Monday, November 13, 2017

Week 61: "...Happy. I am Happy."

Hey! Buenos Tardes Familia! How are you all?

Well, so it’s been a pretty good week, not too much to report other than I have my new companion, Elder Varillas, whom you just heard, and everything is going well. He has a fire in his bones for the work, and we are having a good time here. We are trying new things, and it’s really awesome. I am super happy about the transfers we had.

So this week we worked HARD. I got to the apartment last night just wasted. So tired just because all week we worked hard but we have got 2 families progressing towards baptism, and we found a really cool family, I want to tell you guys this story: So in-between apartments we decide to go and knock a couple of doors. So we go down this street, and we knock this door, and their son came to the door and we said: “hey are your parents home? We have a message for your family.” His mom came to the door and we started to talk to her about the message that we had, and we just started talking to her about the family. She said: “you know, we were just doing a family prayer.” And we said: “ oh is that something that you guys do?” and she said: “well, not normally, but we were praying for my husband.” I felt like I should ask them more. So I asked her: “is he sick?” and she said: “no, I was just praying that somebody could help us.” And my companion told her: “Well, Hermana, we have been sent by Jesus Christ to help you.” In that moment, my heart just burned. My companion looked at me and I testified to her that it wasn’t coincidence that we were there. I asked her if she thought that that was an answer to her prayer, and she said: “well, I believe it could be. It was really fast.” So we testified to her that the truth that we were sent by Jesus Christ to come to her door and talk to her family. But as there was not a man in the house, we had to set an appointment which we have coming up, but that was just a really big testimony builder for me, that like the scripture in 3 Nephi chapter 5, that says “Now Behold, I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, I have been called by him to declare his word among his people, that they might have everlasting life.” That scripture just ran through my mind and really humbled me, that even though we didn’t know, we were being directed by the Spirit to that door right as they were praying. It was the kind of thing that you hear about in the Liahona, honestly. But I thought that that was super cool.

Also, Adali, received an answer to her prayers, and her and her family, well 4 of them have baptismal dates for the 9th of December, and familia Alarcón, they are on track for their baptismal date the same day. So it looks like we could have a good baptismal service that day. We went to familia Alarcón, to help them, here in Colombia, they use cement to build buildings. It’s never like wood frame like you see in the United States, but it is cement and bricks. The good thing is that they build their houses with flat tops, so if they want, they can build another house on top of it. That’s what Alfredo is doing. So we used a pulley to help him get gravel on top of his roof. So my companion filled up little buckets of gravel and I pulled them up to the roof, and Alfredo picked them up and put the gravel on the roof. We hauled A TON of gravel on top of the roof. It was a good experience and good to do good work. We have also been doing a lot of service this week. We put a roof on the shop of Hermano Hangerita, one of the best members that I have seen. It has been a good week as far as service goes. We have also been finding pretty well. So that’s what’s going on here. This week that is coming up, I am headed to Bogotá on Thursday, Thanksgiving in Bogotá and interchanges with the assistants. So we are gonna see what we have for thanksgiving dinner in the house of the assistants. Looking forward to that. What else…. Oh, I just wanted to wish Grandma a Happy Birthday. Just wanted to let her know how much I love her and how much I appreciate her and everything that I have learned from her. Really, when you are away from family this long you really learn to appreciate everything that they taught you. I remember going to Grandma’s house during the summers and, I don’t know, just working in her house, sanding the walls, getting ready to paint or something like that. Those are some of my best memories. I just wanted to tell you, Grandma, how much I love you.

