Tuesday, November 27, 2012

26 November 2012

Dear Family and Friends,
We got calls last night. Remember how I said there's a 50% chance that Sawyer and I stay together and a 100% chance he goes ZL? Well, he went Zone Leader and we are no longer companions. However, the 50% thing was spot on. I'm getting inter-zoned to a different apartment just up the block. I got the shaft of it all: lost our big apartment with an amazing view, lost my swagger wagon (van), and lost my companion, and it's looking like I'll get the worse Spanish area. They are putting 6 Spanish missionaries in the Spanish branch instead of four so our areas will be moved around. I'll be taking over ours and to say I'm a little nervous doesn't do it justice. I'm predicting a hard transfer. I will know my new companion on Wednesday.
My new address is 1334 Ave B #174, Yuma AZ. I'm close enough to my old house that any letters I haven't received yet can be picked up any day. I'm seriously only moving 2 blocks.
This was a fun week. We ate Thanksgiving dinner at a member's house and had a good time. I'm not a big fan of being painfully full but I'd rather be that than painfully hungry. Afterwards we got invited to an investigator's house for some food. They're going to get baptized.
Remember our recent convert to the Spanish branch a few weeks ago? The one whose family is now investigating? The ones who were going to get baptized by their recent convert father? Yeah, well things were going really well with them. Really well. The daughters really wanted to get baptized and the mother was overcoming her concerns. Then she asked us for a triple combination so she could cross reference scriptures. The next day we went over and she had clearly stumbled into some anti-Mormon literature. She was pulling out all these deep doctrine scriptures that made everything seem terrible, commenting on the cursed Lamanites skin, etc. It was bad. I was on exchanges that day and the Elder I was with didn't do much. The lesson went horribly and the rest of the day was bad. We went home after that and took a 30 minute breather so that I could recuperate from the stress. It was really bad. Anyway, we've been working with them slowly and have found her real concern which was that she was afraid of concern. We brought some great fellow-shippers over and have settled most of her concerns. Now the trouble is putting them all back on date for baptism. I'll be doing that without Sawyer and with my new companion.
We have one investigator who is progressing very quickly. We've taught her probably five times and she has taken right to everything we've said. She has a very strong understanding of the Bible. We will be helping her overcome her addiction to smoking, the only thing standing in the way. Not too worried about it, she has lots of faith. Our lessons with her have usually been on the longer side since she's a talker; around 45 minutes to an hour. We have been strongly encouraged to teach 15-30 minute lessons and get out so that you don't satisfy their spiritual needs so they want you to come back the next day. Well, we were getting ready to leave this week after an hour long lesson and she said, in Spanish, "You guys always leave so early! Why? Every time you come over I always feel...just better. I'm happier and feel like I'm learning a lot. I'm drawing closer to God and understanding verses I've never understood before. When you guys come you bring light with you. Thank you. Thanks you. Thank you." It was pretty great to hear something like that. She will likely be baptized the 3rd week of teaching her - a fast one.
There were 3 baptisms in the district this past weekend, none of ours. Elder Sawyer and I went to each one. Very....unique baptisms. The first one was ridiculously long. It started off wrong when the other Elders noticed that the baptism before theirs had drained the font and locked the font doors. Bad start. It went on to start 30 minutes later and have lots of people running in and out of it making loud, loud noises. While they were changing, their ward suggested really weird hymns to sing that no one knew. I almost requested #233, Nay Speak No Ill, the song that no one knows. But the spirit was already gone haha. The pianist was lost, the singing was terrible... I'm pretty sure the Elders who baptized her were losing hair over it.
The next baptism was the Sisters'. They were baptizing an over age youth with two less active parents. Actually, a less active father and his girlfriend. Well, fast forward to after the baptism. The Bishop got up to do his welcome and ended up talking for 30 minutes...to an 11 yr old girl. And then for the closing prayer, the girl's father's girlfriend (whew) got up and gave the most interesting prayer I've ever heard. She bore her testimony in her prayer and spoke to the girl...all during the prayer. The baptisms were great, just interesting.
 The baptism was even better because Elder Boyd ripped a huge hole in his pants. It was so bad that we had to take him to the library and fix it. Since none of us can sew, we ended up taping his pants and coloring the tape black hahaha. It was pretty ridiculous looking. It was a pretty bad repair job because by the end of the service had ripped twice the size. 
There was a big debate in the YSA branch about legally wrong vs. morally wrong and the thin lines between the two. Interesting situation, that. You can make a good debate on either side I think
Last night I got to bless my first home. We went over to a members home who is, according to her, Palestinian. Raised in Jerusalem a Muslim and converted to the LDS church 2 years ago when she married her Mexican husband. I think they're the most diverse couple in Yuma and one of the coolest. He was watching a movie on his new 3D TV yesterday so I got to see it just for a second. But then afterwards they told us about a spirit that had been haunting their home and stuff. I kept an open mind since I'd never... well, I kept an open mind about it. They asked us to bless it and I did. It was definitely a unique experience. But afterwards they taught me how to throw punches. Both of them were boxers growing up and pretty competitive ones at that. They asked if I'd ever gotten in a fight since I'm big and from the DC area and when I said no he laughed and brought out all their boxing gear. Now I can throw a sweet punch and a left hand jab. Unstoppable! "No unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing..." I'm basically invincible now.
Not a ton else happened this week. It was a harder week in the mission - most of our lessons cancelled and things were just hard finding people. I'll miss being Elder Sawyer's companion. We had an awesome 12 weeks. We're both glad we'll still be in the same zone.
Thanks Natalia, Jamie, and the Arlington Ward Young Men for the letters/package this week! [He left his mom out and Eric and William who write weekly letters. . .] You're all great! Letters will be sent to everyone from last week and this week today, I promise.
Con amor,
Elder Johnson

