Monday, December 4, 2017

All I Want For My Birthday

Hey Hey Hey! It was yet another great week in the greatest mission on earth. I am starting to feel like an old man! Twenty years old probably has felt better before. We had some great experiences that  I won't soon forget. The work was a little bit more frustrating this week, but of  course we did some other things to make it fun! I apologize in advance for this email. 

My birthday was one that probably won't go down in any history books. Elder Milligan is reaching the end of his mission so he and the other missionaries going home soon had their departing temple trip. So instead of celebrating with my pal Elder Milligan I spent the day in another area. There is a companionship who is turning around training (training a new missionary right after finishing training) in our zone and they are kinda struggling so I decided that I would conduct a blitz in their area. I know all too well what it is like to be training a new missionary too young with a struggling area.  It was a pretty successful blitz. We had three companionships working in their area and we found a plethora of new investigators for them to work with. We are excited to see the fruit. 

So that was definitely an interesting part of the day. There is a ZL in Ankeny (a suburb of Des Moines) whose companion was also on the temple trip so we exchanged for the morning. He hurt his foot the day before so he decided he needed to get it checked out. When we got there I decided I might as well get my sinuses checked out. It turns out the Elder I was with had a fractured foot, I got the treat of a sinus infection. So I guess all I want for my birthday is a sinus infection. Don't worry though I got the proper medication and it seems to have gone away already. No complaints.

There has been a possum hanging out right by our apartment. A couple months ago we were sitting in our apartment and saw this possum chilling on our porch. We named it Marvin, a couple weeks ago we got back from a long day and saw in our headlights our guy Marvin just chillin. Elder MIlligan jumped out of the car and decided he was going to try to kick this possum. It has kind of become a thing that when ever we see him one of us has to kick Marvin. I am grateful that this week I joined the Kick a possum club. Poor guy. He ran off like he was fine, I didn't get him too hard. Kinda fun though haha.

Just an update on our investigator S. He is doing so good, that man is pretty much in the font already. He finished the Book of Mormon this week. He read it so fast! He knows that it is true as well. What a guy! He came to church again yesterday and announced to everyone that he met that he is getting baptized on the 23rd. No complaints! We are stoked for him and his wife.

Some other highlights include, going furniture shopping with E,  celebrating at Texas Roadhouse with the boys, an excellent birthday dinner from my favorite family, the Collinwoods, holding hands with an African American woman while we prayed together, and getting a high priest handshake from an Ethiopian gang member. 

Transfers are this week, we are almost positive that I will be sticking around for another to kill off Elder Milligan. We will probably be in a trio for a couple weeks until he goes home, but I guess you never know. I really don't want to leave this place. I love it here. I will keep you posted.

I hope you all have a great week this week! Take it easy! :)

Love you.

The Elder in the kick a possum club,

Elder Obray

Monday, November 27, 2017

A "Sick" Thanksgiving

Hey Hey Hey! Can you believe it has already been a week since I wrote you guys last? Weeks go by in the blink of an eye here and it makes me feel all kinds of different ways! I am stoked to hear that you guys had a killer Thanksgiving. Ours was a good one here in the Midwest. This email is going to be a giant, we had an awesome week so I have a lot to talk about so I will jump right into it.

We had a killer week with finding this week. Like I talked about last week, we had to drop a couple of our investigators so we hit the streets to find some new ones. This week we found nine new investigators who are all super promising. We are super grateful for these people showing up. This message needs to be heard! Some of the highlights include teaching E's son and his girlfriend. When we taught him though, he had a lit joint and he invited us into his hotboxed apartment. It was pretty crazy, but he told us he is down to get baptized, he will just need to work through a couple things of course. 

I haven't told you about our super solid investigator getting baptized here in the next few weeks. He is a part member family that Elder MIlligan knocked into on exchanges. He is awesome. We have been teaching him for a couple of weeks and he is already up to Alma 20. His wife is a less active member that we are working on reactivating. He is a pretty funny guy. They have both come to church the past two weeks. He announced in Elders quorum that he is getting baptized on the 23rd. Of course we were excited about that! His baptism will be the last week that Elder MIlligan is a missionary so it is going to be real cool.

