Monday, September 17, 2012

17 September 2012 Final Missionary Letter

Dear Family,

I just realized that this is my last letter.. That's interesting... Unfortunately I just spent about 30 minutes emailing the mission presidente and looking at key indicatores and all sorts of things that aren't so important or urgent (Elder Jones groups all the things he does on two axis: Urgentness and Importantness. It's helpful.. I think we never get to the things that are not urgent or important, but I suppose that's the point).

So well, I feel like this letter should be the BEST...

Soo.. first off, we had the baptism of three of our beloved sisters. Paola Raá was Friday, and it was a very, very well done service with lots of help. Turned out great. She was really, really well prepared. In the pictures, the better picture comes with the back of the head of Aldo Lopez. So I'm thinking that's a photoshop job since the first doesn't have everyone in it. She was so so happy to be baptized.

We also had the opportunity to have the baptismal service of Ysabel y Alessandra Ramos Saturday!!! It was great! They were also so delighted. Alessandra said Sunday that she had felt as if she had been a feather after her baptism. The ward always shows up in force to help us out. It's quite an amazing thing to see how much the ward is helping us. The bishop also is just a rock of a man. In a great way. He reminded me of Dad when he told of a problem he had with his work. He switched banks [jobs] to be able to give more time to his family and the church, but turned out that it didn't work out and he had less. So he was about to quit, and the Lord gave him a blessing to be able to have the time he wanted for his work in the home and the church. The other saints seem to be so excited. It's just a great ward to be in. I think a lot has to do with attitude of the observer too, but the attitude makes differences in everything.

Saturday we also were called to go to the Hospital to give a blessing to the mother of a ward member. She told us after the blessing that she is going to be baptized Monday. We've got to call her to see how her operation went. I think her appendix burst. She has 83 years.

Really Elder Jones and I are just so happy. Missionary work is the best. I'm excited to get into family search and family search indexing. I made some goals for that last Monday for my first month back and also for a bunch of other subjects. Yesterday, we had 42 people in the new members class! Converts, less actives being activated, and members acompañando sus amigos [members coming with their friends]! This week we have quite a few people who could be baptized. One that is more sure than my own attendance in the sacrament meeting next week. The ward is also going to have the baptism of a child of 8 years who went up to the Executive Secretary and said: "Hey, I'm eight. I want to get baptized." Haha.

I'm writing all the people I've been able to see baptized, a couple have moved and I'm a little worried about losing contact when I leave! I'm gunna call them the first possible.

All the members keep asking me how much time I have left...It doesn't feel like the full time mission is close to ending. The whole ward are our friends.

Well.... finishing up. I love missionary work. I love the time that He has given me to work here in Peru to learn how to work for the rest of my life. I'm so grateful for all the wonderful experiences that I've been able to have in all 110 weeks of the mission the Lord has given me (were they 110?) and more than anything, my heart is consumed of thankfulness for the gift to the atonement which makes it possible that when I repent, my soul may be comforted and forgiven. God is my Father, Christ is my Lord, The Book of Mormon is true, Joseph Smith was and is a prophet of God and This is His church, and Thomas S. Monson is the living prophet of God today. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

10 September 2012


How great will be this week. We are working with some people who are amazingly good. Manyan Liendo Li got permission to be baptized next Saturday (we are almost sure about his permission) He was in Mosiah 15 the last time we taught him Friday.

A reference from the young single adults, Paola, has decided to be baptized Friday. She got to go to the Youth transmission Sunday by Elder Holland and we finished up everything basically. They are both very very special. 

My companion Elder Jones is the best... I don't know if I've written that before, but he is so patient. I'm trying to be more and more docile, haha I'm a little overly fast sometimes, but his tremendous humility is very impressionist. I have been trying to act in every single moment of the day every day just like Christ would. Its quite hard. But I like it, Elder Jones helps me to be better, and I think if we work so that every person around us could say that of us, then we will be doing what Christ said when he said let your light shine forth. And in Doctrine and Covenants, Levantaos y Brillad. One of my friends at church: Osman Salagury, shared a quote in Elders Quorum: Let not your faith be difficult to detect.

Our good bishop said in his talk something very true to all the members who had difficulties: Being a member of the Church should make us successful men, and successful women. I liked those two quotes from church.

Getting to church we had a spiritual experience: Called a family last Saturday who gave us the news that Sister Sanchez finally got out of the hospital. She has 83 years and wants to be born again and be baptized, but hasn't been able to. She also was completely unable to walk after such a long time laying down in the hospital. They took her in ambulance to her house Friday. She made a heroic effort to sit up and get dressed when we visited Saturday. We invited her to come to church and promised we would help her get there. At 8:30 we got there and she wasn't quite ready, so we went to make some calls for 10 minutes, and then came back. At 8:45 we started, with the taxi driver we helped her to stand up! we spent about 10 minutes walking the 4 meters from her bed to the taxi. That was an Olympic effort. She was going an almost constant 7 millimeters per second haha. But there, she felt great, she felt new strength, and getting back home she had strength to lift her legs out of the taxi all by herself and sit down in her bed all by herself! Amazing.

Love Elder Johnson

Monday, September 3, 2012

3 September 2012


Querido phamily,

This has been really really fun. As a note, Paul sent me a picture of our new front lawn. It's pretty! Tons of trees and green and stuff. Looks pretty weird. Haha just kidding.

This SUNDAY WAS AWESOME! the whole ward, well half the active body almost, went to the temple last week. And they came back Sooo happy. It lined up with a testimony meeting too which made for a really powerful meeting. There were a bunch of future saints in the meeting too who were impacted by the testimonies, especially the testimonies of the youth who went. Almost all the youth who went bore testimony of their experiences.

