Tuesday, September 24, 2013

September 23, 2013

Well, it was another great week. I just love life.
We didn’t have to do a lot of tracing this week, which is a huge blessing in my eyes. We had p-day on Monday, New missionary training on Tuesday, district meeting and lunch on Wednesday, MCM on Thursday, interviews and planning on Friday, and a full day of appointments on Saturday... needless to say, it was a busy week. I always knew that God would send me to the area that I needed to be; I assumed that there were a few people that I would meet throughout my mission that I needed to meet. But that is a great understatement. Because I have met so many wonderful people that have changed my perspective and impacted my life.

To name a few: my companion. Hermana Child is an amazing missionary with all of her priorities in the right place. She is a great teacher and trainer and her testimony is simple and powerful. My favorite hours of the day are personal study and companionship study because we get to share everything we learned with each other. She is so good at applying scriptures and doctrine in her life, and is continually striving to be a better person. Sister Colburn and Sister Thompson: they are the two sister missionaries (English) in our area. They live a few apartments away from us so every morning we get to work out with them and we carpool to all our meetings together. They have to serve in English and they help me to appreciate my mission so much more (Spanish is hard but it’s that greatest thing that has ever happened to me- there is something about being rejected in English that hurts a little more). They are having a pretty hard time but I have learned so much from their examples and their positive attitudes.
I have developed so much love and appreciation for the families and members of our branch. I learn something new every lesson.
Also, President and Sister Fenn are such great examples to me! President Fenn is truely an amazing person. He is a great example of selfless service. I have learned so much from him, and I look forward to every meeting because he is such a powerful speaker. I’m talking general authority-type of powerful! Every time he speaks you stop and pay attention because you can feel that he is a representative of the Lord. He is so wise and so loving... In Zone Conference he gave a powerful talk about the principles of mortality.
He started out by saying "I want you all to know about the first principle of mortality. It is that Life was not intended to be easy." I guess that is the moment when I snapped into reality a little bit. But he continued to explain that just like life, your mission is not meant to be easy. That is not why we were sent to earth. We were sent here to prove ourselves worth of the blessings and glory of eternal life. The lord gives us trials because, in His infinite wisdom, He knows just how much He can push us and stretch us so we will become who we were meant to become. God knows exactly when He needs to intervene... and more often than not, the trial or tribulation will not be taken away. But He promises that if you have faith and patience, you will be strengthened to bear them. Christ is your personal Savior, He knows you personally. He knows your trials and your burdens because He has personalized them just for you. He knows when to let you walk and when to carry you. It is up to us to have enough trust in them to know that they will step in when the time is right; to realize that God trust you enough to make it another day, another week, another month. This is because they understand the importance of experience... I think that every person is the sum total of their experiences. That is why everyone is so different and unique but we all have strengths and weaknesses. But it’s all part of the plan. So we should be grateful for the experiences that we are given. And it is our responsibility to learn from the opportunities presented to us. This knowledge should give us that perfect brightness of hope. Because we know, it isn’t until after the trial that we receive the reward - which in an eternal perspective - is incomprehendable joy and eternal life... which is pretty cool!

Anyway, Elgin is wonderful! The work is slow but little by little we are trying to align our vision with Gods.

I hope everyone is doing well! Thanks for the pictures, looks like you had a great time in Idaho! I  miss you all a lot and pray for you every night!!!!
Talk to you soon!!