We had some other miracle people come to church. The sister missionaries that we share a ward with were knocking some apartments on exchanges with the Spanish sisters. Long story short they found this investigator from Ethiopia named B. They told us that he might want to come to church so on Saturday night, we stopped by and met the guy. We got him a ride to church and he came and stayed the whole 3 hours. He is ripe man! He ran track back home so we had plenty to talk about. He ran long distance of course :) but it was still fun to talk to him about it. We had another lady who just showed up to church. Our ward has like 200 hundred immigrant members who aren't really consistent in church attendance so it is always difficult to keep track of the members versus investigators. Basically a woman came to church and during relief society she raised her hand and said, "I want to be baptized in this church, where can I find an application?" The sisters pounced on her and turned her over to us. Her family was baptized a while back and she wasn't ready, but she feels that now is her time. We are stoked for her. She and B are on date to be baptized in January. There is some great stuff going on in our area right now. My guy Big Sean said it best, "I'M WAY UP I FEEL BLESSED"

Thanksgiving day was rad. We spent the first part of the day visiting our favorite member in another ward, who is in the hospital. Our Zone did a Turkey Trot up to the Capital building in the morning so that was an experience. We ate with the senior couples in the mission for lunch. It was fun to hear some of their stories from growing up. It reminded me of listening to Grandpa talk about all of the crazy things he did in high school. It brought back some great memories. We then took off to another dinner where we were supposed to be eating with a RC African family, and another member family. Unfortunately the African family couldn't make it, but it was still a great dinner. We definitely got hooked up this Thanksgiving. I will see you guys next year on Turkey Day! How crazy is that?  

I have been feeling pretty sick these last couple of days, our mission nurse thinks I might have a sinus infection so if it doesn't go away in the next couple of days I will be getting that checked out. Hopefully not though I feel a little better today. The work goes on!

Another cool thing that happened this week. Elder Balderston is now serving in the Cedar Rapids ward that I served in a while ago. Elder Youngstrom and I found this investigator named J that came to church a few times. To make a long story short, Elder Youngstrom and Elder Balderston are now in a trio and J got baptized on Saturday! It was pretty cool to start a teaching process and have it finished by my child. He makes a father proud! 

Some other fun experiences include: finding a new investigator in the hospital, getting invited inside by our new investigator we now call Bathsheba, giving a training at district meeting, speaking in sacrament meeting, talking to a full grown man in only his whitey tighties, and all kinds of other fun things. Mission life is the best life. 

I love you and hope you all are doing swell. Have a great week! 

The Soon to be Twenty,

Elder Obray




Monday, November 20, 2017

Look Beyond Yourself

Hola! Man, it has been another great week here in the Capital. I look back and think about the things that happened this week, and it was kind of a rough one, but weeks can always be good if we let them. I have been thinking a lot lately about gratitude and selflessness so expect a cute spiritual thought at the end of this email. I am sure you are itching with anticipation. 

To start this email, I want to wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving this week! It is crazy that it has already been a year since I was picking up Elder Balderston from the mission home with no idea how to be a missionary. I have come a long way! I still barely know how to be a missionary, but hopefully I have improved a little bit. Also it is crazy that last year I was sitting in the Cannon's living room having Thanksgiving dinner. I am eternally grateful for that family helping me feel a little bit like I was home during the Holidays. Mom, tell Sister Cannon I miss them! 

To dive into this last week. We had zone conference on Tuesday so the first couple of days were spent trying to help get those things situated. It was a pretty wild day. We showed up to zone conference for the morning session. When it was lunch time, we were excused into the gym to find that the ladies in charge of the food didn't show up. Elder Milligan and I and some STLs from Fort Dodge had to arrange for some pizza to feed 80 missionaries. It was pretty wild. Elder Milligan and I missed the majority of the afternoon session trying to get things straightened out. Luckily Sister Badger helped us out and we got it all taken care of. Pretty exciting zone conference. The talks were good too. :)

