Monday, October 31, 2011

October 31, 2011 (Halloween Edition)

Good week! Somehow I have a lot of stuff to write about and not a lot of time to do it in, so I´ll try to give the condensed version.
A couple of funny stories. First off, Friday I went on exchanges with our district leader. We were in a lady´s house getting ready to teach and she went to get us some water.She came in, gave a glass to my companion, then went out to get one for me. He looked at me and said ¨Elder, I´m fasting.¨ I grabbed his glass, chugged it down, and handed it backto him just before the lady walked back in with my glass. Then I tried to control my laughing while drinking the second glass.
Second story--yesterday at lunch with a family I hadn´t met before, I asked them what they thought about my accent. Their reply--I speak Spanish like I´m from England! I am so totally ok with this, I can´t even describe it. My goal now is not to speak with a perfect latin accent, but to speak with an Englateran accent.
Little bite of Chile for the week: Libigas. All ofthe hot water heaters in Chile are these nifty little insteant-heaters that run off natual gas, called colifonts. (Not as nice as north american heaters, even if it is instant). Because everyone uses this natural gas, there are a couple companies that drive trucks around with ready tanks to replace them if anybody´s shower suddenly turns ice cold. One companiy, Libigas, also blasts a jingle at full volume from all of it´s trucks. Usually about three or four times during studies one of the trucks will drive by and drown out the John Schmidt we were listening to. It´s pretty funny.
Something that missionaries are supposed to do every single day is ¨Talk to Everybody.¨ This means that if you see someone on the street, you assume they have been put in your way by God, and you go and talk to them, share a brief testimony, and ask to teach them more. Turns out this is one thing I can do, because I may not have a perfect grasp of Spanish or a whole lot of other missionary--knowledge (yet,) but I´ve got a willing heart and a big ole´ smile!
A few days ago, I got sick pretty badly, to the point that I was shivvering in about 70 degree weather. We came in early from the days work and I wrapped up in some blankets; when the other missionaries in our apartment got in, they gave me a blessing, that I would recover from the sickness and be able to work the next day. The Priesthood really is amazing. I have worked the rest of the week with nothing more than a few coughshere and there.
Story to end out: Anna. We had a lesson with Anna on Saturday, our only appointment before lunch. We went in with the plan to teach from ¨The Family: A Proclamation¨ because she was interested in families, but that changed pretty soon. She started telling us about how she felt distant from God, how she wanted to change her life to what He wanted it to be, and she had been praying that He would show her the way. And then there we were, offering exactly what she wanted--closeness with God, joy, peace. God answers prayers! And we got to be that answer to this woman. More details forthcoming in the next few weeks I hope!
I do love Chile. It is a beautiful place with wonderful people, and every day I thank God for sending me here.
Les amo,
Elder Jason Ray

