Monday, February 27, 2012

27 February 2012

Querido familia, [Dear family,]

Me escapa el tiempo con velocidad no conocido entre los hombres.
[Time is escaping me with a veloicty unknown among men.]

So thus finished the last week of the change. The zone changed a lot since quite a few had 7 or 6 months here. Only us and 1 other companionship didn't have a change. One of the sisters who just barely finished her training is going to train a new missionary, a new district leader is coming, and another elder who is from Nicaragua is going to train a new missionary too. The zone is a relatively young zone: two with about a year, two who are still coming from the MTC in Lima, Peru, two who have about 6 months in the mission, and us old fogeys (Elder Stewart and I).

There is a Sister Diaz who is working really hard to gain a testimony by herself. She wants to enter into the covenant people next Saturday but is working through the loss of her nephew at the end of last week. We invited her to console her family by sharing with them the Plan of Salvation... or is it salvation plan. anyway she has been really looking and has lots of member friends. We took a piece of fudge cake to her since we still didn't have the cookie recipe till today, (THANK YOU!!).

We did 3 intercambios [exchanges] with the missionaries this week, the two that our president has asked us to do every week and one of emergency for some problems that they were having (tension right before the change sometimes rises haha). Anyway it was really gratifying to be with the one I was with and see his true desire to work, and the sincere guilt that he felt for not having worked well this week. I don't know why, but I felt compassion for his worries and happy for the wishes and desires that he has to do what is right. It was an interesting moment.

So that y’all know, I got some pieces of rubber glued onto my shoes from the pictures (pieces like the old things that you can see but better with a glue that seems really durable). It seems like I walk weirdly because my shoes always get more worn away on the sole faster than the other elders. Elder Stewart still hasn't bought new shoes or put new anything on the bottoms the whole time he’s been here! Ive glued new stuff on the bottom about 3 or 4 times now. haha. I need to learn to walk good, or maybe it’s for running a lot.

Also, the shoes a member got for me in Camana when he went to Tacna just got finished being re-soled. The members have helped me a lot with the whole shoe situation. She said the first place she went to said that in just a few days they would have it done. She went there to get them back and they said that a few more, but almost done. At last she went and the man was all frustrated and said, “Why did you take these huge shoes to me?? They are so big you don’t find this size here in Peru! You’ve sent me on a goose chase! (that’s the correct phrase in English no?... goose chase?)

Elder Stewart and I always play rock paper scissors to see who shares first what we learned in the first hour of study (personal study). The other day, it got so intense that he almost fell off his chair, just saved by the wall that stopped his chair from sliding out from below him. Haha it was so funny. He won.

The Sister Ivon... we are worried about her. Since she had her baby we haven’t really seen her. Her family always says she is of weak health and can’t come out for a few more weeks maybe. I don’t remember how that is... but we haven’t really thought that it had anything to do with reality, just tradition, but now we are starting to think that she might have gotten sick. Her family doesn’t admit many details but are nice too.

Today we want to do something to contact EVERY SINGLE person in the area. We are still thinking about it.. but I feel like there are a lot of potential people there but that we have difficulty finding them. We talk to at least 200 people per week, but if we could increase that to 500 or more, then those people could be found. There is another lady with whom we talked this week who said she wants to be baptized from the first moment we mentioned baptism. She said: "I feel like I should be baptized, and not like my parents baptized me, but in water. I don’t know why, but that’s the way I feel it should be done." That was impressive. Then we talked about how part of the preparation was getting married since she is living with the father of her son, and the next day she told us how she had talked with him and set up to get married! Her future husband wasn’t too happy about her listening to us and started to say how this and that.. things he has heard, saying how had she let herself be convinced to be baptized, and she said, no! they didn't convince me anything, I want to be baptized, and what they said is true.

We are focusing on looking for those who really are sincere in coming unto Christ.

