Monday, July 31, 2017

No Such Thing As Coincidences

Man, it was a great week this week. It was a great time to be a missionary. I think the Lord is just hooking me up with good weeks to prepare me to get wrecked on Friday. I might ask President to do a quick exchange with me so I can make it to the wedding.  I can't complain though the work is good, we saw some great miracles this week and I had one of the most spiritual experiences of my mission. Yep so be excited. 

First off, I want to give a shout out to Trevor for teaching me a little bit of his Tagalog. We were knocking an apartment complex yesterday and I heard two women speaking in a different language outside the apartment we were knocking. As I started to talk to them they told me that they were from the Philippines! It was awesome to talk to them about it! They did say that they have seen the Elders walking around back home so I am pretty positive that you talked to them while you were there bro! I am excited to say that I was able to ask two Filipino women what their names were and tell them that I loved them in Tagalog. They were impressed! Haha I wish there was more to this story, but the conversation ended with us only giving them a card and her telling us that she would call us. I have probably handed out 3000 cards on my mission and I have not once received a call back... But hey, this will be the first! 

We had the sweet opportunity to visit the pageant this week. It was a great experience to be in Nauvoo. Elder Youngstrom and I got there a little early so we were able to spend some time in the temple. We didn't have enough time to do a session, so we went and did some initiatories. It was great to be in the temple, it was my first time in the upper part of the temple for about a year so I’ve missed it. There is a special feeling in the temple that can't be felt anywhere else. It was great to go from the dirty streets of Cedar Rapids to the sacred halls of the temple. I love it! 

The pageant was awesome. Part of me almost wished that I had decided to try out for the pageant squad instead of serving a mission. That feeling was very short lived. It is an awesome show though. We saw the British Pageant which talked all about the reformers and early saints in the British Isles. Pretty amazing stuff. Plus, I even saw a couple people that went to my high school. That was pretty wild. 

I have great news! Q, our convert from earlier in my mission, received the Melchizedek Priesthood yesterday and was able to give his first priesthood blessing! Man, he is a legend. He is taking off to China in August, he will make a great contribution to the saints there. I told him that he will be called to be the Branch President in no time. 

Because I know you are dying to hear about it, I will share a super cool finding experience from yesterday. Elder Youngstrom and I were cruising down the street headed to knock by the community college in our area. We drove by an apartment building that Elder Cline and I knocked out a few months ago, but when I looked at the building I had the impression that we needed to turn around and go knock it again. I ignored the prompting and justified to myself that I had already knocked it and the people were mean there. When I got it again, we were about a half mile down the street so I turned around and went back. As we drove past it, I accidentally missed the turn and had to pull into a neighborhood to flip a U-turn. I noticed there was an apartment building that I had never seen before and I felt like that was the place we were supposed to knock. As I got close to the apartment I saw the lock on the door and started to get a little upset, but when I got to the door, it was slightly open so we got to it! Out of the whole place only one person answered the door and he told us that we needed to leave. What the? I was pretty bummed that this spiritual guidance didn't prove to be legit so we started walking to the original apartment I was prompted to knock. As we were walking I saw a guy sitting in the shade reading a book. I knew that he was the guy we were supposed to talk to. When he saw us, he excitedly stood up and walked to us. We explained who we are and started the Restoration lesson when one of his other buddies pulled up. Long story short, we taught them a super spiritual restoration lesson and committed them both to baptism in the parking lot of their apartment complex. Their names are N and S from Benin, Africa. They are the coolest guys around.  It was an awesome experience when I truly felt that I was being guided by the Spirit.  It was one of those times when you know for sure that you are on the Lord's errand. Gotta love missionary work.

I see that this email is way too long so I will shut it down. I am so bummed that I can't be at the wedding this week... But I know that this work is the most important thing that I can be doing right now. Just know that when I get home, we will be reenacting the whole thing.  I am so happy that you guys are happy and finally decided to make the next step in eternal progression. Thank you for being such great examples to me. I hope you got the letter that I sent and I hope that my awkward missionary personality won't shine through. I wrote it like four times. Feel free to edit it in any way you want. I love you all and I will be thinking about you all week. 

Perfectly Lonely, 
Elder Obray

p.s. Transfers are this week and from the looks of it I am pretty sure that I will be taking off. Big news coming next week! 

