Monday, April 21, 2014

21 April 2014

Phoenix, AZ city


You'll never guess who was sick again.
Before I came to South Phoenix I had been sick three times. Since I have come to South Phoenix I have been sick three more times! Ridiculous! But I'm basically all better now. I only missed three hours of proselyting which was lame but I'm almost entirely back now.
I'm going to write backwards for this week. Let's start with Easter?
As a zone we started Easter Sunday with a fast for miracles. Each companionship sought specific ones. Ours was that the hearts of the men who are keeping the families we are teaching back could be softened.
This is our last Easter in the mission and Elder Myler came up with a brilliant idea to make it memorable. It started at 4:15 am when the alarm went off. We all rolled out of bed and by 4:50 were on the road to the summit of South Mountain. At 5:30 we arrived at the top. South Mountain overlooks all of Phoenix. It's a stunning sight in the early morning light, or lack thereof.
Our plan was to park our car facing towards the east to see the sunrise. While we waited and while it happened we sat in silence listening to the "Lamb of God" CD. It's a beautiful musical of the Jesus' life. Brilliant. Everyone needs to listen to it. The words come straight out of the New Testament and it's a touching rendition.
So we sat and waited. And we listened. And we felt.
Minute by minute caravans of Christian youth groups arrived at the top of the mountain. From our viewpoint there were groups standing and sitting, reading the scriptures and singing quietly. For a couple of hours that was the holiest place in this city of millions. There was a sacred silence that fell over everything as the sun peaked its head over the mountains. It was a sight, scene, and sound that I'll never forget.
The second that the first rays of sunlight hit the sky the song, "I Am the Resurrection" came on. It could not have been timed better.
Once the 83 minute CD was finished we reluctantly turned the car around and symbolically drove back into "the world."
We were able to go to the Easter Pageant again this week! We went with three girls we are teaching (10-14). They loved it and conveniently already knew a bunch of the ward girls from school! Perfect. Their mother has never given the girls permission to get baptized but we were miraculously able to get her approval this week!
This week we continued our dropfest. In two weeks we have dropped (stopped visiting due to lack of effort on their part) over 20 people. It has been great. Every time we drop someone who is doing nothing we have another x minutes to find someone who will do something.
And that got me thinking. Doesn't God 'drop' us as well? When we sin He withdraws the spirit. Isn't that all dropping an investigator does - removing their ability to feel the Holy Ghost for a time? And isn't that the best motivator to seek it again? Just a thought.
This last week we received a new sister who was reassigned from Ecuador. Our zone is now complete and we're excited to get everything moving again!
And now for what I believe was the greatest miracle of all from our zone fast: one of my Facebook investigators got baptized!! He never told me that he was on date but I got a wonderful message from him yesterday saying that he had been baptized the day before! It included the best picture that I have ever seen in my life.
Miracles happen everyday if you qualify for them! I have never once fasted on my mission without a miracle happening somewhere and to someone.
I hope everyone else was able to have as great an Easter as mine! I did miss the chocolate though haha.
With love,
Elder Johnson

