Monday, July 25, 2016

Modern Day Pioneers

Bonjour family & friends!

This week we set a baptismal date with Chantel for August! We are super excited. She is so ready. She is really eager to get baptized because she feels like she can't really progress until she is baptized. At our lesson with her, our member brought another one of his friends that wasn't a member but has met with missionaries before. At the end of the lesson he started asking questions about the Book of Mormon. Before we could even respond, Chantel started testifying for us! It was cool to watch her explain and testify of the Book of Mormon because it really shows that she is truly converted. I'm literally still in shock of how open and receptive she is to the gospel. On Sunday, the lesson in "Amis class" was on tithing. We were a little worried at first because we haven't taught her about it yet. She raised her hand to make a comment and I was just thinking "oh no" what is she going to say. Her comment made my whole day... She said, "it's just really unfortunate for me because I don't have the opportunity to pay tithing because I'm not baptized yet." She knows the blessings she will get as a result of paying tithing so she is eager to be baptized. I have only taught two other people on my mission as receptive as her and ironically they will be getting baptized the same day! It's people like this that give me hope that there are other people prepared to hear the gospel too.

Picnic at the park!

The Elders were on the bus the other week and a lady saw their plaques that said "Jesus-Christ." She was getting off at the next stop so she didn't have much time to talk to them but instead she wrote down her number and said, "Call me!!" They gave us her number because they figured she was a single women so it would be easier if we taught her. We gave her a call and set up rendezvous. We went to her house and her husband and son were there! She has grown up Catholic but right now is looking for a church for her and her family. We invited her to church on Sunday but we waited and she didn't show up. As we were about to sing the closing song she walked in and sat down by me!! She had got a taxi to take her to church but ended up taking her to some random Catholic Church instead so that's why she was late. She turned to me and said, "I promised you I would come, so I am here!" Getting our Amis to actually come to church is always one of the hardest things so it was a miracle that she came. That is when you know that they really do have a desire to hear the gospel. We actually ended up seeing her son later that day who is 10 and he said, "I was a little busy today so I couldn't make it to your church but I will be there next week." He is so cute! I am excited to teach their family again this week and see their testimonies grow.

This week I also had the chance to go back to my last area (Lille) for a day! We had exchanges with the "Sister Training Leaders" so we got to spend the night in my old apartment. It was fun to be back in the City where I started my mission. I was there for so long that it felt like I never left! Unfortunately, I didn't get to see any of my Amis but all is well because Soeur Witham is taking good care of them. I went out on  exchange with Soeur Corneta who is from Switzerland. She is a wonderful example of someone who really has "the pure love of Christ." When she talks to people she shows how much she cares about them and how much she desires for them to have the gospel. People want to listen to hear not necessarily because of what she says but because of WHO she is. She is a person who doesn't just preach the gospel, she lives it. That's something I really want to strive to work on.  I'm grateful for the chance I had to work with and learn from her!

Can't get enough of all the cool buildings here!

I hope everyone had a fun 24 of July! (Aka. Pioneer Day) They obviously don't celebrate it here but I still took a minute to think about what being a pioneer means to me. When I think about pioneers in my life I usually think back to my ancestors who pushed and pulled handcarts across the plains. They made many sacrifices so that their future family could have the blessings of the gospels. The definition of pioneer is,"one who goes before to prepare or open up the way for others to follow.” One of the many things I love about serving in France/Belgium is having the opportunity to meet so many people who are converts to the church. They are the "pioneers" for their future families. They are making choices that are going to completely change the lives of their future family members. They have strong testimonies of the gospel and are willing to make sacrifices for it. They really are the modern day pioneers. I admire their strength and it often makes me reflect on my own testimony of the gospel and what I would sacrifice for it. What are willing to give? What are we willing to sacrifice? What legacy will we leave behind? We all our pioneers in the sense that the choices and paths we choose to take in life we affect those of our future generations. Let's make sure we are making good choices and leaving behind a legacy that our future generations will thank us for. Have a wonderful week!

