Transfers, Tampa, Training and Total Rejection

August 28, 2013

Just kidding. It wasn’t total rejection. Just a lot of it.

I didn’t realize how friendly and open it was in little old Wauchula. Even the white people. But I am quickly learning that these big city people are a liiiiiitle different. “Toto, I don’t think we’re in Wauchula anymore….”

Example: We may or may not have gotten flipped off by a 7 year old this week after his grandmother slammed the door in our face…You sure you don’t want a message about Jesus Christ in your home?

Don’t worry about me.

I can handle it!

This week just took a little getting used to. LUCKILY Hermana Russell [my MTC district buddy] is letting us borrow her GPS for a few days til we get to know the area. I’m thinking I might have to buy a GPS of my own. I am perdida all the time, even with that thing. #bigcityshock And heaven knows I’m already navigationally handicapped. But it’s fine. We’re working through it.

This week consisted of a LOT of tracting. And unfortunately it’s not quite as easy here as it is back in Wauchula to tell hispanic houses from the white ones. But we’re learning: brightly colored house? some sort of sun or iron designy thing on the house? lots of plants? a cross?  Virgin Mary statue in the yard? proooobably hispanic. But my discernment skills just aren’t quite as accurate as they used to be. Luckily one of the perks to being a Spanish missionary is the line, “Well who do you know around here who speaks Spanish?” that we can throw in right as they’re closing the door. We can usually get a couple referrals out of that.

Hermana Newbill is so great. I have never felt more frazzled or stressed than as a trainer. I feel like my mind is 7 different places at once. But she’s really patient with me, even when I get lost 4 times in one day. With the GPS. She is so sweet and so excited for the work. And she went to the Mexico MTC and I’m pretty sure her Spanish is better than mine. Which is a blessing and a half because Cuban/Puerto Rican Spanish is verrrrrry different than Mexican Spanish. But don’t worry… I. Will. Get. There.

The coolest thing about living in a big city is that I’m not in a Spanish branch….I’m in a Spanish Ward. I didn’t even think those could exist! And we have 5 companionships serving in the Tampa 5 ward. 3 pairs of sisters, 2 pairs of elders. It’s incredible to see this work being hastened so fast! The members here are amazing and so sweet. I’m stoked to serve with them.

I finally tried Cuban food! Those fried platanos? SO DELISH. It’s not spicy like Mexican food, but it’s great.

Despite the shock of a new area, the stresses of being a trainer, and the rejection of tracting, there’s been miracles. It’s amazing how Heavenly Father throws those in our path just when we’re about to give up. Miracles happen in the last 10%. Thanks Hermano Draper for that one. So true.

Last night all our plans fell through. [Typical missionary work] So we decided to explore a little in an area we’ve never been to before. We walked around and it seemed that we weren’t going to find anyone. We knocked on door after door, only to face rejection or worse…silence. We turned a corner and saw an older woman working in her garden. She was not Hispanic but I felt prompted to go ask her if we could help her with anything.

We went over and started talking to her. She asked us what we were doing and we explained that we’re missionaries. We leave our families for 18 months to go and teach people about Jesus Christ.

“Tell me….are you happy?” She asked almost hesitantly.

“I am the happiest I have ever been. This work is hard and there’s ups and downs but I have never seen more miracles or blessings in my life,” I testified, “I know that Heavenly Father knows each and every one of us and loves us and I’m grateful for this time I’ve had to dedicate to him and teach people about what I know.”

“Oh…well does He love those little children in Afghanistan who have been tortured and mangled and certainly haven’t been baptized?”

I paused for a second. “He does. He loves all of his children enough to give them agency, the ability to choose right from wrong. Sometimes people choose wrong, and those choices affect other people. But Christ loves those children and he will have mercy on them. All things can be made fair through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.”

She looked into my eyes and it felt as though her soul was questioning my own. She looked so confused and lost. “Can we teach you something really quick?” we asked. We gave her a short summary of the Book of Mormon.

“That’s nice honey but…I’ll never read it.”

“Why is that?” She was silent for awhile. “Well I know you say you won’t read it but can I read a part of it to you?” I asked and opened up to Alma 7:11-13. I read it to her and testified of the Savior and that I know with everything in me that the Book was true. “Every page talks about Christ. I know He loves us and that He is so aware of you. I know there’s a reason we met you.”

