Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The best 2 years.... or 5 months

I’ve been intending to write a follow up post of my mission now that my mission is “over” and it has slowly turned into more of a novel but here it is.

Last fall I lived a life that I thought was great, I was running better than I ever had, I was doing great in school, I had lots of friends by my side that supported and loved me, and a family that was always there for me. I had no reason to have a desire to change my life everything was going great, I don’t know what I would have changed if I could change anything.

I didn’t have a desire to serve a mission. Most of the guys that I hung around in high school were all so excited to serve missions right when they got out of high school and that’s almost all they could talk about it seemed like. I never understood why, I didn’t have a desire to go. I just wanted to go to college and start working towards a degree. All of that changed in about 2 hours. One night while with some friends I suddenly got a strong desire to turn my life in a whole new direction and serve a mission. I chose to turn my life towards the lord. Im thankful I was living my life in a way at that time that I could heed the call I was given to serve a mission.

In early November right before xc practice I got a text from my mom with a picture of my mission call. Going on an hour run and then lifting after can often feel kinda long but that days workout felt like forever the entire 60 minutes all I could think about was getting done so I could go home and open up my call. I thought about serving in some crazy foreign mission that would be really tough and would be a really exciting adventure with a whole lot of firsts. I would look down at my watch probably every 2 or 3 minutes, that just made it feel a lot longer, but eventually the 60 minutes were up and I had finished my workout in the weight room and I ran off to my car to drive back to Kaysville and open my call.

When I opened the letter and read I was going to Arkansas I was so excited, I didn’t care I wasn’t going to south America or Africa or Europe or anywhere foreign. Plenty of people would ask me if I was disappointed at staying in the states but my answer was always the same, im going to the best mission in the world.

I had 5 weeks to prepare for my mission, along with finishing up my first semester at weber, and a few big races in my first season as a collegiate athlete. It was a very stressful time but at the same time I finally began to understand why all my high school friends were so excited to go on there missions, it was all I could think about. I was so excited to get off to the MTC! I dreamed of being the greatest missionary possible and knowing the scriptures like the back of my hand, getting lots of baptisms, and have a great time with all of my companions.

December 18th came really fast surprisingly, im glad I didn’t have to wait as long as most missionaries have to wait to leave because five weeks was plenty long for me, I was ready to go.

The MTC wasn’t all that I expected but my knowledge of the scriptures probably tripled in the short 2 weeks I was there. By day 3 I was getting really anxious to get out of there and into Arkansas.

                Once in Arkansas I really enjoyed being a missionary. I had lots of fun with my companions, made a lot of great memories, had awesome experiences, served a lot of people, worked really hard, and learned a lot. It was definitely such a big growing experience in my life that will effect me for the rest of my life. I don’t think there is anything else I would rather have been doing for those 4 months.

I have written about most of my experiences in the MTC and mission field in previous posts so I wont go into a lot of detail about that, but what I wanted to focus most of this post on is the events that brought it to an end.

Missionary work is hard, it was a challenge to me and I loved that. For as long as I can remember I have had lots of trials and challenges pushing me to my limits. I have seen a good share of them in sports and in many other aspects of my life. I’ve gotten to a point where I almost enjoy them, I love seeing how much I can endure before I can’t go on. I guess that’s why I like running so much, the whole point of the sport is pushing the limits. The rigorous lifestyle of being a missionary along with the minimal time I was allowed to run brought out a new challenge in my life that had previously been hidden. I was diagnosed with MDD a medically diagnosed depression due to a chemical imbalance in my brain. This new challenge in my life made every day seem like there was no hope and that I was all alone. The feeling of being alone is almost impossible to explain and is unlike any other challenge I have ever faced. It is such an empty feeling and because of that empty feeling there is no one in your mind you can turn to for help. It is a never ending cycle of pain. I saw several doctors and counselors to try and deal with this challenge which brought a little bit of temporal relief. Talking with my president about it he said that we would do all that we could in the field to take care of this problem but if it continued to get worse I would have to be sent home for further help. He knew as well as I that I would be dealing with some challenges and that the lord would guide us in right direction.

It was a Saturday afternoon and I was sitting in the chapel of the pinnacle mountain church right across the street from my apartment. I was enjoying my second session of general conference as a missionary when my brain was suddenly flooded with various thoughts. I was attacked with thoughts about never being able to run again, losing my friends back home, never getting back up to speed in school, and of course all of the stressful day to day tasks as a missionary.

I stood up and walked out of the chapel to go get a drink to calm all of this anxiety. My companion didn’t fallow because the drinking fountain was just outside the door we were sitting by so I went alone. Almost instantly after standing up I started to feel dazed, I was light headed and started to breathe uncontrollably. I had never felt so out of it.

On the way back from the drinking fountain I was out of breath, which was very odd for someone who previously ran 13-18 miles every day compared to the 15 ft  I walked to the drinking fountain. I quickly sat down on the couch in the foyer of the church. My breathing rate continued to increase as did my heart rate. 5 minutes later elder Nielson finally walked out the door to see why it was taking me so long to get a drink just outside the door. He looked over and saw me sitting on the couch breathing really rapidly and pale as a ghost.

