Monday, June 30, 2014

The Greatest Transfer In The World

Elder Rutledge & me
Another transfer has come and gone.  I have now killed three companions and I'm on to my fifth area, which is back in Maceió.  I'm currently serving in a ward called Tabuleiro and it's pretty cool up here.  We're whitewashing into the area, which is no real surprise to me because I've whitewashed into every area that I've gone into.  It is currently only my companion and I in the ward.  They usually have two companionships in this ward, but it's just us for now.  That does make it kind of difficult to open though because it's like working in two areas at the same time.  The house we live in is very interesting though.  It's actually four houses built right next to each other that the mission has rented and all are used for the missionaries.  This means that basically, in what would be considered one house, there can be up to eight missionaries living there.  As of right now it's just four missionaries in the house, us and the missionaries in another ward.  The ward is really cool though, the members are pretty chill and they want the ward to grow.  People here are really excited, like really excited.  Here's an example.  So yesterday at church we were at Gospel Principles class and one of our investigators didn't show up.  The class went into a panic and everyone said they'd come after church to visit our investigator with us.  So after church we walked with a band of about 8 members, who were making contacts for us on the road, and we had a member present the lesson with about 8 members and 1 investigator.  It was absolutely nuts! But I loved it though.
Tabuleiro Maceió Alagoas Brazil
We have officially got a new mission presidency, Presidente and Sister Gomes.  We called Sister Gomes last night to welcome them to the mission, but other than that we haven't really met them yet.  We'll be having a meeting this next week where we'll be meeting them.  Judging off of our phone call, they seem pretty cool.

So there's this guy our ward called Joel.  He's a member and yet not at the same time, if that makes any sense.  He's been going to church for about 7 months now, gives a ton of referrals, goes to every activity, is known by all the members, calls himself a voluntary missionary, but until now hasn't had the desire to be baptized.  He tried explaining to us the reasons this last week, but it didn't make any sense.  We still love him and teach him though.  The guy has a ton of referrals and he likes taking us to go teach people.  He looks a lot like Grandpa Johnson.  The guy says some pretty interesting things though, so I think I'll start a segment in my emails called "Things Joel said this week."

Things Joel Said This Week:

1.  This church here is really tasty.

2.  I like this church, here you can speak your mind and people will let you.  In other churches, when I try to speak my mind, they try to chop my head off.

At least we're a very accepting church.

This week also marked the end of Festas Juninas.  It ended with the last saint dedicated holiday, São Pedro, and it was filled with a lot of random street fires and fireworks.

This week was also the Brazil vs. Chile World Cup game and man people got really into it.  It's a rule here that we can't leave the house during the game because it would be way too dangerous for us to go outside.  So we sat inside and waited out the game.

Making pizza during the Brazil World Cup game.
We definitely knew when Brazil scored a goal though.  The world would fall into absolute chaos and start throwing fireworks and screaming.  The game went into over time and everyone just got super tense, but when Brazil won... wow....  I didn't know humanity was capable of such a party.  Everyone went nuts! Absolutely bonkers.  I took a video of the party they were having in the road afterwards and all you can hear is explosions and sirens.  People started dancing in the streets with music and a load of alcohol soon followed behind.  People saw us up on our balcony and beckoned for us to come down and party with them.  It was a tempting offer, but I don't think a Brazilian after party would have been the best environment to teach the gospel.  The celebration continued through out the whole day, so nevertheless, nothing really got done because of it.
The view outside our house.
A rua durante Copa do Mundo.  (The street during the World Cup.)


This week I will have my sister missionary day, that's the day my mission would've ended if I was a sister.

Anyways, that's about it for now.  We've got some big plans this week and things should be interesting.  Oh and my new companion.  Let's just say he's my favorite companion until now, I'll send a picture.

-Élder Johnson

Riverton Boys together again in Brazil.
Look familiar?  At the MTC together 1/2/13.

My companion and I making German pancakes.

Monday, June 23, 2014

It's Kind Of A Long Story

Elder Coon's last lunch in Brazil before he goes home.

Wow.  This week was something else.  So to start off I'll go through a conversation I had the other day when the mission office secretary called me.

ME:  "Hey Elder, how are you?"
SECRETARY:  "I'm good, listen, I have a question for you.  I already know the answer to it, but I need to ask you just to make sure.  So.....what airport do you want to get off?"
ME:  "....."
SECRETARY:  "......"
ME:  "It's the call, isn't it?"
SECRETARY:  "Yeah, it's the call."

It caught me by surprise.  I definitely didn't see that coming.  It was kind of like in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, when Willy Wonka is getting his hair cut and he sees one of his hairs and realizes that it is gray.  He realizes that he won't be around forever and he needs to find an heir to his factory.  It went a little bit like that.  My first gray hair in mission life.  It's kind of sad to think that it'll all come to an end one day.

