Monday, September 27, 2010


Dear Family

Today I am a bit under the weather, I think I have some kind of sore throat/achy cold or something. I am taking my Zicam religiously (like the rest of my life haha) and am going to take a nap this afternoon and hopefully will be up and going in time to proselyte tonight.

This week it was Zhongqiujie - the Autumn Moon Festival. I don't know if anyone in America noticed the harvest moon, but they really noticed it here in Taiwan, with plenty of firecrackers, night barbeques and trips to visit family. It is weird that I am beginning to experience holidays a second time around. It was pretty fun but I remember it being a bigger deal last year in Douliu with Sister Pickering. I guess everyone leaves the city and goes home to the country (like Douliu) so that's why it didn't seem so big here. The day had a nice relaxed feel to it, people weren't so stressed or rushed. On the Autumn Moon Festival, everyone eats this green citrus fruit shaped like a pear and mooncakes. Mooncakes aren't very good. Sometimes they have a cooked egg yolk in the middle - unpleasant suprise. I didn't have to eat any this year but still remember last year.

The weather has been nice, it has begun to feel a little like fall. The heat isn't so oppressive and the air just feels lighter, fresher. I like fall. There won't be any spectacular changing of the leaves here, but it is still my favorite season.

Last night I was waiting for my companion to get through a stoplight that had turned red for her so I turned to talk to a girl on a scooter parked by the side of the road. She had tears in her eyes (I thought maybe she had gotten into a car accident) and I asked her if she wanted to come to the chapel with me and I would teach her how to pray. She did, and we had a really nice first lesson. She had been crying because she just recently started college and she was worried about her family at home that doesn't have much money. It was a sweet little tender mercy for her that she could come. I hope she gets baptised.

Funny moment of culture shock: there is an English branch that meets in our chapel just a half hour before our meeting starts. I have to tell you, my first Sunday here it was culture shock to see...American women. I don't think that I saw a white female that wasn't a missionary EVER in Yuanlin (7 1/2 months). It's not just that the women at church were white, but they were like me! They were my same age. They wore clothes and makeup like me*. They wore dresses I would wear and read their scriptures like me. They went to BYU and totally understood English... They were like me but they ...weren't missionaries! They could do anything they wanted. They have a life that wasn't in Preach my Gospel. It was honestly the strangest thing. I hadn't seen a non-missionary female church member (that was not a general authority's wife) since I left America. Anyway. Strange bit of culture shock.

Sister Brownell and I talked to a young married couple that reminded me of Shelly and Benjamin so much! They are from Minnesota and so cute and sweet. They had some cute Midwestern last name and accent and the wife gave me a bottle of lavender oil to help me sleep. I actually sleep fine but that is just what sort of generous people they are (I must have looked tired). The husband told us about his mission in England, Chinese speaking and how hard it was. They were the first group of Chinese speaking Elders in England - an experiment. He developed a tic and an ulcer, only brought about ten people into the church, and apparently it was just so hard. It at least helped me put my own mission into perspective - a mission in Taiwan has it's share of adjustments and hardships but it was nowhere near as stressful as that brother's mission. I imagine his mission was more like Benjamin's in Texas. I so admire people that go to places where missions are so much more difficult than mine.

Alright. Times up. Love you all
Sister Johnson

* Well at least before my mission when I spent more than 3 minutes on my makeup and hair combined.

Cami's email to Donna

I left everything for classes to sign up for in my room. If it got moved I haven't the faintest idea where it will be. Try to figure out what week I can sign up for classes and I will ask my mission president for permission to sign up myself - I think that happens sometimes.

Did Amy tell you about her bedbugs? Man, I hope that that doesn't spread far and wide. I hate the bugs they just have here in Taiwan. They have these tiny black bigs that you can't see too much, they fly and itch like the devil when you get bit. It's terrible. My companion has scratched her bites into scabs many a time.

It sounds like a nice day at the spa! I'd love to go hanggliding or parasailing or whatever it is. What is a groupon? How can I get some? If no one else uses them I'd be happy to oblige, it sounds like fun. Can we go together? And don't worry, I have big plans for the temple. I may just camp there for a couple days haha.

