Monday, April 16, 2018

Week 83: Prayers, Persuasion, and a Piano

Alright! So I am going to be able to start making recordings again, which is really exciting because I haven't had the means to do so because I had a virus on my micro SD which was inside my cell phone. So if you are wondering, that's why I wasn't able to do so for some time there.

Well, this week in Cucuta, in Aeropuerto, has been very trying. Everything is good, we are working with and teaching about 50 investigators which all have been found since me and Elder Arcos got here. We have, at the very least, 10 investigators every week. If you have been a missionary, that's pretty good. The field is white, especially in Cucuta. But at the same time it is tough because we were only able to bring 2 investigators to church today. We went out and hit it hard and tried to bring as many people as we could, along with help from members and stuff like that. It's just been hard. But we do have a really cool miracle that accompanied the church attendance this week and that was that we were teaching an investigator named Evelyn. Evelyn is a reference from the Patriarch, who lives in our ward. You go down the 6th street and over a hill and you look out and you see Venezuela. It's about 10 minutes walking from the border of Venezuela. It is really close. He didn't know my area borders with Venezuela. It's pretty cool, we look out and we see a city called Ureña. You go down the hill and you cross a dirt football field and you get to a house and you go down to a basement apartment with cement floors and cement walls without anything besides one one person sofa and not much more. And there lives Evelyn and her 6 children and well…her husband, they aren't married. But the coolest thing this week was that we went up to the house with the Patriarch and we had a lesson. We taught the Restoration to her, and she responded really well. Then at the end I invited her to come to church. And she said: "well, if I am not working, I would love to come!" and I felt the spirit. We went to Alma 22: 16-18 where we talked about Aaron, when he was teaching the King of the Lamanites and Aaron says (I don't know how it is in English): If you kneel down and pray to God, repenting of your sins, you will gain the things that you desire. The King kneels down and says: "oh God, if there is a God, and thou art God, will thou make thyself known unto me? I will give up everything that I possess to know thee." I had just read that scripture that morning and the spirit filled the room. We made her a promise: "Evelyn, if you pray right now, with that same intent, God will make everything happen so that you can come to church. We promise you that in the name of Jesus Christ." And so she did. She bowed her head and kneeled down to pray. As she prayed, it went something like this: "God, will you let me come to thy holy house? I want to come and get to know this church." And she stopped right there and began to cry. My chest burned within me and I know my companion felt the same. It was incredible. The spirit was there. Then she finished the prayer and gave us her hand to thank us, "thank you. Thank you for teaching me." And we just sat there and talked about how we felt in that moment. The spirit was so strong. Now we felt prompted by the spirit to tell her that if she would pray with real intent that God would put everything in order for her to be able to come. AND HE DID. She didn't call us on Sunday. Or on Saturday. She came to the church with the Patriarch on Sunday. It has just strengthened my testimony that God keeps his promises and the importance of coming to church and having a meaningful experience at church and how much prayer plays a role in the promises that God gives us.

Well, that was the amazing thing that happened. The other thing is that we have been teaching Alberto Salazar. It's hard to find him this week. He kept saying "I am coming to church, I am coming to church!" and I was really excited. And then we passed by his house and he said: " I was working all day yesterday and I am really sore." And even though we tried really hard to convince him to come, he still wouldn't come. That really made me feel depressed, along with 4-5 other investigators that did the same. You know, after so many times of that happening in your mission, it just breaks your heart. Actually, up until last night I was very bitter and mad at them honestly. You just KNOW how much this will bless their lives. You just KNOW that if they would come to church they would feel the love of Christ. Then I had a reoccurring thought, that while I was angry, because I have extended my effort, I have tried, I have called, I have gone to their houses, I have gone to pick them up. They just don't get it! I thought about Christ. How much more does Christ feel frustration for me? Up until last night I was so frustrated, I didn't want to think about it. You all know me, I went to bed so frustrated and all day I was so down. But little by little, starting with my personal study this morning I have been learning a few things about how I shouldn't feel frustrated. I shouldn't feel so down because they are rejecting me, because really it's not even me that they are rejecting. It's not that they wont accept it if just keep trying. But really it's the Lord that they are choosing not to follow at this moment, and it's the Lord that they're rejecting. I just keep on trying. It's really opening my eyes to a big paradigm shift. Just a big changing perspective. I am learning a lot right now in this area. Also, there are a lot of people that are just poor. Sometimes it's just a lack of knowledge and you just want to pull them by the ears to the self-reliance class. Come to this class the Lord has provided. Come and get to know more so that you can leave and get out of these situations! But they don't come! But why should I feel rejected? Even though I do feel rejected sometimes. But why should that get me down, if it never got the Lord down? There are lessons to be learned there and I am glad to be able to share them with you. They are changing me.

