Monday, March 31, 2014

We Went to Church

I know, it's a startling fact, we missionaries went to church this week.  Well the thing is we went to another person's church.  We have this one investigator who we were teaching who goes to another church.  She, one day told us, that she wouldn't be able to visit our church because her pastor said she couldn't because we are a cult, we don't have doctrine, we worship images (apparently having a paintings of Jesus Christ is a sin) and that we sell people's organs, you know the usual normal stuff people say about us.  My companion and I didn't think that was very nice of him to be saying such untrue things about us so we came up with a deal, we’d go visit her church and she'd come and visit ours!  Does that sound like a very hard exchange?  I think not!!  We also wanted to go and talk with the pastor to clear up some nasty little rumors about us and to be overall respectful.  So we went for about half an hour and talked a bit with the pastor and he said she was free to do as she pleased.  He, however, still didn't say very nice things about us to our face, but we were very respectful to him.  In the end our investigator didn't end up coming to church, which really hurt my feelings.  She still believed everything the pastor said and wouldn't listen to us or anything we tried to tell her.  All in all it was pretty interesting experience.

So one cool thing about my area is that it's super close to my first area so I get to see members from Siqueira Campos all of the time.  It's been cool seeing everyone at conferences and everything.  They all say that my Portuguese has gotten a lot better.

So one thing we did that was pretty different is that we did this pretty cool family home evening with members and investigators where we made American Pancakes!!!  They were nice and thick and I felt I was going to die of pure sugary American happiness.  The actual lesson we taught went over well too.  I had the kids draw a replica of my ID badge and we talked about the importance of authority.

This was an interesting food week too.  I ate something called Acarajé, which is some food from Bahia where they fry some dough made out of beans in a ton of oil and you eat it with shrimp and something called Caruru.  It was really really healthy.  I also ate Arraia or as it translates to Ray, like Manta Ray.  I thought the lady who gave it to us was lying, but it turned out to really be a Manta Ray.  It was pretty good I guess, they cooked it with coconut milk and what not.  I also had TACOS!!!!! I know, exotic ain't it?  Well to a Mexican food starved missionary it sure is.  It was so good.  I was so happy.  One of the members learned how to make it from companions he had on his mission and had a packet of taco seasoning.  #tearsofhappiness

Well other than that that's about all of the interesting things that happened this week.  We've got General Conference coming up which should be pretty cool, I'm sure excited.  Before the mission I never got excited over things like General Conference, but I now I just get amped for Conference!!!!!  Anyways, I'll talk with you all next week.

-Élder Johnson

P.S.  We saw this really weird dog this week.  It couldn't bark, it's owner just told it to make Santa noises and it would just basically scream.  The dog was blind so it kept slamming its head into the wall and furniture and made it really difficult to concentrate on our lesson.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Cure for the Common Cold

Well this week marks 1 year that I have officially lived in another country.  It's weird to think that I haven't been in the good old land of pancakes, guns, and the smell of freedom for a whole year.
Brazilian Super Man
So this week I had to retire one of my pairs of shoes because they officially died on me, I think the picture I send will say enough.

So this week the stake was preparing for stake conference and they wanted a ton of people there.  So in order to get a ton of people, the stake decided to hold open houses all week and put a ward in charge of each day at the stake center.  We covered a whole day and we showed people around the church, we showed them important things like the sacrament hall, the FHC, the baptismal font, and the elevator!!!  We had quite a few people come through and we had so many people at stake conference they had to transmit it to other rooms in the building.
Our Church
So for those of you who do not know, my companion is kind of a musical prodigy of some sort, he's really good at the trumpet and piano.  Some of the members invited him to play music at their sons wedding and so we used this as an opportunity to do a service project.  I of course do not have as much musical talent as my companion so I just took pictures and video the whole time.  The wedding went over well and my companion got lots of complements from everyone.
All shall be married by my hand.
We're teaching this one lady who read the whole Book of Mormon in one week.  She's really cool and as of right now is living basically all of the commandments; she's even married which is really surprising.  The only challenge now is to get her to come to church and commit to a baptismal date.

We also received a golden referral from the sisters.  They recently baptized this lady and she gave us the referral for her niece.  Her niece came to church, accepted a date, and cried during our lesson.  The spirit was super strong and was just an over all amazing experience.

In other news I got to do a really Brazilian thing the other day.  I got to mix cement on the street with a shovel!!!!  It was really fun, we asked these guys if we could help and we just got to work.  So if any of you need anyone to mix cement on the side of the road, you know who to call.

So when we arrived in our house a few weeks ago, it was rather filthy, and filled with all sorts of hullabaloo.  One of which, was this little ceramic horse that we just found in one of our rooms.  We threw it out the other day and in no less than 5 minutes latter somebody had picked it out of the garbage and claimed it as his own.  He just sat on the sidewalk for about 20 minutes petting the horse and playing with the little guy.

