Sunday, August 28, 2016

I'm Staying!!! and Training!

Kia ora, kia ora!!!

First of all, I'm very, very sorry!  I'm super short on time.  This has been a crazy week.  But Sister Pulotu is gone!  I can't believe it.  I had to drive the sisters back to Rotorua on Tuesday and President Cummings called and asked if I would like to train.  (Of course I said yes.)  And he said that he really felt that we would get along so well.  So now here I am with Sister Welker.  She's from Riverton, Utah.  She went to a year of UVU and she wants to be a news reporter someday.  She's the oldest of four kids.  She is not homesick at all and is adjusting really well to missionary life.  She has lots of ideas and is super organized.  In lots of ways she is the polar opposite of my last two, late-in-their-mission Tongan companions.  But it's great.  We both love to analyze life and we talk a lot.  She will be amazing. 

We are kind of in a new phase in the work.  We've had a crazy time for like the last whole transfer but now we are back to finding and teaching and rebuilding.  There is so much to do and so many miracles to see!  We have been getting HEAPS of referrals from the members.  They really trust us I feel like.  Everyone was so happy I stayed and the Brother Preston called me a "legend".  I don't quite think that's true, but that was nice.  It's starting to get a little warmer-ish (when it's not raining. . . it's been raining a lot).  But we are having a cottage evening tonight at a member's house.  Hopefully a lot of people come! 

I am seriously so, so sorry that is so short.  (Don't kill me, mom!)  I was busy reading about Desi at BYU!  So fun.

But I still love my mission heaps!  (Of course)  Tauranga is the place to be.

Arohanui,

Sister Johnson


Monday, August 22, 2016

Hope for a Better World

Kia Ora Whanau,

This week was one that I will never, ever, ever forget.  The highlights were driving to Rotorua for the sisters, going to the FUNNEST Relief Society activity ever, visiting, Erena, and having Stake Conference.  I LOVE our Relief Society here and all of the members.  I just loved seeing them and feeling of their power at Conference.  At the Relief Society activity there were different workshops and you could only go to one and they needed an even number in each.  They were all about "nourishing".  Either nourishing your body, creativity, spiritually, or marriage?  Well there weren't enough people that wanted to nourish their marriage, so we volunteered.  We said we were going to strengthen our companionship.  It was so funny!  We took this little quiz to help us know how our marriage (or companionship . . . as the case may be) was at the moment.  We had to mark yes or no.  There was one that said "There is fire and passion in this relationship."  We really got a kick out of that one.  We decided that we have fire and passion for sharing the gospel together so we checked yes.

But now I'm going to talk about Erena.  We visited her on Wednesday and Thursday and both times the Spirit was so strong!  We read "I found you my friend" and Ether 12 with her.  She just loved them and especially loved Ether 12:4 that talks about "hope cometh of faith" that's "hope for a better world".  We cried and talked about how that's her.  She can hope for a better world now that she's been baptized.  She showed us her wedding photos that she framed and we are in some of them.  We laughed and then we cried again.  I told her that I might get transferred and she was so sad and said that I have to find a New Zealand boy so I never have to leave.  She called me her angel.  She said that when I walked into her house the very first time with Sister Miru, it was like an electric shock because she felt so connected to me.  She asked if we're allowed to receive gifts because she wanted to buy me some greenstone earrings so I could always remember her.  Her health was deteriorating and she had fluid on her brain so she couldn't see very well.

