Sunday, April 24, 2016

Welcome to Welcome Bay!

Hello!  Hello!  Hello!

What a week it has been.  It was the craziest transfer week of my mission so far.  But I've been transferred to Tauranga!  Someone told me that it's the Florida of New Zealand and that seems about accurate.  Everyone comes to retire here.  It's gorgeous and the people seem so great!  And the houses are really pretty and nice.  But saying goodbye to New Plymouth was so hard!  I cried and got spoiled and rushed around seeing everyone just like in Hamilton East.  Skye and her family took us (actually it was Sister Flake and I on exchanges) to lunch in Egmont Village to a fancy restaurant.  It was so nice.  They gave me all these special healthy, sugar free snacks for the bus ride and this cute kiwi keychain.  It was so hard to say goodbye to the wonderful Browns (we are going to be friends) and Kelly and Kylee!

But then Sister Gunderson (who was getting transferred to Claudelands) and I rode the bus together.  The bus stopped in Te Kuiti for 20 minutes so we could buy dinner.  Well we went to the bathroom and then ordered Chinese food.  Because it's expensive New Zealand, mine cost like $10.  So I paid my $10 and then we waited for ages and it was never ready but then these girls came running up to the shop and told us that our bus driver had left us.  So we ran out and it was driving away.  It was so scary!  We didn't even have a phone.  But then it turned around and picked us up.  But we didn't get our food.  So I was starving to death and $10 poorer. Is that not the saddest story you've ever heard?

But that bus was like an hour late so I missed my second bus to Tauranga.  But those wonderful McGregors (bless their hearts) had it all figured out and got me a new ticket for the next day.  So I had an embarrassingly huge amount of luggage that we had to carry everywhere.  But I got to stay the night in Claudelands with Sister Gunderson and Sister Likuborebore!!!!!  We had so, so, so much fun.  I am so, so sad to see her go.  She finishes this transfer and then Sister Flake the next.  So sad!  But the best part was that I got to go to the Hamilton East flat and then go out with them for the evening.  I led the area (haha).  I went and saw Ripeka and Leanna and her girls and Margarette's family!  It was so wonderful and I cried seeing Ripeka!  So it was totally a tender mercy that I missed my bus.  Then the next morning the Hamilton East Sisters called and said that Auntie Kei (who had been at work the night before) had biked to their flat to see me.  So they drove me (I felt bad. . . I was a high-maintenance guest) to see her.  She is doing so well.  I sure love those people!

But then I got on my bus safely to Tauranga.  It was weird being companionless, but I made friends with this random 15 year old kid who sat next to me.  He was into hunting and fishing and would have fit right in in Wells.

But then I met my companion, Sister Havea.  She is from Tonga and let me tell you, she is wonderful!  She is such a good missionary.  She is good and fun and hardworking and I already can tell that we are going to have a wonderful transfer.  And I'm (in mission language) killing her!  Sad.  It's her last transfer.  But we are going to smash Tauranga.  It's crazy though because we cover two wards and a huge amount of area.  We have to drive 15 minutes on the highway to get to church.  And compared to Taranaki at least, there are so many people and wonderful members.  And especially with two wards we get fed heaps.  But I have to be firm with my sugar thing.  It's going to be a lot harder here.

Our flat was not quite as clean as I might have hoped and dreamed, but we cleaned it really well this morning so I feel much happier about that. 

So every week we get to go to six hours of church.  One ward starts at 9 and the other starts at 1 with choir practice in between (which is so fun).  So pretty much we fast every Sunday.  Haha  But when I bore my testimony in both wards I sang "I Feel My Savior's Love" and everyone loved it.  I feel like that's how I make friends . . .I sing.  But really, everyone is so nice.  I think there will be lots of opportunities to use music here so I'm excited.

And in Welcome Bay ward we have a new ward mission leader.  He is fresh off of his mission in the Dominican Republic and he's on fire.  I'm so, so excited!  The ward mission leader makes such a difference.  His mom is from Utah and he has a bunch of younger siblings.  They are the Preston family.  I think I will love them!