The entire city of Aracaju has been trying to figure out how to cure my cold this week.  This week I did indeed get a cold and it got treated how sickness usually gets treated, which means everyone immediately becomes a doctor.  A lot of the methods come from the Interior, which means these household remedies have probably been used for generations and /or people just make it up and somehow they can cure anything from the flu to cancer.  These were the following remedies that were suggested for me:

lime juice
this weird honey spray thing, which actually worked quite well
this pineapple honey mixture that a member gave to me
this weird tea a member made out some plant
lime mixed with garlic and cinnamon

(I didn't really want to try the last one)
The honey pineapple potion.
So this week has gone over pretty well.  All is well here in Soledade!!!!  So I'm going to go make some cement, until next time!!!

Élder Johnson

The Center has a selection of really great hats.

Elder Coon & I

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Future of the Church

This dog is named Ricky Martin and his mom's name is Shakira.

So we've had a very fascinating week this week.  The week started off simply enough with the usual routine: talk with some people, teach some lessons, go to meetings and what not, you know, the usual stuff.  We did however have something rather interesting happen though.  We gave the Book of Mormon to one of our investigators the other day.  She told us she likes to read and planned on reading the Book of Mormon.  We in turn thought that would mean she would read the introduction or something like that before our next visit.  However by noon the next morning, she had read until 2 Nephi 17, which is a rather substantial amount of the Book Mormon.  We were in turn shocked that she read that much.  Guess she really does like to read.

We also had another person we gave the Book of Mormon to on the road last week.  She said she had a lot of questions and wanted to know more about the church.  We left a Book of Mormon with her and we had quite a few difficulties trying to get a hold of her the whole week.  We did in fact run into her yesterday and she had read until The Book of Ether.  That far in one week!!!!  We really wanted to teach her but we couldn't, (that's for a later story in this email.)  She said she had lots of questions and specifically asked us about baptism.  Which never happens so we were really happy of course.

So yesterday the stake president called all of us missionaries over to the stake center along with a bunch of the youth that wanted to serve missions.  Stake conference is next week and they're trying to make it a very memorable conference so they've been trying to get a ton of people there.  He had all of the missionaries in the zone come over, gave them lists of less actives and other people that they wanted to reactivate and/or baptize.  They then sent my companion and I out with a band of about 6 young men from another ward who wanted to serve missions.

And so the adventure began......

If you didn't already know, 16-year-old young men can be kind of a rowdy bunch, especially if you get them together in large groups.  It was also looking like it was going to rain and everyone forgot an umbrella.  They young men of course, thought they knew what was the right thing to do and where to go so we naturally had an adventure.  We talked with drunk people, got lost, found empty houses, and even found an investigator who read until Ether,  (we thought it would be a little strange to teach her with about 6 boisterous youth.)  When it started to rain, the boys fled for shelter while I was looking for the right road.  Some lady called them all over to hide in her house and we ended up having a very nice chat with her.  When the rain stopped, we headed out, only for the rain to start up again 30 seconds later.  The road then turned into a small river with water levels that went a little bit past my ankles.  We of course were fearless, but our small band of the future of the church didn't want to trek through the water.  They said it would get them wet and that it was mixed with sewer water.  Excuses.  So when a car drove by and gave us a small wave everyone jumped to higher ground.  I jumped on some ladies' window and was clinging onto the iron bars.  The lady looked more concerned about the rising water levels rather then the fact there was some strange Mormon guy on top of her windows.  We the fearless trekked back to the church and everyone said we looked a little wet.  I say it's the look of an adventure.

Some other interesting things that happened this week:

I got to try Chocolate Caseiro, our homemade chocolate, which was made from the Cacau Tree the day before in one of our member’s backyard.  It was probably the best thing in the world and it was so strong.
Chocolate Caseira com leite condensado em cima.

I also got to see something called a Manguezal, which is suppose to be one of the most complex ecosystems in the world.  Apparently biologists would fight to the death to take samples of one of them and Elder Coon and I just ended up taking pictures with it.  It really just looked like a bunch of trees in the middle of the water but apparently to Biologists it's one of the most interesting things in the world.
Me and the Manguezal
Well that's about it for now, to respond to your questions mom:

I'm good.
Really, I’m really good.
My new area and companion are pretty cool.
Yes I like it here.
Really mom I'm fine.

Well that's it for now, the rain is starting to pick up down here and my area is notorious for having the roads become rivers, like up to my belt size rivers.  

Naturally I'm pretty excited.

-Elder Johnson

Monday, March 10, 2014


Eis que A Área de Soledade.
So you've probably been wondering were in the world I've been all week.  Well it came to pass this last week that I was sent back down to good old Aracaju in award called Soledade (soul-eh-dah-dge.)  It's pretty cool down here and I'm loving the ward.  The members down here help the missionaries out a ton.  The other day the bishop left with us to go show us the area and the members here give a very significant amount of referrals so I'm loving it here.  The area is pretty too.  The area is right next to this huge river and has quite a bit of nature and what not.  I'm still district leader though, but this time around I have one group of Elders and one group of Sisters so I'll have to do divisions this transfer.  My companion is also Elder Coon from the distant land of Draper Utah.  I already lived with him before in Aracaju previously and we get along really well.
Distrito Soledade

Soledade Aracaju Sergipe Brazil
We also have a pretty huge church here too, which is really different than the other churches I've based through.  Here it's two buildings, one of which is two stories high, and has a really nice soccer field.  If people complain that they don't know where the church is I'm not going to accept their excuse because it's really hard not to miss the church.

