CAMILO

May 19, 2014

Me and Hermana Fin are back to normal!!
We just felt the biggest burden lifted off our shoulders and we laughed til we cried for the first time in way too long.

There’s not a lot to say but I want to tell about yesterday. Bishop gave us permission to do a training for everyone during the 3rd hour. The subject? What else. HASTENING THE WORK. We taught the members how to invite and reach out and be friends and bring people to church. And it was really incredible…we got really positive feedback from the members and they are already excited to help.

But the most powerful moment happened pretty abruptly. Brother Newsome stood up and interrupted us, basically mid-sentence, so they could ordain one of the young men to the priesthood because they didn’t have opening exercises.
The young man being ordained was Camilo.

I don’t know if I have ever talked about Camilo. He’s special. He comes with Hermana Lupita and has come to church since he was around 6. He is the same age as Lupita’s son, although they are not really close friends anymore. He keeps coming just because he likes church. He was baptized when he was 8. One day, Hermana Fin asked him, “Camilo. When were you baptized?” He responded quickly, “September 11, 2010” “Wow, how do you remember that??” ……..”Because it was one of the best days of my life!!”

Camilo has become part of our Bahia family. He talks to everyone he sees. He is notorious for eating all the food in the kitchen, whether or not he knows whose it is. He is a hugger. He is the only member in his family. And he loves more purely than anyone I have ever met in my life. His parents support him, but are not involved in the church. Regardless, Camilo has the biggest desire to go on a mission.
Everyone loves Camilo.

He sat down in the chair in front of the room and Brother Montes explained that he would be ordained to the Aaronic priesthood. As he proceeded to give him that blessing, the Spirit was strong. At the end, the majority of the room was wiping their eyes. Camilo leaned into Brother Montes and sobbed. He could hardly stand up he was so ovewhelmed. We all know Camilo’s story. And we all know how pure he is. But none of us could imagine the weight this strong 12-year-old boy must feel as the priesthood leader in his family. He is leading his family in faith, hoping that one day they will follow his example. He wants more than anything for his mom to be baptized and be part of the church. And despite her disinterest, he continues to hope, staying firm in the things he knows best.
It was a moment I can never forget.

We got back up and were more or less speechless. “This is why we are here.” We explained. “We want everyone to feel this happiness, this unity, this love that we feel. Camilo is bringing that to his family. We want to bring it to the world. This is the best work on the earth. We have a front row seat to the miracles of God. And we want you all to see these miracles as well. The feeling when someone is baptized or ordained to the priesthood, or even just reads the Book of Mormon for the first time is indescribable. But it’s the best feeling in the world. We want you all to feel that.”
And we continued with our training.

But that moment had such an impact on me. Really. This is why I’m here. To help people receive the blessings that God has in store for them. And he has so many. More than we could ever imagine.

I am so grateful for my own family, and for the fact that we can stand strong and grow in the gospel together. They are my rock and my support. I have so much respect for people like Camilo or Hermana Reyes or Hermano Maldonado who are doing this completely on their own. Walking in blind faith that one day their loved ones will accept the gospel.

I know the things we teach are true. And they bring happiness. Without a doubt.
I love you all and I am so grateful for you!
Love,
Hermana Lewis.
xoxoxo

RECALIBRATION

May 12, 2014

Dear Family,

I cannot believe that was the last time I will talk to my dear family on Skype from Florida. Sometimes I still feel like my mission will never end. I will just be a missionary forever. Which I will….but the plaque has to come off at some point. Kind of dreading that day.

This week was a hard one, so that Mother’s Day call couldn’t have come at a better time. I am so obsessed with my cute little family it’s unreal. You give me strength.

But, the funny thing was (and don’t get mad at this) at the end of that phone call, I had no longing to go home. No feelings of homesickness, no “trunkiness”, no sadness. I felt completely happy and at peace. It was like, “hey family. Glad you’re still alive. Love you. But I’ll see you in a few months, I’ve got some work to do for The Lord right now.” I know without a doubt that this is where I’m supposed to be and this is what I’m supposed to be doing. The swig trips and soccer games and conversations around the dinner table long after we’ve finished eating…..those will have their time. Right now my time is The Lord’s.

