Monday, December 26, 2016

The Happiest War Hospital EVER

Kia Ora!

I know this post is a day (almost two days) late, but I'm not giving up the dream just yet.  At least for now, I am going to keep writing!  So this week has been very, very close to bliss.  I SO love my family!  I also SO love Christmas!  The only thing that put a damper on our life was all of our health. My dad is still in kidney donation recovery mode, Desi got her wisdom teeth out on Tuesday, and the rest of us are passing around sore throats and colds.  Desi said our house has been a "war hospital".  Well, it's been a pretty wonderful war hospital considering how great a week we've had.

Last Monday Deseret, Liberty, Hyrum, and I stayed up talking around the Christmas tree for ages!  (It's kind of our thing.  After we read the scriptures as a family and all say goodnight and get ready for bed and such, the four oldest kids congregate by the Christmas tree to write in our journals and do our individual scripture study.  Well, that night we got talking and it was the best thing.  Sister Fina'i called them "Deep and Meaningfuls".  This was definitely a deep and meaningful.  We talked about the future, the past, our family, the gospel, our failures and insecurities, and our hopes and dreams.  All four of us cried.  It's been kind of weird because since I've been home I've visited lots of wonderful people and seen lots of friends, but my best friends in the world are my siblings (including the two youngest who were asleep).  I will always have them and they made this week a party.

Tuesday I went to the dentist and prayed and prayed that I wouldn't have any cavities after not going my whole mission.  Well I guess Heavenly Father loves me, because I didn't have any!  I also went to the eye doctor and got a stronger prescription of contacts that I know I've been needing.  I LOVE them!  I've decided that getting contacts or glasses is like accepting the gospel.  You don't know how much you've been missing until you do it.  It's been great.  Then that night we watched "It's a Wonderful Life" (of course, for Christmas).  More than ever before, I just cried and cried.  I love that movie!

Wednesday my sore throat was the very worst!  We had a Christmas present wrapping extravaganza and then it was the Wells Ward Party that night.  Our ward though!  It's a good one.  I was involved in the presentation deal they had at it.  It went well.  I got to hold Raven (my temporary cousin that is living at my aunt Olivia's).  I just carried her around and had the best time.  I've missed holding babies!

Thursday I was sick again and I worked for my dad again.  I also took Hyrum to Elko to a Spring Creek get together with the Dyers who used to live in our stake.  They are a great family.

Then the rest of the week all blends together all being Christmas!  On Christmas Eve, my very organized mother had us all draw a sibling partner to help do some Christmas cooking.  Morgan and I made the breakfast casserole for Christmas morning and we did a gosh darn fantastic job!  The Christmas Eve program at Grandma and Grandpa's was just wonderful as usual.  We all got dressed up, ate soup and bread bowls and cookies and drank egg nog and wassail.  I attempted to play a piano solo (my voice was still to messed up to sing very well).  I played "Away in a Manger" but it wasn't nearly as good as Liberty's.  That girl is AMAZING!  At the end of the program all the cousins got on their white flowing angel costumes or towels and bathrobe to be shepherds.  We do it every year and we turn out all the lights except the Christmas tree.  We play Manheim Steamroller's "Silent Night" and someone (this year it was me) reads the Christmas story in Luke 2 while all the cousins stand and form the nativity.  The spirit was so strong.  Then my dear, dear Great Grandma Jaynes gave the closing prayer.  She is like Sister Toaripi or Chasidy . . . her prayers are powerful!  I could just feel the presence of deity in that room.

Christmas morning was wonderful of course.  Lots of excitement and joy and wonderful gift giving.  Everyone in my family has a new BYU "Reppin the Y" shirt (from Desi) and a New Zealand momento of some kind (from me).  We are all spoiled rotten I'm pretty sure. Then, I loved going to church on Christmas day!  It felt like the perfect thing to do to.  Deseret spoke beautifully and so did my aunt Jennifer.  She shared that her favorite Christmas memory was investigating the church through December when she was in college and staying up late to feast on the Book of Mormon for the first time ever.  How wonderful is that?

Our family got a great new board game (Ticket to Ride) for Christmas and if the Johnsons are anything, we are competitive!  We've been going hard at that.

I'm just so blessed to have the wonderful family that I do.  The heart of it is in this house right now, keeping warm from the freezing -8 degrees cold outside.  Some of it is peppered around Starr Valley and Elko County.  Some is across the state line over in Utah.  And some is across the ocean, across the world, in Aoteroa (New Zealand).  The spirit of Christmas is the spirit of Christ.  The spirit of Christ is the spirit of love.  Well, I can definitely feel that spirit.  I will sing "Hosanna" to my Heavenly Father for sending his only begotten son to the earth to save us all of sin and shortcoming and sadness.

"Peace on earth, goodwill to men!"

Merry Christmas!!!

Sister Clarissa Johnson

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Families Can Be Together Forever

Kia Ora!

So I have great news!  I'm going to survive.  Last week I really didn't know if I would be happy at home for a long time, but I actually am.  I still miss New Zealand and my mission a LOT, but I am realizing that I have a wonderful, wonderful family and great friends, even in this part of the world.  Also, I love Christmas in the northern hemisphere.  It has just felt so festive and great.  I've done so many fun things this week.

It's hard to remember what happened every day though.  But I do know that I've spent a lot of time talking with my family.  Twice I went running to Grandma and Grandpa's (even in the mud and snow and ice) and then stayed and talked to them for an hour or so.  Monday, I got my very own phone, which is a big step for me!  I've done a lot of Christmas shopping, which is really exciting!  I just love Christmas.

