Thursday, February 23, 2017

And Then Elder Holland Happened

Date: 2/20/2017
Place: Ise, Mie
Companion: Elder Brown

I can't remember a whole lot of what happened before the Elder Holland Conference but I'll see what I can report. 

On Monday we rode all over Ise with Bro. Higashimoto. We introduced Elder Brown to Village Vanguard and he got some lightsaber chopsticks. Legit. 

Dinner with Light sabers. 

On Tuesday we did service at a disabilities center and played games with the guys there and it was SO FUN! Then we had a lesson with the Nonaka family. They are a slightly older couple and are a lot of fun. Shimai likes to talk a lot so we had a good time with them. 

As always, Wednesday was NUTS. We got up, hopped on the train to Toba and the hotel shuttle came down and picked us up and took us up to the top of a mountain where we teach an english class in the nightclub which overlooks all of Toba, the bay and all of the islands. Dope. We made lots of friends there! There are a handful of really good potential investigators that we are really excited about.  We went straight home after that and changed into normal clothes and went out to play ping pong at a gym with a couple of our Eikaiwa guys (goeigo, the normal one), Blake and Takase san. They destroyed us a ping pong and we had a great time! Then we dropped some cookies off at Sis. Sugimoto's house and then went straight to teach Eikaiwa at church. It was way fun and we had two really full classes! There are a few really good PI's at normal eikaiwa as well. I'm so stoked for these guys! 

Our English class. 

On Thursday we actually had a really good planning session and got a lot done. Then we biked out to Sis. Hayashi's house and taught her a lesson. She's a really sweet grandma who got baptized last year. 

Then the real madness started on Friday. After changing plans about 6 times (we were going to go to the Elder Holland conference, then it got cancelled, then we were going to go to DTM and have an exchange, then suddenly the Elder Holland Conference got uncancelled and a lot of other stuff happened), we went to Tsu with the Salmon Missionary Couple and visited Bro. Yamazaki (our ward mission leader) in the hospital there. He's doing a lot better than he was before. He can walk, hold basic conversations and move about so he's doing a lot better. He will probably be coming home here in a couple weeks but he will likely never be the same after the stroke. Then we came back to Ise, packed a little bit and cleaned the office a little bit, then we went to Suzuka to stay the night there. 

Oh! Crazy miracle I forgot to write about. So on the way to Tsu we found this kid on the train. Then on the way to Suzuka (Like 8 hours later) we met him AGAIN on the train! He's way cool and loves us. I think we could make him an investigator. We are going out to eat Karaage with him tonight so keep him in your prayers! We stayed over with the Suzuka Elders, got up at 5am and went to Meito for the Elder Holland Conference.

It was the most incredible experience of my life. Elder Holland invited each of us up and shook each of our hands. The conference started with the hymn, Called to Serve, and I immediately lost it and cried like a child. It brought to my remembrance the faithful service of other elders before me and the fervor they sang that song with as they finished their missions.  Then they resurrected the Mormon Show for one more performance of Savior, Redeemer of my Soul. I felt the Spirit in a way that I have never felt before and felt a very real love from my Savior. Once again I completely lost it and had to be rescued by Elder Banks and a handkerchief that he lent me. 

We heard from President Ishii, Elder Yamashita, Sister Yamashita, President Whiting. And then Elder Holland stood. He expressed his love for us. He told us that a mission is our opportunity to be apostolic (lowercase a). We get to spend this slice of our lives being like Peter, Ammon, Alma, Amulek of old and spend every waking minute working for one goal: to save a soul. He told us how our missions should mean everything to us. He told us how, 50 years later, he still thinks of his mission every day and cannot speak of it without tears. He talked about how the mission is real life and when you go home you have to deal with other stuff, NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND. He shouted, pounded the pulpit and taught us from the scriptures. He answered our questions and gave us a very personal experience in the little Meito chapel. He helped me to realize just how much my mission means to me. This experience has changed my life. These last 19 months have changed me in a way that I don't even know how to express. Elder Holland's words and the Spirit that I felt that day lifted me and reminded me of a God who is very, very real and very, very aware of me. I felt the actual love of God in a way that I have never felt before. And I know that if God loves me so much, then he loves you at least as much. What a wonderful experience it was to be taught at the feet of an Apostle. 

