Tuesday, March 19, 2013

18 March 2013

Dear Family and Friends,

It would probably be a good idea to send letters to the mission home. I'm probably going to stay but we will see.
This was a pretty hard week. 80% of those we are/were teaching dropped us and so we have just about no one to teach. We only taught 8 lessons last week. The spanish work has just dissapeared in an area that it was already hard to find. Our baptism fell through and things seem to be going against us right now.
So instead of teaching lessons this week we worked the only statistic that we can really control. OYMs, or street contacts, are things I've never really prioritized since we are usually teaching lessons and don't have time to wander around and talk to people. But since we didn't have anyone to teach, we spent a lot of time walking and talking this week. A good week of OYMs is about 120 with the standards of excellence being at 140 different people spoken with. A good OYM constitutes the bearing of testimony and inviting the person to do something. This week since we little else to do, we got tons of OYMs. And by tons I mean 348. 140 of those were in one day. We walked 20 miles that day haha. So hopefully that helps us in some way this week because it's looking pretty bleak.
We talked to some pretty funny people. One of them said no and threw an onion and two jalapenos at us. Another started to yell anti stuff at us. We listened for a few seconds and I asked him if he had ever read any of the things he was quoting. He said no and I asked him how he could judge anything without ever reading it. He said, "Not to be disrespectful or anything but you teach from the wrong source - false scripture from a false prophet and it distorts all of you. You only go after 'softies' and when anyone puts up a fight you leave!" I asked him how he could say he was trying not to be disrespectful and say that. After a few more seconds of him yelling we just told him to read it and walked away to hear him arguing at our backs. Fun.
We also didn't get to go to the temple this week. We carpooled with the two other Elders that live with us on the way to the temple. Their member picked us up in their brand new VW Jetter TDI, 2 weeks old. I talked to him on the way over about his car and his line of work (designs missles). Halfway to the temple, Elder Arndt says we need to pull over quickly but we were in the middle of a work zone. The member floored it and pulled over but it was too late. Elder Arndt threw up all over his companion, all over Elder Allen, and all over the new 2013 Jetta. Everyone was in shock so I opened up the door and ran around to open his door so the rest wouldn't get inside the car haha. The good news? I escaped unscathed! The bad? No temple...
It's starting to get hot. I am so acclimatized to the 'winter' that I'm going to die. It was 95 the other day and has been around 90 for most of the week. I heard it's supposed to cool off a bit. The sad thing is that even if it's 90 degrees, it's still going to get 30 degrees warmer... It was funny though, I was biking on exchanges and my shirt was a little wrinkly in the morning and by the time we stopped it looked like the sun/wind had ironed it straight. That makes life easier!
During our spanish study this week there were helicopters hovering overhead for the entire hour. That night we learned that someone had gotten into a gun fight with the cops and was shot dead in the park nearby.
I finally saw a road runner!
Two days ago we went by to visit someone in the evening and as we turned to leave we saw a giant black widow in the corner of their walls outside. We went home that night and checked the perimeter of our exterior walls and found two or three black widows and six scorpions. So naturally we caught them.
 The scorpion won.
We were walking around the only trailer park here last week and someone yelled at us to give him a ride to the store because he was drunk. We said no because we're not allowed to give rides in our mission car. We ran into him this week again and he was drunk. Again. The conversation began with, translated, "LIARSSSSSSS. You're not men of God! I needed to get to the store to buy beer but you wouldn't give me a ride!" We told him we can't drive people in our car and he said, "I wanted you to drive me in my truck! LIARS! You don't help people!" And so on. Elder Allen told him that if he wants to drive places he shouldn't drink haha.
We went to teach a lesson last night to a potential spanish investigator that we have. We knocked on the door and she invited us in saying they were praising God already. We walked in, slightly suspicious, and went to the back door. When we got there we saw probably 20 hispanics with someone preaching to them at 8:30pm. She invited us to join them but it was super awkward so we politely declined and left them with some cards haha.
Thanks for the letters: Sister Hines, Tanan, and John!
Do insects have blood?
We have lots of black widows in our neighborhood. How dangerous are they? Could they kill me?
Anyway, hopefully this next week yields more success than this week! Hope you're all well,
Elder Johnson

