Monday, June 29, 2015

Friendship Rocks and Lessons from what Rude People Say

Hello family and friends! 

Soooo.. this week was interesting! 

This week we had two exchanges! We had one with the Zone Leaders and the other one with the District leader. So! For the first exchange we went to Toulouse for P-Day. That was sick. Toulouse is really pretty. I think I talk about it all the time but it is a city made out of red brick. We walked around and did touristyyy things before we date some dinner at McDo (McDonalds) and then headed out to do work.

Elder Johnson with Elder Duckworth

I was with Elder Duckworth (same transfer age as me) and we talked a lot about how fast the mission has gone by and how much the mission has changed over the course of being here. It was funny to reflect. We also vented about how everyone tells you not to get trunky but then every single missionary that talks to you makes a joke about how you are almost dead and to not get trunky. It is annoying mais je m'en fiche. I'm still just going to work hard. 

Trunky: Is when a missionary thinking about coming home all the time during his last months, and probably doesn’t put forth much effort of slacks off in his/her work. 

We were walking in this huge square, stopped to take a picture when two women on bikes nearly run us over... afterwards they yelled, "Today, we run over the MORMONS! MUWAHAHA!" and then they peddled off... hahaha I laughed so stinking hard. At least they knew who we were? 

The other exchange we went on was with the Montauban elders. I went to Montauban and Elder Steadman stayed in Albi. Montauban used to be a sister ville so it was funny to be there. Let's just say, I prefer Albi. It is about the same size, maybe a little bigger and about an hour west of us. But the people were so stinking mean there! I don't know if there was something in the air that day or what but I have never been rejected so hard. But, we did find some nice people towards the end so it was okay. 

During our exchange, after walking nearly half an hour, we didn't have the keys to the apartment. So, Elder Dunn (the one that sends creed all of the cool car pictures) and I called all of the members to see if they had a key to our apartment. We eventually got a key to the church, taught a few lessons, and then bounced back to Toulouse to stay the night with the zone leaders. I am glad we didn't have to sleep in the church.

Elder Johnson and Elder Dunn

Cool mini miracle. We are sitting in the gare waiting for the train and I am SO thirsty... like, about to die of thirst. I look in my bag and I only have a euro fifty in change and all of the drinks are two euros. Elder Dunn goes up to the machine and buys a drink and it gives him fifty cents back... Huh? So I try with my euro fifty and it works!!!! hahaha. I have never been so happy. The price was marked wrong :) 

This happened a few weeks ago... but it bothered me ever since I heard it. So, we contacted this woman and she is talking to us and and then she says... "You are wasting your time. God has no use of you. I find it sad that you think you are spending your time wisely in doing this when really it doesn't even matter. He does what HE wants to. Live your life.” 

This bothered me so stinking much. The more I thought about it the more it bothered me. I knew it wasn't true but it still put weird questions in my head. Am I wasting my time? Being rejected everyday? That sounds like a waste of time to me... This just added to the fact we have been having a really hard time to find people to teach recently.

I think what bothered me the most is that this woman was genuine in what she was saying. She really did feel like we were wasting our time and had pity on us. 

So then I prayed to find some peace because of this woman! It really just kept coming back to me every night. Then I was reading in the Book of Mormon, Alma 37:7 “ And the Lord God doth work by means to bring about his great and eternal purposes; and by very small means the Lord doth confound the wise and bringeth about the salvation of many souls.”

And suddenly what this woman said to me sounded really stupid. Of course God can do anything. But He works in mysterious ways, small and simple ways to bring about the salvation of man. I may not be able to even make a dent in the amount of people that need to hear the gospel, but I can take comfort in knowing what I am doing is making a difference. 

FRIENDSHIP ROCKS (or are they stones?)
Okay, funny thing of the week. This will probably be more funny to my family than everyone else that reads this but oh well...
We visited a member this week who is a little particular. She is super, super nice and she is a master scriptorian but a little eccentric. Anyway. After the end of our rendezvous with her... she was like, “I was gardening when I found this heart shaped rock after I had said a prayer to gain a stronger testimony of God's love for me.” Okay, so cool experience. It is a neat little miracle. Then she is "I then looked for stones for each one of you and I charged them with good energy!" hahaha. She called them either friendship rocks or rocks of gratitude. But the thing is the ENTIRE time she was explaining these rocks to us, I was thinking about "Gentleman Broncos" and when you have to blow on the friendship stone and then throw it into the water.... I'm trying so hard not to laugh because she hasn't said anything funny but I am beside myself trying not to. I truly take after my mother. :) 

It is super hot... like high 80s low 90s. It is killer. I'm melting. 