Well, more on the kinda "what we did" side of things: This week, on Thursday, I will be going back to Bucaramanga for a conference with Elder Zivic. You may recognize him from conference talk he gave a couple of weeks ago. We are going to have a conference with him and we are going in a bus to Bucaramanga. I am going to see if I can go visit Bucarica, but it's not certain haha. I would LOVE to do that. But ya, something that I'm really excited for is to meet with these men that are…. How do you say it? Special witnesses of Christ. It's really a great experience. And I am playing the piano for it, like usual! You know, I play the piano for all of our meetings, but here, since no one plays the piano, there is just a little 50 key, we call it an organeta here, like a little keyboard. It doesn't have a sustain pedal or anything. It doesn't even have a stand for the music. I just put it up there and hope that the book doesn't press down on one of the buttons that starts the beat on the keyboard. Because it has happened haha. But ya, there is only one real piano here in Cucuta, as far as the church goes, it's in the Stake Center. I have only had the opportunity to play it 2 times. So I am going on about 2 ½ months without really playing the piano. You know me, I'm DYING. Haha.

It's great to be able to send a recording again and let you know what's happening. Maybe next time I will read to you out of my journal. I have started to record things that are happening in more detail. Let me know if there is anything that you guys would like to know that I should share with you. What would you guys like to know about where I am at, what I am doing? specific things. I will try to improve the quality of my letters home, alright? Well, I love you guys, I will talk to you later. Chao Chao!

-Elder Lewis

A fellow missionary's parents sent these pictures to Elder Lewis' father after they picked up their own son following his service in the same mission. Thank You! 

Elder Lewis and Elder Goncalves

Monday, April 9, 2018

Week 82: Do Justly, Love Mercy, Walk Humbly with God.

 First, we´ve start to work in a new area called "La Conquista." It´s a new part of Cúcuta, so it´s in the first stages of a neighbourhood on a border town. They are houses of tin siding and wooden slats with dirt floors covered with a tarp. It surprises me that some people can actually make that look and feel comfortable! Hapiness has very little to do with your resources, but much to do with how you use the resources you have. We went on Tuesday and again on Friday, and both days were very fruitful. Our ward mission leader lives there, so we should be able to give a lot of hope to these people through the restored gospel. There is also lot´s of service to give, like throwing frogs out of the houses when it rains!
   Our military investigator is taking big steps towards discovering the truth. He says that before, he had connections with very high places in the venezuelan military, and proved it to us too. We saw him in pictures in his military uniform with dignitaries like Hugo Chavez, and the former head of the department of defense. He says now he is here in Cúcuta, and as he can´t go back for being part of a resistence group, he feels that this is the moment for him to get to know God before he goes back and resumes his fight. We are introducing him to the Book of Mormon, which will help him to know how his ancestors dealed with threats to liberty, namely captain Moroni.

   Well, I was thinking, and it never ocurred to me to ask you what you guys want to hear from me?

   I want you guys to know that God lives and loves us. His gospel enrichens and enlivens and fixes life. I Have a huge testimony of that. Micah 6:8 has become my favorite scripture. When you know why, it will change your perspective on the gospel and how God can guide your life.

-Elder Lewis

Such a good picture... This is "La conquista," a new area we´re working in. Pure houses of tin siding and wood. And no roads:)
There was a little bit of rain on thursday night... we had water up to our knees haha!

and the next day... jaja! 

