Monday, February 25, 2013

February 25, 2013

Jason with his baptism this week and the married couple

Dear Mom and Dad,

Well, this week all of our grand preparation came together, and F and A were married, we had a nice reception for them (in which they danced Cueca, the Chilean national dance ((they´re a professional dance group))) and F was baptized yesterday. I think I asked him about a million times in these last few days, "so, F, how do you feel right now? Different?" After he was baptized, about 30 second after he came out of the water, I asked him, and he said, "that was cool."

They were married in the Registro Civil (which means the city hall, I think) by a very nice judge who gave them counsel to have patience and faith in their marriage. It was incredible to see how, immediately, after they were married, their faces reflected more light. The peace and joy that comes from keeping the commandments! That light increased even more after F was baptized.

The reception was a blast, we spent all day long blowing up white balloons, the YW did floral decorations, and a couple Relief Society sisters helped us decorate the room. At one point, right after they danced Cueca, we played a slideshow with pictures from their wedding the day before. A started crying, which I think means it was a success.

The other amazing thing that happened this week--JC got an answer about the Book of Mormon! He had trouble reading because he works so much and only ever comes home to sleep, so we got him a copy of the Book of Mormon on CD (thanks, Dad, for giving me the idea--listening to the Book of Mormon on the way to work!) While he was driving one day, 2 Nephi 4 came on (also known as Nephi´s Psalm, one of my personal favorites in all of scripture). He said that as he heard Nephi´s words, pleading for help and strength, he echoed that plea in his heart, and the spirit that he felt filled him so completely that he couldn´t stop crying for almost an hour. When I asked him later, he said, "so, I guess it´s true."

It sure is. And anyone who is willing to put it to the test can know so.

Viviendo el sueño,

Elder Jason Ray

Monday, February 18, 2013

February 28, 2013

Dear Mom and Dad,

I started out this week doing an interchange in La Ligua. It was fantastic for two reasons--first off, I was in La Ligua two areas ago, about seven months back. I got to see a lot of the people I knew and loved, including B, a recent convert who is about to hit a year being a member, and President G, the branch president. Walking through the streets was as delightful as being able to go back into a beautiful dream that I had woken up from and thought I had lost. Secondly, I was with Elder R, from Rexburg, ID. I think if you interviewed him, wrote a newspaper article about him, and then changed his name to mine you wouldn´t be too far off. We are about as alike as any two people I have ever met, from perspectives to taste in movies to homeschooling (even though he was only homeschooled 2 years).

I taught English classes for the second time as well, I sure had a blast teaching, but the students were completely different--a man who lives in Missouri and her grand niece who wants to learn English and travel the world came, not one of the four people from last week was there.

I believe I have talked a good bit about C, well this week we started talking to two of her brothers, E and P. I have a really good feeling about both of them, I think they are going to end up listening to us and wanting to follow the good example of their sister, tonight we are going to go watch a movie with all of them and celebrate Carolina´s birthday.

We also helped F and A to move on Saturday morning. We started out not having any idea how we were going to get all of his furniture from their old apartment to the new house, when out of the blue a really nice guy with a really big truck came over and helped us get it all over. But it was a fun project, it made me think about all of the moves that I had helped Dad with when he was Elders Quorum Pres.

One of the most beautiful experiences of this week has been teaching JC, his wife L, and L´s daughter V. L and V are long-time members (V recently went to efy, came back on fire with the spirit and ripped down all her twilight posters (go her!)), JC went to church a while in the south and came for the first time here this week. We have been talking to him about how reading the Book of Mormon can help him to gain a testimony and about the importance of being baptized. Yesterday, I asked him if he had prayed and asked God if the Book of Mormon was true, he said something like, "I haven´t asked yet, because I know once I do He´s going to answer me and I´m going to have to act on His answer." But, I have no doubt that he will pray and ask soon. Such a great family.

Something that I believe very strongly is that, for every missionary, there are people waiting for him (or her) in his specific mission, in every area that he is assigned to. I feel that, at some point in the pre-earth life, I made a promise to JC and F (and to many other people) that I would go looking for them as a missionary of the restored gospel. I am so grateful for the privilege I have to be a representative of Jesus Christ, that I can go bring this message of joy and happiness to so many people.

Viviendo el sueño,

Elder Jason Ray

Monday, February 11, 2013

February 11, 2013

Dear Mom and Dad,

I´m pleased to announce that I played the piano a lot better this week than the last. I´m attributing 10 percent of the success to being less nervous because it was the second time, 10 percent to the hymns (they were easier than the first week), and 80 percent to divine help.

In other news, I´ve started teaching English classes again. This week we had a nice turnout, 2 members, one inactive member, and one investigator. This week we are going to start pumping out advertisements and taping them up everywhere they will stick, so I´m hoping a lot more people go in the coming weeks! Here we are doing the English classes in the stake center, which is smack in the center of Quillota, so there should be a lot more people there than in El Mirador.

We had a great zone counsel this week with President K, he talked a lot about the vision for the work. We need to work a lot harder to find people to teach, the elect, those who are ready to receive us. He said that as a mission, we are good teachers but not so good finders. I feel really excited to go out and find people now--it also helps that finding is generally a really wonderful experience, it is one of the moments where I can best see the hand of the Lord operating in my life.

