC130ish planes, helicopters I won't try to name but Chinook and Cobra and Blackhawk are there, and even radar planes. I always stop to look haha.
Highlite of this week was SPAGHETTI DINNERRRRRRRRRR. Everyday as we walk through the door to dinner I tell Sawyer, "Man, I'm feeling good about dinner tonight! Spaghetti time!" I'm always brutally wrong. I expected it when we ate with the white people and never got it. We ate with a Mexican family and they gave us a ton of spaghetti. Since we eat with the Sisters every night too (since we share the branch) they know that I'm always looking for spaghetti. As such, we all got a laugh out of it. They gave us a monster plate full of it since Mexicans eat so much. I downed it. When she asked if I want more and since you don't say no to Mexicans regarding food, I said I'd take a little bit. She came back with another plate full. I was full for the next 26 hours.
Which was convenient since the next day the whole Spanish branch leadership and missionaries did a long fast for our investigators.
I just realized I forgot to make a list of who wrote me this week. Let's see if I can remember. Thanks Mom, Eric, Will, Grandpa and Grandma Johnson, Natalia, Katie, Sister Hines, and I know I'm forgetting at least one person...sorry! I'll write you all back today, I think. Hopefully I'll have time. If not, you'll get a shorter letter.
Remember when I wrote about eating the Chil Pequin a few weeks ago? Today we're taking it to the next level with an Habanero. The Sisters and Elder Sawyer always laugh when the most subtle spices kill me so I figured I'd challenge them all. To the death. I'll write how it goes next week if I'm alive.
I was looking through the hymn book this week and noticed a hymn by Ralph Vaugn Williams. He has music in the movie Master and Commander! Who knew.
I've been working on Mexican slang this past week. I started out of curiosity but I've noticed that as you speak their spanish to them they open up a lot faster. One instance was down in San Luis at a family's house where the father served in McAllen, TX mission 10 years ago. They told me to pour the tang but I said that if I did I would spill everywhere. It was full to the brim and had no lip. They insisted, so I did. I spilled everywhere. EVERYWHERE. Super embarrassing. So I said, "que oso..." which literally translated to "what bear" but in essence means "how awkward." The dinner that had been a little slow beforehand livened up and it was way more exciting. So now I love slang and use it when appropriate. Think anyone can send me a Mexican slang book de buena gana?
We had an interesting experience last week at the Foothills open house. I don't remember if I wrote about it but what happened more-or-less was that at the open house, Elder Heathcote and I saw and open room and went into it. It was the bishops office. The building is brand new and the room was empty. Heathcote conducted a mock interview. The bishop walked in. Paused. Looked at us and said, "OUT!" loudly. We shuffled out. Fast-forward like a week and the zone leaders pull us aside and tell us how it is unfair for us to ruin their member trust and they expect us to apologize. Neither of us were very sorry since it was an open house, the door was open, and there was no one there. But we did as asked, or rather demanded, and apologized. The bishop freaked out. He went on to us about how immature we were, how he would never dream about stepping into someone else's office, "let alone a bishop's," how he hopes we have learned a valuable lesson, and that he hopes we grow up someday. Not a very cool guy. I told him we were sorry we offended him, that we took four hours out of our day to serve in a community 30 mins from our zone and that would not benefit our areas in the least and we were burning some steam as we waited for people to come. Not the coolest of guys and definitely not the kind of bishop with a sense of humor. Maybe he's right, maybe he's not. Either way we won't see him again.
At the YSA [Young Single Adult--ages 18-31 approx.] branch yesterday we were going around and getting to know the people a bit better. There are a few Marines. One came up to us and asked if we liked killing things. Obviously we said no. He said, word for word, "Killing bodies is fun, especially for your country. You should try it sometime." Even if he was kidding it would not have been funny. But he said it totally seriously. I was thinking about it last night and it just disgusted me. Killing is never good. Never. There's one person I would trust to decide who deserves to live or die and He doesnt' live on this earth. Bloodthirst has never done good for anyone. If we spent half of the money we do on learning new ways to kill people on how to teach people, this world would be such a better place... Just disgusting. I don't want someone who wants to kill people defending this country. That should be something you do solemnly and when forced to do so. Let's try to save lives, not end lives. Diplomacy!
I wrote out a minute ago a huge thing a ward member said about politics but I'll leave it out. I'll just leave it that out. But I will say that compromise always yields the better result and when emotions get involved [in politics], logic goes out the window. No one deserves to be called an idiot. Don't attack the person, challenge the ideas.
Can someone break down the word Proselyte and give an etymylogical definition? I think that's a word. I read in the Bible Dictionary that a proselyte was, if I remember, someone who left Judaism for Christianity. 
What is a welfare sister?
Can someone tell me about the relationship between tanic acid and tea? Missionaries teach it all the time.
Classic moment during the YSA elders quorum lesson yesterday. The guy gets up to teach and says, "well, I realized thirty minutes ago I was teaching..." He taught for a bit, or rather read, and then said, "man I wish I'd highlighted some things." Hilarious. The YSA branch has some really racist people in it too.
Not a ton this week, mostly just pictures and anticipation surrounding transfers. If anyone has any questions, let me know. Thank you all for writing me and your prayers
Con amor,

