Tuesday, October 30, 2012

October 29, 2012

Dear Mom and Dad,

Fun week (as usual), I´ll try to fit in as many stories as possible.

We watched the short video of the Restoration with Edison and Claudia this week. The spirit was pretty powerful there when Joseph related the first vision, it was a very moving moment. Edison was quite touched, and said that he would be baptized once he learned that the Book of Mormon was true. That was a very incredible moment!

We met two kids, Marcelo (13) and Marcela (9, don´t ask me what their parents were thinking) who had met with missionaries before, about a year ago. Marcelo read the entire Book of Mormon in a month. Marcela was just learning to read, so she only made it through the first book, but they both said that they were sure it was true. They are really quite delightful kids, we´ll see if they mother lets them keep sharing with us.

We found Luis and Beatriz again after about two weeks without seeing them (either they weren´t there when we went by, or we couldn´t go by the days they were free). They said they noticed the difference when we weren´t there, that their lives seemed less peaceful and more stressful. Now they started reading the Book of Mormon and praying together again. I love this family so much, I really hope they keep turning to God, because He could bless them in incredible ways.

Last week, we went by Yessica to teach a lesson, but she was really sick. We taught a little bit about blessings, how Christ and His apostles healed people and how that power and authority can still be used today, and gave her a blessing. This week she told us the story of what happened later. She said that after we left, she felt a heat starting in her head and then trickling through her whole body--when it finished, she got up off the couch, good as new, and then couldn´t stop moving until 3 in the morning she was so energized. What an incredible experience!

We had an interesting visit with Leonel, but I was really interested by something that he noticed from his Bible study. When Moses came and brought freedom from slavery, part of the price was the death of the firstborn sons in Egypt. When Christ was born and brought freedom from death and sin, part of the price was the death of the firstborn sons in Bethlehem (when Herod commanded his soldiers to kill the baby boys). My mind can´t quite grasp what significance that has, but it is an interesting type, how all things point to Christ.

We are still working with Javiera, who really wants to get baptized but just doesn´t ever make the decision and do it. In one of our lessons this week, we were talking about the courage it takes to make the right decisions, and she said that she is really good at standing up for what she believes in at school, even though nobody else thinks that her opinion is right or respects what she decides to do. She really is a very strong person, I hope we can help her reach her goal to be baptized soon.

Last night we had a nice visit with Carlos and Katalyna, a young couple that we started teaching a few weeks ago, and Angel and Andrea, a young couple from the ward (he is the elders quorum president, she directs the music, they both sing in the ward choir every week. Cool people). We had a great time talking about how much the gospel helps us in our daily lives, it was a nice visit. Carlos said that he Katalyna had been talking earlier on about how much peace and happiness they felt when we were around--we got to explain that those feelings come from the Holy Ghost, which comes from living the gospel.

Loving life, Viviendo el sueño.

Elder Jason Ray

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

October 22, 2012

Dear Mom and Dad,

I´ll start out with a couple of big fail stories, just so you know that I´m still your slightly clumsy son. On Monday, we decided we wanted to make completos--like hot dogs but with tomato and avocado as well. We prepared 6 delicious looking completos, 3 each... which were completely ruined because I put way too much salt in the avocado. Don´t ask me how it happened, but it was pretty intense.

Second story--the mission nurse gave me some antibiotics for a sore throat at the beginning of the week, with the instructions to eat them with food and at the same time each day. Of course I thought, "I can take one every day after lunch, which is when we eat the most, and I´ll always remember it!" I took the first pill, and promptly fell asleep in our next lesson--I guess I missed the drowsiness warning :P. Luckily I´m feeling better now!

This week we had the great privilege to hear Elder Dallin H. Oaks. He came on Saturday morning to speak to the entire mission. He talked about dedication, about giving ourselves completely and totally over to the work, and about how to listen to the spirit--he told several stories about times when he has noticed the spirit, and how it has affected his life. One of the things that most impacted me was his smile. I had never noticed this before about Elder Oaks--he always struck me as being a bit more serious--but he always has a huge, happy smile on. And President Arnold, the area president of South America South (Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay), reminds me a lot of my Uncle Larry. Just a fun note.

Because of some really unfortunate national planning, I can´t get baptized this next weekend--this Sunday is voting day, and we can´t do any other meetings apart from Sacrament meeting. But he is still doing great, we had a Family Home Evening last night with him and the Smiths (J´s family). I looked a lot more excited to share the gospel with his family after learning that J´s mom didn´t want anything to do with the missionaries to start with, but that J ended up baptizing her.