Love Hermana Johnson

September 16, 2013

Hola familia!!
Wow, that made me so happy to see the picture of you and the Barajas! I cant believe they actually called you! I hope it was a good experience, sorry I should have warned you... we visit their family often because Daniel is her sabrino (the one on date for the end of this month!) That is so cool that they met you! I should have thought to send them with my letters and such for all of you!
First of all, I am supposed to ask if you received a harvester letter from the mission office this week, if not I need to let them know.
Second of all, I will answer your questions mom:
Unfortunately I haven’t been able to print off or keep my emails in one spot like I would like, but they are all in my inbox so maybe one day when I get home, I can print them out.
I received your very first package (in the cute pink and green envelope) Thank you again!!!! But that is the only mail/package that I have received up until now... We have a meeting this week so maybe there will be something waiting for me there.
I LOVE my companion!! She is amazing and we get along so well!!!
The milk allergy.... well I eat what I am given, it’s as simple as that. But I really haven’t had any big problems... besides gaining a little weight :)
We have a target semi close by which is where we have to buy our groceries (because we are on a mile-budget as well) So unfortunately we don’t get a lot of fresh produce and its overpriced food, but we do what we can. I promise that we are eating enough.
So this week was awesome! We had some really good days mixed in with some not-so-productive days... A lot of door knocking... but so success.
Its amazing how you can see that Lords hand in your life so frequently when you are looking for it. I am loving the work and the opportunity to be a part of it!!
We worked hard to put together an activity for our branch this week- we had a cultural night. We have members from many different countries and everyone made food from their culture. We had a talent show and ate... We spent all day inviting everyone we could... We probably had 30 people there which was a miracle!! They said that was the most successful activity they have ever had! And it was a lot of fun! I even played guitar and sang in the talent show. We had our investigator there so we were able to stay for the whole thing. I love learning about the different cultures and everyone is so proud of their countries, it was a really neat experience. And the food was great!
One miracle: I have been praying for more support from the ward. We only have about 3-4 active families that hold the ward together and about 30 less-active/inactive families - so we spend a lot of time with them. This week, we had 3 different sisters offer to accompany us on citas. They said they felt like they need to strengthen their testimonies on missionary work and asked if we would like them to come.... They have absolutely no idea how much that means to us. When someone offers to come... it really is a miracle and we are so grateful!! I know God has been answering our prayers!
This week I have been working on the Christ-like attribute of Diligence. The gospel is such a blessing because there are always ways that we can be improving and bettering ourselves... My end goal is to become like Christ. Unfortunately it is a life-long pursuit... Preach My Gospel on page 123 says, "Changing to become like Christ requires exercising faith, repenting, keeping covenants, receiving an increased measure of the spirit, and enduring to the end. We strive to be like Christ - He is the perfect example of diligence. Christ continually worked under the direction of the Father, He never gave into temptation. He helped all who pleaded with Him and gave his time to bless over 2000 people when he appeared in the Americas. He let them one-by-one touch His hands. He was diligent in that He never wasted time because He had a purpose... We too have a purpose. I have a purpose here and must be diligent with my time and continually seeking to do the Fathers will. I am on the Lords time; It is such a privilege to represent Christ!
I know Christ lives and He knows us perfectly!!
I love you all so much and pray for you every day!!
Love Hermana Johnson
Please let me know if I can do anything for you!!
PS: mom I may need you to send my winter clothes sooner than expected... Its starting to get a little chilly - I know its going to be an extremely expensive package but I would love to have some tights, thick socks, scarves, sweaters, gloves, hat/ear band... Maybe a hoodie for mornings... And anything else could fit. I would be eternally grateful!!! LOVE YOU!

