Monday, April 29, 2013

29 April 2013

Dear Family and Friends, 
Transfers are May 5th so if you plan to send anything, probably do it today or tomorrow, and if not by then then send it to the mission home. That address is 1871 E. Del Rio Drive, Tempe AZ 85282.
This was a record breaking week. We beat our own record for street contacts/OYMs and set the mission record, and our zone also set the mission record for most OYMs in a week. The total zone number was 1,828. Elder Allen and I got 604 of those. We walked a lot. A lot. We also got pretty good at turning OYMs into street lessons and set another record with 59 lessons on the street.
The APs noticed and are coming on Thursday to have a 'sit down talk.' We'll see what that means. 
A quote that stuck out this week. "Just because you're tired doesn't mean you deserve to rest."
It has been getting quite hot this week. According to our car it hit 100 twice. Both of those days we walked over 8 miles. We walked pretty far this week.
We stopped at one home to speak with a family and their backyard fan had melted and all the blades were bent downward.
In one of our street contacts this week we went up to some teenage guys talking at a corner. We introduced ourselves briefly and as we were saying what we did one of them yelled, "Want to get sacrificed?? Then keep moving!" The other one started to yell obscenities at us as we offered them a card and then the other one flipped us off. Fun times with them. 
We picked up four new investigators this week. Three of them were spanish and things looked really really good. We taught them a lesson and they thoroughly enjoyed it. We went by the next day and they said they were moving to California, didn't know when, and didn't want to set up a return appointment. 
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Huge red moon this week.
This past week the sisters had two baptisms. One of their investigators getting baptized invited a friend who happened to live in our area. She loved the baptism and came to church last week. We are meeting with her on Tuesday and have high hopes for her. She is spanish. The ward reached out to her really well at the baptism and she already has quite a few friends. This is the one we've been waiting for!
This upcoming week we have planned to go by every single one of our former investigators. We have over 60 names planned out; one of those has to go through.
In what's called 'Little Mexico' (two streets worth of Hispanics) we went and OYM'd two women sitting outside. One of them interrupted us and said, "I'm not interested, I'm a witch!" Haven't heard that one yet so we weren't how to respond haha. There's a first for everything.
In that same area someone told us that they caught a rattlesnake in their front yard a while before that measured out to nine feet. Their son wanted to keep it but when it attacked him they "had no choice but to cut it's head off." Why you would want to keep a rattle snake 9 feet long is beyond me!
I got a note from Elder Sawyer this week. He is serving in Mesa right now and finishes his mission next week. One of our recent converts, the one who baptized his family, is getting the Melchizedek priesthood soon and is a counselor in the Young Men's presidency! Their next stop is the temple! Such good news. It's crazy to think that he is going home soon.
On Friday night we were going around talking with some people on the street and inviting them to learn more about the church. We spoke with one man and his very first words were, "Well, the fact is that you are a cult who doesn't worship Jesus." Things went downhill from there on both our sides. My biggest pet peeve is when people tell me what I believe when they obviously have no idea. He went on and on about how faith was all you need to be saved and that we were going to hell. It wasn't a very good street contact.
On our way back to our car, we took a shortcut through a golf course because we were short on time and it was around after 8pm. There are no street lights anywhere in Queen Creek. The suburbs are also built all around golf courses. Peoples back yards are often part of the course. Anyway, we took a shortcut across this course in pitch black joking about snakes and alligators. Elder Allen noticed a long white shape on the ground and said, "What's that?" Just then we heard a really weird loud gurgly sound and something jumped from the ground. I was in the front and saw it first so I turned and ran and Elder Allen yelled, "RUN!" A few feet down the grass we turned around... Turns out it was a high power water sprinkler. I almost died! It could have been a gator!
Speaking of golf courses and backyards, I was walking down the road and a stray golf ball flew past someone's house and hit a tree 6' from me. I almost died! 
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Proof that Queen Creek is unique. Something in the above picture isn't normal...
Stake conference was yesterday. Elder Villareal from the 70 came, President and Sister Howes were there, the Mesa temple presidency, and the stake presidency. We were pretty sure that a stake split was going to happen but nothing of significance happened. Some quotes I liked:
"Those who seem to deserve love the least deserve it the most." - P. Howes
"Being temple worthy automatically makes you mission worthy, but I'm not sure sure if the other way is true." P. Porter (of Mesa temple)
There was a big emphasis on family temple trips, even if to just see the grounds.
President Porter spoke about how people shouldn't stop going to the temple because the Gilbert one is opening soon. Apparently a lot less people have been going recently.
A really cool comment from E. Villareal was that apparently announcing the age change to 19 for sisters wasn't pre-planned and Elder Cook told Elder Villareal that it was an example of prophetic revelation. Chevere.
On a similar note, the mission will be gaining over 20 sister missionaries in the next 3 months. That makes more spanish Sisters than Elders.
Anyway, thanks for the letters,Gpa J, Gpa Wm Annie, Mom and Dad, Eric, Will, Jeff R, Natalia, S. Hines, and Tanan! Hopefully I have time to write you all back today! 
With love,
Elder Johnson

