Monday, July 29, 2013

29 July 2013

President Toone called last night. He talked to both Elder Diaz and I. Elder Diaz is training. The second he said he wanted to talk to me my heart dropped since I knew it would mean I would leave. He asked me to 'step up' and then later to pack my bags. 

I have loved this area. I've loved this district. District meetings were always so much fun and I loved preparing the training and whatnot. I was hoping to stay there for a long time since it is a more personal calling. I'm still working on making myself be excited because mostly I'm just sad to leave.

Right now we have six people getting baptized, easily, in August. Six! Ahhh! This is what happened to Elder Sawyer, he got transferred right before six people he taught got baptized. I'll be sad to miss the baptisms.

So in short: I'm getting transferred. Three months of happiness here in Chandler serving in one of the best wards. I'm going to miss the members, the recent converts, and our roommates and Elder Diaz.

Yesterday at church we finally saw the fruits of all our labors with the members. Members had brought friends to church! There were 5 there that members had brought all on their own! After our talks last week and all our visits it's finally paying off. When we got to this area the members didn't trust the missionaries and there was nothing going on. I'm so happy I got to see it turn around and am devastated not to see the amazing results that are just around the corner. 

Speaking of results. We had two baptisms this past Saturday!! They were awesome. We started fifteen minutes late since one of the soon-to-be-recent-converts roommates started fighting him and threatening to call the cops. Baptisms are never easy....

And then during the service the person who said the prayer only prayed for one of the two and then the first speaker forgot one of their names....Ahhhhhh I was dying! But fortunately a comic relief saved the day. When one of them came out of the water (baptized by the bishop) he did the catholic cross thing with his hands and everyone started laughing. I got to baptize one of them and it was an amazing experience. Ahhh, I love baptisms. One we had to do after since he was super late ha. 

At church when he got the gift of the holy ghost he just sat in his chair afterwards and looked up slowly and said quietly, "what peace....what happiness..." and then gave us all hugs.

That was the most amazing sacrament meeting I've ever been to. There was a missionary returning, leaving, and the two confirmations. In between the talks the mother and her friend got up to sing to her departing daughter (Chicago, Illinois) and choked up and had to stop while her friend kept singing. For the last few lines the mother turned around and just looked at her daughter while she sang. The lyrics were all about handing her daughter over to the Lord and watching her grow etc etc. The spirit in that room was tangible. 

Someone asked us this week if we had horns.

We had a pretty cool experience with an investigator. She is going to ask her mom if she can be baptized. We had her pretend that Elder Diaz was her mom and she practiced what to say. In that little role play she bore her testimony and it was super super powerful. Dangit I'l miss that baptism too! 

One of the Sister Training Leaders (STLs) from the Mesa zone was over at our dinner appointment doing exchanges. She did the dinner message but used her iPad Mini to show a video clip from President Eyring. It was waaaaay cool. Jealous! 

Chandler is being taken over by Tesla Model S's! They're way sleek.

This week Elder Janis is working me out hard this week haha. Last monday I told him to make me an exercise plan that I can do everyday for the next months. He took it to heart. He was a fitness trainer back home and is watching everything I eat and making us get up at 6 to do 30 mins of cardio and 30 mins of weights. I'm eating about 1700 calories a day and lots of Chia seeds. They taste terrible haha. I gave up chocolate. I know, crazy, right?

A little bit of background real quick. Mexicans love Novelas. Soap operas. This week we were teaching someone who said, "You know, I think the scriptures are a lot like Novelas." He stopped talking because I was laughing too hard. He never explained it hahahahahahahahhahaa.

We had an amazing meeting this past week. The Chandler East stake called all the ward council members, bishops, and missionaries in the stake together for a training. President and Sister Toone came and they trained on how to focus ward councils and meetings on missionary work. It was an amazing meeting. 

But I think my favorite part was when P. Toone spoke. He shared some awesome stories in response to some questions about the iPads. He said that while he was in the MTC being trained they had a training on the iPads and Tracy Watson, director of global proselyting, took out his iPad and said, "Hey, want to see where the missionaries in the Texas ____ mission are?" He then opened it and had real time tracking on them. But he quickly clarified and said, "Tracking them isn't the point." He said the Brethren and the Mission Presidents have complete access to lively monitor iPad usage. They can see when the last time the electronic area book was updated, the plans for the day, etc. Then he said again, "But tracking them isn't the point." He went on to tell some stories of the power behind the technology. The first story goes like this:

A woman calls the 1-800 referral number requesting a Book of Mormon. The missionary at HQ on the other line notices she lives in an area that is piloting iPads. The missionary sends a text to the mission president who sends one to the zone asking if any missionaries are nearby. One missionary, using the iPad, gets all the information, coordinates with the missionary at HQ, and replies, "I'm two doors away. I'm on my way over now." Before the woman calling HQ hangs up the phone, the missionary is at the door with the item she requested. Her response, "How did you do that?!" 

