Monday, March 24, 2014

Well, this week was quite the adventure. We spent 14 hours in transit, and 3 whole days out of our area visiting a nearby (by Brazilian standards) city, Sinop. We left on Tuesday, and got back late Thursday night, but the trip there was quite the adventure and it makes a great story.

It begins at 4:00 Tuesday morning. We get up, cleaned, dressed and ready so we can be at the Rodoviaria (bus terminal) before 5. We get there a little past 4:30, and are waiting to get our tickets when we heared one of the police shout, "Para ai!!" Not one second afterwards, some guy ran right by us with a stolen bag over his shoulder. Hot on his heels was the policeman. For whatever reason, the policeman thought it would be a good Idea to stop and shoot at the guy rather then chase him down. So, just a few feet from where we were standing he starts to blast away, BLAM BLAM! People in the station were diving to the ground and taking shelter behind chairs. The Policeman completely missed the theif and so he ended up getting away, but it was quite the wakeup call for my companion and I.
Regardless, we get our tickets and board the bus, prepped and ready for a nice 5 hour bus ride. Little did we know what more this journey had in store. After an hour on the road, the bus broke down (I actually slept through the first 3 hours so this is all relayed by my companion). After an hour or so, we got going again, but the bus wasn't in tip top shape, and consistantly jolted around. Two hours away from Sinop (I was awake by this point), some prostestant group called "sem terra" had set up road blocks and were preventing all passage. The bus stopped behind a line of cars that extended well beyond what I could see. Of course, I wanted to see what exactly was going on, so me and my companion started walking toward the road block. After 40 minutes, we weren't even close (that's how long the line of trucks was). So we headed back. Luckily, even crazy protestors need a lunch break and so the barricade opened up for one hour 12:00 ate 1:00, and our bus was able to make it through. We eventually made it to Sinop at 2:00 in the afternoon. 

In Sinop, we had a great training with the Zone Leaders. They taught about the attributes of Christ section in PME, but in a way I had never considered before. We read and discussed each attribute of Christ, and applied each and every one to our relationships with our companions. The training was super inspired, and I'd reccomend that particular study to any missionary. Those principles are especially fundamental in a good companionship.

After returning from Sinop, we just got to work as usual. Unfortunetally we've accumulated a bunch of "mole" pesquisadores, because both me and my companion like to give people the benefit of the doubt. But, this week will be a great week of refining, and identifying those who really intend to make changes in their lives.

Also, to end the week, President Reber is planning on coming up to visit Alta Floresta this weekend, to get to know the members and investigators, and to give advice and training to both the members and us missionaries on the importance of the commencement of the Church here in Alta Floresta. We are super excited to really end the transfer on a good note, and prepare well for the transfer to come!

Elder Johnson

This last picture is of a monkey half way up the tree near Justus' apartment.  He says they see monkey's quite frequently!

Monday, March 17, 2014

The big news of the week is BAPTISM! We were able to see M and L be baptized by their father, P this weekend. It was a great experience. Finally this family is united in the gospel, ready to receive in full the blessings of a loving Heavenly Father. I was especially honored by the opportunity to confer the gift of the Holy Ghost to M. I feel especially close to that kid. He reminds me so much of my younger brothers, I can't help but feel almost like an older brother to him. It is so exciting to be a part of the start of the work here in Alta Floresta. The work is hard, that's for sure, but the blessings and miracles we see, more than make up for the difficulties.
The beginning of the week was rough. We spent just about two whole days working things out with the nova casa. Getting running water, cleaning, setting things up, waiting for the furniture. Eeeeesh, it was frustrating. More than anything, I love to get out and get to work. The time lost was like sandpaper to my brain. Because of the move, the week was fairly uneventful. But we made up for a lot of it with the Assistants over the weekend.
The Assistants (Elders R (Brazileiro) and Elder B (Americano)) Arrived on Friday. Right away we got to work. I loved working with both of these missionaries, and I learned a ton. More than anything, I realized that I had become a tad cynical. Working with these great missionaries totally rejuvenated Elder N and I, and we're excited to get back in the groove.

However, this week we'll be spending two days in a nearby city (Sinop) to attend a zone conference, and to contact some extended family of Elder N that live there. So, once again, the work here in Alta Floresta will suffer a little bit, but I'm excited to see what I can learn from our time is Sinop!

Ate Mais!

Elder Johnson

Pictures of Elders and family whose boys were baptized.  Other pictures of Assistants and Justus'
companion Elder N in their new apartment.  The green parrot had a broken leg.  The other picture is an Alta Floresta phenomenon.  It looks like a praying mantis, louva adeus.  

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Well, this week has been one of ups and downs. One day we're blown away by the miracles that we see, and the next day all our appointments fall through and we end up getting very little done. But, at the end of it all, I'm just grateful for all the success that we are seeing, and the miracles that are happening with ridiculous regularity. Just to illustrate this "roller coaster" really quickly, yesterday we had 7 appointments of which only 2 came through, but this morning we had one of the most powerful lessons of my mission! Every time I start getting discouraged, the Lord demonstrates that he is indeed in control.
(Pictures top): Some bits of Jungle 

The biggest, most mind-boggling miracle occurred on Wednesday. And boy does it make a good story...

