July 28, 2014

Potentially Last Greetings from Santo Tomé

Hola hola hola.

Transfers are this Wednesday. Hermana Gunter and I still have not Heard from our leaders, so we have don't know what will be happening. However, we are both fairly certain that Hermana Gunter will stay here in Santo Tomé (because she is Presidenta de la Relief Society), and I will probably be moving to a different area since I have 12 weeks here in Santo Tomé


I'm going to Parana (close to Asuncion), Paraguay!!!!!!! My new companion will be Hermana Garcia (i think that's her name). aaaaahhh!

Last Friday we were out about a half hour walk from our apartment and we were trying to make some contacts. We were clapping at door after door, but nobody answered since everyone was sleeping for the siesta. Well, after a while, Hna Gunter realized she needed to go to the bathroom, and she needed to go to the bathroom NOW. Our clapping became more frantic as we decided to try and find someone who would let us use their bathroom. Luckily we found a house where the family was still awake, and they let us in. When we got inside, one of the boys who lived there looked a little shocked, and then started to laugh and laugh, and his girlfriend looked a little upset. I wondered why, and right before we left, they told us what had happened. Apparently, this young man had just gotten into a small argument with his girlfriend. She accused him of not paying enough attention to her; He said that she was too over concerned and jealous. They got to a point where the boy finally was so exasperated that he jokingly said something along the lines of "Fine! If you want, I’ll just have two blondes come keep me company if you don’t want to stay." Just then they heard us clapping at the door, and then they saw two young Americans walk in, one (being me) with blonde hair. The situation was comical to just about everyone but the poor girlfriend, who I think was stewing a little.

We are still making progress with Jorge! In just the space of a week he has improved so much, mentally and spiritually. He is able to focus more easily and hold actual conversations. He also prays willingly and powerfully. He told us that every time he thinks about smoking, the thought of the cigarette grosses him out. Hopefully he keeps going strong!

Sometimes missionary life (okay, more like all the time) can be hectic. There is so much to do, and there is a lot of pressure- sometimes I feel like I have to be going full force, full effort, getting everything done well, 100% of the time. But doing that just burns me out. I have realized that I need to be moderate in my time management and in my energy management. During studies today I found a scripture that I love in Psalms 46:10 "Be still, and know that I am God." Sometimes I just need to take a step back take a moment to appreciate and remember all that God is and has done and will do. I am in His hands; He will take care of me.

I hope you all have a fantastic week! Happy (late) birthdays to Bronx and Audrey!

Hermana Simmons

Yeah, timing here is messed up. Some days I think "holy cow, I still have fourteen months to go. I have been here FOREVER." But then other days I can hardly believe that four months have already passed by.

That's insane about the peso inflating so much (doubled in three years since Jaron was in Argentina as a missionary). There is a lot of unemployment here and people are struggling to get by, but being a missionary it's hard for me to understand the big picture since I can't watch or read the news. Now at least I know that it is a country wide phenomenon and not just Santo Tomé

July 21, 2014

Veggies and Drugs

Something strange has happened. But I'll have to start from the beginning to explain myself:

Everyone here cooks with oil. all the time. with any food. They fry everything, and even if it isn't fried, lots of times they'll just pour a little bit of oil on top of the food just because they like to do that. Also, nobody eats vegetables- as in ever. They're a bit expensive. So, I have gotten to the point where I am actually craving vegetables. That's right. My companion and I search diligently for the best deals at the supermarket to find broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, bell peppers, etc... We come home at night and instead of wanting chocolate we boil ourselves some broccoli. How weird is that??? It's almost as if a crucial part of my personality has been corrupted into a health nut. But I think I'll survive.

Moral of the story: Eat your vegetables! And enjoy them! Because there are grease-sick missionaries in Argentina who would spend an hour on preparation day discussing how awesome it was to eat a full plate of vegetables for lunch. haha

Apparently speaking full-time Spanish and trying to think in English doesn't work. My companion and I try to speak Spanish at all times, so sometimes when we actually want to speak in English, Spanish words and phrases will just come out without us even trying. I feel like if anyone else heard our conversations that we have in the apartment, they wouldn’t be able to understand our strange mix of American accented spanish and occasional English phrases or Spanish expressions.

