Monday, September 25, 2017

What is Your Legacy?

Hey hey hey! It was yet another great week here in Des Moines. We had a pretty busy week with all kinds of different things and unfortunately, we weren't able to teach too much, so this email might be a little lame but as always, I will try to rock your world with the life of Elder Obray.

Elder Milligan and I are doing great! He goes home here in a couple of months so we talk a lot about girls and a lot about music so it has kind of been wrecking me a little bit but all is well. We have a lot of work to do here. I don't think I have had as much in common with any of my companions as I do with Elder Milligan. I am pretty sure we would have been in the same circle of friends back home. Pretty sweet. Can't complain too much. We did a Japanese face mask thing the other night so I will make sure to include some pictures. 

The first week of the new transfer is always pretty busy for us. We had to travel over to Iowa City for a MLC. It is always a pretty fun day. We spend the majority of the day in a big meeting with all of the other ZLs, STLs, the APs and President and Sister Badger. It is fun because a lot of my buddies here in the mission were also at the MLC so it was great to see all of those guys. President and Sister Badger trained a lot on leaving a legacy as a missionary. They asked the question, when all is said and done on your mission, what do you want your legacy to be? It can also be applied to life in general, when the clock strikes zero on our life's scoreboard, how do we want people to remember us? It caused a lot of deep thinking, you all know I am a pro at that.

We also had interviews with President Badger and Sister Badger, it makes for a long day for us, but it is always good to sit down and talk with the Badgers one on one. President Badger and I are growing to be buddies. We sat and talked for a good while. I have so much to learn from that man. It is awesome getting to serve here in Des Moines close to them. I jokingly told President Badger that I feel like a problem missionary and he assured me that that wasn't the case. He gave me an awesome compliment when he said, "I don't know a better missionary than you". It got me right in the heart. It felt good to hear something like that from President Badger, I needed it. 

We have spent a lot of time working out living situations in our area. We suggested that an area be white washed (two new elders replace the sisters that were serving there) and it has caused some problems with the apartments. Basically, our apartment was taken by the new elders and we were forced to find a new one and move all of the old sisters’ furniture into our new apartment. We also spent a long time cleaning the sisters’ apartment, I have come to the conclusion that I don't want to get married. Girls are gross sometimes, man. I have never seen so much hair in my life. But we are finally done and it is behind us. What a blessing. We are finally all moved into our new place and Elder Milligan and I are utilizing some sweet bunk beds. THERE IS SO MUCH ROOM FOR ACTIVITIES! It is cool because I have the top bunk so I can practice my high jump approach every night just to get into my bed. I won't be missing a beat when I get back! 

We had a little bit of a slower week at church with investigators coming, but my guy E is still on track to get baptized on the 7th. He is doing great. It has been awesome to see the changes that he has made in his life. We went over the baptismal questions with him the other day and he passed with flying colors. He is such a stud. I can't wait for his baptism. We also have another woman who is getting close, she is getting baptized on the 21st. She is the woman I talked about a few weeks ago with the cute little African boys. The Lord is blessing us! 

I don't really have too much to report on this week. I will do my best to have killer stories for you guys next week. I love you guys and I hope that everything is going great back in the 801. Have a great week.

The Elder on the top bunk,
Elder Obray

Monday, September 18, 2017

Wide Eyes and Butterflies

Hey Hey Hey to my favorite people on the planet. It was a super wild week here in Des Moines and I am super pumped to tell you all about it. Have I told you that I love missionary work before? We are seeing some sweet blessings here in the IDMM. Let’s jump right on into it. 

First up. Elder Robley got released as a Zone Leader and was transferred to Iowa City. He and one of my favorite missionaries (Elder Van Haren) are training a new missionary together. It was sad to see him go, we had a lot of fun together. We laid a lot of the ground work for this area and we are finally going to start seeing the fruits of our labors. 

My new companion is Elder Milligan from Eagle, Idaho. He is a stud missionary. He and Elder Robley came out together so I will most likely end up killing him (be his last companion before he goes home). I am super stoked for the next little while. We have a ton in common and we get along great. He even knows good music so it has been a treat to talk about the good ole days when I was normal. We have already seen some awesome miracles and I am super stoked for the next little while. I guess I really am a problem missionary, companions can't stand to be around me for longer than six weeks.

The first crazy thing that happened this week was because we drive the coolest van in the mid-west, we are given the responsibility to pick up all the new missionaries when they get to Iowa. On Wednesday, we spent most the day hanging out with the new missionaries. It is super crazy because just over a year ago I was getting picked up from the airport with wide eyes and butterflies. It is wild how fast time is flying these days. 

