Monday, February 17, 2014

Dear Family!

I never thought I would be saying this but I am HALF WAY DONE! Can you even believe it? I sure can't. When I started my mission I thought I would never reach this point because things were so hard and time seemed to move so slow. But then without even realizing it I find myself passing my nine month mark and I am still shocked because time has moved so fast. I am happy because I have had an amazing fist half and I have served faithfully and had success but then I am sad because with how fast the first half went I can't even imagine how fast the second half is going to go. I don't want to leave this country and I don't want to stop being a missionary. I love it here so much and I really am having the time of my life. The joy that I feel as a missionary is greater than any joy I have experienced because I know that what I am doing is eternal and it has eternal consequences. Most of what we do day to day in our normal life (aside from raising a family) just consists temporal matters. But everyday on my mission I get to do things that will effect me, my future family, and the people I work with for eternity. I have seen so much growth within myself from all aspects of my life. I am happier than I have ever been and I think that comes from constantly living the gospel. I have more confidence in who I am and what my purpose is for being here. I am no longer burdened by the words of others defining who I am. I know who I am and I know God's plan for me. There were things that  I have had to go through to learn many valuable lessons but I think for a long time I have been holding onto those things instead of learning from them and moving on. Now, however, I know that I learned what I needed to and now I have been able to let those things go and I truly am happy with myself. I love life and I am excited for the future. I am excited that I still have nine amazing months lying ahead of me. But I am also excited for the life that I know Heavenly Father has planned for me. As I have worked with and talked to many people I have seen how their decision to turn away from God and the plan that he had for them has only lead them to unhappiness and I know that while it may not always be easy, following the Lord is so worth it. My mission hasn't been all roses and I have had some really hard times that have caused me to grow as well and I am so grateful for that. I am grateful for the hard times the same way that I am grateful for the great times. Serving this mission has been the best decision I have ever made and I know that everyday for the rest of my life and maybe even eternity I will be grateful for these 18 months. 18 months is nothing when compared to eternity, but they are everything when determining my eternity. 
   I just wish all of you could be here with me to see what it's like. I wish you could see this country and this land that has stolen my heart. Yes I will always be a proud American, but I think that there is a pretty big part of me now that will always be kiwi. To serve a mission in a foreign land is different than just visiting or going on vacation there. As missionaries we talk to the people, we interact with the people, we live with the people. This has allowed me to really love this country and the people here. I honestly wish that everyone I loved back home could come over here and meet all the people I love here now and see this beautiful land. When I think back to opening my call I was so excited because New Zealand was a place that I really wanted to go. I was so excited that I couldn't even find the words I needed to describe it. Now as I think back to the first nine months and the experiences I had, I don't think that my initial excitement was worth it. If I had known back then what awaited me I would have not been able to physically handle the excitement. I thought when I read New Zealand on my call from a prophet of God that I already loved the land and the people there but I know that that was nothing compared to the love that is in my heart right now. I never want to leave this amazing place. That's why I want all of you to come here! The thought that I only have nine months left absolutely breaks my heart because I know when I leave there is a huge chance that I will never make it back here. I just love it. I love everything about my mission and my life. 

  Now don't get me wrong about all of this. I know that this will eventually come to an end but my life won't . I know that I will come home and another adventure will be waiting for me and I am excited about that too but for now I am absolutely content with staying right where I am. 

