Tuesday, July 31, 2012

July 30, 2012

Dear Mom and Dad,

A big week ending in some surprising changes, so here we go.

Every week, we have a weekly planning session to figure out how to help all of our investigators. When I got to La Ligua with Elder A, we started a tradition called pan, palta, y planeamiento (bread, avocado, and planning), where we ate pan con palta (bread and avocado, Chilean avocado is delicious and quite common as well) while we plan. This last week we kind of went overboard and made pancakes and eggs as well. That didn´t turn out so well because we ate a ton, and then we weren´t hungry to eat lunch two hours later. We ate with the Relief Society second counselor, and she made us a delicious casuela (a type of soup). I ate until I felt like I was about to throw up, and then we sheepishly told her that we couldn´t finish. For a while she thought that we were sick, until she understood that we were just rather foolish and ate a lot that morning. Note to self: pan and palta is all good, but pancakes is a bit much...

Another lunch we had was with the S family. There are three generations of women in this family, the youngest is 7 year old D, her mother I, and then the grandparents. Grandpa is a recent convert who, after his wife had been a member for 20 years, got baptized because it was so important to his granddaughter. This family really shows how the blessings of the gospel are multiplied from generation to generation. D is so sharp and knows so much about the scriptures, I has a great understanding of the gospel as well, and all because grandma decided to get baptized 20 years ago.

We had a talent show this Friday, it was pretty incredible. I performed a piano/voice piece by Kenneth Cope (Sweet Jesus). Everyone said they liked it, but that they wished they could understand it. I think I´ll get working on a translation to help the Chileans enjoy it more. My companion stole the show singing L.O.V.E. by Nat King Cole, and for the rest of the weekend everybody called him Elder Frank Sinatra. Sister B (75) got up and danced to a really sassy song in spanish with a couple other sisters from the relief society. All in all, it was a great night.

We ran into a youth on the street, C, that is pretty incredible. When we started talking about the restauration, he knew all of the bible verses that we mentioned to him by memory. His only doubt was that he had done some research online, and he couldn´t find any external evidence that the Book of Mormon could have been real. We invited him over to Elder Bowen´s house, where he showed C, out of the Bible, evidence of the Book of Mormon and its truth. (a great lesson about birthright that I would be happy to share with you all in a year more :D). At the end, he said "It´s all consistent, I´m excited to keep learning more."

We had a very interesting experience with T this week. We had an appiontment with her for Saturday morning. We went by her mother´s house to see if she was there (that is usually where she hangs out). When we got there, T tried to hide herself and her mom said she didn´t know where she was. I asked to use the bathroom, and after I got out I pretended to be confused about how to get out of the house and "accidentally" bumped in on T (I really did have to use the bathroom, so I don´t consider that dishonest :D). From there it turned out that she felt ashamed, because she had been smoking for the first time in 3 months right when we passed by. She got pretty agressive/defensive at one point in the lesson, and almost told us to stop passing by. Then, we decided to try out a hymn. We sang three hymns (in beautiful harmony, even) one after another, and after we finished there was a quite, spiritual feeling of peace. She then said that she wanted us to keep going by, and that she would keep on trying as well.

This week was changes, and what a surprise they were. I just got to La Ligua six weeks ago, but President Känlein called me Friday to tell me that I would be leaving La Ligua and that I would be serving as a zone leader in my next area. What is more, Elder A is now serving as a district leader and is training a new missionary.

And so, I said goodbye to Elder A (what a great Elder... really, I feel like we became best friends in just a little over a month), to the B's (we have an open invitation to go visit them after my mission, they live about 45 minutes away from Hillsboro, they said), and the rest of the branch. I am now in the zone of Achupallas, right next to beautiful Viña del Mar, in a ward called El Mirador. I´m serving with Elder B, who is a friend of mine already that I met when I was in Valparaíso (4 and a half months ago). I am excited to start here.

Viviendo el sueño,

Elder Jason Ray

Monday, July 23, 2012

July 23, 2012

Dear Mom and Dad,

Fantastic week. (Wow, I say that a lot, don't I?) I have a lot of great stories to share, lets go.

This last Monday, we accompanied the sister missionaries (intercambios would be a little weird, so we just accompany them for a few hours) to a lesson with one of their investigators named F. He is a 19 year old guy that started going to church and institute with his girlfriend. From there he started talking with the missionaries, reading, praying, the whole works. We asked him in our visit if he had prayed to know that the Book of Mormon was true. He said that he didn't, because "God answered me so clearly and powerfully when I was reading it, without asking, that it would have seemed ungrateful to ask him." He said that every verse seemed incredibly beautiful to him, and that he had no doubt that it was true.