Love you, I'll pray for your houses.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The 'Phoon ‏ 9/19/10

Dear family -

Well, it has been a fake-eventful past couple days.

On Saturday everyone started telling us that a typhoon was going to hit us the next day. I mostly ignored it because people have said that alot and in my experience it has yet to happen. Sister Brownell, who has only been on island 3 months, was pretty nervous. We watched big crazy thunderheads rolling in and I wondered if it was actually coming this time. The night before the air felt tense. We ran into President Bishop and he said that the storm was bigger than the island of Taiwan. Church had been canceled all over the island for the next day.

I, being the daughter of Mr. Safety, remembered noticing that our apartment was short two 72 hour kits. So we were advised to go and buy some things, which we did right before we went in for the night. That night we got the call - our ward was also canceled. The only ward maybe still having sacrament meeting on the whole island was in Taiping, where we happen to live. It was only still going to happen because an investigator needed to be confirmed and the district leader especially* asked the bishop.

We shut the windows, and went to bed. It certainly stormed that night - I got up a couple times to make sure that everything was secure and nothing was flooding or leaking. I couldn't sleep the rain and wind were so loud, but with some earplugs and missionary fatigue, fell asleep until 6.

When we woke up, the rain had stopped. It was still windy but it didn't look too unreasonable. The guanliyuan tried to talk us out of leaving the apartment because of the wind, but it wasn't too bad. It was only bad sometimes in the intersections, when the cross breese would about push us over. There were very few people out and even less cars on the road. There were some trees blown over and it was still windy but the lack of traffic and people made everything feel a bit quiet, somewhere between peaceful and eerie. In one of the intersections a gust of wind hit us just right and just about pushed me into my companion. We got uncomfortably close and we both shrieked and laughed and about scared two men to death who thought we were dieing. One of them shouted "Danger! Danger!" to us in English which is still Sister Brownell's and my onrunning joke.

We went with the Taiping Sisters to church, where all in attendance were three other missionary companionships, the bishop and his wife, and the girl being confirmed and her aunt. At the last second a vanfull of missionaries including the assistants (the only missionaries that drive in our mission) came and joined us.

Our church is at two PM, so when by 11:30 it still hadn't rained and the wind had dropped into a light breeze, I thought that it was ridiculous church was still canceled. It was still canceled out of two reasons - either laziness or the lack of initiative, because the weather was certainly not an issue. It's not like anyone was busy and had planned other activities - every member in my ward on Sunday from 2-5 should either already have plans to be in church or hunkered down for their safety in their homes. Since safety wasn't an issue, hunkering down=laziness. So I made a couple calls, got some balls rolling and we had a short sacrament meeting with my mission president presiding. We had one investigator in attendance, plus many other companionships and their investigators. You banfa.

Alright, time is up. I love you all and love your letters. Sorry no time for any personal responses to anyone this week, don't feel sorry for yourself if you don't get one.
Love love!
Sister Johnson

* I honestly can't remember if it is especially or specially. I feel like Ricky Ricardo from I love lucy. Also, I just forgot Ricky Ricardos name and had to think of it for several minutes

Sunday, September 12, 2010

a boring letter‏ Sept. 13, 2010

Dear Family,

Well things are settling in nicely here in Taichung. The worst part of living here is my bed. My "mattress" may just be disguised a box spring; I wake up and my back is sore like I slept on the floor all night. I am going to call the office and see if I can do anything about it - the other sisters have nicer mattresses than Sister Brownell and I. I call in numbers to Elder Porter the office elder so hopefully I will be in his good graces enough he will try to get me a mattress that won't kill me. It sounds so whiney but really I've tried to get used to it and not complain, but I think two weeks was enough of a trial run.

It has started into typhoon season, which means that it has been rainy. The morning is as clear as can be, not a cloud in the sky, and then by late afternoon huge black clouds roll in, often accompanied by thunder and lightning, and it POURS rain. It rains an unreasonable amount. I can't even tell you how hard it rains during the downpours because I have never experienced rain like it outside of Taiwan. It does have the benefit that it isn't as hot when it rains. We have been blessed to be kept out of the rain by lessons a couple times.

