Week of laughs, week of miracles. Every day I feel like I learn so so much, yet also realize how much more I need to learn. I once heard that knowledge is like a balloon. Everything inside the balloon is what you know, everything outside is what you don´t know. The surface of the balloon is what you know that you don´t know. So, the more you know, the bigger the balloon, the more you know you don´t know... So, I guess my balloon is just growing a lot!
Last Tuesday we had a fun service project that took up most of the day. We helped Hermano Videla, a slightly senile father of a lady who gives us lunch every week, to put up a roof in a house he is building (or maybe renovating? Anyway, good for him for keeping busy in his old age). I can see why he needed us, having a couple tall gringos (and a tall Paraguayo) helped a lot. But oh, Chilean construction! I remember construction the way I learned it from Dad--you measure twice (or seven times) and cut once. And everything fits together perfectly, precisely, exactly. In Chile things go more in a whatever-works sort of way. We ended up cutting the pieces of roofing in kind of trapaziodal shapes to fit them against each other and the walls. A few times we had to attach a little board onto the main supporting beam so that we could nail the roofing on at all! And the best part--every time our dearly beloved slightly senile Hermano Videla cut a piece of roofing, he laid it flat down on the cement floor and cut a line in the cement alone with a line in the panel. We all ran out of the house when he started cutting to avoid getting cement in our lungs. We´ll see how well we avoided it in another 50 years, huh?
Yesterday in church, both Guillermo and Luis got callings--librarian and first counselor in the Sunday school. So amazing to see them make all this progress! I can literally see a new light in Guillermo´s eyes. He has a new vigor, a new smile, that was definitely lacking before his baptism. Luis, too, got pretty emotional when someone asked him how the gospel has blessed his family during Gospel Principles. I love this job!
I had interchanges to Casablanca this week. Very hot and no hills--definitely a change from Valparaíso! We had some great lessons, and I´m pretty sure I learned things that will totally shape the rest of my mission, but the coolest experience was talking to a man from New Zealand.
We went by to visit a member family and started up a conversation with a man from New Zealand that was out in front reading. We ended up talking for about an hour, out there in the yard, but it was worth every minute. He basically told us his life story, from growing up in a part of town in New Zealand such that it didn´t bother him to have a gun pointed in his face, being baptized at 8 but never knowing anything about the church, learning the culture of drugs and alcohol that made up his neighborhood, etc. A few years back he got a working visa to go to the United States. He ended up in Park City, Utah, to snowboard. There he met an insane snowboarder who totally changed his live by being friendly to a complete stranger, then inviting him to church. Time passed, he didn´t really find the church just then, and for a while he had a job for Skull Candy programming tours for people like Snoop Dogg. He said he literally slept in beds of cash in tour buses. Then he got news from home that his best friend had committed suicide. He really started looking, and eventually ended up back at the church. He described his repentance process, recovering from his multiple addictions, and learning to put all of his trust in the Lord. He described how he ended up in Chile--he knew he couldn´t go back to New Zealand, couldn´t go back to his old haunts and be around his old friends, it would be too easy to slip back to his old ways. So the day his visa expired he went to the airport, said a prayer, and bought a ticket to Chile. Now he is staying with a family that used to be his neighbors, helping them out and praying to find out where to go next. Couple of things he said I really liked: ¨Church isn´t three hours on Sunday, that´s the easy part. It´s every decision you ever make.¨ ¨Repentance is real. There are people who get up and say ´oh, I´m so awful, I didn´t pay my tithing last month, but I know that eventually I can repent,´ and there are some people sitting around who think ´I was smoking pot last night, how can I repent from that,´ but the thing is that repentance is real, it really cleans you. Not that I´m condoning these sins, but I can help people to realize that now.¨
Last story of the day: Lucía. There is a part of our area that is a little poorer than the rest named La Ísla. We are usually up there once or twice a week, but we´ve never had much success. One day this week we were walking away from a failed appointment and I started praying to find out why we were there. Two minutes later, a girl called us over from the side of the street. She told us she wanted to learn about God. Then she told us she wanted to come to church, change her life, and--when we taught her about it--she wanted to be baptized. Since that first day we´ve seen her a few more times and gotten to know her a bit better. She turns 20 tomorrow, but she takes care of herself with her 21 year old sister, who has a two-week old baby. Her mother and several brothers have passed away, her father and several more brothers are in jail. The one thing she holds onto is her faith in God--that God is great, and He will help her. And now she is coming into the kingdom of God, preparing to be baptized and receive the Holy Ghost, which will lift her and help her and change her life. And she is coming into a ward family that will also lift her and her broken family, heal them, bind them, bring them joy where there once was sorrow.
This gospel literally amazes me. To think that I am so privileged as to be a missionary spreading it... God is to nice to me! And He is wonderful and merciful to all of His children. That´s what I´m teaching. That´s my job.
Viviendo el sueño.
Elder Jason Ray