Monday, April 22, 2013

22 April 2013

Dear Family and Friends,

Remember that awesome 11 day baptism person? She dropped us this week and decided she wanted to die Catholic after passing her baptismal interview. We were pretty bold with her.
I'm tired. So tired.
This week we got to go to the temple in Mesa. Elder Arndt and Kirton managed to make it without throwing up this time which was nice! The session was great and it was fun to see all the missionaries there. Elder Myler was there that day and we had a nice talk. He is serving in Maricopa in Casa Grande zone/city.
We had a great lesson with one of our potentials this week. She has read the entire Book of Mormon and believes it is true. After the lesson when we tried to set up a return appointment she said no. Ahh. Her parents aren't very open to the church and as a result won't be able to talk with us unless a miracle happens.
This week was another week full of anti's. I don't think people in the zone believed how much we got anti'd until we went on exchanges with some of them. This past week was dominated by inactive returned missionaries who have served full missions and then come to the decision that the church isn't true. One such guy we found on accident went on to say that, "the information cybersphere proves everything is wrong! All the journals, the letters, they're all on line and prove that everything is a fraud." At one point he asked me what 2+2 was. I told him 4 (yay math class!). He said that that religion and science should never disagree. He told us he would destroy our faith.
At this point I was getting a little frustrated. I asked him what 2+2*2 was and he wouldn't answer it. Instead of answering it he started swearing at us. My intention was to explain that the answer is not 8 and that we get 6 by knowing how to do the background stuff etc etc but never had that chance since he completely lost it. Elder Kirton thought he was going to punch me. In retrospect, maybe not the best thing to say to someone who already hates us but it makes a decent story and I am so sick of getting anti'd all the time. Every day.
Yesterday someone called us children of the devil and God doesn't let him talk to us.
This week for exchanges we went to "little Mexico," 2 streets of 5 houses per with the only Spanish people in Queen Creek. Everyone said no.
This upcoming week our zone is going for the OYM (street contacts) record of the entire mission. We've spent the last week motivating people to get 140 OYMs in a week. A couple of us will be shooting for 400 which should bring us to around 1,720 in total. The magic 8 ball said it was possible.
Apparently the Beach Boys came to Queen Creek two days ago for a concert. There were thousands of cars, my goodness.
On Saturday was the open house for one of the new chapels here in Queen Creek. It is the chapel the Spanish ward meets in. They threw a big open house with lots of people to give tours and tons of carne asada. We ended up eating 6 tacos. There were probably only 5 non members that came during the entire 3 hours it was open - a giant flop. The carne asada was good though? Afterwards they gave us a ton of leftovers, two giant bags of Spanish rice and a large bag of uncooked carne asada and tacos. We need to find someone to grill the meat before it goes bad. I'm stoked, that was the first time I've had it since leaving Yuma.
We ate those 6 tacos around 3 pm and dinner was at 5:00pm. I was so stuffed after those tacos and then dinner was only two hours away. That was a mistake. For dinner we had sonoran hotdogs. Two giant hotdogs wrapped in bacon with onions, sour cream, salsa, tomatoes, and other things that I still don;t know what they were. I haven't felt so sick from eating so much in my entire life. Afterwards they gave us a cupcake which just about killed me. Not too bad of a hotdog though.
During the dinner someone came inside the house and the host's son ran over to the door and walked with the man who came in. Before we saw him he yelled, "This, ladies and gentlemen, is proof that there are Mexican red-heads!" He was straight up Mexican too.
This morning we got special permission to go on a sunrise hike. We woke up at the lovely hour of 4:00am and were all out the door at 4:30. We drove over to the San Tan mountains and walked 2.5 miles up and 2.5 miles down. That was one of the steepest hikes I've ever done.
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The sign didn't lie.
Elder Kirton and I ran up ahead of everyone then realized that we wanted a better view of the sunrise so we climbed another part of the mountain that wasn't really part of the trail. At one point I stopped for a breather and stood vertical, put my hands forward, and they touched the side of the mountain, the side I wa s about to climb up. Nevertheless we made it to (almost) the top and realized that going down would be a bit tricky.
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The picture doesn't really do it justice.
The view was superb though. See other pictures as well. We could see the Gilbert temple from the peak which was pretty cool. We had a view of the entire valley. No one else came with us up this part since the way to the base of that extra mountain was pretty killer as well. We kept an eye out for rattlesnakes on the way up. I grabbed a cactus on accident and cut my hand and then Elder Kirton tried to push a big rock down the trail that ended up landing on my leg. Somehow it didn't do considerable any damage. The rock was 2 feet across. All was well and the view of the cactus filled desert was cool.
While reading in Jesus the Christ this morning I found a cool line: "The capacity to be grateful is a blessing." I guess that's something I can seek after. In the Christlike Attribute section of Preach my Gospel it talks about how they're all gifts from God (Charity, love, patience, etc). I never thought that gratefulness was as well. It's a way we can qualify ourselves for more blessings by showing that we realize where all blessings come from and humble ourselves.
We picked up a potential investigator for the Spanish ward. She is a friend of a couple getting baptized next weekend in another area. She came to church yesterday but we didn't get to talk with her. The Spanish ward really reached out to help her feel welcome and that was great to see. We're going to call her today and set up a lesson. Hopefully something will come from this.
Thanks for writing Grandpa W, Susie, Mom, and Natalia! It was great to hear from all of you!
Happy Earth day!
Elder Johnson

