Sunday, September 27, 2015

"Fantastic!"

Kia Ora!

Sister Urgel learned a new word this week.  It's "fantastic".  And it's the word that describes this week!  So many great things happened this week!  First of all, it's been AMAZING weather.  It's spring and all green and blooming and all the flowers smell good.  I love it.  Also, I found out that we are allowed to wear sandals!  So that's pretty much the most exciting thing that ever happened to me.  Sister Urgel is still in her big coat every day.  She's so little and used to heat, but I wore my new sandals almost every day.  

Thursday we got to go the temple and it was such a beautiful day.  I love the peace and joy I always feel in the temple.  I'm so grateful that we know about the sacred covenants there. Sister Urgel and I taught Gospel Principles at church and the lesson was on temples.  I told the story of our family getting sealed to Morgan.  I can't wait for the celestial kingdom!  And we can all get there!  It was just a wonderful day.

Also, we have three really solid new investigators.  All three of them are 19, because it's just the cool age to be!  The Elders found two of them.  The poor Elders work so hard and all they do is give us new female investigators.  All we do is find new female investigators that we keep.  Apparently nobody male wants to hear the gospel in Hamilton East so they don't have a lot of people to teach but we have heaps!  So that's too bad.  But we have really been taking off in the "member present" department.  We have this core group of YSAs that I just adore.  Some are returned missionaries and some are preparing to go or thinking of going.  I LOVE taking out Christine Xiao because she is thinking of going but doesn't want to be pressured into it so we can't tell her parents, but adorable, little Brother Xiao puts his hands together and nods his head and tell us thank you so much for taking her out with us.  She's just like me and we talk and talk and have the best time.  I'm just so grateful for all the wonderful people I know here.  I was thinking about someday when I do get transferred, how hard it will be.  My specialty is getting attached to people.  I finally know the entire ward . . . I think, and I just love being a missionary here. 

One of our new investigators is named Joanna and she is flatmates with Jayde (who is set for baptism on October 17th!!!).  Our first lesson with her was Saturday night at 7:30.  We taught her about the Restoration and the Book of Mormon and she just loved it.  Her whole family is Catholic, but she wants to find the truth for herself.  Well we got her a ride to church with the Swans (a senior missionary couple in our ward that work at the Visitor Center . . . they are so, so good) and she CAME.  Then we took two other YSAs with us and she watched the Joseph Smith movie at the Visitor Center.  I confess . . . I fell asleep during it near the beginning (darn daylight savings) but it was so wonderful.  She used about eight tissues.  She said she felt warm and good and she just wanted to learn more.  How great is that?  Then she wanted to walk up all the steps to the temple so we did and took pictures.

This week was also our church open house, which apparently is a thing.  Brother Tichborne pretty much singlehandedly ran it.  He brought sausages and bread and we had a BBQ.  We set up way before and cleaned up way after.  It was such a fun time.  We even had a bouncy castle.  We had eight investigators there all together and seven less actives/recent converts.  It was just such a great activity.  We need more activities in our ward.  They are so important for missionary work!  But Auntie Kei walked all the way there and even came early to help.  She is a saint, I tell you.  We've been thinking and praying TONS about her and we decided to get Leanna to help.  During the open house we had Leanna come over and sit with us and Auntie Kei.  Leanna said that she is working towards the temple but it's going to take awhile and that she knew Auntie Kei was ready to get baptized.  We read D+C 20:37 that has the qualifications for baptism to her and said that she is doing all of those things.  We told her that as representatives of Jesus Christ, we think she is ready to get baptized in October.  She said she would really think about it and that she wasn't saying no.  She is SUPER stubborn, so to me, that was a huge miracle!  It's going to happen.  I just know it.  I'm so, so, so excited.

Sister Urgel is doing amazing!  I love her so much. 

And I'm getting so excited for conference!  I'm getting jealous that I have to watch it a week late.  I'm very impatient and don't want to wait, but I guess I'll survive! :)

LOVE,

Sister Clarissa Johnson


Sunday, September 20, 2015

Joy from New Zealand

Hello Beautiful People,

This week was so wonderful--probably the best week of my mission so far!  I love my new companion.  She is so sweet and humble and good and she has such a good attitude.  She is a great cook!  She makes Philippino food and it's delicious . . . except the mussels.  They're the ones in oyster-looking shells.  I ate one but it took all my courage!  But we are always laughing and having fun together.  And the new Elder in our ward is good too.  It's so nice to double cover with really great Elders.

