Thursday, November 28, 2013

November 25, 2013 - Košice

Hello my lovelies!!

      So today is bitter cold and I'm freezing. The Siberian winds are crazy cold and strong here! But you know that's okay because it's NOVEMBER 25!! How did that happen!?! HAPPY HALF BIRTHDAY ALLISON!!! AND of course one month til Christmas!

On the train again with Sister Jones.
     Anywho this week went by way too fast. We had specialized training in Brno this last week. Every month we have some sort of training or conference. Typically we'd have specialized in Slovakia (normally in Zilina) and I'm not sure why we went to Brno but it was awesome! I love trainings, they're a spiritual boost and so helpful! A cool things happened during training...first off Sister Schon (a Czech sister serving in Brno, she's a transfer younger than me) cut my hair!! Not very much, just like 4 inches or so. I'm really glad it turned out well. Also because this training was toward the end of a transfer, the departing missionaries bore their testimonies. 4 Slovak elders are leaving. They all gave beautiful powerful testimonies. All the time I'm just in awe of the spirituality and strength of the missionaries here. They are all so amazing!! Training was awesome too! President gave us a commitment to prepare our areas now so we can thrive at Christmastime. Sister Jones and I are going to work crazy hard this week to build our finding and teaching pools so the area will be in good shape for Christmas and transfers!

      Well I think my language is improving and this week our district is trying for 100 SOL hours. The last one didn't go so well (we totally bombed it) but we're going to do it! Elder Ferrell is super helpful and it's really nice to have some direction with the language. Plus my reading in the Kniha Mormonova is coming along nicely (I'm part way through Jacob). I want to finish the KM by my birthday at the very latest. My original plan was to finish it by New Years but I got really far behind and if I want to do that I'd have to read around 12 pages a day. (This is the reason I'm currently working on diligence...what's the point of setting goals if you don't accomplish them!)

      Mom, you asked why I'm allowed an instrument. President is all for music in the mission. We just need permission in order to purchase one. The Elders have slightly renamed my instrument (which didn't please me;).) but we've now compromised...His name is Tibor Lester Johnson. And because President likes creative finding methods (like concerts), instruments are super helpful!

    So I realized I've done a poor job of explaining a few things. Like this coming transfer. So right now there are 6 Slovak sisters and miracle of all miracles we'll be getting a new Slovak sister in December! President McConkie doesn't really like threesomes (or so I've been told) so he's bringing a Czech sister into Slovakia and opening a new area to sisters!! We don't know where yet (but most likely in Trencin or Nitra). Honestly I'm super stoked! Transfers are next Monday!! I really love Kosice but I also really want to serve in other places!

      Okay at service (at R's home) I definitely don't do as much as the elders (Elder Ferrell always mixes the concrete and Elder Guymon wheels it everywhere). When making concrete mostly we sisters refill water buckets for the mix, gather rocks and such, and help level the concrete as it's poured. This last week we had to move a giant dirt pile so I was actually able to really help...I grew up shoveling dirt! R's grandma was a little surprised...she told me I was "working like one of the boys" and asked if I did that sort of work at home. (I must admit, it was fun to say this work was normal...though I'm getting a little soft! I got blisters from the shovel!) She's a really nice lady and is always asking about our homes in America.

     This past week I made wassail and orange cranberry bread (w/out cranberries. I couldn't find any so I replaced it with raspberries!) Mom, I miss your cooking! I've been craving chicken pot pie like crazy this week!!

      I'm so happy (and a little sad) that Rayna is walking!! She's just getting so big! I'm really excited to hear about Colin's baptism (just so you all know...I might be bragging to everyone about my awesome family and their missionary experiences). I love you all!!

 S Laskou,
 Sestra Whitney Sarah Johnson <3

Pictures - on the train

Pictures from the last train ride...

These sisters joined them in route.

Sultan Kebab! THE XXL!

Slovakia - pictures

She titled this email:  SLOVAKIA IS BEAUTIFUL!

Friday, November 22, 2013

A request...

Dear family and friends,

We would like to inundate Whitney with Christmas cards....please join with us (we know she will love hearing from you!). 

Please list her name AFTER the name of the church – if her name is first, the card/letter may not get to her.

