Monday, January 20, 2014

20 January 2014

Well, this was the best first week of a transfer that I have ever had that wasn't a quadpanionship. We taught 20 lessons with members present, have five people progressing towards baptism, and found a ton of new investigators. We're trying to figure out how to raise the vision of the zone because it isn't high enough right now.
I think expectations play a huge role. On a daily basis, Elder Diaz and I expect to have fun. We expect to see miracles. We expect to teach a ton of lessons. We expect to meet people. And we do. It all works because we do everything we can to make it work. Life lesson learned.

Here's our new address: 950 W Obispo, Mesa AZ 85210. We moved. Again. But we didn't move where we thought they were going to move us. We moved into a members home. It is 4,200 square feet and about 1,700 of those are ours in a private apartment. It is two floor with a massive kitchen and living space. We love it. It's the nicest house in the mission and it houses the nicest members in the mission. Our first day, upon arriving, the woman said, "Elders! You're our sons now! There are fresh brownies for you on the table!" Ummm, ok, if you insist! 

Later on, the next day, we returned. "Elders! On the table is fresh homemade bread! Take as much as you'd like!"

If you insist!

Later on, "I just finished baking brownies! Come eat 'em!"

If you insist!

I guess it's time to gain the 35 pounds back that I have lost so far. Bring it on.

This past weekend Elder Diaz returned to the DMV to try to get his drivers license. The first time didn't work so well and ended with him failing the written test. He returned the second time full of confidence. And left with it all gone! hahahahahh I died.

I had a cool experience while I was sitting there, waiting for him . They kicked me out of the room since he had to be alone so I sat in the lobby and read the scriptures. A woman sat next to me. I looked up and said, "She isn't happy to be here, I'll let her sit in peace." The second I thought that, I thought about Mosiah 28:3, a scripture that I read every morning at 8:30. It says, 

Now they were desirous that salvation should be declared to every creature, for they could not bear that any human soul should perish ; yea, even the very thoughts that any soul should endure endless torment did cause them to quake and tremble . 

And I sat there and said, "I am not there yet if I am thinking this right now." I battled with myself for 1 minute trying to give myself a good excuse to not talk to her and I couldn't find one. Everyone there looked angry and I thought she would be too.

Well I turned to her and struck up a conversation about Elder Diaz failing the test and how I was pretty sure that he would fail it again. She laughed and said her son had failed it too. We talked about families. We talked about driving. We talked about how Elder Diaz was from Argentina and then tied it in to driving and then to missions. We talked about her Mormon friends and we talked about the Gilbert temple open house. 

In our five minutes together I was able to teach her a lesson about eternal families and temples. Elder Diaz walked out just then, having failed the test. Again.

The woman is going to take her whole family to the open house this week. Success.

Yesterday we went to eat with our recent convert and her husband who's getting baptized in three weeks.They're awesome. He's Colombian and invited us over for a Colombian dinner.
Oh. My. Goodness. It was amazing. I don't even know what I ate but whatever it was was delicious. We left very, very, very satisfied. And due to bad planning on our part, we left and drove to our second dinner. We are both very sure that God blessed us with more room in our stomachs because we were able to down two dinners and not die in the process. #miracles!

After that first dinner I asked if we could leave with a prayer. Right then the member that we brought with us who was baptized a few years ago chimed in and asked if he could share a scripture. He read in DC about shaking an angels hand. It had absolutely nothing to do with anything and Elder Diaz and I were dying. We're pretty sure he opened to a random page and read the first thing he saw. It was so absolutely random and unrelated that to this moment I think of it as one of the funniest moments of my life. And yet as he bore testimony it was very powerful. But still hilarious!

Two days ago a wonderful woman was baptized. We have been teaching her for almost two months and they've read the entire Gospel Principles book and are almost in 2nd Nephi. They are devouring it all. The baptismal service was the most stressful of my life.