15 April 2013

 Dear Family and Friends,
15 April 2013

Last week was a pretty tough week but it was nothing compared to this week. And just like last week it started off with a lot of potential. We called a fellowship to reach out to the investigator to ask them to set up a lesson for Thursday. Over the phone the fellowship told us that the investigator (temple tile worker one) wanted to get baptized in the next few days and that he was very excited about the church. Wooo! We were stoked! We finally had a potential!
That very same day we got a referral for a family of two that requested Spanish missionaries to teach the husband and wife, both in their sixties. Their daughter had just been sealed in the temple and joined the church the year before. Wooo! We were stoked! We finally had a potential!
The day we got the referral we went over and talked to them. We taught in English because the daughter didn't speak a ton of Spanish and that's how they greeted us. The family of 2 (we'll call them the Mrtnz') were interested but Mr. Mtnz didn't seem to grasp it too well. We found out that Mrs. Mrtnz had watched conference that past weekend and believed that Thomas S. Monson was a prophet. Awesome start! We taught them the first lesson and tried to commit them to baptism but they said they wanted to go slowly. Ok. We can work with that. We stopped by and talked with them for 4 minutes the next day and asked how her reading went. She said that all day she had felt really good and felt that God told her the Book of Mormon was true. Sweet! So we set up a lesson for Thursday planning on extending a hard baptismal date for 3 weeks ahead.
On Thursday we had lesson with temple tile worker investigator and the Spanish family. We excitedly prepared and planned and were ready for the best day in Queen Creek yet. The whole day seemed to be awesome. First up was the lesson with the 'Mtnz' family. We were planning on only speaking spanish with them to prepare them to go to church in Spanish. We walked in the door and the first thing she told us is that she wanted to get baptized. We hadn't even prayed yet! We said absolutely and began the lesson. As soon as we started, Mrs Mtnz asked us to speak in English instead of spanish so that she could understand. I thought, "nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.' So we did... The whole lesson we were thinking that they would ask to go to church in English instead of Spanish now. But we ignored that thought and kept teaching. Mrs Mtnz had a gained a strong testimony of everything we had taught and so we extended the baptismal date for the 20th of April, 12 days after we had first begun teaching her. She accepted. We then told her what time the Spanish ward started and she asked if she could go to it in English instead.
(We taught her all the commandments and she said she would leave behind coffee forever because she knew that the Word of Wisdom was from God)
Aaaahhhhhhhh. Obviously we said yes but told her that would mean different missionaries would teach her and go to church with her etc. She said she wanted us to finish teaching her but she needed to go to church in English. So. We referred them back to the English elders but are going to finish teaching her and the English elders will baptize her.
I was devastated but you know, she is still getting baptized which is the important thing and we are still doing all the work.
We invited her to view a baptism that weekend which she accepted. She told us that she would be busy on the 20th so we moved her baptism up to the 19th. We had her get interviewed for baptism right after the one she saw and she passed that.