Well, I was in a lesson yesterday with a part-member family, and the part-member family is where the mother is a member and her 6 year old son is a member, but the father isn’t. We were talking to him, and it’s like the 4th or 5th lesson that we have had with him and he just doesn’t show interest at all. It really struck us really weird that he really didn’t care. We asked him some inspired questions. Inspired questions are just where you sit there in the lesson, and you talk to them, and you wait for the Spirit to tell you what to say. Then something will leave your mouth that just hits them in their heart. It’s actually a teaching tactic that missionaries use. Pretty cool though. But you just have to sit there and you have to listen. We asked him what he thought about his family. Like, if he knew if his family was going to be together forever. He said: “well, no, I don’t think so, I don’t really know just because we are all children of God, and I think we will just go to the next life as children of God. I don’t think I need to reunite with my family.” We thought “Well that’s weird.” So we said: “well, would you like to know for sure?” he said No. He doesn’t need to know. We shared a message with him about how sometimes we live underneath our privileges. God wants to tell us all of these things; he wants to let us know. He wants to let us know his mysteries, so that, for example, we can live calm lives knowing that we are going to pass to the other life and we are going to reunite with our family. But If we don’t want to know that, we aren’t going to. It just made me realize that really, sometimes I do that, or sometimes we do that. Sometimes God wants to bless us with many things but we don’t exactly do what’s necessary to obtain that knowledge that is there and those blessings that are there including the Atonement. The Atonement is to clean us, to purify us, and then to make us better. It has been a theme in our mission that the enabling power of the Atonement is just as important as the healing power. So, I came out of that lesson with a resolve to try harder this week to receive the blessings. To do the things to receive the blessings that the Savior wants to give me. For example, studying a little more intently, praying a little bit more, those kind of things can help us. If I don’t do those things, I know that I am living beneath my privileges, that the Savior wants to bless me with more. More than I need to be blessed, I need to receive those blessings so that I can bless other people. It’s just something that I have been thinking about this week.

I have really gained a testimony of the enabling power of the Atonement. Just because I have so many faults that I am having to overcome and that I have had to overcome. I am finding that as I pray for the help of the Lord, and do good works, and as I repent, the Lord is helping me to overcome those things. One of those things is humility. I have been able to be more humble, and that is not my nature. Haha. But I know that it’s by the power of the Atonement that I am able to do that. What I mean by that is that I have been able to stay humble this week so that I can get along with my companion. I just realized that there are some things that I need to do better, and so as I recognize that, and as I recognize the hand of the Lord in everything, I have just been so much happier.

Well, to close I guess, I have been telling people that, as part of my testimony, that I am now happier than I have ever been in my life, and it’s true. The humbling things, the hardest things, have happened in the last year or so, but it’s just made me happy. I am happy. Nos Vemos, Chao!

-Elder Lewis

Monday, November 6, 2017

Week 60: A Testimony in, and of, a Taxi.

Hey! Buenos Tardes!

Still here in Sogamoso, and doing well. This week we had transfers and I am getting a new companion names Elder Varillas from Peru. I am pretty excited for that, sad to see my old companion go, but I have faith that we are going to keep going strong here in Sogamoso. We have had a really good week, actually. The first part of the week we visited some of the investigators that we haven’t visited in awhile. We found some really great things. The first is that familia Alarcón has been reading the Book of Mormon and Liliana, and Juan Diego, they want to get baptized. Alfredo is just a little bit hard of heart still, but we will be working on him. The other one is Adali. Adali Cano. She and Liliana and Juan Diego all came to church, they all want to get baptized. So we are going to have some baptisms here soon in the end of November or December.

So I went with the guys from ? to their internet today, and this is so much better! They just gave us some herbal tea, Aromatica, that’s what they call that here in Colombia.