Ja still doesn´t want to get baptized, but, she is doing a great job to help other members become stronger in the gospel. One of her friends, Aa, said that she might have gone inactive for loneliness if it hadn´t been for her friend Ja. Then, this weekend, she invited two friends--An and Vr--to come to one of her lessons. They are both members and have been for quite a long time, but they haven´t gone to church in quite a while. We taught about what it means that we are sons and daughters of God, everybody felt the spirit strongly, and the next day An and Vr showed up to church with Ja.

We had a great moment with Ya talking about the Resurrection. I don´t know if we hadn´t covered it very thoroughly, or if she just didn´t understand, but when we talked about the fact that the resurrection means a restoration of our body to our spirit, in a perfect, flawless way, it really hit her. I could see the spirit working in her to teach her and bring this truth home to her heart. It was pretty fantastic.

Remember En? I met him my first week here in the ward, he is the son-in-law of the second counselor. We started teaching him again, and this week we went by and read the Book of Mormon with him, from the introduction. When we got the the invitation--to read, meditate, and then pray to know if it is the truth--we all took turns sharing our testimonies of how we learned that the Book of Mormon was true. The spirit was strong, En seemed pretty touched.

Viviendo el sueño,

Elder Jason Ray

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

October 15, 2012

Dear Mom and Dad,

So, funny story about the age change. Ja, the eternal investigator who has been going to church and seminary for a year but who doesn´t want to get baptized, went into conference praying and fasting for a definite answer so that she could make the choice and get baptized. She had said, when she turned 18 two months ago, that if the mission age for woman was lowered to 19 she would get baptized to be able to serve as soon as she graduated. Guess what the first thing she heard from the conference was!

We found a less-active member named J this week. Actually, I met him several months ago in an interchange in another area. It was raining a lot, and a family of less-active members had pity on us and let us in the door to dry off. One of their sons, who was there visiting, lives in our ward, and he gave me his address. We went by this last week, and he told us a pretty amazing story. He was baptized thirty years ago, and went inactive as a young man, about age 16. He has now not gone to church for 20 years. But he said that all the circumstances in his life, from the possible lung cancer that was detected in his lungs from smoking to the way he has been feeling about his life, makes him believe that Right Now is the moment for him to make it back to church. It was pretty neat.

Y stopped reading the Book of Mormon for about a week, for about the same reason I used to not read it for a week before my mission--I got busy, or just didn´t think about it, or when I had the free time I did something else. When we went by to share a bit with her, the difference was obvious. She was irritated by her children´s behavior, frustrated by her life situation, sick and tired of working, and just wanting it all to go away. We invited her to read the Book of Mormon for a few minutes, and then passed by the next day. The difference was like night and day--where she had felt stress and frustration before, she was feeling peace and happiness then. We talked about Lehi´s dream, and how the iron rod is the only way to get to the tree of life, to help her understand this pattern in her own life. It was definitely a good reminder of how much the little things really matter.

Do you remember E and C? C is the inactive daughter of the 2nd counselor in the bishopbric, E is her very catholic husband. I met them towards the beginning of my time here in El Mirador, but they got lost for a few months while going on vacation and redoing a wall in their house. We visited them for the first time in a long while this week and shared about the Restoration, talking about the church that Christ formed while on the earth and Joseph Smith´s vision when he asked which was the true church. It was really powerful lesson, and I´m excited to keep sharing with them.

We met a sister with a really sad story yesterday. She joined the church in Colombia, then came over here to Chile to get married to the missionary who baptized her. We didn´t ask for details of the story, but she made some really bad decisions at one point in time, was divorced, and got to the point where she felt like she was all alone in the whole world with her 2 children (she couldn´t even go back to Colombia because her ex-husband needs to keep seeing the kids). Right now she is almost to the point of getting out of her hard situation, she is reasonably within months of having her life how it should be, but I could see in her eyes and hear in her voice how difficult it has been to pull herself out of what she did. We are going to try to help her get her life back together, and I am going to always remember that the choices of a few moments can have pretty big consequences.

