Monday, August 26, 2013

Suffer The Children to Come to Me

August 26, 2013

Wow, the time just goes by so fast! Here I am on another P-day and it feels like I just wrote you guys yesterday. I had to look back through my planner to figure out what really happened this week. Well, I'll start with the great stuff. If I were an Elder, I'd say, "I dunked number eight this week!" Well, I'm not an Elder, so I'll just say that I had the wonderful opportunity of seeing another soul be brought to Christ through Baptism this week. :) Her name is Teresita, but we call her "Tender Mercy." She is such a sweetheart and always makes our day. When we showed up at her Baptism she basically danced over to us. I got to give a talk at her Baptism and it was all so beautiful. Her mom has been inactive for along time but recently starting going to church again, and Teresita starting going with her and had already prayed to know it was true before we got called in. So beautiful.

Other than that, I got fleas for the SECOND time, so that's super fun. I also got to take a pill whose name literally translated means "The Bomb" and it does just what you might imagine it does because here in the Jungle it's not about avoiding the Parasites, it's about killing the ones that are probably already in your body. We took the pills together as a zone....I guess you can call it bonding?

The thing that has really won me over this week has been the children. We've been teaching this family that lives on a corner and whenever we show up at their house, all of the kids on the street coming running over screaming "Las Hermanas Las Hermanas!" They all come to every lesson with their booklets that we've given them and they just look up at us with the most innocent eyes. It's adorable. Tania, Edwin's wife, started bringing them to church and activities the last couple weeks. You can bet that we already contacted their families and are trying to prepare their parents for Marriage and the whole family for Baptism. :)

It's so surreal to see the effect that I can really have on these kids. We were teaching this one family and this little girl was a little hyper and she was spinning around saying "Pickle, pickle, pickle." I didn't know if I should laugh or cry. She was playing a game that I made up to use in Family Home Evenings when I first got here and my Spanish vocabulary wasn't big enough to explain a real game. It turned out to be a hit and now the first time that I ever meet this girl she's playing my little game. Kids sure know how to spread things! I guess I'll at least know that I left one good thing here in Shilcayo. :)

On top of all of this, I was asked to teach Primary this week and it was a blast. We were teaching about missionary working and my companion asked what a missionary does and they didn't say anything so she asked what Hermana Simonson does everyday and they all screamed "PICKLE!" and after they started saying "She's a model!!! She's a model!!" That gave me a good laugh. She asked what else I do and they said, "She makes funny jokes!" It was hilarious. 

I also got to give a talk (yes, that does happen all the time) and I was running out of last minute talk ideas, so I shared a little bit about what we can learn from children. I love how humble and happy and energetic they are. I now truly understand why Jesus taught, "Suffer the children to come to me." They really are the kingdom of Heaven.

Well, I didn't get transferred this time, so I've got at least six more weeks here with this companion in this same zone in this same branch. Elder Burleson will be heading out and that has made me super sad, he's been a great District Leader and we've really enjoyed the rare novelty of having two Americans in the same District.

After they announced the changes today, he pulled me aside and asked if I was okay. "I'm SO sorry to leave you here, I did not see this coming. Be patient, okay? You’re not going to die. Hang in there."

I know I can press forward. It's hard right now.  It's really hard. But it is so worth it. It feels worth it every time I watch a Baptism, give a talk, or watch little random kids in the streets spinning around and shouting "Pickle." I know they kept me where I'm at for a reason and I'll just keep pushing forward. I'm sure I would have been even sadder to leave than if I had stayed! :)

I love you so much!  Have a great week!!!!

Teresita's Baptism! It was a group Baptism with the Elders in Partido Alto. Super Special.

Our District riding in style in our Branch President's Motokar. That's how we do it.

I made french toast for the District this morning and they couldn't have been happier.
We didn't realize it would be our last day together as a District!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

And The Joy, And The Joy, And The Joy. . .

