Sunday, December 27, 2015

Happy New Year!

A waterfall

Sisters in her district at Christmas conference

The adorable Riggle family on Christmas Eve




Hello, hello!

Merry Christmas/Happy New Year/Happy Anniversary Parents/Happy Birthday Morgan (and all other festive events)!  This week has been wonderful.  I just love being a missionary and I love Christmas.  However I thought that combining those two things wouldn't be so great.  I had pretty low expectations for Christmas here, but it turned out so, so amazing!  I am so grateful for nice people that went out of their way to make sure that the missionaries were taken care of. 

Last Monday we went to this huge, gorgeous park and took pictures and had fun.  Then we went to a carolling party at the Jones (the super musical family with six kids from America).  They had some non-member friends there that were so, so nice.  We got their number and gave them a pamphlet so that was exciting.  But it was just so fun to sing and sing for almost two hours there.  We sounded good!  They had a bunch of songs from the Readers Digest Christmas book that we have so we got to sing all of those great songs. 

Tuesday we visited Maureen.  She is doing pretty well and was excited to come to church (but then she got sick on Sunday which was sad).  But then in the afternoon we all gathered and our Taranaki Zone went to Hamilton.  We have the best zone EVER!  It is just so good and so fun and so unified.  I love spending time with good friends.  So the car ride was long and really fun.  We spent most of it memorizing our mission haka.  This older Maori guy that is an expert on the gospel combined with Maori culture wrote it for us.  He's so cool.  But we were supposed to memorize it so we could learn the actions when we got there.  It is like a full page (kind of) of Maori so it took me like 4 hours to learn, but I finally got it.  That night we stopped in Tekuiti, Sheep Shearing Capital of the World (I know, exciting) to eat.  Then we got to Hamilton and say the Christmas lights at the temple and some Visitor Center sisters took us through the little tour.  That was so fun!  That night we stayed in the hotel in Hamilton.  We got right to the edge of Hamilton East area and I was so excited.  I wished that we could go visit all my favorite Hamilton Easterners, but that's ok. 

Wednesday we got up early so our zone could beat the Gisborn Zone to McDonalds for breakfast.  Then we went to the Christmas Conference.  It was just great to see all the other missionaries.  I just felt so much excitement and purpose and power from all of us together.  We ran to meet each other and Sister Urgel and I gave each other the biggest hug!  She is so sweet and she is doing really well.  Sister Aldridge is also great and Sister Namariel has a really great companion and is speaking more and more English.  I just rushed around talking to everyone.  Then they split us into groups and we had rotation workshops all day.  Some of my favorite were a jeopardy game of how well we know President and Sister Rudd and a workshop about the history of the church in New Zealand.  It is so cool.  The Maori people are descendants of Lehi and the people here were so, so prepared to here the gospel when it first arrived in New Zealand. We also did the Haka altogether after learning it and they made a fancy video of it!

At the closing devotional at the Conference I sang "Oh Holy Night".  I was more nervous than I thought I'd be but it went really well and everyone told me how good it was so that was really nice!  I had fun.  Then we came home, exhausted.  And since the Stratford and Hawera missionaries lived even farther, they (the sisters) got to stay the night at our flat.  So the six of us laid in a row on the floor.  We didn't have nearly enough bedding though so it was a really cold night for me.  But it was so fun to have companion study and all share our experiences.  I just love being with faithful, wonderful missionaries!  That night, Christmas Eve, the Riggles (this adorable young family from Utah) had us over for dinner and gingerbread house making, which was so fun!  She gave us each a little present to open on Christmas.  It just felt like we belonged and it felt like Christmas so I loved that.  Christmas day we rushed around singing and wishing everyone a Merry Christmas.  An investigator and a less active member family fed us and we ate heaps!  We also went to the beach and walked around and I got the bottom of my skirt wet in my exuberance.  We also sang in a really echo-y tunnel!

The next day, I skyped my family!  Gosh I love them so, so much!!!!  Before their camera worked I could hear their voices and I was just so, so excited!  We had a wonderful time even though the time FLEW by!  It felt like only 15 minutes.

To close, I want to share a little Christmas Eve experience.  After planning, we were getting ready for bed and I told Sister Pantoja that we were going to have a mini Christmas Eve devotional/program.  She said ok so we took our blankets down to the living room and we sat by our little Christmas tree.  We turned off all the other lights, played the Manheim Steamroller Silent Night (that I'd put on my ipod before I left just for this purpose) and read the Christmas story in Luke 2, switching off every verse.  We felt the spirit so strongly and we just sat silently when it was over, not wanting to break the spell.  It just made me so glad that we have Jesus Christ and that we know about his gospel.  At the temple lights, they showed us this Mormon Message video about a world without a Savior.  I'm so glad we have a world WITH a Savior!  It is a glorious place to be if we center our lives on Christ.  It made me realize that no matter where you are or what your circumstances are, God loves us so much and that the Savior lived and died and lived again for ALL of us!  The shepherds and all of us were told to "Fear Not!"  because the tidings of great joy aren't just for some of us, but for all people!  I pray that God will lead me to the people that I need to tell this to during the next year.  What a great time to be a missionary!!!!!

Arohanui,

Sister Clarissa Johnson

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Merry Christmas!




