Wednesday, July 22, 2009

July 20, 2009- Zhongwen zenme shuo?

Nihao jiating!

I'm in the home stretch of MTC! I leave for the field in just 3 weeks and one day. That is longer than most missionaries spend in the MTC but because I've been here so long it feels like no time at all. Before I know it I will be in Taiwan, making all kinds of halarious language faux pas, preaching the gospel... It's going to be great.

Things are going well. My companionship is working better than ever and slowly but surely the language comes. A few words at a time, a small miracle here and there...

I had to give my first talk in Chinese yesterday during Sacrament Meeting! Branch President Liu, in an effort to keep our blood pressure high, assigns a topic that everyone has to write a talk in in Zhongwen. Then after the Sacrament he will announce who will stand up and speak, and this week I was the lucky winner. I was actually glad because I can't take the anxiety of never knowing. The talk went well except I read it instead of said it. It was an amalgamation of phrases from the Book of Mormon, Preach my Gospel and a missionary vocabulary book we have.

Oh, can I just say one thing that I am really and truly grateful for on my mission? Our translated 3-column Book of Mormon study tool. It has three columns - the first is in Characters, the second in Pinyin (Romanized chinese - so you can sound out words if you can't read characters) and English. It is amazing. They don't have any of the other standard works in this format yet. My teachers didn't have it during their missions; it came out less than a year ago. Lai laoshi (my teacher Brother Lattin) said that he got through about 8 chapters of the Book of Mormon on his whole mission, reading every day for 2 years. This is because if you don't have Pinyin, you have to look up each individual character, find the Pinyin sound it makes, then look up the pinyin in the dictionary for meaning. Yes, it is as awful as it sounds. Unfortunately the 3-column Book of Mormon is a "language learning tool" and not technically scripture so we can only take our English or Character scriptures to lessons. This means I either have to memorize scriptures or have my investigator read everything aloud during lessons. I have a goal of memorizing one scripture a week. I will be a better scriptorian in Chinese than in English, haha. We will see how it goes.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

7/13/09 - nihao‏

Dear Family,

Well, this week we got in the new group of missionaries. It was hard for about 2 hours because a lot more of the new group already speak more Chinese than we do and we felt like we have been studying Chinese for so long we don't even remember our former lives (haha, joke...mostly). I reminded myself we are all on the same team and it doesn't matter, because what matters are the people we will help; and what they learned in years I will learn in weeks or months. Seeing the missionaries without much Chinese experience helped me realize how far I've come in such a short time! It is great. The gift of tongues is real!

One of my favorite things about the MTC is the powerhouse singing. Before the firesides and devotionals (which everyone attends) we sing for 10 minutes or so. I have never heard hymns sung with such gusto; I really will miss it. "Called to Serve" about takes the roof off the house, in an awesome way.

This week has been great because we have practiced teaching a lot more than normal. They started a new zone activity where every companionship teaches another missionary as a progressing investigator. So one person pretends to be the same character and the missionaries teach all the lessons to the needs of that perosn. Right now I am both teaching and an investigator. Something about telling people how much God loves them just makes for an incredible day, always.

In random news, I have seen people from Pasco. The first one was Matthew Vaughn- his family was in our ward - remember? I was best friends with his twin sisters Rachel and Amanda. And once Emily Vaughn stood on her head for the ward talent show. I'm sure you remember. He came up to me and said hi and when I saw his nametag I remembered him immediately. I was really happy to see he went on a mission! He is going to the Philipeans and left already. The other person that came up and said hi was a girl I went to McLaughlan with - Chelsea Bleazard. I recognized her last name but it took me about 4 hours to remember who she was. It was weird.

Got to go,

lots of love.-


Monday, July 6, 2009

July 6th, 2009- Happy belated 4th of July!‏

So, this week commenced our All-Chinese portion of the MTC. It actually went really well. I can't believe how much better I have gotten in just a week! It is also really special because God knows that we are trying *so* hard, so even though our language was very simple, I could really feel the spirit as we practiced teaching. It was all in preparation for our First Lesson in Chinese on Saturday, which actually went really well. Because it was a holiday there were no volunteers so we taught one of the other classes teachers. He told his class afterword that we gave the best lesson he has ever been taught this early at the MTC. I think it had a lot less to do with our language skills than the fact that we decided to forget the lesson plan itself and just focus on the needs of him as an individual, what he needed to come unto Christ. We really felt the spirit.

