Thursday, January 31, 2013

January 28, 2013

Dear Mom and Dad,

I´m getting along pretty wonderfully in my new ward. I still think I would get a little bit lost left on my own, but I´m getting there! Now for some fun stories.

First off, one of the families that I have gotten to known--the V family. Here in this ward, the sisters in the Relief Society take turns washing the missionaries´clothing--one month, once a year. In January it was the V family´s turn, so I got to know them right away. Sister V is great, she has three kids, N (who has two kids, No and S), O (who we are helping get excited to get out on a mission), and E (I really have no idea how her name is spelled, but that´s a guess. Oh, and No and E are about the same age, they are really fun together). Yesterday in lunch, S and E taught me a couple of hand games, like Miss Mary Mack but in Spanish, and we talked a lot about teaching with the mom and N who are both Sunday school teachers.

Another fun thing that happened this week--the first counselor has a son that lives in the US, in Utah, about 15 minutes from campus, actually. He was here this last week visiting around, we had a nice chat about Utah and differences between the US and Chile. Now I´ll be able to do the opposite and visit him in another year to chat about Chile!

We have spent a lot of time teaching C, a recent convert here who reminds me incredibly of Y (young, incredibly faithful, has two small kids). This week we talked about callings and patriarchal blessings. Fun stuff.

Last story: The day before I got here, one of C´s nieces, named K, was baptized. The idea was that C would take her to church every week. Last week C couldn´t go, and K´s parents weren´t very supportive and she didn´t make it to church to be confirmed. All week long, we have been working with C and K so that they could make it to church and finish of the other half of baptism (since baptism without confirmation isn´t worth anything). After a long, hard week, with a lot of difficulties--especially for C--K made it. And the reward, the experience that followed, was incredible. K told her aunt on the way back home from church that she felt a new presence with her, like somebody was walking beside her. In a prayer she said, she thanked God for "the little angel that walks beside me." This sensitive 9 year old girl has seen the effect that the Holy Ghost has in her life.

I know that this church is true. The Holy Ghost is a gift freely given to all who are baptized and confirmed by someone holding God´s Priesthood. I am so grateful to be here, living in a land and a time of miracles, and seeing this things happen.

Viviendo el sueño,

Elder Jason Ray

Sunday, January 27, 2013

January 21, 2013

Dear Mom and Dad,

First week in a new ward--everything is new, but I´ll stick to the highlight reels.

Like, the fact that I still can´t believe that it is already 2013, and almost put -12 at the end of the subject line.

Or the fact that the hand trick that Dad has always done (up high, to the side, other side, down low, too slow!) is an instant friend-maker with all of the kids from 4 to 10 (several kids now run up to me in the street with their hands already in the air whenever we go by to visit their families, and they usually do a victory jump whenever they successfully hit my hand).

Other news. The first person I met here in the ward was C, a recent convert who was baptized towards the end of December. She is a single mother of two little kids, D and F, and lives with her mother and a few sisters, all of whom are softening up bit by bit to listen to us. I could immediately tell that she had made a lot of changes to get baptized, mostly based on the light in her eyes. It really is amazing what the gospel can do for someone!

She also introduced us to a really nice family from Peru that came here to Chile for vacations. They were really receptive to our message, saying that we were all brothers and sisters in Christ, and that they wanted to gratefully accept anyone that came to teach about him. We shared about the Book of Mormon and exchanged hymns (they asked me to sing a hymn in English, too, I chose "I Stand All Amazed" but forgot the last two verses), then they left for Santiago to catch a bus to Peru. They did give us their address so that the missionaries can pass by there in Peru, I really hope it goes well with them over there.

While walking through the street we ran into LE and C. LE recently moved into the ward from the south, and her sister C came up to help her get settled. LE came with her husband, JC, who isn´t a member but is very friendly and receptive, and her daughter V (15), who is a Chilean version of my cousin K. Meaning we´ll all get along just fine.

