Sunday, June 10, 2018

Pig Farms and Empty Gas Tanks

Like every other week, it is a good week to be a missionary. We had some cute experiences this week that I am excited to share. I really can't believe that it has already been a year since Grandpa passed away... It seems like yesterday that I was sitting in our house in Cedar Rapids reading his obituary. I am forever grateful that I got to grow up with a grandpa like him. He was an example of hard work and love that I will strive to emulate in my own life. Larry is the man. 

I will start this email with an explanation for the subject line. Elder Wood and I were cruising back from Waterloo, Iowa. We had to clean out an apartment there and we checked out their district meeting while we were there. On the way back, we were about an hour north of Des Moines traveling between the booming cities of Ellsworth and Jewell, Iowa. I looked down at our gas gauge and it said that we had 18 miles left in our tank, and that the closest gas station was about 9 miles away. I got a phone call from President Badger which distracted me and I didn't even think about the trailer of furniture we were pulling and how much more gas you need to use so long story short, we ran out of gas at the mid way point between two gas stations. Luckily we ran out of gas right next to an off ramp, but instead of coasting right into a gas station like we did that one time on our way to a soccer tournament, we coasted into the next best thing. A pig farm. Unfortunately the pig guy wasn't very much help, so we began our 5 mile trek to the closest gas station. After about a half mile, we came upon the only house within sight and of course, perfect timing, a woman on a cart came cruising from her backyard. She luckily had a 5 gallon tank of gas and gratefully she hooked us up. Man I was so grateful. She was my hero. She saved the day. Of course we didn't have much to give her in return, but she graciously accepted a Book of Mormon. Who knows? Maybe she will get baptized someday. Fingers crossed!

In other news, our investigator family that I have talked about a little bit, the Bs, are doing so great. The husband is hilarious and he is taking all of the right steps to get baptized here in the next few weeks. We are a little bummed though because they told us that they are going to be traveling down to Texas to be baptized... the wife has family down there so they decided to take a short trip down there for the service. I mean I am not that upset, but I would definitely love to be there. Who knows? Maybe Pres will approve the road trip. haha yeah right! We are stoked for them though. They are such an awesome family and we are stoked for them. 

In other news, my man S the third is getting baptized this weekend. He is the man. We had some really spiritual lessons this week and we are super pumped to help him take this step. He has told us many times that he knows that this is the right church and this is the right time. He is the man. We need to find a new S now. The hunt is on!

I really don't have too much else to report on this week. Just livin the dream out here. Today marks 22 months as a missionary so that is pretty wild. I got an email this week about "my plan" which is basically a training you do in the last six weeks of your mission. Things are heating up a little bit. I don't know what to think haha. 

Have a great week this week. Luv u lots

Future father of a son named Steve,
Elder Obray

We got a new ride this week. Embracing the soccer dad theme from last week.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Steadfast and Immovable

Hey Hey Hey! It was yet another great week here in the Capital. I am at that point in my mission where I am just cruisin, doing what I can to baptize people. I was reading my journal the other day and I always get all sentimental about my mission. I will forever be grateful for all of the good times I have had and also for all of the rougher times I have had. Missions truly are the coolest thing. I am grateful that I have had the privilege of serving one.

I really don't have too much to report on this week. MLC was Tuesday and that is always a day that gives me stomach trouble. It went well though. Elder Wood and I trained on serving with integrity. Mosiah 5 hits it right on the head when it says that we should be steadfast and immovable, ALWAYS abounding in good works... It isn't just when we are around our mission President, or church leaders, but our attitude towards the gospel and our works should be the same in all things. We felt like it went well. It is always good to hear from missionaries that it was a good training and that it helped them. 

Elder Wood and I conducted some exchanges this week in our area, and I got to serve with my old comp Elder Anderson for the day. He is a Zone Leader close by. It was cool to serve with him again. He has changed a lot since we served together more than a year ago. He is still a punk, but he has become a good missionary. We had a good time pounding some pavement and all that jazz. 

Update on S the third. He is doing great. He announced today in Elders Quorum that he is getting baptized on the 16th. We concur. He is an interesting fella for sure, but he has a sincere desire to put his old life behind him and start fresh. Baptism is the best way I can think of to do that. 

A big emphasis in our training was avoiding complacency. It is really easy to think that my faith is strong enough, or my testimony is strong enough, or my current efforts in my calling is enough, but I have always thought that if we are not progressing, we are digressing. True conversion is a lifelong pursuit, not a destination.

Sorry this email is lame, I commit to having a killer email for you all next week. Take it easy!

Love you

Pavement pounder,
Elder Obray

Add caption

Preparing for the future. "Super Dad"

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Miracles Dude

Whats up fam fam? Man what a week. Transfer week is always a wild one, but there were some super killer experiences this week that I am excited to report. Super pumped that you guys got the boat out already. Bummer to hear that J Dog took a hit. It reminds me of that one time we were playing volleyball as a family and I kicked the volleyball and totally wrecked mom in the face. Yikes. There is nothing worse than physically hurting your momma (or momma in law). It has definitely taken a turn for the worse here in DM. The temperature shot right up this week and I feel like I am living in a sauna. It is so crazy. We were helping some members move a play ground thing yesterday and I felt like I was swimming in my slacks. No bueno. All part of the experience though right?

