Monday, December 26, 2016

Merry Christmas!



Merry Christmas to all you folks! I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas! This Christmas has been great. We got to Skype our families! It was sort of strange to talk to my family but that doesn't take away from the fact that I loved every single second. Talking back and forth about adventures and just catching up in a way that little e-mails just can't really do. It was pretty fun. So after our good Skype visit, Elder Anderson and I made our way to a member's home for dinner. We came to their apartment and had our Christmas feast of a lot chicken, potatoes, beats, rye bread and some soda. It was honestly the best meal I have ever had here so far. Old christmas music from the 40's played in the background as we shared stories over our meal. Eventually the conversation lead into something more important than just how they cooked the food or what we received for Christmas. We discussed the true spirit of Christmas.





We all come from different backgrounds and all of us have lived different lives. We all believe in different things. So needless to say, we are naturally different. We find times when we have things in common with others and in those cases, we make friends. Christmas is a time when we all can agree that it truly is a time of "peace on earth, good will to men". The best part of this peace from Christmas is that it is accessible to everyone. Almost everyone is in a pretty good mood and is willing to help someone else out because it's the holidays. Similar to the joy of the holidays, the love of Christ (whose birth we celebrate during this time of the year) is also accessible to everyone who seeks it. That in of itself is truly a gift. 

I hope you all have a wonderful rest of the year, spend it with those you love! 

Love,

Elder Johnson




Monday, December 19, 2016

25% Done, Sparring a 60 Year Old Woman & a Christmas Message




Hey everybody! Hope you all had a good week. As I usually say, “This week has been a good one”. It's weird to me that it's already Christmas and at the end of the week I will have already been on my mission for 4 transfers (25% of my mission). Time flies for sure, it's been a good time thus far and I look forward to the rest of it.

This week we had a few interesting adventures. In one of these said adventures I fought a 60 year old woman. Yes, I was attacked by a 60 year old woman. It's okay, my companion got beat up by a 13 year old. All is well. It all started with a "behind the walls" at an aikido dojo. A member in our branch said there were a few people who he felt would be interested in hearing a message or simply meeting us. So we came into this Ukrainian Dojo and I immediately couldn't help but smile. It seemed as if all the cheesy parts from the Karate Kid movies were all manifested into this one room, mixed with "Rex Quando" from Napoleon Dynamite (to those who have not seen these films. The point is this 'Dojo' was pretty intense).  Pictures of Ukrainian fighters on the walls right next to some weird looking katanas. Even though the room looked like something from a spoof, the people were super serious (as I would find out soon enough). The class started with the teacher demonstrating some moves and then having the class stand up, get a partner, and then spar. I stand up and look around. Everyone has a partner except for me. I'm looking around hoping to find a partner. Now to those of you who are reading this thinking "partner up with your companion dummy", he was already taken by a small thirteen year old who would soon bring him down like a lion takes down a giraffe. Anyway, I look in the corner and I find a person standing alone. An older woman who has tattoos from her wrist all the up to her neck. Seeing that she didn’t have a partner I walked up and paired with her. We stood on the mats and got into position. She motioned me to throw a punch at her. At this point, I just think that she wants to practice some exercises and I'm not going to punch an older woman (or any woman for that matter) if I don’t need too. So I slowly reach my hand out in a fist in front of her. The next thing I knew my arm was twisted behind my back, I was pushed into the wall, and the lady was whacking me in the head. While my head was pressed into the wall, I look over to see my companion on the ground, tapping out as the thirteen year old kid was about to break his arm. I broke out of the arm bar the scary lady put me in and just "dodged" everything she threw at me from there. After our super intense battle we got some lessons with some of the people afterwards and walked out of the dojo laughing and a little humbled. It was a pretty fun time. 