We were blessed this week to find a lot of great people to work with. We had a tough day when one of our investigators decided that she didn't want to quit smoking and told us that we weren't Christlike for not letting her get baptized because she smoked. It was pretty sad to hear her say these things, we have taught her quite a bit, but I guess it happens sometimes. That being said, we hit the streets to find some new people. We found some great people that we are excited about. We were knocking on this apartment building when this Islamic man came out of his apartment guns a blazin telling us that Christ wasn't real. We did our best to testify of Christ but he was one of the most hard hearted people I have ever met. Towards the end of our discussion, he looked at us and said "Take those silly tags off and do something with yourselves" we told him that there is nothing that we would rather be doing, he then looked at me and said "You look like you need to join the marines, they go in first and absorb all of the bullets for the rest of the army." It took every bit of my power to not deck this man in the face, but we told him to have a nice day and went to the next door. Some people man. Keep that man in your prayers.

We had some other great finding miracles but I won't go into detail. Just know the Lord hooked us up this week. 

I will close this email with the thought I mentioned earlier. At the very beginning of my mission, I mentioned a talk called the "Character of Christ" by Elder Bednar. The majority of the talk discusses that when Christ was in anguish, he looked outward. It is easy to think of ourselves when things aren't going our way, but we learn that Christ would always look outward. I have come up with a pretty straightforward remedy for those times when I start to feel bad for myself; I remind myself that if I start to feel bad for myself and my circumstances I am thinking of myself too much. I have thought about why missions are the happiest of times and I believe that it is because the majority of the time spent on a mission is in the service of others. I have learned that the gateway to eternal joy is serving others and focusing less on our own needs and thinking more of the needs of others. We are richly blessed, it is up to us to help others who aren't as fortunate.

I want to issue a challenge to you family. This holiday season, think of someone who needs your help, and help them. I promise the joy that comes with it. 

I also want to tell you all how grateful I am for you all. You guys are the greatest family a guy could ask for. I hope that you guys have an amazing Thanksgiving. I will be there for the next one! Give Grandma a big hug for me. I love you.

A grateful missionary,

Elder Obray

The APs and some other guys
I wasn't ready for the picture, but these guys are my favorite!
The Crew

Monday, November 13, 2017

Permission for Pregnancy

My dearest family, it was a pretty good week here in Des Moines. The weeks are flying by these days and of course it gives me a healthy dose of anxiety. I reached a cool milestone this last week. I have officially been out on my mission for 15 months. If my math is correct, that only means there are nine more months until I come back to the 801. I have thought back to my high school health classes and realized that the average pregnancy lasts about 9 months. So, Lindsay and Jonathan, Maddie and Trevor, you now officially have my permission to get pregnant. I will be there when they are born hopefully. That is pretty crazy for me to think about. There is so much work to be done here in the Midwest and not enough time to do it. This email is going to be a little boring so it will probably be a little short, but I commit to having a more exciting email next week. 

If I told you that this week was a highlight of the mission, I would definitely be stretching it. It was a pretty average week to be honest. We spent a lot of time in meetings and preparing for those meetings. We get the opportunity to go to two district meetings every week so we have plenty of time to spend with the members of our zone. There are some great things going on in the zone right now and we are excited about the progress. Of course we still deal with all kinds of unnecessary drama, but what is life I guess. 

I had a moment of extreme trunkiness this week. My favorite family in our ward, the Collinwoods, invited us and another young couple over for dinner last night. It was pretty cute because these families are both pretty young so it was great to hear all of their fun marriage stories. Elder Milligan and I were happy to stand in as the third couple. But after we finished dinner, they suggested that we all play CATCH PHRASE!! I almost told them no because I knew that I would get wrecked, but I decided that I couldn't resist. It sure made me miss you guys! "SHREK HAS TWO OF THESE!" 

I haven't really been two trunky my entire mission, but this week was one of those weeks when I got a little anxious to be home. I really miss you guys, and I miss music, I miss girls and having time to relax. It has really been the first time when I have really thought, holy cow, I don't have that much time to be a missionary. Although, I am really excited to see you guys, for the time being there is no place that I would rather be. Although missionary work is incredibly hard, frustrating and sometimes demoralizing, it is also the happiest work on the planet. It is incredible to see the changes that the gospel can bring into their lives. It is crazy to look back on these short fifteen months and notice the growth I have noticed in my own testimony. This short time as a full time missionary is time that I will never trade.