Monday, March 11, 2013

11 March 2013

Dear Family and Friends,

This was kind of an interesting week.
That's an understatement.
The week started out pretty well. On Monday night we were walking around trying to find people and stumbled into a super sketchy park. It was 8:30pm and there were no lights except in a pavillion. There were two girls there, probably 20 years old, that we went to talk to. They freaked out when we said hi since we surprised them. We started teaching them and they invited us to sit next to them on the picnic table. We awkwardly ignored it and taught them standing up haha. Anyway, they seemed pretty interested so we set up a return appointment for a few days later.
When we went by to visit them, we saw a car outside and someone yelled, "Hey Elders!" Bad sign since the girls weren't members. When we got closer we asked if ___ and ____ were home and she said, "...I got here this morning and the house was empty. They disappeared." They had been renting the house and either went all out to get away from us or gave us a time they knew they wouldn't be there for (which happens a lot.) They had just moved there too which was strange. Anyway, the land lord was a Mormon and we talked to him for a bit and he was very surprised they disappeared as well. He went to work cleaning it out to rent again haha. People are weird.
I'm going to explain more about our area than I did this week and about the house that we live in. Yeah, we live in a house which was surprising for me. We have a yard of rocks and a backyard of rocks. People don't even try to water grass so they just do desert landscapes or rocks. We had hundreds of weeds in the front and thousands in the week. We got a notice from HOA saying we had a few days to clean the front out or we would get a $50 fine from our personal accounts. So we cleaned the front but not the back. The other Elders have a recent convert who offered to give us goats for a while to eat all the weeds out haha. Anyway, so the house is alright. There are four of us living there which is good and bad for obvious reasons. Two bathrooms which is nice but we sleep on bunkbeds which isn't fun. Super uncomfortable. This house has carpet unlike my apartment in Yuma which was all tile and cold in the morning. We have a garage that the housing coordinators use to store dozens of desks so we park in our driveway. All the backyards are surrounded by stone walls which is pretty ugly. We live in the smallest house in the neighborhood.
Queen Creek itself is a unique place. There are some parts that are somewhat urban and others that are super rural. There are tons of horses here and we will often see people riding their horses down the side of the road. Rodeos are big. The town is stuck between urbanizing and, well, not. Most people have moved here recently since Queen Creek (QC) is so young.
The way that missions work is that it is a geographical area divided into zones. We cover probably 600-700 miles in a seatbelt across Arizona divided into 11 zones. Some big enough to bike across, others hours across like Show Low and Yuma. Anyway, you get assigned a zone and you can't leave it.
Unless you're a spanish elder in QC. We cover three zones and 90 square miles since we cover the spanish ward and singles ward. Needless to say, everyone we teach is super distanced which gives us a problem with our car. We got cut from 1150 miles a month to 1000 which isn't possible so I called the assistants yesterday, presented our case, and got 100 miles back.
This week was interviews with the mission president for our zone. He came down on Thursday, we got trained on planning (again) and went in and had 12 minutes each with him. Some went longer, some went shorter. My first interviews in Yuma we each had 30+ minutes which was way nice. It's kind of crazy to think that that's really the main time he gets to know us since we don;t see him often, about once a month. Anyway, I went in and talked about one of our investigators who is experiencing "demons" in their home. He said some pretty funny and interesting things haha. All in all it was a good time. The first thing he said to me, kind of to break the ice was, "So...do you miss Yuma yet?" At transfer meeting when he called my name he said, "...and Elder Johnson who has spent his entire mission in Yuma." When he mentioned that I was adjusting, he kind of sadly said, "Yes, spanish work right now is struggling in the valley." With the mission boundries changing, it will be interesting to see how spanish missionaries get moved. Right now, 2/3rds of the spanish missionaries are west of the valley. There's only 6 of us in the valley/show low. We should be getting new mission calls soon.
