Monday, January 30, 2012

January 30, 2012

Dear Mom and Dad,

I have an apology to make. I have been far too selfish in my letter writing. Elder U (whose mom you are friends with through the missionary-mom´s email group) told me last Monday that his mom told him to tell me (still following?) that I should write more stories that include him, because I write bigger letters home than he does. So I want to dedicate this time to a few shorts moments with Elder U.

Elder U is from Canada. He lived most of his life in Ontario, then moved to Alberta for a few years before coming out on a mission. He is an artistic genius and can draw basically anything in about five minutes. He was also in the army for a few years, and played rugby, and has muscles that frequently have him compared to The Hulk and Max Steel. The other week when we played soccer, Elder U wore his Tractor Shoes. They are basically smallish boots with treads that could probably knock down a small building, and definitely not built for playing soccer. While wearing the awesome shoes, he played defense by dancing around the court (alternating between hip-hop and ballet styles) and trying to surprise people. The great thing is, it almost worked--if we hadn´t been playing gringos against latinos, we might have won!

Next week I´ll try to take a picture with all four Elders in it, to continue unselfishly sharing my propensity to write a lot.

Now for a funny story from my companion, Elder B. A few days ago we were talking in lunch about what we say when people tell us there are busy. Elder B usually asks them when they will be available, which makes perfect sense. The problem is this: In Chilean Spanish, the verb disponerse isn´t the parallel of the word disposable, which means available. In fact, it means for a woman to get sick. Elder B had been alternating between the words disponible and disponerse, which means half of the time he wasn´t saying "we want to come by when you are available," but "we want to come by when you are cranky." Good thing we are so obviously gringos!

I saw this week how powerful a member can be in the life of an investigator who is just coming into the church. M, who we have been teaching for a few weeks now, met Hermana H a few days ago. They hit it off amazingly, and now Hermana H is excited to introduce her to Relief Society, show her how to make tea out of apples and carrots so she can stop drinking tea tea, and invite her to come learn how to work with freezer jam and homemade bread. M has just blossomed because of it, it was really amazing to see.

Now for a couple of miracle stories to close off the week. On Saturday, we had an appointment with a lady that we had helped carry groceries to her house. We came in just as she was walking out the door, but she invited us in for a few minutes to sing her a hymn and leave her with a Book of Mormon. The hymn we sang was "I Am a Child of God." When we finished singing we looked up to see tears pouring down her face. She said that she could feel through the hymn that it was time for her to come back to God, and even though she knew it would be hard and she would need to change, she wanted to do it. The power of the spirit... so amazing.

Final story of the day: About two months ago I lost my triple combination. Elder P and I were running back home to get in before 10:00 (we made it by 3 minutes, yay!), but somehow I didn't notice that my bag was open. My triple combination bounced out onto the street, and in the next week we couldn't find it. Since then, I have been praying that God would help me to get my book back, and that he would use it to bring someone to the gospel. Friday on interchanges we stopped to talk to a group of women waiting for a bus. First thing one of them said to us: "I have your book." We talked for a few more seconds, I showed her my matching bible, and she said that she had picked up my book on the street a long time ago, and just had never got around to returning it. Tomorrow we set a time to go by and pick it up, I am also hoping to share about why it is such an important book for me. But when I think of how big Valparaiso is, how many people walk around, pick up lost books on the ground, sit around waiting for buses... and God put us all together just like that.

Viviendo el sueño.

Elder Jason Ray

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

January 23, 2012

Jason found this hanging on a door while knocking on doors and thought it said it all

Also, due to privacy concerns, we will be removing names of people other than Jason

Dear Mom and Dad,

I started out this week with a brand new watch I picked up on the street (US $4, brand SUPER FAD, made in China) to replace my watch that I brought into the mission, which sadly broke (US $15 plus a $4 size change, some-brand-pretending-to-be-a-lot-classier-than-it-really-is, made in China). Good start to a week, I really wouldn´t be surprised if this next watch lasted me five more years!

Mission conference this last week, I got to see Elder P again. He is enjoying his new area, although apparently the apartment was a mess when he got there, but he has whipped it back into shape since then. We had a lesson on the Creation-Fall-Atonement which totally blew my mind, and the assistants performed a skit talking about how important attitude is, showing the difference it can make when everything is a blessing and every experience shows the hand of the Lord in your life. Important for me to realized as well, to help me remember that, even after 3 hours of knocking doors in the sun, God is still guiding our steps and helping us (and, thankfully, we don´t usually have to knock doors for 3 hours in the sun. That has only happened once.)

