Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Returning Home - December 8, 2014

I think Elder Ray said all he wanted to in last week's letter and had many people to see on his very last P-Day in the field but he did send us these scriptures:

I think this can say it all;

3 John 1:13-14
 I had many things to write , but I will not with ink and pen write unto thee:  But I trust I shall shortly see thee, and we shall speak face to face. Peace be to thee. Our friends salute thee. Greet the friends by name.

2 John 1:12
  Having many things to write unto you, I would not write with paper and ink: but I trust to come unto you, and speak face to face, that our joy may be full.
And ending with the caption:
"See you on Wednesday!!!!!"
Merry Christmas from the Elders

Monday, December 1, 2014

And That's the Way it is.....Dec 1, 2014

I try to condense a few things in from the last two weeks, but there is so much that has been happening, funny how that goes, now that I'm so near the end. You would think being a missionary during the holidays it would be rather lame, unproductive, sad, and gloomy, well for some they do get hit with trunky feelings as they are away from family (3 outta the 5 in my apartment this is there first holiday season) but I'll tell you, we have been so busy from normal teaching appointments to just plan eating there hasn't been much time for thinking! Plus I'm trying to do a lot of things before I leave, so we stay busy.
  The week before last we spent a good amount of time at the South Coast Plaza Mall, there was a nice knife/shaving/culinary/ sword shop that I could have spent days in, but it’s Orange Co. and way out of my price range. We had dinner with an awesome non-member family (Greg&Steph), but you'd think they were LDS by just looking at them, for dessert we went to Cold Stone and ran into a few members doing their FHE, which I'm sure they thought we were doing too. Greg is going to take me for a cruise in his 57 Chevy before I leave.
    That was the same week that the mission did a big 24hr exchange mission wide. Everyone moves to somewhere else or gets a new companion. I had wished to go to Foothill Ranch (where the Schoessows are) and somehow it did happen. You saw the pictures it was a fun time, my comp was Elder Redhouse, a native American from Farmington NM, where another of my native companions (Elder Thomas back in Ghana) was from. 
  Our Investigator Katerina accepted a baptismal date as well, but will have to get married to her less active boyfriend before it happens. I love them both and they are 2 great friends I have now down here. It has been amazing to see her progress in the church and I hope for the best. We also helped her move that Saturday and then after she came to an interfaith fundraiser at the Dover building. That was also a great blast to see so many members and others either sell baked goods, make wood blocks, turn pens on a lathe or weave blankets.
  This past Tuesday me and 2 companions rode our bikes down to the peninsula (with Balboa and the piers) to have an early Thanksgiving with a family from the ward. The mother who lives there is actually one investigator of ours whose daughter and granddaughter and great-granddaughter are members in our ward. It was such a fun time riding down through such a beautiful place of California. Then the other 2 elders picked us up and we went down the road to the temple to watch a sealing of another member. Great night all in all.
   Wednesday the entire mission met up for a special fireside with a Seventh-day Adventists chaplain as our speaker. He had some fire in his talk (didn't realize how pulpit pounding their sermons were) but was loud and only that, he had but kind words for the missionaries and what they have done at Naval Base in San Clemente and focused on what a mission is. Liked to yell, but it was just his military training showing.
   Well what do you think we did on Thanksgiving? We ate a bit here and there, then a lot in one place and even more in another. The Roberts had us over around lunch time for their meal -the Roberts had invited a lot of members who did not have families to go to or were in a tough place. So we enjoyed the time with lots of members. Afterwards we went straight to the Kettleys home and even though it was an "off year" for them I'd say we had a third of the ward there (with 5 of their 7 kids+ family in the ward it adds up) We really were made part of the family in both homes, my thanks to the Lord for being blessed in a land flowing with such abundance and having great members who take us in.
   The next morning we went over to another member’s home and turned some pens on the wood lathe (because of time we were unable to at the Heart&Hands event the week before). Mine is a beautiful thing made of olive wood, figured on that wood because of the significance of Olives and the Gospel.
  Yesterday I was really struck with how short my time really is, I only have one Sunday left. We went back to the Kettley's that evening for another dinner and made gingerbread houses (mine was the Kirtland Temple) a fun tradition. The rest of the night it was just me and elder Bartell (the others went to stake choir) We stopped by a few different people (taught a small lesson to the Bishops family)
   I pondered a lot on my mission and how far I have come (not just on plane rides) though the more I think of its winding down and eventual end the more it’s just an incentive to push on and make everything the best I can. I love it, “enjoy every sandwich” because I will never be here again, like I am now. 
  That is all for now, can't say if I will write too much next week, may just have to wait and hear from me in person, but thank you for everything and helping me get this far already.   I love you all so much!
                Elder Steven Taylor Ray

