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First Week! Week 1: Jul 14 - 16 (2021)

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on how to change the marquee signs outside the building; supposedly the one closest to the road is a weird outdated system barely anyone remembers how to use, and they want me to learn...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/SdbmjhMN5ykay1ub7

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/mftztYMCXvBkVXQG7

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/aMmV3ddTbYywJgK87

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/SeRXN9oztGK9t9DK6

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/uBxgqpFxRMZWHNeq6

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/GXnCVDVJ7SmiPRabA (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/y2GvczxYX4Z9GRjP6

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/rMHxBGK2uvAcB3GK6

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/RdWgXh3EW8D162zK7

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/5WPG9inHSCAmfprp8

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/z2oUkRsaoQFCLfAh8

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/Z7C27heNjet5VzUt8

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/hjBhdkcc9f9vPH7s7


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/woVoT1kaQTEDLxx87

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

Email archive and signup: JJRicks.com/mission-blog

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/SK562i8fPnwafwWP8

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/u4WbUEVQVbKmDgie7

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

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

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/fB6AmfZMGqBJbRWk9


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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/6jQ92g9qWp11GoN26

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/rLrCyxe8crA7ZckNA

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/gTzcGyNzAhukA7438

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/mBkpCT8CQzgFTMAy6

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

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

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/Ni9cj3sVCgg4HBen8

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/RTvYfDtKkvpH9EPx5

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/isyash9kGoJKXCWs5

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 (2022)

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/1NB7dc8CPFP7TvnGA

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

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

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/dVX2boJ49BaF6Ugx5

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/MaiNhVD2FrcrLgnR9

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


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Elder Johnson

Night vision success! ...maybe? Week 29: January 23 - 28

Hey all!

Welcome back to another email, let's get into the meat and potatoes. 

On Sunday, we had an SMTC devotional with Tad R. Callister as the keynote speaker! Really incredible guy, gave a great talk on the history and truth of the Book of Mormon.

Monday at the PAC, I did some tech support for the director, sorted all the sheet music from songs for the upcoming show Moana Jr into folders (they printed off thousands of pages), and sorted various things.

Tuesday we put away the choir risers, (which somehow required a huge reorganization of the stage accessories shipping container) mopped the stage, and I went to pick up the camera for my stage night vision system I was going to install the following day. (I've been invited to stage manage shows at the performing arts center again, and this will help us time scene transitions without resorting to blind luck) Also turns out social media was canceled for that day, so a bunch of us that didn't get the memo and showed up anyway did a little group scripture study on the lawn next to the church building. Lovely!

Wednesday, I absolutely busted my behind installing the stage night vision system for five and a half hours straight. Holy moly that was tough. SO much went wrong, I thought it would never work. (could go paragraphs into detail, but I'll spare you) In the end I was kinda dirty and sweaty, but everything was installed successfully. And then I promptly didn't get to test it, because the cleaners came in and they needed the lights to be on. Aaaaaa dang, so close! So I'm waiting until monday. :P

On thursday at IGOAL, we shot a social media piece hosted by Elder Tucker, and later that evening we had a mission activity around a campfire where some fun shenanigans went on.

Friday's seminary mentoring was much better! I actually came prepared to take notes. (Name, goals, brief physical appearance to help me remember names) I had a great time getting to know the kids, and they seemed more enthused this week. Didn't think I was going to say this in the beginning, but looking forward to more!

That about wraps things up, thanks for reading!

Pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/YyfajePGwxiPX2gz6

Thought: From study in the grass, Moses 7:18 "And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them."

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

All the best,

Elder Johnson

Lights, camera, gaff tape! Week 30: January 31 - February 5

Hi all,

This week was great!

Monday Tuesday and Wednesday, I tested the night vision system to see if I installed it correctly, (I think I did, it works great. Can't wait to use it in a real show!) three of us mopped the whole seating area of the PAC, I did more marquee designs, and then things got a little chaotic.

Wednesday, the high school threw a signing party, and they wanted us to set up everything. They brought one of those big logo banners you pose in front of, but no frame or stand for it. So we had to use the PAC's (which was the wrong size) and jerry-rig it fast with some gaff tape.

Tuesday the mission played 007 in a neighborhood I basically grew up next to, so I had a bit of navigational advantage there. :P (Elder Newton and I took first place)

On Wednesday, Sister Wright taught us how to make cookies for the social media skills lab--they turned out incredibly delicious!

Then Thursday, I went to the Gilbert Temple for some initiatories, and we did a bit of filming for social media, the How Do I... series. Very happy I'm still able to participate in my hobbies for a good cause on the mission!

Friday seminary mentoring was an absolute riot; one hour it's a bunch of jock dudes that ignore you and have earbuds in, and the next hour you have an amazing discussion where everyone is into it. Not being able to keep everyone's attention makes me want to quit sometimes, but there's a sister in our mission who has way way WAY worse social anxiety than I do and she seems to be handling classes just fine, so I know I just need to suck it up essentially. Can't progress without doing hard things.

Saturday, Elder Tucker arranged an awesome nature walk for the mission. Had a blast!

That's all, thanks for making it to the end!

Pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/QRc6NrMQxtsENPEJ8

Thought: From the devotional we watched today, The Character of Christ by David A. Bednar. (I sent this one for Week 15, but it's worth taking another look at) https://www2.byui.edu/presentations/transcripts/religionsymposium/2003_01_25_Bednar.htm

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Elder Johnson

Music video! Week 31: Feb 7 - 11

Hi all! Let's get into the week.

On Monday we set up for a spelling bee on the stage, so I got to set up microphones and make sure everything worked properly. Also did some laundry in the back shop. Later that day, Sister Wright and I worked on recording a music video for the North America Southwest Missionary conference that was coming up on Saturday. I also continued work on the Sliced TV episode (missionary cupcake baking competition video)

Tuesday the spelling bee was happening, so in order to not disturb the people there we worked in the loading dock organizing things. Eventually we gave up when someone accidentally hit a nest of baby spiders. (haha that was crazy)

Wednesday nothing was happening, so I continued practicing my special musical number for the upcoming Sunday.

Thursday my mom and I went to the Gilbert Temple and did some sealing ordinances.

And Friday for seminary mentoring was yet again exhausting but great; think I'm warming up to the position. Still quite a bit to handle though. ;)

Pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/SX6TZZ3nU3zNBGLy8

Thought: A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief (music video made by me and Sister Wright) https://youtu.be/1XrhawOyYzs

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Elder Johnson

The highest tech restaurant I've ever seen. Week 32: Feb 14 - 18

Hey all!

Great week,

Monday at the PAC, a Josten's (sorry but ....ew) representative came in to give the standard 'buy a class ring' presentation to a few hundred high school students. She came in an hour late, which left only a few minutes to set up her laptop with the PAC's audio/visual stuff. Of course the HDMI connection didn't work, so suddenly it was my problem because I'm the "tech guy." :P Classic. (something something your lack of preparation is not my emergency something something) Acting on instinct I just swapped a few cables around up in the projector booth, and it was fine. Except the aspect ratio was squashed a bit... can't have it perfect every time! Haha

For Tuesday we had a good few things to do, but mainly laying marley (laying down a huge dance mat on stage and taping it down, that takes a while) and as a bonus Elder Tucker got to move the indoor cherry picker lift from stage right into the shop. (in a somewhat humorous manner, of course) Also a bunch of the Elders went out for sushi that night (I tagged along) at a restaurant that could only be described as a masterclass in clever software engineering. The entire dining experience is controlled through a tablet above the table, and there's some super cool interactive stuff that happens throughout the meal. No wonder there was a waitlist to get in!

Wednesday at the PAC mostly nothing was happening for a few hours, so I spent the time practicing the piano. Then in the last hour, some people started filing in and, surprise! There was a high school variety show they needed to get ready for. So I stayed for an extra hour and a half past when I usually would to help out, which leads me to something a bit unfortunate.

I've never really mentioned it in these emails but, as much as I enjoy the work around the PAC (especially when things are a bit intense, like at shows--it's so much fun!) the director Molly is sometimes... a force to be reckoned with. I won't go too much into it, but when she enters what we've colloquially dubbed 'production mode' it's almost impossible to keep her happy. One has to guess what she wants next based solely on vague and contradictory information. (and working around her for a few months, I've gotten a little better at it) The can of verbal smackdown she opens on you if you accidentally get it wrong is... really something special. I even get blamed when things go wrong that clearly I had nothing to do with. (the intercom stopped working, and I was in the line of fire because I moved one of its headsets across the desk. Didn't even get so much as an apology after someone else proved that actually the power supply blew out) Even got told to "stop trying to be helpful" when I got a setting on the slideshow wrong by accident during the first rehearsal. (like, what else am I supposed to do?? That's why I'm here!) At this point, her whole facility wouldn't run smoothly without us service missionaries, so I'm quite puzzled as to why and how she rationalizes being this way. Taking the 'beggars can't be choosers' thing and flipping it on its head. Then also telling us how important we are to her when everything's calmed down. Switching back and forth between the two extremes on a whim.

Frustrating as this may be, I wear the missionary tag and I accepted the call to be a representative of Jesus Christ at all times. Just giving up or worse--fighting back--wouldn't be appropriate responses. (no matter how tempting or how red my face gets) I believe that in the process of dealing with this, I'm learning valuable lessons about patience and kindness in even the most infuriating of situations--skills I know I'll be grateful for in the future. Maybe I could even help her improve through my actions if I handle things right. Maybe that's why I was placed here...

Anyway, I'm picking up the Gathering Humanity service location on thursdays! As a refresher, their organization has a warehouse full of household supplies/necessities that they give to refugee families settling in the Phoenix area. I've had the pleasure to be a part of two apartment setups so far; it's a really incredible experience. However, that's all going down next (this?) week, so on Thursday I actually did initiatories at the Gilbert Temple and planted some cucumbers in the garden.

Friday's mentoring was cool yet exhausting as always... I think I already said this, but I still regret every single time I didn't pay attention in seminary. :P (Both my seminary teachers from my brief stint in Michigan are on this email list, hi by the way)

And that about wraps it up!

Pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/78TtEK61tsZY9vjJ6

Thought: Infuriating Unfairness (Dale G. Renlund, April 2021) https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2021/04/25renlund?lang=eng

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

Have a good week,

Elder Johnson

A lost wallet, and a free computer! Week 33: Feb 21 - 26

Hi all!

So much happened this week, I can't believe it!

On Tuesday at the PAC (Monday was a holiday so they were closed), Melissa (full time employee there) found a lost wallet and passed it on to me. (I do like a good challenge) There was only a credit card and two gift cards, so not all that much to work with. However there was also an airtag tracker, which means the owner of the wallet knew where it was... theoretically at least. Fun fact: airtags are NFC enabled, so you can scan the back of them (tap your phone) to get the owner's information. Buuut... only if it's in 'lost mode' which I guess has to be enabled manually. So I could only see the last four digits of the guy's phone number and the tag's serial number. Spent a few hours trying to get through to Apple and the credit union, but none of them could help me contact the guy, or even contact him on my behalf. The credit union suggested dropping it off at a branch, which I ended up doing later. Hope the guy got his wallet back!

Meanwhile, I was also helping set up the stage for an orchestra activity taking place the following day, and doing a few marquee tweaks. Later that evening, we had the first TCSM choir practice and I was the piano guy.

On Wednesday, I spent a few hours at the PAC, then headed over to the McQueen building to help film things for IGOAL for future mission social media content. 

Thurday I did an apartment setup with Gathering Humanity (always the best feeling helping with those. There's a 360 picture in the album if you'd like to see a full look-around the apartment)

Then on Friday we did two apartment setups! That was a lot to handle, but we rocked it. Really hoping those families are able to settle in easily and are doing alright!

For Saturday, the mission went over and spent the afternoon helping a family move. We packed up the whole garage into a Uhaul, then unloaded it 35 mins away. I take an interest in computers, and I was talking shop with the dad about the one I was about to load up in the truck. He said he didn't use it anymore and that I could have it!! ("if you don't take it, it will just spend the next ten years in my closet") Since it's not really a 'super performance beast' (hey, not complaining) and we kinda need a new family homework computer, I think I might upgrade it a bit and then donate it to the fam. 

And that about wraps things up, have a good week! 

Pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/HwSXHATZMLNwRCka7

Thought: One Percent Better (was reading this, really valuable message) 


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Elder Johnson

Furniture unloads and speaker shenanigans. Week 34: Feb 27 - March 4

Greetings all, welcome to a new email!

