Thursday, July 31, 2014

Dear Family! (7/27)

This week was great as always. We have taught some amazing lessons and it has been really fun. Sad news though. Just when the we get a miracle something changes. But it's okay because I know ultimately Heavenly Father is in control and it will all work out. So I told you last week about the Burmese/Thai family that we are teaching and how we got the missionary pamphlets to teach them with. We were so excited to teach them and we felt like this was the breakthrough that we had been waiting for. So we went to teach them one night this week and within the first few minutes of talking with them the mom told us that she is really sick and her body isn't responding to the treatments that the doctors are giving her here so she has decided to fly home to Thailand and Myanmar for three months so that she can have the doctors there treat her with medicine that her body is used to. We were so sad to hear this but as she was talking I had to sweet feeling of the Holy Ghost confirm to be that the Master's hand is in this and that it will all work out. I still firmly believe that there is something so special about this family and I know that one day things will fall into place and they will join the church. I am just sad that I won't be able to be a part of it. After she told is this we went ahead and gave her the pamphlets and she was so excited by them. She just kept saying "My language! Thank you my language!" It really touched my heart. She promised to read them and study them and pray about them. I am sure that this will really help her along her journey. They are scheduled to come back on October 30th and I am hopeful that I will still be here in the area.  wrote the date on my calendar so I won't forget and I am going to try and visit them then because they said they were going to live in the same house. As hard as it was to say goodbye, I really know that everything will work out for this family. I can't wait to be reunited with them either in this life or the next because I love them so much. 

  In this coming week Sister Clarke and I are praying to find an investigator that is ready to progress whether it be someone we already know or someone that we will meet this week. We had another investigator that we thought was golden drop us this last week because she is so busy she just doesn't have time to meet with us. That was really sad too but I have seen time and time again on my mission that when we get dropped or things seem to be falling apart, that is when the miracles come and we meet someone else who is ready to progress. It's a bit like the Lord is helping us clear our schedule by putting those aside who aren't ready to progress so that we are ready and have the time to focus on someone new who is ready to progress towards baptism. It will be interesting to see what happens this week because I think something great is just around the river bend. If there is one thing I have learned throughout my mission is that the Lord is in control and that everything has to happen in His timing and not ours not matter how much we want it to. 

  Another area of our work that we are seeing a lot of success in right now is the work we are doing with the less-actives. President Rudd has posed the question time and time again of "Who is more important to the Lord, the person who has yet to make sacred covenants with Him, or the person who has forgotten those covenants?" Untimely he is saying that a re-activation is the same as a baptism in the eyes of our Father in Heaven. I love visiting and working with less-actives because they have so much light and faith inside of them, they have just forgotten it. All we do is help them feel the spirit to rekindle that flame of faith that they already have. It is such an extraordinary process! Over the last few weeks we have gotten so many less-actives to come back to church  and it has been so exciting! I love being a missionary! I love working with people and seeing them turn their lives around and follow the Savior so that they can take part in the happiness that He is just waiting to give them. 

  In conclusion I am still as happy as ever and I am loving every minute of every day. I am living in the most beautiful country on earth, teaching the most amazing people, and having the most wonderful experience. Everyday I learn more and more about myself and everyday I am able to grow and improve a little bit more. I have learned how to overcome some of my weaknesses and magnify my strengths. The process of change and the changes I can see within myself never cease to amaze me. Sister Clarke and I talked about this  and  for a long time one night and through the course of our conversation I was really able to realize where I was when I started my mission and where I am now and I am so grateful for the changes that I have been able to make. I am happier than ever and I know now more then ever before that I have a Father in Heaven who loves me and that through His help and through the help of my Savior Jesus Christ, I can do anything and that is a wonderful feeling. 

  I love and miss all of you so much and I am looking forward to the day that we can be reunited. I didn't realize just how much I would miss everyone. You all mean so much to me and I talk about all of you often. My favorite thing to talk about is my family and friends because you mean so much to me. Have a great week and remember that I love you!

