Saturday, March 22, 2014

Surviving the Heat - March 10, 2014
I am so happy to hear that everything is going so well at home and that everyone is doing okay. Mom has plans to send an Easter package and there´s no stopping her, so I´d like to request a new mascara, allergy medicine because I´m almost out, and it is so dusty here I will probably die without it.

In other news.... everyone asks about the weather here... it is really, really, really HOT and humid so you are just really moist all day long.  I am in the hottest zone of all of Honduras and just in time for the week of Easter, which is known as the hottest week of the entire year!   I feel so very blessed to be here though.  We are holding up fine. The President had a surprise visit to our district meeting on Tuesday  just to come watch us.  That always gives one a bit of anxiety. He told us he is praying for us all that we won´t pass out in this heat!  And it is just the beginning!!  Easter week is the hottest of all but from April to August it is pretty much just hot, hot, hot.  Half the year is summertime here, but I have figured out a few good things to do to beat the heat.

TOP 10 Ways to Survive Semana Santa (AKA Easter Week)

1.Drink lots of water obviously
2. Walk around with an umbrella, you look ridiculous but you shall be saved from skin cancer
3. Consume lots of topogigios... they sell these everywhere, little plastic baggy filled with your choice of frozen fruit juice or fruit smoothie.  The Honduran popsicle if you will, and they are so delicious and they only cost 1 to 3 limpiras, aka 5 to 15 cents in US currency.  I eat one or 2 every single day when it gets this hot.  I recommend those made from tamarindo, coconut or banana
4. Eat lots of green mangos with chile of course
5. Have your companion wash your hair out on the back porch in the pila to feel nice and refreshed
6. Have a water fight before going to bed
7. We pretty much just always walk around in our underwear in the house because when it is this hot you want to avoid clothing until it is absolutely necessary
8. Sandals are a must 
9. Practice your updo skills, because hair up is a must.  Fun fact, Hondurans have great appreciation for braids because the majority of them can´t do one
10. Always carry extra pamphlets to use as a fan as you are sitting in a lesson.  ha ha ha
Cleaning out tamarindos which is used to make juice and "popsicles"
And if you follow these 10 tips you shall live.  Because let me tell you sunscreen just doesn´t work here... I put it on twice every single day and I was shocked the other day by how many freckles I have on my back these days.  I have definitely decided to stick with my umbrella every day as the sun is even stronger now.  I still wear sunscreen don´t worry, but you wouldn´t believe how strong the sun is here.  But the Lord is watching over me, because I know if I were just my regular self at home I would´ve passed out by now, but I haven´t had a single problem from the heat thus far.... just lots and lots of freckles.  
As for the people we are teaching, we have two investigators with whom we always have the most ridiculous visits with but they are really fun.  They are BFFs who have been next door neighbors their entire lives and are 30 and single... never have been married or had kids or anything.  So deep down inside they are seeking a bit of direction and purpose.  One is just so darn flirty with everyone, he is harmless but wow life would be so much easier if these latinos were not so flirty.  They are both so smart and really know about the Bible and everything, so teaching them is easy.  They actually think a little too deep sometimes, but they really believe the church is true in their hearts but we are struggling to get them to commit to baptism.  They come to church every week, and love when we visit, but it is sometimes a struggle for people to leave the worldly things behind.  They are such good people.  We are just trying to help them understand why there can only be one true church. So this week we taught the word of wisdom, the law of chastity and left them Joseph Smith History to read, and we shall see how it all goes.  These two bachelors are pretty darn popular here in Potrerillos too. Every single week everyone asks us if they are coming to church or how´s the teaching going, like no other investigator I´ve ever had.  Hopefully we can finally baptize these bachelors very soon because they are just about ready.  

