Monday, December 30, 2013

Whew, Christmas has come and gone, and New Year's will come just in time to kick me out of the states to Brazil! It is weird to think about the fact that a week from now, I'll be on my way to a new country, new language, and a new set of people to bring closer to Christ! I look back on my time here in Texas with such gratitude. I have learned so much, about being a missionary, and about being a child and servant of my Heavenly Father. It would be impossible to record all of the lessons learned here in on letter home. As excited as I am to get to Brazil, it is hard to leave this place and people that I have come to love.

This week has been a long one. Christmas was a fun respite from the rigors of the day to day missionary life, but it always feels great to get back to work. Speaking of work, there is plenty to be done. All of our investigators have struggles that have to be overcome, and struggles for investigators means work for the missionaries. In particular, one of our investigators (C) has problems that are far more substantial then I had realized. I had such hope and faith in her and her desire to change, and so I was chrushed to discover that she was far more firmly entrenched in sin than I had previously recognized. Working with her will be a labor of patience indeed, but we committed her to prepare fully for baptism on the first of February.

Other than that, I've been able to see minor, but awesome miracles in the work this week. One of those happened as I went on exchanges with Elder Larson to First Ward on Friday.

We were stopping by less-active members, and decided to stop by a recent convert. She however, was not home. Rather, her older daughter was there visiting. She invited us in, and upon further investigation we discovered that she had actually sat in on all the lessons with her mother. Not only that, but she remembered and appriciated what she had learned. One of the things that she remembered was the authority that our church claimed. Out of knowhere, I was impressed to share my Priesthood line of Authority. I let her see it, and showed how our authority traced directly back to Jesus Christ. She was fascinated, and it rekindled the interest she had in the Gospel years ago. My line of authority was the "hard evidence" that she needed to see to verify our claims to authority. To make a longer story shorter, she asked if she could join our church (aka: be baptised). As we shared this story back in our apartment with the other elders, we found that I was the only one who has their line of authority with them. What a miracle. I'd like to believe that it wasn't a coincidance that I was there at that time and place. 

I know that God himself is directing this work. I am but an instrument in his hands. He knows all, and provides for all his children. He wants us to find happiness, and has provided a way to obtain it. That way is through Jesus Christ and his Gospel. I love this work, and I am in awe of the power of God in directing it.

Elder Johnson

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Willis Family in San Antonio surprised us with a phone call last night.  They were having Justus and his companion over for Christmas Eve and wanted to know some of Elder Johnson's family traditions.  Of course they had an elaborate family celebration of their own with a traditional dinner old Jerusalem style and actually acting out Luke 2.  I was so impressed they took Justus caroling presented him with his letter to Jesus and even gave him captain crunch (a silly family tradition). 

 In the picture on the right, Elder Johnson is cubing the Leg of a Lamb for the families Shepherd's dinner.  

We sent a copy of Justus' letter to Jesus Christmas 2012.  He was surprised.  Thanks Martha making this a magical evening for him!  Here's what Sister Willis wrote:  Presenting last year's letter. He was so surprised. Thanks for thinking of that.   

The other pictures are obviously caroling  on the left and receiving Capn crunch cereal and Egg Nog, right.

 Looks like Justus shared with his new friends!   Picture below!

Monday, December 23, 2013

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!  What an exciting time! I love this season. This past week has been long, with a great variety of interesting experiences. The main event of the week was Christmas Conference. It was an all day event. It was great to see some missionaries from up in Round Rock. Sure enough, the work is going great up there! Our Mission President gave a training on angels and the Christmas story! It was fascinating. There was also a mission talent show, which of course was super fun!! 

Aside from the Christmas Conference, we had some really great, productive days, this week along with some long, frustrating days. On Friday, our roommates, the First Ward Elders, had some car trouble and had to take their car up to a shop in north San Antonio. My companion and I were tasked with the job of going to pick them up. BUT, we didn't have a GPS and so we ended up getting lost for an hour or so. It was the worst because there wasn't anything I could do!! I felt so helpless. We wasted a lot of time, gas and mileage, and I just felt sick about it. 

However the next couple of days were really great. We taught a bunch of lessons on Saturday, and uncovered a couple of concerns that we really need to address. We found out that one of our investigators, C, wasn't actually married to her husband. But, all is well, we taught the law of chastity, and now they are both preparing for marriage! And on top of that, her "husband" will now be taking the lessons with her. Yay!! So many of our investigators are learning a lot, and making a lot of progress. It is so awesome to see the growth of testimonies in these people. 

Well, I'm out of time, so once again, I'll wish you all a MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!! God bless you all, every one!

Love, Elder Johnson 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Hello everyone!

This week was fairly uneventful save for one rather important development. I got my VISA!! YAY!! I'll be leaving for Brazil on January 6th. To be honest the call came as a complete surprise. I convinced myself that I would be spending at least 3 more transfers in San Antonio. Now that I know I'm leaving I'm excited and sad. I've learned so much here in the TSAM, and I've met some sweet people. I've had awesome companions and I've had some great learning experiences. I feel incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to serve here, even for a brief time. I'll always say that I got to serve two missions one in San Antonio and one in Cuiaba Brazil. To be honest, I'll miss this mission. I feel like I've put a ton of effort into teaching and helping people, and I'll never be able to see the fruits of any of it. But hey! That's how it goes sometimes.

Here in Mission Creek, we're getting a lot done. The key event of the week was probably the ward Christmas party. It was a true Mormon thrown together spectacle. I think the Ward did most of the planning for it this week. But it came together alright. The musical numbers were...amusing? But the food was good, and It was fairly Christ-centered. We had three less-active families there, and one of our investigators, C, came. Speaking of C, she is probably our most promising investigator right now. We've been teaching her a LOT and we have a baptismal date for the 28th with her. Right now we're working with her to help her quit smoking. If she can get that down and out of the way, she will be baptized!! We're teaching a handful of other people as well. One of the neatest people we're teaching is this 16 guy named J G. He basically fell in "like" with this Mormon gal in our ward, and started investigating the church and taking the lessons. He has been taught everything and then some, and he wants to be baptized, but his dad is deployed and doesn't feel comfortable with him making that decision while he is gone. He is probably one of the neatest guys I've ever met. Despite his "youth" he is super spiritual, and loves learning gospel truths. He always presents us with really tough questions, but is accepting of what we say to answer them! If only all people had the kind of desire that he has to follow Christ!

Other than those specifics we are teaching and meeting with a bunch of less-active part-member families, and (hopefully) helping them to progress in the gospel. For lack of anything else to write about I suppose it's worth mentioning a district prank that has been going on for the past week. Elder P (district leader) is a great guy, but he is pretty superstiscious. So, the third companionship in the district (Elder G and Elder Y) made a couple of "ghost" videos of stuff "moving around" by itself in their apartment. The videos were very cleverly done, and they're pretty convincing. When they showed the videos to Elder P he literally screamed like a little girl. Needless to say, that companionship (P and L) are now thoroughly convinced that the other apartment is haunted!

