Monday, November 28, 2016

One Year Older and Wiser Too?

Hey Hey Hey! Another great week here in Ames. I spent the majority of the first part of last Monday in Iowa City for the new trainers meeting. There were only seven new missionaries this transfer. I felt like a little kid sitting at the adult table at Thanksgiving dinner meeting all of the other trainers. It is really weird to think about how I was the one coming to Iowa just a little more than three months ago. It is also weird to think that I am 19 and have been on a mission for almost four months. I still feel like I am a deacon just barely getting the priesthood. Time is flying by! I was thinking this morning that I only have one more birthday on my mission. Two years seems like a minute when you think about it like that! 

I am sure you are eager to hear about my child that entered the mission world this week. His name is Elder Balderston from Farmington, Utah. Crazy enough we actually knew each other back home. We have some mutual friends and we actually hung out a few times back in the day. Small world I guess. From what I hear the first week of training is always the toughest and I will defend that statement. It is pretty stressful making all of the plans, scheduling the appointments and nursing a new missionary.  I sure hope that I will be able to get the hang of it here in the next few weeks. I really am going to miss Elder Dunford though. We had such a great time together and it turns out that we actually had a lot in common. I will forever remember my trainer in a positive way and I hope that my boy will be able to say the same thing. That being said, Elder Balderston and I already get along pretty well so it is going to be a killer few months.

I am really excited for the next couple of transfers. We are working with a new mission leader, and things are starting to heat up already. We have desperately tried to get the ward fired up about referrals in the past, but with no real success. Fortunately that is starting to change! I can already tell that the ward members are starting to get into that missionary spirit. Hopefully I will be able to bring good news about all of the lessons we taught! We already have more appointments than usual this week! I guess it must be harvest season! 

Unfortunately I don't really have anything else to really report on. Besides the birth of my son and Thanksgiving, it was a very average week. We knocked a lot of doors and talked to some really nice people. For the most part, people reject salvation in a pretty nice way. 

Have a great week!

Poppa Obray

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Enjoy the Journey

Holy Cow. Although it has only been a couple of days since I wrote you guys last, I have a ton to update you guys on. This week has been incredibly crazy. I have also learned a ton. Because this week was so crazy, This email might be a little bit of a novel so like always I wouldn't be offended if you took it in pieces. Read a little now and maybe the rest some other day.

To jump into it. The beginning of the week was pretty standard, lots of knocking, teaching some lessons and talking to less actives. We are working a lot with a less active member. He has been a member of the church for quite a long time, but has seemed to lost motivation to attend church. He works the night shifts at Wal-Mart so it is hard for him to work up the desire to attend church on Sunday mornings. We have been visiting him quite a bit and he has actually started to show up to church a little more! We are excited for him. We set a date for him to work toward going back to the temple. I miss the temple so much!

It started to heat up a little bit on Thursday. Elder Dunford and I have been teaching a guy for as long as I have been here. He is a super religious guy and he knows the Bible really well. He even organized a bible study for his military group. He is a stud. We have only been able to teach him a couple times because he is so busy so we haven't seen a ton of progress. We taught him again on Thursday and it was fantastic. We were talking about the importance of the Book of Mormon in conversion and the spirit was so strong. Even if he didn't feel it, I know that my testimony of the Book of Mormon grew a bunch. He committed to read the Book of Mormon and pray about it. My writing definitely doesn't compensate for how great the lesson actually was, so you will just have to take my word for it.

Friday we had mission tour. Basically a general authority comes to our mission and we have an entire daylong meeting about missionary work. Elder Anderson from the seventy came out to Des Moines and it was an amazing experience. He and President Badger gave incredible trainings that pretty much rocked my world. I noticed a theme through out the meeting though. What I learned is the importance of gratitude. You guys know me so you know that my mind wanders a little bit. This was the case during one a part of the training. I was thinking about my emails home and I realized that my usual emails are usually focused more on what ISN'T going on in our area. I realized that I forget to mention all of the great things that happen in Ames.  Although it is a pretty hard area, I have learned so much here. My testimony of the scriptures has multiplied ten times over in just the short few months I have been here. I have been required to strengthen my testimony because devout members of other Christian faiths are constantly challenging it. Let's just say I have benefited immensely from serving in Ames. I love the ward here. There are amazing families in Ames that I will remember for a long time. Although it is pretty dang hard sometimes, I have learned to trust that I am being molded into something better because of the hardship I face. Because of that I have grown a ton as a missionary and as a member of the church.