I keep seeing just how important home/visiting teaching are. In this last week we taught about 6 inactive members who, if they had good home/visiting teachers, would probably have come back to the church months or years ago. They really are inspired programs, and they really do accomplish something. More than I ever realized as a teacher or a priest!

Two personal challenges I´m trying to overcome right now. First, working together well with a companion. My natural tendency is always to push ahead by myself, regardless of what other people around me might think, but here God has put me with a bright, excellent, equally committed and inspired companion and told me to work together with him to serve my best. I have to reign myself in a lot, and I´m really seeing how important this will be for when I am married. Second, staying awake between the hours of 3 and 5. After lunch... nap time... hot sun... whether sitting at a table after lunch, walking the streets, or teaching in someone´s house, it´s tough. I have less ideas on how to deal with this one, although maybe mnm-type sweets or cold water splashed in my face will work :)

One miraculous experience this week was finding A. He´s young, doesn´t believe much in God, but somehow knows a ton about our church. We ran into him while talking to people in the street, and in our first lesson he said it was "Just too important" that he know the truth. He immediately agreed that, if he finds out this message is true, he should be baptized and continue faithful afterwards. Quite amazing, really.

Another great person I met this week is I, a young man (ok, so he is only 6 months younger than me) in another area in the zone. He is headed out to the Peru MTC in February, and has, since January of the last year, been preparing himself heavy-duty. He goes out with the missionaries almost all day every day (and sometimes really all day every day), he is on his second read-through of Preach My Gospel, and he knows the lessons better than I did when I left the MTC. Seeing this kind of person make me happy, I can already tell he will be an incredible missionary, super prepared and ready.

Due to my only-partially-functioning internal clock, I never seem to write new years resolutions--Instead I do February resolutions. This year I decided on exact obedience, getting to bed/waking up on time, telling my companion I love him, following the guidance of the spirit, and being thankful, being accountable, and asking forgiveness every day in my prayers. It´s interesting that the farther along I get, the closer I get to Christ, the more sharply I see my faults and weaknesses... but the journy is worth every mile.

I love being here. I love Chile, my mission, my companion, Spanish, the members, the kids, the weather, I am so blessed here.

¡Viviendo el sueño!

Elder Jason Ray

Monday, January 16, 2012

January 16, 2012

Dear Mom and Dad,

So, moving to Oregon... That is pretty crazy, although it makes me incredibly excited and happy at the same time. I really do know that God is taking care of you all, just as he is taking care of me. Please give my love to everyone from Durham, and take lots of pictures of everything before you leave.

Fun week, as usual, that started off with a little preparation day excursion. Usually we end up sitting around/sleeping for most of preparation day, but last week we shook it up and took a walk. We walked down to a pier, took pictures of the city spread out behind us, pictures of the ocean, pictures of the seals on the broken bridge piece (who knew there are seals in Chile?), pictures of VW Bugs hung up on clothes pins. I also have a picture of me and my companion now, so you can see how team gringo we are. We finished up our Monday adventure by ordering Chorillana (Chore-ee-ah-nah), a Chilean tradition of a fried egg on top of meat and french fries. It was so unhealthily delicious it made me wonder why they don´t make them in the states. Definitely going to remember this recipe.

In this last week we started helping an inactive family get back to church, Daniela and Roberto with their two young children. Every time I talk to them I think about how important home teaching is. This family really wants to come back, they just need some push and a helping hand, both of which can come from home teaching. I know have the goal to be as good of a home teacher as I want to be a missionary, or to continue being a missionary as a home teacher after my mission.

Interchanges with the Zone Leaders this week--some of the benefits when your companion is a District Leader! Elder Roylance, a farmboy from Washington, and I talked to roughly 374.9997 people on the streets and in their homes that day. Elder Roylance is a great Elder, someone who just shines, and what I kept coming back to while watching him work is that he loves. He loves me, he loves the other missionaries in the zone, he loves the people, he just loves. I want to learn how to have that kind of love for others, everyone from my companion to the person I sit down next to on the bus to the person I stop on the street.

