Jul 22, 2013

07-22-13 We are all in the same Mbota so "Put Your Shoulder to The Wheel"

This week has been a good one. To paint the picture for you, we have 11 progressing investigators. 14 investigators coming to church. 8 baptismal invites! IT'S ON FIRE!! Elder Baker and I have decided to start handing out copies of the Book of Mormon instead of brochures and I think I know why we were enlightened to do that. We have gone through 2 boxes of copies of the Book of Mormon in one week! That's something like 40 books! A piece of advice for the future missionaries at home: the more copies of the Book of mormon you place in your backpack, the heavier it is - the heavier it is - the more your shoulders hurt - the more your shoulders hurt - the more anxious you will be to pass out books. haha.

We have also found a little gem in the middle of Pointe Noire, its called Mbota. its a small neighborhood hidden in the jungle but it is on fire! We have met so many people there this last week who have already had lessons but were simply dropped or forgotten about when the missionaries got to busy or were moved. One young man came up to us, invited us to teach him and said "perhaps a baptism can follow". We simply smiled and responded in the positive - "a baptism can follow". We have decided to focus our energies on that neighborhood as much as we can. We know whenever we walk the streets in that area we will leave with no brochures or Books of Mormon.

This is my favorite story of the week - A pousse pousse in africa is a large wheel barrow. Heavy loads are placed in them and one or two people will push them short distances. After an apointment with Anh we were walking down the road in the same direction as a pousse pousse loaded with large cement sacks. The two men were walking rather slow and we were catching up to them quickly. When we caught up to them we "put our shoulder to the wheel" and pushed along! We walked the entire street with them until they reached their destination. As we pushed, people lining the streets laughed and yelled at us. Taxis literally stopped, and turned around to watch us help these two men push the load. As I pushed it and I thought of Mosiah 4:26 (click link and scroll down to verse 26)which says, you shall administer to their relief, in things temporal and spiritual. We left the two men with a Book of Mormon. I later learned from my companions that pushing a pousse pousse is the lowest job in africa, a sort of a last resort job. Good thing no job is too low for a missionary of Christ!

A note about one of our investigators. Alpha is an amazing young man who I think I have mentioned before. He has a really good memory and loves everything associated with the church. But he always wears the greatest hats! He has this rainbow trucker hat that I absolutely love, and at english class this week he had a Hannah Montana sun visor. lol He is the best!

A note for Maya (my little sister): this past week we were walking in Mbota and met a member named Jesse. After talking with him, Elder Baker and I walked down the street singing the theme song to the disney show "Jesse". So thanks to little sisters, there are two elders singing disney theme songs on the streets of Africa. Haha

A note for all the boys: Because the airport is in the middle of the city, airplanes fly very low right over our apartment. There is a massive Russian plane that flies in every week or so. Whenever it comes in, the more seasoned Elders yell, "It's her", we all run to the window and watch her fly in. So silly! Also last Monday we were walking downtown, and in the middle of the crowds these police men were walking around with fully loaded Ak-47s. Its a sight I'm sure Ferious (my older brother)would liked to have seen.

Well thats the report for this week! We're working hard and loving every minute of it! Time is really going by fast! Oh Ya - we now have a Native African living with us. He's one of the missionaries here in Point Noire. He is awesome and luckily speaks English so I can understand him. He loves American food and has declared Pizza the best of all. Who would have thought?

"Put Your Shoulder to the Wheel" is a Hymn we often sing in the LDS church. When the pioneers were crossing the country on their way toward the West, most of the pioneers used various carts or other wheeled vehicles for their journey. The origin of the phrase “to put one's shoulder to the wheel” is a phrase that describes the work of leaning against the wheel of the vehicle that is stuck in mud out of a rut and using your physical strength to push the wheel ahead out of the hole, etc... Another way to describe this is “putting in a great effort in order to accomplish a formidable task”. The idea of a 'the shoulder to the wheel' is an ancient one and can be found in one of Aesop's proverbs called “The Tale of Hercules and the Waggoner”. Reference:

Jul 19, 2013

07-18-13 They've Never Seen Him Do the "Cheese Grater" Dance!