Our shirt say "I love Mormon girls." It's the truth! 

Monday, July 24, 2017

I'm Feeling Lucky

Hey everyone! What a great week to be a missionary, but aren't they all pretty great? It has been the hottest week of my life here in Cedar Rapids. It was one of those weeks this week that was as ordinary as they come. What a time to be alive. That being said, this email might be a little bit of a dud so like always, if you don't feel up to the challenge of taking on the whole thing, I wouldn't be offended. 

To get started, it has been so hot this week. it is incredible. The temperature was regularly 90 plus with occasional spikes up to more than 100. It is getting toward the end of the month as well and we are only allowed a certain number of miles in our car every month. We had to do a little bit of traveling early in the month so our mile count is getting pretty low. That being said we spent some great days back on the bikes. Man, it was great to actually move my legs aggressively. I am pretty out of shape as you can probably tell from my pictures. It was quite the week riding around Cedar Rapids in the heat. People were pretty surprised when we knocked on the door and we were soaking wet. It looked like we spent the afternoon in a swimming pool. Gotta love being an Elder. 

We had Zone Conference this week in Davenport (close to my old area of East Moline). It was great to get back there and see a lot of the Elders I served with there. Three of my past companions were there so it was great to catch up. It felt like the Sons of Mosiah reuniting after their missions. They are all doing great. Elder Balderston has almost been out for nine months. Holy cow they grow up so fast. It seems like yesterday I was picking him up at the mission office. He is doing great and is becoming an excellent missionary. He makes a father proud. The conference was great, it is always good to learn from President Badger, he is the man. I am incredibly grateful to be serving with him and Sister Badger, you guys would love them! 

Like many other missionaries can attest to, the week after a baptism is often pretty brutal. Our teaching pool took a major hit this week when we had to drop a few of our investigators or they dropped us. It is so frustrating when people let pride or laziness get in the way of the everlasting joy that comes from the gospel. It is sad to see people deny the blessings that we know are in store for them, but our Heavenly Father has a plan for them as well. They will get there someday. 

Some crazy news is that we are getting kicked out of our house. The owner of our house is like 100 years old and he decided it wasn't a good idea for him to be out there mowing the lawn. We definitely agree, so we have been apartment shopping a little bit this week.

I will close this less than mediocre email with a spiritual thought that I have talked about before. One blessing of serving a mission is a profound sense of gratitude for the gospel. I have never been so grateful to have been born in the covenant, I have never had to search for the truth, because I have always known where to find it. I think a lot of times as members of the church, we don't quite fully appreciate how amazing the gospel really is and how blessed we are to be a part of the Lord's true church on the Earth. Every time I am in a lesson and bear testimony of the Plan of Salvation, my testimony gets stronger. I am so grateful to be sharing the restored Gospel with the people of Iowa. I am so grateful that I get to do it for another year. 

I love you guys, have a great week! Smile a lot and share the blessings of the gospel with those around you. The gospel changes lives. 

With a testimony as big as his forehead,
Elder Obray

Monday, July 17, 2017

Five Times the Blessings!

Hola! It was yet another fantastic week here in Cedar Rapids. Man, it seems like the weeks are getting better and better. A ton of super frustrating stuff still happens, but looking back I am content and happy with the week. All is well here in Iowa. It is crazy that the wedding is only a couple weeks away! You better be sending an invitation my way! I already know that they are going to be super adorable. It has been quite the week this week so I will get right into it. 

First thing I will talk about this week is that our investigator D GOT BAPTIZED! Holy Cow it was such a miracle. Man, it was kind of out of nowhere but she came to church last week for the first time in a while. We were finally able to connect a ride for her. When we went by later that night she told us that she was ready to be baptized on Saturday! We were so stoked for her. But we had to plan the entire baptism in just a couple of days. It was pretty wild. As every missionary can testify, the day of the baptism it seemed like everything was going wrong. The day before, I spent a while making a nice program for the service. When we got to the church the morning of the baptism the file that I saved was nowhere to be found. I quickly got the church computer and drafted another one, but found out that there was no way to print from the laptop I was using. Man! So, we ran over to the library to make the third program of the day. To make it all better, our Zone Leaders decided that it would be a great day to go on exchanges. So, we were cruising around in their area all morning. When we finally were making our way to the church we ran out of gas... Holy Cow it was so stressful. Luckily, we were pretty close to a gas station so we had just enough gas to get there. By the time we got there, the car told me that we had 0 miles left in our tank. Barely made it! Some other things that went wrong that day included the church printer was running low on ink so the programs came out pretty bad anyway and Elder Youngstrom and another one of the zone leaders didn't start filling the font early enough so it was pretty shallow. 

