Monday, October 24, 2016

Ukraine! Airport Security, Laxatives & A Deported Missionary

I'm in Ukraine! After tons of twist, turns, changes, airplane food, broken Russian, and having a sit down with security, I am here. 

"Where we is..." 
I suppose a good place to start is flying in. We flew into the Dnepropetrovsk airport around 1 P.M. (I think that's midnight in Arkansas). The airport was about half the size of Jasper high school, maybe even smaller. About half of the people on the flight to Dnepropetrovsk were missionaries. We came to customs and had no problems there. We then got to the next security gate, where they would scan our luggage. Now before I continue this story, I need to explain a "rule" or suggestion from the mission president. Before we came to Ukraine, the mission president sent us a list of medicines and drugs to bring to our mission. The majority of these things are typical over the counter stuff in the states that could be difficult to obtain in Ukraine if we're sent to a very rural area. So in a nutshell, one of my suitcases is packed with a lot of pill bottles and other scandalous looking things. Needless to say, I was pulled aside and asked to open the suitcase. A really tall, stoic, redheaded woman from security, approached me. She looked at me and then my "stash" and asked in a thick Ukrainian accent "why do you have this many things?". I proceeded to explain my situation and made the same case for all the missionaries. She nodded and continued to just look at the pile of medicine until a puzzled look came onto her face. She picked up a pill bottle and asked me, "What are these?"  She looked at the label and sounded out the word. "Lax-uh-tiv". 

I then replied, "yes, Laxative." 

"What does it do?"

I couldn't help but chuckle. Here I was, thousands of miles from home, explaining to a Ukrainian Security guard (who knows little English) how laxatives work. I took my first teaching opportunity in Ukraine, and I went all in; One part Russian, another English, and other part hand gestures. After a perfect explanation, She looked at me, surprised that I would be carrying something like that.  She started chuckling and told me I was good to go...Nailed it.  

I got to meet our mission president and my new companion shortly after, and both are great people. My companion was initially in Samara serving his mission, until he was about a year in and was deported. Look up "five LDS missionaries deported from Samara, Russia". 
, for only serving for a year, his Russian is very impressive. (I can't really tell yet for sure, but He does sound like the other Ukrainians we speak to). I'm excited to be working with him. We've been sent to a northern city called Kharkov (K is silent). The city is truly beautiful and has a unique flavor to it. From what I've heard, many Ukrainians from Donyects have come here to escape the conflict. The people here are great. I look forward to learning more about them, learning from them, and working with them. 

Elder Johnson with is trainer Elder - wait, he never said his name.

Elder Johnson with mission President Sullivan & Sister Sullivan 

Though Ukraine is very different from anywhere I've been and almost every aspect of life here is foreign to this boy from a little town in Arkansas, the great feeling that I get from serving others is the same. I look forward to continue my Mission here in Ukraine, and try my best to improve the lives of those who allow me to help. Whether it be by teaching them about the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, or something as simple as helping them across the street. I'm here to serve, and I'm happy to do it!  

"Our tiny beds in our soviet style apartment." 

I hope everyone has an awesome fall and an even cooler Halloween. 

я вас люблю!!!
(google translate: I love you.)

-Elder Johnson

Letters & Packages: 
Elder Cody L. Johnson
Karla Marksa 27A 5th floor

Monday, October 17, 2016

Leaving On A Jet Plane... to Ukraine!

Well, I'll be honest, my thoughts are a little scattered. So I apologize if this blog is short. I will be leaving for Ukraine this upcoming Thursday at 2:00 A.M. This transfer (and temporary assignment) has been a great experience.  I have had the great opportunity to meet some amazing people and learn a lot about their stories and lives. The people here have a great spirit about them and I hope to see them all again someday. I'm so grateful to have had the chance to serve both here in the states and soon to be serving in Ukraine.

I have to go... Lots of running around, packing, and travel plans.

 Боже, Всё Хорошо!

Monday, October 10, 2016

Awesome Prank, Service & MTC Buddy (Elder Snow)

Elder Snow & Elder Johnson
So this has been a great week and has been filled with a lot of adventures. 

We had a "Trainee Meeting". The mission has this meeting every time they have new missionaries to see how they are adjusting to missionary life. Elder Deason and I drove to the mission office and came into a full room of other missionaries.  We sat down and the meeting started up. In all due respect, but being honest, the meeting was kind of dull. Then I heard a "psssst". Ignoring it at first, thinking the "pssst" wasn't for me.  Then I hear it again. I turned around and there was Elder Snow, with a big smile on his face. Elder Snow is one of the other missionaries who I was in the MTC with who was reassigned to Ukraine, He was sent far south in Cali while he waits on his visa whereas, I was sent to Ventura (Northish). We both immediately were freaking out silently, trying to tell each other all of our stories we've had so far. After the meeting we ran up to each other and were able to share all of our crazy stories about California. Hearing all of his stories made me even more excited to work with him in Ukraine.  I left that meeting with a stupid grin on my face, and held it the rest of that night. 

