Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Yes! Families!

July 28, 2014

Yesterday, Lander got an interview with President Cruz.  We were in Relief Society, and we saw him through the little windows on the doors walk into the bishop’s office.  And we just died.  Because it was hard for him to decide, but he did.  We had this great lesson with him, where he just told us how much he wanted to be back in the church.  He has changed.  I LOVE seeing the change in people’s faces.  That’s one of my favorite things about being a missionary.  That, and hearing people describe the Spirit for the first time.  Lots of other things too, but those are like, the best.  He is just humbler, and looks at us for real, not putting up fronts, but real.  Now, his whole family will be getting sealed in the temple this November.  YAYYY!!!!!

So guess what.  We are starting to find families!!!!  Could you just die?  I could.  And they are cool. Yesterday, the wife of a married couple was like, wait, I would have to give up my saints?  And I was like, don’t think about it yet. Just read the book.  It was so cool though, because she was thinking about the change.  That’s why she asked the question.  Not just, oh your eyes are so pretty!  Oh yea, sure thing sweetie, whatever you say.  And during the lesson, she was looking off a little bit, and you could see the spirit working in her.  She was like inwardly fighting.  It was awesome =)  

Pray for please, Martha, Rigo, Maricarmen, Daniela, Ivonne, Liliana, and all of their families.  Please and thank you.

Please be good this week, ok?  Trials really are worth it.  Let’s all try to remember that, ok?  It means God does love us, because He is willing to hold our hands and listen to us scream and kick and fight, the whole time His heart broken, just to help us progress.  He loves us.  We just need to show Him, and bury those swords.  See Alma 24.  

LOVE YOU SO MUCH!!!!  All of you.  I am so grateful for each of the people in my life who have taught me so much!  Thank you for helping me get there.  


Hermana J

(Just About) Fresh From Iquitos

July 28, 2014

Oh, that’s right.  I forgot to tell you all that I have a new companion.  His name is Elder Vega, and he is from the heart of the Peruvian jungle, a city called Iquitos that passes through the Amazon.  I, for one, am doing just fine serving here.  I would have died in Iquitos.  Anyway, he has been out here for about 3 months, and he's really great.  He gave up a soccer career to be out here.  The only weird thing is that I am the only one of the four missionaries that doesn't have the crazy Peruvian jungle accent.

Here, I am finally learning, I think, the difference between working with the members and bugging the members.  I generally was a missionary that kind of avoided working with the members simply because I had seen many missionaries visit members because they have nothing else to do.  I've become a lot more excited recently to do actual work with members because we have a clearer concept now of what to do when we are there.  We are essentially doing in this ward what the missionaries are doing in the Reno mission.  We have the members make a list, say a prayer, then set a date for a family home evening.  We saw some results this week!  We have a new family that actually wants to attend church, as well as the non-member parents-in-law of the first counselor of the bishopric.  The last ones are going slowly but surely, but the family says that it is huge progress for them that they are giving us a real chance.

On a similar note, the bishop had us speak in sacrament meeting, which I hope helped the effort.  Just a couple of things I learned as I prepared the talk:
--2 Nephi 5:27  in Spanish, reads “and it came to pass that we lived in a happy manner."  In English, it reads “and it came to pass that we lived after the manner of happiness."  The clarification in English helps us understand that the gospel is not only a happy manner of living, but the only way of living that will bring true and full happiness, something that everyone wants, regardless of circumstance.
--An activity:  Read the first two paragraphs of chapter one in Preach My Gospel with a prayer in your heart.  If you really pay close attention, someone, whether you know them well or not, will come to your mind.  Then, just trust the thought.

In other news, we had a nice experience Saturday.  Absolutely everything fell through, and our finding efforts brought no fruit.  It was 8 o’clock at night, and I was personally dead, when I told my companion that we should go buy a soda and contact the store owner.  To explain, stores are different here.  Here, there are little stores on every block that double as the store owner’s house.  That form of contacting, for me, seemed like the laziest form of working possible, because I just wanted a soda.  The second store we went to was way more than just receptive.  We were talking for half an hour and then both the store owner and the neighbor that was there told us to stop by any time we like and we would be received with a chair and something to drink.  Afterwards, I realized that if we didn't have such a hard day in the first place, we never would have found these people.  The Lord knows what He's doing.