I was really impacted by one family that the missionaries that were here before found. R and T, with their kids A (13), E (10), and N (6). While we were talking to them and getting to know them, I had a really strong feeling that I could help them, and that they would become a strong and faithful family in the gospel. After that first day we haven´t been able to find them at home--either they aren´t at home or we have been in another part of town when they are at home--but I hope to bring a lot more news from this family.

Yesterday, I got to meet another family that has been sharing with the missionaries for a few months, E and M. When I first met M, my first impression was not really the type of guy that I would initially expect to get interested in the church. I asked him why he kept sharing with the missionaries, and his answer really surprised me. He said something like this: "I can tell that I´m not whole, or complete. I´m missing something, I´m partly empty. And all of the missionaries that I have met have a fire, a drive, that I think comes because they felt something and know that this is true. And I´ve never felt anything like that... but I would like to." Wow. What an amazing observation. M could see, in a simple but very true way, the process of testimony and conversion in every single missionary he had met. I thought a lot about my own conversions, how I felt the need for Christ in my life to fill up my own emptiness, how I looked for him through the scriptures and through prayer, and about a few really beautiful moments when I have felt the spirit say to my heart and my mind that this really is the truth, that I´m in the right place, doing the right thing. We invited E and M to read the Book of Mormon and to pray earnestly asking if it was true. I also extend that same invitation to anyone who feels like they haven´t yet felt what they need to feel to commit themselves completely and totally to God and his work. If you do so, you will feel it. I know this because I have.

I love this work. I love it so much that it is hard for me to express it, in Spanish or in English, but I am excited to spend my entire life trying to do so. I love Christ, and I am eternally grateful for everything He gave for me.

Viviendo el sueño,

Elder Jason Ray

Thursday, January 17, 2013

January 15, 2013

Dear Mom and Dad,

Changes have come again, and I´m in a new ward and with a new companion, after 6 months in El Mirador and 4 and a half months with Elder G. I´ll finish off talking about changes though, first off, what happened this week.

We did a really great interchange with Villa Dulce, another ward in the stake. I got to go over there with Elder O, who has been here in Chile for about 6 months now. We had a blast, really, talked to a ton a amazing people in the street, especially two or three families that were really ready for us. It was pretty special. I would say the best part of the day was a lesson with had at the end of the day with C and J. They had met the missionaries just the day before, and we started talking to them about the restoration of the gospel, and about baptism. They understood things like the apostasy and the priesthood like they had heard about them all their lives, and C said several times, "I´m just amazed that God sent you guys here right when I needed you!"

The next day we had interchanges with the assistants, who are working in the center of Viña del Mar (El Mirador is up in the hills around Viña, a suburb, really). This time I stayed in the ward. Miracle of miracles, we decided to stop by C (different C), the english teacher who used to come and teach english classes every Friday (I didn´t teach when she was there because, even though I speak english, I don´t understand it quite as well as she does. Yes, CL, I should have studied better :D) We hadn´t seen her in about a month since she stopped coming to teach the classes, so we stopped by to see how she was. Then we started talking about God, and about her beliefs, and before we knew it, she said that she wanted to meet with us, read the Book of Mormon, and go to church. I was blown away--for almost six months we had invited her to come, or to read, or to pray, but she had never wanted to! But I´m sure that God was worked with her all that time to soften her heart, and now she does want to.

L and B--L was working up in the mines all week long, but we went by and watched the movie "Legacy" with Beatriz. She was impressed by how many sacrifices the early members of the church made, leaving behind homes, temples, cities, possessions, crossing plains and mountains, all because they read the Book of Mormon and felt that it was true. We related it to her, inviting her to go to church on sundays, since it isn´t even a sacrifice to get there (she lives about 10 minutes away from the church). She agreed, and said she would try to make it. She didn´t end up going, but it was a pretty powerful moment anyway. Personally, I was really fascinated to see the sacrifices that the early missionaries and leaders of the church made. When I saw people shot at, spit on, tarred and feathered and more, it made me appreciate how little I really am called to sacrifice. And when I saw men, women, and children carrying all their possessions across the plains, I thought about how little I really to walk.