Love, Soeur Johnson

Monday, July 18, 2016

Hanging with my peeps!

Bonjour Family & Friends!

This week started off with an awesome miracle.. We were standing by an elevator waiting to go up and we looked over and this lady was just staring at our plaques. We turned to hear and asked, "Have you seen plaques like this before?" She looked a little closer and said, "Oh yes, oh yes, you are the Mormons!" We started talking with her and she explained that she was Christian too. She has actually met with the missionaries before in Paris. Then she starts talking about how much she absolutely loves the Book of Mormon! She starts telling us how important the book is and how it really helps bring people to Christ. She started talking about how it teaches people to have good values. I felt like we were the ami and she was the missionary! Come to find out, she actually is a "preacher" and she recommends to her congregation and her friends to read the Book of Mormon because it will help them understand the life of Christ better. She told us that she uses it to help her teach and preach. (We are hoping that she isn't preaching too much false doctrine with the Book of Mormon.) She is from Congo and she said that when people had questions about things in the Bible she would tell them to go read the Book of Mormon. She seems like a really sweet lady, with a lot of faith in God. She told us that she recently moved from Paris and her Book of Mormon got left there so she doesn't have one anymore. We told her we could bring one by for her! She was really excited. She obviously doesn't really understand the restoration of the gospel (we are going to work on that) but it's a good start that she has a testimony of the Book of Mormon!

Contacting around Castles

We had another great lesson with our ami Chantel. She is progressing so well! We taught her the Plan of Salvation and she understood way more than we thought she would. The Holy Ghost has no doubt been the "teacher" because it would be hard to understand some of these concepts when you hear them for the first time. She started asking about what she needed to do to be baptized. We asked her if she wanted to set a date but she said "not yet." This next week we asked her to pray to know what date would be best. She is such a miracle. She showed up to church literally one week after missionaries were put back into Brussels. If she showed up a couple weeks early she would have probably come to church once and never had the chance to met with the missionaries. I am grateful the Lord put her in our path, at the perfect time. The people here are so prepared!

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir came to Brussels this past week and we were able to go watch them perform!! It was such an amazing night. They ended by singing "Come, Come ye Saints" and "How firm a foundation." Needless to say, there were lots of tears... (Well, I didn't cry but my companion cried enough for the both of us) They really did such a wonderful job. It reminded me of home a little bit so I think that's one of the reasons I liked it so much. There were a quite a few people from Utah because they were the family members of the people singing in the choir. While we were walking there people from the other side of the street would look at us and yell, "Sisters!" and starting waving! It was fun because usually when people yell at us here from across the street it's not usually a good thing.. I also was able to see members from my old ward in Lille because some of them came up for the concert. I am really glad that we had the chance to go. It was such a fun night!!

My favorite part of the week was of course "hanging out with my peeps!" My Uncle Randy and Aunt Tricia made the trip up to Brussels to take us out to dinner. It was fun to see them and chat for a bit! The next day they picked us up and went with us to church. I couldn't think of a better way to end the week!!

Church with my peeps!

Scripture of the week: Alma 44:3-4
"But now, ye behold that the Lord is with us..Now ye see that this is the true faith of God; yea, ye see that God will support, and keep, and preserve us, so long as we are faithful unto him, and unto our faith, and our religion; and never will the Lord suffer that we shall be destroyed except we should fall into transgression and deny our faith."

Life is great here in Belgium. I hope everyone has a wonderful week!

Love, Soeur Johnson 

Monday, July 11, 2016

Answers to Prayers

Bonjour family & friends!