I am loving, loving, loving missionary life!  It is not easy of course.  Last week was like Plague week. It started the day after my birthday.  I got bit by something that I am apparently allergic to and my whole foot blew up like a balloon. I couldn´t wear my sandals because the strap wouldn´t close.  I could hardly walk it hurt so bad.  Later I got some weird rash or something on my face which I think came from the heat so I was ugly for an entire week.  A swarm of ants attacked my arm and that was pretty nasty, because if lots of them bite you it oozes really gross, and it hurts worse than anything. I´d rather be bit by 20 mosquitos than an ant in Honduras.  And two days after my foot got better this mystery creature that I am allergic to bit me again.  It is already over, so that´s why I´m telling you now, because I didn´t want you to worry.  Idk why it all happened at the same time, but somehow we prayed every day that I could work and magically I would be fine all day long, and then I´d be hurting again in the nighttime and the next day we´d pray and when the time came to leave all was well. But our afflictions are but a moment and then all is well.  I guess I share this with you now not so that you get concerned, but so that you know that life´s challenges always come to an end.  And as we are going through them if we pray and have faith, it isn´t that they will magically disappear, but that God will give us the strength to support them well.  If we have patience and don´t panic, He will take care of us.  It was not a fun week healthwise, but we´ve got work to do and people to visit and the Lord will make His work happen.  We had some really wonderful visits too.
I love my mission experience in Potrerillos, Honduras!!
Here we have the responsibility to teach the mission prep class every Wednesday, so our dear students as homework get to come accompany us on our visits.  The sweetest boy came with us on Tuesday. His name is Aldair, and he has been a member of the church for one year.  He really wants to be a missionary so he comes every week to our class and is always willing to help us, but because he doesn´t have much time as a member he feels really inadequate and like he doesn´t know enough, but that´s not the case because he´s really smart and knows plenty!  He was so cute the other day.  He had skipped a few days of seminary, and we asked him what happened, and he says," It is so early to have to get up for, seminary should be longer.  I really like it but where it is only an hour I don´t feel like it´s worth it to get up sometimes.  I wish seminary were like 3 hours."   I have never in my whole entire life heard a teenage boy wish that seminary would last longer!!  Aldair is the sweetest and will be an excellent missionary because he is so humble.  We are just making sure he comes on lots of visits with us to build up his confidence because he is so sweet.  By the way, they found Naldo´s missing baptismal record so he started his mission papers!  whooooooooooo  Lots and lots of good news.  

Just want you all to know that I love you very, very much, and I am just so, so grateful to be a missionary here in Honduras.  It is such a privilege to serve the people here.  They are so good and ready to hear this gospel.  They give so much of themselves.

Take care of each other because family is the greatest treasure we have and I´m not there to do it right now.  Tell Hunter to have a very, very happy birthday!  And shout out to Gabe and Parker that they  have a happy birthday too because I know they´ll be celebrating this month as well.  Hunter, I love you very much and hope things go well in your college investigations.  Can´t believe we are getting so ridiculously old.  Love you all very much! 

Love, Hermana Johnson
Happy Month of March! - March 3, 2014

Since you've all been so curious about how one celebrates their birthday in Honduras... Hermana Nena who is destined for the celestial kingdom, has a son whose birthday is the 25.  So we went to his party on Tuesday.... being a missionary at a party is probably one of the most awkward things that can happen to a missionary... people invite us because they love us and we go because we love them and want to show our support, but there's pretty much nothing whatsoever we can do to participate. We can't dance, we can't stay for long playing games.  All we can really do is sit there and eat their treats and watch people do all the things we would love to do but can't because we are missionaries.... ha ha ha.   
Hermana Nena's  son Naldo always goes on visits with us, so we wanted to help his mom plan his surprise party to say thanks.   We used some of the birthday decorations that mom sent and blew up balloons.  Hermana Nena made a huge tres leches cake that Naldo and I picked, that was so, so delicious, so I figured that was my birthday too that I would share it with Naldo.  But Oh No!  Hermana Nena called us up the next day on my birthday to come back for another dinner and made another cake just for me and wrote happy birthday Sister Johnson on it and everything!!  Hermana Nena is so so sweet!  It also is really nice that she makes cakes for a living so that worked in my favor for a great birthday.  I myself had even forgotten it was my birthday until we got to Hermana Nena's for dinner.  Every day is the same thing for a missionary, but for me Hermana Nena made it very special!  
Hermana Nena's (left) beautiful and delicious birthday cake she made just for me!
A close-up of my personalized birthday cake!  Could Hermana Nena be any sweeter?
When we got home I opened all my gifts from my sweet family.  I loved the markers and stickers for letters and my planner.   I loved the sweet Golden Gate Bridge shirt Molly picked. I loved all the treats of course, I loved the new makeup and 5 million watches.  I only needed one my goodness.  The headbands are so cute.   There was so much I know I'm forgetting to mention it all.  Thanks so, so much.  My companion bought me a cute purple bracelet.  She is so sweet.  I hope we can have one more change together.  She is so strong too as I told you last week, she converted to the church when she was only 10 years old with her older sister who was 14, and they had to walk an hour and a half every Sunday just to go to church.  Her dad converted just this past year, and her mom still isn't a member, and still she was so willing and desiring to be a missionary.  Wow! 
My cute companion, Hermana Lopez, decorated our apartment for my birthday celebration!