As we approach the Christmas season though, I'll just say a quick word about keeping in mind the true meaning of Christmas. That is- Christ. Although Christmas isn't really his birthday, It provides a great opportunity to reflect on the Savior and all that he's done for us. To many, Christmas is a season of giving, and that's great! I think God loves all the giving and sharing that happens at Christmas time. But with that in mind, reflect on what you can give to show appreciation for the greatest gift that has ever been given, God's son, Jesus Christ, and his life and death for us.

I love you all, and wish you all an early Merry Christmas (because porque nao?)

Monday, December 9, 2013

I picked a really bad time to miss out on a weekly letter. The past two weeks have been so busy. It feels like ages since transfers. I've got a lot to cover, so here goes.

New area and new companion- I'm in Mission Creek of the San Antonio East Stake. We cover from downtown San Antonio (including the alamo!!) all the way south to the 1604 highway. This area is exactly the opposite of my last. The ward is small, and super diverse (which I LOVE). There are tons ( I don't want to be specific here) of less actives, which means there is ALWAYS work to do. The area in general is much more...humble than the one I just came from. I don't mean this in a derogatory way, but it truly is the ghetto. Lots of gangs. Lots of problems. Lots of opportunities to help people!!! As for my new companion, Elder F, I couldn't be more exited. He is awesome. He's a new trainer but he loves missionary work and he loves people. He is full of optimism and enthusiasm, and we will do and have done great things together. Next week I'll send a few pics, along with a very special Christmas card from our district. By the way, the district here is legendary for being the tightest district in the mission, and I believe it. We're all super good friends already.

When I say that this area is busy, I mean it. I just barely finished meeting everyone that is being taught yesterday. There are so many investigators (mostly from part member and less active families) to even mention them all. The biggest quest and struggle we have right now is just getting me to know everything. There is so much to remember. There are so many names places and situations to keep track of. It is pretty overwhelming. The area is pretty extensive, and so we have a car full time. It is nice, but at the same time I miss the exercise from biking. 

Like I've said before, most of the work we do is technically less active work. That means we find and teach those who have, for whatever reasons, not been to or involved with the church for an extensive period of time. This kind of work is rewarding and frustrating at the same time. Rewarding because we are able to teach the families of these people who have not joined the church. Many times these families have children, spouses, or other close family members that live with them who need to hear and learn about the gospel. It is busy, busy, work. There is never a shortage of people to meet of things to do. It's frustrating, because it is hard to see these people who have lost the drive that they once had to follow Christ.

I've had so many experiences, and I wish I could tell all the incredible things that have been happening, but there is just too much!! Really quick, let me just say that fasting does wonders for spiritual sensitivity. Me and my companion have fasted three times already this transfer, and I've seen the spirit's guidance like never before. In one instance, we were driving to the home of an investigator (E) who had been progressing really well. Earlier that week she had comitted to baptism, and made some huge steps in being ready for that change. As we were driving to her home both me and my companion felt this feeling of...dread almost. We knew that something had happened. We got there and sure enough, her boyfriend (the source of most of her struggles) was back. We entered the home and just felt awful. E was talking with her mom, and she shoved the phone at my companion. Elder F proceeded to be cussed out and railed against by her mom via cell phone. As Elder F struggled to calm the mother, I talked to E. She began expressing doubt after doubt that had been fed to her by her boyfriend and family over the past few days. She had given up on following the word of wisdom, and just abandoned the testimony that she had gained. After 45 minutes of this Elder F finally joined me in talking with E. The incredible thing was, both of us knew and could voice her own doubts and struggles before she even expressed them. The spirit was with us. We both testified with all of our hearts, and left, by saying that it was in her hands now. It was a painful, terrible moment. Especially for Elder F who has been working with that family for months on end. We left that house devastated by what had happened, but so grateful for the presence and support of the spirit in helping us know what to do and say.

Once again I'm out of time way too soon, but I hope this letter has been extensive enough.

My love to all, 

Elder Johnson

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Here's a picture of me with Walsh Ranch's Ward Mission Leader(Brother O.'s) family. They were all super sweet! 

Wow. It has been one LONG week. Transfers went fine. My new area is called Mission Creek. It is a long, sprawling area that extends from the Alamo and Ft Sam Houston all the way South to the 1604. My new address is 3903 SE Millitary dr. #10104 San Antonio TX 78223.
It sounds like you all had a blast at Suzannes. I hope you kept in mind the powerful message behind Thanksgiving, that of gratitude! Anyway. I'll tell more about my new area in the other e-mail. Let me know when the winter concert for choir is, and how they are all doing. Please try to get me the contact info of J. 
Love you all,

Elder Johnson
(this email was written to the family, we didn't hear any more this week and anxiously await his next email. The above family apparently helped him with the transfer on Thanksgiving Day!  Thank you O family!!!  (The boys must play football they are so tall! I thought Justus was one of the children at first!)

Sunday, December 1, 2013

   What a week! It has been insanely busy, but not necessarily with prostlyting. We had two and a half whole days this week where we were out of commission. But first and foremost, the big news. I'm being transferred!!! I don't know where yet, but I get a new companion and a new area this Thursday (yes Thanksgiving). So my next letters will be from a completeally different area. This week has been one of dramatic change, both for me and for the mission.
   It all started last Wednesday. We had the incredible opportunity to hear from Elder Golden, a member of the Quorum of the Seventy. We drove down to Austin with the zone leaders, and spent 5 hours being taught by one of God's servants. He was awesome! He led more of a discussion rather than a lecture by having a question and answer session! It was fascinating as he helped expound some confusing or misguided doctrines. The material he taught was pretty deep stuff, and there's no way I could explain it well, so I'll just say that we talked a lot about the identities of both Christ and his opposite in every way, Satan. On the way back from this conference, we got stuck in awful traffic, and didn't get back to our apartment until really late. It was sad to miss out on a day of prostlyting, but I learned a lot.
   Thursday was our day set aside to move to our new apartment. So, we spent the entire day packing, cleaning, organizing, moving, and then cleaning some more. There were a number of complications, and as a result, we had a lot we still needed to do on Friday. We spent most of Friday finishing the moving and cleaning. Friday night we finially had a chance to get out and do some real missionary work! But, there was one unfortunate was 38 degrees and raining hard. Within the first few minutes, we were soaked, and freezing. It was so totally miserable we just had to laugh at our situation. That night I literally couldn't feel the whole bottom half of my body. It was GREAT! I felt like such a sweet missionary!
    The biggest changes occurred on Sunday. The Round Rock Stake split into 2 Stakes, and a new Ward was formed! The Walsh Ranch Ward lost a chunk of our area, but we only lost a few families. That night we got our transfer notifications, and I found out that I was getting transferred! I havn't even unpacked from the move yet!! Which leads to my thought of the week...
    Being uncomfortable stinks. It just does. We all love to be in our ideal environments, where we feel safe, secure, with a bare minimum of worries and concerns. But, we all face uncomfortable things. Why? Now for a story. In our Ward Mission Conference this week, one of the Ward Missionaries was expressing concern about being uncomfortable. They said that they just wouldn't be comfortable inviting the Missionaries to talk with their friends (by the way- ALWAYS invite the missionaries to talk with your friends, I promise we'll try not to freak them out or scare them off). Another Ward Missionary responded, "if your not uncomfortable, you're not growing." At the time I was like, "preach it brother!!!" Of course, later that night I got the call that I was being transferred, and my first thought was, "darn, I was just getting comfortable here." Immediately, I thought of that previous statement. If you're not uncomfortable, you're not growing. As much as that reality stinks, it's so true. My mission so far has been one uncomfortable moment after another, but I've learned and grown SO MUCH. So my advice this week is don't shy away from those uncomfortable moments. See them as opportunities to grow!! I know that God uses hard times, and changes to teach us and ultimetaly help us, because he loves us! He is our father, and he always has our ultimate and eternal happiness in mind.
    I love this mission. I love this work. I love and am learning to love my fellow men. I love you all, and am so grateful for your prayers and your support.