September 9, 2013

Family and Friends!
First off... HAPPY BIRTHDAY ALEX!!! I cant belive you are 17!!! Life goes so fast!! And before you know it, you will be out of high school and on a mission like me! Its crazy! I hope you have the greatest birthday ever, no one deserves it more than you!!!
So this has been an interesting week. Everyday i am reminded of how many people there are in the world and how many people are living without the knowledge and blessings of the gospel. I have developed such a love for people that I didnt even know exisited a month ago. Everyone is so unique and lead different lives, its amazing that our Heavenly Father loves all of them so much. I know that my Heavenly Father loves me and knows me personally, which means that God loves every single person, no matter their circumstance. No matter their flaws or struggles, Christ knows them perfectly. And He knows exactly what we are feeling and experiencing... Which is very comforting to me because I can only try to imagine how they feel, but Christ knows. That is why it is so difficult... because Christ has suffered for everyone, and those people that dont except His Atonement think they must suffer alone. But I have a testimony that because Christ suffered, we dont have to suffer alone. That knowledge is such a blessing in my life!
Funny event of the week:
Last week we had a lesson with a less active family, La familia Harvey. After our lesson we asked her to introduce us to a neighber that might be interested in learning more. So we knocked and met Alda. She was very friendly and seemed a little interested so we scheduled to come back next tuesday.... Fast forward to the next week, and we walk up to her door. We look in, and see 10-15 people sitting in the family room holding bibles. At that point Hermana Child and I looked at each other and almost turned around to walk away. Alda opened the door and asked us to come in. And we took a seat. A man began to read and preach from the bible saying something like... (from what i understood from his spanish) The bible is the only word of God. The bible is the only thing that we need to study, and if anyone tries to make you believe any different, you cannot believe it because we know that only the bible contains the words of God..." so on and so forth... This went on for about 5-10min until my brave companion raised her hand and said, "have you ever heard about the Book of Mormon?"
It turns out that they belong to a non-denominational religion and were very anti-mormon (which would be an understatement). We tried to explain our purpose and how the Book of Mormon helps us understand the Bible and how we have a prophet today, etc. And after about an hour and a half (of course, we couldnt leave until we had born our testimonies and left an invitation) we stood up, left a Book of Mormon on the table, shook all 15 hands, and walked out the door. We made it about 2 steps and couldnt hold our laughter in any longer. A very memerable experience to say the least.
This thursday we had a zone conference. It lasted from 7am to about 5. It was one of the greatest meetings I have ever been to. President Fenn is such a powerful speaker and so strong in the Gospel. He truely is a man called of God. He taught us about the Book of Mormon and Jospeh Smith. We spoke alot about holding on and pressing forward in times of trial.
"The problem is, we want to see the end from the beginning... But we must learn to walk to the very end of the light and then a few steps into the darkness." We know in Ether 12:6 it instructs, dispute not because you see not, because we cant receive the witness until after the trial of your faith... If we knew the result from the beginning then their would be no need for faith. And all men must walk by faith in this life. We must continue in faith, to press forward, because the times when we are closest to giving up are the times God can mold us into what we are to become.
We must always remember, it is not for us to say when the trial of faith is over. It is only after the trial that the miracle will come. So carry on and press forward with a perfect brightness of hope with trust in Gods promise - becasue we know after the trial comes the miracle.
I love you all so much!! Thank you for all you do and all your prayers! Thanks for you encouraging words and support! You are my motivation everyday to keep pushing forward!
Let me know if I can do anything for you!
Love hermana johnson

