Thursday, January 30, 2014

Dear Family!

Wow as I sit down to write this email I have realized that not a lot happened this week. It was really slow and boring now that I think about it. It didn't feel boring but I guess I just don't have a lot to write about today. I think this past week was slow because this week is going to be a big one. We have transfers this week and from the rumors I have heard it's going to be a big one.  Due to Sister Pongi's unexpected transfer out of the area there is a greater chance that I might stay but die to the fact that I have been in this area four months I would say I am probably getting transferred. There are only six new sisters coming into the mission though I don't think I will be training and that is a first for me. I just wonder where I will be emailing you from next week. Oh my goodness I am so nervous but so excited at the same time. I enjoy change now. It's refreshing. I LOVE this area and I LOVE the ward that I serve in but I am ready for a change. It feels like I have been here for so long. I have been walking the same streets for months and I am just ready for a change. But then part of me doesn't want to leave all of the amazing friends I have made over the past few months here. I just can't believe that I was so devastated when I heard that I was leaving the VC and headed for Rotorua and then I got here and I loved it so much. It's just funny how Heavenly Father works. I don't think anything too crazy will happen to me this time though. I just think that I will be moved to a different area and given a regular companion. It should be interesting. I bet you are as excited as I am to find out!
So as far as the work in the area is going I love it and we are having a lot of success. But when it comes down to it I don't think you really want to hear all the boring details about what we taught who this week. Something that I have learned this week however is patience with people and their agency. We are teaching this 21 year old girl who was a referral from a member. She is really nice and very sweet but she has some medical issues and one of them causes her to be severely overweight and it's hard for her to concentrate sometimes on what we are teaching her. I guess just teaching her has taught me patience and it's interesting that I love her so much already just because I can see what Heavenly Father sees in her. Well the week before last when Sister Pongi was here we all prayed about a date that she would be ready to be baptized by and it's so cool because we all three came up with the same date. Like we each wrote down the date we felt and then compared it and they were all the same. It's funny too because we had initially thought she could be ready sooner but for some reason this later date stuck out to all three of us. So we know that Heavenly Father is saying that she will be ready by this date. Well we taught her and tried to set that date with her but she kept saying that she isn't ready so we told her that we prayed to know and this is the date the Heavenly Father told us. We then invited her to pray about it and ask God if she will be ready by then. When we met with her again later on that week she was saying that she had prayed but hadn't received and answer yet and so she still felt like she wasn't ready. The thing is I can tell from her face though that she is ready and she knows it. She has come so far and grown so much but she can't see that. We just told her to keep praying that Heavenly Father would answer her prayers and she said that she would. It was funny though because after the lesson the member who first introduced us said "I admire your patience. I know she is ready to be baptized. I can see it and I know she knows it she is just too scared to admit it. Its a good thing I'm not the missionary because I just don't have that kind of patience." Now I have never thought of myself as a patient person and I definitely have a long way to go! But if this member thought I was being patient then I must be making some progress.
Well I guess that is all for this week. I am sorry that it's short and boring. I really don't have anything else to report. I am looking forward to this week and the changes that it brings. I just wish that if I have to move that Sister Doole would move with me because I love her so much. She is like my best friend now and we have so much fun together. I love that through my mission I have been able to make some of the best friends. Friends that I will be able to keep for a life time. I love when we have zone conferences or mission conferences because I get to see all of my friends and it's like we have never been separated. It's so much fun! I love Sister Doole! I love New Zealand! I love my mission!
I love and miss you all!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Dear Family!

We had a roller-coaster week this week. I feel like things just went up and down and up and down! I guess the best place to start is with the good stuff.

   Janet, our recent convert who was baptized on the 11th spent the past week working so hard to prepare family names to take with her on the ward temple trip. It was the coolest thing ever because we would stop by her house during the day and she would be going through family records and working on her family tree. I could just see the joy that this was bringing into her life. She then got to go do baptisms with the ward on Saturday at the temple and she loved every minute of it. She has a pretty remarkable experience with one of the names and she shared that with us last night and Sister Doole and I just looked at her in awe because we were so amazed at the person that she has become. 