True story.

Another one. A husband is married to a member. He isn't a member. He decides to take missionary discussions but is a truck driver so never has time. The missionaries commit him to pull out Skype at rest stops. Over his 10 day trip they taught him everything over Skype as he traveled from Utah to New York. They coordinated church building locations and then skyped with him and his family after church. The man was amazed that the lessons in New York were the same in Utah and they shared thoughts on the lesson  10 days later the man returned, ready for baptism. 

True story.

The concern came up about missionaries abusing it. President Toone said, "We know. But the Brethren have said the Lord has created this for the spreading of the Gospel. The Brethren said it is too powerful not to use and if there are problems, they will deal with them as they come and they will learn better ways to control them, but "this tool needs to be used now."' 

In the next 6 months we should have them mission wide. 

This Wednesday the mission is receiving 41 new missionaries. 1/3rd the mission will be training. 

I set a goal for myself to read the Book of Mormon in 6 weeks. That's about 115 pages a week. I'm 60 pages into it and it's going really really well. 

One of our recent converts told us the funniest story this week. His friend was baptized a Jehovah's Witness and they said that when he comes out of the water he should, "see Jehovah standing." So the first time he got baptized he said he saw nothing. They baptized him again. Again he said he saw nothing. Four to five times they baptized him and then finally he came out of the water gasping saying, "Yes, I saw them!" The newly-baptized JW  told our recent convert that he felt like he was drowning and so he just told them. Our recent convert was dying of laughter while telling us the story aahha

This week our recent convert told us, "Science has a limit. God doesn't." It was super insightful. He was telling us about the opposition he received in deciding to be baptized. His other pastor started anti-ing him. Just like last time, our recent convert anti'd him back and won haha. The story was super intense and our recent convert said words were coming to him and he didn't know where they were coming from.

We have been having a big problem recently at church. We have too many investigators to sit with and we don't have time to talk with them all? I love that problem. It's my favorite problem to have. Last week we had 8 at church and this week we had 6. We have really good relationships with our members. When we walked into ward council meeting they all got up and gave us hugs. Ah I'll miss this ward.

Last night someone freaked out at us and started screaming at us. We were talking with a woman in an apartment complex and a very heavily tatooed man ran at us screaming TONS of obscenities, calling us names, and telling us we can't solicit. We don't solicit, we invite. By Arizona law that is recognized but no one knows that. So he screamed and screamed and threatened to call the cops on us. I wanted to tell him to do it because they'd be on our side but we just walked away. I was worried for our member, an 85 year old. Later his neighbor apologized and explained that we can't be there for soliciting. We explained to her that we're allowed to be there and then left.

Anyway, this has been an awesome three months. I've learned a ton and have grown a ton. I'm excited for what's ahead!

Thanks for all your support everyone! Thanks for writing Eric, Will, Mom, and Natalia! 

With love

Random question: Why do the monsoon clouds only come in in the afternoon?

Random question: Can someone tell me more about Madasa?

Random question: is there a way to produce darkness like we produce light?

Sunday, July 28, 2013

22 July 2013

Dear Friends and Family,

Before I begin... This is week five! If you don't send a letter by this Wednesday to me in Chandler you should send it to the mission office at :  
1871 E. Del Rio Dr, Tempe AZ, 85282

No one will ever guess what happened this week. No one. Except maybe someone who is familiar with miracles in the Bible.

With that introduction, I'll give a little background on a family we found this week. We were walking to visit a referral (who wasn't home) when a man yelled us over. We went over and he asked for a blessing for his wife. We were short on time so we set up an appointment and returned the next day. 

As we walked into his house he sat down and talked to us a bit. His mother was there, his son, and his wife was elsewhere. He told us a devastating story about his wife about how she has bone cancer and how she has had seven strokes recently. She has lost major control over her body and has not walked since January. He told us that he has so much faith and that he knows God can heal his wife. He told us that if it wasn't us that it would be someone else. Then he told us that he had talked to missionaries the week before, set up an appointment with them and then they never came back. Grrr. He said that when he saw us something told him he had to call us over, that he felt it in his heart. We prayed together. The spirit in the room was ridiculously strong. There was so much love there too.

