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.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Week 75: A House of Order, A House of Learning, A House of Faith.

Hey My Family! What’s goin’ on?

So this week has been good, a little bit harder as far as the work goes. We did find a lot of new people to teach, but notwithstanding we didn’t get too many new baptismal dates with people. But we are going to continue to press forward for a better week. Try to control things better. We did have a multi-zone conference on Tuesday which really inspired me. It was funny because the assistants, one of which was Elder Blair, a good friend of mine, they gave a training where they got up and they started looking for their scriptures, started looking for their folders, started trying to get a visual presentation ready, and we were all like “man, these guys are really disorganized!” and we were all kind of judging them. Then Elder Vieja, said “How do you guys feel right now?” and we were like “what?” and he said: “how do you guys feel that we are running around like chickens with our heads cut off trying to look for things?” and we were like: “we were judging you guys like you guys were really disorganized.” And he said: “THAT is the importance of organization. People won’t trust you if you ‘re not organized.” WHOA. That was crazy. I didn’t realize how disorganized I am being. I really have to work with Chapter 8 of Preach My Gospel. But really as I have tried to get better at organizing myself this week, I have really seen how it helps. It’s kinda funny because when missionaries get going and we are just like “man, we have so many appointments all the time!” that we forget to do weekly planning, or we forget to do companionship study, all those things to get organized and we throw ourselves down a hole, so to speak. Cuz we have so many things to keep track of. You have to do everything in order; I have learned that this week. Even if you have to cancel an appointment to do planning. You gotta do it. If not, all of our work is for nothing. That, I think, would be the main lesson that I learned this week.

Well, my companion has had a few struggles with his family, we are in the balance right now of knowing whether he is going to go home or not. We will see here in the next hour if he is going home or not. If so, that means that I will stay here for longer than I thought and I might start over with the training. That’s something that I really hope I don’t have to do, because I have really grown to love Elder Arcos, and It has really been a lot of fun being able to train him. I have seen a lot of progress with him and a lot of progress with me. I think the other lesson that I learned this week is that in the program for trainers, it’s called “the first 12 weeks” it’s a nice little booklet that the trainers have to go through to train the new missionary. Part of it is how to teach the trainee how to teach people not just with the lesson, but how to teach with their needs. I really noticed in a really powerful companionship study how Aaron in the Book of Mormon in Chapter 22 of Alma  really was able to do that. He was a great model of how to teach. He understood the needs the king had and he built upon that. I have been trying to understand that more and trying to help people instead of just teaching them, you know? Instead of just shoving information down their throat. I know the Gospel changes lives that way. The Gospel has become something that I am very passionate about. I know how it changes lives, how it enriches lives, and how it brightens lives. That, like it says in Alma 32, that faith, if you let it grow, will sprout forth into eternal life. I have just had so many experiences testifying from my heart that we are teaching people and not lessons. It has just been immensely fulfilling.

Besides all of the poorness that you see here in Cucúta, because we are right by the border, you look out over the hill and you see Venezuela and the border right down there about 5 minutes away in car, and you see so many people suffering, but then you see how the Gospel helps them. I LOVE IT! I wish I could do it forever. You know? I will.

I am off my soapbox, I am done ranting I promise. I am just happy. I hope you enjoyed the photos that I sent and I hope to be talking to you soon. Talk to you next week. Have a great week and remember to let the Lord bless your life by reading, praying, going to church, and really looking for him in your lives. Looking to have a spiritual experience, even if it is a little one every day. I know it’s possible, and I know it will bless your lives. I feel the spirit as I am talking right now. I know it’s true. I hope you guys feel it too. I guess that’s my invitation though. I love you guys, have a good week, talk to you next week. Thank you so much, Chao!

-Elder Lewis

They don't have running water, so you have to grab water from a tank to wash dishes. 

we ate lunch at a member's house on Sunday. It's an example of how people can have very little and still be very happy. (The lunch was amazing.) 

"La Embajada" This is the house of our awesome pensionista, (a person that the mission pays to make lunch for the missionaries.) He has been to Utah before, and he will be going again in July-September. We should invite him. He cooks AMAZINGLY. Seriously, Let's invite him. 

we saw a falcon eating a lizard... it was cool because another falcon was diving, almost hitting off the power line, just to mess with the other falcon haha! 

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Week 74: Missionary 2 for 1: True Humility and Healing in Cucutá

Note from Jessica: This post is a long one because it includes 2 of Elder Lewis' recordings, one from last week (which had to be resent due to technical problems)  and one from this week. Both are inspiring and beautiful. Please enjoy! 


Buenas Tardes!

