Monday, January 30, 2017

Happy Chinese New Year

Happy Birthday to two of the coolest guys on the block. Bob, Trevor, I hope you have marvelous birthdays this week. Your presents are going in the mail today, don't feel obligated to use them. I just thought you guys could use some ISU gear. Yep that was a spoiler. 

Good news! My hair is growing back much faster than I thought! I am starting to look younger and younger every day. God does answer prayers I guess! It has been quite the week over here in good ole Ames. Probably not as good as your week though Mom and Dad. A week in Hawaii sounds like a dream come true. You guys have it rough. If it makes you feel any better, the weather in Ames continues to be Hawaii-like. We had a couple days this week when the weather broke 30 degrees! What a blessing. This email is probably going to be a little long so I will jump into it. Like always feel free to take it in chunks.  

It was a great week. On Wednesday, we had the World Wide missionary broadcast. Basically, the missionary executive committee puts together a presentation/discussion and we all get to tune in. Elders Oaks, Bednar, and Anderson all gave killer speeches as well. They talked a lot about the Doctrine of Christ and it gave me a much-needed boost in Spirits. They also made some pretty intense changes to our Key Indicators (the numbers we report to our leaders) which was pretty intense. We will no longer be reporting OYM's or lessons or anything of the sort. They put a lot of trust in the missionaries which I really like. The Brethren are so inspired it is unreal. 

Friday night was Chinese New Year so of course we rounded up all our Asian friends (aka Q and his friend J) and threw a party. We all went to Q’s apartment and cooked up some mean dumplings. Q's roommate is a way cool guy from Chile. So, picture this two Chinese guys, a Chilean and two Mormon missionaries listening to Chinese dubstep music and making dumplings. In every sense of the word, it was lit! I have a cute picture of Q and I that I will attach. 

I will end this email with some sweet experiences from this weekend. Elder Balderston and I have kind of been on a teaching drought. This isn't that unusual. On Friday, we were leaving a member dinner when a woman walked by. She was walking by herself so I wasn't super pumped on yelling out after her and scaring her. But I had a thought that "What are the odds that she walks by right as we are leaving a dinner?" So I yelled out to her. She turned around and walked back to us, which is crazy because usually people don't even turn around and just wave their hands. She told us that she is moving to Moab, Utah in a couple weeks and that she has been trying to find a religion that suits her. We told her about the Book of Mormon and she said she has always wanted to read it! WHAT! I excitedly told her that I knew a couple of guys that walk around all day that carry free copies of the Book of Mormon. We are excited to see where it goes with her! 

The second experience happened just last night. We were doing some knocking again and before we started we committed ourselves to find a new investigator. We asked the Big guys for some help and got to it. The first door we knocked on was answered by a woman named A, she is from Columbia and recently moved here with her two kids. She also told us that she has been looking for a church and hasn't been able to find one that she likes. She then explained that she has a cousin who is Mormon and that she has always wanted to learn more about it. BAM. The church is true. We got her information, gave her a copy of the Book of Mormon and took off. We kept knocking and a couple doors later we ran into a guy named I from Ghana. He was baptized a few years ago and just moved from Ghana to start school here. He lit up when he found out that we were Mormon missionaries. He hasn't been able to look for the ward yet so we gladly told him where it was. He is married so we are going to try to teach his wife here soon. Man, of course we start to find a bunch of solid people right as I am about to leave this place. Hopefully they will be super solid and will get baptized in the next two weeks. Fingers crossed.

All in all, it was a fantastic week. Very frustrating at times and there are also times when going out to knock seems impossible, but this work is the best work, I love it. Sorry this email was so long but I hope you have a fantastic week! I love you guys!

The best dumpling chef in Ames,
Elder Obray

Monday, January 23, 2017

"We Invite, They Commit, We Follow Up"

Hey Hey Hey! If I said that this week was my favorite of my mission, I would definitely be a liar. It was kind of one those weeks where nothing extra exciting happened, but as always I will do my best to keep this email subpar. 

I will start off with a wonderful experience that happened right after I logged off last Monday. My hair was getting a little long so we decided that it was time for a trim. We were kind of pressed for time so we ran into Great Clips. First mistake. Great Clips is great because of the minimal time it takes for the ladies to give people haircuts, but I would say the haircut was mediocre at best. By the time the lady was done, she had pretty much buzzed my hair off. Yep I am pretty sure I aged about fifteen years in about ten minutes. I looked like a father of two when I walked away from the chair. I guess on a mission is the best time to get a bad haircut, but man my confidence took a major hit. In case you were wondering, I don't look very good with a buzz cut.  Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures, so you will have to take my word for it. I pray that my hair will grow back extra fast. 

One cool thing that happened this week was on Thursday night we were doing some knocking; we ran into a couple from Sri Lanka. They invited us in and we started to teach them about the gospel. He is Buddhist and has no Christian background so it might be a little bit of a challenge, but we are stoked for them. They even accepted an invitation to be baptized.

