Sunday, January 31, 2016

We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet

Yellow has always been her favorite color!
Kia Ora!!!!
 
Sorry this email is a novel, but this week was so crazy and wonderful!  So much happened!  Monday we went to the waterfall again but this time with the Bellblock Sisters and I didn't even hurt myself!  We also had a dinner appointment with the Webers and had hamburgers that aren't fast food, salad with bleu cheese in it, and corn on the cob--three things I haven't had since I've been in New Zealand.  Sometimes I really love the Americans in our branch.  We also taught the Webers a lesson about Joseph Smith and the Restoration and asked how the gospel has blessed their lives.  Then we challenged each of them to give a Book of Mormon away to a friend before February 10th.  Then we role played with them and practiced doing it!  So that was really great.  We want to do that with everyone in the branch.  Tuesday we had a great district meeting and almost died of heatstroke (well that's an exaggeration, but almost). 
 
Wednesday we went to Emma's for our lesson and her friend Michael, who we'd never met, happened to be there.  Well it turns out he's the one that has been putting all the doubts in her head.  He was super, super anti-Mormon and quickly set in to telling us a thousand smart sounding ways why the church is not true.  We tried to answer his first few concerns, but we soon realized that he was indeed NOT an honest seeker of truth at all.  We tried to bear our testimonies but he kept interrupting us.  We even had Sister McIlroy and she shared a scripture but he just kept talking over her too.  Emma was really stressed and felt bad and didn't know what to think.  Finally I said, "We have an appointment.  I'm sorry.  It was good to talk to you, but we don't want to be late."  And we left.  But it was so cool though how past experiences and the current strength of my testimony was enough that it didn't shake me at all.  It made me think about the line in "We Thank Thee Oh God for a Prophet that says "We've proved Him in days that are past".  Because I already know that the restored gospel is real I don't have to wonder anymore.  And the fact there is so much opposition makes me realize that the church is even more true.  Satan only fights against truth, so it MUST be true. 
 
After a regular (hot) day of missionary work, the Zone Leaders called at like 10 pm, which is a fairly regular thing.  But they had extra exciting news.  This is the story.  Elder D. Todd Christofferson was planning to visit Vanuatu this week, but the runways at the airport there are so bad that they won't let anyone fly into Vanuatu right now.  (Hopefully they can fix that up in time for Sister Namariel to go home.)  But he was already in Samoa so he wanted to still go somewhere so he decided to, as he said, "Come visit the beautiful and handsome missionaries in New Zealand."
 