The next day, as we were coming from Quillota (a larger city where there are a lot more missionaries) to La Ligua (that's where we are), we both fell asleep on the bus instead of getting off and changed buses, and ended up waking up in a tiny little town somewhere in between the two cities. The bus driver told us to walk towards the freeway, where we could find a bus that would take us on to La Ligua. We got over to the freeway and crossed a bridge to the other side, then realized that there was no entrance road at that point, and we had no idea how to get back to the freeway. I saw a dirt road and suggested we walk down it. My companion didn't think it was such a good idea, but I convinced him and we started going. My idea was to get to the end of the dirt road, trek through a tiny little patch of somebody's yard, and hop their wall right over to the freeway. It seemed like it would work until two huge dogs came out of the house and bounded across the field towards us. We got away, and found another way to the freeway. Once we hit the freeway, the problem was getting a bus to stop for us. The first bus to La Ligua passed by without batting an eyelash (do buses have eyelashes to bat?) We decided to pull out a piece of paper and write "La Ligua" on it, so that we could hold it up and the buses would know we wanted them to stop. Then, while I was holding the sign, my companion started throwing his thumb out, and we almost ended up hitchhiking back. Luckily, we finally got on a bus. The best part of the whole trip--I saved 100 pesos, which is about 20 cents, from the mix up!

We have an investigator named E, who is a little older than 20 and has two small daughters. We hadn't seen her for about a week, and then one night while I was heading towards the church I saw her in the street with two of her friends. We stopped to find out what was going on, and she explained that her grandmother had died and she had been out of town. Then she continued explaining that her mother, whom she lived with, got tired of us coming over and told E that she had to chose between her (the mother) and us (the missionaries). She moved out of her house. Such amazing faith! It was really incredible.

The next day, we went to a lesson we had set up (do I ever say cita in my emails? Cita means appointment or lesson, so if I say it that is why, sorry) with an elderly lady we met in the street. Her daughter and two grandsons were there, and had to have been one of the most receptive families I have ever met. They loved the idea of the Book of Mormon and of getting baptized. In our second visit, F, the 9 year old grand son, had already read 5 chapters of the Book of Mormon to his grandmother, and today we played soccer with M, 14, and all of his neighborhood friends. The best part--we passed by one day to see how they were doing and got to meet the father of the family, who is a less active member who stopped going to church several years ago when he moved and didn't know where to find it. Lots of great things should be coming out of this family!

One night, we stopped by an investigator named J. She was in her pajamas and about to go to sleep, but she let us it to chat for a few minutes. We asked us if she had been able to read the Book of Mormon, and she said yes. We asked her how she felt, and she said she felt peace, tranquility, and happiness whenever she read it. She then said, "I talked to one of my coworkers (the branch president's wife), and she said that what I'm feeling is the Holy Ghost." The Spirit entered the room powerfully, and as we invited her to be baptized she started to cry. She accepted. And all this while she had on blue fuzzy pajamas.

They recently called a new Branch Mission Leader, and this week we got together and figured out a Branch Mission Plan. We are planning on calling a bunch of youth and older couples as Branch Missionaries, and on working with all of the members to talk to their friends and family members. It is an exciting time!

Last story of the week. Saturday morning, we were walking towards an appointment we had when two drunk gentlemen started motioning for us to come over. We decided to go say hi, and they started talking to us. They asked for us to read to them what would happen at the end of the world. We shared a scriptures that talks about how one must be baptized to be saved in God's kingdom, and said that is what they needed to do to be prepared for the end of the world. One of the fellows, calling himself Charly, invited us in to see an painting he had created. He then proceeded to show us, beer can in hand, what he pulled out of his mind. I'll send a picture of it, but those of you who are familiar with mormon artwork will instantly recognize the picture of Jesus Christ's baptism that all the chapels have. I don't really understand everything that is probably going on here, but I'm excited to find out.

Oh, being a missionary is incredible.

Viviendo el sueño,

Elder Jason Ray

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

July 16, 2012

Dear Mom and Dad,

This is going to be a very short letter because we need to go catch a bus to Quillota, but there are some pretty awesome events I do want to cover.

First off, Jo and her son, J. We found them walked on the street, and set up a time to pass by their house. When we got there, Jo was almost in tears after we sang the opening hymn. She said that she felt something stirring inside her when we sang--she repeated the same thing when we talked about Joseph Smith and the first vision. J came to English classes this friday, and I´m excited to see what happens with this family.

Next, President Känlein got here with his family, and we got to meet them all. He has four children, sons of 11, 9, and 7, and a two year old daughter. His wife is also a return missionary, and they seem both surprised and excited to be here working with us. President talked about a couple of things specifically--first, praying to be able to find the people that God is already preparing to receive us. Second, the power of the Book of Mormon, and how important, even vital it is in a real, lasting, conversion.

