Monday, August 28, 2017

The First Day Of School

Oh boy! It was another great week here in the capital. I am going to apologize in advance for this email, this week was pretty standard so nothing super exciting happened so this email will probably be pretty lame. You win some and you lose some. Like usual, please know that I won't be offended if you decide to better use your time than reading this. I am stoked that things are going well back home. I am still waiting on an invitation to my brother's wedding that happened a couple of weeks ago. Maybe I wasn't even invited... Also, if any of you have any sweet videos of my nephew I would love an update on the little guy. Alright let’s get to it. 

We had some sad news this week. Remember my man W who is pretty much the most prepared person on the planet that I talked a lot about last week? We talked with him this week and he told us that he would be much more comfortable learning the gospel in Spanish... There is a Spanish Branch here so we had to pass him off to the Hermanas. Pretty sad that we won't be teaching him, but he is doing so good. He went to the branch yesterday and he had a jolly ole time. I was worried about him, I felt like a parent on the first day of school. We called the Hermanas after their church was over to make sure he had friends to sit by and people to talk to. Fortunately, he fit right in. He makes me proud. He is getting baptized here in the next couple of weeks so we are stoked for him.

Just to give you an idea of what our teaching pool looks like right now. Des Moines is a hot spot for African immigrants especially immigrants from Liberia. We probably have like 15 investigators we are working with right now. It is so crazy. I never knew that I would get to meet so many awesome people from Africa on my mission here in Iowa. We have so much work to do, but there is so little time. 

The Zone Leader responsibilities are going just swimmingly. We have to deal with a lot of drama in the zone. The cool thing is I feel like missions are like a marriage preparation class too.  We got to conduct some more exchanges this week. I got to exchange with a Greenie Spanish Elder named Elder Matthews and it was awesome. It was cool because his trainer is a great missionary but is pretty straight laced. I was able to help him make the work fun. Missionary work is super tough, but it is meant to be enjoyed not just endured. We had a great exchange and found some awesome people to teach. We also spend a lot of time with the assistants, we have such a good time. One of them, Elder Mauldin and I are singing a song tomorrow at Zone Conference, so be excited for a report. I have to sing a pretty intense harmony so it is going to be an adventure.  They are such good guys, they are stellar missionaries and I am learning so much. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to spend too much time with President Badger yet, that guy is so busy it is unreal. He travels so much. Hopefully we will get to go running here soon. 

I will close this email with a spiritual thought, in D&C 130 it talks about how there is a law decreed in Heaven that from which all blessings are predicated. It is such a comforting thing to know that if I am keeping the commandments that our Heavenly Father has given, he is bound to bless us for it. It makes so much more sense when in Mosiah 2:41 it talks about how happy and blessed those are who keep the commandments. They are happy because they are reaping the blessings of righteous living. Righteousness is truly the only way to lasting joy. Sometimes the blessings of righteous living will not come immediately, but our Heavenly Father promises us that they will always come. It just might take a little bit more humility to recognize where the blessings are. We don't have to look very far to find out how much our Heavenly Father loves us. 

Thank you for all that you do. I love you guys, I miss you like crazy but I hope it's cool with you if I keep doing this for a little while. Have a great week.

Elder Obray

Monday, August 21, 2017

The Secret Life of Elder Obray

Holy Cow! Man, this whole mission thing is going by way too quick. I can't believe that it is already P-Day again. The days are cruising by and it makes me so nervous. I feel like life is in fast forward and I kinda wish it would slow down a little bit, but all is well. We saw some amazing miracles this week and I am stoked to talk about it. So, let’s get to it. 

Man, where to start. Our area is pretty poppin' right now. We are continually finding new investigators. We don't have as much time as I would like to find, but it seems that every time we go out for a few minutes we end up inviting someone to be baptized. The Lord is definitely hooking us up right now. I definitely feel like some of the sacrifices I made early in my mission are finally starting to pay off. What a blessing. I will first talk about the coolest experience of the week. 

