Sunday, November 20, 2016
Kia Ora Whanau!
Guess what? Prayers work! I didn't get transferred. I will be in the glorious land of Tauranga for eight blessed months. I sure do love this place. :D But we have just been so, so busy this week. Even though they don't have Thanksgiving over here, I've been so grateful for my mission every day. I've been writing a list of all the things in my mission that I've learned and that I'm thankful for and there are so many!
On Monday we went to Kaiate Falls and it was beautiful. There were these guys from South America somewhere jumping off the rocks into the water from really high. So we watched and I was scared for them! Haha but they survived. We had dinner with Brother Paama. I sure love our mission team. . . actually both of them (one in each ward). Then we had a great visit with the Tukuafus. I also really love Tongans!
On Tuesday, we had a CRAZY busy day and we had an appointment every single hour. So that was exciting but also crazy. It's sometimes a struggle because our area is so enormous, but we survived. We are being so blessed. We just have so many people progressing and so much to do. We helped print the sisters' baptism program and had rescue visits. We are really gaining speed with our rescue visits. We do two weeks at the chapel and then one in Te Puke so that works out for us. Then we had musical number practice for both of the baptisms. If there's anything that I love, it's working on musical numbers! That night we FINALLY got transfer news! I was so worried I would be moved for the last three weeks, but we are all staying! There were only two changes in our whole big district, so that was a blessing! All my wonderful missionary friends are staying.
Wednesday we sang for the elderly again and had the best time! I do love doing that! We visited our golden family (Katrina and her family, I should say) and then went to the Greerton Sisters' baptism. It was a nine-year-old Samoan girl. I played the piano for it and Elder Tahiata played the guitar and we sang and harmonized "I'm Trying to Be Like Jesus". I was really happy about it.
Thursday was transfers and we had to say goodbye to Sister Tufariua. We actually saw Katrina and her family three times this week and they are so eager to learn! It just feels like how missionary work is really supposed to be! It's so much fun. That afternoon, though, we had the coolest miracle. Last week, Sister Welker said that she had a prompting that we needed to tract Seaspray St. But we hardly ever have any time to tract because we are so busy, but we finally did it. She asked me where I thought we should start and I couldn't decide but finally I felt like we needed to start on the very first house, on the corner of the street. Well we knocked and met this adorable lady who said that she's always had a relationship with God but doesn't know which church is His, if any of them really are. Right there on her doorstep we shared about the Restoration and told the Joseph Smith story. She said that she probably would have just taken our pamphlet but not read it, but she felt like the Joseph Smith story had answered her question and that she was really keen to learn more! She asked us how we had known to come to her house and her street at that time. She said that that was the only day all week that she would have been home at that time! What a miracle. It's just so true that we can be super effective and do all we can to serve the Lord, but He still knows infinitely more than we do and so "without the Spirit (we can) not teach" . . . or find, or plan, or doing anything really. I'm so grateful for the Spirit in my life! We also had Welcome Bay MCM that night with our new Ward Mission Leader from Canada. We are working on making a ward mission plan.
Friday we taught a bunch of lessons and had appointments every hour again! I love that!
Saturday was the Te Puke sisters' baptism, another nine-year-old girl. Her dad had gotten the priesthood the week before so he could baptize her. It was so nice! I played the piano and a group of us sang the musical number. After that, we did some super hardcore service for Melissa! She had a sandpit in her yard and we had to pretty much dig it out with spades and pitchforks. There were these big cement blocks way underground that we had to dig out. But I was proud of us. We really did well (it was us, the Te Puke sisters, and the Elders, but still). We helped Sister Solomon cook for the homeless and then we fed the homeless. I'm going to miss doing that so much.
Sunday was another amazing, crazy full Sunday! We did primary singing time in Welcome Bay ward, and I spoke and sang with our dear returning member Jeanette in Mount Sacrament Meeting. I talked about what I've learned as a missionary and I tried hard not to cry. That night was the Come and See Fireside that we've been planning for ages. It all came together so well! We had Leah (recent convert) speak and then we had rotating classes about basic gospel principles and they were all so spiritual. The Marae Choir from Otumoetai sang and then our stake president shared his conversion story. He (President Fitzpatrick) is the one whose son was in my MTC district! Afterwards, I felt like he really needed to give Chasidy a blessing. She was there and she just keeps having tragic things happen in her life and her family. So I asked them both and he did. It was really powerful!
