Monday, March 3, 2014

3 March 2014

New address! Who will be the first one to write me?!? 7611 S 36th St #214, Phoenix AZ 85042
There must be a God because I'm back with Elder Myler!! We are so excited to be together again and we've had so much fun already! And we're in South Phoenix, baby! The crack capitol of the USA a few years ago and home to what we lovingly call the Phoenix Zombies! 
We had done the "math" right before transfer meeting and figured out that we would probably be together. So we went to work and started planning what we would do when President Toone read our names and that we'd be companions. 
The normal procedure goes like this, "And in Phoenix South 11, Elders ____ and _____" The missionaries then get up and go hug, sometimes with lots of excitement, sometimes with less haha. 
We wanted to leave a mark. So we played baseball. How?

When President Toone said, "Elder Myler and Elder Johnson," neither of us stood up. Instead, Elder Diaz stood and pitched an imaginary ball at an Elder who swung an imaginary bat. Someone else yelled, "FLY BALL!" 
That was our queue. We were sitting on opposite ends of the room and stood up when we heard that. We stared at the ceiling looking at the imaginary ball and ran to the back of the room with our hands in imaginary mits and then ran into each other. After recovering from the "shock" we "noticed" that we were companions, got excited, and ran back to our seat.
It was the most memorable one of the day. 
Elder Myler is the THIRD companion that I have had twice haha. I've never heard of that happening before more than once! 
We talked a lot about the area. Elder Myler believes it has been under-performing and in the four days that we were together in the past week we already set an area record. The future is exciting! We are both on the same page for everything and it's AWESOME!
South Phoenix is completely different than Mesa. Whereas Mesa was poor, South Phoenix is destitute. It has everything that comes with a poverty-stricken city: drugs, violence, gangs, and intense minority groups. Things are rough down here but I LOVE it. My second day gave me the taste for what South Phoenix would be like:
The ward that we serve in, just a Spanish ward, is amazing. It is very organized (DREAMS DO COME TRUE), the members share the gospel on their own, the Bishop is excited, the ward mission leader is amazing, and great things are happening already! The members have very...unique...pasts but that's ok, all that matters is the future! They're converted and are converting many! Retention is at 80% for the first year - probably the highest that I've seen in any ward. 
There are 18 missionaries in the zone including us, a fraction of the 30 that we had in Mesa. I was sad to see Mesa go but I was excited to be able to serve in a zone so small. There is a family atmosphere here. 14 of the missionaries here are Spanish speaking.
We have a 2014 Toyota Corolla. We picked it up with 30 miles on it. It has a backup camera?! Hahahaha. And no tiwi :D
Within my first two days here I had an experience that has changed my life and has changed my mission. We were at the church waiting for our member to show up to take us to some lessons and the Sister Training Leaders (STLs) called us with an emergency. They were alone at a different church building at 7"30pm when a man ran up to the locked door and started pounding on it while screaming, "I NEED TO GET SAVED, LET ME IN!" 
After a few minutes, he fell onto his knees in tears and the sisters talked to him through the door. They called us and we floored it over. 
When we got there they were talking to him outside. He was a meth addict and has been haunted and tortured by "the devil and evil spirits." He was 20 years old and clearly had been through hell in his life. He had piercings. We took him inside the church and into the chapel, sat him down, and told him his life wasn't going anywhere. He told us some of his recent experiences, which were shocking, and told us that he was willing to give anything up to have peace. He was desperate, depressed, lost, and confused. 
We gave him a priesthood blessing and he immediately calmed down. It was night and day. His voice level softened, his countenance changed, and he recognized that he was a child of God.
That was humbling in and of itself.
He told us that he had been clean for 11 days. He was so proud of that. And you know what? I was proud of him for that. 11 days is not very long but that was all the hope that he had. In his eyes, he was winning! And in mine he was too.
As Elder Myler and I got in the car to drive back, we reflected quietly on that experience. This kid was my exact age but our lives were going in completely different directions. 
I could have been (name changed) "James." I could have been a meth addict, running around alone at night being haunted by personal demons. I could have had his life.
But thanks to everyone that preceded me, I am not. I am serving a mission for James. He is my purpose. I am out here going through what we do everyday for James' everywhere. I am serving a mission so that James' children don't have to experience what he did. I am serving a mission so that James can trust himself, can believe in himself, and can believe that his future is as bright as he wants it to be. I am serving a mission to say thank you to my ancestors for helping me be who I am today. This isn't for me; it is for all of them. But what it has done for me is inspiring.
I would do anything for any 'James,' because I've seen James' change. And it's the best thing ever.
That experience was so intensely profound that it has changed the way I approach everything. I wake up at 6:30, exhausted beyond belief, for James. I work hard all day everyday for James.
And it is all worth it. Every. Single. Second. 
James has changed my life. There are few other single moments in my entire life that have impacted me as much as 'James' did in that moment.
Yesterday was the Gilbert Temple dedication. It was a special experience. It was a little strange hearing such loud sounds inside the celestial room, but whatever! President Monson strangely didn't look very happy. 
I found my apostate great great great (etc) grandpa in the Doctrine in Covenants! D&C 132:124! Alpheus Cutler!
We had a cool experience this last week in a meeting with the DLs and STLs of the zone. We met together to discuss the needs and make a training plan for the month. It was exciting to see everything come together as we refined ideas and made plans. That's the coolest thing to experience.
This past week was Mission Leadership Council (MLC). I love MLC. I learn so much at MLC every single time.
However this time President Toone thew a curve ball. President Eyring, when he gave President Toone his final interview, commissioned him to teach the missionaries of the Arizona Tempe Mission how councils in the Lord's Church work. So that is what we have been doing.
But at MLC we counciled in a different way. We did a mock High Council disciplinary meeting. It was intense, terrifying, and inspiring. I've never felt the way I did when being involved in that practice. It was agonizingly sad and unbelievably peaceful at the same time. Weird combination. I won't go into the specifics for what we "role played" but I had never felt what I did before. 
At MLC, President Toone also spoke to the missionaries that replaced Elder Diaz and I in Mesa in front of the whole group of 40 of us. He said that we were all there to support them as they replaced Elder Johnson and Elder Diaz in Mesa, "a zone that was run marvelously and magnificently." That was a nice moment. 
On Saturday night, contrary to previous instruction, President Toone invited all the missionaries to watch the Gilbert Temple Cultural Celebration video. It was hilarious. I haven't laughed so hard in a long time and I *think* that the humor was planned. It was also very well done and ran smoothly, despite the massive rainstorm. That was the first time it had rained in months. I honestly can count on one hand how many times it has rained in the last six months. 
Thanks for the letters Susie and Family! 
Miracles are going to happen here! I'm so excited to be here in South Phoenix and even more excited to be here with Elder Myler! #ComoSeDiceANDALEPUES
Thank you all for your continued support! Be sure to like and share my posts on Facebook so that more people can see them! 
Con mucho amor,
Elder Johnson

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