Monday, May 30, 2016

Big doors & Baptismal dates

Bonjour family and friends!

We had zone conference this past week! We talked a lot about the importance of presenting the Book of Mormon. We also talked a lot about the importance of planning and setting goals. President Babin said,  "Always be thinking about where you want to go and how you are going to get there." I think that was really great advice that we can each apply to our lives. It was also a fun day because my MTC companion got put into my same zone this transfer so I was able to see her and catch up on how everything is going. It's crazy to see how much we both have grown and improved. I am excited to see where we are both at by the end of our mission!

This week we had such a great lesson with the cute family we have been teaching. They have the cutest son who is 18 months old. They have been so receptive to all the principles we have taught them.  Last week, we taught the gospel of Jesus Christ. They asked so many good questions and basically were asking us what they needed to do to be baptized! We taught them about the word of wisdom because we know that they have problems with smoking. They both know that smoking isn't good for them and they have a desire to stop. Next week, we are putting them on a "quit smoking" program. This past week we taught them about the organization of the church and how we have a living prophet. They really like the way the church is organized and were impressed how welcoming everyone was with them at church. We invited them to be baptized and they said yes! We set a baptismal date for August 13. I won't be here for the baptism but I will be able to skype in and talk to them after so that works for me!

Zone Conference!

On Tuesday, we had a little time before our next lesson so we went "porting" for a minute. When we only have a couple minutes in a neighborhood we always pick the houses to knock on by who has the coolest looking doors. We found this one that was made out of all rod iron and it looked more like a gate. A man came to answer the door and we told him we thought his house was beautiful and he immediately let us in! (I guess complimenting people's houses is the way to get in the door because it is usually never that easy) He gave us a little tour of his house and introduced us to his family. We said a prayer with them and they told us we can stop by again when we are in the neighborhood. They are very very practicing Catholics so it's going to be a challenge but that's what makes it fun!

"Miracle" door

This week I have been thinking a lot of what it means to be "prepared" to hear the gospel. I have had the chance to talk with a lot of different people and hear a lot of different perspectives/responses to more or less the same gospel questions and topics. There are obviously a lot of reasons why people don't accept or have interest in the gospel. However, there are some people that take great interest and in some cases even know it to be true but fail to do anything about it. In a lot of cases the excuse is used that these people are just not "prepared" yet. I have pondered a lot on why some people are "prepared" and others are not. I have come to the conclusion that there are a lot of people in the world that don't want to change. The people that are ready to change are the people ready to be converted. Change always leads to repentance. It's not an easy thing to change. To truly repent and to truly change, we much change our very nature. We must change our desires, thoughts and actions. True repentance often will require a change in our lifestyle. President Kimball said, “In abandoning sin one cannot merely wish for better conditions. He must make them. He may need to come to hate the spotted garments and loathe the sin. He must be certain not only that he has abandoned the sin but that he has changed the situations surrounding the sin. He should avoid the places and conditions and circumstances where the sin occurred, for these could most readily breed it again. He must abandon the people with whom the sin was committed. He may not hate the persons involved but he must avoid them and everything associated with the sin. … He must eliminate anything which would stir the old memories.” I am grateful for the gift of repentance and to have had the chance to meet people who have had humbled themselves and are willing to take the steps necessary to change. Change is not easy but it is worth it. My challenge is for everyone to "prepare" themselves to make the necessary changes to live a life more aligned with gospel principles. In this life, there is always room for improvement! That's why we are here. Church is true. Have a wonderful week!

Love, Soeur Johnson

Monday, May 23, 2016

6 months down ... 1 year to go

Bonjour family and friends!

Time flies when your having fun. This past week I hit my 6 month mark! It's crazy to think that I am already 1/3 of the way done with my mission. It has been a totally different experience than I could have ever imagined. There has been a lot of hard days but also a lot of really good days. Overall, it has been such a great learning experience. There are things that I have learned by serving a mission that I couldn't have learned any other way.

The six things I learned in 6 months.

1. When in doubt..pray it out -My testimony of prayer has increased so much. I have learned what it truly means to "pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart." I have never had to pray so fervently in my life. I have realized that prayer should become our first response no matter the situation. I totally agree with President Hinckley when he says, "I don't know how to get anything done except getting on my knees and pleading for help and then getting on my feet and going to work." There is not much I can do for those I love when I am half way around the world except to pray, trust that Heavenly Father hears my prayers & then go out and do his work.