Anyway, so we have some baptisms coming up it’s looking like, fasting and praying that that will come to pass. But I just wanted to tell you guys about an experience that I had on Friday. So on Thursday we went out to Bogotá, because we had leadership council on Friday with Elder Godoy of the Seventy, or from the Area Presidency. He is the President of the South America Northwest Area which included Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, and I think Paraguay but I am not sure. But various countries. That was a great experience, but we were supposed to be there by 8 o’clock and so we get out of the house of the Zone Leaders in Bogota by 7:30, with plenty of time to get there. We go out and we try to get a taxi, and no one stopped! We stand out there with our bags, our luggage, because we have to bring materials back to Sogamoso, and for that people wouldn’t pick us up because they thought that we were going to the airport and that’s too far. No one would pick us up, and we are standing out there and it’s already 8:20. I am super stressed out because I didn’t want to be late, and the thing started at 9:00. We should have been there by 8:00. So I am standing there stressed out to be being mad because no one stopped and we went to various places to try to get a taxi and no one stopped. When they did stop, we said “hey we are going to this place”. And they said “uh, no you have luggage.” They didn’t want to haul our luggage. They didn’t even give us time to explain that it’s empty. It doesn’t weigh anything. But ya, they just sped off. That made me MAD. I was TICKED and stressed out because no one stopped. There wasn’t a taxi to be had. So I prayed that we could get a taxi, and still, we were trying to get a taxi for an hour. Then I finally called a taxi service. And we waited there for the taxi to come, and the taxi came and we got in the taxi with all of our bags and everything. I was stressed out but my companion had a little more calm. He started to talk with the guy, his name was Salvador. And Salvador was really nice, really good guy. He is from a little town outside of Bogota, and my companion starts to talk with him I didn’t say a word. I was stressed out and I didn’t want to be late to go to a meeting with a special witness of Jesus Christ as a privilege. I didn’t want to embarrass President or anybody by being late. But here we are at 8:50 and the thing starts at 9, and there is just traffic that’s insane. So my companion is just talking with this guy, and I didn’t want to talk. I didn’t want to say anything. I was just stressed. The conversation went on, and it turned to religion like it always does, “what are you guys doing here?”, “well we do this…” and he said “ you know, I actually woke up this morning and I don’t know if it was a dream but I heard a voice that told me that I need to change.” And before he had talked about his family, talked about his kids, and about his wife and talked about… he liked to drink. His whole family. They liked to drink. But he heard a voice in the morning that said “Salvador, you need to change, or you cant be with me.” And he said that he just knew that it was the voice of the Savior, and it impacted him. He asked us what we thought about it, and I sat there just in awe because I felt the spirit and I knew why we were there. I told him “Salvador, I testify to you that Jesus Christ has sent us here to talk with you. We know how you can change.” And he was just amazed. I knew by the look on his face, by the way that he talked, that he believed me. That was because the spirit testified to him that in actuality, that Christ has sent us here. In that moment, I almost heard a voice say to me “Did you not trust me?” and that cut me to the heart. I just sat there amazed. So we got out of the taxi, and I paid him. I took his information and I passed it to the zone that it applies to. But I could just see by the way that he looked at me that he understood by the spirit, who we were and that Jesus Christ knew him. I walked into the church house and I couldn’t hold back the tears. I just felt the spirit so strong like I do right now. It just testified to me that Jesus knows each and every one of us. That his sheep are counted and he knows them all, and his sheep know his voice, up to the point that he would send us, for me what was a trial. So that was my spiritual experience for the week. After that Elder Godoy, awesome awesome man, talked to us about the Savior. I just felt that we needed to have that experience to understand what he was going to say to us. It helped me understand and I feel like I am really coming to know my Savior. I am certain that I heard his voice, and I am certain that Salvador heard his voice telling him that he needed to change. I know that he lives. I know that he loves us, I know that he knows us. I know that he has re-established his church here on the earth. It’s all true. Since then, I have been so happy. I just can’t even describe it. I have been so happy to be here and so happy to go and proclaim his name. I am sure that the rest of the 10 months that I have left are going to be full of experiences like that. I feel like I am really just starting to figure out why I am here. I feel like I am really starting to figure out how things are. It’s crazy that it has taken me this long, but it is all looking good from here.

Well, this has been a long recording, so I think I am going to end it. Elder Godoy also left the invitation for us to discover the enabling power of the atonement for us, The atonement has two sides basically, the side that makes bad people to good people, that’s the cleaning power of the atonement, and then there is the enabling power that makes us from good people to better. Sometimes we think that we have to do that part, good people to better, on our own. But that’s a mistake. We can’t do it on our own. We have to have the Savior, and his grace is sufficient to make us good people much, much better. That’s when we get to know him. So, like Elder Godoy invited us, I would like to invite you guys to think about that and study about that, because it has really blessed my life. I love you guys and I will talk to you next week. Chao Chao.