Monday, October 8, 2012

8 October 2012

Dear Family and Friends,

Since this is the last week of transfers, I will know next Monday if I am staying or not, but informing all of you via this letter will mean some letters will go to my old address, assuming I'm leaving.

I hope I stay. But it is starting to seem like our Zone Leaders will get white washed out. Their work has stalled, one is going home, and they are English missionaries in a predominately Spanish area. As I learned this week, 54% of Yuma is Latino but 75% speak Spanish. So we will see. And if that happens, it is very likely that Elder Sawyer, my companion, will be a new Zone Leader. That means I will likely either leave Yuma, or be white washed again into the new area they are rumored to be opening in Yuma down in Somerton, close to the border. I hope I stay with him, he's a beast.

Quick request: we have a Christian Belief Comparison Chart in our house but it is very outdated. Can anyone find a new one and send it to me? Ours has ~10 major religions and their beliefs on things like the God head, pre-earth life, post mortal etc etc. I'd love to be able to study an updated one.

I ate a Chil Pequin this week. I'm not sure how you spell it, either that or Chil de Pin. Either way, it was a big mistake. My mouth has never hurt so bad. We were eating at the Branch President's house and he took a video of it. Elder Sawyer and the Hermanas all ate one with me. Sawyer was stoic and emotionless as he destroyed it. Hermana Drake said it was hot. Hermana Thompson said it hurt and drank 2 glasses of water. My nose started running, I couldn't breath, I drank 6 cups of agua and basically died. Next step: Habanero. Presidente Dominguez and his family were dying with laughter. I will try to get the video and send it home today. I need to see it first and say if I approve it or not haha. Miserable, it was!

We have three investigators on date now! For one of our lessons, we were planning on teaching the Plan of Salvation (why we are here, where from, where going) but we found that somehow our investigator already knew it. He had never spoken to missionaries before. He has read to Alma 60 in three weeks. What a beast. He taught it to us. El agua esta listo.

Grandpa Johnson, I remember you talking a lot about hummingbirds. How does one make a homemade feeder? We have a few in our backyard area and it would be cool to hang one from our balcony.

How have the Presidential polls been going? I have heard a lot from members. More on that in a bit. Either way, I have officially voted as of yesterday via absentee ballot. Got my "I voted" sticker and everything! I've been pushing missionaries to register and to vote for whomever they wish.

This week I realized how flawed my trick to understand Spanish was. What I try to do when someone is speaking at a rapid-fire pace is to look at their eyes and read their emotions. As a result, I can laugh when they laugh and be sorry when they are. This week I tried that. And it failed. One woman was telling me about something I couldnt understand and I saw her eyes curl a bit so I laughed, assuming she was telling a joke. Little did I know she was talking about a family member being sent to the hospital. Yeah, probably won't do that one again.