Tuesday I went visiting at the beloved Wells High School to see all my former teachers.  It was so weird to be there but it was fun to catch up with them all, especially Mr. Noorda.  I just keep feeling like I've jumped forward in time.  Everyone is older and taller and so many of my BYU friends are getting married and everyone is just growing up.  It's cool to see that though.  Time always moves on and it's a good thing, because progress requires change.  I also got to work with Dad on Tuesday.  He has behavior clients in Elko and we visited one and took him on a walk to the park.  He slid down the icy hill a million times while Dad and I just talked.  If there's anyone in the world that I admire, it's my dad.  He donated his kidney to my mom's uncle, Rick, a few weeks ago and it's a really big thing. He seems so little and frail all the time and he can't do a lot, which is very out of character for him, but he is so humble and hardworking and good.  Then that night was a really fun Relief Society activity that my mom, Carolina, and I sang at.  Also, Desi finally came home from college in time for the activity!  It's been so, so good to have her home.

Wednesday and Thursday I worked for the Ruby Mountain Relay, my Dad's race business.  I've been entering data into excel and we've been working on how we can advertise more for the relay.  Desi and I have been doing it together.  We also went through our BYU classes and I'm trying to switch into Family History with Desi.  I hope I get in.  Wednesday night was the FFA Christmas party and Thursday night we went to see the Great Basin Theater presenting "White Christmas".  Friday night was the Starr Valley Christmas program and it was so fun to be there.  That's when the whole valley (and some even farther than that) get together and all the kids put on the nativity and another funny Christmas play.  My mom and aunt (being the saints that they are) direct it and then at the end Santa always comes and it's just great.  Hyrum and I sang "Mary Did You Know?".  I sure love singing and harmonizing.  I need to get better at it!

Saturday night I saw my first post-mission movie theater movie.  It was Rogue One, the new Star Wars.  I've learned something about myself though.  I'm terrible at watching movies.  I always talk during the movie and I'm just really bad at knowing what's going on.  Luckily I was sitting by dear Liberty and she helped me right out!  Then we went to this new place, "Fiiz Drinks", which is apparently now the cool place to go.  I got a root beer kind which was great because I haven't had root beer for 18 months.

Then today was such a great day.  I got to substitute direct the ward choir and then it was my homecoming talk.  I was really hoping it would be good and I'm so glad I was happy with it.  The Holy Ghost helped me so much!  Even last night preparing for it, I was just crying.  I cried a LOT during it but that's ok.  Also, Sister Welker (my dear, dear last companion)'s family came.  I was already on the stand when they walked in.  It was so good to see them and of course that made me cry more.  After I spoke, I sang "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" and Liberty played for me so well!  Then after church everyone came to our house to eat.  My mom did such a good job being in charge of all of that.  She is supermom, of course! But it was so fun to flit around and talk to everyone.  Even two wonderful sister missionaries that served her about two years ago came back to hear me speak and see everyone.

It is so true that family is the BEST and most important thing in the world.  Just like anything worth it, it takes a lot of work to have a successful family, but it is worth every bit of energy put into it!  I just can see so clearly that all happiness comes from the gospel to families.  The whole point of our life her is to qualify to live with our families forever.  That's what I want.  After everyone had gone today, my family sat around playing board games, reading Christmas stories, and making each other laugh.  I'm so blessed to be with my very own family!  Merry Christmas!

Arohanui,

Sister Clarissa Johnson

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Home Again, Home Again (and Lots of Crying)

Kia Ora Whanua,

It feels so weird to be writing this, not at an internet cafe in New Zealand, but on my own laptop at our kitchen table here in my own house in Starr Valley, Nevada!  Holy cow.  So much has happened.  I still can't really describe how I feel, mostly because it keeps changing.  In the last week I have been miserable, scared, excited, joyful, peaceful, stressed, SO happy and every other emotion it seems.  Anyway, I've decided to keep up with these emails (I guess they're just posts now) since I have a following.  Haha  Sometimes I pretend that I'm popular.

Anyway, Monday (I can't believe that was this same week) I rushed around everywhere and said goodbye to heaps of people.  I just love them all so much!  I got a private showing from part of the Welcome Bay Ward Choir (actually most of it was there) and Sister Ngakuru said that she would love to make my wedding dress.  Not that I'll be needing it anytime soon, but still.  I just cried saying goodbye to our dear family that got baptized.  They all wrote me a card and gave me this great big candy lei.  Lieshane also wrote a card of her own and told me that it was the saddest day of her life and that she was going to serve a mission someday and that she was so grateful that she was able to learn about Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.  I also said goodbye to Chasidy and she said all these so, so nice things and we just cried together.  I just have all these sisters in New Zealand.  I just feel like they are sisters.  She has changed and grown so much.  The last one I said goodbye to was Sister Solomon.  I got to her house very late and all the lights were off.  We even tapped on her bedroom window to say goodbye and no one came.  I was SO sad and we were about to give up, when the van pulled up and out hopped Sister Solomon, Tarne, and Nephi.  They had been grocery shopping.  Who even goes grocery shopping that late?  I don't know, but it was such a tender mercy to be able to hug her one more time.  That night I frantically finished packing and actually slept really well . . .for the last time all week I think.

