Apr 21, 2015

04/20/15 Suiting Up to Come Home

I don’t really know what to write. I mean I’ve only got one week left and you all seem to know how missionary work runs out here. I mean nothing too new. I did get the money which I can’t thank you enough for - but that is awesome that you all did some family history work. You have no idea how pumped I am to do family history work when I get home. I figure that will be the equivalent to "missionary work" as well as working with the full time missionaries.
So I got a suit to come home in! And because the dollar is stronger than it was when I got here the exchange rate was even higher than normal, so with that I used the extra money to get Elder Mbikayi a suit as well, all that remains are the souvenirs. Thanks for the list, I’ll organize it and get all that I can next Monday.
As for the work, we've just been working super hard and I’ve been having a fun time dealing with all the amis and teaching them - just doing my best to help them progress. Early this week I kinda got "depressed" you could say. Just watching the calendar and seeing that all this was ending. It felt like I had no control over what was happening and the clock was ticking too fast! We often refer to the end of the mission as someone "dying" - at sometimes it felt like I was actually going to die or something. So finally Thursday night, I read a conference talk by elder Holland and thought about the whole situation and I decided I need to square my shoulders and think positively. The next morning I woke up and accepted the fact - I thought to myself, "my mission is ending and there is nothing I can do about it, but it’s necessary that it ends. After all, if the mission doesn’t end I could never get married or do temple work or raise a family. So yes, the badge is coming off soon - but for now it’s still on, so keep working, Johnson". That day I pulled out my suitcase and started arranging things. It just felt so much better to accept the fact and move on. 

Another life lesson I learned from my mission, it’s often better to accept what is happening in life and move on than stay stuck in the past. Elder Holland said in a talk a long time ago, that we look back on the past to reclaim our burning embers of experiences both good and bad, not the ashes. BUT then we look to the future and move forward. How true that is, living in the past, even the happiest and best past shouldn’t substitute living in the "today". So that’s what I’m trying to do, living in the "today". But I’m really grateful that today I’m still a missionary haha.
Well I wish you all a very happy last week of separation. I'll be on my way home, as my companion put it, in the "twinkling of an eye". (That’s a lame missionary joke by the way, y'all better get prepared because I’m full of them haha). I love you!

04/13/15 Africa to America; Church-Ball is the Same

Sounds like life is insanely exciting for all of you, and just in time
for my return; I’m excited to jump back into the mix and help out.
It’s obviously weird that I’ve got 2 weeks left and then - done - it's
over. So as we need to organize some stuff for my return, let’s start

The Baileys told me about the money situation, which will be awesome.
I know there are western unions here but not really sure about the
address, there is one in a place called grand-Marché. (I think). I was
really grateful when I heard that you all were planning on doing that;
thanks so much. Whatever you send I’ll be more than happy with!

As for the school problem, don’t even worry about it. I’m not
stressing; I’ve learned on my mission that you just do your best and
go along with whatever happens. Sounds like a loaded schedule for that
first month – which is perfect! For the family dinner, I don’t really
care – now, I literally eat anything, ANYTHING haha.

So to the missionary part of the email. It’s a cool story about
repentance. There is this young man, named Desty. I think he is pretty
awesome. Well Mondays down here we play basketball, as the church has
a basketball court on its property. A lot of people know we play
Monday so a good group always shows up. Well last Monday, we were
playing some games and things got a little heated. Obviously a lot of
rules are broken because no one really knows the way the game should
be played, and because it’s a competition we all got kind of intense.
Well, in one of the plays this young man, Desty, got elbowed in the
ribs. The offender excused himself and the game continued. Desty said,
“I said it was alright; but inside I didn’t want to let it go and I
was angry.” the next play this same offender was going for a dunk
(because the hoops are basically little Fischer-price children size
hoops we can dunk on them) well while he was in the air Desty thought,
“ohh this is the perfect time to give it back to him.” So Desty ran
into him while he was in mid-air, causing this young kid to lose
control and smack his head on the pole holding up the hoop. Well that
was the end of the game.

I didn’t learn about any of this until that night during an FHE when
Desty told us what happened. Desty said; he went home with a broken
heart. He flopped on his bed and didn’t leave his room for the whole
day. All he thought about was “why did I do that?” “Why didn’t I let
it go?” He acknowledged that what he did was wrong and decided to be
better next time. During the closing prayer at FHE he asked for
forgiveness for what he did. The point of this story and why I was so
touched by it is the fact that Desty was mature enough to acknowledge
a small sin and fix it the best he could. I think it would’ve been
terribly easy to simply shrug it all off thinking, “huh, that’s what
happens in sports.” or “ohh it was just an accident.” But he knew what
happened, and he knew it was wrong. I’ve learned time and again on my
mission that ALL sins small or big need reparation and repentance. I
wrote in my journal that night, understanding what sin is shows our
spiritual understanding; but recognizing it in ourselves shows our
spiritual maturity. The best part is once we repent the guilt goes
away, sure the memory stays but the guilt of what happens is gone –
all because He lives. In fact that was the church’s theme for this
Easter, Because Jesus Lives. Go onto Helives.mormon.org and watch the
video, I know you’ll like it if you haven’t seen it already.

Well tonight we are watching conference – finally! I have one question
that I want answered, “What do I do with all my time when I get home.”
Not really what kind of job or which school or hobbies. But what am I
suppose to do church wise. Temple, dating, callings, family history,
FHE, and all the other things. As a missionary you kind of only do one
big thing – preach the gospel. A lot of things members do regularly
are things that we don’t get to do. So the life of Brother Johnson
will be different from that of Elder Johnson and I want to know what
I’m expected to do.

Off I go for another week. I love all of you and thank you for your
support and love. Saying I’ll see you soon, is actually pretty serious
this time around!

