Saturday, February 22, 2014

Patience. Process. Friends.

Well, rumor was right. I didn't get transferred! It was a nice surprise. When they announced the changes and said that my companion was leaving, our Zone Leader looked at me and asked "Hermana Simonson, how many daughters have you had?" I answered two and he said "Well, now you´re going to have three!"  Yep, I'm training again. And my two "daughters" are training as well. Everyone is making jokes saying that President is trying to create a Generation of Mini Hermana Simonsons. It made me laugh.

Anyway, my new companion is Hermana Ventura from Mexico as well. She is AWESOME. Absolutely awesome. We have great conversations, but we also work great together. Honestly, I don't even feel like I am training, she knows exactly what she's doing. It is such a nice change.

This week passed by quickly, bringing many amazing experiences. Remember what I told you about the brother that shut the door in my face? Yes, after three long months, he was Baptized on Saturday. It was beautiful. In her talk, his daughter thanked us for our "incredible patience" with him.

Patience. The P-word. One of the hardest things for me to have. It was my mission goal:  learn patience. I didn't think that I would and I know I have a long way to go, but my companion and several other people this week thanked me for being so patient. I guess I am at least making progress.

Yes, it was a process. A door slammed in my face. That doesn't happen too often here. Partly because the people are so nice, and partly because, well, most of them don't have doors! I wasn't going to let that door have the last word, so, through the crack, I invited him to church anyway. A little bit of time passed, and one Sunday, as I was standing in the hallway, I turned around and saw a somewhat familiar face smiling at me and shaking my hand. I figured it was one of the Elder's investigators.

In the middle of Testimony, a sister got up and bore her Testimony and talked about how glad she was that her dad had come to church at last. I remember thinking, that's funny, I thought she was the sister that asked us to visit her dad he slammed the door and says he doesn't want anything to do with us. I brushed it off and thought, oh well, I guess I just need to get to know the member's faces better. Then, when she went to sit down, she sat down with the brother that had greeted me in the hallway.

I finally made the connection, it WAS her. It was HIM. Orlando had come to church! I talked to him after and he was pleased to talk to me, but would not let me put an appointment to visit him. I was so frustrated. He just told me that he would call me when he decided he wanted to listen to us. Ya right. That never happens. So, I just set an appointment to come visit his daughter, and as he walked out of the church, Orlando turned around and said "okay, MAYBE I'll be there when you come" and walked away.

Normally, I like to Baptize in three weeks. I see it as the perfect amount of time for the people to learn and grow, without putting it off so much that they get discouraged. But Orlando never accepted a date. Never. Since the beginning of December, he told us he would do it that month. Then, he said he would do it in January and nothing, nothing at all. Then, one day three weeks ago, he said "Okay, I know I need to commit. My son gets back from his mission shortly, can I do it when he gets back?"

The day came, and it all happened. It was so beautiful. It didn't happen on my time, but it happened, and that's the important thing. After his confirmation on Sunday, he returned to sit down, but went back to where I was, shook my hand, and said "I am so grateful for you. You were the one person that could finally convince me after all these years with a hard heart."

Last night, as we brought his Baptism Registers over to get signed, we all laughed together about every experience that we had had. From the time that he slammed the door, to the time when he told me the Law of Chastity was impossible and that he wasn't going to live it, to the time he said that beer was necessary for his Arthritis, to the time we sat in his house for an hour and a half, refusing to leave until he said his first prayer. It has been such a great experience.

My new companion heard the stories and got extremely excited saying that she couldn't wait to have some of her own experiences like that. And, you know what, we're actually already starting to have some together! It's amazing.

Monday night, while I was cleaning the room up to have everything ready for my new companion, I thought I should put a few pictures up around my desk because the walls are really boring. All that was up there was a Jeffrey R. Holland quote that had been my strength since I first started suffering from anxiety, "You are infinitely more than your afflictions and limitations." I surrounded that little quote with a lot of pictures that really showed me how true that statement is.

With all that has happened to me and all of the problems I have had as I struggle with anxiety and panic attacks and health, I was able to look at every picture and see the incredibly successful mission I have had and am having. When I talk about success, I am not talking about Baptisms. I didn't post a single Baptism picture and I honestly have no clue of how many Baptisms I have had. But, as I put up each picture I realized that I have had the true kind of success. I have found friends.