Hello world,

 

Guess what?  It's Christmas in four days.  I'm pretty sure I'm about 20 million times more excited to Skype my family than anyone has ever been for anything . . . Well that may be an exaggeration, but really.  So this week has been good.  Sometimes I feel sorry for myself and think that I miss the snow and that we don't have enough investigators, but really, life is good.  We just had some unfortunate experiences this week.  I feel so much sorrow for the sins of the world.  There are so many sad people with hard lives.  And we spend all our time working so hard to help them and they just don't realize that it will help.  We tell people that the gospel will change their lives, but so often they don't make it a priority.  This week a really cranky lady chased us down the street and told us to never go back to #30, which is our investigator Jill who is set for baptism.  She said we are harassing her.  So we called her and asked if she wanted to still meet with us and she said no and wouldn't say why.  So that was really sad.

 

But we have been tracting a lot to find new investigators and no one seems to like us very much.  But we keep at it!  Our program in sacrament meeting was so fun!  The choir sang and Sister Jones had me sing the middle verse of Oh Holy Night as a solo.  I just love music, especially Christmas music!  We had so much fun hiking the mountain with the Bellblock Sisters.  We got about half way up, but that was an accomplishment.  It's a big mountain! 

 

I'm so grateful for good examples!  All the other missionaries here are just wonderful!  We had a district service project, spreading mulch and we had the best time.  I am getting so excited for the missionary Christmas Conference.  I'm a little nervous to sing for all of them, but I'm really glad I get to.  We have a Christmas tree, which is wonderful!  We found it under the stairs in our flat!  This week I've been studying and thinking about the reality of Christ.  Even though sometimes people don't obey him, or forget about him, or reject him doesn't mean he's not real.  Someday we all stand before him.  Even when the wicked world turns away from him and say that they don't like Christmas or that religion doesn't matter, Christ was still born and religion still matters.  I'm so grateful for my testimony of Christ that keeps me grounded!  I'm grateful for his never-ending love and his perfect example.  I'm grateful that I can spend every day serving him and working to become more like him!  I love him and I know that he is real!  Having a testimony is such a blessing!!!  I love being engaged in the work of salvation even when it's hard.  Hard things make us stretch and grow. 

 

Sorry this is so short.  I spent too much time sending pictures!

 

Love,

 

Sister Clarissa Johnson

 








This is a close-up of Clarissa's carpet. Isn't it something?



Hiking Mt. Taranaki


Monday, December 14, 2015

Hello World!

Hello world,

So the absolute worst thing about New Plymouth is the emailing facilities.  I guess previous sisters printed too much stuff and caused problems so we aren't allowed to email at the chapel.  We come to this library but we have to do it thirty minute increments and when your time runs out you have to scan your card again and then wait 5 or 10 or 20 minutes until your next 30 minute session.  It's the worst. But other than that, life is pretty good.  I'm still kind of adjusting to everything here but this week has made a world of difference.  I really feel like I'm in Taranaki for a reason. 

First of all, I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE my companion!  We call each other "Soa" which means Sister in Samoan.  I don't know.  It's like the cool thing to do in this mission.  But we just really click and are super good friends.  We tease each other a lot but we have so much fun and I just love that she wants to work hard!  I hate not knowing the area.  I know almost all the people, but I am so bad at directions.  Having the ocean helps because if you go that way too far, you just reach the water and you know you're not right.  But it's good.  And we have this fun GPS with a voice named Serena with the funniest sounding, almost fake Kiwi accent.  It's an adventure. 

But I feel like we've made really good progress with our investigators.  There are so many people who have just been visited or had a lesson or two, but never really been committed to do anything.  I met two investigators for the first time and we had really good, spiritual lessons and then I invited them to be baptized and they said yes!  We have four investigators set for baptism which is so exciting.  I really love especially this funny old lady named Ngarie.  She's been meeting with missionaries for AGES but she agreed to be baptized.  The very hardest thing for everyone is getting to church.  Even if you don't really have commandment or doctrinal concerns, if you don't come to church, you won't progress.  Sacrament meeting and church on Sunday really is such a super important part of following Jesus Christ.  We FINALLY got the Conference Ensign last week.  It only took 14 years.  But I've been devouring it.  I love those prophets we have.  I got to watch the First Presidency devotional too last night. 

But anyway, we got to help decorate and set up chairs and things for an eight year old baptism in our ward.  We also sang and harmonized "I Feel My Savior's Love" at the baptism and I played the piano.  Her name is Sam and she lives with her grandparents, the Malilis.  They are this wonderful Samoan couple.  I think I mentioned them last week.  But they are so cute and good.  We don't get too many dinner appointments here, but they feed us or the Elders every Sunday.  Yesterday Sister Malili played the guitar and the two of them sang us Samoan songs.  They made me cry.  I just could feel the love they have for each other.  They are both do heaps of missionary work and fulfil their callings.  They aren't very rich and they probably don't think they are anything special, but I could feel the spirit in their home so strongly.  Sister Malili started talking to a Samoan girl who was her cashier at Countdown last week.  Well it turns out that this girl was looking for a church to attend because she just moved from Wellington.  So the Malilis had her over for dinner and brought her to church and everything!  And she is super golden!  Fellowship and member missionary work is just so important.  Brother Malili is pretty hard to understand because his accent is so thick, but he gave us a spiritual thought about always doing your best and trusting the Lord even when people don't accept you.  I want to be like them when I grow up. 

