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