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.

Monday, June 26, 2017

6/26/17 Farewell to President Jacobson. New President coming soon.

Companionship Study in a park

Member dinner with Karla and the district, she made really really good food


A lot has happened in the last +week. I left off I believe about the make or break lesson with German. I'll talk about that in a second. 

I had a few days left with Elder Waters and they passed fairly uneventfully. 

We had our last zone conference with President Jacobson. It was pretty nice. He basically spent the whole time preparing us for a lot of changes. It was a nice meeting. He had us make specific long term goals about becoming better disciples of Christ, outlined the importance of goals, and wished us the best of luck. We get our new President the first of the next month. We've already received a few changes, so far only good things. The first and most important thing was the dissolving of set car-fast days. I may or may not have been praying for that for quite a while. Now we can do what we want with our cars everyday of the week, SO NICE. We've heard talk of Ipads but that's only hearsay, I have my doubts on that one. 

Saturday we had our lesson with German. It was a decent lesson. He expressed his fears and said he wasn't ready. It was kind of a hard blow. We walked in basically ready to plan his baptism. He also, and more importantly, expressed some concerns he has that he hasn't been fully forthright with. He said he still wants to be baptized, and wants to continue working with us. So that is what we will do. A few days later we got a message from a member that has been talking with German who is about his same age. She said she got a message from German expressing more of his concerns and doubts. He has been kind of all over the place. We spent a few minutes trying to think of what he needs. I've spent a lot of time praying for and about him specifically, and I really know that God guides his work. A few weeks ago the idea to buy him a study journal come to me in prayer. A few days later we bought the journal, wrote some instruction and my testimony in it and planned on giving it to him. For like three lessons in a row I forgot it in the car or in the apartment. I kind of felt like at this point I shouldn't give it to him and it would be kind of weird, then we got the message about his concerns. Our last lesson with him we gave him the journal. Hopefully that helps. I think that will really help him catalog what he knows, his questions, and the answers he receives from either us, the scriptures, and/or God. I still see a lot of potential in him. 

On the topic of investigators the Aguilars know the church is true. We think we may have found their source of hesitancy. They are doing great though. We had a review lesson on the plan of salvation, it's been a while and we figured it was something they needed to hear again. We also found a great video on the dedication of the temple in El Salvador. They loved it. We talked about temples and family history. Elder Rencher has a bunch of visual teaching aids for this lesson that really engaged their kids. We talked about baptism for the dead and their opportunity to offer that ordinance to their deceased  parents. Gilda made us some empanadas, they were so good. I need to learn how to make Hispanic food.  So far the list is small, but it consists of empanadas, pupusas, tortillas, and anything but white rice. 

Sunday we finally got a branch mission leader. That'll be nice. 

We picked up two more pretty cool guys this week. One guy is sadly going to Mexico in a few weeks and will be there for a few months, so we have like three weeks to work a miracle. The other is a 7th day Adventist. He is pretty sweet. We had a really good lesson with him, I'm not sure how far he will want to go with us, but we'll see. Our first lesson with him we kind of just chatted. It was really nice. He asked if we could read something in the Bible. We turned to the 10 commandments and he read through his Adventist bible. Interesting there are some important word differences. It almost got bashy but we turned it around pretty well. 

Apparently I've heard that the Adventist Bible was an English to English "translation", can someone validate this?
The weather has been perfect for the last few days. Its been in the 60-70s, its so nice!

Member dinner with Karla and the district, she made really really good food



Some news. Elder Waters is passing on to Big Rapids. That was a pretty big surprise. We were in our apartment doing comp study and we got a call from the mission office, meaning the President, meaning someone was getting transferred. We totally were expecting to be together until around September or August when the new Spanish elder arrives. We picked up the call and President told Elder Waters what's up. Big Rapids has a branch of something like 20 people attending. From what we've heard a family is moving out, so Elder Waters and his companion will be white washing the area, replacing some sisters, so that they will have enough priesthood holders in the branch. Elder Rencher will by my next companion. Elder Barrows will likely get his Brazilian visa soon, so when that happens he will be gone pretty quick and I'll be in a trio with Rencher and Guerrero to finish off wha ever transfer that happens in. That'll be exciting.  

