Monday, March 27, 2017

Weeks 27 & 28: Living Alma 26:12 in Colombia

This week's post is remarkably short for Elder Lewis, but filled with the Spirit of Missionary Work. (He is trying to write us as quickly as he can, normally he sends a detailed recording, but his mission cell phone has a virus right now, so...) Although his messages right now are short, we know that he is getting lost in the work of the Lord and we couldn't be more excited for and proud of him and his dedication to his mission. We invite you, the readers of his blog, to read Alma 26 in the Book of Mormon to get a glimpse of the feelings this good Elder is experiencing right now. Thanks for your love and support! -The Lewis Family

I can hardly believe March is gone. The time is going fast, and I dont like it. At the same time, I can honestly say that I enjoy every day. Sometimes it´s hard, but the looking back and looking at the fruits of our labors, that are really starting to blossom, I love this work, and I really love my Savior.He has allowed me to come here to work for Him and HIs glory, and Shown me so many miracles. How great is my God? I join in the words of Ammon in saying that I can not Boast enough of my God.
Since the incident with Paula, God has shown His marvelous arm with her. I have seen a complete change in her. She should be baptized the 8th of April.

I dont have time to write what I wanted to, but I sure love you all, and will try to write more next week.
I love you all! And happy birthday Dad! I have an experience that I want to share with you, but I will have to wait till next week.
Love you all.
Elder Lewis.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Week 26: A Front Row Seat to Miracles (and the officially official 6 month mark)

Hola Familia! Elder Lewis aqui en Bucaramanga once again. 

Happy 6 meses! Oh crap… happy official 6 months! These first 6 months have been good ones. They have gone super fast! Today, March 13, 2017, marks 6 months ago that I left my family and everything that I knew for Mexico and then on to Colombia for something that I knew nothing about and with a lot of questions and things that I wanted to resolve. So now, as I sit here in Bucaramanga, I realize I can take a second to sit down and think about my family and all the things that I have learned, I wrote down in my journal a few points. One says: “Bueno, tonight marks 6 months since I was set apart as a full time missionary, what has changed in the first 6 months? First of all, I have gained a good 15 pounds. I now weigh close to 170 pounds.” So there’s that. I have learned to be a bit more humble than before and much more aware of my faults. When you come out on the mission you know absolutely nothing. But that itself doesn’t stop you from being prideful. What stops you from being prideful is when, by experience, you know that the pride detains your work. When you are seeking your own, it really holds you back. You lose love, and that’s the essence of this work. Love, not pride. I believe that pride is, well I will read an excerpt from my journal here:

            “I have really learned a lot about being humble and humbling myself this week because I have had to. I really can see the destructive nature of a person who only seeks to build himself a resume and to gratify his own ambition and desire over that of Heavenly Father. I believe that pride is the most destructive characteristic a person can have because he builds himself a fake wall of achievement that is blown over by any wind of slight contradiction or correction. It is also my worst struggle. I hate it. Sometimes I get so prideful, and it hurts to realize it. That I have been a real jerk all my life, and I have a lot to change. It is not my intention to have a pity party here, but in these last six months I have realized that I have a lot to change, and I have started to change. We are going to continue doing that.”

I have gone from knowing 6 or 7 words of Spanish to gaining some measure of fluidity. I’m not completely fluent, I haven’t mastered the language yet, but I am getting there. Hopefully by my goal, talking like a native at a year and a half, I think that’s possible, I just have a lot of vocabulary to learn. One of my zone leaders told me that my accent is coming along very well. He actually mistook me for my companion, who is Peruvian, over the phone, so theres that.

Finally, my testimony has gone from the flimsy kind to one that is very firm, coupled with a desire to make good in this life. My desires and things aren’t where I would like them to be, I would like them to be more with the work, but they are better. I really can say that I am quite a different person and I will continue to do that. In a lot of ways, I am still the same person, still bull-headed and stupid (ha-ha) but we’re gonna hit the pavement and press forward. So there it is, 6 months, half a year, there’s a quarter of my mission right there. It just went by like the blink of an eye.