Elder Johnson

Thursday, November 21, 2013

I dub this week the week of exchanges because I feel like
half the week was spent on exchanges. It started on Tuesday, when I went to Vista Ridge with Elder O. He's a fairly new missionary (6 months or so). We spent the morning putting up Christmas lights for a member in his ward...not exactly the best use of time, but we ended up going with him to give a blessing for a young boy going to the hospital. That was a neat experience, but it was costly for time. We didn't get back to our apartment until 4:00 and we had dinner and an teaching appointment right after. We taught an Indian (as in from India) guy named VJ in the home of some members. He was super sweet, and was remarkably open to the
message of the restoration, but he feels devoted to his Hindu beliefs. Thursday, we went on splits with the priests. Unfortunately the priests were 50 mins late, and that threw a wrench into our plans, so we had to improvise. Everything worked out though, and Joseph (one of the priests) and I went and had dinner and taught a quick lesson to a part-member family. Saturday, I went on exchanges again! This time I stayed in Walsh Ranch with Elder O. We had a pretty busy day. We talked to a bunch of people, and even helped wash someone's car, but only got one return appointment out of the day.
 One family actually tried to give us this anti-Mormon book, written by a former member of course.
They were SOOOOO sure that the LDS church is completely wrong. That night we had a lesson with M and A. We had high hopes, but they didn't want to come to church the next day. I don't think we've found a single seeker of truth here yet. So many people are content. Which leads to my thought for the week...
I've heard a few times the quote, "my 'good' is the enemy of my 'best'". I don't think I've ever bought into that principle until now. Complacency and satisfaction are enemies to progression. When you are "fine" with who you are, how you are living, and your life in general, you loose the desire to improve. Without a constant effort of self-improvement, you stagnate and end up regressing. I've seen this in others and myself here. Everyone says, "I'm happy with my religion" and occasionally I say, "well of course you're satisfied, because you don't know how much more happiness is in store for you!! What we offer is a way to grow that happiness that you've already found." I know that that way to find increased happiness and joy is through the true restored gospel of Jesus Christ, and the blessings it offers. This week, I had to step back, and recognize the complacency that was setting in myself. I had to realize that my desires were lessening, and I was becoming more at ease with the lack of success in our work here.
That complacency/satisfaction is unacceptable!! Especially in missionary work! I had to rekindle in myself those high hopes and aspirations that accompanied me at the very beginning of my mission. I invite all of you to watch out for that complacency in your own lives. Never get stuck being "satisfied". There is always more to do, and more to become! Don't lose hope, and just keep trying! I promise our Heavenly Father and Christ are there to help us in our efforts and growth. Turn to them if you feel weak, or if you start to despair. They love you, and I love you. Thank you for your prayers and support!

Elder Johnson

Pictures: Justus with companion Elder C and splits missionaries Elder O and others.  Justus in his apartment and Justus with Texas sized doughnut!

Friday, November 15, 2013

To everyone-
Hey everyone! What a week! Things are finally getting rolling here. The big news of the week is that we had our first investigators at church. YAY!!! For the first time this week we had back to back appointments! It was thrilling to be able to feel busy in that way. However, there is serious opposition to the work. I've got some pretty crazy stories this week.
Last Tuesday started it all. We were biking around, and a guy pulled up next to us, said he had a Book of Mormon and wanted to talk about it. Of course, we were excited to talk to him, and we headed over to his house. When we sat down with him, things were wierd from the start. All of his answers were perfect. I thought he might be a member messing with us. Afterwards, Elder C. and I decided that he was either a perfect investigator or a prankster. I of course was hoping with all my heart that he was sincere. Now for a back story.
We had been made aware of an infamous investigator by previous missionaries called "the moocher". Apparently he took lessons for months on end, attended church four times, and was going to be baptized years ago. Then he found a bunch of anti-mormon info online. He called up the missionaries and told them he had found "his answer" and pretended to be super excited about it. He told the missionaries to bring pizza and soda. Of course the missionaries were thrilled and rushed over, stopping to buy pizza and soda. They sat down with him, ate, chatted, and then asked about his answer. "The moocher" told them he knew the Book of Mormon was false. He then proceeded to bash the missionaries and tried to anti them. Since then, he has consistantly messed with missionaries. He fakes interest for a while, and then will turn the tables and do and say hateful things. On our phone he is listed as "John, liar, do not answer"
Turns out, this "miracle" investigator was in fact "the moocher". What a dissapointment. Our next appointment we told him that we knew who he was and about his past involvement with missionaries. He made a bunch of excuses, and tried to keep lying to us. We invited him to church, and we decided that we won't teach him again until he starts demonstrating sincerity.
The next crazy story occurred over the weekend. We street contacted a mother named J. She has endured so much, and is in the middle of another incredible struggle. She has had cancer three times, and had just found out (for her fourth time) that she once again had cancer. She was clearly on a lot of medication when we talked to her, but she seemed lucid. We set up a time to come back and teach. We planned on teaching the Plan of Salvation and we arranged to bring bro. P. from the ward with us. We got to the lesson, and it went fine! J. had two young girls who were super excited about church and religion. In fact they answered most of the questions, and ended up dominating the discussion. We invited the family to church and they gladly accepted. Sunday came around and they didn't show up. We gave them a call, but couldn't figure out what happened. Later that night, we got a call from the bishop of the neighboring ward. Apparently J.'s mom was a recent convert! She had talked to J., but J. told her some crazy things. J. told her mom that missionaries came by, without a third man, and were teaching some truly blasphemous things (I'd rather not repeat them). Of course the mother was shocked and concerned, and she called her bishop. Elder C. and I were blown away! We had no Idea what to think, there's no way we taught anything close to the things she said. We called the mother. In the discussion we discovered that J. reported many visits by missionaries over the past few days. We had only been by once. We determined that either J. was seriously confused (perhaps because of the medication) or that there were imposter missionaries going around!
Just goes to show that there is opposition in ALL things.
Anyway. There are many stories from this week but those two are the most dramatic! In fact, it's actually been an incredibly successful week, we've found a couple of great potential investigators, and we look forward to meeting with them. I'm going on exchanges over to Vista Ridge tonight, and It'll be interesting to be in yet another part of Round Rock!
I love you all!

