Monday, July 16, 2018

Week 96: "...Cry REPENTANCE Unto This People...."

Hey Family, Buenas Tardes!

It’s been kind of a rough week, truth is, a few of our things that we had going for us fell through. But the Lord is opening other doors, so we are gonna roll with it. So this week we found quite a few new investigators just by hitting the streets and checking out all of our contacts and everything. It was a really good time, truth is the best day was Tuesday. Tuesday we really did a lot of good. We did a lot of contacts, we got some new investigators, also, Henry Viaraga is going to be baptized this week. He has been an investigator for awhile, and the missionaries before us kind of paved the way so that they got married and all we had to do was finished the lessons and invite him to be baptized. He overcame some stuff with his wife who is a member, and he is going to be baptized on Saturday at 6:00. So pray for Henry. Looking through my planner…. So Friday night we had exchanges with our District Leader. Sorry, Tuesday night we did splits with some members of the ward, which was really fun. It was fun to go out with just members of the ward and teach the gospel. Then on Friday night we had intercambios, we had exchanges with the District Leader. It was Elder McFadden from Washington. We had a pretty good time. We have an investigator named Arturo, I don’t know if I have told you about him yet. But he is really good. He is really coming along. They just gotta separate because he is married but just hasn’t done the paperwork to get divorced yet even though he is living with another woman and they have been separated for quite a long time now. So we are gonna see what happens there. But he has a testimony and everything so going strong with him. He also presented us to a roommate… or how do you say it…. Someone who is renting a room in their apartment. Her name is Kendris. She is really awesome as well.

This week I have been really trying to focus in on teaching the simple things of the Gospel. Like Joseph Smith taught; I was reading some of the teachings of Joseph Smith in Preach my Gospel and he said “Just preach the simple principles of the gospel. Faith to Repentance and Repentance leading to Baptism.” He said to a group one time, on a mission to New York, he said simply: “Repent and be Baptized and as a servant of God I promise you that you will receive the Holy Ghost.” It was just something that impacted me. The simple things of the gospel are really so important. I am very grateful to have 2 years to dedicate just to those simple principles. As a missionary, you are to go out and teach repentance and baptize converts, and that is it. You aren’t supposed to go out and fight with people about politics or about the Book of Revelation or the mysteries. You are just supposed to preach repentance. It’s a real blessing to me. I have learned the value of repentance this week. As all missionaries, we have made mistakes this week. We actually pushed a couple of investigators a little too hard to get married and now they are kind of iffy. That hurts. We just felt so strong that they were ready and they are ready but we are just going to kinda take a step back and try to guide them more than push them along. It’s something you learn as a missionary. Missionaries aren’t perfect, but I know that repentance is there so that we can get better. I know that conversion is a process that cant be pushed and cant be rushed. It’s all the time of the Lord. The Lord actually warned us to take it easy, and we didn’t really listen. It blew up in our faces. It reminds me of Doctrine and Covenants chapter 3 where the Lord rebukes Joseph Smith for not listening to him, and I felt rebuked this week. But I take comfort in what it says there, it says “My servant Joseph, remember that God is merciful, and you are again called to the work.” I know that every time that we repent, we are again called to the work. What other way could I ever bear testimony, any moving, lasting, testimony of the Atonement if I have never experienced it? And how could I experience it if I didn’t stumble and fall? But thanks to the fact that God allows us to stumble and fall, he gives us the opportunity to repent and get to know the power of the Atonement. That is my testimony that I have gained this week, and that I am going to continue to gain because it’s not over. Just know that repentance is always positive. Repentance doesn’t really necessarily need to be for big things, it can be for small things too. Big or small, it’s always positive.

Well, that’s what I wanted to share with you this week. It’s how I feel. It’s really been a positive experience in my life this week. I love you all and I will talk to you later! Chao!

-Elder Lewis

Monday, July 9, 2018

Week 95: Short and Sweet

Sorry I didn't get to make a recording, or send pictures. It's because we went to the center of Bogotá today and got back late. It was super cool though!

   But basically what happened this week is that Leonardo called us on monday night and told us he wanted to be baptized! We were so excited! He talked to his girlfriend and she wanted to too. But, she has been slowing him down, and now I don´t know if he is still so motivated. It was really a dissapointment this week, but that´s how it goes sometimes, no? But I´ll tell you what happens next week.

   On the brightside, Juan Gabriel and Viviana were able to get 400.000 of the 700.000 pesos that they need to get married! It was  a HUGE answer to prayers, and fasting. We´re now selling some cookies that I learned how to make from Elder Goncalves to make up the rest. Who knows if God won´t extend His hand again to help us. I know He will.

  Love you so much

   Élder Lewis

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Week 94: One Door Closes, and Another One Opens.

Hi Family!

So I just got back from the Bogota Temple like an hour ago, back here to the apartment. We decided to go for p-day. We decided to delay our fast a little bit so that we could go fasting to the Temple. So we did. And the reason for that was for Viviana and Juan Gabriel who are still progressing in that we have seen miracles with them. But ya, I will tell you about that a little later on.