 This last one was an activity that we did in the ward about a month ago:)
(Elder Goncalves and Elder Lewis in white in the font, Elders Prestwich and Gulla in the front explaining baptism) 

Monday, April 2, 2018

Week 81: "...I Will Give Away All My Sins To Know Thee...."

We continue teaching our miracle investigator, Ilvanis. Satan is puting a lot of oposition in the way. She is seperating from a boyfriend that ended up hitting her this week, and leaving black and blue marks on her arms and around her collar bone. It was crazy, but maybe it was the push that she needed to seperate from him. He asked forgiveness, but she is firm and wants to leave the house. The ward has been and is a big help to us in helping her with the things she needs. She continues so firm despite the overwhelming circumstances. 

We were walking in the street one day to an apointment that wasn´t that, well, "fijo?" (I forgot how you say it.) While we were walking, my companion and I were speaking in English, and he noticed that some people noticed and were talking about us. I was going to keep going, but he stopped to ask me if we should contact them. I agreed, and we did. Ten minutes later, we were in an apartment complex kind of a thing, with 8 Venezuelans listening to our every word. The next day, Alan, one of the 8, told me that he had had a dream about us coming. He said he was brought to meet God, and he pleaded for Venezuela. Then, the Lord, whose face he did not see, told him to change, and then two "generals" stepped out. The Lord then said, "They are coming to visit you, and you should listen to them." He then started to vomit, a black liquid, that turned yellow and then clear. He woke up and immediately. 

As I listened to him tell me of the dream, I felt deeply the spirit. I felt humbled to be on the Lord´s side. I love Him, and I´m very excited to teach Alan and all the others in their house. I´m also very grateful for my companion who was in tune with the spirit to be able to see someone the way the Savior does. I recognize that His dream meant that we are to teach him how he can become pure and clean through Jesus Christ. He recognizes that iniquity has brought his country to where it is, and this creates a place for us to bring light into his life. It´s a great responsablity. Please pray for him (Alan).

I was very impacted by this frase from conference. Elder Lynn G. Robbins said, "Success is not the abscence of failure; Sucess is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm. Failure is a tutor, not a tragedy." Does that not sum up our existence here on the earth? I believe so. Thanks to Jesus Christ, Failure is not tragedy, but a teacher. The atonement makes our sins temporary and surface. Let´s all use his atonement so that one day, all of our mistakes and errors will be "gone." I´ve come to know this in a special way, and still have much to learn.
Con fuego en los Huesos,
Elder J. Lewis

Monday, March 26, 2018

Week 80: Burdens Lightened and Blessings Seen on the Border

Buenas tardes familia!

This week has been a week full of new investigators, small miracles, and great retrospection.

-We went this week to construct a chicken coop for the familia Moreno. It was funny, because none of us have ever done it, but it turned out really well. We found a frog as big as my fist that sprays poison milk. Jairo grabbed it, and it sure did jajaja! I´ll send pictures when Elder Prestwich sends them to me...

I downloaded a talk by Ronald A Rasband from a BYU devocional that talked about integrity. Something stuck with me. Speaking of Jon Huntsman, Elder Rasband said, "And most importantly, HIS WORD WAS HIS BOND!" I´ve tried to make that my motto this week. I want my word to be my bond, for the word of the Lord, is His bond as well. You all should listen to it, because it really is very inspiring.

I attended and sang at a funeral of a baby girl that died this week. Her father has come to be a good friend of mine, and it was so hard. He said "Elder, I know I´ll see her again, but it still hurts..." He is Venezuelan, and as you may have read in the news, things in Venezuela are NOT good right now. I watched brother José fight tooth and nail to get a passport for her and go to a city about 5 hours away called Bucaramanga to get a heart surgery. All that time, brother José always salutes you with a warm smile and a big hug. He got the passport and she had the surgery, but didn´t make it through the recovery. I sure feel for them, as they now face bills from the surgery, and more than anything, the loss of the Mayi. But When we got to the funeral, the little white casket there, and the family in front, José gave me his typical big smile and big hug. I sure love them. I want the whole world to know that families are forever, and death need not be the end. I know more than anything that God lives. His mercy is eternal, and His love infinite. These things are understood in the heart and "the misteries of God are displayed before (my) view,"(Mosíah 2:9) as I study the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I know it´s true, and I have the rest of my life to share it.

