Thursday, August 28, 2014

Dear Family! (8/24)

 What a week! Again we have experienced miracle after miracle in the area and in the VC. I just love being a missionary and helping others come to know their Savior Jesus Christ. The temple is currently closed this week and that means that it is really slow  the VC and so to make better use of our time we have been working on a modified VC schedule this week and so we have only been in every other day and for half the day. Because of this we spent more time in our area and that was really great. We had a few days of full proselyting and it was weird experiencing it again. I have already forgotten how tiring full time was. There were a few days that we came home and just crashed because we were not only spiritually drained like we usually are, but we were physically drained as well. But despite being tired we were still able to have a great week with many miracles. 
   Do you remember a few weeks ago when I talked about the girl that we had met who told us that she had already prayed and received an answer that the church was true? Well the story gets more amazing! Her Name is Sam by the way (I can’t remember whether or not I told you). So we had an appointment with Sam two Fridays ago to teach her the next lesson and when we went to teach her she wasn't there. We brushed it off thinking that she forgot so we called her can left a message. A few more days went by and we didn't hear from her and it had been over a week since we had heard from her. As the days went by we were more and more nervous and I was praying so hard that things were okay with her. In my mind something had happened with the grandparents who are really strong in another faith. Finally Tuesday morning we go a text message from Sam apologizing for not meeting with us and explaining that she had recently broken up with her less-active boyfriend of two years and she was really struggling with it. We didn't really know what to think because it was his mom that introduced her to the church in the first place. She was staying at a friend’s house Tuesday and so we set an appointment for Wednesday morning. As we were walking up to her house on Wednesday for our appointment I was praying because we were walking in blind and we didn't know what she was going through and I just knew that I loved her and I wanted to help. My biggest fear was that this experience was going to cause her to no longer want to continue going to church. I just prayed that we would be able to help her with whatever she was going through because she is a really special girl. We knocked on the door and she let us in and she seemed happy to see us so I considered that as a positive sign. We sat down and started talking and it came out that she had broken up with him because she realized that the chances of him coming back to church and being active were really slim and that isn't a chance she was willing to take. Can you believe that? She said in her own words “The first time I went to church I prayed to know if it was true and I got the answer that it was and right after that I got this feeling telling me that I was going to marry a ‘good mormon husband’. I have kept that in mind throughout this whole experience and I just realized that my boyfriend probably isn't going to be that good mormon husband that I want.” As she was explaining this I was shocked because she was saying that she broke up with her boyfriend because he wasn't going to be active in the church like she wanted. After she explained this we had the most amazing lesson with her. The spirit was so strong confirming to her that Heavenly Father was aware of the pain she was feeling and that she had made the right decision. I feel like I have known Sam my whole life and she expressed that she felt the same way about us. She said that she felt like the three of us clicked instantly and she was grateful that we were here to help her through this. Sam decided to go visit her mom who lives on the South Island to get away for a week or two and get her mind off things. We have been calling her and texting her while she is gone to keep in contact with her. We called her Friday night and we had a really sweet lesson with her over the phone. Yesterday I was thinking about Sam and how great she is and I had a feeling that we needed to text her and give her some scriptures to read so we sent her a message and I didn't give it another thought. A few hours later we got a message from Sam saying “Thank you sisters so much. I was having a really hard time and the scriptures were just what I needed. You sisters are seriously the best!” NEVER ignore a thought to do good even if you are almost certain that it is “just  you”. I almost brushed off the thought to text her because we were busy and had million other things to do. But we decided to stop and take the time and do it again and it turned out to be just what she needed. We have invited Sam to be baptized and she said yes and now she is praying to know what date to do it. I already love her so much and I can’t wait to see what lies ahead of her in her life. She is going to be an amazing member of the church because she has already sacrificed so much for her testimony and she really wants to do all she can to follow Jesus Christ. 
  Two Monday nights ago we were on shift at the VC and it seemed to be a slow night. I was sitting in another part of the VC watching some videos when I heard Sister Clarke talking to someone so I went to join her. A member couple had brought in their nephew who had recently moved in with them and was interested in learning more about the gospel. Throughout the rest of the evening we taught him the Restoration of the Gospel and he really felt the spirit. He expressed that he had made a lot of mistakes but that he was ready to change his life. The spirit was so strong as we bore testimony that the Savior gives everyone chance after chance to change their life. At the end of the lesson we invited him to be baptized on the 30th of August and he said"Wow that is really soon! Can't I pick my own date?" We assured him that he would be ready and we invited him to pray about it. We also told him that we would followup with him in a few weeks to see how he was doing. This week it was time for us to followup with him but because he doesn't have a phone of his own we called his Aunt to see how he was doing. We started the conversation out by asking if she knew whether or not he was reading the Book of Mormon and the aunt said "You haven't heard? He's getting baptized tomorrow! He had his interview with the mission president last night and the baptism is scheduled for tomorrow at 4." We were so excited because this was a week earlier than we had initially invited him to be baptized! It is so amazing to me how the gospel helps people change their lives for the better. This is another baptism for the Visitors' Center and we have three more investigators that we are teaching over the phone that have baptismal dates set. We are having so much success and it's just remarkable. I love serving there! 