Apart from that, about.. let's see... one friend of a saint came to church and felt really strongly the spirit. She had a few questions like why don't you have pictures in the chapel. Until someone had asked me that a month ago, I hadn't even realized that the churches, especially the catholic, always have pictures in their chapels. That's interesting. Also, there was a young man who has 15 years who was happy to be there and there was another lady with her two kids who we actually didn't get to meet! Mom dad, friends, when you see someone new, always talk with them, make them feel your genuine love, and get them to know the missionaries, another who is an older man who sells stuff here in Tacna and also lives in the jungle of Lima, our gospel principles class teacher who is always on the ball asked him a little about his situation to find out who he was, where from etc, and straightly asked him if he was planning on being baptized here or in Lima. Yesterday was the first time we've seen him so that was just the directness that he needed to know how to do this thing he wants of coming to Christ. She invited him to a family home evening Tuesday with a recent convert Sandra Astete and a few others from her class. 

Apart from those, sister Chita came with two of her kids and she came fasting for her husband who is still not embracing the gospel with all his heart like she is. Her daughter went to Arequipa to see if she could get into a university there, and we were hoping she wouldn't so that when her dad is ready they can all get baptized as a family, and she didn't get in. When they told us we reacted like this YES! oh um... also sad but mostly YES!

In the afternoon we started splits with some members and I went with Osman and we contacted some references of his family. He has been back from the mission for 2 years now, and has been married for 1.5 years. Apart from getting married quickly, he gives a constant example in everything he does. I asked his cousins who he presented to me if they believed that The Lord helps him and they said YES faster than a speeding bullet. Osman was baptized something like 6 years ago, and his strong example helps others to be prepared. We invited them to be baptized with an uncle of theirs and they accepted.

We also went Saturday with Aldo Lopez, a friend of ours, to a friend of his. She is really really awesome. She felt the spirit very strongly and could just tell during the lesson that all we were saying was true. Also accepted a baptismal goal. 

What Roland sent me in a Dear Elder has been excellent. We invite everyone we get to know to be baptized at once. That helps a lot. Not just to let them know how to come unto Christ with clarity, but it helps us to be of purer heart I think. I really like it because you can start in any way. Talk about Christ for 5 seconds, or just say: Hello, we are mormon elders. We have the authority to baptize. Would you like to be baptized? And if its said with a pure heart and the eye single to the glory of God, almost everyone says yes haha. Most will express some reserves after, but its just a great thing to do. It makes me happy for some reason.

I like what Manyan Liendo said: A communist is communist until he becomes a millionaire, and an atheist is an atheist until the plane goes down. That kid is pretty amazing. He is now finishing Jacob and launching into Enos. Enos is the best! We gave him an assignment to look for all the places in the Book of Mormon where it testifies of Christ today. We've just got to find his elusive mother so he can have permission to be baptized.

We asked the landlord of our room to take some names to the temple, and something marvelous happened. of the four we sent, two finally told us that the reason they haven't been baptized yet is not just because her mother has been opposed (even though she has 24 years) but that she has felt addicted to coffee. Also, her mom this week decided to support her in her decision to be baptized out of nowhere.. that was special.
No me alcanca el tiempo por los otros, Chao! [I don't have any more time for the rest, Goodbye!)

Love Elder Johnson

Sunday, September 2, 2012

27 August 2012

Baptism of Sister Sandra Astete and the twins.
Dear the family,

Haha.  I've sent you some pictures of the baptism. I look a little cold, because it was pretty cold that day!

This week has been really bitter sweet. Sister Sandra Astete (I thought her last name was Ostepi until I filled out her baptismal register). Her baptism was very, very sweet. I had the honor of baptizing her and while recently we have been working to make sure a member gets to baptize the converts, she beat me to it. It is always very special to baptize. I was a little worried since there was the Primary anniversary activity at the same time making a lot of noise a few rooms over in the gym, but when we descended into the baptismal font, all the noise seemed to just go away. I taught her what to do, and they opened the doors, and she was baptized. After she was born again, she stood there for about 6 seconds with her eyes closed enjoying the strong spirit that was poured out into her heart.

After changing she shared a little her feelings and spoke of how great she felt and that she is going to stay active for ever. The service was shared with two twins from another ward that is by ours, and Elder Avila , our district leader and his companion Elder Castillo that he is training. Those twins were crazy.

Wow, the time has totaly beat me... five minutes more... ummm

The bitter part was that we had two other girls who were ready to be baptized and they never got to be baptized. Their mom is a little bit of an impediment... she thinks we have lots of wives, and no doubt thinks we want to get married with her daughters... we were planning on looking for her and responding, when she says that, "Of course! You've raised them well.... wait just kidding really no, but the point is, is that we don't teach plural marriage. I think the real difficulty about the mom is the principle of tithing. Ysabel, the older daughter of 24 years started crying as we read the Book of Mormon the other day. She had been feeling strongly that she should be baptized and didn't know how to do it.. we read in 2 Nefi 2 and 1 and she broke down in tears because she felt the Love of God in that moment. We invited her to be baptized the next day, but the dad of one wanted it to be Sunday in the morning, and when Sunday in the morning came the mom got back....

We shall help them this week

Love Elder Johnson

 “No hay ninguna Otra practica
   Que tenga un efecto más saludable
   En la vida  de una familia que la de inclinarse
   Juntos en oración.
   Las pequeñas tormentas que parecen afligir a toda
   La familia adquiere Poca consecuencia cuando uno  se     arrodilla
   Ante el señor y se dirige a el en suplica.
   Al Orar, el amor entre matrimonio  se fortalecerá,
   y los hijos se verán bendecidos
  Con un sentimiento de seguridad, Que deriva de vivir  en un
  Hogar en donde reina el Espíritu e Dios.
  Los hijos aprenderán a amar a padres que se aman entre si
   Y  nutrirán  sus corazones  con un espíritu de respeto.
   Y así la familia crecerá con unidad en la fe.”
   --Presidente Gordon B Hinckley.