Monday, November 19, 2012

19 November 2012

Dear Family and Friends,
Ok, transfer calls are next Sunday night. 50% chance of me staying but 100% chance of Sawyer going Zone Leader either here or in Mesa. Also, P-day is weird today only from 10-12. P-day is continued next week from 1pm-9pm since it's Thanksgiving. As such, I won't have time to write anyone today.
We had an awesome week this week! As I said last week, we've cut back on all the little obedience problems we've had and have seen results. The "big" thing we were doing wrong was a couple days a week doing the 6:30am nap. That is, roll out of bed, crawl to living room, take 30 minute nap on ground, get up and get ready. We have been going to the gym every morning which has woken us up quicker and been a good workout as well.
Why was this week awesome? We baptized one into the YSA branch which means in the last 3 weeks we have baptized one person into every unit we cover. But wait, there's more! We found 12 new investigators in the last 8 days, at least one a day, and 5 of them are on date. Three of those five are the family members of our recent convert into the spanish branch. His wife and kids hated us but at the baptism I felt inspired to promise him that whichever of his family members attended the baptism would also get baptized. And now every one of them that attended (wife and 2 of the 3 kids) are on date to get baptized next week. It will be unreal to see him baptize his family 2 weeks after his baptism. Unreal. It has also been inspiring to see their hearts change after his baptism. They are amazed at how he has quit smoking, drinking, and all his other bad habits and has become a family man. He even got his boss to give him Sundays off at work where he worked 7 days a week 12-16 hours a day. Ahhh successsssssssssss!
 It was good for other reasons as well. We taught 12 member- present lessons with 8 other lessons (no member present) which equals the standards of excellence for the mission. We have 7 progressing investigators and taught a total of 21 lessons last week, one to a recent convert. Sawyer said this has been the best week of his mission.
Last Monday night we were walking around a sketchy trailer park looking for people. Usually we don't have to go through trailer parks since Mexicans own houses down here but that night we did for whatever reason. We saw this guy in his 20s with a long hoodie and pants way too big for him walking out of a trailer. I walked over to him and said, "hi!" He looked really quickly at us and ran really quickly towards a wall. We were kind of laughing not knowing where he would go when he jumped the 10 foot wall. When he was on top he briefly looked back at me and I said, "We are sharing a message about Jesus Ch.." and then he jumped down the other side and took off running. Classic haha.
That same night we were coming back and ran into some new neighbors. We introduced ourselves and they asked some questions which we answered. He advised us to not walk down a certain street because of some gang activity that had happened. We told him we had just been on that street. He looked carefully at us and said, "Man, I know you guys wouldn't ever do anything to hurt someone, but if you ever have someone bugging you, just tell me." He then proceeded to pull out a giant pistol from his pants and said, "I'm in the Marines. I'm here for ya'll." Yup.
We also had a fun experience with a potential investigator we have, or rather, had. We went over to her house and saw her and her daughter making food in their kitchen. They both looked at us and the mother, our potential investigator, ran away. The daughter walked over and found her Dad and brought him to the door. He told us that Maria, our potential investigator, was out of town. I asked who the other woman was and he said, "oh, that was Maria...I mean Martha!" Busted. We probably won't try back there. He was a terrible liar. haha
I went on exchanges this week to do some English work with one of the zone leaders. English work is a lot different than spanish work. No wonder there is animosity between the two types of missionaries here. For the 8 hours I was with him that day, we spent all but 45 minutes hanging out at members' homes. Those 45 minutes were at a lesson that evening. I was going crazy sitting in the car all day driving from members house to members house. The lesson was a good one though. Their investigator is 15 and going through more than most 15 year olds have or ever should. But it was a good exchange in the end. Met some crazy members who think that a secession is needed since Obama was reelected and one even said we may need a second revolutionary war. I didn't say anything at those houses. We also had a pretty funny experience with two lessons cancelling. One of them called us to cancel and while we were on the phone with him the other lesson left a message cancelling. That was two lessons cancelled within 60 seconds. At least we got notice though. In most of the spanish areas they don't even have telephones and you won't know they've cancelled till after you've arrived.
The Stake Fiesta was a couple of nights ago. There were over 800 people in attendance with dancers and a mariachi band. The dancing group performed at the worldwide competition in South Korea last year and were pretty impressive. Sometimes I think that Latino dancing is just throwing your body in whichever way you can. It's controlled chaos. I would send a video home but they're probably too big (filesize). They gave us spanish missionaries some weird bowtie thing to wear but Sawyer and I just wore it over our shoulders. See pics.

