The End.

Dear Family and Friends,

I guess I should preface this with the update that after talking with President Cusick and much fasting and prayer, we decided that when you look at good, better, and best use of my time these last couple weeks of my mission, the BEST option for me is to come home a couple weeks early. This will be my last email home as Hermana Lewis, as a representative of Jesus Christ, as a missionary. This conclusion hasn’t come easily. My heart feels as though it’s ripped in half and my mantra all week has been, “it had to end sometime.” But, I feel very peaceful about it all. I’ve had some really solid heart-to-hearts with my Heavenly Father this week. I feel that I’ve finished my mission strong and that my effort has been enough for Him. I’ve offered up my best 18-month sacrifice on the altar and He has accepted it. It’s a good feeling.

This week has been another incredible one. As have the 68 before it. It always amazes me just how much I can learn in one week on the mission. Each week brings different challenges and lessons. This week was a test of faith, especially on Thursday. We were weekly planning when Esperanza called and told us her ride to her baptism fell through. OH NO.. We called all over the place but couldn’t find anyone. I think we called Esperanza 20 times that day, trying to make sure she could get to her baptism. This back and forth calling, worrying, and praying lasted until 7:45 pm. 15 minutes before the baptism started, she pulled up to the church and gracefully walked in as if nothing had happened. From there on, the baptism went beautifully. She was beaming all night. She felt like a queen, I’m sure. I can’t think of a better way to finish out. She was confirmed yesterday. I asked how she felt. “Tranquila. Limpia. Perfecta.” Or…”Calm. Clean. Perfect.” I’m so happy. Missionary work is so happy!! Besides that little miracle, we received a thousand big miracles and reached more goals this week than I have ever reached in my entire mission. All across the board.

The Lord really does guide this work. We stopped by to see a referral from the English sisters. We called her and everything to set up this appointment but when we got there, the lady she rents from told us she was at work and works until late. We continued to talk and found out that this lady is widowed and her husband was Mormon back when they lived in Peru! We ended up teaching her the first lesson right then and there and she loved it. I know that her husband had a hand in sending us there. On Saturday night we were having a lesson with a recent convert in the church. I had this anxious feeling that we needed to get out of there. We wrapped up the lesson and headed to our next appointment. We hadn’t seen this golden family in a couple weeks because they are so hard to get ahold of but we found them at home. They told us halfway through the lesson that they actually had planned on leaving to fix the car. We got there just in time. Little miracles like this. They happen literally every day. That is what I’m going to miss.

And here I am facing my last week on the front row seat of the miracle show. And my mind and heart are stuffed with emotions.

I’m excited to see my family. After a year and a half of not seeing them, I sometimes forget that they exist. I can’t wait to hug them. And hold babies.

I’m nervous for how I’m going to handle this trial that my family is facing. I’m pretty removed from it all out here so I don’t think it’s hit me how real it is. But I look forward to holding Kenzie’s hand and supporting my family with more than just prayers.

I’m terrified to pop my missionary bubble and return to the real world. i.e., dating, the news, movies, dating, college, bills, work, dating, a social life, dating……let’s be honest. I’m terrified of dating.

I’m heartbroken to leave my Bahia Ward family. I’m going to miss being the ward pianist and giving Sophia and Bella “ballinas de la Hermana Lewis”. I’ll miss our crazy baptisms and the abundance of delicious food that magically comes together for every event. They’ve supported me through all this. They even prayed for Kenzie in the sacrament meeting opening prayer yesterday. I love them so much.

I’m dreading the idea of taking off the tag. It’s become a part of me. I don’t feel ready to be a normal civilian. Being a representative of Jesus Christ is too much fun!

I’m grateful. Grateful I felt the need to serve a mission in the first place. For the experiences I’ve had, for everything I’ve learned, for the way I’ve changed, for what I have become. It’s not a sacrifice if you receive more blessings than you can imagine. I remain, even after 18 months of full-time service, incredibly indebted to my Heavenly Father.

I’m happy. I am so incredibly happy. There’s no other word for it. I feel alive.

