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Monday, November 24, 2014

TURKEY BOWL ET THANKSGIVING


TURKEY BOWL ET THANKSGIVING
So, in celebrating thanksgiving this week, the entire zone got together today (In AIX) to play football and soccer and it was super intense but awesome. Being around other missionaries makes you realize how happy you are to be a missionary and have the opportunity to meet so many cool people. I know it is a little late but I just wanted to list all of the things that I am thankful for:

-My Family, who is my biggest support and second biggest motivation to work hard as a missionary (the first is to help other people). I know that I would not be here without their love and encouragement. 
-Baguettes 
-The opportunity to be a missionary
-To have been born in the United States of America. Land of the Free and home of the brave.
-All of my friends, who have been good examples to me.
-Hot water
-My mission president, who is inspired and will always be someone that I remember as someone that influenced me for the better.
-The scriptures and prayer. 
-The place where I grew up. Newton County Arkansas will always be where my heart is. The people, the mentality, the nature. All of it. I'm super blessed.
-The Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the ability we have to repent and to be made clean before God.

Thanksgiving is always a time that I love, as I am always reminded of how much I actually have. I'm truly blessed. 



LE MIRACLE DE LA SEMAINE
So, this week was hard. After your most solid amie gets baptized, you have a huge hole in your week as far as to what to do. All of this time that you spent teaching suddenly disappears into finding, which is probably the hardest and most frustrating part of the entire work.. In addition to this, most of our amis were either too busy to see us or not really willing to make time for us. THEN, on top of that, I was stricken with illness. Haha... I had the worst headache for like three days. I thought my brain was going to explode. But, it passed. 

Anyway, Saturday night planning session, I was just sitting on our couch discouraged and exhausted, just looking at another empty day when I thought of a woman that I had contacted on the bus two weeks ago, but for some reason never contacted. I don't know if I just forgot or what, but I didn't think about her until that Saturday evening. I sent her a text saying who I was and inviting her to church, not expecting much. Just after I sent the text, Elder LaPointe asked if I could send a text to the same person to invite them (inspiration) ANYWAY Later that evening she responded and said "Thanks, I'm doing great... maybe see you tomorrow." 

At that point, I'm just like.. well, at least she was nice enough to give us some hope but I kind of just blew it off I just kept thinking... "She isn't coming." That next morning, I going out the door, I just thought of how cool it would be if she did come... and I felt bad for my lack of faith, so I said a prayer asking for forgiveness and also so that Heavenly Father could touch her heart and mind and give her the desire to come. 

Church starts and she isn't there and I'm just like "Welp, at least I tried." but then as we are coming out of priesthood meeting, I see this woman, and she is talking to the Relief Society president! And I'm suddenly just filled with joy! I say a silent prayer of thanks and then start talking to her. She said that she really enjoyed relief society and that she heard a lot of things that she needed to hear.

So, we go to Gospel Principle class (which is just for amis and the ward missionaries and the full time missionaries) and our Ward mission leader asks the amis if they have any questions about the gospel and Elisa (the woman), raises her hand and asks why there are so many trials in this life. Our Ward mission leader gives a WONDERFUL explanation and then says.. " I don't really know you, but I just feel like you are going through a hard time right now.. lets talk after class." You could tell that she was touched by what he said. The spirit was so strong. In the midst of discussion, Frere Faudin (our ward mission leader) told her that she could get a blessing from the missionaries if she wanted and that it would really help her. During the discussion, a less active that we have been working with raises his hand and asks if he can speak and then turns to Elisa and testifies of the atonement and power of blessings. I was so touched. Just because of how everything worked out. 

We have been working with this less active for the entire time that I've been here and just now we are seeing a turn around with him. He has a lot of trials in his life and to see him be able to testify of the atonement touched me. The Lord is the Master planner. This less active had been prepared, through his difficulties and trials so that he could gain a greater knowledge and appreciate for the atonement of Jesus Christ--so that he could not only know more surely for himself, but so that he could testify to this woman that her trials can been lightened. 

