Elder Eric Johnson
1650 R W BERENDS DR SW apt 6
Wyoming, MI 49519

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

Saturday, March 25, 2017

3/25/17 Wards/Branches, Baptism, Racoons, Malibu

Family and friends,

Apparently our last P-day in each transfer is on a Saturday, idk I don't make the rules, but here we are.

Elder Rencher, from our district has been keeping statistics on church attendance during the past few weeks. This last Sunday was a little crazy based on how many people showed up. In order from my first week until now, church attendance was 64, 58, 67, 80. A few members brought their friends, and we had more less-active members than ever. Sadly, the member's friends live in the area of the other companionship in the district. That Sunday the idea of the Spanish ward was planted into our minds. Apparently the branch has grown significantly over the last year. When it started, only around 13 people or so would show up every week. We average around 5 times that now. Last night Elder Guerrero felt really strongly that we were called specifically to this mission to build and turn this branch into a ward. We used the little free time we had to set some goals and outline what needs to be done to make this goal. 

Find out about wards and branches here

From what we know, we need 15 worthy Melchizedek priesthood holders who are willing to fill the church leadership positions. We are currently at around 9. The most important thing we can do is strengthen the members and get their help in our mission efforts. Strong members build strong members. There are a few men who are mostly active that we can work with to make this goal happen. This is the benefit of the area I was called to, this is the only Spanish branch in the state so I'm staying for quite a while. The president was at the baptism we had today and talked about the progress this branch has had. When I first got here 6 weeks ago he also told me that I'll be in this area for more than half my mission. So while it seems like a lot of time, there is a ton of work to be done. This week we set some insane weekly goals. We'll see how that goes. It truly feels like the Lord wants a strong Spanish ward.

So like I said we had a baptism today. It's been along time since I've gone to one, which is too bad, because the spirit was so strong. We are working on Latino time, so it started almost 40 minutes late, and people were filtering in slowly almost the whole time. Berta was working with the other missionaries, and we weren't able to get any of our investigators out to it which was too bad. We invited everyone we met this week. A few people talked and it really was a great opportunity to see how far I've come in Spanish, I understood 95% of what was said, but missed a few jokes. I also translated a little for the zone leader and Assistant to the president that came to our baptism. 

Monday we had an awesome lesson with our Golden Family. I'm pretty sure their last name is Soreano, but I'm not sure. We found Natividad walking to a park to play soccer with his son. We had a really great lesson with him where we talked about the restoration and I led out that lesson. The spirit was pretty strong, and we could see that Natividad felt the same. We gave him a Book of Mormon and asked him to read the intro and Joseph Smith's testimony. He said he would. We taught another lesson with him on Thursday. We brought the Rosales family with us and we talked about the Plan of Salvation. We had them teach a little and they gave testimonies on how the gospel has changed their lives. The Rosales family just clicked with Natividad and his wife, We really hope they will come to church tomorrow. Our lesson also on Thursday Natividad was talking about when we first talked to him he saw a light in us and felt something in his heart that was different. In the lesson I was thinking, what the heck that's so freaking awesome. He went on to say that when he was reading the intro, and the lessons we've had with him he feels that same thing. Elder Guerrero and I were looking at each other thinking this isn't happening. Natividad is so ready. We haven't put him on a baptismal date yet, but he is starting recognizing the spirit and is reading the Book of Mormon with an open heart. It is so cool to watch people accept the plan God has for them.

That same day we had a lesson with a less active who's husband we were able to pick up as an investigator. We talked about the restoration with him and he really is starting to show a little interest. He comes to church but is a little hesitant to join another church. He seems like the kind of man who isn't going to make a decision without knowing all he can know, which is awesome especially because he is finally showing interest. We had an Hermana from the branch come with us to the lesson and she taught really well. I asked how the message of the restoration of Christ's church has blessed her family and she gave a really nice testimony on how she can receive guidance to raise her family and the blessings that come from it. The less active lady that was there went on this tangent that I was only able to get the theme of, which was something about her daughter and a picture that shouldn't have been possible, we brought the lesson back, and Pedro really seemed receptive to what we said and also really felt the spirit. We finished the lesson and Hermana Sifontes gave a really powerful testimony on the Book of Mormon, it was crazy. 

Members are such powerful examples and when they bear their testimonies it's incredibly powerful. We left with a prayer and commitments to read the intro and J. smiths testimony.

