Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Maple Syrup Man


So transfers came... and I'm training for my last transfer!!! I could not be happier. Sad news is my companion will hit the big transfer and is going home, and Elder Dudley's leaving Charlottetown for New Glasgow:(

Quote of the week--Elder Dudley, sarcastically on the phone, telling us to listen to him:

"Sisters! Shh. Did you know that you can spell 'listen' out of 'silence'?"

Needless to say, there was an awkward pause while he figured it out. Hahaha.

This week, Vanessa decided not to be baptized. It was a shock and really, really hard. She was the only person we were teaching. She's moved cities to a city that now has no missionaries (one of my previous areas). We have been heartbroken and praying like crazy. It was kind of rough.

So I was thinking about what I'd say today, but my mind's been really occupied with one story that I can't get off my mind. This is an experience I had several weeks ago. And to make it fun we'll put it in story form:)

One day, in late August, as the sun moved and its intensity began to fade at the end of the afternoon, two girls in skirts walked out of a house and began a walk towards their city's small downtown, stopping to talk to maritimers as they went.

Their attention was quickly drawn, however, to a jumble of impatient cars in the middle of the street they were walking on. As they walked closer, they saw the reason for the honking, swerving, and exasperated sighing coming from the drivers of those cars. A large, white delivery truck was pulled over, taking up half the road in the middle of rush hour traffic, lights signaling its driver was in an emergency.

The two girls in skirts continued their curious trek down the sidewalk until they passed the delivery truck and could see the emergency on the ground behind it: a puddle of amber liquid sat in the middle of the lane, covering 6 square feet of the road. The two girls stopped and looked around for the driver who had spilled the oil.

A whistling man rounded the corner of the truck and gave the girls in skirts a wave and a nod of the head. The girls watched the cheerful man, who showed such a contrast to the chaos of the traffic around him, squeeze some brown liquid out of a T-shirt into a tall white bucket on the ground.

"I'd shake your hands, girls, but mine are all sticky," he said.

"Is it oil?" asked one of the girls.

The man shook his head and bent over, putting the T-shirt in the puddle again.

"Here, smell," he said. The girls bent their noses to the ground. No, not oil--something sweet.

"Maple syrup!" said the man. "I was delivering a few buckets to that hotel but I dropped this one on my way out." He wrung the T-shirt out in the almost-empty bucket. "You're the first people to stop."

"Can we help you at all?" offered one girl.

The Maple Syrup Man shook his head and took a break from mopping up maple syrup to get a good look at the girls. "I already called for help."

"When's the help coming?" one girl asked.

The man smiled at them and went back to mopping up maple syrup with the T-shirt. "Not sure. I called half an hour ago and it could be another hour or two before I get help." This  time as he rung the T-shirt out, he nicked the back of his leg on the truck's ramp and barely noticed blood dripping down the back of his leg. The jolly man began asking the girls questions about themselves, the frustrated honks and even yells around him not seeming to damper his mood.

But one of the girls--the one with curly hair--wasn't paying much attention to the conversation. Concentrating, she quietly surveyed the puddle of maple syrup in the road, which was not getting any smaller, bless the man's heart. She watched the cars drive by, which were all depending on the man and his maple syrup puddle and his truck to get out of the way. She thought of the man's boss who hadn't been happy to hear that his employee spilled several litres of maple syrup in the middle of the road and who would be late in filling the rest of his deliveries. The girl with curly hair looked back at the happy man.

"Why are you happy right now?" she asked him, curious. He stood up from his tedious mopping job and looked her straight in the eyes, always smiling.

"I'm happy," the man said, "because the only thing that can make a situation a bad one is a sour attitude."

The girl with curly hair looked at the man's hands, covered in maple syrup, and his sticky clothes, and his socks and shoes covered in it, and his calm and sure smile in the midst of it, hardly noticing the gash in his leg. She looked at the puddle that wasn't getting any smaller.

"Sir," she laughed, incredulous, "You don't even know when help is coming!"

"Young lady," he said to the girl, "I am just a beggar. It is not my choice how fast the help comes."

