Monday, December 31, 2012

December 31, 2012

Jason mentioned the Primary did a live nativity, not sure how this one fit into the story.

Dear Mom and Dad,

Can you believe that the next time we speak, it will be 2013? I´m still going crazy thinking about that!

Christmas was really delightful, I did enjoy being able to see you and talk to you. I´m still amazed by Jared´s voice. And Cindy Lynn´s belly.

We also had a great Christmas here in Chile, everybody treated us really quite well. We had a fantastic dinner with the Sepúlveda family, our ward mission leader, we had stuffed chicken and fried potatoes. I think the best part was probably the gifts that we brought for them--it was so great to see their happiness as they opened them, especially when Martin (6) started playing with the bow and arrow we brought for him. I felt pretty great :D

In other news, we have moved to a new appartment that is about 10 times nicer than our old one and, to sweeten the deal a little bit more, is literally next door to the church. It´s even worth being on the 7th floor (although my arms were a little tired after carrying the beds up all those floors!)

So, I got an idea from Elder Applegate, who is sitting next to me and writing to his family right now. He is doing a wrap up of 2012, including all of his different areas, companions, and any special lessons he learned. I´m going to try doing the same thing, we´ll see how it turns out.

Stage One: January to March.
Companion: Elder Buffum.
Area: O´Higgins.

I think this was one of the stages in my mission that I learned the most, that I formed who I would be as a missionary. I started really comminicating in spanish, instead of just speaking moderately well and not understanding hardly anything. I also learned how to teach simply, using the scriptures, to answer specific needs that every person on earth has, to help them realize how the gospel really gives us everything that we need.

This was also a very funny time--Elder Buffum was quite a jokester, and I learned a good stock of lame jokes in spanish that I still pull out from time to time (to my companion´s dismay).

Stage Two: April to June:
Companion: Elder Sosa.
Area: Quintero

If i learned how to be a missionary in O´Higgins, Quintero was where I really put it all into practice. Elder Sosa was just starting out his mission, and we were put into a ward that neither of us were familiar with. Along with learning how to read a map, I talked with hundreds of people in the street, and for the first time started working with ward members to help find and teach investigators. I think I matured a lot here, just because my companion had less idea of what he was doing than I did (even though I was still relatively clueless). I also kind of faced down my own prideful desires and worked to submit them to God´s will, to lose myself in this work and be just an instrument in God´s hands. And I took lots of pretty beach pictures.

Stage 3: June to July
Companion: Elder Arbon.
Area: La Ligua

I really appreciated La Ligua for two things. First off, I was priveleged to be called as the branch secretary, and was there right in time to help the ward leadership be completely reorganized. It was an exciting, inspiring time, and I feel like I made a few really meaningful contributions. The second part was working with Elder Arbon. From day one, we hit it off fantistically (pretty much the same thing that happened with Elder Lucero in the MTC), and worked together in the closest thing to perfect unity that I¨ve ever experienced. It gave me an idea for how all companionship relationships really should be.

Stage 4: August until now.
Companions: Elder Barría, Elder Gatica.
Area: El Mirador.

I´m still living this part of the journey. I am learning more about myself and about other people, about how to help, motivate, and inspire, and a lot more about working together with everyone--my companion, ward leaders, other missionaries, etc. I have been blessed to get to know some really incredible people, and have learned a few lessons that will bless my whole life (for example, how to follow promptings of the spirit, that I should work in Family History, and how to play soccer). I hope to keep learning and growing as much as I have done so up to this point, and even more.

I am so grateful for the blessing that my mission is in my life. I am endlessly grateful that God would call little old me and send me out as his personal representative, to take the most important message in the whole world to those who most desire it.

Con mucho amor, y

Viviendo el Sueño,

Elder Jason Ray

December 24, 2010

Editors note: Sorry, I totally forgot to post this one last week.

Dear Mom and Dad,

If there are any random letters or numbers in this letter, then you should know that it is because Javier, Elder Gatica, and Gaby (Yessica´s 4 year old daughter) decided today was bother-Elder-Ray day. But I´ll try to get it to come out understandable.

First off--did you know that here in Chile, Christmas is the 24th? Santa Clause passes by all the houses during the day, and everyone opens presents at midnight. I figured it must be because Santa Clause needed to work more hours to reach the whole world, so he reached an agreement with Chile to move up their Christmas a few hours.

Yesterday in church was a special Christmas program. The ward choir sang hymns while the bishop gave short introductions to each one, talking about different aspects of Christ´s birth. Two of my favorites were "If You Could Hie to Kolob," which isn´t in the spanish hymnal but that we translated, and "Oh Holy Night."

This week we also had our Christmas Conference in the mission. We prepared a skit, a hymn, a capacitation (how do you say that in English? Training?), and a little gift interchange. For our hymn, we did "Angels We Have Heard on High" (just for you, mom).

A couple of cool updates--Yessica and Janyra set the goal of going to the temple the third week in January with the ward. They are going to a class on Family History during the second hour on Sunday to get prepared.

We met the Soto family. Marta Soto, who is a returned missionary, recently came back to church with help from her neighbor. Her kids, Kevin (17) and Valentina (15), came to church for the first time in about a year yesterday. I really feel like I understand Valentina, because she is really worried about studies, doing well in school, and an eventual career (in Chemistry). We´ll keep trying to help them get firmer in this next week.

Carlos is doing pretty great, he came to play soccer with us this morning, and also went to church yesterday. He is pretty worried right now about the house he is living in--when he started renting the house, he had an agreement with its owner that he would eventually buy it. So he upgraded the entire house, basically rebuilding it over again, and now the owner says she doesn´t want to sell... Today he is talking it out with her again, so we are praying that everything ends up alright. Janyra accompanied us to a lesson with Carlos, it was pretty great.

Have I written about the Wiker family? The other day we were looking at the ward directory and we say "Renato Wiker." We didn´t recognize the name, so we decided to go by. There we met Renato, his wife, and his grandson, Bayron. Renato and his wife are now pretty commited to return to church, and Bayron (11) wants to get baptized. It was pretty miraculous how we found them, and right when they had been wondering what path their lives needed to take!

Matias is really excited to get baptized, but his parents still haven´t given him the green light. His dad says that he wants him to wait until he turns 14 in another month, but he really wants to be baptized this next weekend so that he can go on the ward temple trip in January. Your prayers are all appreciated!

I´m excited to see you all tomorrow. Merry Christmas Eve!


Elder Jason Ray

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

December 17, 2012

Dear Mom and Dad,

To make up for my historically short letter last week, I´ll try to write this one big enough to have it qualified as a small novel.

The first story that I want to tell: E. Since the very first week that i got here to El Mirador we have been teaching him. This week, on Monday, we went by to teach him with a sister who recently came back to church after about 6 months inactive. He loves going to church, and knew from pretty early on that he wanted to be baptized, but on Monday that "someday" became real. The sister that came with us to the lesson, P, shared her testimony about the church and about how blessed she has felt since she was baptized--and, more recently, since she started coming back to church. After listening to her testimony, E said that he wanted to prepare himself to be baptized the 23rd. The next day we went by, and were absolutely amazed by what a huge change we saw in him! He was inspired by the fact that he had a goal, a date on his calender, he had been reading the Book of Mormon and praying for strength to leave behind everything in his life that could keep him back. That day, he agreed to leave tobacco and alcohol, both of which had been lifelong addictions. As we were leaving, he said, "My case is going to end up being a legend, isn´t it!"

We also had a breakthrough moment with M. He decided that he does want to be baptized, and that the only thing he needs is that his parents agree with his decision. On Wednesday he left for an end-of-year vacation with his grade, and is probably getting back home as we speak. While he was gone, we went by and talked with his parents to help them get over their doubts. The biggest potential problem would be that they prefer M to do what they say instead of keeping the commandments (for example, drinking green tea). But, at last they started talking about how happy M has been these last few weeks, and said they would have to talk to him about it.

This week we had a few great moments with Y (random note--she has a cast on her foot right now after she walked all over town one day and got muscular fatigue, your prayers are appreciated). We started talking about prayer. There had been a pattern in our lessons with her that, after asking her to say the last prayer, she would ask someone else to do it, and only after 5 minutes of encouragement would she actually start to pray--but every time she prayed, her prayers were incredible. So, she agreed now that she needs to be willing to pray whenever she is called on, and is willing to do it.

J, just 2 weeks after being baptized, is almost more involved in the ward than the bishop. She met Y this week, and stopped by a couple times after that just to see how her foot was going. She went to sit by someone who was sitting alone at church so that they would have a friend, and got to church an hour early to set up everything for the Christmas devotional. I am amazed by her attitude of service and devotion!

We had a great Elders quorum activity, I made french toast with maple syrup (thanks for the imported maple extract, it was a hit!) then we played soccer (I made myself famous when I missed 20 easy goals with my feet but hit in a few lucky shots with my head).

The ward Christmas devotional was also pretty incredible, the highlight was definitely the nativity scene by the primary children. There was even a little baby Jesus, who was born about a month ago!

Viviendo el sueño,

Elder Jason Ray

Monday, December 10, 2012

December 10, 2012

Dear Mom and Dad,

Today I had the adventure of wrestling with the internet for 30 minutes to get my letters to send. It was a great adventure, but I now have about 30 seconds to write!

