Monday, January 28, 2013

28 January 2013

Si bueno!
So there's a pretty good chance that Cassie talked to one of my recent converts. He and his girlfriend went to the San Diego visitors center and he said he talked to a sister missionary with the last name Rasmussen. Haha small world.
This week was the Tormenta Blanca, or white storm. Every 2 months there is a training for all the spanish missionaries. I had never been to one since Yuma is "too far away to make it in reasonable time." Psh. Well for this training, all the Spanish missionaries came to Yuma and San Luis for an evening to visit all the less active members in the branches. Hence "white storm." Our mission president came down and said, "Usually the church discourages 'blitzs,' but that's not what we're doing...we're inviting!" Haha that got a good laugh out of everyone. It was fun to finally meet the other spanish missionaries, including one who was at my farewell my chance as he was passing through on vacation. He, Elder Myler, Harder, and Norton all stayed at our tiny apartment that night. The highlight was probably tricking Elder Myler into eating a Chil te Pin (spelling?). But that wasn't as funny as Elder Mackay getting tricked into eating an Habanero haha. Good times. For the blitz, I mean night of inviting, we all split up with new companions for a bit and had a list of people to visit and went out with a member. A lot of people got visited and a lot of lessons were taught. Unfortunately there were not many new faces at the spanish branch that weekend.
Which in one sense was a relief since I was asked to speak. I spoke on trusting in the Lord and not being afraid to walk forward in the dark since the light of christ will light the way. It was alright, my throat was really dry and was tripping over my words. I only had 5 minutes to deliver 15 minutes of material since Sister Escobar took 20 minutes. I was more than happy to shorten my talk haha.
We tried to OYM a guy this week (street contact) and we said, "Hey! We're missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and..." and he interrupted and said, "CONGRATULATIONS!" and walked away. Haha he wins the award for quickest and funniest rejection.
This week we got surprised dropped by an investigator, the one who helped us with our tire last week (the practicing catholic). We went over, he warmly welcomed us in, sat us down, and said, "I read Moroni chapter 8." He handed us the book and said he would hear us out but that he was done listening to us after that. (Chapter 8 is about infant baptisms and why they're not needed.) We spoke to him about why we are baptized: for the remission of sins and to enter into a covenant with God. We told him that Christ always taught that we should be as children, pure and clean and how we are not guilty for the transgression of Adam. I asked him why he believed infants needed to be baptized and he said he didn't have a reason other than that was what he was always taught. He was pretty offended by the chapter. I understand why he feels how he feels and am sorry for him. He's an increadible man and is remarkably christlike. Hopefully some day he will come around. We left the Book of Mormon with him and told him if he ever needs us to call us. We left a little dissapointed; the plan for the lesson was to extend a baptismal date. Didn't happen. But we left on good terms. That was evident the next day when he drove past us on our bikes and yelled out the window, "GOOD AFTERNOOOOOON GENTLEMEN!" I have so much respect for him.
It's the end of the month and, as expected, we are out of miles in our car. Of course the one week we start biking this month is the one week it rains! I can count on one hand the number of times it has rained since I've been here and one of those times were while we were on bikes this week. It was refreshing but we got really dirty. Biking through rivers in the street didn't help either.
Yesterday at church I saw an amazing example of God-like sorrow. Someone we were teaching has been struggling with some things and yesterday told us we would have to push the baptism back. It was humbling to see how everything has affected her and the changes she has made in her life to get to where she is now and where she will be on the 7th when she is baptized. It's awesome to see how far people can come as they humble themselves. President Monson said it right (I'm going to slightly modify it), 'man is never taller than when humble/on the knees'
Here's a question I can't figure out: in 3rd Nephi 11:25 Christ gives the baptismal prayer. It not only differs from the one that John the Baptist used on Christ, but it also differs from the one we use today. As we do the baptismal prayer today, if we mistake a word or do not fully submerse, the ordinance gets repeated. Why then, if it has to be so exact, do the prayers differ?
Also, why 12 apostles and not 5, or 7, or 10? 12 is an even number, it's possible to get a tie "vote."
We set our Feb baptismal goal at 3. It's going to stretch us to work hard but I'm pretty sure we can get it.
Thanks Doug, Mom, Eric, Will, Katie, Jamie, and Lyle for writing this week! Glad to hear you are all doing well and staying, for the most part, out of trouble!
Other than that, this was a pretty slow week. The blitz took out 2 days. We did teach a lot this week, 31 total lessons, 8 of them to less actives, and 13 to investigators with a member present. That's the most total teaching opportunities I've had on my mission far.
goat/ram: this picture was taken right before it tried to eat me
lake: that's a park. It sprinkled all night and there was 6" of rain in all the little parks around Yuma. The city smells like a pond. Also, the sprinkling caused the power to go out and the streets to flood.
But again, thank you all for the continued support!
Con amor,
Elder Johnson

