Monday, December 28, 2015

Christmas on Tarawa


 
 
Elder Johnson and Elder Kennedy showing off
 their musical Christmas ties we sent to them. 
Elder Carrington making fun of them
 
 
We had a great experience talking with Elder Johnson on Christmas day.  He called us from one of the Senior Missionary's laptops that lives in the Moroni High School campus on Tarawa.  We were able to record the entire call, but it is much too big to post on this site.  Here are some of the details from that call.
 
Physical and Emotional Health
 
Elder Johnson is healthy and happy.  With the exception of a few minor cuts that got infected and some issues with his digestion, he is good.  There have been a few times where he was served under-cooked chicken that have made him sick for a couple days, but he has bounced back pretty quickly from that.
 
Jeff's spirits were pretty high.  There has been a few storms roll in lately that make riding their bikes nearly impossible.  Also when it rains, no one wants to listen to the lessons.  Those are the times that he has been getting the most frustrated and starts to feel down.  Other than that, he and his companions have been very busy and are working hard keeping up with all of their investigators.
 
We asked Jeff what he and his companion did to keep their spirits up when the rain or other things got them down.  He said that they do a lot of singing, and a lot more praying. 
 
Elder Johnson's Christmas Experiences
 
Christmas Breakfast- Pancakes with Nutella and Sausage.  With Elders Kennedy and Kaakau
Jeff made his companions breakfast Christmas morning.  He cooked up some thick pancakes and fries some sausage.  He made enough pancakes that they shared them with their neighbors.  He says they turned out pretty good.

Jeff admitted that he opened up his camera we sent him for Christmas the day he got his package, but saved the other items for Christmas morning.  The camera is already being put to good use since his old one was dropped in the ocean.  The new camera is waterproof and dirt proof.  (Hopefully he won't take that as a challenge!)

Later that day they went to a party with their landlord.  Elder Johnson said that it was a blast.  The music was a little goofy, so Jeff said he had to dance goofy.  Sadly all the camera batteries were dead by that time!

Elder Johnson is in the Tarawa East zone, and they got together with the West zone and played capture the flag.  Then they watched the movie Freetown. 



The day after Christmas Elder Johnson was able to Skype us at home.  They are 17 hours ahead of us on Kiribati, so it was Christmas day in Utah.  After the call home, the missionaries were going to have a big party all day at the Moroni High School. 

Elder Johnson mentioned that this Christmas he was able to focus more on the real meaning of the season.  The birth of our Savior.  It was an amazing experience to celebrate with the incredible people on Tarawa.

Mission President

Elder Johnson really looks up to the mission president, President Weir.  President Weir traveled to Tarawa this past week, so Elder Johnson was able to meet with him a couple times.  Jeff learned that President Weir has a military background and previously worked with black ops.  He related a story that President Weir once met witht a king of a foreign nation and helped him to reorganize his military using napkins to write down the details.  Elder Johnson has a lot of respect for President Weir.

Companions

Elder Johnson loves his companions.  He is currently working in a threesome with Elder Kennedy and Elder Kaakau. 

Elder Kennedy came to Kiribati in the group of missionaries right before Elder Johnson's group, about a month or so earlier.  So they are both still pretty green.  Elder Johnson loves Elder Kennedy and says he is a funny guy.  He has a pretty good sense of humor which helps when things get rough

Elder Kaakau is from Kiribati.  He is waiting to come to the US for his mission in New Mexico.  He will be with Elders Johnson and Kennedy until January 12.  It has been good to have Elder Kaakau with them since it has helped them with the language.  Jeff says it is hard to understand him from time to time, but he loves Elder Kaakau and is enjoying working with him.

These elders have been pretty busy lately, teaching about 40-50 lessons per week.  They have gone on a lot of splits with members of the ward.  The only thing that slows them down right now is the weather from time to time.

Elder Johnson mentioned that transfers will be anounced this week, he is hoping to stay with his current area because he loves the people he is working with.  But he said where ever he is sent, he knows that is where he is supposed to be.  We will find out next week if he or his companions are getting transferred.

Food

Elder Johnson has been loving the food on Tarawa, with the exception of the undercooked chicken!  His diet consists mostly of chicken, fish, breakfast crackers and rice.  He has tried Octopus and loved it. 

