Monday, July 24, 2017

Week 45: Finding New York in Colombia... plus Mariachi's!

Muy Buenos Tardes familia!

Well, this week we have had some interesting developments. We had a reference… what’s it called… I think it’s called a referral from a little while ago and we went and contacted her, she was looking for how to get to know Jesus Christ I think is what she told us. Then she found, and she asked for a Book of Mormon and for the missionaries. Then we showed up and from that point we have gotten to know the family pretty well, we have actually gotten to be really good friends with them, and well… right now we are teaching them. Joanna is the name of the daughter that looked up and she told us that she was reading the Book of Mormon, she got down on her knees to pray about it and she felt this unexplainable feeling of peace and tranquility. It kind of set her back, and stayed with her throughout the rest of the morning, while she was doing things throughout the house. When she told us that, at that moment, I was SO HAPPY! I was trying not to like, I don’t know, get up and do a backflip. It was so cool! We asked her: “well, do you think that could be an answer from God?” and she said: “I think so. I think so.” That was an interesting experience, they came with us to a baptismal service on Wednesday that I actually got to...well Elder Johnston played the violin and me and Elder Kelly and my companion and Elder Lopez, we sang “We’ll Bring the World His Truth” in Spanish, which turned out pretty well. The Spirit is always strong in those meetings.

News coming up: we have a Noche Blanca, a “White Night” on the 5th of August. So we are looking pretty good for that. There are going to be 8-10 people baptized that night. We are really excited about that. That will be such a cool experience. We are hoping to bring ALL of our investigators to that. We will be baptizing, that night, Elvira Blanco, who has been super juicioso ugh… juiciosa…. Frickin Español. She has been really really awesome. She’s ready. We just have to fill up the font. But she said that she wanted to wait for the “white night” so we are gonna do that. Should be pretty good. This area has really been hard. It’s hard but it shouldn’t be that hard. I feel like we should have seen more success. but we have had a lot of good investigators coming out of the woodwork, and if I had my heart’s desire, I think I would stay another cambio just because of the people not because this area is pretty vanilla, not a very attractive area. It’s the people that make it worth it. I really think I have made some lifelong friends here.

In other news, Alan, our New Yorker friend, is going to be baptized on the 26th. We were playing futból, we were playing soccer, outside the church one day and he walked up and said: “hey! Are you guys gringos?” and we walked over, and come to find out he was a “New Yoy-kah”. (You have to excuse my horrible New York accent.) But ya, he was kinda rough around the edges, but they taught him and I have seen him to come to all these church events at the Stake Center. All the events at the Stake Center, he has been to them. The baptisms, we spend a lot of p-days with him, he’s kind of a big guy from New York, He speaks fluent Spanish, he speaks Spanish really really really well. He is living here in Colombia for awhile because of his girlfriend. He is going to be baptized the 26th, and he is super excited about it. They kinda pulled a “Best Two Years” and came 3,000 miles to teach someone in Spanish and then they find a New Yorker here. It’s super funny talking to him. He’s all about the Mets, all about the Coney Island Hot-dogs, He’s all about that. He’s all New Yorker. Super funny. When he gets really excited when we are playing soccer, his mouth gets kinda sour, but he’s really awesome. He has become a really great friend to us.

I think those have been the experiences for this week. We went rock climbing today, again. It was really fun. OH! Elder Blair, they had a birthday party for Elder (?) and the rule is that they can only have 2 districts in the same place at the same time, so our district didn’t get to go. But the other 2 went to the birthday party, and Elder Blair and his companion hired a Mariachi Band for his birthday haha. It was sweet. The mariachi bands here are really really good. It’s worth it for the trumpet, Mike.

Well guys, I am sorry that this is been uninformative, but Bogota is still cold, hoping to get moved out to a hot land here in a bit. I think they are going to send me to Cúcuta. I am not sure though. They could send me to Barrancabermeja. But.. that’s all for this week I think. I love you all. Thank you so much, and I will talk to you all next week. Chao Chao!