Saturday, April 19, 2014

13 April 2014

Twenty minutes ago the mission office called and gave me my, "Trunky Call."'s really called that...
They asked me where I wanted to fly into (Reagan National) and about sending my bike home. Apparently it's free through some awesome member so that'll be happening.
We almost got stabbed this week. Alright, maybe that is a HUGE exaggeration. First, some background. President Toone asked us to go on an errand late one night and as we were walking to our destination (through a weird alley) we suddenly saw a camera flash. It caught me off guard - it was pretty late and there was no one around. It was dark. *FLASH* it went again. I looked around and then looked up. 20 feet off of the ground was a small camera that the city installed to keep an eye on who was walking around that alley at night haha. Hopefully that picture doesn't come back to haunt us.
10 minutes later we got to the canal. It was dark. There was nobody around. Suddenly we heard footsteps and saw a kid sprinting at us! We only noticed him about 10 feet behind us. I thought I was dead. He ran really close to us, yelled, "'sup whiteboiz!" and then continued. Two minutes later four cop cars came screetching out of the intersection he had previously been at.
Transfer meeting was this last week! It was HUGE. The entire mission was invited in and Yuma skyped into the meeting from their stake center. President called everybody into a room to have a special meeting with them and had Elder Myler and I go and help the new greenies get all situated with their iPads.
It is always an interesting experience doing those meetings. It's just the group and us. You learn a lot about the missionaries in the way that they can follow instructions to set up an iPad. It's almost hilarious.
Because of that little meeting we missed the big meeting! As we finished we walked out and heard the end of it. "If you're not willing to step up then I am going to release you as a district leader, a sister training leader, or a zone leader!"
We had missed an hour and a half of throwing down, P. Toone style! I heard it was super super awesome. There were a TON of changes in leadership as he fixed a lot of the problems from the transfer before. Every companionship except for 10 in the entire mission got changed. Elder Myler and I were one of very few to stay together! We're pretty sure we'll "kill" each other!! (finish missions as companions)
At the transfer meeting it was fun to see all of the 50 or 60 missionaries that I had served with while in Mesa. That was a fun reunion. It was fun to see Elder Diaz again. He and Elder Myler are my last surviving companions.
At every transfer meeting the greenies go up and introduce themselves and say where they're from. Usually you hear states like Utah, Idaho, California amidst cheering from the missionaries from that state. In my entire mission I've heard one missionary say he was from anywhere near me: Maryland. When he stood up and said that I yelled as loud as I could because no one is EVER from the east coast! I was the only one to make a sound for him haha. But at least I was able to do it once on my mission!
Phoenix South zone got rocked. And something big happened.
Something very big.
We have more sisters in our zone than elders. I have NEVER heard of that happening before!
We told the STLs that they were the new ZLs and that we would be the new Elder Training Leaders. They didn't like that joke haha. We have 10 sisters and 8 elders. For our weekly planning meeting we all meet together in the gym and plan separately but in the same room. It was the quietest and most spiritual planning session of my life. Elder Myler and I couldn't stop smiling. Sisters are pretty different...
Elder Nelson is serving here in Phoenix South now! He randomly showed up to my departure talk 2 years ago and now we're finally in the same zone!
There is a building in South Phoenix that is Mexico in a store. It is called Ranch Market and is the most amazing place in the world. Everytrhing from the music to the signs to the food just screams Mexico. They have an amazing restaurant inside that sells the best horchata and burritos in the entire world. We took the zone there this past week and everyone left with big smiles on their faces. There's only one of those places in the entire mission! #phoenixsouthswag
We found a family this last week. Where? Circle K! (That's a gas station.) The family of four came to church with us yesterday and the children all want to get baptized and the mom is ok with it! que hubole! They made a lot of friends at church and the kids are going to the Easter pageant with the youth on Tuesday!
And we'll be hitching a ride with them! On Sunday night we went to the Spanish night. It was amazingly beautiful. We were able to get over 20 people to the Spanish Easter pageant. And by "we were able" I mean one of the families we are teaching took 14 of her friends haha. She said, "I really feel like God wants me to share what you're teaching me!"
One of the families that I baptized in Yuma is doing amazingly well. So well, in fact, that all of their extended family is getting baptized or learning about the church in other parts of AZ, Yuma, and Mexico!
Sometimes you can't see how far what you do will go...
Elder Myler and I are teaching a ton. We're having a ton of success right now but for some reason it's super hard to get people on date for baptism! We're teaching over 20 lessons a week on average with members present for 7 weeks now, we're getting tons of people to church, and we're finding tons of people. But they're just not getting on date! These people have real concerns and they're future leaders in the ward. They're all looking to the temple.
Things are going super well here! Thanks for the letters family, it was great to hear from you!
Happy Easter!!
Elder Johnson

