Tuesday, December 27, 2011

27 December 2011 (snail mail letter)

Dear Family,
early December 2011

Well, there goes a few more months.  Right now I'm pretty good.  Today was the day of transfers. As promised by the President, we didn't have a change.  The zone changed a lot and one of the district leaders went to Arequipa to be a zone leader, with the excellent missionary Elder Keel, but I guess that's not too important for y'all.  He who went was Elder Stringham from Utah.

These past few days have been some days of pressure and very needed growth and learning.  I feel like I've got so much to learn, but I'm happy I'm learning it.  The mission president came to Camana to do interviews and seriously helped me understand the Atonement.  I was a bit worried about a particular detail but in 10 words he was able to help me a lot.  Anyway, I feel so much better now.

I suppose Dad has seen a lot of growth in the process of interviewing.

Another thing that has helped a bunch has ben to study the Liahona of September, which talks all about fortifying marriages. [if any readers want to access this material, it can ben found at lds.org at this link: http://lds.org/liahona/2011/09?lang=eng ].Without getting ourselves all trunky, we searched for how to be the best companions ever.  It was a well-timed Liahona for us (It got to Camana pretty late),

But anyway, I've been toying with the idea of improving my handwriting [in his handwritten letter, there is a significant change at this point in his handwriting].  We'll see if it catches on more normally. . . but for now, I prefer not writing super, super, super, duper slow.  Superipermegaextraordinarily slow.

So how is everything going at home?  I love to get your Dear Elder letters.  It's a great way to communicate.  I also love getting the journal entries of Grandpa Johnson.

Christmas we are definitely going to use Skype.  It costs 5 soles [that's just under $2]to call ya'll 35 minutes with the phone and .667 soles to use Skype with video for 40 minutes.  Pretty cheap, no?  Even though there is much more information transferred.  Any calculation on the price of texting?

My companion heard the other day that his dad finished reading the Book of Mormon for the 63rd time!  That's soooo many times.  I think I'm on #7 or so or 8, but 63?! The goal of his dad is to catch up to his age and to have a lifetime average of one time per year.  He just barely caught up, being 63 years old.

Just now, I was thinking of the great example of Abraham.  How much trust he placed in the Lord because he knew the Lord.  I wish to come to here/develop faith like that, and in that process I am.  I hope I can increase lots in my trust in the Lord, and that all you can too.  Especially Paul and Eric and William too, starting these teenage years for the last two.  There is to do more than I did. [Such spanish grammar. . . I'm going to leave it]

Well, my pen is broken. . . I shall use the superglue from my first aid stuff to fix it.

[He continues]

As of now, I have felt very blessed to have this time to be a missionary.  I'm learning so so much and feel like the past year has been indispensable for my life.  And plus I've learned to speak spanish.  It would have been nice to have studied harder in seminary, but that's for Paul, Eric, and Will.  Anyway, I'm getting a lot of habits that will serve me well for the whole life, especially daily scripture study and (recently) to be neat.  I know that might not be believable for mom, but it just seems important recently to have all my stuff in the right place, and especially my desk clean and bed made. Don't ask me why or how, but I don't want to let my room get like it was before.  Anyway.

In church yesterday, we learned about the scriptures.  The teacher put a list of a few:  The Book of Mormon, The Bible, Doctrine and Covenants, Principles of the Gospel, the Ensign or Liahona [magazines], books of scriptures, notably not only the canonic list and asked:  Which is the most important?  Then took votes.  The Book of Mormon had 13, the Bible 0, Principles of the Gospel:0; Liahona: 14.  The teacher explained how the words of the prophets living are the most important for us today.  He talked about how 8 people in our branch have subscriptions to the Liahona.  There are 350 members in all.  We learned how great a tool is the Liahona for reactivation, edification, and preservation.  We learned how President Monson as a Bishop, worked a lot with it and it gave lots of faith.  I want all 350 to get the Liahona!

Somehow the Church helps the people here, and lowers the price for one year to 5.10 soles or about $2.50 for a year!  I don't know how better it could get to make sure the messages of the prophets and the twelve apostles are in the house.  We are planning on working with this area.  How's the ARlington Ward?  I don't know how many people are in the ward or how many have the Ensign, but it would be a great idea to strengthen the ward!