There is a young man (23 years old) in our ward that we are teaching a bit, inviting him to serve a mission. This last week we had a really honest and sincere discussion, and he almost said several times that he would go on a mission. He was very careful never to commit himself to anything, but still, I can see progress there... he talked about how, if we all understood the gospel and the atonement as we should, we wouldn´t have problems keeping the commandments. But, since we are so imperfect, we keep messing up. He then understood how perfectly that applies to his need to go on a mission it was a nice moment.

We taught F and A, the couple that is going to get married, about the temple this week. They liked it a lot, and I think it will provide them with a firm foundation, a reason to keep on going, through F´s baptism and beyond. We also went out running with F one day this week, I did pretty well running--thank you, soccer in El Mirador, for getting me in shape--but when we did abs, I almost died. Lets just say I´ve got room for improvement.

In a lesson with JC, we were talking about the spirit that he feels every time he shares with us and reads the Book of Mormon. He said something like this: "this is like the first time I fell in love. I could tell that I was falling in love, but I didn´t want to admit it, didn´t want to admit it, then suddenly, boom--I was in love. I can feel that same sensation, like I know that this is true, but I still don´t want to admit it. But don´t worry, one of these days It´ll just click, and I´ll decide to join the church." Wow.

I have been thinking a lot about obedience to the commandments in the last few days--kind of in the same stream of thought as our conversation with O. One thing that really gets me, and always has, is when other people do not keep the commandments even though they know better. Thinking about how to help these people this week, I had two thoughts. First, I need to be as obedient as I can be. I can´t be a hypocrite, and pretend to be better than I really am. Second, I need to learn how to radiate the joy and peace that come from obedience, so that other people see me, see my obedience, and think, "huh, that whole ´keep the commandments´ deal looks like fun." Or, I need to let my light so shine before men, that they may see my good works and glorify our Father who is in heaven (that was cool--I hadn´t made that connection with the scripture until just now).

But, I really do know, keeping the commandments is the only way to go. I think in my life I´ve tried obedience and I´ve tried almost-obedience, and when I am almost (but not quite, because I don´t particularly feel like doing everything God says) obedient, I just feel something lacking, something mission, I feel sadder, less satisfied. But, in those wonderful moments when I feel like I am living my life exactly like God wants it to be... well, those are beautiful moments.

Viviendo el sueño,

Elder Jason Ray

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

February 4, 2013

Dear Mom and Dad,

So, when I got here to Quillota, I noticed that nobody knew how to play the piano, even though there was one in the chapel. Last week, I told the counselor in charge of music that, if he gave me a couple of hymns, I could practice them during the week and play them during sacrament meeting, since it is so much better to sing with a piano. He gave me three hymns and oh, how I practiced this weekend! 4 days this week I gave up my 30 minutes of Spanish study (if I get home and can´t remember the word for "shovel," that´s why) to go practice the piano. I think I have never in my life practiced with such diligence and focus. And Sunday morning, early, when I warmed up my hands, I thought to myself, I can do this. I somehow learned these hymns, and I can play them. Long story short, I started out trying to play with two hands, and don´t even know how to describe the sounds that came out of the piano. I reverted to a very simple top-hand-only approach, and played the first two hymns like that. I was still nervous, but it sounded decent. But then, my confidence building, I decided to try two hands again on the last verse of the last hymn. And, would you believe it... I messed up again, but this time worse! It was rather entertaining. I think that, even though I had practiced a lot, what I need is practice playing in front of people. Eventually I´ll get it figured out and play two hands in sacrament meeting, but for now, I´ll stick with my right hand mastery.

The other fun thing we did this week was a big service project with a recent convert, C. Her mom was pulling out a stray branch when, all of a sudden, a huge part of their fence that was tied up with the branch came down with it. They took it as an excuse to rebuild the entire fence, to take out a huge thorn tree (I say tree because it was the biggest, nastiest bush I´ve ever seen), and to remodel their yard. We helped in a lot of it, especially digging the new post holes for the fence and sawing boards (with a handsaw. Powertools were sadly lacking).

Now for two amazing, miraculous stories. When I first got here to Quillota, in the first day, I saw two women walking down the street. They seemed... more full of light than the other people in the street, and I thought, these two are members of the church that are somehow going to be important in my life. We stopped by to visit them the next day. Two sisters, LE and C, who recently moved up here from the south. LE is getting ready to get married to JC, an amazing man who has been searching for the truth, and who is very committed to follow Jesus Christ and do as He would do. Yesterday we taught him about the Restoration of the Gospel, and asked him to say a prayer to know if it was true. After he prayed, we asked how he felt. "I felt something really good when I was praying," he said. We helped him to see that what he was feeling was the influence of the Holy Ghost, answering his prayer and telling him that this was the truth. "Yes, I think you´re right, I really felt that," was his reply.

Second story--F and A. F is a military commando (built like my uncles Ben and Grant), he and A dance Cueca professionally (the national dance of Chile). F has been investigating the church for a long time, more than a year, and he and A have been thinking about getting married (and F baptized) in July. When I met them in the street and heard there story, I also thought or heard in a very real way, they are going to get married sooner than that, and you are going to help them do it. I am very happy to announce that, this morning, we accompanied them to the city hall to get a date for their marriage--February 21st.

I feel so blessed to have the company of the Holy Ghost with me, for these impressions and these privileges. I know this church is true.

Viviendo el sueño,

Elder Jason Ray