The two girls laughed and talked with the man for a moment longer, helping him spend his time until his help came. Eventually the girls had another obligation and left. However, an hour later, they walked by again and saw that help had come. A team of men was quickly and methodically cleaning up the puddle of maple syrup with salt. They watched the Maple Syrup Man watching them on the side, proudly and gratefully accepting the help that came so late.

I haven't been able to get this story out of my mind the last several weeks. After it happened, I kept thinking about it, over and over again. I felt like there was something Heavenly Father wanted me to learn from that experience that I wasn't quite getting. This week I knelt down and prayed earnestly to be able to learn the things the Lord wanted me to from that experience. I offer three lessons I've learned through a lot of studying, thought, and prayer:

1. Heavenly Father believes in agency. He believes in giving us choices. And because of that, He gives us experiences that can be good or bad--but it is completely dependent on our choice. The Maple Syrup Man could have had an awful experience when he spilled the huge bucket all over the road. He'd be late, his job would be in jeopardy, he was holding up traffic, he was covered from head to foot in maple syrup in the heat of August, he had a huge gash on his leg from trying to help the situation, and oh how inconsiderate his help was! They made him wait for hours, and no one else stopped to help him. It could have been a really negative experience. But it wasn't because he used his God-given agency to make it a positive experience. I'm thinking in particular of some experiences my parents were given that could be taken as inherently negative. But instead my parents chose to be faithful and optimistic and all the experiences were great. Heavenly Father believes in agency and I testify that it is our choice how many positive and negative experiences we have.

2. We have a finite perspective of trials. We want help NOW because things are hard NOW and why won't the Lord send help NOW--doesn't He understand that if I don't get it NOW, I won't make it?? One of my district leaders said it well: "We live in a world where everything is immediate. There is no waiting and hardly any working for what we want. This is not God's way. Though the things you want are righteous, the place you go wrong is wanting it right now... There is no need to be discouraged when we are obedient because when we are obedient, we are in God's hands." How many times have you needed help, and you had been doing everything you were supposed to--scripture study, prayer, attending church, keeping commandments--and help was not coming? We are the beggars, and I testify that the Lord always knows exactly when to send help. He has a plan that's greater for us than what we have for ourselves. As Lehi taught, "All things have been done in the wisdom of Him who knoweth all things."

3. Until the help does come... help yourself! When I decided to serve a mission, I basically thought it would be smooth sailing from that moment until 2 years later when my mission would end because I was doing the Lord's work! But I found out quickly how wrong I was. The moment I got my mission call and knew where the Lord wanted me and when, things became very difficult. I had a really hard time feeling the Spirit or Heavenly Father's presence at all for several months, and I felt like I was barely hanging on the whole time. I did the things I was supposed to--specifically scripture study and prayer--but it wasn't making a difference, and the blessings were coming very late. It was like that until finally I went through the temple and immediately everything completely changed--did a full 180. I felt like my efforts in those few months were a waste. They were imperfect, small offerings. But I can't get the image out of my head of the Maple Syrup Man slaving away over that monstrous puddle of maple syrup, trying to soak it up with a T-shirt and making absolutely no visible difference. NONE. But he did it faithfully until a more perfect help could come and get it cleaned up in a matter of seconds. I find it interesting that the Lord wants us to work and do a sloppy, imperfect job first, before He does it for us--and He has the power to fix it from the beginning! The Lord accepts our weak offerings and THEN sends us help.

I just want to write out a story one of my old companions just sent me in the mail. I became very close to this companion and her story means a whole lot to me:

"My last zone conference was good. A few days before, I had a cool experience. I was just feeling discouraged about my mission and it was like all I could see were all the times I didn't do my best. I realized I was never going to be able to give the Lord a perfect offering, and so I prayed, so heart-broken, to ask the Lord if He could accept my imperfect offering instead. I somehow developed the trust to not be afraid of the answer and to just listen to whatever it was. Suddenly, in my mind's eye, I could see it from His point of view. I saw myself as a little 3-year-old, running up to my daddy with a picture I drew for Him. The 3-year-old had no thought in her mind of the picture not being good enough, despite the fact that it was mostly just lines and scribbles on a crumpled piece of paper; she was just happy and excited to show her daddy what she had made for him, because she loved him. The father didn't condemn her for the imperfections in her picture, pointing out its many flaws and inaccuracies. It would be unreasonable to do so, or to expect more, given a 3-year-old's level of development. Neither was the father secretly dissatisfied that his 3-year-old had only produced a 3-year-old piece of art. He was genuinely happy and felt loved to receive the picture. And so my 'Daddy' scooped me up in His arms, gave me a big hug and told me He loved me, and somehow hung the picture on His Celestial Refrigerator despite the facet that He used a magnet on stainless steel. And so I knew that the Lord was happy and accepting of my imperfect offering."

