Tuesday, July 26, 2016

ELDER MATTHEW LEBARON...Clouds, Ashes and Korean Food...

This week I saw clouds for the first time, after being in the field
for about a month, it was pretty cool, and the shade was nice. I'm not
exactly sure if they were clouds, or if it was just the crazy amounts
of smoke that has been coming from foothills that are north of my
area. The next day, when me and my companion came outside, our bikes
were covered in ash. I've never seen ash fall from the sky like it has
the last couple of days. Also, getting ash in your eyes is horrible,
it happened several times throughout the day as we rode our bikes down
the street.

I don't know who told me that the weather was going to be cool and
nice all year, because it has been hotter than Satans butt crack out
here. When we were riding our bikes by the bank 2 days ago, the
thermometer said it was 108 degrees, now that's messed up. I know what
you're thinking especially if anyone in Arizona is reading this, 108
really isn't that bad, but if you have to ride your bike around all
day, ooohhhh how the game changes, I remember when I used to think 120
was bad, as I sat in my house turning up the AC. My companion keeps
telling me that it's fine, and that we're fine, but this is the
opposite of fine my friend, but I would actually take the heat over my
bike breaking into a million pieces on the daily. It's actually been
kind of cool, knowing that yes, the heat is horrible, but I'm going to
be enjoying this weather soon enough, and all of you can take pictures
of your snow while I cruse around town riding on nothing but sunshine,
looking at the Pom trees and soaking in those Cali vibes. Apparently
it doesn't start cooling down here until November, the hottest month
is in September ? What how, I don't believe it, but i have a horrible
feeling that it's true.

The ward that I am currently in is a pretty good sized ward. It
reminds me of my ward in Utah, but sometimes I think that we are some
branch in Africa because of how much they rely on the missionaries.
Last week me and my companion taught gospel principals, elders quorum,
and my companion also spoke in sacrament meeting. Welcome to the Elder
Low and LeBaron show. Elder low kept complaining that he had to talk
and I didn't what a chump I thought, but surely as it always does, the
tables turned, and this week I was assigned to speak in church. I
pretty much forgot about my talk until the night before Sunday,
luckily I was able to revive one of my old talks that I left in my
scripture bag. When we arrived at church there was only one other
person assigned to talk, it was this old man that I have never seen
before, He had to have been at least 80 years old, at that moment, I
knew that I was going to be speaking for more than 15 minutes. I held
my breathe as the old man talked for 5 minutes and ended his talk...
"You got to be joking me right know" I thought, so I stood and looked
at the clock, the odds were not in my favor, I remembered elder low
complaining about 15 minutes. Some how, I don't know how, but I spoke
for 40 minutes ending perfectly on time for sacrament meeting to end.
I have been given a gift, to be able to talk for long amounts of time
without interruption, I sat and pondered the use of this gift, and yet
I could not find a good use for this outside of church talks. The
bishop stood and enthusiastically shook my hand. " you did it Elder
LeBaron, I'm not sure how but you did." What can I say I guess I'm
just a miracle worker, also I hope I don't have to talk again for this

On Pioneer Day me and elder low had the opportunity to come and attend
a stake picnic and talk to some of investigators, it was kinda cool
seeing all the kids having fun, and all of the families that attended.
It reminded me of when I lived in Utah, and all of the crazy
celebrations that happen. We had to catch the bus, because it was so
far out of our area. We locked up our bikes and off we went. The
picnic was great, and everyone had fun. We had a member take us home
and off we went to our next appointment. After our appointment, I
realized that we had left our bikes on the other side of town. I don't
know how familiar you are with Southern California, but things tend to
go missing pretty quickly around here if you're not careful. There
wasn't anyway that we could get our bikes in time before curfew. At
our last lesson we ended up having to run home, I don't know how long
that run was, but all I know is that it was a little foggy. I don't
know if you know this, but I hate running... I hate it. Also, running
in proselyting clothes is not a good time. We ended up being late but
I know that God knows that we tired our best as I cried  my way home.
I'm not sure if it was sweat or tears running down my face, but all I
do know is that i wanted to die, I have not ran that far in a long
time. When we got home I kept praying that our bikes wouldn't get
stolen, we called a member and he checked on them for us. He Called
back and said that he could pick us up so that we could get them, he
didn't think that they would last through the night. We got permission
from our zone leaders and they allowed to go out after curfew and pick
them up, we were able to get back before 10:30 and somehow our bikes
didn't get stolen after being out on the street for 6 hours. I have
learned that although bikes have many different gears, and speeds, I
have one, and that one speed is walking. I am so grateful for bikes,
so so grateful for bikes.