Introduction to the Book of Mormon

The last three nights we've been woken up by an intruder. The first night Elder Guerrero woke me up thinking someone was breaking into the apartment. We live on the third floor and the noise was coming from our balcony. He grabbed my flashlight and we saw a raccoon pulling aside the plastic siding and trying to dig through the 2x4. 

I checked the damage that morning and there is a solid 6 inch diameter whole behind the siding into our wall from the outside. In our studies in the morning we started hearing the little guy walking around above us which was a little funny. We really need to report this. The next day in the early morning around the same time, not thinking straight I had the bright idea to poke him with our broom and scare him away so that he wont come back. He hissed really loud at me and started climbing down really fast to come and get me. I closed our glass door and he clawed at it for a minute and retreated like a little coward. Our apartment is on a little man-made lake and we have a bunch of wildlife that stops by. We have a squirrel that comes by for bread at 9 am every day, and the lake we have outside our balcony has a bunch of geese and ducks.

Thursday we got the news that we won a 2017 Malibu like we wanted. We are going to go pick it up next week. Elder Guerrero and I switch who drives each day, but as long as we don't move our car fast day I'll be driving it back from Lansing. I'm excited for that. 

Also some bad news. Our investigator who's son died is kind of stuck in the Dominican republic. He only brought enough money to get back and was robbed at gun point and was attacked. From the little we know he is doing well aside from the being stuck part. Our missionary phones wont call out of country so its really hard to impossible to contact him, but Luckily he is with family and should be back in two or so weeks.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

3/20/17 Meals-on-Wheels, Lamb of God

Elders Johnson and Guerrero

Dear family and friends,

Once again a pretty solid week. 

We were fed by members most of the days this week and were always cooked amazing food. 

On Tuesday we started doing service at this place called Meals-on-Wheels. The Sister Trainer leaders invited us to go there because a lot of the staff speak Spanish and one guy has shown some interest in learning more about our church, so obviously we followed. We talked with this guy named Pedro who is super cool, super open, and super kind. We picked him up as a potential and taught a lesson to him about who we are and what we do. At Meals-on-Wheels we just got a bunch of chicken thighs ready to be cooked. It was pretty easy. We got approximately 490 lbs. of chicken ready for cooking. 

Wednesday I hit the Month mark of being in the field which is a little crazy. Time flies. That day we also had a pretty large time set out to knock doors. We were working on being more bold, loving, and using the Book of Mormon, and it really helped a lot. We were able to teach two lessons off door knocks, which is a miracle in itself. The second lesson was so cool though. This Hispanic family had just moved in and we were waiting for a bus to come so we could make it to our dinner with one of the branch members. We knocked on their door and seemed like no one was home, then we knocked the next house and they pulled up in their car. They looked at us with the, "oh man it's the Mormons/JW's/Fed look" and we walked over and talked with them. Turns out they've met with missionaries before and want us to come back. We taught a little lesson and left to catch our bus. Earlier that day we talked with this guy smoking outside his house. We talked a little about the Bible and scriptures and he invited us in. Super interesting guy with a crazy back story. He told us about how he grew up in a rough foster home and one day in the middle of the night one of the foster kids stabbed him in the chest and cut him open. He showed us the scar. Its big. haha that was fun. We passed him off to the other English elders.

We had a really good zone conference/training. One of the Assistants to the president was leaving and they had a few of the zone leaders give trainings. I'm guessing that was done so the president of the mission could see who might fill the spot the best. I think my favorite training was on Charity. We went over a few scriptures, a few being Moroni 7:43-48, John 3:16, Mathew 25:34-40, and Mathew 22:39, and how they pertain to missionary work. We need to be looking for ways to serve everyone we meet, and use each door knock as an opportunity to teach and help instead of just to knock. Knocking to teach instead of knocking to knock, that's something I need to work on because knocking is not fun. The zone conference went a little long, like 1.5 hours long, which was a little awkward because we had to cancel a lesson with a less active, and showed up late to another.

