Tuesday, February 28, 2012

February 27, 2012

Dear Mom and Dad,

Great week this week! I´m really excited to send you some pictures from this week. They still don´t capture the deep, wide, enormous beauty of Valparaíso, but they are pretty good anyway. Editor's Note: I'll add the pictures tonight, can't do that from work

First story of the week comes from M, the 10 year old daughter of A and R. M was the first one in the family to get baptized. After that she had a huge part in R´s baptism, which included that R had to quit smoking. Both of them together contributed to A finally deciding to be baptized, which happened when I got here. I´m pretty sure that, just by M´s faith and incredible spirit--both her grandparents and the missionaries always refer to her as an angel--her entire family is going to join the church, in one moment or another. This week we taught a lesson to M´s mom. At this point in time she doesn´t want to keep going, but I was incredibly impressed that, while we were talking about the Restoration of the Gospel, M pulled out her Book of Mormon and found a scripture to share with her mom. Like we say in Valparaíso, ¡Puro Poder! (Pure Power! or maybe Plain Power!)

In our Zone Meeting this week we had a visit from the Stake President. He talked about working with the members to help them to do missionary work, shared a story about a group of missionaries that passed by his house to help him plan out how to share the gospel with his friends. He said that the vision of this stake is that the members are the ones responsible for the missionary work, because if every member of the stake is sharing the gospel, it will be about a hundred times more effective than missionaries knocking doors. We had to change our approach a bit after hearing this, since the Zone Meeting on Tuesday we have gone by a couple of the leaders in the ward to share about missionary work and invite them to share the gospel with their friends. More than anything, though, I think I learned a lot this week about what my responsability towards missionary work will be after my mission. As a missionary, I´m willing to go out and knock doors all week long, and I´ll probably have some success. But as a missionary, I come and go in periods of a few months. Intersting thoughts...

On Wednesday I had an interchange with the Zone Leaders. For this first time in either of our missions, we challenged a woman to stop smoking--in a time span of 2 weeks--so that she could get baptized. We put together a plan for her to drop off one more cigarrete every three days, and then made a list of other things she can do when she feels like smoking, such as reading the Book of Mormon and praying. It was a pretty awesome experience.

One family we are teaching is made up of a mother and her son, S and C--the son is already baptized, the mother wants to get baptized but first has to get divorced and remarried (which is quite a process here in Chile). She is making all the necessary arrangements to get divorced and married, so I have no doubt that she will get baptized some day. But we had a lesson this week where she related some experiences showing how involved God really is in her life. When C was born, he had leukemia. She was really angry at God for a long time, but after several months of almost hating God, she realized the only way she could possibly save her son´s life would be to give him over to God. She went into a chapel and said a prayer, saying that she would accept whatever was the will of God. C had recovered within the week. After that, C always had a leaning towards religion and God, but never made any major steps until meeting the missionaries. He asked his parents if he could be baptized. S wasn´t sure at first, but after praying about it, she knew it was what C needed and what she should work towards, too. As I write this she is meeting with a lawyer to finalize her divorce arangements. If all goes well, she could be baptized within the year. Wonderful reminder that, once again, this is God´s work and not mine, His children and His plan.

I got to give a talk in church yesterday, It was neat to see my progress in Spanish from the last time I gave a talk, three months ago, to yesterday. I talked about why it is important to do missionary work, the promises in the scriptures that God will help us to do it, and a couple of ways to get started. The point that stuck out to me the most strongly while I was preparing this talk was the power of prayer, praying for opportunities to share the gospel, praying for the people I know, praying for inactive members, etc. I have seen miracles in missionary work through prayer, it´s powerful stuff.

P, Ce´s dad (Ce is a priest in the ward who goes around with us a couple of times a week) just got called as the first councilor in the Elder´s Quorum. This is pretty cool, because he just got baptized in August. He conducted a meeting for the first time yesterday (he was nervous but he did great), and helped to set apart the 2nd councilor, who was also recently called. It´s amazing, because I can already imagine him going through the temple in a few more months, sending Ce out as an amazing missionary, one day serving his own mission with his wife... and he only got baptized a few months ago!

Great week. Hand of the Lord all over the place helping us and everyone around us. I love this work.

Viviendo el Sueño,

Elder Jason Ray

Monday, February 20, 2012

February 20, 2012

Dear Mom and Dad,

¿Por qué nunca se enojan los hijos de Superman?
Porque son supermancitos.
(Hay que contarlo en voz alta).

