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, July 31, 2017

29 July 2017 Service, Soup, Sabbath, Supplemental Food, and Several types of conversion


Not a whole lot has happened since Monday. It's the end of the transfer so the usual Saturday P day.

The week started off on bikes. Our P day afternoon we biked around a lot and did an hour of unplanned service for this couple we met. They were shoveling dirt so we jumped off our bikes and asked if they wanted help. They kind of laughed at us a little and told us "this won't be one of your victories we are (insert religion) and you won't convert us," so we offered service and they pointed out our white shits, but we persisted and they agreed. It was pretty great, they were a little nervous at first but after a few minutes we were all good. We came back the next day and shoveled dirt for two hours. Their lawn has these weird dips and holes so we had a lot of work to do. We moved around 5 square yards of dirt to contour their lawn. It felt really good to do some less typical missionary work for a few hours. 

Wednesday Elder Rencher woke up sick so we took a slow day. We had a few hours of finding mid day that we just cut out and he took a nap the whole time. Our apartment is small so there isn't much I could have done. I basically read through the scriptures until I got bored and took a nap as well. Later that night we went to a member's home for dinner. They gave us a soup consisting of beans, eggs, green bananas, and pig skin. It wasn't very appetizing.  

We had a good lesson with a less active part member family. We talked about the Sabbath day. Somehow the whole Seventh-Day Adventist doctrine stuff went over my head when we planned for the lesson. He has never said he was an Adventist but has mentioned Ellen White a few times and I just totally forgot. We walked in had a good chat and we brought up the Sabbath day after the opening prayer and he went on a huge spiel about preparing for the Sabbath on Friday and doing nothing on Sunday.  Adventists are often some of the most devout people when it comes to keeping the Sabbath day holy. We spent the whole lesson on why we worship on Sunday. It went well, and we finished with the fact that all of his questions rely on the question of if Joseph Smith truly was a prophet. The introduction to the Book of Mormon is really good, specifically the last two paragraphs. All objections to our church rest on whether he was or wasn't a prophet, the proof of that is the BoM. If you gain that witness of the Holy Ghost that the BoM is true then you learn a few things, including that Jesus is our Savior and Redeemer and that Joseph Smith was the first prophet of this dispensation. Reading, pondering, and praying are key to that process. Pedro has started to read, which an important step in the right direction. 

Carmen is doing really well. She said she is coming this Sunday. We had two really good lessons the last few days with her. At the most recent lesson, we had a great member come out with us. It's sometimes a little nervous bringing new people out who we have never taken out but it turned out really well. The member teaches the gospel doctrine class and like most of the members in our branch is a convert, and better yet around the same age as Carmen. We also taught her the importance of keeping the Sabbath day holy. We focused on the sacrament and taught out of 3 Nephi 18. She said she wants to come to church and asked if we ever fast. We obviously said yes and explained a little about what is and she asked us to fast with her to help her find a way to stop working on Sundays. It was pretty awesome. The member talked about how her job didn't let her come to church and after a few weeks of praying, looking, and fasting she found a way. 

On the topic of bringing new members out to lessons. We brought someone to one of our lessons with the Aguilar family who doesn't speak Spanish because we wanted to focus a little more with Aldo and the BoM. It was a good lesson but at the end it got slightly side-tracked. We talked about some of the BoM stories and she went off telling about Nephi cutting Laban's head off, Ammon cutting people's arms off which devolved into various Spongebob stories. 

We pulled it back into prayer somehow but only after a significant detour. 

The Aguilars are very interesting. They have definitely become socially converted and aren't nearly as solidly spiritually converted to the church. Someone told me for someone to join our church they need at least 2 of the 3 different types of conversions, which includes spiritual, social, and secular. They are at the moment loving church, love the people, living all the commandments, reading their scriptures everyday but struggle to recognize the spirit's influence in their lives. Our plan is to set them up with dinners with specific members so that they can go and the members can share their conversion stories. So far we have one dinner set up. 

Today we are going on a bike ride to some Indian graves and that's about it, we have like no money for the rest of the month. 

