Sunday, June 29, 2014

Dear Family! (June 22)

 I am happy to announce that I have felt better this week than I have in two months. I am so relieved and positive where all these health problems are concerned. Things are improving and I am so excited about it. Life is good. The only down side to my life right now is the fact that time is moving too fast and it won't slow down!

  We had a pretty good week this week. I love the area that I am in now and I love the ward. Our Bishop reminds me a lot of Bishop Carter. I really like him a lot. He is so loving and kind and every time he talks or does something you can just feel the love that he has for everyone. This ward just has such a good feeling in it and it reminds me of being at home. There is a lot of potential in this area as well and we are teaching a lot of great people. We are hoping to have a baptism soon with this investigator named Ofa. She is from Samoa and she lives with her Aunt and Uncle who are members. The only problem is that her parents are Methodist ministers living in California and so she is waiting for them to give their approval or decide to do it anyway. She is in her twenties so we really don't need permission she just doesn't know if she wants to go against them. We told her to pray about it and so hopefully things will work out soon. As always prayers are appreciated. I am just so happy here in this area and I love Sister Clarke. She is so sweet and we have the same taste in movies and so we quote movies all the time and laugh. It's great. She is twenty-three and before her mission she worked for theater companies sewing costumes so I love hearing her stories about that and looking at pictures. I am always blessed with the best companions!

   I have felt at home a lot lately and that has been really nice. Sister Clarke's mom is Maori from Hamilton and so she has a lot of extended family around here. On Saturday her grandparents came in with her aunt and we gave them a tour and it was the sweetest thing. They are quite old but they still have a great sense of humor and so I really enjoyed getting to know them. Yesterday our dinner appointment cancelled because someone in their family is in the Hospital (which I think that is a pretty valid reason to cancel) but we were disappointed because Sundays without a dinner appointment are pretty depressing. Sister Clarke decided to call this lady in our ward who is her mom's first cousin. She graciously agreed to feed us and so we went to her house for dinner. When we got there she announced that she had invited Sister Clarke's Uncle and Aunt to come over as well and so she got to see them for the first time in a couple of years. They all were so sweet and they welcomed me in and made me feel like I was a part of the family. It was a lovely evening. 

  We had another great fireside at the VC last night. It was a choir from one of the local wards and they were amazing. I have never heard a ward choir sound so great. I tell you the Polynesian people are so naturally musically talented that it's not even fair. At the end of the fireside I was standing by the door ushering people out and saying goodbye when this cute little old woman walked up to me and said "Sweetie, I just wanted to tell you that you look like one of those girls off of that Frozen movie. My granddaughters love that movie so of course I have watched it a few times. I just had to tell you that." I laughed and told her thank you assuming it was a compliment but because I haven't seen the movie or even the advertisements, I have no idea what the characters even look like so I hope it was a compliment. 

   I love being back in the VC because there are just so many miracles here. The other night it was really slow and so Sister Clarke and I were watching some of the videos here and talking about them when Sister Hawkins walked up to us and said "A member is here with her non-member friend. It's a good one so good luck." After that we went and had an amazing lesson about the Plan of Salvation with this man in the Christus room. When we taught him that life didn't begin at birth and that it won't end at death he said "Well I have always believed that I just couldn't find a religion that believe it too." It was so cool. As the lesson was winding down and it was getting close to the VC closing I had this feeling that we needed something more. I knew we needed to watch a video but I had no idea which one. I prayed in my heart and I then got the impression that we needed to show him President Uchtdorf's special witness of Christ. The only problem is that I couldn't for the life of me remember what it was about. I knew that it would testify of the Savior but we have videos from all the apostles testifying of Christ and some talk about temples, others missionary work and so on and I couldn't remember what President Uchdorf's was about. But I decided to listen to the prompting and we walked over to watch the video. As we walked I was praying so hard asking if this was what was right to share. Even after I selected the video and sat down to watch it I was praying. I felt a peace the whole time though. When the video started and as we watched it I realized that this was the perfect video and it was exactly what he needed to see. It reaffirmed everything that we had taught him and it added more and the spirit was so strong. Here is the link to the video if you want to watch it too:
   After the video we talked a bit more and then I bore my testimony of the things that we taught and then I looked at Sister Clarke and she smiled at me and I nodded and then she invited him to be baptized and he said YES! Right then and there he agreed to be baptized. It was amazing. We passed him off to the elders in the area that he lives in and now they are teaching him. Miracles!