Anyway, I'm loving it here.  Happy 28th.  If you know any Peruvians, don’t forget to invite them to English class Fridays at 7.

Elder Johnson

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Livin It, Lovin It, Workin It

July 21, 2014

What a great change!  I really feel like a mighty change of heart has taken place in me. God has made me a different person.  He is healing my wounds.  When we go through the hard things, we don’t see that He is actually healing us, and we forget to see that He was holding our hand the whole time.  I have learned so deeply that I am nothing without Him.  There was no way out of there without that relationship I have with Him.  Without trusting in Him to be my rock, and not care so much about the rocks being thrown at me.  I just never had felt so like I was nothing before.  And then, He made me feel ok with that.  I am really happy being nothing, because I am His.  And I am not nothing to Him. He adores my nothingness. Isn’t that great :)

There is a family that is going to the temple.  Lander, the 34 year old, is finally making the turn.  His dad recently completed a year of membership, and they are waiting on him.  He came to sacrament meeting last week in a white shirt and tie, and a few days ago admitted that he wanted to have an interview.

Eduardo got baptized.  He is this 20-year-old kid.  I know that God is willing to work with His children on all levels. And this kid was really humbly wanting this.  And knows it’s true.  It was simple and beautiful. We threw the baptism together in like two hours, because he called us and told us he was getting home, and wanted it that day.  So, this is more like what Hna Johnson looks like on a normal day. The cat’s out of the bag now.

Anyway, things are great.  Working, praying, fasting, feeling like we are sacrificing, and then seeing that it totally wasn’t a sacrifice at all.  The mission life.  Livin it, lovin it, workin it.  


Hermana J

The Missing Piece

July 21, 2014

Hey, family!   It was a pretty rewarding week.  There haven't been a lot of lessons, but the lessons we had were worthwhile. 

We found this great guy about two weeks ago when we gave a balloon bunny to his kid, but his appointment fell through and we never taught him that week.  As a matter of fact, we never went back because when we went to the appointment that fell through, his wife didn't accept a return date on the door.  We were pretty bummed about it, but then he showed up one night this week and started talking to us.  He apologized for not being home for the appointment, because he told us that he thought that what we were talking to him about was really interesting. We went to his house on Saturday to explain to him mostly about the Book of Mormon.  He told us he was leaving on Sunday for 20 days for his work, so we told him to read it while he was away.  He was genuinely excited to read it.  So yeah, he's gone for now, but he's smart, married, and has 20 days to gain a testimony before he gets back.

It's kind of funny that when you are working hard to find people with no results, the Lord suddenly gives you a softball.  A member brought a friend to church named Miguel.  He's separated and went to church partly because he says that something's missing in his life.  We had this great lesson with him yesterday about the plan of salvation.  It was great, because he admitted to us that he has had a poor lifestyle in the past, but he said something along the lines of "I just want to my life to be a little calmer, or, I don't know how to describe it."

We responded:  "Like there's a piece that's missing.  Like you just don't feel complete."  He looked at us and said that that's exactly it.  I then gave the opening prayer, and, I don't know why, but there were tears in his eyes. It really was a beautiful experience.  So pray for him.  He's preparing to get baptized on the 16th of August.

We have to see if Erick gets baptized this week, or if it will have to wait, in part for word of wisdom issues. But, he's doing well, and he'll be there soon.

Love you all!  Hope everything is well.

Elder Johnson

Every Day's a Holiday

July 14, 2014

Hey everybody!!!

So, a few achievements:

I forgot about the Fourth of July.  We were leaving with a member, and she had just gotten off the phone with her friend who is living in Utah.  And she was like, Feliz Dia!  which they say for each and every holiday, which is like every other day:  Día del Maestro [Teacher Day], Día del Amigo [Friend Day], Día del Pescador [Fisherman Day--really?], Día de la Papa [Father’s Day], etc.  And so for all I knew it was day of the missionary.  And I was like, oh thank you!  And she knew I didn’t get it.  So she was like, feliz Día de Independencia!  And I was like, that’s the 28th (that’s Independence Day en Peru).  Anyway, sorry everybody.  But I guess I am now peruana [Peruvian].  

