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!
Sister Clarissa Johnson