Wednesday, August 6, 2014

I am changed through Him...

Dear Family,
Friday night, the BYU-I Dance Alliance team came through for a show.  It was a really great way to have members invite their non-member friends to be introduced to the church, and a great tracting approach.  Anyways, it was really fun for me because I got to see a few people from my last ward in Rapid, not all of them, but some.  I got permission to say good-bye to a few people before I go home for good.  I will try and see the Sheffield’s one more time, Hayden, and the Steele’s.  I’m excited!!

Anyways, unexpectedly I got to see Mervin!!!!  I didn’t know he was going to be there and I haven’t seen him in so long!  I really feel like this was a tender mercy of the Lord right before I go home.  I ran up and gave him the biggest hug!! (I know this is against the rules, but it is the last time I will get to see him! I made an exception.)   He apparently heard I might be there and he told me he made me something,  It is a really nice, beaded, Native American chain.  It was SO nice of him.  He told me he has now received the priesthood, done baptisms for the dead, is a branch missionary, received his patriarchal blessing, and is preparing to enter the temple in November!! I could hardly keep back the tears.  He then said, “Sister Johnson, I will never forget you.  I prayed for you and I know you’re going to make it.”  As I have been pondering on my mission and what it means, Mervin has been the highlight of it all.  He has made every single day of my mission worth it.  I cannot express in words the way I feel about my mission.  It means everything to me.  Mervin’s success brings me the greatest happiness I have ever felt in my entire life.  The gospel is true and the happiness it brings me is a testament to me that it is true.  I thank my Father in Heaven for this incredible journey and especially for Mervin.  I told him I would do all I can to be there when he goes through the temple and I can hardly wait for it.  Saying goodbye to him again was so hard, but I know I will see him again.  I know the Lord placed him in my path and I’m full of gratitude because of it.  I feel like seeing him really helped me feel that my mission was successful.
I can’t believe that this is my last email as a missionary.  I still feel like all of this is unreal and I have a mix of emotions about going home.  It has been such a privilege to be a missionary and I know it was for me more than anything.  I am still me, but my testimony is firm and I know that the gospel of Jesus Christ changes lives, including mine. My 18 months is a small sacrifice, but I hope the Lord will accept it.  I will forever hold onto my mission experience with love and great appreciation.  I know that it will shape my life forever.
I want each of you to know that I could not have done this without you and your support.  First and foremost I want to thank Mom and Dad.  You have shown me the path to take in life and supported me from day one!  I have never been so grateful in my life than I am now for what you have taught me.  The greatest gift you could have given me is the gospel and you have not only given it to me, but you live it.  I mean how many missionary's parents are missionaries?! It has been amazing to serve along side both of you.  Mom, you are the most loving, caring, and understanding person I know.  I know that where ever I turn in life, you will be there.  You are so sensitive to the spirit, and full of charity, which I know is what makes you a spiritual fireball out there!  Dad, I have never met such a spiritual man, full of patience.  You have always shown me that the gospel comes first.  I also think you have a gift to teach the gospel and so I don’t doubt that you are saving souls out there.  I love you both!
To my sisters! Where would I be without you?  I feel like each of you have reached out to me while I’ve been serving and given me the motivation to keep pushing through.  They say sisters make the best of friends, and I have FIVE of them! I am so lucky to have each of you to set the example to me and be there for me.  I love you.
Leslie, if it wasn’t for you, I would have never served a mission.  You have been there for me countless times and I consider you to be family.  I will always be so grateful for your friendship and your advice.  Thank you for always loving me.  I love you.
Thank you Grandma’s and Grandpa’s! I could always count on a letter from you!  Can I just say we have the best family ever! Thank you Aunt Linda for never missing a week on my mission to send me a letter! Thank you Aunt Heidi for the packages full of love! I am so grateful for all the love I felt through each of you.
Last of all I’m grateful for all those on my mission who taught me more than I could have ever taught them! And for the families that took me in while I was away from home (Sessions and Sheffields)!  I love all of you.  My mission has been worth it and I could not have done it without you.
I know that this gospel is true.  I know that Jesus Christ died for each of us and He knows us individually.  I know that through Him we can all change.  I know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God.  It has brought me the most comfort than any other book.  I know that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God.  I cannot wait to meet him.  He was a good man, who did the best he could, and he obeyed God.  I know that we are a part of Christ’s restored church and through it our families can be eternal.  I’m so grateful for this knowledge and the opportunity to preach it.  I will miss wearing His name tag every day. 