Dalton got permission to go to the temple with me when I am in Lima!!!!!!!!!  Could you just die?

I finished el Libro de Mormon [the Book of Mormon] reading the whole thing out loud this week!  I just love that book.  It is such an incredible blessing that we have something so solid where it leaves very little room to doubt. It’s like, if we were doubting about anything in the Church even for a small second, we have the foundation of this book. And I will stand with Jeffrey R Holland (though unfortunately a little less powerfully) in that this book is true. There is no way it is not true.  It cannot be a lie.  God speaks to me every day through that book.  I ask for direction, I receive it, I apply it, and I receive the blessings.  There is no way to deny it.  It is true.  And so, this is the Church of Jesus Christ.  I realize that might be scary for people to want to find out.  Because if this book is true, their lives will change forever.  And change is scary.  But it is the best.  Trust God, read the book, ask Him if it’s true (before you finish even) and He will tell you.  You will know it’s true when you feel this wonderful feeling that God is talking to you through it—that God is giving you instructions for your life.  That’s when you know. And yea, He will ask you to change it.  But that’s where faith comes in.  He has made the path.  Solo hay que trust [there is only trust—or something like that].  If you really want God to direct your life, or if you want to be in charge. I would encourage everyone to not wait until you want God to be in charge to take this challenge.
I wasn’t in my area a whole lot this week.  But miracles happened.  En Sullana, there was this lady who has been investigating forever but won't accept a date.  We taught her a lesson, and she started crying when I testified of God’s love for her, and that it’s not necessary to know that you can do something, just that Christ can. And she accepted a date, and in her prayer she thanked God for sending her another hija [daughter].  Isn’t that cool?  God really does work.  He loves His kids.  And sometimes they just need to know that in order to do what He wants.  

I love you, God loves you, and He wants to help you.  He can, if you want to do what He asks.  Man, that’s good advice for me.  

I would love some prayers to find families who want to be together forever.  Please.  And if everyone could pray for Hna Maidana and her dad.  Not just because Argentina lost in the world cup.  Though that was a hard blow.  

Hna Johnson

Ya terminó!

July 14, 2014

Do you all remember how Kermit the Frog introduces special guests on The Muppet Show, how he would introduce the guests and then say "YAAY!"  while his arms and legs flop around like noodles?   Ok, imagine that as I say this:

Ladies and gentleman, the world cup is finally over!  YAAY!

I actually just realized it right before I started writing, and I got right up and hugged Elder Norton when it hit me.

Anyway, this week was really good, actually.  We taught a part-member family this week, and Andrea, the nonmember 18 year old, had never even heard about the Book of Mormon.  We dedicated the lesson to explain what the Book of Mormon is, and then we said that you should pray to find out if all of it is true or if it's all just crazy.  She responded by saying "I already know it's true."  We asked her why, and she said "I just feel it."  We kind of paused for a second and looked at each other.  It was a really great moment, but we ended up saying something along the lines of "Well, read it anyway. Now you know what feeling you should be looking for."

We were looking for new people all of this week, but then the answer to our prayers, as almost always, came right out of nowhere when a member named Hector asked if we could help him give  a blessing to his aunt.  There were a TON of people we met that day.  I felt like all of Callao could have fit in that room where we gave the blessing.   Like a Mary Poppins house.

Sandra also got baptized yesterday.  There are pictures, as always, but the computer I am using right now shocks me every time I touch it.  Next time, pictures!  Trust me, I look great.  The service was neat, because there were a lot of relatives that came from two hours away to attend the baptism at 8 in the morning.  There are just some really good people that live in Peru.

I'm liking it here.  Things are just starting to change.  It's weird to think that it will all come to an end one day. But, hey, in the meantime, I'm grateful for the time I have.

