Monday, April 30, 2012

April 30, 2012

Dear Mom and Dad,

This is life (as a missionary) as it should be lived. Fantastic week, Elder S and I are really working together really well, and I absolutely love seeing the Lord´s hand guide and lead us throughout the day.

First story: We were teaching about the Restauration the a young couple named W and S. When we got to the story of Joseph Smith and the first vision, the spirit absolutely filled the room--it was really an incredible effect. We talked about the feeling of peace and joy that each one of us had felt, and then went on to describe what it meant. When we invited them to come to church, S said "Yeah, we´ll come, because I really felt something when you talked about Joseph Smith. I want to find out more about this." Great experience.

Another lesson that shows how the Spirit works in us happened when we were teaching the R family. We started out watching a video, and then opened up for questions. As we went through answering their questions, each one of us--Elder S and I--said things that were a little bit random and that had never occured to the other one. But it turned out that those random bits were the answers to questions that different members of the family had had trouble expressing. I think teaching by the Spirit could be the coolest thing I´ve ever done in my life. :D

This week we got to meet the mother of J, a missionary from the ward who is currently serving in Argentina. She isn´t a member, but she very warmly let us in and showed us pictures of her son. He is doing fantastically, he left for his mission 6 months before I did and is having great success. It felt pretty special sharing with her--I thought of how important it would be for me, if my parents weren´t members, that the missionaries had passed by and shared something with them.

We met an awesome older lady named Y when we helped her carry her groceries to her house. She is cleaning up an old, unlived in house that hadn´t been used for years, and so now we are helped her to clean up all the trash and weeds out of her backyard. She talks a lot about how much God loves his children, and sings songs that remind me of the Sciptures Scouts while we clean.

We had stake conference this week, and got to hear both President Gillespie, the mission president, and Elder Corbridge, a general authority who is leaving Chile speak. Elder Corbridge´s talk was incredible--he talked about the things that matter most, when you take away the smoke and the mirrors and are left with knowledge, faith, character. It inspired me to make sure that I don´t get distracted by all of the small, seemingly important things to do and forget the goal, the purpose, the vision behind it all.

To finish off--some of the amazing people we are teaching right now include a couple of jovenes, or youth. Two of them in particular, A (whose mother is also sharing) and K (whose mother is a recent convert), really amaze me. A already wants to be a missionary. K asked me for some paper so she could take notes in the conference. Both of them already have really strong desires to follow Christ and to do the right thing, and are helping their mothers to remember to read the Book of Mormon and say they daily prayers. When I think about the kind of things these two kids, each of them only 12 years old, will do for other people and in the church in the next years of their lives, it makes me so grateful that there are youth like that in the world. It also made me think about my brothers and sisters, who are also jovenes, youth, with so much promise and potential ahead of them.

Viviendo el sueño,

Elder Jason Ray

Monday, April 23, 2012

April 23, 2012

Dear Mom and Dad,

Hearing Mom´s stories of packing up the house and leaving is pretty crazy... but I think it´s a lot easier for me, now, since I accepted the move a few months ago and now I don´t have to live through it. I´ll keep praying for all of you, and keep sending me pretty pictures from Oregon :D

Great week this week, although you´ll have to take my word for it since once again I am seated at a computer that can´t handle pictures. Oh well, double pictures next week, I guess.

The week started out great--Monday night we had family night (in Spanish it´s Noche de Hogar, or Home Night) with a family in the ward and a few of their friends, talking about patience. It was a fantastic class, and R and A, a single mother and her 12 year old son, liked it a lot and agreed to meet with us the next day. Meeting with them the second time was proof that God places people who are really prepared around members of the church, because He wants them to find the gospel and He trusts us to be able to help them. They came to church this Sunday and loved it. A, the 12 year old son, has already said that he would like to be a missionary like us--12 years old, hasn´t even been baptized yet, and he already wants to be a missionary! Pretty incredible family.

On Tuesday we had a mission conference. We talked more about working with members, the power of music, and the Book of Mormon. As part of the discusion on the Book of Mormon we watched a movie called "Journy of Faith" about the scientific and archealogical evidences of Lehi´s journy, it was quite interesting. Another part of the conference was the hymns--each zone chose and practiced a hymn that talked about Christ to celebrate Easter. Our zone picked "Abide With Me," and I ended up singing the second verse as a trio with two other missionaries. It came out pretty nicely, and I think I¨m on the right path to getting over stagefright!

Skipping forward--today, the entire zone came over here to Quintero and we played sand volleyball, which quickly became handball, like soccer but throwing instead of kicking (it isn´t North-American football because there was no tackling), because we didn´t have a net. We then made sandwiches and went exploring along the coastline, it was quite fun. Pictures next week :D

Last night, we met and shared with the parents of J, one of the missionaries from this ward, who is currently serving in Argentina. He was baptized several years ago and his parents didn´t follow his example, but his mom showed us some pictures and he seems to be doing great. It feels like an honor to be able to share about the gospel with the family of someone who is doing the same thing I¨m doing, in a different country. If I had been the first convert in my family and was now on a mission, it would make me exstatic to hear that my family was sharing with missionaries back at home.

