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First Week! Week 1: Jul 14 - 16

Hey folks! Little late (oops) but welcome to the first email!

If someone you know wants to sign up for these, or if you want to view the archives (eventually when there are any), I've added a blog page (with a sign up sheet) to my website at https://jjricks.com/mission-blog.

In terms of first weeks, I'd say it was pretty great!

On day one, I was late 15 minutes because the car wouldn't start... but I made it to the Queen Creek Performing Arts Center just fine. Starting out I got a tour of the building (including up on the catwalk), moved some wooden platforms around onto the stage, and dug around the pit and a shipping container (yes, a full size shipping container just sitting in the back lot) for some red aprons. (Kids at drama camp practicing Wizard of Oz needed them) I've also started reading some documentation on how to change the marquee signs outside the building; supposedly the one closest to the road is a weird outdated system barely anyone remembers how to use, and they want me to learn... so that will be exciting!

Second day, Elder Tucker and I were the first service missionaries to serve at a brand new location: U.C.C.A.N.! They run help programs for adults and teens--life skill workshops and whatnot. And we were promptly late by half an hour because we got lost in east Mesa. Ha. Once there, the task of the day was to make some informative flyers for U.C.C.A.N.'s social media pages. They just basically gave us a binder of random flyers/community help info (they wanted us to remake them in "our own style") and said 'good luck.' There's nothing like busting out your old friend Photoshop on the second day of the mission. In summary, I did some basic graphic design while listening to heavy gospel music for a few hours. (If it were my playlist it'd be slightly different, but hey I can't really complain)

Third day, Elder Tucker and I (not companions--rather, good friends and houses are close so we carpool) hopped over to the Somali American United Council. (nonprofit that supports refugees and helps them integrate into a new society) Elder Tucker holds a class doing art projects with the kids while their parents learn English/how to use a computer/how to do taxes/pass the citizenship test in the other room. My rough plan for the day was to assist with those computer classes, but instead I was put in a meeting asking me to help set up social media accounts for the organization. Apparently they're required now to apply for grants. (Yikes!) I was also pulled into a room and trained on how to not do seemingly benign gestures that it turns out are incredibly offensive to other cultures. At least I didn't learn the hard way. But hey, it's super cool to be there and learn new things!

Since I started on Wednesday, that was about it for service locations.

Still working out permissions for taking pictures of the locations (especially Somali Center), but here's what I did get!

From the studies this week:

Mosiah 15:8

"And thus God breaketh the bands of death, having gained the victory over death; giving the Son power to make intercession for the children of men--"

Elder Johnson

Marquees! Week 2: Jul 19 - 23


This week on Monday I served at the Queen Creek Performing Arts Center. Starting out it looked like I was going to sweep and mop the stage, but because the broom was kinda broken I got to work on new slides for the street marquee instead! Woohoo! Getting to mess with Photoshop for several hours as a service to other people is honestly not what I anticipated doing this early on, but I'm all in. (Bunch of pics attached)

Tuesday, I went to the office our service mission has (borrows, at a business park. My companion's parents rent it for their cybersecurity firm apparently) to work on... well I'm not really sure what the plan was, but I ended up busting out Adobe Premiere and editing one of the Missionary Training Network videos in the Lightbulb Moments with Lund series. (on a computer with a graphics card from 2008, and a CPU so old Task Manager didn't even recognize it. Luckily the craziest effect in those videos is just some text to show scriptures on the screen, so it wasn't all that bad) Basically spiritual thoughts with a seasoned institute teacher. After all the social media team meetings this week, I ended up finishing the edit on three of them in total. I can't say spiritual experiences come often while editing videos, but these were great exceptions. Sadly it seems as if the viewership numbers on those (and the Missionary Training Network content in general) are still quite small. Oh well. I linked the only one that's published yet as the spiritual thought for the week, worth a watch if you have 10 minutes.

Wednesday, it was back to the PAC. For the five hours I had there it was all about the marquee. Made two new slides, organized some of the folders/files, and fixed the other two designs I made on Monday to be adaptable for two different screens. (QCPAC has two marquees, one on the building and one by the street. Trying to make a design that gets the message across quickly, is readable on screens less than 150 pixels wide, and is also adaptable enough to fit within two wildly different aspect ratios was a new challenge for me, but a fun one. Then I had to tweak things a bunch since the boss lady wasn't happy with the layout. Ha, such is life.

Thursday, spent at UCCAN making flyers for their social media pages. Except a few minutes in, an electrician guy working in the ceiling shut the power off to the office. Since my laptop battery is notoriously bad (model with the specs meant for gaming, but I use that power for 3D rendering and video editing instead) I had about 30 minutes to whip up something. Then the power came back within about the last hour I was there, so I only had time to make two flyers in total. Hopefully they'll be useful for somebody!

Friday at the Somali Center, Elder Tucker had a cool art project planned for the kids (paper hexaflexagons, you can fold them in an infinite loop) but none of the parents (and by extension, the kids) showed up for lessons. (Our guess is because of the heavy rain) So we kind of didn't do all that much, but I suppose the art project is ready for next week!

Spiritual thought:

Lightbulb Moments With Lund; object lesson with the Japanese art of Kintsugi (11 minutes) https://youtu.be/3YX1R_a65w0

Pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/MjEZu5Ju4Vnv1rFm6

Email archive and signup: https://jjricks.com/mission-blog

All the best,

Elder Johnson

We got to smash a bunch of wood scraps. Week 3: Jul 26 - 30

Hey all!

