Monday, June 23, 2014

The Imperfect Sacrifice and You Already Have

Side Note: 77 more days until she will be home!!!

June 23, 2014

After nine whole months, I couldn´t believe how hard it was to pack my bags and prepare to board a plane once again. Getting changed off the island was SO unexpected! I also couldn´t believe how broken-hearted  the members were. The thing about Peruvians is they just LOVE to give. Every time I went to a house to say goodbye, a member went back behind their house to find something to give me. Earrings, half used perfumes, Christmas stockings, sunscreen, and just whatever they had. My heart melted. I love these people.  Saying goodbye to my converts was even harder, but I have so much faith that I will see them again.

I was also surprised at how hard it was to say goodbye to my Zone, especially my Zone Leaders.  After everything I went through with them and how we suddenly changed from something of rivals to the best of friends, I was scared to go to a new zone. I was scared to have to open up to new Zone Leaders and explain all of my problems. When I said goodbye to them, we were in a restaurant and I broke down probably harder than ever. I was crying so much that a waiter asked me if a loved one had died. So funny.

I took a lot of courage, though, from the blessing they gave me before I left. They said that when I was out of energy, the Atonement would be my motor to keep me going. What I most loved were the last words “When your health fails you and you feel that you can’t do it anymore, take courage and know that you can, BECAUSE YOU ALREADY HAVE.” I have had to repeat those words to myself every single day as opening an area and training yet again have been hard, but things are great.

On the plane to Pucallpa, I knew that I could be happy and not look back if I could just be sure that the Lord was pleased with my work there. So, I decided to ask him, just as I did in the plane leaving Tarapoto.  This time, with a lot more experience in the mission, I realized that maybe the Lord could never be 100 percent pleased because my work would never be 100 percent perfect, but I knew that I had sacrificed and given the best I could.

My humble question was simply this: “Lord, will you please accept my imperfect sacrifice of the nine months I worked in Iquitos?  I know it is not perfect, but it was the best I could do, it really was.”  I felt at peace and I know that the Lord accepted my Imperfect Sacrifice, my Imperfect Number of Baptisms, and the changes I made in my oh, so imperfect self.

So, I am training “daughter” number seven. Guess what? Another Mexican!  Hermana Vega was raised in Mexico, but has been living in California for the last few years.  Things are going great. I thought my health was 100 percent, but, guess what? I fell. Yet again. At least this time it wasn’t in a sewer!!  The Mission Doctor said that walking during a Panic Attack probably isn’t a good idea…point proven once again.

 It’s always hard to have a companion because I always put off the whole admitting that I am crazy part. (Oops!!! I take it back. The last thing that my old Zone Leaders made me promise is that I would stop referring to my sickness as “craziness”). Even harder will be when I have to admit it to my new leaders! Oh well, for now everyone just thinks I fall a lot, some day I will grow up and explain why.

This week, the mission doctor that calls me every week explained that the depression that I am feeling is a normal part of anxiety. So, hypoglycemia leads to anxiety, and anxiety leads to depression. Gee, Phillips Family, thanks a lot! But really, things are getting better. All things aside, it has been a great week!

I am starting to like my new Zone a lot. Remember Elder Turley? He was with me in my Branch when I started out, then in the same stake in Iquitos, and now we came here together to Pucallpa until we go home in September.  He and his companion eat dinner with us every night, so that has been a lot of fun!

My companion is great, she thinks that I am a “warrior.” I kind of feel like one sometimes! A brace on one knee, a recent gash on the other, and a thousand things hidden inside, but somehow I am still one of the happiest people on the planet. Training again, opening an area again, and teaching this Gospel, which is the very “Motor” that keeps me going. I love teaching. I love it so much. This is the best mission in the whole world!!!!

Have a great week! Love you all!

Hermana Simonson

Monday, June 16, 2014

Womanhood and Such

June 16, 2014

Hermana Dickey called me this week laughing and told me that she had been with the Zone Leaders and they were talking about me and, I don't know how, but they somehow got to the point that the Zone Leaders said, "Something is happening with her. She used to be the sporty one, but she is turning into such a woman right now!"  

It made me think on lessons I have learned and ways I have changed. I don't know if these
things have made me more of a woman, but maybe, just maybe ;).