Also, I almost forgot. Our ward had a picnic last week as well as the English ward so our church's freezer was filled with food. They were like, "just give it to the missionaries." So much free food. That is how to make missionaries happy, outside of solid referrals and good lessons. 

Monday, July 24, 2017

24 July 2017


Monday we cooked again with the Aguilars. I'm not sure I'll be able to replicate what we did, but we made dessert empanadas which were really good. We basically feasted. 

As a family, the Aguilars are still progressing. Natividad is really where he needs to be and has progressed a lot, but as a family we think they lack a strong foundation on Christ. They still read as a family and know and have a strong foundation in the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith being a prophet. What they need is a stronger foundation of Jesus Christ and everything he did but more importantly why it's important. Anyone can say Christ died for us, but once that sinks in you won't change all that much, commandments stay rules and testimonies don't really grow.

We had an unfortunate lesson with Enrique. He is slipping back into what his progress record has shown for the past five years. He says he wants to change but won't do the last few things we asked him to do to help him in that process, so not a whole lot we can do. Everything about receiving a testimony in the gospel is by experimentation. To know if the Book of Mormon is true you have to read it with an open heart and pray about it. God will not force anyone one way or another.

On that point we had an interesting lesson with the two people who speak English we've taught a few times. We haven't felt like we could pass them off like we normally do because they are just not at that point. Chris and Caryn have been really fun to teach because they come with hard earnest questions. That's starting to change though which is really unfortunate. We had two lessons with them over the last few days and Caryn just picks things apart. Her idea is to compare everything with the Bible, which isn't bad but the ultimate test of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon is not if it lines perfectly with everything in the Bible and contains nothing new. The spiritual witness from the Holy Ghost is the key to everything. Our first lesson this week was really good. We covered the importance of the Book of Mormon and answered all of her questions, the spirit was there and we were able to have a good time. She said she will do some research on the Book of Mormon so obviously I told her there is a ton of anti material out there and most is flat out wrong and the rest is twisted half truths. I read the line in the Joseph Smith history that says that Joseph's name will be known for good and evil around the world and also told them to read the first chapter of Nephi. 

We came back a few days later and they said they read alot. Interestingly there was a visible difference between their two countenances. Chris was reading the Book of Mormon on the porch as we pulled up and almost looked like he was glowing. He looked way better than the day before and Caryn just looked angry. I didn't think much and we started talking about how they were doing. After they prayer we asked them what they read. Chris said he read the whole book of Moroni, I thought that was funny and asked why. He said that our last visit we answered the majority of their questions from various chapters of that book so he figured it was important so he read it all and really liked it. Caryn said she read all of First and Second Nephi and said there was good bits of advice about Joseph Smith in there and that she had some concerns about some of the incorrect things she found. In my head I though, "Oh so you didn't read..." The Book of Mormon is not about Joseph Smith, and anyone who reads the first line would know that. I didn't call her on it though. We talked with Chris first and he talked about how everything he read so far is really good. He thoroughly outlined what he learned and said that nothing struck him as wonky. He said that Moroni 8 actually confirmed a lot of things he has thought about and that he thinks the Book of Mormon is true. He pulled out a few bible scriptures that he liked that affirmed a few points he liked. We moved to Caryn and asked her which points she didn't like. She opened up her phone and read out of an anti website. "The Book of Mormon teaches xyz while the bible very clearly teaches abc" kind of stuff. So we opened to each individual verse she was "worried about" and oh my gosh anti material is so dumb. We just went verse by verse. She wanted to so we let her. Every single point she brought up we answered with scripture and testimony. We were able to for the most part keep contention out of it, but she was really pushing so it wasn't super easy. She then asked us about the necessity for baptism and tried to catch us in a lie. I didn't want to but the spirit said to so I did and mentioned baptism for the dead and how there is a way for everyone to accept that ordinance in the next life, this was the only contentious part of the whole lesson. She pointed at me and in an elevated voice said, "okay that is not scripturally based." Not going to lie I sighed a bit. The killer point is that it's not mentioned in the Book of Mormon but it is in the Bible. We opened up to the verses in Corinthians and First or Second Peter and read them together. 