His little brother wanted to know if he has eaten dog yet, and he has not, but probably only a matter of time.  Our vegetarian daughter said, "Oh! Poor Fluffy!", Jeff responded, they don't name their dogs on Kiribati, except maybe "Dinner".

P-Day Activities

On their preparation day each Monday the first thing they do is race down to the computers.  There are only 4 computers and they race the other missionaries in the area to be the first ones to write home.  They would then go buy a drink or treat called "Thick Shakes", we didn't get the details on what those are. 

Then they would go home to rest and clean the apartment.  (Not sure if he said that just for his mom's sake!)  Then they are off to Moroni High School to play ultimate frisbee, basketball or whatever with the East Zone.  Once a month they combine with the West Zone to play games as well.  Then it is back home and back to work.

 
Great Christmas
 
For Amber and I and the kids, this was a great Christmas treat to be able to talk with Jeff.  It was our best Christmas present of the year. We know that Jeff is safe, that he is being watched over.  He is healthy and getting into the work.  It was an incredible thing to see a man on the screen, when he left us still a boy.  Definitely a mom and dad payday!
 
Our heart goes out to the other missionary moms and dads that have missionaries on the outer islands of Kiribati that did not get a chance to talk to them on Christmas.  Our prayers are with them and their missionaries.
 
We wanted to include a clip of Jeff bearing his testimony in the Kiribati language.  The quality of the video is not the greatest since I had to reformat it to be small enough to load. 
 
 
 
 
video

Monday, December 21, 2015

Christmas Wishes from Elder Johnson

Hello Everyone!

This week, I am not going to lie, was really rough! 
We have so many investigators that it is really hard to teach them all. It is crazy how prepared so many of these people are! They just want to hear the gospel.

On Thursday we got a Kiribati companion named Elder Kaakau, he is waiting to go to the MTC on January 12. He is going to serve in New Mexico. 

There were a couple of days this week where it rained all day, and not just rained, poured!!! It was really difficult because it makes the road really terrible to ride your bikes on  and absolutely no one is A) home or B)wants to listen.  This put us pretty behind on our lessons so we got to split with some YSA a couple of times this last week. In one of our lessons we taught this kid Moote, whose name in English is Moses.  He is 26 and he told us that he received a dream that he was the prophet. It was kind of scary, because his dream was exactly things that have happened through the restoration, just through false visions.  We went on to teach prophets and restoration and it was one of the most powerful restorations lessons I have been a part of.  We asked him to pray about it and he told us "I absolutely cannot do that."

This goes to show how the Savior's words in this last day are being fulfilled, In the last days there will rise false prophets.  I went back yesterday and as soon as Elder Kaakau and I sat down, we both felt we should leave right away.  So we did.  It was crazy!!!

The rest of our investigators are really solid,  they are keeping commitments and we are really seeing a change in their lives.  The work is hard but I see the Lord's help as we push forward! 
Wednesday night we had a birthday party/Christmas party for Elder Pulufauna and The Moroni YSA.  They made us sing a song and they had cake and ice cream.  I literally had so much, but I got super sick the next day because they didn't cook the chicken all the way...

Thursday, for service, we cleaned a well.  It was really nasty, and it kept filling really fast since it was high tide.  We had to take out bucket after bucket of water and scrape this green goo off the wall.  It was tough work but really cool!  Every time we do service, without fail, the family feeds us!  This was really difficult since I was sick from the chicken the night before and the food they gave us was soo good. 

The one thing that happened this week is my testimony grew about fasting.  I fasted 2 times this week and Yesterday I even fasted for a full 24 hours, and I have already seen the blessings that have come from that.  I know that if we have a trouble with anything and we fast the Lord will be quick to give it to us.  When we fast we show we want his help because we are giving up something that we need to receive help.  I know that it works.  I love this gospel!

Merry Christmas!!!!!!!!!!!
I love you all!!! Remember that this season is about celebrating the Birth of our brother, savior and redeemer.   And he is Literally THE greatest gift this world has ever had!