He knew instantly something was wrong and quickly ran back into the chapel to grab someone to give me a blessing and to call 911. When he came back out I was laying down on the couch and had lost control of just about every muscle in my body. They had all tightened up to a point where I couldn’t move anything. As bishop Tobler and my companion began to give me a blessing I went unconscious I don’t remember anything about that blessing except for hearing my name at the beginning. Even with all that was going on, I remember feeling peace in hearing my first name again. I really missed hearing it, all anyone had ever called me for 4 months was Elder Johnson. It’s a great title to have but at that moment it gave me comfort to hear that name I had heard thousands of times in my life.

Next thing I knew there were 3 paramedics standing in front of me with a stretcher. I was still breathing rapidly and couldn’t move. After about 10 minutes of them trying to calm me down, I was finally somewhat in control of my body. The paramedics told me that they were required to take me to the hospital for precautionary reasons unless I signed some form they had on some massive iPad looking thing. I really didn’t want this to be a big deal, going to the hospital would just make the situation worse than it already was. I managed to literally scribble a few circles on the signature line and that’s all. It looked nothing like my signature but it was good enough for them, they packed up and left me lying on the couch with at this time probably 20 members from the ward.

My mission president and his wife showed up just as everything was calming down. I was able to talk with my president for a little bit at the church but was later brought to the mission home to watch the priesthood session with him so he could keep an eye on me.

Before priesthood started President Peterson pulled me into his office to talk about the situation. After dealing with severe depression and now this random attack he was very concerned and was considering sending me home. We talked for quite a while and made a few phone calls to my parents, to my stake president, and to my heavenly father through prayer. At that time neither of us had the answer. I didn’t know what would be best for me, the mission, and for anyone else involved and neither did President Peterson. We decided it would be best to just wait for the answer and enjoy the remaining talks in that evening’s session.

The next morning I got a phone call from President Peterson. He asked me what feelings I had gotten in the last 12 hours about going home. The night before I prayed hard, I didn’t stop until got my answer. I kneeled there in reverence for probably 20 minutes before I got a strong feeling of peace and gratitude about the service I had put in. I knew that heavenly father was telling me that my mission in Arkansas was finished, but I also knew that my mission wasn’t over yet. President Peterson’s reply was very similar to what I had said to him.

I always pictured returning from a mission as a happy joyous occasion, a time when everyone celebrated and was excited to see you again. My experience was not anywhere near what I had pictured earlier in my life. While my family was happy to see me and was very supportive of this big change, I didn’t know how I felt about it. In my mind I was a failure. I finished 4 of 24 months… that’s only a sixth of what “normal missionaries” serve. I’ve always been a bit of a perfectionist so that was nowhere near the standards I had set for myself. The worst part of it all was seeing the reactions I got from friends when they saw me for the first time. All of them acted surprised and confused, many of them tried to give me sympathy and told me everything would be ok, and some, even some close friends, looked at me in disgust like I was a failure and was no longer good enough to be there friend. The sad part is that’s exactly how I felt too. This definitely wasn’t helping the tough situation I was already in.

I continued to pray and ask daily if this is really the plan that my life is supposed to follow. Every time I prayed I received the same answer confirming to me and giving me comfort that my mission is in Utah right now. I was sent home for medical reasons but why im in Utah right now is still a mystery to me. I just need to continue to have trust that god knows why im in Utah and that 4 months is all he intended for me to serve in Arkansas. Its not the customary time period that everyone here in Utah expects you to serve, but that’s ok because if theres one thing that I learned while being on my mission its that god has a plan for every one of us individually and that there will be trials along the way.

Slowly as things began to feel more normal for me I began to see doctors and counselors to try and fix the problems I was having. I was prescribed medicine, asked a million different questions, and went to countless appointments, but the most beneficial part of all of these appointments came within the first ten minutes of my first visit. I was talking with a LDS family services counselor when the topic of honorable return missionaries came up. He taught me that no matter how long you serve, how hard you serve, or whether you were a zone leader, district leader, or assistant to the president all your church records will say under the mission box is the name of the mission you served in. We are all honorable return missionaries and we all deserve to be treated that way. There is no difference between me and someone that served a full two years. He used the analogy of a soldier going off to war. If they are wounded in battle they are sent home early before the war ends. When they return home they are treated like heroes. They are given countless awards recognized by thousands, and thanked by everyone. Although it is not seen the same way for injured missionaries that return home, that is how it should be. We gave it our all and fought in the war against Satan. Not everyone is going to make it through this war unharmed, we took a hit for the team, gods team.

                Often times so much emphasis is put on becoming a RM the most important parts of our missions are overlooked, like going through the temple and the conversion of the most important people in our missions ourselves. A mission isn’t a 2 year thing, it’s a life long thing. Too many missionaries come home from there missions and fall away. With that falling away they lose the two most important things that they gained in the last 2 years, there worthiness to go through the temple and the conversion to a Christ like life that they worked so hard to gain for themselves. I hope that I can continue to live my life in a way to have these two important things in my life forever, because missions don’t end when we step off the plane they are still just beginning. Called to serve!

                I think for most people its not that they mean anything bad towards missionaries that return home early for various reasons but they just don’t know what to do. It takes everyone by surprise just as much as it takes the missionary by surprise. If I were to give any advice to people that know missionaries that have come home early is to just be there friend no matter what. Whether they had an honorable release, a medical release, or a dishonorable release we are all striving for the same goal of eternal life and we cant do it alone. The main focus should be on working towards the temple and keeping the covenants we make there and that is what I continue to do.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A new path...

