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Monday, February 24, 2014

SEMAINE 12


This is a photo from their zone conference last week that I found on the mission blog site.  It's always nice to include a photo of Elder Johnson with his e-mail.  :)


TRANSFER WEEK
So, this week is transfers week! Which means I could leave Lyon or receive a new companion. I feel like I'm going to stay and Elder Schneider will leave... but who knows! President never likes to do the expected. 

The anticipation of knowing something is going to change is pretty darn intense. For me personally, it is in my head at least every other second "Am I leaving or am I staying?" It sounds so foreign to me to leave Lyon, because this is my idea of France and the mission at this point. I don't have anything else to compare it to. Whatever happens I know I will be happy! I just don't really care for the anticipation.

McDonalds: A PLACE OF EATING
SO! Sometimes we like to treat ourselves to an authentic American meal and eat at MACDO (as the French call it). The line was super, super long but the wait was totally worth it... We found a spot to sit and commenced our American feast. 

As I am taking a rather large bite of fries, I notice the woman next to me is wearing a really weird colored shirt...It's like this weird, flesh color. After staring for about three seconds I come to realize that her shirt is actually green and she is full on breast-feeding in the middle of a super crowded McDonalds. OH Europe.

Upon my realization of what was going on, I nearly choke on my fries and do an about-face. Elder Schneider noticed my distressed and asked what was going on, which I then referred him to the woman next to us through eye signals, as I can't speak because I am choking on fries. Sometimes you think you should ask the question "Why is this person this way?” but then quickly realize you don't want to know the answer to the question you just posed.

BOB ÉPONGE
Sponge Bob's name in France is Bob Éponge.... Don't ask why I know this OR why I am fascinated by this. All of the names of the people in Sponge Bob are the same... All of them, except for one character.. Guess what Squidward's name is... guess! CARLOS. Bahaha. Why Carlos? Who knows.

LES CHOSES QUI SONT PLUS SPIRITUELLE 
After talking about breast feeding women and Sponge Bob I think I should talk about something’s that are actually related to missionary work. At the beginning of my mission it was really hard for me to enjoy personal study time but now I have really come to enjoy it. I mean, I'm never going to be able to devote close to two hours of my day to scripture study after my mission, so I really try to use it as effectively as possible.
In my studies I have found some great scriptures that help encourage me when the going gets rough! The first one is from Doctrine and Covenants which says:

D&C 103:36: “All victory and glory is brought to pass unto you through your diligence, faithfulness, and prayers of faith.”

I have really come to love this scripture because it is SO clear. We, as missionaries will succeed so long as we are diligent and faithful. The Lord wants so badly to bless us as individuals but He can't do that unless we are faithful and obedient. The other scripture is from the Book of Mormon:

2 Nephi 2:11"For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things.”
         
I've come to realize that it is essential for us to progress as people, that we have hard things given to us. It is also a way for us to realize all of the good things that we have in our life. If we never had to face hard things, we could never come to appreciate the times where things run smoothly. 

The Atonement, which made it possible for us to repent of our sins and live with our Heavenly Father again was not bought easily. Jesus Christ suffered for all of the sins, illnesses, and pains of the world so that we could have the chance to become clean before God. 

THE THINGS THE MISSION DOES TO YOU
After being on my mission for just a short time I've already started to think different. With something’s I am more spiritually minded, but a lot of things are just from our schedule. haha

I am starting to dream in French! Pretty awesome. Sometimes it is annoying because I still don't understand everything that is spoken... EVEN in my dreams, which means the people in my dreams might just be speaking a made up language with French words in it...bahaha.

Along the lines of sleeping, every single morning I wake up at 6:25 a.m., before the alarm even goes of. During those five minutes I usually try to wake my brain up so I will be able to pray to Heavenly Father fully awake. 

All of these changes have been positive! I feel more happiness in my life because I am living the gospel to the max! There are mornings as the alarm goes off, where I think "I just can't get out of bed... I can't" But somehow my feet swing out, I start my morning prayer and suddenly the whole day has passed by. 

LES AMIS
Alright! I don't have a ton of news about our amis but I do have one that I would like to share about. His name is Gwenael and he is super, super cool. I feel sure that he will be baptized on his date (Mars 15). We have been able to meet with him about three times each week, he reads everything that we give him, and he keeps all of his commitments. After we shared the plan of Salvation, he told us that it was "beautiful" and then asked how he could use the this knowledge to continue to build his faith.  But yeah! He is pretty golden!

Solange should be back in town this week, so hopefully we will be able to start meeting with her again! :)

That is all for this week! I love you all! I appreciate your letters and support! 
Avec Amour Beaucoup,

Elder Johnson

Monday, February 17, 2014

Bonjour mes amis et ma famille!


This week has been pretty darn crazy! A lot of stuff has happened! 

