Japan, Sendai Mission

Japan, Sendai Mission

Monday, December 30, 2013


On Monday, December 30, 2013 Sister Johnson wrote:

My GOODNESS, do I have the best family in the world, or WHAT?!

Momma, I am so blessed to have you. I am so blessed to have Dad. I am so blessed to have Iver and Sarah. WOW! And I have the best Parents and Big Brother in the universe. I am sure feeling the love right now.

It was so wonderful to talk to you this week. It was such a blessing for me to see you and hear you. I miss you so much! If I know you like I think I do (which I'm pretty sure I do), you weaped after our call ended. I did too. I wanted nothing more than to just come home and be with you again. But, that feeling only lasted a day. I know that I am here for a reason. Sometimes I lose sight of that reason, but the Savior reminds me in the most beautiful, miraculous, and small ways. I love Him, and I know that He loves me.

I am grateful to be here serving with Luk Shimai. She is from Hong Kong, which is a lot like America, or so she tells me. Hong Kong is separate from the rest of China, so they have a lot more freedom. Christmas is big there! And she said that it's basically the same as America. Christmas in Japan was so surprising. It was seriously just a normal day. We said Merry Christmas to a garbage man, and he laughed and said "Oh yeah, it is Christmas today!" No one here knows how special of a day Christmas is! I just wanted to shout from the rooftops that Christ is born! His Peace is being published on the Earth! I couldn't really do that, seeing as we aren't allowed on rooftops. Had I been given the chance, I might have actually done that. But, it just wasn't practical. But, I did receive Iver and Sarah's package in the mail on the 27th! The CD has been making me SO HAPPY!!!! I have missed Steven Sharp Nelson SO MUCH! My iPod for some reason deleted about half the music I had on there, and it doesn't have any Steven Sharp Nelson anymore. So that was definitely a tender mercy. As was the harmonica! I am learning how to play it, and so far, I can play all the nursery rhymes! One of my goals is to come home being able to play the harmonica.

I'm still in the midst of thinking about my resolutions.
1. Learn to love seafood! I am in the most seafood-eating area of the mission right now, in the middle of seafood season. I WILL love seafood.
2. I will finish reading the Book of Mormon in Japanese. I can now read and understand a lot of what is going on. With the help of Simon, my electric companion, and the guidance of the Spirit, I know that I can succeed!
3. When I return home, I will get a drivers license.
Those aren't my only goals. I will have more, as well. I just haven't decided for sure yet.

President Rasmussen has given us a very specific schedule for New Years Day:
We are to have normal personal study in the morning, and then we are to engage in a Japanese culture activity! That means we are going to go to a jinja (Japanese Shrine) and do the prayer/money/ring-the-bell thing that they do! I am super excited for that. Then we are to return home to the apartment and read the whole of 3rd Nephi! As we do that, we are to think about Christ and how Him appearing to the Nephites on the American continent was a new beginning for those people. Then, President has asked us to set our goals and record them. I am excited for the day's activities; it will be a fun day for sure!

Well, we just got back from the best appointment with Yuki San! Today we talked about how to recognize answers to prayers. We talked about the Holy Ghost and how it guides us. We talked a lot also about baptism, and about how it's a beginning! We don't need to have all the knowledge in the world about everything in order to receive baptism, and so we talked a lot about that. We also talked about Church! The very first thing Yuki San said to us in our lesson was, "Guess what? My goal for next year is to come to Church every Sunday! How about it?" It was SO WONDERFUL! We felt very prompted to tell her that as she does so, she will receive knowledge from on high and that her family will reap blessings for her wanting to be more righteous. We also invited her to pray about a baptismal date! It was a wonderful lesson! And then she surprised us by taking us out to lunch! It was so nice. I love her so much. All I want for her is to come unto Christ and to experience even more happiness than before. YAY! She is progressing so wonderfully!

Something that I have learned recently is that The Authorities know me EXACTLY. I will be honest, I was having a bit of a rough week. I have been feeling really overwhelmed by what is "expected" of me, because I am a missionary, from the members here in Japan. I feel like the members think I am perfect. They have me (and all missionaries) on a pedastal, and they expect me to do everything EXACTLY right, to say EXACTLY the right thing at EXACTLY the right time, and that I will be able to drop everything I have planned to come to their houses, or that I will bake them a cake because they gave me a cookie or something. The list is basically inexhaustive. And so, I have been really worried about offending people (like we did in Aizu) because I just can't measure up to their expectations. It's been really weighing me down lately, and so I decided to seek refuge in high places. Heavenly Father, Mother, and Jesus Christ know how to comfort me in exactly the perfect way. The answer to my prayers came in an email from Dad. I am so grateful that he was in tune with the Spirit enough to write exactly what I needed to hear. I am so thankful.

As I begin this new year, I want to spend more time focused on my Savior Jesus Christ. I am called here to Japan to do the things He would do if He were here, say what He would say, be who He would be, and love how He would love. I want to love like my Savior, who loves so individually and so fully. I want to say what He would say if He were here. I want to become who He would have me become. It is my prayer that through studying the scriptures, and through listening to the guidance of the Spirit that I will be able to become more like Him. I am so grateful for His atoning sacrifice for me. I have been thinking about the words to Amazing Grace lately:
Amazing grace! How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now I'm found.
Was blind, but now I see!
This is all possible because of Jesus Christ and His Amazing Grace. It saves me. It saves us all. For this, I am eternal grateful.

Love, Shak

And from another letter on the same day:


Today, my personal study was reading from the Book of Mormon, and reading from the letters that you have sent me in the past. It's amazing, I swear the words have changed from the first time I read them! But the truth of the fact is that I am learning how to see with my spiritual eyes, hear with my spiritual ears, speak with my spiritual tongue, and feel with my spiritual heart. I am learning to stretch myself. I am learning to trust in the Divine. I am learning my Savior. And your words in those letters are His words to me. Thank you thank you thank you. Really.

Your haiku is beautiful. I love it. That is actually something that has been in the back of my mind recently, Japanese poetry. I want to write. I want to sing! Traditional Japanese singing is absolutely beautiful. There is nothing else in the world like it. I want to sing and feel my soul soar to the tops of the beautiful Japanese mountains. I will learn.

Haha, you think I will abandon you for Japan later in life? I really have no idea. It's hard to believe that I only have ten and a half more months in this beautiful place. I want to come back someday. We will see. I really have no idea how that would be possible! I have no money! But, we will see. The relationships I am making and the people I am meeting are no mere coincidence.

I love Luk Shimai, and your pun. She is wonderful. I am wondering how we can work harder. This transfer has been a little bit hard for me. I feel like we haven't gotten anything done. It's making me sad. But! This transfer is only halfway gone! I still have three weeks to make this the most successful transfer of my mission! I know that with the Lord's help, I can do that. Luk Shimai is a sensitive one. My setting-apart blessing tells me that the Lord will trust me with sensitive sisters, that one of my missions is to uplift and strengthen them. That is what I am here to do! Luk Shimai needs the Savior's love through me. So, that is what I will do. And I will give all my love to Yuki San, Sugiyama San, Mayumi San, and all the new people that the Lord will trust me with.

Love you:
ShakNikko Shimai

On Monday, December 23, 2013 Sister Johnson wrote:

I most definitely have P-Day! Christmas will be a very busy day full of great missionary work! I am very excited. What a great and unique opportunity I have to spend Christmas as a personal representative of Jesus Christ Himself! This is literally a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me, seeing as I only have this one Christmas in Japan. I am excited to sing of Him on street corners and in genkans, and to publish good tidings of great joy, His everlasting peace, and His redeeming love to everyone that I meet! It will be a very special day, indeed!

Happy Solstice!! Happy, light-filled days will come to us again! What a happy thing. I love the sunshine! Ishinomaki has great sunshine. This last week has been crazy weather. A few days ago, it snowed for about three hours, and then as it got colder, the snow turned to rain! It didn't make sense at all, and I was super confused, and now everything is crazy icy. We can't ride our bikes because it's super dangerous. But yesterday during church, the sun was shining nice and bright, and big bite-size snow was falling. It was so lovely, and it reminded me of Christmas in Colorado. It was a nice little beautiful tender mercy from the Authorities.

I got a letter from the Denver Stake Presidency this week in the mail. It was really wonderful to receive! It contained their testimony of the Savior, and it talked about the real importance of Christmas. It posed a very interesting question, one that has been really quite interesting to think about. The question is this: what gift can you give to the Savior this year? As I have pondered this question, it has been really hard to come up with just one answer! There are so many, and I don't really know where to start! In Christmases past, I have given the Savior the gift of music. As I perform on my cello, I would always picture in my head the Savior sitting on the front row, listening intently. This has always been my gift to Him. Through my music, I can express my love for the Savior and my gratitude to Him in a way that I can't do in words. But being here in Japan, this is the first Christmas in 11 years that I haven't had a cello to perform on! So, I have a unique opportunity to offer the Savior a different kind of gift. Here I am, a missionary in Japan, and that means that I am already consecrating 100 percent of my time and energy to the Lord, so how can I make that more meaningful? This has been the topic of my thoughts as of late. How can I become a better servant and representative of my Savior, Jesus Christ? I don't have an answer yet, but I will keep you updated.

