Sunday, September 25, 2016

SISTER SARAH JOHNSON...Same companion...

Hello all!
So Sis. Whitehead is very nice :), and she's been really patient with me and my level of confidence in taking over the area. The ward has been super nice to us this week, which has been helpful since I'm not super certain how to do everything yet. But! we have survived the first week, and the rest of the transfer supposedly goes faster from here. 
We have a new investigator! And it's Hailey, Rick's 12 year old daughter! She is super prepared and super nice, and she's excited to read the book of Mormon and learn more. That was probably the highlight of our week, teaching her. :)
Mostly, the rest of our week, the appointments fell through left and right, which stressed our back up plans out. But this one less active Marshallese family finally kept an appointment with us, and they started coming back to church! That was so great! And they offered to feed us on Friday night :D. 
Saturday was... a day. It drizzled cold rain all day, and it wasn't our day for the car. So we walked and walked and walked all over this city knocking on doors. Haha I think Sis. Whitehead and I had a good bonding experience over that kind of misery. But once again, we found a little blessing even on a miserable day! This lady who is married to a less active member let us come in for some water and chocolate, and we had a good conversation with her, even though she's super not interested in coming to church. I like when people are at least interested in us as human beings even if they don't want church. It made our day :). 
Anyways! We found an awesome scripture this week, and we shared it with several people, so I decided to share it with all of you! It's Ether 6:5-7, about the Jaredites as they cross the ocean in little barges. I love that even though the winds have to be furious, and the waves have to be mountainous to get these people to the promised land, the Lord always brings them back up out of the water, and they make it to the promised land safely. It was a good reminder this week, as lots of things went wrong, that as we continue to have faith and trust in our Heavenly Father, He'll never let us drown and he's always aware of us. :) 
Sister Johnson

ELDER MATTHEW LEBARON...Broken bikes, transfers, and no phone

Well hello there,

This week has been kind of a weird one. Where to start, where to
start... Well transfers were today and E. Low got shipped off to
hacienda heights turnbull canyon to be a zone leader. I'm feeling a
little jaded because he gets a car, but at the same time I feel a
sense of relief knowing that I can take naps now. It's a little
intimidating to lead out the area, there is so much to remember and so
many people to coordinate with. My new comp is E. Katanuma, he is from
Japan and came out with me from the MTC, he served for two months in
Japan so he's been out in the states for 3. He speaks English pretty
well, but sometimes it's a little hard to understand what he's saying.
I don't know if you have heard of the titanic, that may or may not be
what happens to the Glendora 3rd area.

I messed up my bike again, what a surprise, I actually derailed the
derailer, I actually kicked it right off of my bike and broke the
hanger that connects it to the bike frame, awesome. I don't have my
bike, Brenna , until Thursday, which has resulted in me riding a loner
bike from the member we live with. I have named this bike quite
fondly, the bike of suck. First off it's a mountain bike, and there is
definitely a reason to ride a road bike instead of a mountain bike on
the streets all day, it weighs about twice as much, and has half the
gears. Not to mention that the bike is way too small for me, E. Low
was riding an extra small bike and I was riding a XL, just to put it
in perspective for you, that is the same size of the loner bike that I
have been riding. Luckily for me the bike has an adjustable seat. The
seat lies easily above the handle bars, and so it puts your body in
what I like to call the scoliosis position. The handle bars to the
bike are made out of a crappy plastic rubber like material, that likes
to melt at any temperature above 75 degrees. After the second day of
riding the bike of suck, I got some tape so that my hands weren't
sticky tar black when shaking people's hands. The scoliosis position
is also awesome because you are practically doing front flips all the
time when riding down hill. The seat likes to fall down on a constant
basis, so I go into midget mode and have to ride with my knees in my
face. What a lovely bike, Thursday definitely can't come any faster,
but I guess in the process of kicking the derailer off I gave myself a
good kick in the pants too.