He left to bring his wife over, to carry her to her wheel chair. It was heart breaking to see. He put her in the chair and we gave her a priesthood blessing. We left with a return appointment for the next day. 

We returned the next night. The whole family was outside.... and the wife was walking. She was walking. For the first time in almost eight months she was walking on her own. Her muscles shouldn't have been able to do that. It was a miracle. Through a priesthood blessing she had been healed. There was not a dry eye in that room that night. Not a single one. I'm still kind of in awe thinking about it - not surprised, but impressed. Impressed at priesthood power. 

After that lesson they gave us all their beer, all their cigarettes, and all their lighters and said they are never going back to that. They are on date to get baptized August 3rd.
They went to church yesterday and told the story in the gospel principles class and in priesthood. There was not a dry eye. 

That was what Jesus Christ did. He healed people. We were able to be a part of that this week. A miracle that Christ did. I don't really know what to say.

But you know what's crazy? That's not the only amazing miracle we saw this week. As a zone we have zero baptisms this month. ZERO. We are a brand new zone and not having a good start. So we fasted, all 14 of us, Saturday through Sunday

The first miracle of that fast was having eight investigators at church just in our companionship. I've never heard of a companionship having so many at church in just one ward. We had eight. Among some of investigators at church was our investigator who has supposed to get baptized July 1st who cancelled. He hasn't progressed much since then and we haven't visited him much. But during a torrential downpour on Saturday night we went by, soaked, and visited. We shared one scripture and invited him to church. He went. 

At church Elder Diaz and I spoke. It was probably the best talk I've ever delivered which was interesting since it was in Spanish. I put a lot of prayer into my talk and it came out pretty well. I spoke on "a mighty change of heart." After sacrament meeting he pulled us aside and the Bishop and said, "I'm sorry, but God has spoken to me." We thought he was going to drop us. He continued, "and I'm sorry, but...I want to get baptized next Saturday." BING BING BING BING! As a zone we fasted for a miracle and we had a miracle. We are going to be having two baptisms next Saturday to finish off the month and the transfer. We are very excited and are rushing to get everything figured out. That's my favorite problem to have!!! 

Everything is going so well right now. Of the eight we had at church, five have a baptismal date for the next three weeks and seven are progressing. EVERYTHING is going well. We're teaching in unity, we're finding, we're inviting, they're accepting, and it's raining! Things couldn't be any better! 

Which is a shame since transfers are next week. I'm pretty sure we're getting split up. Everyone is telling me I'm going to Phoenix or Coolidge. It would be fun to go to Coolidge since Elder Myler would be my companion again but I want to stay at least one more here with Elder Diaz to get all those baptisms and see these miracles turn into baptisms. But I go where I'm called.

This past week I was super tired as I wrote about. President and Sister Toone found out and each individually pulled me aside at Zone Conference to ask how I was doing. I was amazed how much they cared and then they mentioned they had prayed for me specifically and I felt even better haha. Ah, such great leaders.

It was interesting to watch President Toone at zone conference. While he wasn't talking, he was getting up every 30 seconds it seemed like to answer a phone call or respond to a text. They do so much in that calling; I'm convinced it's the hardest in the church. He gave us a little insight about what he's doing and how busy he has been since transfers are coming up. We talked about meshing the phoenix zones with the Tempe mission and he said, "both have unique mission songs, I don't even know which mission song to use!" It let me realize and appreciate a bit more the stress that he's dealing with right now.

Our other baptism this week is the funniest guy in the world. His name is Jesus and he always uses it jokingly and quotes the Bible but puts himself in for Jesus. Soooo funny. What's even better is that his wife's name is Maria = Mary. We asked him in a lesson this week what, "the door" was after reading a scripture describing it. He went off on a tangent and said, "AND IF YOU SEE A LIGHT, IT'S EL SENOR!!!!" Completely unrelated but so funny. 

Oh, there was another miracle this week! The housing coordinators brought me a waffle maker so I'm feasting on waffles for breakfast! Lesser miracle, shhhhh.

After one of our lessons we realized that we hadn't chosen a commitment to leave with one of our investigators. In a moment of inspired forgetfulness I asked her what her favorite number was and what her friend's favorite book in the Book of Mormon was. We came up with Alma 7. Perfeccctttt! That's a good chapter. She read it and received lots of great insights.

