Wednesday, May 29, 2013

27 May 2013

I thought I could cut my hair pretty well. It's not that hard, right? In the clipper box I was looking for a 1/2" size but only found 3/8ths. There's barely a difference there, right?
Wrong. I'm bald! I've never had such short hair!
Me confidently cutting it:
And realizing that I had no hair:

[I am having trouble saving these pictures as jpgs. . . they only give me the option of html text from his email and they don't show up on the blog when I copy and paste his letter from my email.  Any suggestions?

The really ironic thing about this is that I (his mom) always cut his hair.  When he was in high school, one time I grabbed the buzzer without realizing that it didn't have the attachment and I went to work on the top of his head.  He never forgave me for that very short strip of hair that had to grow out.  So, it makes me smile a bit to know that he did it to himself.]
What makes matters worse is that we have interviews on Wednesday and I'm bald.
We are officially moved into our new apartment. They stopped by this week and told us that we're moving this morning so we have spent the last few days taking some of our lunch hour moving some things and a 2 hour blitz this morning with 6 missionaries carrying heavy things and beds over. Our NEW ADDRESS is 1287 N Alma School Rd #149, Chandler, AZ, 85224. We are in the same complex just on the other side in a two bedroom for when new missionaries come in.
I never thought I would say this...but I love beans.
The highlight of this week was the leadership meeting on Wednesday. Brother Watson (global director of proselyting) and President Donaldson (Mission President of the District 2 DVD, comp of Watson) came by to give our mission a training.
A major theme was how to maintain success in the first months of having a new mission president. He spoke on how stats almost always drop when a new mission president comes in and to avoid that we need to "stick to what we know and do what the new guy says." They stressed that a lot, especially since the Tempe mission is the highest baptizing in the south west. We'll see what happens when our mission gets cut into all the surrounding missions.
But that's not all they talked about. One of the districts in the Mesa zone is getting a shiny new toy, called an iPad. They're piloting "Electronic Area Books" in our mission in one of our zones. Instead of a giant binder with tons of papers, each companionship there will get an iPad for one purpose and with one app: Area Book. I don't know all the details, I only know that Chandler was supposed to pilot them originally then we got dropped :( Pretty exciting eh? Apparently only 2% of the worlds missionaries (65,000) update their area books every night.) I believe it.
But that's not all! We learned some cool things about our mission. Originally we were told our mission wouldn't gain any zones - only lose. Well, turns out we're picking up 2 zones from the Phoenix mission - downtown phoenix - and 36 new missionaries from there. Crazy! Apparently it's super Hispanic. Woo!
And he mentioned a cool number. Ready? By July of 2013, sister missionaries will make up 21% of the missionary force. Yeah, that's a big number... but by July of next year it will be 50%.
But it gets better! They also announced a global broadcast that the church will be doing on June 23rd. The First Presidency, the Quorum of the 12 Apostles, the Quorums of 70, and new mission presidents will be attending and it will be opened for the whole world to see. They said that the first presidency used the word, "historic," which they never use. They said it will change the course of missionary work forever and it will be all about member missionary work. They said that President Monson will be always remembered as the missionary work prophet and the announcement in October and this should cement that. Apparently Elder Nelson commented that the gathering of Israel will be even more miraculous than Moses bringing the children of Israel through the wilderness. Oh, and "this [a broadcast like this] has never been done in the history of the church before."
It was an 8 hour meeting and I left wanting more.
But moving on...
For planning morning on Friday I brought a bunch of chilis (Chil de Arboles)  to the church. The whole zone plans together and almost everyone ate one. I remember when that was me...
I saw another Delorean this week. And a Maserati.
We've been struggling to make miles work. We have 600 per month but at the start, the other Elders at 800 and drove as such. Then we got cut to 650 then cut to 600. We use our car to drive to meetings, church, and dinners and we still use more than we can everyday. I've made some phone calls, worked my connections, and hopefully we'll get some more haha. It's an 18 mile round trip to church and to meetings during the week and we only have enough for 15 per day.
This past week we went over to one of our trailer parks, Sunshine Valley, to visit some people. It was Saturday morning. As soon as we got inside we looked around and the Jehovah's Witnesses were everywhere! Dozens of them! They avoided us like the plague which was ok because I didn't bring my bible.
This past week the mission got a shipment of 2013 Chevy Cruzes. We're crossing our fingers that we get one since our car is a 2010 Corolla. The 2013 Corollas have touch screens for media interface but no GPS. The missionaries in the mountains get Jeep Grand Cherokees.

Gmail locked me out of my account for refreshing it too much (like it did the night I waited for my BYU admission letter) and the draft missed two paragraphs but we're out of time so this will have to do.

Thanks for the letters Mom, Eric, Dad, Will, and Katie! 