I don’t know quite how to end this. I think that’s why they say we should end talks in a testimony. So here goes.

I know that Christ is my Savior, Redeemer, and brother. He has been with me throughout my entire mission, walking by me, supporting me, and carrying me when I needed it most. I know my family can be together forever. That we will be together forever. And for that, we are able to “cheerfully submit to the will of The Lord” because we know whatever happens, it’s not the end. I know that the gospel of Christ is simple and will always keep us on the right path. I know God speaks to us today. That we have a prophet to lead and guide us. And the Holy Ghost to give us personal direction from day to day. Our Heavenly Father is so aware of us and everything we go through each and every day. He answers prayers. Always. I know this church is the church of Jesus Christ restored on the earth again. Christ himself is the head of this church. I’ve prayed and received my answer directly from God and I have witnessed so many people receive that answer themselves. I know the Book of Mormon strengthens our faith in the Savior. It was written for our day and every word was placed there for a reason. It gives me the power to overcome trials and keep the peace of The Lord with me every time I read it. It’s true. Hermana Despain always says, “Even if it wasn’t true, our church is so cool. It’s just perfect. But it is true!! And that makes it even better!” I know that anyone honestly searching for truth will find it. I know that my Heavenly Father loves me. Personally and perfectly.

And I love Him.

President Uchtdorf said that there are no endings, only infinite beginnings. So even though it seems that I am closing this chapter of my life, I’m really just beginning a new one.

I can’t wait to see what it will hold.

I love you.

See you in a week.

Love,

Hermana Lewis.

xoxoxo

A Baptism and LOTS of YELLOW!

July 21, 2014 

Hi!!!!!!

Oh my lanta it’s been a busy week. Okay.

FIRST. Gavin was baptized on Thursday! I am so giddy that he got baptized. He is a special kid. He is easily the most chivalrous 11-year-old I have ever met. Always concerned for everyone around him, especially his grandparents. His entire family came to his baptism. It was a loud, crazy Cuban affair. As are all our baptisms it seems. His older sister Kailee gave a talk and this Sunday, they were both confirmed. Oh happy day! Carmen is convinced that they are going to have to make a chapel out of her house, seeing as there are already 4 members and we’re currently teaching her son and other grandson. I’m fairly confident the entire DeAcosta family will be baptized.

 

Allllllso, we moved apartments. Yo odio la mudanza. But that’s okay cause we live in some really nice apartments now. We took over the Browers (the senior missionaries) old apartment. So even though we have to share a bathroom, we’re not complaining. And the tennis courts are conveniently located 10 steps from our front door. P day activity today?

 

We’ve been working so hard because we’ve combined our areas, so we are now covering and actively teaching all of Naples. And there are a LOT of people in Naples. We’re praying we can get more miles because if not, we’re going to be biking for my last missionary weeks. But it’s really exciting. We sat down to plan after Gavin’s baptism and realized–we have the potential to baptize…..EVERY SINGLE WEEK this transfer!! We squealed and jumped and Hermana Despain did the funniest happy dance I ever saw. We wrote the names down and we know it’s absolutely possible. And Heavenly Father is helping us.

 

Esperanza is back. She is doing lots better and still wants to be baptized. The only problem left…….transportation. We were trying and calling and praying to get her a ride to the church for her baptismal interview. And….nobody. That was Thursday afternoon. We got to the church to prep for Gavin’s baptism that night and we got a call from her. “Ya voy para la iglesia. Ya estoy en camino!” Um what?! Her friend, Alberto (who is a member of the ward but lives most of the time in Colombia) got back to the states and went and picked her up to bring her to church. Elder Walker came, she got her interview, her baptism is this Thursday!

 

Miracles miracles miracles.

And more to come.

As far as updates about home. I’m pretty sure I’ve talked to President Cusick more in the last 3 weeks than I have my entire mission. But I’m so grateful for him. And I continue to be so grateful for all the YELLOW nails, emails, prayers, and love that seems to come from all sides. I feel the strength of my family and this incredible support group that has formed in the last couple weeks. Family, friends, companions, other missionaries, and apparently youth groups in the UK?! Kenzie who in the heck do you know in the UK? But nonetheless, it’s been that strength that has kept me going as I continue to finish out my mission.