This week, we had our first lesson with our investigator, Yuki San! She is the absolute best!!! I love her so much! She has made so much progress with the sisters that were here before us, and she is continuing to progress. We were able to really connect with her this week, and get to know her. She is in her 60's. She got divorced a long time ago, and her ex-husband died in the tsunami two years ago. She has three sons, but she doesn't really have a good relationship with them. Her reason for meeting with us is so she can learn to become a better person so she can heal her family relations. She loves God, and she has such a desire to learn of Christ and to follow Him. I know that as she continues on this path that her family will be blessed. All of her trials will not be taken away, but she will be strengthened and empowered as she learns to rely on the Atonement of the Savior. I love Yuki San, and I am excited to watch her progress.

Are you feeling the light of Christ this year? Is His light and love illuminating your countenance? I sure hope so. We had the branch Christmas party on Saturday night, and it was pretty good. There was too much Santa and not enough Jesus though. It made me sad, as always. But, there was one beautiful moment. The primary here consists of four of the cutest little boys, the oldest of which is 6 or 7. They all dressed up like shepherds and sang the primary version of Away in a Manger. The words are a little bit different in Japanese. They are words sung directly to the baby Savior, pleading with Him to lead and guide us through the ills of life, and they are so beautiful. As the four little boys sang, the sweetest spirit filled the room, and I saw Christ in the eyes of each of those boys. It was a wonderful beautiful sight, precious to behold. I now really understand why Christ asks us to become as a little child. Children are so pure, and they can see with the eyes of their spirit. They know. They know the divine. I want to learn to become like that again, as I once was long ago.

This week, I finished reading the Book of Mormon from cover to cover for the first time on my mission! I started in July, and have been highlighting every reference to Christ, His words, His attributes, and His pure doctrine. I highlighted all of that in red, and then counted the number of red marks and recorded it at the bottom of each page as I read. My Book of Mormon is now completely RED! (Haha, that's a great pun.) So today during personal study, I added up the numbers of references to Christ. Guess how many? 4,536 references! WOW! In 527 pages, there are 4,536 references to the Savior. How amazing is that?! That is SO MANY! What a great book it is, what great evidence it is that we do indeed have a Savior, and that His name is Jesus Christ! The Book of Mormon truly is another testament of Jesus Christ, one that if we study and ponder the teachings therein, we will draw closer and closer to Him of whom the book so beautifully testifies! I love the Book of Mormon, and I love that it teaches me of my Savior. It has been such a blessing to study in this manner, and I have learned so much.

Well, I am so excited to see you in two days!!!!!!!! That will be so wonderful! I also know how hard it will be to hang up... but I'm not thinking about that yet. Haha. I love you!

P.S. I got the packages in the mail this week! THANK YOU! I:m excited to open them soon! LOVE YOUUUUU!

-Shak Shimai

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Monday, December 16, 2013 (Second Post)

On Monday, December 16, Sister Johnson wrote:

Konnichiwa from Ishinomaki!

Well, here I am in my new area! It has been quite an adventure!

Leaving Aizu was really, really sad. I found a home there, and I was so upset to be leaving. The whole time we rode the bus from Aizu to Sendai, the tears wouldn't stop falling. I missed the people. Not just the members of the Church there, but all of the people of Aizu. I have never met such kind and caring and warm people. I missed the other missionaries that I served with there, and I missed most of all the family that Robertson Shimai and I had been teaching. I had finally felt like I had found my purpose in Aizu, and I was ready to stay there and carry out that purpose, but I suppose the Lord has other work for me to do, and that work is here in Ishinomaki.

My new companion is absolutely wonderful! Her name is Luk Yu Ching (Luk Shimai), and she is from Hong Kong, China! We were in the same district at the MTC, and I have loved her every minute of my mission. She is so spunky, and so fun. She's very quiet, but when she has something to say, it's usually HILARIOUS. I love her. So far, we are working very well together. I am looking forward to working here with her. There are four Elders in our district: Elder Ohori, who is our district leader. He is the best missionary I have ever seen, and he is in his last transfer! Sad. Then there's his companion, Elder Canepari. He is a BRAND new bean, fresh off the plane last week! He is from California, and can play the piano really well. Then there is Elder Olsen, who is in his fourth transfer, and is from Canada. He is funny. Then there's his companion, Elder Berkley, who is also a BRAND new bean. He is from New Mexico, and was in marching band! So far, we are all having fun together. I think that we will see much success as a district.

Elder Ohori and Elder Canepari have an awesome investigator right now, his name is Onadera San. He is 36, and reminds me a lot of Dad. He's super genki, and is a very deep thinker. He asked me to teach him the lyrics to Let it Be by the Beatles, so that was way fun! Onadera San has a great voice, and a great sense of humor. He is about ready to get baptized! He is making wonderful progress! He is even participating in the branch Christmas party this Saturday! He is great.

We, as a companionship, are "whitewashing" this area, which means there were sisters here before, but both of them got transferred, so we are both new to Ishinomaki, so we still have no idea where anything is! Haha, you would not believe the layout of this town. The streets make no sense. I know which was is north, and I still can't figure it out. It's been rough, but it's getting better. But, we have two investigators already! Two that the previous Sisters were teaching. One is named Saito Yukiko San. She is in her 60's and is progressing very well! She is trying her best to stop drinking coffee and to live the other principles she was taught by the last sisters. We have our first appointment with her tomorrow, and I am very much looking forward to it. Our other investigator is named Toyota San (yes, her name is actually Toyota. We also have an old investigator named Honda! Haha! Yay, Japan!) and we met her last week at Eikaiwa. She is a great lady. She loves that the Church is so involved in volunteer efforts in the community. So far she says that she doesn't want to become a member of the Church yet, but I have faith that she will eventually.

Last week, we had an appointment with the Elders with a man named Sugiyama San. He is awesome!!! He is in his 50's, and lives by himself. He has a great big house because he is super wealthy (he is an engineer). In the earthquake and tsunami, his house was completely destroyed, and his family died right in front of him. It was really sad to hear. He started meeting with the missionaries a few months ago, but he isn't a full investigator because no one has been able to teach him a full lesson. He is so lonely, so when we go over to see him, he just talks and talks and talks. It was a great appointment, even though I didn't understand everything he said. My heart is full of love for this man who has lost so much. Since the tsunami, he has thought a lot about the purpose of all this, and why we are here. His views on things are very similar to ours. I hope that in our next appointment, we will be able to teach the plan of Salvation a little bit, and hopefully through the Spirit, he will feel a little bit of hope. We are going over next week to help him clean his big house, and then he is cooking for us. It should be a really great time! He likes to build ships-in-bottles, and right before he left, he took one off the shelf and handed it to Luk Shimai and said "Here, I made this just for you!" Then he took a beautiful hand-carved wooden fan off the shelf and offered it to me. He said, "a beautiful girl like you needs a beautiful fan." It was so sweet, that I started to cry. I hope that we can offer him service and love, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and that He will accept it. He is a truly wonderful person, and I love him so much.

On Saturday, we had a great opportunity to go with members of the branch to volunteer at a temporary housing unit. All of the people who live there had their lives completely wiped out by the tsunami, and they are still trying to figure everything out. They also all have some sort of disability, whether mental, physical, or developmental. As a branch, we put on a Christmas concert for them! I had the opportunity to sing about Christ! And with the other missionaries, we performed Christmas Carols with handbells! If you don't know what those are, look it up! It was so much fun, and so beautiful! After the concert, we got to talk with the people, and it was amazing how full of love and gratitude they are for the things that they have. It was a very spiritual experience for me, and I hope that we will be able to go back in the future.

Speaking of the members of the branch, they are wonderful! There are about 30 members who come to Church, and they are all so fun! The women are so energetic and full of life, and they are ALL musically talented! It is so fun to sing with them! They sing so beautifully. I love singing about the Savior in Japanese. It's great. Yesterday in Relief Society, we had a great discussion of the mission of the Savior. He has lots, but my favorite of them is that Jesus Christ was send to give liberty to the captives. All of us are captive by something is our own way, great or small, but with the help of Jesus Christ, and the redemptive power of His atonement, we can be liberated from the things that hold us bound. That is my focus this Christmas season, and I hope that I can share that with the people of Ishinomaki.

I am grateful to be here. I know that there is a reason for me being transferred here. I hope that with the guidance of the Spirit, I will be able to find that purpose.
I am so grateful for Christmas. I am grateful for the birth of my Savior. My love for Him grows deeper everyday as I get to walk the paths that He would walk, do the things that He would do, say the things that He would say, and become the person He wants me to be, here in Ishinomaki. As His authorized representative, I have the power and authority to carry out His work in this special place. It is my hope and my fervent prayer that I will be able to learn how to humbly yield to the guidance of the Spirit so that I can do the things that my Savior Jesus Christ needs me to do.

So, Christmas!!!! YAY! We get to Skype!!!!

I haven't gotten Christmas packages yet! I hope to soon! Transfers kind of complicate everything.