I'll try to write everyone back but we're moving things around our new apartment and lots to do!

With love

Thursday, May 23, 2013

20 May 2013

Dear Family and Friends,

"What are you doing to have so much success?"

Those are my favorite words to hear in a phone call. On Sunday night we got a phone call congratulating us on keeping the zone afloat this week.

I think 'success week' doesn't really do it all justice. We unfortunately had someone fall of date, no baptisms, no one progressing, but in all other aspects we've had a miracle week. 

It started last Wednesday. Monday and Tuesday were decent days teaching a moderate amount of lessons, but Wednesday was when it all fell into place. We had planned to go visit some formers in the morning and then some other formers later in the morning with a member family. We had no luck on our own from 10-11am that morning and went back to meet up with the member family. With them we visited a former investigator family who all had a baptismal date that then disappeared..  Well, they're still missing. When we were piling back into the car to head home I felt that we had to go knock on a different door - one that we hadn't knocked on who we knew was a former investigator. We drove over to the trailer, knocked, and she answered in tears. One of her sons is in jail and they have been struggling for a long time. She was taught two years ago by two different elders and wasn't ready at the time. She said that she always saw other missionaries walking past her trailer but never to it. We sat down with her and talked about trials and overcoming them and committed her to a baptismal date then and there! It was cool to be guided to someone who was finally ready to accept the gospel. Unfortunately she's the one who fell off date, but that's a different story. We were pushing for a 2 week baptism but will probably change that and head towards the 15th of June instead of the 1st. We are meeting with her and her husband tonight to talk with them about the church and our role as missionaries. They have a lot of potential.

Another great potential came from an idea from district meeting. The training was on making lists of contacts with people - not necessarily people that are interested, but just a list of EVERYONE they know. After that we pray over the names and sit in silence as the person marks each name they feel prompted to mark. Then they call them and invite them to sit down with us to meet. Well, we implemented that this week to resounding success. We got 5 referrals from one family and 10 from another (still waiting for their addresses.) The first person called her friend and set up a lesson right then and there. We stopped by on Saturday to teach her friend and had a nice chat and invited her to church. Well, she showed up to church with her family of five in tow as well! Woooooo! It was cool to see them participate and take the sacrament as a family. We have another appointment with them tonight and we are going to extend all a baptismal date for probably June 15th as well.

Our Bishop pulled us aside and thanked us yesterday - this was the first time they had had investigators in church for "months." The members did an awesome job introducing themselves and talking with the investigator family. We did a lot of background coordinating as well to let people know they would come but even those we didn't talk to reached out. Success.

We have been working with someone who had a baptismal date for the 11th of May but cancelled just before. I wrote briefly about her last week. We met with her once this week with another member family and had an awesome lesson about setting examples. The parents testified about how they sometimes had to encourage (or pull) their kids to church when they were younger but how it always paid off. They had a daughter there who shared her testimony about her grateful she was for her parents doing that to her. It was pretty tender. Anyway, we knelt in prayer afterwards and told her to tell her kids why church is important to her to see if they'll go with her to church.

They didn't go :( We'll keep working with them though.

It's hot! Ahhhh. Air temperature is bad but hot air, that just kills you. We got cut 50 miles for some reason and we're biking over 10 miles a day. Speaking of, my "cyclometer" speed rating often jumps from like 2 to 14 when I'm maintaining a constant pace and then it will just go to zero after some time. Anyone know why? Readjusting it temporarily fixes it but then it gets out of place again. Very frustrating.

We went to the reservation this week to do some baptismal interview. I'm pretty sure that was the first time I've been on a complete reservation before. It was a bit...different. The chapel was...different too haha. Dirt roads, everything was dead, it was a different world. We spoke with the senior couple who covers the reservation and they told us about some of their challenges, specifically about how there is no word for "commitment" in Pima and no one is willing to firmly commit.

On Monday we had a pretty cool experience. We had a referral for a trailer that ended up not existing. As we went to the car a member pulled up and gave us a super solid referral that we will be visiting sometime this week. A family that moved from CA and wants to go to our church. In the right place at the right time! What's that saying? Be where you ought to be when you ought to be there doing what you ought to be doing.

I think one of the highlights this week was biking around town and OYMing this family. After the lesson all five of them accepted a baptismal date but all five of them are for the English missionaries. 

We got news yesterday that we're moving out of our apartment next week instead of in 3 weeks. Ugh, there's so much to do before then... Good news is that we'll be in a two bedroom, bad news is that means that there will be four missionaries which is often too much fun.
We found a pet ferret this week? One of the neighbors is watching over it until someone claims it.

We were in a trailer park talking with some people and some kids challenged us to a game of knockout. I told them that if we won they would have to listen to us for a few minutes. I won. Now we have a bunch of potential families to visit! 

