Jun 26, 2013

06-26-13 Safe Arrival to Africa / Point Noire

Thought I'd share this email to let all of you know that Julius has arrived in Africa safely:

We want to let you know that your sons have arrived in Pointe Noire safely.  It was getting dark when they arrived and it took us a while to get them delivered to their apartments, the traffic seemed to be very bad tonight. We will send some information about Pointe Noire, post box numbers etc. tomorrow.
Thanks for sharing these two wonderful young men with us.
Elder and Sister Wheatley
Elder and/or Sister Wheatley, Senior Missionaries
Pointe Noire, Repubic of Congo
Democratic Republic of Congo, Kinshasa, Mission

Jun 24, 2013

06-24-13 Week 6 of 6 in the MTC / Time for Africa!

This week has been one of excitement as everyone in our district has been preparing to leave. There are 3 missions we are all heading to as a group: Paris France, Lyon France, and the DRC.  My companion Elder Brockbank, and I are the only ones left to leave. And we just cant wait to get out there! So all the pictures I have been sending are pictures with my district, as those are the people I am always with. When I start taking pictures in Africa I'll be sure to include names and stories. I also received all your packages and letters so thank you!
Happy Birthday to Maya! (my little sister) I hope being a 13 year old is exciting, welcome to the teenage years! I love you, Maya. and all that you do for others and within the family.

There are a few exciting stories this week. So the first one will be spiritual because thats what a mission is all about. I learned from several experiences that God really does answer our prayers. Some nights I'll pray for an opportunity to serve others, and the very next day I will be asked to host missionaries or give a blessing or as crazy as it sounds, clean a building. Some nights I pray for a learning experience and the next day my patience will be tested, and I learn something valuable from that. And there have even been some nights where I pray for all of you, and I am later informed that blessings have come your way. My testimony has grown knowing that prayers are heard by a real being, but more specifically they are heard and answered from our Heavenly Father.

On Saturday night I was able to meet our new Mission President and his wife, the Cooks!  They are a wonderful couple from Utah and they are just as excited to go to Africa as we are. The very first thing Sister Cook did when she saw us was try to give us a big hug.  (haha) As missionaries it was somewhat awkward because we've had it drilled into our heads, Only give hand shakes to women!  But Sister Cook insisted, saying, "I don't care what the rule is - I hug my missionaries!"  As Elder Leavitt was hugging her, he looked at our Mission President (her husband) and said "Please don't send me home for this."  Our Mission Pres. and his wife are truly great people!  In them, I saw the same feeeling we have: they are more then excited to go to Africa, they have no clue (like us) of what to truly expect, and they are nervous but that doesnt phase them.  They are ready to work and love the people of Africa - as are we!

Last night I was privilaged to participate in the World Wide Broadcast by singing in the missionary choir.  But earlier that day it was a bit hectic.  The number of missionaries allowed to sing were 1100.  And about 1300 showed up to practices.  The problem was obvious and so the choir director told everyone in an MTC combined sacrament meeting (church meeting) that some would need to be cut (and although he explained that those who weren't ready would be cut - we all knew it was going to be a free for all). Now, my companions and I had attended every single practice and performance for the past 6 weeks and we practiced memorizing the song on our free time and now we were told that we might not be singing. You can imagine the tension we felt and everyone else felt. So when it came time to walk to the marriott for rehearsal - things got chaotic. Missionaries literally ran all the way to the Marriott Center in suits to get a seat. And at the doors people were pushing and shoving to get in. Security had to check every companionship one at a time - because the apostles would be in attendance.  So as me and Elder Lago stood in a massive crowd in the sun, where everyone was upset and competitive, we decided to try something. We felt the spirit wasn't there (there was a feeling of contension and frustration) and so we began to "shush" as loud as we could until eventually, the crowd was completely silent.  Then Elder Lago and I commenced singing Hymns. In the end all 1000 missionaries were singing hymns as we waited to get into the Marriott. Contention fled and was replaced by a spirit of unity and love for missionary work. The devotional was amazing and the rest of the night went great! But it all started with two missionaries trying to sing "We Thank Thee O God for a Prophet".  I guess the lesson to be learned is no matter how insignificant you think you may be - always try to bring peace to others even if it's by "singing" your heart out.  Make an attempt to be valiant and brave in preaching the gospel.  President Monson said you will never know how great your influence for good will be.