Dear Brother and Sister Johnson and family,

We thought we should send you a short e-mail to once again express our appreciation for sharing your son with us.  We find him a bit shy and reserved but we find him very open if we initiate the conversation.  He seems to be happy, always a smile on his face.  You mentioned once that he likes to serve others.  We notice that he is always looking for ways to help others.  That is such an admirable personal quality.  We don't speak a lot of French and understand less when we hear it so we don't know how the French is coming.
We just see the smiling face, the clean appearance, the healthy strong young man that has a willingness to serve and share his testimony.  It doesn't get any better than that!
We so appreciate your prayers on our behalf.  We know they are answered daily.
We hope all is well in Colorado.
Love Elder and Sister Wheatley

I was sent this email from the senior couple serving to help the Mission President look over the young men in a small area. There are senior couples stationed in each city where missionaries are in Africa.  (In the LDS Church you can go on a mission as a youth or as a couple after your kids have grown).  I thought it would be fun to share this because if you know Julius well, or have seen him in at a dance or in a group of youth at any activity, he does not really seem reserved.  One time he shared with us a bunch of funny dance moves he does at he youth dances. He had our whole house laughing when he showed us the "cheese grater" dance that he actually does at public dances and he got us all to be silly and try it.  
Go ahead and try it - I know you want too - just pretend to continually grate a large block of cheese held in one hand to the grater in your other hand and do this with your arms stretched out in front of you.  Start doing some funky Elvis hip shake.  Now start bringing the one arm that is pretending to hold the cheese in a full circle down and around the back to the front again (like a side propeller) while keeping your arm stretched out. I think he learned it at BYU.  Either way - I can't help but laugh when tying it. 

07-15-13 And You Thought Lions Were Dangerous In Africa!

So this week was a long one for many reasons, just to preface this story....................

After emailing home last Monday, we went downtown to go shopping as usual. We were walking around and I was in the back of the pack.  I must have been day dreaming or something because I hurt myself.  We all know how absent minded I can be sometimes. Anyway, there was a rusted metal parking sign in the middle of the sidewalk about knee level. All the other missionaries walked right around the sign but I didn't really notice it.  So, long story short, one corner of the sign caught my ankle causing me to fall - my knee landing right on the other corner of the sign. It left a little hole about the size of a q-tip in my knee (my first injury in a third world country was because I tripped! lol)  All in all I was consigned to limp around Africa for a day, but I'm all better now!  So that was the start of my week.  
Usually we are so busy with lessons, Teaching 7 or so a day.  Our week was scheduled similarly this week but over half of our appointments never happened because the investigators never showed up. That left us in strange predicaments - one day we were left for 2 hours on a street corner waiting for person after person.  Usually when that happens we simply pass out brochures and talk with anyone.  We have meet some great people!  One lady told us about her close relation to Obama and that she was simply waiting for her plane ticket to Washington DC to go live with them - stories like that just make us smile!

I had said we wanted to have 4-5 more people with baptismal dates this week, and although that was the goal, we only ever met with one of those investigators.  BUT, he told us he wanted to be baptized!!  So here is the current list and a short description of people being baptized.

Janella, a young woman who has been investigating for some time now and enjoys the gospel, she was introduced by her friend Anh - Baptismal Date:  3 Aug

Steven, a young man about my age (18) who was introduced to the gospel by his really good friend and the branch clerk, Anh - Baptismal Date: 17 Aug

Djo, an older man who attends church regularly and has a member friend - Baptismal Date: 17 Aug

Ngasachi, an older man (60) whose wife recently died, he has never been baptized in any church and has become a regular at church - Baptismal Date: 7 Sept

The work picked up yesterday though, while walking to an appointment we had with Steven, we came across 3 people who had previously taken missionary lessons or who really wanted to start them with us!  I guess if you hold out faithful to the end then all is well.  So this week I think me and Elder Baker have found our focus and hopefully next week I will be able to say we were busy! 
I have found that I absolutely love teaching English!  We hold an English class every Saturday and I always leave with the biggest smile on my face!  Maybe it's being able to teach someone something new, or maybe its because it's the only time i get to teach in English.  Whatever it is, I love it and hope I can do something similar when I return home - which is not for a while, obviously. (about 22 more months)
I think that that is honestly all for this week - I mean what do you say about the greatest place and mission on earth?
Elder Julius Johnson

Jul 8, 2013

07-08-13 Second Week in Africa and Lovin' It!

