Tuesday, March 19, 2013

March 18, 2013

Dear Mom and Dad,

Great week, as usual. We did exercised with F on Saturday, and he succeeded in doing something that lifting weights with Elder R hadn´t done--leaving my muscles sore for two days afterwards. We also went to seminary this morning (6:30 to 7:30). It was really neat, and brought back a lot of sweet memories. I feel like I´m on a seminary high right now, too (because the day always went better when I went to seminary!)

A few weeks ago, while I was with Elder V before we went to Viña to pick up our companions, we were walking through the street and we saw a man using a metal pole to break of some earth (he later told us that he was preparing the ground to build a sidewalk, so he had to take off a layer of earth so that the sidewalk would be at the same level as the dirt had been). We stopped and helped him out for 40 minutes while he rested. We conversed a bit, he told us about his life and family, we told him a bit about missionary work. This last week, we were heading from our house to the stake center (a 15 minute walk) with two suitcases and a microwave (materials that we picked up in Viña and had to repare). Somebody pulled over in a pick-up truck and said, "get in!" I hopped into the bed of the truck so that Elder R could hand me the suitcases, then sat down to hold onto them as my companion got in the passengers seat of the truck. When we got to the chapel, the man got out of his truck and said, "hey, do you remember me?" It was the man we had helped weeks before on the other side of town! It was a really beautiful experience.

We visited E this week, a convert of a few years who was inactive when I got here. I then learned that she had been active, but then stopped going to church about a month before I got here. Mostly with the help of Elder C and C, the member who baptized her, she started coming to church again, and now she seems to be pretty firm and resolved to keep going. As we visited her, she explained a little bit about why she had stopped going to church. It really astonished me--she had gone through some trials that anyone would shrink at, and in a moment when she felt completely alone she messed up, she fell, and stopped going. When I first got here to the ward, I might have considered her as being simply weak, or not really understanding things, but I was the one who really didn´t understand. Now I also understand how important it was that we helped her (again, I did very little, it was mostly Elder C and C) to get back again. I´m sure there are a lot more E´s out there, who just need a loving hand and encouragement to get over whatever they have gone through and get back on the path.

Friday night, we were walking down the street to go visit some investigators when we passed by a blind man. For some reason I thought about M, a blind recent convert from my last ward, and felt a really big need to talk to him. So we turned around and asked him if we could help him to his house. As we walked, we talked, and it came out that he was going through a really difficult separation. He invited us to his home the next day, Saturday, and we went. We found that he, his two daughters M (14) and V(8), and M´s boyfriend L (16) are all incredibly interested in God, and completely convinced that He sent us here to help them get through. They came to church with us yesterday, too, and W has already expressed his desire to be baptized. This experience was all the more amazing, because I almost lost it. I passed by him the first time, and only recognized the Holy Ghost talking to me the second time I felt it. But wow, am I glad that God gave me that second chance.

This work is true. God directs it.

Y yo estoy viviendo el sueño.

Elder Jason Ray

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

March 11, 2013

Dear Mom and Dad,

Wow, good day. I have a whole 28 minutes to write this letter (normally I have 7-10 minutes), so I´ll try to make it especially good (to make up for the weeks when I have 2-5).

I learned this week that the gift of tongues can be used to help with homework. V, L E´s daughter, was having trouble with some math homework (isolating variables, what fun!), and neither L or JC had any idea of how to help her. They asked me for help, and, even though I had never before talked about math in spanish, somehow we got through it. I was able to explain and demonstrate well and she understood it all.

Speaking of JC, he has decided that he wants to be baptized (yay!). Downside--he has to wait until the middle of May to get married, and can´t be baptized any sooner than that. But, he said that he is sure he wants to do it, and we´ll help him be nicely ready in everything before that day.