Well, this week we had a multi-zone conference, that’s always fun, and we got to hear from Elder Falabella of the seventy. Got to hear from a special witness of Jesus Christ. It was quite a good experience. Got to shake his hand and learn a lot from him. I was with Elder Watts, from my group, its always fun to talk with him and see how far we have come since the days of the CCM. I had an interview with President, and found out the Elder Stevens, from my same group, had to go home due to health reasons. Hit me as a shock because Elder Stevens is one of my best friends. We really grew close in the CCM. His name is Kyle Jess Stevens, if any of you want to look him up on Facebook, I dunno. Drop his parents a line and let them know how much I love their son, and that he has an absolute heart of gold, and thank them for raising such a son. Elder Stevens has an absolute heart of gold. He is the biggest cowboy that you’ve ever seen. I was talking with his trainer at the zone conference and his parents sent him a lasso. Every night he was lassoing the chair. He is a team roper, in fact, he knows Tremonton quite well for that. He would bring the lasso to district meetings and lasso the Hermana’s Hahaha.

Here’s another excerpt from my journal: “we met a guy last night who sure has problems. We had been teaching some ‘Viejitos’, some old guys, and we met a new one last night. We were teaching the doctrine of Christ, and testified of the way that God has prepared for all men to repent and have life eternal and peace in this life also. This man informed us that he has 2 houses. One in one city and one elsewhere. That’s ok, but he has 2 different women. One is his wife, and the other his mistress. What a mess. They don’t know about each other. We talked about it and as we were leaving he turned to me with tears in his eyes and asked me if he could really fix this, if he was really not beyond repair. I looked him in the eyes and told him that the road would be very long and hard, but there is hope for him, and that if he would come clean and repent, that he could be clean. It should be really interesting to see what’s going to happen.”

That was a very interesting experience, but also a very heartbreaking one. What a mess. Sometimes people have REAL PROBLEMS. Its really a shame what happens when people follow their own ambition and seek to gratify their own natural desires, pride, and in this case, lust.

Yesterday I had a cool experience in church; I was kinda stressed because we were trying to push and present a plan to our ward council to see if we can get more references. We presented a plan to them, how we were gonna do it. There are a couple of people in there that have the same problem that I do, they are prideful. They absolutely shot me down.  We ended up presenting it to them anyway, because the Bishop and others thought that it was a good idea, just not these 2 people. I was really upset about that. Toward the end of Sacrament meeting, I just felt a voice that said: “It will all be ok. Don’t worry.” After that, things started to pick up. We first of all presented our plan for referrals as planned with our leaders and people in the ward, because we really need more. We’ve only gotten 2 in the last month. SO we set forth a plan to help the ward, and help us help them. Then, after that, we received 2 references right off the bat. 2 really good ones. We also had 5 investigators come to the church which was a miracle. We also had a really weird experience. There’s an Argentinian that came in and said “hey, I’m living here in Floridablanca and I want to learn more. I am ready to join the church.” We said: “have you heard from the missionaries before?” and he said “yeah, like a year ago.” And we said ok. So we sat him down after church and taught him about the restoration, gave him a Book of Mormon, and challenged him to read it and be baptized. At first he accepted a date for the 1st of April, but then he changed his mind and said “Part of me says that I need to do it on April 1st, but the other part says that I need to wait.” “well, you can wait a little longer. how long do you think?” he said: “honestly, 15-17 years.” WHAT?! I then changed my game tactic and said “well, that’s ok. Let’s not set a date right now. Lets just take it one day at a time. I want you to go home and read a little of this book and ask for an answer. Pray.” And he said that he needed time. I asked to meet in 2 weeks. He said “well I will read the book, but to ask I need like 5 years.” We were like “oh my gosh. Why!?” So we will see what happens with him. He’s 17 and a semi-professional soccer player working his way up the ladder there and just feels an emptiness. Real strange guy, but ya. Why put off for 5 years what you could know this week? Something that could change your life so amazingly….