We were teaching one of our investigators this week who has been through a lot. Crazy lot. Her good member friends were there too and one piped in, "You have been through a lot of changes recently. And you're sick of them! But don't forget to leave room for the good changes!" It was insightful and reassuring to her as she struggled with overcoming an addiction to smoking. She is on date to be baptized, lets hope that she can resist the urge to smoke. She gave us all her cigarettes and lighters. Once in the car, I jokingly held one in my hand and got a very curious look from a different member. In retrospect, that was probably a bad idea but it was a good laugh. We crushed them and threw them away.

I passed my one-month-in-the-field-versary the other day on the 5th. That marks 3 months in the mission. Elder Heathcote likes to say, "you're never going home!" I am very happy here but sometimes that seems like truth. I'm taking two years out of my life and everyone else is flying on with theirs. I'm missing great vacations, the return of Mark, Roland, Ian, and other good friends, and it feels like getting left behind sometimes. But that's ok because I'm happy, it's just a weird feeling.

I don't know if I have mentioned it before, but we are situated right near the Yuma Proving Grounds area and the Marine Air base down here. We see a lot of cool planes flying around. I'll throw some pictures in in a bit.

I have mentioned before that it rains when I come and leave places. The last two days have been cloudy, I hope it doesn't rain, because that will foreshadow my departure from Yuma. I'm staying whether President likes it or not!

A brand new chapel opened up recently in Foothills. Last week we gave tours through it. As you will remember a couple weeks ago, when on exchanges in Foothills, we ate dinner with a crazy lady who is not LDS. Well, she was there that night. But this time, instead of talking about the crazy things she has done to her disobedient daughter, she spoke about politics. Twenty minutes she went on about it. Twenty. Pure torture. She spoke about the debate and how, well, to spare details, Romney destroyed Obama etc etc. Ward members started gathering nearby. I didn't say anything. She told of one instance where Al Gore was defending Obama's poor performance by saying that, 'the elevation affected his mind.' One of the ward members chipped in, "It's probably all that global warming getting to his head!" All the ward members laughed, I cried. Not really, but inside I did. After that I decided it was time for no more so I spoke on how the church is politically neutral and how impressive that is etc. It ended the conversation.

You know, I have no tolerance for ignorance. There is no excuse when we live in a time when we can pull out our cell phones and learn the equations that support the existence of a black hole or learn how to estimate the mass of a star millions of light-years away. I can understand if you're from terribly impoverished conditions, but there is so much information out there to be had. Use it! I also understand and respect opinions, as I have many, but that is exactly that: an opinion. Respect those who differ, challenge those who disagree. We as a people (humanity) are terribly close minded. We don't like to be wrong. We don't like to admit fault or yield. But it is that very attitude that makes us imperfect and flawed.


When I was watching conference yesterday and Saturday, I thought that you all would be watching it at the same time as I and see the same things. Then I remembered that it was probably ten minutes behind from having to pause so much for...various things haha [This made me (Rene) laugh and laugh. . . so true.  We were about 10 minutes behind the actual broadcast because of. . . various things. . . pausing for boys to get settled.]

Mark, do you remember an old TV/Movie we used to watch way back when with two frogs as the main characters? One blue, one green/brown? Or maybe the other way around? Either way, I can't remember what it was called. I think they wore top hats? 

Faith dining is hard in Yuma. Apparently in the valley you can go to a restaurant and since there are so many members, they often volunteer to buy your food. Super nice. I've never tried it nor plan on it, but one Elder was telling me that he went to Olive Garden, ordered his food, and when he remembered that there were not as many members here in Yuma, he realized he had to buy his own meal. The idea is hilarious but it's a tad...I don't know, just weird.

Last night I celebrated my first P-Day Eve. We went over to a members house that wasn't in our ward with 6 of the missionaries in Yuma and had "Twice cream." Actually, we never had twice cream, but we did have ice cream! Bluebell, too! They had a walk in fridge. Yeah, that's right, a walk in fridge. And probably 6 cartons of Bluebell ice cream. It was a good time. What twice cream is, is, if I remember, bluebell with extra milk frozen into it? Apparently it's heavenly. We ate too much last night to have space for it. Next week, though!