LE 'LYON KING"
This week was our "Winter Olympics" of missionary work! Every other day the Zone Leaders would send us challenges and certain things that you had to do to gain points. Like "one contact is one point, a rendezvous fixed is ten points...etc" Anyway, Elder Schneider and I are extremely competitive, probably to the point to where it is unhealthy, but who cares? We wanted to win! 

So because our teaching pool wasn't very deep we decided we were going to contact SUPER hard so we could expand our teaching pool and win at the same time. We didn't use any public transportation all day. We just walked everywhere so we could talk to more people! We also only took a lunch break of thirty minutes instead of the usual hour. 

Needless to say we ended up contacting close to 375 people and set close to six or seven rendezvous. And we may or may not have won. ;) 

Contacting is really weird because you kind of have to warm up to the point where you don't care if people are mean. At first you are always (or at least for me) full of fear, but as time goes on and you let go of your fear you become a contacting machine. The trick for me is to make it fun/funny. I almost always try to make the person smile. Sometimes I do this by speaking with a SUPER heavy American accent and other times I ask if we can trade shoes or glasses or something. Hahaha Anyway! It was a super day. Our heads hit our pillows happy knowing we accomplished something great. 

OUR SCHEDULE
I was thinking I should enlighten you on the "typical day" of a France Lyon Missionary. So, here it goes!

6.30-6.35 Wake up, say your prayers
6.35-7.05 Exercise (We go outside and run/do push ups/etc)
7.05-8.00 Eat, shower, get dressed for the day
8.00-9.00 Pray and start personal study (Scriptures, Church magazines, Preach my Gospel)
9.00-10.00 Pray and start companionship study (Prep for the day's lessons and role-play) I'm always the missionary because I need the practice more.. It is much easier to be the ami 
10.00-11.00 Because I'm a new missionary we do this program called "12 weeks" which is aimed to help me become a better missionary and adjust to missionary life. After this transfer I wont do this anymore. 
11.00-12.00 Pray and do language study. I usually take 15 minutes for the Book of Mormon in French, 15 minutes for church magazines in French and 30 minutes out of a work book. Elder Schneider is always there to help me with the pronunciations and stuff like this. 
12.00-1.00 Lunch
1.00-5.00 This is time outside--- contacting, teaching lessons, doing service, etc. 
5.00-6.00 Dinner
6.00-9.00 More lessons, contacting, service, getting lost in the metro...etc
9.00-9.30 Planning for the next day! 
9.30-10.30 Get ready for bed, eat food, write in your journal, read scriptures, relax 
10.30-Pray and go to bed

As a "bleu" we have an hour and a half extra in the apartment for studying but this next transfer I won't be considered a bleu anymore! WOOHOO! haha

NOS AMIS 
Alright! Right now we are teaching a lot more than last week, which is super. Basically what has happened is that we have had a complete turn over of amis. 

We are still teaching the man who believes the church is true. It’s just that he can't come to church because of work. We are also teaching his wife, who is very pregnant and can't come to church because she is sick/pregnant. They are progressing very well but they just can't make it to church. We would love to baptize them but it is super important that we know that they are able to be committed. We don't want someone to become MORE accountable to only fall into inactivity. 

We have also found a SUPER, SUPER, SUPER cool guy about our age. He is here in Lyon studying to be an actor and is SO GOLDEN. I really think he could be baptized within three weeks. After sharing the Joseph Smith story, he said "I want to have an experience like that, were my prayers are answered." We also taught him with another young adult so hopefully he will start getting integrated into their activities. 

LE LANGUE 
The language is really turning a corner this transfer. I try as hard as I can to speak French with my companion. It is a little frustrating sometimes because I still don't understand everything... especially if the person is black. Sometimes I will be speaking and I know the word but I just can't find it. I can see my hand flipping through index cards looking for it. Haha.

When I read I pretty much have everything down as long as it is in the scriptures. Advertisements and other things are difficult because they use jargon. I will consider myself fluent when I understand French jokes. Like in church when someone is speaking and then suddenly everyone laughs, I'm just sitting there like, "Okay, that was super funny... " too bad I didn't understand.

LES AUTRES CHOSE DU DERNIER SEMAINE 
Guess what I saw on the metro?! A man with a Razorback hat! Yes, WOO PIG SOOIE! So, I only saw him after my companion had starting talking to him and I realized what it was and I pretty much ran over there and talked with him. He was actually French but his aunt lives in Arkansas! hahaha Super small world. 

Alright! So, I have a fun story for you. Do you remember my first lesson that I taught in France? If you don't, no big deal. My first lesson was with a woman who asked if her dog could be baptized and we said no and then she told us "But, he believes!"  So after that lesson the other equip of missionaries continued to teach her but eventually dropped her because she wasn't making progress and wasn't trying to stop smoking or drinking. 