On Sunday, I drove 40 minutes away to do a musical number--which was actually pretty nice. Although I did notice that their "pipe" organ there is... probably fake? I mean it looks nice, but why even bother?

On Monday I helped troubleshoot some speaker issues on stage (that involved running around and putting my left ear up to the equipment... long story) worked on marquee slides (as you do) and helped tackle printer issues. (The PAC printer is so fancy it can literally fold and staple ("saddle stitch") paper, then spit out a completed playbill. All the while making futuristic UFO machinery noises) We had to hunt down a paper jam, but thankfully the printer is so fancy that it will triage precisely where the jam is for you, then show an instructional video on how to remove it. The main problem was that their Microsoft Publisher printing defaults disappeared after a server outage. Melissa and I reverse engineered the correct settings and set up the defaults on everyone's computers again. Not all that crazy, but I did learn a lot more about the facility's systems and how to troubleshoot them. (...also that high-end printers are absolutely wild. It turns on automatically when you walk up to it. Like whaaa??)

For Tuesday and Wednesday I was full nose-to-the-grindstone on those marquee slides. I only got two of them done for the week, but boy--they take a lot more work than meets the eye. (especially for someone kinda just starting out on this stuff) I should really do sketches and storyboard them out to make this easier on myself (say if Molly doesn't like the design (thankfully rare) I didn't just lose all that work. See also: that social media promo slide from a few months ago), but usually I just get an idea and go for it. I'm very very happy with how these ones turned out. Usually video players don't play nice with low resolution video, (as a reminder, the slides are pixelated to match the actual signs they're shown on. Looks good from a distance and also low resolution covers up a lot of mistakes.) so since I want you to be able to see them "as intended" I did some video trickery (read: screen recorded them out of After Effects) and put that in the album, for your viewing pleasure. (wow that was a lot of parentheses, hope that made any sense)

Thursday I rolled into Gathering Humanity all jazzed up and ready to blast through a few apartment setups, but I got reassigned to warehouse duties and unloading the truck full of furniture. Of course, helping prepare for the apartment setup is just as valuable as actually doing it, buuuuut I would be lying if I said I wasn't at least a little bit disappointed. (haha) As an aside, it's a little bit hard to focus at the Gathering Humanity warehouse--speaking as a longtime enthusiast of large industrial machines. Of particular note was the garbage truck unloading dumpsters, the constant roar of passenger jets from Sky Harbor International, and the railroad tracks within earshot to the east.

On Friday, seminary mentoring went very smoothly. Unfortunately quite a few kids don't show up for class these days, but there were still a decent amount. Really awesome continuing to get to know these kids. One fun thing is that the seminary teacher Brother Seal has an almost perfectly drawn replica of the character Balloony on his office shelf. (From the beloved cult classic show Phineas and Ferb.) Just thought that was kinda funny.

Anyway, that about wraps it up for this week; thanks for reading!

Pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/yRGmDaMqK78FRbUB8

Thought: developing resilience under stress, from the adjusting to service missionary life handbook. As titled, this is mostly meant for service missionaries, but I think it has some valuable information for general audiences as well https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/adjusting-to-service-missionary-life-resource-booklet/1-developing-resilience-under-stress?lang=eng

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Best and well wishes,

Elder Johnson

A player piano and speaking in stake conference. Week 35: March 6 -12

Hey all!

On Sunday I spoke in stake conference with a four minute testimony (that was how long they told me to make it) that was prepared right there on the stand! Well... sorta. I'd been thinking about what I was going to say for a few weeks prior, so really those notes were just about organizing my thoughts. I guess stage fright is either something that goes away with age, or not having it is a perk of being a missionary that's set apart--cause I had nothing of the sort!

On Monday I... actually have almost no pictures of what I did at the PAC, so I have no idea what was going on. Oops! All I have is a single picture of Melissa and I fixing a folding table with tape.

Though that night we had an FHE at the Scottsdale mission leaders house, and there was some hilarious karaoke! Also they have a piano that plays itself--that was interesting.

On Tuesday I fixed (sort of, just reconfigured a bit) the computer that displays the concessions menu, and worked on importing/labeling the projector slides for the upcoming Moana Jr. I figured out that the computer going to be showing those slides isn't quite up to the task, but ran out of time to investigate. It was also my 21st birthday, so the fam went out for sushi. Fun times!

On Wednesday, I began looking into how we might be able to upgrade the computer and make it work for the show. I think I know what we need to do, but it involves going through IT... we're running out of time, I'm getting a bit nervous haha. Later I went to the IGOAL afternoon session to help film some videos for the mission social media and other programs.

On Thursday at Gathering Humanity, we applied some Tetris tactics to load the back of a truck with three cribs. Also I accidentally revealed that I was 'good at computers' and was subsequently put on relocation to the back room holed up with a laptop. The task: fix their Google Workspace for Nonprofits account that was only half setup several months ago. :P Spent a few hours sifting through thousands of emails, calling customer service hotlines, diving deep into forum posts from 6 years ago, and resenting the existence of outdated support documentation--trying to slash my way through the jungle of robot phone menus and convoluted auto 'support' chats that are incentivized to keep you from talking to human at all costs.

Though at the end of the day, as frustrating as that is, this is for an incredible cause--and if anyone's going to be able to handle it, it's the guy who spent most of his childhood learning this stuff. I'm so so glad I get to serve people in the best way that I know how. :D

Friday's seminary mentoring was the last before the kids' spring break, so even fewer of them showed up unfortunately, but it did go generally very well. (There were also some hilarious whiteboard drawings floating around all day.)

Saturday, I got up in the wee hours of the morning to help pick some citrus with other missionaries for an older lady. She was super cool!

Thanks for reading!

Pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/ND5pZ6mtXPYeMoGTA


The Savior used a parable to teach the importance of service. In the parable, He told of His return to the earth in His glory and of separating the righteous from the wicked. To the righteous in this parable He says: “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me” (Matthew 25:34–36).

The righteous, who are puzzled by this declaration, ask: “Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?” (Matthew 25:37–39).

Then the Lord answers, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matthew 25:40).

--Gospel topics > service

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Elder Johnson

I got contacts! Week 36: March 13 - 18

Hi all!

Very eventful week!

On Sunday, I bounced around to different wards doing musical numbers and attending speaking assignments of fellow service missionaries. At our Sunday meeting, Elder Arnold brought back some goodies from France, so that was pretty cool!

On Monday and Tuesday at the PAC, we spent the days organizing the shop--which was and continues to be a complete mess. :P Not much to talk about, other than that we were lifting a bunch of stuff repeatedly.

On Wednesday I did some housekeeping stuff at the PAC, then went to the IGOAL center to help film some more videos. If you watch the How Do I...? series, a lot of the upcoming videos have me asking the question to the missionary in the hot seat. :D At social media that evening we had a skills lab, where we learned to braid yarn. That was pretty neat!

Around this time, I also went to some optometry appointments to get contacts! Finally ditching glasses after... (one two three, uhhhh) ten? years? Wow. So far it's been pretty interesting.

We also found out that the companion of my good friend from before the mission Elder Evan Caffal (currently in Colorado)--that being Elder Caleb Dowdle--was leaving there and joining our mission. The twist? His older brother Elder Jacob Dowdle is in our mission as well. And at the last Sunday meeting they were assigned as companions! Now how's that for a perfect situation.

I went to mission volleyball that night (which was more of a comedy than a game, long story) and don't really have pictures from that, but I did snap one--of the best chalkboard drawing I've ever seen, and possibly ever will see.

For Thursday at Gathering Humanity we did organization work in the warehouse, and put together some silverware trays for apartment setups. That evening there was an awesome party for the folks with March birthdays where we had a cool Escape Room type activity.

In the background, (I think I might have already touched on this) we've put together a mission choir--and we've already sang at a few sacrament meetings. I'm assembling some recording equipment, so hopefully I can get video out of a performance to you folks relatively soon!

That wraps it up for the week, thanks for reading!

Pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/Hz1m8zTdW7mD83VY8

Thought: How Can I: Be Still (1:30) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jHXBGdRmjlk

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Elder Johnson

Giant dumpster! Week 37: March 21 - 25

Greetings all!

Last week on Monday I started working rehearsals at the PAC for the upcoming show Moana Jr. This has turned out to be quite a bit of work!

We dedicated Tuesday to filling a giant dumpster with wood scraps, and I got some fun pics with that.

Wednesday I did a rough draft of the storyboard for an upcoming choir music video our mission is working on, helped out the school next to the PAC in touching up their powerpoint, and kept going with the Moana rehearsals.

Thursday we did an apartment setup for Gathering Humanity, and Friday we went out to help a friend of Elder Otey's move from an apartment to a house.

Thanks for reading!

Pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/J5DWotFVZ44dE8Vf6

Thought: He Sent His Son, virtual choir. Pretty incredible, with singers from all over the world! https://youtu.be/GKkL-QVLIVY

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Elder Johnson

Recording audio and running shows. Week 38: March 28 - April 3


Not much to share this week, but I'm still hard at work!

At the PAC, I'm continuing to stage manage + run music and slides for Moana Jr, which is actually super intensive focus-wise. (There's a video of what it looks like + a demo of the night vision system I set up a few months ago finally getting put to good use (remember that?))

On Thursday we set up and recorded the piano track for an upcoming choir piano music video! (Going to be a while before you guys see it, it's a huge project)

Friday's seminary mentoring proved quite wonderful--and as a little bonus, one of the students brought along a little plush parrot.

And finally on Sunday, we recorded the vocals for that music video.

That's it, thanks for reading!

Pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/ZPFzxkWUiBFFqcrF8

Thought: I absolutely loved General Conference! Here's a great little piece covering President Nelson's messages from this conference: https://newsroom.churchofjesuschrist.org/article/prophet-summary-april-2022-general-conference

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Elder Johnson

The show must go on! Week 39: April 4 - 10

Greetings all!

This week it was go go go from 6am to 9pm every day. (even Saturday)

When I wasn't rehearsing or running shows, I was spending every other second designing and animating marquee slides. (as you do. Refreshing old ones or making new ones) Not much to say, but the shows went very well. So glad I can volunteer my talents for nonprofit community events like this! Back to normal next week, I promise. :P

Then today, we did the first shoot for our upcoming Called to Serve/Let us All Press On music video. Super excited to show that off when it's ready!

Pics/videos: https://photos.app.goo.gl/ytbpJ46SJKxCV5h49

Thought: This week in the form of a song, I'll Go Where You Want Me to Go, sung in the Saturday afternoon session by the BYU Idaho Choir. I feel the spirit SO strongly listening to this; gives me the tingles. What an incredible cover: https://youtu.be/aG2fT3JrCu4?t=18235

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Elder Johnson

FOUR apartment setups! Week 40: April 11 - 16

That's right, you read the subject correctly!

After the show finished up on Monday (and I completed yet another marquee slide that I'm actually pretty proud of), I decided to take a PAC break and nose-grind at Gathering Humanity for the rest of the week. Lost count of the amount of beds (let alone everything else) we set up, it was incredible! Hours and hours of work, but I know it's for an excellent cause.

Starting Thursday and going through Saturday, Sister Conover had asked me to help document her confidence camp for young women! That was a super cool experience, and now I get to edit a little highlight reel for everyone who attended. :D

Have a great week!

Pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/ynRZ8kZXN2h5cmX9A

Thought: Today I was listening to the Sunday morning session, and I think President Nelson's talk about the power of momentum and the covenant path is especially outstanding: https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2022/04/47nelson?lang=eng

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Elder Johnson

Elder Larsen jumped in a freezing pool! Week 41: April 18 - 22


This week was a bit more settled down, but still eventful!

At the PAC I helped with the (digital) cleanup from the show (compressing the recordings and uploading them for distribution, putting equipment back, etc)

Wednesday was content making day, where we brainstormed and shot more videos for the mission social media programs. At that night's mission prayer (in a video call), I don't remember why exactly but after everything was all wrapped up, Elder Larsen jumped in a pool... twice. It was great!

Also this week, I've been restarting my exercise routine to get in shape! That's something that's part of the mission schedule and I've really needed to improve at it, so that's what I'm doing now. (You can see the local memorial I took a picture of on a nightly walk in the album)

At Gathering Humanity we helped with warehouse organization; sorting things on shelves and unloading vehicles.