The first miracle to report was in the office. On Monday morning during our staff meeting, President Badger informed us that our mission secretary, Sister Martin was diagnosed with cancer and would be returning back home. We were so bummed to hear it. She is the greatest lady. They caught it pretty early, so it shouldn't be too bad fortunately. That being said, we needed someone to replace her and Elder Martin. We were kind of scrambling for some ideas on who could fill the job, when President said, "I have faith that someone will be here in the office tomorrow to do the job, I don't know who it will be, but someone will be here." Pretty wild right? It gets even better, before the meeting was over, President got a call from a nearby stake president who said that he had people he called, and that they would be in the office for training the next day! So crazy! It was one of those, man this church thing is so true. Definitely an experience that I won't forget any time soon. 

Transfers went just swimmingly this week. It is always good to know that everyone made it safely to their new area and that you didn't mess too many things up. The morning of transfers, President informed us of some surprises that complicated things a little, but it all worked out. Good stuff for sure. Elder Wood and I are staying together... Good stuff, we are best pals, it is always the best to be doing the best work with a buddy. 

We saw another super cool miracle finding this week. We have still been on a major hunt for a prepared family, unfortunately the family I talked about a few weeks ago is struggling a little bit, so we set out to find a different one. We felt impressed to stop by a family that we had never heard of. When we got there, we found a single mother of two who is more than excited to see us, weird, that never happens. As we talked, she started to cry and told us how much she needed a change in her life. She told us that as soon as we left she called her very active parents in Minnesota and they have been praying for this day to come for a while. The prayers of the faithful right? She and her two teenage kids came to church today and are progressing so well. We are pumped for them. We are also working with that other awesome family I talked about last week, they also came to church and are already talking about their baptism in July. The Lord is looking out for us for sure. My man St the third is also looking really good to be baptized in a couple weeks. Blessings on blessings on blessings.

Gotta love being a missionary.

Thats about it for this week. We went bowling again with President Badger and Sister Badger, they were a little embarrassed when I started crying over the 50 that I bowled, but all is well. Haha just kidding, I think I have actually gotten better. I bowled a 174 a while back. No more messing around!

Love you guys! 

Elder Obray

This is Sister Badger's phone. She said that we are definitely the "LDS tools." We agree.

The Martins before they headed back to Tennessee.

Lost but Not Forgotten

Hey Hey Hey! Right? Super dramatic/cheesy subject line. To be honest I am starting to run out of creative things to write in my emails. It was the best to talk to you guys last week. Man I miss you so much. The Badgers had a couple of their daughters here in town for a couple of days and it sure made me miss just sitting around the table laughing with you guys. Some of the best memories were spent in our living room or on our deck after Sunday dinner. Crazy those are getting pretty close! I am definitely grateful that you guys are the ones that are stuck with me forever. I love you.

 We had a killer week this week with a bunch of wild spiritual experiences. So lets get moving.

First things first, we spent a lot of time this week planning transfers... It is a really cool experience. The Badgers really love the missionaries. Transfers are really cool, looking back, I am really grateful for all of my companions, I learned something from every single one. A few times that "something" was patience lol but I needed it.

Second, the subject line isn't that dramatic, but I am definitely bummed about it. I left my camera at a zone conference last week and it hasn't shown up. I haven't backed up my pictures since I was with Elder Milligan so I probably lost like 500 pictures... Sad deal. I left it at a church, so I don't feel like it could have gone very far, but the missionaries in the area have looked for it already. I hope it turns up.

We had a really cool experience on Monday. We finished P Day and were out and about trying to find someone to baptize, when Elder Wood said "Man I wonder how the..." before he could finish, I turned the car around and we were on the road to a part member family's house. Same wave length. She is a less active member and her husband is not a member and they have a daughter who isn't a member either. When we got there, we knocked on the door like five times because we could hear them right inside the room and wouldn't take no for an answer. Luckily they invited us in and we started teaching them the gospel. They are an awesome family. She opened up about some things in her life and the spirit was there. It was great. We will be back every Monday until they are sealed together as a family lol.

Another fun miracle happened with my dude S the third. He is the man. We taught him one really short lesson at a baptism last Saturday. We had a lesson on Friday with him and he told us that he had already quit drinking coffee and tea, and that he was working on quitting smoking. He is super prepared. I think I am morally obligated to name one of my kids Steve now. Something special about that name. He is looking to get baptized next month.

We had some other really great people show up that we are really excited to work with. Gotta love being a missionary.

Things are good these days. Can't complain, Elder Wood and I set some lofty goals for the next couple of transfers, so expect miracles every week from now until August 17th! Have a great week this week I love you!

The Steve Baptizer

Elder Obray

Cute sunset pic in front of a huge city

This wall painting looks just like President Badger

The man himself. We matched for one of the zone conferences. Didn't even plan it.

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