We've been teaching classes of piano Saturday nights. This is always fun to see everyone coming together to try and understand music. Something that is so foreign to them, but seems so fundamental to me. Sometimes I forget that the culture here really is very different from that of the United States, at least when it comes to music. People don't have the time or the money to just take classes of piano. I'm glad Hna Gunter and I have been able to help out a bit. I am also playing piano for the Primary on Sundays. I love it because I get to practice my Spanish with all the little children, who I don't feel will judge me, and they have no problem trying to help me improve my pronunciation and vocabulary!

We have been meeting with a young man named Jorge. He is 22 years old, but drinking and drugs have messed up his life. He is so dependent on them, and a few years ago he had to go to a hospital, and now he takes medications for his mind because he is semi-mentally handicapped. I have always known that "drugs are bad" and "drinking is dangerous" but I never really REALIZED that drugs are AWFUL and drinking RUINS LIVES until I got here in Argentina. It is so sad to see so many people (especially the youth!!!) already addicted to these substances and just being dragged down paths that lead to destruction and disaster. Luckily Jorge is willing and wanting to change, so Hna Gunter and I have been trying to help him. We bought him a toothbrush and toothpaste (since he can’t afford them) and some gum to help him clean out his mouth and give him something to do when he gets the urge to smoke. We also took away his package of cigarettes last night. We told him he couldn't smoke anymore yesterday, and he had to wait until we came back before he could smoke again. Hopefully with time he can decrease the amount he smokes down to zero.
Doctrine and Covenants 89! Read it! When we don't take care of our bodies, we can't function, much less feel the influence of the Spirit.

I love you all!
Hermana Simmons 

ps- Mom if you ever send me a package, it would be cool if you could send me a bunch of gallon and quart size ziplock bags. They don't have ziplock or even anything like it here. Also, they don't really have gum. If you could send me a package (or a whole Costco bunch) that would be fantastic.

Also, I have had to use my own personal debit card quite a bit this month due to the flooding. When we were in Virasoro we didn’t have access to our money, and also we had to buy more clothing since we were there for a whole week, and i haven't received reimbursements from the mission office yet. So that's why i have been using my card a lot lately.

Nope, we haven’t met with Estevan again. ugh. We’re fairly certain he’s always home, he just has been hiding from us. Unfortunately that is fairly routine here. We have a super spiritual lesson, and the person agrees and really wants to change. But then we leave and Satan begins to attack them and the person realizes that they really SHOULD change, but they are afraid to because they know it will be hard. We’re going to pass by his house a few more times to try and see if he is home, but if not we are going to have to move on. That is always super discouraging.

haha and i have the same problem with goals! I start the day well, but by lunchtime I'm completely focused in cualquier otra cosa and don’t do so great cumpliendo con mis metas.
sorry i just realized i have random spanish words mixed in. it’s kind of confusing at veces because I’m so used to speaking it ALL THE TIME (even with my american companion) that some phrases are just easier to say and i don’t realize that I’m doing it until i reread what i wrote.
That’s so exciting for Shaylee! Russia would be a way cool mission (haha pun not intended)!
And yes, Taylia finally wrote me a real letter!!!! Woohoo! That was exciting. But I have yet to hear from Alair about que tal su college tours!

July 14, 2014

hola hola

The World Cup is finally all over! Although I am genuinely disappointed that we didn´t win (Vamos Argentina!), I am glad that we didn´t have to deal with all of the craziness of the celebrations that would have happened if we had won. Even though we lost, it was still too dangerous for us to be able to leave our apartment Sunday night.