Train strikes ruin everything...

This week we got lost in the car going to a rendezvous to a members house and ended up getting in at 11 PM

Brigittes daughters aren't doing so hot. Brigitte is doing better though.

Eda said she is coming to my wedding when I get married.

OH! I'm not going to be second counselor anymore! :) I'm happy about that. It is good that members are doing it.

And that is it! I hope you all have a wonderful week!
I love you!
Elder Johnson :) 


Monday, June 22, 2015

Au REVOIR et Nouveau Branche Président

Farewell to President and Sister Roney

Hello dearest family and friends! 

Quite a few things went down this week! 

So! This last Monday we took a train trip to Bordeaux to say goodbye to President and Sister Roney. They gave us their "final" words. President said he wanted to give us the most important "word of wisdom" that he could give us before he "dies". He talked a lot about trials and their importance in this life. 

President's mother passed away during his mission and he said it was one of the hardest things he ever experienced but he wouldn't have had it any other way. It sounds weird, but the fact of the matter is, with the gospel the most horrific, catastrophic events in our lives can become beautiful examples of success and growth. It is simply a matter of perspective. He talked about how he was able to touch the hearts of many people of whom he would not have been able to touch if it had not been for this trial in his life. He and his family came out stronger because they chose to act with the perspective of the gospel in mind.

I think what struck me the most during the conference was the phrase "We should not be afraid of what is going to happen to us. We should be afraid of how we are going to react in the face of what comes our way." It doesn't matter what happens to us in this life. It doesn't matter. It matters how we react. We have the choice to either diminish or grow our faith in the face of trials. 

After the Roney's parting words they gave us a print of a painting that they have in their home of Jesus washing the apostle’s feet, took a photo with each missionary and then gave us a hug. BOTH President AND Sister Roney! It wasn't really weird hugging Sister Roney though because she is practically a second mom to all of the missionaries... but some Elders were like... uh, really? hahaha. It was a little weird to hug a woman quand même. 

So... Brigitte is going through so much stinking crap it is unbelievable. I have never seen so much opposition! Her daughters are just doing really, really bad things and it is stressing her out a lot. I won't go into detail because it isn't important but I will say that Brigitte is a trooper. She is trying so hard to do what is right. Pray for her!

To make her feel better we went over to her house and made a cheesecake with her. I have come understand a little bit more of my calling as a missionary visiting her... every time we go in there is a sad, heavy feeling and then when we leave it is happy and uplifted. It is so awesome being a missionary. *in the picture you will see her friend Eric... who is pretty much Slash. He is awesome. 

Making a cheesecake with Brigitte and "Slash"

Ambre is doing well. She didn't come to church but I know she will soon. I know it! She is also facing some weird out of the blue opposition. She will come through though. I have faith! 

We visit an older woman named Mimi every week to give her the sacrament and honestly, she is the most hilarious person I know in the entire world. She tries to speak English to us and I almost die from laughter every time. 

We taught her what a selfie was this last Sunday... She likes the concept. 

So... I'm not second counselor anymore! Shweew! hahaha.. We had the stake president come and call a new Branch President,Frere Bernardi, super dope guy. All the members were like, “Aren't you so happy to be released?” and I'm like.. uh? I've only been here for like three weeks. But a little birdy told us that I will be called again in three weeks... So. I get a three week vacation. ha. 

It is a good change for the branch. Everyone has a new energy and they want to do everything the correct way all of the sudden. It is awesome. We just need to run with it. haha. :) Anyway! Yep! That is it for this week! :) 

I love you all! 
Que Dieu vous bénisse
Elder Johnson 

Monday, June 15, 2015

Fake Alcohol and Mixed Emotions

Elder Cameron Johnson and Karine

So! What a week! Things this week in Albi were sick. Elder Steadman and I are having a lot of fun and doing some good work.

We went and saw Eda two times this week. The first time was to have her meet Elder Steadman (whom she calls "Steve" because Steadman is just too hard for her). She fed us a nice simple meal of a salad and some cold cut meats and baguette. She invited us over Wednesday because it was actually the day that marked a year since the death of her husband. She was a little sad but doing very well considering. I talked with her sister on the phone (who is a member in the UK) and she thanked us for taking care of her sister and teaching her. She said that she has been praying for a long time that her sister would join the church. That was cool to hear.

