Monday, September 24, 2012

September 24, 2012

Dear Mom and Dad,

I have 8 minutes to write, so I´ll get typing.

A miracle that has happened here in my mission is that I no longer have stagefright. I remember in a talent show in my first year of BYU, I froze up so bad while singing that I had to stop for 30 seconds to catch my breath. But, a few months ago, I had the thought that the only reason I still had stage fright was because that was how I thought of myself--I´m Elder Ray and have stage fright when I sing. So I decided that instead of fear, it was exileration. Now, I´ve been singing every Sunday in sacrament meeting for about two months, and I feel fantastic every time I do it. What a blessing that is!

I had the great change to do interchanges with Elder Bessey and Elder West, two missionaries who are just starting out, this week. It was really incredible--I could see myself in them, a testimony of the truth of the gospel burning bright, behind young, innocent eyes strained to understand what the Chilean people is saying. It also made me realize how far off I was when I first got here and thought that the zone leaders were super human. I believe that they are missionaries just as powerful and effective as I am, because they know just as I do that this work is true. And in the eternal scheme of things, 1 year of experience isn´t much. It was a humbling thought.

We had a lesson with C this week that pretty much marked our time sharing with him. He really opened up and asked us all of his deep, hidden questions. We shared with him from the scriptures and, more than anything, our testimonies of the Book of Mormon and the things that we felt that helped us to know that it is true. The spirit was so strong when he got down on his knees and asked God if the book was true, it was incredible. He is leaving town for a month now, but I¨m excited to see what he has learned and felt when he gets back.

This week was the celebration of the Chilean Independence Day, el 18 de septiembre. I think Chileans really know how to throw an independence party--three days of dancing, eating BBQ, and throwing flags from every possible location. Quite a blast.

We talked to Y more at length about her baptism. She told us that, when she was confirmed and recieved the gift of the Holy Ghost, she could feel/see/sense the darkness leaving her as a light, clean, pureness entered in. She said that for the next two days, she was hardly aware of anything that happened, she was so content and happy with life. What a blessing it has been to know her, and to have been a small, small part in her conversion.

This work is true. I know it with all my heart.

Viviendo el sueño,

Elder Jason Ray

Monday, September 17, 2012

September 17, 2012

Jason's zone

The baptism this week

Dear Mom and Dad,

Good week! It ended with an amazing baptism and confirmation, but we´ll get to that last :D

This week the bishop asked us to go visit a guy named DL. He was baptized years ago in Australia, but his records didn´t exist, so he asked us to go figure out what DL knew so that they could get a new record created. We also got to meet his wife, RL, who got baptized about a year ago when they moved here to Chile. Really interesting family. DL found the church while he was traveling all over the world, he wasn´t just in Australia but also in Japan, China, Asia, Europe, the US, and then back to Chile. He had kind of forgotten about God while he was traveling, but when he got back to Chile he decided to find the nearest chapel, and showed up one day with his wife (she´s also Chilean), RL, who liked it and then got baptized.

Talking to the mamita, the sister who we pay to wash our clothes (now that is charity in action!), we decided to go visit one of her neighbors, P. The mamita (whose name is P, what a coincidence) said that she had passed through some hard times and could really use some help from God. It turned out that she was already a member of the church, although she hadn´t been in 20 years, but her boyfriend was also incredibly eager to learn more about God and to follow him. He was also very insistent that they learn together as a family, it was really a beautiful thing to see.

Here in El Mirador, there are a lot of apartment complexes that have gatemen. Usually we just tell the gateman which apartment we are going to, but this week we ended up talking to one of them for a good 20 minutes (in the end we never made it to the apartment we were going to, it was funny). He told as about his goals, his dreams, and also the hard life he has had. He showed us his hands at one point--they were scarred and marked from years and years of hard work for his family. When we shared with him that he could find peace, rest, new life, and even eternal life in God, he started crying. It was really a sweet moment, and made me think about all the other people that are ready to hear our message, that maybe I haven´t looked at and considered talking to before.

We had a really huge blessing this week--Elder Viñas, from the 70, came to give a couple mission conferences. He talked to the leaders of the mission about how we should avoid needless and useless traditions that take our time and attention away from missionary work, and he talked about the level of dedication and preparation that we should help people to achieve before they are baptized. The really amazing part was after the conference. Elder Viñas wanted to talk to a couple of random missionaries to get a feel for how the mission was doing. President Kähnlein chose my companion and I as 2 of the 4, so I got to have an interview with a general authority. The spirit was really strong, two things that he said stuck out in my mind. 1) Help people to feel the spirit so that they will want to act, and 2) use the Atonement as my big motivation. Using the atonement, I can motivate myself to do about anything.

So, last up, Y was baptized and confirmed this weekend. She is absolutely glowing with light now, it is so incredible to see the change that has taken place in her, how happy and excited she is, how much faith and confidence she has in the Lord, how much commitment she has to keep moving forward. I had the privilege to confirm her and bestow the gift of the Holy Ghost on her, and the spirit moved me to say some pretty incredible things (not that I can remember most of them now, but I think they were meant more for her than for me).

So now, time to get back to work. I love you all,

Viviendo el sueño,

Elder Jason Ray

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

September 11, 2012

Dear Mom and Dad,

This will be a short letter since I hardly have any time at all. But, this was a crazy week, so I´ll type fast.

We found a couple named J and D knocking doors one day. We had a really powerful lesson answering all their questions from the scriptures, they said that they would read the Book of Mormon to find out if they needed to get married and baptized.

