Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The Blessing- Week 105

As I have prayed and thought and reflected I continually question how I can put into words all that I have felt, experienced, learned, grown, and changed to be forever a better man and friend over the last two years?
I am now and will be eternally grateful for how the Lord has infinitely blessed me. I will share just four ways from this last week:

Miracle #1:
We met Alex last week, and truly it was a miracle of itself how God's timing is always so perfect and led us together, for only a few minutes and were able to set an appointment to come back and see him. We met him while we were out with Kherissa last week so she came with us again to visit him and it was such a happy and simple and really spiritual experience. God's love was manifested to each of us as we talked about simple truths of the reality and love of God, Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice, of prayer, of the Book of Mormon and all scripture, and especially of the importance and blessings of family. He is from Africa and primarily speaks French but is incredible fluent in English and has only been here for about 8 months. It was such a powerful reminder to me of God's love and of the simplicity and beauty of His gospel for which I am eternally grateful and infinitely blessed.

Miracle #2:
One of the summer sales guys in the ward is Allen and he met with missionaries last summer, attended a YSA and family ward when he went home over the year and is talking with us again and we've had some really spiritual visits together that have uplifted and edified us all and caused an increase of each of our faith and in that process we have built a tremendous relationship of love and trust and he texted us randomly on Monday and asked if he could call. We were out for dinner but were able to take his call right there and then and he asked us some great questions that he said he feels is at the root of some of his hold backs with completely joining himself to the Church through baptism and confirmation and they are questions that he has had for a long time but hasn't felt comfortable sharing with others or talking with missionaries about them but because of his trust and the spiritual nature of our relationship he feels ready to talk about some of those questions and sincerely seek and learn answers. That friendship is one that the Lord has made possible for which I am eternally grateful and infinitely blessed.

Miracle #3:
John moved from his apartment this last week into a home and asked for our help so we and one of his friends, Jamison, were all able to go and try to do some good. While we were helping him move we watched him put a few things in his backpack and lastly he took his Book of Mormon and set it gently on top. We inquired about it and he said he has only read a few versus but loved it and is so excited to read it and wants to have easy access and keep it with him. After everything was moved and done we were able to stand and talk with John and Jamison and through the conversation we mentioned something about how important it is to have a change of nature and not just a change of behavior and a couple minutes after that John stopped us all and said "You said something interesting there that I want to talk about more..." So we were able to have a beautiful talk about  conversion, about Christ, about change and repentance and the role of the Book of Mormon in such a change and each of us in one way or another shared stories and experiences about times where our nature was changed and not just our behavior. They both agreed to come to church and seem enthusiastic about learning more and diving into the Book of Mormon. The Lord truly has prepared them and was there, for which I am eternally grateful and infinitely blessed.

Miracle #4:
One of the members of our ward told us of a woman she knows named Jackie and of her family of 5 children and how she has been to church several times before, how she has a Book of Mormon and her son has already begun reading it, how she has seen parts of general conference twice and how she is from Uganda and has a beautiful story. So we had the pleasure of getting in contact with her and set up a time that we could meet her and her family and learn of their story and talk more about the Savior and His Church and the Book of Mormon. She would go with her family to a family ward and not to the University Ward with us so we went with the Elders that she would be able to meet with and go to church with in the future. We were able to go and met all of her beautiful little kids and we talked with them while Jackie went in the kitchen and made us all breakfast. We were able to talk with all of them together about the Restoration of the gospel, of Joseph Smith's experience seeing God our Heavenly Father and His Son the promised Messiah Jesus Christ, of the true power of prayer and the miracles that come from God, and of the Book of Mormon. She had already read from the Book of Mormon that morning, two of her girls downloaded the gospel library app we felt the Spirit all together so tangibly. I know that families are ordained of God and that all of this is true. I've given my life to it and for it the last two years and am eternally grateful and infinitely blessed and feel all I can do is give everything I have for the rest of my life. May God bless each of us with His love and to walk in the light, as He is in the light, in our path and journey through mortality back to Him.