One of these people I am trying to love is named Pablo, boyfriend of a girl in the ward. He has been meeting with us for a few weeks now, and he really wants to know (he also gets along well with the ward, not limited to his girlfriend, and enjoys coming to mutual). The problem is that he doesn´t live within our ward boundaries, not even in the stake. His branch, where he lives, doesn´t have any youth, and he can´t meet in his house because his step-dad can´t stand religion. It´s a tough case, because with the goal of being able to serve a mission, progressing in the church, and eventually having eternal life, he has to go to church (and really should receive the missionaries) in his home area, but there are so many complications... we are putting God´s promise from James 1:5 to the test in this one. We lack wisdom, and need some help.

For another interchange that we did this week, I was paired up with Elder Egan, from Utah. Both he and Elder Marecos, one of our roommates, have studied marshal arts. While we were waiting for someone to show up to a lesson in the church they started sparring and teaching each other moves. I think I need to learn martial arts, it´s pretty much amazing!

Yesterday in church, all of the youth + the missionaries were together to talk about the Aaronic Priesthood and serving missions. We all talked about how Duty to God prepared us for our missions, and what we think of our missions now, and the High Counselor that was teaching challenged all of the teachers and priests to go out with us in the next week. I think that´s a wonderful challenge, especially thinking about how much I was helped by going out with the missionaries junior year.

This week we also saw a couple of going-to-be-miracles-in-the-future moments, but I think I´ll save those until they happen so that I´ll have more of a story to tell.

Love you all,

Elder Jason Ray

Monday, January 9, 2012

January 9, 2012

Dear Mom and Dad,

First off--apology. I do not yet have a picture of Elder Buffun, so you will just have to imagine how he looks for a week. We´ll take a cute companionship picture today.

To help you imagine, we are now team absolutely-gringo. He´s not as tall as I am, but he is blonder. He is also a total goof, and absolutely hilarious. His favorite past time is pointing to people´s shirts/ties, saying "hey you´ve got a stain," and then flicking them in the nose. He has about 50 different jokes in Spanish that he tells in a monotone voice--kids think it´s great, adults not so much. One morning he convinced me for a solid 20 minutes that he never received the Melchizedek Priesthood before coming on a mission, and his conversion story had me laughing on the ground (he is a convert of about four years. His story... well, you kind of had to be there for it to be funny, but he heard about the church in school, looked up the missionaries a few years later, got baptized in College). In short, it´s going to be a fun change :)

Before changes though, I got to clean out the kitchen. Three hours after I started, the whole place was absolutely spotless, the freezer was frostless, and I can still smell Dawn on my hands a week later. New goal for the rest of my mission--clean every week so it doesn´t get that dirty at the very end.

We had a fun day with La Familia Pizarro. First off we cleaned a little hill next to their house of weeds (pictures coming.) Then, while lunch was getting prepared, Elder Buffun and I talked Hannah Montana, Jonas Brothers, and Camp Rock with Jordana, the 8 year old daughter. After that got old and when lunch still wasn´t ready, Jordana got out one of her Christmas presents--a little vibriting-bug battle arena, the bugs just ran into each other and knocked each other over, then vibrated back up onto their feet and went at it again. Four missionaries sitting around, cheering while their bugs ran into each other... I love life :) The great thing is, Sister Pizarro got pretty into it too.

We had a family night with La Familia Córdova, we had plans to bring a couple of investigators--Jackelyn and her daughter Daniela--but at the last minute Jackelyn´s husband came into town (he works on ships I believe) and that got called off. Instead we shared something with the Córdova family about prayer. One of the comments Hermano Córdova made really got me, I asked what kind of decisions he has to make in his life, and his answer was that he´s already made his only decision, to follow Christ, and that he did that by being baptized. Everything else has already been decided, because he knows where he is going. That is the kind of attitude I want to have about being obedient, following the spirit, serving other missionaries, and even after my mission, with my own family. The die is cast, I´m on God´s team now. Enough said!

Something that Elder Buffun and I have started doing--knocking doors (nobody says "tracting" here, it´s knocking doors or touching doors ((that comes from the two verbs used in Spanish to mean knocking on someone´s door, tocar and golpear, which mean to touch and to beat/knock))). Can you believe I made it 3 months in my mission without knocking more than a dozen doors? But in these last few days we have knocked doors and then some!

