Sunday, May 6, 2018

"You Guys are in Eddyville!"

Whats up gang? It has been a good week here in the promised land. From what I hear, everyone in the family has been going on some pretty wild adventures recently. Jonathan and LIndsay going to Hawaii, Trevor and Maddie going to the Philippines, and Bob and Jen heading over to Fiji? Sounds like life is a dream back home in the 801. I can honestly say that the adventures that we had this week are comparable to the tropical locations that you have been hitting up. We ventured into some equally paradise-like places here in Iowa/Illinois. Haha honestly though, this week was kind of a downer so don't expect too much from this email. But lets get to it anyway. 

Elder Wood and I are beginning to feel like truck drivers. I feel like by the end of my mission, I will have traveled through every city in Iowa. We have been listening to so many talks haha. This week we traveled up to Marshall Town, Iowa to clean out yet another apartment. Man I am getting strong though all we do is lift heavy things and load trailers. Gotta love it. The next day, we did the same thing, but had to travel a lot further. We went over to a place called Quincy, Illinois. Side story, this city is one of the cities that helped out the saints back in the days of Old Nauvoo. It was like a four hour drive, so we left early in the morning, attended a district meeting and lunch there, moved an apartment and then drove all the way back to Des Moines. Made for about eight hours on the road. What a dream come true. On the way home, we were driving through a pretty intense storm, the thunder here is pretty incredible, I highly recommend being in Iowa for a storm, it rolls across the entire sky. Pretty epic. Anyway, we were in the middle of a crazy storm and we ran out of gas, so we stopped in the bountiful city of Eddyville. I felt like I was in the Wizard of Oz, but the cashier at the only gas station in miles assured us were will in Eddyville. I think it was equivalent in grandeur to Fiji.
Pretty soon, I will know this place like a native. Good stuff.

We conducted another exchange this week with some ZL's from Davenport. It was a good time. Because we don't spend too much time in our area, it is always a treat to get out and do missionary work. I always forget how great it is to get out and teach people about the gospel. We ran into some great people that we are really excited to work with. Hopefully they turn out well. We need some people to teach! Which is a bummer, because this week kind of marked the last full week we have in our area this transfer, this upcoming week we will be having all of our zone conferences, the following week is the departing temple trip and transfer planning, then transfers are upon us. One eternal round right? Gotta love it. 

Some exciting news is that my girl D went to the temple yesterday and did baptisms for the dead! I haven't had a chance to talk to her about it, but the ZLs there said that she loved it and was so happy when she told them about it. The Des Moines ward goes to the Omaha, Nebraska temple which means that none of us could go with her, but I am stoked for the day that I can come back here and take all of my African friends to the temple. It is going to be lit. Pure joy when you see RCs taking more steps to conversion.

Last stop on today's email. While on exchanges, Elder Pearce and I went to visit my man S. Have I ever mentioned how cool that man is? When we got there, his brother (who has been a little combative with us in the past) was sitting on the couch. He had a lot of questions about why the Book of Mormon was necessary and I was able to sit back and listen to my man S testify of the power of the Book of Mormon, and explain perfectly why it is so important. That man is going to be a Bishop here soon. I can't wait for you guys to meet him. Prepare yourself though, he feeds us African food every time we go over so get ready. 

I really don't have too much to report on this week. Life these days is very different than it was a few months ago, but I love it. 

Have a great week! Love you.

The Iowa Native,

Elder Obray 

You know I need to attach a picture with little African boys.

The people in this building immediately became interested in the gospel.

Friends at Stake Conference

Sunday, April 29, 2018

No Such Thing as Coincidence

What do you know? It was another killer week here in the promised land of Des Moines. It was one of those weeks that make you feel grateful to be a missionary. Sounds like my week might not have been as good as my brothers though. Super cool you were able to go to the Philippines and get in contact with some of your RCs. I am sure Maddie had a killer time in those conversations haha, a little bit like me when we knock on a hispanic person's door. I just step back and let Elder Wood do the work, I know how you feel Maddie, speaking another language is overrated!  First things first though. I think I cried when I read Bob's email saying that we are going to be in Powell together as a family in just a few months. That and the fact that the city of Des Moines has been packed with track teams from all over the country competing in the Drake Relays this week have made me a little excited to get off the plane in a few months, but just a little, don't you worry, there is still all kinds of work to be done here. The word trunky will not be used. :) Lets get to it.