We had a fantastic lesson with the S family about tithing. I told Grandma Cindy´s story about how she met Grandpa, and there was hardly a dry eye in the whole room. We all really felt how incredible it is that I am here in Chile, and my family are all members of the church, that so many other people have served or will serve missions, all because my grandma decided to pay tithing. Thanks, mom, for sending me that story all those months ago!

Y is going to have a calling--2nd counselor in the Young Women. We spent a good little while explaining to her what it means to be 2nd counselor, and what all her responsibilities would be. She is also completely set on going to the temple in another week to do baptisms for the dead. I am amazed by her!

J also wants to go to the temple, but so far it looks like her family isn´t to excited about that and doesn´t want her to go. Your prayers are all appreciated, I´m hoping for some miracle this week so that she can go, as well.

So, this leads me to talk about changes. Yesterday morning I left El Mirador and Elder G and drove up north a bit to Quillota, where I will be serving with Elder C (also from Uruguay--I think that he and Elder S are the only two Uruguayan Elders here in the mission, and now I´ve been with both of them!) Quillota is the stake which La Ligua is a part of, I was in La Ligua six months ago for a few short weeks. Now that I´m back in the stake, I´ll probably get to head back to La Ligua at some point in an interchange!

I´m excited to be here. Quillota is very different from Viña del Mar, but I can tell that there are a lot of people here ready to receive the restored gospel. I am honored by the trust that God has in me, that he has assigned me here, and hope to be obedient to all of his commandments so that I can see miracles happen in my life and in the lives of other people.

I love you all. Christ lives, this is His church, and right now I am His missionary.

Viviendo el Sueño,

Elder Jason Ray

Monday, January 7, 2013

January 7, 2013

Dear Mom and Dad,

Thanks so much for stories and pictures from party week! I´m glad you all had so much fun, and that Cindy Lynn and Mahon could make it over there.

This New Years, Elder Gatica and I decided to play in chill. We bought supplies to make tacos and cooked in our apartment. Then we sat, talked, wrote a bit, and went to bed. It wasn´t quite as entertaining as last year (when we went to our ward mission leader´s house to see a big fireworks display), but it was nice.

Fun week with Luis and Beatriz (remember them? I met them when I first got here). Beatriz went to church a few weeks ago, but Luis just recently, this week, decided that he was going to go to church with his family. He scheduled his weekend so that he wouldn´t have to work late Saturday night or all day Sunday, even. And then... he got a call from the his new boss in the mines up north, telling him they needed him to be up there the next day. So, it was almost a miracle story :D

We had a really nice family night this week with the Alvarez family (the family of Alberto, who we recently helped to come back to church (you know, I can never remember from week to week how much detail I´ve put about all of these people, because they are in my head all day every day but I only write once a week. If you have questions about who someone is, tell me. If I´m giving unneeded details, forgive me)). His brother in law, a returned missionary who is the stake Young Men´s president in Córdoba, Argentina, was also there, and we had a really entertaining lesson about the Book of Mormon. It is so incredible to see how firm this family is now--I´m sure that even long after we leave, Alberto and his family will keep on going towards the temple and an eternal family.

We started teaching Grisel (who we helped to get her dog into the back of her truck) after not beeing able to find her for a long time. We had some really great lessons with her and a couple different members of her family that were there visiting during vacations (her daughter Luna has a lot of questions, and her sister says that she is currently looking for the truth). Finally, She and her sister came to church this last Sunday. They loved it, I´m excited to write more soon!

This Saturday morning, we spent the entire morning cooking. We don´t have a stove in our appartment, so we have been using the cookie mixes that you sent me as an excuse to go to people´s houses, have a ton of fun, and talk about missionary work for an hour. Saturday we made double chocolate cookies with Angel and Andrea, the Elder´s Quorum President and Young Women pres (they asked for more cookie mixes). Then after that, it was Elder Gatica´s turn--he wanted to share some of his bakery knowledge with Yessica, who got an industrial oven from an organization that helps people start out small businesses, and wants to switch gradually over from an internet café to a bakery. So we made pizza, and then ate half of it. All in all, it was a very delightful (and delicious) morning.

Viviendo el sueño,

Elder Jason Ray