The Marine Corp Air Station is getting F-35's! One landed last week on the 17th. I'll be keeping my eyes open for when they fly. Apparently no civilians knew they were coming in until the minute it landed. Our YSA branch has a lot of people involved in MCAS and it has been fun talking to them about it. Haha Dad just sent me an article about it.
 Our baptism this week was a miracle I think. The person we baptized, we'll call him John, we found at 8:45 while walking down a street. Usually OYMs, or street contacts, don't turn into anything. Although the opposite has been true for us. We're about to get 5 baptisms off OYMing. Anyway, we set up a return appointment and he wasn't there. We went back 2 weeks later and taught him the worst lesson in the world. Terrible. Awful. Words cannot express. The spirit just wasn't there. But 2 weeks later he was ready to get baptized. We ended up pushing the baptism back another week for other reasons and he was baptized on Saturday. He was pretty nervous the week before and was thinking about pulling out. The Yuma Zone did a fast that day and the next day for our lesson he said he got his answer and was excited to be baptized. Really cool. There was a big turnout from the YSA branch and this baptism was the first in the branch since the branch is only 2 months old. Hopefully it jump-starts some missionary work.
The Primary program for the Rio Colorado spanish branch was yesterday too. They used a recording on a CD to play the music for the kids to sing to haha. Remember the man we baptized into that branch a few weeks ago? The one whose family is now taking discussions and getting baptized next week? Yeah, them. Well, the 9 year old daughter decided she wanted to be involved in the primary program so she walked up when all the kids did and tried her best to sing the parts. She had never attended the practices. They even gave her a line to read from the podium. I wish you guys could have seen how happy her parents were.
 Last night we saw a giant meteor fly across the sky. It was visible for probably 5 seconds, bright white and very slow. We were teaching a guy on the street and we were all awestruck by it.
We actually saw it in a super sketchy neighborhood. As we were walking back to the car we saw this guy ~20 years old. He saw us and started circling around us so we walked towards him. We waved and said hi and he said, "**** you guys, I thought you were someone else! Mormons, right?" He was baptized 6 years ago, has been in jail, but wants to come to Church. What are the chances? He told us that if we hadn't been missionaries, he would have attacked us. I told him half jokingly that we could have taken him. He pulled some brass knuckles out of his pocket and said that we shouldn't be in this neighborhood after dark. Hm.
 Thanks Natalia, Grandpa, Mom, Eric, Will, Ian, and Annie for the letters this week! I'll be able to write back on Thursday unless we get signed up for 6 dinners...hopefully that doesn't happen. One is good for me.
Can someone send me the wiki entry on the holy bible?
Thank you all for all you guys do!
With love,
Elder Johnson

12 November 2012

Dear Family and Friends,

I'm pretty sure I'm getting transferred out of Yuma this transfer. I still have two more weeks here which I will be sure to enjoy. It's too bad that it is happening now that we have turned Yuma around and miracles are happening. Rumors have me off to Mesa to whitewash in (again...), whitewashing into the Sisters area in Yuma, or off somewhere else. It would be different being in the valley for Christmas time. There's a slim chance I stay but again these are all rumors.

This was kind of an interesting week. As far as work goes, it was awesome. We got seven new investigators this week with 23 teaching opportunities - almost half of the total teaching opportunities for all missionaries in Yuma. Things are going really well and it looks like we could get four more baptisms this month which would be half of all Yuma zones goal for monthly baptisms. It's all falling into place now.

This last week was zone conference. I was going to type up my notes and email them home but I forgot them so this will mostly be from memory. President Howes came down and gave a great training on extending commitments, following up, and addressing concerns. There has been  a lot of emphasis recently on 15-20 minute lessons and stopping by about everyday for a little bit of time. Since Sawyer and I started doing that we have had a lot more success. There was also a training given by the Assistants to the President (APs) on how to do street contacting, or OYMing, better. They emphasized bringing up the restoration asap and focusing it around that and the Book of Mormon. Sawyer and I have changed how we OYM'd too to fit that and we have gotten 7 new investigators from them. 