So things are progressing pretty well here.  It makes me happy that we are progressing.  Being better desafiers [challengers], better testifiers, better representatives of the Lord.  In summary, Merry Christmas to all!  My companion possibly will be here for three Christmas' if his visa to Argentina doesn't work out.  His family moved during the mission from Colombia to ARgentina.

I realized that I feel pretty accustomed to Latin culture and the Latin continent now.  I know how Bolivians are a little.  Definitely know how Columbians are.  Peruvians, obviously, a little of the Chilean culture and some stereotypes of Argentina and Brazil.  Some central American knowledge and a little familiarity with Ecuador culture.  That all is interesting, but way better has been that I have learned about Christ, and the growth of my faith.  Of much more value too.  Really infinitely more valuable in terms of everything.  As we near Christmas, interesting things happen.  All the world remembers a little of our Savior.  I know he lives, that he came into the world humbly to save.

And with that, MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!

P.S.  One of the missionaries told me about a person who bought a tree that was too big for the room.  So, he cut it.  But, he cut it at the top.  Haha.  Ooops.  I think this letter will be getting there late [for Christmas].

Monday, December 26, 2011

26 December 2011

Elder Johnson and Elder Ortiz.  I'm not sure what they're doing???

Love at first sight.

Querido Familia, [Dear family],
26 December 2011
Someone in this internet place is speaking in Italian with her family on Skype I think. It sounds really interesting, I understand about 50 percent maybe a little more.
Anyway. It was awesome to be able to Skype this year. I too liked it a lot more. Much more interesting I think. This week, SOOO much has happened. It’s been really fun.
Studying spanish in my spanish grammar book, I came across the practice frase [phrase] to translate into Spanish: David is marrying Natalia because he wants to become an American Citizen. Hahaha. Then I found one that I can relate to: Gina pretended to be asleep so that she wouldn’t have to do the household chores. (names have been changed)
With the housing stuff, there is to talk to Roland’s parents and Johnson Moody’s parents.
Thank you sooo much for sending me Christmas gifts to all! I so much enjoyed opening them and sharing them all with Elder Ortiz. After sooo much time together we know each other pretty well and I don’t know how it’s gunna be with a new companion... I hope we can get along a little faster and work into the powerful relation that we will need to Preach the Gospel by the Spirit.
This week we went one morning to a place called Carmen in our area. We got there walking and crossing the 7 minute walk of desert and thrown away dirt (since everyone has to cut the hole out of the hills to make their property flatish, they leave the dirt in the space between Tupac and Carmen) anyway we crossed it, got to a door, knocked and found a guy who seemed pretty cool. We invited his friend to come and we talked in the park a bit and invited them to repent and be baptized. They said of course, they wanted to change their lives, Then we learned they live in Puno... and they were leaving the next day, So we invited them to the church Christmas activity that night. They came! The activity was really fun and funny and my companion was the one directing and making the jokes and all. He is a bit of a clown.
Also there was an activity in the District center that was to be a collaboration between the missionary work and the liders [leaders]. It was gunna be great but they started kind of really late and we had to go RIGHT after it started and we acted out the journey of the three wise kings. We had a family there with us and they LOVED IT. I was one of the inn keepers who rejected Mary and Joseph. I spoke in English when I was rejecting them.
Something we learned this week was that the Doctrine of Christ really can’t be read, seen, heard. It has to be felt. A family came to some Elders in the Zone saying their son was possessed by a demon and asked our advice. They said that he spazzes and vomits when he hears the name of the Savior. We talked with the President and he said to go and give him an idea of what was up. Elder Ortiz went there in divisiones [splits] and when he got there asked the adolescent what his name was. Then who else was in there with him. He said Christ. My companion called the President and the President said, “Don’t worry, there no is a demon there. He just has schizophrenia (he was talking 150 kilometers away us). The President continued, “Tell him you’re gunna hug him and give him a hug.” So my companion did. When he hugged the kid he got the such a clear feeling that there wasn’t any evil in him but that he was going to be able to be ok, that he should go to sacrament meeting, and an overwhelming feeling of love and compassion came over him. Talking again with the President,  he said, “See? Now you know how the Doctrine of Christ is not something that you can see, read, hear.. it’s something you must feel. You need to understand that you are a representative of Christ and that means that no one can harm you. I love you, Merry Christmas.”
This President is so amazing. He gives example of a true disciple of Christ. I hope to be able to give that kind of example. 
So I’m going to write thank you notes right now and they should be getting there pretty,  not sooo soon, but more or less there.
On the note of the mission, it can be life changing, but the best thing to do is to change the life before. There is to leave everything behind of the world NOW so that in the months that come you can have the Spirit constantly with you to teach you all you need to know before you go. The spirit is the supreme and eternal teacher. Make yourself digno [worthy] of His constant companionship long before you go and your mission will be very very distinct.
So Much Love
Elder Johnson
Elder Ortiz
Thanks for the candies!

