Wednesday, November 5, 2014
On Monday, November 3, 2014 Sister Johnson wrote:
Well, I am so excited about coming home that I almost forgot that I need to write about this week! Haha! My inbox was flooded with emails full of excitement and tears and promises of new beginnings. I can't wait! I will be home in Colorful Colorado in FIVE DAYS! I can't believe that! Leaving Japan is going to be very hard for me. I have fallen in love with this country, with the people here, with their customs, culture, and with their spiritualism. I have connected to the divine in more ways than I can describe in this beautiful place. I have heard the hum of the mountains. There is so much spiritual energy here, and you can feel it resonate in your bones when you take the time to observe the movements around you. Japan truly is a magical place, one that has filled my soul with love and light and truth and understanding. I am so grateful for the opportunity that I have had to spend a year and a half in this beautiful country. What an incredible experience it has all been.
This last week has been really great, full of love and life and insanely vivid color. Fall in Morioka is probably the most beautiful thing I have ever seen in my life. The way the sunshine comes through the trees casts a light on the ground that makes the world seem like it is on fire. It seriously is breathtaking. I took some pictures, but they can't do it justice. I felt so much peace and love through the trees this week; it was a miraculous blessing.
We went to a temple this week, one of the Buddhist nature (probably my favorite kind...), and I think it was the coolest place I have ever been in my life. It is super historical and famous, and it is called 500 Rakkans (well, that's the English version). Inside the temple, there's a big Buddah, of course, but there are also over 500 statues that are Buddhist disciples. ALL of them are different!!! ALL OF THEM! It's so cool! They represent the many people who have reached enlightenment and are living in the Buddhist version of the Celestial Kingdom (which to me is the same...). They are all in a state of never-ending happiness. It was so beautiful. I can't describe the feeling that I had standing in that temple. Wow. It penetrated my chest and reverberated in my heart. I felt peace and truth. I loved it so much. I think the best part though was talking to the little old man that was on duty at the temple that day! He spent an hour and a half talking to us about the history of the temple and about his personal beliefs. His name was Tamura San, and him and I instantly connected. He told me that he feels he has met me in a former life and that it was our destiny to meet that day and to engage in enlightening conversation. It was so beautiful and I told him that I felt the same thing! he became an eternal friend, and I am so grateful for the chance I had to meet him.
So, this last Thursday, we went with Elders Bodily and Butler to eat wanko soba, which is famous in Morioka! It's basically all you can eat soba, and if you eat more than 100 little cups-full, you get a plaque! We went because an old investigator of ours, Miyuki San, works there, and we went to visit her. She is probably the nicest, most wonderful person in the entire world. I LOVE HER. She talked to us in English the whole time, and she also explained to us that she reads the Book of Mormon and prays every day! Wow! The only reason she is not an investigator is because she has about three jobs and is INSANELY busy. Her husband is also very opposed to her receiving baptism, and so she hasn't been able to meet with us. It was so sad to hear that. But we had a great time with Miyuki San, and we connected with her so well! She is adorable, and I left the restaurant feeling very uplifted by her. Wanko soba was so much fun though! Sister Hayashi, and both the Elders all ate over 100!! I could only eat 81... it was so sad. I have no idea where in the world Hayashi Shimai put all of hers though! Holy crap, that girl can eat! haha, it was awesome. I am glad we went.
Continuing with Miyuki San, I was sitting in church yesterday with Hayashi Shimai and with two potential investigators that came to church for the first time! It was good. I was sitting and listening to the testimonies being born when I decided to look around to see if the two recent converts we have been working with had made it to Sacrament meeting. I looked back, and there was Miyuki San, sitting two rows behind me! I gasped, I had NO idea that she was coming! So I got up and ran back to sit with her. I wrapped my arm around her and she looked at me with tears and said, "Oh, I just love church. I wish so badly that I could get baptized." During Sunday school, we were talking about the Book of Mormon, and when Elder Bodily asked her to explain the Book of Mormon to the class, she did in amazing detail, and everything was perfect. She pulled out her Book of Mormon and it was COVERED with markings and highlights and her own writings. She said, "I love this book. I read it everyday. It is true and it teaches me about Jesus." It was incredible. I have never seen someone like this the WHOLE time I have been on my mission! It was a great experience and I know that someday the Lord will open the way for her to receive baptism and go to the temple. Miyuki San's faith is incredibly strong, and she has such a strong desire to be a good person. The way will be opened for her, I know that is true.
