Monday, April 27, 2015

Fresh Faces and Worrisome Worries April 27, 2015

P-Day! It's a time to indulge! A day where you can go to MegaCentro and eat enough Taco Bell to feed a small country in Africa. At first, you feel good because hey, Taco Bell. Then, about 20 minutes later, you feel like you've been run over by a train because hey, Taco Bell. Not to mention you spent all your apoyo on cheap, mass-produced Mexican food and now have to walk home. Such is the pleasure- and the pain- of P-Day. One down, five to go. Transfer six be flyin'.

Me and Zetina -- The Last Good Day
My new companion is a microscopic Guatemalan named Elder Ventura. He's a nice kid! He's certainly got his own unique characteristics. Firstly, he's utterly unflappable. Like. One night we were up on the roof enjoying ourselves a 9:30 campfire. We were chatting amiably in the glow of the flames when I accidentally kicked over his bottle of hand sanitizer and lit his socks on fire. He didn't yelp. Didn't even flinch. He just calmly took his socks off, tossed them to the side, and watched them smolder. He never said a word, either to me or to the generic nobody that I swear at when one of my articles of clothing is, you know, on fire. So there's that. Also, he
Ventura and me hunting
for a fine Cabernet...
literally showers three times a day. And when I say literally, I don't mean it in the sense that a baby panda is so cute that you literally died or that an emotional connection on The Bachelor was so deep and profound that some understandably single woman's head literally exploded. 
I mean he seriously showers every day before personal study, during lunch, and after daily planning. On the plus side, he loves to clean, which is a problem I haven't had to handle with any of my other companions. Although he also does this thing where he sustains all of his s's when he talks. It's not supes weird! It's just sometimes a little disconcerting when I'm not sure if my companion is speaking Spanish or Parseltongue. Naw, he's way cool, and I'm excited for this transfer! Also, with the other elders gone, we moved to the big room and best believe we put their old fridge in here. You already know that this is a thing.

We're getting to know the B Area a lot quicker than I thought! Okay, to be fair, our knowledge is wholly and completely flawed, but hey- we teach!

So I went to district meeting and what did I see? The old MTC district is back together again! Or at least. The elders. In our mission. Yeah. Right. Anyhow, I was already here in Hainamosa (Hainamosa is the zone- Los Solares is my area), Blount got transferred in from Sabana Grande and who should his companion be but Elder freakin' Zanahoria. Zamora. Sorry. Yes. Zamora. Blount's still his same old Southern Baptist Mormon self ("...Y'all need Jesus.") and Zamora's here six months later. Still loving him some Texas. Still talking about his girl who's a friend. As the ever-wise Elder Barlow once so sagely noted, "Johnson, do you know what the difference between a deacon with a girlfriend and a missionary with a girlfriend is? NOTHING." Poor Zamora. They are the two great chagrins of this young Texan's life- That his girlfriend is probably only sort of kinda waiting and the fact that Alaska exists. Gyaha district meetings are gonna be a blast.
Which one doesn't match? 

We have a curse here in Los Solares. We have like five or six different investigators who are begging to be baptized. Now, that's awesome. Fantastic! It really is. But. Every. Single. One. Is below the age of fourteen. And y'all gotta understand. Normally, we don't like to baptize children if the parents aren't members. They rarely stay active and no one wants to be a "bautiniños" anyway. But right there's the problem. With every one of said investigators. Their parents aren't members. Even if they're progressing. Even if they believe the message. But they can't be baptized. Because they're not married. My great lozzy, it is the bane of my existence. You are about as likely to find a married couple outside the church here as you are to find Harry Truman at a Communist rave. And that would be quite the twist, because although my history knowledge is admittedly flawed, I'm fairly certain that Harry Truman is dead. But seriously. No one. NO ONE. Is married. It kills me! Ah! But life goes on.

Speaking of which, this last week, I've been seriously considering worrying. No, no, I haven't been contemplating actually doing it, silly people, rather that I was reflecting on the act itself. Worrying is something that we all do from time to time. Now, obviously things come up in life. We have to face problems and sometimes, we even have to- heaven forbid- make decisions. These things can be stressful. They feel like a big deal. I know. I've been there. You folks know that historically speaking, I'm kinda a worrier. But the solution to overcoming whatever worry is actually pretty easy. Let's take a few examples:

-What am I gonna do as a career for the rest of my life?
-Who cares? Pick something you love that'll give you purpose in life and do it.