So Friday we went to Hamilton and stayed in our favorite hotel. :D  We had 12 sisters in the room that reminds me of the dwarves' cottage in Snow White: the eight Taranaki sisters and the four Gisborne sisters (two of which were Sister Pulotu and Sister Ye who are companions!!!).  We had to get up at 4:30 to get ready and leave.  We wanted to be super early to Auckland to get good seats.  Well we stopped at McDonalds and then we got the chapel (the one right by the MTC).  But they had like three rows reserved for the MTC missionaries, but our zone got into the fourth and fifth rows!  I had a great seat!  And I got to sit by Sister Urgel!!!! She is just doing great and I LOVE being with her.  We are definitely kindred spirits.
But the meeting was amazing!!!  All 500 missionaries from both missions got to shake his hand at the beginning!  Then Elder and Sister Pearson, the Pacific Area President, and Sister and Elder Christofferson spoke!  I really love the Area Presidency here.  Elder Pearson said something that I so, so needed to hear!  He talked about in Doctrine and Covenants 4 it says "See that ye serve Him with all your heart, might, mind and strength that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day."  I'd been thinking about that a lot before then.  But then he said that the function of how well we stand blameless before God at the last day is NOT how many people we help get baptised, but it is a function of how well we serve with all our heart, might, mind, and strength every single day.  That was perfect counsel for me.  Then when Elder Christofferson spoke, he invited us to ask questions.  About four questions were asked and everything that was said was so good.  Then he said that we had time for one or two more questions (it ended up being only one).  I was SO nervous, but I had a question.  The whole time I'd been thinking about it and writing it down and rewording it.  But I shot my hand up before I could talk myself out of it and Elder Christofferson pointed at me, I stood up, and they brought me a microphone.  I said, "I love the part in Preach My Gospel that talks about becoming a successful missionary, but can you expand more on how we can really know that the Lord is pleased with our offering as missionaries?"  Well he gave the best answer!  And he looked right at me when he talked.  He said that that is something that we all want, to have the Lord tell us, "Well done, my good and faithful servant", but to not worry too much about it but just to focus on those we serve.  Then he talked about the enabling power of the atonement and at the end he gave an amazing apostolic promise that we would be protected and strengthened now and throughout our lives.  He said that God would see us through this mortal experience and that we would be able to know that He is pleased with us.  He said that we will be rewarded for the good that we want to do, the good that we would do if we could.  It was so powerful for me because even though I pretty much knew already everything he was saying, I really believed that he was talking to me.  I could feel right then how real our Heavenly Father is and that He does love me more than I can know and that He IS proud of me!  Afterwards a whole bunch of missionaries told me how good my question was.  So that was great.
But that was another WONDERFUL thing this week!  It was so fun to be with the other missionaries.  Our Taranaki Zone has got to be the best missionary zone in the world.  Everyone is so good and fun to be around.  We are all so united and focused on our purpose and we just strengthen each other so much.  I wish that they could just be my friend group forever.  I should try to convince them all to go to BYU someday and we can somehow be in the same ward.  But I just love it.  I feel like my confidence and individual worth has grown so much lately.  I am doing my best and taking care of myself and working hard and I can just be myself and all these great missionaries around me just love and accept me!  I don't know.  It's just great.  On the way home we stopped at a grass clearing by the beach.  We played this game that my sisters would love and I was the last sister in!  But an Elder beat me.  But then they invited me to sing.  I sang "Savior Reedemer of My Soul".  That was fun.  I just am so blessed to be here in the New Zealand Hamilton mission.  It's evidence that God really knows me.  My call was inspired.
Also, our companionship is doing amazingly well lately.  I just so love Sister Pantoja and we both learn from, support, and help each other.  I really wish that we had more people to teach.  We are doing everything we can to find those that are prepared and I know that as we keep doing our all and try to rely on the Spirit, we will find them! 
Heaps of love,
Sister Clarissa Johnson
 


Sunday, January 24, 2016

The Time is Far Spent


Kia Ora,

Hello!  Hello!  Hello!  I am in such a good mood because I just read the email of my dear Christine Xiao from Hamilton East. She is Chinese but she was born in Indonesia.  We are kindred spirits in every sense of the word.  We took her out on tons of lessons and she is beautiful.  She wasn't sure if she would serve a mission.  But we've been emailing back and forth and she just sent me and Sister Urgel an email with a picture of her mission call!!!!!!  She's going to Indonesia!  It made me cry.  I just love the gospel.  She will be a wonderful missionary.

But the title of my email is doubly significant because it relates to the amount of time I have left to email and the song we sang at Zone Meeting this week.  I don't have time to write the words, but it is a great song!  I challenge each of you to sing it this week.  Will you do it?  I know you will be blessed if you do!  Singing hymns brings the spirit.  I love the hymnbook.  Haha but this week we had our Zone Meeting straight into watching the Worldwide Missionary Broadcast from Salt Lake.  They were both so good.  I just felt on fire afterwards.  I just want to serve the Lord with all my heart, might, mind, and strength every day for the rest of my life.  I love the unity of missionaries here in Taranaki.  We are all so spread out, but maybe that helps unite us.  I just feel like we are this little family or army trying to help people here in Taranaki.  It's the promised land even though it's hard work here! 

But I am on the biggest self improvement kick of my life!  I just want to get better at everything and I just want to help as many people as I can!  But this week has had opposition in all things.  Emma is doing well in some respects.  She's been reading the scriptures heaps and praying and she came to church. I can feel the powers of good and evil so strongly working with her.  She has all these new doubts and concerns about all of these doctrinal points.  It's been really fun and sometimes really exhausting to try to answer all her questions.  I love answering hard questions, but I know that the real answer isn't about all those little concerns.  It's about the restored gospel in general.  If she understands that the Book of Mormon really is the word of God than she will know that Joseph Smith was a prophet, that Jesus was the Savior and Redeemer of the World, and that the church is true.  It will come as she keeps reading and praying.  It's interesting how testimonies come.  They aren't lightning bolt experiences, but they are just as real.  The quiet power of the Holy Ghost is so real. 