So this week has all kinda been a blur. I don’t know where it all went, but I guess I will read you what I have from my journal: 27 June 2018. Last night was very special. We contacted a referral that we received from the Zone Leaders and set an appointment with them for that very day. We got there and met Arturo, a shorter man, bald on top and round in the middle. Also, his Venezuelan girlfriend, who is a member, but hadn’t attended since coming to Colombia about 7 months ago. We went in, got to know them more, and started the lesson. We learned that Jocelin, the Venezuelan, was looking for the church but she hadn’t been able to locate one close. That’s when Arturo happened upon Elder Robinson, the same Elder I worked with In Bucaramanga, and Elder Olivera while they were contacting. They then passed the reference to us and so forth. I asked Arturo, “what is your interest as far as religion?” he responded to me that he didn’t understand why so many churches. He said that they taught that a sinner goes to hell and a saint to heaven but then what? That was a great question. We taught about the restoration and he was very attentive. Then afterwards we invited him to pray. Then he said with some emotion: “Elders, many times I feel my prayers don’t get heard. I feel like I am talking to a wall.” I saw tears in his eyes in that moment. I thought for a moment then remembered something that Hermano Villalobos in the CCM showed us, he showed us something one time that I wanted to try. I found myself saying: “Arturo, if you want to know, get on your knees and ask God: ‘God, are you there? Can you hear me?’” he agreed, and we then got on our knees. Arturo offered a short, but beautiful, heartfelt prayer. He said: “God, are you here with us tonight?” We then stayed on our knees in silence. He began to cry. We stayed for 5 minutes in silence. He then told us that he felt a peace and a tranquility and a tingling feeling on his back. He said that he had only felt it once before in his life when he took his dying wife to a Christian church and when he prayed out of desperation for her. We all felt the spirit. What a beautiful experience.

1st of July, 2018. Wow it’s now July. Crazy to think that I go home next month. But then again, I have still got 2 months to go. So I am going to settle in here and really put the pedal to the metal. I saw pictures from Hermano Laquiero, a member in our area, of President and Sister Laney getting home to their family in the airport. It still doesn’t feel real to me. I love and respect them so much. I often think of the time that I was on exchanges with Elder Picuasi some 8 months ago and we were taking Elder Reyes to the mission house, for he had some problems and was going to go home that next day. President invited all 3 of us in for Ice Cream from Crepes and Waffles (Not cheap) and Hermana Laney’s famous brownies. I will never forget the feeling of love that I felt that night. The love that they have for every missionary. Really, I felt the love of the Savior. We now have Presidente Valladares from Honduras.

That concludes my journal entries from this week. So as you heard, President Laney has finished about a week ago, I got a picture with President and Sister Laney, they finished their mission the 30th of June. The day after, I saw pictures of them in the airport, I was talking to Sister Laney the other day at a multi-zone conference and I asked her how she felt. You have to get to know Sister Laney, she is really funny. But she is very much a lover of her own culture. It was kind of hard for her to come to another culture. But she told me with tears in her eyes, and I never thought that this would happen, she told me “I am really gonna miss Colombia. You know we have lived here for a long time.” And I said “ya I know” and she said “Well, the bright side is that I have got 3 grandkids that I have never met and a son in law that I have hardly met” so she was looking forward to going and meeting them. Then I saw pictures with her with her new grandkids and President Laney hugging his family for the first time in who knows how long. Even though your family is allowed to come visit you when you are a mission president, it’s still… ooof…. It’d be really hard to go away for 3 years. But President and Sister Laney have truly made an impact on my life. They have been a great example, and as the apostle, Elder Stevenson, told us, that we should try to pattern our lives like President and Sister Laney have. President Laney is a powerful man that has the love of Christ, that has an incredible amount of charity and patience. That just resonates from him. I hope one day to be a man like President Laney. I think it goes for the same as what Mormon wrote about Captain Moroni. That is that if all men had been, were, and ever would be, like President Laney, then Satan wouldn’t have any power over the hearts of the children of men and the very powers of hell would be shaken forever. SO that was really sad to see them go. But as I looked at the picture of President Valladares and his wife from Honduras, originally we were supposed to get President Valim from Brazil but like 2 weeks before they came they switched it. President Valim is now going to Costa Rica, and President Valladares is coming here. I am going to have relatively short time with President Valladares but I really do feel the spirit when I saw their picture. We are praying for them. He is already here, I haven’t met him though. I hope to meet him soon. But it was kinda just a big chapter in my mission that closed. It’s hard for me to think of the mission without President Laney. But he is resting now for a little while and he deserves it. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear him getting a calling that’s elevated, that’s higher than a mission president. Maybe a 70 or Patriarch or something like that. He’s already been Stake President, Bishop, Young Mens President, but ya.

Well, today we went fasting to the temple, fasting for Juan Gabriel and Viviana as well as some other investigators, but mainly for them to receive revelation as to what we should do. We just kinda hit a wall with them. We have kinda felt frustrated with their marriage where it is so expensive. BUT… I told you guys about a miracle that happened the last week where we fasted and found, and God led us to a brother that would help them. NOW we went to the temple and me and my companion both received the inspiration that we should, as It says in Exodus, “stand still and the Lord Jehovah will fight your battles.” That’s the inspiration that we received. We actually called them that day and said “Hey, come to the temple and we will give you a tour, and then we will pay you to bring us back” because he drives Uber. So we would pay you the trip back. So they came and we walked around the temple, we got into reception and everything like that and they felt peace. Then when we got in the car, it turns out that Alejandro, this member that we found, sent them a message. He said Hey I was looking around for another legal office (here it’s called a notary or notaria) We found a notaria in a place called Fontibon that some friends of mine have more kids than you guys outside of their current relationship (which is what makes it so expensive) this family that had more kids outside of their relationship got married there for 300,000 pesos which is a big difference from the proposed 700,000 pesos that they want for the marriage of Viviana y Juan Gabriel. We were just ecstatic! So we might be able to get it chopped down to like 200,000 pesos which is roughly like 60 dollars. But we really felt humbled about that. The Lord just told us “look, sons, have patience.” It’s like what Joseph Smith said: “dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do everything within our power and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance to see the salvation of God, for his arm to be revealed.” We felt that in a powerful way. God does give us revelation. He does fight our battles. We must trust in him. I do trust in him. I have gotten to know him by these experiences, having to trust him.