Our zone had an awesome week this week. Our mission goal is to have 11 people progressing towards a baptismal date in each zone. As of yesterday, we have 20 people. It is so awesome to see the fruits of laboring hard in the Lord's vineyard. Plus, Des Moines is pretty much the greatest place to be a missionary. Elder Milligan and I were super blessed to have seven investigators at church yesterday. Four of which have baptismal dates here in the next few weeks. You don't receive a witness until after the trial of your faith, right? 

We had a pretty sweet experience this week. It was getting towards the end of the night and one or our appointments fell through so we were thinking about what we should do instead when I had this impression that we needed to go visit one of our investigators that we haven't seen for a few weeks. We drove over to his apartment and found him home and he was by himself. Elder Matthews and I found him on exchanges a few weeks ago. We had an awesome lesson with him and he committed to come to church the next day. He showed up in a suit and had some great comments during Sunday school. He told me that he wants our church to be his "regular church." He is a stud. He has some concerns to work through, but he is on track to get baptized in October. 

That is pretty much all I have to report on this week. Just know that I am happy as can be and I am content with life as a missionary. I love this work. As usual, tell Jen she looks slim for me and give my nephew a hug. Bob, I expect a back flip on the wake board by next week. I love you guys. Have a great week. CTR.

Still a problem missionary,

Elder Obray

My favorite little guy on the planet

Our investigator E, he is such a stud

Elder Mauldin took off back to Idaho this past week. I sure am going to miss the guy. 

These sick wall paintings are all around the city. It is so sick. 

Monday, September 11, 2017

Bury Your Weapons

Hola Familia! It was another great week here in the promised land. This week wasn't quite as good as the past few weeks, but it was awesome none the less. Definitely super pumped that Elder Gibb is no longer Elder. Make sure to give him a hug for me. I love that guy.

As far as the work goes this week, let’s get to it.  The ZL's in Des Moines are self-proclaimed assistants to the assistants. Basically, whatever chores the Assistants don't want to do, they just dump it on us. So, we spend a lot of time doing a lot of tedious chores to help out. Including but not limited to, moving mission cars to and from church buildings all of the time, running errands for the mission office like getting a new set of keys for Heather (our transfer van), apartment shopping for missionaries in the zone, blessings on blessings on blessings for other missionaries, move out apartments, suggestions for transfers, etc. Pretty crazy stuff.  It is fun though because we get to interact with a lot of the missionaries.

We had some pretty cool lessons with some of our favorite investigators this week. The first was on the Monday night. We have a great investigator named J. He is such a good, humble guy. We were talking with him about Ether 12:27 and we could tell there was something deeper that he was struggling with. Elder Robley asked him if he could change one thing about himself, what would it be? With tears in his eyes he told us that he would change his ability to read. It was a tender moment when a grown man told us that he only wanted to learn how to read. With tears in our eyes, we promised him that we would help him learn how to read. He is such a good guy and he is progressing towards a baptismal date in October. We are stoked for him.

We spent a good part of the day at the hospital on Saturday. Elder Robley has been having some pretty crazy problems with his eye lately. Sister Badger forced us to get it checked out. He has an infection in his eye which is pretty intense. He got some meds and he should be in top shape here in the next couple of days. 

We had another sweet lesson with our Investigator E. He is such a funny guy. He has a pretty rough past and he holds on to a lot of guilt because of his actions years ago. We taught him about the Anti-Nephi Lehi's and how they "buried their weapons of war". We told him that we must too, bury our weapons of war. So, we all took a piece of paper and wrote down our weapons of war or things that we aren't proud of that we had done in the past. Then because we are all still immature boys we all lit them on fire in his front yard. We got some pretty weird looks from his family, but it was a super powerful lesson. He told us that he felt a weight lift off his shoulders. He is also progressing towards a date in October. He is keeping the Word of Wisdom and law of chastity like a champ. We are stoked for him. 

This is a great lesson for all of us. Sometimes we hold on way too long to sins that may have taken place in the past. If we have done the proper steps, our Heavenly Father has already forgiven us. We are a lot harder on ourselves than we should be sometimes. C.S. Lewis said once that "We cannot take even the smallest of souvenirs from Hell with us into Heaven." In order for us to reach our ultimate potential, we need to bury our weapons of war and never dig them back up. True happiness follows when we align our wills with our Heavenly Father's.  