What a beautiful way to spend my last Sunday, in the company of people who believe in the Savior and trust in Him to make their paths bright. It was a great day. It was a great week. And I am so looking forward to the time I have remaining here in Japan! I get to spend it with people I love, which makes me happy. I am so excited.
Well everyone, this is my last blog entry in the field! I do want to keep writing though, so my next entry will be about COMING HOME! I can't wait to see you all. Know that I love you and that I can't wait to share my experiences with you and catch up. I love you! I love my Savior. He is my Light.
See you all soon!!!!!!!!!!!!
Love and farewell, Sister Shakira Johnson!
Wednesday, October 29, 2014
On Monday, October 27, 2014 Sister Johnson wrote:
Hi Momma! TWELVE DAYS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Wow! Shinjirarenai! I can't believe it! The end of my mission has finally come! Don't get me wrong. I love being a missionary. But.... when it's time, it's time. The plans for the next week are normal; this is my last normal week of being a missionary! So I am going to spend all my time loving the members and experiencing real Japanese things! I am going to start today by going to get my last Japanese haircut! My hair has gotten insanely long and suuuuper annoying so I am going to get it chopped. Haha, not too too short, but just enough to be cute again. Japanese haircuts are the best. They seriously massage your head for half an hour. BEST. Tomorrow, we are participating in a cooking class with a member, and then we are going to visit an old woman in the ward that is my favorite, Sister Fujimura! I love her so much. Then on Wednesday, we will ride out into the rice fields and visit some more members, and I will also be teaching my last Eikaiwa class! I will miss teaching English to Japanese people. It is really a fun time. Then on Thursday, we have our weekly visit to the old folks home for community service, and there, I will meet my friend, Fujisawa San! She is the cutest little old woman. I don't know what it is, but for some reason, I have really connected with the old ladies here in Morioka. I love listening to their stories. After that, we will go and eat Wanko Soba, which is something unique to Morioka and is basically a soba eating contest!! I AM SO EXCITED! I am going to miss soba really bad. So that will be fun. Then on Friday, we have our last zone training meeting, so I will see some of my missionary friends for the last time. That will be sad, but it's okay. I will write them when I get home. On Saturday, we are having a ping pong tournament with our less-active, 85-year-old friend, Brother Kikka! I am so excited for that! It will be a hoot! He is such a cool man, and I love talking with him. Sunday will be pretty regular, just fast and testimony meeting. Then, next week will be super busy I think. I am not sure when I am leaving Morioka, but it will most likely be the morning of the 5th. I don't think I will get to see people I love from other areas, except Kamisugi. I will probably be going to Eikaiwa in Kamisugi that night, so I will get to see all those people, which I am very excited about. We will see what happens. Then, I will be at the mission home on Thursday for my last interview and testimony meeting with the sisters I came to Japan with! Tui Shimai and Luk Shimai and Gass Shimai and all my other lovely sisters will be there with me! It will be a great time. Then, we leave on Friday morning! Crazy. I am excited; it will be a fun last few days in Japan.
This week was a good one for the most part! Last Tuesday, Sister Hayashi and I were in the Morioka Times, a local newspaper here! It was so awesome; we went for a walk around the lake in front of the church, and right when we got there, six beautiful swans came and rested on the lake! Apparently, hundreds of them come from Russia for the winter and make a home on the lake, and I guess that these six were the first to come! There were people all around us and the swans were absolutely beautiful. Then, a woman came up to Sister Hayashi and I and started asking us questions about the swans, then about who we were and what we are doing here in Morioka! She was so nice and so cute, and the next day, we were in the paper! The full name of the Church was listed, the fact that we are volunteer missionaries was listed, and it had our names and ages and information and everything! It was so awesome! Nothing has really come from it yet, but it was great publicity and a great way to tell lots of people about who we are! So, that was fun.
Eikaiwa this week was really awesome! We have been seeing some really great success this transfer. Last transfer, there was only one American here in Morioka, so the Eikaiwa program died. It was really sad when I first got here. But we have really been pushing to make the program better, and this last week, we had over 20 people come!! That was the biggest attendance I have seen the whole time I have been here! It was great to have new students come; one of them was a 22 year old college student named Yuuki San. He came in and he was wearing a Colorado State University sweatshirt! I was so blown away! But when I went to talk to him, he told me that he had no idea what it was! Haha, it was a great bonding moment, and I am looking forward to seeing him again this week.
This last week we had the Halloween party and it was a great success! We had about 60 people there, half of which were nonmembers! It was so awesome and so much fun! It was a little bit hard to pull together, but we managed to do it, and we were able to make lots of new friends. It was a good week, and I am grateful that I have another great one planned!
