Monday, September 29, 2014

Dear Family! (9/28)

   Another week come and gone and now another month come and gone. This week was a harder week than I have had in a while but the hard times weren't as bad because I have an awesome companion and being with her makes things a little bit better. 

  Long story short either we dropped our investigators or they dropped us so by Wednesday we had NO ONE left. It was the strangest thing. Everyone that we had been working with just vanished so to speak. If you remember our amazing investigator who prayed to know if the church was true before we even met her officially moved to the South Island to live with her mom. It was really sad but it was what needed to happen. Her mom supports her decision to be baptized whereas her grandparents who she was living with are anti towards there church so there would have been a lot of opposition if she had stayed here. At first I wanted to tell her that she needed to come back and get baptized up here and then I humbled myself and admitted that that was terribly selfish to think like that and I had the sweet assurance from the spirit letting me know that it was better for her to be down there. I am so sad that I won't get to see her baptism because I really love her but I know that we will remain life long friends. We get to keep in contact with her through the phone at the VC and when we called the other night she said that she is planning a trip next year to America to see some other friends that she has and she said she will definitely come to New Mexico to visit. I told her not to waste her time that there wasn't anything in New Mexico but she insisted that she is coming. I am really happy for her and right now she is set to be baptized on the 18th of October. She said she will email me photos and I will forever count her as my baptism even though I won't actually get to see her being baptized. 
   I also found out this week that the first convert of my mission, Pauline, is still really active and she is preparing to go to the temple! It has been a year since she was baptized and she is taking temple prep and is doing really well. She had a family thing to go to one Sunday afternoon and her ward meets at 1 in our building so she came to our 9 o'clock meeting instead. I stood up after sacrament and there she was sitting in the back of the chapel. I almost plowed people over to get to her. We couldn't talk for very long but she still recognized me and she said that she is still doing really well and she is very very happy! This was the sweetest moment to know that someone that I found and taught is now preparing to make sacred covenants in the temple. Her husband passed away about 15 years ago and so now she has the opportunity to be sealed to him. Isn't that the sweetest thing ever?  I am still so excited for it. She may or may not go while I am still here but if she does I would get to go with her. I guess we'll see what happens. 

  I had a fight with agency again this week. Sometimes agency frustrates me so much! I really thought I would be over it by now but I am not because it just hurts when you are teaching people and they can feel the spirit and they know it is true and they still don't accept it. We have been working with this lovely lady for about a month now and we were helping her quit smoking and she was doing really well. We have been teaching her a bit by bit but she wasn't progressing at all. We decided to take one of the senior couples from the VC over to visit her with us. They helped us teach the restoration and it was so powerful and I know she felt the spirit. The senior sister handed her a Book of Mormon to read Moroni's promise and she read the first verse and then all the sudden she closed the book, looked up and said "I don't want to do this whole mormon thing anymore." I was gutted! I know we at least planted a seed however and I hope that she continues to ponder on the things that we shared with her and that one day she will come to accept it.  It is so hard because I know how sweet and precious the gospel is and it never gets easier to see someone throw it away. I just know that Heavenly Father loves all of His children and I have faith that she will come around one day.

   Well that is all this week! I love and miss all of you! Happy Birthday Dad and Steve! Have a great week!!!!

Sister Simkins 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Dear Family! (9/14)