In other funny news, the stake president asked me yesterday if I was running for bishop, since I´ve been here for so long :D I told him I was putting together my campaign.

This week has probably been one of the highlights of my life. As I will explain shortly, this week I have been able to see that I am not just Elder Ray, working right along in Chile, but that I am an instrument of a loving Heavenly Father who is working miracles in this place, and who is using me to further this great work.

But first off--the new Elder in the pension! Elder R, from Argentina. He came into the mission at the same time as me, which means he is six weeks behind because he already knew Spanish. He is a convert from age 11, was inactive for several years, but then reactivated on his own and decided to serve a mission. At the present time most of his family has also reactivated, and the still-inactives are about to make the switch any minute.

Now, on to the stories. First off, a few years ago a woman named Y was baptized. She had a really tough time adjusting to the ward, but she new that the gospel was true and stuck through it for a long time, but went inactive about a year ago. We found her while heading to a different appointment in her same street. The sense that both my companion and I got is that she has an amazingly strong testimony, but that she needs some help remembering it. We believe that, if after meeting with us she chooses to reactivate, she will become an absolute rock in the church, the kind of person whose descendants will praise her name for generations. More news pending, I´m excited :D

Second off, another less-active member. Early in the week, we talked to someone random who gave us the address of an inactive family that we had heard of before (the 15-year-old son goes to church on his own, he has since I got here, but we didn´t know anyone else in the family). We passed by there, once again, on our way to another appointment, and they let us in. What followed was incredible. This family had been driven inactive by some really ugly circumstances. The mother, especially, was bitter and angry for years and years. We talked about repentance, about the light of the gospel, about the blessings still in store for them if they continued faithful. At the end of the lesson, the mom and one of the daughters bore their testimonies, in tears, about the church. They talked about their family, about the 15 year old´s future mission, about the power of the Book of Mormon. The final comment of the lessons, made by the mother of the family, was, "I think recess time is over." This family came to church on Sunday, the whole family. They participated actively in Sunday School, embraced old friends that they hadn´t seen in years, took the sacrament for the first time in years. They are now on their way to eternal life, and I feel privileged to have been one of God´s hands helping it happen. I definitely don´t believe that we, the missionaries, did anything other than walk in the door while wearing ties and name badges. But God and the Holy Ghost worked some miracles in there.

The next day, with the memory still fresh in our minds, we started knocking doors. We were let in by a lady who then told us that, for a period of some six months, she had gone to church with the same sister who so powerfully bore testimony just the day before. After we taught about baptism and the Holy Ghost, she and her 15 year old daughter immediately said that they wanted to be baptized.

Like I said before, I can tell that I´m just an instrument in a much, much bigger story.

Viviendo el sueño,

Elder Jason Ray

Monday, February 13, 2012

February 13, 2012

Dear Mom and Dad,

I am staying in Barrio O´Higgins for another change! I am really quite excited, this next change will be pretty incredible, I am sure. That means I am staying together with Elder B, of the cheesy jokes and awesome conversion story. The zone as a whole is hardly changing at all--only three out of eighteen elders are leaving, which is hardly anything! But, one of those three is Elder U, my Canadian friend whose mother knows Mom through the missionary mom´s list. He will be missed.

Cool story about member missionary work. We watched a church movie with two friends of the Gospel Principles teacher, they both enjoyed it and I think we´ll start teaching them when the teacher gets back from vacation in two weeks. However, one of these friends just had a nephew pass away. Smart, talented kid of 24, sad story. Hermana R, the teacher, was talking to us about the tragedy before her friends arrived, and we recommended that she share with him a conference talk, "The Songs they Could Not Sing," about tragedies and people who die young. She shared this talk with him, and he used it in the funeral address he gave. All from a borrowed Ensign.

Another cool story from the Ensign that´s a little more internal. All of my past life I´ve been pretty ni allí (ni allí means apathetic or uncaring) about family history work. I had always assumed I would get involved in it when I was old and retired, but that for the foreseeable future I would serve by going to the temple and being a good member missionary. A few days ago I was thinking about how I hope and pray that my investigators will do certain things--read the Book of Mormon, pray to ask if it is true, go to church, get baptized--and how there are other things that God hopes I will do all of my life--regularly go to the temple, magnify my calling, read the scriptures and pray with my family, etc. Then I read an Ensign article about family history, and how this generation has all of the technological skills to do amazing family history work. While reading I decided that, even though it doesn´t excite me hugely right now, God probably hopes that I will do family history work--Him and several thousand ancestors who want to be a forever family, too. I decided I would be involved in family history started from right when I get back.

