Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Week 23: Teaching the Gospel in Strange Circumstances

Hola Familia! Elder Lewis again aqui in Bucaramanga,

Maybe for the last time in Bucaramanga here, I have a hunch that I may be transferred, but I am not sure yet. So I just returned from another hike to another waterfall. These ones were in Piedecuesta, and Piedecuesta is about 30 minutes from here by bus, it’s a little town. Up above in the mountains there are some stinking cool waterfalls, I will send some pictures. I am sunburned, the sun is very strong, but I have a hard tan line anyway. My watch tan line is pretty on point. The sun has been really strong this week, and I am getting pretty dark. I am actually darker than a lot of the people here, which isn’t much because Colombians are usually more fair skinned than all the other Latins. But still….

Its been a rather discouraging week. Our baptism that we were going to have this next week, we aren’t sure what has happened to them. We haven’t seen them in 2 weeks. She is having a hard time with her family and having doubts and not reading the Book of Mormon. That’s the problem. She knows its true, we have had some really cool experiences with John and Mile. Its kinda hard because she said she had a dream that she saw Jesus, that he told her that she didn’t need to join a church, that he told her that he was “in her heart”. We learn in Jesus the Christ, James Talmage calls that “an old sectarian notion”, that that’s a lie. She said that she thinks that it was Jesus but she wasn’t sure who it was but that she dreamed it so it must be true…. So that is her big problem right now, she doesn’t want to believe that there is a church. Sometimes that’s really frustrating , because there is a church, and this is it. Sometimes people here, the Catholics teach a very flowery version of the Gospel, they don’t teach the commandments. They teach the Psalms and the Proverbs, and they tell ya if you sin, you are going to Hell. Other than that they don’t really do much. So to tell them that there is a church is really stunning to people because they are so used to “Oh, it doesn’t matter what church you are in, you are a child of God.” Well that’s true, but He has provided a way. So that’s where we are at with the Familia Reyes, its not looking like we are going to be filling the font for a little while in Bucarica. We have other investigators that are coming along though.

I gotta tell you guys about an experience that I had on Friday with Hermano Cuadros. We went to an appointment down in the lower part of our area, called La Paz, and in La Paz, we were supposed to be teaching an investigator, but he wasn’t home. But instead of teaching him, we started contacting a little in the neighborhood. There was a man standing in front of this man’s house, so we went and talked to him about religion. He told us “I have understanding and knowledge that you wouldn’t even comprehend, and you wouldn’t be able to receive it.” We said “porque?” Why? So we went up in his house, and he basically sits us down, and we are sitting in the living room, all appears normal, his wife was there, his family was there, and he starts to tell us about his “knowledge”. Basically, he believes that he got this vast understanding and knowledge from… a drink. Yep. A liquid. We asked him what liquid, and he said “Ayahuasca” and my companion started to laugh. I discovered that Ayahuasca is a hallucinogen, a root found in the Amazon that is crushed up and secretes liquid, and it is like LSD. So it’s a drug. I was trying really hard not to laugh. So he started to tell us about these really weird beliefs that he has, and he was telling us about what he think about the creation that was really weird, and his own version of the law of Chastity… it was really weird. He told us about all of that. So I asked him, “How much of this revelation was from this drink?” and he said “well, none of it.” I said “But isn’t that what you just told us?” and he said “No, through the drink I was transported and my spirit connected with the universe, and I saw colors that were hermosisimas… “ Colors that were really cool. I was trying so hard not to laugh, and my companion looked at me like “Compa, if you laugh, I swear I will kill you. control yourself.” Hermano Cuadros is in the same situation, we are trying no to laugh.  Then we decided to teach a little bit of the plan of salvation to this guy. He wasn’t going to receive it, but we are going to try to straighten him out a little bit. So we had a prayer and then my companion said Amen, and this guy is still sitting here, arms outstretched in meditation pose. So we are thinking “oh he is praying or something.” But then he started to yell. In Latin. He starts to yell this prayer. We see a big smile come across the face of Hermano Cuadros and we are trying not to laugh. Then he stops. He’s done. Then he says “Now I am gonna do it in Spanish. “ So he starts again. He starts asking a bunch of weird names I have never heard for help and understanding, He said it was a prayer from Solomon but I am not exactly sure. I don’t know what it was or where it came from. Anyway, we began to talk about the plan of Salvation, and of course he doesn’t receive it, he believes that God is a Spirit and that only some of us can be saved. He believes that only some people can have children, that only some can have that relation in matrimony. We asked him “well who can be saved?” and he said: “ You cant know.” And we said: “ who knows?” and he said: “only God knows.” We then decided that we didn’t need to mess with that, so we said a closing prayer, and we left him with a  law of chastity pamphlet and left. It was the weirdest experience. So… don’t do drugs kids. Messes you up!