04/06/15 The Right Reasons

Well closer everyday but still not there yet. I've been trying so hard
to catch up on my journal so far, we are just working really
effectively and every day is so filled with rendezvous that we don’t
have much down-time. I think if I had to give a theme for this
transfer in this sector it would be the title of the email. As I
written in my journal I’ve been noticing that it's been a reoccurring
theme. I think at the end of the mission it's a good time to test the
integrity of your reasons for serving, obviously there is that
temptation at the end to slow down and coast through the little bit of
time that’s left. it’s easy to rationalize that "I’ve done enough" and
"anything I do now won’t really make a difference", and I think if I
was out here to just fill in the time, it'd be pretty easy to give
into those ideas. So that's what I’ve been learning and reminding
myself of these past few days, doing things for the right reasons.

Obviously the right reasons in missionary work are based on Christ.
It’s all about him and everything returns back to that starting point.
The best example was yesterday. Church was good but as always a little
frustrating with the branch and other things that kinda just took the
energy out of me. As a missionary Sundays are easily the busiest
days of the week! After church we had one lesson with a recent convert
(who was actually baptized Saturday by none other than me - I was
terribly nervous about screwing it up but it all went really well!)
But anyway that one lesson was it. It was really tempting to call it a
day and go get some much wanted sleep. But then I remembered that it
was Easter; a day we celebrate the resurrection of Christ. I reminded myself that I am supposed to be representing Him to others, that's my job, and I don’t really think he would've called it a day at 4pm. So with that in mind I rededicated to
go serve and do ALL the work I had to do that day. Turns out yesterday
was a good day of work! Anyway my testimony has grown these past few
weeks that Christ is our reason in all things.

I heard about conference and I’ve heard that they talked a lot about
the family! Also 3 new temples announced! I’m excited to watch it as
soon as we get the discs - which I’m hoping to be right before I leave.
I love all you guys and hope spring is nice!

03/30/15 I Bet Elder Perry Talks about Obedience

Getting a car is definitely on the list of things I want to do when I
get back; but we will see how thing work out. Everyone out here asks;
"what are you doing when you get back?" And my response is always
"Working to make a bunch of money so I can prepare for school!" good
thing I’m learning to work out here cuz within the first week back I’m
getting a job.

Maybe if I do buy a car I can get an old 1990 Toyota van; put an
unsafe number of homemade benches in it; paint it blue with yellow
vanity stripes; and have a friend or Maya and Gabbie hang of the side
yelling "Fon tie-tie! Fon tie-tie! cent francs fon tie-tie". That will
help me remember Africa and I can start a bus business haha.

I’m glad you got the flight plans, I really hope all the siblings and
dad can be there at the airport. Did you see the pit-stop in some
Arabian country or the 6 hour layover in Germany? I love traveling!

Now to the work. Despite the closeness of the end, I’m proud to say I’m
still working hard. Don’t worry I’m not checking out yet. It’s nice here
because there are so many lessons and so our days are always filled.
it's also nice because I don’t really have to worry about learning the
sector, because I’m here kinda on passage I just get to tag along to
teach and focus on the amis - no others worries! We had a baptism this
week. It was for a young man named Wernel. I taught him maybe 3 times
before Saturday, so I kinda just helped make sure he was totally

It's really nice here as well because Sunday we teach ALL the lessons
at the church! So we do studies and then go to the church from 11 am -
7pm. we go to church and then have fun teaching people who came.

General Conference is this weekend! I’m sure y'all haven’t forgotten. We
will be watching the priesthood session on Monday with all the other
missionaries. This week I’ve been studying extra hard all the talks
from last conference.  Here are some suggestions I learned from a talk
by Elder Anderson and personal experience about how to make conference

1 - make sure you know the names AND faces of ALL the members of the
quorum of the twelve and the first presidency. We hardly pay attention
to people we don’t notice, learning who these people are is a good way
to make it easier to focus. An idea to help is go onto
LDS.org/prophets and read the biography about these men. You’ll get a
kick out of learning things like Elder Bednar played as a quarter-back
in high school. And especially President Uchtdorfs military photos!

2 - Can you tell me the subject on which each of the above brethren
spoke about in the last conference? If we didn’t pay attention last
time, you probably won’t this time. if needed go on to LDS.org and look
up the talks of each person that you couldn’t remember; read a talk or
two a day and you'll be ready for Saturday. This also helps us see
repeated messages by single apostles and groups as well; example, in
the last conference Eyring, Nelson, and Ballard all talked about
sustaining the prophet.

3 - Most importantly, can you tell me of something you changed in your
life thanks to counsel from one of these men? By far this is more
important than the others. If we have acted to change before, we will
probably change again or more. If you can’t think of something, I
encourage you to find something and change for the good. Trust me,
even Elder Johnson will be looking for things :) a good way to do this
is have a piece of paper with all your questions written on it. Things
like, "does god exist?" or "how can I fulfill my calling as a ____?"
Or "what should I do with my girlfriend?" (On second thought I think a
better question would be "what should I do to GET a girlfriend?" haha)
I promise every question will be answered. Maybe not by what is said,
but by what the spirit tells you.

Enjoy conference! I love listening to the prophet and apostles. I also
love you guys. Keep working hard and I’ll be back to add my help and
cheesy missionary jokes soon enough :) I love you, thanks for all the
support and sacrifice.

PS - I successfully made African beans by myself the other night. I
call cooking the first week home so you guys get to taste what I’ve
eaten for the past two years: African food and badly cooked American
food haha.