Then Friday she was admitted back into Hospice and then on Saturday Victor called and said that she doesn't have long to live and asked for bishop's number.  We were in Te Puke doing service and we immediately left, picked up Sister Solomon and zipped to the hospice.  I am so, so grateful that I listened to the Spirit and called and asked the District Leader to go give her a blessing.  They got there and we were still coming so they just went in.  All her family was there and they went into the other room during the blessing.  The elders gave her a blessing and then we got there.  Then they called us and the family into the room and she had passed.  I couldn't believe it at first and it was all slow motion.  Everyone was crying and then all of a sudden it just hit me.  I can't explain how I felt.  My heart hurt so much and I couldn't believe she was gone, but I also felt this incredible peace.  I haven't cried that much my whole mission.  I just hugged Sister Solomon and Erena's sister and Sister Pulotu so tightly!  They had one of the Elders say a prayer and then they asked me to sing "God Be With You Till We Meet Again".  It was rough to get the words out.  I was choking on them at first and singing through tears, but as I went on I prayed that I would have the strength to sing for Erena.  I made it through and I felt the spirit so much.  I thought about my voice and how I could be in a cappella groups, musicals and choirs.  But at that moment, there was no better use in the world for my voice than right there. 

I kissed Erena and said I loved her, but I knew that she wasn't really in her body anymore.  She is still alive, but she is in paradise.  She is with her son who passed away before.  I KNOW that I knew her before I ever came to New Zealand and I know that I will see her again!  The Plan of Salvation is suddenly not just a doctrine.  It's real.  It's like a lifeline.  I am so overwhelmed with gratitude that Heavenly Father loved me enough to send me to earth to experience everything.  He sent me to New Zealand.  He sent me to Tauranga, and he sent me to Belray Drive to meet Erena and be a part of her eternity.  She's gone but she is not really dead.  She's alive.  And she will reach that better world that she dreamed of . . .because she made the covenant to follow Jesus Christ no matter the cost.  She is and was so beautiful!  We had a service at her house before the family takes her down to Otaki (by Wellington) for her funeral and burial.  The three sets of missionaries sang "Nearer My God to Thee" in Maori.  It was so nice. 

We've been listening to this song by Jericho Road.  Here is the chorus.  It kind of explains how I feel.

For as long as I will live, I will testify to love.
I'll be a witness in the silences when words are not enough.
With every breath I take, I will give thanks to God above.
For as long as I will live, I will testify to love.

I KNOW that God is real.  I know that He loves us.  I know that Jesus Christ conquered death . . .physical and spiritual death for all of us.  It's true and I know it.  I love my family, my heavenly family as well as my earthy family. 

The church is true!!!

Arohanui,

Sister Clarissa Johnson

P.S.  Also, please pray for me NOT to get transferred!  I'm in denial, refusing to believe that possibility. :P


Monday, August 15, 2016

Opposition in All Things

Kia Ora, Kiora!

Hope you all are doing wonderfully!  The days are getting longer in this part of the world.  When we started feeding the homeless, it was still light!  I sure love doing that.  It was a crazy, kind of dumb week.  But I just keep thinking about how I'm here to serve the Lord in whatever way he asks.  So whether that is taking care of sister missionaries that need help or teaching the gospel (like I want to do), it's the same.

We had fun with the sisters last Monday at "the swing".  It's a swing hanging from a big tree on the side of the Mount right by the beach.  It's really pretty and you have to climb way up and then let go and jump onto the seat of the swing while you are in the air.  It was scary and I almost didn't do but I did and it was really fun. 

Tuesday was a great district meeting on working with members and leaders.  I've learned so much about that in this area.  We have Stake Conference next weekend and apparently the Welcome Bay Ward has MCM (missionary coordination meeting) more than any other ward in the stake, so we are having a 10-minute example MCM for them at the Leadership Meeting of Stake Conference.  And President and Sister Cummings are coming as well.  So that will be exciting.  But Tuesday was probably the best day of the week.  I went on exchanges with Sister Aloka and we had such a great exchange.  We visited Caroline and taught the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Caroline said on Sunday that our visit was the highlight of her week.  She is so prepared to be baptized but she's just afraid to make the commitment.  She says that she just needs to figure it all out in her mind.  She knows that she will join the church though.  But I felt to promise her that if she reads in the Book of Mormon every single day, that she will get that witness and be ready.  I just love her so much. 

