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."