So I received all your questions and will give answers to them at the end of my stories for the week.
First story: During our personal study at the start of the week our bathroom was literally destroyed. (Don’t judge until you read on…) We were doing personal study in the morning when all of a sudden we heard large crashes. So, we left our desks and looked in the bathroom. To our alarm some tiles had fallen from the wall (all the walls are tiled but are very low quality). So all four of the elders in our apartment crammed in the bathroom to survey the damage, when all of a sudden the entire wall of tiles came crashing down! We grabbed the mirror to protect it from breaking. After much screaming (like little girls) and hysterical laughing - we are down one usable bathroom.  lol
Talking with everyone is so great in Africa because so many people are willing to listen. On Wednesday we were walking in the median of the road, so as to be able to talk to people on both sides of the street who may have a possible interest.  We came across 3 trucks carrying people. These are basically big military trucks with metal cages fixed to the flat bed, they hold about 50 people each. So we come across these trucks and I said to Elder Baker, "That’s a lot of people we could talk to."  With no reply he kept walking and then after 100 yards or so he turned around and said "Let’s go". So with brochures in our hands we walked through these massive crowds trying to talk with everyone. Needless to say we had no more brochures after that. We have also found that traffic jams are great for contacting! We simply walk in the streets and hand our brochures to everyone who has windows rolled down - its great!
Our fourth of July was spent celebrating at night with hamburgers filled with cheese and bacon. Yum! We also had a morning fireside about why America is the best!  I am sure Ferious and Robert will be pleased to hear about our patriotic acts.  Even in the Congo there was a little band of Americans celebrating!
Since I’ve arrived we have 3 investigators with baptismal dates and will hope to add 4-5 more this coming week. There is no reason why a Stake couldn’t be created in the Congo. We have some great investigators. Some of which have been meeting with elders for 2 months and coming to church - no reason they shouldn’t want to be baptized. It seems like the work is becoming more organized every day. We are keeping our area book up to date now and are becoming efficient. (area book = a day timer type book to keep track of all we are doing)
Note: Julius is basically answering questions we emailed him here:

·         I will send pictures soon.
·         Point noire is basically urban decay. There are ships on the beach and airplane grave yards. Trash is everywhere.  
·         I made it through the airport fine actually, honestly no problems - the Africans know not to mess with me! (haha)
·         We usually eat American foods because we have to make all of it.
·         I have had some African things but most of the food is fried in oil. Peanut sauce is basically oily peanut butter with meat in it. That is descent but a little gross in large quantities!
·         No fried bananas but I will look for them.
·         Yes, I am adjusting quite well. Because its "winter" here it’s usually in the 80s and there are not too many bugs which I am thankful for. I will answer that again in a few months when the weather changes.
·         I get 50000 francs every two weeks for food and it’s more than enough. (USD $98)
·         Its winter so no rain or thunder yet.
·         I am actually going to the beach today for P-Day! We are playing soccer and having hot dogs to celebrate the 4th!
·         We are teaching about 25 lessons a week - meaning 5-7 a day!
·         In-actives are great but I have had some difficulty in making sure our companionship doesn’t teach them forever. After all - our job is to reactivate them and then move on to others that need our help. At some point you have to trust the reactivated member to stand tall by themselves.
·         My French is awful! Some days it’s good, some days I’m convinced I don’t speak French at all.
·         I don’t really miss home comforts - we have good housing.
·         I love the joy you find in missionary work! Every morning you wake up with a renewed sense to find everyone. You literally walk around all day with the biggest smile on your face!