To put the cherry on top of a wonderful week, on Friday we were parallel parked at our ward mission leader’s house. It was a marvelous parking job, Jonathan you would have been proud. When we were getting back into the car, Elder Balderston was talking on the phone and opened his door too wide and the corner of the door got stuck in the grass. I didn't realize this and we were running late so I started to back up. The car moved but the corner of the door didn't. Basically, I bent the corner of the door a little way and there is a sweet dent in the front of the door. I'm an idiot! Hopefully when we go and get an estimate on it, it will cost less than 1500 dollars. If not, I won't be driving for eighteen months. Fingers crossed. 

Well to conclude this email I will practice some missionary work on you guys. There is a topic in Preach My Gospel that says, "We invite, they commit, we follow up." I asked a few weeks ago if you guys could shoot me some music and piano music and some other things. I just wanted to follow up on the progress that those items are making. I will be persistent in the matter. 

I love you guys and I hope you have a marvelous week.

The middle-aged Elder,
Elder Obray

Monday, January 16, 2017

The Straight and Narrow

Hey Hey Hey! It has been a great week! I feel like the number of bad weeks are definitely going down! That is always good news right?  Like normal I will give an update on the crazy weather conditions that are accustomed to Iowa. The weather this week has been fantastic! It has been above 25 degrees for most of the week (that is saying a lot if you are an Iowan). Of course the mornings and evenings are pretty frigid, but the majority of the days you could get by not even wearing a scarf and only one pair of gloves, what a blessing! Currently the whole city of Ames is shutting down. It is raining pretty hard right now and that is no bueno. When it rains in the winter, the temperature changes so fast that all the rain on the ground quickly turns to ice making it super sketchy. People can't even get in their cars half of the time because their doors freeze over. It is pretty crazy. That is enough about the weather.

Elder Balderston and I went through our phone and area book this week and decided to call everyone that has either been a potential investigator or former investigator. We called about a hundred people and ended up with a new investigator and some appointments. What a blessing! I will let you know what happens! 

I was thinking that I haven't really included any spiritual thoughts in a while. Because I am the senior companion, one of my responsibilities is driving the car. Driving in Iowa is much different than Utah because the roads are much more narrow and there are no turning lanes. I have found myself cruising down the road having a Walter Mitty moment when Elder Balderston will yell at me just in time for me to swerve out of the way of the car in my lane waiting to turn left. It also makes it much more intense when there is a fresh layer of ice on the road or a layer of slick snow. Fortunately, I am not the only person who has driven on the road. There are tracks from other cars who have already driven on the same street, making it much easier to drive on because the road has already been traveled down. This is just like our mortal experience here on earth. A lot of times we are driving down the road with all kinds of potential hazards and things that could inhibit our safety. Fortunately, the Savior of the World has traveled down this road before us. He has showed us the way and it is simply up to us to follow in his footsteps and follow the tracks. Luckily for us, "the way for man is narrow, but it lieth in a straight course before him" (2 Nephi 9:41). We have even been given a passenger seat driver to make sure we are on the right track and who helps us stay away from danger. This is the Holy Ghost. Every road we travel down and every trial we face, Jesus Christ has been there before. He knows how to help us and he knows the best way for us to avoid potential hazards. We simply have to follow him. 

Thank you for reading my super cheesy analogies and for being the best family a missionary could ask for. I love you guys and I miss you like crazy. I hope you all have a marvelous week. Go skiing a few times for me. 

Elder Obray

Monday, January 9, 2017

There Must Be Something in the Water

What's up what's up!? It is good to hear from you guys and to hear that all is well back in the 801. I'm jealous that Utah is getting hit with a lot of snow. We haven't had any! It just gets extremely cold without the fun winter wonderland features. I better hear some sweet stories of family trips to the ski slopes. From what I hear, Iowa has a couple of ski resorts. There is one about 30 minutes away from Ames. The mountain is comparable to the sweet snowboarding ramps Trevor and I made in the backyard when we were younger, but it is a ski resort nonetheless. We will have to check it out one of these days on P-day.

Man, it has been a great week so buckle up. Q GOT BAPTIZED! I told you last week how we were worried about putting the baptism service together and getting the word out, but fortunately a couple miracles took place and we were able to get it taken care of! He was so stoked about it. This week we were talking about it with him trying to get everything ready and we were planning on a time. He quickly told us that he wanted to be baptized at 9 AM. He then told us that he was born at 9 AM. He wanted his baptism to be comparable to his actual birth! Man, Q is such a stud. Elder Balderston baptized him on Saturday and I was able to give a talk at his baptism. I talked about the Holy Ghost and the sanctity of the words "Receive the Holy Ghost" I compared it to football. You guys know I love sports analogies. I heard a really good one about high jumping once, but I can't remember who said that one. I was then given the opportunity to confirm Q a member of the church and helped him receive the Holy Ghost. I was so nervous! I blame it on the warm church building or the Iowa humidity, but I got a little sweaty to be honest. When it came time for the blessing, I nervously put my hands on his head and started. As soon as I started, the nerves and the anxiety left and it went swimmingly. Isn't the priesthood the best? 

