Monday, December 30, 2013
WE GOT TO SKYPE WITH SISTER JOHNSON THIS WEEK!! IT WAS WONDERFUL!!
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.
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.
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!
Wednesday, December 18, 2013
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!!!!
Tuesday, December 10, 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.
We love Sister Johnson. We call her Sister Sunshine.
Wednesday, December 4, 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