Sister Simkins

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Dear Family! (7/20)

  Where to even begin? I am just filled with so much joy and happiness today that I don't even know if I can adequately put into words how I am feeling and what has been happening. This week has just been amazing and I don't even really know why. My attitude changed and my out look changed and things are just so wonderful now. I find it so interesting how the learning and growing process works. For the past I don't know how long I have been struggling with an understanding of the atonement and I didn't even know it. Isn't that weird? Like always I have been happy because serving a mission makes me happy but I have been hard on myself for things that are out of my control. I think subconsciously I have been doubting my worth as a missionary. I was struggling but it wasn't completely obvious to me that this was happening because I was still really happy with how things were going and the improvements I have made. During a personal study this week I read an article in the July 2014 ensign that I changed everything. Here is the link to the article because it really is remarkable: As I read this article I felt as if it was written just for Sister Simkins. I can't tell you how much it changed my perspective on things and helped me understand the reality of the atonement in every aspect of my life. After reading this I set some goals and I, throughout this week, have been able to let go of the unrealistic and unattainable expectations I had for myself and it has been one of the best things I have done on my mission. I can't begin to describe how much happier I am now, and here I thought I was happy before. The atonement is remarkable. I encourage all of you to read this article and see if there is anything in there that can help you as well. 

  As for the rest of the week it was full of more miracles! I think I have mentioned before the Thai family that we are teaching. This week miracle happened with them. There is something special about them and we know that as hard as it is to teach them we can't give up on them. So the Mom is speaks Thai but her native language is Burmese. She can understand and speak basic Thai but she can only read Burmese. The Dad can't speak Burmese, only Thai. The fourteen year old daughter speaks and reads Thai and Burmese and the whole family is learning English and so that is how we can communicate with them. Now we have been struggling to know how to help them progress because we couldn't figure out what they understood and what they didn't (The were taught by the elders before and were supposed to be baptized but they pulled out the night before). Sister Clarke and I went on splits and I visited the family with a lady from our ward and as I was talking to them and asking questions I opened up the Book of Mormon and showed them a picture of Jesus Christ and I asked "Who is Jesus Christ to you?" and the mom said "He is the Son of God. Our Savior" Then I asked "So who is God to you?" and she said "God is our Heavenly Father." I was really happy with this response due to their Buddhist background. I felt like we were finally getting somewhere and I prayed that I would be able to ask the right questions to figure out what was missing. I turned to the next picture which is on of Joseph Smith and I asked them if they knew who it was. They all shook their heads. I then said "Joseph Smith was a prophet of God and he translated the Book of Mormon." When I said that the mom got really excited and she said "That's it! That I don't understand. What is prophet? What does prophet mean to Jesus?" I was so happy that she had figured out and that I had figured out what was holding them back. They don't understand prophets and the restoration. This whole time we thought they didn't understand Jesus Christ. There isn't a Book of Mormon in Burmese and so we tried to have the 14 year old daughter read to her mother in Thai but the mom doesn't understand enough Thai to understand the Book of Mormon. We didn't know what to do to fix this and we prayed for a solution. We also prayed for a solution on how to have her be able to understand the restoration. This is where the miracle comes in. Last week we spent a great deal of time at the VC on the computer looking for Burmese material to use but they barely had anything. There was a Burmese testimony of Joseph Smith and some relief society messages and that was about it. We were pretty disappointed and we kept praying for some guidance. One night the assistants were teaching a lesson at the VC and before they left I explained the situation and asked them for advice. One of the assistants said that he taught a Burmese woman using a Burmese bible and the testimony of Joseph Smith. Someone else started talking to him before I had a chance to ask more questions. The next day we got a call from the VC saying that this assistant had found the missionary pamphlets in BURMESE! He had dropped them off for us at the VC. I was so excited! These pamphlets are the exact same ones that we use to teach people in English and they are so simple and straight forward and now to have them in Burmese so that this woman can understand! I almost cried I was so happy. This is a miracle. Heavenly Father really does answer our prayers. I haven't had a chance to talk to the assistants again to ask them where they found the pamphlets but I am anxious to know because we could have never dreamed that they would exist. I just can't wait to see how this whole thing turns out because the hand of the Lord is prevalent throughout the whole thing. 

   Overall it has just been a remarkable week. We have met some really great people this week that have a lot of potential and I know that we are constantly being led by the Lord. I love being a missionary and I have such a strong testimony of this sacred work. I am just so happy! I am having the time of my life. Thank you for your love and support. I love and miss you so much! Have a great week!

