Monday, February 25, 2013

25 February 2013

Dear Family and Friends,

On Sunday night of last week I got the transfer call and let you guys know that P-Day. My last few days in Yuma were awesome; we got to visit some recent converts and say goodbye and I got to be with Elder Sawyer and Elder Valdez.

I rush packed that last night to get everything ready to go. With the car filled and packed with six missionaries and luggage, we headed out of Yuma at 7am and arrived at the mission home just before 10 am. On the drive up we saw a bunch of cops FLYING past our car. When we caught up 10 minutes later we saw them running at illegal immigrants on the train tracks. Quite the sight. Don't see that everyday.

All the missionaries in the entire mission were called in to that transfer meeting. I was expecting that we all got chastised but it turns out it was quite different news. Turns out that the Arizona Tempe mission is getting split into the Arizona Scottsdale mission, the Arizona Gilbert mission, and the Arizona Tempe mission. All the missionaries in these areas will be getting new mission calls in the coming weeks and there is a very good chance that I could be serving in the Mesa, Phoenix, Gilbert, Tempe, Scottsdale, or even a California mission. Rumors floating around are that the Yuma area will get put into a California mission. Big news! This goes into effect July 1. I'll keep everyone updated.

Anyway, that big announcement was made and also all the big announcements about transfers. I waited and waited and waited and didn't hear my name until just about the end. I was transferred to Tempe. I went from the furthest from the mission home to the closest haha. I didn't do anything, I promise! 

Tempe is pretty cool. It's a lot different from Yuma. Tons of people, big college town with all those ups and downs. It has a hugely different feel from Yuma but I'm learning to love it. The work is a lot different as well. We taught 15 lessons this week, half of what we taught in Yuma on a good week. We spend all our time in trailer parks and small apartments. It's hard to find new investigators and the teaching pool of the area I came into was basically nonexistent. 

We spent the week working hard to find people and only found one person. We also did two days in a row of fasting. That was pretty exhausting. The first day was with an investigator and her family that she could make it to Church (get off work) and the second day was with an Elder who was diagnosed with cancer and sent home. The whole mission fasted for him. We're hoping for the best. Though the investigator didn't make it to church that day it was cool to see them all fasting and practicing their faith. Theyll be at church next week. It was pretty exhausting. 

I was starting to get used to Tempe and just finished unpacking yesterday. And 9:40 pm our cellphone rang. President Howes was on the phone. He asked Elder Harder (my companion) and I to go somewhere quiet and put him on speakerphone. We did. The first thing he did was apologize and then said that I was getting transferred somewhere else to replace someone who just went home. Four days into my new area and I'm already getting moved! I've packed more in the last 4 days than the lats 7 months! But I'm happy to go wherever. Elder Lanier called that night from the office and told me to be there at 11:30 am toady (in an hour or so). He wouldn't tell me where I was going, just that it was "the complete opposite of Yuma!" That means I'm either going back to Yuma (to open up a new area in Somerton), to Gilbert, or to the Mountains/Show Low area. I got some more out of them when they said that they have to lose their P-Day as well which means I might be going somewhere far away like Yuma or Show Low. But we will see, I'm willing to go wherever. I'll send a letter home when I get settled with my new address but until then, keep using the mission home one! (1871 E. Del Rio Drive, Tempe AZ 85282)

If I go back to Yuma I'll be happy since it's Yuma but I was so excited to go to the temple. We aren't allowed to go in Yuma since it's too far away. Show Low can go to the Gila Valley and everyone else goes to Mesa. With the upcoming mission split, there's still a chance I can serve in Arizona and not have a temple in my area.

Church on sunday was interesting too. Here in Tempe they have a spanish ward, not a branch. There were quite a few people at church on sunday which was cool. I was a little disappointed to see that most people speak English and will try to speak English with me if I let them. They teach the youth classes in English as well.
But that was the big news. I didn't do anything to get emergency transferred haha.

The other big news is that it snowed here! We were bringing all our stuff into our apartment and it started hailing and snowing for 2 minutes. The apartment is/was so nice, probably the nicest in the mission from what I'm told. Too bad I'm getting kicked out of it. It even has "Valet Trash," haha. Some guy with a giant "trash cape" runs from floor to floor picking up trash between a certain time and takes it to the dumpster.