It rained today which was awesome, it felt like little cool drops of
encouragement. It definitely was no rain storm, but when you haven't
seen rain in awhile it was a sight for sore eyes. Today has been a
little stressful with transfers, we don't have a lot of space in our
little room so it made it hard to move things around, but we managed
to get all of E. Lows stuff out and get E. Katanuma in. In the process
of all this craziness E. Low took the phone to his new area and we
have been floundering a little bit to get in contact with members and
our investigators, what a day... elder Low sucks, I was actually a
little sad to see him leave, he is a super awesome missionary, and we
defiantly had a good time serving together. I'm super nervous because
I know that my comp will be looking to me a lot to help him with
learning English, and also knowing how to answer everyone's questions,
I can't imagine being in a different country with companions that
don't speak your language. I've got a lot to improve on but I'm super
excited to work with him. It look so like I will be learning Spanish
while we do language study together, there are a lot of people that
only speak Spanish around here, so it's probably for the best.

During this past week and E. Low knocked on the door to one of our
investigators, he is a young man that is probably in 9th grade. We
could see him on the couch through one of the panels of glass on his
front door, as soon as he heard us knock, we watched him swing his
head around, and as soon as he realized it was us he performed
something that looked like a sideways corkscrew flip in the air, and
landed flat on the ground, making his body as spread out and flat as
possible, he was convinced that we couldn't see him, we waited a few
moments, but there he laid, like a dead fish. Realizing he had no
intention to open the door for us I put my face close to the window,
waved to him, and told him we were coming by tomorrow. I'm sorry, but
you can't run from us Ivan, no matter how many mid air corkscrew dead
fish plops you do.

The work has been progressing, and we are working to get more people
in our teaching pool, because it's at just about zero, right now.
That means that there is only room for progression. I love this
mission even though it can be super stressful, I'm excited to see more
growth in myself, there is always so much to learn and to get better
at. Thank you to everyone that has been writing me, it makes a world
of difference to have your support. Keep on keeping on.

Elder LeBaron

Friday, September 16, 2016

ELDER MATTHEW LEBARON...Stake Conference, Jason and Coffee...

This week has been pretty rad, not a lot has happened to write home
about but it sure went by fast. It's been a ton better week, and me
and Elder Low have been making a lot of progress. We have been working
really hard, and we actually taught 31 lessons this week which has
been crazy. Me and Elder Low have made it our goal to talk to
everyone, and I honestly have really hated contacting, and tracting...
Well I still hate tracting, but... We have been doing what we call OYM
(open your mouth) or TWE (talk with everyone) honestly were still
working on the name, but the point is to get as many as possible
throughout the day, our current goal is to get 10

Throughout the last 2 transfers I have had so much fear and self doubt
when it comes to contacting, and I always felt super awkward trying to
try and pull people away from what they were doing to try and talk to
us, especially if people were in groups. As I have started taking
responsibility to help meet our goal I have felt that fear leave, and
I've started to contact everyone regardless of what they are doing or
who they are with, I have also started to feel a real power, not my
own but from on high. I have felt the weight of my calling, and have
become more bold, knowing that I am responsible for the salvation of
the people within my area, I have come to a knowledge that literal
freedom or captivity hangs in the balance and It is my job to tip the
scale. Sometimes I laugh when thinking about the poor people me and
Elder Low have hunted down on the streets as they try and run away
from us. I've never had people quite run away from me before, but
people do in a very literal sense here. People will shut their doors,
go inside, they put their blinds down, and sit in darkness and in
silence until we leave, it's quite a phenomena. I've started to find a
reassuring sense of fulfillment as I have put my full effort into
contacting and sharing what I know about the gospel each day.

Jason has been progressing very well in the last week and a half that
we have been teaching him, and in fact he has a baptismal date set for
October 8th (happy birthday Alyssa) I have been blown away at the
faith that he has. We are teaching him the basics about God and Jesus
Christ, and even in the many doubts he has, he still pushes foreword
and is working towards being baptized on the 8th. Lessons can be
pretty interesting, mainly because he speaks in very broken English,
and sometimes we have to play charades  with him to get what he is
saying, but for the most part his lessons go really well, we have been
able to keep in contact almost daily, which has helped him so much in
reaching his goal.

