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!”