To end this email, I have recently loved a scripture in Galations 6:7-8. There is a cool doctrine in the church which involves reaping what we sow. I love this doctrine because it states plainly that every good work, or righteous desire, or charitable act does not go unnoticed by our Heavenly Father. He is perfectly just and merciful. Although our motivation should come from love for our Heavenly Father and charity for others, it is also nice to know that there is an amazing reward at the end of the day for righteous living and serving others. I am sure that we don't fully understand the treasures in Heaven that our Heavenly Father has in store for us, but someday, if we endure to the end, we will achieve our potential that our Heavenly Father has in store for us. 

I am sorry that this email was kind of a dud. I will do my best to have a super adventurous week this week so I can have some fun stories for you. Have a great week, our weeks are as good as we make them. I love you.

The not so trunky Elder,
Elder Obray

Monday, November 6, 2017

I'm Ripped

Hey Hey Hey! It was yet another great week here in the Capital. This week was super busy with all kinds of shenanigans, but of course it was a good one. All weeks can be good weeks if we let them. First though, Lindsay that video that you sent me of Maxwell and Jonathan killed me! I am sitting here in the Des Moines library and I exploded with laughter when I saw it. The people around me were concerned about the white boy in the church clothes having an episode. Thanks for the laugh! Maxwell looked like a stud in the pictures from Halloween. What a cute kid.

This week was loaded, in Des Moines, they celebrate this holiday called Begger's night. It is the day before Halloween when all of the kids can trick or treat safely. So on Monday night our cars had to be grounded at 6. So right after P day was over, we were stranded in our apartment. It was wild. We had interviews with President Badger on Halloween so that was also a super busy day. We spent the whole day in the stake center with President and Sister Badger conducting interviews with our zone. Our cars were grounded at 6 again on Halloween so we went with a member over to his apartment and were treated with a movie!! It was the Prophet of the Restoration, but a movie none the less. He was the guy who sent you pictures the other day Momma. He is a great guy and really helps out the missionaries in Des Moines. 

One thing I forgot to mention last week was that I had to sing another song at MLC on Wednesday. I sang a cute rendition of the primary song "My Heavenly Father Loves Me," one of my favorites. It went alright, we had to wake up really early to drive some elders to Iowa City so we all got Monsters to make up for it. I have had plenty of Monsters on my mission and they usually don't affect me too much, but I didn't think about how we were going to be sitting in a meeting all day so the caffeine really got to me. I was shaking for a good part of the meeting. It was pretty intense, between the side effects of the caffeine and the nervousness for the song, my heart rate was steady at around 3000 bpm. No big deal. 

On Friday night, we were having some exchanges with one of the District Leaders and his companion. I went with Elder Kelley and we had a great exchange. We found some great people to teach. At the end of the night we were driving back to our apartment when all of the sudden two young huskies ran out into the road. Our van doesn't have the best breaks so  I am sad to say that I hit both of them. I slammed the brakes, so we didn't hit them too hard, but I was definitely worried that I was going to get out of the car to find two beautiful dogs lying on the road. Luckily when I got out of the car I saw them running around across the street so at least I didn't kill either of them. Hopefully they are alright. I felt like garbage the rest of the night though. I almost murdered two dogs. 

There were some cool changes that went down in the Des Moines stake that I am sure you are dying to hear about, they introduced a YSA branch that will cover three stakes. Because it is the middle of the transfer, Elder Milligan and I are going to be representing the missionaries from the Des Moines stake. It is going to be cool to work with some of the YSA in the area. When we went to the branch yesterday I got to catch up with some members from Ames. It was awesome to see some familiar faces. I love that place. 

The last funny experience was last night. Elder Milligan and I went over to a family's house for dinner. This family feeds a bunch of people from the ward on Sunday nights so it is always a good time. Our area includes Drake University so a couple of the student members in the YSA branch showed up. They were actually pretty cute, (don't worry I am still consecrated to the work) but the funny thing was after the dinner we were all walking to our cars. I unlocked our sweet ride and started up the ten foot ascent to get into the driver's seat when all of the sudden my suit pants ripped right up the seem. It was super impressive. I am going to get them fixed today so it shouldn't be a huge deal. 

