Monday, November 26, 2012

November 26, 2012

Jason's doing some cooking and the Thanksgiving Feast

Dear Mom and Dad,

The best part of this week was definitely that I scored about 15 goals in our Saturday Morning soccer game. OK not really, but I´m still really excited for that--I can actually play soccer now, and the combination of my really good day and the other elders having a really bad day was quite pleasing.

The best part of this week was working with J. This week we talked a lot about how our faith in Jesus Christ and his promises to bless us motivate us to keep the commandments. We also talked about the commandments, about how God expects us to live. I had the absolute privilege to see as J changed her life in really meaningful ways, and in a really short amount of time, to put it in line with the Lord´s will. What bravery, courage, and faith, what strength! I remember one lesson in particular when we explained a commandment that would require her to leave behind a lot of her past. She listened and asked questions as we explained the commandment, shared from the scriptures to show that it was God´s will, and asked he if she was willing to live it for the rest of her life. Even though her eyes were filled with tears her voice never hesitated: "Yes." Her smile when she stepped out of her baptismal interview stretched from ear to ear.

Another fantastic part of this week--and still better than playing soccer--was working with M. When we went by his house to get to know his family earlier this week, he surprised us with a homemade badge that he had pinned to his chest: Elder M, La Iglesia de Jesucristo (the church of Jesus Christ). Another day when we were sharing in the church, he talked about how, usually, he gets bored and restless in church and just wants it to end so that he can go home, but here, he keeps wishing it could just last longer. Him and me both!

We are trying to work with Y´s husband D now (they were separated before, but since she got baptized they´ve gotten back together again. Yay for the family-oriented Gospel!) She is really excited for him to be coming to church and sharing with us, and wants to be a good example for him, reading the scriptures and praying with the family. I hope to bring good news from this corner in the near future--Y is great, and it would be just fantastic for her if D got baptized as well.

This week we also met JR, who is friends with a couple of people in the ward, including J. He has a pretty great story--a few years back he decided he wanted to know a little more about our church, and some missionaries gave him a booklet about Joseph Smith. Since then he has found evidence that Joseph Smith was a prophet and that the Book of Mormon is true everywhere he has looked, from archaeological reports to other religion´s sacred texts. He has studied everything except for the Book of Mormon itself, but now he has a copy and is pretty excited to read it!

So, those are a few more reasons why this week was so great.

Viviendo el sueño,

Elder Jason Ray

Saturday, November 24, 2012

November 19, 2012

Dear Mom and Dad,

Really a miraculous week. For about a month and a half we had been having trouble helping people come to church, but these last two weeks have been really incredible, and I´m sure that it´s all thanks to God´s power. Here are a few stories of people who came this week.

First off, the A family. They were baptized a little over a year ago, right when I got here to Chile. When I got here to the ward, they hadn´t been going to church for about 5-6 months. We started working with them and teaching them, and this week, for the first time in 8 months, J. A. came to church--and stayed all 3 hours! He also came with his son, J. I., who had been a little bit active, and with his daughter S. His wife was sick, but I´m sure she´ll come the next week.

I think two things really made the difference here. First off, in one lesson that we had several weeks ago, they talked about how they didn´t feel worthy to go to church because they weren´t perfect, because they messed up in this and that. We shared a passage from the Book of Mormon which says, basically, "God doesn´t ever kick anybody out of His church, all are welcome." Then this last week, we had a Family Home Evening with the S family, recent converts that live nearby. They shared their conversion story, and then talked about all the different ways that the gospel has helped them since they found the church. Hearing this message from other "normal people" who, like them, had jobs and kids and normal lives, really made a big impact. It was a cool moment when the two families said hi to each other at church.