Thursday, September 5, 2013

September 3, 2013

Hola Familia,
Sorry i didnt write yesterday, because of the Holiday they moved our pday to tuesday. Anyway, thanks for all of your letters and the pictures you send. I love hearing about your lives, honestly it helps me alot to know that you are all doing well. Sorry for not being able to write you all back specifically, I really want to but I dont have alot of time... but I will send letters. But really, thanks for writing!
So Elgin... It is great! I really love this city, our area is not too big, we can get from one end to the other in about 30 min. There are 2 other sets of elders in our branch, one in carpentersvile and one in south elgin. The people here are really nice and very friendly. Most people are willing to talk with us and let us practice our spanish. Right now we are working really hard to make our little spanish branch into a ward. There are only a couple families that consistantly come to church each sunday and hold the branch together. The branch president, Pres. Rios is an AMAZING man! His family dedicates so much time to serving the Lord and they have really strong testimonies. There are a few members that are nice enough to sacrifice their time to come with us on appointments... and our mission leader, Hermano Portocarero, is really helpful and devoted. I never realized before how many people need to be involved in order to make a branch and mission successful. Its amazing and inspiring to me that so many people are willing to sacrifice their time to serve. I know they are blessed but I want to express my appreciation to everyone that gives their time and effort to building up their ward and helping the missionaries.
Anyway, we have quite a few recent converts (and people that have only been members for a few years) that are menos activo - less active or inactive. To be honest, we have more inactives than actives. It gives me a lot of respect for those people that grow up in a church outside of Utah, I never realized how easy it was because all of my friends went to church. But here, a lot of the youth we work with, have to fight to be memebers. And its even harder because many times they are from part member homes or their parents dont support them. I cant imagine how difficult that would be. So we have been working with alot of inactives and less active women and families. It is really hard for me to see people fall away from the church becuase I am just now realizing how difficult it is to bring someone into it... Anyway, the families are always very nice and many times they invite us in and offer us food (a lot of Mexican food) and we teach a lesson. I have some peoples lives change because we were willing to spend a couple hours a week helping them feel the spirit agian. Its really an amazing blessing for me, I think I am beginning to understand what it feels like to be an instrument in the Lords hands.
This week we taught Daniel Baraja, the nephew of a recent convert. He is staying with her family for a few years and we started teaching him the week I got here. We sat him down and started teaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Then we felt like we should ask him how he really felt about everything. Because often we come to visit the family and talk, and eat and teach... we told him that really we were there for him. Because we want to teach him and help him understand his purpose on this earth, and to help him develop a relationship with his Heavenly Father, etc. And we extended a baptisimal commitment... and it was terrifying.
But he accepted! The date is Sep. 28. He said that he knows what we have taught is is true and the right thing for his life. He knows that living this way makes him happy and he wants to progress. There is still alot more that we need to teach him and he needs to gain a testimony of, but he has a date and a goal. And he is truly understanding the blessings that the gospel has to offer.
For personal study this morning, I studied about families. I have learned alot while on my mission but the greatest blessing I have received is a stronger appreciation for my family. I love you guys more than you will ever know. We meet and talk to so many people everyday. Everyone has challenges and struggles in their lives. It breaks your heart to see people that suffer so much. And I have come to find that the greatest problems often stem from family relationships. The prophet has always said that Satan is making a concentrated atack on families but i never realized how true this was until I come here. He is working so hard to destroy families because he knows how important they are to Gods plan. I feel like so much hard ache and pain in the world could be improved if people understood the importance of their family.
I learned: family is the most important social unit on this earth and in the eternities. Parents have a responsibility to raise their family with a foundation in the gospel. (2 Ne 25:26, Jacob3:10, Mosiah 4:15, D&C 68:25; 93:40). In D&C 130:2 it says that same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there, only it will be coupled with eternal glory, which glory we do not now enjoy. The way i understand this is that the joy and love that we receive with our families on this earth will be coupled with an eternal joy and happiness that im pretty sure we cant comprehend. I love this gospel and I am so very blessed to have an eternal family. I couldnt ask for any greater blessing than to have a family that loves me so much!! Thank you for your wonderful examples and your faithfulness. I am so thankful that we get to be an eternal family!! And even though it is hard for me to be away from you, I receive motivation from knowing that no matter what happens, we can be together forever. And if i can help someone else, in Chicago, feel this same joy, than all my time will be worth the sacrifice. 
I love you guys more than you know! Thanks for your letters and prayers. Thanks for your examples and your love!
PMG pg. 85 says "Heaven is a continuation of an ideal home."   I dont really know what that would look like, but I cant wait to experience it :)
Love Hermana Johnson
PS  if you ever send a letter, or package, send it to the mission office, and they will send it to me.
I dont think that I need anything... maybe some pictures if you havent sent them yet.
(and some yoga workouts from melissa if you have a min... with all this mexican food i have gained a little weight.)