She is the most prepared person I have ever taught. Her first missionary contact will be 11 days before her baptism and she is getting baptized on the 11th day of learning about the gospel. Just an amazing story.
So, rewinding back to that Thursday day. We had just put someone on date but had to pass them off to the English missionaries. We were excited for her but sad that we just lost an incredibly solid investigator.
But it was ok because we still had a lesson that night with the other solid investigator we had! They were 40 minutes late to the lesson but only because they were lost. We had invited a member from the ward and an investigator who was getting baptized the very next day to testify to him and relate to him. We were going to meet at the church near the baptismal font. The set up could not have been better. Anyway, as soon as we started teaching we could tell something was wrong. Long story short he had been given tons of anti-mormon material. The lesson shifted away from the gospel to resolving weird concerns about how much the plates weighed. The lesson was spiraling out of control. By the end of the lesson he had decided he didn't want to get baptized and didn't believe what we were sharing with him was true.
So on Thursday we lost everything we had. We lost every. single. investigator and had no one else to teach. It was the most depressing day of my mission, hence the picture at the top. We came in that night and just lay on the ground from 9:15-10:15. Discouraged doesn't really do it justice.
The next day only helped to put things into perspective (weekly planning session where we make plans for who we are going to teach that week and what etc etc). We had nothing or no one to plan for.
As depressing as all of that is, Mrs Mtnz is still going to get baptized on Saturday and we are very excited about that.
We also got a referral for someone who has read the entire Book of Mormon before. She read it as a book and not prayerfully the first time. I texted her yesterday because she won't let us come by because her parents don't like the church. In the text I asked if she had prayed in it and she said she is rereading it and has prayed and feels like God told her it is true. She is the only person in our area that we have found and her parents won't let us teach her. Our only communication is via text message. We're praying for their hearts to be softened so that she can come to church and the activities.
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We drove past the Gilbert temple (for those on google maps if you want to see how big our area is, go from the 
Gilbert temple to Florence and then east and west some). It's pretty nice.
Moving away from depressing and somewhat exciting news haha...
Arizona uses dust control trucks. We had a dust storm last Monday and they had trucks driving around dumping water on and off the roads to limit the dust being picked up.
Last Monday we went to play ping pong(!) and basketball at the church for P-day. I went up for a lay up at one point but tripped over someones foot and landed square on my knee. I don't think I've ever hurt myself so bad. I got up and hobbled off to the side and sat there for a few minutes thinking it would get better quickly. I thought I had broken my kneecap or something. It got bad enough that I could barely walk. Just touching it softly was excruciating. That night I prayed that it would heal and I would wake up feeling better the next day so we could go out and work. When I woke up it was almost entirely better and I could walk normally. It was still bruised but the bone felt fine. Pretty cool.
Thanks Grandma and Grandpa J, Susie, Annie, Mom, Eric, Will, and Aunt Andra for the letters
 Anyway thank you all for your continued support!
Con amor,

