Apr 21, 2015

04/20/15 Suiting Up to Come Home

I don’t really know what to write. I mean I’ve only got one week left and you all seem to know how missionary work runs out here. I mean nothing too new. I did get the money which I can’t thank you enough for - but that is awesome that you all did some family history work. You have no idea how pumped I am to do family history work when I get home. I figure that will be the equivalent to "missionary work" as well as working with the full time missionaries.
So I got a suit to come home in! And because the dollar is stronger than it was when I got here the exchange rate was even higher than normal, so with that I used the extra money to get Elder Mbikayi a suit as well, all that remains are the souvenirs. Thanks for the list, I’ll organize it and get all that I can next Monday.
As for the work, we've just been working super hard and I’ve been having a fun time dealing with all the amis and teaching them - just doing my best to help them progress. Early this week I kinda got "depressed" you could say. Just watching the calendar and seeing that all this was ending. It felt like I had no control over what was happening and the clock was ticking too fast! We often refer to the end of the mission as someone "dying" - at sometimes it felt like I was actually going to die or something. So finally Thursday night, I read a conference talk by elder Holland and thought about the whole situation and I decided I need to square my shoulders and think positively. The next morning I woke up and accepted the fact - I thought to myself, "my mission is ending and there is nothing I can do about it, but it’s necessary that it ends. After all, if the mission doesn’t end I could never get married or do temple work or raise a family. So yes, the badge is coming off soon - but for now it’s still on, so keep working, Johnson". That day I pulled out my suitcase and started arranging things. It just felt so much better to accept the fact and move on. 

Another life lesson I learned from my mission, it’s often better to accept what is happening in life and move on than stay stuck in the past. Elder Holland said in a talk a long time ago, that we look back on the past to reclaim our burning embers of experiences both good and bad, not the ashes. BUT then we look to the future and move forward. How true that is, living in the past, even the happiest and best past shouldn’t substitute living in the "today". So that’s what I’m trying to do, living in the "today". But I’m really grateful that today I’m still a missionary haha.
Well I wish you all a very happy last week of separation. I'll be on my way home, as my companion put it, in the "twinkling of an eye". (That’s a lame missionary joke by the way, y'all better get prepared because I’m full of them haha). I love you!

04/13/15 Africa to America; Church-Ball is the Same

Sounds like life is insanely exciting for all of you, and just in time
for my return; I’m excited to jump back into the mix and help out.
It’s obviously weird that I’ve got 2 weeks left and then - done - it's
over. So as we need to organize some stuff for my return, let’s start

The Baileys told me about the money situation, which will be awesome.
I know there are western unions here but not really sure about the
address, there is one in a place called grand-Marché. (I think). I was
really grateful when I heard that you all were planning on doing that;
thanks so much. Whatever you send I’ll be more than happy with!

As for the school problem, don’t even worry about it. I’m not
stressing; I’ve learned on my mission that you just do your best and
go along with whatever happens. Sounds like a loaded schedule for that
first month – which is perfect! For the family dinner, I don’t really
care – now, I literally eat anything, ANYTHING haha.

So to the missionary part of the email. It’s a cool story about
repentance. There is this young man, named Desty. I think he is pretty
awesome. Well Mondays down here we play basketball, as the church has
a basketball court on its property. A lot of people know we play
Monday so a good group always shows up. Well last Monday, we were
playing some games and things got a little heated. Obviously a lot of
rules are broken because no one really knows the way the game should
be played, and because it’s a competition we all got kind of intense.
Well, in one of the plays this young man, Desty, got elbowed in the
ribs. The offender excused himself and the game continued. Desty said,
“I said it was alright; but inside I didn’t want to let it go and I
was angry.” the next play this same offender was going for a dunk
(because the hoops are basically little Fischer-price children size
hoops we can dunk on them) well while he was in the air Desty thought,
“ohh this is the perfect time to give it back to him.” So Desty ran
into him while he was in mid-air, causing this young kid to lose
control and smack his head on the pole holding up the hoop. Well that
was the end of the game.