Elder Cline made the trip out to Cedar Rapids to perform the baptism. It was his first time in the water so he was pretty nervous. It took him five times to finally immerse D completely in the water. When I gave the okay, everyone at the baptism started clapping. Haha it was quite the scene. But the important thing is that D was baptized and no matter how many times it took, she is now a member of the church. We are grateful for her decision. On Sunday, I was able to confirm her and help her receive the Holy Ghost. That is always such a special experience. Gotta love exercising the priesthood! D is so awesome and she will make a great member of the church. She has been taught by a lot of missionaries and I am grateful that I was a part of her baptism. Blessings on blessings!

Remember that guy I talked about last week who had literally read all the Book of Mormon in a couple of days? He is turning out to be quite the project. He has a pretty hard heart to the Book of Mormon and to the Prophet Joseph Smith. There are so many people here that make the argument that the Bible is the only source of truth and it is all we will ever need. It is crazy that Nephi saw this day in 2 Nephi 29. If only we could force people to feel the spirit. We are going to keep trying though. We have a bunch of other investigators we are excited to work with as well. This place is the promised land. 

Well this email is getting a little lengthy so I will shut it down. I love you guys and I am so happy that things are peachy back home. You are always in my prayers. Keep smiling and keep being examples of Jesus Christ. People notice! Have a great week!

Elder Obray  

Monday, July 10, 2017

Anger Management

Hey hey hey to my favorite people on the planet. It is a great day to be alive don't you agree? This week was one of the best of my mission and I am so excited to tell you more about it. I feel like I have been floating through this weekend. I have a lot to report so I will dive right into it. 

First, I will give an update on our marvelous Fourth of July. It was one of those days that really made me miss home. I have fond memories of Fourth of July's at Grandma's house growing up. It was pretty depressing this year because my date to the fireworks was another guy, plus we had to be in our house by 6:30. Luckily our house is right next to the river where the fireworks go off so we got some lawn chairs and climbed onto our roof for some great seats of the festivities. Gotta love living in America! I do have some awesome pictures/videos for y'all but they will have to wait until next week. I forgot my camera!

The next update is a pretty wild experience Elder Youngstrom and I had this week finding. We knocked on this guy's door and he excitedly let us in. This never happens unless someone thinks that they know all about the Mormons so I prepared myself to bash. We had a pretty intense conversation about Mormon doctrine and our theology. It was one of the most respectful bashes of my life, and this guy is a genius he knows his stuff. I had an insanely difficult time keeping up. By the end of the lesson, his countenance softened a little bit and he invited us back a couple days later. We left him with the commitment to read the Book of Mormon and pray about it. When we got to our return appointment he told us that he had read the BofM up until Ether, and that he had also read Mormon Doctrine, some of the discourses of Brigham Young and several other Mormon books. It was pretty insane. We had yet another discussion on Doctrine that went for the most part over my head, but we did give him some good talks to listen to. Hopefully I will have better news about him next week. Pray for us with that one!

I am stoked to hear that the Associated Golf Tournament went well! I am glad to hear that you guys took home the W! That’s what I like to hear! A 59 is pretty crazy! One of the Zone Leaders and I went on a quick exchange this morning and played 9 holes this morning. It was pretty brutal! We didn't spend any time on the range beforehand so it was pretty rough. I shot a 60! So, I am pretty proud to say that the four of you played twice as many holes and still beat me! My last few holes were much better than the first 6. I finally started to get the groove back but it was quite the experience! It was pretty frustrating stuff. I was definitely reminded of how angry that sport makes me! There is a reason it is called Anger Management.
Lastly, I had the amazing opportunity to head down to the Nauvoo temple on Saturday. Q, one of the converts from Ames drove to Cedar Rapids and picked me up and then we drove over to Davenport to pick up Elder Balderston. It was just like the good ole days in Ames. It was such a great time. Q insisted on playing music in the car so I got to hear some of the popular stuff on today's radio. That definitely didn't help the whole missing home problem! I can't even tell you how much I miss music. It is incredible. It was such an amazing experience to be in the temple with Q. It was a profound experience to stand in the waters of the baptismal font with him and baptize him for somebody else. Words cannot describe the amazing feelings that come from the temple alone, but they also can't describe the joys that come with being there with someone who you helped into the church. I will send some pictures next week. 

