May 27, 2013

05-27-13 Week 2 of 6 in the MTC

Hi.  Since Julius can't update the blog himself for the next 2 years, I'll post a weekly update using his email, and hopefully we'll get some pics soon.  For those that may not know, missionaries are not allowed to be on social media.  He can email me weekly and send letters to everyone. We are not sure how long letters will take to get here from Africa.  

Everything is going well at the MTC.  The language is coming along very fast now. During language study I usually sit at the chalk board and learn the grammar.  Chalk gets all over my pants but I figure it’s a good sign of diligence and learning.  It’s worth the extra cleaning.  I figure if I can learn the sentence structures and conjugations I can later fill in the "skeleton" with vocab that will naturally come while in Africa.  Teaching the first vision went amazingly well.  The lesson began with a rough start and was a bit shaky as we tried to talk about the apostasy and prophets.  But after my companion Elder Brockbank quoted what had happened the spirit was there.  Immediately I felt a prompting to scrap all the notes and outline I had prepared and simply started bearing testimony.  That seemed to do and help everything fall into place.  Although Christopher (our investigator) is role playing with us, we tested how it felt to ask him to commit to pray about Joseph Smith and to ask if this is the true church.  On our next visit he had done so and said he felt peace. That was the best lesson we had ever taught by far. Although it was only a mock investigator I was so excited.  We finished our mock lessons by committing him to baptism and he accepted. The language is really not a barrier.

The MTC is really exciting, it seems like the members of the presidencies and teachers are always advising and cheering for us that we can do it and that God is there.  It’s something that I never thought would have such a big impact, but constant positive reinforcement really helps open our minds to learn quicker.  Everyone has those days when they feel down or lonely or angry, but through it all I think every missionary comes to realize that we can do hard things with God.  I remember that we were told that in every session of every temple we are being prayed for, and that the sun never truly sets on missionaries testifying of the gospel.

This week we also start TRC, which is basically teaching lessons again, however, the investigators are sometimes people who don’t speak English, and/or who may not even be members. To make it more complicated we have to go through the entire process of trying to get ourselves let into their door.  So we basically have to take it from a door approach to a full lesson. I think this Thursday is when I will truly see how good my French is in two weeks.

I am in the missionary choir and they said that on June 23rd there is a special musical number that we will be participating in; sadly we leave for the Congo on the 22nd. This morning we found out that on the 23rd all the new mission presidents will be spoken to by President Monson, President Packer, and other apostles.   Sadly, we will be on a plane and will miss the opportunity to sing for them.

So fun story about the MTC:  Last night our companion comes into our room and said he needed help with something.  He had an infected cut or something.   He needed someone to cut it open and drain out the bad stuff.  So he lies down on our floor and gives us his leather man knife. (before I continue, I sat on my bed reading letters and let the other missionaries take care of it. Guess I’m not cut out to be a Dr. haha). The missionaries performing the “emergency surgery” put on rubber cleaning gloves, disinfected the knife and made a small cut on this elder.  After 30 minutes of cleaning the wound he was alright in the end and the previously infected area is now hopefully better.  Now you see as to how we do things as missionaries.  

May 22, 2013

05-20-13 Week 1 of 6 in the MTC

I will try and update you on everything that has been going on the past few days. So right after I was dropped off to the MTC, I was put into a French class with my district and we began learning the language. At the MTC we are always so busy there is never really any time to just relax. Mostly we sit in our classroom for 12+ hours studying the language and the gospel. Rather surprisingly my bad study habits from college didn’t transfer over to the MTC, I guess being called as a missionary has real impacts on your spirit.

Adjusting to mission life though has not been too difficult: we arise at 5:45 every morning and go to bed by 10:30 every night. We also have had to adjust our language because as missionaries we can use abbreviations or slang terms like - dudes and guys. Some days I have to remind myself that I am actually completing a mission and that I am doing the same thing that Elder Wheeler, Kaufana did years ago. (these missionaries brought our family back to actively living the Gospel). I love wearing a name bag that says Elder Johnson!! There is something that is so empowering about being a missionary. Your body is restored every morning, your countenance is one of pure joy, and your mind is sharpened as you learn to testify in a language you don’t know.

A mission is definitely the best thing ever. Its hard but its good. Learning the language has been the biggest struggle so far. In my district there are 10 missionaries. 7 of them are going to France and there are 3 of us going to the Congo. I am currently in a companionship of three and love both Elder Brockbank and Elder Leavitt. We have already taught two lessons IN FRENCH to an "investigator", who is actually a return missionary who volunteers. The first one was rough as we all just read scripts we had prepared. But Saturday's lesson was fantastic, I went in after studying a full day's worth of French and simply tried to do it by the guidance of the Spirit. What a difference. That day I must have had the gift of tongues because I understood a few things Christopher said (our investigator), and because I can’t speak the language I decided to respond with scriptures in French.  Tonight we are planning on teaching him about Joseph Smith and I will be reciting the First Vision in French.  