So, Fourth of July! How was Michigan? I was thinking about the family :)

They had a special Fourth of July Fireside, which I am reluctant to talk about because it was such a painful experience. Pretty much, some of the older couple missionaries and mission presidency and their wives made a program with a video about key people that paved the way for America and for religious freedom. There were some ridiculous wigs involved and some of the acting was a bit over the top and many of the 19 year old boys could not handle it and were laughing. Yes, historically it was somewhat creative and cheesy, but it was obvious from the costumes to the elaborate greenscreens and the scripts that many people had put a lot of time into the production for us to enjoy. Oh, my heart just hurt for those cute old people when they they came onto the stage in their costumes after the video! I felt their discomfort from the previous laughter and it hurt me. I felt embarrassed to be a part of the group I am; the ingratitude and disrespect still makes me feel sick to my stomach. Oh, they tried so hard!

They let us stay up and watch the fireworks from the Stadium of Fire. It was great but I am still yawning! I was still up at 6:30 and a full day yesterday.

Oh yes, and Daddy, Elder O'Neil told me to say thank you for your service in the Green Berets. He is obsessed with the military so I told him about you and he was impressed and asked me to pass the message along.

Hmm, I still have five minutes, what else! So, as part of learning Chinese we are supposed to use what we know 100% of the time. So we called four-square "si-square" (si means four in Chinese). Some clever person changed it to siwang which is a halarious pun in chinese because it means death... Hmm, I'm not sure the humor translates, but we find it halarious here at the MTC. Also, I played with the Elders for the first time and made king 3 times. All those years on the playground just paid off :)

Alright, have a great week, LOVE you!

FML - Sister Johnson

June 29th, 2009

Hello family!

Well, it has been an interesting week. So, funny story. Here at the MTC we are completely cut off from news of the outside world. So, we were at the Referral Center and one of the guys was in the middle of bearing his testimony to a woman on the phone and it was something like this:Missionary: "And I know the church is true..."Lady: "Oh my gosh! ...My husband just told me that Michael Jackson died!" And hung up.And thus the news of Michael Jackson's death spread across the MTC like wildfire, literally. No one knew what happened; it was all speculation and "did you hear?!"It is funny being so cut off from the news.

Speaking of death, I was very sorry to hear that Willie died. I used to really like that kid. He would paddle the main with me sometimes. Luckily I have been studying the plan of Salvation for a couple weeks and I have a firm belief in the Resurrection and the life after this one. He will live again, and there are no such things as accidents. God does everything to the benefit his children, and if he was taken at a young age, it will be to his Eternal benefit. Perhaps he is being taught the gospel even now. Thanks for keeping me updated on the news.

Having the mission president training here this past week was less exciting than I hoped. Because there are still a few people quarentined for Swine flu, we were kept separate from the mission presidents and apostles. Probably because they are old and could die if they get sick. What was great was that Elder Holland spoke at the fireside. We were really lucky to get seats because most of the seats in the hall were taken by the Choir and the mission presidents. Most missionaries had to sit in the overflow in the cafeteria. Luckily my companion is from Canada and was told that she can sit in the section reserved for interpretation because she is international, even if she speaks English. Sweet.

Also, I need to know if my letters are too long/boring. I know some people don't even read their own siblings mission letters because they think they are boring, and I'd rather be brief than a chore.

I have an activity for everyone for family home evening this week. I guess that Asians LOVE analogies and that is really how they connect with the gospel. So for an activity you could help me brainstorm some analogies for gospel principles! You don't have to, but you may find it an interesting study.

PS Thanks for sending the packages! I really appreciated it. My roommates are loving the candy and I am loving everything else :) You are the best!

Also - tell Amy to cancel ordering the CD player or speakers on ebay, because whoever sent the packages already sent me them!

Xie xie! (thanks!)