Dec 5, 2013

12-02-13 Scripture Power Does Not Substitute for Electrical Power

Hey  Y’all

So I’m trying to type this on a French keyboard so it’s pretty rough.  This one might be a little shorter.  As the title suggests we have been living African this week.  About a week ago we got an electrical bill from a drunk guardian for our landlord.  Thinking they were trying to scam us (which happens) we didn’t pay it. Well, turns out the drunk guy was serious, and our power got cut this week on Wednesday.  This year Thanksgiving included some humble pie.  haha.   Also the new senior couple was out of town and so they couldn’t help us fix the problem; and I have yet to mention that we had money problems this week and were running out of money for a lot of things!  So all in all, we haven’t had power for the week which means bucket showers, fanless nights, and no water.  But overall the problem is fixed and we all had some good laughs (and also really good scares as it’s pitch black in our apartment).

With that as a backdrop it is crazy that we had a normal week of work. We had another baptism this week.  It was for a young man named Elios.  He was a contact from other missionaries in Pointe Noire, but he is solid. We taught him at his work, which is an old garage with a bunch of grease monkeys.  Usually during our lessons there are 3 or 4 other people joining with us.  Elios has already introduced us to his friend who has agreed to baptism in January!  The work continues to move along!
For thanksgiving we just played basketball again, I love basketball now but I’m still dying to learn how to play soccer like a boss!  Maybe in the coming year.  And then we just bought a bunch of food and had a fun hangout with the zone.  This week President Cook, is coming, so the parties just keep going on and on, haha.  As for transfers, I’ll know next Monday before I email. I have been in the same place for 6 months so everyone thinks I’m out of here.  Part of me wants to leave but part of me feels/hopes I haven’t finished my time in Congo.  But wherever the Lord wants me will be fine by me :)

I hope that’s all your questions answered, if not sorry but there is always next week and the week after. In fact there is a lot of time.  Also, is it true that Michigan went bankrupt?  An African told me that on Saturday and I don’t know.  Let me know how life goes for you all there and I’ll do my best to let you know how I am doing down here.

Love you all,
Elder Johnson

11-25-13 Interesting Things Happen in the Congo

Lundberg and I have been praying for interesting things to happen every day to help keep our spirits up, and Heavenly Father has heard those prayers without a doubt.  We have been laughing so hard almost every day!  Lundberg has even started drawing comics to keep a record of our adventures.  So to start - we may have set a record this week. 1 lesson interrupted 4 times by crazy/drunk people!  We were teaching at the church in its courtyard.  The big gate was open so everyone could see what we were doing.  (we were teaching a young lady so we had to have the lesson in public view - but that’s not a problem at all).  So, the lesson commenced on the Atonement, a pretty deep subject.  A drunk man walked by and then asked, "Is that the word of God?"  We said it was and he approached us asking for a brochure, we gladly gave him one and then he left staring at the brochure repeating "I love this, I love this".  So we continue, and reached another spiritual point in the lesson when a local drunk lady, who interrupted us last week, walks right into the courtyard, stops in front of Elder Lundberg and says, "Give me 100 CFCA!" (money).  At this point she knows we speak French so we can’t play dumb and she won’t leave.  We kept telling her to leave because she won’t find money here.  At the same time I notice an old lady walking by the gate who looks totally normal, trying to diffuse the situation in an attempted cry for help, I yell out, "Hello mama, bonjour!" (adding in an extra sharp missionary smile). FIRST thing she says..."give me a 100 CFCA!". What!!! We told the grandma to go, and after we got the drunken crazy lady away too!  At this point we and the investigator are all laughing and having a good time.  We are about the close the lesson when Elijah Green (a crazy Congolese man who was deported from America years ago, does drugs, drinks, and is 100% crazy.  (He also knows the church because of his friend)  He walks by the gate, notices us and begins talking to us and he said, "Listen to me….listen to....listen to me man! I got a friend here who don’t know about the Gospel, give me a book an' I'll teach him."  So we did and sent him on his way.  Now, why did I share this story?
1 - it proves God not only answers and hears prayers but that he also has a sense of humor :) ALSO MISSIONARY WORK IS FUN!  During that lesson Chanelle explained her desire to be baptized and we set a date for 7th of December.  The 4 crazies were hilarious, but those are just funny moments among awesome spiritual experiences!

The week only got better! (hopefully that made you laugh a little) Half way through the week I found a shirt of Top Gear!  We were walking through a market and I saw it hanging up, I ran to the stand and said "I will give you 2000 CFCA for the shirt".  Not caring about the size I bought it and was so excited to try it on that night.  Luckily it fits! - Julius style that is.  Haha.  And the best part is the shirt simply has written on it - "I am the Stig" :)  New favorite shirt.

We attended a youth activity and got to see some African culture, at least from the youth.  And surprisingly it’s not that different from our culture at home.  They danced and it took me back to church dances with Gabbie and Drew and Kaleb.  Haha.  Dollar for dollar the same!