I didn’t learn about any of this until that night during an FHE when
Desty told us what happened. Desty said; he went home with a broken
heart. He flopped on his bed and didn’t leave his room for the whole
day. All he thought about was “why did I do that?” “Why didn’t I let
it go?” He acknowledged that what he did was wrong and decided to be
better next time. During the closing prayer at FHE he asked for
forgiveness for what he did. The point of this story and why I was so
touched by it is the fact that Desty was mature enough to acknowledge
a small sin and fix it the best he could. I think it would’ve been
terribly easy to simply shrug it all off thinking, “huh, that’s what
happens in sports.” or “ohh it was just an accident.” But he knew what
happened, and he knew it was wrong. I’ve learned time and again on my
mission that ALL sins small or big need reparation and repentance. I
wrote in my journal that night, understanding what sin is shows our
spiritual understanding; but recognizing it in ourselves shows our
spiritual maturity. The best part is once we repent the guilt goes
away, sure the memory stays but the guilt of what happens is gone –
all because He lives. In fact that was the church’s theme for this
Easter, Because Jesus Lives. Go onto Helives.mormon.org and watch the
video, I know you’ll like it if you haven’t seen it already.

Well tonight we are watching conference – finally! I have one question
that I want answered, “What do I do with all my time when I get home.”
Not really what kind of job or which school or hobbies. But what am I
suppose to do church wise. Temple, dating, callings, family history,
FHE, and all the other things. As a missionary you kind of only do one
big thing – preach the gospel. A lot of things members do regularly
are things that we don’t get to do. So the life of Brother Johnson
will be different from that of Elder Johnson and I want to know what
I’m expected to do.

Off I go for another week. I love all of you and thank you for your
support and love. Saying I’ll see you soon, is actually pretty serious
this time around!

04/06/15 The Right Reasons

Well closer everyday but still not there yet. I've been trying so hard
to catch up on my journal so far, we are just working really
effectively and every day is so filled with rendezvous that we don’t
have much down-time. I think if I had to give a theme for this
transfer in this sector it would be the title of the email. As I
written in my journal I’ve been noticing that it's been a reoccurring
theme. I think at the end of the mission it's a good time to test the
integrity of your reasons for serving, obviously there is that
temptation at the end to slow down and coast through the little bit of
time that’s left. it’s easy to rationalize that "I’ve done enough" and
"anything I do now won’t really make a difference", and I think if I
was out here to just fill in the time, it'd be pretty easy to give
into those ideas. So that's what I’ve been learning and reminding
myself of these past few days, doing things for the right reasons.

Obviously the right reasons in missionary work are based on Christ.
It’s all about him and everything returns back to that starting point.
The best example was yesterday. Church was good but as always a little
frustrating with the branch and other things that kinda just took the
energy out of me. As a missionary Sundays are easily the busiest
days of the week! After church we had one lesson with a recent convert
(who was actually baptized Saturday by none other than me - I was
terribly nervous about screwing it up but it all went really well!)
But anyway that one lesson was it. It was really tempting to call it a
day and go get some much wanted sleep. But then I remembered that it
was Easter; a day we celebrate the resurrection of Christ. I reminded myself that I am supposed to be representing Him to others, that's my job, and I don’t really think he would've called it a day at 4pm. So with that in mind I rededicated to
go serve and do ALL the work I had to do that day. Turns out yesterday
was a good day of work! Anyway my testimony has grown these past few
weeks that Christ is our reason in all things.

I heard about conference and I’ve heard that they talked a lot about
the family! Also 3 new temples announced! I’m excited to watch it as
soon as we get the discs - which I’m hoping to be right before I leave.
I love all you guys and hope spring is nice!

03/30/15 I Bet Elder Perry Talks about Obedience

Getting a car is definitely on the list of things I want to do when I
get back; but we will see how thing work out. Everyone out here asks;
"what are you doing when you get back?" And my response is always
"Working to make a bunch of money so I can prepare for school!" good
thing I’m learning to work out here cuz within the first week back I’m
getting a job.