Monday, October 24, 2011

October 24, 2011

Dear Mom and Dad,
Editors note:  Questions we had asked last week. 
Are you/were you shell shocked?  Has it been what you imagined?  More?  Less?  Do you really stay up till 11:30 and eat your main meal at 2?  Is there anything you wish you have that you don't have?  Have you been bitten by fleas yet?  Do you miss Elder Lucero?
Answers to questions--No, the missionaries aren´t all separated natives and gringos. It just kind of happened that way in the picture because everyone was scared out of their minds by what was going on and ended up next to someone with whom they felt comfortable, which happened to be someone they had just spent the last 3-9 weeks with.
Details about Chile... we stay up until 11 and get up at 7, just a little change mandated by pres. Gillespie. The main meal is around 1:30 and, what´s more, there isn´t any dinner! (Although I still haven´t adjusted to that schedule, so I tend to eat a really big snack when we get back). Anything I wish I have that I don´t? Just Holst´s ¨The Planets¨ and more time in every day, really. Other than that... If I think of anything I´ll ask! 
I´ve gotten a few flea bites, but it hasn´t been any worse (knock on wood) than mosquitoes at home so far, just five or six. I´ve also been treating my bed every week according to instructions from Sis. Gillespie, I´ll make sure to keep that up too. There are dogs absolutely everywhere, usually about six in every block of street. A lot of things are very similar to the States. For example, since being in Chile I´ve heard Justing Beiber´s name about 100 times, shopped at a place that looks like walmart, and even had people insult me in English, too. In Valparaíso, where I am right now, there are amazingly colorful latin houses built into the sides of these crazy hills. It looks like something out of Dr Suess, and it is so much fun to be here. Our hill also looks out over the rest of the city and the harbor. We can´t take pictures while proselyting otherwise I would attach them here, but I have seen some amazing bright vistas and breathtaking sunsets.
We get around either by walking or using Micros, which is the bus system around here. Most people we´ve talked to are either Catholic or Evangelical, with a few Jehova´s Witnesses mixed in there too (They always seem to want to bible bash, though. Don´t worry dad, I just bear testimony and leave).
Oh, and I ate a completo for the first time two days ago! Slathered in palta (avocado) and mayonaise, as promised, it was pretty rico.
I´ll try to keep including other details about Chile as well, and some pictures, too.
So, now, this last week. We had a lot more success this last week than the one before, but I´m still excited to keep pushing, keep growing, and keep inviting people to Christ. If we keep improving at the rate we are now, by the end of this change (4 more weeks) we´ll pretty much have converted the whole city!
One thing that I love about being here in Chile is seeing the Chilean young men prepare to go on missions. One young man, Jorge, is actually leaving tomorrow for the MTC in Peru. Another, Cesar, who won´t leave for a few more months, has been going with us to visit investigators. Every time we are out with him, he´ll say something like ¨¡Quiero irme en la misión ahora!¨ (I want to leave on my mission now).  His excitement and his preparation are amazing for me to see. I am so grateful and so amazed for the faith and the strength that I have found here in Chile.
We taught an athiest through a window on Wednesday. We were looking for a contact from the street and we knocked on someone´s door; Sebastian stuck his head out his window, and we went over to ask him. 30 minutes later we knew that he didn´t believe in God, but his whole family was religious; we taught him that God is real and loves him; and he commited to read the Book of Mormon. Sadly, I didn´t get to be there for his second lesson, we did interchanges, but from what I could see or was told, he really does believe in God and just has had some hard times. But he had enough faith to start reading the Book of Mormon just after talking to a couple of 19 year old guys through his window. What an incredible person! I really believe God led us to him, because we never ended up finding the other guy.
Friday we had interchanges, so while our district leader was here with my companion I went out with his. The fun thing about this is that my companion-for-a-day knew less Spanish than I did. Thus, I ended up leading lessons in my second week out! I think I had the gift of tongues a bit extra that day, because it actually went pretty fantastically. One young man commited to be baptized, and his mom said that she would if she came to church and could tell that it was right. Next zone meeting I´m expecting to hear news that she wants to be baptized, too!
Yesterday, an investigator that I wrote about my first day, Guillermo, came to church. He came at just the right time--the primary program! Several times during the meeting he leaned over and said, ¨This is such an emotional experience. I can´t believe I´m here.¨ Guillermo is one of those amazing people who has absolutely been prepared by God. He has not had any trouble at all keeping any of his commitments, and every lesson nearly leaves Elder Paulsen and I in tears when he bears his testimony.
And to think, there are so many more out there who have been prepared in the same way! Yesterday after church we were walking between appointments when we saw a man leaning against his fence. We went over to talk to him and he invited us in. I didn´t understand everything that happened, but I know I felt God´s love for this one of His sons. We gave him a Book of Mormon and said we´d pass by again, even though he asked us not to teach him. Somehow I still feel like I am going to be a part of his conversion, even if it isn´t as speedy quick as was Guillermo´s.
I am so blessed and happy to be here. Every day I give thanks that I am serving a mission, that I´m in Chile, and that I am seeing such miracles every single day.
Another Chilean signoff: Que les vayan bien,
Elder Jason Ray

Monday, October 17, 2011

October 17, 2011 (First Letter from Chile)

Guess what. I´m in Chile!
I still have a hard time believing that sometimes when I wake up in the morning, it´s pretty fantastic and incredible. But it is also amazing to put on my badge and step out the door and realize this is really it, I´m a missionary and I´m here.

Chile is fantastic. I am currently working in Valparaíso, which is a beautiful, hilly city right next to Viña del Mar. For some reason I love walking the hills, and I love the latin houses and beatiful vistas. The people seem pretty great too. It´s definitely an adjustement, but I think I will come to love the Chilean people with all my heart.