Spiritually we are working hard in the sector.  5 baptismal dates and more to come.  We are currently preparing an 11 year old girl Delicia.  I love Delicia, she is so smart and funny.  She wears innumerable amount of bracelets ever day and is just always smiling.  It’s also fun because she is in the exact same situation I was in when the missionaries found us in Centennial Apt. Almost the same set up as well.  It has been such a blast teaching her and being where Elder Hellewell and Kuafauna were, almost 9 years ago for our family!  Sshe should be baptized this week :)

Sadly, we had a less active start some trouble at church, so this week we will be doing damage control with him and the others he affected.  He was arguing in church, apostate doctrine.  Claiming that we should not be teaching about "American or European marriages".  That this is Africa so we shouldn’t be taking advice from American/European leaders on marriage.  The members handled it marvelously and courageously defended the standards the church holds on marriage.  Expressing that we are learning about marriage in the way God views it, not American, European, or African.  And they also defended the sanctity of marriage!! WOAH MEMBERS!

Thanksgiving this week!  We will be playing soccer most of the day on Thursday - so I am pretty excited :) I hope the holiday is just as great for you all there as it is here.

Nov 25, 2013

11-18-13 The Congo is Still the Congo

The week started off well.  We went to a FHE (Family Home Evening) with one of the branch presidency members and had fun with their family.  I also ate a mango for the first time and thought it was really good - however now I know that eating mango is super messy! 

With that - this week Elder Lundberg and I were led by the spirit so much this week.  We have met members from Brazzaville, Sierra Leone, Benin, Ivory Coast, and even some less actives from Congo.  Because the church is so small in this city, when people come here they often lose contact with the church for some time until they find the missionaries.  Some of these people were met while we were lost looking for some street or simply walking from rendezvous to rendezvous. I t was really awesome to notice that this week. 

Also we did something that is pretty awesome this week - we went a whole week spending $3 on transport!!  That’s a whole week of buses and taxis on three American dollars. So we felt pretty proud of that. 

We are now teaching another man from Ghana - Peter!  He's really awesome but does not speak or read French, so we’re getting a bunch of English things for him. But at church I sat next to him and translated for him.  The group would talk for a few minutes and then I would write, on scrap paper from my planner, two or three sentences explaining the doctrine that was being explained.  At the end of church he had three pieces of paper that were full of doctrine, which he read and reread!

Elder Lundberg and I have been feeling that things are getting a little dull here so we are praying for exciting experiences this week - maybe next week I’ll have a crazy story! :) 

Also to clarify, yes we put the homeless Ghanaian with the paralyzed Congolese.  We are learning that it might not have really helped, but we will see. 

11-11-13 It's the End of the World as We Know it, but I Feel Fine

This week there’s Ferious' birthday (my older brother), but also my 6 month mark on Friday!  That’s crazy how fast time flies!  So I think I’m no longer a greenie :)

This week has been crazy - just seems like our branch is getting
struck by lightning. (hence the title of the email, but don’t worry I’m okay).  So Elder Lundberg and I set a goal to build relations with the Branch President this week, and Heavenly Father blessed us with that opportunity.  We all went out to visit the brother who is having trouble walking and tried to find a solution.  Basically he has no family here in Pointe Noire and so we couldn’t improve the situation, or so it seemed.  But Heavenly Father later provided a solution.  Also a recent convert I baptized, Gilberto, is having some problems with his family.  After his mom died he moved in with his aunt and was baptized.  But his aunt is against the church and so she gives him endless chores so he can’t go to church.  He says he gets up at 5am to clean the entire house but she still finds things to keep him from coming.  So, we are trying to think up a solution to that problem as well. 

Later, Steven, a man from Ghana who I love, came to us and after visiting with him we learned he had no place to stay and had slept out in the ran the night before. (his house burnt down about 3 weeks ago)  So that night we set up an appointment with President Sombo and thought of some solutions.  The idea came - Steven needs a place to stay.  Alfonse needs someone to help him.  So, Steven is now staying with Alfonse to help watch over him and in return is staying in Alfonse's home!  How incredible that Heavenly Father would set up this situation.

That’s why the title is as is.  Me and Lundberg have to laugh and shake our heads when we see all the problems that simply come without ceasing, otherwise it might get down.  And although we sometimes have no idea what to do, we feel fine and are strengthened by the resolve that heaven will provide a way!  And that’s what has happened so far :)

Investigator wise - we are doing good.  We have refreshed our pool of now 20 people and are seeing some awesome growth.  All is well for us below the equator!

Elder Bednar dedicated Gabon this week!!  So that means missionaries are going there soon and we are starting to hear rumors of Brazzaville opening up.  As was said in conference (which we just watched this weekend) the Lord is hastening his work!!

I love you All and will keep praying for your success!  Thanks for the support and love, but until next week

Elder Johnson

11-04-13 Back in the Saddle!

Don’t worry I’m staying in Africa!  Not only am I staying but I’m
about to light Africa on spiritual fire!  Haha.  Yeah, last week was bad, but this week was a great reset for me.  And just in time for the 6 month mark.  Honestly, I slept maybe 2 hours Monday night and prayed a whole lot - but Tuesday - I got up said a very sincere prayer and went to work.  That has made all the difference!  I just felt very calm about all this.  I told Heavenly Father in my prayer that I will dedicate myself to the work here, and forget my worries about things and when I get home…if he can help me out when I get back that would be great.  Regardless, Elder Johnson is now completely on the Lord's errand.