That is all I really have to update you guys on. Keep on keeping on and say your prayers! I love you! 

The Elder with the ripped pants,

Elder Obray

p.s. I did get the package. You guys are the coolest people around. The fitbit has had me all kinds of self conscious about moving. It sends reminders to move so I will be sitting in a lesson and have a reminder to move so I will suddenly have an intense desire to do some jumping jacks. It is the good stuff. 

Monday, October 30, 2017

The "Evenic" Covenant

Oh boy what a week it has been here in the Capital. It has gotta be up there on one of the best weeks of the mission. We have been all over the place so it has been super fun. I am pumped to tell you guys all about it.This email is going to be a novel so let’s get to it.

First, I will talk about the subject title, you guys are going to die. Like I mentioned last week, we had to push back E and R's baptismal interviews to Tuesday. They both went just great, they passed with flying colors. E is super funny so as I listened to her in the other room getting interviewed by one of our DLs, I heard her answer for most of the questions, "Don't drink, don't smoke, don't do drugs"... etc. Have I ever mentioned how much I love African people? After her interview, we were sitting down and talking about some of the logistics for the baptism and she was thanking us and all that stuff then she looked at us both and said, "I bless you with lots of kids, Elder Milligan I bless you with twenty and Elder Obray I bless you with thirty. Oh, and lots of money!" Haha we were dying. We thought to call it the "Evenic Covenant" Is that sacrilegious? Mom, Dad, I hope you are looking forward to all kinds of little Chandler's running around in the future, my wife and I are going to need help from the whole family. 

If I didn't have a testimony of the church by now, preparing for a baptism is always a reminder for me that the church is so true, and the work of salvation is always being attacked by the adversary. While preparing for the baptism this weekend all kinds of things came up, but luckily, we are one step ahead. On Wednesday, we got a baptismal suit for my guy R but it was too big so we went back the next day to get another one, when the door to the suits was suddenly locked. We were ticked because we didn't want to have to call the stake to get the suits unlocked again, so I pulled out my inner MacGyver and picked the lock. It was pretty incredible not gonna lie. I don't know if I should repent for trespassing to help a baptism go through.

The next adventure happened the day before the baptism. We went to the building to check stuff out. When we got there, we both had to go to the bathroom so of course we did. When we both went to flush, there was no water... We tried the sinks, nothing and then we tried the font... NOTHING. Of course, we had a small panic attack, but we called the church's maintenance guy and he came to save the day. Apparently, the city shut the church's water off for no reason. Man, Satan is inspiring the city of Des Moines. Crazy stuff. Luckily, we got the water turned back on just in time. The guy said that if we wouldn't have called on Friday, they would have had to wait until Monday which would have meant no baptism. Oh boy! 

The Baptism was so great. I have really grown to love that family. It makes me so happy to see them every time we visit them. After the baptism, I have never seen E so happy in my life. She kept jumping around and singing "I am so blessed". It was humbling to see how excited she was to make her first covenant with our Heavenly Father. What a blessing. R asked me a few weeks ago if I would baptize him so I baptized R and Elder Milligan baptized E. It was a special experience for sure. We had a great showing from the ward.

The next day in sacrament meeting Elder Milligan confirmed R and I confirmed E. It was awesome. After I finished E's confirmation, her kids in the back stood up and started clapping and cheering. It was adorable. It really is something to cheer for though. Baptism is entrance into the Celestial Kingdom if we endure to the end, I can't think of anything more worthy of shouts and cheers! The ward thought it was funny too. 

Another miracle that went down this week was when we were trying by an investigator, we set up an appointment for another day. We were walking back to the van when I felt a prompting to try by U (super solid African investigator with the baby momma. He disappeared a few weeks ago and we haven't heard from him). When we knocked on his door he answered with a big smile and said "My brothers! I thought you forgot about me!" I almost cried when I saw that man's face. I was so excited to see him. Man, I, along with E am soo blessed. 

