Monday, October 31, 2016

Trials Shall be but a Small Moment

Happy Halloween from the Midwest! Halloween on a mission is the best, especially when it falls on a P-Day. Usually P-Day ends at 6, but because people will be trick or treating and because it would be pretty dangerous for missionaries to proselyte in a college town, we have the whole day to pile (pretty much be an unproductive missionary) because we have to be back in our apartments at 6:30. It is a blessing for sure! 

On a more serious note, the work here in Ames continues to be incredibly slow. If I thought that the beginning of my mission was the trial of my faith, I was wrong. Transfer number two is kinda kicking my butt. We have a couple investigators but we aren't sure how promising either one is going to be. I have found it pretty difficult to get excited to knock on doors for hours, nobody letting us inside their homes, and definitely no potential investigators. But I can feel it, a solid investigator is coming this week.

The other night one of our potentials got anti'd by her preacher son and decided that it was no longer appropriate to have a Book of Mormon in her home. We were devastated when she told us she no longer wanted us to come by. There we were bummed out, slowly getting into our car when Elder Dunford played a really great talk. It is called Missionary Work and the Atonement.  It is basically a compilation of talks by President Eyring and Elder Holland. Elder Holland mentions something along the lines of, as a missionary you will often wonder why it is so hard and ask why it has to be so difficult to be a missionary. His reply hit me right in the heart. The reason that missionary work and sharing the gospel is so difficult is because it is so worth it. Salvation doesn't come cheap. Even the Savior of the World, the Son of God was rejected and asked if there was any other way. I am pretty much slaughtering the lesson I learned but I admonish you guys to look it up. Basically after listening to this talk, those feelings of disappointment and discouragement were absent and I had a new desire to share my testimony with the world. 

On a mission there are so many times when you don't want to leave your apartment in the morning and there are times when getting out of bed seems impossible, but there are also a lot of times when you want to run down the street yelling your testimony and shouting for joy because we had a great lesson or somebody accepted an invitation to read the Book of Mormon. At the end of the day or week, or at the end of the transfer, you don't look back on all of the bad things that happened or all of the doors you knocked, you look back on all of the great lessons you had with people and the killer experiences we are having. Without the bitter, the sweet wouldn't be as sweet right? 

The moral of the story is slow weeks like the ones we are going through in Ames are going to make it that much better when we aren't having such slow weeks. The great thing is that our "trials shall be but a small moment". These slow times never last long.  Sometimes you just have to grit your teeth and take it so that we can be trusted enough to have good weeks. 

Excuse the tangent and excuse how long this email is. I will wrap it up here. All in all, even though things are pretty tough right now, I love being a missionary. I was thinking about how great it is going to be to look back on how much I have grown on my mission. I have grown a lot in just the first couple of months. There is a reason that young men are commanded to serve missions. My love for the gospel is more than I could have imagined. It is the truth when people say that the first conversion of your mission will be yourself. I have strengthened my testimony more in these first few months than I have my entire life. 

I love you all so much and I think about you all of the time. I miss you a little as well. 

Have an amazing week.

Currently wearing a tie with elephants on it,

Elder Obray

Monday, October 24, 2016

Sometimes You are the Statue

Hey Hey Hey! Man, if I am being honest this week was a pretty ordinary week. I hear that it is pretty common to have a slow week the week right after a baptism, what a true statement. I will do my best to keep this email entertaining and exciting to read, but don't expect anything too miraculous. 

Diane got confirmed yesterday! What a great experience. The ward has been so great to her so far. I don't doubt that she will fit right in with the Mormons. When Elder Dunford finished her confirmation and blessing, she had tears streaming down her cheeks. She was so excited to be a member of the church! She is such a great lady and I am going to miss seeing her all the time. I kind of feel like a proud parent taking his kid to preschool for the first time.

