What a week. What a conference! Where to start.
First, off, for the first time in my life, I have notable bicep muscles (this is a big deal!) Elder R is handy with a set of weights, and he has been teaching me how to use them. Even though muscles I didn´t knew I had are now sore for days at a time, it is satisfying to look in a mirror.
Second, congrats to BYU mens and womens chorus for singing in general conference! I´m pretty sure I saw a few friends there.
Third, for your spiritual and emotional benefit, after hearing Elder Nelson´s talk about the "wave" of missionary work that is sweeping the world after the age was lowered six months ago, I translated the first verse of "Catch a Wave" by the Beach Boys for the occasion. It goes like this:
Catch a wave and you´re sittin´ on top of the world
Missionary work is the biggest wave around
(Catch a wave, catch a wave)
´Cuz now the missionaries are heading out real young,
They head on out right out of high school yeah,
And then they´re grabbing a tie and putting on a badge
They wanna Catch a wave, and they´re sitting on top of the world.
Thank you, thank you, I know it´s a masterpiece.
So now, to more serious matters. First off, it is incredible to see the light in C and F´s eyes. They are so full of light, so glowing... it´s great. I think that seeing somebody´s eyes fill up with light is the best part of missionary work.
Next up, I had an interchange this weekend to La Ligua. In every imaginable way, it was like a gift from God to me, well-wrapped and with my name on it, a clear demonstration of His love for me. It made me realize how important my efforts there in La Ligua were ten months ago, even though, when I left, I felt I had hardly done anything.
First off, M. The one thing I did feel like I had accomplished in La Ligua was to help reactivate S and B, a mother and her daughter who had not gone to church in about 15-20 years. In one incredibly spiritual night, we talked about repentance, forgiveness, and eternal life, and they took the choice to go back. Well, the next day, we asked them to introduce us to their friends who would be interested in the gospel. They told us to go meet M, one of their neighbors who could use some help from God. We found her, taught her a few lessons, and she even decided she wanted to go to church. Something came up and she didn´t make it that first Sunday, and that next week I left. Well, in May, M was baptized. She is doing great, just as full of light as C and F, and thanked me for finding her.
Second, B. In a previous interchange to La Ligua a few months ago, I ran into S in the street, but I didn´t get to see B. This week I saw her--she is doing fantastic, just like her mom, going to institute classes (she´s even president of the young single adults!) and bringing her boyfriend to church.
Next up, J. J was baptized about 2 months before I got to La Ligua, and knowing/teaching him/having him accompany us to go teach people was one of the really fun things I got to do when I was there. Well, I was delighted to see that he is still active, but he wasn´t quite as strong as he had been when I was there, especially his commitment to serve a mission--instead of leaving as soon as possible, he was talking about finishing his studies (2 years) first. We read a talk with him (Preparing the World for the Second Coming, by Niel L. Anderson) about missionary work and the sacrifices that people make to serve missions. The spirit was thick enough to be physically felt, and when he said a prayer at the end to ask what God wanted him to do, he put his head up and said, "I think God wants me to go now." What a great, humble guy. I hope he gets called to a mission somewhere in Utah, I´ll accompany him on his teaching visits.
One of the other great things about La Ligua was the B family, senior missionaries from Washington that were there for about a year and a half. We ate lunch with them at least once a week, and we were always in and out of their house talking about investigators, members, and how to help the branch. Well, I had absolutely no idea that this was going to happen when we planned the interchange, but on just the night that I happened to be in La Ligua, the Bs threw their goodbye party. Not only did I get to say a very joyful goodbye (the type of goodbye two people say when they know they are going to see each other in heaven in not too long, I think), but I got to meet two of their sons and their families, say goodbye to the entire branch that came to see them, see some truly incredible examples of human love and friendship--Chileans and Gringos talking together, struggling to understand and sometimes asking the Elders for help, dancing Cueca, playing soccer--and I got to delight the B´s 8 year old granddaughter O with all of the tie tricks I´ve learned here, proving that they work in English as well as in Spanish.
Are you beginning to sense how incredible my week was? But wait, there´s more!
The family that I most saw/visited/worked with in La Ligua was Br´s family. Br was a recent convert, and we worked a lot with his mom, dad, and sister. Like I mentioned before, I never saw any real progress in them, and left thinking I hadn´t really done very much. I was especially frustrated by how little I could do for J, Br´s dad. I felt like I had a duty to baptize him, because I had recently left behind a similar family whose father had not yet been baptized, and was praying with all my heart that the next missionary who got there would give him enough importance to help him into the baptismal waters. But, even though I gave it everything, he never even showed any interest in coming to church. The crowning moment of my interchange to La Ligua was J´s baptismal interview. We talked for three hours, and I felt like I was able to teach him everything that I never could ten months before. He has really made a complete change in his life. He is not the same person that he was before. He isn´t quite ready for baptism, there were a few things he needed to work on before I could pass his interview, but it was an absolute priveldege for me to have been brought back to La Ligua to help him in this vital step.
Wow. God is amazing, isn´t he?
I believe this is about to take the record as my longest letter ever, because I still haven´t shared about general conference! I´ll try to keep my insights relatively short, which will be difficult, because I received a whole lot of revelation in conference--and cooler things than my Beach Boys translation, if you would believe it.
First off, while talking with my companion, we decided that there is "A Message" that every single person can learn from General Conference that only comes by watching all five (or four in the case of people who are not priesthood bearers or young women) sessions. Because we both learned slightly different things, listening to the same speakers, and we can´t point to a specific talk and say, "that was it. That´s the one that made the difference." It was a combined effect of every speaker So, just a reminder--there is power and revelation available by watching all the sessions.
Now, the first Message that I received was about planning my life. Several people, including President Monson, mentioned planning as important steps, and I am excited to say that I now have a good (color-coded) outline for my life plan sketched out. I will need to fill in quite a few details and specifics, but I´m happy to be following the Prophet´s counsel in this way.
Second, I had the prompting to show my faith by being more optimistic (I believe Elder Christofferson talked a bit about optimism. Or was in Anderson?) I think that one of the things I most like about myself is my ability to be optimistic, but I think that sometimes I leave that ability on the key rack and head out the door with a less-than-optimistic (maybe not pessimistic, but not optimistic) attitude. Well, time to change that, I believe.
So, as you can see... it was a good week. :D Hope you all have a great week, I´ll be out hear catching a wave if anybody needs me.
Viviendo el sueño,
On the crest of the wave,
Elder Jason Ray