But we took Sister Malili with us to see Linda and Ashley.  I was so nervous to go back because I wanted them to have decided to keep learning and coming to church.  I fasted again for them and went there fasting.  Before we went, Brother Malili gave us the best little talk/inspirational thought/pep talk.  They are the coolest couple. Unfortunately, Linda and Ashley decided that they don't want to come to church anymore or meet with us.  I was so crushed.  But Sister Malili gave a talk on Sunday about how she and Brother Malili had been praying for them and how someday they will accept the gospel.  It made me cry.  Sometimes God gives us miracles in different ways or different timing than we are expecting. 

But we made this hardcore transfer plan and we've been meeting with the Elders to make a branch mission plan!  So that is great.  I know that miracles will keep coming as we do our part.  We found seven new investigators this week, even though I don't know how solid some of them are. 

In other news, I got a haircut (just a trim, but it curls better now and looks nicer on the ends), we are getting a Senior Couple in our branch in the next two weeks (!!!!), and we are going to start having sports nights on Fridays for all the branch investigators/less actives/members who want to come.  So that's exciting. 

But I love you all!  It's SO hot here so appreciate the cold in America. :D  I'll appreciate the heat here for you.  Haha

Arohanui,

Sister Clarissa Johnson 


Sunday, January 17, 2016

Knock! Knock! Knock!

P-Day at a waterfall with Sister Pantoja

Kiora Whanau,

Can you hear the sound of us knocking on doors?  We are getting creative and do the rhythms of songs on different doors.  We have lots of different patterns.  We've come to a place where we have really sifted through all the investigators and have stopped visiting many of them because they don't have real intent or are not really interested in our message. It feels good to step away from some of the "eternal investigators" and put our energy into finding new investigators that really want to hear our message! I just know that the Lord prepares people for the message. They are here in New Plymouth and like Preach My Gospel says, He will lead us to them or He will them to us. 

Transfers came and went without notice in New Plymouth.  All four of us (we call ourselves the fantastic four) are staying!  Except, did I tell you last week?  They are doing it differently now.  Instead of having "transfer meeting" in Hamilton, everyone just has to bus to their area by themselves and leave their bedding and bikes in their old area.  A lot of people were not very happy about that.  Elder Egbert left to Gisborn and had a 12 hour bus ride.  Poor guy!

This week has been kind of hard, but I am still happy!  Monday we went to Dawson Falls which is a beautiful waterfall!  There were six of us sisters there and guess who slipped on a wet rock and hit their leg?  You're right.  It was me.  I had this enormous goose egg (I thought goose eggs only happened on your head, but I guess not) and now the entire front of my leg is super black and blue and is still super tender.  I can't kneel.  (But I still pray.  Don't worry about that!)  But speaking of that, I'm strengthening my calf muscles today.  There are randomly a million people at the library today and I've been doing my emailing in 15 minute increments at a computer where you have to stand up.  But it's so good!  I'm still going strong on my no sugar plan.  I was offered ice cream THREE times this week!  But I am invincible.  Emma and Sister Pantoja said that my arms and face look thinner but I don't know if that's true because it hasn't even been three weeks of doing this.  

Emma is still doing well but she has so many struggles.  I am trying to see her as God sees her.  She is a brave lady.  She has two sons Brook and Thomas.  Thomas is the older one.  He's 12. The young president, bless his heart, came and met him and invited him to their surfing activity, but Thomas didn't go.  Emma has only partial custody of her kids but she had Thomas on Sunday and he refused to go to church so they both stayed home.  We are trying to think of ways to help Thomas. 

We had a combined fast with the Elders for Linda and Ashley.  We called them and invited them to church but they said they wouldn't be able to make it.  We will visit them hopefully this Saturday because they still want a break.  I'm praying so hard for them. 

But I am growing to love this branch more and more all the time.  We've been visiting members and serving and teaching them and trying to help and encourage them to do missionary work.  We will keep working on that. The whole focus of Sabbath being a delight is working out for me.  I just love going to church. 