We had a lesson the other night with a man named Estevan. We didn´t have much time to speak with him, so Hna Gunter and I had decided to just do a quick spiritual thought and then leave to visit someone else, because we didn´t really think that Estevan was interested. But during the opening prayer, the thought entered my mind that I really did want to help Estevan and share a spiritual thought that would impact him and touch his heart. Immediately the idea of sharing the story of Alma the Younger, and how he and his friends did all sorts of terrible things, but God still loved them and saw their potential. Through Jesus Christ, Alma was able to change and become a better person. As my companion and I shared this story, Estevan began to tear up. Then he full on began to cry! There we were, two young sister missionaries listening as this grown man sobbed and told us how he was sick of getting drunk with his friends. He wanted to change but didn´t know how. Because of his past mistakes, his ex girlfriend wouldn't let him visit or even see his daughter. we testified that Estevan could change if he relied on Christ and we explained that God wants the best for all of His children, even if they haven´t always been obedient. Estevan ended our discussion with a powerful prayer, and then we went on our way. It was such a spiritual experience, and I really realized for the first time after that lesson that I ENJOY being a missionary. I like helping people learn of Christ and see how they too can feel their Savior´s love and repent.

On a related note, we have also started teaching Mariela and Fernando´s family. Their two youngest daughters are very interested and progressing quickly. It´s amazing to see the change that has taken place in Mariela and Fernando both! How much more love there is in their home! How happy they are!

Totally random, but Hna Gunter and I love blowing everybody´s minds here with American desserts. We made some chocolate chip cookies to share with some members, and everyone was asking for the recipe. The same thing happened when we made no-bake cookies for a branch activity. They don´t really have anything other than dulce de leche, sweet breads, and flan here.

I want to end with the scripture we shared with Estevan :) "My soul hath been redeemed from the gall of bitterness and bonds of iniquity. I was in the darkest abyss; but now I behold the marvelous light of God. My soul was racked with eternal torment; but I am snatched, and my soul is pained no more."
I love you all and hope you have a fantastic week!
Hna Simmons

P.S.  Oh my word those camping pictures look so fun! im starting to realize here that when i finish my mission, camping wont be so terrible because by now i'm kind of used to "camping"ish conditions. Especially seeing that some people here really do just literally "camp" for life.

July 07, 2014

Not Refugees Anymore!

Woohoo! We're finally back in Santo Tome!

 Hermana Gunter and I spent the week in Virasoro after all the rain flooded the river. We ended up having to buy groceries for the week, another pair of clothing, etc... because we didn’t really have anything with us. Luckily we were able to share a lot with the hermanas in Virasoro. The roads back to S.T. were all covered in water- the only way back would have been by boat! The river, which is normally about a 20 minute walk from our apartment, rose and flooded up to one block away from us!!! So luckily none of our stuff got ruined while we were gone.

 A lot of people are living in the local school though since their houses were completely covered and filled. It was so frustrating and heartbreaking for Hna Gunter and I because we wanted to help everyone so badly, but we were stuck in Virasoro with no way back!

 But if I learned anything this week, it is that God has a plan and He knows what He is doing. Even though we couldn’t do anything in our own area, we were able to spend the entire week with the sister missionaries in Virasoro. One of the hermanas there has been struggling. She has 6 months in the mission and still has lots of trouble with the language, so she has grown more and more anxious and has been letting her health deteriorate. Also, she doesn’t get along with her companion very well. While we were there for the week, I was able to talk to her a lot, and offer some comfort. As strange as it may sound, I think Hna Gunter and I were needed in Virasoro as emotional support for those hermanas more than we were needed here in Santo Tome with all the flooding!

 I know Heavenly Father has a plan! He knows every single one of us individually. He knows our weaknesses and struggles, but He also knows our potential and our strengths! Every trial we pass through is for our own benefit. Sometimes we just have to take a step back and try to see the big picture. Proverbs 3:5-6 "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths."

I love you all and hope you had a great Fourth of July! Things are still crazy here with the World Cup going on; Argentines love their soccer! Happy Birthday to Kipley!

 Hermana Simmons

July 01, 2014

Life is an Adventure!!!!!!!!!