I’m not really sure why this week was so hard except for the fact that the adversary is really mean sometimes. It really wasn’t a bad week numbers-wise. But as every missionary knows, the week before the baptism is brutality at its finest. Everything that could go wrong, does. Like 2 of our investigators having a huge family crisis……or another investigator ending up in the hospital…..another going out of town unexpectedly…..another just not wanting to be baptized anymore…….is this a missionary nightmare? Nope it’s real life. Every single one of those happened. This is from my journal:

“For the last week I have felt this growing dark cloud over my head. A
weight on my shoulders. A pressing on my chest. And a heart drained of
hope.
It happened to me in Wauchula, and even a little bit in Tampa. But
this is the worst one I’ve felt. And it’s me and Hermana Finlayson
together. This giant black storm cloud hanging over our heads. And
yes, Hermana Ashby, it’s anvil-shaped.

It clouds my mind, skews my view, jumbles my thoughts to the point
where I can’t see a way out. My brain can’t put together logical
solutions. My body feels exhausted. And my heart feels bruised.
Mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually drained. And the worst
part is, I know it’s the adversary. I’m completely aware that he is
working harder than ever to stop the work we are doing. But just
because I know it’s him, doesn’t change the fact that he’s beating me
up and I can’t seem to be able to do a thing about it.

It’s small things that led me to this point. Exchange exhaustion,
stress about Noche Blanca, pressure of being a leader, investigators
falling through on their interviews, members expectations and zero
help in return, and just the pure thought of all the time and effort
and blood and sweat and TEARS we have put into these people.

This day just felt heavier and heavier until we kneeled down
[or fell down…] to start nightly planning and just cried.

I said a prayer of pure gratitude to Heavenly Father
because it was what I think I needed at the time. One of those
“grateful in our circumstances” kind of things. Hermana Fin and I got
up from that prayer and just hugged each other and bawled for a
second…or two…

We’ve had it pretty good for awhile. Rainbows and butterflies. I guess
this is what we get for asking for more faith. “This must be how
parents feel when their child disappoints them.” Hermana mentioned,
“maybe it’s just another preparation for the future.”
…….Shoot………yeah……hope not………..

But missionary work is just really hard sometimes. It just builds and
builds and builds and sometimes. I break. It’s not life or death. But
I just love these people so much and after one of our strong investigators
decided not to be baptized….crying was all I could think to do.

These people don’t realize how much they mean to us. How much we pray for them,
worry about them, think about them, day in and day out.
It’s selfish of me but I’m glad Hermana fin is feeling this with me.
Glad we can cry together. Mourn with and comfort each other. Even when
we both feel hopeless. I need to sleep. Tomorrow will be a better day.”

But after having the breakdown of our lives on Thursday, me and Hermana Fin have been getting back into the game. And we are ready. Ready to work til we drop (I feel like I say that a lot…..I guess missionaries just need a lot of recalibration and motivation.) and leave everything we have on the table…slash in the field….until we have nothing left to give. We are down to 8 and 14 weeks, this is not the time to hold back. Not the time to be comfortable. Not the time to cut corners.

So no more of that. From now on, we are going to be Alma and Amulek, Ammon and Aaron, Peter and John. We are applying dad’s best phrase: You can do the things you want to do when you do the things you are supposed to do. Because missionary work is not about routine and it’s not about comfort. It’s about doing the best we can every single day and going to bed knowing you gave that day our all. It’s about finding the little miracles and relying on the Spirit because it’s the only choice we have. It’s about setting goals that stretch and push and mold us in ways we never could have imagined. It’s about doing His work in His way in His time.

So that’s what we’re doing.
I can never thank you enough for all your love and support.
I love you.
Hermana Lewis.

TEMPLE DEDICATION AND JEANS. TWICE.

May 5, 2014

 

Ahhhh this week. 

 

Okay so last Monday was “Zone Unity Day”…..basically we got permission to wear jeans (what?!?! I know we freaked out too.) and play. Like all day. I might have got my hands on a volleyball. And I might have loved it. And me and Hermana Newbill and Hermana Finlayson might all be tearing it up in BYU intermurals when we get home. It was hilarious. We played ninja attack and ultimate frisbee and every classic EFY game you can think of. and then ate pizza. And played some more. 

 

Friday we got to wear jeans again!! Yay jeans. Except not cause I quickly realized skirts are more comfy and I might be one of those return missionaries who just wears skirts all the time. [Who’s on my “normalize Hermana Lewis” team?]

 

We got rained out at the beach for MLC but that was okay because we had one of the best most productive MLCs I have ever seen. President talked to us a lot about faith. He told us that faith is what the mission needs right now. That we need to really believe in what we’re doing and who has called us here to do it. We have power beyond what we can imagine and Heavenly Father is right there willing to help us if we only have faith in Him. “We see miracles all the time in the Book of Mormon. There is no reason why those miracles can’t happen right now,” He insisted, “if Christ were here right now, this is the message He would tell you. That you need more faith.” That really had me thinking all weekend. I think as missionaries we see disappointment so often that it’s hard to maintain that childlike faith that the brother of Jared had. But that’s what The Lord requires of us. That we be a little creative, stretch ourselves a little, go get some “rocks” and bring our plan to Him. He is so willing to help us. So willing to give us what we want. But first, we have to show Him that we believe in Him.