Církev  Ježiše Krista
Sister Whitney Johnson
Badeního 1
Prague 6  160  00
Czech Republic-Europe

*If mailing from the United States, a Global stamp ($1.10) is preferred but you can use 3 regular postal stamps -  in the open area on the envelope, to the side of the address write AIRMAIL.
**Please send as soon as possible (it takes two weeks to arrive at the address and about another  two weeks to be delivered to her).
***This address is good ONLY for letters – packages require a different address.

Thank you for your help.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

November 18, 2013 - Košice

Hello Everyone!!

So I feel like we did everything and nothing this week! It was just a really long week!!

To start out: our concert! It was absolutely beautiful! Our district (Elder Guymon, Elder Ferrell, Sister Jones and I) had help from the Sister Training Leader and her companion (Sister Barney and Sister Huggard).  They are Czech sisters serving in Uherske Hradiste. They were coming to do exchanges with Sister Jones and I.  We also had help from P (Our super awesome investigator) and President van Dalen (our fearless branch president.). President was narrating for us (the program was based upon the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ).  Here is how it went:

1. We started out with "I Am a Child of God", a cappella (almost--P accompanied us on his bass guitar).
2. Sister Jones and I sang "Hark! All Ye Nations", while P played his bass and I played Tibor (my uke). Not gonna was nerve wracking!! I started the first verse and chorus solo!! Then I did harmony for the rest after Sister Jones joined in.
3. The UH sisters sang "Jesus Once of Humble Birth", doing amazing harmonies. They are so talented and it was wonderful they were there to help out. I accompanied, yet again (actually I accompanied everything except the 1st song in which I sang! It's been really great but I've had to stretch myself to create accompaniments).
4. Our district sang "Savior, Redeemer of My Soul" (the one we sang at conference).
5. The district performed "Joseph Smith's First Prayer" (The elders did solos and sister Jones did some harmonies--it was amazing!) with part of the Joesph Smith movie playing in the background. It was soo beautiful and powerful!
6. We ended with I know that "My Redeemer Lives", using the accompaniment from Jaclyn's book. This was the hardest song! I had to alter some of the music so I could actually play it but all in all it was WONDERFUL!!!!
Afterward we had refreshments (I made two cakes. They had delicious orange frosting thanks to my oils! and were gorgeous...I really should have taken a picture) and set up meetings with some of the people (remember the concert was meant as a finding tool...a really fun, really stressful, really beautiful finding tool)! The concert was such a good experience and I'm looking forward to the Christmas Concert!!!

      Afterwards we took the Sister Training Leader and her comp home with us (1st ever sister exchanges in Košice!) and the next day did a singing display with them! 

R's gma made us some really yummy cake, which I have the recipe for!

  On Saturday, we went to R's again and laid more concrete (and we must be getting better-we were significantly faster and less messy by the end of the day!). It's cool to go help out and do manual labor. Surprisingly that's something I miss from home! (Weird, I know.)

       So some more big news...I gave my first ever talk on Sunday!! I'm so pleased and it was an occasion I never want to repeat!! I really hate speaking in public. My talk was on miracles and I think it was okay. Maybe not the greatest and of course later that day I thought of how I could have improved it BUT it was understandable!! And when I read/referenced scriptures, the congregation could follow along! It was SUCCESSFUL!!

    After church, Elder Ferrell helped me with Slovak. He's a really good teacher and even gave me homework...actually even better, he's a really good missionary and committed me! I think one reason I struggle with learning Slovak is I don't always know what to do or where to start. But I've been improving, especially since my district is AWESOME and HELPFUL!!!  Then us missionaries ate lunch together. Sister Jones and I made Chicken Alfredo and the Elders brought brownies. It was fun!

     Our area is doing pretty good. We're struggling to find new investigators (still :/) but we do have one new investigator (from the Hudobny Vecer!). We've taught P pretty much everything so now when we meet with him we either teach something like receiving personal revelation or serving a mission or we'll read in the KM with him. And PK is just awesome! Recently, she decided that she can and will follow the Word of Wisdom. She started weaning herself off coffee (replacing it with Caro or Hot chocolate). It was a wonderful surprise for Sister Jones and I! We are so happy!