Well, I love you to bits and pieces!!!!

Johnson Shimai

Monday, December 16, 2013

On Monday, December 16, Sister Johnson sent a lot of pics!!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Monday, December 9, 2013

On Monday, December 9, 2013 Sister Johnson wrote:

Hi Momma, thank you for your wonderful email. I so needed it today.

I am getting transferred. I am beyond sad; I've done nothing but cry since 8:00 last night. I do not want to leave Aizu. This is one of my most favorite places in the entire world, I think. Next to the hot springs in Buena Vista and the temple. I love Aizu, and I am going to miss the people here more than I can ever say. I will also miss Robertson Shimai. She has been the absolute best companion and friend. She knows so much about me, and about the way I think, and she is so full of love! I am going to miss her so much, but I am so grateful that I have her to leave our investigators with. She is so wonderful, and ready, and capable to take care of the precious people we have met. Her new companion will be my MTC companion, Tui Shimai! Is't that awesome?! Tui Shimai is replacing me! That will be so fun; her and Robertson Shimai will get along great.

I will be transferring to a place called Ishinomaki. Back to the Sendai zone I go! Ishinomaki was the place that was hit the hardest by the tsunami in 2011, and things are still being rebuilt and repaired. Basically the entire city was wiped out, and so President Rasmussen told me that there is so much opportunity for service, so that is what I plan to do! Serve, serve, serve, and most importantly, LOVE. My new companion will be Luk Shimai, who was in my district at the MTC! She is the one from China, and she is so cute! I love her! I am so excited to serve with her in Ishinomaki. We will be whitewashing the area (which means we will have an area book and stuff, but neither of us know the area at all), so that should be fun. I can't believe that I am already going to my third area! I'm only starting my fifth transfer! Usually sisters only have three areas in their ENTIRE mission. What the heck? I have lots of confirming to do with the Divine. But, I am excited for the new opportunity to serve new and wonderful people.

This week was a great one! Iriya Kun, the 9 year old in the Arai family, has a baptismal date!!!!!!!! He still has to get permission from his parents though, so it's not official yet, but he and we are really excited about it! He loves Jesus, and I can see the light of Christ shine in his eyes and in his smile. He is so precious to me, and I am so sad I won't be here to see him get baptized, but the Lord has plans for me elsewhere. The others in the Arai family are progressing so much! Arai San, the Dad, is awesome! We were able to teach him this week without the kids, and it was the most incredible lesson. We talked about the Word of Wisdom a lot. Because he owns a store, he often drinks coffee with his customers, and he takes his employees out for drinks on the weekends. He said that right now in his life, he doesn't really want to stop that because he is able to build good relationships with people. Both Robertson Shimai and I bore testimony of the spiritual blessings of keeping the Word of Wisdom, and afterwards, we talked about the Book of Mormon. We read together with him Mosiah 2:22 and 41. We also talked about baptism and why it is necessary, and the incredible blessings that come from making promises with God and Jesus Christ. It was an incredible lesson, and the Spirit was filling the room. At the end, Arai San said, "well, now I have this feeling that I want to stop drinking sake and coffee starting in January. I don't understand it, but that's what I am feeling I should do." That was AMAZING! Wow! The Spirit was so strong, and I couldn't wipe the smile off my face. The Arai family is progressing so well, and they are so prepared to receive the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It was a good week. :)

So yeah, I am so sad to be leaving. I feel like I finally found my purpose in Aizu, and that was to bring the Gospel to the Arai family. And now I'm being transferred. I am sad beyond words. This is where my faith and trust in my Heavenly Father is really going to be tested. I know that He knows more than I ever will about this, but I am still sad. Trust, trust, trust. I have different purposes in Ishinomaki.

I hope you have a wonderful week! Remember Christ. He is the reason this month is so great!

Love, Shak Shimai

And some excerpts from two emails we received from President and Sister Rasmussen this past week:

We love Sister Johnson. She is transferring to Ishinomaki this week. It is a city that was hit hard by the tsunami 2 1/2 years ago and where many were killed. Although the physical evidences of the tsunami have been largely removed, there are still many emotional scars. I believe our missionaries can help heal those scars through music and bright countenance just like your daughter has.
Thank you for all of your love and support.
Merry Christmas.


We love Sister Johnson. We call her Sister Sunshine.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Monday, December 2, 2013

On Monday, December 2, 2013 Sister Johnson wrote:

I wasn't feeling too hot yesterday, but now I'm all back to normal! It's amazing how quickly you can heal from ailments as a missionary. I am grateful!

I hope you had a good Thanksgiving! Thanksgiving was interesting. It's been Christmas in Japan for the last month already, so I actually didn't really remember it was Thanksgiving. But when I did, I felt very grateful for two things. First, for the love of my Savior. Second, for my very special family who knows more about the Savior than most people do. I am so very grateful for those two things. I am so blessed. I cooked spaghetti and sauce from scratch for Robertson Shimai and I. It was oishii.

This week was really great for one reason: we had an investigator at church yesterday!! It was the first time Aizu has had an investigator come to church in a very, very long time! Iriya, the 9-year-old of the Arai family, and his little sister Mari came to church! They came for the whole thing! They absolutely loved primary and they made some friends. We invited the whole family to come, but Arai San has to work basically all the time (he owns a pet hotel in his house), so he couldn't come. But, when we taught them this week, Arai San prayed at the end of the lesson!! How great is that?! I am so grateful for this family, and for the opportunity we have to teach them. Right now, I desire nothing more than to see them make and keep sacred covenants and be together as a family forever.

Not much else is going on. We've been spending a lot of time traveling lately. We had zone meeting last week, and we have zone conference tomorrow, so we're headed to Sendai when we get done emailing. Guess what I found in Sendai? A Doc Marten's store. How awesome is that?! Japan is so cool! I love this place.

Oh, My bike is a piece. I hate it. But I can't complain because I'd rather be on a piece bike than on foot all the time. I wish I could buy some new tires for it. The tires we have are so bad, it's ridiculous. I'm sick and tired of slipping on rain gutters. It's terrifying. But, anyway. I'm thankful I at least have a bike. And my saddle is tougher than ever.

I did get your package this week, and it has brought me SO MUCH JOY! Thank you for everything Momma! The tights were a life-saver, and I LOVE the snowflake lights! I turn them on all the time! They are so cool! Thank you! And for the pictures! You and Dad are so hip. I love it so much.

Well Momma, I love you so very much. I hope you know that! I need to write President Rasmussen now, but always remember that I love you!

Oh yeah, and I'm trying to figure out Skype, but transfers are next week, and I have NO idea what is going to happen... So yeah. I'll let you know next week!

Love you! Love Jesus!

Love, Shak Shimai

Monday, November 25, 2013

Monday, November 25, 2013

On Monday, November 25, 2013 Sister Johnson wrote:

Thank you so much for the prayers. They got me through this hard, hard week. But! Robertson Shimai and I have come out alive!

After the incident last week, I was really discouraged. I haven't cried like that since I was in my last area in Izumi. I felt like I could never do anything right, like I am a terrible missionary because I had lost the trust of a family in the branch (they were really, REALLY upset), like I couldn't speak Japanese, like all I wanted to do was lay on my futon for the rest of my mission. It was a terrible feeling, and I am sad to say that I spent some hours actually on my futon. But! We are friends with this absolutely WONDERFUL family named the Takahashis, and they took extra special care of us when they heard what happened. First, we got a phone call from them saying that we are wonderful missionaries, that we are having wonderful success, and that they love us so much. Then, that night, they surprised us at our apartment with cake and love and a new skirt for Sister Robertson! It was so sweet. They said they came to make sure we were okay and to tell us that they love us. It was so nice, and I am so grateful. They helped me feel like I had a place in Aizu again.

It was really hard to get going again, I will be very honest, but man, has the Lord been blessing us! We have had the most successful week I have had my entire mission! Heavenly Father has blessed us with a new family to teach, as well as an additional investigator! We are now teaching the Arai family, who is probably my favorite Japanese family in the entire world. We are teaching the Dad, Arai San, and four of his kids (he has five total, but right now, the oldest one and his wife are living in Ukraine, because that is where she is from! So we are teaching a half-Japanese, half-Ukrainian family! They are the cutest kids in the entire world.), and we have had two lessons with them this week. They are so genki, and they love our lessons. We teach English for half an hour, and then we teach the Gospel. We have decided to start with the Plan of Happiness, and yesterday, we taught about the creation. It was so fun, and we colored pictures, and did all sorts of great things. We are teaching three boys, ages 9, 5, and 3, and one little girl, age 7. She is the cutest little thing, Mari Chan. I love her to pieces. I cannot describe the love that is in my heart for this family. Every time I see them, I am flooded with Heavenly Father's love for them. Right now in my life, I desire nothing more than to see them live together as a forever family. It's amazing that we have the privilege of being with our families for eternity, isn't it? It's all possible through the grace and love of one Jesus Christ. He is my light.

