Monday, January 30, 2017

Week 20: Onward, Ever Onward... new schedule and new things to learn

I just came back from the mountains; we went to Montefiore, which is the waterfalls. I sent pictures! I sent pictures of a place really green, and a castle looking thing, and there are waterfalls. We didn’t get to go last time because there wasn’t anybody in the castle looking place, we got to go in this time and it was breathtaking. It was all jungle, with vines and animals. Haven’t seen any monkeys yet, but I am told they are around here somewhere. I kinda felt like Tarzan. Mom, you would love these waterfalls. Its really cool how nature has carved its way through this jungle. 

This week has been a little rough as far as lessons and things go. With a companion right now that doesn’t speak any English, I have been speaking Spanish all week long. It’s weird when I speak English to people. Sometimes that’s a little rough. Its weird because when I try to tell you a story in English, its not going so well. Ha-ha. My companion and I are getting used to each other a little more and that is going well.

As far as people go, Familia Reyes, John and Mile, have a baptismal date! It’s not active yet, because they haven’t been to church, but their goal is scheduled for February 25th.  That’s really cool because I think that I am probably going to leave Bucaramanga come early March. So it would be cool to get them baptized before I left. But, we had 71 effective contacts this week, which is pretty good. We walked so much! On Friday, when we came back, I could hardly stand! We went from our house, to Barcia, about half a mile, and then from Bucarica, to Altamira, where we live, and then from Altamira to La Paz which is 2 miles down. We walked around there for awhile with Hermano Cuadros visiting people, trying to establish contacts and things. Then we came back to (?) which is close to where we live. Still a good long walk. Then back to Bucarica, and then back home. All in all, 7 or 8 miles that day. A lot of appointments fell through, almost all of them. It wasn’t a good day. But we are starting to get a lot of contacts. This week I heard a phrase so much that I don’t want to hear it again…. I don’t care if I don’t hear this phrase again, and that is “I believe in Jesus. Jesus is one. Jesus is one God. I don’t need no religion. Yo no neccessito un iglesia, yo tengo Jesus en mi Corazon.” I have Jesus in my heart. Yes… But no…. We had one bad run in with a Catholic. She just really didn’t want to listen. The thing is that here, they don’t know the bible. They really don’t have a good reason to listen to us other than they are Catholic. They are Colombian and they are Roman Catholic, and they will straight up tell you that. But… ya.

Other than that we had some good appointments. Familia Reyes, Christian and Miladys are still going strong; Christian will be ordained to the Aaronic priesthood this Sunday. I am really proud of him. He is so humble and willing to serve. They have a goal to be to the temple by this time this year. I am praying that I will be serving in Bogota during that time, because only the missionaries serving in Bogota can go to the temple. I would like to see them sealed and receive their endowments.

We had lunch yesterday with the familia Olave, they are really rich. Here you are either really rich, middle,  or low (theirs a small middle class, but its really lower class.) There an area called Monterrey, which is where Hermano Olave lives, and he has a mango tree. He asked me after almuerzo if I wanted a mango. I said “heck ya!” he called to his maid to get him a ladder, and the maid brings him a ladder and he got up on top of it, and this 65 year old guy in a suit is climbing a tree to get a mango for a missionary, but I guess how you tell if a mango is ripe is that if you tug on it and it falls in to your hand, then it is ripe. If you wiggle it around and it doesn’t come off, then don’t even bother. He gave me a mango, we came back to the house and I threw it in the fridge. We worked and then came back to the house and my companion showed me how to peel it, and I think I have a new favorite food. It was so good I about cried. Fresh mango. Good stuff.

They have a spiky green fruit they make juice out of that tastes like a milk shake. Colombians make juice like a milkshake, or a smoothie. You can ask for water or milk. Also, Colombians drink yogurt. They don’t eat it with a spoon. Kinda interesting.