One of the APs came on exchanges with Sawyer and me this week. We were a trio for the evening and ran into an interesting man right off the bat. His view was that the authority was never lost from the Earth after Christ died and that he was working on finding his own apostles. We tried to get him to understand what we were trying to say but he wouldn't listen. We gave some good apostasy scriptures but he actually had some impressive rebuttals. When we got back in the car, the AP was pretty upset at him for being so stubborn. I chimed in and said that's like what we're like as missionaries; trying to help someone understand a different point of view and getting angry doesn't really accomplish anything in the eternal scheme of things. It also drives away the spirit. That is something I've seen a lot on exchanges that if someone we talk to disagrees the missionary gets angry and calls them anti and whatnot. I put myself in their (the person on the street) and that helps me understand how we seem to them. We come across just as stubborn even if we don't mean to. They say contention is of the devil. Doesn't accomplish much.

I got to go on exchanges with Elder Mackay this week. He's an English missionary here in Yuma - a really good guy. We went over to a dinner appointment the other night and, well, it was interesting to say the least. Elder Mackay said it was the weirdest dinner of his life. We walked in and heard screaming. Really, really, REALLY loud screaming. Turns out they were Mackaws (spelling? The big tropical birds?). She had three of them in a giant cage that was directly adjacent the dinner table. As we walked closer, the wife said, "that may look like Lasagna, but it isn't. It's spaghetti and (something else I don't remember...a weird fruit) and cheese on top. It kind of fell over in the oven so it looks weird." I dished myself a serving first and she said, "oh no, more more!" I said, "I'll start with this then go up." I took about a 3x3" serving which was already a lot. Saying it tasted funky doesn't do it justice. She spent the entire dinner complaining about the election and how she is broke now (two days after the election) and how the country is ruined. I sat silently. But then I got her talking about missionary work and she had a good time there. After some time the Mackaw got out of the cage and started running around on top making one of the loudest sounds I've ever heard. The woman started talking to it and calling it one of her kids. Hm. Well, we got up to carry our dishes over before dessert (you get those in english work) and one of the other Mackaws jumped over to the wall and reached its talon out and grabbed Elder Mackay by the shirt and tried to, from where I was sitting, eat him alive. It was hilarious and he got scared and jumped past. Hilarious.

There has been a ton of dust in the air these last week. I was hoping for a dust storm, like a wall 300 feet high of dust, but it just came in with wind and was spread out enough to make it not impressive, just annoying. Our car is disgusting and our bikes are pretty dirty now. 

We learned this week that an apostle is coming to the mission! Elder Cook is coming on December 7th as well as some other relatively important people. It should be exciting. We're pretty sure he is going to come and bash the mission for not having as good results as we should. We are down 70 baptisms from last year and not living up to our reputation as the highest baptizing in the southwest with the highest retention rate. So I'm bracing myself for getting (more) humbled.

The weather has started to drop in Yuma. It's actually unbelievably nice. It has been in the 60s all week. While I'm in heaven, the 'natives' are starting to bundle up in coats and hats and walk around the house in blankets. We ran into an incredibly drunk man stumbling around and he was going off and off about how cold it was. He called us his angels because we came out of nowhere to him in his time of need. He didn't talk to us anymore because he started running the opposite direction yelling, "no mercy, no mercy, San Antonio!" but it was pretty cool to show up just as someone needed us even if we didn't really do anything other than testify.

We ran into the nicest woman in Yuma this week too. She was ~50 years old and from Mexicali, Mexico. We talked to her on the street for about 15 minutes and she asked how long we had been speaking spanish. Sawyer said 18 months (as of yesterday) and I said more or less 4. She was super nice and complimented my spanish. I could understand almost everything she was saying - she spoke really clearly. That was a cool experience.

One of our ward missionaries, Brother Borgerson, volunteered to drive down to San Luis to pick up an English investigator we have down there. It's about a one hour roundtrip drive. That family is awesome. We taught our recent convert into the Yuma Valley ward at their house every time and they have an amazing spirit in the house. Just a great family.

Elder Sawyer and I started walking into a trailer park this week and found a woman who has since said that she wanted to get baptized. When we walked into her trailer, her daughter was there, about 26 yrs old, and we talked to them about baptism and authority. We found out that the 26 year old works with the above-mentioned recent convert and has noticed her completely change her life around and is so much happier. What are the chances! We find someone in a small spanish trailer park who works with someone who lives 15 minutes away in a house on a farm who has noticed her life change since baptism. It was a cool experience and when we told the recent convert about it she was thrilled. 