Rewinding back to Yuma for a second. The Elders that Elder Sawyer and I replaced in Yuma had a recent convert who just hit her year mark as a member and also just got her mission call. Guess where she's going? DC South! Keep your eyes open for an Hermana Sevilla. She's spanish speaking. Small world.

On the drive to dinner one night we passed a giant field with the most intense RC Airplane airport I've ever seen. Runway, grandstands, you name it. There were three planes flying around and they were pretty big. One was a zaggi and the other was a piper cub.  

Other big news of the week! For the first time in 6 months I haven't had Eggos for breakfast! Who knew that brown sugar and maple oatmeal was so filling and good...Pretty cheap, too! I'll probably live off of Pop Tarts and Oatmeal for the next 6 months and then find something else to eat, probably Eggos haha.
Thanks Grandpa J, Eric, Will, Mom, and Natalia for the letters! I hope I'll have time to write everyone today but it just depends on where I get transferred to.

Anyway, I need to get ready to get transferred somewhere. Thank you all for your continued support! 

With love, 
Elder Johnson

Pics: saying goodbye with Elder Sawyer and Valdez.

Monday, February 18, 2013

18 February 2013

Sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo I got the transfer phone call last night. I leave Wednesday morning at 4:45 am and will likely be serving in the Phoenix area/valley. So, until next Monday, continue to send letters to the mission home until I can tell you all my new address. 1871 E. Del Rio Drive, Tempe AZ 85282.

This week's letter will be pretty short. 

This week we have been doing things a little differently than before. We tried to take people out with us for a set amount of time, not just to a certain lesson. It has made such a big difference! Instead of teaching around the "standards of excellence" we have been exceeding them. We've had a lot of success with teaching - three weeks in a row with over 30 lessons in a week. That's a lot more than usual. It has taken a lot of extra planning on our part but it makes such a big difference in the progression of those we are teaching if there's someone else there who lives locally that they can speak to and relate with. 

I went on exchanges this week to the foothills. We were walking around one of the Snow Bird areas and I saw one of the millions of Oregon license plates that we see. We went up and spoke with them and after he said 'no no no no' I decided to ask him which part of Oregon he's from. He said some city that sounds Hawaiian and then I asked if by any chance he was familiar with Sweet Home. He said yes and that the neighbors down the street lived there. So we went over there and knocked on the door. No one was home. Their other neighbor looked out the door and said, "Oh, he's at the Sweet Home lunch-in at Cracker Barrel!" Haha turns out there's a lot of people in Foothills from Sweet Home, Oregon... I've met only a handful of people who know where Sweet Home is and then stumbled upon dozens of them in Foothills. Small world.

Elder Lanier got the AP phone call yesterday so he left that afternoon for the drive up to Tempe. As such, Elder Sawyer is companion-less for a few days so he's spending that time with us in a trio. It has been lots of fun. We got to fill in for Lanier yesterday and help teach the stake mission prep class. The turnout was pretty low since so many people were out of town for travels and whatnot. They wanted us to focus more on how to teach out of Preach my Gospel. It was a nice experience and is always fun to answer questions about what we do and how we do it.

Which is what we did for the rest of the night. Right after mission prep we went to the fireside we were asked to panel. The Sisters, Elders Valdez, Sawyer, and I all answered questions and did a brief introduction about why we decided to serve a mission, what we did to prepare, and whether or not we felt prepared. Most of the other missionaries did a lot of mission prep, going on about classes, splits, etc that they did to help prepare. When it was my turn I let everyone know how little I did and how that has hindered the work. I told them that since everyone was telling me to do lots of prep I just ignored it since it got old and how that was something I regretted. I spoke on how they have time right now to prepare and if they don't take advantage of it it will be something they will regret for a long time. The theme of my five minute introduction was: be better than I was. Haha if I had a dollar for every time I heard a missionary say that... But the fireside was awesome. There were some really amazing questions asked and everyone was kept involved. Kind of a nice way to leave Yuma.

It's bittersweet to leave. 95% of the other areas in the mission don't really compare to the amount of spanish work we have here. I'm really grateful for the people I've been able to meet in Yuma and what I've been able to learn. It will be interesting to learn how to work elsewhere since missionary work in Yuma is supposedly very different than other areas. More on that next week when I know what other areas are like. But bittersweet is the right word. I'm ready to learn a new area and have to run around to memorize all the names and whatnot. It should be exciting.