Well, I'm running out of time.  But I'm just so glad that Heavenly Father took care of me.  I was so nervous to get transferred but I just prayed to Heavenly Father telling him that whatever he did with me (area, companion, whatever) that I would trust him and be happy with it because I know that it's ultimately for my best.  When I heard transfer news I just felt peace. 

Elder Holland says, "You can have what you want or you can have something better."  I feel like this week God gave me something better!  That's my new favourite quote! Oh and also, I'm the Sister Training Leader again here so I can go on exchanges with my girls, Sister Urgel and Sister Namariel, who are both here!!!!

Love,

Sister Johnson


Sunday, April 17, 2016

The New Plymouth Life

Kia Ora Whanau!

It was a very eventful week in the life of the New Plymouth sister missionaries.  The most recent event was ten minutes ago in this very library, two angry Maori guys got into a fist fight.  The police had to come and break it up.  It was crazy.  I was just sitting here emailing and hear all this commotion. 

But other than that, we had our last District Meeting on Tuesday.  It was on the importance of family in the gospel.  We were given like three minutes to ponder and write down all the ways the gospel has blessed our families. I pulled out my picture of my family and just cried.  We are so, so blessed to have the gospel.  I just wish everyone had a wonderful family in the gospel.  I guess that's why I'm here. 

Wednesday, we went on exchanges with the Hawera Sisters.  We left the two non-drivers together so it was a lot of driving for me.  But my word!  New Zealand sure is beautiful.  Only, there aren't many fall colors.  I guess in every season, the color is green!  But I got to exchange with Sister Gunderson from Oregon.  She is just being trained and she is wonderful! She went to BYU and we didn't even know each other.  I guess there are a lot of people at that place.  But we had so many miracles happen on our exchange.  Wonderful Sister Snow said the prayer to begin our exchange and prayed that we'd all be able to invite someone to be baptized on May 14th like President challenged us to.  I had already been thinking, "Who in the world are we going to invite?"  But I obviously didn't have enough faith.  We FINALLY had a lesson with Krystel.  She's the one that Sister Flake and I met on the way home from MLC in the fish and chips shop who lives below the Elders' flat.  But she has met with missionaries before and the lesson was really, really spiritual.  We invited her to be baptized, and she said YES!  Unfortunately she couldn't come to church because she had worked night shift.  But she felt bad she couldn't come and is excited for next week. She said that she misses going to church a lot. 

Friday, the Elders got us permission to attend the Malili's son, Sioli's, funeral.  It was such a sad, sad thing.  The Malilis were gone to Australia when they found out their 36 year old son had been killed in a car accident by Opunake.  He had a wife and four little kids.  But there were so many people at the funeral, mostly Samoans.  Let me tell you, I LOVE Samoans so much!  But we were passing out programs and we had a lot but we ran out!  My heart just goes out to the wife in Opunake so much, but the Malilis were such a picture of love, peace, and goodness during the whole thing.  They both spoke and just made me cry so much.  They are the salt of earth in every way.  We are just so incredibly blessed to know about the Plan of Salvation.  There was just such a visible difference between those who really had internalized the gospel and those who didn't know about it.  I love the Malilis!

Saturday, we got to help at the Marai outside of New Plymouth with the Bellblock Sisters.  I always love doing that.  We harvested some kind of legume things (Mr. Noorda would have known what they were) and picked a million tomatoes!  Then we rushed home to beautify ourselves for Ava's baptism!  It was such a beautiful day.  We've been working on this for over a month.  Ava is only eight so it was technically not a convert baptism, but she was nervous to get baptized in the font and hates doing things in front of people, but we finally set it up to have her baptism at the swimming pool where she takes swimming lessons.  It was a very, very small group.  But I was proud of the nice program that we made with Skye.  And I got to sing and speak at the baptism.  I made Ava a little book that I (very poorly) tried to illustrate.  It was about all the different roles and blessings we get from the gift of the Holy Ghost.  And I sang a combination of "I Feel My Savior's Love" and "When I Am Baptized".  And it was so special to see her grandpa, John (Vicki's husband) who is a recent convert and a newly-made priest, baptize his granddaughter.  I just loved it!

