Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Trust in the Lord and His will

So crazy, I can't believe I'm already finishing my first transfer here in Ecuador. It's exciting what we are trying to do here in this ward. This truly is the work of the Lord.

To answer some questions from dad's letter:
1. I eat a lot of rice and chicken and potatoes, really nothing I'm not used to from eating with mom and that side of the family. I like pretty much everything. Haven't dealt with fish yet. Some of the mission rules are saving me. We aren't allowed to eat pig or shell fish or fish. Thanks to the white guys who got sick from that :)
2. We don't have a maid, just sisters that we go to every day except Monday for lunch. Also a sister who does the laundry, hand washed for $3. Really nice job with my slacks.
3. Also all the mamitas say I eat like a bird, or a baby cat. But I'm fine with that and they don't give me the "normal" amount of food. I'm eating just fine.

Dad thank you for your letter and thoughts, and good luck Christian!

Happy Birthday to Spencer! I felt so bad I forgot to say anything last week but I thought about him on Wednesday a lot. There's a kid here who had his birthday the same day and turned 16. I love you Spencer! Also forgot to mention what I thought about Jenna in her 3rd grade class without many of her old friends. I remember in 3rd grade I didn't have all my friends in my class, but you learn how to make new friends! Jenna is going to be the princess of her school with the most friends, haha. And Jonathan can help her with that, he's got the power of words unto the convincing of children, haha. And Jenna, you are going to be a math genius! You've got the same brain as all your brothers, I know you can do it and I'll pray for you. Oh and I was gonna say you should get the subscription of the Liahona in Spanish for these next two years, they are so great.

Scripture for Spencer: 2 Nephi 9:21 for your birthday. :) Christ truly suffered and felt everything for us. He didn't just suffer our emotional pains, justice didn't require that. He could have known how to comfort us by means of revelation, but that wasn't the route he chose. He truly felt everything we have felt from first hand experience, so that he might know how to succor his people.

So this is my companion's last week, kind of sad. He's a really great guy with a lot of experience and has taught me a lot. He was baptized only 3 years ago! He says he never thought or imagined he would ever have done what he is about to complete but his testimony is that strong. I "kill" my first companion, my "father" as they say in mission language. It's funny becuase now I'll have a "stepfather" and they say they are always mean and without love just like in real life. Hahaha, I'm sure he'll be great. The Lord knows I need someone to work hard here, there is a lot to do when the previous missionaries didn't work as much. I'm happy to be here in my ward. There really is a lot of potential.

I sang yesterday during sacrament meeting, a solo acapella. The whole room was silent so that was nice. I sang "How Great Thou Art" in Spanish of course. I felt like I was praying. That's what hymns should be. Really expressing our feelings in song towards our Lord. Haha, I definitely get plenty of opportunities to use my voice here.

So the thing that I've been preparing for and what we are doing here is a little capacitación con los miembros. Like a fireside, but during the second hour of church before anyone leaves early. I feel like Jacob in the Book of Mormon. I didn't write the scriptures down so go read Jacob 1 and 2. There are so many clues there for what needs to happen to improve a ward. I have been overjoyed to have special experiences receiving revelation and inspiration for what to do to improve things here. The crazy part is that my companion won't be here to help me in this meeting we will have. It will be the new companion who doesn't know anyone yet. So the weight of it falls on me. For that I'm grateful. I have had and am having so many opportunities to grow and use what the Lord has given me and improve my gifts.

If our desire is to do the will of the Lord, we will be blessed. Desires lead to thoughts which lead to actions. What is your innermost desire? In 3 Nefi 11 we read and hear the Father´s voice declare how pleased he is of His son Jesus Christ. I want my Heavenly Father to be well pleased with me too. How do we attain that? Do what he asks. It is a commandment to read and to SEARCH the scriptures. In them are answers to our most personal questions. I have really enjoyed asking a question, opening the scriptures to a random page, and finding the answer in the first verse I see. IT HAPPENS! Joy in this life comes when we know we are doing what our Heavenly Father wants. When we remember Christ, always. Pain and sorrow come when we choose our own will over God's. Doing the will of the Lord does not mean having a boring life! I feel like that is how a lot of people feel, here in Ecuador and in the USA. A Christ centered life will not lead us to do nothing, fast, pray and listen to people preach. That's not the purpose of this life. He wants us to have joy, have fun. I have a strong testimony that if we strive to do the will of Christ, the will of the Father, be worthy of the guidance of the Spirit and follow it, we will have a happy, fun life. Filled with real Joy, Gozo. I know this because I have joy. The times in my life where I decided to do my own will are the times that have brought me the most pain and regret. Search the scriptures with prayer and real intent and you will find the will of God for you. Personally. This isn't a hoax, I promise. But you have to read daily, and think about what you are reading. There are more squares in one verse of the Book of Mormon than you see on the surface. I like what Elder Uceda said that The Book of Mormon is a sealed book that can only be opened with the Spirit. There really is a lot more than meets the eye. I know it and am grateful to have learned that early in my life. Just so you know that is my innermost desire. To do the will of the Lord. Ether 12:27 I have been shown my weaknesses and they are many. But my trust is in the Lord. I'm learning a lot about patience, which goes back to trusting in the Lord. Everything goes back to that! If we would just trust more in the Lord and not in the arm of flesh we will all be so much better off. I was humbled by Alma 29 in feeling the way he did at first. This is His work, my job is to listen to his Spirit and act. A lot of times we know what to do but doubt. Doubting opposes faith.