So yesterday was a crazy, busy day at church!  For a week and a half we've been practicing this song for sacrament meeting.  I had the sheet music.  It's "I Will Lead You Home" by Amy Grant.  Well, Sister Pantoja and I sang and one of the Zone Leaders, Elder Lingwall, played the piano.  We mostly practiced so much for him because he couldn't play it very well.  I was impressed he learned it.  But our harmony sounded really good.  We just sing and I harmonize above or below the melody all the time.  It's so, so fun.  I also spoke in sacrament meeting.  I talked about the Light of Christ and being a light to the world. Then after church we had ward choir (or excuse me, branch choir) practice.  Sister Jones was gone so I got to direct, and it was SO fun.  I didn't realize how much I miss doing that.  We are singing a bunch of good songs like the Star of Bethlehem and Angels we Have Heard on High with this really high descant on the last verse that some of us do while we join with the congregation.  I really love it. 

There was this new young couple at church yesterday.  They have that "really cool" vibe but they are super nice.  The girl is SUPER beautiful and I talked to her and she's only 19.  She's younger than me and she is from Alpine, Utah.  She knows some people that I knew at BYU and she is super nice.  She was really happy that I was there and that we could bond over that.  She married a Kiwi and is new here.  She just stays home and doesn't know anyone.  How crazy is that?  I'm going to be her friend.

But I am getting all ready to sing at the Christmas Conference next Tuesday!  I'm so, so excited for that. It will be the entire mission all together at Camp Tuikaramia (or however it's spelled).  But I sure hope I sound good because that's a lot of missionaries! 

I'm excited for Christmas but if I think too much about Christmas I get homesick.  It just really doesn't even feel like Christmas because it's hot and sunny and it's just different in New Zealand.  But it's really wonderful to be preaching the gospel of Christ!  Our little missionary team is so, so good right now and we are going to get the work moving here!

Also, this week we had Zone Conference.  It was really, really good.  All the missionaries in Taranaki are just awesome.  I am humbled to be here.  It's still so, so gorgeous and I don't think I'll ever get used to the view!  We are going to attempt to hike the mountain today with the Waitera sisters.  Hopefully I don't die.  It's a pretty steep mountain.  But I'm excited!


Keep doing missionary work!  Pray that our investigators will come to church and let your light shine!

LOVE,

Sister Clarissa Johnson

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Taradise (Because Taranaki is Paradise!)

Kia Ora Whanau,

So much has happened this week I don't even know where to begin!  Like I said last week I got transferred!  Tuesday and Wednesday were CRAZY with saying goodbye to everyone.  Gosh it was rough.  I so struggle with change.  I just love those Hamilton Easterners so, so much.  Wednesday I cried a lot saying goodbye to people.  Auntie Kei made me a "light snack" that was really a huge meal.  Sam, Ripeka, and Auntie Kei all gave me tons of presents.  Auntie Kei gave me a little book called "Finding Mr. Right" that may or may not be part of the missionary library.  What can you do?  Also, this pink jewelery box and earrings.  Sam gave me this beautiful turquoise bracelet.  They all wrote me letters that made me cry again.  It was so humbling for me to see just how much a difference everyone said I made in their lives.  They are all just lying probably because they made a way bigger impact on me.  It was also super hard to say goodbye to Maddy, Tiana, Patiana's family, Margaret's family, the Potters, the Sykes, Brother Tichborne, and of course Sister Urgel.  I told them all to email and write me.  I just have to go back and visit them.

Transfers were great . . . and crazy.  Packing was a lot bigger mission than I was expecting.  I have so much stuff!  The poor Zone Leaders (Glenview and Taranaki) that had to move it in and out for me!  But it was so, so fun to see all the missionaries at transfers.  The APs asked me play prelude music for transfers so that was scary but it worked out.  Sister Rudd plays for the actual meeting.  She's just with the new missionaries and trainers beforehand.  But I LOVE the Taranaki missionaries.  They are all just so, so good . . . like every one. :)  I got to see Sister Aldridge (my trainer) at transfers and I was just so excited.  She told me that the spirit is stronger in Taranaki. I don't know if that's true yet, but we'll see. 

But then the Taranaki caravan pulled out and away we went.  I got to drive and I loved the trip!  It was about four hours and it was absolutely gorgeous.  I couldn't even handle it at all.  I have no words to describe this country.  I've been in the city the whole time and have only seen the road between Auckland and Hamilton (which is amazing, but this was way better).  I was with Sister Katene from Aussie in the car and we had the best time together!  She's a convert and has a great story. 

Then we got here.  And I screamed when I saw the ocean!!!!!!!  If there's any message this email should get across, it is that Taranaki is beautiful.  And I promise I will have pictures next week.  I feel like I have stepped back in time.  All the buildings are old.  There are all these super old, stone churches and cemeteries and museums and stuff.  There are less people and it just feels like life is simpler.  Our flat is clean and good, just super old.  The sinks are the worst though.  They have two separate metal spouts.  One is super hot and the other is cold but you can't mix them.  It's just silly.  And the shower head is about at my shoulder height which is also the worst.  However, our car is beautiful.  It's the prettiest shade of blue and really nice, so that makes up for it. :) 

