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