Thursday, February 12, 2015

Great Counsel on Getting Along with Companions (Or Anyone for That Matter) - January 19, 2015

Hermanas Johnson and Gardner with Presidente y Hermana Dester at the Mission Christmas Celebration!
Enclosed is a letter that our mission president sent us with great advice for how to get along with our companions, but I think it is applicable to a roommate, a spouse, or anyone else with whom we have to work out differences.

Dear Elders and Sisters,

Last week I wrote to you a little about what a blessing it is to have companions, and how the Lord expects companions to lift and strengthen each other and to look out for each other. Because I quoted so heavily from the Missionary Handbook, I´m afraid that I didn’t get to share a few other thoughts that I have about our relationships as companions. So here is installment #2 on the blessing of having companions in this work.

First, let me say that I love a number of stories from the scriptures about companions. In 1 Sam. 18:1-3 (and continuing in 1 Sam. 23:16-18), we read of the love between Jonathan and David, and how these two companions protected each other. In Alma 53:2, we read of the love and trust between General Moroni and his junior companion, General Lehi: “this Lehi was a man who had been with Moroni in the more part of all his battles; and he was a man like unto Moroni, and they rejoiced in each other’s safety; yea, they were beloved by each other, and also beloved by all the people of Nephi.” I feel that way about some of my missionary companions, and about some of the other great souls with whom I have been privileged to serve in the work of the Lord. In D&C 135:3, John Taylor wrote of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, “In life they were not divided, and in death they were not separated.” Joseph and Hyrum were brothers, but they were also companions in the Lord’s work, and their relationship was characterized by love and unity, harmony and friendship. Finally, I love the story of General Moroni and Governor Pahoran, who even after a serious misunderstanding, were knit together in unity and support one for the other (Alma 60-61).
Some of the Hermanas of the San Pedro Sula West Mission Christmas Celebration
Each of us is different in many respects from each of our missionary companions, yet each of us is a son or a daughter of God, and all of us have more in common than we usually realize. And our Father in Heaven, and our Savior who leads this work, expect us to work and live together in unity and love. “Be one,” said the Savior, “and if ye are not one ye are not mine.” (D&C 38:27) When differences arise between companions, we need to resolve them quickly to maintain the Spirit with us. Often, one of the best ways to maintain harmony is to serve each other. Spend more time thanking Heaven for your companion and thinking about his or her great positive qualities than dwelling on his or her weaknesses or the things that might annoy you about your companion. Satan would love to drive a wedge between you every chance he gets, so that you are unhappy, and so that you lose the Spirit. Don’t let him do that to you. One of the first things that the Savior taught the Nephites was that “there shall be no disputations among you, . . . for . . . he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirrest up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another. Behold, . . . such things should be done away.” (3 Nephi 11:28-30) I also like the sage advice of Sister Blanca Falabella to her husband, Elder Enrique R. Falabella, of the Seventy: “In order to contend, you need two people, and I will never be one of them.” (General Conf., April 2013)

In describing the people of Enoch, who were eventually taken up into Heaven, we read: “And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind.” (Moses 7:18) Alma counseled his followers to have “their hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another.” (Mosiah 18:21) And, of course, the Master taught that we would be recognized as his disciples only “if ye have love one to another.” (John 13:35)

I have heard two or three missionaries say that they didn’t come on their missions to be friends with their companions. I think at times they use this as an excuse to not get along or find common ground with their companions. But I don’t think the Lord will let us take this position. In His work, we are to be one. We have to find the common ground. We have to resolve our differences and come to love one another, as He has loved us. This requires humility. It requires that we give up our pride. As a stake president counseling couples with marriage problems, I would often ask them, “Would you rather be right (about some little thing), or would you rather be happy? You can choose, but if you have to be right about everything, you probably won’t be happy.” I could also ask missionary companions, “Would you rather be right, or would you rather have the Spirit with you and have harmony in your companionship?” Let us be slow to take offense and quick to forgive, slow to judge and quick to give the benefit of the doubt. May you each be happy in your companionship. Try to find the common ground, try to see the best in your companion, try to preserve the Spirit in your relationship.