Last story, one that left me absolutely amazed by how great the spirit is. We were with the A family yesterday, recent converts who stopped going to church because they felt guilty for having made a few mistakes. Pure, beautiful revelation reminded me of a scripture passage I had read earlier in the week, in 2nd Nephi 26:25-28. (It says, in the words I can remember in English, "Has he commanded anyone to leave the synagogue, or the house of worship? Behold, I say onto ye, no.") When we started sharing from this passage, we all felt the spirit confirm it. The family decided to go back to church.

I feel so privileged to be the Lord´s servant, to be able to be an instrument that the Holy Ghost can use to touch somebody´s heart. I love my mission, every single minute of it.

Viviendo el sueño,

Elder Jason Ray

Monday, October 8, 2012

October 8, 2012

Dear Mom and Dad,

Wow, what a week. Luckily I have more time for writing this week than I had last week (less paperwork for the zone), so I´ll try to get all my ideas written down well. I particularly want to talk a bit about General Conference.

We met an inactive member named M this week, an 18 year old kid who was baptized a few years ago. He is the only member of his family, and after a while he stopped going to church because of pressure from his family and from the world at large. The story of our running into him this week was really incredible--a few weeks ago someone mentioned him to us, saying that it would be good for us to go by. A few days later we ran into a member who knew where he lived, but he wasn´t home that day. This Monday, an appointment in the same neighborhood fell through and we went by to see if he was home. He was, and whats more he was planning out his 18th birthday celebrations. As we started sharing with him, it became very clear from the spirit that we had been sent there kind of as a warning, letting him know that he shouldn´t do anything against the commandments for his birthday or it could go badly. The spirit was so strong while we were teaching, there were several moments that I was absolutely possitive that the words we were speaking weren´t ours at all. End story: He told us this weekend that he hardly celebrated his birthday at all, he´s perfectly fine, and went to the first session of general conference.

We also went by D and her family, including her boyfriend A and her daughter B. We had shared with them before, and I had felt like God wanted us to help the family. I thought God´s idea was to help D and A get married so that A could get baptized (D and her three children were already members). That hadn´t come to pass quite as I had imagined it, and so I thought that we just needed to give the family time. But then D and B (12) came to the ward activity, and we decided we needed to give it another try. Whats more, in the ward activity, God gave me a different perspective about what we could do for this family. We were there to help B to be an active member of the church during the crucial teenage years. When we mentioned this to D, she agreed immediately and said that she would start going to church with her daughter. This was a good reminder for me that I need to submit my own will to God´s, in ever situation.

I, the gate-man we found several weeks ago, is so incredible. He came to General Conference this week, two sessions, and we shared quite a bit during the week as well. He loves talking about faith, and has readily noticed that his own faith is growing as he talks with us and reads the Book of Mormon. Actually, he had to leave early during the last session to get to his job on time, but when he heard that the next talk was going to be on faith, he stayed another 15 minutes to hear it! Knowing him has helped me to strengthen my faith, as well, to know that God has prepared many people to receive the restored gospel.

Randomly funny story--we went by to see O, a recent convert, but he wasn´t home. We started talking to his mother in law, who told us that he had been assaulted earlier that week (luckily he was running with nothing but his clothing, not even a set of keys, so they didn´t take anything and he is fine now). The funny part was how the robbers assaulted him--they threw green, hard avocados!

Y is doing great. Her birthday was this last week (31), and she had a little party and invited us to stop by. When we got there we realized that everybody she had invited were members of the church--J, who baptized her, the Elders Quorum President and his wife, who directs the music in sacrament meeting, and a really nice brother who helped her to get her printer working again during the 2 weeks that her cyber was shut down. She really truly already looks like she has been a member of the church her whole life.

We had a great zone council on Friday. President Kähnlein has the goal of putting the whole mission, letter for letter, in line with Preach My Gospel, the missionary guide revealed by the prophet. We are going to make some changes this month, and he gave us a little "heads up" for the next months as well, letting us know in advance that there will be a few more changes coming. One of the things that I really liked from the council was a quote from Brother Gallardo, the new mission secretary. "Las metas se cumplen." (Goals get achieved). It made me think about my goals, my desires, and how hard I work to make my goals reality.

Last but not least--Conference. I feel like I was priveleged to participate in an absolute spiritual feast, like I have been showered with bits of revelation and guidance for my mission and my life. What a conference. A few highlights:

The new mission age rule, that young men can leave at age 18 and young women at age 19. Wow, talk about a surprise! I feel like one of the fundamental parts of reality has been shaken and turned on its head, but you better believe I am excited. I am sure that this will result in more missionaries, both men and women, who are ready and willing to give of their lives in the service of God. I am proud to be living in this great time.