These are the best stories I have from the week. I love all of you. Keep up the good work everyone and go "sing your heart out" in school, at the skate park, or on an airsoft field, at work, and home. I will email you again from Africa as soon as I possibly can! 
Elder Johnson
Note: (Julius included the note about the airsoft field for his Big Bro Ferious, and the skate park for his little Bro Kaleb).

Jun 20, 2013

06-20-13 Week 5 of 6 in the MTC

Hi All - I know my emails are usually very spiritual and explain the emotional aspect of being a missionary. So this week I'll attempt to explain how fun the MTC has been and what I have been doing with my time.
This week has been fantastic with reagards to lessons. We finally had that golden lesson with Francis, our investigator, and every lesson since then has been absolutely great! Our companionship is working well and we now have both our investigators committed to baptism! After 6 weeks in the MTC I think I'm finally ready to teach lessons to real people in the congo. Which is a good thing because I HAVE RECEIVED MY TRAVEL PLANS!
This means my visa has gone through and I'll be in Africa in a week or so. Here are the plans:
I am leaving the MTC on June 25th at 3:30am. 
SALT LAKE CITY - 7:28am to WASHINGTON DC - 1:42pm
(I'll then have a 3 hour layover)
WASHINGTON DC - 5:20pm to FRANKFURT GERMANY! - 7:20am June 26th
(I'll be in germany for 3 hours)
GERMANY - 10:10am to CONGO, POINT-NOIRE - 6:20pm June 26th
So - I have my malaria pills and will start them tomorrow and unless I start having mental problems or throwing up uncontrollably - I'm good to go!  
I'm very excited to be reporting to my field of labor in a matter of days. I guess all those years of German in high school really payed off in the end because I will definitely be teaching in the German airport while I wait.
Kaleb, please tell Herr Hebert thank you for teaching me German so diligently all those years of high school. In his own way he has helped progress this Work for the Lord.  
Because I'm not leaving until next Tuesday, I'll be singing in the world wide leadership training Sunday.  So I will be in the choir - maybe you will see me. 
Some fun french phrases you all can use (spelled pheonetically):
(tay-may schont) - you are mean
(say-day qwaf) - that undoes my hair; its an expression for when something blows your mind haha
(si-yeah) - there it is; when the expected happens
Hope you enjoy and all is well for all of you!
Elder Johnson


Note from Mom -
I have to add:  Although Julius is usually found smiling - his countanence looks brighter - He obviously is in the right place at the right time, and is enjoying serving.

Jun 15, 2013

06-05-2013 Letter in the Mail

  • Only 7 days to "Dear Elder" Julius before he leaves for Africa. See his contact page to find out how to get a letter hand delivered to him in the MTC the day you write it. 

  • Julius has found time somewhere in his busy training schedule to hand write and mail 3 letters home. I have to share a few things from his last letter:

Dear Family,
I hope you enjoyed the pictures and I hope they came out clear. This letter will expand on a few things I emailed about and a few things I'm learning.  We began TRCs which is basically teaching members. You literally walk into a room with no lesson plan or any idea as to whom you will meet, and then you talk with them and teach them according to their needs. The first time we taught a return missionary from Africa, named Garrett. The lesson went well and we enjoyed our time together.

I've finally adjusted to the MTC physically. For the first week I always felt sick 24/7 and I was always tired. However, I now wake up at 6am automatically and I'm always ready for bed by 10:30pm. I liked your email about the Brother from Africa in your area who walked 4 miles to church and told you that it was nothing compared to walking 20 miles to church in Africa. I think walking 20-30 miles everyday will be an adventure!  I always hear from missionaries returning from the Congo, that I wont do much door knocking because the members keep the missionaries busy with personal referrals.

