Tuesday, May 24, 2011

24 May 2011: Snail mail letter posted around 3/21/11 and received on 5/20/11

Dear family,

Well, I figured I really, really need to write another letter.  It's hard to find time and I suspect this one will take two p-days, but it's o.k., since I've bought all the things I'll need for the month (soap, shampoo etc.).  Well, this is my first letter from Tacna and I guess it would be great to describe how it is in my second area.  Excellent.  There seems to be a lot more people being prepared here.  After a few weeks, I kind of stopped noticing how poor many of the people are, but it's amazing.

In some of my photos sent by email, ya'll will notice that much of my area here is similar to the part of Augusto Freyre that was called, La Mansion.  The walls are often made of a material of woven reed like plants.  Others of an adobe type brick.  Not sure if it is a composite, but at least [they] are formed of mud.  The nicer structures that aren't in Leguia strictly, are of cinderblocks.  Roofs normally are the wavy sheets of metal or plaster.  In Leguia, the cinderblocks are often below a layer of cement, which is smoothed and sometimes painted.

We were eating breakfast with a member (a well-off member) and he asked us more or less how much do homes cost in the states.  I didn't know what to say exactly, since so much depends on where, but we said $400,000.  He told us thats more than the average Peruvian family makes in 3-4 generations.  That shocked me quite a bit.  I asked how much houses cost here and he said a Michael Jackson mansion would be about $100,000.

Our area, I think y'all know is the last area in Peru.  It goes to Chile and the ocean.  From the south end, we can actually see the ocean!  A bunch of busses go down through our area to the beach and to Chile.

Elder Mateus is a good elder.  He likes to laugh and smile.  He wants to go to Argentina after his mission to meet up with his "future wife" who is writing him [from] there. I don't know why, maybe the fact that we learn to always be with someone, or maybe because we have completely bumped up the law of chastity requirements, to exclude talking flirtatiously, or maybe I'm just dissolusioned since one young lady asked me to take her back to Virginia.  But, where was I?  Oh well.

I think I've commented on the studying I'm doing of Jesus the Christ.  In my last interview with the mission president, be brought up a good point, to be like Him, I have to study how He was.  In His divine and perfect role, He went through many, many trials.  His life was very, very, very difficult, but He found strength, constantly learned in His youth, and learned to teach at a young age.  He learned to value the spiritual things above the physical things, and searched after those things.  Diligently seeking and finding He increased in faith and knowledge.  Late in life, when times were hard, he could rely on what He had learned and the faith he had gained from before.  All that searching resulted in a relationship with the Holy Ghost and with God that allowed him to be  able to know how to deal with the world threats and assaults and teaching situations and everything later.  Through that and his general understanding, He was able to personalize every moment at teaching.  Interestingly, a part of His teachings were to people who rejected the teaching or principle.  I was thinking about that, not sure if I should teach in the same way.  The mission president indicated that I should. I guess it's all about faith whether or not I really believe that as a representative of Christ.  The problem is that we could spend all our time visiting all the people we know, trying to convince people who don't want to progress or we could spend that time looking for people who've been prepared.  The only thing that makes that hard is knowing who to visit.  Really, it's the hardest thing right now.  That and knowing who of the contacts we should get an appointments with.  I'm probably having this trouble because I don't know by the spirit like Christ [did], immediately what each person will do.   Writing this is helping me a lot analyze the way I'm working. . . I'm planning to be fasting and praying a ton this week to be able to grow in my understanding of these principles.  Also, now that I'm a district leader, I can do companion exchanges with the zone leaders regularly.  All the zone leaders are great and I'll be able to learn a ton from them in this [next] six weeks.  I just want to see lots of people in our area follow the example of Jesus Christ and strive to give up sins and be great children of God!

One big problem we face is the constant abuse the people receive from the Jehovah's Witnesses.  O.k.  I shouldn't really say abuse, but if there were no JW's, the people would be a lot more receptive.  Many ask us, or think we are, of that religion.  Plus, they are extremely unreceptive talking to the Witnesses.  It seems almost that they are kind of like Jesus.  From what I've gathered, they don't believe in jesus Christ, or rather in terms on earth but only on His name from before, which they don't know is the same person. 

