Tuesday, June 25, 2013

First Transfers. Still in Tarapoto! :)

June 25, 2013


I hope you didn't worry too much about me when I didn’t write yesterday! I was in Lima again. I bought something in the airport hoping you'd see it and realize where I was...and because I wanted pizza. (Just to interject here, we did see that she purchased something at Papa John's and knew that there was NO Papa John's anywhere near where she is serving. . .so we weren't sure if that meant she was near Lima for immigration stuff or if her debit card had been stolen!  So, we were super happy to find out it really was her using her card!)

This week passed by in a blur, I really am not sure what all happened! I have officially made it through my first transfer! After I wrote you guys on Monday, we had a zone meeting where everyone was told where they were headed. Welp, I am still in Tarapoto with Hermana Vasquez, but we did lose Elder Turley from our District, which was pretty sad. We also got a new zone leader and a few greenies from Chile.

I have officially had my first Baptism!!!! Luzclarita was baptized Saturday night and words cannot describe my joy. Seriously, I was just so incredibly happy. I also had my first two weddings (since apparently that is a part of my mission, too.). Luzclarita and Thoontiler were married Friday, along with Alex and Alexia. Unfortunately, Alex was not able to Baptized on Saturday like we had planned, it looks like we'll have to wait a little while longer until that will be possible, but I'm glad they're at least married and he can continue progressing.

We weren't able to find Angela for about a week and a half and I was starting to get worried that she was avoiding us. This broke my heart because during the last lesson we had with her I went solo (we were doing splits, but this basically means the other person just smiles and bears testimony while I teach alone), and I was so worried that it was my lesson that sent her away. I was broken hearted.

Well, we finally found her and she was glowing, had been reading the Book of Mormon and had tons of questions, and told us she wants to be baptized this upcoming Saturday!!!! WOW. I am SO absolutely thrilled. This will be the first complete Baptism because Hermana Vasquez had been teaching LuzClarita before I came, but I have been with Angela since day one and it is so cool to see the light that she's gained in this time.

We were finally able to find Siomi in her house and teach her a lesson. It was so great. We also found a new family to teach and they asked us about Baptism about 5 minutes into the lesson. But, their house is about half full of beer, so there will definitely be an obstacle, but it's worth it!

I really feel like I'm getting the hang of things here. We started doing Splits this week where my companion and I split up and take members with us to different lessons. It was great and a huge confidence booster! The lady I was with the first night lives in the "Rich" part of town (more ghetto than anything I've seen in the U.S.) and was actually scared to death to be walking through the “Jungle-Jungle” in the nighttime. She was kind of clinging to me and I was just as happy as ever and the people outside of their huts were calling me by name and I was asking them about their children and giving directions and it just felt great to know that I am starting to feel like a Native.

You know what else? I am speaking Spanish! I think I have been down on myself because I am always surrounded by Latinos or Missionaries that have been here for no less than a year. Of course my Spanish isn't as perfect as theirs! But, in Lima yesterday, I was with a group of Elders that I had known in the MTC (sadly none from my Distrtict) and they were basically all dying. They really don't speak any Spanish outside of bearing their testimonies. Almost all of them are serving in Lima, only 3 of us ended up in the Jungle.

Anyway, they were all sick to their stomachs, complaining about homesickness, carrying around letters from their girlfriends in their pockets, complaining that their companions being Natives, complaining about their food, and all this stuff. I just wanted to say "Hey! You're serving in Lima. Go take a warm shower and eat your McDonald's and stop complaining to the Jungle people about your problems." Haha, but more than anything it made me happy to know that Heavenly Father knew how weak I am and gave me extra help to adjust to life here.

I speak the language, the people love me, I have gotten over the cultural differences that used to cause a little contention between me and my companion, I miss you guys, but I've gotten over that stabbing homesickness, and, even though it seemed disgusting at first, I even love the food and no longer end up in the bathroom every few minutes! I feel accustomed in every way.