Now to my new companion:  Sister Pantoja (is actually how you spell it . . . I was wrong last week) is amazing.  She's also from the Philippines.  She is 23 and she goes home in June.  She is so pretty and her English is really good even though she doesn't think so. Sister Pantoja asked President for a companion with energy and enthusiasm . . . Sister Johnson to the rescue.  She was so excited when she heard she was getting me but she was intimidated because she heard I was Sister Rudd's cousin and had trained so fast.  I don't know how she heard that.  Isn't that crazy?  We quickly realized how amazing our companionship is going to be because . . . I'm going to help her be confident in her English and teaching skills and be super bold and she's going to help me be more responsible and lose weight.  She's a TOTAL health nut!  We got up at six to go running on the "coastal walkway" by the ocean!  I got up for the ocean, not the running . . . even though I did run.  I was so excited to touch the water.  There were all these big boulders and I had to walk down the steep hill to the water.  I crouched down to touch the water and then this huge wave came and really, really drenched me.  So I definitely touched the water.  It was funny.  But we bought like only meat and bread and milk and vegetables.  She says she will cook and teach me to cook healthy.  I'm a little stressed about it all, especially because I guess we don't get too many dinner appointments here, but really it's what I need.  It will be good for me.  But we are so good together.  I love having a really even companionship.

So New Plymouth is the biggest branch in Taranaki, but I was not prepared for how small it would be.  I didn't count the people.  Like it's not tiny, but it's like 75 people or something.  We had a district (instead of stake) Christmas party Saturday night which was fun.  We got help set up for it.  And we did have a dinner appointment on Sunday.  The Malilis are this adorable old Samoan couple.  I ask every couple at dinner appointments how they met.  They had the FUNNIEST story.  So that was great.

The branch is good.  There's just a lot of crazy drama.  I don't even really know it all, but it isn't the most unified branch ever.  And apparently the branch in general likes the Elders more than the Sisters because of past sisters or something.  I thought that was weird.  But I am just so keen to work really hard.  I am going to love these people and we are not going to waste time.  The ward mission leader is a little, old man that talks really slow.  MCM is right before church and the Elders were late because they were inviting all their investigators.  I suggested that maybe we move MCM to a different time of the week so we can all focus on getting our investigators to church.  The Elders and Sister Pantoja were all happy about that so hopefully that will work out. 

But one thing that I'm really excited about is the music here!  There is a ward choir!  There is this lady, Holy Jones.  She has (I think) six kids and they are American and super, super musical.  She is the branch music person/pianist/choir director and she has asked me to help her with choir.  I'm so, so excited.  And the Elders sings really well.  We (the four of us missionaries in New Plymouth) are planning to sing together at the Christmas Conference.  I'm so excited for that. Sister Pantoja is a great singer.  We sing together a lot.

So, even though things are different and I wish Brother Tichborne was here, I am excited!  I know that God put me here for a reason.  I am here to learn and I am here to serve.  I really want to make a difference and see miracles in this branch.  Our area is big and there is so, so, so much potential.  We have a lot of new investigators and potential investigators.  The Lord knows what they need.   I love you all so much! 

LOVE,

Sister Clarissa Johnson


Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Church is True!


Hello world,

I've seriously had the BEST week of my mission!  I feel like I have all this joy to convey so I hope my email adequately conveys it.  However, now I'm feeling kind of melancholy and nervous because I'm getting transferred!  I am moving to Taranaki!!!  It's by the water and the mountain and apparently everyone is obedient there because it's so far away so that's exciting!  My companion will be Sister Ye (my MTC companion)'s trainer.  She is also Filipino and her name is Sister Pantoya (except it's pronounced Pan-toe-ha).  She is really pretty and nice and responsible so I'm excited even though it hurts my heart to leave Hamilton East!

Last Monday we went to Hamilton Gardens with the Claudelande Sisters and only took 14 million pictures.  Most other sisters are more into taking pictures than I am.  I'd rather just experience life and not have to document every thing, but it was super, super fun and we have a bunch of great pictures.  It was the perfect weather.  Then we teamed up and took a big group of Hamilton East/Claudelands investigators/less actives to watch Meet the Mormons at the Visitor Center.  I sure love that movie.  I cry every time. Unfortunately the rest of the week got SUPER hot.  It's like Nauvoo weather when it's super, super humid!  We only have one little fan in our flat so we move it around wherever we are.  It's so funny to hear about your snow and here it's sweltering.  And everyone says it's going to get worse.  But it's so, so gorgeous.  I do love sunshine.  I have some crazy watch/shoe/ring tanlines.

But Shardae and Heemi got baptized this week and it was so, so great!  I felt like I did too much but I spoke, sang with Sister Urgel, taught the Restoration while they were getting changed with Sister Urgel, and played the piano.  But it was just amazing to see them all in white.  Shardae is fantastic because she is so humble and willing to make big, hard changes in her life.  President Higgins interviewed her while our awesome district leader, Elder Pene, interviewed Heemi.  Heemi is the smartest eight year old ever.  He has all the articles of faith and D+C 4 memorized.  I love baptisms!

The next amazing thing was on Friday.  Auntie Kei, Ripeka, and Sam went to do baptisms in the temple for the first time ever.  It was so beautiful and they loved it (we didn't actually get to go in, but we stayed in the Visitor Center with Lana).  Auntie Kei also went Visiting Teaching for the first time and she said the prayer out loud at one of the houses!  That is big for her.  