The next morning we (Sister Lewis, Sister Reynolds, Sister Welker and I) got up early so I could go to the beach one last time.  It was like 6:00 by the time we got there and the sun was already coming up.   The Mount in the distance and the sand and the waves and just the feel of it all reduced me to tears.  I ran around for joy and just soaked it in.  Then we had to go to the dreaded bus stop.  When we got out of the car in the parking lot, Elder Fellingham and Elder Tahiata were there and they didn't even say anything and just starting doing the haka.  That was the beginning of the end for me, I tell you.  I cried and cried!  Then all the missionaries came and before I knew it they were all singing "God Be With You Till We Meet Again" to the guitar and the bus driver was telling me to get on the bus.  At the last minute, the whole Paama whanau showed up and handed me my flash mission sweatshirt (Brother Paama is a saint and makes them for every missionary he has) with my name and all my areas and the mission logo and also a huge loaf of their famous Maori bread.

As the bus pulled away I was just sobbing.  When I finally got to be alright I started reading all the letters everyone had given me.  I am so blessed to have such amazing friends who are now family!  Before I knew it, I was to the mission office getting picked up by my old friend, Elder Bowman and others.  I felt like a lost puppy without a companion.  I spent the next few days with four Elders.  I was the only sister going home because it's mid transfer.  But the highlight of that day was definitely the temple!  It was so beautiful and peaceful and reassuring to be inside.  After eight months it is all the more sweet.  And it was such a blessing because the Sterzers (senior couple in New Plymouth) were on our session and I got to talk with them.  It was a very joyous reunion.  After that we ate, got interviewed, and had a testimony meeting at President's house.  I decided that even though I was sad there were no other sisters, the Elders there were pretty good ones.  I never served with any of them, but we were all playing the piano and singing together while we weren't getting interviewed.

That night they drove us up to Auckland to spend the night/day before the airport.  I knew that Sister Green (served with me in Taranaki) was the Sister Training Leader in Manurewa and I just prayed that I would be with her, and I was!  It was my first and last time serving in Auckland.  It was really cool but really different.  I was so tired all day but it was good to be there serving my heart out one last time.  Then at five we took the big drive to the airport.  They left me a plastic flower lei and off we went.

The next 24 hours were quite the thing!  Another amazing thing happened though.  Guess who was on my flight?  This great recent convert who I'd know in Taranaki was going to the Elder Wark/Sister Pagofie wedding and we were right next to each other on the plane!  So it was good to talk to her, but I had a middle seat and felt just so squished in.  It was the longest 12 hours of my life.  Then we waited 5 in San Francisco airport and then less than two on the last airplane.  At very, very, very long last . . . I raced down that hallway into my mom's arms.  I can't even tell you how good that felt!  There were 14 million people there and they were all happy and holding cute signs and much taller than they had been 18 months ago.  It was just so surreal to be with my siblings again.  And President and Sister Rudd were there.  In the words of Sister Tusega, "Oh my life!"  I love those folks.  Then we all went to the Village Inn (restaurant, not hotel) and ate.  It was even free pie night.  I flitted around and tried to talk with everyone.  Then we found our rented little flat for the night in Provo.  It was SO cold in the dark in the snow.  That was a shock.

The next few days we ran errands in Utah, drove back on the right side of the road (I keep thinking we are going to die and then remembering.  I haven't driven at all here yet), and came home to the blessed Starr Valley.  Seeing our house all decorated for Christmas just made me feel so at home!  Eventually my dad had to release me as a missionary.  He gave a really good blessing and then said "I officially release you as a missionary and call you as a daughter of God."  And . . . think really hard . . .  You're right, I cried.  I locked myself in my room and wrote in my journal and read the Book of Mormon.  Sister Ngakuru said that she wanted the real truth, not just all the good stuff, so here it is:  I am bad at change so I'm trying to remember it's going to be ok, but I really, really miss my mission.  It's just so weird to be here.

I still had a wonderful time at church, seeing my adorable little ward, reporting to the High Council with Emily Jones, and speaking to the mission prep class with her as well.  Emily and I opened our mission calls on the exact same day at BYU and we have had kind of matching lives.  Now we got home on the same day.  She is so wonderful and it was so fun to talk to her!  I've been able to email a bunch of my missionary friends and I even face timed Sister Solomon which was so fun.  All of you New Zealand-ites better keep in contact!

I can't believe my mission is over.  It was so hard and so wonderful . . . which is exactly how it feels to be home.  There is so opposition in all things.  Heavenly Father totally knows what I need, even as a civilian/member/YSA/regular person instead of his set-apart representative.  There are even greater things ahead.

I know I'm such a competitive person and I shouldn't be, but if there was a competition to see who had the best mission experience ever, I feel like I would win!

Arohanui,

Sister Clarissa Johnson :D
Chasidy!  How I love her!
Sisters! My favorite polynesians

A bunch of blond Americans

The glorious Welcome Bay Ward mission team
Saying goodbye to my dear Sister Welker

Sunday, December 4, 2016

My Heart Is Full!



 Kia Ora Whanua (for the last time),

My title says it all.  My heart is so full.  I keep trying to find the words to say how I feel and I can't.  This was the best week of my life.  It was also a really bittersweet week.  I cried buckets and buckets and I can't stop smiling.  I rushed around everywhere like a madwoman, but I'm so full of peace and joy.  The word that keeps coming to mind is love.  That's what it's all about, isn't it?  It's amazing how 18 months ago, when I left on my mission, my heart was full.  I loved so many people so much, I'd had so many amazing experiences, and I had a testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Now, 18 months later, I've discovered a whole other world that has filled my heart even fuller.  I love so many more people so much and I've had even more amazing experiences, and my testimony is even stronger.  Like I didn't know that my heart was capable of loving and learning and growing and knowing and serving that much, but it is.  And it can even do more.  It will just keep getting better and better.