I love you very much, and the Savior loves you even more! May the pure love of Christ characterize your companionships! That is my prayer for all of you. And have a great week!

Pres. Dester

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Last Transfer in the Mission Field - January 12, 2015
Hiking up the steep trail to our Branch President's home.  Remember we live in the mountains here.

Visiting our Relief Society President and her husband at their home.

Look how colorful the cemetery is here!

Sorry I don't write you people much these days.  I am busy getting things ready for college, since I have to go back to normal life soon.  For your information, I had transfers.  My last ever in the mission field. I am still in Copan ruins of course, and my new companion is Hermana Virula from Guatemala.  She has 11 months in the mission.  She will be my very last companion. It was kind of crazy, cuz here they advise us on Saturday instead of Monday night whether we have changes since we live so far away from everything we need extra time to prepare and travel.  So on Saturday they told me and Hermana Moron, "No one has changes, it looks like you'll both be finishing your missions over in the ruins"... but then on Monday they called at like 3 or 4 in the afternoon to say," Hey sisters, the assistants made a mistake, Hermana Moron does in fact have changes!" So then our relaxing souvenir shopping day turned into a hectic get her all packed and clothes washed and souvenirs bought nightmare. Cuz  then the very next day at 8a.m. we were off to La Entrada where we stayed the night and then she went away to San Pedro, and I came back with my new comp.  It was pretty eventful.

Hermana Johnson doing laundry the old fashioned way

My new companion seems great.   She's sweet and easygoing enough. Today we got lots done.  We went shopping, ate lunch,  and washed clothes.Speaking of which....remember when I first arrived here in this new area I was so excited because there was a washer and dryer available for us to use...the first one I had seen my entire mission!  Well, that didn't really work out.  We came to discover the landlord charges by the pound to wash your clothes and clothes weigh a lot!  So we couldn't afford to pay by the pound to wash our clothes so we never got to use the washer or dryer one time!  Darn!  I will just have to wait for that luxury when I get back home. 
Love You All,
Hermana Johnson
Memories of the Best Christmas Ever - January 5, 2015

Don't have much time to write today as I am trying to get a few things in order for returning to school. So here is a recap in pictures of our awesome Christmas morning deliveries throughout our area. Hermana Moron and I along with Elders Harris and Hernandez delivered little gifts on Christmas morning to families in our branch as well as investigators.  Just little things people from home sent for us to hand out to share a little Christmas cheer.  We had matchbox cars for the boys and candies then "Frozen" things for the girls; bracelets, hair accessories, jump ropes, etc. Thanks again to all those who contributed little gifts for the children and white shirts and ties for the young men and boys.  Most have never had one before as only our Branch President and one other member even own a white shirt.  We even had the Elders teach a class on tie tying as most have never worn a tie and didn't know how to tie it.  We are still practicing this...Needless to say it was THE BEST CHRISTMAS EVER!!

Hermanas Johnson and Moron with Elders Harris and Hernandez in the mototaxi heading out Christmas morning to make their Christmas deliveries

We gave the little kids a package of "Pop Rocks"with their gifts.  This darling little girl put them in her mouth and got so afraid saying "There are fireworks in my mouth!"  We told her "It's alright it's candy and it won't hurt you"  then she calmed right down and ate 3 packages of them!
Whenever I refer to a "taxi" it is actually a "mototaxi". They carry 4 passengers besides the driver and we use them when we need to go somewhere very far or get somewhere very quickly.  They are tiny and make for a bumpy ride especially when they drive on the cobblestone.  It feels like you are riding on the "Indiana Jones Ride" at Disneyland!

Look how excited they are with their little bags of matchbox cars we dropped off.