This past week we did a lot of contacting but at first it didn't result in anybody that was really interested.. So on Sunday we decided to fast to find new Amis.  We decided that we would fast and then work extra hard this next week. On the day of our fast a woman walked into church right before it started. All because a member invited his neighbor to come to church and she did! She has actually been searching for a religion her whole life but hasn't found one that she feels like is for her. She is searching for "inner peace." We had a lesson with her and taught her about the restoration. She actually had started reading the Book of Mormon before we came because she wanted to be "prepared" for our lesson. She asked great questions and was really interested. It was definitely a tender mercy! We are really excited to continue teaching her and see how she progresses.

On the way home on the mettro a lady accidentally bumped into my bag and said "sorry." My first reaction was, "you speak English? Where are you from?" We started talking and she ended up being from Greece. She asked where we were from and what we were doing here. We were more than happy to explain that we are missionaries and that we are here to share an unique message that is centered on Jesus Christ. She asked us what the difference is between our church and other churches. I absolutely love when people ask that question! We immediately introduced the Book of Mormon and she was really intrigued. We basically explained the entire restoration and then she had to get off the mettro! We didn't have a chance to get her number but we were able to give her a Book of Mormon. She was one of the most spiritually prepared people that I have met on my mission. I am just hoping that one day she will have the opportunities to meet the missionaries again!

On Tuesday, we had such a fun day! Soeur Proudfoot (one of the missionaries that I used to live with) came to visit and we were able to go to lunch with her and her family! It was so fun catching up on life. That afternoon, we went up to the church because we had interviews with President and Soeur Babin. Every time I have the chance to talk with them, I become more and more grateful to have such a great mission President. They always have such great advice and know exactly what to say!

Lunch with Emily-Jane!!

The STL's came up to help us find new people teach. One of the STL's was sick so my last companion (Soeur Witham) came in her place! We went out contacting all day together. As usual, we saw so many miracles! It was so fun to be together. We ended up finding 3 new Amis and talking with a lot of other great people. Our prayers/fast were definitely answered this week!

District meeting with Président!

The Lord promises that he always hears and answers our prayers. However, we must have faith and do our part to make those things happen. I love the scripture in Mosiah 9:18 that says, "And God did hear our cries and did answer our prayers; and we did go forth in his might.." It would have been really hard for God to answer our prayers to find "new Amis" if we didn't "go forth" and do anything about it. Not always are ours prayers answered so immediately and with very little effort on our part such as when we had a new ami just walk into church. (I think that was a special circumstance because he knew we needed a tender mercy) Most of the time prayers are not answered as quickly or in the way we think or want them to be. However, they are always answered! In 3 Nephi It says, "for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of before ye ask him." He knows what we need but we still have to do our part and go forth and act in faith. Prayer can sometimes seem like a simple thing but it really is so powerful. My favorite scripture about prayer is in 1st Nephi when he prayed because they were in the middle of the ocean and there was a big storm. The first thing Nephi did was kneel down and Saha prayer. 1 Nephi 18:21 "And it came to pass that I prayed unto the Lord; and after I had prayed the winds did cease, and the storm did cease, and there was a great calm." Prayer can help calm the winds and the storms that come into our lives. We will all have "storms" that come into our lives but it's up to us to choose if we will rely on the Lord and use the power of prayer to help bring us feelings of peace in times of great difficulty.

I'm grateful for all the experiences I am having on my mission and the life lessons I am learning along the way. All is well. L'église est vrai! (Church is true)

Love, Sœur Johnson

Monday, July 4, 2016

Rough days & Rats..

Bonjour family and friends!

This week had a rough start but ended great! On Monday, we were at someone's house teaching a lesson. I was in the middle of talking and I felt something in my shoe. I looked down and there was a RAT trying to climb in my shoe! Let's just say that I really wanted to freak out but I tried to keep as calm as possible. I kicked the thing off of me and we continued on with the lesson. My first thoughts were 1) If we have another lesson we are teaching at the Church and not that house. 2) My mom would be so proud of me for not having a total mental breakdown. This was a very minor experience compared to what other missionaries have to deal with in other countries but that's for sure the last time I want to have an experience like that. I thought that I would avoid situations like being sent to France but I guess not! Good thing there were lots of miracles to make up for a not so good start to the week!