Two nights ago at about 5 am a really loud beeping sound went off in the house. It went off about once a minute for an hour and a half and was probably the most annoying thing I've heard in a long time. Neither Sawyer nor I wanted to get out of bed so we just dealt with it. Apparently he fell back to sleep but I couldn't. At 6:30 when we got up, it was still going off and I hadn't slept since it started. Dang I'm lazy in the mornings. Once I got out of bed I went to find what it was and noticed it was the fire alarm. Apparently the battery is running low. So I grabbed a chair and pulled the batter out. but it kept going off.... I tried to unplug the wire but it was glued on for some insane reason so I had Sawyer grab me a knife and we cut around the wire to get it off. Who needs a fire alarm anyway? 

Carne Asada is amazing.

I called the election. How much did he win by?

We were talking to our recent convert into the Rio Colorado branch yesterday and he was telling us about when he went to pick up food stamps from DES and they made him wait 7 hours. He said that when he was called, "I got up, started yelling, and ran over to grab them! It was like I won the lottery!" Hilarious. He's so funny. His daughters and wife are now taking discussions since they've seen him change so much. They're going to pull me out of Yuma before we baptize his family of 5! Bah!! Oh well, I guess it only matters that they get baptized. 

We actually had breakfast with him this morning. It was Menudo. So much for getting through my mission without having it. The LeRoy family invited us over and his family and we went and talked for a bit and ate. It was a great time and the LeRoy's are amazing cooks. I think if I were to have had Menudo anywhere, their house was the place to have it. Cow stomach lining soup with bones and corn and who knows what else. Apparently sucking the bone marrow out gives good flavor too. Let me tell you, it doesn't. The actual cow stomach lining meat(?) has the weirdest most uncomfortable texture in the world. 

That was the last week. For time's sake I'll quit there but it was a great week. Hopefully they'll continue to get this way. The Stake President said he wants to split the stake for the first time since its creation in 1954. I joke that it will be because we baptize an entire spanish stake down here.

Thanks Mom, Eric, Will, Doug, Cami, Jamie, Arlington 2nd ward primary!, Aunt Andra (penne and chocolate milk, they don't sell penne down here), Sister Hines, and Katie! Thank you for the great letters this week! It's fun to hear what's going on in all your lives!

How do copy machines work?
Can someone send me the wikipedia article on Jehovah's Witnesses? We find their literature all over the place and read it. Interesting stuff, I guess. They all hate us.
How specifically were the first 12 apostles martyred?

Love you all, thanks for the support!

