Friday, August 26, 2016

We Can Learn Something From The Russians & Their Resilience.

This week has been a great one. So, a large chunk of our zone has left the Training Center and have now hit the field. Though I'll miss them, they're off on an epic adventure and I can't help but be excited for them. During their send off they sang the well-loved hymn, "God Be With You Till We Meet Again" in their mission languages. (Lithuanian, Estonian, Latvian, Russian, and English). That was a musical number I definitely will not forget anytime soon.

We've started skyping native speakers from parts of the Ukraine and Russia, for our language training. The first man we spoke with was fairly stoic, but he had a slight grin the whole time. I'm hoping it was because of the wicked charisma Elder Parker and I have, but I feel it had more to do with our poor grammar and lack of confidence at first. He later spoke to us in English (since he too wanted to practice his language skills). He told us about the culture and how proud he was of his country and it's rich culture. It was an amazing experience to hear what he had to say, It got me very excited for my time to serve the wonderful people of Russia. 
We've learned all of the grammar concepts, so now we are just reviewing and trying out best to get familiar with all of them. The teachers strongly suggested we learn of the culture in our free time so we can better understand and communicate with the Russian people. So I had decided to read over the history of Russia and her culture. I was amazed by what I had learned. 

While reading, about the history of Russia, I was very impressed in their ability to retain their culture in the midst of constantly changing leadership, rougher conditions, and the wars they bravely fought in to defend their lands. Regardless of ones opinion of the Russian culture, their resilience is something to be impressed with and I personally believe that we can all learn something from it. Since this is the blog of a wanderlust filled boy, and not a historian, I won't go deeply into the history of Russia (though, I suggest you do) but I will elaborate on that rare trait of resilience. 

So, for those of you who know me well, I used to make knives and work a lot with different metals. Now more often than not, the steel in the very beginning of knife making process is not strong enough to be a legitimately useful knife. The sharpness won’t hold and the blade will bend. To strengthen the blade, it needs to be put through extreme heat and then quenched in water. This heat treating process strengthens the blade to be significantly stronger. We as people are similar to a degree. If we sit in our safe bubble and advocate complacency, we're pretty useless and no progress is made. It's when we are outside of our comfort zone, and facing that extreme heat; that's when we grow and become stronger. Unfortunately, sometimes we're thrown into that refining flame unprepared (i.e. death of a loved one, disease, heart break, financial troubles, depression etc.) and that is when resilience comes in and we bite the bullet and face that flame with bravery and the knowledge that it will make us stronger.

It's easier said than done, but I know that our trials (if viewed correctly) can be opportunities to strengthen us physically, mentally, and emotionally.

I hope you all are having a wonderful time as we're going into fall. I love you all! Have a great day!


Elder Johnson

Thursday, August 18, 2016

A Short Message...

I have usually try to structure these blogs by starting with something light, then a spiritual thought of sorts, and then story time. I figure this is a good way to describe my week to the one or two people who are reading the thoughts of (Elder) Cody Johnson. I'm going to do this blog a little differently though. Due to my lack of time, I’m going to cut straight to the spiritual part. I'm going to sort of "copy and paste" in a sense. Not much has happened this week, but a quote from the Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky from his book, "The Brothers Karamazov", stated the following and really made me think. Granted this is translated from the Russian language. It is not an absolute direct translation.

"There are those in their narrowness that blame the whole world. But overwhelm it with mercy, give it love, and it will curse what it has done, for there are some many germs of good in it. The soul will expand and behold how merciful God is, and how beautiful and just people are."

Now, this really had me thinking. One of the many things that I had gotten from this was that the best way to combat a cynic is to prove him/her wrong through our own actions. If he believes that the world is full of selfish people, show him that there is good in at least one person (that person being you).  We can't make people more hopeful, less selfish, or even happier. All we can do is show them that their unfortunately negative view of life can be proven incorrect if they look into our own lives.

Sorry this one is short, but I'd like to believe to you one or two who are reading this,  I have at least provoked you to think about what I've written. I love you all and have a great week as the summer season is slowly coming to an end.


Elder Johnson

Thursday, August 11, 2016

A Quick Note, A Few Photos...No Time To Blog.

So I don't have that much time today because my companion is really sick and he's in bed at the moment, so I'm on a split and don't really have enough time to blog.  


Elder Johnson  

Some photos that Elder Johnson slipped into his e-mail 

All Elder Cody Johnson said was cereal contest. I can only imagine what went on. 