We had two baptisms this week, and I got to baptize for the first time ever!  The first was Ange (Ricardo).  I started teaching Ricardo when I got here but he went on a trip to Gabon for a few months.  He is the son of a Jehovah witness pastor and I have already relayed the situation he was put into by his father.  He has a lot of questions but he has enough faith that they never become a problem.  After his baptism and confirmation he bore his testimony in church!  He said he knew the Book of Mormon was true and that this church is true.  Also Djo gave a powerful testimony! (he was baptized in august)  That made me so happy to see that the fruits of our labor are being kept!

Roland is the second new member of the church.  I baptized him which was kind of nerve racking but it all worked out.  He is the son in law of a very strong member and the brother of another great sister.  Soeur Dilov!  We love this family and they have been such a blessing to missionary work here in Africa.  From them we have baptized about 6 other people.  Lesson to be learned - give your friend’s number to the missionaries.  They can help you! We have been working with the branch a lot lately to try and get them
to trust us even more with their friends and family member's
information.  We will see how that goes.  As you know president Sombo doesn’t take too strong of a liking to us. We had another argument with him in his office yesterday.  But we are determined to help everyone here we can.  Elder Lundberg is great and we get along fine.  No problems.  I’m probably a little more humble than I was when I started with Elder Baker.  This week, like I said has been good for me.  The next year and a half I am expecting the miracles to increase!  Ahh, I’m out of time for the week, but I love you all and wish you the best.  Thanks for the prayers.  I’ll have to pay you back with my prayers this week!

Love Elder Johnson

PS - I saw a dump truck do a pop a wheelie the other day. haha

Nov 3, 2013

10-29-13 No Fancy Titles This Week............

This week has been awful! To start off the week we were attacked by a massive spider Tuesday. It was about the size of our hands and so we tried to kill it.  We trapped it under a can and then tried to burn it with by making a flame throwing with air-freshener and a match. Ha-ha.  Sadly, Elder Lavering wasn’t too good of a shot and so in the end we just killed it with a broom. 

Also, I was accused by some South Africans of being a spy!  They swore I was from the FBI or CIA and that I was really here to see how we could infiltrate Africa.

As it is the season of scary stories and spooky tales - I have a story for you all about the scariest night of my life.  Friday at 1am I was awoken by Elder Lundberg shaking me violently yelling, "Johnson, Johnson, get up! I don’t know what the heck is going on but get up!"   There were loud banging sounds that sounded like gunshots and shattering of glass.  The sound was coming from our garage and we all remembered we forgot to lock the inner gate to the apartment!  So at 1am we were thinking that someone is breaking into the house and we were freaking out, especially because there have been two murders in Pointe Noire recently!  After about 10 minutes it stopped and we learned that it was just a crazy drunk guy smashing windows in the apartment under us.  This was the scariest night of my life!!

Ngasaki was supposed to be baptized but it turns out that he has a fiancĂ© that he doesn’t want to give up.  So that’s 6 months of work that may never produce fruits.  Aflonse is a member that was paralyzed and was doing better with the branch members help but now the members don’t visit him and so he doesn’t eat for days on end or have water.  We bought him water and food on Friday and then talked to the Branch President on Sunday.  To which the president chastised us for bragging about our service.  So disappointing!  We just want to get him some help.

To top off the week I got a “Dear John Email” from Cassie.  I can’t blame her, after all I’m 8000 miles away in a 3rd world country. This week has been so rough and I am just about ready to come home.  I’m not sure what that would do to you guys but Africa is a rough ride for me, I guess.  I’ll keep you updated on my plans and how I’m doing but until then, I love you all and hope all is well for you, which it sounds like it is!

Elder Johnson

PS - Note from Mom to blog followers:  Please go to the contact page above and consider writing Julius a postcard or short email to encourage him and uplift him.  Any positive thoughts would be appreciated as that may help give him the additional strength to push through the trials he'll experience in the next year and a half in Africa.  

Oct 22, 2013

10-22-13 Slinging Mud...........

Sorry about the weird Links - not sure what that glitch is all about...

The rainy season has started kicking into gear so every night it will just down pour! One night mud was being blown into our room. And when the power goes out it’s almost impossible to get a full nights rest. But that is Africa, and I love it!

This week has been very fast and not too many crazy stories. We are teaching a Nigerian named John. He’s amazing. He quit his job because they won’t give him Sundays off and now owns a hat selling stand. He is awesome and should continue to progress. He also somehow knew about the marriage rule in the church before we taught him. He was already working on the DOT and so we will see where that goes! 

Ngasaki was supposed to be baptized but he never showed up for his interview. We will try again next week. Ricardo is doing well. His dad reopened his monetary support so Ricardo does not have to worry about starving! 