We street contacted this guy this week who said he didn't believe in the Holy Ghost. We quoted Christ and he left questioning what he believed. Success. 

Then we ran into someone who didn't believe in a judgement. We talked about how no unholy thing can dwell in God's presence and asked if I killed someone if I could live with God. She said no and then realized she contradicted herself. She goes to Cornerstone, the church that has anti-mormon classes during church. She was actually super nice though and left with a Book of Mormon and Restoration pamphlet in hand and committed to read them.

I'm going to baptize a Jehovah's Witness. The only problem is she doesn't speak Spanish and we don't cover an English ward. She is the third JW I've given a Book of Mormon to (miracle in and of itself) and committed to read it. She's amazingly nice but lives with an anti-mormon JW.

At dinner this past week, well one in specific, we were given a TON of food. Elder Diaz was too full to eat all of it (but ate dessert regardless) and offended the member. So, taking one for the team and doing what the members love to see, I asked if she had any chiles. She pulled out a bag and handed me a Chile de Arbol. I munched slowly on it and her husband came out and said, "Take notes!" and ate the whole thing. So I did too, not wanting to be one-upped. Her husband saw my eyes watering and started laughing and said, (all in Spanish), "DONT CRY!!" then turned around and ran to eat salt and limes to keep the hotness down. He hid in the corner of the kitchen with his eyes watering haha as I sat in my chair getting a feel for what hell is like. That was one of the hottest chiles I've ever eaten! Not as bad as the habanero, but eating it + being so full was dangerous. I had to sit for 4 minutes trying to keep myself from throwing up as everyone laughed at us haha. It was successful and we left with more trust than was lost! I felt sick the rest of the night.

Thanks for the letters Will, Mom, Eric, Scott, and the young women!

We got a ride last night in a mini cooper. Not a bad car! Lots of road noise though - probably wouldn't buy.

On that bombshell,

Thanks for all your support!
Con amor,

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

15 July 2013

Dear Family and Friends,
That couple was supposed to get baptized yesterday but they got anti'd and now the boyfriend doesn't want anything to do with us. What is the most sad is that the girlfriend is totally ready, interested, and excited to get baptized but she won't without her husband. It's always the men... We went by and the first questions he asked us were, " many wives did Joseph Smith have? How many kids did he leave behind?" I had to cool myself down internally because of how dumb his questions were. I told him not to listen to the devil and to think about his family. 


We have about 25 investigators right now. A ton. We're probably going to do a faith drop, give everyone one last chance and then drop everyone this week. We are busy and are teaching tons of lessons but only two of them are progressing. President Howes told me that sometimes when we drop one we find three. Andale pues (forward march!).

We took our car into Toyota this week (not my fault this time!) to get some warning lights checked out. The mechanic came up to us and told us we had 1mm left on our brakes and that it was a good thing we had come in! The warning lights were for another problem but luckily they caught the brakes when they did! 

One of the cars salesmen there is a member. We were talking to him for a bit and he yelled at one of his colleagues to come over and we started teaching him. We referred him over to the elders in Tempe to be taught but it was nice to see a member literally opening his mouth. The guy was going through some challenges but he said the gospel could bless him. I know it can.

We OYM'd a guy this week and asked him what he did for work. His answer was golden. "I work for a company." That was all he said hahahahahahhaha. 

That same day we went over to a pretty ghetto part to talk with some people and saw four cop cars on each end of the street and one undercover cop hiding in an old chevy in the middle of the street. Naturally we walked over and talked to a guy inside the area. As we were talking a cop car and motocop pulled over and walked over to us briskly and interrupted our gospel conversation and said he had to interrogate the guy we were talking to. What?! So we walked away slowly, listening, and heard the cop struggling to communicate in Spanish. So we volunteered to translate and did so. It was pretty funny. Some people mistake us for cops and it doesn't help when a bunch of real cops come up to us in the street.

This week I gave a baptismal interview to one of the investigators of the senior couple. They talked to me beforehand and said that natives take some time to respond to questions because they don't like to be wrong. They told me to be ready to wait up to 15 minutes for an answer to a simple question. Then they connected it to King Limhi in the book of mormon taking an hour to respond to Ammon. Cool similarities! They also said the investigator was very shy. We walked into the interview as strangers and left as friends. He did take some time to answer even the simplest questions and it was very interesting to see one on one how the natives act, from avoiding eye contact to how powerfully they shake hands. A very cool experience.

