Blessings on Blessings on Blessings!

Monday, November 25, 2013

This week is Thanksgiving.

Exactly a year ago this week I opened my mission call letter. And in that short 365 days, so much has come into my life that I have to be grateful for.

My mission. Like obviously, right? But, sometimes I have to remind myself how great it is because I’m not going to lie. It’s hard. It gets really super difficult sometimes. But then I think, “Hold on. I get to devote literally all my time and efforts and worries into the work of the Lord. I don’t have to worry about money or clothes or school or marriage or what crazy thing happened in the world this week. Just me, the Lord, and his precious children. I am pretty blessed.” And it’s true. The thing about a mission is it continues to bless. Blessings on blessings on blessings. I’ve met people that have taught me things and changed my life in a way that never could have happened had I not been out here in Tampa, Florida right at this exact moment.

My family. Okay they’ve always been around. But, especially lately, I am seeing just how great my family is. I can’t explain how much of a blessing it is that I can devote all my thoughts to the work. Because I don’t have to worry about things at home. My family is all extremely supportive and loving and I sometimes feel like such a princess because I have nothing worthy of a single complaint!

This gospel. As a missionary, my first convert is myself. My testimony and gratitude for the Gospel of Christ has grown in leaps and bounds in these last 9 months. I am so blessed to know the truth. And to be able to share it with everyone I meet. Sometimes my heart is so full I just want to cry. I used to laugh whenever people said their heart was full. But like, now I know how it feels. I get it. I am one of you people now. But seriously. To have not just a belief, but a knowledge of the things that most people go their whole lives wondering about….is such a blessing.

My bike. I complain about my trusty steed every single week. But in all reality. It’s been such a blessing. I could be walking. [shoutout to Aubz, Wilsynn, and all you other 3rd world walkers….counting my stateside blessings]. I see the most humble people in the most difficult circumstances every single day. I could never understand some of the problems they face. But seeing that makes me so grateful for the little things. And plus I get way more than 30 minutes of exercise every day. I am so lucky! hahaha……

I am grateful for a lot more than those things….

Like all the emails I got today.

Or like the fact that I get to see my family face-to-face (via Skype) in 30 days. But who’s counting?

And I’m grateful for every single one of you.

Love you loads. All of you.

Love,

Hermana Lewis

xoxo

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I Forgot My Journal…

I forgot my journal this morning as we left the house so…..

I don’t really remember what happened this week.
I know we biked to oblivion. I know we set a date. I know we helped move a family out of their house using nothing but garbage bags. I know we helped a man garden in his front yard for an hour…which led to him telling us his entire life story. I know we were exactly obedient. I know we saw miracles. I know it was another incredible week of missionary work.
It was just a bit of a blur, all of it.
I just need to send my journal home, huh?
And now I’m just passing away my email time looking at a blank screen not sure what to say next.
……I love you all.
Yesterday was the primary program here in Bahia Ward. And let me tell you: as cute as the Primary Program is in English……..it’s cuter in Spanish. And get this. They made missionary plaques for all the kids. that said \
Future Missionary
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
There might have been a tear or two shed by us Hermanas in the ward. Like every time they sang a song. It was just too adorable. And it was amazing because as they each stepped up to say their part, I saw it. I saw the vision that the Lord has for each of these children. I saw the future Elders in their white shirts and ties. I saw the future Sisters with their sweet smiles sitting down to teach a family. This next generation is going to be a powerhouse. The wave of missionary work is only going to get bigger and more powerful with each new group that heads into the MTC. Imagine what it will be like in 8, 10, 13 years when these primary kids are leaving for their own missions. It’s INCREDIBLE.
Other highlights this week..
Moving the family using nothing but garbage bags? That really happened. And what’s better….we only had 2 hours to do it. With the help of the Lord and Glad Forceflex bags: Mission accomplished. It was hilarious to watch. It was only me, Hna Finlayson, and this couple running around the house stuffing everything they own into giant black bags. Including around 75 little candy vending machines that were stored in the highest corners of their garage/attic. Cause that’s what he does for a living…install vending machines. Too funny.
We set a date with Sonia. She’s been meeting with missionaries for around 9 months and has had previous dates set. But this time she’s ready. She’s married to a member and she herself used to be Jehovah’s Witness. So she’s pretty knowledgeable about the Bible and she’s been coming to church, reading the Book of Mormon, and praying diligently to know if and when she should be baptized. We explained to her that when we set a righteous goal and make a deal with the Lord about a time frame, He always helps us to complete that goal. She agreed, and she’s currently praying about the first week in December. She is amazing!! Did I mention that we’re spending Thanksgiving with Sonia and Alberto? I couldn’t ask for a better family to spend that day with. They are so classy and cute. So add Sonia to the prayer list 🙂
On Saturday Hermana Finlayson got a flat tire right as we were leaving the house so we spent an hour trying to figure out how to use a presta pump. It’s hard. That hour threw off our entire day’s plans so we did some switching around. We ended up in the trailer park we had planned to be in that night. We tried to contact a couple less-actives but they weren’t home. But next door to one of the homes was a man working outside in his garden. I went over and asked him if we could help. Surprisingly [NOBODY lets us help them] he said “Claro!” We spent the next hour helping him plant little flowers in his new flower bed and talking about life. Like I said, he spilled his whole life story. It was pretty cool. Then he started asking us about basic principles of the gospel. He hasn’t had really any religious background. We gave him our card and invited him to the Tuesday church activities and he eagerly accepted. We’re meeting with him again tonight. He said he always saw the missionaries walking or driving around but never bothered to talk to them. Sometimes the Lord leads people to us, sometimes He leads us to them.
It’s cool how it all works out.
Sorry for the short letter today….
I love you all!
Love,
Hermana Lewis
xoxo
Moving a family using nothing but garbage bags!