Elder Johnson has had some extreme medical conditions for the past couple months with depression and anxiety.  He has had some severe attacks that have left him with seizure like symptoms with paramedics by his side.  The doctors in Arkansas have tried to control these symptoms in the field, but things are not improving.  Conference weekend was one of prayers from us, his mission president, our stake president, and the doctors, that we would all know and feel at peace with the road that Elder Johnson needed to be on right now to get him healthy.   Through prayer and listening to conference with this concern on our minds, we all felt overwhelming peace that Elder Johnson needed to return home to address these medical conditions at this time.  We're not exactly sure what road lies ahead for Preston, but we do know and have felt the Lord's hand guide him and us in this decision and He will continue to do so as Preston returns and seeks out help to become healthy again.  Yes, we do have unanswered questions, as to why, but that is not our focus and we will move forward with faith that our Heavenly Father has a plan for Preston and with His guidance he will continue with the mission Heavenly Father has for him at this point in his life.

 We had to take one more picture because the guy taking the picture at the airport, cut off the bottom of the sign!!
Once we picked him up at the airport, we went on a picnic and then I bet you can't guess the first things he did when he got home...
Elder Johnson got released that evening by President Taylor.  What a great stake president with great advice for Preston as he begins this new path.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

As if conference wasn't good enough...

Just as I was thinking conference couldn't get any better, BONUS, I got pictures of Elder Johnson...

Friday, April 4, 2014

Thankful for Sister Missionaries who like to take pictures...

Again on a week that Elder Johnson didn't send much of an email, other than it was a rough week, low and behold pictures with Elder Johnson in them from a Sister missionary pop up on her mom's site...Thank you Sister Goudie!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Service and Struggles...Week 12 in Arkansas

This week was a rather busy week, we had lots of service we were assigned to do slowing the missionary work down a little bit but the service days are usually some of my favorite days. Tuesday we helped paint a non members house and had pizza after which a rather nice service project and flew by but wednesday we had another service project that wasnt quite as nice as the first one. we got a call to go help a old lady move and we figured it would probably only take an hour since she was single and lived in a tiny appartment. when we pulled up to the appartment there were five other sets of missionaries sitting outside waiting to start. we were all wondering why we needed so many missionaries to clean such a small appartment but once we opened the door we found out why. the entire appartment was trashed, full of half full boxes, garbage thrown everywhere, cat hair all over the floor, mold on some of the walls, old diapers everywhere, and a old lady asleep on the couch. she was a big cat lover and a hoarder as well. every room in the appartment looked just like the first one we had seen. we had twelve missionaries working for 4 and a half hours to clean and pack all her stuff and we didnt even finish. it was really disgusting. everyone felt pretty sick afterwords, I felt alright until friday I think it caught up to me and I was sick all day. Saturday was a really sad day for me and my companion. one transfer before I got here a guy named mike sykes was baptized into the church. he was the only member of his family that wasnt a member. he had a wife and four kids, one of them just a few months old. they had always been struggling  to pay the rent and make it by but they managed to finally move into a small house they could afford. among all this they have been a less active family so we would go visit them 2 to 3 times a week to talk with them and invite them to read the scriptures and come to church. over this time we had become really good friends with mike. we were going to visit them this saturday but on the way to his house we got a call from sister beavers, mikes step mom and a member of our ward telling us that mike had just committed suicide. it was really hard to see something like that happen to that family. leslie, mikes wife, has been left without a job, 3 teenagers, and a new baby to take care of by herself. keep there family in your prayers! other than that not much happened last week. this upcoming week is transfers but me and my companion will be staying here unless they pull a fast one on us. miss you all! hope all is going well for yall!
Love elder Johnson

Monday, March 17, 2014

An Alma experience in Arkansas, prayers at church and speaking at firesides...week 10 in Arkansas

Thanks for the email! this week felt like it went by really slow to me but a lot happened this last weekend. on friday we were teaching Andrew (less active) and Phillip (investigator) phillip has recently been in a really bad mood and im pretty sure he hates us but every now and then andrew forces him to come and listen to us with him. friday was one of those days where we got to teach both of them. we had already taught them both all the lessons in preach my gospel so I picked a story from the book of mormon that I had read in my studies that morning. I chose the story of alma the younger (mosiah chapter 27) . for those that arent familiar with the story it is about alma the son of alma the prophet. unlike his father he tried to destroy the church instead of trying to help it. one day as alma and his friends were trying to destroy the church an angel appeared to him and it says he was shaken and commanded to repent. after he repented he became a faithful member of the church. After we read the story I was bearing my testimony. in the middle of my testimony Andrew started having  a seizure and fell onto the floor. we quickly moved all the furniture away from him so he wouldnt hit something amongst all his shaking. after he stopped shaking he layed there motionless for 2 hours. during that time he laid there we gave him a blessing and then just waited. once he woke up he was fine. apparently he has had seizures like this before and he wasnt worried about it at all but I thought it was really ironic that that happened after reading almas story. 
we were also supposed to have lots of investigators at church this week. we had 7 investigators say they would come to church. sunday morning we drive around with a member picking everyone up and unfortunately all 7 of them dont answer there door or say they cant come, so the day started off pretty bad. in the middle of sacrament meeting I said a prayer in my heart asking for just one person to show up to church. after the prayer I didnt think much about it till the middle of sunday school when some guy I had never seen before walked in the doors, sat down, and started listening to the lesson. we went over and talked to him after the lesson was over and he said that he had just moved in across the street and was looking for a church to go to so he came to ours. we offered to come over to his house after church to tell him about our church and he agreed. we went to his house right after church and shared a quick lesson with him and then invited him to be baptized on the 29th and he accepted.
Last night I also had to speak at a youth fireside on missionary work. I had a good 5 hour notice that I was speaking at it and a few minutes to prepare, but I felt like it went really well! anyway congrats to weber basketball on making it into the ncaa tournament and for jared taking 4th at ncaas! Thats really exciting!  keep up the good work!
Miss you all,
Love Elder Johnson

In last weeks email Elder Johnson mentioned making a dessert with his companion called "Don't Ask"  well, Ryan and Kelton both asked, so they got a picture with the ingredients so they could make it at home...I don't think so!

