Thursday, March 28, 2013

Getting ready for the "Split" - March 25, 2013

Dear Mom,

It has turned out to be quite the golden contact. This past week we went back a couple of times to teach them. They have accepted everything we have taught them and have and some really good questions that again I was able to help them understand. If they continue to keep living the things we have taught we should have our own little Day of Pentecost here in Ghana! Haha At least we'll be able to have a couple baptisms next month. This month was a little challenging for us. We missed our goal by a few people, so we are really looking forward to next month. Tonight and tomorrow president is calling trainers for the big MTC group that is coming and my district leaders have kinda hinted towards me as a possible trainer... :D Though it is a bit of a stretch, but a very high possibility! Also next week is transfers and I'm really really looking forward to that day for a couple different reasons.... The way things are going both Elder B and I have been sent to this side so we can prepare for the mission split. We will be in the new mission, which actually sounds way cool. It would be way crazy if I trained or even became a senior companion this early! But the Zone leaders have hinted at the idea I might be one or the other. With the new mission forming I think they will need a lot of younger guys to take over from the older “dying” missionaries. I'm not sure where the new headquarters will be, but they are having quite the run around trying to find more apartments for all the new missionaries coming out.
 In other news the weather continues to be faithful at its commitment to burn us to the bone and sounds like there isn't much change in the forecast. We have had light off 5 nights this past week and plenty of it during the day as well. We have been told that things will be getting worse, though we haven't been told the reason. Also there are still massive water shortages and gas shortages all over the country. Me & Elder B. went on splits for a whole day trying to get gas, so luckily we have been able to get gas and water this past week. So maybe if you guys could send some electricity, it would help -haha!
  The same day I went on splits with Elder B we went down to a beach area to find some kids we were teaching. There we found a beach resort!!! Some many white people it was really scary and I was confused. I hadn't seen some many since I was in JFK haha and the reality there was maybe 30 or 40 altogether.  We had some time to look at the rasta art stores where I bought some cool carvings and clothes. Then we ordered a couple real fruit smoothies and found a porch overlooking the beach and ocean- it was something from a movie, made with bamboo and grass roof. It was seriously a paradise! While we were enjoying this a white boy came up and to see if we were missionaries. He was a member from the UK and is here doing volunteer medical training. It was a strange encounter, but I'm happy we were there.
 There is the excitement I had in Ghana this past week. It has been a pretty fun week. I was able to go on splits with Elder B, which we never thought would happen. Me and Elder H. had a good week too teaching and what not, since we are pretty much companions. Also there is a pile of dirt/cement/sand in the front yard and we have begun turning the top of the apartment’s roof into a fortress with the muddy mixture- it’s going to look awesome. The guys didn't believe I was such a pro at throwing axes/hatchets/knifes and what have you- so while I was on the roof I threw a machete (here they call it a cutlass) clear across the yard and cut a tree right in half! The tree was really green, but I still felt pretty good about the throw- haha.
Through all this craziness we still have plenty of time for the spiritual matters too, so don't think we don't get some work done- haha. I really liked that quote by Neal A Maxwell (who wouldn't like him, right?) It reminds me that if I want to be an instrument in the Lord’s hands I better as well make myself worthy to be one. I read his talk "Put your shoulder to the wheel" from 1998 general conference (It was the 1998 April Ensign I found in our apartment) It reminded me on the importance of hard work and finding blessings through it! I loved it and maybe you could send that one on the SD card too.
Anyways thanks for all your love and prayers. No matter how hot or rough the day is It makes it worth it knowing I have a great deal of support back home. Thanks for everything and I hope you all have a happy Easter.


Elder Steven T. Ray.
Elder Ray at the ocean - Not sure if this is "I Love You" or "Rock on" - thanks to Elder Bay for the picture!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Miracles in an Orphanage - March 18, 2013

