Sunday, May 29, 2016

Time Flies--It's Been a Year

Kia Ora!

Wow.  I'm sure I say this every week but time goes by so fast!  Week time and emailing time both. :P  But I can't believe it.  Deseret is 18 today!  So HAPPY, HAPPY birthday to her!  She's an adult!  Crazy!  Also, Sister Havea is already gone.  Her bus left early this morning to Hamilton.  "Killing" someone as we missionaries call it (being their last companion) is so weird.  But we rushed around and packed and said goodbyes and everyone gave her a greenstone.  The pros of this area is that everyone is rich so you are so spoiled when you go.  Brother Paama makes every missionary that comes here a t-shirt with our mission logo on it and a sweatshirt with our areas on the back.  Isn't that cool!?  He came to the bus stop this morning and dropped it off to her.  But it's so weird that's she already gone.  We definitely had a hard time sometimes, but we have learned so, so much from each other and we had such a "real" companionship.  I just love her so much.

I've been so busy that I haven't even thought about what I'm going to say in my email.  We've been visiting lots of former investigators and potentials this week.  During weekly planning I spent about an hour and a half going through our two area books and really cleaning them out and organizing things.  There are just so many names to work with, which is a blessing, but we just have to plan well.  But Chasidy is doing well.  She didn't drink at all this weekend and she's been going consistently to the addiction recovery.  She (and our wonderful investigator Kathy) were both sick so they couldn't come to church.  Poor Kathy!  She just has such faith and she wants to come to church and be baptized so much, but she keeps having crazy things happening in her life that are out of her control. 

I went on an exchange with Sister Suk this week.  She is from Korea and we served in Taranaki together but we'd never been on an exchange together.  It was so fun.  She is so faithful and good.  She just loves people so sincerely in her quiet way.  She made me breakfast.  :D

This week, the feeding the poor and needy was quite the adventure.  The Solomons had to go to a Taungi (funeral) out of town so we were called upon to make the food for the homeless.  She had set everything out for us and so we made the spaghetti.  I thought I was kind of a bad cook, but Sister Havea, bless her heart, is worse.  But we made it through!  I always love feeding the homeless so much.  Te Puke is just a good little town.  It is the only part of our area that is not super touristy and rich.  It is mostly full of kiwi pickers, and many of them are on work visa from all over the world.  We met these two guys from Chile that were cool!  They helped Melissa jump her car!

Church was wonderful as always.  Sundays are such marathons around her but I just love them.  I love going to church twice.  Haha  Our mcm was really good.  We have some good ward mission leaders.  I just want to go so, so hard with my new companion.  I realized that this Saturday will be my one year mark on my mission.  How have I been here that long?  And I remember Sister Pantoja's year mark and now she's going home!  Also Sister Likuborebore and Sister Snow are going home!  So sad. :'(

But now I am spending three days with the Greerton Sisters (Sister Hekau and Sister Urgel!!!! . . . Hooray!) until my new companion comes.  And guess what???  I'm going to be training again!  I'm so, so, so excited!

But I have been studying and thinking a lot about the Holy Ghost.  I just finished the conference Ensign that we FINALLY got last week (two months later . . .).  But I just love President Eyring talking about how we need to pray and ask about how we can best serve others.  I think it was in the Women's Session.  But I'm just so grateful for the Holy Ghost.  He is really the best teacher.  He can tell us things that we need the most and help us make decisions and ultimately help us return to live with God.  The Holy Ghost is one of the greatest gifts from God.  I'm trying to focus on using it more in my life and following the prompting and asking for guidance more.  Heavenly Father truly answers prayer!  He helped me find my lost badge, helped direct me to invite this wonderful girl to be baptized, and comforted me when I was stressed.

The church is true.  The book is blue.

Love you all heaps,

Sister Johnson


Monday, May 23, 2016

A Baptism!





Kia Ora Whanau! 

Gosh time flies!  I can't believe it's been another week.  It was a crazy week in our schedule and in the weather.  When the seasons change in this country it's crazy.  It will be hot and sunny one minute and then freezing and pouring buckets of rain the next . . . and then back to sunny again!  I got my horrible sinus infection during this kind of weather in the spring.  There are heaps of people sick but not me this time, so that's good. 