 This is a picture of a slum area...love what Elder Johnson and his companion wrote on the chalboard!
 Not sure why I got this picture, other than Elder Johnson has a silly (or sick) sense of humor...
 Elder Johnson's sporting a new haircut (and he was the proud barber, yet another talent he has) and some new mustaches...the Charly Chaplain stache
 and the Hitler stache
He did mention that 'President made him shave them off'  :)

Monday, March 10, 2014

Cooking experiments, sweaty appointments and more investigators...week 9 in Arkansas

Another week has gone by, I feel like i am writing these letters all the time. I hope all is going well for everyone back home. this week we lost a lot of our key investigators. phillip randomly told us that he didnt want to talk with us anymore, and zettie has stopped answering the door when we come and I know she is home because she never leaves her appartment. other than those two investigators everything is going great and we had a rather successful week we set a few more baptism dates and found a lot of investigators. most the week we just walked around on the streets because my tire exploded on my bike a couple weeks ago and I havent bought a new tube yet and we are way over miles on our car. (He mentioned in another email he was so glad when his tire popped cause he was able to run fast alongside his companion on his
bike even though he was in his suit to their next appointment--he arrived a little sweaty but he was in heaven running). We found a new family that moved in across the street from our church that is really excited about the things we have taught them and know that is true. they were planning on coming to church but they ended up in the emergency room of the hospital instead. she is alright and is doing great now, her wrist just randomly started swelling.
I am starting to get sick of eating waffles pasta and oatmeal for every meal so I am starting to actually cook things now. I usually just throw a bunch of random food items in a pan and stick it in the oven or blend it all together in the blender. Most of the things I make end up tasting disgusting but every now and then I get a new recipe that is worth keeping. we made a dessert called "dont ask" made with 3 jars of icing a whole bag of m&m's some reeses, whoppers, and snickers, and food coloring all mixed together in a bowl (didnt eat much of that, kinda unhealthy). I dont usually make unhealthy things like that, Ive also created a new vegetable soup recipe, green smoothies, and a vegetable pasta sauce. 
Good luck to everyone putting there mission papers in this next few months, id love to hear where you are all going!
Love elder Johnson

Monday, March 3, 2014

Crazy weather, Hospital visits, Working hard with a great companion...week 8 in Arkansas

This week has gone by really fast and I honestly cant even remember all that has happened this week. I was able to give a lot of blessings at the hospital this week. I am hoping to hear back from the families of the people I gave to blessings to but so far I havn't heard from any of them. One of the guys I met in the hospital had surgery on his lungs and something went wrong during surgery and he was expected to not make it very much longer. before we got to the hospital to give this guy a blessing the computer system shut down in the hospital and it made it really hard to find this guy that was supposed to pass away any day. it took us over an hour to track him down and find him in this hospital but being able to serve him with the priesthood that I have been given made all the time it took to find him worth it. whether gods will is to have him move on or to heal him I know that he will be alright. hopefully that family will call me back sometime soon, I would love to hear how he is doing.
a couple weeks ago I got a new companion and I have really enjoyed being his companion. after struggling through the first transfer I feel like I am enjoying everything about my missions a lot more now that I have a companion that I get a long with. we have a lot in common and have been working really hard these last 3 weeks. although almost all of our baptismal dates have fallen through we have still taught more lessons, found more investigators, and invited more people to be baptised than I ever have previously in the short time I have been out here. we currently have one baptism that is supposed to take place on the 15th for phillip. we also had Zettie, a kinda crazy lady, come to church yesterday that wants to get baptised but is struggling with giving up smoking.
The weather in arkansas this weekend has been really bad. currently there is probably an inch of ice covering all of little rock. it was pouring rain and ice all night last night.
Last week we climbed the biggest mountain around for p day, which in arkansas isnt very big its more like a hill but it was still pretty exciting. we got to go rock climbing and got to see some of arkansas out of the city area. I dont have much to write about this week, but all is going well! hope everything is going alright back home! miss you all!
Love elder Johnson

Monday, February 24, 2014

Thank goodness for sister missionaries...

So Elder Johnson didn't say too much in his email home today, but luckily a sister missionary, Sister Goudie posted some pictures of what they did on their PDay--hiking and raking leaves, sounds fun!  From the looks of the pictures, the weather looks just about perfect.  Unfortunately, that's all I know about his week, except they were on bikes all week and didn't get to run much because they were sooo busy.  I'm sure they're busy doing great things, hopefully next week I'll hear more about those great things.  Elder Johnson's companion, Elder Nielson is the one in the light green shirt and I think they get along really well.                                                     

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Gotta love pictures...especially when they're of Elder Johnson

Elder Johnson must have been bored on his P Day (either that or he got tired of me asking for visual proof that he's alive) because I finally got some pictures, yay!
Everyone in the MTC called this look on Elder Johnson's face...the gazelle look!

