Monday, December 30, 2013

Dear Family,

Let me first of all start by saying that I am still on cloud nine from talking to you. I can't tell you how much I loved the time that we got to spend skyping. I really miss all of you so much and so being able to see your faces and talk was the best Christmas present I can imagine. I just wish it could have been longer. I thought that I was different from everyone else and that when I was at home I thought that I was pretty good about appreciating all of you (I know I wasn't very humble back then) but being separated from you I really understand just how much I love and adore all of you. Heavenly Father honestly blessed me with the best family ever and I can't wait until Mother's Day when I can talk to all of you again. 

Now for the week. Monday for P-day we went on a hike through this redwood forest and it was incredible. I still am in awe of the beauty of this country. After that we went to the ward Christmas party which was really a huge BBQ and bonfire at our Bishops house because he lives out in the middle of nowhere. I just love the ward that I am serving in. I feel like I am at home because I feel like I fit in so well with all the members. I also feel like I have my own fan club with all of the little girls that follow us everywhere. I tell you when you put on a missionary badge you become an instant celebrity to kids. So I really enjoyed spending time with my new ward family.  Now I know that we talked briefly about our Christmas Eve and Christmas day activities but I thought I would just write it all out again. For Christmas Eve we just had a normal day of proselyting except that during our dinner break we decided to make our own "fancy dinner". Our logic is that one day we are going to be in charge of the Christmas festivities at our house so we better start practicing. Sister Doole made bread-sticks and mashed potatoes, Sister Pongi made otai (which is a Tongan fruit drink) and I made chicken fried steak and a dessert called "banoffee pie" (It's supposed to be a banana toffee pie) I must say that I was pretty impressed by the food because it all turned out amazing. Maybe there is hope for me to one day be as amazing as the women in my life when it comes to Holiday parties :)

Christmas day was great because the members in our ward are just so amazing. We had a couple invite us and the elders over for breakfast and it was wonderful. This couple is so sweet and they have been married for seven years and are struggling to have children so I told them our story and they said that it gave them a renewed hope in the plan that Heavenly Father has for them and their family. After breakfast we went to the home of an investigator that the elders in the other ward are teaching so that Sister Pongi could make otai for them. These investigators are a Samoan family and so it was a lot of fun to experience a part of their Christmas. Lets just say that they really like their loud music and dancing. After that we went out to our Bishops house for Christmas dinner. He and his wife have five kids, one boy and four girls with ages ranging from 7 to 15. It was just so much fun to spend Christmas in their crazy house because it reminded me of our crazy house on Christmas day. Another family from the ward also came over and they have four kids all under the age of 10 so it was just very loud and fun. I honestly loved it. We spent the rest of the day visiting other members and then we went for a drive up the mountain that is in our area. I have to say that it was a much better Christmas than I could have imagined. I opened all my presents Christmas night and I am still so grateful for everything I received. I have the best friends and family. I also know that my companions loved the gifts that you sent them too. I was also overwhelmed by the love that we felt from the ward and our investigators. Everywhere we went people had gifts for us from huge boxes of chocolate to nail polish to sentimental cards. It really was a Christmas that I will never forget. 

As for the rest of the week it was pretty good. Everyone was still in the holiday mood so it made the work a little harder but we did our best. We had a lesson that we were going to where we were going to teach the word of wisdom to our investigator that wants to be baptized but has a smoking problem. She already knows she needs to over come it but we thought that if we taught her the doctrine behind it then it would help her. So we went to the house but when we walked in there were all of these extra people over visiting. I mean there were cousins and aunts and uncles and grandchildren of this lady and they all sat down with us for the lesson. I started to panic for a second because I knew that we couldn't teach the lesson that we had planned. I said a quick prayer in my heart and then I knew instantly that we needed to teach the plan of salvation but there was still one problem, my companions thought we were going to teach the word of wisdom and that was the lesson we had practiced and had all figured out. I said another prayer and I calmly pulled the Plan of Salvation pamphlet out of my bag and showed it to my companions during the opening song. Both of them looked at the pamphlet and at me in terror but I nodded to assure them that everything would be ok.  As we started to teach things just started to flow and the spirit was so strong. They asked us hard questions but we always had an answer and when I didn't know what else to say my companions were there to back me up. It was so incredible. At the end of the lesson everyone kept commenting on how it all made so much sense. The lady we were there to teach really really wants to get baptized now and we are hoping to set a date with her this week. The rest of her family is interested in learning now too. It was an awesome experience for all three of us. 

We had another great experience this weekend when we got to be a part of the baptism of this teenage boy. This boy named Mannie has been coming to church faithfully for over six months but his mom wouldn't let him get baptized because she thought it was just a phase. However it wasn't a phase and he stuck with it for six months and then out of no where she said that he could be baptized on Saturday. It was so cool! Now Mannie lives in the elders area so technically he is their baptism but we all taught him together so it was another joint effort. Mannie said he liked the lessons more when we were there than just the elders :) But he was baptized by his best friend and it was such a spiritual experience for everyone that was there. He had waited so long and he finally made it. He just kept saying over and over again that it was worth it. He is already planning to serve a mission when he turns eighteen and then devote the rest of his life to living the gospel. It was just see someone his age have such a determination to do whats right because of the testimony that he has. I feel so blessed to even be a part of it. 

Well that is about it for this week. I love and miss you all and I hope that you had a great Christmas. Thank you thank you thank you for the gifts and the love! I love you!!!!!!!

So this one was from last Monday when we went to this huge Redwood Forest. It was massive and the trees were amazing. Actually this first picture was from the drive over but I think it illustrates how great my companions are. 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Dear Family,

 We had another great week here in New Zealand and I am loving every minute I spend here. Finally the weather is really starting to warm up. I have been waiting for months to be hot and it finally happened this week. It's funny though because everyone kept saying that it gets really hot here and that I need to be prepared for it but the heat never really came. Yes it was warm and we would have days that I didn't need to wear a cardigan but still it was nothing compared to the summers I am used to. Actually last Monday it was really nice outside during the day but as we were walking to our FHE appointment I thought "I should have grabbed a sweater, it's a bit chilly outside." then we got to the house and one of the ward members was standing outside the door saying how hot it was. I laughed because the locals think it's so hot here all the time when in reality it is still chilly. This week though it did get pretty warm and I loved it. The only problem is I am not used to the humid heat. So even though it isn't that hot because it is so humid it can be pretty miserable. It's also so weird to me to see Christmas trees and lights everywhere but have it be warm out. I really cant get over it. I am pretty sure that is why it doesn't feel like Christmas.