Also on Sunday we got to wear our new pulu tasis!!!! Sister Tusega is the best person in the whole world because she bought Sister Welker a pulu tasi and it was WAY too big for her. Like she was drowning in it. So she decided to alter that one to be for me and sew Sister Welker another herself. So we looked beautiful and very islander all day. It was so fun! Isn't that the nicest thing you've ever heard? So now I have two pulu tasis! And this one is bright yellow. It's perfect for my yellow-loving self.
But it was just such a wonderful week. I have so many things to be grateful. Happy Thanksgiving to all you Americans! We lead blessed lives because we have the gospel of Jesus Christ and our Heavenly Father always there to help us along.
I love you all so much!
Sister Clarissa Johnson
Sunday, November 13, 2016
Kia Ora Whanau,
It is so good to write you and tell you about our glorious week. Everyone in my family seemed to have had a wonderful week as well. Heavenly Father is so just waiting to bless us. Last week was my patience/humility week and this week was my blessings/joy week!
Last Monday we played Mafia with the other sisters. I kept being the Mafia and I won the very first time! I was really proud because I'm NOT a good liar. But after that everyone kept killing me first and I kept losing so that was sad. But that night we had a really good Family Home Evening with the Phillips. Sister Welker is pretty much the queen of object lessons so that's really fun. We have one with a peanut butter jar, rice, and a ping pong ball about getting through trials with the Lord's help, one about prayer/following the spirit with two cans and a string, and one about sin/temptation with a box with a whole and a tennis ball. They are the best because they really help people and they remember them. That night we had a DELICIOUS dinner with the Arthurs in the Mount Ward. We are so spoiled here! We also got asked, for probably the first of a million times this week, about the election. People here are probably just as into it as people in the states and then they see Americans and ask us about the election because it's "our country". So thank you, we are very aware! Haha
But Tuesday was the blessed MLC (Mission Leadership Council). I just love going to that. I got to drive up with Sister Machen from Gisborne and had great talks with her. Sister Cummings gave the greatest training about our thoughts. She made a chart and drew a line down the middle. One side was truth (which comes from Jesus Christ) or lies (from Satan). She said that every thought that ever comes into our head fits in one of those categories. There is no middle line. It's our job to sift and sort through our thoughts and determine which ones are lies and get rid of them and dwell on the truths. I loved that. The gospel is so simple and we (and Satan) make it complicated. It was so fun to see everyone as usual. I am such a social butterfly. We got back from Hamilton in time to go visit Anna and her girls. She's a member in Mount Ward and her girls (who are 11, 9, and 7) have been investigators for ages. But we thought to invite them to be baptized and they said that now their dad was letting them make their own choice and they want to. They are set for January 14th. So that was very exciting! That night we had rescue visits and we all split and went with different members again. I love that! I got to go with Sister Ngakuru who is our new (well now newish) Relief Society President. She is the most amazing lady and I want to be just like her someday! We ended up visiting our investigators, Bailey and Tami, which was really good. They are really keen but just need to figure out how to get to church.
Wednesday we got to sing for the elderly in Tauranga. Sister Narayan (a wonderful member who is Indian from Fiji) works at a rest home and so we all came and sang. It was the six missionaries from our ward, plus we picked up the Greerton Sisters. I just love singing for them. We sing lots of church songs and also other songs and they love it. Elder Tahiata and I are kind of in charge of the music. He plays the guitar and I play the piano. I sang opera again but on the last note of "Think of Me" I think I hurt at least one lady's ears with her hearing aid. So that was too bad! We sing lots of Maori songs and I'm trying to remember all the words! But after that, we went to visit Dyles and we met our golden family!!! Dyles is a 17 year old boy who is the nephew of one of our members. Bishop Crawford told us to go visit that member (Kereama is her name) and he happened to be there and we asked if we could visit him at his house and he said yes. So that's how we ended up there. But it was just amazing! It's a three generation family and the grandma and one of the moms are less active members. But Dyles's mom, Katrina, and Dyles, his sister (Rhyme, 10), and their cousins Lieshane (12 pronounced Leh-shawn) and Shayniah (9). They all sat and listened to the lesson and loved it. We gave each of them a copy of the Book of Mormon and invited them to read 3 Nephi 11. We came back the next day and they had all sat around reading it the night before. They have read three chapters by now and yesterday at church they wanted us to write down heaps of chapters for them to read all together! The coolest thing is that it's their whole family doing it together. So they are all (five of them) set for baptism on the 3rd of December! We are just so, so excited and happy for them. It's amazing. The joy of missionary work is so real and so great.