-What happens if I try to kiss the girl but she doesn't want it and rejects me?
-Shut up. Kiss her.

-In college, can the human body really keep functioning on ramen noodles alone?
-Yes, but it's not recommended.

-With said diet, will I still get scurvy as long as I drink 7-Up?
-Contrary to popular belief, the lemon and lime flavoring in 7-Up is not actually lemon or lime. You should probably rethink your dietary habits.

We could go on. Those are just a couple, and they are admittedly targeted to my current demographic. Nonetheless, regardless of your age, gender, blood type, or favorite color, the principle stays the same.

Quit worrying about it. If you have a problem and can't do anything about it, don't worry about things you can't control. If you can do something about it, why on earth are you worrying? DO IT. Do what's gotta be done in life. But whatever you do, don't worry. Worry will drag you down. It will depress you. It will deprive you of the finer things in life.

So take a deep breath. Everything is gonna be alright. It will all work out. Stay calm. Read D&C 121:7-8. Possibly Joshua 1:9. Don't worry. And have a great week :)

Oh, for heaven's sake, you know who it's from
This method of handling jugs has been passed down the Johnson line for geeeeenerations!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Bumble Bees and Tumble Weeds April 20, 2015

Happy P-Day, people! My goodness. There I was, busily being a senseless green buffoon when I came to a horrifying realization; as of today, I've been out of my training for more time than I was in it. Holy guacamole, I feel so old! And then I remember I still have seventeen months and come crashing back down to Earth, but hey- life's good :) Y'all, it's transfer six.

First things first. This email is forever long. Also. Second things second. I gotta use the mission slang. Therefore, to aid in the translation, a short lesson in Dominican Spanish:

Repelengue- Mosquito Repellent 
Tigre- Disobedient Elder 
Lambón- Brown-noser
Hermana- Sister   
Apoyo- Mission funds    
Intercambio- Companion exchange
Flechón- Super obedient missionary     
Campo-  Countryside
Boche- Tongue-lashing
Freca- A flirt
Studmuffin- Me

Also, in the mish,  if someone is young or old, they're referring to their time in a mission. So, if a 24-year-old missionary has three months in the mission, he's much younger than a 19-year-old with twenty months.

On to the week!

We've had a bee problem in the house. Every time we leave fruit on the kitchen counter, a metric boatload of bees fly in and just sort of buzz around. As far as we can tell, they actually aren't particularly bloodthirsty or vicious. They strike us more as lost souls trying to find their place in the world. Unfortunately for them, this neck of the world has Elder Willie, who's allergic to bees. While I personally think it would be funny to see Willie with a raging case of watermelon face, he wasn't quite so enthusiastic about the whole idea. So, we decided that decisive counter measures were in order.

First, we had to find the source. We hunted, followed tracks, and stalked them home at night until there, beneath the rain gutter, we found it. The Nest. We knew we had to destroy it. But how? I myself am always a fan of casting things into the fires of Mt. Doom or using the American Solution for Everything Ever- drone strikes- but my house companions shot it down on the basis that those were far too obvious. It also became quickly apparent that our usual method of pest control (repelengue and matches) wouldn't work, on account of that we've been a bit liberal with the cockroaches these past couple of weeks and we aren't overly burdened with said repelengue. We determined that a manual job was in order. Now, this obviously needed to be a precision operation. Clean. No traces. But an operation like this would clearly involve a considerable quantity of risk, and we were not prepared to sacrifice an entire quartet of missionaries for such an endeavor. We realized that for the good of the many, it would have to be a solo mission.

Now, we knew the risks. If whoever took upon himself this task succeeded, he'd be a hero. A legend. But if he were killed, his companions would deny any and all knowledge connecting the incident to them. Now, the only question was who would this dastardly handsome paragon of masculinity be? Well. The other three said it should be the youngest missionary. Them whippersnappers gotta learn sometime. But. Um. Zetina is the second youngest missionary. And he has almost seventeen months. Well. Awkward. I, being the brilliant protester that I am, protested that it was only fair to do it democratically. They agreed. Two seconds and three votes later, my fate was sealed. I call racism but it's all good. Everything turned out alright. I done took care of it. Or at least I thought I did. Elder Garcia is telling me right now that I only got about half of it. Well shoot. I guess a few choice strikes with a loaned machete wasn't enough. But no worries. We'll try again later with the neighbor's 9-iron.