This week I have really been focusing on becoming as 100% consecrated as I can. Of course I sure fall short but I just want to show the Lord that I am giving my will to Him in everything I do, say, and think. The members will trust us with their friends and the Lord will trust us with His children if we just continue to press forward and be hardworking, happy, loving, personable, and strive to always follow the Spirit. I probably say this every week, but missions are so good for people. I am learning so much!  It's so true that when life is hard you can decide if it's going to bring out the best in you or the worst in you.  I've had a bit of both this week.  I just know that miracles always, always come after the trial of our faith.  And each trial of faith prepares us for the next trial of faith.  And then when you keep going the best you can the miracle is even sweeter when it comes.  I love the feeling of giving my all to the Lord.  When the days are long and SUPER hot and no one wants to talk to us, I think about the pioneers and Jesus Christ's sacrifice and some of the new converts I've met on my mission that have given so, so much for the gospel.  Suddenly my life doesn't seem all that hard.  Olivia sent me a little, cute block that says "There is always something to be thankful for."  That is so true. 

This week I was especially grateful for my cute new journal, my bed, prayer, personal and companionship study, sacrament meeting, nature, and the TWO dinner appointments we had this week!!!  I’m thankful that God cares enough about us to give us personalized experiences that make us better.  I'm thankful for the progressing investigator that we do have and the miracles that are just around the corner.  In the meantime, we will be knocking! :D

Arohanui,

Sister Clarissa Johnson

P.S. Oh so this is crazy.  Next transfer (not this one that’s just starting, but the next one) will be eight weeks long instead of six like normal.  It's because the MTC is going to start keeping missionaries for three weeks again instead of only 12 days so the intakes will be different.  So that changes when everyone goes home.  I don't know how that will work.  But I love you so much everyone!  Keep being the amazing people you are!



We washed dishes for two hours!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Shall the Youth of Zion Falter?


The Malilis.

Kiora!

I have so much to say!  This week has been crazy but really, really good.  It was definitely my favourite week in New Plymouth yet.  We are still working with Emma.  She is just so, so prepared and ready for the gospel!  But on Tuesday we came to her house and she said that there was this crazy lady who had been coming to her house every day asking for cigarettes.  Emma said that this lady had turned all her furniture upside down and that she needed help.  So we went with Emma to this lady's house and it is a really awful house.  It was so dirty and the floor and walls were just concrete and there was hardly any stuff there.  She had all her furniture stacked in a corner really high and all tipped over precariously.  The TV was shattered and there weren't any clothes or food or anything there.  This lady wanted us to help move all her furniture outside because she thought she was getting new furniture.  We could tell that she had mental disabilities because she said that she'd known me for 50 years and she thought she was in Poland and all this crazy stuff.  Somehow I knew she wasn't getting new furniture.  I asked her if she knew anyone else or if anyone came to check on her.  She said no.  So my companion was moving all her stuff outside and Emma was really stressed and didn't know what to do and was trying to take care of her (adorable) son Brook.  I asked Emma if she knew the number of the hospital.  She did so I got to the crisis people and told them about it and they said they would come around to check and then later took her to the hospital.  So that was crazy!  I felt like Heavenly Father set that up so we could help her. 

Wednesday we went on exchanges.  We drove to Stratford, which is an adorable little town, and stayed with those sisters for the night.  The drive was beautiful.  I got exchange with Sister Likuborebore, the Sister Training Leader, who is probably the best sister missionary in the world. She is a convert and the only member of her family.  She is really little and cute and from Fiji.  We had SO much fun and I loved working with her.  I could feel of her spirit and it was a great example to me.  So that was wonderful. 

Thursday and Friday we had a bunch of awesome member present lessons with Emma and Linda and Ashley.  We taught Emma at Kira Brown's flat and we took three different members to Linda and Ashley, read in the Book of Mormon with them, and taught them tithing. It was the best lesson ever and Sister Malili shared a powerful experience and testimony about tithing.   

Yesterday (Sunday) might have been the craziest day of my life.  President Coles asked me to speak in sacrament meeting 9 minutes before it started.  He said to take 12 minutes.  So I was stressed about that.  Then our investigator Emma came to church like we had set up.  And our investigator Kylee came to church!!!  She is Brother Robert's (the Branch Mission Leader) daughter in-law. AND our less active's adorable Filipino mother in law came!  AND Ashley came!  Except Linda didn't come.  Ashley said it was because she wasn't very happy about the principle of tithing we'd taught them and was worried about how they could pay it.  But my talk went well.  It wasn't 12 minutes but at the end I told them that I would like to sing my testimony.  I sang the first and last verses of "How Great Thou Art" and I made three of our four investigators there cry! :D  So I was happy about that.