  Sister Pongi really showed growth this week. I have been working so hard to help her build confidence in herself so that she is willing to contribute to lessons. She has opened up and there are as few homes that we go to that she feels quite comfortable so she really lets her personality come out. She is just so much fun. In some ways she reminds me of Sister Vea. I think it's a Tongan thing. I LOVE TONGANS! and I love my companion. I am so blessed to be given the best companions and to get to know so many phenomenal sisters. This week Sister Pongi and I had exchanges with out Sister Training Leader and I went with Sister Harman (the STL) and Sister Pongi was with her companion Sister Mu'amoholeva who is also from Tonga. Both sisters are relatively new and so we just let them go for it. They ended giving away eight "Joy to the World" dvd's and teaching a few lessons all in the span of a couple hours. They said that there were some people that tried to avoid them when walking down the street but they chased them down and made them listen. I told Sister Harmon that they should put two Tongans together more often. I think this experience helped Sister Pongi so much though because she was able to teach without being self conscious about her English because Sister Mu'amoholeva is the same as her and so now she has the confidence to teach lessons when it is just her and I.

   We had a baptism this week too. Well kinda... so the Elders were teaching these 9 year old twin boys and their mom (a returning member) found out that one of the elders was finishing his mission so she wanted him to baptize the boys. The only problem for the elders is that the boys have a single mother and so they couldn't go in the house to teach the lessons. Instead of them trying to teach outside in the rain, the elders invited us along to a lesson. We all had so much fun teaching them that the mom asked if we could always come to the lessons. From then on we went to every lesson and helped teach the boys and prepare them for baptism. I tell you it was a blast. The boys were baptized on Saturday night and it was a really special experience. Both elders got to baptize one of the boys and they asked me to speak on repentance. This was a really cool experience for Elder Krull too because he finishes his mission tomorrow and he was able to have one last baptism. I am grateful that we were able to be a part of it. 

   Last week I mentioned our investigator Kahu who is supposed to be baptized this Saturday. Well that whole situation has been pretty interesting because all week we have been at her house but we have been prompted not to talk to her about it. To add to it all the people that said they were going to visit her and talk to her about her baptism never did. At first I was discouraged but then I realized that everything was happening just the way Heavenly Father wants it too. Kahu came to the baptism on Saturday (she comes to everything) and I know she felt the spirit. Bishop talked to her afterwards and she expressed that she didn't know what to do. She wants to get baptized she just feels like she isn't ready yet. She is thinking of now getting baptized on January 4th at the same time as her son is planning on baptizing his best friend Mannie. Bishop told her to pray about it and counsel with her son. When I heard this I thought "We need to go talk to her now" but then the spirit told me to keep waiting and to give her her space. I still don't know what's going to happen this week but I know that the Lord is in control because this is His daughter and He knows her better than she knows herself. I know it will all be okay no matter what happens. Please keep praying though. I know the prayers have helped because last week she wasn't going to get baptized at all and now she is considering it again. Thank you all so much.

   Well that is all I have for this week. I hope everyone is enjoying the Christmas season. I am a little sad that I can't be there to share it will all of you but I know my place is here. I love Christmas and I believe that I am able to share more Christmas joy being here than anywhere else. I love and miss you all!

Sister Simkins

Monday, December 9, 2013

Dear Family,

Well I had a rather uneventful week this week so there isn't going to be too much to this letter. Sorry. First of all let me say that I have been really really sick. I caught a cold on Tuesday and it just  got worse and worse each day. I probably should have stayed in a day or two and rested but when I can't work I get a little crazy so I tried to work through it. One of the days it rained here like crazy and the elders dropped us off at our first appointment and said they would be back to pick us up when we were done because they didn't want me walking in the rain. So we taught our lesson and we were waiting on the elders when they called and said they had to see someone and couldn't come get us but they said because I was sick to just stay where we were and hang out with our investigator. (The girl we were teaching is named Julie and she has become one of our really good friends. Her little brother and sister were baptized last year and now we are teaching her. But she's great and the elders knew she wouldn't mind us just crashing at her house.) So we stayed there for a while and she taught us a lot about Maori culture so I don't feel like the time was wasted. However we kept waiting and waiting and I felt like we really needed to see this other family. Mom you would have totally killed me but I decided to brave the weather and walk to this house which was about 20 minutes away even through it was pouring outside. Sister Pongi and I put on our rain coats and went for it. It was one of the funnest things I have done and probably the stupidest since being here. The rain was so intense that within five minutes my rain coat reached it's max capacity and quit repelling water. After about ten minutes we were soaking wet. I don't think I have ever been that wet being fully clothed. Now keep in mind that this happened while I was fighting that bad cough that I get sometimes. We eventually made it to the house that we wanted to and as soon as we reached the front door the elders called saying they were done and on their way to get us. I laughed and told them that we were at this other house and when they found out that we walked in the rain they were so mad but all we could do was laugh. It was all worth it though because we were finally able to meet with the family I told you about a while ago whose house burned down. They said that they still want to be baptized and that they have missed having us around. I think they also took pity on us because we were soaked so they saw the sacrifice we made to come see them. In a way it help to prove to them how much we love them. After that the elders came and picked us up and when I got in the car one of the elders turned around and said "Going for The Notebook look Sister Simkins? " I was so wet my hair looked like I had just gotten out of the shower but it was just so much fun. Seriously when will I ever walk in the rain like that again after my mission? I wish I had taken pictures but my camera battery died and so I didn't get any. This whole adventure in the rain did make me sicker though and I thought I was going to have to see a doctor but this morning I woke up and I think I have turned a corner. Don't be mad because I don't have any regrets.