Elder Johnson

Monday, November 4, 2013

To everyone-
First off, I'll tell a quick story. Monday last week, I got a fortune cookie that said "Wednesday is your lucky day". Needless to say, I was looking forward to Wednesday. Wednesday came, and Elder C. and I headed out. It was sprinkling a little bit, and the roads were slick. Everything went fine until early in the afternoon. We took a turn , and the front tire of my bike skidded out! I fell off, and took a sweet slide along the road on my side. I gashed up my arm a little, and my pants were torn up, but it was all good. I hopped right up and we just carried on. Then a little later, I got my THIRD flat tire. Me and my companion were stuck with a 40 min walk home. Halfway there, it POURED. I'm talking about a classic, heavy duty, Texas-sized thunderstorm. This, on top of a day with NO lessons, and NO new investigators, make for quite the unlucky Wednesday. Once again, the lesson of humility was taught, and I, the wet, tired, dirty, disappointed, bleeding student had to bow by head and learn.
As for Halloween, as a missionary, it's not the greatest holiday. It just means that you can't do any work all night. The good thing is that, tons of people have leftover candy, so any member you go by offers you a bunch!
This week has been one of those learning and growing weeks. All but one of our lessons fell through. The couple that I was so excited to teach ( K. & A.) dropped us, and that was sad. The excuse you hear all the time here (and I suppose everywhere) is that people are "super busy" and never seem to know when they do or don't have work. I've learned that satisfaction is the enemy to growth and change. So many people are "satisfied" or "happy" with their lives and religion. They feel no desire to change if it means stepping out of their comfort zone. The hardest thing is teaching part member or less-active families who are, or have been exposed to the happiness that the gospel of Jesus Christ brings, and choose to ignore it because it means they have to change. I want to just shake them and say "don't you realize what you're missing! You are fathers who have the opportunity to bless your families with the Priesthood. You are mothers who have the chance to rear your children in the gospel, you have so many blessings that are sitting there for you, waiting for you to get up and come get them!!!"
Anyway, we did get a chance to teach a couple of interesting lessons. One was with P.  He sat through an entire lesson, and then refused to commit to anything! I kinda wanted to laugh, just because he was being so stubborn. Another lesson was with T. She is an incredible woman, who already lives the life of a disciple. But, she likes to talk, and she has lots to say.

I went on splits with Elder W., another "greenie", on Saturday. It was scary because both of us were super inexperienced. No one listened to us all day long! But at the end of the day we taught M. & A., a couple referred to us by the C."s It was the second lesson, and we discussed the Spirit, and read from the Book of Mormon about why we have tragedies and trials in our lives (2 Nephi, Chapter 2). The lesson was less than spectacular. Elder W. and I struggled to really teach with purpose, but the Spirit was there, and Elder C. and I teach them the Plan of Salvation on Sunday, so there is still hope!
We have yet to get anyone to church, but I have faith that that day will come!

Elder Johnson 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Oct. 28, 2013
Howdy all y'all!
Just kidding. no-one really says howdy here. But everyone does say y'all. I think it's weird, but give me another week or two and I'll be saying it too.
This week has been busy and humbling. But, despite hardships, I am enjoying the work, and have found that sometimes you just have to laugh at all the crummy things that are happening!
This week me and Elder C. have run into a lot of...firm opposition to the church and it's principles to put it mildly. So many people are totally convinced that the church is a cult! One of the families we stopped by actually gave us some material that their "non-denominational church" had distributed to them. It went something like...
"WARNING there two cults going door to door preaching their falsehoods.
They are the Mormons and Jehovah witnesses. They will try to deceive you into thinking that they are christian believers in the bible, but this is false. They each have a set of 'higher doctrine' that they don't tell you until after you join their church." The paper proceeded to list a mixture of things that we do believe (but that we teach openly with no secrecy), along with a number of completely obscure and false "beliefs" that are either purely wrong or misrepresented. It was so sad that people could be so convinced of lies, but we just had to laugh about it because it was so far-fetched!
This week we taught a couple of really...interesting lessons, along with a couple good ones. We taught Bro. W. who is the father of an LDS family and has been investigating the church on and off for 22 years.
It was just sad to see such a lack of a desire to change! We also taught K. and A. the first lesson this week. The member we had present, Bro. S.. got really into it. He was just really excited to share ALL of the stuff he knew.  It helped me realize though that simplicity is beautiful.
We also taught this really goofy guy, J. I feel bad calling him goofy because he has some serious problems, but he's just goofy! I think he's just really desperate for attention. He's in his early twenties and has a bunch of drug problems. When we went to teach him, he asked us about our position on alcohol, and then proceeded to pour himself and his friend a glass of wine. Despite being drunk and high, he said that he felt the book of Mormon was inspired. Then, the next day, while we were talking with a guy on his street, and he came up to us and gave us back the Book of Mormon. But, like I said, I think the whole reason he even talked to us is because he wants attention.
We (or rather my companion) taught two more Spanish lessons this week, and I smiled and nodded! As always those were tons of fun. BUT to cap it all off we actually had a decent lesson yesterday! YAY! We taught a young family, M. and A., who are good friends of a family in the ward. We were able to help M., the father, pray with his family for the first time! It was so great! Little things like that make everything worth it.
In other news, I had two flat tires this week! Getting a flat when you're out in the middle of your area can be just a little bit distressing, but it's one of those things you can't control, so you just deal with it. I also got my mission bike this week. It's super old, creaky, and WAY harder to ride. So basically, it's what I'm used to! The lesson learned from this week, and the lesson I am continuing to learn is humility. This week was nothing if not humbling. The one thing that I felt confident with, bike riding, was taken from me, first by the flat tires, and then by the "new" old bike. The Lord works by simple means, and although it seems weird, the lord humbled me this week by making biking hard. What I learned is to always beware of pride. As soon as I developed pride in my biking prowess, the lord stripped that away. It is so much better to remain humble by your own choice than to be "compelled to be humble" as Alma states.
Anyway, I'm loving the work, hardships and all.
Elder Johnson

The following comments and pictures are from a friend that knew us in Burke, VA!  Here's what she wrote!
These are a couple more pictures I thought you would enjoy.  We had several missionaries come to our home because one of them hurt his knee, no worries not your Justus!  While Aaron was treating this missionary they were talking about the "new" elders assigned to our ward.  They couldn't have had more kind words for Justus and his companion. 