Then I decided that I always need to make the Ensign a part of my gospel study. If I had never read that Ensign article, how long would it have taken for me to come to this realization? How many ancestors would have had to wait months or years more for their saving work to be done?

Final story for the week, A. We just barely started teaching her about two weeks ago, she came to church last week, and she continues to awe and amaze me with her miraculous faith. We taught a lesson to her this week that played out like the ideal of every lesson we ever teach--she answered all of our questions like an MTC teacher, and always asked just the right question to keep the lesson flowing in the right direction. A few days ago she said that she wanted to learn more about the living prophets so she could know how to follow them better, and she is as set--or more so--on getting baptized the 3 of March than we are. A is amazing, and God is amazing. I´m so grateful to be a missionary, to be here "with a front row seat to the biggest miracle on earth" (an MTC staff member said that a few times), working for the salvation of God´s children.

Mucho amor,

Elder Jason Ray

Monday, February 6, 2012

February 6, 2012

Jason says this was brought back from a Youth Conference by one of the youth

Dear Mom and Dad,

If I fall asleep in the middle of typing this letter, it´s because we played soccer for two hours this morning and I ran my heart out. But it was worth it--I can actually play soccer now, that´s pretty awesome :D

First miracle of the week, I got my triple combination back! About two months ago it fell out of my back while we were running back to the apartment to get in on time. A week ago, I ran into someone on the street who said they had a book that belonged to a member of our church. We went by on Tuesday, and now I am back to teaching with all four standard works! When I think of the journey that this book took in the last four months (bag to ground, ground to this house about ten minutes away, person who lives in the house to meet us, we went by the house), I am ridiculously grateful to have it back.

Second miracle is AF. A while back we ran into her while we were touching doors down a street, and she invited us right up, but didn´t have time to listen to us because she was on her way to the hospital. This week we went by and taught a few times. She said that, throughout here life, she had rejected and turned away more missionaries than she could count, but that something spoke to her--the words she used were something illuminated her--when we passed by this time. She came to church this Sunday, loved it, and is already planned out how she is going to tell her Catholic family that she is going to get baptized. I have always heard, there are people who are prepared out there. She is living proof of this, a true miracle.

Hermana R, the Gospel Principles teacher, is catching some fire. She set up a church-movie-night with a couple of her friends this next week, and invited us to come present the movie with a hymn and a prayer. She says her friends are really catholic (as opposed to "catholic, but in my own way" (en Español es "catolica catolica" en vezde "catolica, pero a mi manera")) but she is excited to introduce them to the restored gospel.

This Friday we had a church activity, a celebration of music through the ages. The missionaries got the assignment to prepare something from the nineties, so of course we danced something to Backstreet Boys. The dance was pretty great, but you´ll have to take my word for it until I send you my camera card, because the file is way to big to send with email.

After the activity I started talking to P and A, the parents of C, a priest that goes out with us all the time. They asked me if, as couple missionaries, they could go to Utah. I said they would probably have to learn English beforehand, but that I definitely believe they could. The best part is, Pedro is a recent convert, he got baptized about when I entered the MTC in August. Even past their sealing in the temple in this coming August, they are already planning on a senior mission! To Utah! I love people. I´m pretty sure they would be amazing missionaries, too.

Saturday we had interchanges, I went to Casablanca. Highlight of the day was doing service--we cleaned out a vacant lot where someone wants to build a house, mostly lifting big wooden pallets and throwing them over a wall. At the end of the project the Hermana in charge gave us each a pair of gloves as a reminder. A little bit later, at lunch, a 15 year old kid who reminds me incredible of my brother J explained all the tricks that he can do on ripstik, scateboard, and bike. We made a deal that I´d come back after my mission so that he can teach me.

Last story of the week. I´ve known for a while how important the spirit would be in guiding our teaching, so that we could help a wide variety of people with an even wider variety of needs, but I have also realized here how important the spirit is to guide where we go. Last night, we had used up all of our plans and had two ideas of who to pass by. We thought about it for a few seconds then, based on a feeling more than anything, we decided to pass up the person who lives right next to our apartment and walk a few minutes to a family of recent converts (L, D, and F) to see how they were doing. Turns out we passed by in the only moment in the entire week when they were all three together. We shared a bit about reading in the Book of Mormon and congratulated them for what they were doing (L has already finished the Book of Mormon, just a few months after being baptized!)

Being guided by the Lord to bless His children really is the best experience. I love my mission, love my life.

Viviendo el sueño.

Love you,

Elder Jason Ray

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