Monday, August 27, 2012

August 27, 2012

Dear Mom and Dad,
Happy birthday to my companion! Elder B turned 22 yesterday. Fun day, fun week as well. On with the stories.
We entered into a lesson with L, the super-smart history teacher father of A, who was a mini missionary while I was in Q (remember that story? It´s ok, me neither). For one reason or another, he started talking about the botanist stage in his life. While on vacation in the North of Chile, he met a fisherman who lived in the bays and hills near Antofogasta. This old, part-indian fisherman told him a story about a time when his mother got stomach cancer. He took her to the hospital and they said they he should take her home and make her comfortable, that the disease had already progressed too far and had no cure. He took her back home, and then went out into the bays and hills, brought home herbs, made herbal teas, and cured her of cancer. He said that this story absolutely enlightened him, that for five years he went hiking and climbing all through those hills and bays in a pair of sneakers, discovering plants, cataloging and catagorizing them, asking native fishermen what their purposes were, searching, searching. He said that every morning he woke up with a burning desire to go out and find the cure for cancer, to change the world. In a really incredible moment, we compared this same desire that he felt to cure cancer to what he should feel towards our invitations to read the Book of Mormon, to pray and ask if it is true, and to go to church. We compared the value of life on this earth with the value of eternal life, and how he would be able to come to know Christ through this journey. It was a really incredible lesson.
I did an interchange with a missionary who is just beginning his mission, Elder H. He is from Colorado, and is tall enough that our morning game of basketball seemed more of a joke than a real competition (6´ 6" I believe). It was almost a nostalgic experience, seeing him struggle to understand Chileans, adjust to Chilean food/a missionary diet as opposed to his mother´s cooking, practice spanish and learn how to teach from the sciptures. It made me feel very glad for how far I have come, for my progress as a missionary, everything that God has helped me to be able to do.
One day this week, I don´t remember which, we were talking to somebody on the street and we invited them to listen to us. They said something along the lines of, "I´m, sorry, we don´t have time to listen to you." First I thought, "How do you not understand that you need to make time, that this is more important than anything else in this world!" Then I thought, "Do I really understand that? Do I grasp that this work, this church, God´s desires for me, are more important than anything else in the world? Will I ever say towards some responsibility that God gives me, ´I just don´t have time´?" It was an interesting thought, and a good motivation to keep developing my testimony.
L, B, and S, the family that we found last week, are so great. They came to church yesterday, stayed all three hours, and seemed to really enjoy everything. We talked a lot this week about having an eternal family. They already love, cherish, and take care of each other so much, I am excited to see them gain even more love and happiness as they receive the Holy Ghost and start on the path to becoming an eternal family.
Y is, if anything, even more incredible (I think I wrote about her a few weeks ago--single mother of two children, she owns the cyber cafe that we use every week). This week, she asked God sincerely if this was the true church. She got an answer so strong, that literaly everything that Satan can throw at her hasn´t daunted her one bit. After she found out that this church was true, she immediately gave up smoking. The next day, when she learned about the word of wisdom, she gave up tea and coffee. Now she is excited to pay tithing, she is changing her wardrobe to dress more modestly, she came to church and also stayed all three hours. One of the coolest moments of this week went a little like this: "I made a commitment with God once. And even though I made it in the wrong place, it is still a commitment that I have with him. And that means, at any church meeting that I go to, I wear a skirt." The moment only could have been more perfect if fireworks had shot up in the background.
I feel like I just have so much urgency to find people, to reach everybody that God has prepared as much as He has prepared L, B, and Y. I hope to keep finding people, and to keep having amazing stories like these to share.
I love you all and pray for you always,
Viviendo el sueño,
Elder Jason Ray