So much joy in spreading Christmas cheer!
One of my precious primary children in his new white shirt and tie.  How handsome is he?!
We don't get snow here but who doesn't love a little "Frozen"?
Look at this beautiful Christmas feast provided by the Hernandez Family. Tamales and chow mein (I know it sounds like a strange combination but it was really delicious!  A wonderful ending to a wonderful Christmas Day.  How grateful I am for the kindness, generosity and love of these sweet people!
 Hope 2015 is getting off to a great start!

Hermana Johnson

Monday, February 2, 2015

Happy New Year! -  December 29, 2014

Just wanted to take a small moment to wish you all a very Happy New Year!  Welcome to 2015.  I hope all are well.  Thank you so, so very much for all the awesome Christmas gifts.  Thanks for all those who sent little toys and clothes for the people of Honduras.  They absolutely loved it all!  That was the greatest Christmas ever.  Tell Uncle Dave thanks for all the treats.... I eat the barbeque sauce with my chicken nuggets every day for lunch now, and I loved my Duck Dynasty t-shirt.  Also tell Grandma thanks for all she sent.  I loved the makeup and pink shirt especially.  Very trendy grandma!
LOVED my Christmas banner with pictures of so many people I love wishing me Feliz Navidad!

We have lots of really cool families here in our branch.  The members of the Hernandez family are the most recent converts that just got married and baptized back in November.  Brother Hernandez participated for his very first time in blessing the sacrament and gave a talk in church two Sundays ago, and then his wife gave her very first talk just yesterday.  They are on fire!  Their family really has an amazing story. They have been together for 14 years.  Hermano Hernandez's is a stone sculptor, he is amazingly talented.  They have five darling little kids.  They live on a little cliff on the side of a river.   People  do give him a really hard time about being a Mormon, saying he's no longer a real man because he doesn't drink anymore and a bunch of terrible things.  But when people go off like that, saying "Oh I see you've made yourself a Mormon now"... he just responds," yep 100 percent!"  Their family is really helping the branch to grow and get excited in missionary work.

Some of the Hernandez children all dressed up for the holidays.  Notice the amazing crocodile in the background their father sculpted from stone.


Our darling Primary and me as the Primary President (how crazy is that?)  Some of the decorations the children made to decorate our Primary room just like I made when I was in elementary school
Hermana Moron and I in our little apartment on Christmas Eve

For example, we gave Hermana Hernandez a Book of Mormon to gift to a friend of her choice.  She said she prayed and prayed for someone to come along who would really love and respect the book and hold it dear as she does.  So another amazing person that we are now teaching, showed up.  He recently survived a huge gang attack on him and his brother.  They murdered his brother right in front of him and handed him the dead body, then tried to kill him as well.  He has big scars on his forehead and the side of his face and is still healing up from a bullet wound on his side.  He said it was the hardest thing in his life so he decided to move far away and go someplace new.  He actually was born here but went away at age 13 and is right now returning to where he grew up.  He said he knows God saved his life for a purpose, so that he could better serve others.  He says he loves our church and feels it is where he is meant to be, and has already come two Sundays. 
These darling Christmas tree garlands were hung across the cobblestone streets all over our city and made everything look so fun and festive for the Holidays

Also there is an  Hermana we are teaching.  She is only 14 and walks an hour and a half all by herself with her little brother to go to church each Sunday.  A lot of members walk a long way to get here each week.  And this Sunday I don't even know how she did it, but she came in stiletto heels from the mountain where she lives all that way.  I don't know how people can walk in heels here without breaking a leg, each Sunday she passes by for several of her neighbors inviting them to come as well, even though each Sunday they say no, she passes by them without fail so that someday God can soften their heart and they will show up.  FUTURE MISSIONARY THIS CHICK, and she was inactive, but we just found her one day in the house of one of our investigators, and we invited her anew to come back.  She hasn't gone since she was 8 or 9 and was baptized, but now she has been coming every Sunday and to all the activities since I've been here.  She really has a true testimony now and says she will never miss again.  
Doing a little service Christmas morning with the Elders. Shucking corn then removing the kernels in preparation for tortillas.