Monday at the Performing Arts Center, we started out by helping them chip away at a scrap wood pile; stuff used in previous shows. Basically just stomping on individual pieces so they could fit in the dumpster. We filled up the whole thing! (Fun pics and video from that) Next, we started taking inventory of the.... well they call them "torms" but I'm not even sure that's a real term. On stage left and stage right there are two sets of ladders/steps up to the catwalk. On the in-between level is some storage space they call the torms. We took pictures and noted items on a clipboard, then transferred those to a spreadsheet. The ultimate goal is some sort of QR code inventory system for every prop, costume, etc. in the entire place. (it's a giant currently a giant mess.) If anyone knows a thing or two about those types of systems, (we certainly don't) shoot me an email--I'm sure they'd appreciate it. Finally, it was back to Photoshop putting the finishing touches on some of the marquee slides. This time, the head boss lady was there. A lot easier to nail down exactly what the client is looking for when they're giving you live feedback, eh?

Tuesday at the office, doing... well there's not much to do for me yet, but I'm told they're working on it.

Wednesday, back to PAC! Spent the entire time flipping through a production script of Shrek: The Musical Jr. and noting the scene location of every song, who's singing, who's speaking, etc. all into a spreadsheet. Best part was finding out that the dragon's roar technically counts as a song. You wouldn't be able to tell watching in the audience (I think), but look at the picture of the page, it's hilarious. A staff, time and key signature... all for a single note!

Thursday at UCCAN, Elder Tucker and I helped them freshen up their online profile with ASU Givepulse. (Looks like a community outreach thing) I mostly just drafted a bunch of variations on their logo's color palette for use in different situations.

Friday at the Somali Center, I helped out with Elder Tucker's art class for the kids. We had them finish folding and coloring the paper hexaflexagons, then afterwards just us elders made paper cranes with the extra time.

And that was about all for this week!

Spiritual thought is the third Lightbulb Moments With Lund video that I had the pleasure of editing, it's a really good one. The Parable of the Pioneer Woman and the Bread (11 mins) https://youtu.be/b4Qx-TqjU00

Pics/videos: https://photos.app.goo.gl/9CCx2mEdP7Ln6cdj7

All the best!
Elder Johnson

Dragon Head. Week 4: August 2 - 6


This (well now last, I'm late again) week was great; I had a bonus day at the Performing Arts Center! Lemme tell you how it went down.

Monday, the PAC needed some large raised platforms moved from outside and onto the stage. At about 10 feet tall, thankfully they were constructed with wheels. Got some fun video of those being moved. Then I got to carry a huge heavy dragon-head prop down an incredibly steep staircase/ladder. Somehow, we made it work! Finally, I sorted batteries into different containers based on how full they were. Afterward the whole service mission piled over to our mission leaders' house, where I got to help make dinner. (Tomato slicing timelapse in the album) Afterwards we played a party game called Mafia, kind of in the 'whodunnit' genre. Also have a special 360 video of that in the album.

Tuesday, I found out abruptly that the office we usually go to for work on the IGOAL program (I'm still figuring out exactly what that is) was being torn out... so after some calling around, I figured out activities were taking place at the McQueen building. Turns out, that's where the Lightbulb Moments With Lund set is! Plus a podcast studio. All I was asked to do that day was help move some computer peripherals from the office out of Elder McCurdy's car and into the Lightbulb studio. Then some folks in a truck rolled up in the parking lot and asked for change to get gas. I filled 'em up instead, that was fun. Afterward there was nothing else to do, so I just went over to the PAC to help with whatever was going on. They were sorting the old paint storage and removing the stuff that wasn't good anymore, so I chipped in on that. Then I did some leaf blowing around the building, and worked a bit more on the battery sorting.

Wednesday at the PAC again (it's my favorite service location) there was a ton of heavy lifting going on. We reorganized an entire area of the shop, it looks so much nicer now! Only caught the last little bit, but there's a super cool 360 timelapse of that in the album. (A lot of great stuff in the album this week.) Then we disassembled a small staircase, which took longer than I would have expected. (Hundreds of screws in that thing) You guessed it, there's a timelapse! I'm going all in on this GoPro thing. There weren't enough drills to go around, so for the last half I was on screw pickup duty with the magnet-on-wheels broom thing.

Thursday at UCCAN, Elder Tucker organized/redesigned a powerpoint they needed work done on, while I helped sort out some issues with their website. Mostly removing Lorem Ipsum text and cleaning up the footer. You can check it out at https://uccangroup.org

Friday at the Somali Center, I shadowed at the computer class and helped teach a bit. Most of the folks were working on typing, signing into their email, and website navigation. The missionary that was in charge of the computer class had his last day on Friday, so it looks like Elder Tucker and I might be taking over for now. Should be fun!

Spiritual thought is the last Lightbulb Moments video I got to edit, hopefully there's more soon: https://youtu.be/2oVojz_-VG4
Pics/videos: https://photos.app.goo.gl/EW8mgnSvC5RzrEXA9

Email archive and list signup: https://jjricks.com/mission-blog


Elder Johnson

Out of Tune Piano. Week 5: August 9 - 13

Heya folks!

This week was pretty great, here's the quick breakdown of events:

Monday at the performing arts center, we began construction work on those rolling platforms from last week, to get them ready for use in Addams Family. Tough work, but we made quite a bit of progress! During a water break I played the piano in the green room a bit, and my ears very quickly told me it was in desperate need of tuning. Elder Perkes captured the moment.