The family we live with (the Gamboas) are pretty great.  Their daughter in law and son also live here and she runs a pastry supply chain between the cities of IL TACNA and MOCEGUA.  This is wonderful because they are always generous and there also happens to be some that is about to expire regularly.  Since they can't sell it, we get to eat it!  Right now there's a fruit cake sitting on my desk.  Also for special occasions they pull out some treats.  The company's aptly Peruvian exclusive name is Bimbo.  I'm not sure what it's called in the States.  Axel, the 17 year old son, who just walked in for a second is the bomb.  His church calling is seminary teacher [for those of you who don't know, this is a four year course of study of the Old Testament, New Testament, Book of Mormon, and Church History for high school students.  It is usually held daily before school in most areas of the world].

The ward here is interesting.  I guess I never got to analyze anything to do with the activity of the leaders of Arlington ward. . . I just knew that we got home taught and (sometimes) I home taught too.  Now that I'm kind of a part of that [leadership], it feels like no one does their home teaching!  I think few people visit some, and most, none.  I don't really know what's up with that but as someone trying to help people join the ward I count it to be ideal, and to know the new people will be visited diligently.  We need as a ward more time spent on callings, less at the work place ahh.

Well.  Family thank you so much for writing me so much and sorry I don't get to write too much.  But I love you all and by the rate time is going, I'll be back in a jiffy.  Paul, study hard at BYU.


Elder Johnson

23 May 2011 Letter and a Picture diary of the morning of a missionary

Dear Family

Hows all the things. This morning I did a picture story of the typical day:

1. Wake up (prepare to pray, pray at 6:30)
2. Exercise 6:34 to 7:04
3. Shower
4. Breakfast - bread with butter, a corn based drink
5. Personal Study
6. Companionship Study
7. In the bus to Internet [We didn't receive these pictures this week, unfortunately]
8. Former summer retreat of Osama Bin Ladin
9. Tacna Center
10. The internet that i am in

Right. So this week we have been struggling to get contact with Victor Christian and Josue. They are three wonderful young people and we want to be able to help them. Tomorrow we will be thinking a lot about Christian and Josue. They want to make the covenants of baptism this Saturday but their mom isn't too happy about it and has told them no...

I'm learning a lot.

We read a really awesome talk by an area authority in church yesterday about the pioneers. The Willie and Clark Handcart company was met by a relief group. They had been sent as a group of apt and ready men. We talked a little about this. Apt. In this sense what it means, how we can be apt men. Some from that group had gotten discouraged waiting and headed home early. They found others who were recently heading out and discouraged them too. I learned about the affect that has on our attitude and on the attitude of others. We have to be super, super ready and willing so that others can be led to greater heights of animation [enthusiasm] in our presence. Also, one of the men in particular argued against leaving early, saying, "Brigham Young has assigned me this, and I will work until it is completed." That's a good attitude.

Sometimes we find people who don't let anything enter their head; others who do. It's really interesting to see that and who accepts learning. Yesterday we met someone who is really smart who didn't understand anything because she blinded her eyes and closed her mind.

On the other hand, a few days back a drunk man told us we should stop by his house someday. So I thought,  "Yeah, right."  But then he came to church yesterday. So we visited him and his wife. His wife is a member and he has tried to be a member before but couldn't stop drinking and ultimately gave up. But it seems like since our contact with him, he has possibly experienced a conversion. He is really animated [enthusiastic] to be a soldier of God. He wants to help us and was really happy. The member who was with us talked about how much we put up with and how we do everything to help the people and basically made us look really good, which was fine by me. So we will be moving forward with this Soldier of God.

Oh and Gerald went to church too!!!

I have no idea where went my time [definitely spanish grammar here:  Yo no se a donde fue el tiempo.], but chow chow!

Elder Johnson

6:30 a.m. Wake up

6:30-7:04 Exercise
Jogging in place

NOT flexible

Individual Study
Breakfast:  toast and a corn drink
Having fun during companionship study

Companionship Study
On the bus going to write on the internet

Monday, May 16, 2011

16 May 2011

Elder Johnson on left at Margarita's baptism (age 81)

This is the House of Israel

Querido Familia [Dear Family],

Another wonderful week has passed and unfortunately it will never come back. But I do know that it was a good one. By the way this computer has google chrome which is making me happy.

So the second picture is of a member's house. So y'all know, it is the House of Israel! Israel lives there. If anyone wants to know where exactly to find the House of Israel, just look up Pueblo Libre Manzana 9 Lote 14 AB Leguía Tacna Tacna Tacna Peru. They are the best there.