Well, that’s about it for this week. I love you all, I hope you feel the Savior’s love this week. Chao!

-Elder Lewis

Meeting Elder Stevenson in Bucaramanga. Elder Lewis is on the back row, 8 in. 

Monday, June 25, 2018

Week 93: Going Gangster to Gospel: Leonardo's Story (plus World Cup insanity!)

Aaaaalllllrrriiiiiggghhhtttt Family, Good afternoon!

I hope that you are all having a good day! It’s been a pretty good week here in Engativa, well, I guess I will start by telling you guys about what happened this week….

So this week went by INCREDIBLY fast, I don’t even know where it went! But we had some good things happen. We started out helping out Viviana y Juan Gabriel trying to get them married despite their financial problems and the high cost of getting married here. We were making little keychains out of plastic and then you draw on it with Sharpie. You drew like, I dunno, Winnie the Pooh or something like that and then you could put them in an oven and they formed like a hard keychain. But that didn’t really pan out because it’s a lot of time for little results. So I suggested that we make Brigadero which is a Brazilian cookie that I learned how to make from Elder Goncalves. I will have to make it for you guys when I get home. But I made it for them and we settled on doing that. However, on Friday night we were praying, and we have been praying for them nonstop and as we both went to our personal prayer, well I had the impression to fast for them. I finished my prayer and I said: “Hey, Elder, I think we need to fast for Viviana y Juan Gabriel.” And he was like: “Really? I had that impression too.” And so were we’re like, Alright we have to do it. That’s inspiration.

But anyway, so we decided to do that and we fasted. Then the next day we went to go pick up people to come to church; we went across our area to a family and she wasn’t there… story of my life. Then we decided alright, well we are going to go pick up Leonardo. I’m going to tell you a little more about Leonardo a little later on. But we went and he wasn’t there either. Alright, whatever. So we are going to the church and a taxi stops right in front of us and it’s a member. He says: “Get in. I’m on my way to church.” So we got in and we showed him the way to the chapel. We had like 10 minutes so we decided to go run and try to pick up another investigator. But we didn’t think anything of it really, his name was Alejandro, and so we went and picked up this investigator and we came back and well, Bishop told me on Saturday that I was going to be giving a talk, didn’t end up giving the talk, I don’t know what happened haha. But I am going to give it in 2 weeks. Anyway, so we go through the meetings and everything, everything is good, and then afterwards later that night at like 7:30 we went to go visit Viviana y Juan Gabriel. After the visit they took us home, last night. She said: “Hey, Elder, I wanted to tell you that Alejandro told me that he could put us in contact with a friend of his that could get our matrimony, our marriage cheaper if not free. And that he would do that for us because he thought that we were members, but when we told him that we were investigators I guess that moved him.” Because they really do just look like members, they are always coming to church and everything. So I looked at my companion in the back of the car and I was like: “OH MY GOODNESS. THAT WAS INCREDIBLE.”  The Lord prompted us to fast, and maybe that was so that we could be sensitive enough to the spirit when he told us to go to Leonardo’s house and to pick him up, and we did, and he helped Alejandro get to the church, and the moment that he needed the help, if it wasn’t for that maybe he wouldn’t have gotten to church and maybe he wouldn’t have gotten a ride with Viviana and Juan Gabriel afterwards and maybe they wouldn’t have received that offer. So that was a real miracle that we saw there.

Another miracle that we saw was Viviana’s brother, Leonardo, who is 19 and has a little girl that is about a year and a half old. He has a history of being irresponsible, but we have really been trying to work with him the last few weeks. We have really hit it off really well with him until… he said: “Elders, I want to accompany you guys. Can I do that?” and we said: “yeah”. You should understand that he is what they call in Colombia a Ñero. A Ñero is like gangster. They are just the trashy gangsters there are around here. He normally dresses like one of those. So when we got to his house it floored us that he was in a shirt and tie to come and accompany us. So we were like: “Leonardo, what happened?!” we were in shock. We were like: “Wait. Is that you?” He looked super professional, super responsible, and he accompanied us. We first taught him and his soon to be wife and then we went to some other appointments. But during that appointment he shared with us that he received an answer about the Book of Mormon. He said that when the missionaries asked him to read the introduction, and he did, and he picked out out of the last two paragraphs of the introduction where it tells you to read, ponder, and pray. So that’s what he did. He read the introduction and he sat there in his room and thought about it one night, and he went and turned out the light and it was totally dark in the room and he prayed. He got down on his knees in the dark by the side of his bed and he prayed. And he said that in that moment he felt his whole body just become cold. Then he opened his eyes and the whole room was illuminated. Completely. He could see everything. He said: “wow!” he got up and turned the light on and he was like: “wow I just felt this peace. Just this tranquility that was so deep. It kind of scared me. So I didn’t read the book again.” We were like WHAT?!?!?! Really? But we helped him to try and recognize that that was certainly a message from our Heavenly Father, and that certainly he had answered his prayer. I am sure that he recognizes that because he went with us, well dressed and everything. It really shocked us. AND he shared his testimony with all of our investigators. It was the first time, I think, that I have brought an investigator to participate in a lesson like a member. It was just not something that we expected from Leonardo. He was just such a gangster! But he is having a change of heart. That’s what’s really rewarding to me.