Well, I´m off my soap box, but it´s something that´s been on my mind this week.

Love you all!

Élder J. Lewis

Monday, March 19, 2018

Week 79: Bringing in the Fruit of the Season

This week has been a bit trying. We´ve had a few investigators fall by the wayside, which always breaks your heart, but others that are prepared to keep comitments come forth. We´ve also been working hard here with Elder Goncalves. I´ve really enjoyed being his companion. He is very energetic, and teaches really well for someone with so little time in the mission.

Today was a very strange pday. We had a ward activity, in which they had a little fair with lots of fun things that people could do by paying a certain amount of fake money. One of those things was that they could enter into a room that had a sign on the door "Heaven." It was the baptismal room, and my companion and I dressed in white, and Elder Gulla and Elder Prestwich explained baptism, and showed the video of the baptism of Jesus. Then they opened the doors and Elder Goncalves and I demonstrated how a baptism is done. We then bore our testimonies, there in the font, and invited them to be baptized. It really was a great experience, and I had a lot of fun! Although it wasn´t a regular pday activity, it was very fulfilling, and the investigators and members felt the spirit. I wish we could teach baptism that way every time!

We had an investigator named Veronica pray at the end of a lesson. She said "Thank you for sending the missionaries, for you know that I prayed that they would come this morning." It was a impromptu visit, but really it was something very special. They are going to get married soon, we´ve just got to help her and Renzo. They can´t read, so we´re arranging for some members to read with them a little every day.

Ilvanis has had some hard problems this week, as her husband is choosing some alcohol over her. It´s very sad to see, as I think that they will separate now, but it´s all she´s missing to be able to be baptized. We´re going to work with the president of the Relief Society to try to help and support her, as I think she also feels lonely. But her testimony is so strong.

I hit year and a half this week. Crazy how time is passing. Crazy how many changes I´ve seen in myself, my family, and in the mission.

- I don´t think I´ve changed much physically. Just a bit more hair on my face and maybe a couple pounds more. Not much jaja

- I really have come to realize how little I knew about the gospel before the mission. I had a cool experience reading Jacob 5 in the book of mormon. It´s always been a trying chapter to understand, but I prayed for the gift of profecy and revelation to understand. It was an awesome experience when I really dug in and tried to understand. The answers came clearly, one by one, teaching me new things. I got to know my Savior better that morning. Truly, His love is infinite, and His sacrifice as well. It´s really very simple, just that I needed to understand with the spirit. That is something I´ve learned how to do better in my mission. I´m just trying to adjust my life more and more to be able to understand.

-I don´t speak very much english now days. I haven´t forgotten vocabulary, I think, but grammar is a little mixed up at times...

-I´ve really found the beauty in the doctrine of the missionary lessons. If you think that you know how the Plan of Salvation works, and how it relates to the restoration and the doctrine of Christ, think again jaja! I´m convinced that I´ll never stop learning new concepts little by little as long as I live.

-In other news, we still haven´t found the crab.

-Remember the shoes that Conrad had that we all laughed because they were pointy? I have some now. I found them in the house and had them resoled. It´s the style here, I guess jaja!

- This week on two occasions we saw people walking around with "se compra cabello" hanging on a sign around their necks. Sometimes people have to do anything to be able to eat. Keep praying for Venezuela.

-There isn´t hot water in Cúcuta, but the water comes out warm thanks to the sun that has been burning us alive in the streets this week! It´s been about 97 degrees without a cloud in the sky, 70 percent humidity. Ouch...

Well, that´s my report for this week. Was it complete? jaja I think I like this a little better, because it gives me time to think about what i´m going to say.