I am always so astounded at the "web-work" of circumstances and little thing things all lining up at the same time and working out. And every single time, I know that it wasn't facilitated by chance or fate but it was something that was inspired, planned, and executed. 

Later that day, I looked up a reference that Frere Faudin gave me to ready about trials and I really liked it. 

2 Cor. 4:17   “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;”

The longer I am on my mission, the more I understand why hard things happen, and how blessed we are that Heavenly Father loves us enough to give us trials. Imagine how hard it would be to allow difficult things happen to someone you love, knowing they will come out stronger and smarter and in the long run it would be better for them, but knowing of the difficulties they would face. That's a tough choice, but the final decision is decided by love. 

As we endure our "light affliction, which is but for a moment," the end result is greater than anything that we could ever imagine. 

Coming back to our amie, Elisa, she told me right before she left, how thankful that she was to have come and how this is the path she wants to take. She also told me "I want to believe, I really do... but it is hard for me. I don't know if I can." She is searching and has been prepared for a long time. I can't wait to teach her again. After such a hard week, a miracle like this was much needed and a huge testimony builder for me of God's love for His children. 

The Lord is preparing people right now and it is our job to find them. 

I love you all so much. You make me a better person. Trust the Lord and know how much He loves you.

Que nous soyons reconnaissants

Je vous aime!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Legality and Freezing Cold Water

I don't have a ton to write about this week but it was a good week that is for sure!

LEGALITY:
Well, since I have been in France for close to a year now, my visa had to be renewed. So this week I had to go to the Prefecture to go apply for a "carte de sejour". The mission tries to send missionaries to really small cities to do the legality of missionaries because prefectures are just giant messes in big cities (because there is only a certain amount of time that it is open and only a certain amount of people are helped each day)... so, I went to Aix en Provence to do mine, instead of Marseille. It was an interesting experience because Elder LaPointe and I were literally the only white people in the whole building. It was kind of funny. 

While we were waiting there was this man with a REALLY inappropriate ring tone... luckily he turned it off pretty quickly and left the building out of what I hope was pure shame... but anyway, I just thought I would share this because literally not one person, regardless of nationality, color, or age in that building, didn't look around awkwardly with an uncomfortable smile on their face. I just got kind of tickled because regardless of all the differences we have, we all cringe in awkward situations. lol.. So, hopefully I receive my carte de sejour soon so I can be legal in France :) 

FREEZING COLD WATER:
Well! This week we had a baptism! Hinaiti is officially a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Every time that something as sacred as this happens, I just treasure it so much. The entire day of the baptism I was just super happy because I knew that Hinaiti had made a good decision. I can't even imagine how happy our Heavenly Father feels when we make good choices. He loves us so, so much.


Well, for the baptism, the font took about three hours to fill up... And I wasn't about to leave that thing after what happened the last time I filled up a baptismal font... lol. Because it filled up so slow, the water got really, really cold. Like frigid. Apparently there was a problem with the heater because it normally isn't like that.  

So, about thirty minutes until the baptism a member comes up to me and asks me if I have felt the water and I say yes, and that it is cold and she is like "Well, what did you do wrong? She is going to get super cold!" So, this member starts mobilizing everyone she can recruit to start boiling water in the kitchen and microwaves to dump into the font... lol.  It was quite a sight. It didn’t make a difference but at least they tried. 

Elder LaPointe performed the ordinance. It was great. It was his first baptism during his mission. He said it was pretty cold. After the baptism, Hinaiti had a towel wrapped around her head as she walked into the chapel along with three blankets wrapped around her body... hahaha. I wanted a picture so bad but she took them off too fast. We gave her some apple cider to drink during the rest of the service. lol

It was so fulfilling to finally see her get baptized. I am really happy for her. We actually found out yesterday that they are going to go back to Tahiti this January :( . It makes me really sad to think that they are going to leave. There are so many people that I have met during my mission who will always be my friends.

Family Home Evening with the Ratsitohaina Family (They are from Madagascar)
.....