Yesterday we had a dinner appointment with a Korean woman named Julia
and her husband. We have tried for weeks to get a return appointment
with her, she is so sweet and cuts our hair for free, she is one of
the nicest Asian woman I have ever met. I don't know how but me and
elder low always find people that speak poor English, it's funny being
called to and English mission when most of the people you teach don't
even speak it all that well. At the dinner Julia made us authentic
Korean food, and it was amazing, and apparently it's super healthy,
there are some weird fish stuff that we ate, but other than that I
would definitely have that again. After dinner we taught her about God
and his purpose, some of the very basic fundamentals. The spirit was
so strong, something that I haven't felt for awhile. She ate up
everything that we were saying and smiled the whole lesson. At the
conclusion of our discussion, we asked her if she was comfortable
praying, she hesitantly offered a prayer in Korean, I don't know what
was said in that prayer but my heart was touched, and I knew that
everyone in the room was receiving a personal witness of prayer, and
the love that Heavenly Father has for us as individuals. Her husband
is a less active member, but through that lesson he has begun to trust
us more and has become more anxiously engaged in helping us prepare
Julia for baptism. The spirit works in incredible ways, I know that
this church is true. It blesses families, and it helps individuals
receive real answers from God. I hope everyone has had a good week,
follow your dreams, strive for excellence, and go pet a puppy.

Love, Elder LeBaron

Monday, July 25, 2016

ELDER MATTHEW LEBARON...Flat tires, Wire transfers, and Born Again Christians...

First off, I would like to apologize, my Pday got switched today
because we had interviews with our mission president yesterday. This
week has been crazy, and I'm very excited to write about it!

This week started out pretty exciting, I was reminded of how much I
hate cockroaches. Me and Elder Low went to the church building to
practice church tours, as we turned the corner, we saw probably one of
the biggest cockroaches I have ever seen crawling along the wall. I
immediately stopped and told Elder Low, "you better watch out man,
that things got wings" right after saying that the cockroach takes off
and flys to the other wall. I booked it to the other side of the hall
and found a custodial closet. I grabbed the heaviest cleaner I could
find and handed one to Elder low, It looked like it had to have
something that would kill the cockroach. Long story short we ran
around the church spraying the cockroach with this heavy duty cleaner,
screaming like girls. In the end, I crushed it with my foot and all
was well.

We have been teaching this man named Alexander, who is an African
refugee. He lives in a home where there are probably 14 other
refugees, they all refer to themselves as brother, sister, uncle,
aunt, but I'm pretty sure that none of them are related. They all
speak Swahili. Every time that we are over there it seems that there
is a new person that I haven't met before. They all speak really poor
English, and so lessons have been interesting. I don't know if they
know what an AC is, but it literally feels like they have the heater
on when we are there, I dread going to lessons for that reason, it
feels like we really are in Africa, the whole time during our lessons
me and my companion are wiping sweat from our faces, and they all seem
perfectly fine. He is moving this week and asked us in his broken
English if we could wire transfer him 200 hundred dollars before he
got to the airport, Im not even sure why he needed the money, but he
was pretty disappointed when we told him that we couldn't do that. He
always tells us that we are brothers in Jesus, and hugs us for abut 5
minutes at a time. I love that guy, but it is so hard to teach him, he
goes on random tangents about things we can't understand, it's a wild

Let me just say, that Born again Christens are the worst. They always like to try and battle us, normally they like to start the conversation like, "did you know that Jesus Isn't the brother of Satan" what, okay. We normally just try and walk away from those guys. I have never seen anything like them before in my life, one of the weirdest things is when they think that they have the gift of tongues, and start rambling off in some sort of gibberish. They always say that they will pray for our souls. Normally if people start walking up to us, it's those guys. They seem to like to put their hands on you when they pray, and they get all crazy and start  adding stuff to your prayer, and raise their hands, it's wild.