Elder Johnson

Monday, November 5, 2012

5 November 2012

Dear Family and Friends,
Election day is tomorrow! 30% of Yuma missionaries voted. Tisk tisk. This big hurricane sounds like it could turn the election...
This letter is a tad late today since we have been lizard hunting all morning. We have a ward member who is a biologist and does a lot of research for some of the universities and so she took us out to the border to find stuff. She had these long poles that had a little noose on the end that you stick around the lizard's neck. Unfortunately, we didn't catch any since they're all hibernating. Psh. But we did see a fox and a jackrabbit and a real live Mexican bird! It flew across the border like it was a joke. Guess that wall needs to get a little taller. It was a good time and we walked about 2 miles into literally nothing. I now know what it's like for Mexicans to run across the border. We found cell phones, backpacks, water bottles. Basically everything BUT lizards and snakes. I almost expected to find a body.
This was a pretty awesome week. We had a baptism into the Spanish branch on Saturday morning and later that same day we baptized another one of our investigators into the Yuma Valley English speaking ward. Next Saturday we're going to get a baptism for our young single adults branch. That's 3 baptisms in 7 days and into every one of our units! We've worked for those. I'll see what I can write about each of their stories.
Ok, so our first baptism on Saturday was for someone we found on our fifth day out. We were still going around trying to figure the area out since we got white washed into Yuma. We prayed before we left the apartment that day and told God that we would talk to anyone he put into our path. Well, we were driving to meet one of the investigators the previous Elders had and when we got there, no one answered. We decided that we would walk past the car by one block. At the corner, we ran into a man and his family. We told him who we were and what we did and he invited us to walk with him to his house. They had been swimming in the awful dirty canal. Anyway, we're walking over to his house and he is talking about how none of his friends talk about God, he doesn't understand why people look at the cross so much, and he didn't understand why some people worshiped Mary. We were just walking and thinking, "yesssssss." Well, we sit down and teach him and things go well. We go by about three to five times a week depending on his schedule and get to the point where we have taught him almost everything. He accepted it all without question and we put him on date for the 13th of October. One night we went by to go see how he was doing. It was an unplanned visit. Walking up to his house we saw him and his friends sitting in front of his house smoking and drinking. When he saw us, he freaked out, threw the joint on the ground and came over to us very embarrassed. We talked a bit and ended up pushing his baptismal date back. The next Sunday he was at Church and LOVED it. Can't even emphasize it enough. We had to leave a little early and he waved us away without even looking up. Well, fast forward 3 weeks and there we were standing outside the baptismal font. He managed to get his family there (they never listened to us) and they got there at 10:45 for the scheduled baptism at 11. Whew, first hurdle passed, he made it. 10:55 came around and no one was there. At 11:00 the pianist showed up as well as the branch president. We were getting worried that no one would show up. One of the things he loved most about church was how everyone came and talked to him and how happy everyone was. Well now his support group wasn't even at the baptism. We decided to wait a couple more minutes out of faith. Man, I thought Mormon standard time was bad, Mexican standard time blows it away. At 10:15 about 25 people showed up but the person who was supposed to be conducting the program wasn't there. We went on without him. Fast forward to the time of the baptism. He asked me to baptize him and he and I walked back around to the baptismal font. What we saw was terrible. All but 1.5 feet of water had leaked out through the drain. Bah! Well, we walked down into the water and I gave the prayer but his legs were sticking out of the water when he was laid down flat so I did it again. This time I had to push his whole body under the water. His back was on the floor of the font. But it worked! During the time that we changed, I had Elder Sawyer do what we do back home - that is, pass around note cards to write your testimony on while someone plays prelude music. The Yuma stake had never done it before and loved it. The baptism was a success and he was confirmed in church the next day by Elder Sawyer. People there said it was the most amazing baptism they'd ever been to. We had a really bold lesson with him that I think saved his baptism.
The other baptism was equally amazing. This one was for the Yuma Valley ward. We found ____ at Church on our third Sunday. She had friends who were members who decided to take her to church on a whim and introduced her to use that day. She had been through a lot. We taught her twice a week for 1.5 months and helped her overcome an addiction to cigarettes. It was a humbling experience to be involved in it with her. The mission uses a program to help smokers quit that involves drinking unsweetened grapefruit juice after every meal because it puts a foreign taste in your mouth or something. Well, we invited a recent convert to our lessons with her and her two member friends and we all said we would drink grapefruit juice after every meal with her (but in different places, obviously.) We worked and worked and worked and sent her encouraging messages everyday until she could say she had quit. The baptism was performed by the husband of the woman who invited her to church. It was an amazing baptism and there were some incredible brownies to be eaten afterwards.
A good week indeed.
We stopped by the Young Single Adults (YSA) FHE activity last Monday with our YSA investigator. They played murder in the dark and did some activity where they put jellybeans in a plate and covered them up with whipped cream and you had to fish the jellybeans out with only your face. Everyone insisted that Elder Sawyer and I go first so, for member trust, we did. I won but ruined one of my $1.99 ties that I got recently. But that doesn't matter since I won. The person in charge felt bad so she bought me two ties and owes me an additional $6, all her idea. I'm not complaining. It was actually pretty degrading afterwards haha. They were all taking pictures of us with whipped cream all over our faces kneeling on the ground haha.
We did the New Testament read-a-thon this week. From 8am to 5pm we read at the chapel. All the missionaries were out of money for October. We told one of the Sisters in the Yuma Valley Ward (the same one who referred the baptism in the same ward) and she said she'd take care of food. She got on Facebook that night and put it as her status. She said 19 women commented all volunteering to take food. There was a lot of food during the read-a-thon... It was awesome to see their willingness to help us out in a time of need.
One of the things that stuck out to me during the read-a-thon was a new definition of faith for me. I read Matthew-halfway through Luke and had a cool insight. I think faith is more than just something that is hoped for and not seen. I think faith is also every Christlike attribute: patience, love, diligence, humility...the list goes on. With those attributes, our faith grows because we put others before ourselves. I could write more on it but for time purposes I'll leave it there. There is a part in Mark where it talks about Jesus "marveling at the faith" of someone. I want Christ to marvel at my faith.
This year the Yuma Stake is broadcasting stake conference. The stake is basically 2 hours across and people aren't going to drive that far. Never heard of somewhere doing that before!
The Yuma Zone is talentless. No one plays piano or can really sing. Don't stop playing piano if you're learning! In the Spanish branch there are two people who know how to play piano who taught themselves in the last year since no one else can play. We have to borrow people from other wards to play piano at our baptisms.
I've heard about a franken-storm hitting the east coast? Details?
Do Stake Presidents have keys?
Dad, what was your baby blessing pet peeve?
Can someone confirm all this I hear about  tanic acid turning stomachs into acid? I'm pretty sure every missionary uses it and I'm not sure I believe it.
How far do ants walk in a lifetime?
Thanks Ian, Susie, Annie, Doug, Mom, Eric, and Will for writing this week. I'm not going to be able to write much since I'm all out of stamps and buying new ones means foregoing lunch but I'll see what I can do! Due to time constraints today, I'll probably not get back to most of you this week. Lo siento [I'm sorry]. But thank you all so much for writing! I really appreciate it and love you all
Con amor,
Arizona has the best sunsets!

That's a wild tarantula.
Welcome to the desert.

Probably my manliest pose ever.