As each day passes, I grow to love the gospel more and more. It just makes sense that there is a plan for us in this life. I have seen the gospel change lives. I have seen it change Hinaiti and it is one of the biggest miracles of this life we can experience: to change ourselves through the atonement of Jesus Christ. 

I read this in a talk the other day and it really struck home for me: "A mission is not a sacrifice, but a privilege." It couldn’t have been any closer to the truth. Yes, I have sacrificed a few things to come on a mission but these are minuscule things in comparison to the things that I have learned and experienced. I will never regret my decision to serve a mission.

I love you!
Love,

Elder Johnson

Monday, November 10, 2014

A Taser?!

Well, we received transfer calls and Elder LaPointe and I are staying together here in Marseille! I'm not too surprised. Except, Elder LaPointe started his mission in Marseille and hasn't moved yet so he will probably be leaving next transfer... You don't hear of missionaries staying in their "birth ville" for such a long time. 

The elder in the middle is being transferred
Something interesting about this next transfer is that it is only going to be four weeks long (normally they are six weeks) but because of how the transfer dates fell, they were too close to Christmas and didn't want missionaries coming in or going out so close to Christmas. BUT, after this transfer there will be an 8-week transfer, so pray that I love whomever I am with at that moment ;)

This week has been a really good week. Nothing really in particular has happened but it was a solid week. We were able to teach a lot. We have been teaching here in Marseille more than anywhere else during my mission, by a lot. It is pretty cool. 

NOS AMIS
Hinaiti-This weekend we should have a baptism for sure! There aren't any stake or ward activities to mess with the date. It was announced in sacrament and everything. It is going to be so cool. 

Ever since Hinaiti and Henry have gotten married, she has been SO much more pleasant to be around. Not that she wasn't nice before but she doesn't fight with Henry as nearly as much and she really is just so full of happiness every time we see her now. I've said this before but one of my favorite things about my mission is being able to see how the gospel changes the lives of others. It is absolutely incredible.  I love it. 

Samuel- Samuel is starting to progress a lot more rapidly now. He is reading the Book of Mormon on his own and he is coming to church every Sunday. The only problem at this moment is that he is super busy with a thing called a stage. It is like shadowing someone's job and working with them for a week or two. Anyway, we can only see him once a week but he has promised to see us more as soon as he has more time. Which will be in like a week or two. I really feel like he is going to get baptized. Maybe not by us here in France but whether it is in France or Haiti I'm happy. 

Bakloy- She is the wife of a member and comes to church and pretty much is a member but isn't baptized. Our ward mission leader calls her a "membre s├Ęche" which means "dry member" lol. She is fun to teach because she loves the church already. She wants to eventually get sealed to her husband and children in the temple! She just doesn't want to leave her church at the moment. 


OLD LADIES AND...TASERS? 
So... For an old woman walking the streets of Marseille at night, it can be dangerous. Marseille is a big city and not everyone on the street has the best intentions.

So, Elder LaPointe and I are just walking the Prado (famous street in Marseille) contacting everyone that we see. It is starting to get a little dark but not that dark when I contact an older woman. When I am initially talking to her, she is acting kind of funny and I don't feel at ease talking to this old woman of all people. Anyway, she starts backing up a little as she is talking to me, pauses, and then advances...

Anyway, we keep talking and she isn't that interested but she is happy that we talked to her and then she pulls her hand out of her pocket and says, "Well, I don't have need of this!" And it was LITERALLY A CHARGED TASER! She was like, "You never know about people here in Marseille...!" YOU DON'T SAY?! Little old lady with a taser. I could have been tazed by an old lady with a taser. I was freaking out. I laughed SO hard when I realized that at the beginning of the conversation she was contemplating tazing me. HA. I lucked out. If I had gotten tazed, that would have been a story... 

After she turned off her taser she said  "You are young, your are beautiful... save your skins!" HA crazy lady. 