That was right after we were talking with a Catholic missionary, most of whom are volunteers, well this one was anyway. She goes up in the mountains and helps people and preaches every once in awhile. We were teaching this security guard in front of his house, and she starts to argue with us on a few points of doctrine, which was very irritating because we weren’t teaching her! So basically, we kinda chopped her head off with the scriptures, especially with kids being baptized, we broke out Moroni 8. She was basically arguing our claim to authority, that we didn’t have it, that we didn’t need it, that she could baptize if she wanted to. Her argument was “Well, if this person was dying, you’re saying that I can’t baptize them and save them?” Yes. That’s exactly what we were saying. Then she brought up “what if this baby is dying, can I not save it?” Then we broke out Moroni 8. We said “first of all, has this baby committed sin?” she said No. “Why are we baptized?” she says: “to be a part of the family of God.” We said: “we aren’t a part of the family of God if we aren’t baptized?” she said: “No.” First of all that’s utterly flawed, but she doesn’t have the knowledge of the pre earth life, so that’s hard to argue with. They claim that we are all children of God, and yet if we aren’t baptized that we are not children of God? Anyway, we got her convinced about the remission of sins, stated in the Bible. Then we said “are you saying this baby is going to hell because it has not been baptized?” she said: “well, no” and we said: “ that’s exactly what you are saying.” She couldn’t come up with a response to that. She then said “well, its in the bible that we should baptize our children.” And we asked her where that was. She said: “well I don’t know, but I will go find it.” We now have another appointment set up with her to have her show us exactly where that is in the Bible. We are fairly certain that she wont find it because it doesn’t exist. Anyway…that was fun. We aren’t here to argue with people’s religions, but when they are being aggressive, then bueno. That’s another story.

We contacted a bunch this week, met some new people. We met a guy on the street this week that had been to SLC and had been to Temple Square. SO it was kinda easy to start teaching him. He actually lives in Piedecuesta, so we passed on the reference. Its easy to teach people when theres something that they relate to.

Normal day to day things: if you guys wouldn’t mind, I would like to get some cheap recipes from you. Theres only so much rice you can make. So if you guys have some creative ways to make rice or something else easy, I think I can get about anything here. I have made Spaghetti, French toast, and a few other things. So If you can send those my way, breakfast, lunch, or dinner, that would be very appreciated.

We walk a lot, so I don’t know if my shoes will last me past a year. They have a 2 year warranty, but we walk a lot. My best guess is about 10 miles in a day, maybe more. Down to John and Mile, it takes us 30 minutes to talk there, 2 miles, there and back, so total that’s 8 miles there. My shoes have been awesome, I would recommend Hushpuppies to anyone who is thinking about it. Also they are still waterproof. My companions shoes are falling apart, he has 2 more transfers than I do and his are falling apart. I keep mine shined up pretty good and they are doing great.

Mosquitoes here aren’t bigger than the ones in the US, but the marks that they leave are bigger, like the size of a quarter…. Freak.

Me and Elder Hildebrandt are getting used to each other and are having fun now. We are really digging deep and working hard and putting in the hours trying to find good people here in Bucarica. There are good people everywhere we just have to find them. We contacted this lady in her house, here all the hosues have gates in the front so we take our oil vial and tap it on the gate, and they usually can hear that, or have a timbre that you can hit, or if not then you can open the gate, but if it is locked you are out of luck. She comes out and she rips us to pieces. She doesn’t want to hear anything. So we leave and we go to this less actives house the same night. 3 hours later. We go to this less actives house, and Evan, one of the sons, who is a returned missionary comes out with a  big smile on his face and bouncing, which is uncharacteristic of Evan, and he says “ “ hey we have somebody for you to meet” and it’s the SAME LADY. She was SO RED. She left in a real hurry. She is a friend of these members. I just about died, and I tried really hard not to laugh, but I did laugh pretty hard.