Moving a family using nothing but garbage bags!

The Mormons are Coming. . .

November 12, 2013  (11/12/13)

The Mormons are coming….

That’s the catch phrase of the new latest greatest musical that just happens to be coming to none other than….TAMPA.

Yep. The Book of Mormon Musical is coming to our neck of the woods. Heaven help us.

Just kidding! We’re set and ready to answer any and all questions that come around because of this crazy publicity.

I love the church’s ads in the play…”You’ve seen the musical, now read the book.” and “The book is always better than the movie.” hahahahaha.

We have nothing to defend. The gospel defends itself.

I learned that lesson pretty strongly this week. We had a lesson with a lady that was probably one of the most difficult lessons of my life. She went into the lesson with the intent to prove the Book of Mormon wrong. She had one question: Show me in the Bible where it says anything about this “Mormon” guy. Well we showed her a couple scriptures about how the Book of Mormon and Bible work together and how she needs to just read the Book of Mormon and pray to find out if it’s true. But it wasn’t enough. “No. Muchachas [said condescendingly while smacking her gum]. I shouldn’t have to pray about it. It should be in the Bible because the Bible has everything. I shouldn’t have to pray if you can show me.”

Ouch.

It wasn’t going to work. So we left the book with her and told her we would come back when she’s actually read it.

We’re not here to convince. We’re not here to argue. We’re here to teach. We’re here to share what we know to be true.

Some people aren’t ready. And that’s okay. Because some people are. And that’s what makes this whole experience worthwhile.

Sunday night we had a miracle. There was an investigator that the previous hermanas were working with, Rey Hernandez. He lives super far from our apartment and works all day every day except Saturday and Sunday. Sunday night we stayed after church for the Elders’ baptism. [So worth it, Rocky is amazing.] So we didn’t have time to go home for dinner before our next appointment. So we grabbed a cupcake and headed out to make it to our less-active’s on time. “We’ll just have dinner later” we thought. Unfortunately, our less-active wasn’t home. We could have gone home and ate. But we felt like we needed to take advantage of where we were and conserve miles instead. [miles are tight, our area is huge. #lifeofamissionary] So we looked at our planner and saw Rey. He wasn’t at church today and he has been for the last 2 weeks. We better go see him. He told us he went to the English Ward because it worked better with his schedule for the day. We asked him how he felt and he loved it. And well….long story short: we [re-]set his baptismal date. November 30th.

That’s right folks, skip dinner and get a baptismal date. That’s how this missionary thing works.

I’m totally kidding.

But we may or may not be skipping dinners more often. 🙂

I’m just kidding we’re on bikes that’s crazy talk.

We’ve been working like crazy this week, taking advantage of that Corolla while we got it. And there’s still room to improve. So much room. But we’re being obedient, we’re being diligent, we’re being patient, and the blessings are flowing.

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this yet but President has banned tracting. Banned it. Completely. No knocking allowed.

We work through the members. Or we “go where the people are”.

So in Naples that means the beach right? I’m joking we haven’t done that…..yet…..

As soon as some time frees up we’ll get creative. Zoo trip maybe?

But for now the work is here and we’re laboring in this vineyard like there’s no tomorrow.

