Dear Mom and Dad,
Thank you for the letters, which make me happy; the death bars, which my companion and I are consuming far too quickly; and the promise of a family picture, which I will love seeing each night while I write in my journal.
Sadly, we did not get jetpacks on Sunday, although I am beginning to see what people meant by "it get's better." The experience itself hasn't suddenly become fantastic--I still think it was from the start--but time has started to zip by. I mean, it's already Thursday now, I've been here for more than a week! The saying is "The days go like weeks and the weeks go like days," because although one day can seem to drag on forever, before you know it you're ready to leave. I think this different perception of time comes because I've realized that this is for real. It isn't just a week-long camp, or something that I'm trying out to see if I like it. I'm an Elder, and this is what I do!
In every Youth Missionary Preparation activity I have ever been to in my entire life, one of the activities was sewing on buttons. I believe in one activity you actually got points for how many buttons you could sew on in five minutes. A few nights ago, I pulled a string on one of my new shirts and bam--there went a button. That night, I sewed on a button. And felt totally awesome. I mean, every missionary activity I had ever been to couldn't lie--sewing on buttons means you are a missionary! So I must be a missionary, because I was sewing on a button! Admittedly I couldn't remember several key points, like how to finish sewing it on, but I think it will stay on for a few more months at least.
Our district is Branch 8, District C, or just district 8C. District 8D had the wonderful idea of putting up a piece of paper on the top of their door that used the "D" in "8D" to spell out a slogan. They were district "8Dulce Bomba". Sweet bomb? It doesn't really make sense, but en espanol it's just fun to say. We appreciated their efforts so much that we decided to do the same thing to our door. We are now district "8Como Un Jefe."
Are we allowed to say "like a boss" as missionaries? Maybe we should change it to "like a Zone Leader."
I've decided that I really like the title "Elder." All of the connotations that my life experience has given that title now apply to every person around me. When I call someone "Elder ___," I am saying that they are hardworking, dedicated servants of God commited to bringing people to Christ. I think it really helps me to appreciate those around me. Also, every time someone addresses me as "Elder Ray," I think I become a missionary just a little bit more.
The more I think about it, the more I am grateful that Elder Lucero is my companion. Our district doesn't have any Sisters in it, which means that it can get pretty rowdy at times. And doesn't always smell fantastic. (I love my district anyway...) Elder Lucero is always willing to go somewhere else so that we can find the peace and quiet that we need to really study hard, to really work hard. He is also incredibly insightful about what we should work on for language study, where our weaknesses are, and on what we should prepare next to teach our investigator.
Our investigator, Manuel. (His real name is Hermano Roberts, but we're not supposed to know that yet). We have so far had 4 meetings with him, all in spanish, and have managed to get through the first two lessons. Tonight, Elder Lucero and I agreed that we should ask him to be baptized. Really, we probably should have asked him two lessons ago, but we're still learning, so that's ok. Although Manuel is an actor pretending to be an investigator, there is some amazing fairy dust (and by fairy dust I mean God's power) here at the MTC that makes our lessons seem completely real. We are really being led by the spirit in what to teach, and coming to love 'Manuel' as a child of God who is seeking for the truth. It makes me excited to teach people who really are looking for the truth, who really have been prepared by the hand of God, and to experience the joy that I am tasting here, the joy of bringing people to Christ.
Next up, I need to figure out this whole spanish language thing. A bit of grammar, a whole lot of vocab, and a truckload of practice. However, I know that if I really try to learn this language diligently, with the right attitude, and with the spirit, I can. I'm going to illustrate this point and close with a story about Manuel.
Yesterday, on our fourth visit with Manuel, Elder Lucero and I just couldn't get into a groove. We were struggling with words--even simple ones like "do" and "for"--and everybody kept getting distracted. After 20 minutes of struggling through our lesson, Elder Lucero finally picked up on something the spirit had been trying to say. We changed tactics, and talked about what Manuel needed to hear. Not only did he (and we) start paying attention, but Elder Lucero and I stopped struggling to find words, conjugate verbs, and piece together sentences. As we bore our testimony of prayer, taught Manuel how to pray, and commited him to pray to know if what we were saying was true, we spoke in clear, simple, flowing spanish. It was amazing! The gift of tongues is real, and God's power is with us.
Love and Prayers,
Elder Jason Ray