Pray for me and the members here. Trust in the Lord and he shall direct thy paths. Be safe and pray for my Spanish! I can't tell you how grateful I am to have my family. To have you, mom, and you, dad, as my parents. You are the best parents in the world. President Morgan told me I would realize what I had on my mission and I am realizing. Sorry for the times I tried to put my will over your's and the Lord's.

I love you,
Elder Johnson

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Miscellaneous Mission Adventures


La Fe lleva la acción

We had the baptism set and ready, the font filled, but the family never showed up. We later found out that a range of problems occured that day. The baby got sick and they had to take her to the clinic, a co-worker of the dad's had died, and Elkin, the boy, thought he had to have a white button up to be baptized so they went to buy one. We'll have his service this next Saturday along with the brother of Maicol who became a member 3 weeks ago. His little brother's name is Cristian, haha. Funny, huh? He has a 16 yr old sister we are also teaching, and then the grandma and after that the dad.

There really are people that are prepared to accept the Gospel. They are almost waiting for it. There are others who are given the opportunity and really they just have to make the choice to accept it or not. They could go either way but it's not like they were searching for anything. Then there are people who need the Gospel, they need the peace and joy that it brings, and the salvation. But these people have habits that take away their agency. They don't want to change because they don't think they can. Those are sad.

I'm here to preach repentance through the atonment of Jesus Christ. It's hard to see people that know what we teach is true but don't want to change. But that's where faith comes in. Faith in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Faith that we can move on and repent. Turn from the bad and walk in the good. La Fe lleva la acción (Faith takes action). Fe is the symbol for iron. My chemistry buddies (Megan Conley & Michael Devonas shout out!) should know that. In Spanish Fe is Faith. I like saying that there aren't coincidences in life. The people we meet, the things we learn, the lives we touch, it's all for a reason. and that reason can be for our good. Now the cool comparison is that the element Iron is one of the most reactive metals. This can be easily seen from all the rust. Iron reacts. Iron acts. Fe acts. Faith acts. James chapter 2 teaches us that faith without works is dead. As members of the church we need to act on what we know, what we feel. I gave a talk yesterday in church, in Spanish! I found out I was giving the talk right before the meeting. But I was prepared during my personal study that moring so it went great. This ward here has the chance to grow so much. We all just need a little more faith. Real faith, the kind that makes us act.

Alright so I'll tell you about my week. It was really successful. We taught 35 lessons in total, we did a few splits with members so we could teach more. We made 3 dates for baptism so that was cool. The mother of Nallely is going to be baptized! The dad is already a member so they are going to be one eternal family! That's what makes me happy. Maicol came out with us in our lessons a lot, but he won't be able to anymore because he found a job.
Mom, Elder Uceda does remember abuelito y abuelita of course. Do you remember him? That really was such a nice experience to talk with him. An interview with a 70!

So a normal day for me is:

6:30am. Wake up, prayer, and begin moving around like a zombie at first and slowly gaining speed until I'm nice and awake for daily shower etc. Oh and no hot water, haha.
8am. Peronsal study.
9-11am. Companion study, new program is two hours for 12 weeks.
12-1pm. First appoinment and plan B.
1pm. Lunch, mmmmm!
2pm. Try to leave on time and continue work.
9pm. Try to end on time and get home by 9:30pm.

A lot happens in that big gap of time. Every detail would be great, but no time to write about that. I am keeping a journal of my feelings, not so much the temporal. Trust in the Lord. That's my theme right now. Gotta have a theme! I love you all and feel your love.