I love you all!
Love Elder Johnson



Dad!
Merry Christmas!!!
That is crazy that you have been a primary teacher for so long!  Time goes by way too fast sometimes! I know it has been here, it kind of freaks me out!!  I love those kids so much! Tell them hi for me and Merry Christmas!! Its amazing how at times we don't think that people are listening to our lessons and we quiz them on it they amaze us with how much they remember!  I have learned that so many times while being here.  At times it seems like our investigators don't listen but as long as the spirit is present, everything is able to sink in!

I am super excited to skype! I get to skype the day after Christmas here so it is Christmas for you guys.   I am super pumped!

I am definitely enjoying those things I was able to open now, especially the food!  It is the best! I already gave out all of my toys and I am constantly swarmed by hundreds of kids asking for toys! hahah Everyone Loves the magic too not just the little kids they think it is the craziest thing they have ever seen in their lives!

I love this season, and I love that I am able to focus on other things than the gifts and lights an holiday stuff.  I get to focus on serving others and help them come to know of the greatest gift the world has ever had!

This week is normal up until Friday and SaturdayFriday we get to spend all day at Moroni with the missionaries and the Senior couples are cooking us food for lunch.  We get to play games, have white elephant gift exchange, and maybe get to watch a Disney movie!!! whaaaaaat!!!?????  Christmas night we are spending it at a member's house (I might eat dog..........)  The day after is our skype time and then the ward Christmas party all day,  we are inviting our investigators I am super pumped, there will be dancing, music and food!!

I love you so much!  remember to take time to remember the true meaning of Christmas this Christmas season!

Love your son
Elder Johnson


Mom!!!! Merry Christmas in just a little bit!!
First I want to tell you that I get to email the day after Christmas here so it is Christmas there!  I am so excited!  I love you!

Mom, I am so proud of you for reading the book of Mormon.  That book has power, but I don't need to tell you that! You are already seeing the blessings that come from reading the book everyday! By reading the book you are showing our Heavenly Father that you appreciate his words and that you want to apply his teachings, and by doing so he will bless your life beyond anything you can possibly imagine!!

Just by doing a simple thing like reading in the Book of Mormon everyday led you to helping someone who needed your testimony.  Imagine what the Lord would do with you if you pushed yourself a little harder to follow more of his words.  I know that there is God's power in the Book of Mormon.  I have a strong testimony that the Book of Mormon was given to us so that we can be strengthened, so we can receive answers to questions and help other people in our lives. 

By the way, thank you so much for sending those magic tricks and toys for the kids! Everybody loves them!  Yesterday we got to teach the young men in church and we talked about Jesus' birth.  I tied in the atonement and I used the box that makes things disappear as  an object lesson for the atonement.  They thought it was super cool! 

I love you mom,
Love your son,
Elder Johnson

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Puppets, Octopus and Persistence

Elder Johnson handing out toys sent in his Christmas Package
Dad,
I am so glad that my letter made it before Christmas, I was a little worried!  haha But it is a relief to know that it made it there.  

I actually got my package last week!!  haha The stuff that I was able to open now is super amazing, you guys went above and beyond what you needed to do.  

I love Josh soo much, he truly is one of my best friends.  I know that he is going to do great things.  I have felt really strongly lately though that he should get his patriarchal blessing.  I know that will give him the drive to keep going.  

I am certain that the Lord is constantly knocking on everyone's door.  All we have to do is let him in.  Sometimes it can be hard, especially when Satan is in our ears telling us that we can't do certain things.  He wants us to think that we aren't worthy or we aren't good enough.  But the Lord is right there, even in the thick of it.  Sometimes, we may not know why we are prompted to do a certain thing.  At times, we may not even see the results of it until after the veil.  All we have to do is press forward in faith, trusting that the Lord has a hand in all things. 

One thing that I have learned being here the short time that I have, is you can always tune out Satan's words by occupying the stage in your mind with something good.  One thing that I like to do is to constantly have a hymn in my head.  It gives me the strength to keep going even when it is tough.  One other thing that really helps is praying more for thanks.  When we thank the Lord for what we have, our eyes are opened to how blessed we are.  I challenge you, when you pray to pray mostly for thanks, and try to limit how much you ask for.  I promise that if you do this you will see all the blessings the Lord is giving you and you will begin to recognize those tender mercies.  

Answers

- Tell us about your companion.  What is he like?  What is his background?  Did he do any sports or other activities in High School?  Have you been getting along with him?  Tell us a lot about him.