03/23/15 Back to the Future

I forgot how underdeveloped Congo is. Compared to Cameroon - very! In fact this computer I am typing on is sooooo slow and the keyboard doesn’t change into English so, this might be a shorter email. I have safely arrived just as the senior couple told you, they are very nice. I’ve only been here a few days (although it feels like a few weeks already). I’m still trying to get a grasp on what is going on down here. It doesn’t help that Congolese have some of the craziest names ever - like; wernel; or ristelle; and princelly. But the best so far has been "it's fine by me"! (In French: ça m'arrange)
Well I’ll just tell you about one awesome experience. Saturday there was a party for the relief society, and all the members were invited. Well we played the role of usher and greeted people as the meeting started. Well in walked a 13 year old girl. And I knew that I had seen her before but I couldn’t remember where. She came up to me and without reading my name badge said skeptically, Elder Johnson! Now sadly I could not correctly remember her name and failed on my first attempt. (So embarrassing). We continued to stand in the hall; us the missionaries, and I kept trying to remember who she was. Finally it came - DELICIA!
Delicia was this absolutely amazing amie I taught my first time here. She was only 11 back then and she wasn’t ever baptized because her mother was very very sick and her life wasn’t really stable. No one to bring her to church and her family had lost their house so they split up until that got arranged. 
As soon as I realized who she was I grabbed Elder Etherington, who works in my old branch, and I asked rather excitedly, "is there a girl named Delicia in your branch?” he said, "yeah, why?" As soon as I got my answer I was ready to throw open the sacrament hall doors and run to where she was sitting haha. I almost did! But walking as fast as possible I found her in the congregation - knelt down beside her and almost shouted; "You're Delicia!!! I remember now! You’re Delcia!" Then noticing the woman next to her I got even more excited "And you're her mom! I remember. You're both members now?" yup, both are now members. Saturday night I ran into multiple people that I knew from before. By far happiest day of my entire mission. I haven’t been able to talk with Delicia since to figure out what happened after I left and how she was finally baptized; but I’m planning on it before I leave. Doctrine and covenants says that our joy will be great if we bring but one soul into the kingdom of God - I felt that joy when I realized Delicia Saturday night. I was also thankful that I worked hard to teach her - even though things didn’t work out then they eventually did.

03/19/15 New Senior Couple - The Bailey's

We are the Baileys and are the couple here in Pointe Noire.  We received Elder Johnson here last night to work until he will go home next month.  We are looking forward to serving alongside of him and Elder Mbikayi .   He looks happy and so willing to get to work.  We have four Branches here and he will be serving in the Aéroport Branche.  We are very close to being made a District which we hope will happen before we go home in July.   We have a blogspot that we update each week and are working on it for this week.  We wanted to send a picture of your son and companion and let you know if you have any worries or concern please feel free to e-mail us.

Elder and Soeur Bailey

03/16/15 An "ice cream sandwich" Mssion

I' TRANSFERED AGAIN! So for the last 6 weeks of my mission I will be going... (drum roll)…back to Pointe-Noire! Yup, back to my “birth-city” to the sector “aeroport”. Which is the branch that meets in the church built building. I’m really excited to go back and live in Congo for the end. I feel like the first time I was there I was too busy with the language and being trained and girl-friend problems. But now I can go and simply enjoy the work and have no worries. I’ll be working with another African, I can’t remember his name, and I’ll be living in an apartment with only 2 missionaries. The apartment is actually right above the apartment of the senior couple, so it’ll be fun to get to hang out with the couple more than normal. So anyway, that is why I said this is an “ice-cream sandwich” mission, cuz it started with Congo, filled in the middle with Cameroon, and now another layer of Congo! It’ll only be six weeks but I’m pumped. I will also be excited to see some of my old converts (hopefully they have stayed active for the past 2 years).
This week was a good week of work, kinda slow for all the elders and we are just working our hardest. We have been teaching this little family, I’ve told you about their four boys that I absolutely love. Well they had their baptismal interview yesterday and all of them passed, which means in the coming weeks they will be baptized. I’m super proud of them and loved teaching them – one of my all-time favorite amis. I will attach a photo.
Congratulations on reading in the book of Mormon! Keep it up and I’ll join in the family reading once I’m back. As for the weather, I’ll be honest, I was kinda hoping for a long winter with massive storms when I got home – you guessed it, I’m tired of endless heat. But either way, I’ll take the climate as it is. Well that whole situation with BYU, just proves what is written in 2 ne 1:20. When you keep commandments, things work out temporally. Awesome!
In keeping commandments, I’ll share with you a fun story from our missions. The other week we paid fast-offerings from our food fund. And as we our counseled we decided to give an amount that would be generous. Well, that week we were a little low on money. Not a lot, just at the point where you have to watch what you are buying and keep a budget. Because there is no shop that sells reliable meat in Bonaberi we asked the senior couple to bring us some meat and cheese from town – which they happily did. When they gave us the food they only asked for 5000 francs. Now meat and cheese, especially in the quantity asked for by 4 teenage guys, is expensive in Africa. So we were kinda astonished, but gratefully paid the 5000.
Later, we examined the packages and saw that the cheese alone was 5000, but that the meat was another 6000! That is a lot of money for a missionary budget. I’ll be honest, my first thought was, “awesome, because the senior couple made a mistake we have more money to spend on ourselves! Maybe this is God’s way of blessing us for paying a generous offering?” But then Elder Larson said, “Yeah, I thought to myself it’d be awesome to keep the money, but then I realized ‘what, no! That’s a terrible idea – it’s not honest’.”  And here is the point of the story. I felt guilty, and realized that I was going to be dishonest – definitely not a part of the gospel. So we all determined that next time we placed an order of food we would pay back the senior couple. And that’s what we did, we put money aside and next time we saw the couple, we gave them back the money. And it just felt good! All we got in return was “thanks so much for being honest.” So keeping commandments, big or small, is important. And keeping commandments makes you feel good. That’s the principle, King Benjamin in the book of Mormon said, “Remember the blessed and HAPPY state of those who keep the commandments.” (Mosiah 2:41) It’s true, I’ve seen it as a missionary working with others and in my own life – things are simpler and sweeter when commandments are kept. So keep commandments, in this there is safety and peace.