I am just so happy. I have learned so much and grown so much. Watching LuzClarita go under the water just made everything so worth it! Knowing that I get to do that again this week makes me unbelievably happy. I miss you so much!

Love Always,

Hermana Simonson

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

P-Day Again???

June 17, 2012

Hola Familia!

PDay again?? Wow, how fast time is flying now that I got the hang of things! I'll report what I have from my Investigators, but there's really not much because just about all of them are out of town right now! There's some sort of break from school so most of this week we were knocking on doors (my first time in my mission) and finding new people to teach. Oh, and guess what else? Wedding Planning. I didn't realize I'd be a wedding planner but the majority of this week was focused on planning weddings. We have two couple that we are marrying on Friday and Baptizing on Saturday this upcoming week and I am stoked!!!! But it's been a lot of work and we've really had to pull some strings and fork out some cash to get their permission and such, but looks like everything should run smoothly!

Bessy: Bessy makes me never want to have kids. I can't believe how much pain I feel watching someone that I love so much refuse to make the right decision. Her mom was telling us all about how Bessy is reading the Book of Mormon every night and praying, etc. She's coming to Church and even doing a little bit of Missionary work. But, she refuses to be Baptized and when we left her house on Friday, my companion and I looked at each other and I just said "We can't go back to her, huh?" Hna Vasquez just shook her head sadly. The Lord's time is so precious and we can only spend it with people who want to progress and we can feel that we can't do anything more to help her change her mind. It's definitely a leap of faith to stop visiting her for a while.

LuzClarita: I am SO excited for her Baptism and wedding this week!!!! Her future Husband asked us to be their witnesses for their wedding and we are way excited. I'll send pictures of her wedding and Baptism.
Alex: Alex will also be married and baptized this week! He is marrying the daughter of our Ward Mission Leader, Alexia. Alexia is pregnant with his child and it's been rough on the family, but we're seeing this beautiful change with repentance and faith as they prepare for marriage and Alex's Baptism.

Deysi: She and her daughters accepted a date for Baptism and we are preparing them for the 27 of July (they're heading out of town for about 2 or 3 weeks) but we found out the other day that Deysi is still meeting with the missionaries from Jehovah's Witnesses and we are going to have to commit her to stop that as soon as she returns from her trip.

We taught a lot of lessons this week and invited people to baptism, but they haven't come to church yet, so we don't feel completely sure. Other than that, the same people are progressing and we're continuing to teach the people I have talked about in the past, but there is not a whole lot of updates to share. Since I don't have a ton to share, I want to explain a little bit more about what I have learned. 

When I was in Lima I wrote that the people had won my heart. Now that I have a little bit more time, I want to explain what happened. I finally learned two lessons that I should have learned a long time ago, and I think it's pretty sad that I had to move to Peru to figure these out.

1: It's not about me.
2. I don't need to take myself so seriously.

It started with a man named Luiszea. He was the first person I met when I got here. He is a recent convert of my companion before I got here, and he has a little booth set up in the streets everyday where he fixes watches. The first words I ever heard him say were to my companion "What happened to your other companion?" Being me, I instantly put a wall up and was certain that he hated me. He never, ever talked to me and I wouldn't try to say much because I thought he didn't want to talk to me. In my rotten head, I thought that it made matters worse that he bought us coconuts almost every single day because I have never liked to drink coconut milk.

Then, as I sat in a lesson with him for the first time, I had a huge realization. He wears the exact same outfit every single day. He sits at his little booth, but I've never really seen him have business. When I spoke to him, he looked surprised and I had the strongest feeling that the reason he hadn't spoke to me before was because he thought I didn't speak Spanish and didn't want to embarrass me.

Words cannot describe the way that my heart broke. Here I was thinking this man hated me when everyday, this man who has absolutely nothing insists on buying me a treat. To make matters worse, I was always silently complaining that he was doing it. I felt awful for who I was and how I was only thinking about myself and I was putting walls up to these people who had done nothing but love me. Yes, I talk to him quite a bit now and I sure as heck ENJOY my coconut.