And this is why:

Usually the ward is in charge of making the programs. Not in a spanish ward- we almost always do that. But this time we had to put it on the ward since we needed to go to the open house of the Gilbert temple. We decided to trust our ward and ask them to fill the font, set up the chairs, and make the programs. They readily accepted the challenge. We arrived at the building twenty minutes before the baptism to find that they had hand written the baptismal programs.

not ok. So we went to the computers to make a new one. It was 5:50, ten minutes before the scheduled start time. We had told all the members that the service would start at 5:45 so that no one would be late. It worked.

So 5:50, I finish the program and the computer crashes. NO! NO! So I remake it. It's 5:58 We run to the library to make copies. At 6:05 we finish. No worries, Spanish things always start late.
No, for some reason that decided to start the program without us and without programs. Ridiculous! That also meant that we never got pictures of the woman in the white baptismal clothing. We were FUMING. We both said a prayer to calm down and it worked.

The program runs smoothly up until the baptismal ordinance. When we had entered I had checked the water temp but not the level. They only had the cold water on so I fixed that but didn't look at the depth. The water was only a foot and a half deep. Not enough. But they tried anyway. It took five times to do it correctly. We were dying.

The program continues and ends with a hymn. Now, this is a Spanish ward, keep in mind. No one plays musical instruments so we didn't have a piano. Well for the closing hymn a 12 year old decided to be the accompanist. Bad idea. She played one hand and I still don't know the notes that she played since they were random. Everyone switched between singing the melody and watever the notes were that the pianist was playing.  I almost stood up after the first verse and stopped it. I should have. After the end of the second verse the pianist tried to do a cool ending. Nope, it sounded like the Mario theme song start. ASDLKFJAS:DKLFASK:DFJASKDFJAKSLDFJALKDJFAdf.

Life lesson learned.

But the spirit was definitely there at the baptism and we could feel it. It was relieving and peaceful despite the stress and anger that we felt.
The family of four that we are teaching are getting baptized this weekend! We love them so much. They are inviting EVERYONE to the serve. We're expecting every missionary in the zone to be there (26+), President and Sister Toone, the entire ward, and all of his and her colleagues and friends and their friends' neighbors. We're excited for the biggest turnout ever.

The Gilbert Temple open house was unreal. Check out the pictures:

They started a tour every 60 seconds. The original plan was one every ten minutes. Nope, too busy. It turned into a silent tour since there were too many people. And the temple interior was loud! It was weird. 

That temple is AMAZING. It is HUGE inside. WOW. The celestial room has a chandelier that is 18 feet tall and 8 feet wide. The baptistry is unreal. There are deep deep brown woods. The tile is exactly the same as the tile piece that I have on my desk. Imported from Israel with hews of red, green, brown, silver, and gold. It is unreal.

There was a very special spirit inside. And the family that we took felt it as well. At various times in the tour, we heard them say, "This is where our daughters (5, 8) are going to get married." Later, "This is where we will get sealed."

Outside wasn't what I imagined. I was expecting a wile mob of people rushing in. it was very very organized and very well thought out.

We love that family. Tonight that invited us over to their home to have their first hosted FHE. We've had two with them in members' homes. We're stoked.

Yesterday we had the privilege of translating at the Mission President's Fireside. It was a fun experience and is getting way more fluid for me.
Last P-day I took the first nap I've taken in months. It was three hours long and was three hours of paradise. I felt so good when I woke up... Today for P-day we're playing bocci ball with the members that we live with. Victory, here I come!!

Thank you so much for the letters, Grandpa and Grandma and immediate family! It was great to hear from you!! 

I hope everyone has the best week ever!

Monday, January 13, 2014

13 January 2014

Well the big news is in!!

I'm staying in Mesa for another 6 weeks! At the end of that time I will have been here for 7.5 months. That's fine with me! Right now we have two families getting baptized within two weeks. We're pretty excited.

We will be moving apartments though. I do not know the address. We are expecting a zone of 28 missionaries this transfer - the biggest in the mission by 4 companionships. We're ready for that. President Toone needs to split a zone and we've been on his radar as the top producing one so this is the first step in the split. We are going to spend the next 6 weeks pumping everybody up for what is going to come. #mesapride.