The food here is pretty good, not spicy as I have been told, but good. Haven´t had a completo yet, but I have had many empenadas, a whole lot of jugo (juice), and a couple times I´ve even gotten to eat monkey brains (not really monkey brains, something to do with dehydrated peaches but I´m not really sure how to describe it other than it looks like a brain). We can drink the water here, but I´ve still been using the filter that I got at the MTC, just to make sure.
Chilean Spanish is really a marvel. I´ve heard everyone say that when I finally got to Chile it was going to sound like they were talking a different language, and boy, they were right! I can understand gringo spanish--that is, spanish spoken by someone who talks like they´re talking english--very well, but Chilean spanish is another beast entirelly. First off, they talk really fast. Second, they have an accent. And third, they take of every single ´s´ in every single words, and throw in ´po´ just for the fun of it. So, ¨los misioneros¨ is changed to ¨lo mijionero¨ o algo así. Po. President Gillespie made me promise I would talk proper Spanish and not do it like the Chileans, otherwise when I got back home nobody would understand a word I was saying. But, I am still being blessed with the gift of tongues, and with the gift of interpretation as well. I can now, after a little less than a week, divide out  most of the words one from another in a sentence, but I haven´t quite gotten to sticking it all together into a meaningful sentence yet.
A couple of important people in my life right now. First off, my companion, Elder Paulsen. Elder Paulsen is as different from Elder Lucero as night and day, so it has been interesting adjusting to being a missionary without being Elder Lucero´s companion (did that even make sense?) But that doesn´t mean he is bad, quite the contrary, he is a fantastic elder, ready and willing to obey and to go to work. He speaks beautiful non-Chilean-specific spanish, too. Elder Paulsen is from Layton, Utah, and went to BYU before his mission. He has been out now a year and four months, and is pretty excited to be training. He is a great teacher, too, and I´m excited about everything I am going to learn from him.
Second off is one of our investigators, se llama Guillermo. Guillermo is an oldish man, about 65 I would guess. He is special to me right now because, my second night in Chile, after teaching about eternal families, he accepted the invitation to be baptized. His wife just died, and it is amazing to see how prepared and ready he is for this message and this gospel. Even when an investigator has a baptizimal date, there can be uncertainty about whether or not they will actually follow through with their commitments and make it; I´m about 99% possitive he will. He´s awesome. Another cool part of this story is that God pretty much gave me the chance to offer that baptismal invitation, because at the same time that I was feeling a really strong prompting that I should ask him, Elder Paulsen was feeling quite strongly that he shouldn´t.
One more thing I almost forgot about! Saturday night was the Chile-wide 50-year-mission-in-Chile celebration. Because I´m stationed in Valpo, so close to Santiago (less than 2 hours), our zone was given permission to go with the stake to the celebration. What an event! It was comparable to the types of celebrations they have before temples are dedicated. Singing and dancing from all over South America, scenes from the Book of Mormon and church history, thousands and thousands of participants, a guest appearance by the first two missionaries in Chile, and a closing musical number by some 500 Chilean missionaries (myself included!), it was fantastic. I took some pictures and video snippets, I think I´ll save the videos for Christmas because there are a lot, but I will attach a few pictures here.
This is a little bit of life in Chile. I am loving it, even this soon after getting here, and working hard too. I am really coming to realize how big of a part my personal faith will play in the conversion of many souls, and that I need to devote myself completely and totally to la obra misional, la obra de Dios, la obra de salvación.
I´ve kind of taken for my own a motto of one of my MTC teachers. Viviendo el sueño, living the dream. I´m doing it! Does it get any better than this? At least for the next two years, sure doesn´t.
With lots of love,
Elder Jason Ray

Editors note:  Jason tried to send pictures but most of them didn't make it.  But here is a picture of him with his mission president, his new companion, and a few from the celebration he mentioned.


Thursday, October 6, 2011

October 6, 2011 (last MTC letter)

Dear Mom and Dad,
So, a few letters ago (maybe it was last letter?) I gave an update on my pen situation, how i had started using Zebra f-301's because they wrote so small. Yesterday I got a package in the mail from my dear aunt Andra. What could it be, but a whole ten pack of black Zebra f-301's! Aunt Andra now holds the title as the one who nursed me through wisdom teeth and the one who supplied my pen-needs for the rest of my mission. That is charity right there.

We had our last game of MTC soccer yesterday. (today is preparation day, so no soccer today; tomorrow is in-field orientation and that takes the whole day; Saturday is the day before we leave', and you can't do gym time that day either). I didn't make any goals, but I still think it was my best game ever. Why? Because I had footwork! I have not played soccer since I was six years old, and over the past few months there have been countless times where I could have done something really cool if I could have kept control of the ball, but I just didn't know how. Today I kind of figured it out! There was one spot in particular that was quite gorgeous. I went after a stray ball, maneuvered it around two players on the other team (one of whom DID play soccer in high school) and kicked it back in for an assist. There were angels singing praises, let me tell you.