Friday's seminary mentoring was exhausting but excellent, as always; then after that we went straight into a three hour video shoot at the Gilbert Temple (for the choir music video). And then I went on a six mile walk. :D Great ending to the week.

Until next time!

Pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/g3EXH5mX1QzxL6zx6

Thought: Still on a bit of a conference kick. I want to point out this INCREDIBLE talk by Elder Patrick Kearon https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2022/04/24kearon?lang=eng

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Elder Johnson

Ducks in the pool! Week 42: April 25 - 29


Aha, almost broke my streak and missed an email there. Not this time!

Last week was pretty good. At the PAC we swept and mopped the stage, did cleaning and organization, along with helping set up some events. Also a part of my night vision system broke, so I set about fixing it.

At Gathering Humanity I dug a bit more into setting up the Google Workspace for Nonprofits accounts (Gathering Humanity would use this to keep everything organized on the tech side, I was asked to help set it up) and towards the latter half I got some more shelves organized.

Friday's seminary mentoring was a blast--with fun student drawings on the whiteboard, and some incredibly powerful lessons. In particular, one Elder I was tag-team-teaching with had an amazing object lesson about 'the salt of the earth,' and the way he taught it was with a lamp and a container of water (which he poured salt in to make it more conductive). I regret not taking more notes so I could share it here. (I really did feel the spirit with the way he explained things) but I've included a piece from the Ensign about the same topic with similar lessons below. Worth a look.

Hang in there! Love ya all

Pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/rXKmXKSf7hDkvwdD6

Thought: https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/2014/01/the-salt-of-the-earth?lang=eng

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Elder Johnson


Wait I forgot about the ducks in the pool! (the subject line) That was on Thursday, turns out a momma duck had a family in our backyard and they were there for a few days. Very cute!

Ok have a good week

Elder Johnson

Big truck. Week 43: May 2 - 6


This week was great!

At the PAC this week was more of the usual, with stuff to move around and some marquee fixing going on.

I also kept up my exercise routine and have dropped two pounds. It begins!

At Gathering Humanity, the organization was finally approved to use Google Workspace for Nonprofits, which will be huge for productivity. This week I was expecting an apartment setup or warehouse organization, but actually I did something new: furniture delivery!

There are a few things the apartment setup doesn't typically get done, and that's placing bed frames, tables, chairs, couches, and the like. I got to hop in the cab of a mid-size semi and bounce all over Chandler carrying heavy things up stairs. (Sometimes very precariously, mind you) 

But first we took a pit stop at Deseret Industries to donate some things, and used grant money to get extra furniture--alongside stuff from the GH storage unit. Send a reply if you ever had that one wooden chair in the photo album at your house! That's a super nostalgic design for me. By the end of the deliveries I was absolutely drenched in sweat, it was crazy cool. (I got a short video of some of the activities, check it out)

Seminary mentoring was cool, and I thought that that recreation of Balloney (from Phineas and Ferb) that had lost all its air kind of resembled a certain someone... Also in between classes at one point there was a cool piano jam session.

Pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/S7xDadpkv8ic8AsU8

Thought: Our discussion in Elder's Quorum today covered this Eyring talk from October 2021. Really fantastic!


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Have a good week,

Elder Johnson

My mission leaders got released... but at least the music video is done! Week 44: May 9 - 14


Oh boy, what an interesting week!

At the PAC I helped run some presentations and fixed up my night vision system.

On that fateful Monday evening, my mission leaders got released and my mission was split. :(

Bit of a gut punch to start the week off.

Anyway, I used the opportunity of a gathering to get my selfie quota in. ;)

Choir practice continued throughout the week, getting ready for the 15 minutes of prelude at the North America Southwest Conference. Learning 15 minutes of piano music was a new challenge for me--but luckily hymns repeat a lot, so it wasn't all that bad.

At Wednesday IGOAL we got some more good social media content shot, then Elder Steadman and I opened up his laptop to upgrade the RAM and found out we didn't quite have what we needed to finish the job, so we put that on hold for a bit.

At Gathering Humanity I went through and got most of their Google Workspace email accounts set up, and helped organize school supplies in the warehouse. (Also a lady was carrying around a small dog and I got my selfie quota in.)

Later that day we found a tortoise hanging around in the front yard, so we took care of it for a few hours until we found the owners. Thing was adorable and hilarious, walking around the house!

Friday's seminary mentoring was the very last... man, those kids are awesome. They'll go on to do great things, I know it. Seminary leaders had a pizza party ready for us which we were very grateful for! (with the expensive stuff too--I don't even want to think about how much that cost)

Saturday's North America Southwest Conference went very well! The prelude went off without a hitch, and there were some amazing speakers there. Elder Steadman and I finished upgrading his laptop afterwards, and finally, finally, we premiered the Called to Serve/Let Us All Press on (Let Us All Call to Serve?) music video that we've been working on for months. Probably the most ambitious video project I've ever been a part of, bar none. While the final product might not look like much, getting that many people to show up to three different shoots with the right clothes, making sure everyone is on task and looking good on camera (actually most of that was Sister McCurdy haha, I'm just the camera dude), editing together 36 simultaneous perspectives/tons of takes from a few different cameras plus keeping it all in sync... wow. But my goodness it was so much fun. If you have a spare three minutes give it a go. Link below :D

Later that Saturday, my sister was at a stoplight and struck (lightly-ish) from the front by a Honda Fit involved in an accident. Praying for everyone involved. (Word of warning, the dashcam video is a little shocking but not inappropriate)

That is all for the week, thank you for reading!

Pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/mKBxFxrjb63KJ76z5

Thought: The finished Let Us All Press On/Called to Serve music video! I hope it brings you joy and invites the spirit. (Share with a friend, if you will) https://youtu.be/Gvg0tS9mgTg

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Elder Johnson

I picked up a new location! Week 45: May 16 - 20

Hello there!

This week was pretty eventful!

At the PAC I packed concessions with new candy, set up for some events, and animated a new marquee slide.

I also managed to keep up with the exercise routine--an extended walk every weekday! Hoping to continue that, and also looking into getting a hybrid bike at some point.

At Thursday's Gathering Humanity, we did a bit of warehouse organization, a bit of tech work, and then finished up with an apartment setup. We did it before the electricity was turned on and before the folks with the furniture showed up, so I had to guess where some of the wall hangings might fit best. Later that day at Mission Mutual we did some filming for a few projects.

On Friday I started up a new location: Midwest Foodbank! If you have an incredible memory, you might recall a service project the mission went to in the Week 6 email. Well, it's the same place--but this time I'm in the warehouse moving huge pallets of food around. (and I fulfilled my selfie quota) That was honestly incredible, I'm excited to go back this week!

That about wraps it up, thanks for reading!

Pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/xNmpzvWfQzPXc76T9

Thought: A conference talk I was listening to earlier. A great reminder of peace, and the perils of contention. Not as the World Giveth, Jeffrey R. Holland. https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2021/04/23holland?lang=eng

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Elder Johnson

Welcome home Elder Wise! Week 46: May 23 - 27

Hi all!

At the PAC last week I did some of the usual design work and helped around the place. Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is coming up soon, excited to work on that.

On Tuesday I did a bit of family-oriented service, finally finally finishing up the prom video! Shot and tightly edited in a TV/vlog style, it tells the story of all the fun things that happened during the scavenger hunt my sisters and their friends did for high school prom this year. Give it a shot and let me know what you think if that sounds interesting: https://youtu.be/Pli5bx-S1-4

Speaking of videos, on Tuesday a few of us missionaries went up to the Somali Center to shoot them a promo video. They haven't said exactly, but my best guess is that it will help them with getting the word out on social media/donations. That one's still on the editing docket, need a bit of extra footage.

Wednesday, I went with Elder Tucker to support the homecoming of our dear friend Elder Wise! He was in Minnesota; great to have him back.

Thursday at Gathering Humanity (which it's official--I'm also picking up on Tuesday from here on out) we did a lot of the usual warehouse sorting, and I also worked on their website. (updating plugins, fixing outdated info, the works) Of particular note was a mug printed with Godzilla and the Great Wave off Kanagawa... work of art if you ask me.

Later in the evening I had the pleasure of getting my first DJ gig! ....in the backyard, for my sister's graduation party.  Very fun!

Friday we drove out with the big Gathering Humanity truck to do some service at a senior care center. They had many people pass away over the course of a few years during the pandemic, and they were ready to donate the furniture left behind. So the mission crew went up there and got the furniture from about twenty apartments loaded into the truck. Great project, and I hope all the refugees that receive this furniture can make good use out of it! (My tag kept falling off and I almost lost it so that's why it's not in these shots, but still--selfie quota!)

Thanks for reading!

Pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/AYPa929vSYtW9Zuv6

Thought: From the studies this week. Amazing chapter!


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Elder Johnson

I was in a car crash, but everyone is okay. Week 47: May 30 - June 3

When I wrote my previous email, I didn't think it could come close to being my last...

Ok that's a little dramatic, but hey I'm still a bit shaken up. :P

I was on my way to the PAC Wednesday when an elderly lady in a 2018 Subaru Outback hit me on the driver's side. Everyone walked away okay (I got some cuts and diagnosed with a mild concussion) but it could have been a whole lot worse. Very very grateful that it wasn't. Our car is at a collision center as I type this, remains to be seen whether it's going to be totaled. We'll find out on Monday. (There's dashcam video in the album if you want to see. Yup, this is the same car that got hit not two weeks ago) Something like this really makes one reflect on how fragile we all are

Might be frazzled right now, but I didn't let that stop me (completely, at least) from getting some service in!

At the PAC I got some tech work done and started projection work for the upcoming Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

At Gathering Humanity we did some more warehouse work, and I did a little bit more on updating the website. (If anyone knows WordPress pretty well that would be very helpful, haha)

Unfortunately that's about all, but hopefully I'll be kicking back into high gear next week!

Stay safe everyone

Pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/SXhYs2k4cEPRnaqA8

Thought: The conference talk I was listening to in the car when I got hit. That reminds me, I should probably finish it... https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2022/04/18eyring?lang=eng

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Elder Johnson ❤️

Oh no, the flowers are everywhere. Week 48: June 5 - June 10

Yea the car is totaled. :( But hey, what can ya do. RIP Honda Accord 2003 - 2022.

On Sunday there were the usual meetings, and I helped check in on the neighbor's sugar gliders/dogs.

At the PAC, rehearsals for Joseph are still in full swing! Looking forward to the showings.

At Gathering Humanity we did a very exhausting apartment setup (it's hot outside and there was no AC in the apartment) but everything turned out great. Also did the usual warehouse and tech work. This time we assembled some amazon-returned furniture that was donated.

And at Midwest Food Bank I had a very very busy day moving around pallets and unloading trucks. One of the shippers failed to wrap some of their pallets of flowers... boxes filled with water. So when we got the forklift in there tons of the boxes just tipped over aaand... yeah that was a disaster. Not very fun to clean up, but we got it done in the end.

And that's it for the week, thanks for reading!

Pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/N7pKKKsmfvdThY1w8

Thought: Here's a talk that really really touched me this week, definitely listen to it if you can! https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2012/10/the-first-great-commandment?lang=eng

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Elder Johnson

Bonus: I think I got distracted by the crash and forgot to show you this--I finally finished editing that TV episode from way back in January! TCSM Sliced (Pilot) - S1E01 "Cupcake Combat" (6:51) https://youtu.be/Wx_YrQpwqcc

Really proud of how it turned out, considering how off the cuff the whole thing was.

I'm seven feet tall, did you know? Week 49: June 13 - June 17


Really great last week!

On Monday I blasted through editing the promo video for the Somali Center. Quite proud of how it is so far, but got some feedback that it needs some tweaks. Almost there!

Tuesday we did a huge apartment setup at a place an hour away, but it was really great at the end. After that we picked up two car load's worth of linens donations and brought them back to the Gathering Humanity warehouse.

On Wednesday I went back up to the Somali Center and got some new footage for the revised video.

Thursday was quite possibly the busiest day on the service mission so far, bouncing all over the valley picking up furniture, assembling furniture, then unloading it at tons of refugee apartments for seven hours. Quite the workout, but very fulfilling!

Throughout the week there were rehearsals for Joseph in the evenings.