There is no other practice
That has a more healthy effect in the life of a family than to bow together in prayer. The little torments that appear to inflict every family have little consequence when one kneels before the Lord and directs himself to Him in supplication.
When praying, love between a couple is strengthened, and the children will be blessed with a feeling of security that comes from living in a home where the Spirit of God reigns.  The children will learn to love the parents who love each other and their hearts will be nourished with a spirit of respect and in this way, the family with grow in unity of the faith.

President Gordon B. Hinckley

Monday, August 20, 2012

20 August 2012

Dear family,

AAHHHHHHH this week has been pretty great. We didn't do splits with the missionaries because we decided to take a week to focus on our area, so that the example could be a little better, and it worked excellently. We raised almost all of our records as companions, we found more in one week than I've ever found in the mission, we had 8 investigators in sacrament meeting, and an excellent coordination with the ward leaders to help them all feel great and at home there (all the investigators were grabbed and loved immediately after the prayer and taken to their classes). That was way cool. To make that happen we wrote on some little sticky notes a little note to the leaders of each organization about the investigators who were there for their classes, and gave those to the brother who is secretary, who passed it to them. 

We had a little miracle with the family Chita. I don't know if you remember that, but we had a while ago a really cool family who we were teaching, but the dad never wanted to come down from the second floor or talk with us, nothing. We were planning one night and the thought came that we should go back to them to find them. So we passed by unannounced one afternoon, and we found the mom, a few of the sons, and all at once the dad drives out of the driveway! (they have a wall between the lawn and the driveway, and the street -- which is a really rare feature, even rarer than having a car even though he isn't a taxi driver ---- He didn't stop to talk, but we passed a few mintutes with the mom making plans to pass by his bookstore to get to know him, and he got back with his daughter! He parked outside and walked past us and we were able to talk with him! We did our best to get his confidence and we agreed to visit him with his wife Sunday.

Sunday I went in splits with Hermano Dueñas. It was a very, very spiritual lesson. First Hermano Dueñas shared his whole conversion story. He also was Catholic 20 years ago, and he shared about how much he was able to change his life becoming a member of the Church of Jesus Christ. He bore testimony as a father, who let the gospel into his house, and I bore testimony as a son, who grew up with the gospel in the house. He was touched, and promised that before we meet again, he will KNOW that the Book of Mormon is true.

I can't write even the hundreth part of what happened this week.

This morning, reading Words of Mormon as part of my Book of Mormon estudio [study] for the 8th time in the mission I FINALLY understood how the whole 116 pages and the small plates and large plates thing works. Haha. Took me long enough. I thought I understood before, but now I really do. 

Love Elder Johnson

Monday, August 13, 2012

13 August 2012

Dear the family,

Esta semana ha sido una semana hermosisima [This has been a most beautiful week]. We were privileged to presenciate [witness] the baptismal service of our friend Savino Mayta. It was really really especially pretty because we were able to plan with a member of the sumos [High Priests] who sang with his wife and he played guitar a hymn. Also that a there were quite a few people there (after this picture, an activity ended and a bunch of people came). It was also very pretty because afterwards, his two children were able to talk. I was a little unprepared for what they shared. His son, who has 26 years, shared the history of the church in his family. He shared about how his mom was baptized about 30 years ago and how he was baptized 2 years ago and how for a year they were going with their mom and his sister who was baptized at the same time.

They had fallen away from activity a year ago, and like I wrote last week, had decided as a family to come back to the church, even with the Dad who still wasn't a member. He had been thinking that he should be baptized "the day Christ was born, the 25 of December," or that's what they told us. He had held firm that view and thought until last Sunday. Last Sunday was fast Sunday. His daughter had talked to the bishop the week before, and the gospel principles teacher had also mentioned the power of fasting.

His daughter, who is about 30, when she talked at his baptism told of how she had met with the bishop and expressed her desires that in the next trip the ward does to Lima (a 22 hour bus ride) she wants to be sealed with her family. Our marvelous bishop told her how great that idea was, and that it would be important that he can be baptized this month, so that he can complete the one year preparation before the ward trip next August (the whole ward is really excited for the trip of this year, which is going to be the 27 of this month!).

She told us that she became worried, and mentioned to her dad that he should be baptized this month to be able to make the ward trip and be sealed all, he resisted and stayed with the idea of December for his baptism. So, was quite worried. But she remembered the counsel of the bishop and of our gospel principles class teacher. She decided to fast. She said in that baptism that she had never fasted before, and she knew it was going to be hard since at 6 she always gets really hungry. So to keep her fast, she decided to go to sleep. haha. In the morning she said she woke up with a strange sensation. She wasn't hungry, she just felt good. They went to church, they ended their fast, and we went to visit them in the night. That was last Sunday.

While there, just like I wrote last week, we read with him some scriptures, and had planned to invite him to be baptized for the 11 of August.

We read Alma 7 and analyzed it, and the spirit started to work in him. He decided to be baptized and now we know why his daughter was so emotional about that decision. Her fast was answered. They will be able to go to the temple with the ward next year!

Telling that story she got quite emotional and expressed her great great happiness. It was amazing to see that we had been involved in the Lords answering her fast. Good to be worthy of being part of answering a fast.

After his baptism, he invited the 30 or so people who were there to his house to share some food, and they were really worried because there were way way more than they were expecting. But it was somehow more than enough. 

Also, Sunday, we were in the sacrament meeting praying and praying that the Lord could bring his chosen children to church. The two ladies who were going to be baptized next week didn't come for some reason. We have got to find out about how to help them. Anyway, after talking with an investigator who is struggling to get married to be able to make his cohabitation relation after the manner of the Lord and be baptized, we went to the Gospel Principles class. The teacher came up to us excitedly and said: "Elders, this is Sandra, she wants to be baptized." I about fainted.

God answers prayers.

She is the friend of a member. She went to church years ago but never was baptized, and stopped going at some point. But she came yesterday with the desire to change her life once and for all and be baptized. It should be soon her service.

That's all the time I've got.