I officially hit eleven months today! Pretty wild that I am almost on the down ward slope of the mission. It is so crazy to me how fast this year has gone by. It makes me sad that I am already almost half through my time here in Iowa, but I am so excited for the second half! There are so many miracles waiting and so many amazing experiences to be had before I come home to the 801. I love you guys and I am so grateful for you. Have an excellent week! 

The Soon to be Professional Golfer,
Elder Obray

Monday, July 3, 2017

Miracles on Miracles

Hola familia! It has been a great week this week and I am so excited to tell you about it. At first, it was also one of the most frustrating weeks of my mission, but the Lord knew just what I needed. I am stoked to hear that things are going grand back home.

Well I better dive into it. This week was super frustrating. We have several investigators who have dates for baptism that just aren't making the steps they need to be to get there. Our most promising investigator was supposed to be baptized this last week, but she hasn't been to church for a few weeks and we don't feel that she is ready. She didn't come again yesterday so we will have to postpone her baptism for a couple more weeks. Pretty sad deal. Agency is the worst sometimes. But we will get her in the next little bit! 

We decided that our teaching pool needed some help so we hit the streets. We met so many people who bashed on our beliefs and told us that they would pray for our salvation, it was crazy. I felt like I was back in Ames. It’s the best when people try to tell us what we believe. We weren't having any success and it was starting to wear on me. As a missionary, you are always able to tell if you have the spirit with you or not, because your level of optimism and excitement for the work is dependent on the spirit. That is why the happiest missionaries are the ones who work the hardest. They always have the spirit with them. I made a conscious effort to have the spirit with me this weekend and the miracles flowed right on in. 

The first happened on Saturday when we were knocking this apartment complex. We started to try to talk to this man. He didn't speak very much English so it made it pretty difficult. He knew enough English and I knew enough Spanish that we were able to find out who each other were. He is from Panama and he loves Jesus. We scheduled a return appointment for the next day. Our Ward Mission Leader served his mission in Panama so it all just worked out. The lesson went great, he is so solid. I was pretty bummed the whole time that I didn't know any Spanish, but all is well. We are having another lesson with him today. It is going to be the best. 

The second miracle happened yesterday. We were about done for the day when we saw this African woman standing on a chair with a long stick trying to get something out of a tree. We walked over to see if we could help. Lucky I am so tall, we eventually got the shoe that was stuck on a branch out of the tree and we started to talk to them. They are from Liberia and the woman is a less active member who was baptized in Missouri. She basically told us that she wanted to start coming back to church and that her daughter wanted to be baptized. We also met her fiancĂ©. He is also a non-member and he wants us to teach him. Man, who knew that being tall would help us find investigators?! What a blessing. 

The last miracle happened like five minutes after we said goodbye to the African family I just mentioned. We were driving home when I got a phone call from a familiar area code. I picked up the phone to hear my man Q. Man, it was soo good to talk to him. He told me that he wants me to come to the Nauvoo Temple with him this Saturday to do some Baptisms. He is getting ready to go back to China for a couple of years so we have to take a road trip together. I am so pumped! But wait that’s not all! He told me that he had his interview with the Stake President in Ames for the Melchizedek Priesthood!  I am so pumped for him! It was one of those times that I can't explain the joy that came over me when I talked to him. He is going to be such a blessing to the church in China. I won't be surprised when I see him giving a talk over the pulpit! He also told me that he wants to come back in a couple years to live in Provo and go to BYU for his Graduate Program. Who knows? Maybe you will be able to meet him! 

I see that this email is getting a little long so I will wrap it up. I am so grateful to be a missionary. I am so grateful for the blessing it was to teach Q and for the trust that our Heavenly Father had in two young missionaries to teach one of His elect. I love this work. It is the most frustrating thing I have ever experienced, but the joyous feelings when someone accepts the gospel make it all worth it. I love you and I am so grateful for all of you. Have an excellent week! 

Elder Obray