Maybe if I do buy a car I can get an old 1990 Toyota van; put an
unsafe number of homemade benches in it; paint it blue with yellow
vanity stripes; and have a friend or Maya and Gabbie hang of the side
yelling "Fon tie-tie! Fon tie-tie! cent francs fon tie-tie". That will
help me remember Africa and I can start a bus business haha.

I’m glad you got the flight plans, I really hope all the siblings and
dad can be there at the airport. Did you see the pit-stop in some
Arabian country or the 6 hour layover in Germany? I love traveling!

Now to the work. Despite the closeness of the end, I’m proud to say I’m
still working hard. Don’t worry I’m not checking out yet. It’s nice here
because there are so many lessons and so our days are always filled.
it's also nice because I don’t really have to worry about learning the
sector, because I’m here kinda on passage I just get to tag along to
teach and focus on the amis - no others worries! We had a baptism this
week. It was for a young man named Wernel. I taught him maybe 3 times
before Saturday, so I kinda just helped make sure he was totally

It's really nice here as well because Sunday we teach ALL the lessons
at the church! So we do studies and then go to the church from 11 am -
7pm. we go to church and then have fun teaching people who came.

General Conference is this weekend! I’m sure y'all haven’t forgotten. We
will be watching the priesthood session on Monday with all the other
missionaries. This week I’ve been studying extra hard all the talks
from last conference.  Here are some suggestions I learned from a talk
by Elder Anderson and personal experience about how to make conference

1 - make sure you know the names AND faces of ALL the members of the
quorum of the twelve and the first presidency. We hardly pay attention
to people we don’t notice, learning who these people are is a good way
to make it easier to focus. An idea to help is go onto
LDS.org/prophets and read the biography about these men. You’ll get a
kick out of learning things like Elder Bednar played as a quarter-back
in high school. And especially President Uchtdorfs military photos!

2 - Can you tell me the subject on which each of the above brethren
spoke about in the last conference? If we didn’t pay attention last
time, you probably won’t this time. if needed go on to LDS.org and look
up the talks of each person that you couldn’t remember; read a talk or
two a day and you'll be ready for Saturday. This also helps us see
repeated messages by single apostles and groups as well; example, in
the last conference Eyring, Nelson, and Ballard all talked about
sustaining the prophet.

3 - Most importantly, can you tell me of something you changed in your
life thanks to counsel from one of these men? By far this is more
important than the others. If we have acted to change before, we will
probably change again or more. If you can’t think of something, I
encourage you to find something and change for the good. Trust me,
even Elder Johnson will be looking for things :) a good way to do this
is have a piece of paper with all your questions written on it. Things
like, "does god exist?" or "how can I fulfill my calling as a ____?"
Or "what should I do with my girlfriend?" (On second thought I think a
better question would be "what should I do to GET a girlfriend?" haha)
I promise every question will be answered. Maybe not by what is said,
but by what the spirit tells you.

Enjoy conference! I love listening to the prophet and apostles. I also
love you guys. Keep working hard and I’ll be back to add my help and
cheesy missionary jokes soon enough :) I love you, thanks for all the
support and sacrifice.

PS - I successfully made African beans by myself the other night. I
call cooking the first week home so you guys get to taste what I’ve
eaten for the past two years: African food and badly cooked American
food haha.

