Jan 26, 2014

01-25-14 Julius is Officially Safe and Sound in Yaounde' Cameroon!!

Just wanted to let you know that we picked up your handsome Elders safe and sound from the bus.  Elder Tripp and Elder Kampoy on Thursday, and Elder Johnson on Friday.  They are getting comfortable in their new apartments. 

We are the Senior couple serving here in Yaounde'.  I keep a "blog", if you are interested in looking from time to time.  I try to keep current pictures of the Elders on there.  It is found at whitesidesinafrica.blogspot.com

Let me know if we can answer any questions you might have.

Sister Whitesides
Yaounde', Cameroon

Welcome Elder Johnson into Bastos!  I still need to get a picture of Elder Tripp and Kampoy in Ekounou!

Jan 21, 2014

01-20-14 I'm Going to Another Country!!

I had some trouble getting into my LDS email account, so this week I’m just sending a short message from this account.  The week has been slow. We don’t have any more baptismal candidates so teaching has been with some less progressed investigators. But this week ended well for a few reasons. 
First, and least important, I bought some cool hats and have built up my collection of hats! Here you can buy some sweet ones for $1.  So I have been keeping my eyes peeled for good ones.
Two, and more importantly, I got a transfer letter today and I AM GOING TO CAMEROON!!! I’ll be in Yaounde working with a younger missionary, Elder Hunt!!  I am so excited to go live in another country. The Congo has been awesome, and I love the people I have met. They are really great people! But for the sanity of my companion, me, and everyone else, I need to change up my location. This Thursday, I’ll take a plane to Cameroon, and from there I’ll be on a bus for a day to Yaounde. All I have to wait for is my passport to get back from Brazzaville, where I am getting Visas and such. Anyway, that is the most exciting news I have for the week - and it’s pretty epic!
PS - I just got a post card from Cassie that was sent before we broke up. All of us were laughing.  : )

Good Bye to the Congo - Point Noire

Jan 19, 2014

01-13-14 God Loves and Cares for Each of Us

I am really glad that you are all doing much better, especially Kaleb and Maya.  That’s good that they are all healed up from the tonsillectomies.  Except for Maya's knee!  I’m sorry that that happened.  I’ve heard it’s painful if it pops out of place.  What were you doing silly?  And how did you fix that?
Fun fact for Kaleb…there are these Canadian kids that skateboard at the church. Their parents are here for humanitarian service and so they need a place to hang out and skate, they chose the church basketball court!
For Ferious and Robert, as missionaries we always look for cool air-soft and paintball spots throughout the town.  There are some cool places we’ve seen before.  I’ve decided that going air-softing with you guys is something I’ll have to do more regularly.  I also remember the anime TV show that Ferious was getting into before I left.  I watched a few episodes with him and it was pretty funny.  Just over the top dramatic and epic haha.  As a side note, all of us missionaries love Adventure Time!!  and  The Regular Show!!  I’m glad I had siblings that liked those shows.  : ) 
Also, new Bishopric!  I think I know Bro. Carole who you’re talking about, the previous first counselor?  If so, he would be an awesome Bishop.  I remember hearing his testimony once before I left.
Don’t worry about sending stuff to me.  I think I’ll just buy shirts here soon.  They’re super cheap ($5) and I can get them in a slim cut so it might just be a win win if I do that!  Thanks for the thought, I appreciate it.
We definitely try and work with less actives here. They can be really hard to get to come back sometimes.  It seems like they go in cycles - month on, month off.  It’s kind of like baby-sitting for them here in Africa.  If you don’t stop by one week they don’t come to church, and if they don’t come to church it’s hard to fix appointments with them and then it just spirals downward.  Working with less active is something I should definitely be better at.  I think that now, I have baptized enough and am more willing to give it a rest for a bit and focus on current members.
Mom, that dream was crazy!  I am very surprised you had that dream. In fact, I read it twice just to make sure I read it right the first time.  These last few weeks it seems like things have been going a little south for me.  I've gotten extremely bored with the same sector and a little bit with Africa.  Plus, my companionship is not doing well.  There’s this stress management book at the apartment and I went through and did a self exam and basically – I’m way too stressed emotionally and spiritually. I am definitely not saying I’m asking for a plane ticket home,   but it’s interesting that you should have that dream the same time things seem to be falling apart for me.  Like I said, I’m still out here and will be for a while, but I think being a missionary in Africa is giving me a run for my money. haha.  I’ll keep you updated and continue to work my hardest out here for the next year!! (Note form Mom – I dreamt that I went to visit a city in Africa about 4 hours from Julius. He showed up at my hotel and said he was ready to go home because he missed listening to music.  I wasn’t disappointed but I was concerned that Julius would not be happy with his decision and I asked him to stay or serve another year in another country.  When I awoke I sat straight up and looked around because it felt so real!  When I typed my weekly email to Julius, I hesitated to type out the dream – I didn’t want to put thoughts in his mind that may not have been there, (power of suggestion).  But I felt such an overwhelming prompting to type the dream out in detail to him.  It just goes to show how Spiritual promptings work and that God is so aware of us and our needs, that He’ll use others to help us if He can.)   
Today we had a little adventure which was kind of exciting.  We went out to the African bush and romped around for the day.  

