Friday, August 16, 2013

Go Crazy =D

Well it's hard to believe it, but this is it! This is the last email before I come home from my 18 month mission.

I don't have my planner with me so I feel somewhat lost. Usually I look at that and recap on how my week has been.  Ok I borrowed Sister Ngosha's planner. It wasn't quite as detailed with my highlights but it helped me get the general over view. I'll do my best to explain the blessings I received this week. If nothing else I can tell you in person or on the phone next week =)

Over all there are three main events I want to comment on.

The first is how amazing Sanna is doing and how I see her testimony strengthen on a regular basis.  We met with Sanna twice this last week. We had a lesson on my 18th month mark and it was a very powerful lesson! It was centered on the role the Book of Mormon has in our conversion. We taught a lot about gaining our witness through the Holy Ghost and praying about the Book of Mormon. She's already been reading the Book of Mormon every day for the past two weeks! However, now she has a copy of the Book of Mormon in Finnish =)
We also taught her on Tuesday morning and it was a nice lesson on the Word of Wisdom. A while back she told her friends in Finland that she wasn't going to drink for a year. I definitely think she was being prepared by the Lord.  Sister Ngosha has started learning a few Finnish phrases! lol
The coolest part about Sanna's story is that later that day she was reading the Book of Mormon and just pondering and she got very emotional. She text us saying she thinks she "knows". I always would joke with her and say, "I know one day you will know and you can text me and say 'I know!'" And at last her it was :)  She's still not fully confident but she's getting there. I loving seeing how the spirit really works on people.

The second note worthy item is the fact that Chris White returned home from his mission! lol  His family is in our ward out here.  I love his parents and they all joined the church about ten years ago. His younger brother Nick is leaving in October to serve in Zimbawe Africa! This past week we have been over at their home a few times visiting with Chris and getting better acquainted with Sister White's parents who came into town for the occasion.
It was weird when Chris gave his talk because I'll be giving mine two weeks later! Sunday we were at their home cracking up talking to the grandparents. We were trying to answer some of their questions but the conversation kept going in circles. Thus it became very humorous to all of the younger participants.

The final experience I want to share about was my preparation day yesterday. It was awesome! We got to drive with President Morgan down to the city from Scarsdale. I always look forward to those more personal interactions. He's a wonderful man.  We met up with the other "dying missionaries" or rather the missionaries that are going home when I do at the temple.  We went to do a temple session and see the new movie :) It was fabulous!
President Morgan counseled us to seek to feel the Lord's acceptance of the mission we served when we were in the Celestial room.  I felt a lot of peace during the time we were in the temple. It was the last time I was going to be there as a missionary. Having a temple in the heart of Babylon to attend during the mission has been one of my favorite things and sources of refuge. 
After the temple we went to eat at a restaurant called Nick's. We had a few tables so it ended up being Sister Broderick and I with President and Sister Morgan. We were cracking jokes and telling stories. It was relaxed and meaningful. I enjoyed every minute of it.

It's starting to sink in. Slowly, but it's coming. This next week I will have my last Sunday and my exist interview (probably Monday). Oh and Sister Kindlespire got special permission for us to go to the Statue of Liberty! So it turns out I get to do that tomorrow even though it wont be P-day. 
The last night in the mission home (August 21st) we will have a testimony meeting and then we're allowed to play games, watch Disney movies, and hang out! haha it's going to be legit!

Well it's going to be one crazy week! I know this chapter is closing and I'm so grateful the Lord let me have these experiences. They have shaped my very character.

I love you!

Sister Emily Alexandra Johnson

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Keep Calm and be a Missionary!

Can you believe it's coming to an end? I honestly can not! I am excited =)
 I am sure once I come home it will hit me how much I miss serving as a missionary. However, I'm giving it everything I have right now knowing that around the corner I am going to party with all my friends and family.  It will be surreal being reunited but I also think it may be one of the most memorable and joyous experiences I ever experience in my life! 