So far at the MTC everyone says I'm really quiet.  They say I'm the poster child for "Quiet Dignity". I guess I'm not as crazy as I thought. Also, everyone comments on how organized I am, which isn't really that organized at all.  The reason I say that is because - when I got my call, I figure that God must pick people like 'Julius Johnson' to go the the DRC of Africa, but in reality I haven't met anyone like me yet. My companion Elder Leavitt reminds me of Peter Carpenter. His hand gestures, jokes, and spirit is almost identical. And Elder Brockbank reminds me exactly of Drew.  I think Heavenly Father knew I would need spirits / people like them to get me through the MTC. : )

Kaleb - Please let Herr Herbert (Julius's German teacher in high school), know where I was called and that his teaching of German has helped a lot in learning French.  I really appreciate all I learned from him.
(Kaleb is Julius's little brother)

Love - Julius

Jun 10, 2013

06-10-13 Week 4 of 6 in the MTC

I have been receiving the “dear elders” that have been sent. (Find out how to “dear elder” Julius on his contact page in this blog). I would love to hear about home life and what’s going on for everyone in the "real world".  Thank you so much for caring about me while I try and make it through this 6 week "boot camp" they call the MTC (haha).

This week has been an interesting one. It has definitely been the hardest emotionally and mentally, but I made it through and I’m going into the final stretch. On Wednesday I was able to host the new missionaries, which was a really cool experience. I helped 3 missionaries get acquainted with the MTC and figure out what they need to be doing.  I guess after a month of the MTC I’m considered experienced! Hosting was really good because it got me re-invigorated for missionary work! I left that day feeling re-energized and re-motivated to learn the language and to be the very best I could be. I definitely would suggest hosting to any missionary who gets the chance.

This week my companions and I had lunch with a native from the Congo, Brother Kalenga! What an amazing man! He told us about the living conditions and the baptismal rates/teaching rates which of course made me more excited to leave for Africa!  I learned that the average companionship experiences 22 baptisms a month and that we’ll be washing out clothes by hand in the sinks. Heavenly Father (God) definitely sent me to right mission! (And I mean that in all seriousness). Also my companion, Elder Leavitt sprained his ankle pretty bad so hopefully it heals before we leave for Africa.

Our lessons this week have been a little rough, if I’m completely honest. We seem to be having difficulty connecting with Francis. Logically our lessons should be fantastic, we've nailed down transitions within our companionship and put a lot of effort into preparing; however, once we get into the lessons it seems like none of that makes a difference.  It can be difficult to not become discouraged about the “lack of success" we seem to be having.  But every day you just have to do what the Lord is asking, and for us that’s preparing another lesson every day.

I had another experience this week that was very important and a good learning lesson spiritually for me. We were teaching Eloise, our investigator; we had planned on teaching about the Plan of Salvation, but first we needed to follow up on some reading she was supposed to do. She told us she had read the Book of Mormon page after page after page. We were excited and congratulated her on her progress. The only problem was she didn’t want to pray to know if it was true. So with this in mind we continued with our lesson plan. But I felt the spirit prompt me that we should talk about the Book of Mormon. I disregarded that thought and let my companion continue with the lesson plan. That prompting kept returning and at one point in the lesson I came so close to stopping the lesson completely and changing topics. But I figured that would be foolish, so I continued with what we had planned. At the end of the lesson our teacher told us that our lesson was good (which was true, our lesson was good; we had prepared and testified of truth) but she then said that Eloise could have been helped more by hearing about the Book of Mormon and restoration. I felt awful!! I literally wanted to cry because I knew what had just happened. So lesson 1 in this email:  However inconvenient the promptings of the Spirit (Holy Ghost) may be, always ACT on those promptings. We have had many lessons since and they have been fantastic, but I will always remember that one lesson and I’m grateful for it.  

I also learned this week during a fireside devotional, (a church meeting held in the evening usually with a guest speaker or special topic) where we learned about Joseph Smith and the restoration, something I have learned about for years and years, but this time it took on a different tone. While learning about Joseph Smith I recognized that those humble beginnings for the Church have expanded into something far greater than any of us, and in actuality it has always been that way. During that time I learned one thing that I think every missionary has to know if they are going to participate in this effort. And that is this: "This is the work of an Almighty God."  That simple truth makes everything else worth it. Every bad lesson, or missed opportunity, or short coming is replaced with faith and hope and love when a missionary knows that.  