I see that this email is super long so I will put it to a close here. One of my favorite scriptures in the Book of Mormon is Mosiah 5:12-13. In verse 12 it says that we must retain the name written on our hearts and then in verse 13 it says, "Who knows a master whom he has not served?" I have grown to love these verses because it states that when we retain the name written on our hearts (sacramental covenant by always remembering Him) we will learn to serve our Heavenly Father. We also learn in Mosiah 2 that we serve God by serving His children. The way that we honor our covenants and learn to know our Heavenly Father is through charity. I have loved the doctrine of charity on my mission. It truly is the key to happiness and is the pure love of Christ. What better way to make ourselves happy than by serving others?

Well I appreciate you guys making it through this email. I love you guys and miss you! I hope you have a fantastic week!

Future father of thirty,

Elder Obray
Chanman



Monday, October 23, 2017

What Shall We Hope For?

It was a pretty great week here in Des Moines. We had a couple crazy experiences, but for the most part, it was a pretty regular busy week here in the Capital.

First! It was transfers this week and I am stoked to report that Elder Milligan and I are staying together for another transfer. I am super pumped. He goes home midway through next transfer so I will most likely end up spending six months here Des Moines. I won't complain, this place is the happiest place on earth. We are doing great, we joke around all day and neither of us takes the other seriously, so we just make fun of each other like real friends do. He is a good teacher and has even hooked me up with a couple of referrals. No complaints. We are gearing up to throw down on our zone this week at district meetings. There is too much complacency in our zone for mediocre. The work is way too important to take lightly. There are several areas that are really not doing too well, so we are excited to get it going a little bit. 

Because it was transfers this week, we were running around helping all of the companionships get settled in. We didn't quite get a ton of time to do much finding. With the baptism this weekend, we are running out of people to teach. That is a pretty cool problem to have, when you don't have too many people to teach because they are baptized. We had E and R's baptismal interview set for last night, but it was R's eighth birthday, and Africans do not take birthdays lightly. There were like twenty people in their tiny house when we got there. We reset the interview for Tuesday so that will be much better. We are stoked for their baptism this weekend. 

Like I mentioned earlier, I have kind of felt that something is out to get us because we have had a couple near death experiences that got my heart rate up that is for sure. The first came when we got a call from a member from Utah who was asking for help to move his uncle back to Utah with him. We happily accepted the invitation to help. What he didn't tell us is that this uncle has dementia and has a metal shop for a basement. We were called to move all of the massive machines up the stairs out of his basement. Pretty sketchy, he had this ancient lathe that weighed around 2700 pounds. We were moving one of the pieces that weighed about 500 pounds up the stairs so we put it on a dolly. We had a team of elders at the top of the stairs with a rope, I was in the middle holding the dolly, and there were two other elders pushing at the bottom. Long story short, we got moving pretty fast and I tripped between the two boards that the dolly was riding on and I dropped the dolly right where my leg was... How it didn't smash my leg is beyond me, but I am lucky that my leg is still on my body. It would have smashed it so good. We had other sketchy experiences moving stuff out of his basement, but that was the most dramatic. 

The other experiences came behind the wheel of Heather. It has been super rainy this week so it has been pretty difficult to see while driving. These other experiences come from people running stop lights and us screaming and almost getting wrecked. It happened a couple of times. Luckily all is well. I am sure these stories don't sound too dramatic, but it was pretty intense for missionaries in Iowa. 

This email is kind of a dud, I know, but we were pretty busy doing administration stuff this week. I will end this one with a spiritual thought. In Moroni 7:39-41 it talks about hope. It says that hope comes through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I have recently loved the concept of hope. There are so many people on this Earth who lack hope. If only they could know that hope can be found through Jesus Christ. On a mission, I have seen some incredibly sad situations, people live in terrible conditions and seem to lose hope. I have grown to love the doctrine of hope because it is a promise from our Heavenly Father that if we follow His Son and allow His Atonement to change us, there is an incredible reward for us waiting. 

Alma 34:41
"But that ye have patience, and bear with those afflictions, with a firm hope that ye shall one day rest from all of your afflictions."

I love this gospel and I love sharing it with the people of Iowa, (and Liberia, and Nigeria, and Sudan, and Bosnia, etc.). This gospel is for everyone!

Have a great week, I love you.

The Elder with both legs,

Elder Obray