Monday, October 28, 2013

More Adventure, Fire, and a Baptism

October 28, 2013

We definitely had quite the week this week! I am really enjoying being in Iquitos. It feels more like being on the “front lines” of the battle as we try to prepare the Jungle to receive a Temple someday. I also love that we are right by our Mission President and his wife and get to spend time with them.

Last p-day, Presidente Gomez decided to play soccer with us and it was a blast. His wife got a good laugh at it! It’s also fun having more than just one Zone in the city (there’s four here) because I get to see a whole lot more people. I also love having a better hospital here…but I’ll get to that part later. J

I am really learning a lot as I “train” Hermana Dickey. Sometimes I feel like I’m the one being trained. I think I talked a little bit last week about how I had felt a little lonely because I was doing so much of the work. I am the phone answerer, the appointment coordinader, the planner, the lesson giver, the Gospel Principles class teacher, the paperwork doer, the people finder, the number counter, the Baptism planner (another part I’ll get to later), etc.  But, as I taught Gospel Principles yesterday, one of our investigators in the class got really emotional and Hermana Dickey, without words, went over and just held this lady in her arms and they both cried together.

It was then that I realized how small my part really was and how my companion was doing the most important part: Loving. Somewhere in the stress of this transfer, I started forgetting the lessons I learned in Tarapoto when I had to teach without words. I had forgotten to take a breath and just love the people. I definitely have loved the people I’ve been teaching these last few weeks, but not with the same power as before. I am so grateful for the lessons my sweet companion has taught me about the real reason I’m here.

The Hospital Story. Oh man. I was doing so well until this last week then I got sick to my stomach and couldn’t really eat and I’m sure you can imagine how my blood sugar felt about my lack of food. I started falling asleep in the middle of studies or in motokar rides and I think it scared the daylights out of my companion and, while I was sleeping…again, she made a few phone calls and I was forced to go to the hospital.

I obviously didn’t want to because I absolutely HATE those places, especially when I’m the one in the bed! It was funny. I tried to explain to them what was wrong and they just put me on a bed, stuck an IV in my hand (yes, I did not handle that one well, the Doctor called me a baby), and then took my blood sugar and informed me that I’m probably Hypoglycemic. Thanks Doc. I haven’t known that for two years already. 

In the end, it was just a stomach infection and the put some “Stomach Protector” in my IV along with the Nausea medicine, and the next day I was working almost normal.  The problem was just the stomach pain kept me from eating enough, which made my blood sugar low and my body weak. Everything’s okay now!

While I was in the Hospital, the power went out and, as if I wasn’t already freaking out enough for having a needle in my hand, I had a mini panic attack until my companion pointed out that I wasn’t hooked up to anything electrical. I felt really smart.

The hardest part about being in the hospital Friday night was that we had a baptism planned for Saturday. I was worried that it wouldn’t happen but, with a few last minute changes, Diana was baptized Sunday morning. It was such a beautiful experience.

We found Diana’s family our first week here. Diana is ten years old and lives with her dad and her little sister. Diana’s mom left them when she was just a baby, and her dad, Richard, stopped going to church after she left. Richard was very honest with us when we met. He hadn’t been to church in 10 years and wasn’t very interested but, after just one visit, he showed up at church and has been there every Sunday that we’ve been here.

As we taught his daughter, the light sparked in him again and the family was “rescued” and brought back to the Gospel that Richard once loved. It was amazing. It was also a beautiful experience for me because it was my first baptism as a Trainer. I had always had this doubt that I really could help people because I felt like I was just following my companions and letting them do everything. Now, I realize that it doesn’t matter who the missionary is, even if it is just Hermana Simonson, because God can work through any instrument, no matter how imperfect that instrument is.

I know I have said it a thousand times, but I LOVE this work. I love the trials that I pass through everyday. This week was hard. It was a lot of adventure and a whole lot of “Fire” but it ended with such a special experience that made every second worth it.

That’s really how every week is in the Mission, and that’s why I’m so happy.   A little bit of good easily weighs out a lot of bad. All is well! All is well!

Love,

Hermana Simonson

The Adventure Continues. . .

October 21, 2013

Hola Familia!

Well, first things first, I FINALLY got the packages that you guys and Grandma and Grandpa Simonson sent me. THANK YOU SO MUCH!!! I almost cried when I saw Nutella....okay, let's be honest. I did cry. The clothes were VERY well needed as well. I also loved the beautiful necklace and, my other favorite, peanut butter from Grandma and Grandpa. Thank you so much for thinking of me on my birthday.