This week SO many things happened.  I went on exchanges with two of my dearest, most favorite sisters (Sister Toaripi and Sister Lewis).  I did a million things to organize our baptism.  We had the baptismal interviews.  I went to Rotorua.  I had Zone Conference (which was amazing and I saw so many missionaries I love and I learned so much).  Then this weekend was the baptism.  It was absolutely perfect!  We had to move to the chapel because so many people came!  Even their neighbor friends from next door that always sit in on our lessons came.  Dyles, Rhyley, Rhyme, Lieshane, and Shyniah looked amazing in their whites.  Elder Fellingham ended up baptizing them and he did such a good job.  Elder Tahiata and I sang "I'm Trying to Be Like Jesus" and Natalie (Lieshane's and Shyniah's mom) gave a talk.  She was so nervous and her talk was so heartfelt and beautiful.  Also, their aunt Kereama also gave a talk. Then it was the barbeque afterwards.  The beach was beautiful and we ate pipis (these little shellfish that are so good), sang, and talked. 

Then Sunday was the most perfect day.  The confirmations were so good.  I wrote down what they all said to give to them.  The Spirit was just so strong!  Each of them was just glowing with goodness and faith!  Also, it was just so fun to see all these people I love that have returned to church: Mel, John, Rangi, Maddysen, the Skudders, the Phillips, Natalie and Sama, and the Emersons!  They are all just so wonderful and have come so far.  Standing at the door hugging everyone that came in like we always do just felt like a grand reunion.  I am so loved.  I don't deserve it. So many people in both wards talked about me in their testimonies.  And darn Brother Anderson, at the baptism and in sacrament meeting, talked about how we all must have known each other in the preexistence and I was sent here on purpose to find my friends.  Lots of people were in tears when we said good-bye, but I was the very worst though.  I got up to bear my testimony, wearing my BEAUTIFUL new greenstone from Sister Rudo, and my orange puletasi this time, and I look out at everyone that I love so much . . .like every single one, and I just cried!  Heavenly Father really helped me know what to say though.  When I wasn't looking, Leah had seriously the entire ward sign this massive card for me.  I got all these presents from everyone.  I was just always hugging someone.  Sister Lewis and Elder Fellingham kept joking with me and asking for my autograph.  Elder Tahiata and I sang "The First Noel" for prelude in both wards and "Mary Did You Know?" for the special Relief Society meeting.  It was so fun.

Then we had Stake MCM with the Zone Leader and President Fitzpatrick, then we went to Marie and Neil's.  I so love them!  Then the Te Puke Sisters (Sister Lewis and Reynolds) fed us dinner.  We get there and they'd drawn on their glass door "Welcome to the Last Supper".  Their table was all set out fancy with fry bread and all this good food they'd made.  Then the Elders dropped us dessert!  I cried again.

This morning, Sister Tusega fed us a big, amazing Samoan breakfast complete with Coca Rice and cut and straightened my hair.  I haven't curled or straightened my hair my whole mission, but now it is.  It looks so good.

I just love being a missionary!  Tonight we will rush around and see as many people as we can.  Then I get on a bus tomorrow morning!  I'm just so thankful for the amazing mission I've had.  It's been the hardest, hardest thing ever but also, the very, very, very, very best!  I would never trade what I've learned and gained.  It's so true that if you lose your life for Christ's sake, you will find it!  I've found my life.  It's found in serving and giving and loving and including and teaching and changing and repenting and forgiving and trying and becoming and studying and praying and fasting and trusting and believing.  How did I deserve all that I have?  What did I do to be so loved and so happy?  Heavenly Father really, really, really loves His children.  I am so grateful to be His daughter, His representative, His disciple, His friend.  I'm so grateful for this beautiful, crazy life we get to come to earth to live.  The only thing that makes it worth anything at all is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  When the gospel is written in a list, it doesn't seem very spectacular, but when it is lived in a life, it is the most glorious thing in the world. 

Thank you for being Christlike and loving me.  I love you all so much!  The scriptures say that charity is a gift from God.  When you feel the spirit you want to love others.  That's how I feel.  I can't believe it's over.  Luckily I'm "just getting transferred" to a new area.  I will continue to press forward and share my experiences.  New Zealand is still in my heart, or rather, I think I will leave my heart in New Zealand.  I am forever a kiwi! But more importantly, I am forever a missionary! 

Sorry for rambling.  I wish I could write better and explain how I feel.  This is a glimpse of how we will feel in heaven.

Enoho ra, New Zealand (is that right)!  I will be back! 

Arohanui,

Sister Clarissa Johnson




Sunday, November 27, 2016

How Did We Get So Blessed?

Sunday, November 20, 2016

I Love My Mission!



Kia Ora Whanau!

Guess what?  Prayers work!  I didn't get transferred.  I will be in the glorious land of Tauranga for eight blessed months.  I sure do love this place. :D  But we have just been so, so busy this week.  Even though they don't have Thanksgiving over here, I've been so grateful for my mission every day.  I've been writing a list of all the things in my mission that I've learned and that I'm thankful for and there are so many! 

On Monday we went to Kaiate Falls and it was beautiful.  There were these guys from South America somewhere jumping off the rocks into the water from really high.  So we watched and I was scared for them!  Haha but they survived.  We had dinner with Brother Paama.  I sure love our mission team. . . actually both of them (one in each ward).  Then we had a great visit with the Tukuafus.  I also really love Tongans!