We heard a lot of crash stories this week. First off, while we were eating lunch with Al and An, recent converts of about a year. They told us a story that happened to them about six months ago. They had left Quillota and gone to live in Chañaral with one of Al´s brothers, looking for a new life. After a few weeks, a couple of problems came up, and it got to the point that they decided to leave and go back to Quillota. They packed everything they had in their car and set off. After a day and a half driving, at about midnight, they had just gone down a rather large hill and were going up a slightly smaller one. Al said that he looked in his mirror and saw two 18 wheelers racing each other up the hill, using the speed they got from the downhill. One of them wizzed right by them, the other one tried to pass them on the same side and ended up crashing into them, almost sending them flying off the cliff. Miraculously, they all managed to get out of the car without anything more than minor scratches. They attributed their safety to the prayer they had said, asking that God protect them during the trip.

That same day (once again with L and JC), they told us that they had gotten in an accident. A car full of drunk, drugged teenagers crossed in front of them while they were driving at 70 mph. The car was completely totaled, but they are just fine. They also attributed their safety to prayer.

We met a really awesome family this week--J, E(17), and C(11). They used to be neighbors of F and A and helped us out to get them moved, later they came to their wedding party and even sang (the whole family sings, mainly Mexican music). We ran into E in the street one day, and walked back home with him conversing. When we got there they invited us in, and as we talked a bit, it turned out that they are all looking for a way to get closer to God. They are a really beautiful family, I´m excited to keep working with them.

F didn´t go to church this week--he and A stayed at home to do a fundraiser during a flea market that happens every Sunday here in Quillota. When we went to visit them we decided to do something a little differently, and changed roles--F and A had to teach us, pretending that we were recent converts who hadn´t gone to church that week. This helped in two ways--first off it demonstrated a really good grasp of the doctrine, they talked about how it was a commandment to go to church, that God would bless our family with peace and unity as we did so, and that he would take care of us financially if we put him first. Second, it helped them see how important it is that they keep going to church. They assured us that they´d come next week, and every week after that, too.

This last week we had a Zone Council, in Viña, with missionaries from all over the mission (it happens once a month). One of the activities that President and the Assistants planned out was to invite several recent converts to come to the meeting and share their conversion story. I was absolutely thrilled and surprised when I saw the new members enter the room, and among them was Y (remember her?). She gave an incredibly powerful testimony of her conversion, talking about eternal families, the Book of Mormon, and the organization of the church. As she spake, it seemed like I could see, just as clearly as God does, why he called me on a mission here to Chile. There are people like Y that I need to find, who will end up surprising and delighting me by their faith and conversion. She is doing great, D, her husband, keeps going to church and listening to the missionaries, she is the 2nd counselor in the Young Women now, and did I mention that she read the Book of Mormon in 29 days?

Viviendo el sueño,

Elder Jason Ray

Friday, March 8, 2013

March 4, 2013

Dear Mom and Dad,

How is it March already? I just barely got over the idea that it isn´t 2012 anymore! Well, I guess time keeps going whether I agree with it or not.

I had a fun couple of days at the beginning of the week with Elder V, from Peru--both of our companions went home (mine because he finished, his because he got sick), so we were together for a few days while we waited to pick up our companions. Because his companion was sick they hadn´t been able to work very much, so we talked with a lot of people in the street over in his ward. Fun stuff. I also helped him get an English study plan started--for which he is grateful--and convinced him to work out with me a few days in the morning--for which he is not (sore legs).

Now, my new companion is here. His name is Elder R, from Argentina. I knew him before, his trainer was actually Elder B, who I was friends with in Valparaíso (more than a year ago) and who I was companions with when I recently got to El Mirador (6 months ago). Elder R is a great missionary, my first companion who is willing to go running with me in the morning, and we´re working quite well together.

F was confirmed yesterday. He is quite content, his family as well, but A got sick Saturday night eating home-made french fries and couldn´t come to church... but, they both have their eyes on the horizon, or in this case on the temple.

JC and L are getting married! Their wedding date is a little farther away, the 17 of May. But, they are excited for it, already making plans, and JC says that he wants to get baptized now after his wedding. Hopefully I´ll still be here for that!

We have spent a good amount of time with the M family, as well. They have all the intentions to get active again, and their daughter C really wants to get baptized. Right now, the things that are hard for them are things like getting up on time to make it to church, or getting the family together to read the scriptures and pray--the little building blocks of lifelong conversion that they want to achieve. So, we´ll keep helping them with it!

Viviendo el Sueño,

Elder Jason Ray