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