But yes, so besides the set-back that we had, we are still working hard. We got calls from the zone leaders to make sure we were okay. Also, yesterday at district conference (like stake conference), Sister Rasmussen pulled Robertson Shimai and I aside and talked to us for about 15 minutes to make sure we are okay. EVERYONE IN JAPAN KNOWS WHAT HAPPENED. Seriously, it's crazy how much people talk here. But it was so sweet of her to be so concerned. And yes, now we are doing okay.

These weeks have been hard. But I've learned a lot. I've learned a lot about drawing strength from my Savior. He knows. And He lifts gladly. I love Him. He's just the greatest.

Well, it's awfully cold here. And our bikes are scary dangerous, but we are being careful. And I can't believe it's exactly a month until I get to SKYPE YOU! I seriously can't wait.

I haven't gotten a package from you this week. I am supposed to get one from Olive too, but she sent it about a month and a half ago, and it still isn't here. I am so sad.

Thank you for your love and prayers. I love my Savior, and I hope you know that I rely on Him. So much.

I love you!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Monday, November 18, 2013

On Monday, November 18, 2013 Sister Johnson wrote:

Thank you so much for praying for Urasawa San! We did teach her again this week, but it was kind of a disaster of a lesson. We decided to teach about prophets and their role in God's plan, but it quickly spiraled out of control. She is a 7th Day Adventist, and she asked us if we believe in prophets now, so we talked about President Monson, and she, very sternly, said, "No, I can't accept that. You are wrong. We can receive revelation for ourselves through prayer. We only needed a prophet for the Law of Moses, and since Christ fulfilled the law, we do not need a prophet today." I was speechless. I had no idea what to say, and I could not feel the Spirit at all. It made me very sad. We had a member there with us who recently returned from her mission (last week) and she tried to use the scriptures to help Urasawa San understand, but it didn't help. All I could do at the end was say "I am so sorry if we offended you, and I'm sorry that I can't understand perfectly what you are saying and that I can't speak perfectly, but what I know is this. Christ is my Savior. He calls prophets to lead us to Him. Yes, we can pray, but I also know that prophets are necessary." Something along those lines. It was very discouraging, and we left sad. But we have another appointment on Wednesday. I have no idea how that is going to go. Please keep Robertson Shimai and I in your prayers so that we can become better teachers and better missionaries.

We had another appointment with that same member, the returned missionary, yesterday. She invited us over to talk to her friend who could speak some English, and we were all really excited about it! The member asked us to talk about our purpose as missionaries, which from PMG (Preach My Gospel), is this: My purpose is to invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the holy ghost and enduring to the end. So, that is what I thought she meant! So all night we were talking about Church and churchy things and about Christ, and the conversation led naturally to that, so when it came time for Robertson Shimai and I to give our spiritual thought, we bore simple testimonies of the Savior and read some passages from the Book of Mormon. We thought it was a great lesson, and we all felt the Spirit. After we got home, the member who gave us the referral called us and was very upset with us. She told us that her friend was super confused and that she had no idea what we were talking about and that we shouldn't have prayed at the beginning of the lesson and that we shouldn't have talked about the Savior and all of these other things, and she told me that she can't trust us with a referral for a while until we get better at teaching. It was devastating. I was sharing my testimony of the Savior, and it was natural, and her friend was very receptive, or so I thought. So, right now, I'm kind of feeling like I can't do anything, like I'm a terrible missionary, and that I should just give up.
But I won't. I know my Savior. I am here to testify of Him. I am here to bring His love and His light to those who are ready to receive Him here in Japan. That is my purpose. I love Him, and I know that He loves me. As I learn to more fully rely on Him, I will be able to take this experience and learn from it, get back up, brush myself off, and keep moving. Being a missionary is really hard, especially when you are the senior companion, a gaijin, and have only been in Japan for five months. But. I trust in my Savior. I know He lives, and that He is guiding me by the hand. For this, I am so eternally grateful.

We had a really great week, other than that! We had three joint lessons this week! We haven't taught Arai San and his family yet, we had to reschedule for today, so that will happen later. I am so excited. I hope that this lesson will go better than the one yesterday!

Please keep me in your prayers, Momma. Send your love so the miles will shrink. Heaven knows I need that today.

I love you so much! I miss you!

Love, Shak

Monday, November 11, 2013

Monday, November 11, 2013

Two weeks worth of emails, and some mailed snapshots, since she is unable to send them electronically for now.

On Monday, November 4, Sister Johnson wrote:

I have found so much joy this week! Christ is all around us. He is in everything. He IS everything. That is something I have been learning more and more every day. I love Japan.

Well, as you can probably guess, this week has been entirely overwhelming for me. Being a trainer of a gaijin has been insanely hard. I have been very humbled this week, and I am so grateful that the Lord is opening my eyes to His guidance and tender mercies. I have spend much time on my knees pleading not only for the gift of tongues, but for the interpretation of tongues. I seemed to have forgotten about that part of the gift... and boy, has the Lord blessed me! Robertson Shimai and I already have found a new investigator! Her name is Urasawa San, and she is a Korean woman married to a Japanese man. She is a 7th Day Adventist, and owns a Korean restaurant just down the street from the Church. We have started to do the Family English Program with her, which is where we teach English for 30 minutes, and then we share a message for 30 minutes. At this point, I'm not sure what her interest level in the Church is, but she already has a background of Christianity and has great faith. She told us that she has been separated from God for a long time now, but occasionally, she gets warm feelings in her chest that are accompanied with thoughts that "I need to return to God." How wonderful is that?? I hope that Robertson Shimai and I will really be able to pay attention to the Spirit to discern her needs because I really believe that she is being prepared to accept the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We have another appointment with her this week.

The Lord is blessing me with light. I had a really incredibly wonderful spirit-filled scripture study this morning. I have found the answer as to why Japan is so deeply spiritual to me. Christ created everything spiritually before He created it spiritually. Now go read Isaiah 44: 22-24. Especially 23 and 24. Can you hear it? I can. Look again. You can hear it, see it, feel it. He is everywhere.
WOW! I was engulfed with the Spirit and with love. What a great blessing! There's more to that experience, but I don't have time to type it all out, unfortunately. But! I love Isaiah. What light comes from that book! No wonder Christ exhorts us and pleads with us to read his words. I am so grateful for the scriptures. They really do testify of Christ. They really do contain the fullness of His Gospel. If we really dig in, we can find Him, His love, His nature, and HIS truth. What a wonderful opportunity we have to read and drink from and feast on the words of Christ.

I am doing the Lord's work! I have learned SO MUCH this week that in no way is this work MY work. It is all His. How grateful I am for that. It was so much fun to house this week (the first time that has EVER been fun. I hate housing.) because people are already nice, but they are SO MUCH NICER when they have two blond gaijin girls knock on their door to tell them about Jesus! People were SO NICE to us, it was unbelievable. One woman invited us into her genkan and gave us a ton of food and gave us hugs (that's the real rarity) and wished us on our way! It was so fun. And it's getting easier to talk WITH people, not AT people, as we house. Yay, blessings. It's all the Lord. In no way is this my power. I can't do anything without His help. Jesus is the best, right?

I am freezing, yes. I am definitely your daughter, Dad. This weather is getting so much colder, and my joints are aching like you wouldn't believe. When we get home at night, my hands can't move. I'm quite worried about it actually. What's the deal with that? I don't want arthritis.

So, I have been sick this week. I'm pretty sure I'm developing a sinus something-or-other. I have had a killer headache and my head is clogged. I feel fine, all except my head. Blehhhhh. But, it's getting better... ish.

Robertson Shimai and I are cooking lots of veggies. And lots of chicken. And lots of rice. I need to learn how to cook more of what is available here. But I know quite a bit already, and I am excited to cook for you when I get home!

So, I forgot to tell you about how wonderful Sister Robertson is. This week, I had one really rough day. I could literally feel Satan sitting on my shoulder, convincing me that I am so inadequate. That, and lots of other things. I could literally feel him there. It was so scary and I didn't know what to do. I plead with Heavenly Father to give me the strength and the power to cast him away. In companionship study, Robertson Shimai and I were talking, and I said through some tears, "I really need your help today." and I told her everything that I was feeling. After the two hours of study, Robertson Shimai said exactly what I needed to hear. She said:
"Johnson Shimai, I love that you are so musical. I really do. So, you know that phrase in the scriptures that says "an instrument in the Lord's hands?" Well, I've always thought that that means a tool of some kind, like a screwdriver or something, but today, I learned that it means something different. You, Sister Johnson, are an instrument in His hands, and through you, He makes beautiful music. You are His instrument. He loves you, and I love you for being so beautiful."
That is what she said, and it was exactly what I needed to hear. Heavenly Father answered my prayers through my sweet, wonderful companion. What a great blessing it is to be serving with her and to be friends with her.

Please keep me in your prayers. Heaven knows I need them.

And on Monday, November 11, 2013 Sister Johnson wrote:

Yes, I got the package this week, THANK YOU SO MUCH! It made me so happy!!! I LOVED hearing from those girls (our ward's young women); they are all so sweet. I don't have time to write them back all individually, so will you tell them all that I love them? Also, tell Katie that her story had me rolling on the floor laughing. LOVED that.