I love my Savior. I love His words, His life, His light. I love that I have an opportunity to be His hands here in Morioka. I love that He trusts me enough to do the things He needs me to do. I have found so much joy and peace in living His Gospel. My Savior is my compass. He is my chart and He is my north star. I love Him, I serve Him, and I rejoice in Him.
I love you Momma!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! TWELVE DAYS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WOOHOO! We can do it! LOVE YOU!
Monday, October 20, 2014
On Monday, October 20 Sister Johnson wrote:
Guess what Momma? Just over TWO WEEKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Whoa. I am so excited that I am having a hard time sleeping at night! But! With that being said, I am breathing in Japan. Oh man, do I love this place. Right now it's fall, and in Japan, it's a season called Ko-yo, which can't really be translated into English, but it basically means that the hills are on fire with the colors of the changing leaves. It is absolutely BREATHTAKING. This time last year, I was in Aizu, and the mountains were orange and yellow and red. It was amazing. This year is even better! Morioka is like Aizu; it is completely surrounded by mountains, but the mountains here are a lot closer. So, you can see everything in amazing detail. Also, in front of the church, there is a great big pond called Takamatsunoike, and it is surrounded by trees that are changing right now. It is SO BEAUTIFUL! I will be taking some pictures with my companion later and I will send them to you! So beautiful. It is impossible to not feel God's love through the nature here. The people and the nature are my favorite parts of this wonderful place. I am so happy that I have a little over two weeks left that I get to spend in Japan! YAY!
This week was a really great week! We were able to spend some really nice time with members! We had a sports activity last Monday (unfortunately, due to my foot, I couldn't really participate. It sucked.) that was really fun! We also are working with this super cute little old lady in the branch, Sister Fujimura, and we were able to visit and eat dinner with her this week. She joined the church about two years ago, and it's a really great story! Her husband died three years ago and she was feeling very lonely. But her grandson that lives in southern Japan and is a member of the church decided that he wanted to serve a mission! He was called to the Sendai mission, and he had the opportunity to work here in Morioka! During that time, he taught his beautiful grandma the gospel and she was able to join the church!! Recently, she has gone to the temple and done the work for her husband, and they are now sealed together for all eternity! What an amazing story! I am so grateful for that grandson of hers and the good missionary that he was!
This week, we met again with the less-active member that we found last week, Brother Kikka. What a cool man he is! He is 85 years old and has more energy than I do! It is awesome. He took us out to a ramen shop that he loves this week, and we were able to talk to him about what he believes in. He has had some really wonderful spiritual experiences in his life that have brought him really close with God. He has strong faith. We invited him to come to the Halloween party this week, and we also made plans to have a ping pong tournament with him! Apparently he is very good! Haha, I am excited for that.
Two days ago, the other sisters and I went on companion exchanges and I got to work with Sister Smith! My goodness, do I love that girl! We were laughing the whole time! During our exchange, we had the amazing opportunity to attend a piano recital! One of the primary girls in the branch was performing and we went with her family to see her perform. Kuon Chan is her name, and she is 11 years old. Holy CRAP, is she good!!!! She performed a piece by Chopin and it was absolutely incredible! Some of the piano people that I went to CSU with aren't even as good as her! I was very seriously impressed. And it wasn't just her; the recital started with a 7 year old that performed Beethoven, and ended with a third year high school student playing Prokofiev. The high school student absolutely blew me away. I could not believe how good he was. It was awesome. Yes, I cried. It had been such a long time since I have been to a concert like that, and it was so good and healing for my soul.
Also this week, I think that Sister Hayashi and I went at least 100 kilometers on our bikes! We rode out and played in the rice fields! It was so beautiful and so.... Japanesey. It was great. We went to go contact a referral that was FOREVER away, and we had so much fun. It turns out that the woman we went to go see had retired a long time ago and no one knows where she is! So that was a bummer, but it was a really great time.
I had a really great time at church yesterday, too. Since we had General Conference last week, we didn't get to take the Sacrament, and it was amazing the difference I could feel in my life. So yesterday, when I was taking the Sacrament, I was thinking about my Savior. Jesus Christ loves us all so much. I can feel His love for the people around me. I know that He loves me too, and yesterday, I could really feel His love and forgiveness at church. It was a wonderful feeling. I am so grateful for the knowledge that I have that Jesus Christ is my Savior. He is the best.