Love you all,
Elder Johnson

Monday, August 6, 2012

6 August 2012

Dear Family

I was just working on a letter for Paul, and basically I was writing him some things I would have liked to understand at the beginning of the mission the Lord has given me, and it just is a little sad that the time I have here is coming to a close. What can I do? Work the best I possibly can, no more. Well I shall.

One of the things I'm writing him is about the lesson we had with Brother Mayta last night. A few weeks ago I think I related the experience we had finding the family. The week before we met them, the children (23 and 28 years old) and the mom, had decided to activate themselves in the gospel once more. Quite some time had passed since going to church. So we were contacting in a store one Saturday, and we introduced ourselves to two cousins who entered in. They said the did know some members, they had family who were members, who actually had been talking about activating themselves. So we excitedly asked if we could meet them that same night and one of the cousins called them on the phone, and they accepted. We went straight there. Turns out, they had been praying and asking if they should go back to church. They got an answer that they should.

The dad wanted to guide them too, just like a dad should.

We were talking with him last night, and he had the plan to either be baptized at 106 years, or in december... but we read Alma 7, which is so powerful. He decided to be baptized the most soon possible (how is that phrase again in English?.. lo mas antes posible). And that will be next saturday. It was soo cool, after we talked about the commandments and all, he looked to his delighted recently reactivated family and said, our lives are going to take a 180 degree turn in this very moment. We are going to be more loveing, united, and we are going to do all the things right! He looks to his wife, "we are going to keep the sabbath day: 6 days ye shall work, and the 7th ye shall not!" (she's been teaching Sundays, but has been trying to change her schedule with the help of her husband's pushing haha.)

That was awesome. A dad leading the family towards Christ. Sadly that isn't the way all families are, many times it's just the mom.

Also, we have been visiting another family. One  member of the family (26 years old) told us Saturday that she has determined to be baptized. We explained to her the commandment and the blessings of the sabbath day because she was expressing that she has just two months more to pay off the loan she took out to get the internet cafe she has, but shes a little worried. She said how could I sanctify the day if I have to pay it on time and there are less people comming than usual. We told her how the Lord would protect her and with a smile said, ok, Ill do it then I'll sanctify the Sunday!

October is a great month for teaching adventists and seventh day people... sadly I won't be in the mission.

I'm working as hard as I can, and I'm going to learn to do more because I really want to be able to find those children who for so long have been waiting.

Renzol Vallejos keeps teaching dancing. He has come up with an idea of having a fun class with the members, and maybe incorporating it into the institute program as service (he has two things he loves in life: the church, and dancing). He went with us to a service project with a less active member who came to church this sunday! We were able to activate 3 people this sunday!

Juana Zoyla Gonzales who was baptized 2 weeks before him got her house sold! We had promised her blessings specifically about the house she so despereatly needed to sell as result of her baptism. She's happy as can be. 

Sadly, I had writen more but I got a blue screen of death and google must have failed with their automatic save system since only a little was recovered,, forgive the shortness!

Love Elder Johnson

Sunday, August 5, 2012

30 July 2012

Dearest Family and Friends,

This week has been one of learning so much. We got to see the baptism of Renzo Vallejos! He is really just amazing. His baptism was 12 days after we came to know him for the first time. He's quite famous. He and his twin are dancers who are known by almost all young people in the city of Tacna. He is so famous in part because he represented all of Tanca in a dance contest that was held in the capital of Peru, Lima, a few years ago. Quite a few members have asked us if he is the same one they saw on TV those years ago. Haha. He's a natural at sharing the gospel too. Just like converts do, he talks about the pure joy of living the Gospel.

He came to church where we met him 15 days ago with a friend, who also is a recent convert. He said she talked about the church with the same passion and love that he frequently talks about dancing. That really suprised him, that someone could be so passionant about church, so he went. He loved it. We visited him that night and invited him to be baptized for the 28th, and he realized he was feeling the spirit so he said yes! I'm going to read a ton of this book. I'm going to go to church next week, and Ill be baptized the 28th. He teaches dance classes in a gym and he had the oportunity to invite his students to his baptism. Three came! His dad came. He also anounced it by facebook to his doubtlessly many, many facebook friends. Saturday turns out was a stake activity, so we pushed it up to Friday. It was very pretty [a spanish-ism]. He testified of the truth of the gospel for the first time. 

In the stake activity, we did a tour of the chapel for the investigators who were there. We coordinated with the family history buffs, Sunday School buffs, and had a part in the chapel. We gave them DVDs of Finding Faith in Christ. It was a cool tour, but we had less help from the members than we thought we might get... we are gearing up to do it again with more coordination so that all the members can invite and we can have a crowd of hundreds of investigators! Everyone just has to talk like Erika Hurtado, the friend of Renzol (featured in the picture on the far right of the camera. He is the second person that she has invited to church (of the many she assuredly invites) in her few months of being member who has been converted.

My studies in general are becoming something so special. This morning in particular. I finished up Ether and went into Moroni. I don't know, but never have I really understood the situation in the which Moroni was in. Elder Uceda when he was here mentioned a little about Moroni's life and I realized when I finished Ether, that Ether had lived a very similar life. Reading Moroni 1 - 6 was really interesting, remembering all the Elder Uceda taught about it, and then Moroni 7 just hit me like a train. It was a very spiritual experience. I love the Book of Mormon. It is such a special book. When I read it, I often feel like the pages shine with celestial glory as I read and understand God's plan for us and the direction he is willing to give us. I wish all the people in the world could learn that reading the Book of Mormon generates spiritual experiences. How can I do that better? How can I help the people to do so?

We talked with some missionaries of another faith for a while two days ago. We helped them clear up their doubts about a closed canon and testified of the truth of the Book of Mormon. What made me sad was that they decided to go right then, and that right before leaving, they expressed a doubt that I think is common to most protestants here: All the other churches have members who also say that God directs them there.... how can you know then? I simply said: "Ask and you shall see." But he didn't get over that wall of faith. I don't know, but I hope he can remember the testimonies of my companion and I and put Moroni's promise to the test. It always proves true. I ask every day after my feasting of the Book of Mormon. I love doing that so that when I teach in the day, I don't have to say, well you see when I was 8, I asked and the Lord responded 13 years ago.