We were asked to have them over for lunch since they didn't have a place to eat today so we brought Elder C. and Johnson home with us.  I always knew what a wonderful family you are but I thought I would tell you what a wonderful missionary and son you have.  They brought a wonderful spirit into our home and Justus jumped right in to help prepare lunch.  You have done a wonderful job and he has an amazing spirit about him.  He is so well prepared and I hope that you never worry about that aspect of his being out here.  We had some other Elders right out of High School here before Justus and his companion, your son is leaps and bounds more prepared and mature to handle the work that they will be doing.  He is being exposed to a lot of questioning that I am sure he will not encounter in Brazil.  A great opportunity and so amazing he will get to experience such different types of missionary work serving one mission & from what the grapevine has said he is doing a stellar job!!!  I thought I would just pass that along as I am sure it isn't news to you but sometimes it is nice to hear.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Tuesday, October 1, 2013  (I forgot to post this blog a few weeks ago sorry)

Oi! To all those wondering how I doing, I'm Great! Really, I'm loving this experience. The language is coming right along. Every day my capacity to communicate increases. In case anyone really wants to know, I've covered the present, preterite, imperfect, two-word and one-word tenses of verbs so far, and my vocabulary and grammar is coming along as well. I'm able to use bits and pieces of Portuguese in everyday conversation. In fact, tomorrow my district is attempting a Portuguese-only day, which should be interesting because we're hosting for newcoming missionaries as well. It's so weird being a now "senior" MTC attendee. My entire district is looking forward to getting their reassignments/visas next week ( Thursday/Friday). Rumor has it that visas are starting to come through a little bit easier, so many of us (including me) have high hopes of going straight to Brazil! 
Speaking of Brazil, in case anyone wasn't aware, my mission is going to be HOT! Every returned missionary that has come back from Brazil says that the Motto Grosso region of my mission in one of the hottest, most rural places in Brazil. Every day this week the temperature has been over 100 degrees, so wish me luck!
This past week has been a long one. Mostly because the same old routine of the MTC is getting more and more burdensome every day. BUT it's all ok! I still love it here because every day, the spirit touches me and I learn something new! This past fast sunday was especially neat. We had a big MTC mission conference instead of regular meetings, and that was a super cool experience. The meeting was two hours long, and missionaries were falling asleep left and right, but I was learning way to much to be tired! Unfortunately, yesterday I seem to have misplaced my notebook i which I keep most of my notes (typical me) and so I can't necessarily relay specific thoughts.

more to come, gotta go get my clothes into the dryer!

alright I'm back

As for my pescisadores progradindo (progressing investigators) Both Bernac and Tomás are coming along quite well. In fact, the past two lessons with each investigator went really really well. Last week, my companion and I decided to put more of an emphasis on the Book of Mormon in our teaching. What we discovered though was even though planning is super important, sometimes you end up teaching something entirely different. That's the way these lessons went. We planned to teach something, and then when we got in there to actually teach the lesson, we end up teaching something else. The neat thing was that both times, me and my companion were on the same page about it! It just goes to show how absolutally necessary the presence of the spirit is when you teach. A lesson without the spirit is not really a lesson at all. Noone really gets anything from it. For those of you unfamiliar with this term "the spirit" it refers to the feelings you get from god when you are being taught truth. In essence, what it means is that if we can't help people feel the love and power of god we are not fulfilling our purpose as missionaries. That is why I am out here, learning Portuguese, preparing to spend the next 23 months in a 100+ degree swampland. I want to bring people closer to Christ, and help them find the way to perfect happiness. At the same time, I myself am drawing closer to Christ and finding happiness! What a great, incredible opportunity! I love this work, and I love this Gospel. My love and best wishes to all back home!
Elder Johnson
October 21, 2013

Hola Everyone!! Elder Johnson reporting from his first mission area!! I've been assigned to the Round Rock area (northeast of Austin, TX) in the Walsh Ranch ward and district! My new mailing address: 515 east palm valley Blvd #536 Round Rock, TX 78664.

Where to start! It's been a really long week, and it feels like a month since the MTC. However, I'm finally doing real missionary work, and I love it! I can't believe that less than a week ago I was on a plane headed to Texas. The flights (we stopped in Phoenix, AZ) were great. I sat next to a neat guy named either Rob or Ray. He was a native Alaskan, and grew up way in Northern Alaska. He spent the entire plane ride telling us stories about hunting, bears, hunting bears and all sorts of other crazy things! He was a neat guy and we left him with a card. Our stay in San Antonio was pretty great as well. We had lunch at the Mission home, and then went to the Alamo for the "initiation" of passing out copies of the Book of Mormon on the street. I was super nervous at first, but ended up having a great time and gave a Book of Mormon to a really sweet Hispanic gal, but I think she listened to us just 'cause she thought my companion was cute :) That night we had a great Texan dinner and slept at the Zone leader's apartments.
The next day I received my new area assignment and companion. We drove up to Austin for transfer meeting and I met my new companion and trainer, Elder Campbell. He's a great missionary, but I get to that in more detail later. We checked into our apartment with another trio of elders who just happen to be the zone leaders. Our room was a little bit of a disaster, so we had to spend the first half an hour getting everything in order. Then, we sat down and got to work! The first day was hard because the area is a 100% biking area, and I didn't have a bike! We had to call around to get a ride to dinner, which we then had to cram down because we have a rule where we don't eat dinner with members past 6:00 (and the dinner started at 5:30). Afterwards the ward mission leader, Bro. Ovt. came by and drove us around to ward to meet the bishop and other ward leaders. The members we met were all way friendly, and I'm super excited to get to know them better and work with them.  (Picture with Kati Williams from Burke Ward in Virginia!!!!  Justus will be working in Sister Williams in the Walsh Ranch Ward in Austin, TX  What a small world!!!  Thanks Kati for sending us the pictures!!!)

The next day, we finally figured out the bike situation. I'll be riding one of the zone leader's bikes till I get a mission bike of my own! It felt sooooooooo good to ride a bike again!! It just puts a smile on my face to be cruisin' around as a missionary on a bike!! But, the area is a tough one. The previous missionaries had a hard time, and couldn't really get much done, so Elder Campbell and I are starting fresh!! One thing that is different is that door knocking is no longer part of missionary work here. That's right, no tracting. When President Slaughter came in as the new mission president, he encouraged the complete abandonment of tracting as a missionary endeavor. Instead, we are to meet people and find lessons only through referrals or street contacts. Not gonna lie, I was disappointed. Door knocking is the part of missionary work that every return missionary talks about, complains about, and experiences miracles through. But, I'm doing my best to put my trust in this new system, even if that means I won't get that part of the missionary experience. One part of the missionary experience that I did get to enjoy though is the wonderful feeling of bewilderment when you're part of a lesson where you don't understand a thing that's being said! This area is "English speaking" but there is a little part that is super Hispanic. My companion is Spanish speaking and is fairly fluent, so when we were invited into a home with a very animated Spanish speaker, things got confusing really quickly. I understood about 50% of what my companion was saying and about 20% of what the other guy was saying. He was talking SO FAST! After the 45 minute lesson in Spanish, I just had to laugh out loud at my own bewilderment!

