Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Week 50: Getting to Know the People, the Land, and the Lord.

Good Afternoon Family!

Here in Colombia, again. Well, crazy that August is already over, my guess is you guys are back in school today, and equally crazy it seems like yesterday that you guys were sharing that “Oh, I have all these plans for summer…” and now you’re back in school. Que Lastima haha. But how awesome.

Well this week has been pretty good, we ended the week with a baptism. We baptized a kid named Juan Pablo. It was really awesome. It was an awesome experience. The next day I had the privilege of confirming him a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and bestowing upon him the gift of the Holy Ghost. That was an experience that I have never had, so it was pretty great. I was very grateful for the opportunity, and… ya.

Alright, so this week has been pretty good as far as the work goes, it hasn’t been THE BEST, but we found a lot of new people, so that’s good. New development with Alverson, he found the answer to his prayers. We actually recommended that he watch the Testaments. So Alverson, we actually got there when he was watching the Testaments and right at the end where Christ is crucified. I was on companionship exchanges with an Elder named Elder Coop, who is a new Elder from the States. And we got in there, and this being my second week in the area, I kinda didn’t know my way there, so we were a bit late. But we got there and goodness, the Spirit was strong. We sat and watched the rest of the 10 minutes with him, and by the end we were all in tears. Alverson is a big guy, he was in the Army. He’s a tough guy. But it moved him to tears. But then, after that, we talked to him about his baptism and asked him how he felt about being baptized on the 16th of September, and he said that he is ready. I told you guys a little bit about the answer that he received last week. I sure feel humbled to be part of that answer, or to be able to help him find that answer, I should say. So ya, good times in Sogamoso.

We have also got a guy named Jefredy who is going to be baptized the week after Alverson, so that will be good. We also found a couple of new families this week. Who knew knocking doors could be good for anything? Haha. Usually its not here in Colombia, but we put ourselves to work and knocked a lot of doors. There were actually 2 or 3 families that let us in, just right then and there. So we had a good week that way.

Today for P-day we went and rode bikes. We borrowed some bikes from Alverson and we went and took a tour of Sogamoso. It was really cool! I haven’t ridden a bike in a long time. We got going at pretty high velocities at some times, and it’s weird because I have been on my feet the whole time I have been in Colombia. It’ll give you saddle sores, but it gets you around faster. My area is HUGE. From the house to the house of Alverson is like an hour walking. It’s really spread out.

I think that’s it, family. I finished Jesus the Christ not too long ago, just about an hour ago I finished reading it. I can honestly say that I KNOW that Jesus is my Savior. I begin to have great feelings of love for my Savior. I am finally getting to know him as I humble myself and realize the extent that I need his help. I know it’s true. This message has been a little short, but that’s what I have for you guys this week. Thank you so much and I will talk to you next week. Chao Chao!

-Elder Lewis

A Bridge in Sogamoso that the Elders saw on their 
bike ride. Elder Lewis says that it looks like
 something out of a "Legend of Zelda" game. :) 

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Week 49: The Other Side of the Coin

Buenas Tardes Familia,

Here in Sogamoso, It has been a pretty good week. I’ll start from the beginning, or I guess last Monday. Last Monday I waited and got the word that I wouldn’t be leaving until Wednesday and that the new companion of Elder Villarroel, my son, my other companion, would arrive that day. I was just wondering is we were going to be in a triple, or what. But no, they sent me with Elder Blair, who is from my group we went to CCM Mexico together. That was a lot of fun, hanging out with him Monday until Wednesday when we left. We got really interesting instructions; the first day they said “hey you guys can go visit your investigators, say goodbye to them, and then go and help Fontana and go contact all day.” So we went and contacted some of my investigators. For that day we went over to my area. We walked from Campiña to Jordán. It’s about 30-40 minutes walking, I would guess that would be about 3 miles. We walked over to my area and went to go visit a convert that we had baptized while I was there and turns out that I ran into an investigator that we had, her name is Idalys, and her husband, Roberto. Roberto is a miembro… Wow… English… He’s a member from his childhood. We were teaching them, they are from Venezuela, so their financial situation is very tight. They live in Bogotá right now, they have both got degrees. She teaches (it would be like Elementary School) and he is a software designer, but because they are from Venezuela they cant find anything. So they have to re-certify themselves. They basically have to go to school again. Do all of it again to be able to start over here in Colombia. That’s how it is for the Venezuelans.