Elder Robley and I have been praying to find those who are prepared in this area, there is so much potential here and we want to do everything we can to find those who are ready. One morning, we were teaching one of our District Leader how to conduct a baptismal interview, I was role playing a 10-year-old boy named Fabian and he was interviewing me, when the phone rang. It was this guy named W and he has met with missionaries in the past. He told us that he was cleaning up his apartment and he found a Book of Mormon he received from some Elders a few months ago. They taught him a couple times and he lost contact. He told us that he was very interested in learning about our church. WHAT? We set up a time later that day to visit him. He is so solid. We had one of the best restoration lessons of my mission in his apartment. We invited him to baptism and to come to church and he gladly accepted. Unfortunately, he had to work Sunday morning so he wasn't going to be able to make it. But wait! He called us that night and told us that his boss told him not to come in and that he wanted to come to church! It was awesome, W is the man, he is working to be baptized in September. We are pumped for him. 

Our ward has kind of been cracking down on us lately. Our area is notorious for baptizing people too early and who aren't really prepared. There are hundreds of people on our ward list who have been baptized and are now inactive. We have a lot of work to do.

One other cool thing that happened this week was on Sunday we were at a member’s house for lunch when we got a call from our Bishopric. They told us a sister in the ward needed a blessing and that we should go check it out. When we got there, this woman was super sad, she was in a nursing home and was really having a hard time. As we talked to her, she told us she was considering suicide. Oh man... We kept talking to her and by the end of the meeting she was smiling and laughing. We gave her a blessing and she was so grateful. The priesthood really is the coolest thing. We are going to be visiting her regularly for a while. The things you do on a mission man... Who knew?

Some other highlights of the week that I won't go into too much detail, I gave another talk in sacrament, one of our investigators wants me to baptize her just because I told her I like rap music, Elder Robley and I are writing a rap, we gave three blessings to the same Sister missionary... There is a place in our area that is called the Grim Reaper wall which is literally a hit list, so many other things happened this week but you'll just have to trust that it was a great week and I am happy to be here. 

I am so grateful to be out here on a mission. I love it more and more every day. Times are still hard, but the joy of missionary work is unparalleled. 

I love you guys,

Elder Obray

My two favorite little Liberian boys! We are teaching their mom.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Making a Splash

Man, I think about all that has happened and I kind of get a headache. It has been the busiest week of my mission, but I sure love it. As you might have noticed from my last email, I am super pumped to be serving where I am.  Elder Robley and I are doing great. We have a lot in common and we laugh a lot. Gotta love cruising around in a pedophile van with a bud. There is a ton to report on so I will get to it. 

The week started pretty wild on Monday after P-Day. We were running a little late so I was rushed to change back into my proselyting clothes. I put our phone on the edge of the toilet and turned to change my pants when I heard a splash. Of course, this whole white wash thing was too easy with all of our phone numbers. I just had to make it a little harder on us. We spent the majority of that night trying to figure out how to get our contacts back, but with no luck. So, we are literally hitting this area with a fresh start. Gotta love it. 

Tuesday was pretty wild too, we spent the entire day in Iowa City at MLC (Missionary Leadership Council). It was a pretty great meeting. I am so excited to work with the other leaders of the mission and especially work with President and Sister Badger. One of the assistants asked me the day before the meeting to prepare a musical number for the meeting. Ugh... It went pretty well actually, I played the classic, "We Thank Thee Oh God For a Prophet." I guess I had to make a good impression at my first MLC. It was great to see a bunch of the Elders I have served with in the past. Speaking of, I forgot to mention last week that my son Elder Balderston had a boy! He is such a stud. So, I guess I am officially a Grandpa. I must be getting old. 

We also had interviews with President Badger on Thursday so Elder Robley and I spent the entire day in the Stake Center helping President conduct those interviews. It is a super long day but it is so great to sit down and talk to President and Sister Badger, I can't wait for you guys to meet them. You will love them. Friday, we led exchanges with one of the District Leaders in our zone. We have been moving pretty much nonstop, going to lessons, lots of meetings and a lot more administration business than I expected. All the time we have between helping other missionaries and meetings is spent trying to meet our investigators still. We have hardly had any time in our own area. It should calm down this next week though. We are stoked to hit the pavement and find some more great people. 
A cool thing about our area is that we have like three medical schools here in Des Moines and there are a ton of young graduate student married couples in our ward. Man, it makes me excited to start my own family someday! There are little kids crawling around us all of the time during dinners and lessons. Kids love the missionaries. I feel almost as cool as when I did when I walked into Mom's 4th grade class. 