Oh and also that morning we had a really good lesson with Caroline. She is just so wonderful and I love her so much. We also invited her to be baptized (it was a real invite-y week I guess). She said she wasn't ready and so we asked her to pray about it. So she texted back later and said that she is just going to take some time to think and work through things and doesn't want to meet with us/come to church for now. So that was really sad for me, but at the same time it's ok because that's what she needs right now and I just know that Heavenly Father will take care of her. I just want her to have all the joy she can and I know that the gospel is joy. But all in the Lord's timing I guess!
Thursday we had MCM with our Dear Brother Paama. I love our Mount Ward missionary team! We also had a really good FHE with the Bisharas again. I invited the girls to church and the oldest one, Ashley (17) started crying and said that even though it's been nice to focus on school she just knows that something is missing her life. She didn't come but she will sometime!
Friday was a CRAZY day and we didn't have time to eat lunch. Then, for the only time ever, our dinner was two pieces of pizza. We had to get Turkish to Go, which is my favorite place! I just have so much fun with my companion. I just want her to have the best mission in the world! (Except I think mine is already the best). But we sang for the elderly again in Te Puke and had a great lesson with Jeanette and dear Sister Rudo.
We fed the homeless, taught heaps of lessons, and had Welcome Bay MCM with our new ward mission leader (Brother Shaw, young guy from Canada) Saturday. And Sunday, our golden family came to church! We went over to Marie's again and had a delicious dinner and a great lesson with Neil. I felt like we really taught by the Spirit and I learned a lot from it. We talked about faith and listened to part of President Uchtdorf's talk. So good!
We just have so many good, good things going on. It's just been one of the closest to perfect weeks of my mission ever. It's fun to see our people who we can't even call less-active anymore because they come to church every week and live the gospel again progress! It's fun to see the work go forth. Just pray for Chasidy. She has been working a LOT and hasn't been to anything and is never home. She is so brave and good though. She just needs lots of support.
Anyway, I hope you all are noticing the blessings of the Lord in your life. There are so many of them. Heavenly Father is just waiting for us to reach out to him. The harder we work to do that, the more evident his blessings will be in our lives.
Thank you all so, so much for being amazing people in my life. I'm so glad we are all brothers and sisters and children of God. Families can be together forever, even our heavenly family.
Sister Clarissa Johnson
Sunday, November 6, 2016
Kia Ora Whanau,
I'm still here! Haha that is the most asked question I get. Every time I'm at church everyone can't believe that I'm still not transferred. All the adorable old ladies in the Mount Ward think that they could just pluck me away at any moment and are all relieved and happy every time they see me. I just love everyone here so, so much! I've decided that I need to come back and live in New Zealand! Not forever (don't worry family). Maybe just for six months or a year sometime. I just love this place with all my heart. I cried during testimony meeting (actually both of them I think) just thinking about how much I love these people. We sang "Families Can Be Together Forever" and I thought about how lucky I am to have an amazing family at home and an amazing whanau in New Zealand! I am so blessed.
But it was quite the week. It flew by as usual. There has sure been opposition. I think Satan is so tricky. He wants to get us down right when Heavenly Father needs our service the most. I found out some things that I really need to work on and that is always hard. I need to remember that seeing my weaknesses and shortcomings is actually a huge blessing so I can work on them!