After reading Moroni 7 this morning, with the spirit burning in my heart and mind, I knelt down to give thanks to the Lord for that holy book. I told him how thankful I was for being in the mission and for Him having woken me up to the things of God, and then I asked that by the Holy Ghost he might confirm unto me the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, and in that moment, the Spirit that I was already feeling was amplified and clarity was added to what I was feeling. The heavens passed close in that moment. I know the Book is true, and that it brings us to Christ, because it brings me to Christ, and I will share that with all the people I can today.

Love Elder Johnson

Monday, July 23, 2012

23 July 2012

Dear Family and Friends,
First, I got some GREAT NEWS THIS WEEK!!!!!
I wanted to let you know about how Brother Cabrera is doing! GREAT!
The Elders in Porvenir told me (the other day we got together for a meeting as zone leaders). They said he is working a ton in the work of the Lord, that his wife is the president of the Young Women, and they go in his car to reactivate with the Elders all the time. They are so happy and lots of their family members are being baptized.
Also, at last, the branch president, President Hilaccama, has been released after 15 years as Branch President. What a long calling for him. (haha) But he did so much work in that time. The new Branch President is our beloved Brother Cabrera! with 4.5 months as member they called him into the branch presidency :))))) I was so happy to hear that he is now working so hard too. He’s getting used to interviews, to activation, to all the work that is now asked of him, but they are happy, especially since so many are coming to church from his family! This month it looks like there will be 15 baptisms in the Branch! With all the activation, it’s growing a ton! That's soooo great to hear, no? I'm so happy for them.
This week has been really special. We had a mission spin (how do you say gira misional en ingles?) a mission tour or mission visit? from a member of the first Quorum of the 70: Elder Uceda. It was marvelous. First he came to Tacna, and the zones from Mollendo, Tacna, Ilo, and Moquegua came all [there’s a spanish-ism] to a meeting house in our zone here in Zone Alameda. We had a meeting with him from 2:45 to 7 and we were so amazed at how he taught. He taught us about something pretty simple, the obedience to the missionary handbook, and the standards that are in it contained, especially: Stay Together. He also talked about not Tuteando. No idea how to say that in ingles, but basically it’s a grammatical form that doesn’t really exist in English, apart from the closest thing which would be thee and thy.... but anyway, in spanish, it’s used to talk to people informally. Like as if the two are "bro´s" haha. Anyway, in Peru it is the way they normally talk to show more friendship. Elder Uceda came and talked about how we should never use that tense, because it detracts from the calling (I imagine the only one understanding this is mom... and Elder Johnson2 [speaking of Paul, who is currently in the MTC learning spanish, and a number of other spanish speakers who will read this letter]. Anyway, it was so powerful when he said: You have to be different. You are missionaries. He taught us about DyC 36:2 and told us to read it like this: And I will put my hand on thee by the hand of my servant President Hall. Wow that was an impressive application.
Next, we had a meeting with all the zone leaders in Arequipa with him and the President. He took another 2 hours out of his schedule to teach us about the process of the conversion. He talked about his personal conversion to the Church. He was a young person of 18 years and he met the missionaries and they gave him a Book of Mormon. He talked about how they both were from the United States (in that time there were very few members who were Peruvians) and one spoke very well, and the other hardly could speak spanish. He remembered thinking, this missionary must really believe what he is telling me, whatever it is, it must be true. He started reading it that night and read all night. He said he didn’t have hunger or thirst in that time and he just wanted to read, because it made him feel good and feel the love of God. The next day he told the missionaries that he wanted to be baptized. His first Tuesday after his baptism he went to mutual [a class at church for the youth]. He felt good, he felt like he belonged. His brothers who were a little more social than he went off immediately with some friends, and he, shy, stayed back. People were shuffling to and fro and they were talking and busy and he was standing there without knowing anybody... He started to feel uncomfortable... So, he started to read the announcement board... Still nobody came.. So, he kept reading. He read the whole thing, and nobody came over to talk to him, he looked around, everybody already knew each other... so he read the board again. The second time, the third, the fourth, the fifth.. nobody talked to him. He started to feel bad, he started thinking, “I should go home. I can go home, and I can be a good member of the church, but at home, I’ll read this book that makes me happy when I read it at home and I’ll do all God wants me to at home because I’m not wanted here I won’t come back. He looked to the door and started moving to go, and a young women leaves a classroom between him and the door. Shy, he looks down and doesn’t say anything. She says: Hello. He doesn’t say anything, She says, "Here’s a candy for you" He feebly looks up but says confused "No I don’t like candy" so she took his arm and walked him right into the room with the other young people, and presented him to them all. He said "Then I sat down, and stayed, and I’m still here"
Can you imagine what would have happened if that young women hadn’t been moved upon by the spirit to walk out? or if she had been shy about making friends with Elder Uceda? Wow.... it is quite a thing to think about. It’s really important to make friends with those who don’t have friends in the church.
Something that really impacted me was how he talked about the process of the conversion to the Church and the Gospel. He talked about all the complex things that are part of the missionary department, and all the staff and the MTCs of the world, the coordination, the part the Twelve [apostles] play, all the work they do, but that all comes down to the moment that 2 missionaries are in front of and investigator, and they are in front of the Book of Mormon, and God. Wow. It’s true.
An update on Renzol Vallejos! He’s doing great! He’s the one who showed up in church last week. He came yesterday too and is preparing for his baptism this Saturday! He got an answer to his prayer and is just anxious to learn all he can. He is great. Also, for the week after there is a man who is solid whose children prayed and asked the Lord if they should reactivate themselves and if the church really was true a few weeks ago. He decided to guide his family back to the church being baptized as they have been! The ward is getting animated too with some of the new things we are doing to get just great relations with them. I’m really enjoying my time with Elder Jones!
Love Elder Johnson

Monday, July 16, 2012

16 July 2012

Sister Zoyla's baptism

Sister Zoyla's baptism and members

Sister Zoyla and Elder Jones, Elder Johnson (in back)

Dear Family

How's it all going?? I'm here with Elder Jones in Granados. This morning we got a whole bucket load of letters for the whole zone. The majority of the letters were dear elders for yours truely (weeeel... all but one) Thanks!  It's interesting getting shipments every few weeks.