She continued to stare at me, looking a little bit in awe. “I know that too………….And I think I’m going to read that book.”

It was one of the most spiritual lessons I’ve ever had so far out here. I felt like we were sent to her. Led by the hand to this woman who had been searching for answers. I don’t know what will happen after this but I know that we made a difference in her life and I know it’s not something she will forget.

This experience is one of the most amazing times in my life. And I know I’m going to miss all of it. Even the door-slamming part. So I’m trying to enjoy it all while it lasts. The opportunity to bear the name of my Savior and be a representative of Him every single day is such a blessing and I want to make each second count.

I know that this Church is true.

Love you all!

amor,

Hermana Lewis

xoxo

Saying goodbye to Hermana Larsen.

Saying goodbye to Hermana Larsen.

Welcoming my cute trainee, Hermana Newbill!

Welcoming my cute trainee, Hermana Newbill!

 

A New Chapter and Adventure

August 20, 2013

This week has been a WHIRLWIND. I look back at everything that has happened and I want to cry. But I’ve been holding back tears a lot the last couple days…

Might as well spit it out now.

I’m getting transferred.

And training.

Wanna know the best part?

I DON’T KNOW WHERE I’M GOING.

I find out today. At the transfer/trainer-trainee meeting.

It honestly came as such a shock. I had it all set in my mind that I was staying in Wauchula until at least December. Seriously. And I would have been glad to do it too. Especially with Hermana Larsen. But growth happens outside our comfort zone. And Heavenly Father decided to kick me 12 miles out of my comfort zone. Time to do some serious growing. [Which, for those of you that know me, is not my strong point. I’m 5’3″ and there’s no sign of any improvement in that area…]

But don’t worry it gets better. Not only am I leaving today, Hermana Ashby got her VISA and is leaving to Argentina in 1 week!!! Real life. We’re all getting split up. And poor Hermana Larsen has no idea who her new companion is going to be. I’m just so grateful for this opportunity I’ve had to serve with them both. They are amazing hermanas, and I love them both so much, and I’m super excited to meet my new trainee! I have learned so much and apparently I’ve done what I’ve needed to do here in Chula. This week has been perfection though. I couldn’t have asked for better.

This week we had this spectacular lesson with Ana. We walked in and sat on the $25 Couch [that’s it’s title: the $25 Couch. Funnily enough her Free Couch is more comfortable.] and one of the first things that comes out of her mouth is, “The more I read in the Book of Mormon, the more I–[we held our breath expecting the worst]–am amazed at God. [Sigh of relief] I am just so awestruck that He would lead these people out of Jerusalem and love them enough to let them experience the same things as the people in Jerusalem. I am amazed at how much He loves every single one of his children. I know the Book of Mormon is true. I don’t doubt it’s veracity. That’s something I haven’t been able to say since I met you, Madison. [She calls us all by our first names :)] And I don’t doubt that Joseph Smith saw Christ. I believe that happened. There’s some issues I don’t understand with the establishment of the Church. But I know the Book of Mormon is true.” I wanted to scream right then and there. We always said once Ana recieved a testimony of the Book of Mormon it was all downhill from there. And now she’s got it. And she studies it all the time. She is connecting the dots and realizing just how significant our message is. It’s incredible. I can’t wait to see where she goes from here. I only wish I could be here to teach her!

We also had an incredible lesson with Gloria and her sons Saturday night. They are a family we’ve taught a couple times before but this one was so special. She’s been reading through the beginnings of the Book of Mormon slowly but  we wanted to get them all hooked on reading the actual story! So we read 1 Nephi 1 with them, verse-by-verse, English [her sons] and Spanish [us and Gloria], everyone with their own Book of Mormon. It was like family scripture study back at home. And I looked around and saw future priesthood-holding missionaries in each of those 3 boys. When we finished, Adam [the oldest boy, 15 yrs. old] asked, “So did they kill him? did they kill Lehi??” We answered with the classic Reading Rainbow: You’ll have to read to find out! And I think he really will. The boys all told us they wanted to come to church, even though Gloria couldn’t because of work. We told them maybe next week as by then it was 9:00 on Saturday night. But with some prayers, help from Hermano Todd, and some quick texting during planning that night, we got them a ride.