So, Cecil O. Samuelson, beloved president of BYU, was released and given the title of emeritus general authority. Gotta say, I did not expect to hear that, especially since I'm pretty sure it means he's not the president of BYU anymore! But hey, I can come to love another president in a few years. He just probably won't have a name as awesome as Cecil.
In other news--The Provo Tabernacle is being rebuilt as another temple?????????!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!!!!!!! That's pretty fantastic! I'm really hoping it will finish construction in about two and a half-four years, right in that time where I'm still a student there and can go to the dedication... But wow, that made me happy.

Aside from these bits of news, General Conference was definitely meant exactly for me. I'm sorry for everyone else who thought it was meant for them, but it was pretty much all for me. Definitely my best conference every, and I think it's because of how prepared I was. Not only am I focusing on spiritual things all day, every day, and looking for those beautiful bits of wisdom that our prophets love to share, but I went into this general conference with a specific and direct list of questions. Through the course of the conference, all four of my questions were answered to my total satisfaction. I think the lesson I have learned from this is to make a big deal out of conference--the week before, get ready for it, and then on that Saturday and Sunday make it important, pay attention, be focused. Watching conference at the MTC is a great experience, probably second only to seeing it in the conference center, but I think every conference I go to from now on will be better after this experience.

The first night that we got here, Wednesday of two months ago, we had an activity with all the other newly-arrived missionaries. We heard a little lesson about what it means to be a missionary, then we were shown a little demonstration as two missionaries came up and talked to a live investigator sitting on a couch. Then, to our utmost shock, the 'moderator' paused the discussion with the missionaries and the investigator, dismissed the missionaries, and invited us to give our input, as if we were one 300-person companionship. I still remember from that day, feeling like I was just starting to see how much God loves his children and how I can be a part of that love. Last night, Elder Lucero and I had the privileged of being the two missionaries to begin teaching those investigators before the moderator dismissed us. It was such a great opportunity, to feel the same outpouring of love and need to go help Heavenly Father's children, two months later, having learned and changed and become what I am now. I hardly said 10 words the whole night, so I'm pretty sure it was a blessing and an opportunity for me more than it was me serving anyone else.

This leads me into what I want to finish with today,  my last preparation day in the MTC. One of my first Sunday's here I watched a talk by Elder Bednar entitled "becoming a missionary." He said that if you just "go on a mission," you are really doing it all wrong. It's not about doing; it's becoming. Over these past two months, I think I have really become a different person. Twenty-two months more down the road I'm sure I'll be so different I won't even recognize myself, but here's a little bit of what is different now.

I speak Spanish. It isn't perfect, and I'm looking forward to being pretty shell shocked the first time I try to make a street contact in Chile. But when I think about how totally lost I was when I heard people speaking Spanish before my mission, and how well I can get along now (Elder Lucero and I basically don't speak English anymore), it's truly a miracle! A miracle, a gift, the gift of tongues, it's great, and I have to be thankful every day for it.

I teach like Preach My Gospel (mas o menos, I still have room for improvement). I'm not really sure what I based my teaching on before I came out here--probably on the teachers I had as a youth--but now I have a definite basis and foundation for the way I teach and everything I do. I think my teaching has improved loads, and I'm still improving every day.

I actually love everybody. Before I came out here, I was like an exceptionally friendly scribe and hypocrite (am I getting my scripture reference right?). I was friendly, so almost everybody liked me; but I only liked the people that liked me. Now, I feel like I love every one of God's children, even the ones that have rather a different attitude towards me--maybe even especially the ones who don't feel the same. And, I feel like I love the people who I already would have loved, more than I did before, like my capacity to love has increased.

This love has changed the way I think about things. Before my mission I had about as many missionary experiences as I can count on one hand. I could have had lots more, but there was always something inhibiting me from sharing my beliefs, like I would be stepping on someones toes if I told them about the Church. Now I realize how ridiculous that attitude was--"excuse me, I don't mean to be a bother, but would it trouble you too much if I shared with you the way to find peace in this life and eternal life in the world to come? What about the way to get through every single trial you have with joy and love? How about the only true source of happiness?" Now, every time I feel God's love for his children in my heart, I want to help them by inviting them to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Christ and his atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end (my purpose as a missionary). It's a wonderful change.

Cada día, yo digo que este trabajo es el mejor trabajo en el mundo. ¡Me encanta este trabajo! Yo se, mas ahora que en cualquier otro tiempo en mi vida, que Jesucristo es mi Salvador. Yo se Dios me ama, y que el Libro de Mormón es verdadero, la barre de hierro por cual podemos regresar para vivir con Dios. Yo se mi llamamiento es de Dios, por medio del profeta viviendo, y se que hay personas en Chile quienese me necesitan.

Go with the grace of God. My next letter will come from Chile.

Elder Jason Ray