Sep 23, 2013

09/23/13 What Do You Call an Alligator in a Vest?

An Investigator!! HaHa

The adventures in Africa continue as normal.  We went to a lake last Monday and romped around the "back-woods of Africa" haha. I played football with some Africa boys and by the end they were catching everything I could throw.  So that was a good start to the week and we have had some other great experiences.

The family from Ghana is doing fantastic.  This week we asked them to ask God if the Book of Mormon is true in their prayers and they said they received a response.  The young daughter said she had a dream the night she prayed where two angels who came to her and asked her about the Book of Mormon.  She shared more details and explained her feelings, she thought that was an answer and that it was true.  Because of the feelings she described we assured her it was real revelation. The mother also prayed, and when she did she said she heard a voice tell her, "This is the thing you have been searching for your whole life".  The father is a member and so now we are working on the marriage problem with them.  It’s incredible how quick prayers can be answered when we just have a little faith.

Elder Baker left for Mpaka branch on Friday, but Lundberg (my new companion) was nowhere to be found!  He has been having visa problems like everyone else, so he can’t get into the country.  So that has left me working with branch missionaries this week.  To explain the nature of this situation you should know that branch missionaries are natives, so English is a little shaky, and they are all recent converts.  Thursday night I was decently nervous to be in charge of my entire sector (which is half of Pointe Noire, the biggest of the sectors here) and so I spent a lot of time kneeling at the side of my bed in prayer.  Remember I have only been in the field 3 months.  But the next morning, I got up went to work.  My temp companion and I taught 6 lessons and finished preparations for the baptism.

The Lord definitely qualifies whom he calls.  I think Heavenly Father wants me to grow a little more right now.  These last few days have pushed my French skills to the limit but now I’m speaking with greater fluency and clarity.  Side note - because I speak French, literally all day with the branch missionary, I will sometimes think in French!  This week we have a lot going on, baptisms, branch activities, lessons, but I am confident it will go perfectly fine!

So we were expecting 4 baptisms but we ended up with 3.  The 4th person hadn’t finished some things he needed to do to be completely forgiven and ready for baptism. (which, by the way, I sat in to translate for that special interview.   Although I never want to do that again, repentance makes a visible difference afterward).  But we had 3 wonderful people baptized and the 4th will be baptized next week, which makes me very excited!

Mountali was a young girl about 14 who was baptized.  She was the very first person I ever taught here in Africa!  She is shy but we have seen how animated and happy she is when we discuss the gospel.  On her baptismal day, I definitely saw that happiness amplified in her and everyone else.  She is the niece of the Elders Quorum President here and should be a solid member as she grows up. 

Beatrice, is another young lady who has been coming to church for 6 months but she lives so so far out that it was difficult for missionaries to teach her.  I talked with Elder Baker and we figured out a plan to help her finish the discussions and get her baptized.  She is very good friends with Mountali!  That’s something that I am learning is so important………..BE A FRIEND TO RECENT CONVERTS!  LOVE THEM!  The church is a new life style and they depend on us more than I ever realized.  Beatrice has such a sweet spirit and now we are teaching her family because she has set such a good example for them!

Laurick, is a 17 year old young man who has been dropped multiple times by missionaries because it was believed his motives were based on learning English.  We taught him again and we found that in honesty his motives were more than pure.  We learned that he already lives a life in harmony with the Gospel and that he truly wanted to find the church.  He told us he wanted to be baptized because he found only good things in our church.  I feel a personal connection with and am excited to see how he progresses. 

Those are the amazing people we have baptized this weekend.  Although I can’t provide all the details about them, it is incredible to see how people come from so many situations but are all led to the same point, Christ.  I definitely feel my testimony growing in breadth and depth each day.  I think before my mission I knew pretty well about the redeeming power of the atonement.  But out here I think I am learning more about the enabling power of the atonement.  Until next week, I hope all is going well at home.  I love you all so much and hope you are having the success you deserve.  (and also the unmerited blessings you need)

Elder Johnson

PS – Don’t worry mom, I am fine and you don’t need to send anything.  And if you do, I might have to pay a lot for it anyway, so don’t worry.  I love you guys!

Sep 22, 2013

09/16/2013 Happy As A Clam!