Love: I couldn´t help but ask myself why I was crying. This didn't affect me personally. But, as I sat with a family that I loved as the mother was laying sick in her hay bed and the whole family was expecting the early return of their missionary daughter who has been
very sick, I couldn’t help but think “That was almost me. I almost came home as well.” When I really put myself in their position I was 
filled with love and pain. I realized that, for my whole life, I have very, very rarely cried for the plight of someone else, because I have
never tried to feel what they feel. But, this moment changed it all. I learned the importance of loving others and mourning with those that mourn.

Obedience is greater than Sacrifice: With the trainings that I had to give about obedience, I remember learning that obedience is greater than sacrifice. I realize how sad it is that sometimes as missionaries, we are willing to sacrifice studies and money and our families, but we are not willing to wake up on time or to study or to make all of our contacts each week. More important than giving all the sacrifices we already gave is being obedient to what the Lord asks and offering a broken heart and contrite Spirit.

Be Thankful: Because, honestly, it really COULD be worse. And don’t doubt it, or God will show you that it can.

Take down the walls: Last Monday, we were enjoying a normal P-Day and as a few of us sat there talking, one of my Zone Leaders randomly just started saying how he thinks that the reason that I laugh so much is because I am trying to protect myself and make people think that I am okay when I am really not. Woah. That was deep! And honestly, I couldn’t deny it. I really have programmed myself that way. Later, we were all on a bus and I wasn’t feeling so great and I kind of fainted/slept on the chair in front of me. A few people next to me called my name and I didn’t respond. Next thing I knew, that same Zone Leader was kneeling down next to me and when I looked up he made me eat something and then as he was leaving, he said “Hey, we don’t need you to just be strong, we want to know when you’re not okay.” It made me realize that my pride lets me hide things that I don’t need to
hide, that there is no shame in admitting that I am not always okay.

Not Everything is Extreme: I have spent my whole life looking at things in black and white. Well, between not being able to work because of my leg and then having to make the decision not to extend my mission, I finally learned how to stop looking at the extreme. I
remember thinking that if I didn’t extend, I wasn’t a good missionary and I wasn’t completing my duties, and if I did extend I was basically an amazing missionary and example. I remember thinking that God would be disappointed if I didn’t extend, but now I am learning that God really looks on the heart and loves us for our desires, even if our
health, and His will, keeps us from realizing them.

No One Is Invincible: I was talking to a Sister this week and she started talking about how she was worried because she’s felt that she is having some emotional problems but told me that she didn’t want to tell anyone about it and that this stuff happens in her family a lot etc. I remember just cutting her off and saying “Let me guess. You don’t want to tell anyone about it because you don’t want to hear that you have a problem because you keep telling yourself that you’re not like your family and that this can’t happen to YOU of all people. But, you’re even more scared that maybe there’s actually nothing wrong with you and you’re just making this stuff up?” She almost started crying and said “Oh my gosh, do you read minds??” Then, I told her a little bit of my story and she didn’t believe me. “YOU have had these problems?? How could I not tell??” I just laughed. It can happen to anyone.

Mother Nature Can Be Cruel: Quote of the Week from my good old New Yorker Zone Leader: “Wait. Periods last a whole week??? That SUCKS!” Hahaha. So, being on medication for my leg for so long got my defenses down so much and then starting my period this week killed me with my anxiety and anemia and Hypoglycemia and everything that I was pretty sick and was fainting a little bit. When Hermana Gomez heard, she came
rushing over to my house with chocolate strawberries and a smoothie and some vitamins. Hahaha I loved it. There are missionaries alone in the Hospital with Parasites and Knee Surgeries and things but who gets special treatment? The girl on her period. Love it!

Fight: I have had an obsession lately with the song “Danny Boy” and I 
remember wondering what it would be like to send your son off to war. Then, I listened more closely to the lyrics and remembered that, about 15 short months ago, the best parents in the world sent their daughter off to war. It wasn’t a typical kind of war, but it is the most important war ever waged. The war for Salvation. I remember what I promised mom when I left “I promise you that I will not only survive, I will THRIVE.” Sometimes I feel like I am surviving, but, overall, I am thriving as I “gird up my loins” roll up my sleeves, and work everyday.