Monday, April 7, 2014

7 April 2014

Somehow we are going to be together for another transfer! I'm pretty sure we will be able to "kill each other," or, finish our mission as companions! Aweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeesomeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!
The transfer rocked the mission. The transfer isn't actually until Wednesday but on our weekly conference call some things slipped. (No complaints here.) Lots of zone leaders are "stepping aside" because everyone is "dying" (finishing the mission) soon. Somehow Elder Myler and I survived unscathed.
Our zone didn't though. Three companionships whitewashed and every single companionship got a change. Except us.
So, we're ready to make some changes this next transfer and move forward even more enthusiastically into our last two transfers in the mission. #workingharderthanever
This past weekend I finished my reading of te Book of Mormon. I set a goal to read it in 6 weeks and was able to accomplish that. It was awesome. Amazing. Inspiring. Lifechanging. Comforting. Directing. Exciting. There's just something so special about that Book. If you are reading this and have not read the Book of it. It brings me such peace and joy and I want everyone to be able to experience that in their life. Here it is online ( Start with the introduction. And to get your own paper copy, which I would recommend, go here ( The Church of Jesus Christ also has an awesome free app. Check that out here (
Read it. It's true.
This past week was a soccer match between Mexico and the USA. It just so happened to happen here in Phoenix! We had lots of investigators cancel on us for it. There was absolutely no one in the street. That was a frustrating hour. We visited one family that we were planning to stop visiting because they're not doing anything and as we walked in we saw out of the corner of our eye the USA score the first goal. Naturally we said, "WE'LL WIN!" The family told us never to come back.
Haha no they laughed about it. We told them we couldn't watch it and left. As we walked down the street, reveling at how empty and quiet it was, we heard a man say, "goal" with absolutely no emotion but loud enough for us to hear it in the street. We had no idea what house it came from but it was the funniest thing I've ever heard in my life.
There is a store in South Phoenix  called, "Ranch Market." Imagine all of Mexico packed into a smelly grocery store. That is it. It has THE BEST carniceria (meat shop) ever and you can buy the most amazing burritos of Carne Asada (grilled steak) and the best horchata in the world. Horchata is heaven in a cup. It's like a cinnamony rice milk drink. Ohhh my goodness it is HEAVEN. You need to learn how to make it.
As many of you are aware, this weekend was General Conference. It was awesome! We took a lot of questions and concerns into it. I've never experienced what I experienced there to the degree that I experienced it. It seemed like the afternoon session on Saturday was exactly for me. It was perfect. It increased my conviction that those men really are Apostles and Prophets. What a cool experience.
For the Saturday morning session we were able to help an investigator family get there with  us. By family I mean wife and kids. The husband is, almost non surprisingly, out of the picture and unsupportive. Men are the worst. He won't talk to us, won't talk to his wife about what she loves about the church, and isn't being a supportive husband. It is sad to hear her troubled talk about her possible options.
The conference was perfect for her. Her children are insane though - they can't sit still. We had her go sit in the front and tried to distract the kids with iPad cameras in the back. It worked for a bit. She's so patient with them. It's inspiring.
You learn a lot on a mission by watching how people interact and act when out of their comfort zone and when they're inside it.
Anyway, conference in Spanish isn't half as good as it is in English. Maybe it's because I have an emotional attachment to the voices of the speakers in English but the Spanish translators seemed to be so monotonous. It's a hard thing to do though, especially for millions and millions of listeners.
I want to re-emphasize what I have said a few times: some of the greatest moments of joys and greatest moments of sorrows in missionary work come as you see missionaries succeed or fail.
We had the weirdest experience of my life this week. There was a day that seemed to just be filled with problems. We were driving to a lesson, reflecting on how unexpected everything was, when an SUV with two 40 yr old women pulled up next to us. I glanced to the side as I saw their window going down. They asked what we were up to and we told them that we were helping people get closer to Christ. They weren't too interested in that and asked if we were married. Luckily the light changed to green a couple of seconds later and we were able to shoot off into the sunset with looks of terror on our faces and laughter filling the car. South Phoenix, man...
We are teaching another amazing family. This last week we were very bold with one family member who is slowing the family's progress down by his lack of effort. As we testified to him, the wife turned to this person, and in a mixture of passion and impatience, told this person, "these missionaries have been so patient with you! This isn't a game! You need to commit yourself!"
She is converted. And she's being an amazing person and trying all she can to help this other family member. We love them both but that was another moment where it hurt to watch how much families can impact each other, either for the better or for the worse. In a lesson yesterday, as their five year old daughter prayed, we looked up afterwards to see the mother in tears.
The gospel does great things for families. But Jesus Christ's gospel is not a gospel of inaction. Every moment you sit there doing nothing is a moment where you have hurt someone by missing out on growth opportunities. We're being given opportunities in every instant to bless someone in the future. We can either accept, act, grow, and serve, or sit and waste life away in unproductivity.
Raise your vision.
Another family we are teaching has another husband who isn't as involved as he should be. Actually, he isn't at all. Last night we taught about families and had the Primary president with us. She shared a powerful testimony about how her lack of action negatively impacted her family and how she is doing all she can now to save other families the pain that she experienced. Elder Myler and I both showed pictures of our families. I showed the one where everyone went to Peru without me (not bitter, not bitter, not bitter, not bitter :) ). It touched her. I told her no family is perfect but the gospel fixes the imperfections, step by step. She sat there and told us, quite frankly, how hard it is because she wants what we share but her husband's extended family is anti-ing her. She pulled out the, "By their fruits shall ye know them"  that Jesus talks about, and says that she sees the good fruits of the gospel and wants it.
But her family is holding her back.
Are you doing all you can to help your family members reach their potential? I'm grateful for great parents who did all they could to help me reach mine. I'm still trying to get there but I wouldn't be where I was without them. Thanks!
Anyway, a new transfer, some new plans, a new vision. We're putting everything on the line for our last two transfers. We've got a vision, goals, and plans. And we'll hit them.
Thanks for the letters this past week John and family!
Happy April 7th!
Elder Johnson