I am so grateful that I can participate in even a small portion of this work in the area I will go to in Africa. Being a missionary is hard, but I love every minute of it!  I’m sure some of you read this and feel like I’m preaching to the choir, because you may all already know this!  But all of this I learned is true for missionaries as well as for each of us in everyday life too, “faith, hope, love, growth, share, and be happy knowing that God does love and care for each of us, even when we feel like we are failing.”  

Jun 5, 2013

06-05-13 Week 3 of 6 in the MTC Part 2

Before I went to bed on June 3rd I rechecked my email to see if Julius had sent anything.  I was so happy to see that one did come in! 

Julus Writes:
Here at the MTC everything is as usual. The language is increasing everyday and I'm speaking for a good majority of our lessons which is really exciting! I am sure by the end of my stay at the MTC I will still have a lot to learn and to try and master with regards to french, but for now I think I have made sufficient progress.
I'm getting anxious to leave the MTC, only 19 days until I get on a plane to Africa which is absolutely fantastic! I was made the senior companion last Wednesday and since then have been trying to keep our companionship diligent and focused. Especially since we now have two new investigators (our teachers) and everyone in our district is becoming a little less focused. I guess after 3 weeks of working it is really easy to get distracted. And it seems like my efforts are paying off, we have on multiple days been teaching two lessons. On Friday though we had the best experience teaching yet.
In the morning we taught our first investigator (Francis) about the restoration. It was a complete fail!  This was a lesson we had been planning for two days and was continually rescheduled. When we taught the words simply didn't come, and it seemed like we were all over the place as a companionship. Testimonies would be shared and then no one would follow up, (as a missionary you alsways testify in pairs) we would ask questions that didn't help bring the spirit. It was a disaster! The comments from the teacher were so discouraging to me. And I was upset at myself and my companions. So that night we taught our second investigator (Eloise) and what a difference! This was a lesson we had prepared for maybe one hour, and hadn't given much thought to. When we started teaching the spirit was immediately there. Our transitions were flawless, our testimonies where powerful and our message was clear. After the teacher commented that that lesson was one of the best she had ever heard or been taught while teaching at the MTC!
I am going to try and send pictures of what lesson plans look like for me so you all can see how much effort goes into these things. But with Eloise's lesson I think Heavenly Father might have taken control to show us what a lesson should look and feel like for missionaries. I love teaching the Gospel and it's exciting everytime we teach. Obviously I, nor my companions are perfect and we have a long way to go but we are close to being ready to go to Africa. 
So some fun things that have happened this week. Every day for gym we play volley ball which is an absolute blast, and I am getting really good at beach volleyball now. Also my district leader had to have the heimlich because he tried to eat an entire piece of pizza in one bite. In honesty the MTC is pretty standard and comparable to being in college, there are just a lot more of spiritual experiences every day.
So something I learned from Elder Bednar:  He said that on a mission you need to be converted, that is who your greatest convert should be, but if that is your goal (to convert yourself) you will fail because that is the natural man looking inward. To be converted you need to be like Christ and always look outward. And when you lose yourself in His service you find yourself because you will have been converted. interesting logic, but it makes sense. Also I learned that the day I entered the MTC was the day in history that the Aaronic Priesthood was restored.  Also to "Dear Elder" me look at my contact page.  It's free and is delivered the same day. Hopefully I get some letters and such. Thanks for all the support!  

Jun 3, 2013

06-03-13 Week 3 of 6 in the MTC

Julius only had time to email some pictures today. I'm sad he couldn't type a note, but he looks happy and is busy learning what he needs to know by June 22nd when he leaves for Africa.

 Julius is on the left of the goupd of young men.

 This is the group learning French.

The Church landscaped beautifully around the BYU Campus, Provo Temple and the MTC 
 Julius must really like the flowers there, as he sent a few pics of them. 

This is the classroom that he's spending 12 hours a day learning French in.
On the left wall there are French flags for those called to serve in France and
the right wall has the flag from the Congo region of Africa for those serving in the Congo.