Last Sunday there was a guy that walked into the church kinda dirty and messy, and a member motioned me over and he had a cup in his hand and he informed me that he had met some missionaries that told him that he couldn’t drink coffee, and that he didn’t like that, and he took a sip of his coffee. Then he left. That was weird. Just came in to tell us that he didn’t like the word of wisdom. That was it.

This week I really have come to realize how important it is that we appreciate the gospel. A lot of people here will listen to us, you know preachers preaching… (That’s another phrase I don’t care to hear again… predicar la palabra.. preach the word….) basically people are like “ya I will listen to ya, love to hear the preachers preaching the word…” But what that means is that they will let you into their house and you’ll give a lesson and they will say “oh good. Thank you!” what they don’t realize is that this is so much more. This is salvation. This is becoming like our heavenly father. Its really amazing this perspective that we have, we are really lucky, especially in Utah, in Zion. There are a lot of people down here that take a little bit of work to realize what this message is. Then again, there are others that are really prepared. They have really thought about it. They really have done some searching. Those are the people that we are here for. Those that are willing to do some searching. When they do a little bit of searching, they find that things like baptism and essential ordinances and priesthood are necessary. We should never take that for granted, that we have this knowledge, and we should never be afraid to share it. Easier said than done, believe me I know.

BIG NEWS from the missionary world. We had a transmission from the missionary board of the church, which Dallin H. Oaks directs. Dallin H. Oaks, David A. Bednar, Quentin L. Cook, Bonnie L. Oscarson, and a few others. Directed to all missionaries. First it was a training about the doctrine of Christ, and I thoroughly enjoyed that. I have never enjoyed a training more in my life. It was kinda funny, at the beginning they were trying to figure out how to get it in Spanish, my zone leader asked me to translate! I felt like the least qualified in the room to do that, but ya I sat and translated for about 10 minutes for the Elders that couldn’t understand. I didn’t do a terribly good job of it, but they understood. It’s really hard to focus and speak at the same time. It’s very difficult. But I want to tell you about the schedule for missionaries that has changed. The schedule in preach my gospel no longer applies. Now instead of a set schedule, we get a list of things to do, but we decide when we do them. Our mission president decides when we get up, but this is allowing us to have more freedom. The first presidency and the quorum of the 12 have prayed about this for 6 months, and through revelation they have given us this new schedule. So we need to do personal study, companion study, language study, eat breakfast, proselyte, eat lunch, eat dinner, and other things. It’s the same time blocks, but without a set time to do it. Also, P-Days we have 2 MORE HOURS!!!! That’s right. Conrad and other missionaries reading this, if you remember, on P-days we had to study till 10, but not anymore! We study till 8, for a half an hour, and then p day. Dallin H. Oaks, it was kinda funny, when he announced that he said, “I think I just heard a cheer from all the Elders.” Also, they gave examples of possible schedules for different continents, and it has us in Latin America waking up at 7:30, going to bed at 11:30 and staying in the streets till 10. WOW! But we find out when we go to internet today what time we get up because that’s decided by our mission president. I think Elder Leiffer about cried when he found out we might be waking at 7:30. The thing is, the sun rises here at 5:00…. So I don’t know if that will apply or not.

This has been a really disorganized message. I found a way to improve my Spanish accent though, by a million times.  You put a pencil in the front of your mouth in your teeth and speak Spanish. It gets you to speak with the front of your mouth. If you try it, you have a good accent, it’s just the placement. So I have been doing that, reading preach my gospel with a pencil in my mouth like an idiot talking to myself. So maybe if I get good enough at it, I will come home with an accent. That’d be cool.

Looking forward to hearing from you all. As for the weather here, its been stinkin hot. 90 degrees everyday. Except for today where it is raining and 70 degrees. It weird being in February soaked with sweat. I’m getting more used to it. I am getting a missionary tan, my forearms are tan, but under my shirt is super white.