Looking forward to hearing from you guys, I hope that you all are doing well and I hope that you all are as blessed as I am. I am grateful for your prayers on my behalf. I feel your prayers. They help and they support me. I hope that you are always getting closer to the Savior. I am striving to be closer to him and be more like him. My thoughts and my desires are not directed as close as I would like all the time, but I know that it’s a process. I am working on it. I hope that you all are still reading the Book of Mormon. I probably wont finish with you guys, but I will try to finish in April. I love you all. I hope that you are being blessed and staying close to the Lord. I love you all. Talk to you next week. Chao!

-Elder Lewis

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Week 22: Working in the Vineyard with the Lord

Hola Familia! Elder Lewis aqui en Bucaramanga,

I have a feeling that next week I will be headed for Bogota. I don’t know, I could be staying here, or going somewhere else, but that’s just my hunch. Today, the 13th of February, is my 5 month mark, today, 5 months ago, I left you all to come out on this amazing hard mission and journey, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Surely its been the best thing I have ever done. (A note from Jessica: by our week counter on this blog, which started on the day that Elder Lewis went to the MTC, he is actually almost 6 months in!)

This week has gone by crazy fast. We are still working with these muchachos en la calle (boys in the street) they are between the ages of 14 and 19 and half of them smoke but they are super cool. They are more receptive than most of the adults that we teach. I am super excited about them. We had a lesson with them on Saturday and they just could not contain their… how do you say… sorry Spanish I can’t think of the word in English…. They were shocked. they were in awe. There we go. They were in awe that there is a prophet and the 12 apostles on the earth again. They just couldn’t wrap their minds around that. These guys understand how cool that is. The other people, sometimes, they are so caught up in their traditions that they don’t realize what we are saying to them. A lot of people here are content with Psalms and Proverbs in the Bible, and maybe a little bit of Peter, but the rest of it is just fluff. Basically that means that they know the parts of the Bible that are nice and flowery, but lack a foundation of doctrine, they don’t know much. Now this isn’t the case with everyone, but it is with maybe half the people. These boys, they caught on to how cool that is that there is a prophet and 12 apostles on the earth again! So, they were wondering: “what do they do? What do they say?” I said that we hear form them every 6 months. They said: “No Way!” So I showed them Gospel Library. They are more or less poor, one of them had a cell phone with internet, so I opened up Google Play, and opened up Gospel Library, and they thought that was super cool. So with luck, we are going to start making some progress with them and start teaching some English classes with them, and their parents are super excited about that. We have talked to them this week about smoking and all of this, it’s kind of funny, the ones that don’t smoke make fun of the ones that do smoke! They say that after 10 minutes the ones that do smoke are breathing like dogs haha. It’s kinda funny because it’s just like “being with the guys”. They are very attentive, but rough around the edges. Hopefully we will be able to do some good.

Anyway, Entonces…. Its been a rough week as far as investigators go. We didn’t have one at the church on Sunday, which was not what we were expecting. Familia Reyes, the ones with the baptismal date for 25th of February, they are having some problems. She (Mile) is having some health problems, but also her familia is not supporting her. Please PLEASE pray for her. Her name is Mile. Spelled like the word mile. His name is John. They need your prayers. That’s my request this week for prayer. But really, honestly, I am worried for them. Their testimony is really starting to blossom, but I don’t know what’s going on with them. Hermana Blanco, Angelina Blanco called us today and is worried about them too. She gave us the reference. So we will see what happens. Christian y Miladys are still very strong. Miladys got a calling this week, and Christian received the Aaronic Priesthood. They gave me a “coratorio” or something for us to remember them by with a Scripture on it that says “how beautiful are the feet upon the mountains that proclaim peace and say to Israel Thy God reigneth.”. I almost teared up a bit. I really love them.