First off, my converts. My converts are my best friends in the world. Can you imagine what it is like to hear someone say a prayer or share their testimony, when you're the one that taught them to do it? They know us so well and we get to know them so well and the love that is felt is incredible. They really are my best friends.

Along with those pictures, I put up a lot of pictures of my companions and fellow Elders and Sisters. Or, what I would call, for now, my family. Who would have ever thought that I have brothers and sisters from all over the world? I love them SO much. We all go through everything together. LITERALLY everything. I will always love them and remember them.

Yes, I am more than my many limitations and afflictions, because the friends that I have made prove to me that I am having REAL success in some little Jungle City, an Island in the Amazon River of Peru.

Love this work. Love this Country. Love my Savior.

Love Always,

Hermana Simonson

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Load


What a week! Actually, better said, what a transfer! That´s right, six weeks have come and gone yet again. My sources tell me that I am going to stay here, and it sounds like a good plan to me, although I would be happy to get transferred out of Iquitos. My biggest fear would be getting a transfer inside of Iquitos. I guess I will know in a couple hours!

I wish that we wrote at the END of P-Day because that´s almost always when the good stuff happens.  Last week, we went out into the deep, uninhabited part of the Jungle and it was SO great. I love living here.  We took a bus out of the city and went hiking and exploring over by our Patriarch´s fish farm. I wish I would have had a camera! You wouldn’t believe all that I saw. Crazy spiders, little red poison dart frogs, and those really huge hairy ants that you see in National Geographic. AMAZING. I feel like an official Jungle Woman now. 

We cooked chicken over a fire and ate it using leaves for plates and eating rice with our hands. Also, I hit a big Jungle Milestone: I can officially drink coconut milk without a straw! I knocked down, cut open, and drank my coconut right out of the shell just like a true native. I´ll admit, it was pretty impressive! Add that to my list of fleas and Parasites and eating turtle and crocodile and I think I just need Dengue to be an official Jungle Woman…but I´d rather avoid that one.

I was grateful for such a good P-Day because, honestly, the rest of the week was rough.  One Hermana got sent home on emergency because she was starting to go blind, and it left her poor, new companion really scarred and stressed. Some of my best converts fell into problems with the Word of Wisdom and it really hurt to see it, but I know we´re going to help them climb back up—coffee is a LOT easier to deal with than Alcohol! Another sister has been facing problems with depression. A lot of people that were progressing just randomly stopped going to church and don´t want to get Baptized. I saw how I had kind of neglected to visit the sisters in one of my zones, and not a single one of them were able to Baptize last month and they feel really bad and I can’t help but feel a little responsible. 

The worst part has been a sister that is struggling with some really scary stuff, something along the lines of Schizophrenia and I can´t even describe the sleepless nights, the fear, the Psychologist visits. I was really starting to feel a heavy load with all these things, even though they may seem small. It reminded me of the times that I would watch Mom or Dad face problems with work, kids, school, money, family, Anxiety, health, and everything and I could just see the weight on their shoulders. That´s how I was feeling!

With all of these happening, my companion and I lost a lot of work time and I was stressed out. Friday night, as I looked at how few lessons we´d have and how few people we´d been able to find, I remembered what I learned last week about being constant and decided that we still needed to meet the goals that we set. Saturday, we found some awesome members that worked with us all day long so that we could do divisions. We worked as hard as humanly possible, but at the end of the day we were able to see some serious results and see how many people we were able to help by deciding to remain constant even with the time we lost. It was amazing! We were able to see the rewards of our hard work when we saw how many people came to church.

 The best part was when the Bishop announced the Baptism that we are going to have on Sunday, a man named Orlando, Orlando stood up and smiled and was waving at everyone, almost TOO excited for his Baptism. About three months ago, I knocked on Orlando´s door and he slammed it in my face and said he didn´t want anything to do with us. What a change!

I guess my last little thought is about the Temple. A few weeks ago, a family in the ward did a Fundraiser to try and go to the Temple in Lima to be sealed as a family and pick up their son from his mission. They worked so hard and had everything ready to go.  They were supposed to leave on Sunday, and I was confused when I saw the husband on Tuesday. I asked him when he was going to the Temple and he just looked up and said, with a brave smile “Someday, Hermana Simonson. We´ll get there some day.” My heart almost broke. 

They weren´t able to get the funds together even after doing EVERYTHING they could. If I could just beg the world (especially my family) to do two things they would be share the Gospel, and go to the Temple. I took the Temple so for granted before the mission. I had always heard stories before about people that have to sacrifice so much to go to the Temple and how we need to take more advantage of the Temples close to us. Hearing is one thing. Seeing it and living? So heartbreaking, so guilt-tripping, but oh, so inspiring!