I have been reading Our Heritage again. it is the BEST. Also, this morning I read from 3 Nephi  20 to 3 Nephi 24 I think  and I really, really like the opportunity to present the ministry of Christ among the Nefites and am so thankful that they have preserved the words that He spoke. Nos manda escudriñar las palabras de Isaías. [He commands us to study the words of Isaiah.]
Mucho amor [Much love,]

Elder Stewart and Elder Johnson at a chapel in Arequipa
Elder Johnson

Monday, February 20, 2012

20 February 2012

Rain + Sewer Water 

Elder ____, Elder Johnson, Jorge, Elder Knighton, Elder Stewart

Mark's poor shoes

Another view

Maybe this was the ledge they were walking on to avoid the flooded streets


Jorge, who we were teaching a few weeks ago and who really wanted to get baptized got back from the mine! He got back and told his wife, "Today I want to get baptized." He was about to be baptized before but couldn't so we got his baptismal service for Saturday and his confirmation Sunday! It was awesome. In the 3 weeks he was there [at the mine] he was meditating about what he wants for his family. His father- in-law is the bishop and his wife a member. She was SOO happy Saturday. That was a great experience. The first missionary who taught him was Elder Knighton, who just so happens to be our District Leader now, so he did the interview too, and did the baptism.

Afterwards Jorge expressed his thoughts and shared a scripture in John that says that we should ask, and we will receive. He shared his testimony about asking and receiving. Then it says we should knock and look, and he said how he got to thinking that he wasn't really looking or knocking the door. Those are actions and he asked himself what actions he was doing for the salvation of his family. He realized, he should do actions to make sure his family can be eternal and therefore decided to follow 2 Nephi 31:11. [ 11 And the Father said: Repent ye, repent ye, and be baptized in the name of my Beloved Son.]

It was very nice, and then the Bishop's counselor shared a very, very nice welcoming message about his conversion and we ate cake of three milks.  [].  I don't know if that exists in the States but it's so good tasting. Look it up!

So that was a good experience. The Church is true.

Hey, can y'all send me a few cookie recipies? We want to make cookies for the members and investigators, but I don't think we can get our hands on chocolate chips. I know... why even make cookies, no? Still, we want to do that next week, so if y'all can send me some chocolate chipless cookies, that would be the best!

If you can see the letters of Elder Stewart, vease [look at] his pictures that we took last Monday. It's raining every day here and that makes for some wet and cold (or usually running everywhere to avoid the cold) elders every night. Since it was Monday we could take pictures and got some from the back of a truck. The drivers saw us walking on a 2.5 meter wall to not wade through the street that had something like 50 cm [about 19 inches] of water. They stopped and yelled through the rain and river sounds : jump on! haha we got on the back and felt a little like special people as we waved to everyone we passed. It was a flat bed in the back with a big water tank that you can see in the picture. Since it had big wheels, it could pass all the water. Looks dirty the water, no? That's cuz half the water isn't rain but overflooding sewers! Now y'all can see why we walked about 200 meters of the 20 cm wide wall instead of wading.

Grandpa J asked about the food and if it tastes like money. I mean, if it tastes like money smells. I don't think so, but that might be because in his time there was different money. I found yesterday two coins from the 1970s. Weird looking. One of 10 soles de oro [gold] and the other of 1. I don't think it has any value now. The currency now is called new soles just so y'all know.

What more? In the conference, the president had some revelation to help me be better, and subliminally taught me it, and I did catch on. (It wasnt THAT subliminal) We [I assume Mark and Elder Stewart as zone leaders] taught about the day of rest about an hour and he taught after and helped us understand it.. much better. I very much enjoy being taught by him. The sabbath day as I am remembering that is said in English right now is a matter of being obediente [obedient]. When we teach it [the sabbath] we should talk about how they will be able to worship the Lord, demonstrate to Him our faith and love in keeping the commandments, and participate in the sacrament. We should help them make a compromise [commitment] not only to go this week, but for all their lives.
This week that is coming, we can have another baptism. A Sister Mary Dias said that she is going to be talking to all her family this week to prepare them to be able to accept her baptism next Saturday. Her daughter was baptized about a year and a half ago and there was some drama apparently. One aunt broke down crying. To understand, I referenced Disney's Mulan and the importance of family traditions, while not sooo strong, the tradition is her concern. We hope to help her in preparing them.

