Monday, December 30, 2013

Christmas! Half Way Mark! And the Work Continues...

December 30, 2013


You know what? It was honestly the best Christmas I’ve ever had. It didn’t matter that there were no packages or presents or that I was thousands of miles from home. I could not have had a better experience and there is no place I would have rather been for my Christmas this year.

It started Tuesday night when we knew we wouldn’t be able to have any appointments because just about everyone was out drinking or lighting fireworks. So, we decided to use the opportunity to find new people to teach. The bright idea: Caroling. The six of us (our awesome district) went all over our area singing together. If we came to a house where they weren’t drinking, we automatically knew it was a golden family.

One problem, caroling does NOT exist in Peru. Everyone thought we were crazy: like the people in the Pharmacy that we walked into or the people on the bus that we randomly decided to hop on. In the end, we did get some good contacts and have a list of people to try to visit this week.

Wednesday morning, the zone got together to go play soccer on some random farm. It was actually a lot of fun! And, I didn’t break any arms, so that’s a plus
J  There was some lady walking by and good not resist the site of some crazy Christmas morning multi-ethnicity soccer game in the rain and watched the WHOLE thing. She was yelling and screaming and enjoying every moment.

Then came the Skyping part. Once I actually got logged in and saw that it was going to work, I loved every moment of it. For just a moment, my whole family was here in Iquitos with me. That’s the best present I could have had.

After that, a few Elders invited us to go eat with them in some American-type
Sports Bar Restaurant. The upstairs bar was reserved for the missionaries….way too ironic. We laughed a lot together as we talked about the experiences we’ve had together this transfer and I knew that I was among family.

Who would of thought that I had such a large family from Maine and California to Ecuador, Guatemala, Chile, etc.? I love watching how the Gospel of Jesus Christ is some sort of Eternal tie that binds us all together no matter where we go.

We had our Missionary Choir presentation and my violin playing actually wasn’t that horrible! That was a talent that I never believed would be such an advantage in my mission. Now, if I can just find a good use out of running, I will be one happy little Hermana!

As far as Hump Day (HALF WAY DONE!) goes, I really didn’t do anything. I wasn’t up to burning anything or ordering Delivery or anything like that. For me,
it was just another day in the field and another reminder that I need to step it up and give my all because my time here is so incredibly short.

Jhuly, a sister we’ve been teaching this month was Baptized on Saturday and it was beautiful…and stressful! Her Baptism was to be Saturday at 4, but Saturday morning at 10 our District Leader called and told us that our investigator that’s getting Baptized this next Saturday needed to have an Interview with President Gómez and that he could only do it that day at 4, during the Baptism.

We had to find members to do splits with us and I sent my companion to the baptism and went to the Interview. I was happily sitting outside of President’s office thinking about how great it is that Jhuly was probably entering the water right then.

I went over to the Church after the appointment to get a glimpse of the end of the Baptism and as my Motokar pulled up, I saw my companion, almost in tears, standing in front of some guy and Jhuly, who was in normal clothes and perfectly dry.

I got there right as my poor companion started to say “I just want to tell
you that…” and she saw me and said “that this is my companion Hermana
Simonson and she can answer all of your questions!”

She pushed me in front of her and hid a little bit. The guy that was there was Jhuly´s ex-boyfriend (he didn’t take the whole law of chastity thing too well,
hence the “ex”) who showed up to tell her that she was making the biggest
mistake of her life and that he would marry her if she didn’t get baptized.

He started yelling at me saying that we couldn’t force her into anything and that he would never come to this church of the devil and lots of other fun things like that.

I asked Jhuly if she wanted to be Baptized and she eagerly responded yes Normally, I think I would have been able to handle the situation more tactfully, but I had already had a stressful day.

As the boyfriend yelled at me about how I’m from the Devil´s Church, I finally just said, with the best smile and patience that I could muster “Brother, I don’t understand what the problem is will you please just tell us how we can help you so we can move on the Baptismal Service that should have started an hour ago?”