Quick Updates: Ja is doing great, she has a huge light in her eyes, is reading the scriptures like a madwoman, sharing the gospel with her family, and enjoying the companionship of the Holy Ghost.

We found a really great family--the Ws. Their 11 year old grandson B decided right away that he wants to come to church and be baptized.

E is basically a member of the ward by now.

M started keeping the Word of Wisdom when he met us, even though he didn´t understand it.

More next week--love you all,

Elder Jason Ray

Thursday, December 6, 2012

December 4, 2012

Baptism Day

Dear Mom and Dad,

What a week. J was baptized, and it was amazing, and Elder G and I are staying together again for 6 weeks more (making him my companion for the longest amount of time so far). But we are excited to keep on working together, there is a lot to be done in these next 6 weeks!

First off--J. On Monday of last week, we had a fun Family Home Evening with An and A, one of my favorite families in the ward. We watched a little video called "Treasure in Heaven" about John Tanner, a man who sacrificed a lot in the early history of the church. While we were commenting about the movie afterward, J said at one point, "I think I need to keep the commandments even if God doesn´t bless me right away, because that´s not always how it works." It was amazing to see this kind of faith in someone who so recently is coming into the gospel. Then we laughed a lot while trading stories about who was clumsier in his mission, An or I.

Her baptism on Saturday was such a beautiful moment... I asked her several times how she felt, and she always said, "I don´t really know how to describe it." But I could definitely see her excitement. When she was baptized, when she came back up out of the water again, she gave out a little gasp, like she was really surprised about something. There was a new light in her eyes, as well, that hadn´t been there before. I would say that, on a scale of one to ten of how happy she is, she probably hit an 11 the days of her baptism and confirmation.

That same weekend, we got to know her family. Her dad is hilarious, in a really sarcastic kind of way. Her mom is really nice, and her cousin (who also lives with them) is quite, and runs marathons. They aren´t quite as ready to receive the gospel as J was, but the mom still said, 2 or 3 times, "we´ll see if we end up joining too..."

Another highlight of this week were interchanges with Elder Y, one of the assistants to the mission president. It was really neat how, during the course of the day together, every single one of the things that had been bothering me was resolved, from my questions about my own ability to do certain things to my doubts about receiving revelation. The other highlight was doing missionary work with a car--like a taste of a mission in NC.

We had a really fantastic lesson with Y this week. We had noticed that, even though she always goes to church, she usually left before the 3rd hour, Relief Society (and Primary for her kids). We wanted to talk about the Restoration and invite her to stay for all three hours, but when we got into her house the lesson took a completely different track. We started talking about families, and about preparing N and G for baptism and missions, and how happy she has been to see her kids fight over who gets to say the prayer at lunch. At last, she decided that she needed to stay all 3 hours so that her kids could learn more in primary. It was amazing how the spirit guided us away from the lesson that we had planned out to the lesson that we really needed to teach.

In other news, M is still doing great, going to church and every other activity he possibly can. We introduced him to the G, a great family in the ward who has kids his age, and he had a blast with them as well!

Viviendo el sueño,

Elder Jason Ray

Monday, November 26, 2012

November 26, 2012

Jason's doing some cooking and the Thanksgiving Feast

Dear Mom and Dad,

The best part of this week was definitely that I scored about 15 goals in our Saturday Morning soccer game. OK not really, but I´m still really excited for that--I can actually play soccer now, and the combination of my really good day and the other elders having a really bad day was quite pleasing.

The best part of this week was working with J. This week we talked a lot about how our faith in Jesus Christ and his promises to bless us motivate us to keep the commandments. We also talked about the commandments, about how God expects us to live. I had the absolute privilege to see as J changed her life in really meaningful ways, and in a really short amount of time, to put it in line with the Lord´s will. What bravery, courage, and faith, what strength! I remember one lesson in particular when we explained a commandment that would require her to leave behind a lot of her past. She listened and asked questions as we explained the commandment, shared from the scriptures to show that it was God´s will, and asked he if she was willing to live it for the rest of her life. Even though her eyes were filled with tears her voice never hesitated: "Yes." Her smile when she stepped out of her baptismal interview stretched from ear to ear.

Another fantastic part of this week--and still better than playing soccer--was working with M. When we went by his house to get to know his family earlier this week, he surprised us with a homemade badge that he had pinned to his chest: Elder M, La Iglesia de Jesucristo (the church of Jesus Christ). Another day when we were sharing in the church, he talked about how, usually, he gets bored and restless in church and just wants it to end so that he can go home, but here, he keeps wishing it could just last longer. Him and me both!

We are trying to work with Y´s husband D now (they were separated before, but since she got baptized they´ve gotten back together again. Yay for the family-oriented Gospel!) She is really excited for him to be coming to church and sharing with us, and wants to be a good example for him, reading the scriptures and praying with the family. I hope to bring good news from this corner in the near future--Y is great, and it would be just fantastic for her if D got baptized as well.

This week we also met JR, who is friends with a couple of people in the ward, including J. He has a pretty great story--a few years back he decided he wanted to know a little more about our church, and some missionaries gave him a booklet about Joseph Smith. Since then he has found evidence that Joseph Smith was a prophet and that the Book of Mormon is true everywhere he has looked, from archaeological reports to other religion´s sacred texts. He has studied everything except for the Book of Mormon itself, but now he has a copy and is pretty excited to read it!

So, those are a few more reasons why this week was so great.

Viviendo el sueño,

Elder Jason Ray

Saturday, November 24, 2012

November 19, 2012

Dear Mom and Dad,

Really a miraculous week. For about a month and a half we had been having trouble helping people come to church, but these last two weeks have been really incredible, and I´m sure that it´s all thanks to God´s power. Here are a few stories of people who came this week.

First off, the A family. They were baptized a little over a year ago, right when I got here to Chile. When I got here to the ward, they hadn´t been going to church for about 5-6 months. We started working with them and teaching them, and this week, for the first time in 8 months, J. A. came to church--and stayed all 3 hours! He also came with his son, J. I., who had been a little bit active, and with his daughter S. His wife was sick, but I´m sure she´ll come the next week.

I think two things really made the difference here. First off, in one lesson that we had several weeks ago, they talked about how they didn´t feel worthy to go to church because they weren´t perfect, because they messed up in this and that. We shared a passage from the Book of Mormon which says, basically, "God doesn´t ever kick anybody out of His church, all are welcome." Then this last week, we had a Family Home Evening with the S family, recent converts that live nearby. They shared their conversion story, and then talked about all the different ways that the gospel has helped them since they found the church. Hearing this message from other "normal people" who, like them, had jobs and kids and normal lives, really made a big impact. It was a cool moment when the two families said hi to each other at church.

Next, Y. We met her when she came to English classes with her friend A, who is friends with J.  Last Sunday, we left her with a copy of the Book of Mormon and a chapter to read. By Tuesday, she had already read, prayed, and knew that it was true. On Thursday, she said that she wanted to be baptized. It was really an amazing experience, being able to be a part in her conversion. She is a very special person, and I am absolutely sure that her life is going to change and improve now that she has found the church.
Quick note about J (remember her? The one who knows that the church is true, does everything like she is supposed to, but just doesn´t want to get baptized). This week her mom came down from C, a city to the north, and took her three kids back up there with her. We had a nice moment with the family before they left, and J´s mom thanked us for watching out for her daughter, and away they went.

Now for E. He came to church for the second time this week and loved it just as much as he did the first time. Somebody asked him if he came with somebody or if he was there alone, and he said "for now I´m coming here alone, but pretty soon I´ll convince the rest of my family to come with me." We also had a really powerful (powerful=something that leaves Elder Ray in tears at least three times) experience watching "The Testaments," a movie that talks about when Christ came to the Americas. Really, the only thing that E is missing right now is a testimony of the Book of Mormon. As soon as he reads it and prays about it, he will be absolutely ready for baptism.

M, the 13 year old grandson of M, came to church again. He is so cool, he also received an answer for the Holy Ghost when he asked to know if the Book of Mormon is true and got really excited when we talked about baptism, and how we can be baptized by someone that holds God´s authority. Our next goal is to help him to get to know the youth here in the ward better.

We had a couple moments that made us think a lot about God´s power to soften people´s hearts, too. A few weeks ago we got to know the A family and had a fun Family Home Evening with all of them. The highlight of the whole night were the games that G (5) and AL (3) taught us to play. Sadly, their father didn´t really want to participate, and stayed in his bedroom the whole time we were there. This week we went by to say hi again, and it was a totally different story. He said that he wanted to go back to church and prepare himself to be sealed in the temple with his family, his two daughters and his newborn son (he still hasn´t been born yet, but it should be this week). He said that he realized what the important things in life are, and he is ready to do things right. 180 change! It was great.

I know that this work is true. I know that God and Jesus Christ really showed themselves to Joseph Smith, called him to be a prophet, and gave him the priesthood, the power to act in God´s name on the earth. And I have been called to be a part in this great work, too!

Viviendo el sueño,
Elder Jason Ray

Monday, November 12, 2012

November 12, 2012

Dear Mom and Dad,

Miraculous week that ended with a ton of people going to church, here´s a couple stories.
E: We had some really powerful lesson this week with him. On Monday we talked about why it is important to know the Book of Mormon is true, making a chain between the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith, Thomas S. Monson, and the truth of the church. The spirit was powerful, it was an incredible thing! Then on Friday, one of E´s neighbor´s who is a member of the church went with us. He told his conversion story, talked about how he came to know that it was all true, and offered to stop by and pick him up on the way to church. He went, and loved it! (This week was the primary program, and who couldn´t love the primary program?)