-Elder Lewis

Monday, October 30, 2017

Week 59: Milagros en la obra del Señor en Yopal

Buenos Tardes Familia!

Still here in Sogamoso, although this week we took a detour to Yopal, which is like a city out in the jungle which is 5 hours away from us. What happened this week…I guess I will start with Wednesday.

Wednesday night we got to the house and we got a call from Yopal saying that they were having some problems with some companionships and things. So we called the assistants at like 10 o’clock at night, we said “Hey, Elder Piquasi, can we go to Yopal right now?” and he’s like “Why?” “because they are having these problems…” and he said “be careful, but do it.” So we went at 10 o’clock at night to the terminal, and there was only a mini bus that was available to go to Yopal. So we took it. That was the most miserable bus ride of my life. Usually In the buses, they’re really nice, the big ones, but the little ones, the seats don’t recline very far at all, and you can get on the bus and imagine that two guys, called llanuras, or plainsmen, I guess you would say, they are like cowboys here in Colombia, they sit down and they smell SO BAD of beer. I was being asphyxiated by the smell that was there, Fortunately we got about half way to Yopal and they got off the bus. But man, I will tell you what… the thing is that to Yopal, the road is really bad. There’s a lot of rainfall in Yopal, and it rains hard, so it washes out the road. There were a couple of bridges that were down, they have to go take a detour around the bridge on the dirt, or the mud I should say. It’s just as winded of a road as you have ever seen. It was crazy.

But we got to Yopal at 4 o’clock in the morning. We left at like 11 and got there at 4.
We got to the house of Yopal 3 and we slept there for a couple of minutes. It was really great getting out of the bus, cuz the humidity just hits you and you just feel wet. I actually miss that feeling from Bucaramanga. It reminded me a lot of Bucaramanga. It’s a lot hotter, but at night it was really nice. So we got to the house of Yopal 3, and they pulled out some mattresses and my companion slept in what’s called a Chinchorro. It’s a hammock basically, but a little more stretchy. I couldn’t sleep in the chinchorro, so I just slept on a mattress on the ground. It wasn’t pulled very tight, the chinchorro, and you kinda doubled in half. But I enjoyed sleeping without a blanket for the first time in 7 months. That’s also something I miss. In Yopal you cant really sleep without a fan in your face. We woke up the next morning and went to the other house in Yopal of the missionaries and we resolved some problems and then I went out on exchanges with Yopal 3. It was SO HOT down there in Yopal. I don’t know, I think it would give hell a run for it’s money. It’s so hot. It couldn’t have been less than 95 degrees. But I enjoyed it a lot. You get out of the shower, and you don’t feel any less wet. That’s how it is in Bucaramanga as well, but I had forgotten how that felt.

Yopal has some cool things: they have iguanas that are as long as my arm, and they will whip you so hard with their tail that it will tear your pants. That happened to a missionary about a month ago. Also, one side of Yopal has mountains, and the other has plains. One side you will see these mountains touching the sky, and on the other side you just see flat. Totally flat. And there is jungle surrounding Yopal. It’s crazy how diverse my mission is. Sogamoso, the landscape, it’s green. It’s like Utah in Spring. Then you go 5 hours away and then you’re right smack-dab in the middle of the jungle. Outside of Yopal, I didn’t get to go outside, but outside of Yopal there are monkeys and… I’m not even sure what it’s called, it’s like a giant rat, it’s called a chinguirro. There are monkeys and chinguirros, birds of every kind, it was really cool! But ya, I enjoyed that. We got back friday night to have the entrevista de bautismo, the baptismal interview, with Jefredy. He was baptized on Saturday, which was great. I will try to send some pictures, I think next week I believe. Just so you guys know, we did have a baptism this week and I have really enjoyed Sogamoso because we have been able to baptize every month that I have been here. So that’s good. We found a family of 7 this week that looks really promising. The Lord is blessing us, even though we don’t deserve it completely. But still, it’s great to see his hand in all things, and how he leads us without us really knowing.