Anyway, so we ran into them in the street and we had been visiting Idalys since I got there, and visiting her and visiting her and visiting her. They were awesome, they always came to church. Roberto is now the secretary of the Elder’s Quorum. But Idalys never was interested. So we stopped visiting her for a good month or month and a half, maybe more. We ran into her on the street on my last day in that area and we started talking and I felt moved to ask her if she felt like she was ready to accept the missionaries again. Then she looked at me and she smiled and said: “ Elder Lewis, I was talking with Roberto, and I want to be baptized!” It just left me floored. I said: “Are you serious?” she said: “yes.” And I said: “what moved you to make that decision?” and she said: “Answers from my Heavenly Father.” And my heart just filler with love. I felt so happy. After that I congratulated them and then said that I was going to get in contact with Elder Villarroel and his new companion to go and visit them and to baptize her. So I went over to the next store that had a phone, me and Elder Blair were walking around without a phone, and we went over to the next store, here in Colombia you can go to an internet store and they have a cell phone that you can buy minutes. So I went over and I called Elder Villarroel and talked to him about it and at the end I just said: “Elder, contact her and baptize her.” And he just said: “ I’ll do it.” And I said: “thanks. Chao.” So that was cool.

Then we went over to the panaderia, where there was Victor and we went over there and we taught Victor Sr. and a guy named Francisco, who we have been teaching for awhile as well, and we put baptismal dates with both of them. It was incredible. Me and Elder Blair, we just had a ton of success! I don’t get it. The very last moment in that area and three baptismal dates there in a space of an hour. But ya. It made me very happy and made me happy to leave the area in a better shape than I found it. Still think that I could have done more, had I been given the time to do it. But President told me in an interview when I asked him about it that sometimes Elders want more time in an area, when really, it’s time to move on. C’est La Vie. So that was a good day. We went around and we worked in just about every area of the zone. Then on Wednesday they gave us different instructions. They said: “ Look, guys, we don’t have anything to do. Just be here by 5.” And we said: “wait. What should we do then?” “It’s up to you. just go do something.” So we said: “ok, we’re going to Cota!” so we went to a little town outside of Bogotá called Cota. And we went and contacted for a little bit and then we went up to an indigenous village. It was super cool. Then we went up into the mountains, and we went up there with the object of finding someone to teach. But also to get to know an indigenous village. That was super cool. So we go up and there was a bamboo gate and as you open up that gate, Elder Blair told me “Ok. Now you have to be silent.” So we didn’t say a word. It’s super silent. There are all these huts with thatch roofs. I’ll send pictures when I get them, Elder Blair has them. Thatch roofs. It’s super, super quiet. All you could hear was this “click-click-click” and he told me that was them working in the back. It’s a rule there that you don’t talk when it’s not necessary. So we didn’t. There’s a sign there that says “Starting a fire with good intentions is a prayer to God.” And then there was a hut that smelled really strongly of smoke. The thing is that we didn’t find anybody up there. It was empty. I was hoping to get to know, Elder Blair got to know the Chief, or the Leader up there. They call him the Grandfather. El Abuelo. He said that he was super cool, but I didn’t get to meet him. Anyway, up there it was very serio. There’s definitely stuff up there to discover. It’s definitely got secrets. I know it. But ya, that was one of the coolest experiences of my life. It was super green… I don’t know, I will have to send the pictures.

Later that day, we went back into Bogotá and we were at the terminal by 5. We picked up some new guys, I got put in charge of bringing some new guys and 2 new sisters to Duitama, which is on the way to Sogamoso, and another Elder that was going to Sogamoso. They are all fresh, fresh from the CCM. That all went well. It really reminded me of when I got here. I got put with an Elder Vasaca, he’s a gringo from Washington, and not knowing anything and just asking him “When am I going to understand this?” and he said: “well, like 6 months.” And thinking that was such a long time. Now I was on the other side of the coin, being able to understand and able to communicate and not really thinking about it. I was with Elder Coop, a new Elder from Texas, and he was just asking all the same questions. It was like a shadow. It was really surreal. It was a really weird couple of days, Tuesday and Wednesday.