We went by the investigator this week who cancelled his baptism the morning of. He is still having struggles moving on from his past. We read Alma 36 with him and he enjoyed it. He still wouldn't commit to anything so today we are going to give him 'the drop talk,' or the do-this-or-we-can't-come-by talk. We help people to come closer to Christ through faith, repentance, and baptism. If they aren't willing to do one of those things then we have to put them on hold for a while to focus on those who are prepared, ready, and excited to learn more.

The 2013 Chevy Impala is sweet!

This week we were attacked by dust.
Inline image 1
I stole the picture from Elder Diaz's camera since I didn't have my camera at the time. It didn't come out very well but you can see a bit of what it's like. It then began to rain for the first time in months! It probably rained 1cm.

We have one investigator who has been struggling to recognize an answer. Her family is catholic and has started to push her towards that church more (now that we started coming over...). She reads the Book of Mormon, prays, and has been to church before. She told us she is willing to change anything if this is true. But she doesn't know if it is true and she told us that she is desperate for an answer. We have been praying a lot to help her to recognize the answer and to feel it. A lot. We received some revelation on Thursday morning that we had to ask more inspired questions to her. So we did. We asked really deep questions trying to find out what her concern was since we knew it was something deeper than 'is the book true' or 'was Joseph Smith a prophet?' So we asked and asked her questions and then it finally showed up. She has a very very deep concern, not with doctrine, but something else in her life that I'm not going to write about. We talked to her about it and she began to remember it more and more and we could tell that it pained her. We talked about the atonement of Christ and the spirit was very powerful. We are going to slow things down to help her to move on from what she has experienced. We walked away really grateful about what we had learned and with a stronger testimony of the role of the spirit in conversion. She probably won't get baptized this transfer but soon, definitely. 

Everyone thinks I'm getting transferred :(

We went by another one of our ghetto places this week and one of the white guys over there told us the street used to be run by the Mexican Mafia and that it is called 'Coke Alley.' Glad to know! We went there a few weeks ago and I felt really uneasy and left despite that there were tons of people to talk to. Glad I know why now.

Shoulder bags. I switched from that leather one I sent a picture of last week to a sweet green and purple one that I'm sure is from the 70s. A member gave it to me. It's pretty ugly (and everyone lets me know that haha) but it was the perfect size. Last night another member insisted I take another one. So now I have another one that's just green and a little bit bigger. They're a huge hassle, really awkward to use, and I can't really carry water in it but for some reason it's a rule and so we'll do it. I miss my backpack. 

I don't know how people live without a purpose. We always see, in the poorer places, people that just lounge outside smoking and drinking all evening. They work, come back, and splurge their money on things that do them no good. Things that degenerate their lives and hurt their families. Their entire lives are work, get wasted, sleep. Work, get wasted, sleep. There is no direction. No joy. It's pretty sad to see and makes me grateful that I know why I'm here, what I'm here to do, and where I'm going after I do what I'm supposed to do here.

I've been more tired this week than any other point of my mission, maybe my life. Just no energy at all. Between the heat and the business, I'm dying. I can barely keep my eyes open and yesterday in church I almost fell asleep during the prayer. And the worst thing about it is that it's not just being tired for one day, but day after day after day. I'm sleeping well, eating (pretty) well, but the energy just isn't there. 

Speaking of eating, I mentioned a few weeks ago that there are two things I can't eat: fish and eggs. I don't know why not but both just don't work. This last week we had to cancel a dinner on emergency and the Sisters went over alone. Guess what they ate? Raw fish. So raw that they had to peel the scales off to get to the meat. Hahahahahaha. Saved! But yesterday we ate hard boiled eggs. Luckily hot salsa was on hand or that wouldn't have worked.

Thanks so much Mom, Eric, Will, Grandpa/ma Johnson, and Doug for the letters this week! 

Transfers are in two weeks, just something to keep in mind. Gaining 36 missionaries from the Phoenix mission will mix some things up.

Love you all so much!
Elder Johnson

Sunday, July 14, 2013

8 July 2013

Dear people,

Time is FLYING. I'm a little worried since I've never stayed with a companion longer than 12 weeks and we both want to stay here and together for a while longer. There's a lot more to do.

This week I saw the Tesla sedan. The name escapes me... Model C or something? Pretty cool. 