We sure had a big to-do with Sister Havea's birthday.  She got six cakes by the end!  She is well loved.  We tried to surprise her but it was a little bit of a flop on Monday.  We set it up beforehand to have the Greerton Sisters (Sister Urgel and Sister Hekau) to call us acting like they weren't getting along and needed Sister Training Leader intervention so we'd have an excuse to do a mini exchange and get the cake and stuff set up at the restaurant.  It was so funny but not very convincing!  Sister Hekau was pretending to cry on the phone and then she was mournfully lying on her bed when we came to their flat.  Then Sister Urgel (who might be the happiest person in the whole world) answered the phone all chipper and said, "Hi sisters!"  and then she paused and said super pitifully " . . . it's so hard!"  Then we all just burst out laughing!  It was great.  

But we all ended up at the Chinese restaurant and had a fun time.  Then that night Isaac (our Welcome Bay ward mission leader) had organized a bonfire at the beach for a fellowship activity.  Unfortunately it was so, so cool and the wind was blowing but we had a cool little activity about the atonement and a testimony meeting and the Spirit was really strong.  Then we went over to the Prestons' for food and that's were I met my Great-aunt Olivia's sister-in-law and nieces!  Brad's sister was there and her daughter is in our ward.  So that was a fun connection.  It's a small world . . .or actually, it's a small church!  Haha! That's why we do missionary work—to make it bigger!

Because it was a baptism week, Satan was working on us but we prevailed!  We worked really hard this week and the time flew by.  But the baptism was so nice.  We were so preoccupied with all the physical details of the font and the food and program and the whites that when it all started we were amazed at the Spirit that was there.  Melissa (Annaliese and Acacia's mom who is a returning less active) spoke and she'd practiced her talk so much and she did just great.  I sang and played "Come Thou Fount" and that was really fun.  I also accompanied.  It was a good baptism and confirmation yesterday.

Sundays are always such long, intense days!  But they are my favorite days for sure.  It was so nice.  Between Welcome Bay ward and Mount Ward churches we have an hour.  Brother Paama (our Mount ward mission leader) came early and brought homemade macaroni and sausage casserole and homemade bread for us and the Elders and his boys.  He even brought a tablecloth.  We had a little, mini MCM and ate.  Brother Paama is the best.  He is a single dad with four awesome teenage sons.  He does such a good job with them and he is just the best guy.  He only joined the church like three years ago and he's on fire.

We also had a couple cool finding miracles.  We had a referral from the Te Puke Elders of a girl named Josie.  She has four little kids and she's married so that's always exciting!  But she is pretty keen.  And after the baptism we were walking and saw this girl on the street going to the mall.  Right when we met I felt a connection to her.  I found out that her name is Dulce and she is from Mexico!  She is here with her husband and for now she doesn't work and is home all the time.  Also, she doesn't go to any church but is also keen to learn!  It was just so, so fun to talk to someone from Mexico because there are seriously no people from Mexico here.  I was so excited.  We are going back tomorrow so hopefully that will be good.  Pray for Dulce!  

I just love the gospel of Jesus Christ.  The more I study and ponder and learn and apply, the happier I feel.  It really is the armor of God.  I feel like if bad things happen, it will be really hard, but I will be ok!  No matter what happens I will be taken care of because of God's amazing promises to us.  He really does love us so much and we are so blessed in everything.  We should shout for joy to be on this earth with our families.  I've been thinking a lot about temples as well.  They are the connecting link between heaven and earth.  I can't wait to go to the temple again.  

Just keep on keeping on.  I love you all so much!

Arohanui,

Sister Clarissa Johnosn



Sunday, May 15, 2016

Happy Birthday Sister Havea!

Kia Ora Whanau!

It's a beautiful day.  I am loving fall while you are all loving spring.  It's great though!  I am serving in such a super beautiful area!  Last night the sun was setting and we were driving across the water on the really, really long bridge to Welcome Bay and we could see the green hills and the cute houses all nestled around and I was just so blown away!  I LOVE this country down here at the bottom of the world!

So I have a lot to say.  I was realizing that I forgot a detail last week that goes with my blog name (Called to Swerve).  On exchanges with Sister Urgel we got a flat tire!  Luckily we called their district leader (because we were in Greerton), Elder Misi, to come change it.  He's a big, strong Samoan so it took him like three seconds so that was good.  Haha!  That would happen to me and Sister Urgel together!