Dear Mom & Family,

I think Africa is punishing us for enjoying last week’s little dip into cooler weather, cause the past week was right back to the nice heat I'm familiar with - so really nothing new to report on with that.
Probably the biggest highlight from the week was on Thursday. It was our temple trip and interviews with President Judd. Man what an affect a temple trip can do for you. Kinda made me forget I was on a mission for a little bit, except I was surrounded by Missionaries & Africans. It was really nice to get out of the same old schedule and get to travel into Accra for the day. After the Temple we ate lunch and headed down to the mission office. There we sat through 4 hours of instruction while President pulled us back. Even though the Kasoa District had a 2 hour travel back home, we were some reason last on the list. Though the wait was worth it cause President Judd is awesome at making you feel amazing and ready to baptize the nation. While I was there I was able to pick up mail and guess what, they already had the packages you just sent a few weeks ago. I was extremely happy for all that food stuff you sent me. The raspberries and blueberries had a rough trip but still taste awesome. The raspberries are nice to add into my lemonade (all need some more soon) plus pancakes never fail!
Friday we got a referral from Salt Lake and traveled miles away to find it. Turned out to be a lady who owned an orphanage, and guess what....she loves the church. She knew all about Book of Mormon and had read parts of it, making that a breeze to teach. The best though was while I explained the first vision she and some of the helpers seemed to be a little worried as I told them about it. They then told me how some time before we came, a boy at the orphanage, named Joseph, had the same thing happen to him. I was thinking yeah right, but then she said he had seen us, the missionaries, in the light and now knew our church was true and needed to join it. I wish I could have seen my face cause it was probably a good one hahaha. So we are going to get 30+ investigators at church, since she is the legal guardian for those kids.
Besides those big events, this past week as been very dull and not much excitement. Ate some FuFu, Rode in Cho-Chos, suffered through late outs, and spent some good time with my buddies Elder H, Elder B., and Elder S.  We seem to find ourselves up late telling random stories and going off on the weirdest tangents, does that sound like me? They also like to have me teach history lessons and hear an "Elder Rays Version of a Bible story" I guess I can re-tell a good story and thrown some spiritual thoughts. Also during one of the “Light Off” periods I called ECG ( Ghana's electric company) and told then I was Theodore Roosevelt and was working on the Agricultural audit reports for Ghana to send to Obama (they love him here, uggh) and it worked and soon we had power on - so a few nights later when it happened again I called a said I was Ben Schoppe, president of the Ghana FFA  chapter, and gave the same little story. With Another call by Elder H we got the power back again! Which reminds me,  Elder H. dropped a Ben Schoppe joke out of nowhere the other day, so the Schoppe jokes are taking root with other people in far off lands- haha
Anyways Things are coming along like always. I thank everyone for their prayers and wishes. I hope all is well back home as you guys wait for spring. Don’t worry it should stop snowing by the 1st of June :) Take care and remember I love you guys.
Love your Elder,