This week was also sisters exchanges. Sister Peterson exchanged with me. It was mostly uneventful. It was funny because my companion exchanged with one of the sisters that we live with, so I still saw her at night and during the morning during exchanges. As I often am after concluding sisters exchanges, I am glad that I have been assigned the companion I have :) Sister Peterson was a good teacher though, it's been a couple movecalls since I've taught with someone that has been on island so long (ie can understand Chinese). I learned a way to teach the 3rd lesson (the Gospel) by lighting a tea bag on fire. (Remind me and I'll do a family home evening).

Sister Brownell is a vegetarian. She eats really healthy and we have a favorite vegetarian biandang we like to eat at (biandang is kind of like...panda express or a chinese buffet. Lots of vegetables and dishes and you take what you want and pay for it by weight.*) Sister Pickering was a vegetarian too but we had more trouble finding her food (she didn't like biandang if I remember correctly). Sister Brownell is from Linden Utah, is 22 and used to teach English in China. She went to BYU and studied Marriage, family and human development. She wants to be a family counselor when she gets home. She is taller than me so is pretty tall.

I guess I am maybe hitting a fatigue-nearing-the-end stage of my mission. I don't know what to write about anymore in my emails home. Ask me questions and I will try to write about more interesting things next week than the weather, the state of my bed and what we have been eating.

Love you all.

Sister Johnson

* Well, supposedly you pay for it by weight. Mostly the person just looks at you and decides if they will charge you more or less that day. So annoying.)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

plusses outweigh the minuses ‏ 9/05/10

Dear President Bishop-

I'm sorry that my letter last week was so whiny! It was kind of a hard move day but I am better now.

I really do like Taichung! Okay, here are some of the things I like about it.
- This internet cafe is the only non disgusting email place I've ever been to
- Wide streets and tall buildings
- Lots of people
- Lots of referrals
- Beautiful public parks
- Church is from 2-5 in the afternoon

Going from country to city is an adjustment, some difficult, some nice.

- I live about a half hour bikeride outside of my area!
+ Luckily the chapel is in our area - most missionaries don't have the chapel in their area.
+ We live in Taiping, which I am quickly finding a soft spot for. We only spend time here on Preparation day, but everything is close together and really pretty nice. This is the nicest internet cafe I've been to in Taiwan. Everything is also conveniently close to our appartment, instead of spread all across town like in Yuanlin.

- My bed is hard as a rock
+ We live with Sister Hampton and Sister Liu, which I decided I love. It's like having roommates again. It's nice to have Sister Liu back around again - my only bundi companion I've had! I love her.

+ The weather has been comfortable - it really isn't as hot this summer as it was last summer. That just makes everything easier to deal with

- I don't know anyone's name!
+ Church yesterday was hands down the best regular 3 hour block of church I've had since the MTC. I actually felt the spirit in all the talks and lessons. I learned things instead of just being stressed about about taking care of people. Not splitting work was great - we only cover one ward so I always have my companion. The ward is also really awesome. The ward here feels like a regular ward back home. It doesn't have the same feeling as some of the other wards I've served in where I felt like everyone is still a bit fragile in the gospel- (like in Yuanlin the RSP had never read the whole Book of Mormon). We didn't have as many investigators this week (eek) but it was nice to not want to just wish I were dead by the end of church.

+ The most amazing thing happened in church yesterday. President Bishop and his wife spoke in church, afterwhich and I was invited to do the routine introduce myself and share my testimony to the ward. I did, and as I finished, President Bishop got up and told the ward I was an amazing missionary and made me tell them how many people I baptised last movecall (6). I don't know if you know how many levels of awesome that is. First of all, complements from my mission president are really nice. Second of all, it was in the middle of sacrament meeting in my new ward. It increased my relationship with the ward tenfold. We got four member referrals yesterday alone. A sister came up and told me how special it was that my mission president did that - she had never seen it before. Then she referred me to her best friend - an apparently golden family.

So thank you President Bishop!

I think I am going to love it here.

+ My companion, Sister Brownell is great. She is a calming influence and pillar of strength as I am a bit melodramatic at times. I am not used to being in an area with so many people, so many referrals and so few progressing investigators. (The last part I am bound and determined to change). I don't know how I did missionary work before - we'd only have about twenty investigators but somehow baptise like crazy and here we have a ton of investigators but not a lot progressing. It's an adjustment. I guess it's only been a week.