I love all of you and miss you so much, but  I want to be where the lord wants me - right now that’s Africa!
Elder Johnson

07-01-13 Greenie in Africa!

This week has been crazy! But that is to be expected because I’m in Africa! So I arrived around 6pm on Wednesday and went straight to our apartment. Flying was very long and draining. (27 hours total with lay overs) But when we arrived in Africa it was really awesome! After descending through a thick layer of clouds we were flying very low over the city. And it looked incredible! My trainer is Elder Baker, he is really cool. All the missionaries in my apartment have been here for a full year and are basically fluent in French, which I learned - is a language I struggle with - a lot. My first day we went to an area called Venduolu. (I think Julius spelled this wrong – I couldn’t find it on google maps.) It was basically on the outskirts of Pointe Noire in a desert like environment.  It’s dry season here so there is no rain or bugs in abundance. It’s a good way to start my mission.  Something that happens often in Africa - and all the missionaries love, is the children greeting us. Because they all think we are Chinese - they run around yelling "Chinois" and wave. We kindly correct them that we are Americans but they don’t care. (haha) One group of boys upon being corrected, saluted us while saying "chief" or “leader” LOL  Other children will pretend to speak Chinese by making funny noises at us and attempting to say "Ni how". The children here are great! In some neighborhoods they run after us yelling and singing. If I am ever having a bad day it is instantly made better by their welcomes!

There was a baptism this weekend!  His name is Martial but I didn’t know anything else about him. The baptisms here are done in a little metal tub with water filled just to knee level. It costs 60,000 francs to fill it up!  That puts a new meaning to – “The worth of souls is great”.  I couldn’t get pictures because it’s just difficult to take pictures because everyone is so skeptical about it - as I get to know people and get better at being discrete about it, I will take more and send them.

So there was a man named Ricardo that we met with and he is progressing really well, in fact he told us that he wanted to be baptized before he goes on a summer vacation to Gabon. My companion was concerned about the fact that he would be in a country where the church is not right after his baptism.  But after some discussion this last week with my companion we agreed he is ready and will be baptized on July 13th! One thing I have learned about this mission is a lot of the work is with less actives members. We are simply trying to get them re-active in membership and desire. Which if I’m honest – I was honestly not expecting that, nor is it what I really thought was a good use of time for missionaries - I figured that’s what home teachers are for, right?  (home teachers =  each priesthood member in a ward is asked / assigned to look over 2-4 families to support, teach, etc)  Well, now I understand why we do it but I am still excited to teach investigators. We planned for our next week and with some "green fire" added to the mix we increased our goals for this next week! (green fire is what a new missionary has because they are greenies and are overly excited to teach baptize) Tracting in Africa is great, I honestly just have to hold a pamphlet in my hand and people will ask for it, and as you are talking to someone, others will gather around and want to listen as well. Most of our lessons are taught outside of homes. We say "tock tock tock" outside the door and then the residents bring out chairs for us to sit on.  It’s great!  We mostly take taxis to and from or the buses. All the taxis are small Toyota Corollas and the buses are simply Toyota Vans with dozens of people in them. The roads are crazy - it is honestly like a race track here. You can pass or be overtaken at any moment and drivers will go 40-60 down a road that is two lanes. There are basically no rules in driving here - which I love! (Julius has always dreamed of being the future “STIG” race car driver) 

On Saturday we taught English class and I absolutely loved it! I was so excited when I heard we’d get to teach and it gets to be in English.  Then I realized we had to teach English principles in French - A language that I don’t really know yet. But even without the French language I still loved it and thought it was great!