We had a pretty awesome experience this week with our two soon-to-be-married investigators. We have been trying really hard to get them reading and to really pay attention to what they read. Well this past week they read a chapter in 1st Nephi and we read 8 of the verses afterwards to refresh their memory then stopped. Right as we stopped the husband said, "but wait, verse x was great because ______" and he went off on how he learned a ton from that one verse and how it really made him think. We were so happy to see he had really gotten something out of it! And then they told us three people they had invited to meet with us! They're doing missionary work and they're not even members yet! We are going by them this week. They were on date for next week and everything looked good for baptism but at the last minute yesterday they didn't go to church. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. That's the worst. We went to the temple with them this past week and watched the exhibit of "God's Plan." It was awesome and the spirit bore powerful testimony to them. On the drive back we asked them what they learned and they named off some of the parts of the Proclamation and how they want to implement it in their future family life. Sweet. We just need to get them back on track.

In Arizona we don't need to use irons because the sun irons them for us. No, seriously. Elder Diaz had a pretty wrinkly shirt and after two hours on the bikes it was pressed perfectly. 

This week we met President Toone! OH MY GOODNESS HE IS A GIANT. We had a 45 minute mini-meeting with him that was really cool. He walked in and gave us a hug and made me feel smaller than I've ever felt in my life. His wife is probably 5'5". He's 5'24". First impressions were all positive. We did an exercise where we introduced our companions to him and his wife and said one thing we loved about them. There was a tender spirit in the room. It was most powerful one the Senior couple husband tried to explain what he loved about his "eternal companion" and choked up and stood there for about 30 seconds trying to find the words and swallow the emotion. Something President Toone said that I liked was that, "I can never fill the spot that President Howes filled. I was called to be President Toone, not President Howes." It seems like a very smooth transition and we're all very excited. 

President Toone told us a cool story too. In his interview with President Eyring, he was told, "Brother Toone, you were on the list to go the Pacific Islands next year but we need you now." He served his mission in the Pacific Islands. So now he's in just-as-beautiful Arizona.

The only sad news is that he didn't approve polyester ties. This week, after 6 months of hanging in my closet unused, I finally packed up my polyester ties and they'll be arriving home this next week. I've waited 6 months to hear that they were approved but when he said no that was that and now they're gone. It was hard to pack them up. Pictures don't show emotion.
Inline image 1

There's something else in that box. A backpack. Backpacks are now against church policy for missionaries. If we want to carry things we are 'encouraged to buy a shoulder bag.' I don't know how we'll drink, ride bikes or whatever, but right hand to the square. Family, you'll notice the backpack is brand new. I fought Camelbak's warranty department for a new one because the last one was dying. I went through so many people to get them to send me one for free and the day it arrived was the day the policy was passed. :( Enjoy.

A member gave me a shoulder bag. Inline image 2
It sounds just like a guitar.

I left a plastic bottle of peanuts in the car the other day and when I came back the top had exploded off (3" away) and the grooves had melted away. They still tasted good!

We had a sweet lesson with one of our investigators this week. We knocked on the door and she answered and her first words were, "I got my answer and this isn't for me." I said, "Can you go grab your copy of the Book of Mormon and we'll sit down and talk for a bit?" She left and Elder Diaz asked me what we should do. I felt that we should just ignore it and teach her something and told him. So we did. At the end of the lesson her words were, "can you come back tomorrow?" YUP! She is on date for the 20th of July. It's cool to feel guided like that and just see everything change when you listen to the spirit. Jokingly afterward I told Elder Diaz that my mission has taught me how to ignore people. We didn't talk once in that lesson about why she wanted to drop us but rather focused on the Book of Mormon.

Apparently by 18 months the Church wants to globalize their new technology initiative. The missions that are piloting the Ipads and iPhones will get them first. That's us! I'm expecting within 4 months to have iPads and iPhones mission-wide. They're pretty restricted and the mission president has complete access to anything done at all on them and they are monitored daily. 

Roland, your wedding invitation arrived. Congrats! 

I decided this week that my IQ is slipping. We were talking to an English person I just started talking in Spanish and he looked at me really confused. The same happened with a Spanish person later that day. I can't spell anymore and I can never think of the right word in English that I want to say. Noooooooooooooo.

We had a pretty cool miracle this past few weeks. We were visiting a member who just started working on Sundays because his work is crazy. We told him we would fast with him to get another job so that he could go to church on Sundays. We did, he did and bam he got a new job that pays more that allows him to have Sundays off. 

The thunderstorms are coming. We saw some awesome storms this past week. It's super hot and it has been humid as well. 