I took General Conference notes on a post-it card. Here they are, unorganized:

  • 18 and 19 year old missionaries now, sweet! I'm the last of this generation of 19 yr old Elders
  • Tuscon and Arequipa temples! How ironic that those are where/near Mark and I serve(d)
  • "Ask the missionaries!"
  • "Life isn't meant to be just appreciated in retrospect."
  • "There is something in every day to appreciate."
  • "Perhaps we should be looking more with our hearts than our eyes."
  • Many of the deepest sorrows of tomorrow can be avoided by Faith in Christ
  • Do better. Be better. Become better.
  • "I pray that we do not wait until we are about to die to learn to live."
  • Allowance! Prophet endorsed!
  • Service is the definition of pure religion
  • A man never stands taller than when on his knees
  • Blue Angels flight for Uchtdorf?! Ahhhh
  • "We must be able to see men, not as they are, but as what they can become."
  • God is never hidden, but sometimes, we are.
  • As we serve, we become like Him
  • "Feed my sheep" = why are you back here where you used to be?!
  • The crowning characteristic of love is always loyalty
  • Take an inventory of your blessings!
  • The more we act upon spiritual impressions, the more we get
  • The lord is in the details of our lives
  • A testimony is a personal knowledge of truck received through revelation.

Conference was pretty good.

Who invented freeze dried food? 
What causes contrails?
Why do mountains in Arizona pop out of nowhere? Plains then suddenly a huge chimney.

Than you Doug, Cassie, Tori, Natalia, Mom, Eric, Will (I got two weeks of letters from you, one from Sep 8), Sister Hines, and Katie. I hope hope hope I'll have time to write everyone today but we are going out and giving blessings at the hospital this morning then a goodbye for Elder Proskine. His last P Day today.

Love you all so much, thanks for the continued support!
What causes ink to flow out of pens? A vacuum?
How do you make rice on a stove?!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