03/09/15 Old Crow (That's what we call the old missionaries)

Sounds like life for all of us if pretty much the same. Out here nothing is changing too much. We are just working our hearts out and trying to get people baptized. Sadly, 3 of our 7 baptismal candidates turned out to not be that awesome after all and still need A LOT of preparation. I guess it took 5 weeks for them to show their true colors. But we have 4 that are still awesome and going to be baptize soon. (4 brothers that are so fun to teach, teaching children is just so much better! They don’t ask stupid questions and they don’t listen to criticize, they just listen and ask when they don’t understand). 
Transfers are coming up this next Sunday (Already!?) So next week I should have news as to where I will be ending and even possibly when! I'll let you know, I’m hoping I don’t get sent to Brazzaville, Congo. I’m kinda hoping for an American companion to end things with - but I’m not counting on it.
Today the other elders and I were talking and I told them, I’m definitely trying to not think about home. And I am definitely not excited to leave the mission. I mean it's not like I’m itching to rip off the tie and throw the badge to the ground, but the reality that it is ending is on my mind more and more each week. Kinda scary!  
Thank you for the sacrifices so I can serve a full time mission!

03/02/15 Truck Lights and the South Africa Temple

It is a crazy feeling to know that I’m weeks away from that plane trip home. It kinda feels unreal, like I’m never really going to go home, I’m just going to leave and continue my mission elsewhere! But until that day, like you said we are working hard.
To answer your questions, I don’t exactly know when I will be coming home. I know it’s at the end of April, and I’m guessing on the 28th or 29th. That’s around when transfers end. I’ll be letting my mission president know that I’m returning to Denver in a week or so, when I start my last transfer.  And finally yes, there is a western union in my area – downtown I believe.
Well, I’ve never seen (but have heard about past) exorcisms; instead we get kinda the opposite. We spend time with general authorities! This week President Carl B. Cook from the seventy who is in charge of all southeast Africa came and held a zone conference with us on Thursday! If you remember way back then to the beginning of my mission you’ll note that I had a zone conference with him at the beginning in Pointe-noire, while I was still being trained. (I’m the only one still out on my mission, who was there for that) When I shook his wife’s and his hand they said, “Elder Johnson, have we met before?” I affirmed and then he said, “I thought I recognized the name, I remember you!” SO SICK!
Well as that was the highlight of the week, I’m going to write to you two stories that they told us, (I figure that would be more exciting that hearing about us walking around in the sun and getting ditched on by our amis).
The first story comes from Sister Cook. I call it the “south Africa temple story”. I’ll tell it from her point of view. “When my husband and I first came to South Africa there was a problem. The temple was empty. This is a temple that serves around 20 countries and so you would expect it to be over-flowing with people, but it wasn’t. In fact there was once when my husband and I were the only ones in an endowment session. So the area presidency decided to solve the problem. They researched it a bit and learned that sometimes getting visas to come is a bit difficult. So they sent out people from the office to go learn about how to obtain visas quicker. After some talking and searching they had plans and knew for the most part how to get visas easier. Then the next problem was patron housing, the housing people stay at while visiting the temple. Sometimes there wasn’t enough room for everyone. And that had discouraged people from coming. So the presidency looked into it and they decided to rent out a motel across the street whenever the housing was filled. They would use extra money from the temple patron fun d to finance it. So that’s what they did. Again, was a problem with the little children of people coming to the temple. Families would bring kids to be sealed but didn’t have anyone to take care of them for the time that the adults would do baptisms for the dead and endowments. Elder Cook, gathered together all the senior couples serving in the offices and asked, who would mind taking care of kids every now and then. Several sisters volunteered. And actually last week, some sisters and I took a few hours to watch 20 little kids while their parents did ordinances (none English speaking kids by the way). The last problem was the need for more temple workers. If the temple was going to be busier they would need more workers. So the seventies sent out area seventies to go look for worthy couples that could serve and passed on recommendations to the temple presidents. And now the South Africa temple is overflowing. Sometimes you literally cannot get a spot in endowments because it is so full! Some might say ‘yeah, that’s how you solve problems, it’s by getting the right people in place’. But that’s not true, the presidency worked in unity and it made all the difference.”
I thought that was a pretty awesome story showing HOW to solve problems. Not just making the necessary plans but actually going out and solving the issues. The next story comes from President Cook, and it’s from his younger years. He taught us about the gospel of Jesus Christ. And why each of us must use it in our lives. He wanted us to see what it really meant to repent and change, so we could help our amis have that same change. Again, I’ll tell it from his viewpoint.
“As a young boy I was just average, I wasn’t super awesome, I mean I made stupid mistakes. Just like everyone else. So growing up on a farm, I had a ‘farm truck’. And one day I was driving my truck and my friend pointed to a boneyard and said ‘hey look there’s the same model truck as yours, but that one’s got working head lights and yours doesn’t! Let’s go take those ones off and put ‘em on yours.’ So not even really thinking about it we went over to the truck and took off the lights and put them on my truck. I didn’t really think anything about it. Then came time to go on a mission and I sat in an interview with my stake president, who asked ‘are you HONEST in your dealings with your fellow men?’ And I said, ‘yeah’ I mean I’m a good boy and I want to go on a mission. So later I was on my mission in Germany and I was teaching someone about how we need to be honest in all things, and that memory of the head lights came back into my mind and I realized that I wasn’t honest. And it finally came full circle and I understood. That night I said a prayer asking for forgiveness, and explaining to God how I was sorry. But I wanted to make things right, but how? I was out in Germany, how could I make it right? So I carried that thought for 18 months while I finished my mission. And when I went home I was determined to make it right. I went to the county hall and found out who owned that property. Then I drove to his house, ready to face any consequences that might follow. I walked up to his porch and knocked. When the man opened the door, I said, ‘Good morning, my name is Carl and many years ago I went onto your property and stole some headlights off an old broken truck. I’m really sorry.’ The man simply said, ‘huh, I didn’t even miss ‘em. Don’t worry about it it’s not a big deal.’ I looked at him and said, ‘sir for me it is a big deal’, because this isn’t about me and you, it’s about me and God. I reached into my pocket and pulled out $100 dollars and said, ‘take this money as payment for the parts I took.’ The man took the money and said, ‘ok thanks for being honest!’ I went back to my car and just said a simple prayer thanking heavenly father and put an end to that story.”
President Cook wanted us to see what it really means to repent and how serious our engagement to follow Christ truly is. Becoming a saint through the atonement of Christ takes action and a serious engagement to be and do better.
Those are the highlights of our week. It was awesome to get to be around another general authority! I still remember what he said last time, “the pickings are slim and you (the missionaries) are all we got!”