The food isn’t bad actually. We make all our own meals so it’s usually western food. The only African dish I had with my companions is peanut sauce. It’s basically an oily peanut butter with vegetables and chicken in it. It’s good if it is eaten in small amounts. One of the elders in our apartment lost 60lbs already! I can’t afford to lose that (haha) but I’m okay - no health problems and no need to be worried.  I am in good hands. I am not sure what else to tell you. We are teaching about 5 lessons a day and have 10 investigators, 3 of which are progressing. Something that surprised me was that some investigators who have attended church, literally every Sunday or who have a baptismal date haven’t been visited in about a month. ???  I guess our schedule is just so busy. Apparently I was compared to the “greenie” in the movie "The Best Two Years" because I’m very excited about baptisms and contacting.  Which I really am! So if that’s what is considered to be a very “green” elder, than I am the greenest of them all! With our increased goals this week it should be a good one! I love all of you and think about you often. 

Elder Julius Johnson

06-27-13 Wheatley's Send Additional Info About Area Julius Is Serving In

Dear Brother and Sister Johnson,
Once again, thanks for sharing your son with us.  We are Elder and Sister Wheatley serving as a senior couple in Pointe Noire.  We are in month nineteen of eighteen. (Senior Couples usually serve 18 month missions) We prayer each day that someone is being prepared to replace us. It’s not uncommon to have lapses in these African cities.  

Elder Wheatley grew up on a dairy farm outside of Preston, Idaho and Sister Wheatley grew up on the banks of Puget Sound in Olympia, Washington.  We have called Clinton, Utah home for the past thirty-three years.

The Republic of the Congo is a third world nation, but the happiness of the people makes up for the lack of material things.  I have been for more traumatized by seeing people standing in line at a food kitchen in the dead of winter in Salt Lake City, than anything I have seen here.  At least we know that no one is going to freeze to death.  We are in the cold dry season now, and while we rejoice when we feel a cool morning breeze, many of these people put on winter coats.

There are three branches in the Church here.  We think maybe one of them is ready to split which would allow them to form a district. (The LDS Church organizes areas similar to school districts, with several wards or branches in an area that belong in a Stake / District / Area etc. /1 Corinthians 14:33 and 40) We are very careful not to give our leaders advice on these matters. We trust their judgment and know that all things are done according to our Father in Heavens schedule. This is a very big mission area.  It covers part of the (DRC) Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo, (ROC) Gabon, Central African Republic (CAR), Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea. There are Stakes in Kinshasa (DRC), and Brazaville (ROC). Branches in DRC, P.N., Gabon and CAR. Importantly, Cameroon is one that your son will likely serve in, since there are two cities there and one here where Caucasian elders can serve! Typically, elders serve in both Republic of Congo and Cameroon during their two years, but there is no guarantee of that.  We totally believe in the inspiration of our Mission President for the decisions about where elders need to serve. It’s next to impossible for the mission president to stay on top of all these branches and take care of the missionaries by himself. Therefore; senior couples are here to help watch over them. Patience is the watch cry here.

We have a post box here. One of the Elders gets a postcard from home almost weekly.  Letters and small-small packages sometimes get here. A small package arrived two weeks around ago (June 13th 2013) that was mailed in October 2012. Large packages are usually destroyed by rats if they contain food and are very expensive to retrieve.  Please do not send mail to the Democratic Republic of the Congo Mission home. The address to the mission home in Kinshasa is too available on the internet, but the mission president has to pay a couple of dollars for each letter and then be responsible to deliver it. (Just an extra burden in such a large area)  We usually communicate via e-mail since we have power most of the time. The missionaries can only email on Monday (Personal Day / P-Day) There is no cost for letters or small packages sent here to the P.O. Box in Pointe Noire. Bigger packages cost us about $10.00 to retrieve but if they have food in them the rats will usually destroy the package.  If you go to Sister Wheatley's blog you will see what happened the one time our children tried to send her some supplies. Letters usually take three to four weeks to arrive. Packages take about two months. Another reason we discourage packages is that the Elders have often been transferred to Cameroon by the time the package arrives here.  When that happens we have to rely on the next missionary being transferred to that area to hand carry it to your Elder.  There is no way for us to forward mail or packages.

Sister Wheatley's blog address is  missioninthecongo.blogspot.com

Thanks Elder Wheatley