1 October 2012

Dear Family and Friends,

This was an excellent week.
One of the Sisters' investigators was baptized on Saturday. He asked me to baptize him which was my first opportunity to do so. Took two tries since his finger was out a bit the first time. Since we baptize by immersion, the body must be just that: immersed. After the second time, as I picked him up out of the water, he looked around for a second and then broke down. Later on he told me of an amazing thing that happened. We will leave it at that. He also told me that the second time, he could not feel me and I sounded like someone else. It was an amazing experience that the miracles happened when the baptism was done correctly, when even the finger of his knuckle was where it was supposed to be. Really goes to show that when we put forth the effort and do our best to follow those guidelines and commandments we get blessings. It was a very neat experience.
He was slated to get confirmed and given the Aaronic priesthood the next day in Church. Keep in mind this is our spanish branch. Sacrament meeting starts and he is nowhere to be found. After two hours they found him - his ride had never shown up! He was rushed to the Church and set apart. When he was asked who he wanted to give him the Aaronic Priesthood, he looked around for a minute. Kept looking. Then looked at me and pointed. I got up there and said I had no idea how to do it in Spanish and he said to do it in English since he can understand it as well. Whew! Heart was beating for sure.
Church yesterday was a long one. We went to all three of our wards/branches and totaled out at 7 hours of Church. We had two investigators at our English ward and one at our Spanish. The one at the Spanish branch loved it. Didn't want to leave at all. El agua esta listo para el! [The baptismal water is ready for him!] Afterwards, he said that his #1 priority was to get his family there the following week. The day before as we gave him the Church tour and showed him the picture of Christ, he said, 'Well, maybe you will be able to baptize me, Elder Johnson.' A miracle seeing how reluctant he was jsut days before. He has made great progress.
Our English investigator is also working towards a baptismal date of October 13th. She will be ready for sure and will be our first baptism that we worked for ourselvs. We are aiming for 4 this month and right now it looks attainable. We are helping one man and his less-active wife quit smoking.
I had the opportunity to give two blessings this week. Actually, three, but two of healing. The first one was for a woman I had never met before who had a serious migrane and could not open her eyes. After I said amen, she looked up at me and said, "Wow, I've never had a headache just go away like that before." A miracle. Later that week, actually, yesterday, we gave one to one of the Sisters' investigators. She had some nerve problem in her arm and could not move it. Again, after I said amen, she could start to move it again. Again, miraculous. I have a real testimony of priesthood blessings now.
One of my favorite things is to see investigators pray for the first time. Recently we had one offer one of the most sincere and heart felt prayers. It was not eloquent. It was not smooth. But it was from the heart. One thing he said was, "Thank you for teaching me to be me." For some reason that stuck with me as being one of the most humble things I have ever heard. These people come from nothing to have so much through their faith.
I have noticed as we teach more and more that I learn more and more from the people. Instead of saying, "thanks for letting us teach you," I have begun saying, "Thank you for helping us learn from each other." People make inspired comments without even knowing it.
Unfortunately, the young woman who I wrote about last week having the amazing experience in the lesson decided she was no longer interested the other day. She is going through a hard time and is locking herself in and turning inward. I don't feel like we could have done anything better. Agency, man.
On a different note, the people of Yuma are more and more racist the more I meet them! We were eating with an elderly couple in one of the other wards (we were on exchanges that day) and the husband was talking about all the new diversity in their ward. He said, "and I don't know why, but all these new negro families are moving in!" Quick to correct her husband's statement, she said, "No, honey, they're colored people!" Needless to say, we sat there and tried to not laugh. Earlier on in that same meal as she was dishing what she called 'goop' onto my plate, I said, "oh, that's a great amount." She looked at me and sound, "No, Elder, you need more! You are quite conservative with your food!" Elder Heathcote, whom I was on exchanges with, said, "actually, he is quite liberal!" I lost it. The elderly woman didn't get it at all.
There has been a solid amount of drug activity this week. On Tuesday evening about 15 cop cars pulled up to the apartments down the street and ran in guns blazing. Fun! Later on, about three Border Patrol SUVs peeled out of a parking lot, sirens blazing, and floored it down the road. Best yet was the hostage situation! We got a call from the English elders telling us to book it to 15th street. We get there and there are about 40 cop cars, SWAT team, search helicopters, and news crews. The Elders told us they were walking by when they saw a man bookin it down the street. Right behind him were three cops on foot. The man ran into a random house. After about a minute, the other 40 cop cars started pulling in on all roads. Earlier that day an armed robbery had taken place and they thought this was the guy. Running didn't make him seem innocent. We stood outside waiting and a sniper walked past us. He told us that they had the guy in custody. I haven't heard anything else but I heard rumors that it was a different guy who was guilty of something else. What luck!