I got to meet a lot of old companions and old friends at the conference, many of them probably for the last time. There were also a few fallen heroes that I wish I could have seen at that conference. 

All missionaries who has ever been to Matsumoto. 

I'm a grandfather! Elder Gubbay, my trainee, is now training again! My grandson is from Brazil, Elder Silva. He's way cool! Elder Gubbay is such an inspiration to me. He's doing such good work for Kariya. 

This Sunday was my first time conducting Sacrament Meeting. Haha I don't think I did a very good job. I gotta practice for next Sunday because we have some visitors from the Stake (Ray Shimai's coming from Inuyama!!!!). After church there was the usual scramble of me and the two councilors trying to convince the computer that a missionary can hold a calling in the branch presidency and that the councilors are the same as last time. Then we rushed off to Wagu with the Dejis. Deji grandma and grandpa became investigators!!! We taught them the Plan of Salvation and they were very very open to it and loved the idea that they could be with their son again. 

Ise branch chapel

Guys, Eternal Families are seriously the best and everyone should know that. The Deji family gets it! Also they took us to the beach and to this really cool shrine, clear out on southernmost peninsula of the Japan Nagoya Mission. It was a beautiful day, the Pacific is way blue and clean and the plum trees are starting to blossom. 

Life is good. Life is real good. 

Love you all! 

Elder Johnson 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017


Date: 2/13/2017
Place: Ise, Mie Pref.
Companion: Elder Brown

Well it's been an interesting week. 

On Monday we went out to lunch with Parma Shimai and her daughter and son in law. They were way cool and we had such a good time! I'm way sad to be leaving just as Parma shimai moved back into the ward! 

Elder Nakatsuka and I finished packing our bags and had them sent off. Me, Elder Nakatsuka, Taylor and Hovorka went to the famous Tsukemen Bachan noodle shop for our last meal in Shizuoka together. I got the classic Sanshou flavor (Japanese prickly pear) thats spicy and turns your face numb. Elder Nakatsuka got the same thing but for some reason his was twice as hot as mine! #sketchyramenshop 

We got up the next day, said goodbye to Elder Taylor and Hovorka and then went on our last ride through Shizuoka to get to the train station. After six months of watching the seasons change and watching missionaries come and go, it felt really weird to be leaving. I was the longest missionary in the zone and had watched everyone come in, get new companions, change companions, learn and grown and gain experience. I felt like I had become part of the place. It was really sad to leave. 

We met Inouye Shimai and Brown Shimai at the station. This is Sister Inouye's first transfer so we got on the same train together. Some members were gathered at the train station to say goodbye. Man I love Shizuoka. 

Then the three of us, Elder Nakatsuka, Sister Inouye and I, hopped on a train for Nagoya. We talked about all that we had learned and the experience that we had in Shizuoka. I finally had my turning point, my greatest learning experience, in Shizuoka. I finally reached the point where I feel like I "get it." Elder Wilson taught me and prepared me for it and then Elder Nakatsuka helped me finally understand it. I realized that the single biggest, most important thing that one can come to understand is this one fact: When you want what God wants, you both win. It is possible to sacrifice what you want for what God wants and still miss the point. It is not enough to sacrifice a behavior. You must sacrifice the very desire to that behavior. In other words, your desire to do the will of the Lord should overpower the desire to do anything else. We talked about this all the way to Nagoya. Elder Nakatsuka gets it. Sister Inouye gets it. Man I wish I would have understood it earlier in my mission. 

Inouye shimai stayed on the train to Gifu and we got off at Nagoya. I hate saying goodbye to friends. As always on transfer day, we bumped into quite a few other missionaries as they transferred. We spent some time at the Golden Clock waiting for the guys from Ise. They arrived and it was time to say goodbye to Elder Nakatsuka. That was hard. Man I love that guy! We had so much fun and learned so much together. He will do great things with Elder Handley up in Ueda. 

We all parted ways and Elder Brown and I headed out for the Honbu. Upon arrival we discovered that we had received the wrong time for the meeting so we were half an hour late for trainer's training. Oh well. ELDER GUBBAY WAS THERE!!! I HAVENT SEEN HIM SINCE AUGUST!!! It was so good to see him! He's training a brazilian bean chan! I'm going to be a grandpa! It was so good getting to talk to him after the meeting. I seriously love that guy so much! 