The highlight of the week I would say was really Tuesday. We had exchanges with some of the missionaries and I stayed in my area and went to an investigator named Paola. And Paola, we found her in her store when we went, actually, to grab some water. She asked us: “what do you missionaries do?” She’s a joven…. A young lady of about 25, but so prepared for the Gospel. We came back with a member the next time and every lesson has been powerful. This time we taught the Doctrine of Christ: Faith, Repentance, Baptism, Receiving the Holy Ghost, and Enduring to the End. I have never felt the Spirit like that before in a lesson in my mission. Just her answers were amazing, she shared with us an experience that she had with repentance: I guess she has had some problems with her family, her sister-in-law, I guess has been being abusive to her brother and to her niece. So she got mad and actually has worked in the police of Colombia. She went and hit her, her sister –in-law, but then she felt bad about it afterwards, and she went to her sister-in-law and apologized and then she went to the Lord, she hit her knees and asked the Lord to forgive her, because she just felt so bad. and we hadn’t even taught repentance yet. She said that she just felt this overwhelming, strange feeling come over her, and the hate for her sister-in-law just went away. It just went away. In that moment, I just felt the spirit so strong. It gave us the opportunity to testify, in a very special way, of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. That is evidence that he has experienced everything, and for that, he can take it away when we humble ourselves and do what’s necessary. It was so great. I felt the spirit so strong, just guiding us what to say. I felt so many promptings and had so much personal revelation during that lesson, it was just amazing. Me and Elder Ferral, I left that lesson just walking a mile off the earth. Just on a spiritual high. That was the highlight of my week I think. She’s actually not in our area, dang it, so we had to send a reference, but she is still going strong, and I plan on going to visit her every once in awhile in her store, which is in our area. And, eventually here in the near future, the 25th of November, seeing her baptized. She is already giving us references. She just told us at the end of the last lesson she was crying and she told us “thank you so much for the peace that you have brought me. I just can't even describe it.” Her prayer was the most sincere prayer I have ever heard anybody say. Elder Ferral, afterwards he told me “man, I feel like garbage about my prayers, they’re nothing compared to that.”  She was just thanking her Father in Heaven for the peace that she felt, and having guided us to go there. It’s really interesting, you can relate it with the talk by, I think it was Elder Renlund, that talked about there isn’t such thing as a coincidence. We just went in there to get water, but I can see now how the Lord was guiding our steps. We were going to go the other side of the street to grab it, but then we thought: “go to the other side of the street to get the water.” Maybe it was in that moment, but we didn’t recognize it as a prompting, but… ya. The Church is true. The spirit guides us. We should always listen for it.

Well family, have a great week. Love you all. Chao Chao!

-Elder Lewis

Iguanas in Yopal. as long as Elder Lewis' arm and their Tail Whip can tear clothing! 

The view from Yopal 3's apartment. Elder Lewis worked out here in the morning, and the mountains in the photo are home to monkeys and chinguirros.

Chinchorros in the apartment

Monday, October 23, 2017

Week 58: "Well, He Sent You Guys, Didn't He?"- Serving in Nazareth

Buenas Tardes Familia!

It’s been a good week here in Sogamoso, I think, not a lot to report. One of the guys in our zone, Elder Altamirado, got his gallbladder taken out. He was in Yopal, which is a town about 5 hours away from Sogamoso. It’s out kind of isolated, and it’s in our zone. But ya, I guess he got super sick a week or two ago, and he had to get shipped over to Bogotá to receive treatment. Good thing is, our Mission President is actually an ER Doctor. So we talked to him about it while it was happening, and he said “There’s no way I’m letting him get that surgery in Yopal.” Haha So they shipped him over to Bogotá and he got the surgery that he needed this week, and the whole zone fasted for him, but it turned out well. They are now back in Yopal and he just has to take it easy for awhile. That was exciting. What else, what else, what else…..