We had a few more lessons with M this week. During one of them, out of the blue her grandson M2 showed up--he´s 13, and just as interested in religion as his grandma. We talked for about 40 minutes, and he decided he wanted to go to church. He went, hit it off amazingly with the youth group there, and is all excited to come play soccer during the week!

During English classes, we always start and end with a prayer in English. Usually I write up an English prayer on the white board taking suggestions from the class, and either me or the teacher, C, help one of the students to pronounce it. C speaks English almost perfectly, but when we had asked her to pray in the past she said that she wasn´t religious and didn´t want to. This week, while we were asking for suggestions for what to ask for in the prayer, she said that she would like us to ask for her mom, who was sick. My companion immediately said, "do you want to say the prayer?" She said sure, and then started. "Hey God, it´s been a while..." She then proceeded to give a really beautiful prayer in English. It was great!

Several weeks ago, J, the investigator who knows the church is true but has never decided to be baptized, brought a friend to English classes--A. A has been a member since she was a little kid, but hadn´t gone to church in quite a long time. When she set foot in the chapel, she felt something special, and knew that it was time to come back. Now she is going to church and wants to prepare herself to serve a mission. This week, she brought another friend, Y, to English classes. Y also came to church on Sunday, and when we met later in the afternoon to teach her, she said that she could feel that this was what she needed to fill all the emptiness she felt in her life. What a miracle!

Several other people went to church as well, but those are the stories I don't have time for. Basically, my whole life is a miracle.

Viviendo el sueño,
Elder Jason Ray

PS--a private message from Elder Ray to Alyssa, who didn't give me her email address:

Congratulations Debbie! I am so proud of you, and so excited for all of the experiences you are going to have in your mission. I know that you were called to Michigan by a prophet of God, and there are specific people waiting there for you. Make these months you have left count, studying and preparing!
Elder Jason Ray

Monday, November 5, 2012

November 5, 2012

Dear Mom and Dad,

I´m just going to write a few stories, but try to give them a bit more detail.

We had a great lesson with Edison, his wife Claudia, and their 10 year old son Martin. We watched "Together Forever," an older church movie that talks about how the Gospel blesses families, and about how families can be eternal. It was an interesting lesson because of how close we got, so many times, to a really powerful spiritual breakthrough, but that every time, right when we were almost there, the phone rang, or someone knocked on the door, or Claudia had to leave to go help out her sister. It´s an interesting pattern that is actually quite common--whenever we are getting to a really spiritually powerful moment in a lesson, distractions start to pop up on all sides. But I think they still felt the Spirit quite strongly, and we´ll keep helping them to see through the mists of darkness to see the truth.

Last week we started teaching a lady named Miriam. She is a wonderfully interesting lady--she is about 75 years old, and has literally investigated every church there is except for ours, looking for the truth. A year and a half ago, she left a church that she had been a part of for 25 years when she found something in the Bible that wasn´t in agreement with what the church taught. The first time we visited her, she gave it to us really plainly: "I´m looking for Christ´s church, the holy, true church of God, for His chosen people, and if you are that people the I want to be baptized in your church!" Last week we printed off a chapter of the Book of Mormon in large print so that she could read it. This week we did three more and ordered a largeprint copy of the entire book. I´m excited!

Irene and Evelyn: I think I´ve written about them before, but here´s a brief summary. When I was in La Ligua, a sister and her young adult daughter showed up out of the blue at church one day. The daughter is heavily handicapped as a result of a car accident several years ago, but even so she got up to bear a powerful testimony about the scriptures. When I got here to El Mirador, I realized that this was their home ward, where they were baptized and where they go to church as often as they can.

This Sunday we went by to visit them, and caught them right as they were on the way out the door. Evelyn, the daughter, was having trouble breathing (she had a breathing stem for 31 months, it was taken out towards the beginning of October, and she just never adjusted to not having it). We helped to get her down to the car--then, while Irene went back up to bring the clothes, we sang hymns with her for 15 minutes. It was a beautiful moment, in a way, even though it was a bit unusual. In between hymns, Evelyn would ask us questions to make sure that she was really understanding the scriptures that she was reading in that moment. I am praying now that everything goes well in the hospital in Santiago!

We were out on the street one day when Matias Rojo (18), who I have written about before--a recent convert who has been inactive but went to General Conference with us--walked up. We started talking, and within 2 minutes Maria Paz (15), another recent convert whose family we had been trying to get to know, walked up and joined the conversation. She said that her mom, Pamela, was at home because she broke her finger in a car accident, and that if Matias would come with us we could go by and see her. He agreed, and so we all went together. They all hit it off wonderfully, Matias, Maria Paz, Pamela, Pamela´s daughter Pamela, and they are all planning on going to church together now. It was a very beautifully orchestrated miracle. There was no doubt it was God´s hand.

I absolutely love my mission. I hope that I am able to convey a part of that love and excitement through these letters. Thank you for all the support and love that you give me to help me here.

Viviendo el sueño,

Elder Jason Ray

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

October 29, 2012

Dear Mom and Dad,

Fun week (as usual), I´ll try to fit in as many stories as possible.

We watched the short video of the Restoration with Edison and Claudia this week. The spirit was pretty powerful there when Joseph related the first vision, it was a very moving moment. Edison was quite touched, and said that he would be baptized once he learned that the Book of Mormon was true. That was a very incredible moment!

We met two kids, Marcelo (13) and Marcela (9, don´t ask me what their parents were thinking) who had met with missionaries before, about a year ago. Marcelo read the entire Book of Mormon in a month. Marcela was just learning to read, so she only made it through the first book, but they both said that they were sure it was true. They are really quite delightful kids, we´ll see if they mother lets them keep sharing with us.

We found Luis and Beatriz again after about two weeks without seeing them (either they weren´t there when we went by, or we couldn´t go by the days they were free). They said they noticed the difference when we weren´t there, that their lives seemed less peaceful and more stressful. Now they started reading the Book of Mormon and praying together again. I love this family so much, I really hope they keep turning to God, because He could bless them in incredible ways.

Last week, we went by Yessica to teach a lesson, but she was really sick. We taught a little bit about blessings, how Christ and His apostles healed people and how that power and authority can still be used today, and gave her a blessing. This week she told us the story of what happened later. She said that after we left, she felt a heat starting in her head and then trickling through her whole body--when it finished, she got up off the couch, good as new, and then couldn´t stop moving until 3 in the morning she was so energized. What an incredible experience!

We had an interesting visit with Leonel, but I was really interested by something that he noticed from his Bible study. When Moses came and brought freedom from slavery, part of the price was the death of the firstborn sons in Egypt. When Christ was born and brought freedom from death and sin, part of the price was the death of the firstborn sons in Bethlehem (when Herod commanded his soldiers to kill the baby boys). My mind can´t quite grasp what significance that has, but it is an interesting type, how all things point to Christ.

We are still working with Javiera, who really wants to get baptized but just doesn´t ever make the decision and do it. In one of our lessons this week, we were talking about the courage it takes to make the right decisions, and she said that she is really good at standing up for what she believes in at school, even though nobody else thinks that her opinion is right or respects what she decides to do. She really is a very strong person, I hope we can help her reach her goal to be baptized soon.

Last night we had a nice visit with Carlos and Katalyna, a young couple that we started teaching a few weeks ago, and Angel and Andrea, a young couple from the ward (he is the elders quorum president, she directs the music, they both sing in the ward choir every week. Cool people). We had a great time talking about how much the gospel helps us in our daily lives, it was a nice visit. Carlos said that he Katalyna had been talking earlier on about how much peace and happiness they felt when we were around--we got to explain that those feelings come from the Holy Ghost, which comes from living the gospel.

Loving life, Viviendo el sueño.

Elder Jason Ray

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

October 22, 2012

Dear Mom and Dad,

I´ll start out with a couple of big fail stories, just so you know that I´m still your slightly clumsy son. On Monday, we decided we wanted to make completos--like hot dogs but with tomato and avocado as well. We prepared 6 delicious looking completos, 3 each... which were completely ruined because I put way too much salt in the avocado. Don´t ask me how it happened, but it was pretty intense.

Second story--the mission nurse gave me some antibiotics for a sore throat at the beginning of the week, with the instructions to eat them with food and at the same time each day. Of course I thought, "I can take one every day after lunch, which is when we eat the most, and I´ll always remember it!" I took the first pill, and promptly fell asleep in our next lesson--I guess I missed the drowsiness warning :P. Luckily I´m feeling better now!

This week we had the great privilege to hear Elder Dallin H. Oaks. He came on Saturday morning to speak to the entire mission. He talked about dedication, about giving ourselves completely and totally over to the work, and about how to listen to the spirit--he told several stories about times when he has noticed the spirit, and how it has affected his life. One of the things that most impacted me was his smile. I had never noticed this before about Elder Oaks--he always struck me as being a bit more serious--but he always has a huge, happy smile on. And President Arnold, the area president of South America South (Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay), reminds me a lot of my Uncle Larry. Just a fun note.