I love all of you.  I hope you will see a difference in me, because I am changed through Him.  I will see you all soon.


Sister Johnson

My last companion - Sister Williamson

Last emails from Mom and Dad

Sydnee ( Sister Johnson)

Wow, we have been thinking about this all week. We were filling out our weekly planner and then we got to Aug 11th. We are questioning being on a mission right about now!!!!

I'm thinking about the first email I sent and the flood of emotions I felt as you embarked on the mission. I was bursting with love and (parental pride) which means righteous pride as Ammon taught. Little did I realize how much that would grow. As I have followed the weekly trials and successes I have felt and witnessed the love you have gained for the Savior and our Father in Heaven. I feel of your trust in them and their trust in you. I love the words of the Scriptures that teach us we can become "favored" to the Lord. I hope you are personally feeling this way right now. Yes, we all carry our weaknesses, but when we are moving in His direction with full purpose of heart, we are in His care.

I'm excited to hear from you and see how this last week has gone. I always get something from your emails that inspires me for the coming week. I'm hoping and praying that the reasons for your being where you are for a short time will be evident prior to your leaving.

Mom and I have been getting as much ready for your return as we can. Assignments have been made and everyone is helping out. We are wanting it to be special and hoping you will be okay with us not being there in person. We often feel bad about this. It was not our initial intention and as it nears we feel the pain of this distance. I also have a witness that we were supposed to be here. Too many things have happened with people and circumstances that witness of this. However it has not always taken the worry and homesickness from our knowing we will be not be there.

We have arrangements with the Stake President to Skype or Face time in when you get your release. We also have the okay to do the same when you speak in church. Hopefully the kids are set up to have us do the same when you arrive in the Airport in SLC. I hope you can share this with us using this modern technology platform.....

One last thought. Elder Holland teaches us in  missionary training that there is power and miracles in the 11th hour. It is a sacred time in missionary work. The last door, the last street....and now the last week. You are at your best in both testimony, faith, obedience, abilities to teach and having the gift of the Holy Ghost to be with you. Use it all with all the energy of your heart so the blessings of the Eleventh Hour can be yours and to those you will touch.

I was thinking about the Hymn, "God be with you till we meet again." You will now experience this in a whole new light. Never again will the experience come in the same way, at the same time, and with the same people. You will say farewell to them. You will see some of them again, but without the sacred 'mantle' you have been clothed in. Now you will sing this hymn in your heart with other people in mind. It is not us or your home, but the labors in a strange land to strange people who have now become a part of you.
Good for you!!!!!  I pray with all my heart, that God will be with you as you leave the mission.
I know this work is true. I know it supersedes all other work. (Moses 1:39) I am so grateful to share it and to testify of the simple truth which brings salvation to all who embrace it. A mission brings it all into perspective. I love Heavenly Father with all my heart. I feel the same for the Savior and I can't imagine where I would be without the gift of the Holy Ghost. I know you know this too.

I hope you feel of my love for you. Always and forever….Dad


I can't believe that I am writing this final email to you as a missionary! I discussed with Dad the other day how excited I feel about your coming home. How can this be when we won't even be 
there? As we talked we realized that this is a celebration of a great accomplishment and that is why we can feel so excited about it. You have learned so much from your experiences. You have gained growth, understanding and empathy in a way that a mission can teach, because of your efforts to be obedient. You can feel so good about what you have done. You have gained confidence in yourself, that comes from a trust in your Heavenly Father, and an enabling power from Jesus Christ, as He has succored you in your challenges. 