I was not transferred – I’m staying in the Pointe Noire branch!  But I’ll be receiving a new companion from Cameroon –Elder  Lundberg.  I am very excited to work with him. I’ll have to be the leader around the area since I know where everyone lives.  Luckily he speaks French very well.  So watch out Pointe Noire it's Johnson and Lundberg now!  haha   Elder Baker will remain in Pointe Noire and have a new companion also. 
Happy early Birthday to dad!!  I have it written in my planner so I won’t forget.  Thanks for teaching me to work hard and always put in my very best. It helps so much on a mission to have that mentality - so thanks dad for all you do not only for me but also the family! I love you!
We are teaching a lot of families now.  We have 3 new families we are teaching.  One is legally married and  another is from Ghana!! We also found a Code de la Famille, and so we have been studying that like crazy. Sadly - we are finding that the laws are actually really good.  It’s just that no one keeps the laws and there is no way to enforce them. We might need a miracle on this one, but we are still studying and trying to come up with solutions to the DOT. Missionary work is truly a family affair (it includes both you at home and here in Africa)
We have 4 baptisms this week which is getting us excited. So to answer your questions, although Pointe Noire is a coastal city - the sea is used for oil drilling. It’s full of massive cargo ships and oil rigs. The thing is that food is not un-findable but it’s just very plain and lacks nutrition. For example, manioc, it’s just flour and roots but is filling. i don’t really know the solution to the social problems here in Africa, but it seems like the Gospel helps! (thank Ferious for offering to send his fishing poles, that was kind)
i am trying to send pictures today so this will be all for now. We are doing well and I am as happy as a clam here!
Elder Johnson

Sorry - pictures didn’t load and I will try to start making my emails more spiritual. After all, a mission is full of spiritual insights that could help with everyone at home.  Love you and everyone at home.  Please make sure everyone knows I appreciate the prayers and emails!


Julius Johnson

Sep 9, 2013

09/09/2013 The Traditional "Feu" for the Passing of Loved Ones.......

To answer a few questions…..All of church is in French and so I only sing hymns in French and I absolutely love it!  I’ve already memorized some of the popular hymns. I love French, even though I don’t speak it perfectly - it has definitely become a part of my identity.  Also, we don’t eat in the sector (Mbota).  We study all morning and eat lunch and then go work in the sector from 12-7pm each day.  Also our baptism this week fell through!! Alpha just never showed up this week and so we couldn’t finish lessons or get him interviewed.  But we’ll try again - who knows.  I love all my investigators!  From the oldest 60 year old to the 19 year old kids! They are all amazing and equally special to me.  We have a massive baptism in 2 weeks - 7 candidates, we are excited!

We searched all over town, literally, for a Code de la Famille and couldn’t find it.  It’s a very rare book that is out of print so we are keeping our eyes peeled.  We didn’t make it to the Mayor’s office but we’ll keep moving along.  So we also had an opportunity to do a service project - we helped a less active move from one place to another.  Who would have thought - church moves in Africa! haha It reminded me of all the moves we have participated in as a family on Saturday mornings for members of the wards in Denver.  I am so thankful that I was raised in a home that taught values of service! I am definitely happiest when I am serving. 

It was a slower week this week. We had some missed rendezvous, Sometimes because we were stuck in a bus for 2 hours!! (and Pointe Noire is not that big) but sitting in buses and walking miles on end is part of this glorious work here. : ) 

Also I received your post card. That’s crazy to think about Elder Helewell and Kafauna. (missionaries that came to our door in 2006 and helped bring our family back into activity in the church) That was so so long ago!  Who would have thought their lessons would later lead to a missionary in Africa?! 

We had a man from Ghana that apparently lives here, come to church.  He bore his testimony yesterday and told a really cool story…..He moved here from Ghana and was a member already. He didn’t know the church was in Pointe Noire, but one night he had a dream where two missionaries told him to go to the "commune de Mvou-mvou".  So that Sunday he went to the commune, and began asking around for the "American church".  He was directed the back of the commune where the church building is located!  This week he returned and brought his wife and daughter!  It is incredible that God can direct the entire church as a whole, and yet care enough about us to direct us each personally! These are the kinds of people I have been able to rub shoulders with on my mission! And i love it!!

Jeanella and her family are dealing with the mother’s death well.  The family has had to split because of living costs but they are still coming to church. We went over there this last week and taught them and they are progressing! Gilberto said he would stop drinking, so we will see how that develops - we have confidence in him!  We also helped them burn all the mother’s belongings as is tradition: clothes, books, pictures, everything.  At one point we had a pretty good feu (fire) going, and as you can imagine we were very hot in church clothes. 

Elder Johnson!

PS - We get transfer letters this week so I’ll let you know soon if I am changing areas. (Every 3-6 months missionaries can be transferred to new areas or matched with a new companion.)

Sep 3, 2013

09-03-2013 Picture Perfect!

PS - We get transfer letters The Wheatlie's uploaded more pics today on their blog.  I"m sure they won't mind me "borrowing" these to share.  The great about Julius is that he has always been willing to lend a helping hand with a smile on his face - no matter what the task is. I miss his help around the house, nut while he's gone it has given his siblings a chance to remember how to help. 

In preparation for Zone Conference, the elders and Wheatlie's got together and helped each other with 'deep cleaning' projects at the elder's apartments, like windows and patios and porches....then we had lunch together. 

Elder Julius helping with lunch dishes at Zone Conference - no matter how simple the meal, there are always dishes to be done.  We had pulled pork sandwiches, apples, baked beans, potato salad and cookies - all of which were made ahead of time so no one would miss out on any of Zone Conference. 