This last Sunday we had stake conference, and it was one of the best
that I have attended, partial because it may have been the first time
where I have tried to pay attention the whole time. One of the 70 came
and instructed on a 30 minute recent convert meeting that me and
Elder. L were able to attend, there was probably about 50 people in
the room, and it was an incredible experience to be able to have that
close of an interaction with a general authority. He was the last
speaker, and I was reminded of just how true this church is. The
spirit was so strong in that room, and I felt an overwhelming sense of
peace and reassurance that this truly is Gods church on the earth
today, and that we have a God that you can ask questions and receive
real answers, it truly is incredible to me.

Me and E. Low went and got some coffee today and let me tell you, it's
pretty much the worst. Okay, okay.. It wasn't real coffee but it's
supposed to taste exactly the same. I think that it's called pero? But
it's just made with oats and barley and different grains, I have
learned that although I might not like coffee, I do in fact love
coffee creamer, definitely the best part of the whole deal. We wanted
to give it to Jason so that he could stop drinking coffee in time for
his baptism, but couldn't help and try it ourselves.

Other than that me and E. Low have been working on our golfing skills at the range.
I'm really starting to enjoy myself. I never really was one for golf, maybe because I never tried it, but there is something soothing about smacking a ball with a golf club as hard as you can. I've actually felt a lot of stress relieved though the whole process, maybe a few more sore muscles, but I have really began to enjoy golfing, and one of these days a member might take us to do a few holes. Just living the Cali dream, also don't be afraid to send me stuff, I love stuff, I would appreciate any and all the stuff you would want to send me, if that be a letter, a package, some candy, maybe even some snail mail letters, I enjoy it all. I'll just leave this here 614 West Foothill Boulevard 91006, California, Arcadia. Throughout my entire mission that address will stay the same, we aren't allowed to give our pad addresses out, only the main office. Thank you everyone for all the love and support it makes a world of difference!

Elder LeBaron

Monday, September 12, 2016

SISTER SARAH JOHNSON...Time For a New Companion...

Well, my companion left yesterday, and it made me very sad. But I'm so excited for her to go see her family and all. Sister Barnes was just the best, and I'm so grateful that I got to be her only trainee, because now she's gonna send me stuff. :) Yay! Haha
Something funny I realized this week is that I'm pretty sure Spokane has more squirrels than birds. Every morning I wake up to squirrels chirping? screaming? growling? Idk squirrels do something and they're pretty vocal about it. So fun fact for you guys! 
We also got chewed out by an old air force veteran the other day. He started yelling at us about how he's a warrior for Christ and how other Christians call us "Morons". Ha ha, like I haven't heard that one before :P. It was kind of weird, since he approached us and then tried to talk regular conversation with us and tell us how we need to be careful out there. I meet so many interesting people being a missionary, it's pretty adventurous. 
Oh! We finished the Book of Mormon the other day! And guess what?? We got our 40 baptism goal!! Miracles do happen! :D The mission is pretty excited today, since the news finally broke out. We got 40 baptisms exactly. So crazy, right? I love that I've already read the book all the way through on my mission, because this time there were lots of new things I learned and noticed. Like when Ammon, after his mission, gets so excited to see his brothers that he passes out. Look it up - Alma 27:17. Hopefully i'm not quite that happy when I get home, that would be embarrassing... Or  when Giddianhi, the Gadianton robber leader writes this super long, super bold letter to Lachoneus, the Nephite leader, and says something like "Yo, we're going to take away all your freedom because we're gangster. So you should just give up now." and Lachoneus is "exceedingly astonished, because of the boldness of Giddianhi demanding the possession of the land". Can you imagine Lachoneus just being like, "Wait, what?" (3 Nephi 3:1-11) See? the scriptures can be funny, haha. 
Church yesterday included a missionary presentation for the entire ward, featuring me and sister Barnes. It went super well, and the Bishop backed us up. He said something like "As bishop, I hold the keys to missionary work, and we're going to get this engine started", and the ward was really receptive. It's going to be really amazing to see how the Lord gets his work going here, and I'm excited to be a missionary in this area. The ward is so supportive and kind. I'm only a little nervous about taking over the area for the next little bit. I know Heavenly Father will support us though, and everything will work out. As Sister Barnes used to say, "You can't mess up the Lord's work, as long as you're working". :)

Speaking of Sister Barnes, my new trainer is Sister Whitehead! I'll meet her tomorrow morning :). She's only been out maybe one transfer more than I have, so we'll both be learning :). I'm excited to meet her, I hear she's really nice.