So that’s what has been happening this week. I have become a little bit discouraged this week, just with some things, just with the fact that I probably wont get to see many of these investigators baptized. They are progressing, but most very slowly. We met a girl named Deanna, that should be baptized in a couple weeks. So, por favor, pray for Deanna Libralis, that she can have the strength and conviction to get through and keep going and be baptized. She was a reference, surprise surprise. References are better than contacting. She should join the church. She’s a little bit, part of me thinks that she principally wants to do this just because of her friend, but we are going to work with her and hopefully get to a point where she has a good solid base and testimony. She has 17 years, and she has actually attempted suicide once, by pills. So we are working through some doctrine of Christ and plan of salvation. Every person is different. Everyone has problems. The atonement of Jesus Christ can fix every single one of them if we just work with him on these things.

Everyone is getting sick again. Elder Lore got Chicken Pox. It’s so bad. It’s everywhere on him. The soles of his feet, everywhere. He is hardly recognizable and is confined to his house. I saw his companion in Casique, it’s like a mall, the missionaries met up and someone is trading off with him so that he can leave the house. They haven’t left the house in 5 days. He showed me pictures of Elder Lore and his back is covered in all these boils. In his face, in his mouth, his hands, he cant walk, lay down, nothing. It’s just painful. His companion has to rub the cream all over his body and be careful, because if one of the boils pops, it becomes extremely contagious. Right now it’s not contagious because all of us Gringos have been vaccinated better than others. Chicken Pox isn’t principally contagious until one of the boils pops, so he has been really careful. Took him an hour and a half. He cant go to the hospital. He called President Laney, who is a doctor, he actually co-owns a hospital in Gilbert, AZ. President Laney said “Elder Lore, you cant go to a hospital. If you spread that to someone with an autoimmune disease or get close to a baby, they will die. So, he can’t leave till every one of them is gone. It’ll be about 2 weeks. Man. That just sucks. My health has improved this week, last week I had a couple of things that went weird. First I had strep throat pretty bad and it messed with my whole head. Next I got an ingrown toenail, which I think is fixed now because I followed the advice of a manual that I got from the Secretary of Health. What you do is take put cotton with alcohol under the toenail, and that pretty well fixed it, I think. It really hurt. This week I am doing better.

I hope you all are doing well. I want you to know that I am doing well, that my faith is strong, that I know that God lives. I know it. I know that Jesus is the Christ, the son of the living God. I know that Joseph Smith was his prophet, called to restore the gospel of Jesus Christ, fully and totally, to the earth today. I know that Thomas Spencer Monson is a prophet of God, called by him to direct us. I believe in his plan of redemption. I believe that God has a plan for each and every one of us. I have seen his mercy on me and on others and I really believe that a mission is nothing more than putting yourself in a front row seat to see the miracles of God. Really, honestly, us missionaries don’t do anything. We just put ourselves in a place spiritually and physically where he can work through us. It’s like we are spectators. I know this to be the truth. I tell you this simple testimony that I bear of Him, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Well, I surely love you all, I have been trying to keep my thoughts on this continent, but every once in awhile every Elder gets a little trunky. I am not very trunky, because I haven’t thought about it very much, but I surely love you all and miss you (well, now I’m trunky…) We are going to press forward, hit the pavement, and work. I love you all, talk to you next week. Chao!

-Elder Lewis

Monday, March 6, 2017

Week 25: A Little Sickness and a lot of Culture Shock.

Hola Familia! Elder Lewis here from Bucaramanga like usual.

This week has been pretty interesting. I’ve been a little sick. Me and my companion have had what I think is Strep Throat. Sure seemed to slow us down a little bit. But, with some antibiotics and a little bit of prayer, we are doing well. Man, I sound terrible! (due to being sick) But we have had a couple of good experiences this week that I want to hurry and tell you about because I don’t have a lot of time. I wish I had more time, that’s make it easier, but we have a Family Home Evening coming up here before too long.

