Dear Mom and Dad,
Random comment--the next time I send home a memory card, it will have a really spectacular video. We went to the sand dunes in Con Con and rented sand surf boards, and, who would have guessed, I had a hidden talent for sand-surfing (maybe I developed it learning to surf and to ripstik?) Sand-surfing combines a bunch of my favorite things--speed, sand, and walking up hills--and I did it for an hour solid without stopping. During one of my runs, another Elder in the district filmed me, but the video is too big to send by email.
Another random comment, but a little bit less random--mom, our family picture (the one from the beach where we are all dressed in blue) is amazing. Everybody who sees it says that (1) my family is adorable, (2) it is such a coincidence that we all were wearing blue and khaki, and (3) it looks like it was pulled out of a movie. So, great job mom.
So, I don´t know if I have mentioned this or not, but President Gillespie is going home at the end of this change (one more week). The new president will be President Conley (no idea if that is the correct spelling) from Argentina. This last week I had my last interview with President Gillespie. We talked about how incredible a mission is (or life in general) when it is lived/done according to the gospel, and he thanked me for some good service (and I thanked him :D). At the end of the interview, I asked him what is the most important advice he could think to give to a missionary after his three years as president. He told me to think about the Savior´s words, "I am meek and lowly of heart." Then he defined meekness as poise under pressure and patience in persecution, and lowly of heart as wanting to do the will of the Lord.
In retrospect I´m not sure how good of an idea this was, but we decided to do a completo eating contest with the inactive son of one of the members who gives us lunch every week (if you don´t know what a completo is, watch Kid History). If we won, he would go to church. I managed to eat 3 whole completos before my stomach threatened to give out, while the other three Elders ate 6, 7 and 7.5. (The inactive member ate 8, but I still think he´ll go to church next week). Two days later, we had completos for lunch. The president of the Relief Society was really excited to feed us something so delicious, but I think the joy was kind of lost on us.
This last week we were visited by Elder Richards, who I believe is of the quorum of the seventy. He talked about teaching by the spirit--or in other words, letting the spirit teach. He said that a lot of time, as missionaries, we are too flashy and use too many examples in our teaching, blocking out the still small voice of the spirit, which is the only way that people can actually learn anything. He encouraged us to teach simply, using the scriptures, and without home-made examples (even going so far as to say that sometimes we teach false doctrine when we use examples). We have been trying hard to apply his counsel ever since then, and have had some pretty great lessons. I´m excited to be teaching even more by the spirit now.
G, one of the youth in the ward who is preparing to serve a mission, decided that he wanted to invite his entire class to come to the church and have a family night-type experience (a fun lesson, lots of food). When all was said and done only four out of 26 of his classmates attended, but, I left incredibly impressed with the event. G himself taught the lesson, after having planned out a little bit with us beforehand. He talked about how important every single soul is to God, and about how God gives us his Spirit to help us to be happy. At the end, while we were all eating food, we went around and asked the four youth who showed up if we could come by and continue sharing with them--every single one accepted, and we will be teaching them this next week. It was really inspiring to see how powerful a simple invitation can be, whether it is to meet with the missionaries or to a friday night activity in the chapel.
I want to close off this letter talking about how I feel about going to church on Sunday. I don´t know why, but it really impacted me this week--how important and huge going to church is for me. I felt the spirit strongly and consistently through all the meetings, learned from the talks and the lessons, and I feel like I had some really special moments of meditation, prayer, and communication with God. I walked out of the chapel feeling refreshed, ready, happy, and really at peace with myself and the world and my mission. That is really how I feel every week when I go to church, and one of the reasons I am so happy to be a member and, whats more, a missionary.
This gospel is true. I feel that truth confirmed to me almost every day by the spirit. It really is!
Viviendo el sueño,
Elder Jason Ray