An EXCEPTIONAL Week!

June 16, 2014

 

BEST WEEK EVERRRRRR!!!

 

I mean every week in the mish is pretty fantastic but this week was exceptional. <— Elder Clark insisted we start using this word. He also insisted that President and Sister Cusick kiss at every zone conference and we rate their kiss. He’s a funny guy, that Elder Clark.

 

Anyways. We have seen so many amazing blessings for deciding to do everything we could to work with the ward and drop our investigators that weren’t progressing. We didn’t realize how number-driven we had become until we threw numbers out the window a few weeks ago. We started focusing on teaching people. Finding out their specific needs and teaching them accordingly. Going back to the basics. This week we saw more success than we ever had!! I don’t like to ever report numbers in these letters because missionary work is so different in every part of the world. But, I will say that we got more member present lessons than I have ever gotten in my entire mission. And not by one or two….we doubled my record. It was pretty exceptional. But it wasn’t exceptional because of the number. It was exceptional because we could see these people progressing and keeping commitments and coming closer to Christ so much better than they were a few weeks ago.

 

Not only that, but our teaching pool has completely changed. We took a huge dive of faith and have dropped basically everyone we were teaching. Because, although we love them with everything we have in us, they weren’t going anywhere. And we weren’t taking care of everyone in our area, just the ones we knew and felt comfortable with. So we had some hard lessons again this week. Some heart-wrenching, “this-is-your-chance” lessons that left me feeling sick to my stomach. But it had to happen.

Because we had other people waiting for us.

 

One of them is Jorge.

He is the cousin of a member in the Naples ward and fresh from Cuba. Doesn’t speak a lick of English. Hermana Fernandez explained that one of the rules for family staying in their house is that they come to church and take the missionary discussions. So we are teaching him. But, I’ve never seen someone so excited to learn what we teach. Last lesson, we gave him the Book of Mormon. He eagerly grabbed a pen and asked me if I would write a note in it for him. I felt like a superstar. I love teaching him, especially because we teach in the Fernandez home and the Spirit is there so it just feels like home to me. I’ve never appreciated how peaceful our house is til coming on the mission. Our house has the Spirit. It’s a real thing. I’m so grateful for it. Anyways Jorge is working toward baptism. Pray for him.

Gavin, Carmen’s grandson, is also progressing so well. I think my favorite comment from him this week was when we were trying to explain the Holy Ghost–happy, peaceful feelings. He paused and thought for a second… “So I meet the Holy Ghost every time I walk into GameStop or Toys R Us??” He’s a little bit too smart for his own good. But we love him.

 

Adonis, Rosie and Gledin’s cousin, is also praying about a date right now. He is so ready but doesn’t realize it. Pray for him too. And Jose.

 

We met some less actives this week too. One of them being Alberto Pajaro’s sister!! We are excited to work with them. Because to me teaching less actives is just as good as baptisms. Sometimes better.

 

I swear it doesn’t get any better than this work I’m doing right here right now. I’m trying to ignore the fact that I only have X number of weeks left. I can’t even bring myself to type it. Asdokwdjsjdhf. <—that’s how I feel.

 

But we are looking forward to another exceptional week here.

Have an exceptional one yourselves.

Love you exceptionally. [Now I’m just making words up.]

Hermana Lewis.

xoxoxo

 

 

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Who Am I to Judge?

June 10, 2014

 

Hellooooooo todos.

 

Hooray for mission conferences. Elder Clark of the 70 came and spoke to half the mission yesterday (the northern half gets him today), and holy heavens it was exactly what me and Hermana Fin had been praying for. I think she said it best: “it’s the first time walking out of a conference feeling like I got more than just a pat on the back…he actually told us we’re not doing enough!” And he did. He straight up called us to repentance a couple times–in a loving, funny, but very serious way–and it was oh so refreshing. We walked out with the determination to “fear no man” to “not waste a single second of the lords time” to plan better than we ever have before and to be diligent until the end. Sometimes I’m tempted to tell people to be missionaries just cause of when the general authorities come. Now obviously that’s not why someone should go on a mission. But it is a perk. A very large perk.