Finally, I'd like to relate just one of the little miracles that I've been able to experience so far. Yesterday, we were contacting some less active members, and we ran into a member on the street. We talked with him for a bit, and he invited us to talk to a couple of families on his street. One of his neighbors was working in his garage, so we stopped by to talk for a little bit. We chatted for a while, and really struck up a great conversation!  Eventually, we offered to share a quick scripture and prayer with him. He consented, and we invited his wife out. Sitting there in the garage we talked about their efforts to grow closer to god and Jesus Christ. The wife asked for advice for her study of the bible. I suggested that she see watch some of the bible videos that the church makes along with her New Testament study. My companion shared Ether 12:27 and we talked a little bit about how and why god gives us weaknesses and trials. To close the wife offered a closing prayer, and in it mentioned some struggles that their family was having, and that me and my companion were an answer to prayer! It felt wonderful to be able to touch their life in that way, and they invited us back for a second lesson!

I'm excited for the hastening of god's work, and I'm thrilled to be a part of it. My love to all!

Elder Johnson

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The big news is in. In case it hasn't already been made known, I've been reassigned to the Texas San Antonio Mission to wait for my VISA to come through. The important thing about this reassignment is that I know it is for me. Much like the mission call itself, the assignment to serve for a short time in San Antonio feels right. I know for a fact that there is work for me to do there, and I am SOOO excited to go do it! As soon as I get my new address, I'll let my parents know. I leave dark and early tomorrow morning (3:30 in fact)!

This last week has been so, so long. I firmly believe that the first and last weeks of the MTC have been some of the longest weeks of my life. But, I've loved it! In fact, this past week (especially the past couple of days) has been incredible in so many ways.
The hardest thing has been saying goodbye to the Elders and Sisters in my district. In fact, the San Antonio group is the last group to leave. Every morning for the past 4 days, we've all awakened at 3:00 to say our final farewells. It's amazing how close you can get to a group of people in just over a month. The Elders in our district are especially close.
 We all love and respect one another, and I for one have learned so much from each one of them. We also had the remarkable experience to give blessings to the departing missionaries, but I'll talk about that later.
The last final days of class with our teachers (Irmao Miller and Irmao Porter) were really power packed. We learned the stories behind the practice investigators that we've been teaching, and each teacher shared stories and experiences from their missions. The teachers at the MTC are the best, and I firmly believe that our district was blessed with two of the finest teachers in the MTC. In fact, our district was the very last district Irmao Porter will ever teach. He has been teaching for almost 4 years, and I guess that's the limit. Irmao Porter has got to be one of the most Christlike people I've ever known. In every lesson he taught well, made it fun, AND brought the spirit. His testimony was always super powerful, and you could feel his love for teaching and his love for us missionaries. His last day of class was one of the saddest, most touching things I've ever experienced. I could literally feel his turmoil and anguish as he had to prepare to walk away from something that he loved so dearly. The expression on his face as he turned and looked back at the classroom for the last time broke my heart. He has helped me want to be so much more than a good missionary. Thanks to him I feel ready to hit the mission field running, and get to work right away! Thank you Irmao Porter!!!

The last thing I'd like to talk about is the Priesthood blessings that I mentioned earlier. In our church, we believe that God gives a portion of his power to man for the blessing of mankind, just as he did in the days of old (the bible). That portion of his power is called the Priesthood.  With that Priesthood, one of the things we can do, is to lay our hands on someone's head and give them a blessing (either of comfort or healing depending on the situation). Like I said before, these past couple of days, we've had the opportunity to bless the missionaries in our district that were leaving with blessings of comfort. I was able to be the one to bless my own companion, Elder Hinckley, just before he left for Brazil. In giving this blessing, I know with certainty that I was a "mouthpiece" for the Lord. I know that the things I said for him were exactly what the Lord needed to be said. They were not my words, they were God's, and they were perfect for Elder Hinckley. I know that the Priesthood power is real, and that it exists so that God can more fully bless his children, us. God loves each and every one of you and so do I!  Next time I write it will be from Texas!
Remember the Alamo!

Elder Justus Johnson

Friday, October 11, 2013

Thursday, October 10, 2013 
First off, I love the pics of Ranger!!! He is sooooo cute! I got my reassignment today and I am thrilled to serve in the......San Antonio Texas Mission!!!!!! It's unbelievable! I'm so super exited! I leave Wednesday morning (3:30) and I might be able to call from the airport! I write more on my next P-day! Love you all

-Elder Johnson!
(missionaries who have not received their Visa's by the time of departure, Oct 15 for Justus, serve temporarily in a second location to wait for their Visa and upon receiving it continue on to the original assigned destination)

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Oi! First and foremost, HOW ABOUT CONFERENCE!!   I feel so blessed to have had the experience to listen to conference here at the MTC right before preparing to head out into the field. IT was truly inspiring. General Conference (for those unfamiliar with the church) is a meeting where all the leaders of the LDS church, the Prophet and the Apostles gather (every 6 months) in Salt Lake and give a broadcasted message to the world. There are 10 hours of conference over a weekend, and all of the "general authorities" (leaders in the church) are able to speak and share any message they feel impressed to share.  I love Conference, because no matter the specific message of the speaker, there are personal lessons learned from each and every one of the talks that are applicable in my life! I'd love to share all the insights I gained from conference this year, but if I did, the e-mail would be long and boring. Instead I encourage you to go and listen to whatever parts of conference you can and take away your own lessons and meanings.
Other than conference, the week has been pretty standard. I hosted for the first time this past Wednesday ( I welcomed new missionaries arriving at the MTC), and that was a ton of fun, and I look forward to hosting again tomorrow! The craziest thing though is that now our district is the "oldest" in the zone! It feels like yesterday that we were babies at the MTC! Elders Anderson and Goodrich (my roomates) are the new Zone leaders, and I couldn't be more pleased. They are an awesome pair of missionaries, and I just love them to pieces! My entire district is waiting with baited breath for reassignments/visas to come this Thursday. Many of my district is expecting visas, but I just found out (literally) 20 mins ago, that I probably won't be getting mine for a while. The day after I get my reassignment I'll be sure to shoot an e-mail to my parents with my 2nd mission location!!! It really is pretty exiting.

Me by the Samuel Smith Statue with my laundry bag :)
My birthday in the MTC una festa espeical!!!

Me and my companion Elder Hinckley with a friend from home Sister Ariana Grunvig

top row (from left to right)- Elders Tibbits, Anderson, Bascom, Goodrich, De La Rosa, Hinckley, and me (I don't know why I'm separated from the group, sorry) Bottom row - Sisters Greenal, Larimer, Chadwick, Franks, and Thedell.

Last but certainly not least, I had a dream literally come true on Sunday. (drumroll) BYU VOCAL POINT came and did a devotional HERE at the MTC!!!!! I just about died. For those of you who haven't heard me rave about the awesomeness of vocal point, they are awesome. They are a men's accapella group at BYU that I have been listening to and cheering for for years now. It is one of my most lofty aspirations to one day be a part of this group. However, not only are they absolutely brilliant musicians, they are also all returned missionaries, and the messages they shared were almost ;) as inspiring as the mind blowing as the songs they performed.
Unfortunately, I ate up a good chunk of my time trying to send pictures, so let me just finish with one thought. It's all about Christ. Period. Being a good person is great! Keeping the commandments is great! Any belief that inspires someone to do and be good is totally fantastic. BUT until we come to Christ, good is all we can be. Only through Christ can we become perfected, and thereby reach our full potential. 
I wish I had time to write more, but life happens :) 
my love to all!!!