I do have a little bit of a funny experience to share. We were teaching Diane one of the New Member lessons this week.  We had knocked for the majority of the morning and it was a little warm outside. We were on bikes so it was extremely refreshing to step into her cool apartment. As we were teaching her the Restoration, my eyes started to get a little heavy. She began telling us a story that we had heard before. I did my best to stay focused, but I started to doze off a little bit. This went on for a few minutes until eventually I started to fall asleep. I wasn't completely out so I still had an idea of what was happening. Diane finished her story and Elder Dunford began leading the lesson along again. He didn't realize that my head was laid back on the couch and my eyes were closed. He finished his part and I half-consciously noticed the silence that is usually the indicator that it was my turn to take over. I sat up straight and said, "After Jesus and his apostles were killed, eventually the earth entered into a state of apostasy!" Diane looked back at me confused and Elder Dunford busted up laughing.  It turns out that we weren't quite to that part of the lesson yet and I had skipped some major points in the lesson. I laughed and was able to get my foot out of my mouth and we continued the lesson. Luckily Diane is such a nice lady because I was embarrassed! All part of the missionary experience I guess. 

Other than those wonderful experiences it has been a pretty slow week. We were dropped by a couple of our potentials. We are basically back to square one. Let's just say that my door approaches are going to be fire here in the next couple weeks. We have knocked a lot this week but haven't been able to find any potentials. But of course we keep trying and keep knocking. It is all worth it once you find that one person who expresses even the slightest interest. 

One thing that is kinda cool in Iowa is that everyone who lives here has either lived in Utah or has family there, especially in the Mormon community.  I am pretty sure that half of the members in our ward are Utah natives. When people heard that I was from Utah I immediately became known as the "Tall One from Utah" to the people who can't remember my name. What a blessing.

We were at Jimmy John's this week and I read a quote on the wall. It said, "Not every day is a sunny day, some days you are the pigeon and some days you are the statue." Let’s just say this week I was a tall, skinny missionary statue. But of course a new week brings new opportunities. I don't doubt that we will find a new investigator this week. We just have to keep on moving forward. 

I sure do love you guys and I think about you a lot. I hope you all have an awesome week. Be the Pigeon this week!

The tall one from Utah,

Elder Obray

Monday, October 17, 2016

It's a Good Thing I Have Been Working Out

How's it going? Man, what a great week over in Ames. It seems like Utah and Iowa are going through similar changes in the season. The trees in Ames are all huge so it so pretty when all of the leaves change colors. That also implies that there are a lot of leaves falling on the ground too. We help a lot of people rake leaves. Gotta love being a missionary. Unfortunately, Iowa also goes through similar weather changes as Utah. One part of the day will be overcast and rainy and then by the end of the day it's around 80 degrees. It makes it tough to plan for the weather. Good stuff. 

I will jump right into this week. Oh man it was a good one. I'm sure you are all dying to hear about our baptism on Saturday. I will do my best to do the baptism justice. We woke up and had our regular morning routine. The baptism wasn't until noon so we had a while to study and exercise and such. We were doing some companionship studies when Diane called us and told us that she was lost trying to find the church. Yep it was only like 10 at this point. Diane arrived to her baptism two hours early. She was stoked. We quickly got ready and went to meet her. We gave her some baptismal clothing and some herbal tea. Side story: we went over to her apartment last week to visit and came in to her heating up a pot of tea. We told her that unfortunately tea was against the Word of Wisdom.  When she realized that she was doing something wrong, she handed us the whole container of tea and told us to throw it away for her. She has so much faith, it is fantastic. We rewarded her obedience with some herbal tea to replace the green and sweet tea she was making. 

Back to the baptism, the service was going great and then it came time to do the baptism. We walked to the font and she told me that it was the best day of her life. She is honestly such a cute lady. When we got to the font I looked down into the water and it looked a little shallow but didn't think too much of it. I was asked to baptize her so I walked into the font and discovered that the water only reached to about my knee... OH MAN. There wasn't much we could do at this point as the people in attendance filed into the room. So I just decided to go for it anyway. Diane came into the font with me and I said the prayer and proceeded to dunk her. Because the water was so shallow I basically had to take all of her body weight into my arms and lower her down horizontally. I'm sure it was quite the sight to see. When I tried to bring her back up I instinctively let out an "Oh boy" as I struggled to bring her back up. Diane was no help. She didn't think anything was wrong.  Unfortunately I wasn't able to get her completely immersed the first try so I repeated the baptism. We got it right that time. Haha although it was kind of a mess, she was still baptized and she stilled received the first half of a saving ordinance so it all works out. I will have to explain it better when we face time on Christmas. The baptism as a whole was fantastic. 

