Mar 7, 2015

01/26/15 A Week of Faith

So this “Week of Faith”, as I’m calling it, didn’t work out too well. I think as I’ve already explained, all of our amis have disappeared. Their phones don’t work or they have moved away without leaving a single trace. That means that every day we fix a plan of houses we will pass by and simply hope that they will be there – most of the times that doesn’t work out!  I think in total we had 9 lessons this week. Yeah, pretty low. And the worst part is its dry season, which means it’s SO hot out here, and we spend most of the day outside walking from place to place. Seems like I’m in for some hard work until the end.
Flipping through my agenda I’m not seeing any crazy stories or lessons that we had. So instead, I’ll tell you about some cool lessons I learned. One important lesson that I’ve learned from my experiences this week – making and acting on plans is important. The reason I say that is because this week we attended Branch Council. I should explain, that lately the branch has had too many problems. One could say it’s “dysfunctional”.  As missionaries we’re trying to work hard with leaders to kick it into gear – and that’s why we went to branch council – to help with the plans that the leaders are making. Now to give the setting.
In the new building there is no electricity, so no wall fans or air-conditioning, and as previously explained it’s dry season, so it’s hot. Well the meeting starts late and everyone is a little on edge to begin with. We spent an hour and a half listening to people complain and murmur and do all manner of things other than making plans to fix problems. Conversations went like this: “Ohh, this church is so disorganized, all these electrical problems. Why do we have to be in this building!?”; when they should’ve gone like this “Ok we don’t have electricity, Brother --- will you please call temporal affairs and inform them of our problem.”
Another conversation went like this, "We don’t have our manuals for 2015!  Your leaders (branch presidency) are so unorganized. Where are our manuals?" Well if you were listening you would've heard the missionary couple say that the manuals have been at the airport since October 2014!  BUT the government isn’t releasing them from customs. So what do you want us to do?"  These kinds of conversations really didn’t lead anywhere.
So that’s why I said, I learned that making and acting on plans is so important. How can you ever fix problems when you don’t make plans?  It does no good to simply talk about problems. Like the expression goes, “don’t cry over spilt milk.” That lesson even applies to us as missionaries. For example, I said at the beginning that none of our amis are available (problem), and to fix it I need to make plans. The plan that came to mind was something that Elder Ballard told missionaries, talk to at least 10 new people every day. So there we go, I’ve got a plan – talk with 10 people on the roads a day. Now the hard part is following up and accomplishing the plan; which is what I’ll be working on this week!

Another experience that I had was, learning to accept correction. The assistants came to visit us this weekend, which is a first for my mission - thus far, I hadn’t ever seen them in person. From the get-go I was not a fan of the senior assistant. Just the way he acted and talked with other missionaries wasn't working for me. Well, Saturday we hold a meeting and basically it was a meeting to remind us of all the things we are doing wrong. Ohh boy, can’t wait to go to that one! haha

We were asked, why we aren’t writing full in-depth reports to the mission president. Being totally honest, I raised my hand and said, well I get the impression that the president doesn’t even read what I write. So if he doesn’t care, why would I write him a full on report? Now, in my head that was a flawless argument haha. Then this senior assistant responded (remember, I’m not a fan of this dude). “Elder Johnson, the mission president isn’t obliged to respond to what you say, but it's your responsibility to write him a report of your progression!”
Critical hit to my pride - and in front of all the other missionaries - even worse! I sat there for 10 minutes or so, thinking that this meeting was pointless. But then, I was reminded of something Elder Oaks said in a general conference, "It's time we stop thinking about our rights, and start thinking about our priesthood duties." I remember underlining that in the magazine and thinking, ohh that's nice advice - then storing it away for some later time. And that is when I realized - "Hey Elder Johnson, you really need to give better reports to the president, after all it is your duty, even if he doesn’t respond."
Well, humbly I internally admitted that the assistant was right and resolved to do better. Definitely a hard lesson to learn, no one ever wants to admit; yeah I am wrong. But correction is necessary to grow. Especially when the spirit confirms that you need to change.
Well that’s a bit of what I’m experiencing with the work out here. It was good to get an update from all you guys. Sounds like everyone is doing good stuff! Let the siblings know I’m proud of all their recent achievements and successes. Keep working hard in the family and I’ll keep you posted on my progress out here. I love all you guys!

One the new church building. It's kinda hard to get a good picture because there isn’t a lot of space between the house and surrounding walls.
And two, the Basketball court at the American school! I called Jim, and he set up a time for us to come play. So Monday night around 7pm we got to play some sick games of b-ball! Jim actually knows a lot about the church, apparently he played church ball as a young 18 year old.