 

We’ve done better this week. We were dead set on working with the members and now all these part member families are falling into our laps. Carmen (our best member missionary friend and recent convert of 10 months) had her son move in with his kids. Her granddaughter Kailee just got baptized in Fort Lauderdale (and she knows Elder Taylor! I think he went to her baptism?), and she is the best little missionary. We are now teaching Gavin, her little brother, and Ernie, her dad. Carmen’s son. This is the biggest miracle ever for her that they moved in. We taught the first lesson to Gavin on Sunday night and it was the most hilarious thing ever. He is ridiculously intelligent and witty for an 11-year-old. I wish everyone could have heard that lesson. “What is she doing here?” “Well kailee will get mad if I say what I wanted to so she’s praying.” “Yes she is…what were you going to say?” “I was gonna say she’s sleeping.” “Um. Do you sleep looking like that?” “NO. but who am I to judge?” That wasn’t even the funniest part, but I can’t remember what else he said right now. He was so reluctant at the beginning, but by the end of the lesson he said, “this is the most fun I’ve had NOT being outside.” I love Gavin.

 

We watched the restoration video with all the kids and Ernie actually came in and joined us! (Another miracle, he usually stays in his room) We asked his other son, Tristan, what he thought of the video when it was over and he said, “I like that God forgives everyone even if we do something wrong.” The look on Ernie’s face was so proud. And Kailee is on fire with her testimony. She kept telling her dad, “I love this video it’s my favorite….ooh watch this it’s the best part!….now how did you feel when you watched it?” 13-year-old missionary boss. Carmen was in absolute Heaven. She’s been praying for this for so long. Direct blessings for the sacrifices she makes and the service she gives. It’s amazing.

 

We met Cristina this week too. On Wednesday we were trying to “find”…my least favorite missionary activity…in a park. As we pulled up, everyone headed out because it started to rain lightly. But we saw a mom get out of her car and set up lunch under the pavilion with her two boys. Right at that moment, Sonia texted us back confirming our appt with her. We were about to leave when I felt strongly that we needed to go talk to this mother. I rushed out with the intention to just give her a pass along card and maybe get her info, but as I got closer, I realized she was on the phone. “Just do it” I thought. So I slid her the card and timidly mentioned that she should check out the site. She put the phone on hold and responded back with a smile,”yeah of course!” So I kept going….”and as missionaries we come visit people and teach them about Christ….maybe we could visit you one day?” “Yeah I would love that! It will just have to be somewhere else, cause I don’t have a house right now.”

 

Whoa. We got her info and met with her that Saturday in that same park. Basically, she is wanting to go back to church. She’s had a rough life but she is such an amazing mom of a 9 year old and a 4 year old boy.

On Sunday, she was at church. Naples ward. ..and it was incredible. And she wants to keep coming back.

 

So many other miracles this week too. Too many to count.

 

Time is flying. Wish it would stop. But I’m enjoying every sec.

 

I love you all!!!

Love,

Hermana Lewis.

Xoxoxo

 

You Little Mexican!

June 2, 2014

 

You all are going to be so confused when I come home. I’ve officially turned into a Mexican. Let me explain. As we unloaded our groceries this morning (cause new money yay!) Hermana Fin looks over at me and says in the sassiest voice, “You little Mexican!!” I look up confused. “What? Why?”

And then I looked at the flan, arepas, avocado, onion and jalepeños I just put in the fridge and looked back at the beans and rice still on the counter.

Oh………right………..

We’ll just chalk it up to loving the culture. Yep. I love it a lot. 

 

Hurricane season is officially back! Welcome Florida summer number 2!!! Weather forecast? Ridiculous humid heat and sunshine in the morning, power-washer-style thunderstorm in the afternoon, and back to wet sticky heat at night. Yum. I have this little area on the back of my head that never gets dry because I’m either sweating or it’s raining or I just took a shower. FLORIDA IS FUN. 

 

This week we realized we were in a huge rut. We continue to visit the people that aren’t progressing, because we just love them. But, mostly because we were fearful. We took a huge dive of faith and dropped half our investigators. This is the second time in like 2 weeks we’ve done that and it’s never fun. We suddenly end up with all this free time and no clue what to do with it. Except finding. 

 

But, we definitely saw some miracles. Especially in working with the members. Me and Hermana Fin were talking about how hard it is to just drop everyone and how it’s going to take a lot of faith and hard work to find those who are waiting for us as we pulled up to a members house. She asked us to come over a long time ago and now that we have open area within the ward we can do that. So we walked in, all prepared to teach her the first lesson and ask for referrals. Her nonmember husband (who I tried to talk to at church a few weeks ago….and who resisted strongly) turned off ESPN, sat down on the church and said,

“I’ve come to church for a couple weeks now. I come because I like it. I want to become a member. What do I have to do to take that step?”

 

I wish someone could have captured me and Hermana’s faces on camera. I’m positive our faces were priceless. Jaws dropped, eyes wide, trying not to grin hugely. 