Mar 7, 2015

01/26/15 A Week of Faith

So this “Week of Faith”, as I’m calling it, didn’t work out too well. I think as I’ve already explained, all of our amis have disappeared. Their phones don’t work or they have moved away without leaving a single trace. That means that every day we fix a plan of houses we will pass by and simply hope that they will be there – most of the times that doesn’t work out!  I think in total we had 9 lessons this week. Yeah, pretty low. And the worst part is its dry season, which means it’s SO hot out here, and we spend most of the day outside walking from place to place. Seems like I’m in for some hard work until the end.
Flipping through my agenda I’m not seeing any crazy stories or lessons that we had. So instead, I’ll tell you about some cool lessons I learned. One important lesson that I’ve learned from my experiences this week – making and acting on plans is important. The reason I say that is because this week we attended Branch Council. I should explain, that lately the branch has had too many problems. One could say it’s “dysfunctional”.  As missionaries we’re trying to work hard with leaders to kick it into gear – and that’s why we went to branch council – to help with the plans that the leaders are making. Now to give the setting.
In the new building there is no electricity, so no wall fans or air-conditioning, and as previously explained it’s dry season, so it’s hot. Well the meeting starts late and everyone is a little on edge to begin with. We spent an hour and a half listening to people complain and murmur and do all manner of things other than making plans to fix problems. Conversations went like this: “Ohh, this church is so disorganized, all these electrical problems. Why do we have to be in this building!?”; when they should’ve gone like this “Ok we don’t have electricity, Brother --- will you please call temporal affairs and inform them of our problem.”
Another conversation went like this, "We don’t have our manuals for 2015!  Your leaders (branch presidency) are so unorganized. Where are our manuals?" Well if you were listening you would've heard the missionary couple say that the manuals have been at the airport since October 2014!  BUT the government isn’t releasing them from customs. So what do you want us to do?"  These kinds of conversations really didn’t lead anywhere.
So that’s why I said, I learned that making and acting on plans is so important. How can you ever fix problems when you don’t make plans?  It does no good to simply talk about problems. Like the expression goes, “don’t cry over spilt milk.” That lesson even applies to us as missionaries. For example, I said at the beginning that none of our amis are available (problem), and to fix it I need to make plans. The plan that came to mind was something that Elder Ballard told missionaries, talk to at least 10 new people every day. So there we go, I’ve got a plan – talk with 10 people on the roads a day. Now the hard part is following up and accomplishing the plan; which is what I’ll be working on this week!

Another experience that I had was, learning to accept correction. The assistants came to visit us this weekend, which is a first for my mission - thus far, I hadn’t ever seen them in person. From the get-go I was not a fan of the senior assistant. Just the way he acted and talked with other missionaries wasn't working for me. Well, Saturday we hold a meeting and basically it was a meeting to remind us of all the things we are doing wrong. Ohh boy, can’t wait to go to that one! haha

We were asked, why we aren’t writing full in-depth reports to the mission president. Being totally honest, I raised my hand and said, well I get the impression that the president doesn’t even read what I write. So if he doesn’t care, why would I write him a full on report? Now, in my head that was a flawless argument haha. Then this senior assistant responded (remember, I’m not a fan of this dude). “Elder Johnson, the mission president isn’t obliged to respond to what you say, but it's your responsibility to write him a report of your progression!”
Critical hit to my pride - and in front of all the other missionaries - even worse! I sat there for 10 minutes or so, thinking that this meeting was pointless. But then, I was reminded of something Elder Oaks said in a general conference, "It's time we stop thinking about our rights, and start thinking about our priesthood duties." I remember underlining that in the magazine and thinking, ohh that's nice advice - then storing it away for some later time. And that is when I realized - "Hey Elder Johnson, you really need to give better reports to the president, after all it is your duty, even if he doesn’t respond."
Well, humbly I internally admitted that the assistant was right and resolved to do better. Definitely a hard lesson to learn, no one ever wants to admit; yeah I am wrong. But correction is necessary to grow. Especially when the spirit confirms that you need to change.
Well that’s a bit of what I’m experiencing with the work out here. It was good to get an update from all you guys. Sounds like everyone is doing good stuff! Let the siblings know I’m proud of all their recent achievements and successes. Keep working hard in the family and I’ll keep you posted on my progress out here. I love all you guys!

One the new church building. It's kinda hard to get a good picture because there isn’t a lot of space between the house and surrounding walls.
And two, the Basketball court at the American school! I called Jim, and he set up a time for us to come play. So Monday night around 7pm we got to play some sick games of b-ball! Jim actually knows a lot about the church, apparently he played church ball as a young 18 year old.