I'm proud of our area. Six months ago there were no investigators, the ward was unexcited and slow, and there were some problems. Gradually through that time things have picked up dramatically. I can safely say that if I were to leave tomorrow, I would have left it better than I found it. And I don't say that pridefully, but rather as Dad said it. "I know that it was not because of our abilities but because the Lord enhanced our capabilities." 

I am excited to stay with Elder Diaz for at least 6 more weeks. On the transfer recommendation form we wrote, for us, "DEJENOS TRABAJAR" (Let us work!) It clearly worked :)

Transfer call night works like this: we get in at 9:00pm, plan till 9:30, and then lounge around and wait for either a leadership call or the call telling us who is leaving or staying. For the past 6 months, the "who-is-leaving-call" has come between 11-12:00am - super late. Last night it was done by 10:10pm. 

My normal tradition is to sit and lounge around while sharing cookie dough with everyone. Last night we were still working on weekly stats when the call came! So disappointing! Oh well, next time.

The big news of this past week was going to be how our instrumental and vocal performance for Elder Holland went! It was a week of stress for me as I worked on refining the parts that needed refinement. Many hours were spent on just a few notes. We practiced twice a week for two weeks as a group to prepare. Our last rehearsal was at the building we would be performing at. We quickly realized that we would have problems with speakers in the gym being broken. There was also not enough space. But we practiced anyway.

On our last two practice run throughs, the pianist, who had memorized the music, skipped the second page. Twice. We were nervous that would happen during the performance but we trusted him and he is an amazing pianist. As we were talking, one of the audio technicians who was setting up for Elder Holland (on Friday, the day before the devotional), had his phone go off. He said, "Uh oh."

We said, "What?!"
"Elder Holland will not be coming. He is on an emergency reassignment from the first presidency."


Those were our first reactions. Elder Myler screamed haha and my heart just sank. Three missions were going to come together for this - over 800 people. We had spent hours and hours practicing. 

And Elder Holland wasn't going to come. Elder Myler jokingly said, "My eternal bragging rights are gone!"

And he never did come. Instead, the area 70 filled in for him. The devotional was kept on the program and three missions came together to listen to three mission presidents and their wives and a Seventy speak.

It was a great program. Powerful.

Our performance went alright as well. I was terrified haha. I haven't performed in front of 800 people before I don't think. My leg was shaking and my bowing was a little shaky at the start but it came together and I was miraculously able to hit my last few notes which were a challenge the whole time for me. We prayed a lot. And it worked!

As I was sitting in that front row listening and watching the mission presidents and their wives speak and sit and interact, I was super impressed. I guess I had never really looked closely at them before to the degree that I had then. These were people of power. But also, equally people of humility. They knew their purpose and they weren't afraid to help others know their purpose. I was blown away by their professionalism but also the pure love that they showed. It was a tender moment and one I hope I never forget.

Sunday was one of the happiest days I've had in a long time. And that says something because I've been happy for a very long time. I was able to watch the members and the families that we brought interact and mesh perfectly. I was all smiles. Members, your examples and love make a huge difference!! You don't even know! Even little things make big differences!

The families that we are teaching will forever be special to me. All of them are, but these ones, I don't know, there is just something special about them. They are two families that are already looking to the temple. Two families of future leaders on the ward and stake level. Two families that have been prepared by members and by the spirit for where they are now. And it is so exciting to see.

Speaking of being prepared by members, we were pleasantly surprised when two women and a man walked into church yesterday. The benefit of being in an area for 6 months is that you know everyone. I didn't recognize them so said hi. One said, "This is my friend. I work with her and we are in a different stake but this is her ward and we came with her. She is ready." 

She loved church.

We had a sad moment yesterday when we handed off another investigator family to the sisters. It's a long and complicated story but it's never fun to say goodbye to someone who you have grown to love.

We are teaching a lot of families. This is awesome.