Anyway, we reestablished contact with Familia Reyes, they have been a source of concern for us for quite some time, they have had a move, he started out his business by doing a like a portable gym, he loads everything in a backpack and takes it with him to people’s houses. It’s really cool. Really efficient actually, super cool. But they moved and now they have a physical gym in their house. So we met with them again in their new house, we helped them move a couple of weeks ago, but we met with them in their new house this week, and we had a really cool experience where we were going to ask them “hey, what’s going on? Do you guys still want to listen to the missionaries?” because they’ve been a family of gold, but its just been slow with them being busy with their business and things. So we asked them, “hey do you want to hear from the missionaries still?” and they said well ya! “Claro que si!” Well, in this moment we felt the spirit kind of settle over the room and I felt impressed to ask them what they felt when we are with them, what they feel in our lessons. It’s really interesting, they said: “well, we feel joy. We feel peace. We feel excited.” John said “I really miss it. What I wouldn’t give to have that feeling again.” I asked him what he would do to have that feeling with him all the time, and he said “anything.” And then we testified that he can. I cant’ even explain to you my feelings at this point. They kind of were in awe that they could have that feeling the whole time. We taught them about the gift of the Holy Ghost. Well, Familia Reyes, they are now on the road to being baptized again. So we are going to continue with them and hopefully the spirit can continue to work with them, which it has so far, and hopefully they will start to read the Book of Mormon more.

Other than that, it’s really been a week of trying to grow our depth here. There hasn’t been a whole lot, I’ve been kind of slacking on my journal writing so I don’t remember it quite as well. Today we played some football and soccer, and things for P-day. Nothing too spectacular. It’s crazy how fast I forget things…. The time is just flying. I don’t know where it’s going. 6 months have gone in a real hurry. It’s good to hear from you all, I’m sorry that I don’t get to message you all individually. It sure is a struggle here to get everyone written and all of that. I am very grateful for this opportunity to be here in the mission and have had some experiences that are very near and dear to my heart. Every week is not without its struggles, sometimes I wonder why these people just can’t leave their vices.

I guess here’s one thing: this week was Ash Wednesday for the Catholics. I remember looking at some pictures of Conrad’s in Guatemala and it showed all these parades with all these people dressed in hooded costumes, ya that was this week. But it will be more during Semana Santa, “Holy Week”, next month during Easter. But ya, we walked right in the middle of this parade, walking up the street and all the sudden there are all the Catholics with crosses painted upside down on their foreheads, walking through the street. They have the actual procession, and then a bunch of people following them, so there are people dressed in the hooded costumes that are black or dark blue with white gloves, and some of them are carrying this boat kind of thing with a statue of Jesus with the cross and Simon helping him.  But ya, I have never felt so out of place in my life. So that was interesting. So many people here are so Catholic. Its all just tradition. 

I just received a message from Dad saying that he was able to see the J-Dubs this week. Haha. Oh man, the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Did they come to your door? Because they saw us this week, and when they saw that we were missionaries, they didn’t share a message. My companion was like “Aren’t you going to share a message?” and they said “no, we are just going to leave this pamphlet.” We said: “will you share a message?” and they said “No. its all good.” So… ya. I actually have a lot of respect for Jehovah’s Witnesses. They are wrong, that’s for sure, but they have a lot of things that are right. Their members are really dedicated, they are required to study and proselyte, and part of me thinks that if we proselyted half as well as the Jehovah’s Witnesses that we would have double the baptisms. Ya, we have frequent run in’s with them. Really, honestly, the best thing you can do is share your testimony with them. Present the doctrine and preach with the spirit and then leave it up to the good Lord. Then they are going to soften their hearts and realize Jehovah of the Old Testament is Jesus Christ of the New. So, ya. Yay for talking to the J-Dubs. I don’t know what they are like in Utah, but here they are pretty cool. They aren’t super pushy. One time Elder Zuniga and I were in this house and they have a pamphlet from the J-Dubs and Elder Zuniga took it and very slyly put it in his backpack and when we got back to the apartment, he burned it. It was funny.