Last Sunday was pretty exciting. The Aguilars said they were going to invite some friend to church, who turned out not to come. It was a really great sacrament meeting. A new member gave a really good talk on baptism that kind of hit everything the Aguilar fam most likely needed to hear. Natividad was asked to give the closing prayer. At the end of the service he walked up and gave an awesome prayer. That was way cool. I was sitting with someone else so after the meeting congratulated him, obviously I told him good job. He was pretty nervous. They are progressing but I'm worried they'll plateau if we don't decide to really pick a date and prepare to be baptized on that date. Solid goals are really important in all aspects in life. If you're not working towards something you're not progressing like you could be in what ever you're doing. They are still doing great though, that whole language barrier is a little annoying because I don't know exactly what they need but we are putting a lot of effort in praying for them. Also my Spanish has gotten a whole lot better in this last transfer, which is nice. 

Speaking of my Spanish abilities, Montserrat and Frank were in church last week. I spent the whole Gospel principles translating for him. That was way fun, really mentally draining. Listening, translating, and talking to someone for an hour straight all at the same was intense. I would say I probably successfully translated with like 60-80% accuracy. Hopefully Frank picked up something close to that.

German is on date for the 24th but out of nowhere he has tons of doubts about everything. We are trying to figure everything out today. Today will be pretty much a make or break day. We need to know yes or no because we are going to be announcing it at church tomorrow. We had four really good lessons with him this week, two with members, so I really hope he will know that he is ready. I'm not sure exactly how much support he is getting from his family. That probably is making it tough on him. I suspect today will be quite the day. We will see how it goes.

We also lost a few investigators this week. One family that I saw so much potential in has been curbing us really hard the last two weeks. We keep stopping by and they will set times for us to come back because they are busy, then when we come back they won't be home. On our fourth time we left a note on their door saying if they want us to come back please call, I hope they call. Their kids were super solid and actually read a fair amount. If the parents won't let us talk with just their kids, and won't let us meet with them as a family there isn't much we can do. We will check up on them in a few months. 

On a happier note Montserrat and Frank are doing well. We officially passed them off to the English Elders. That's not fun, but we had a great final lesson with them. We brought the other Elders with us to introduce them and make the transfer more smooth. After the lesson we talked with the other elders for a bit outside. They thanked us and talked about how awesome Montserrat and Frank are. The funny thing was was that there was this chubby guy smoking shirtless outside on his porch giving us the weirdest looks. As we said goodbye to the other Elders, the guy retreated into his house. Slightly unfortunate, it would have been fun to talk to him.

Coming home one night we saw someone moving into our apartment building. We spent our hour helping them move in and had a pretty good conversation at the same time. Turns out the guy was a sous-chef at some restaurant. He thanked us for our service and asked if he could repay us somehow. We said we were good, but he offered to cook us some steak. We couldn't say no to a free dinner. We gave him our number and he said he'd call. If I've learned anything on my mission so far is that no one ever calls back. I've put out hundreds of pass along cards in people's doors with our name and number on the back, as well as asked people if there was any kind of service we could do for them to just call us. In 5 months we've received two calls out of the blue, both from former investigators. I'm even surprised we haven't gotten prank called or anything. We'll see if he calls.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

6/10/17 The Double Door Slam, Sunsets, Squirrels and Muffins

Sunset over our Apartments


Zone P day was last Monday. It was super pleasant. Lake Michigan basically is like an ocean. I forgot my camera, but I may be able to snag pics from Elder Weston one of these days. 

Tuesday was such a beautiful day. We didn't have any lessons planned so we stopped by everyone we could, and did a bit of knocking. We also stopped by one of the members Rosa Cervantes. She is doing really well and is totally active and has been for the last few months. It's really funny when she doesn't put her new teeth in because it changes how she looks and how well I can understand her. We had a good talk on temple prep, patriarchal blessings, and everything that should follow baptism. This was all new to her which was slightly unfortunate. She was baptized a long time ago in Texas.
We've been debating if this is Spanglish, the use of remover. We are pretty evenly split, but the consensus is probably. 