I am so happy to hear that you got my pictures! I am sorry that that is the only way I can do pictures right now. I wish I could send them electronically, but I can't. I will put some more in the mail today.

We don't have "stake conference" where I am, because the only stake in my mission is in Sendai. So, we have district conference, which is under the direction of President Rasmussen! That is in two weeks, and should be very good. I think I will be translating for Sister Rasmussen, too! So, I have lots of language study to do. I have found in the last transfer that I can understand about 90 percent of what people say now! I can reply, but very simply. I can't speak as well as I can understand yet, but it's coming along every day! I love speaking Japanese, actually. Every week, we volunteer at an old people place, and this week, one of the women there smiled at me, told me how pretty my face was, and then told me that my Japanese pronunciation was beautiful. She said that it sounded like a native! What a great thing to hear!!! The language can be incredibly frustrating at times, so it's nice to hear that I might not be as inadequate as I am feeling. That is certainly a gift from loving Heavenly Parents and Jesus Christ.

This last week, we had an opportunity to teach Urasawa San again, and we taught more about prayer. She said that she had tried to pray this week, but that all of her prayers were the same! So, we talked about how you really can pray about anything, and that when you pray from your heart, it becomes more meaningful and you can feel the love of God in greater measure. At the end of the lesson, we invited her to close us with a prayer and she said "NO! I can't!! I can't!!" But Robertson Shimai and I felt impressed to just wait. After about three minutes, she said "Okay. I will pray." She gave the most warm and heart-felt prayer I have heard in a very long time. It was sincere and from her heart. Afterwards, I asked her what she was feeling, and she said, "Yes, I feel the Holy Spirit inside of me." What an incredible experience! She is progressing!

Yesterday, Robertson Shimai and I went and visited an old investigator that was in our area book named Arai San. He and his family live very close to the church and have always come to activities, but for some reason, they stopped meeting with the missionaries, so we decided to go and invite him and his family to hear the message again. When we asked, he said, very excitedly "Aa, ii desu yo!!!" which means, yes that sounds great! So, starting on Saturday, we will be teaching him and four of his children English and the gospel! How great is that!? I am so excited. What a blessing!

This week has been a rough one, to be honest. Last P-Day evening, I crashed my bike for the first time on my mission. I was totally fine, nothing happened, I just had some bruises on my knee. Sister Rasmussen told me to go to the hospital, and so I did. I got some x-rays on my knee and back and everything was perfectly normal, just like I thought! So, nothing to worry about there, I promise. Also, Morita Shimai was suuuuuuuuuuper sick this week, and so we've been taking care of her. She is on the mend, but is still feeling under the weather.

I never realized how hard it would be to be an obedient missionary. Robertson Shimai and I have made goals to be exactly obedient, and we have found that the greatest opposition to that is other missionaries. This week, we have felt some angst from some other missionaries in our district because we don't want to waste time (hours and hours actually) at member's houses, and I am feeling very confused by it all. We are just doing what we are supposed to be doing (being missionaries and working hard...). I have learned that the image of missionary work in Japan and that in America are very, very different. But, it makes me think of what you said to me, dad, in Izumi. I am a fixed gear woman. I am a GO GO GO missionary, and that is how Robertson Shimai and I have decided we want to work! So, we aren't going to let other missionaries get in the way of that. So far, it's working.

Well, I love and miss you, so so much! I hope you have a great day! :)

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

October 30, 2013

From Michelle: Several things are included in this post. First, some excerpts from letters Corbin and I received last week. Second, Monday's email.

Mom's letter dated October 15, 2013:

Right now, I have the most wonderful companions. Can I take a moment to tell you how much I love them? Morita Shimai is one of the sweetest people I have ever met in my life. She is so kind, but also so much fun. She has become one of my most dear friends, and I am so blessed to be serving with her. Robertson Shimai is wonderful, too. Her and I come from MUCH different backgrounds, but I am so impressed by her capacity to love and her diligence in the work. my companions both are incredible missionaries and set great examples for me. I have learned so much from them. I am so sad that it will just be the three of us for only two more weeks! But, I'm about 99.2% certain none of us are getting transferred, so we will still be in the same apartment. That will probably allow us to become even greater friends. Yay!

This week, I had a relapse of grief for Fisher. It hit me as I was studying the Plan of Salvation, and I could not control it. I miss him so much. My companions took me in their arms and prayed with me and for me, then they prayed for Fisher in the Spirit World, and they they prayed for Buddy and Shelly and Sadie. I was overwhelmed by the love and comfort I felt from my companions and from my Parents in Heaven, and especially from my Savior. He has His arms wrapped around my Fisher. I am so grateful for that.

Momma, I love this place so much. Aizu is so great. The people here are so nice. the town is so richly steeped in history, and I can feel Christ in the wind and in the mountains. The souls of the people here are so good. I just love it. I feel a connection to this place. I know that there are people here in Aizu that need to hear the Gospel from me. My Heavenly Family has called me here because it is expedient for the salvation of souls. How incredible is that?! They trust me enough to send me to the people here. I have gained a testimony of divine callings. Not only am I called to serve in the Sendai Mission, and in Aizu, but I am called to be with my companions and I am called to serve the PEOPLE OF AIZUWAKAMATSU. I have also gained a new understanding of the phrase, "called to serve". I don't really know how to explain it, but I have learned that as a missionary and representative of Christ, i am first and foremost a servant. I serve my God, I serve my Savior, I serve my mission presidents, I serve my companions, and I serve everyone with whom I come in contact. if you look at Christ, He is the perfect example of this, as with everything else. He was and is the greatest of all, and He spent ALL of His time serving others. Not only did He serve willingly, but He served with love, compassion, and JOY. I am called to the same ministry. I am called to be humble and serve others with love and compassion. I know that as I do so with a willing heart, not only will I be blessed, but those whom I serve will be able to feel their Savior's love through me. There is no greater gift than that of the Savior's love.

I have learned that teaching of the Savior with simplicity is one of my missions here, not only with my investigators, but with my companions, other missionaries, and other members.

I love being a missionary!! I love this place!! I love these people!! I love Japan!! I LOVE YOU!!!!

Dad's letter dated October 9, 2013:

Well, in two weeks, I will have been on my mission for 6 months! It feels like it's been longer than that, though. We all have had to go through some very difficult trials, and I feel as if I have aged, in the spiritual sense. Never has my faith in the Savior been more tested, tried, beaten upon, or relied upon. I know that those are all good things, but boy, it is hard.

My bike here in Aizu is the same bike I had in Izumi! Well not the same ONE, but the same kind and color and everything: Renault, 6-speed, girl bike. Heavy like you wouldn't believe, and slow as all get-out. Rust colored. Brand new. it's nice, but it kicks me out of fifth every time I try, and I have no idea how to fix it.

Our apartment is AMAZING. It's twice as big as the Izumi apartment, and it's way nice. Our neighbors are a bunch of super nice families with cute kids who like to practice their English greetings with me. They are so fun, and very genki! We live in a SUPER nice neighborhood with a bunch of old people. I really don't think homeless people exist here...I haven't seen any the entire time I've been in Japan. So, I don't think anyone digs through our trash! Trash here in Japan is so interesting.Everyone in the entire country recycles and sorts their trash. Different things are collected on different days, and it's amazing. There is no litter here. Japan is so clean.

I love ramen! As far as ramen goes, the smaller the shop, the more delicious the ramen. There is a lot more seafood here in Aizu, and I have tried so hard to be brave, but I just can't do it. I cannot change my taste buds to like seafood. I wish I could. I feel so bad. The other day, we had a big ward activity called "imoni kai", which means "a bunch of people get together and eat potato soup!" The soup is called imoni and it is something unique to the tohoku area. It has about six different kinds of potato-type things, three-ish different kinds of mushrooms, negi, and pork usually. And the broth is make out of shoyu and other things. It was so weird and so delicious. I love Japanese soup. A big thin in Japan is pizza toast, which is bread with ketchup, cheese, and whatever else you want. It's great. I have gone out for sushi with my companions twice, and I ate ebi (shrimp) and sake (salmon)...both were very difficult. So I had pork, hamburger, and bacon sushi. It was wonderful. Ha.

The trees here are amazing, dad. The forests are thick and lush, and full of life, and they speak to me. The pines are some kind of lodge pole pines. They are tall and skinny and very close together. They are so strong and so old. Sometimes, there are huge cedar forests, too! After it rains, and we bike past a cedar forest, the smell in absolutely enchanting. The trees are one of my favorite things about Japan. I love the mountains in Aizu. I can feel Christ in the nature around me here. The stars here are the same, but the nights are always cloudy. I rejoice when I can see them.

I can feel the grandfathers here, but they aren't indian grandfathers. Well, I suppose they are Japanese indians. But I can definitely feel them. And the grandmothers, too. They are all around me. They are the senzo that LOVE their shisun. Ancestors that LOVE their posterity. I can't wait until you can come here and you an feel what I feel.

Thank you for teaching me about my Savior. He is my best friend. I know Him and love Him.