 

“We can make that happen!” We replied. Trying not to squeal.

Jose now has a baptismal date set for June 19th. It’s soon. Pray for him. 

 

We also were able to teach another part member family who we have been trying to teach for….basically the entire 7 months I’ve been here. And we set 3 baptismal dates. 

Miracles on miracles on miracles. They are real. 

 

We have been realizing a lot lately that the adversary works on us because he tries to make us feel discouraged about our weaknesses and shortcomings. He makes us feel like because we struggle in certain aspects of the work, we are sinning. When that is SO not the case. Weakness and rebellion are very different things. Weaknesses are from The Lord so that we can stay humble and eventually turn those weaknesses into strengths as we rely on Him. Rebellion, however, is outright and purposeful disobedience against the commandments.

 

Sister missionaries are so hard on themselves…and it’s a widespread problem. But I’m trying to overcome this. To view myself as The Lord views me. He doesn’t condemn or get angry or taunt us when we are trying our best and fall short. That is the adversary. Our Heavenly Father speaks to us in loving tones. He knows our hearts and he knows our true potential. He is proud when we succeed and He encourages us to get up and try again when we fail. His love is unchanging and he is always forgiving. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t treat ourselves the same way. 

 

I love you all so much!! Enjoy your beautiful summers and vacations…..I’ll just try to stay dry. And happy. Because missionaries are always happy. 

 

Love,

Hermana Lewis. 

xoxo 

 

 

GOING BACK

May 26, 2014

 

Okay first things first.

I AM STAYING IN NAPLES AND SO IS HERMANA FIN AND WE ARE SO HAPPY TOGETHERRRRRRRR!! <—sing that last little phrase.

 

I’m killing her off. Which is only appropriate as we’ve been through so much in this last 7 months. Who better to walk her (slash sprint with her) through the last 6 weeks of her mission than ME her favorite companion? Just kidding we don’t have favorites. But like.  Obviously, I’m the girl for the job.

 

This week it was apparent just how hard Satan has been working on us these last couple weeks. The burden is lifted and we have been able to just work. Besides a sick day [missionary work is really hard on the body and we’ve both experienced some rather uncomfortable symptoms lately.] we’ve really gotten back into things. A huge blessing because we have such a short time left!!!

Ahh I don’t want to think about it.

 

We have seen miracles this week, just like any other. But I think the theme, at least in my head, has been the future. I realized as I talked with investigators, members, and other missionaries, that I have a LOT of life left to live. I have a lot of trials to face. A lot of decisions to make. A lot of tragedies to mourn. It all seems so daunting at times. I mean, my life has been pretty peachy so far. Born of goodly parents, taught the right things, no sudden deaths, no siblings gone astray…don’t get me wrong. My family has had our share of trials but I look around and think, “what could Heavenly Father possibly have in store for me?”

 

I’m so grateful I’ve had this opportunity here to learn and prepare myself for whatever it may be. I tell people all day every day that reading the scriptures, going to church, and praying will solve all their problems. That all they have to do is read the Book of Mormon and they will be happy. It seems to be the most unlikely connection. But when people have that faith to just try it out, they see miracles. I’ve been here for 15 months watching these miracles from a front-row seat. It builds my own faith and prepares me for the future.

 

As I’m heading into the last 12 weeks of my mission, I’m praying that my conversion deepens enough to last. That the walls I’m building up are strong enough to hold up against the hurricanes of life. That’s my focus. Permanent, lasting, change.

 

President has talked to us a lot lately about “going back”. Too many missionaries finish their missions and “go back” to the people they were before the mission. Not that they were ‘bad’ before or even after. But what was the point of the 18 months to 2 years spent laboring and praying and changing little by little to come home and go back to being exactly the same? It does us no good and it’s the opposite of what we are trying to accomplish. To be perfectly honest, “going back” is my biggest fear. I can’t preach repentance and change and hope and a better future and go home without living it. As Elder Holland said, our missions are first for us–the missionaries. Heavenly Father can do his own work and he doesn’t need a bunch of immature 18 to 20-something year olds doing it. But he does need those immature 18 to 20-something year olds to grow up and be leaders one day. To raise righteous families and do good in the world. And so he gives us this 18 month to 2 year training center to learn how to do what He will require of us later. The mission is an MTC for our lives. Basically.

And we cannot go back.

 

And so I’m ready to get going on this transfer–my last with Hermana Fin. Ready to learn and grow and change and improve myself to the point where I won’t go back. And I won’t even want to.

Here’s to 12 more weeks.

 

Much love,

Hermana Lewis

xoxo