His favorite...Elder Steed!

Sister Armstrong--Elijah Armstrong's (the runner) sister

The Gazelle boys

Snow in Little Rock!


1st baptism

Monday, February 17, 2014

New companion, same area, epic 3 days--week 7 in Arkansas

A lot happened this week out here in arkansas. The first big event of the week was transfers on wednesday. elder Nielson is my new companion. He is from Rexburg Idaho and loves adventure sports, mountain biking, BMX, etc. He has been in oxford mississippi for his whole mission so far and has been out for a total of 7 months. He was actually my last companions companion in the MTC. luckily hes ok with getting up at 6 everyday to workout so I still get a pretty good run in everyday, but im getting really sick of the treadmill, 2 straight months of only running on a treadmill. we have worked really hard these last few days and have had a lot of success with a great story to go with it. On thursday we focused the entire day to finding new people and setting appointments with them to come back and teach lessons. I believe we found 11 new investigators that day and taught 9 quick lessons. which is more lessons and investigators I have ever had in a day. Friday started out really slow, no one was answering there door and several of our appointments with our new investigators had fallen through already. it was dinner time and we had two more appointments set up for that night one with a old lady named Zettie and another with Erika, both were single ladies and we werent aloud to teach them in there homes without a ward member with us. we quickly called several of our most reliable ward members to come out with us, but with it being valentines day everyone had other plans. we decided that we would probably be able to teach zettie from on the porch but we probably wouldnt be able to teach erika on the porch through the door because she has a baby that cant be in the cold for very long. We got to zetties appartment and began teaching her about the restoration and gave her a book of mormon. she said that she had read part of it before but that she had always thought that it was taking away from the bible instead of adding to it. (she loves the bible, she has 24 copies of it) we invited her to be baptized on the 1st of march and she accepted. after we left me and elder nielson were both really excited and we were getting out our phone to text the baptism date to some of the other missionaries when brother hiatt called. I had never met brother hiatt before and I didnt even know who he was. he explained to us that his whole family was out of town except for him and so he didnt have any plans for valentines and that he had this feeling that he should call us and see if we needed any help. since he had offered to go we would be able to teach erika in her home and not have to skip the appointment. When we got to erikas house we expected we would be teaching just her but once we went inside her 4 kids and her mom were all there waiting to hear our message. we started teaching, which at first was very difficult since her mom (joann) would interrupt us constantly with scriptures from the bible making it very hard to stay on track. but eventually she went quiet and was just listening, until after we taught her about the first vision and then she started to tell us about a prayer she had said earlier that day about how she wanted guidance in her life and a new path to take. we then invited both her and erika to be baptized on the 1st of march and they both accepted. I know that brother hiatt was inspired to call us and offer us help that night so that we could visit erika and joann and help them come unto christ. The next day we re committed Phillip to baptism for the first of march as well. sunday we taught another new investigator we found name Aaron. he is kinda crazy but is a great guy he has 4 kids, one of which he named Phat king.... I almost started laughing when he was telling us there names. he loves scriptures as well, he had a rough life of being in and out of prison a few years back but changed his life around by going to a church down the street. we gave him a book of mormon the day we met him and he was really excited, he reads it to his kids everyday even though they are all 7 or younger and probably dont understand what he is reading. after a long lesson with him with lots of random comments from him about something he read in the book of mormon, which is good i guess but made it hard to stay on track, we invited him to be baptized on the 8th of marchand he accepted. with the help of the lord we were able to set 5 baptism dates in 3 days. we were really blessed to have so much success in one week. the whole last transfer we only set 3 dates and two of them fell through. in those three days we also found 15 new investigators and taught 15 other lessons along with 8 member lessons. we were really blessed to have that much success in those three days. ive never taught that many lessons in an entire week.
Love, elder johnson

Monday, February 10, 2014

Two months gone, staying in Little Rock with a new companion and best of all...a Baptism!

Hello to everyone back home! I miss you all a lot! Im super excited to hear about everyone signing with weber, the teams gonna be stacked in 2 years! cant wait to run with them again. congrats to everyone racing through this indoor season. I believe simplot is usually this weekend so good luck to everyone competing in idaho! DXC!! i have enjoyed a lot of running this week and got a good tempo run on the treadmill today, 3 miles in 15:27.
Transfers are coming up this next week and we got word yesterday that my companion, Elder Jardine, will be transfered somewhere and that I will be staying here unless something really unexpected happens at transfers this wednesday. So as of now I dont know who my companion will be this next transfer. im hoping I can be companions with an ultra marathoner I met last week. I would love to go on a long distance run every day. Along with elder jardine leaving there will be a lot more responsibility put onto me, which I think will be a good thing. I dont like not have responsibilities. I will have to teach the area to my new companion, im hoping I will get to be the designated driver because of that.
James Sears was scheduled to be baptized yesterday, but had a tough challenge of not smoking for an entire week to have the baptism go through. we prayed and fasted twice for him at the beginning of the week and he was able to have the strength to completely stop smoking and be baptized yesterday. it was one of the greatest feelings I have had being out here watching the joy in his family as he was baptized and joined them in the church.
Last friday we had a blizzard here and got 3 inches of snow. doesnt sound like much compared to what we are used to in utah but here in the south none of the cities are equipped with equipment to handle the snow. so that three inches closed the entire city for 2 days. we were out on the roads as everyone was trying to get home and there were pile ups of cars everywhere and cop cars and fire trucks trying to help people all over the place. It took us an hour to drive a little under 2 miles, it was ridiculous! The area we live in is really hilly so at the bottom of all the hills there were always big groups of crashed cars. It was kinda funny seeing how cities react here compared to back in utah where 3 inches wouldnt be much snow at all.
Miss you all! hope everything is going great back home!
Love, Elder Johnson