But life has been good!  It's been a busy week!  I always over stress about learning areas but now I'm finally realizing that I know a lot of people and places and that there's nothing wrong with using a map once in a while. :)  I'm starting to really love everyone here.  

So my companionship is going so, so well!  We had a good heart to heart and are doing better than ever.  I love her so much!  I'm sad that she's leaving me so soon.  She goes to Hamilton in two weeks from today and then flies to Tonga the day after that.  And she's so lucky.  Her flight is only 2 hours and 50 minutes! 

But we are getting so excited for our baptism this weekend!!!  The girls are doing so well.  We made cute little invitations and the girls decorated them and are handing them out to their friends at school and we handed out a million at church.  It's going to be wonderful!

We also have two other progressing investigators that are doing well.  The first, I think I talked about last week.  Her name is Kathy and she's great!  Sadly, she had family stuff in Auckland so she was sad to miss church, but we have high hopes for next week.  She is such a cute lady and SO prepared for the gospel!  The other is a girl named Chasidy.  She's like 24 and as tall as Sister Havea and me (isn't that fun?).  But she has this adorable son, Arepa.  She has been learning from the sisters for ages but she has this darn partner that is such a super bad influence for her.  I can just feel her spirit so strongly and I just want her to be happy so much.  You know how that happens?  People think they need a man in their life to be happy?  And she's been with him for four years.  But we went on splits with the Prestons (the American family that I love so much) and Sister Preston and I went there and had the best lesson with her.  Then later we watched the Testaments with her and were really bold about the blessings the gospel would give her if she would only stand up for herself and then choose to live the gospel.  The Elders gave her such a powerful blessing with amazing promises in it.  Then she said such a Spirit-filled prayer.  The Spirit was just definitely there.  But finally she kicked her partner out and will be at church on Sunday!  She is still working on her drinking but is going to Addiction Recovery so that's so good.  And she has lots of member support which is so good.

I've been thinking a lot about how we treat investigators and less actives.  So often, we just love them so fiercely and want the best for them.  It's easy to look over their flaws and just try to help them improve so they can be happy and blessed.  If everyone could treat everyone the way missionaries can treat investigators, the world would be a good place.  That's why they say to treat members and your companion like an investigator.  That's how God sees us, I'm sure.  

Also, this week we met the coolest guy while tracting.  (We actually met a couple of cool new people.)  But this one is an old Maori guy named Wayne that is so, so, so into faka papa (family history).  He has 32 generations on one line and does it all without a computer!  Also, his mom and older siblings were all members of the church and he used these old temple information cards to put his records on, just leaving the ordinance part blank.  While we were talking with him I had the coolest experience!  I was just thinking about all of Wayne's ancestors who are waiting to have their temple work done in the Spirit World.  They were all probably praying that he would meet missionaries and God sent him us.  I thought of all of those people listening so intently to our conversation and maybe even my ancestors and Sister Havea's ancestors on the other side of the veil.  I felt the Spirit so strong!  We invited him to do family history online with us at the Stake Center next week.  We are so excited!  Isn't that cool?

I really have had a spiritual week.  I also went on exchanges to Rotorua!  That was fun.  It's a different zone an hour away from here and there's only one set of sisters there so I cover them as their Sister Training Leader.  But Sister Judd is such an amazing, amazing missionary from Arizona!  We had the greatest time and had the best talks.  We were talking about the fourth missionary and how it makes sense now.  I was just reflecting so much on all that I learned on my mission so far!  The "Fourth Missionary" is a talk about giving your will to God and being obedient and following God's plan for you and becoming like Christ not because it's your duty, but because you understand that God can make so much more of you than you can make of yourself.  It's all about trusting God.  I read it yesterday and just cried because I realized that I "got it" now, when I didn't at the beginning of my mission.  You should all look it up!  It will change your life.

Anyway, church was great yesterday . . . both of them. :D  We have such great ward mission leaders and bishops.  We are really blessed.  