1:  My companion, Elder Kennedy is awesome.  He is super funny, and a really hard worker.  His faith is sooo strong.  He prays for trials and he doesn't let anything stop him from doing the work.   He played soccer in high school, and he was just like a super off the wall kid.  I love him, I already feel like he is one of my closest friends.  It has been hard at times, since I get in my head that "he is new and he can't teach me a lot"  but I know that he has a ton to teach me.  We spend a lot of time talking deep doctrine, pretty much any free time that we get.  I love it!  The stuff he says is super random, and funny, but that's what makes him him.  

Elders Johnson and Kennedy

- Tell us about what a typical day looks like to you.  As much detail as you can give us.  What time do you get up?  What time do you study?  How are you finding investigators? 


2) We start off the day waking up at 5:30 so we can get in as much study as we can.  We say our prayers (fifteen minutes) and then we work out. We work out for a half hour, but it doesn't really do a ton because the most we can really do is push ups and sit ups.  Next we have 45 minutes to shower with the bucket and a cup, get dressed and eat food.  Studies start at seven.  We have an hour and a half of personal, an hour of companion, hour and a half of language, then an hour of 12 week.  We start each study with a prayer, and we start companion study with a hymn.  After study we are out the door no later that 12:10.  We have our lessons set up from closest to furthest so it works better with the time.  It's go go go, no time for a lot of rest, but we stop at the stores a lot to buy packets of drinks called aiti (ice).  Lessons usually go for 45 minutes.  It gets dark around 6:30-7 so we have dinner at 7.  Most people don't have lights so they don't really like to have lessons at night.  Last night for dinner we had octopus!!!!  It was actually really good!

  

- What is the funniest thing that has happened to you out there? 

3)  The funniest thing so far is we were sitting in a lesson and I kind of spaced out.  (This was a couple weeks ago when I was with Elder Vula and Elder Powell)  They asked me to open with prayer, but I thought I was supposed to introduce my self so instead of praying I said, "Kam n bening ni Mauri!!!" Everyone was freaked out.  I looked at Vula and Powell and noticed that they were looking up from bowing their heads and folding their arms, but it was too late.... I had already done the whole introduction!!!

- How is the food treating you?  Are your cooking skills getting better?  Do you need more recipes?  If so, give me more ingredients you have access to and I will get you some things.


4) Food is going good, I am getting better.  I just have to experiment is all, I will send you a list of food they have next week.  

- Do you have interactions with any other missionaries on Tarawa?  What are their names and what do you think about them?

5) Every Monday we get to see all the missionaries in the East Zone, in the email place.  Then later we combine at Moroni.  Then once a month we combine with the West Zone.  It's way cool!!  But there are so many of them that I can't remember their names,  I have always been bad at names. But I can remember a face for ages!!

- How are your investigators?  Is your pool of them growing?  Any of them closer to baptism?  Give us details of names and ages and things like that.

6) Our investigators are solid.  We are sooo close with a lot of them, we just have to get them married!!  One of my favorite couples it Takinoa and Kueita,  They are sooo solid,  they took our challenge to fast and they fasted that Takinoa would receive strength to quit smoking and he didn't smoke for 3 days!!!! Kueita shares her testimony every time and they are super powerful!!  Then we sing a song every time before we leave! 

Another house is a couple of teenage boys about my age, Ruata, and Tekangae.  They eat our lessons up!! They are super into the lessons, and have so many questions! Yesterday we gave them Books of Mormon and they were soo pumped.  I also showed them my magic tricks and they flipped out and kept bringing more and more people to show them.  It is cool also because they tell their friends about our lessons so we have gotten a ton of referrals.  

- The one I want to know most of all, how is your standing with the Lord?  Tell me your testimony.  It brings me incredible joy to know the changes He is bringing into your life.

7) My standing with the Lord is solid.  I know that he is watching out for me, and putting us where we need to be.  An example of this happened last week.  We were running a little late, about a half hour or so.  We had our first lesson and were on our way to our next one when we got stopped because a girl was having a seizure.  If we weren't late we wouldn't have been there.  It was really scary, because they were pinning her down which you aren't supposed to do. But we got her in the ambulance and my lifeguard skills kicked in.  I am so thankful that the Lord gave me the opportunity to learn those skills, and put us in the right place at the right time.  I am recognizing more and more his influence and spirit in all I do.  