Tuesday nothing was happening at IGOAL (next week maybe?) so I made it my piano practice day. Working on two songs for the mission now; one for a sacrament meeting and one for the Christmas concert. Will probably send music video progress updates as I get a little better at them.

Wednesday at the PAC, more set construction! Absolutely exhausting, but again it's great to see the progress. Have so much more respect for set designers now. (Also there's a painting timelapse in the album)

Thursday at UCCAN wasn't very busy, so I just worked on improving the website a bit; polishing details here and there and fixing page redirects.

Friday at the Somali Center I helped one of the folks that came to computer class practice typing, he made some great progress!

And that's about all for this week, thanks for reading!

Elder Johnson

Pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/ogRzgYY47wPXeaG28

Email archive and signup: https://jjricks.com/mission-blog

Thought for this week: a very short video I shot/edited for Elder Egg, to be published on the mission's social media channels https://youtu.be/D0AzBp2ZLNw

Huge Boxes of Froot [sic] Loops. Week 6: August 16 - 20

Hey hey!

Welcome to this week's email! Let's get down to business.

Monday was PAC time, and we did quite a bit! First, we put several hundred scripts for Shrek Jr. into individual folders, then we filled up an entire commercial fridge in the serving area with water bottles. Got it down to a system! Then we went up to the stage to cut some wood pieces for the Addams Family set.

Tuesday was piano practice day; still chugging along on those two songs.

Wednesday, back at the PAC it was painting day. We helped Sister Critchfield fix up a prop tree made of cloth and chicken wire, then painted it a deep brownish purple for the show. Then we used available wood to make a long dining table and painted it + the chairs black. On a quick break, I found another piano that was even more out of tune than the last one... almost an entire half step flat! We went up to the catwalk to carry some lights down, and then finally hung up the scrim on the rope system. (Like a huge curtain) Also since I had run and fly training in high school, I volunteered as a tech for all the rehearsals and shows for Addams Family. Now I get to see it for free (from stage left) like seven times. Muahahahaha. At home, I got an unexpected service opportunity! A young sister in the ward received a Rubik's Cube for her birthday and accidentally scrambled it. Her mom remembered I used to solve them as a hobby in junior high/high school, so I got to help her fix it! (Luckily I still remember how)

Thursday at UCCAN, I worked on flyers for their social media page; this week they were covering local scholarship opportunities. Most of the time spent working on those is making them flow nicely (be legible, not a design mess) and recreating the logo of whatever place the flyer is about. (Oftentimes the highest res available is a tiny jpeg) I think the one I did this week is pretty solid. Also, my good friend Mandy opened her call to a service mission on Thursday--we're super excited!!

Friday at the Somali Center, barely anyone came for classes, so there was not much we could do. :/ Maybe next week! Though I did get to do some service on Friday--a brother in the ward needed some help reconnecting his Ring doorbell cam and printer to the home network after changing ISPs. I also cleaned up his laptop a bit; gave it a bit of a refresh.

And today, the whole service mission went to Midwest Food Bank to help package huge pallets of Froot [sic] Loops into tiny bags for distribution. (we actually used snow shovels to get the Loops into buckets... efficient yet strange) Had an absolute blast, would love to go there when I end up changing service locations at some point.

Spiritual thought for this week is a music video I edited at social media, The Spirit of God played by Elder Arnold! https://www.facebook.com/tempechandlerservicemission/ (have to scroll down a bit)

All pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/jrnyK1kLGt9iu4dy8

Email archive and signup: https://jjricks.com/mission-blog

Elder Johnson

I went onstage in front of 300 people. Week 7: August 23 - 27

(Ok, technically for only a few seconds)

Hey, welcome back! (Apologies for being late, but wanted to include something from monday)

This week was absolutely amazing in the service mission!

At the performing arts center, set construction finished up (pics of what we did in the album; mostly self explanatory) and the show (Addams Family) had its tech rehearsals with the full cast and crew, and all the public performances. I volunteered to help with all of that, and was accepted for the run and fly position! (Pulling stuff up and down on pulleys, for those unfamiliar. The big rope system that makes the building have to be as tall as it is. I got a video of what I was up to specifically, in the album) As it turns out, my help was also needed on the other side of the stage to move stuff on and off during the second act. During the very last scene, Fester (minor spoilers) takes a jetpack to the moon. We emulated flying by having him lay forwards on a cart and getting three people push it across the stage. I didn't get the memo that we were only supposed to give the cart a push--rather than following through--so during rehearsal I dutifully ran all the way across the stage. (Bonus video of this in an actual performance in the album) Apparently this made everyone in the booth absolutely lose it with laughter, and afterwards the director specifically requested for us to keep that in. So hey, now I've made my debut!

Performances were great, but had their own challenges. Specifically, the midstage curtain failed twice in the middle of shows. The first we were able to fix it, but for the second we had to use the scrim as an alternative. Gotta think quick on your feet! And really that's about it for this (last) week, other than some building cleanup and maintenance.

Spiritual thought from our social media team, a clip out of the That Made Me Smile podcast (4:42) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bxji93eIAvk

Pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/g8P1Bu25sryZr8fA9 (check out the video that's 1:45 long, took some effort to set up) :P

Email Archive and signup: https://jjricks.com/mission-blog


Elder Johnson

Set deconstruction + more IT/graphic design work. Week 8: August 3 - Sept 3

Hey folks!

Last week was pretty cool; Monday was the final showing of Addams Family, so there wasn't much going on--minus some general building cleaning tasks.