August 19, 2013

This weekend was one of the most fruitful in my whole mission. Sometimes as a missionary, you feel like you're just working and working and working in circles without accomplishing anything. Well, this week all those circles we walked finally paid off!

Remember Ximena, one of my very first Baptisms? Well, this weekend we Baptized her mom and sister as well!! It was so special. Patty is the mom and she had so many great questions in the time that we've taught her over the last month or so. She was...honestly I don't remember how to say it in English! An Evangelist? Something like that. Anyway, she was "Evangelica" before but when she finally got a Testimony of the Book of Mormon (that was the biggest obstacle for her), she was sold and showed up in Church the next day and started publicizing her Baptisms date (before she was keeping it secret because she didn't feel totally sure.). She has changed so much in the last month.

 Astry is her 10 year old daughter that is just such a sweetheart. Their Baptism was so special to me. My sweet Ximena was just crying her eyes out. She told me that she never, ever thought that her whole family would be united in a church. It just warmed my heart so much. I just kept telling her "Ximena, fue por SU ejemplo. Todo paso porque USTED decidiĆ³ ser bautizada."  They will be such a strength to the church here in Tarapoto.

Another really special moment was yesterday when, for the first time, Alex blessed the sacrament. He was super nervous and I think he was a Little bit mad at me at first for making him do it, but it all turned out super well.  The best part was that, while sitting up front, he was able to watch his wife take the Sacrament for the first time in months. He even cried a Little while watching! It was so incredible for me to watch this moment. After he watched Alexia take the Sacrament, he just looked up at me and smiled and it just made everything so worth it. SO worth it. He was holding his Baptism pictures and looking at them during the meetings that day and I just can't describe the joy it brought me.

We did a Family Home Evening with the Amisifuen Family (our Ward mission leader, the father in law of Alex) and Alex brought his little nieces and nephews over and I had the funnest time playing with them. It is so surreal to just have these cute little kids calling for Hermana Simonson. We played for a Little bit and, you know what, all three of those cute little kids showed up at church yesterday, and we are now teaching their family...with the help of Alex!

We also had more people in church yesterday than the Branch has seen in a really long time...if ever. We had a cute little family walk to church with us and they were so happy to be there. Sometimes I watch the District videos for missionary training and I just look at the missionaries sitting on a nice couch, teaching people that really understand the scriptures, having help from the members, speaking their own language and working in a Ward or in a stake and it honestly makes me jealous sometimes to just see a "normal" mission where everything is a lot more organized and business like...and there's hot water and air conditioning! 

But, as this family got ready to go to church for the first time (wearing shorts and t-shirts with holes in them) and I sat in their tarp hut fixing their sweet daughter's hair, I realized I wouldn't change my mission call for the world. It's hard sometimes. It's hard to live how I'm living. It's hard to see the trials of these people. It's hard to be reminded again and again that we're the rock of the church here. It's hard to have to be perfectly put together while I feel like my whole world is falling apart. It's hard to see people who don't care about their salvation. It's all so hard. But honestly, I wouldn't change a thing. I am finally seeing the fact that I can really make a difference here. I know this is where I belong. I was meant to be a Jungle Missionary!!! :)

Maybe sometimes I only write the negative, but I want you guys to know that I'm happy. I want you to know that I love what I'm doing here and that I have such a strong testimony of this work. I hope you guys are doing all that you can for the work there in St. George!! I so wish that you could all come live my mission for just one or two days to see the ups and the downs and the stress and the joy and the sadness and the joy and the stress and the joy and the joy and the joy.

I love you!!!

Hermana Simonson

PS-Also, will you send me a copy of Brady's farewell talk. I'm bummed I have to miss it...but I'm a little far away. :) Also, I have more pictures but PLEASE don't mention anything about how fat I am...I already know it!

Patty and Astry's Baptism with my sweet Ximena who was so happy to see her family get baptized.

Just a normal proselyting day. The mountains I climb everyday to bring the Gospel to God's children. :)

P-Day Hike!