First up, my man S continues to bring joy into my life. He is the coolest guy on the planet. He is doing so great and is preparing to go do some baptisms with his reactivated wife. Today was an awesome day because S received the Aaronic priesthood! What a blessing. S asked me to be the voice in the blessing and with some gentle persuasion, I agreed. There aren't many cooler things than laying your hands on the head of a recent convert and helping them receive the priesthood. Speaking of, remember my guy T who I taught in East Moline? He went to the temple a few weeks ago and has received the priesthood! He has come a long way. The gospel is the coolest.

Saturday was a cool day, we had to opportunity to knock on doors of course, but this time for a different purpose. The Red Cross was in town and was installing smoke alarms in under privileged neighborhoods. It was a cool experience. People were more than willing to tell us that they didn't want to become a mormon, but when we told them we would give them free smoke alarms, they were our best friends. Haha what an experience. 

We also got to go over to Cedar Rapids again this week for a district meeting and to help another companionship move. Have I mentioned that we drive a Chevy Silverado around? It is a pretty sweet ride. We have the only vehicle in the mission capable of pulling a trailer so we get to help everyone move. Gotta love it. I will make sure to get a picture with my girl "Brenda" this week. She might just drink more gas than Heather haha. 

We had a super cool experience this week. Elder Wood and I have really been praying to find a family to teach. We think it would be the best way to cap off the mission. This week, we think we found them. Last week in Ward Council, we were talking about families that we could reach out to. Someone said a name, and I immediately knew that they were the family we needed to visit. On Tuesday on exchanges with Elder Davidson, a ZL in the Fairfield zone, we stopped by. At first, the less active father was on a conference call and couldn't talk too long but he invited us back a couple days later. When Elder Wood and I went back, we had a killer experience.  He let us right in for some lunch and we talked. He later opened up that the night before we came over that first time, he had been thinking about the church and felt the need to go back. Coincidence? I think not!  He expressed how excited he was to see us when we knocked on his door the next day. He is the only member in his family, so we cannot wait to go back and teach his wife and his five kids. Keep them in your prayers, but I am confident that this family will be sealed in the temple some day. 

Not too much else to report on this week. I am grateful this week, like all other weeks, to be a missionary. There is no happier work on the planet. These truly are times never to be forgotten. I love you. 

Have a great week,

The Mormon with the Smoke Alarms,

Elder Obray

We were too late, this house needed a smoke alarm.

Missionaries in yellow (Mormon Helping Hands)

Sunday, April 22, 2018

The Eternal Comfort Zone

Hey Hey Hey! You would never guess it, but it was another great week this week! Gotta love being a missionary. Sorry for the late email today, we were super busy earlier today, so we haven't had time to email until right now. I hope that a Sunday evening email will suffice for now.  I commit to having an email to you guys earlier next week. I am pretty grateful that this week is over, it was a busy one, and we have another equally busy week coming up. Blessings of being an assistant though right? Busy missionaries are happy missionaries. Well I have a few things to report on this week, so I will get right to it.

Tuesday was a wild day. It was the first MLC that I have had to completely plan and carry out. Last transfer we had Elder Costa visiting, so we didn't really have to plan too much for it, but this transfer was different. We spent the majority of the weekend planning the meeting, finalizing our training, and preparing all the needed information for the council to run smoothly. I am happy to report that it was a success. The big hit was the smartphone roll out, we spent a lot of time learning how to use the phones to teach, how to update the area book, how to use Facebook, and other things so that we could properly teach all of the MLC how to use it. Our training was highly focused on our purpose and how the addition of technology isn't changing our purpose, but just adds a new dimension to accomplish it. We think that it went pretty well! It is definitely a big change being on a smartphone again and logging into Facebook.