Last story. Saturday morning, we decided to pass by one of the member´s houses to see how we could help them and to talk about how they could share the gospel. They were in the middle of a big house-cleaning, and so we ended up helping them wash the car. Then we started talking about their live and their story in the church. After a few minutes, they started talking about how they weren´t sure they had a testimony, and about how sometimes it was hard to do all the things we know we should. Thoughts:
1. I am so glad that I have the privelege to serve a mission and to be taught so many things by the spirit. At this point in time, and I¨m sure this will only become more true over the next year and a half, my testimony of the restored gospel has become unbreakable. I know this is true.
2. We shared with them about how to gain a testimony, simple things such as reading the scriptures and praying earnestly. I have seen this before, and I know that these simple, daily things will, in the end, be the most important things, as this member gains a testimony that will help her stay firm in the gospel.
3. God was watching out for His child that day. We decided on a whim the night before to pass by this member´s house--now I can clearly see that it was inspiration. He knew the they would need our help at exactly that time, and He made it happen.

And I know that he will do the same for me, for all of His children. That´s the joy of the gospel. That´s the wonder of the message of the Restoration.

Love you both a ton,

Elder Jason Ray

Monday, April 16, 2012

April 16, 2012

Jason wanted us all to see how beautiful it is where he is living now

Dear Mom and Dad,

I forgot to sketch up a summary of my week like I usually do sunday nights, so I might be forgetting some vitally important and life-changing moments in this letter. But oh well, here goes.

We had a fun service project with the High Priests on Saturday. My companion and I, together with four frail older men, jumped around cleaning pigeon droppings off the roof of a non-profit organization, a center that helps people with physical disabilities. Walking around on this roof wasn´t the same as when I painted the house and had to walk on the roof, because it was a metal roof with only a few support beams. If I put my foot in the wrong place, it would have gone right through. But, I learned to walk on the support beams, and we scooped up several kilos of pigeon unmentionables. I took a looong shower afterwards.

This Sunday, by choice of the bishop, was testimony meeting. What really stood out to me was how many people stood up and said "I know this is the true church." It got me thinking about why that was important, why it is so special that the church is true. I thought about Joseph Smith in the presence of God the Father and Jesus Christ, hearing from Christ´s lips that the truth was not at that time found on the earth. I thought about Peter, James, and John, John the Baptist, Moses and Elijah coming to the earth to restore the Priesthood and the saving ordinances, the ordinances that cleanse, purify, change, enable, and eventually bind us together as eternal families. I too, know that this church is true, and that by direct command of Jesus Christ I must declare that truth to all the world.

A family that we have been teaching, the R family, came to church with us this weekend (everybody but the husband, who had work last minute). When we stepped into the chapel, two of the mother´s friends who were members came up to say hi and welcome her in--friends we didn´t even know she had! They were also very excited to hear that there was primary and YW/YM every week, since they had two kids of ages 9 and 13. I hope to bring a lot more good news here.

I had a great experience with the Ensign, the church magazine, this week. I was feeling a little stressed for everything that was happening, being new here and training a new missionary (even though he hardly needs training, Elder S is great) and still waking up in the mornings without being able to understand spanish perfectly. I decided to read the cover article, about grace, by Elder Bednar. It was an answer to a prayer I didn´t even know that I had been offering. God already knows that we are too week to do everything he asks us to, but that´s ok because He is strong enough to make up the difference. E´ Bednar then shares a few scriptural examples of people who prayed for strength to be able to do as the Lord asked, such as Nephi bursting his bands or the people of Alma lifting their burdens with ease. Since then, my prayers have taken on a different tone, asking for God to strengthen me and fit me for a task He already knows I need His help at. I highly recommend both the article, and prayer in this way--praying for strength.

To end the week, a little bit about another man we met this week, named E. He came up to us in the street the day before easter, and invited us into his home. Incredibly intelligent man, he is the editor of a newspaper here in Quintero and has a million stories about every topic in the world you could ever think about. He, also, came to church this sunday (and was very surprised by how young the Bishop was), and I´m excited to keep sharing with him.

Living the dream. Viviendo el sueño.

Elder Jason Ray

Monday, April 9, 2012

April 9, 2012

Dear Mom and Dad,

Well, this letter is going to be a little bit short, because we had a zone activity in Viña today, and we spent two hours traveling there and back. I´m also going to leave you with the tempting little tidbit that I have amazing pictures of Quintero, but the computer doesn´t like me so you are going to have to wait another week to see those. But anyway, onto business.

I think we ended this week a lot better than we started it, we now are teaching a lot of great people, and we know our way around town. A few of these great people:

J and T, his mom. T is about 70, but the past 14 years of her life have been a gift from God, since she had a deadly cancer. She now takes care of her son, J, who works in the city government. More new farther along with them, amazing people.