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

August 20, 2012

Dear Mom and Dad,
So, this week we were visited by Elder V, the second counselor in the area presidency (south america south, it includes Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay). He talked about quite a few things, but here are a few that I really liked. The Ammon attitude. A very common missionary error is to think, "I´m only going to be in this area for a few months, so I should work as if I´ll only be here a few months and then, ciao no más (bye bye)." If missionaries think like that, then they won´t be as dedicated or as hardworking as the Lord requires. So, Elder V encouraged us to develop Ammon´s attitude. When king Lamoni asked him how long he was going to stick around for, he said, "Yea, I desire to dwell among this people for a time; yea, and perhaps until the day I die." The Atonement. Somebody asked the question, "What can we do to help a missionary who isn´t obedient or hardworking?" The answer: Study the atonement. If we really understand the atonement, then we will do everything that God wants us to do, without question or complaint. Worthy converts: Elder V encouraged us to work to bring worthy converts to the church. A worthy convert is someone who really understands the doctrine, has repented fully of past sins, and has all of the commitment and all the habits needed to stay active in the church. I like this idea a lot, it gives a very high standard to aim for.
We did a few interchanges this week. In the first interchange I went with Elder D, from Colorado/Utah/Arizona (he moved a bit). It was one of those amazing days where it rained all day long, and we didn´t have much luck getting inside people´s doors. We got pretty wet, but we had jackets and it was really an enjoyable experience. Next up I went with Elder , who just got to Chile a few weeks ago. He reminds me a lot of you, dad, hardworking, diligent, obedient, and pretty chill as well.
Interesting experience with a kid named N. Whenever we finish talking with someone, in a lesson, on the street, wherever, we always ask them who else they know who would be benefited from our message. On Tuesday, somebody showed us to a 17 year old kid named N, who is athiest but really receptive and willing to try out. We shared about how if he read the Book of Mormon he could know that God exists, and then we left, excited to come back in a few days and keep teaching him. When we came back a few days later, his dad had forbid him to meet with us. It was interesting, because I still felt peaceful and happy even as he told us that. I know that he will meet the missionaries again in a few more years when he is on his own, and I´m possitive that he will read the Book of Mormon and find out that it is true then.
Last story. When I was with Elder O, we were heading down a set of stairs when a man and his wife were heading up. The man stopped us and asked if we knew another missionary, who right now is serving as the mission secretary, because they had talked about some free english classes that he could go to. As we started talking about english classes and trying to figure out how to contact the other missionary, he invited us into his house. There we more fully met L and B, who had both, in they own time, looked for the true church but hadn´t quite been able to find it. When we taught them about the restoration, it seemed like pieces were falling to place for them. They started reading the Book of Mormon right away, and are already excited to go to church this next Sunday.
I love this work. I love the miracles that God showers down upon us. I love it!
Viviendo el sueño,
Elder Jason Ray

Monday, August 13, 2012

August 13, 2012

Jason's one year celebration pizza

Dear Mom and Dad,

This week I turned a year old and finished half of my life (we always say that starting your mission is birth and ending it is death). My one year mark means that I have 12 months left to give my all to the Lord. I´m amazed by how far I´ve come and quite excited to see what happens in this next year in front of me. I also used it as an excuse to buy pizza. And ice cream. But hey, you don´t finish half a lifetime every day!

An interesting observation about the gift of tongues. I have absolutely no doubt that I have received the gift of tongues as a gift of the Spirit--this Sunday in Sunday school, we were talking about gifts of the spirit. The teacher used me as an example, and I got up and said a couple of things about my history learning spanish, how I hardly knew anything when I started and how much God had helped me to progress. After the class I started thinking. When I was at school (BYU), I had a friend that used to say things to me in spanish (que triste, pobrecito, etc). Even after she told me seven times what each word meant, my mind still went blank each time I heard them. Just a year and a half later, I am speaking fluent spanish. Wow. So if you don´t understand what que triste and pobrecito mean either, ask God for the gift of tongues. It´s pretty great.

We had a couple good lessons with MB this week. He is having a hard time working up the courage to go to church again, just because he doesn´t know everybody, he´s the new guy, etc. But, when we were talking about enduring to the end after baptism and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, he said something like "well, of course, that´s the whole idea. That´s what I´m here for." It was a pretty impressive attitude.

We met a great family this week, the second counselor´s daughter, her husband, and their two sons (C and E are the parents). C was baptized when she was 8 years old, but E and their sons have never really gotten to know the church. We all hit it off pretty great, and everybody agreed to read the Book of Mormon. We´ll see what else happens there.

We also met MM, whose son and wife are members, but who has never gotten baptized himself. He is quite an interesting man. A professional painter who has an exhibit in Atlanta, Georgia, he speaks perfect English and works in odd jobs (especially sales) to provide whatever his erratic painting business can´t supply. I´m pretty sure that when he accepts the gospel fully and is baptized, God is going to be able to use his intelligence and skills and bless their family in enormous ways. I felt pretty strongly when I was sharing with M and his wife that they are a big part of the reason I´m here in El Mirador.