Sister Simkins

Monday, July 14, 2014

Dear Familia! (7/13)

  Who would have thought that I would come on my mission to New Zealand and have to teach in Spanish? I never saw it coming. I probably should have taken Spanish in school but I didn't and now I am regretting it. Anyways there is this wonderful family in our area from Colombia that was baptized back in April. It is a Mom and her three kids and they are refugees living here to build a better life for themselves. The story of how the elders found them is remarkable but I unfortunately don't have time to write it all out. Anyways they are so special. Sister Clarke and her last companion were the ones that we able to teach the family and prepare them for baptism and so we now visit them to continue teaching them and strengthening their testimonies. It is so much fun! I love this little family. The oldest is a girl and she is nine then a boy and he is eight and then the youngest child just turned one and he is the cutest child I have met in New Zealand. I love going over and teaching this family. Sometimes when we need to have  formal lesson we invite a translator to help out but most of the time we visit them and make do with sign language and acting things out and Sister Clarke and I are doing our best to learn a bit of Spanish so we can talk to her. It's pretty hilarious and I would say that we communicate pretty well this way. I still should have learned Spanish though. It would make things so much easier. Oh well life goes on. Saturday we went to visit the spanish familia as we call them and Sister Sanchez taught us how to make empanadas and they were delicious. It was so much fun to learn more about her culture and background. I believe it helped us understand her better and we were able to pear into her life and understand better what makes her who she is. Sister Clarke and I had so much fun. I will attach some pictures that we took that night. It was great. 

  I am again having the time of my life in this area and in the VC. I am loving every minute of serving here. I love love love Sister Clarke, and I love the Hawkins (visitors center directors), and I love the ward we are in. I have met so many great people who have come into the VC and we have the opportunity to teach them over the phone and prepare them to meet with the local missionaries. I love it because we are teaching ALL THE TIME! Well a few weeks ago I wrote about a man who came in with his friend and we taught him the lesson about the Plan of Salvation and he said he already believed everything we were saying. Anyway we haven't been able to get in contact with him the past few weeks and we were worried about how he was doing. But he came in on Saturday and we were on shift so we got to teach him again. He is meeting with the local elders and he already has such a good grasp of the gospel. It was the coolest thing. He is preparing to be baptized and I couldn't be more excited. Throughout the second time we were teaching him he kept mentioning that he considered us his first missionaries and that we were the ones that really made him want to learn more. Missionary work is hard especially at the VC sometimes because you wonder if you really are making a difference but it's moments like this that make it all worth it. 

  Well that is all I have to say for this week. I am still happy as ever and I am so blessed to be able to stay out here. I know that the only way I have the ability to work through my challenges is because of all of your love, prayers, and support. I can't thank you all enough. I love you and miss you! 

Sister Simkins

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Dear Family! (July 6)

  Happy late Fourth of July! I am so ashamed of myself because I am losing my American side. I literally forgot about it was the 4thof july last Friday until someone else said it at the VC. I didn't even wear red, white and blue! To make it worse all of the other american sisters in the VC remembered and they showed up all decked out in American pride and I felt so ashamed. I love my country and the 4th of July is one of my favorite holidays so I was sad that I forgot to celebrate it. I guess I could blame part of it on the fact that I have an aussie companion but is was mostly my fault. I have just been so consumed by the culture and way of life over here that sometimes I forget to recognize my own culture and heritage. I am grateful to have been born in a country that was founded on the principles of God and that honors religious freedom. I am also grateful to be serving a mission in another country that also honors religious freedom. 

  This week was a really great week for Sister Clarke and I. We taught some really great lessons together and last night as we were reflecting on the work we did we both felt like it was a really productive and powerful week. We were able to accomplish some of the big goals that we set and we have also been able to help people progress in the gospel. Sister Clarke is a really powerful teacher so I enjoy working with her. I think we make a good team which makes the work really fun and exciting. 

  In our ward there is this old lady and we had dinner with her a few weeks ago and she reminded me of someone but I couldn't figure out who it was. Though the course of our conversation she said that she had a sister in Rotorua and I asked her who it was and it turned out to be one of my favorite members down there and that was who she reminded me of. Luckily for me it was Rotorua stake temple week this week and so I got to see a lot of people including this woman's sister. The remarkable part about it though was that these two women came to visit us in the VC they brought a niece of theirs who isn't a member. I was so excited to see this member from Rotorua that I ran over and gave her a big hug and then Sister Clarke gave the member from our ward here a big hug and then we gave them all a brief tour and talked about Jesus Christ. At this point the non-member neice admitted that she is really interested in learning more. She lives in Auckland but we set up a time to teach her the following day at her aunt's house. We went around the next day and had a beautiful lesson with her and the spirit was so strong that I was on the edge of tears the whole time. It has been a while since I cried during a lesson but I couldn't help it at this one point where our investigator was explaining her experience at the VC the previous day and she said "When I walked into the center yesterday I was completely overwhelmed with this amazing feeling. We were only standing in the doorway but I felt like I was surrounded by light and warmth. Then I watched you sisters hug my aunties. Some people can pretend or fake things, but I could see in your eyes that you truly loved these women and then for you to hug them and show them love like that I knew that I wanted whatever it was that you had. I could see the love of my Lord Jesus Christ in your eyes and I want that." I started to cry as she said this because the spirit was so strong and I knew that what she was saying was true. It was a remarkable experience. The next day was Sunday and so they all came to church before the niece had to return to Auckland and she even got up in Sacrament and bore her newly developed testimony and it was so powerful. Sister Clarke and I will continue to teach her over the phone at the VC and then pass her off to the local missionaries when she is able to be baptized! She already said she wants to be baptized so things are looking very bright for her future. 