I see that this email is getting a little long, so I will wrap it up. I have been thinking a lot about integrity lately. In Hebrews 13:8 it talks about how Jesus Christ is the same yesterday today and forever. He is a perfect example of how we as members of the church should act as well. We should act the same in every circumstance, at work, at school, at church, etc. We should always be representatives of Jesus Christ's restored gospel, and "Retain the Name" of Christ. (Mosiah 5:12) There are so many blessings waiting for us when we do. 

I love you guys! Have a great week! 

The 4th Grade Celebrity,
Elder Obray

p.s. Thank you so much for the package this week! You guys are the greatest. 

P.s. part two we are headed to the Iowa State fair today so I am sure you are anxiously waiting for next week's report on the fried butter and 2000 pound pigs. Gotta love Iowa.

Monday, August 7, 2017

A Good Anniversary Present

Holy Cow. I don't think I have ever seen a better-looking couple in my life! You guys are pretty much a super model couple. I am so glad to hear that the wedding was a success. You guys looked so happy and I am so incredibly happy for you two. Trevor with the dip outside of the temple yeah? Well done. You make a brother proud. If I am going to be honest, it was super tough for me on Friday not being there. I imagined what it was like in my head but obviously, it didn't help too much. Luckily, we were jam packed with meetings and appointments to keep my mind off of things. It was super weird to me to think that my brother who I used to jump on the tramp and play Legos with is now a married man. You are getting old brother! I can't express in words how happy I am for you two. I am so looking forward to all of the great memories ahead for all of us together. 
 It feels good to be the only single Obray. At least I have my companion for another year to keep me company. Me and Maxwell are up for some good times here in the future. 

I received some big news this last week. My predictions were correct about getting transferred... It was really sad to leave Cedar Rapids, I really loved that place. There were so many good people there that I made friends that will hopefully last a lot longer than just a couple months on a mission. Both of my Zone Leaders and I really grew to be good friends, I am going to miss serving with them a lot. On Tuesday, President Badger called me and told me that I would be transferring to Des Moines, and my companion and I would be whitewashing (neither of us have ever served in this area). My companion is Elder Robley from Raleigh, North Carolina. He is a stud missionary and has been out for about 20 months. I have so much to learn from him. It is going to be an awesome couple of transfers. He and I are the Zone Leaders here in the capital. I am pretty excited for the new responsibility but I am also pretty terrified, I feel a lot like a deer in the headlights, but change is good, right? 

I arrived here in Des Moines on Thursday and we got right to it. The Elders here before us didn't leave us with too much advice on how to work this area so we have basically just been trying to get oriented and trying to meet with all of our investigators. It was a much-needed distraction from the events going on back home. We have some awesome people in this area to work with. We are really stoked to work here, it is known as the promised land in the mission. It is kind of the dream area for ZLs so hopefully it will prove to be super fruitful and that the Lord will trust us to teach a few of his children. We have already seen some amazing miracles in just the past couple of days. 

The awesome thing about this area is that our assigned car is the transfer van. Elder Robley and I cruise around in this massive fifteen passenger van. If we didn't get a bunch of weird looks in the past, we definitely do now. It is pretty legendary driving through the ghettos of Des Moines. It is quite the sight. 

Sorry this email has been kind of all over the place, this week has been an emotional roller coaster. I love this work and I am so grateful to be a missionary. The gospel is so true it is crazy. I learn that more and more every single day. We are so blessed. I am so grateful for the spirit in my life. I felt an unbelievable amount of comfort this last weekend. The Lord definitely knows what we need and when we need it. He will take care of us if we let Him. I love you all and I am so grateful to be an Obray. I hope you have a great week. I already know Trevor and Maddie are. :) Love you!

The One Year Old,
Elder Obray

Also like always, if you run into any virtuous young women who would like to write a tall skinny missionary, you know who's email to give them. That pool is a little shallow these days! Love you