Elder Johnson

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Crazy Sisters Dancing

Email from July 7, 2014

Man, some real miracles happen in the mission.  You know? The other day, the words my comp used to describe me were humble and patient.  I know all of you are laughing right now.  I was like, that’s so crazy. Because those would have been the very last words used to describe me at the beginning of my mission.  I just have learned so much about the Atonement. About how it really is everything. And about how much I still need to learn.  But I just am so grateful.  He has carved the path for me.  He has cut down all the bushes in the crazy jungle with His Atonement machete, and all I have to do is stay close to Him and follow Him.  I sure do love Him. 

Gave my final testimony this week.  That’s weird.  But it was all about the Atonement.  Because that’s what I know.  I know everything else is true because I know that’s true.  I am only capable of knowing that is true because of the atonement.  

We have been praying to find families.  And the magic is starting to be seen.  We were talking to an investigator outside their house, and we saw a darling young little family in the distance.  So we hurried and ended that convo, and went to go talk to them.  They seemed super cool.  We set an appointment and went, and they were waiting for us.  The wife had put in a new light bulb in preparation for us. And it was fantastic.  Such a humble but super cool fun family.  Then the next day for church, we went by to pick them up.  The dad was working (he’s a mechanic) and we were like, ah shoot.  But he saw us, and ran inside and changed and they all came with us. Pray for them!!!!  The familia Caceres.  

Last night, we stayed out when we didn’t want to.  I told my comp we would get blessings.  On our way home, we heard our fav song that we hear here, and we were in the middle of this giant field in the dark. We could see the stars perfectly, and could hear the song perfectly (Quiero Casarme Contigo) [Google Translate says it means I Want to Marry You], and we just danced in the dark field.  Ha it was an awesome blessing.  

I really love being a missionary.  Thanks for your prayers.  They are what I need.  Thank you.  I love you. So does God.  Believe Him when He tells you.  He is telling you right now!!!!  Because I am a representative of His, And He wants you to know.  He loves you, He worries about you, He knows you, and He wants to help you.  Isn’t that cool?  He is the coolest.

Love you all!

Hermana J 

Less Effective... For Now.

Email from July 7, 2014

Well, hello, everyone!

Yeah, we are still working on the balloon animals.  It is surprisingly effective.  The kids love us!  They are totally on our side when they have the balloon in their hands.  One dad we were talking to gave us his address, and it went something like this (not even kidding):

Us:  So, where do you live?
Contact:  Block M
Kid with balloon:  No!  L!
Contact:  Lot 17
Kid:  25!
Us:  And your name, one more time?
Contact:  Jorge
Kid:  Eduardo!
Contact: Quispe
Kid:  Gonzalez!

It was hilarious.  I can't even describe it.  Parents just can't possibly lie to us when we give their kids an inflatable dog.

Bad thing about balloon animals:  I am dependent now.  That same night, I confidently stopped this huge family, said we have something to give them, and then opened my bag to find that I had used my last balloon that I had brought.  I looked at my companion, looked at them, and said, "Well, have a good night!"  I can't even explain to you why I didn't give them a pamphlet.  But anyway, it was funny.  And I've learned my lesson.

Something that hasn't seen results (yet) is something I tried for the first time on Friday.  Free caricatures.  It was fun, but we just didn't really have very good timing that day.  But, we did manage to draw a few members that passed by in the park.

I love President Archibald.  Had a totally game-changing interview yesterday with him.  I can't really describe it, but my mission is going to be different now.  I still remember when I started my mission and I didn't feel like I belonged, almost that I was supposed to be in a different mission.  Then President Archibald came in during my 3rd month or so, and since that point, I have understood that the Lord knew all along where to put me.   That would really be my piece of advice to those preparing to go out to the field:  Don't worry so much about where you're going.  The Lord is most likely going to place you with the mission president you were meant to be with more than anything else. The rest will make sense.

I just love it out here.  Hope you're all doing well.

Elder Johnson

Friday, July 4, 2014

Need to Avada Kedavra Those Maggots

June 30, 2014

Need to Avada Kedavra Those Maggots

Hahaha!  Dalton got balloon animals?  Of course!!!  Where do I get me some of those?