This week I repented and became more bold. I've been pretty straight with people for my whole mission but I don't feel as if I've been as bold as the prophets in the Bible or the Book of Mormon. We were standing outside a man's home and he was explaining how his life was and how hard it was. He was a gangster and it was very, very, very clear. The impression came to be super bold with him. I was scared but I did. The words came out, "Hey ____, your life is not good right now. If you don't make changes, your kids will come out like you and you just told us that that is not what you want."

He got really offended. He did not like that. But we testified powerfully to him that this was his moment. Five minutes later he said he would be baptized.

How cool that was for me! He has unfortunately moved since then but I was grateful to know that because I acted on an impression from the spirit, he was able to recognize and start making some changes that he should have made years ago. I was grateful to know that I had done my job.

I don't ever want to be the reason that someone is not able to repent as soon as they can.

On a completely different note, I want to share with everyone some new slang I've learned this past week. It's almost a completely different language.

Here goes:

What's up:
Que rollo?
Que cho?
Que jais?
Que cucas?
Que cuento?
Que cuarenta?
Que transita?
Que once doce?
Que tramas?
Que chorizo?
Que pasion?
Que hubole?

Cool down/relax!

Send me money!
Mandame billuyo!

Boss! Send me money because I'm super hungry!
Jeffa! Mandame un billuyo porque esta gruesa la jaria!

See you later!:
Alli se ven
Alli las bisagras
Alli los vidrios

Hahahhaha. These people are awesome. We had a member - the most Mexican man you'll ever imagine - and he knows the best slang. So awesome.

This past week we had a zone meeting and a zone conference. For my training in the zone meeting, to teach the importance of obedience I did a fun little game. I took all of the missionaries to the gym and set up 12 chairs. There are 12 companionships. One of each companionship was blindfolded and sat down. The other companion stood nearby. They were given 60 seconds to guide their blindfolded companion to four separate chairs - but the unblindfolded companion was not allowed to move. So the room became very loud, very quick. I put obstacles like tables in the gym for them to get around.

Only the listener who followed exactly what his companion said got to win.

It was a fun way to teach obedience and also the difficulty of choosing the right in a world with so many distractions. I had a good laugh and no one died which was nice :)

For zone conference the next day I did a training on unity. I took "the most unified companionship" and tied them up from their fingertips to their shoulders, made them sit down, then lay down on their side, take off their shoes, and try to stand up together. They were tied back to back. It was pretty hard but they eventually got it. I then tied it into how, as missionary companionships, we need to be able to stand up in difficult situations and succeed. 

Thank you so much for the letters, Doug, Scott, and family! You're all the best!

Con mucho amor,
Elder Johnson

Monday, January 6, 2014

6 January 2014

When Elder Diaz and I are together, miracles happen. Everytime. It's ridiculous. We both just have the expectation that we're going to see miracles and we do everything we can to qualify ourselves for miracles.

One of the miracles from this past week was putting a very prepared woman on date for baptism. She and her husband have come to church for over a month, have read the entire gospel principles book (in two weeks), and read the Book of Mormon daily. They're past chapter 8 and LOVE it. It's awesome. But they were hesitant to get baptized since they wanted to wait until the husband's family from Colombia arrived. 

But they're read now.

We had a powerful lesson with them this past weekend. Their children (10, 14) live in Mexico and are members. The daughter called the mother before the lesson started and we had the daughter, 10, on the phone for the whole lesson. IT was awesome. She said she wanted her parents to get baptized. She also said she wanted to serve a mission, "and teach all the Catholics!" We laughed super hard.

We watched, "On the Road to Damascus," and talked about acting in faith. Now, the mother is on date for two weeks from now. The father is still wanting to wait for Feb. That's ok, we feel. She is so ready and so excited for baptism and we are sure that he will be baptized when she does. They are an amazing family and the result of much prayer.

Another miracle that we saw this past week happened on Friday. Oh man. It. Was. AWESOME! Here's the story:

 We had both just done an exchange with two other missionaries (changing companions for 24 hours as a learning experience). We both had awesome exchanges and specifically looked for miracles. Two of our miracles included getting two twenty dollar bills from random people.  Another one was finding a very prepared Muslim from Fiji who wanted to get baptized.