Saturday and Sunday were Stake Conference and HOLY COW!  It was the best Stake Conference ever!  I loved it.  Elder Nielson from the Pacific Area Presidency spoke and especially in the Saturday Night session just blew me away.  I know that Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father are real people.  They really are.  On the way home talking to Sister Urgel about it and also praying afterwards, I just really felt, more than ever before in my life that the gospel is 100,000% true!  It's not probably, mostly true, but it's for sure true.  We just have to have faith and do something about it and it will make us so happy.  There is a group of Saints from Papua New Guinea here for two weeks.  They have saved for years and years and sacrificed so much to come to the temple.  They've been in the temple every day and came to our Stake Conference.  There are probably 25 people.  They are so humble and their faces light up when they see missionaries, even though they don't know us personally.  I want to be as humble as them.  President Nielson said that probably other than the very young kids, none of them will ever get to come back to a temple.  This was a once in a lifetime thing!  He also kept saying, "Do we know what we have?"  Do we realize how lucky we are and blessed to have a temple so close?  Do we know how amazing the gospel is?  We have it and lots of people don't.  We need to hasten the work.

Brother Tichborne is NOT happy to see me go.  He told me that I went from a greenie to the best sister missionary in the mission.  I'm afraid he exaggerates.  I really will miss him so, so much.  He has taught me HEAPS about the gospel and the work of salvation and the importance of keeping our "footprints on the frontlines".  Always!  It was his birthday on Thanksgiving so we called him right when we woke up (he gets up way before that) and sang to him. I think it made his day! :)

But I want to send pictures and I'm running out of time.  

Love you all so, so much!

Sister Clarissa Coralee Johnson



Sunday, November 22, 2015

Wonderful People and (Mostly) Wonderful Weather



Hello everyone,

 

I hope you are all happy and doing great!  I certainly am.  This week has been so wonderful and it seriously flew by.  Every week I can't believe it's already time to weekly plan or email or go to church again, because I feel like I just did it.  Next week is transfers.  I really don't know how I feel about that.  Everyone in our ward keeps telling me that I better not be leaving anytime soon and I say, "Don't worry.  I'm staying forever."  But I've been giving everyone copies of a cute picture of Sister Urgel and me.  

 

This week I really realized the importance of fun, church activities.  This week was the Relief Society Christmas party.  (If there's no Thanksgiving to celebrate, why wait to start celebrating Christmas?)  But it was the greatest activity ever!  There were three recent converts, four less actives, and three nonmembers there!  I was so happy.  I also LOVE Relief Society.  Like I didn't want to leave Young Women's when I turned 18, but now I am starting to just love everything about Relief Society.  I feel like I am best friends with tons of women here.  Sister Urgel spent most of the activity talking to the small Filipino contingency of the Relief Society and I just flitted around as I do from group to group.  It doesn't matter if they are 85 or 55 or 25.  I just love them all!  We just have so much genuine fun!  The first hour of the activity was performances and the second was eating and mingling.  They asked me to sing "Oh Holy Night" and "Mary Did You Know?"  I ended up going a capella because almost everyone in our ward that can play the piano is male.  Isn't that interesting.  I played in Relief Society on Sunday.  But everyone loved my songs and they were so, so nice.  Now all these people want me to sing at their dinner appointments because they realized that I can sing.  This ward is just wonderful! 

 

Speaking of wonderful, Sister Urgel is that!  We have so much fun together.  We crack each other up.  We are so, so different but we work it out.  Having a companion is such good practice at getting along with people.  I love it.  This week the weather was crazy!  It gives me headaches and makes me really tired all the time.  One day it will be super hot with the super burning sun and we have the air condition on full blast when we're in the car and the door open at home.  The next day it will be cold and POURING rain.  The rain here is so hard core.  Then we'll have the heat on in the car and the house.  It's too much for my brain.  

 

But our investigators are doing well.  We don't have too many progressing, but the ones that are are doing super great.  Shardae is so faithful.  She's been so brave and she wants to change even though she's scared and it's so hard.  But she is living the word of wisdom and the law of chastity and is really committed to keep it up.  I think I told you?  She is lesbian and it's so hard because she doesn't exactly understand why she has to keep it even though we've really researched and explained it with the Proclamation to the Family.  She does know that she needs and wants to trust God to make and keep her happy!  Heemi is great as usual.  I think that this quote is SO true! "First I obey.  Then I understand."  We don't always have to have the exact, perfect answers to everything.  We just need to trust God. 

 

I wish I had more time, but just know that I love you.  Enjoy your turkey this week.  Our dinner appointment on Thursday got cancelled so we will probably eat tuna because we are poor!  But don't worry.  It's ok. :)  New Zealand is gorgeous!\

 

Heaps and heaps of love!

 

Arohanui,

 

Sister Clarissa Johnson

 A lady named Lana gave Clarissa this piggy bank for when she gets married. "Her Money" is much bigger than "His Money"!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Love from New Zealand


Dear Family,

 

New Zealand is wonderful as usual!  We've had such a great week!  I sure love my companion.  It's so funny because we will be a little sharp with each other sometimes and then we just both feel so bad and apologize a lot and hug each other.  We really are the dream team.  Haha, we balance each other so, so well!  

 

Our District Meeting this week was so amazingly good.  It ended and I felt like it had been written for me.  (Well, it actually had . . .kind of.  Elder Pene, our district leader, asks us all what we are working on and then plans the district meeting.)  But I just love all the missionaries that serve around me.  After District Meeting, we got to go on exchanges with the Lake Sisters.  I got be companions with Sister Sao, from Samoa, and . . . Sister Ye!!!  And I got to serve out of my area for the first time my entire mission.  So that was fun.  I learned heaps from those two sisters.  Even though they are both learning English, their testimonies are so, so powerful and they are so humble and good.  Sister Urgel was really nervous to lead the area when I was gone, but she did amazing.  She is getting more and more prepared to lead it when I leave.  I am mentally preparing myself to leave at transfers because I really feel like I will.  I will SO miss this area, but at least I will be ready.  Last night I wrote a list of people I want to write letters to before I go.  There were 21 on the list, and I'll probably think of more.  Good thing I'm starting now.  