Monday, December 19, 2011

19 December 2011

Dearest family,
19 December 2011
This week we had the opportunity to go celebrate Christmas with the other missionaries in this half of the mission with the President. He was only there for a little bit since he had to go to a Disciplinary council for a missionary. The president was really, really worried for the missionary and saying goodbye to us, he went straight there. He almost began to cry saying goodbye and asked that we pray to help him and the missionary.  He has such love for every single one of the 200 missionaries in the mission.
The activity of Christmas was very pretty. Zone Camana sang some christmas hymns that turned out.. ok haha. Some other zones reenacted the nativity, the wait and the signs in the Americas, and sang other christmas tunes. We ate a type of cake very, very Peru typical that EVERYONE loves thats called Paneton with chocolate milk. The President’s family gave us all a little present with candy and a hot chocolate mug. Mine was awesome. 
Saturday we went to the baptism of the two people who were baptized in the center of the city. It was pretty and the brother who I talked about last week went with us even though his wife couldn’t. He is getting to know so many members. 
In divisiones [splits] with Elder Perez, we were teaching in the busiest part of our area, and a member of another church came trying to doubt everything. It was really interesting. We kept teaching and answering his questions and explaining the scriptures. He knew a ton and talked and talked. His main point was: if [you] show me a sign that this book is true, I’ll believe it. We read a little, we answered his doubt, but he persisted in asking for a sign. There are so many proofs in the Book of Mormon that it’s true, but I couldn’t open to any of them. The only thing I could do was remember Mathew 12:39. Anyway, talking about 30 minutes, he said so many things, but not a single thing he said worked. He was trying to work against us and the words were given to us to confound him in everything he said. The only matter of the fact is if we are willing to be humble and complete with the requirements of the Lord in reading the Book of Mormon, pondering the contenido [content or meaning], and praying to God and asking Him so that He can answer. The man refused to do this without solid proof of its truth. Testifying teaching, explaining all of his other doubts didn’t help him overcome that unwillingness. We taught about the faith, about what it says in Hebrews and Alma. What amazed me and Elder Perez was how completely the promise was completed that they who work against will be totally confounded and that the words will be given us. 
In these days, my companion and I have been finding people who are not able to be baptized in 3 weeks because they need to get married, or people who live in other places, and all that. We were thinking last night what do we need to change, how do we need to refine ourselves to be able to help people to make covenants with the Lord every weekend. If we are doing everything right, that should happen. We're teaching the gospel of Christ! Representing the Savior and His Church with His Authority! I want to be like Nefi [Nephi] from [the book of] Helaman. That's what I need to make myself.
My companion is going to be here in Peru for the 3rd Christmas now. It’ll be my 2nd. My plan is call y’all around the afternoon. At 3:00 p.m.
Family. I love you all so much. Another Christmas away from home won’t be super easy but since your packages got here I’ll get a little of that at home feeling. It drives me a little bit crazy that it’s hot instead of cold and all that.
I miss each of y’all and can’t wait to talk Sunday! I got the skype info. It’s important to be ready since I’ve only got 30-40 minutes [We’ll take 40 then!].
Love Elder Johnson.

