Monday, February 27, 2017

Humility is the Key to Happiness

Man, I feel like I was emailing you guys just yesterday. It is unreal how fast the weeks pass by on a mission. When we have been tracting for five hours it doesn't really seem like time is flying, but at the end of the day it is honestly unreal.

East Moline is a great area! I love it here. We have a few pretty solid investigators. Elder Blau and his old companion have been teaching an older gentleman, T for quite a while. He is scheduled to get baptized here on the 18th. We are stoked for him. He is a great guy and I look forward to teaching him some more. He is a wizard on the piano too. He might have to teach me some lessons. I think it is a fair trade, eternal salvation for some piano lessons? We are also teaching a couple from India who are awesome. They are both Hindu so it is cool to see them learning about and accepting Jesus Christ. It might be a little bit of a process with them, but I love teaching them. They have a stud little son. I will keep you updated on their progress.

One thing that is super sweet about this area is on Tuesday nights a bunch of the members from the Stake get together to play some basketball. Elder Seljaas and I were able to get it approved by President Badger to join. It was awesome to play some competitive basketball. I must admit that I am not very good anymore, but it was still fun to get out and play. I am proud to announce that I can still dunk. Not nearly as well as I used to, but after a few weeks I am hopeful that I will be able to get it back. I stepped on a scale the other day and it said that I haven't gained any weight yet (knock on wood), which means one of a two things. I am still in as good of shape as I was when I left, or what little muscle I had back then has now turned to fat. I think that the second option is more likely. Hopefully my last companion before I go home likes running! 

I will end this email with my usual cute thought. Serving in East Moline is awesome because you get to associate with a lot of people from West Africa. It is incredibly humbling to listen to them tell their stories about their lives before and after they came to America. I like to ask them how they like their jobs here. They always respond with something along the lines of "I can't complain about my job because it gives me money to send back home to my family." One of the men I talked to said that for his job he separates different parts of chickens for Tyson's. He then told us that he does that over and over all day for more than fifty hours a week. He then said that he cannot complain because the life that he lives here is much better than the life he had in Togo. It is amazing how humble these people are. They continually thank God for how merciful he is towards them. It has really helped me open my eyes. I will often complain about how cold it is outside and how bad my knuckles hurts from knocking on doors, but these people have nothing and they still find a way to be grateful. There are lessons to be learned from every person we come in contact with. In Alma 32, it talks about how much more we are blessed if we are continually humble and not compelled to be humble because of circumstance. Humility and gratefulness are the keys to happiness. No matter what the circumstance, we can always find things to be grateful for. 

I love you all and I can't put into words how grateful I am for you. I hope that you all have a wonderful week.

The still tall and skinny missionary,
Elder Obray

You can expect a lot of these kind of pictures. The sunsets here rock my world. Yes, National Geographic is using this picture on their next cover.

Monday, February 20, 2017

I'm Not in Iowa Anymore!

Hey Hey Hey! Man, it has been a wild week. I don't have a ton of time to email this week so this email will most likely be all over the place. Be patient with me. First of all, sorry for the late email. Of course yesterday was President's day so all of the libraries were closed. Hopefully you will forgive me for keeping my transfer information to myself for an extra day. 

As you probably guessed I got transferred from the Ames ward. I am currently serving in the East Moline, Illinois area, in the Riverbend 2nd Ward. Crazy stuff. I guess I am now on the other side of the Mississippi for a while. I have only been here for a few days but I love it already. On my first day, we taught two restoration lessons on people’s door step and even found a new investigator.  It is very different than Ames, Iowa. Moline is pretty close to some huge corporations. John Deere and Tyson's both have huge plants here. Because of that, there are a ton of immigrants from Africa here. There are ton from a French speaking country called Togo. It is awesome. They are so nice! They all just work and work and send all their money they can back home to Togo. Pretty humbling talking to some of these people. We are so blessed! 

My new companion's name is Elder Blau from Emit, Idaho. He actually came out with Elder Balderston, so I had met him before while at the new trainers meeting. He loves missionary work and has a super strong testimony and love for others. There is always something to learn from your companions so I am excited to learn from him. One thing that is super sweet is that we are in a car share with Elder Seljaas and one of the guys in my MTC district. We are around each other all of the time so it has been awesome to hang out with those guys. Don't worry I dunked on Elder Seljaas a few times yesterday during P-Day. He is a stud! We have already had some good times. 

Leaving Ames was a lot harder than I thought. I got a small preview of what it will be like when I leave my mission to go home. I really loved serving in Ames. We spent most the week last week visiting members and saying goodbye and packing up all my stuff. Saying goodbye to those we taught wrecked me. It was hard to say goodbye. I felt like I was leaving my own children. I am definitely going to miss them, but I am sure that our paths will cross again. It was also tough to leave some of the members. I am not sure if I have mentioned how much I have enjoyed serving with the Ward Mission Leader there. His name is Brother Sharp. He is awesome. He definitely set the bar pretty high for all of my future mission leaders. I have some pictures of some great people I will miss from Ames. But I guess the Lord needs me elsewhere. 

