Monday, November 28, 2011

November 28, 2011

Dear Mom and Dad,

We got to go to the temple this week! One of our recent converts, Guillermo, went and did baptisms for the dead. We went to accompany him and our ward missionary leader, Gaston, while he received his endowment (investidura en español. One of those words I imagine most people don´t learn in school). I´ll send some pictures from the temple as well.

The temple in Santiago is beautiful, and small--you actually can´t see it unless you are in the church-owned property that also has the Chile MTC, a distribution center, and the Santiago East mission offices. While there I also got cases for my scriptures, so now I don´t have to put them in covers made out of cereal boxes (it works, but it always feels a little weird to pull out a crunchy-O´s box to read something to an investigator). Going through the temple in Spanish was quite an experience. I think I understood most of it because I had gone through so many times in English, and the amazing spirit of the temple helped me to understand everything else I needed to. Both Guillermo and Gaston had big smiles when getting back on to the bus. Gaston is a convert of about two and a half years, and he made it to the temple. I have no doubt that Guillermo will be going there in another year to get his endowment, and to be sealed to his spouse.

So, we have a new Elder in the pension (which means apartment in mission-ese, don´t ask me why), which somehow made me think that I should give a background of all the Elders of O´Higgins (our ward) including the one who just left. My companion, Elder Paulsen. From Utah, went to BYU the year before coming out on his mission. Likes singing in the street (me gusta). He keeps finding unexpected talents while on his mission, out here he has learned how to play ping-pong, the piano, and now he is learning how to draw. He is the grandpa in our group, he has about 7 1/2 months left of his mission now.

Elder Mace, who just left. Also from Utah, also a BYU-ite. Everyone in the ward calls him ¨Elder Woody,¨ Like Woody from Toy story. He played the hymns on the piano while he was here. Pretty crazy, one time when I asked him if he could test me (meaning with a scripture) he bit my leg. Also super nice, the ward was sad to see him go.

Elder Umbach. He has been here for one more change than I have, but is several years older--he wasn´t planning on serving a mission until about 6 months before he came out, but after fasting and praying he decided it was right. Before that he was in the army and played rugby, so he is ripped. He also doodles better than anyone I´ve ever met.

Elder Marecos, who just moved in. He is from Paraguay, but speaks really good English (also Portugese and Paragi, ((I think that´s what it´s called, some Indian dialect)) he is a talented Elder). He wants to play soccer for BYU after his mission. He alternates between being really humble and quite to funny and crazy, and he is more expressive with his lips than anyone else I´ve ever met (Paraguayan characteristic?)

Speaking of lips. I´ve starting pointing things out with my lips like Chileans. Hehehe.

On Thursday night when we called President to make sure we could still go to the temple, he wished us a happy thanksgiving. None of us had even realized which day it was! Turns out we had a great thanksgiving feast, fajitas mexican-american style made by a chilean-canadian daughter of the Bishop. Then she showed us this house she wanted to rent out to missionaries--basically a paradise of tropical trees, flowers, and other greenery that I named Narnia. We can´t change pensions unless something bad happens to the original one, but I now know what my dream house looks like.

Two investigator stories, first Alberto. Alberto is the husband of one recent convert and grandfather of another. When we taught him the Word of Wisdom last week, he said that he had given up all of that three days ago when his wife told him that´s what he would need to be baptized--so much faith! We are also teaching another grandson of his, Eduardo, so I´m pretty sure the whole family is going to get baptized someday.

We met a family on the street a few weeks back and set up a time to pass by. Then we had a mission meeting go long that day and we missed the time, and after calling a couple of times it was looking like we weren´t going to be able to do anything there. Then a few days ago I saw the son, Diego, walking along the street. He remembered me too, so we started talking, and he said we could come meet his family again. Now we have a definite pass-by time, and I´m pretty sure the whole family things we´re pretty cool. When I left from talking with them, I realized that Diego reminds me of Jared. About 11, same mannerisms, same smile. That made me think of how glad I am that God is in my brother Jared´s life, to help him and protect him, and how much I want to help Diego to have that as well.

I decided on a goal for this change. I want to learn everything I possibly can so that I can train in my third change. It isn´t an application process, God decides, but I want to give it everything I have to become the missionary who could train after two changes. ¡Es posible!