Keep the faith,
Elder Ricks

Monday, July 24, 2017

The Blessing- Week 104

Bike week! Oh, the inspiration of President Mansell under the direction of the Lord, I am so grateful for it! We love to bike as it is but we saw even more miracles than usual this week because of the unique opportunity to have our car grounded and to either bike or get a ride with a member to wherever we were going. I wish I had the time to go through miracle after miracle of biking all week but I think my favorite series of miracles took place on Wednesday night.
We had biked to the institute building and were walking all through campus, talking with everyone we could spot and we came across one of the recent converts of our ward, Emmerson! She hasn't been able to come to church in a couple of months because of work so we got to walk with her to her work at Sonic and Wednesday was their special $0.99 hot dog deal so we each ordered one of those and they had ran out o buns and different things and it took about a half hour for us to get our hot dogs so it was great opportunity to be able to talk with her, particularly about her recent studies from the Book of Mormon. While we were there we got to see two other people we've met before and were able to set up an appointment with them! We were going out with a member at 6:00 so with the slight delay at Sonic we realized we would be late and were going to call Kherissa to let her know we might be a couple of minutes late but weren't able to do that because I discovered that I didn't have the phone. 
We left at 5:55 and began running the mile and a half to try to make it back to the institute building on time and passing through campus we stopped by the bench I last remembered using the phone at and it was still there! We got back to the institute building at 6:03, a sweaty mess and talked with Kherissa about our plans for the night and because she is a lone female we couldn't ride with her so we gave her directions to where we were going and took off biking to meet her there! 
She followed us and we went to see a girl named Taylor that we had met a couple months ago and felt inspired to go try and knocking on her door another young woman named Kelly, from Cameroon Africa and we got to talk with her instead for about 40 minutes and learned of some of her life story and experiences and were able to share the Book of Mormon with her and had a really spiritual experience all together. 
We left there and began walking back to visit someone else and stopped to talk with another guy, William, by commenting on his shoes and asking about them which led to him sharing with us his story about playing football in college and then having a cancerous tumor and how upset he was with God and about a young girl nearly 8 years old who was at the hospital also with cancer who became his best friend and supporter and turned him back toward God and several weeks after he was healed and cancer free she passed away and we were able to share the Book of Mormon with him also and had another spiritual experience with him.
Still on our walk over to see this person we had originally planned to see, we stopped and began talking with a man named Alex who was carrying a little girl. We learned that he is from Greece and the girl is his girlfriend's daughter and he asked what we were doing so we let him know a little bit about us and what we were doing and that as missionaries we get to help people come closer to God and to build their faith in Christ and how we are visiting a lot of people throughout the complex and asked if we could come visit he and his girlfriend and he cheerfully set a time with us that we could come over. 
It was such a fun and miraculous night and I am grateful for the opportunity to  only bike, to work more with these remarkable members of Christ's Church, and to sacrifice and show Heavenly Father our love and dedication to Him and we were greatly blessed to see so many miracles that night and all through out the week, this is His work of blessing and exalting souls.

Keep the Faith,
Elder Ricks

The Blessing- Week 103

Taelor-In zone conference last week, we received training and had a council about Finding and Elder Van Alfen and I got really excited about everything that was said so we have begun talking with all of the members of the ward about all of it and were able to share some of the things we learned last week at dinner with Tyson and Will. Through the discussion they began to recall experiences from their missions and Tyson began sharing some of the things he has been trying to do to share the gospel with his classmates and coworkers and out of nowhere Will exclaimed "Wow, I suck. I am a terrible member missionary..." Elder Van Alfen and I explained to them that at the beginning of the transfer we wanted to bring two individuals into the fold through the waters of baptism, one of them we knew, the other we didn't know yet. As we talked about this, we learned that Will and I have the same amount of time left in Oklahoma and we decided all together that we would find someone to teach and baptize into Christ's Church and they will find someone who can be taught and baptized into Christ's Church before we go home. We were all really excited about the goals we set together and we left that dinner with a fire and excitement to find those that the Lord has prepared. 
We began praying, they began praying, that we could all have the success in the Lord that we felt the Spirit testified to us that we could be apart of.
Tyson came teaching with us this last Tuesday and our appointment at 6:00 fell through and we felt prompted and decided to go try an investigator, whom we haven't been able to get a hold of or see for the last 3 weeks, before our next appointment.
We arrived and knocked on the door and a girl answered. We began talking with her and learned quickly of a terrible car accident she was in about 3 weeks ago and it could've/should've been a lot worse than it was, about how she hadn't been to church in quite a while and couldn't find one that she wanted to be apart of or had time for, about how she hasn't felt happy for the last three years-since she was in high school and was with a good group of friends who went to a Bible study together every morning at 6:00 am, and about how she lived several years in Idaho next to a Mormon family whom became dear family friends and who her sister had been visiting for 2 months this summer and was supposed to fly in the next day and how they had gone to church with them several times while they lived in Idaho. We relayed a favorite scripture from the Book of Mormon with her and offered her the book which she took with a heart full of thanks and excitement exclaiming, "I will definitely read this, I can't wait. I think my accident was God slapping me on the hand and letting me know He is ready to have a deeper and greater relationship again and it's time for me to find my way back."