P-day Soccer! My companion doesn't play so it's always just me and the Latino boys and it's a blast!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Divine Help

August 12, 2013

Well, I flew out to Iquitos again this week and, guess what, I STAYED WITH HERMANA PRICE!!!! And, guess what else, WE WERE COMPANIONS FOR A DAY!!! It was so great. Can I just point out that that girl is amazing? She was calling the Motokars and talking with everyone and just happened to pull together a wedding after a few last minute emergencies. It was amazing to watch her. It also boosted my own confidence to see that, while there are only two gringas in the whole mission, we worked together for a day and we were walking down the streets speaking Spanish, inviting people to church, and eating our jungle fruit. It really helped us both to realize that we can do this. Not to mention the fact that it was a blast!

The Presidente:
We got our new mission president when the mission split, but I had only seen him about one time since he got here. (We're a little bit far away here in Tarapoto!). But, this week was really cool because after my companion's meetings in Iquitos, we flew to Tarapoto with President Gomez, his wife, and their daughter. It was really cool to get to know him a little bit better. Then, we had zone conference and he taught us a ton of great things. That night, I got to do splits and go teaching with their daughter, Amy, who just turned 19 this week. It was super fun to get to know their family a little bit better and it was Amy`s first time getting to teach with missionaries and she`s thinking about serving her own mission, so she called me her first trainer. She's a super cute girl!

The Divine Help:
Saturday morning was super rainy and wet and we were in our Motokar headed toward an appointment and there was a car parked on the side of the road (yes, with our luck one of the 3 cars in Tarapoto just happened to be there) and this car peeled out and u-turned in front of our speeding Motokar and we were certain we were going to crash. But somehow in that split second before the awful crash (there is no hope for motokars when they collide with cars) I just felt so calm. It didn't scare me at all to see this happened. As the motokar headed straight for this car, I really can't describe what happened, but it was like some little force gently pushed us back and we missed the car by literally a centimeter or two. It was insane. The driver couldn't describe it and was completely confused about why we didn't crash. It seemed physically impossible. Well, as missionaries of the only true church, we understood exactly what happened. God wasn't kidding when, in my blessing, He inspired President Topham to say that I would be kept safe by Guardian Angels.

The Companion:
This week just about did me in with the companion stuff. When she saw that I didn't fast she got right into me and all that I heard this week was that I didn't have enough faith and that I needed to be more like here and all that fun stuff. I even started being used in the lessons as an example of someone who needed more face. You know me and know that I didn't have it in my to say anything. I tried to laugh about it and showed her pictures of me passed out in the MTC for trying to fast and how I was told specifically by the Doctor's there that I should not fast if I want to serve my mission without coming home early. This didn't convince here at all and I was breaking inside. I was just losing it and I didn't know what to do. I wasn't showing anything on the outside, but on the inside I was super bugged.

The Lessons Learned:
With all of this happening, I was trying hard to force myself to look okay on the outside. Well, I didn't fool anyone. I was acting like normal but I had 3 people ask me if I was okay, after that Elder Burleson pulled me into the Branch President's office to ask what was wrong, the Relief Society President was teaching a lesson and talking about how sharing the Gospel brings happiness and mentioned that we could all look like Hermana Simonson with her happiness "On a normal day, because I'm not sure why she's sad today." Even Alex and Alexia pulled me aside and asked me what was wrong. I was super confused because on the outside I was fine. I was smiling and laughing. But, when someone mentioned my light was dim, I finally figured it out. Letting myself be bugged with my companion killed the Spirit inside me. The people don't think that I'm a happy person because I laugh and smile, they think I'm a happy person because, when I have the Spirit, I have a light within me. The outside really doesn't matter if I'm not Spiritually okay.

It was then that I reflected on one of the lessons that I taught a young Investigator, Kiara, when I was teaching with Amy. Kiara was having problems with her Mom and teaching the lesson about The Ten Commandments and Honoring your Parents didn't go over well with her. It was a great lesson as I helped her realized that we can never change other people and that we always have to be the bigger person, even when we're young, and help others and have the pure love of Christ. 