Because of some really unfortunate national planning, I can´t get baptized this next weekend--this Sunday is voting day, and we can´t do any other meetings apart from Sacrament meeting. But he is still doing great, we had a Family Home Evening last night with him and the Smiths (J´s family). I looked a lot more excited to share the gospel with his family after learning that J´s mom didn´t want anything to do with the missionaries to start with, but that J ended up baptizing her.

Ja still doesn´t want to get baptized, but, she is doing a great job to help other members become stronger in the gospel. One of her friends, Aa, said that she might have gone inactive for loneliness if it hadn´t been for her friend Ja. Then, this weekend, she invited two friends--An and Vr--to come to one of her lessons. They are both members and have been for quite a long time, but they haven´t gone to church in quite a while. We taught about what it means that we are sons and daughters of God, everybody felt the spirit strongly, and the next day An and Vr showed up to church with Ja.

We had a great moment with Ya talking about the Resurrection. I don´t know if we hadn´t covered it very thoroughly, or if she just didn´t understand, but when we talked about the fact that the resurrection means a restoration of our body to our spirit, in a perfect, flawless way, it really hit her. I could see the spirit working in her to teach her and bring this truth home to her heart. It was pretty fantastic.

Remember En? I met him my first week here in the ward, he is the son-in-law of the second counselor. We started teaching him again, and this week we went by and read the Book of Mormon with him, from the introduction. When we got the the invitation--to read, meditate, and then pray to know if it is the truth--we all took turns sharing our testimonies of how we learned that the Book of Mormon was true. The spirit was strong, En seemed pretty touched.

Viviendo el sueño,

Elder Jason Ray

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

October 15, 2012

Dear Mom and Dad,

So, funny story about the age change. Ja, the eternal investigator who has been going to church and seminary for a year but who doesn´t want to get baptized, went into conference praying and fasting for a definite answer so that she could make the choice and get baptized. She had said, when she turned 18 two months ago, that if the mission age for woman was lowered to 19 she would get baptized to be able to serve as soon as she graduated. Guess what the first thing she heard from the conference was!

We found a less-active member named J this week. Actually, I met him several months ago in an interchange in another area. It was raining a lot, and a family of less-active members had pity on us and let us in the door to dry off. One of their sons, who was there visiting, lives in our ward, and he gave me his address. We went by this last week, and he told us a pretty amazing story. He was baptized thirty years ago, and went inactive as a young man, about age 16. He has now not gone to church for 20 years. But he said that all the circumstances in his life, from the possible lung cancer that was detected in his lungs from smoking to the way he has been feeling about his life, makes him believe that Right Now is the moment for him to make it back to church. It was pretty neat.

Y stopped reading the Book of Mormon for about a week, for about the same reason I used to not read it for a week before my mission--I got busy, or just didn´t think about it, or when I had the free time I did something else. When we went by to share a bit with her, the difference was obvious. She was irritated by her children´s behavior, frustrated by her life situation, sick and tired of working, and just wanting it all to go away. We invited her to read the Book of Mormon for a few minutes, and then passed by the next day. The difference was like night and day--where she had felt stress and frustration before, she was feeling peace and happiness then. We talked about Lehi´s dream, and how the iron rod is the only way to get to the tree of life, to help her understand this pattern in her own life. It was definitely a good reminder of how much the little things really matter.

Do you remember E and C? C is the inactive daughter of the 2nd counselor in the bishopbric, E is her very catholic husband. I met them towards the beginning of my time here in El Mirador, but they got lost for a few months while going on vacation and redoing a wall in their house. We visited them for the first time in a long while this week and shared about the Restoration, talking about the church that Christ formed while on the earth and Joseph Smith´s vision when he asked which was the true church. It was really powerful lesson, and I´m excited to keep sharing with them.

We met a sister with a really sad story yesterday. She joined the church in Colombia, then came over here to Chile to get married to the missionary who baptized her. We didn´t ask for details of the story, but she made some really bad decisions at one point in time, was divorced, and got to the point where she felt like she was all alone in the whole world with her 2 children (she couldn´t even go back to Colombia because her ex-husband needs to keep seeing the kids). Right now she is almost to the point of getting out of her hard situation, she is reasonably within months of having her life how it should be, but I could see in her eyes and hear in her voice how difficult it has been to pull herself out of what she did. We are going to try to help her get her life back together, and I am going to always remember that the choices of a few moments can have pretty big consequences.

Last story, one that left me absolutely amazed by how great the spirit is. We were with the A family yesterday, recent converts who stopped going to church because they felt guilty for having made a few mistakes. Pure, beautiful revelation reminded me of a scripture passage I had read earlier in the week, in 2nd Nephi 26:25-28. (It says, in the words I can remember in English, "Has he commanded anyone to leave the synagogue, or the house of worship? Behold, I say onto ye, no.") When we started sharing from this passage, we all felt the spirit confirm it. The family decided to go back to church.

I feel so privileged to be the Lord´s servant, to be able to be an instrument that the Holy Ghost can use to touch somebody´s heart. I love my mission, every single minute of it.

Viviendo el sueño,

Elder Jason Ray

Monday, October 8, 2012

October 8, 2012

Dear Mom and Dad,

Wow, what a week. Luckily I have more time for writing this week than I had last week (less paperwork for the zone), so I´ll try to get all my ideas written down well. I particularly want to talk a bit about General Conference.

We met an inactive member named M this week, an 18 year old kid who was baptized a few years ago. He is the only member of his family, and after a while he stopped going to church because of pressure from his family and from the world at large. The story of our running into him this week was really incredible--a few weeks ago someone mentioned him to us, saying that it would be good for us to go by. A few days later we ran into a member who knew where he lived, but he wasn´t home that day. This Monday, an appointment in the same neighborhood fell through and we went by to see if he was home. He was, and whats more he was planning out his 18th birthday celebrations. As we started sharing with him, it became very clear from the spirit that we had been sent there kind of as a warning, letting him know that he shouldn´t do anything against the commandments for his birthday or it could go badly. The spirit was so strong while we were teaching, there were several moments that I was absolutely possitive that the words we were speaking weren´t ours at all. End story: He told us this weekend that he hardly celebrated his birthday at all, he´s perfectly fine, and went to the first session of general conference.

We also went by D and her family, including her boyfriend A and her daughter B. We had shared with them before, and I had felt like God wanted us to help the family. I thought God´s idea was to help D and A get married so that A could get baptized (D and her three children were already members). That hadn´t come to pass quite as I had imagined it, and so I thought that we just needed to give the family time. But then D and B (12) came to the ward activity, and we decided we needed to give it another try. Whats more, in the ward activity, God gave me a different perspective about what we could do for this family. We were there to help B to be an active member of the church during the crucial teenage years. When we mentioned this to D, she agreed immediately and said that she would start going to church with her daughter. This was a good reminder for me that I need to submit my own will to God´s, in ever situation.

I, the gate-man we found several weeks ago, is so incredible. He came to General Conference this week, two sessions, and we shared quite a bit during the week as well. He loves talking about faith, and has readily noticed that his own faith is growing as he talks with us and reads the Book of Mormon. Actually, he had to leave early during the last session to get to his job on time, but when he heard that the next talk was going to be on faith, he stayed another 15 minutes to hear it! Knowing him has helped me to strengthen my faith, as well, to know that God has prepared many people to receive the restored gospel.

Randomly funny story--we went by to see O, a recent convert, but he wasn´t home. We started talking to his mother in law, who told us that he had been assaulted earlier that week (luckily he was running with nothing but his clothing, not even a set of keys, so they didn´t take anything and he is fine now). The funny part was how the robbers assaulted him--they threw green, hard avocados!

Y is doing great. Her birthday was this last week (31), and she had a little party and invited us to stop by. When we got there we realized that everybody she had invited were members of the church--J, who baptized her, the Elders Quorum President and his wife, who directs the music in sacrament meeting, and a really nice brother who helped her to get her printer working again during the 2 weeks that her cyber was shut down. She really truly already looks like she has been a member of the church her whole life.

We had a great zone council on Friday. President Kähnlein has the goal of putting the whole mission, letter for letter, in line with Preach My Gospel, the missionary guide revealed by the prophet. We are going to make some changes this month, and he gave us a little "heads up" for the next months as well, letting us know in advance that there will be a few more changes coming. One of the things that I really liked from the council was a quote from Brother Gallardo, the new mission secretary. "Las metas se cumplen." (Goals get achieved). It made me think about my goals, my desires, and how hard I work to make my goals reality.

Last but not least--Conference. I feel like I was priveleged to participate in an absolute spiritual feast, like I have been showered with bits of revelation and guidance for my mission and my life. What a conference. A few highlights:

The new mission age rule, that young men can leave at age 18 and young women at age 19. Wow, talk about a surprise! I feel like one of the fundamental parts of reality has been shaken and turned on its head, but you better believe I am excited. I am sure that this will result in more missionaries, both men and women, who are ready and willing to give of their lives in the service of God. I am proud to be living in this great time.

Questions answered. I took a list of questions into the conference, things that I have been wondering about, mostly questions about how to improve my service as a missionary. There were a few moments (especially during Elder Perkin´s and Elder Holland´s talks) where I felt like God was speaking directly to me, telling me what I needed to do. I felt like my whole mind was illuminated, it was incredible.

I also had an idea during Elder Eyring´s talk in the Priesthood Session. He talked about the things that he does to help his sons to understand and grasp their true potential, even though sometimes it was difficult for them to see it. I decided that I should do something similar (but, granted, a bit smaller in scope) for the missionaries in my zone. Today I bought some nice paper, that I will use to write an apt scripture and an inspiring message to every Elder in the zone, trying to help them see what they can do or become.