Then I got to Sogamoso. I woke up in the morning to see a horse and carriage out front. I was like “what the heck?” It wasn’t a wooden carriage, it was a metal carriage with tires, but still, there were horses pulling it. That’s all over here in Sogamoso. Sogamoso is like, I would think, some parts look like Logan. They are like the size of Logan. The majority of it is like Tremonton. We kinda got lost yesterday in the backcountry. We had an hour walk to get to an appointment and I dunno. It was just silent. It was really weird. There were cows and a lot of fields, really small fields but fields. People out there working in the fields, and nothing but the animals. There’s a river that’s just black, it’s super super dirty. Just black with pollution, because there were places where there was like film in it, and it smelled really bad. But ya. It’s been going pretty good. We have a couple of investigators here. Hoping to find a couple more. We have one named Alumoso, who is really awesome. First lesson that we went and taught with him was lesson 2, or the Plan of Salvation. He really didn’t want to commit to baptism, but he said that after that lesson, he really felt something different. He felt really peaceful. Then him and his Sister, who is a member, felt the presence of their father, who had died awhile ago. He felt like he wanted him to move forward and get baptized. So now he is getting baptized on the 16th of September. That was super cool. We have a baptism this week, a teenager named Juan Pablo. He is super juicioso, so I don’t have any worries about that.

So as we are coming to a new area, I really just want to focus on being humble here. I really just like want to make this transition different than the last one. I was too cocky the last one. I really learned a lot, so I am really just trying to follow really really well this time. Trying to learn. Being a Zone Leader really hasn’t been much different than being whatever other thing other than there are a lot of phone calls, people ask you questions all the time. But really, it’s no different. So ya, that has been my life for the last week. This recording has already been long enough, I think. So I believe I will end it. I know that people are prepared to receive the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Lord promises us that there are people prepared. I know that if we go out to find them, that the Lord will work miracles in our lives to make us better tools, and he’s going to work miracles in their lives, through us. I know that conversion takes place after the missionaries leave. I know, more than anything, that Jesus is my Savior. I testify that he restored his Gospel on the earth. I testify that the Book of Mormon is true, and that if we read it we can know it. It contains the words of everlasting life. I so testify, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

-Elder Lewis

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Week 48: Goodbye Bogotá, Hello Zone Leader in Sogamoso

Muy Buenas Tardes Familia!

I am calling, for the last time, from Jordán, from Bogotá. I have already let you guys know that I will be going to Sogamoso, ya that’s Sogamoso. It’s in a place called Boyacá. Boyacá is a departamento or a department. It’s kinda like a state but it’s full of little towns, and there are people, I have heard that they are more humble, it’s a little city. I have heard that it’s smaller than Bucaramanga, which makes me think that it’s kinda big. It sure isn’t Bogota, which is HUGE. I have also been called as the Zone Leader going there. My new companion is Elder Taboada from Peru. That should be pretty good. A little bit about my new area, from what I know, is that Sogamoso is a little town outside of Bogotá, it’s about 4 hours outside of Bogotá, It’s about the same temperature and climate, but my zone is only 14 missionaries, but geographically it’s the biggest in the mission. We have our zone that is located in Sogamoso, but we also have Yopal, which is located about 4 hours away from Sogamoso, or 8 hours away from Bogotá. So we will be going there once a transfer. I am super excited for Yopal, I have always wanted to go there. That’s a small town, and it’s hot. It will be interesting going to Sogamoso, as of right now I have had the opportunity to serve in locations where there has been clean water. That will not be the case in Sogamoso, I don’t believe, and less so in Yopal. SO I will be using my filters out there and stuff, and trying to be careful. I don’t know, it’s not a big deal but here in Bogotá, you can actually drink water from a tap just fine. Same in Bucaramanga. But in any of the other areas, you cant drink out of the tap. Um… that’s really all I know!