Now another funny story of the week. Sister Pongi and I went this week to visit one of our favorite members and we were talking with her and she said "Alright sisters I have to ask because you know probably know more than me. What caused the fight on Sunday?" I was surprised and I asked "What fight?" and she said "You didn't hear about the fight between Brother Khan and Brother Barber?" and I was even more surprised because Brother Khan is our ward mission leader. So apparently last Sunday during priesthood one man said something that made the other mad and so they went out into the hall and started fighting it out. Can you believe that? There was an actual fist fight at church and not between young men but high priests. I couldn't believe it and then I couldn't stop laughing about it. Seriously how do you get in a fight at church? Its times like these that I am reminded that I am in fact in a foreign country. 
So one of our investigators is supposed to be baptized next week and now she is having second thoughts... again. She has been taught by missionaries for years, she comes to church, reads the scriptures, says her prayers, goes to a FHE group, and does everything else that an active member of the church does. And when she found out that the family I mentioned before had lost their house she immediately gave them one of her beds and her couch. She is honestly amazing, but she just won't commit to baptism. When we fist started meeting with her in October she was the one to set her own date for baptism and she chose December 21st but now she is backing out and we don't  know how to help. Her kids are active members and her son was supposed to baptize her so she has a ton of support. We don't really know what to do at this point so please please please keep her in your prayers. This week is crucial because if she doesn't get baptized next week then she will wait a another year because the date means something to her and that is the only she will be baptized on. She is ready and everyone knows it. She's just letting the adversary get to her. Please she needs all the help she can get. Because I have seen the power that comes though praying for people by name I will tell you her name is Kahu and its pronounced "ka-hoo" Really I love her so much and I love her family and I want them to be united in the temple someday so please keep her in your prayers. 

Well that is all that I have for this week. Sorry its a pretty boring/depressing letter. I hope that everyone else has a great week! . 



Sunday, December 1, 2013

Dear Family,

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope everyone had a great day. I guess I'll start off this letter by telling you about my thanksgiving. So Thursday morning the phone rings and I answered it by saying "Hello this is Sister Simkins" (because that's how we're supposed to answer the phone) then the voice on the other end said "Is this Sister Simkins from New Mexico?" and I instantly recognized the voice so I responded by saying "Yes it is. Is this Elder McLachlan from Canada?" and sure enough it was. It turns out that Elder and Sister McLachlan's daughter is visiting from Canada so they were visiting all the tourist attractions and they happened to be in Rotorua and they wanted to meet up for lunch. So I got to spend have a thanksgiving lunch here with my temporary adopted grandparents and it was so great to see them. For dinner the elders organized to have Thanksgiving dinner with this lady in the ward who is from America. She's lived in New Zealand for over 15 years or something like that and she is married to a kiwi. They (the Brooks family) are one of my favorite families in the ward and Sister Brooks served her mission in California and she said her trainer was from New Mexico and her name Kara Sewell. Sound familiar? Anyways they are a great family and we had a great night. Turkey here in New Zealand is really really expensive so we feasted on roasted chicken and kumara (New Zealand  sweet potato) and Sister Brooks made a bunch of different pies.  So all around it was a very different Thanksgiving from what I'm used to but I still loved it non the less. I wish you all could have been here. It's weird though because it's warm outside it didn't feel like Thanksgiving and it really doesn't feel like Christmas time now. I think that is why it was so easy to be away because it really doesn't feel like the holiday season. I am also grateful for the fact that I only have to miss one Thanksgiving and one Christmas because you all know how I live for those holidays. 

So lets just say that if the bugs aren't biting me in the flat then they are biting me when I'm walking outside. My legs were destroyed again this week and like the last time a few of the bites got really infected. Like they got so infected I had to go see a doctor and I am on antibiotics again. I am so sick of the bugs here and the bug bites I could scream. My legs are just trashed with scars. It's pretty sad that my mission battle scars are from flea bites. 

We had zone conference on Tuesday and so we got to travel from Rotorua to Tauranga. Tauranga is a town right on the coast and it was so beautiful. I couldn't take pictures but I hope I get to go back there someday because it was spectacular. Zone conference was really great though and I am constantly reminded of just how amazing my mission president is. President Rudd really is the best. His wife is my favorite too. I am so blessed to be serving here in the most beautiful place in the world and under the best mission president. 

Sister Pongi and I are really starting to get to know each other and have a good time together, She is pretty funny although she isn't as outgoing as Sister Vea was. I am really enjoying serving with her. It's funny though because she is so shy that I have to do most of the talking because she just won't talk but I am not used to being the talkative one. I don't like starting conversations with people but that is all I do now. I'm turning into this social butterfly and it's so weird. I am going to give Tyler and Molly a run for their money when I get home. I also can't wait to see what a mission does to Danny because he hates talking to people and that is all missionaries do.

Yesterday we went out to bishops house for dinner and they live in one of the farming suburbs of Rotorua and while we were out there we visited some other people. I loved it though because we visited farms so in one day I got to hold baby ducks, puppies, and kittens. I would say that was a pretty successful day. This area is just so great and the members here are the best. It will be a sad day when I have to leave. I was sitting in Relief Society yesterday watching all the women and I realized that I felt the same as when I was at home. I feel like this ward is now my ward and I love them like I love everyone in 7th ward. It is a very neat feeling.

This week we had a hard week because all of our appointments and back-ups fell through so we went to visit less-actives and members and every time we visited someone they would say "Oh I was hoping you would come by today" or "I was just thinking about you sisters" it's pretty cool when this happens. Another cool story from this week was one night Sister Pongi and I had just finished up meeting with someone and we were going to walk home to do language study before it got dark because it's not safe for us to be out at night. So we started to walk home and we were pretty far away and I got this really sick feeling inside.  I felt like something really bad was about to happen. I didn't know what to do because there wasn't anyone that we knew close by and I thought the elders were at a lesson in another town so I just prayed in my heart and we kept walking. I explained to Sister Pongi what I was feeling and she said she felt the same way. The feeling didn't go away and I was waiting for whatever it was to happen.  All the sudden the phone rang and it was the elders. I answered it and one of the elders said "Where are you? We're coming to pick you up" and we were in the car three minutes later. They said that they felt like they needed to spend the night just visiting members and they wanted us to come. The elder that had called said that it was his idea and for some reason he knew they needed to bring us with them. I then explained what we were feeling and we all were pretty amazed. I don't know what would have happened had we kept walking but I know we were being watched over. 