I love being a missionary. Even the hard times are awesome, because it´s hard because I´m doing the same thing Peter did, Paul did, Ammon and Alma and Nephi and Lehi did, the same thing Christ did.

Love you all, and I pray for you every day.

Elder Jason Ray

Editor's Note: I asked Jason several questions and he responded to them before he left for the day.

Do you live in an apartment? With a family?
We live in an apartment with the two other Elders in the ward.

Do you cook for yourselves or does someone else cook for you?
We cook our own breakfast and dinner (if we want it/have time), lunches are with members. Lunches are the biggest meal of the day, like dinner in the states, and it´s the only time we have blocked out for meals. I usually eat dinner about every other night.

Do you clean your apartment or pay someone to do it?
We clean the apartment and dishes for ourselves, but we have a mamita who cleans all our clothes. She and her family are amazing, I´m pretty sure they´re spoiling me because no way are all the mamitas in Chile this good.

What is your schedule like as a missionary?
Wake up at 7, pray, work out (running if I´m lucky and someone wants to do it with me, jump rope if not). Eat breakfast. At 8:30 we start with an hour of personal studies, then two hours of companionship studies (only for the first three months, then it´ll go to one hour) and an hour of language study. The we work for an hour and have lunch at 1:30, for an hour and a half. After that we work until 9:30 or 10 (usually ten, there are a lot of people who have schedules such that they can only be taught after 8 or 9). Then we plan, eat, I write in my journal, and head for bed!

And here are some pictures he sent

In front of Santiago Temple
View from a member's "Tree House"
On top of the World
At the Santiago, Chile Temple

Monday, November 21, 2011

November 21, 2011

Dear Mom and Dad,

Another great week! Luis, father of one recent convert and wife of another, was baptized, and both Luis and Guillermo were confirmed and received the priesthood. This Saturday is a ward temple trip--all of them, Guillermo, Luis, Daniela and Fransisca (Luis´s family), are going to go do the temple work for their ancestors. And we get to go with them! Temple in spanish will certainly be interesting, but I´m really excited.

After he was confirmed, Guillermo told me ¨¨Yo voy sobre los nubes,´ or ¨I´m going above the clouds.¨ This gospel really is amazing, the power of the spirit is incredible.

A couple of stories to start off. Every so often, La selección national de Chile (the national soccer team) has it´s games, and everything in Chile stops. Then, whenever Chile scores a goal, the whole city erupts in applause and screams, really from every single house. Scared me the first time it happened, but now I think it´s hilarious!

Fun service experience this Wednesday, draining out a pool that was about 1/5 full of dirty water. We didn´t really have a way to make a siphon (and it probably would have clogged anyway), so we ended up using buckets to, bucket by bucket, pull the water up out of the pool and dump it on the grass. By the end, we were all totally soaked, filthy, and happy. Good bonding experience for all the elders in the ward, too.

My companion, Elder Paulsen, got really sick this last week. I was torn between wanting to go out and work and wanting to stay in because he looked so bad, but he kept saying he wanted to go out, so go we did! I´m pretty sure that gets him saint-status. There were times when he could hardly speak, and times when he looked like he was about to die, but we went out, taught some lessons (with me doing the teaching when he couldn´t speak) and found some great people.

One family in particular that we ran into is pretty special. They lived, as a family, for five years in North Carolina. A few of them even speak English (and about as well as I do!)  My companion said he had talked to them before and they never had any interest, but now they said we can come by sometime and talk, just because I´m from North Carolina. Moments like that just make me smile. I like thinking about how many people there are in Chile that I, specifically, need to find.

Note about another investigator, Anna. Anna pretty much asked us to baptize her the first time we taught her, she just doesn´t realize it. She explained that she felt like she was apart from God, that He had a plan for her but she didn´t know what it is, and she wanted to make the commitment to follow him. She also talked about how hard it is to have so many churches and that there should only be one, and that she wants to know what God´s reasons are for doing everything he does. Now, we´ve taught her a few more times, and every time she is absolutely full of questions and, by the end of the meeting, I can actually see more light in her eyes. She´s read all of the pamphlets that we have several times over now, and keeps reading the Book of Mormon even though she doesn´t always understand it. She also promised to come to church this next week, and wants the bishop to come bless her house. And when we first ran into her, we had no idea of any of this. This is the hand of God putting us where we need to be! I love being a missionary.