Anyway, end rant:)


Sister Lewis


Hello family!!!!!

Quote of the week--MaryAnn*, after we showed her the Official Declaration about how we no longer practice polygamy:

"Where's my highlighter?! Now I can show every person who brings up dang polygamy! It drives me crazy, and I've been a Mormon for HOW many hours?!?!"

The joys of being part of the true church:')

This week was completely hectic! Trying to throw together a baptism last-minute that is as spiritual as possible for the members and MaryAnn... all on our own? Aye aye aye. But it turned out perfectly. A lot of work went into this baptism. I'll put it this way--the number 1 most-used phrase this week to describe our companionship (used by completely separate people) was "chickens with their heads cut off". Woo hoo.

The morning of, we had font-scrubbing, font-filling, chapel-cleaning, chair-setting, refreshment-baking, cake-frosting, errand-running, and phone call-making. We couldn't catch a break for a meal and miraculously were able to talk to 52 people along the way. The missionaries came to the chapel early for last preparations, and Elder Dudley was all excited and nervous to be baptizing someone for the first time.

It was a really great group effort because the elders found MaryAnn, we taught her, the elders dropped in for a lesson once a week, and Elder Dudley baptized her. So it was a giant group effort, and we loved it. MaryAnn got to hear the lessons from different points of view, meet the women in the ward (from sisters bringing them to lessons), meet the men in the ward (from elders bringing them to lessons), and receive all the support that comes from that.

It was touching. MaryAnn showed up Saturday evening wearing her brand new Mormon-looking outfit and her brand new Mormon-looking haircut. She got dressed in all-white and looked angelic and we took pictures. Right before the service began at 7, we and the bishopric and the members associated with the program had a prayer meeting to bring the Spirit. I started playing a bit of prelude that affected a few of the missionaries because they were primary songs that we used to sing at our own baptisms, and now we're all out here on missions.

MaryAnn chose the opening hymn--"I Need Thee Every Hour." I conducted. I gave the opening prayer and was overwhelmed at the pulpit, seeing her family and the ward members who came to support. I was so proud of MaryAnn. She has changed everything in her life to do what's right.

After the opening prayer, Sister Thompson gave the first talk on baptism. It was perfect. She drew parallels between MaryAnn and the Saviour. Then Sister Day, MaryAnn's best friend in the ward, gave a talk on the Holy Ghost which was perfectly directed at Michelle.

Then we had a musical number. MaryAnn had specifically asked for Amalia to sing. She sang "How Great Thou Art" and I came up with an arrangement to accompany her on the piano. (Sister T and I came in to harmonize on later verses). I'm grateful for the Spirit, because it softened the rough parts and made the tone very powerful for MaryAnn to make her first covenant with Heavenly Father.

She was baptized. Sister Thompson and I gave her great big hugs. She said she felt wonderful.

We watched Mormon Messages about the Book of Mormon while we waited for them to change.

Our ward mission leader, Brother Aitken, was conducting the meeting. When MaryAnn came back, he bore his testimony and said that since his mission in Mexico, he's always loved baptisms because they reminded him of who he was and why he did missionary work. It was one of the most powerful testimonies I've ever heard, and a lot of that was because I was reminded of who I was too.

Bishop welcomed her to the ward with another great testimony. We had refreshments afterwards and are now teaching her sister, Barbara, who came to support.

Sunday she was confirmed. She was nervous for that part because she has a hard time in front of groups of people. But she said that when Bishop said the words "Receive the Holy Ghost," this peace just filled her up. I was bouncing up and down in my seat, I was so happy it felt like it couldn't fit in side of me.

After the confirmation, during the sacrament, I glanced across the room at MaryAnn. And did a double-take. Because she looked DIFFERENT! There was a physical difference. It was amazing.