Elder Lundberg and I are getting along very well.  We teach very well together and are both dedicated. We are on opposite ends of the mission though. He has 4 months left and I have been out for 5 months. By the way - that is ridiculous! Almost a 1/4 of the mission finished and I am still learning French and the scriptures. Transfer letters come this week again and so I don’t know where I’ll be in 2 weeks. I’ve been here for 3 transfers so I could change spots. 

We have a fun activity planned for today - we are going to the beach one last time with the Wheatly’s before they leave for America.  Should be fun! Well life continues for both me and all you at home. What are you all doing for Halloween? I don’t think we do anything special. 

Well, if you have any questions I am here to answer them. Thanks for all the prayers and support. Congrats Maya on all the great things you are doing at home. Sounds like you are getting really involved in school and church activities which is great! Hopefully you are all having success in all your endeavors - school, work, and play. 

Love you guys! 
Elder Johnson

Oct 14, 2013

10-14-13 Choose Ye The Gospel or “Everything You Ever Wanted”

A former investigator who left for a trip to Gabon returned this week and explained that he was excited to talk with us. He had kept his testimony even though it has been 3 months since we saw him. That got us pretty excited as well.  He then relayed to us that his dad told him he would never have a son who was Mormon, and threw out all the scriptures, magazines, dvds, and other church related materials. His dad gave him two options; One - stay in Point Noire and be baptized and lose all monetary support from his father which would leave him homeless and without a job as a student; or Two - go out to live in a village where the Gospel is not yet and get everything he has ever wanted - including a visa to America and an all-expense paid trip. (I should let you know that his dad definitely has the money and could have followed through on that promise). He called us Thursday and explained that he will stay in Pointe Noire!  I will keep you updated. 

Steven, from Ghana, his house was broken into and burned down. He lost everything. His wife was at the hospital, his daughter was at school, and he was at work. He told the branch (church congregation) yesterday that when he came home he saw his wife and daughter who were safe and said, "I am ok".  It’s difficult as a missionary in Africa because we all wish we could help people monetarily and physically. But we are here for spiritual aid. The most we can offer is prayers and spiritual thoughts (and also service, but not in this sort of problem). It takes a lot of faith that God will take care of them, and that the Branch members who can help physically, will do their part.  I learned that this is why everyone needs to lift where they stand. 

Fun story, I took a bucket shower yesterday for the first time! Our power was out all day and so it was necessary. And actually it’s not that bad. Maybe I’ll continue to take them when I get home! All is well in Africa and I am enjoying the work here. I would be lying if I said there aren’t occasionally doubts and negative feelings, but it is all going well and I will keep going. 5 months have gone by very fast!

To answer your question for clarification - So baptisms shouldn’t be in the cow trough because we actually have a real font at the other church owned building - so it makes the occasion a little more special.

I’m happy all is going well for you at home. All those prayers seem to be paying off.  Keep pressing forward because all is truly well in Zion!

Elder Johnson

To view pics of Julius and see what life is like in the Congo - click on the Senior Couples Blog Link on the right side of this page. 

10-07-13 Keeping the Fruits of Our Labor

So Elder Lundberg was able to transfer to my area now, which was nice.  It sort of took some pressure off me for this week. We are getting to know each other and I think we’ll teach well together. He is tall and skinny and from Utah. I will keep you updated on how things are going with our companionship. 

Gilberto was baptized! He is the brother of Jeannela, who was baptized recently as well. We started teaching him because one day he was just in the room with Jeannela and after our visit he showed some interest.  He is a nice kid that reminds me of my older brother Ferious!  So, just picture Ferious speaking French and that’s Gilberto. haha  He’s a nice kid and I love him. 

Ismael was also baptized. He has been meeting with missionaries for forever.  He’s really smart and was recently accepted into the next level of school, high school!  He is very proud of that and for people here in Congo that’s a pretty big step.  Now we have 10 new members that we need to fellowship and help out – it’s going to be a lot of work but it’s worth it!  Like president Hinckley said, "You have to keep the fruits of our labor or there is no point in doing this work". 

I was going through our area book and came across a name of someone that was dropped, Kevin.  He was on track to be married and was progressing but was dropped for some reason. So I called him up and asked if we could stop by. To which he agreed. As soon as we met he said, "I was surprised when you called, today is my only day off. So it must be the will of God." Heavenly father definitely knows His children better than we do – that’s a testimony that is continually being fortified for me out here. 

Some random things this week - We watched the priesthood session of conference with the Wheatly’s as a zone last night. How it works, is the branches will receive the translated CD's and we will set aside a weekend to watch them. Also as I was working with branch missionaries this week and it gave me the chance to work on French.  As I learned, I still can’t pronounce my "R’s" correctly.  I guess all that speech therapy training in elementary school went to waste. haha - ohh well.  I'll keep at it, but until then my French can get me around perfectly fine!

I think that that is really all that I have got to relay to you all at home. Life here is going good, I find the happiest times on my mission are the times I’m out doing things like teaching. So until next week, I will be here - saving the world!


Elder Johnson

09/30/13 Working Tirelessly

I’ve been working tirelessly by myself for this week to help the people in my sector this week.  In simple terms it has stretched me and has stripped me of some pride - so maybe it’s for the better. But it’s exhausting! I have passed out (almost literally) on our couches every night this week. That’s what is called a growing experience on a mission. 