Wednesday we stopped by Enrique again, the guy who has meet with missionaries forever. Obviously a slight language barrier, but it seemed like he was trying to ditch us pretty hard core. He may have seen us and retreated into his house. His wife was outside in the truck, so we talked with her. She has some slight mobility impairments, so we helped her out of the car and she let us in. We had a pretty good lesson were we talked about baptism. He doesn't know if he can change after baptism, and doubts he can overcome his temptations. We had a good discussion on how that's basically why Jesus Christ is so important. His grace is here to help us through these things. We shared Mosiah 26:30 which says "yea, and as often as my people repent will I forgive them their trespasses against me."  After baptism we are still humans, we still make mistakes, we still have temptations, while Christ wants us to be perfect he knows we can't. All we need to do is repent and try to be better. 
 On trade offs we tied some muffins to some string and were messing with some squirrels in the other apartment.

Elder Guerrero on the left, Elder waters, and Elder Rencher slightly blocked by Waters.

Wednesday is where the subject of the email comes from. We were knocking in a really culturally mixed area and we came up to one door. We knocked and on the second knock someone opened and yelled "we hate the [insert other religion name]" and slammed the door. A little put back, I started writing on one of the card we pass out, "sorry we bothered you, but we are the Mormons" about halfway through writing that another person comes to the door. She had two massive dogs barking behind her that she was fighting to keep in the door. We asked her if there was any kind of service we could do for them and she responded with something else and slammed the door. Like really slammed the door. It was pretty funny. Elder Waters and I figured that was the most intense door slam either of us have ever had. 

Friday was another amazing day.

We started the day with a lesson with German. He called us on Thursday and told us he has been feeling unworthy and the scriptures are just making him feel bad. We sent him a lot of stuff to read, including Alma 32, Enos 1, and Ether 12:27. We came by Friday and talked. He said he just felt so happy reading these chapters, especially Enos 1. Enos 1 is very basically about a guy who asks for forgiveness.  It's pretty great. We talked about repentance and making it a part of everyday life. One thing he struggles with is that he keeps doing small things he knows he shouldn't. We talked about how it's hard to change but that we can always ask for help. Just like in our lesson with Enrique we told him we can always ask for forgiveness and help in the repentance process. We shared a few stories in the Bible with Jesus and sinners. Jesus came to save sinners, this is our most important message. We also talked about the power of journals. 

One thing we all do is that it's easy to forget spiritual experiences or really happy events, so when you write them down you have a place you can go back and read what happened and have a greater feeling of remembrance. The spirit in the lesson was pretty awesome, and through that we were able to turn his feeling bad about himself to remembering all the spiritual experiences we've had together and looking forward to the 24. He also had a question about what happens to children who die without baptism. We didn't read Moroni 8, but we told him that little kids can't sin, so they go back to the presence of God. He really liked that, as do I. 

After some more studying and lunch, we went to a lesson with someone we just picked up. We shared the restoration. It's awesome. I love that every time we share the first vision and the Joseph Smith story you can see people change. All of a sudden they give you way more attention and they feel something. She said the closing prayer after a fair amount of coaxing and teaching. 

After that lesson we headed up north a bit to Montserrat and Frank. I'm pretty sure I said something about them last time. Either way, we need to pass them off soon because they are progressing really well. Like weirdly well. It was our third lesson. We had a member with us and we put Frank on date for baptism. We asked him if he would be baptized by someone who holds the authority of God on [specific date] and he said "I think we will be out of town can we do it [another date]? It helps so much that his wife has such a strong testimony and shares bits during every lesson. They're easy to teach, super friendly, love church, read everything we give them and pray about what we talk about. If only everyone was like them. It will be sad to pass them off, but the English Elders are going to love us so much.

We finished our proselyting with the Aguilar family. We brought President Reed, the branch president, with us to the lesson. It was fantastic. The Aguilar fam like I keep saying are so awesome. We told President Reed what we wanted to cover and he basically gave our entire lesson and more. Every member we bring connects so well with the Aguilars. Basically they said they worry the church is too good to be true. This is the first church they've been to where they want to come back. It's the first church where they feel welcomed. It's the first church they feel something at.  They just love to learn about the gospel. They are reading like 2-3 chapters in the Book of Mormon each night, as well as portions of the Gospel Principles book daily, not to mention they said they are talking with their friends about the gospel and invited a family to come to church with them this Sunday! President Reed said in our lesson to them that they are basically members, and are doing more than many of the members. He also added the warning that our congregation is filled with imperfect people, and that there shouldn't be expectations of anything perfect in the members. We talked a little about learning in the church as well as tithing and fast offering, in how its not used to pay ministers but all goes to helping people. President Reed also invited them to come to the temple in August to just be around it. 