Then after a wonderful dinner with the Malilis, we went over to our appointment at Linda and Ashley's.  Keep in mind that they love us, that Ashley had been to church that same day, and that the sisters had been going there since before I came to New Plymouth.  Well we get out of the car and right away their neighbour comes marching out to us and starts yelling at us terribly!  He said the f word probably 100 times . . . seriously.  He told us to new come back and to leave their street alone and that Linda and Ashley didn't want us.  He was so mean and scary but I just couldn't believe that it was really happening.  He said he'd call the police if we weren't gone in five minutes.  I said, "But they are expecting us.  We have an appointment."  Of course he didn't care.  Sister Pantoja was in tears at this point so we left.  We parked in some shade a little ways away and immediately the Elders called us (to ask if we'd already left the Malilis so they could go).  But we told them what happened.  They said that they wanted to come with us when we went back.  So I called Linda and Ashley and told them what happened and they were so sorry about their neighbour and that they'd lent them some beans and just mentioned that Linda was concerned about having to pay tithing.  But they said to come over again now.  So we called the Elders and marched into the fire!  The neighbour was still outside pacing around.  He got right in the Elders faces and was swearing just as loud at them.  They were really calm and great and just said "Don't swear."  "We are just here to try to protect the sisters."  So we knocked on Linda and Ashley's door.  They motioned for us to come in.  But I thought, "No, you should probably come out."  So Ashley, the gentlest, sweetest guy ever, went over and told the neighbors it was ok and that they wanted us there.  The guy left, still screaming and threatening. 

So we had a really, really good talk with Linda and Ashley.  Sister Pantoja (poor girl . . . I just love her to bits) was still crying and was really stressed out and scared.  I was fine though. (A little part of me thought it was all quite exciting).  Ashley (who we found out was an All Black and played with Sid Going!!!) is ready to get baptized tomorrow but Linda is hesitant and was really shook up by all the drama.  They said they will continue to read and pray and maybe come to church and think about it but that we should wait to come back for two weeks.  We will keep calling them.  I just love them so much and want them to be happy.  Well, the Elders were waiting in their car when we came out.  They had called President Rudd and Brother Huntley in our ward who used to be a bishop and is a policeman.  Brother Huntley asked us what had happened and then went and talked to Linda and Ashley and the neighbors and it ended up so well.  He told us and the Elders to wait outside until he was done.  It took over an hour.  We didn't get home until 9:47!  But it was just a crazy time.  Brother Huntley said that the neighbour had finally apologized to him and that he would stay in contact with them. 

It was just crazy because we didn't cause any of this to happen.  We didn't even call anyone to help us.  The Elders happened to call us.  But it is so true that that experience is proof that the church is true.  Satan would only fight against us like that if he knew something wonderful was going to happen.  When we are persecuted for righteousness sake we join a club of those who have been persecuted before us like Jesus Christ, Abinadi, Paul, and Joseph Smith!  I'm proud to be in that club.

But really, this week has been wonderful!  I don't know what the change was, but I suddenly just have so, so much love for the New Plymouth Branch.  When I was sitting on the stand at church I just was overwhelmed with love and gratitude that I am here.  It is so, so true that the Lord puts us where he needs us and where we need to be.  I just so, so, so love being a missionary!  We've had so many spiritual experiences with Emma, in studies, in planning, and even in our crazy experiences!  We find out transfer news either today or tomorrow and I will continue to trust the Lord.  Sister Pantoja will probably leave me. :(  But we shall see!

I know that God is so real.  He is watching out for you!  Talk to a stranger today.  Make a friend.  Share your testimony through your light and the spirit that's in you.

LOVE,

Your favourite sister missionary (maybe . . . it's ok if it's not)
Sister Johnson



If you are like Clarissa's mom and don't know who the All Blacks are, they're a rugby team.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Happy 2016

                                                 This picture is from an artsy museum.