Another fun guy we met--PD, a 70 year old blind man who grew up in a rough neighborhood in Valparaiso and told us stories that made me glad I was there in 2011. He was quite receptive, and we got hold of the Book of Mormon on CD so that he can listen to it, too.

Last story. We go several times a week to a cyber cafe next to the chapel to make copies and send reports of zone meetings. The owner of the cyber is a young single mother named Y (pronounced Jessica). We felt really strongly this week that we should start sharing with her, and stopped by one day before she opened up shop. It was a truly amazing lesson, she has been absolutely prepared by God to receive us in this moment. We felt the spirit so strongly while we talked about how God could held her, with all her difficulties and problems, that everybody was crying. I was truly amazed to see how God set up that whole situation, putting us in the place (the cyber cafe) that we needed to be in order to find this person we needed to find.

So, that is what is happening this week. These next few weeks should be quite interesting as well, there is definitely a lot going on!

Viviendo el sueño,

Elder Jason Ray

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

August 6, 2012

Dear Mom and Dad,

Even though I´m lazy and don´t take enough pictures, you can still see some mission pictures at Sister Känlein, the mission president´s wife, is pretty into picture taking (her camera is slightly larger than my leg), so there should be a few good ones there.

So. Getting to know a new branch is quite a lot of fun. I was especially happy meeting the bishop here in El Mirador--he is a return missionary from Paraguay, and is exactly the type of person that I want to be after my mission. He just radiates love, happiness, and the spirit, and has a really powerful vision and hope for the ward. One of the things that he asked of me as the newest missionary in the ward was to trust him, to let him help us.

I also got to meet MB, a really great guy who is preparing to be baptized at the end of August. He works renting out lots in a piece of property he owns--he has several houses, a small store, and a barbershop in his property. He is really committed to following God, and is really willing to make sacrafices and do things differently because God asks him to. He has also started to share the gospel with his neighbors and the people he rents to--he is a pretty great guy.

J is another investigator that I met when I got here (she just turned 18 a few days ago--happy birthday to her!) She has been meeting with missionaries for the last year, knows the church is true, wants to be a missionary some day, but is, for some reason, terrified of baptism. Right now we are trying to figure out how to help her get over her fear (it is a strange fear--she isn´t afraid of water, she isn´t afraid of being in front of people, or anything, just afraid of getting baptized). Your prayers are all appreciated.

We had lunch with the Elder´s Quorum president, A, and his wife . They remind me a good deal of Cindy Lynn and Mahon--he is a 25 year old return missionary, she is a 20 year old recent convert. They sing together every week as prelude to sacrament meeting, and cooked 8 home-mader pizzas to share with us (so delicious, way too much pizza).

J (diff J) is a 16 year old recent convert, and is a really interesting person. He lives with his mom and grandma, he knows kickboxing and martial arts, he has a speech impediment and trips over his words when he is nervous but sings like an angel--he actually records his songs, as well, and is slightly famous on Youtube (I'll get a link to one of his songs one day). He isn´t going to school right now (I´m not quite sure why) and goes out with us almost every day. One preparation day I want to go over to his recording studio (a cardboard box covered with egg cartons) and record some hymns with him.

This Friday was my first zone counsel. All of the zone leaders in the whole mission went to the mission office in Viña del mar, and President Känlein, the assistants, and all the office elders talked about important stuff the mission should know. We talked a lot about finding people to teach, and about the small things we need to do so that other people can easily tell that we really are representatives of Jesus Christ (normal rings are out, classic CTR rings are in). It was quite entertaining, I looked around in the middle of the conference at missionaries from all over the world, from all different backgrounds, gathered together and dedicated to the cause of Zion. The thought I had was, "I am surrounded by giants, by champeons, by powerful servants of God.

Last story. When I was in Quintero (two months ago. Wow, it seems like longer than that), I met a mini-missionary named A (one sister had to go home for health complications, so the mini-missionary came in to take her place until a new batch of missionaries got in). It turns out that she was baptized a year ago here in El Mirador. She has since moved and doesn´t live here, but her father, who is not a member, still does, and she introduced us to him. His name is L, he is a professor of history and probably one of the more intelligent people I have talked to in my mission. He read the entire Book of Mormon earlier in his life, and now seems quite commited and excited to say some serious prayers and ask God if he should change his life. I feel quite sure that I was sent here, in part, to answer A´s prayers and help her father to be baptized.

Viviendo el sueño,

Elder Jason Ray