It's starting to get pretty hot these days, but all is well because Mauricio always comes to church.  Jose and Glenda finally found someone to help Jose obtain a divorce from his previous wife so he and Glenda can get married.  Divorce and marriages here are really hard because it is so darn expensive so people just live together.  Also, Hermana Lopez and I are teaching the mission prep class in our ward now because there's no one else to do it.  I really enjoy it because there are some golden teenagers here.  Our ward mission leader is fabulous. His name is Fernando and he works super hard and is so responsible, which is unfortunately rare in 18 year old teenage boys.

Also, even though I am 20 years old and I'm a missionary in Honduras not even I can escape the dread of the science fair as Elise would be happy to know! ha ha ha  We helped two investigators do their science project on Saturday because we had a visit scheduled, but they hadn't finished their homework, so we offered to help.  We put the board all cute together with lots of glitter and cutouts and everything.  I was so sticky and covered in glitter when we finished... it certainly reminded me of my younger school days.

Anyway... I love you all very very much and really just want to tell you how wonderful it is to have you all as my family.  The people in our families help us grow and become who we need to become.   Of all the souls in all the universe, the members of our family were specifically chosen for us.  Perhaps our family is imperfect or has hurt our feelings in the past, but man has no right to separate that which God has put together. As the forever wise philosopher Tim Gunn would say,  MAKE IT WORK!

I love you!  Happy month of March.  See you all this time next year : )

Hermana Johnson

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Happy Birthday - February 24, 2014

Thanks for all the birthday wishes!  You are so sweet and thoughtful!  And yes I got two packages from you people this week.  My companion and I and many citizens of Potrerillos are enjoying all the goodies.  I haven´t opened the wrapped things just yet, so this Wednesday I suppose I´ll decide whether to thank you or not.  JK You people send tooooo much!  Thanks for loving me so darn much though.  I have received all 3 of the birthday cards as of this week.  Oh my goodness I am so rich.  $75 US is a toooooon of money here.  But tell mom not to worry so much.  Knowing her she already has packages planned for St. Patrick´s and Easter and the 4th of July.  I feel so guilty.  
Things are going great here in Potrerillos.  And the members take fabulous care of us.  They are angels.  The sweetest of all is Hermana Nena, who when Hermana Lopez was sick for a few days accompanied us to the doctor and then insisted to pay for the prescriptions and everything.  She is at our beck and call for whatever we need.  My goodness that woman is on track for celestial glory. Very good people here.  Her son Naldo is turning 18 tomorrow and accompanies us in visits sometimes.  He is a crazy soccer fan and plays too... I suppose the Honduran version of Hunter ha ha jk.  Since Naldo´s birthday is the day before mine we will do some celebrating together at their house.
Made a fresh batch of homemade tortillas with Martita and Maria
My companion, Hermana Lopez, is really great.  She is so strong in the gospel!  She was baptized when she was 10 years old with her 14 year old sister and just the two of them walked to church an hour and a half away every Sunday!  Her dad recently converted to the church and her mom still isn´t a member.  It is quite an amazing story.

