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

Aug 15, 2013

08-12-13 The "Mbota" is on Fire!

Happy 19th  Birthday  to Julius on Sunday August  11th!

This has been a crazy week again.  But, it’s a good thing we have had plenty of “fruits from our labor”.  I recently wrote that our sector was on fire, which it is, but to continue the analogy - maybe the fire became a bit of a wild fire, and thus we have been working super hard this week. 

First story, an investigator I absolutely love, Urlion was told by his grandfather that he could not meet with us anymore.  So, we stopped by and spoke with the grandfather to try and gain permission to teach Urlion.  We set a rendezvous, came back the next day, only to be told to return later because he had work.  The next day we return half way across the city where he lives, and were not able to meet with him again. But we aren’t giving in!  We left his family with a bunch of brochures about the family. So, task for this week - track down an old man and get permission to teach his grandson. (Note: what is old to a 19 year old missionary is not so old to the rest of us “old folks”.)  I’m sure we will find him and hopefully teach his grandson soon.  

This pattern of absent investigators has continued throughout our investigator pool. We are having difficulty actually seeing people. We set 7 rendezvous a day and realize about 3.  We have made some new plans to change that. Nonetheless, in one transfer I have already taught a total of 129 lessons. Yeah!  That's missionary work!  (A transfer is when a missionary is moved from one area to another. So, for Julius the MTC to Pointe Noire is 1.) But with all that teaching, my French is coming along great.  All the hours of study in the MTC are finally paying off! 

For my birthday (Aug 11th), I was able to stand in the circle for the confirmation of Jeanella!  My very first ever confirmation took place on my birthday, with a very strong member. I couldn’t think of a better person, place or day for that to occur. Also, we have two more baptisms this week. Steven and Djo. They are already just as strong as the members and are more than ready. Steven had his interview and is ready. Djo will be interviewed tonight. So this is looking like a good week as well! (Before Baptism, the investigator is interviewed with specific questions to ensure they understand their commitment to follow the commandments and to continue living those after baptism.)

This is a short email because I’m going to try and send pictures. So yeah, it’s been a great week. A little rough, but no one said missionary work would be easy. We are seeing fruits of our labor every day and every week. "The world has need of willing men, who wear the workers seal", so good thing there are members of the church everywhere! (This is the first line of the song, “Put Your Shoulder to The Wheel” There is a link to it in this blog on the 07-22-13 Post.)

Aug 5, 2013

08-05-13 Est-ce Jeanella est la? (Is Jeanella here?)

This week has been a crazy one, not because of any crazy story but because the work was sort of all over the place. So I’ll simply jump right into the week. 

First, I got a haircut. It’s pretty short, and when I say that I mean really short. But it’s getting back to normal. It was interesting because to even out the edges they put a razor blade on a comb and brush through your hair. People in developing countries are genius. 

So I went on splits with the district leader and that was fun, we taught around the church in his area. Sadly our last rendezvous canceled on us because his sister died and left behind 3 children. There are certain moments when every missionary here is reminded, (I think), of the reality of where we are. Even though most of our time is spent teaching the gospel, which is joyous, we are still in the middle of Africa. With that being said, we also visited a hospital this week, but I will explain that later.

We have had some interesting developments with investigators:

First, Urlion, is a young man who is absolutely a genius. He knows English and teaches math to others in his free time. He was my favorite new investigator by far. Sadly, his parents forbid him from meeting with us. I was heartbroken when I heard that, but we are going to try and talk with them to see what we can do.

We had another new investigator, Triphonel. He’s a nice young man who came to church by himself. At our first meeting we learned that he lives in a polygamist family (so no baptism unless he moves out) and he had slight mental problems, most likely from substance abuse. We are literally at a loss with what to do. We plan for him in weekly planning but we just don’t know. For some people the Gospel will have to come again when circumstances are different. But for now we keep working as best we can. 

Didier, is a bus driver we came across 3 separate times. Heavenly father definitely wants us to meet with him. So we have, and he is doing well. He said after meeting with us he had a dream. In the dream he said someone called out to him and told him to read 1 Nephi 16:39. When he woke up he read the verse and he said it really helped him in his life. So he has a testimony of the Book of Mormon. We’ll see how he progresses. 

An investigator with a baptismal date, Ngasachi, was really sick this week, so naturally we gave him a blessing. It was a really cool experience. By the end of the lesson he was fine. The Priesthood works! 