Yesterday was probably my last Sunday at church! :(  I am excited to have a new adventure, but I never dreamed of how much I'd grow to absolutely love New Plymouth and the people here!  Sister Jones told me that she wishes that she hadn't been so busy and had us over more.  We connected over music!  And Skye is just a kindred spirit for sure!  I have loved growing with her and seeing her testimony grow.  And I will cry saying goodbye to Kira Brown. We came here at the same time and were both a little overwhelmed.  We've needed each other so much through these last five months.  And I will miss Krete and Luke!  They are so cool!   We just taught them the Word of Wisdom and especially Krete is on fire!  They just so want to choose the right.  Luke has been smoking since he was seven so it will be hard for him to quit, but I know he can do it!

The gospel is true!  The church is true!  And I have another new favorite scripture to add to the list.  It's Doctrine and Covenants 130:2.  Look it up! 

Have a wonderful week!!! 

Love,

Sister Clarissa Johnson


The pictures are pancakes on her birthday (with a lovely birthday bow), the sisters at Paritutu, and the Malilis.


Sunday, April 10, 2016

General Conference!!!


Hello!!!

It's been such a great week.  I decided to make an extra conscious effort to serve with all of my heart, might, mind, and strength in every way this week.  I did the best I could and it was good.  It's been a bit of a struggle with daylight savings though.  Suddenly it is dark really early and town just shuts down.  Like everyone was out until like 8:45 in the light and then the time change happened and they all suddenly go to bed at seven.  There are barely cars on the road and most people we try to visit in especially the eight o'clock hour get kind of mad at us because they are going to bed.  We have a part member family and a recent convert we can visit, but we want to branch out and use our time as wisely as possible.  It's kind of rough.

But we had the best lesson EVER this week with our investigators Krete and Luke.  We are working on teaching from the scriptures more.  So we read part of 3 Nephi 27 with them and talked about what things they could do to get to heaven and return to live with God.  Then they picked out the steps faith, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end.  Then we did this object lesson that involved making Luke jump from one side of the room to the other, which represented heaven.  He was a long jumper once upon a time and he could jump really far but he could never get all the way to the other side of the room until we let him use sticky note "stepping stones" that had the first principles and ordinances on them.  It made me realize how dependent we all are on Jesus Christ.  Without his gospel, even if we are really talented or successful or whatever, can never get anywhere.

It's been so cool to see Krete and Luke change.  When we first started teaching them, Luke was really skeptical and just kind of made fun of it a little.  He said he only believed in aliens.  But now he is humble and such an eager learner.  He just wants to do what is right.  He said that even though coming to church was WAY out of his comfort zone, he was surprised that he felt so comfortable being there.  No matter who we are, we have that divine nature and we belong in holy places.  I just can see their potential so much!  I just want them to have a temple marriage someday.  Of course they have a long way to go before they get there, but that's why we do all of this anyway. 

But the highlight of the week was General Conference!!!  Holy cow!  There's just something about being a missionary that makes General Conference like better than Christmas.  All week we taught all of our investigators about how we have a living prophet on the earth today, how that is such a blessing and how we can hear from him and his apostles this week!!!  It just made me more excited.  No one else has that.  We have living revelation to guide us and help us understand how to best live the gospel in our day.  There was almost nobody at the Saturday sessions.  Good thing all the missionaries were there.  But on Sunday more people came and there was a potluck between sessions so that's fun.  But I just feel like all of my questions were answered and all of my problems were addressed and either solved or I know how to solve them.  I just felt so overwhelmingly blessed to have the gospel.  Then I went out into New Plymouth and saw all the people who don't have it.  This missionary work really is urgent!

But Emma came to conference and so did Skye!!!  We were so happy.  They are such polar opposites but they actually kind of made friends a tiny bit.  Emma took all these notes and had me write the names and callings of all the people for her because she couldn't write them fast enough. 