We followed an old slave trail along the beach and looked at old storage houses for slaves and the port from where they left.  It’s cool because along the trail there are mango trees everywhere.  The reason is because the slaves ate mangoes and then threw the seeds on the side of the trail.  There are also massive bamboo groves in the forests as well.  In fact, me and a few others took bamboo shoots and poll vaulted with them because they are so strong.  haha (I’ll try and get you a picture of me doing that) Today was a fun adventure in the village, sadly no monkeys.  It ended with lunch at a super nice hotel on the beach side.
From this adventure I think I learned something.  I remember talking about starting a rock-climbing company in America, but why not just take people on excursions throughout the World?  I think I’ll seriously consider that for my future!

For this week I think that’s all.  It’s been slow except for today, obviously.  I hope all is going well for you guys there: school, work, fun, and family life!  It sounds like when I get back we’ll need to find some serious adventures to spice things up a bit - for all of our sakes.  I love you guys bunches, thanks for all the support and prayers from across the oceans.

2013 Pictures

12-30-13 The First Joel (Noel)?

It was super awesome to get to talk with you this week on Skype!  I know I was a little awkward but that’s only because I forgot how to talk with Americans.  Honestly conversations in Africa go something like this -
"How are you?"... "That’s good.  How’s your health?"... "It sure is hot today!  haha!"..."But really...how the heck are you?"..."Well I’m happy you’re good."
So you can see how it might be a little hard to hold a real conversation!  But I was super happy to see all of you and know that all is well for you there.  Someone asked me on Christmas if it has been hot here, and this week has been no exception.  Every day of the week has been blisteringly hot!  Simply sweating all day and night. And the only relief we got was sprinkling this morning. 
But despite the heat we had a baptism with an older man - Joel!  We didn’t even teach him one lesson!.....Now before you think I am just baptizing anyone out here, he came from Brazzaville and had been studying with missionaries for 6 months or so already.  He simply moved here and wanted to be baptized.  I got to do the ordinance for him and now I’m getting pretty good at plunging someone in water.  : )  Joel is an awesome guy who will be a great strength to the branch.  What a great present for him on the week of NOEL.
We will be going to the wild life reserve this next week so I won’t be emailing next week if everything goes well. This next paragraph will have things that are funny but not really relevant to missionary work.  We cleaned our apartment today and found a dead little gecko!  Not sure where it was but yeah...always check for dead animals when you clean in Africa.  Also we have mice in our apartment and we found there hiding place!!  Its under an old wardrobe on our patio.  We kept finding the baby mice but not the mom or dad.  So now the war is on!!  When we find babies, we scoop them up in a dust pan and launch them from our balcony into puddles on the road.  We have done this twice now, but the keep reproducing!  It’s a fierce battle.  I’ll keep you updated!