This week we really wanted to get the Standard of Excellence because they really focused on it at Zone Meeting.  I got it my first transfer, but not the next one.  So we really went to work!  And miracles happened.  We've been really focusing on relying on the Spirit and I'm getting better at it.  Sometimes I'll just get an idea of a certain scripture we should read with someone or a certain ward member we need to use to fellowship someone.  I'm realizing that a lot of times, those ideas come from the Spirit.  We really worked on taking members out with us.  We've been taking out all the female YSAs in our ward.  They are so good.  We have the best group of Young Women and YSAs that we're hopefully going to hang out with next week. 

Jayde cancelled her baptism because she is stressed with school and such and she's still adjusting to the Law of Chastity.  But we set her for October 17th and she is really excited!  She has concerns still about the Law of Tithing but she is so excited to get baptized.  Auntie Kei is getting more and more anxious to get baptized and we are going to try to set her this weekend.  She just has such a good heart.  We finally got Leanna to church.  We went over Saturday night, tried to help her get all the clothes ready, texted her ride, and then knocked on her door at seven in the morning to give her a wake up call (she had no credit on her phone).  So for the first time in over a month, she came to church!  And it was such a super great sacrament meeting.  This ADORABLE newlywed couple spoke and their talks were both so good.  They are both returned missionaries and are so good.  I don't know if I wrote this in a previous email but I found out some cool statistics.  In the world, the divorce rate is about 56% or something like that.  But if one of the spouses is a returned missionary it goes down to 24% and if both the husband and wife are returned missionaries, the divorce rate goes down to 2%!  Isn't that awesome.  Not that I'm anxious to get married.  I'm mostly just anxious that President will take me out of Hamilton East.  I want to stay here forever!

We had Zone Meeting this week so that was really fun.  We have a good zone.  I just love people!  And on Thursday, we get to go to the temple!!!  I'm really excited. 

I just have such a testimony that God loves us and knows us perfectly.  I found a scripture that relates to me perfectly.  It's Mosiah 24:13-17, but really just that whole chapter.  I'm not going to write it but I want to commit all of you to read it.  Will you do it?  Good!  I know you will be blessed and enlightened if you do.  But anyway, it reminds me of the day I left on my mission.  I had always wanted to serve and was so, so, so excited, but then we were eating at Red Lobster right before we went to the airport and I was suddenly TERRIFIED!  I made Desi come to the bathroom with me and I just started crying, telling her that I was scared and that my mission was probably going to be so hard.  She said that I was right, that my mission would have really hard times but that the Lord would strengthen me to be able to handle them.  Well I've seen that!  In this scripture, the people of Alma are in bondage to the Lamanites and they plead to the Lord for help.  He doesn't take their problems away but he eases the burdens on their backs so much that they can't feel them.  Only after they "submit cheerfully and with patience" to all the will of the Lord did he actually deliver them from bondage.  I know that the Lord knew my struggles all the way through but he wanted me to learn to submit cheerfully and patiently.  Only after I had learned and grown and stretched did he take that burden away.  I'm so grateful for the Lord's constant support in my life.  I know that we can trust him perfectly.  If we lean on him and just keep his commandments perfectly, everything will be ok and we will have the hope of eternal life and joy and reassurance that we are on the right path.  All other things don't matter!

Along with that, I LOVE the Book of Mormon.  How I read it in High School was good, but it doesn't even compare to how I'm reading it now.  I just eat it up and feast . . . most of the time.  But I love it.  I just know that the stuff in that the book is for us.  It's for you and your trials now.  It's amazing!  Or "grabe" (pronounced grahv-ee) as they say in the Philippines. :)  So keep reading it!  And share the gospel!  Missionaries can share it, but the members are totally essential.  Don't be afraid to get them the best gift you have in your life.  

I LOVE my mission!  I love the people I've met.  (And speaking of marriage) I better marry a millionaire so I can afford to come back and visit all my New Zealand friends all the time.