Monday, January 21, 2013

21 January 2013

This week started out dramatically. We were driving to our lesson and the tire pressure warning light came on. It was around 40 degrees outside so we thought nothing of it attributing it to the temperature. As we got out of our lesson and hopped in the car to pull around, something felt weird. We jumped out and found a 7" slash in our tire. Woops! So, at 9:45pm and in 40 degrees we changed out tire with the help of the investigator we had just taught and got on the road. 

Normally that wouldn't have been such a big deal but we were planning on leaving the next morning at 4:00 am to go to Chandler for a training. We called the mission vehicle coordinator and he told us to take it in to the shop (since we were supposed to get our vehicles inspected) and get to the training at 1pm, 5 hours late. We called the Assistants and asked them the same questions and they said, "I don't care what you have to do, be in your seats here at 8:30 am!" Not very helpful. So we hitched a ride with Elder Lanier and Sawyer and had a nice drive up at 4 am. The desert sunrise is awesome. 

The training was two days long. We spent from 8:30am-3:00pm both days in trainings learning various things. There was a lot of information and the long drive the first day made it very hard. After 3pm, we went on exchanges with missionaries in Chandler and spent the night at their place. It was a lot of fun and the first chance I've had to meet missionaries outside of Chandler for more than a few hours. Good times were had even though there was an intense argument between the missionaries that lived there that evening haha.

We were driving home at 8pm and as we were on Dead Cow Road we saw a light burning in the sky, a few thousand feet in the air. It was probably  miles away in the direction of the border. The light would sometimes brighten up and we could see a trail of smoke as it circled very slowly towards the Earth. Then, all of a sudden, it went out. I had no idea what it was. A little while late another one went off and we saw a giant white light on the ground at the same time. Seconds later, another one shot to the same altitude with the same brightness. I assume they were being shot up even though we could not see any trace of it being shot from the ground. So my question is this: what on earth were they? Someone mentioned they may be from trip wires on the border. So if anyone can find out, please let me know!

We had a pretty cool experience with an OYM this week. We were walking out of dinner, stuffed and feeling sick, and felt that we needed to talk to some guy outside. This wasn't our area but the other missionaries had already gotten to their car and left. When we said what church we were from, he said, "Oh, I already believe your church is true! Come sit around my fire!" We talked to him for a bit but then had to leave. We passed him off to the Elders who cover his area, I hope something comes of it.

Last Monday night or so had the baptismal interviews for the people we had getting baptized this week. Everything went well, we thought. When we had a lesson with one of them a few days later and she told us how she went home and had a nervous breakdown because of how stressed she was about it. Her mom, naturally being concerned, offered to let her push the baptism back because it was pretty quick. Eventually the girl came to the decision to pray about it. Up until this point she had struggled recognizing an answer to her prayer. Well, she told us that she locked herself in her room while crying and prayed. After her prayer she lay there and said she felt the happiest, most peaceful feeling she had ever felt. She decided to go ahead and get baptized on the day that we had scheduled it for. It was an awesome example of being watched out for by our Heavenly Father and recognizing answers to prayers.

The week was highlighted by not one but two baptisms. Technically three girls were baptized but two were over the age of 9 (meaning two counted as convert baptisms since the mother is a member). One was for the Cibola Ward and one for the Yuma Valley Ward. This makes another month of getting a baptism into every unit that we cover. The mothers or fellowshippers for both girls insisted on making the programs since we as missionaries don't make them pretty haha. So true. So we sat back and happily let them take care of all of the programs and whatnot. Wow they were amazing. But more on that later.

The first baptism was originally scheduled for 5pm but lots of the members couldn't make it since they work. Woops, forgot about that aspect. So we pushed the baptism back to 5:45 pm since we had another baptism at 7pm that night. It started with an awesome talk on baptism and then a musical number by the young women. Pretty great singing and the spirit was very strong. The baptism itself was great and the talk on the holy ghost was inspiring. The baptism ran without mistake and was fantastic. 