More importantly though this week we had a big Christmas event on the 17th. It was a huge gathering in the center of the city. The missionaries in the city performed musical numbers, helped the branch in the area perform a nativity, and displayed the church's Christmas video. We had a little over two hundred people there. It was super cool. I was reminded about the greatness of the Savior and the wonderful message that Christmas can bring. We all come from different backgrounds, beliefs, cultures, but at least during this time of year the majority of a much divided people can come together and agree to be kind at the very least. I think that's what makes this season so special to so many people. I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas.

Give more than you get this year, and come closer to those you love!

Merry Christmas!

With love,
Elder Cody L. Johnson


P.S. Here's the video we showed to the crowd at the Christmas party. #LIGHTtheWORLD

Monday, December 12, 2016

Street Milk, Jazz Hands & Miracles



Hello Everyone! These past couple of days have been full of interesting things. Celebration, street milk, dance moves, and miracles (or some rad coincidences). So I figure the best way to go about this is hit all of these things in that order.


New City and Celebration
This last P-Day, something uncommon had happened, we all (the other missionaries in Kharkov) had some free time. It's pretty normal for a preparation day to be filled with errands, writing, cleaning up the apartment, etc. etc. This time though, we all had either gotten our errands done or didn't have any to do.  So we called each other and decided to meet in the Center Branch, cook some food, and just have a missionary dinner together. It was a great time, telling stories over our closest attempt to burgers; Oreos dipped in melted chocolate bars, and street milk we had bought. (It’s okay, it was in a big truck, it was totally safe.) We had a total feast! It was a good evening and a good way to celebrate that a new city in our mission has opened up for us to teach in.  It was a great time and we all left ready to work. 

 
 


Miracles and Dancing
So something that I've seen in missionary work and pretty much in any work setting is that it is only as fun as you make it. If you can make your work fun while getting the job done, not only are you going to have a better time but the fun you're having will most likely rub off on those around you. This concept was solidified two days ago, when we went out to offer English classes to people on the street. Now, it's cold outside (not too bad yet, 14 degrees) and most of the people on the street are on their way back from college. With that said, they are not always too keen on talking. More often than not, the common response to our invitation is a nose down and quickened pace to get away from the weird Americans. About 20 minutes into this what would be 3 hours of "English Contacting", Elder McClurry and I decided that we needed to spice things up. So Elder McClurry and I went out onto the sidewalk and as people walked by we would do a little spin or full blown dance move, followed by and invitation in one hand, and "jazz hands in the other". Instead of the common shun, people would look up and smile. Following the smile people would typically ask the Russian equivalent of "What the crap are you doing?" Then there would be good conversation and people would agree to meet for English. One of those people was Max, a man who left one of the cities that is currently in the conflict zone. We have met with him multiple times now and he is wanting to learn more about God. Goes to show what some fun can do. haha

 
 


I'd love to continue to tell more of the stories, but sadly I don't have that much time. I'll be sure to write more soon. I wish you all the best. Stay warm, and have some fun! 

Love,

-Elder Johnson

Elder Johnson got his Christmas package from home.
Pretty sure he opened all of his presents all ready .

Monday, December 5, 2016

Grandmas, "Behind the Walls" & the Flu

Hey everybody! This week has been a little slow and not much had gotten done, mainly because I had gotten sick with the flu and was put under quarantine for about 4 days. I can however, fill you guys in on the stuff that happened before I was under quarantine. 

Grennie Exchange
The day has finally come, I am no longer the "youngest" missionary in our mission. About three weeks ago  we had three new missionaries come into our mission. All three of these missionaries are awesome people. I had the chance to go on an exchange with one of them this last Tuesday night. I was pretty excited until I remembered I don't speak Russian very well (yet.), but I was also excited to see where I'm at in the language. So, Elder Dienhart (the new missionary) and I started our exchange by going up through our area to meet with a less active woman named Elena. She is super nice, and treats the missionaries sort of like grandchildren. Not really the sit you down and feed you treats kind of grandma, but the kind that yells at you for not wearing a hat in the winter because she loves you. Anyway, we sat with her and were able to discuss the blessings of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and how this life is supposed to a happy one. The lesson went pretty well and she seemed happier when we left. Mission Accomplished. 