Mar 1, 2015

02/23/15 Working Hard for the Last 9 Weeks of 2 Years

 Sorry I didn’t get a chance to send an email to y’all last week – no internet! Well that happens sometimes but, I’m perfectly fine health-wise!  It’s good that the siblings are doing well and having fun together – like you said I’m excited to join in when I get back.
The work out here has been very good. After the first week of “white-washing” we have mastered the sector and met the majority of the amis. In fact, last week we had almost a perfect week of rendez-vous! That means pretty much everyone who fixed a rendez-vous with us kept it – which has been nice. We are currently teaching this little family. The dad is a member but the others aren’t. So we are teaching his four little boys. Wellingstone, Christian, Edward, and Godlove. They are 15, 13, 11, and 9 years old. It reminds me of when we were taught by the missionaries just that now I’m on the other side : )  They’re planning to be baptized on the 21st of March. We have some other amis that are preparing for baptism, but we need to iron out some problems.
The biggest problem we have been facing with amis AND members is personal scripture study. NO ONE is reading the Book of Mormon. Our amis just don’t really care for it and were never taught the purpose of reading it. Obviously someone can’t be baptized if they aren’t reading this book because how can they say “I know Joseph Smith is a prophet and this church is true” when they have never read the proof that holds it all together? It’s like someone who can say “1-2= -1” but doesn’t really understand why that’s the case. (They are just repeating what the teacher told them). So with that I’ll take some time to congratulate you and encourage. Good job on reading the Book of Mormon - Ferious and Maya and Mom and Robert and I hope Gabbie, Drew, and Kaleb! I’m proud of you for taking the initiative to do so and I know your testimonies of the Savior will grow. Now if you ever stop reading this book or become weak in your engagement I invite you to reengage to read it! I’ve noticed that everyone who I’ve met on my mission, who has some struggles with the church or worthiness or inactivity, has one thing in common –they stop reading the Book of Mormon. So keep up the reading :)
Some things in this mission have changed since I last emailed you. First we are now getting up at 5:30 and going to bed at 9:30. So our days are super fast paced because once we get home we have to make dinner and eat and then it’s bed time. As well we have a new rule on emailing. Only 1 hour as opposed to 2 and we are no longer to write ANYONE OTHER THAN OUR IMMEDIATE FAMILY! That was a really unpopular rule at first haha. But gotta be obedient. So my emails might get shorter and let anyone know that if I’m not responding it’s because now I literally can’t!
Also about BYU, So I went onto the site and learned that my Ecclesiastical Endorsement was expired, which could’ve blocked a lot of things in the registration process. I emailed my mission president and he took care of it – so now I have an endorsement and hopefully that is all taken care of. As long as I can register for classes then it’s all good :) I love all you guys bunches! I’ve started caring around a photo of all the siblings in my scriptures and everyone we teach loves seeing our family haha. Although I’ll say we need to take a new family photo when I get home because in the one I have, I look like a little baby haha. Well. have a fantastic week. And be safe – remember Kaleb, you gotta stay alive at least until your graduation so I can see you get the diploma. So no more car accidents. I love all you guys.=
Ps – Please keep the blog updated for the LAST 9 WEEKS!

Our zone right before Elder Colindres left.

My poor shoes - they should be thrust down to "heel" haha.
 My new sector
 A cool tree. 
 Banana leaves
 And a cool abandoned house by the river.
 So walking around we found a sign on a house that read "neighborhood of Johnson". Who knew I had my own neighborhood out here!
A really nice family that I left in the other sector. 

02/09/15 Just Mandefu

The news about the Book of Mormon, is probably the best thing that I’ve heard all week! That’s awesome that you guys are trying to finish the book of Mormon before I get home – I’m actually working on the same thing out here. So it’ll be perfect, our next read through will be a as a family! The Book of Mormon is  definitely a powerful book and I always feel the spirit when I read it, so I hope you feel the same. To get you even more pumped to read the book, I suggest you go watch a talk given by John Bytheway titled “Heros of the book of Mormon”. I’m sure you can find it on youtube, it’ll get you even more excited and pumped to finish the book! Best of luck on the endeavor.
So with my new sector, I’m still with the same senior couple – the Colemans.  All because I’m still in the same city, just another branch and new area.  As for the work it’s been HARD!  We’re doing what is termed a “white-wash”. That means that both elders are new and don’t know anything about the area. Luckily it’s a smaller area, so it’s less likely that we get lost. Because we are both new, we have been working really hard to meet as many people as possible before this week started. It’s been good fun though, we’ve met some people who are awesome and others who are just there. But I’ll keep you updated on how that progresses. The new companion is whatev’s. Not really leaving any serious impressions on me. I really wanted to finish with an American but it looks like that won’t be the case. His name is Madefu and he is from the same village as some other missionaries out here. Strangely all the missionaries from this village are similar in their loudness, reasoning, speech, and obedience. The branch is better than what I left, but it’s a branch which means it’s got some work to do. Yesterday, church went over by 30 minutes. Just people going on and on with these long sermons. Well we have one person who is preparing for baptism soon, like I said I’ll let you guys know.
Cool experience from the week came yesterday, we had been at church (which is kinda frustrating, if you haven’t gotten the hint yet) and then went to teach this guy named Lobé. Lesson starts good and I’m thinking that we would have a sweet rendez-vous. Well this guy and his friend just start mocking everything we taught and are acting stupid. Times like that just upset me for the rest of the day. Our lesson was on prayer and how God answers prayers, to which they laughed. Well the day ended later, having been a stressful one. While making dinner – power goes out! And sometimes the power can stay out for the night. Well dinner paused and I flopped onto a foam mattress in the living room – at this point I was just ready to go to bed. Ohh, did I add it’s the hot season so even at night it’s hot – and no power means no fans or air-conditioning. Flopped on the mattress, I said a prayer that went something like this “Heavenly Father, it’s been a really long and stressful day. Could you please just give us power this night, so we can make dinner and rest from the long work of week we’ve had? In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.” And as soon as I said amen, the power came back on! Absolutely incredible. Proof from the lesson I taught 4 hours earlier that day – God hears and answers prayers. Another tender mercy of the Lord.
Well thanks for trying to take care of all that BYU mess over there. I went on today and got my ecclesiastical letter form ready and sent it to my mission president today as well. I guess we got to get serious about preparing for back to school already. Well do whatever you can reasonably do now and I’ll come home and take care of the rest. Thank you for all the financial support on dealing with this!
Hope that this week is exciting and enjoyable.