Friday was fun. We woke up to a little bit of snow and we had a few lessons planned. Our first lesson fell through so we knocked doors into the area and meet this nice black guy who had a crazy deep voice. Turns out he was a JW and spent the time mostly trying to teach us, and he said a few things that were pretty interesting and are provably false. The guy was nice though. We asked him why did he chose to join the Jehovah Witness church, he talked about how to him it fits the bible the best and how the church is the same through out the whole world. He talked about the bible says in what I think is Ephesians 4:5, that there is one lord, one faith, and one baptism, and how that pertains to the JW church. In my head I was thinking about everything he said for his JW church fit for our church as well. It was kind of interesting to me that no one talks about using prayer to find out which church is the church they need to be apart of. Everyone we talk to say it either fits their reading of the bible or fits what they look for. I really like the scripture in Mark 7:19-21. It talks about how what is in the heart of someone that really matters, because the heart is where our actions and desires come from. Everyone we seem to talk to only make reference to thinking out their question and making the best decision off that. Which is good, but it is only the first step. John 1:5 talks about if we lack wisdom we need to ask God who will give us the answers to anything we ask for, that and Moroni 10:5 we know that it's through the Holy Ghost that we receive these answers. 

Friday afternoon was crazy. We, like every week if we don't have a lesson, had indoor soccer again. It was insane. So many people were there. It was also getting really competitive, it was pretty funny. We were doing teams of 4-5 and we had around 5 teams, loser switches at each point. Elder Guerrero and this other guy were so good. We basically dominated the first 8 or so games. I got a few assists, but my ball skills don't match more than half of the people there. We invited a few of our potentials and investigators and we saw someone we've been talking too for a little there as well. Everyone had a good time, and only a few people were angry at the end.

Saturday we went to the lamb of God concert, written by Rob Gardner. IT was so good. The production was put on by one of the local universities as well as a bunch of professional soloists. The orchestra was incredible. It was a little weird because we were instructed that we couldn't go with our missionary tags on, and I didn't think that was going to be as weird as it turned out to be, but the music was fantastic. I realized how much I missed music. The members who brought us were super gracious and bought us dinner and a CD of the lamb of God. We've been rocking out to that for the last few days. 

Each day we are seeing improvement in Spanish, unity as a companionship, in teaching, and our investigators.

Monday, March 13, 2017

3/13/17 Jails, dog walkers, polygamy, immigration and people getting ready for baptism

Family and friends,

Every week is better from the last. Every day we meet interesting people I don't think I would have ever talked to, and we've definitely had some small miracles this week.

Monday was fun. We knocked doors and met some interesting people. We normally struggle getting into people's home from the doorstep in order to teach a lesson, which is understandable, but we had an awesome experience with this mid 20's black guy. He was a little hard to understand, but Elder Guerrero and I talked to this guy for a few minutes. We taught him about repentance and that God can help him with the things he said he was struggling with. He seemed openly touched by what we were saying, and he talked about how he used to be in this gang and the life he had that was destroying him on the inside. He talked about the horrible things he did and how it changed him for the worse, and that after he got out of jail he has been working to put that behind and clean himself up for the daughter he had before he was incarcerated. 

The spirit was there and I'm certain he felt the power of what we were talking about. Elder Guerrero and I taught with more unity than ever and it was perfect. It was a little crazy. We both testified that through the atonement we can really come back from anything we have ever done, and become the people we want to be. It was a great moment, but at the same time once we left, we knew we had to pass him off to the English elders who cover the area we were knocking in. 

Tuesday we had a little miracle. We were getting ready to go knock doors and were sitting in the car. We said a prayer to find someone ready for our message as well as some other things. Literally the second we were stepping out of the car, someone pulled into the driveway of our first house. Elder Guerrero and I looked at each other, laughed a little and walked over to the lady. We talked with her and she talked about the miracles she has seen in her life, it was a pretty nice experience and she was really open to listening to more about what we had to say. 

Wednesday we had trade-offs again. I went with Elder Rencher. We did a fair amount of door knocking that day. We talked with this lady who was walking her dog for almost 10 minutes. It was a little funny, because she never stopped walking, but after a minute or so I realized she was in a hurry so we just walked with her. Really an awesome lady, we talked about how we are here to become more like our father in heaven and that that doesn't mean going to church on Sunday and then going crazy the rest of the week. We were able to pick her up as a potential. 

We knocked some more doors and found a lady who said she already read the Book of Mormon. That got me so excited, in my head I was thinking of all the crazy stories of people who randomly find the Book of Mormon, read it, pray about it, and find out on their own its truthfulness. I asked her what she thought about it, and she said it was alright, she just hated the part where it said that men had to have multiple wives. That was a little more than surprising because the Book of Mormon actually has a chapter that talks about the evils of polygamy when it isn't commanded of God (Jacob 2). If she didn't slam the door on our face before we could say anything of value it would have been awesome to actually talk more about it.