I want to leave you with something spiritual: this week I have been learning a lot about the application of the atonement in our lives. It has really made me get in and study how to apply the atonement to our lives. Isaiah 53: 4-7 talks about the suffering of the Savior for us. It’s my favorite scripture. When we really understand the atonement, it makes us want to be better. It comforts us and pushes us forward. I challenge you in the scriptures in 2 Nephi 9, it talks about the savior being full of truth, and in John 14 it talks about what that means. It means the truth is what illuminates our minds. Jesus Christ illuminates our minds and hearts. Truth is understanding. To understand the scriptures, we need to look for Jesus Christ. Every scripture has something to do with Jesus Christ. Look for him in the scriptures, in the stories. Look for him and pray to know how the stories can help you come closer to him.

I love you all and I miss you. I don’t think a missionary ever gets over being a little lonesome for his family and his home; he just gets preoccupied with his work. It only comes back when things aren’t going well. I miss you and I love you and I am grateful for all you have done for me, especially you Mom and Dad, for the example you have given me. That something that I have been thinking about this week is how wonderful my parents are. I really do have the best family in the world. Bueno, Les Amo Muchisimo. Chao!

-Elder Lewis

Monday, January 23, 2017

Week 19: Miracles, Baptism, and the faith to find

This post is long, but worth the read. It consists of a letter from Elder Lewis himself, some pictures, and then more experiences and detail in the recording that he sent his family at the very end. Enjoy! 

It has been a very long time since I, myself, have written something for this blog. As I have come to realize this week, there aren’t enough hours in a day!

Cambios came and Elder Zuniga left, and I am now with Elder Hildebrandt of Peru. No one here can pronounce his name! (His great grandfather is German) he is sure a good guy and I have never worked so hard in my life! We are really cooking now! We have had many amazing things happen this week because we are both willing to work our tails off! I want to tell you about a couple:

Familia Reyes: we got to their house and started a lesson with them after some small talk and introducing my new comp. Mile, the mother, told us that she had had a dream that all she needed was Jesus, no church. Well that was a tough thing, but we were prompted to go on. We taught the Plan of Salvation and Mile kept getting up and going to the kitchen, but returning immediately. My companion extended the invitation to be baptized at the end. John, the dad, began to explain that he didn’t need a church and that Mile felt the same. Just then Mile cuts in and says “ I want to be baptized!” She couldn’t have surprised me more if she had hit me in the head with a 2x4. She began to explain that she felt something that she had never felt before. She began to cry and explained that she tried to leave the room but couldn’t. John fought hard against the feeling but had tears in his eyes as his wife expressed her deep, heartfelt desire to be with him forever, and that somehow she knew that this is the only way. I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s amazing the things that can happen when a couple of missionaries work hard and try to have the spirit with them. Hermana Blanco, who gave us this reference, said that now they both want to be baptized. I hope that the Lord will permit me to labor in this area long enough to see that glorious day, but you never know.

On Saturday, I had the privilege of baptizing 2 of the finest people I have ever met. Christian Javier Salcedo Ramirez, and Miladys Patricia Henao Riveros! I cannot attempt to express the wonderful feeling that swelled in my chest when I saw them dressed in white, smiling. I messed up the baptismal prayer with Christian, I said “re Bautismos” instead of “te bautismos” So I had to call him back and do it again! But it was wonderful and the feeling of peace cannot be described.

Well, there are many other things that I would like to say, but it sufficeth me to say this: Obedience and Sacrifice really do bring forth the blessings of heaven. I know without a shadow of a doubt, more than I know that I’m writing these things, that God lives! He has restored his kingdom with all the ordinances and blessings that have ever been given to the children of men. Truly God has a plan, grand and marvelous, for his Children, and central to it is his perfect son, Jesus Christ. I testify of Him, His divinity, His majesty, His love. Truly through him whose name we wear, all mankind can be redeemed if they come unto him. Jesus is the Christ, Joseph Smith was his prophet, and the Book of Mormon is the evidence of it all. I bear solemn testimony that if you who are reading this have doubts, or want to know if this is true, read with a willing heart and then pray “if these things are not true” (Moroni 10:4-5) I know these things and I would that all the world would know it. I know deep inside of the that God has called a prophet today, and we must heed his voice. Ask God, and let him show you his wonders. I testify of these things, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.