While we were knocking on a trailer door this week to visit a referral, the security guard came over. After we said hello to him, he said, "what are you doing here?" We answered. He then said, "I know you mormons, I grew up one! I've come to learn that yer all a bunch of crazy mother______s! GET OFF THIS PROPERTY!" We told him they wanted us to come by and we were just trying to help. He said, "yeah, you mormons are sure known for helpin people..." sarcastically. Fun times. White people are crazy.
Recently there have been a substantial amount of Dept of Homeland Security vans and trucks driving around Yuma. I want to know what for...
We talked to this interestnig guy the other day. He was sitting on a picnic bench waiting for some "friends." We get talking to him and he says the usual, 'I don't need a church I accepted Christ 12 years ago' thing. We told him a bit more about why we need to be in Christ's Church for salvation and he said, "I don't believe in religion!" As we spoke a bit more, we learned what he was there for. He was passing around pamphlets for people to visit his church which was showing a street racing video. I asked him, "So what's the difference between church and religion?" He looked at me and said, " got me there!" and got up and left. A good laugh.
Tonight we are back to eating with the Spanish branch. We spend the 1st-21st eating with them then 22nd-30/31st eating with the white ward. I heard that all white people feed you is Spaghetti. Naturally, I was stoked for that! We went 10 days eating with them and all we had was potato soup, encheladas, and beans. No spaghetti! I was robbed. English people sure do give a TON of brownies and ice cream. At almost every dinner we had that. It has been interesting to compare the two dinner "scenes." Latinos don't usually eat with you, they dish your plate for you, and then you leave. With English people, they eat with you, let you dish your own food, stuff you with desert, give you money, and then send you home with brownies. They give us a lot, the English people. The latinos give us more, I think, in the sense of humility and love. That said, I still want a spaghetti dinner...Speaking of food, I honestly do think my taste buds have dulled out. I can hardly taste food. I can't decide if that's a good thing or a bad thing.
I'm rocking a sick tan line from my watch as you can see in those baptismal pictures.
Great quote from Spencer W Kimball: "Someone said we live in a day when God, if there is a God, choose to be silent, but the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints proclaims to the world that neither the Father nor the Son are silent. One of those theologians above indicated it was impossible for man to know God. This is like saying: I have never climbed Mt Ararat - therefore, no one can climb Mt Arart. How presumptuious and arrogant for any man to say God is unapproachable, nuknowable, unseeable, unhearable, because he has not prepared himself for the experience."
Also, "Anything worth anything is worth working for."
So each month we are given 1,100 miles to drive in the car. Since Yuma is so huge and hot, they give us cars. Yes, I know. We bike everyday though! Anyway, yesterday was the last of the month. As such, everyone was working to make their miles last. We got a phone call from some elders, "we're out of miles! Come pick us up on the side of the road!" We didn't since we were also low on miles! We finished the month with 1.3 miles left. Close call!
In some of the pictures I sent earlier you can see a field. EVery week I want to write abuot irrigation here but always forget. They flood the fields. The yards. Everything they flood. 2-6" of water sit on all fields at least once a week. Ducks swim in it. There could be fish if it wasn't all dried up the next evening. The Church did that and it smelled exactly like a pond. That picture won't do it justice at all, but it is just funny how they do it here.
How do you fix squeeky disk brakes? We have a lot of lube just can't figure outwhere to apply it.
Also, does the sun set across the horizon faster than it moves across the sky? You can see it drop below the horizon in 10 mins here but it seems to take far longer to move across the sky.
Also, I keep hearing about a Native American "white God." Apparently he came once, surrounded by much destruction, and will come again. Sounds like Christ.
If the sun and the moon are on opposite sides of the Earth, how does the moon seem so bright yet the Earth seem so dark?
Can thermal cameras catch body temperature move from the extremities to the core?
Thank you Grandpa Johnson, Eric, Mom, Will, and Mark for the letters this week. I should have time to write everyone today but the new bowling alley just opened up and our zone is pretty competative on P-Days with bowling. I'm undefeated with an average of 160 per game. Not great, but not too bad! Now we don't have to drive up to the Native American reservation @ Cocopah to bowl now! Letters will be en route this afternoon. It's great to hear from you all.
Thanks so much for all the continued support, it's great to hear about how life is going from everyone,
Con amor,
Elder Johnson