Then on Friday was another moving project, loading up a 20-foot UHAUL with some ward friends. And I fulfilled my selfie quota in a humorous manner. (I'm seven feet tall, did you know? Ha ha)

Pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/78cGLXeMKtGPQbjr8

Thought: Holland talks always make me tear up a little https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2013/04/lord-i-believe?lang=eng

"I would say to all who wish for more faith, remember this man! In moments of fear or doubt or troubling times, hold the ground you have already won, even if that ground is limited. In the growth we all have to experience in mortality, the spiritual equivalent of this boy’s affliction or this parent’s desperation is going to come to all of us. When those moments come and issues surface, the resolution of which is not immediately forthcoming, hold fast to what you already know and stand strong until additional knowledge comes."

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Elder Johnson

Fifty: nifty! Week 50: June 20 - June 25

Hi all!

At the PAC we started running Joseph, (which went very well!) and I did all of the usual volunteer service.

At Gathering Humanity there was an apartment setup and some more good 'ol warehouse organization plus bonus furniture assembly .

And Midwest Foodbank kept me busy with trucks to unload, freezers to organize, and floors to sweep! (And selfie quota, of course)

Keeping busy over here, talk soon! (Y'all are oddly quiet, feel free to send me some of the stuff you did this week or a funny video or something)

Pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/K9ATGM9bWJgRXTPx5

Thought: The conference talk I listened to this morning, always love Eyring https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2021/10/38eyring?lang=eng

You will not have the opportunity to ask aloud for answers from the speakers, but you can ask your loving Father in prayer.

I know from experience that answers will come to fit your needs and your spiritual preparation. If you need an answer that is important to your eternal welfare or that of others, the answer is more likely to come.

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Elder Johnson

Joseph finishes up and furniture delivery. Week 51: June 27 - July 1

Heya all!

At the PAC we finished up Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Great run! PAC is closed for a few weeks, so I'll have to find something else temporarily.

At Gathering Humanity I got to do another run with Jeff, bouncing around Phoenix and unloading furniture at refugee apartments. Very tiring work but very very worth it; it's honestly my favorite thing to do on the mission right now.

As a bonus, I got some new running shoes and a bike, so looking forward to the better workouts ahead.

And finally, the Somali American United Council video is done! Pretty proud of this: https://youtu.be/qWd1vTeimXc (Made a push on off days to finish a couple of other pending mission video projects.)

Have a good one!

Pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/z1Mo6QKgDF5Yajdn7

Thought: From the studies this week https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2012/04/mountains-to-climb?lang=eng

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Elder Johnson

Wow that was fast! Week 52: July 4 - July 8

Hi all!

Last week I got approval and took time off to visit extended family, so nothing much to report.

However, I am now a year into the mission!

Thank you for reading and sticking with me.


Elder Johnson

The troubles of IKEA furniture. Week 53: July 11 - July 15

Hi all!

Last week was smooth sailing, with a lot of stuff to do at Gathering Humanity and a new location.

But first: at Gathering Humanity we got two refugee apartment setups done, and I filmed some portions of those for the promo video that GH wants. (After one of the setups, found some pretty cheap gas) Think I'm pretty good on the setup footage now, just need some interviews.

Also went to AzCEND this week, to help set up some furniture! They had nine pallets of the stuff, and plenty of volunteers to boot. Good thing they did, since the manufacturing tolerances on those things aren't...great. Takes some serious fiddling.

Also keeping up the exercise.

Until next time!

Pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/WnN7SYJd9Yu5C6e46

Thought: (This one's really important if you haven't listened to it yet. A staple of comp study) https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/jeffrey-r-holland/lessons-liberty-jail/

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Elder Johnson

I went on the longest wild goose chase. Week 54: July 18 - July 22

Heya all!

Last week was wild, lots going on.

At the PAC I got some decent slide work done, and they had some youth camps going on there so it was a bit loud. :P

I didn't make it out to Gathering Humanity since I woke up feeling sick on Tuesday, and on Thursday I got word they had enough people to do the setup so I went out to Lutheran Social Services instead since they needed help. Little did I know what I was in for!

A few minutes in, a big bus of refugees pulled into the parking lot. They stopped by to get showers, have lunch, and use the restroom. I spent half an hour walking around helping everyone get connected to the WiFi, which was a neat experience since almost none of them spoke English. :D

Afterwards I was an airport shuttle driver for a few hours, and my last passenger needed to take a Greyhound bus plus get a few errands done. So we bounced all over the north valley looking for a way to exchange currency and get a prepaid SIM card for his phone. Unfortunately both of these efforts proved to be unsuccessful (you don't want to know, it took so long. I should have listened to the lady at Lutheran Social Services who said not to do it), so we gave up and went to the Greyhound station 25 minutes away... and then it turned out to have closed down and been replaced with an international food market. Well I mean the Greyhound sign was still there, it was just upside down and so faded by the sun you could barely see it. Buuuut.... it just didn't sit right with me to leave him there in a super sketchy neighborhood. So I did some more digging and we eventually got him settled. (Found the station and confirmed the bus number. Turns out it was right next to the airport. Ugh I was so close from the start) Hope he's doing alright in New York!

Friday was the craziest day by far! I worked at Midwest Food Bank unloading trucks, then afterwards went directly to the Gilbert Temple for a laundry shift. (I'll be doing that on Fridays now) And of course, did the Friday six mile walk. By the end of the day I got 26,000 steps, and was absolutely dead tired. Great stuff, can't wait to do it all over again.

Thanks for reading!

Pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/n3sjoWW9EHFmK7Bz6


Esther 4:14 "For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there aenlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father’s house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a btime as this?"

Great video here: (second one down) https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/old-testament-seminary-student-material-2018/esther/lesson-109?lang=eng

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Elder Johnson

Oops. Week 55: July 25 - July 29

Hey all, and welcome to the latest email I've ever sent. Oops!

Still not missing a week, nope not me.

At the PAC I did the only thing I seem to do anymore, make more slides. :P Pretty proud of that Cinderella one though.

On Tuesday at Gathering Humanity we got some sorting done in the back and had the usual warehouse tasks to do.

On Wednesday I needed a bit of a recovery day since I had surgery on my right foot to get rid of some warts that we'd been trying to kill for over a year. Doctor said to keep off my foot as much as possible so it can heal faster.

So naturally I went to Gathering Humanity and did a setup the very next day. :P Don't worry, I went slower and had help. Also wore a boot.

Though Friday is the day I usually go to temple laundry, Midwest Foodbank, then do a 6 mile walk (totalling 25k steps) I... could not do that. Instead I did some more slides from home. I actually really do miss exercising now. Here's to a fast heal!

Pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/28BoYuMxmCmKXUug8

Thought: From the study phone call this week. Stay strong! https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2022/04/14bednar?lang=eng

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Elder Johnson

Doing service with a medical boot isn't all that bad. Week 56: August 1 - August 5


Another week, another email. And actually one time for once!

I'm gonna let you in on a little secret, my memory is so bad that I write my emails purely by looking at the photo album... I need to take more pictures. :P

Hence, on Monday I think I made it out to the PAC and did something, but I actually don't know. My first picture is around 3pm, where I went to the patriarch's house to do some tech support. Brother and Sister Freestone needed me to help transfer some files between computers, but the catch is the monitor backlight went out on the older laptop they were using. So we ended up using a lamp to light up the screen (very poorly, but it was enough) and some tricky maneuvering to get everything onto an external hard drive. The computer we transferred the files off was decently fast...considering that it has an AMD Athlon 64 and Windows Vista. :P But the computer we transferred the files to is in desperate need of a new SSD install. They said it was going to be pretty slow, but I underestimated how slow exactly. Looking forward to helping them upgrade the computer as a service project. :)

Also had a multi-mission meetup, got to talk to some folks I hadn't seen in a while.

Gathering Humanity this week was solid, got some of that classic warehouse work in, unloading the truck and all that. Afterwards I found some of the cheapest gas around! As I'm writing this, it's still going down. Well that's nice.

Elder Larsen is concluding his mission soon, so he invited us for sushi. Always fun!

Also this week, a return to Lutheran Social Services, and taxiing some refugees to the airport! We were meant to help some new arrivals call their families (with flip phones) but the bus didn't show up for several hours, and we ran out of time.

Then finally, I went to a new place--the Gathering Humanity Serving Center. GH needs me to make a promo video for social media and the like, and the serving center is one part of the operation that's essential, but I hadn't seen it quite yet. Looking forward to sharing the video when it's complete! I have an interview segment to shoot on Tuesday.

Pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/G4sCm7aDAcMtEXRW6

Thought: We studied Job at the weekly mission meeting. Be like Job! Unwavering faith, trust in the Lord.

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Elder Johnson

I got to (sorta) meet the refugee family!!!!!!!!!! Week 57: August 8 - August 14

Hi all!

Really solid week, lots to share!

At the PAC, Cinderella is moving forward nicely. We did the first run-through with costumes on Saturday.

The apartment setup this week was incredible! My mom came with me, and she's an expert in interior design. Really proud of how this one turned out, and as we were leaving the family that's going to live there showed up. That's a first for me, a really incredible experience. I hope they're doing well!

As for Wednesday, I went to the church call center place for the second time, which was nice! They help people get signed up for English/self reliance/emotional resilience classes in their local area. (All I could take a picture of was the desk itself; anything on the monitor would be revealing personal information.)

Anyway, in the meantime, I'm working on a special musical number for next month.

Also this week, I graduated from the boot and back to normal shoes. Yes! Still no 6 mile walks allowed though. But I can get back into biking.

Hence on Friday, I was able to pick up a temple laundry shift, which is a nice way to end the week.

Have a good one!

Pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/hC8HSdLPhpDzTQsq7

Thought: From the comp studies this week: https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2020/10/57holland?lang=eng

" The point is that faith means trusting God in good times and bad, even if that includes some suffering until we see His arm revealed in our behalf.9 That can be difficult in our modern world when many have come to believe that the highest good in life is to avoid all suffering, that no one should ever anguish over anything.10 But that belief will never lead us to “the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.”11"

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Elder Johnson

Glass smashy smashy! Hahaha! Week 58: August 15 - August 20

Hey there all!

We're in the final stretch of foot healing here, so I'm still not allowed to do any extended walks or go in a pool--which is fine since a lot of my opportunities have been walk-lite or desk work. Looking forward to the week when I can return to Midwest Foodbank though.

At the PAC this week: Cinderella finished rehearsals and opened on Friday! Great show, last performance is tonight. (There's a pic of me from way up on the catwalk if you wanna see me in the booth, it's kinda hilarious) One thing I'm proud of: there's a point in the show where the clock in the backdrop image just skips around, so I used some video editing magic to make the hands move properly.

At Gathering Humanity we finished the main A-Roll for the promo video (YES FINALLY) aaaand... I'm fresh out of drive/SD space. (Filled up 3TB) How in the world am I going to finish this video? Spend $400 on WD Black HDDs to build a cheap NAS? No idea. We'll see how that goes, cause I also have to store 200GB of PAC show files temporarily. Yikes!

No apartment setups, but a lot to do in the warehouse. Some of the wall hangings/paintings have cracked glass, and you can't exactly send that out to apartments--so we smashed 'em! That's right, took a mallet and whacked the glass out of the frames and into a dumpster. Very fun. (Yes, of course I have a video of it) Afterward I orchestrated a move of some furniture from the GH storage unit into a UHaul for some folks that needed it, and while we were doing that (right under the arrival path of Phoenix Sky Harbor runway 25L) a Boeing KC-135 tanker flew right over--super low. Not something you see every day!

Anyway, hopefully next (this? writing these on Monday only makes it more confusing) week is the last I have to be down for the count foot-wise.

See ya soon!

Pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/dsWhq9VXSrfCbZiR6

Thought: From the comp studies this week https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2011/10/a-time-to-prepare?lang=eng

Something I'm actively working on:

"The poor use of time is a close cousin of idleness. As we follow the command to “cease to be idle” (D&C 88:124), we must be sure that being busy also equates to being productive. For example, it is wonderful to have the means of instant communication quite literally at our fingertips, but let us be sure that we do not become compulsive fingertip communicators. I sense that some are trapped in a new time-consuming addiction—one that enslaves us to be constantly checking and sending social messages and thus giving the false impression of being busy and productive."

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Elder Johnson

Absolute hordes of diapers. Week 59: August 22 - August 26

Hi all!

It's been another week, that's for sure. :P

On Monday we wrapped Cinderella! Great show all around, tons of fun.

Gathering Humanity's activities involved receiving lots of incoming materials and sorting them onto shelves and into packages. That also included taking huge piles of diapers and packing them into easily distributed bags.You might say it's the business-end of the operation. :P There was also some tech support in order, gotta keep things running smoothly.