Well that is all I have for this week. I hope that you all enjoy getting into the Christmas spirit. Just don't forget me sitting here on a rock on the middle of the Pacific ocean living the dream. I love and miss all of you!


Friday, November 29, 2013

Dear Family,

Well once again I guess the Lord has seen fit to give me another missionary to train. This also meant that Sister Gunnell had to be transferred. It was a very sad day because she really became like my best friend. I had to just keep telling myself that this didn't mean that our friendship was over, it just meant that we would be separated for a bit. I also kept reminding myself that because she is from Mesa I will be able to see her all the time after our missions. So yup President Rudd called me up Tuesday night and said "Well Sister Simkins the Lord needs you to train again. This wouldn't happen if you quit turning out fantastic missionaries. Speaking of fantastic missionaries you trained Sister Gunnell so well that she will also be training this transfer." So Sister Gunnell is now in Hamilton training a brand new missionary in my last area so I gave her a list of people to go and visit and I can't wait to hear about how things are going with her. 

At transfers they bring the new missionaries into the Chapel and they sit on the stand behind President and then he announces who will be training whom and then we go up to the front, meet our new companion, and then go back and sit down. So the whole process is so intense that by the end of it I am exhausted and this time I was the last one to be given my companion. So my new companion is Sister Pongi and she is from Tonga! That's right another Tongan. She actually went to High School with Sister Vea. But she is great but she is just really really shy.  This morning I barely got her to start to open up and really talk to me. She has a great spirit though and I know that as soon as she gains some confidence and starts talking she is going to be great. One of the elders made a funny comment though as we were leaving the transfer meeting. He came up to me and said "Sister Simkins you're training again? All you do is train. Pretty soon they are going to start calling you the mother of the mission." This is funny because it's somewhat true. I am training for the third (and a half) time and I've only been out six months. The only sister who is higher than me has been out for a year and she is training for the fourth time. Normally Sister missionaries train three sisters throughout the course of their entire missions. The funny thing is I don't really know anything different. I went from being trained to training. It's been a blast though and I am looking forward to a great transfer with Sister Pongi.
So there was a baptism on Saturday of an 8 year old girl who I have become quite good friends with and so she invited us and the elders to come along. After the baptism Elder Krull went up to the little girl and he shook her hand and tried to congratulate her but she just starred at him and backed away. Elder Krull then turned to me and said "I wonder what I did to offend her?" and I said "Elder, she's an 8 year old girl and you are a guy wearing a suit. Didn't you see her cheeks turn red? Think about it." We then had a pretty good laugh about it. The next day we were in the car with the elders after church and Elder Pearce said "Sister Simkins I have to tell you the funniest thing that happened at church today. Did you see who we sat with in sacrament meeting today? You know the seventeen year-old guy and the thirteen year-old kid? Well I was standing talking to them after sacrament and you were out in the foyer talking to someone and the seventeen year-old was just staring at you. So I asked him what he was doing and all he said was  'Dude that is the hottest sister missionary I have ever seen!' So Sister Simkins can you come to the next lesson with us? Maybe you can get them to listen." Elder Krull then said "Well I attract 8 year-old girls and you attract teenage boys." I was so embarrassed.  Now the whole joke is "flirt to convert" and anyone who knows me knows that that is not possible I just turn red every time they bring it up. 

Sad story of the week! Remember that family that we were teaching with the less-active mother? Well their house burned down this week. They were so blessed that no one died but they lost everything and now they are scrambling to put their lives back together. The church here has been amazing though. People have donated cloths, food, a couch, and some beds to the family. The family is doing well in spite of it all and they are just grateful that no one died. We aren't teaching them at the moment however because they just have so much going on so we are giving them their space. 

Well that is all I really have for this week. Sorry it's not anything exciting. I hope to have some miracles to share next week. I love all of you!


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Dear Family,

 Well this week has been another great one here in New Zealand. There haven't been too many exciting things happen but the work is progressing and I love it. 

So last night Sister Gunnell and I had a really amazing experience because we went to visit this less-active couple that has made it a goal to come back to church and we didn't know really what was keeping them from coming so we didn't know how to help them. Last night would have been our fourth visit with them  and we felt like it was going no where. After we talked for a bit I admitted that until they tell us what they are struggling with we can't help them. They then started to open up and they began by saying they had some problems with the previous bishop that they never resolved among other things. I felt as though there was something else but I thought we would address this problem first and then hopefully we could resolve whatever else was bothering them. I had the opportunity to share with them a similar personal experience. As I was talking the spirit was so strong and I testified to them that God loved them both. After I said that the woman started to cry and she admitted that both her and her husband were still harboring pain from childhood abuse that has left their lives scared. They both wondered if God loved them then why would he let that happen to them. As they were sitting there explaining all that had happened to them all I could think was "What am I doing here? I am just a young nineteen year old girl who knows nothing about real problems like this." I was terrified because I knew that as soon as they were done speaking we were going to have to speak. With tear-filled eyes I just opened my mouth and the words just came out. I don't even really know what I said because the words were not from me, they were from the spirit. I just know I testified of the love that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have for them and that everything was going to be okay. When I was finished talking I looked at my dear sweet companion and she too had tears in her eyes and she then began to recount a similar experience that one of her best friends had and how she tried to help her through it but she couldn't, the only person that could help her friend was Jesus Christ. The spirit was so strong I couldn't even believe it. After we talked some more,  it felt like a weight had been lifted from the room and everything just felt lighter. Now this couple is in their late sixties and the man has a real gruff exterior and he said when we were done "Sisters I want to be one of the first to declare that you are servants of the living Lord Jesus Christ because only servants of the Lord could have said the things you said and made us feel the way we feel now. I know who you are and I will forever declare that you are. Thank you so much. My wife and I are eternally grateful for what you have done here tonight." Sister Gunnell and I were all but bawling. It was so incredible and I am so excited for this couple and what lies ahead of them. 