We headed off for Nagoya together. As we got on the train, Elder Gubbay walked over to the other side of the train and started oyming people. Just like old times. Man what a beast! He's seriously the best. It reminded me of the train ride home from the honbu when I first picked him up. He OYMed all the way home to Inuyama and he had only been in Japan for one night! He's become such a powerful missionary. What an honor it was to be his trainer. 

At Nagoya we said goodbye and Elder Brown and I hopped on a kintetsu train for Ujiyamada. The train system is different so it was difficult to OYM anyone other than the guy I was sitting next to. We got to Ise at night and went home and unpacked. 
Elder Brown is cool. He's a chill guy, right outta high school and comes from Ogden Utah. He's my first American companion since June, last year. He's been in the mission for 8 weeks so I will be half-bake training him. He's quiet and he's really nice. 

Ise used to be a four Elder area but they closed down a companionship and brought Elder Brown over from the other companionship so we are basically whitewashing. We spent the majority of our energies this week cleaning up the area's records and maps. There is still a mountain worth of cleaning and organizing to do. We messaged everyone in the phone but didn't get a whole lot of responses. I have a computer now (that's weird) so we used that to get all of the records put into a missionary ipad friendly note file. 

On Sunday we had our first Branch Presidency Meeting. Then I spoke in Sacrament Meeting. We had 11 people in attendance. The Stake President and his first councilor also came down and visited for the meeting. Afterwards I was set apart and then we had meetings until about 4ish. After that we went with one of the Tsu Branch members to visit the Deji family that lives about an hour away by car. They live in such a remote area! It was way cool to meet them. We will be going back next week to teach a lesson! Hopefully they can become investigators.

There is so so much work to be done here and this branch needs all the help they can get. Due to some bad things happening in the branch as of late, we are going to need to do a lot of work to cheer them up. The meeting house here is a really cute and small. "Fun sized" you might say. We live right in between the inner sanctuary and outer sanctuary shrines of Ise Jingu. Our competition is the biggest Shinto shrine in the world. Ise is more of tourist town for people coming to see the shrine. 

The branch here has about 10-15 active members. We have no real investigators yet but a few good potentials. We are going to try to visit every member in the branch this week. It's going to be fun! Ise is beautiful. It's seriously Jurassic park out here. It's all a bunch densely wooded little green hills poking up out of the ocean. It's very beautiful here.

Ok sorry gotta go! 

Love yall! 

Elder Johnson  

Saturday, February 11, 2017

My Last Assignment

Date: 2/5/2017
Place: Shizuoka
Companion: Elder Nakatsuka

Probably my last assignment... not sure 

Well. There's been an unexpected turn of events. 

Elder Wilson, Elder Holman and President and Sister Ishii came to Shizuoka for a meeting on Thursday. Elder Nakatsuka and I had just gotten off of an exchange with the Fukuroi Elders and met the guys from the mission home at the church. We talked a bit about transfers and, of course, they didn't tell us where I was going. I've been in Shizuoka for six months and Elder Taylor has been here for four so both of us were expecting to get transferred and Elder Nakatsuka would train a new Zone Leader. As for myself I was expecting to probably get released from being a Zone Leader maybe go train somewhere. It was good to see Elder Wilson and Elder Holman. They're such good guys and both really good missionaries. And as always, being with President and Sister Ishii was the best. They truly are amazing people. We have such a great mission president! 

Elder Nakatsuka and I went on exchange with Fuji the next day and Elder John came to Shizuoka with me. We had a lot of fun and got work done. We woke up on Saturday morning and got our transfer calls together. After hearing what the APs had been discussing, I was expecting an interesting change in the mission and a lot of interesting transfer assignments but I was not at all prepared for what came! 

Elder Nakatsuka and I will both be transferring and Elder Taylor will stay and take my place as Zone Leader! Elder Ence will come in and be his Zone Leader companion. Elder Holman will be coming in to be with Elder Hovorka. Elder Nakatsuka will be assigned to the Ueda branch (he's going back to Nagano!) and he will be with our beloved Shizuoka Raptor, ELDER HANDLEY! He will be serving as Nagano district leader and laying waste to the forces of Satan up there. 