Mar 1, 2015

02/23/15 Working Hard for the Last 9 Weeks of 2 Years

 Sorry I didn’t get a chance to send an email to y’all last week – no internet! Well that happens sometimes but, I’m perfectly fine health-wise!  It’s good that the siblings are doing well and having fun together – like you said I’m excited to join in when I get back.
The work out here has been very good. After the first week of “white-washing” we have mastered the sector and met the majority of the amis. In fact, last week we had almost a perfect week of rendez-vous! That means pretty much everyone who fixed a rendez-vous with us kept it – which has been nice. We are currently teaching this little family. The dad is a member but the others aren’t. So we are teaching his four little boys. Wellingstone, Christian, Edward, and Godlove. They are 15, 13, 11, and 9 years old. It reminds me of when we were taught by the missionaries just that now I’m on the other side : )  They’re planning to be baptized on the 21st of March. We have some other amis that are preparing for baptism, but we need to iron out some problems.
The biggest problem we have been facing with amis AND members is personal scripture study. NO ONE is reading the Book of Mormon. Our amis just don’t really care for it and were never taught the purpose of reading it. Obviously someone can’t be baptized if they aren’t reading this book because how can they say “I know Joseph Smith is a prophet and this church is true” when they have never read the proof that holds it all together? It’s like someone who can say “1-2= -1” but doesn’t really understand why that’s the case. (They are just repeating what the teacher told them). So with that I’ll take some time to congratulate you and encourage. Good job on reading the Book of Mormon - Ferious and Maya and Mom and Robert and I hope Gabbie, Drew, and Kaleb! I’m proud of you for taking the initiative to do so and I know your testimonies of the Savior will grow. Now if you ever stop reading this book or become weak in your engagement I invite you to reengage to read it! I’ve noticed that everyone who I’ve met on my mission, who has some struggles with the church or worthiness or inactivity, has one thing in common –they stop reading the Book of Mormon. So keep up the reading :)
Some things in this mission have changed since I last emailed you. First we are now getting up at 5:30 and going to bed at 9:30. So our days are super fast paced because once we get home we have to make dinner and eat and then it’s bed time. As well we have a new rule on emailing. Only 1 hour as opposed to 2 and we are no longer to write ANYONE OTHER THAN OUR IMMEDIATE FAMILY! That was a really unpopular rule at first haha. But gotta be obedient. So my emails might get shorter and let anyone know that if I’m not responding it’s because now I literally can’t!
Also about BYU, So I went onto the site and learned that my Ecclesiastical Endorsement was expired, which could’ve blocked a lot of things in the registration process. I emailed my mission president and he took care of it – so now I have an endorsement and hopefully that is all taken care of. As long as I can register for classes then it’s all good :) I love all you guys bunches! I’ve started caring around a photo of all the siblings in my scriptures and everyone we teach loves seeing our family haha. Although I’ll say we need to take a new family photo when I get home because in the one I have, I look like a little baby haha. Well. have a fantastic week. And be safe – remember Kaleb, you gotta stay alive at least until your graduation so I can see you get the diploma. So no more car accidents. I love all you guys.=
Ps – Please keep the blog updated for the LAST 9 WEEKS!

Our zone right before Elder Colindres left.

My poor shoes - they should be thrust down to "heel" haha.
 My new sector
 A cool tree. 
 Banana leaves
 And a cool abandoned house by the river.
 So walking around we found a sign on a house that read "neighborhood of Johnson". Who knew I had my own neighborhood out here!
A really nice family that I left in the other sector. 

02/09/15 Just Mandefu

The news about the Book of Mormon, is probably the best thing that I’ve heard all week! That’s awesome that you guys are trying to finish the book of Mormon before I get home – I’m actually working on the same thing out here. So it’ll be perfect, our next read through will be a as a family! The Book of Mormon is  definitely a powerful book and I always feel the spirit when I read it, so I hope you feel the same. To get you even more pumped to read the book, I suggest you go watch a talk given by John Bytheway titled “Heros of the book of Mormon”. I’m sure you can find it on youtube, it’ll get you even more excited and pumped to finish the book! Best of luck on the endeavor.
So with my new sector, I’m still with the same senior couple – the Colemans.  All because I’m still in the same city, just another branch and new area.  As for the work it’s been HARD!  We’re doing what is termed a “white-wash”. That means that both elders are new and don’t know anything about the area. Luckily it’s a smaller area, so it’s less likely that we get lost. Because we are both new, we have been working really hard to meet as many people as possible before this week started. It’s been good fun though, we’ve met some people who are awesome and others who are just there. But I’ll keep you updated on how that progresses. The new companion is whatev’s. Not really leaving any serious impressions on me. I really wanted to finish with an American but it looks like that won’t be the case. His name is Madefu and he is from the same village as some other missionaries out here. Strangely all the missionaries from this village are similar in their loudness, reasoning, speech, and obedience. The branch is better than what I left, but it’s a branch which means it’s got some work to do. Yesterday, church went over by 30 minutes. Just people going on and on with these long sermons. Well we have one person who is preparing for baptism soon, like I said I’ll let you guys know.
Cool experience from the week came yesterday, we had been at church (which is kinda frustrating, if you haven’t gotten the hint yet) and then went to teach this guy named Lobé. Lesson starts good and I’m thinking that we would have a sweet rendez-vous. Well this guy and his friend just start mocking everything we taught and are acting stupid. Times like that just upset me for the rest of the day. Our lesson was on prayer and how God answers prayers, to which they laughed. Well the day ended later, having been a stressful one. While making dinner – power goes out! And sometimes the power can stay out for the night. Well dinner paused and I flopped onto a foam mattress in the living room – at this point I was just ready to go to bed. Ohh, did I add it’s the hot season so even at night it’s hot – and no power means no fans or air-conditioning. Flopped on the mattress, I said a prayer that went something like this “Heavenly Father, it’s been a really long and stressful day. Could you please just give us power this night, so we can make dinner and rest from the long work of week we’ve had? In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.” And as soon as I said amen, the power came back on! Absolutely incredible. Proof from the lesson I taught 4 hours earlier that day – God hears and answers prayers. Another tender mercy of the Lord.
Well thanks for trying to take care of all that BYU mess over there. I went on today and got my ecclesiastical letter form ready and sent it to my mission president today as well. I guess we got to get serious about preparing for back to school already. Well do whatever you can reasonably do now and I’ll come home and take care of the rest. Thank you for all the financial support on dealing with this!
Hope that this week is exciting and enjoyable.