Anyway that's about all the time I've got.

Lots of love, and thanks to all those who DearElder me for keeping me updated on all at home  ! They are great! 
Elder Johnson

Sunday, February 19, 2012

13 February 2012 Israelite Congregation

Queridisimo Familia (My dear, dear family),
Wow... como se me va el tiempo. (How the time flies!)
This week we grew. We found more people who are really great. I hope we can help them to progess. I really want them all to be able to progress well. I want the world to progress. We aren't talking about a change of religion, we are talking about a change of heart that all must do. We were talking in our weekly inventory about how we can improve. We are going to love more, work more, go through the Missionary Handbook looking for rules that we aren't completing to the 100%, receive the ability to make the time work.
Sometimes we, as people, start thinking that the only way to do things is the way we know. We need to think outside the box. With one lady who was struggling with the idea of not working Sundays, we compared paying debts by working Sundays, with frying an egg on a piece of slate in comparison to keeping the commandments as frying the egg with the big brand name pans (Peruvian brand "Reinaware") haha. It was interesting but she seemed to understand. The natural man has a tendancy to trust only in their own arm. The Lord wants her not to have debts, and has given her commandments to be able to "prosper"- vease (see) Alma 36:1. The BEST way to prosper isn't to pay them off now and later keep all the commandments, but keep the all the commandments now and receive the help of the Lord now too. I'm thinking I can apply this to myself too.
This week we have almost 10 baptisms in the zone that could take place Saturday. Let's see what we can do. Jorge will be getting back (the one who almost got baptized about 20 days ago) and a little brother of a member wants to get baptized too in our area. His uncles just got here, although his parents were fine with him getting baptized and have already signed the sheet, his uncles (we hear from his brother) are not happy at all about their nephew being "mormon". We will just have to teach them too.
 Oh we had a sweet contact in interchanges with one elder. We contacted a man who was sitting with his drunk compañion who couldn't stand up. They were guitarists and apparently had just left a gig from the night before. We got to talking with the not-drunk one. A man of 60 years more or less. He is an Israelite pastor. The religion of the Israelites is a Peruvian christian church who name themselves asi (this way) because they say the people of the Lord have always been called Israelites. Anyway, he was very friendly and asked us what we thought of the biblical predicion of a restoration of what was on the earth before, like profetas (prophets), and His true Church. Haha. I don't think he knew before he said that, how much we happen to know about that predicion (prediction). He was very suprised as we explained the scriptures and happily accepted a Book of Mormon. We testified to him about how it is the instrument that the Lord has revealed to gather Israel that goes to Jews and Gentiles to convince them that Christ is the Lord and is evidence of His marvelous work in these latter days. I like how all the scriptures jointly testify of our message so succinctly. Turns out he lives pretty far away, but he voiced the idea that we can visit his church and teach them all. I would love to. We have his number and will be following up on his reading and the prayer we invited him to do to gain his own testimony.
It was a sweet.

I'm worried a little for the zone.... I need to figure out how to do something better.... sometimes there are murmurations [how's that for a spanglish word?] when some in particular ask us permision to do things that the missionary handbook suggests shouldn't be done. Simply we have to try to help them know why. So we shall be trying to do that better. The good thing is that all things that are convenient for the Lord can be done with faith, and this is definitely one of them.
Love Elder Johnson

Monday, February 6, 2012

6 February 2012

Querido Familia!

Wow this week was pretty AWESOME. First we played soccer with the president and the other zone leaders Monday and had a barbeque in his house later in preparation for the zone leaders conference. So goood. haha.