24 September 2012

Dear everyone,

I usually send the email on Mondays around 10:45-11 am. Look for them then, mom.

Mom, the ties that you ordered at the MTC are here haha. They're definitely unique ties. I don't think anyone will forget them haha. Thank you for sending them. Speaking of ties, do you think you could send me a knot cheat sheet? The one I've tied forever gets loose throughout the day, kind of a hassle. 
I don't know if I mentioned this last week but I figured out that Elder Sawyer dated and is writing one of my Political Science TAs. I saw a letter on his desk from her and asked if it was the same person who TA'd for comparative politics. Small world, eh?
This was definitely a crazy week. Last Tuesday we had interviews with President Howes. He drove 4 hours from Tempe to Yuma and spent 2 days here doing trainings, interviews, and whoknowswhatelse. In the days preceding his arrival, the zone leaders started pushing our zone of 5 companionships to pick up the baptisms. In September, to date today, we've had 3. It looks like we'll get 8 this weekend, none for Elder Sawyer and I. When we started talking about them coming to church (have to come at least twice), President Howes gave them permission to baptize them and confirm them "fontside" on their second Sunday. If that dosen't make sense, I'll try to clarify: attend 1 week, attend 2 week, baptize that day, confirm that day. I already felt weird about doing it after 2 weeks and not 3 but the idea of baptizing on that second S
unday made me really uncomfortable. I brought up my point during district meeting with the missionaries the day before interviews. During interviews I brought it up too. What was supposed to be a 30 min. interview turned into a 1.5 hour one haha. I told the President I didn't know how to voice my concerns to him, he said just be bold. I did. He wasn't too happy. I said I'd rather baptize for retention and get 3 total in one month and that it felt like we were just pushing for a month's goal. I then said if I baptize 2 people durning my entire mission and both stay active, I'll be more happy then if I baptize 3 and 2 stay active. He wasn't too happy about that either. So we'll see how that progresses. Elder Sawyer and I put a goal for 3 baptisms this month. He asked me why we didn't achieve it. I said, 'sometimes, setting high helps you work harder. You may not hit the goal but you will have worked harder than you did otherwise.' What's that saying, aim for the moon, that way when you miss, you still hit the stars? or something. He said we should have gotten 3 baptisms this month anyway. Yeah, we'll see what happens with that. I'm all for baptisms but not rushing people through.
On a different note, the new Scion FRS is a sweet car. Pretty athletic looking car.
While we were teaching one of our investigators about the plan of salvation - using Spencer's drawing might I add - they asked lots of questions about the veil [between our pre-earth life and mortality on earth]. While thinking, this thought popped into my head, "We have to forget so we can learn to remember." Pretty cool idea, I thought. It's all about practicing that faith and having that hope that there is something else. If you have that, you'll come to know that there is something else.
We had a really good experience this week with one of our investigators. I'l preface it with what brought it about. During personal study that morning, I was reading in Revelation. I was falling asleep and what better to keep you awake than ~12 chapters of pure confusion. For some reason I felt like I should read Joseph Smith History. I've never read it before. I was reading in verses 1-20. Verses 11-13 and 15-18 stuck out to me for a reason I did not yet know. I marked them, wrote a little note, then closed my book and read something else. I told Elder Sawyer that morning that I felt we should share those scriptuers with our investigator. (I'm not supposed to name the investigators...) Fast forward to the lesson. That day, we were planning to teach her about the Plan of Salvation and those JSH (Joseph Smith History) scriptures did not relate at all. I still felt I should share them. I paused our lesson in the middle and read those scriptures written above. As I was about to start reading the fisrt vision part, there were very loud knocks on the door. You hear about how crazy things happen before the first vision is recounted. I've heard of houses burning down, power going out, people coming over etc. Anyway, her friend had come over and wanted to do something but we eventually got things settled again. I started over. When I finished reading said verses, I looked up and she, in tears, said, "funny that you say that." We asked why and she said it was too personal. Elder Sawyer then said that I had told him that morning that we should read it to her even though it was unrelated to the lesson. She broke down for a few minutes. I was awestruck. The house was silent for a few minutes. We found out yesterday why it was "funny that we say that" but that probably isn't appropriate to share. Regardless, it was an amazing experience about how prayers can be answered through other people and how revelation works. I'm still in awe over it. 
We biked about 35 miles this week. We're sitting at just over 50 total miles. We are averaging 10mph each day which isn't bad considering the heat. When we're pulling into our apts at 9pm, the stores that have thermometers outside say it's just under 100. Joy.
Roland, did you know Samurai Gonez? He served in McAllen, TX and is from Yuma. We saw his name on the stake center mission board. Just curious.
I learned this week that 75% of Yuma speaks spanish. Yuma also apparently produces 80% of the US' lettuce in the winter time. I keep hearing that the winter is to die for. Time will tell.
