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