We went on exchanges this last week with the zone leaders. We biked 4 miles to visit a trailerpark and on the way back Elder Egbert's tire popped. We walked two miles and then I asked him, "is your faith sufficient for a miracle?" He said yes, I said mine wasn't (jokingly), and then a member pulled over and fixed it for him. Woops hahaha

We are working really hard with one of our investigators to help her get an answer to her prayer. She reads, prays, and went to church but still says she struggles. Yesterday we had a landmark lesson with her where she said she thinks she isn't getting an answer because she's holding on to her past out of fear. We've been praying a lot to know her concern and now we just need to help her realize it's not a bad thing to learn more. It helped to grow my testimony that as we walk in faith, putting our trust in the Lord and holding nothing back, he does guide us and he guides us to a better place. Every time. The spirit was really strong and she is starting to recognize it. We're excited!

Oh and before I forget, I taught Elder Diaz how the US Government works this past week. It was July 4th and he asked me so for the first time in many months I talked about politics. I read him the Constitution and Declaration of Independence haha. Someone in Yuma gave them to me as a joke. I carried it in my suit pocket for like 4 months waiting for one of the missionaries to say something so that I could just pull it out and read a quote from. It would have been so funny but no one ever did :/ So I put it in my suitcase for the next 5 months and finally pulled it out last week.

Thanks for the letters Roland, Mark, Eric, Will, and Mom!

It was a fun week and we have better ones to come! Love you all!

Con mucho amor,

Sunday, July 7, 2013

1 July 2013

Dear Family and Friends,
Gilbert, Scottsdale, Mesa....the Tempe mission has been cut into pieces! Today President Toone starts as the new Tempe mission president and the day that President Howes hangs up the tag. I'm going to miss them but we're all excited about what lays in store for the future.

We're teaching a young couple expecting their first child. The husband struggles with alcohol and the wife is all ready to get baptized. It's the worse when we go over there and see him struggling with a beer and see her in tears because of it. We sat down with just her last week and taught just her and then the next day just him. It was a pretty bold lesson but, again, it's great to see how bold we can be if the spirit is there. Things like, "you're letting your future family down," don't offend people if the spirit is there. And it helps them change. They've committed to get baptized on the 13th and we're going to get them married the same day! The next day when we taught them, they held hands and asked, "What do we have to do to get baptized?" MUSIC TO MY EARS! Afterwards we knelt in prayer and had the him say it. It was such a sincere prayer and afterwards we knelt in silence and they were beaming with joy as they continued to pray in their minds. At church yesterday the soon-to-be-wife said, "I'll never stop coming here."

Speaking of of our investigators got married this week! He was supposed to get baptized this Saturday but they planned their honeymoon on top of it...Bah! I realized this was the first wedding I've ever been to. 

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We are also teaching someone who told us a crazy story about how he had been involved in some bad things and got on a truck to "do a job" and the people kicked him off the truck in the middle of the desert. He wandered in the desert for two days without shoes and lost 20 lbs. His feet were all bloody by the time he finally got back to his family. He had pictures to prove it and all. I've heard some of the craziest stories of my life these last few weeks...

We moved to this apartment complex near an Intel factory. Tons of Indians live near us. We taught one a lesson the other day and asked her to pray. When she prayed she chanted/sang something in her native tongue - it was awesome!

For my birthday this past week the Bishop and his family called and all sang happy birthday, it was great haha. They were out of town on vacation too!

This past week I got a package full of gummy bears. But they weren't bears. They melted into gummy globs hahahaha. Arizona!

The bears weren't the only things melting this week. 117 degrees on Thursday and since then it has been over 110 every day. Not fun. Especially on bikes. I think the worst part is biking at night because for some reason my eyes just dry out and tear up. Whoever decided to settle Arizona was crazy.

Our apartment complex has a tiny gym inside. We've been going in the morning and leaving super super super sore. 3 days later and I still can't raise my arms. 

Remember the guy who was supposed to get baptized two weeks ago who cancelled the day of? Well, we hadn't seen him since then. We hadn't even gone by after he told us his path was elsewhere. But two days ago I felt like we had to go see him and so we did. As we knocked on the door, he opened it slowly and we saw his TV. The "Special Witnesses of Christ" DVD that we gave him was playing and he was listening to the testimonies of the 12 Apostles. The Restoration DVD was also out and open and he had seen it too. In the time that he had decided not to get baptized, he had been fired from his stable job where had was payed more than anyone else for the same amount of work (that he found after we started teaching him), his family is going through a crisis, his house has fallen back into a mess, the cockroaches are back, and he hadn't left his house in a week. We talked to him, helped him recognize the difference between having the gospel and not, and invited him to a baptismal service and church. He went to both! We're going by tonight and will invite him to get baptized this next Saturday. Miracles! Every week!