And Skye came by herself even though her family couldn't come.  She called and made sure she could sit by us.  I assured her that she could!  I so love her!  There are some people that I just connect with extra a lot and Skye is one of those!  I feel like I was sent to this area partially for her.  We have both helped each other a lot.  And her daughter Ava is getting baptized this Saturday and we are very involved with that so that's so exciting!

Sometimes I feel like I kind of ramble on these emails.  But life is good!  If you didn't watch General Conference, I invite you to go to lds.org and look up the talks.  Jeffrey R. Holland is my hero and his made me cry.  Actually, lots of them made me cry!  I know, astonishing!  But really.  It's the best.

Remember that you are children of God.  He loves you so much and you are amazing!  That is your identity and it is your destiny to be happy forever if you just live the gospel the best you can and trust in God.

LOVE,

Sister Clarissa Johnson

P.S.  Thanks to everyone who's emailed me!  I love to hear about your lives.  And if anyone else wants to send me an email, you totally can.  Don't worry about me not having time to read it, because I do and would love to hear from all of you!!!!  Have a good week!



Sunday, April 3, 2016

Kia Ora!







Kia Ora beautiful world!

I hope you all enjoyed General Conference!  I don't get it until next week, but I did watch the Women's Session which I LOVED!!!  Service is the thing to do! 

I had such a week and wish I had more time to tell about it.  I just love you all so much I mostly can't handle it.  I feel like I could write you a long email about each day but I have to combine it into one.  Haha

As you know from last week's email, we didn't get much time to do anything before leaving for Hamilton last Monday.  I sure love our Taranaki road trips!  It might have been my last one.  Isn't that so sad?  But of course we had the best time with the Bellblock Sisters.  I just love them both so much.  We will be friends for life (and possibly roommates at BYU).  We had interviews at President Rudd's house that night and it was so wonderful.  I sure love everyone . . . the whole zone, the assistants, and President and Sister Rudd.  We had the best trainings on how our mornings determine our missions and our lives.  That is so true.  President Rudd talked about learning and knowledge and how we need to learn all we can.  He said that we think we are finished, fully formed people but it's not true.  We can change and become better.  I loved that.  I want to use my agency and become a morning person.  I want to keep studying the gospel in the mornings when I get home. Also, we had a blessing in disguise that night.  Apparently some elders were really loud the last time we stayed and so we aren't allowed to stay at the usual hotel.  But the new hotel is fancy as!  We had a hot tub and everything in our room.  Except I pushed the "spa" button when there was no water in the tub and it shot up everywhere and got my pajamas all wet.  So that was unfortunate.  Haha

But Tuesday was the best day!  We got to go to the temple!!!  I sure love that place.  It's just the best place on earth.  I got so much out of it this time and I just cried with joy to be there.  The Spirit of God is so, so real!  I got to hang out with Sister Rudd all day kind of accidentally.  But she just always happened to be next to me, even in the temple cafeteria, so that was so much fun!  I will sure miss the Rudds when they leave in June.  That will be hard. 

Tuesday night we started exchanges with the Bellblock Sisters again.  I went with Sister Katene this time.  She is a convert to the church and is the coolest person ever!  I think I've convinced her to come to BYU!  No one in her family has ever been to college (or Uni as you may call it).  She just has so much faith and just wants to serve God so exactly even though it's not her family culture at all.  She's just latched onto the gospel with all her heart.  Isn't that cool.  The church is just the biggest blessing ever.  I told her that she's a generation changer . . . like a modern pioneer.   The wonderful Browns had us over for dinner and a delicious birthday cake!  (Don't worry.  I took off sugar for all of these birthday related events!)  They are wonderful and are going to have the cutest baby ever! We had some wonderful lessons with Jo and Victoria.

