Sunday, February 8, 2015

Everlasting Beginnings

Hey Familly!

I can't believe that this is it. This is the final email I’ll send from the Philippines as a full time missionary. I'm not really even sure where to start. I guess I’ll just start this email like I start all the other ones. 

We began the week with more zone interviews. Elder Thurber and I pretty much spent most of both of those days at the chapel. It's been great having interviews though because you get to see all the missionaries in the mission. 

The biggest part of the week occurred on Thursday, which was MLC. It was a great meeting. We talked about numerous subjects, including goals for 2015, budgeting, using time wisely and many more. President Ostler never ceases to amaze me. He is such a great teacher and great example. He taught a little bit about integrity, a quality he has really developed himself. He mentioned that one of the meanings of integrity is being the same person wherever you are; school, work, church, at home, ect. This is an attribute that is not very common in the world today. I've placed that on my top list of attributes to develop right next to charity.
We extended an invitation to a sister training leader companionship to teach about budgeting during the meeting a few days before the meeting. At the end of their portion, they began to pass out a little handout to all the missionaries. When the missionaries looked at the handout, they would immediately start to laugh. We were pretty excited to see what everyone was laughing at. They finally made it to us and gave both Elder Thurber and I a copy. Turns out they had photoshopped pictures of Elder Thurber and I on 100 peso bills hahaha they thought they were pretty funny. They came up to us after and said, "that's what you get for calling on us to teach in MLC!" It was pretty hilarious.
It was a great MLC to end on. Eight of those in attendance are heading home this week (that's a lot). At the end of the meeting, President called on a couple to bear their testimonies. I was one of those he chose. It was my first "going home" testimony and it was pretty tough. Not gonna lie, I got a little emotional. Overall, it was a great experience. We also had some of the best food we've ever had at an MLC so that was just the icing on the cake. 

On Saturday, I attended a meeting called "the Finish Strong" meeting. I was supposed to attend in December, but I wasn't able to because I was on Palawan. It was a great meeting though. President and Sister Ostler talked about all the things that would come our way when we get home like choosing a major, career and finding your eternal companion. I learned some very valuable things from them both. Right after that meeting, we turned right around and took part in the "new trainers" meeting where we oriented and taught the missionaries that have been called to train the new missionaries coming in on Wednesday. Great stuff. 

Later that night, we had a couple great experiences. We found a former investigator in our area book from Africa and decided to give him a call. When he answered his phone, he got really excited and told us to meet him at his house in an hour (that never happens). We obliged. It turns out that he's very ready to receive the gospel. He has numerous questions and he's really trying to find "the truth." We only had time to share a quick message with him, but we are excited to see his progression over the next little while. 

After that, we flew over to our next appointment with some of my best friends here in Makati: our recent convert, Nino, his non-member friend, Bucai, and 2 other members from Makati 3rd, Edward and Diane. We had a great dinner at a nearby Chinese restaurant and then returned to Nino's apartment to share a message. It was one great lesson. Boca has had some exposure to the church in the past and was ready to listen and learn. We decided to share about the Book of Mormon for numerous reasons. It was amazing. Everyone was involved and the spirit was strong. It was impossible to not feel the truthfulness of the things we were sharing. You can bet I’ll be staying in touch with them, Probably forever. 

Sunday was a very difficult day. I was asked to bear my testimony in one ward and then say the opening prayer in the next. I am so lucky to be serving with the wonderful members of the Makati 3rd and 4th wards. I have truly loved working with them. There was a lot of goodbye's, which was very tough. I am so grateful that face book and Skype exist so I can stay in touch with all of these amazing people. I had a very special moment after church. We were teaching Wilma, Lynn and shahmire (3 of our recent converts). Throughout the whole lesson, Shahmire was not really himself. He didn't talk as much as usual nor did he crack any jokes.I turned to Shahmire and commented, "you've been pretty quiet. Do you have any questions or is there anything you would like to add?" He looked up, cracked a half smile and just said, "I'm just really gonna miss you Elder Obray." It was a very special moment. 

I can never express in words how much it has meant to me to be a full time missionary. I can't say I have loved every second of it, because I haven't. It has been by far the most difficult 2 years of my entire life. However, it has also been 2 of the most rewarding years of my entire life. I often reflect on the promise found in Preach My Gospel which states, "More happiness awaits you than you have ever experienced as you labor among his children." I have felt of that happiness. I have truly come to realize the blessings of the gospel in my own life. I have embraced the desire to share those blessing with everyone around me. I love how that blessing is conditional upon interaction with others. We can never find true happiness by ourselves. I've been lucky enough to realize that with these amazing Filipino people. I sure am glad that "in His plan there are no true endings, only everlasting beginnings."