Learned this week that there's a camel farm in Yuma! They breed pure bred racing camels and ship them to Saudi Arabia to race, not even kidding. A Saudi Arabian owns the place and his wife is actually a member of the church. Yuma is so random. 

Thanks for the letters Sister Hines, Eric, Susie, Will, and Mom! Hope all is well. 

Why do Cacti only grow in some areas of Yuma? Like the big cliche ones. There's this one area with hunnnndreeedsss and they're nowhere else.

Question... We were reading in 3 Nephi 9:20 and it speaks about how the Lamanites were baptized and received the gift of the holy ghost "without knowing it." How is that possible?

Hope everyone is having a great week!
Con amor,

Monday, February 11, 2013

11 February 2013

Dear Family and Friends,

To begin, I'm 90% sure I'm getting transferred this week. The APs came down and dropped a hint that I'm going to the valley. So if you plan on sending me a letter while i'm in Yuma, send it by Tuesday (tomorrow). If not by then, then send it to the mission home. The mission home's address is: 1871 East Del Rio Drive, Tempe AZ 85282. I'll know my new address on Tuesday of next week (20th or 21st) and will be able to let you know sometime after that.
Transfer calls are next Sunday night and transfers themselves are on that Tuesday or Wednesday, not entirely sure which one. This transfer will only be 5 weeks long. For all the missionaries in our mission (the world?) who are serving right now, they will go home a week early. This transfer is what makes that possible. So looks like I'll be home July 1, 2014 instead of the 8th and miss my birthday by 3 days.
There was a gun threat at two schools this week. They evacuated everyone to the Stake Center parking lot and we saw border patrol cars and cop cars swarming the place. Should have gone in, there were so many people to talk to!
These last two weeks have been full of lots of tracting. For some reason for 1.5 of those weeks I didn't carry any copies of the Book of Mormon to hand out. In all that time in all our finding techniques - not just tracting - we found 2 investigators. It was getting pretty frusterating. Then durnig personal study this week I felt prompted to throw a few copies in my backpack (something I should have had the whole time) and as we went out that day we found 2, then 4 the next day, then 5 the next day. We found 11 people since Wednesday of this week, a massive increase compared to the 2 of last week. On Wednesday, we had taught 9 lessons, all with a member present. By Sunday night, we had taught 37 lessons with the majority being with members. Whew, I learned my lesson! As soon as I made that change we found tons of success. We had 8 people with a baptismal date and everything was looking great!
And then none of them came to church and they all fell off date. That was a pretty frusterating morning, waiting for people and havnig the rides we found them tell us they wouldn't come. So after church we ran over, dropped a few of them (stopped teaching) and went out to find people. By the end of the night we had found 4 people who had accepted a baptismal date - nothing short of a miracle. It's a little sad to 'know' that you're leaving and see all this success. We're working hard for it and I want to leave it better than I found it. We have a lot of really solid people we're teaching right now and we have at least one person with a baptismal date for every Saturday in March. That's the goal: to be baptizing weekly. The trick is to stay motivated and energetic because this week was pretty exhausting.
This week my personal goal was to be more bold with people. Last night was a pretty cool experience with that. We were teaching someone - very high, very drunk - who was complaining about all his problems in life and how he wanted to change. I told him that change starts now and "invited"/strongly encouraged him to pour out his 40 oz right then and there. He said, "you know what...." and turned around and poured it all over the ground. Pretty cool to see how as we raise to our callings and qualify ourselves we can fufill our callings and teach with power. Unfortuantely he isn't in our area but I'm excited to see what he can do.
We're teaching/were teaching someone who just wasn't doing anything. Last night we had a really bold lesson with him and told him that if he doesn't put in work, we can't help him. We asked him if he was willing to put in the work to qualify himself to return to live with God again and he said, "no." We were sad for him but happy that we could have put it in words that were clear and exact. We left him the copy we gave him some weeks ago and let him know that he can call us at any time.