02/02/15 Grandpa Johnson

This has been another week of work – nothing too incredible. But I do have news! I got transferred again – WOOOOOHOOOOO. Although I have been more than happy to work with the members in this branch, change is always good. Especially after having walked the same streets for 8 months day in and day out. So I’ll be moving to Bonaberi, the side of the city on the other side of the river. Now that is the good news I have. The bad part of this transfer, is that I’m working with another African. Honestly, I don’t know why I’m so surprised, I mean this is the fifth time this has happened! (I would venture to add, maybe even a mission record)
Well, all that change will be taking affect Wednesday. As well, Elder Colindres, a good friend of mine, will be going home Wednesday – officially making me the oldest missionary out in the field. Or the “grandpa” as we call it!  If you’ve lost count, I’ve got two more transfers left (12 weeks). So not long at all. As well, I heard that the mission president wants all the missionaries to spend there last transfer in Brazzaville Congo. If that is the case – then this mission is going to end soooo fast. I guess we’ll find out together.
This week I’ve had some good experiences – just small things that you pick up throughout the mission. One was what I talked about last week. Making and achieving plans. Well, this week Elder Mwehu and I made and achieved amazing plans. Although the work didn’t change immediately, I was proud of what we did.

01/12/15 Nothing of Special Report

 There’s always so much news every week. Especially coming from Maya and Kaleb! So how exactly did Kaleb crash his car and is he alright? That reminds me of that time I almost drove the van off the freeway entry ramp while driving to seminary in the snow!  Good thing the insurance is willing to pay for the repairs. Congrats to Kaleb as well on finishing school (and finishing early even).
The week out here was less stressful with my companion and overall just a good week of work. I don’t recall any amazing stories or incredible lessons. We just worked.
So I love teaching people, but if I had to choose I would rather not teach Adventists. I believe I’ve told you guys about this church before. It’s also known as the seventh day church. And basically the doctrine that makes them special is: the Sabbath day is on Saturday (the seventh day of the week) and not Sunday. The problem is no matter what you try and talk about the conversation is always drawn back to Sunday and Saturday. This week we started (and also stopped) teaching two Adventists. Our conversations usually went like this,
“Alright, like we said Joseph Smith was a Prophet.” – missionaries
“What was so special about him?” - investigator
“Like we said, he saw God and Jesus and received the power of God to baptize.” – missionaries
“What did he say about Sunday?” - investigator
“We’ll talk about that later, but right now you need to pray to learn if his story is true. Because once you know he is a prophet, you will know his teachings are from God as well.” – missionaries
“If he said the Sabbath is Sunday, then he Isn’t a prophet because God doesn’t change his words.” - investigator
“The way to know if really he was a prophet is to read the book of Mormon…”  – missionaries
“God said Saturday is the Sabbath day and Sunday comes from a pagan holiday.” - investigator
“Right we understand what you are saying but, just focus on Jospeh Smith right now…”“Why are we talking about Joseph Smith?” – missionaries
“Because if he was really a prophet, everything he said for us is true, even Sunday worship.” – missionaries
“Yes, I believe Joseph Smith is a prophet but Sunday…” - investigator
“No you don’t believe he is a prophet, if you truly believed he was a prophet, then you would accept everything he taught. So you need to pray and read the book of Mormon to learn.” – missionaries
“NO, Joseph Smith is a prophet from the devil!” - investigator
And so went all of our lessons. I think you can see why we dropped them as investigators. It was a fun “sparing match”. It helped us come up with new ways to explain the Gospel and fight ridiculous logic, but they weren’t progressing and we were wasting time. That’s one thing I wish I would’ve known at the beginning of my mission – when people aren’t reading the little 10 page brochures we give them, and especially when they aren’t praying between lessons; just drop them and move on, they aren’t serious. It’s one thing for amis to have a tough time believing or feeling the Holy Ghost, and another when people can’t even put in an effort. Well the work is fun and I enjoy it.
We finally have a bualding that is ready for our meetings. We went searching for it yesterday and it is really nice. I think that will be good for members to have a building so they can feel the spirit. Holding church in the “basement” has kinda thrown the little order that there was in the church, out the window. So it’ll be good to formally hold church at our church building.
9am church is the best! I’ll be happy to keep that schedule when at home. As well, I’m excited for the snow/cold.  On the issue with the lost credit card and western union card, I think the best way to do it now is just send it through western union directly. I can go to a western union here and pick it up. Missionaries in the past have done that and it seems to work pretty well.
Well, I’m glad everyone is okay and Kaleb isn’t dead. Keep working hard everyone : ) Thanks for all the support, I’m proud of all your accomplishments over these past 2 years.
ps - Because I’m serving in the best city to buy souvenirs, start sending me all your requests so I can make a full list. Whatever you want I'll try and find in my free time.