At the referral center, I got a few people that were interested enrolled for emotional resilience and personal finance classes. It's a good time!

Also this week, my tablet reported that I spent 11 hours in my sheet music app practicing for an upcoming musical number... This piece is a bit tricky you might say. Those are rookie numbers, gotta push em up!

I return to Midwest Foodbank next week, but in the meantime: Friday's temple laundry went off without a hitch. Always love being at the temple.


Thanks for stopping by to read!

Pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/5aLsUiNeXDKFGyYQ7

Thought: Great talk from the comp studies this week; we've had more consistent studies and I love it. https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2011/10/the-power-of-scripture?lang=eng

" Our Father in Heaven understood that for us to make desired progress during our mortal probation, we would need to face difficult challenges. Some of these would be almost overpowering. He provided tools to help us be successful in our mortal probation. One set of those tools is the scriptures."

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Elder Johnson

I have never seen a bigger pile of breakfast cereal in my life. Week 60: August 29 - September 3

Hi all!

PAC activities this week mostly included video editing. Specifically, the two show recordings for Joseph and Cinderella

At GH on Tuesday, we had a 53' trailer show up that was absolutely PACKED with furniture and donated household items. For a few hours, we piled various things out of it and into the warehouse. Bonus fun: some things needed to go from the donation truck to the GH truck... so I pitched that we back the GH truck up and connect the two. Voilà! Nice and easy transfer. 

Later in the day I attended a rehearsal for the big benefit concert that was coming up, in which vocalists warmed up by doing push-ups. That's a new one for me!

Wednesday's PAC involved more editing and some event-style table shuffling.

At GH on Thursday I did.... data entry! Wooooooooooo. Necessary evil I suppose. :P But hey, not bad all around.

At Midwest Foodbank, me and a big group of pros missionaries emptied the freezer, consolidated pallets, and put it all back together. Then we took inventory of the whole warehouse. (This one is about 6 - 10 times as big as the one at GH. Towards the end there I found myself standing next to these absolutely massive bags of Froot Loops. Like "seriously what in the heck these are taller than me" kinds of bags. Good fun!

On Saturday I went to mission band (Press On) for the first time. I'd like to join, but I also just signed up for the Christmas concert and that's going to be insane so... might not have time. 

That's about it!

Pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/C16Gso426947NtjN9

Thought: At the mission council meeting we had a chat about Proverbs; one thing that stood out to me (but I can't find it) is the reminder to always be able to accept corrections/feedback. Definitely need to focus on that.

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Elder Johnson

I am editing MACHINE. Week 61: September 5 - September 9

Hi all!

Bit of a quiet week, but things are looking up soon.

PAC was the usual, got a nice slide done. (these take longer and longer the more practice I have) Also a lot of the usual tasks.

Gathering Humanity was also a lot of the usual stuff, but I also finally finished the first good draft of a short Gathering Humanity Promo video. Took a lot of hours, check it out and tell me what you think!

At the referral center, I got a lot of leads and a decent amount of people signed up for classes. Hope the classes are helpful.

Temple laundry was great, I feel like I'm getting the hang of things at long last.

Pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/zcAb3Mi8cDiwfair6

Thought: My thought this week, from the Hymns:

“Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake to guide the future as he has the past. Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake; all now mysterious shall be bright at last. Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know his voice who ruled them while he dwelt below.”

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Elder J

You would not believe how much popcorn there was. Week 62: September 12 - September 17

Hi all!

At the PAC this week, more slides.  

At Gathering Humanity for Tuesday we did the usual furniture run. Hit up the storage unit for a bunch of couches, chairs, rugs, etc, then hauled them around Phoenix dropping stuff off for 6 hours. It takes a lot outta ya, but it's very rewarding. Also spotted a cat at one of the apartments.

Then on Thursday, shuttled some donations over to the Lutheran church where they shelter and shuttle refugees. (Ya know the one)

Had a nice productive day at the referral center, getting some folks signed up for English and emotional resilience classes.

At Midwest Foodbank, there were plenty of pallets to shuttle around on pallet jacks. Also unloaded trucks and carried around some heavy boxes. One truck was just straight full of so much popcorn, they barely knew what to do with it.

Later in the day, I did the usual temple laundry. Can I just say, on behalf of all temple laundry workers: please make sure to turn your jumpsuit right side out when you're done!!! Good gracious it was like every patron was out to get us. Alas, the work continues.

On Saturday we did a music video shoot for IGOAL, but we (me) were woefully underprepared. I wore flipflops and subsequently sunburned half my foot. Also it's covered in ant bites now.... oops.

And on that note, have a good week!

Pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/McVHnbipXDk9f7Zr5

Thought: From the comp studies: https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2018/04/prepare-to-meet-god?lang=eng

Family history work, heaven-blessed by technology, has dramatically increased in the past few years. We would be unwise to become complacent about this divinely appointed responsibility and expect that Aunt Jane or some other committed relative will take care of it. Let me share President Joseph Fielding Smith’s jarring comments: “None is exempt from this great obligation. It is required of the apostle as well as the humblest elder [or sister]. Place, or distinction, or long service in the Church … will not entitle one to disregard the salvation of one’s dead.”

(The part about "Aunt Jane" made me giggle but it's true)

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Elder Johnson

Sports drink bottles dumped all over the place. Week 63: September 19 - September 23

Hi all!

Very very busy week!

PAC slides.👀You know the drill.

For Gathering Humanity I did two(!!) furniture runs this week, bouncing around the valley getting to be Santa for these families. Lots of lifting, loading, unloading, sorting--rain or shine. (and there was both) A hotel was remodeling the lobby and getting rid of their old furniture, so we went and took some of that off their hands. (Pretty much an entire truck's worth) We went to DI to get more tables and chairs, and I spotted a Seinfeld DVD box set on the shelves... Lol. One of the houses we set up at had three cats in the backyard. In general, lots of interesting things to see on that trip.

Referral center was interesting, got through the backlog and messaged a lot of people. The software changes every week, slowly getting better and better. It's like they're still building the plane while it's in the air. Definitely a pilot program! (I'll be here all week)

Midwest Food Bank seems to have a problem with people setting up truck booby-traps. Feels like for every few loads that come in, a couple of pallets weren't wrapped properly and there's a good risk of everything collapsing. Case in point: Friday. Bunch of sports drink was delivered, and we narrowly avoided a bunch of pallet spills, but one got away from us. (as you can see in the pics, the entire thing just collapsed and bottles went everywhere) Thankfully easy cleanup.

Temple laundry was nice as always; we were a bit overstaffed so I got to do an initiatory session right in the middle of my shift!

Have a good week!

Pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/GEerveHoTZD6UJGS8

Thought: https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2021/04/12uchtdorf?lang=eng

To you, my dear brothers and sisters, my dear friends, and to all who are searching for answers, truth, and happiness, I do offer the same counsel: keep searching with faith and patience.27

Ask, and you will receive. Knock, and it will be opened unto you.28 Trust the Lord.29

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Elder Johnson

Milk, milk, & more milk. Week 64: September 26 - September 30

It's funny how Midwest Food Bank tends to give me the best email subject lines.

Anyway, hey all!

PAC slides! Made'em, put'em up on the sign. Pretty happy with how they turned out!

Gathering Humanity this week, did some phone tech support and two (pretty sure it was two, missing some pictures) apartment setups with lots of silly shenanigans. Hanging up things on the walls tends to be a weird pain point... I tend to be better at assembling Ikea furnishings. Always a wonderful feeling when you finish an apartment and lock up, knowing the actual family will be the next people to step in there!

Since half of the setup is carrying things to and from the car, we see other people's pets quite frequently, sometimes in the window: like the cat you can find in the photo album.

At Midwest Foodbank, the first thing I was greeted with was an entire pallet of spoiled oat milk, which we were instructed to dump down the sinks. By my rough calculation, there were like 800 cartons and we got through about half of those in an hourish before my teammates packed up and left. Afterwards we were instructed to throw out two pallets of flowers, which I felt kinda bad about but. :( And then I did a case inventory count inside the giant fridge for like an hour as well, very tedious but oddly satisfying.

Bounced over to do temple laundry, where we had a helper from the stake for about an hour and then she got sick and had to leave. So it was just me and Brother Barnes working the laundry, but we got it done. Overall lovely week! Have a good one!

Elder Johnson

Pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/7h9oZe6X6LyjVweQA
Thought: "Sisters and brothers, through the incessant din and drumbeat of our day, may we strive to see Christ at the center of our lives, of our faith, and of our service. That is where true meaning lies. And if some days our vision is limited or our confidence has waned or our belief is being tested and refined—as surely it will be—may we then cry out the louder, “Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on me.”  The Message, the Meaning, and the Multitude

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

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Cardboard box week. Week 65: October 3 - October 7


Conference was great! Watched the second Saturday session with the mish; excellent messages.

At the PAC they have some youth camps going on, so in addition to slides there was that to help out with.

At Gathering Humanity this week we assembled singles kits into cardboard boxes (materials for those moving into an apartment alone) and I joined Sister Hall for some of the weekly data entry tasks.

Referral center was neat, a pretty good day working through the backlog and answering questions, getting people signed up for classes that they're interested in.

At Midwest Foodbank there were a variety of things to do, but mostly I spent some of the hours assembling cardboard boxes for food to be packed into.

Then I'm finally maybe...? getting back into an exercise routine, except I just got another procedure done on my foot so who knows.

Have a good one!!

Pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/FqFFNrv99xdzQEgK9
Thought: “Behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant. …

“Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;

“For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward.”

- D&C 58:26-28 Shared in President Oaks' talk.

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I climb up to some high places. Week 66: October 10 - October 15


At the PAC I facilitated getting things set up and taken down as the youth camps came to a close, and I think a little bit of remote tech support.

For the Gathering Humanity apartment setup we did it much faster than usual, as we had 7 missionaries on the job. I got my selfie of the day via a teeny mirror on the wall of the apartment office. Since we finished up so early, we got back in time for some warehouse tasks. I climbed the ladder and sorted some boxes on high shelves, then finished up by going through bags of food to separate the expired from the fresh.

Also at Gathering Humanity this week: vibing in the front room while entering inventory forms into a spreadsheet. Very cool.

Arriving at Midwest Foodbank, I thought I was once again being subjected to dumping spoiled milk, but after a few minutes I was whisked away to start tagging pallets that were coming off the trucks. Phew! That means getting my hands covered in spray-adhesive rather than... pea milk? Is that even milk? Who knows.

Then towards the end I got lifted up on the forklift in an effort to cut down some loose plastic wrapping, which was... a little more terrifying than I thought. At least with the ladder you have an easy thing to hold on to.

Since the temple was still closed this week, I went to Feed My Starving Children with the family instead! At FMSC you pack food bags that get distributed all over the world in an effort to feed the hungry. I'm the sealer sealing bags and that's all I've ever done. :P Very fun.

Anyway that about wraps it up for the week, see you next time!

Pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/M3oeb3x4mqQe6uQ88
Thought: "Let us follow Jesus Christ with faith in every footstep. We need to serve the Lord and serve one another. We need to strengthen ourselves spiritually by keeping and honoring our covenants. We should not lose the sense of urgency to keep the commandments. Satan tries to dull our commitment and our love for God and the Lord Jesus Christ. Please remember that if anyone should lose their way, we will never be lost to our Savior. With the blessing of repentance, we can turn to Him. He will help us learn, grow, and change as we strive to stay on the covenant path."

M. Russell Ballard - Oct 2022 Conference

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Delta Airlines sent us hundreds of mugs. Week 67: October 17 - October 21

Hey there!

This week at the PAC, Winnie the Pooh Kids rehearsals are in full swing, and I am once again serving as projectionist. This show is super cute!

Gathering Humanity had no setups that I attended this week, but that doesn't mean there wasn't plenty to do. For one thing, I finished the first draft of that serving center video that I shot in... early August??? Oh dear... anyway, here it is: https://youtu.be/Sl-IFOgJYH0 I've heard that some tweaks are in order before it can be published; gotta work on those.

Among the various warehouse tasks was taking inventory on the furniture in the back of the truck, which was eventually emptied out. Also on Tuesday, I went to the temple to do some baptisms with the family.

Wednesday's PAC and referral center was very productive, I got through a large chunk of the back catalog. Hoping people are enjoying their english classes!

Thursday's Gathering Humanity was some more ladder sorting work, but mostly taken up by transporting donations of household goods to the local Lutheran church, for use by the incoming refugees. Always good to visit that church and say hi to people!