Times like Saturday make all of the hard work worth it. All of the slammed doors and angry people are forgotten and we can reap the blessings of our hard work. The Lord is blessing us a lot. Elder Dunford and I might give Alma and Amulek a run for their money.  Seeing the way the gospel can change someone is a sight to see. It is definitely a testament to me of the truthfulness of the message we share.  

The rest of the week pales in comparison to the baptism so I won't bore you guys with those stories. Basically we found a couple new investigators and have been teaching a lot of lessons! Things are looking up here in Ames. Trevor one of our investigators is a Filipino woman. She is awesome and she will for sure be getting baptized here in the next couple months. So stay tuned. 

We did get back into our apartment and we have fresh new carpet. The place looks real nice. It is nice to have some space again and some quiet during studies.

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

I guess I'll be Amulek,

Elder Obray

Monday, October 10, 2016

"It's true! Everyone needs to hear this!"

What a great week over here in Ames. A lot happened so find a comfy seat, Mom get a Diet Coke. Lets get to it. 

Where to even start. Unfortunately we still aren't back into our apartment. We are hopefully planning on getting moved back in tomorrow. It will be good to be back in 1305 Duff Avenue. We have new carpet so the place is looking real nice. It does smell pretty good at this moment, but I'm sure that damp smell of a basement apartment in Iowa will soon return. 

We planned to teach our new investigator Hoarace on Wednesday, but when we got to the member/fellowshipper's house he wasn't around. We sat and talked to the member for a while but he didn't show up. We told the member that we should probably head out and get some work done when Hoarace finally showed up. Unfortunately we were already waiting for about an hour so we didn't have much time to teach him left. The member, Brother Holland then asked me if I would be willing to give Hoarace a blessing. I accepted and was able to give him the blessing. What a great experience! The priesthood is an incredible thing and I am grateful everyday for the privilege that it is to hold it. 

Of course, I have to talk about our girl Diane. She is soo solid. We went over to her apartment this week and taught her about degrees of glory and she ate it up! She said after the lesson that she wanted to run down the streets shouting "It's true! Everyone needs to hear this!" Her baptism is this Saturday and we couldn't be more excited for her. The ward loves her already. I don't think that she will have any trouble getting comfortable with the Mormons. I will let you know next week how that baptism goes.

Transfers are this week. It is so crazy that I have already been through an entire transfer! Time is cruising by! It feels like just yesterday I was getting dropped off at the MTC. Plus I hear that your first couple of transfers are the longest of your mission. If that is the case I better not blink or I will miss the whole thing! Lucky for me, I am still training so Elder Dunford and I will be sticking around Ames for at least one more transfer. So no exciting news on that this time.

Get ready for a super cheesy but fire analogy. This week we were riding our bikes to an appointment. I felt like my legs were getting really tired. I got a little frustrated with myself and thought, "Really? I am tired already? I must be out of shape." By the time we got to our appointment my legs were fried (Ames has a lot of hills and such). Elder Dunford then decided to tell me that my tires were flat. He rode behind me the whole time and didn't think to tell me that my tires were flat, what a punk. After the lesson we filled up the tires and I felt like a new man. The bike was so much smoother and I actually felt like I didn't weight 400 pounds. Later in the day I was having a Walter Mitty moment and thought of a cute analogy. So often, we try to rely solely on our own strength and abilities to get us to our destination. We work hard and keep moving forward, little do we know that without our Savior's help, we are just riding with flat tires. We soon accept that maybe this is just how life is, maybe life is supposed to be hard. All we have to do is put some air into our tires! Heavenly Father is our eternal air supply. The way gets so much easier when we are humble enough to realize that the Lord can take the load off of our shoulders. If we listen to the prophet's counsel and do the simple things, like reading the scriptures and attending church meetings, we are ensuring that our tires are pumped up. We are entitled to the Lord's help when we do the things he commands. We will then find that when we face hills in our lives, the road still won't be easy, but it is made easier when we have the Lord on our side. Simple truths man. How's that for a corny analogy? I love them haha.