We went back Saturday to do some garden work for Eda because with all of the rain that we have been having her garden was invaded by weeds. We put two good hours of work in and got most of the important stuff weeded. The trick was finding the good plants and not tearing them out. After our work, she tried to pay us again and I told her that she cannot pay us! Ha ha! She said "Fine, I'm going to give it to the church then!" Hahaha!  I told her that would be good :)  She fed us a really good meal.  She even cracked out some foie gras (which is normally eaten at Christmas or really special events). AND some fake alcoholic drink. She said she wanted us to try it because she thought it was good.. It wasn't my favorite but it was different. If anything, if alcoholic drinks taste like what we drank... I'm not missing out on anything. It was just pretty funny though because she was insistent that we try it. And of course we took photos.

The FAKE stuff

Elder Steadman 

Brigitte is doing alright. She is facing so much opposition in her life. She is being faithful though... but my goodness. I have seen the hand and work of God during my mission but conversely I have seen the work of the devil too. He is throwing everything he can at Brigitte right now. Her daughters are doing some pretty stupid stuff and it is really sad.

But Brigitte says it is become more natural for her to pray when bad things happen to her. She is sad and tired of all of the opposition but she has gained a better perspective and she knows that her "afflictions are but a small moment". I'm so thankful she is choosing to trust the Lord and not giving up. Pray for her! She is a trooper.

We went and visited Ambre, a less active with a non-member husband and three adorable kids. She is a HILARIOUS person. She gives all of the missionaries nicknames. Mine is "Elder Mexican" and Elder Steadman's is "Elder Spiderman". I see so much potential in her. She wants to come back to church but there is stuff she has to change that is going to be hard. Her husband is really nice too, and open to listen to the gospel. She loves to make fun of us when we don't understand what she says... but she talks super fast and mumbles on purpose. This week we went over and ate dinner with them. They made some good pizza and salad. Whenever her kids do something annoying or weird she just looks up in the sky and says: "Je voulais un hamster..." I wanted a hamster... hahaha. Goodness. She says she is going to try to come to church this next week. We shall see.

Ambre Children

Tomorrow we are traveling to Bordeaux to say goodbye to President and Sister Roney. It kills me they are leaving. To be honest, I feel like a big part of my mission is dying with them leaving. They are such good people. I never even remotely expected to be so attached to my mission president. I truly love them. I'm so grateful to have had their influence in my life. They have taught me so much! Goodness. So much mushy lovey stuff but seriously! 

But I know that it is what needs to happen. President has been talking about it a lot about how mission presidents are called at specific times for specific reasons. I'm sure I will love the Browns and that they are what the mission needs. But I'm not saying it is going to be easy at first.

This week we had stake conference and their  was a re-transmission in Albi.... I had to set it up and it stinking stressed the crap out of me because I couldn't get it to work and we had like 30 minutes until before it started. I started getting super frustrated and then just said a little prayer in my heart and things got sorted out. Thank goodness. Unfortunately, the cable they sent it wasn't long enough to move the TV anywhere so we had to watch it in the office of the Branch President.  Which is super tiny. Both fortunately and unfortunately, 13 people showed up and we all fit inside.  Four of those people were missionaries  and four others were Anglophone visitors and the other five are one family in the branch. It is pretty funny and small. I think most of the members actually went to Toulouse for the conference. The Bernardis fed everyone after the conference. Very kind of them :)
That is it for this week!  I love you so much!

Stake Conference in the very small office. 

Gros bisous
Elder Johnson

PS- Cool tender mercy! I called a less active that we visit in Castres from time to time and someone else answers the phone, one of her friends. and I recognize her voice and I say... Karine? AND IT WAS HER! She was a recent convert when I served in Bordeaux. I talked to her a lot because she had questions about Africans in the church and the priesthood. It was soooo cool to see her again! Super funny.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

TRANSFER # 3 in Albi

Well! Transfers have rolled around again and I'm staying in Albi! This is the first time that I will stay for more than three months in a ville since I started my mission in Lyon. Pretty crazy, huh? I can't believe how fast this last transfer flew by. Elder Strong and I have had a great time together. But all things must come to an end... Elder Strong left for Valence and now I have Elder Steadman as my companion. He is pretty cool. He is from Sandy, UT and he came in the same group as Elder Acheson so he is starting his fourth transfer. His French is really good for how old he is in the mission. I'm excited to serve with him. I hope he is excited to drive. 