He just kept saying that he didn’t know anything about the Church and so I cut in trying to get his address to send the Elders there…he didn’t like that so much.

“Brother, here’s all you need to know about the church. It’s the same Church that Jesus Christ himself established when he walked the earth, restored by the Prophet Joseph Smith and is the only true church that exists and Jhuly has chosen to be baptized because she knows it’s the only thing that can make her completely happy.”

That shut him up for long enough for Jhuly to walk away and get changed into her white dress. In the end, the service was beautiful and, you know what, the boyfriend finally gave in and entered the chapel to watch.

There’s never an easy baptism, but each one is so incredibly worth it. No matter how hard it is for me to get the courage to testify, “even in opposition” like my setting apart blessing says, “it has never led me astray”.

Love- Hermana Simonson

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Member. The Companion. The Arm.

Well I didn’t think I was going to be writing today since I’m calling on Wednesday and today isn’t P-Day, but they called us last night and said that we are writing today so here I am!

I realized that most of my letters are usually a little negative, so I am just going to be flat out funny today. Okay, maybe not all these things are funny, but better to look at them that way than let me get down about it…right?

The Member: Remember that family that I told you about that was stressing me out because they wouldn't accept a Baptism date and I just wanted to help them so bad? I was praying a ton for them this week and didn't know what else to do. As we left our house to go visit them again, I remembered a comment the Relief Society President had made when she said "How funny, I have someone with that same name on my list." I pulled out my Ward Directory and, sure enough, there she was. But not just her name. Her address. Her birthday. EVERYTHING. She's been a member this whole time! I don't understand. 

The Companion: Well, this was fun. My companion was in the Hospital twice this week, for what? Extreme Constipation. The first time they gave her some pills and she told me she felt better so I assumed she's used the bathroom. Then, while we were waiting in the church for our Baptism Interviews she mentioned that she still hadn't used the bathroom....for two weeks! So, they sent us to the Hospital again. We got there at about 10 at night and a few minutes later our District Leader and his companion arrived, they didn't like the idea of the two of us being alone in the city part of Iquitos in the middle of the night. 

She was given a list of different things to try, but we couldn't find them in any pharmacy, so we just kept walking in circles trying to figure out what on earth to do. Finally, we found a good Pharmacy and our District Leader tried handing her suppositories and enemas and Ex-lax and she's refusing every last little thing, then started to complain again about her stomach hurting. So, poor little Elder Muñoz got frustrated and stormed out and flagged down a Motokar. "How much to the cemetery?" "Which one?" "It doesn't matter, just the closest one. And fast!"  "But..why?" "Because this woman won't take her medicine!" I died of laughter.

The Arm:
Sometimes, we forget we're missionaries, and we try to think we're soccer players. Every month, our big P-Day is the multi zone Soccer Tournament in the huge Iquitos Stadium. We have Zone Jerseys made and everything. Usually, the Hermanas are just kind of like Cheerleaders, because it gets pretty ugly down there, but the Elders ALWAYS make me play. Just me. I don't understand why. They told me because it pays off to have someone who runs fast and that the Elders literally can't touch. So I play.

The only female out there. Our zone was doing great, but we hit a rough spot in one of the games so we all started getting a little frustrated and playing harder. I was playing defense and an Elder was getting close to the goal and he's one of the best ones so we were all nervous. I came up to him from the side to kick the ball away and we both slammed the ball and, somehow, he went airborne and CRACK! He landed. And didn't get up.

Everyone in the stands was screaming and chanting my name and I just went red and wanted to run and hide. Two of the Elders from my zone ran over to the stands and yelled at everyone to stop chanting and said "Females don't take this kind of attention as a compliment!" Hahaha.