And Sister Johnson's email on Monday, October 28, 2013:

I miss American Halloween. Well, I miss our funky Halloween stuff that we do because we're cooler than the rest of America. :) Halloween in Japan just isn't as big of a deal. They already have Christmas stuff in the stores here though, all over. It makes me miss you, and think about the day I get to call you! That will be so wonderful! Hopefully it will be over Skype. And it will be in the middle of the night for you! Haha. Yay. :)

Well, bad news. I can't do pictures anymore because we got kicked out of the place where we normally do email, so we have to be here at the library, and I can't attach pictures here. BUT! I printed a bunch of pictures and am putting them in the mail for you today! I am so sorry. It's the best I can do, unfortunately.

So! You're probably wondering about transfers... Lots of change! Robertson Shimai and I are now companions! I have become the senior companion and an official trainer! We are staying in Aizu (thank goodness)! So that will be wonderful! I am so excited to have her as my very own bean! But I'm also scared out of my wits because of Nihongo.... AH! Please pray that we will have the gift of tongues.... My dear sweet Morita Shimai is the new sister training leader for the Koriyama zone! She will be staying in Aizu (YAYYYYYYY) and will be getting a brand-new gaikokujin bean! How great is that?! It will be so fun! I am way excited for this transfer. Two of our elders are getting transferred. One is becoming and AP and the other is becoming a zone leader! They are both Nihonjin and are being replaced by gaijin! There will only be two nihonjin missionaries in Aizu now. So crazy! But so fun!

This week was good. We went on splits with the sister training leader, Saito Shimai, and we had a great time! She gave me lots of nice compliments, which was wonderful. I feel so inadequate... but she told me that she was very impressed with my Japanese skills.... I don't believe her. Oh goodness, Nihongo! I am so praying...

I want you to know that I am happy. I love it here, more than words can even say. Aizuwakamatsu, Japan, is a blessed place. I am so grateful to be here serving the Lord. What a great opportunity.

4th transfer, here we go! Keep us in your prayers. :) I love youuuuuu! Loveeeeeee you!
-Johnson Shimai

Monday, October 21, 2013

October 21, 2013

On October 21, 2013 Sister Johnson wrote:

Thank you so much for the package!! I loved it so much! Japan actually does have Halloween, and we are putting together a BIG party for Eikaiwa that night! It is going to be so fun! My companions loved their socks, and they send their love.

You would not believe how cold it is here in Aizu! This last week was bone-chilling and there wasn't very much sunshine. I am grateful for a good coat and boots to wear. And from here on out, it will get colder and colder and colder. Fun stuff!

I LOVE Brad Wilcox. SO MUCH. He gave a talk called "His Grace is Sufficent" in 2011 that gave me a whole new understanding of the Atonement and of the Savior. You should watch it. It's great. It was at a BYU devotional.

So, things here are good. We were able to find two investigators last week! One is an 81 year old woman named Kawashima San, who can kneel and talk for three hours... My knees were dying. So much. But she's awesome and I love her! Our other new investigator is Kawashima San's daughter, Hirano San! Hirano San is in her 50's and is so much fun! She is a professional chef and Japanese tea artist (that will be so hard to talk about....) and is so nice! Then, Hirano San's daughter is one of my students in my English class! Last week, Kawashima San, Hirano San, Hirano San's (other) daughter, and her kids all came to a church activity we had together! There were FOUR GENERATIONS of that family there together! How awesome is that?! I've been thinking about that a lot, and I KNOW that there is SOMEONE in their family that is ready to accept the Gospel. We will be able to see miracles with this family is we follow the promptings of the Spirit and invite them to come unto Christ with love and peace. I am so happy about this.

This week, we got to teach lots and lots! Something that I've learned about teaching is that it is just testifying about the Savior, His nature, His love, and His doctrine, and testifying about the Restoration. My main purpose is not to spew information; my purpose is to invite others to come unto Christ, and I do that by inviting the Spirit into the heart of the person listening to me. It's simple, really. Everything about Christ is simple. I love that.

On Wednesday this last week, Tohoku (Tokyo) had a crazy big typhoon! All of the missionaries in the Sendai mission were ordered by President Rasmussen to stay in the apartment all day, so it was basically like a day off, haha. We did our regular study schedule, and we cleaned really well, we organized our area book, and made an Eikaiwa poster to hang up in businesses and stuff, and then we got bored, so we drew funny faces on ourselves with eyeliner, and then I took a nap! It was a good day.

I am anxious to see what happens in this next transfer! This week is the last of this transfer, and so I will know by next Monday morning what will be happening! I'm very excited, and very nervous and overwhelmed! I have lots of relying on the Lord to do.

Oh! I found out that I will be returning on November 14th of next year. So that's cool. Only a year-ish left! Wow.

I love you!

Love Shak

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

October 14, 2013

On October 14, 2013 Sister Johnson wrote:

I'm so sorry that I am late in writing you this week! We had a crazy awesome work day yesterday, so we decided to move P-Day to today! And then we are late in writing because the place we normally go to email was closed, so now we are at the library and we only have an hour to write, so I will be quick!

This week was wonderful! WE FINALLY FOUND A NEW INVESTIGATOR!!!! YAY! His name is Otaki San and he is in his 50's. He lives by himself, and is super genki. He builds in-home Buddhist alters for a living, and he has the coolest comb-over in the entire world. We met him housing a few weeks ago and asked if we could come back to share a message about Kamisama, and he agreed, so that is just what we did! It was short, only about ten minutes long, but he agreed to have another appointment, so we are headed there tonight to meet with him again. I like him, and I know that The Big People love him. That is what is most important. The same day we taught him, we were able to receive AND CONTACT three referrals with a member in our branch named Kuwahara Shimai! We drove about two hours (yes, it's still in our area) to her friend's house and we were able to meet her and her parents! Three people! We spent a few hours eating with them and talking, and we made a great relationship with them! I hope that we will be able to go back in the future! This week, we were able to receive five referrals from members, and contact them all! What a huge blessing that is! The members here in Aizu really trust the three of us with their loved ones, and I am so grateful for that.

This week, we were able to have personal interviews with Presidents Rasmussen, and I am so grateful for that day. Both of them call me Sister Sunshine, and that makes my day! In my interview, President Rasmussen told me that I would be staying in Aizu this next coming transfer, but also that I will have more responsibilities... ?????? Zenzen wakarenai!!!! I don't understand what that means! Haha! But, I do know that we will be getting another sister, so I will FINALLY be in a companionship! How exciting! I don't know if I will be getting a new bean, or if I will be called to do something else... I'm not sure, but that will happen in two weeks, and I am excited. Until then, I will work hard!

This last weekend, we were able to watch Conference. I absolutely LOVED the talk given by President Utchdorf. What an inspired man he is. Him, President Eyring, and President Monson really understand. I also loved Neil Anderson's talk, and I thought the talk given by Carole Stevens was really good too. I need to study them more when I get them in the mail.

This week, I'm not sure why, but very serious grief for the loss of Fisher hit me again, hard. I am so grateful for wonderful caring companions and great sensitive elders in my district. It was a hard day, and I spent the whole day with a red face and puffy eyes, but I am so grateful for loving Heavenly Parents and a redeemer named Jesus Christ that has His arms wrapped around my dear beloved Fisher. I am so grateful for my Savior. He is the answer, really, to all.

I'm so sorry that this isn't as long as I would like it to be, but I still have to write Pres.

I love you so much. So so much. I miss you.
Love, Sister Sunshine! :)

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

October 7, 2013

On October 7, 2013 Sister Johnson wrote:

I didn't know that Sister Morita wrote you a letter! That made me cry, reading that! I love her so much, I can't even tell you. Today is her birthday, and we are taking her shopping because she is so fantastic and we love her so much. She really is the most wonderful companion. We are becoming very good friends, her and I.

This week was good, but really uneventful. We are still trying to find people to teach, and we haven't had any success yet. But! I have faith, and I know the Lord is preparing people. This week, we spent a lot of time on a bus because we had zone meeting! We had to go all the way back to Sendai, and then to a place called Yamagata, and then back again, and then yesterday, we went to a different branch that was an hour away! We have spent about 12ish hours on a bus this week, and will have more this week because we have interviews with President Rasmussen. But, that is okay.

Yesterday, I fasted that we would be able to find the prepared people that we need to find! I hope that we will be able to as we redouble our efforts to do so.

Last week on P-Day, we got together with the elders in our district and did lots of fun things! We went bowling, out to dinner, and then we went to the Japanese version of a haunted house, which turned out to be a real place, that is rumored to be haunted. It was way fun! We went at night, and hiked about 2000 or so steps, and when the path ended, we were at this crazy old and cool shrine on the side of a mountain in the middle of a super dense forest. It was so cool! The elders played a joke on us too, to scare us. One of them went to look and then disappeared for about 10 minutes while we looked for him. It was funny, but I wasn't really scared. To be honest, I totally felt the Spirit while we were there! Like I said last week, I LOVE the Buddhism in this country, and so that place was SO COOL. I loved it, and it was great fun to hang out with the Elders. They are awesome.

