Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Worst News In The World

Crying more repentance.

The title probably scared ya, didn't it?  In reality I just couldn't think of a name for this letter.

This has been a pretty good week.  Elder Araujo and I have been working hard trying to get more investigators, but our efforts have been in vain this week.  We should have a baptism this Saturday though, which should be really cool for a young man names Maciel.  He's really excited and the branch is working really well with him so it should be a good experience.

So this week's abomination comes from a less active member we taught.  When her son, of about four years old, didn't turn down the volume on the TV enough she responded with a nice smack in the arm.  The child in turn started crying and she told him to shut up and then hit him harder.  Everyone else in the house looked at his arm and marveled at the mark it left.  Needless to say I was appalled at this display of abuse and almost freaked out at her.  I probably should've, in hindsight, and it kind of left me a bit occupied.  It made me think of how I want to treat my future family (no I don't want to hit my future family.)  I mean, I've seen husbands abuse both spouse and child and I've seen the repercussions of what it can do to a person and I never ever want that for my family.

Elder Jepsen and I have started teaching an English class as a service to hopefully get more investigators.  It proved to be rather difficult, not because the teaching was hard, but trying to speak in English definitely was.  I haven't spoken real English since the last time I saw Elder Rutledge and I kept tripping over my words and spoke very slowly and timidly for my own benefit.  It was really cool though.  Lots of people came and now there are about 30 people in Viçosa that know how to say, "What is your name?" and "I'm from Viçosa" correctly!!!

We decided to go to "A Cachoeira do Anel" ("Waterfall of the Ring,") which was awesome.  We had a good ol neto (a member) give us a ride up to the waterfall.
Obrigado Neto!

We spent the day taking pictures of all sorts of beautiful things like waterfalls, flowers, food, and machetes!!!
A Cachoeira do Anel   (Waterfall of the Ring)

I'm a take no prisoners kind of missionary.

I said no prisoners.

So a funny story about the food we ate at the waterfall.  When you go to the waterfall there's this house that is really close to it and they will serve food.  If you say you want chicken for lunch, you can go down to the waterfall and come back and they'll make you really really good food, which was killed while you were enjoying the waterfall!!!
Food you can order at the waterfall.

Anyways, this week was awesome and I'll sure send lots of pictures.  Love you all a lot!!

- Elder Johnson

I have juiced them all!!!!

Monday, August 19, 2013

They Hate Their Own Blood

Me crying repentance to Northern Alagoas.

So, mom I don't know how I'm possibly going to answer all of your questions, but I'll give it a try.
  • I live with my companion, Elder Arajuo, and also with Elder Calderon from Chile and Elder Jepsen from San Jose California.  Elder Calderon lived here before, but the three of us are new to the area.  They call it "opening the area" even though there are some members here, but not really.  The branch has always had only one pair of missionaries, never two, so we're opening it in that way, but it's nothing really too exciting.
  • Again, we use a LAN House to use the Internet.  Pdays here are pretty chill, but one of these weeks we're going to hike up so some waterfalls so that will be pretty cool.
  • I am running in the mornings and my rock hard calves are feeling it for sure.  Well, I don't know if you would call it "running" really.  It's more like the other Elders running and me trailing very far behind them out of breath gasping for air.
Viçosa.  By the way, that hill is like a wall.  I do sprints up and
down it about 20 times every morning for a light workout.

  • That clumpy grass stuff was moss on the roof right next to our house, which I thought would be a pretty cool picture.

  • My area is really cool because it's really beautiful and really quiet, except for when they have the Feira (the Fair which I'll talk about in a bit.)  It's a pretty chill place and it's a bit cooler here too.  There are plenty of hills, which is bad and good.  Bad for the huge amount of perspiration it produces and really good for my golden legs.
  • We don't run out of power or water here so that's pretty cool and overall I love it here. 
  • And yes mom, I am eating enough, don't fret.

So with the Feira it's pretty crazy here.  Usually every area or neighborhood has its own Feira, but they go all out here.  There's lots of noise every Saturday morning as everyone is buying all sorts of goods from fruits, vegetables, pig hearts, pirated DVD's, cooking utensils, and stolen missionary cell phones.  I even saw a guy sleeping on top of one of the tables the other day too.  There's a guy named Israel whose nickname is "A Cobra," or in English "The Snake." Apparently he's been called The Snake forever by everyone in town and he hates it.  So at the Feira he drives around in a car with speakers attached to the top begging people to stop calling him The Snake.  He says things like, "You can call me Israel, Iz, or even Uncle Iz, just please stop calling me The Snake!!!!  I thought it was pretty funny.
Not a great picture of the Feira, but it's huge here and it goes back
 for about a kilometer (yes, I can relate to the metric system now.)
Where the Feira takes place the day after.