In other news... The baptism of Emerson yesterday was really nice.  He insisted on being baptized on a Sunday.  He has a bone disorder of some sort so he doesn´t really have good use of his arms or hands, but he just loves coming to church.  I love that all people can feel welcome and have a place in the Lord´s church.  But as usual, there is always a lot of stress with baptisms.  We went to visit on Wednesday to review the baptismal interview questions with him and schedule a day for the elders to come interview him and for some reason he wasn´t home!  So we tried calling but his phone had broken.  We said ok, we´ll try again Friday.  So Friday we went to his house to look for him because we had no way to contact him to schedule a visit... the problems we face in Honduras ha ha.  Again, he wasn´t home and we had no way to know when we could have the interview so he could get baptized!  His little brother said Emerson had left to go to the Pulperia so we went to the Pulperia and he wasn´t there either.  We looked up and down two other streets and Hermana Lopez says to me, I feel like Emerson is in El Parque and that we need to go right now.  Which was crazy talk because El Parque is very far to walk to from the house of Emerson and we would have to pay a taxi so it would be quite a bummer if he wasn´t there... but if the Spirit tells you something you do it. So immediately we went looking for a taxi and headed off to El Parque and sure enough, there was Emerson just about to leave for his brother´s house in another town.  Oh my goodness.  We caught him just in time and I was so grateful Hermana Lopez listened to her impression or else we might have had to postpone the baptism or something.  But all was well and he got baptized yesterday.  
A wonderful day as we saw Emerson's baptism!
One of my favorite investigators right now is a darling 14 year old boy named Mauricio.  He is just so darn smart and studious and understands the scriptures suuuuuper well.  He started accepting our visits because he has lots of friends who are members and one of them gave us Mauricio as a reference.  But since we have started visiting him he has been so incredibly diligent.  He goes to every church service, every baptism, every activity, always reads his Book of Mormon, and get this... he´s not even baptized yet and goes to seminary every day at 5 in the morning!!!! This kid is too good to be true, and no one in his family goes with him.  Just him all by himself.  He is such a good kid.  I love to visit Mauricio.  He says he feels in his heart that it is all true so we challenged him to pray about March 15 as his day to be baptized.  We will visit him tonight to see what he says.  

I feel the spirit stronger in the lessons than ever before.  I feel like I´m really learning how to let the spirit work through me better each day and often feel like I should promise people certain blessings or share certain experiences, and whoooo it is too great to be a missionary.  My prayers are answered quicker and clearer and stronger than ever in my entire life.  I really don´t want that to end.  
Things are going really wonderfully here in the mission.  I really know that this mission is where I was meant to be called.  It´s strange but many times I feel like the people I teach I have met someplace before.  I suppose it is because before this life we did know each other.  That we promised certain people before we ever came to the earth that we would teach them the gospel, and I have been lucky enough to be worthy to keep that promise.  Hunter, you too have promised certain people so just keep praying to know when it is that they need you.  Love you!  Tell your friends congrats as they get their mission calls.

I am not happy about my birthday.  But I am lucky to be having it in such a special place.  Though my favorite people in the world aren´t with me, we will have eternity to be together so all is well.  
Thank you for you love and support and for always praying for me.  I love you to the moon and back
Hermana Johnson     
Hugs and Kisses To You All! - February 17, 2014

Hope you had a great Valentine´s Day!  Though from your letter it sounds like Hunter was seeing a little too much red with his girl induced body rash poor thing.  Ha ha ha hope he´s doing better now.  Did you ever find out what really caused it?  

