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