  Sad news of the week is that Sister Doole was transferred out of the VC. There was a sister that went home so since she was in a trio she was chosen to take that sisters place. She is now in South Auckland which is at the top of out mission and it is highly unlikely that I will get to see her again before I finish my mission and that makes me so sad because she still has a year left on her mission so it will be forever until I see her again. It was hard for her to leave and everyone here really misses her.  But all is well because I know that we will be friends forever.

  That is all from me this week. I am so happy here and I am having the time of my life here. I just wish I could help you all understand how happy I am here and how much fun I am having. I really never want this to end and I never want to leave. I hold to what I said a while ago,all of you need to just move to New Zealand so that I can live here forever. I do love and miss all of you though and I hope that things are going well for you! Have a great week!

Sister Simkins

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Dear Family! (6/30)

  What a week is all I can say. This week has been one of the most mentally exhausting week of my life but it has also been so rewarding. We have just taught some of the hardest lessons of my mission and it has really caused me to rely on the spirit and be in tune with its gentle whisperings because I there were times that I was at a loss for what to say next. I will never cease to be amazed at how the spirit is able to speak to me and put in my heart and mind the  words I need at the moment I need them. I always know that I am speaking through the spirit when I start teaching things in a way I have never taught them before because each person is so vastly different and to be a good missionary you have to teach them according to their needs and understanding. Usually this is a simple process when following the spirit. This week however I had to really work hard and constantly petition the Lord for guidance. We have some of the toughest but greatest investigators right now. We are teaching a man who recently converted to Islam and who is interested in following the truth no matter what. He is interested in what we have to say and we had a really good lesson with him this week and at the end of it my head hurt but he agreed to read the Book of Mormon so we'll followup with him this week and see what he thought about it. We are also  teaching this family from Thailand that the elders in our ward we teaching previously and believe it or not but they are Buddhist. Teaching them is very interesting because they believe everything we say about Jesus Christ but they believe that they can believe in and worship Jesus and Buddha at the same time. The main concern with this family is the mom speaks Thai but only reads Burmese and there isn't a Burmese copy of The Book of Mormon. We have some ideas of how to work around that to help her gain a testimony of the Book of Mormon and also come to understand that she no longer needs to worship Buddha. To top this all of we have also started teaching this cute young couple from India who belong to this religion that is an off-shoot if Hindu. They are the sweetest couple and we already love them so much. We are hoping to be able to really teach them with the spirit so they can be converted because they would make the best members and the sweetest eternal family. Anyway as you can see we have a wide variety of religious backgrounds for our investigators It makes our life really interesting. 