Anyway, I love you all, hope to hear from you! I´m praying for you, and I feel your prayers for me. Please continue to pray, because the field is extra white here in Cúcuta, and we need the Lord´s help to bring in a lot of fruit for the season. 

71 And the Lord of the vineyard said unto them: Go to, and labor in the vineyard, with your might. For behold, this is the blast time that I shall nourish my vineyard; for the end is nigh at hand, and the season speedily cometh; and if ye labor with your might with me ye shall have joy in the fruit which I shall lay up unto myself against the time which will soon come.

72 And it came to pass that the servants did go and labor with their mights; and the Lord of the vineyard labored also with them; and they did obey the commandments of the Lord of the vineyard in all things.

73 And there began to be the natural fruit again in the vineyard;

Élder Lewis

Monday, March 12, 2018

Weeks 77 & 78: A Pillar of Light (18 month mark)

note from Jessica: Elder Lewis is having difficulty communicating with us via the recordings he usually uses, so this week is a two for one, again. Enjoy! 

Well, the recording wont work this week either...

here in the area we´ve had some great stuff going on. My perspective on things continues to become bigger and bigger. I´m very grateful for that.

-We found a woman named Ivanis, who left from a christian church frustated because she didn´t think that what they taught, apart from the screaming and "recieving the holy ghost" was right. She was praying to know which was the true church, out of frustration. At the same time, Elder Gulla and Elder Prestwich were passing by. They felt prompted to talk to her. But then she went up to her apartment... so they waited. Then after ten minutes she came down, and there they were. The answer to the prayer she had just said. The first lesson I had with her, I was on divisions with Jairo Tarazona. I don´t cry very often in the lessons, but as I said "I saw a pillar of light," the magnitude of the statement hit me. I wept, and so did she, and the spirit filled the room. She has a baptismal date for the 31 of march.

-We found out that this area has some impressive history. The church started here in 1986 with the family of Frank (our pensionista) and he told me about how much Elder Hunter and Elder Shepherd meant to him. He bore to me powerful testimony of how the gospel has changed and saved his life. We´re organizing a family home evening to see how we can bring that fire back to this area! I´m so excited!

-Elder Prestwich caught a crab down by the river. And it had babys. And then disappeared. We havent seen it ever since...

Love you all!
Que Dios Les Bendiga!
Élder J. Lewis

An old colonial cathedral. Here, Simón Bolivar signed the Declaration of independence of Colombia, Venezuela, Bolivia, Perú, and ecuador from the Spanish rule! It was destroyed by an earthquake 300 years ago.

Pet Monkey 
For Dad: Here's a tire shop in Villa del Rosario! Pretty sweet, no?

Monday, February 26, 2018

Week 76: Venezuelans Raising the Title of Liberty in Colombia

Note from Jessica: This blog post, while it has it's funny moments (thankfully) does talk about the extreme violence and government neglect going on in Venezuela. Many of these people are coming over the border into Cucuta, Colombia, where Elder Lewis is serving. Please keep the Colombians and Venezuelans in your prayers. They could really use them. 

Hi Family!

This week is a little bit chaotic. I’m a little bit crazy. As I told you on the chat, my companion had to go home for family reasons, and that has left me a little bit stranded in my area. Thankfully, I have some really good companions that are helping me out a lot. I am with Elder Gulla from the Philippines, and Elder Prestwich from Utah. Well, my companion went on a Wednesday, and coincidentally Elder Gulla and Elder Prestwich had exchanged with the Zone Leaders that day. So I went with them on their exchanges and that cut out Wednesday. So then we got back on Thursday and it took us a couple days really honestly to get really organized. It’s been really hard. I have been fighting the feeling this week that I have failed. That I have failed the Lord. That’s hard. I don’t feel like Elder Arcos should have gone. He should have stayed and that I didn’t do everything that I could have to make him stay. That really weighs on my conscience. I hope the Lord can forgive me….