We were on the radio the other day.  We are starting to teach English classes at the church to gain more investigators and one of our member's father is the local DJ so he had us on his show.  We talked about the church, how we don't worship Joseph Smith, and about our new classes.  I felt pretty cool, that's for sure.
Me delivering a sermon to the people of Northern Alagoas.

Radio Starz

So quick abomination of the week:  there was this one girl we encountered who is 14 and pregnant and was living with her "husband."  Pretty abominable, huh?  It definitely took me back a bit.

To end this letter I want to talk about something that made me mad the other day.  We were talking to this one lady and we needed to get her married in order for her to be baptized.  When she told us she had no desire to get married the conversation went a little bit like this:

US:  "So will you get married legally to your husband?"

HER:  "Oh no, I definitely don't want to do that."

US:  "Why not?"

HER:  "I just don't want to."  (She then said something about her dad being married and getting drunk.)

US:  "Well how long have you lived with your boyfriend?"

HER:  "17 years."

US:  "Then what's the problem with getting married???"

HER:  "I just don't want to.  I don't want the commitment."

US:  "Commitment?  You have like four kids!!  Don't you want your family to be more united and to live with them forever?"

HER:  (incoherent grumbling)

US:  "It's a commandment of God.  You can't be saved if you aren't living the commandments."

HER:  (more grumbling)

US:  "If you had to choose between being saved, plus living with your family for eternity or not marrying your husband what would you choose?"

HER: ..... "I don't know."

I don't know.  I don't know?  That made me really mad for some reason.  It just doesn't compute with me why anyone wouldn't want this?  I guess it just shows us what it's like in the times we're living.  I bet it makes our Father in Heaven really sad to see this.  I can't help but think about in the book of Moses where Enoch beholds the wickedness of his day right before the flood and he sees God crying.

Moses 7:29, 32, 33, 37

29  And Enoch said unto the Lord: How is it that thou canst weep, seeing thou art holy, and from all eternity to all eternity?

32  The Lord said unto Enoch: Behold these thy brethren; they are the workmanship of mine own hands, and I gave unto them their knowledge, in the day I created them; and in the Garden of Eden, gave I unto man his agency;

33  And unto thy brethren have I said, and also given commandment, that they should love one another, and that they should choose me, their Father; but behold, they are without affection, and they hate their own blood;

37  But behold, their sins shall be upon the heads of their fathers; Satan shall be their father, and misery shall be their doom; and the whole heavens shall weep over them, even all the workmanship of mine hands; wherefore should not the heavens weep, seeing these shall suffer?

I mean this lady wouldn't do it for the salvation of herself and the eternal life of her family.  It really makes me think of people being "without affection and they hate their own blood."  I'm so thankful for this gospel in my life and for the happiness and protection it has brought me.  I'm grateful to know that I have an eternal family and that you, mom and dad, made that possible.  I'm thankful for the Savior's atonement and for everything He has done to save someone like me and also for a Father in Heaven who loves each one of us so very much.  I'll leave you with my testimony, in the name of Jesus Christ Amen.

- Elder Johnson

10 Reais to whomever can figure out what's wrong with my bible.  #Apostasia

I have successfully made, or will make, juice out of all of these fruits!!! I'm addicted to juice making.

Monday, August 12, 2013

We've Got No Food! We've Got No Money! All Of Our Members Are Non Existent!!!!!

There we shall baptize!!!

So last week we had transfers and I got transferred.  My friend Elder Rutledge got transferred too so we rode the bus to Maceió together (long ride), which was awesome and we traded stories and experiences.  It really was funny to listen to him explain getting robbed three times in four days, twice by the same guy.
Elder Rutledge and I at transfers.

At the transfer meeting I finally got to meet up with Elder Jung, my companion from the MTC, which was awesome!!!

Then I left for my new area.

I'm now serving in a little branch in the interior of Alagoas called Viçosa (vee-soh-zah), which is AMAZING!!!  It's a little branch of about 20 members in a small town in a canyon.  Luckily for me it is a very beautiful place so I'll be sure to send lots of pictures.

Viçosa Brazil
It is also a very hilly area so lots of working out my legs so that's good too.  The Elders in my house also like to run in the mornings so I'll have golden thighs in no time.
New District.