01/05/15 Some Weeks

Some weeks are stressful as a missionary. Especially when working as Elder Cook put it, "On the front lines, where the pickings are slim and you (the missionaries) are all we got."  Like I said over our skpye session, working in a tiny branch is frustrating most of the time. The church is moving locations, our old lease was up and the owner wanted to sell us the building for an extremely high price - so the church bailed out of that situation. Which meant that Tuesday, we needed to move all the chairs, benches, and pulpits out of the old building and into the new. So just like our family always did in the "good old days", I participated in another church move.
Tuesday we arrived at the church at 10am. Within a few minutes a handful of members showed up. With no moving truck or priesthood leader to tell us how to do it, we decided that we would at least move all the furniture out of the building and onto the driveway. We figured that at some point or another everything would leave the building, so why not get a head start before the truck arrived. For the next 2 hours we moved out the majority of things, putting my moving talents to good work! And then...we waited. Waited for the truck and further direction.
To our surprise, we learned that the new building in Bali (a neighborhood) was not yet open. The old renters had yet to leave! Well, where are we putting everything? The branch president showed up and explained that we would be storing everything in the Bonaberi branch. Now to explain what that meant, Douala (my current city) is separated into two major parts. Douala and Bonaberi. The two sides are separated by a river, and there is only one bridge to get across. As such, we have two branches - one on each side of the river. The distance isn’t terribly long, but the traffic is horrid! Last p-day we played soccer with the Elders from the other side, and it took over an hour to cross the bridge. So when our branch president told us of the plan, we were a little less than excited. But as I think the expression goes, we squared our shoulders and got to work.
Now the complications didn’t end there. Before the moving truck came, the owner of the building showed up. He was angry for some reason - declaring that we owed him money, even though the contracts had all been finalized and signed. His intent was to literally stop us from leaving! To give you a mental image, think of a narrow alleyway. At one end was our church building, then in front all our stuff, then the owner's car, then the moving truck. HEY YOU CRAZY MAN, MOVE YOUR CAR SO WE CAN LOAD OUR TRUCK! After some stupid argument, we gave him a choice. Move your car so we can leave or we will put everything back inside and stay here without paying. He opted to move his car and take his keys.
Well around 6pm we finished the move. A full day of service. And although we didn’t teach any lessons, I think this was one of the most productive days of my mission. Every hour was filled with a meaningful activity - moving the branch. As of today, all our stuff is still in storage at the Bonaberi branch. Our building in Bali is clear, but the church is making some modifications on the house, so that we can have rooms for all the different auxiliaries. Which means, we will move all the stuff from storage to Bali next week. (hopefully)
For the time being, we’re holding church in a hotel!  Hotel Piano. We rented out the conference room and held Sunday School and Sacrament Meeting yesterday. The room, in the words of Elder Colindres, “is like a basement.” Yeah, pretty accurate.

Now, I said this week was stressful, and it wasn’t the church move that was hard. No, it was yesterday. As well as working in a tiny branch, being with a companion not of your own choosing can be rough. And it gets tougher, when that companion doesn’t speak the same language and has a culture almost completely opposite from yours. All week, I was getting annoyed with my companion. Just a bunch of little things that rubbed away at my patience. I tried to support it well, and just keep to myself. As you’ll learn from this story that isn’t what you should do. If someone is constantly annoying you, talk with them about it otherwise it’ll build up until you go crazy on the person!
Well, I didn’t really believe in that counsel when the week started, so when Sunday came around I had a long list of complaints. Then this happened – the young men called us to the sacrament table after church and asked, “Can we eat the blessed sacrament bread after church?” I boldly said, NO! They shouldn’t eat it and others shouldn’t eat it either. I spoke pretty boldly because this is an ordinance – something of big importance. Now, I’ll just say my companion then told them something different than what I said…ohh, I was livid.
So there goes Elder Johnson, «full-on-battle-mode» as it were, against his companion. We argued for a while over this question. I was determined to not let my companion say something that was «false». In the words of Elder Colindres again, «I’ve lived with you (Johnson) for almost a year now. When you get angry, you mean it – and today you were pissed!» At the climax, Elder Mwehu was walking away from me and I ran up behind him and pretended to kick him in the butt haha! True, I’m a missionary, but I guess I’m still a human. (and only 19)
I smile now, because looking back it was pretty funny J Okay, so here is the lesson of the story, it comes in the after-math. For the rest of the day I was upset, but also regretful for having blown up. I decided that we would talk about what happened, when we got home. I wasn’t going to let this one go. I felt inspired to do the following. We got home and ran our numbers for the week, then I said,     «okay, before we close for the day we need to talk about what happened.»

