Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Lost Dog Effect and Not Yet as Job

Well, training my new “hijas” has been a bit of a roller coaster. I call it the “Lost Dog Effect.” I remember how, when I was little, I always LOVED dogs. But, of course, the Simonson Family can’t keep a dog for very long (other than Rockee…if she is still living….). So, after feeling like I had “loved and lost” way too many dogs, when I was about 14 I put up the pretext that I just hate dogs.  Even when I was 18, I was still playing the I-hate-dogs card until Rockee took care of me. 

Well, I think that my hijas have kind of done the same thing to me. After having the first one taken away in an emergency transfer, the next one going to a new area and calling me crying almost every night for the problems they were having, the next one that worked so hard to learn everything and begged me to teach her more, and then went on to train and open an area but got to a point of disobedience where I, being her Leader, had to go to her house and tell her that President wanted to talk to her and that she would have to go home if things didn’t get better, and then the last one that I loved to death and became my best friend in the whole world, and then one day she comes home with a headache and next thing I know she was on a plane home. 

I guess that’s why I wasn’t too excited to train, especially not to train TWO people at once. I don’t think I have really been the best trainer every (aside from the part that I haven’t been able to get up and work for almost two weeks!) because I haven’t opened myself up to really love them like I loved my other companions. I put up the pretext that I couldn’t love my companions so much, because I would just get hurt in the end (I know, I know, I will NEVER be able to be a good mom with that kind of attitude!). 

As I was sitting in study hour doing practices with one of my companions, I had to try really hard not to be frustrated because I felt like she just was not getting it. Then, a stern voice pierced my heart “I gave them to you, because I thought you would love them.” 

My heart ached. It’s no coincidence that I am training both of them. It’s no coincidence that they both happen to be young women with some very big trials in their lives. I prayed for forgiveness and tried to start being better. 

It’s not easy to love, but I remember a sweet little boy that was only a part of my life for a short time, and since the beginning, I felt he was only going to be there for a short time, so I didn’t let myself love him. Then, I finally couldn’t put the walls up any more and I made a decision to love that boy as much as I wanted to. And yes, it hurt when, the night before leaving on my mission, I bent down to hug him and the Spirit told me it was the last time I would be able to do it. It hurt a lot. But, it hurt a lot less than if I would have had to say goodbye, knowing that I never loved him like I should of. Charity never faileth. It doesn’t mean that it doesn’t bring pain, but at least it doesn’t fail. Sometimes, we just have to take down our walls, and decide to love.

It started out last P-Day. I was unable to write all the details that I wanted, because I had two Elders (an x District Leader and current zone leader) that refused to leave my side. They just kept talking and talking and talking and trying to convince me to go to Quistococha, a jungle beach type place, with the Zone, since it would probably be my last time.  I told them no, that I needed to be on rest, that the hike to the beach would be too hard for me to make and sitting there watching while everyone played volleyball would just make me more depressed. Basically, I was being a party pooper. 

When I argued that not being able to make it to the beach was a valid excuse, the looked at each other, then looked at me, and one said “I will carry you.” Thinking it was a joke, I just laughed until the other, my Zone Leader, looked at me and said “No, it’s for real. Hermana Simonson, I really want you to come.” So, I went. 

The Elders found a MotoKar that would take me through most of the hike part, and from there I was actually able to walk (without being carried;)), to the beach. Slowly, but surely. And, I wasn’t walking alone. My companions, Hermana Dickey, and Elder Avila and Elder Muñoz patiently walked beside me, laughing the whole way.  Some of the missionaries were playing volleyball and others were playing soccer, but there was also a little group sitting with Hermana Simonson, making sandcastles and laughing.

It continued throughout the week.  The shelf next to my bed is filled with protein bars, oils, pills, wraps, more pills, lotions, more pills, hospital receipts, vitamins, etc. It made me depressed. With my worldly eyes, it looked like it either belonged to an old woman, or a young woman with way too many problems. Well, I decided to put my Spiritual eyes on. Instead of looking at all the medicines and remedies, I started to think of all the people that had given me those things. I put a little post it on each on to say who gave it to me. Now, when I look at that stupid little shelf, I see a list of people that love me and care about me, not just a list of problems that I have.

Then, President and Hermana Gomez came by my house several times. DO you realize how amazing and rare it is to have a President that physically goes to your house to check on you? One time, they got there later than planned and Hermana Gomez came up my stairs and said “Sorry it took so long. Usually I bring sick missionaries some fruits and things, but I knew Hermana Simonson isn’t the biggest fruit fan, so I had to make some cookies.” I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. 