Pday was super awesome today.  My district is fabulous and really united.  We spent Pday as a district and our zone leaders came along too so 8 of us headed to Lake Yojoa where we rode a boat out on the lake and then ate really huge fried fish fresh caught from said lake.  It was so fun, and pretty relaxing too. The fish was pretty good too... my how times have changed. I guess if you eat anything enough times you can learn to like it?!  I almost fell asleep in the boat and just sitting on the shore hanging out for a bit.  The reason we came late to write is that not many buses pass by to go to the lake so we spent over an hour just waiting for buses today.... we didn´t know that beforehand.  Great day though.
Having a little snack at the lake - remember in Honduras they don't debone anything!
Heard you had trouble finding Potrerillos on a map... well it is about 20 minutes from Villa Nueva which would be more well known.  That´s where we go to grocery shop.  And you can look up Lake Yojoa too.  That was about 45 minutes away... and it is a pretty cool tourist site here in Honduras.  There are definitely more touristy places to visit in this zone.  Hermana Lopez said they went to a crocodile farm one time so I´m hoping we can go there soon so I can see it too.  It is famous among missionaries as a place to visit.  
Brie and Hermana Lopez enjoying Lake Yojoa
Tell Molly congrats with her driving permit and stay safe. Look where you´re going and don´t get too stressed because when you panic that´s when bad things usually happen.  Stay calm.  We´ll see if I can even remember to drive when I get back in a year.... Yes happy 6 months to me!

Also wanted to say thanks so much for your Valentine Package!  And the part in the red envelope came too this week.  I loved the "100 things we love about Brie".  That was so sweet.  I will keep it my whole mission and look at it if I have a rough day.  Those are the best kind of gifts to get.  Also for the 14th we celebrated as the Hermana Lideres came for divisions to our house and we made smores the 4 of us.  It was a great day.  And I love our Hermana Lideres here... Hermana McCuiston and Hermana Escalante.  They are really down to earth so we don´t get so stressed out when they come to visit.  It shows that is so important that missionaries need to relax a bit.  Missionaries shouldn´t be so stiff and serious that people feel like they can´t talk with them like regular human beings.  We have to be down to earth and humble and happy for heaven´s sake.  And not fake happy, but really just having an honest desire to help our fellow man.  Sorry about that missionary rant...

A fun little break at the lake with our district on P-day!
Thanks so much for all the treats, you think about each little detail for these package my goodness.  I wasn´t even expecting a package for Valentine´s Day.   I loved the ring pops and bracelets that I can share with little kids and other missionaries with ease.  I loved the papaya and smores idea and fruit roll ups and hello kitty treats. Everything was fabulous!  So much I can´t even recall it all.  Thank you!  Also I got not 1 but 2 packages from Miss Janet Hays this week, with $50 included!  My goodness tell her thank you so much!!  I loved the nutella and teddy grahams and mint chocolates and Reeses and goldfish crackers and sweet card, my goodness.  Tell her thanks so much and I´ll write soon.  
 I already have to leave!  Ack... one hour goes so fast.  Thanks so much for all your love and support!  I will talk next week more!  Love you so much!  

Hermana Johnson

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Transferred to Potrerillos! - February 10, 2014 
Yes I was transferred, and although I was feeling uneasy about leaving Sister Reyes and leaving behind some of our investigators, I feel at ease that the work will progress just fine without me.  My new area is called Potrerillos and the members here are absolutely fabulous.  Super supportive.  Every evening the adults take turns leaving with us in visits.  Very organized and super with it.  I was so impressed.  My first Sunday the bishop called us into his office just to see how we were doing and if we had members feeding us and how he could help us.  Wow.  And here we eat with members for every lunch and dinner, it is so nice.  The previous missionaries have taken very good care of this area, so I just have the responsibility to not screw it up.  There are plenty of investigators already progressing. I was so pleased as Campana was so hard in these aspects... My third night when we went to the chapel for an activity there is an especially wonderful spirit here.  I am very excited to be here and get to work.