This week, I had a ton of bike problems. First off, I broke my left peddle off. That was not a good time, you may think that there isn't a way to peddle your bike if you're missing one, but there is, it's just awful. I don't think that I have been in so much pain riding a bike. I rode that for about 2 days before we could get to the bike shop and get it fixed. The day after that, my front tire got a hole in it. I don't know if you have rode a bike with a flat front tire at high speeds before, but it's terrifying. Have you ever had that feeling where you can't keep balance on a bike and you know you're going to fall? It's like that except constant, and somehow you don't fall, but there were some sincere prayers were offered on those bike rides. The day after that I still had a flat tire, but something even worse happened, not just my peddle, but the entire bar and peddle came off of my bike. If we were closer to the ocean I would have probably thrown my bike into the sea. A good majority of this week has been spent in the bike shop, but it's okay, because they have some good music, so that's awesome. On one of the days that I had a flat tire we were running late for a meeting. when your tire is flat it feels like it about doubles the resistance. I have never seen my trainer peddle harder than I have at this moment, neither have never sweated this much in my life. The journey was about 4 miles and I was cussing my trainer out in the back of my mind. When we arrived I was literally drenched in sweat, and I had to meet with our mission president. He looked at me and said "Elder, did you sprint here" my response, "yeah something like that" to top the week off, I ripped 3 of my pants. I'm going to get so good at sowing, you have no idea.
My trainer is really into the idea of Jogging, and the last couple of weeks he has tried to convince me to jog, but every time I tell him how much I appreciate our morning walks, 2 weeks ago, before I knew the area very well, he walked us out to about the middle of the area, and told me "Elder LeBaron I can't believe it, we only have 10 minutes to make it home, and we're really far away, the only way we can make it home in time is if we jog" what a dirty dog, on that day I was reminded that I have never been and never will be good at running. As we were on the last street before our pad he looked at me while I could barely breathed, with a smirk on his face "how do you feel?"  "Terrible" After that day I have made it my goal to figure out more about our area, and Elder Low has tired to trick me a couple times, but I've been looking at the map, never again my friend.

Anyways, I hope that everyone had a great week, I really appreciate all the emails, you guys are so awesome. I'm loving the mission, and I have a great trainer, even if he is a sneaky fox sometimes. Keep on keeping on, just another day in paradise,
Elder LeBaron

SISTER SARAH JOHNSON... Her first real letter....

So the first day at the MTC everyone sleeps so well, because we've all cried all day. And the second day at the MTC is the WORST because you study for a solid 8 hours and you don't get your prep-day and no exercise block. BUT! Once you hit Friday things start getting better! Like exercise is super nice, and it helps us stay sane. My companion, Sis. Young loves to play volleyball, so we do that most days. But another sister in my district, Sis. Litchford likes to run with me, and that has been awesome! I'm so proud of my 9 minute mile now, and my 3 minute plank. I have never appreciated exercise so much as I do here. 
My district is super funny! We have 6 elders and 4 sisters, and we spend a lot of time laughing together. But it's also been amazing to hear from their experiences and know that they are growing as much as you feel you're growing! I feel like the Atonement is something we've often talked about being for sins, and healing from that. But I'm learning that it's so much more than that! The Atonement allows us to change, any change, so that we can become more like our Savior. There's no way some of the things that have been said with our MTC investigators have come from my head. The Lord knows what he's doing here, and it's amazing to be a part of this. 
There are still days where it feels really overwhelming and I get tired of sitting and studying and talking to people. The expectation to be amazing gets kind of scary. But there's a little tug on my heart that keeps saying "Hold out! There's going to be amazing things ahead of you, just wait it out" and that has been the biggest comfort to me. I think everyone feels that - we all wonder if it would just be easier to go home. There's something incredible ahead of us though! And that makes us all hold on until tomorrow, or until Sunday, or until P-day, or until exercise time. There's always something better ahead. :)
OH! And Elder Bednar came to our Sunday night devotional! It was so great! He talked about how we can come to love others the way our Heavenly Father loves them, to help them see in themselves the goodness they don't know how to recognize for themselves yet. I loved that devotional. There's something really exciting about getting to have a Question-and-Answer session with an apostle. 
Something funny this week was that our elders, when they got to their dorm, found pictures of some girl that a previous elder had left behind. They named her Trish and she became kind of a mascot for them? Until another elder in our zone came by and chewed out our District Leader and ripped the pictures up. They've been so upset about the loss of Trish for 3 days now, hahaha. Every time she gets brought up, all the boys yell "Nooooo Trish!!" and cry. It's so great, we're going crazy here. Stupid things are becoming funnier. Like watching Nacho Libre at 3am. Except it's always 3am, and it's always Nacho Libre, and it's still funny. 
Anyways! I hope you're all doing so well! I love you! 
Love, Sister Johnson

Sunday, July 17, 2016

SARAH'S FIRST NOTE HOME...Received Friday July 15th...