I have been released from mission leadership and will serve in the Ise branch as branch president, likely for the rest of my mission. My companion and trainee will be Elder Brown, who has been in the mission for 6 weeks (we call them half baked beans). When we got the transfer mail I was absolutely shocked! I still have no idea what's going on. Ise 2 will be closing so it will just be me and Elder Brown. As far as Shizuoka goes, a lot of big things happened. Every companionship has changed! In the mission there are six new Zone leaders and 12 new district leaders! They have changed the system so that we have younger Zone leaders and some young district leaders. Then they try to have all of the old experienced guys train and be District Leaders because they have the biggest effect on the mission. 

On Saturday, Bishop Shibahara took us to the gym in Kusanagi and we had a good lift (Bishop is HUGE). We would bench something that made us sweat and then he would get under it and toss it around in one hand!  We got a lot of attention from people. lol
It was way funny! I love bishop so much. 

On Sunday we had a Fast and Testimony meeting full of tears and goodbyes. I've never connected to a ward like this before. In a weird way we are all super close. After six months it's like we have become family. I'll miss these guys a lot. The congregation has grown just a little since my first talk in sacrament meeting in Shizuoka, which is all I could want. The sisters taught Sis. Kato and she got baptized. Bro. Kita announced that he was ready to be an active member again and came back to church. Hara san was sitting in the congregation. It was little a dream. I feel like my whole experience in Shizuoka has been preparing me for my next assignment. I've learned a lot about leadership and love and patience. I've been privileged to work with and be guided by some of the best leaders. The leaders of Shizuoka Ward and Stake are "mighty men of God" and they are inspired to know His will. But I know from my Shizuoka experience that God will magnify those that He calls. 

I thought I knew what to do when I came to Shizuoka but through my experience here I have learned what it means to be a missionary. I'm sad that it took me this long but I now know what it actually means to be a missionary. 

It's not about just being obedient. It's not about just working hard. Hard work, in and of itself, is not enough. It's about who you are. There is a difference in working hard and being a hard worker. There is a difference in doing missionary stuff and being a missionary. There is a difference between being a member and being a disciple. The difference is our will. It's not about doing the will of God, it's about doing the will of God and LIKING IT. It's about wanting to serve God more than wanting to do anything else. That means wanting to go out and OYM in the rain if that's what God wants. That means wanting to quit your job in order to come to church if that's what God wants. I would hope not to come home and find out that I had given two years but hadn't given my heart. 

I believe in a God of miracles. I believe in a God of mercy. I believe that God "will provide a way that we may accomplish the thing which he hath commanded." 

So even though I'm nervous, I'm not afraid. I don't know what the future holds and I have no idea what Branch Presidents are supposed to do. In no way do I think of my assignment as branch president as an accomplishment. It's not something I earned. By the sounds of this branch, leading sacrament meeting will be like leading a medium sized District Training Meeting every Sunday. 

I know that as to my strength I am weak and can do nothing of myself but with God we can do all things. God will not let me down. 
So in all humility I can look forward to the future with great hope and say

Bring it on. 

Elder Johnson 

When God Gives Success

Date: 1/29/2017
Place: Shizuoka
Companion: Elder Nakatsuka

Aight sorry folks its gonna be a short one this week!

We had a lot of cool stuff happen this week! We went out with Hitoshi and his friend from New York to go see a few tourist sites in Shizuoka. We went to Nihondaira and Miho no Matsubara. It was way cool! You could see Mt. Fuji so well! We were way lucky because there was not a cloud in the sky. We also got to play around on the tetrapods out in the ocean and take lots of pictures. It's also Chinese New Year so theres tons of Chinese people everywhere. We had a great lesson with Hara san. He's progressing so well and feeling the Spirit! Thanks everyone for your prayers. He will come to church this week and tell us when he is ready to get baptized. 

We met with Shu san a few times. He's really fun but he needs to get serious about investigating the gospel or we will probably have to put him on the back burner for now. 

OH ALSO YOU PRABABLY ALL HEARD BUT THEY CHANGED A BUNCH OF STUFF ABOUT P DAY AND THE DAILY SCHEDULE! So now P day will start at 8 am. And also nightly planning is no longer a thing! We will be doing all of our planning in the morning. That's gonna be so weird! Way excited for the change though. Change is way fun. 