That same day we had a lesson with one of Rencher's and Water's investigators who has really been progressing. We just talked about baptism and its importance, showed one of the bible videos about Jesus' baptism, and walked her through the baptismal questions. 

Video depicting Jesus' baptism

Going through the questions was SO cool. She bore her testimony multiple times, and I was just sitting there loving every second. The Gospel has changed her life so much. She talked about how she has always had doubts about God and when the Elders found her, taught her, and invited her to both read the Book of Mormon and follow the promise/challenge found in Moroni 10:3-5 she found all the answers she was looking for. It was incredible to see that there are people out there ready to hear the word of God, and that truly their only barrier is that they don't know where to find it. 

Friday we stopped by a less active teen we have been working with. We didn't plan on teaching him anything but were just planning on seeing if there was a time we could come back and talk more. We walked in and he was happier than I've ever seen him. He has been to church the last three weeks and has started praying again. 

(This link has very helpful FAQs about attending LDS church meetings and you can enter your zip code to find the closest meetinghouse.  Visitors are welcome!)

He talked about things he has been struggling with. As a missionary I've never felt more guided by the spirit. We were sitting with this kid, and all these ideas kept coming to me to tell him, and we had an powerful conversation about repentance with him. He said he really has felt a difference now that he is coming back to church. We read through Ether 12 which is pretty awesome. My favorite part is verse 27 "And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them." (italics added). It's super rewarding to watch people's testimonies grow and watch them feel the truth of what we talk about.
Chicago, IL LDS Temple
Saturday was by far the best day. We got permission to go to the Chicago temple with the branch. Our branch is pretty small, only around 60 people are there each Sunday. Saturday we had nearly 40 people go. It was such an awesome experience. We were planning on doing everything you can do in the temple, but everyone showed up late in the morning so we lost about an hour of temple time. We were able to do an endowment session and baptisms. We missed the start time of the Spanish session, but the temple president was able to switch some things around and created a new Spanish session just for us. The temple is such a powerful place. The spirit inside and around is like no other place I've ever been, it truly is the house of the lord. The nearest temple to our area is 3.5 hours away, and many of the branch members go once or even twice a month, which is at a considerable sacrifice to many based on the economic status of much of the branch. It really is inspiring. 

Sunday we learned some interesting things about the new executive orders and laws surrounding illegal immigration. Everyone is really nervous and just scared about getting deported. Turns out one of the Catholic churches in the area has been working with illegal immigrants to gain citizenship, which is great, but have told everyone who is illegal to not open their doors to anyone they don't know. That kind of explains a lot. When we knock areas with a lot of Hispanics, we never get a door open, and this has happened in the past two weeks or so. It's pretty sad. People are just scared.

Monday, March 6, 2017

3/6/17 Fender Bender, Knocking doors, Teaching Sunday School

Family and friends,

We've had a pretty good week this week. 

Monday afternoon was interesting. Our only lesson that day fell through so we knocked doors for a little while on a very Latino filled street. Croften street next to Rodriguez grocery for anyone who wants to check out google street view. 

We talked with Arabic guy for a little bit. He wasn't really listening to us but offered us a Qur'an. Elder Guerrero and I both felt prompted to say yes. He walked back into his house and we both asked each other if we felt the prompting to exchange books with him, that was kinda cool. About two minutes later he came back and said he couldn't find his English copy and we still offered to give him a Book of Mormon instead. He told us that he would just throw it away once he got it. We left soon after that.  Sometimes we will get promptings to do things and we might never really understand the true purpose of why we were asked to do that thing. 

This week we did a lot of door knocking. 

This week was also a little colder than last week, and it snowed a little more, but nothing stuck. Elder Guerrero and I both talked about ways we can engage the ward members more in finding. I think church statistics say that 1/1,000 door knocks lead to a baptism and something like 3/10 member referrals lead to a baptism. That may be wrong. It's really only hearsay but really seems like it at least shows a trend. If members do our finding we can teach more and not be using so much time knocking. The kicker is we typically have a bunch of lessons with potentials lined up for each day and we do our part to follow up and remind them, but when it comes time to go to their lesson they don't open the door. For example, yesterday was Sunday. We had a lesson planned after our study time in the morning but before church. We called and confirmed the day before and everything was straight. After church we had two lessons with potentials lined up and confirmed the day before. In the morning we sent a text to the first lesson confirming and she said one of her kids was sick, which is pretty valid but she told us she wasn't interested. Our afternoon appointments the people turned off the TV and hid and the other one they weren't home. I'm not really sure what I can do to avoid things like that happening. It would be awesome if people just gave us a straight no rather than hiding. 