I've been thinking SO much about Victoria lately.  We taught her the plan of salvation and talked about baptism.  She realizes that if she commits to get baptized that it will change her whole life (not unlike Sister Katene who shared her experience).  She said that she has been so busy but is really going to make it a priority to think and pray about what we have shared.  She is such a good girl!  But since then she hasn't answered our texts or calls.  I don't know if she is ignoring us or if her phone is dead or what.  We are going to see her tomorrow so hopefully she will be there.  Maybe she needs time to think.

But Krete and Luke are doing great!  They didn't come to church though because Krete has horrible boils on her legs that hurt.  Isn't that sad?  We have Sister Coles set to come to a lesson with her.  That's another thing I learned from Sister Katene--how to visit members.  I've always tried to set an appointment but it never works.  It's just how New Zealand is.  You just have to show up to their house.  Then we only stay like 15 minutes, but we try to love and serve them and teach them about the importance of missionary work and help them do missionary work and ask for referrals.  It has been working for us.  We need to do more!

Finally, this weekend was great!  We watched the Women's Session Saturday night and we also went to the Deluxe Diner which is an American 50’s place where we ate in honor of being 20!  It was so fun!  Sunday I felt so loved!  Skye made me this great icecream cake for me and they spoiled me with cards and this lotion/shower gel/bath stuff set!  Isn't that so nice?  Then for dinner the Gaastras had us over and we had cheesecake!  I was sugared out by the end. :D  It was a great birthday!

Church was a special conference where President Rudd went around to all the branches in Taranaki.  It was at 1:30 in New Plymouth and was so good.  He talked a lot about missionary work and I just want the work to progress in Taranaki so, so much! 

I've actually been thinking about that a lot and had a little struggle last night thinking about how no one has gotten baptized while I've been here.  Like I know that I've been giving my all to the work but sometimes I worry that if I had just had more faith or something it would be different.  But I had the coolest study ever this morning where I learned to be grateful for my blessings and that the Lord really does trust me with His work!  The gospel is so cool!

Love,

Sister Clarissa Johnson


Friday, April 1, 2016

Happy Easter!

 Sorry this is late. We were gone for Spring Break.

Kia Ora!

I can't believe how fast time is flying by.  We are having this long, eight week transfer because of the MTC change.  So it's supposed to be really long.  But we are already into the fifth week!  Crazy!  But it's been a good week. 

Sorry that I am emailing a day late.  It's a crazy week.  We have interviews with President Rudd tonight and then the temple trip tomorrow so we are frantically emailing so we can leave at one to get to Hamilton.  So it's a pretty lame preparation day, but I guess we will be blessed for working yesterday.  (I know we will.)  I am just so excited to go to the temple again.  We only get to go every six months so I haven't been since October and it seems like forever.  I totally took it for granted at BYU when I could go to the temple whenever I want.  Plus our Taranaki road trips are always fun.

The past week has been great!  Happy Easter!  I've been trying to really focus a lot on Christ and the really meaning of Easter.  Have you seen the lds.org Easter videos?  They are wonderful.  They have this one with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the orchestra but then it's a virtual choir with all of these people from everywhere recording their parts.  I wish I could have been in it!  I have been reading in the New Testament all about the Passover, sacrament, atonement, crucifixion, and resurrection.  It's kind of one of those things where I've heard it all my life but I haven't really, really internalized it.  I've been trying to make it more real in my life and I am just so thankful for my Savior!  "I Stand All Amazed".  It's great to get to teach people that don't know much more than chocolate about Easter.  There is such a connection between my personal, spiritual growth and my investigators.  We grow with these people.  It's so cool.

There was also an Easter Egg Hunt for the branch at the Webers.  It was so fun and there were a lot of non-members there.  I loved group hopping and meeting everyone.  We got to wear bunny ears and it was great!  Also, our investigator Amy was back from Wellington for the weekend.  She has been to church once since she's been there and she said it was a little scary because she doesn't know anyone.  But she is taking lessons from the sisters there.  I just pray that they are really good sisters for her.  But it was so great to see her! 