In other news, Colombia won the game with Polonia (Poland) this week. ha HA! So they are advancing. They won 3-nothing and we could not be in the street during the game. If you don’t know, it’s the World Cup right now and everybody is losing their minds here. So we are in the apartment in our 6th floor, and we have our window open to hear when there’s a goal, and you HEAR when there’s a goal. The whole city turns into a stadium. People screaming, people honking their horns, they have like these plastic trumpets that they sell in the street that are as loud as a car horn that you blow on and it just turns into a nuthouse. Especially when they won the game. I actually got video of it. It was crazy. Then we went out in the streets and everybody was in the streets, and everybody has the jersey of Colombia, everybody is wrapped in Colombian flags, you have people running out in the streets yelling. There were a couple of people covered in Corn Flour… they throw Corn Flour at each other… it was a party! But we couldn’t go out during the game because of that. That and literally EVERYBODY in the city watches that game. So there wouldn’t be anybody that would receive us I don’t think. But President said stay in the house, so that was a lot of fun.

Well, I think that’s the end of my recording for this week. it has been a week of miracles, and I hope that you have had a good week as well. I love you so much, see you later, Chao!

-Elder Lewis

Monday, June 18, 2018

Week 92: "Lord I Believe....Help Thou Mine Unbelief"

Hey Family!

So, it’s been another week here in Colombia, it’s been a great week actually, I can’t wait to tell you about it.

I am sitting here with my journal right in front of me, so I am going to be looking at this to see what happened this week. It has been a lot. It says that June 12th, that was actually Michael’s birthday, kind of a cool thing happened; it’s almost 11 o’clock at night. Juan Gabriel just came up to the apartment to give us a cake from Sarah’s (his daughter’s) birthday. Yes it was the 12th of June, same as Michael’s. We went to their house today to teach Viviana’s brother, Leonardo, and just so you know, Juan y Viviana are a couple that we are teaching that are just about to get married. We are just jumping a few hurdles with them on that. But anyway, we were gonna teach her brother Leonardo, but we found them running out of the house to a class that Viviana had. In light of Sarah’s 8th birthday, we did service instead. We cleaned the house with Leonardo, who is 19 years old, and left cake that we bought for Sarah. I guess they wanted to repay us for the favor. Coming here, so late at night, we couldn’t refuse them. So they came to the door, and we live in an apartment complex and so there are bars at the front and a little office that you have to talk to to get in. They came all the way and we hear our phone ring inside the house and we were just doing companionship prayer when we heard it. I had just finished my personal prayer actually when it rang. We were like: “what the heck?’ and it wasn’t even our choice, but Juan Gabriel came up and gave us part of the cake that we bought for Sarah. Sure was nice of them. They actually have a car, which is one of few people that have them. Juan drives Uber with his Dad’s car. So it was really nice of them. I sure love that family a lot. We’ve talked to them just about every day this week. I believe that’s one of the reasons that I feel privileged to be here in this area. I know that you guys have all told me that you are waiting to hear “why the transfer?” I think that was part of the reason. Anyway, I am going to go back to reading:

Anyway, we are teaching Miriam, Viviana’s mother, and others of her family. I just feel privileged to be here. It was a cool thing to do, birthday service, also to commemorate the birthday of my own brother and best friend Michael. Sure do love and miss him.

15th of June- and just like that, I am back in Bucaramanga. Not to stay though, unfortunately. We are here to go to Diamante to see Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the 12. It will be my first time meeting an apostle of the Lord and I am very excited. We arrived here last night at 6:30 and me and my companion booked it over to Floridablanca and up to my beloved first area. Memories of my first days of the mission flooded over me. We went up to the 7th and surprised Cristian and Miladys. I can truly say that it was one of the most special moments of my life to see them again. As Alma said in Alma 17… you know what, I don’t know the scripture in English. So, Alma said “what cemented my joy even more was to see that they were still my brothers in Christ.” They are still my brother and sister in Christ. They are doing excellent and have plans to get married and sealed in Barranquilla. I hope that I can come back to Colombia to see them sealed. When I said that scripture… we went over to Bucarica, I wanted to go see Cristian and Miladys, but they had no idea I was coming. So, we just came in and I opened the gate really slow so that they didn’t hear anything and when the aunt of Cristian opened the door, she screamed. Haha. We walked in and they were so excited! I gave Cristian a big hug and if you don’t remember, they were my first… I baptized them more than a year ago. It was the first time I was able to baptize someone in the mission. Up to right now, they are two of my best converts in the mission. So, it was sure great to go back and see them. There’s a chapter in Alma, Alma 17, and he is walking (I imagine through the jungle) and lo and behold, here come the Sons of Mosiah. They are coming back from their 14-year mission among the Lamanites. They all get so excited and it fills them with joy and Ammon gets so excited that he falls to the ground just because his joy is so full. Alma says that what made my joy even more full was to see that they were still my brothers in Christ. That was really what I felt because Cristian and Miladys are still going really strong. They have callings, they are teaching the Valiant class and Cristian is a Stake Family History Consultant. He is going for his 8th generation in his family tree. For economic reasons, they haven’t been able to make it back to the temple this year. They went one time, but ya. They are looking to get married in Barranquilla. Also, funny thing, my companion, Elder Arredia, was in the area right next to Bucarica, right after I left. I left and like a month later, he got to that area that is right by Bucarica. In that area, in that time, lived the Mom of Miladys. He baptized the mother of Miladys. It sure was great because my companion knew Cristian and Miladys also. So that was… there are not coincidences. But oh, that was such a great experience to go back and visit them. I sure miss Bucaramanga. And actually, that brings me to the next thing that happened….