The Bible is a great book of scripture, don't get me wrong, but the spirit is far more important than anything. The spirit has all truth and through him we can know that truth. We told them we can answer all their questions with scripture but it's through the spirit that we really know what the truth is. Chris understands and has done what we asked. I turned to him in the lesson and asked him what he thought and he thinks the Book of Mormon is true but that he wants to know more about the prophecies of Joseph Smith. It took me a minute but I pulled out one from the Doctrine and Covenants that I knew. I also told him my testimony is not in the prophecies of Joseph Smith but by the spirit I feel when I read the Book of Mormon and other books of scripture. I worry for Chris. He won't progress if his wife won't let him. There is a big gap between their spiritual progression and that is a hard ravine to cross. 

Also interestingly if Caryn actually read like she said she did, Chris added something important to the lesson. He said, "together they are Readers Digest." He explained that by saying she can read a whole book in a day and he goes slow and ponders things. If Caryn told the truth it's important to notice that just reading the Book of Mormon isn't sufficient. Moroni 10:3-5 says we need to read ponder and pray. Key terms being ponder.

I spent more time on that than I should have and am near out of time. They have one lesson for us to turn Caryn around. We will see what happens.

We had a crazy powerful church tour with Carmen. Like my most powerful lesson possibly. Pathways was going on and I was worried that was going to mess the tour up but it was better this way. She met a few people and got an in-depth explanation of the program and how awesome it is. We then finished with the Bible video of Jesus' baptism. It was awesome. We talked about baptism and bear testimony and we asked her if she thought this was the path God wanted for her and she said yes. It was a powerful moment and we put her on date. I think she will actually make it. We had a good lesson on the Word of Wisdom and she said she is coming to church. In our WoW lesson in her closing prayer she said she knew the Church and the Book of Mormon was true. Hopefully everything lines up like it seems to be. 

Monday, July 17, 2017

17 July 2017 Cooking with the Aguilar family

Cooking with the Aguilar Family

Delicious Food!

Last Monday was really good. We spent a lot of time with the Aguilars and learned to cook a fair number of things. We made a juice from this weird Salvadorian fruit, two salsas, cooked some chicken and beans to put on some tostados which turned out really, really well. Today we are doing the same thing, but we will be making desert empanadas. Hilda can cook and enjoys teaching us and we enjoy being able to cook things. So it's good all around. 

Tuesday we had a pretty good lesson with Jose, the oldest kid in the Aguilar fam. We had a member come out who just got called as the new Young Men's leader. The member we brought out may have been the best member I've ever brought to a lesson in a few ways. He served a mission a few years ago and is a really good teacher. Normally we just keep members for testimony and answering questions but we had him teach fair portions of the lesson. After the lesson we talked outside and I came to a small realization. Everyone in our Spanish district is pretty green. Elder Guerrero is the most senior and he is around 10 months old. Anytime anyone has accumulated a fair amount of experience they get transferred out with little to no probability of returning. The ultimate effect leaves our district being like the blind leading the blind. The only people coming into this district are brand new missionaries. It's not all that bad though. We try our best and rely near wholly on the spirit and prayer, but we would benefit from a few people who know really what's up. 

Wednesday was fun. We had interviews with President Brennan and a training by his wife and the Assistants. We talked about the branch, about missionary work, and things like that. I invited him to come to the branch one of these days. I think it would be beneficial for the branch. 

Later that evening we had a lesson with Pedro Para. His wife is a less active and suffers from depression. I've never seen her so animated and happy. It was so cool. We asked her about it and she said the day before she read the chapter we left her to read like a week before and she just felt really good. We spent the whole lesson talking about that and it was so great. She is starting to say she really wants to come back to church. That was really cool. The Book of Mormon truly will invite the Holy Ghost into your life as you read and pray about it. That something I've seen many times over and know to be true. 