All Elder Cody Johnson said was cereal contest. I can only imagine what went on.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

An English Language Fast, Great Advice and The Ghulstook Accords

So this week has been a good one for sure. The language is really progressing. Our district came to the decision that once a week we go on an "English fast". How this works is our whole district is not aloud to speak English until dinner that day. Some would argue that's a little crazy, but honestly Russia won't be any different, So why not be prepared? I think it would be more crazy not to prep for the dive into the Russian Language. It would be really crazy to build the ark right as it's starting to rain. So we might as well be somewhat ready. 

On a more spiritual note, during the Tuesday night devotional, the head director of volunteers for the church spoke to all of us regarding our purpose and gave us some advice. I really enjoyed some of his points and have felt the impression of sharing some of them. They seem applicable to more than just our volunteer work. (Please bear with the cheesy headlines.)

1. Don't pretend to be something you're not
Simply because you are a volunteer for the church, or involved in any other career, does not mean you are to change who you are to meet the stereotype of that position. There is a reason people have different skills and personalities. In music, harmony is not every voice sounding the same. Use your talents, quirks, and everything that you are to better whatever field you're in. 

2. When you're dealing with an inward problem, don't turn farther inward, but outward instead. 
I would say that 75% of problems that we deal with personally are because we turn farther inward.  Example: I feel sad today, so I'm going to just sit and think about how sad I am and say to myself, "People should look at ME and say that MY life is so hard." I'm not saying I'm guiltless in this. It's human to do this and often done without realizing it, but that doesn't change the fact that it's a self-centered reaction to your problem. The kicker is that it will make your problem worse. Now that we've established the selfishness of turning inward, lets touch on outward. Turning outward is reacting to discouragement by forgetting ones own problem to help someone deal with their own problems. This is hard to do at times, but there are many blessings in doing this. I will not elaborate on this, but I will reiterate it's importance by saying that turning outward makes us forget those personal problems that have no place or reason. 

3. The people in your heart can't hear what’s in it. 
I'd say this is the cheesiest line, but also the most important one. It's fairly simple. Let the people you love know that. It's too common that we believe people know what we're thinking. To some's surprise this is not true. If you care about someone deeply, let them know. We don't know how much time we have or when those words will help another, so say it often. 

If this was a little heavy or comes off as me telling you how to live your life, that was not my intention. I'm sharing it because I feel these things will be useful and I believe that they will better our lives if applied correctly. 

So Story time (blog safe version

So this is actually a very, very political story for story time, so if you can't handle that, exit now. (This line should be read with much sarcasm.)

The Ghulstook Accords

With us having 9 hours of classroom time and all the other things in between, we often find ourselves longing for some entertainment without breaking any serious mission rules. The hunt was long until a glorious new way to entertain ourselves was found...stealing stuff. Now just to be clear, nothing is being illegally stolen, and the victims of theft are thieves as well. Anyway, the two main contenders in this large game are Elder Harmon and I. It started with stealing flashcards, books, and other little things from each other. Little did we know that this little game of fun would become an ongoing silent war of stealing between the whole district. At the peak of the Team Harmon and Team Johnson conflict, some heavy blows were landed. I woke up one morning, shaved, got dressed, and then found that all of my ties were missing. Who would steal my ties in the dead of night?...Harmon. I searched for Harmon that morning and found that he and all of team Harmon were wearing my beautiful ties. In reaction to this, I pick pocketed the room key off of the weaker link of Team Harmon. The plan from then on was to steal everything (all but a pair of socks). In the middle of this plan of striking back, we were approached by team Harmon. Through a long diplomatic council, we had written what would be called the The Ghulstook Accords.    The Word "GhulStook" is not a real word, but if said correctly, It translates to "tie" in Russian. The Ghulstook accords, along with the dissolving of the great nations of Johnson and Harmon, states the following: 

-One who steals must be expected to be stolen from. 

-No stealing of personal items (keys, letters, scriptures, and most importantly food)

-Items will be returned if the victim realized the item has been stolen

-If the victim does not realize the item has been stolen after 24 hours, the item will be returned and the victim will be made fun of.

-Those who sign this document are vulnerable to theft, but are also enabled to steal from anyone who has also signed this document. 

-Failure to observe The Ghulstook Accords will result in banishment from any competition for an undisclosed amount of time.

The document was signed and sealed with a ceremonial plank competition. Now that official rules were set to this wonderful competition, many backed out, but there are still many (including Harmon and I) who have signed this sacred document. So the battle between Harmon and I still rages. For example, he stole my camera last night and left a few gifts.

Until next time.
Elder Cody Johnson