On Tuesday, we had a CRAZY busy day and we had an appointment every single hour.  So that was exciting but also crazy.  It's sometimes a struggle because our area is so enormous, but we survived.  We are being so blessed.  We just have so many people progressing and so much to do.  We helped print the sisters' baptism program and had rescue visits.  We are really gaining speed with our rescue visits.  We do two weeks at the chapel and then one in Te Puke so that works out for us.  Then we had musical number practice for both of the baptisms.  If there's anything that I love, it's working on musical numbers!  That night we FINALLY got transfer news!  I was so worried I would be moved for the last three weeks, but we are all staying!  There were only two changes in our whole big district, so that was a blessing!  All my wonderful missionary friends are staying.

Wednesday we sang for the elderly again and had the best time!  I do love doing that!  We visited our golden family (Katrina and her family, I should say) and then went to the Greerton Sisters' baptism.  It was a nine-year-old Samoan girl.  I played the piano for it and Elder Tahiata played the guitar and we sang and harmonized "I'm Trying to Be Like Jesus".  I was really happy about it.

Thursday was transfers and we had to say goodbye to Sister Tufariua.  We actually saw Katrina and her family three times this week and they are so eager to learn!  It just feels like how missionary work is really supposed to be!  It's so much fun.  That afternoon, though, we had the coolest miracle.  Last week, Sister Welker said that she had a prompting that we needed to tract Seaspray St.  But we hardly ever have any time to tract because we are so busy, but we finally did it.  She asked me where I thought we should start and I couldn't decide but finally I felt like we needed to start on the very first house, on the corner of the street.  Well we knocked and met this adorable lady who said that she's always had a relationship with God but doesn't know which church is His, if any of them really are.  Right there on her doorstep we shared about the Restoration and told the Joseph Smith story.  She said that she probably would have just taken our pamphlet but not read it, but she felt like the Joseph Smith story had answered her question and that she was really keen to learn more!  She asked us how we had known to come to her house and her street at that time.  She said that that was the only day all week that she would have been home at that time! What a miracle.  It's just so true that we can be super effective and do all we can to serve the Lord, but He still knows infinitely more than we do and so "without the Spirit (we can) not teach" . . . or find, or plan, or doing anything really.  I'm so grateful for the Spirit in my life!  We also had Welcome Bay MCM that night with our new Ward Mission Leader from Canada.  We are working on making a ward mission plan.

Friday we taught a bunch of lessons and had appointments every hour again!  I love that!

Saturday was the Te Puke sisters' baptism, another nine-year-old girl.  Her dad had gotten the priesthood the week before so he could baptize her.  It was so nice!  I played the piano and a group of us sang the musical number.  After that, we did some super hardcore service for Melissa!  She had a sandpit in her yard and we had to pretty much dig it out with spades and pitchforks.  There were these big cement blocks way underground that we had to dig out.  But I was proud of us.  We really did well (it was us, the Te Puke sisters, and the Elders, but still).  We helped Sister Solomon cook for the homeless and then we fed the homeless.  I'm going to miss doing that so much.

Sunday was another amazing, crazy full Sunday!  We did primary singing time in Welcome Bay ward, and I spoke and sang with our dear returning member Jeanette in Mount Sacrament Meeting.  I talked about what I've learned as a missionary and I tried hard not to cry.  That night was the Come and See Fireside that we've been planning for ages.  It all came together so well!  We had Leah (recent convert) speak and then we had rotating classes about basic gospel principles and they were all so spiritual.  The Marae Choir from Otumoetai sang and then our stake president shared his conversion story.  He (President Fitzpatrick) is the one whose son was in my MTC district!  Afterwards, I felt like he really needed to give Chasidy a blessing.  She was there and she just keeps having tragic things happen in her life and her family.  So I asked them both and he did.  It was really powerful! 

Also on Sunday we got to wear our new pulu tasis!!!!  Sister Tusega is the best person in the whole world because she bought Sister Welker a pulu tasi and it was WAY too big for her.  Like she was drowning in it.  So she decided to alter that one to be for me and sew Sister Welker another herself.  So we looked beautiful and very islander all day.  It was so fun!  Isn't that the nicest thing you've ever heard?  So now I have two pulu tasis!  And this one is bright yellow.  It's perfect for my yellow-loving self.

But it was just such a wonderful week.  I have so many things to be grateful.  Happy Thanksgiving to all you Americans!  We lead blessed lives because we have the gospel of Jesus Christ and our Heavenly Father always there to help us along.

I love you all so much!

Arohanui,

Sister Clarissa Johnson




Sunday, November 13, 2016

Golden Family Alert

Kia Ora Whanau,

It is so good to write you and tell you about our glorious week.  Everyone in my family seemed to have had a wonderful week as well.  Heavenly Father is so just waiting to bless us.  Last week was my patience/humility week and this week was my blessings/joy week! 