This is the end of my first change. Not too much is changing for this next one, Elder Paulsen and I will still be together here, although one of the Elders in our ward is leaving. I had a realization that I think is going to shape a lot of this next change--one of the best things I can learn here in my mission, perhaps, the absolute best thing, is how to be a good companion. Because if I can be a good companion here in the mission, then I can be a good companion for all eternity. So in this next change, I´m going to try to figure out everything I can about how to be the best companion, how to love and serve and have patience.

Qué más... I love my life. I love Valparaíso and Chile. I´m always hungry. I can jump rope for 200 reps at a time now (up from 30 when I started). One of the elders in the ward drew a caricature of the four of us and drew me singing. Jesus loves me.

One of my MTC teachers signed a tshirt with the saying ¨Viviendo el Sueño.¨ Living the dream. There´s really no other way to describe it!

Os amo, (I know vosotros isn´t really used except in the scriptures, but I like it),

Elder Jason Ray

Luis y Familia

Zona Valparaiso

Monday, November 14, 2011

November 14, 2011

Dear Mom and Dad,

¿Cuántos estrellas hay en los cielos? Sin cuenta.  (Editors note:  if you say the answer all together, it means 50.  How it is written, it means without number.)

I laughed at least. :D

So, fun and busy week this week, including a visit from an apostle and a baptism! But I´ll start off with the most important part. Dessert.

We had a ward activity this last week, a ¨Noche de Postre¨ (night of dessert) where all the different organizations made a dessert and everybody got to sample it. I got to taste a whole bunch of Chilean desserts, AND I learned how to play Chilean tag. The running around part is the same, but if you squat down and touch the floor, you are ¨safe,¨ and whenever you tag someone you shout ¨¡Pinta!¨ Had quite a fun time playing that with the primary kids and one of the other elders in the ward. Then an investigator showed up, I took my dignity back out of my back pocket, and we did my first church tour (I never used to really notice the paintings in the church, but they are really fantastic!) Good night.

That was Saturday--on Friday we had my first mission conference, but this conference was special. Usually to do conferences, the mission is split up into three different ¨zones,¨ (the coast, the interior, and the north) and each zone has it´s own conference. But this time was special. The whole entire mission, some 200 strong, gathered together in Viña del Mar, where we were visited by Elder Cook, Bishop MacMullen, and two other General Authorities. What a blessing! Bishop MacMullen talked about the first vision and what a powerful story it is, how the Holy Ghosty will always testify that it was true. Elder Cook talked about what it means to be a missionary. A missionary is a branch-builder (or ward builder), a missionary is bright and friendly, a missionary has the spirit. Then we took a mission-picture, possibly the only mission-picture to have been taken for 5 or more years, and I got to see all my district from the MTC again (Elder Lucero sends his love).

Yesterday was my very first baptism. Such an incredible experience! Guillermo Hughes, almost 70 years old. My second night here in Chile I had the privilege of asking him to be baptized, and yesterday it really happened. His faith is so incredible! Now he is getting ready to be confirmed, receive the priesthood, and go to the temple--all within three weeks.

While we were sitting there waiting for the baptismal service to start, I asked him how he was feeling. ¨Como un pez en el agua,¨ or ¨like a fish in the water.¨ I asked him if that was a good thing. ¨Si, si, un pez en el agua se siente muy bien.¨ ¨Yes, yes, a fish in the water feels really nice.¨

The baptism itself was quite interesting. Guillermo is tall, about 6´, and he has bad knees. He was baptized by my companion, Elder Paulsen, who is a good deal shorter and forgot that he had bad knees. But, after three failed tries, the ward mission leader suggesting that, after the prayer, he lay down as if he was getting in bed. It was the strangest way to be baptized I´ve ever seen, but it worked!

And, when he went under the water, I felt the spirit hit me like a brick, bearing testimony that this was an ordinance of salvation, that Guillermo had taken the first step to exaltation, to eternal life. When he came up out of the water and stood up, he didn´t move for about a minute. He stood there praying, crying a little bit as well.

I feel so privileged to be here, to be a part of this work--of bringing people to Christ! There is really nothing else like it in the world.

Elder Jason Ray

Editors Note: A couple of pictures that Jason sent this week. The first picture is of Guillermo, his companion, the ward mission leader, and Jason.  The next two are the view from his window where they study.