After our exchange, we realized we had inadvertently taught and focused on the same exact things. Inspired! We were excited and when we got home we decided to check the mail. To our surprise we found a referral inside.

I looked at it and said, "This is going to be a family of four who wants to get baptized."

We opened it...

And it was! A family of four who wanted to get baptized! We called them immediately and set up an appointment for the next day. The father referred themselves. They go to SLC twice a year, every year. They're surrounded by members and have been for years.They go to the temple lights every year and already own church DVDs. 

Our first visit was inspiring. They're an amazing family. As soon as we entered that home, we felt something special. It was powerful. They accepted a baptismal date ten minutes into our first visit. He quickly said, "But wait, I still want to have these lessons!" I replied, "Haha, don't worry, we do too!!" 

We love that family. They came to church and LOVED it. The five year old didn't want to leave the mother and so she sat through primary with her. She loved Primary. They both loved Primary.

And behind this whole story is a man who has been offering help for years. Their close friend who lives some miles away. He has always been there for him. In fact, this family has had inspiring encounters with Mormons for years: one included a random wrong phone call that turned into a friendship from a member of the church. 

Members, you don't know when your efforts will come to blossom, but they do and we love you for it!!!! 

The funny thing about this story is that the father that we were teaching is the one who invited his member friend to church. He called him up one day and said, "Hey, friend, I'm going to church tomorrow! Will you come with me?" Hahahaha. I responded, "Wait, wait, wait, so YOU invited your member friend to church?" I died, so funny.

This family is the most elect family I've ever seen. They're all ready. They're all progressing. And after 24 hours they commented to us on the changes they're already seeing in their family and their happiness. They're putting the gospel to the test and making it happen!!! 

We love them. After that visit we made a frantic phone call to President Toone and said, "YOU CAN'T TRANSFER US." He laughed and said he doesn't want to split us up and will do everything he can to not. That means 7.5 months in Mesa for me! Elder Diaz and I will have had over 15 baptisms together. That's a good companionship...

Our Bishops are calling and requesting we stay too haha. WHATEVER IT TAKES! When we walked through the door with the family last week, the bishop pulled me aside and said, "I just got chills! Good work Elders!" 

And that's just one ward...we have another family of 3 in the Spanish ward that, "want to get baptized" and it will be a February baptism.

Life. Is. So. Good.

And you know what goes behind it? President Toone, in their zone conference trainings, has been making this promise to all the missionaries. "I promise you that if you're obedient, you will unite a family in the gospel in these next few months."

Well, we're doing everything we can and we have found two families in both of our wards who want to get baptized! And President hasn't even come to Mesa to do those trainings yet, the promise is just working! We're getting the members super involved and every visit we have, the members invite the investigator family in the Spanish ward to get baptized. One said, "It was great to see you today! I'll see you on Saturday at your baptism, right?!" 

Spanish members have no shame! They're all converts and they're all super bold! It's awesome.

We've been developing a game this past week to use with members. It was Elder Diaz's idea and was super inspired. The game is called, "Many are called...many are chosen." The idea is that we visit member families and get the competitive side out. We sit down, go over some rules, and then give them two minutes to write every name they know - members, family, friends, whatever it could be. After two minutes we see which team has the most. That team chooses someone to say a prayer. Afterwards, we sit in silence and look over the names and see they feel inspired to visit/call/Facebook/whatever. We have those members call/contact those people right there on the spot while the spirit is super strong.

It works. We're seeing miracles now because of it. And the whole zone is catching fire! 

In January, that will be our focus. Miracles, miracles, miracles, and miracles. We are envisioning that each companionship can get 20 referrals per week (15x what we're at right now) and help fourteen people come closer to Christ through baptism. There are 17 who are working towards a baptismal date as of last night, 17 at church, and 17 progressing towards that date. 

It's just all coming together.
And if I get transferred away... idontevenknowwhatiddo!

I've got a good feeling that I'll be here for nine months. We'll see though! It might be safest to send any letters to the mission office if you can't send them by Wednesday.

Thank you, family, for the letters this past week!

Con mucho amor,!
Elder Johnson