I love you I don't have time to do my week since this one was so long but I hope it is good.

Love your son,
Elder Johnson

Elder Powel, Sister Baldwin and Elder Johnson

Dear mom,
I love you so much!! 

I am definitely feeling tons better.  It has been rough, because we have been doing so much, but I know that the Lord is right there with me the entire time.  

It has been cool because this last week we have taught a lot about the Book of Mormon.  It is just amazing to me the kind of power that it really has.  And do you know why it has that kind of power?  Because it was translated directly from the power of God.  The book literally contains the fullness of the restored gospel.  The Book of Mormon is literally the keystone of our religion, if it is true, then Joseph Smith is a true prophet of God, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the true church, and we can be happy no matter what situation we go through in this life.  

3 Month Mark- Celebrating with Fried Chicken. 
Elders Johnson, Kennedy, Vula and Powell

I remember one lesson I had in seminary, when all the church leaders in the boundaries of Cyprus came and answered a bunch of questions that we prepared earlier.  One thing that one of the Bishops said really stuck out to me.  The  question was,  "How do I resist temptation?"  His answer really stuck out to me.  A chapter a day keeps the devil away! It is so true, when we are doing exactly what we can to study the words of God we are blessed with strength to overcome all things.  

I love that you are reading the scriptures everyday.  I love that you are already seeing the blessings from it.  But now I challenge you to take it a step further, and study with a question in mind.  It might take a lot longer, but the blessings are even greater.  

Remember that you are worthy of a temple recommend, and that every time that you feel like you shouldn't go to the temple, that is when you need to go the most.  

I love you so much and I will continue to pray about you!

Love your son, 
Elder Johnson 


Monday, December 7, 2015

Hard Work and Big Blessings

Sadly, Elder Johnson was not able to send pictures this week.  There is a virus on the computer on Tarawa that could delete any files plugged in.  If he is able to send pictures later, we will update this page.

This week has been really crazy!! It has flown by soooo fast, mainly because we have stayed soo busy.

This week we have done a lot of tracting and have found 16 new investigators, many of whom are really solid.  They ask really good questions, and seem to be very interested in our teachings.  I love it here!  It has been tough because Elder Kennedy wants to sacrifice things like lunch and part of dinner.  I love his intentions, buuut I gotta eat! 

It has been nice having Elder Aboki with us, who is an elder from Kiribati waiting for his visa to serve in Washington.  He has been able to help us when we can't understand the language.  But last Thursday he got moved to Betio so it is just me and Elder Kennedy now. I cannot believe I have worked with him for a week now!  He has taught me so much even though he has been here a little bit longer than I have.  

We have had to hike a lot because most of our new investigators are in places were there is too much water or mud to get our bikes through.  The work is hard, but I really appreciate the time here.  It has been difficult, but I know that I cannot grow without trials.  

This last week my own testimony has strengthened so much about prophets.  We have had a lot of lessons on prophets and every time we talk about/ pray in our lessons about Thomas S. Monson I feel the spirit. I know that he is a true prophet of god.  

Yesterday was fast Sunday, I fasted for help with the language, our investigators, and my family.  I am already seeing the blessings coming from that. The Lord has helped with my language so much this last week it is amazing.   All I have to do is keep working hard and continue to trust in the Lord.  I love the power that comes from doing what we are commanded to do.  They are all for our benefit.  If we follow the commandments the best we can, the Lord will bless us! 

That's it for now, I love you all!

Love Elder Johnson

Letters to Mom and Dad

Dad, 

I know how tiring, stressful, and hectic traveling can be, but I have never told you how much I have appreciated that you do it.  Thank you so much for getting a job that can provide for the family.  You work so hard and I know that it is because you love us, you aren't thinking about what you can get out of working but what you can give to help the family.  I love you so much for that, thank you.  

The Lord has a hand in all things.  He puts people in our paths for a reason.  If we truly try to listen the Lord will guide us.  He will teach us what to do and what to say.  It is important to tune out the world as much as we can, tune out the distractions, and tune into the quiet voice of the spirit.  