Because the number of missionaries being sent to Iowa is going down quite a bit we have had to close down a bunch of areas in the mission. That means, that the responsibility for closing those areas falls right on us. We have been able to travel to some parts of the mission that I otherwise would have never been to. This week we spent a day in Leon, Iowa. Man that place is thriving. I felt like I was in the movie "Signs."  Pretty much a little tiny town in the middle of miles and miles of corn. It was quite the experience. I am gaining a whole lot of job experience, so I think if am going to forgo my scholarship and start working for U-haul or something. I am getting real good at packing a trailer. We have a couple more areas to close down in the next couple of weeks, so be excited for some more exhilarating stories. 

I feel bad that these emails aren't as exciting as they used to be. We don't get nearly enough time to teach the gospel because we are always busy trying to help the missionaries. We will have a little bit more time in our area this week, so hopefully we will have some more stories to share for next week. 

Like all of my other lame emails, I will spice this one up with something that has been on my mind this week. Elder Wood and I went to a district meeting in the thriving metropolis of Osceola, Iowa. The district leader who was training was talking about the comfort zone. I had some impressions that I would like to share. In Mormon 9:2-3 it says "Do ye suppose that ye shall dwell with Him under a consciousness of your guilt? Do ye suppose that ye could be happy to dwell with that holy Being, when your souls are racked with a consciousness of guilt that ye have ever abused his laws? Behold, I say unto you that ye would be more miserable to dwell with that holy and just God, under a consciousness of your filthiness before him, than ye would to dwell with the damned souls in hell." Pretty intense stuff right? But I related this to the comfort zone. While we are here in this life, we are asked to step away from our comfort zones and live a higher law. We are forever encouraged to take the harder right. I love this, because we are being prepared to enter the presence of Heavenly Father and our Savior. These scriptures explain that if we don't do what we are supposed to, we will be incredibly uncomfortable in Their presence. This life is the time for us to prepare and grow and expand our comfort zone so that when that day comes, that we do meet the Savior, His presence will be in our comfort zone.

I love you all way too much. Thank you for being champions and reading my emails and my really long spiritual thoughts. Sacrifice brings forth the blessings of Heaven right? Have a great week. Smile a lot, life is good.

Future Leon Iowa resident,

Elder Obray

Sunday, April 15, 2018

I Am Ready to Roll

Hola! Man it was a great week! It was one of those weeks where you are so grateful to be a missionary. It was a super busy one and a super stressful one, but it ended with a huge bang. Man I am pumped to tell you all about it, but first I must repent of last week's transgression and wish my favorite sister a Happy Birthday! Happy 27th birthday L Cat! Man, you are getting old. Thanks for being one of my best pals and for being the greatest sister a young man could ask for! Love you cuh! 

Lets get to it.

First of all, this week was transfers, so we spent the whole week running around trying to make sure all of the missionaries were going to the right place, and making sure there wasn't any problems with the companionships. We spent the good parts of Monday and Tuesday behind a computer screen and talking to every companionship in the mission. It makes for a long couple days, but it is good to talk with everyone and learn more about all the missionaries. Thursday is always a stressful day, we had to coordinate the transfer meeting and divvy out all of the phones to the MLC. It has been quite the headache dealing with all of these phones. Luckily, I will only have to deal with them for a couple months. Elder Sampson also got transferred on Thursday as well. It was tough to see him go, but he is close by serving in a Spanish Branch, so I still see him like every other day when we play basketball in the mornings. I am pumped to serve with Elder Wood though, we have already had some fun experiences. He is most likely my last companion on my mission, which is pretty weird to think about, but he is going to be a good one to end on. No complaints.