John, Gina, and Elizabeth- A couple weeks ago we met John and in a miraculous way he invited us over so we took the opportunity and just last night we were able to go back to see him and were privileged, by God's grace and mercy and perfect timing to meet his girlfriend and one of his friends and taught them of the restoration of our Lord's Church and Kingdom on the earth. They soaked it all up, asked great questions, and expressed great thanks for sharing everything we did and for giving each of them their own Book of Mormon.

Biking Miracle- Our Mission President has issued a mission-wide bike week for this week starting yesterday so we got out of our visit with John, Gina, and Elizabeth at about 9:20 and had a 5 mile bike ride home so we took off cooking and actually made great time! On the road at 9:45 we were at the last stretch, just over a quarter of a mile away from our apartment so I turned and yelled to Elder Van Alfen, "Beat me home!!" he looked at me, slightly confused and concerned saying "There's cars?!" I responded with a gentle and loving "Sissy!!" he took off and I turned back around and just as I did so my front tire began grinding on the side of the curb and I knew it was imminent so I had to decide if I was going to fall to the left into the road or to the right onto the side walk...Recognizing what Elder Van Alfen had said about cars I quickly opted to fall to the right and gracefully went slightly over my handle bars and my shoulder met the ground and I skipped for a second and proceeded to slide on the ground on my shoulder and my back for about 5 yards.:) Now, there are two miracles to this story! #1 It was the first bike crash I have had as a missionary so I made it 1 year and 52 weeks without wrecking which is a mighty miracle of itself!! #2 I was totally fine and my bike still works great and I was worried that if I beat Elder Van Alfen home that he would be slightly upset but instead he got to laugh a little bit and beat me home so on all accounts we are blessed and it was a miracle haha:)

Keep the faith,
Elder Ricks

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The Blessing- Week 102

Edmond is Zion, heaven, the courts of glory, paradise, etc. I am convinced that this is the best place and these are the best people under the heavens! As always, there are more miracles and blessings than I can count or that I can recount, especially by way of email but this week, the greatest miracle of all has been conversion and excitement in myself and Elder Van Alfen and in the lives of nearly everyone in the ward and in our area!

What a spectacle it has been to witness the last two months of Ashanti's stunning and miraculous conversion. She has been one of God's elect and it has been such a blessing to be able to see her excitement and love of the gospel grow and flourish until she has been brim with joy and overflowing with excited anticipation for her baptism. She was baptized last night and was so calm and at peace and full of gratitude and joy for all the Lord has done for her throughout her life and especially the last couple of months. Conversion is the most incredible, uniting, and beautiful miracle to witness.

I know this is the Lord's work and I've been able to feel an ever increasing abundance of God's love and Spirit this last week. I know of the power of the Sacrament and of prayer and study and faith and repentance and baptism and other covenants with the Divine and of the power which is in Christ.

Keep the faith,
Elder Ricks

 Elder Van Alfen, Ashanti's mother, Ashanti, Elder Yamane, and Elder Ricks

Six months ago I was so blessed to serve with Elder Yamane and now I receive the special blessing of being served by Elder Yamane as he is now my District Leader! I love him so much and was grateful that he was the one who was able to talk with Ashanti personally, on Friday before her baptism yesterday, in the way the Savior would in seeking out her story of conversion and being able to witness that she truly is repentant and prepared to be baptized into the Lord's Church and Kingdom here on the earth. With such a sacred experience, Ashanti asked Elder Yamane to baptize her and it was such a spiritual evening!