WOW PAUL'S IN THE MTC! That's sooo cool. I'd love to be his first companion. I was just thinking that this morning how cool that would be.

Saturday Sister Zoyla made her first covenant with the Lord! Shes a little bit of a funny stoy. A few weeks ago Elder Beletanga and I knocked her door looking for some members and to be able to find families to complete, and she opened up. She's got an interesting sense of humor and is pretty funny but I don't think we realized that she was mostly kidding that day. Haha, we talked briefly about coming unto Christ and how we all need to repent to be able to go to His kingdom. Repent and be baptized. She didn't really want to hear about it. We explained how it is vital to be born again to be able to leave behind the sins that we may have. She was a little resistant and so we stopped talking and asked if we could come back. She said no. Haha, but that she would go to church. 

Next Sunday, she didn't go to the sacrament meeting, but she did get there right at the end! So we figured out a day to visit her.

The first Sunday Elder Jones was here, she showed up with her daughter and granddaughter (who are members) and her daughter was all excited that she had brought her mother (after somthing like 10 years of trying) to the sacrament meeting! She introduced Zoyla to the Gospel Principles teacher (Diony Cárdenas) and said:"Look I brought her!"  Zoyla said- "No, I'm not here for anyone more than for me. I want to be baptized. Haha.

That Sunday we invited her to read the Book of Momron and ask if it's true. She said that in the night, she got to reading and started thinking and got confused with the idea that Nephi had gone to get the plates that had the law of moses. She was thinking: "If Moses had them, why would Nephi have gone to Laban to get them... this book must be false... Moses had the records..."

She said that in that moment she wanted to call us but she couldn't so she went back to reading and said at starting "Father, help me understand" (She has an advanced age and says she doesn't understand much of what she reads). So she got reading, and "bam!" everything just seemed to click. She realized that Nephi lived much after Moses, and she felt a huge peace and she forgot her doubts about the Book of Mormon. She also realized that family history really was important, because she saw it in the Book of Mormon when Nephi records that he is a descendant of Joseph of Egypt. We read DyC 6:23-24 with her and she basically said "Yep, now I know this book is true and that Joseph Smith is a prophet"

The Lord helps us understand our most small questions or lacks of knowledge when we ask with faith.

Her baptism was very nice. A good crowd of friends showed up to the baptism and shes now got her friends to keep her going in the transition from an investigator to a member. And she's got a GREAT gospel principles class to edify her in the next year.

Cool obedience story. Saturday, we had the baptism in the morning, which took the normal study time, and we were worrying about how to do the rest of the day... every day we must read 30 minutes of the Book of Mormon at least. That's a commandment. And Preach my Gospel 30 minutes too (that one's just for us missionaries) And we were with the temptation to just not study that day now that by the time we had lunched and done all the cleanup, it was the afternoon.... but we sat down and studied. And after studying we dined and went running to teach someone. We knocked a few doors that nobody answered and then we knocked one.  He invited us in and we talked a little. A really cool guy who before was meeting with the missionaries, and one day was waiting for them and they never came... 7 months ago... and now we just found him. Next we knocked a door where a lady was worried about her sick husband. We prayed with her (she didn't want a blesssing for her husband) but we did pray with her and she felt comfort. Next we entered a store and started talking with the man who attends. He was interesting and we are going to return this week. In the store came two young people who we talked with a little, and they mentioned that their family are members who just this week were talking about reactivating themselves. We asked it we could go with them to visit the familiy and they called home to ask, their parents said Yes! So we taught the family. The dad isn't a member, and he said he wants to guide his family back and be a member, and it was true that the rest had already planned activating themselves. Also the neice started investigating with the father.  All that in about 3 hours. 

Love Elder Johnson!

Monday, July 9, 2012

9 July 2012

Mark's new companion:  Elder Jones
Querido Family,

It's been a great week. I'm gunna miss Elder Beletanga. He was and still is a great and focused missionary and my friend.

Now that we've been working together 7 days Elder Jones and I, we have really been enjoying this time. This Sunday one of the investigators [investigators] who came to church asked us if we are still planning on her baptism this week. Haha of course. Juana Soyla. She's an older lady who has a daughter and grandaughter who are recent converts. Yesterday morning when she got to church, her daughter was presenting her to all her friends and saying "Look, I brought my mom to church!" And Juana said: "Hey I'm not coming for my daughter, it's that I've chosen to be baptized and I'm coming every Sunday from now on. I'm 70 years old and I need to make myself clean." That was pretty cool to hear.

It's SO cool to have a great Gospel Principles teacher here. It really makes a big difference in the lives of the invesitgatores.

I think we are going to be marrying pretty soon [?????]. We are working with one, two, three, four, families who need to get married. One family is particularly awesome. I think I wrote you about them last week. This week we left an appointment with them where we talked a lot about praying and asking God if the Book of Mormon is true, and the spirit was there. After, since it was making cold [definitely a spanish-ism], she ran to the closet and got out two leather jackets to lend us for the rest of the night (we had left without anything more than shortsleeve white shirts and neckties for warmth... and pants) Haha that was so great of her.

I really like what Preach my Gospel says about answering objections. It says that we should answer whatever objection by helping them to increase faith in Christ, reading the Book of Mormon and praying to KNOW if it's true.