So that's a quick summary of a few cool people we are visiting here in Copan.  Really I do love it here and feel very blessed to work with this little branch.  Thank you so much for all your love and support!  I love you all!  Happy New Year!

Hermana Johnson

PS: A cool thought I liked from our mission's Christmas conference came from the President's wife.  She talked about Peter the apostle.  She told about the story when Peter went out to walk on water with the Savior but started to sink.  She said sometimes we don't give Peter enough credit.  After all he was the only one even brave enough to get out of the boat and who had the faith to believe it possible to do as the Savior was doing.  She said he had a lot of faith to go out there, he just started to get nervous and fear and forgot the Savior was there beside him, as we often do. When troubles come along we start to get nervous and freak out, and forget how far we've come.  We feel it safer to return to the person we were before and forget that the Savior is always there to help us.  His hand is always outstretched towards us.  We just need to remember that He is always there.  Perhaps when the Savior told Peter not to doubt and be of little faith, perhaps it wasn't just to chastise him as we often think, but perhaps he was more lovingly trying to tell him, "Don't give up now, I'm right here with you. I'm with you all the way to guide you, just keep walking."  So may we remember the Lord is with us always.  Don't freak out if you feel you are sinking in your life, just remember He is there to help us, and we need to remember how far we've already come.  Give yourself credit for the work done and realize how strong you've been before, and see how strong you can become if you just stay focused on the Lord.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Getting Ready for Christmas - December 15, 2014

We don't have any time to write today because we went to the Parrot Farm today.  It's a famous exotic bird park here in Copan with all kinds of cool exotic birds besides parrots and tucans.

We made it back to our apartment safe and sound!

Look what was waiting for my companion and I when we arrived at the Mission Home for the Christmas party!! Seven packages from home!!  Giant thank you's to Uncle Dave, Grandma, Janet, and you!  I got all the darling toys everyone sent for the children here in Copan for Christmas as well as the white dress shirts and ties for the boys and men.  This Christmas is going to be so very special!  I am so excited to see their faces on Christmas.  I loved the story about you and Jann finding the toy cars after you had prayed for help.  Tell everyone thanks so much!  Now the trick was to transport all the packages from San Pedro Sula back to our apartment in Copan.  My companion and I had to hand carry them.  That's like from our house in Utah all the way to Las Vegas on windy mountain roads. We made it though and everything arrived in one piece...that is after several bus and taxi rides.

Hermana Moron and me at the mission Christmas party in San Pedro Sula

I took Ox on the trip and used him as a pillow since there wasn't room to pack my pillow with me.  Hermana Gardner and me with our Christmas antlers.

More of the Hermanas and I celebrating at the Mission Christmas Party
Hermana Gardner and I with President and Sister Dester
Hermana Moron and Elder Hernandez from Columbia making decorations for our branch Christmas Party
We had an activity for the primary children to make decorations for the branch Christmas Party.  Everything turned out so darling!

Visiting the Parrot Farm today in Copan

Unfortunately, one of the parrots got a hold of the brand new shirt you sent me and ate a few holes in it!

What a great P-day today with our district enjoying the beautiful birds in the bird park!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Hunter Receives His Mission Call - December 8, 2014

Sorry I can't write much today because we are going on a two day vacation from Copan Ruins ha ha ha.  No really, this area is so far away from everyone and everything.  We have the Mission Christmas Celebration tomorrow, so today we have to go two or three hours to get to La Entrada de Copan.  Hermana Gardner and her companion will be heading up to the sisters' house there tonight as well.  So we will all pretty much be sleeping on the floor tonight.   The mission will be sending a bus to pick us up from the Entrada tomorrow at 6 in the morning... so fun.  Then after the Christmas celebration, we will all come back home and go chill out at Hermana Gardner's house in La Florida, sleeping on the floor again tomorrow, because we will have a district meeting bright and early Wednesday, and it just isn't worth it to go all the way to the ruins and then back to La Florida on Wednesday. There's not even a bus that leaves at that early hour if we even wanted to take it, so yeah.... we will be out on that adventure for two days.  The only thing I don't like so much about the buses here is that it really is the bumpiest, curviest ride you can go on in Honduras to get here!  Tons of people get sick.  They have paper bags like an airplane for people to barf in ha ha ha ha.  So the buses always smell really bad because everyone just gets so nauseated on the curvy jungle mountain trip.  
Addi, Hermana Johnson's 8 year old cousin who selflessly came up with the idea to make friendship bracelets for the kids in Honduras and send them to them.  She made plenty to share and brought PLENTY of joy and smiles to the children there.  See Hermana Johnson's comments about the bracelets in her post dated October 6, 2014.