E. Steven Taylor Ray

Monday, March 11, 2013

100 Days - March 11, 2013

Dear Mom,
Yes we finally got some rain! hallelujah! It had been threatening to rain for a few days this past week, but still the weather remained at a nice constant 112 or more. Then Saturday the windows of Heaven were opened up on us, and I witnessed a glimpse of what kind of storm would flood the earth had it been giving 40 days and nights. :) haha It rained for maybe 1 or 2 hours but in that time it was able to wash the roads away, flood a couple rooms, and bring the temperature down to a freezing 74 degrees. My room was partially flooded even with the windows closed, the rain was ferocious enough to come through. Don't worry nothing was damaged. It did make traveling on foot and bike extremely hard with all the swamps and mud fields that suddenly appeared. It also washed out a couple of bridges we use.
  The next day was pretty miserable though. The rain brought a small amount of cooler weather, but with it also comes more humidity. And then in good ol' Ghanian style we have had light off since then! :) The rain has hopefully softened the ground enough I can build my garden at the house and me & Elder B. can now dig a speed bump in-front of the house to help control the dust.
  We went back again to the school Friday, but this time we played with the kids and taught the teachers from last week. Luckily for both me and the students there I didn't have to teach math. Maybe if they ever make me do that I'll just assign a ton of homework and they'll ask me not to come teach that anymore. :) We brought Elder H. and his comp with us and I ended up on splits with him. We really get along and have become quite good friends these last couple of weeks. A lot to do with him coming from a small town and that I have spent more time with him then my actual companion due to splits :)
   I found some buffalo wing sauce at the market( really random) and I think I might go buy a chicken or two and enjoy some hot wings tonight or later this week. :) that or maybe I'll find a crocodile and see how that taste with hot wing sauce....not joking about that last part.
  That's really weird to be hearing about kids in the grade under me getting mission calls. But I guess with the age change they'll start popping up out in the field now. This next transfer at the first of April we are expecting 25 new missionaries, that is a ton for this place. But it also shows how many have answered the call and how much work there is needed to be done :) Zane is going to a pretty cool place, I was just reading on missionary work in India...kinda jealous. My computer isn't really working with the camera but I might be able to get you some picture later this week if not E. Bay is going to help me get all the pictures off on to a card and send to you.
  So let’s see... I did forget to mention I got Grandma's package the same time I got yours last week, it was very nice and I'm writing her a thank you note. Ask her though for me if she has received my letter I sent about a month ago, it kinda sounded like it didn't make it to her. I'm trying to think if there is anything i need or want to ask about, but there is really nothing at the moment. I guess that means I'm just doing that great. I have got my scriptures and my machete so I'm just working fine.  I did think of something you could send. next time you get a package ready put some Mormon tab music on there and some talks by Neal A Maxwell, Mark E Peterson, Marion G Romney, James E Faust, David B Haight, and maybe see what the oldest recorded talk is you can find(like audio recorded) Any talks or songs you can think of cause that's all I can think of right now. I bought some cargo pants for P-days and lounging around in the Apartment.. yes I bought a watch. I'm not sure the lifetime on the thing but it is really nice and I was thinking of send some more home for Dad and Dalton. With my trading skills( which I contribute to Dad) I was able to by the watch for 5 American dollars.
Wheeling and dealing has come in really handy out here- I really have to give the credit to Dad for teaching me how to do this kind of trading. Just having watched him over the years I think I have picked up a few things :)
  So until next week, remember that I love you and I'm so very grateful for the prayers of my family, I can really really feel them help me.
Love from your Elder,
Elder Steven T. Ray
P.S. Regarding my 100+ days in the mission field:  Thinking back it’s been really fast but some of the days have dragged a bit  :)

 Mom's Note: Before Taylor left for his mission he had the opportunity to shoot some scenes for Jenny Phillips - she was in our area and doing some shots for 2 CDs she had coming out - they are "Called to Serve" which Taylor is on the cover and then "Stand Ye In Holy Places" which Taylor is in the is a link:

and the picture from the cover of the CD

Monday, March 4, 2013

Need some rain down in Africa - March 4, 2013

Dear Mom,

So this past week has been absolutely boring -  it was not a typical week, but was extremely long and just dragged out for quite a while. I did have some fun adventures with Elder Bay, but it was hotter than normal and I was tired out from the week then last night really late we got a call saying apartment inspection. Yeah that means no sleep cause we all stay up cleaning like crazy. Which brings me to this morning - the apartment check went really well( told us to work on the toilet a little better next time, though no one in Africa can get these toilets perfect) so everyone was happy, that's when they said they had mail for me...a lot of it too.
I was so happy I had to open everything really slowly cause it was like Christmas and I didn't want it to be over. I love love love love everything you sent me - even the corn nuts, which at first I was thinking "I never eat this things" but they are my favorite now. The bracelets are amazing and the lemonade powder will definitely get used :) oh and the mp3 player isn't bad........joking that was the best! Thank you sooooooo much for that.  It works perfectly and I love the speaker for it as well. Elder H., my district leader/2 companion is from California and thinks its way cool I have tons of triple A stuff. He also likes some of the music you guys put on there, some of it I was happily surprised to find on there :) oh I can't express how I am just so happy for all that and most definitely the MP3 player, just love it!
 And then to hear you sent more? now not that I'm not way thrilled about that as well but I just don't want you to be spending a lot of money on me with all this packages, especially after I heard that flat rate prices have gone up. Though I'm so very grateful for everything so far.
  A really interesting thing that did happen this week though was me and Elder O. went and taught 10 lessons at a junior high school. Now at first we were contacting a referral who was a teacher there at the school; then soon we taught another teacher and another and suddenly we were in front of a classroom teaching the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ and how Joseph Smith brought the priesthood back to earth. Yeah I'm not sure how that would go over at an American school, but all the kids loved it and asked questions - then after they all wanted pictures with me :) the teachers have now set us up to come teach every Friday afternoon....and I think they also want me to start teaching after classes(like science and math as well)
  Well that was the fun and joy of my past week here in Ghana, now I'm just praying for some rain and with a little luck we might get some today :)
very hot and sweaty, but doing well
Elder Ray