Our miles in our car were cut from 1,000 to 900 for the month. Subsequently, we've been biking a lot more; everyday for about 10 miles. We ran into someone walking down the street the other day and he just started throwing down on organized religion and how it judges people. He compared me to Hitler haha. He got pretty upset and we were pretty frank with him about life and what we need to be doing. He told us that he had recently given up all electronics so that he can avoid worldly things. I pointed to the iPod he was listening to and asked what he quailfied that as. Maybe that was the wrong move, maybe not, but he flipped out. Went on for 5 minutes about how judgemental I was for pointing out his flaws and how Jesus would never do that. We told him that was exactly what Jesus did to the Pharisees and Sadducees (spelling?) and biked away to him yelling at us. Probably not the best street contacting experience we've had haha but definitely memorable.
En route to one of our lessons this week we stopped to talk to two women. An intended five minute mini lesson turned into an hour lesson. For 30 minutes we tried everything we could to leave but they wouldn't let us. They went on and on about how Jesus didn't get resurrected into a body because the body was what made the atoning sacrifice work and how he's a great spirit.Everytime we would show a scripture they would say, "now show me in my bible...".  Turns out they were Jehovah's Witnesses and were trying on purpose to make us miss our lesson. They succeeded. We went and knocked on her door and turns out it was the wrong door. The guy there invited us right in and accepted a baptismal date by the end of the lesson. We stopped by our intended lesson later that night and met with her as well and she also accepted a baptismal date. Tender mercies...
Haha we tracted into this guy named Adolfo Castro this week. I don't think his parents thought those names through very well.
Highlite of the week was a baptism! I mentioned last week that I would tell a little more of the story this week. I'll just talk aboutt he baptismal service itself. She was very nervous when she got there and didn't want to take the "pre-baptism picture" in the jumpsuit so we took one with her in her sunday dress instead. The baptismal service was awesome. Great talks, great spirit, great baptism. She said afterwards, "I at peace." That defines the spirit that was there pretty well. Just...peaceful. Picture attached.
We had the opportunity to teach a family this week. They were very passionate about how deathbed repentance is ok. They quoted what Christ said to the thief on the cross. We taught a little about the spirit world and what that scripture meant in relation to post-mortal life. They started to understand it a bit more at the end. This was also the first family we taught that said that prophets weren't needed anymore since we had the Bible and since prophets only prepared the way for Christ. We had a nice conversation about how Christ is perfect and so is his church and how it is unchanging, just as he is. Showed her Amos 3:7 and some other scriptures. They didn't believe us about the spirit world so Elder Valdez pulled out 1 Peter 3:18-19 and she was awe struck at that scripture. I'm excited to teach them again, it's really pushing me to learn a lot more as well as finding more scriptural refernces for what we teach.
It's easy to get caught up in a lesson and forget all about the scriptures. President Howes says that in every lesson the scriptures need to be out, in hand, and open because the spirit can flow from the pages and that we need to be using them more than we do.
On a completely different note, in Arizona it's legal to sit in a truck bed while it's driving. We went out with someone this week who didn't have enough space haha. Picture attached. It was freezing.
Last sunday (Feb 3rd), Elder Valdez and I shared out testimonies. Right after sacrament meeting we were asked to speak in Church the following week and someone else asked us to teach mission prep the following week. So yesterday, we did both of those things. Elder Valdez spoke on Christlike attributes and I spoke on the spirit with stories of following promptings and miracles I've seen. It was a lot of fun and turned out better than I expected. 
Which was good since we didn't prepare at all to teach mission prep and it wasn't so good haha. Right afterwards the bishop asked us to do a fireside next week for all the youth in the ward. We'll prepare more for this one, I think.
So in the last two weeks I've had a bit of trouble with one gear on my bike, gear configuration 1-8. When I bike, the chain slips every other pedal/pump/whatever the word is but only on  that gear. What can I do to fix it? I end up biking on 1-7 or 2-4 instead of 1-8 which I'd prefer to use.
Thanks for the letters Mom, Eric, Will, and Lyle!
Hope everyone has a great week!
Elder Johnson
if you plan on sending me a letter while i'm in Yuma, send it by Tuesday (tomorrow). If not by then, then send it to the mission home. The mission home's address is: 1871 East Del Rio Drive, Tempe AZ 85282