Something we have been doing more this past week and will have a lot of opportunities before I go home is helping with service by doing physical labor. It's actually one of my favorite things to do. There is something about being able to exert my effort and strength for the well being of others that fills me with energy and joy.  It reminds me of when I was serving in my first area in Kingsbridge we were able to help one of our investigators deep clear and organize her apartment. It is incredible to see the way that kind of service can impact someone's heart.  Most people find it hard to believe I like to organize so much considering I have A.D.D. I tell them it's the perfect combination of ADD and OCD =) When I am able to make a difference through service I know with all my heart that,"...when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God." (Mosiah 2:17)

I have the majority of my mission experience written so I'll attach the finished copy sometime next week. Also, one week from today I have my exist interview with President Morgan and the temple trip. It's going to be an awesome P-day! I'm not sure how the timing will work out, so if I don't get a chance to email you Wednesday I'll make sure to email you Thursday. 

On Saturday we had dinner at a members home and they had an awesome playground! I'm going to attach a copy so you can see where we played with them before dinner.  There are some amazing families here in CT. I am continually impressed by the people that I meet. 

We had a lot of people we fasted for on Sunday. There were some amazing testimonies shared. I took the opportunity to share my testimony at both wards since it's my last fast Sunday in the mission.  In the singles ward NicolE our Brazilian member who is awesome, shared her testimony about a nanny experience she had the week before where the mom wanted to wash off the boy's foot from playing in the pond before dinner. Both her and the mom had noticed the dirt on his feet but didn't think much of it. However, when she went to rinse it off, come to find out it was two LEECHES! She was talking about how it was so gross and awkward! It was really hard to get them off and when they finally ripped them off it left holes in between his toes that squirted out blood! Then she related that experience to the gospel =) The Leeches are like Satan (gross and awkward! lol) and that even though the appearance/presence seems harmless, he is actually causing us damage and we need to get rid of him asap!

After doing a lot of service for one of our less active members we have become really good friends with her! She is great. She wasn't taught very much before she was somewhat pressured into being baptized. Yesterday as we made dinner with her we talked openly about her experience joining the church. She is open to us reteaching her the lessons! We are so excited to be able to help her start from the beginning to help her gain her own testimony of the restored gospel =)

Quick update on the work:
We got Sanna a copy of the Book of Mormon in Finish! It's pretty cool! We're trying to set up a time we can take it to her.
Kevin is going to get baptized but he's not sure when. I don't know whether or not it will be before I leave the mission. He's such a great guy =) I know everything is in the Lord's timing so I'm not worried.

I mentioned once before that I have a book mark in my planner that says, "Don't count the days. Make the days count." To help me apply this I wrote in my journal, "How can I make today count?"

I finish my mission Wednesday August 21st, but I'll stay in the mission home over night and fly out August 22nd.  I will also be speaking in church August 25th! So if you want to post this info on facebook so my friends can see that would be great! Thank you =)

The other day I was about to fill my journal so I decided to end it with my testimony! In closing of this email I am going to type what I wrote so you can see how much I've grown during this time.

I have learned for myself the importance of sharing the restored gospel with those around us.  I know we have a loving Heavenly Father who sent us here to grow. I know it is only through Christ we can be cleansed of our sins and be able to overcome the opposition in our life. I know we face opposition and struggle so we can draw closer to our Heavenly Father and learn to appreciate joy, peace, and love.
I know that we are taught our Heavenly Father's plan through prophets in every period of time. We can study their teachings through the scriptures.
I know our Heavenly Father has given us the priesthood authority on earth to perform the ordinances necessary for us to return to live with Him.  I know that when we make covenants and perform ordinances we are using our agency to follow Christ and accept the Lord's will for us.
I know we can have our own spiritual confirmation of gospel doctrine and principles. I know that if we do the Lord's will and embellish and enrich our lives with gospel related activities (temple attendance, family history, service, etc.) and develop our talents and strive to understand our life mission... Then we will be filled with unconditional Joy! Others will desire that same joy in their lives; Thus we will have the opportunity to share the gospel and help the Lord gather His lost sheep in these last days.  I know Heavenly Father loves us more than we understand. I know He has a plan for me! I know my mission has been more like the MTC, and my life as a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ will be more like my mission.
I know that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord's kingdom on the earth preparing us for when the Savior will come again.
I know Joseph Smith was called as a prophet to restore the fullness of the gospel.  I know the Book of Mormon is the word of God preserved for our day to bring us to  Christ.
I know I still have a lot to learn, but I also know I must endure to the end by taking the sacrament weekly, feasting on the scriptures daily, and praying always.
I know that my Redeemer lives.
I know these things for myself because I have studied, prayed, desired, fasted, applied, and seen them manifested in my life. Each time I see them manifested in my life it's by the power of the Spirit of God. It has confirmed the truth of these things unto me.
I love this gospel and I will continue to serve the Lord with all my heart, might, mind, and strength.
I bare my witness to you in the sacred name of our Lord and Savior, 