Thanksgiving with the Roberts

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


Last Thursday evening we received an email from our friends in the California Irvine Mission.  Elder Ray trained their son in the Ghana Accra West mission and now he is in their mission.  This family is not in Elder Ray's area however the mission had a "mix-up" day where all the elders are sent to different areas for 24 hours......so Elder Ray stopped by to say "HI" before going to their dinner appointment.  We appreciate all they have done in looking out for Elder Ray :)
This is his trainee's jeep

Elder Ray and the Schoessow Family

Loving California

Hamid and Elder Ray - he always feeds the missionaries

Nighttime view of Newport

Elder Ray has a special attachment to old suburbans :)

View from Corona del Mar

Corona del Mar hike

Newport Zone Hike

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A few spares for the flats - November 17, 2014

So I am a little tired today as I write this email, I hope I can make it through without falling asleep (well a wall outlet just exploded here at the library so that has me up again.)
  J Golden Kimball made the comment about some of the flats (old people or lazy) in the Church and that the spares that keep everything moving. Made me think about this today.
  This morning we got up earlier than normal (of all days to do that, a Monday!) We went on a zone hike in some nearby mountains (or the closest things to it here) just above the ocean in Corona del Mar area. It was very beautiful as we had an overlook of the hills, ocean, and Catalina Islands. I can tell I'm a bit rusty though at hiking.
  Last Monday as we left the apartment in the morning we noticed the rear tire was flat. Luckily there was a spare small tire and a jack. I soon found out though that none of the other 4 elders had any experience in actually changing a tire. One or two had taken theoretic courses on how to change one but had not been proven yet with it. So I coached them through and eventually we made it to Pep boys (though I thought about calling AAA haha) I could find many ways to apply this to lesson, but I think it was learned that day well, how thankful I am now for having Dad there to teach me those skills, but then having the trials and burdens that tested those skills. 
I had my last zone training meeting. Such a strange feeling being the missionary at the end who is called upon to bear their last testimony, one of the sisters mentioned how she never thought she would be here (giving her last testimony) so when it was my turn I said how I really never thought I'd be here. That got some good laughs, even from one of the counselors in the mission presidency.
 Did a lot of service painting office rooms for Bro Kettley (2nd cous.) and moving the Martin family, they are heading to Palm Desert. Also had a fantastic dinner with the Conks. Probably the eldest couple in the ward, but Sister Conk is the funniest women ever, she has that sense of humor as J Golden Kimball. I had told her about eating cat in Africa and for the last few weeks she kept telling me she was looking for one to get a big steak from.
   Another dinner was with The Cook family, he is the gentleman who took us on the tour at the airport museum. We got to listen to stories upon stories of his days in Berlin in the cold war. Such a blessing to have such fun people to work with and be around at the end of my mission. We even picked up 3 new investigators this week, one was a couple that showed up to Church.
   Such fun and happening times here combined with the warm weather really makes me wonder if I want to return to school in 14degree temps...maybe I'll just extend until summer! :) No not really however it’s sad to be ending but until then there is the urgency to continue what I have been doing, there has always been that urgency, you just seem to notice better at the end.
   Elder Steven Taylor Ray

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Visit from Elder Andersen

The California Irvine Mission had the opportunity to have Elder Wilford Andersen of the Second Quorum of the Seventy, and his wife, Sister Kathleen Andersen  here as a visiting General Authority.  He spoke to almost 200 missionaries and participated in the multi-zone training conference and participated in their break-out sessions.  Between training meetings and Elder Andersen's address wonderful sisters from the CIM boundaries fed the missionaries.