L R and family. An older daughter, who is married, was sharing with missionaries about a year ago. The whole family is now sharing together, and the mother told us the last time we were there she wants a closer relationship to God.

E B. He lived in a monastary for 8 years, and now writes for the city newspaper. He has an amazing understanding of the scriptures and life, and almost got mad at us when he thought we weren´t going to give him a copy of the Book of Mormon.

I have to say, working with a new missionary, "fresh from the MTC," is quite a fun experience. He has so much animo, excitement for the work and for everything we are doing, and he has a great vision for what his mission will be like. Being a trainer is also a very humbling experience--it shows me all day every day how little I really know, and how much I rely on the Lord for absolutely everything. But, I can also see that it is helping me to become a better person, little by little.

I wanted to close today--Easter Weekend--with my testimony of Christ. One of the big reasons that I came on my mission was for love of Christ and appreciation for his sacrifice. I think that testimony has deepend and gotten stronger, and continues doing so every day. I know that Christ lives. I know that he gave everything he had for us, out of his great love, and that he has prepared the way for all of us to return to live with Him and with his Father, and to live in celestial glory. I know that He knows each and every one of us, our sorrows, our needs, our pains and joys and difficulties and questions and everything. And I know that, through faith in Him, faith enough to put our own will aside and follow him with a repentant heart, follow him into baptism, follow him through his holy spirit, He will pull us out of the deepest holes, out of the farthest paths, into where He is; He will comfort us and succor us, and make us into more than we all.

He Lives.

Elder Jason Ray

Monday, April 2, 2012

April 2, 2012

Jason and his new companion

The crew he left behind in his old area

Dear Mom and Dad,

So, my first week of training is over. It was quite an adventure, and I´m excited both for the new area and to be helping Elder S, my new companion, to learn how to be a missionary.

But, everything in it´s proper order.

Bright and early Tuesday morning, I said goodbye to O´Higgins and went to the mission office in Viña with Elder M, who was also being transfered. After we got there I bounced around saying hi to everyone I knew, then met all of the other missionaries (6 other Elders and 4 Sisters) who were training. I went to lunch with a couple of them, then we had a meeting with the assistants where they talked about the responsability of training. The biggest point I got out of that was that, even more than the first few months of my mission, my biggest concern is absolutely not me. I need to be conserned for my investigators and for my trainy before ever thinking about myself, because the first few months in the mission are so important in a missionary´s development.

After that, we had about 3 hours until we were going to meet up with the new missionaries and see who our companions would be. We ended up playing basketball with someone who was over there shooting hoops--yes, in shirt and tie--and then playing foosball and pingpong after he left.

On the walk over to the mission home, where all the new missionaries had finished eating, everybody´s heart was pounding. I think that I was only slightly less nervous than the first time I went to the mission home, six months ago. We got there and sat down with president for a few minutes. Some of his words of wisdom: "No pressure. A trainer is the most important companion in the entire mission, but no pressure." Then we entered the yard where the other missionaries where waiting singing the mission hymn. There I found my "son," Elder S from Uruguay. He is the first in his family to serve a mission, a convert since age 11. He was captain of his high school team and worked for a few years as a model (my favorite story--he would go to parties and stand in the corner so that people could come up to him, say "wow, you´re a model!" and take pictures with him). He is incredibly excited to be working here now.

Opening a new area is interesting. For the first few days, we just kind of wandered around, looking for members and recent converts and talking to everybody we could in the streets.

To welcome us into the area, Elder R, the missionary who was already here when we got here, set up a fake lesson with a member of the ward. For an hour and a half we tried to figure out why in the world he was involving us in teaching the law of chastity to a man who had no idea what the Book of Mormon was, who had a daughter in the mission but wished she had kept studying instead of going to Argentina, and who interrupted us every thirty second when we were talking. Finally they admitted to being members, put the picture of the temple back on the wall, and we all laughed at how absolutely gullible we were. It was a moment to remember...

Finally, General Conference. I got to see four of the sessions in spanish, and priesthood session in english. I compared it mentally with the last time I saw conference, in the MTC--instead of being in a gigantic, stadium type room with thousands of other missionaries, watching on a big projector, I was in a small, out of the way side room with about 10 other missionaries, watching on a small church tv. It still felt like a very holy experience, like one of the moments that I´ll remember tangibly for quite some time.

The biggest point I got out of conference was the importance of seeking out our brothers and sisters who are members of the church, but who have fallen away for one reason or another. We are going to ask the bishop in this ward for a list of less-active members we can visit--I am excited to see the kind of miracles that God has in store for the people here in this ward, and that we will get to be a part of.

I love this gospel. I know it´s true. I know that I am in the right place, that God guides my steps, and I am so grateful for everything He has given me.

Viviendo el sueño,

Elder Jason Ray