We had a pretty awesome miracle this week. Before yesterday we had two people on date for baptism this month. One of them fell off yesterday since he didn't come to church. The other is 100% a miracle and nothing less. When I came into the area all I heard was about how dead it was and how we would have a dry (baptism-less) transfer. Put that behind and went to work. We are teaching one guy in spanish (even though he will get baptized into YSA) and he cancelled every lesson this week since he was going to be in California all week on a surprise trip. When we heard that we were pretty concerned since he is on date for March 16th and we hadn't taught him any of the commandments. The rule is they have to be living all the commandments for at least 10 days before baptism. If not they have to get pushed back. On Saturday night we were supposed to meet with him but that fell through as well. At this point we were super nervous. All week I had been praying that he could be prepared enough to still get baptized on the schedule day even without us teaching him until 6 days before his baptism. On Sunday he was at church and we took him aside and taught him everything then and there. As we went through the commandments, every one, he spoke on how he had in the last few months or years stopped those things that were against the commandments and started to follow all of them. So, having never been taught these before, he had miraculously been keeping them all! So now we are moving on towards his baptismal date making this more or less a 10 day baptism. Nothing short of a miracle.
I wrote last week about a YSA investigator who was super solid who had been thinking about baptism. Well, we got a letter from someone in her life who is a less active member that, summarized, said: "We shouldn't push baptism the first visit, that we scared them away, and we can't push baptism if we only know their first names. It was disappointing since the investigator is very prepared and is being kept from progressing from a less active member who is a part of the investigators life.
We get to go to the temple on Wednesday!
We taught a lesson this week to a Jehovah's Witness. Some things I learned:
    After this life, we all come back to life for a millenium where we can try everything over again without temptation so that we can all become perfect. Then the devil is unleashed and those who didn't get good enough in that millenium will get defeated by the devil. So what's the point of this life if we can all try again after?
    Maybe that's all I remember...
Anyway, we tried to pray with her afterwards and she said, "I've been praying all day, I don't want to pray anymore!" JW's will never let you pray with them. Doing so makes us "like the pharises praying in the streets seeking praise."
We also found someone on the street this week who told us to go away since we "didn't understand." When I asked what that meant she said, "I died! It makes sense now!" I asked, "what makes sense?" And she said, "It's all clear!" hahaha
I found the name Alpheus Cutler on page 151 and 205 of the History of the Church pt. 2 book. Apostate relative!
I also found something a little more dangerous in our house this week. A scorpion! I was looking through Elder Allen's ties and noticed something on the bottom. When I looked closer it was a scorpion! We grabbed a cup and caught it. We've had it in our home trying to find something to feed it. Well, we also found a massive spider on our house today. We put them in the same cage and made them angry and they fought. The spider got stung 3 times and then we had to come email. Our backyard is infested with lizards so maybe we will add a lizard to the match this afternoon and see who wins.
We were tracting down a street this week and 1/3 of the doors said that the neighborhood was a no soliciting neighborhood. Good thing we don't sell anything! Everytime we heard that I would say that we aren't soliticing, we are inviting! ONe guy said, "You guys better go! They'll come for me and then for you!" And then slammed the door. Another guy threatened to call the cops on us and I told him that we would still be in the neighborhood when the cops came. They never came. It's illegal in Arizona to kick ministers off of public property. People try to use that excuse all the time to get us out of neighborhoods.
A dust/rain storm his this week and did some intense wind damage. The worst part was the mud... the area we do most of our spanish work is called LIttle Mexico and doesn't have paved roads. Our poor car changed from red to brown.
Last night we were talking to people in the street pretty late and one woman told us we looked like hitmen.
Thanks Grandpa Wolthuis, Eric, Mom, Will, Margareta, Ian, Grandpa Johnson for the letters! It was great to hear from all of you this week!
All in all a good week.
Thank you all for your continued support!
Elder Johnson