We also found a man named W walking along the street yesterday--he was walking in the same direction as us, after we started talking he invited us to come in and share. It turns out that he really wants to start believing in God, change his life, and get baptized. It was incredible how God led us right to this man who is so ready, so prepared!

Y smoked last sunday, We asked her how she was doing on Wednesday and she started to cry as she told us about it. She then went off alone to say a prayer and ask God for forgiveness. It was incredible, she came back about 10 minutes later absolutely changed, she said that she knew God had forgiven her and would help her to not fall again. She passed her baptismal interview, and is so excited for this saturday that it just makes my day every time we go by.

We went to a baptismal service in the ward next door of a sister named J. She found the missionaries through a friend, asked for the friend to set up a visit, and immediately changed everything necessary in her life to be able to get baptized. The room was so full that the 6 missionaries who were there had to wait out in the hall and just listen to the prayer.

C, who went to church last week, gave up alcohol, coffee, and tea right away. He is also commited to follow God for life. Really great guy.

Now comes the crazy part. Thursday morning Elder B got a call telling him to pack his bag, since he was going to leave on Friday morning. He is now up farther north. Y and J were quite sad to see him go--I was too.

Elder S came down from Illapel, the zone where Elder B was sent, for three days before going home. He was an amazing example of how to finish a mission honorably. I could tell that he had worked hard for two years, that he was dedicated and commited and that he would work miracles in his family and friends once he got home. I had heard about Elder S ever since I was in Quintero, my second ward. He started his mission there, it was quite the privelege to be with him at the end.

I am now with Elder G. He has been a missionary for 6 months now, he came in with Elder S, my son (mission language--the elder I trained). We are super excited to be together, we get along fantastically and have already begun to see miracles.

And my time is already up! I´ll send some pictures of everyone involved next week.

Viviendo el sueño,

Elder Jason Ray

Monday, September 3, 2012

September 3, 2012

Dear Mom and Dad,

To start off: Mom, I think I found your favorite scripture.

"...we were exceedingly rejoiced when we came to the seashore..." (1 Nephi 17:6)

Other slightly silly news: Thank you so much for the birthday backage. I was so happy to see the church movies, and almost moved to tears by all the wonderful family photos (and everybody is amazed to see how small the kids used to be!) The 3x5 cards, clown-style balloons, and party hat were great additions as well. My companion and the other two Elders that lived with us especially loved the balloons :D

So. To (slightly, but not by much) more serious matters.
We started teaching a lady named F (raspberry) with her 9 year old grandson, I, this week. She is a really nice lady, life (and her family) haven´t treated her as nicely as perhaps she deserved, but she is very excited to share with us now. The rest of her family (except her grandson) is pretty apathetic towards us, but we decided to try pulling everybody in a little bit more by making brownies in their house and giving them to everyone (thanks for the mix, it was delicious!) She has felt the spirit several times and says that she wants to go to church, but she is nervous to start off because of delicate health. This next week we are going to focus a lot on the promises of physical and emotional help that come through Christ´s atonement.
L and B are doing pretty fantastically as well. We found out that they are living together unmarried, which is pretty common here in Chile (in the states marriage and divorce have become almost casual matters, here the state tends to favor single parents and divorces are lengthy and uncomfortable, so a lot of people just live together to "avoid all the hassle."). But, they loved church on Sunday and are all pretty decided now on getting baptized, so the next step is to help them understand that God wants them to be married, too. There was an interesting moment during the week when B told us a couple of things that helped us to understand that she didn´t really understand the Restoration, how Joseph Smith saw the father and the son and received the legitimate authority from God. We came back the next day and taught a really simple, scripturally-based lesson about the restoration, and then within the few days break we had before the next lesson, the Spirit had done all the rest and she said she already knew it was true. Wow, they really are a great family.
I went to the ward next door this week, and got to know an investigator named ML. She had shared withed missionaries years and years ago, but one day she just showed up to church at 10:00 in the morning, stayed for all three hours, and then told the missionaries that she would like them to come by. She is really a fantastic example that it is God that directs this work, and His spirit is the key factor.
We´ve been sharing with a young naval marine named C for the last few weeks. He is a really good guy, hard worker, and recognizes that he needs to let God more into his life. He came to church for the first time this Sunday, loved it, and is set to keep coming from now on. The last time we were in his house, he talked about how every time we go by he feels peace and joy in his heart, and how he wants to have that feeling more. I really love the simple and sweet manifestations of the spirit, like the peace and joy, that people just don´t feel and don´t understand away from the church. Because that same spirit, make every moment so much sweeter, every day tells me again and again that this work is true.
We had lunch this week with the V family. They are also marines, he is retired and she is still working at the front desk in the naval hospital. They had been inactive for several years, and just started coming back to church a few months ago. They talked about how they noticed the difference when they weren´t going to church, how their family was less united, there was less love in their home, things didn´t work out quite as well or move foreward quite like they wanted. We decided to go share with them for a few weeks to help their 8 year old grandson to get ready for baptism, and to help them get back into the flow of living the Gospel.
Finally, Y. She is doing so great, she has so sincerely and completely chagned her life and every day I thank God for leading us to her. She even started sharing the gospel with her mother, who started out pretty touchy but has been softened a little bit by her daughter´s earnestness. She is so excited for her baptism, and you can tell the difference that the Gospel has made in her life when you talk to her.
So, that is what´s up in EM right now. We are still working hard to find people, and I hope to keep filling these letters with miraculous stories in the weeks to come.
Viviendo el sueño,
Elder Jason Ray