As we were going around talking to people this week, we biked to a house and started talking to the father on the "stoop." The kids ran up to us and said, "Please don't arrest papa!" Totally sketchy. Lots of people run when they see us because they think we're border patrol or police. I'm sayin we should proselyte in street clothes! We had a running across with the Border Patrol (BP) two nights ago. BP was in an alley talking to a guy and we, out of curiosity, biked past them. The BP officers looked at us and said we shouldn't be in that neighborhood. Nothing too serious, I know, but still good times. Those guys are intense when they're on duty.
Keep hearing about "your candidate Romney." Yup.
My first night in the field we were eating at a members house and somehow the rapper Drake came up. I said, "El es mi hombre!" Everyone looked at me for a second and then just laughed. Apparently that has some gay connotations. But they didn't tell me that until after I had also said, "Jesus es mi hombre!"
We went on exchanges this week. I went up with Elder Berriman, ZL1, in the foothills. He's english and the whole area is english. It was nice speaking a language I have more of a grip on. But white people are crazy! One woman swerved her car towards us when she saw us then drove away laughing, lots of yelling etc. Fun times for sure! Latinos are way nicer. At least they listen. When we got there to the trailer that the Elders there live in, Berriman realized he had lost the meal calendar so he called a recent covnert and asked if she could give us dinner. We had cheese/lettuce/mustard/onion/tomato/ham sandwiches. At 5:57 we got a phone call from an angry woman saying, "So Elders, still planning on coming over tonight?" Woops. We sprinted over there. She wasn't very happy, especially since she had her nonmember friends for dinner over that night. Bad first impression. We sat down and ate some stuff, I still don't know what and probably better that way, and talked for a bit. They were crazy. Told stories of calling the cops and having her daughter arrested, dragging her daughter out of the mall literally by her hair, etc. She said that someone better call CPS if she ever catches her daughter with a loaded gun/alcohol again. Interesting dinner.
We biked through a meth neighborhood the other day. Smelled just like it! We went up to talk to two people (it was 8pm, no streetlights) and they jumped so high. Once they realized we weren't the powleez they laughed and talked for a bit. They were pretty out of it. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and say they were...tired...
It's always interesting when we see 2+ big SUVs and 2+ cop cars pull out of different streets, all with sirens on, and chase down a single street. One can only imagine what's going on. That happened last night in our apt complex, too! But not SUVs, just fire trucks, ambulence, and the fuzz. We biked up because we thought our home could be on fire but luckily it was one just past us. Luckily for us, that is. And it wasn't even a fire. They ran in with a stretcher but came out with no one. Guess they lived. 
I was reading through my MTC journal entries the other day and came upon this gem. "Today started as a normal day. Actually, it ended as one too." 
When urging people in the ward/branch to register to vote yesterday at Church (the LDS church is nonpartisan but encourages all to register to vote and vote before general elections. Doesn't endorse a candidate) the guy said, "make sure you THINK about everything you say. That said, is it True, is it Helpful, is it Inspiring, is it Necessarry, is it Kind? Word! More people need to do that. I'm talking to you, drunk man on the corner yelling things about this election!
I discovered the Bible Dictionary this week. What a treasure trove! That should be one of the years of seminary alone! It's like a mini Wikipedia! 
Eric and Will might appreciate this one: there are hundreds of lizards that live around our appartments. Apparently they're easy to catch w/ a noose thing. What would you do if I sent you a letter with a lizard in it? Haha
It's almost snowbird season! Lots of old people move down here during the winter because he's "heavenly" here. There are a couple branchs they make of 600+ people just of snowbirds. They're called that since they leave the snow and "migrate" to Yuma. It's also almost planting season. That means everyone who sits at home watching TV, literally, all day are going to be working 14+ hour days. Guess it'll be harder to find those latinos who already go to bed at 8pm. You'd like that, mom. They're out of work for 4 months of the year then work all day er'eday for 8 or so. There are also a lot of date farms.
Yesterday I spilled lemonade all over my dinner plate. That was awkward. 
I heard this week that the Pope, when called, is baptized for [by---thus begins Paul's spanglish!] immersion. Can anyone confirm?
Hot week this week. We biked a couple days here and there for half days at a time. One day was 120.6 F. I spilled some water on the ground on accident but ~10 seconds when I looked down it was gone. 
Speaking of evaporation, I heard a good talk from Holland at the MTC that I just remembered. He was talking about how at 211 F, water doesn't boil, no steam is produced. Without that last one degree, nothing will change. Such is us. If we don't put in that little bit extra of effort, nothing will change. But when we do, we get results. 
And on the other extreme, why does water get less dense when it freezes?
Thank you Tori, Doug, Dad, Eric x2, Will, Aunt Andra, Grandpa J, and Mom for the letters! They keep me going! It's always exciting to open that mailbox and come out with paper gold. I hope I have time to write everyone back today. I'lll make it happen.
Love you all so much, take care,
Elder Johnson