Anywho, one cool thing happened this last week.  I didn't know if I'd be staying here in Sergipe much longer so I decided to take the opportunity to go visit Marcio in Siqueira Campos the other P-day.  We got there and there was Marcio, all firm and active in the church!!!  My first companion Elder Godoy was there too!  Since he ended his mission yesterday he wanted to stop by and see Marcio too for the last time.  It was pretty sick.  Marcio is a counselor in the Young Men's Presidency and will be going to the temple in August.  It's cool to see how people have progressed after so much time.
The beginning - Elder Godoy, Marcio, Elder Johnson.

This week we also had the farewell for President and Sister Gonzaga.  They will be ending their mission this week and President and Sister Gomes will arrive next Sunday.  It was all rather melancholy.  It was sad to see them go.  I definitely learned a ton from them and the influence they've had in my life has been enormous.  In the meeting, "Elder" Mauricio G. Gonzaga, gave everyone an apostolic blessing.  He blessed us with success and peace in our lives and it was amazing!!!  I've never gotten one of those before.  He gave us a lot of advice about after the mission and how to have success in life.  I will definitely miss them, but I'm excited to see the new President and Síster arrive.
Sister & President Gonzaga

So this week was also the death of my companion Elder Coon.  Let's just say his last week was rather... eventful... It's kind of a long story, but I'll share it anyways.  I tell this story with my companions' permission.

So we were at the supermarket the other day buying some last minute stuff for him to bring back to the states like cuscus, tapioca, farinha, you know, important things.  We were waiting in the check out line when he gives 20 Reais and tells me to buy his things.  He was going to go step outside for some fresh air because he was feeling rather sick.  He walked around the register and grabbed a hold of a grocery cart.  He started acting all sickly when the cart came crashing to the ground along with my companion.  My companion had fainted in the middle of the store.  

I dropped my stuff to go see if he was all right.  He was unconscious and there about a 100 people in that store just staring at us.  With out a moment’s hesitation everyone instantly became a doctor and started telling me what to do. "You need to go grab salt."  "You need to grab a fan."  "You need to go make him some beet juice for him quick!"  I'm pretty sure none of these things would've helped, but everyone else was convinced.  I tried to get one of the workers to help me take him to another room away from everyone; I also tried to get everyone to give him some space, but apparently the two ideas I had were not an option.  Some lady then magically pulled out a pressure tourniquet to take his blood pressure.  Apparently it was super low.  The lady who told me to get the salt wouldn't stop telling me to go get the salt so I suffered her and went to the bakery to go grab some.  I ran over to the bakery and lo and behold a bishop from another ward was there buying stuff.  I got him to come with me so we could revive my companion and by the time we got back the people at the store had sat him up in a chair.  We gave him a priesthood blessing and he started to wake up.  Some lady also grabbed a cup of milk and put a ton of salt in it and forced him to drink it; apparently that does something.

I then ran across the street, grabbed a taxi that was parked at the pharmacy, and we were off to the hospital.  The taxi driver recommended that he drink a really strong cup of coffee everyday.  I said we'd take his idea into consideration.

We walked into the hospital and I told the receptionist that my companion had fainted.  She asked me where he was and I pointed at my companion, perfectly conscious on the other side of a glass door.  She told me he didn't look like he had fainted.  I told her that he is awake now.  She looked at me like I was an idiot.

We managed to get him to see the doctor.  They had him take Soro - I don't know what to call it in English, it's that little plastic bag that has the tube that goes into your arm (I think Tanner means an IV, funny he can’t remember the word in English), take some meds, and gave him a blood test.
Soro - aka an IV

About two hours later we got the results back.  The doctor and my companion had the following conversation.

DOCTOR:  "All right, so we got your tests back.  I have a question for you.  Do you have Dengue?"
ELDER COON:  "Um. No."
DOCTOR:  "Huh, because based off of your blood platelet level, you have Dengue."
Elder Coon in the hospital with Dengue.

SURPRISE!!!!!!!!  You have Dengue!  My companion got Dengue on his second to last day of work before going home.  Of all the souvenirs you could bring home, I don't think Dengue would've have been the best one to take with you.  We left the hospital at about 4:00 in the afternoon and we finally got to our lunch appointment.  My companion, needless to say, got very sick.  The ward had planned an integration activity so we decided to tough through the Dengue a bit and go.  Lo and behold, when we got there, there was no activity, but another ward was having a São João party, with a live Forró Band and everything.  So Elder Coon sat down for a bit, we ate some stuff made out of corn like canjica, and mungunzá.  They also had this shrimp soup substance that was actually pretty good too.  We were there for a bit and then we went home.
São João Ward Party with a live Forró Band.
Comida tipica do nordeste.  (Typical food from the northeast.)