This email is kinda going to be a huge blob of disorganized though and feelings. I'm trying to think what happened this last week and I honestly couldn't tell you. Is that bad? I think I am turning into my mom. C'est la vieillesse. ;) 

Ami hunting has been kinda tough recently. I don't know why. There is quiet a bit of oppostion recently. I think it is the summer heat... maybe? But we aren't letting ourselves get down. We are just going to keep talking to as many people as possible with the faith that God has prepared people in our area. 

I've been thinking a lot about my time left in the mission and how now is really my time to shine. I speak the language. I know all of the lessons. I have a solid doctrinal understanding of the scriptures. Now it is just time to give it my all. At the beginning of the mission you struggle with the language and the lessons. You struggle with the scheduling and the logistics of being a missionary. Those things aren't even worries anymore. Just full speed ahead. 

Something cool that happened this week...we FINALLY got to see the Famille Leroy! We weren't able to see them the entire transfer up until now, because of their baby and work. We were a little worried it was because we had invited them to be baptized and then they got cold feet but it ended up just being life that got in the way. They were really happy to see us and we, happy to see them. Every time I see them I see this little celestial family just waiting to happen. I want so desperately for them to join the church and go to the temple. 

That is about it for this week! I love you all! I hope you are not melting in the heat like I am. I have just been sweating perpetually since Monday... it is fantastic. :) 

Avec amour,
Elder Johnson

Monday, June 1, 2015

Time, It's Flying By.

Hi Everyone. Another week has gone by. All the weeks just blur together. I feel like I write the same things ever week when but I think it just feels like that because I have to ask myself... did I do that last week or this week? 

This week I was talking with a less active and I started kind of complaining about how fast time goes and how I'm a little worried because of how fast that it is going that I might not be enjoying my mission as deeply as a can be. I went on for a little bit and then the less active said to me... I think you can have a better perspective. They then continued... when your life is going fast it means that you are occupied, that you are engaged in something and that you have something that you are working towards. Life goes fast when you are enjoying yourself because you are using your life to the fullest. Life is slow when we aren't enjoying ourselves and when we wish time would go faster. It is usually when we don't have anything to do or we are lonely. 

I had never really thought about it like that before. I am really thankful that I had the opportunity to talk to this less active member of the church, because it did make me feel like I was just looking at things in the wrong light. Life is best when it is flying by. :) 

We finally got our iPads. They are pretty awesome tools. I like them. I think the coolest thing about them for the moment is that we have so many resources within our reach with such little space or weight taken. The gospel library is so cool. You can take notes and highlight and make tags and have scriptures on certain subjects all grouped together. It is really useful. 

Another thing I really like about them are the language learning apps on them. They are really fun and useful. They make language study more efficient. 

I'm just thankful for the opportunity that I have to be a part of the first wave of missionaries using the iPads. We have been promised that once we have social media on them and that if we use them correctly we can double the amount of people we are teaching. That would be awesome. 

So this week we went to Rodez to do an exchange with Elder Gossel and Elder Keller. They serve in the same branch as us but they live about an hour north of Albi. The best part of the entire exchange was when Elder Gossel and I ran into a 90 year old woman while we were porting. She opened the door and looked super surprised and then said, “Well, are you going to come in or not?” She was super delightful. Obviously we didn't go in because she was alone but we spent a good 30 minutes talking to her at her door. 

She asked what church we were from and we said "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints" Then she said, "Oh! That is my church!" lol In the course of her conversation she said just before we knocked on her door, she had been praying to have someone visit her because she was feeling really lonely and depressed. She then told us "You are truly representatives of Jesus Christ". 

As we were walking down the stairs after just finishing our conversation with her, I realized that we had been the answer to someone's prayer. And that really touched me. It isn't by chance that we decided to port her building. Her building had five floors and she was the only one that opened her door and talked to us. 

I thought about how we probably are never going to see this little old woman ever again. She probably isn't going to get baptized. We didn't teach her a lesson at her door. We didn't do anything with her that we could "count". But she had testified to us that we were the Lord's servants. It made me think about a conference talk that I had read this last week. It says something like "the most important acts of service are recognized by God alone." I'm just so happy to have been able to be in the right place at the right time. 

ALSO! BRIGITTE FIXED HER OWN BAPTISMAL DATE! She prayed and prayed and prayed and she said she wants to get baptized the 5th of September. It isn't as soon I would have personally liked but that is her answer so too bad for me! It isn't my decision, it is between her and the the Lord. I'm super happy she finally realized she had received an answer. 

Yeah…that was this week! 

Je vous aime

Elder Johnson