I am sure a few of you have seen me on Facebook haha. Man what a mess that is. From what I said in my first post and probably my only post on Facebook, I won't be able to message you or talk at all on Facebook, but feel free to send me stuff, and I will respond on P day via email. It is so weird being on Facebook again, it is even crazier to see how different everyone looks over the past year. So many people are married, it is so crazy. I guess we will learn as we go on how to use that stuff to baptize people.

Speaking of! My man S got baptized this week! Holy cow I love that man. It was one of the cooler baptismal services that I have ever been to. He is such a solid convert and I am so grateful that God allowed me to be a part of his story. Another African member of the ward baptized him and it was such a cool experience. S got up at the end of the service and bore such a killer testimony. He had a lot of his friends and family there, so this man threw down some doctrine. He is going to be a general authority someday! He talked about how he was a lost sheep and that he is now home. I recorded his testimony so I will try to send it over to you. At the end, he said "I am here, and I am ready to roll!"  He gave us all African shirts to wear to the baptism so of course I will attach a picture of the get up. I will be wearing that thing every day when I get home. Be prepared! The ladies are going to flock to that kind of style just wait. President Badger actually confirmed him today during sacrament meeting as well. When we asked Steve who he wanted to confirm him, he wasted no time and said that he wanted President to do it. It was a really powerful confirmation as you can imagine. President Badger is the man. 

We went golfing as well this week. I think the course that we played was similar to Augusta National, and I am certain that the level of competition was the same. Man it felt good to swing a golf club. It took me a few holes to get back in the "swing" of things lol gotta love Dad jokes. I really don't have too much else to report on. This week is going to be another wild one. We are distributing all of the phones out to the entire mission and I have to organize my first MLC. Pray for me! I am excited though it is going to be a great week. 

I love you guys. Keep being the best.

The Elder Dressed like a Liberian,

Elder Obray

The Man Himself
Watch out for this squad on the PGA tour

Sickest shirt I have ever received

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Facebook Your Fear

Hey Hey Hey! First of all, I know what you are thinking, "What a creative subject line," but I can't take credit for it, that was the title that President Badger chose for the upcoming transfer. Pretty classy I think.  This week was a good one, there are some massive changes headed our way in the mission, so I am all kinds of nervous and stressed about it, but it will all work out. No worries. Shout out to Bob and Jen for hooking me up with some good classes and a place to live at Utah State. It is a dream come true. Lets get to it.

We got to go to the temple again! It is hard for me to believe that it was six weeks ago that we went last. Man I love that place, one of the highlights of the trip was picking up my new companion, Elder Andrew Wood from Modesto, California. He is the man. Elder Sampson is getting released and is heading back into a Spanish Branch here in Des Moines. I am going to miss that man, we have had some fun together, but he won't be far away so I will still see him all of the time. Elder Wood and I knew each other pretty well before he got called, so I was pumped to be his companion. We will most likely be companions until I go home, so I have officially received my last companion and am serving in my final area. Pretty bitter sweet honestly. Don't have to worry about that for a while though. Four months is plenty of time! :)

Update on my dude S. He passed his baptismal interview yesterday with flying colors. He is getting baptized this Saturday at four o'clock. You guys should make an appearance! There is another Liberian member who has been a great fellowshipper who is going to be baptizing him. He is going to be such an awesome addition to the ward. He is such a stud. His wife is going back to Liberia next month and she told us that she is going to bring us back some African clothes! I couldn't be more grateful. Yesterday after his interview, I was talking with him and asked him what his favorite music was. He instantly laughed and said, "Country!" Yep this man is a cowboy. He loves the Zac Brown band and Kenny Chesney. I almost cried. I thought it was so funny. He is such a boss.

An update on our other solid investigators, W and C, we are still working to help W and Brother W to get married, but we had a great lesson with them this week, so we are expecting big news by our next appointment. They are an awesome family. 