Monday, April 8, 2013

8 April 2013

Lovely animals in Arizona

Dear Family and Friends,
Everything until Friday was awesome this past week.
Remember the new person we are teaching I wrote about last week? The one who works at the temple? So we went by and taught him on Monday and he gave us both a 4"x4" slab of the tile going inside the Gilbert temple. It's awesome! We taught a great lesson and at the end we extended a baptismal invitation and he said, "I think so...I want to...I need to!"
The week could not have started off any better. But it only got better. The next day we got a phone call from his fellowship saying that he was looking for tickets for general conference because he was going to take the guy we are teaching all the way to Salt Lake City. 'You can put your money on the prophet!' Wooo! We were super excited and looked all over. We found them two tickets to the Sunday afternoon session but they said they would have to take work off on Monday to do it. They kept looking and found two for the saturday afternoon session. On Thursday we got a phone call from his fellowship again saying that the supervisor at the Gilbert temple said that he wanted to get a copy of the conversion story of the guy we are teaching (we'll call him John for the sake of anonymimity) so that he could put it in the temple cornerstone. WOWOWOWOW. Yeah, we were pretty excited at this point. He loved church, he wanted to get baptized, he was going to the conference center for conference and his conversion story was going in the temple cornerstone! Finally after 6 really hard weeks we had a ray of light.
And then we got a phone call from his fellowship on Friday saying that his boss had fired him for going to conference and that he no longer worked with 'John.' (The fellowship lives in Mesa). Also turns out that 'John' wasn't able to make it to conference. We hadn't met with him all that week because he was so busy prepping to go and with work.
Dang. So we settled with inviting him to watch conference on Saturday or Sunday. He was in New Mexico for both and wasn't able to see it.
Now we haven't met with him for 7 days and we're starting to get a little stressed.
We didn't have any investigators watch conference. It's a pretty bad thing if you can't get a single person to watch one of the five sessions.
It's hard to stay optimistic when everything falls apart. Why can't anything be easy?
Last night we went driving to visit a former investigator again hoping for luck this time. Just before I had put a bunch of names into the GPS from the YSA ward that we didn't know. On the way to the former we just happened to drive past a place marker for someone in the YSA ward. We decided to get out and meet them but they weren't home. His brother, returned for 2 weeks from his mission, was there and we talked with him. I asked him if he knew anyone interested in the gospel and he said that he had a friend who had been reading the Book of Mormon on and off for four years. We got her information and are planning to stop by today. We're hoping something comes from this. I need something to...
On a less depressing note I've been sleep talking alot apparently. I woke myself up the other day by saying, "IT'S ALL ABOUT THE FLAVOR!" I dreamed about a giant mountain berry blast powerade. Those things are so good.
How fast are roadrunners?
Why does ice break when water touches it?
Yesterday we heard some planes flying over en route to landing at the airport. They were 737 size. Three different ones flew over in about five minutes and every time they reached a certain point in the sky the engine sound changed dramatically and made a very strange sound like that of the THX audio sound when the sound changes from high tone to low tone. The weird sound only lasted a second or two. Why? Does it have to do with flying over the mountains at relatively low altitude?
Two days ago we were walking around at 8:30 at night seemingly alone on the street. Just then a chihuahua (spelling?) darted out from a house and ran at us. I was really bored so half chased it and when I looked up the owner was starting at me blank faced. Haha it was super embarrassing so we walked away. Turns out that was the house we were supposed to visit. We'll probably wait a while till we go back again...
General Conference was pretty sweet, eh? Lots of really great talks and too many pages of notes to write down. I did see Westin Levitt and Susie Sowa singing though! I also noticed someone from my political science class at BYU who was always making really...interesting... comments. Small world.
I think the best talk of the weekend was Elder Scott's. I don't remember why or what exactly he spoke on haha but it was my favorite. And then there was the one quote about how 'it doesn't matter where we raise our kids but how.' I got a good laugh at that one.
We went to the priesthood session 30 minutes early in order to get a decent seat. Thinking it would be crowded, we planned ahead. When we walked into the chapel at 4:30 it was completely empty haha. It was pretty empty until 4:50ish when everyone rushed in. Classic. We had good seats.
For those that went to the priesthood session, do you remember the story about the football quarterback and the girl that was getting bullied? The quarterback is from Queen Creek and was sitting three rows in front of me. He is in our roommates' ward. Turns out the girl isn't a member so we told them to pick it up haha. You can't be shown in general conference and not be a member! (that's not true, but she should be!)
I also got a good laugh out of the story about the guy given the stake clerk calling who was "struggling at getting to church every week." At BYU I slept through church two weeks in a row and the next week they gave me the calling to print off the programs before church. I never missed a sunday after that. I thought it was funny how similar his story and mine are.
How do they do security at general conference?
I think what I'm going to remember Queen Creek most for are the really weird animals we keep finding near the house. (See attachment)
Thanks for the letters Scott, Mom, and Natalia!