Elder Paulsen, ward misson leader, Guillermo, Elder Ray

View from his study window

Monday, November 7, 2011

November 7, 2011

Dear Mom and Dad,

Quick note before I start--letters. I have not sent any letters at all yet! I still don´t know where the post office is, but that is first thing on our list for today. I was just told that pouch mail won´t work from Chile to the US, but I can use the US stamps I have left over to send mail anyway... point is, hopefully in these next few weeks I´ll actually get some letters in the mail. And sorry to everyone who has written and hasn´t gotten anything back :P

I want to start out with a funny Spanish story today. There are a lot of funny mistakes that can be made in Spanish--for example, if you say God has a body of ¨Carne y Huevos¨ instead of ¨Carne y Huesos,¨ it goes from flesh and bones to meat and eggs. And then there is the classic ¨You can repent of your pescados, fish, instead of pecados, sins. I have never made any of these mistakes... but this week I found a new one! The word llevar means to wear or to carry. While talking to an older lady on the street she said that sometimes she prays that God will just llevar her--I immediately started thinking, oh, she wants more help and support from God in her life, and we can give her that! I started bearing my testimony of how yes, God could llevar her, when my companion cut me off and said that God had a purpose for her to still be on the earth. I started thinking a bit, and realized what it means for God to llevar someone. I just told an old lady that God could kill her if she listened to our message! Oh, I love being a missionary :D

This Wednesday was quite a fun experience. It was my first experience doing interchanges with another missionary in my area, instead of me in his. That meant I had to know where we were going, who we were looking for, and because my companion knows as much or less Spanish than I did I ended up talking and teaching a lot too. I think because we knew we were totally helpless by ourselves we must have been humble in all the right ways, because it was an amazing day! Five great lessons, including two out in the street. We met a man who was almost the 34th miner to be trapped in an accident up north, but believes he was saved by God; we met a super intelligent health nut with dyslexia who didn´t know anything about God but wants to read the Book of Mormon now; we helped Guillermo, who is about to be baptized, understand the importance of praying to God for help and of inviting his family to learn about the gospel, as well. It was another testament to me that this is God´s work, and he knows how to do it, and all that remains for me is to follow where He leads.

Speaking of Guillermo--next week will be my first baptism out in the field! He passed his interview yesterday. Every time he talks about the gospel he starts tearing up because it means so much to him. He has showed me really what this gospel is. It is the truth of God´s plan for us, it is the way to salvation, and every single person I pass by on the street needs it more desperately than they need food or water.

For example, Anna (did I write about her last week or the one before?) She has been praying to God for years and years, asking for help, for solace, for peace, and that He would show her the way that He wants her to go. Just this last month we ran into her in the street. Just this last week, she found out that God really has been listening to her prayers, that He loves her and cares about her more than she can imagine. She told us that she felt the spirit in her heart after she prayed to end the lesson--all the feelings she had been seeking, the peace, the love, the solace. We´re taking her on a tour of the church tomorrow, and I am so excited to see her take the same path that has helped Guillermo--and so many others.

I feel like God is shaping me step by step into the missionary He wants me to be. This last little while I have learned so many things, one of the biggest being how to talk to everybody. This is a part of the missionary that God needs me to be; I can do it now without any problem, I feel like I´ve gotten over the fears that were inside of me and I am completely comfortable walking up to someone in the street, or sitting next to them on a bus, and introducing myself and bearing testimony of the gospel. Next up I want to tackle something bigger, working together with the members of the ward. Prophets have promised huge success for years if the missionaries and the members work together, the members finding people and inviting their friends to hear the gospel, the missionaries working as teachers and guides to the friends of the members. The only problem is, as far as I have seen, it doesn´t really work like that--yet. But it is possible! That is the promise I keep seeing and reading, that it is possible. So now I´m trying to figure out exactly how. It´s a bigger job than talking to everyone, because all I had to do for that was get over myself. This time, I need to figure out how to do things that haven´t been done before (or at least not by anyone close enough to show me how).

But the bottom line is, this isn´t just about me and what I´m doing, it´s about God, and He is bigger than the little fears in my heart that kept me from talking to people, or in the hearts of the members that keep them from inviting their friends. And it´s the name of His son that I wear, not my own; and it is his work I am involved in. And for this I know that He will help me, and every day I give thanks that I can be here, in Chile, His servant, His missionary.

So, that´s my week.

Vayan con Dios y les amo,
Elder Jason Ray