  Well that is all I have for this week! I want to finish by saying HAPPY BIRTHDAY again to my wonderful Mother. I love her so much! She is the greatest example to me and I hope that I can grow up to be just like her. I hope she knows how much I love her! She's the best!!!!! 

  I love and miss you all and I hope that you all have a great week! 

Sister Simkins

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Dear Family! (8/17)

Let me just say that being a missionary is not at all what I expected it to be and I have done so many different things as a missionary that I didn't even know were a part if missionary work. I will explain...

  Elder Hawkins (my VC director) is amazing. He is all about getting the community interested and involved with the church and the VC. He decided to join the Interfaith Council here in Hamilton so that he could build relationships with the leaders of other faiths. Seeing as this month Hamilton will celebrate it's 150th anniversary, Elder Hawkins had this idea to host a devotional with the interfaith council about how religion has shaped the growth of Hamilton. The idea was to have the devotional at the VC and have the different leaders from the council come and share with everyone the contributions that their religion has made to shaping Hamilton. Sounds simple enough right? Well as the plans started to come together for this thing they realized that it was going to be much bigger than they has anticipated so instead of the VC they moved it to the biggest Chapel in Hamilton. The devotional was held last night and there was so much that went on I don't even know how to describe it. 
   Before the devotional, Elder Hawkins invited all the religions leaders and a lot of community leaders and even some people from the Church Area Office in Auckland to a reception where they served the most amazing food and it allowed everyone to mingle with one another. President and Sister Rudd were there as well as a lot of other important people for the church.  The eight of us sisters serving in the VC had the special responsibility of escorting the "VIP's" as we called them to the reception. When Elder Hawkins was explaining what we had to do he said "You have a very important job and I trust you. You sisters are classy, and poised, and beautiful and so I need to you charm these people and make them feel welcome and comfortable. You're going to be the face of the church and missionaries in Hamilton." When the people would walk through the doors I would introduce myself (we got special permission to not be with our companion) and then talk to them as we walked and I tried to be as warm and friendly as possible. We would escort them to the reception and give them their name tag and then head back and do it again with the next person. Doing this I met the mayor or Hamilton, some members of the City Council, and some religions leaders of other denominations. I really enjoyed it! After the reception was finished Elder Hawkins gave everyone a CD of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir to say thank you and then we were responsible for taking the VIP's into the chapel and seating them in the proper order at the front. It was tricky and half the time we didn't exactly know what we were doing but we tried to do it as peacefully as we could and somehow it all worked out. 
  After all of the craziness we were able to sit down and enjoy the devotional. It was a very interesting night. For Music there was a Methodist Tongan Youth Choir, a Catholic Quartet, an Orchestra Ensemble from the stake I am serving in, and a youth choir made up youth between the ages of 12-18 also my stake. The most powerful moment for me and my favorite part of the whole night was when the youth choir sang "Stand in Holy Places". There were about 50 youth in the choir and they sounded amazing. The spirit was so strong as they sang and so powerful and the message of the song was so special. I know everyone that was there felt the power of it. The rest of the program was six mintute presentations from denominations such as the Catholics, Methodists, Buddhists, Jewish, Islamic, Anglican, Hindu, and of course LDS. The man who spoke on behalf of our church was Elder Thomson the area seventy who also lives in Hamilton. His of course was my favorite and he bore a powerful testimony at the end. He said "No matter what our religious beliefs are, we are brothers and sisters, children of God, our Loving Heavenly Father. He is real and He loves us." At the end of his presentation we sang "I am a Child of God" as a congregation to close the meeting. It was so powerful. Imagine a congregation made up of all these different faiths and backgrounds all singing "I am a Child of God". It was an experience that I will never forget. 