Sister Emily Alexandra Johnson

Member's playground/house
Brother Read (New Canaan ward mission leader)
Our member and her daughter had a wildflower sale!

Just Keep Swimming

Hello! I set the caption as Just Keep Swimming because Sister Lavaki wrote that in my planner this week and I think it perfectly explains the position I'm in right now. I'm close but I'm not there yet =)

This has been a nice week =) It's been very spiritual. Friday we had our Zone Conference (my last one!) and it was exactly what I needed! The breakout sessions with the Assistants was focused on Keeping Commitments and Asking Inspired Questions. Towards the end of the conference President Morgan spoke a lot about becoming Consecrated Missionaries! There is a talk that was given in the MTC by a general authority in 2008 that he based his comments off of. Nevertheless it was very exciting and a little overwhelming to internalize what he shared. Everyone left with a renewed desire and commitment to serve the Lord with all their heart, might, mind, and strength, leaving everything on the alter of sacrifice to do the Lord's work!
Since then we've been trying to apply these things into the work and Sister Ngosha and I have noticed a difference. It's neat to see how this is shaping the work. I'm grateful this is my focus these next few weeks. I also am excited for the missionaries who still have their missions ahead of them. I know if they will commit to be a consecrated missionary their mission will be an incredible experience to them.  I feel I have tried to do this throughout my mission, it's just nice to have an official name for what this is. 

Tomorrow I'm writing my mission experience! It's a paper about how my mission has influenced me as an individual.  I'll make sure to include a copy next week. Today was a nice P-day. We rearranged and organized our room very thoroughly. It's clean, spacious, and welcoming! I'm excited for the change of environment to rejuvenate my spirit.

Also, this past Sunday the daughter our bishop in the YSA ward came home from her mission in England! She was called to serve Mandarin speaking. She spoke at church and she had such a strong spirit when she spoke. I couldn't help but think how that was going to be me soon. Then Tuesday (yesterday) we had dinner with the White family in New Canaan. Their son Chris returns home from his mission on August 8th (my 18 month mark of going to the MTC) and speaks that Sunday (August 11th)! It's unreal! All of these returning missionaries are reminding me that it's almost me! After Chris's homecoming talk I'll only have one more Sunday left of my mission! So Weird!!! 

I am looking forward to seeing everyone very soon! I love you! I can not believe it is actually here. But until then I'll just keep swimming (with all my heart, might, mind, and strength! haha)