Midwest Foodbank on Friday was as busy as ever, where what appeared to be an entire truck's worth of mugs, plates, bowls, tray tables, towels, tea pots, and other assorted items were brought in on a ton of pallets. Seeing the opportunity, I asked the manager if some of these pallets could go to Gathering Humanity for apartment setup use. There were some back-and-forth discussions between the organizations, and now a pickup date is set!

Friday evening always has temple laundry now, which I also attended.

At the crack of dawn on Saturday was the city of Chandler's day of service, which I was able to attend for two-ish hours before having to bounce over to the PAC for more rehearsals. Thankfully we pulled together and finished the project before I had to blast. :P

And that concluded the week, thanks for reading!

Pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/m2sK1EGmwxodyjuD6

Thought: "How many wounded individuals do we have among us? How often do we judge others based on their outward appearance and actions, or lack of action, when, if we fully understood, we would instead react with compassion and a desire to help instead of adding to their burdens with our judgment?

I have been guilty of this many times in my life, but the Lord has patiently taught me through personal experiences and as I have listened to the life experiences of many others. I have come to more fully appreciate the example of our dear Savior as He spent so much of His time ministering to others with love."

Sister J. Anette Dennis - Conference Oct 2022

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Wow... that's a lotta chairs. Week 68: October 24 - October 28

Ah! Almost missed sending this one, but still made it by Wednesday in Arizona time.

Anyway, hello hello!

This week: Winnie the Pooh did all three showings, and had a nicely modest turn-out. Good show all around, happy to be a part of it. One cool thing, there was a part where Pooh enters a daydream sequence and there's two static background slides: one of the woods and the other of the sky. I wanted it to be a video and look like Pooh floated up into the sky for the daydream, so I used an AI tool and asked the computer to just make up the space in-between. Et voila! It worked better than I expected--nice swooshing animation.

Gathering Humanity had the usual warehouse sorting on Tuesday, but Thursday was something a bit special. Elder Anderson and I went back to that hotel that's remodeling their lobby and (with permission of course, the hotel is donating them) removed maybe 70 chairs and stuffed them in the back of the box truck. Then Nicole and Christina drove them over to the storage unit, and we were joined by a bunch of other service missionaries to unload them. Which was good, since directly afterwards the truck went to Midwest Foodbank to take delivery of some household goods. I went ahead of time to inspect the pallets and get things ready, then loaded everything up with the electric pallet jack. And of course, had to fulfill the selfie quota. ;)

Friday at Midwest Foodbank was actually lovely, kept me very busy the entire time (6ish hours) and lunch was provided. Next week (this week as I type this, almost tomorrow oops) hopefully I'm on forklift training. Maybe I can get some 360 video of that, who knows. 

Have a good week!!

Elder Johnson

Pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/ncFsiNpdKgXp6du2A

Thought:  "Each of us should evaluate our temporal and spiritual priorities sincerely and prayerfully to identify the things in our lives that may impede the bounteous blessings that Heavenly Father and the Savior are willing to bestow upon us. And surely the Holy Ghost will help us to see ourselves as we really are."               

Bednar, 2022 Conference 

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Many, many rugs. Week 69: October 31 - November 4

Oop, made it all the way to Friday without an email. I should fix this by resetting the clock and sending another one tomorrow... we'll see.

Anyway, happy belated halloween! A decent chunk of the hours in the week (probably like 15) were spent working on the Gathering Humanity website, which I finally completed! I got it approved, and we're working on getting the domain transferred over so that it can replace the original website, but that's taking a while. For now, it's at gatheringhumanity.squarespace.com

Also as it turns out, Gathering Humanity bids in auctions for household items of all sorts. I got to be on the crew that bounced around Phoenix to warehouses picking up things. We packed the truck VERY efficiently. It's crazy how much you can fit in a box truck. Including a ton of rugs... like 50(ish).

At the PAC, BYU Young Ambassadors came to town for an evening performance, and promptly sold out. I got to pitch in and help them get set up, where I could. Though it looks like their crew mostly had it down to a science.

At Midwest Foodbank, plenty of trucks to unload, lots of paperwork to fill out. AND! My first forklift lesson! I did pretty good at maneuvering around, but my first attempt at picking up a pallet ended with me picking up the wrong one. Haha. Anyway, that's on the table now, we'll see where it goes.

It was the last week for the referral center; they're shutting down until the new year for restructuring. 

Anyway, see you tomorrow!

Elder Johnson

Pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/ii2YTabyqmBKL1Zn9

Thought:  "The reward for keeping covenants with God is heavenly power—power that strengthens us to withstand our trials, temptations, and heartaches better. This power eases our way. Those who live the higher laws of Jesus Christ have access to His higher power. Thus, covenant keepers are entitled to a special kind of rest that comes to them through their covenantal relationship with God."

Russel M. Nelson 

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Grease is a go! Week 70: November 7 - November 11

Hi there all!

Okay, not quite new email by Saturday, but ya know.

Anyway, lovely week! At the PAC this week, plenty of work to do arranging and editing the backdrops for Grease the musical. (high school edition, so I'm told it's been cleaned up considerably) Also been attending rehearsals in the evenings, getting ready for opening on the 18th. I like how I get to use my hobbies on the mission, for example: video editing. The director needed some normal-looking videos converted to look like worn out old film, so they could be shown up on the backdrops for the drive-in movie scene.

Random PAC things, there was a considerably large grasshopper just chilling outside the back doors on my way in one morning. Anyway that's what that picture is. Also on my drive back there was a comedic license plate spotted. (get it, toy yoda)

Gathering Humanity was a good mix of physical and digital. As the new website finally gets launched, I've been having to go back and forth with customer support getting details ironed out. We are so close I can feel it. All the work is done, just playing the waiting game. On the physical side, some of the general warehouse tasks, and also deliveries to Pastor Martha's church. (The Lutheran church in Phoenix) One box from that pallet of United Airlines first class amenities (out of Midwest Foodbank), bags of towels, and some other things that I can't quite make out in the photo. I know we sent a bunch of laundry soap over at some point...

Midwest Foodbank was eerily quiet, only one truck! Also it was Veteran's Day, perhaps that had something to do with it. Still got a good Temple Laundry shift in later that night though.

That's about it, thanks for reading!

Elder Johnson

Pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/KMXhFZpXdghFErU67

Thought:  I'm going to pass on a thought from my grandma this week, one that I really liked:

"Having been given this privilege, we cannot permit any racism, tribal prejudice, or other divisions to exist in the latter-day Church of Christ. The Lord commands us, “Be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine.” We should be diligent in rooting prejudice and discrimination out of the Church, out of our homes, and, most of all, out of our hearts. As our Church population grows ever more diverse, our welcome must grow ever more spontaneous and warm. We need one another"

The Doctrine of Belonging

Elder D. Todd Christofferson

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A garbage truck exploded. Week 71: November 14 - November 18

Oh my goodness, GUYS! IT HAPPENED! YES!

I have launched a website!!!!!!!!! (okay well I had two others before, but like, one that people will actually use) Anyway, the domain transfer finished and we're good to go, so. Woo!

At the PAC, Grease: School Edition wrapped up! Great to work with the cast and crew, and things went pretty smoothly all things considered.

At Gathering Humanity I spent Tuesday assembling tables in the back. Half the battle was just getting the things out of the packaging, as they were wrapped up so dense it was basically impossible without a pocket knife. One thing I found funny was a section from the included instructions... "The home with simple and elegant decoration extends my sensible antenna. I can fly my relaxing spirit in the inspirational space." Hmm... Perhaps that's a mistranslated idiom.

Also at Gathering Humanity, on another day I joined a few other elders in going to a couple auction warehouses to pick up orders. GH buys tons of assorted items, probably at decent prices. We filled up TWO minivans with the boxes, didn't even know if we'd fit everything.

On Friday I spent some hours at an elderly family friend's house, helping get her email back on her phone. But uh, Yahoo/AT&T had other plans. I tried everything under the sun, it just would not work, their system is just totally broken, as documented by hundreds of other people. I had to raise the white flag eventually, but I wrote all the troubleshooting info I could onto a sticky note that could be taken to the Apple store, for the next poor sod. Then while I was over there, a garbage truck caught on fire a few hundred feet away and something on it exploded, very loudly. (The tires?) So that was interesting.

That's all from me, thanks for reading!

Pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/DAQ1mq3fxWgvDBM27

Thought: As I contemplate all that you face in the world today, one word comes to my mind. It describes an attribute needed by all of us but one which you—at this time of your life and in this world—will need particularly. That attribute is courage.

Tonight I’d like to talk with you about the courage you will need in three aspects of your lives:

May I speak first about the courage to refrain from judging others. Oh, you may ask, “Does this really take courage?” And I would reply that I believe there are many times when refraining from judgment—or gossip or criticism, which are certainly akin to judgment—takes an act of courage.

Thomas S Monson

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WOO apartment setup! Week 72: November 21 - November 25

Happy late Thanksgiving!

This week, the last Grease performance. (yep, finally)

Thanksgiving weekend meant that half my regular locations were closed for a few days, so not as much went on this week. But I did get one day in at Gathering Humanity, and managed to squeeze a lot in there. Started by unloading tons of Christmas goodie bags (from our stake), then getting some other various tasks in before loading up for an apartment setup and taking off for Phoenix. As usual it took some hunting around to locate the actual apartment, but we made quick work of the setup. Hope the family that moved in is doing well.

Midwest Foodbank was closed when I got there, but the temple was still open! Plenty of laundry to do; started off busy but slowed down a bit later on.

Saturday morning, the mission went out to clean the McQueen building, which with many hands took only an hour and a half. I ended up vacuuming all the hallways, and I spent half the time walking back and forth to the outlet since the plug kept falling out. Ah well.

I've mostly forgotten to mention, but we've been prepping for the Christmas concert for a few months with the mission choir. I have three quite difficult songs lined up, and only two of them are about ready. Uh oh. Anyway, better get on that.

Thanks for reading!

Elder Johnson

Pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/m3L3BjhEtkfVhga5A


"Strength comes to us when we remain righteous, true, and faithful to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, even when others overwhelmingly disregard the commandments and principles of salvation. In the Book of Mormon, Helaman taught his sons to remember that they must build their foundations on Jesus Christ in order to have the strength to withstand the temptations of the adversary. Satan’s mighty winds and storms are beating upon us, but they will have no power to drag us down if we put our trust in the safest place—in our Redeemer." Remember Your Way Back Home, By Elder José A. Teixeira

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ALL the pillows. Week 73: November 28 - December 2


Last week, QC Glee show at the PAC! I was in charge of slides as usual, except this time I had to actually make them. Bit of second level difficulty there.

For Gathering Humanity, before heading over to the warehouse for the usual activities, I met up with Nicole and we picked up over a hundred pillows at Kohl's, which took up two whole minivans.

In the meantime, I've been practicing the piano A TON for the Christmas concert, which I might be able to show some clips of once it's over.

At the Gathering Humanity serving center, I headed over and got the TV set up to play the tour/info videos, then also got the serving center put on Google Maps for ease of navigation.

MIdwest Foodbank was the usual trucks, loads, unloads, etc, though that day they had a boppin' playlist going. Really helped set the mood.

Temple laundry went over well as usual; very busy.

On Saturday, my piano teacher (from before I graduated) asked me to help live stream the recital for remote

family members of the students, which I was very happy to do.

That's all from me, thanks for reading!

Elder Johnson

Pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/anhg6KwuKsMdMkeP8

Thought: Quote from my mission leaders: The Scriptures talk about the importance of us having clean hands and a pure heart. (Psalms 24:3-4) What does that mean exactly? This is the best definition I’ve found: Clean hands—when we are forgiven. Pure hearts—when we are transformed and redeemed by the atonement of Jesus Christ."

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FORKLIFT! YES, FINALLY. Week 74: December 5 - December 9


More work was done on PAC marquee slides this week, (to refresh your memory, these are short animated videos displayed on outdoor signage to promote upcoming events. The low resolution is by design, to match the sign they're being displayed on) as those are starting to pick up steam again as we head into the second half of the theatre season. When I started designing these, it felt like I was making huge strides of progress in creativity. Now it's kind of plateaued, I have it down to a system. Still happy with how they turn out though.

Managed two refugee apartment setups this week, with each going quite well! One had... a bit of an electrical oddity. (read: building code violation) You can see it in the album.