I am so grateful that there is a living prophet on the earth today, that we have apostles, and 70, and all the authority and organization that Christ established. How incredibly blessed and privileged we are to live in these days.

Viviendo el sueño,

Elder Jason Ray

P.S. My sister Rachel signed her letter to me this week "I´m a Mormon, I know it, I live it, I love it." Life really does rock :D

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

October 1, 2012

Dear Mom and Dad,

This week was pretty special for several reasons, but one of the biggest is that President Kähnlein, our mission President, accompanied us this Thursday. It was an incredible day, his testimony of the church was incredible and made me think a lot more about everything that the church has been for me in my life, how it has always given me stability, peace, a sense of belonging, and opportunities to feel the spirit. I also admired a lot the way that he shared the gospel. It wasn´t stressed, faked, pretended, or anything of the style--rather, I always felt like he was having a good, meaningful conversation with a good friend, and like he was sharing something that he really knew would help other people to be happier.

One of these lessons was with C, who we met while she was out on a walk with her three kids. She invited us to come by another day. We went by and shared a bit about the Book of Mormon, then, when we went by with President K., talked a lot about the church and how great it would be for her, her kids, and her husband. At the end of the lesson she mentioned that she works with children, and that if she ends up joining the church she would love to work the the children in the church.

We also taught J, who has been investigating the church (including going to seminary and institute) for a year now. We have tried everything we could think of in these last few months to help her to get the courage to accept the answer that she has received from the Holy Ghost and to be baptized; President K. came, and she explained to him that she still felt uncertain and wasn´t sure if she should be baptized. He related his own conversion story, how he, too, didn´t know everything when he was baptized, but that he continued learning and progressing afterwards with the help of the Holy Ghost. Then he said something like this: "God knows where he is sending his servants, and I¨m sure he sent me here today to talk to you. Literally, you are here with the highest mission authority in this part of the world, and I am inviting you and imploring you to accept the answer that you have received, to move forward, and to be baptized." She accepted, we are now working towards the 20th.

We had lunch we the sister that organizes our lunches for us, Hermana S. Her husband has been inactive for quite some time. He is a character--he is Italian and suffered a motorbike accident a few years ago, with the result that he talks and acts like a really friendly Jack Sparrow-type pirate. We talked all during lunch, and his past, how he got to know his wife, and his testimony of the Book of Mormon. We invited him to come back to church at the end, drawing on his entire life´s experience to help him see that it was the right thing to do. President K. then invited him to General Conference this next weekend, saying that any questions he had would be answered there. At the end he agreed to go, but with the condition that Pres. K. would give him 10 dollars if his questions weren´t answered. :D

R and her two kids were another miracle. We knocked there door while looking at names on a list of less-active members, and R said that we got there in the exact moment that she had been needed something to help her out. They all came to church sunday, and R excitedly signed her family up on the list to clean the chapel in a few more weeks. Such a great experience.

I is another great story. We met him because he works at the gate in an apartment complex--we came over and introduced ourselves to him, then started sharing the gospel. He came to church this sunday, just beaming and full of light, and introduced himself to the whole world, just like we did every week. It is incredible to see how just a few days with the light of the spirit can change a life.

Last off--Y looks like she has been a member her whole life. The way she acts, talks, walks around the chapel, helps people out, is just incredible. I am so blessed to have been a part of her conversion experience, to have been a tool in God´s hands in that way.

Viviendo el sueño,

Elder Jason Ray

Monday, September 24, 2012

September 24, 2012

Dear Mom and Dad,

I have 8 minutes to write, so I´ll get typing.

A miracle that has happened here in my mission is that I no longer have stagefright. I remember in a talent show in my first year of BYU, I froze up so bad while singing that I had to stop for 30 seconds to catch my breath. But, a few months ago, I had the thought that the only reason I still had stage fright was because that was how I thought of myself--I´m Elder Ray and have stage fright when I sing. So I decided that instead of fear, it was exileration. Now, I´ve been singing every Sunday in sacrament meeting for about two months, and I feel fantastic every time I do it. What a blessing that is!

I had the great change to do interchanges with Elder Bessey and Elder West, two missionaries who are just starting out, this week. It was really incredible--I could see myself in them, a testimony of the truth of the gospel burning bright, behind young, innocent eyes strained to understand what the Chilean people is saying. It also made me realize how far off I was when I first got here and thought that the zone leaders were super human. I believe that they are missionaries just as powerful and effective as I am, because they know just as I do that this work is true. And in the eternal scheme of things, 1 year of experience isn´t much. It was a humbling thought.

We had a lesson with C this week that pretty much marked our time sharing with him. He really opened up and asked us all of his deep, hidden questions. We shared with him from the scriptures and, more than anything, our testimonies of the Book of Mormon and the things that we felt that helped us to know that it is true. The spirit was so strong when he got down on his knees and asked God if the book was true, it was incredible. He is leaving town for a month now, but I¨m excited to see what he has learned and felt when he gets back.

This week was the celebration of the Chilean Independence Day, el 18 de septiembre. I think Chileans really know how to throw an independence party--three days of dancing, eating BBQ, and throwing flags from every possible location. Quite a blast.

We talked to Y more at length about her baptism. She told us that, when she was confirmed and recieved the gift of the Holy Ghost, she could feel/see/sense the darkness leaving her as a light, clean, pureness entered in. She said that for the next two days, she was hardly aware of anything that happened, she was so content and happy with life. What a blessing it has been to know her, and to have been a small, small part in her conversion.

This work is true. I know it with all my heart.

Viviendo el sueño,

Elder Jason Ray

Monday, September 17, 2012

September 17, 2012

Jason's zone

The baptism this week

Dear Mom and Dad,

Good week! It ended with an amazing baptism and confirmation, but we´ll get to that last :D

This week the bishop asked us to go visit a guy named DL. He was baptized years ago in Australia, but his records didn´t exist, so he asked us to go figure out what DL knew so that they could get a new record created. We also got to meet his wife, RL, who got baptized about a year ago when they moved here to Chile. Really interesting family. DL found the church while he was traveling all over the world, he wasn´t just in Australia but also in Japan, China, Asia, Europe, the US, and then back to Chile. He had kind of forgotten about God while he was traveling, but when he got back to Chile he decided to find the nearest chapel, and showed up one day with his wife (she´s also Chilean), RL, who liked it and then got baptized.

Talking to the mamita, the sister who we pay to wash our clothes (now that is charity in action!), we decided to go visit one of her neighbors, P. The mamita (whose name is P, what a coincidence) said that she had passed through some hard times and could really use some help from God. It turned out that she was already a member of the church, although she hadn´t been in 20 years, but her boyfriend was also incredibly eager to learn more about God and to follow him. He was also very insistent that they learn together as a family, it was really a beautiful thing to see.

Here in El Mirador, there are a lot of apartment complexes that have gatemen. Usually we just tell the gateman which apartment we are going to, but this week we ended up talking to one of them for a good 20 minutes (in the end we never made it to the apartment we were going to, it was funny). He told as about his goals, his dreams, and also the hard life he has had. He showed us his hands at one point--they were scarred and marked from years and years of hard work for his family. When we shared with him that he could find peace, rest, new life, and even eternal life in God, he started crying. It was really a sweet moment, and made me think about all the other people that are ready to hear our message, that maybe I haven´t looked at and considered talking to before.

We had a really huge blessing this week--Elder Viñas, from the 70, came to give a couple mission conferences. He talked to the leaders of the mission about how we should avoid needless and useless traditions that take our time and attention away from missionary work, and he talked about the level of dedication and preparation that we should help people to achieve before they are baptized. The really amazing part was after the conference. Elder Viñas wanted to talk to a couple of random missionaries to get a feel for how the mission was doing. President Kähnlein chose my companion and I as 2 of the 4, so I got to have an interview with a general authority. The spirit was really strong, two things that he said stuck out in my mind. 1) Help people to feel the spirit so that they will want to act, and 2) use the Atonement as my big motivation. Using the atonement, I can motivate myself to do about anything.

So, last up, Y was baptized and confirmed this weekend. She is absolutely glowing with light now, it is so incredible to see the change that has taken place in her, how happy and excited she is, how much faith and confidence she has in the Lord, how much commitment she has to keep moving forward. I had the privilege to confirm her and bestow the gift of the Holy Ghost on her, and the spirit moved me to say some pretty incredible things (not that I can remember most of them now, but I think they were meant more for her than for me).

So now, time to get back to work. I love you all,

Viviendo el sueño,

Elder Jason Ray

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

September 11, 2012

Dear Mom and Dad,

This will be a short letter since I hardly have any time at all. But, this was a crazy week, so I´ll type fast.

We found a couple named J and D knocking doors one day. We had a really powerful lesson answering all their questions from the scriptures, they said that they would read the Book of Mormon to find out if they needed to get married and baptized.

We also found a man named W walking along the street yesterday--he was walking in the same direction as us, after we started talking he invited us to come in and share. It turns out that he really wants to start believing in God, change his life, and get baptized. It was incredible how God led us right to this man who is so ready, so prepared!