Transfer Day!  Waiting to get assigned new companion and new area.
More importantly... my companion is Sister Lopez also from the Dominican Republic like Sister Reyes.  I really like the Dominicanas, they are the greatest.  But I've always liked islanders as you know.  It is quite rare since there aren't very many Dominicanas in the mission.  Just 4 I believe.  She is 20 and has 3 months in the mission, which means... I am the senior companion.  I was so shocked because I was expecting to be the junior companion for a little while longer since only 2 new sisters came to the mission this transfer and there aren't very many newbie sisters.  Cute little Sister Gardner is training this change!  I was so happy for her.  She would be a fabulous trainer. 
Anyways, when President told me I would be Senior Companion to Hermana Lopez who just finished her training I was so terrified because most newer missionaries don't really speak in the lessons and are still a bit nervous as they are still learning how to do things... many don't know their areas well and don't have the trust of the members and where I don't have tons of experience either it made me so nervous to be in this area with her.  Because it is one thing to be with a newer missionary in an area that you know and already know how things are so you can direct them easily, but to be with a newer missionary in an area that you don't know can be a challenge, but she quickly put to rest all my fears.  She is super with it.  Super obedient and super hardworking.  She has the confidence of all the members and many times appears to be the Senior companion because she actually speaks a bit more than I do in the lessons.  She teaches with great power and authority and literally talks to every person we pass on the street.  She is a wonderful missionary and wonderful example to me.  I was so pleased. 

P-day with my darling new companion Sister Lopez
As we adjust to each other's teaching styles and get a work system down together we will have tons of success here.  Her only problem is she doesn't leave the investigators tons of time to speak, but getting the investigators to speak a lot in the lessons and to ask them good questions that get them thinking is one of the hardest things in the mission, something all of us need to improve.  Already though the spirit has been super strong in our lessons.  Cute thing works so hard I have to remind her that we do eventually have to return home in the evening.  I am super excited to be a part of the work here. 
I am especially grateful for her example in talking to all people at all times.  Even though I have 5 months now, I still get nervous to speak to people in the street or in the bus or whatever sometimes because well I'm human and we fear rejection and we fear awkward situations.  Now though I really am putting forth more of an effort to speak with as many people as possible each day, because the excitement I had to do so when I left the CCM kind of died out with time.  Even if it is just a quick invitation in the street to come to church this Sunday, we now literally talk to every single person we pass each day and I am enjoying the chance to do so. 
There are only 2 bad things that have happened this week.... #1 so Campana was a poorer area, and Potrerillos is middle class for Honduras I\ would say, although one sector is the poorest of the poor where people have houses the size of our kitchen pantry at home and dirt floors and sweep the house with some weeds tied to a tree branch.  It is a sector of land the government lets the poorest of the poor build their little tin or bamboo huts to have something to live in.  But where my house is they have a bit more money than Campana had.  Some people even have cars.  Anyways I have discovered that I never really ate anything weird like chicken hearts or cow intestines in Campana because those things are SUPER expensive, so people in Campana couldn't afford them.  But here in Potrerillos to have a nice special dinner people sometimes cook those kind of things, and I am anxiously dreading the day that someone might give me that.  And knowing how expensive it is to prepare makes it that much more awful of a situation that I would feel like I have to eat it.  Idk what I'll do, I just pray the day never comes.  There have been so many missionaries here that I imagine the members already know the nortes don't eat things like that... we shall see.  My house has been lived in by missionaries for years and years and years.  There is a little metal rack to hang clothes on that all the missionaries that have lived there have signed and it is pretty cool. 
My house is pretty cute.  We even have a big backyard with some coconuts growing.  There is a brick wall to the side of the house that is pretty hilarious.  
Oh I almost forgot to say #2.... Here I shower with a bucket.... I was afraid that day would come, ha ha ha.  We shall see if we can do something about that...
Cool experience we had this week was when we were contacting one morning and a lady just super nice invited us to sit in front of her house with her.  She was feeling lonely that day and having some health problems with her back and so we just shared a quick message about the atonement of Jesus Christ and that He really loves her and understand all her pains and this lady broke into tears the spirit was so strong.  We have had lots of good experiences as we do our contacting in the mornings.  I may feel so inadequate sometimes and like I really don't know what I'm doing.  I look at how little experience my companion and I have but how each day we really just try our best and work as much as we can and really Heavenly Father does the rest and we really have had some beautiful experiences.  And it doesn't matter how many people want to join us or if they share our values and beliefs, everyone needs to know that there is a God, that He loves us and wants us to return to Him someday.  I am so grateful to be a missionary and grateful for so much that I am learning in just a few days here.  Wish me luck!
Love you all! 
Hermana Johnson