Tuesday, we had all missionary hands on deck for striking the set. (Got some pics of the before/after in the album.) It took two weeks to make the thing, but only a day to take it down. Go figure!

Wednesday, staff at the Performing Arts Center needed to make copies of the next show's script, but the script book was printed in an odd non-standard size. Took some fiddling around with the settings, but I eventually got it. (this is a bit of an understatement, it took like 2 hours... long story) Then I did some more designs for marquee slides. Will probably have those in next week's email.

Thursday was my last day at UCCAN--they're a super cool organization, but they just don't have enough work to do for full time service missionaries. But I'll remain available over email for IT consultancy.

Friday, I went to Sister Wright's live endowment! That was super cool, it's great to have her joining our service mission.

And that's about all for the week, thanks for reading!

Spiritual thought: Lightbulb Moments with Lund -- The Watchman on the Tower https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uV5GadOghVU

Pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/g2hvJJVMk6ZWVWJA7

Email archive and signup: https://jjricks.com/mission-blog

Elder Johnson

Fun with label printers! Week 9: September 6 - 10

Hey all!

Apologies for being late, I'll try to get these back to Saturdays.

This week at the Performing Arts Center was quite possibly the most difficult I've had so far, but also some of the most fun. We have just a few weeks to organize the pit (where the orchestra is, but the PAC uses it for storage most of the time) We basically had to empty out the entire thing of props and costumes, then we're going to organize everything and put it back. There's years and years worth of stuff in there so there's a lot, but things are moving along smoothly. I also worked on some more slides for the outdoor marquees, I've put them in the photo album. (They're low resolution to match the actual screens they're being shown on) And finally, we took the printed off scripts for Shrek Jr, put them in folders, then labeled everything with the label printer. (We also may or may not have gotten slightly carried away with the label printer; those things are kinda fun)

Thursday, I did phone surveys to ask people who attended the Service Missionary Training Center for feedback on the class.

Friday, I spent a few hours teaching English to a lady that showed up for English class! (Woo, finally something to do)

And that's about it, thanks for reading!

Pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/mhZEUqiHGJdEJcWP6

Spiritual thought: (more lightbulb moments) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ApEMz0DDrdc

Email archive and signup: https://jjricks.com/mission-blog

I played the piano in front of a hundred people. Week 10: September 13 - 19

Hi folks!

Ehhh late again, I know. But there were some cool service mission activities over the weekend, so it's worth it!

On Monday at the Queen Creek Performing Arts Center, all the effort went into making variations on the pre-existing marquee slides. The director Molly wanted some new ones, so I went ham. Got a bunch you can see in the photo album. (a reminder that they're supposed to be low resolution, to match the actual signs they'll be shown on)

For Tuesday and Wednesday, full focus was on getting everything we took out of the orchestra pit back in, but more organized. We're going to have to index everything eventually...can't wait for that nightmare haha.

Thursday at IGOAL, the Steadmans (mission leaders) needed a demo to show off their idea of a searchable database with all the service locations and their characteristics. (actual location, website, organization, tags, etc.) so I was able to prop up something using cool open source software. You can see it at https://www.themissionaryteachingnetwork.com/locations, it's behind "search by interest." I think this is not even close to the final look (it'll be more like a blog) but we'll see.

Friday at Somali Center, I was able to assist a lady continue with typing class. She's making great progress!

Saturday we did a service project as a whole service mission: yard work at a safehouse for child victims of human trafficking. Really great organization.

Sunday, I played How Great the Wisdom and the Love arranged by Paul Cardall in a Tempe, AZ ward sacrament meeting. Still haven't gotten over my stage fright (woohoo) but I think the practice paid off nicely.

And that's about it, thanks for reading!

Pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/8tSubAvwmxBAzUUt8

Thought: (How Great the Wisdom and the Love arr. Paul Cardall) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dZuVLyqdPhU

Email archive and signup: https://jjricks.com/mission-blog

Elder Johnson

I did a teeny bit of animation. Week 11: September 20 - 24

Hi all! (hey, I'm on time!)

I liked this week, it was a nice blend of computer work and physical work.

For PAC, at first it was more marquees (surprise!) but this time I had to adapt my work to a wider screen, (building vs street) while keeping the design consistent. I find it to be surprisingly difficult, but a fun challenge! It's nice that the low resolution easily disguises tiny mistakes--there's a bit of give and take.

We also began the first stages of pit organization (now that everything's back down there finally) and took pictures inside the storage container outside so we could start keeping track of everything. (much to do!)

On Wednesday I was tasked with disinfecting the auditorium, but it turned out that we were completely out of the stuff they spray to do that. Maybe it'll happen next week.

And finally, we set up chairs for the orchestra. (cool diagram Sister Critchfield drew in the album; luckily she's experienced with orchestra stuff, otherwise I would have had no idea what I was doing)

Thursday for IGOAL, I took the logo they designed for the Service Missionary Training Center and made a neat little "animation" out of it for use in social media content. (Also in the album. Hey, at least it's something!)

Friday at the Somali Center, I did more typing lessons with a lady that came in. She passed the beginner's course!

And that's all, thanks for reading!

Pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/GqM4BVnG17QQoKfK6

Thought: (From comp study this week) https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2012/04/the-merciful-obtain-mercy?lang=eng

Email archive and signup: https://jjricks.com/mission-blog

Mobile Video Editing Workstation. Week 12: September 27 - October 1

Hi all!

This week was more of the same, but still lots of great work to be done!