  Today marks 16months since I left home and began this marvelous adventure. I still can't believe as I look back how many amazing experiences I have been blessed with along with all the lessons I have learned. It truly has been the best thing I have ever done!
  As I looked back on this week however I realized that I don't have much to report. It was a pretty laid back week apart from our visit to the temple and the chance that I had to see all of my companions. As I hugged each one of these great sisters that I have been able to serve with I realized again just how blessed I have been with my companions and now I will have these life long friendships to enjoy just because I decided to serve a mission. The mission was divided into three groups because it is too big for all of us to attend  session all together but it worked out that I was on shift at the VC everyday during the temple trips so I got to see the other three groups.
  We went to the temple on Wednesday and it was a special experience because I realized that the next time I am in this temple it will be on the last day of my mission because all of the departing missionaries get to go through a session with President and Sister Rudd before they go to the airport. The New Zealand Temple is beautiful and it was great to be in there with so many missionaries and people that I love. We completely filled the session and there were just a few people in the session that weren't missionaries. We didn't get to spend as much time in the Celestial Room because of the size of our group but I was grateful for the time we were given.
  We taught an interesting lesson this week. Remember the investigator that I mentioned last week? The one in a dark place? Well anyway we went around one night with our Relief Society President to clean her house so we were wearing service cloths and were ready to work. We knocked on the door and another lady answered it and invited us in. She said that she was a friend of our investigator and then our investigator walked into the room. We told them that we were here to clean the house and before we could start cleaning the friend started asking us questions and she too is in a really dark place. I knew I needed to share something with her but I could go in so many different directions that I didn't know what was best. I looked at the coffee table in the middle of the room and sitting on it was the Plan of Salvation pamphlet that we had left there the previous week. I got down on my knees and opened the pamphlet to a picture of Christ kneeling in the Garden of Gethsemane and I just started talking about the atonement. Sister Perry followed my lead and bore a powerful testimony and at the end both women were in tears. The spirit was so strong and we got the friend's address and information to send the local sisters to visit her and we have a return appointment with our investigator to teach her more and clean her house. It felt a bit weird teaching the gospel wearing sweatpants because I am so used to teaching in a skirt but I know that the spirit was directing that lesson.
  So I guess that was my week. Things are great! Life is good! I love New Zealand and part of me wants to consider moving back here but then I am reminded just how far away it is so I think I will settle for just coming back for a vacation. I hope things are will at home for all of you! Have a great week!
Sister Simkins

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Dear Family! (9/7)

  Good good things are happening. We had a great week and Sister Perry are enjoying getting to know each other. We are SO similar. I think we are more alike than any of my other companions. It's funny though because she is the same as I was when I started my mission and she has the same goals and outlook on life. She says that she wants to find in her mission the things that I have found in mine. It's really cool because I have a goal now of helping her realize how amazing she is. We just have had very similar life experiences and I want her to realize what I have realized. I am really enjoying being her companion. She is a great missionary and I couldn't ask for a better sister!