One of the priests in the ward offered to make us wood pens this week and laser inscribe them with whatever we want. I asked him to make, "Elder Johnson - Arizona Tempe Mission" and then on the other side, "Barrio Ray 5 - Chandler, AZ" He'll be using cherry wood and they look sweet!

Thanks for the letters Natalia, Jamie, Jeff R, Mom, Dad, and Grandma and Grandpa J!

Its been a good week and we have a good one to come! 

PS: If you find the turtle let them know!
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With love,
Elder Johnson

Monday, May 13, 2013

13 May 2013

Dear Family and Friends,
It was fun to Skype home yesterday! Especially being able to talk to you guys back home and having Mark skyped on a laptop at the same time...never done that before!

So I guess the big news is that .01% of the time I'm wrong and am not staying in Queen Creek. I was 99.99% sure I was staying haha. 

Chandler is a lot different than anywhere I have ever served. Yuma and Queen Creek had more farm fields than people it seemed. Our address is 1287 N Alma School Rd #174, Chandler, AZ, 85224

On Sunday night we were awaiting our transfer calls and as I wrote last week, they never came. Monday afternoon before the calls Elder Lanier and Sawyer called to say goodbye and told me I would enjoy this next few transfers, whatever that meant. That night as we were waiting around the house waiting for transfer calls President Howes called and asked me to be trainer among some other assignments. I was pretty nervous. Later that night the Zone Leaders called and said I was leaving (President Howes doesn't tell us if we're staying or leaving) which meant that I would whitewash train - just like how I started my mission down in Yuma. Whew I was pretty stressed out for that!

At transfer meeting we found out that five visa waiter Elders came in. Elder Myler was there as well as some other people I've gotten to know. "the Argentine" was slated to come in for 3 or 4 transfers but never came in due to visa problems. Everyone was fighting to get to train him since he is a native speaker haha. Anyway, long story short, I am training Elder Diaz, "the Argentine," and am having a great time. He is super energetic and very prepared to be a missionary. Already I've learned lots from him. I also realized that Elder Diaz is the first 18 year old spanish missionary here! Also the first one to come in for 3-4 transfers.

The rest of the transfer meeting was crazy. President Howes chose this past meeting to make all the changes for the mission split. All the missionaries in the valley/phoenix area were invited and told to bring all area books. They then changed just about everyone's wards, moved apartments, split zones and moved districts. Cars were swapped and taken away for some and weird changes were made to boundaries. They've moved districts from one zone to another zone now. I can't imagine prepping a mission for a split haha. I guess that's an accomplishment though, eh?

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When we first got to our apartment, I walked in the door but was very very confused when I saw a TV that was on and a computer. I looked around a bit then realized I had walked into someone else's apartment! I quickly ran out of the apartment and opened the door next door (?) and walked into ours. Unlike in Yuma, it was clean and everything was put away. Lots of food too!

So far we have been speaking tons of Spanish. I talk to him purely in spanish and he talks to me in English. I help him with his English and he helps me with my Spanish, kind of like with Elder Valdez but I'm trying not to be as lazy and am speaking more Spanish this time. I've already seen tons of improvement in just six days!

We cover the Spanish ward here. It was probably the most energetic ward I've ever been in! The Bishop is from Bar(th)elona Spain and has the very unique accent. He is an awesome guy and very very energetic with a young family. The ward had us stand up in sacrament meeting to introduce us, in Sunday school, and gospel principles. Never had that happen before! There hasn't been a baptism in the ward since September (when Elder Myler was here) but we're going to change that. Having a native speaker in a Spanish ward makes a HUGE difference. Not to mention there are seven 'Diaz' families in the Spanish ward haha

I was flipping through the Ensign and saw a picture of someone familiar ..Jim Kabbani!? Ensign from Oct 2008. Cool story!

Finding our way around Chandler has been an adventure. Someone in a ward that we don't cover offered to give us a ride around Chandler to show us all the streets and whatnot so we did that our first night. We drove over 30 miles and it was super super helpful. The roads are relatively easy to understand.

We found out that we're getting moved into a bigger apartment next month. It seems like every time I unpack I get told I'm moving.

We've been biking a lot. In Yuma I had 1,000 miles per month, in Queen Creek I had 1,100 per month and here we get 650. The area is a lot smaller but the Elders before used a lot of miles at the start so we bike 15 or so miles every day. It's hot, too...

The chapel for our ward is nine miles away which doesn't help too much. 18 mile round trip before lunch time on Sundays.

Elders quorum on Sunday was pretty funny. The lesson was all about being a good husband - we sat there awkwardly. It felt like a marriage prep class. 