First, I had us both explain our position on the question. Elder Mwehu said what he thought while I listened without interrupting. Then I did the same. After I grabbed two Church manuals, and said «we are going to read what the official church policy is on the sacrament, after we will not discuss it. We are just going to read it together.»  So that’s what we did. After we discussed that next time a question on church administration is asked to us, we will direct the members to the branch president, who is called to take care of the administration aspects. I gave Elder Mwehu a hug and all was worked out –no more hard feelings.

Lesson number 1 – Follow the promptings of the spirit and things will work out. The things we did in that discussion were things I felt like we needed to do. All three of them. True, it was a little awkward to kick off, but it worked. Follow the spirit and things work out.
Lesson number 2 – Resolving problems in relationships is necessary. I remember a Liahona that said, « some people destroy their marriages (in this case it applies to a missionary companionship) because they avoid talking about the weightier matters.» Talking about problems sincerely and openly helps. I think this one will apply to me more fully when I’m married!
Lesson number 3 – Lift where you stand. It isn’t our duty as missionaries to tell the branch how to function. That is the branch President ‘s calling. We are there to teach doctrine, not run the branch. Had Elder Mwehu and I directed the young men to their leaders, we would’ve avoided the whole situation. But in trying to do something that wasn’t our responsibility, we shot ourselves in the feet. Now, if I ever become a bishop, I’ll be making sure that NO ONE eats the sacrament bread as a snack. Those are my feelings on the matter – but for right now, I’m not a Bishop. I’m a missionary. So I’ll do as the primary song says, « teach and preach and work as MISSIONARIES do. » Lift where you stand in the church – it’s much better that way!
Hopefully no one thinks I’m trying to preach to you guys. These are just things that I, Elder Johnson, learned this week from my experiences. There were many other things that happened this week. Like the New Year’s parties, but these stories were the best!  Happy New Year (out here people will be saying that for a few months), best of luck on all the resolutions. Elder Colindres and I wrote our resolution for 2015 – marriage haha. I love you guys bunches –honestly I do. Make it a good week!
ps – on New Year’s Eve people threw «Flash-bang-like» flares in the air all night. It sounded like shot guns being fired all over the city. But around 12am, a fire-work went off right outside our balcony. It was so loud that it scared me enough to make me fall out of bed. haha.  

 Our church building "threw up" haha
 A really pretty leaf, wanted to show you guys some of the beauty in Africa

 January 1, the town was empty, cuz everyone was partied out.
There are trees around town that are full of little yellow birds. like 50 nests in one tree.