We have been doing transfer planning all week, so that is about it by way of missionary work stories and updates. We received our smartphones this week! Pretty wild to have a smartphone in my hand again. We are just learning how to use them and what we can do with them right now. Elder Sampson, Elder Wood and I put together our Facebook profiles the other day. I have four friends right now, so you could say I am getting pretty popular. Please don't add me though, as much as I would love to be your Facebook friend, I cannot accept it. Hopefully this doesn't harm our relationship. Expect more pictures though! I am excited to be able to take good pictures on my phone again. I have been taking a bunch of selfies with people, so expect a lot of those in the upcoming months. 

Sorry I don't have too much to report on. This next week is going to be wild with transfers and the baptism, so expect a cool email next week! Love you guys!

The Facebook Famous,
Elder Obray

Elder Wood and Elder Obray? More like Joseph and Hyrum (at Carthage Jail)

The Assistants

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Small and Simple Things

Hey Hey Hey! LETS GOOO! A temple in L Town? That is what I like to hear! You know I will be hitting that thing up every time I come home on the weekends! Man I am so pumped. This conference was incredible. One of the most exciting conferences I have ever witnessed. It definitely seems like there is more urgency these days. As usual, I will tie in small cute thoughts at the end. We had another great week. Lets hop right into it.

This week was solid, on Tuesday we drove over to Iowa City for the new trainers/new trainees meeting. This is basically an opportunity for President and Sister Badger to train the new missionaries and trainers and help them accomplish their purpose. Elder Sampson and I got to role play a companionship inventory. We basically just roasted each other for the entire time and talked about the importance of having them. Solid stuff. We then drove up to one of my past areas to clean an apartment out. It was weird being back in Cedar Rapids, I am happy to announce that the place is still dirty and ghetto. I had a lot of fun in that area though. Some of my favorite memories were made tracting those streets. 

I got to go on some more exchanges this week with some zone leaders. Unfortunately, I didn't get to exchange with Elder Balderston, I went with his stud companion Elder Fox. We were in the same MTC district so it was cool to be around that man again. It is cool to learn from the leaders of the mission. All of the missionaries have unique talents and it is fun to be around all kinds of different teaching styles. Good stuff for sure.

We had another awesome lesson with my guy S this week. Sorry he is the only one I talk about these days, I promise we are working with other people, but nobody is nearly as cool or as solid as he is. He is so ready to be baptized. I am so excited for him. He is only a couple weeks away and he is already inviting his friends and family to be there. What a legend. He told us this week that he threw away his coffee pot and hasn't had any coffee for almost two weeks. What a man. He makes me so happy. He is probably the second most solid person I have ever taught. Q in the lead of course. He and his wife P came and watched conference with us today at a member's house. He also invited us over to his house last night for a family reunion. It was sick, we were early so we could catch the priesthood session. By the time we left, there was a whole squad of Liberians partying in that place. I will lob you guys a picture. I sure love that place. 

I don't have too much time to write tonight so I will conclude this email with the promised thought.
Doing the simple things that the Lord has commanded will help us prepare for the Second Coming of the Lord. Elder Oaks gave a killer talk about doing the small and simple things in order to have the spirit in our lives. The better of the two Obray boys once taught a profound lesson that has stuck with me since. In Matthew 5:48, we are commanded to be perfect. Trevor taught us that in this life we cannot be perfect in all things, but we can be perfect in some things. Reading the Book of Mormon everyday, personal prayer, tithing, and trying are all things that we can be perfect at in this life. We learned that these things are what will prepare us to meet God.  In the conference there was some killer announcements that "unfold the restoration of the gospel" and bring us closer to the Second Coming of the Savior. One of my favorite parts was a simple statement by President Nelson: "Keep His Commandments and we will be alright." I know that the small and simple things will prepare us to reach our "Celestial Potential."

I love you. I will be sitting right by your side to watch the next conference. I can't wait! Can you stream conference to the boat? 

The Small and Simple,

Elder Obray

The only ties at the dump

Squads all here (S is the man between Elder Sampson and I)

Sunday, March 25, 2018

A Mighty Change of Heart

Hey Hey Hey! Man it has been yet another killer week in the promised land of Des Moines. It is insane how fast the weeks are flying by. I feel like I email you guys like every other day. We announced some crazy stuff to the mission this week so of course I will update you guys as well. Got a lot to talk about, so lets get right down to it.