As you can see, the Honduran children love their gift from a sweet girl in the good ole' USA

I guess my Christmas packages will be up in San Pedro waiting for me in the Christmas meeting tomorrow, so we'll take them from there.  I don't know how the others will get to me.  We shall see what happens.  

Don't worry about sending me jackets or blankets, there are a bunch of blankets in our house from other sisters, and blankets are super cheap here as well.  

We had two more little mice in our house this week.  Eeek!  Any ideas on how to get rid of them?    

I am so so, so excited for Hunter's Mission Call!!!!!!!!  It came on Thursday didn't it?  It was really weird because Wednesday night before going to bed I felt the most terrible nervous feeling like when I got my own mission call, so I felt like he hadn't opened anything yet. But then Thursday night I felt the most peaceful feeling before going to bed like I knew that he had opened it already and that he would be going just where he needed to be.  I felt like he would be happy there.  I am so happy for him.  He will do a wonderful job.  But if it's not too much to ask, I want you people to wait to buy suits and shampoo and ties and shoes and all those things until I get back because I want to help with all of that.  We can start shopping the very day I get back to be able to have it all ready early and good.
Another Johnson missionary going out to serve!!  Hunter is going to the Michigan Lansing Mission!

Thank you so much for all your love and support.  Congrats HUNTER!!!! WHOOOOOOOO, I am so excited for you.  Start studying up on those scriptures, and I'll be there to practice with you all day every day before you head off.  Good luck in your finals little buddy!   

Hermana Johnson
My Latest Adventure - December 1, 2014

Yes I did have transfers this time.  You all guessed right.  I am here at the Copan ruins.  It is absolutely gorgeous!  It is a massive tourist place like you wouldn't believe.  We actually run into people all the time from all over the world.  We meet visitors from the US, France, Great Britain... every day is a new adventure.  Google it!  It looks like you're in Italy almost because it has cobblestone roads and everything is on a massive hill.  I am going to have fiercer leg muscles than ever.  I will take some pics for next week.  Besides the ruins, people come to see a bird park... full of parrots and all types of exotic birds from Central America.  There are lots of castles too.  Where our apartment is, right below is a giant old castle.  That is just the norm here.  It is pretty safe here too.  I would totally take the family to visit here some day, it is so cool.  But no I do not want you to pick me up still.  The ruins are just like a ten minute walk from my house.  The food is amazing as well.  Tons of little pastry places.  I swear I'm in Europe.  And get this, for the first time in my entire mission I am cold.  I am so shocked. There are actually cold areas that exist in Honduras.  I have to sleep with like three blankets and walk around with a jacket most days.  A JACKET people!

Lookin' good for an early morning service project. Digging up all the pipes that bring and drain water from the kitchen sink and the shower... the whole water system of the house of a member. The system was taken apart and cleaned because it got clogged... they have to do that like every 2 or 3 years here.   Then put it together and buried it up again. It was like 3 or 4 feet underground so that's why everyone got so filthy digging it up and taking it apart.  Wow, look at all these new skills Hermana Johnson is learning!!