I think my study recently has been more focused. One of the most effective things we can do in lessons when we are teaching about how to receive a testimony of the Book of Mormon, is share spiritual experiences we have had that same day in the morning reading it. I like doing that a lot. The president taught one time about how we can't rely on a testimony gained years ago, we have to be fresh every day. I read the Book of Mormon just an hour ago. I felt the guidance of the Spirit in a question I was considering at the same time and while reading in the later chapters of Alma I felt an answer from the Lord today!

This week we've had some cool moments. One: Teaching the family of catholic missionaries that we have been teaching, they told us how they haven't prayed to know still! We talked a little about the faith, and how they can really trust what the Lord  might tell them. Then, since the spirit was strong, we knelt down and he asked if it is true in his prayer. Then the impression came to ask him to just open it and read. He opened to Alma 57 and read a few verses that perfectly comforted his wife (who had expressed some problems they've been facing this last week). We asked them if they recognized the voice of the Lord in the Book of Mormon, and the dad started talking about something like faith -  I think he wasn't so ready to admit what he was feeling - and his wife interrupted him and said " No, they asked if we can recognize the voice of the Lord in that passage" and they gave themselves count [se dieron cuento--Mark's speaking English with spanish words] that they could! we told them, great, you've felt the spirit, now your duty is to join the true church of Christ (vease D&C 23:7), you've felt it now, but that's not enough, you have to ask again tonight, when we aren't here. If you feel the spirit again you will KNOW that this is true. It's going to be a grand trial for them to give up their traditions and responsibilidades [responsibilities]. They teach in a small pueblito by the beach an hour south of the city. I'm thinking of just opening a branch down there the moment we get things going with them all that way haha.

We went to Leguia (my old area) to interview a baptismal candidate. She had a whole bunch of complaints and that were similar to the Zoramites sadly (vease Alma 39), and we read that verse... She realized she only needed an answer. So we prayed, and after she prayed she looked up and said: I hope He answers that prayer, "and how do you feel right now" she got thinking, and said, "Wow, I feel a huge peace all inside of me, that fills me up." "That's the spirit." "Yes." "What does He tell you?" "That it's true."
That was a quite powerful moment. I liked it a lot. She's got a ton of trials and people telling her she shouldn't be baptized, but it looks like this Saturday she shall be baptized.

As a zone, we've got to get focused. We need to work hard enough and with a strong enough acompaniment of the Spirit to be able to have one baptism in every area per week. President says he could do it with his eyes closed if he were in one of our areas haha. He did have something of 30 per month in his mission.. I think it's possible. And that if we work with ALL we've got, we can qualify ourselves for those blessings.

Thank you for all your prayers, they help a lot! Help the missionaries there, help them have missionary correlation meeting with the ward missionaries and everything, and help animate [excite] the members!

The stake has asked us to do trainings with all the different third hour classes. We did the last one yesterday. Jonathan Delgado, the brother who was baptized a few weeks ago with his wife, said at the end: "I feel like a soldier whos been armed and is ready to go to find people to help bring to the Gospel." Haha, he's awesome and animated [excited] to baptize his friends now that he's a priest. He just needs a responsibility now and home teachers.

Elder Johnson

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

2 July 2012

Dear Family,
2 July 2012
As you’ve probably guessed, sending the email so late makes it a sure bet that we had transfers. So that you know, last week was the zone conference and it was AWESOME. The president is so inspiring. We talked about a pocoton (little bit of a lot) of different themes but since I have so little time, one theme was about being more direct and being more efficient. We realy don’t have time to be trying to convince people to be humble. Moroni I think was the one who talked about how repentance brings humility and humility brings the Spirit. We have to invite, and if the person doesn’t progress, we gotta go! There are people to find who could come to Christ in the time  we are convincing some one to try to be humble, but in the end, it’s the Lord who does that change. There is to [One must] have guidance from Him in knowing if we should leave someone. We are just thinking about a family we are teaching who last week, we taught really clearly the day of rest, we blessed the sick wife, and they felt the spirit very strongly. Then after that they promised to keep the sabbath day holy and didn’t fulfill the commitment, she told us, this Sunday will the last Sunday I break the sabbath day! Well I’m not exactly sure what do do with them right now, my compañion and I are going to talk and pray about it. 
But a good story: Last night, we were contacting in divisions, and I was with a brother from the ward who is SO bateries ( that means energetic like the energizer bunny) and we knocked a door. The lady opened and told us that yes, and we asked if her husband was there and she said yes and went to talk to him so we could all be there, and we went in and found out that he was not too excited but that her thee sons and her daughter were perfectly able to listen. We taught them and at the end she said how she, 5 weeks ago had gone to church with her nephew who’s going on his mission in September and had felt the spirit. She was basically wanting us to find her, and the same night she becomes available, we knock the door.
New compañion: Elder Jones from Idaho Burley

Sunday, July 1, 2012

26 June 2012

Dear Family!

Wow this morning 13 pages of Dear Elders got here. All acumulated from these past weeks or month... its the first time I get Dear Elders here in Tacna. It does take longer to get here. Well the zone Alamenda finished the month with 14 baptisms. We have been in a rut of 12 the past two months so we were excited to go up. This week we also had a significant improvement in investigatores in sacrament meeting. One ward had 11! Now we have to go up again to keep being diligent.

This week we did something really fun. We have been working with the presidency of the stake and we have been planning a training meeting to re-enfocus the ward counsels and put in order a few things and it was so cool! The stake gave my compañion and I 40 minutes! haha that seems like a ton for a reunion like that.

I was just thinking about how there is a little bit of a difference in the relation between the members and the missionaries here and in Arlington... or maybe its just because I wasnt very aware in Arlington, but it seems like the people here love a lot more the missionaries since almost all of them are converts and remember the missionaries who baptized them every time they see us. The member of the high council spoke about missioany work in his talk this sunday and he got very emotional talking about his conversion, the Elders who met and baptized him. That could be true for both here and there but for some reason I think its stronger here. Or maybe just for me, since my conversion had very little to do with missionaries.