This week, I don’t know, tomorrow we are going to go on intercambios, Elder Orr, my zone leader, is going to come here and my companion will go over there. Not much to report this week. We have been working hard as usual. I have really started to gain a strong foundation in my testimony, and I would that everyone could have this opportunity to serve. Its kinda backwards, when you spend all your time serving other people and forget yourself, it took me 5 months to finally start this process of forgetting about me and just really serving the people. It took me 5 months. But that is why missionary work is really happy.

So I want to share a little bit of something with you all. Its in Jacob 5:71. Not sure what it is in English, but I will translate it. It says: “go and work in the vineyard with your might. For behold, this is the last time that I will nurture my vineyard because the end soon cometh and the season comes quickly. And if you all work with me, with your power, with your might, you will rejoice in the fruit that you bring in for me for the time that soon cometh. And it came to pass that the servants went and worked with all their might and the Lord of their vineyard also worked with them. And they all obeyed the commandments of the Lord of the vineyard.” Sorry, rough translation, but basically this is the last time that he will call is servants to work in the vineyard. He is calling us to come and work with him. And it is really cool when he says that the Lord of the vineyard came and worked with them. We have the opportunity to work with the Lord, the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ for the last time. This is the last time that he will send his servants into the vineyard. How blessed are we to have this opportunity. So now is the time. Now is the time to work in the vineyard, which means bringing souls unto him. So something that I found while giving a talk this Sunday in church, (they do it different here, they don’t give you a topic they give you a talk to go off of) So in this talk by Gifford Millsap in conference 2013, he said that we should pray for the missionaries by name in our area, and pray for the people that they are teaching. The only way that we can do that is if we greet them, look at their plaque, and ask them who they are teaching. So if you have the opportunity to see the missionaries, talk to them. Ask them about their investigators so that that part of the vineyard can grow and bear fruit. I promise you that you will be blessed. More, the Lord promises you that you will rejoice in the fruit that you will bring in for them. This is the work of the Lord. Also, If we seek to strengthen our testimony of the Gospel, we will have the desire to share it. If we are timid, we should seek to read the scriptures and have a spiritual experience. This will give us the strength to go forth and proclaim the word. We can do it. We can do it if we work together, members and missionaries, we can do it. We can bring this gospel to the 4 corners of this earth.

That’s my message for this week. I want you to know that I am doing well, I am healthy, I have been eating a lot of Oatmeal because its cheap, I made spaghetti the other night… but I am healthy and doing fine, seeking to lose myself in the work more and more each day. I wish that I had the time to talk to you about all our contacts, but time doesn’t permit. I love you all and I am praying for you all. I hope that you feel my prayers because I definitely feel yours. Keep praying for me. I need it, and for our investigators as well. Love you all. Chao!

-Elder Lewis

Monday, February 6, 2017

Week 21: "To teach and preach and work as missionaries do..."

Hola Familia! Elder Lewis here,

This week has been pretty good. We have had a couple of cool things going on. We have had a Multi-Zone conference, and then entrevistas (interviews) with President. A couple highlights:

Familia Reyes, thank you for your prayers! They have an active baptismal date now! So hopefully, on February 25th, we are gonna have a baptism. well, two baptisms! They are really great people. Keep praying for them if you would, it’s still quite a long road to the font, but with the Lord’s help, these people are coming to church.

So then, we have had numerous capataciones (trainings) in our multi zone conference and in other conferences about the relationship between the missionaries and the members. An interesting statistic: here, if we have 30 investigators by our own initiatives, by us knocking doors and contacting in the street, if we have 30, 5 of them will have an active baptismal date and 1 of them will be baptized. That’s a lot of work for just one baptism. BUT… if we have 10 references, 5 will have baptismal dates and 1 will be baptized. We took this information and some other information about implementing some other good goals to our Ward, and we had a meeting with the bishopric on Tuesday night, where we presented this to them. It was interesting because our Bishop has done business all over the world. He speaks really good English, he has kinda been everywhere, So presenting this to him kind of wracked my nerves a little, presenting in Spanish for the first time, but I think I did pretty well. I presented about ¾ of it. He really liked it, so he gave us 10 minutes in Ward Council and then also 10 minutes in the 3rd hour of church to present it to the Ward. Now, it is moving into being an active plan in the Ward. We have a plan of how many references we need from every organization in the ward, and we are going to start training some of the leaders the same way that we were trained and go house to house with them and train them how to train their organizations to get references and to be involved in this marvelous work.