  So that's it for this week. It has been a great week but I know it's just going to get better. I love and miss all of you! Have a great week! 

Sister Simkins

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Dear Family!

  I guess I shouldn't be surprised that I can't just have a normal week here in New Zealand anymore. I actually think that I have forgotten what a normal week feels like. Being normal is boring though so I am grateful for the adventures that we got to have this week. Let me just say again that I love the Visitors' Center. I love the directors, the senior couples, and the other missionaries that I get to serve with. Everyday is just so much fun. I also love that I get to serve around some of my very best friends. I was thinking about this last night that I never  expected to make such great friends during my mission. I guess I just didn't realize how deep the bonds are when they are formed during serving Heavenly Father. It is almost like you get to know each other on a deeper level because you are focusing on something so much more important than the other things of the world. Everyday I thank my Heavenly Father for the great friends that I have found in my mission. It seems that a day doesn't go by that I am not grateful for these new relationships. Yesterday was my 13th month mark and Sister Swindler, Sister Whiting and I were talking about it and talking about how we met each other 13 months ago and we couldn't believe how close we all became and how close we still are. I know that the friendships that I have gained from my mission is just another tender mercy from the Lord and I am forever grateful for it. 

   Being back in Hamilton this week and experiencing the weather took me right back to the beginning of my mission. We walked out of the flat one morning and the fog just hit me in the face and it really felt like I was back in my first area with my trainer. It's funny to me how things like the weather can trigger different memories. It's weird to be back at this time because in some ways I feel just like I did a year ago when I was starting. I have to remind myself that I have actually served other places. Some things never change though and one of those things is the fact that no matter what I do the fog always ruins my hair. It's one of those inevitable facts of life that I am still coming to terms with. I almost miss good old dry New Mexico.

   On Friday I had another lovely doctors appointment but this time I had to have an MRI and it was quite the experience. For starters I had to drink three of these huge containers of this nasty berry syrup sulphate stuff. It was so disgusting and I had to drink so much of it that I literally had to pray for the strength not the throw it back up. We stayed the night before in Auckland with some sisters and they came with us to the MRI appointment so Sister Clarke wouldn't be alone and they were so sweet because every time I thought I couldn't drink anymore they kept encouraging me. It made a bad experience a little bit better. At the radiology office where I was having the MRI done, the women helping me were so nice. They were so sweet and they really helped me feel comfortable. I knew I was a bit claustrophobic, but I had no idea just how bad it was until I looked at the MRI machine and realized that I was going to go in there. The radiologists noticed my hesitation and they asked me if I was okay and I told them I wasn't and they assured me that I would be fine. They told me that they would put one of those sleep masks over my eyes so that I wouldn't even realize where I was. After I layed down they put told me to put my arms down at my side and then they put a blanket over me and then strapped my arms down so that I wouldn't move and mess up the sensors they placed on my abdomen. I tried moving my arms and I couldn't and I started to panic inside and then I just told myself that I was cold and keeping my arms in the blanket so that I would get warmer. I seriously tried to convince myself that I didn't want to move my arms and somehow this worked and I prevented myself from freaking out. After this they asked me what radio station I like to listen to because the machine is really loud and they wanted to make the experience more enjoyable. I got all nervous again inside because I didn't know what to say so I asked them if they had any classical or instrumental music and they said that they did so that was another blessing. Once I could tell that I was in the MRI machine and the sounds started to go I just concentrated on the music. After a few minutes the radiologist started talking to me through the headphones and there were times throughout the MRI that I would have to hold my breath for what felt like forever so they could get a clear picture. It was really hard but I tried not to think about it too much. Halfway through the MRI they put an IV in my arm to inject this dye stuff and that just made me dizzy. It was quite the experience. I was so happy when it was all over and I could just leave and go home. 