So that is the most spiritual experience of the week so here is a funny one. So this week when the elders came to pick us up one day there were two pancakes sitting on the seat and Sister Gunnell and both don't like pancakes. The elders said they were extra from their breakfast and they wanted us to have them. We both looked at each other not knowing what to do. As we drove Sister Gunnell tore of small piece after small piece trying to eat one of the pancakes but in the end she just couldn't finish it. I just decided that because I don't like pancakes I wasn't even going to try to eat mine. The funny thing is while we were driving I wasn't even thinking like I didn't think this through or plan it out or anything I don't even know where it came from but I all of the sudden grabbed the piece of pancake and threw it out of Sister Gunnell's halfway rolled down window. After I had done that  she looked at me and I realized what I had done and we both burst out laughing. I mean a hard core laughing fit ensued. I don't even know why we both thought it was so funny but we did. It might have been due to the fact that the elders in the front seat had no idea. So in the middle of the laughing fit Sister Gunnell tears off another piece of pancake and chucks that out the  window and so we both laughed even harder. By this point the elders thought we were absolutely crazy and they were begging us to tell them what happened. We kept laughing and throwing pancake out the window until it was all gone and our stomachs hurt. In the end it looked like we had eaten both pancakes however the elders thought that we were certifiably crazy. They are still begging us to tell them what happened but it will stay just between us. You may not think it's that funny but we sure enjoyed it. 

Another experience we had this week was when Sister Gunnell and I went to meet with this girl referred to us by a member. We called her and set up an appointment to meet with her at her house and she sounded like she was really looking forward to meeting with us. We sat down with her and we were just starting to get to know her when her grandfather walked in because I guess it is his house. Anyway he walks in and says "Who the heck are you?" so I introduced myself and said that we were missionaries from The Church of... etc. and then he looked at his granddaughter and says "Why the heck did you let them in here?" and he started to get really mad and all I could think of was oh crap here it comes we're in trouble. I don't know that happened next but pretty soon we were all laughing and talking about his life and what New Zealand was like when he was a kid. Thinking back I honestly can't remember what we said or did for him to change but somehow his heart softened and by the end he really like us. In fact he gave both of us necklaces that he had carved. Sister Gunnell got a circle thing and I got a hump-back whale. I have no idea why but that's the one he chose to give me. I'll send a picture because it is quite majestic. I guess Sister Gunnell and I have a way of charming people so that one minute they want to kick us out of their home and the next minute they are giving us fine jewelry. I hope I can keep this up after my mission and I just may be able to charm someone into marrying me :)

Friday was my six month mark and I really can't believe it. I can't believe I have been gone that long because it feel so short. The time is moving so fast and I can't control it. It's starting to freak me out. Sister Gunnell and I have been together for two months already. That means that I have been out of the VC for two whole months. It feel like I left last week. Where does the time go. I am so scared though because six months has gone by soooooooo fast and if the next six months goes by this fast then I only have six months left and I really will be home in no time. Everyone I talk to says that this now will be the fastest year of my life. Can you believe that I will be home this time next year? I am just so scared because I love my mission so much and pretty soon it will all be over. I can't handle that. I want to stay here forever! But I know I can't and I know I have to make the best the time I have left. Six months! I still can't believe it. 

Well that's it for this week family. I hope that things are going well at home. I love all of you!


Oh and last p-day we went to this nature reserve thing to see some lions and other things. It was pretty awesome.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Dear Family!

Well I have had another great week here in New Zealand but I am afraid that it was rather uneventful. Unfortunately Sister Gunnell was really sick for a few days this week. She had a bad sinus infection and due to the constant rain we were forced to stay inside for two whole days. I thought I was going to go  crazy! I wanted to go to work so bad but it was really important that Sister Gunnell stay in and rest so that she could recover quicker. She is completely fine now and everything is great I just feel like nothing happened this week. It was still fun though.

So we are still working with the family and they are preparing for their baptism. We are also teaching two daughters of a less-active who is coming back to church and they are great. One is eleven and the other one is nine. During the lesson yesterday they wanted to know who Satan was and so we explained what happened in the pre-mortal world and stuff like that and we told them that he is here on the earth now but that he doesn't have a body so he goes around tempting people to do bad things and one of the girls said "Oh that makes me so mad. I just want to punch him in the face." so I said "Well remember you can't because he doesn't have a face." then the other little girl piped up and asked "If Satan had a face do you think Heavenly Father would punch it?" and we all just burst out laughing. It was so funny. Anyway these girls are going to get baptised in a few weeks and we are excited for them. We have quite a few baptisms coming up actually and I am very nervous because transfers are next Thursday and I don't know what is going to happen. I wish they would just leave us alone! But I know that no matter what happens I will be fine. I will love it! 

So I figured because I don't have much to report this week that I would make a list of things that are different about New Zealand or that I have learned since I have been here. 

1. Now I have said this before but I feel like I need to say it again. New Zealand is the most beautiful place on earth! Everything here is so beautiful from the rolling green hills to the flowers to the rain. Everything is so amazing. Everyone needs to plan a trip here someday because it really is incredible. 

2. Kia Ora means "Hello" in Maori and it is how every New Zealander greets one another. This is something that I say now more than I say hello. I didn't even do that on purpose. It just happened. 

3. Here in New Zealand they sell these really big kit-kats that come in different flavors like mint, caramel, and cookies and cream. I will have to take a picture and send it to you so you can see but they are amazing. They call them kit-kat threes and they break into three different pieces that have different fillings. I'm addicted. 

4. Another thing is that New Zealand has AMAZING chocolate! Now it's not a secret that chocolate was never really my favorite. Well that was before I tasted NZ chocolate. I tell you there is nothing like it. It is so rich and creamy and it melts on your tongue. I don't think I can ever eat American chocolate again. 

5. The ice-cream here is just as good as their chocolate. Here it's actually made with real cream so it is really rich but it is so good. It never freezes solid and it's so easy to scoop out. I am scared for the day when I have to eat American ice-cream again. 

6. New Zealanders also love their cream. They pour cream on everything. Now I am talking heavy cream that back home we would whip up to make whipped cream. So imagine pouring heavy cream on a chocolate cake and eating it. Yup that is what happens here. They can't eat any dessert without putting cream on it. This is something I haven't quite picked up yet. I prefer to just eat the cake. 

7. Shoes aren't requited here. That's right you don't have to wear shoes if you don't want to. As the weather if finally warming up here I see more and more people waling around without wearing any shoes. Kids can even go to school barefoot if they want. 