Earlier in the week, I started finishing the new member lessons with Djo. He is a 35 year old man who was baptized by us. We covered the law of chastity and then he asked me about marriage. He asked me, "How can I find a wife and get married?".  I was the only true missionary there so literally all eyes were on me.  So a 19 year old (me) gave dating advice to a 35 year old man and the other members who were at the lesson (all single) but the Lord keeps his promises and the words came - the advice I had seemed to help. After Soeur asked for me to give her a blessing! That was the first blessing I’ve given in French and it went over very well! (Although because of the nature of blessings I don’t really remember what I said)

Bakay was baptized!!  He has been studying with missionaries for 6 months now and I was privileged to be the missionary who wrapped up all his preparations for baptism.  At first he seemed like a hard hearted person, but as I got to know him I realized he is a very friendly sincere person!  He had a lot of questions that could have been road blocks to his progression but with enough faith he overcame them.  I also see again with him the real power of repentance. Bakay has made some mistakes like us all, but he did all he needed to do to overcome past sins and there was a very real difference in who he was after.  Bakay is a very good friend of mine and I love him and his willingness to be baptized. 

Being a solo missionary is pushing my French, planning, and teaching skills but I’m sure it’s all for the better.  I have been changing companions each 3 or 4 days. I also prepared a baptism this week and have 3 more to prepare for this Saturday. President Sombo (the branch president) gave me a little bit of trouble by demanding baptisms happen at our building, which uses a cow trough as a font.  Yesterday I had to go into his office and explain my position on the matter.  It might not sound nerve racking, but it was not all fun and games. Right before I started speaking I remembered the words in my setting apart blessing - "you will feel comfortable in front of church, civil, and social leaders."  In that moment that blessing was fulfilled. We talked and he turned the decision over to me.  So life continues in the Congo!

Kaleb, happy birthday this Sunday!! Wow 16 years old, that’s crazy. You can start dating!! Good luck on the driving test, I am sure you will do fine. Hopefully you are having fun in school and getting ripped with that weight training class - haha.  Best of luck, I love you!

I hope everything is going well with you at home.  Even Maya’s pet :)  I once heard that the families of missionaries always hope that their missionary comes home with his faults lessened.  Well as I said, this week is stripping me of my pride and giving me increased patience. Hopefully when I do come home I can keep some of the things I am learning here in Africa with me throughout my life. 


Elder Johnson

Sep 23, 2013

09/23/13 What Do You Call an Alligator in a Vest?

An Investigator!! HaHa

The adventures in Africa continue as normal.  We went to a lake last Monday and romped around the "back-woods of Africa" haha. I played football with some Africa boys and by the end they were catching everything I could throw.  So that was a good start to the week and we have had some other great experiences.

The family from Ghana is doing fantastic.  This week we asked them to ask God if the Book of Mormon is true in their prayers and they said they received a response.  The young daughter said she had a dream the night she prayed where two angels who came to her and asked her about the Book of Mormon.  She shared more details and explained her feelings, she thought that was an answer and that it was true.  Because of the feelings she described we assured her it was real revelation. The mother also prayed, and when she did she said she heard a voice tell her, "This is the thing you have been searching for your whole life".  The father is a member and so now we are working on the marriage problem with them.  It’s incredible how quick prayers can be answered when we just have a little faith.

Elder Baker left for Mpaka branch on Friday, but Lundberg (my new companion) was nowhere to be found!  He has been having visa problems like everyone else, so he can’t get into the country.  So that has left me working with branch missionaries this week.  To explain the nature of this situation you should know that branch missionaries are natives, so English is a little shaky, and they are all recent converts.  Thursday night I was decently nervous to be in charge of my entire sector (which is half of Pointe Noire, the biggest of the sectors here) and so I spent a lot of time kneeling at the side of my bed in prayer.  Remember I have only been in the field 3 months.  But the next morning, I got up went to work.  My temp companion and I taught 6 lessons and finished preparations for the baptism.

The Lord definitely qualifies whom he calls.  I think Heavenly Father wants me to grow a little more right now.  These last few days have pushed my French skills to the limit but now I’m speaking with greater fluency and clarity.  Side note - because I speak French, literally all day with the branch missionary, I will sometimes think in French!  This week we have a lot going on, baptisms, branch activities, lessons, but I am confident it will go perfectly fine!

So we were expecting 4 baptisms but we ended up with 3.  The 4th person hadn’t finished some things he needed to do to be completely forgiven and ready for baptism. (which, by the way, I sat in to translate for that special interview.   Although I never want to do that again, repentance makes a visible difference afterward).  But we had 3 wonderful people baptized and the 4th will be baptized next week, which makes me very excited!

Mountali was a young girl about 14 who was baptized.  She was the very first person I ever taught here in Africa!  She is shy but we have seen how animated and happy she is when we discuss the gospel.  On her baptismal day, I definitely saw that happiness amplified in her and everyone else.  She is the niece of the Elders Quorum President here and should be a solid member as she grows up. 