16th of June, 2018- yesterday was an incredible day. We went from the house of Elder Ostino, to the church in Puente de Provenza. I was again filled with old memories from the first days of my mission. In between visiting my old area, and looking at all of the beautiful views, the mountains covered in green and the people that I loved so much and the perfect weather, I was really sad when I thought about going back to dreary and cold Bogotá. I guess I was feeling a little bit sorry for myself, but I felt God had forgotten about me. I felt that he remembered me when I had a calling as a Zone Leader. Or when I opened an Area and Trained. But now, just as a Senior Companion, without much responsibility at all, I felt useless. I felt that I had somehow failed as a trainer, as a zone leader, or whatever and that now I am here to wait to finish. I felt that President had just put me here because it was convenient for the time that I had left and there was an opening here in Engativá. I felt that my experience as a Zone Leader, executing the transfers and talking so much about leadership strategies, that it was nothing more than that. I felt that the transfer here was nothing more than a leadership strategy that was just an open area that President wanted to put me in just because I only have 3 months left and just because he has to put me somewhere. I doubted my Mission President, a man who I loved and respected. Well… Gary E. Stevenson got to the church in Puente de Provenza at 9:15, and we were all waiting in line on the stairs by the futból court. We were singing hymns when he got there, and he came in a van. From the instant that he stepped off the van it felt different. He got out and he took a photo with his cell phone of all of us there lined up singing hymns. He then called Hermana Sato, who is from Japan, down and started talking with her in Japanese. He served as a missionary and later as a mission president in Japan. She said to me later that night that he speaks very well. Well Elder Stevenson then went with his wife, Elder Montoya (a general authority area 70) and his wife, and President and Sister Laney, to the doorway. He shook all of our hands as we entered in. I felt a peaceful feeling from the moment I shook his hand until the moment when we parted for Bogotá again. But it comes back when I think about the experience. The meeting then started at 10 am on point. Sister Montoya was the first to speak. She gave a stirring talk on Optimism. Then was Elder Montoya. After Elder Montoya was Sister Stevenson. She seemed like a very happy person and I enjoyed her message on Diligence. Then Elder Stevenson spoke. I have better notes on his talk in my Preach my Gospel. He spoke on returning missionaries needing to read their scriptures 60 days without fail, and it will become a lifelong habit. I am determined to do so. He also spoke about needing to keep “finding” after the mission. Finding a wife, that is. Haha. He said: “Elders, this whole time in your mission, your Mission President has taught you how to find. I want you to know that you need to keep finding after the mission. You need to find a woman like Sister Laney to marry. You need to be a man like President Laney is.” That just really struck me. He then said that we should Learn, Earn, and Serve. He said that we should study, then get a good enough job to retire and be able to serve the Lord full time. Then he stopped and said… this is the part that really got to me… He stopped and said: “ I am inspired by the Spirit of the Lord to tell you that your area and companion assignments are inspired of God.” He went on to talk about it and I was just stupefied that God could answer my question in such a direct way. I wont ever doubt revelation ever again. I learned that God knows me. He knew that I suffered when I went from Cucuta. He knows that I miss that place and he cares. He knew that it broke my heart to leave Cucuta but I now know, that it was for something. When Elder Stevenson gave his final testimony, I saw a visible light around him, that wasn’t with anyone else that was on the stand. He then blessed us as an apostle of Jesus Christ and our families with whatsoever thing we should need. What a blessing! That’s my journal entry on that.