The Blessing- Week 101

The field is white, already to harvest, I can see it and I know it and I believe Christ in every word and promise He has ever made. In John 4:31-38, Jesus taught this truth and promised that we aren't here to sow now and reap in four months, but that instead we are sent to reap now and in the process of reaping, naturally and immediately sowing becomes a byproduct. I know that there are still people that the Lord, in His infinite love and wisdom, has prepared personally and through others of His children for Elder Van Alfen and I to bring into His harvest of souls. A couple weeks ago, Elder Van Alfen and I prayerfully sought the Lord's will and felt encouraged by a heaven sent thought that we knew of one individual, Ashanti, who is coming unto Christ through faith and baptism unto repentance and that there is one other individual, currently unknown to us, who is also prepared to come unto Christ this month through faith and baptism unto repentance.

We have been able to see God's mighty hand in so many ways and be the beneficiaries and witnesses of so many miracles. One particular miracle that touched me this week was our experience with John. We felt impressed to go to an apartment complex and try a few people we had previously met and talked with, the first didn't answer and we walked out to go to the next and casually began conversation with John about his hair and how long he had been growing it out. Without more than a three sentence conversation, he said "Do you want anything ot eat or drink? I am getting my mail right now but you are welcome to meet me back at my apartment to talk." Frankly, I was shocked and I'm sure I looked as dumbfounded as I sounded when we stumbled with a response that we were going to try one of our friends from our congregation and then we would be happy to meet him at his apartment. We tried this young couple, again to no avail, and with a prayer of thanksgiving went to John's apartment where we were able to have a 45 minute conversation about where his faith and relationship with God are at and he inquired about the one thing he had heard about Mormon's, being baptized on behalf of the deceased. After an explanation about prophets and temples and about that glorious doctrine and piece of God's plan for each of our salvation, he was nodding his head in absolute agreement and told us it just makes sense. "...the Lord is preparing people to receive you and the restored gospel. He will lead you to them or He will lead them to you." Preach My Gospel ch. 9

This really is the work of our Heavenly Father, the field truly is white already to harvest, and I am grateful to be on His errand.

Keep the faith,
Elder Ricks

Monday, June 26, 2017

The Blessing- Week 100

Well, I am shocked again that it is already time to be sending this email and I feel so blessed because of the blessed and wonderful companionship and friendship I had with Elder Burrows and the miracles we were able to see together and now Elder Van Alfen is a stunning missionary and an immediate best friend and it feels that this week was just filled with deep rooted conversions and God's perfect guidance and timing to produce mighty miracles. 

Heavenly Father's perfect guidance and timing to produce mighty miracles:
The very first day Elder Van Alfen and I were together and got to campus, we saw immediate blessings and miracles that can be attributed only to God's supreme and masterful plan and how He directs and guides His children with perfect timing.
Emmerson-We were walking on campus for no more than 4 minutes before we spotted Emmerson who was baptized last October so we ran to her and were able to walk with her to her apartment and had a great visit with her outside for about ten minutes to feel the Spirit and God's love altogether.

Paydon-We met Paydon a few weeks ago on campus and played basketball with him and then talked about the Book of Mormon and Restoration of the gospel and he was so intrigued and we were able to set up a time to come visit him but with some things coming up we weren't able to go visit him then and couldn't get a hold of him by texting or calling so immediately after we finished talking with Emmerson, we turned around and walked for 90 seconds when we say Paydon playing basketball and not realizing it was him at first we looked at each other and hurried our way over to him to see if we could play and to my great surprise it was in fact him and we got to play again and talk a little bit more after playing and set another appointment and nothing will get in the way of it this time:) haha 

Kirk-Just as we finished playing our game with Paydon, as the winning shot was taken, Kirk was walking passed the court on the sidewalk and saw me and we had met a week and a half ago and he called out and said "Hey, is that Elder Rick?!" (Haha it is a common occurrence for others to forget I have an s at the end of my name:)) so while I went to talk with him for a few minutes and we set up a time to get together for a lesson, Elder Van Alfen kept talking with Paydon and it was just miraculous all the people we had previously met that God placed in our path once again within a half hour of each other. This morning, walking to the library, we saw Kirk again and he is looking forward to us coming over to visit him and share with him the Restored gospel.
Deep rooted conversions:
Ashanti-She has been so prepared and has been one of God's elect the whole time we've been able to teach her but I can't believe how deep her conversion is getting and the passion and excitement that has filled her this last week. I'm not sure what happened and can describe it in no other way than that the Spirit of God, like a fire, is burning within her and she is so anxious for her upcoming baptism and taking so many strides towards that remarkable and sacred experience.