Needless to say the rest of the week was rather uneventful.  My companion couldn't do much because he was stricken with Dengue.  Yesterday, however, we brought him to the Bus station to see him off and so he was my third victim.  I have now killed three of my companions.  Elder Godoy, was also there, because he was going home too so I got to see my father go home.  I'm now an orphan. 
Tchau Elder Coon!
I also got transferred too.  I'm going up to Alagoas, but I don't know where yet.  It's been great down here in ala Soledade.  I'm sure going to miss it down here.  Anyways, I've got to go.  Sorry this was super long and everything, but a lot happened.  Love you all and have a great week.

-Élder Johnson

Churrasco (Barbecue).

The definition of Mormonism I found in a Brazilian dictionary.
  It says: "A Protestant religious sect/cult formed in the USA whose followers, the Mormons, practice polygamy."

Monday, June 16, 2014

Brasileiro No Coração

Another year has come and passed and this was my second "Dia dos Namorados" (Brazilian Valentine’s Day) here in The Holy Land, and just to let you know, it was filled with the same amount of loneliness and self pity as last year's.
A member made me this keychain.  

So this week was my companion's birthday.  We celebrated it by eating pizza and having a little party for him at the church.  We ate some cake and drank some soda, it was good times.

Also this week we did some service projects.  We had a member call us to help him move.  We packed up all of his stuff into the back of this little truck and unpacked it all basically a few streets over.  YEAH MOVING!!!!!  It was really quite funny.  The guy didn't have a truck, so to solve our truckless problem we went over to the park and spoke with some guys sitting on a bench.  We then asked them if they knew anyone that could help us and one of the guys said he'd help him move for $50 Reias.  So we just hired some random guy on the street and we had a lovely time.

We also painted a house.  A member asked us for our help with painting his house.  We went over there and painted the whole thing blue and white.
House before we painted it.
We painted the whole front of this member's house white, which was actually unintentional.  We were planning on just painting the walls but the bucket of white paint broke in my companion's hand and exploded all over the place.  The member just laughed and decided to also paint the floor white too.  It was a good experience.  I thought it was pretty funny.
Unintentionally painted stairs.

So this week was the first week of "The FIFA World Cup 2014 Brazil" and it was crazy, absolutely bonkers.  During the other country's games, things remain pretty chill, everyone still watches the games, but it was all right to work.    
World Cup decorations.

The Brazil games, however, were a completely different story.

The world stops for Brazil games, it literally stops.  The city becomes a ghost town and everyone closes their stores and what not to watch the game.  Everyone dresses up in green and yellow and goes inside to watch the game.  There is literally no one on the streets.  Things however, change when Brazil scores a goal.  You don't even need to watch the game to know if Brazil scored or won.  All you've got to do is sit around and if Brazil scores a goal, you'll hear it.  First there are the screams of pure patriotic joy, then comes the fireworks.  People literally rain fireworks down on the city and it doesn't stop for a few minutes.  It's like it's like a WW2 bombing run just without an air raid siren and more explosions.  People just throw these bombs willy and nilly and they're not little firecrackers either, people go to the hospital and sometimes die from these fireworks if they get to close to them.  Naturally, they must be used to celebrate a goal.  So every time you are watching a Brazilian world cup game and Brazil scores goal, you will know that down here everyone is going nuts and throwing tiny hand grenades which, if you were to count all of the explosions that go off in Brazil during one goal, would probably be about the destructive force of 2 atomic bombs.  #BrasileiroNaCoração

So yeah, that's about all I've got time I've got for this week.  I'll be sure to send a more lengthy letter next week.  Anyways, love you all!  Have a great week!  Well until next time everyone.

-Élder Johnson

One of the Carros de Som.  It's a car that drives around playing extremely loud advertisements and what not.  It's pretty annoying.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

I'm So Scared

Sunset in Laranjeiras.

Week one of the month of June.  Festas Juninas and The World Cup have yet to officially start, but alas the partying has begun. Bombs have gone off.  The town is decorated with yellow and green.  The Festas and The World Cup will officially start this week. I'm so scared.

So this week was a week of divisions.  I got to go over to Socorro and Laranjeiras on divisions.  One thing that was interesting was this guy we met at the bus station.  I don't know what his problem was, but he was acting rather inappropriately.  The guy first came up and started talking with us (of cours,e it's always the crazy people who want to come and talk with us.)  He started trying to speak to us in English, but we just kind of sat there and ignored him.  He then went into the middle of the bus station and gave everyone a rousing karate demonstration and taught some thirteen-year-old kid how to fight.  He then started yelling trying to pick a fight with someone and then asked if anyone wanted to fight the kid.  He then saw some guy leaving the bus station and yelled to everyone how well the man smelt.  People these days.