MOOOOOMMM! :D And Ron and Jacob and Oscar too of course! :D
I love you guys so much! The MTC is good, the food is good, the study time is long but good, and my companion is super sweet and so great and I love her! Her name is Sis. Young, and we get along good so far (you know, for less than 48 hours). We're already teaching an investigator (who's our teacher role playing someone from her own mission). It's very stressful but I know the Spirit is there even when I can't find the right kind of words to help her feel the Spirit too. We awkwardly opened her door the first lesson because we weren't sure it was the right classroom, and she stayed in character so well that she looked at us like we were crazies trying to get into her house. So our first meeting was definitely awkward. But It was good! We'll get to teach her every day that we're here I think, so she'll be a "progressing investigator", We're nervous but we're also excited to try the real missionary thing. :)
I sent a tiny letter in the mail today! So that'll come. But also if a package is coming sometime I would love to get my skull candy ear phones, because turns out we can use them >.<. Haha
I love you! :D I miss being home sometimes, but mostly it still feels like a week at EFY or something, so it hasn't really freaked me out yet. They say we just need to make it to Monday and we'll be fine with the crazy schedule. But already 6:30 comes and we all groan. I sleep so solid that I wake up exactly where I fell asleep, that's how tired I am. But it's good! "Little growth is found in a comfort zone, and little comfort is found in a growth zone". :)
I have to go write my Branch President now! LOVE YOU! 
Sister Johnson

MATTHEW...Fireworks, Crazy people, and Cali Sunshine

What a week! Let me just start by saying, fireworks in SouthernCalifornia are crazy. I have never, not once in my life seen a firework show like I did on the fourth, the whole city was on fire, and it was probably one of the most terrifying/exciting things to ride our bikes home through the streets as people blasted off some of the wildest fireworks I have ever seen. Some of the kids were throwing fireworks at us so that was a wild time. It's technically illegal to have any type of fire work in the city that we are in, but let me tell you, that stopped no one. If there is anything that I have learned about Latino people, it's that they like their fireworks. The whole sky was filled with fireworks, it's kinda like when they have the
finale at big firework shows but everywhere in the city, for 5 hours.

Here is Elder Low writing out "Merica"

I think that I forgot to mention this, but we have a dog, and it's awesome. Her name is 
cookie, and she's one of the craziest dogs. She has finally over the past two weeks of 
trying, allowed me to pick her up. This pad is the only place in the mission where they 
have a dog, and it's the best. She is so playful and loves to play fetch, a lot of the 
times she will sit with us while we are studying or getting ready for bed, dogs are 

I'm not sure if she likes me, but I love her and force my love on her everyday, we have 
the best relationship ever. 

Southern California is one of the weirdest and coolest places ever, I have never met so 
many crazy people in my life. Me and Elder low street contact a lot, And we have talked 
to some of the weirdest weirdos I have ever met. I honest love it though they say some of 
the craziest things, some of them cuss us out, or they tell us all this crazy stuff about 
aliens and terrorism, it's a good time, it always makes me laugh super hard, like did 
that just happen?

We are teaching so many different types of people, currently we have a Korean, African, 
and Indian family that we are teaching. The two guys from Africa don't speak a lot of 
English and so we have to use a lot of French pamphlets that are in the gospel library. 
The Korean woman doesn't really speak great English either, it's been really challenging 
trying to learn how to teach simply and it can be frustrating when people don't get what 
you are trying to tell them, when you feel like you can't explain more simply. We have 
some people in the ward that speak French and so they translate for us when we need help. 
It surprises me how Humble some people are, and how willing they are to hear our message. 
It has been such a cool experience to teach the two guys from Africa, they are refugees, 
and they love God, they have some of the craziest back stories I have ever heard. It 
makes me wish sometimes that I was called to Africa, they are so humble it blows me away. 
The Indian family  has been interesting, we have had to talk to them about how we don't 
believe in worshiping multiple Gods. It's hard when people don't know anything about 
Christianity. They wanted to talk to us because they were interested to how we became 
such good young men, and wanted their children to be like us, it's super cool when the 
spirit just speaks to people, and I know that they are interested in the spirit, they 
just don't know it yet, they always talk about how they love it when we come into their 
home, because it brings "happiness" The Korean woman cuts our hair for free and 
she owns her own salon, so that's like one of the sweetest things ever. 