Well, 2 weeks ago, I failed to mention that I saw this woman again. I passed her in the street and I saw her dog and I thought "I've seen that dog before" So I stopped and tried to get a better look at her to see if it was her (She wasn't wearing her normal clothes, she actually looked normal). I then realized it was her but I didn't know if she would remember me so I just said "Bonjour" and walked by. Immediately after she passed me I hear someone screaming super loud profanities in Franglish (French and English for those of you who are a bit slow) I realize that she is screaming at me! So I just continue to walk briskly as my companion has sprinted away from the situation. 

Anyway, after that we didn't see her for a while UNTIL this last week. We had just come from the mission office and were carrying supplies with us (two boxes of Book of Mormons and one box of pamphlets.. which aren't light. As we are almost to the metro we turn a corner and there she is. With her dog on a leash, a can of beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other. Elder Schneider literally screams aloud and we turn around and run as fast as we possibly can with these huge boxes in hand. I was laughing SO hard because the situation was SO ridiculous. After running for about five minutes we stop and just look at each other and continue to laugh. Oh the life of a missionary. 

Something else funny, every time I contact a Jehovah Witness I GET CONTACTED and I get handed a Watch Tower and other pamphlets. I can't speak quickly enough to tell them no thank you... Just tell Jaime Chalmers that I am taken care of. 

I can't believe this transfer is almost over. Only two more weeks and I might be in a different ville. I really hope I stay here. I have come to love Lyon so much. The members of the church are fantastic, the city is full of people, and there are a ton of missionaries here. 

I think that is it for this week! I love you all very much and hope that everything is going well. The gospel is so true, and the Atonement of Jesus Christ has made it possible for us to make lasting change for the better!

Je vous aime!
Avec amour beaucoup,

Elder Johnson

Monday, February 10, 2014

Guess What I Ate This Week?!

Nope this is not what he was referring to in his title. 

Ma cher famille et mes amis,

This week has been better than the last! Which wasn't hard for that to be but still, it was better! :) 

So, for this week! What has happened? I ate something that is very expensive... but that is for later!

NOS AMIS
Our friends of the church (amis) are still being a little hard to see so we have really been trying to find people like crazy to expand our teaching pool to people who are more serious. We have had some great success finding genuine people! This week is looking good :) 

This week we had a lot of appointments fall through but they turned into opportunities to find people and to uplift the members! One appointment we had arranged a Frere Girard (another church member) to come with us because our amie was a girl... She called us and told us she wasn't going to come so we went to the boulangerie and bought pastries and ate it with him and talked about his family. 


Our ami that was supposed to be baptized this week couldn't be baptized because he hasn't come to church consistently enough. But I think he will eventually get baptized. It's just that his darn job is during church. But! I think everything will work out. 

We also went over to Yoyo's on Monday for dinner and ate something pretty exotic! 

FRENCH OOPSIES 
Well, let's just say I'm not an expert in French yet. That was manifested when after teaching this man for about thirty minutes I asked him if it would be easier to meet with him at his house and he replied in English "I don’t have a house." Which was rather awkward because apparently he told us three times he didn't have a house... so, trying to change the subject I asked how long he had been married to find out that he has been divorced for several years... which apparently he told us several times. Honestly, speaking French and understanding French are two completely different things. 

So! As a goal, we have as a companionship have decided it would be good to have days that are completely in French. Which has been great for me but somehow I say a bunch of bad words really loud. I think it is a gift of mine. But really, it isn't my fault. If you put too much emphasis on certain continents of words you say a bad word instead of a perfectly normal word. I was trying to say cat and said something not so nice... Who knew? 

I bet you want to know what I ate…

LES CHOSES BIZARRE 
Nothing much has happened this week (just a LOT of contacting), so I will just tell you some weird things about France! 
-When you start talking to someone on the street they literally jump back in fear, as if you are a ghost or something like that.
-The Toilets are fancy here. I'm pretty sure its like everywhere else in Europe but you have two options of flushing... the little flush for things liquid and the big flush for things solid. hahaha
-You know how at the end of the meeting when there is an apostle or prophet there you wait to stand up until the presiding authority does. Well! They do the exact same thing here with the bishop (a bishop is like your pastor for the Mormon congregation in that area)! No one stands up after church until he does! It is pretty cool. Sometimes I forget though and I awkwardly walk two steps and hurry and sit down when I realize what I have done. 
-The French love to use filler words. There are a billion of them too. Completely useless. It's like saying like every like five like minutes. But in French they say "quoi" at the end of things... Just because they feel like it. haha

OH! I ate something weird... I almost forgot about it. Hahaha. So, I ate African Tree Maggots with rice! They were actually good too! My favorite part was the head. They tasted sweet. It was really scary at first but after the first one I dug into them. Hahaha. Apparently they are super expensive, 1000 Euros for a kilo... which, is about 2.2 lbs. It was a great honor to eat them... No sarcasm at all! Seriously. 