For a long time, I thought that my call to this Mission had to do with my love for adventure and outdoors and craziness, but I finally understand better. It is for my incredible love that I feel for the Temple.  This mission has a huge purpose: A Temple in Iquitos. Our backpacks and wallets have pictures of a Temple in the Jungle and it motivates me a ton.  I so badly want these people to have this amazing blessing that we have.

The Temple is a huge motivator for me, but there is also another thing that really keeps me going. I´ve reached a milestone in the mission, a new nametag! Mine was so dead from repellent and son and dirt and it was almost unreadable. When I got the new one, I thought about what I wanted to put on the inside to motivate me. 

The last one was great, the inside had an American flag, a sticker that a little girl in Tarapoto gave me, a sticker from the MTC, and I had carved Elder Simonson´s initials the day he entered the MTC. Now, as I looked at the new nametag I thought about what most motivated me, the answer came fast. Now, the inside of my nametag has a picture of 5 (slightly angry) kinds laying in leaves in Layton, Utah. My brothers. If anything motivates me, it´s the promise that I felt in my heart when I watched Finding Faith in Christ and heard the Savior´s voice whisper kindly “Thy brother shall raise again.”  

 You should know that on those days that I don’t feel like getting up on time or start to feel tired or that I don’t care, I just think of how much I want to bless my family and how I know that they will be blessed according to my obedience. I know that the Savior´s promises are real. Now, every day that I get ready and I put that sacred nametag on, I see the faces of four of the most important people in the world to me, and I wear them over my heart all day long, knowing that I can make as big of a difference in their lives as I can in the people here.

 Love you all so much! Love this work. Love my Savior, and I love His church.

Hermana Simonson

Wednesday, February 5, 2014


February 3, 2014

Well, my body has a new latest addition: Parasites. So, that's been a lot of fun!
This week really taught be a lesson about the importanc of being constant and consistent always. My companion got sick and went to the Hospital and couldn't work for three days, but I really just wanted to remain consistent with our lessons and everything, so Idecided to go out and work with a member every day and, in the end, we did better this week than last week!

It really helped me to realize that there are no excuses and that we can always find a way to keep the work rolling forward. In the end, we found out that while I was out working alone and my companion was resting because she was sick with Parasites, I had Parasites the whole time as well.

At first I wanted to get a little mad about it, but I just decided to turn it around and be grateful that Heavenly Father helped make me strong enough to be constant and not put a pause on His work.
This weekend was one of the absolute best weekends of my mission. We were able to Baptism a complete family: Father, Mother, and Child. It was incredibly beautiful. This family´s Baptism has been one of the craziest journeys of my mission. 

One thing that I've learned on the mission has been the importance of being bold and honest. I had a really bad habit of just avoiding EVERYTHING before my mission. I didn't like conflict and I would just hide everything and never said how I felt.  The mission has taught me to really stand up for what I believe, but sometimes I think I get a little carried away with that!

 Anyway, when we first got to this area, someone gave us the reference of the Familia Pinedo, and we got there and they let us in, but didn't want to do anything. We went back for the second appointment and they weren't there. So, I decided I had no interest in visiting them again and left it at that.

 About a month ago, we were out of Plan A, B, C, and D, and we were close by their house, so my companion suggested that we visit them again. I figured why not and they let us in and the wife (okay, I guess girlfriend would be the right term) started talking about how she wanted to get married but her husband didn't care and how he is never going to change and all this stuff.

We decided to start talking about the Law of Chastity and invited them to be married and Baptized and the husband just made a big joke out of everything.  I saw how badly the wife really wanted to get married and Baptized and I was just filled with so much love for her.

That love, my testimony of the commandments, and the fact I had already had a tough day weren't the best combination and when he said that he wanted to wait another year I asked him if he was sure he wanted to keep living in serious sin for another year and said something about the Final Judgment. That shut him up. The jokes stopped and he realized we were serious. They accepted the invitation to pray about wedding and Baptism, and little by little, miracles occurred.

They accepted Baptism and went to Church the next Sunday. The following week, the didn't show up to Church and we went to go get them and found the husband, Oldair, alone in the house saying that she left and that they're not going to get married or Baptized. He told us she left to her Mom's house and that she wasn't going to go to Church.