Monday, February 3, 2014

Week 5 in Arkansas

I dont feel like much happened this week that is really exciting. On tuesday I got to go on exchanges with one of our zone leaders in conway so I was up there for tuesday and part of wednesday with Elder randall. That area is a lot cleaner and more of a nice area than the one I am in right now. The area im in now is the more rough part of town. I thought conway was a really cool area though. The members there seemed really supportive of missionary work and were lots of fun to work with. One of the houses I went to I was told was from the church of christ and we went in and started teaching and they were really rough and just criticized everything about our religion and were really rude. After a half hour of teaching everyone there just started laughing. apparently whenever there are exchanges they like to trick the new missionary and try and scare them, they all had been members there whole lives. They are a really cool family and they make great chocolate cake. while on exchanges I also met a ultra marathoner from washington. I finally found someone that loves to run and didnt think I was really weird. Thats another thing ive learned while Ive been here, runners are a lot different than the rest of the world. The rest of the week was really slow and included several "zero" days where we taught no one. We had been biking all week and it had been really hard contacting anyone. On saturday we had taught 5 of our goal 13 lessons so far that week and it was 34 degrees and pouring rain and all we had were bikes. we prayed for success and for investigators to be put in our paths to teach and that day we were able to teach 7 lessons. That was the most lessons my companion had ever taught in one day. The slow week turned out to be pretty successful. James baptism is scheduled for this sunday, but if he isnt successful in quitting smoking by tonight then it will be canceled. President wants him off smoking for a week before he can be baptized. Friday night we had a conference with elder L. Tom Perry. It was for all the leaders in our mission to try and encourage leaders in the wards to help the missionaries be more productive. Listening to him outside of general conference is a lot different than when it is general conference. He is really funny and it seemed like lots of his stories were jokes, he was really entertaining. He told us about how he always gives his card to nonmembers and tells them to bring it to a member show it to them and tell them that this guy wants you to share the gospel with me. The nonmember usually goes on to ask will they know who you are? and he replies by saying i dont know, maybe they will.
Transfers are in one week and I dont really have a opinion on whether I want to stay here or go somewhere else. I would like to go to memphis but if i leave then I will have to cancel my gym membership here and find a new gym there, sooo its a toss up.
Being in the south isnt as different as I had previously thought it would be. at least in the area i am in there are very few people that have bad southern accents or that eat any different food.
Love, Elder JohnsonWeek

Monday, January 27, 2014

Week 4 in Arkansas...water bottles, grace and baptisms

Another week has gone by, it seems like I was just writing my last email yesterday. This week has been a rather rough week though. lots of disapointment and lots of trials. Ill start with the bad news so I can end with something positive. On Wednesday we met with Phillip to finish up all of the last things we needed to talk about before he could be baptized.we were supposed to see him an hour prior at institute but he never showed up which is not like him it all, he is always so eager to do anything that has to do with church. when we knocked on his door it took him a while to answer and we were about to leave when he came outside and said that he wanted to talk to us about his baptism. we all talked for probably a half hour and ultimately it came to this. Phillip doesnt think he wants to come to our church because it would take him away from his fathers church which is his only connection he has with his dad. so he wont be getting baptized but he said he wants us to meet with him still and that he is still considering being baptized, so i guess its not all bad but a little disappointing.
Great job to everyone that raced this last weekend, thanks for all the results. keep up the good work! Galen rupps 2 mile sounds pretty exciting, running 8:07 indoors!!! thats crazy! thats the outdoors american record for a full sized track! cant wait to see what he does in outdoors this year! 

This week wasnt a very busy week either hardly anyone answered the door or even talked to us, got several false addresses, and I got a water bottle chucked at me from a car, at least I was thirsty.
We had a really good specialized training this week about grace. President showed us a talk by Brad wilcox on it, Im not sure what its called but it was really good, so if anyone has time to watch it or listen to it they should. We are very blessed because of our saviors grace and the atonement. The savior has gone through everything for us so that we dont have to be alone, we can always have help from someone who knows exactly what we are going through. Out here on a mission you hardly have anyone to turn to for help so knowing that the savior is always with us to help is very comforting. Make sure you always take advantage of that blessing because that gift has already been paid for by the savior in the garden of Gethsemane.
The positive news I said I would end with is that James is still planning on being baptized and has given up smoking! He will be baptized just in time for him to be able to get the priesthood and baptize his son! 
On to bike week! Have a great week!
love, elder Johnson

I think I found the talk Elder Johnson was referring too, if not, it's a good talk, too, just click on the link 

Brad Wilcox's talk on grace and the atonement
I was able to email talk with Elder Johnson for quite a bit today, it was great!  He shared some of his struggles, but right along with those, he was able to joke back and forth, it brought a smile to my face and a few giggles, and even some tears, I love (and miss) his sense of humor.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Week 3 in Arkansas--Kites, Aliens and Companions...ALL is well!

