Monday, September 26, 2016

It's a Good Thing Our Apartment Was Built Upon a Rock

This week was wild so buckle up. The week started out fantastic! We had our first Zone Conference and I was able to see some of the boys from the MTC. Strangely, I actually kind of miss the MTC. President and Sister Badger are the greatest. The conference was killer and after we left I felt a refreshing desire to share the gospel. So that is exactly what we did. We went on exchanges that day and we blitzed our area. We were able to find two new investigators! Phil and Christie. Elder Dunford and Elder Casselberry ran into them knocking.  Even better news than that though is our investigator, Diane. She is a 68-year-old woman who grew up Baptist.  We weren't too hopeful about her because she wasn't answering a lot of our calls. It turned out that she got a new phone and had been attending institute at ISU! What a golden investigator right? Once we found this out, we of course got her new info and we taught her a couple of lessons. We were teaching her about the Book of Mormon and she couldn't contain her excitement. She kept saying stuff like "Praise Jesus" and "I'm just so grateful." She is awesome! We invited her to baptism and she gladly accepted! October 22nd is the golden day. She even came to church yesterday and shared her testimony in fast and testimony meeting! Start filling up the font right now! These kinds of experiences make all of the knocking, biking up hills, and all of the disappointment so worth it. I love being a missionary. 

Similar to Layton, the state of Iowa has had some extreme weather. Ames was hit pretty badly but I hear Cedar Rapids is in for it. On Friday morning, we woke up from a text from our Bishop's wife saying their basement flooded and that they needed help! We sprung out of our beds to go over and splashed onto our carpet. Yep our apartment got wrecked. We woke up to the whole apartment soaked. We did our best to get in contact with our landlord, but it was 6:30 in the morning so we had to sit and wait in our apartment for a few hours. We looked around the place and unfortunately we had a lot of stuff get wet. My journal was soaked, copies of the Book of Mormon were ruined and all of our clothes had a pleasant aroma of stinky water to them. What a blessing. We eventually got in contact with our landlord and they were no help. So we ditched the place and went to help people who had it much worse like the Bishop.  We called the mission office on Saturday and they told us to pack up and get all of our stuff out of the house. We spent the majority of Saturday afternoon moving furniture out of the apartment and packing up our clothes. We now live with the Ames 2nd Elders in a one-bedroom apartment. The four of us have gotten very close in these past couple days. Elder Dunford and I brought our mattresses over and we sleep on the floor. Unfortunately because a lot of the stuff we own was sitting in our apartment wet so long, a lot of it has a sweet smell to it. My suitcases both smell like sewer water. Any suggestions on cleaning those? 

Although it was a pretty tough week, it has also probably been my favorite of my mission. There is a reason the church puts so much emphasis on charity. It really does make you happy! Every night this weekend when I got into my bed I was exhausted from working all day, but it felt so dang good. The Lord will bless us more than we can comprehend when we put other's needs before our own. We have a great example of that in the Savior. He put all of our needs before his own and created the Infinite Atonement. So if I can leave a commitment with you guys this week, try to find more opportunities to be charitable. I know you all do that already, but keep an eye out for people who need help. I know that you will notice an increase in happiness and joy as you serve others. 

I love you all more than I can describe. I hope you all have a fantastic week. Remember to smile a little.

Borderline homeless missionary,
Elder Obray

P.S. for the next couple of weeks our address will be 3132 Briarhaven Road #267 Ames Iowa 50010. 

I mean just in case you feel inclined to send any thing my direction haha. 

Monday, September 19, 2016

No Growth in the Comfort Zone

Unfortunately, the investigator pool is pretty shallow still. It is starting to get a little more frustrating. Everyone is religious. That is a good thing mostly, but it is very frustrating to missionaries. We are pretty recognized among the people here. People know the missionaries as the Jesus people, or the Mormon boys. So a lot of people come to the door look through the screen door, recognize us, sigh and then either close the door, or open it just wide enough for them to say they aren't interested. That happens at about half of the doors that are opened. The other half will talk to us for a little bit until we bring up the fact that we are missionaries and they quickly state that they are Lutheran, Methodist or Catholic. There are some outliers of course. Too many people will tell us that they are too comfortable in their own religion or they are too old to change.  Every time we hear that someone is comfortable, I think of that quote about no growth in the comfort zone. I wish that people would realize that there is so much more if they would just hear our message. But never fear! We will keep knocking doors until the Second Coming if we have to. We will find some investigators, I know it. 

These first couple of weeks have been extremely humbling for me. But I have also realized some things. I love the Book of Mormon. I have been reading it every free moment I have these days.  I love that book and I can testify without a doubt that it is the word of God. Joseph Smith wouldn't have suffered the things he did if it wasn't the truth. My love for the Book of Mormon has doubled in just the few short weeks I have been here. I was thinking the other day that even if I knew that that love for the Book of Mormon was the only thing I took away from my mission, I would still fill out my mission papers. I admonish you all to read it a little more and ponder on the words inside. It is more powerful than we can even imagine. 