We've been really bold with lots of people this past week and we're seeing the blessings. 

Someone we're teaching told us another crazy story. He lives with two people, we'll call them Jose and Pedro. Jose is a drunk but also 'is very religious.' Pedro is his brother, very religious and doesn't drink. Two nights ago our investigator and Pedro woke up because Jose was screaming, "I'M THE DEVIL, I AM GREATER THAN GOD!" They told him to quiet down but Jose got violent and tried to kill them. He told us that his said his eyes were all red and he was stronger than normal. Pedro and our investigator tackled him to the ground and yelled, "In the name of Jesus Christ, in command you to be gone!" Immediately Jose quieted and apologized. That's a crazy story eh?

Last night I finished the Book of Mormon. 5 weeks exactly! That book is true. I think my favorite part of being a missionary is seeing people gain a testimony of it. There is so much power in those pages and I know that it was translated by a Prophet of God.

Yesterday morning we had a meeting at 6:30am with the stake presidency, the high counselor over missionary work, and all the Ward Mission Leaders in the stake. Ours was in Mexico. They trained on how to get the members involved and use the video segments we saw in the broadcast from last week. It was awesome. The ward mission leaders spoke about programs they're using. Some of the ones that stuck out are, "let your mormon swagger shine," a program where the missionaries and ward missionaries visit members and give them arm bands with "mormon swagger" to remind them to share the gospel. They hand a tie off to a family each week to remind them daily to do missionary work. Other programs included getting the missionaries to speak in church, perform musical talents, and more. They talked a lot about ward council and how it needs to be focused on missionary work and have the 15 name program working constantly. It was super inspiring to see wards so organized and the members so involved in missionary work. We heard stories of wards with historical yearly baptisms of 3, 4, or 5 jumping to over 50 due to involvement from the members. We left inspired. We have been praying for ideas and yesterday we got an answer. The Gospel Principles teacher came to us and said, "Elders, I've been praying a lot about what my family can do better to help you and I thought of this idea for a ward activity! We used it in Mexico and it worked miracles!" She then went on to explain it and called it, "Trip to Hawaii," or something like that. Sounds great!

Spanish wards have a reputation for not being so organized and members being not so involved. It is an unfortunate reputation that in many cases is earned. Well, we're going to change that. We met with the Sisters and we're making a plan for what we can do to get the work moving. For two hours yesterday we brainstormed and finally have a basic rough draft for our plan of action. It will take lots of refinement and practice but we know the ward can do it. It's going to be really hard to follow up and stay on top of things but we're committed to it.  Bring it on!

We also met with one of our members, a branch president who implemented a plan like it and had 50 baptisms his first year. We talked a lot with him and his overarching advice was, "help them set goals." Duh! Why didn't we think of that?! He said that they as a family set a goal for how many families they're going to help come to the church per year. This year their goal was one. Not a high number but a number they committed to. Want to know how they're doing? They are the fellowships for the young couple we're teaching. I don't mean we just take them to the lessons, I mean they've become true friends. Yesterday they had them over for dinner. Last week they took them to the temple, took pictures, framed it, wrapped it in gift wrap (with a bow!) and gave it to them. They visit with them during the week and give them advice, help, and are there for whatever they need. They're helping our investigators find a car so the soon-to-be-husband can get to work and church. Take notes! They're the best fellowships I've seen or heard of in my entire mission! We asked him how we could help others catch the same spirit and his answer was humbling. "I'll never be able to pay the Lord back for what he did." And then he said, "When you ask the members to fellowship someone, say, 'will you take this person with you to exaltation?' Then they won't be able to say no!" Hahahahahah. Ah, such a great family. He gave us a ride last week and when we thanked him his reply was, "I made a promise to give all I had to the Lord. I intend to keep it." No words can describe how great he is. And then said, "behind every man is a better woman." Just an exemplary family. 

We had four investigators at church yesterday and a family we helped return to activity. The ward is getting excited about missionary work and things are going great! The Sisters had an investigator there and a family they are also reactivating. The ward hadn't had more than 2 investigators at church for 'many months' months and now the work is flourishing. 

How do cars make cold air for the AC? How does an AC work?

Thanks Sister Hines, Mom, Dad, Eric, Will, and Brother Aegerter for the letters this week!

Love you all lots and thanks for all you've all done for me! 
Elder Johnson