  This week Sister Perry and I contacted a referral from the elders and we met this lady who invited us into her home. To put it in the simplest way possible she was in a really dark place both mentally and physically. She shared with us some of her life struggles and it was really sad. I was looking at her and looking around her house and I asked myself "How can we possibly help her?" then I was reminded by a quote that I had read about a week ago during my person study which says "The Lord works from the inside out. The world works from the outside in. The world would take people out of the slums. Christ takes the slums out of people, and then they take themselves out of the slums. The world would mold men by changing their environment. Christ changes men, who then change their environment. The world would shape human behavior, but Christ can change human nature." and that was by President Kimball. At his moment I just wanted to help her so much. I wanted her to accept the gospel so that she can change her life and come into the light. I could see the potential within her and I think for a small moment I was able to view her the way that Heavenly Father views her and I just wanted her to reach this potential. After talking for a while we invited her to church and she said she would come. I then felt inspired to ask her if we could help her clean up her house a little bit. She said that we could and so Sister Perry cleaned the kitchen while I vacuumed and clean the living room. She sat there and kept saying "Thank you so much. No one has ever done anything like this for me. It was a special experience. She didn't come to church but Sister Perry and I are still hopeful that she will let us into her life.
  I learned again this week that Heavenly Father knows me and is aware of me. Too bad I learned it because I am an idiot. We got a text one night from an old lady in our ward asking us to come help her with a picture frame. The next say we stopped by to help her and she wanted to take the original painting out of the frame that she had bought at a second hand shop and then she wanted to replace it with one of the Savior. She started off by telling us that she was so excited to have found this nice frame that was exactly the right size for the print of the Savior. We agreed that it was really special. She then explained what she wanted us to do and we started working. She said that she started working on it and then she stopped her self because she was afraid of breaking the glass so she decided to ask us to do it instead. The frames here are a bit different than the ones I am used to from back home. There are a bunch of little metal brackets folded down to keep everything in place and so we were supposed to fold these brackets up to slip the old painting out a slip the new one in. Well obviously I have never done anything like this before. We were using butter knives to pull up the brackets and I had a particularly tough one and so I used a bit more force and I lost hold of the knife and guess what happen... I broke the glass. I felt sick to my stomach and I almost cried. This lady is the sweetest old thing and she just loves us and Jesus Christ so much and I felt like I had crushed her dreams. I promised her that I would replace the glass and take care of it for her but I could tell that she was really sad and disappointed too. I hate disappointing people and causing them sadness so it was a hard situation for me to be in. I didn't care how much it would cost I was going to replace the glass. I explained that we couldn't go shopping until Monday but that I would buy the glass then. Well a few days later Sister Perry and I were in town eating lunch when I remembered the glass and had that sick feeling inside come back and I had the thought that since there was a second hand shop down the street we should go there and see if there was another frame of a similar size that we could take the glass from. We quickly walked to the shop and I walked in and the first thing I saw leaned up against the wall was a black frame that seemed to be the same size as the other one. The frame itself was in really bad condition but the glass was fine. I bought it and prayed that it would work. It cost me a whole 50 cents. After church yesterday we went over to this sweet lady's home and sure enough the glass was a perfect fit! It sounds like a dumb story but it was so perfect that I know Heavenly father was watching out for me and this sweet sister. What are the odds that I even thought to go to the shop and then the first thing I see is this frame? I mean it wasn't even by any other frames. It was just sitting there against the wall away from everything else and it happened to be exactly the perfect size. This was not a coincidence I know that it all worked out through some divine help. This is just another small example of the love that Heavenly Father has us as His children.
  Well that is all from me this week. We get to go to the temple on Wednesday and I am so excited!!!!!!! I love and miss all of you!!!!!
Sister Simkins

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Dear Family! (8/31)