This week we had two really good finding session. Going and knocking is not important. What's important is following the spirit to where you need to be. During our weekly planning we prayed for guidance on where we needed to be this week. We then looked at the map of the area we covered. I felt there were three different areas we should visit. I felt inspired to choose two streets in two separate parts of our area. I could feel there was another but wasn't having luck in deciding anything. Elder Rencher came back from praying and chose another. That night we were able to put it to the test. I was a little worried about one of the streets I picked because I thought it was in a nice neighborhood, meaning it wouldn't be as filled with Spanish speakers as the ones where we spend our time. We got there and that confirmed my worry. We knocked anyway and 4 of the 6 doors that opened were Spanish speakers. We set up a lesson with one and got the information of everyone else. The first door was a white person who wasn't interested, and the last door was a walk-in lesson. It was a great lesson. Sadly they were white but at least the English Elders are going to get a great referral. I don't really care all that much about if any crazy miracles happen while I go to these streets. What I care about is that affirmation that I'm where I need to be regardless of whether I completely understand or not. I find that the Holy Ghost is easier to understand when it affirms correct decisions. 

We had a good lesson with Enrique again this week. He told us he wouldn't be in town for church this week, which is too bad. He agreed to a baptismal date which is coming. He is progressing, but as one would expect pretty slowly. That expectation comes from 5 years of missionary work with him. He is actually listening to the Book of Mormon and I'm seeing an impressive change in him. We just talked with him in that visit. His wife had a stroke a while back and is very different and the only thing he can do is take care of her. She is a handful. It's really nice to see that he so clearly loves her so much even though she is so different than who she used to be. We talked about prayer and the spirit. He shared about how some days are really hard and he will leave her for a few minutes and walk to the park and pray. He said he always can rely on the Lord for the strength he needs. It was a touching lesson.

Reyna's daughter Carmen did not make it to church. We had two lessons with her this week and they were both great. Our last lesson was her just asking about church and different questions she has had. We focused on repentance and the importance of what Christ did. I think it really touched her. She texted us at like 11 pm Saturday night saying she would see us tomorrow and that she was excited. Then at 10 am or so she told us she woke up with food poisoning and couldn't come. I really hope she was honest about that, but at least it gives us an opportunity to have a church tour and bring out the member we think would be great for her. We normally have whomever we are working with say the last prayer. At first she didn't know how to pray and now within two lessons she is giving great prayers were she asks great questions. I've seen that most people won't ask questions in their prayers, its probably awkward for them if they don't believe they will actually be guided to an answer.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

10 July 2017 New Mission President, Playing the piano


We had a really nice zone conference this week. It was our first week with President Brennan. 

President Brennan

Michigan Lansing Mission

Image title
Sterling Arthur Brennan, 57, and Annette Lamb Brennan, five children, Santa Margarita Ward, Santa Margarita California Stake: Michigan Lansing Mission, succeeding President Michael V. Jacobsen and Sister Alice A. Jacobsen. Brother Brennan is a former stake president, mission presidency counselor, bishop, stake mission president, elders quorum president, and missionary in the Oklahoma Tulsa Mission. Partner, Maschoff Brennan. Born in Clovis, New Mexico, to Clifford Arthur Brennan and Stania Clarene Lott.
Sister Brennan serves in a ward Relief Society presidency and is a former ward Relief Society and Young Women president, ward Relief Society and Young Women presidency counselor, and ward missionary. Born in Mesa, Arizona, to John Clyde Lamb and Willa Dean Hamblin Lamb.

He is a pretty interesting guy. He was a named partner with a law firm in California I believe. He worked with intellectual property and also did litigation. When he gave his training he started off with saying "I've prepared a slide show but besides the first slide I feel that's not what needs to be said here." He basically asked us some questions on what the mission should be then went into what he wants from every missionary. He really is putting an emphasis on Preach My Gospel, a lot more than the former President Jacobson. I appreciate the change. He then moved into like a 30 minute testimony which was very interesting. It was framed in a way that everything was simply conveyed, yet was subtle and deeply profound in doctrine. He portrayed many of the characteristics I imagine a litigator would have yet maintained a very loving demeanor. We all arrived early to meet with him. He gave everyone hugs and talked with every missionary there. I'll be interested in seeing what gets changed in the near future. 

Friday we lost power. Elder Rencher and I both woke up at around 3am to some very bright flashes from the windows. I stood up and opened the blinds and we watched one of the most intense lightning storms I have ever seen. 