So, I feel like I'm in a completely different mission right now. Not a good or a bad different, just a different, different. It's hard. I mean I definitely feel a little bit alone in the work sometimes as my companion keeps learning Spanish and teaching and everything. I have to take the load of just about everything. But, at the same time, it's nice to also feel like my companion is a good, close friend. I decided that we can speak English after 10:00pm, and we always have some good chats when she can talk freely. We get along great!

Our area is really cool! I was sad at first because it all looked like a really wealthy area and you all know how much I loved my humble, "tarp-hut" people. Well, now that I know the area better, I've discovered that there is an awesome balance. There are houses up on stilts for the water to rise and bridges made of 2 by 4s and little rivers and huts and it's just great! I'll have to get some pictures.

We've had so many amazing experiences these weeks. I can't remember what I have and haven't told you, so sorry if I repeat anything! We found one family where that father is inactive and neither daughter was baptized. He stopped going to church 10 years ago when his wife left them. Well, we went in and started visiting them since he first got here, and he has gone to church the two Sundays that we've been here for the first time in 10 years! It's amazing. His two daughters are getting baptized this Saturday and we are stoked to be a part of it.

We also had another experience, which, now that I look back on it, is quite hilarious. Those first few days that we were here and we didn't know Iquitos, someone would just give me an address and I'd tell it to the Motokarrista and hope he got us there. Well, one Motokarrista was really, really funny (or so he thought) and decided to drop us in the middle of nowhere and told us that that was the place we were looking for. Well...it wasn't, at all!  We were walking around like lost little girls when another Motokarrista, holding his little girl in front of him, passed by and greeted us. He passed by again a few minutes later and got the hint that we were lost. He asked if we were looking for the Mission President's house and we figured out he was a member.

Well, we told him what we were really looking for and he explained to us that we were quite a ways away from that. He told us to hop on the back of his Motokar and he took us to the place we were looking for and he himself got off of the Moto and started asking people if they knew the family we were looking for. We finally gave up, but he wouldn't just leave us. He found a little restaurant, went in and paid the lady for two meals, and left us there. He wouldn't even tell us his full name or anything, he just took off like an angel.

We are still teaching single mothers. Not in all of Iquitos, but in all of our Stake. The next day, an Elder called us and told us about how Jose, this "angel" that found us, has a sister that is a single mother and he wants us to teach her. She accepted baptism the first visit. It was a miracle and it really helped us understand that God has a plan for everything, even when we're lost. It was definitely a bit of a heartbreaker to see Jose's "house" and think of how much he really sacrificed to drive us around so much and buy us lunch. The LEAST we can do for him is help teach his sister, and we are happy to do it!

We also found an old reference card for someone in our area and we just thought, why don't we visit him? We found his house and knocked on the door and when I started to say who we were, he said "I thought you weren't ever gonna come!" He also accepted baptism the first visit.
God is looking out for us and it is truly amazing. He lives. Miracles happen. The truth exists. All is well, All is well!

Love you all so much!

Until Next Monday,

Hermana Simonson

Monday, October 14, 2013

Adventure and More Fire!

I'll never forget how my setting apart closed with the words "We now send you off on your adventure." If the adventure didn't start in Tarapoto with dengue fever and hospitals and baptisms and vine swinging, it sure started this Tuesday at 3:05pm when my plane landed in Iquitos!

I got out waiting to see who was going to be my companion, but I saw 33 Elders and not a single sister. I was confused. I was put with two Elders and sent to the Mission Offices where I waited patiently to be told what on earth was going on.

The Assistants finally saw me and told me to come meet my companion. Funny choice of words, I thought, because I had already met all the sisters in the mission. Then, he put me in front of two young, white, American girls.

I just remember thinking okay Elder, ya they're cute, but what do you want me to do with them? Then one of them read my nametag and screamed and hugged me and yelled "My CompaƱera!"  With all the intelligence I had in this moment, I only managed to look up at the Assetants and say "¿Que PUMAS???" They sure had a good laugh.

So ya, its true. I am training an AMERICAN. And opening up an area in Iquitos without Elders, without a Bishop, and without a Mission Leader. Has it been hard? Yes, oh yes it has!