Then, when things didn’t get better as expected, Hermana Gomez felt that there was something the Hospital didn’t find, so her and President personally took me to a specialist and he found problems that the Hospital didn’t. He ordered me to more rest and, even though I cried a bit at the news, I got back to my house that night feeling pretty good about life, for having spent the entire night in the giant mission home, eating Mexican Food and laughing with the Gomez Family. 

Anyway, even before the leg problem, everyone had started to call me “Job” and they thought it was pretty funny. Well, as I reflected on all the amazing help I have received this week (it would be impossible to write it all out) I remembered a scripture I have always loved:

 My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment;
 And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high;thou shalt triumph over all thy foes.
 Thy friends do stand by thee, and they shall hail thee again with warm hearts and friendly hands.
 10 Thou art not yet as Job; thy friends do not contend 
against thee, neither charge thee with transgression, as they did Job.

So what if (as everyone loves to remind me), I’ve been really sick and almost got sent home, I haven’t been sleeping too well, my companion went home, my whole district got sent away on an emergency transfer, I have to train two people at once, my area is falling apart a bit, I’ve spent a lot of time in the Hospital, I was drugged up by a crazy doctor, and, well, a lot of other stuff happened and, to top it all off, I fell in a sewer? 

I have been blessed to be part of an amazing zone and amazing ward where I am being taken care of. Even if everything seems to be falling apart, I have one thing more than just Vitamins and Testimony: I have amazing friends. Heck, I would call them my family at this point. Sometimes, I let myself think “Meghan had everything she wanted, so why does Hermana Simonson have all the bad luck?” But, I realized today that, honestly, I am a very lucky girl. I mean, how many other people can say that they are in another part of the world, doing the hardest work there is, but somehow are still surrounded by family? How many people can say that they are perfectly happy, even with an infection in their leg caused by other people’s poop? I am pretty sure I am the only one! That’s some great luck.

The best part about all the support that I have gotten, is that I never have felt that the missionaries feel obligated to support me because they have to be Chrsitlike. I have just felt that they have done it because they really do like me and like to be with me. I don’t know if it’s true, but at least it’s how I’ve felt!! That’s when I realized something: if I have been able to be so loved even when I can’t work, that means that they don’t just love me for my work. 

Sometimes, I felt like I only had friends or that I was only a good missionary because of the things I’ve accomplished and because of the success I’ve had or the position I am in. I think I really based my self worth as a missionary off of that. But, I finally had a realization that I have needed my whole life “What we DO as a missionary (or as a person), is less important than who we ARE as a missionary (or a person). Just because I can’t work, doesn’t mean I am not a good missionary. I learned that with the experience I shared about last Sunday in church. Well guess what, the church was fuller than ever yesterday! Not because of the things I can do, but because of the person I can be.

No matter who we are or how strong people might think we are, we all come to points in our lives when we really need to have someone look us in the eyes and say “I will carry you” or “I want you to be there.” I am so grateful for the blessing of being surrounded my one family while the other is far away. As I said before, I never realized that I had family from Chile, Guatemala, New York, Maine, Peru, Honduras, The Dominican Republic, Mexico, etc. But, I sure do! And, I am so grateful for them.  When everything else seems to be falling apart, I have a lot of people there to put it back together.

Love- Hermana Simonson

Another Little Thought:

I was looking over some old emails right now and found a message that an old District Leader sent me last week when he saw me with crutches and heard my story (already knowing better than anyone else all the things that have happened) and said (it's never the same after translating) "Remember that not fainting, is better than just surviving." I can "faint" and just try to survive the end of my mission, or I can push forward and try to keep doing everything in my power and ENJOY my mission like I always have!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Vitamins and Testimony

Well, it’s been a fun morning. I’m at the Internet Shack with all the Missionaries from Iquitos and they keep looking at me and asking what happened to me. I think I’m funny, I keep responding with “What HASN’T happened to me?” We all get a good laugh out of it. It’s like Hermana Gomez said, “Hermana Simonson always seems to find a way to be made famous!”

First things first, I got the package!!!!! This goes against everything I believe, but I will admit that I love the oils. What would I do without parents to take care of me?

This week was…well…I don’t think there is a word to describe it. It was a week. Thursday night, we were walking in the rain and I was a little dizzy and wasn’t paying attention, and (please hold your laughter) I fell into a sewer. Like, a big old manhole.  