After we had visited Elena, Elder Dienhart and I went to one of our "behind the walls". So the behind the walls program in our mission is when you get into some very "local" spots of your area that would be difficult for a conventional missionary approach. You make friends, do whatever thing is going on there (I.E. English class, Karate, Chess, Music), and then invite the friends you made to come to church or to learn more. If they say no, no big deal, you just made some friends and helped people have a better understanding of the people in our church. Missionaries here typically visit the same "behind the walls" a couple times a week if it's going anywhere. In a nutshell, it is basically being an undercover missionary. haha. So we had gone to one of our behind the walls, which in this case was a language school, and helped with the English program. That was super fun. We ended up using one of the lessons from our own English class and used it on them. They loved it and had a great time. We set up some appointments with some of the students, and then headed home. That next day  our exchange ended. It was a fun time and Elder Dienhart is a pretty legit guy, I look forward to working with him more. 

Sadly, I had been stricken with the flu and was told to stay home for those next few days. On the bright side though, I got to read a lot, study more Russian, doodle a lot, and catch up on sleep. So it goes to show, there’s a little good in everything. 

Hope all is going well for you back home, or from wherever you are reading this from. I wish you all the best from Ukraine. 

Love,

Elder Johnson  

Monday, November 28, 2016

Possible Wizard & A Thanksgiving Party

Elder Johnson & Elder Anderson chilling at their apartment.

Hello Everyone! 

I hope you all had a good Thanksgiving with good food and family!

This week has been a good one, but it has felt pretty short. It seems time just keeps on moving faster and faster. Anyway, our Thanksgiving was pretty legit! A little over a week ago, we were sitting in the church building with the same 20-25 people for the service. I was sitting in the back next to one of our less-actives, writing down new words that I didn't recognize (needless to say I was writing a lot). My writing was interrupted by the noise of one of the back doors in the chapel opening, and a man walking quietly to the seat next to me. He had a long blue overcoat covering his worn jeans and black button up shirt. His hair was medium length, except for the top of his head, which was bald and he had a scruffy red beard coupled with scars all over his face. He honestly looked like someone from Harry Potter. So, this wizard sat next to me. He looked at me, noticed my name tag and smiled and whispered,

"Hey, my name's Carl. What's your name?"

I was thrown off guard that he spoke English and sounded like an American. Still kind of confused, I whispered back. 

"My name is Elder Johnson. Nice to meet ya." 

"Sick man, nice to meet you too. Hey, some of the other missionaries know me. I was wanting to throw a Thanksgiving party in Center. Invite all the English club folks and have all of you teach them during the party. Like undercover, ya know?" 

So that was the birth of this Thanksgiving party idea. We met with Carl a few more times and got everything set up. I don't know how, but Carl some how had gotten 6 turkeys and about 100 potatoes. I asked if it was expensive at all while we were setting up and all he said was, "Eh, I've made lots of friends".... what the crap? haha Who has friends who can supply turkeys and potatoes on a whim? The only answer to that question is "Carl".  We got the party put together and it ended up being a blast and very effective on the missionary side of things. We had been teaching and having great discussions all night. So if Carl, who has disappeared (again), every reads this. Thanks man, you truly are a wizard. 


Local of the week.
So another great thing that's been going well is the language. I'm still about as capable as a three year old in the language. Here's the thing though, some people like three year olds! With that said, I'm starting to be able to develop some great friendships and relationships. One of those people is Артём (Art-yo-m) He's a cool guy who's been interested in learning English with us, and has also been interested in the gospel as well. He's been a great friend and "guide" here in Kharkov.

Артём & Elder Johnson
Thanks guys for reading! I love you all and I wish you the best from Ukraine. Get ready for Christmas! Give something great to someone you love! 

With chocolate and borscht,


Elder Cody Johnson