Kia Ora Whanau,
It's been a week! Mostly it's been such a beautiful week. We are to that magical time of year in New Zealand where it's the perfect temperature and the sky is so blue and the clouds are so long and white. ("Aoteroa" is "New Zealand" in Mauri and it means "Land of the Long White Cloud". There are flowers everywhere that all smell so good. The ocean is beautiful and it just feels so good to be outside. Last Monday we did a lot of driving of sisters so we didn't have too much time, but we frolicked on the beach and then had dinner with our dearest Sister Rudo and Sister Leath. I love how it is fun to be with people of all different ages and be their friend.
This week I went on exchanges with the Otumoetai Sisters. And tenderest mercy ever: they got a car! They have a huge, spread out, super hilly area, so that was wonderful. I went with Sister Tufariua and had the best time. She is the sweetest person. I loved her in the MTC and now we are serving together. She's from Tahiti! But we had a good exchange and ate at Brother Kohu's. Brother Kohu is one of the star missionaries of Tauranga. He gave me the words of Savior Redeemer of My Soul in Mauri. I'm really excited to learn it. We got to go to choir practice on that exchange and it was so fun! It's the marae choir and it's full of Maoris with great big voices. They don't worry too much about blending but they are really good at harmonizing. I loved it! When I got back with Sister Welker we went straight to the Rikihanas (family in the Mount Ward) to do service. It was a beautiful day and I hadn't done yard work for ages. We pulled weeds in the hot sun and I just enjoyed it so much. They had these shovel/spade things and I was SOO fast! I pride myself on my strong manual labor on my mission. I must have got that from my dad. But that night we also had a cottage evening. We gave the lesson and did the same one we did at a different cottage evening (it was all different people). We played picture telephone and then related it to the apostasy and restoration. Then we had everyone share how the restoration affects their lives. It was really spiritual and good. Then they had us all play Mafia. It was really fun but really the worst because I get so competitive and then no one even listens to Elder Tahiata and I even though we are telling the truth. They killed us and eventually the mafia. But it was alright.
So this week we kind of realized that many of our investigators are working through different things and just need steady support, even when their progress is slower. It's so good for me to remember that everyone has their own individual path and timing. Sometimes I need to remember that Heavenly Father's timing is perfect even if I have to be patient. I just want everyone to have the blessings of the gospel today! But we have been focusing on finding new investigators and we've had heaps of success, which kind of never happens! We were talking to people on the beach by the Mount one day, which we haven't tried here yet. But we randomly walked up to a woman and introduced ourselves. She told us that she is a less-active member from Auckland and Brother Waetford (Welcome Bay High Counselor over missionary work) is her uncle. We started teaching and testifying that God is still mindful of her, she started crying. She said that us seeing her that day was a sign that she needs to come back. We are sending her details to the sisters in Auckland so they can visit her. It was just so cool that out of all the days and times and people we could have talked to, we met her. Heavenly Father definitely knows!
Also, Bishop Crawford told us to visit this family in the Mount Ward. We went and their cousin/nephew was there. He's 17 and has been to church with them a few times. We offered to come back and visit his family and we invited him to church. Well he didn't come because he unexpectedly had to work, but his mom and sister and cousin all came and are excited for us to start teaching them. It was a miracle!
We've also been working with Chasidy a lot. I would just do anything in the world for that girl. We are trying to help her find a job. She's been working construction a little bit but it's really crazy, hard hours with Arepa. She is so brave! We had a trunk-or-treat in Welcome Bay and she came and she also came to church, even with just two hours of sleep! She has tenacity if anyone does. We dressed up as well and it was so fun! I was Cruella Devil but you couldn't really tell. I looked a little awkward but it was still fun. Sister Lewis tried to rat my hair to make it big, but it didn't really work. Sister Welker was Repunzel and looked great and wore purple and made a flower chain for her hair and had a frying pan. It was great! While we were there we met Sister Gudgeon. She had just gotten home from her mission in Brazil the day before. All my dear missionary friends that have served in Gisborne talk about the amazing Gudgeon family. Well they used to live in Welcome Bay so they were there. It was really cool to meet her and talk with her. Then the next day we took her out teaching with us. I could just tell that she was a really, really amazing missionary! She talked with everyone and I think she was surprized at the rejection rate. She said that it was rare for someone to say no to them! That's South America for you. After this week, I have a new goal/commitment to talk with everyone extra diligently for the rest of my mission!
Yesterday, the Prestons spoke in church and it was kind of their final talks before they move back to the states. I just love that family with all my heart and soul. They all cried and we cried listening to them. Sister Preston and Hope sang "I'm Trying to Be Like Jesus" and it was so dear. I love the name "Hope" and Hope Preston and I have the same birthday! I think I better name one of my daughters "Hope" someday. I just love being a missionary.
I'm so grateful for the way I've learned to look at people since I've been on my mission. I'm learning to see who they can be instead of who they are. I am learning to love the sinner and hate the sin and be compassionate. I have lots to learn but New Zealand and the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ have taught me a lot I am so blessed!
Have a wonderful week and keep pressing forward! Read the Book of Mormon. Seriously, just read it because it's the best book on earth. Feed the missionaries, give them people to teach, and teach with them and you will be happy!
Sister Clarissa Johnson