I love you all.  Kia Kaha! 

LOVE,

Sister Clarissa Johnson


Sunday, September 13, 2015

Hello Beautiful World!

Hello beautiful world,

The work is rolling forth in the beautiful land of New Zealand!  And I have big news.  I have a new companion!!!  I'm still in Hamilton East (Thank goodness!  I will only leave this place kicking and screaming).  I'm training again the sweetest little sister from the Philippines.  Her name is Sister Urgel.  She's 20 and is so sweet and good.  Her name doesn't rhyme with gurgle as you might think but is pronounced Orhell.  I couldn't believe it!  Right after emailing last Monday, we were at the mission office with the Frankton Sisters who were picking up a sister about to go home.  Well President Rudd called me into his office and told me that he was transferring my companion to Temple View and that I would be training again.  It was deja vu!  It was crazy.  Just like I did six weeks ago I said yes.  He said, "Now, she's a lot smaller than you" like it was a problem.  I thought, "Well, sorry I'm so big!"  But I was so, so excited!

Transfers were super fun as always.  It's like a big family reunion.  Especially because I really do have family there.  I always just love seeing Sister Rudd!  President Rudd always says that the best part of the mission is Sister Rudd and it's pretty true.  Also I met Elder Egbert!  That was really exciting!  He is tall and blond and Egbert-looking and awesome.  We only talked for a minute but I think he will be a great missionary.  Except we had a million bikes and suitcases and folded packs of bedding and missionaries in the parking lot and it was pouring rain.  That's why I look so wet in the picture.  But we survived.  But Sister Urgel is the youngest of seven kids.  Her house was destroyed in a cyclone last year and she only has one little suitcase.  Her English is pretty good though but we still do language study every day!  And she needs her patriarchal blessing.  I think Heavenly Father knew that I have experience in clothes getting/English learning/patriarchal blessing organizing from Sister Namariel. She is really quiet but she is so happy and good and always has the Spirit with her.  She is learning so fast and has already been really courageous with talking with everyone.  And she invited someone to be baptized already and they said yes!

She doesn't like the food in New Zealand but she made fried chicken in our flat.  Also we accidentally went to a huge Filipino party.  Our less active who is Filipino invited us over at a certain time and said there might be food.  Well it must have been every Filipino in Hamilton and a ton of Filipino food.  She was in heaven.  It was so great!  It's amazing how just when Sister Namariel came we found two investigators from Vanuatu and on Sister Urgel's second day we accidentally went to a Filipino party.  

But we are busy with investigators again.  Jayde is finally living the Law of Chastity and I'm so, so happy.  But she is feeling really stressed and pressured by school and relationship problems and such that she doesn't want to get baptized really soon after all, but she really does want to get baptized.  She came to the missionary fireside tonight and the Elders gave her a blessing afterwards.  And Brother Tichborne gave them some inspired counsel in true Brother Tichborne fashion.  

Auntie Kei is doing amazing!  She is just so, so ready to get baptized but she is still waiting for Leanna to get endowed.  We visit Leanna every day and she's always so, so good and ready and excited. 

It was hard to say goodbye to all the missionaries going home this week.  They were all such great examples.  We have a lot of new missionaries in our district but it will be a great transfer.  I just love being a missionary!  

But this week has just been such a testimony to me that God knows us.  He helps us through our struggles and they slowly and surely improve.  He gives us exactly what we need.  I have grown and matured spiritually and emotionally so, so much already on my mission.  I sure have a lot to learn and I'm excited to learn it.  This week I've also just been so struck with how the church is so true and how bad things happen in our lives, but as long as we are active and strong in the church everything will be alright.  I want all my siblings to promise that they will always be active in the church and strong in the gospel!  It's the fruit on the tree of life: the joy of the gospel.  It's more precious than anything else in our lives.

Keep sharing the gospel!

LOVE,

Sister Clarissa Johnson


Sunday, September 6, 2015

Jayde Is Getting Baptized!

Hello beautiful world,

So as you can see by the title, Jayde is getting baptized!  It will be next Saturday on the 19th and I'm so happy and excited.  I watch the Testaments at the Visitors’ Center . . .again and it made me cry . . . again.  I LOVE going to the Visitors’ Center!  It's just always so uplifting and great there.

