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.