First things first. My girl D entered the waters of baptism this weekend!! WAHOO. She is such a cool lady. From the pictures that I will send, it kind of seems like she hates everyone, but she is honestly one of the nicest ladies I know. She is such an awesome human. It was a great service. I saw her today at church after her confirmation. D is really good at making dresses, so she had made a dress with a bunch of pictures of Jesus on it and wore it to church! It was so sick. I am going to have her make me a shirt with the same pattern on it. She was so excited and seemed so happy. I am so grateful that the Lord crossed our paths a few months ago. It will forever be one of my favorite finding stories of my mission. Man I love Liberia. I have officially decided that I will be taking a trip there someday. I have a bunch of friends here that offered to go with me and introduce me to their village. It is going to be so sick. 

S came to the baptism as well and we got to have a lesson with him with the Badgers at the church. Man I was super nervous, I didn't want President to reconsider his decision to call me as one of his assistants. The lesson was awesome.  At one point S was pretty much bearing his testimony of his conversion to all of us, President Badger said "It feels like you're home doesn't it?" S excitedly said yes. Man I cannot wait for that man's baptism. It can't come soon enough. He is pretty much a member already, we even set a goal for him to go to the temple a couple weeks after his baptism. We are so pumped for him. 

I got to go on a couple exchanges this week with some zone leaders from around the mission. It is a pretty cool opportunity to learn from these guys. We hit the pavement hard for a couple days and were able to find a whole bunch of new people to teach.  My child, Elder Balderston will be in Des Moines this week. Stay tuned for the killer stories of the father and son reunited. 

Soo like I said, Elder Sampson and I were informed a few weeks ago that our mission is going to be receiving smart phones... We announced it to the mission this week, so it is official. We have a a few meetings with Salt Lake City to learn more about it and when they will be coming, but they are coming soon. It is going to be pretty wack to change the way we do missionary work a little bit, especially given that I only have a few months left. I am excited for the change, but I am also nervous. It is going to be quite the process and will really change the way we do things here in Iowa. I am hoping that it doesn't happen, but my companion and I might become the technology specialists as well, meaning that we will be in charge of helping all the missionaries with phone problems. Pray that that doesn't happen, because that would mean even less time in our area. We are excited for the next phase. President is pretty apprehensive about it all, but it will be good. You know I will still be reading my paper scriptures though.

We had a really cool lesson in Elder's Quorum today and I want to share some thoughts that stuck out to me. We were talking about the story of Ammon and King Lamoni (one of my favorites) and also Aaron and Lamoni's father. We all know the story, but at one point of the story, Ammon has Lamoni's father's life in his hands. King Lamoni's father says "...If thou wilt spare me I will grant unto you whatsoever thou will ask, even to half of the kingdom" Fast forward a little and Aaron has just taught this man some doctrine and Lamoni's father feels the spirit and is changed. His whole attitude changes and he says "What shall I do that I may have this Eternal LIfe which thou hast spoken?... Behold, said he, I will give up all that I possess, yea, I will forsake my kingdom, that I may receive this great joy." These scriptures are so profound to me because before Lamoni's father received a mighty change of heart, he valued his life as half of his kingdom, later when he is changed by the Spirit, he is willing to give up anything, even his entire kingdom to receive this joy of eternal life. I think that all of us must experience something similar. In the New Testament, the rich young ruler was asked by the Savior to sell all that he had and give to the poor. Although he was keeping the commandments he was asked to change his heart and put the things of eternity above the world. God promises us endless joy and happiness with our families and sometimes, like Lehi's family, we are asked to leave Jerusalem, but when we are truly converted to the gospel there is nothing that will be more important to us than to receive eternal life. 

That thought got a little longer than I intended but true happiness comes when we put the things of Heaven above things of this world. 

I love you. Have a great week.

Soon to be technology specialist,

Elder Obray