After I came to the realization of how selfish I had been, I prayed super hard to have a better perspective. Heavenly Father helped me realize that the members here are on my side. I've been working so hard thinking I needed to prove myself to them when really they already accept me. They laugh at me often, but why do I need to take myself so seriously and get offended? They treat me like they treat family. They laugh and joke, but most of all they love. I just got a completely new perspective of the whole world that week.

It's funny how things can change. One Sunday I was standing in the church crying my eyes out to Elder Gondara saying that everyone hates me. The following Sunday I was sharing my testimony and sincerely thanking people for showing their love to me. No, the whole world didn't magically change in one week. I changed.  Here I was thinking everyone else was the problem, when really the problem was myself and all I needed to do was change my heart, and I feel like I'm leaving in a totally different world right now.

I LOVE THESE PEOPLE. At lunch one day, one sister in the ward literally got choked up when I told her how delicious her food was. I asked one man how his son was doing and he lit up and thanked me for asking as if I had just handed him a grand gift. 

When my blood sugar was low one Sunday night and I got super shaky, my companion made a phone call and in just a few minutes a sister in the ward was there with a full on meal for the both of us.

We gave a case of Spanish Hymns CDs to a lady and she cried like it was a big deal. When someone was missing yesterday that was supposed to give a talk, I was the first person the President came to and after I had so many people coming up to me and thanking me and telling me how beautiful it was.

When I was in Lima, we were talking with this sister and she was having a really hard time and she and I really hit it off as I shared experiences where I had to trust in the will of the Lord and shared a scripture or two. As I left, she hugged and kissed me and started crying and looked me in the eyes and said "I am different because you were in my house today."

I finally understand my calling. I want to make a difference in these people. Not because it's my calling, but beause I love them.

Love Always,

Hermana Simonson

Monday, June 10, 2013

Investigator Updates!

I had to laugh because Meg made a comment that no one is probably reading her letters, hence the way she started this next one.  I told her that more people are reading them than she thinks!  

June 10, 2013
Hola Familia! (Okay, let's be honest here. Hola Mom and Dad!)

Things are so great. SO great. I finally am figuring out my purpose and getting lost in the work. I couldn't be happier. I really didn't get to write last week, so I'm going to get right into the important stuff!!!!


Bessy: I'm sure you remember Bessy. Well, we hadn't visited her since the day that was supposed to be her Baptism. My companion called her once and I guess it didn't go too well. We felt like we needed to visit her but we were certain she didn't want to meet with us again. Well, we followed the Spirit and went anyway and, guess what? She was THRILLED. We talked and laughed and cried and when she offered the closing prayer, she said "Thank you for touching the hearts of Hermana Vasquez and Hermana Simonson to finally come visit me again." It was so sweet.

The next day, we took a motocar to bring her to church and we were running late. Bessy lives on top of a steep, dirt hill that was super muddy. My companion was walking with me and she told me to run up and grab her. I took off sprinting and got plenty of funny looks. Bessy's mom looking up and saw the freakishly tall white girl in her weird church clothes and backpack sprinting up the hill and shouted "Bessy, your friend is here!" It was funny.

Marleni and Angela: Marleni was a reference in Morales and we met with her once. The second time we went to teach her we found her daughter 16 year old Angela. I LOVE Angela. She is so great! We haven't been able to teach the two at the same time, but it's worth the extra trip to teach Angela seperate. I issued my very first Baptismal invitation (¿Seguirá el ejemplo de Jesucristo y ser bautizado por algun que tenga la autoridad de Dios?) and she accepted! We're preparing her for June 22! Hopefully her mom can be baptized soon after.