   Another great thing that happened this week is Sister Harman the Sister Training Leader came to Rotorua for exchanges and we had a great time. Her companion is Sister Mu'amoholeva from Tonga (I think I wrote about her before) Anyways there were five sisters staying in our tiny flat for two nights and it was a nonstop party. Sister Pongi and Sister Mu'amoholeva were so funny together and then Sister Harman is so funny herself and she has a ton of funny stories from throughout her mission so all we did (apart from missionary work) is laugh. My sides hurt after they left from laughing so much. I am sad though because Sister Harman finishes her mission next week and then she is back to  Melbourne. Its hard when the missionaries you really love go home because it feels like gap is left in the mission. 

   One more cool story from the week: So we were completely broke this week. We get mission money on the 1st and the 15th of every month and so it usually works out that you shop for two p-days on that money and we usually have enough. Well for some reason we had three p-days to shop with the same amount of money and because there are three of us and one is Tongan we went through a lot of food so inevitably we ran out of both money and food. So for the whole past week we have been praying and surviving on very little. We have been well taken care of by the members though so we weren't starving or anything we just didn't really have food at our flat. I kept telling the sisters that because we had all payed our fast offerings that we would not go hungry. One night we didn't have food for dinner and we went to Janet's house and she made us a huge dinner just because she felt like it. I thought that was a miracle and we were so grateful. But the coolest thing happened on Tuesday when we were walking home one night and we were talking about our lack of money and food when Sister Doole stopped all of the sudden and said "Oh my gosh!" It scared me so bad because I didn't know what happened and it was like she was stunned for a moment. Then she slowly walked forward and picked up a $50 bill. I am not joking we found $50 just sitting in the road by the curb. I still can't believe it because we were in a really poor area and so no one around would even carry fifty dollars around. We looked around but there wasn't anyone on the street and no cars going by at all. It was also really windy so there is no reason why the money would just be sitting there except that we were meant to find it. I knew that we would be taken care of because we had payed our fast offerings and here is the proof. The Lord always provides. 

  Now for the sad news! So Sister Pongi was transferred to Hamilton yesterday and we are really sad. I loved being in a trio with her and Sister Doole. She was so funny and she would do the funniest things. I always loose my Tongans! But it's okay because Sister Doole and I get along great and we still have a lot of fun together. The night before she left we went to say goodbye to some people and Kahu and her family had a little party as an early 21st birthday because she is turning 21 in February. It was really sweet and I know that she felt loved. She was crying when she left because she loved us and the area so much. It's hard being a missionary because you get to know so many amazing people and build relationships with them and then just like that you have to leave. I can't believe it but I spent the last 9 weeks with Sister Pongi and I just can't believe that she is gone. 

  Well that is all that I have for this week. We still have awesome investigators that we are working with and I hope that they will soon be ready for baptism. I hope that everyone has a good week! I love and miss all of you!

Sister Simkins

Monday, January 13, 2014

WE HAD A BAPTISM! Woohoo! I am still on top of the world. I can't explain to you how great it is to have a front row seat to so many miracles. On Saturday night Janet Phillips was baptized by her son and it was such an incredible experience. I cried it was so beautiful. I mentioned last week how this baptism was already a miracle but after this week the word miracle takes on a new meeting. Janet had more challenges leading up to her baptism than anyone that I have ever seen. Everything seemed to fall apart for her as her family completely turned their backs on her and her son. Despite what was happening though she remained firm and steadfast in her resolve to be baptized and she never looked back. When a person has decided to be baptized we start what we call "daily contact" which is where the person getting baptized is visited by either a us or a member of the church so that they can feel the uplift of the spirit everyday. Because Janet lives with her son who is a faithful member we didn't worry too much about the daily contact from us. On Thursday however I felt really strongly that we needed to go see her. When we got to the house we could see through the sliding glass door that she was reading the Book of Mormon and I was feeling like everything was okay so I thought we would stop in and say hello and then leave. Well when we got in the home I asked her how her day had gone and then she broke down and started crying because her daughter had said and done everything that she possibly could to prevent her mom from being baptized. It was so sad but we were able to talk through everything and Janet kept saying "I know I need to be baptized. I just wish they would support me." We ended up staying at the house for over an hour until she felt better about things. We just read The Book of Mormon and sang a hymn and when we left it felt as though a weight had been lifted off the home and off of Janet. When Saturday came she was so excited that she could hardly stand it. She just about jumped on the font. It was the most amazing thing. Then yesterday after she was confirmed she glowed. The light that shined through her eyes was spectacular. She is going to do amazing things in her life and I can't wait to see how many of her friends and family she brings into the gospel.