 

Heavenly Father really does give us just what we need in the moment we need it.

I am so happy and full of love.

 

For all of you.

Keep the faith. Miracles are real.

 

Love,

Hermana Lewis

xoxo

 

 
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Psych…I’m staying.

Hello family!

 

This week has been nuts and also the slowest weeks of my life. How does that keep happening? Time is supposed to go faster at the end I thought? So we dropped off Hermana Fin and it still hasn’t hit me that she is home, despite the picture she sent me of her in jeans. What are jeans? Weird. Nope, I’m just on a weird switch around exchange thing with Hermana Despain.

 

We were prepping to leave all day Monday Tuesday and Wednesday, making sure our investigators and recent converts and less actives don’t freak out when two new missionaries show up at their door. President was planning on whitewashing the area for some reason. He tried to call a couple times on Wednesday but we were super busy that day. Then at 9:30 at night, bags packed, exhausted, and sad, having said our last goodbyes at Carmen’s house, we get a call.

 

“Why don’t you just stay with Hermana Despain down in Naples?”

Well I don’t know President, why don’t I??

 

So we stayed.

Pretty sure the entire ward thinks we played a big fat prank on them. Especially after that sacrament meeting last week…People’s faces when they saw us were priceless. Hermana Cortes squeezed us and demanded, “Give me back my food love us. And we love them.

 

So it’s been a hectic week, between dropping Hermana Fin off, our trio with Hermana Lauricella, goodbyes, packing, unpacking, cleaning, planning (we and our regular proselyting, all with random calls from President to make sure I’m emotionally stable. But we’ve seen miracles. Lots of them.

 

I’ve felt so much support, especially this week. Thank you for the emails, they’ve helped get me through…sorry I can’t reply to all of them. Email time is too short!! I know my family is taken care of. And I’m grateful for that. It sounds like Kenz is continuing to fight hard, I’d expect nothing less from her. Literally every person I talk to asks how she’s doing. Carmen asks daily. Lupita painted her toes yellow. Óne comments on that page all the time. Kenzie you are in so many people’s prayers right now!! Including mine. You’re on my mind

 

And now we’re starting another, hopefully more stable, normal week. But, nothing is ever normal in missionary work so there you go. Pray for Gavin, his baptism is planned for this Thursday. We are so excited.

 

I love you all. Miracles are happening every day. And more to come.

Keep fighting Kenz. You are making so many people proud.

I love you.

Love,

Hermana Lewis.

xoxo

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The Hardest Week of My Life!

July 7, 2014

 

This week. Has been. The longest. Week. Of. My. Life.

 

Every day. Every hour. Has been filled with so much emotion. So many roller coasters.

 

I’m so grateful for my cute little trio. It’s been the best trio I’ve ever been in. I know it was inspired that we were put together when we were. In this week we have relied on each other more than ever. When Hermana Despain joined our companionship a week ago I felt like the monkey in the middle. It’s hard for a companion to go home and it’s hard to go home yourself….so I spent my time between the two of them making sure they were both stable and that everything was running smoothly. It’s been the biggest blessing that we get along so well, especially with everything we’ve been going through.

 

But then, on the 4th of July, I fell too.

 

I’m sure you’ve all heard by now. But for my missionary friends who haven’t heard….my little sister Makenzie got in a serious accident this week. She’s currently hospitalized and in a coma. I got home that night and saw 4 missed calls on the phone. From my dad’s number. No missionary wants to receive calls from home or from the mission president. Because it’s never good news. Ever. I called back, absolutely terrified.