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

4 March 2013

Dear Family and Friends,

Since I didn't get a phone call telling me to pack up last night, it looks like I'll be in Queen Creek for at least another 3 weeks to the end of the transfer. I'm not going to fully unpack until transfer call night though. I learned my lesson last time!
Just a reminder that if you send letters to Yuma, I will have a chance of getting it once a month. The missionaries down there could lose it. Also, if you send it to the mission home I can also get it once a month.
Well, Queen Creek is very different than Yuma. There are so few hispanics and they are so hard to find. Every time we speak with someone we ask them if they know where we can find hispanics to teach and 85% of the time they say no. So the finding is tough. Went from finding 14 new investigators in one week in Yuma to 2 in one week here.
The drive here all I heard was about how the work is struggling, how they have no potentials for baptism, and how the work has just about stopped. Pretty depressing news to hear going into an area. But I reserved judgement on the area because once I accepted that I wouldn't really be able to work with faith in the area. And so this week we put behind all judgements and just did missionary work. By the end of the week we had hit the record for most lessons taught in this area for 6 months and we now have three people on date for baptism this month of March. Things are starting to turn around.
The missionary work here is different but so are the demographics. There are tons of members here. Tons. And yet our area is 90 square miles as we cover one of the YSA wards and the spanish ward. We went to Chic-fil-A for lunch this week and as we were waiting in line this guy comes up to us and says he'll buy us lunch. That has never happened to me before! We sat with them and talked with them for our lunch hour. We started talking about the roads in Queen Creek (how they don't make any sense) and he just grabbed his GPS and loaned it to us. Caught us both by surprise! I just tried to update its maps since Queen Creek has recently exploded but it costs $50! I'll pass.
We eat dinner with the spanish ward every night since we cover the YSA ward and they can't really feed us. Since leaving Yuma two weeks ago, I haven't had mexican food for dinner once. So sad. While walking down the one trailer park we have found some people yelled at us to come over. They were cooking Carne Asada! Just like that they offered us it and we shared a meal with them on the side of the road. Mexicans are awesome. They wanted to share their beer with us as well but we passed on that one.
On that same note of demographics, we were walking past an elementary school and dozens of kids ran over and yelled, "MISSIONARIESSSSS." hahaha.
Two days ago as we were helping someone with their yardwork, I heard this deep deep propeller sound and looked up. There was a B17 flying over head! Apparently there's someone here who owns that and a P51 and sells rides.
We do a lot of our work in a place called Little Mexico. You drive down one of the bigger roads for a while and then turn onto dirt roads and you're in Little Mexico. It's basically the ghetto of Queen Creek and there is a more dense population of hispanics there, still not many. We had 8 lessons fall through there. But that's ok because we found a couch in the middle of the road which we sat on. Pictures attached.
We went on exchanges this week and I got to go to an English dinner. Guess what we had for dessert? Georgetown Cupcakes! Apparently you can buy them online and have them shipped over. They were so good; that was the first time I had eaten one.
Next week is our temple trip! I'm pretty excited. We get to go on Wednesday morning for the 7:30 session. Maybe on the way back I'll get to see the Gilbert temple since I still haven't seen that yet.
I gave myself a goal to read the Book of Mormon in spanish in 11 weeks. That's an average of 3 chapters a day. I'm in 2nd Nephi now.
We had the cool opportunity to teach someone and put them on date this week. After we invited her to get baptized she said, "you know, I have actually been thinking a lot about baptism recently." The only trouble is getting a hold of them. Since our first lesson we haven't been able to get ahold of them to stop by again but that first lesson was awesome. Hopefully we can find them...
We tracted into an interesting family this week. We asked them if they had ever been to our church before and the guy said no, they went to ____ church to which his wife said, "no, it's called ____!" He said, "Oh yeah." Guess they don't go very often haha. When we invited them to the easter pagent in Mesa, all they said was, "We don't leave Queen Creek," and shut the door haha. Tracting is great.
Thanks fo the letter Sister Hines!

 Love you all,
Elder Johnson