Monday, December 31, 2012

December 31, 2012

Jason mentioned the Primary did a live nativity, not sure how this one fit into the story.

Dear Mom and Dad,

Can you believe that the next time we speak, it will be 2013? I´m still going crazy thinking about that!

Christmas was really delightful, I did enjoy being able to see you and talk to you. I´m still amazed by Jared´s voice. And Cindy Lynn´s belly.

We also had a great Christmas here in Chile, everybody treated us really quite well. We had a fantastic dinner with the Sepúlveda family, our ward mission leader, we had stuffed chicken and fried potatoes. I think the best part was probably the gifts that we brought for them--it was so great to see their happiness as they opened them, especially when Martin (6) started playing with the bow and arrow we brought for him. I felt pretty great :D

In other news, we have moved to a new appartment that is about 10 times nicer than our old one and, to sweeten the deal a little bit more, is literally next door to the church. It´s even worth being on the 7th floor (although my arms were a little tired after carrying the beds up all those floors!)

So, I got an idea from Elder Applegate, who is sitting next to me and writing to his family right now. He is doing a wrap up of 2012, including all of his different areas, companions, and any special lessons he learned. I´m going to try doing the same thing, we´ll see how it turns out.

Stage One: January to March.
Companion: Elder Buffum.
Area: O´Higgins.

I think this was one of the stages in my mission that I learned the most, that I formed who I would be as a missionary. I started really comminicating in spanish, instead of just speaking moderately well and not understanding hardly anything. I also learned how to teach simply, using the scriptures, to answer specific needs that every person on earth has, to help them realize how the gospel really gives us everything that we need.

This was also a very funny time--Elder Buffum was quite a jokester, and I learned a good stock of lame jokes in spanish that I still pull out from time to time (to my companion´s dismay).

Stage Two: April to June:
Companion: Elder Sosa.
Area: Quintero

If i learned how to be a missionary in O´Higgins, Quintero was where I really put it all into practice. Elder Sosa was just starting out his mission, and we were put into a ward that neither of us were familiar with. Along with learning how to read a map, I talked with hundreds of people in the street, and for the first time started working with ward members to help find and teach investigators. I think I matured a lot here, just because my companion had less idea of what he was doing than I did (even though I was still relatively clueless). I also kind of faced down my own prideful desires and worked to submit them to God´s will, to lose myself in this work and be just an instrument in God´s hands. And I took lots of pretty beach pictures.

Stage 3: June to July
Companion: Elder Arbon.
Area: La Ligua

I really appreciated La Ligua for two things. First off, I was priveleged to be called as the branch secretary, and was there right in time to help the ward leadership be completely reorganized. It was an exciting, inspiring time, and I feel like I made a few really meaningful contributions. The second part was working with Elder Arbon. From day one, we hit it off fantistically (pretty much the same thing that happened with Elder Lucero in the MTC), and worked together in the closest thing to perfect unity that I¨ve ever experienced. It gave me an idea for how all companionship relationships really should be.

Stage 4: August until now.
Companions: Elder Barría, Elder Gatica.
Area: El Mirador.

I´m still living this part of the journey. I am learning more about myself and about other people, about how to help, motivate, and inspire, and a lot more about working together with everyone--my companion, ward leaders, other missionaries, etc. I have been blessed to get to know some really incredible people, and have learned a few lessons that will bless my whole life (for example, how to follow promptings of the spirit, that I should work in Family History, and how to play soccer). I hope to keep learning and growing as much as I have done so up to this point, and even more.

I am so grateful for the blessing that my mission is in my life. I am endlessly grateful that God would call little old me and send me out as his personal representative, to take the most important message in the whole world to those who most desire it.

Con mucho amor, y

Viviendo el Sueño,

Elder Jason Ray

December 24, 2010

Editors note: Sorry, I totally forgot to post this one last week.

Dear Mom and Dad,

If there are any random letters or numbers in this letter, then you should know that it is because Javier, Elder Gatica, and Gaby (Yessica´s 4 year old daughter) decided today was bother-Elder-Ray day. But I´ll try to get it to come out understandable.