Questions answered. I took a list of questions into the conference, things that I have been wondering about, mostly questions about how to improve my service as a missionary. There were a few moments (especially during Elder Perkin´s and Elder Holland´s talks) where I felt like God was speaking directly to me, telling me what I needed to do. I felt like my whole mind was illuminated, it was incredible.

I also had an idea during Elder Eyring´s talk in the Priesthood Session. He talked about the things that he does to help his sons to understand and grasp their true potential, even though sometimes it was difficult for them to see it. I decided that I should do something similar (but, granted, a bit smaller in scope) for the missionaries in my zone. Today I bought some nice paper, that I will use to write an apt scripture and an inspiring message to every Elder in the zone, trying to help them see what they can do or become.

I am so grateful that there is a living prophet on the earth today, that we have apostles, and 70, and all the authority and organization that Christ established. How incredibly blessed and privileged we are to live in these days.

Viviendo el sueño,

Elder Jason Ray

P.S. My sister Rachel signed her letter to me this week "I´m a Mormon, I know it, I live it, I love it." Life really does rock :D

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

October 1, 2012

Dear Mom and Dad,

This week was pretty special for several reasons, but one of the biggest is that President Kähnlein, our mission President, accompanied us this Thursday. It was an incredible day, his testimony of the church was incredible and made me think a lot more about everything that the church has been for me in my life, how it has always given me stability, peace, a sense of belonging, and opportunities to feel the spirit. I also admired a lot the way that he shared the gospel. It wasn´t stressed, faked, pretended, or anything of the style--rather, I always felt like he was having a good, meaningful conversation with a good friend, and like he was sharing something that he really knew would help other people to be happier.

One of these lessons was with C, who we met while she was out on a walk with her three kids. She invited us to come by another day. We went by and shared a bit about the Book of Mormon, then, when we went by with President K., talked a lot about the church and how great it would be for her, her kids, and her husband. At the end of the lesson she mentioned that she works with children, and that if she ends up joining the church she would love to work the the children in the church.

We also taught J, who has been investigating the church (including going to seminary and institute) for a year now. We have tried everything we could think of in these last few months to help her to get the courage to accept the answer that she has received from the Holy Ghost and to be baptized; President K. came, and she explained to him that she still felt uncertain and wasn´t sure if she should be baptized. He related his own conversion story, how he, too, didn´t know everything when he was baptized, but that he continued learning and progressing afterwards with the help of the Holy Ghost. Then he said something like this: "God knows where he is sending his servants, and I¨m sure he sent me here today to talk to you. Literally, you are here with the highest mission authority in this part of the world, and I am inviting you and imploring you to accept the answer that you have received, to move forward, and to be baptized." She accepted, we are now working towards the 20th.

We had lunch we the sister that organizes our lunches for us, Hermana S. Her husband has been inactive for quite some time. He is a character--he is Italian and suffered a motorbike accident a few years ago, with the result that he talks and acts like a really friendly Jack Sparrow-type pirate. We talked all during lunch, and his past, how he got to know his wife, and his testimony of the Book of Mormon. We invited him to come back to church at the end, drawing on his entire life´s experience to help him see that it was the right thing to do. President K. then invited him to General Conference this next weekend, saying that any questions he had would be answered there. At the end he agreed to go, but with the condition that Pres. K. would give him 10 dollars if his questions weren´t answered. :D

R and her two kids were another miracle. We knocked there door while looking at names on a list of less-active members, and R said that we got there in the exact moment that she had been needed something to help her out. They all came to church sunday, and R excitedly signed her family up on the list to clean the chapel in a few more weeks. Such a great experience.

I is another great story. We met him because he works at the gate in an apartment complex--we came over and introduced ourselves to him, then started sharing the gospel. He came to church this sunday, just beaming and full of light, and introduced himself to the whole world, just like we did every week. It is incredible to see how just a few days with the light of the spirit can change a life.

Last off--Y looks like she has been a member her whole life. The way she acts, talks, walks around the chapel, helps people out, is just incredible. I am so blessed to have been a part of her conversion experience, to have been a tool in God´s hands in that way.

Viviendo el sueño,

Elder Jason Ray