Last Monday we played Mafia with the other sisters.  I kept being the Mafia and I won the very first time!  I was really proud because I'm NOT a good liar.  But after that everyone kept killing me first and I kept losing so that was sad.  But that night we had a really good Family Home Evening with the Phillips.  Sister Welker is pretty much the queen of object lessons so that's really fun.  We have one with a peanut butter jar, rice, and a ping pong ball about getting through trials with the Lord's help, one about prayer/following the spirit with two cans and a string, and one about sin/temptation with a box with a whole and a tennis ball.  They are the best because they really help people and they remember them.  That night we had a DELICIOUS dinner with the Arthurs in the Mount Ward.  We are so spoiled here!  We also got asked, for probably the first of a million times this week, about the election.  People here are probably just as into it as people in the states and then they see Americans and ask us about the election because it's "our country".  So thank you, we are very aware!  Haha 

But Tuesday was the blessed MLC (Mission Leadership Council).  I just love going to that.  I got to drive up with Sister Machen from Gisborne and had great talks with her.  Sister Cummings gave the greatest training about our thoughts.  She made a chart and drew a line down the middle.  One side was truth (which comes from Jesus Christ) or lies (from Satan).  She said that every thought that ever comes into our head fits in one of those categories.  There is no middle line.  It's our job to sift and sort through our thoughts and determine which ones are lies and get rid of them and dwell on the truths.  I loved that.  The gospel is so simple and we (and Satan) make it complicated.  It was so fun to see everyone as usual.  I am such a social butterfly.  We got back from Hamilton in time to go visit Anna and her girls.  She's a member in Mount Ward and her girls (who are 11, 9, and 7) have been investigators for ages.  But we thought to invite them to be baptized and they said that now their dad was letting them make their own choice and they want to.  They are set for January 14th.  So that was very exciting!  That night we had rescue visits and we all split and went with different members again.  I love that!  I got to go with Sister Ngakuru who is our new (well now newish) Relief Society President.  She is the most amazing lady and I want to be just like her someday!  We ended up visiting our investigators, Bailey and Tami, which was really good.  They are really keen but just need to figure out how to get to church. 

Wednesday we got to sing for the elderly in Tauranga.  Sister Narayan (a wonderful member who is Indian from Fiji) works at a rest home and so we all came and sang.  It was the six missionaries from our ward, plus we picked up the Greerton Sisters.  I just love singing for them.  We sing lots of church songs and also other songs and they love it.  Elder Tahiata and I are kind of in charge of the music. He plays the guitar and I play the piano.  I sang opera again but on the last note of "Think of Me" I think I hurt at least one lady's ears with her hearing aid.  So that was too bad!  We sing lots of Maori songs and I'm trying to remember all the words!  But after that, we went to visit Dyles and we met our golden family!!!  Dyles is a 17 year old boy who is the nephew of one of our members.  Bishop Crawford told us to go visit that member (Kereama is her name) and he happened to be there and we asked if we could visit him at his house and he said yes.  So that's how we ended up there.  But it was just amazing!  It's a three generation family and the grandma and one of the moms are less active members.  But Dyles's mom, Katrina, and Dyles, his sister (Rhyme, 10), and their cousins Lieshane (12 pronounced Leh-shawn) and Shayniah (9).  They all sat and listened to the lesson and loved it.  We gave each of them a copy of the Book of Mormon and invited them to read 3 Nephi 11.  We came back the next day and they had all sat around reading it the night before.  They have read three chapters by now and yesterday at church they wanted us to write down heaps of chapters for them to read all together!  The coolest thing is that it's their whole family doing it together.  So they are all (five of them) set for baptism on the 3rd of December!  We are just so, so excited and happy for them.  It's amazing. The joy of missionary work is so real and so great. 

Oh and also that morning we had a really good lesson with Caroline.  She is just so wonderful and I love her so much.  We also invited her to be baptized (it was a real invite-y week I guess).  She said she wasn't ready and so we asked her to pray about it.  So she texted back later and said that she is just going to take some time to think and work through things and doesn't want to meet with us/come to church for now.  So that was really sad for me, but at the same time it's ok because that's what she needs right now and I just know that Heavenly Father will take care of her.  I just want her to have all the joy she can and I know that the gospel is joy.  But all in the Lord's timing I guess!

Thursday we had MCM with our Dear Brother Paama.  I love our Mount Ward missionary team! We also had a really good FHE with the Bisharas again.  I invited the girls to church and the oldest one, Ashley (17) started crying and said that even though it's been nice to focus on school she just knows that something is missing her life.  She didn't come but she will sometime!

Friday was a CRAZY day and we didn't have time to eat lunch.  Then, for the only time ever, our dinner was two pieces of pizza.  We had to get Turkish to Go, which is my favorite place!  I just have so much fun with my companion.  I just want her to have the best mission in the world! (Except I think mine is already the best).  But we sang for the elderly again in Te Puke and had a great lesson with Jeanette and dear Sister Rudo. 

We fed the homeless, taught heaps of lessons, and had Welcome Bay MCM with our new ward mission leader (Brother Shaw, young guy from Canada) Saturday.  And Sunday, our golden family came to church!  We went over to Marie's again and had a delicious dinner and a great lesson with Neil.  I felt like we really taught by the Spirit and I learned a lot from it.  We talked about faith and listened to part of President Uchtdorf's talk.  So good! 

We just have so many good, good things going on.  It's just been one of the closest to perfect weeks of my mission ever.  It's fun to see our people who we can't even call less-active anymore because they come to church every week and live the gospel again progress!  It's fun to see the work go forth.  Just pray for Chasidy.  She has been working a LOT and hasn't been to anything and is never home.  She is so brave and good though.  She just needs lots of support. 

Anyway, I hope you all are noticing the blessings of the Lord in your life.  There are so many of them.  Heavenly Father is just waiting for us to reach out to him.  The harder we work to do that, the more evident his blessings will be in our lives. 

Thank you all so, so much for being amazing people in my life.  I'm so glad we are all brothers and sisters and children of God.  Families can be together forever, even our heavenly family.

Arohanui,

Sister Clarissa Johnson


Sunday, November 6, 2016

You Are Still Here?