      That's more or less it. This week was pretty great and this coming week will be excellent as well (we have another conference in Brno). I'm a little sad though because there are only 2 weeks left in this transfer and my time is Košice is coming to an end. I've been here for 3 transfers already so I'm pretty sure I'll be leaving. I do have to say though, I'm excited for next transfer! We'll have a new sister and be opening a new area (which I definitely want to serve in...not that I know where it is yet).

      I love you all and hope you have a wonderful week!
S Laskou,
Sestra Whitney Sarah Johnson <3

President van Dalen was playing St Mikulas and put oranges in our shoes after lunch today!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

November 11, 2013 - Košice

Hello Everyone!!

     To start out I'm going to tell you a little story about my new friend. This week Sister Jones and I were heading home and nearly at our byt when we see an orange tom cat coming towards us. It reminded me of Pumpkin and it's been a long time since I've pet a cat so naturally I called out to it. And just like Pumpkin, it came!  I did toy briefly with the idea that it might have fleas or rabies...but I quickly got over that!;)  We pet it for a few seconds and then continued on our way and it followed us (with a little encouragement from me...). When we got to our door he tried to come in with us and I just wanted to keep him!! But that's not allowed so I figured we could at least feed him. We live on the 4th floor so we decided we'd run upstairs grab some milk. When we came back downstairs he was sitting at the door meowing! We fed him and pet him a while and then got on with our evening but it was so wonderful!

From: Kosice, Slovakia To: Michalovce, Slovakia
About 1 hour away
      Sister Jones and I went to Michalove to find a referral this week and it was an adventure! It took forever to find the house and it turns out the lady left to go to England (for half a year) last week!! But that's okay because we had a long conversation with a neighbor. One funny moment from that trip though was when Sister Jones and I were asking directions from two ladies and a swarm of preteens (there was ten or more kids) passed by and we were mistaken for nuns!! Which I don't quite understand...I was wearing a pink skirt and a badge. Oh well, people just don't know who we are...yet. ;)

      I have a really cool miracle* story for you all...We have a less active member we've been working with. R is really cool and currently trying to remodel his house and we missionaries love to serve! He lives in a village/town outside of Kosice and on Saturday we were going to go help him make and lay concrete for the foundation of his garage. Elder Guymon gets a call an hour before we were supposed to leave and R says because it might rain and because the sand hadn't arrived we don't need to come. We were super disappointed (that was our entire plan  for Saturday and we really wanted to be of service to him). The four of us were sitting in the church building and discussing our options and someone quoted our mission president and said, "We are spiritual people." We decided to go out to R's and help out if we could and if not we'd go back to Kosice. We felt good about our decision because we are spiritual people. ;)  (We had to run for our bus though and barely made it). When we arrived it was around lunch time and R's phone had been busy the entire time so we couldn't tell him we were there. We went to a store that was next to his work and when we finished shopping R was outside on the phone! We told him that we had come to see if we could help him with anything. He replied it was good that we had come because the sand people had called and they'd be there in 5 min! On top of that, it didn't rain at all while we were there but the second we were finished (and running again to catch a bus, which again we barely made) it started to sprinkle!

      Our lovely investigator, PK, came to church this Sunday (which was wonderful) and Sister van Dalen took such good care of her! It's so helpful when the members fellowship and help the investigator feel comfortable. After church PK gave Sister Jones and I slippers that she made!! They are so cute and really comfortable!! She is such a sweet lady! She's progressing through the Book of Mormon slowly but surely and we are hoping to be able to work in her garden this week and meet her husband. We tried last week but the weather was rainy and they went to Bratislava for a few days.

  We've been struggling to find investigators but we have a plan and we have the resources to find people so it's only a matter of time.
       The Hudobny Vecer is tomorrow and I'm so excited!! It's going to be so great! I'm a little nervous though. And I'm praying everthing goes well. But we have some really talented missionaries here so it's going to be beautiful!!
      I think that's everything that happened this week. It's been really cool to see how closely we work with God. During an interview with President McConkie this past month, he asked me when was the last time I saw the Lord's hand in this work. After a week like this I can say with absolute surety that we missionaries have divine help. It reminds me that this is HIS work.  "I know that which the Lord hath commanded me, and I glory in it. I do not glory of myself, but I glory in that which the Lord hath commanded me; yea, and this is my glory, that perhaps I may be an instrument in the hands of God to bring some soul to repentance; and this is my joy." (Alma 29:9).