I think that that Walter Mitty/ Revelatory experience was the preparation for the news I received this morning. Buckle up! During studies this morning we got a call from President Badger relaying our transfer information. President only calls the companionships that are receiving leadership positions. I answered the phone and got ready to hand it over to Elder Dunford. President then said he wanted to talk to me! My heart started beating pretty fast and I started to get a little sweaty haha. He told me that I would be staying in Ames this transfer and that I am going to be having a son (in missionary speak that means I will be training a new missionary). Holy cow I almost passed out right there. I feel like one of the teenagers on 16 and Pregnant! Young, immature and hardly prepared to bring a new life into the world (or into the mission). Of course I accepted the call but am extremely nervous. I hardly feel like I can be a missionary by myself, now I have to train another one. Poor kid is going to struggle! Haha I obviously felt a wave of inadequacy at the call, but President Badger told me that he has complete confidence in me! I had the thought in my head that "Whom the Lord calls he qualifies." It is going to be quite the experience, but I am really excited to learn with another new missionary. It is going to require me to better my study habits and learn a lot more about the New and Old Testaments.  I won't meet my new companion until Wednesday so I will have to update you next week on all the details of the delivery. Keep the poor kid in your prayers!

The rest of the week pales in comparison to this weekend. Elder Dunford is heading down south to Des Moines to be a district leader there. He is going to do great. I have loved being his companion these past two transfers. I have learned so much from him. I am going to miss him a ton. But of course he won't be too far away and I will see him at all of our mission conferences. Good stuff.

I will end this email with a cute little spiritual thought. During the meetings yesterday, I heard a quote that really stuck out to me. It was that we should "Enjoy the Journey." This is something I have kind of struggled with in the past couple weeks. I have kind of had a salty attitude about knocking doors with very few results. I was only enduring my time in Ames. I have come to realize that it is not only important for us to "Endure to the End," but we are to "Enjoy to the End." One of my favorite scriptures is in 2 Nephi 2:25. There it says, "Adam fell that men might be, and men are that they might have JOY." We are meant to enjoy our lives here on earth. I am meant to enjoy my mission not just endure for two years and then go home.

That thought made me sound like I haven't enjoyed my mission. That is absolutely not true. I have loved my mission. I would be lying if I said that I have loved every second, but looking back on my short months in Ames, I realize how much I really have loved this place. I so look forward to spending two more transfers here!

Have a great Thanksgiving.

Expecting Father,

Elder Obray

Just one picture this week from Mission Tour. The missionary right next to me with the dark hair is my Grandpa and the missionary on the far left is my Great Grandpa. You know Elder Dunford as my Dad. What a blessing to continue that wonderful lineage. 

Monday, November 14, 2016

If They'd Just Listen to the Truth!

Last night Elder Dunford and I were walking around a pond talking to people trying to reach our OYM goal. We found a ton of cars in the parking lot and there were actually a lot of people just walking around. The jackpot for missionaries. We excitedly got out of the car and got to it. We had only talked to a few people when we ran into an older gentleman and his dog. The conversation quickly escalated and we found out that he knew all about the Mormon Church, so he thought. We run into a problem here in Ames when people claim to know everything about our faith because they have read books about the Book of Mormon or books about the Joseph Smith. We quickly ask if they have actually read the Book of Mormon and nine times out of ten the answer is no. This was the case for this man. He started listing off all of these things he had heard about the Mormon Church and of course we did our best to debunk all of the false things he was claiming. Long story short, we would ask him questions and he would change the subject. At one point I asked the simplest question I could think of. I said, "Do you think God loves all of us?" He thought for a second and responded with a question that was clearly intended to criticize in a mean way some of the sacred doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  I fought the urge to push him into the pond but walked away instead. It's frustrating that people often won't take time to learn about the gospel directly from us, the Lord's missionaries. It's amazing how many tools the adversary uses to distract people from the truth. 

We run into a lot of people that like to try to prove us wrong. Fortunately, my knowledge of the scriptures is improving quite a bit so Elder Dunford and I are usually able to back up our beliefs. Of course in a without debating in an inappropriate way! 