-Elder Lewis

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Week 44: "Courage, brethren, courage, and on, on to the Victory!"

Muy Buenas Tardes de Suba Rincones en hermosa villa,

Well, here in Suba, things have gone pretty well this week! My companion just said that it is 100 degrees Celsius, which would make it, I think, about 140 degrees Fahrenheit… ya… I don’t know what he had for breakfast haha.

But really things have gone really well. The area has made progress, and so have me and my companion, it’s a good time to be in the mish. I am really enjoying my last 3 weeks with this companion. I have really learned to love him. It’ll suck to leave. He’s just super humble, super ready to go and ready to work. He is not easily offended by anything. I have seen his personality really come out and flourish, and he has gotten used to the mission life. I think that’s the best thing as a trainer, is when you see them turn from a greenie into a missionary. That process over these 12 weeks has really helped him and really helped me. He has taught me so many things for which I will forever be grateful and it was really just what I needed to build me up after the one transfer that I had before.

This week there are a couple of things that I would like to tell you guys about, first of all, there’s an investigator named Viviana, Viviana Gonzalez. She is somebody that we found in the street. We were actually lost, and somebody flagged us down and said: “ You’re the Mormons, right?” we said: “ya! Ya we are.” “You guys use another book, no?” “yes we do.” And then Viviana steps out and she wanted to talk with us. So we talked a little bit and then the lady that we were trying to find actually walked past us in the street. So we borrowed her a Book of Mormon, and we left and said that we would come back on Tuesday. We came back on Tuesday and she had read! We had an appointment there, we explained the Restoration, she had lots of questions, it was awesome. We came back on Thursday, had another lesson about the Book of Mormon, we were talking about the scriptures and she said that she had been searching the scriptures about the truth. What was the truth? How could she know the truth? The next day is when she found us. She said that she was looking in the Bible for the truth, and the next day we came along. She was talking about it with us and reflecting on that and she said “you know, I don’t think that was a coincidence!” At that moment, I couldn’t even speak, because if I did, I was going to yell. I was so excited. I had always heard about things like that happening to other missionaries, but I never dreamed that it would be happening to me and my companion. We encouraged her to search her heart, and ask God if that was an answer to her question, which, of course, it was. So that was something really really cool. We also found Aura, I think I already told you about Aura, she is coming along. The both of them have got baptismal dates for the 12th of August, which will be the week before I leave. I am hoping that materializes. We have a baptism planned for the 5th, and it’s not just any baptism, it’s the “white night”, Noche Blanca. That’s going to be where all of the missionaries in our zone have baptisms for that night, and we will all do them together. I am really excited for that night. It’s a rare thing to have that, but we are going to do it. Elvira will be baptized on that night. Well, what else….

I think that’s about it for this week. Well, I am sure there’s more, but I’m not thinking right now haha. Wait just a second and I will continue this grabación….

Well family, I just got done listening to all of your messages…. It sure had an interesting effect because everyone is so different. I don’t know. Something that really affected me was Jayson’s comments. Realizing that I’m almost halfway done! That’s not real! I still have a year left. Just seeing how time has gone on. It didn’t make me sad, per se, but it just made me reflect. It’s weird. It’s weird that things are going that fast. I just remember everything at home like I left it, and it’s a bit different. It sounds like the Campout was another success, I am guessing that It was Paris Canyon? I didn’t notice until Saturday in the evening that the campout was going on. I didn’t have time to be trunky. It was a crazy week.