Even though I moved to a different city and state the Carnival festivities did not stop which made things very difficult for us.  When we got to our house, the other missionaries who left, left the house extremely dirty so we had to clean it all up.  Cleaning can be very difficult, however, if you have no cleaning supplies in your house, and if it's Carnival, which means the only stores that are open are stores that sell alcohol.  They sure like to party a lot more down here in Sergipe too.  There was tons of music and there were even guys dressed up as women running down the street. Carnival is.... different.

So Elder Coon was able to get hold of some Tereré (a herb drink) so we've been drinking that rather profusely. 

One funny thing did happen this week.  We wanted to know where G Street was when we went to go to an appointment, so we started asking some people.  We asked this one lady and instead of calling the road  "G Street" she called it "Gay Street" which in all truth was "G Street" she just didn't know how to say "G."

Well that's about it for my adventures this week.  All is well and I'm loving every minute down here.

-Élder Johnson

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Great and Terrible Was The First Half of Carnival

The most Brazilian picture in the world.  Note the soccer field, Groata, and tall buildings in the background.

This week was a week of service.  We did two service projects this week, which was loads of fun.  Our first service project was for a member of the ward.  We helped them stain their wooden windows and so now I know how to stain wood pretty well. NEW TALENTS!!!!!  We also helped a member move from one apartment to another.  The first apartment had an elevator, the second one did not, therefore we had to lug furniture up the stairs for a few hours.  It was a great experience.  My rock hard muscles sure came in handy there.  We were so dead afterwards but it was fun.

We had an unexpected adventure this Tuesday.  We were having lunch with a member, when her brother walked in, whom I had never met, and he ate with us.  He then told us he had a referral for us for someone who lives in the Aldebaran condominiums.  He called the guy, who turns out to be a very successful doctor who owns a few clinics in town, and it turns out he wanted us to meet with him at his clinic.  His clinic however was way over close to the Ponta Verde, which is the super nice beach part of town with lots of tall buildings.  We were rather excited. We'd never been over to that part of town before, nor have we ever taught a doctor or someone of that stature before.  We got permission from our leaders and our new best friend gave us a ride over there.  

It was super cool.  You go over this bridge and then you just see a bunch of tall buildings and the ocean and you feel like you're in a completely different place.  When we got to his clinic he had us teach him in the radiology waiting room.  We only had about 15 minutes to talk with him but it was really cool.  He was really accepting and wanted to talk with us more.  I had never had quite an adventure that just came out of nowhere before.

As I have stated in the title of this Email, Great and Terrible was the first half of Carnival.  Carnival starts here on Thursday night and goes until Monday.  This is my first Carnival in Brazil so I didn't know quite what to expect.

So this is what happens:

1. people go to the beach and commit all manner of sin and iniquity
2. people stay in the neighborhood and commit all manner of sin and iniquity
3. people flee the city to go into the interior to flee all of the sin and iniquity
4. basically wherever you go people commit all manner of sin and iniquity

The church down here sends all the youth up to EFY (or FSY now) in Garanhuns a city in the next state over so they can avoid all of the wickedness.  Half of our area turned into a ghost town because everyone left and the other half became Babylon.  Basically for Carnival here people just party non stop and do whatever they feel like.  There is in fact, a tradition of throwing things of people for Carnival, which includes:

burning hot oil

The last two are more common in the interior for some reason.

Anyways, we were leaving our house on Friday to go and try and find someone to teach.  We had yet to go 20 steps when around the corner came a group of about 40 troubled young men all carrying a handful of eggs.  If you do not know, Mormon Missionaries make rather good targets for whatever projectile you may have in hand, may it be rocks, fireworks, (são joão) or eggs.  20 seconds of pure fear as we walked passed this rabble of hooligans.  They looked at us.  We looked at them, (as we crossed over to the other side of the road.)  It was a very tense scene.  Thankfully they had other targets in mind and not the missionaries.  I had never been so scared in my life.
We saw some hooligans coming down the road yesterday trying to throw eggs at people so I took a picture.
Until now there's just been lots of partying, drinking, and dancing with much rudeness.  Even in the Hiper (Walmart) there was some lady who danced for about twenty minutes in front of some speakers they were selling.  Needless to say we had a rough week trying to cry repentance.

Other than that our week has been pretty good.  It is in fact a miracle that you are even receiving an email this week because everything shuts down for Carnival.  I was also transferred and so I'll be getting a new area tomorrow.  So you'll have the comforting feeling of not knowing where am I am for about week.  How neat is that?

Anyways, I'll write to ya'll next week.  Love you guys até mais!!!

-Élder Johnson