This week, as always, we had some pretty good rain storms except this time we also had a pretty mean thunderstorm. I love it when there is a thunderstorm because it doesn't happen that often and it reminds me of home. The only down part is that we have to be out walking in it. On Thursday after we left Janet's home we had an appointment so we had to walk in the pouring rain and as we were walking this tree not far from us was struck by lightening. It scared us all half to death but nothing bad happened. We probably should have gone home but we had an appointment that we couldn't miss. 

   Now it's no secret that as missionaries we are expected to wake up at 6:30 every morning. After we wake up we are supposed to exercise for 30 minutes and then proceed to get ready for the day. Normally we are pretty good about doing some form of exercise and then we walk everywhere all day long so I would say that we are all pretty active. The elders in the zone however aren't and they all have cars. I guess none of them do their morning exercises and then they just drive everywhere all day so some of them were pretty unhealthy. Well our zone leader decided to start this morning challenge thing where every morning he comes up with an exercise challenge and we are supposed to do the challenge and then report on what we did. One morning we did suicides and another morning we did jumping-jacks. Well Thursday morning we got the text that said "Let's see how many body-weight squats you can do!" so we took that challenge and went all out. It felt like we had been doing squats for ages. In the end Sister Pongi did 85, Sister Doole did 100, and I did 200. I really wanted to see how many I could do and by 200 I was pretty smashed but I could have kept going I think. However, Sister Doole pointed out that as always we would be walking all day so I decided to stop. We went about the rest of our day and I forgot about the squats. That night after dinner I went to stand up and my legs were so sore that I barely could. I thought to myself oh man I am in trouble and I looked at Sister Doole and her face told me that she was thinking the same thing. Lets just say that the next day we all struggled to walk which is a major problem because that is all that we do. Sister Doole said "As long as we don't walk up too many hills I think I'll be fine." We had a pretty good laugh about it all. The funniest part however is that we walking to see Janet after we had eaten a good sized lunch and the phone rang so I answered it and it was one of our favorite members and she said "Sisters I found a whole chicken in my fridge and I can't eat it all by myself so I wanted to know if you wanted to come eat chicken and salad with me." the thing is she sounded so excited that I couldn't tell her no so I said we would walk over. Now not only we still stuffed from lunch, but she lives at almost at the top of this mountain that is in our area. She literally lives on Mountain Rd. Luckily there is a short cut to get half way up the mountain but it involves walking up 200 stairs. I hung up the phone with the member and I looked at my companions and said "You are going to hate me! I just did something really stupid." When I told them what I had done they both burst out laughing because they thought I was kidding and then they laughed even harder when I told them I was serious and when they realized what that meant. So we walked up the mountain and climbed 200 stairs with extremely sore legs from all the squats we had done the day before all to eat chicken and salad that we weren't even hungry for. Luckily another member found us after we had finished climbing the stairs so we didn't have to walk the rest of the way up the mountain. It was a pretty ridiculous and funny situation.  