First off--did you know that here in Chile, Christmas is the 24th? Santa Clause passes by all the houses during the day, and everyone opens presents at midnight. I figured it must be because Santa Clause needed to work more hours to reach the whole world, so he reached an agreement with Chile to move up their Christmas a few hours.

Yesterday in church was a special Christmas program. The ward choir sang hymns while the bishop gave short introductions to each one, talking about different aspects of Christ´s birth. Two of my favorites were "If You Could Hie to Kolob," which isn´t in the spanish hymnal but that we translated, and "Oh Holy Night."

This week we also had our Christmas Conference in the mission. We prepared a skit, a hymn, a capacitation (how do you say that in English? Training?), and a little gift interchange. For our hymn, we did "Angels We Have Heard on High" (just for you, mom).

A couple of cool updates--Yessica and Janyra set the goal of going to the temple the third week in January with the ward. They are going to a class on Family History during the second hour on Sunday to get prepared.

We met the Soto family. Marta Soto, who is a returned missionary, recently came back to church with help from her neighbor. Her kids, Kevin (17) and Valentina (15), came to church for the first time in about a year yesterday. I really feel like I understand Valentina, because she is really worried about studies, doing well in school, and an eventual career (in Chemistry). We´ll keep trying to help them get firmer in this next week.

Carlos is doing pretty great, he came to play soccer with us this morning, and also went to church yesterday. He is pretty worried right now about the house he is living in--when he started renting the house, he had an agreement with its owner that he would eventually buy it. So he upgraded the entire house, basically rebuilding it over again, and now the owner says she doesn´t want to sell... Today he is talking it out with her again, so we are praying that everything ends up alright. Janyra accompanied us to a lesson with Carlos, it was pretty great.

Have I written about the Wiker family? The other day we were looking at the ward directory and we say "Renato Wiker." We didn´t recognize the name, so we decided to go by. There we met Renato, his wife, and his grandson, Bayron. Renato and his wife are now pretty commited to return to church, and Bayron (11) wants to get baptized. It was pretty miraculous how we found them, and right when they had been wondering what path their lives needed to take!

Matias is really excited to get baptized, but his parents still haven´t given him the green light. His dad says that he wants him to wait until he turns 14 in another month, but he really wants to be baptized this next weekend so that he can go on the ward temple trip in January. Your prayers are all appreciated!

I´m excited to see you all tomorrow. Merry Christmas Eve!


Elder Jason Ray

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

December 17, 2012

Dear Mom and Dad,

To make up for my historically short letter last week, I´ll try to write this one big enough to have it qualified as a small novel.

The first story that I want to tell: E. Since the very first week that i got here to El Mirador we have been teaching him. This week, on Monday, we went by to teach him with a sister who recently came back to church after about 6 months inactive. He loves going to church, and knew from pretty early on that he wanted to be baptized, but on Monday that "someday" became real. The sister that came with us to the lesson, P, shared her testimony about the church and about how blessed she has felt since she was baptized--and, more recently, since she started coming back to church. After listening to her testimony, E said that he wanted to prepare himself to be baptized the 23rd. The next day we went by, and were absolutely amazed by what a huge change we saw in him! He was inspired by the fact that he had a goal, a date on his calender, he had been reading the Book of Mormon and praying for strength to leave behind everything in his life that could keep him back. That day, he agreed to leave tobacco and alcohol, both of which had been lifelong addictions. As we were leaving, he said, "My case is going to end up being a legend, isn´t it!"

We also had a breakthrough moment with M. He decided that he does want to be baptized, and that the only thing he needs is that his parents agree with his decision. On Wednesday he left for an end-of-year vacation with his grade, and is probably getting back home as we speak. While he was gone, we went by and talked with his parents to help them get over their doubts. The biggest potential problem would be that they prefer M to do what they say instead of keeping the commandments (for example, drinking green tea). But, at last they started talking about how happy M has been these last few weeks, and said they would have to talk to him about it.

This week we had a few great moments with Y (random note--she has a cast on her foot right now after she walked all over town one day and got muscular fatigue, your prayers are appreciated). We started talking about prayer. There had been a pattern in our lessons with her that, after asking her to say the last prayer, she would ask someone else to do it, and only after 5 minutes of encouragement would she actually start to pray--but every time she prayed, her prayers were incredible. So, she agreed now that she needs to be willing to pray whenever she is called on, and is willing to do it.