Elder Boyd in that picture is licking the skull of a lizard that was eaten by a bird that impales their prey on sticks and then eats them. He got $6 out of it.
Elder Johnson

Saturday, November 3, 2012

29 October 2012

Dear Family and Friends,
Firstly, Happy Birthday Eric! What did you get me?
So this week was Habanero week. I don't know if Mom put up that letter I sent home explaining it in ridiculous wording haha. If not, here's an account:
Last Monday we finally got around to eating habernos. The Elders out in Foothills came down and picked up 6 habaneros for 40 cents total. We met at the stake center. I was pretty confident walking into it. Elder Lanier decided to show me a video of him eating one which I regretted seeing. Everyone was procrastinating eating it so we played basketball for 30 minutes until someone said we should just get it over with. We all ate the entire habanero at the same time. The video I have is pretty amusing. No one reacted for the first 30 or so seconds because the pain didn't set in for a bit. And then it hit everyone at once. I don't think my eyes have ever watered as bad as they were. Waterfalls don't even compare to the amount of tears that were falling in that gym. We chugged some chocolate milk out of a yoohoo can. Elder Lanier and I took turns chugging it but since we only brought one can and it was quickly gone. We ran out to the water fountain and found that only one of the two worked on that side so we took turns there too. All 3 working water fountains in the building were in use. After about 5 minutes Elder Lanier called himself good and went back. I kept chugging. My throat started to close off and it was quite a bit harder to breathe. Every time I inhaled it felt like it was fueling the fire burning in my throat so I tried not to breathe much. My ears started to burn a bit but were never too bad so I did the only thing I could do and kept chugging. My eyes continued to water. I walked back into the gym thinking all was well and I heard someone ask me if I was high. My eyes were pretty bloodshot. You'd think that after 10 minutes it wouldn't hurt so bad.
I ran off the the bathroom feeling pretty sick and started to throw up. Let me tell you, the seeds going down were bad but coming back up was just terrible. My nose was pretty runny so I decided to blow it. Bad. Idea. My nose has never burned but it was an inferno that afternoon.
Anyway, dwelling on that experience isn't helping. I'll leave it there. Rest assured, I'll never take another habanero again. I won't feel bad saying no to Mexicans offering me hot food either. When we tell them we ate habaneros they always laugh at us and call us silly. One told us about her niece eating one and having to go to the hospital because it gave her blisters all over her mouth and throat.
I would not recommend a habanero. I would send the video home but the file is too big.
Went on an exchange with Elder Lanier this week. He is a missionary called Spanish speaking but is in the English only area of Foothills. It's driving him crazy. He came down to Yuma and was in heaven since everyone is Mexican. We went and knocked some doors and met the laziest dog I've ever seen. It was a massive bulldog that couldn't even walk. It tried to push the screen door open so it could eat us but we just held the door closed. It probably couldn't have run either. That same afternoon we went and found a Jehovah's Witness and talked to him. He had just gotten out of jail and was going on about how bad his life was. We spoke about how it could be better. He said he wanted it to improve while sipping his 40 of beer. Elder Lanier told him that there was no better time to start than the present, got the guy to give him the beer, and poured it out all over the ground. It was a pretty bold moment and we're hoping for the best for the guy. Unfortunately he is in the area of the other missionaries so he's there work. 
That day was also the first day Elder Lanier has driven in weeks. I'm not allowed to drive yet ...driving me crazy, no pun intended. Anyway, he was really distracted and ran a couple stop signs and was on edge for the rest of the night. It was hilarious to see him sitting on the edge of a seat driving like a blind person. He struggled for a while to figure out how to turn the lights on and since we were driving in the 'counties' (dirt road areas) the lights were a little important.
We implemented a new means of finding investigators this week by delivering baptismal invitations for one of the 8 year old boys getting baptized. We asked him and his parents to make invitations to their non-member friends and if we could deliver them. We went around inviting said people to the baptism and said that the ____ family had asked us to share with them why Ben is getting baptized. Most people said no but we got in with one family who we're pretty sure will be baptized soon. Really good people.
We were on slate to get a baptism this past week. Everything was going well and the programs were made. Fast forward to the day of. His wife starts yelling at him five hours before the baptism and tells him that if he gets baptized then she will divorce him. This is the investigator who has read the entire Book of Mormon in 3 weeks. He loves church and loves the gospel. The baptism fell through and now we can't go by as often. Hopefully things turn around. Keep him in your prayers, we don't know how to approach his wife.
So every month we get 1,100 miles to drive in the swagger-wagon since our area is rather large. Since there are 5 weeks in October we are basically out. We can average 11 miles for the next 3 days and we have two lessons on two different days this week that are 30 miles away. This will be a fun one! We're also out of money for this month since there are 5 weeks. This will be a faith week. I have 1 cup of cereal left, 1/4 a gallon, a box of mac n cheese, and a box of spaghetti for 7 days.