Sister Emily Johnson

we matched one of our members!
zone conference

Every Minute, Every Second Counts

Another week has come and gone and I'm freaking out by how fast time is going by.  First things first, we are short on time because we going to a Zone Activity at our ward mission leaders home in New Canaan. We're going to play Tennis and an intense game of district ultimate frisbe. If you can imagine, or if you have every played a competitive game with it wont surprise you to learn I have been talking a lot of trash! hahah 
I am so stoked for this activity! I've been looking forward to it for some time now.
This past weekend our investigator Kevin went with the young single adults on a trip to Palmyra!  He loved it =) He is still progressing towards August 10th as a baptismal date. Keep him in your prayers! He is a amazing guy. 
I feel very strongly that I needed to come to this area to learn from Sister Ngosha and to make the connections with people in Stamford and New Canaan.
Yesterday we went to look up a Less Active member who lived in Darien that could come to the singles ward. He has an amazing family! We got to meet his cute little grandma who has recently lost her sight. She is originally from France. She is very intelligent and her mind is vibrant and sharp. She told us some amazing stories. She is my hero =)
Also, I found out the whole family is pretty artistic! The dad is the creative director for Crayola! How cool is that?! He is also the ward mission leader in the Darien ward. We had a great time visiting with the family and we felt the spirit really strong when we shared a spiritual thought =)
It was such a fabulous way to end the day because all day was slow and frustrating. We had to deal with some obnoxious people and a lot of things falling through. It was so nice to feel the Lord's gentle reassurance that all of the hard things we face are worth it. It's just a matter of endurance. Today I was studying in Alma 14 and at first I didn't want to read the chapter because I didn't want to read about people getting burned haha. Anyhow I'm glad I did read it because I went on to notice HOW much Alma and Amulek had to struggle and endure tremendous hardships for righteous sake. It wasn't until after a lot of obnoxious people, lawyers, teachers, and others repeatedly smote them and spit on them, starved them, and took away their clothes for days in a row that the Lord intervened!  The Lord's timing is everything! Reading the words of the opposition I thought of how much they tried to provoke Alma and Amulek but they said nothing. They attempted to place a lot of doubt "if you really have the power of God with you free yourself from these bands"  (that's not a direct quote but rather me paraphrasing lol). The Lord, our God, cannot be provoked. He is patient and long-suffering. Justice and Mercy will come, but in Heavenly Father's time frame. This chapter taught me why bad things happen to good people.  
I know the Lord is pleased with the work that I'm doing here and I'm excited to finish strong! 
If I have a chance to get back on after our activity I'll write a little bit more.
I love you!
Sister Johnson

Our AC wasn't working at the beginning of the week and our apartment got to be 88 degrees. It was disgusting! lol but it's fixed now.


Heck yeah!

After a lot of trash talk it was time to bring it!
Car pooling as an apartment to District Meeting

Sunday, July 21, 2013

One of my favorite weeks in this area!