12/29/14 Active in Activities

It was fun to skype with you guys on Christmas, even though I couldn’t see you. Now that all the parties are over, it’s back to work. Luckily, the next time we talk face to face will be at home!
After skyping, the week continued with some fun activities for us. We had a ward talent show on Saturday and they told us, the missionaries, that we had to do something. As well as being forced we felt like we should participate because we weren’t sure if too many members would do anything – and we didn’t want it to be a flop. We kept putting off our sketch until Friday night, which reminded me of the many late night school projects I’ve had. We decided to write our own “church history rap”!  4 hours after we started, we had rehearsed and polished a pretty sweet sounding rap.
I tried committing my part to memory, and thought it’d go over well. Saturday night came around and a lot of people were participating in the talent show. Even without us, it was a quality activity. But our turn came around and we took our place in the middle of the floor. Our rap started and it was good. BUT I FORGOT ALL MY LINES! Absolutely terrible stage fright. I managed to get out the first 2 or 3 lines but after that, I just drew a blank. Now here were my thoughts; “okay elder Johnson, what are you going to do? You are being watched by the whole branch and you forgot the lines to your rap. Up to these first 15 seconds, no one is too enthralled by the song. You are already in the middle of the floor so there is no going back.”
 Well I decided to just go crazy with my dance moves!! If I couldn’t rap, I could at least dance while Elder Colindres raped his lines (Luckily, Elder Colindres raped all his lines and saved the song we wrote). So I started shuffling…and everyone went crazy!!! After that it was the Moon Walk, some Jerking, the Cranky Frank (a dance made up by elder hatch). The members got so excited to see me dance. In fact little primary children came on the stage with us and started dancing. In the words of Elder Colindres, “you know it’s good when the primary kids join in with you.” In the end we were happy and the branch was clapping and laughing. I should say, I’m so thankful I invested hours upon hours in church dances, cuz if I hadn’t I wouldn’t have been able to bust out all those moves haha.
I thought it was such a neat experience and also a good lesson. Looking at our skit, it was looking like a failure. We simply didn’t do what we had planned. I admit I literally FAILED at raping. But even though I failed at raping, we didn’t fail in the end. Our skit was actually a success. A big success. I think that erased some of my fear on criticism. Friday night, I was so scared that people wouldn’t like what we planned and that we would be embarrassed. But as soon as I decided that I was just going to do something no matter what, that fear of criticism went away, and people actually enjoyed it.
It’s kinda the same in life – right? We plan various activities from real performances, to dinners, to dates, to work, to service, to church lessons, to recreational activities, and it goes on and on. Sometimes we feel these activities are linked to our self-esteem and it’s possible that they might be criticized. True, we might fail in perfectly executing the plans (just like I failed my rap) – but when we simply do our best and go all out (like I did with my “white boy” dancing) things will work out. I remember watching a Mormon message where a young father basically said, I learned from my service in the church that I could put in my very best and that was always acceptable. This is just one of those fun life experiences you have on a mission.
Later on Sunday, I was asked to give a talk, 30 minutes before sacrament meeting! First time I’ve ever given a talk on my mission. Let’s just say I’m grateful that as a missionary you are always studying gospel topics, so they are always in the front of your head. Again, I had a little bit of stage fright which is normal, but did my best and people said it was a good talk!
I know you guys still have a week of vacation, so first off, enjoy the New Year’s Eve dance for me! Practice your Shuffling, because you never know when you could be in a third world country and need to entertain a big crowd. haha. And second, when school restarts have fun with your studies and at work as well. You’re going to fail in some aspects – but you can still be successful in the end :) I love you guys, like I said; talking with you was the highlight of the week. Keep safe and have some fun adventures this week!

12/22/14 Syping Soon

 So life is just continuing out here as well, nothing too different from the last email I sent. To arrange some schedules. We’ll be skyping on Christmas and I will be on at 5pm Cameroon time which means 9am for you. I figure that gives everyone enough time to get up, open presents and be alert for skyping haha. I think that the couple will send you the skype account info so you can add them on your contacts. But nonetheless, 9am!

As well the couple will be home December 28th until January 8th (not sure when they get back). Their youngest daughter had her first children and so they wanted to be there to support her. We will be all alone while they’re gone. But that's ok, we’re big boys!  

As I will be talking with you all in three days, today's email will just be pictures. But a picture is worth a thousand words, so sorry the email is so long haha.



12/12/14 Bonjour, nous sommes missionnaires pour l'église de Jésus-Christ des saints des derniers jours

So I flipped through my agenda, and sadly nothing exciting happened this week. Unless you want to state the obvious and say "every day as a missionary is exciting." True. In which case I had a very exciting week. But nothing out of the ordinary. The work has been alright, we sadly lost the majority of our amis. It got to the point where we had given them more than enough time to react and nothing - so we move on. And moving on means contacting!  Ohh how I love contacting.
Tuesday started with what might be a personal record of 5 hours of contacting. The good thing about dropping lame amis is all the amis that are left are serious and golden. So we had two lessons that were awesome and then started walking around for the rest of the day. Contacting the "American way" - door to door. This pattern of work is what we did ALL week. Teach a few lessons, knock doors. Hence the title of this email, I got really good at saying that phrase.
There is one really cool thing about contacting. It's getting to be guided by the spirit directly to people that are "prepared" as we like to say. For example, we were contacting in a mainly Muslim neighborhood. Our sector is really small and I've already hit up all the This week it's like we are serving in Saudi Arabia" haha.
Walking around after 3 minutes it was apparent that no one would be accepting our brochures - so praying that God would give us someone to talk to - we continued to walk aimlessly through the neighborhood until we passed a little shop and a Nigerian man shouted after us. Turns out Stanley (the Nigerian) knows the church and his brother served a mission in Ghana!
Another person is Samuel. In this same Muslim neighborhood, there is a really nice apartment building and it has Christmas decorations on the patios of some apartments. I felt like it would be fun to go contact it, so we entered the gate and talked with the guard (Samuel). Turns out no one was home, but he accepted the brochure! Even better, he read it all after we left and we had a good lesson with him yesterday. Stories like this go on and on. Proof that we are inspired by the spirit when we do missionary work!
I'll let you know what happens with all these new amis we’re finding. But for the moment we'll just keep on trucking along. Like you noted, these last months are going too fast. Hope you have a good week at work and school. I love ya guys!