I had a pretty cool experience this week. Because it was my senior comp week, I was able to make a couple more of the decisions on how we spend our time. That being said, we spent the whole week taking naps and watching movies. Haha just kidding of course! On Saturday night we were walking down the street looking for people to talk to when we walked by some college dorms. These dorms are always locked. As we walked by, I had this thought that I should try to open one of the doors, I did so and found it open. Weird. We decided that we had to knock it then. We were on the second floor when a couple walked by. We talked to them for a second and they continued up the stairs to their floor. We kept knocking and the guy came out of his apartment to talk to us for a while. We were able to talk to him about the Book of Mormon and he wants to read it. Gotta follow those spiritual promptings that is for sure. Hopefully I will have news about him next week!

It is our last week of transfer number two. More importantly I only have one more week of training! It will be so nice to put the greeny phase behind me! The trainer usually gets transferred after training so I am going to miss Elder Dunford. He has been such a great companion and I have learned so much from him. Hopefully my next companion will be great too. Transfer day falls on Thanksgiving this year so they decided to bump the transfer day to Monday and move our next P day to Saturday. So expect another email from me on Saturday. Hopefully by then I will know some more about next transfer. 

Sorry this email was kind of a dud. I will do my best to have incredible experiences to report on Saturday! I love you all and I hope you have a killer week. 

Elder Obray

Monday, November 7, 2016

What Does it Say in the White Handbook?

It sure was a good week over in Ames. The weather here has been fantastic! Everyone is so pumped because it never stays this warm this late into the season. Along with this warm weather means a lot more leaves to rake too. There are massive trees here so you can imagine the leaf output is magnificent. This brings me to my first story. Elder Dunford and I were raking leaves for one of our potentials this week. She has two huge trees in her front yard so we spent the better part of the afternoon raking them into a massive pile (to jump in of course). By the time we finished, the pile was huge so of course I jumped into it. After we messed around for a second, the mission veil was lifted for a second and I remembered that I was a pretty good high jumper back in the day. I decided to consult the white handbook to make sure there weren't any rules on doing the Fosbury flop into a pile of leaves and found that I was in the clear. It made me miss the good old days and made me real excited to get up to USU when I get home. Unfortunately the landing was not nearly as pleasant as I assumed. My back was sore for the next couple of days but it was all worth it! Who said I wouldn't be able to practice on my mission?

We went on exchanges twice this week. Because Elder Dunford is the district leader, we went with the Ames 2nd Elders on Wednesday and went with our zone leaders up in Fort Dodge on Thursday. I was able to lead the area for a day when we went with the 2nd Elders. I was pretty nervous but found that it is definitely not as hard as I thought. We ran into a few potentials that we are going to stop by to see this week.  It is also my senior companion week this week. I will be able to take the lead in our finding and teaching. I am super stoked to experience what it is like to be a senior companion because I am pretty sure I will remain a junior companion for the rest of my mission! Haha hope not!  I will let you know how the week goes. Pray that our area won't tank even more than it already has!

There wasn't really anything else that was incredibly special. I wish I could say that our area is heating up but unfortunately it is encouraged that missionaries refrain from lying. The work is still slow and our investigator pool is still about as shallow as a shower (quote curse of curves). Fortunately I still had a great week. I had a refreshing optimism the whole week even though we only taught one lesson to an investigator and a couple recent convert lessons with Diane. I guess prayers really are answered. Remember that fire email I sent a couple weeks ago about choosing to be happy? It works!

One great thing that I haven't mentioned before in any of my emails: Growing up I never really had any major doubts about the church and nobody really questioned why I had a testimony, not even myself. I have a great family and my life was pretty good. I had a testimony of the Book of Mormon and that's all I really needed. The more I study the scriptures, the stronger my testimony grows because there is proof all over the scriptures that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is the only true church. My testimony of the church only grows stronger when someone wants to bash us or when they tell us that they are worried about our salvation. If only people knew how much sense the church makes. I love the gospel with everything I have. I am eternally grateful for our Savior Jesus Christ. 

I love you guys so much and I hope you all have an incredible week. Share your testimony with someone. I promise it feels good. 

Call me Elder Fosbury,
Elder Obray

P.S. quote of the week: "Missionary work is not easy because salvation is not a cheap experience!" Read it with some fire in your voice like Elder Holland does. 

Still got it. Kind of.. Notice the Book of Mormon in hand!

I love the houses here! They are so classy.

The only wild life Iowa has to offer. They are literally everywhere you look.