We met Hermano Todd right outside their apartment and we went up to their door to go get them. We knocked. No answer. Knocked again. Nothing. Knocked again. Silence. We called Gloria, who told us that they probably just slept in and maybe next week would be better. Oh no. Hermana Larsen checked the door to see if it was open. It was…so being the completely normal but rather determined missionaries that we are, we opened it a little and called in. “Adam! Adammmm!” Knocked again. Silence. We had been there for about 7 minutes and the situation was looking hopeless. We quickly got in a circle and prayed. “Heavenly Father please help those boys to wake up and come to church and please help Adam to hear our knock.” We felt peace and I was assured that Adam would wake up. We knocked one more time. Not 10 seconds later, Adam opened the door, looking as though he had just rolled out of bed. PRAYER WORKS FOLKS. He quickly got ready and tried to get his brothers up. They ended up sleeping on, but Adam came right outside and Hermano Todd was able to give him a ride to church. Heavenly Father really does have his hand in this work. He is in control of everything and is so aware of us. We just have to ask him for help.

Church on Sunday could not have gone any better. We had 5 investigators! From 4 different families that we’re teaching! Felicita, Adam, Viviana, Brianna and Daniel. The congregation was full, even with half the Juarez family gone in Ohio [different Juarez family….but related.] and everyone was happy. Isaiah was confirmed. Daniel finally made it to church, even though he felt sick, and I know he felt the Spirit really strongly. Me and Hermana Ashby were able to stand up and bear our testimonies to the branch. I was holding back my Grandma Jensen tears the entire time. I looked out at our little branch in the middle of nowhere Wauchula Florida and I just felt so much love for these people. Heavenly Father is so aware of each of them. He cares about them and wants the best for them. That’s one of the most amazing experiences as a missionary: to be able to feel the love of our Heavenly Father for his children. I looked out and saw Hermana Ofelia, Liz, Hermana Martinez, Hermana Moreno, Hermana Ruelas, Hermana Rojas, Erika, Daniel, Adam, Felicita, the branch presidency, my Hermanas…and knew that these people were going to be in my life forever. I testified that this church is true. That the Book of Mormon is true. And that Heavenly Father loves each and every one of us. It was a day of pictures and emotions. I don’t know what I’ll ever do without these hard-working, dedicated, loving souls in my new area. They’ve impacted my life forever. But that’s the beauty of the Church. It’s a family everywhere. There are new people for me in my new area that need me specifically in combination with my new companion. There are no coincidences.

It’s bittersweet, yet exciting to be starting a new chapter in my mission.

But it’s for the best.

The only constant in life is change right?

Ok I’m done with cliche sayings now.

Time to head out and meet my new MTC baby.

Love y’all [better believe I say ‘y’all’ now… ‘fixin’ too… #southerngirl]

amorrrrr,

Hermana Lewis.

xoxo

There’s Something About the Missionaries

August 12, 2013

 

I have grown up all my life as a member of a strong family who has always been active in the church. I knew who the missionaries were and what they did, but I didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to them because a mission was never realistically in my plans. But this week it’s really hit me the difference that missionaries make in people’s lives. Investigators, members, random people on the street…they look at us and see something different. They feel something different. And it’s become one of my favorite things about being a missionary.

 

We don’t receive comments about the spirit we bring way often [normally we can just see it in their faces] but this week it just seemed that everyone had something to say about it. We had a lesson with this suuuuuuper old lady, Felicita. She’s Sandy’s grandma who lives with them and can’t read well because of her eyes. We didn’t ever think she had a ton of interest til she approached us after a lesson we had with Sandy. We were just about to walk out the door when she shuffled over and asked us if we could explain more about the Libro de Mormon that we had left with her. We read through the Introduction with her, clarifying and testifying throughout the whole thing. She then told us about an experience she had while she was praying one night. She felt something so strong in her heart and then she looked up and saw the face of Christ. “I see that same face of Christ in your faces right now,” she told us, ” I never knew about this book. I want to know more and I want to come to church with you but I have no way to get there.”

 

We went over to see Brianna to prepare her for her confirmation on Sunday. We walked in to find her mom, Erika, about to cry because of how stressed she was for the activity she was planning for that night. We offered to help her in any way she needed and let her know that we’re always looking for ways to serve! She calmed down immediately and told us, “I love the missionaries. Ya’ll just bring so much peace into my home. Ya’ll bless my family so much.”