  Another intense lesson this week happened in the Visitors' Center. We got a call from Elder Hawkins (the VC director) one night when we were getting ready for bed and he told us that a pair fo zone leaders were bringing their investigator into the VC for a lesson the following day and and they wanted one of the senior couples to sit in on a lesson with them. Elder Hawkins said that he told the elders that he has the best teachers serving in the VC and so he volunteered us to teach the lesson. I was already nervous hearing that it was zone leaders and then to know that Elder Hawkins personally recommended us really added to the pressure. The zone leaders arrived prior to the lesson the next day and we talked through the investigators history and then we walked through how the lesson will go. We were going to be teaching the Plan of Salvation and so we decided to start with the Christus narration to set the mood and then build the lesson around that. The investigator arrived and we learned that he is married to a woman who was raised in the church but fell away and now she is coming back too. They both seemed really nice and because we had talked through the lesson I wasn't really that nervous. We played the words of the Savior and the spirit was so strong and we started to teach about our life before we came to earth. Out of nowhere the wife raises her hand and said "I have a question. What does it mean to be translated?" Sister Clarke and I looked at each other and then we looked at the elder stunned. They frantically tried to explain it to her and then she asked another off beat question and we struggled to bring the lesson back. Finally we got control and started teaching again. We taught about the atonement and it was so touching. We then went into the theater and watched "He is Risen" (a video the VC got specially for Easter) and it is the most beautiful and touching portrayal of the atonement and crucifixion that I have ever seen. At the end of the video I was trying to compose myself and not cry when the wife pipes up and says "Well that's just a different version of the same old movie!" It's like she was trying to put down out movie or something and that chased the spirit away a bit. We went back into the other room to finish the lesson and this is where things really fell apart. We were teaching about the three kingdoms of Glory and she goes off again asking questions about translated beings and when are they resurrected and when do they stand judgement and all of this nonsense. It was just ridiculous. Throughout all of this I tried to keep connecting what was being said back to the needs of the investigator and he seemed to be understanding the basic things that we wanted him to understand. The moment in the lesson where I almost lost it was when I was teaching about the celestial kingdom and she said "Um can you please explain for me the three levels within the celestial kingdom?" I didn't even know what to say and I looked at Sister Clarke I knew that she was starting to get frustrated too. I then realized that if I fully let myself get frustrated then I would chase the spirit away and no longer be able to feel it and then I would fail because I was only making it through this lesson by relying 100% on the spirit. I took a deep breath and started to talk and I simply explained that that is something we don't know much about except that to attain the highest degree we have to be sealed in the temple. I didn't go any further than that and she seemed satisfied so we moved on. After that she tried to explain to her husband about outer darkness and all this other useless stuff and he just seemed so overwhelmed. The elders and us bore out testimonies finally to end the lesson and then we said a closing prayer and it was finally over. Sister Clarke and I both thought that the lesson was a complete disaster and we felt so bad for the elders and Elder Hawkins because we thought we had let them down. Right before they left one of the elders came up and shook my hand and said "That was a mean lesson! You are great teachers. We'll bring them back again soon." It made me feel a little bit better that the zone leaders were happy but I still felt like a failure. The next day we explained the whole situation to Elder Hawkins and he explained that we handled it perfectly and he said he was proud of us.  We later found out that they had come in to the VC before and had a tour with Sister Doole and Sister Swindler and they both said that it was the worst tour/lesson of their entire mission because of the wife and her comments and questions. After hearing that I felt so much better that it wasn't me who ruined the lesson and that it really went as good as it could go. We had another fireside last night and the zone leaders were there and they again came up and shook my hand and thanked me again for that lesson and Elder Hawkins said that he talked to them as well and asked them what they thought about it all and he said they couldn't have been more complimentary. That was probably the hardest lesson I have ever taught because I had to use all of my missionary skills just to keep the spirit there. I learned a lot from it though and I was so relived to know that we really didn't ruin it. 

  Miracle for the week! (The best part!!!!!!) Friday was Sister Clarke's 23rd birthday so of course we celebrated and had a great time. We went into town for sushi because it's her favorite and she mentioned that before we head back to the VC, she wanted to go to this american candy store. It sounded like fun to me because I miss american candy. After our sushi we walked down to this store and it was so much fun to see all of this candy that I love and haven't been able to have for over a year. They had fun dip and m&m's and reeses and butterfingers and all the good stuff. I had not idea what I was going to buy when I turned around and saw on the shelf at the opposite end of the store the most beautiful thing I have seen in a long time. Can you guess what it was? It was a jar of DILL PICKLES!!!!!!!!! I am sure you can imagine my excitement. I bought them and they have brought me constant joy ever since. I am so happy to have dill pickles in the fridge now that I get happy every time I open it and look inside. It's funny to me how much my love for them have intensified during my long break from them. At home I was picky and I didn't really care much for the Vlasic brand but that was the only kind they had here and they are so delicious. I believe this was a tender mercy from the Lord! 

  Well that was my week. It was a really good one and I am still loving my time as a missionary. Tomorrow it the birthday of the New Zealand Hamilton Mission and I feel so blessed that I have been able to see the birth and growth of an entirely new mission. It has been such an adventure. When the mission started last year we had 123 missionaries. 100 elders and 23 sisters. Now our mission has a total of 235 missionaries. 150 Elders and 85 Sisters. It is remarkable! This has been the greatest adventure and I can't wait to see what more the future has in store.  

Sister Simkins