Then Tuesday, we had a meeting with him between 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. and talked about a ton, most importantly about consecrating ourselves as missionaries. One of my favorite scriptures was Omni 1:26, Si venid a el, y ofrecedle vuestras almas enteras como ofrenda a El. [Come unto Him and offer your entire souls as an offering to Him.”] I really, really liked it. And I’m trying to do so. I’m also trying to open my mouth at ALL times, and not ever think, well I don’t have to talk right now, or I don’t have to testify. Because I should ALWAYS open the mouth to testify with sound of regocijo [rejoicing]. And the promise is that if I do so, I shall be able to receive help from the Lord that is unknown among the children of men.

Those really impacted me. Then, Thursday, we had a special training in the Zone Hunter where the president came to teach us somethings about planning for lessons, and about consecrating ourselves, and about serving the Lord. He talked about the zone, and what we can do. I’m glad he asked about one thing: if the Arequipans are hard of heart. Before in the mission here, let’s say a few years ago, there were very few baptisms. Now the city of Arequipa has many more baptisms per month. He said: do you think the Arequipans have repented, or the missionaries? And we understood that really these are the remnants of the Lamanites. They are just waiting to be gathered up, and the better we can be the better we can take part in that gathering. One missionary in the mission saw15 people baptized this last month. He taught us about faith. We planned until late and had just a few hours. Then Friday we finished the plan and I had an interview with the president for the first time in a while.

He showed me first a sheet that has some of the key indicatores [statistics] of me in the past month both in Camaná and Arequipa, and said, here are your results, how does it seem to you?  I was very, very preocupied [worried] by the 0 0 0 0 0 de bautismos en todo enero [no baptisms in January], knowing that it extends more before, and he definitely noticed my worry. I have been trying to make myself the best missionary possible and finding lots of people and in that I haven’t been able to do so. He asked me if I am worthy, and I said, yes, but maybe what I lack are the last "little" things: always talk spanish, be more punctual, writing every night in the journal since planning with the 13 principles and... He told me about how Preach My Gospel talks about obedience with EXACTITUDE and that’s true. We also talked a little about how to pray constantly and without stopping. We talked about the spirit, he told me about some of the things he did on his mission. I had come to be able to know what I have to do in order to give the step so that every week we can find some of those chosen children that God has prepared, and he listed Dyc 4, 6, 11, Alma 26 and Omni 1:26.

We also talked about gifts of the spirit. He said something very interesting, that when we look for gifts, we can find all sorts of gifts: Gifts of teaching, of listening, of being able to love, of getting along with everyone. I was also thinking about the importance of these and realized that they are gifts that would help us be able to do the work of the Lord with much, much more efficiency. He also mentioned that I need to know what Mosiah 28:3 means to be able to help people make covenants. In truth, there is such a huge difference in the life of someone who lives the gospel and someone who does not.

Sometimes when I talk to someone who is aggressively rejective, I get distracted a little because I feel like if I could be like Ammon, people wouldn’t be like that. But reading Alma this morning I realized that’s not true (see Alma 26)... but anyway, in place of being worried about these things, he said I should pray earnestly, that they might one day be able to get know the Church, that with them, we should offer this prayer if possible, and that even in the moment that they do all they can to reject us,we should demonstrate the pure love of Christ. Because, as he helped me see, every contact we do makes an effect in the people we talk to. This effect can be incredible and it can help them to in the future accept the next missionaries. The area has been proselyted by missionaries maybe 30 years. Some have known bad examples, and for that don’t want us to visit them, and need to see a better example. If we pray for them and ask the Lord to bless them then He can and they will be able to feel our love and see that the blessings we ask for are completed and the next time we come, they will say, “Hey you are friends of those who came before and made a difference in my life even though I rejected them.”