So, we went to her Mom's house and, long story short, a member went inside and got her out of bed, I said a few words with the same boldness and the family ended up at church and that night signed their wedding papers.

Sitting in the Baptism, I almost couldn't believe the changes that this family had made. We had all been through so much together. My companion started to cry and we both felt the Spirit so strong. Sitting there made me reflect so much on my purpose here. The family is SO important and watching a whole family make this decision together was so special.

I really started to have a better understanding of my purpose here. I reflected on the last year or so of my life and how it all played out so that I could be there in that moment.

I didn't understand why, in the middle of my run on an October Saturday morning, I felt extremely prompted to get back to my apartment right away. I didn't understand why, right when I opened the door, I heard the Prophet's voice talking about Missionary Work.

 I didn't understand why the age was changed to 19, and I REALLY didn't understand why I felt incredibly obligated by the Spirit to go right away. I didn't understand why I was called to the Lima North Mission, or why that call was changed to the Iquitos Mission.

 I didn't understand why my Visa didn't come for so long. I didn't understand why I was sent to Tarapoto, and later I didn't understand why I was put on a plane and shipped out of Tarapoto.
There is so much I don't understand, but I do understand that I am EXACTLY where I need to be right now. That Baptism strengthened my testimony of that so much. It wasn't easy to go through the whole process of getting here. It wasn't easy leaving everything behind. It is not easy to have responsibilities that I didn't want or ask for.

It isn't easy living in the Jungle and having to deal with everything from Fleas to cold water to Parasites, but this weekend made me realize, again, that it is so incredibly worth it. It is hard, but I wouldn't change a thing.

Love you tons!
Have a great week!

Hermana Simonson

Book of Mormon Stories

January 27, 2014
 I am so incredibly frustrated with my Internet right now I can’t even think of what to write. So, that’s fun! Gotta love Jungle Interent, I’ve been waiting an hour for the page to load and it still hasn’t loaded, and my times almost up so I’m just writing in Word to copy and paste later but I still don’t know what you all said to me so I don’t know what to write… Okay, I just bet I’ll give some random thoughts then.

This week was a pretty big eye opener for me. Training my companion, who is new the church, has been a good experience. I had lots of things that I didn’t think would be a problem for me on the mission. I mean, I never thought I would have to explain to my companion that she can’t drink hot tea or that her clothes have to cover her Garments and things like that. And, I’ll be honest, I’m not always as patient as I should be, but I usually do a pretty good job of not showing my frustration. Anyway, I think that she sensed a little bit of my frustration after one of the lessons because she never says anything when we start talking about the Book of Mormon and she gets really really tense and the investigators look at her like she’s crazy.

Anyway, as we started walking home she asked me if she could tell me something and I told her of course and she said “I’ve never actually read the Book of Mormon.” I was super surprised because usually it’s a requirement to fill out your papers, and then you normally read it again in the MTC. She told me about how her Bishop never asked her about it and she tried to read it in the MTC but she got bored or confused and started over again or stopped trying.

 Anyway, she just started telling me about the things that she understood about it (most of them came from the movie the Testaments) and she said from what she understood the Book starts in 1 Nephi when Christ dies in Jerusalem and Jacob is when He appears in America. I explained her how it starts in the Old Testament times and explained how there is Jacob son of Lehi and Jacob son of Ammaron and which one is in the movie and all that stuff. It was cool to really go so deep into the Book of Mormon (since we NEVER go into that much detail with investigators) and strengthen my Testimony more and more of such a life changing book.

 We went and visited some members this week that are preparing to go through the temple. Can I just say that the members here are amazing? Our ward is super tiny, but somehow we have seven missionaries out in the field, most of them are new converts with absolutely nothing.

Anyway, this family has two missionaries out in the field, one son and one daughter. The daughter has been sick and I listened as her mom just cried and cried and talked about how incredibly worried she is for her but she doesn’t ever let her daughter know she’s worried because she knows that she’s where she needs to be. It touched my heart a lot. I realized how amazing Missionary Parents are. I think that the only thing harder than leaving everything behind to teach the Gospel in a foreign land is watching your kid going out and doing it. It made me think a lot about the amazing parents that I have that support me completely in being here even though I am sure they sometimes feel just like that sister that we visited.

 We had some great lessons this week. We have a family that I just love SO much that is going to get Married and Baptized this week and I am so excited! I just love giving these people all that I have.

 I love you so much!

 Have a great week. Hermana Simonson