PAC marquees, sanitation, and pit organization--as you do. Though I think we're going to be starting construction on the Shrek Jr. set soon, so that should bring some new challenges. (Fingers crossed)

For IGOAL and Social Media this week, I was a video editing powerhouse. Brought one of my smaller monitors around with me (+ the laptop) to social media meetings and got a ton of work done. Feels great! I was also recruited to help film a few things this week, namely a Service MTC intro and an SMTC instructor's training that was an hour-long multicam sequence where the main camera kept stopping, hence a bunch of sync issues. Lovely.

Also recorded and mixed a cover of Did You Think to Pray? played and sang by Sister Wright! Really cool to bust out the microphone for a service mission activity.

Friday at Somali Center was more typing lessons; it's still not all that busy around there on Friday mornings, so I hope more people start taking classes soon.

I think that wraps things up, thanks for reading!

Pics: (not that much to show but, a couple nice ones) https://photos.app.goo.gl/CbPLFBnjvBxvAfUK9

Thought: (Did You Think to Pray? all by Sister Wright. I tried to make it sound really nice if you use headphones) https://youtu.be/LwwlZ8MruAg

Email archive and signup: https://jjricks.com/mission-blog

Elder Johnson

My temple lights up blue! Week 13: October 4 - 8

Hi all!

The first full week of October and there's signs of it starting to get chilly around here... (60, brrr!)

On Monday I had to abandon the PAC in favor of IGOAL, where I was needed at the McQueen building in order to film the second hour-long SMTC instructor training class. Since I like to get fancy and have three camera angles to choose from, that makes editing exponentially more difficult. But it's still quite fun! Our mission also attended the Mesa Temple open house to see how it looks after the complete remodeling. (Quite beautiful, if not a little cramped compared to the Gilbert temple)

Tuesday I also had to ditch the PAC in favor of IGOAL; I was needed since we were having a visitor from Salt Lake at the office. (I also had a ton of editing work to do) The whole team rehearsed the general layout of the meeting, and overall I think it went quite well!

Wednesday for PAC it was more pit, and I also accidentally broke a doorstop then fixed it with not a soul the wiser. (though judging based on the other holes in that door, I think it wasn't really my fault haha) My RGB light strips arrived in the mail on the same day, so now my 3D printed glow-in-the-dark scale model Gilbert Temple can light up any color. It's so bright that I'd might as well be adding a fourth lamp to my room... I think that's an appropriate metaphor.

Thursday for IGOAL I spent the entire time slot teaching an Elder how to edit videos in Premiere via video chat and a remote desktop connection. Even though I'm a completely self-taught amateur and still have a long way to go skill-wise, it's still surprisingly difficult to serialize what knowledge I do have for someone who's just starting out.

Friday at Somali Center, I ran through the practice US citizenship test with a lady that came in, and she absolutely smashed it. The entire packet! It brightened my day considerably to see that, I know she'll do great on the real deal.

And that's this (last) week, thanks for reading!

Thought: God Among Us (April General Conference) https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2021/04/12uchtdorf?lang=eng

Pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/j6aZcJH5sQ5Gx2VB8

Email archive and signup: https://jjricks.com/mission-blog

Elder Johnson

Mobile video editing workstation gets even crazier. Week 14: October 11-15

Hi all!

Last week was pretty great! I'll break it down:

On Monday, I helped film some dance instruction videos for the PAC, and did another multicam filming session for the SMTC Instructor's Course. (Lots of camera work, basically)

Then we had an ultimate frisbee/kickball activity with another Service Mission.

Tuesday and Wednesday was more lovely pit work at the PAC, taking all the props out of the hallways and moving them to the closets. I also made a "Happy Halloween" slide for the marquee.

Thursday for IGOAL, I brought all my monitors with me to finish editing the SMTC instructor course for the week. (Takes around 10 minutes to set up/take down all of that equipment) We also had handbell practice after the daily social media meeting; we're going to perform for the upcoming Christmas concert.

And Friday at the Somali Center, I taught citizenship to a lovely gentleman who's still learning English but doing an incredible job at it!

That about wraps it up, thanks for reading!

Pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/CKCsrzQ4cSWdbT6P6


2 Nephi 4 18- 20

"18 I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me.

19 And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins; nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted.

20 My God hath been my support; he hath led me through mine afflictions in the wilderness; and he hath preserved me upon the waters of the great deep."

Email archive and signup: https://jjricks.com/mission-blog

Elder Johnson

Visited by a member of the 12. Week 15: October 18-22

Hi all!

Pretty neat week, let's jump into it!

Sunday, the mission went to a devotional where Elder Ulisses Soares was the main speaker, and we got to sit just a few rows back in a building with thousands of seats!

Mon Tue and Wed at the PAC, we carried some more things down to the pit, assembled some large metal shelves, tried to diagnose some faulty lights, and I animated some new marquee slides for holidays and upcoming events. You can see them in the album, but for some reason with the low native resolution Google Photos absolutely demolishes the bitrate, so you'll have to download to get the "full experience." (Still not great, but they're made for the screen they get displayed on. Looks nice and crispy out on the road, I promise.)

Thursday at IGOAL we had some important meetings about our upcoming video content strategy (we have a few ambitious projects that could be distributed worldwide to all service missions if done right) And I've been accused of not taking any pictures of myself for the mission (fair criticism; I just don't particularly enjoy it), so I took a begrudging selfie that actually turned out horribly embarrassing... so I'm sorry you have to look at that, haha.

Bonus: on the drive back I saw a single-letter vanity license plate: "C." Outstanding job, whoever you are that managed to grab that.