Y smoked last sunday, We asked her how she was doing on Wednesday and she started to cry as she told us about it. She then went off alone to say a prayer and ask God for forgiveness. It was incredible, she came back about 10 minutes later absolutely changed, she said that she knew God had forgiven her and would help her to not fall again. She passed her baptismal interview, and is so excited for this saturday that it just makes my day every time we go by.

We went to a baptismal service in the ward next door of a sister named J. She found the missionaries through a friend, asked for the friend to set up a visit, and immediately changed everything necessary in her life to be able to get baptized. The room was so full that the 6 missionaries who were there had to wait out in the hall and just listen to the prayer.

C, who went to church last week, gave up alcohol, coffee, and tea right away. He is also commited to follow God for life. Really great guy.

Now comes the crazy part. Thursday morning Elder B got a call telling him to pack his bag, since he was going to leave on Friday morning. He is now up farther north. Y and J were quite sad to see him go--I was too.

Elder S came down from Illapel, the zone where Elder B was sent, for three days before going home. He was an amazing example of how to finish a mission honorably. I could tell that he had worked hard for two years, that he was dedicated and commited and that he would work miracles in his family and friends once he got home. I had heard about Elder S ever since I was in Quintero, my second ward. He started his mission there, it was quite the privelege to be with him at the end.

I am now with Elder G. He has been a missionary for 6 months now, he came in with Elder S, my son (mission language--the elder I trained). We are super excited to be together, we get along fantastically and have already begun to see miracles.

And my time is already up! I´ll send some pictures of everyone involved next week.

Viviendo el sueño,

Elder Jason Ray

Monday, September 3, 2012

September 3, 2012

Dear Mom and Dad,

To start off: Mom, I think I found your favorite scripture.

"...we were exceedingly rejoiced when we came to the seashore..." (1 Nephi 17:6)

Other slightly silly news: Thank you so much for the birthday backage. I was so happy to see the church movies, and almost moved to tears by all the wonderful family photos (and everybody is amazed to see how small the kids used to be!) The 3x5 cards, clown-style balloons, and party hat were great additions as well. My companion and the other two Elders that lived with us especially loved the balloons :D

So. To (slightly, but not by much) more serious matters.
We started teaching a lady named F (raspberry) with her 9 year old grandson, I, this week. She is a really nice lady, life (and her family) haven´t treated her as nicely as perhaps she deserved, but she is very excited to share with us now. The rest of her family (except her grandson) is pretty apathetic towards us, but we decided to try pulling everybody in a little bit more by making brownies in their house and giving them to everyone (thanks for the mix, it was delicious!) She has felt the spirit several times and says that she wants to go to church, but she is nervous to start off because of delicate health. This next week we are going to focus a lot on the promises of physical and emotional help that come through Christ´s atonement.
L and B are doing pretty fantastically as well. We found out that they are living together unmarried, which is pretty common here in Chile (in the states marriage and divorce have become almost casual matters, here the state tends to favor single parents and divorces are lengthy and uncomfortable, so a lot of people just live together to "avoid all the hassle."). But, they loved church on Sunday and are all pretty decided now on getting baptized, so the next step is to help them understand that God wants them to be married, too. There was an interesting moment during the week when B told us a couple of things that helped us to understand that she didn´t really understand the Restoration, how Joseph Smith saw the father and the son and received the legitimate authority from God. We came back the next day and taught a really simple, scripturally-based lesson about the restoration, and then within the few days break we had before the next lesson, the Spirit had done all the rest and she said she already knew it was true. Wow, they really are a great family.
I went to the ward next door this week, and got to know an investigator named ML. She had shared withed missionaries years and years ago, but one day she just showed up to church at 10:00 in the morning, stayed for all three hours, and then told the missionaries that she would like them to come by. She is really a fantastic example that it is God that directs this work, and His spirit is the key factor.
We´ve been sharing with a young naval marine named C for the last few weeks. He is a really good guy, hard worker, and recognizes that he needs to let God more into his life. He came to church for the first time this Sunday, loved it, and is set to keep coming from now on. The last time we were in his house, he talked about how every time we go by he feels peace and joy in his heart, and how he wants to have that feeling more. I really love the simple and sweet manifestations of the spirit, like the peace and joy, that people just don´t feel and don´t understand away from the church. Because that same spirit, make every moment so much sweeter, every day tells me again and again that this work is true.
We had lunch this week with the V family. They are also marines, he is retired and she is still working at the front desk in the naval hospital. They had been inactive for several years, and just started coming back to church a few months ago. They talked about how they noticed the difference when they weren´t going to church, how their family was less united, there was less love in their home, things didn´t work out quite as well or move foreward quite like they wanted. We decided to go share with them for a few weeks to help their 8 year old grandson to get ready for baptism, and to help them get back into the flow of living the Gospel.
Finally, Y. She is doing so great, she has so sincerely and completely chagned her life and every day I thank God for leading us to her. She even started sharing the gospel with her mother, who started out pretty touchy but has been softened a little bit by her daughter´s earnestness. She is so excited for her baptism, and you can tell the difference that the Gospel has made in her life when you talk to her.
So, that is what´s up in EM right now. We are still working hard to find people, and I hope to keep filling these letters with miraculous stories in the weeks to come.
Viviendo el sueño,
Elder Jason Ray

Monday, August 27, 2012

August 27, 2012

Dear Mom and Dad,
Happy birthday to my companion! Elder B turned 22 yesterday. Fun day, fun week as well. On with the stories.
We entered into a lesson with L, the super-smart history teacher father of A, who was a mini missionary while I was in Q (remember that story? It´s ok, me neither). For one reason or another, he started talking about the botanist stage in his life. While on vacation in the North of Chile, he met a fisherman who lived in the bays and hills near Antofogasta. This old, part-indian fisherman told him a story about a time when his mother got stomach cancer. He took her to the hospital and they said they he should take her home and make her comfortable, that the disease had already progressed too far and had no cure. He took her back home, and then went out into the bays and hills, brought home herbs, made herbal teas, and cured her of cancer. He said that this story absolutely enlightened him, that for five years he went hiking and climbing all through those hills and bays in a pair of sneakers, discovering plants, cataloging and catagorizing them, asking native fishermen what their purposes were, searching, searching. He said that every morning he woke up with a burning desire to go out and find the cure for cancer, to change the world. In a really incredible moment, we compared this same desire that he felt to cure cancer to what he should feel towards our invitations to read the Book of Mormon, to pray and ask if it is true, and to go to church. We compared the value of life on this earth with the value of eternal life, and how he would be able to come to know Christ through this journey. It was a really incredible lesson.
I did an interchange with a missionary who is just beginning his mission, Elder H. He is from Colorado, and is tall enough that our morning game of basketball seemed more of a joke than a real competition (6´ 6" I believe). It was almost a nostalgic experience, seeing him struggle to understand Chileans, adjust to Chilean food/a missionary diet as opposed to his mother´s cooking, practice spanish and learn how to teach from the sciptures. It made me feel very glad for how far I have come, for my progress as a missionary, everything that God has helped me to be able to do.
One day this week, I don´t remember which, we were talking to somebody on the street and we invited them to listen to us. They said something along the lines of, "I´m, sorry, we don´t have time to listen to you." First I thought, "How do you not understand that you need to make time, that this is more important than anything else in this world!" Then I thought, "Do I really understand that? Do I grasp that this work, this church, God´s desires for me, are more important than anything else in the world? Will I ever say towards some responsibility that God gives me, ´I just don´t have time´?" It was an interesting thought, and a good motivation to keep developing my testimony.
L, B, and S, the family that we found last week, are so great. They came to church yesterday, stayed all three hours, and seemed to really enjoy everything. We talked a lot this week about having an eternal family. They already love, cherish, and take care of each other so much, I am excited to see them gain even more love and happiness as they receive the Holy Ghost and start on the path to becoming an eternal family.
Y is, if anything, even more incredible (I think I wrote about her a few weeks ago--single mother of two children, she owns the cyber cafe that we use every week). This week, she asked God sincerely if this was the true church. She got an answer so strong, that literaly everything that Satan can throw at her hasn´t daunted her one bit. After she found out that this church was true, she immediately gave up smoking. The next day, when she learned about the word of wisdom, she gave up tea and coffee. Now she is excited to pay tithing, she is changing her wardrobe to dress more modestly, she came to church and also stayed all three hours. One of the coolest moments of this week went a little like this: "I made a commitment with God once. And even though I made it in the wrong place, it is still a commitment that I have with him. And that means, at any church meeting that I go to, I wear a skirt." The moment only could have been more perfect if fireworks had shot up in the background.
I feel like I just have so much urgency to find people, to reach everybody that God has prepared as much as He has prepared L, B, and Y. I hope to keep finding people, and to keep having amazing stories like these to share.
I love you all and pray for you always,
Viviendo el sueño,
Elder Jason Ray