03/23/15 Back to the Future

I forgot how underdeveloped Congo is. Compared to Cameroon - very! In fact this computer I am typing on is sooooo slow and the keyboard doesn’t change into English so, this might be a shorter email. I have safely arrived just as the senior couple told you, they are very nice. I’ve only been here a few days (although it feels like a few weeks already). I’m still trying to get a grasp on what is going on down here. It doesn’t help that Congolese have some of the craziest names ever - like; wernel; or ristelle; and princelly. But the best so far has been "it's fine by me"! (In French: ça m'arrange)
Well I’ll just tell you about one awesome experience. Saturday there was a party for the relief society, and all the members were invited. Well we played the role of usher and greeted people as the meeting started. Well in walked a 13 year old girl. And I knew that I had seen her before but I couldn’t remember where. She came up to me and without reading my name badge said skeptically, Elder Johnson! Now sadly I could not correctly remember her name and failed on my first attempt. (So embarrassing). We continued to stand in the hall; us the missionaries, and I kept trying to remember who she was. Finally it came - DELICIA!
Delicia was this absolutely amazing amie I taught my first time here. She was only 11 back then and she wasn’t ever baptized because her mother was very very sick and her life wasn’t really stable. No one to bring her to church and her family had lost their house so they split up until that got arranged. 
As soon as I realized who she was I grabbed Elder Etherington, who works in my old branch, and I asked rather excitedly, "is there a girl named Delicia in your branch?” he said, "yeah, why?" As soon as I got my answer I was ready to throw open the sacrament hall doors and run to where she was sitting haha. I almost did! But walking as fast as possible I found her in the congregation - knelt down beside her and almost shouted; "You're Delicia!!! I remember now! You’re Delcia!" Then noticing the woman next to her I got even more excited "And you're her mom! I remember. You're both members now?" yup, both are now members. Saturday night I ran into multiple people that I knew from before. By far happiest day of my entire mission. I haven’t been able to talk with Delicia since to figure out what happened after I left and how she was finally baptized; but I’m planning on it before I leave. Doctrine and covenants says that our joy will be great if we bring but one soul into the kingdom of God - I felt that joy when I realized Delicia Saturday night. I was also thankful that I worked hard to teach her - even though things didn’t work out then they eventually did.

03/19/15 New Senior Couple - The Bailey's

We are the Baileys and are the couple here in Pointe Noire.  We received Elder Johnson here last night to work until he will go home next month.  We are looking forward to serving alongside of him and Elder Mbikayi .   He looks happy and so willing to get to work.  We have four Branches here and he will be serving in the Aéroport Branche.  We are very close to being made a District which we hope will happen before we go home in July.   We have a blogspot that we update each week and are working on it for this week.  We wanted to send a picture of your son and companion and let you know if you have any worries or concern please feel free to e-mail us.

Elder and Soeur Bailey

03/16/15 An "ice cream sandwich" Mssion

I' TRANSFERED AGAIN! So for the last 6 weeks of my mission I will be going... (drum roll)…back to Pointe-Noire! Yup, back to my “birth-city” to the sector “aeroport”. Which is the branch that meets in the church built building. I’m really excited to go back and live in Congo for the end. I feel like the first time I was there I was too busy with the language and being trained and girl-friend problems. But now I can go and simply enjoy the work and have no worries. I’ll be working with another African, I can’t remember his name, and I’ll be living in an apartment with only 2 missionaries. The apartment is actually right above the apartment of the senior couple, so it’ll be fun to get to hang out with the couple more than normal. So anyway, that is why I said this is an “ice-cream sandwich” mission, cuz it started with Congo, filled in the middle with Cameroon, and now another layer of Congo! It’ll only be six weeks but I’m pumped. I will also be excited to see some of my old converts (hopefully they have stayed active for the past 2 years).
This week was a good week of work, kinda slow for all the elders and we are just working our hardest. We have been teaching this little family, I’ve told you about their four boys that I absolutely love. Well they had their baptismal interview yesterday and all of them passed, which means in the coming weeks they will be baptized. I’m super proud of them and loved teaching them – one of my all-time favorite amis. I will attach a photo.
Congratulations on reading in the book of Mormon! Keep it up and I’ll join in the family reading once I’m back. As for the weather, I’ll be honest, I was kinda hoping for a long winter with massive storms when I got home – you guessed it, I’m tired of endless heat. But either way, I’ll take the climate as it is. Well that whole situation with BYU, just proves what is written in 2 ne 1:20. When you keep commandments, things work out temporally. Awesome!
In keeping commandments, I’ll share with you a fun story from our missions. The other week we paid fast-offerings from our food fund. And as we our counseled we decided to give an amount that would be generous. Well, that week we were a little low on money. Not a lot, just at the point where you have to watch what you are buying and keep a budget. Because there is no shop that sells reliable meat in Bonaberi we asked the senior couple to bring us some meat and cheese from town – which they happily did. When they gave us the food they only asked for 5000 francs. Now meat and cheese, especially in the quantity asked for by 4 teenage guys, is expensive in Africa. So we were kinda astonished, but gratefully paid the 5000.
Later, we examined the packages and saw that the cheese alone was 5000, but that the meat was another 6000! That is a lot of money for a missionary budget. I’ll be honest, my first thought was, “awesome, because the senior couple made a mistake we have more money to spend on ourselves! Maybe this is God’s way of blessing us for paying a generous offering?” But then Elder Larson said, “Yeah, I thought to myself it’d be awesome to keep the money, but then I realized ‘what, no! That’s a terrible idea – it’s not honest’.”  And here is the point of the story. I felt guilty, and realized that I was going to be dishonest – definitely not a part of the gospel. So we all determined that next time we placed an order of food we would pay back the senior couple. And that’s what we did, we put money aside and next time we saw the couple, we gave them back the money. And it just felt good! All we got in return was “thanks so much for being honest.” So keeping commandments, big or small, is important. And keeping commandments makes you feel good. That’s the principle, King Benjamin in the book of Mormon said, “Remember the blessed and HAPPY state of those who keep the commandments.” (Mosiah 2:41) It’s true, I’ve seen it as a missionary working with others and in my own life – things are simpler and sweeter when commandments are kept. So keep commandments, in this there is safety and peace.

