|Sisters in her district at Christmas conference|
|Sisters in her district at Christmas conference|
|The adorable Riggle family on Christmas Eve|
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!!!!!
Sister Clarissa Johnson