Beatrice, is another young lady who has been coming to church for 6 months but she lives so so far out that it was difficult for missionaries to teach her.  I talked with Elder Baker and we figured out a plan to help her finish the discussions and get her baptized.  She is very good friends with Mountali!  That’s something that I am learning is so important………..BE A FRIEND TO RECENT CONVERTS!  LOVE THEM!  The church is a new life style and they depend on us more than I ever realized.  Beatrice has such a sweet spirit and now we are teaching her family because she has set such a good example for them!

Laurick, is a 17 year old young man who has been dropped multiple times by missionaries because it was believed his motives were based on learning English.  We taught him again and we found that in honesty his motives were more than pure.  We learned that he already lives a life in harmony with the Gospel and that he truly wanted to find the church.  He told us he wanted to be baptized because he found only good things in our church.  I feel a personal connection with and am excited to see how he progresses. 

Those are the amazing people we have baptized this weekend.  Although I can’t provide all the details about them, it is incredible to see how people come from so many situations but are all led to the same point, Christ.  I definitely feel my testimony growing in breadth and depth each day.  I think before my mission I knew pretty well about the redeeming power of the atonement.  But out here I think I am learning more about the enabling power of the atonement.  Until next week, I hope all is going well at home.  I love you all so much and hope you are having the success you deserve.  (and also the unmerited blessings you need)

Elder Johnson

PS – Don’t worry mom, I am fine and you don’t need to send anything.  And if you do, I might have to pay a lot for it anyway, so don’t worry.  I love you guys!

Sep 22, 2013

09/16/2013 Happy As A Clam!

I was not transferred – I’m staying in the Pointe Noire branch!  But I’ll be receiving a new companion from Cameroon –Elder  Lundberg.  I am very excited to work with him. I’ll have to be the leader around the area since I know where everyone lives.  Luckily he speaks French very well.  So watch out Pointe Noire it's Johnson and Lundberg now!  haha   Elder Baker will remain in Pointe Noire and have a new companion also. 
Happy early Birthday to dad!!  I have it written in my planner so I won’t forget.  Thanks for teaching me to work hard and always put in my very best. It helps so much on a mission to have that mentality - so thanks dad for all you do not only for me but also the family! I love you!
We are teaching a lot of families now.  We have 3 new families we are teaching.  One is legally married and  another is from Ghana!! We also found a Code de la Famille, and so we have been studying that like crazy. Sadly - we are finding that the laws are actually really good.  It’s just that no one keeps the laws and there is no way to enforce them. We might need a miracle on this one, but we are still studying and trying to come up with solutions to the DOT. Missionary work is truly a family affair (it includes both you at home and here in Africa)
We have 4 baptisms this week which is getting us excited. So to answer your questions, although Pointe Noire is a coastal city - the sea is used for oil drilling. It’s full of massive cargo ships and oil rigs. The thing is that food is not un-findable but it’s just very plain and lacks nutrition. For example, manioc, it’s just flour and roots but is filling. i don’t really know the solution to the social problems here in Africa, but it seems like the Gospel helps! (thank Ferious for offering to send his fishing poles, that was kind)
i am trying to send pictures today so this will be all for now. We are doing well and I am as happy as a clam here!
Elder Johnson

Sorry - pictures didn’t load and I will try to start making my emails more spiritual. After all, a mission is full of spiritual insights that could help with everyone at home.  Love you and everyone at home.  Please make sure everyone knows I appreciate the prayers and emails!


Julius Johnson

Sep 9, 2013

09/09/2013 The Traditional "Feu" for the Passing of Loved Ones.......

To answer a few questions…..All of church is in French and so I only sing hymns in French and I absolutely love it!  I’ve already memorized some of the popular hymns. I love French, even though I don’t speak it perfectly - it has definitely become a part of my identity.  Also, we don’t eat in the sector (Mbota).  We study all morning and eat lunch and then go work in the sector from 12-7pm each day.  Also our baptism this week fell through!! Alpha just never showed up this week and so we couldn’t finish lessons or get him interviewed.  But we’ll try again - who knows.  I love all my investigators!  From the oldest 60 year old to the 19 year old kids! They are all amazing and equally special to me.  We have a massive baptism in 2 weeks - 7 candidates, we are excited!

We searched all over town, literally, for a Code de la Famille and couldn’t find it.  It’s a very rare book that is out of print so we are keeping our eyes peeled.  We didn’t make it to the Mayor’s office but we’ll keep moving along.  So we also had an opportunity to do a service project - we helped a less active move from one place to another.  Who would have thought - church moves in Africa! haha It reminded me of all the moves we have participated in as a family on Saturday mornings for members of the wards in Denver.  I am so thankful that I was raised in a home that taught values of service! I am definitely happiest when I am serving. 

It was a slower week this week. We had some missed rendezvous, Sometimes because we were stuck in a bus for 2 hours!! (and Pointe Noire is not that big) but sitting in buses and walking miles on end is part of this glorious work here. : ) 

Also I received your post card. That’s crazy to think about Elder Helewell and Kafauna. (missionaries that came to our door in 2006 and helped bring our family back into activity in the church) That was so so long ago!  Who would have thought their lessons would later lead to a missionary in Africa?! 