So Wednesday I was thinking to myself, how can we contact lots of people at the same time... Thinking about that, we passed La Cachina. It is an area that is left open in the middle of our area.  Every Wednesday it gets filled with a type of market that looks like a huge garage sale, kind of like what they do in the Washington-Lee High School parking lot every once in a while. So when we got there, we heard someone selling mandarins and advertising them with a megaphone thing. So that perked my interest since there were about 200 or 300 people listening in the area. So we contacted the family selling there, and asked if we could use the loudspeaker. I talked just a little to everyone! And ultimately invited all to meet us in the church just a few blocks away.

With that great experience, Thursday it was cold and we were knocking doors returning to the house. We decided to sing to all the people that opened the door: Families can be together forever. It was pretty awesome but a little difficult since I was trying to do it without reading the Spanish words, and translating in my head befuddled the part that says eee ternal pue den ser las fami lias, saying faa milias pue dan ser eee ter nal. Chistoso it was. [It was funny].

Saturday an investigator of the Sisters was baptised! Sister Margarita has 81 years and was really, really determined to be baptized. It was the best, but a little complicated. Since she couldn't really walk, we carried her with three people in white, I actually baptized her but the three of us submerged her. She was sooo soo happy but also quite surprised. I don't think she has submerged herself in water in the past 40 years.

This week we taught Gerald the Word of Wisdom (see Doctrine and Covenants 89). He made a big deal about how hard it would be and how a little bit of alcohol is good for the digestion and all, and then started talking about his history with that ideology and how he started saying: ok just one glass, then just one liter, then just 2 then 3 and basically convinced himself that we shouldn't even drink a little since it leads to a lot Haha. True. So after all that, he said: "Yea, I commit myself to keep this commandment too. Gerald is the best, but has a really hard time going to church! Gr!

Christian and his cousin Josue are doing really well. They feel the spirit. They read the Book of Mormon. They are always excited for our appointments. They are the best! Their friend Victor is also the best. Let it be known that the Book of Mormon is a holy book of scripture. That whoever reads it, thinks about the message to understand, and prays asking the same God of Abraham, of Jacob, of Moses, if it is his word, can know by the power of the Holy Ghost that it is. I promise all who do so with faith, a sincere heart and real intention to follow the answer - whatever it may be - will be able to feel and know it is true.

Last Monday- the preparation day (the only day we would be doing this)- we watched a movie that is called "On The Lord's Errand". It is about the Prophet that God has called right now, whose name is Thomas S. Monson. Watching it was the best. Family: watch it. Friends, talk with missionaries and then watch it.

Love Elder Johnson

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

9 May 2011


Elder Johnson and Elder Mateus in Tacna
Dear Home,

How is everyone! We are very good here in Tacna. It has been a particularly great day since I got to call y'all! It was such a pleasure. I am going to try to speak with slightly improved grammer also [left uncorrected from a sense of irony].

So this morning I woke up at 6:15 a.m. and did a little bit of cardiovascular and read a little of the scriptures about the 2000 Stripling Warriors to prepare myself to pray with my companion. Next stop was the shower and getting ready really fast to call. EJ phoned home. Later we studied the scriptures. Part of my particular calling is to prepare a District Meeting (meeting of about 6-8 missionaries) in which I usually teach about 45 minutes and we do practices. So this morning I prepared a little for that upcoming weekly meeting, and felt really good doing it. I think it's going to turn out well.

Then Elder Mateus and I studied together a bit and departed to come here! From all of our zone, only one missionary had a transfer, Elder Hunsaker went to Camaná.

I realized, eating the chocolate from the last package I received, that I absolutely love peanut butter cups. I didn't know how good they were but I just really, really enjoyed them. Also my companion [enjoyed them]. I had a possible idea for the upcoming pesky birthday topic, a tripodcito. like the baby tiny 5-inch tall one we have at home. Now that I got my camera back from the repair shop, I am not too keen on placing it on places to leave it on 10 second delay and run to be in the picture, on the other hand, with a little baby tripod, it would be facilito [easy] and segurisimo [very secure].