  At the end of the devotional we stood at the door and greeted the people as they left. Everyone seemed to really enjoy the evening and they all seemed most impressed with the LDS youth choir. I heard so many people raving about it. It was a really great evening and in all over 850 people attended. It was massive and the turnout was incredible. I am so grateful for the experiences that my mission and serving in the Visitors' Center has given me. I have been able to be a part of so many amazing things. 

  So that was the main thing that happened this week. Other than that we just had a normal great week of teaching and finding people. I love missionary work and I love teaching people the gospel. I am so happy to be on a mission! We really have the truth in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and there is such a significant power that comes from it. I am so blessed to be a part of this great work. 

I love and miss you all!

Sister Simkins

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Dear FAmily! (8/10)

  I don't even think that I can even explain the absolutely amazing week we had. I would have to say that this week rivals any other week I have had on my mission. It was just so incredible. If I learned anything this week it is that my Heavenly Father is so aware of me and He wants me to be successful and happy! 

   Sunday and Monday night there was an incident that happened here in the VC that shook Sister Clarke and I up a bit and I won't go into details but basically this man came in to try and challenge our testimonies and cause some trouble for us. After it was all said and done Sister Clarke and I realized that we needed to talk about somethings and resolve somethings in our companionship so that we can work more in unity. We had a deep "companionship inventory" when we got home from the VC Monday night. I think this is why a mission prepares you for marriage because it teaches you not only how to live with another person 24/7 but also how to communicate with them. It was a big growing experience for the both of us and I am grateful for it. Tuesday we both woke up convinced that we were going to have an amazing day and we could feel that something amazing was going to happen. After our morning appointment fell through we deided to contact a referral that we gotten the week before that we had tried to contact every day but hadn't been able to catch them.  We were about to give up because no one was ever home but we decided to try it one more time. We knocked on the door and this girl in her twenties opened it and seemed really happy to see us. She instantly invited us in and made us some Hot Chocolate. We started talking and she told us all about herself. Basically she has been going to church for the past few months and she has already prayed and received and answer that this church is true. She is planning on marrying her boyfriend in the temple after he comes back to church (He's a less-active member). I wanted to cry throughout the whole lesson because this was Heavenly Father's way of letting us know that all of our hard work and sacrifice was accepted by Him. Missionary work is hard. Sometimes you give everything you can to an investigator and they still drop you because they aren't prepared and this has happened to me over and over again to where I was starting to doubt myself as a missionary and doubt whether or not I had been effective. This was Heavenly Father's way of showing me that He is in control and that when we are ready and prepared, He can step in and send us a miracle. The only obstacle in the way right now is her grandparents. They are very very strong in another faith and they are opposed to her joining our church. If you could please pray that they will soften their hearts and allow their granddaughter to be baptized I would really appreciate it. Her name is Sam and like I said before she is in her twenties and so she doesn't need consent to be baptized but she doesn't want this to cause contention in her family so I am hoping and praying that things work out. 

  The next miracle has to do with my health. I have been praying like crazy for a long time now for some help because me being sick was causing some strain on my realationship with Sister Clarke. Last Sunday I was talking to Sister Hawkins about all of my health problems and I went through the list of my symptoms. I explained to her that I can live with the nausea and vomiting because I am almost used to it by now but I told her that my biggest struggle was how tired I get all the time. I explained that I have to sleep for around two hours everyday or I just can't function mentally or physically. She then asked me if I was anemic and I said no and I didn't think anything more of it. ​Monday night I prayed to Heavenly Father harder and longer than I think I have my whole life and I begged Him for a solution to my problem. When I was finished praying I was laying in bed just thinking about everything and I started to think about that conversation I had with Sister Hawkins the night before. I was going over the conversation with her in my head when it got to the part about me having low iron and being anemic and then it hit me. My mind flashed back to when I was first seeing doctors about all of this and I had all of these blood tests done. The doctor in going through the results mentioned that I had really low iron but she said that could be related to me not getting the nutrition I need because I was throwing everything up. That was all that was said about it. At the end of the visit she prescribed me all of this medicine to help with the nausea and pain and she also prescribed iron pills. Now in the craziness that was my life during that time I didn't ever take the iron pills and I forgot about them and I completely forgot that she has said I had low iron. All of this came flooding back to my memory as I laid in bed and I knew this was my answer. The next morning I got up, dug through my suitcases, found the iron pills, and started taking them and they have turned everything around. I feel fully like myself again. This week was so wonderful because I could work without getting tired and I felt like I was mentally there the whole time! I can't believe that the answer was there the whole time but I know that I needed to learn to rely on the Lord and when I did He was able to help me. So that was the second miracle of the week.