Elder Lewis

(L to R): Elder Hildebrandt, Hermano Cuadros, Miladys, Christian, Elder Lewis, Hermano Cruzado (1st counselor in the bishopric) 

(L to R): Elder Hildebrandt, Miladys, Christian, Elder Lewis

Hola familia! Como estan?

This week has been very very good I am now with a new companion, Elder Hildebrandt, he’ s pretty awesome. For the start of the week, Monday we had changes, I hung out with Leiffer and Robinson for the day, and then got a new companion.  Tuesday, I kinda got to know Elder Hildebrandt, and got him all settled in here, then Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday we got to work! I have never worked so hard in my life. Elder Hildebrandt is just awesome. Elder Zuniga was just a little bit tired. Ok maybe a lot bit tired. So now we are really cooking. We had 25 lessons this week and hoping to do better this next week. Saturday was absolutely amazing. I had the honor of baptizing Christian and Miladys. It really was special. Theres no better feeling than getting all dressed in white and then seeing them get all dressed in white. Almost made me cry. I love them and they are stellar members of the church. I did mess up on the words of the prayer, so I had to do it again, but it was super good. They told me that when they came out of the water, that everything, their doubts, fears, and regrets were gone. So that’s baptism. Their testimonies afterward were really special. This really is the best time to be a missionary. When you’ve wished and worked and prayed and fasted for these people to get baptized. Our work is not done, but it’s a great first step. They were confirmed on Sunday by Hermano Cuadros. We were in Gospel principles and Christian introduced himself and he said that he had been working and searching for a long time,  and he always knew there was a god, but had never found a church, but now he has found it and in three months they were baptized. (which is actually pretty fast) but that now that the has found it, that nothing will stop him and that he is here to serve. I almost cried. Saturday afternoon, we moved from the 3rd floor to the 2nd floor. Its exactly the same. Its actually inhabitable!

Its always hard when you get a new companion, but over the week I have been really happy about the change. We’ve been working hard and I am really enjoying it. This is when missionary work is enjoyable, when you have a companion that really wants to work.

A little about Elder Hildebrandt: He’s 23, He’s from San Martin, Peru. He studied Business Administration and finished. That translates well into the work. He knows what he’s doing. We really get a lot done. There just aren’t enough hours in the day, but we try. He sings a lot, he likes American Pop, we have similar tastes. He speaks some English, but we speak Spanish. We played American Football, basketball and Micro (soccer) with the Zone. It’s the first time that I had spoken English all week. It was weird. I did have 4 people tell me that they thought I was about fluent. I don’t think so, but we’re working on it.

The words of Isaiah: confusing, but if you take the time to study them and look at the things the Lord has for the house of Israel, they translate into our lives perfectly. Not only that, but those prophecies apply to our people. I found a lot of joy in studying his words, especially 2 Nephi 7 talks about Jehovah, talks about how he didn’t leave the children of Israel, the children of Israel left him and how he would like to have helped them. I think this is important because its for us to understand that it is never him leaving us, but us leaving him. If we want to get closer to him then we need to take the steps to get there. He is anxiously awaiting us to make those steps. With every investigator I see times when they are willing to take those steps and times when they are not. When they do it, they are much happier.

I am happy and healthy and I will keep working hard, and hopefully the Lord will allow me to stay here long enough to see some of our other investigators baptized. I realize how short my time is here. It flies by. To think that at the end of my transfer that I will be 6 months in, its amazing. I’ll be home before I know it… that’s gonna rip me apart. I love you all.

Elder Lewis