But anyway, enough of that. I wanted to tell you guys about a really cool experience, the first one, we were contacting and we contacted a house… wait back up… so we were walking by a house and Elder Gulla said: “hey, theres a monkey in that house!” and we were like: “no way. Not true.” So he said: “ok, lets go contact them!” so normally here in Cucuta, the doors are open, so you just yell “Buenas!” and people come to the door. So we yelled in and here comes the monkey up on the door. He comes up and is kinda looking at us and we were like WHOA! There is a monkey in here! Then the guy comes to the door, and we are like:” Hi! We’re missionaries…” and we were looking at the monkey and were like speechless and said: “wow cool monkey!” haha. It was really funny, we are going to go back and visit him on Tuesday I think. But I got some pictures, I just don’t have my camera with me today to send them to you guys, but I will send them next week. It was super funny and it was funny because when we gave him a contact card, the monkey took it and looked at it, and then gave it back to him haha. It was climbing all over us and then it got back into his arms like a little baby haha. But ya.

Then on Saturday we went to a family called the familia -?- and Alberto, the father, was a person that I contacted awhile ago in front of his house. It turns out that back in Venezuela he has a house and some nice guitars and a nice microphone for recording, and he has a car, so like, he was rich. By Venezuelan standards, anyway. He informed us, he told me (he actually speaks English) he told me: “ I am from the Venezuelan Military. I was a 1st Lieutenant. I thought that my country was not taking the right steps, and when I got in an accident (he has a scarred eye) I got out as quick as I could and then became a part of the movement against the government of Venezuela, part of which was a guy named Oscar Perez (he showed me pictures of this guy who the government actually took out about a month ago.)” it was just kinda crazy listening to this guys ideas and knowing that I just contacted a rebel. He is here in Cucuta because if he returns to Venezuela they will be looking for him as well because Maduro is a dictator and anyway… so we finally got the opportunity to teach Alberto and his family and we did a lesson on the Plan of Salvation, and as he was commenting to me he said: “I know that my country… that things are bad. Things are really really bad. I know it is a punishment from God. But I am going to fight so that my country can come back to God.” It was just really cool, I felt like I was in a Book of Mormon video. It’s something real that’s going on and there’s a movement of people that have realized that Venezuelans have turned away from God and they don’t want to see that happen. (Note from Jessica: there is a stretch of dialogue here that is very garbled but interesting from what I can gather. I will ask Elder Lewis to clarify and post that next week please check back!) Anyway,he recognized that we explained that to him and we taught him about the Plan of Salvation and how we did not start here, and we taught him about the role of Jesus Christ and that any family or individual needs, we can come unto him. When we taught that lesson we testified with all our hearts of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and how it is powerful to save, if we obey the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel which are: faith, repentance, baptism, receiving of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end. After we said that he turned to us and said: “what do I have to do to be a disciple?” and he turned to his family and said: “we need to do this. We need to do this.” Pointing to the pamphlet, “We need to learn more.” It really was an awesome moment for us. He is just becoming so interesting with the Gospel, just because they have had so many hardships. They were really rich, they left a lot of stuff behind even though they still have 1 or 2 things here, he said: “my daughter (he has a daughter who is 9) doesn’t know what it’s like to live in a house without water.” And their house, compared to others, is nice. “we are starting over. But I have faith that one day I will return to my country.” It’s amazing for him to have had these things and to have come down so far. It’s real, what’s happened. {In Venezuela} But the Plan of Salvation will work, for those who believe in Christ. I believe that. I know it. The Plan is real, and we will preach it to anyone who will listen to us. The Gospel of Jesus Christ does great things. I hope you guys realize that it is, and that through it many nations will come unto Christ and be saved.

Alright, well I will look forward to talking to you guys next week. Have a good week, Chao!

-Elder Lewis

We`ve been doing some service projects this week! We helped Enio (in red) put a makeshift bathroom in behind his house (yes, that is where he now lives.) Houses like that are called "Ranchos," and it`s where you put poles in the ground, nail roofing panels and wooden boards to them, and boom, instant house.Then the last four are from when we helped someone excavate some land so that he could build his rancho.