Dear Mom and Dad,
It seems like I start every week off saying "wow, big week, lots to write about." But it keeps on being true, so I'll just say it again.
First off, leaving Quintero. I already wrote about saying goodbye to converts, but then later that night we stopped by the V family to say goodbye as well. This is the family that we met the first day there, when we had no idea where anything was--they showed us around town and, from that day, started sharing the gospel with their friends. We did a family night about once a week with them, but I had never really realized how important we were to them until we went by to say goodbye (side note--if you ever need to feel loved, be a missionary and then get changed out of a ward. Everybody and their dog will come up and tell you they'll miss you). But anyway. They shared a couple of scriptures (go and do, like Nephi), and then thanked Elder S and I for what we had done for them. They said that when we stopped by that day, they had been a little discouraged by family and ward problems. But they said that when we started talking about the possibilities in missionary work, they felt the spirit flood the room, and they knew that it could happen. Then, not only did they start sharing the gospel with their friends (Two of their neighbors were baptized; G, the 17 year old son, invited his entire class at school to listen to the missionaries), but they also started serving the people in the ward, baking cakes or pies and taking them over to say hi.
It was a truly amazing experience, being able to look back with hindsight and see how much the spirit can touch and change lives, if we are willing and obedient so that it can work through us. And even though I was only in Quintero a few months, I already feel like I left home leaving there.
But, I then felt like i was coming back home when I got to La Ligua (neat how that works, isn't it). When the bus showed up here I felt the spirit pretty strongly, telling me that this was where I needed to be and that I would love the city and the people. La Ligua is a rather large city, bigger than Quintero, but it only has a small branch of members. We are surrounded by largish hills (almost mountains but not quite), and whenever you say La Ligua everyone immediately thinks of the two famous Liguan exports: Sweaters and baked sweets. Dulces de La Ligua (the baked sweets) are special and aren't available anywhere else in Chile, and there is an entire suburb dedicated to cheap, good quality sweaters.
My companion is Elder A, from Blackfoot, Idaho. He has been here in Chile/La Ligua for about 5 months now, and is a really incredible missionary. He is excited, dedicated, and really sharp. Before his mission he studied the gospel a lot--he once bought a set of 130 LDS books from a seminary teacher for 125 dollars, and said he had read most of them. He dreams to one day teach religion at BYU. Or be an emergency room doctor. Or a comedian. And I'm sure he'd be great at whichever one he decided on, or all three of them at once!
Something else that is special about La Ligua is that Brother and Sister B, couple missionaries that remind me quite a bit of Grandpa and Grandma Ray, live and work here. They are really incredible people, and they have done a lot for the branch here. Brother B is writing a book now about his conversion and historical proofs of the Book of Mormon. I'll have to send a picture with them next week. With Elder A, too.
There are a couple of great recent converts here, B and J. They're both young men who are now looking forward to serving missions within the next year or two. They accompany us out for appointments quite a lot, their testimonies are really powerful.
Right when I got here, I heard that a bunch of changes were happening in the branch. The branch president (Brother P) is heading to the south of Chile for work, so my first sunday here the whole branch presidency was changed. Now the president is President G, who is the boss at the local jail. He has a pretty great vision for the branch, so I'm excited to work with him!
One of the big changes in the ward is that I am the new secretary. Woo! I was completely surprised when they announced it in Sacrament Meeting. Apparently President Gillespie was supposed to call me and let me know but he forgot. So yeah, now I have the privilege to figure out how to be a secretary--in spanish! I'm really excited to start working there, too.
Last off, a spiritual experience to close the week. Last night, we had planned to pass by Hermana A and her family--A was an older sister in the ward who was really sick. We had an hour free before we were going to go by their house, and while we were trying to decide what to do with that time, we felt like we should go pass by some people we had talked to in the street a few days before. On the way there, we ran into a sister who told us that Hermana A had passed away earlier that day, and that there was a viewing in the chapel that same night. We were able to go and provide support to the family, it was amazing how God worked that all out so well.
This work is true. This is God's church. I know it more than I know anything else.
Viviendo el sueno,
Elder Jason Ray