That is about all that has happened this week. I am learning so much and I am so grateful that I am serving in Iowa. Every once in a while I have this feeling of peace as I look out the window at the acres of corn as we drive by. I know I'm where I am supposed to be, I just need to find the person who I am supposed to meet. 

I love you all so much and I hope you all have an incredible week.

One of the Jesus People,

Elder Obray

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Next Lance Armstrong

This week was a good one. We still aren't having too much success with knocking. We knock close to a hundred doors a week and so far we have only been invited inside two houses. Everybody here is religious, which is a great thing, but at the same time it is the worst. People have already made up their minds to not talk to us before we even open our mouths. Bummer. But hey, we try to leave good impressions so that maybe they will be a little bit more open to the next group of Elders that knock on their door. The work is especially tough on game days here in Ames. Iowa State is right around the corner from our proselyting area so everybody shuts down on Saturdays for game day. We walked around for about an hour and literally every person we talked to said they couldn't hear our message because the game was on. I guess some people may consider football is more important than eternal salvation.

One funny experience from knocking was on Saturday night during the game. We knocked a house and it took a few minutes for the person to open the door, but we heard the TV so we kept knocking. When the lady came to the door, she was easily one hundred and ten years old.  She opened her door and looked through the screen and before we even said anything she yelled "OH COME ON" and slammed the door. We were able to get out a couple words about Jesus so we counted it as an OYM and went to the next door.

It rained a lot this week.  Iowa's rainstorms put Utah's to shame. Unfortunately we didn't have the car this week, (we are in a car share with some Elders in the other Ames ward) so we were cruisin’ around on bikes this week. I’m pretty sure by the end of this transfer the Ames Elders could put together a team for the Tour de France. Nonetheless, my legs are going to be shredded here soon. We had an appointment that was a couple miles away from our apartment, so we put on our rain jackets and got to it. By the time we got to the appointment, I took my shoes off and poured out about a liter of water from each. What a blessing. But it's all worth it. 

Although knocking is incredibly frustrating and demoralizing, I sure love being a missionary. One of these days we are going to knock into a family who is ready to hear the message and they actually won't close the door on us. It will be beautiful.

The Next Lance Armstrong (minus the roids),
Elder Obray

My companion riding into the sunset
Can't really tell here but that is one of the thousands of corn fields around. 
We have to get creative to dry off our shoes because things literally don't dry off here. The humidity keeps things wet for days. My shower towel smells really good.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Challenge Accepted!

HOLY CRAP!! Lindsay, Maxwell is the cutest thing I have seen in a long time. I am so happy for you Lindsay and I know that you will be an incredible mother. Grandpa and Grandma you look real good holding that little guy in your arms, Trev you look alright too. I wish so badly that I could meet him right now and hold him as well. I thought about you a lot this week sis. I made sure I told everyone that I am becoming an uncle this week! Surprisingly, they weren't nearly as excited about it as I was. Hearing about the baby brought tears to my eyes, manly tears of course.

I finally made it to the Promised Land. Iowa is a beautiful place. Our first night we stayed in the mission home and spent some time having some orientations and such. President and Sister Badger are the nicest people you will ever meet. They are awesome. I know that I will learn so much from them. I am stoked. On Thursday, we took a trip to Iowa City for transfers. I met my companion and found out that I will be serving in Ames, Iowa for the next few transfers! My companion's name is Elder Dunford and he is the District Leader. He is a way chill guy and we have already had some fun times. He is from San Diego and was a rugby player back home. He knows the gospel really well and I have much to learn from him. He has been out for six months now.

Ames is a great place, but the work is pretty slow. We do a ton of knocking.  Knocking has an extremely low success rate, so it is really hard to feel productive when nobody wants to hear your message. I came into the mission with only one real progressive investigator and he is a character. To say the least, the area needs a turn around. Challenge accepted. We are already doing some things necessary to get the members fired up with referrals and we are trying some new stuff. Hopefully it gets the work going. People here are pretty religious, which is great, but at the same time it makes teaching really hard. People are really content with their own beliefs and aren't really even open to hearing anything we say. I have been rejected by more people in this short week than I have ever been in my life. Doors slammed, people yell at us a little bit, but my favorite is when people walk to the door look through the glass in the door and then just turn around. It sure makes missionaries feel good. But it is all necessary and I know that if we keep trying we will be successful. 

Although this week has honestly been a tough one, I know that the Lord needs me here. No matter how bad I want to be back home holding Maxwell, I would never cut my mission short. I have a lot of work to do. I love being a missionary already and I know these next 23 months will fly by as fast as the first did. 

I love you all so much and I hope you have a killer week.

Maxwell's favorite uncle,

Elder Obray

Elder Obray with President and Sister Badger

Elder Obray with his companion, Elder Dunford