So there were just a couple of things I wanted to tell you; first of all, I wanted to tell you about how Elder Stevenson, he literally looked over to the general direction that I was at, and he thought, and you know that the apostles don’t prepare messages when they go to speak to people other than General Conference of Stake Conferences or things, they don’t prepare anything. He stopped and I thought that maybe it was just that he ran out of things to say. But then he said “I am inspired by the Spirit of the Lord to tell you about how your area and companion assignments are inspired of God.” That was kind of a WOW. I felt like he literally read my mind. I was actually feeling really bad that day because I was just looking out at the green mountains, the perfect weather, going to see my old area, and then comparing it with where I am at in Bogotá. Bogotá is special, but it’s ugly. It’s sure as urban as you can get. It just feels cold sometimes. But I received a person testimony right then and there from an apostle of the Lord that that assignment is from God. It has really provided me with a great window to see why I am here. Also, Elder Stevenson talked about getting a testimony. He said that we should teach and then we should finish, and let them know “alright, we have finished, this is our testimony of what we have talked about.” And then give a testimony. That’s exactly what he did. He demonstrated it for us, and when he gave his testimony, I swear, that there was a light that came around him. As I looked at the rest of the people on the stand, it wasn’t around them. It was around him. Then he blessed us. He said: “as an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, I bless you with whatever thing you should stand in need of. I bless your families with whatsoever things they should stand in need of.” So know, family, that you have been blessed by an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ. I have a special testimony that I already had a special testimony about Russell M. Nelson as a Prophet of God, and I don’t know if you remember my story about that, but I will share it with you when I get home. But now I have a special testimony that Jesus Christ has called his Apostles. The church is restored just like it was before. In beautiful simplicity, it has all been restored. You know, I have seen that. Coming back to my area, having left without glasses and coming back with glasses, I can see everything now clearer, why God has sent me here. I am grateful for revelation. I’m gonna be honest, I didn’t believe that it was revelation. But that is when I need to say to the Lord “Help Thou mine unbelief” you know? I will never doubt it again.

Well, I felt as he gave us that blessing that with that blessing, when he said “I bless you and your families with everything that you should need.” That family, if you need something, ask the Lord this week. Not that he wouldn’t already give it to you, but knowing that an Apostle of the Lord in these Latter days has asked that blessing upon you, ask for it with confidence. If you believe, if you can be more believing than I was, you will receive it. I know that is true. Now I am finished, and I want to give you my testimony that I know that Jesus Christ lives. I know that because he has called Prophets and Apostles on the earth. I know in a special way, and with a special witness that that is true. I know that he lives because I have seen the men that he has called and have received a witness. I have also received a witness through the Book of Mormon. Through the Book of Mormon I know that Joseph Smith was a Prophet. I know that Apostles continue to walk the earth today, never to be taken from the earth again. That is my testimony. I leave it with you in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

-Elder Lewis

My original MTC group, reunited for the first time in 21 months! We started out with ten, now six remaining, but going strong!

Me, Elder Varillas (one of my favorite companions) and Elder Villarroel, whom I trained a year ago! First time I´ve seen him since then!

The beautiful Church house in "Puente de Provenza!"

I got to surprise two of the very best people in the world this week! We went to visit Christian and Miladys, the first people that I baptized here in the mission! It was a short visit, but so good!

Close to Bucaramanga. Colombia is really beautiful!

A beautiful little town called San Gil, close to Bucaramanga.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Week 91: To Change and Be Changed for the Better.

Hi everyone! Elder Lewis here in Bogotá, making another recording for the fam!

Well, this week has been…weird, really, honestly. I came from Cucuta on Monday, I left in the night and I left at 7 o’clock at night and got to Bogotá around 12 o’clock the next day. Ya… so it was about 15 ½ hours by bus. It was a lot of fun…but it wasn’t too bad. But I got to Bogotá and there was my new companion, Elder Arredia, and went straight to the area. It sure has been a hard adjustment to be honest. The last day in Cucuta I… wow that was rough… It was the only area that as I left, I just felt like it was ripping my heart out of my chest. I love that area so much. I love Cucuta and all the people that I have met there. It was the area that I had the least success in, as far as number go, but did leave the area better than I found it and I sure did meet a lot of people that changed my perspective on a lot of things. So I think that Cucuta was one of my favorite areas.

Anyway, Bogotá has been a hard transition changing back, I am in an area called Engativá, and Engativá is not too far away, like 50 blocks, alright it’s pretty far away from Suba. I thought it was closer than it really was but it’s not. I got a little bit of culture shock when I got here to Bogotá, because in Cucuta, like, you see everyone out in the streets, especially at night, and not everybody has a smart phone so they get out and play futbol, or soccer I should say, or something else. I got here and Engativá is an area that is pretty well off, compared to Cucuta at least. It really shocked me to get here and see that everybody has, like, furniture. Everybody has things. The majority of people have a computer in their house, which really… in Spanish its mediocosa. It kinda shocked me. But it’s really cool for the work, because you can go and you can show everybody the videos of the church where in Cucuta we had to bring everybody to Frank’s house to get on his television. Haha. But I got here, and first thing off I met our great family, their names are Juan Gabriel and Viviana. Juan Gabriel and Viviana have been investigating the church for about 5 months now and they have got a rock solid testimony. They have just gotta get married. We are trying to help them to get married, so we are going to be helping them, along with the ward, to make keychains made out of plastic that when you put them in the oven you draw on them, like an outline of the Angel Moroni or Winnie the Pooh or something and you put it in the oven and it actually like turns white in the plastic and turns hard. So we are going to try to help them to sell these javeros, keychains. Juan Gabriel drives Uber every once in awhile, but the thing is here in Bogotá, like if you have a car or a taxi (in his case his parents are loaning him a car) you can only drive it on certain days. There’s a law where you can only drive certain days because of congestion. It gets pretty bad here in Bogotá where there are like 10 million people in the city. Imagine that. They both, they have a little business doing that. They make clothing too. But we are going to try to help them sell those keychains so that they can get married. Here it’s about 650,000 pesos to get married. For them, because they both have children outside of their current relationship, that makes it more expensive actually. 650,000 pesos is like 200 dollars. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but here it is a lot of money. They have just got to get married.