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

August 20, 2012

Dear Mom and Dad,
So, this week we were visited by Elder V, the second counselor in the area presidency (south america south, it includes Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay). He talked about quite a few things, but here are a few that I really liked. The Ammon attitude. A very common missionary error is to think, "I´m only going to be in this area for a few months, so I should work as if I´ll only be here a few months and then, ciao no más (bye bye)." If missionaries think like that, then they won´t be as dedicated or as hardworking as the Lord requires. So, Elder V encouraged us to develop Ammon´s attitude. When king Lamoni asked him how long he was going to stick around for, he said, "Yea, I desire to dwell among this people for a time; yea, and perhaps until the day I die." The Atonement. Somebody asked the question, "What can we do to help a missionary who isn´t obedient or hardworking?" The answer: Study the atonement. If we really understand the atonement, then we will do everything that God wants us to do, without question or complaint. Worthy converts: Elder V encouraged us to work to bring worthy converts to the church. A worthy convert is someone who really understands the doctrine, has repented fully of past sins, and has all of the commitment and all the habits needed to stay active in the church. I like this idea a lot, it gives a very high standard to aim for.
We did a few interchanges this week. In the first interchange I went with Elder D, from Colorado/Utah/Arizona (he moved a bit). It was one of those amazing days where it rained all day long, and we didn´t have much luck getting inside people´s doors. We got pretty wet, but we had jackets and it was really an enjoyable experience. Next up I went with Elder , who just got to Chile a few weeks ago. He reminds me a lot of you, dad, hardworking, diligent, obedient, and pretty chill as well.
Interesting experience with a kid named N. Whenever we finish talking with someone, in a lesson, on the street, wherever, we always ask them who else they know who would be benefited from our message. On Tuesday, somebody showed us to a 17 year old kid named N, who is athiest but really receptive and willing to try out. We shared about how if he read the Book of Mormon he could know that God exists, and then we left, excited to come back in a few days and keep teaching him. When we came back a few days later, his dad had forbid him to meet with us. It was interesting, because I still felt peaceful and happy even as he told us that. I know that he will meet the missionaries again in a few more years when he is on his own, and I´m possitive that he will read the Book of Mormon and find out that it is true then.
Last story. When I was with Elder O, we were heading down a set of stairs when a man and his wife were heading up. The man stopped us and asked if we knew another missionary, who right now is serving as the mission secretary, because they had talked about some free english classes that he could go to. As we started talking about english classes and trying to figure out how to contact the other missionary, he invited us into his house. There we more fully met L and B, who had both, in they own time, looked for the true church but hadn´t quite been able to find it. When we taught them about the restoration, it seemed like pieces were falling to place for them. They started reading the Book of Mormon right away, and are already excited to go to church this next Sunday.
I love this work. I love the miracles that God showers down upon us. I love it!
Viviendo el sueño,
Elder Jason Ray

Monday, August 13, 2012

August 13, 2012

Jason's one year celebration pizza

Dear Mom and Dad,

This week I turned a year old and finished half of my life (we always say that starting your mission is birth and ending it is death). My one year mark means that I have 12 months left to give my all to the Lord. I´m amazed by how far I´ve come and quite excited to see what happens in this next year in front of me. I also used it as an excuse to buy pizza. And ice cream. But hey, you don´t finish half a lifetime every day!

An interesting observation about the gift of tongues. I have absolutely no doubt that I have received the gift of tongues as a gift of the Spirit--this Sunday in Sunday school, we were talking about gifts of the spirit. The teacher used me as an example, and I got up and said a couple of things about my history learning spanish, how I hardly knew anything when I started and how much God had helped me to progress. After the class I started thinking. When I was at school (BYU), I had a friend that used to say things to me in spanish (que triste, pobrecito, etc). Even after she told me seven times what each word meant, my mind still went blank each time I heard them. Just a year and a half later, I am speaking fluent spanish. Wow. So if you don´t understand what que triste and pobrecito mean either, ask God for the gift of tongues. It´s pretty great.

We had a couple good lessons with MB this week. He is having a hard time working up the courage to go to church again, just because he doesn´t know everybody, he´s the new guy, etc. But, when we were talking about enduring to the end after baptism and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, he said something like "well, of course, that´s the whole idea. That´s what I´m here for." It was a pretty impressive attitude.

We met a great family this week, the second counselor´s daughter, her husband, and their two sons (C and E are the parents). C was baptized when she was 8 years old, but E and their sons have never really gotten to know the church. We all hit it off pretty great, and everybody agreed to read the Book of Mormon. We´ll see what else happens there.

We also met MM, whose son and wife are members, but who has never gotten baptized himself. He is quite an interesting man. A professional painter who has an exhibit in Atlanta, Georgia, he speaks perfect English and works in odd jobs (especially sales) to provide whatever his erratic painting business can´t supply. I´m pretty sure that when he accepts the gospel fully and is baptized, God is going to be able to use his intelligence and skills and bless their family in enormous ways. I felt pretty strongly when I was sharing with M and his wife that they are a big part of the reason I´m here in El Mirador.

Another fun guy we met--PD, a 70 year old blind man who grew up in a rough neighborhood in Valparaiso and told us stories that made me glad I was there in 2011. He was quite receptive, and we got hold of the Book of Mormon on CD so that he can listen to it, too.

Last story. We go several times a week to a cyber cafe next to the chapel to make copies and send reports of zone meetings. The owner of the cyber is a young single mother named Y (pronounced Jessica). We felt really strongly this week that we should start sharing with her, and stopped by one day before she opened up shop. It was a truly amazing lesson, she has been absolutely prepared by God to receive us in this moment. We felt the spirit so strongly while we talked about how God could held her, with all her difficulties and problems, that everybody was crying. I was truly amazed to see how God set up that whole situation, putting us in the place (the cyber cafe) that we needed to be in order to find this person we needed to find.

So, that is what is happening this week. These next few weeks should be quite interesting as well, there is definitely a lot going on!

Viviendo el sueño,

Elder Jason Ray

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

August 6, 2012

Dear Mom and Dad,

Even though I´m lazy and don´t take enough pictures, you can still see some mission pictures at Sister Känlein, the mission president´s wife, is pretty into picture taking (her camera is slightly larger than my leg), so there should be a few good ones there.

So. Getting to know a new branch is quite a lot of fun. I was especially happy meeting the bishop here in El Mirador--he is a return missionary from Paraguay, and is exactly the type of person that I want to be after my mission. He just radiates love, happiness, and the spirit, and has a really powerful vision and hope for the ward. One of the things that he asked of me as the newest missionary in the ward was to trust him, to let him help us.

I also got to meet MB, a really great guy who is preparing to be baptized at the end of August. He works renting out lots in a piece of property he owns--he has several houses, a small store, and a barbershop in his property. He is really committed to following God, and is really willing to make sacrafices and do things differently because God asks him to. He has also started to share the gospel with his neighbors and the people he rents to--he is a pretty great guy.

J is another investigator that I met when I got here (she just turned 18 a few days ago--happy birthday to her!) She has been meeting with missionaries for the last year, knows the church is true, wants to be a missionary some day, but is, for some reason, terrified of baptism. Right now we are trying to figure out how to help her get over her fear (it is a strange fear--she isn´t afraid of water, she isn´t afraid of being in front of people, or anything, just afraid of getting baptized). Your prayers are all appreciated.

We had lunch with the Elder´s Quorum president, A, and his wife . They remind me a good deal of Cindy Lynn and Mahon--he is a 25 year old return missionary, she is a 20 year old recent convert. They sing together every week as prelude to sacrament meeting, and cooked 8 home-mader pizzas to share with us (so delicious, way too much pizza).

J (diff J) is a 16 year old recent convert, and is a really interesting person. He lives with his mom and grandma, he knows kickboxing and martial arts, he has a speech impediment and trips over his words when he is nervous but sings like an angel--he actually records his songs, as well, and is slightly famous on Youtube (I'll get a link to one of his songs one day). He isn´t going to school right now (I´m not quite sure why) and goes out with us almost every day. One preparation day I want to go over to his recording studio (a cardboard box covered with egg cartons) and record some hymns with him.

This Friday was my first zone counsel. All of the zone leaders in the whole mission went to the mission office in Viña del mar, and President Känlein, the assistants, and all the office elders talked about important stuff the mission should know. We talked a lot about finding people to teach, and about the small things we need to do so that other people can easily tell that we really are representatives of Jesus Christ (normal rings are out, classic CTR rings are in). It was quite entertaining, I looked around in the middle of the conference at missionaries from all over the world, from all different backgrounds, gathered together and dedicated to the cause of Zion. The thought I had was, "I am surrounded by giants, by champeons, by powerful servants of God.

Last story. When I was in Quintero (two months ago. Wow, it seems like longer than that), I met a mini-missionary named A (one sister had to go home for health complications, so the mini-missionary came in to take her place until a new batch of missionaries got in). It turns out that she was baptized a year ago here in El Mirador. She has since moved and doesn´t live here, but her father, who is not a member, still does, and she introduced us to him. His name is L, he is a professor of history and probably one of the more intelligent people I have talked to in my mission. He read the entire Book of Mormon earlier in his life, and now seems quite commited and excited to say some serious prayers and ask God if he should change his life. I feel quite sure that I was sent here, in part, to answer A´s prayers and help her father to be baptized.

Viviendo el sueño,

Elder Jason Ray

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

July 30, 2012

Dear Mom and Dad,

A big week ending in some surprising changes, so here we go.

Every week, we have a weekly planning session to figure out how to help all of our investigators. When I got to La Ligua with Elder A, we started a tradition called pan, palta, y planeamiento (bread, avocado, and planning), where we ate pan con palta (bread and avocado, Chilean avocado is delicious and quite common as well) while we plan. This last week we kind of went overboard and made pancakes and eggs as well. That didn´t turn out so well because we ate a ton, and then we weren´t hungry to eat lunch two hours later. We ate with the Relief Society second counselor, and she made us a delicious casuela (a type of soup). I ate until I felt like I was about to throw up, and then we sheepishly told her that we couldn´t finish. For a while she thought that we were sick, until she understood that we were just rather foolish and ate a lot that morning. Note to self: pan and palta is all good, but pancakes is a bit much...