There are some drawbacks to our area that are also blessings at the same time.  Since we have a severe lack of members we do all of our own cooking, which on the bright side I have learned a lot about Brazilian cooking and juicing.  Also, the branch president decided to move the day before transfers without telling anyone so we are the only Melchizedek priesthood holders in town.  We have to organize, direct, and give a lot of talks in sacrament.  I'm also the self proclaimed music master and decide and lead all of the hymns in our meetings, which has been fun.
Our church.
Our baptismal font.

All in all I love my new area.  It's a lot more peaceful than it was in Aracaju.  We live about two hours out from Maceió, in case you were wondering.
I live in a pretty place.
Our house.

Oh and there's lots of vultures and bats here for some reason.  The bats are pretty dumb and you can hear them running into the house at night.

My companion is Elder Araújo who is from São Paulo.  He's really cool and is going to die with me here, (I'm going to kill him), for those of you who understand missionary talk.
My new companion Elder Araújo and I.

So there are these things they have here called the Feira, which is like an outdoor flea market.  They do them about once a week here specifically for fruit and vegetables and other goods like pots, pans, and stolen missionary cell phones.  We live right next to it and our first day here we had to find our way back to our house so we asked some guys where the Feira was and the following conversation ensued:

US:  Hey do you know where the Feira is?

THEM:  Well I think the Feira is closed about now.

US:  No, do you know where it is?

THEM:  Yeah I'm pretty sure it's closed about now.

US:  No! We need to know where it is.

THEM:  If you want to buy fruit, there's this fruit store you can go to.

US:  Ochinte!!!  We live next to the Feira and we need to know where it is.

THEM:  I don't know where you guys live man.

US:  ...

THEM:  Hey João!  Do you know where these guys live?

US:  Where's the stupid Feira...

THEM:  Well it's over there, but I'm pretty sure you won't be able to buy anything at this hour.

US:  ...bye...

Another guy also got mad at me for my lack of knowledge of Barbara Steisand music the other day too.

So to end this letter, we had a really cool experience rededicating the area.  We climbed to the top of this hill where you could see the entire town.  We sand some hymns and rededicated the area and it was really really spiritual and awesome.
Rededicating the area.
The view from where we rededicated the area.

Anyways, I hope everything is going well back home.  In the meanwhile I'll be down here preaching the gospel, helping the sons and daughters of God come unto Christ and making delicious juice!!!
The inside of a Graviola fruit.
The juice I made out of the Graviola fruit.

Love you all,

- Elder Johnson

Monday, August 5, 2013

Goodbye Siqueira Campos

Sergipe Heart

Hey mommy.

This week is officially my last week in Aracaju.  I got the call yesterday and I'm being transferred somewhere in Alagoas tomorrow.  I'm not quite sure exactly where, but it's somewhere in the other half of my mission.

My time here in Ala Siqueira Campos has been good, but it is time to move on.  I've been in the same area of almost five months and I'm running out of doors to knock.

We had lunch with a member who lives in a neighborhood called Parque dos Farois, which was pretty cool.  Parque dos Farois is in the next city over and there is only one family that lives there.  They have to travel about 30 minutes each Sunday to get to the chapel in Siqueira, which is the next closest to them.  It was really cool there.  It's a lot more tranquil than the city and it had a really cool view of Aracaju from atop the mountain.
Aracaju from Parque dos Farois.

So this week we had an activity we planned for the ward, a "Show de Talentos", which was pretty sweet.  We had a lot of the members bring people they knew to the show in order to gain more referrals and to show people that we really don't want to sell their organs.  It was really fun.  We did a skit from the good ole boy scout meeting days.  We had people sing, dance to k pop, clowns, and a bunch of food, which was a total success!!!
Show de Talentos

I had the opportunity to say goodbye to Marcio the other day, which was pretty bitter sweet.  It's been interesting to watch him change and grow over these past few months.  When we arrived at his house the other day he was studying the Gospel Principles Manual, with his new triple combination, in a shirt and tie, while marking down his favorite scriptures.  I felt so much joy at that moment.  I have seen this guy progress from having a girlfriend for each day of the week to studying the scriptures and a priesthood holder.
Last photo with Marcio.

So that's about it for this week.  Sorry it's not a lot, but not too much happened this week.

Love you guys!

- Elder Johnson

(P.S.  Just think about it, for one week you'll have no idea where I am.  #comforting)

I found the donkey to be rather interesting.

Goodbye Siqueira Campos.