I love all of you! :) Until next week,
Sister Johnson

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

SISTER SARAH JOHNSON...It's been another busy week...

Well, it's been another busy week, but I think that's how things go around here in general. Which is awesome! 
We had the Sisters from the area next to us sleeping over for a couple of nights after their apartment was broken into, which was fun! Except a little more stressful because our apartment isn't really built for 4 people, and one bathroom isn't really built for 4 girls. But it was fun to have more people. :) 
I went on another exchange this week with Sis. Sonenstahl - the sister from my MTC district. She's my favorite :) and we got to take over her area for the day. We met lots of nice people, and the member we met up with for dinner was awesome. And I taught Sis. Sonenstahl how to make pancakes for breakfast, which is probably the fanciest breakfast I've had since being out here. That was fun!
We're also coming down to the end of our Book of Mormon in a transfer challenge, and I'm right on track to finish on Sunday. It's been a really cool experience reading the Book of Mormon so quickly, because it's easier to understand the cycles the people go through, and the general story outline. Our mission president sent us some training to go over in our Zone training meeting on Friday about how we should approach the Book of Mormon. In reality, it's just a 500 page book full of action, victory, drama, advice, and new perspectives. If it were any other book, how long would it take you to read that? Like a month. So we've been asked to approach the Book of Mormon with investigators in that way, instead of as this really hard task that they can take years to finish. Not that it's bad to take your time reading too, but it's also just a book to read, and it's definitely doable to read it within a month or two. I know that as I've taken more time to read it, I understand the stories way better, and I've found way more inspiration and comfort within the pages of the Book of Mormon. Speaking of which, we have a new Book of Mormon challenge starting on September 14, and you're all invited to join us! 
We're actually going to be reading just 5 pages a day, and finishing on Christmas day (kind of our gift to our Savior :) ). But while we're reading, we're going to be highlighting all the different names of Christ, and all of his tender mercies in the lives of the Book of Mormon people. I think it'll be a new amazing experience to be able to see all the direct effects that Christ has in the lives of the Nephites and the Lamanites, and how central He really is in our lives as well. I'm really excited to start the Book of Mormon over next week. :)
As a side note, it's been really cold this week, and rainy. And while I really like the rain back home, it is a very cold rain here. Haha I use my rice bag almost every morning to stay comfortable. Everyone keeps telling me I'll be fine, but I'm pretty sure I'm gonna die this winter. RIP Sister Johnson. 

Oh and here are some pictures :). The top one should be me and Elder DeAndrade at the MTC! (That was Jacob's companion :)) )
Then there's the mandatory nametag temple pic. 
And then there's the sisters from my MTC district, plus the Elders from a neighboring district who liked us better than our own Elders, so we adopted them. Haha

Oh and here are some more pics from the leadership training my companion went to, haha. :) 
Also Rick's baptism and the night that the sister's apartment got broken into. Such adventure. haha

Ok! We went to Manito Park a couple of Pdays ago, and it was super pretty! The first pic is me and Sister Barnes :), then just me in the rose gardens, then our district sisters in front of this other cool garden, aaaaand me in the Japanese garden they had! It's a super pretty park. It's actually the one we're going to play soccer at today with our zone, so that'll be fun to go again :).

Love you all! 
Sister Johnson

ELDER MATTHEW LEBARON...Jason, golfing, and blessings

What up my people?