I worked on that in the few days of proselyting that we had, and we met with a lady who had a bad experience with a missionary a while ago, and demonstrating our love she came to understand that all people are imperfect and was able to overcome the image she had before.

Oh, and the best part, after leaving the interview we went to visit some brothers, where one is a recent convert and his brother is not member, who told us he wants be be baptized.

The next day we taught an investigator and read Alma 7 with her, and challenged her to testify to God her faith in being baptized at 6, and she was baptized!!!!!!!! She has been going to church 3 months but until yesterday didn’t feel the ability to make that promise with God. Wow.... wish I had more time but that’s it. Se llama Zenaida Arhuire.  [Her name is Zenaida Arhuire.]

Love Elder Johnson

Friday, February 3, 2012

Birthday Letter to Mom

[From Rene:  I will share parts of the letter Mark sent to me for my birthday.  He wrote this letter completely in spanish.  I will share parts of it in English]

My Dear Mom,

I will take advantage of the opportunity to write in spanish. We will see how good my grammar is.  Sometimes my form of speaking reflects the errors of the people in my area.  For example, my landlady en Camana always said, "Ah, this costs expensive."  Costs expensive is incorrect grammar, but as she always said it, sometimes I say it too.

Happy Birthday!

I hope that dad, Eric and William made you a cake and that it was delicious.

You took a backpacking trip to the city.  Hmmm.  That's new.  D.C. is very beautiful.   I would like to be close to the capital with all those museums.

Thank you for always writing the DearElders.  I just received a group of Dear Elders.  I think that now that I am in Arequipa, it will be more constant and I won't be getting a mountain of letters every three weeks.  Also, thank you to Eric for continuing to write to me every week.

I decided during splits last week what I want to have written on my gravestone.  It will have Mosiah 29:45 with a little modification,"And our father died, at the age of ____, having lived to complete the commandments of the Lord.  There it is, my gravestone epitaph.

At church on Sunday, a member of the high council spoke about the importance of the scriptures and I remembered my primary teachers who taught us that if our house caught fire, and we could only save one thing, it would be good to save your scriptures.  I accepted that as normal, perhaps because the scriptures are not cheap there.  My teachers and other adults learned a lot, but maybe I didn't learn so much.  When I left the house in my first area of my mission, I left my English scriptures in a taxi. I realized that I was beginning to value the scriptures because I felt a little lost without my scriptures in English. The good thing was that I started to understand the scriptures in spanish very quickly.

Anyway, I hope that this year went well. From what I know from Dear Elder, it seems that it did.  I hope that the following months go well for you too, that Paul can prepare himself [for his mission].

Since we are zone leaders in the mission and are in the city of Areuqipa, we have to go to the Centro every Monday to carry baptismal dates, reimbursement requests.  It makes it so that there isn't much time on Mondays, but that's o.k.

I am finishing this letter at the Post Office.  It is a postal service here in Peru and I believe that is a government-owned service since the building is huge and the service is slow.  I believe that I will finish my mission here.  But I am happy.  Elder Stewart is great en every aspect.  He told me that his mom has continued reading my blog since we were companions.

O.k., something cultural from Peru:  En all of the city buses (for example the bus that goes from Camana to Arequipa, people frequently get on the bus and begin to talk about variou health problems.  Then, they show how their product will help you avoid the problems for example, how to avoid cancer, heart problems, or headaches or whatever type of ailment or sickness.  They talk about all they things and they pass out packages of their product to everyone on the bus who wants to see it.  They keep talking, sometimes showing photos and mentioning the sicknesses you can avoid at least 10 times.  Then, they pass through the bus and collect money from people who want to buy their product and collect back the packages if people aren't interested.

In about 70% of the buses between Camana and Arequipa that I have ridden, I have seen this if it was daytime.  It is a little interesting.  I only took the bus one time in the States and that was to New York with Kirsten and her friend and her dad to see Wicked.

[Then Mark drew a panorama of the city]

Elder Johnson