8. When people talk, if they want to add an emphasis to a word they are using to describe something they say the word "as" so for instance if I were to describe the spider we found in our flat this morning I would say "We found a huge as spider this morning." Weird I know but I have accidently picked this one up too. 

9. Here there isn't a limit on how many houses that can be built on one lot. Its ridiculous because there are these huge houses built right in front of or behind each other. It makes finding addresses a nightmare too beacuse the address will say something like "32A Bell rd" or "56C Gordon" and then we have to determine which of the unmarked houses are A, B, and C. 

10. The waste management system here is awful too because you get to fill up one rubbish bag per week and its just like a paper bag that sits in your house until the day it's scheduled to be picked up. The smell sometimes is awful and we can't even put it outside because our land-lord has a dog that will get into it. Yes we learned that lesson the hard way. 

11.Another cultural adjustment is everyone takes off their shoes before entering a home. No one wears shoes inside and so I have had to get use to taking off my shoes. Now you can imagine as missionaries what that must be like because all we do is go in people's homes. 

12.It's is illegal here to spank your children. That includes a little pop on the hands. Parents aren't allowed to physically discipline their children in any way. Obviously this is one that is tricky to enforce but it's still a law. 

13.Because the taxes are more here if you're married, people here don't get married. They just live together and have families but never get married. Honestly only the mormon couples get married. This is hard too because most people live in broken homes. 

14. In five years it will be illegal to smoke cigarettes here. This is unfortunate for the 85% of the population who smokes. I tell you I have never seen so many smokers in my life. Even as I writing this there is someone smoking right outside the email shop and I can smell it. Mom you would not be able to survive. 

15.Here you have to great everyone with a hug and a kiss on the cheek. As missionaries this is only the case with women but still it took some getting used to. You know me I don't like to be touched and so I really had to overcome that. Now I don't mind it at all. In fact it is just a habit. Twice non-member men have shaken my hand and then leaned in and kissed my cheek. I wanted to die and then throw-up both times. 

16. The tattoos that women have on their chins here is called a "moko" and it tells a story most of the time about that persons genealogy. We have a few women in my ward here that have them. I will try to get some pictures with them so you can see. Tattoos are huge in general here though. Pretty much everyone has them. They aren't like the stupid ugly ones in the states. Most of the time they are some kind of cultural design that also tells a story.

Well those are all the things I have time to write right now. I will keep adding to the list though. This country and the people here are absolutely amazing and I am loving every minute of being here.

I hope that things are all going well for you! Have a great week!


This is my beautiful green New Zealand.

Thursday, November 7, 2013


So this week has been so amazing! I don't even know where to begin. So last week Sister Gunnell and I started to kinda panic because we didn't really have an progressing investigators and we were struggling in our finding efforts. Due to the baptisms that we have had recently we have spend a lot of time preparing those individuals. I think its safe to say that most of our effort went to helping them and so we really haven't been finding new people to teach. When we did weekly planning last week we decided that we really needed to focus on finding new investigators now that we had baptized the ones we have been focusing on. We also took this matter to the Lord and told Him that we wished to find those that are prepared to hear the gospel. Now this is where it starts getting really good...

At the baptism that I told you about last week we had a recent convert in the ward bring some of her family. The family loved the baptism and the Elders started to teach them at the recent converts house. Then we found out that they live in our area so they handed them off to us and now four of them are getting baptized!!! The mom is a less-active who is recommitted to coming to church and then she has four children who want to be baptized. It is so cool. We had an interesting experience with them too this week because we went to have a lesson with them and the mom walked out of the house and told her cousin (the recent convert) that she didn't want lessons anymore because  her life was falling apart. Somehow she convinced her cousin to just have one more lesson and so we all sat down and we taught how the atonement isn't just so that we can be forgiven of our sins but that it also gives us strength to make it through our trials. They then explained that they had thought they had bought this house they really wanted and they were so excited but then it all fell apart. The house was in another town and they were all so excited about moving and then it broke their hearts when they found out they had to stay. I know though that if they had moved they wouldn't have been baptized and so I know that Heavenly Father had a hand in that but that's not what they wanted to hear. So I shared with them the experience I had when after my surgery when I couldn't go to college and how devastated I was because I thought my plans were ruined. I told them that I was angry at how things had worked out. Then I explained to them about the prophet lowering the age and that I knew I needed to go right out on a mission and how I realized that God knew everything and that he has a very definite plan for me that I didn't understand at the time. When I was done the mom explained that that was what she was going through. We suggested that she maybe get a blessing of comfort from the elders and she wanted one. While we waited for them to come over we started to sing some hymns and the atmosphere in the house started to change and things started to feel better. I know they could feel it too because they started perk up. The elders came over and they ended up giving the mom and three kids a blessing and everyone was laughing and smiling by the time we left. It was so cool to watch. I am so excited for this family and for the steps they are taking in their lives. 

Now another miracle we had this week involved us walking down the road. So Sister Gunnell and I had all of our appointments fall through so we decided to walk to this member's home because she always has non-members there. This was on Halloween night and we hoped that maybe they were having a party or something that we could crash (not a crazy party just some sort of get-together) so we started walking there and then the elders called and said that they were going to pick us up in about ten minutes for dinner. After that I thought to myself that it was useless to go to this house because we wouldn't have time to even talk to anyone. However I had a feeling to just keep on walking there. Funny enough Sister Gunnell thought and felt the same thing but we didn't tell each other. So we were just walking along and there was a group of trick-or-treaters and there was an older girl going around with them. As we were walking by we said hi to the girl and then she said "Are you the mormons? The LDS?" and I said "Yes we are!" but before I could say anything else she said "How do I become a member of your church?" To say we were shocked is an understatement. I could barely think of how to respond. To make a long story short we got her information, went back to teach her, she came to church and loved it, and now she is getting baptized this month. It's the coolest thing ever. Her sister is an active member and she has seen the changes in her sister's life and the happiness that comes from the gospel and she wants that in her own life and that is why she approached us.  I know we were led by the spirit because all common sense said to turn around and walk the other way to meet the elders but we both felt to keep walking in the same direction and look what happened. Being a missionary is so cool! 