 

But we have been teaching Shardae a lot.  Did I tell you about her last week?  I can never remember.  She has been going to church for ages but never was baptized even though her mom was.  They have this AMAZING member family that have been fellowshipping them.  We have our lessons there.  But she has been doing so well.  It's amazing how much love I feel for all the people we teach.  

 

I've been worried for Jayde lately.  Pray for her!  She is so, so ready to get baptized, but she is afraid that she's not ready.  Everyone thinks that they have to be perfect to get baptized, but it's actually the opposite. We get baptized because we aren't perfect.  We have to be worthy and willing to follow Jesus Christ.  I love the qualifications for baptism in D&C 20:37 (at least I think that's where they are).  She has had all the lessons and been to church tons of time.  It's one of those situations where we have to do all we can, but then trust in the Lord to make up the rest.  

 

I've really been realizing what an impatient person I am.  "If men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness."  Well, mine is impatience.  But Jane Eyre in my ward said something I just love.  She is so profound sometimes.  She said that impatience is the fear of time.  So I'm going to stop fearing time.  I get impatient with myself and others and I'm learning to trust more. 

 

This week we got to eat with my favorite couple, the Sykes, twice!  They just had their 52nd wedding anniversary and they are so adorable.  I want to be just like Sister Sykes when I grow up and marry someone like Brother Sykes.  They are so humble and good and they always have me sing for them.  I love asking members two things.  I ask how they met if they are married and I ask their conversion story.  It seems like everyone in our ward is a convert.  That's really different from Wells Ward, but it's really cool.

 

I've also been so grateful to spend so much time getting to know children.  We've been helping with the Primary Program and we have two AMAZING families, Margaret's and Patiana's that we visit.  All of those kids in both families have such strong testimonies and are so good, even if they can be crazy!  I just want them to have the gospel in their lives so bad.

 

I've been working on being the fourth missionary again lately.  I want to do everything "willingly because I want to".  I'm still working on that when it comes to waking up in the morning. 

 

But time is short unfortunately!  I love you all and LOVE hearing from you so much.

 

Love,

 

Sister Clarissa Johnson

Sunday, November 8, 2015

It's Summer in New Zealand!



Hello world,

It's HOT here!  And everyone says it's going to get way hotter and humid.  We've been doing 12 week in front of the fan, and I feel like just yesterday we were doing 12 week in front of the heater.  Time flies.  I'm sad that Thanksgiving is not a thing here.  The one American family in our ward was going to feed us, but they will be out of town.  And there are starting to be Christmas decorations up places and it REALLY doesn't feel like Christmas.  It feels like July.  I just want to go swimming. :)  It's super weird.  But it's good.  

All of a sudden, our area is very different.  The school year ended and most of the uni students went home.  And our golden, wonderful investigator that was getting baptized changed her plans and moved to Australia.  So that was really sad.  But we got her email address and physical address in Aussie and she said that she would get baptized there.  I guess we have to trust the Lord on that one.  I will miss her.  She's the one with the short dress in the jumping pictures.  The other is Marina, our AMAZING member that always comes out with us on lessons.  She served in Korea.  But I think Heavenly Father wants us to really branch out in our investigators now because so many students are gone.  We found a Fijian family that I'm really excited about with super cute kids.  I wish we had any Fijians in our ward.  We don't have any . . . yet. ;)

But this week was really good.  On Thursday we had a super good Zone Meeting and took pictures with this awesome Zone Flag that Sister Inia, the Sister Training Leader, made.  Then we got invited to go help put up Christmas lights at the temple.  I guess all the missionaries in Hamilton get to do it on different days.  But the sisters in our zone were this week and it was the funnest time.  I got sunburned though which was too bad.  The sun here is so intense because the atmosphere is so thin here apparently.  I have a new appreciation for temple Christmas lights.  They take forever to put up.  I got to talk to Sister Parkinson a lot, who is the one from BYU Women's Chorus.  Apparently they are singing with David Archuleta this year, which makes me jealous, but I got to meet him so it's ok.  She is so great.

We have been teaching this girl named Shardae.  She is friends with this wonderful, wonderful family in the ward named the Grandlyers.  Her mom joined the church a year ago but she never did because she is lesbian.  Well, she's still been coming to church on and off but now she really wants to change her life and be better and get baptized.  I'm so glad that I have taught lessons to five different lesbians on my mission so far, so I feel more prepared to talk about it with her.  We had a lesson/talk with her in her doorway yesterday which was just perfect.  It was so directed by the Spirit!  I was just amazed at the things I had said when we walked away, because they were things I couldn't/wouldn't have said without the Spirit's help.  My heart really goes out to her.  She is such a good girl and she has been so blessed to have the Grandlyers in her life as an example of gospel living.  She wants more in her life and the gospel can give it to her.  I think about her a lot and how we can help prepare her for baptism.  She is getting baptized on the 28th in a combined baptism with the Grandlyers eight year old grandson, Hemi, who can recite D&C 4 faster than I can . . . and I can say it pretty fast.  