Thomas S. Monson said: “this is the time for members to work with missionaries.” Gordon B. Hinckley once presented the statistics of the year and said: “492 new stakes. This is marvelous, but with the efforts of the members and the missionaries, we could easily double that number. “ This is exactly what we are doing in the mission. Last year we had 692 baptisms, this year we are going to double that and do 1200. Now missionary work isn’t all about numbers, it’s about bringing souls unto Christ. But these help us, they are tools, and it’s important to use those to the best of our abilities. Before the mission, I don’t think that I would have been able or interested in doing what we are doing. It’s pretty fun to set goals, make a plan, and then work hard until you get it and set another one. We don’t reach them all the time, but we keep trying.

We have started to teach this group of boys down on (?) its kind of like an off street, and they kind of just hang out there. They are from the ages of 14-18, and they are actually a lot more attentive than most of the "older and wiser" adults that we teach. They really listen. It’s really cool. We have started teaching them, and its funny because they just hang out there, most of them smoke actually, but they are really open to listening and they are really sharp. The actually know quite a bit. The questions that we ask them they can usually come back with the right answer, something that the adults can’t do. Questions about the Bible, about the apostasy and such, they really think about it. With them, we aren’t just teaching them, we went and played soccer with them today, and I got my behind kicked, but it was fun. I had a great time. There’s Moises, Irwin, Jose, Julio, Camilo, Michael, and some others. Every night we go there it seems that we get more. Hopefully we will be able to teach their families as well. We will see. We are also going to do an English class with them. We asked them if they would be interested in an English class for free and they said “Heck YA!”, So it’s really interesting and different than I would have expected, I would have expected that they would just want to hang out, but they really want to better themselves. Its interesting because this 14 year old with his cigarette in his hand, he is interested in the things of God, cosas de Dios, and in language. It’s really different than I would have expected. But, ya, I think I am going to be teaching an English class. We are organizing one at the church with a member that speaks English that is trained to teach, but we might have to do two, and I will be teaching that. My companion told me that he would rather have me teaching because I am an American, and have almost perfect pronunciation. We are really excited about them. Its really interesting because my companion, one day, walked up to this group of boys, with gauges in their ears and cigarettes in their mouths, I didn’t want to go up to them but he did, and we had our first lesson right there! They really were interested. I hope that we can have some boys come into the church here, but if not I hope we can do some good in their lives.

On a spiritual note: This week we have been really working with the members to help them be interested in missionary work. There’s a scripture in D&C 123: I think verse 5, That there are people among all parties, congregations, sects, that are looking for the truth but do not come to it because they don’t know where to find it. Sometimes we are afraid of sharing this message with another because they might be of another church and we are afraid of offending them. But really, that person might be looking for the truth. They might have holes in doctrine, or a feeling that they need filled. That’s what this church does. This is the kingdom of God established on the earth again! But how can we do that? Here are some things that my mission president told us: 1. When talking with friends, or others that you want to share this with, use Mormon words. What are Mormon words? Words that we don’t hear outside of our church. Priesthood. Mutual. Young Men’s. Young Women’s. Relief Society. Ward Activity. Things like that. 2.Those that ask “what is that?”, you can explain what that is, and if they are interested, INVITE THEM! When someone asks you what you have been doing, TALK ABOUT CHURCH! This opens the door and you can invite them. 3. Invite and 4. Follow up. If you Invite them, make sure you help them get there, because they might not do it on their own. Drop them a call and say “hey, are you still going to come with me?” Don’t pester them, but really, when we realize how precious this Gospel is, we can’t keep our mouths shut. We talk a lot about member missionary work, but don’t do it just because people are telling you to do it. Really, If you have this desire to share this, read in Preach My Gospel chapter 9. It talks about why we do it and how to find people to teach, and how precious this Gospel is and what it does for people and their families.

I hope you all have a great week. I love you, and I miss you. Chao!

-Elder Lewis