I got to go on exchanges with the Greerton Sisters! I went to Greerton with Sister Ah You. She is amazing! She is brand new but inspired as. She is just great at talking to people and we taught heaps of lessons on the street. It was so fun! They don't have a car and we ended up walking 14 ks in 24 hours in Greerton, doing missionary work. (At least that's what her fitbit said.) I was wearing useless, little flats and got a blister and I got super sunburned! I've been a lobster all week. Walking is not for the faint of heart. But we had so much fun and taught an amazing lesson that night! Those sisters are on fire.
The other greatest things this week was the weekend. Saturday was the blessed day of Ryan and Kirsty's wedding! I've been praying for them for so long and I'm so proud of Kirsty for how far she has come. She was baptized a little over a year ago and now she is sealed in the temple. The reception was way out in Pukehina (past Te Puke) and it was at this flash Marae on the beach. It was a ridiculously perfect view! It was so perfect. But I did so much and had the best day helping. I helped set up this massive tent, put on white chair covers (if there's anything I'm good at it is those white chair covers), set up tables and chairs, and worked on the food. Sister Welker peeled 14 million potatoes. We were scrambling to get everything done but it all worked out. And it was so beautiful! Alan and Caroline were so happy and when Kirsty (who looked so gorgeous) gave her little speech she bore her testimony and Alan (Kirsty's dad, our investigator) talked about how even though Kirsty was getting married, he didn't feel like he was losing a daughter. He felt like they were gaining a bigger family (the ward). I am so excited for their progress. They were definitely touched by the Spirit! I just cried! (I'm doing too much of that these days! Everything just seems to make me feel the Spirit.)
Also, yesterday was the BEST day! I don't know why, but church in both wards was just really extra good! We had two cool miracles (well kind of three). This lady just walked into the chapel and ended up in gospel principles. I asked her who she was and her name is Stacey. She said that she believes in God and isn't really religious but said that she just really felt like she needed to come here today. She loved the gospel principles lesson and then left afterwards. We gave her a Book of Mormon and are going back on Friday to teach her! Preach My Gospel talks about finding those who are prepared. "Either He will lead you to them or He will lead them to you." He sure led her to us! Also our new investigator, Dyles, came to Mount Ward. And John and Rangi and Maddysen (returning less-actives) all come every week. Jeanette comes most weeks. We’ve been teaching lessons about tithing to less-actives and they committed to pay it! It's so, so, so fun to watch people change and come to Christ!
Another story like that was after church. This dear lady moved into our boundaries from Greerton Ward. She is in her 30’s, single, and kind of reminds me of Felicity from the Nauvoo Pageant. Her name is Marie and is so wonderful! She's from England and joined the church in the Mount Ward three years ago! So cool! But she is just barely in our boundaries on this far away, country road. She is staying in this flash, beautiful house with an amazing view of practically all of Tauranga, the water, and the Mount in the distance! It's amazing. But the guy who owns the house is named Neil and we met him last week when we tried to stop by. He is a self proclaimed "agnostic" and is really open and humble. He's just a great guy and we had the best time with them. Marie made the best meal and Crème Brulee (if that's how you spell it) for dessert. So good! But we taught the Restoration and it was such a cool lesson. Her conversion story is really, really cool and Neil agreed to read and pray about the Book of Mormon. It's really interesting how faith works. I just know that if he has real intent he will get his answer. We had just listened to and talked about President Uchtdorf's talk from the Women's Session in Mount Relief Society and I feel like it prepared me so, so well for that lesson! God's plan is perfect. So pray for Neil to get his answer.
But it's been grand to be here! It's rainy today, but it's been glorious, glorious weather. I am such a sunshine girl. I have seen a lot of reasons this week on why I'm still here in Tauranga. I'm grateful that President was faithful and inspired to leave me even though it seemed like a crazy thing to do. I have such a purpose here. I just want to help everyone as much as I possibly can because "The Time is Far Spent".
I am so grateful for my testimony and the constant strength of the Lord in my life. Where would I even be without it? I'm sure I would be an emotional wreck. But I am praying for more and more faith every day. I'm so grateful for the atonement of Jesus Christ, the power to change we all have, and the beauty and answers we find in the Book of Mormon. The church is true folks. (Sorry I say all the same cliché things about the gospel and my mission every week. I just really mean them I guess. Haha)
Love you all!
Sister Clarissa Johnson