This week we had an activity with "Mãos que Ajudam" also known as The Mormon Helping Hands.  We went out and did an activity for Dengue, which is kind of a problem down here.  So what normally happens is that there are these government agents who go around the city, knock on peoples' doors, and go through their house looking for stuff that could possibly house Dengue Mosquitoes. Well turns out that all of the agents in the city of Aracaju have been on strike for a few months and no one has been having their houses checked for Dengue.  So whom does the government call to help?

The Mormons.

So on Saturday we received a little training on how to identify objects that could house Dengue and how to properly dispose of it.  I was with another American during the whole ordeal and naturally we don't have too much knowledge about Dengue.  Basically we just entered peoples' houses, looked for anything that had water, and told them to throw it out if they had any, and pretended that we were experts in a field that we really had no knowledge about.  People acted weird though when we went in their houses.  They acted like they had committed a crime and the police had just shown up to search their house for Dengue.  "No, I swear!  We don't have any Dengue here!  We don't store water or anything here!!", "Quit lying to me!!!  I know you're hiding it!!!"  Like people got pretty nervous when we went in to inspect.  I honestly don't know why they were acting like that, Dengue isn't something anyone really wants to keep in their house or hide from other people.
Dengue Specialists, aka The Mormons.

There was this one guy who got rather ticked at us.  He told us it that the bigger problem was the water in the road and not in the house.  He talked to us for about ten minutes about how we're not doing our jobs right and what not.  His wife was trying to explain to him that we weren't official representatives of the government but just missionaries, but for some reason that didn't make sense to him.  He eventually came to his senses and apologized.  He then proceeded to give us a 15 minute sermon about the importance of religious acceptance.  It was a pretty good sermon.  I liked it.

Anyways, it was pretty fun.  We helped fight of the little Dengue demons and I acted like I knew what I was talking about the whole day.  #DengueSpecialist

One of our investigators is a professional gospel singer, or at least that's what Elder Coon tells me, she was only taught while I was gone on divisions.  He did show me a video of her singing and she's pretty good.  Probably a little difficult to teach, but I thought it was cool either way.

So that's about it for this week.  Partying officially starts this Thursday, so that should be pretty fun for everyone else and absolutely horrifying for the missionaries.  Well here's hoping that I will survive another week.

-Elder Johnson

Bird Statue.


Monday, June 2, 2014

Welcome to Baghdad

Me and Elder Rutledge (my friend from back home) meet up at Zone Conference.

Or at least that's what it feels like now that Festas Juninas has begun.  The other day we were walking down the road at night and you could just hear the explosions of the IEDs (AKA fireworks) going off in the distance, with the smaller ones sounding like gunshots.  Man I love June.

Hello family!  How are you?  I am well.  This week we got some weird health advice from the people down here.  People here have some pretty different ideas about health, like if you go into an air-conditioned room while you have a cold, you will get even sicker.  My personal favorite however is the theory of the hot shower and the freezer.  The theory is that after you finish taking a hot shower and then open the fridge the cold air from the fridge against your warm body will make you dizzy, give you a headache, or my personal favorite, a stroke.  Some people have told me a bunch of legends about people getting strokes and dying from opening the freezer.  We were teaching this one lady when her daughter walked in and told us she had a headache because she opened up the fridge 20 minutes after taking a shower.  I decided to put the old wives’ tale to the test, I took a shower, opened the fridge, stuck my head in the freezer AND....


I told this lady that I did that and she looked at my like I was crazy.  Needless to say, I have not died from a freezer stroke.

So I had a baptism this week!!!  Well in reality no, the sisters had two baptisms this week and their investigators asked me if I would baptize them.  I, of course, was honored and the baptism went over pretty well.  We had a little organizational error, but besides that all went well.

This week was Zone Conference, our last with President Gonzaga.  It was really cool; they talked a lot about true repentance and showed some videos of a talk by Elder Bednar that he gave to employees of the church. It was really great; it talked a lot about reaching your full potential and using the Holy Ghost to build yourself, which I found to be very interesting.  I also got to see a lot of my friends I've made on the mission and I got to catch up with Elder Rutledge!
The under 200 club.
I also met up with Elder Robinson at Zone Conference.

So we have a few investigators that we are teaching and they're going pretty well.  We should have a baptism this week and a few more to end the transfer.  Anyways, that's all I've got for this week.  Remember to not stick your head in the freezer after you've taken a shower, or you might die!

-Élder Johnson

Zone shirts for all the missionaries in Sergipe.
What everyone calls me.