I’m here in Cucutá, in the ward Aeropuerto, in the area Aeropuerto Uno. It’s been a crazy week so I guess I will start from the beginning. We received the cambios on Sunday, then I went Monday from Sogamoso to Bogotá where I was with Elder Mangum and Elder Heninger. That was really fun there for acouple of days just to go out and work with them. We also visited some old members from Suba, that was a blast. Tuesday night we got home to the house of Elder Heninger, and his companion, he was a zone leader too. They brought Elders from the CCM to stay at their house to stay the night before they would get their companions to go out to the field that day. When we were there there was an Elder, big big guy, sitting there in his chair and I saw that he wasn’t talking. So I asked him how he’s doing and he started to choke up. So I took him into another room and he told me: “ I just can’t speak the language. We have been proselyting today and I just cant do it. “ He was having such a hard time and it just reminded me how I was here just about a  year and a half ago. I just felt so much sympathy for him. We talked for a little while and he was alright. It just made me think. It’s been awhile since that day, but it just really made me reflect.

We went the next day to the mission home. We had some training with the President, us who are trainers, while the new missionaries were at integration. Then we got our new companions. My companion’s name is Elder Arcos from Lima, Peru. He is a great Elder. I have enjoyed being with him. Not gonna lie, I was super sad to leave Elder Varillas, he was by far the best companion that I have ever had. So we got on a bus for 15 hours to go up to Cucuta. The moment we got off the bus, the heat just hit my face. BOOM. OH GOODNESS, it is SO HOT HERE. I’m just getting used to feeling wet all the time again. When you get out of the shower and the heat just hits you again… haha. So we got to the house and put some stuff away… Anyway, so we got to work getting to know the members. Not gonna lie family, I am really stressed. I don’t know anybody. I feel really lonely. It’s crazy how comfortable you get in one area and then you have to go to another. Normally theres somebody there that knows the area, but there’s not here. So for me to help Elder Arcos with his training and everything has been kinda tough. But I think the worst of it is behind us. We have gotten to know some really good members here.

Story of the week is that when I was thinking about that, I got really down on Saturday, maybe it was Friday. Ya it was Friday. During personal study I was reading a talk by Elder Renlund about the Priesthood. It talked about how a Melchizedek Priesthood Holder honors his covenants, and he specifically mentions 4 points: Live or give diligent heed to every word that comes from the mouth of God, the words of everlasting life. Not boasting of yourself, and trusting the Savior, or treating the Saviro as a friend and trusting him as a friend would. As I kept reading he gave a list of promises: that Jesus Christ will prepare the way before you, and angels will bear you up. As I read that, I began to weep. Because there hasn’t been a way prepared before me. I am overwhelmed. But it gave me strength. I know that the promise is true. I have felt it.

One of the ways that I have felt it is when we met a member names Jaido. (HI-DOE) Jaido has had a hard life. He has Tourette’s Syndrome. So when he is talking and everything, just randomly he will make some strange noises and sometimes he yells. If that wasn’t enough, his family is very poor. He lived in Venezuela for just a little bit, and he had a meat store. And he lost it. He lost that and his car and he came back to Colombia with nothing but the clothes on his back. He came back to his family and he is staying in a part of the house where he just has a dresser that looks like he pulled it out of the garbage. He sleeps on a couch and there is nothing more. The couch is filthy with a sheet over it. He has 2 short sleeved Sunday shirts, 3 ties that a missionary gave him, a pair of shoes, a pair of socks, and a pair of pants. The roof in his room is falling, it is a brick house with a tin roof, and the tin roof has fallen in. As I walked into his room, it surprised me because he is so happy. Then we walked out to the street and he said “you know, some people complain about not being able to go to church because they were sick. Some people complain about not being able to go to church and complete their covenants because they are tired. That wont ever be an excuse for me. If you don’t see me in the church, you know that something is wrong. I fyou don’t see me in church, come to my house because something is wrong.” When he said that I got a big lump in my throat and in my heart. I prayed “God Bless these people.” Not everyone is like that, but It is pretty poor here. It has really opened my eyes. I don’t know what to do yet. I will let you guys know as soon as I find out. But anyway… ya. That was the week.

 I read your letter, Mom, don’t worry about me. I am doing fine. Everything is alright. Just continue to pray for me, for my companion, and this area. We also have a cocinista, his name is Frank. He is fantastic. I have never eaten better food in Colombia. Seriously, it is so GOOD! I love going to eat lunch everyday, and it’s funny, his room, we call it the Embassy, because his room is covered in flags and pictures of the United States. He has been there a couple of times, he went with a group of missionaries when they were going home, because everyone who comes here loves Frank. Us 4 missionaries eat in his house every day.

Well, I will try to send photos and everything, but I want you all to know that I love you and all that you have done for me. For helping me be here, for helping me spiritually, for helping me financially. I want you to know that your sacrifice doesn’t go unnoticed. I love you guys so much. Talk to you next week. Chao Chao!

-Elder Lewis



We are in Cucutá and this week has been really good. We have been getting to know the area a lot better, we are getting to know a lot of members, and we have gotten to know a lot of investigators. So we are doing good with that. This week we saw a lot of little miracles that helped us out. I just wanted to tell you about one of those.