Oh in the picture there is this weird thing that I'm holding in my hand. That is a Paccai (pakaye). It is a strange looking thing that from the outside looks like a huge bean, but you split it in half and find a soft white material, kind of like a wet cottonish textured fruit. Very interesting and kind of good.

There is a certain part of Preach My Gospel that the President wants us all to know by memory. A little later my companion and I got a gift of a really, really tasty fruitcake from the family Gamboa! We decided (Elder Mateus and I) that as soon as he finished memorizing it, we would eat! Finally after much effort and study, today he finished memorizing all of it! Unfortunately he didn't end up liking the fruit cake... but that is a.o.k. for me!

Yes, so I am thinking that the next few weeks will be great.

Love Elder Johnson

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

2 May 2011

Dear family,

The subject in a word I learned this morning, I think it is Colombian slang which means wow. My companion wrote it to his mom talking about the baptism of the week! We met Juan (11 years old) a couple weeks ago in the church and he said he wanted to get baptized, so I wasn't about to say no. We taught him everything and he liked it so much. The night before his baptismal interview he stayed up in his bed reading about the Word of Wisdom, the Law of Chastity, and the Law of Tithing. He is the best. Elder Hunsaker said that in his interview, he answered all the questions super fast and started asking questions about the plan of salvation, but really interesting questions, not the normal basic ones that we are always asked. The baptism was spiritual, the water cold, but the feeling leaving the water and seeing Juan's face as we walked up the stairs was pretty incredible. Just goes to show that we can't really do anything without the power of God working miracles in the hearts of the people of the area, like him and his mom.

Gerald is also doing well, he reads, prays a lot, has great questions that show a lot of thinking, and this week, was completely hilarious. He recently started dating someone which is great cuz he was really hurt when his wife left him 8 or so years ago. But he really really wanted to introduce us to her haha. We went for our appointment and his brother called down partway through the plan of salvation, that there was an international call for Gerald... I have no idea why but that was the plan, that his brother would fake a call and he would, returning, be able to introduce us to Jacklyne, his girlfriend. haha. Well, she is pretty sweet. Asked us a question about what is the soul after the lesson (I think to test us) and we answered correctly, and turns out she knows the truth on that too. Basically Gerald is a lot happier, although not progressing particularly quickly to make this sacred covenant with the Lord. And due to this recent change, he definitely needs the next lesson, talking about one commandment in particular [probably the Law of Chastity]..

Oh and also we did a "service project" with Gerald, we were going to do some real help for him in his auto body shop work. He fixes up the cars after small hits of dogs, small crashes, the aesthetics. Anyway we were planning to use the fiberglass he uses to fix up a bunch of bumpers, but by the time he taught us how, and we did two fractures on one bumper, we had to go. It was really interesting though, and now I know how to repair bumpers and handle fiberglass and make the resin and weld the plastic bumpers!

Elder Hunsaker and Elder Huaccaychuco the zone leaders, will have 2 people to be interviewed this Wednesday! I'm excited to be able to interview them for baptism. It is always great to be able to talk to people who really have the desire [to be baptized].

This is now the last week of the transfer (six week periods of time in which almost never we change area) and I am thinking that I am gunna stay here in Leguia for the next one, though I dont know if it will be with Elder Mateus or not. It has been very interesting to be his companion. I've learned a lot from him and about my whole being here as a missionary.

I really am going to send back a letter today. it's in my backpack and on the way back I'm gunna send it. Just know that it's for some reason difficult for me! apart from the fact that there never is time.

And also today im gunna be able to go pick up my camera, fingers crossed that it's all ok now. The guy wants to charge me 70 soles. I'm pretty sure I could do it myself, but my time is suddenly zero, apart from the fact that I don't have anything of the form of a "tool" like we have at the house. When he said 60, he started talking about a digital lens, which I'm pretty sure is the same as saying: you probably don't know cameras... and are a gringo.. so I'm gunna try to charge you way more. I got it down to 60 soles and there gave in when he explained that this "digital lens" problem, was actually part of the moving focus lens, which is something that rings bells to me and doesn't sound completely ridiculous.

Adela is the wife of a Member less active [a less active member--gotta love that spanglish]. She wants to attend always the church and activate her husband and is basically the best. She said the other day, "digamos que quiero ser bautizado, que tendríamos que hacer"!! which is to say, let's say I want to get baptized, what would we have to do? I was contented [happy]!

Well. It's time. Lots of love

Elder Johnson