Wednesday, January 29, 2014

 Sending pictures takes a while, so we´ll see how much I´m able to write today.

I´ll work backwards by starting out talking about today. By far it has been the best P-day of my mission. We went with a member and some other missionaries to the mountains just north of Cuiaba. Talk about amazing! I was blown away by the spleandor and beauty of the areas we visited. I am so lucky to be serving in such an amazing place. I was beyond excited to see my first Macaws today!!! (next to the waterfall)

 This week has been awesome! Which isn´t saying much because I don´t think I´ve had a non-awesome week yet. But we have definetally worked a LOT. This probably doesn´t mean much to any of you but we taught over 30 lessons. I feel like I´ve adapted to the new area and new companion really well. We are really working well together. We get a lot done, and we work hard, walk a lot, and leach at every opportunity. That being said, we had absolutaly no investigators at church on Sunday, and of our 13 new investigators this week, it looks like only 2 or 3 will progress. Talk about a let down. But, that leads to my thought of the week...

 One morning, I stepped outside and was suprized to find that despite being bright and sunny, it was raining. I don´t know way, but sunny rain is just one of those things, like double rainbows, or ring pops, that puts a grin on my face. Needless to say, I was delighted with the situation. But as I reflected on the week I saw a deeper meaning in it.

Missionary work, or even life in general is a lot like sunny rain. There´s a mix of good and bad. It´s sunny, yet it´s raining. And so, the choice is ours to determine what attitude to have about the situation. I could choose to be annoyed that it was raining, I could even choose to be annoyed that the sun was making it hotter, and more humid. Instead, I just accepted the situation for what it was, and appreciated the beauty that resulted from this ´clash´ of situations.

Then again, there are times when the sun is blocked by clouds, and the world is dark, wet, and miserable. What then you may ask? If things are just plain awful, am I just supposed to force myself to be optomistic? No. A happy, cheerful missionary isn´t necessarily a good missionary. Hard times happen, and in the midst of them, you can feel down. You can feel tired. You can even feel just plain sad. But, it helps to realize that the sun still is shining. On the other side of those clouds, it´s bright and sunny! For me, that represents hope, and more than a little bit of faith.

And so, I am determined to (literally and figuratively) work through the rain, with my eyes and heart set on a bright future that is probably closer than I even realize.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Wow! I´m here! And even the keyboard is different!! I am definitely in a foreign country. I really don´t know what to write about first. I guess I´ll start of with my new area and companion. My first area is Morada da Serra which translates roughly to residents of the mountains. It´s in the Northeastern corner of Cuiaba, and we live on the outskirts of the city, in a neighborhood called tres bahas. Our casa doesn´t really have an address, so any mail needs to go to the mission office. My new companion is Elder C, from Oregon. He is a super experienced missionary with only 2 transfers left on his mission. I´m his fourth and last trainee, so he really knows what he´s doing. He speaks great Portuguese, and he´s way easier to understand than most Brazileiros, and he´s willing and able to help me with my learning of the language.

Speaking of the language, it is exactly the way I thought it would be. I can understand about one word in ten that people say, and I´m only able to respond with super simple phrases, that probably aren´t even grammatically correct. But everyone is super pacient with me so far, and I can only improve!!

To be honest, the weather was the thing I feared the most, but it isn´t as bad as I had imagined (yet). Cuiaba is apparently somewhat legendary for how hot it gets. Fortunately for me, even though it´s technically summer, it´s not the hottest part of the year. That´s because it´s rainy season!! Which means it rains evey day without fail! But rather than drizzling all day, it pours for about an hour, and the rest of the day is beautiful!! Right now it´s only about 80 degrees and sunny. Beleza!

As for minha casa and bugs and whatnot, it´s not as bad as all the horror stories led me to believe. We only get tarantulas in the house when it rains really hard for a long period of time, and in our house, there´s mostly just daddy long legs, with some other smaller spiders, along with a handfull of decent sized cockroaches.  I have a great story about that!

My first night in Brazil, I had just finished unpacking, and went to take my first Brazilian shower. The shower, by the way, has one setting- on. So I enjoy a nice cold shower every morning! But I digress. I hopped in the shower, or rather stepped from the sink to under the showerhead, and noticed a big ole cockroach right in front of my face on the wall. I really wanted to freak out! But instead, I named him Frank and carried on a nice little one-way conversation with him as I scrubbed myself down. 