Saturday was a similar story. We had 4 lessons lined up and only one happened, but it was an awesome lesson. I did most of the teaching and we had a recent member convert family present. The family we are teaching is awesome. The mother of the family has been inactive for 10 years and decided it was time to come back. Her children have never been part of the church so we are teaching them. They are progressing pretty quickly and have come to church for the last two weeks, have friends, and connect really well with the branch. The Rosales family came to that lesson and they are super powerful. The parents gave testimonies on prayer and we watched the shorter restoration video. I think I did a decent job. I said most of the things I wanted to say, but being able to turn to Elder Guerrero is really helpful. My problem is understanding what people say back to my questions. I kind of guess and answer or talk about what I think I heard. Nothing bad has happened because of that yet. 

Saturday we also had our first car accident. After one of our lessons fell through we went to this grocery store to use their bathroom. I pulled in behind this guy and put the car into park. He was adjusting his parking job and backed into us with a little bit of force. It crunched our bumper a little but but wasn't that bad. 

(not the actual photo)
We talked with him and he didn't speak English. We were thinking about calling the police, but I felt like we shouldn't. We just took pictures of everything and when the guy heard we were thinking about talking to the police he was a little sketched out. I grabbed a picture of him without him noticing. We exchanged info and I asked to get his license info to make sure he was who he said he was. "I left it at home" turned into "I don't have a Michigan license" turned into "I'm not a US citizen." We looked at his passport and he was from Ecuador. We told him we weren't going to call the police and that nothing bad was going to happen. He offered to buy the new parts and fix the car himself. We told him it was fine, laughed a little, and ITL'ed the guy. We don't have a visit with him yet, but he actually seemed interested. We'll see how much of the interest was to make us feel better, but that will be later. It would be hilarious if he actually welcomed us into his home and took the lessons.  

On Thursday we had a really powerful lesson with a family who has cousins who are members of the church. We went through the how to begin teaching lesson with them, set expectation and talked about the spirit and scriptures to them. We also had our elderly missionary companionship with us. Elder and Sister Weston are awesome, seriously a powerhouse. I could tell Boris could feel the spirit during our lesson. I'm a little worried we will have to pass him off to English elders though. Boris is Mexican but is fluent in English and I'm not sure if his wife speaks Spanish. We'll have to see. I hope we keep him. He comes to futbol every Friday at the stake center.

Sunday we taught the youth class again. Their teacher didn't show and forgot to text someone to cover for them. We talked about temples which was fun, also the class is mostly in English which makes it a lot easier. We had a less active teen that we've been working with in that class. He did so well. We taught him about the plan of salvation about a week ago, and he was answering bunch of the questions some of the active youth didn't know and/or at least didn't want to answer. It was really cool to actually see that he understood what we talked with him about and was willing to attempt to answer questions he wasn't 100% sure what the correct answer was. We read through some sections of Doctrine and Covenants section 138, I think. One of the kids is open about the doubts he has with the church, which is really awesome. We talked about how doubts are normal and it's our job to pray about it and learn as much as we can, because to receive answers we have to be doing our part. 

We also talked about how to receive answers to prayers, and how answers might not come when or how we might want them.

We knocked doors after church and ran into this really nice Muslim guy. He was smoking a little bit of weed, but actually took the time to talk to us. We talked about Jesus Christ. We got a return appointment which was cool. He said a few weird things though, one being about how Peter (I think, definitely one of the apostles) went apostate after the death of Christ. He also said that to really follow Christ you really need to be a Jew because that's what Christ was. I think if we do teach him he is going to be asking some really good and really hard questions. That'll be fun.

Sunday we also were hit by a few funny things door knocking. One lady told us she was already saved and didn't want to know more. One guy also tried to say Revelations 22:19, which if I'm not mistaken says something along the lines of  "that anyone who adds to this book would receive all the curses or plagues which this book contains" was about the whole bible. We tried to explain that John didn't write the whole bible, and that it was not the last book in the bible chronologically.

 He was really nice though but wouldn't listen. One other guy told us he believes in science not God. I asked him who doesn't believe in science. We got his contact info to schedule a return appointment.

Side note, snail mail is preferred to email when possible.