Times about up. I love you all so much.
Love, Sister Johnson

Cami's email to Donna:

Dear Momma

Happy happy birthday from all of us to you, we wish it was our birthday so we could party too!
I'm sorry that there was not a pink convertible with a bow on it or a fluffy cake for you to make all your birthday wishes come true
I hope you know how much I love you and can't wait to see you in just a couple short months. It's coming up fast, eh?

HAPPY BIRTHDAY! I hope you know you mean so much to me. Yesterday during Relief Society they read The Giving Tree and I cried and thought of you. You are the most giving, loving tree I've ever met.

I love you.
Your daughter,

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

old things are done away and all things become new‏ 08/30/2010

Dear family,

Hello from...Taichung! Yes, I moved this morning. This week has literally been a whirlwind. I am absolutely exhausted-about-to-drop.

First things first.

Sitting next to me is my former companion in Gaoxiong, Sister Busath! She is going home tomorrow. It is strange - all of my seniors will be home now.
My new companion is Sister Brownell. She seems very nice and I don't forsee any problems. We live with another companionship so there are four missionaries in our apartment! I can't decide if I will hate or love it.

I was/am sooo sad to leave Yuanlin. I am going to miss all my friends there - investigators, my new members, less actives, peikes, Sister Cooper... I've been there forever and have really great relationships with my wards. The first ward bishop's wife gave me a Chinese cookbook this morning - it was so sweet. Adjusting is hard. I had so much success in Yuanlin and now I'm here and don't know anything.

Okay, enough with my melodrama. We saw a lot of blessings this week.

#1 We baptised three people last night! We had only planned to baptise two boys - Jiang Zi Cheng and Jiang Jun Ting. We have been teaching the mom and she is so great but her faith isn't *quite* there yet. Her husband passed away a year ago and she works on Sunday to support the family and still needs a testimony of the Sabbath. She will get baptised though - I am totally sure of it. The boys are so cute, they come to church by themselves every Sunday. They really are so good. One will get the Aaronic priesthood this Sunday, I am so happy.

#2 We have been working with an investigator Jiang Rai Yun for a month or so now. She came to church on her own the first week and we started meeting with her. She has a lot of faith but put off her baptism because she wanted her whole family to tell her to get baptised before she did it. I had been praying that she would find something at Stake Conference that would soften her heart, and she did. I talked to her for a long time after the meeting, we prayed about it and she said she would go home and talk to her family. She called later and said she would wait. Luckily, my amazing ward correlator Jiang dixong was there and I put her on the phone with him. He bore a really powerful testimony and she agreed to pray about getting baptised that night with the Jiang brothers, and she agreed! It was a miracle week-A drop in. It was such a blessing. I was so happy for her. She got baptised about a month from the first time we met her.

#3 Stake Conference was yesterday. It was so great to see everyone from my wards in Yuanlin, plus Douliu! I remember a year ago having Stake Conference from Douliu and going to Yuanlin before I ever moved there. I got to see more of my favorite members from there - Wu jm the RSP and Liang jm my Sunday School teacher. I also ran into sundry other members and it just made my heart so happy. The talks were excellent.

#4 On Friday we went to Sun Moon Lake to help with a Stake Youth activity. Sun Moon lake is gorgeous. I had been there once before for the mission Christmas activity. The Youth conference was great - I hadn't had *fun* like that in ages. We got to watch them do some skits and I really felt the spirit. We broke up in groups and helped our group write their testimony in scriptures to give to friends. Sister Cooper and I did an egg example with an egg in a bottle. (If you light a match in it, the egg will go down into the bottle).*

We had a lot more awesome stories and blessings but I still have to write President, eat dinner and get back to the chapel in 30 minutes. I will fill you in on the wonders of Taichung next week. Frankly right now I don't know what they are.

I love you all very much.
Sister Johnson

*When Sister Cooper and I were testing it out, we accidentally dropped an egg onto our neighbors balcony. We didn't tell them because they already hate us for waking up at 6. It's...mostly washed off from the rain. Don't tell anyone