So as you can see a lot of great things have happened this week and the work is really moving forward in the area. I love it here so much and I love my companion. Sister Gunnell is great and we are always talking or laughing about something. I love being a missionary and I love being here in the amazing land of New Zealand. I cannot say it enough. I am so blessed!

I love and miss all of you and I hope that you have a great week! 

Sister Simkins


Monday, October 28, 2013

This week has been a Rollercoaster!

So I don't have very much time at all  because we have a big P-Day planned. The Bishop is picking us up and we are going on a hike somewhere amazing I guess with a few families from the ward. I am really excited however we have to leave pretty soon so I will try to be quick. 

Let me say that this week has had its up's and its downs. First of all late Tuesday night we got a call from one of the assistants saying that Sister Vea was getting transferred because there was a new sister arriving from Tonga who needed a trainer so they took her away from us. We were all devastated and we just cried as we packed her stuff. Wednesday morning I drove us to Hamilton which is about two hours away for Sisters' Conference and that was when Sister Vea met her new companion. She is now serving in the Tongan program in South Auckland. We really miss her but Sister Gunnell and I are still having a lot of fun. 

Like I said Wednesday we had Sisters' Conference in Hamilton at the VC and it was so much fun. All the sisters in the mission were there apart from four because they are serving to really remote areas and they couldn't make it in. Anyways I loved being surrounded by so many sisters. The spirit was so strong and I was just overwhelmed with excitement as I thought of all of these sisters serving in the mission and all the miracles they were having. It was a day that I will always remember. 

Another hard moment happened when we were teaching our seventeen year old investigator Dominique who was scheduled to be baptized on Friday. We knew something was up because she had been avoiding us. We finally go her to meet with us and she insisted that she still wanted to be baptized. She said that she had just faced so much temptation the past few days and she was really struggling. She said that it had to do with smoking but I felt like there was something more. I felt the spirit and I was just saying the spirit was putting into my heart and the message was one of encouragement telling her that she could do this. I read her a scripture that came to mind but in the middle of it she got up and ran out of the room and my heart dropped. I didn't know what I had done or said that would up set her so much. I told my companions to just wait and I went into her room and she was sitting on the floor crying so I sat by her and hugged her and told her to just cry. We both sat there and cried for a good five minutes. Finally she looked up and started to tell me what had really been bothering her. She said that she had a boy-friend that she knew she couldn't keep if she were to get baptized. She was struggling within herself to find the courage to end things with him and that is why she broke down. After this my companions came in the room and joined me and we talked her through it and by the end of the night we told her to pray and ask God when she needed to be baptized. Later that night we got a text that read "FRIDAY!!!!!!!!!!!" So she broke up with her boyfriend and was baptized on Friday. Her baptism was beautiful the change that she has gone through this week alone is remarkable. She also told us that when she turns nineteen she is planning on serving a mission. Now because she was baptized on Friday we had to wait until Sunday to confirm her and Sister Gunnell and I were really worried about the adversary tempting her so we invited her to spend the day with us and she did. She walked with us and went to all of our appointments with us and she loved it. It was so cool because she had just been baptized the night before and then she was right out doing missionary work. When we took her home she said that she loved the day and that she is so excited now for her mission. I was so happy I couldn't even stand it. This is what true happiness is and I am so blessed to be a part of it. 

Well I guess I don't really have time for anything else this week. I love and miss all of you! I will try to send some pictures before I have to leave. Have a good week!!

Sister Simkins

This is us with Dominique the night of her baptism. I love her so much!!!!!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Dear Family!

Things here in New Zealand are still AMAZING! We had another really awesome week and I still feel like I am on top of the world even though I am physically at the bottom. :) 

On Tuesday we had interviews with President Rudd. It was so great to see him and Sister Rudd again. I would see them a couple of times a week when I was at the VC and now I miss not seeing them as much. Mom and Dad I really hope you get to meet the Rudds someday because they are amazing. Anyways during my interview with President he told me that I will finish my mission in the Visitors' Center so I won't be back there until maybe July or August of next year. It made me a little sad but I am loving full proselyting so much that I wasn't that bothered by it. In fact I have thought a lot about it and if it weren't for the people I served with at the VC I would say I like full proselyting more. Crazy I know! But I am just so happy here and I am loving it so much. 

Now speaking of the Visitors Center, I got to go there on Saturday and it was the best! It was our stake temple day and so we rode the bus down with one of our investigators so that she could go to the VC while her son was in the temple doing baptisms. Now the story of our investigator is really remarkable. Her name is Kahu and she has been taught by the missionaries for years but she never wanted to get baptized. Her two children were baptized last December and they are really strong in the gospel. The crazy thing is that she comes to church, reads her scriptures, and does everything else except she has never been baptized. She said she is afraid of the commitment. Well my companions and I have been visiting her and we have been pretty bold and strait forward with her and she has now set her own baptism date! She is going to be baptized on the 21st of December which is a year after her kids were baptized. Even though it is far away we are still really excited! A funny story about Kahu. So there is this sixteen year old boy named Manny who comes to church and does everything but his parents won't let him be baptized and he came down to the temple with us and as all of the youth were getting off the bus to do baptisms one of the counselors in the bishopric said "You'll go with us next time Manny." and then Kahu said "Me and you Manny!" and then the three of us sat up and said "That's right Kahu!" But the funny thing was she didn't know we were on the bus and she is always teasing us and saying that she is never going to get baptized so it was so funny that we heard her say she plans to go to the temple next time. She then responded and said "What?! Where did you come from? You sisters are like fleas I can't get away from you!" We laughed so hard it was great.

But we then had a great visit to the VC where the sisters there gave a great tour focused on the temple and she was crying by the end of it. I also loved seeing the McLachlans and the sisters serving there. I have made some life long friends here and I enjoyed seeing them. It was interesting though because when I left the VC I told myself I wouldn't go back unless I was serving there because I thought it would be too painful. But then I came here and fell in love with everything and I knew that it would be great to go to the VC because when it was over I would be happy to come back to Rotorua. It was sad to leave the McLachlans again but other then that I was happy to return to my new home. Its funny how everything turned out. Elder McLachlan sent me a text yesterday saying that he enjoyed my visit and that I will have to keep in touch throughout and after my mission. I responded and told him that no matter what he and Sister McLachlan do they will never get rid of me. 