This week on Tuesday, I got SO SICK. I felt like I wanted to die. I guess some member gave us hamburgers that were made of something called molito pollo, and it’s ground chicken, but they grind in everything. The intestines, the stomach, the everything. It was really good, I just didn’t know. Then afterwards, the next day, ugh…. I was in the bathroom for all of the night and the next day I was just gone. However, we went to our appointments that we had, and in between appointments I went home and DIED. Haha. But ya, that was pretty fun… I am feeling a lot better now, it was just kind of a 1- 1 ½ day thing. I’m grateful; it was like food poisoning I guess. I don’t know what I’m going to do next time she offers me hamburgers…. Cuz that was… whoa… but let’s see what else has happened….

This week we had a cool service project, we went and cleaned out an old abandoned house. We cleaned out the front yard. I have learned from service projects here that the machete is the tool most unused in the United States. That thing is amazing! The one I was using in this project was kinda dull, but you can clear a lot of stuff, with that one that was dull I could clear out a good thick bush in like 5 minutes.

But this week me and my companion have been focused on forgetting about ourselves. It occurred to us when we were walking one time that sometimes we as missionaries get caught up in our own things, and it’s hard when things don’t go right and you have somebody that doesn’t understand the doctrine and therefore doesn’t want to take the steps that they need to take to be baptized for the remission of their sins. That’s hard. But we found that if we forget about ourselves, that that doesn’t even matter because we are going to go find the people that have been prepared. Because there are people that have been prepared and you can tell the difference between the people that are prepared and the people… I don’t want to say that are not prepared, but they don’t want to listen. That don’t want…. They’re good with what they’ve got. I have really learned this week, we have had to leave some people, because they don’t want it. They want to be happy but they are not willing to do what is necessary to be happy. We have taught just about everything we know how to do. But we are going to go into this week, we have put a new emphasis on service as a way to find investigators, and it has really panned out for us so far. We’ve had one service project on Saturday and we have another one planned coming up here. I just want to share an experience with you guys:

So we went and cleaned out this place, they are going to tear down the house, so we went inside of the house and cleaned out all the stuff, because it’s abandoned and people have gone in there are done drugs and stuff. So we cleaned out all of that and then we took out some bushes and things, and cleaned the pasture out, then afterwards we went back to the house of the people that we were doing it for, and I started to talk with them. I started to talk with them and I asked them if by chance, they believe in Jesus Christ. I thought for a second and said: “What blessings have you had from believing in Jesus Christ?” And they said: “well, he sent you guys didn’t he?” That’s a big blessing for us. That just made me realize the power that is in serving other people. Doing simple things makes great things come to pass. Well, that’s not our area; it’s out in a little town called Nazareth, but the Sister Missionaries will be going out there to teach them soon. And this Saturday we have a baptism. Jefredy is going to be baptized. He is a reference from a recent convert. He has been a little bit slow to understand but we went and talked to him about the real reason that we get baptized and we found that he didn’t understand even after all of our lessons. We asked him “why do you think we get baptized?” and he said “to show God that we want to follow him.” Or something like that. We said “yes that’s true, but more than that, it’s to receive a remission of our sins so that we can go back to live with our God.” And we explained that to him, and after that he says: “well, I have to get baptized!” so he has already been to church so we are going to baptize him this week. It’s going to be a heavy week; we have intercambios tomorrow and Friday, we are going to Yopal on Thursday. This is my first time going to Yopal. I am pretty excited.

Well, I think that’s it for this week. I love you all and I will talk to you later. Chao Chao!

-Elder Lewis

Turns out that the machete is the tool that is most under used in the states. Fact. I´ve learned to appreciate them doing service projects here. Also, the other guy in the picture is Jesus of Nazareth. His name is Jesus Ruíz and he lives in a little town outside of Sogamoso called Nazareth.