This is a story: so we got the transfers last night, Sunday night, and I find out that I am going to Sogamoso and I am super excited, I get all packed and by the time I get all packed it’s like 2 in the morning. And yes, I did have permission to stay up, because they told us to pack our things just in case we would be leaving early in the morning, because they didn’t know. So I packed up all of my stuff, make all my bags and everything. I went to bed at 2 am and woke up at 6:30 and did the rest of it. By the time I finished, I sat down on my bed and the phone rang. My companion got it, and it was the Zone Leaders saying “Hey, Elder Lewis, you are going to be leaving on Wednesday.” And I honestly thought it was a joke.  I was like: “Elder, that’s not funny.” And they said “no really! Call them!” and… yep. So I will be leaving on Wednesday, the reason being is that there is a group of missionaries coming in, and I will be taking them to Sogamoso. So right now all of my instructions are go to Sogamoso. I don’t know where Sogomoso is… haha. But we will be taking a bus to Tunha, and from there to Sogamoso. That’s what I know. Should be pretty easy. I think I am taking 2-3 missionaries and that’s it. But ya… I am very humbled at the opportunity I have to serve as a Zone Leader, just so you guys know that it’s not going to my head… well I will back up a little bit. This area, Jordán, I am grateful for the opportunity that I have had to serve here. It has been the refiners fire. I go there having 7 months in the mission, and thinking that I was ALL THAT for having 7 months in the mission and being called to be a District Leader. That turned out really badly for me. I had a hard time because of my pride. It just caused friction. When you are living with someone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, just the littlest bit of pride can seep into the cracks and really cause problems. So that’s the underlying problem that I have learned that caused problems in my first companionship and then my second companionship. My companion that I was training, I really think that he came prepared. I didn’t train him, he trained me. What I mean by that is that he came here, he has 24 years, or he is 24 years old, and I’m 19. I was thinking about it and that would be like me being trained by a 14 year old. But still, he remained so very humble and he just listened. And If it wasn’t important, he just went with it. I learned so much from him in that area, in humility. I hope that I can put it into practice. Really, honestly, I will be going to Sogamoso a much different missionary than the one that came here to Jordán. It’ll be a different experience I am hoping because I will be going willing to listen, willing to learn and not thinking that I know how to do things, because I don’t. But willing to learn things, and willing to try. That’s what I have learned here in Jordán, and many other things. A little bit of diligence; just because things don’t go right, because so many things didn’t go right here, but that doesn’t make an excuse to make excuses. That just means that we have to get up and try harder because there is something that we can do better. I read in Preach My Gospel that a good missionary, a missionary that has the spirit, wont make excuses, wont blame it on circumstances. That’s something that I have had to learn. It is easy to blame it on the circumstances. They wont do this or that. But really, honestly, you have to look at “ok, what do they not understand? What do they need?” and you have to work with the Spirit to try to discern that. It takes a lot of energy, but you have to do it. That’s something that I have not mastered, that I am hoping to get better at. I have also learned how to love people. There have been some people that have really hit my rock out. We were in a lesson with Hermano Pedro, a Catholic with his family. His family has accepted the Gospel and has accepted to be baptized here pretty soon, and he just cant see why the Catholic Church isn’t as good as the Church of Jesus Christ. We explain it to him, and he just doesn’t get it. I don’t know. It just made me realize that I just have to love him more. I need to love him more so that I can have the Spirit to be with me so that I can discern his needs. I guess we will see.

I have had many disappointments here in Jordán. I am willing to take all of those, push forward, and be a better missionary. I leave my companion with full confidence. Maybe if he doesn’t know what to do, he is willing to find out. I really do love this companion. He has been my favorite. I have given him a hard time, but he is just so humble and so willing to do the work. I have a lot to learn. I am nervous about this new opportunity that I have, but I am excited to learn. I am approaching this from a lot different angle than I did when I got here to Bogotá. I hope. I know that will be the same way throughout the rest of my life. When I get home, I think that will be the hardest transfer of all.

Well that’s been enough thinking out loud for today. This week has been a little rough as far as the work goes, on Friday we had 6 appointments, one of them held up. But it gave us the opportunity to go out and meet some new people. If an appointment falls through, that means that God has got another person for you to teach. Go do it. It ended up being a blessing, because we had a member with us the WHOLE day. We had this well planned. Apart from 3:00, we had an appointment every hour till 9. We had someone who would accompany us to all of them, including our ward mission leader Daniel, a returned missionary of 3 months. But it ended up being a blessing in disguise because all of our appointments fell that we were going to go to with them. But it gave us the time to say “Well, Danny, who would you like to go visit? How can we help you?” So we went and visited acquaintances, ya people he knows, and we met some great people. There’s no such thing as coincidences.

Well, family, thank you so much. Thank you so much for your support, I love your letters, keep them coming. Even though I don’t have time to respond to all of them, I will do my best. Thank you so much, I love you all and I don’t know if I can say that I will be thinking of you all the time, because I am a Zone Leader, and I don’t think I will have time to think. I don’t know what awaits me, but I am hoping to go about it humbly. To go about it in a way that I can learn what my Heavenly Father would have me learn.  Love you so much family. I will see you later. Chao Chao!

-Elder Lewis

Elder Lewis, Elvira Blanco, Elder Villarroel

Monday, August 7, 2017

Week 47: A Baptism and a Trail of Miracles

Hallo Familia!