August 24, 2013

Hola Familia!!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM!!! I am so so sorry, I promise i didnt forget, i just didnt realize i wouldnt have a P-day before this monday... i feel like its been such a long time since i emailed you! But I hope you had an amazing birthday and did something fun!!! (I really hope my letter got to you on time!!)
Wow a lot has changed since I emailed you last!!! One week ago I was in Mexico and now Im living the life in Chicago. I cant believe I am actually here, sometimes I forget that Im back in the US. Its amazing though. Last monday was long, it started at 2am when we left for the airport and flew all day. We met President Fenn and the Mission leaders and drove to downersgrove to the office and mission home. We spent the night there and the next morning I met my trainer, Hermana Child!! She is amazing!! We get along so well, probably too well... we are basically the same person, except she has red hair and can speak spanish. I love her so much and am learning everything that i can from her. She has an amazing testimony and an increadible love for people. She works so hard and truly desires to help people... not just with the 'tip of the iceburg' problems... She prays and works so hard in order to help people overcome their concerns and answer the questions of their souls. I am so lucky to have her.
After one full week of missionary work, I have learned SO much. As for the spanish, I am going to need you all to pray harder for me :) Its pretty rough not being able to speak or understand people, I so desperatly want to help teach and better fulfill my purpose but my spanish, if anything, is regressing since the MTC. However, I am determined to work harder... I have a study plan and Im determined to learn this language. So all your prayers are welcome!!
I have met so many wonderful people!! I am learning alot about the hispanic culture and sometimes it catches me off guard. An hour lesson flys because every time you ask a question people just start rambling for hours (it feel) and they go off on tangents and stand up to get food and offer you a drink, and turn up their novela... Its very difficult to have peoples undivided attention. But when you do, amazing things happen. I truely have felt lessons guided by the spirit. And you can feel a distinct difference when you know you are saying exactly what the Lord would tell them if He was here. Its an amazing feeling.
The Work:
First off, the work is amazing... and inspired, and 100% directed by the Hand of the Lord.
We are working on making our branch into a ward ... (I have been assigned to Elgin South by the way) - Elgin is a beautiful area, everything is so green and there are trees everywhere. There are a lot of hispanics and alot of work to be done. Our branch is pretty weak so we are trying to work more with the Menos Activos, so everyone will come back to church and help strenthen the new members.
The Barajas are a member family that are inactive. We visited them twice this week, they have 3 older sons and their nephew Daniel, is living with them from Mexico. We have been teaching him the lessons and are praying that we can put him on date to be baptized very soon. Its just difficult because there is always so much going on at their house that we cant sit down and teach very well... But he has felt the sprit and knows that what we teach him is true..
So many miracles this week... but the greatest happened yesterday with Miguel. Miguel is a man the sisters met the day before I arrived. He rode up to them on his bike and asked if they were missionaries. They gave him a book of mormon and he asked if they would come over and talk to him about it more. So we visited him on wednesday. He is in his mid 20 with tattoos and a pretty 'tough' appearance. Its amazing how the spirit can soften peoples hearts... but the first lesson was a disaster!! We took an older member of the ward and they started fighting about the holy spirit and she started rambling off about things that were not doctrine... (i think, i was trying to follow along but my spanish is not quite up to par...)  Anyway, we tried to clear some things up... long story short, Gods work will not be frustrated. Even though it was a terrible lesson, he wanted us to return to learn more. He even called us that night to ask if he could come to church, when we told him that is was actually stake conference this weekend and the church was about 25 min away, he said "okay, well will you send me the address?" And, he came!!! And it was a miracle, and everyone spoke about the holy ghost (which was one of his big questions) and he felt the spirit... He wants to repent and learn more. He hadn't been to church in over 14 years so it took a lot of faith for him to come. I cant wait to see what happens, but we need everyone's prayers to help us follow the spirit and know what to say.
The Christlike attribute i am working on this week is HOPE. Hope is manifest in confidence, optimism, enthusiasm, and patient perseverance... believing and expecting that something will occur. Its a trust in Gods promises and a faith that if we act, God will bless us.Hope is sure, unwavering, and active which leads us to be sure, steadfast, and always abounding in good works!  Ether 12:4, Alma 22:16.
So thats my challenge this week... strive and pray to have a perfect hope!! Know that no matter what happens, we can have a hope in the gospel that everything will work together for good!!!
Well, I have so much more to tell you! and so much more to say!!  But unfortunatly, I am out of time! I cant wait to tell you more, I miss you guys so much and I send all my love!!!
Thanks for all of your amazing examples!!
Hermana Johnson
The computer I'm on wont let me send pictures... hopefully next week i will be able to.

Also, thank you SOOO much for the package and letter with my ID... I got them both. Packages can only be sent to the mission home in Downers Grove but you can send letters to my apartment.