Of course, the highlight of the week was Kato sans baptism. So many miracles led up to her baptism. She is a friend of Matsunaga shimai and was invited to come to the ward Christmas party a month an a half ago. She came and talked with the members and was very impressed. She attended church on Christmas and then made a new years resolution to come to church every week! A couple weeks ago, after Sunday school she made an appointment to take the lessons from the sister missionaries and Matsunaga shimai. Elder Taylor got to baptize her yesterday and it was one of the most spiritual experiences of my life. All of us missionaries here in Shizuoka have been working hard to see a baptism. We have labored much in the Spirit and prayed hard to maybe see just some kind of success. We originally had three baptisms scheduled for the 29th but two of them fell through. Kato San's baptism was incredible! It was a great reminder to me that all we have to do is do our best and do everything we can to be worthy of a baptism and then leave it up to the Lord to let us see success. This time He let the sisters see a baptism! It was amazing. 

Well. Next week is transfers and Ive been here for six months now so I'm probably going to get transferred. I love Shizuoka. I have grown a lot in my other areas but I feel like here is where I finally learned to be a missionary. I have learned the importance of giving up our will and wanting what the Lord wants. Only then can we ever be free. And not just for missionaries but for everyone.

 Many missionaries and members have things that they want to do but they put those off so they can do what the Lord wants. But in order to truly be happy, we must change our desires to God's desires and our wants to His wants. Anything else will lead to unfulfilled membership in the church. Desiring what God desires for us will bring us greater joy and fulfillment and we will become happy in this life. That's what lets missionaries ride for miles in the rain with a smile on their face. That's what lets you overcome any trial. All you have to do is sacrifice what you want for what God wants. The Gospel is awesome. The mission is awesome. Life is good. God is good. 

Sorry for the random rant. I gotta go. 
Love y'all! 

Elder Johnson 

Ps: I'm starting to think of ways to do member missionary work when I get back so if any of y'all have any good ideas let me know. 

"Get in the Van"

Date: 1/22/2017
Place: Shizuoka
Companion: Elder Nakatsuka

Hey all!

Sorry I don't have a ton of time to write a proper weekly mail so I'm
gonna just write stuff down as fast as it comes to my mind!
I apologize in advance for all who read this.

So on Monday we had p day (I'm way conflicted on how I feel about p
days) and then we taught Hara san at the church. It went way well!
He's super prepared but he has work on the 29th so we gotta move his
baptism back a week or two. Then on Tuesday we had a phone conference
with the APs and all the zone leaders in the mission and we talked
about a lot of big changes coming to the mission next transfer (in two
weeks!! Yeet!). A lot of cool stuff will be happening with the
leadership of the mission. I'm excited to see what happens. 

After the phone call a lot of random stuff that I can't remember happened, we
visited a feisty less active with the sisters and then went to
Japanese class. Then we went to Krispy Kreme's (WE HAVE ONE OF THOSE)
with some of the guys from the class. That was cool. I for some reason
thought that paying ¥500 for 3 donuts was a good idea. After I
purchased them I realized that that was NOT good idea. Oh well. We got
to make some friends with the guys at the Japanese class.

Wednesday we had what we called "The Sketchy Ramen Guy." Basically
what happened was we OYMed a guy a week before and then his friend,
whom we've never met, calls us and says that he wants to meet us
instead of his friend (the guy we oymed). What's more, he wanted us to
get in his car and he was going to take us to ramen. We were both way
creeped out and if I wasn't a missionary I definitely would not have
taken this appointment. 

Anyway we agreed to meet him at the church,
put our lives in his hands and get in his car, so that we could go get
ramen. Well on Wednesday we actually met him. His name is Yabuta Shu
and he is not a crazy Nichiren Buddhist priest or a serial killer, as
I had suspected. He didn't even try to kidnap us! Ok but all jokes
aside this kid is legit. He's 21 years old, likes American movies and
ended up taking us to one of the best ramen shops I've ever been to!

On Thursday he came to Eikaiwa, then on Sunday he came to church! He
absorbed everything during the meetings and classes, accepted a Book
of Mormon and even watched Meet the Mormons with us after the meetings
were over! We have a next appointment with him tomorrow. The members
have been doing a Baton Fasting Relay and on the 21st day of the
month, Shizuoka Ward fasted for missionary work. Shu san's random
appearance and absolute willingness to meet and hear the Gospel is
just one of the many incredible miracles that we have been seeing! I
love our members!
They are seriously the best.  

I'm so blessed to be a missionary here in Shizuoka. This is seriously the life.
Thanks for all your prayers and support!

Love y'all!

Elder Johnson