I was going to speak more Spanish but I only know how to say it... I can't actually write it.
Oh well, on to my missionary life!  This week has been awesome!  Things are going well in our apartment and I'm working really hard and as a result my spirit is catching on fire! Gospel fire!!! haha
It's a little unreal to me that it's coming to the end. I'm investing my heart, might, mind, and strength! 
We've been doing a lot of contacting outside of the Stamford library and I'm LOVING IT so much! I love talking to people and asking them questions about their life. It becomes so clear as you get to know them and their background what aspect of the gospel you have to offer =)
Plus I know the talents and abilities Heavenly Father has given me to connect with people and to become their friend is a skill that applies to sharing the gospel! 
This week we've been trying to use our time well and be fully engaged in the work. When you cover two areas and when one of those areas is for young single adults spread out in your zone it becomes easy to find ways to apply yourself to the work =P
We have also found ways to help with meaningful service! One of my favorites was helping a girl from the singles ward make some crafty bookmarks for her wedding reception. She had us put together bookmarks with embellishments that dangle to have in books and table pieces. Her wedding will have a lot of lavender and a very shabby chic look! She's going to have a brooch bouquet. The wedding is on August 10th. We're going to try to get permission to attend =)
On Sunday we literally ran around no stop! Starting at 5:45am until 8pm.
That's what happens when you go to two wards and a few primary teachers ask you to speak in their class. We had a lesson with Kevin and he's agreed to work towards August 10th as a baptismal date!
We had two wonderful sacrament meetings.  In the first one there was a beautiful musical number by the family of a girl who had her mission farewell. She is going to Brazil.  Then in the singles ward it was scheduled as a musical Sunday and sacrament meeting consisted of beautiful songs.
The closing song was "How can I keep from singing." It was beautiful!
I also found out about a dental consult that our member had schedule after an exam. He'd received a group on about teeth whitening as a gift. He said it seemed crazy what they wanted to do lol. Anyways we talked for a little bit and then decided he should go to his consultation and tell me about it Monday when we met.
Monday came and we had a nice district meeting with all the new missionaries. Our zone increased in size and we now have 23 missionaries! Including a Portuguese trio (including Elder Ishikwa who is Japanese but grew up in Brazil and stopped playing soccer professionally to serve a mission!)  
We had some really great lessons with members from the singles ward and I taught everyone a lot about dentistry! hahaha
My assessment was that the root planning that they recommended could be legit and he should follow up with that and get a second opinion from his family dentist. He admitted that he doesn't floss or get regular cleanings.
But the part that was ridiculous was the bonding they wanted to do on his front anterior teeth claiming that in order to do the power whitening (similar to zoom). They said he grinded his front teeth and told him something about the enamel. The total bill of everything they wanted to do was $2,000!
I estimated that the work he might actually need done could be around 500-600 lol. I didn't remember how much I loved dentistry until now I guess.
Anyway I just wanted to included that for my family (dad, brad, sam, and maybe cj) to discus. Hopefully what I told him and gathered from the information they gave him was correct.
For family home evening that night we got in groups and acted out a part on the scriptures =) Our door at our apartment for our room got stuck/broken and when we got home that night we were locked out of our room! It was ridiculous. I tried calling the landlord earlier but the landlord saved in our cell phone was not even the one for our building! haha
anyways the Portuguese elders from upstairs came and helped us.
Tuesday again I felt the Lord confirming to me all that I've become on my mission. We spent a ton of time contacting outside the library with a lot of materials to give away, a table, and white board with questions written on it. We were there from 11:30am-2pm. I got sunburned! I was able to teach and set up a lot of return appointments with individuals. Later we had some time before a dinner appointment and we were able to see to individuals that we have been trying to get in touch with for a long time from the church. The timing was absolutely perfect! I truly know the Lord is guiding us in this work.
I've been watching a lot of mormon messages from the dvd my mom mailed me back in February. I love feeling the spirit of the messages shared. It has helped me want to be the very best that I can be! It's been impressing on my heart the importance of cherishing each moment.

This first one has had the greatest impact on my week and perspective of my mission

This one reminds me that I should expect improvement from myself

I highly recommend referring often to the mormon channel on your digital media. It is entertaining, inspiring, and nourishing!
Today we are going to play games with the other missionaries at the church. I am excited!
Also I've been eating really healthy and getting really buff so that is exciting haha. 
I know that the Lord can work with our desires. We must prayerful seek His will and know what our next step of progression is. He loves us more than we can understand. He wants us to enjoy this life. He wants to comfort us in our afflictions. He wants to be apart of our life. The question I ask you
Are you letting the Lord be apart of your life? Are you inviting Him in and giving Him opportunities?
I humbly pray that you are and if you're not that you will. You have to desire it but I can promise you the blessings are real and you will never regret letting Him back into your life and into your heart.
I leave my testimony with you in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
I hope you have a wonderful week! 
Sister Emily Johnson


Firework pictures
No worries, it is not the end of the world. I just had my camera on a cool setting and it just looks like it is.

Pictures from transfers

Some of my favorite missionaries
Can you see why? =)
Me, my baby Sister Awerkamp, and the Sister Lousinberry (sp?) who sister Awerkamp trained

Fun at home
lavaki and I made a wish!
we are strong =)

More pictures from transfers

now I have a great grand daughter in the mission! Sister L-berry is training Sister Matthews.
In case you're wondering I am very Tongan! It's in my blood. In fact I nicknamed myself a Wongan (white Tongan) haha
our apartment!

Sorry this is the last picture lol
I just love sister Lee's smile!
I have to go to an appointment but I wanted to share this last one!