   Another great story from this week came when we were finishing up teaching a lesson to one of our investigators and the phone rang. I saw that it was the elders that we share a ward with. Since my companions were telling our investigator about sports night I decided to answer the phone because they wouldn't call if it wasn't important. So I answered it and the conversation went something like this "Where are you?" "We're in a lesson." "I have to tell you something but you can't freak out. When I tell you just say 'ok' ok?" Ok just tell me" "We just wrecked the car..." "You what?!" "I told you not to freak out!" By then everyone else in the room was looking at me so I said I would call him back and I hung up the phone. As it turns out the elders were driving out in the country to this house and they turned a blind corner and a cat ran out in front of them and out of instinct the elder that was driving swerved to avoid it but because of the rain the car slid and he lost control and hit the side of a hill the ran along the road and the force spun the car the other way where they slid into a fence. Luckily no one was hurt but the car is pretty beat up. The engine and everything like that is okay but it now needs over $2500 worth of body work done to it. The mission office is not happy and when the car goes in to be fixed it means that we won't have a ride anywhere any more. It should be a fun few weeks!

    So that is all for this week. I hope that you can see that I am loving life and having the best time! I love my companions, I love my area, and I love my mission! I love and miss all of you! Have a great week!

Sister Simkins

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Kia Ora Family!

Let me start out by saying Happy New Year! I cannot believe that it is 2014 already. The crazy thing that I can't wrap my mind around is the fact that I will be home in 2014. Like my mission ends in 2014 and then I am coming home. Oh my goodness that thought makes me sick. I am trying so hard to hold onto the time but it is just slipping away so fast that I can't help it. I will be out 8 months next week. Can you believe that 8 months? That's almost 9 months which is my halfway mark and everyone says that after you hit 9 months there is not stopping the time. I guess it just slips away. I don't my time here to end. I love being a missionary and I love being in New Zealand. I honestly ask myself everyday how I got so lucky. 

Well we had a great week this week! We have an investigator getting baptized this Saturday and we are so excited! Her name is Janet and if you remember Dominique, the seventeen year-old girl that we baptized a while ago, well it is her Grandma. Teaching her has been the coolest journey because she is just so prepared and it's crazy to say that because when I first met her she was so against the church. Her journey started 3 years ago when her son was baptized and married an LDS girl. She was against it at first but then she learned to accept the choice that he had made. Well when I first got into the area and was teaching Dominique, Janet was living with her son and Dom and so I would see her all the time and although she was friendly she really didn't want anything to do with what we were teaching. Now  they all lived in the elder's area and we got special permission to teach Dom because she felt more comfortable with sisters. Anyways the elders tried so hard to teach Janet. They were constantly talking to her and asking her questions to get her thinking but she still didn't want anything to do with it. Well Janet's son and his family recently moved into a new house in our area and when we were helping to move her in Elder Krull said "Maybe you will have better luck with Janet" and I thought "Ya right. She is one that will never come around." Now knowing all of this you can imagine my surprise when I got a text from our Ward Mission Leader telling us that Janet wanted us to teach her the lessons so that she can be baptized. So that was a few weeks ago and ever since we have been working with Janet and she has done a complete 360. She reads the Book of Mormon constantly and she says that she knows it's the word of God. She gave up smoking and coffee all on her own and she told us she was coming to church before we could ask. She even came to the baptism we had last weekend. Oh my goodness we have just seen so many miracles with this woman! One of them happened last Monday actually. On Saturday the three of us got down on our knees and petitioned our Heavenly Father for a date that Janet would be ready to be baptized. After the prayer I said "Well I have a date but it's kinda crazy." Sister Doole said the same thing and so I said"alright everyone write down the date that came to your mind and then we'll share it." and so we did and as it turns out we had all chosen the same date that was just a few weeks away. This date seemed crazy because at the time she was still struggling with smoking. We had planned that day to visit Janet and present this date to her and see how she felt about it. Now I don't know if you remember from last week how I shared the story about going into the lesson wanting to teach word of wisdom and then I felt to switch it to Plan of Salvation? Well that was this lesson and so because of all the family there it didn't feel right to talk about a baptismal date. I guess we could tell that it wasn't the right time. Ok so fast forward to last Monday and we were sitting in the car and we got a call from our W.M.L. saying that he had just talked to Janet's son and that Janet had decided that she was ready to be baptized and that she had chosen the 11th of January which was the same date that the three of us had chosen. I cannot tell you how happy we were and just how excited we are. Another cool story from teaching Janet is the other morning I was praying to open up my personal study and I was asking that I would know what to teach the people that I would be coming in contact with throughout the day and the thought popped into my head "Teach Janet tithing" and i thought that was odd because we had talked about teaching something else but I decided to go with it and I told my companions that we would be teaching tithing instead. Then we went to the lesson with Janet and Sister Pongi started to introduce the lesson and what we would be teaching and Janet interrupted and said "Wait I read about this today! I was reading Malachi chapter 3 this morning and it talked about tithes and I didn't know what that meant. I wondered why we didn't pay tithes today but I guess we do." We then had an awesome lesson and it just reaffirmed to her that this is the true and restored church on the earth and that we as missionaries are inspired to  teach what God wanted her to learn. It is just so flippen cool! So Janet is getting baptized this Saturday at 6 pm but I know that she would appreciate of you would please pray for her too. She, like everyone else, is facing some pretty tough opposition and temptations. 