I was walking and, next thing I knew, I was up to my waist in fecal matter. It hurt. A LOT. We got back to the house and, as the adrenaline passed, I realized that I was in a lot, a lot, A LOT of pain. I got washed up and laid down and my companions looked at my leg and almost died. Calls were made and at about eleven o clock at night, a nurse showed up at our house, sent by President Gomez. She saw the wound on my purple, swollen, bleeding leg and started examining it and explained that a vein was out of place and that something could be broken and talking about surgery and so many things and I was sent into complete shock and fainted as my companions carried me to the bathroom.  

When I came to, the nurse was hovered over me and apologized for what she was about to do. She put a towel in my mouth and told me to bite it. As she began to pour disinfectant on the open wound, I couldn’t help but scream and cry. I have never experienced anything so painful. It must have been a sight to see. I was laying there, with a towel in my mouth, sweating and shaking and crying and SCREAMING like I have never screamed in my life. She wrapped the wound and gave me some pills and ordered us to go to the Hospital first thing in the morning.

When I got to the Hospital they put me in a wheelchair and did X-Rays and Ultrasound and just about everything possible. Long story short, there were no serious complications, but the bruising and scrape and infection was really bad. I was ordered to rest for at least a week and told to find crutches. 

As we sat there, waiting for the medicine to be ready and a shot for the pain and all that stuff, the Zone Leaders called and said they were coming to the Hospital and that if I wanted a blessing they were willing to do it. When they placed their hands upon my head, I felt calm at last. The words of the blessing were so clear and incredibly powerful. 

“The Lord wants you to know that he is very, very mindful of you and your situation. He knows every trial you are facing in your mission and in your life. He cares about you. That is why you are still in this Zone. This is why you are with two companions. Everything WILL be okay.”  Then, after six months with me, the Zone Leaders accomplished their dream-they saw me cry. 

Elder Belnap pushed me out of the room and the two of them sat down to talk to me. They looked up at me and said “Honestly, with EVERYTHING that has happened to you, how are you feeling right now? We have never seen anyone pass through so many trials at once.” They listened to everything and asked “Honestly, Sister, what keeps you going?” 

I didn’t know how to respond. A few weeks ago, Hermana Gomez had told me that the things that were keeping me going and would keep me in the mission were vitamins, my testimony, and going running every morning. “Well….running is out. So I guess it’s testimony and vitamins?” We all laughed.

The next day, I remember laying there and an almost audible voice tormented me. I realized that my two companions were stuck there, unable to work, just because I was sick. The mission would have just been better off if I wasn’t here. I was just costing them money and keeping my companions from being able to work. I have never cried so much in my life. I felt hopeless. I had no point in being here.  I have never felt so depressed before.

That night, the Zone Leaders came over later to give me my crutches. Elder Avila got them all adjusted for me and then Elder Belnap (who is 6’9) tried to show me how to walk up the stairs with crutches and fell over on the stairs. I almost died of laughter. In that moment, with my leaders and companions there and me laughing my head off, everything was suddenly okay. I remembered that, when I was set apart, I was promised Guardian Angels. In that moment, I was looking at a couple of them.

Sunday, we got to church just as the Bishop announced that I would be speaking. As I made my way up to the pulpit, everyone turned around to look at me with my crutches. I was so embarrassed. I got up and gave a normal talk and sat down. Everything was silent and I noticed that many members were crying.  The Bishop, who wasn’t on the Program, got up and spoke tearfully about my example and faith and how I was there and as happy as every even though I was in pain. 

Many members came up to me crying and committed to never miss a Sunday, even if they were sick, because of my example. That’s when I realized that, even if I can’t exactly do much right now, just being here and being who I am is changing lives. I know that I didn’t make a wrong choice when I decided to stay here. I know this is where I belong…no matter what happens.

Love- Hermana Simonson

Monday, May 12, 2014


Well, I am sure there are thousands of missionaries around the world writing the same thing right now, but let me just say it was SO great to talk to you guys yesterday! This week has been…interesting to say the least! I was incredibly surprised during the transfer meeting to hear that I would be staying in the same area yet again, and that EVERYONE in my district was leaving. EVERYONE.

After all the problems that had happened, they decided to take everyone out other than me. That was a hard blow because it meant that I would be in charge of not just my area, but also of showing two other companion-ships around their areas. Plus, it meant I was going to be left alone by all of my awesome mission friends.