I knew that going on a mission would bring blessings, but I wasn't
expecting as much of the temporal, especially not as instantly. Being
in the States is such a blessing for starters, but then there are lots
of members who love the crap out of you. Sure a lot of the Godless
people that live in California hate us, but missionaries are pretty
much celebrities for the members out here, there is definitely never a
lacking of food, we eat at a members house every night, it's
incredible. One of the coolest things is being assigned to only one
ward, I have developed some really awesome relationships with some
really cool members, many of whom drop anything to help us. Many of
the members thank us profusely for coming to dinner and sharing a
message, which is quite an odd phenomena, they make it seem like they
owe us for coming in their house and eating their food? Anyways
members are just plain awesome, I really wish that I had close
involvement with the missionaries growing up, the little kids think
that you are just about the coolest person in the world, there isn't
anything better than being a missionary.

You know how I said that white people are the worst? Well they still
are, but the fortunate thing is that in California white people are
pretty much the minority, well at least the area that I am currently
in. We saw a Chinese guy named Jason walking down the street a couple
weeks ago, taught him and invited him to go to church, he accepted and
we went on our way, he ended up not coming and we thought that, that
was the end of things considering that we couldn't get in contact with
him. On Saturday we finally caught him when he was home, and we taught
him about God, because his family is Buddhist, it's super weird trying
to teach people when they don't have a very good understanding of who
God even is. He was so humble and willing to listen to us, we asked
him if he was willing to follow the example of Jesus and be baptized,
without much hesitation he said that he would be baptized, but he
wanted to learn more. We don't have him set for a specific date, but
we have to teach super simply, mainly because he speaks very poor
English. The next day we saw him at church and he said that he wanted
to stay the whole 3 hours, which is incredible, because sometimes I
don't even want to stay the whole 3 hours, you know? Well it was
testimony meeting, and because of some crazy members we had to do a
lot of explaining but we recovered well, then in Sunday school they
just dropped the for strength of youth on him, and that lead to us
resolving a lot more concerns, but all and all I am blown away at the
faith and humility that some of these people have that just arrived in
the United States.

The beginning of this week I was feeling super discouraged and felt
like we weren't accomplishing much. I began to pray fervently and was
soon reminded of the love that God has for every single one of us. My
bike got pretty messed up this week (Like it always does.) and so my
bike got left at the shop for some repairs. The next day we couldn't
get a ride, and it was horrible outside, 100 degrees with 98 percent
humidity is not a good time. We walked 2 streets and remembered we
forgot the phone, turning around, I felt even more frustrated, I
couldn't understand why the week had been so hard, and why it seemed
like we weren't accomplishing anything. As soon as we got home and
grabbed the phone the member who lives with us pulled in, and gave us
a ride, which saved us a 3 mile walk to the shop. I was filled with a
deep sense of gratitude and was reminded that God is very mindful of
us, and is rooting for our success, especially when we are in his
service. In the late afternoon we took a little break from the heat
and went to get some Italian ice, a member saw us and paid for us,
several things like that happened that day, and I was just blown away
at how much God blesses us every day, especially if we keep our eyes
open. I was also reminded of this fact when riding my bike home today
from a members barbecue. We've all had those moments when you have to
use the bathroom right now, and well this was one of these moments.
This was an especially treacherous experience riding a bike, there
aren't any shocks on rode bikes, so you in turn are the shocks, and
you feel every bump and pebble underneath you. I quickly prayed
knowing that there was no way I could make this journey back to the
pad without some kind of divine  intervention . I peddled even faster,
quickly being reminded of one of my favorites by Carey underwood
"Jesus take the wheel" the lyrics quickly began to replay in my head
as I passed through alley ways and different winding streets. focusing
on the line "I can't do this on my own.... I can't do this on my
own... Jesus take the wheel" and let's just say that Jesus did take
the wheel, a matter of fact he took those handle bars right from my
hands and I was by some miracle able to make it home after that
terrifying bike ride, avoiding becoming another missionary statistic.
That's about the most sincere testimony that I got right now. Being a
missionary is a delight, and I love serving the Lord. Offer the Lord
your whole self, not just a twig here, or a branch there, he wants the
whole tree, and I know that you will be blessed for it.

Also, this p day me and E. Low went golfing at a driving range today
and it was awesome , here are some of the action pics for your viewing