  Now for the greatest miracle of the week! Saturday was a really great day and I was enjoying all the lessons we were teaching in the VC. I had just finished teaching a less-active member that had come in and I walked out of the teaching room into the main part of the VC when Sister Clarke said "Sister Simkins! You'll never guess what just happened! Lance came in and he said that he is getting baptized tonight at 5 and he wanted to thank us for 'changing his life' and helping him on his journey." If you remember back a month or two ago and I talked about teaching this man who had been brought in with a friend and I had a prompting to play this video to end the lesson but I couldn't quite remember what the video was about but I played it anyway and it ended up being exactly what he needed. I also mentioned a few weeks ago how he had come in again and told us he was being taught but the local missionaries and was loving it. Well he came back Saturday just to let Sister Clarke and I know that he was getting baptized. I was so happy I couldn't even express it in words. I then thought that we should go to the baptism but I realized that it was out of zone so we probably wouldn't be able to go. Everyone was saying that we needed to go so we mustered up the courage we needed and called the assistants for permission and they said the answer was probably no but they said that we could try calling President. We then called President but he didn't answer so we left a message and waited for him to call us back. He never called so we took that as our answer. After our shift at the VC we ran home to get our phone that we had forgotten that day and we got it just as the assistants were calling to tell us that they had talked to President and he had said we could go because the chapel where it was being held was between our house and the VC so really we weren't going too far out of our area. This is another tender mercy of the Lord because seeing that baptism again reaffirmed to me that I am doing a worthwhile work here and that my efforts are not wasted. At the baptism a set of missionaries from the other zone asked how we were there and we explained that President had given us permission and they were shocked because they had called the assistants to go to a baptism of someone else in another zone and the assistants refused even though it was a family friend of one of the elders. So it was a miracle baptism and a miracle that we were able to attend. 

  Well that is all I have for this week. As you can probably imagine I am beyond happy with how things are going and I am still loving life as a missionary. Heavenly Father is real and He loves us and He wants us to be happy. Miracles still exists and they testify to us of God's love. 

I love and miss all of you!
Sister Simkins

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Dear Family! (8/3)

I still can't believe that my Little Molly-Pop turned 10 this week! I really can't comprehend her being that old because that is how old I was when she was born and I felt so old so she can't even be that old. Time is going so fast, things are changing, I am changing, kids are growing up, but the future is bright. Happy Birthday Molly!

  This week had it's ups and downs as always. I will start with the downs because it really wasn't that bad. One night at the VC we got a call from the assistants asking if we would allow a sister to stay the night at our flat because there was a Polynesian Conference the next day and some sisters were traveling in for it. I was so pleased later that night when they dropped off my dear Tongan Sister Vea! It was so great to see her again and to catch up with her because it has been ages since I have seen her. It was a lot of fun. The down side is that she was just recovering from the FLU and she said that her companion was coming down with it and next thing I know both Sister Clarke and I had it too. I hate being sick and this stuff was bad. So not only did I have my other health issues but I was struggling with the flu as well. The upside to all of this is that Sister Clarke had it too and I know that sounds terrible but it is so much easier on a companionship when you both are sick because then you don't feel guilty for making your companion stay inside and not work. Saturday was funny because we were both so sick but we were on shift at the VC and no one could fill in for us so we tried to work and we would take turns going downstairs and sleeping on the couch. When our shift was over at 3 we went home, put our pajamas on, and went to sleep and didn't wake up until sometime after 8. We didn't feel like cooking and nothing that we had sounded good so we put our church cloths on, and went and got some Chinese food from the shop down the road. We came home, ate, said our prayers and went back to sleep and slept the whole night through. We woke up yesterday morning feeling a lot better but still not one hundred percent. I am feeling great today though so I think I am finally making my way over this. 

  Because of being sick we didn't get to do as much work as we had hoped but we still were able to find some really good investigators. At district meeting I can't remember what was said but I had the impression to go through the area book and contact some former investigators and it's funny because Sister Clarke had the same impression. We went through name after name and none of them stuck out to us except one. We went to the house and met her and she was really excited to see us. She met with missionaries about three years ago and almost got baptized but something came up so she backed out. She is from Columbia of all places and she speaks really good English so that will be great for our other Colombian recent converts. When she first opened the door she said "Missionaries! Girls!" She was so excited that were girls and that we could teach her. I can't wait to see where things go with her. 

 Well that is all for this week. I love and miss all of you and I hope that you have a great week! 

Sister Simkins