Wednesday we had to give the Te Puke Sisters a ride because their car was getting fixed.  At lunchtime we ended that exchange and then went straight to Rotorua to start exchanges with the Sisters there.  I got to go with Sister Soane.  She is being trained and so I'd never actually met her.  She is so, so great!  She's from Auckland and she actually grew up in the same ward as Elder Fameitau.  But she is so, so cool and obedient and fun.  Unfortunately our exchange ended up being mostly driving and then we had exchange inception (an exchange within an exchange).  I had to take another sister to get checked because she'd had an operation last year and has been in a lot of pain since she's been in an area without a car (and she's not allowed to bike so they just walk).  But Sister Cummings told us to go to the emergency room so we did.  And we waited SIX HOURS there before we got in.  We took turns taking naps, I read the Doctrine and Covenants, or we just talked.  It is actually pretty interesting to watch the comings and going of an emergency room, but not that interesting.  Also, we were starving!  But the blessed Zone Leaders came and brought us pizza at four which ended up being my lunch and dinner.  But she got an antibiotic and was told to not walk for a week.  Then I got back with Sister Soane and we drove back to Rotorua.  By the time we got home it was nine and time for planning.  Only Sister Pulotu just went straight to bed because she felt really sick.

Well she was sick, lying in bed for three days.  She wouldn't eat or hardly drink or talk to me or hardly move.  She'd only get up when we had to go give the Greerton Sisters a ride and when we had a funeral.  So this is a sad story.  This Kiribus guy waited at the Greerton Sisters flat for three hours waiting for them to get home.  When we dropped them off he told them that he knew that missionaries lived there and that he was a member.  Turns out he was a member who lived in Te Puke and he and his wife had had a stillborn baby and wanted help from the church to have a funeral.  Well, we set to work on that with the Te Puke Sisters.  Sister Solomon is a hero!  She made food and bishop bought some.  I made a program with Sister Lewis's help.  And I played the piano for and sang "Oh My Father" at the funeral.  It was such a tender time.  There were a bunch of Kiribus people, bishop and Brother Birch, Sister Solomon, Sister Lewis, and me there.  Sister Toaripi was in the car taking care of Sister Pulotu.  That night we got to go the Kiribus dinner after.  It was so cool!  Kiribus people are just so good and humble and great.  We did this cool song and we did actions with the people around us in the circle.  I wish I had pictures of that.  They gave us and the one other palangi lady that was there silverware.  Everyone else just got plastic spoons or ate with their hands.  I loved being there.  Polynesian people just completely have my heart!

Then Saturday night the Te Puke sisters really wanted us to stay the night at their flat and I love being with them but I really just would rather go home and sleep in my bed in my own pajamas.  But they called and got permission so we had to.  I slept in my contacts. :P

Anyway, after the funeral I took Sister Pulotu to the doctor (not the emergency room . . thank goodness) and she has tonsillitis.  She still can't keep food down and is in bad shape but I'm taking care of her.  Also, tomorrow after district meeting I am taking Sister Aloka to be with Sister Soane (who tore her calf muscle and also can't walk for a week) and then I'll bring Sister Taimona to work in Greerton with Sister Fina'i.  So it's all just crazy.  I'm starting to feel sick too but I don't have tonsils that at least I can't get tonsillitis. So that's good.

But even with all the craziness, I still love being a missionary every day!  :D  I love New Zealand and I love all of you.  Have a good week!

Arohanui,

Sister Johnson :D 


Sunday, August 7, 2016

Charity Never Faileth


Kia Ora Whanau,

Holy cow!!!  So much has happened this week.  Tuesday was MLC (Mission Leadership Council) and Sister Green and her new companion came up from Gisborne and stayed the night with us.  It was so, so fun to see her.  MLC was great.  It was very different though.  It was held at a chapel instead of the mission home and it was very no-nonsense, down to business.  I led the music. But it's exactly what the mission needs.  I guess we had the highest number of baptisms in July than any month of the year so far.  So that's exciting. And of course it was just fun to see everyone.  Elder Butler is going home like tomorrow and I said goodbye to that group.  He was my first Zone Leader.  Time sure flies. 