At 6:45 pm we shuffled all the people out of the room to prepare for the next one. This one started late as we were taking pictures in the hallway. Their grandmother is a professional photographer and insisted on many pictures. They told us they would print us some so we'll see how they compare haha. This is the one where I am not looking at the camera. Woops...

The second part to a baptism is the confirmation, or receiving the gift of the holy ghost, which happens on Sunday. The first one went smoothly but the second was a bit more stressful. At 11:05, they still weren't there (Church started at 11). Her friend told us that she was in another part of AZ and probably wouldn't make it. We started to frantically call them and as we did they walked in the door and the confirmation went well. Whew!

I had the chance to go on exchanges with Elder Sawyer this week. We had a relatively open day ahead of us as far as set up lessons go. A lot of them fell through although we put someone on date for next month in the spanish branch. From where we stand now, we will get a baptism in every one of our units again next month. We're doing work here in Yuma and we are baptizing more than has happened for a year here as a district. It was a great exchange and was fun to be back with him for a day. We were going to exchange back at Coldstone that night (easy excuse to buy ice cream) but when we got there it was way crowded and getting late so we passed on that. All in all, a good time. We taught one of the most powerful lessons I've had on my mission. We focused around gaining a personal testimony. At one point we were speaking on trials and I had the impression to open to Mathew 13 (or 14? Can't remember) and read the story of Peter walking on water. I likened that to our life on Earth and how the waves are trials and the "crosswinds" is Satan. Peter walked well and then when the waves hit, he fell. He started to sink and kept sinking until he found it in him to call out and ask for help. Then, as it says in Mathew, the Savior reached out "immediately" and saved him. How similar we are to that that when we fall short, all we have to do is ask and we are "immediately" supported. Afterwards Elder Sawyer said he had used that same analogy with an investigator a few days before. I had never heard it said before. It left a strong impression with our investigator and me. Then, after the lesson with her yesterday, she came to us and said, "You know... I think I need to be baptized!" Just what any missionary wants to hear! We will be extending a date to her when we see her later this week. 

I also had another pretty cool experience with a prompting this week. I was reading in 3rd Nephi in the Book of Mormon and for some reason felt that I needed to make a copy of my Priesthood Line of Authority and put it on a sticky note in my planner. So I did that and stopped my reading to do it. In a lesson we had that night to a recent convert, he randomly in the the middle of the lesson asked about the priesthood and if it can be traced back to Christ. Bam, I whipped what I had written on that sticky note out and showed him. He really enjoyed it and it helped him to understand a little bit more of the restoration of the Church and how there is an unbroken chain from Jesus Christ to me. Just a cool experience. President Monson said it well once: "Never procrastinate a prompting." 

Nothing else super significant happened this week. We were out of our areas for two days which hurt a bit but we made it up yesterday. 

Thanks Natalia, Mom, Eric, Will, Tanan, and Grandpa and Grandma Johnson for writing this week! It was great to get to hear from all of you and about what's going on in life!