Yesterday, we tried to contact another less-active. She wasn’t home so we decided to walk down the street to another potential investigator that came to English Class once. We walked literally 5 steps when a man called out to us from across the street, “You’re from a church right?” And started jabbering away about how he wanted to learn more about the Bible and how to be on the right path. He might have been a little high…but that’s okay because he said he’ll call us and that he’ll start reading the Book of Mormon. Shortly after, his friend [who was sober, thank goodness] drove up to us and said he wanted a card too. If nothing else, maybe we’ll get some new English Class students!

Sembrando semillas. That’s what we do. Talking to everyone. You never know who’s really ready.

Love you all so much!

Hermana Lewis

xoxo

Transfer Results

November 4, 2013

Guess who’s on car share again.

But this time coming to you from the “dirty south” aka Naples.

I went from being right in the thick of it all in Tampa to getting shipped down to the farthest South mission a sister missionary can go, Bahia B.

And it’s awesome. Minus the biking. [of all the things I like to do….]

So I’m gonna be honest. The transfer meeting caught me COMPLETELY off-guard. I was nearly convinced I was staying in Tampa. So I didn’t really do a great job of saying goodbye to everyone. So it was a little hard to leave….Ah well. There’s always Facebook after the mish right? But I’m really so excited about this new area. My new companion is Hermana Finlayson and we are going to absolutely explode this area this transfer. It’s gonna happen. We’re determined to bring about miracles.

The ward rocks so much. The bishop, Bishop Rodriguez, reminds me a lot of dad. He knows everyone and missionary work is his #1 priority. Ward council yesterday was absolute heaven, I’ve never been in a meeting so efficient. I also got the opportunity to bear my testimony yesterday as it was my first Sunday in the ward. And play piano…..rather clumsily. Seriously, I wish I had worked harder on my piano skills before the mish. It’s coming back to bite me. But there’s no time like the present right? Never thought I’d get called as a ward pianist!

I had my first “I cannot eat this” moment this week. We went over to a recent convert’s house for dinner before we took her over to a lesson. She fed us the norm Cuban food: pork, rice, beans. It was all fine and dandy til she pulled out dessert. I kid you not, it was half a cup of cream cheese–straight cream cheese–with guava sauce poured over it. Now I’m all for guava and cheese. Guava and cheese pastries are directly from heaven. But, a huge hunk of cream cheese? with a little guava sauce to flavor it? no. no no no no no.

But I did it. I ate that entire cream cheese ball and all the sauce. I’m sure my face was priceless. That’s what Hermana Finlayson told me at least.

She wants us to come eat every Saturday now. We’re going to have to pray long and hard about that one.

I couldn’t eat anything else all night. Luckily we’re on bikes. And the next day was fast sunday.

If only that was the only one….. we went to see an old investigator. This super old man who lives alone so we had a lesson on his porch. He kept insisting on giving us food. He gave us some delicious lemon cake. I was in heaven. Til he insisted we have some juice to go with it. He pours it into Hermana Finlayson’s cup first. “hmmm that does not look orange…it looks rather brown” I thought. That should have been my first clue. He poured me a glass and yeah…it tasted a little off. A lot off. So me and Hermana looked at each other and decided the best option is just to chug it.

Only that just made him think we were super thirsty so he offered us more. This time Hermana looked at the expiration date.

…………………….

July 28.

It was 4 months expired. No way were we about to drink that again. So I used my super missionary skills and when he got up to grab something I tossed the remaining liquid out the door. And then did it again for Hermana Finlayson. We gotta have each other’s backs when there’s rancid orange juice involved ya know?

But in all reality. I’m hitting this transfer with a new “animo” for the work. The circumstances are perfect: I have a hardworking, obedient, willing companion. A ward that’s focused on missionary work. A full area book. And the Lord on my side.

And like M. Russell Ballard said, “When we’re doing our best and we’re on the Lord’s errand, it’s impossible for us to fail.”

Ready for some “exito”.

Oh, and I just got Willy’s email address so I’m gonna end this now and email her!

Love you all!

Hermana Lewis

Last Panera meal with Hermana Newbill as my companion.

Last Panera meal with Hermana Newbill as my companion.

I will miss having Hermana Newbill as my companion. We have enjoyed serving in Tampa together!

I will miss having Hermana Newbill as my companion. We have enjoyed serving in Tampa together!

Genesis, our best member missionary!

Genesis, our best member missionary!

End of Transfer Miracles and SO Many Changes!