Friday, December 16, 2011

12 December 2011

Dear Family,
What a cool week. Here are some stories.
Briefly, this is a part of what I wrote to our mission president this week.
[Translation of what he wrote]:
How did the week go?  For us it was very good; we learned a lot. I have to have an unbreakable faith to accomplish our goals.  I realized that it is very difficult to not be like the waves of the ocean.  Even though I am weak, yesterday we had a sweet experience.
After putting myself well with God, I invited the Lord to accompany us to a lesson.  We taught a young boy who came to the church with his friend who had had only one lesson on Friday.  He was uncomfortable and didn’t speak much. Looking at his face, I prayed, asking God to allow us to touch his heart and that the Lord could accompany us.  I felt His presence while I asked His questions and not mine.  The young man opened up, recognized the spirt, and strengthened his desire to be baptized.  From there, we went to another lesson that was even better where I felt the spirit so strongly.  It was a lesson with a family.
Como le fue la semana? Para nosotros fue muy bueno, aprendimos mucho. Tengo que tener una fe inquebrantable para poder lograrlo (las metas). Me di cuenta que es muy dificil pero que para no estar como una ola del mar. Aunque estoy debil, ayer tuvimos una experiencia tan dulce.
Al ponerme bien con Dios, pude invitar el Señor a acompañarnos en una leccion. Enseñamos a un joven que vino a la capilla con su amigo con solo una leccion el viernes. El estaba incomodo y no hablaba mucho. Yo, mirando a su cara, oré pidiendo que Dios nos concediera tocar su corazon, y que el Señor nos pudiera acompañar. Sentí Su prescencia mientras pregunté Sus preguntas y no las mías. El joven se abrió, reconoció el espiritu, y se fortificó en su deseo de ser bautizado. De alli, fuimos a oltra leccion aun mejor en que sentí tan fuerte el espiritu que casi no me pude contener. Fue con una familia.
I'm definitely going to mention a lot about this week. It’s been so awesome.
Monday we left the room late. I was so disappointed in myself... proselyting starts at 6 p.m. on Monday and we left late, then wasted about an hour and a half. Feeling pretty bad we sat down in a park and talked a little about what we need to change. We prayed and talked with God about how we are going to change and asked for forgiveness. Getting up, we walked up a hill and looked for a former investigator. He was sleeping but he got up and readied some chairs to be able to talk to us. Then, we went to visit a family. They are SO AWESOME and I love them so much. It has been so so special to be able to teach them this week. We have visited them 3 times this week.
Last week the dad came alone to church since we invited him. Haha. But we didn’t, the spirit did. We invited him to pray Saturday night and he told us Thursday that he DID and that he felt something so special. For the past few years he has had the desire to change and be able to make his family more united, and he wanted to be able to expel the imperfections that make it hard for him to do so. That night he had a dream, that let him know that with the Book of Mormon, he was starting the change in his heart that would make it possible to renew it. We read with him a scripture in Moroni 8 about how Christ comes as medic, not to the healthy, but to the sick. He was so amazed to read that and remember his dream. Starting last Sunday he is now in 1 Nephi 16 and reads every day.
Thursday teaching with his wife, there was a difference and line that was separating them because she didn’t read or pray and she felt a little left behind since for so long she has been the one praying and asking that God could change her husband so that their kid could have a wonderful family. She was kind of shocked to see that all of a sudden her husband was making the strides and bounds and said at the beginning that she had quite a few doubts.
I felt impressed to address the feeling she was having, and seeing that I remembered a picture of the Liahona de trunky [?] as we refer to it sometimes, but the one from a few months back all about marriage advice. There was a picture of a couple climbing a rock thing supposedly part of a mountain. One was reaching down helping the other to get up. Thinking more I realized I could share an experience with her.
My compañion was the one who received the impression to read in Moroni 8 when we heard about the dream of the dad, and in that moment I had thought, interesting why did the Lord give that to him and not to me, and in the moment I learned that that’s what God will do often to teach us as a compañionship.
Painting the picture of the Liahona picture and the experience I had had earlier in the lesson, we helped her to understand that she and he were a unit for God, that sometimes He is going to give guidance to her, other times, to him, but to guide and bless the family always. She felt so good to be able to understand that and the Spirit carried the message to her heart.
She had been reading the pamphlet of the law of chastity and they were filled with the desire to be married, and we promised them that the scripture in Genesis when God blessed Adam and Eve since they were married, would be able to apply to them, as God blessed ( the brother and sister) and their family. That made them so happy. The dad expressed that he knows that God has sent us to answer the prayers of him and his wife to make to family strong.
Yesterday we also visited them. They told us how in the afternoon, after he got back from church, he went to drop off the lunch for his wife at work (she is watching over some kind of oil tank thing) They stayed there talking for 3 hours about all he learned in church, and all he has learned in reading the Book of Mormon. He explained about how Jehovah is Christ (almost everyone here thinks that is not the case) to her and even explained a little about how they are descendants of the Lamanites and how that makes them from the House of Israel. 
When he told us about how they talked for 3 hours (they keep telling us that before they knew us they always had problems and no patience and would never have talked 3 hours) about all his reading in the Book of Mormon and study. My understanding was enlightened and a scripture was fulfilled in front of me in Galations 5:22. The first fruit of the spirit is love. I had never really understood that until that moment. HOW many times have I read that verse... probably more than an average of one per day in all my mission, and after hundreds of times the words were made clear and I saw the effect of the spirit in their life, and that he had brought love to them, patience, and the ability to change.
I realize that I have been able to feel the spirit much, much more this week. And writing this I see that I have been blessed with this same fruit this week. The fruit of love. I hope I can keep learning to love more and more. It’s weird.. but it’s actually possible to meet someone for the first time, and be able to feel genuine love for this person.
I’m trying to be like Jesus, I’m following in His way, I’m trying to love as He did, in all that I do and say. [These words come from a song Mark learned as a child in Primary]
This Christmas and actually last, Skype is approved for all! send me information for an account so I can log in and call y’all the 25th since it’s Sunday the afternoon would be needed. There IS a time difference now I think.. right now it’s 1:29 pm.
LOVE Elder Johnson