Next, Y. We met her when she came to English classes with her friend A, who is friends with J.  Last Sunday, we left her with a copy of the Book of Mormon and a chapter to read. By Tuesday, she had already read, prayed, and knew that it was true. On Thursday, she said that she wanted to be baptized. It was really an amazing experience, being able to be a part in her conversion. She is a very special person, and I am absolutely sure that her life is going to change and improve now that she has found the church.
Quick note about J (remember her? The one who knows that the church is true, does everything like she is supposed to, but just doesn´t want to get baptized). This week her mom came down from C, a city to the north, and took her three kids back up there with her. We had a nice moment with the family before they left, and J´s mom thanked us for watching out for her daughter, and away they went.

Now for E. He came to church for the second time this week and loved it just as much as he did the first time. Somebody asked him if he came with somebody or if he was there alone, and he said "for now I´m coming here alone, but pretty soon I´ll convince the rest of my family to come with me." We also had a really powerful (powerful=something that leaves Elder Ray in tears at least three times) experience watching "The Testaments," a movie that talks about when Christ came to the Americas. Really, the only thing that E is missing right now is a testimony of the Book of Mormon. As soon as he reads it and prays about it, he will be absolutely ready for baptism.

M, the 13 year old grandson of M, came to church again. He is so cool, he also received an answer for the Holy Ghost when he asked to know if the Book of Mormon is true and got really excited when we talked about baptism, and how we can be baptized by someone that holds God´s authority. Our next goal is to help him to get to know the youth here in the ward better.

We had a couple moments that made us think a lot about God´s power to soften people´s hearts, too. A few weeks ago we got to know the A family and had a fun Family Home Evening with all of them. The highlight of the whole night were the games that G (5) and AL (3) taught us to play. Sadly, their father didn´t really want to participate, and stayed in his bedroom the whole time we were there. This week we went by to say hi again, and it was a totally different story. He said that he wanted to go back to church and prepare himself to be sealed in the temple with his family, his two daughters and his newborn son (he still hasn´t been born yet, but it should be this week). He said that he realized what the important things in life are, and he is ready to do things right. 180 change! It was great.

I know that this work is true. I know that God and Jesus Christ really showed themselves to Joseph Smith, called him to be a prophet, and gave him the priesthood, the power to act in God´s name on the earth. And I have been called to be a part in this great work, too!

Viviendo el sueño,
Elder Jason Ray

Monday, November 12, 2012

November 12, 2012

Dear Mom and Dad,

Miraculous week that ended with a ton of people going to church, here´s a couple stories.
E: We had some really powerful lesson this week with him. On Monday we talked about why it is important to know the Book of Mormon is true, making a chain between the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith, Thomas S. Monson, and the truth of the church. The spirit was powerful, it was an incredible thing! Then on Friday, one of E´s neighbor´s who is a member of the church went with us. He told his conversion story, talked about how he came to know that it was all true, and offered to stop by and pick him up on the way to church. He went, and loved it! (This week was the primary program, and who couldn´t love the primary program?)

We had a few more lessons with M this week. During one of them, out of the blue her grandson M2 showed up--he´s 13, and just as interested in religion as his grandma. We talked for about 40 minutes, and he decided he wanted to go to church. He went, hit it off amazingly with the youth group there, and is all excited to come play soccer during the week!

During English classes, we always start and end with a prayer in English. Usually I write up an English prayer on the white board taking suggestions from the class, and either me or the teacher, C, help one of the students to pronounce it. C speaks English almost perfectly, but when we had asked her to pray in the past she said that she wasn´t religious and didn´t want to. This week, while we were asking for suggestions for what to ask for in the prayer, she said that she would like us to ask for her mom, who was sick. My companion immediately said, "do you want to say the prayer?" She said sure, and then started. "Hey God, it´s been a while..." She then proceeded to give a really beautiful prayer in English. It was great!