And finally, today is Sister Havea's birthday!  I have some more surprises planned for the rest of the day!  Haha But last week I had the Greerton Sisters buy me all these balloons and streamers and decorations.  I was going to put them up as soon as Sister Havea fell asleep last night, but she was up really long and I ended up falling asleep before her.  :P  But I woke up at like 12:30 so I snuck out of the room.  She heard me and asked if it was morning.  I said no, I was just going to the bathroom.  Then I waited for her to go back to sleep!  I was so scared she'd wake up but I put streamers EVERYWHERE in the living room and blew up a million balloons.  I was so proud of myself.  But I never turned on the light because I didn't want her to wake up.  So I was just using our phone as my light.

But I have an unfortunate/embarrassing story!  Well the first number of our contacts in our phone is President Rudd.  So somehow I accidentally clicked the button twice and was calling President Rudd at 1 in the morning!!!!  I hung up super fast and thought that it hadn't actually gone through. 

Well this morning Sister Havea loved her surprise and I made her breakfast and we studied and life was good.  Until . . . we got a text from President Rudd asking why we called him at 1 in the morning.  Of course I felt so bad and was all stressed!  I finally just called him and told him the whole story and that I was so sorry for being up in the night!  He just laughed and said that when he saw that at 1 in the morning he thought it was some Elders messing around and that he was going to have to solve a big problem but then he saw it was just me and he wasn't worried anymore.  He told us to have fun with our frivolity today.  I said thanks and ok!  Oh gosh!  Isn't that funny!  I definitely have the best mission president in the world.

I am just so grateful to be here.  I love my mission!  Oh, and I LOVED talking to my family last week!  I am one lucky duck (well "blessed duck" is more accurate).  The church is true and I am so thankful for the power of the Holy Ghost.  It is so real and it witnesses to me that Heavenly Father, the priesthood power, and the scriptures are real too!  It will tell us where to go, what to do, and it will help us grow.  What a huge blessing.

I think my emails get longer every week!  Sorry they are such novels.

Arohanui,

Sister Clarissa Johnson 


Sunday, May 8, 2016

Fall Colors in New Zealand--Light Green and Dark Green

Hola!  Como estas?

I don't know.  I'm trying to be different.  No one here speaks Spanish so Elder Bowman (one of the Zone Leaders) and I have taken it up.  

But anyway, the title of this email is not exactly, totally true.  Some trees do change colors and lose their leaves, but mostly everything is still green all year.  

It's been a good week.  We had a fun exchange with the Greerton Sisters.  I went with . . . Sister Urgel and we had the best time.  We are just kindred spirits.  We are probably the best mission "mother and daughter" ever.  We are both happy and enthusiastic and we laugh so much.  It's so cool to see what a great missionary she is becoming.  Her English is getting better and better all the time.  She says that she thinks of me reminding her to say "th" the right way and always works on it.  They don't have very many investigators so we prayed hard and worked hard to find them some.  And just during the ten o'clock hour we met super keen new investigators that live in their area, our area, and the Otomotai Sisters' area.  So that was wonderful.  Miracles do happen.

Thursday was Zone Meeting and I gave a training about faith and miracles.  I worked really, really hard on it and was really proud of it.  Our poor zone though.  Luckily the sisters are so wonderful and the Zone Leaders are wonderful, but I think there are some attitude/disobedience struggles with some of our zone.  We've talked about it a lot as leaders and want to build the unity in our zone.  

There are sure pros and cons to every area.  Some of the best advice I got for my mission was my dad saying to not compare my areas to each other.  I feel like Heavenly Father is like taking me on a special, hand-crafted journey through my mission to teach me certain lessons in a certain order by giving me different areas, companions, investigators, wards/branches, etc.  It's so cool how the gospel works.

But our investigators are doing well.  Melissa and her girls are wonderful and have been to church three weeks in a row!  Sadly, their family can't come to their baptism on the 14th so it will have to be postponed to the 21st, but that's ok.  

Also we have this great investigator, Kathy.  She is really progressing and we want to get her to church.  She just has such automatic faith!  Also, I got an exciting email from Amy from New Plymouth!  She has been reading the Book of Mormon and is all the way up to Alma 41!  Isn't that wonderful?  She is so prepared for the gospel and I can't wait to see it bless her life.