The four missionaries gave her our gifts after sacrament meeting: a triple combination (which she's been dying for since June), a journal that we decorated, a copy of her confirmation blessing that we scribbled down, and a True to the Faith book. She was so excited and carried it around with her to the clinic that day, telling everyone she was baptized into the Mormon Church and showing them her Book of Mormon!

She just received her first visiting teaching assignment:)

The Church is true. Conversion is a miracle.

Love you all!

Sister Lewis
We all accidentally matched!  Elder King, Elder Dudley, me, Sister Thompson

Raspberry Cordial!

MaryAnn's awesome calendar

Sisters who actually know how to pop the hood ;)

Excited to fill the font!!

Sister Thompson (while reviewing the photos):  "Aww.  Look, in one of them I have the model face, but not in this one."
Me:  "No, Sister T, look!  Zoom in, you have a model face!"
Sister Thompson:  "Oh yeah.  Yeah, I do look like a model."

MaryAnn and Elder Dudley.  She wanted him to baptize her since day 1!

MaryAnn and a few of her closest friends in the ward, Julia* and Sister Brentwood*
The girls :)

The gang--Elder King, Sister Thompson, MaryAnn, me, Elder Dudley

Me and Sister T hangin out

Monday, September 8, 2014

Like Ten Thousand Legions Marching

Hello family!!!!!:)

Quotes of the week:

1. Old man we stopped on the street (who was not happy at first): "And really, like I said before, you 2 are truly, beautiful women. If I was a young man I'd probably choose to be saved by you. Each of you is really beautiful. If i was young, I'd convert, just hoping for a date."

2. Elder 1: "Is that your girl back home?"
Elder 2: "I've never even kissed a girl!"
Elder 1: "Well kissing is a lot more of a commitment than writing!"

It's been a hard week, but one full of lots of sacrifice and LOTS of laughing... We had to, otherwise I don't think we would've made it through all the stressful situations haha. Sister Thompson and I are SO tired, guys. So tired. But we're not through yet! We have way more to do in our last weeks before we're finished. So much work to be done in the work of salvation!!!:)

MaryAnn*'s baptism is rescheduled. We're crossing our fingers for this Saturday!!! She's almost there!!!!!

This week I've been studying a lot about how the Lord prepares people for the gospel. Alma teaches us how the Lord does it: "For behold, angels are declaring it unto many at this time in our land, and this is for the purpose of preparing the hearts of the children of men to receive his word at the time of his coming in his glory."

I want to point out that despite what the 70-year-old men here think, missionaries are not the angels who are preparing the people for the gospel! When Alma says that angels are doing it, he really means that legions of angels are here on earth preparing His children for the gospel! Do we believe that? Do we believe that thousands of the Lord's angels are getting people ready to accept the gospel?

On my mission I've often felt like I'm doing more than planning, preparing lessons, studying, finding people to teach, and teaching. I feel like a piece in a bigger plan to bring souls unto Christ. I feel like one of Helaman's strippling warriors who "entered into a covenant to fight for the liberty" of the people in Charlottetown... to "protect [them] unto the laying down of their lives," who "would fight in all cases to protect the [people]... from bondage."

And I testify that every member has entered into that exact same covenant: to fight to keep God's children out of bondage from the adversary.

Once we understand that we are in reality fighting a battle, it's important to understand that battles are meant to be DIFFICULT, but that God loves us and is on our side.

In the Old Testament, there is a story that illustrates this principle in 2 Kings. Syria is fighting a battle against Israel, and Israel keeps foreseeing every move Syria makes. Israel wins battle after battle. Discouraged, the king of Syria finally decides one of his men must be a spy for the other side, telling Israel all Syria's battle plans. But the king of Syria's servants tell him there is no spy, but that "Elisha, the prophet that is in Israel, telleth the King of Israel the words that thou speakest."

The king sends his army to capture the priophet Elisha. "Therefore sent he thither horses, and chariots, and a great host: and they came by at night, and compassed the city about."

Elisha's young servant then wakes up and sees that "an host compassed the city both with horses and chariots." The young servant says, "Alas, my master! How shall we do?"

Elisha answers, "Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them."

The young servant must have thought Elisha was crazy. He saw the king of Syria's great army surrounding the entire city with their horses and with their chariots, and he saw he and Elisha--without even anything to defend themselves. They were hopelessly outnumbered.