Hello,

My goodness!  Can you believe it's 2016?  Yeah me neither.  It's been such a good week to really focus on the work and go as hard as we can. Missionary work is like anything worth doing. It's hard but it's so rewarding. This week our investigators Linda and Ashley finally came to church!!! We were so happy.  They are this adorable old couple that we just love!  It's like "Gone With the Wind".  The guy's name is Ashley.  We worked hard with them all throughout the week, making daily contact, extending commitments and following up, teaching them, and loving them.  They have been meeting with missionaries for ages but they are finally set for baptism on January 23rd.  They are excited to get baptised even though they are working on cutting out coffee.  I'm really excited for them.  I told them about Auntie Kei and how she gave her coffee and threw away her tea bags!  Linda said, "The first problem will be tonight."  They were going to a party and they would be drinking.  I asked Ashley what's something he could say when they offered him alcohol.  He thought really hard for a minute and then said, "No thanks?"  I said, "Yes, that's exactly right!"  Linda didn't drink at all at the party and Ashley had four beers instead of his usual seven or eight.  I guess progress is progress.  We sure pray hard for them.  It's fun here though in some ways because we have a lot fewer people to visit here so we can visit them a lot more often and really, really focus on a few people. 

The Elders found our investigator, Ngaire's, teaching record in their area book so they gave it to us.  She has been meeting with missionaries for over 20 years, and like 4 years in New Plymouth.  She has this copy of the Book of Mormon that she has all the missionaries sign in the front cover.  She has probably thirty missionary signatures, and good, good missionaries that I know.  But she has never been to church in New Plymouth and has hardly kept a commitment.  But I just really like her and we have hope for her so we are going to press forward.  We've been stopping every day to her too.  We've retaught her Lesson 1 and Lesson 2 but we've really, really focused on CPR (which is church/pray/read the scriptures . . . I don't know.  It's what people say.)  But we have been very bold and loving to her and guess what?  She read a chapter in the Book of Mormon.  Now she just needs to come to church.  I can feel her desire growing though, so I have faith. 

This week we have really been working on developing trust with the members and trying to get referrals from them.  I really do love the members of our branch!  It's a cute little group!  And I've just decided that regardless of what has happened in the past with previous missionaries, Sister Pantoja and I can be hardworking, approachable, loving, and just do our best. I think that we've already made some progress.  It's not about us anyway.  It's about the work of salvation!

Oh, one awesome member of our branch is Kira Brown.  Have I told you about her?  She's 19 and just married a Kiwi and is in our branch now.  She is from Alpine Utah and I just love her.  She gave a Book of Mormon to her neighbour (it auto corrects like that with the "u" . . . silly New Zealand :D), Emma.  But it was really a miracle!  Emma has had pretty much the hardest life you can ever, ever imagine but she wants to turn it around and be happy!  I just feel so blessed to have what these people need.  It humbles me.  I'm excited to keep working with her and see her grow. 

So I think I've said this before, but something that I am just loving on my mission is studying! I love the scriptures, Ensigns, and the missionary library. Personal study is always the fastest hour of the day. I also love in our companion study, sharing what we learned with each other. One of the best ways to really learn something is to explain it to someone else and apply it. That's why missions are so great. We get to teach and apply the gospel in our lives every day.

Oh and I forget to tell you what we did for New Year's Eve!  We got permission to have the Bell Block Sisters sleep over (I guess all the Taranaki missionaries did this) and we got to stay up until midnight in our flat.  We had the funnest time, even though the time flew by!  We played hide and seek (that was mostly a fail in our little flat) and Scattergories.  It was great.  But at midnight we went outside and cheered and jumped around and then we sang "Called to Serve" very exuberantly (well I was exuberant anyway!)  And I have a bunch of New Years Resolutions (like I do).  The hardest one is that I'm not going to eat sugar during the month of January.  It has already been SO hard.  No one ever gives us food and in the last few days everyone we know has been giving us delicious New Zealand chocolate.  And my health nut companion decided to by a chocolate bar this week.  But I am persevering.  I'll be so thin you won't believe it by February!   

But life is great.  I love my companion!  The days are long but the weeks are flying by. I love, love, love serving the Lord.  The more that I forget about my selfish desires and hand my will over to the Lord, the happier I am! The church is so true.  :D

Arohanui,

Sister Johnson