I am so appreciative that I have been serving a mission along side you for these last ten months. I never would have had the same perspective as I do now. I can understand, in a clearer way, why a missionary, who has been faithful and dedicated to doing their best, comes home anchored more firmly in the faith. I have always seen missionaries go out and come home and report in church and been amazed in their transformation. Now I know what happens in the months in-between. The ups and downs, the emotions, the heighten weaknesses, the disappointments, the stretching, the love, the service, the connection, the change of heart. "Our Savior wants us to really love Him to the point that we want to align our will with His. We then feel His love and He can bless us as He wants to."

No one can ever take away from you this testimony that you have developed through your missionary service. It is like the Ten Virgins, and five were prepared with their oil when the Savior came. The other five tried to borrow some oil but it isn't the kind that can be shared. It must be earned. Your testimony has come as you have labored for it, and it will continue to grow and increase. 

I always love my children. They are such a blessing to me. I would love them no matter what, but l feel like the scripture in 3 John :4, "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth."
I am indebted to my Heavenly Father for the great blessing of the gospel in our family. I am grateful to parents, siblings, a good husband, children and grandchildren who are trying to do their best in being faithful. I have learned that, in a larger degree, as the three of us have served on these missions.

I can't wait to welcome you home! My arms will ache alittle for the want of encircling you in them, but my heart will be warm and happy. My gratitude is best described in Luke 6:38, "Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over." My joy is running over with delight for the many blessings we all share.

Enjoy this last week to the fullest. I know you will have mixed feelings and tender good-byes. I am thinking of you!

Love, Mom

Have I become who the Lord wants me to be?

Dear Family,
Well things sure have been a roller coaster this past transfer.  I arrived in Rapid City with excitement to return to Hot Springs branch.  I could hardly wait to see Mervin and Norma and the Horrocks.  So many people that I love.  But things changed really quickly.  The moment I stepped off the van, the assistant, who I had been sitting by the entire ride, told me that I had a new assignment…A sister in Rapid has decided to go home in the Canyon Lake ward so I will be taking her spot instead.  I’m not going to lie that really took me off my feet because I was really excited to go back to Hot Springs and see everyone again.  Apparently they have known I wasn’t going to Hot Springs since Monday, but they didn’t tell me until Wednesday when I got there.  It was  hard to have false hope, so once again, the Lord has a little different plan for me than I thought.  I’m sure there is another thing for me to learn here, as always.  I’m going to try and make the best of it and trust that I can’t see the bigger picture.

The last couple of days I have had some things weighing on my mind about going home.  It is so close and I am finding myself asking questions like, "Have I given it my all?  Is the Lord pleased with my service?  Have I become who the Lord wants me to be?" I am also excited about my future, yet torn because of everything the mission means to me.
So yesterday we were visiting a sister that was sick in the hospital and the Stake President was there too.  I served in his ward in Rapid City and so I know him pretty well, and he knew I was leaving soon.  Right before he left he said, with tears in his eyes, "Well Sister Johnson if I don't see you again, know you have served well.  The Lord is proud of your mission and accepts your service."  He had no idea I had been asking those questions and it really touched me.  What an inspired man!!
Well I hope that everything is going well for everyone.  I love all of you!