We have one investigator in our area that was on date before that fell off. She was supposed to get baptized on the 11th but called the Elders and told her that she didn't want to on the 5th. We went by and visited her and found out that the problem is that she works a lot and rarely gets to see her kids. Her kids don't want to go to church and she won't go unless they go. So we're working with the Young Women's leaders to get the daughter interested and involved. The woman is very prepared and has a strong testimony but won't commit without the daughter. Usually the kids aren't the set back. 

Our district goes down to the Native American reservation. I'll be doing like 6 baptismal interviews down there on Wednesday and Thursday haha. In our district is a senior couple of who cover the reservation. They're on fire! Really nice senior couple, lots of energy, and a good sense of humor. Our district has no other Elders, just two Spanish sisters, the senior couple, and us. 

The Spanish work in Chandler is "legendary." I've heard about this ward and area my whole mission. We see more Hispanics in one day than I did in 3 months in Queen Creek. We have been busy talking with people and orienting ourselves. Chandler is full of apartment complexes (not vertical ones) and trailer parks. Perfect! 

Driving down the main street is a pretty nice experience, visually, but as soon as you turn off of it things change pretty rapidly. Imagine my surprise when I saw this Ferrari!
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I had almost the worst OYM of my mission but luckily saved myself. We went up to talk to someone on the street and asked her algunas questions. She responded that she wasn't interested. I offered to give her a card and she said, "I wouldn't be able to read it anyway!" I assumed she was blind and started to say, "Well if you see us and need anything..." but stopped myself at, "if you s-" Whew. To my defense, her guide dog didn't have one of the typical leashes and she didn't have a cane and was out with her kids. Disaster avoided! 

Anyway, we're in a good place doing good work in a good ward. Life is good.

Thanks for the letters: Andra and Grandpa and Grandma J!

Con mucho amor,

Thursday, May 9, 2013

6 May 2013

Dear Friends and Family,
Transfer calls..............didn't happen.
We got a text at 9:30 saying that instead of calling that night they would make all the calls at some point today. They also decided to take away P-Day and so we only have from 9-12 today and they said from 2-6pm the entire mission is to stay indoors, clean the apartment, and prepare the area books as if we are all getting whitewashed. No one knows what is going on. Based on the AP calls that were made it seems like we will both be staying in Queen Creek for another 6 weeks and Elder Allen would finish his mission here. We made our own transfer board and have pretty much every option written out haha. Staying here another transfer would almost guarantee me to stay in the Gilbert Mission.
Which would mean 16 months here.
So a lot depends on the phone call we get today. In the meantime, probably just keep sending letters to the mission home again this week to be safe.
It was so hot this week. We have been getting not only hot air but also hot wind which makes it pretty bad. I think the high was 100 and it will still get 10-20 degrees hotter. Everyone always asks us why we wear dark slacks and church shoes. That's a hard one to answer haha. But luckily people are very kind with giving out cold water bottles. Sometimes we just walk holding the cold bottles against our face to keep cool. There is an SUV being sold down the street and the two selling points written on the window are "LOW PRICE" and "COLD AC."
I got so acclimatized to the winter in Yuma, this'll be a fun one. I was just remembering too how in my enthusiasm I suggested that we Sawyer and I bike a couple of times a week down in Yuma when it was 120. I must have been crazy haha but we had awesome results. He finishes his mission tomorrow!
This past week was probably one of the most upsetting anti's. We talked to him on the street and he told us how his preacher tells them all how our church is false and whatnot. I told him that if our preacher really knew what we taught he would be a member. We headed down the street right after that to visit a less active member. As we were walking into the home the anti biked around the corner of the street, jumped off his bike, and walked into our less active members home to give us a DVD that "proved the falsity of everything we taught." I traded a pass along card for the DVD then put it in my backpack to be disposed of later that night. The fact that he came into the members home to give that was the only upsetting thing.
There were many other angry people too.
We also met the first RLDS/Community of Christ person I've ever met in my life this week. Actually, she left it to join the baptist church but we got to learn a bit about their beliefs and it was a nice talk.
I wrote about that awesome potential from last week, the one who went to church and that baptism for the sisters. This week she told us that she was too busy for us again.
Every time we make a little bit of progress it just all falls away.
One of the things that has been brought up over and over this week was the temple; people talking about open houses and whatnot. It has been fun to go along with what was said at conference how everyone is invited to the temple! We have told lots of people that and it has been cool to see their interest spike. Unfortunately they were all referrals for other missionaries but the work is progressing nonetheless.
I'm 99.99% sure I'm staying here.
There's not much more to say. Nothing happened this past week worth much note.
Thanks for the letters: Mom, Eric, Will, Sis. Hines, Mark, and Grandpa and Grandma W for the package!
Con amor,
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A prairie dog.