And that brings me to my last story for the week. Last night, we were really tired after a full day of knocking doors. We decided to keep pushing forward (because after the trial of faith comes the prize) and to decide on one more street to go down. For a couple of days, without really knowing why, I had wanted to go knock the street that The Córdova family lives on, so we decided to head over there. We talked to a couple of people, got a couple relatively funny rejections, but then arrived at a really bright pink house. I knocked on the door. "Who is it?" "The missionaries!" Five seconds later the door opened. Without saying anything else she invited us inside and sat us down. Her name is Sara, she is a mother of two and daughter of members, although her father passed away a few years ago and her mother is now inactive. She has been taught by missionaries many many times, but not in quite a while. But here is the amazing part--her nephew, Claudio, is in the hospital after a really traumatic situation that I won´t go into. She had been ironing clothes and praying for her nephew when we knocked on her door. I´m pretty sure my back-of-the-mind feeling that we should go down this street started about when Claudio went into the hospital, 5 days ago. And Sara knew right away that the Lord had sent us to answer her prayer.

It is such an amazing privilege to be the Lord´s servant like this, to be able to bless people´s lives in such an amazing way. I love my God. I love my calling.

Viviendo el sueño.

Con amor,

Elder Jason Ray

More fotos!

The Mamita's family on Christmas

Picture of the Bay

Street Signs: Ray in spanish is Rey (aka. king)

Picture of the area

Pizzaro Family

Service Project: Cleanup

Service Project: Cleanup

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

January 2, 2012 (New Year)

Dear Mom and Dad,

¡Feliz año!

Here I start on 2012, the year of my life which will be totally and completely dedicated to being a missionary. I ́m also expecting to see some amazing miracles and make some big changes in this year. But lets start with this week.

This week, I think I learned a principle that will take me through the rest of my mission and, really, all my life. That principle is how to love somebody from the very first second you see them. See, for most street contacts that I had done before, I would stop somebody on the street, ask their name, and then try to say something about the gospel and pray that they would feel the spirit. However, a lot of the time it was like I was beating someone over the head with a message they didn ́t entirely want. Now, after learning a lot from my companion and doing a few practices in a zone conference, my mindset has changed. The entire mission now tries to do contacts by loving the person, getting to know them, and then offering them the gospel principle that they personally need. Now, instead of thinking "OK here is a person, should I talk about the Book of Mormon or eternal families?" I think "OK, here is a son/daughter of God, I love them and want to get to know them and help them." It ́s been a pretty amazing change, I ́m excited to keep going with this!

Something really cool we got to do on new years day--watch the Valparaíso firework show. It is fifth largest in the world, there were about 9 points along the coast from which they launched a 20-minute long show, at times it looked like the entire coast had caught fire and at times it looked like there were a billion shooting stars spread all across the night sky. I think this show could be considered one of the "Wonders of the Mission," and I ́m super happy I got to see it! Sadly no pictures, we were too far away (up in the hills) for them to have come out well.

On the 31 we also got news that the mission goal, 1000 baptisms in 2011, had been accomplished. Final number: 1012 baptisms. I don ́t think anything like this has happened in a long time, and I am so excited to be here in such a time of growth and ánimo!

For this new years, I decided to rededicate myself to the Lord. I am his, in every action and every thought. I realized there were a few things I needed to start doing--loving, serving, complimenting my companion more, talking to people even when I ́m tired or hungry, etc.--and that to start doing these things would be a perfect way to show my love for God and appreciation for all He has given me, especially this amazing mission call.

And a final note for the day (wow, short letter. Staying up til 1 for the firework show pretty much did me in!): My companion is leaving. Elder Paulsen got transfered to another part of the city--he leaves tomorrow, and my new companion, Elder Buffin arrives. I have learned so much here with Elder Paulsen, he really taught me how to be a missionary. I ́ll miss him. We had a lot of good times--a few hard times, but a lot of good ones--and a lot of success as well.

Last night we stopped by a recent convert ́s house so that Elder Paulsen could say bye. One of his converts, Melany (the granddaughter of Alberto, she is 9) broke down into tears when she heard he was leaving. He promised that he would write, and made her promise that she would keep going in the church "until your last breath." Her grandma, Rosa, thanked him deeply and profoundly for everything he has done for her family (Rosa is Alberto ́s wife. Alberto wasn ́t there last night, working).

Last three months have been great, and I ́m excited and ready for the next three.

Love you lots, and happy new years!

Elder Jason Ray

Foto time!

Jason says the following are: Picture of his Zone, Elder Umbach, Elder Marecos, and cool pictures of Valpariso