Monday, October 28, 2013

October 28, 2013

It's Fall y'all!!

The trees are turning beautiful colors here and we really enjoy our  morning walk about every other day.  We have seen some beautiful homes and yards.  We live in a nice neighborhood and  the people are very friendly.  Today we discovered that we live only a fifteen-minutes drive from a nice shopping center with a "Sam's Club," Safeway, Big Lots, Ross, etc.  Speaking of neighborhoods ... The branch building is in Brooklyn Park, and you could say that it's a little scary on the streets nearby.  One Sunday morning a "lady" of the street walked right into the lobby asking for money. We also see homeless people in many places.  It always makes me feel so sad and hopeless but it's impossible to help everyone. 

Tonight we are having our second Family Home Evening here in our apartment and are expecting about six to eight to attend.  Last week we were very happy to have four members of the branch come.  We had a good time visiting and Elder Lewis taught a short lesson about "Can you sleep when the wind blows?". We all then participated in a get-to-know you activity. 

On Wednesday I attended an all day Sisters' Conference in Frederick, MD.  About 60 young sister missionaries were there and it was a very spiritual and uplifting day.  President and Sister Richards spoke and some of the young sisters gave presentations.  I was, as always, very impressed with the maturity and dedication of these young 19 - 20 year old women.  One of the highlights was when we were asked to give up or sacrifice something personal - one thing that may be keeping us from feeling closer to the Lord and depending completely on Him.  We were asked to write it down on a small piece of paper and give it to them.  We then all knelt down by our chairs to ask God to help us give up that one thing.  It was a very moving and spiritual experience and I noticed that many sisters were crying.

When Sister Richards talked about how to better get along with your companion, she shared the following thought which made a significant impression  me:

It doesn't matter if you are right;
It doesn't matter if you are justified;
If you have contention in your heart, you are wrong.

We continue loving going into peoples homes to teach them about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  So far we have only taught members who needed a little encouragement and/or refreshing about a gospel principal, but that is really what we are here for: to be of support and to help where needed.  We love the people here and feel more and more at home.  I have promised God that I will never again complain about our little house in Gainesville.  When I see the small places people live in here and are content, I know I need to count my blessings more often.  Content is a word I love. 

I started teaching the youth in Sunday School yesterday, ages ranging from 12 to 18.  Oh boy, I need to be better prepared for this one.  :)

This coming Monday we and all the other senior missionary couples will attend a special dinner and fireside with Elder Carlson of the Seventy.  The next day there will be all training with the young missionaries.  We look forward to it.

Thank you for all your love, support, and prayers for us.  We still look at each other at times and wonder how we got to be here on a mission for the Church.  We recognize small miracles in our lives all the time and are so grateful.  We love this experience and can highly recommend it.

Monday, October 21, 2013

October 21, 2013

It has been a good and rewarding week.

We have become friends with a Catholic Priest - Father Skip - who works in a church right across the street from our Branch building.  We heard he was sick and in the hospital, so we paid him a visit and he was very surprised to see us.  We talked a little religion but we mainly wanted to show him that we care about him.

We have been visiting more active and less active members of the Branch.  We are warmly welcomed for the most part, but many times people are not home - or don't open the door.  We always leave a little note with our names and phone number.  Ken gives "pass along cards" to anything that moves :).  Hopefully we are planting some seeds.  We feel we have missed some really good opportunities also, but we are still learning.

Tuesday we attended our Zone Training Meeting.  Ken and I helped evaluate and make suggestions as we listened to the young Elders and Sisters practice the "Preach My Gospel" manual.  It was a great experience.

Thursday we had a young couple over for lunch.  He is out of work so they are struggling and are a little discouraged.  I taught her to set up a file in Excel so she has more experience to put on her resume.

Friday night we were invited to dinner at a really sweet family's house.  It was nice to be in a home with little children and we enjoyed playing and talking with them, and telling them a story.

We have found a really good 1 1/2 mile route to walk in the morning. We don't do it every morning but really enjoy it when we can, in this Indian Summer.  It's up and down hills in this neighborhood with some really beautiful homes.  I can really feel it in the back of my calves.

We went to the Washington, D. C. Temple Saturday morning - for the 7:00 am session.  It was such a beautiful experience and so nice to see 10 other members from our Branch there.

We both received callings on Sunday.  I will be teaching the youth in Sunday School.  I think there are about six in the class, ranging from 12 to 17.  I'm a little worried.  Ken was called to be the Sunday School President and he is happy that he will be my "boss".

I spoke in Church yesterday.  It was a scary and spiritual experience.  We were happy to see some less active members there who we have been visiting with and invited to church.

We baked a birthday cake for another less active member and took it to his house yesterday after church.  We were so excited when he called and thanked us and invited us to come back to visit him and his wife this week.

There are four young Elders in our Branch now.  We had them all over yesterday after church for a planning meeting and for  make-your-own - Reuben Sandwiches.  They loved it and one of them said he was going to name all his sons "Reuben".