We had a man from Ghana that apparently lives here, come to church.  He bore his testimony yesterday and told a really cool story…..He moved here from Ghana and was a member already. He didn’t know the church was in Pointe Noire, but one night he had a dream where two missionaries told him to go to the "commune de Mvou-mvou".  So that Sunday he went to the commune, and began asking around for the "American church".  He was directed the back of the commune where the church building is located!  This week he returned and brought his wife and daughter!  It is incredible that God can direct the entire church as a whole, and yet care enough about us to direct us each personally! These are the kinds of people I have been able to rub shoulders with on my mission! And i love it!!

Jeanella and her family are dealing with the mother’s death well.  The family has had to split because of living costs but they are still coming to church. We went over there this last week and taught them and they are progressing! Gilberto said he would stop drinking, so we will see how that develops - we have confidence in him!  We also helped them burn all the mother’s belongings as is tradition: clothes, books, pictures, everything.  At one point we had a pretty good feu (fire) going, and as you can imagine we were very hot in church clothes. 

Elder Johnson!

PS - We get transfer letters this week so I’ll let you know soon if I am changing areas. (Every 3-6 months missionaries can be transferred to new areas or matched with a new companion.)

Sep 3, 2013

09-03-2013 Picture Perfect!

PS - We get transfer letters The Wheatlie's uploaded more pics today on their blog.  I"m sure they won't mind me "borrowing" these to share.  The great about Julius is that he has always been willing to lend a helping hand with a smile on his face - no matter what the task is. I miss his help around the house, nut while he's gone it has given his siblings a chance to remember how to help. 

In preparation for Zone Conference, the elders and Wheatlie's got together and helped each other with 'deep cleaning' projects at the elder's apartments, like windows and patios and porches....then we had lunch together. 

Elder Julius helping with lunch dishes at Zone Conference - no matter how simple the meal, there are always dishes to be done.  We had pulled pork sandwiches, apples, baked beans, potato salad and cookies - all of which were made ahead of time so no one would miss out on any of Zone Conference. 

Zone Conference with our General Authority Seventy

Our Zone Conference picture.  Back row:  Elders Baker, Christiansen, Brockbank, Mukadi, Lavering, Porter and Johnson.  Middle row:  Elder Cook, Elder Ntambwe, Sister and President Cook.  Front row:  Sister Cook, Elder and Sister Wheatley.

During a recent District Meeting, Elder Wheatley arranged for a plumber to come and fix a leaky bathroom sink pipe.  He can and it took only a few minutes, so he was paid and left.  Not long after, one of the elders kept looking through the doorway into the bathroom and finally said that he thought it was leaking kidding, soon there was a constant stream of water which had to be mopped mopped up continually until the water to the whole apartment could be stopped. While fixing one piece, apparently the plumber broke some other major parts.  It took another plumber and 2 trips to the market to get parts before it was fixed! Ironically - Elder Wheatley had remarked just a day or so before, that we had not had an emergency crisis for a few days. 

Sep 2, 2013

09-02-2013 The Pickings are Slim

Note from Mom:   I'm so excited!  I was wondering if my poor child was shriveling up from starvation, and a thought came to me to see if the Wheatlie's had posted any pics of the Elders recently.  I listened to that little prompting - and Voila!  I found a picture of Julius and the 7 Elders he lives and serves with. It looks like he's lost a little weight, but is healthy and happy!  Julius is the 3rd from the right and his companion Elder Baker is the 4th from the left. 
Sister Wheatlie's Blog:

Zone Conference with New Mission President

Our new Mission President, President Cook and his wonderful wife, Sister Cook, Elder Wheatley, and our 8 great Missionaries, left to right:  Elder Porter, Elder Mukadi, Elder Lavering, Elder Baker, Elder Brockbank, Elder Johnson, Elder Ntambwe, and Elder Christensen.

It’s been a very long week.  Elder Baker and I are running ourselves into the ground every day.  Basically, we have increased, somehow from 25 lessons a week to 30.  But we are joyfully marching along!  We have a baptismal date this Saturday with a young man - Alpha.  He disappeared for a month or so and we had no clue where he was but then two weeks ago he randomly appeared again.  We began teaching him this Monday again and have taught him every night since. That's been a miracle - Being able to teach someone every night, but we are grateful for that.

So, I tried and African dish called Manioc.  It's basically ground up roots and flour that is boiled and wrapped in leaves. We ate it with peanut sauce.  And it was awful! Literally the worse thing I've tried yet. Basically, it's the consistency of a warm sticky gummy bear. But tasted like rotten lemons and flour.  SO if you are ever in the middle of Africa, don't spend your 500 francs on Manioc! 