Well I probably need to send this one off. Sorry this email is shorter than the rest, but then again I usually write way too much. I hope you all have a great week! I love you and miss you all a ton. 

From the Other Side of the Mississippi,
Elder Obray


Monday, February 13, 2017

I Have Found My Calling

I know super exciting subject heading, right? I hate to say it but you will probably be disappointed with the reasoning behind it. I will tell you of the marvelous experience I had yesterday to inspire it here in a sec. But first, it has been a great week! It has been very bittersweet. I think the odds of getting transferred are pretty high. I think the ward is expecting it too. I have really grown to love the Ames 1st ward. This area is definitely going to be one that I am excited to come back to after my mission. That is one of the great blessings of serving a mission relatively close to your home state. I will be able to visit these people pretty often. Hoorah! 

I feel like I haven't given an update on Elder Balderston's magnificent progress as a missionary for a while. He is such a stud. We have such good times. We laugh a lot while we are knocking so that helps make the endless rejection a little bit more fun. He has really grown as a missionary. The growth in his testimony is evident by the way he now is as a missionary. I am stoked to see all the good that he will do and I am so grateful that the Lord has trusted me to be his trainer. I hope that he has similar feelings towards his trainer as I do towards mine.  I am definitely going to miss him if I get transferred. I don't find out until tomorrow so you guys will have to wait in suspense until next Monday. 

One cool thing that happened this week was a dinner we had on Friday night. There is a deaf family in our ward who invited us over. Of course, I don't know any sign language so they had another family there to translate for us! It was a wild night. I am happy to announce that I can now sign, "This is good spaghetti." I am pretty much fluent.

Yesterday before church, we were doing the usual missionary stuff, you know shaking hands, talking about Trump, kissing babies, the works when one of the coaches from BYU's track team walked in followed by eight or so of BYU's team. Yes that includes a couple of the cute distance runners, but of course I didn't notice. Virtue garnishes my thoughts unceasingly. Eye single to the glory, right? There was a meet here at ISU. Immediately a wave of trunkiness flooded over me. I talked to the coach about the meet and I wanted to lay on the floor and cry for a little bit! I miss track! He was impressed that I was a high jumper and would be doing so for USU when I get home. Who knows I may end up transferring to the Y after a season or two. 

The fun started after sacrament meeting. The primary presidency was frantically running around to find a piano player for music time. Fortunately, Bishop Cannon knows I can play the piano and was more than happy to offer me up for the job. It was fun actually! I miss primary. I haven't played a lot of the primary songs for a long time so it was kind of a struggle, but I think it ended up going alright! Nephi's courage wrecked me! I would definitely enjoy it if after I am known as Elder Obray the missionary, I will be known as Brother Obray the primary pianist. I can't think of a more fulfilling calling. 

On Saturday, we went out to dinner with Q for what is most likely the last time. It was fun. Texas Roadhouse was too busy so we decided on a Chinese buffet down the street. Q got me to taste all kinds of weird stuff. I ate sushi for the first time and actually really enjoyed it. I ate a claw fish and the highlight of the night was an entire octopus (it was small), tentacles and all. It was quite the feeling chewing on the little sucky things. What an experience. It was sad to talk to Q about getting transferred. I am really going to miss him. We have become really good friends through the course of his conversion. I am sure that he is the reason that I was called to the Ames area. I will remember him forever. I am eternally grateful for the answer to my prayers that he has been. He helped get me through a rough patch on my mission. I sure hope that someday our paths will cross again. 

Not much else to report on but I will end with a cute thought. 
I heard a statistic that out of every one thousand people that missionaries talk to from knocking, only one person gets baptized. I am reluctant to say that it checks out. I counted up all of my OYM's in Ames and I have talked to nearly two thousand people about Jesus Christ. Only two people have accepted it and one of them wasn't even from knocking. I am convinced that if we labor diligently to invite others to come unto Christ, especially when we don't necessarily see the fruits of our labors, we are showing Heavenly Father that he can trust us with his elect. Serving in Ames has been a huge blessing because it has helped me to continue to work even when I don't feel like I am having success. Who knows maybe one of the one thousand nine hundred and ninety-eight people who rejected us at their door step will someday get baptized because of a pass along card we gave them or from a feeling they had when we talked to them. The fruits of our labors are not always evident at the present time. We are to trust in the Lord, labor diligently with a good attitude, then will his arm be revealed. I am grateful to have been able to teach two people here in Ames who are now active members of the church. I would come on a mission over and over even if I knew that I would only teach two people who would choose to be baptized. I love this work. At the end of the day, all the rejection, all the appointments that fall through, all the stress, and all the trunkiness is worth it, because this is the Lord's work. 
D&C 18:15 says "And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!" 

I love you guys and I can't wait to talk to you again on Mother’s Day. Have a great week. 

The Primary Pianist,
Elder Obray