Well, this is going to be very scattered and I will not have time to proofread this. So here I am apologizing in advance.

This week has been insane. Mariela y Fernando got married Friday morning at 10 in the Registro Civil! And then that night they were both baptized! They were confirmed members of the Church and received the Gift of the Holy Ghost this past Sunday. I am so proud of both of them, and they are already helping us visit other members and want us to teach the discussions to their kids!

The other day Hna Gunter and I went out to visit with a less active family. Unfortunately, they live about 20 minutes from our apartment, in a very muddy part of town. It had rained all day and Hna Gunter and I had only been to their house once before. We set out for their house, but it was already dark outside and we got lost. So there we were walking around in the mud (and when I say mud, I mean MUD. Mud that your foot sinks deeply into and mud that is EVERYWHERE). We had our umbrellas, but it was raining so hard, and it was so windy, that we ended up just taking our umbrellas down because we were soaked anyways. We couldn’t find the house, we were drenched and dirty, we didn’t know exactly where we were, and we were starting to get worried because we knew we were close to a dangerous part of town where a lot of robberies go on. Then right behind us we hear a "Hola Hermanas!" Hna Gunter and I both screeched and jumped back. Apparently the young man who we were trying to visit his family with had seen us walk right past his house, so he thought it would be funny to come up behind us and scare us. He caught us by such surprise that I turned around and started speaking in English "Oh my gosh! Mat­as don’t do that!" He thought that was hilarious. But luckily we ended the night eating some super delicious homemade pizza and his family called a taxi for us to go back home.

So, it has basically been raining constantly the past week. The river has risen a TON. Today we went on divisions because Hna Gunter had to go to Posadas with another Hna in the zone, so here I am in Virasoro. The plan was that Hna Gunter would come and pick me up and then we would go straight back to Santo Tomé tonight. But the river has risen a lot and flooded a lot of homes of people, so a ton of people are living in the local school. Apparently today the river flooded the church, and has reached our apartment as well. Luckily we live on the second floor, so hopefully the river won’t keep rising. But if it rains again then our apartment will flood for sure. So Hna Gunter and I have to stay in Virasoro for a few days at least with the Hermanas here because for one the roads are flooded and two we wouldn’t be able to get into our apartment anyway since the first floor stuff is submerged in water.

I’m out of time. I wish I could write everything that happened this week! But I think the scripture that describes this week the best is in 1 Peter 5: 6-8 "Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour." Satan knows our weaknesses, and he will attack us especially forcefully when he knows we are doing good and accomplishing righteousness. When I depend on God and turn to Him, God can turn my weaknesses into my strengths. God can strengthen me and help me stand steadfast and immovable. No matter how crazy life gets, Heavenly Father is only a prayer away. Christ can strengthen and support me.

I love you all!
Hermana Simmons

And I totally forgot about the fourth of july haha. everything here lately has just been "vamos argentina" for the world cup.

love you!
Okay i won’t be able to answer the first list of questions until next week when i will be able to be in Santo Tome again. But the second list i can answer:

1. Can you listen to music, and if so, what kind of music is allowed?
Yes, as long as it is "uplifting" and has no romantic overtones. Most people here listen to a ton of EFY or BYU Youth ambassadors or stuff like that. Basically mormon artists. Paul Cardell is super popular as well.

2. Do you have a cd player?
Every apartment has a little portable DVD player that can take a USB drive. So what people do is they load music onto their pen drive and then just play it from that. Hna Tapia had a TON of music, so I just copied some of her songs onto my USB drive before she left for Paraguay. I’ll just delete the songs from my USB when I get home from my mission, but most are available for free anyway on the church website.

3. Do you have access to April’s General Conference, either in magazine form or cd form?
Magazine form yes. In Spanish, but we can ask for one in English

4. Do you have a cell phone to use as a companionship?
Yep. We would probably not be able to survive without our cell phone because we use it to contact our zone leaders and to call investigators and members all the time

love you!