But then Elisha prays and says, "Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see."

The scripture says: "And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha."

The entire mountain was in reality covered with the Lord's angels. Because the Lord takes care of His children.

I think of all the times when the Lord has "opened the eyes of the young woman" and helped me to see clearly the big picture. I KNOW that there are legions of angels on our side. I know it. I've felt it.

This week especially, as we've had a RIDICULOUS amount of opposition, there have been several times when I felt like it was time to take a moment and kind of break down... The pressure was so much I thought I'd crack. But I couldn't. The Lord strengthened me. I don't know if you've ever experienced angels strengthening you, but I have on my mission. I don't know everyone who's praying for me back at home, but I sure felt those prayers strongly this week. There's no other way to describe what I've been feeling recently.

One of the biggest lessons I've learned over the past 9 months or so is that the Lord takes care of His children. We have the Almighty God and His angels on our side. I know it.


Sister Lewis

Monday, September 1, 2014

Has the day of miracles ceased? Behold, I say unto you Nay.

CONGRATULATIONS TO THE NEXT SISTER LEWIS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Hermana Lewis:) :) :) Welcome to this great country!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! YOU WILL LOVE YOUR MISSION MORE THAN ANYTHING.

It's been a great week. I've learned so much. We have a baptism this Saturday!

Moroni teaches:
"And now, my beloved brethren, if this be the case that these things are true which I have spoken unto you, and God will show unto you, with power and great glory at the last day, that they are true, and if they are true has the day of miracles ceased?

"Or have angels ceased to appear unto the children of men? Or has he withheld the power of the Holy Ghost from them? Or will he, so long as time shall last, or the earth shall stand, or there shall be one man upon the face thereof to be saved?

"Behold I say unto you, Nay; for it is by faith that miracles are wrought; and it is by faith that angels appear and minister unto men; wherefore, if these things have ceased wo be unto the children of men, for it is because of unbelief, and all is vain."

I'm not great when it comes to faith. My natural man takes over and when things get hard, it's harder for me to have faith, and when they're easy, it's easy for me to have faith. But I know that "miracles cease" when we don't have it, so I've been working on it.

The Day of Miracles (Wednesday)
1. Sister Thompson and I were running behind that morning and we didn't get as much time to contact as we'd planned. We considered doing something else instead since we didn't think it would be effective to only have a few minutes to contact. But we decided to go contacting anyway. We stopped one person. Not interested. Second person. Name: Candy James*. "Yeah, I've been searching for a good Christian church to attend. I've recently overcome all my addictions to things that were bad for me. I had a son out of wedlock 4 years ago. Afterwards, I learned that it was wrong and I've repented. I love him, but it would have been more special if I'd been married to his father. I was praying a couple days ago to find a church to attend, and I think God put you in my path today. I'm so excited to meet! Come over next week after I finish moving to this place that's way better to raise my son in!"

2. Phone call from MaryAnn* on our way back to the car. "Hi! Do you want to come over for dinner tonight and teach my sister who wants to be baptized? Also I hung out with my fellowshipper yesterday for several hours and we're great friends."

3. Lesson with Vivian* (on date for November 8). The Spirit was INCREDIBLY strong. She's young, and a lot of the lessons we have with her are kind of sarcastic and negative, and the Spirit can't be there too strongly. But this lesson was PERFECT and she committed herself to give up everything that's been holding her back from baptism for years. She was on fire by the end and was bubbly and just GLOWING. I've never seen her like that before. She committed to give up everything.

It was an amazing day. And I think that at the end of my mission, I'll be able to say that about the whole thing: That was an amazing mission.


Sister Lewis
The mice I described that are all over town.

A picture of a picture from a few weeks ago.
Some days we get back to the apartment and feel like THIS!

"Lift up your heart and rejoice, for the hour of your mission is come... and you shall declare glad tidings of great joy unto this generation."

REJOICING is exactly what I'm doing right now. Congratulations to the next Sister Lewis--welcome to Canada:)

Christ's church has always been a missionary church. I'm grateful for the rejoicing that comes from missionary work.http://www.mormon.org/values/missionary-work — with Moriah Lewis.