A few other Elders were saying to just keep playing and that this Elder was just being a baby because he was embarrassed that a Sister took him out. I still don't even understand how it happened because we didn't even touch one another, we just happened to kick the same ball. One Elder in my zone studied to be a Doctor and checked the arm out and said that it wasn't broken so we all believed him. But, the next day I showed up to Choir Practice and, there he was, with a cast. Never, ever in my life have I been so embarrassed!

Anyway, my time is up for now but I will talk to you on Wednesday!!!!!!!!!!!!

Also, my Zone Leader just told me there's a package in the office so we'll see if it's the one from you guys or grandma and grandpa or Hermana Vasquez to see which one got lost! But right now it looks like I'll at least be getting something. :)

Love you!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

As Nephi of Old

December 17, 2013


Well, I feel really bad to tell you this because I know how much effort and sacrifice you guys put into the Christmas Package, but since it´s the thought that counts you might as well tell me what you sent me so I can appreciate the package because, long story short, I won`t be getting it.

My Zone Leaders went to get the mail and had the package in their hands, and then they set it down to get their haircut…and then they left it there and I’m sure you can imagine what some Peruvian did when they saw a U.S. package on the floor. My Zone Leaders were really, really sad to tell me about it, they put it off all week, I hadn’t even known that it had come!

I hope you guys aren’t too mad, it wasn’t their fault. I guess it’s good for me because I was getting a little too excited about it that I think I took my mind off the fact that if anything, Christmas should be a time for me to focus on the Savior and work even harder than any other day in the field.

We had a Christmas themed Zone Conference this week and it was a lot
of fun, I learned a lot!  I also had a few other cool experiences this
week. We had a meeting as a Zone where we were going over the things
that the zone has accomplished in these past few months with charts
and things like that.

Then, Elder Cruz pointed out that in October we got another companionship in the zone and how the zone started to do
better in everything. Then, he pointed out how the next transfer we
got another new companionship and that it was incredible to see what
was happening in the zone. It was so cool to see that I was in both of
those two new companionships. Opening two areas and training two new missionaries is not easy, but wow, so worth it! I really can make a
difference here!

They keep on adding new stuff to my calling and one of those things
this week was that I have to go visit each one of the Sister’s
Investigators that has a Baptism date to see how I can help them
progress. It makes me laugh because sometimes I swear I can’t help my
own investigators progress but I am just doing what I’m told!

Anyway, Hermana Dickey and Hermana Allphin are teaching a sister from Belgum. . .in English and, I’ll be honest, I was really, REALLY nervous  for the lesson not just because my English is getting worse, but also because I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to be as bold or talk with as much conviction in English.

I thought that it would be hard because I can be bold in Spanish because I feel a little bit beside myself, so I can say a lot of things that I wouldn’t say in English. Anyway, I surprised myself at how easy it was to just come out and speak in English as bravely as I would in Spanish. It was cool for me because sometimes I think I’m just out here being Hermana Simonson and creating Hermana Simonson the missionary, and that I’ll come back in a few months and dig Meghan out of the Garage and go back to normal.

This was such a simple experience, but it helped me realize that I
really am changing and becoming a new person everyday, it doesn’t
matter what language I’m speaking or where I’m living!

I was feeling really stressed out this week because we’ve been through
a LOT lately.  I was at another one of those points where I just
wanted to give up, but as we talked about Christmas I just thought
about my Savior and everything that He has done for me and how my
whole purpose in being here is for Him.

He was born to a young woman in a humble place on just some normal night, but He changed the world forever. Then, I remembered a similar event that took place almost 200 years ago. This time a young man, in a humble place, on some normal morning. He knelt down in prayer and because of this moment, the true Church, the exact same Church that Jesus Christ himself established 2000 years earlier was restored on the earth. When I just remember that proclaiming these two marvelous events are really my only job when it all comes down to it, the stress goes away and I am so incredibly happy!