I think the best thing that happened this week actually took place about an hour ago as I came here to check my email! Do you remember me writing about _____ in Kamisugi? She came to the church one day and we ended up talking with her and teaching her right then and there. Her and I really connected and she opened up to me that she wanted to commit suicide. We talked a lot and eventually she ended up going back to Austria, which was really sad. But I was so happy to have met her. Anyways, when I got here this morning, I opened up my email and I had an email from her!!!!!! She asked me where the nearest church to her was in Austria and she told me that she wants to go and talk to the missionaries there! What a miracle! She said that she misses me very much but that she wants to make more friends like me. I so hope that she goes and that her heart will be open to feel the love that God has for her and that I and those missionaries in Austria will have for her. What a wonderful thing! I am so happy.
Well, that is about it for me. I love you! Don't forget to feeling the sunshine.
Tuesday, October 14, 2014
On Monday, October 13, 2014 Sister Johnson wrote:
This week here in Morioka was a good week, I think. I tried to take it easy because of my foot and some other sicknesses that I had, but in spite of that, we ended up biking all over the city! It was crazy; last Tuesday, we had 8 solid hours of nothing. That was the first time I have ever had a day like that on my whole mission! No appointments, no activities, just time. It was scary and hard to plan, but we set out trusting the Lord to lead us, and that is exactly what he did! We were able to visit a lot of less-active members, and at about 6:00 that night, we met a man named Brother Kikka. He is now 85 years old, and has been less-active for about 30 or 40 years. He told us that he realized that he was in fact Buddhist, even though he joined the Church. He said that he has a lot of respect for Christ. I could see that in his eyes and in the way he treated us. He was so nice and so funny! We talked with him for about 40 minutes in his entry, during which he told us all about his life. He is such a cool man; he recently wrote and published a book called The Snow Queen's Lullaby (the title is a lot more eloquent in Japanese), and he gave me a copy! He told me that he was very impressed with my perfect Japanese (those are his words, NOT mine. My Japanese is so not perfect.) and that he wants me to translate his book into English! Haha. So, I will try and do my best! He wants us to come back and eat with him and talk more about life. He is a really good man, and I could feel a lot of love from him. It was a good day.
This week, we had zone meeting! All of the missionaries in the zone came to Morioka and we had training from the Sister Training Leaders and the Zone leaders. It was a great day and I was blessed to be able to participate in the training because I am a "dying missionary with lots of cool experiences," to quote my zone leader, haha. It was a good day. We were able to talk about obedience and unity, and how when you and your companion are obedient to the promptings you receive and you are working in a spirit of unity that the Lord will trust you and your companion with more spiritual guidance and direction. It was something that the zone really needed, I think. We will all be able to grow together as we are more unified.
This week, we also had interviews with President Smith! My interview was interesting. I mostly just told him about my foot because he is a foot doctor, so my interview was really just like going to the doctor. It was funny. I also told him that I have been feeling exhausted lately, and so he asked me to start taking some iron pills. So that is fun. I will have more energy hopefully! Yay!
This week was also general conference week in Japan! Two days of lots of much-needed English instruction! I really liked Elder Scott's talk about choosing to make a relationship with God. It is indeed a choice that we make to pray and seek knowledge from on high. It was a good reminder for me about my choices, and what I need to do. I went to conference with a question about the future, about what I need to do when I go home in three weeks, and Heavenly Father's message for me was all about agency. I have been experiencing lots of temptations lately, but I have a desire to do what the Lord wants me to do. I want to overcome the feelings that I have so that I will be able to to experience all the blessings that the Bigs have in store for me! So, Heavenly Father's message to me was that I need to exercise my agency in a way that will allow those blessings to come about. He trusts me, and He let me know that I must make the decision to have those blessings. It was a good conference for me. I still have a lot to learn!
That is about it for this week! I am grateful for the time that I have left and I hope that Hayashi Shimai and I will be able to make a difference here in Morioka with the short time that we have together! I want to go and find the one the Savior would have me serve. That is His mission. That is MY mission.
I love you Momma! THREE WEEKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I'm not trunky.....
Thursday, October 9, 2014
On Monday, October 6, 2014 Sister Johnson wrote:
So, funny story.... As soon as I got to Morioka, they asked me to teach the Kids English class (mistake.....) and so I did. Well, I showed them Duck, Duck, Goose and guess what happened? Yeah.... I broke my foot.... Yeah. It hurt. Real bad. But! I am okay. I got my pinkie toe caught on a chair as I was running, and so I have a fracture just below the toe part. The doctor said that it should take about 5 weeks to heal. HAHA! I laughed out loud when he said that. It's already doing really well; the swelling as gone down almost all the way. Just the bruise is left, so that's good. My foot is a color wheel! And it changes everyday! It's entertaining for me. I can still ride a bike, which is nice. Walking sucks. It's getting easier, but it still hurts pretty good. Japanese docs don't believe in pain meds... So I am on Advil for a good bit, I venture. But! I am doing my best with what my body can handle.