Zone Conference with our General Authority Seventy

Our Zone Conference picture.  Back row:  Elders Baker, Christiansen, Brockbank, Mukadi, Lavering, Porter and Johnson.  Middle row:  Elder Cook, Elder Ntambwe, Sister and President Cook.  Front row:  Sister Cook, Elder and Sister Wheatley.

During a recent District Meeting, Elder Wheatley arranged for a plumber to come and fix a leaky bathroom sink pipe.  He can and it took only a few minutes, so he was paid and left.  Not long after, one of the elders kept looking through the doorway into the bathroom and finally said that he thought it was leaking kidding, soon there was a constant stream of water which had to be mopped mopped up continually until the water to the whole apartment could be stopped. While fixing one piece, apparently the plumber broke some other major parts.  It took another plumber and 2 trips to the market to get parts before it was fixed! Ironically - Elder Wheatley had remarked just a day or so before, that we had not had an emergency crisis for a few days. 

Sep 2, 2013

09-02-2013 The Pickings are Slim

Note from Mom:   I'm so excited!  I was wondering if my poor child was shriveling up from starvation, and a thought came to me to see if the Wheatlie's had posted any pics of the Elders recently.  I listened to that little prompting - and Voila!  I found a picture of Julius and the 7 Elders he lives and serves with. It looks like he's lost a little weight, but is healthy and happy!  Julius is the 3rd from the right and his companion Elder Baker is the 4th from the left. 
Sister Wheatlie's Blog:

Zone Conference with New Mission President

Our new Mission President, President Cook and his wonderful wife, Sister Cook, Elder Wheatley, and our 8 great Missionaries, left to right:  Elder Porter, Elder Mukadi, Elder Lavering, Elder Baker, Elder Brockbank, Elder Johnson, Elder Ntambwe, and Elder Christensen.

It’s been a very long week.  Elder Baker and I are running ourselves into the ground every day.  Basically, we have increased, somehow from 25 lessons a week to 30.  But we are joyfully marching along!  We have a baptismal date this Saturday with a young man - Alpha.  He disappeared for a month or so and we had no clue where he was but then two weeks ago he randomly appeared again.  We began teaching him this Monday again and have taught him every night since. That's been a miracle - Being able to teach someone every night, but we are grateful for that.

So, I tried and African dish called Manioc.  It's basically ground up roots and flour that is boiled and wrapped in leaves. We ate it with peanut sauce.  And it was awful! Literally the worse thing I've tried yet. Basically, it's the consistency of a warm sticky gummy bear. But tasted like rotten lemons and flour.  SO if you are ever in the middle of Africa, don't spend your 500 francs on Manioc! 

Elder Cook (a general authority) stopped by this week.  We had a zone conference with him and it was really great!  We were given the task from him and Elder Bednar, who are over Africa, to figure out a solution to the DOT problem.  The rule here is before baptism a couple must be legally married. But to be legally married the husband must pay a lot of money to the wife’s family - the DOT.  If they aren't legally married, no baptism.  All the other African missions have found a solution or ways around it, except ours.  And Elder Cook said the foundation of the church in Africa must be built upon families, not young single adults. In essence, we (8 Elders) are being asked to break down a thousand year old tradition. As Elder Cook said, "The pickings are slim, and you are all we (the church) has got."  haha  But we set off to do just that. After emailing today - Elder Baker and I are going to search for a legal book in the markets called "la code de la famille" which has all the legal rules on marriage. Today we are also going to go to the Mayor’s office and talk with them about this law. I am not sure if this is coming across clear, but when we break through with this legal thing - it will be a massive massive quantifiable step in the church's progression here!   Also I had a personal interview with Elder Cook, for some reason I was randomly chosen for that.  I would be lying if I said I wasn't pretty happy about that!  He came to church with us Sunday and met the new members and investigators.  I love church leaders!  And just so all you know - I do sustain Thomas S Monson as the Prophet of our church.  :)
So - some fun French for you all back home.  Savez (savy) is the French word for "to know".  That’s why Jack Sparrow says that in Pirates of the Caribbean movies.  Parlez (parlay) is the same way, "to speak".   Also a lot of military words are French.  So - who knew having an older brother so in love with military things would pay off later with my second language!  Now I can speak French in any circumstance and can communicate fine, I don’t understand all the words, but enough to where I can figure out what is being said correctly. 

Thanks for all your love and support!  I should be alright with supplies mom, but thanks for the concern.   I am trying to get pictures sent to you from the Wheatlie’s apartment (senior missionary couple over our area) since it’s not working from the internet cafĂ©.  

Oh ya - to get to Mbota we cram into a small Toyota Camry with 6 other people and drive for 10 minutes out to the area, Then we walk around the area for the day which is about 1 mile between each house :)  That’s how great a mission in Africa is!

Elder Johnson