Deyoosa: The big religious battle in Tarapoto is the Sabbath Day. Half the town thinks it´s Saturday, the other Sunday. When we talk to people, the first thing they ask is when we worship the Sabbath. When we say Sunday, some people immediately stop listening. Deyoosa has always strongly believed that the Sabbath is Saturday. Like everyone, when we first found her she asked us when we meet. She asked why we meet on Sundays if the Bible says it's the 7th day, which is Saturday. We explained that Jesus Christ fulfilled the law of Moses and if we were still following it completely we'd be sacrificing animals. We talked about how Jesus rose on a Sunday and for that reason we worship on Sunday mornings. She wanted to learn more, but she didn't seem satisfied. We taught her the Restoration and gave her a booklet.

We returned the next day and she had read the whole thing (live in the Jungle for 3 days and you'll understand why that's a miracle) and understood it all (bigger miracle). She had tons of questions and accepted our Baptismal invitation. She bore testimony that what we taught was true and she said, "I know that your church is true, and I know that Sunday is the Sabbath Day." It was so great! Some of these people are just so prepared to hear the truth.

Siomi: I seem to find my cute little handicapped kids wherever I go! Siomi is a little handicapped girl that came to church with a friend on Fast Sunday. She got up and bore her Testimony (right after me) and said she'd never been to church before, but that she felt really, really good. So cute. She came up to me after and asked if we could come visit her in her house to talk more about Jesus. We will be doing that this week! So excited.

Medaly: Medaly is preparing for her Baptism. We had to move the date because of our trip and because she wasn't at church this week because of her sick baby. But, things are looking good and she agreed to give up coffee which is a HUGE step!

Gilda and Juan: My first lesson with this family reminded me of a line from my setting apart: "Have the courage to Testify, even in opposition." The family of Gilda and Juan has two girls (12, 14) that were baptized but are inactive right now. The dad is Catholic and the mom just wants her family to be unified in a Religion, so she decided to learn more about what her daughters believe. When we got there, Juan assured us that he would never be baptized, wasn't interested, and believed in the Bible and only the Bible. My companion was pretty ticked and has a habit of not talking when she is angry or sad. Great, I thought, this one is all on me. I just kept my cool and smiled and said "Alright, let's just talk about the Bible."

I asked him what he liked about the Bible and he said that it is the word of God and it never changes. He said that the true church follows all the fundamentals of the Bible. I asked him to read Ephesians 2:20 (I don´t know it´s exact translation into English, but you can look it up :)) and he complained that he can't see without glasses and didn't want to go get them. So, I asked his daughter to read it and he talked to the other daughter while she read it, so I asked her to read it again when he was done talking. Then I asked his wife to read it and she lit up and said "Your church has Apostles!" And her husband got all tense and looked away. I kept pushing forward with all the courage I had and, long story short, he invited us back! It was hard, but so worth it! Nothing is more powerful than the Spirit.

LuzClarita: WE FOUND HER BIRTH CERTIFICATE!!! She will be married June 21 and Baptized the next day. I am so thrilled! I had the funnest lesson with her and her husband (he was Baptized at 8 but left the church for a long time) the other night.

My talk with Hermana Price made me think long and hard about who was called to serve this mission. I've tried to be perfect and exact and act like the people here, but my call was to Sister Meghan DeLee Simonson, so I've finally decided to be Meghan DeLee Simonson.

As we taught about the Word of Wisdom and Luz was confused about what she could and couldn´t drink, I decided to do some practices. I went all crazy and was running around grabbing random bottles and cups and acting the part of their friends, everything from an Aunt, a crazy Soccer fan, a neighbor, etc and offering them different things. Everyone laughed and Luz got the hang of things. Then, I sat down and we both bore Testimonies and the Spirit was stronger than ever.

The husband, TonTyler, is a recovering Alcoholic and still drinks now and then, but he drove us home in his MotoCar and when I said goodbye he said "I like the practices. Now I know what I can say when my friends try to get me to drink. I won't do it anymore."