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

February 6, 2013

I'm not ready for the summer to come yet. It was in the upper 80s this week. To think that it can still get 40 degrees warmer...
This last week we were biking around town and hopped off the bike to knock on a door. As soon as I knocked, I heard a gun get cocked and then the door open. There was someone standing with a rifle by his leg. Turns out it was a cop. He said that people have been targetting cops and he was doing a checkup on his 'weapons.' He had a flak jacket and helmet on the ground and that's all we saw but it's a little nerve wracking to hear a gun get cocked behind a door haha.
We were teaching a lesson to a recent convert this week and during the lesson there was a knock on the door. An Elder that served here who has since gone home walked in! He was in Yuma when I first came in and taught and baptized the man we were visiting. He lives over in California somewhere and it was pretty funny to see him walk in. He's the second missionary that I've served with who has come back and visited us after their mission. We got to catch up for a little bit and it was cool to see and hear about everythjing that he has done since he finished his mission.
Someone asked what one of the more interesting parts of teaching people here is. I would probably have to say hearing people "pray in tongues." While we are offering a prayer or they are praying, we'll hear them start whispering and making weird clicking sounds and whatnot. The first few times it was really surprising but since then i've kind of moved past it - it's pretty distracting. Definitely interesting to hear as I've never met someone who does that before. When we try to teach them that we don't do 'that,' they are amazed that anyone can "talk to God not in tongues." We testify that God understands our thoughts and the feelings of our hearts and we don't need to try to speak differently for him to understand us. Christ taught the way to pray.
Found this cool quote from 1976:
"In the last 126 years, the world's population has increased four fold, but Church membership has increased 56 fold! In other words, Church growth was 14x faster than the population growth. In 1850 there were 60,000 members of the Church vs a world pop of 1 billion. In 1976, there were 3,650,000 members vs a world pop of 4 bil." Now, there are over 15,000,000 members worldwide.
While biking this week, we heard someone yelling at us from the side of the street. We pulled over and she said, "Do you guys have a book for me?" Just what missionaries want to hear! We pulled it out and she tried to grab it and run. Weird first impression... We taught her a little introduction using the pictures inthe front of the Book of Mormon and the whole time she was asking crazy questions about crazy things. Really weird. We ended with a prayer and asked when we could come back. She told us that all she wanted was a copy to read sometime. We left our names and number on a card in the Book as well as a reading. She tried to invited us into her home at the end but we declined and she got pretty offended. She said, "Is there an evil spirit in here or something!?" Maybe something will come of that?
This week was a pretty hard week. We found only two new investigators and had lots of lessons cancel. A usual week has about 5-10 new investigators, 4-9 of those being people we talk to on the street, ~1 being a referral. We got called out this week for having too many investigators without a baptismal date. Preach my Gospel says that by the second lesson, the person should have a hard baptismal date. Pretty intimidating, that. Well, we took it to heart and repented. We put 5 people on date for baptism this week for this month. It is always interesting to see how people react as you extend that invitation to be baptized on a certain date. What it does it, I guess you could say, weeds out those who aren't prepared yet. We are here to teach those who are ready to accept the gospel and make changes in their life today.
Along with that goes dropping investigators. When someone isn't keeping commitments like coming to chruch, reading, or praying, they aren't progressing and they're not dedicated. We are taught to "drop" those investigators. This week we will be dropping probably 6 people which is very intimidating. We're going to call it a "faith drop" since we don't have many names to teach right now. We need to find people who are ready.
Something funny happened at church yesterday. We were walking around the hallway to the other side of the church and we heard someone say, "Elder Johnson, Sister (Cassie) Rasmussen says hi!" I stopped and said, "what?" This member had been in San Diego to get sealed to his family and went on a tour. Guess who their tour guide was?! Hahahaha, what are the chances.
This week we went to visit some of the members who are over 8 years old and not baptized (Over age youth - OAY). We tracted the neighborhood of one of them and every. single. person. except two slammed the door or yelled something at us. Probably won't go back there for a bit.
Working yesterday was interesting. Since it was Super Bowl Sunday, no one wanted to see us or come out with us.
Got to see a plane get fueled mid-air! Pretty cool.
One of the things that we've been working on is inviting members to do things. In the General Priesthood meeting which we missed, someone spoke and challenged everyone to set a date and not a name. What that meant was that, for example, "But Feb 28th I will find someone to invite to Church and talk to the missionaries." Setting goals this way can encourage us to work harder and with a deadline we are more diligent in our efforts. So that's my invitation to you! Pray and set a date so that you can take action in a missionary way. You'll be amazed, I promise!
This week on Thursday we'er going to be having a baptism. We are very excited and so is she. I say it over and over, but it's awesome to see how far the gospel takes us. More on this next week.
Thanks Mom, Eric, Tanan, Will, Sister Hines, and Susie for writing this week! It was great to hear from all of you!
With love,
Elder Johnson