Thursday was Zone Meeting and I gave a training on service.  I was all immersed in wedding planning and stressed about all of that but I really wanted to give a good training.  I prayed on what to do for it and I had the coolest revelation.  I asked Chasidy (because she had a week off work) to come and share her conversion story and her feelings on service.  It was so, so good!  She has been serving so much this week and she helped us clean the Prestons’ house because they are moving.  Also, she is still fasting every week and preparing to receive her patriarchal blessing.  And this week, she got a calling!  She is now the secretary in the Primary Presidency!  I was so happy for her!

Other than those things, pretty much my whole week was wedding and baptism planning!  You know how Dad always gets big grand ideas and then Mom is the one who is practical and makes sure it all works out.  I thought I was kind of in between the two, but in this situation, I was definitely like Mom.  Sister Solomon had all these grand ideas and did them and I worried and made sure they worked out.  Haha  Sister Solomon really did so much.  She is such a saint.  And Brother Solomon was even in the hospital for part of the week, but he's all good now. 

But Friday was so fun!  We decorated for ages Thursday night and got permission from President to move weekly planning so we could finish on Friday morning.  And guess who were the stars of our decorating team?  The Meyricks!  That's Kirsty's family who are our star investigators who aren't even members yet.  Caroline just volunteered to do the centerpieces and she spent all this time and money just to be nice.  Then Alan had these big pipes and he made the balloon arch.  Sister Pulotu was the star balloon tier!  She is really creative.  The Te Puke sisters helped heaps, picked up the flowers and the cake that Sister Solomon had organized.  And we got it all for free.  People donated flowers, meat, and Sister Winiata made the cake.  The Elders blew up about a million balloons and then we sent them home with more to blow up during the night!  They also picked up and ironed all the tablecloths while we were helping get Erena ready.  Sister Solomon knew this girl who is studying makeup and she came and did her makeup really fancy for free.  Erena's sister-in-law straightened her hair and she looked gorgeous. 

Then we followed them to the registry office.  It was so great to see them married after all they have been through.  Victor chose his mom as his witness and Erena chose me.  I felt so honored.  She calls me her angel but I think that she is my angel more.  I got to sign the paper and we got a member to take pictures at it. 

Then on to the baptism.  It all looked so beautiful and all the food worked out which was a miracle!  But the best part, of course, was the Spirit.  I sang How Great Thou Art and Sister Solomon and Sister Miru spoke.  It was in the chapel and about 50 people were there!  While I was singing the third verse "When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation and take me home, what joy shall fill my heart.  Then I shall bow in humble adoration and there proclaim, "My God, how great Thou art." I looked down at Erena and tears were streaming down her cheeks.  I had to look away so I could keep singing and not cry.  Heavenly Father is perfect.  Bishop had me sing it again as the prelude for sacrament meeting yesterday. 

But I just think of the Relief Society motto, "Charity Never Faileth".  I LOVE that and I know that it's true.  The more that I learn and study about the principle of charity, the more I realize that love really is the essence of the gospel.  It's not about numbers or statistics or personal gain or convenience or obligation or anything like that.  It's about souls.  It's about brothers and sisters and miracles and giving all you have, even when you think you have no more to give.  It's about the spirit.  If we hadn't followed the Spirit to go to Erena's street that day in the pouring rain, none of this would have ever happened.  Heavenly Father is so good.  I'm learning more and more that I'm not doing the work out here.  I'm just the instrument.  All the credit goes to Heavenly Father because He uses me as his instrument.  I want to go my whole life and just do God's will.  He uses the Spirit to help us know His will. 

Erena has one more goal in for her mortal life.  She wants to go to the temple and be baptized for her family members.  And she's pretty brave.  She'll get there for sure! 

I love you all so much! Remember to always follow the Spirit!

Arohanui,

Sister Clarissa Johnson :D