 

We’d had a pretty weird day, as are all holidays in the missionary world. A parade, Mexican food, running into 3 members at Starbucks, a real American BBQ, and some 3D fireworks. I think Heavenly Father kept me distracted and happy for a reason. At the end of that call I was on my knees on the floor, my two companions beside me, all of us an absolute mess. “You need a blessing.” Hermana Fin insisted. Luckily there’s 8 companionships that live in our complex. 5 minutes later I had 3 worthy and willing priesthood holders at my door.

 

Saturday was a roller coaster of emotions and trying to keep my mind focused on the work. Lots of goodbyes for Hermana Fin. Luckily we were pretty busy. And I have two lifesaver companions. Sometimes it’s just hard being so far removed from what’s going on.

 

Sunday was the icing on the cake. Transfer calls… Well. An email this time. At 8:30 in the morning…..and our church starts at 9. We weren’t expecting a whole lot, we thought me and Hermana Despain would get new comps or at we would just take over both areas together.  I was practicing piano and thinking of Kenz, trying to hold it together. We opened the email and saw:

 

Bahia A: Despain–transferred

Bahia B: Finlayson–home. Lewis–transferred

 

And we all broke down sobbing. All 3 of us. We told bishop and he was just as confused as we were. He had us all bear our testimonies to start the testimony meeting. That sacrament meeting was one of the most spirit-filled meetings I have ever attended. I shared what’s happening back home and my testimony of eternal families and we all talked about missionary work. Then every testimony after that was so packed with power. There was not a dry eye in the room. I felt like Alma and Amulek with Hermana Fin. I had no clue how highly this ward thought of us. How much they loved and appreciated us. And how on fire they were about missionary work. After the meeting half the ward came up and just hugged us. It was hard to see the look in Hermana Cortes and Sonia and Carmen’s eyes. They gave me “mamma hugs”….those are different from normal hugs and I was in definite need. Hug after hug, tears flowing, they looked me in the eyes and said…

 

Thank you for your service……I’m praying for your sister…..we love you…..we’re going to miss you……it’s going to be okay……there’s hope…….you sisters work so hard…..thank you….

 

I got another blessing as well.

It was exactly what I needed.

And Kenzie, Bahia ward is praying for you. Really hard.

 

I dropped off Sister Fin this morning. It still hasn’t hit me. I feel like I’m just going on a long exchange  My other half is gone…officially. But it’ll be okay. 6 more weeks right? Just a really really really long exchange.

 

Despite the difficulty, I’m so grateful for the trials I’ve experienced this week. I’ve grown so close to my savior. And even though I can’t be close to my family physically, I feel close to you all. I am so grateful my family is eternal. That no matter what happens I can have the faith that it will be for my good. For our good.

 

I’ve felt the strengthening power of the atonement in my life so prominently. I can’t express a tenth of the gratitude I feel for the love and support I have felt.

I know it will all be okay.

 

I love you all. Keep the faith.

Love,

Hermana Lewis

xoxoxo

The Beginning of the End

June 30, 2014

 

This is my last real P day with Hermana Fin. I’m freaking out a little. She’s been my companion, my marida, my rock, my other half for 8 months now. What in the world am I going to do without her?! When you spend 24/7 with someone and go through the things we go through daily….well….you can’t not love them. It’s impossible.

 

There’s a quote I’ve heard a couple times (couldn’t tell you who said it though): “I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better.” ….it’s so true. And it’s a lesson I learned once again this weekend. Heavenly Father has a funny way of putting people and experiences in our lives that show us our weaknesses pretty strongly. And if you don’t learn to overcome them the first time, you get it again. And again. And again. Til you learn that silly life lesson and come out a different person. So I’m learning it. Little by little.

 

So, this week was a little different. Long story short, mission life is crazy and we now have a 3rd companion for this week until transfers. Welcome Hermana Despain! We also have no clue when transfer day is and I could possibly be chilling in Port Charlotte for a couple days. President has something up his sleeve I just know it. He’s changing the transfer process again but it’s all very hush hush. I’ll let you know how that all goes. Who will be my next companion?? The idea of such a huge change gives me stomachaches. We’ve been so blessed to be down here for so long together.