Monday, April 1, 2013

1 April 2013

Dear Family and Friends, 
We set our baptismal goal for the month of April this past week. As a zone we're going to push for 22 and as a companionship we're going to be aiming for two. We had two names for those the day we set those goals. And then everything fell through. Everyone this week, literally everyone, dropped us. On Saturday evening we were looking over our area and how we had nothing at all. While walking and talking to people on the street on Saturday it hit us how destitute we are. 

We walked into a returned missionary and asked for someone to stop by and he said he had no one. He asked us if we had done some things to find people like: talking to bishops (done), going through former investigators (visited every one), asking for referrals from everyone (doing it everyday), praying for miracles (done), inviting people to the easter pageant (done), we have no over aged youth in our area, no part member families, and no unvisited referrals. We really have exhausted every resource we have available and had nothing going at all. This was evident during our weekly planning session since we had a lot less things to do.
We have been trying to get another ward given to us so we can be busy.
So yeah, these last 6 days have been really really hard. It has been hard to stay motivated since 1% of the population here "belongs" to us (YSA between 18-30 and no kids, and latinos). Regardless, we went out and worked and had lots of lessons and lots of OYMs. And at least 60% of those lessons were with people anti-ing us. Ah, it's so exhausting to hear the same things over and over from so many different people about how ignorant we are and how we're evil and aren't christian, how Joseph Smith deserved what he got, etc etc etc. I've never met so many people who just get up in arms so quickly and just throw down and yell. We talked to one guy this week who was a returned missionary who fell away from the church and just started grilling us on archeological evidence, or lack thereof, and more. After 15 minutes of him monologing on evils in the church I told him, "It sounds like you have done a lot of research trying to prove this all wrong. If you spend half of that effort trying to prove it right your life will improve and you'll be a happier person. Have a good day" and we walked away while he was still talking and yelling at us. So that has been exhausting as well. 
This week wasn't all hard though, just 6 of the 7 days. I finally got a picture back that I left in Tempe (says, "Go to work or go to hell - Brigham Young") that Elder Sawyer gave me in Yuma when I left.  Haha it gets better but that will come later in the letter!
We stumbled upon a copy of the Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith this week and have been having a good time reading some of the things he has said in the past.
I also started reading Jesus the Christ again. Getting anti-d so much has encouraged me to learn a bit more about his life and more.
We keep finding couches in weird places so naturally we take a picture by them.
I have been working a lot harder on my personal spanish study hour each day. Back in Yuma I could slack off because just about every person we spoke with spoke spanish but so few here do. We have a giant grammar book that I have been working through doing all the practice things and whatnot and it has helped a lot. Wish I would have started that 8 months ago...
So now for the miracle of the week. Actually, before that, I found a horse. Nay, I tamed a wild horse! (no pun intended)
Ok, miracle time. Yesterday's YSA sacrament meeting was one of the best I've been to. Two awesome musical numbers and great talks. After the closing prayer I was sitting there thinking it couldn't get any better when I heard, "Elders, there's someone here you have to speak with, he's super interested." Music to my ears! To give a little bit of a background, we use about an hour a couple times a week to call down the YSA ward list (since the area is too big) and challenge people to invite friends to church then introduce them to us. So we thought this was someone that had actually done that! Turns out it that wasn't the case. A recent returned missionary (RM) brought his friend to our ward. The RM lives in Mesa but drove all the way here to accompany his friend who lives here to our ward. We talked a bit and learned a bit more about his friend. They work together doing construction. Where do they do construction? The Gilbert Temple! They do the stone work for the inside. Apparently they use stone imported from Israel for the flooring and it will be mostly uncarpeted inside. He's going to give us some of the tile! So they work together and they talk about the church all day every day. He told us he's looking for the truth and is open to what we teach, wants to meet with us, and loved church.
We taught him right after church and he loved it and is super interested.That was the ray of sunlight in a week of storms. We're really excited about what's to come.
This week was a good lesson learning week. When things fall short and you push through them you get blessed. I guess that's what "Endure to the end" means even though the end in this case was 7 days. In Church yesterday someone said, "any excuse for non action weakens the character." It was cool to see how right after the hardest week we get blessed with an awesome person to teach. 
Thanks Eric, Mom, Will, Ian, and Jeff R for the letters this week! 
Elder Johnson