We didn't know where to start, they just kind of dumped us off at a house and left. So, we walked around and found a house with a Mormon Picture and knocked on the door and the nice lady started introducing us to some members. From there we just started working!

My Companion is really great! We've had fun getting to know each other. We're making the best of a hard situation and really trying to focus on the positive things. For Example:
Elder Cruz, my AWESOME Zone Leader from Tarapoto came here with me and is my Zone Leader here and is helping us a ton. We also have some really cool members here an have found people to teach and 3 of them came to church on Sunday!  We're learning a ton and growing a lot, etc.

That first night, our District Leader called me to get to know us and I asked who his companion was and he said it was someone new in the mission...only 7 months of service. I had to laugh. He asked me if I was stuck with a new one too and I explained there were kind of two of us. Me, with 6 months, and my companion with 1 day.

He asked where she was from and then said something to the extent of "Let me get this straight. You're the Senior Companion and Trainer, but you've only been out 6 months. You're American, and your companion is American as well? The two of you are opening a new area without a Bishop or a ward mission leader...and you're not kidding with any of these details?" No, Elder, it's all true! 

It was weird for me to see that there were some Latina Companionships that were put in established areas and they all have been out longer than me. I didn't understand how it worked out that way, until a leader reminded me of an important word: Revelation. We have a purpose here.

My Companion, Sister Dickey, is getting used to things pretty well. It was funny when the Bishop welcomed us to Sacrament Meeting and told us to sit on the stand and she asked me if we always sit up there and I told her only when we give talks. She looked a little scared but she did a great job. She was only able to get out about 3 or 4 minutes of the best Spanish possible, but it was powerful.

I was left to try to take up the rest of the meeting, but it was a lot easier than I thought and I got the people laughing a bit and a few crying, so it must have been an okay last minute talk. After church, Hermana Dickey got really sick and we ended up going to the Hospital for about 5 hours. We ran into two Elders there....everyone gets sick when they start out. She was able to find someone to give her a blessing in English and it was cool. It was powerful for me because he said some of the exact same words in her blessing that I received in mine when I was in the same place: Brand new, sick, tired, not understanding a thing, going to the Hospital, etc. It made me reflect on how much I've grown in this time.

It’s amazing how God strengthens us to do the things we're called to do, even when they seem impossible. Even though we started with nothing, we pulled it out and actually exceeding some of the Mission Standards of Excellence with some of our numbers this week, which was really cool.  I was able to translate for Hermana DIckey in the Hospital, even though I didn't even know that I knew Spanish medical terms!

Some people have kind of just come to us and it looks like we might even still be able to have a Baptism this month. We also had one less active come to church for the first time in 11 years because we visited him this week. Talking on the phone was always hard for me but I’ve somehow managed to understand everything.

I am discovering lots of talents that I didn't know I have! I was feeling a little down last night (somehow exceeding the Mission Standards didn't keep me from getting yelled at by a well meaning District Leader), when an Elder from a different District called me (he had sat in on a lesson with us the night before) and asked how my companion was, and then he said "Hey, I just want you to know that you two are so special. I started crying last night after the lesson because the Spirit was just so strong. You're amazing missionaries." There are not words to describe how much I needed to hear those words.

Leaving Tarapoto was hard. I was okay until I started saying goodbye to my converts. It really is a special experience to watch how they cry as they say goodbye. But, you know what is even better than tears and them saying how much they love you? Hearing their testimonies. Hearing them quote some of your exact words, but doing it with a power and conviction that you, being their "missionary" don't quite have. I loved how each of them said "It's okay, we'll see you in the Celestial Kingdom!" It was so nice to see how the Lord had made me an Instrument in helping these people.

I tried not to look back as we headed toward the airport, but I did just say a short prayer to ask if my work there was pleasing to the Lord. I received the firmest conviction that said Yes, yes it sure was. With that knowledge, I could leave without regrets.

I love you all!  You keep me pushing forward everyday.

Until Next Time,


Hermana Simonson

Monday, October 7, 2013

Jungle, Jungle, Jungle!

(I inserted the punctuation where I could for Meg to make this easier to read.  It was quite difficult to read without any type of punctuation!  I also have to laugh at how many times she types a Spanish word here or there and doesn’t even realize it. Each week I have more and more words that I have to fix to make the letters easier to understand.  Hopefully she doesn’t completely forget English before she comes home.  Haha!)  

HOLA!