One of Sister Vea's favorite pass-times is to catch giant spiders and then chase Sister Gunnell and myself around our flat. I am telling you if she does it again I will kill her. She literally grabs these massive spiders that we have in our flat and then she chases us and puts them on us. It is the scariest thing. I HATE spiders. Now I know they can't hurt me and all that but they are still scary and Sister Vea thinks its hilarious. 

We are teaching heaps of people and we will have a baptism this Friday.  Well we are supposed to have one but our investigator is struggling a bit so if you could please keep her in your prayers. The work here is great and I am Loving every minute. I hope that you all have a great week! I love and miss you all!

The trees here have the best blossoms!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Aren't we just irresistible? I don't understand why some people don't listen to us when we try to share the gospel with them. 
This is how we spend our time before bed.


Dear Family, 

Where do I even begin? I have had the most amazing week and I just want to tell you everything that has happened but I know that isn't possible but I will try.

First of all I feel like I am still on a spiritual high from conference the last two days. Let me say that it was well worth the wait. It was absolutely incredible. Every talk was so inspired. I feel like I am ready to take on the world. If you haven't had a chance to watch all four sessions then make time now because it is so worth it. It was funny to when in the Sunday afternoon session when Elder Terence M. Vinson started talking because everyone in the congregation recognized his accent and they all sat up and listened harder. I also had a proud moment when he mentioned the miracles being performed in the South Pacific namely New Zealand. 

Elder Terence M. Vinson is right, there are miracles happening everywhere here. We had so many this week it is incredible. The first one happened last Monday when I was done emailing. We were walking into the grocery store and the phone rang and it was a member calling to say that she had been talking to her neighbor about the gospel and now she wants to get baptised. Seriously. So we set up a lesson for the following day and it was so cool. The lady we taught is about 25 and she has three small children and she is really ready to make a change in her life. She wants to join the church and have the happiness she has seen in her member friend's life. We started teaching her the restoration and then we found out that she and her friend had watched the hour long Joseph Smith movie the day before and so she already knew everything and she said she knew it was true. We just sat there in awe it was so cool. So now we are working with her and hopefully she will be ready for baptism in the coming weeks. 

Like I mentioned last week we had a baptism scheduled for Friday night and we had been really good about seeing our investigator daily to help her combat temptation and everything seemed to be going really well and we were looking forward to Friday night. So Friday during the day we had a few appointments we were really excited about but sadly they all fell through. We didn't know what to do and then I had the thought "Well we might as well stop by Trina's and see if she needs help with anything else  for tonight." So we walked over to her house and she let us in and I asked "So are you excited for tonight?" and she said "Nope!" and I was shocked. She then said that her and her boyfriend had a massive fight that morning and that he had left and she didn't know where he had gone. I about had a heart attack. We decided to kneel and have a prayer and we prayed that his heart would be softened and that everything would work out. It occurred to me that Satan was doing everything he could to prevent the baptism from happening. We just sat there and waited with her for what seemed like forever. We didn't talk much except to assure her that everything would be okay. I think we were all praying as hard as we could in our hearts. Finally after an hour and a half he showed up with his family so that they all could go and finish setting up the wedding. I was so grateful. As we were leaving, Trina said "I am happy you showed up because I was about to have a smoke. I figured we weren't getting married and I wasn't going to get baptised I might as well feel better by smoking. I don't know what I would have done had I smoked and then he came back and still wanted to get married. Thank you for coming." I couldn't believe it. We were led by the spirit and we didn't even know it. I guess sometimes our plan A isn't the Lord's plan A because He knows everything and He knew we needed to be there with Trina to help her through the temptation that could have ruined everything. 

Friday night Trina  and her boyfriend Percy were married by the Bishop in the cultural hall of the church building. It was supposed to be a small wedding in the Bishop's office but they invited all of their family and so it turned into quite the ordeal. The relief society even had table decorations. It was really pretty actually. Immediately after the marriage we had the baptism service. All three of us got to speak and then we got to watch Trina enter the waters of baptism and make that sacred covenant with her Heavenly Father. I almost cried I was so happy. I haven't felt joy like that before. It was like I was allowed to feel a little bit of what Heavenly Father was feeling as one of His daughters took the first step towards returning to live with Him. It was incredible. When she came out of the water she was so happy. She jumped up and down in the bathroom just crying because she was so happy. It was an amazing experience. 

I want to just say again that I have the two greatest companions ever. I cannot tell you how much I love these two sisters. We have so much fun together. It seems like every minute that isn't spent in a lesson or other serious situation we are laughing. I haven't laughed this hard this consistently in my life. Sister Vea has this standing joke with one of the elders and its that when they finish their missions at the same time they are going to fly home together and get married. She says things like "Elder Ipson, when we get married I want you to buy me a house like that" or something along those lines and he always turns bright red. Sister Vea doesn't really like him (we are missionaries remember) but she is always teasing him. The other night we got a text from Elder Ipson's companion Elder Krull who is our district leader. He was trying to be spiritual and teach us something and so he said "What is the greatest gift you could give someone? It would have to be eternal." and so I responded by saying "Sister Vea wants to give Elder Ipson and eternal marriage. Does that count?" and Elder Krull texted back and said "hahahahahaha the best part of that was his reaction." Apparently he turned more red then he ever has. We are just always having a good time. 

Now the three of us are the only sisters in our zone and somehow this competition has started between all of the other elders as to who we like more. They are always having competitions to be our favorite. They always make/bring us food (which is bad because its really good) and they argue over who gets to give us rides. Its awesome. If we need a ride somewhere we just call one of the elders and they are happy to come get us and take us wherever we need to be. I would like to say that we are not taking advantage of this but in all reality we are but it makes our lives so much more enjoyable. We are blessed though because our zone has some of the best elders in the mission. 

So this is the highlights of my week. I can't say enough how great it was. I am so happy in this area because I have amazing companions, an amazing ward, and amazing elders that we get to serve with.

I hope that everyone at home has a great week and that everything goes well for all! I love and miss all of you!


This is a picture of Percy and Trina and the three of us right before she was baptised.