Finish Strong: I remember being twelve years old when dad took me to the Dixie State track to get some 800m splits before the Hershey’s Track Meet. I was always stopping at the finish line. Then, he taught me one of the most important lessons of my life (as he always seemed to do when we ran). “Don’t stop at the finish line, you need to run THROUGH it. Well, as I enter my “Last Twelve Weeks” today, his voice rings in my head. I need to run through that line and not slow down. 100 percent, all the way to the tape!!! I am ready.


Hermana Simonson

Monday, June 9, 2014

Part of the Sea

What a week! Last P-Day was one of the best days of my mission. I was basically walking on air for having extended my mission. Then, we went FISHING! Can you imagine anything better than sitting out on a bridge above the Amazon River for several hours with some of your best friends from around the world. It was great! 

Everyone kept asking me why I was so happy and smiling and they didn’t believe that extending my mission would make me so happy, but it did! I love this work and I feel like I could do it forever. Plus, after everything I went through and almost being sent home, I liked to think that extending was a big old sucker punch to Satan’s throat, which definitely made me feel great. Then, to make things even better, I was able to go proselyte at night for the first time in several weeks. It was amazing.

Then, in the quiet of the night as I said my prayers and thanked Heavenly Father for the chance to extend my mission, a voice whispered in my heart “I gave you the option, but did you ask ME if I want you to take it?” I thought about it for a second and brushed the feeling off and said “Obviously He wants me to take it! I’m going to be serving Him for more time.”  Everything made so much sense. With everything that happened, I felt like Satan was trying to discourage me. It seemed so obvious that the reason he wanted to discourage me was to keep me from extending.

The next morning, I couldn’t feel the Spirit. I felt so distracted by the decision. So, I took some time to make a list of all the reasons why I should and shouldn’t extend.  I realized that, for the most part, my reasons for extending were very outward things: sucker punch the Devil, have more time on Leadership Council, less time waiting around at home, more time with my mission friends, etc. But the reasons for NOT staying were more humble, inward reasons: protect my health, help my family, and, most importantly, because the Spirit told me it was right. I knelt down and asked if I really needed to come home at my normally assigned time and I FINALLY felt at peace. I knew that it was what was right.

But, that didn’t make it easy. The whole week was a rollercoaster.  The training program is called the “First  Twelve Weeks” and I realized that I am just about to enter my “Last twelve Weeks.” I remembered the haunting thought of one day having a LAST Baptism, a LAST lesson, a LAST lunch with members. 

My heart was broken. “PLEASE!” I prayed. Please let me stay at LEAST six more weeks. I am not ready, I will never be ready.” Then, I realized the hard truth. The real reason I wanted to extend: I am scared. I don’t want to be a baby but honestly, I am SO scared. I realized something. After so many years of struggling, I FINALLY found who I am.

I have been able to have such great success in my mission. Being in the mission, everyone kind of knows everything and I know my place here and my best friends in the whole world (literally, in the whole world! ;)) are here and I’m a leader and I am watched over and what happens when I take that nametag off and just go back to being nobody? I don’t know why I was so scared, but I was SO scared.

Then, in the Leadership Council (another month has come and gone!) I was assigned to give a training. I was really nervous  because I can train in Zone Conferences without a  problem, but leadership council is when the Zone Leaders from all over fly in and whatever I taught, they would have to reteach to all of their it was basically like training the whole mission. But, it went really well. And, having it go well made my decision even harder  because I thought “Look, I can make a difference here! I don’t need to go home in September!” 

During lunch, everyone was talking about how they had extended their missions and how happy they were and I just wanted to be a part of that so bad. Well, everyone thought I WAS a part of it…but I hadn’t given them the update. In the bathroom, I was almost in tears. “Heavenly Father, I have finally, FINALLY found something I am good at. I belong here. Will you really not let me extend?”

The answer was clear and the decision was final. I realized that, even though I am scared, I need to end my mission with the same scripture I started it with: D&C 6:36. Doubt Not. Fear Not. 

