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