So, I'm almost out of time, but I have a really great scripture to share with you. Alma 32:23. It's about women. LOVE.

Love you!
Johnson Shimai

P.S. We were having fun with double chins. haha.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Monday, September 30, 2013

On Monday, September 30, 2013, Sister Johnson wrote:

Happy Fall! It's amazing here in Japan, like clock-work: the seasons are EXACTLY in line with all the planetary stuff, equinoxes and solstices. Monday came and went, and it got cold cold! The wind started to blow and all the trees are shedding. There are still flowers in bloom though, which is nice. But it's sweater weather, which I love!! Apparently come winter, it gets bone-chilling cold here about these parts. But, I'm still loving Aizu and everything that comes with it.

So this week was interesting. Well, actually it wasn't. We are trying to find people to teach and so far aren't having much success, but we will keep trying! I know that the Lord has people here in Aizu for us. We just have to have the faith to find them. I need to learn to be more brave. Something I realized a couple of weeks ago is that I have no reason to be afraid of people because all I'm going to tell them about it how they can have eternal joy through Jesus Christ! That is the greatest thing to tell someone, EVER! That, and free English! The worst thing that can happen is that they say no! Sometimes they say no by yelling and slamming doors in your face... but that's besides the point. I need to get over my fear of opening my mouth and just do it. I've been better, but there is still massive space for improvement. That is one of my goals.

So tomorrow, the fourth quarter of the year begins! The last three months of the year. President Rasmussen has given us a challenge to raise our faith and our vision. We want to see 25 people receive baptism in the next three months! In order to do so, we have been asked to sacrifice something that is dear to us, something that we love but that might not be necessary for missionary work. My sacrifice is first, Coke Zero, and second, the classical music on my iPod. I have thought a lot about it, and those are two things that I love and cherish, but that aren't necessary. So, for the next three months, I will give them up! Morita Shimai is sacrificing negitoro, her favorite kind of sushi, and Robertson Shimai is sacrificing bread! (She is nuts. I love bread). Please keep us in your prayers! Through these sacrifices, we are hoping to see many miracles here in Sendai, and we could use your help.

We were not able to watch the Relief Society broadcast here. Everything as far as Conference is concerned happens a week later here, I think. So the second week in October, we will gather as a zone (because we are not in a Stake, so we gather as a zone instead) and watch Conference on a Japanese translated DVD. I am hoping and praying that they will have an English version... We will see. But I am so grateful it's conference time! It's so weird to think that the last time we had Conference was right before I started this whole missionary adventure! I have almost been out for six whole months. That is hard to believe! Wow. But at the same time, I feel like I've been here for a lifetime. But I love Japan!

The Big Guy is definitely taking care of me, that's for sure. And I am so grateful for the mercy and love of Him and Jesus Christ. Sometimes we do really stupid things, but when we repent and reach out, the Savior is always there, unfailing, waiting with open arms. I am so grateful for that. And for the opportunity I have to repent and partake of the Sacrament each week. I love reading about the Savior and about Him administering the Sacrament. The love and the care that He uses in those verses is precious to me, and carries a deep resounding message of the importance of the Sacrament deep into my soul. I am so grateful for that saving ordinance and the peace that comes with it.
Our Savior is so good. I really want to become like Him someday. I can feel Him here, in the trees and in the wind. I can feel the majesty of His love and power as I look to the mountains that surround this little town. There is something deeply spiritual about this part of Japan. For me, it's not just the mountains and the rest of nature, but the people here are so deeply steeped in history and tradition that I can feel it deep inside me. I don't really know how to describe it, but every time I greet a little old man on the street, or whenever a little old woman smiles to me and says "domo!," I can just feel something. These people know the divine, of that I am sure. They just don't know that that divine is called Jesus Christ. I really think that I am a buddhist at heart, a buddhist who knows and believes in Jesus Christ. I think this because whenever I hear gongs sounding in shrines, or see big statues and sanctuaries, I feel an incredible sense of peace. It makes me feel at one with the Earth and with Those who look down to me and help me every day. Like I said, I can't describe it in words, but I'm grateful and I love it. I love it here. With that being said, there is the deeply spiritual part of Aizu that I love, but there's also the negative side of that, and the spiritual side that doesn't come from Heavenly Parents and Jesus Christ. This week, we decided to visit one of the old investigators that the Elders passed to us, and she definitely has some stuff going on inside of her that I do not understand. All my hair was standing on end as we entered her apartment, and I could just feel something bad there. That was probably the longest 40 minutes of my life. One of my companions felt the same as me, but the other was totally fine being there. I wanted to be there to try and help here, but she is in such a bad place and a bad environment. I don't know what to do to help here. She is caught up in things that I do not want to be involved in at all. I am praying fervently for some guidance. I hope that all will be well.
Yes, the humility cycle. I am learning A LOT about that right now. My head is way too big. Like I said, I:m grateful for repentance and for the atonement of my Savior.

I haven't tried nato yet, but it's actually on my to-do list for this week! We FINALLY got a fridge in our apartment (we didn't have one for two weeks. It was way hard, and we all got sick. But now we're okay), so I want to try nato this week. We will see how that goes...

I love you all, and I miss you so.

Johnson Shimai

Thursday, September 26, 2013

September 23, 2013

On Monday, September 23, 2013 Sister Johnson wrote:



Holy cow, do I have a lot to tell you!! Boy, oh boy do I love this little mountain town called Aizuwakamatsu! But first, I will tell you about my new companions!
I have two fantastic super-wonderful adorable little companions! My new bean chan is named Sister Robertson, and she is just the greatest! Her and I actually met on Facebook before we both came out on our missions and now I'm training her! What a great thing. Her and I have become great friends already, and I love her because she wants to work hard, and she loves the Lord. But also, she is very fun, and knows how to be a good, fun missionary. Yay! My ADORABLE Nihonjin companion is Morita Shimai, and she is probably one of my favorite people in the entire world. She is 21 and is so fun! She knows how to be relaxed and still be effective, so we work really well together. She likes to play jokes, like locking me in the toilet and turning off the lights, and she likes to be goofy on the streets and talk to people in a very caring genuine manner, and I love that! This is going to be a wonderfully fun transfer, especially since I will be training, and I have two incredible companions. I am so happy, and so blessed. Heavenly Father really does answer our most fervent prayers. (and the ones that aren't so fervent, but I am so grateful for this change.)

So, let me tell you about this amazing little place I'm in right now called Aizu. Aizu is a little city of about 100,000 people, and it is nestled right in the heart of the mountains. It is SO BEAUTIFUL here, and the sunsets are absolutely glorious. They rival Colorado sunsets, which is saying quite a lot. My favorite part about Aizu is the people. I have never met kinder, more genuinely caring people in my entire life. EVERY SINGLE PERSON you greet on the street says hello back with a warm smile, and a "domo," which is the warmest of Japanese greetings. They then ask you why you're in Aizu of all places, and then you can have a wonderful conversation about life and love, and Eikaiwa and the Gospel! Our very first day here in Aizu, we met a man on the street named Arahari San. He was so nice, and eventually the conversation led to our name tags. So we explained who we are and we were on our way to the church at the time, and so we invited him to accompany us there to hear a little bit more about our Church! He happily agreed! We were able to teach him right then and there about God and His true nature. He asked us about families and we were able to testify that families torn by discord could be healed through the teachings of Jesus Christ. He asked us about what happens after we die, and we read with him Alma 40:11. All souls, whether they be good or otherwise, are taken home to that God that gave them life. It was a great lesson, and we all felt the Spirit so strongly. We asked Arahari San for a return appointment, but it turns out that he was visiting from Tokyo for work and was headed home the next day! But, we were able to get his phone number and address, and so I think we are going to send a referral, so someone can contact him in Tokyo. It was such a great experience, and we were able to see many miracles that day, one of which was when we were knocking on doors. We decided to take Robertson Shimai on her first real tracting adventure, housing! She was fantastic, by the way. Her Nihongo is so good. Anyways, we found a small apartment building that was across the intersection from ours, and we prayed that Heavenly Father would lead us to someone whom He was preparing to hear the Good Word. Afterwards, we walked to the top story, to the farthest door, and knocked. There, we met a woman named Inagaki San. We were able to have a great conversation with her in her genkan, and she said that it would be fine to contact her again! The very first door we knocked on turned out to be a great potential investigator!! There have been many miracles this week, and I am incredibly grateful.