I came to an amazing realization. As I was standing in the church, confused with all these thoughts going through my head and people that I was talking to, someone came up behind me and said “Hermana Simonson! I sent them, I sent the papers!” With all the confusion, I didn’t think about it much, but then it finally hit me: MISSION PAPERS. 

I turned around and saw my own convert, Juan, with a big smile on his face. I have a convert getting ready to go on a mission. He has already baptized 5 people, and now he will get to baptize even more. I took a moment to remember the day that we found him. I was a brand new trainer without a clue and Hermana Dickey was just a bright eyed newby with very limited Spanish. Wanting to give up, we finally knocked on a door and what came out of the door knock? A FUTURE MISSIONARY.

I finally realized that I will NEVER have a last Baptism. Why? Because this work is Eternal. Every life that I have touched with be changed for forever, and will be able to touch more lives. And, as far as the Leadership Council goes, I would love to announce that I am officially training the future Sister Leader (I know, right, it would have been nice if someone would have trained me! But that’s what happens when you’re the first), and, guess who it is??? That,’s right, Hermana Dickey!!!! So, someone that I trained to be a missionary will now be taking my place. It looks like I will still be a leader, but I will most likely go out to a different part and she will stay in Iquitos being the main HLC—SO AWESOME!!!!

One day, two waves were preparing to crash on the shore. One looked to the other and said “I don’t want to hit the shore. After such an amazing journey, we are coming to the end.” The other wave responded saying “Our journey may end, but we will never end. After all, we are part of the SEA.” 

Love- Hermana Simonson 

Monday, June 2, 2014


Great news: I’M FREE!!!!! Today I am officially walking without crutches. I still have the brace on, but other than that I will be able to be out working again this week.  Friday night, I got a call saying that I won’t need the surgery which was great news.

In other news, the lost dog effect struck again! Right after my decision to love my companions, Hna. Peña got an emergency transfer this week because a missionary went home for sickness and they had to

move people around a bit. But, I am moving forward.

This week was a big one as far as Sister Troubles go. I got a call because a Sister thought that her companion was throwing up, so I had to go verify the situation. Of course, if you just show up there and say “Are you bulimic?” nothing good will come out of it, so I always have to try and take it slow and ask inspired questions and pretend like I don’t know anything until it comes out and she admits it. So, it worked and she admitted it and then Hermana Gomez came to talk to her and the sister just talked about how she doesn’t like herself and all 

Hermana Gomez asked her to give three reasons of why she didn’t like herself. She said “Well, I don’t learn fast, I’m boring….” And then she looked at the ground and was silent and said “AND I’LL NEVER BE HERMANA SIMONSON!!”

It was like someone punched me in the stomach. NO, even worse. It was like someone punched me in my infected leg. I couldn’t help but wonder if I had somehow acted superior or made her think that she HAD to be 
more like me.  I felt really, really bad.

I was assured that it wasn’t anything I did it was just because she looked up to me and that I didn’t need to worry about it. But then, Hermana Gomez made a really good point when she mentioned that all the good things that that sister sees in me are things that I have acquired on my mission. She talked of how much I have grown up and changed and it hit me really hard that I owe SO much to this mission. I really do.

On that note, decision time. I was going to write more about sister problems from the week, but then that little letter I just read that invited me to extend my mission threw me for a loop. I am going to have to do a 
lot of reading and praying this week. I know that once I’m home, I’ll be home for good, so what does six weeks matter? 

Not a lot changes at home in six weeks, but a lot can change in the mission in six weeks. A lot of good can be done in six weeks. I am leaning towards extending, but I know it will be a test of my faith.  I can’t lie and say that I can’t wait to be home with you, but I also know that there is a work that I need to do here, and maybe I can do it in six weeks. 

It’s a bit of a dilemma for me, but the Lord has the answer and now I just need to do what I ask investigators to do everyday: Pray, and listen to the Lord’s response. I’ve got a good week ahead of me to really figure out 
what the Lord has in store for me. I love this Gospel and I love this work and I know that whatever happens, the Lord is in it!

Other than that, we baptized a family on Saturday and it was so sweet. It is an old grandma that is seventy years old and raising her ten year old grandson that she adopted when his parents abandoned him. I 
love how this work can change lives in such a sweet way.

Have a great week!

Hermana Simonson