Although it might seem like I am having an easy time, and relatively I am, there are still rough moments. Some days in class, after failing at French repeatedly all day I simply want to quit. BUT, those thoughts are quickly replaced when I think of the blessings you guys will receive and most importantly the blessings the people in Africa will receive if I keep going.

Remaining positive is the most important thing on a mission. Yesterday at a fireside (an evening meeting in the LDS church) a story was told about optimism and I think it’s cute:

There was an old woman who in her old age only had three hairs left. She woke up one morning and said "I want to braid my hair". And so she did, and had a great day. The next morning she only had two hairs left. And so she thought about how she wanted her hair done. She decided to part it down the middle, and had a great day. The next morning, as you can guess, she had one hair left. That day she wanted to put her hair up in a ponytail. So she did, and had a great day. The next morning she sadly woke up with no hair...there could be no cute hair styles that day. The little old lady looked in the mirror and said; "OHH GOOD! I don’t have to do my hair today!" 

Haha. However, difficult school or work is there is something to be positive about. After all we teach of a Plan of HAPPINESS! And every day we get to choose that plan again. I am anxious to hear about home life from you all. If you want me to know about home life sooner you can Dear Elder me in the MTC (see instruction on my contact page) and the letter will be delivered on the same day, just FYI.

I hope this email makes sense and is logical, after a week of this, your brain gets sort of fried. But all is well in Zion (Heaven).

Elder Julius Johnson   

05-15-2013 The BIG Drop Off Day to the MTC in Provo

Mom held it together until the end when she hugged me good bye at the park across the street from the MTC.  They ask that we say goodbyes there and then drive through the round-about to drop me off.  There were 700 missionaries scheduled to be dropped of today. I ran into a friend at the park who's going to Madagascar. 

Dad, Me, Ferious, Kaleb, Mom, Maya

Mom, Me, Robert

05-12-2013 thru 05-14-2013 Happy Mothers Day

The last 6 weeks went by really fast since I opened my call.  I finished up the semester at BYU while getting all my shots and paperwork (passport, visa) done. I was able to get all my shopping done for pants, short sleeve shirts and closed toe sandals (missionary wear in Africa), glasses, medicines, etc. I'm packing as light as possible since my bag can only weigh 66 lbs, but it's hard because I have to take all supplies for the 2 years with me.  Most items that we can run to the store for in the states, cannot be found there.  And I've hear that it's near impossible to get a package through the mail and it's very expensive as I have to pay for it on my end too in Africa.  My mom is stressing on how few things I'm taking, but she's just worried that I won't have enough shoes, medicines, or comforts from home with me.   

On Mother's Day I was set apart as a Missionary, which means that, for the next 3 days, until I get to the MTC, I have to act and dress as a missionary.  No phone, TV, or electronics.  It won't be to bad after I get to the MTC but in the real world it's hard to avoid using those items.  I'm excited to start my mission but have mixed emotions about leaving everyone for 2 years.

From Left to Right: 
Mom (Heidi), Robert (Step Dad), Me (Julius), Brothers (Ferious and Kaleb) and Sister (Maya). 

 Bishop Montgomery of Piney Creek Ward and I

President Millet of Denver Stake and I

May 13th we flew back to Utah and visited the Temple in SLC the next day. My mom, step dad, and I went through the Temple in the morning while everyone else scoped out the new mall across the street. Spending time with the family made it much easier to go without electronics. 
From Left to Right:
Wahid (My Dad), Ferious and Kaleb (My Brothers), Me, Maya (my sister)

Dad and Me

Step Dad (Robert), Me, Mom (Heidi)

Standing ontop of the World or so it seems - in front of the SLC Temple

Mom insisted we go into the canyons and enjoy a bit of nature that evening.
It was nice in the mountains and good to spend time with family before I leave.

Snow run off river we played and hiked at in Big Cotton Wood Canyon

03-30-2013 Mission Call Opening

I flew home from BYU Provo in Utah to Denver, Colorado to open my mission call with family.  It was hard not to peak at it, but I withheld the urge to open it and waited until Saturday when the family and several friends could make it to our home during a crazy snow storm.   

Video of Mission Call Opening at:

I have been called to serve as a missionary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in The Democratic Republic of Congo, Kinshasa Mission, in Africa.  I will teach the Gospel using the French language.  I'm reporting to the Provo MTC on May 15, 2013.