Don't Count the Days, Make the Days Count

Last week when I emailed I was pretty drained emotionally. My companion was having a really hard time and I was doing my best to help her. I am thrilled to announce though that everything since Wednesday night has been a drastic improvement! It is such a blessing!
Time is picking up and flying by now that I am better acquainted in the area. It always slows down a little bit when you get transferred and everything is new.
Today was transfers and some great missionaries left, including Sister Lee (from Tiwain, Sister Otukulo and Lotulelei-my tongan mission aunties, and the Denisons! My favorite senior couple who have been a big part of my whole mission). I am now the oldest in the mission and it's six weeks to go! Sister Lavaki made me my "dying" planner (my last one) and it's got pictures of my all my companions on the front and on the back a picture of the temple. I send some pictures of it. It's pretty awesome =)
This past week we celebrated FREEDOM!
Happy 23rd Birthday Tristan!!!
Thursday is when things really turned around =) We started our fourth of July off with Sister Morgan (mission president's wife) come to our appartment to make us waffles! She was aware of the difficulties our apartment was having and that really helped! After a lovely breakfast she was able to council with us. This gave Sister Ngosha a chance to really express herself and I was able to identify some misunderstandings.
After that the mood got much happier and lovelier in our apartment. We were able to work on some weekly planning before going to Brother Read's house.  Brother Read is our ward mission leader in New Canaan. He had us come over for a BBQ at his home. We got to play some tennis and have some delicious food before going to the Wavenly Park Fireworks. Missionaries had to be in early that night EXCEPT for us and the elders in our ward because Brother Read got special permission for us to attend because of the great missionary opportunity of having all of New Canaan gathered together. I was pretty surprised he did get us permission. It was awesome though because Sister Ngosha had never seen fireworks so crazy. It was a cool experience for me too because we never had fireworks in Arizona. I remember some good times in Utah at Stadium of Fire with my family though lol. Everyone in New Canaan gathered together in the park and picnicked and played games waiting for the fireworks.
The weekend was a blur but on Sunday our investigator Kevin shared his testimony! He is so awesome! He's progressing very well and we haven't even met with him much, but he has some great member support/friendship and he's recognizing the Lord blessing him in his life for doing the right thing by coming to church.  His excitement is getting others more excited about the work.  Also we have been able to help our investigator Ines break through her difficulties by having two good lessons with the bishop and his wife. Plus on Sunday we found out a member from the singles ward speaks French! Ines speaks French natively so we've been trying so hard to find someone who speaks French. At the munch and mingle Ines was going to ask us a question about why it's only the men who administer the sacrament but then her face lit up and said, "Nevermind, I'll ask her in French!"  Ines is so funny. We're hoping to help her get to the Palmyra trip the ward is taking on the 20th.
There is an increased amount of support from both wards. An assistant ward mission leader has been called for each. There is a lot of great ideas moving forward of ways to help support us with the work.  Now we just have to get a lot better about balancing out both wards.  I know Heavenly Father will bless us. We simply need to seek His guidance and inspiration in the work.
Lately I've been getting asked questions like:
You're going home soon! Is that weird? Are you ready?
What are you going to do when you go home? What's next?
I suppose you might have similar questions. Let me fill you in!
Yes it is weird that my time is coming so soon. I don't think it has fully sunk in yet. However, I'm glad because it's not over yet. This is how I see it... when it's time it's time. I am going to put my heart into it right now and be the best I know how. Then when it's time to close this chapter and move to the next I will. But for right now I'm still a missionary and the Lord is still counting on me in this final quarter.
As for after the mission... I'll be home for a week. Then my parents and I are flying back to NY for a week to visit the places that I served and the people that I love! After that I plan on being in Arizona for a week or two before moving to Utah. In Utah I will start working and figure out my plans with Tristan <3 I might do some school at BYU. Ultimately I want to transfer to the Art Institute of Chicago. However, I know that the Lord is also making plans for me. So I'll consult with Him as well =)
But RIGHT NOW I am a MISSIONARY. There is still so much good I can do for the people out here. I'm taking it one day at a time. I'm not counting the days. I'm making the days count!
I know the gospel of Jesus Christ is about change. Changing us for the better. That's what I've been doing these past 18 months (currently 17 months). I hope when we are together again that you will feel the deep love I have for the gospel of Jesus Christ and the love that I have fore my Savior. I know that it is through Him that we receive a remission of our sins and it's through Him that we can receive a fullness of Joy! So come, taste it for yourself!
Sister Emily Johnson