Alice-Gave a talk in sacrament meeting and was the highlight of the entire meeting. Her testimony is so powerful and she declares the stark contrast and blessing of having the gift of the Holy Ghost in comparison to not having it and she is gaining so much confidence that can come only by living the principles of the gospel and coming to know Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.

Scott-Has returned to the Church and come back into activity for the last six months after 16 years of inactivity and he too bears such a powerful and sincere testimony of the power, mercy, and divinity of Christ and he received the Melchizedek Priesthood at Church yesterday before he moves to Arizona this week to begin his career after finishing residency. He really and truly is a brilliant example of Christlike love and light and he radiates both of those things wherever he stands.

Hannah-Received her patriarchal blessing yesterday and is so strong. I've talked about her in every one of my emails I think for the last two months and I still can't say the smallest part of just how miraculous and deep her conversion is. If you took away every single other piece of evidence or thoughts or feelings that confirm, by the Spirit, the reality of God, then looking only at Hannah and the story of her conversion and the true and everlasting joy that rests within her soul, then you will have seen and felt enough to know that God is and that He loves His children, every one. 

I love my Savior and my Heavenly Father and am so full of gratitude and joy.

Keep the faith,
Elder Ricks

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Blessing- Week 99

My heart is full and my words insufficient to express my love and gratitude to God for the many tender mercies and miracles I've been so blessed to see and be apart of.


Elder Burrows- After three incredible months, having so much fun and seeing so many miraculous things together, I thankfully get to think back on all the things that Elder Burrows has taught me and helped me with since I got to this area and it's tremendous to me how the Lord has used Elder Burrows as an instrument in my own spiritual growth and path to perfection. I love him so much and am so grateful for his companionship and for all that God has done to strengthen and bless us. I have been so blessed my entire mission with the best companion's that can be given, oh how I love my companion and how I love this work.:)

Elder Van Alfen-I learned of who my new companion will be for my last transfer as a full-time, tag on your chest, missionary in Christ's Church and am so excited to be with him! He has been out for a little over 10 months, is from Eagle, Idaho, and is absolutely incredible!!:) I got to serve around him for a time while I was in the Village and just can't wait for all that I will be able to learn and experience with him over the next 6 weeks and the people we are working with and will be able to work with this next transfer. I feel confident in the expectation that this will be the best 6 weeks of my life and I want to cherish every moment of it. We are going to work harder, be more obedient, and have more fun than either of us ever have on our missions and I couldn't be more excited to end my mission with him.:) 

Hannah-Wow, she has been and continues to be such a great source of strength and faith and Christlike discipleship and convicted testimony of the Savior and I still stand in aw, among everyone else who has met her, at the conversion she is having and the way our Heavenly Father is working in and through her. In an opportunity that was unplanned by us but prepared by God, we had a lesson with Ashanti yesterday at the church and Hannah was the teacher the entire time in sharing her unique conversion story and filling every heart with the Spirit of God and with His pure, all encompassing love in a way that has touched us so many times before and again then and in a way that really and truly has now changed Ashanti's entire life which will extend into all eternity.

Ashanti-This last week we were able to visit Ashanti a couple times and in such a spiritually moving way and in her sincere desire to follow Christ, she has decided with a surety that she wants to be baptized and is planning to have that sacred ordinance take place on July 8, just a few weeks away. I just marvel at the way that God loves each of us as His children and how He wants every good thing for us. I have learned so much about His nature and goodness and mighty and miraculous power since arriving to this area and seeing time, and time again, His power and love in this work that is His. I know with a certainty that it is His work and that no unhallowed hand can frustrate or stop my God and Friend, the Creator and Savior and Redeemer of the world.

Keep the faith,
Elder Ricks