Excuse my lack of emotion in this email, but the punctuation keys are broken...of course only in the Jungle!!!

First and foremost, HAPPY BIRTHDAY JAKE!!!  I’ve been thinking about you all day long!

I’ve made it to the end of another transfer, its been another crazy week. Conference was a ton of fun and I was so pumped to be able to watch it in English. I loved the focus on The Work of Salvation, no longer just the Missionary Work and women. It was amazing. Since the people here don’t have satellite, they all came to watch it in the church, and us 5 “gringos” were in our own little room.

Funny story. The mixture of sun and dust and riding on a back of a motorcycle everyday has affected my eyes and, well, I’m officially a glasses wearer. I bought some cute little black ones and I kind of like them. Well, there’s a cute little girl in my branch that saw me this week with my new glasses, my short, straight hair, and wouldn’t talk to me and I didn’t understand why.

Then, she passed by to check on me when I was watching the conference with the Elders in English, and she heard me say something in English. Then, she passed by again during Jeffrey R. Holland’s talk and saw me crying like a baby.

At the end of it all, I went up to hug and kiss her and she almost cried and informed me that she didn’t even know who I was anymore because I was crying and speaking English and look different. She wouldn’t talk to me until I took off my glasses, and she inspected my planner to see I still was writing in Spanish. It was a heartbreaker, but really sweet at the same time. Sometimes we don’t realize how much the people really watch us.

I can’t believe how ridiculously strong Satan is right now. He sure did a good job at ruining my week!  We were pumped to bring people to conference and set a seemingly reasonable goal to bring 7 investigators to conference with us.  We ended up with nobody. We called, we passed by houses, and we did all that we could. I was bummed.

We had one investigator who already has come to church with us before accept a baptismal date, and then when we called him to remind him about conference, he asked us to please not call him again because he is Catholic.

We had a Baptism planned for this week but she couldn’t make it to conference and so today they’re going to tell us if she can still be Baptized Saturday. One awesome family was progressing, until we showed up at their house to walk to conference and they told us flat out no, even though they had been planning on it all week. Signs have started going up on houses saying that “This house is Catholic today and forever and to please just accept that”. 

Little things like this sure weigh on us, but I’m just remembering why I’m here. The little victories are the best part. Sure, all this is happening, but last night a complete family: father, mother, and 2 children committed to be Baptized and that little moment seemed to erase all of the bad that had been happening.

Nevertheless, I love, love, love this work. I love it. I love the new focus being put on the fact that this isn’t just mission work, its the work of salvation I love that now its not just about Baptisms. Its about visiting the people, helping the less actives, giving more service, teaching converts, showing love, and really just saving the people. I hope that I am really saving them.

Hermana Vasquez is headed home today...what a heartbreaker. We already said goodbye in Iquitos a month ago, but knowing that now she is really leaving the Jungle today is hard. It’s amazing how much difference one person can make in your life. I sure love that girl to death! I guess this is the hardest part of the mission; letting yourself love and love and love, but just saying goodbye at the end of it all.
I guess this is really why I am grateful for the knowledge that we are eternal. 1. Because being away from my family for this time kills me. 2. I know that one day I will see all of these people again and it will be a most joyful reunion.

This is why the Work of Salvation is so important. We have to bring these people this hope that we have. God is hastening his work. I had the most intense chills as in conference it was explained that God would indeed hasten His work in His time, followed by the powerful words Brothers and sisters, This time is NOW!  I know it is. I am so glad to be a part of it.

I am also very aware of the manner in which God is blessing me to be a part of it. As I reread of the blessings mentioned in my setting apart this week, I remembered that I had been promised to learn the language almost immediately and find comfort in the culture. As the Amasifuen’s gave me a plate of complete fried fish: eyeball, tail, and all with juane (yellow rice and chickens foot fried in a banana leaf) and tacacao (banana pounded with a stone and mixed with green onion then made into a ball) and I ate it all with out thinking twice, I realized how real that promise is.

I was also informed this week that even the American Missionaries that are already ending their missions never talk with the people just to talk like I do, their Spanish is only for the lessons and meetings. I had no idea that I was really that advanced with the language. My companion looked at me very seriously and said that I really do have an amazing gift. God wants me to be here and He is helping me out every step of the way. I love it!

Love you all so much. Thanks for everything!


Hermana Simonson

Coconuts in the Plaza and NEW glasses :) 

Part of the village where Hermana Simonson lives