Transfers are this week. This has been the fastest transfer of my life. I am pretty sure that Elder Robley and I are sticking around for round two, but you never know these days. 

Have a great week. Love you.

The Assistant to the Assistants,
Elder Obray 

Shout out to the 801!

Some of our investigator's kids. Super cute little girls. 

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

To the Promised Land

Hey Hey Hey! Sorry this email is a day late, all of the libraries in Iowa shut down yesterday to celebrate the super important holiday of Labor Day. Last week right after I logged off the computer I immediately regretted not giving my favorite nephew a birthday shout out. Man, it is so crazy to me that he is already a year old. It is even crazier that I haven't even met him yet. I loved the videos so much. If you have any other videos of the guy or even just videos on the boat I would love to see them. Missionary work gets a little redundant sometimes so I would love some spice in my day. This week was pretty standard so I can't promise that it will be anything earth shattering, but it was a great one. 

It seems that the Lord is definitely hooking up the Des Moines Elders right now. We are finding so many awesome people. Currently we have six people who are progressing towards baptisms dates, we are so excited about the miracles that are happening in our area. Really quickly I will tell you about this family that we are teaching. We are teaching a woman named E. She and her family are from Liberia. Their story is incredible. A few months before Elder Robley and I got here, E was living in Rhode Island. Her sister was a member in another ward here in Des Moines. One day E got a call from her sister (here) and she told E that she needed help with her five kids. E dropped everything and prepared for the trip. When E was getting ready to travel here, her sister was shot and killed in their apartment by her boyfriend, right in front of all of her kids. (Her two boys are the kids I sent the picture with a couple weeks ago) They are the cutest kids ever. E took over custody of all of the children and has been taking care of them for the past few months. She is an amazing woman. She is so kind and is always so happy to see us. Of course, we are always excited to see her too. She agreed to feed us some African food here soon so I hope that I will make it out alive when that happens. She told me that I would cry if she fed it to us. We are also teaching her mother and her nephew. We are so excited for her to be baptized her soon. 

Random side tangent, I am really noticing lately how much the Gospel really can change people. We are teaching some extremely humble people. Sometimes they are in pretty sad situations. But I am so grateful for the changes that I have seen in these people's lives when they learn to accept the Gospel. There is a huge difference between those who live the gospel standards and those who don't. This church is so true it blows my mind. It truly is the Lord's kingdom on the Earth.

I am sure you are dying to hear about the epic musical number that took place at the Des Moines Zone Conference this last week. Elder Mauldin and I sang a rendition of “Abide with Me tis Eventide.” It went pretty good. We didn't have too much time to practice between both of our schedules but I thought it went pretty good. President Badger told me that it was decent so that might count for something. I was super nervous though... But I guess there is no growth in the comfort zone or something like that right? Zone conference was awesome. You always leave big conferences like that with a refreshing desire to do the Lord's work. 

We dropped off one of my old mission buddies at the airport this last Thursday, he had completed his mission so he exchanged with us for a couple of days and we sent him off. It was crazy to walk through the airport and to think that I was arriving in Des Moines a year ago already. Time sure flies. I have mentioned this before, but Maxwell and I have the same birthday. He was born into life on Earth, and I was born into life as a missionary. On Max's birthday, it marked my one year living in Iowa. But don't worry, I will be there for Max's next birthday. Crazy stuff. 

In 1 Nephi 17, it is the chapter when Nephi is commanded to build a boat. He unwaveringly accepts the challenge and is promised that he will be led to the Promised Land. I love this chapter first because Nephi exemplifies incredible faith, but also the Lord promises he will be led to where he should go. Often times, the Lord requires massive things of us, but he also promises that if we follow his counsel that we will be led towards the "Promised Land" that could be anything that we are righteously seeking, (A new job, a better relationship with someone, a better testimony, etc.) We are promised that we will have our own type of Liahona leading us along if we are faithful. We cannot fail if we are on the Lord's errand. 

I better send this one off. I love you guys so much and I am so grateful for all of you. Give Max a hug for me and make sure to tell Jen she looks slim. Have a great week! 

The not so slim,
Elder Obray 
This picture is going to the be the cover of my mixtape.

The massive city of Des Moines

Monday, August 28, 2017

The First Day Of School

Oh boy! It was another great week here in the capital. I am going to apologize in advance for this email, this week was pretty standard so nothing super exciting happened so this email will probably be pretty lame. You win some and you lose some. Like usual, please know that I won't be offended if you decide to better use your time than reading this. I am stoked that things are going well back home. I am still waiting on an invitation to my brother's wedding that happened a couple of weeks ago. Maybe I wasn't even invited... Also, if any of you have any sweet videos of my nephew I would love an update on the little guy. Alright let’s get to it. 