Let me tell you a little bit about the Church in Aizu! I am serving in a Branch (shibu), that has about 30 members. And they are all SO wonderful! I love them more than words can say! I have never met more Christlike people in my life! They are all so full of love, and they all have a wonderful zest for life and for the Gospel of Jesus Christ! I love them all so much. Our branch president's name is Takegawa Kaicho, and he is so genki and has the greatest smile. His wife teaches Relief Society, and her lesson was so beautiful. It was 100 percent focused on the Savior, and it was also very fun! They way she talks is different than other Japanese women; she speaks robustly and full of power. I can tell that I am going to like her a lot. Then there is the Saito family! Saito Kyodai is President Rasmussen's first counselor, and he is the happiest person I have ever met in my life. He also speaks very good English. Him and his wife have ten children, all of which are grown and are doing their own things, but their family is so happy. Then, there is one family, the Takahashi family, that I love! They invited us over for dinner on Sunday night, and it was so fun! They knew that Sister Robertson was brand-new, and so they played a joke on her. They placed in front of her the most disgusting looking fish thing in the entire world, and just as she was about to take a bite, we all laughed, and there was lots of great love and fun in the room. It was wonderful. The Takahashi family have a daughter named Miruka, who is 18, a son named Kento who is 26 and a son named Seiito who is 17. Right now, all three of them are preparing to go on missions!!! I love them all, they are so great and they want to dendo with us, which is so fun! Miruka Shimai is adorable, and I can't wait until she's a missionary. She has a bright light, and a great smile. She will be a great messenger of the Truth. :) So yeah, long story short, I LOVE IT HERE!

I asked Heavenly Father to send me a confirmation that I am to be serving here at this time, in this place, with these companions, and among these people. Long story short, Sunday was the greatest day of my entire mission. I was overcome by the Spirit as I stood in Sacrament to bear my testimony to the Aizu branch, and the peace that I felt in that moment was peace I had never before felt in my life. Heavenly Father has a plan for me here in Aizu. I have eternal friends in this place, and as I pay attention and lose myself, I will be able to find them, and there will be much rejoicing in the kingdom. I am grateful for the love and the peace that I feel here in this little town. I am grateful for the deep spirituality that I can feel in the trees and in the wind. There is something deeply spiritual about the mountains in Japan, and I love that I can breathe in the peace that I feel here. This place is great. You would love it.

Something else that's fun is that yesterday, instead of having P-Day, we were able to attend the Aizuwaka-matsuri (which is a play on words, Aizuwakamatsu and matsuri, which is festival, but that's besides the point.) with President and Sister Rasmussen! Aizu is a town that has a very rich history, especially from the Samarai period (yes, that's right. They have Samarais here, and it's basically the coolest thing ever). In the center of Aizu lies one of the biggest castles in all of Japan, and boy, is it cool!!!! It is a renovation of the original one because the original was destroyed in a massive earthquake in 1600-something, but since then, it's been demolished and rebuilt several times. But what's really cool is that the original stone wall and moat are all still there! So that's where we went for the festival! There was a beautiful parade and cool martial arts demonstrations and amazing food and such cool history. We used it as a dendo day, and we were able to talk to a lot of people about the Gospel and Eikaiwa, and I even was able to introduce the Book of Mormon to a woman I was sitting next to during the parade! It was a wonderful day, and it was a great thing to experience some real history. This place is great. (Momma, you should Google a woman named Yae and Aizuwakamatsu and read about her. She is a fiercely powerful warrior who saved the whole city from being taken, and I LOVE HER.)

So yeah. We don't have any investigators yet, but we are working, and we have already seen miracles. This is a blessed place, and I am so grateful to be here.

So yeah, there was an earthquake! It happened in the middle of the night and it woke us up, but nothing bad happened. It was funny actually, but yes, we are fine. Also, we don't have a fridge yet because it hasn't arrived... so I think I ate something that was bad because it had been sitting out too long, and now all of us are a little tummy sick! But, that's okay. We will survive. Lots of spaghetti the next few days.

All is well. The Lord is aware. The Savior lives, and He is guiding me. I love being a missionary here. :)

Love, Shak

From Michelle: Including a little note that Shakira's mission president wrote on some of the pictures he forwarded to her, which she forwarded to me:

"Sister Johnson,
We had a great time in Aizu yesterday with you Sister Missionaries and the Saitos. Thank you for your good example of always smiling and opening your mouth to everyone!
Love, Pres Rasmussen"

Monday, September 16, 2013

September 16, 2013

On Monday, September 16 Sister Johnson wrote:

Ohayo gozaimasu!!!!

So yeah, changes! I am being transferred! :D I will be going to Aizuwakamatsu, which is a town south west of Fukishima, so it's about three-ish hours from Izumi! I ship out tomorrow! I will again be in a trio, which will be hard, but I hope it will be good! I will be with Sister Morita, who is in her fifth transfer, and is ADORABLE! She is the most fun Nihonjin I've met, so I'm way excited! Together, we will be training a brand-new gaijin sister! Well, Sister Morita is the official trainer, and I will be the "senior companion," I guess! But it will be so much fun! Another cool thing: Aizuwakamatsu has never had sisters before, so we will be opening the area, just like we did here in Izumi! Right now, there are four Elders in Aizu, and so with their help, it should be a smooth transition. I am way sad to be leaving Izumi because the members are so strong and fantastic here, but I am really excited to go serve out in the sticks! It should be a good, fun experience, and I am looking forward to it very much. Both Kubota and Takata Shimai will be staying in Izumi, and both of them will be training brand-new missionaries! Two of the Elders will be training also, so there will be four brand-new missionaries in Izumi! That will be nuts. Well, I'm pretty excited. Thank you for your prayers! Even though I won't be in a companionship, I know that this will be a good experience. I am looking forward to it.

I have been praying for Colorado because of all the flooding! Browne Shimai in my ward was telling me all about it. She's from Loveland, and so she's feeling very sad too. I hope that everyone will be okay! Roads and all! It sounds scary. Speaking of rain, right now, as I type, we are in the middle of a big taifun (typhoon)! The rain is absolutely INSANE, and we've almost been blown off our bikes a few times. Crazy! But, we are planning to spend most of the day inside because I need to pack like a crazy person. We head to the mission home tomorrow, and then to Aizu on Wednesday after we pick up our bean. Yay!

So, this week was good! We had zone conference, which was great. President Rasmussen wants to see 25 baptisms by the end of the fourth quarter, so he is asking for lots of hard work, and I'm ready to get to it! He has asked us all to sacrifice something to show the willingness we have to the Lord, so I will not be drinking Coke Zero until January first! (Hopefully...) That will be very hard for me. We'll see how it goes. On Thursday, we had another opportunity to have another concert at that little restaurant where we performed before, and it was absolutely wonderful! It felt great to play, even though I can feel my technique going the way of all the earth...haha. But it was great, and we were able to really feel the Spirit through the music we performed. There was no immediate result of that concert, but I hope that someday, someone in that room will accept the Savior, Jesus Christ, and that they will remember how they felt that day during the music that was performed. I hope that works out!

So, this whole week, I had a feeling that I would be transferring. I was spending a lot of time thinking about what I've learned here in Izumi, and as I sat pondering in Sacrament meeting yesterday, I had a very wonderful, profound, comforting experience. I was reading hymn 230, which is called "Scatter Sunshine," and as I was reading the words, I felt a voice in my head, a very calm and comforting voice. The voice said, "This is who you are, Sister Johnson. You are a happy fire. I have given you this bright burning light because I need you to use it on behalf of those you will meet in your next area." It was the voice of my Savior, reminding me of one wonderful gift He has given me to be a beacon for those who do not know Him yet. He needs me to be a burning light, a beacon of love and optimism. So, my motto and goal for my next area is to enrich and strengthen my happy fire. I am excited to do so, and I will be placing my trust more fully in the Savior, and taking Him by the hand, so that He can guide me. With His help, we will be able to find those whom He has prepared to hear and receive the fullness of His everlasting Gospel. I love my Savior. He trusts me, and is just waiting for me to trust Him.

1. In a world where sorrow
Ever will be known,
Where are found the needy
And the sad and lone,
How much joy and comfort
You can all bestow,
If you scatter sunshine
Ev'rywhere you go.

Scatter sunshine all along your way.
Cheer and bless and brighten
Ev'ry passing day.
Scatter sunshine all along your way.
Cheer and bless and brighten
Ev'ry passing day.
Scatter the smiles and sunshine all along over your way.
Cheer and bless and brighten
Ev'ry passing, passing day.

2. Slightest actions often
Meet the sorest needs,
For the world wants daily
Little kindly deeds.
Oh, what care and sorrow
You may help remove,
With your songs and courage,
Sympathy and love.

3. When the days are gloomy,
Sing some happy song;
Meet the world's repining
With a courage strong.
Go with faith undaunted
Thru the ills of life;
Scatter smiles and sunshine
O'er its toil and strife.

Happy anniversary to you and Dad! I hope that you will be safe in Glenwood, with all the flooding and such. I love you so much, and I miss you. I got your card this week, and it was very great to hear from you. I think that as soon as I find out where I live, I will give you that address so you can send me things directly. The mission home takes money out of my account for forwarding mail, so maybe we shouldn't do that anymore... I'll let you know next week. I adore the picture of you and Jada and Sylvie! I miss those adorable girls, and George! I printed the picture of him and cardboard Shakira because it is SO CUTE! Love, love.

Have you ever considered reading the four Gospels in the New Testament? I know that I wouldn't have been able to make it through the last 12 weeks without the light I gained from those books. I love studying the Savior, and trying to pattern my life after Him. It brought me so much hope.

Well, that's about it, really. Please keep me in your prayers (I know you already do) as we make this transfer that all will go smoothly!

I love you more than words can say!
-Johnson Shimai