  Well again this week I find myself struggling for words as I try to explain this week. So much has happened and I have been so full of a range of different emotions that I don’t even know where to begin.
   Monday night we were doing our daily planning and our phone rang and it was Elder Hawkins. Sister Clarke answered it and put it on speaker but it kept messing up so she took it off speaker to try and hear better. I could hear Elder Hawkins talking on the other end but I couldn’t make out what he was saying. Sister Clarke listened for a moment and then her face lit up and she seemed really excited. I thought at first that she was just messing with me because I was watching her so closely. She seemed to get more and more excited as she talked but I couldn’t figure out what they were talking about. She then said “do we just wear missionary cloths? It’s not like we’ll be out digging holes.” And by then I was really confused. After she hung up she looked at me and said “You are going to be so excited! Guess what we get to do tomorrow! We get to go into the temple and clean the crystals from the chandeliers!” When she said this I was filled with so much excitement and joy that I almost cried. Those that know me well would know that this is sort of a dream come true. Basically what had happened is Elder Hawkins was talking to a member of the Temple Presidency and they were saying how they were short on staff to clean the chandelier and he wondered if Elder Hawkins could send some of the sisters up to help. Elder Hawkins called President Rudd who approved so Tuesday after district meeting we were able to go into the temple and help clean the chandelier. It was an experience that I will never forget. Even in the hurry to get the temple cleaned and ready to re-open, things were still so peaceful and relaxing. We dressed in old white temple dresses and were taken to a part in the temple where there was a big table and laid out all across this table was hundreds and hundreds of amazing crystals from one of the chandeliers. We then spent the next hour and a half picking up each crystal one by one and polishing every side and then laying them neatly on another table. This was a special time for Sister Clarke and me because as we polished the crystals we talked about our experiences the first time we went to the temple and it really helped us grow together as companions. As I was polishing a crystal I looked across the room and hanging on the back wall was the painting of Christ’s second coming where He is surrounded by angels and there is a desert landscape underneath (the one that used to be in the boys room) and as I was looking at this paining got this overwhelming feeling and the thought occurred to me that “Normally I go to the temple to feel the love from my Father in Heaven and my Savior but today I came to the temple to show my love for Them.” I then looked at all of the crystals that we were working on and I felt so happy that I could be offering such a small contribution to show my love for Them. It was a tender experience that caused me to ponder more on not only the love that I constantly feel from my Father in Heaven and Jesus Christ but also the love that I have for Them. I realized that it is my love for Them that really brings me happiness in this life. Yes my family brings me more happiness compared to anything else, but because of the love I have for Heavenly Father, I am willing to do what I need to do to one day live with my family forever, and then because of the love that He has for me He is willing to help me get there. Everything wonderful in this life comes from God whether we choose to acknowledge it or not. However, it’s when we choose to acknowledge it that life becomes so much sweeter.  I don’t know if I am even making sense or not but I guess I realized this week the happiness I enjoy is not only because of the love that Heavenly Father has for me, but it also comes from the love that I have for my Heavenly Father and I only realized that because I was given the opportunity to clean His house. It was such a marvelous experience. After we had been polishing for a while the workers informed us that they needed to sand the walls in preparation for new wallpaper and they didn’t want the dust to settle on the crystals so we had to stop working and cover the crystals. Instead of leaving they told us that we could wash the chairs in the endowment room so we did and that was a rewarding experience as well. After we were done washing the seats we were allowed to go and sit in the Celestial Room for a bit. This was a special experience because I had a lot on my mind and I needed a bit of encouragement. The Spirit is funny sometimes because I feel like I get impressions sometimes that prepare me for the future. I had one such impression and it made me a little nervous and so sitting in the Celestial Room really helped me calm my nerves and feel the spirit. We weren't sure if we were going to have a temple trip anytime soon and so I felt so blessed to be able to just sit in the Celestial Room just in case I didn't get to go until I was finishing my mission.

  After we were finished in the Celestial Room we walked back down to the VC to have our weekly interview with Elder Hawkins and him and everyone else in the VC were acting really strange. The other sisters had gotten their transfer news and we had a missed call from our zone leaders. We called them back and I was really nervous. Sister Clarke talked to them and they asked if we had talked to president and we said that we hadn't and so they said that president would be calling and they didn't tell us anything else. As soon as I heard this I knew that my impression had been right all along. I always know it before it happens. So president called later that night to ask me to TRAIN ANOTHER MISSIONARY! I wasn't surprised because I have felt like I was training again and sure enough I was right. Sister Clarke was transferred to Tauganga and she was really sad to go but it was time. Can you believe this though? I will have only had one companion my whole mission (besides my trainer) that I didn't train. Everyone has assured me that I have the record for training the most missionaries because I am up to 7 now. Oh my goodness. You would think I would be used to it by now but I still feel as inadequate as ever and that is why I am so nervous. But I have faith that all will be well. My new companion's name is Sister Perry and she is from Canberra Australia. She is really nice and really sweet and she turned 20 a few days ago so my first companion ever that is younger than me. We are enjoying our time together so far and I am happy because training her will help me stay completely focused for the rest of my mission. I realized this week that I will barely finish her 12 training program right before I leave. This really put in perspective that I have barely anytime left. I felt it more this week than I ever have. I really will be home in no time and that makes me really sad. But being with Sister Perry helps me stay focused because I want to train her right and not make her homesick by me always talking about home. The funny thing is that she has no idea that I will be going home in two months. She asked me how long I have been out and I said "About a year now." and she said "Wow so you only have six months left?" and I said "Ya something like that." I want to keep it that way as long as I can so that we can just dedicate ourselves completely to the work. It should be a really great transfer and I am excited! And we found out that we have a temple trip next week too so I am really really excited for that!!!!!!

  Well that is all I have for this week! I hope all is well at home. Thank you all for your love and support!

Sister Simkins