2. Conversion vs. Testimony- I have quickly realized that there is a big difference between having a testimony and being truly converted. I had a testimony before I came on my mission but my mission has helped me to become more converted. A testimony are the things we know to be true but conversion is turning away from sin and staying true to what we know. There is a difference between knowing things are true and actually doing them. Conversion is a quest of a lifetime but something we should all strive to be better at. No doubt, I have been my first "convert" on my mission. It has helped me become more converted than probably any of my Amis have become.

3. "He makes weak things strong"- If you don't think you have any weaknesses, go on a mission. You will quickly learn that you have more weakness than you ever even knew! It's been a humbling and cool experience to see how the Lord has shown me my weaknesses and then has helped me to make them strengths. Ether 12:27 "And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them." If we humble ourselves he will use our weaknesses and shape us into someone better.

4. "Opposition in all things"- The most common question we get is, "How could there be a God if so many bad things are happening in the world?" It's interesting because before my mission I had a similar question. I had a really hard time understanding why so many terrible things happen to such great people. As my understanding of the plan of salvation has increased my testimony of why opposition is necessary has strengthened. We have been giving the precious gift of agency. How we use our agency makes ALL the difference. There are a lot of bad things that happen to people in the world as a result of other peoples agency. God can't control how people use their agency but he definitely will make the best out of the situation of those that have been affected by the bad choices of others. He will "consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain." There are other things in life such as sicknesses that have nothing to do with free agency. These situations are hard to explain. Understanding the plan of salvation can bring great comfort in moments of great difficulty. What we do know is "it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things." The good and the bad things in life help us gain experience and progress. The purpose of our life on earth is to gain experience and without opposition we wouldn't be able to progress like we need to.

5. "I need thee every hour"- The one of the most important things I have learned is that I'm not capable of doing this work on my own. I truly need divine intervention to help me accomplish the tasks that I am asked to do. I am grateful I can rely on the enabling power of the atonement (grace) to help strengthen me to accomplish things beyond my own capacity. Grace can help lift and carry us through the times we need it most. It's comforting to know that we have access to that power no matter where we are or what we are doing. "We truly need Him every hour, whether they be hours of sunshine or of rain."-President Monson

6. Count your blessings- No matter our circumstances we can always find things to be grateful for. President Lorenzo Snow said, "We have every reason to rejoice and to be full of joy and satisfaction, notwithstanding the difficulties that surround us." We have been given so many blessings! We find so much more joy in life when we learn to appreciate and focus on our blessings.

Lunch at the only place that has real Mexican food in Lille!

This week we had a lesson with Isabelle and her two girls. (The last minute miracle from last week) we taught them in the park near our house. She used to be atheist but now she has technically converted to Catholicism. It is more like she believes in God now and the most popular religion here is obviously Catholicism so she just calls herself Catholic. She thinks all religions are good because it is all the same God. We started teaching her the restoration but we had to hurry through it because it started to rain. She made us get out our umbrellas so the Books of Mormon wouldn't get wet..haha. She absolutely loved the story of Joseph Smith. She has a really strong testimony of prayer and that it works. She kept testifying to us of all the miracles she has seen because of prayer. It was such a cool experience!

Helping at the Refugee camp!

There has been a big emphasis lately with reaching out and helping the refugee situation. It has become a huge problem here in France because there are so many refugees. On Saturday we had a stake service project and we traveled up to Dunquere to work in a refugee camp. It was a pretty humbling experience to see where these people have to live. They live in temporary houses made out of plywood. It's just a square room and they sleep on the floor. They seemed to vary in sized but generally they seemed to be 7x7ft rooms. There were even tents set up on the gravel that people live in. The saddest part is that these refugees are actually living in what would be considered one of the "better" places that they have for refugees. It was a good reminder that we have much to be grateful for and that we need to reach out and help those in need.

I am grateful to have the opportunity to serve a mission. Church is true! All is well. Have a wonderful week!

Love, Soeur Johnson

Monday, May 16, 2016

Road trip to Brussels!

Bonjour family and friends!