Excerpt from my letter to Jeff for context:

I recently changed the screen saver on the computer at home.  It now flips through random pictures and videos that are loaded on the computer.  I then loaded all of the digital pictures we have been storing since you guys were tiny.  It has become a pretty cool thing to have in the kitchen.  There are times the family will sit and watch them flip through.

A video just came up of one of the hundreds of swim meets I went with for you.  You were young, maybe the second or third year swimming at a Skyline meet.  It was definitely one of your earlier meets.  Your arms were wide, you wandered the lane back and forth and water was splashing everywhere.  I love you, but you looked like a wounded dog in the water! 

The screen saver moved on through a couple more pictures and then by chance, (or maybe not by chance) it showed a video of you swimming the IM at one of your last big meets at Kearns.  It was beautiful.  Your swim stroke was precise, your lines and technicality were spot on.  Every detail of your stroke and your turns was calculated from muscle memory of the countless hours you spent in the pool.  The corrections from your coaches, your attention to other swimmers, your dedication to something that was so important to you paid off.  You no longer looked like the wounded puppy, but the master swimmer.

I always loved when you got out of the pool, the first thing you would do would be to go to your coach.  You would listen carefully to any suggestions and guidance.  Then right afterwards you would come to me to tell me what your coach said and how you did compared to your old times.  It made me very proud how you would internalize the counsel your couch gave you and almost instantly make necessary changes.

I don't relate those stories to you to make you miss swimming.  But looking at both videos I had a distinct prompting.  At the beginning of your mission it is like you in the first video.  You are working it out.  It feels awkward and uncoordinated at times, it is hard work.  I know you are leaning on the Lord.  That your are reaching out to that perfect coach to help you make small corrections in your missionary life.  Through listening to the promptings from going to Him in prayer.  From watching for the tender mercies He gives you.  And from learning from the companions that you have been assigned to labor with, you will continue to grow and improve

Your story about my swim opened my eyes.  I have been frustrated because I know that the Lord has blessed me with the ability to teach well, but I can't do that yet because I can't speak... but I know that all great things take time, hard work and dedication.  As I am studying I have to learn how to teach the most simple way that I can, then I can start throwing in my own flare.  It's hard cause I want to be able to do it now, but it is teaching me to be patient, and it is teaching me to be humble.

Yesterday I did a weird thing, I thanked the Lord for my trial, and I even asked him to send me more so that I could learn and grow from them.  I want the lord to mold me into my potential, and I want to be who the Lord wants me to be, and the only way I can do that is through trials.  

I love you dad, Stay strong, and keep doing those things that you know are right.  

Love your Son,
Elder Johnson

Mom,

That is really exciting to hear that the Christmas box has made it. Maybe I will get it when I get to Moroni today.  I will let my companion know about going through the box and all that fun stuff.  I am really excited!  I'm super disappointed though cause I can't send pictures, I just don't even want to risk having them deleted.  What I will do is get a flash drive, copy the pictures on to it and send the flash drive home.  

I am glad that you found the incentive to read  the Book of Mormon.  I have a very strong testimony that there is great power that comes from that book, because it is truly the book of God.  That book has the power to help us overcome all of our worldly trials, all of our questions, and it has the power to help us overcome temptation.  I remember back home, when I would really read every day, I wouldn't have any troubles with my trials.  I could feel God's love. I know that as you really put forth the effort you can receive the same strength. I love you so much!  The Book of Mormon truly is the word of God.  

I have definitely developed a closer love for that book the short time that I have been here.  I have been able to feel the whisperings of the spirit, as it teaches me what I need to know.  I know the power that book brings.  Sometimes we take it for granted.  As a side note, do you remember the Book of Mormon reading trackers you gave us?? I am about done! I am in Mormon right now, I am really excited to fill that tracker!

I know that right now it is hard at times, but I know the lord is watching over me and he is watching over you and the rest of the family.  I love this work, and this last week has been sooo busy, I love it, I haven't had time to even think about missing home as much.  I do, but I know that I have work to do, I need this time to prepare for those that I promised I would teach in the life before this. 

I loved your song by the way! 

Mom I love you so much! Stay strong and know that I love you with all of my heart and that I pray about you every day.  

Love your Son,
Elder Johnson