Nor can I express in words how excited I am to be reunited with you this upcoming week. No matter how hard saying goodbye can be, the thought of being reunited with my family wipes the tears and calms the soul. Thank you so much for your support over the last 24 months. I cannot even wait to see your beautiful faces again. I'm so happy that the next phase of my life will be spent with all of you close by. You're not gonna be able to get rid of me so easily next time.  


Elder Obray

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Both Are Edified And Rejoice Together

Magandang hapon sa inyo lahat,

I just love Mondays. Monday is probably the craziest day of the week for us. It's supposed to be preparation day with time to unwind, but we always have meetings and assignments so we never really get a chance to sit back and relax. There will be plenty of time to relax when I’m retired. I can wait. I'm glad to hear you had a good week. Life sure is good, isn't it? It sure is over here in the Philippines. We had a pretty epic week and have an even more epic week ahead of us. We will be teaching a lot on Tuesday and Wednesday at interviews and then again on Thursday at MLC. It will be my 15th of 16th and final MLC. What's really cool is that Elder Haynie, Elder Washburn and Elder Clarito (all the Elders I’m going home with) will be at MLC at well. By the way, thanks for the Birthday wishes! I can honestly say that being 21 feels absolutely no different than 20. It's a great day non-the-less. One of the members invited me over for dinner last night and she made mashed potatoes and bacon. It was so great. We'll also be going to our Bishop’s house later tonight for a birthday shindig. I'm pretty stoked. I love the members in this ward so much. When you've been in a ward for this long and you can finally speak the language, you get to know the members really well. It's going to difficult to leave all the great friends I’ve made. But I’m just not going to think about that yet because it's still a long time away. 

We had some pretty amazing experiences this last week. One of the greatest experiences happened the other day while on exchanges. I had the wonderful experience to go back to Manila 1st ward. It was a great experience. It's great to see the results of the work the Lord did through you with your own eyes. We had a very spiritual experience with one member who was very active when I was assigned there. I got to know her really well while teaching her non-member husband. This active member ended up becoming less active about 8 months ago. I was so excited to see her and even happier because she was also excited to see us.  Thanks to inspired questions, we were able to find out the real reason she fell less active. We had one of the most powerful lessons I’ve had in a long time. At the end of the lesson, she stated, "There is a reason you had to come back. You woke me up." It was a great moment. Those types of moments are described very well in D&C 50, "Wherefore, he that preacheth and he that receiveth, understanding one another, and both are edified and rejoice together." I also learned a very important lesson when we were discussing why the course of her life had changed over the past 8 months. I asked her if she had been reading her scriptures and praying. She responded that when she stopped coming to church, she also stopped reading her scriptures and praying. A couple months later, she was swearing, easily angered and drinking coffee. We often underestimate the importance of the "little things" that are required for daily conversion. A testimony is something that has to be regained and strengthened every single day. The little things truly do matter.

The other two amazing experiences both revolve around food and foreigners. Well, let's just say that food is a great missionary tool. I've mentioned in some of my previous emails that we are currently teaching a young man from Sweden.  We had the opportunity this last week to go to his house and meet his family. It was amazing. They have been living in the Philippines for about 9 years and his mom is a very important employee at an international bank. They have a beautiful house. Probably the most beautiful house I’ve been in since I’ve been to the Philippines.   We had a wonderful dinner and had a great time socializing and discussing the gospel. They have very different religious views than most or all of the people of the Philippines. We had a good discussion the restoration and hopefully will be going back in the near future. 

The next experience occurred at a dinner appointment set up by one of our members. She has a couple friends from the Netherlands she invited to this dinner appointment. We ate at a very nice seafood restaurant (it still surprises me that I love seafood so much) and had a great time. It's so cool learning about the cultures from other countries. He was trying to teach us some Dutch words and it honestly sounded like he was clearing phlegm out of his throat. Fun fact for ya. During times of war, if the Dutch suspected someone to be a German spy, they would have him say a single ward that no one can say correctly. If they couldn't say it correctly, they knew he/she was a spy. We also came to find out that they actually live right down the street from our apartment in a condo unit. You bet we'll be teaching them again soon. They will hopefully be coming to church as well this upcoming Sunday. 

I have wonderful news. Brother Cares is now the Young means president in the Manila 2nd ward. He's the man. It won't be long before he's a Bishop. I also got an email from them today with pictures from their sealing!! Oh my gosh. They are the cutest family ever. I just love it.