Sister Johnson


Since Sister Meinzin had to go home, I am in a threesome for a bit.  My companions and I got the opportunity to help out for one night at girl's camp.  We even got to stay the night in tents and eat yummy s'mores! I got to see Sister Ploeger from Pipestone and it was so much fun to see all the youth there.  I was wishing the Sessions were there, but I know I will see them soon.  Can I just say though that these two sisters that I am serving with are the best?  They will both be my good friends after the mission for sure.  We are always playing jokes and laughing.  At girl's camp we could not stop laughing in the tent taking pictures, we are always scaring each other, and last night we sang talked our daily planning like Les Mis or Phantom ha ha.  They are a hoot.  I am sad about leaving these two sisters because they are so much fun!  Sister Spencer has 3 months left and Sister Sumsion has 9 months.  Yesterday we were just on a roll.  We made a funny realization: I have as many weeks as Sister Spencer has months left and I have as many weeks as Sister Sumsion has trimesters ha ha ha..oh good one!
I'm feeling a mix of every emotion right now.  I'm getting excited yet I'm extremely nervous and sad.  I have set some goals for my last few weeks to keep me focused.  One goal is to talk with EVERYONE.  But I have also set some goals for home that I am still working on.  I know that I am being watched over these last few weeks and I feel the love of my Heavenly Father. 

I got to drive back through Pipestone

Kim's Baptism!

This week has been wonderful! We re-taught Kim about the Sabbath Day. They have been struggling to live that one, but the lesson went really well.  At the end I was able to share the experience about Grandpa Hill choosing to stop racing to go to church.  We were all in tears by the end of the story.  It is always such a spiritual story, and I can't even begin to express the gratitude I have for my grandparent's decision to change.  I doubt our family would be as blessed as we are if it wasn't for their decision. Who knows, I might not have even served a mission.  All I know is that story is going to be passed down from generation to generation.

Kim said that she hopes someday she will have a grand-daughter like me, who is a missionary, telling someone else about her grandma (Kim) who joined the church, and how it changed their whole family.  It was a tender experience for me.  I think she got a little glimpse of what her decision to live the gospel will do for her and her family.
Saturday, Kim was baptized.  It was a very special baptism because her husband, who is a returning member, was able to baptize her.  Then on Sunday, during Gospel Principles, we talked about how work is a commandment and they asked for examples.  Reuel, Kim's husband, said, "Well, 364 days from now we want to be sealed in the temple and that is going to take work."


 Oh my goodness they are such an amazing family.

Sister Anderson is so amazing!

After MLC, Sister Anderson pulled me aside and we got to talk for some time. She is so amazing!  Sister Anderson is full of so much love and she has really become such a role model for me.  I feel so lucky to have developed such a strong relationship with her,  In this mission it is hard to do that because you don't see them very often, but I feel blessed that I was able to.  She shared some very sacred experiences with me and I felt so priviledged that she was willing to.  Things are up in the air if I will get to see her before I fly home because they will be heading out for Zone Conferences.  So it was a semi- good bye.  I'm so grateful for the lessons she has taught me and the example she has set.  There is no where else I would rather have served or been.  My mission is shaping me in so many ways and it really hit me hard that that was my final MLC.  I will miss that meeting so much!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Tender Experience

Dear Family,

Last night, after saying my prayers, I crawled into bed. I looked over to see Sister Meinzen, still awake and sitting up on her bed, She was leaning against the wall with her legs tucked in uder her arms. I asked her if she was alright and she said, "No. I just have a lot on my mind." I asked some questions and tried to listen as she talked about the anxiety she was feeling from today and from everything. She talked of the deep depression and sadness over her. I think the hardest part about all of this is I want to help but I don't know what to do and I don't know what to say. As we sat in silence for some time, I decided to sing. We all know I am not one much for singing and I don't have a great voice, but I knew that Sister Meinzen loved music. I began with the only primary song I think I know all the words to, "A Child's Prayer." I sang a couple of lines, and then she quietly began to sing with me. I could barely hear her and she was crying during some of it, but she sang. It was simple, yet there was such a peace in the room. Sister Meinzen thanked me and then went to sleep. I laid there grateful for the help of the spirit in bringing peace and comfort to a room of depression and sadness. It was a tender experience for me. I love her and I'm trying to help her one day at a time. She is really struggling and I'm hoping I can help her stay out here.

Sister Johnson