Friday I taught more citizenship at Somali Center to an awesome lady who absolutely rocked the 100 questions section. Though I think some of it was sheer brute-force syllable memorization, but hey you've gotta do what you gotta do!

Talking to non-native English speakers has sort of opened up a new perspective for me--like when they practice writing they make some mistakes that are totally obvious in hindsight, but I would never think of in a thousand years if you asked me what people learning English would mix up. Guess I don't have any specific examples, but it's just super cool to have the opportunity to help them learn.

Saturday we volunteered at a service project sanctioned by the city of Chandler, doing yard work and painting a couple's house to look pretty nice afterwards!

And that about wraps it up for the week, thanks for reading!

Pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/PG7EFLYcFG9tBbLx8

Thought (from comp study this week): The Character of Christ, Bednar 2003

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Elder Johnson

Smashing wood scraps is fun. Week 16: October 25-30

Hi all!

Had a fun week, let's jump into it.

Monday at PAC, I did more marquee slide designs (there's a surprising amount to be done).

Tuesday we got everyone together to smash some old wood scraps and put them in the dumpster, and I did more slides.

Wednesday was more slides. (Leading up to the November marquee overhaul; almost everything was going to be new)

Thursday at IGOAL we planned some film shoots for the next few weeks.

And Friday at Somali Center, I helped assemble some resource binders for teaching English.

Friday evening we also had a mission halloween party, so that was pretty sweet! (And as a bonus picture in the album, here's what the halloween decorations looked like at our house this year. My mom's a master decorator!)

Finally on Saturday, I volunteered at a halloween party being thrown for refugees. There were so many cool people there, it was great! Unfortunately I couldn't really take pictures of the other folks (confidentiality and all) but I did get one selfie with a nice hat.

And that's about it, thanks for reading!

Pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/UZ4a1ghZBgZp4W4XA

Thought: (from comp study this week) https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2021/10/16gilbert?lang=eng

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Elder Johnson

Stage manager duties in full swing! Week 17: November 1 - 5

Hi all!

This week at the PAC I was super focused on doing well at the stage manager position I accepted a while back. Specifically working the projection system and timing the actors' lines with the background. Not going to bore you with details, but there's a surprising amount to it!

We also organized the pit a bit more. (Bonus pic, all the styrofoam heads with wigs on them down there)

I also did a few filming projects this week, with Elder Egg's mom, Brother Lund Johnson (remember lightbulb moments with Lund? Yeah that guy!) and Elder Arnold.

At Social Media on Friday we did painting and followed along with the legend himself Bob Ross. At the end I made more of a Jackson Pollock... oh well.

And then they cancelled the Christmas concert. :( Not sure if I talked about that in earlier emails, but it was going to be at the PAC and have an audience of hopefully 700ish. I sank maybe 150 hours into learning North Pole Express by Jon Schmidt on the piano just for that, so.... Can still make the music video I guess.

Ah, don't want to end on a downer, so I put my halloween costume in the album for ya! (Intel silicon fabrication plant worker, my job before the mission)

And that's about all!

Pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/B7kXLfuYroDYwyKN8

Thought: Trust in the Lord, Richard G Scott (1995) https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/1995/10/trust-in-the-lord

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All the best,

Elder Johnson

I made my first ever Facebook post. Week 18: November 8-12

Hi all!

This (last) week at the PAC, I did stage managing for Shrek Jr, did a marquee slide to promote the center's social media pages (it didn't end up being used--maybe someday) and made my first ever facebook post! (on the PAC's account, we're starting to do their social media.)

At IGOAL we filmed some more Lightbulb Moments videos, expect to see those eventually.

And on Friday at the Somali Center, I helped with typing lessons!

That's about it, thanks for reading!

Pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/bEt4LYVr2sYrRsMn9


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Elder Johnson

Showtime! Week 19: November 15-19

Hi all!

Sorry for being late! It's been a crazy week :D

On Monday, we sanitized costumes at the PAC, and I did some more graphic design stuff.

Basically I was at rehearsals and running shows the whole week, so not much to report from that--but it was super fun! Back to usual activities now. Happy Thanksgiving!

Pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/KPVpgCfvogbHmbPK6

Thought: https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2009/10/safety-for-the-soul

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Elder Johnson

The show wraps + lots of new shows. Week 20: November 22 - 26

Hi all!

This week we wrapped on Shrek Jr, and I worked on some more graphic design for upcoming shows. (Weird tangent, I'm 99.99% sure there's a Close Encounters reference in Shrek Jr. the Musical, but nobody else seems to have noticed it; online or otherwise. Took a picture of the sheet music for your inspection)

I also sorted a bunch of new candy into the concessions booth, and used some camera scanning magic to try and find the model number of a part that needs to be replaced in the PAC's AV cabinet.

On Friday I was geared up and ready to teach computer class, but sadly there was nobody at

Somali Center. I did stick around for a little bit, just in case.

And finally, I'm getting ready to film my Christmas music video next week! Keep an eye out for that

Pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/9gGJt8dzy45QjPbb8

Thought: (My elder's quorum lesson for this week, which was mostly just the talk--but with some of my own discussion questions) https://docs.google.com/document/d/18QfD_BYBc6c_d7k-Vzw0Vpj0L_F1YjXz3v5VD3RmHPk/edit?usp=sharing

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Elder Johnson

Spin the wheel of Christmas fun! Week 21: November 29 - December 3

Hi all!