Anyway, we planned it to be able to inject some missionary purpose in all the members. Haha at one point, when I was talking about the reuniones we have in the church to satisfy the needs of investigatores and members, I sat down as a video we had quewed up played. I looked over my notes from the planning meeting (which were on a sticky note I had) and put the note to the side. When the video finished, I stood and resumed talking. After a little I was thinking, how can I grab more of their attention, and help the reunion have the council feel that we wanted, not a discourse  When I was ready for the next item, I wanted to look at the note again, and looked under my scriptures on the podium, then on my Preach my Gospel, then under that, then all around the podium, then where I was sitting before, but I couldnt find it! The first counselor of the stake said from the seat he was at, "there it is pointing (I thought) to my back. I looked behing to the left raising my left arm to see, and to the right raising my right arm to be able to see, and nothing! Well about 7 seconds had passed by then, so I turned around to get help from all the people there. haha. That grabbed all their attention. Turns out it wasnt on my back, but my left elbow right where I couldnt see. haha. Everyone got laughing, I heard Elder Beletanga whisper something about breaking the ice and I said: "that was a joke to break the ice". haha pretty effective in fix the discourse slash no participation feel. I kept going with lots of questiones so that the council wouldnt get lost in discourse. This meeting had about 150 powerful and dedicated ward leaders. It was very special.

In divisiones this week with Elder Cerrudo, something very cool happened. We knocked a door and the lady said, you knocked at just the right time. Turns out a whole bunch of things had happened, including that her husband had gone with her best friend. Poor lady. She went to church and is preparing herself to be baptised. Another contact was a man who until 3 days ago, hadnt wanted anything do to with God, but he said he saw a movie and realized that in the 12 years he hadnt prayed to God, he had become something he didnt want to be and has been wanting to come closer to the Lord the 3 days before we got to him. the interesting thing is that they had planned to go over by his house the same day that he had seen the video, but couldnt.

We are teaching a family, who are really good, but we arnt sure how to help them go to church. One false doctrine that lots of people think is that there is no need of a church. I think that is one doubt they may have, that they dont know how really important it is to do things like be baptized and take the sacrament every sunday, having a calling and magnifying it. Its vital for our progress and if we dont go to church, then our velocity of comming unto him is at best slower than it could be.

I have a feeling that this week will be a good week. We are going to be able to have lots at church. I think that por fin we are going to get in a really good swing, hopefully we dont have changes!

Love Elder Johnson

Monday, June 18, 2012

18 June 2012

Dear Family,
18 June 2012

One week older and wiser too! Happy we-ek, too all!

I'm really struggling with writing in my journal recently. The prophets say we should keep one, but I haven't been able to organize well my time to be able to do well here in Tacna. I gotta work on that. Today I'm planning on playing catch up. and then I shall be able to grab the habit of writing every day.

I'm also considering buying myself a keyboard, since these keyboards in the internet cafe are just terrible. I'm working up some serious finger muscle just trying to jam down each key every time I want to write a "p" or delete a letter or put an "e" or press the right arrow key.

Here in Tacna the story is pretty similar to Arequipa but a little different. Lots of people in Arequipa have properties of land which makes it hard to go to the church, since they buy those properties basically doing land prospecting, and waiting until the land has a mayor [greater] value. They go every Sunday by law of the group of prospectors to put things like water tubes or prepare the roads, or help build homes or I don't know what, but anyway, if they don't go, there is a fine. So basically they have to sell their property to go to church. Anyway I don't know why I'm explaining all that since it's not much of a problem here in Tacna! (or at least in Granados, the area we are in, since I remember that there was lots of those situations in Leguia where I was before, some 2000 meters from where I live now).

In divisiones, I went to my ex area this last Tuesday! It was great to be able to see some of the members, and family where we lived (remember the Bimbos distruibutores?), and we were coming back in the night from the ward counsel and we ran into Junior! That was about the oddest thing to ever happen. We passed him in the street and talked a second. Turns out he moved and has been in Lima, but by "coincidence" we found him just the day he was walking towards his house to get some of the last stuff he had left there. That was cool.

The members of this ward are so generous and loving with the missionaries. I think I mentioned this before, but they have us eating so good [well]. Eating with them like that is going to make me get really fat I think. I think I'm taking to a new level the test of how much food my body can ingress without fattening up much... Although right now remembering that first year at BYU with the all-you-can eat buffet for breakfast, lunch and dinner and all-you-can- eat ice cream every Sunday... I probably am not eating as much as I was in that time. But I'm at the closest I've gotten here in Peru. They just love us so much. We try to plan so that more than anything else, the less active and new members can invite us, so that our prescence can be most beneficial. Does our ward do something like that?

We had a vision of how the missionary work will be in a few years. There is a book that we keep to register basically everything we do, which is called the Area Book. We realized that in a few years, that book is going to be on a laptop. Maybe it is now in the states, but there will be tons of benefits when that happens! We made 2 weeks ago a list of Former Investigatores which took quite a while, but if the area book were on a laptop in some program, that list would come out in order of street where they live or last name or first or how many times they went to church or how many visits were made or age or whatever the missionaries want in 2 seconds. Furture investigatores would be the same! Just imagine! haha I'm guessing that will be the mission of my children, but doubt Paul or Eric will be able to taste of that dream.... William maybe, no?

We've been finding people who have been more prepared this week! For example, Saturday we contacted a guy who asked if we were the Mormons who believed in the Nephites, Lamanites, and Jaredites. And told me all about how Joseph Smith received the gold plates. We taught 4 of his family yesterday (there are still 3 more to get to know in the next lesson). Yesterday we met a man who says he has been looking and looking for a church, and wants to be baptized, and has confidence that the Lord answers prayers because He always has answered his prayers. "I prayed for a 100% [grade] and He always gave me a 100% when I was in high school"

I really like being companions with Elder Beletanga. This Ecautoriano is crazy haha.

Love Elder Johnson