That’s right. I’m actually speaking Dutch! I actually met a guy from Holland today, I will tell you more about that later on but, I hope it has been a good week for you guys. First week of August and it’s been a pretty good week for us too. Families are progressing, finally.  A couple of our families started progressing this week that were dormant for a while. I did have the opportunity, the amazing opportunity, to baptize one of the best investigators that I have ever had. Her name is Elvira Blanco. On Saturday at 5 or 6 o’clock, she made covenants with her Savior through baptism. I was the one with the honor of doing that. The baptismal service was actually at the Stake Center, there were 4 other baptisms that happened, it was going to be a “Noche Blanca”, there was going to be 8-10, but a few of them fell through. Thank goodness that ours did not. And she was confirmed on Sunday, by Hermano Corán, someone who has helped us with her a lot. So, she actually gave her testimony afterwards and she has read the Book of Mormon twice. She is going for the 3rd time. She made this analogy, she said “if there are any investigators here, I invite you to ask of God and not like the people of Ammonihah did, but with a real heart, with a real intención.” And I don’t know, and she just threw out a bunch of Book of Mormon references, she really made herself so proud. She told me as we were leaving the baptismal font “ Look, Elder Lewis, now, I am making a promise to you and to God that I am going to endure to the end.” And I totally believe it. She’s amazing.

The rest of the week was pretty good, we had a couple of really good days with some good lessons. Familia Lopez-Medina, after teaching them for 4 months, are finally going to be able to start attending church. She has been praying, the mom has been praying, for a long time that the Lord would help her arrange her work so that she could attend on Sunday. Her shift just got changed from the morning to the afternoon and now she can attend. That was really awesome. I was super excited. There’s another family, she’s less active, and he’s investigating, and he got on his knees after one of our lessons and told the Lord that he really wants to change. About how he wants to quit the liquor and the bad things in his life. That was the highlight of the week. Hearts are changing here in Bogotá Colombia. I am so happy to be a part of it.

I’m trying to get situated here at the computer. I’m gonna pause this recording, actually no I’m not because the last time I did that it didn’t end well. So I am going to try to type and talk at the same time because I am really low on time. That brings me to another thing: for p-day we went to Monzarate, that I am told is very famous. I don’t know, I had heard of it before my mission, and it was really cool to go. Basically it’s a Catholic Church on top of a mountain that overlooks all of Bogotá. I will send pictures in a little bit, but it was really cool, all of it. We went up, and it took us a little while to get up there because the Sister Missionaries that we were with were a bit slow, but… we got up there in about an hour, it’s a good hike. There were a bunch of stairs. There some really interesting things that we found out; supposedly people believe that if you need a miracle, you can walk up the whole trail barefoot and it’s a trail of, I would say cobblestones but not really, it’s a trail of stone. On the Semana Santa, or Holy Week, in April, there are a bunch of people who do it crawling. I had a hard time, well we had kind of a hard time doing it on our feet!
Well, you get up there, and if you also need a miracle, you can walk back down backwards. Just a second….

(Note from Jessica: there’s a big pause here because Elder Lewis is speaking to his companion in some very fast Spanish. No Comprendé, but I am sure it’s important. J)

I am trying not to interrupt this.. what do you call it… recording so that we don’t get cut off again. So anyway, we went to Monzarate, people think that if you go down backwards you get a lot of blessings, we saw a lot of people walking backwards. It was kinda weird. We got up there and we took a tour of the church, and I am so glad that our church focuses on the fact that the Savior lives, and that we don’t worship idols. That’s always good. Here in Colombia, there are stores of “Religious Essentials” so you go and you buy your necklaces and beads, necklaces and bracelets that have beads and they do what’s called a Rosár and they touch a bead and they say a prayer, and then they touch a bunch of different beads and say different prayers. I don’t know, it’s their religion, but I am glad that we worship the living God.  We went up there and we went back down, and we got here at about 5:30ish so I am not going to have much time to chat with you guys, sorry about that. But I guess that’s how it works sometimes. That being said, I think there’s a transfer coming this week, so I don’t know that you should expect to hear from me until Tuesday, or maybe not for another week. Well, I love you all so much, and I think that’s all that I have for you. love you so much and thank you for all your emails. Have a good week, and Chao Chao!

-Elder Lewis

 Elder Powlus and Elder Lewis

 La Iglesia Católica de MonZarate

 Bogota is pretty big....

The Following is a note from Hermana Laney, Elder Lewis' Mission President's wife: 

Hello Sister Lewis, I thought I’d send you this photo of your cute son! As I go around to the zones, 
some of the missionaries ask to have their “profile Photo” changed, so I take their picture 
and updated it on the mission roster. Elder Lewis is a wonderful missionary, always willing 
to help out and is such a good example for the other elders in his zone. xox hermana laney