Anyway, it's transfer time! Lots of changes. Leaders and areas changing left and right. Me? I'm gonna make like a fence post and stay right where I'm at. Although I know that sounds about as exciting as a cow standing in a carrot field, don't you worry- President Corbitt knows how to make things interesting. It's true that I'm staying in Los Solares, but they made some changes. Firstly, they combined Los Solares A and B and pulled out the B elders. This means that I now get to cover twice as much ground while getting to know an entire new area. Also, they're taking Elder Zetina and sending me Elder Ventura. I've never met the lad and I don't know much about him, but. I have less than seven months. He has well over a year. And I'm the senior companion. I don't know what that means completely. But. To sum up this last paragraph in three words, PRAY FOR ME.

Naw, I'm pumped! But I will miss Zetina! I'll be honest. He sometimes drove me up the wall, and I still dream of doing a missionary episode of "Will It Blend?" with his recorder flute, but we done had us some good old times this transfer. There was one day when we made a contact in the street. It was actually a good contact until the end. We asked for his name and he was like, "Jesus Christ."   .......Um. Come again? "Jesus Christ." Your name is Jesus Christ? "Well no. It's Luis. But my nickname is Jesus Christ." Well alright. That's. Er. Different. Ahem. We have to go now! Haha so yeah. That was a thing.

And then there was another time when Zetina accepted an invitation for us to go to an Evangelical service. Electricity was down and they were on generator power. The preacher lady was up front eating the mike. I reckon she was bearing her testimony. The lights were literally dimming and brightening in time with her screams because the speakers were sucking so much power. Elder Zetina and I just sorta sat there bemusedly, like. Hey. Is it appropriate to pull out D&C right now?

Then, just last week, a recent convert, Hector, couldn't get his car to start, and was like, "Hey, can you guys help push my car?" I was down to the ground, but Zetina was like, "Listen. Hector. Move ya booty and let daddy show you how it's done." He jumped under the hood and started messing with something. Two minutes flat and the car coughed to life. Hector was aghast, "That car hasn't started like that in almost three years! How did you do that?" Zetina just cracked a grin and said, "Papá, I just owned your car. Never doubt a Mexican."

Yep. I'll miss the fool. But I'm excited for the new adventures to come!
-Hey, 9 out of 10 ain't bad... Wait, you missed 9? Haha loco.

Anyway, in the wake of General Conference, I was doing some thinking. Now, you've all gotta know that here in the DR, there is a solid base of pretty much every Christian religion and practically nothing else. In almost seven months, I have met exactly one Muslim and one Atheist. This is the Bible Belt of the Caribbean. Now, in such a heavily Christian country (and in my line of work), the subject of religious differences has come up once or twice.  On such occasions, people inevitably find out that I am a Mormon, and before long, I have learned something which thing I had never before supposed- We are different. We are  very  different. We do not fit into the mainstream Christian world. Stuffy, starchy old Mormons? My beloved sistren please. Mormons are stinkin' hipsters. We kicked conventional religion in the shins before it was cool.

But it's interesting for me to note that of all of the un-ordinary beliefs of the Church, the one that is perhaps the most offensive to mainstream Christianity (other than not drinking coffee) is our concept of a living prophet. People don't like to hear it. It actually makes them uncomfortable to think that scripture isn't confined to the Bible and that unlike Billy Ray Cyrus, God still wants to talk to His children. They say that revelation ceased when John the Revelator closed his epistle and there is not and  should not be any more.

Well, they can stick that idea in a bun and fry it for all I care. They marvel at the audacity we have for claiming a prophetic connection between humanity and God, but I marvel at the audacity that mainstream Christianity had when they decided as a body of men to tell  God that they'd heard enough and He could be quiet now. God loves us and because of that love, He will continue to give us the word as long as there are people worthy and willing to receive it. This is an eternal principle that did not cease when the ancient churches declared the heavens closed and will not cease by any mandate of man.