I was on exchanges with Elder Prestwich, and we went to a family that we were going to teach a lesson, and it turns out that the Grandma of the family was on her bed and she was really not feeling well. Turns out that last week, she is a big lady, she has had some Thyroid problems is what they told us. She fell twice, and you know what that does to your spine. Bad news. So she was on her bed, and when we got there she was crying because her head hurt so bad. And her back hurt something terrible. We got there and instantly felt bad for her. So we followed the prompting to give her a Priesthood blessing, which is kind of a tough thing to do when they don’t know very much about the church, we have taught 2 lessons to them. It’s kind of a tough thing to bring up that subject, but we followed with the prompting, and I got down on my knees by the side of the bed to talk to her, and I just felt the Savior’s love for her. As I searched my feelings afterward, I recognized that by the Spirit, it was one of those things that happens just once in awhile, by the spirit. I realized that the Savior wanted to help her in that moment, that he was conscious of this daughter’s suffering. that he wanted to heal her. SO we opened the scriptures to James 5, which says “are there any sick among you? call the Elders and pray for them,, anointing her with oil.” I realized that in Jesus the Christ, it was the same thing that happened to Adali awhile ago. I asked her if she had faith in Jesus Christ. She said yes. I asked her if she believed that Jesus Christ could heal her. She said yes. Elder Prestwich asked her if she would be willing to accept the outcome, no matter what it would be. She said yes. Following that, Elder Prestwich anointed her with oil, and I sealed the anointing. I felt the spirit fill me. I felt the love of Heavenly Father, I felt the love of a tender parent for his daughter who was suffering in that moment and his desire to relieve her of her suffering. The words that came out of my mouth and expressed the thoughts that came into my head and the feelings that came into my heart, and at the end I said: “according to your faith, be it unto you.” We took our hands off her head and helped her to lay down again. She layed down and we left. Actually, I forgot my Bible there. I was so involved in what was happening that I forgot that I left it there on the side of the bed. Later, we were walking down the street about 3 hours later and someone called my name. Her husband said “her you forgot your bible” and so we went over and there she was sitting outside her house. We asked her how she was feeling and she said “Great!” although she still has pain with her back, in that moment she said that she was able to go to sleep, and when she woke up she didn’t feel the pain.

I have thought a lot about that experience and the feelings that I had. Like I said, I was searching a little bit for what I was feeling in that moment, but that the Savior wanted to relieve her suffering. I don’t know if that makes sense, but…. Then I remember what I read in a talk by Elder Dale G. Renlund last week, that the Priesthood is like a rocket, and the rocket has the function to deliver a payload. The payload can be a satellite, it could be a communications device. That’s what the Priesthood is. A rocket that delivers the blessings of the Atonement for his children. I was just grateful I could do that errand for him, and that me and Elder Prestwich were put in that situation in that time and that we both felt the need to give her a blessing even though that wasn’t the thing to do without giving her knowledge, in that moment. Then we went back the next day and taught the restoration again, explaining to her that it was by that authority that we were able to help her. It was just a cool lesson one. It was just a cool lesson. Just because she understood by her experience that Priesthood is a real power and that faith is the principle of Power. That was a beautiful experience that I had.

The rest of the week we have been teaching quite a bit, we have been trying to get ourselves more organized. We had a contact activity with a lot of missionaries on Saturday morning that was really good. We got to go out and contact for 2 hours, 14 missionaries, 7 companionships, and that really helped us out because we were in our area and it helped us get more investigators. It’s kinda hard because this area has really been worked. We go up the street and everyone has listened to the missionaries. “Oh ya! You guys have come and given us the discussions before, OH YA! We know who you are.” SO we are trying to branch out a little bit more and find people that are really ready to listen. That’s our quest right now. Also, member referrals are going to be really important. We have been able to have a good number of investigators come to the church, we have had a good number of referrals this week and the Lord has really blessed us. I have really been feeling your prayers on my behalf, and I wanted to thank you for that.

Well family, I love you all. I know the church is true. I know that Jesus Christ, I know this more than ever now, that Jesus Christ knows our pain. He knows our pain and wants to relieve us. I know it because I have felt it. In a way that my words cant describe. It reminds me of when the only time that a leper asked him “Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me whole?” and he said “I will.” The only time in the Bible someone asked him if he wanted to do it. I know that he wants to do it. I have a testimony of the Savior. This is the church. He leads and guides it through a living prophet who is Russell M. Nelson. The restoration is still happening. May we be a part of it.

Love you all, please have an awesome week.

-Elder Lewis

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Week 73: More Show Less Tell #2: Cúcuta Edition!

*Note from Jessica: Elder Lewis had some technical difficulties with his recording this week, so we will try and get that put together for next week's post. Until then, Enjoy a picture filled look at Cúcuta, Colombia, Elder Lewis' new area!*

These were on the way to Cúcuta, close to Pamplona. 

Elder Oliveira and Elder Heninger in Bogotá. 

Me and Elder Arcos, my second son jaja

Elder Mangum

Mango juice in ice from a juice shop.