I am LOVING Morioka so far! It is such a beautiful place! And guess what? It's the COLDEST place in the mission! It hasn't snowed yet, but I have already busted out my coat and boots and everything. BRR!! Today, there is a typhoon, so it is raining like CRAZY! And the wind is so cutting. Shivers. But! It's all good.
I have an ANGEL of a companion. I absolutely LOVE Sister Hayashi. She is from Tokyo and is probably the most humble person I have ever met in my entire life. She is comes from really humble circumstances and it is a complete miracle that she was able to serve a mission. Since she was a little girl, she has been allergic to rice (big problem in Japan...), eggs, milk, chocolate, things like that. She would get very sick every time she ate them, and so when she told her parents that she wanted to serve, they were very opposed. But, she promised the Lord in prayer that she would work her hardest to save money and to get her affairs in order to serve, because she had been guided by the Spirit to prepare. A few months after that, she went to the doctor for her pre-mission stuff, and the doctor told her that all of her allergies had disappeared! She could eat anything just like any of the rest of us and would be completely fine! It was a huge miracle for her and her family, and because of it, she has been able to serve a very successful mission. What a cool story, right? It's amazing to me that the Lord will make possible the path as we put our trust in Him and strive to follow His will. Hayashi Shimai is a living example of this principle.
Morioka is a beautiful place. It is in the middle of Iwate Prefecture, and is completely surrounded by mountains. It is nestled in a little basin, and is a pretty good-sized city. I would say that it is probably the size of Boulder maybe? Yeah, about that. The people here are so nice! They remind me a lot of the people in Aizuwakamatsu actually. They are all super nice, but there are lots of crazies too! I love that. Gotta keep things interesting. The members here in the Morioka branch are great too! They are all super nice and welcoming. OH!!! I forgot the best part about church in Morioka! IT'S ONLY TWO HOURS LONG!! How awesome is that? Yesterday was the best. Short sacrament meeting (45 minutes), 15 minute break, Sunday School, DONE! YAY! Best. I love it. I wish the whole world was like that. Three hours is just too long...
But yeah! So that is about it for me! I have been resting a lot this week because I need my foot to get better FAST so that I actually CAN work. Hayashi Shimai has the patience of an angel. Seriously. I love her.
Well, I love you. Did you watch any of Conference? Anything I should look out for? We will watch it this coming Saturday and Sunday. Japan is always a week behind on those things. Any advice for me? I love you! I miss you! Down to a month! Craziness!
I am not trunky. I am NOT trunky. I am not trunky.
This is my mantra. Haha. ;)
So, news! I am being transferred for my last five weeks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I will be going to a place called Morioka, which is north!!! I have never been north before! I AM SO EXCITED! I will become companions with the CUTEST little Nihonjin, Sister Hayashi! She is adorable. YAY! I cannot tell you how overjoyed I am! I got the news from President Smith a little bit early, last Thursday, and I have had the most incredible feeling of relief. This last transfer has been hard, and I am so excited for a new start to make this transfer the best of my mission! WOOHOO!!
So, that is exciting. These next five weeks are going to fly by! I woke up this morning and just had a thrill in my chest, like YES I ONLY HAVE FIVE WEEKS LEFT! THESE ARE GOING TO BE THE BEST FIVE WEEKS EVER!!!!! It was an interesting feeling. So, I am happy.
This week was pretty normal, other than that. I think the most exciting thing that happened was that in Japan, there is such a thing as McDonald's delivery! Yes, we got McDonald's delivered to us. Best day EVER. Haha. It is sad that that was the most exciting thing. But it really was. I also was able to go and visit Itosaka San again! That was so great. I know that one of the reasons I came to Kamisugi was to meet her. She is my soul sister, and she is so beautiful. I love her. It was good to see her, and I am sad that I am transferring, but it is okay. We have become eternal friends.
Well, that is kind of it. I don't have anything new to report. We work, but sometimes nothing happens. And that is okay.
I CAN'T WAIT TO SEE YOU SOON!!
I love you. I love Jesus. I love life.
BYE! Love Shak!