But the Welcome Bay Ward had this amazing Mother's Day Dinner put on by the priesthood.  The priests were the waiters and they escorted everyone to their seats when they came.  It was so fancy and there was great live music and it was just so, so fun!  Our ward is wonderful.  We had three investigators and two great less actives there.  One of them, Fleur, has this adorable little boy named Veon that just turned 2.  We are pretty much best friends by now.  He is so cute!

But yeah.  I love the Welcome Bay Ward.  I taught Relief Society to their HUGE Relief Society but it went well so that's good.  Also, our Ward Mission Leader is great.  We had the best MCM last night!  I just felt so on fire after it.  I want to take members out with us every day and go so hard.  Also, with one smallish ward and one enormous ward, we get fed heaps!  Our dinner calendar is full EVERY single day for the entire month.  It's so nice of them and so, super opposite of New Plymouth, but I'm worried about my health!  Haha I regret to report that I've kind of failed my sugar thing.  I decided that I will just never eat sugar unless someone feeds it to me at their house.  Some people get really sad when I refuse their dessert.  I don't know.  It's a struggle.  And I'm sure you all care so much about my eating habits . . . :P  Haha sorry!

But anyway, the Mount Ward is great too.  It's just a lot smaller and full of more older people.  The primary is only four kids there.  But it's been fun to play the piano there.  I'm less scared than when I started.  I played for a funeral, Relief Society, and sacrament.  

But life is good and I'm mostly just SOOOOOO excited to talk to my family in two hours!!!  Happy Mother's Day!  The church is true and if we forget ourselves and go to work and lose ourselves in the service of others, we will be happy!

Arohanui,

Sister Johnson


Sunday, May 1, 2016

Kia Ora!

 Hello Hello! 

Every week I feel like I say how fast time is going.  Well, once again, the week flew by.  It was a busy week.  Monday we hiked Mount Manganui and it was so fun and so beautiful!  And I got to hang out with Sister Urgel!!!  We had so much fun together and just laughed and laughed about everything.  It's so fun to serve by her again. 

Tuesday, we smashed the area!  (As they say in New Zealand.  That means we worked really hard and did good.)  It's hard because our area is so huge so you have to drive like 20 minutes to get to the different parts of it . . .Te Puke, which is it's own little town, Welcome Bay, The Mount, and Papamoa (where we live).  But we try to be smart and not drive back and forth too much. 

Wednesday was a special Zone Conference (with all the Hamilton Zones and Rotorua) in Hamilton with Elder Halleck from the Area Presidency.  It was just so, so good!  President and Sister Rudd spoke and then President and Sister Halleck spoke.  Then we had lunch and they all four spoke again (only shorter this time).  I love conferences like that.  I am all on fire to use family history in my missionary work.  I want to go tour the family history center and bring our less actives.  After the conference, Elder Tibbits (one of the assistants) came up and said that Elder Halleck wanted to interview me afterwards!  I was so confused as to why, but it turns out that he just chose like eight random missionaries to be interviewed.  It was so good.  We just talked about my mission and where I'm from and what I have learned so far.  He told me at the end to email home to my parents and tell them that he is thankful to them for helping me and sending me on a mission.  So good job, parents! :D 

Then Thursday was another super early day of driving to Hamilton (it's like an hour and a half drive, so it's too close to get to stay the night like Taranaki, but then we have to leave in the dark, early morning).  But we had Mission Leadership Conference.  I sure love that place.  Elder Halleck was mostly conducting it.  But just like last time, I love the use of councils in the church.  We all work together and solve problems together. 

But the main thing that I felt from those two days is just how much President and Sister Rudd love us so much!  They are so good and I am going to be so sad when they leave!  But we are so blessed to have them.  They are so fun to talk to and are so inspired.

But we are so, so excited for Analiese and Acacia!  They are so excited to get baptized. We organized the program already.  It will be exciting.  We are so busy on Sundays. Like yesterday for example, I gave a spiritual thought in ward council, we taught a youth Sunday School class, I played the piano in both Relief Society hours and in sacrament meeting in the Mount Ward, and I taught gospel principles in the Mount Ward. Only as a missionary would that happen! I love it though.  And there are so many nice people to meet.

I feel like the key to missionary work here really is the members.  They are so good and faithful and excited about the gospel.  Now we just have to get them excited about SHARING the gospel.  Some are already so wonderful at it, but we want to get them all!  Haha  It will be great.

Arohanui,

Sister Johnson