Dear Mom and Dad,
Funny story to start out--this Friday we had a leadership counsel in Viña del Mar. We ate lunch next to Elder G, and he and Elder R (my two companions who have been with me for the most time, almost 5 months each) started gossiping about me--but I was right there next to them! "Does he still get sunscreen in his eyes and start crying?" "Yeah, and he wears that funny band on his head when he plays sports!" "And don´t even mention when he falls down playing soccer..." It was quite funny.
On Saturday we went to another ward to help out with an activity. The ward, with a lot of help from the sister missionaries there, put together a "Tree of Life" setup, with an iron rod that everybody had to hold onto to get to the destination. Our job was to tempt everybody to let go of the iron rod, inviting them to eat cookies, help us set up chairs, or anything else to get them to let go. It was surprising, of the 30 people that started off on the iron rod, only 6 made it to the tree of life. It was a sobering, and, hopefully, inspiring message.
We had lunch with the G family, one of the pioneer families here in Chile. Hermana G told us a little bit about what her testimony means for her, and then explained how she applies it in her life. She said that, last year, she and her visiting teaching companion visited 17-18 people per month--the families that she was assigned to visit, plus the families that 3 other companionships were assigned to visit, but whose visiting teachers never did so. Now, Hermana G is almost 80 years old, doesn´t see very well, has had 35 surgeries for different health issues, and has so much constant muscle pain in her joints, hands, and feet that her doctors have said they would understand it if she never even got out of bed. And yet, she visits 18 families a month! What an inspiring example of faithfulness and Christlike service.
This week in English classes, I met E. E met the missionaries because of his brother, Es, who was recently baptized in the ward next door. He started going to English classes, and this last week we went by and visited him in his home for the first time. He is a really exceptional person--hardworking, dedicated and loving--with a small family, his wife and his year-and-a-half old daughter (possibly the most adorable little girl I´ve ever met). E lost his job several weeks ago, and recently got a new job that pays him much less. To make ends meet, his wife started working as well (she doesn´t make much money, either). Because they are both working, their angelic daughter has to live with one of her grandmothers in a town an hour away from Quillota, and they only get to see her on weekends. Meeting this family absolutely broke my heart, but gave me hope, as well, that as they learn about Christ and come unto Him, He will bless them with a better job so that their beautiful family can be united again.
Last week I wrote about how P, C´s brother, gave us hope and showed us that our efforts to teach him had not been wasted, even though sometimes we felt that he wasn´t progressing at all. This week confirmed that hope. P is very centered on God, is trying to change his life/home/environment to focus everything on Him, and agreed to read a chapter in the Book of Mormon and come to a ward activity that we are planning this weekend. He really is a miracle case, because we learned very quickly with him that nothing that we could do, would actually make a difference. But he has changed, a difference has been made, so it must be God´s hand working this miracle!
One of the most beautiful experience for me, as a missionary, is the following. In some teaching situation, with members, recent converts, or investigators, somebody asks a difficult questions, something that has been troubling them and that they need an answer to. I open a copy of the Book of Mormon, and my fingers move to find a passage that I didn´t know I remembered, something that I studied that morning or last month or three years ago. I see the doubt begin to be transformed into understanding in this person´s eyes--another question comes, and the Spirit moves my hands to find another answer, not in my own words, but in God´s holy words in the Book of Mormon. A light turns on, questions are answered, and a powerful witness from the Holy Ghost confirms the truth learned. I think situations like this are some of the most powerful witnesses, for me, that God is working through us as missionaries.
I am so grateful to be a representative of Jesus Christ. When I think about what a privilege and responsibility it it, I am awe-struck and amazed.
This work is true.
Viviendo el sueño,
Elder Jason Ray