We had some sad news this week. Remember my man W who is pretty much the most prepared person on the planet that I talked a lot about last week? We talked with him this week and he told us that he would be much more comfortable learning the gospel in Spanish... There is a Spanish Branch here so we had to pass him off to the Hermanas. Pretty sad that we won't be teaching him, but he is doing so good. He went to the branch yesterday and he had a jolly ole time. I was worried about him, I felt like a parent on the first day of school. We called the Hermanas after their church was over to make sure he had friends to sit by and people to talk to. Fortunately, he fit right in. He makes me proud. He is getting baptized here in the next couple of weeks so we are stoked for him.

Just to give you an idea of what our teaching pool looks like right now. Des Moines is a hot spot for African immigrants especially immigrants from Liberia. We probably have like 15 investigators we are working with right now. It is so crazy. I never knew that I would get to meet so many awesome people from Africa on my mission here in Iowa. We have so much work to do, but there is so little time. 

The Zone Leader responsibilities are going just swimmingly. We have to deal with a lot of drama in the zone. The cool thing is I feel like missions are like a marriage preparation class too.  We got to conduct some more exchanges this week. I got to exchange with a Greenie Spanish Elder named Elder Matthews and it was awesome. It was cool because his trainer is a great missionary but is pretty straight laced. I was able to help him make the work fun. Missionary work is super tough, but it is meant to be enjoyed not just endured. We had a great exchange and found some awesome people to teach. We also spend a lot of time with the assistants, we have such a good time. One of them, Elder Mauldin and I are singing a song tomorrow at Zone Conference, so be excited for a report. I have to sing a pretty intense harmony so it is going to be an adventure.  They are such good guys, they are stellar missionaries and I am learning so much. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to spend too much time with President Badger yet, that guy is so busy it is unreal. He travels so much. Hopefully we will get to go running here soon. 

I will close this email with a spiritual thought, in D&C 130 it talks about how there is a law decreed in Heaven that from which all blessings are predicated. It is such a comforting thing to know that if I am keeping the commandments that our Heavenly Father has given, he is bound to bless us for it. It makes so much more sense when in Mosiah 2:41 it talks about how happy and blessed those are who keep the commandments. They are happy because they are reaping the blessings of righteous living. Righteousness is truly the only way to lasting joy. Sometimes the blessings of righteous living will not come immediately, but our Heavenly Father promises us that they will always come. It just might take a little bit more humility to recognize where the blessings are. We don't have to look very far to find out how much our Heavenly Father loves us. 

Thank you for all that you do. I love you guys, I miss you like crazy but I hope it's cool with you if I keep doing this for a little while. Have a great week.

Elder Obray

Monday, August 21, 2017

The Secret Life of Elder Obray

Holy Cow! Man, this whole mission thing is going by way too quick. I can't believe that it is already P-Day again. The days are cruising by and it makes me so nervous. I feel like life is in fast forward and I kinda wish it would slow down a little bit, but all is well. We saw some amazing miracles this week and I am stoked to talk about it. So, let’s get to it. 

Man, where to start. Our area is pretty poppin' right now. We are continually finding new investigators. We don't have as much time as I would like to find, but it seems that every time we go out for a few minutes we end up inviting someone to be baptized. The Lord is definitely hooking us up right now. I definitely feel like some of the sacrifices I made early in my mission are finally starting to pay off. What a blessing. I will first talk about the coolest experience of the week. 

Elder Robley and I have been praying to find those who are prepared in this area, there is so much potential here and we want to do everything we can to find those who are ready. One morning, we were teaching one of our District Leader how to conduct a baptismal interview, I was role playing a 10-year-old boy named Fabian and he was interviewing me, when the phone rang. It was this guy named W and he has met with missionaries in the past. He told us that he was cleaning up his apartment and he found a Book of Mormon he received from some Elders a few months ago. They taught him a couple times and he lost contact. He told us that he was very interested in learning about our church. WHAT? We set up a time later that day to visit him. He is so solid. We had one of the best restoration lessons of my mission in his apartment. We invited him to baptism and to come to church and he gladly accepted. Unfortunately, he had to work Sunday morning so he wasn't going to be able to make it. But wait! He called us that night and told us that his boss told him not to come in and that he wanted to come to church! It was awesome, W is the man, he is working to be baptized in September. We are pumped for him. 