Sunday, December 11, 2011

November 28 and December 5, 2011

I bet Mark had fun driving this vendor's cart!

Dear family,
November 28. 2011
How is everything family? We are approaching the Christmas season and it gets hotter and hotter here.. which weirds me out, but I'm accustomed to not having snow for the least.
Yesterday it was cool. We found a man and his sister and we could teach them. We felt a little like Paul when in Acts 2 the people had a desire to do, we told them "repent and be baptized" They expressed doubts and following the spirit, we could find out that he feels addicted to drinking. So this morning we studied how to help people overcome addictions in Preach my Gospel and we shall teach him again today with his sister. I hope we can help him with that. Unfortunately he has worked in the mine since he had 15 years and has to go back in a week or so... but I want him to be able at least go back able to resist the temptation to drink.
Probably the experience most powerful this week was the baptism we attended. It wasn't from our area, but rather a different one in the zone, the Branch Camana. In all the intercambios (exchanges) that we have done in these days we were able to teach every single one of the 3 people who were baptized in that branch. I got to baptize the investigator Elias from the sisters. It was touching. When their district leader interviewed him a week after we taught him, he asked that I could do it. In the water, Elias told me that he didn't want to plug his nose to do it more like Christ, and he wanted me to put him ALL the way down in the cold water. When he came up he had such a huge smile and leaving said, "I feel really good. Really, really good." That was a pretty special moment. When he shared his testimony at the end, he said he was so happy to be baptized, and hoped he wouldn't be the last, since he knew this is the true and living church of Christ. One of the others who I taught in interchanges (exchanges) with Elder McNeil and Elder Ramirez gave them thanks and mentioned me too! That made me happy.

Baptism of Elias

So this week has to be way more. I was trying to work with a faith unbreakable like it says in Jacob 4, but I need to up it more. I desire the abilidad (ability) to do whatever the Lord wants me to do, like Nephi said, if He tells me to say unto the sea, make yourself land, that I can say it and that it happens. I know the Lord wants 25 baptisms in December. I have to change a ton to write that history for the Lord.
I was studying this morning and I realized the question that so many here ask: what is the name of God? and the question of that as a defining and proving doctrine of their religion isn't any bigger than a question about the nature of the Trinity and the way the scriptures talk of them. John 10, Mosiah 5 and 15 and Helaman 14:12 or 12:14 I think, helped me to clarify the idea that was forming of how to answer, and DyC 110 makes it completely clear. In the end I realized, the Book of Mormon once again answered the question and the real doubt comes down to accepting the truth of the Book of Mormon and having the faith to ask of God. I was thinking about this since the other day we were teaching some investigators and some others knocked the door and came in rich with a spirit of contention right when we were leaving. When we quickly made the appointment with the family, he said, “Can I come?” Haha so I had to clarify that question a little again. But really every question or doubt that they can have reduces to the wall of the faith. Can they carry out the experiment of Alma and Moroni to have for the least the desire to know and to read, meditate, and ask, an invitation to all that comes from God.
Reading again the conference talks, we read what President Eyring said. Three things to make every branch or ward a force of strong priesthood holders: 1. A president that knows how to sit in council with his quorum and value their opinions. 2. Faith that leads to be able to develop in the unit charity the one for the other, and 3. An understanding of the priesthood and how to work righteously to take part in the work of the immortality and eternal life of man. Not sure how good this is in Arlington, since I was like a newborn puppy who doesn't open his eyes then, but we are working here. Read it!
Love Elder Johnson