Kia Ora Whanau,

I'm still here!  Haha that is the most asked question I get.  Every time I'm at church everyone can't believe that I'm still not transferred.  All the adorable old ladies in the Mount Ward think that they could just pluck me away at any moment and are all relieved and happy every time they see me.  I just love everyone here so, so much!  I've decided that I need to come back and live in New Zealand!  Not forever (don't worry family).  Maybe just for six months or a year sometime.  I just love this place with all my heart.  I cried during testimony meeting (actually both of them I think) just thinking about how much I love these people.  We sang "Families Can Be Together Forever" and I thought about how lucky I am to have an amazing family at home and an amazing whanau in New Zealand!  I am so blessed.

But it was quite the week.  It flew by as usual.  There has sure been opposition.  I think Satan is so tricky.  He wants to get us down right when Heavenly Father needs our service the most.  I found out some things that I really need to work on and that is always hard.  I need to remember that seeing my weaknesses and shortcomings is actually a huge blessing so I can work on them!

I got to go on exchanges with the Greerton Sisters!  I went to Greerton with Sister Ah You.  She is amazing!  She is brand new but inspired as.  She is just great at talking to people and we taught heaps of lessons on the street.  It was so fun!  They don't have a car and we ended up walking 14 ks in 24 hours in Greerton, doing missionary work.  (At least that's what her fitbit said.)  I was wearing useless, little flats and got a blister and I got super sunburned!  I've been a lobster all week.  Walking is not for the faint of heart.  But we had so much fun and taught an amazing lesson that night!  Those sisters are on fire.

The other greatest things this week was the weekend.  Saturday was the blessed day of Ryan and Kirsty's wedding!  I've been praying for them for so long and I'm so proud of Kirsty for how far she has come.  She was baptized a little over a year ago and now she is sealed in the temple.  The reception was way out in Pukehina (past Te Puke) and it was at this flash Marae on the beach.  It was a ridiculously perfect view!  It was so perfect.  But I did so much and had the best day helping.  I helped set up this massive tent, put on white chair covers (if there's anything I'm good at it is those white chair covers), set up tables and chairs, and worked on the food.  Sister Welker peeled 14 million potatoes.  We were scrambling to get everything done but it all worked out.  And it was so beautiful!  Alan and Caroline were so happy and when Kirsty (who looked so gorgeous) gave her little speech she bore her testimony and Alan (Kirsty's dad, our investigator) talked about how even though Kirsty was getting married, he didn't feel like he was losing a daughter.  He felt like they were gaining a bigger family (the ward).  I am so excited for their progress.  They were definitely touched by the Spirit!  I just cried! (I'm doing too much of that these days!  Everything just seems to make me feel the Spirit.)

Also, yesterday was the BEST day!  I don't know why, but church in both wards was just really extra good!  We had two cool miracles (well kind of three).  This lady just walked into the chapel and ended up in gospel principles.  I asked her who she was and her name is Stacey. She said that she believes in God and isn't really religious but said that she just really felt like she needed to come here today.  She loved the gospel principles lesson and then left afterwards.  We gave her a Book of Mormon and are going back on Friday to teach her!  Preach My Gospel talks about finding those who are prepared.  "Either He will lead you to them or He will lead them to you."  He sure led her to us!  Also our new investigator, Dyles, came to Mount Ward.  And John and Rangi and Maddysen (returning less-actives) all come every week.  Jeanette comes most weeks.  We’ve been teaching lessons about tithing to less-actives and they committed to pay it!  It's so, so, so fun to watch people change and come to Christ!

Another story like that was after church.  This dear lady moved into our boundaries from Greerton Ward.  She is in her 30’s, single, and kind of reminds me of Felicity from the Nauvoo Pageant.  Her name is Marie and is so wonderful!  She's from England and joined the church in the Mount Ward three years ago!  So cool!  But she is just barely in our boundaries on this far away, country road.  She is staying in this flash, beautiful house with an amazing view of practically all of Tauranga, the water, and the Mount in the distance!  It's amazing.  But the guy who owns the house is named Neil and we met him last week when we tried to stop by.  He is a self proclaimed "agnostic" and is really open and humble.  He's just a great guy and we had the best time with them.  Marie made the best meal and Crème Brulee (if that's how you spell it) for dessert.  So good!  But we taught the Restoration and it was such a cool lesson.  Her conversion story is really, really cool and Neil agreed to read and pray about the Book of Mormon.  It's really interesting how faith works.  I just know that if he has real intent he will get his answer.  We had just listened to and talked about President Uchtdorf's talk from the Women's Session in Mount Relief Society and I feel like it prepared me so, so well for that lesson!  God's plan is perfect.  So pray for Neil to get his answer. 

But it's been grand to be here!  It's rainy today, but it's been glorious, glorious weather.  I am such a sunshine girl.  I have seen a lot of reasons this week on why I'm still here in Tauranga.  I'm grateful that President was faithful and inspired to leave me even though it seemed like a crazy thing to do.  I have such a purpose here.  I just want to help everyone as much as I possibly can because "The Time is Far Spent". 

I am so grateful for my testimony and the constant strength of the Lord in my life.  Where would I even be without it?  I'm sure I would be an emotional wreck.  But I am praying for more and more faith every day.  I'm so grateful for the atonement of Jesus Christ, the power to change we all have, and the beauty and answers we find in the Book of Mormon.  The church is true folks.  (Sorry I say all the same cliché things about the gospel and my mission every week.  I just really mean them I guess. Haha)

Love you all!