Well, happy new year to all!  I hope you have some fun partying to start off the New Year on a good foot. Hopefully you got my pictures?!  

12-23-13 Merry Christmas from the Congo!

First off I’m so excited to talk with you all on Skype this week!  I’m trying to think of some fun stories to tell you when I get the chance but we will just see.  Also if you have any questions that would be a great time to ask. I know my emails may lack the detail of Africa you want so let me know this Wednesday.  With that said I WILL BE SKYPING CHRISTMAS DAY 8:45AM!  That’s my time to talk with you all.  I know it’s not preferable but that’s how it fell for us.  So be expecting the call sometime around then. : )  Like I said, I’m so excited to talk with you all!
This week was good work wise but kind of normal.  First, I had to take a sick day.  Not too bad, 1 day of rest for 200 days of work.  I was just feeling sick and had a head-ache and a fever so I slept the entire day and that whole night.  But I am much better now!  Probably just some nasty bug I had. (that’s both literal and figurative haha) I’m glad Lundberg is my companion though. He was totally okay with me taking the rest I needed and never complained. I really have come to love Lundberg, sadly he has 10 weeks left so he won’t be around for too much longer. We have been talking and we think that I’ll stay in this sector until he leaves in a few months and then I may leave to another area.
This week we finally earned the branch's respect.  We went out with the relief society president – Aoeur Sandrine - to do some teaching, and it was incredible.  While the zone leader held a baptismal interview for a 14 year old girl, me and Sandrine taught the family and got them excited to try and get married.  Soeur Sandrine is a return missionary from Kinshasa who is 35 and has an awesome family!  Now we have a new friend among the leaders and our work is being accepted by the members and people are really taking to us as a companionship!  It’s great, the Pointe-Noire branch basically feels like my home ward now.  As I hinted at, we had a baptism.  Soeur Merveille.  She is 14 and loves the church.  She has a bunch of friends in the young women’s and already wants to serve a mission.  She joined the church because her father accidentally attended an LDS meeting on Sunday 6 months ago.  He has slowly introduced his family to the church and now we are just waiting on their marriage so that they can be baptized.  Merveille is awesome and I am sure she will be a great strength for her family.
Next week we may be going to a jungle reserve to see some sick animals.  If that is the cause, it will be all day and I won’t be able to email.  So if you don’t get an email, I’m ok - just playing with some monkeys!!
I love you all and hope that the holiday season has been awesome and continues to go well.  Maybe if possible Gabbie could stay until Christmas morning so I can say hi to her.  But I love you all, and am so glad to be in this family.

Until Wednesday,
Elder Julius Johnson

PS – Also, a bus ALMOST hit me!  We were returning home at night and crossing a connection between the main road and a side road, when a bus came hauling down the street and then slammed on the brakes.  I didn’t notice the bus until I felt a tap on my arm and realized it was a bus!  Well, angels round about, right?!

12-18-13 Note From the New Senior Couple

What a privilege and pleasure it is for us to write to you.  You have a right to be so pleased with your missionary.  He is a great young man.  He always appears to be happy and smiles easily and knows what he is about. He is the one who can tell us how to get where ever we need to go in this city.  He brings good thoughts and cheer to us all.  He is very obedient and respectful.  His testimony is strong and he is always willing.  This is a group of elders "above the notch".  They all seem to be healthy.  I checked his apartment today and he passed the cleanness test!  He seems to take good care of his person and his clothes.  He never misses an opportunity to share the gospel with the great people of this land.  It is a crazy place but Pointe Noire is more secure than the center of the mission.  They all get along well--and have a sense of humor—an essential in this mission. Merry Christmas to you all.  We will have the elders for Christmas Dinner and they will Skype with you.  We assume all of that is set up.  We go back to the DRCongo in January and a new couple comes.  We were here just as an interim between couples.  We will miss them all.  We hope to meet the families of "our elders" one of these days. Thanks for teaching him correct principles.  It shows!