This last week has flown by, now that I am adjusting to being out here things really are flying by like almost every return missionary says they do. Not a lot happened this week. James Sears baptism was pushed back to the 15th of feb. so that his family could be in town and phillips is going to be on the 8th. I dont think I have written much about phillip. Phillip lives with two of his friends and all of them are heavily addicted to all sorts of drugs. at first I hated going to teach them because I would always leave there apartment light headed because of all the stuff I was breathing in. the first time I was there, there was so much smoke it looked like a fog machine was on in there. but as lessons have been progressing less and less smoke has been in the air and they have been more interested in what we have been teaching them. While phillips two friends arent cooperating as much phillip is completely changing. he always volunteers to say every prayer (opening and closing) read every scripture, dropped his families church, goes to institute, and is working on getting over his addictions. Without us telling him he had already given up several of the drugs he was on. we just invited him to throw away all of the drugs he has yesterday, later tonight we are going back over and we will find out if he was able to do it or not. He is set to be baptized on the 8th.
yesterday was stake conference. We had a lot of great talks all focused on assisting the missionaries, hopefully that will get the members going and get them to be more willing to help us. missionary work is heavily dependant on the members of the ward going out with the missionaries to teach lessons, finding referals for us, and feeding us. One of my favorite talks given at stake conference was given by my mission president, President Peterson. He gave a message about flying kites and that if we run with the wind our kite wont be able to rise into the sky but if we run against the wind we will be able to rise up into the sky. Its a lot easier to run with the wind or the ways of the world but being members of the chruch of jesus christ we cant run the way of the world. we need to run against the wind or the ways of the world so that we can rise up and return to heavenly father. Lots of the time the hardest thing is the right thing. going on a mission is hard, staying up or waking up early to read your scriptures is hard, sharing the gospel is hard, following all the commandments is hard but it is the hard things that will help us rise up and fly in the sky.
The area I am in right now is the ghetto part of town. Most of the houses are really beat up and there are lots of shady type people. the sisters are in the cleaner part of this area. one of our recent converts nephews was actually stabbed just the other day.
Being a missionary and talking to people about what they believe sometimes brings up weird conversations. This week I was visiting a older lady that was talking to us about how she believed Goliath was an alien. I never really understood why she thought that but she tried hard to convince us it was true.
I got a question asking about if I get a long with my companion very well and most the time I do but sometimes we dont, but I guess thats something you have to expect when you are with the same person 24/7. I think thats probably one of the harder things for me, I get really annoyed by him sometimes and then my desire to be a good companion is not usually there. Overall though I really think he has been a good trainer for me and taught me a lot and has worked really well with my stubbornness of waking up at 5:45 to workout.
Congrats to everyone that ran this last week in there indoor track meets, I love hearing how everyone is doing in there races. keep it up Davis and Weber!
Also really excited for Galen Rupp and his new american record in the indoor 5k! wish I could have watched it! Keep me updated on you guys and everything else! Have a great week, miss you all!
Love Elder Johnson

He also included this in an email to Kelton, which is great advice for us all, even if you're not a runner...

 I see all the benefits from the work ethic that I have built up over the last 5 years of running paying off over here. waking up as early as we do and then working hard till 10:30 at night is not easy and all the things you are doing now can determine what kind of person you are going to be in the future. work hard in everything you do because nothing defines a person better than working hard in school, life, sports, and everything. Give everything your all!!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Week 2 in Arkansas..Priesthood blessings and baptism dates!

Bonus Monday...got a few emails AND a letter in the mail, definitely enough to make us miss him a little bit less :)

In the letter in the mail he mentioned some of his favorite things in the mission field..running in the mornings, personal study time, food (especially dinner since ward members cook it for us) and teaching, even though people rarely answer their doors.  On his list of what he misses...family, friends, running shorts, the mountains and NAPS, most of that sounds like a pretty typical missionary :)

"Hello to everyone, This week has been really tough for me and has really questioned lots of my reasons for being here, at times I have felt like there is no reason for me being here and at times I just wanted to go home, but ultimately at the end of this week everything came together and all the doubts were gone. Lots of this last week all I have been able to think about is all the hard work I put into running and how quickly lots of it is going away. I am able to workout for a little while in the morning but it is definitely not enough time to stay in the kind of shape I want to be in. For lots of people It may look like a stupid reason to be so worried, but for me running and being in shape has meant so much to me. I know that satan is putting these doubts of not being able to get back into shape after my mission into my head to try and get me to go home and sometimes I really want to. One of these days that I felt this way I asked one of the spanish elders for a blessing. He had no idea why I needed a blessing or really anything about me. I really want to testify of the power of the priesthood. In this blessing I received answers and direction for so many specific questions I had prayed about earlier in the day, many of which talking about things before and after my mission. there is no way Elder Dalton could have known about the things in that blessing, I know that the priesthood is the ability to act in gods name because I have seen it influence my life so many times. I know that the lord will bless me for being here. Elder Ludwig (another spanish elder) told me this the other day, "you are spending two years doing whats important to your heavenly father, and I know that your heavenly father will help you with what is important in your life when you get back. The spirit testified of the truth of what he said and that has helped me to overcome my fears out here.

