Dear Mom and Dad,
During interchanges this week I got to go to Vicuña, a city about an hour away from La Serena towards the interior (the attached picture is a dam about halfway between Serena and Vicuña). The strange thing about Vicuña is, even though we are in the middle of winter here in south america, in Vicuña it was so warm that people were walking around with shorts and tshirts! Quite a strange experience, but I liked it.
A few months ago, President Kähnlein challenged us to visit the recent converts in whatever ward we were in, even if we weren´t the missionaries who were there when they were baptized. So, this last week we started visiting D and C, who were baptized in October. What an amazing family, they are what every single convert to the church should be--they live all of the commandments, are faithfully fulfilling their callings, and are always ready to serve and to learn. As they told their conversion story, how it is that the missionaries came to their lives, the prayers that they said to be able to accept the restored gospel, the changes they had to make, and the blessings they received, I felt an immense love and gratitude for them--I imagined that they were some other missionary´s JC, or F, or Y, and seeing them doing so well just filled me with joy. Then, I thought, this is probably how God feels about his faithful converts. I said so, and suddenly the room was full of more light, love, and contentment than I can describe. It was like He was saying, "no, this is how I feel about my converts." I think we all cried a bit.
We met a lady named J, the next-door neighbor of an older family of members. When she first came to the door she just wanted us to go away, saying that she was old and sick and didn´t feel good. We offered her a blessing, and she accepted--the next door neighbors were happy to provide their house. As we sat down with them, Brother M said, "I just love it when the missionaries come to visit us!" His attitude towards us really made a difference in J, who said, "Oh no, I really messed up, didn´t I--you guys are missionaries, and I was treating you terribly!" She very humbly received the blessing and said that she would love to meet with us again.
And, one more story about the importance of the members in missionary work. Last week, we were just stepping out of lunch when the phone rang. A sister from another ward said that her daughter had talked to a man named JC in Home Depot (well, the Chilean equivalent) who really needed the gospel in his life, and gave us his address. We went by to see him, and he came out the door and said, "hey, I really don´t know what you are doing here, because I have another religion and am not interested in anything you have to say." We explained that we just wanted to know when we could come by and visit him with the delightful sister he met in Home Depot, and he consented. That second visit was extraordinary. The sister who talked to JC came with her mother, who had called us last week. Their love and joy just lit up the room as they lovingly explained, first, who they were, and second, who we were, opening up the way for us to share a message of the plan of salvation. Everyone felt the spirit, and JC and his daughter J came to church yesterday. Apart from that, Jenny came to our English classes on Saturday. Afterward we gave her a tour of the church. We showed off the classrooms, the baptismal font, the paintings, the cultural hall, and finally the chapel. We stood in the chapel silently for about a minute, and, suddenly, J began to cry. After recovering, she said, "I´ve never felt anything like this before, I don´t know what is happening." We invited her to pray and ask if she should be baptized. She did so, then said, "This is the place for me. I can feel it."
What a miracle. I believe that members, missionaries, and the Holy Ghost make for the best combination there is. What a great work.
Viviendo el sueño,
Elder Jason Ray