Another lunch we had was with the S family. There are three generations of women in this family, the youngest is 7 year old D, her mother I, and then the grandparents. Grandpa is a recent convert who, after his wife had been a member for 20 years, got baptized because it was so important to his granddaughter. This family really shows how the blessings of the gospel are multiplied from generation to generation. D is so sharp and knows so much about the scriptures, I has a great understanding of the gospel as well, and all because grandma decided to get baptized 20 years ago.

We had a talent show this Friday, it was pretty incredible. I performed a piano/voice piece by Kenneth Cope (Sweet Jesus). Everyone said they liked it, but that they wished they could understand it. I think I´ll get working on a translation to help the Chileans enjoy it more. My companion stole the show singing L.O.V.E. by Nat King Cole, and for the rest of the weekend everybody called him Elder Frank Sinatra. Sister B (75) got up and danced to a really sassy song in spanish with a couple other sisters from the relief society. All in all, it was a great night.

We ran into a youth on the street, C, that is pretty incredible. When we started talking about the restauration, he knew all of the bible verses that we mentioned to him by memory. His only doubt was that he had done some research online, and he couldn´t find any external evidence that the Book of Mormon could have been real. We invited him over to Elder Bowen´s house, where he showed C, out of the Bible, evidence of the Book of Mormon and its truth. (a great lesson about birthright that I would be happy to share with you all in a year more :D). At the end, he said "It´s all consistent, I´m excited to keep learning more."

We had a very interesting experience with T this week. We had an appiontment with her for Saturday morning. We went by her mother´s house to see if she was there (that is usually where she hangs out). When we got there, T tried to hide herself and her mom said she didn´t know where she was. I asked to use the bathroom, and after I got out I pretended to be confused about how to get out of the house and "accidentally" bumped in on T (I really did have to use the bathroom, so I don´t consider that dishonest :D). From there it turned out that she felt ashamed, because she had been smoking for the first time in 3 months right when we passed by. She got pretty agressive/defensive at one point in the lesson, and almost told us to stop passing by. Then, we decided to try out a hymn. We sang three hymns (in beautiful harmony, even) one after another, and after we finished there was a quite, spiritual feeling of peace. She then said that she wanted us to keep going by, and that she would keep on trying as well.

This week was changes, and what a surprise they were. I just got to La Ligua six weeks ago, but President Känlein called me Friday to tell me that I would be leaving La Ligua and that I would be serving as a zone leader in my next area. What is more, Elder A is now serving as a district leader and is training a new missionary.

And so, I said goodbye to Elder A (what a great Elder... really, I feel like we became best friends in just a little over a month), to the B's (we have an open invitation to go visit them after my mission, they live about 45 minutes away from Hillsboro, they said), and the rest of the branch. I am now in the zone of Achupallas, right next to beautiful Viña del Mar, in a ward called El Mirador. I´m serving with Elder B, who is a friend of mine already that I met when I was in Valparaíso (4 and a half months ago). I am excited to start here.

Viviendo el sueño,

Elder Jason Ray

Monday, July 23, 2012

July 23, 2012

Dear Mom and Dad,

Fantastic week. (Wow, I say that a lot, don't I?) I have a lot of great stories to share, lets go.

This last Monday, we accompanied the sister missionaries (intercambios would be a little weird, so we just accompany them for a few hours) to a lesson with one of their investigators named F. He is a 19 year old guy that started going to church and institute with his girlfriend. From there he started talking with the missionaries, reading, praying, the whole works. We asked him in our visit if he had prayed to know that the Book of Mormon was true. He said that he didn't, because "God answered me so clearly and powerfully when I was reading it, without asking, that it would have seemed ungrateful to ask him." He said that every verse seemed incredibly beautiful to him, and that he had no doubt that it was true.

The next day, as we were coming from Quillota (a larger city where there are a lot more missionaries) to La Ligua (that's where we are), we both fell asleep on the bus instead of getting off and changed buses, and ended up waking up in a tiny little town somewhere in between the two cities. The bus driver told us to walk towards the freeway, where we could find a bus that would take us on to La Ligua. We got over to the freeway and crossed a bridge to the other side, then realized that there was no entrance road at that point, and we had no idea how to get back to the freeway. I saw a dirt road and suggested we walk down it. My companion didn't think it was such a good idea, but I convinced him and we started going. My idea was to get to the end of the dirt road, trek through a tiny little patch of somebody's yard, and hop their wall right over to the freeway. It seemed like it would work until two huge dogs came out of the house and bounded across the field towards us. We got away, and found another way to the freeway. Once we hit the freeway, the problem was getting a bus to stop for us. The first bus to La Ligua passed by without batting an eyelash (do buses have eyelashes to bat?) We decided to pull out a piece of paper and write "La Ligua" on it, so that we could hold it up and the buses would know we wanted them to stop. Then, while I was holding the sign, my companion started throwing his thumb out, and we almost ended up hitchhiking back. Luckily, we finally got on a bus. The best part of the whole trip--I saved 100 pesos, which is about 20 cents, from the mix up!

We have an investigator named E, who is a little older than 20 and has two small daughters. We hadn't seen her for about a week, and then one night while I was heading towards the church I saw her in the street with two of her friends. We stopped to find out what was going on, and she explained that her grandmother had died and she had been out of town. Then she continued explaining that her mother, whom she lived with, got tired of us coming over and told E that she had to chose between her (the mother) and us (the missionaries). She moved out of her house. Such amazing faith! It was really incredible.

The next day, we went to a lesson we had set up (do I ever say cita in my emails? Cita means appointment or lesson, so if I say it that is why, sorry) with an elderly lady we met in the street. Her daughter and two grandsons were there, and had to have been one of the most receptive families I have ever met. They loved the idea of the Book of Mormon and of getting baptized. In our second visit, F, the 9 year old grand son, had already read 5 chapters of the Book of Mormon to his grandmother, and today we played soccer with M, 14, and all of his neighborhood friends. The best part--we passed by one day to see how they were doing and got to meet the father of the family, who is a less active member who stopped going to church several years ago when he moved and didn't know where to find it. Lots of great things should be coming out of this family!

One night, we stopped by an investigator named J. She was in her pajamas and about to go to sleep, but she let us it to chat for a few minutes. We asked us if she had been able to read the Book of Mormon, and she said yes. We asked her how she felt, and she said she felt peace, tranquility, and happiness whenever she read it. She then said, "I talked to one of my coworkers (the branch president's wife), and she said that what I'm feeling is the Holy Ghost." The Spirit entered the room powerfully, and as we invited her to be baptized she started to cry. She accepted. And all this while she had on blue fuzzy pajamas.

They recently called a new Branch Mission Leader, and this week we got together and figured out a Branch Mission Plan. We are planning on calling a bunch of youth and older couples as Branch Missionaries, and on working with all of the members to talk to their friends and family members. It is an exciting time!

Last story of the week. Saturday morning, we were walking towards an appointment we had when two drunk gentlemen started motioning for us to come over. We decided to go say hi, and they started talking to us. They asked for us to read to them what would happen at the end of the world. We shared a scriptures that talks about how one must be baptized to be saved in God's kingdom, and said that is what they needed to do to be prepared for the end of the world. One of the fellows, calling himself Charly, invited us in to see an painting he had created. He then proceeded to show us, beer can in hand, what he pulled out of his mind. I'll send a picture of it, but those of you who are familiar with mormon artwork will instantly recognize the picture of Jesus Christ's baptism that all the chapels have. I don't really understand everything that is probably going on here, but I'm excited to find out.

Oh, being a missionary is incredible.

Viviendo el sueño,

Elder Jason Ray

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

July 16, 2012

Dear Mom and Dad,

This is going to be a very short letter because we need to go catch a bus to Quillota, but there are some pretty awesome events I do want to cover.

First off, Jo and her son, J. We found them walked on the street, and set up a time to pass by their house. When we got there, Jo was almost in tears after we sang the opening hymn. She said that she felt something stirring inside her when we sang--she repeated the same thing when we talked about Joseph Smith and the first vision. J came to English classes this friday, and I´m excited to see what happens with this family.

Next, President Känlein got here with his family, and we got to meet them all. He has four children, sons of 11, 9, and 7, and a two year old daughter. His wife is also a return missionary, and they seem both surprised and excited to be here working with us. President talked about a couple of things specifically--first, praying to be able to find the people that God is already preparing to receive us. Second, the power of the Book of Mormon, and how important, even vital it is in a real, lasting, conversion.

In our personal interview, he told me to keep working hard, that from what he had seen I was doing alright.

The day after the interview, we had some pretty amazing experiences. We met quite a few people who are very receptive to our message, and we kept thinking and praying about the elect, the ones that God is already preparing to recieve us. We felt the spirit very strongly while reading the Book of Mormon, as well.

Last story. This last Saturday, we went by S and B, a mother and her daughter who haven´t been to church in almost 15 years. The spirit was really strong, and we talked a lot about repentance and about God´s mercy. They ended saying that they would go to church the next day. It was a fantastic experience.

I wish I had time for more, but I´ll leave the rest to your imaginations.

Viviendo el sueño,

Elder Jason Ray