Although this week has had a lot of hard times it has also had a lot of success. Saturday night we committed Phillip and Gary to be baptized on the 25th of this month. Watching the progress they have made has been amazing. they both were heavily addicted to weed, smoking, and many other drugs and it has been so cool watching them progress to get off of there addictions with the help of the lord. unfortunately they werent able to make it to church yesterday so there baptisimal date has to be pushed a week back, but I know they are on the right path. We had another success last night when we got to go teach James Sears along with the mission president. James is the father of 4 kids and is married to a member of the church. Missionaries have been working with james for months now and last night after talking about the plan of salvation and gaining eternal life with your family he committed to being baptized on the 25th of this month. His wife was so happy to see him accept the gospel, she had been trying to get him to be baptized so that they could one day be sealed in the temple but never had success in trying to help him, you could tell how greatful she was for his decision to be baptized. 
My mom was asking what kind of things I do on P-day but this is only our 2nd one so we havnt done a whole lot yet. Last week we had a nerf war, played basketball in the gym on swivel chairs, and went to the gym. Today we are planning on playing soccer with all the missionaries in the area and then we will go to the gym again.
Have a great week!
Love, Elder Johnson"

Monday, January 6, 2014

1st week in Arkansas...

Hey everyone,
So I kinda expected it to be warm down here but it is freezing cold! I just washed the car and within one minute of rinsing it we had a layer of ice frozen around the car. It has been really cold and windy ever since I got here and with the humidity it makes it feel even more cold. I am always freezing here, I cant wait for spring time. 
So on tuesday around 2 in the morning we left the MTC and drove to the airport and was able to talk on the phone which I am really grateful I got to do. after talking for a while we flew to atlanta and then to arkansas where I met my mission president and mission mom. they are both really great people, they used to live in ogden before they were called to serve in arkansas. Sister peterson (mission mom) makes really good food as well, dinner there was the best meal ive had since I left for the MTC. New years was no different than any other day at the mission home though, we actually went to bed earlier than usual that night, but im definitely not complaining. We were all so tired after waking up at 2 and then traveling all day we went to bed at 9:30. The next day was our transfer meeting and I was assigned to serve in the Pinnacle Mountain area (Little rock area) with Elder Jardine. One of the first things Elder Jardine asked me when I met him is if I liked to work out and if I would go to the gym with him every morning. I was so relieved to hear that I would be able to run every morning. I have been really blessed so far with two companions that both allowed me to run everyday. I am generally able to get in 7 miles every morning. here is my new address,
7820 west capitol avenue appt 1305 Little rock, arkansas 72205 
It has been a really hard week. I expected lots of people to be slamming doors in my face but here no one even answers the door. Both wednesday and thursday not one of the houses we went to even opened the door. At that point I would have loved to have someone slam the door on us just so that I know that people actually live in this town.
One of our key investigators right now is Jarven. His mom is a diagnosed bipolar schizophrenic so he lives with his grandma. Jarven is so close to saying yes to baptism he is hesitant right now just because his grandma doesnt approve of baptism because she thinks we are forcing him to be baptized. we are hoping she will agree to letting him get baptized this month. He is currently reading the book of mormon by himself and attending church and Mutual activities every week. 
Aletha williams is our other investigator that will actually answer the door and we are hoping she will except our invitation to be baptized tonight. she allowed us to give her a blessing last night after she got home from having surgery done on her jaw. She has a lot of faith in her heavenly father.
Elder Jardine is from Pleasant grove utah and played on his schools soccer team, he has been out here for 6 months and has been in this area the whole time. We also hang out with the spanish elders a lot who live next door to us, Elder Dalton (arizona) and Elder Ludwig (Orem, Utah) 
The hardest thing for me right now is staying awake and finding my way around. Hopefully I will get it figured out really fast.
My typical Schedule is something like this
5:50 Wake up
6:00-6:45 gym time
7:00-8:00 Breakfast
8:00-9:00 Personal study
9:00-10:00 companionship study
10:00-11:00 training
11:00-12:00 Lunch
12:00-5:00 Teaching investigators
5:00-6:00 Dinner
6:00-9:00 teaching investigators
9:00-9:45 plan the next day
9:45-10:30 I use this time to workout
Our ward here feels really small compared to the ones back in utah but they are great people and support us in almost everything we do. they make us great meals like everyday and help all of our investigators feel like they are welcome in the ward. It seems like everyone here in our ward lived in utah at one point in there lives.

Love you all,
Elder Johnson

Thanks for thinking of Elder Johnson these past few weeks. He loves your letters and appreciates your prayers and concerns.  Your support keeps him going from day to day when things are tough and from what my missionary says, missions are tough, so please continue praying for him and sending your love. Thanks for all you do to support him

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

1st pictures from Arkansas--New Years Eve

Arkansas Little Rock's newest missionaries...

Elder Johnson and President and Sister Petersen
We were able to talk with Elder Johnson about 5:30 in the morning on New Years Eve as he was getting ready to fly out to Arkansas with a layover in Georgia first.  He had been up since 2:30 and at the airport since 3:30am.  He was excited to get settled and hopefully get some food and sleep at some point.  It was good to talk with him again and so comforting to know his mission president was there and waiting to welcome this bunch of fine missionaries.
Elder Johnson will be trained in Little Rock by Elder Jardine.  The Bishop of their ward texted me and said 'they enjoyed his testimony and we introduced him to an Arkansas New Years tradition with black eyed peas' and even better he sent a picture with his new companion.