Adam Johnson gave two years of his young life to teach others the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The 21-year-old Baraboo man, who just returned from Santiago, Chile on Tuesday, spent 22 months abroad talking to residents in the country about the scriptures and learnings of Jesus.

Johnson, who graduated from Baraboo High School in 2008, also has been a lifelong member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

He said it was his time to give something back to his church and to others outside of it.

Before leaving for Chile, Johnson spent two months in Utah at a missionary training center.

"That's where we learn how to teach the gospel and also learn how to speak a different language if we are being sent outside of the United States," Johnson said.

His mother, Penny, said her husband, Chad, also served as a missionary as did her older son, Ryan, who did his mission work in Japan for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"Chile is a beautiful country," Johnson said. "Being in Santiago was like being in any other big city. It had its problems like a larger city, but the people were very kind to the missionaries."

Penny said missionaries receive their assignment from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' headquarters and are sent only to countries whose governments allow the church to work there. She said missionaries do not request their areas of assignment.

"It's a big thing when the white envelope arrives," Penny said. "Only then did we know where Adam was going."

After leaving the Utah training center and landing in Chile, Johnson only was allowed to send one email message a week to his family and was able to make two phone calls a year - one on Mother's Day and the other on Christmas Day.

However, an exception was made for the missionaries after the Chilean earthquake struck in February 2010.

"Adam called me and said, ‘I am not sure if you heard but we had an earthquake here,'" Penny said. "I remember being so happy to hear his voice after being glued to CNN for almost two days following the earthquake."

But even in the wake of the quake, which shook Chile and was felt in parts of Brazil, the missionaries continued their work.

"We still went out and talked to people and continued to focus our work on serving and teaching others the of the gospel of Jesus Christ," Johnson said.

Penny said the church's missionaries can be single men between the ages of 19 and 25, single women over the age of 21 or retired couples. She said she and her husband plan to go on a mission once they retire.

"Missionaries don't get paid for their work," Penny said. "We would send $400 a month to Adam for each month he was in Chile, but it's not about the money. It is about teaching others about Jesus Christ."

In less than two weeks, Johnson will be headed to Utah again, but this time it is to attend Brigham Young University to study mechanical engineering.

Before he leaves, Johnson will speak to his fellow church members at 9 a.m. at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 813 Iroquois Circle in Baraboo. He said all are welcome to attend to hear about his mission work.

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