Well I told you about the good experience, and then there was a not so good experience that hit me hard. Familia Guerrero, while they are moving, we finally got to meet with them the other day. I don’t know what more we could have done. There’s one thing when you don’t do all that you can, but I don’t know what the worst thing is, but we called them, we stopped by, we tried to get them going and we called them at least 4 times a week to try to meet with them. I don’t know. I know that it’s not the end, they are going to go and we will get the missionaries going to them, but they were just too busy I guess. We stopped by, and I just felt empty afterward, after the talk we had with Jennifer. I guess it’s because I know the potential, that if they do this, they can be with Gerson again. It just hit me hard. As we went away, (We were with Hermano Arenguli, who is our ward mission leader) and we were on the Bus getting back into Rincón. Right there on Alementador, I shed a couple of tears. I was just frustrated. I just don’t know what more there was. I guess as well it’s just wondering if I could have done something more. If I could have called more, if I could have followed up more with their reading, just when they don’t accept it these doubts come to your mind. I can’t do it. I really had to go to my Heavenly Father for comfort. For instruction. We are still seeing what will happen. To my knowledge, they haven’t moved yet, but they have to get out of there soon. I don’t know. We were in Alementador, and Hermano Arenguli, told me “hey, animo Elder!” Cheer up! It’s not over. There are other people. I don’t know, I just felt so bad. I just looked at him and said “sometimes this mission is a rough thing.” But I am looking forward to the better days, and I know it has made me come closer to my Heavenly Father. I have had to get on my knees and beg him to help me. To help us. I know that he listens to my prayers, because he gives me strength. Even if it’s just that from that point on, I can get up and go. Now there are people progressing, and there are people that are going to be baptized, but it just makes me sad whenever I think about them. That they are not willing to put in the price to have their son again. Not willing to come to church. They just let the things of the world get in front. It’s not that they are bad people, its just that they let the world get them. Satan threw everything at them. Financial problems were the biggest part, and the doubt on the part of Daniel. He just can’t figure out how religion and science go together. I guess we are going to try to combat that. We found that out the other day, Jennifer confided in us. It’s just hard you guys. Please pray for them. Honestly, at this point, I am not sure what we need to do. But I know that God knows. And I know we will go to him to find out. And if it’s that we need to do it, or other missionaries need to do it, or they just need more time, I know that God knows. I just love that family so much. I couldn’t even speak when they told me they were going to move away, I felt embarrassed after because I was crying. I don’t know you guys, it’s just hard. But I know that the Lord has them in mind.

Well, I don’t want to leave that on a depressing note, but that was on Wednesday night, and Thursday night we had that experience with Viviana, where she was looking for the truth and we showed up the next day. It was a tender mercy of the Lord, because before that, I was down. It was bad enough that before that I really couldn’t feel the motivation to do anything, but we went out anyway. In that experience, it was kind of a rebuke, on my part, where the Lord says “look, son, this isn’t about you. I know my children, and I know what they need. I know what you need. So leave it to my hands, your responsibility is to get out there and work. Now go do it.” I felt that gentle rebuke from him. But I know that he loves me. I know that these things are going to be for the good of the people here. I know that as much pain as I feel for them, that Jesus felt so much more. My disappointment is not even a tenth of what he paid, so who am I to question, who am I to get down, when he never did. Who am I to give up when I am sure that my Savior has been just as frustrated with me all my life. I guess that’s my message: that if we ever feel down, that if we feel like God has forgotten us, that if we ever feel like nobody listens, pick yourself up and dust yourself off, and take a bit of humility as you realize that the Savior of the World suffered so much more. Jeffrey R. Holland said that the road to exaltation always leads through temptation. It’s not easy, salvation is not a cheap experience. We have to pay a token. And in a sense we aren’t even paying a token, but the analogy is required. It is required of us, Like Joseph Smith, to trust in God and go on. Shall we not go on in so great a cause?

I leave these things with you with all my heart, I am so grateful for these hard experiences. They have taught me about my Savior, more than I could have ever known. I know these things. I know that my Savior lives. That his depth of his love for us in unimaginable. That his humility is staggering. That the grandness of his majesty is awe-inspiring. I invite you all to get to know him. To not be afraid to take the hard steps, because it’s the only way. That being said, what I have experienced is not that hard. I don’t want to come off sounding like I am suffering, because I am not, and it would be a little self-centered to say that I was. What I can say with certainty, is that I have gotten to know him a little bit more this week. Thank you so much you guys.