The Yuma Valley Ward, formerly the 9th ward, threw their Halloween party this week. We went expecting it to be pretty small but when we were 2 blocks away we could hear music playing. They were using their entire parking lot (pretty big...) as grounds to basically have a mini carnival. There was a dunk tank that the Bishops would go into (good idea...), some basketball hoops, and some other activities as well as lots of food and lots more desserts. It was a lot of fun and the weather was perfectly permitting.
Speaking of halloween, our mission president has asked us all to stay indoors all day. We can leave once and that is to drive to the church at 8am and read the New Testament with the zone (10 missionaries) until 4pm. After 4pm, we drive home and stay in our apartments. I'm going to sleep all afternoon and write letters if I get any by the 31st. President Howes has OK'd both of those things. Elder Sawyer and I were going to go dressed up as Joseph (and the coat of many colors) and Potipher's wife. It would have been golden. The Assistants to the President asked everyone to go in suits that day. And we're out of money. Lame. Just imagine it though.
So I've had a dream before where people were talking to me in Spanish but this dream I had this week was the first time I've spoken in Spanish in my dream. And the worst part was that I couldn't understand anything that I said. That's a pretty lame feeling haha. Elder Sawyer said I was sleep talking in Spanish too.
We had a super bold lesson with 'Carlos' this week. We walked up on him drinking and smoking last week with his friends so he fell off his baptismal date. We went and sat down with him for an hour and just laid it out how it was. I was pretty surprised at what I was saying since they were things I would never imagine saying. I guess that scripture is right that what to say will be put in your mouth in the moment. We left and he was re-energized to stay away from those things. He is on date for this weekend. As is 'Jackie'! We're looking at two baptisms this week. Hopefully both can avoid alcohol and smoking.
I've seen weird things over the air in Yuma this week. They look like super high balloons: bright silver, circular, and small. But the weird thing is that they disapear after a few seconds. Just gone. ALIENS. Kidding about aliens, but it's weird none-the-less.
What is the Church's stance on medicinal marijuana?
One  of our dinner appointments cancelled this week. Our ward mission leaders wife brought over a little bit of heaven. Rotisserie chicken! That was the day we biked 20 miles and we scarfed that food like there was no tomorrow. I expected to have more spaghetti and more rotis chicken. Woe is me.
It's so great to hear of all these new people going on missions! As we say in spanglish, B N H O! (bien hecho/good work). I would venture far enough to say that I am fluido en spanglish now.
 We named our bikes this week. Swagcycle was fitting for mine.
I almost died this week. Well, other than the habanero, I had a near death experience. Elder Sawyer and I were biking home at 8:50pm and I was on the curb of the road and he was on the sidewalk.  I could not have been further over. A silver malibu crested over the hill about 200 feet from us and started drifting towards me. Kept coming, coming, and coming. It was going about 30 mph and we were going 15 mph forward. I started to get a little nervous so went far enough over that my wheel was scratching against the sidewalk. He kept coming. 15 feet away I started to get really nervous and half dismounted my bike ready to jump but he kept coming. It wasn't until 8 inches away that he swerved away from me. I saw my entire life flash before my eyes right then. I'm not ready to go yet. I'm going to appreciate life a lot more now. The guy was really drunk since he had just watched a big baseball game and was 'celebrating' by driving drunk. But all is well so that's all that matters! 
It got 'down to 70' this week. It was funny to see all the Mexicans in the Spanish branch (now named Rio Colorado) in coats. Good times. I'm pretty excited for this new weather gig.
At church yesterday we heard a pretty good story about one of the guys growing up and working. His Dad was making him do a ton of manual labor and the kid yelled at his dad, "Well it's not exactly easy!" And the father replied, "I know, that's why I asked you to do it." He said it pierced him to the core and related it to the trials we face on Earth and how we can overcome anything.
I heard this week that a lot of missions are saying no more knocking doors? Apparently no more in Mexico and Hawaii?
When fasting, missionaries in AZ are encouraged to still drink since we're out in the dry heat.
HOCKEY! One of the YSA members gave us 6 hockey sticks to use and today for P-day we are playing floor hockey at the stake center. Sawyer and I have been shooting a tennis ball in our apt for the last 2 days in anticipation. I miss hockey. And ice. I did have a dream last night that my ____[?] iced over. That was a weird one.
I made a sad realization this week. Elder Sawyer and I have killed more cats in Yuma than we have baptized. He hit a kitten in the swaggerwagon a couple weeks ago. We haven't had a baptism yet.
To explain those two pictures, the ballot one was funny because that guy changed his name to Pro-Life. I laughed. And the gun one was in a ghetto apt complex.
Thank you Doug, Natalia, Eric, Will, Mom, Grandma and Grandpa J for the letters this week! Hopefully I'll have time to write everyone back this week. You're all a priority though!
Love you all,
Elder Johnson