My area is really rough and small so it is hard not to get incredibly bored of talking to all of the same people day after day. Then, my Zone Leader looked at me with a smirk asking how many “daughters” I had, and announced that I would have one more. I’ll be honest, I wanted to cry. I think I might have a little bit. I just was not ready to have to train again, and be in charge of the district, and stay in the same area.

That night, I was helping Hermana Allphin and Hermana Hernandez pack their things (Elders were going to be moving into their area!) and I did something that I really should never, ever do. I saw them getting ready to go and have new areas and new people and new adventures and leave me here alone after EVERYTHING that has happened to us over the last few weeks and I said “Honestly, NOW I don’t think that it could get any worse.” Challenge Accepted.

A few minutes later, the phone rang and the assistants informed me that they would be bringing a bed into my house because I would not be training one, but two new missionaries. I almost lost it. Being in a trio is the typical idea of worst-thing-that-can-happen-to-you-in-the-mission-especially-if-you’re-senior-companion. It’s hard to work in a trio. You lose more money because everything costs more, usually two people in the trio get along better than the other and they start fighting and things like that.

I started feeling really sorry for myself. Anxiety. Same old area that just happens to be known for being one of the hardest in the mission. A traumatic week after being taken out of my area for safety reasons and then having to go back and work as if nothing happened. No companion for two weeks. No district leader. Everyone leaving. Being in charge of three areas plus all the hermanas. Training again. Training TWO at the same time.  Hermana Allphin, my best friend that has been with me for everything, going to Tarapoto. I was done.

After everything that had happened two weeks ago, I remember one night Hermana Allphin and I went out to work together and she looked at our shadows and said “Look at this. This makes me so happy to see us out working. We remain after everything that has happened, we are still out serving the Lord.”

Later that night, we watched a little video clip from the Emma Smith movie and we talked about how cool it was to watch another example of someone who just keeps forward no matter what happens. That was my goal, but when I saw them leaving, I lost sight of the goal and broke down into tears. They just kind of held me there and I said “After everything everything that has happened I have been okay, but for the first time in my whole mission I feel like I literally can’t do it.” I had to get myself together fast.

I took a breather and next thing I knew I was the happiest person in the New Missionary Meeting. I was laughing and talking just fine. I was given my two new companions and told them only positive things about the area. I was put in charge of giving a training/lecture/presentation/speech (I cant exactly remember the exact word for “capacitacion” in English!) in Multi-Zone Conference.

 There, I was also given a few Certificates for all of the Baptisms that I had with Hermana Ventura. I couldn’t believe the comments people gave to me. They all know that I am sick, they just have no idea about with what, and they kept talking about how Hermana Simonson, being sick and being a Leader, and training, and being in a hard area, and losing her companion, could still baptize and teach the zone and do everything.

I remembered a quote from the Emma Smith clip that I have become an addict to, that shows Emma kneeling down and crying and praying and they quote her saying “Everyone says that I am strong……I don’t feel strong.” That’s how I felt. Would people still talk that way if they knew WHAT I am sick with? If they knew that I have to take several pills just to be able to sleep at night? If they knew that, just after what they called my “awesome” presentation I had to slip into a different room with the Zone Leaders so that they could give me a blessing? Would they think I was so strong if they knew that it was just a few weeks ago that I almost got sent home?

I just didn’t feel strong. I just wanted to be the person that everyone seems to see. Well, you know what? I learned the secret to getting over my selfishness and feeling sorry for myself. Remember when we were Skyping and there were a bunch of people behind me talking to their daughter that is in a different mission? They taught me an amazing lesson yesterday. The dad got on Skype and talking for less than two minutes and said “It is so amazing to say hi to you for a minute. I love you so much. Wow! What a blessing to hear your voice.”

Then, he stepped aside so that other random members of the ward could talk to his daughter. There I was, frustrated because the Skype was blurry and I had to call to be able to hear and because I only was allowed forty minutes, and this humble man was ever grateful for his two minutes.

What was the difference between me and him? Last night, it hit me. ENTITLEMENT. Instead of feeling entitled to more time with his daughter, he was grateful for the time he did have. He didn’t feel like he deserved or was entitled to anything, so the little he had was a huge blessing. If we start thinking that we are entitled to certain things, we get frustrated and angry and jealous, we start to think that our lives are less than how they should be.

