Elder Eric Johnson
2516 Normandy Dr. SE Apt. 304-C
Grand Rapids, MI 49506

Please send letters or packages by First class or Priority Mail via U.S.P.S. so they can be forwarded to him.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

1/26/17 Fires, Playing the piano (!), Room cleaning

Dear family and friends,

It's crazy to think that in 20 days I'll be on a flight headed to Michigan. This week had a net positive feel to it, but had some hard parts. We don't have enough time in the day to really study Spanish as much as I want, and our teachers are only speaking Spanish now. I have to give my teachers 100% of my attention to be able to get what they are telling us. I often zone out, and it seems every time I do they call on me to answer something, that's not that fun. 
Admiring a Mexican moth

This week was the week of the fires. The CCM is surrounded on three sides by large hills/small mountains. Over the last 7 days there has been 5 wild fires on the mountains. The fires probably don't threaten the homes on the hills very much because they are of concrete construction. Most of the fires were pretty small, but the largest hill north of campus has a fairly large bowl with houses on the bottom and was covered with small dead brush. A fire broke out around lunch when we were in the cafeteria. It seemed to have started at one of the upper houses and spread up. It burned the whole face of the mountain and had a massive smoke cloud. 

This week was also the week of instruction. We are most of the way through week 4 and are finally getting some instructions on what we have to do during some of our designated study/preparation times. Throughout the day we have periods of time for planning, companion study, language study, and personal study. We haven't ever really used these times as they are designed because we were never really told exactly what is meant to fill the time. Everything points to teaching investigators, and we received this instruction after teaching "an especially boring lesson." Everyone was tired that day, and the lesson was the first thing we did after breakfast. We didn't relate why what we were teaching was important and the spirit was not there. Hermana Gonzales sat us down and asked us what we thought about the lesson. 

After we explained what we thought, she told us we need to plan better. Your planning time is used to figure out what each investigator needs to be taught. Personal study turns out you're supposed plan what topics would help the investigator and think about what the investigator needs to hear. During Companionship study you put everything together into a lesson, and during language study you learn the vocabulary for that lesson you need. I feel like we should have been told this a little earlier.... 

Yesterday there was a worldwide broadcast to all missionaries. There was a rule change that affects our schedule. Most rules are tailored to the region, but the main rule change gave more choice to missionaries in their daily activities. We are given an extra hour of sleep if we want it, and our various study times now have ranges of times they should fill instead of exact times. It wasn't as exciting and new as I had hoped. 

Sunday was another good day. Before church we had a branch counsel meeting. Our zone leaders have had some issues between themselves, as in they have very conflicting personalities and struggle with each other, but they gave a really good message on what it takes to have a successful companionship. One thing they shared was that when someone is criticizing you or correcting you in one way or another you should always look for the truth in what they are saying. 

One thing I do, especially when I'm being told off in Spanish, is I tend to ignore what they are saying and have a mind set that they don't know what they are talking about. It takes a little more to understand where they are coming from and apply the basic truths they are trying to help you out with. In the same meeting one of the sister trainer leaders in our district shared a quote from her dad, she said "you should leave your worst companion leaving them thinking they were your favorite." We should strive to treat everyone with love, even if they are really annoying.  

I played the hymns and Hermana Clayton conducted the music. Five people spoke on various topics about the Bible and Book of Mormon. I took the risk and didn't prepare a talk, which was really dumb but still paid off, because I figured if I'm playing the hymns and teaching the priesthood lesson there is no way I'm also giving a talk. My companions prepared a talk on how the Book of Mormon supports the Bible. Our topics this week are on the attributes of Christ. 

After Sacrament meeting, we have a district meeting which is typically good. That day we set goals for the week and reflected on the teachings from our branch presidencies. Priesthood meeting was taught by my companions and me. We taught about the power of the Holy Ghost. The first few minutes were a little awkward because no one was participating, and Elder Eeves was passed out in the back. After those few minutes we led a really good discussion on how as missionaries we can teach with the Holy Ghost and our duty is to always strive to have his companionship. We talked a little on obedience as well. 

Elder Eeves shared an interesting point about the Pharisees and obedience. The Pharisees were some of the most obedient people, but because they lacked the guidance of the Spirit, they missed the whole point. They were obedient but they weren't perfectly obedient. Elder Eeves then asked what is the difference between obedience and perfect obedience. He said perfect obedience is being exactly obedient, but also following the guidance of the spirit in every situation. We have a missionary manual with all our rules as missionaries, but if we had the companionship of the spirit always we wouldn't need the book. We closed our lesson with the message that ultimately as missionaries we can only do our best to teach the lessons. It's the Holy Spirit that really testifies of truth.

I almost made it through the CCM without getting in trouble. To preface, our room is pretty clean. It is not perfection, but it isn't dirty or unclean. We got a note on Saturday that we failed a cleaning check with some notes on what we need to fix and that we needed to find the CCM President's wife and tell her we fixed those few things. They asked us to put away our suitcases, but they were under a desk because they don't fit in the cupboard, and they asked us to take out the trash, which wasn't full and we don't know where to get more garbage bags. So like idiots we didn't look for her. On Tuesday we got a note saying meet to her at her office at 1 pm. We saw the note at 2:30..... so we walked over and she wasn't there. We left a note apologizing for not being there  and we still haven't seen her...... lol oops. I guess technically we still haven't gotten in trouble. At least now our room is perfection. 

Some things that happened that don't warrant a full paragraph:

-Elder Henriksen slept in the cupboard above our closets for the night for 200 pesos (about $9). He said it was reasonably comfy.

-Elder Wallin tried unsuccessfully to hop a fire hydrant box. At the ccm next to fire hydrants are these red boxes with a glass mirror on the outside that says incase of fire break glass. On this inside is a fire hydrant wrench and 100 feet of fire hose coiled up. Wallin was talking about  how he ran hurdles in high school and could hurdle the box. Well he didn't get nearly enough vertical and broke the glass, luckily he didn't get hurt, but he and his companion ran away. My district was in our TALL classroom and only saw them running.

-For breakfast we had french toast one day but I couldn't find any syrup to put on it. Hermana Petty and Quigley sat down, both with what looked like syrup and I asked where they got it from. Petty turned and pointed to a large plain jar filled with honey and said from there, they realized their mistake and it was pretty funny. They were really disappointed.

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