Also this week we tracted a lot in new areas we hadn't really worked in.  Well, five different people gave me a hard time because I am from America.  People in New Zealand either really, really love America or really, really hate it.  I try to tell people that I am not here representing America but they don't care.  One guy said, "How dare you come tell me how to live in New Zealand when your country is falling apart."  Another guy was talking and I was listening and said, "Um, hmm" a couple times, like meaning yes.  He said, "Do they teach you that in school in America? How could you be brought up to be that condescending?"  But the worst was on Wednesday.  We'd met this nice Christian family that I was so excited to teach.  They said they were looking for a new Christian church with a better youth program.  Well we got to know them a little and gave them a pamphlet.  When we came back the next time, she had her sister and her mom there to essentially tell me how wrong I was.  Sister Namariel didn't understand what was going on but it quickly turned into an interrogation.  They asked me about my relationship with Christ and said that Joseph Smith was a false prophet.  I asked if we could explain a little more about Joseph Smith and how the Book of Mormon came about.  They said no, they just wanted to have a discussion.  But it was sure a one-way discussion.  I tried to testify and answer their questions but they didn't care.  They said that they could see my passion (I get called passionate a lot) but they believed that God had more in store for me and that I was just misguided and if I would just read the book of John the truth would be revealed to me.  I just wanted them to know the gospel was true so bad but they wouldn't even have a closing prayer with us. I happily said goodbye but when I got in the car again I just burst into tears.  Sister Namariel was so sweet and she asked what was wrong.  She comforted me and said that we still know the church is true. 

The next three mornings I studied about Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, and the Restoration.  I know that the church is true but I wanted another confirming witness.  I prayed and nothing really happened.  Finally, the words of Brother Tichborne came to my mind.  He was talking about Tony "already having his witness".  I thought back over my life and all the times that I'd feasted from the Book of Mormon.  I thought of Nauvoo and the pioneers and my ancestors and the feelings I get in the temple and Joseph Smith and the amazing examples of strong church members I have.  I thought of sitting on the roof of the swingset and praying so fervently.  I thought of singing "Nearer My God to Thee" in Women's Chorus and Girls Camp testimonies and how happy my life has been because of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  And I knew that the church was true.

It was amazing!  That experience shook my faith for a minute, but just like we sing "The Wise Man and the Foolish Man" with all of our primary-aged investigators, my faith is built upon the rock of our Redeemer.  I just want all of you to remember that the church is true.  The Book of Mormon is true.  Jesus Christ really suffered for our sins and God really loves us.  Joseph Smith really was a prophet and we really do have the priesthood on the earth today.  And it's good news!  Sometime in your life, everyone will have their faith and testimony tested.  So please keep adding the oil to your lamps and remember those experiences that have built your faith.  

Also, speaking of Brother Tichborne (the ward mission leader), HE'S BACK!  He was in Australia for a month and now he's back in full force.  I love that guy!  The best comparison I can make to him is Mr. Noorda.  He's so intense and competitive and awesome!  He loves his missionaries so, so much and he lives for the work of salvation!  Saving souls is not a laughing matter for him and he sacrifices so much to help the work.  So yeah, he's pretty much the best.

Oh so for some tragic news, I dropped my camera and broke it!  Sister Falepapalangi and Sister Pulotu both have family here apparently and Sister Falepapalangi got her technological uncle to try to fix it and he couldn't.  So that's the worst.  Speaking of Sister Falepapalangi, she is going home tomorrow!  And so are like half the missionaries I know.  Every companionship in our district except ours has one person going home.  I will miss them so much.  I have this problem where I get super attached to everyone and then they leave.  

But Sister Namariel is doing better all the time.  She is really sensitive though and thinks she is doing terrible when she's not.  Quite a few people tell her to talk louder and talk more a lot and she really takes it to heart and feels bad about it and cries.  I try to tell her that she really is doing great and that it just takes time.  She keeps trying and I really admire that. 

So just keep on keeping on!  I LOVE YOU ALL!!!!!

And really, the church is true!

Love,

Sister Clarissa Johnson