Dear Mom and Dad,
What is a pirate's favorite animal? Arrrmadillo!
Why yes, I am enjoying myself here. That little beaty was Elder Lucero's. He has a shockingly great pirate accent.
I think I should take this time now to thank you (and others) for the sweets. Somehow I have avoided gaining any weight so far (in fact I think I'm back down a pound or two), but with the delicious quantity of cookies that Elder Lucero and I have, it's a surprise! So muchas gracias, todos.
So, my mentallity is that every year of my life will be better than the year before was, both looking back into the past and looking forward into the future. I think here at the MTC, the same is true for every single week! I am loving life, loving my mission, loving Spanish, loving my companion, more than ever before. Gah. Such a good week.
I think part of my spiritual maturing here, though, is recognizing my weaknesses more. As I think you, mom, said a few weeks ago, (paraphrased), "seeing more of your weaknesses is a sign that you are coming closer to Christ, not farther away." So I have a story to share about this.
Coming into my mission, I knew I was going to follow the rules. Once I got here I figured out exactly why. Before I left, I heard dozens of RM's say that "at the MTC, they really drill obedience into you." Turns out it's true! Every Sabbath day, and every devotional, they mention obedience at least once. And we have had a couple devotionals entirely on obedience. But the nuance is wrong when you say "drill obedience into you." It isn't obedience they are drilling into us; it is the knowledge of how to unlock blessings and power to learn the language, preach the gospel, to be a missionary. They are drilling into us how to have the spirit with us more than we ever have before in our lives, how to experience joy more than we ever have before. It just so happens, the way to do this is by obeying the commandments of God, by being obedient.
Well, that was a tangent. Anyway, a few days after I got here I was reading in the missionary handbook and read that "You should only communicate with family and friends on preparation day." So I decided, then and there, that I would only read letters on preparation day. And I kept that up for five weeks! Last preparation day, I was using my key to open a letter I had gotten three days ago. A sister next to me asked, "do you wait to read all your letters until preparation day?" "Yeah..." "You know you don't have to. You only have to write them on preparation day."
Huh. If an Elder had told me that (which, now that I think of it, several had), I wouldn't have believed them. But, assuming that the sisters know there stuff, I decided to ask my Branch President. In his own words, "You don't have to re-write the rules. The brethren have said you can read letters as you receive them." Oh my gosh! For a whole month, i had been putting off letter-reading for no good reason! So this is a good lesson for me, over-zealousness doesn't accomplish anything. The Lord has told me where He wants me. To go farther is, in it's own way, just as disobedient as lagging behind.
No more over-zealousness for this Elder!
So, this week while teaching one of our investigators, Elder Lucero and I heard words that every missionary dreams of. "Elderes. Quiero bautizarme." Direct translation: Elders, I want to be baptized. Woah! We really hadn't been expecting that at all, we still thought this particular investigator was miles behind in gaining a testimony. It's really something to see the way the Lord works with people at the same time we do--we are just instruments! And i can't wait to get down to Chile and hear real people say those same words, after having similar experiences. (This particular investigator knew that Joseph Smith was a prophet while singing a song about him. Me gusta esta experiencia).
This Tuesday we had the privelege of hearing from Elder M. Russell Ballard, of the quorum of the 12. Fantastic devotional, as can be expected. He talked about how to be a wonderful missionary. Study hard, work hard, keep the message simple, love the people. Oh, this is the most exciting work in the world!
Something that I have been trying to work on basically since week one is to show the joy that I have inside of me to other people, through my eyes, my hands, my face, through all of me. This gospel makes me happier than anything else in the world, and I want people to be able to tell that just by looking at me! I think I'm getting better at it, bit by bit. This last week, I have been trying to show my joy by my excitement, and by stepping out of my comfort zone.
Excitement: During my lessons, I have tried to keep a smile on my face and a warm, bright attitude during the entire experience. I think thiat I am really starting to figure out the right attitude I need to teach with, thinking about how much I love the gospel, thinking about what I want for the investigator, thinking that I love the investigator as a child of God.
Comfort zone: The first few weeks here at the MTC, while waiting ni line for food I would usually study vocabulary. This past week, however, every meal, I have been striking up a conversation with the person ahead of or behind me (or sometimes both), trying to demonstrate this same excitement and enthusiasm, along with a whole lot of friendliness and interest in their life. For one thing, this is just a whole lot of fun. I like people. For another, I think I am learning to develop the attitude I will need to talk with everyone in the entire mission of Vina del Mar.
Next up--street contacts! Or sidewalk contacts anyway. Hopefully nobody will mind hearing my testimony in spanish even thought they are learning Tiawanese.
Viviendo el sueño. Estoy haciendo la mejor obra en el mundo.
Con mucho amor,
Elder Jason Ray