In our personal interview, he told me to keep working hard, that from what he had seen I was doing alright.

The day after the interview, we had some pretty amazing experiences. We met quite a few people who are very receptive to our message, and we kept thinking and praying about the elect, the ones that God is already preparing to recieve us. We felt the spirit very strongly while reading the Book of Mormon, as well.

Last story. This last Saturday, we went by S and B, a mother and her daughter who haven´t been to church in almost 15 years. The spirit was really strong, and we talked a lot about repentance and about God´s mercy. They ended saying that they would go to church the next day. It was a fantastic experience.

I wish I had time for more, but I´ll leave the rest to your imaginations.

Viviendo el sueño,

Elder Jason Ray

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

July 9, 2012

Dear Mom and Dad,

Fun week! I turned 20, which is odd, because I still feel the same as I did when I was 19. But by that logic, I still feel just the same as I did when I was 8... well, at least I'm taller. But, everything in its order.

Here in La Ligua, instead of using computers at a ciber cafe, we go to the B's house (the married missionaries here). Last Monday we had lunch here as well. We had a nice conversation with them both about how they decided to be missionaries (they had been planning for years and years), talked about their families, and just enjoyed a few hours talking in English. I think God probably put me here in La Ligua for quite a few reasons, but one of the big ones has to be meeting the B's and hearing their story. I'm thinking more and more now about serving a mission with my wife someday... So yeah, fun times.

Because I was called as the branch secretary here, I get to sit in on the weekly leadership meetings. This last week, we were thinking about who could be a possible music conductor, since three different people are trading amongst themselves right now, but nobody has the consistent responsibility to lead the music. While we were all thinking about who it could be, when the name of a sister in the ward, someone who is just barely coming back after a few years away, who wants to serve and do whats right, came to my head. It was a very clear and insistent thought, and I suggested her for the calling. It was neat to be a part of the revelatory experience that leads to people's callings, very testimony-strengthening to know that God really is that much a part of the process.

One of our investigators right now is T, an older lady who walked into church on her own one day. She is a sweet lady, and even though she doesn't always understand everything, she really feels the spirit when we share, and she absolutely loves going to church. We had a dessert night activity last week that she went to, and it was really incredible to see everybody opening up and letting her in to share, laugh, enjoy with them. She gets nervous when we start going through something too fast, but she seems to be moving forward quite well.

A few days ago my companion, Elder A, had the idea to leave little notes in a bunch of different places saying all the things he appreciated about me. So that morning when I got up there was a note in my hot chocolate can, in my wallet, in my journal, in my scriptures, all of them saying things like "thanks for working hard with me" or "thanks for your faith." It was a really sweet gesture, Elder A is a pretty incredible missionary.

We had lunch with the Elder's Quorum president on my birthday. When it came out that it was my birthday, his 5 year old son A wanted to bring me a present. He brought out a tiny little toy skateboard, and said that even though it was really special to him, he wanted me to have it. I thanked him, but right when I stepped on, I heard a *crack*. I don't know why I didn't think that, obviously, I would be too big for it, but I snapped the wheels right off! So, my birthday present turned out to be a child-sized skateboard for 5 year old A that I bought for him. Quite entertaining. (And yes, I got myself a birthday present too. Socks and a hat made out of wool to ward of the winter night chill, I'm excited to use them!)

We had a lesson this weekend with a bunch of the youth from the branch. We talked about a talk by President Monson called "The Abundant Life," about all the things someone needs to do to have a happy and successful life. It was quite entertaining, I really enjoy teaching/working with youth.

Another thing that happened on my birthday--I was thinking a lot about what a birthday is, and what its meaning is, when I had a thought. Instead of always focusing in on myself on my birthday, it should be a day when I thank God for my life by serving others. Instead of planning a party, I should plan a service project. For some reason, that seemed like a good idea, a good way to celebrate.

Elder A and I sang in church this week, a beautiful version of "Abide with Me, Tis Eventide." Elder A has a fantastic voice--he was involved in musicals and choir all through high school--and I can sing a good base on that song, so it ended up really beautiful. I still do have stage fright, and at one point grabbed onto the pulpit to stop my legs from shaking, but I'm making progress!

We have a mission leader now (we didn't before) named Hermano Espejo (for you spanish speakers, yes, that is Brother Mirror). He is a return missionary from Osorno, the southern part of Chile. He served a mission quite a few years ago, and told us a bunch of stories about how his mission was in that time. He said that one time they walked 4 hours to get to an appointment, because they didn't have enough money back then to pay for transportation, and it fell through, so they just walked right back to town. I am definitely happy to be able to take a bus every once in a while!

Viviendo el sueño,

Elder Jason Ray