Well, it’s a good thing that I wrote all about loving this work last Monday morning, because Monday afternoon and the week that followed were almost enough to change my mind! Okay, I don’t think I could change my mind, but it was a really hard week. Last week I forgot to mention (because I completely doubted that it applied to me) that it was a Transfer Day. After Internet, we went to the Offices and got together as a zone to hear the Transfers. We did the typical transfer game and I wasn’t even going to stand up to play because I had just been transferred last time. I played anyway and they narrowed it down to the fact that it was a Hermana. Hermana Dickey instantly started crying knowing that one of the two of us was going and I was really confused. Then they said that this Hermana had a Batman Shirt. What? “Hermana Simonson!!!!! Have your bags packed and be in the offices tomorrow at 6am!”
I went up to Elder Cruz after (the one that has been my Zone Leader my whole mission) and said, “Well, after all this time, here’s my last receipt I’ll ever give you.” He started laughing and said “I don’t think so, Hermana, the cambios son locos.” And laughed hysterically. I got the hint that I was getting changed from my area, but not from my zone. Then my heart started beating rapidly as I realized that there weren’t any more areas in the zone that I could be sent to. I went into mini-shock as reality hit me that I was to open a new area. Again. I thought of everything that I went through these last 6 weeks. Opening an area is like Mile 1 of a race. You have to get out fast to get started. After that, it’s not that you really slow down, it’s just that you get into a groove and start pacing yourself and picking them off one by one. With opening an area, you have to “get out fast” and give everything you absolutely have to find people to teach since you’re starting from nothing, win the confidence of the members, get yourself a place to live, find someone to give you food and laundry, and so on. After the first transfer, you’re a little more established and you keep working hard, but you have your place. Learning I was going to open another area seriously just about did me in.
As I was up all night packing my bags, I knelt down to pray. I was still exhausted—sick from my Malaria Scare—and just not up for the challenge. I cried out with all my heart. “Heavenly Father, PLEASE don’t make me open another area. I just barely got things going here. I am exhausted. I am sick. I have no more strength. PLEASE just cut me a break.” A few hours later, I was at the Offices again and they announced where our transfers were to. Sure enough, Hermana Simonson was opening another area. And training. More than enough stress and responsibility….or so I thought. Elder Cruz came up to me again, looking overly excited, and asking me if I had been given my assignment. I responded that I would be training and opening an area. He then asked about my OTHER assignment and I just about died. I laughed and said “There’s not possibly anything more I could have to do.” He laughed, walked away, and came back and handed me a binder that says “Hermana Simonson: SISTER TRAINING LEADER.” And made a comment about how much fun we’d have sitting together in Leadership Councils.
Normally I’d be up for this kind of leadership position, but this week was different. I didn’t need anything else on my shoulders. I wanted to cry. Sister Training leader is like a Female Zone Leader, but it’s a solo calling, your companion doesn't help you. And, instead of being over one zone, I’m over two. And, it’s a mission-long calling which means ten months of this thing. I was done. I couldn’t handle one more thing.
As the day went on, I received my new companion, Hermana Hernandez from Chihuahua Mexico (she knows Elder Kyler Brinkerhoff!!). She’s a new convert to the church and has a lot of faith. She has been my reality that I actually don’t speak Spanish. At all. I speak flat out Peruvian. I don’t understand her too well and she doesn’t always understand me. Some of the members ask me to translate for her because it’s a completely different dialect. Anyway, she flew in and got here late at night, and then we realized something. We don’t have a house yet. Okay, there was a house but we didn’t have keys to it. Or beds there to sleep in. Long story short, we slept in the mission home which was actually okay because it has air conditioning AND hot water. Two things I haven’t even thought about for months. It was awesome. I didn’t have clothes to wear, so Hermana Gomez and President Gomez found some of their daughter’s old clothes to put on for Zone Conference.
The week passed by slow and rough. The mission has been big on stress relief and gave us calendars to track our stress and books on how to take care of it. Our zone leaders, Elder Cruz and Elder Truman, came by to check on us one morning and saw my calendar that was filled with orange and red and asked if I was okay. Being me, I just laughed and said something about how it was a joke and that I was really fine. I was a lying missionary for a moment. A couple more days passed and I was so filled with stress and anxiety that I finally woke up on morning and asked my District Leader (although he’s been the cause of lots of my stress), Elder Muñoz, to come give me a blessing. He came over and I expected him to just give the blessing and go, but he came in and sat on the floor in front of me (we don’t have stools in our house quite yet) and looked up at me and said “tell me everything.”
He listened well, and then pulled out a book and read off the signs of Anxiety and asked me if I had been feeling those things and I told him that it was right on. He asked me a lot of questions about my personal prayers and my journal writing. He told me to put up pictures on my walls and told us to take an hour off that day to try to put our room together and get unpacked since we’d been living out of suitcases all week. He asked me if he wanted me to give me the blessing or if it would be better to have his new companion, Elder Scott, do it since he can speak English.
I decided it would be good to hear my native tongue and asked his companion to give the blessing. He had not understood a single thing that had been said so I explained the situation again in English and he was super excited, it was his first blessing. It turns out that he had been feeling down because he hasn’t been able to do much because of his Spanish, and giving me a blessing was the first time he really felt like a missionary and felt like he could make a difference. It was really cool. He saw me later that day and was super excited to ask if I felt better.
Okay, side-note about Elder Scott. He is Jake Powell the second. It freaks me out. I swear they are twins. I was feeling super De Ja Vu after he gave me the blessing and then I finally figured out why when I made the connection. Glasses, hair, everything the same! My companion saw my farewell pictures and asked me why Elder Scott was at my farewell. So funny. But, so creepy.
Anyway, this week was a great week for me to see the healing power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ work in my own life as I faced “the first mile” all over again. I know that I can do it. I realized at last that it’s never the task that we fear: it’s our personal ability to complete that task. That’s why I finally realized that the key is to take the “me” part out of it. I’ve never done anything in this work and I never will. It’s the Savior’s work and if I just forget my part and focus on what the Savior can do in this new area if I just live worthily to have His Spirit, the stress goes away and I know without a doubt that Hermana Hernandez and I, working as the hands of the Lord, will be witnessing miracles together for these next six weeks.
In zone conference, Hermana Gomez read out loud a letter that I had written to our President a few weeks ago explaining how crazy I thought he was when I first got sent to Internacional with Hermana Dickey, but testifying about how I knew that it was where we belonged and about the miracles we’d seen. I know that this new area with Hermana Hernandez won’t be any different.