En el nombre de Jesu Christo, Amen.

-Elder Lewis

Elder Lewis on P-day at an indoor rock climbing place. 

Fun Fact: In Colombia, you have to wear a hairnet under your helmet. So attractive. 

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Week 43: God, Country, and Garage Doors

Muy Buenas Tardes Familia!

Elder Lewis here from Suba. This week has not been bad, we’ve run onto hard luck. Some of our investigators, 7 have moved away. The family of 5 moved into a different ward. But we will get going here.

This week has been interesting. I have got my journal here in front of me because I really don’t remember what happened. So this is interesting… Wednesay morning we were doing exercise downstairs, it was like 7:00. I go downstairs to get my laundry and I hear a big bang as I am going down the stairs, coming from the garage. I run back up stairs because it startled me and my comp and we both went downstairs. All the sudden there was a car in our garage that had crashed through the door. Basically we live in a townhouse, I guess you would say, it has 4 floors and the floors are small. Then there is a little space for a medium sized car. We use it for laundry. The townhouses are lined up so it’s like a parking garage, but every house has got their garages. But ya, somebody just left the parking brake off on their car, and it went down and right into our puerta. We pushed it back out and that was that. It doesn’t shut very well and we have had some problems with animals getting in here. Stray cats or rats haha. But it’s not like it’s sealed anyway. Here in Bogota, houses aren’t sealed. You don’t need it. It’s like… well I’ll just send a picture of the door. That was an interesting experience.

We met a lady named Aura, she lives down by a police station down in a barrio (neighborhood) called Arazuno, and she has an interesting story: We met her from a reference from other missionaries, and she has an LDS friend that passed away a little while ago. She was thinking about what he had told her and she said she would look into it. So now we are teaching her. She has kind of a crazy story, Her parents have 13 kids, she is one of the younger ones. Then she moved away, and found a husband that was really abusive. He always said that he was gonna kill her. She always thought it was the alcohol talking. One day they were fighting, and he started to hit her. He hit her in the right side of the head, not in her face but where her hair would cover the bruises. She ran outside, and she lived on the 4th floor of apartments. In Colombia, how they build apartments is 2 towers of 5 floors each, with 2 apartments on each floor and stairs up the middle . But she was on the 4th floor, she goes outside, he tries to push her, she jumps over the railing and is hanging on outside. One of her neighbors and detains the husband and saves her. But in that moment she felt like something was supporting her. That that was the reason that she didn’t die. Crazy no? She came to the temple. Familia Lopez-Medina is actually progressing now. We are going to set a marriage date with them tomorrow. Hermano Jesus is set on going to a little town, a little pueblo, and getting married wearing blue jeans. That’s his dream. That’s what he wants. To get married in a little town with blue jeans. But ya we gave them the Word of Wisdom and the Law of Chastity this week, and the Lord really put everything in the way so that we could accomplish that. We were always trying to find a way to get it to them, the message… what am I saying…? We were trying to find a way that it … well they just weren’t ready for that. But they were ready this week. We felt good about it. The Lord really put everything in a way so that we could teach it.

Our star investigator right now is Elvira. She is still going strong to be baptized on the 29th. We are looking forward to that. We are looking forward to a good baptismal service. We are trying to get another couple of baptisms in as well, for the 5th and the 12th of August.

I hit the 3rd month in this area, in a couple of days I will be hitting 10 months in the mission. It has gone by so fast. This last cambio has gone by so fast. I don’t know where it went. It seems like yesterday I was picking up Elder Villarroel at the mission home. Well, what other things happened this week… I’ll look at my journal…

I think that’s about it for this week. It’s kinda funny because the Elders here in this area are like the 3 Amigos. Me, Elder Villarroel, and Elder Blair. We are just super good friends. It just turned out that this cambio, we are the 3 District Leaders in the zone. Don’t know how that happened… But it’s kinda funny how that turned out. This week we had a lot of new investigators, we are looking to progress with them.