Anywayyyyy…

That is it for this week! OH! No it isn’t, so a couple weeks back our Ward mission leader bet us that we couldn't get ten amis to church between the two equips of elders. He said if we could, then he would take us out to eat wherever we wanted. Well, we got 10 amis to church and he bought us all you can eat Chinese. This place was class too. Holy freak. I ate so much. It was hard for me to work for the rest of the day.


I love you and hope everything is well across the pond!
Fiez vous au Seigneur!
Je vous aime!

Elder Johnson

Monday, November 3, 2014

Bordeaux and Back

The 7 hr train ride to Bordeaux

This week has been a blur! Holy Freak... this week went by so fast! Mostly because we had to travel so much - but still. Goodness. 

VOYAGE A BORDEAUX
So, this week we went to Bordeaux for a multi-zone conference. Montpellier, Bordeaux, Talence, Toulouse, and Aix Zone all came. There were so many missionaries! It was insane. I thought I knew most of the missionaries in the mission but apparently not. 

Anyway, after the short seven hours on the train from Marseille to Bordeaux, we all went to one of the apartments in Bordeaux. The entire zone stayed in one apartment, so it was pretty darn squishy but it was fun. I really got to know everyone in the zone. Who knew being in confined spaces with people over an extended period of time permitted you to get to know them?

The special thing about this conference was that Elder Kearon (Quorum of the 70) came and spoke to us with his wife. They both spoke at the Nice Conference with Elder Andersen. So we were really excited to hear from them again. Our mission has been really blessed with so many general authorities! Holy cow!

We woke up at about 5ish on Wednesday to get ready and head off to the Talence chapel. It was kind of bizarre to be in Bordeaux again. I feel like I have already been in Marseille forever but really it is just been a month and a half.

We got in and practiced some songs and then Elder Kearon and his wife came in. I've decided that general authorities are like the coolest people in the whole world. They are so inspired and always talented. 

The content of the conference was really very different from other conferences that we have had. President Roney challenged us to think of the blessings our future families will receive, thanks to our diligence and sacrifice now. It is interesting that if someone tells us to do something because it is good for us we may or may not do it, but if someone tells us something that will be good for our family we are way more likely to do it. haha

We have been super blessed to have had so many general authorities come. I wish you could experience the conferences like we do because you can't just write about them and it be the same. There is a spirit about the conferences like this, that is just incredible. 

NOS AMIS
So! We were in Bordeaux for three days this week (if you count travel) so we haven't been able to see all of our amis as much as we would have liked to. With that said, we were really blessed with how many lessons we were able to teach despite being gone for so long. 

Hinaiti- She is so ready to be baptized. We were going to do it this Saturday but then the bishop told us we needed to move the baptism date to NEXT Saturday because there is a priesthood meeting this Saturday. I really hope that both Elder LaPointe and I stay here because that will be sad if Hinaiti gets baptized right after one of us leaves. I mean, it is the same but it is kind of sad for the missionary. So not this Saturday but the next for sure.

Samuel- Samuel is doing good. We wish we could see him more but his schooling is pretty demanding. But he makes it to church every Sunday, which is awesome. Hope to get him a baptismal date soon. 

Salette and Auria- They are Brazilian. Elder Lapointe met them two transfers ago and we are just now starting to teach them. They are sick though. They are Catholic and practicing but they really like us and we have some pretty good discussions. 

ONE YEAR
This last week, I hit the big year mark. It is crazy bizarre to me. I don't understand it. haha. I just feel like I'm going to be a missionary forever and I'm perfectly okay with that! Hahaha. Being a missionary is awesome! I feel like missionaries are so happy and I was thinking why are we so happy all of the time, because sometimes it is really hard and the circumstances aren't so fun. But we are happy all of the time because we live the gospel to the fullest. The more that we give our will to the Lord's, the happier and safer we will be. 

One year. It just passes so fast. But hey, I still have another year and plenty of work to do :) 

I love you all. I wish everyone could taste of the lasting happiness the gospel of Jesus Christ so freely gives. 

Que Dieu soit avec Vous!
Je vous aime!

Elder Johnson