California is a wild place but things are going so good! Thanks for all the love and 
Keep on keeping on,

Elder LeBaron 


Well...Jacob's is back home.  I have heard that the MTC is tough.  They get up every morning at 6:00 and from there they go and go and go until it is time to go to bed where they crash exhausted in their beds.  It is a grueling routine for anyone, but some people can deal with the stress of it better than others. It is even more difficult when it is a foreign speaking mission.  Then they stay in the MTC for 2 months and try to teach the language well enough to get a start.  Jacob says from day one they spoke only Japanese to him.  Also, you have to be with your companion 24/7...so there is never time to be alone and regroup.  Unfortunately, all of this created a stressful situation for Jacob and he was unable to continue.  It happens.

Jacob is considered a returned missionary, having been honorably released, and when asked where he served he says...the MTC. (If anyone presses further, he explains in more detail.) In the short time he was there, lessons were learned and friendships were formed.  It is enough. So Jacob is moving on.  He did what he needed to do, which was be willing to serve an honorable mission.  He feels good with the decision to just move on and we are supportive of his decision. We are super proud of him for trying. He is enrolled at Mesa Community College on a scholarship and he is working on getting a job.

Welcome Home Elder Jacob Johnson!  We missed you!!  

Saturday, July 9, 2016

MATTHEW - I am a lean mean green bean

I arrived in California at about 9 in the morning last Tuesday. What a day, probably one of the longest days of my life. We arrived in Ontario and was met by the President and his AP's they had a huge sign of a colorful peacock that read, "The California Arcadia Mission." I'm not sure why our mascot is a peacock but I didn't question it, I could rep that for the next 2 years. After getting our luggage, we drove across the freeway for about 45 minutes to get to the mission home. We sat for hours, talking with different people, and filling out paper work, we then had a seminar on safety and the importance of bike locks, everyone was so tired I don't think it really got through to them. At about 4 in the afternoon we then had a meeting where everyone was assigned to their trainers. I was assigned to be trained by Elder Low, he has been out for about 10 months.
There is so much to do and so much to learn. I am currently serving in Glendora and Azusa California, we live with a Latino family, and they mainly speak Spanish so it's hard to understand them most of the time.  Our room is probably one of the smallest rooms I have ever seen, and we manage to fit 2 people in there. I sleep on the top bunk, and I can only extend my arm about half way before I touch the ceiling. Also, it's a little terrifying because the fan is so close to me, every night I have to army crawl myself onto the top bunk to avoid the fan blades. I'm scared that I'm going to lift my knee up in the middle of the night, and get it chopped off or something. Our bathroom hasn't had the light replaced in a long time apparently, so we use the bathroom in complete darkness, so that's been an adventure. My companion knows a little Spanish so he helps me understand what the members we live with say to us. The husbands name is Fred the only thing I can understand is that he calls us Amigos every time we see him, his wife speaks a lot more English, but often times it sounds like spanish to me, because she has such a thick accent.
I have gotten so burned the last couple of days, and have slowly been recovering. we ride our bikes for about 8 hours a day and I honestly love it, I just forget to put on sunscreen every time. I am still very saddle sore from riding my bike, my trainer says that you get used to it, but I'm not convinced yet. California is an interesting place to ride bikes it, apparently it is illegal to ride bikes on the side walks so we ride our bikes around in the street. Most of the time we ride in the gutter so cars can pass us. I have learned to keep the bike steady because often times the cars will pass us by within inches. The peddle is also inches away from the side of the curb, so it's kind of a ride or die type of deal, on the bright side I will become a master bike rider, watch out Provo/Orem area I'm coming back to tear the streets up in 2 years.
I have been blessed with such a good companion, being a new missionary isn't easy, but it always helps when you have a good trainer. Elder Low is about 5'4 and comes to about my shoulder, so I guess that makes me Elder High? I can't wait to become familiar with the area, and more comfortable with my teaching abilities. I also can't wait to get my Ipad, unfortunately I don't get that until this Friday, but I'm super stocked because there are so many cool things you can do that make planning, contacting, and tracking so much easier.  I salute anyone who has served a foreign speaking mission, I can only imagine how hard that must be to adjust to something like that. State missions are a blessing, and that's a fact. Also, if anyone wants to send me snail mail, or a package just send it to 614 West Foothill boulevard, California Arcadia 91006. Thank you everyone for all the love and support!
Elder LeBaron