Liz told us that when we were having that giant scary FHE lesson with their family, that our faces actually visibly changed when we started talking about the “heavy stuff” [aka when the Spirit started speaking through us].

We did a couple “Peace and Blessings” this week. This is when we go into a home and leave the Savior’s Peace and Blessing on that home. It’s a really spiritual experience and usually softens people’s hearts enough for us to get a return appointment. With one family, it seemed they were totally ‘over it’ and weren’t really interested. It was a mom and her aunt, Rosa and Camelia. We did a Peace and Blessing, and right after Camelia leans over to Rosa and says, “When can they come back?” Last night we went back to go see Camelia at her own house. We knocked on the door and she came out grinning the biggest grin you’ve ever seen in your life. “HOOOOOLLLLAAAAAA!!!!!” She says and hugs us all, ushering us into the house. She loves us already. And she has no clue why. We left that night with 3 empenadas. #1 sign to tell if Mexicans love you: they give you food…not mad. [PS Those empenadas burned our mouths to the depths of oblivion. And I loved it. I have a newfound obsession for spicy Mexican food. I can’t wait to shock you all with my new cooking skills…that I have yet to gain…]

After another Peace and Blessing, the woman told us, “It’s so rare to see young women who believe in Christ enough to leave everything behind and teach people about him. It’s really amazing what you are doing. You’re blessing a lot of lives and God is proud of you because you’re spreading his word.”

On Sunday, Marisela and Hermana Rojas were talking to Hermana Larsen. Marisela told her, “The spirit that the missionaries bring…it’s like a magnet. I just want them around all the time!” Hermana Rojas [our little missionary mamma] readily agreed. Hermana Rojas is always asking us when we can come and visit her, and the Sebring missionaries spend their entire P Day cooking with Marisela.

It just really hit me how much of an impact we have on those that we come in contact with. We bring the Spirit with us everywhere we go and people feel it so strongly. Even though they look at us like we’re crazy, they get curious. Why would 3 cute, young, normal girls be out here sweating their faces off in the heat, riding bikes in skirts, knocking on stranger’s doors, working 16-hour days for 18 months?? They feel the peace we bring. They wonder what could be motivating us. And they want to learn more. We really are set-apart for this calling. It’s never been more clear to me. And I am so grateful for this opportunity. To be on the front lines, fighting in the Lord’s Army. It’s hard, but I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

Les quiero todo.
amor,
Hermana Lewis.
xoxoxo
Hermanas Foster, Ashby, and Lewis... companionship exchanges!

Hermanas Foster, Ashby, and Lewis… companionship exchanges!

Hermana Lewis with Sandy and her daughter Stephanie at a Mexican baby shower. So. Much. Food.

Hermana Lewis with Sandy and her daughter Stephanie at a Mexican baby shower.                     So. Much. Food.

Dyan Hale and Hermana Lewis

Dyan Hale and Hermana Lewis

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A Week in Pictures!

Beautiful Florida sunsets!

Beautiful Florida sunsets!

My cute companionship! I love serving with Hermana Larsen and Hermana Ashby!

My cute companionship! I love serving with Hermana Larsen and Hermana Ashby!

A little shopping on P Day!

A little shopping on P Day!

 

Helping Liz with her garage sale!

Helping Liz with her yard sale!

The Sky Bridge on our way to the Tampa Bay Ray's baseball game in St. Petersburg.

The Sky Bridge on our way to the Tampa Bay Ray’s baseball game in St. Petersburg.

The Sky Bridge!

The Sky Bridge!

Going to see the Tampa Bay Rays baseball game!

Going to see the Tampa Bay Rays baseball game!

At the Tampa Bay Rays baseball game! So fun!!

At the Tampa Bay Rays baseball game! So fun!!

Take Me Out to the Ballgame!

Take Me Out to the Ballgame!

At the Tampa Bay Ray's game!

At the Tampa Bay Ray’s game!

Tampa Bay Ray's fans!!

Tampa Bay Ray’s fans!!

Baptisms!!  Briana - 9 yrs, Isaiah -10 yrs, Erik - 9 yrs.  We love these cute kids!!

Baptisms!! Erik – 9 yrs, Isaiah -10 yrs, Briana- 9 yrs. We love these cute kids!!

Sweet Briana's baptism day!

Sweet Briana’s baptism day!