Elder Johnson

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Oi! Como vai! I'm almost halfway through my stay at the MTC (tomorrow will be the halfway point). Time has crawled and flown at the same time!! This week has been pretty standard. We did our first TRC (Teaching Resource Center) this week. That's where missionaries are able to talk with member volunteers. It's way more relaxed than the "pescisadores" (investigators). Speaking of investigators, we upgraded from one to two!!! That's right! Now Elder Hinckley and I are teaching 2 different "investigators". Their "names" are Bernac and Tomas. Bernac is a budhist who believes in communication with spirits via meditation as well as reincarnation, so those lessons to say the least. Tomas is a hard working family man, who was raised catholic, but has turned away from organized religion because of the lack of continuity among christian interpretations of the bible. Our language and teaching skills continue to improve, but I for one have a looooong way to go! 
Last Wednesday, out zone got a new district of 13 elders (now 12, but that story is coming up). 

Gotta go check the laundry, I'll finish and send the rest of the e-mail later!!!

Alright back to business
(add on from last sentence)
...It is pretty cool because all of them are Portuguese speaking, but none of them are going to Brazil. Instead they are going to Portugal, Mozambique, Cape Verde and Canada! One of the elders is Italian and he is super cool. The new district is on our floor of the residence hall, so it's like having new neighbors. It's also nice not to be the "baby" district anymore. In fact, my companion and I are at the point where, when we do street contacting practice to the new elders and sisters, we're able to see that they have the same kind of awe to us as we did to "experienced" missionaries in our first week. It's so funny. They think we actually know what we're saying. Jokes on them though, because I'm pretty sure my Portuguese grammar are less than that of a Brazilian kindergartner. Ah well, we're all still learning. Back to the new district story. There was one elder in the new district who was just seemed really homesick. His family lives 10 blocks away here in Provo, and I than must've been really hard. Anyway, he arranged to go home yesterday morning. BUT, instead of waiting for the morning he just up and left in the middle of the night. Literally just walked out and walked home. He left his bags and everything! Anyway, his companion woke up in the morning and had no idea what happened, so that was a little bit crazy. 
That was the biggest event of the week. Other than that, nothing super exiting has happened. I "played" piano for my zone's sacrament meeting, but they were all hymns that I am not good at playing so it was fairly embarrassing. As for district leader duties, the biggest most important one is to pick up the mail for my district twice a day :) Other than that, I just lead district meetings, and report on my district's progress to the branch president. 
Now to talk about lessons learned. It seems every week or even every day, a different aspect of the gospel is emphasized. You learn something new and powerful just about every day. These past couple of days, I have been taught about o Livro de Mormon. For the first time in my life, I am truly loving my study of the Book of Mormon. Previous to my mission I had a hard time studying the Book of Mormon for more that 15 mins at a time. Not anymore. This week during my personal study, I read the Book of Mormon (in English and Portuguese) for an hour straight, and after the hour was over I didn't want to put it down. I felt like I had to tear myself away! I was learning so much, and feeling the spirit so strongly! The very next day in class, we talked about the importance of the Book of Mormon as a tool in conversion for our investigators. The spirit was so, so strong as we all shared our own testimonies of the Book of Mormon. It helped me realize of the very real power that is in the message of the Book of Mormon. If we, as missionaries, can do nothing else but get that book into the hearts and minds of our investigators, it will be enough. So if you haven't had opportunities to really study the Book of Mormon lately, I encourage you to do so. Just sit yourself down. Open it up. Say a prayer, and enjoy! You won't regret it!
love, Elder Johnson

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Week two of the MTC here I come!!! I love this place! A lot of people here get stir crazy, and can't wait to get out, but I haven't felt that yet. There's still so much for me to learn!!! It is incredible how fast you are able to pick things up here. In just this short amount of time I'm as comfortable (if not more so) with Portuguese than I was with Spanish after 3 years of school classes. Isn't that AWESOME! Portuguese is actually such a fun, chill (suave) language. There are so many catchy little phrases. It's funny, now in regular conversation I'll respond to questions with "sim" or "ta bom" or some other Portuguese quip. For those who wonder, let me give you a quick rundown of what life is like here.
Our district wakes up at 6:00 and has breakfast at 6:30, then, throughout the day we have 6 hours of class time, 1 hour of language study, 2 hours of personal/companionship study, and 1 hour of gym with lunch and dinner in between. The entire day is packed to the max! It is helpful for people like me who aren't necessarily the most self-driven individuals. Also, part of our class time is dedicated to the teaching of "investigators" ( teachers posing as non church members) IN PORTUGUESE. Yeah that's right teaching in Portuguese! The first lesson ( over a week ago) was super tough and really stressful. I couldn't understand hardly a thing our "investigator", Antonio, was saying, let alone respond. However, the lessons gradually got better and better as our (me and my companion) had a better grasp of the language. We taught Antonio his fifth and last lesson last Friday, and we "committed him to baptism" (but not really because he was just a teacher playing the part). Regardless, it was a super cool, and really beneficial experience. This week we're getting 2, yes 2 new "investigators" to teach! 
Now about my district. I don't remember if I mentioned this in last letter, but I am so blessed to be in a totally awesome district. The elders and sisters are all champions! My companion, Elder Hinckley is especially great. He is truly gifted with the language. He picks it up so fast. His vocabulary and knowledge of the grammar is eons ahead of the rest of the class, especially me! The other elders in my room ( Elders Anderson and Tibbits) are also great. We have a trio of elders in the next room in our district ( Elders De la Rosa, Goodrich, and Bascom) who are also really fun. In fact, sometimes we all get along a little too well, and end up getting distracted, but we made a goal this past week to try and avoid that. The sisters in our district are all spiritual giants. They consistently show us elders up by their hard work, focus and determination. Elders Anderson, Tibbits, and Goodrich are all going to Cuiaba like me, while the others are going to either Curitiba, Curitiba de sol, or Belem. 
Now for fun stories. First off, I had my birthday in the MTC which was way legal (cool). My district sang happy birthday to me in Portuguese, and that night all the elders in my district had a festa (party) in the residence hall! It was soooo much fun. We had all sorts of goodies and snacks, complete with birthday hats and balloons (so thank you to those who contributed via packages :). What made it even more fun was that Elder Hinckley had his birthday the very next day!!!! So we did the same exact thing the following night as well. Needless to say, that weekend we were all feeling a little bit under the weather from overindulgence. I don't think I've ever eaten so many cupcakes, doughnuts and candy in such a short span of time. 

There are so many more great stories, funny moments, and spiritual episodes that have happened, I wish I could share them all. There are so many that I don't even have time to write them all in my Journal! In closing, I'd just like to let you all know how much I love all of you. That's a weird thing to say in a mass message, but It's true. I have so much more of an appreciation for the worth of my fellow men ( and women :). Keep the lord and the holy spirit with you tudo dia todo dia ( all day every day). PAZ! (peace) - Elder Johnson    

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

September 10, 2013     First P-Day

Oi! that's a casual 'hello' in brazil. I've been a missionary for a week now. WOW! Sometimes I look down and see the nametag on my chest and I can't believe it. I'm on a MISSION! It's pretty exiting stuff. First and foremost, my companions and compatriots.