Well, family, I think that’s about it. I just wanted to take a minute, for the 4th of July we took a member and went and had hamburgers. We went in the night and had hamburgers and it was at this place that actually has really good hamburgers, but they actually make them with not only beef but with chicken. So ya, it was like hamburgers and chicken. It was actually really really good. It tastes like pulled pork.

I just wanted to say something about our country, my homeland. Being here in Colombia, I really appreciate the things that we have in the United States. The sacrifices and the hard work that have been put in place to make our country free. The Colombians are just figuring out how to do that. They are just figuring out how to progress, but you can bet that their model is the United States. Even though there are problems, like there are in any other country, I firmly believe that we should not despair about them. We should not give up. The thing is that is that sometimes in the United States we complain about our government being corrupt, and maybe it is, but there is a lot of corruption here. A lot a lot. But you can buy anything you want, you can pay off the government. But in the United States there are checks and balances. Really, honestly, what I want to say is that I know as it says in the Doctrine and Covenants that the Constitution of the United States is a document inspired by God. I know that God put those things in order so that the founding fathers could create a place where He could restore His Gospel. I am so grateful for that.

Well family, I hope you enjoyed this. I will see you next week. Chao Chao!

-Elder Lewis

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Week 42: Golden Elvira

Muy Buenos Tardes Familia!

Well, this week has been pretty good, it ended better than it started. Tuesday through Thursday was ROUGH. Those three days we only had I think 3 lessons, because 12 fell through. 12. Including 3 with Familia Guerrero. They’ve disappeared. Again. Which really frustrates me. But the weekend is really really well, and it’s looking like we might have a couple of baptisms on the 29th of July. We are pushing forward to make it a “white night” which is where you baptize more than 5 people at one time, in one service. We are hoping, we’ve got one family that came to church this week of five people. We are hoping to teach them and continue teaching them and get them progressing. We also have another new family and we’ve got Elvira Blanco, who works in a ropa… geez…clothing store. And she is amazing. She has read the Book of Mormon twice now and is ready to be baptized. She just needs to attend church 2 more times. We just worked things out so that she could attend. We helped her get that so now we are looking free and clear with that so that’s a for sure on the 29th. This area has been a tough turkey, but it’s looking like it’s going to pay off here, and just before I leave gosh dang it. But, transfers happened, not a whole lot happened here, there were 3 missionaries that got moved in the entire zone out of 16 missionaries. We’ll get a new Zone Leader, not sure who that’s gonna be. Elder Flores went, Elder Flores got appendicitis this week, that was his adventure. Had to take him to the hospital, el pronto (fast). That was crazy. That was about it. New Zone Leader, Elder Flores, and another missionary went home, she got sick. She’s from Brazil.

I want to tell you guys a little bit about Elvira, or EL-VY-RUH in English. Maybe I already told you guys about her. Oh well. She has been looking all of her life for the truth. She has been to every church you can think of including the last one was an Evangelical church. Here in Colombia, they call Born Again Christians “Evangelio’s”. it’s like a group, not any specific religion. It’s like Born Again Christians. This particular church that she had was messed up. They took all that she had in the name of “Tithing” and I guess the pastor, who was a lady, made her bow in front of her and weird stuff like that. Just humiliated her. When she left the church finally (she went there for 1 year) and when she left there, the pastor sent people to tell Elvira that she was going to hell. That really worried her, although the thing about Elvira is that she is SO sincere. They just took advantage of her for that. It ….

-Break in the Audio as Elder Lewis speaks with his companion-

Don’t know if you heard that or not, but that was my companion, Elder Villarroel. He’s a good Joe. Bit in on the timid side, but ya know, he has really gotten over that. We have been together for 6 weeks now and we are gonna be together for another 6 if he can stand me for that long. He says he thinks so. He said he would rather do that than return to his house, so at least there’s that haha.