Midwest Foodbank!!! FORK LIFT! Yes. I logged an hour or two driving around the warehouse, sorting pallets on shelves and generally trying to not make a mess or bump into something--which thankfully I mostly succeeded at. To quote the great Phil Collins: "I've been waiting for this moment, for all my life."

Temple laundry proceeded, as usual. Not super busy that night.

Bright and early Saturday morning, some of the mission and I traveled 40 miles to some senior centers for caroling. It was a good time! We went Geocaching in between our scheduled time slots.

Then on Sunday, the usual guy was sick and I somehow ended up running the video stream for my ward's sacrament meeting. Thankfully, I've sorta played around with streaming and video switchers before, so mostly everything went off without a hitch.

Have a good week!

Elder Johnson

Pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/Ns8sCJ9TnZTwQaRa7

Thought: Passed along from my mission leaders: "Here is a prophetic promise from President Russell M. Nelson: “I promise that as you prayerfully study the Book of Mormon every day, you will make better decisions—every day. I promise that as you ponder what you study, the windows of heaven will open, and you will receive answers to your own questions and direction for your own life. I promise that as you daily immerse yourself in the Book of Mormon, you can be immunized against the evils of the day.” 

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The very last furniture delivery! Nooooo! Week 75: December 12 - December 16

Heyo all!

Lovely week! At the PAC I started another batch of marquee slides (those take a few hours), and we had our mission Christmas party on Monday.

At Gathering Humanity Elder Watrous, Jeff, and I did the last batch of furniture deliveries to several apartments all over the valley, from 9am to well after 4. It was exhausting work, but very fulfilling. It's the last, since Jeff is going on a senior couple mission to the Netherlands.

Wednesday was some more PAC slides. Might be able to upload and share them at some point.

For Thursday and Friday, each evening was a dress rehearsal for the mission Christmas concert on Saturday. I got to use all my audio equipment and plug into the church building's audio to amplify the sound. Thankfully everything went very well, and the night of the Christmas concert itself went off mostly without a hitch! Hopefully I can share some clips from that next week.

Also on Friday, many hours at Midwest Foodbank--but only a little bit more forklift. Maybe next year. :P

Have a good week!

Elder Johnson

Pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/b44TdbJgTGCWVKPz5

Thought: Let me suggest that you and I must be praying and yearning and striving and working to cultivate a Christlike character if we hope to receive the spiritual gift of charity--the pure love of Christ. Charity is not a trait or characteristic we acquire exclusively through our own purposive persistence and determination. Indeed we must honor our covenants and live worthily and do all that we can do to qualify for the gift; but ultimately the gift of charity possesses us--we do not posses it


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I woke up at 4am. Week 76: December 19 - December 23


Yes, I've officially missed a week! Oops. Time to catch up!

Much of this week was temple laundry. I was asked to help cover someone else's temple laundry shift, and since I had asked someone else to cover mine the week before it was only fair. So, I awoke at 4am and donned the appropriate attire. Most locations were shut down heading into Christmas, but there was a small bit of Gathering Humanity action.

Anyway, happy new year!

Elder Johnson

Pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/PLxowZ6mquvmKpcC7

Thought: "How we deal with advantages and disadvantages is part of life’s test. We will be judged not so much by what we say but by how we treat the vulnerable and disadvantaged. As Latter-day Saints, we seek to follow the Savior’s example, to go about doing good.” Renlund

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Gotta admit, I don't have much. Week 77: December 26 - December 30

Hi all!

Not much to report this week, since everything was closed. I did however run the camera at church, which was nice.

Stay safe and have a good week!

Elder Johnson

Candlelit dinner. Week 78: January 1 - January 6 (2023)

Hey there!

Happy new year! So the fam started out the week going to dinner at a different family in the ward's house, and the moment we sat down to eat the power went out, which was kinda fun in a novel way. Not quite a candlelit dinner, but pretty close.

The PAC had some misc tasks including slides; I've done quite a lot of slides and I'm almost done making all the ones for the whole theater season. There's two more, and then that'll be the end of me making slides on my mission. The director says she's going to hire me to keep doing them afterwards though. ;)

At Gathering Humanity I got tons of work done on the website, and started hunting for solutions to get us internet in the front office. (spoiler alert, since I'm writing this late we found the solution and already got it installed but shhhhhhhhh)

At Midwest there were all sorts of things to do (unload trucks, pack citrus, sort cans) for about 5-6 hours. Very fast paced. A lot of the time I feel like I'm too slow or don't understand what's happening, contributing to a general feeling of worthlessness. It's difficult to understand the flow of the warehouse, but I'm getting the hang of things.

Temple laundry was incredibly fast paced, there were SO many people that night. Not a single chance to rest for the first 3 hours or so. At the end I was chugging on fumes, but I made it through.

That's about it, thanks for reading!

Elder Johnson

Pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/s6oUUua45LM9WUzg7

Thought: "If you find yourself having to wait for a blessing or if it seems that God isn’t hearing your prayers, the story of Elisabeth and Zacharias can be a reminder that He hasn’t forgotten you. As Elder Jeffrey R. Holland promised: “While we work and wait together for the answers to some of our prayers, I offer you my apostolic promise that they are heard and they are answered, though perhaps not at the time or in the way we wanted. But they are always answered at the time and in the way an omniscient and eternally compassionate parent should answer them"" - Come Follow Me this week 

An industrial quantity of the world's most delicious chips . Week 79: January 9 - January 13


This week: I got to install Gathering Humanity's new internet! After shopping around, everyone decided on a provider and we had it shipped to my house, so I could bring it in to the warehouse and set things up. It will now be much much easier for us to work on answering emails, log inventory, edit the website, print documents, and other administrative tasks.

But first, on Tuesday I once again made it out to Nellis Auctions to pick up a large amount of items for Gathering Humanity. That pretty much takes up the whole morning, but I think I got some warehouse things done later as well.

I need to remember to take more pictures so I can remember what I did during the week, but I do have a decent amount from Midwest Foodbank!

That was a wild shift with warehouse sorting, unloading trucks where things tipped over and spilled coffee everywhere, tagging inventory, and a whole lot more. It's hard to describe exactly what goes on in there, but maybe I'll get a video for you all. Met my day's exercise goal before 1pm. Oh yes, and also they had an absolutely massive amount of salt and vinegar chip bags all boxed up and stacked on a pallet, sitting there tempting me. Ahhh well. After that I went straight to temple laundry, where we were absolutely slammed for the entire night, and I was completely exhausted by the end. Good to get some extra hard work in. :P

Thanks for reading and have a good week!

Elder Johnson

Pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/byRT5f5LBH4TrhCg8

Thought: Charity is a gift from God. The prophet Mormon said that we should “pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that [we] may be filled with this love” (Moroni 7:48). As you follow this counsel and strive to do righteous works, your love for all people will increase, especially those among whom you labor. - Preach My Gospel, Chapter 6 

Palms are sweaty--knees weak, arms are heavy . Week 80: January 16 - January 20


Can I open with a congratulations to my cousin Elder Matsuoka! He just finished up his mission after a heck of a journey home, and is probably reading this on the TV, along with family, from the couch. (I can see you ) Enjoy more selfies in the album this week, also a longer email. :P

This was one of the hardest working weeks on my mission so far, so let's break it down.

At Gathering Humanity I blasted through work on the website, getting a major overhaul done on the Baby Shower page. It still has some placeholder info, but it's mostly done now. Check it out! https://gatheringhumanity.org/babyshower

Also for Gathering Humanity, while I was at Midwest I noticed that they had a huge amount of home goods pallets that GH could use. So I got an appointment set up for pickup. As it turns out, a few days before, in the middle of the night someone tried to steal the copper wire out of Gathering Humanity's box truck, but only succeeded in cutting it--rendering the truck immobile. Absolutely insane and stupid. So, we had to improvise. On the day of the Midwest pickup, several people graciously helped us out and we got 5ish cars to arrive at around the same time, break down pallets & load them, then drive everything back to GH. We managed to get four full home goods pallets back to the warehouse. (most pallets had mixed goods sealed in cardboard boxes, so we only knew what some of the stuff was. Midwest has a "take the whole pallet or not at all" policy) As it turns out there were tons of extra good things in there that GH needed, like soap dispensers. All things considered it went quite well, and I hope I can facilitate a few more of these pickups before the mish is over.

Speaking of Midwest I changed from Friday to Wednesday for this week, since I had something else going on. I also want to fill up my schedule a bit more for the last six months, and was testing out adding Wednesday Midwest. As it turns out, the Wednesday warehouse crew has absolutely "no chill," as the kids would say. Overall, I would describe them as... ahem... arrogant, demanding, dictatorial, overbearing, authoritative, commanding, harsh, inflexible, callous, haughty, narcissistic, rigid, inconsiderate, peremptory, aggressive bullies.


Okay that's a teeny bit dramatic--but the point is, I think I'm sticking with Friday for the foreseeable future.

(Though I do think that day was quite productive, and personally I worked quite hard, I want nothing more to do with them. I'm picking up Temple laundry Wednesday evening instead.) 

Hopefully speaking of good warehouse experiences though, the mission went to Feed My Starving Children! They're an organization that brings in huge groups of volunteers to pack food. Incredible place, I went there with the fam a bunch before the mission. Usually I seal bags, but this time I was forced to mix it up a bit. Due to backed up traffic on the exit ramp (and I guess my poor planning skills) I arrived late, and hence was assigned warehouse crew. So for an hour and a half I did nothing but speedwalk around a huge room from table to table and lug thirty pound boxes to the scale in the back. Midway through my back started to hurt, so I carried the boxes on my head and that seemed to fix it.

Anyway we had to wear gloves, and by the end of the shift, my hands were raisins. (Also my knees were weak, arms heavy, etc.) This brings me to a point, though. Back when I wore a bunny suit every day at Intel Fab 42 (sadly it's not like the 90's ads; google "silicon fab gown") they had glove liners. Essentially, hand socks!! Complete genius. When you have to wear latex gloves for 6-12 hours a night, they absorb all the sweat. Why does NOBODY else do this??? (The answer is cost and laundry upkeep, but shhhhhh. (and though we were provided this luxury, sometimes careless people at Intel would put their glove liners in THE TRASH??? instead of the LAUNDRY BIN???? LIKE, WHO DOES THA--))

Sorry, completely aimless tangent aside, I really love FMSC and their mission, so glad I got to go!

Friday was the big daddy of service projects. Ohoho. So you remember Jeff? Furniture guy, yea. He doesn't leave on his senior couple mission until April, so he's still around doing service. And it turns out, there was an Afghan family that needed help moving from one of the worst parts of Phoenix to a much nicer place. So the dad, Jeff, and I moved hefted EVERYTHING in the apartment down three flights of stairs and into the back of a U-HAUL, then back UP stairs when we got to the new apartment--it took like four/five hours. I carried over the "put every heavy box on my head" technique from FMSC and everything worked out just fine. Not to mention I did four hours of temple laundry after this. Exhausting day, but so so so fulfilling. (and if you're poking around the photo album, don't worry about that couch we chucked off the railing, it was probably bedbug infested and hence getting thrown away anyway. Indeed, I took many bedbug related precautions after the service)

That's a lot to dump on ya, so thanks for making it to the end!

Elder Johnson

Pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/jiURShngzW7Y7y9U8

Thought: A cool thought from my Mission Presidents:

"Nearly all cases in the English New Testament where the word charity is translated, it is agape, (Greek) meaning the love of God for us, and our love for him in return. Thus charity is a loving relationship with God. Putting it into an equation, the spiritual gift of charity is God‘s love for us plus our love for God equals loving others more like God. After the Savior visited the Nephites there was no contention in the land because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people. Charity converted them and charity changed them.” (See Seekers Wanted p. 111.) Love of Christ=Faith, Love from Christ=Hope, Love like Christ=Charity" 

A literal ton of Propel (yes actually). Week 81: January 23 - January 27


Might I open with an apology this week, last week I went way too far and regrettably let my feelings get the best of me when I was talking about my experience going to Midwest Foodbank on Wednesday. Though there was some humor intended, and I was (still am) frustrated, it's still not right to call names, especially when I wear a badge with that of the Savior's.

So, what were this week's activities? Well:

Sunday I ran the camera for the ward livestream, stepping in for the usual guy. It's quite good fun; maybe not every week, but I hope I get to do it again in the future!

At the PAC this week, preparation for Sister Act is ramping up which means I got a whole lotta work to do, but in the meantime...