Story time: As missionaries, we have the awesome opportunity to meet many different people. A lot of these people often have pretty interesting stories and careers. One young girl (16) we've met is a very talented make-up artist and already has her foot in the door for some places in Hollywood. We wanted to set up another meeting with her but she said she needed to practice her monster make-up for the "Halloween Rush". So we made a deal, she could practice on one of us while we taught her. I happily volunteered.  The monster make-up was great, and the lesson went better.  After the lesson we had to pick up the other Elders, Bronson and Hildalgo. We called and told them we were late because I had "gotten a burn on my wrist while doing some service" and that I'd probably needed to maybe go to the doctor. Needless to say, the reaction was amazing. I pretended to be unconscious when they walked in. Elder Bronson almost passed out and Elder Hildalgo was immediately trying to "treat it". 
The prank
Lately we have not had as many lessons but have been doing a lot of service, just trying to help others. As we've done a lot of this service, I've really gained an appreciation for the people I work around, and my testimony of how great service can be has grown. I have felt the spirit in church but it doesn't even compare to the spirit I feel when in the service of others. I've learned this week that if you want to be filled with the spirit, like so many people hunt for, serve others willingly. I can promise that you will feel better than you did before you started

Have a great fall! Play in some leaves for me! There isn’t much of that here in California. I love you all. 

Elder Cody Johnson

Monday, October 3, 2016

Having A Moment Of Why I Am On My Mission!

Still wearing his Russian name tag. :)

All right! This week has blown by pretty fast, but it's been a great one, none the less. It was packed full of meetings, exchanges, and general conference. Though the week was packed and a lot of things happened, I feel like an experience I had while on an exchange is worth sharing and will overall add some insight to our purpose as missionaries.

Elder Johnson and Elder Bronson
The exchanges. 

So, a missionary exchange is when two sets of missionaries trade companions for 24 hours. Typically one of these sets of missionaries have leadership positions, this way the missionary leadership can see how the missionaries their assigned to are doing. With that said, the zone leaders had an exchange with Elder Deason and I. Elder Deason stayed in our area (Ventura, California) and I went to Santa Paula with Elder T (I say Elder T because he has a super long Samoan name). So the kicker of this exchange was that Santa Paula is a Spanish area. Now the extent of my Spanish knowledge is I speak broken Russian, and overhear Spanish music on the streets sometimes, but I was still pretty pumped to be there. Thankfully Elder T. is fluent in Spanish, so I wasn't 100% lost. 

Elder Johnson and Elder T

Following Elder T's lead, we visited and spoke to a lot of people. Some in Spanish (with the great translations of Elder T) and some in English. One home we visited stuck out to me specifically: 

The first visit was to a family called the Alpuches Family. We knocked on the door and an older man had opened the door. He did the typical "who the crap are these guys" scan, and then smiled. He tried to talk to us, but his English was too broken to understand. Elder T. then started to speak to him in Spanish. The man’s face lit up and was immediately more comfortable with us being there. He invited us into his home. The small house had a living room, kitchen and two other rooms that connected to it. Old paintings and colorful quilts covered the older, crumbling walls. The man kindly gestured us to sit and told us to wait for a moment as he walked into another room. After a moment, the man brought out his wife in a wheel chair. She was a very petite woman, dressed in a colorful gown that looked homemade, and from her right knee down, her leg was gone. I watched intently as Elder T. would speak to them in Spanish, getting to know them so that we could address any needs they had. With the conversation being with missionaries, our belief obviously came up. We explained that we believe that God still helps his children today, and explained that the book of Mormon was a record of God's dealing with His children in the ancient Americas.  When we explained the Book of Mormon, Roseriso (the woman) lit up and claimed she wanted to read this book. Surprised by how crazy her reaction was, we gave her a Spanish Book of Mormon. She then told us about how she came from a small Mayan community in Mexico and that this book was her way to know about her family. She and her husband than asked us question after question, some about the gospel of Jesus Christ, The Book of Mormon, and others about their own trials they're facing. As we answered each of their questions by the spirit, their eyes started to well up with tears of joy. Their "questions of the soul" were being answered and they were able to feel in their hearts that spirit of truth that so many people search for. It was that moment I was able to see my reason for serving a mission, to invite others to come unto Christ and to try my best to bring them happiness.

This experience left an impression on me mainly because I was able to see the fear/discomfort of having those deeper questions answered. People are searching for happiness and truth, and being able to deliver a means to both of those things has been a great blessing thus far. I know that this gospel is true, I know that if our message (that God lives and continues to minister to all of his children, and through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, all of our weaknesses can be made strengths) of happiness is tested with sincerity, through prayer, it can be confirmed to you as it has been for me. 

If this blog entry is a little too religious for your taste, I'm sorry that you've stumbled on the blog of a missionary. I hope everyone is having a wonderful week, and I hope fall is treating you all well! 
Have a Great Day!


Elder Cody Johnson

Elder Johnson's apartment