  Last night there was the cutest fireside at the VC. It was called "Love Stories from New Zealand" and what they did was they found a few love stories from the church history museum here and then they had YSA read them and in between they had this Hawaiian quartet perform some love songs. It was a really fun evening and the whole purpose was to get people into the visitors' center and also show the community that we are just normal people. The whole thing was a huge success! Things like this make serving in the VC extra special. A lot of the love stories were really funny because of the culture of the people here. One in particular was of this man who met this woman soon after completing his mission and he knew instantly that he was going to marry her and so he went around telling everyone that they were engaged when this poor girl had no idea and had barely even met this man. This made her really mad and for a period of time she refused to talk to him. In the end he convinced her to go on a date with him and they fell in love and were engaged for real and then later married in the temple. The other sisters and I were laughing after the fireside though because they said the same thing and that this fireside wasn't helping with the fact that they want to get married. 

  That's about it here in New Zealand. I hope you all know that I am having the time of my life down here and that I wouldn't trade this experience for anything. I do love and miss all of you though! Have a great week!

Sister Simkins

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Dear Family!

Ch ch ch changes! We had transfers this week and surprise surprise I have returned home to the Visitors' Center. I had a feeling I was going back there and I was right. I am so happy to be back and I really like the direction things are moving under the new director. It is different there without the McLachlans and the other senior couples that I knew but things are still good and I forgot just how much I loved it there.

   For the first time since I was being trained I am not training and I am loving life. My companion's name is Sister Clarke and she is from Perth Australia so I have my first aussie companion. Maybe now i will develop an accent :) She's really fun and she is a vegetarian so we eat really healthy and I need that. But it is so nice to be in a new area and not have to figure things out because she already knows everything. I also love that she knows what to do and how to teach without me having to teach her and explain things to her. I have already learned so much from her and I can tell that we are going to have a really successful transfer. If loving my companion wasn't great enough, guess who's in the VC with me... Sister Whiting and Sister Swindler and... SISTER DOOLE!!!! Almost all of my favorite sisters are in the VC with me and to top it off my area touches Sister Gunnell's area and our wards meet in the same building so I get to see her quite often as well. I tell you things really couldn't get much better. I just wish Sister Vasi were here and then things would be perfect. 

 Funny story about Sister Vasi. So we pretty much knew that I was getting transferred because I was sick and so we assumed she would stay. Two weeks before transfers we had to move flats and so we packed up all of our stuff and moved. I pretty much stayed packed for the next two weeks because I knew I was getting transferred. Sister Vasi slowly unpacked some of her stuff but she kept saying "I'm not going to unpack until after e get transfer news." Well we got the call Monday night that I was getting transferred because I had a doctors appointment in Hamilton Tuesday afternoon and so they told me to just pack my stuff and then stay in Hamilton until Thursday. They also said that Sister Vasi would be staying and they told her who her companion would be. That night I completely packed my stuff and she completely unpacked all of her stuff. Tuesday night we were in Hamilton and I got a call from President Rudd asking me all these questions about our area. About an hour later we got a call from the Assistants saying that there had been some changes to the transfer plans and now Sister Vasi was getting transferred too and so we had to drive home Wednesday, she had to re-pack all of her stuff, and then drive back the three hours to Hamilton. It was a bit ridiculous and she was pretty sad that she was moving but we know that the Lord works in mysterious ways so I'm anxious to see what happens with her in her new area. 

