From 10 months to 16.8 months, I honestly thought that the mission would be the rest of my life. That was all that I thought about. Nothing else even mattered to me. Well, nothing else DOES matter to me, but something weird happened yesterday and that's why I'm talking like this.
Yesterday was our mission's Christmas Party. It was awesome. More on that later. During the testimony meeting, all I could think about was college. No matter what I did, all the thoughts that came to mind were about college.
This was not timely. We had just finished the most ridiculous week of my mission with over 60 lessons taught and 30 of them with members present. Ridiculous. So many. We worked so hard. Everyday we were doing everything we could to make everything possible happen. And we saw it. We have four people with a baptismal date and four progressing towards baptism and nine at church and seven new investigators and 15 referrals received. Obscenely good week! I was so in the zone!
And then that testimony meeting hit. Gah. Afterwards I went up to President Toone and asked him what I should do. He looked at me, grabbed my shoulders, smiling, and said, "Elder Johnson...the spirit is telling you that it is time to start planning for the future."
NO. NO NONONONONONONONO.
I'm not "trunky" at all, not distracted, but the idea of planning for myself rather than other people is shocking me.
And then Elder Oscarson told me today that he and I are the ninth oldest missionaries in the mission.
And that the sisters that came out with me are going home in three weeks. Today we went to the temple as mission and got the following pictures of the original District 38D from the MTC.
Anyway, other things happened than me going into shock.
The Gilbert Temple open house is approaching. The pass along cards have arrived. They're nice. They don't want us handing them out on the street; rather, praying over those that we are teaching and sharing a few. They're not giving us the 700 per companionship that I requested (surprise!) but rather more like 100 </3
We aren't allowed to go to the open house. We are expected to send our investigators to the temple with members. Not all that said considering that the very first sessions after dedication are reserved for missionaries. Hopefully I won't be too far from it for that.
It is a unique experience to meet on a monthly basis with the Stake Presidents in our zone. I don't know why they trust us as much as they do, but they do. I'm twenty and they're 50+ and very experienced. But these meetings are so inspiring. I learn about humility, patience, love, boldness, honesty with oneself and others, and effectiveness. I look forward to those meetings. They meet with us to discuss the state of the work and how the wards are doing, any concerns or miracles we're seeing, and offer us some guidance. It's awesome. They reach out to us warmly.
It was especially cool to be in the temple this morning doing some initiatory work and find the high councilor over missionary work in one of the quadrants. That was also a special moment. Really, they're such powerful people and great examples.
Today has brought the first three trainings that I've been assigned to do on effective use of Facebook. Mom, I bragged about you again. I talked with President Toone last week about how I felt the mission has lost focus on Facebook as it has appropriately shifted focuses to help the younger missionaries. But I felt it was an important topic and as I sat talking with him he told me that he wanted me to meet one on one with every zone leader companionship and train them on how to train their stewardship. It has been highly effective so far and I've already figured out a ton about the state of the mission in regards to Facebook. Doubling every zones total teaching opportunities per week is my vision.
Speaking of vision, I want to comment on how inspired this has all been. The APs put together the zone conference and made "Vision" the focus. At the same time and without knowing, I put together the Facebook training and had vision as my focus! INSPIRED!
It is reasonable to say that between 60-80% of our mission is yet to teach their first lesson on Facebook. A missionary who isn't busy is a homesick missionary. And that's the big struggle of the mission right now. So we're expecting miracles out of this.
Ok, now I can talk about the christmas conference. It all started on Sunday night with a Mission President's Devotional. All the missionaries and as many investigators as possible were invited. Elder Gaspar, Anderson, and I played a special musical number on, respectively, Viola, Violin, Violin. We played, "Silent Night/Still, Still, Still" arranged by Sally DeFord and had someone on Piano. That was a lot of fun - wish I had recorded it.
The christmas conference continued all day on Monday, starting at 7:00am with a breakfast. Yum. That day consisted of some AMAZING talks by President Laney (one of the amazing Stake Presidents I previously mentioned in this letter) on how Jesus Christ is a healer and the difference between being cured and healed. He's a doctor and spent the time noting how doctors cure but don't heal. He used the parable of the 10 lepers and how it uses cured/healed interchangeably to refer to the nine and to the one. Amazing. If you want my notes just let me know.
The Mesa Arizona Temple President and wife also spoke to us. That was phenomenal and they gave us some great pointers for how to get a lot out of a temple visit.
The rest of the day was full of some fun activities, lots of musical numbers, a visit from Santa (nice and naughty list for missionaries and the funny stories that landed them on each list). It was a fun experience.
The conference culminated in a temple trip this morning. We went extra early to do some initiatories -that was fun. Elder Gaspar missed the temple session so went through alone afterwards haha. And then he missed the mission picture because he went through a later session...
We went to the temple twice in two weeks since we were sneaky and planned the temple trip the first week of the transfer and got to go again. Genius! Normally we just go once a transfer. Inspired!
The trip last week was super insane. We forgot about it. No, really, we did. We go to the 7:30 session and at 6:52, while exercising, we realized that we had a temple session in 40 minutes. So we RACED home, changed SUPER fast, met our ride 10 minutes late, and got into the session as they shut the door. That. was. Intense. I hate being rushed through the temple haha.
Anyway, MERRY CHRISTMAS to everyone! I hope everyone has a GREAT week!