I stand as a witness that a prophet of the same order as Isaiah and John the Baptist walks the Earth today. He is a special witness of Jesus Christ and together with his counselors and the Quorum of the Twelve, he directs and guides the Church under inspiration and revelation received from God himself. That prophet is Thomas S. Monson, and his words are in reality  His words.

Now, there will come moments in which those words conflict with modern science or, as perhaps more often is the case, the popular social and moral viewpoints of the day. In such moments, there are really only two choices, and we are all compelled in one way or another to choose. Agency is given to all men, and I can't speak for anyone else. But for this snot-nosed 19-year-old kid, I choose to follow the prophet. Even if it isn't politically correct. Even if it defies conventional logic. The world may call it and its followers things like bigoted, foolish, deluded, outdated, or blindly obedient. But to tell you the truth, I don't give a flying fiddlestick what the world calls it. I call it faith. I choose faith.

What will  you choose?

Your friend,
-Familia Anziani! My peeps!!!!!! 

Monday, April 6, 2015

Oat Juice and Muffin Faces - April 6, 2015

Happy General Conference Easter weekend everbody! I hope you all indulged a little too much on chocolate and enjoyed some of the buena palabra. (the good word) I'm still kicking it strong out here in Amalia #longestintercambioever, where the house ran out of water and we've been bucket showering in our drinking water. Sometimes I feel bad for myself and Elder Froude, but then I remind myself that it's just an opportunity to strengthen my testimony that charity exists in mankind- people still let two stinky gringos into their houses to talk about God, to whom we should pray, and Joseph Smith, to whom we shouldn't. Ladies and gentlemen, it's April. Holy cow someone stop time!

First order of business is a shoutout to a certain hermano de otra madre (brother by another mother) in Peru who's about to hit the field. Remember—the first two weeks are the longest and the relief society arms you got in the MTC'll burn off soon enough. Buena suerte, mi sartén de hogar!!  (good luck, home skillet!!)
Jacob Hogan in Peru MTC
So, I finally had my first zone activity of the mission. Mission rules are pretty strict on the subject in my mission, but we finally got the go ahead. We did a three-event district competition which started with a handless muffin eating contest.

Aside from the general hilarity of watching Elder Garcia smashing his face into the table, he actually got the muffin in his mouth long before the others, but overestimated his ability to swallow the moisture equivalent of the Mojave Desert, and Elder Mecham came out on top. Curse that roguish devil.
The long-promised pig ear picture
Afterward, we did a picture scavenger hunt in which I played Ammon guarding a muffin, a sleeping seminary student (I knew all my days of practice being asleep during seminary would be useful someday... haha just kidding, just kidding), a Jaredite getting a yard of broom handle shoved through his midsection, and the Virgin Mary. Then, we played gospel Guesstures, at which my district actually dominated. In the end, they copped out of declaring us the winners, which would have made us very angry had we actually won.

Elders Johnson and Froude on the way to Sambil!
The mission really does change you. Before the activity started, I was playing the piano and one of the sisters came up and sat down by the piano to listen. There was a time and a season in which a woman coming to listen to my piano playing would've been a bright spot in my day. When I'd have affably smiled and thought to myself, "Oh Johnson, why must you always be so dashing?" But now, when a girl sits down and listens to me, I just wanna stop and be like. "Um. Can I help you?" Haha great lozzy, I'm gonna be a smoldering wreck in seventeen months.

The lowest point of it all was probably after we finished. Elders Froude, Green, and I went with two of the sister missionaries to a tostada shack for lunch. The numbers were offset and obviously we weren't even thinking about anything uncouth,
Any questions?
but it's well-known that Froude and I are quite the suave companionship in even the most appropriate 
of circumstances. Hem. Cough. Right. So yeah, Froude offered one of them a sip of his oat juice, but not to be outdone, I started laughing and spewed half a liter of guava nectar all over creation. And the sisters. Ýeah. Someone please remind me why two such gifted gentlemen are so stinkin' single.

We discovered that my camera can do light graffiti. 
This is just a sample of all the hot glamor pics we took.
That's all for now. It was a pretty slow week. Hopefully, I'll be back in Los Solares by next P-Day.


You can't see it very well in this picture, 
but Elder Froude is literally saving a puppy in this picture.