One of the main activities at Gathering Humanity involved that titular ton of Propel. They were pretty much out of drinks for the volunteer fridge, but wouldn't you know it, Midwest Foodbank sent out an email blast to every agency they work with, advertising a "fire sale" for all-you-can-take pallets of drinks, cereal, and snacks. As things go, I spearheaded the impromptu foodbank trip (paperwork included), whereupon we got three cars to drive over there simultaneously, and filled 1/3 of a pallet of Propel in each. Total 2,200lbs of Propel, by tag weight!

I keep getting these wart procedures done on my right foot once every two weeks, (the darn things are quite stubborn) following which is a week of carefully placing walking weight on my heel and big toe, else being met with a blindingly sharp pain. Though I find that during service, the pain seems to evaporate. Go figure.

Also at Gathering Humanity, they're also trying to digitize/upgrade a bunch of repetitive or labor intensive processes, one of which is the logging of volunteer hours, names, emails, and release waivers. Gathering Humanity already has an account with Jotform, which turned out to be just the perfect tool I needed to begin this upgrade! I have a working prototype, and next I think we're going to buy tablets to mount to the wall for volunteers to use.

My time at Midwest on Friday was cut short by a temple session, but I still managed to squeeze a decent amount of work. More of the usual truck-unloading-warehouse-shuffling-box-lifting-pallet-weighing fun, with a bit of forklift action sprinkled in. (Plus: a video of me with an electric pallet jack in the album.)

And also this week, our van hit 200,000 miles! Only 4 years, 6 months, and 20 days after it hit 100,000... oh dear. Sadly I don't have a picture of the moment it crossed over as I wasn't driving, alas. By the way, I do A LOT of driving on the service mission. Like, 2 hours a day very often.

That's the week all wrapped up, thanks for making it to the end!

Elder Johnson


Bonus picture of Bean, our dear hamster, in the album below. I have no idea when this picture was taken but it's just hilariously adorable.

Pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/3GUPwcszDauAFoxn7


“This is a story about what can happen when we focus away from our immediate locale — distantly — and go chasing after those things,” said Elder Renlund, who then spoke of when one is hyperopic — farsighted. The common vision condition results in near things appearing blurry and out of focus.

Using the term “spiritual hyperopia,” he said: “I’d like to use this as a metaphor for when we take for granted things that are close to us, that occur frequently, and we then tend to underestimate them or not appreciate them.”

In the archaeology anecdote, the consequence of focusing distantly was extra years of frustrating work. Being spiritually hyperopic, the consequences are far worse, as prophesied by the Book of Mormon prophet Jacob.

Jacob foresaw the people of Jerusalem in Christ’s time, calling them “a stiffnecked people” who were “looking beyond the mark” (Jacob 4:14) and missed the Savior of the world.

“In our day,” Elder Renlund said, “we must also guard against spiritual hyperopia. We do not want to miss the treasures that God has placed within our reach because we are focused on other things in the distance.”

- Church News, covering Elder Renlund visit to the Tempe Institute close-by me. 

I'm not a rapper, but I am a wrapper. Week 82: January 30 - February 3


Oop, I got all the way to Thursday without writing again. How does this happen?

Anyway, more PAC slides! And some of the last on my mission, even. It's so cool I get to work in Adobe After Effects as a service. At the end of the mission, maybe I'll collect all the ones I've worked on and throw them into an interactive portfolio.

Gathering Humanity! We went to do an apartment setup on Tuesday, except there were some maintenance issues with the apartment that meant we had to wait until the following day to complete the setup. Also Gathering Humanity has cleared out the front office, opening much more space to work and move around. I'm getting a ton of digital work done there. (Email, website, Google workspace, etc) The folks at the Serving Center wanted a tablet to digitize volunteer check-in, so I was tasked with shopping around for one of those. We'll see how that went in the next email.

Midwest Foodbank! I'm still kinda bad at driving the forklift (very new, practicing) but at least I'm good enough that they don't have someone watching me all the time lol. (oo yeah also I forklifted in the fridge and freezer) Trying to learn safely but also very quickly is a tricky balance (especially when there's 5 other way-more qualified people that could be using the equipment, and they're visibly annoyed) But I'll continue to try my best. Oh yeah, wrapping. Wrapping pallets is always fun cause you get the machine started, then it pretty much just does the job for you and you can chill out for a sec. A nice break from unloading trucks at times. Little video in the album if you wanna see what it looks like.

This was my first week of Wednesday and Friday evening temple laundry. Temple laundry isn't particularly difficult, it just demands endurance. Happy to be there.

See ya soon!

Elder Johnson

Pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/7SaNEEqYcZQmxDgj9

Thought: “When obedience ceases to be an irritant and becomes our quest, in that moment God will endow us with power.”- Ezra Taft Benson 

These knock-knock jokes haven't changed in decades. Week 83: February 6 - February 10

Hey all!

Very late on this one, so today is the two-for-one email special.

This week: my third-to-last show with the PAC on my mission is all wrapped up, and it was quite fun indeed! The rehearsals and actual performances took place in the evenings, leaving space for the regular service.

At Gathering Humanity the tablet we ordered arrived, so I was able to finish setting it up as a volunteer hours logging device. I installed all the updates, uninstalled unnecessary apps, configured system settings for use as a kiosk, and (tried to) make it as simple as possible to use. Ultimately when I went to the Serving Center to set it up, I watched some of the first users step through the process and had to fix some issues on the spot. Good fun! Also quite a bit of the usual background tasks at GH. I believe there might have been an apartment setup, but if there was I forgot to take pictures. There was one recently, for sure.

Midwest foodbank: more forklift! More trucks, more pallets, more sorting, more paperwork. And I'm exhausted by the end of each 7 and a half hour shift. :) I'm still not all that confident volunteering there, but I'm picking up more and more. One anecdote: I was offered to partake from a bag of chips, which I did before looking at the label. It turns out they were "haunted ghost pepper," which was fun for about 30 seconds and then I started getting desperate. Luckily there was a huge batch of chocolate milk cartons that had just arrived (amazing timing) and one of those saved the day. (all above board, of course. The bosses encourage volunteers to take some product once in a while as long as it goes on the internal check-out sheet) I just love that the jokes on the cartons basically haven't changed since I was in elementary school.

That's the week in a nutshell, many thanks for reading!

Elder Johnson

Pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/xrXJapdR36CqHf5j6

Thought: While on our journey here below,

Beneath temptation’s pow’r,

Through mists of darkness we must go,

In peril ev’ry hour.

Hold to the rod, the iron rod;

’Tis strong, and bright, and true.

The iron rod is the word of God;

’Twill safely guide us through. 

Three cars, and it was barely enough! (ok yeah I don't really know what to write here). Week 84: February 13 - February 17

Oh hey, I'm back!

This week: Elder Da Re finished up the last week of his mission; and for some reason now we have this tradition on the mission where we do a weird photoshoot when someone concludes a mission... anyway you can see it in the album. PAC work this week was maybe 10 hours of editing the Sister Act cast recording, and some of the other usual stuff. Unusual though, the high school right next to the PAC had some sort of talent show/popularity contest or something, and of course none of these people do their own projection backdrops or even plan anything. So I spent like three unexpected rushed hours tossing together stuff in photoshop and trying to come up with things. Always jolly good fun, but I wish people would at least sketch some ideas and give a few days' notice.

At Gathering Humanity: an apartment setup! And I definitely know this time, since I recorded a little video for myself reminding me what I did that day. How nice. It went very smoothly, and afterwards I did some digital work.

And on Thursday, Gathering Humanity needed a huge auction pickup (I guess you can get tons of household items cheap that way) with 80+ items, which we did and barely managed to fit into three different cars. Apartment setups might be the bread and butter of the organization, but logistics are huge too!

Ukrainian refugees don't seem to work with refugee relocation agencies in Phoenix (I think?) so they don't end up on GH's radar officially. Hence, we end up with tons of emails from them asking for items--that's great and all and GH is happy to provide, but it's all happening outside the standardized system, making things drastically less efficient. I was tasked to come up with a form fill that they can use to request items in kits, and streamline the whole process. I got most of it done, but have some remaining questions when it comes down to the details. Still an active project.

The first week that the tablet was at the serving center seems to have been a massive flop. The head of the serving center had one problem with something not loading one time, didn't even try to fix it or refresh anything (which I specifically went out of my way to make frivolously easy), then stuffed the tablet in a drawer (that's not even a joke) and gave up. I'm confused because:

1. This whole tablet thing was her idea

2. GH blew close to $300 acquiring the materials for this (YIKES), and

3. I spent several of my service days researching and setting it up.

So uh.......

at this point I'd might as well just reclaim it for the Tempe warehouse volunteers. Anyway, that's going to be awkward.

On a lighter note, temple laundry was excellent this week! I feel like I'm finally settling in.

At midwest: FORKLIFT. YES. Why do I like the forklift when it's objectively less exciting than a car and I drive like an hour a day? Eh, what the heck, forklift! Video in the album. Serious though, I got a good solid 8 hours in at midwest this week, but I still don't really like a useful part of the team. I'm starting to come to terms with the fact that I'm just not going to be as good at warehouse things as everyone else. I go there once a week (fits my schedule) and I didn't grow up around any of this type of work either. But dangit, I'm giving my all and I guess that's what counts. Or something.

Have a good week!

Elder Johnson

Pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/7voAUKokvVeCqtxt6

Thought: Wanna share this from my Grandma. Very important to remember: "Personal revelation rightly belongs to individuals. You can receive revelation, for example, about where to live, what career path to follow, or whom to marry. Church leaders may teach doctrine and share inspired counsel, but the responsibility for these decisions rests with you. That is your revelation to receive; that is your runway."

Another huge video project! Week 85: February 20 - February 24

That makes me happy, I like doing videos.

Anyway yes, hi!

This week, a few fellow missionaries finished their missions, which is always bittersweet.

The PAC needed several hours of help with media and video for presentations, which I was happy to be a part of.

Tuesday at Gathering Humanity kicked off said huge video project, wherein we filmed for about an hour on how to assemble singles kits. As Sister Wright has finished her mission, we need to pass along the knowledge. I was not to know that the editing process for this would take an entire week, ha.

Temple laundry on both days was fine, as usual. And--I continued work on the form for Ukrainian refugees that could be filled out to request items from Gathering Humanity. That also turned out to be a lovely Mandlebrot-level spiraling infinite fractal of "wow I didn't know this would be that much work."

Well, tablet update: I went to the serving center and took it home with me (with approvals from all involved parties) so I can rework the volunteer logging system to be more reliable. Midwest Foodbank has hundreds of volunteers weekly and somehow they get away with using an entirely online system, but nooooo. Ah well, time to begin brainstorming...

Speaking of Midwest, another very eventful volunteer day! I put in tons of work, and continue to build up my forklift skills.

See ya soon!

Elder Johnson

Pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/wZV9QLKeEH5hV3Fy6

Thought: "Charity is having patience with someone who has let us down. Is resisting the impulse to become offended easily. Is accepting weaknesses and shortcomings. Is accepting people as they truly are. Is looking beyond physical appearances to attributes that will not dim through time. Is resisting the impulse to categorize others.” President Thomas S. Monson 

Oh no, RIP marquee. Week 86: February 27 - March 3


By way of highlights this week:

The building marquee has gone kaput, despite my desperate tampering. Dangit! Someone will fix it eventually.

I finished the Gathering Humanity singles kit tutorial video! Good gracious it took so long to edit so, check it out! https://youtu.be/6U-eiS2M9Y0

I also finished the Ukrainian refugee item request form, which also took unexpectedly long but hopefully will be useful.

The lobby at GH was totally cleared out and redone, it looks great!

My sister Julianne got her mission call to Brazil. Many congrats to ya Jules!

(I spotted a rabbit in the bushes at the Gilbert temple after a laundry night )

At Midwest: more of the usual hard work, an actual ridiculous amount of forklifting (getting that practice in) and at temple laundry in the hours following, I parked next to a fancy all-electric Polestar 2. (I've also parked next to a Lucid Air not long ago, belonging to the big boss of Midwest)

And that's all for me!

Elder Johnson

Pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/7bQKKn1qiS1qKZSaA

Thought: "Each of us should evaluate our temporal and spiritual priorities sincerely and prayerfully to identify the things in our lives that may impede the bounteous blessings that Heavenly Father and the Savior are willing to bestow upon us. And surely the Holy Ghost will help us to see ourselves as we really are."               

Bednar, 2022 Conference