Elder Johnson

If life got any better I'd already be in Heaven

This past week has been incredible, it is honestly too hard to put into words all of my feelings. I'll try to do what I can with the time I have.

Tuesday we had a Multi-Zone Conference. This way way cool because we had just had our Zone Conference on Friday. So the spiritual power was just flowing, haha. I saw a couple more of my friends from the CCM and MTC there so that reunion was really nice too. We learned a lot, just about being a good missionary in general. How we should act, study, talk, even what our letters to the family should consist of. I'm supposed to try to INSPIRE you guys. La fe lleva la acción (Faith takes action.). Oh yeah, and the AP, Elder Duarte, asked me to say the opening prayer, so that was cool. He told me something that really made me feel good. "God trusts you.", he said. The whole meeting I really felt the spirit and was meditating on what he had told me.

So my week started off great. I worked hard and walked fast the whole week as we taught some, retaught others, and had to stop teaching some. That is the part that is so hard for me. If we have to drop an investigator. I almost can't bring myself to do it because of the potential I see in these people and how they can become closer to our Savior. But that is a lack of faith in me, because I need to have faith that there are others out there who are prepared. They have ears to hear the word.

Dad, thanks for your scripture from Alma, I finally found it in Spanish, you forgot to give me the reference, haha. But I taught Alma 32 a lot this past week. Trying to help people understand how faith is like a seed, we need to nourish it every day.

The week went on and we kept preparing Brenlli Nalleli Salguero Mora for her baptism. She is 10 years old. Her sweet little voice reminds me of Jenna so liked teaching her a lot. I taught the Plan of Salvation a LOT this last week. Guess what helped me the most? The little wooden puzzle thing from Tia Patti so please send her my love and thanks.

I've been thinking the past week a lot on how to more effectively help someone feel the spirit and know that it's true. Alma 17:2-3 gives some advice. Have you ever fasted with a purpose? I have fasted now 3 times on my mission in the field and it has never been so easy in my life to fast. Easy in the sense that I am not hungry at all and don't have any thirst. Even though I'm walking and sweating a lot of the time. I have faith in the fast. I need some of these people to at least recognize the truth. Some prefer to stay in the traditions of their fathers. John 3:13-19 and 2 Nefi 25 teach us that only through Jesus Christ we can be saved, after all we can do. If that doesn't sound right read John 3:19 "Our works will judge us."

We had another baptism and confirmación! And Maicol Zambrano received the Priesthood. He brought his little brother Christian to church. It was so nice. After that we had a conference with an area 70, Elder Juan Uceda. We had a really special lesson analyzng DyC 4:2 and other things. He is from Lima, Peru.

(Not much time so skipping to the cool part.) After the fireside the other AP, Elder Fletcher, told me I would have an interview that night. Oh yeah, and I was asked to say the opening prayer at this meeting too! The interview turned out to be with the 70! How special is that?! When I got in the room for the interview I immediately felt the spirit and the first thing I told him was about mom and her family from Peru. He he knows them! He said he served in the Arequipa mission! He knows mom and Tia Patti and sends much amor! I couldn't believe it. He told me "Yo siento en mi corazón que va a ser un misionero poderoso. Siempre humilde, y muy obediente." I don't think I can decribe how special this was. He knows all about the San Fernando Valley. His childeren served there. His last words were that he hopes we see eachother soon. The church is true. There aren't coincidences like that. I love the Savior. I am too blessed.

Love you all,
Elder Johnson

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Can I have 2 Gatorades and a smile?

Dear Family, how are you?

This week has been great. It's truly amazing to me how much you can learn in a week on the mission. It's amazing to me how much I can learn in one hour of devoted personal study. It's amazing how much I can learn from one sentence of an investigator. The Church is true. No doubt in my mind. But how do we show that to others more effectively? Well, first we've gotta know it for ourselves. Sometimes I feel like as members we get comfortable in just feeling good about being in the true church and stop our own personal progression. The commandment is become as Jesus (3 Nephi 27:27) so why do we get comfortable and lax? It should be fun to push forward and not look back. That's something I'm learning how to explain to my investigators. Don't look back. Too many of them have had bad experiencias con miembros that weren't acting like miembros.

I just got a haircut today and thought about Rose, how is she? Did you ever go back with the Farsi Book of Mormon? Doo ittt!