With love,
Elder and Sister Bybee

12-16-13 7 Months Down!

Just like you this week has been kind of boring for us. We have had some great lessons and such but just sort of work as normal. Lundberg and I ended the transfer with 103 lessons taught or so in total – so not too bad. As the year is coming to a close we are ready to start again with new investigators and new adventures.  But for now it’s same old same old.
President Cook came to town this weekend to hold a Branch Conference.  Just sustaining all the leaders and such.  And he also did some of our interviews.  My interview with him was good - we just talked about nothing for a bit.  Then he told me he wanted me to try and start getting up at 5:30am from now on because, we have to be in earlier than other missionaries.  Psh!  That is not likely to happen.  We already work extremely hard and are the highest baptizing mission in the world - I think we are earning all our blessings.  As always, president and I remain distant friends.  For once in my life I am the black sheep. haha. (Note from Mom – Its comments like this that make me realize that, although Julius is a much better 19 year old than I was, he is still 19 and pride is still something to be work on.)  
So for Christmas Skyping….We talked with the couple and we’re trying to make a plan.  Either we will Skype Christmas Eve (night here) so it will be Christmas Eve (morning there), or we Skype on Christmas day (night here) so Christmas day (morning there).  It’s up to you to tell me what time will work best for you and we will try and Skype then.  So in your next email I need to know when you want to do it.  Also I need your Skype account information so we can friend you from here.  So to recap - pick a time when you want to try and Skype and send me you information so we can set it up next Monday and Skype middle of the week.  Hopefully that is a little clear but we will definitely be talking on Christmas which I am excited for!   
As you all are getting ready for Christmas, I wanted to let you know I love you all - everyone.  Being in Africa definitely shows me just how much I enjoy being in this specific family.  There’s not another like it in the world, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.  So Mother, you’re right again, I certainly chose this family in the pre-existence.  I love you guys bunches and can’t wait to talk to you soon.  Have a fantastic week and I will try to think of some good things to tell you over Skype!

Love you,
Elder Julius Johnson

P.S. - Thanks for the pdf files I asked for mom. Love ya!

12-09-13 We Are Still 19 Year Olds

It’s been a crazy week so far and there have been some fun stories to share.  So first off, thanks for responding about what’s happening in America!  All the missionaries here found that we’ve become more patriotic about our Country.  All the scriptures about America are marked in red, white, and blue. 
So - no transfers.  And that’s not a bad thing really. I love Elder Lundberg and so staying with him was my second choice.  So, all is well for me.  : )  I’m thinking that I’ll stay here for 2 more transfers until Lundberg goes home in March. Maybe after that I’ll move. My first choice was Gabon.  Gabon is a country that was just dedicated and missionaries finally got permission to enter the country and join the branch that has already been formed there.  Sadly that was not my lot and I’ll not be opening up a country.  Kinda bummed about that, but I’m sure I’ll get a chance to work there in the coming year. 
I baptized another person this week.  Chanelle, is a 19 year old girl who was extremely excited to be baptized. She was a contact from other elders a while ago.  She moved into our sector and then didn’t show any real interest.  But after she read the Book of Mormon for the first time something sparked in her and she prepared herself for baptism basically!

With all the work we have also had some fun.  For starters we have made a new game.  It’s basically close quarters combat soccer!  We clear out our living room, which is not too big and then set two dining room chairs on opposite walls. The goal is in between the two legs!  So it turns into a game of kicking each other's feet and ankles and getting lucky with shots. Our floors are made of tile so we have given ourselves blisters from sliding bare-foot on the tile!  Yup, we are still 19 year old boys.  Haha.  Also I have enhanced my sewing skills.  Last night I turned a pair of those blue kakis into a pair of perfectly slim shorts!  Hemmed properly and by my own hands!  Even in Africa you can have great fashion!