On Wednesday, we were having a bit of a rough day because nobody seemed to want to listen but we had a really strong desire to find some people to teach. We started walking down the street and the only person on the whole road was sitting on a bench. We approached her and came to found out that she was American! She has friends who are LDS and she lived by LDS church building in Colorado. She does a lot of genealogy with the church so she knows a lot about who we are. She said she has even talked with the missionaries before! She believes in God and seems open to all religions. We talked with her for awhile about a lot of different things. Before we left we asked to say a pray with her. She volunteered to say it so we let her! Her prayer was literally so beautiful. She prayed that we could continue to have smiles on our faces so that others could see the joy that God has brought us. She prayed for our families as we are far away from them doing the Lords work. She prayed for us that we would be able to find people that want to hear our message and that they would be able to recognize us as servants of God. After we prayed, the next person we talked to was interested and we scheduled a lesson for next week! What a miracle. As we walked down the street she yelled, "Don't worry, I will continue praying for your mothers..." What a total sweetheart! There are such good people in the world.

This week we also went and saw one of the less actives our relief society president wanted us to go visit. Without us even asking, she immediately started opening up to us about how she feels that she is blocking blessings from coming into her life and her family's life because she doesn't pay tithing. She doesn't feel worthy to come to church because she knows she is breaking one of the Lord's commandment. She really does have such strong faith and knows paying her tithing is the right thing to do. She says every time she goes to pay it that something else always comes up and she ends up having to use the money for other things. I was reminded a couple weeks ago that as a missionary we are given the ability to promise blessings. Sometimes it makes me nervous to promise blessings that I don't know how exactly will happen...I guess those are the times I need to work on having more faith! But we both felt good about  promising her that if she pays her tithing first before everything else that she will see the blessings in her life and feel the happiness that obedience brings. I promised her that as she pays her tithing that she will still be able to pay for the other things she needs. We shared a story with her from the life of a Elder Oaks. As a young kid he began to realize that their family did not have very much money. He asked his widowed mother why she paid so much of her earnings to tithing. She responded, "I cannot [raise you children] without the blessings of the Lord, and I obtain those blessings by paying an honest tithing. When I pay my tithing, I have the Lord’s promise that he will bless us, and we must have those blessings if we are to get along.” I love this story because it is so true! We cannot afford to withhold the blessings the Lord has to offer. If we are obedient, he will bless us. I invited her to pick a day that she will designate as the day she will start paying her tithing. By the end of the lesson she said she would come to church with us on Sunday and even go talk to the bishop! At the end of the lesson I sat there and reflected on the conversation. It amazed me that this lady, who is at least 35 years older than us, was taking advice and counsel from two 20 year old girls, who in all honestly, have never been in a situation where paying our tithing might result in us going hungry, or not being able to pay the bills. It was a great testimony building experience for me, not only about tithing, but the great calling it is to be a missionary! As a missionary you're a representative of Jesus Christ and therefore have to act in such a way. It was a good reminder to me that I need to work hard everyday to become a better disciple & representative of him.

Part of missionary work is strengthening the members we already have in the church. There is little point in bringing new members into the church if we can't keep the ones we already have. There are always members that need strengthening! President Hinckley said that every member needs three things: a friend, a responsibility, and nurturing with “the good word of God." Each of us is capable of being a friend and reaching out to those around us. You never know how much of a difference you can make in others by simply reaching out and being a friend! The other day we read a teaching record where the lady hadn't come to church in over 20 years and was going through a really hard time in her life. The relief society president sent her a birthday card and she was so touched that the next Sunday she came to church. It was just a little reminder that there were people that cared about her. It was a small act of kindness but it ended up making a big difference! We can all do a little better at reaching out and being a friend to those around us. I hope everyone has a wonderful week!!

Love, Soeur Johnson