Elder and Sister Andersen, Pres. and Sis. Orgil

lunch after the multi-zone training 

the California Irvine Mission with Elder and Sister Andersen

All 5 elders before transfers
the "Wedge" at Newport Harbor
the new companionship: Elder K., Elder B, and Elder Ray
Enjoying beautiful weather in Newport Beach

Everyone loves Frozen!!!

Warnings From Outer Space - October 5, 2014

I'll explain the title of this email later, but hopefully for now I have you attention before I tell you about another week in the California Irvine mission....
   Transfers: Elder Ballif and Thayer are gone, I thought it was funny they were both my former companions. Elder King and I stayed together, which I am very glad to have him as my last companion or hospice elder since he is taking care of a dying missionary (just what they call you in your last transfer.) But as I stated before I'm doing my best to go out with my boots on. We did get a 3rd comp, Elder Bartell from Idaho Falls - he is a funny guy.  It was nice to see Elder Mackey and hear his last testimony, he is already well missed here.
     Saturday I got to go down to the peninsula to teach the 93yr old mother of one of our members. She was married to a "good Mormon guy" but never seriously investigated the Church until recently and he is long passed. Sweet woman and she may be baptized by the end of the year. Her house was two blocks away from the “wedge”, a popular surfin' point and also the exit for the Newport harbor. We stopped for pictures and contacted a couple people, even some members from Texas.
     Also it rained here for the first time in 8 months, which not only was an answer to many prayers, but brought the chill of November to the air. I put my trench coat on for a minute (somehow I now have 2), but it was ok, by noon it was sunny and warm again....California is rough I tell you, are you sure you want to come here? 
   For Halloween the zone got together to play games and watch a movie. I thought that sounded lame so instead I had a member get us "the Best Two Years" so we could watch it with a part-member family. The man is a recent convert and we have been trying to meet more with his wife. He is a super funny (in a good way) guy who helps us a lot, plus feeding us too. It was a great night and both loved the movie, getting better versed how a mission works and the lingo. I thought it was great too now that I have served a mission.
     The ward’s Halloween party was last Friday and was a great event to get not just members out, but less-actives and non-members. We, the missionaries, had to judge the mac'n' cheese and chili cook off. It was hard eating with our mustaches on but we got it done. One of my favorite families came and their daughters came as Anna and Elsa (these are the same girls I drew Frozen for.)
  The library here for some reason attracts some real crazies. Some may just be homeless, but others are a strange crew indeed. One was talking to me about how she landed spaceships in Palm Springs, and is here to save the world from alcohol and tobacco. There have even been some less actives who have also had some "close-encounters" or believe in witchcraft and what have you. Anyway through all the stories of aliens warning us about the evils I remembered a talk I saw once by President N. Eldon Tanner called "warnings from outer space." We made mention to an astronomer who thought some far off civilization was trying to reach out to us and warn us of self-destruction, then related it to how in reality our Father in Heaven who is "above the earth" warns us of the things we do (even alcohol and tobacco.) 
   It’s a rather roundabout way of saying it, but I tried to look at some positive in it, thank goodness for modern and continuous revelation...even the personal kind which helps guide our life, but also keep it grounded and understood. Anywho I just keep on moving on, making every moment count and "enjoying every sandwich."
  Love you all forever,
             Elder Steven Taylor Ray
Elder Mackey and Elder Ray and the transfer meeting

Newport Harbor

Newport Harbor

Newport District Transfers

Winter in Southern California