Dear Mom and Dad,
Great week! Some great personal growth experiences, as well the baptism of a truly amazing sister named A. I´ll start from the beginning.
Last Monday I had a few minutes extra while I was waiting for my companion to finish up writing his family, so I looked up a recent talk given by Elder Bednar on LDS.org. In it he said something about missionaries, as an example, but in a different context--towards the faith needed for people to make big life decisions such as school and marriage. He said, "Missionaries are taught from the scriptures to open their mouth--act--and it will be filled. That sequence is critical. Many of us pray for the power so we can open our mouth. That doesn´t work too well." I first thought about that in a literal interpretation, and resolved to talk to more people. Then I thought about how true that is for all of life. My tendancy is to be a little bit hesitant, to want to think something out really well, have a plan A and a plan B, and then take a tentative step forward. But if I am moving forward with faith, trusting in God to help me in my choices and to provide pathways where there are none, I will keep planning and thinking, but I´ll take out the hesitance, the tentativeness. I´ll go. I´ll push foreward trusting in God and, sometimes, just like walking up to someone in the street and asking them if they want to hear a message that will change their life, I just have to open my mouth, step forward, and go Good life message.
Great day of interchanges with Elder M. When I first came into the Zone six months ago, we hoped we would be able to do interchanges--and it finally happened! We started out eating lunch with one of the old member families of Chile. The grandmother was baptized when she was 8, not as a convert, and her children are now leaders in the church all over the place. Her granddaughter told us about her life plan, and how important it is for her to marry a return missionary. She stated it pretty well: "I am doing things right, striving to keep the commandments, and I know God will help me to have the life I want, to marry a return missionary." "My son, give ear to my words; for I swear unto you, that inasmuch as ye shall keep the commandments of God ye shall prosper in the land" (Alma 36:1). It makes me happy to see such faith here in Chile.
After lunch, we did some service, building a dirt staircase leading up from the sidewalk into somebody´s yard so that they would stop falling down every time they entered their yard from the street. For tools we had an ancient pickaxe with a loose head and two long pike-like something-or-others that were slightly sharp on the ends and could be used for digging. It ended up as quite a masterpiece, if I do say so myself, and I think I want to go into dirt construction now. To finish off the day, we taught a great new family who we found outside admiring their cactus collection. I was especially impressed by the son, V, a sharp-looking 14 year old kid who was paying more attention than I did when I was 14. He seemed to understand everything perfectly. I hope to hear in a couple more years that he ended up serving an awesome mission.
We taught a member this week, trying to help him get back to church after a month of not going. As we shared with him and as he talked, it came out that the problem was not just an offense that someone had given him four weeks ago, but that his personal gospel study, his personal relationship with God, had fallen a bit to the side. We are trying to help him get back to his past firmness in the gospel now, but it was a great reminder that the little, daily things make all the difference in the end.
Fantastic Conference this week, we talked a whole lot about the Book of Mormon. Because the Book of Mormon comes with such an amazing promise, that everyone who reads it and prays about it sincerely will receive an answer that it is true, it should be the entire basis in our teaching, the point on which everything else rests. To help us to gain our own testimony of the Book of Mormon, we decided to start reading it as a mission, in the same amount of time in which it was translated. I´m now reading 8 pages a day, in addition to the chapter-by-chapter study I was doing before. Considering that I do my chapter-by-chapter study in both English and Spanish to help me focus, and that I read a chapter out loud a few times a week to help my pronunciation, I am now reading the Book of Mormon four times at once!
Finally, to end the week--A was baptized on Saturday and confirmed on Sunday. From the very first day we met her, she has been an absolute miracle. We ran into her one day in interchanges, and she told us to come back another day when she wasn´t leaving for dialysis. She later told us that time after time she had rejected the missionaries, but that that day something iluminated her and she let us come by. Since that moment she has been absolutely faithful in reading the Book of Mormon, praying, going to church, everything. Every time we would ask her how she was and how she felt about everything that she was learning, she would say, "I can tell this is right, I just feel it. This has all been so wonderful for me." She invited her entire family to her baptisimal service, with the result that 2 kids, a daughter-in-law, and 7 grandkids all came to see their grandma baptized. Now she is already talking to us about how, even though it would be too late for her kids, she wants to send her grandkids out on missions.
This is it, this is where I am supposed to be and what I should be doing. God is behind it all, guiding our footsteps, because we are really His servants. Isn´t that crazy, that God trusts 19 year old kids to be his personal representatives? I fell blessed beyond measure.
Viviendo el sueño,
Elder Jason Ray