 

[I thought of you Garrett. I’m praying for you. I know this is a hard trial that you’re going through. But just have faith that it will be for your good. Whatever happens. There are no accidents, that’s something I have learned so strongly on the mission. Just keep doing the right thing and Heavenly Father will guide you in the right way. I love you!]

 

Sunday was the temple dedication. Holy heavens that was incredible. President Uchtdorf is so cool. And walking into the chapel, it was evident that it was transformed into an extension of the temple. We were all a little frustrated at first because the people around us were not treating it as such. But after the dedication we stayed in the chapel a little longer. [if it isn’t obvious, we miss the temple] we sat in that room and listened to Motab and watched the slideshow of the different rooms in the temple. Just the 4 of us. And the feeling was identical to that which I felt in the celestial room of the Fort Lauderdale temple a couple weeks back. Such a calm tranquility. None of us wanted to leave. One of the stake high councilmen came over to us with tears in his eyes, grabbed our hands and said, “sisters. We are in the house of The Lord. I just want to thank you for the work you’re doing for my brothers and sisters who haven’t found the gospel yet. I am a Lamanite. And I hope that after this life we will be together and be friends and rejoice.” Well even Hermana Despain was crying after that. 

 

I think what I love most about the temple is that it reminds us all of the eternal perspective. Reminds us that even the largest of trials are only a small moment. We’re only here for a short time. But the reward that awaits us is so much greater than we can imagine. 

 

Please don’t ever take the temple for granted. Go as often as you can. 

I love you all so much and I know we will be rejoicing together after this life!!

 

Love,

Hermana Lewis 

xoxo

 

 

Golden Oldies!

April 28, 2014

 

This week has been a little crazy. And I’m sure this coming week will be crazier. We get to wear jeans twice. More to come on that next week.

 

The theme this week was old investigators. So when we entered all the information onto the new iPad area books, we had a cutoff of about 6 months back, so there were some people who we knew that didn’t make it into the book. But this week we went back and saw 4 of them. We weren’t even trying. But Heavenly Father just kept putting these people, not just in our path, but literally right in front of our face.

 

One is Wadeth. One of our less-active members is renting a room in her house. It’s amazing to see the change in her. Before, she knew she wasn’t giving enough time to God and felt like she needed to go to church. Then she peaced out to California for a few months and just came back for a couple weeks. We happened to catch her. And she is sooooo interested in learning more! She came to an activity on Thursday and even cooked us food 🙂 We gave her the Book of Mormon the other day and she grabbed it out of my hands and hugged it to her chest “now I’ll have something to read on the plane! I have a bible but it’s in English and I just can’t read it. But this is in Spanish and it’s just perfect!” The only problem is…..she leaves back to California tomorrow for a month. She is incredible though.

 

Then we finally got ahold of Bryan, the son of an old investigator we’ve been trying to contact for awhile. His ex-step-dad is a member (I know it’s a stretch) and they used to go to our church! He reminds me of Noe. Only a little younger. He prayed specifically that Heavenly Father would protect him from temptation around him. What 14-year-old prays for that? That whole family is so sweet. I can’t wait to teach them all.

 

And Reina and Alfonso. We met Alfonso my very first week in Naples….6 months ago. We saw them outside when one of our members wasn’t home so we went and talked with them. They invited us right in and were eager for us to teach them. Last night we taught them the first lesson and it was amazing. Reina was taught years ago by a missionary named Hermana Lopez and she could not stop Now I know how to pray and how to read the bible. I will never forget her.” And now, her husband is joining the bandwagon. They are such a blessing.

 

Even if they don’t all get baptized this time around, we were led to them for a reason. I’m so sure of that. They need to at least be in the area book! And the difference we’ve seen is unbelievable. We were the missing link. If we hadn’t been here for so long, they might have gotten lost along the way. But Heavenly Father really does guide us to His prepared people. It also gave me so much comfort to know that the people I’m working with now….maybe it’s not their time. But that doesn’t mean there’s no hope. Who knows what could happen 6 months or 6 years down the road?

 

We can never predict who is ready. We just have to invite everyone. Talk to everyone. Love everyone. And Heavenly Father will do the preparing. His work will be carried out. Despite the fact that He works through us, the very weak and very simple.

 

I love being a missionary!!!

 

Love,

Hermana Lewis

xoxo