 

This past week was incredible. Esperanza came back from Colombia and still wants to be baptized. Gavin came to church and loved it. Ernie said he’s open to baptism. Jose went to church in golden gate and is living the word of wisdom, no problem. It’s like everything just fell into place perfectly. I don’t know how. But Heavenly Father must just love us a whole lot. We are so blessed out here.

And with this week comes the goodbyes. So many meals and last visits planned. Kind of a foreshadowing of where I’ll be in 6 weeks. With this being our last week together, this really is the beginning of the end.

 

The last 2 transfers of mission life are so interesting. There’s so many conflicting emotions and time seems to slow down and speed up all at once. My heart feels ripped in half and I’m pulled to 2 places at once. It hurts. I’m so excited to go home and see the fam and at the same time I don’t want to leave this family I have here. It’s the worst and best thing.

 

I’ll keep you updated on how it goes.

Mission life. It’s cray.

Love,

Hermana Lewis.

xoxo

 

PERFECTION

June 23, 2014

New assignment for you all! Read the “Becoming Perfect through Christ” talk in the July ensign. It might have changed my life. Especially after the week we’ve had.

Sometimes in missionary work it’s hard to keep going. It seemed like every day this week we had amazing days planned. Lessons one after the other and just an excitement to get out there and do the work. And then 15 minutes after we step out the door……boom. Everything falls through. It’s so hard to not get so frustrated when that happens and because the phrase “exact obedience brings miracles” is pounded into our heads over and over again, we start analyzing everything we have done, looking for everything we could have done wrong. Did we get into bed at 10:31 instead of 10:30? Did we start singing too late in comp study?? Is that why our appointment cancelled today?

Now do not get me wrong. I have a strong testimony of obedience versus exact obedience. I know for a fact that exact obedience brings miracles. But too often I would confuse miracles with perfection. And as I learned this morning, my idea of perfection was entirely wrong. Perfection means complete, whole, finished. Perfection is the journey we go on…the improvements we make, the end product. Perfection is not without mistakes. Perfection is repentance. Perfection is the Atonement and realizing that Christ’s mercy will cover our mistakes. Perfection is starting over every single day. [Have you all seen the “Because of Him” video? If not, repent and go watch it right now. It only takes 3 minutes.] But when we truly understand everything that He did, everything that He gave for us, we wouldn’t be so hard on ourselves. We wouldn’t be so judgmental of others. Forgiveness is so much more powerful than we can imagine. But as missionaries we strive for that mistake-less, unrealistic, unforgiving idea of perfection. Because the adversary knows that it’s impossible and discouraging and if he can discourage us, half the battle is won because our faith goes the door.

So this week we experienced a lot of people’s agency. And it’s hard. Agency is a difficult thing to deal with. We ran through our list of names 3 times and then decided…this is silly and we are wasting miles we can’t afford. So we got out and walked. And we didn’t really have any “miraculous” experiences any of the times we walked. In fact, we barely saw people. But we came home feeling fulfilled for the day and could not understand why. We felt we didn’t do anything. ‘What is the lesson we are supposed to learn from this??’ We discussed it nearly every night. It was confusing and a little troubling. So we told our district leader and he had us read that article. And I understood. Life isn’t perfect and we have to be patient with imperfections, including our own. Maybe today we spent less time trying to decide what to do and more time walking than we did yesterday. Maybe today we talked to one more person than yesterday.

The miracles happen in the improvement. But we still cannot expect perfection to override people’s decisions. I felt that Heavenly Father is proud of us. We are nowhere near perfect. Sometimes we harmonize to Babylonian songs while we walk in a giant loop because there is not one soul in sight. Sometimes we let people pass us that we know we should have talked to. Sometimes we get distracted during planning and start talking about post-mission life. It happens. But we repent and we do better the next day. And Heavenly Father understands we are still a work in progress. And the final product is so much more than a sum of all our mistakes and correct decisions.

So all in all, it’s been an exceptionally imperfect week. Full of miracles.

As is every week.

And here comes another.

So much love and prayers coming your way!

Love,

Hermana Lewis.

xoxo

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