J, just 2 weeks after being baptized, is almost more involved in the ward than the bishop. She met Y this week, and stopped by a couple times after that just to see how her foot was going. She went to sit by someone who was sitting alone at church so that they would have a friend, and got to church an hour early to set up everything for the Christmas devotional. I am amazed by her attitude of service and devotion!

We had a great Elders quorum activity, I made french toast with maple syrup (thanks for the imported maple extract, it was a hit!) then we played soccer (I made myself famous when I missed 20 easy goals with my feet but hit in a few lucky shots with my head).

The ward Christmas devotional was also pretty incredible, the highlight was definitely the nativity scene by the primary children. There was even a little baby Jesus, who was born about a month ago!

Viviendo el sueño,

Elder Jason Ray

Monday, December 10, 2012

December 10, 2012

Dear Mom and Dad,

Today I had the adventure of wrestling with the internet for 30 minutes to get my letters to send. It was a great adventure, but I now have about 30 seconds to write!

Quick Updates: Ja is doing great, she has a huge light in her eyes, is reading the scriptures like a madwoman, sharing the gospel with her family, and enjoying the companionship of the Holy Ghost.

We found a really great family--the Ws. Their 11 year old grandson B decided right away that he wants to come to church and be baptized.

E is basically a member of the ward by now.

M started keeping the Word of Wisdom when he met us, even though he didn´t understand it.

More next week--love you all,

Elder Jason Ray

Thursday, December 6, 2012

December 4, 2012

Baptism Day

Dear Mom and Dad,

What a week. J was baptized, and it was amazing, and Elder G and I are staying together again for 6 weeks more (making him my companion for the longest amount of time so far). But we are excited to keep on working together, there is a lot to be done in these next 6 weeks!

First off--J. On Monday of last week, we had a fun Family Home Evening with An and A, one of my favorite families in the ward. We watched a little video called "Treasure in Heaven" about John Tanner, a man who sacrificed a lot in the early history of the church. While we were commenting about the movie afterward, J said at one point, "I think I need to keep the commandments even if God doesn´t bless me right away, because that´s not always how it works." It was amazing to see this kind of faith in someone who so recently is coming into the gospel. Then we laughed a lot while trading stories about who was clumsier in his mission, An or I.

Her baptism on Saturday was such a beautiful moment... I asked her several times how she felt, and she always said, "I don´t really know how to describe it." But I could definitely see her excitement. When she was baptized, when she came back up out of the water again, she gave out a little gasp, like she was really surprised about something. There was a new light in her eyes, as well, that hadn´t been there before. I would say that, on a scale of one to ten of how happy she is, she probably hit an 11 the days of her baptism and confirmation.

That same weekend, we got to know her family. Her dad is hilarious, in a really sarcastic kind of way. Her mom is really nice, and her cousin (who also lives with them) is quite, and runs marathons. They aren´t quite as ready to receive the gospel as J was, but the mom still said, 2 or 3 times, "we´ll see if we end up joining too..."

Another highlight of this week were interchanges with Elder Y, one of the assistants to the mission president. It was really neat how, during the course of the day together, every single one of the things that had been bothering me was resolved, from my questions about my own ability to do certain things to my doubts about receiving revelation. The other highlight was doing missionary work with a car--like a taste of a mission in NC.

We had a really fantastic lesson with Y this week. We had noticed that, even though she always goes to church, she usually left before the 3rd hour, Relief Society (and Primary for her kids). We wanted to talk about the Restoration and invite her to stay for all three hours, but when we got into her house the lesson took a completely different track. We started talking about families, and about preparing N and G for baptism and missions, and how happy she has been to see her kids fight over who gets to say the prayer at lunch. At last, she decided that she needed to stay all 3 hours so that her kids could learn more in primary. It was amazing how the spirit guided us away from the lesson that we had planned out to the lesson that we really needed to teach.

In other news, M is still doing great, going to church and every other activity he possibly can. We introduced him to the G, a great family in the ward who has kids his age, and he had a blast with them as well!

Viviendo el sueño,

Elder Jason Ray