Well, I have said a whole lot of nothing, but my thoughts are there and I sure have had a slice of humble pie here in the last couple weeks. It’s been a little rough. But that’s to be expected here in the mish. I’m trying to just make this tiem the best, and I hope that you guys are doing the same. I hope that you guys are reading the Book of Mormon still, I have fallen considerably behind you guys because I have been doing some reading assignments from President, and some other things, so I hope that you guys are still doing that because if we read the Book of Mormon, Satan can’t have power over us. I know that to be true. I sure love you all. I miss you all. I have been trying to do better at keeping my thoughts on this continent, so it is sure nice to sit down and think about you all for a minute. Well, I love you all, and I will talk to you next week. Chao!

-Elder Lewis

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Week 24 (6 month mark): "Lovin' Every Minute Of It..."

*In weeks, we have reached Elder Lewis' 6 month mark (even though in days it's technically the 13th.) time flies, and we are so proud of all that he is doing and learning- The Lewis Family*

Hola Familia! Elder Lewis estabien esta aqui en Bucaramanga,

I am going to be here for another cambio! (transfer) So another 6 weeks here. We should accomplish a lot in that time. So excited about that. Not a whole lot changed with the cambios here in Zona Bucaramanga.

Este Semana, this week, we have been working on Bacido (?) we had a couple good experiences that I want to tell you about. We met a guy named Eleazar, who actually we had contacted earlier and gave him a card, a pass-along card with our names on it and our number with the address of the church on it and told him to call us. When we do that, it’s almost a formality, it’s like “here, call us if you’re interested”. Usually they aren’t interested enough to call us, so we call them. But, this time a miracle happened and he called us. So we met him at a little strip mall kind of a thing and we taught him a lesson and we were sitting there and he started to tell us about his life. He’s 40 right now, and earlier he married a woman that was quite a but older than him and had 6 kids. Married her and then divorced her (well he didn’t actually divorce her, they separated. Divorce here is really complicated) and then went and lived with another woman and now they are separated. So he was wondering what he needs to do to get his life in order. So we taught him Lesson 3 about the Gospel of Jesus Christ and repentance. It was super spiritual. It always is when you can tell somebody “Look, every person that we teach has problems. Every person has things that they wish they hadn’t done. But our message is that you can change those things and that you can turn it around and be the person that you want to be, and more importantly the person that your Heavenly Father wants you to be. To be the Person that your Heavenly Father wants you to be is to be perfectly happy." and then teach them how to do it through Jesus Christ and his atonement. Repentance, Baptism, Confirmation, and perseverance, enduring to the end, this is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

So then we had another lesson with him on Friday. We went to the house of Hermano Cuadros, who has quickly become one of my favorite people in the world. He is super funny. We have a bunch of inside jokes with him. We taught Eleazar at the house, and again very spiritual. He had accepted a baptismal date for the 1st of April. So, with all luck, he will be baptized on that date.

I sent you the story of the Catholic that we taught that changed his attitude, that was very cool and definitely a beautiful manifestation of what happens when we teach with the spirit. I have learned very quickly that having the spirit is something that we should strive to have. We should strive to pay any price to have that gift with us because it fills us. We really can’t teach without that. When we are mad at our companion, when we are mad at other people, we cant have that spirit with us. You know, sometimes, it seems like a lot of work to have that with us, but I know that it’s worth it. I feel as if I am trying to overcome a lot of my laziness here in the mission. It sure it kind of a sore thing for me, but we’re working.

Here in Colombia, I weighed myself for the first time in a few months, and was surprised to find out that I weigh almost 170 pounds. I have gained about 15 pounds since being here. SO… that’s interesting. I think a lot of it is in my legs, because we walk almost 10 miles everyday and its usually uphill. Its not a super big slope, but its just enough to bug you. Our area is a big slope, a big hill. It’s a bench coming off of a mountain, and it’s sloped just enough to bother you. 