Another cool thing happened this week.  We found out at church that our dinner appointment was canceled and Sarah Potter was with us (speaking of the American family in our ward).  Well, the Potters insisted that we come to dinner at their house and they were also having Elton over.  Elton is their great neighbor with a family back in South Africa who is working for the same company as Brother Potter.  We found him a couple months ago when we were trying to find the Potter’s house and knocked on the wrong flat.  Well, they got to know him through us.  We invited him to learn two months ago and we sent the Elders to him.  They gave him a Book of Mormon but never had an actual lesson.  Well, we had the best talk about grace and the atonement with him last night and we are going to start teaching him every Sunday at the Potters.  The Potters are called as the new YSA leaders in our ward and they were having a YSA fireside/devotional deal at their house after dinner.  Sister Potter called and told me that Elton had stayed for that and loved it.  I'm so excited to start teaching him.  It's so fun to find really prepared people to teach!  Our investigator, Cavell, that the Elders "stole" from us when I was sick is getting baptized on Saturday.  I'm so excited for her!  It's just exciting to see the work progress.

It's so funny when Brother Tichborne is really, really excited!  He cracks me up.  And he called me "the bomb" this week on the phone.  (He calls us or we call him every day.)  I was so happy!  

So I've been singing a lot recently.  I felt like my life was getting a little mundane and less exciting so I started singing more.  Singing is the solution to almost everything, especially when you're singing hymns.  This morning I was really praying to have the Spirit more fully with me and to know that God is pleased with me.  Well, when we were singing at the beginning of companion study I just started crying.  We sang "Savior Redeemer of My Soul" and "How Great Thou Art" which are my two favorite songs ever (along with There is Sunshine in My Soul).  But it really made me think about how God really loves me.  I was just hit with this huge wave of the Spirit and God and Jesus Christ's love for me.  Like I already knew it and I teach it to people every day, but I internalized it more deeply.  I thought about how much my parents love me and how much I will love my future children.  God loves us even more than that.  It's amazing how God can answer your prayers by teaching you something you already know, just more deeply with the Spirit.  

And the scriptures are the best!  I think I say this every week, but I love the Book of Mormon.  I've been reading the war chapters in Alma and they are exciting!  I think of Brother Tichborne and how "we're on the frontlines".  It's great.  

This week we are going on exchanges with the Lake Sisters and I get to exchange out of our area for the first time ever in my whole mission.  And I get to go with Sister Sau and . . . Sister Ye!  I'm very excited.  Enjoy the snow in Nevada!  I'll enjoy the heat and try not to get burned again. :)

Heaps of love,

Sister Clarissa Johnson  


Sunday, November 1, 2015

Captain! What's Happening?

Kia Ora!

So when Brother Tichborne calls me or answers the phone he always says, "Captain!  What's happening?  What's the good news?"  I don't know if I told you that he calls me Captain, because after all, "we're on the frontlines."  It's so exciting.  

It's been the best week in a long time!  I'm all healthy except coughing and I just feel all this urgency to do the work as fast and as well as I can.  We have all these new progressing investigators that we mostly found this week.  I realized that I will most likely be leaving on December 3rd, and as much as I wish it wasn't true, I need to accept it and make the most of the time I do have here.

Natalie was confirmed yesterday and she looked so radiant.  She is going back to China for the summer break next week, so I'm so glad she was baptized before leaving.  I hope she can find a church/some Mormons in China.  We have her Chinese address so they can send her records so that's good.  

Ripeka and Auntie Kei are wonderful.  Ripeka's operation went well and she'll be in bed for six weeks.  She's in pain, but that's to be expected so hopefully she will be all good from now on after she heals.  I'm so glad that she found out she had a cyst and she could get it out.  So Auntie Kei works so hard and is just such a giver.  Saturday night we went there and she had these pretty shirts she'd bought at an Op Shop for Sister Urgel and me.  She said Leanna had helped her choose them and she had really specific things in mind.  Isn't that so nice?

So this week we did a lot of service and we saw a lot of miracles.  We have a less active named Tiana that has been to prison and is now confined to her house for a year.  She's only in her early twenties and she did something really, really bad but she's not a bad person at all.  I love her so!  Brother Tichborne sent us the first night after she'd been out of prison.  We didn't know what had happened, but when she explained, I felt really prompted to teach her about the Atonement of Jesus Christ and his complete love for her.  We said things that we wouldn't have thought of without the help of the Spirit.  You know that book, You are Special, about the wooden people and the carpenter, Eli, that made them and they give each other stars and dots?  I love that book.  Leanna had it at her house, so we'd just heard it there.  I told her that story and told her that God loves her despite her sins and what people think of her and that he will forgive her.  The Spirit was there so powerfully.  There was not a dry eye!

Our investigator Joanna is finally back from Aussie and is on fire!  She came to church, we taught her the best Lesson 3, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we've ever had.  And she's getting baptized November 28th.  It was going to be December 5th, but I realized I'd be gone so she decided to move it up so I could be there.

We had another really fun idea!  We were with these awesome less active siblings and asked about their scripture reading.  One of the girls, Ese, said it was only sometimes.  I said, "Well you know, it takes 30 days to make a habit."  She said that she should try to read every day for 30 days.  Well, then it became a thing!  We told some other investigators about it and they want to do it too.  So then we made bookmarks.  We made a million bookmarks that said "November 30 Day Scripture Challenge" and then we numbered them 1-30.  We gave them to all of our less actives and investigators and a couple members that are into missionary work or are fellowshipping.  We got the Elders to do it with their people and the Claudeland Ward Elders and Sisters too.  We are going to have a movie party at the end of the month and watch the Testaments and eat food and share the miracles that came into our lives that came from doing the "small and simple" thing of reading our scriptures every day.  I'm excited!