This week we started off the week by taking a road trip to Brussels to hear President Uchtdorf speak. I couldn't think of better way to start off the week! He spoke at one of the chapels in Brussels and we were invited. He started off by saying, "German may be the celestial language.. But they speak French at the entrance to the celestial kingdom." I guess that's one good reason to be a little more motivated to learn French  He talked a lot about how we should be grateful for challenges because they provide us with opportunities to use the gospel. He said that challenges provide us with opportunities to grow and show what we are really made of. His comment about showing what we are really made of reminded me of the story of the wiseman and foolish man building their houses on the rock/sand. The "wiseman" built his house upon a rock (Christ)..3 Nephi 14:25, "And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not, for it was founded upon a rock." The "foolish" man built his house upon the sand (things of the world)..27"And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell, and great was the fall of it." In both circumstances the rain, floods, and winds came at full force. However, the wiseman had built his house with a solid foundation and therefore it remained strong despite the trials and challenges. Challenges and the winds of life will come no matter if we are built upon a solid or sandy foundation. However, when we build ourselves on a solid foundation (gospel/Christ) we will be able to make it through the "winds" and the "floods" of life. When challenges come they will reveal what kind of foundation we are built on. He also said that often he is asked what is the best advice he could give a person. He said obviously each person is in a different situation but he said the best advice he could give is to simply keep the commandments and trust in God. He said we will enjoy life so much more when we learn to do those two things.

Road trip!

Thursday was a day of miracles! We started off by contacting a lady and introducing the Book of Mormon. We went to give it to her and she said, "I already have one." She then afterwards started to apologize that she hasn't read it yet. We told her we could come over and read it with her! She agreed. It will be interesting to hear the story behind how and when she got the Book of Mormon. It's a good reminder that one of our responsibilities is to "plant seeds" for future members and missionaries to reap. We continued contacting for a little bit and ended up seeing a girl we had met a couple weeks ago. She had wanted a Book of Mormon at the time but was going to a party and didn't have a bag to put it in. When we ran into her this time we were able to give her a Book of Mormon. She was really happy and pointed up to the sky and said "Merci!" She said it was "grace à Dieu" that we ran into each other again. We were all super grateful that God put us in each others path! We headed back to our apartment and had about 5 minutes left until we were supposed to go inside. We saw a lady with two kids at the end of the sidewalk. Soeur Witham and I both looked at each other and said, "One more miracle!" We started down the sidewalk and quickly realized that we were going to awkwardly meet her in the middle of crossing the street. I leaned down and pretended to fix something on my shoe to give us more time to meet her on the sidewalk. When we stopped walking, she stopped walking too! So we ended up both crossing the street at the same time and meeting each other in the middle of the road. Usually, we don't contact people when we are in the middle of the street but we decided to do it anyways because we really wanted to talk to her! She ended up telling us the story of how she converted from being atheist to Catholic. We shared the Joseph Smith story with her and she loved it! We are meeting her and her two kids again this week at the park. (Praying we have good weather) It was such a great end to a great day!

"Porting" in the pouring rain!

Overall, we had another amazing week and I am excited for all the miracles to come! All is well here in France. Church is true. Love you all!

Love, Soeur Johnson

Monday, May 9, 2016

Mother's Day: My new favorite holiday!

Bonjour family and friends!

It's finally spring/summer in the north of France! The weather here has finally warmed out and I couldn't be more excited. It literally went from freezing cold last week to really hot this week. We have been asking people when it will get warm and they always say, "you're in the North.. So probably never." It's actually supposed to rain at the end of this week so maybe they are right!

The end of the transfer was this past week as well. I am staying in Lille for one more transfer to finish training Soeur Witham. The only thing that is really changing is that we are getting a new Soeur in our apartment because Soeur Ulrich has finished her mission. I am really excited for this next transfer!! We have a lot of solid Amis and I think we are going to really start to see them progress.

Springtime in France!

Overall, I have been blessed to have been able to have eaten really well here in France (as can be seen in the way I look in pictures haha) but this week was a little bit rough to say the least. We had the weirdest jello/jelly like thing with bits and pieces of green stuff in it, wrapped with some bizarre meat, and to top it off their was a completely raw egg in the middle of it. The worst part about it was that it was only our appetizer...yikes. Let's just say by the main course I was told that I didn't have to finish my plate if I didn't want too (which never happens in France) and we were given 3 different desserts after because I think she felt bad..haha. It was probably the most traumatic thing that has happened to me on my mission so far.. so I would say things are going pretty good if eating weird things is my biggest problem! All is well though because she said we can have potatoes next time to make up for it.