A fun and yummy surprise arrived from sweet Janet Hays
Uncle Dave having missionaries in his house really is blessing me.  My apartments get better and better and better.  In my current apartment there is hot water in the shower.  What?  And behind our house there is a washer and drier.  Sure we have to pay the apartment owner to use it, but a WASHER and DRIER!  That is so foreign.  I haven't used those in over a year.  I am so spoiled right now.  I think there are only two houses in the entire mission that have that.  How lucky am I?  

The Church is just starting here in Copan.  We have a little tiny branch and about 40 people come each Sunday.  So I received some new callings.  I am the new Primary president, and first counselor in the Relief Society.  My companion is the Young Women's president.  So I teach Primary every Sunday, while she teaches the youth and more than half the time I will be teaching Relief Society the third hour.  While she heads off to do singing time with the kids.  This branch does not exist without the help of the missionaries.  It is a lot of new responsibility, but I am excited.  I've actually always wanted to be in an area where the Church is just starting to grow as it is here.  We hold church meetings in a little brick house with a sign on front that has the name of the Church.  It has four rooms that we move around to have all the classes in.  There's a cute garden out back with a cement baptismal font.  The majority of members here don't actually even know how to read, so that is the biggest challenge.  They feel inadequate to have callings, so we are working with them to have more confidence so this branch can grow.  We are all kind of just learning together here.  I feel like perhaps more than half of the people here in Copan cannot read, so we are learning how to work around that.  

I am very excited to teach Primary though.  There are a lot of cute little kids.  I'm glad I helped mom out with Primary before coming to the mission because now I have lots of good ideas and a bit of experience to get me on top of things.  I do feel a bit inadequate teaching Relief Society though because I don't have kids or a job or much real life experience really, but Heavenly Father will help me out I know.  The ties and things will be of great use here because it is rare people come in Sunday dress.  Most people come in jeans and a t-shirt.  I think only our branch president and one other man has a white shirt and tie that they wear with jeans to their church meetings.
The kids loved the pirate patches Uncle Darren sent!

This Friday we will have an activity with the youth to make Christmas decorations for the church, so hopefully some things arrive in the package tomorrow to help with that.  My companion says usually things get to us like once every two weeks.  On December 9, we will have a Christmas conference with President Dester along with one other zone.  We are going to teach the kids to make wreaths and paper snowflakes and simple things like that.

I am with my first ever US companion.  She speaks Spanish perfectly because her parents immigrated to the US from Peru, but she was born in New York, and then moved to West Jordan, Utah when her parents got divorced when she was 13.  She has just one sister who is also serving a mission right now in California.    

My very first day that I got here, as we were eating dinner, I found a mouse in the house.  My companion, Hermana Moron, says she's never seen one in the house before.  The house was super clean when I arrived, so I don't know why it was in there.  Maybe it just got cold outside.  There are different creatures in each one of my areas.  In Campana, spiders; in Potrerillos, ants; in Puerto Cortes, cockroaches, scorpions and snakes; and here in Copan it looks like it'll be mice.  Hermana Moron was so scared she jumped up on a chair, and I had to get it out with a broom.  I have become an expert I feel now in pest control.  I have so many new talents thanks to the mission.  

Well I love you lots.  I wish I could be there for Hunter's mission call!  Please let me know all the details!  I wish next Monday could come already.  I love you lots.  Thanks so much for all your love and support!  I'm just so happy to be here.  I'll send lots of pics next Monday.  Hermana  Gardner is in my district!  Whooooooooooooooo.  Although all the areas are very far apart here.  Hermana Gardner is in Florida two hours away.  We have to go two hours for district meeting.  I think I am the very farthest area a sister can go to in the mission.  On Wednesday/Transfer Day, we just traveled all day long.  I left Puerto Cortes at 6 in the morning, and I didn't get to Copan until 7 at night.  SUPER off the map from everything else.  Some missionaries say that Copan is cursed because baptisms are extremely rare.  Maybe one every six months for the entire zone.  I feel like I'm in Europe more and more every day.  They say it's the Mayan curse for having the ruins so close by.   We'll see what happens.  

Love you lots!

Hermana Johnson