02/02/15 Grandpa Johnson

This has been another week of work – nothing too incredible. But I do have news! I got transferred again – WOOOOOHOOOOO. Although I have been more than happy to work with the members in this branch, change is always good. Especially after having walked the same streets for 8 months day in and day out. So I’ll be moving to Bonaberi, the side of the city on the other side of the river. Now that is the good news I have. The bad part of this transfer, is that I’m working with another African. Honestly, I don’t know why I’m so surprised, I mean this is the fifth time this has happened! (I would venture to add, maybe even a mission record)
Well, all that change will be taking affect Wednesday. As well, Elder Colindres, a good friend of mine, will be going home Wednesday – officially making me the oldest missionary out in the field. Or the “grandpa” as we call it!  If you’ve lost count, I’ve got two more transfers left (12 weeks). So not long at all. As well, I heard that the mission president wants all the missionaries to spend there last transfer in Brazzaville Congo. If that is the case – then this mission is going to end soooo fast. I guess we’ll find out together.
This week I’ve had some good experiences – just small things that you pick up throughout the mission. One was what I talked about last week. Making and achieving plans. Well, this week Elder Mwehu and I made and achieved amazing plans. Although the work didn’t change immediately, I was proud of what we did.

01/12/15 Nothing of Special Report

 There’s always so much news every week. Especially coming from Maya and Kaleb! So how exactly did Kaleb crash his car and is he alright? That reminds me of that time I almost drove the van off the freeway entry ramp while driving to seminary in the snow!  Good thing the insurance is willing to pay for the repairs. Congrats to Kaleb as well on finishing school (and finishing early even).
The week out here was less stressful with my companion and overall just a good week of work. I don’t recall any amazing stories or incredible lessons. We just worked.
So I love teaching people, but if I had to choose I would rather not teach Adventists. I believe I’ve told you guys about this church before. It’s also known as the seventh day church. And basically the doctrine that makes them special is: the Sabbath day is on Saturday (the seventh day of the week) and not Sunday. The problem is no matter what you try and talk about the conversation is always drawn back to Sunday and Saturday. This week we started (and also stopped) teaching two Adventists. Our conversations usually went like this,
“Alright, like we said Joseph Smith was a Prophet.” – missionaries
“What was so special about him?” - investigator
“Like we said, he saw God and Jesus and received the power of God to baptize.” – missionaries
“What did he say about Sunday?” - investigator
“We’ll talk about that later, but right now you need to pray to learn if his story is true. Because once you know he is a prophet, you will know his teachings are from God as well.” – missionaries
“If he said the Sabbath is Sunday, then he Isn’t a prophet because God doesn’t change his words.” - investigator
“The way to know if really he was a prophet is to read the book of Mormon…”  – missionaries
“God said Saturday is the Sabbath day and Sunday comes from a pagan holiday.” - investigator
“Right we understand what you are saying but, just focus on Jospeh Smith right now…”“Why are we talking about Joseph Smith?” – missionaries
“Because if he was really a prophet, everything he said for us is true, even Sunday worship.” – missionaries
“Yes, I believe Joseph Smith is a prophet but Sunday…” - investigator
“No you don’t believe he is a prophet, if you truly believed he was a prophet, then you would accept everything he taught. So you need to pray and read the book of Mormon to learn.” – missionaries
“NO, Joseph Smith is a prophet from the devil!” - investigator
And so went all of our lessons. I think you can see why we dropped them as investigators. It was a fun “sparing match”. It helped us come up with new ways to explain the Gospel and fight ridiculous logic, but they weren’t progressing and we were wasting time. That’s one thing I wish I would’ve known at the beginning of my mission – when people aren’t reading the little 10 page brochures we give them, and especially when they aren’t praying between lessons; just drop them and move on, they aren’t serious. It’s one thing for amis to have a tough time believing or feeling the Holy Ghost, and another when people can’t even put in an effort. Well the work is fun and I enjoy it.
We finally have a bualding that is ready for our meetings. We went searching for it yesterday and it is really nice. I think that will be good for members to have a building so they can feel the spirit. Holding church in the “basement” has kinda thrown the little order that there was in the church, out the window. So it’ll be good to formally hold church at our church building.
9am church is the best! I’ll be happy to keep that schedule when at home. As well, I’m excited for the snow/cold.  On the issue with the lost credit card and western union card, I think the best way to do it now is just send it through western union directly. I can go to a western union here and pick it up. Missionaries in the past have done that and it seems to work pretty well.
Well, I’m glad everyone is okay and Kaleb isn’t dead. Keep working hard everyone : ) Thanks for all the support, I’m proud of all your accomplishments over these past 2 years.
ps - Because I’m serving in the best city to buy souvenirs, start sending me all your requests so I can make a full list. Whatever you want I'll try and find in my free time.