Our ward has kind of been cracking down on us lately. Our area is notorious for baptizing people too early and who aren't really prepared. There are hundreds of people on our ward list who have been baptized and are now inactive. We have a lot of work to do.

One other cool thing that happened this week was on Sunday we were at a member’s house for lunch when we got a call from our Bishopric. They told us a sister in the ward needed a blessing and that we should go check it out. When we got there, this woman was super sad, she was in a nursing home and was really having a hard time. As we talked to her, she told us she was considering suicide. Oh man... We kept talking to her and by the end of the meeting she was smiling and laughing. We gave her a blessing and she was so grateful. The priesthood really is the coolest thing. We are going to be visiting her regularly for a while. The things you do on a mission man... Who knew?

Some other highlights of the week that I won't go into too much detail, I gave another talk in sacrament, one of our investigators wants me to baptize her just because I told her I like rap music, Elder Robley and I are writing a rap, we gave three blessings to the same Sister missionary... There is a place in our area that is called the Grim Reaper wall which is literally a hit list, so many other things happened this week but you'll just have to trust that it was a great week and I am happy to be here. 

I am so grateful to be out here on a mission. I love it more and more every day. Times are still hard, but the joy of missionary work is unparalleled. 

I love you guys,

Elder Obray

My two favorite little Liberian boys! We are teaching their mom.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Making a Splash

Man, I think about all that has happened and I kind of get a headache. It has been the busiest week of my mission, but I sure love it. As you might have noticed from my last email, I am super pumped to be serving where I am.  Elder Robley and I are doing great. We have a lot in common and we laugh a lot. Gotta love cruising around in a pedophile van with a bud. There is a ton to report on so I will get to it. 

The week started pretty wild on Monday after P-Day. We were running a little late so I was rushed to change back into my proselyting clothes. I put our phone on the edge of the toilet and turned to change my pants when I heard a splash. Of course, this whole white wash thing was too easy with all of our phone numbers. I just had to make it a little harder on us. We spent the majority of that night trying to figure out how to get our contacts back, but with no luck. So, we are literally hitting this area with a fresh start. Gotta love it. 

Tuesday was pretty wild too, we spent the entire day in Iowa City at MLC (Missionary Leadership Council). It was a pretty great meeting. I am so excited to work with the other leaders of the mission and especially work with President and Sister Badger. One of the assistants asked me the day before the meeting to prepare a musical number for the meeting. Ugh... It went pretty well actually, I played the classic, "We Thank Thee Oh God For a Prophet." I guess I had to make a good impression at my first MLC. It was great to see a bunch of the Elders I have served with in the past. Speaking of, I forgot to mention last week that my son Elder Balderston had a boy! He is such a stud. So, I guess I am officially a Grandpa. I must be getting old. 

We also had interviews with President Badger on Thursday so Elder Robley and I spent the entire day in the Stake Center helping President conduct those interviews. It is a super long day but it is so great to sit down and talk to President and Sister Badger, I can't wait for you guys to meet them. You will love them. Friday, we led exchanges with one of the District Leaders in our zone. We have been moving pretty much nonstop, going to lessons, lots of meetings and a lot more administration business than I expected. All the time we have between helping other missionaries and meetings is spent trying to meet our investigators still. We have hardly had any time in our own area. It should calm down this next week though. We are stoked to hit the pavement and find some more great people. 
A cool thing about our area is that we have like three medical schools here in Des Moines and there are a ton of young graduate student married couples in our ward. Man, it makes me excited to start my own family someday! There are little kids crawling around us all of the time during dinners and lessons. Kids love the missionaries. I feel almost as cool as when I did when I walked into Mom's 4th grade class. 

I see that this email is getting a little long, so I will wrap it up. I have been thinking a lot about integrity lately. In Hebrews 13:8 it talks about how Jesus Christ is the same yesterday today and forever. He is a perfect example of how we as members of the church should act as well. We should act the same in every circumstance, at work, at school, at church, etc. We should always be representatives of Jesus Christ's restored gospel, and "Retain the Name" of Christ. (Mosiah 5:12) There are so many blessings waiting for us when we do. 

I love you guys! Have a great week! 

The 4th Grade Celebrity,
Elder Obray

p.s. Thank you so much for the package this week! You guys are the greatest. 

P.s. part two we are headed to the Iowa State fair today so I am sure you are anxiously waiting for next week's report on the fried butter and 2000 pound pigs. Gotta love Iowa.