There was more lighting per second than I've ever seen and it all was very, very close, very loud, and was shaking our apartment. We watched in awe for a few minutes until we lost power. Interestingly the tornado siren didn't go off. In the morning we called around and learned that a tornado came through our area. It hit around the Weston's apartment and there have been intermittent power outages around southern Michigan. We still had warm water in the morning, but without the ac, our weekly planning was a little warm. We planned on our balcony. 

Luckily the less active we set up welding still had electrical power. We brought our metal chair over and did a little bit of welding. We didn't really share any message with him. We just had a good talk and welded. It was fun, he is really nice. One thing I realized about half way through was that the chair was made of aluminum. It's painted black so I didn't really think about it. From what I've read, aluminum is really hard to weld. From what I remember aluminum oxide has a much higher melting temp than straight aluminum, which makes not melting through really hard. We melted through on one of the welds, and the rest are all really rough. We didn't have a bunch of welding material to work with to begin with and didn't finish the job. It was also really sketchy. No safety material is fine, but not having the goggles made it harder than it needed to be. If you can't see what you're welding, it might not come out all that well, and it didn't. I'll get a pic once we go back and finish the job. 

We had a miracle this week! We've been working with this lady for a while but she won't come to church. She keeps saying she will though... Anyway we've been trying to meet with the whole family for awhile.  The problem is all her daughters work different hours that vary week to week and often day to day. We've been praying pretty hard recently for help finding more people to teach and we caught one of the daughters home. She came to us and asked if she could meet with us! Crazy. The best thing about prayer is that God always give answers in one way or another.

 A few days later we had such an amazing lesson with her. We only were going to take 30 minutes with her and get out, but she started having really good questions and so we stayed for a while after that. The best thing is she is honest! She expressed doubts over some things we said and asked good questions which indicated she was actually thinking. I hope she progresses. We had a small miracle in the lesson. Out of nowhere she seemed really nervous about halfway through the lesson. We were outside and I was sitting behind their house and couldn't see. Elder Rencher turned around, but then turned back. We were having a really good lesson and I was praying that whatever was about to go down wouldn't interfere with the spirit in that lesson. She told us her ex boyfriend had just pulled up, but after the lesson Elder Rencher told me that the guy got out of his truck was walking towards us, looked up and made eye contact with Elder Rencher, turned and left. Who knows if anything would have happened, but she was freaked out. 

Did I say it's great being a missionary? 

July 4 we kind of got wrecked. We were told not to knock doors and our area doesn't have many good areas to street contact. We walked around for a bit with little success, and had a BBQ with a ward member and finished our proselytizing time by dropping off cupcakes to the people we teach.  After 6pm we stopped by the Westons and played games with them for the rest of the night. It was pretty great.

The miracle I was praying for with Santiago didn't exactly turn out in the way I wanted. We tried our best. Last week I said he was leaving for an unknown amount of time, this week we figured out why. We were having a really good lesson with him and we were answering a bunch of questions he had. Towards the end of the lesson he apologized because he said he can't give us his full attention in the coming days. He said he is leaving in a few days and really needs to focus on getting ready. We talked a little more about his trip. Turns out he has been having some weird health problems that he didn't get to specific with. He said that the many doctors he has visited with wanted to do some weird things with him to find out what's going on. He told us what they wanted to do, and said he really doesn't want that. He then goes on to explain that he is going to Mexico to seek out some witch doctors to heal him. We gave him a Book of Mormon and showed him how to invite missionaries to visit him while he is in Mexico, wished him the best of luck and he said the closing prayer. It's pretty fun being a missionary. 

(This makes Eric's mother VERY happy!)

Also I am now the branch pianist. With Elder Waters gone, that responsibility is mine now. Playing the children's hymns is way harder and crazy. I'm definitely getting a lot of help in my playing ability. That's helped a lot. 

Pictures to be attached later:
1) Elder Weston and his Chile socks we gave him for his birthday. 
2)B-day pics
3)all the cupcakes + me cooking
4)tacos and no power

Monday, July 3, 2017

3 July 2017 Six Month Anniversary!

Today is my 6 month birthday!

I only have a few observations I'd like to make for the last 6th months.