As usual, I love you all and hope your day is full of miracles!
S Laskou,
Sestra Whitney Sarah Johnson <3

* Miracle: "An extraordinary event caused by the power of God. Miracles are an important element in the work of Jesus Christ. They include healings, restoring the dead to life, and resurrection. Miracles are a part of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Faith is necessary in order for miracles to be manifested."  Here is another example of a miracle.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

November 3, 2013 - Košice

Hello everyone!! So I really hope I remember everything I want to tell you but I'm bound to forget something! But here I go....

      First off Monday was excellent because I finally found a pair of boots!! After 5 hours of shopping over 3 different preparation days, I am successful!! It's wonderful! We also had some sadness as we said goodbye to V because she's leaving for two months or so. :(  But we are definitely going to stay in contact with her. She's so golden!
     Then the next day we went to Zone Conference, we arrived the day before and stayed with the Brno Sisters (Sestry Schoen, Steglich, and Cooper). They are so great and wonderfully sweet! Plus I really love Sister Steglich...she was in my MTC group! The Zone Conference on Wednesday was excellent and  my district performed! We sang/played "Savior, Redeemer of My Soul" (in Slovak, of course! Starsi Guymon translated it for us). I played the piano, Elders Guymon and Ferrell and Sister Jones sang, and the best part...President McConkie played on his violin with us. Just so you all know...I feel super accomplished because I wrote/arranged the music. I also recorded it so you can enjoy it! ;)  [We didn't receive the recording--maybe next week.]

     Leaving conference was crazy--we missed our train and instead of staying in Zilina as planned we stayed in Bratislava (a good 6 hours from home). We wanted to be home at a reasonable time plus we had things on plan (like a singing display with the Zone Leaders) so we got up at 4 in the morning to catch an early train!! We arrived in Košice, ate lunch with the Elders, did a singing display, taught a few lessons, and by the end of the day we were sooo tired! But as the phrase can sleep when you're dead.

     On Saturday we had a baptism. One of the Elders' investigators was baptized and it was awesome. But there was one funny thing...I play the piano for all services and unfortunately the cord for the electrical piano was forgotten! Luckily for us I had Tibor with me because we missionaries were doing a musical number, which turned out beautiful--We did a mash of "I like to look for Rainbows" and "I feel my Savior's Love". So for the service I got to sight read some hymns on my uke. It was cool but so ridiculously funny (so I just realized I haven't told you about Tibor yet...He's a guitarlele I bought for the Hudobny Vecer [musical evening]. He is super great and Sister Jones and I have had lots and lots of fun with him. [Sister Johnson & siblings all played in the school orchestra and it is a tradition to name your musical instrument.]  Sunday was wet. The weather is turning cold. And rainy. But we had church and it was great! J received the gift of the Holy Ghost and Elder Ferrell was confirming! It was just amazing. He did so well and the prayer was beautiful..

    Well sadly our teaching pool is dwindling...we had a couple of investigators and now  haven't been able to reach them.  V is away for awhile.  On the plus side, the other day during studies Sister Jones and I received a call from an unknown number...turns out it was PK's husband! So the whole time we've been teaching her, we've been volunteering our service/time and she's always been hesitant but she told her husband that we offered to work in their garden and so he called us! It's a great opportunity for us to meet her family! We are really excited. And P is doing pretty good...We fasted with him about his situation and next week when President returns from the temple, we'll try to work our a solution to his being baptized.

    So the diet thing is going great. Mostly I eat lots of eggs. I actually think I've lost a couple pounds but I'm not really sure. Honestly I kind of don't want to just because then I'll have to take in my clothes which sounds like a hassle! And honestly I don't know how long I actually want to do it...eating healthy is great and all but I really love food! and the halusky, bread and chocolate is great here!  On Sunday, Elder Ferrell and I were talking about American food, like Mac and Cheese and tapioca pudding and chocolate chips...I miss the taste of America sometimes but lucky for us we have Big Burger...the best hamburger joint in Kosice!

     I love you so have a fantastic day!!
S Laksou,
Sestra Whitney Sarah Johnson <3