Luis and Silvia: We met this family yesterday and they were great! Luis and Silvia are MARRIED. This is the first time I've ever met Peruvians that aren't members of the church, but are already married. Luis, Silvia, their two sons, and their daughter-in-law have already committed to Baptism.

Deysi and her Daughters: Deysi has been looking into just about every church out there. But, she prayed to know if Joseph Smith is a Prophet, and a few days later we returned, and she and her three older daughters committed to Baptism!!!!!!!!!! It was awesome! During our last lesson, we noticed that the little 12 year old girl was coloring. Towards the end, I finally got a glimpse of what she was doing. She was holding all the books they had been given by Jehovah's Witnesses, and writing "Joseph Smith was a Prophet of God" all over the pages. I'm ecstatic, but nervous because this week they're leaving town for two weeks to stay with Deysi's Mother, a firm Catholic. I am praying with all my heart that they won't forget how they felt.

Friday when we visited them, the 10 year old was sleeping and when the 8 year old saw us she sprinted into her house and yelled "Wake up, wake up! Our Sisters are here! We're going to learn the word of God!!!" So cute.

Well, these are our main investigators right now! We've also done a lot of work with Less-Actives.

My time in Lima was great. Being with Hermana Price was such a blessing. We talked and talked and it was so nice to feel like someone gets me! We're the only two American Sisters in all of the Jungle and we've both had a bit of a rough go being so different. But, we came to a nice conclusion. If we were exactly like everyone else, we wouldn’t change anything. We're so much a like, and we were called to the same mission at the same time, people like us are needed for a reason.

I also spent a couple days in Lima Proselyting and it was way fun! The people there understand a whole lot better than in the Jungle. If something happened, I could serve in Lima and be happy. But, when I got on that plane back to Tarapoto, I almost felt like I was coming home. These are my people.

So, I don't know if you noticed a random extra Peruvian (non-missionary) in my picture from our Mother's Day celebration. His name is Emerson, he is 20 years old, he is a ward missionary, he lives alone, and was baptized almost a year ago. He is so great. He has so much faith and has helped us so much. Well, this week, he received his mission call!!!!!!! He opened it in our Apartment with us and our Elders from our District. He will be serving in Arequipa Peru next month and is stoked!

This week was kind of sad as our dear Elder Gondara was transferred to Lima. We were happy for him because he wanted to spend his last couple months there before he heads back to Mexico, but we already miss him. But, our new District leader is great. Surprise! He is from America. Elder Turley is companions with another American! How rare.

Well, I love you all! Talk to you soon.

By the way, I have to return to Lima two more times for Immigrations, but I don't know when. So, if I don't email, don't worry!


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Hola! I'm Not Dead!

June 2, 2013

Hola Familia!

Hope you didn´t freak out too much this morning when I didn´t write...or maybe you forgot that I exist. Anyway, the reason I didn't write this morning is because I am currently in Lima doing my Immigration stuff! I only have a few minutes to write so hopefully they’ll let me use a computer again this week because I have a ton to say about my investigators!

I got in Lima last night and it was such a culture shock after a month in the Jungle. Last night, for the first time in a month, I took a warm shower, slept with a blanket, brushed my teeth in the sink (we have to filter the water normally), rode in a car, sat in an air conditioned building, etc. It was great!

The best part of this trip is that when I walked into the Immigration offices I saw another white girl...HERMANA PRICE!!!!!!! We hugged and laughed and talked and talked and talked. We talked for hours without a single break like old friends that hadn't seen each other in years. We had to laugh when we realized that in reality we only knew each other for 2 weeks before, and have only had 6 weeks apart since then. It's okay, I'm convinced we hung out in the premortal life. But really we've had a ton of fun today and we'll be together here in Lima until Wednesday night because we have a conference here.

Tomorrow I will proselyte in Lima and it should be a fun, different experience.
I'll have to give more details when I have time, but just know that I'm doing great and this week, in a way I cannot describe, the people completely won my heart and I know I'm going to make this place my home for the next little while. 


Hermana Simonson