01/05/15 Some Weeks

Some weeks are stressful as a missionary. Especially when working as Elder Cook put it, "On the front lines, where the pickings are slim and you (the missionaries) are all we got."  Like I said over our skpye session, working in a tiny branch is frustrating most of the time. The church is moving locations, our old lease was up and the owner wanted to sell us the building for an extremely high price - so the church bailed out of that situation. Which meant that Tuesday, we needed to move all the chairs, benches, and pulpits out of the old building and into the new. So just like our family always did in the "good old days", I participated in another church move.
Tuesday we arrived at the church at 10am. Within a few minutes a handful of members showed up. With no moving truck or priesthood leader to tell us how to do it, we decided that we would at least move all the furniture out of the building and onto the driveway. We figured that at some point or another everything would leave the building, so why not get a head start before the truck arrived. For the next 2 hours we moved out the majority of things, putting my moving talents to good work! And then...we waited. Waited for the truck and further direction.
To our surprise, we learned that the new building in Bali (a neighborhood) was not yet open. The old renters had yet to leave! Well, where are we putting everything? The branch president showed up and explained that we would be storing everything in the Bonaberi branch. Now to explain what that meant, Douala (my current city) is separated into two major parts. Douala and Bonaberi. The two sides are separated by a river, and there is only one bridge to get across. As such, we have two branches - one on each side of the river. The distance isn’t terribly long, but the traffic is horrid! Last p-day we played soccer with the Elders from the other side, and it took over an hour to cross the bridge. So when our branch president told us of the plan, we were a little less than excited. But as I think the expression goes, we squared our shoulders and got to work.
Now the complications didn’t end there. Before the moving truck came, the owner of the building showed up. He was angry for some reason - declaring that we owed him money, even though the contracts had all been finalized and signed. His intent was to literally stop us from leaving! To give you a mental image, think of a narrow alleyway. At one end was our church building, then in front all our stuff, then the owner's car, then the moving truck. HEY YOU CRAZY MAN, MOVE YOUR CAR SO WE CAN LOAD OUR TRUCK! After some stupid argument, we gave him a choice. Move your car so we can leave or we will put everything back inside and stay here without paying. He opted to move his car and take his keys.
Well around 6pm we finished the move. A full day of service. And although we didn’t teach any lessons, I think this was one of the most productive days of my mission. Every hour was filled with a meaningful activity - moving the branch. As of today, all our stuff is still in storage at the Bonaberi branch. Our building in Bali is clear, but the church is making some modifications on the house, so that we can have rooms for all the different auxiliaries. Which means, we will move all the stuff from storage to Bali next week. (hopefully)
For the time being, we’re holding church in a hotel!  Hotel Piano. We rented out the conference room and held Sunday School and Sacrament Meeting yesterday. The room, in the words of Elder Colindres, “is like a basement.” Yeah, pretty accurate.

Now, I said this week was stressful, and it wasn’t the church move that was hard. No, it was yesterday. As well as working in a tiny branch, being with a companion not of your own choosing can be rough. And it gets tougher, when that companion doesn’t speak the same language and has a culture almost completely opposite from yours. All week, I was getting annoyed with my companion. Just a bunch of little things that rubbed away at my patience. I tried to support it well, and just keep to myself. As you’ll learn from this story that isn’t what you should do. If someone is constantly annoying you, talk with them about it otherwise it’ll build up until you go crazy on the person!
Well, I didn’t really believe in that counsel when the week started, so when Sunday came around I had a long list of complaints. Then this happened – the young men called us to the sacrament table after church and asked, “Can we eat the blessed sacrament bread after church?” I boldly said, NO! They shouldn’t eat it and others shouldn’t eat it either. I spoke pretty boldly because this is an ordinance – something of big importance. Now, I’ll just say my companion then told them something different than what I said…ohh, I was livid.
So there goes Elder Johnson, «full-on-battle-mode» as it were, against his companion. We argued for a while over this question. I was determined to not let my companion say something that was «false». In the words of Elder Colindres again, «I’ve lived with you (Johnson) for almost a year now. When you get angry, you mean it – and today you were pissed!» At the climax, Elder Mwehu was walking away from me and I ran up behind him and pretended to kick him in the butt haha! True, I’m a missionary, but I guess I’m still a human. (and only 19)
I smile now, because looking back it was pretty funny J Okay, so here is the lesson of the story, it comes in the after-math. For the rest of the day I was upset, but also regretful for having blown up. I decided that we would talk about what happened, when we got home. I wasn’t going to let this one go. I felt inspired to do the following. We got home and ran our numbers for the week, then I said,     «okay, before we close for the day we need to talk about what happened.»

First, I had us both explain our position on the question. Elder Mwehu said what he thought while I listened without interrupting. Then I did the same. After I grabbed two Church manuals, and said «we are going to read what the official church policy is on the sacrament, after we will not discuss it. We are just going to read it together.»  So that’s what we did. After we discussed that next time a question on church administration is asked to us, we will direct the members to the branch president, who is called to take care of the administration aspects. I gave Elder Mwehu a hug and all was worked out –no more hard feelings.

Lesson number 1 – Follow the promptings of the spirit and things will work out. The things we did in that discussion were things I felt like we needed to do. All three of them. True, it was a little awkward to kick off, but it worked. Follow the spirit and things work out.
Lesson number 2 – Resolving problems in relationships is necessary. I remember a Liahona that said, « some people destroy their marriages (in this case it applies to a missionary companionship) because they avoid talking about the weightier matters.» Talking about problems sincerely and openly helps. I think this one will apply to me more fully when I’m married!
Lesson number 3 – Lift where you stand. It isn’t our duty as missionaries to tell the branch how to function. That is the branch President ‘s calling. We are there to teach doctrine, not run the branch. Had Elder Mwehu and I directed the young men to their leaders, we would’ve avoided the whole situation. But in trying to do something that wasn’t our responsibility, we shot ourselves in the feet. Now, if I ever become a bishop, I’ll be making sure that NO ONE eats the sacrament bread as a snack. Those are my feelings on the matter – but for right now, I’m not a Bishop. I’m a missionary. So I’ll do as the primary song says, « teach and preach and work as MISSIONARIES do. » Lift where you stand in the church – it’s much better that way!
Hopefully no one thinks I’m trying to preach to you guys. These are just things that I, Elder Johnson, learned this week from my experiences. There were many other things that happened this week. Like the New Year’s parties, but these stories were the best!  Happy New Year (out here people will be saying that for a few months), best of luck on all the resolutions. Elder Colindres and I wrote our resolution for 2015 – marriage haha. I love you guys bunches –honestly I do. Make it a good week!
ps – on New Year’s Eve people threw «Flash-bang-like» flares in the air all night. It sounded like shot guns being fired all over the city. But around 12am, a fire-work went off right outside our balcony. It was so loud that it scared me enough to make me fall out of bed. haha.  

 Our church building "threw up" haha
 A really pretty leaf, wanted to show you guys some of the beauty in Africa

 January 1, the town was empty, cuz everyone was partied out.
There are trees around town that are full of little yellow birds. like 50 nests in one tree.