03/09/15 Old Crow (That's what we call the old missionaries)

Sounds like life for all of us if pretty much the same. Out here nothing is changing too much. We are just working our hearts out and trying to get people baptized. Sadly, 3 of our 7 baptismal candidates turned out to not be that awesome after all and still need A LOT of preparation. I guess it took 5 weeks for them to show their true colors. But we have 4 that are still awesome and going to be baptize soon. (4 brothers that are so fun to teach, teaching children is just so much better! They don’t ask stupid questions and they don’t listen to criticize, they just listen and ask when they don’t understand). 
Transfers are coming up this next Sunday (Already!?) So next week I should have news as to where I will be ending and even possibly when! I'll let you know, I’m hoping I don’t get sent to Brazzaville, Congo. I’m kinda hoping for an American companion to end things with - but I’m not counting on it.
Today the other elders and I were talking and I told them, I’m definitely trying to not think about home. And I am definitely not excited to leave the mission. I mean it's not like I’m itching to rip off the tie and throw the badge to the ground, but the reality that it is ending is on my mind more and more each week. Kinda scary!  
Thank you for the sacrifices so I can serve a full time mission!

03/02/15 Truck Lights and the South Africa Temple

It is a crazy feeling to know that I’m weeks away from that plane trip home. It kinda feels unreal, like I’m never really going to go home, I’m just going to leave and continue my mission elsewhere! But until that day, like you said we are working hard.
To answer your questions, I don’t exactly know when I will be coming home. I know it’s at the end of April, and I’m guessing on the 28th or 29th. That’s around when transfers end. I’ll be letting my mission president know that I’m returning to Denver in a week or so, when I start my last transfer.  And finally yes, there is a western union in my area – downtown I believe.
Well, I’ve never seen (but have heard about past) exorcisms; instead we get kinda the opposite. We spend time with general authorities! This week President Carl B. Cook from the seventy who is in charge of all southeast Africa came and held a zone conference with us on Thursday! If you remember way back then to the beginning of my mission you’ll note that I had a zone conference with him at the beginning in Pointe-noire, while I was still being trained. (I’m the only one still out on my mission, who was there for that) When I shook his wife’s and his hand they said, “Elder Johnson, have we met before?” I affirmed and then he said, “I thought I recognized the name, I remember you!” SO SICK!
Well as that was the highlight of the week, I’m going to write to you two stories that they told us, (I figure that would be more exciting that hearing about us walking around in the sun and getting ditched on by our amis).
The first story comes from Sister Cook. I call it the “south Africa temple story”. I’ll tell it from her point of view. “When my husband and I first came to South Africa there was a problem. The temple was empty. This is a temple that serves around 20 countries and so you would expect it to be over-flowing with people, but it wasn’t. In fact there was once when my husband and I were the only ones in an endowment session. So the area presidency decided to solve the problem. They researched it a bit and learned that sometimes getting visas to come is a bit difficult. So they sent out people from the office to go learn about how to obtain visas quicker. After some talking and searching they had plans and knew for the most part how to get visas easier. Then the next problem was patron housing, the housing people stay at while visiting the temple. Sometimes there wasn’t enough room for everyone. And that had discouraged people from coming. So the presidency looked into it and they decided to rent out a motel across the street whenever the housing was filled. They would use extra money from the temple patron fun d to finance it. So that’s what they did. Again, was a problem with the little children of people