Let’s see, Elvira… she has really been the best investigator that I have taught, because she doesn’t understand why we need to pay tithing, but she accepts it anyway. She doesn’t like it a whole lot because of what happened with her in the Evangelical church, but she said that she knows this is true, so she is going to follow to the letter. I don’t know about you guys, but I was blown away by that. You couldn’t have surprised me more. She just says profound stuff like that all the time. It’s really cool. Like… (She said this on Sunday) “Hey Elders, I had a dream last night. I am ready to be baptized.” You couldn’t have surprised me more if you hit me in the face with a 2x4. Really though, that’s what you dream about as a missionary. That’s the golden phrase. I just wish we had more investigators like her.

Also, we had a really cool reference this week, from When you get a reference from, you better do it because when somebody goes there and they request a Book of Mormon and a visit from the Missionaries, they send you the reference, and then they call you. They say “Did you receive the reference?” and we say “yes.” And they say “Ok, well you better go visit them because we will be calling them to make sure you guys got there.” So ya, needless to say, we visited and set an appointment right after that phone call with Joanna. And Joanna found the church found the church by her own initiative, she was looking for things about Jesus Christ on the internet, and she found She is joven, about 24, and her family is pretty Catholic, and we got there and were teaching her and her brother. I don’t know, she was just another person that just asks good questions. She was prepared. She just asks “hey I don’t know if this is allowed, but can I invite the rest of my family to listen?” and again it was another jaw-dropping moment. We had to get our brains working again just to respond. But ya, that was a really cool visit. She accepted the Book of Mormon and the invitation to read it and the invitation to be baptized as well. If you guys don’t know it, but at the beginning of the first lesson, we say  “at the end of this lesson, we are going to ask you to be baptized by someone who holds the priesthood power of God.” And then we teach the lesson and then we ask them “If you read the Book of Mormon and receive an answer, will you be baptized by someone who holds the priesthood authority of God?” and she said “yes.” The majority do say yes, but this is different. We are excited because our next appointment with them is this week. I don’t know what happened with the lesson, but it was a little bit rough. Just lack of practice this week I guess. We have gotten better at it as we have studied it in companionship study and things, it’s just that we need to go back. We learn lesson 1 in week 1, and it’s week 7 now and we have to go back and continually revisit the lesson. My companion said that “in the middle of the lesson I didn’t know what to do.” But it turned out well and we have a return visit this week.

Well family, we went to the temple again, we took advantage of the Holiday here in Colombia, Here in Colombia certain Mondays are called lunes festivos, and today is one of those. I don’t know what they celebrate, but they celebrate it!

The district is doing pretty well, we had a good week. It sure was weird, because we had a really crappy first part of the week, and then it just took off from there. Then we had 7 people at the church when it’s normally 2 or 3.  So that’s pretty good. I pray that the Lord will keep blessing us. We really do feel unworthy of all the blessings that he gives us in spite of our shortcomings and things that we drop or forget to do. Of all those things, he still blesses us. He still blesses the people here. That really goes to show you that it isn’t about us, not because we teach well, we try to teach well, but it’s really the Lord’s work and I know his hand is in it. I have seen it.

Well, let’s see. I think that was the week. I just want to leave you guys with the knowledge that I know that Jesus is the Christ, the very son of the living God. I know the Book of Mormon is true. I know that Joseph Smith is the prophet. All of these things I really do know, and as I speak about them I feel my heart burn within me. That’s how I know. I told one of our investigators, Griselda, that I really can’t pin down one day that I gained my testimony. For me it was different. For me it was I read the Book of Mormon. A lot of my testimony came here on the mission. I read the Book of Mormon every day. The feelings that I got and the things that I learned, the things that came to my mind, the things that I learned about my Heavenly Father testified to me that they’re true. Eventually, I just knew. As much as I am living and breathing, they are true. I love you guys so much, and I hope you have a great week. Chao Chao!!

-Elder Lewis