Now for our New Years celebration. First of all we were surprised by a trip to Hamilton on Tuesday for a Mission Conference. The whole mission got together and we had a devotional and a Christmas/New Years Celebration and it was the best! I had so much fun. I got to see all of my friends and the McLachlans and the Rudds. It was just so much fun. I seriously have the best mission President ever. At the start we met in this forest reserve owned by the church and we had a devotional sitting under these trees. The devotional was focused on the Prophet Joseph Smith and all that he did in his life. The spirit was so strong because although I am in New Zealand I looked around at the trees and tried to imagine that I was in the grove of trees in New York when the prophet saw God the Father and Jesus Christ. Again, as it has numerous times in the past, the spirit re-assured me that it was true. It really happened. They appeared to that fourteen year old boy and as a result the Gospel of Jesus Christ has once again been restored to the earth. I was just overcome with peace and joy as I pondered my testimony. We then listed to an address given by M. Russell Ballard on how Joseph and Hyrum were the best missionary companions and we need to love our companions like they loved each other. That talk too made me want to cry because it was just so powerful. After that Presidnet Rudd got up and talked about the miracles that have take place over the years in New Zealand and I was overwhelmed with a love for this country and the people here. There is a magic that resides here in this beautiful country and it is like nothing else. The people are just so full of faith and its no surprise that so many amazing things have happened over the years. Again I am so blessed to be serving here. I couldn't imagine a better way to spend the last day in 2013. 

At the conference President Rudd said that he didn't want the sisters out working because it was unsafe and he told the elders that they didn't have to go out and work too if they didn't want to because he was just worried about or safety. Alcohol is a huge problem here and he was worried about all of us being out and about. He also gave us permission to stay up until midnight to see the new year come in. We were so excited because we had planned to party with the three of us in our flat. Unfortunately that isn't exactly what happened. After the drive to and from Hamilton and everything that had happened that day we got back to the flat and crashed. We thought we'd just take a short nap and then wake up at 11:30 and party. We even had sparkling cider. So we set an alarm and went to sleep. When the alarm went off unconsciously turned it off so we didn't wake up. The next thing I know I woke up because I could hear these really loud fireworks and I looked at the clock and it said 12:01. I turned over to Sister Doole and said "It's 12:01. Happy New Year" and Sister Doole looked up and barely said "happy new year' and then she turned over and went back to sleep. Sister Pongi never even budged. I had this mini inner conflict wondering if it would be worth it to wake up and celebrate but then I was so so tired that I decided it wasn't worth it so I too turned over and went back to sleep. Talk about the lamest New Years ever but we were so tired that we couldn't help it. This mission has made me more tired then I have ever been in my life and I guess that New Years wasn't even an exception. 

Well I guess that is all for this week. I hope that everyone had a great New Years and that you are all looking forward to an awesome 2014. I know I am excited. This is going to be one of the best years of my life I can feel it! I love and miss all of you!