Had another really great incident with maggots.  Those are the ones that really shake me up.  The rats, the cockroaches, the cats—all doable, and I hardly bat my eyelashes.  But maggots.  Are.  Disgusting. And I hate them.  And I’m just trying not to lose my breakfast all over my scriptures this morning instead of understanding my purpose a little better.
P.S., there isn’t a chapter 14 about your very merry de-nametagging [being released as a missionary] in PMG [Preach My Gospel—the missionary teaching manual]. I was looking for it, thinking it would magically appear in my time of need, like the room of requirement [Harry Potter reference]. It hasn’t.

One of the best lessons ever taught through me happened this week.  It was to a twelve-year-old little boy, who is the shyest of shy.  We are teaching his family, but he always refuses to leave his room.  So he listens at the door occasionally.  This week, I saw him taking off when we came in and I was like DARWIN!! He had already escaped, but there aren’t really rooms in this house, so I could see his hat, and starting talking to him about it.  He responded to me in this bird voice he uses when he doesn’t want to leave his room.  Then we talked about his day, and I was like, oh hey, do you have this pamphlet?  And he was like no, and so I tiptoed over to him as to make sure he didn’t flight (there’s a phrase I am looking for....) [maybe “take off” or “run away”] and (don’t worry, I was like five steps from my companion) started explaining it to him with the pictures.  One of the most beautiful lesson-ones.  It was so cool.  He was talking to me and answering questions. I just proved to me a little more how important every person is to God.  That was one of the best lessons that He has ever taught through me, and it was in 10 minutes to a tiny twelve year old.  We are all so important to God.  He doesn’t care about the stupid things that we think we need to give us worth.  He just loves US.  Not who we hang out with, or where we live, or even how many mistakes we made that day.  He just loves YOU, not what you do.  He loves YOU.  I love that He keeps teaching me that.

I have found the Peruvian version of Rachel Davis Cottam!  She’s the coolest ever! 

Love you all so much.  Seriously.  Thanks for your prayers.  We need ‘em!  Please pray for the fam Berru, Daniela and Yosmira, and that all the members with start giving us referrals!  Go, Micaela Bastidas!! [the name of her area]

Happy mundial!!!  [Happy World Cup]!!!

Hermana J

Hashtags, Davi? En Serio?

June 30, 2014

Hashtags, Davi?  En Serio?

Ok, I am willing to forgive Davi for having used hashtags in her last email, mostly because my spacebar isn’t really working too well today.  Just imagine that I'm using hashtags.  [Don’t worry, everyone—I fixed all of the crazy sentences.]

Hey, and I got the package this week!  Thanks for everything from everyone.  I felt a little bad when I started reading the letter that explained that I can have fun with my investigators by sharing the Jelly Bellies with them, because as I was reading, I was, not kidding, eating the jelly beans as though I was Cookie Monster.  I stopped for a second when I read it and then continued to eat.  I hope my investigators like the black licorice ones.  [Shout out a big thank you to Aunt Lori for the Jelly Bellies!]

Another thing about the package—balloon animals were the edge that I was missing!  When I first saw it, I thought, Oh, I don’t know if I can do it—but it actually works!  I was feeling really ineffective contacting families, but now I have something weird to offer them.  During the weekend, we tried it out.  This family was walking by, and I said, ''Hey, can we give you something?''  They stopped and expected that I was going to give them a pamphlet, but surprise!   I whip out the balloon inflator and make the little girl a parrot.  It was hysterical!  They were all chuckling at me, and they actually started listening to us.  I'm carrying around balloons from now on!

Nayeli got baptized on Sunday.  Briggitte was a referral that also got baptized on Saturday.  We taught her 24-year-old step-brother as well, Erick, who was so close to coming to church on Sunday.  He was at the door!  But then he felt bad for coming because he admitted to us later that he had been drinking the night before.  Well, ok, we'll work on that.  Great guy, though.  He accepted yesterday to prepare for the 26th of July.

The ward council is also doing super great!  After the meeting, the ward council decided to visit two families with us, and both families said that they were wanting something like this and both committed to being fully active again.  That was great to see.

Something interesting I’ve learned here that I didn't think I would learn is how great fasting is.  I used to think fasting was going hungry.  Now I know that sometimes when you pray you try to express how strongly you desire something, and it's just impossible to explain it in words.  You can only really express it through fasting.

Love it out here.  Hope you all love it out there.

Elder Johnson