Sometimes I just think of Nephi “having been born of goodly parents”
or the Stripling Warriors “we did not doubt that our mothers knew it.”
When I think of my Testimony of this Gospel, I feel an overwhelming
sense of gratitude for being born into it. I am so lucky to have been
born to parents who raised me in the Gospel.

I see the broken families here and I am SO grateful to know that I was born in a great family and taught to make good decisions. I was always loved and taken care of. I was brought to church even when I didn’t want to.  I was supported in music and sports of every kind. I was pushed to do well in school. I had a job and got a small glimpse of responsibility. I went to a good University. I made it to the Temple. I was supported as a missionary to bring the Gospel to a humble people. 

Mom and Dad, I know we’ve had lots of hard things as a family and sometimes you feel bad for the things that happened but you need to know that I would not change a thing in the life that I had and that life I have now and the life I know I’ll have after.

I love you so incredibly much and am so grateful for the things you have given me. My family truly is the biggest blessing in my life.

Love Always,

Hermana Simonson

Lost in the Work

December 9, 2013

Well, it’s official, I’m a grandma! Okay, in the mission sense of the word. I had the amazing experience of watching on of my converts Baptize someone else on Saturday. I was lucky enough to get permission to swing by my last area to watch Juan baptize his little sister. So amazing! This work just keeps going forward.

I am actually starting to really like my leadership calling.  When I entered the MTC, I thought I understood what it is like to really lose yourself in the work. When I entered the field, I started to understand more about what it means to lose yourself in the work. When I opened my first area and started to train, I was sure I knew what it is like to lose myself in the work. Now that I am opening an area again, training again, and being over the sisters in several zones, I am really figuring out what it means to be completely lost in the work. 

Before, my day started at 6:30 and ended at 9:30 after the daily planning session. 
Then, I started being in charge of a few other things when I started training. Now, the second I close my planner, finish updating the Area Book and start to clean a little bit, the phone rings. Without fail. I have seven sisters to keep track of…just imagine the drama and problems that come from 7 sisters trying to save souls in the Amazon Jungle! But it’s okay, I love helping them. I see them as the sisters I never had. One night this week, I was finally ready to get showered and get to bed when, of course, the phone rang. This time, it wasn’t the sisters so I thought it would be a short conversation, but it ended up being Zone Leaders from one of the zones I’m over with a list of questions about 2 of the companionships in their zone.  The conversation lasted forever and next thing I know, I woke up the next morning, still in my dress and shoes.

Another thing I have to do are “Ammonitas” which are basically the random obedience checks that I used to hate getting, but I hate giving them even more! But, I’ve learned that if you go into it with the right Spirit, it can actually be a good experience for everyone and we’ve all ended up laughing every time and the sisters always end up thanking me for coming in the end. It’s a lot better to just serve with love than to try to be the big, scary leader!

I also went to my first Mission Leadership Council this week. That was a really neat experience. It gave me a new vision of the work. It was a really formal setting, so it was a little weird at first, but I really liked it. Me and my Zone Leaders had to stand up together several times and present our results from the last month, our goals for the next month, how we’re helping our missionaries, our focus points, and things like that to the Council and to the Mission President and his wife. It was really cool, I was really thankful for Elder Cruz to be there to help me figure out what on earth I had to do!

I remember how dad told me that you guys will always love Hermana Vasquez for keeping me safe in the jungle, you should do the same with Elder Cruz! He’s been my Zone Leader since I started out, to when I got my second companion, to when I first started training, to sit with me in the Leadership Council. He’s definitely been one of the many “angels and protectors” that I was promised when I was set apart!

I know I’ve said it a thousand times, but I really, really love this work. I’m so happy to be here and am a little bit happier everyday!

Love you tons!

Hermana Simonson

The Mission Leadership Council representatives from 9 de Octubre. Or, better said, me and my awesome Zone Leaders! Elder Cruz and Elder Truman

The Leadership Council with President and Hermana Gomez. Am I the only white female? Yes, yes I am.