Have a good week

Future Primary Teacher,

Elder Obray
"No Personal Dumping Allowed"
Colleen looks just like Grandpa! She was the first woman that I could hug while on my mission. Good stuff. 

This was a sunrise not a sunset, but it still looks pretty good. The sky here is huge so you can see for forever. 

Monday, October 3, 2016

Choose to Be Happy

To start off this email I'm just gonna say that conference was the greatest. It is such a blessing to be able to hear modern day prophets and apostles speak to us. The Ames district watched all of the sessions at our Stake Center (which is about the size of a regular ward building in Utah). I felt like one person after another was giving killer talks that were so applicable. By the subject title, I'm sure you can guess that my favorite talk of the weekend was President Nelson's. I will give a cute little spiritual thought at the end of this email. 

Things are starting to cool off a little bit here in Ames. I have officially broken out the long sleeve shirts. It gets pretty chilly in the evenings.  I do have to say that Iowa sunsets might give Utah’s sunsets a run for its money. They are beautiful. The sky here is HUGE!  It seems as though you can see forever when you are away from the city. I will try to snag some pictures this week. 

This week was solid. Nothing too extravagant happened though. Elder Dunford and I are still teaching our girl, Diane. She came to all of the sessions of conference and even stayed for a baptism for one of the Ames 2nd Elders. When we told her that there was a baptism she got so excited.  She thought that she was getting baptized! We unfortunately told her that she had to wait a couple more weeks. But we did move her baptism up to the 15th. She is so great! 

Unfortunately we are still living with the Ames 2nd Elders. It gets pretty crowded sometimes, but it is nice to have other Elders to talk to.  We should be getting back into our own apartment this week, hopefully. They have to replace all of the carpet because they waited so long to get it out.  A bunch of mold got into the carpet. Lets just say that the apartment smells like springtime. 

Like I mentioned earlier, my favorite talk was President Nelson. One of my favorite quotes from the talk is that, "saints can be happy under every circumstance." How true that is! Our pal Travis (an investigator) said this week that one of his friends told him that she doesn't think Mormons are ever sad. Consider one of my favorite scriptures, Mosiah 2:41 when it says "consider on the blessed and happy state of those who keep the commandments". Saints CAN be happy because we know that there is always light at the end of the tunnel. We know that Christ suffered for our sins. We know that we can be forgiven of our shortcomings. That is why we call the Gospel of Jesus Christ "The Good News."

We started teaching a new investigator this week. His name is Hoarace and he has had quite the life.  He came to us through a member referral. He is such a humble man.  He sincerely wants to change his life and make things right with God and his family. In one of our lessons this week he was down in the dumps and he was being extremely hard on himself. It was sad to hear him look back on the things that he has done and the consequences from those actions. I was able to look him in the eyes and tell him that through the atonement of Jesus Christ, all things can be made right. I testified that he can feel the joy that only the atonement can provide. The spirit was incredible. Times like that are when I love being a missionary the most. 

To conclude this email I want to add my testimony. Happiness is a choice. We can be happy in any circumstance. We have the good news of the gospel. What is there to be sad about? I'm not saying that we won't go through trials, because we definitely will.  At times we might be discouraged, but our Savior took not only our sins upon him, but the pains and afflictions as well. The church becomes more and more true with every passing day. I love Iowa, I love being a missionary, and I sure love the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

I hope you all have an amazing week. 
 I love you.
Choose to be Happy

Elder Obray