coming to the temple. Families would bring kids to be sealed but didn’t have anyone to take care of them for the time that the adults would do baptisms for the dead and endowments. Elder Cook, gathered together all the senior couples serving in the offices and asked, who would mind taking care of kids every now and then. Several sisters volunteered. And actually last week, some sisters and I took a few hours to watch 20 little kids while their parents did ordinances (none English speaking kids by the way). The last problem was the need for more temple workers. If the temple was going to be busier they would need more workers. So the seventies sent out area seventies to go look for worthy couples that could serve and passed on recommendations to the temple presidents. And now the South Africa temple is overflowing. Sometimes you literally cannot get a spot in endowments because it is so full! Some might say ‘yeah, that’s how you solve problems, it’s by getting the right people in place’. But that’s not true, the presidency worked in unity and it made all the difference.”
I thought that was a pretty awesome story showing HOW to solve problems. Not just making the necessary plans but actually going out and solving the issues. The next story comes from President Cook, and it’s from his younger years. He taught us about the gospel of Jesus Christ. And why each of us must use it in our lives. He wanted us to see what it really meant to repent and change, so we could help our amis have that same change. Again, I’ll tell it from his viewpoint.
“As a young boy I was just average, I wasn’t super awesome, I mean I made stupid mistakes. Just like everyone else. So growing up on a farm, I had a ‘farm truck’. And one day I was driving my truck and my friend pointed to a boneyard and said ‘hey look there’s the same model truck as yours, but that one’s got working head lights and yours doesn’t! Let’s go take those ones off and put ‘em on yours.’ So not even really thinking about it we went over to the truck and took off the lights and put them on my truck. I didn’t really think anything about it. Then came time to go on a mission and I sat in an interview with my stake president, who asked ‘are you HONEST in your dealings with your fellow men?’ And I said, ‘yeah’ I mean I’m a good boy and I want to go on a mission. So later I was on my mission in Germany and I was teaching someone about how we need to be honest in all things, and that memory of the head lights came back into my mind and I realized that I wasn’t honest. And it finally came full circle and I understood. That night I said a prayer asking for forgiveness, and explaining to God how I was sorry. But I wanted to make things right, but how? I was out in Germany, how could I make it right? So I carried that thought for 18 months while I finished my mission. And when I went home I was determined to make it right. I went to the county hall and found out who owned that property. Then I drove to his house, ready to face any consequences that might follow. I walked up to his porch and knocked. When the man opened the door, I said, ‘Good morning, my name is Carl and many years ago I went onto your property and stole some headlights off an old broken truck. I’m really sorry.’ The man simply said, ‘huh, I didn’t even miss ‘em. Don’t worry about it it’s not a big deal.’ I looked at him and said, ‘sir for me it is a big deal’, because this isn’t about me and you, it’s about me and God. I reached into my pocket and pulled out $100 dollars and said, ‘take this money as payment for the parts I took.’ The man took the money and said, ‘ok thanks for being honest!’ I went back to my car and just said a simple prayer thanking heavenly father and put an end to that story.”
President Cook wanted us to see what it really means to repent and how serious our engagement to follow Christ truly is. Becoming a saint through the atonement of Christ takes action and a serious engagement to be and do better.
Those are the highlights of our week. It was awesome to get to be around another general authority! I still remember what he said last time, “the pickings are slim and you (the missionaries) are all we got!”