Last week at the PAC we moved some bulky objects around backstage, set up for some events, I did some more graphic design, and we sawed a bunch of old wood scraps in half so they would fit in the dumpster. On Wednesday, Sister Critchfield and I worked on replacing the halloween-prize wheel inserts with Christmas themed ones. (took some careful photoshopping)

I also volunteered to scan tickets at the door for two PAC events, and I got the audio recording done for my music video. (Editing is in progress--I think this is going to be super fun!)

On Thursday I got some more editing done, and on Friday at Somali Center I helped a girl who fled from Afghanistan write a short biography, so she could submit her watercolor paintings and pencil sketches to an art show. (They're super good!) I also helped a gentleman who's learning English print out papers to get ready for a doctor visit, and start papers to get his children citizenship.

On Saturday, I helped run the Zoom meeting at a piano recital, and also did one performance of North Pole Express.

And finally on Sunday, we got the video recorded for North Pole Express.

Thanks for reading!

Pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/cuDXiAZAi9N5Xkgv8

Thought: (From comp study this week) https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2021/10/25kopischke?lang=eng

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Elder Johnson

I released a music video! (Two of them, technically) Week 22: December 6 - 10

Hi all!

On Monday, we did quite a bit!

When we came in that morning, someone had spilled chemicals all over a card table and the floor in the booth, so we took care of that. Then we took the band shell out of the shipping container on the back lot, and set it all up on the stage. Then we set up the floor cycs (lights). And finally, we retaped the fabric covers on the doors. (the ones that make things look festive)

On Tuesday and Wednesday after service I edited my Christmas music video, then released it on Thursday after IGOAL. Here it is, (for those who haven't seen already) hope you enjoy! https://youtu.be/eiJ5yzCidnc

Then on Friday at Somali Center, we worked on upping the game with the computer literacy curriculum, to make it more worth people's time. The language barrier is quite an interesting challenge for me, but a really neat experience.

That's all, thanks for reading!

Pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/qNHRbgjQJYxodqnU6

Thought: (sort of a strange/cool one, but this is a gospel rap video. I was behind the camera for most shots and edited) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZtZGzfGdB0k

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Christmas concert! Week 23: December 12 - 18

Hi all!

Super great week to tell you about.

On Sunday, Sister Wright and I performed our piano/vocal piece Mary Did You Know at a few different wards.

On Monday at the performing arts center, we were doing our usual cleaning/setup tasks when a bird of prey got into the back hall and flew around back and forth for a few minutes. Utter chaos, it was hilarious! It also left the remains of what I think was a pigeon on the ground. RIP little buddy. :/

And that night, we held the long awaited Oh, Holy Night TCSM Christmas concert! It went really well--I got to participate in a choir, piano solo piece, and piano accompaniment. Lots to do! Thankfully all the musical hubbub seems to be mostly passed for the year.

On Tuesday the PAC threw a lunch for us service missionaries--we were super grateful!

Then on Wednesday, I sanitized the whole theater with the motorized sprayer.

On Thursday at IGOAL I finished up another Lightbulb Moments with Lund Video, it's very short but worth your time! (linked below) I also got my booster.

On Friday I felt under the weather from the booster, and didn't want to risk harming any of the refugees, so I couldn't participate at the Somali Center that week--but I did continue work on my arrangement of In Humility, Our Savior. When finished it's going to be my first ever piano composition! (sorta) Hopefully to be played as a special musical number at ward visits.

On Saturday, I participated at a service project in Phoenix where we helped unload trucks full of furniture for those in need, and sort it at an office building previously owned by ADOT. So naturally being an office building owned by a department of transportation, there were some pretty interesting or hilarious things hung up on the walls/doors. (To be found in the pics)

And that's about all, thanks for reading!

Pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/gjRi8piMCBp4uEB47

Thought: Far Far Away On Judea's Plains - Light Bulb Moments With Lund https://youtu.be/Ps77vbvyg8o

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Elder Johnson

Merry Christmas! Week 24: December 20 - 26

Hi all! Merry Christmas and happy New Year!

Last week since the PAC was closed, I decided to mix it up a bit with the service locations.

On Monday, I went to the temple grounds to do some landscaping.

On Tuesday, Elder Tucker, our friend Ben and I made a greeting party for my friend flying in from New Jersey.

On Wednesday I went to 7th Street Food Pantry and outreach to help them load cars with foot kits. Quite a few people showed up that morning!

On Thursday I tried to go to Gathering Humanity (setting up apartments for refugees) but they were closed for Christmas weekend. So instead I spent the day editing a little promo that some of the service missionaries and I shot for the giving machines. (It's the spiritual thought if you'd like to watch--I really like it)

On Friday, the family made donuts and distributed them to nearby friends/ward members.

Christmas was spent with family.

Then on Sunday evening, we + some other service missionaries, friends, and ward members went to East Valley Men's Center to serve food for dinner. It was a blast!

Think that's about all, Merry Christmas, happy New Year, and thanks for reading!

Pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/GMRqpCW2Tk4LnVQS6

Thought: https://youtu.be/1ppR5ut4E_0

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Elder Johnson

We set up an apartment for a refugee family. Week 25: December 27 - 31

Hi all!

Last week I spent all my time at Gathering Humanity locations (they set up housing for refugees) , with a few fellow missionaries.

First, we spent a day at the warehouse sorting through incoming donations and putting them in the proper place on shelves and in boxes. We also somehow managed to fit a ludicrous amount of boxes into the back of a car. (Not sure where they were going, but I know it was service related)

Then later in the week, we went to an apartment to set things up for an Afghan family. It was an incredible few hours. Wishing them the best!