The first is this is such an awesome church in just about every way. It truly is a perfect church. The people not so much, but everything else yes. Being able to bring the spirit into people's lives is the most rewarding thing of missionary work. Coming in and sitting down, sharing a short message and watching the people's countenances slightly change as they think about what we ask them and thinking about how they feel. Missionary work is kinda the best.

One thing I didn't quite expect was how much work this calling takes. Nothing has been more emotionally and mentally taxing. I spend every moment of the day thinking about the few people we teach. I think a lot of it comes from the preconception I had stemming from D&C section 4 when it is talking about missionary work and says "the field is white and ready to harvest." Instead of "harvesting" I feel more like a farmer in this context. 

Our only really progressing person told us he didn't want to continue meeting with us, more on that in a bit, and the Aguilars aren't quite ready to set a specific date. We go out each day and normally we will teach a lesson and sometimes we are blessed to have more, do some service, and spend as much time possible finding. We only have three members on our side, the rest are in the other area so we kind of get wrecked there. We have consistent Family home evenings with one. One won't work with us very easily, and the other we are almost at that point with. Knocking is so ineffective, my goal is to work solely through the members. That has been a really slow process. I wish people would progress quicker, and actually try what we ask them to do. How hard is it to read a chapter in the Book of Mormon and pray about it? Apparently really, really hard.

Another thing I don't understand is a few things in Hispanic culture. I think it's hilarious that some people will just disappear for a few months on vacations. We were working with this guy and he started coming back to church consistently and he didn't show today so we called him. We said hi and he responded by saying he was in Hawaii. That was a surprise. He said he and his wife went and they don't know when they'll be back. I've found this to be fairly typical; to leave without a return date. White people have itineraries, plans, return dates, flights home. Santiago the guy we picked up last week said he is going to Mexico. We talked about it a little more during our last visit and he said he will probably be gone for a few months, "only God knows how long." Elder Rencher's first member meal was with a family that disappeared the following week. The missionaries called and they said they were going to be in Mexico for a few months. They took their kids as well, like mid school year. Anyway I never met this family until a few weeks ago and the son was like "Ya I'm a little behind in school" haha. It's kind of impressive that they just leave life for significant amounts of time with undefined times and with little to no notice.

Also Hispanic time is kind of annoying. Everything starts late and ends later. For some reason the Aguilars are prompt. It's super nice. 

We had a really big disappointment this week. German started avoiding us, not answering calls or texts so we stopped by a few times. We caught him home once and we sat down. He told us pretty solemnly that he doesn't want to meet with us anymore. That hurt. He admitted that he has enjoyed our visits and that he is closer to God than he was before, but for some reason doesn't want us to come by anymore. I don't know what we did wrong, I don't know what happened, and I don't know what I could have done better. I've spent a fair amount of time reading through Jacob 5 in  the Book of Mormon. Basically we will do our best and even after that people won't accept what you give them. Still sucks.

Following the great disappointment we had a great miracle this week. Enrique, the guy who has met with missionaries forever came to church! His progress record says he has been to church like five times in five years. Our visit with him before we kind of just read a scripture with him. He was feeling pretty sick so we didn't stay all that long. I picked something in Mosiah and we read a little bit. He kinda looked like he was dying, but he opened up a little. We've been working to find him a way to listen to the Book of Mormon on tape because he struggles to read his massive BoM, the one with massive print. We told him that we could pass it off to him at church and he came- only like 80 minutes late but he came!

Also a less active member who doesn't want to visit with us opened up this week. I've knocked his door a few times and every time we set something up he "always forgets" and isn't home. I know he doesn't want to talk about the gospel at the moment so we won't. We have a broken chair and he bought what I think is a TIG welder, so guess what we will be doing Wednesday! Learning to weld-- that's what's up. When I asked him if we could fix the chair with him he went from "I'll be busy" to "YES!" That was pretty sweet. He even ran to his garage to grab the welder. I told him we don't have the chair with us and asked if we could do it with him. He seemed pretty excited. We stopped by a few weeks ago when it turned out he bought it. We helped him figure out how to use it and we will actually do something productive with it Wednesday. We get to meet with a less active, we fixed the scary chair in our apartment, and I learned how to weld: triple-whammy. Once he likes us I think we will be able to share a spiritual message with him.