  I really love the ward that I am serving in and I am so excited to spend the next six weeks here. The ward is really missionary minded and it's nice to be in a big ward again. The members here seem really sweet. I was thinking the other day that I only have three and a half transfers left so this could very well be my last area and that thought really freaks me out. President told me that I would finish in the VC and so I am now back here to finish my mission. I can't believe just how fast time is moving. Thursday, the day we had transfers and the day I went back to the VC, was the day we landed in New Zealand the year before. I thought it was so poetic that I would go back to the VC that day and that Sister Swindler and Sister Whiting would go back too because the three of us started everything together. On Saturday Sister Rudd walked over the VC to talk to me about somethings and she walked in and the three of us were standing there talking and she smiled and said how excited she was to have all of us back there. She said "My friends are back!" It is just so nice to be in an environment where I know that I am loved and that helps me forget about the other challenges that I am facing. I feel just so renewed and ready to take on this transfer because I know that it is going to be a good one!

  Well that is all I have for this week! I love and miss you all! 

Sister Simkins

Monday, June 2, 2014

"I am the Gardener here"

 I want you to watch this mormon message if you can before you read my letter from this week because this perfectly describes the spiritual lessons I learned this week. I still remember when Elder Christofferson gave this talk in General Conference and I thought I know what it meant then but I realized this week that I still have much to learn about Heavenly Father and the love that He has for me as His daughter.
  This week I had to finally put everything in Heavenly Father's hands and have faith that He knows best. All of my life I have dreamed of serving a mission. I have always wanted to be a missionary. Then I was given the opportunity to be a part of the hastening of the work and serve starting at age nineteen. On top of all that I was called to serve in the most beautiful and wonderful part of the world; somewhere that I dreamed of serving. I can honestly say that my mission has been a dream come true and I have loved every minute of it. Often throughout a normal day here I will just look around and ask myself how I got this luck? What did I ever do to deserve this amazing experience? On Thursday we had a unique Zone Conference. President Rudd wanted all of us to experience some of the Maori culture and so we had met on a marae and had maori speakers from all over the country come talk to us about the culture and how it is linked to the gospel of Jesus Christ. We also heard many inspiring stories about missionaries that served here many years ago. Again I sat in my seat and felt inspired by to opportunity I have to be a missionary at this time. It was during this conference though that I was faced with the reality that my mission in New Zealand could be coming to a close. My health isn't declining but it isn't improving either. I had to stop and ask myself if by forcing myself to stay out here if I was fighting against God. I couldn't however understand why He would ask me to leave this country and my mission. Wasn't I here to serve Him? Wasn't I doing His work? Why then was 
 struggling and why did it look like my mission was coming to a close? I finally cam
 to understand 
that if Heavenly Father really wanted to test my faith He would ask me to come home. I knew that coming home would be a big challenge for me and that it would require me to really lean on Him. I have had to do a lot of fasting and praying the last couple of days and a miraculous thing has happened. I finally was able to bend my will to the will of God. I have been able to let go of everything that I want and really put it all in His hands and trust Him. I know that Heavenly Father loves me enough to cut me down so that I can grow into what He wants me to be. I have prayed and asked Heavenly Father if He really does want me to come home and I still don't have an answer. I don't feel like I am meant to stay or go at this point so I am just moving forward. I have decided to stay as long as I can and enjoy every minute of it but I know that should my condition decline that I will have to come home to get better and I am okay with that now. I know that Heavenly Father just wants me to reach my full potential and so if I have to end my service here in New Zealand early to do that then I will be okay. I can't describe to you the spirit of peace and comfort that I feel as I think about the future and what may happen. I have decided to enjoy whatever time I may have left here whether it be six months or less and not worry about anything else.
  sorry it's a short one this week but I don't have much else to say. Just know that I have a strong testimony of the work that I am doing out here and I am grateful everyday for the opportunity to serve. I love and miss all of you! Have a good week!
Sister Simkins