12/08/14 Two for Two

Dang, so much is happening back home! Sounds like everything is going well though. Kaleb has a car, man so jealous haha. That's good that Drew also came down and hung out with everyone – can’t wait to hang out with siblings again. Seems like everyone is growing up and the world is changing, it'll probably be a bigger shock than I think when I see you all again. Tell Maya, I appreciate that she’s taking care of the family and serving others (way to go sista!) 

This week was a good week of work if I had to put it simply. We dropped a bunch of our amis, like 14/26 of the amis weren’t doing anything. So we’re now left teaching the quality people and at the same time, contacting a lot - not a bad mixture. 

Even though we’re missionaries there are always those things that prove that we are still young men - for example - this week we started a water drinking contest between ourselves. It was planned to go for 2 weeks, until Elder Hatch finished his mission, and the prize was a chocolate bread and a break soy (soy milk drink that comes from heaven. haha). The first day I totally forgot about the competition and drank 1.5L of water, kinda a bad start. But Thursday I came back by drinking 4.5L, 1.5 of those liters being in one sitting after dinner! Sadly, even such a great feat wasn’t enough to overtake Elder Hatch who drank 10L!! We talked with the senior couple and they explained that you can get water poisoning from drinking too much water.  Ohh, well that was the end of that competition haha.  Fun while it lasted. 

Now instead of just telling you about all the random lessons I've had, I decided this week to give you a walkthrough of a Sunday in the life of a missionary. And possibly the most exhausting Sunday of my life. 

Yesterday started as usual, got up and went to church around 9am. Church started on time for a change, 10 minutes early in reality! Elders Quorum starts and it quickly goes as normal. 30 minutes of exhortations and point-less "Jesus-talk", as I have come to call it. Just saying vague things about Jesus and being saved that don’t help us become better people and are used as aimless fillers. Even some of our amis use "jesus-talk", usually when they don’t care or want to escape a hard question. But anyway, back to elder's quorum, the lesson was good but lacked energy, and those types of lessons suck all the energy out of you. Luckily, just before it ended, Jean, a 70 year old ami came to church for the first time! Woohoo, keeping commitments! With Jean, we go to the gospel principle class, and to our surprise, 6 people in total. We being two of them. Ohh boy, another long draining lesson about the Sabbath day. Jean is almost falling asleep, and no one really participates but the young man did a good job teaching and put in an honest effort - so no criticism - way to go Brother Elvis!  

Finally we go to sacrament meeting and it’s a fast Sunday. Side note, I loath fast Sunday testimony meetings. Not because the idea, but because I have never attended a fast and testimony meeting that was 100% testimony bearing. Someone always gives a long story or has to thank people - why? Just get up and say what you know, that's it, nothing else. But to my great delight, the first testimony was amazing! Brother Mbengé, who was conducting said, "I know this is the only true church on the face of the earth. I know Joseph Smith was a prophet and that the Book of Mormon is true. In the name of Jesus Christ Amen." 

So amazing! First solid, perfect testimony I've ever heard on my mission. The rest of the meeting was good and went as usual. 

Now after church there was a meeting for adults. It’s a program called interweave. It's a program that teaches basic management skills so that members know how to start little businesses and run them themselves. Some successful businessmen from Kinshasa and America came to give the class. Really cool thing, but because all the adults were together in the class, who watched the kids? Elder Johnson!! 

Now I think God inspired this, but every Sunday one or two kids sit next to me during sacrament, and I never have anything to entertain them with. Usually I give them a blank paper from my planner and they draw. So this week I was one step ahead. I pulled out all the coloring pages from old Liahona magazines. We have an archive!  So I went to church with 8 pages and my colored pencils. As Elder Hatch noted, "Ohh no the Daddy Johnson Sunday bag is already starting!" haha.  Sitting outside church I called 4 little girls to come sit next to me and told them they could color while their parents were busy. It was all under control, these girls were older, maybe 7 and only four of them. I had a system going with the pencils, they used one at a time and if they wanted another they had to trade me. Man, I thought I was hot stuff! Taking care of kids isn’t that hard, I smuggly thought to myself...until all outer-darkness broke loose! 

More younger children soon saw the pencils and stormed our arrangement. The worst part is they are so young they don’t talk yet, so absolutely no reasoning with them! One little girl just had to have 3 colors in her hand at a time, or she would scream. Another kept wandering off. And trying to evenly distribute the coloring pages almost started a war haha. Not to mention all this was outside in the heat of the day. Adding to the needs, the 7 year olds kept needing to trade pencils and tried to talk with me while I’m trying to calm these fussy toddlers. About 30 minutes after all this, reinforcements came, Elder Hatch and Colindres finished with a lesson and joined in on the fun. 

A full hour later and VICTORY! We successful entertained all the kids. But Sunday didn’t end there. After, we had meetings of our own. I think you can see why Sunday was so tiring?  But it didn’t stop there either, I almost forgot, after church I was waiting for a taxi to come by. And some punk tried to pick pocket me again! I had my white handbook and transport money pouch in my shirt pocket. He was walking towards me and I moved over to give him more than enough room to pass, but he pushed straight through me (hey when you walk straight towards someone when there is no crowd you kinda alert them. Common' basic pick-pocketing 101). Well, he tried pulling out the handbook, but everything flopped out from the pocket. So in typical Elder Johnson fashion, I grabbed him by his arms and started shaking him up and demanding "What was that about uhh?" 