As I thought about this, I realized that it applies to me even more than Kiara. I have to just learn to love no matter what. It's not enough to smile on the outside if I'm filled with pride on the inside.

I guess this is one of the many blessings of serving a mission. It's that I have this amazing opportunity to learn and grow and become better...even when it's hard.  Really, my companion is probably one of the biggest blessings I'll have during my mission because I'm learning to be a lot more Christ-like and have unconditional love. It's not easy, but, as I learned this week, there's always divine help!!! 

Love You.

Love Always. 

Hermana Simonson

Hermana Simonson and Hermana Price
"The Gringas"

Monday, August 5, 2013


August 5, 2013

Well, here I am in my stinky little Internet hut again and I'm a little bit dumfounded because I don't know what has happened in my life since I was last sitting here...I usually have some big, grand event or baptism or something, but this week was just normal and simple. But, instead of anything grand, there were a lot of small, tender moments that really made this week awesome.

One day this week, I was reading about how if someone is truly converted, they will want to share the Gospel with others and it really got me reflecting and I wanted to know if my converts were truly converted. Well, about 20 minutes later, we heard someone yelling outside of our window. "HERMANAS!!! HERMANAS MISIONERAS! HERMANAS!!!!" So we went down the stairs and found Alex standing there with another man.

Alex said, "Hey, I found this friend in the plaza and he told me he wants to learn more about God, so I brought him here." Oh my goodness, I couldn't help but laugh. It was so sweet and simple, but it made me feel so great that Alex was randomly telling people in the plaza about his new life and inviting them to do the same. So amazing!

Remember Luis? Hermana Vasquez's convert that always bought us coconuts? (Can I just add also that before I hated coconuts, then I tolerated it, and now I have a flat out addiction?) We taught him a little lesson about missionary work and yesterday as we were leaving the room he was there in the street and called us over. I was sure we would buy us a coconut, but he did something even better and introduced us to a girl that he had met and shared his testimony with and said that she too wanted to learn from us. I love the Spirit of this work.

Well, I guess since I don't have a ton to share about things that happened this week.  I should share what I'm learning/working on. I am really trying to dedicate a lot of time to learn a Christ-like attribute that I really lack: Humility.

I think I got a little bit carried away this last month. I was thrilled to see that, even with a new companion, we led the zone with baptisms for the second month in a row. Everyone started saying things like "Oh, I guess it wasn't Hermana Vasquez doing the Baptizing, it must have been Hermana Simonson the whole time because Hermana Vasquez isn't here anymore."

The zone leaders have started calling me the "Machina de Sacar la Fecha" (The Baptism date-setting machine) and I think I liked that a little too much. Then, I was introduced to the new Assistant to the President by the old Assistant as "The one that was immediately fluent in Spanish." I think my sin was that, as all these people were saying these things, I started to believe them. It didn't help that I was directing the area and things like that.

But, as I studied this week, I read some MTC notes and came across a quote that I had loved: "The problem with most teachers, is that they think that THEY are the teacher." It was then that I heard a quiet little voice whispering, "Who do you think has REALLY been doing the Baptizing here?" 

It was definitely humbling. I know that I have a lot to learn and change if I want to be the kind of teacher that Christ was. It starts with me realizing that I really don't do anything. I didn't teach myself this language, I wasn't set apart with my own power, I don't use my own words. Everything is a gift that comes if I just open my mouth. I guess in the end, that's why it doesn't matter who my companion is or how they teach, we can work well together if we both teach by the Spirit and neither one of us is converting anyone.

I am so grateful for this privilege that I have right now. Honestly, I don't know why God trusts someone so young, imperfect, and prideful as me to be a missionary. I wish I fit this calling better. I am trying so hard to be better and I am determined to come home with more than souvenirs, parasites, and skin cancer. I hope that I can come home a little bit better and more worthy of the blessings I've been given.

Love Always,

Hermana Simonson