Later that Sunday during the gospel principles class we were talking about the Holy Ghost. He told us that he felt different and that he could tell when he prayed that Heavenly Father was listening. He is the man. 

This week marks the last week of transfer number three. Surprise, surprise I am sticking around in Ames for another six weeks. I feel like I am going to stay here for my entire mission. I might as well change my call assignment to the Ames Iowa mission.  It is a good thing I like it here! I am getting kind of anxious to serve somewhere else though. When I think about leaving this place it makes me kind of sad. I have become good friends with a lot of the members. There are people here that I would love for you guys to meet. Summer of 2019 road trip to Iowa? It is going to be sweet! 

Not much else to report on this week. I did buy a new calendar today and I bought some ankle weights last week. I am definitely going to start getting huge legs. Wearing them tracting gets kind of tiring though... Haha I am kidding of course. The highlight purchase I have made in the last couple weeks is a new set of scriptures. My old ones were kind of falling apart so I made an investment in a new copy. When they came in I was literally giddy. Who would have thought I would ever be so happy to receive a new pair of scriptures? They have literally become my favorite possession while I have been on my mission. 

I hope you all have a fantastic week. I love and miss you more than words can describe. 

Soon to have thunder thighs,
Elder Obray

Dwayne and Erik Hill made a pit stop in Ames.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Starting Off the New Year Right!

Hey Hey Hey! Happy New Year! It is a wonderful time to be alive, isn't it? I was thinking this morning about all the big events that took place in 2016 and I couldn't help but smile at all the good times we have had as a family. It is kind of weird to think that 2017 is going to be a year that will be spent completely on a mission. 2016 and 2018 are only partly spent here.

To update you guys on the week. After skyping with you guys I was kind of worried about getting back into that missionary mode, but luckily the Lord knew exactly what I needed. We had a lesson with Q almost every night this past week. He is such a stud. I am pretty sure if I wasn't on a mission and he wasn't seven years older than me, we would be buds. He had us over for dinner three times this week. He fed us some of the spiciest food I have ever tasted. It was a Chinese dish that I can't really spell so I will say that it sounds like "Agua" but with a nice Chinese twist added to it. When I started eating, I wasn't really prepared for the fireball flavor that it had. My nose instantly got runny and I started to sweat. Q just laughed of course.  Because it was the holidays, there weren't any students around because there was obviously no school. Q couldn't really fly home to China so he stuck around in his apartment by himself. We were more than happy to keep him company during the evenings. We got him a Rubik’s cube and a yo-yo for Christmas because we are big spenders and we have money to blow. When we handed it to him he said, "I wasn't really expecting anything because you guys have already given me the best present in the world by teaching me about the gospel." SCORE! Those are the words that every missionary loves to hear! 

Last night in our lesson with him, he told us that he wanted to be baptized this week! We are pumped for him. We are kind of worried about the logistics of getting the ward involved and planning the baptism so it might end up happening next week, but we are going to do our best to get him baptized this week! So, stay tuned. He is such a stud. 

We taught an older man on Saturday. At the very beginning of the lesson he started to breath really heavy, his eyes started to water, and he was kind of unresponsive for a couple of seconds. Elder Balderston and I were ready to call 911, but luckily just as soon as the episode started it stopped and he acted like nothing happened. I almost passed out I was so scared. I don't think that the church would get very much positive publicity if a man died while missionaries were teaching him. 

New Years on a mission is pretty exciting. We had to have the cars grounded at 6 pm so that meant no appointments and no tracting. We literally sat in our apartment until 10:30 and then went to bed. I did take a marvelous nap after reading a little bit so it was a wonderful holiday. I was also asked to give a talk on the Godhead on Sunday. It went pretty well I think, it was kind of hard to prepare because we don't quite have the resources I used in prior talks I have given. The whole talk was by the scriptures so it really put me out of my comfort zone but it was good none the less. 

In conclusion to this email I will share a thought from my talk. When I studied about the Godhead, I felt impressed to talk about our Heavenly Father's perfect plan for us. One thing I have grown to love on my mission is that doctrine. Our Heavenly Father's plan is PERFECT! My favorite Mormon message is that of the current bush. Our Heavenly Father sees our potential and he knows the steps that need to be taken for us to reach that potential. It is simply up to us to submit our will to his like the Savior in Gethsemane. Serving a mission in Iowa has been a major trial of my faith, but I am so glad to say that I am starting to receive my witness.

I love you guys so much and miss you just a little bit. Have a great week.

The Only Elder in Iowa Who Is Studying Chinese,
Elder Obray