We had our finding day in Lille on Friday. The weather was absolutely beautiful so people were everywhere. It couldn't have been more perfect! For this finding day, we focused a lot more on involving members. We took members out contacting on the street with us for a couple of hours. It is really a great experience for the members to share their testimonies and it is really helpful for us to have members with us to better communicate and relate to the person we are talking with on the street. While I was contacting with one of the members we met this really cool lady from Russia! She immediately looked at my plaque and said, "Let me guess, you are Mormon?" I replied a simple, "Oui." She then said, "I don't know what it is, but I swear the Mormons always find me! I must have a "visage" that attracts Mormon missionaries or something because no matter where I am in the world they always seem to talk to me." I told her that it's probably not by chance that she has had contact with so many missionaries. She told me that she went through a time where she was really angry with God because she had her baby that was 2 months old pass away. I immediately tried to testify of the plan of salvation. We talked with her for a minute and before she left I gave her a plan of salvation brochure. She said, "I am not going to read it now because I am not prepared but I will keep it for the day that I am." I am hoping that day will come sooner than later for her so that she can feel at peace and have that knowledge that she will be able to see her child again.

To finish off our finding day we did a "Book of Mormon/Restoration" activity in the center of Lille. We had little Book of Mormon posters and a bunch of Restoration DVDs & brochures. We stood around for the first little bit singing some hymns while one of the Elders played the Ukulele. Some people would sing while others went around handing out Book of Mormons and DVDs. Overall, it seemed to be a really successful day!!

Soeur Witham & Me!

To end this wonderful week I got the chance to skype with my family on Sunday! Mother's Day is definitely my new favorite holiday. Being on a mission has made reflect on how many things I have to be grateful for. My testimony has really grown about how important families are. Everyone has different types of family but the thing that we all should have in common is that they should be the most important thing in our life. They should be our highest priority. I am especially grateful to have a mother who has taught me the importance of family.

This is absolutely one of my favorite quotes from a talk Jeffery R. Holland gave.  "How is it that a human being can love a child so deeply that you willingly give up a major portion of your freedom for it? How can mortal love be so strong that you voluntarily subject yourself to responsibility, vulnerability, anxiety, and heartache and just keep coming back for more of the same? What kind of mortal love can make you feel, once you have a child, that your life is never, ever your own again? Maternal love has to be divine. There is no other explanation for it. What mothers do is an essential element of Christ’s work. Knowing that should be enough to tell us the impact of such love will range between unbearable and transcendent, over and over again, until with the safety and salvation of the very last child on earth, we can [then] say with Jesus, ‘[Father!] I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.’ ”To all of our mothers everywhere, past, present, or future, I say, “Thank you. Thank you for giving birth, for shaping souls, for forming character, and for demonstrating the pure love of Christ.”

Thank you to my mother and all the "mother like" figures in my life. Abe Lincoln says it best, "Everything that I am, I owe to my angel mother." Have a wonderful week! Love you all.

Love, Soeur Johnson

Monday, May 2, 2016

Mini miracles!

Bonjour family and friends!

This week we started off by going "porting" (knocking on doors). We ended up meeting this really cool family!  The mom actually was an exchange student in Idaho when she was 14. She said she actually knows about the Mormons but she only thought that there were Elder missionaries. She asked if we wanted to come back sometime and have dinner with their family! Such a miracle.

We ended up having another miracle in the same neighborhood! We had a referral from the St. George visitor center in the neighborhood so we decided to stop by. Luckily, they were home and they even let us in! We talked with them for awhile and we asked if we could come back the next week. The problem is that they are going to visit family in Italy and they could potentially be gone for a couple months. The husband is Italian so we were able to have a fun conversation about Italy and I told him about the places I visited this past summer. They said that we could definitely pass by again when they get back. I will probably be transferred by the time they get back so I will have to have the other Soeurs pass by again. They found out about the church because they went to St. George and went to the temple. They were very intrigued about our beliefs and wanted to learn more. Even though I am sad that they are leaving for so long, I am glad I got the chance to meet them!

finding day with Soeur Romney!
We had a lesson with one of our Amis that was found contacting on the road. She came to one of our activities a couple weeks ago. We had our first lesson with her this past week. She is a young college student and is Catholic at base. She said she is interested in looking at other religions. We taught her the restoration and she seemed pretty receptive. She is super sweet and nice! We have another lesson with her next week.

Notre Dame from last week

The biggest miracle of the week was on Sunday! The family that we have been teaching that was suppose to come on church on Sunday didn't end up showing up. We had 5 minutes left at the end of relief society and I stood up and walked out the back door because I needed to go the front to make an announcement. When I walked out the door I looked to the right and the family was walking into the church building!! They had messed up the time they were supposed to come. Even though they missed church it was still a good experience because we were able to introduce them to the members. We gave them a tour of the church and they said that this next Sunday they will come!! We have a lot of great things coming up in the next couple weeks/months. There is so much potential and work to do here! Thanks for all your love and support. Have a wonderful week!

Love, Soeur Johnson