For mis padres. Gracias por apoyarme y ayudarme my whole life. I liked the insight from the teacher in Elders Quorum about Mosiah 4:14. Parents can't tolerate that their children don't know for themselves how to keep the commandments. Thank you for your patience and love in getting me to early morning seminary and such. Les quiero mucho.

So in the CCM they told us we would all have experiences of saying something wrong in Spanish and it would be funny. I told myself I'd never say anything wrong in Spanish that would be funny. Well, I was wrong. I shouldn't have fought it, haha. Today I bought some crackers and a Gatorade . After I got the Gatorade, I asked the guy to give me a "Risa" (but the cracker is called Ricas). So basically I said "Can I have 2 Gatorades and a smile?" Haha, my companion was laughing, me too.

We had Zone Conference this week and it was sooo good. Our president spoke and taught on the importance of having a positive attitude. He called me up to give a baptismal commitment and then after I did it he said "good job" and that I "looked like a winner". There are two other newbies from my district in the CCM in my zone here in Guayaquil. It was an awesome conference and I learned a lot, the president likes me and the other guy from my district.

This week we taught a guy who we had contacted while looking for someone else. This man, Angel Saurez, has a family and the first time we visited, we talked through his window. He let us come back to explain why we didn't drink coffee. So we went back and, man, that was not his only doubt! He doubted just about every bit of the Catholic church, though he said he was Catholic, but was thinking that it all was just a sham. We talked with him patiently about the Apostasy and Restoration. I explained to him the purpose of the BoM and bore testimony a lot. Finally I told him I thought he was the kind of guy who knows how to think long and hard about something and ponder it in his heart and handed him my blue BoM and told him to read it. He said, "But that's your book!", and I said "It's yours!" then he said he would read the whole thing in a week and for us to come back then. I promised him he would receive his answer and he commented that he liked how I said "his". I don't know if I did that on purpose. When we left his house I felt older. It was interesting. The more I testify and teach about the Restored Gospel, the Eternal Gospel, I feel a little bit older. I am starting to understand my calling better.

Yesterday, after two teaching appointments fell through, my companion asked me if I still wanted to go to a part-member family I had suggested we include in our plans for the day. I said yeah and we went, and there they were: All home and ready to be taught, haha. They have two sons, one on a mission and the other, age 22, not a member and the dad isn't either. The non-members were our focus. The dad hasn't joined the church because of members that don't live what they preach in his opinion. I tried telling him that only God can judge and we shouldn't. He said he wasn't, just a critic. I shared Mosiah 18:9-10 and asked him what was keeping him from being baptized if he knew everything we taught was true. He said members. So today we are teaching them again and I'm going to use what Elder Holland taught in the Liahona of Enero 2010. Don't look back. The story of Lot's Wife. La fe es para el futuro. Vivan para ver los milagros del arrepentimiento y del perdón, de la confianza y del amor divino que transformarán su vida hoy, mañana y para siempre. Forgiveness applies to ourselves too. We must become new creatures in Christ. We remember our past mistakes enough to not do them again, but we don't dwell there. We forget. We move on. The father I was teaching, asked if I was studying to be a lawyer. He said I was so convincing while teaching about the BoM. It wasn't me, haha, and I'd never be a lawyer. The only case I'd ever take, and I'd argue the case any day, is that the Book of Mormon is true. Accept it, World, and apply it! We can have that peace and joy. Don't hold on to the past. Forget the bad things. Faith is for the future. Live to see the miracles this life brings.

Pray for me today and this week as we will be teaching a lot of part-member families. We want to complete their families. I'm so happy to hear Tio Freddy will help complete ours.

We had a baptism and confirmation this last weekend of an awesome young man se llama Michael Jonathan Zambrano. Cool that he has two of my brother's names, huh?

We are working hard and changing the image of the missionaries in this ward. I guess they haven't always had the greatest elders here and not a lot was expected out of them. There are some really great members here. I bore my testimony and thanked all the mamitas that give us lunch. Some days I finish the whole plate, haha. I don't know why my appetite has always been tiny, kind of a personal trial every day with lunch. Hahaha, but it's delicious, just bastante.

I love this work, I love you all. Thank you for your love and prayers. Pray for me to have the Spirit unto the convincing of men, in Spanish. The gift of toungues is real, so all of those gifts are real. Have faith in that. God lives. I know now more than ever that Jesus knows me, that I am His friend and He is my Saviour. You can know too. Seek it diligently, salvation was never supposed to be easy.

Les Quiero mucho,
Elder Johnson

P.S. Continue to write me so I have something to read next week!