So on to the biggest portion of this week. Jeanella was baptized this week! She’s a young lady, about 20, and loves the Gospel. She gave us a contact for Anh, who is now the branch clerk. Her brother has also become interested in the Gospel. Jeanella is overall, a great girl, and we expect a long life of activity in the church. Her baptism was great! 25 people showed up from our branch, and it started 30 minutes late.  Which, is incredible for Africa!  The baptism was literally going as planned. The only rough patch was the actually baptism. Jeanella is apparently afraid of water! Note for future missionaries: Make sure to ask your investigators if they are afraid of water. Anh was baptizing her and on the first attempt she didn’t go all the way under, and when she came up she almost fainted as well! Literally! Not even a figurative fainting. We assured her that she could do it, and she returned to the water. The second time she went all the way under. But as soon as her last hair was under she jumped straight out of the water. She was not going to stay under longer than needed. I titled the email as is, because whenever we went to teach Jeanella, we would knock on the door and every time one of her siblings would answer. The first thing Elder Baker would say was, "Est-ce Jeanella est la?" (Is Jeanella here?) So whenever I hear her name Ii think of that phrase. 

Sadly, Jeanella didn’t make it to church Sunday, so she isn’t confirmed yet. Her mother was in the hospital and isn’t doing too well. This is the time we went to visit the hospital. Her mother has lost a lot of weight and was talking to herself. Going to the hospital was very interesting, in a good way. As I told Elder Baker after, “it is a very reverent place”. Everyone is quiet and there is just a different feeling there. We went to the hospital Saturday, and while we were there we were asked to pray for a young boy, Patrick. It was my privilege to offer a prayer for him, after we visited Jeanella's mother. We returned the next day (Sunday) and visited Jeanella, Gilberto, and their mother again. We also learned from the sister of Patrick that the young man had improved and was doing well, as she put it. 

It was a very spiritual week, with a lot happening as you can see. I hope this email makes sense and you enjoy it!  


Elder Johnson

07-30-13 The Power of Prayer

This week was a pretty plain week. Our area is on fire, so to speak!!  I don’t have any crazy stories this time. Nonetheless, I hope this is a good email. 

So, right after I emailed last week we went shopping as usual and then prepared to go to an FHE at Brother Max's house. (FHE = Family Home Evening. Strengthening families is a main focus in the Gospel so the Church has asked that we take time every Monday night to spend time as a family learning of the Gospel and playing/connecting together) They are a great family and have the cutest little girl, Didi.  It was also my first time eating African cooking in an African’s home. The food was seriously noodles and beef paste. It should be noted, I did not know it was beef paste until after I ate. (Julius has always been a picky eater, so it was very adventurous for him to eat something before he knew what it was.) And although all the food was bought at a little side shop down the road it was good. The best part about that night was the activity. In America, FHE usually has an activity like, a movie, or a sport, or board games, etc. In Africa, its yard work. Brother Max took us out to his front yard and showed us what we needed to do. Separate the white sand (for brick making) from the brown sand (this sand is literally everywhere). Elder Baker and I were excited to show them just how great American labor was and grabbed a shovel. I was confident our work would rival that of the Hoover dam. (haha) Well it turned out that we were awful! We kept scooping too deep and kept mixing the sand together. After a few minutes the Africans took control of the situation and had it cleaned up in a few minutes! 

We got to meet with our Mission Pres. and his wife, (President and Sister Cook). He is our new mission president. His personal advice to me was, "Don’t worry your time will come, but for now you are a junior companion."  And then again after they inspected our apartment he reminded me of the same thing. So I will let you know when "my time comes". But what he said was true. I am a junior companion - so for now I will fulfill that role.  

With that being said here is an update on my French:
I can speak during lessons and be understood. I can teach mostly any principle I want and our investigators get the point. Sadly my language is limited to Gospel vocab. I can’t really hold normal day to day conversations yet. But I guess that’s not the most important.  I can gather themes of conversations and can piece things together so that is good, but I am not perfect by far in my French. For now, I am at a decent level, which I am proud of. 

Another update is this week: I got sick for two or three days. Nothing too serious but I did go through a bit of a rough patch physically. But hey, this is Africa! And here is a helpful African tip I have learned - The purpose of a bug net over your bed is negated when a bug gets trapped inside net. (haha) 

So this week at church I had a wonderful experience. We had a goal of 11 investigators at church. We had taught more than twenty lessons and so when Sunday came around we felt confident some would show up. As church started we had NO investigators at church.  At 9:30am we had 2. Church was in progress and we were nowhere near our goal. Knowing we could do nothing physically to help the situation in that moment, I began to pray. Simply, asking Heavenly Father to send one more investigator.  At the end of that prayer, an investigator would walk in to the room! I thought this was great! So I quickly bowed my head and prayed again. Same result not ten minutes later! I offered a lot of prayers yesterday at church. And the result was always the same.  By the end of church we had 15 investigators and 6 less actives!

So this week we are expecting the baptism of Jeanella! She is a great young lady who has already helped bring others to the Gospel. She brought her friend Anh, who is now the ward clerk and also has brought her brother, Gilberto - who we are currently teaching! She is a great person and we have all the confidence in her life-long activity as a member! 

Keep building Zion at home! And until next week, I love all of you!