Elder Johnson

Monday, January 14, 2013

January 14, 2013

This was a little bit of a slower week. Lots of lessons cancelled and things seemed to just be going against us. 
Our monthly baptismal goal is slipping through our fingers. Two people who were progressing towards baptism either have disappeared or decided they aren't so interested. It's looking like three is attainable but the next one will be on our faith. We learned that there is a youth who has been going to church, seminary, and mutual for 2 years faithfully just told everyone that she actually isn't a member and wants to get baptized. Apparently everyone thought she was. Unfortunately her parents aren't so on board so it will be at least 6 months until something can happen.
We will be having two baptisms this week, both on Friday. There was some confusion over what time they would be at which left some people a little less than happy but hey, can't make everyone happy right? One will be at 6 and the other at 7. Cutting it close haha. With these baptisms, we will again have baptized someone into every unit/congregation that we cover in one month. That's always a rewarding thing to think about. We have a good amount of work going in one of our English wards and the ward is getting very excited about missionary work.
We were sent out this week to get the ward mission plans for the year of 2013. The wards aren't pushing themselves very hard for baptismal goals.
This week we were walking down a street trying to find someones house when we saw a guy one the road. We went over and OYM'd him and when he said he wasn't interested I asked if the red car in his garage was an Alfa Romeo. Way off, it was a '61 Corvette. I had a bad view... We talked about his car for a bit and then I asked what car was under the cover. He looked over and smiled and said, 'come here.' We walked over and he slowly pulled it off. He had a DeLorean! That was the first one I've seen in person. He opened the doors for it and let us look around it. It was in awesome condition, too. I wanted to get a picture but it felt weird so I just admired with my eyes. Sweeeeeet car. I offered to trade our Corolla for it and he said he could use a convenient car. I wonder if President Howes would be mad if we did that... People would come to US to talk to us if we drove a Delorean.  Either that or a car with hydraulics. We talked to a guy with one this week...pretty useless thing haha.
It is has been interesting to see how peoples countenances change when they see you and reject you to when you talk about the car in their garage or the plane on the wall. They open right up and will talk for however long we want. Sometimes just leaving them with a good impression is the best thing you can do. Maybe in a couple years they will be more likely to listen.
I tried that last night and failed. I know nothing about bikes and this guy came by in his Harley and I asked what year it was. He revved it really loud to keep me from talking so I tried to talk to his friends. They just sat there laughing at us so I made eye contact with the one laughing the most and just held it there while bearing testimony. She felt pretty bad about it at the end haha.
We got our first hate mail this week! After a long day of cancelled lessons, we came home to find a card that we had handed out, burned, with obscene comments taped to our door. We laughed about it but it was a little concerning since we don't tell anyone where we live. I'll probably keep it for a while, the person went through a lot of effort to put it there.
 Last week we were asked to speak in Church on the 13th about whatever we want. This was Valdez' first time speaking in English at Church and actually mine as well (on my mission). We both decided against the cliche missionary work topic and did something else. I spoke on the Book of Mormon, what it is, and why we all need a testimony of it. At the end I challenged everyone to take up Moroni's challenge again and to read it, pray about it, and reconfirm or receive a testimony of it. Shared a principle, taught, and left a commitment! We were each given 15 minutes to speak. Two youth spoke, a musical number, and us. It was a nice sacrament meeting and the congregation enjoyed it.
 We have been teaching someone recently who has a great deal of faith. We invited her to pray about the Book of Mormon and followed up about it the next time we went over. She said that she believed it was scripture and said that she had her prayer answered. She had a pretty miraculous answer come and she said it has touched her and she wants to change. She said she wants to feel forgiven since her sins weigh her down. Ah, we've been waiting to hear that from someone!
Earlier this week we were out knocking on doors at 8:30ish. It was cold. We knocked on one door and before we could say anything this guy pulls us inside to get out of the cold. Once we're inside and warm he asks us what we're doing. I was half expecting him to throw us out when we said who we were but instead he sat us down and said he has always been interested in our church. He is a practicing catholic and not interested in changing religions as much as learning about what we believe. Maybe we can share something tonight that will change that.  Very nice family though with a very strong spirit in their home.
Two days ago we stopped by our investigators house to teach him but he wasn't there. He had a bush of Chile de Arbol outside his house so we borrowed a couple and took them to dinner that night. For some reason I thought it wouldn't be too hot. I don't think it was as hot as the Chile ta Pin (spelling?) and definitely not as hot as the Habanero. But it was still hot. I was supposed to share the message that night and couldn't since my mouth was just on fire. The family we were with brought out Tums and told me to take two hahaha. One of these days I'll be able to eat one without dying... Until then, free entertainment for the Spanish dinners I guess.
I don't remember who but someone said, "Nothing great will ever be accomplished without enthusiasm." I'll take credit for it until someone comes forward.
Since this was another slow week, not a ton happened. We didn't teach a ton of lessons. We did find 9 new investigators though, that was abnoramlly high! More on that next week as we see which ones progress.
To kind of explain those pictures....there was a dust storm of sorts, not the kind I'm waiting for (giant wall of dust moving towards you as one body) but rather a slow move-in of dust. High winds and lots of dust made visibility pretty bad. Lots of sirens that day. We broke into Elder Lanier and Sawyer's apartment through their window because we were hungry and our dinner cancelled. When they came home and we were in their home they got  good scare.
Thanks Johnson family, Deweys, Wolthuis, Wolthuis, and Eric, Mom, and Will for the letters this week! 
If anyone has any questions they'd like answered, ask away!
With love,
Elder Johnson