In reality though, our casinha is not bad. We have 5 whole rooms! A kitchen, a living room, a bathroom, a bedroom, and a spare room we use to dry clothes and store stuff in! Our bedroom even has air conditioning! Our kitchen sink has a water filter so we can drink from that, and our water container outside lasts three whole days before it needs to be refilled!

The hardest things to get used to have probably been the walking and the food. We walk alot here. It takes about 20-30 minutes to get to the church, and it´s at least a five minute walk between appointments. The longest we´ve walked so far is probably for about an hour and a half, but that´s because we got lost in some obscure neighborhood for a while. As for the food, I´m already tired of rice and beans. Which is not good, because rice and beans is a part of every, single, meal. Also, breakfast and dinner don´t really exist here. My companion only eats one meal a day, and so needless to say, my stomache has shrunk a bit. However, after a bit of vomiting and diarreah on Saturday and Sunday, I think I am officially acclimated to the changes is diet and whatnot.

As for missionary work, that too is a bit different in Brazil. It is hard to explain, but Brazilians have some sort of innate willingness to hear us out and to accept Baptism. That being said, it´s difficult to find those who have sincere desires, and are willing to actually make changes to their lives. The way we begin teaching is definitaly different here than in the states. Essentially, we introduce ourselves, explain our purpose, and then invite them to be baptized. If they want to be baptized, we teach them, if not we we explain why it is important, teach a quick overview of the Restoration, and re-invite. If they still aren´t interested, we don´t bother teaching them more. I havn´t decided wether I like this, or a more gradual, meaningful approach to baptism yet. I worry that those we teach don´t have a full appreciation for the sacred, binding covenant that is baptism. 

At the end of the day, I guess my feelings are those of immense gratitude. I have been blessed so much by the Lord. Save for my brief moment of sickness, my transition to Brazil has been incredibly blessed. As I reflect on the past week, I want to say that the transition was easy. But it wasn´t. It was, in fact, very hard. But looking back, I see how I have been carried through the trials in the strength and power of God. I remember, how much my legs and feet hurt after walking for just 15 minutes, and then how, when I thought I could go no further, the pain dissapeared. I reflect on how, despite having a pounding headache, and a very...let´s just say restless, stomach, I was able to work the entire day long, and do all that I needed to. 

I know now, more than ever, how much I rely on the the Lord´s strength. If I was on my own, I would have collapsed with exhaustion, or remained in bed to recover. But I am not alone!! Not only do I have an awesome companion in Elder C, I have one even greater. That is why it is so incredible to be a missoinary. I have been able to see the hand of God in my life, and the lives of others more in these few months, than ever before. But, you don´t have to be a missionary to enjoy these blessings! We all can learn to rely on the strength of the Lord, and come to recognize his role in our lives more fully.

I hope this letter has enough info to satisfy everyone! Em verdade, I´m doing fine, and am enjoying my Brazilian experience fully!

Elder Johnson

PS by mom   The  pictures were taken as Justus left San Antonio.  Goodbye to Elder F and other missionaries in the apartment

Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Mission President's wife sent us our first pictures of Justus in Brazil:  His apartment, his companion, the others who arrived at the same time.  Thank you President and Sister Reber!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Well, this letter is going to be even shorter than previous ones, We've got to leave in the next 15 minutes to head up to the mission office, so I can have a farewell interview with President Slaughter, and get my travel plans.
This week has been a busy one, but we've seen some great things happen in our area. I feel like once again I have to leave an area right on the verge of awesome success. Elder F. and I went through the area book, and found some previous investigators who have been miraculously prepared! It is remarkable how often as a missionary you the the hand of the Lord in directing this work.
My feelings as to Brazil are conflicted. I am super excited and also super nervous. I know for a fact my Portuguese is way under-par, and I am NOT looking foreward to being permanently sweaty and hot and uncomfortable. But, I'm gratefull for the remarkable opportunity that I'm sure it will be. I've learned so much here in Texas already, I can't wait to see what lessons Brazil has in store! Needless to say, my next letter home will most likely be a very humble one.

Love, Elder Johnson