Dear family.
December 5, 2011
Wow. It seems like I’ve been in Camana forever. Last night in the district center I felt like I knew all the members of the district. So this week we’re gunna do some good work. Last Wednesday we had the Conference with the President for the zone leaders. Always so edifying. I was thinking about the gifts of the spirit.... and I’m not sure if I’ve already written about this, maybe more than once.. but I’ve been thinking a lot. It’s just that the mission president so obviously has obtained gifts of the spirit and complies with the charge that the meetings be carried out by the indications of the spirit. I want to be able to always do that with the investigatores (investigators) and that in our branch it happens that way. We were conferencing with the District President on those lines. How to do it. 
I felt so good in the First Presidency Christmas Devotional! It was awesome. I loved hearing and seeing the tabernacle choir sing JOY TO THE WORLD especially. How awesome was the thing! Wow!  I just went running to pick up the two new missionaries for the zone and got back really fast!  That’s fun. The new missionaries seem awesome. One is the most loving missionary in the whole mission. Indisputably. The other is kind of new so I don’t know anything about him but he seems awesome. Elder Stoddard. Back to the devotional. We went with Brother Cabrera!
This Brother Cabrera we just barely started to teach. Almost a month and a half ago we contacted him. We talked to his family since then and they are awesome. Coming back from a baptism with Elder Ramirez we felt like we should go to visit him. So we went straight there and only had time to teach him no more. but in teaching him he demonstrated such a desire to repent and come to Christ. Running on the way out at 9:20 (we ran 8 minutes to get back before 9:30) I said, We want to invite you to church tomorrow, those feelings that you could feel today, you will be able to feel in the church tomorrow. Will you come? Yes!. So we knocked his door early in the morning Sunday but he wasn’t there and we were thinking,”oh no!” But when we got to church he got there just after the sacrament. He stayed the three hours. He loved our class we gave in Sunday School about the personality of Christ, enjoyed priesthood meeting, and all! Then he committed himself to come to the Christmas devotional. He got there a little late but we had mistaken the time anyway and he actually got there 15 minutes before it started and felt really good watching it. So cool it was. Then he found a childhood friend who is a member and en fin (in the end), had a great experience. 
Before the awesome devotional we taught another man and his kid who also were filled with the desire to do what Christ wants and prepare to be baptized like Brother Cabrera. He is a suitmaker and when I invited him to church next week said, “How will I go?  I don’t have a suit.” Pause....ha haha. anyway I have really been trying to roll out love for all the people. Maybe I have forgotten a little.. or maybe I just haven’t ever really been really loving, but anyway I’m finding that in having love for the people, they begin to be able to feel the love of God in their lives. And through me, they come to Him. This was a big theme of the counsel with the Presidente on Wednesday and it’s so true. My companion now has to feel that same kind of love for the people.
We were brainstorming the other day about how to help everyone in the world go through the conversion process that my companion and I have seen in our missions in ourselves. We took out three important things: 
  1. Feel the need to change, 
  2. Have a responsibility and a good leader to follow up and help, 
  3. Read the scriptures every day to understand our covenants and the priesthood.
Which reminds me that one of the missionaries in the  zone asked me for a blessing of counsel and comfort. It was a very sweet experience to be able to communicate the profound and moving blessing and see my spanish magnified so that it could have the Lord’s desired effect.
Love Elder Johnson