Today we went to Ikea - my favorite place!  We needed several things for the apartment and bought a chair, an end table, a plant, and several other things.  Little by little our apartment is looking and feeling more comfortable.  We are happy here.

Tonight - and every Monday night from now on - we are having people over for Family Home Evening.  We have invited active and less active members to come, and even our non-member neighbor Frank.  Hopefully we will have a good turn-out; if not, we will be eating a lot of apple pie and cherry pie with ice cream in the next few days. :)

Monday, October 14, 2013

Another week has passed.

Hi everyone,

Today is "Preparation Day" which means we clean, do laundry, shop etc..  We really don't have very strict rules, but we try as much as possible, to follow the same rules as the young missionaries.  

Every Tuesday morning from 10:30 to about 12:00 we have a District Meeting and meet with about six sets of missionaries from our District.  We are always amazed at how well mannered, prepared, disciplined and spiritual these young and women are.  They teach us something every time.

This past week we have met many new people.  Last Friday we drove around and tried to visit several members of the branch but no one was home and I was getting tired and discouraged.  Especially at one place where a large dog wanted to kill us.  On the way home we stopped at the store to get a few things.  While in the parking lot, a gentleman walked up to Ken and said "Hello Elder Lewis."  He had seen the name tag.  It was a less active member of our branch.  He introduced us to his wife and we talked to them for about 30 minutes and really enjoyed getting to know them.  They had lost a daughter to cancer when she was 29 and also lost a very young granddaughter who was murdered when she was only 18 months by her mother's boyfriend.  They had had one tragedy after another.  We told them they really needed the Church and that the Church needed them, and encouraged them to come back.  They agreed with us. 

We especially enjoy visiting a sister in the branch, Eva Gross, who is suffering from kidney problems and diabetes.  She lives with her son - or rather her son lives with her.  Just the sweetest little person and so humble.  She goes to dialysis three times a week and is very tired most of the time.  

We could tell you story after story about the people we have come to know and love.  We feel like we have been here for a long time but it has only been a month.  

This coming Saturday we are going to the Washington Temple.  We haven't been there in 30 years.  A sister in the branch is going for the first time and has asked me to escort her.  I feel honored and happy to do it.

Below you see a couple of pictures of our apartment living room.  We love it.

Love to all.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Finally time to post again

Dear family and friends,

Wow, I can't believe we have been here in Baltimore for almost a month.

We finally had our computer hooked up last Thursday and it feels good to be able to check email etc. without having to use my little iPhone.

After returning to Gainesville from the MTC in Provo, Utah, we packed our car - to the top - and started driving north Wednesday morning, September 9th.  On the way we visited Fred and Sylvia in North Carolina, Ken's cousin Mack and his wife Martha in Richmond, and lastly Linda and Clyde in Lorton VA.  We truly loved spending time with each of them and are so grateful for their hospitality.

We arrived at the Mission Office Saturday, September 14th, and was met by Sister Jones who works in the office.  She gave us the keys to our apartment and a large welcome basket and off we went.

The following Monday we went back to the office and met President Richards and his wife.  Oh my goodness - they are the most wonderful people and were so gracious to us. After talking to them for a while, we all (President and Sister Richards, Elder and Sister Pascoe and Elder and Sister Jones who work in the office, and us) went to lunch at a Chinese restaurant.  It was really fun to get to know them.

We have been living temporarily in an apartment in Odenton for three weeks, about half an hour from where we serve, but we are now in our "new" apartment in Halethorpe and much closer to the Brooklyn Park Branch and all the members here.  Today our bedroom furniture and all the "kitchen stuff" was delivered and carried in by our young Elders.  Now I can start making this place feel "hyggelig".  Most of you know how I am.  I have to have plants, candles, pillows, etc. etc., around me to feel at home.

Speaking of home ... I have had a few pings of homesickness from time to time, but I think it's because we have not really felt settled until now.

The Brooklyn Park Branch is wonderful.  We already feel at home and very much needed.  The members are loving and have welcomed us with open arms.  Because of General Conference we have not received callings yet, but expect that to change this coming Sunday.  Many of the members live in what we call row houses, very small apartments that they pay too much for.  The so called slum lords don't do anything to keep them repaired and looking nice and charge way too much in rent.  I have already threatened to contact the Mayor. :)

We have met so many wonderful and interesting people and recognize the Lord's hand in sending us here.  We mainly spend our time visiting less active members and try to help where we can.  Many have opened their doors and hearts to us where others have not been able to get in.  We have listened to the most heart wrenching stories of broken lives and broken homes.  I thought I knew a little of suffering and heart ache but I don't.  We are both amazed at the strength of the human spirit and how people survive in spite of abuse and evil.

Missionary work is a wonderful way to "forget one self and go to work."  We are so grateful for making the decision to serve the Lord and hope we can make a difference.

We love all of you and are so grateful for your love and support.

Elder and Sister Lewis