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

 

Advertisements

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

 

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