Who says that I was entitled to have a transfer? Who says that I should only have one companion? Who says that I deserve to not have to train? Why should I be entitled to have the same district there with me? Why am I entitled to better health instead of being grateful for the health I do have? Why should I DESERVE anything different than I already have?

This really was such an amazing realization as I learned that my life and mission will be more Spiritual and more blessed if I stop thinking about how things should be, and focus on the good of how things are?

Really, I am not ENTITLED to anything, but I have been BLESSED with a lot of things. I am so very grateful for the blessings that the Lord has given me and that I am here in His work.

I love it! I love my mission, trials included.

Love- Hermana Simonson

Monday, May 5, 2014

Who Says This Ship is Sinking Anyway?

There just aren’t even words to describe everything. It’s funny how, two weeks ago, I was sure that things couldn’t get any harder. Well…they did. On top of not having a companion, having a dying area, and my health going downhill, we faced some pretty serious problems this week.

For the last couple weeks, I had just been trying to pretend like everything was okay in our little district, but it really wasn't. I knew I needed to talk to the Zone Leaders but I was worried that I would cause trouble, and they would be mad because I took so long to tell them. Better to just let it blow over, right? Wrong.

After lunch on Wednesday, I felt a really, really big need to call them. It took a lot of courage, but I called them and said that I needed to talk to them. So, I met up with them at the church and I talked to them alone and told them everything that has been happening (we had had some big problems with our District Leader). They told me that they were going to have to talk to him and I got really scared because I knew that he would be mad but, long story short, I was kind of put into "hiding" for two days and then my District Leader got an emergency transfer and once he was gone, my Zone Leaders gave me permission to go back and work in my area.

One problem, I wasn't so sure that I wanted to go back and work in my area. I just remember thinking “What’s the point? Everywhere I go I just remember everything that has happened and I feel scared. I’m probably getting transferred in a few days anyway. I don’t have a companion, I don’t feel good, the area is already down the drain, the members don’t want to work with me, I have no one to teach, everyone in the ward just keeps asking where my District Leader went and I don’t want to talk about it, I’m not doing any good anyway! I am just going to avoid my area and in a few days someone new can come in and it can be THEIR problem!”

I was thinking that way as I followed Hermana Allphin and Hermana Hernandez through their area. We were working out on the river where we have to walk on these funny plank bridges. It always reminds me of Pirates of the Carribean, so my mind wandered there for a second (I know, what a horrible, unfocused missionary!) until I remembered on of my favorite lines from those movies. “A GOOD CAPTAIN ALWAYS GOES DOWN WITH HIS SHIP!”

I could not believe how much that thought applied to me. I started thinking back on the day that I first got to this area. I was tired and frustrated and could not believe that, yet again, I was going to open an area and start training. No Area Book, no map, no knowledge of the area, NOTHING. The ward only had 57 people going to church and missionaries had never been in this part of the ward. It was ridiculously hard but, after months of hard work, the area became very well known for the success that it was having.

Opening the Area Book (now that we have one!) is amazing because every page, every person taught and found, is Hermana Simonson and Hermana Hernandez, and then Hermana Simonson and Hermana Ventura, and then just Hermana Simonson. This area IS my ship. We have seen so many miracles here.

I asked Hermana Allphin if I could make a phone call, and I found members willing to work with me. I went back out to my area, willing to “thrust my sickle with all my might.” If my area was going to go downhill, I would at least be out there going down with it.

Sunday came, and I was able to bring three full families of Investigators to the church, and almost all of them committed to Baptism. The Anxiety Sister was there and happier than ever, people were glad to see me, and the Spirit was strong. The best part, and one of the most rewarding parts of my mission, was walking into the chapel. We have had a new schedule change (Peruvians do NOT do well with early) and I was half expecting the chapel to be empty. Well, it ALMOST was, except for three or four rows of amazing people that had gotten there even earlier than I did.

Want to know the best part? ALL of the people on those three rows, the only people that were there, were my converts. I didn't know whether to smile or cry. These people really have been converted, and I have been a part of that. How blessed am I?

I found so much peace during the meetings. If my area gets handed over to someone else, they will be lucky enough to come to an area with lots of progressing investigators and I can honestly say that I left my area better than I found it.

If I stay here, I will be able to keep working with these amazing people. And, no matter what happens with the transfers today, I know that I will at least have a companion…and District Leader…from here on out. Everything is just great.

Love you all!

Thanks for your prayers and support. This work is amazing!!!

~Hermana Simonson