Chicago LDS Temple

I added that if they are baptized before they could come in and do baptisms for their ancestors with us. They said they'd be baptized before August. It was a good lesson. 

Monday, June 5, 2017

6/5/17 Five months!


I thought I hit six this week but realized I couldn't count.

Not a whole lot happened between now and the last email. 

Thursday was our car fast day and ended about as good as any day could have. We finished up weekly planning in the morning and caught a bus down into our area. We had four lessons planned back to back so we really had to be on our game and teach short powerful lessons and leave. Sadly all the lessons except the last fell through so we had a good three hour knocking session. We had a good conversation with a guy who was doing some renovations on one of his properties he rents out. We did our best, but as we left like usual we realized so many better ways to respond to his questions. One good question he asked was without the Book of Mormon would we come to the same conclusions about God. We answered well, but not perfectly. The better answer is probably no. The Book of Mormon teaches doctrine  found in the Bible as well as some not. The Bible is not the definite word of God. It contains the word of God but by no means all of it. The BoM is more and was given to us under the direction of God because so much had changed between the life of Jesus Christ and now.  Without the authority of the apostles Jesus Christ called, and that correcting force found in the use and function of most of the epistles from the prophet and apostles at the end of the new testament, gospel truths changed slightly through time. The Book of Mormon is evidence that the authority has been restored and brought back. That is why we try to show people the book and get them to read and find out for themselves. We could have pointed out the history and supported this by how many different churches there are all founded off the Bible and how many different things they teach.  

Anyway, what made that day awesome was our lesson with the Aguilar fam. We met with the member for about a minute to make sure she knew our goals of the lesson. We walked in and had a good lesson on fasting and tithing. The spirit was really strong and the member bore really strong testimony. One of the things we found with the Aguilar family is they are slightly nervous committing to a life time of church attendance, and they had this idea that they have to be changed and be a different person before they get baptized. The member was like "I am not even close to being perfect and my family is not even close to being perfect." She shared some stories about how her family isn't the perfect Mormon family (no one's is) and it was really nice. We thanked the member and went home. She sent us a text thanking us for inviting her and said she had received a really strong answer to something she has been thinking about for a few weeks. What was cool was that in our morning planning we realized that we didn't have a member for their lesson, her name came very clearly into both of our minds and we sent her a text. We told her that and she said when she got the text she knew we asked her for a reason. It's fun seeing these little miracles line up. 

We had a lesson with the eternigator Enrique again. It was interesting. His wife suffered a stroke a few years ago and completely forgot she was baptized into the church, which makes things interesting. Oh and we also kind of accidentally got mooned. It was awkward. Missionary work in general is pretty awkward sometimes. We are basically planning on just seeing what this guy's doubts are and doing our best to answer them by using the BoM. In his multiples pages of teaching records he has said multiple times he'd be baptized and has received all the lessons we are supposed to teach multiple times. He had a question about what happens after we die. We read through Alma 34 which answers a bunch of questions. He seemed to be thinking about something we read. We invited him to church, but he didn't come.    

Sunday was great but so mentally tasking. We picked up this couple where the wife speaks Spanish and decent English and the husband only speaks Spanish. There is more to the story but it's important that she goes to the Spanish branch. I spent the whole gospel principles class translating for Kevin. It was fun but during live translating you miss a bunch of stuff. After the hour my  mouth was sore and my mind was fried. I was talking so fast and quietly the whole time. I'm fairly sure everything I said was cohesive.

We also had more investigators than ever in church. The other elders had two people they are working with in church and we had the Aguilar family, German, and Monzerat and Frank (the new couple). Our other people we are working with are being difficult. 

Turns out my area where I work is a lot larger than I thought. The two opposite corners are the intersections of highway 131 and 44th street and the city of Ludington. It's about 100 miles diagonal. We cover the smaller half of the Grand rapids stake. Consisting of the Grand Valley Ward, Spring Lake Ward, Northern Muskegon Ward, Fremont Branch , Hart Ward, as well as the obvious Grandvile Spanish branch.