It feels so weird to be writing this, not at an internet cafe in New Zealand, but on my own laptop at our kitchen table here in my own house in Starr Valley, Nevada! Holy cow. So much has happened. I still can't really describe how I feel, mostly because it keeps changing. In the last week I have been miserable, scared, excited, joyful, peaceful, stressed, SO happy and every other emotion it seems. Anyway, I've decided to keep up with these emails (I guess they're just posts now) since I have a following. Haha Sometimes I pretend that I'm popular.
Anyway, Monday (I can't believe that was this same week) I rushed around everywhere and said goodbye to heaps of people. I just love them all so much! I got a private showing from part of the Welcome Bay Ward Choir (actually most of it was there) and Sister Ngakuru said that she would love to make my wedding dress. Not that I'll be needing it anytime soon, but still. I just cried saying goodbye to our dear family that got baptized. They all wrote me a card and gave me this great big candy lei. Lieshane also wrote a card of her own and told me that it was the saddest day of her life and that she was going to serve a mission someday and that she was so grateful that she was able to learn about Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. I also said goodbye to Chasidy and she said all these so, so nice things and we just cried together. I just have all these sisters in New Zealand. I just feel like they are sisters. She has changed and grown so much. The last one I said goodbye to was Sister Solomon. I got to her house very late and all the lights were off. We even tapped on her bedroom window to say goodbye and no one came. I was SO sad and we were about to give up, when the van pulled up and out hopped Sister Solomon, Tarne, and Nephi. They had been grocery shopping. Who even goes grocery shopping that late? I don't know, but it was such a tender mercy to be able to hug her one more time. That night I frantically finished packing and actually slept really well . . .for the last time all week I think.
The next morning we (Sister Lewis, Sister Reynolds, Sister Welker and I) got up early so I could go to the beach one last time. It was like 6:00 by the time we got there and the sun was already coming up. The Mount in the distance and the sand and the waves and just the feel of it all reduced me to tears. I ran around for joy and just soaked it in. Then we had to go to the dreaded bus stop. When we got out of the car in the parking lot, Elder Fellingham and Elder Tahiata were there and they didn't even say anything and just starting doing the haka. That was the beginning of the end for me, I tell you. I cried and cried! Then all the missionaries came and before I knew it they were all singing "God Be With You Till We Meet Again" to the guitar and the bus driver was telling me to get on the bus. At the last minute, the whole Paama whanau showed up and handed me my flash mission sweatshirt (Brother Paama is a saint and makes them for every missionary he has) with my name and all my areas and the mission logo and also a huge loaf of their famous Maori bread.
As the bus pulled away I was just sobbing. When I finally got to be alright I started reading all the letters everyone had given me. I am so blessed to have such amazing friends who are now family! Before I knew it, I was to the mission office getting picked up by my old friend, Elder Bowman and others. I felt like a lost puppy without a companion. I spent the next few days with four Elders. I was the only sister going home because it's mid transfer. But the highlight of that day was definitely the temple! It was so beautiful and peaceful and reassuring to be inside. After eight months it is all the more sweet. And it was such a blessing because the Sterzers (senior couple in New Plymouth) were on our session and I got to talk with them. It was a very joyous reunion. After that we ate, got interviewed, and had a testimony meeting at President's house. I decided that even though I was sad there were no other sisters, the Elders there were pretty good ones. I never served with any of them, but we were all playing the piano and singing together while we weren't getting interviewed.
That night they drove us up to Auckland to spend the night/day before the airport. I knew that Sister Green (served with me in Taranaki) was the Sister Training Leader in Manurewa and I just prayed that I would be with her, and I was! It was my first and last time serving in Auckland. It was really cool but really different. I was so tired all day but it was good to be there serving my heart out one last time. Then at five we took the big drive to the airport. They left me a plastic flower lei and off we went.
The next 24 hours were quite the thing! Another amazing thing happened though. Guess who was on my flight? This great recent convert who I'd know in Taranaki was going to the Elder Wark/Sister Pagofie wedding and we were right next to each other on the plane! So it was good to talk to her, but I had a middle seat and felt just so squished in. It was the longest 12 hours of my life. Then we waited 5 in San Francisco airport and then less than two on the last airplane. At very, very, very long last . . . I raced down that hallway into my mom's arms. I can't even tell you how good that felt! There were 14 million people there and they were all happy and holding cute signs and much taller than they had been 18 months ago. It was just so surreal to be with my siblings again. And President and Sister Rudd were there. In the words of Sister Tusega, "Oh my life!" I love those folks. Then we all went to the Village Inn (restaurant, not hotel) and ate. It was even free pie night. I flitted around and tried to talk with everyone. Then we found our rented little flat for the night in Provo. It was SO cold in the dark in the snow. That was a shock.
The next few days we ran errands in Utah, drove back on the right side of the road (I keep thinking we are going to die and then remembering. I haven't driven at all here yet), and came home to the blessed Starr Valley. Seeing our house all decorated for Christmas just made me feel so at home! Eventually my dad had to release me as a missionary. He gave a really good blessing and then said "I officially release you as a missionary and call you as a daughter of God." And . . . think really hard . . . You're right, I cried. I locked myself in my room and wrote in my journal and read the Book of Mormon. Sister Ngakuru said that she wanted the real truth, not just all the good stuff, so here it is: I am bad at change so I'm trying to remember it's going to be ok, but I really, really miss my mission. It's just so weird to be here.
I still had a wonderful time at church, seeing my adorable little ward, reporting to the High Council with Emily Jones, and speaking to the mission prep class with her as well. Emily and I opened our mission calls on the exact same day at BYU and we have had kind of matching lives. Now we got home on the same day. She is so wonderful and it was so fun to talk to her! I've been able to email a bunch of my missionary friends and I even face timed Sister Solomon which was so fun. All of you New Zealand-ites better keep in contact!
I can't believe my mission is over. It was so hard and so wonderful . . . which is exactly how it feels to be home. There is so opposition in all things. Heavenly Father totally knows what I need, even as a civilian/member/YSA/regular person instead of his set-apart representative. There are even greater things ahead.
I know I'm such a competitive person and I shouldn't be, but if there was a competition to see who had the best mission experience ever, I feel like I would win!
Sister Clarissa Johnson :D
|Chasidy! How I love her!|
|Sisters! My favorite polynesians|
|A bunch of blond Americans|
|The glorious Welcome Bay Ward mission team|
|Saying goodbye to my dear Sister Welker|