First of all, let me describe Alta Floresta a little bit. There are 2 parts to the city. Cidade Central (where we live and work most of the week) and Cidade Alta. It takes more than an hour just to get to Cidade Alta walking, and so, we choose one day of the week to make the trip and spend the day working there. That day this week was Wednesday.

Wednesday, it was raining...well, raining more than usual. As we left the house my Companion turned to me and asked, "O que voce asha, quer a trabalhar en Cidade Alta oje?" (What do you want to do, do you want to  work in Cidiade Alta?) I laughed and said "en verdade, eu nao quero, mas, eu sinto que nos devemos" (Truthfully, I don't want to but I feel like we should.) And so, we did. The hike up there was fairly miserable, and things didn't get much better when we arrived. We contacted a bunch of really disinterested people, and got preached to for an hour by this old lady who was determined to help us find salvation... By 6:00, we were pretty discouraged. My companion said, "talvez, oje nao 'ta o melhor dia para trabalhar aqui." (Maybe today was not the best day to work here).  Five minutes later as we walked down the road, there was a member family.  Standing at the end of the street. Waiting for us.

 Weather of Alta Floresta, on the SAME DAY!!!
 (above and below)

Right:  the backyard of the members we're living with (yes they're rich)

 As if that wasn't remarkable enough, Elder Nascimento KNEW the family. Turns out the family recently moved from an area my companion served in previously. What makes this miracle all the more stunning, is that this particular area is no longer a part of our mission. Elder Nascimento was one of the last missionaries to serve there, and in fact, he is the ONLY missionary left in the mission that served in that particular area. I did the math, literally a 3 in 10 million chance of this particuar circumstance. 

(Left) Elder Nascimento demonstrating his mad skills.

And just because he could, God guided us to yet ANOTHER member family the very next day. All five of these people came to our little church service on Sunday. 

It is so comforting to know and be reminded that despite difficulties, despite those days when you walk 3 hours straight without anyone accepting your message, despite no being able to speak fluently, despite all of my weaknesses and faults, I can rely on someone far better than myself. 

I am consistently humbled by all that I see and learn here on the mission. It really is impossible to express my gratitude for everything that has happened, is happening, and will happen, both in my life, and in the lives of others. 
I LOVE this work. It is just plain incredible. 

Fica Firme,
Elder Johnson

We were able to go with an investigator to a futebol game, and were able to watch capuera! (last pictures)

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Hey! First full week in Alta Floresta, and also, the middle of Carnival!!

This week has been a good, busy week, full of both miracles and disappointments. First off, I'll talk about the most exciting progress here in Alta Floresta.
We are indeed teaching both M and L, the sons of the member family here. They are learning fast, and accept everything we teach. We have to teach them separately most of the time because they have different school and work schedules, and they're hardly in the house at the same time. But, regardless, they are both progressing really well. In fact they both want to be baptized! This past week they decided on the 15th of this month to be Baptized. Both Elder N and I are super excited. Not only will they be the first baptisms in Alta Floresta, they will be the first baptisms of my mission. YAY!!! We are especially excited for M because he has expressed interest in serving a mission! 

As for P e I, the exciting news is that they aren't alone!! This week we found 3 more members here in the city! A mulher named F, and two brothers, R(22) and R(12). For those who don't believe in miracles, finding these people was literally the most coincidency (pretty sure I just invented that word) of coincidences. Both times we just happened to be andando the right road at the right time to run into them. But of course, I know that these experiences aren't coincidences at all, only more mounting evidence that we missionaries are just instruments being used to do something bigger. 

As for Carnival, it started on Friday, and today it's in full-swing. All that means is that half the city is gone travelling, and most of the other half is busy partying, either at home or in the bars. Needless to say, these conditions make missionary work a tad frustrating. To top it off, we have to return to casa shortly after sundown (which here, is about 6:30) because that's when the party takes to the streets. But, at least we don't have to stay en casa all day! 

Lastly, a brief thought about spirituality. Recently, I've been super focused on the Work part of missionary work. Updating the area book, Walking the entire city, talking to everyone, speaking the language, testifying, committing, and following through. And all this is good! BUT, I've been missing out on the spiritual side. Missionary work is a spiritual work. (weird thought huh?) 
The only thing that sets us apart from diligent salesmen, is the spiritual part of it. Our purpose is so much more than just convincing someone of an idea. If missionary work isn't being done in and through the spirit, it isn't being done right. I've got a long way to go to become a thoroughly spiritual missionary rather than just a hard-working missionary. But, I look forward to learning and improving. I know that as I do, I will be able to be a more perfect servant of God.

Elder Johnson

still not able to upload my own fotos, but here are some that elder Nascimento sent me.
 The tree I got a picture by is HUGE! I need another one of the full tree...