Photos: https://photos.app.goo.gl/SuuxsDJDSoFm7JP89

Thought: (President Nelson's Christmas message) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ULMypzP7o6M

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Elder Johnson

I didn't cry the day I took the tree down, but the amount of trees I had to take down made me want to. (haha) Week 26: January 2 - 7

Hi all!

Lovely week, and I'm actually writing this on time for once. (Woo!)

At my house on Sunday we took down the trees and other decorations. Then at the PAC the very next day, we took down all the various Christmas trees and decorations... It was a lot to deal with! haha

The PAC's 12 foot trees came in a comically small bag that could only have been originally packed by a machine. Reminds me of camping as a boy scout, trying to get the tent into a tiny bag with freezing cold hands... good times.

All week at the PAC, I also did quite a bit of motion graphic design for the outdoor marquees! The PAC's got a few new shows coming up, always fun to help out with the promotion of them. There's a certain art to making something legible and good looking at such a limited resolution--think my practice is starting to pay off. :D

On Tuesday my mission leaders got a new computer for Service Mission admin stuff, and I got to help choose which one they got--and set it up with all the needed software/tools. Computers are a favorite hobby of mine, so it was an absolute blast! I might have gone a little overboard on the hardware, (and I kind of... invited myself over to help... oops) but it will be really really really future proof. (in my defense, it was kind of the only good consumer PC I could find within about an hour (for people who also like computers: Ryzen 5 5600g/3060/16GB DDR4 @ 3200 and 1TB SSD. Plus Elder Steadman added a 240hz 27" LCD as a surprise) at a decent-ish price/performance ratio within 100 miles that was still in stock at a moment's notice. The computer it was replacing was on the verge of biting the dust, so it was urgent)

On Friday, I had the pleasure of helping set up another apartment for Afghan refugees with Gathering Humanity! (Might make them a new permanent service location.) I was delegated to the bathroom, so most of the pics are from there. Previously I've been accused of not taking enough selfies (sorry mom), so now there's plenty to go around in the album. ;)

Then directly after, my mom and I went to the Gilbert Temple for some initiatories.

That's all for this week, thanks for reading!

Pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/THpjwDGheQu4CdHj7

Thought: from companion studies: Let Virtue Garnish Your Thoughts, H. David Burton, 2009 https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2009/10/let-virtue-garnish-your-thoughts?lang=eng

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Elder Johnson

I'm making a TV show! Week 27: January 10-14

Hi all!

Last week was quite great!

At the PAC, I've been put in charge of shopping for a night vision system to be put in the booth, so we can see the stage transitions during total blackouts. It's a super cool project and I'm excited to be working on it! Involves research into some interesting new topics and contacting a bunch of knowledgeable people.

We also set up the stage for a spelling bee, and I did a ton of miscellaneous chores around the place. (using the magnet on wheels to clean up the whole dock area and dressing rooms of metal, sweeping, trashes, etc)

At IGOAL on Thursday, I finished 17 (yes, 17!) videos for the Adjusting to Service Missionary Life resources program. (ok I kind of cheated, it was one big long recording session and I just chopped it up into tiny bits. Some weeks ago we got a registered nurse (Elder Egg's mom) in to talk about best practices for physical resilience on the mission.)

For social media that night, we did an activity based on the TV show Chopped. I brought my camera and had some fun with it! I recommend watching the trailer I made, it's in the album. Planning to make the full episode.

Then on Friday, the elders went to lunch to welcome a new missionary, and my mom and I did a huge sealings session at the Gilbert Temple. Plenty of names got done! It's always a great feeling going to the temple, I'm so thankful to live very close to one.

That's all, thanks for reading!

Photos/awesome TV trailer: https://photos.app.goo.gl/yJoF6yR2vUQWVy1SA

Thought: Trust in the Lord - Richard G Scott https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/1995/10/trust-in-the-lord?lang=eng

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Elder Johnson

Seminary mentoring... oh boy. Week 28: January 17 - 21

Hi all!

Never sent an email later than wednesday, so let's not break that now--haha.

On monday morning I went to the Gilbert temple to help film segments for an upcoming music video by Elder Arnold. Then that evening we had a lovely zone activity at Elder Tendick's house with board games and smores. Completely lost my Michigan training--I was freezing cold with a jacket when it was 60 out! Oh how the mighty have fallen.

Tuesday I did a bunch of housekeeping at the PAC, and later my mom, sister Abbie, Elder Tendick, and I went to serve hotdogs and hamburgers to the homeless in Phoenix. It was a blast!

Wednesday at the PAC I did some more housekeeping and marquee design, plus got the parts for the stage night vision system finally ordered. (as I write this, everything may or may night be already set up, but spoilers!)

On thursday I helped Elder Tucker and family get a recliner from Costco, set it up, and donate the old one to goodwill.

Then on Friday, I did my first bit of seminary mentoring! It's not teaching, and not being a buddy, it's mentoring--somewhere in the middle there. It was absolutely exhausting, but well worth it. (in a sense, like the already nailbiting experience of leading an elders quorum lesson--except it goes on 6 times as long, has less people (so less chance someone has the answer to a question), most of the participants don't want to be there, and it's every single week. So much respect to seminary teachers. :P We'll see how this goes the rest of the semester) Got to meet plenty of cool kids!

That's all from me, thanks for reading!

Pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/FYTtZN6Az5WbxFK47

Thought: (From companion study this week. This talk is an absolute gut punch, but just incredible.


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Elder Johnson