Arohanui,

Sister Clarissa Johnson


Sunday, October 30, 2016

Preaching in Paradise


Kia Ora Whanau,

It's been a week!  Mostly it's been such a beautiful week.  We are to that magical time of year in New Zealand where it's the perfect temperature and the sky is so blue and the clouds are so long and white. ("Aoteroa" is "New Zealand" in Mauri and it means "Land of the Long White Cloud".  There are flowers everywhere that all smell so good.  The ocean is beautiful and it just feels so good to be outside.  Last Monday we did a lot of driving of sisters so we didn't have too much time, but we frolicked on the beach and then had dinner with our dearest Sister Rudo and Sister Leath.  I love how it is fun to be with people of all different ages and be their friend.

This week I went on exchanges with the Otumoetai Sisters.  And tenderest mercy ever:  they got a car!  They have a huge, spread out, super hilly area, so that was wonderful.  I went with Sister Tufariua and had the best time.  She is the sweetest person.  I loved her in the MTC and now we are serving together.  She's from Tahiti!  But we had a good exchange and ate at Brother Kohu's.  Brother Kohu is one of the star missionaries of Tauranga.  He gave me the words of Savior Redeemer of My Soul in Mauri.  I'm really excited to learn it.  We got to go to choir practice on that exchange and it was so fun!  It's the marae choir and it's full of Maoris with great big voices.  They don't worry too much about blending but they are really good at harmonizing.  I loved it!  When I got back with Sister Welker we went straight to the Rikihanas (family in the Mount Ward) to do service.  It was a beautiful day and I hadn't done yard work for ages.  We pulled weeds in the hot sun and I just enjoyed it so much.  They had these shovel/spade things and I was SOO fast!  I pride myself on my strong manual labor on my mission.  I must have got that from my dad.  But that night we also had a cottage evening. We gave the lesson and did the same one we did at a different cottage evening (it was all different people).  We played picture telephone and then related it to the apostasy and restoration.  Then we had everyone share how the restoration affects their lives.  It was really spiritual and good.  Then they had us all play Mafia.  It was really fun but really the worst because I get so competitive and then no one even listens to Elder Tahiata and I even though we are telling the truth.  They killed us and eventually the mafia.  But it was alright.

So this week we kind of realized that many of our investigators are working through different things and just need steady support, even when their progress is slower.  It's so good for me to remember that everyone has their own individual path and timing.  Sometimes I need to remember that Heavenly Father's timing is perfect even if I have to be patient.  I just want everyone to have the blessings of the gospel today!  But we have been focusing on finding new investigators and we've had heaps of success, which kind of never happens!  We were talking to people on the beach by the Mount one day, which we haven't tried here yet.  But we randomly walked up to a woman and introduced ourselves.  She told us that she is a less-active member from Auckland and Brother Waetford (Welcome Bay High Counselor over missionary work) is her uncle.  We started teaching and testifying that God is still mindful of her, she started crying.  She said that us seeing her that day was a sign that she needs to come back.  We are sending her details to the sisters in Auckland so they can visit her.  It was just so cool that out of all the days and times and people we could have talked to, we met her.  Heavenly Father definitely knows!

Also, Bishop Crawford told us to visit this family in the Mount Ward.  We went and their cousin/nephew was there.  He's 17 and has been to church with them a few times.  We offered to come back and visit his family and we invited him to church.  Well he didn't come because he unexpectedly had to work, but his mom and sister and cousin all came and are excited for us to start teaching them.  It was a miracle!

We've also been working with Chasidy a lot.  I would just do anything in the world for that girl.  We are trying to help her find a job.  She's been working construction a little bit but it's really crazy, hard hours with Arepa.  She is so brave!  We had a trunk-or-treat in Welcome Bay and she came and she also came to church, even with just two hours of sleep!  She has tenacity if anyone does.  We dressed up as well and it was so fun!  I was Cruella Devil but you couldn't really tell.  I looked a little awkward but it was still fun.  Sister Lewis tried to rat my hair to make it big, but it didn't really work.  Sister Welker was Repunzel and looked great and wore purple and made a flower chain for her hair and had a frying pan.  It was great!  While we were there we met Sister Gudgeon.  She had just gotten home from her mission in Brazil the day before.  All my dear missionary friends that have served in Gisborne talk about the amazing Gudgeon family.  Well they used to live in Welcome Bay so they were there.  It was really cool to meet her and talk with her.  Then the next day we took her out teaching with us.  I could just tell that she was a really, really amazing missionary!  She talked with everyone and I think she was surprized at the rejection rate.  She said that it was rare for someone to say no to them!  That's South America for you.  After this week, I have a new goal/commitment to talk with everyone extra diligently for the rest of my mission!

Yesterday, the Prestons spoke in church and it was kind of their final talks before they move back to the states.  I just love that family with all my heart and soul.  They all cried and we cried listening to them.  Sister Preston and Hope sang "I'm Trying to Be Like Jesus" and it was so dear.  I love the name "Hope" and Hope Preston and I have the same birthday!  I think I better name one of my daughters "Hope" someday.  I just love being a missionary.

I'm so grateful for the way I've learned to look at people since I've been on my mission.  I'm learning to see who they can be instead of who they are.  I am learning to love the sinner and hate the sin and be compassionate.  I have lots to learn but New Zealand and the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ have taught me a lot  I am so blessed!

Have a wonderful week and keep pressing forward!  Read the Book of Mormon.  Seriously, just read it because it's the best book on earth.  Feed the missionaries, give them people to teach, and teach with them and you will be happy!

Arohanui,

Sister Clarissa Johnson