My Spanish is coming along. Still trying to improve with my accent and things, but I believe that I am approaching fluency which is really cool. To just realize that I can understand. There is still a lot of sayings and stuff that I don’t get and that I’m still learning, but that’s a never-ending process as this will never be my native language.

I have been reading the Book of Mormon of course, trying to wrap up Mosiah, and also reading Jesus the Christ and finding our more and more things and applying more and more things of that book, definitely a lot of knowledge in there. It’s definitely a privilege to learn. I’m reading that in English because, well, James E. Talmage writes very beautifully and I like it. So I will read it in English. Other than the Book of Mormon, I find that if I can read a book in its original language, that that’s better. I have found that the Book of Mormon is quite a bit simpler than it is in English. Like the word Passionate, which can mean several things in English, but Iracundo, in Spanish, it means “angry or wrathful” in Spanish. So that’s cool.

Well, short, sweet, and to the point: I am doing well. We helped our investigators, John and Mile, move and now they have their own house with their own gym. It’s really cool. We helped them move and then they fed us lunch. Between the time we helped them move and when John went and got lunch, we were allowed to take their weights outside. Here in Bucaramanga, the houses are open because you don’t need a closed house, the weather never gets cold enough. It only fluctuates 10 degrees in the year. People complain about it when it gets down to 70 degrees, they are bundling up, blankets, jackets, sweaters, etc. its really cool, we took the weights outside and we were working out. Worked out with weights for the first time in a long time and that felt good.

I am getting more and more involved in the work and loving every minute of it. It’s gonna be awhile before I feel good about ever coming home. Sorry. But I feel that I have a lot to accomplish here. Sometimes the motivation is hard to find when things become commonplace, but the motivation is found in finding the needs of the people. That is something that I have really learned here, especially this week. This is something that I didn’t understand before the mission. I realize now the level of my pride before the mission. I just want to talk to you, Mom and Dad, about that. It’s something that has really weighed on my conscience. My pride. I really thought a lot of myself. The problem is that when you’re that prideful, even though the want to help people is there, you are incapable of doing so because you are doing it for the wrong reason. Its when you let go and look for the need of the person. When you are in a lesson, you don’t think about what you are gonna say. If you listen, and truly listen, then when it’s your turn to talk, the thing will be given to you to say. Without fail every time that you follow that counsel, it touches the person. When you don’t, nothing happens. So, I wish that I would have applied that before my mission. I just really thought that I knew a lot. The more that I know now, the more that I know that I don’t know anything. And that’s ok, because I don’t know everything, All the more that I will rely on my Heavenly Father. All the more that I am really going to strive to understand people. I hope that it will never become that way again. First of all, I hope to continue to change and do better at listening. Really listening. Because when we listen, we look for the need of the person, which I didn’t do. What happens is that you think you know what they need when you are prideful, so why listen to them because YOU already KNOW what they need… regardless of what their needs are you just say what you’re going to say anyway and… ya. But, I am sorry. I regret that I have learned so late how to listen. I love you guys. I love you all. I hope you enjoy listening to my rambling. I’m sorry that I don’t get you all written, and I hope that you forgive me for that. I hope that all is well there, it sounds like I am getting a few too many of the blessings over here. I hope that things start to go better for you guys. Physical Health, and then with Tremonton being flooded… (It was funny to hear about the National Guard being sent to little Tremonton… haha)

Well the work goes on. I wish to convey my love to you all, my gratefulness for all that you do for me, all that you have done for me throughout the years and still. I wish I could convey accurately how much I love you all. I wish that I would have been more grateful, but the second best thing to do it be grateful now. I want you to know that I am. It’s a subject of much thought for me. I'll talk to you next week, I love you all! Hasta Lluego! Chao!

-Elder Lewis