My companion's name is Elder Hinkley (yes, he's related to the prophet) He's a super cool redhead, and a huge Lord of the Rings fan. Needless to say, we geek out a lot. But, he really is a great guy. He's focused, and has a rock solid testimony, not to mention a great grasp of Portuguese!! He picks it up so quick. I'm always able to ask, "what is the word for...." and more often then not he's got me covered.

  My two roomates, Elder Anderson and Elder Tibbits are also great. Our entire district is super focused, and really exited to be on missions. Elder Tibbits is super smart and has an extensive knowledge of the gospel. Elder Anderson is not as versed in the gospel, but he is way way exited about it, and he has an enthusiasm that is contageous. All three of these elders are just awesome, and I'm lucky to know them. 
The rest of my district is also great. We have another trio of elders, and five sisters. Naturally the five sisters put all the elders (including me) to shame with their faith and work ethic. As more of a side note, last week I was called to be the district leader! It's an intimidating responsibility. Mostly because I have no idea what I'm doing. However I'm getting the hang of things, and honestly, I am really truly loving it. I was worried about the stress, the hardships, the trials, the sadness, the lonliness and so-on and so forth, but guess what? All of those things are just swallowed up in the joy I've found here in learning and teaching the doctrines of Christ! 
                                                                      Imagine swimming in a big pool of root beer (or favorite beverage of your choice) As soon as you get past the weirdness of it, you realize how awesome it is and you begin drinking as much as you can, till you are just bursting with delicious goodness. That's what the MTC has been like for me. There is just sooooo much to do and learn, you drink it up till your head is throbbing and your feet are aching but you love every single minute of it. Every day is "hard" but it doesn't even matter. I just can't wait for the next day to begin!
Some final thoughts- Even though I was panicky about it before hand, I realize learning the "language" doesn't really matter. IT WILL COME. It will take time, and it will take study and practice, but I realize now, I'm gonna learn Portuguese no matter what! So for future missionaries, don't stress. Work hard, but don't stress. What DOES matter however is the atonement of Jesus Christ. A firm, unyeilding testimony of christ and his atonement is not enough. Yeah that's right. Not enough. You can't just believe in Christ. You have to apply Christ. I'm still not exactly sure how, but that is one of the quests of my mission. 
My love to all!!! Elder Johnson

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Wednesday, September 4, 2013 at 6:00am Justus left for the MTC in Provo Utah to await his Visa for Brazil.  He will be learning the Portuguese language and leaves for Brazil Oct 15th (if his Visa comes in time).  Avery is asleep but everyone else is up and ready for school.  I have not heard from Justus yet so I'm posting the pictures from his first day as a set apart missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Monday September 2nd, (the date on the camera is wrong) we attended the Washington DC temple.

It was hard to take this picture.  This is probably the last time they will see each other for at least 3 years. Hunter will also be a great missionary when the time comes.  I personally think sending a missionary is hardest on mom's.  I just hope we have taught them enough.
Conner and family picked Justus up at the airport. Conner, Justus' cousin actually born the same day in the same hospital, enters the MTC the end of October for Argentina. 
Grandma and grandpa Johnson also met Justus at the SLC airport.

Krista, Conner, and Jeff  Thank you so much for transporting Justus from the airport to the MTC.  You're the BEST!!!

This is the last picture we have of Justus.  Just like him to make a friend right from the start!  We hope to hear from him soon!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

 How do you enjoy humid stadium floors packed with thousands of people for two straight hours?  Ben and Jerry's ice cream!!! Last Saturday we attending the BYU vs. SVU game.  After the first quarter all spectators were escorted to sheltered areas to wait out the thunder storm that lasted two hours.  Justus made the most of the unexpected game delay and bought ice cream to share with Avery.  It was our last family activity before Justus left for his mission.  

He left this morning. We are sending him to the hands of my sister-in-law Krista Johnson who will drive him from the SLC airport to the MTC in about 2 hours.  We hope to hear from him soon but until then wanted to share what I found while cleaning his room this morning in an AP Lit. self analysis paper written last year.
"Self analysis has always been hard for me.  The whole "looking into some internal mirror to discover your true self" process eludes me.  If ones true self could be expressed or described as a material, I suppose I'd be a cotton ball.  I tend to be very moldable, flexible, adaptable and easily moved.  However, deep beneath all the cotton fluff, I know that there is a core.  Somewhere inside me is a titanium sphere, a firm, unyielding essence of who I am.  So then, if I have this core, why then is it so hard for me to find?  I've never been confronted by a trial wherein my fundamental beliefs or identity has been called into question....I wonder whether or not I have done enough to sustain that inner core of mine...I suppose that underneath my cotton ball fluff I hope to find a perfect medium...I want to have a core of being that is firm and unyielding, while maintaining softness, gentleness, or maybe just even a capacity to feel.  For now I am content to let my little cotton ball float down the rivers of life.  What is on the inside?  only time and the currents will tell."

Thursday, August 29, 2013

It's Thursday, August 29th, 2013.  Justus has been working hard at "Metro Gutter" all day.  He has been working all summer long to save up for his mission to Cuiaba, Brazil.  We are so pleased he has decided to serve a mission.  Every young man in the church age 18-26 can serve a  mission for two years. Young women from age 19 - 26 can serve missions also. The men serve for 2 years, women for 18 months.  Prospective missionaries do not know where they will be called, the application is individual, the calling inspired.  It's like a tithe on our lives. Mission service is a choice, strongly encouraged by the church. 
     Today Justus left the house at 6:00am and rode his bike 7 miles to work in the industrial park off Edsall road.  Usually he cleans gutters on houses but today he helped re-construct a chimney.  He transported bricks and cement up and down a ladder all day long.  He ended the day so exhausted he called to get a ride home.  Brother Matthew Laudie, Justus Priest Quorum advisor, took Justus to Texas de Brazil, a Brazilian restaurant in the DC area.  Justus came home very satisfied after a hard day's work.  
     Tomorrow Justus will have his Open House.  Hunter and dad have been cooking brownies and lemon squares this afternoon while I took the other children to register for school.  It's been a busy day!  Justus gave his Farewell talk on Sunday.  He spoke on Service and did a wonderful job. He shared how service changes our hearts and shared his experience with listening to the spirit and following its promptings. Suzanne and Daymon Leonhardt and family came down to support Justus.  They were able to attend the Temple on Saturday and Justus performed the baptisms for the dead with his brothers and cousins. It was so nice to spend time with family!
      This week we were notified that Justus' Visa did not come through yet so instead of going straight to the Brazil MTC Sept. 3, he will be leaving for the MTC in Provo September 4th, this coming Wednesday at 6:00am.  
He said he was relieved to live in Provo for a transition into life as a missionary. I'm just happy I get to have a few more hours with my son!