So, I think I´m going to go through the week chronologically, because a lot happened and I want to keep it all sorted out.
First off, two days of interchanges. First, Elder Do Nacimento, one of the zone leaders, came up and worked with me in my area. He is ancient in the mission--actually going home next week. He was so animated and motivated to talk to people, several times crossing a street to invite someone to hear about the gospel, once asking a man to put his shovel down and come over and listen to us. It reminded me how important it is to talk to people, how God really puts people in our path who are prepared and who want the gospel, and how our job is to remember that and give every single person the opportunity to accept.
Next day was interchanges in Casa Blanca with Elder Rivoira, an Argentine who arrived with me in Chile. We had a great time teaching the law of chastity to two girls ages 9 and 10. Awkward.... But pretty necessary, sin duda.
Friday we had a mission conference. Not as big as the last one, where everyone in the mission came, but still a third of the mission. We started out talking about health and safety, then about Joseph Smith, we performed an impromptu Christmas program, and we watched "A Christmas Carol" (which would have been incredibly scary if it was made in 2010, but was actually rather cute).
In the Christmas program, my zone sang "the first noel." The arrangement called for the second verse sung as a solo, and I was chosen to do that. After singing it through twice it was time to start. I had forgotten to tell the other missionaries that the last time I performed something in public I had to pause for 30 seconds in the middle to stop shaking (which is weird, because public speaking doesn´t bother me at all)... I made it through the verse without fainting, but I was definitely shaking pretty bad. To me my voice sounded like a billy goat I was shaking to much. But, a couple of people told me I did well, and Hermana Gillespie, the mission president´s wife, told me to make sure I am using my voice in my mission (sacrament meeting, before lessons, etc), so I guess I did better than I thought. Or better than it sounded to me. And who knows, maybe if I keep singing throughout all my mission, I´ll kick the stage fright!
Saturday, Christmas Eve, was reeeeally full. We started out cleaning out the church--I vacuumed and dusted the chapel and hosed down one of the outside walls. Then we headed off to a hospital, carrying sacks of presents from all of the relief society´s in all the stakes, some Elders wearing santa hats. We sang Christmas hymns, gave out a bunch of presents, and then got to watch as the children´s faces (and their mother´s faces) brightened up as they heard us sing.
We spent Christmas Eve with a great family in the ward, la familia Rivas Quiroz. We read the Christmas story from Matthew, Luke, and Isaiah, sang hymns and primary songs, and shared what Christmas meant for us. I translated part of "I Celebrate the Day," by Relient K, to use as a part of my explanation. Then we ate a lot of food and laughed while Elder Umbach played with a Max Steel doll left over from the hospital (that´s a "you had to be there" moment, but it was quite hilarious).
Christmas day was very relaxing, church, studies, calls to families, and 2 different onces (like a small dinner)--one with the ward mission leader, one with our mamita. By the end of the day I had eaten way too much, meaning I felt about the same--content and happy--as every other Christmas of my life!
Something that I decided over the weekend: We watched a Mormon Message in which Heber J. Grant (I think) is shown giving his brand new coat to a poor boy in an alleyway who was huddled around a heating grate trying to keep warm. I decided that I want to live by the motto "clothing is to be given away." Who knows how much of a difference that coat made to that boy--maybe it even saved his life? And besides, I can buy seven coats every winter from Goodwill for the same price as one from Sears.
Overall, first Christmas on my mission was great. I missed being with you all, tree-decorating and present-unwrapping and breakfast caserol-eating, but I am happy that I can give up a few Christmases with my family so that other people can live forever with theirs.
Lots of love,
Elder Jason Ray
|View of the hills in the city that they climb.|
|Christmas picture with the family they spent Christmas with. Jason says "they just pose this way".|
|In the hospital delivering gifts to the kids.|
|Jason with Anastasia, 4 yr old|