Also, the Relief Society Christmas party is randomly on November 13th so it's happening while I'm still here.  It's a musical number type deal and Sarah Potter and I are doing a number.  It's O Holy Night/Silent Night.  She's playing and I'm singing and I'm so, so excited!  I love having a good musical number to prepare for.  Speaking of singing and such, there is a girl that was also an Alto 1 in Women's Chorus here, and she's in my district. Her name is Sister Parkinson.  I didn't really know her in Women's Chorus, but talked to her on facebook before I came.  But then I forgot all about it.  But she's so, so great.  Also, Sister Ye, my MTC companion, is sitting right next to me.  Her companion (that I really loved too) broke her ankle and had to go back to Korea to heal.  So that's sad, but Sister Ye is staying with Sister Inya and Sister Sau in our zone, so I get to see her!  Sister Rudd told me at the fireside last night that they are trying to find a permanent (well, transfer long) place to put her.  I said that we would love to have her and we even have an extra mattress!  Wouldn't that be amazing!  I guess we'll see.

Saturday was a service day for us!  We weeded this lady's yard and got Brother Amai lined up to come mow it.  She is this cute, old Maori lady but never wanted to hear the gospel, but is really friendly.  But she was just so, so happy with her lawn.  She can't bend over and didn't know how she would get it done.  She was just praising us left, right and center and made us a delicious smoothie after we refused tea and coffee.  But she said that she has tons of Mormon family and told us to "please come back".  It's amazing how you love those you serve so much and also how much service softens people's hearts.  We've really been working on that recently and it makes missionary work so much more fun.  Well after that we went to straight to Patiana's.  She has these six amazing, and really crazy, kids.  She just had a goiter removed and can't do any work.  So I mowed her big lawn for her.  Sister Urgel and Fa'aki and Sula picked up all the trash in the yard and I mowed.  I was so exhausted by the end of the day.  It's been getting hot in the middle of the day, but it's so gorgeous!  I'm getting some fun tan lines.  I have a really bad one under my watch and on my feet from my sandals.  

But it wasn't until later in the day that I even remembered that it was Halloween.  Halloween is like NOTHING here.  It's crazy.  Almost no one even celebrates it apparently here.  

But I am just so excited for all our new investigators and people.  Missionary work is so fun!  The gospel is just the best.

LOVE,

Sister Clarissa Johnson


Sunday, October 25, 2015

Natalie Got Baptized!


Hello world,

Somehow I'm very short on time today, but we had a great week.  We are getting back to normal around here.  We have our car back and we are almost completely healthy.  We both have sore throats in the morning and coughs at night.  You know how that goes.  But we have very good companionship unity in our coughs.  We also seem to cough at the exact same time. :)

But this week was transfers, and guess what?  I didn't get transferred and I'm so, so happy about that.  My dearest missionary friend, Sister Pulotu from Tonga did get transferred all the way to Gisborne, but at least I still have Sister Urgel.  She is great and her English keeps improving.  I am finally doing the second half of the 12 week training which is very exciting!  Instead doing it for the third time, suddenly I am doing it for the first and I'm loving it.  There is always more wonderful stuff to learn about the gospel.  It was a crazy week because we live so close to the mission office so they always ask us to do extra, random stuff.  We had a sister who was going home stay with us for two days.  Her name was Sister Kinouchi (pronounced Key noach).  But she was from Wales and she was very proper and polite sounding and I really liked her.  We also went on exchanges with the Morrinsville sisters who I just adore!  I got to get out of Hamilton and see a little bit more of New Zealand which was exciting.  Morrinsville is a little town half an hour away, but they also cover Te Aroha which is 25 more minutes away.  So we got to see a lot of gorgeous, amazing country!  I had to keep pinching myself to see if this was real.  It was green and perfect looking.  The temperature has been just perfect lately and I love it. 

Our week ended perfectly with another baptism.  It was such a great baptism!  Our sweet Chinese investigator Natalie got baptized and it was so lovely.  She has the sweetest spirit.  She always waves to us with both hands and smiles so big and often when we were teaching her, she would say, "Wow!"  She is pretty good in English but we had to teach very simply.  She stayed as an exchange student last year with a wonderful family in Dinsdale (another part of Hamilton) and their whole extended family came to the baptism.  It was wonderful.

Ripeka also had her huge operation this week and she is now out of the hospital and doing wonderful.  We go over and talk and read the Ensign to her every day because she just has to lie there all the time and gets bored.  She is in pain, but not much worse than she was in before the operation, so hopefully she will be totally healed from it and be good as new.  I just love her and Auntie Kei so, so much!

I'm so thankful for the gospel and my unique opportunity to serve all the time!  The church is just so very true.  It's the thing that matters most.  If we trust the Lord we can always know that things will work out.  

Also, I've started Ponderizing!  I love it. :)  Last week I did John 14:27 and now I'm on to 2 Timothy 1:7.  I love it.

Heaps of love,

Sister Clarissa Johnson

P.S.  Did I tell you that everyone calls me "Sister J" these days.  It's a fun time!