That is it for this week! As weird and hard as France can be sometimes, I couldn't be happier. I know I am where the Lord wants me and I am doing what he wants me to be doing. How can I not be happy knowing that?

I love you alllll! You're the best!
Avec Amour,
Elder Johnson 


Monday, February 3, 2014

Bonjour Tout Le Monde!




Bonjour ma famille et mes amis! Comment ça va? J’espère vous étés bien!  
Okay, I'm done with French! I'm not too fantastic at it yet and you don't understand French so! Voila.
  
This week has been one giant trial. However, with that said, I have learned SO much this week. I'll start with the bad and end with the good. 

LE MAUVAIS  
Alright, so! The second to last Sunday we had FIVE amis at church which was truly a miracle. This Sunday, we had zero amis at church, two stopped responding to our phone calls, one that told us she will "call us back" and one who went to Paris for a month for work (Solangie). This all happened on last Monday. It was kind of a slap in the face because we felt like we were doing so well. 

We struggled to set appointments all week and when we did set appointments, they usually fell through. On top of that it pretty much rained all week and my companion felt sick. Honestly, it felt like I was reaching for something that I just barely couldn't grab. 

I was super discouraged. 

BUT! There is a lot of good that came from this! 

LES BIEN CHOSES 
Alright! So I don't want you to think that I am absolutely miserable over here in the Land of Pastries and Cheese because I am super happy! There are just short moments of discouragement and trial. Anyway, like I said before, I have learned so much this week. It's funny because we had zone training this week and just happened to be talking about developing undying faith. 

This week I learned every.single.day. we are given numerous opportunities to develop our faith in Jesus Christ. These opportunities are when the logical thing to do doesn't match what we should actually do. I'll explain: 

In Luke 5, Jesus approaches the fisherman who would eventually become his Apostles. The chapter starts off with the fisherman cleaning their nets after an entire night of fishing and catching no fish. Jesus tells them to cast off and throw their nets off the right side of the boat. And then this happens:

“6 And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake.
7 And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink.
 9 For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the draught of the fishes which they had taken”

If I had been Peter, I might have said "Look, we have been fishing ALL night and we have thrown our nets off the right side many times... thanks for the suggestion but no thanks".  It didn't logically make sense to cast off one more time and throw the nets off the right side but because they had the undying faith in the Savior--it didn't matter if they understood why they should do the things that the Jesus suggested, they did it and "their net brake" with a multitude of blessings. 

Logically speaking, I am too tired to contact this woman. Logically, she has headphones in. Logically speaking, it is too crowded on this metro to contact because EVERYONE is going to look at me. Logically speaking, she is probably going to reject what I have to say. There are thousands of logical and natural reasons to not have the faith to do things. But the natural man is an enemy to God. Each time we push past all of our "logical" reasons, we gradually build an undying faith in the Savior. 

I promise that as we conquer the natural man and trust in the Lord with all of our heart we will develop a faith in the Lord that cannot be quenched. 

At the beginning of the week, I began to think - Am I even making a dent in the task that is at hand? Is there even a reason for me to be here or am I just wasting my time? I mean, I know that my mission is a great thing but if I'm not helping anyone… What is the point? But then in my personal study I came across this scripture in DC 64:33:

  “33 Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great.”

Immediately as I read the scripture I knew I was just being stupid! I was too prideful to realize that although I personally can't see the difference I am making, a difference is being made. No matter how small they may be. 

Although this week has been hard for me, I am thankful the Lord has let me experience it. It is hard to see why we experience the trials we do, until afterwards. It is almost like an out of body experience. You get to see how much you have grown and learned. 

LES AUTRE CHOSES
I have a funny story! I think I need to end this email lightly! :) Anyway! On Monday we were invited by members to go play soccer with them. It was super fun until the little 11 year old Frenchies showed up and absolutely destroyed us. Honestly, I have never felt so American. Hahaha. They are like doing all of these super awesome moves and combos and I'm just running around crazy trying to stop them. I was sore for pretty much the whole week! My abs, my butt, my back! Every part of my body ached because of some stupid little French kids that made me look bad. bahah.

That is it for this week I do believe. 

OH! So, we do have one ami that is doing super well. He believes the church is true and everything. He is so ready to be baptized, it is just that he works during church and can’t attend so he can't be baptized yet. We are really praying for him to find a job where he can come on Sunday. 

I love you all so much! Thank you for your letters and emails. I hope you are doing well. I pray for you all! Continue to be awesome! Develop an undying faith in the Lord! He gives us a chance everyday to do so! I can promise if you look for those opportunities, you will find them! 

Trust in the Lord!
Avec Amour,

Elder Johnson