   So now for my week. As I look back the only really note worthy thing to talk about is meeting Elder Nelson. That's right I got to meet and shake hands with Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles. It was an experience that I will never forget. Sister Doole and I had to wake up at 5:30 am to be ready to leave at 6:30 so that we could make it to Hamilton at 8. It was an early start but we didn't complain because we knew that it would be a great day. When we got to Hamilton we met at the chapel in Temple View which was my first area so the whole conference took place at the first chapel that I was a missionary at. I thought that was cool considering the conference also took place on my half-way mark. You know me I am all about the significance of things. Anyway we were the only zone to drive our own cars up because everyone else was bused in and so we were the last to arrive. By the time we got there everyone was already seated and studying quietly. All of the sisters were seated in the front pews and then the elders were seated behind and on the sides. Sister Doole and I quickly realized that there wasn't any more room left for us to sit where the sisters were sitting and I was thinking we were going to be stuck in the back of the room. We walked out and asked one of the senior sisters where to sit and she seated us in the area on the front right side that was reserved for the senior couples. We were in the second row back and we could see the pulpit perfectly. After a while of studying President Rudd came in and gave some final instructions and said that they were almost here and I could just feel the excitement in the room lift. He also instructed us to stand in reverence when he entered the room. We then sat there and waited and from where I was sitting I could see out one of the open windows and I saw a group of me walking in and it was like my spirit knew and could feel that he was there. Then it was the coolest thing as he walked in all the missionaries stood up to welcome him and as soon as he was physically in the room I could feel his presence. It was the coolest thing. 

   Now I am going to side track for a moment but stay with me. So back in the late thirties and early forties the mission President of the New Zealand mission was Matthew Cowley.  When he returned home from being a mission president he was called to be a member of the quorum of the 12 apostles. Now this man is a legend here in New Zealand and all of the Saints here love and revere him. There is story after story told about him and the miracles that he performed for the people here. Now when he was the mission president he had a young missionary who although he had a strong desire to serve, suffered from some health problems so he wasn't able to do the work. But rather then send this poor missionary home, Matthew Cowley made him his assistant and so this missionary traveled the country with President Cowley and became one of his very best friends. Well this young missionary's name is Glen L. Rudd and his son happens to be my dear mission president. Well after his mission, President Rudd's dad was a general authority and he worked in the church offices for many many years and so he is highly loved by the leaders of the church. He is in his nineties now and sadly his wife, and President Rudd's mother passed away in December due to old age. Because of the loss of his wife, Elder Rudd has moved here to New Zealand to live in the country that he loves and live with his son. Okay so back to the mission conference. We sat in the row directly behind Elder Rudd and so when Elder Nelson walked in he stopped right by us and hugged Elder Rudd he said "I have come all this way to find you my dear friend." and when I heard this I started to get a bit emmotional because it was the sweetest thing. I knew that Elder Rudd was loved by the general authorities because President said that the night his mother was dying his father called up President Monson and asked him to come give his wife a blessing and he did. But I guess seeing it first hand was amazing. It was also cool because when Elder Nelson sat on the stand he would glance over at Elder Rudd and because I was sitting right behind him I know he looked at me a few times and that was pretty cool. So before the meeting began Elder Nelson and his wife, Elder Hamula (the area general president) and his wife and a member of the seventy all stood at the front of the chapel and one by one we went up there and got to shake all of their hands. I got to shake the hand of an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ. That is just amazing to me and I still am blown away when I think about it. After that they proceeded to give us the most amazing talks and the spirit was so incredibly strong. When President and Sister Rudd were speaking I couldn't help but feel so much love and appreciation for them. Then I looked around the chapel and I could see Sister Gunnell, Sister Swindler, Sister Whiting, Sister Pogi, Sister Vea, and other sisters that I truly love and have become my friends, I had my new best friend Sister Doole sitting next to me, and an apostle seated on the stand. It was like a dream. I was so filled with awe and joy that I almost couldn't contain it. Throughout the talks and the meeting some of the most sacred and beautiful things were spoken about and I left there yearning to be a better person. It really was just incredible and I am so grateful for that amazing experience.  

   Well I feel like this letter was a whole lot of nothing but I hope that you enjoyed some of it. Overall I am so happy to be a missionary. I know that this is the work of the Lord and that He has called living apostles to help Him run His church and save His brothers and sisters. I am so happy to be here and to be a part of this great work. I love you all and I miss you!

Sister Simkins

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