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

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