Victoria is also doing well.  She found out that her dad was a member of the church in his youth but they left the church over something tithing related.  I wasn't exactly sure.  But Victoria is still interested to learn more and I'm so glad!  She went to another church with her parents for Easter but will be back to our church next Sunday.  We visited her on Friday I think and we found her reading the Bible.  Bless her heart! 

Sadly, Krete and Luke have been out of town but will hopefully be back after the holiday.  They got Friday and Monday off for Easter in this part of the world. 

But here's some good news!  We had four meal appointments this week!  It's a miracle.  It felt like Hamilton East almost.  But I'm so sad.  I am probably leaving this area next month and the Malilis are going to Australia and won't be back until after transfers.  So we had a special dinner and took pictures.  I will miss them so much.  I will probably cry on Thursday when we actually say goodbye. 

Another family that I just love is Sister Vicki and her daughter Skye.  Have I told you about them?  They are returning less actives.  Vicki's husband John is a recent convert and Skye has two adorable, half Filipino children, Ava and Malachi who are 8 and 6.  They are all such likeable people and I feel like Sister Vicki is my mom and Skye is my sister!  We are just kindred spirits, you know.  But we have been doing a lot of service with/for them.  We organized Sister Vicki's bookshelves by topic and helped her other daughter, Rebecca (who's not a member) move.  But Ava has been really nervous to get baptized.  But she is comfortable at the swimming pool where she swimming lessons so she is going to be baptized there on April 16th.  So we are very excited about that. 

Church on Sunday was great . . . no drama or problems of any kind in our branch, so that was wonderful.  Sacrament meeting was so good and I got to sing in sacrament meeting.  We always have a rest hymn and everyone always says that I need to sing so I asked Sister Jones.  We practiced Saturday.  I sang an arrangement of "In Humility Our Savior" from that book of music that Grandma sent me.  I love that book!  And I love singing to Sister Jones' playing.  She is so good and does the dynamics perfectly with me and just follows me and helps with the tempo and phrasing and such so it just sounds more musical and expressive.  I was really happy with it. 

Oh, and also this week we went on exchanges with the Hawera Sisters!  I love those two.  One, Sister Gunderson, was at BYU at the same time as me and I didn't know her.  She lived off campus though.  But I went with the other, Sister Snow, for the exchange.  She is Samoan/American but lived in Australia her whole life so she sounds Australian.  She will go home at the end of next transfer.  She is worried about going home.  But it was a great exchange.  They have such a great flat.  It's like a little house. 

But they are really working on finding.  They have like three investigators and they ride their bikes all day to take up time.  I don't know about that and I got tired out.  Haha I'm a wimp.  But we found one new investigator while we were together.  And Sister Snow is such a wonderful teacher.  She was in the Visitor Center and just explains things so simply and clearly.  I love getting to go on exchanges.  But I always take upon myself all the sisters' problems.  I just want them to be happy and successful so much. 

Well, I have to go because we are off to Hamilton tonight.  We have interviews tonight and then the temple tomorrow.  For interviews we have to give President Rudd a little three minute talk about one of the 8 Fundamentals (a Preach My Gospel/missionary thing).  Mine is on "Teach People, Not Lessons".  It's good except it was way too long so I had to cut like half of it out.  I'm talking about Kayla learning about the gospel.  It'll be fun.

But I really am just so grateful for my Savior, Jesus Christ.  He loves us and knows exactly how to help us.  We are blessed in the gospel in so many ways.  Please share the gospel!  It's scary but it's worth it!  Tell someone about what makes you happy and then introduce them to the missionaries.  It might change the whole rest of eternity for them.  Also, feed the missionaries! :D  You are all so, super wonderful! 

I hope you enjoyed the last email I will ever write as a teenager.  20 is so old!  When you're 18 and 19 you are like in between.   Now I'll only be an adult. 

Arohanui,

Sister Clarissa Johnson

P.S. I took Easter off from my no sugar thing, but everything tasted so rich and too sweet and I ate too much.  I'm turning into my Mom.  I can't handle sugar anymore!  Crazy!  Is that a good thing or a bad thing?  Haha