October 28, 2013

Transfer calls were Saturday. Hermana Newbill and I are both getting transferred and shutting down our apartment. Basically the mission is getting turned upside down. More than 170 missionaries will be at the transfer meeting tomorrow…that’s over 2/3 of the mission. So yeahh…it’s gonna be loco. Just so you all have kind of an idea of what’s happening [that’s all anyone has here…just ideas and guesses]… basically all the Spanish areas are getting shut down while the English areas are going “Zebra”–teaching both Spanish and English. The mission has too many missionaries for the work that is happening so the majority of the mission will be in trios until it all equals out. So the Spanish missionaries are being distributed among the English companionships. That’s the trend. We’ll see what actually happens tomorrow. The Lord doesn’t tend to work logically.

This week was great though. I felt a lot less stress than I have in past weeks. I’ve laughed a lot more. I’m just trying to enjoy every second I have because time really is starting to fly.

This week we had a full-on miracle. They always seem to happen in those last weeks of the transfer. We were driving, and I had this strong impression we needed to go see an old investigator. I was thinking about it when something pulled me across 3 lanes over to the left-hand turning lane to go see him. I decided to go with it. When we pulled up to his house, nobody was home. “okay…..” I thought. We had put in our backup plans to go contact another referral in that area. We had tried to contact her a couple times before but with no success. We pulled up and saw a car outside. Yes. We knocked and waited awhile. and knocked again. We were about to turn back when she answered the door. We introduced ourselves and explained what we were doing..we had met her son in her driveway a couple weeks back and he referred us to her. She told us her name was Awilda and stated clearly, “I’m Baptist. I’m old and pretty set in my views and [looking down at the Book of Mormon in my hand] I’m good.” We thought she was about to close the door but the next thing we know, she’s inviting us in and insisting that we take a seat in her living room. Ooookayyyy…

She then pulled out her well-worn, well-loved, annotated, highlighted, gorgeous Bible. And her huge stack of study journals. She went on for a bit about how she didn’t ever want to miss something she’d learned from God because she had missed some promptings she’d gotten when she was younger so she writes down every day her study of the Bible. We mentioned we like to do the same thing and Hermana Newbill pulled out her English quad and opened up to a page in her Book of Mormon. Willy [short for Awilda] grabbed it right out of her hands and began to flip through. And read verses. She looked up at the top of the page and saw Alma. “What does this mean?” “that’s one of the prophets that wrote in this book.” And we began to explain a little about what the Book of Mormon is. “It looks strange because of ‘Alma’ but this…this sounds right.” she said, pointing to the verse she just read aloud. She flipped to Ether and started reading aloud about the Brother of Jared. “You know…I’ve never actually taken the time to read the Book of Mormon. I thought Romney was a great guy, not just because of his values but because of the spirit he carried with him when he spoke.”

We took that as our opportunity to testify. Hermana Newbill said, “This book has changed my life….and we invite you to let it change yours.” Willy basically snatched the fresh copy of the Book of Mormon we held out to her. “Thank you so much. I’ll be reading this.”  Well, somehow we got to the topic of her preacher and she showed us his website. “Willy. We have a website too!” We showed her mormonchannel.org, mormon.org, and lds.org and watched a couple videos, including Elder Uchtdorf’s talk from this General Conference.

She looooooooved it.

“When I hear this…it’s like hearing my pastor speak. We’re not too far from each other in our beliefs are we? You know, I’ve had other churches come to my door. I’m polite to them and listen to what they have to say, but after 5 or so minutes I tell them ‘thank you but I’m already Christian and I’m good. But with you girls it’s different. You have a different Spirit with you..you brought Christ with you into my house…I don’t believe in coincidences. I know everything happens for a reason. You came to my door for a reason. I’ll probably write about you two in my journal tonight!!”

We later found out that that day was her only day off that week. Wow.

I felt like I was on a cloud. I thought about her all week. I had butterflies. I prayed for her with everything I had. It was love at first sight…..missionary-style.

We set an appointment to go see Willy on Saturday but when we got there she was in bed with the flu. “I thought about you all morning but I lost your number!” We gave her our number and stopped by later that day with some treats. She proudly showed us the Book of Mormon she had sitting right next to her on the couch and said, “You girls are so special…God couldn’t have sent anyone else.”

I hope I stay in this area. I can’t leave her.

But all is according to God’s will.

After the experiences I’ve had in this area, I feel like I could take on the world. I have grown so much and I am so grateful for everything I have learned. This mission has truly changed the person I will become.

I know this church is true. I love being able to testify of the Book of Mormon every single day. I love seeing lives change. I love having confidence knowing that I’m called of the Lord. I love my Savior.

And I love you all!!

Love,

Hermana Lewis

xoxo

Chalking!

Chalking!

Birthday celebration... Cuban-style!

Birthday celebration… Cuban-style!

Our cute, district hermanas... love them SO much!

Our cute, district hermanas… love them SO much!

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Halloween fun!

Halloween fun!