So thus the title of my email. Pick-pocketed twice on my mission, BUT i've always caught and stopped the thief - two for two! 

That Sunday took everything out of me, emotionally, spiritually and physically. I was really happy that night to go home and eat and sleep. But that is missionary work - serving others and working. And I absolutely love it! 

I’m sure we’ll talk about more interesting stories over our skype session - which isn’t too far away. Think of some sweet stories you guys can share with me as well. Don’t worry if you forget to email sometimes, I know y'all love me and are probably just busy. I love you guys, have fun in the snow! 

ps - I never got a western union card, but luckily the senior couple is taking a trip to America to visit grandkids in Utah the 28th Dec until January 8th. They offered to bring anything back for us if our parents wanted to send it to them in Utah. So possible solution, get a western union card and mail it to them. They can bring it back. I don’t want to add things to your plate, but a possible solution?  

12/02/14 Christmas Season

This week was full of meetings, interviews and zone conferences with a big Thanksgiving dinner to add in the mix. Our mission president came to visit us and we had a very good conference together. I learned a lot about myself and how to become a better disciple of Christ. 

For this week I'll just tell you one amazing story/testimony. I have been concerned for Elder Mwehu, my companion, because he is the only African in the apartment and he doesn’t speak English. So naturally sometimes he is isolated from the group and doesn’t talk that much - and I know it's not because he’s shy, it's just hard with the language and culture difference. So all week I have been praying to know what to do to help him. What subjects should I talk about with him? How do I make him feel like he fits in? For the whole week it didn’t seem like an answer was coming. I prayed and prayed and nothing. 

So we keep working like normal - Sunday rolls around and we go out teaching. Just TERRIBLE. No unity in any sense of the word. Every lesson it seemed like we weren’t on the same wavelength. I felt like something was missing from our teaching, and obviously it was the Spirit. So Sunday night I kneel down and pray to know what to do - the idea came that we need to create lesson plans. To explain something about this mission, we don’t ever do lesson plans! With over 30 amis at a time and 7 lessons a day, 1 hour of companionship study in the morning isn’t enough time to thoroughly plan out every scripture and question and point of doctrine that you want to teach that day. But the thought came that we needed to make a lesson plan. 

Like I said last week, we moved our p-day to Tuesday, so Monday (yesterday) came around and we went to work like usual. In companionship study I told Elder Mwehu that I felt like we needed to create a lesson plan for at least 1 rendezvous (the most important lesson of the day). He agreed and we set out a very simple lesson plan. During that planning, yes, there were times when we didn’t see eye to eye and had to discuss our points of view without being offended. But it all worked out and we felt good about the plan. Leaving the apartment that day had a whole other feeling to it. We seemed a little happier and knit together. We never got to teach that lesson we planned out - the young girl canceled on us, but the rest of the day was filled with the spirit and we taught with such unity. In fact we taught 2 lessons in English that day, Elder Mwehu didn’t follow what I was saying, but he contributed in French appropriately and helped bring the spirit. 

Sunday, we couldn’t even teach a lesson in the same language. Monday I followed an inspiration that came as a response to many prayers, and we taught very spiritual lessons in multiple languages (during one rendezvous, a sister couldn’t speak French really well, so she spoke in a tribal language). The moral of the story is PRAYER WORKS!  Answers do come and they solve problems. 

That simple idea to make lesson plans didn’t only help our teaching, it also helped Elder Mwehu open up and be willing to start conversations with me. Like I said, in the planning, we had to discuss our opinions, we were forced to talk. Later because we taught together in unity, Elder Mwehu and I talked more about life. He shared things about himself and we were overall happier. 

Now because it is officially December I thought it would be appropriate to put up decorations. Lucky for us, we have a fake Christmas tree (thanks be to which ever elders bought that! haha) So putting the thing up became a good group activity. We all helped fluff out the branches and untangle the 3 light strips and put up ornaments on the tree. Again, another answer to my prayers, Elder Mwehu participated and we talked about Christmas traditions in our lives. It was a fun activity and for the rest of the night we laid in the dark with the Christmas tree lit up, listening to Christmas music!  Ahh, the Christmas Spirit, and more importantly, the Spirit in general. 

So keep praying and if you don’t feel like you’re getting answers keep moving forward with confidence and keep praying - you'll get an idea at some point or another. Those ideas may be small (like making a lesson plan) but as the scriptures say - by small and simple things are great things brought to pass. Or in the language of Elder Hatch, "If it seems stupid but works, it's not stupid." : ) 

I hope you all are enjoying the holiday season and feeling the spirit at home. Enjoy the snow for me! It's really hot over here, like 95 degrees during the day and 80 in the morning!