Missionaries are so happy on baptism days!

Missionaries are so happy on baptism days!

The Elders ... baptism day!

The Elders … baptism day!

We love being missionaries!

We love being missionaries!

Hermanas Get Rejected Too

It’s a well-known pattern in the mission world that sisters just don’t get rejected quite as much as those poor elders do. There’s a lot of different theories as to why that is. I don’t know if it’s the cute dresses, the fact that we can cry on demand, or if Heavenly Father just loves us more. [that’s a joke…] But I’ve definitely been counting my blessings because rejection is hard. And a lot less fun than people accepting the gospel. But don’t think life is all smooth coasting for us herms. We experience rejection too.

Last night [after one of the funnest, most amazing baptism days we’ve ever had] we decided to go out and see a family we’ve been feeling strongly about, as well as a less-active that lives in the same apartment complex. We text them both….no response. Okay well let’s go try another family. Not a good night. Okay well let’s go try those original families and just stop by and see if they’re home. First door. Nobody’s home. Okay next family. Nobody’s home. Okay let’s go follow up with a previous investigator. Nobody. Okay let’s go try to find that contact. First door we tried, a gruff old man comes to the door and says “What do you want?” “Well we’re missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” “Hold on one second.” He closes the door, calls back to someone else in the house, “Did you hear that?”, comes back and says curtly, “You’re wasting your time.” And closes and locks the door before Hermana Larsen could ask him if he knew where Rosalva [the person we were trying to contact] lives.

uhhhhhh……ok.

Well….that was like 12 backup plans that just fell through and we don’t know what to do. So we walked around and started talking to this one family that was so cute. The dad told us that his wife’s sister was Mormon. So they’re golden right? I wish. If he could have stopped talking about the Illuminati for like two seconds maybe he could have realized that we’ve got the truth he’s looking for right here. But he was one of those superstitious “I love God but I don’t do religion” kind of folks. The kind who gets all his conspiracy theory info from those crazy internet sites. Because everyone knows that if it’s on the internet it must be true. What’s that about being ‘kept from the truth because they know not where to find it?’ But we’re not losing faith in him. He gave off such a Mormon vibe out there walking around with his wife [who hid from us] and two daughters. And we got enough testimony of doctrine in there to get him interested. He’ll be in the temple one day. Planting seeds.

Well then. We met Maurice. This 81-year-old man that looked so happy as he was sitting outside on the sidewalk in his little lawn chair just enjoying the night. We love those kind of people. So we go up and say, “Hey we’ve got a book for you!” and start to introduce ourselves. He says, “I’d tell you my name but you won’t believe it.” “Really? What is it?” “Maurice Patterson.” “Oh………why wouldn’t we believe that?” “Cause nobody around here is named Maurice! I’m one of a kind!!!” He exclaims with the cutest toothless smile on his face. In my mind I’m thinking “Crazy old Maurice…Crazy old Maurice….” [Beauty and the Beast] But I’m gonna give the guy the benefit of the doubt. We small talked a little and asked him about his religious background. “Oh I searched for years and years. I tried Mormon, Pentacostal, Catholic–that’s the worst, don’t ever be Catholic…I’ve tried just about everything and I finally found what I’m looking for. The Philadelphia Church of God.” We asked him his experience with our church. “Well. It’s not true. The true church follows all 10 commandments.” “Well sir, we do that.” “What day do you worship?” “Sunday. The Sabbath. And we keep it holy.” “Then you’re breaking the 4th commandment. The commandments say that we should worship on Saturday.”

It was all downhill from there.

We held our tongues and the Spirit helped us be so patient and just testify of what we knew. But it wasn’t going through. When Maurice told Hermana Larsen that her prayer was going to the devil, we just could not hide the shocked looks on our faces…our eyes were the size of golfballs I’m sure. He asked, “You really think your prayer went to the Father?” Hermana Larsen and I responded in unison “I know it did.” We told him to have a great night and walked quickly back to our car.

It was enough for one night.

We went home and just laughedddddd for an hour about the things we wanted to say to those people. And being so grateful for our Mexican families. [The two men we talked to were both white…] And counting our millllions of blessings.

It’s good to be humbled every once in awhile right?

Fresh start this week. I can’t wait.

The church is true!

xoxo,
Hermana Lewis

It's just a little rain...

It’s just a little rain…

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