We have another investigator named Harry that just got married, and needs to be baptized. His wife is a member and so we are looking at some cool people here honestly. I have met a lot of good people. It has been hard to transition back to Bogotá because it’s pretty cold here. First of all, physically it’s hard. Also the food is different here. It’s like.. I don’t know. It’d be like the transition coming from the dead of summer in July straight to November or October. Here in Bogotá it’s like October but everything is green. It’s really nice…. How do you say it… weather? It’s hard to get used to. I miss the heat and the humidity. Sometimes. I just don’t miss being sticky. Haha. So there you are.

What more can I tell you? Looking at my journal here, and I was really touched, Jessica, by what you did in that Relief Society Activity, it really touched me. I sat in that internet café and I was crying and everybody was looking at me weird, but it really touched me that you would do that and really, honestly, before the mission if I said I didn’t want a package, or at Christmas I didn’t want a present, really honestly, it was more of indifference. It wasn’t really because I was being selfless. But really, the biggest gift that I could have asked for is for help for the Venezuelans. That’s also something that I miss coming to Bogotá. There are still a lot of Venezuelans here in Bogotá just that the culture is not here as much. In Cucuta you experience Venezuelan food, you pick up on the slang and dialect, and everything like that. I actually started to talk a little bit with a Venezuelan accent, where you omit the S’s in just about everything. Haha. I was just really touched that you cared enough to do that. I really learned a lot from the Venezuelans because, I mean you get to their houses and, for example in La Conquista, the area that I would tell you guys about, and they don’t have furniture, a lot of them, you just sit on the ground or they give you a couple of bricks to sit on and you teach them and you really learn the real power behind the message that you have. Maybe it’s not going to help them as much with their physical status, but it will give them HOPE. It will give them the lifestyle that eventually will help them. But more than anything, you give them hope. It’s like what Moroni said when he wrote in Ether: he said that those that have faith can… how do you say it… they can hope for a better world. And really that is the message that we have, and it’s incredible and it’s something that I learned in Cucuta. The real value of our message. It really just set up the way for me to come here and see people with different needs. Maybe they’re not lacking in necessities of life, maybe they have food to eat, in that respect their needs are different from those in Cucuta. But they still have needs. For example, maybe their son is out in the street in drugs. The things that I learned in Cucuta help me to be able to help them.

 So Bogotá is for sure a concrete jungle. It’s cold here, it hangs out around 70 or 75 degrees. It’s pretty nice actually. It’s always overcast, all the parks are very green. This part of Bogotá is different than Suba, Suba is… I don’t know how to describe it… it was dangerous. Haha. But this part, it’s still Bogotá but it’s a lot less dangerous. The streets are cleaner, and it’s safer. So that’s good. You still have to watch your back, but it’s normal. What’s hard to get used to about Bogotá is that life is really fast paced. Everybody is going to things that they need to do. In fact, we got on a bus, Alimentador, it’s a free bus that takes everybody to the terminals of transmilenial, the bus that they have in Bogotá. But we got in one the other day to go to District meeting and I was just bored because nobody was talking to each other. Like no one was talking in the bus. So I started talking with this older gentleman in a wheelchair, and I just said “hi! How’s your day been?” and we started talking and everybody just looked at us and we kept talking, and people started to ask where we were from, and I said “I’m from the United States, he’s from Ecuador” and I dunno, It just seems like everybody here…. I don’t think that they don’t know how to be happy, they just get caught up in worldly things sometimes. It’s very rare to be walking in the street and see someone smiling. It’s hard. The truth is, coming from hot land to Bogotá, especially. But there are good people wherever you go, and the gospel is always the same. We had a good number of investigators come to church yesterday, we found a ton of people and that was good because when I got here, I was like “alright, well Elder, what do we do? Whats the plan?” “well.. not a lot.” So this week was very tedious. There just wasn’t anything to do. So we found a lot of people to teach, and I am hoping to be able to retain them while finding more people this week. But like I said, there are also a few investigators that are further along in the conversion process. So that will be good to help them put that in concrete by helping them to be baptized, even though I haven gotten to know them up until now. I feel privileged to help them to feel… concresar concrete that commitment that they have with God.

Well actually I will read you a little part of my journal: 8th of June 2018. “Today was a lot better. We had 2 lessons in the street and 2 more that were planned. The Lord is leading us. We met a woman while we were buying avocados In the street and today taught her a short lesson on the Book of Mormon. We met her on Wednesday, left a pamphlet, and came back today, which is Friday, and she had read it all. She could progress a lot. We also met a people that were in a park in front of our house. They had listened to the missionaries some 20 years ago and thanks to their service, these people are now listening to us. God has an amazing foresight and plan. We also met Henry, who not even my companion had met, will be baptized on the 23rd. today was a better day. I still feel stressed, but with the Lord’s help, and a positive attitude, maybe this area will come out ok.” So that’s about how I feel. So if you all will, this week, pray for Viviana and Juan Gabriel, and also for Henry, that would be a real blessing. I just feel the need to take a lot of care of them.