Several weeks ago, J, the investigator who knows the church is true but has never decided to be baptized, brought a friend to English classes--A. A has been a member since she was a little kid, but hadn´t gone to church in quite a long time. When she set foot in the chapel, she felt something special, and knew that it was time to come back. Now she is going to church and wants to prepare herself to serve a mission. This week, she brought another friend, Y, to English classes. Y also came to church on Sunday, and when we met later in the afternoon to teach her, she said that she could feel that this was what she needed to fill all the emptiness she felt in her life. What a miracle!

Several other people went to church as well, but those are the stories I don't have time for. Basically, my whole life is a miracle.

Viviendo el sueño,
Elder Jason Ray

PS--a private message from Elder Ray to Alyssa, who didn't give me her email address:

Congratulations Debbie! I am so proud of you, and so excited for all of the experiences you are going to have in your mission. I know that you were called to Michigan by a prophet of God, and there are specific people waiting there for you. Make these months you have left count, studying and preparing!
Elder Jason Ray

Monday, November 5, 2012

November 5, 2012

Dear Mom and Dad,

I´m just going to write a few stories, but try to give them a bit more detail.

We had a great lesson with Edison, his wife Claudia, and their 10 year old son Martin. We watched "Together Forever," an older church movie that talks about how the Gospel blesses families, and about how families can be eternal. It was an interesting lesson because of how close we got, so many times, to a really powerful spiritual breakthrough, but that every time, right when we were almost there, the phone rang, or someone knocked on the door, or Claudia had to leave to go help out her sister. It´s an interesting pattern that is actually quite common--whenever we are getting to a really spiritually powerful moment in a lesson, distractions start to pop up on all sides. But I think they still felt the Spirit quite strongly, and we´ll keep helping them to see through the mists of darkness to see the truth.

Last week we started teaching a lady named Miriam. She is a wonderfully interesting lady--she is about 75 years old, and has literally investigated every church there is except for ours, looking for the truth. A year and a half ago, she left a church that she had been a part of for 25 years when she found something in the Bible that wasn´t in agreement with what the church taught. The first time we visited her, she gave it to us really plainly: "I´m looking for Christ´s church, the holy, true church of God, for His chosen people, and if you are that people the I want to be baptized in your church!" Last week we printed off a chapter of the Book of Mormon in large print so that she could read it. This week we did three more and ordered a largeprint copy of the entire book. I´m excited!

Irene and Evelyn: I think I´ve written about them before, but here´s a brief summary. When I was in La Ligua, a sister and her young adult daughter showed up out of the blue at church one day. The daughter is heavily handicapped as a result of a car accident several years ago, but even so she got up to bear a powerful testimony about the scriptures. When I got here to El Mirador, I realized that this was their home ward, where they were baptized and where they go to church as often as they can.

This Sunday we went by to visit them, and caught them right as they were on the way out the door. Evelyn, the daughter, was having trouble breathing (she had a breathing stem for 31 months, it was taken out towards the beginning of October, and she just never adjusted to not having it). We helped to get her down to the car--then, while Irene went back up to bring the clothes, we sang hymns with her for 15 minutes. It was a beautiful moment, in a way, even though it was a bit unusual. In between hymns, Evelyn would ask us questions to make sure that she was really understanding the scriptures that she was reading in that moment. I am praying now that everything goes well in the hospital in Santiago!

We were out on the street one day when Matias Rojo (18), who I have written about before--a recent convert who has been inactive but went to General Conference with us--walked up. We started talking, and within 2 minutes Maria Paz (15), another recent convert whose family we had been trying to get to know, walked up and joined the conversation. She said that her mom, Pamela, was at home because she broke her finger in a car accident, and that if Matias would come with us we could go by and see her. He agreed, and so we all went together. They all hit it off wonderfully, Matias, Maria Paz, Pamela, Pamela´s daughter Pamela, and they are all planning on going to church together now. It was a very beautifully orchestrated miracle. There was no doubt it was God´s hand.

I absolutely love my mission. I hope that I am able to convey a part of that love and excitement through these letters. Thank you for all the support and love that you give me to help me here.

Viviendo el sueño,

Elder Jason Ray