Elder Cook (a general authority) stopped by this week.  We had a zone conference with him and it was really great!  We were given the task from him and Elder Bednar, who are over Africa, to figure out a solution to the DOT problem.  The rule here is before baptism a couple must be legally married. But to be legally married the husband must pay a lot of money to the wife’s family - the DOT.  If they aren't legally married, no baptism.  All the other African missions have found a solution or ways around it, except ours.  And Elder Cook said the foundation of the church in Africa must be built upon families, not young single adults. In essence, we (8 Elders) are being asked to break down a thousand year old tradition. As Elder Cook said, "The pickings are slim, and you are all we (the church) has got."  haha  But we set off to do just that. After emailing today - Elder Baker and I are going to search for a legal book in the markets called "la code de la famille" which has all the legal rules on marriage. Today we are also going to go to the Mayor’s office and talk with them about this law. I am not sure if this is coming across clear, but when we break through with this legal thing - it will be a massive massive quantifiable step in the church's progression here!   Also I had a personal interview with Elder Cook, for some reason I was randomly chosen for that.  I would be lying if I said I wasn't pretty happy about that!  He came to church with us Sunday and met the new members and investigators.  I love church leaders!  And just so all you know - I do sustain Thomas S Monson as the Prophet of our church.  :)
So - some fun French for you all back home.  Savez (savy) is the French word for "to know".  That’s why Jack Sparrow says that in Pirates of the Caribbean movies.  Parlez (parlay) is the same way, "to speak".   Also a lot of military words are French.  So - who knew having an older brother so in love with military things would pay off later with my second language!  Now I can speak French in any circumstance and can communicate fine, I don’t understand all the words, but enough to where I can figure out what is being said correctly. 

Thanks for all your love and support!  I should be alright with supplies mom, but thanks for the concern.   I am trying to get pictures sent to you from the Wheatlie’s apartment (senior missionary couple over our area) since it’s not working from the internet cafĂ©.  

Oh ya - to get to Mbota we cram into a small Toyota Camry with 6 other people and drive for 10 minutes out to the area, Then we walk around the area for the day which is about 1 mile between each house :)  That’s how great a mission in Africa is!

Elder Johnson

Aug 26, 2013

08-26-2013 Danger, Will Robinson! Danger! Lost in Space.

I typed out a long email explaining our investigators, but it was lost in cyber space! So basically this week, in a nut shell – it’s been long - 7 lessons daily and working with really sick members who needed blessings.  Helping baptismal candidates overcome word of wisdom problems (which was successful!)  Urlion got into a university in Gabon!  All is truly well in Zion here!  We are working hard and having a blast!

I hope all is well at home for everyone!

Love - Elder Johnson

Aug 20, 2013

08-19-2013 Like a BOSS!

It’s been crazy - literally so busy!  We have been teaching a lot this week. Elder baker and I sat down and discussed how we needed to go about missionary work.  After that discussion we are back in the saddle and doing great!  Since we've been teaching a lot, we have started implementing a new teaching technique.  We are drawing out the plan of salvation with investigators now, which is a lot of fun.  With Ishmael, we drew it out in the sand with a rusty nail.  (That puts a new meaning to "make due with what you have".)  So things are going well with the teaching of our investigators! 

Jeanela, a recent convert of literally one week - She was doing so well this week!  Her mother was released from the hospital and she was reading her scriptures.  Then, Wednesday morning we received a call that her mother died.  That has left her and her older siblings without any parents.  We have been trying to help, but at the same time we are asked to not get too involved.  We don’t want the family or Jeanela to equate our presence and her conversion with the death of her mother.  But there is always a positive side to everything.  We went by after church on Sunday.  As we approached the house we heard hymns being sung.  Not knowing what to expect we entered the gate and found our relief society singing hymns with Jeanela!  We had no idea - and literally the announcement of the death was made in church that very day.  I was impressed with the speed and devotion with which these sisters responded.  As I sat there listening I thought of Docterine and Covenants 25:12-13.  I’ll let you all look that one up. : )  We are confident that Jeanela is in good hands - and maybe more importantly the Lord's hands.  The night before Jeanella's mother died I wrote in my journal, "The plan of salvation is perfect in layout and execution." 

We also had 2 baptisms!  Steven is a young man who’s friends with Anh.  He loves the gospel and accepted it so readily.  He had troubles reading, but as he has read in the Book of Mormon, he has increased tremendously in fluency.  He is awesome and we see a long life of devoted discipleship for him!  Djo was another baptized investigator.  He is older and is a friend of a member, Felix.  Djo has such a strong testimony that it allows him to make necessary changes in his life.  The baptism was great. Both converts had to be baptized 3 times to get it valid. (valid means by immersionAt one point Felix, the 74 year old baptizer fell down into the water as well.  But through it all everyone was smiling and I have never seen a happier baptism!  We love the new members!

So we did some service and I learned how to use a machete!  I was cutting grass at a hospital with it.  Paco, a young man taught me how to use it and after an hour or so I felt I was basically as good as the Africans (so good in fact that I never even cut myself)!   So yeah, I felt like a BOSS! - for that hour. Haha. Something else that was crazy - We ran into an African who had a BYU shirt on.  He didn’t know what it was, so we quickly stopped him (or I stopped him as Elder Baker was on the phone) and in broken French explained about BYU.  Who would have thought a BYU shirt would have made it this far into Africa?

Sorry if the email is broken English or does not make sense, but a lot happened this week as you see.  Missions truly are the best things ever.  I have been gone for 3 months and have had the adventure of a lifetime!

Elder Julius Johnson