Well this recording is long enough I think. Wow. Almost 20 minutes! So I think I am going to leave it there. I know I haven’t shared much at all haha, but here in Bogotá, living the life, and this will be my last area. I am going to try to leave it with a lot of people to teach and a lot of miracles. The Lord has already shown me a lot of miracles, I have really been coming to know my Savior and as I have taught other people I have realized that sometimes in the mission you feel like you have progressed a lot, other times you feel like you haven’t changed. I think it’s a mix of the two things. I do think I have been able to change and I am relying on the Lord to be able to retain that change and continue to change. This week we will be going to Bucaramanga, on Thursday in the morning, we will be going to see an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, Elder Stevenson. I am so excited to go do that. It’s the first time I’ve met an Apostle, and I am looking to receive a witness from the Lord about the Apostles. I know that He will give it to me. I am looking to prepare myself this week as President Laney has instructed us, to repent and to prepare. So I will be looking to do that this week.

Well family, I sure love you a lot, and a shout out, tomorrow is Michael’s birthday, and Friday, I think it was, was Grandpa’s birthday. I forgot on Monday between all the change and transfers and everything forgot to wish him a happy birthday. So if you guys would wish Grandpa a Happy Birthday from me. And Michael, Happy Birthday tomorrow. I sure love you. I look forward to talking to you all here in a couple of hours. I love you all and let me know if there is something that I can do for you guys, alright? Let me know if there is something that you guys want me to bring back from Colombia. Alright? Well, love you so much, talk to you later. Chao!

-Elder Lewis

Mission Tour with Elder Zivic, Elder Lewis is the last on the back row, far right. 

Monday, June 4, 2018

Week 90: Now Entering Engativá.... and Saying Goodbye to Cucutá

Alright, Well Good Afternoon, Family!

I have some sad news, that I will be leaving Cucuta here in about 2 hours. Ya… 2 hours. In about 3 hours then I will be leaving Cucuta. This has been my favorite area. It’s not been for the amount of success that we have had here, but enough. It’s just grown on me so much, the trials that I have faced here, the people that I have met, the people that have strengthened me, and most of all I have come to know a little bit more about my Savior here in Cucuta. It’s really sad to leave. It really breaks my heart. I was having a really hard time last night when they told me.

Well, I guess that I should tell you where I’m going. I am going back to Bogotá. I am going to an area called Engativá, It is actually pretty close to Suba. I remember that when I was in Suba I sent a lot of referrals over to Engativá. It’s pretty close. But I don’t know, It kinda hurts a little bit. I was kinda hoping to go back to Bucaramanga. But as I have thought about it I have mulled it over in my mind, and I have decided that either it’s revelation or it’s revelation, so I am going to do what the Lord wants me to do!

Here in the last week in Cucuta, It has been very fruitful. We have 3 people that are going to be baptized here within the next 2 weeks; Isabella, is being baptized. Her boyfriend is actually taking steps as well. Also, Ilvanis,that’s great but not so great, her husband finally threatened to hit her again and…. She left. She came back the next day and he said that he was gonna leave, so they are going to separate. While that’s really sad for Ilvanis, it’s great news because she can finally be baptized, so maybe that’s a blessing in disguise. It’s been a long time coming. Then we have an investigator named Maria that is going to be baptized here in the next week. I don’t know, all of this makes me just so happy, but at the same time I just don’t get to see the fruits of our labors. But that’s ok. This area has been really interesting because I have really felt like a failure sometimes. No matter how hard we try or how persistent we are things just never seem to get off the ground. The ward has been going downhill for the last couple of months. We don’t have a bishopric, the Bishop and his two counselors, one moved and one went less active. It’s just been kind of a mess. It has been a trying area. But it has been one that has really won my heart over. Another interesting thing is that Familia Salazar, of the family of Alberto, they are just moving to Bogota, and I am going to Bogota too. Wouldn’t it be interesting if we met up in Bogota? I am hoping for that blessing. That would make it all worth it for me. With all of those 3 people that are going to be baptized in the next couple weeks I have seen the same process with other people that have been baptized, and that is the process of conversion. You just see in their lives and in their faces, the way that they talk, that the atonement changes their lives. It’s a great sense of satisfaction knowing that you have been a part of that.

Well, there were a lot of painful goodbyes; Jairo came to our house this morning at 6:30 this morning to say goodbye, and he cried, and I cried, and that was hard. But you know, I am very grateful for the gospel because it will always unite us. This place will always have a place in my heart. Because certainly I have seen the Lord’s hand here. I have seen people healed physically and spiritually through the Priesthood and by the Atonement of Jesus Christ. It’s amazing.

Alright, well for p-day, we went over to Frank’s house and asked him to make lasagna, and he made a GREAT lasagna for us. It was pretty cool! We played card games and we watched a church movie in the Embassy. Well, Elder Prestwich is leaving as well, he is going out as a Zone Leader in Duitama, and he is sure excited about that. I am very happy for him. I have also been able to see him grow and mature in the mission. It has been such a blessing to me to see him grow. I got to be his Zone Leader for awhile and that was awesome. Then after that I got to come to Aeropuerto with him, and I spent a lot of time with him and I have gotten to know him very well and I know that he is a great missionary.

Well, I love you all and I hope you are able to see what happens with the challenge from Russell M. Nelson this week and take his… how do you say it… suggestion or invitation and apply them in your life. I have a firm testimony that he is the Prophet of God. I will share with you when I get home exactly how I know. It sufficeth me to say that the Lord has told me through his Spirit that he is the Prophet of God.

I love you all, have a great week.

-Elder Lewis