Monday, January 7, 2013

7 January 2013

Happy new year!
Last night we got transfer calls. Sat around the house from 9-10:45 waiting for it and then it finally came. Elder Valdez and I are staying together. Only two people are leaving Yuma, Elder Gutierrez and Sister Drake. That's about all the changes for our area. We got news last night that the Spanish branch in Show Low was dissolved. There go my dreams for going to Show Low... vamos a ver...
The week started out great. We had a baptism scheduled for every week of the month. However, things have slowly changed a bit and now we're going to have three on the 19th of January. Turns out there is also a stake activity from 2pm-10pm (something about pioneers), two temple trips in the morning, and scout camp in the morning. Talk about bad timing. We will still move ahead with the baptisms and try to find a way to schedule them all in. We might just do one at 9am, 11am, and 1pm haha. We'll make it work. We should be getting two baptisms in the Yuma Valley Ward and one in the Cibola Ward.
Hopefully one of those for the Yuma Valley goes through. The person is struggling with an addiction to smoking and drinking. We pushed her pretty hard and she got up and left for a bit during a lesson. Woops. The following lesson was really good though; we focused on the atonement and being strengthened through our trials. We have an awesome fellowshipping family who has done so much for us and for her.
The other baptism is for an over age youth. She was the miracle find I mentioned a few weeks back; how we were driving in a car behnid a member and he pointed out the window to a house on a whim and we stopped by and found out the daughter wanted to be baptized. We were originally planning to have that one on the 12th but they are too busy that day so we will be planning for the 19th. The grandma went out of town last week and is planning on coming back into town for the baptism. We are still working to resolve some of the mothers' concerns but I'm not too worried. She has some awesome fellowshippers as well.
This week was really when I got a testimony of awesome fellowshippers like the aforementioned ones. We had one family of investigators who weren't progressing so we reached out to the bishop for help who then reached out to the appropriate auxilliaries. Since getting them involved, we've been teaching them so much more frequently and have committed them to baptism whch they have accepted. You can help make all the difference that someone needs in order to better realize and understand the gospel. You can be the answer to their prayers. Be able to willing to help your local missionaries with their investigators, and that goes beyond just going to lessons. We have one who stops by multiple times a week just to talk with one investigator and now they're close friends who didn't even know each other a few weeks ago.
On a different note, my bike had a catastrophic failure this week. Both tires popped within 5 minutes. Walmart doesn't sell my size innertube...guess the tires on my bike are too awesome, or something.
Our neighbors got busted by drug dogs and the fuzz this week.
We went to teach a lesson this week to someone that we "OYM'd." She wasn't super interested but we went by anyway. When we were walking up, she pulled out her phone and sent a message. As we got to her driveway, she said we could share a bit of time. So, just as we were getting ready to pray with her and have the lesson her son slowly walks out and says, "mom, he's throwing up." She ran inside and sent her daughter outside and said her mother was too busy. Haha classic bad excuse. I've seen worse though, like, "the screen door is locked so you can't come in."
We had a baptism this week into our spanish branch. We found her off an OYM back in December. She had just quit smoking for "some reason." Her boyfriend of the most strange people I've ever met haha. During the baptism he was sitting in the back rocking to and fro. When she got out of the dressing room and was walking back to her seat after the baptism her boyfriend stood up and yelled, "UN APLAUSO!" and clapped by himself for a solid 6 seconds. Super awkward, I was dying haha. I'm pretty sure he's always drunk but it keeps things interesting.
There's some drama going down in the branch right now. Since we have been baptizing more than they ever have in the branch before, the members have been a bit more involved. And they're not happy about it. In their meeting yesterday they spent 20 minutes complaining about us asking for too many rides. All the stake needs to do is buy a bus so we can pick up all the investigators and recent converts who can't drive...
I turned 6 this week.
We ate Rosca cake (spelling?) this week. My goodness that stuff is goooooood. It's the cake with the little toy babies inside. I don't really understand why they're there but if you find one it's, well, I don't really understand, all I know is I got three haha. The branch president invited all the missionaries over and we ate the entire thing. It was a big cake too.
We taught more lessons this week with members there than I ever had. Out of the 25 that we taught, 15 of them had members present. It makes a massive difference since they can relate to the investigators and help them have a friend in the congregation. I think the most I had in a week before 15 was 12. We did work this week. Usually the last week of the transfers are a bit slower but we wanted to end this one with a bang/baptism. And we did! It's still looking like we can get 4 this next month.
If anyone has any questions abuot anything, lemme know so I can answer them.
Picture captions: 1) Baptism picture
                          2) Elder Mackay wanted a picture on a big wall. Other side was the marine air corp land.
Thanks Mom, Eric, Will, Tanan, and Natalia for the letters this week! Life sounds good for all of you. Mom, Eric, and Will, you sent your letters to my old apartment (like the one from 2 months ago). Lucky they're just two blocks away.
Thanks so much for all your  support,
Love, Elder Johnson