Monday, December 12, 2016

The Blessing- Week 72

It was an excellent week!
I learned and grew a lot this week and was able to feel the Spirit so strongly as it enlightened and empowered me and saw so many miracles. Here are just four, that I can't do justice in typing, none the less. 
Miracle #1
-We received a call on Tuesday from a returned missionary Sister currently living in Arizona. She informed us that she had already called our Bishop and proceeded to ask us a little bit about ourselves and the work and how everything was going then she told us that she has a boyfriend that lives in Oklahoma City in our area and she just wanted to call to be ensured it would be okay for us to meet him and to work with him in teaching the restored gospel. It was an, interesting, but exciting and enjoyable phone call! I've never really been interviewed in that kind of fashion but not even 5 minutes after we hung up with her we receive a text from an Oklahoma number which read "Hello, this is Gray. Shantel gave me your number and said I could talk to you about getting into the converting process. Just let me know where and what time and I'll be there."
Shantel got home from her mission a few months ago and was in Oklahoma at a horse show and she and Gray met on the plane and she gave him a Book of Mormon! (Is anyone else impressed with this story yet?) 
We met him at the Church the next night and had an amazing conversation/discussion with him in which he first told us that he was not pursuing this because of some girl but that he has been looking for a while and he feels good about moving forward in this direction and referred to the fact that he has already prayed about it and it feels right which preceded him teaching us basically all of the restoration, told us he has read the first book of Nephi (yes, all 22 chapters). We then asked him what more he would like to know so he told us he would like to know more about the restoration of the Church/Priesthood and Joseph Smith and we talked about some of the details of those things including time-lines and honestly just a lot of stuff that typically, most people don't need to know because it would be way too much for them but he was just loving it and wanted us to tell it to him! It was crazy! He already knows what he wants/needs and we are honestly just a tool for him to get there so we are just trying not to get in his way! Haha it was such a neat experience and one I'll never forget. He is such a great guy and so prepared!  
He went to Arizona this weekend and Shantel was speaking in two different Sacrament meetings so he went to both of those. (2 sessions of church, in one day!) All he wants is for us to teach him the lessons as quickly as possible, he asked if him going to church for both of those would count for him going to church twice (so he can join quicker) and so much more. Absolutely miraculous. We will see him again tomorrow night and pin down some of the details for the rest of the timeline leading to his baptism and confirmation.
Miracle #2
-Xander is a nine year old boy that we have been working with who is so excited to be baptized! We stopped in and saw them yesterday and he told us he wants to be baptized this month and his grandma, almost pleading with us, asked if it could happen before Christmas so we, of course, excitedly told her yes and explained to them what else he would need to do to be prepared spiritually and physically and logistically to be baptized on December 24th and comfirmed/receive the gift of the Holy Ghost on Christmas day, if possible.
Miracle #3
-We are working with a father named Michael who is going through some difficult times right now but just desperately wants to be a member of the Church and be baptized and he is shooting for the 31st of this month, or sooner if possible. I will have to finish the rest of his miraculous story next week because it is a thriller!
Miracle #4
-He Is Jesus Christ is a musical performance that took place in the community and hundreds of people came to the two performances on Saturday, members and non-members alike. It was open to all but the Church (surrounding stakes) was in charge of putting it all together and had the majority presence of people involved and who attended. They requested that at least 24 missionaries be at each show to help out and our mission President told us that if someone we are working with goes then we can go. We were able to help at the 3:00 session and then to come back later that night with Michael for the 7:00 session. At that performance in both sessions I got to see soo many people from previous wards and it was so fun for me to see each of them and rekindle the love and friendship that we have. I got to see Brother Paul Vorel who was the first miraculous conversion I got to see as a missionary who was baptized a little over a year ago and he invited me to attend his endowment session at the temple this Wednesday at 7:30. I got to see many, many more friends that I consider to be family who just brightened my whole day and allowed me to reflect on so many wonderful memories and miracles throughout the duration of my mission. The performance was also so powerful and spiritual and touching that it brought tears to my eyes in gratitude and love and admiration for my Brother, and my Savior, Jesus Christ, the Messiah. What a glorious name, life, sacrifice, and gift. 

Keep the faith my dear Brothers and Sisters,
Elder Ricks

The Blessing- Week 71

It was a wonderfully chaotic week and I am short on time so I apologize if this is a little scrambled or poorly said but I hope you get the Spirit of it.
Progressive Blessing(s)-->Miracle(s)

Matt is now out of the hospital and doing well so we are happy to report that! But we have gone back several times since we gave Rebekah the blessing on Thanksgiving and she is doing much, much better than she was which we are happy and excited about. Each time we go back we get to pray with her and often her two sons that have been with her every moment they possibly can (Jacob is 25 and Daniel is 17 I believe) Jacob hasn't left the hospital in the last 12 days to stay there with his mom and they only time Daniel hasn't been there is when he has been at school. We went again this last Saturday to visit them and we had such a spiritual and powerful lesson as we read from the scriptures and talked about eternal truths of the Plan of Salvation. It was such a testimony builder for me because none of these three are members of the Church and haven't been to church in a long time but it was so powerful each time they stated "Well, they never taught us this in church but I believe..." or whenever they said "I really think that..." everything they said aligned with the doctrines of the gospel of Jesus Christ as restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith but they had never read it in the scriptures or been taught it in a Sunday school class, they had simply been taught by the Holy Ghost who helped them remember their identity and the plan of our Heavenly Father for our happiness and salvation. It was so powerful and when we left you could feel and see the fire in their eyes and an excitement to read the Book of Mormon and the Bible and to learn more and to become more like God.
I'm so grateful for the Spirit. What a precious and marvelous gift from God, our Eternal Father. I've been able to feel His presence many times throughout my life but particularly on my mission and especially the last couple weeks. I love this time of the year where there are so many who go out of their way to serve and to love and to focus on Christ and His teachings. It is simply beautiful to see and to feel. I love you and hope you enjoy this Christmas season Lighting the World and witnessing God's hand work miracles through you.

May God's grace and mercy and peace be with you this week I hope and pray.

Keep the faith,

Elder Ricks

Top Golf
Teaching our dear little friend Xander!
#LIGHTtheWORLD #Day1 #DayOfService
We started off December (Elder Dean's Birthday, and the day of service in the Light the World initiative) helping our investigators move and the Sisters in our ward came to help out! (Sister Garner is from Rexburg!!) "By small and simple means are great things brought to pass" was so true in packing this little truck...
Elder Ricks, Sister Trotter, Sister Garner
Rondolus, Elder Ricks, Elder Dean
Last night we were driving from dinner and the First Presidency Christmas Devotional at our stake president's house (he lives in our ward and feeds us several times a month) to drop off the Sisters in our ward and then to try some people before the end of the night and we saw a vehicle pulled over in the road with their hazards on so we pulled over and ran to them and offered to help so we pushed this single mother and her two kids to an off street. She happened to have an empty gas can in her car so Elder Dean and I went to the gas station and filled it up with the Sisters stayed back with Mooney and her kids Dwayne and Cali. After we got back and put the gas in the car wouldn't start so we waited there with her while the kids dad came to help and as we waited I got a little carried away playing with the kidos and we played all sorts of games: rock paper scissors, tag, basketball, vampire/lion-scaring each other, and more but by the end I ended up being "Jungle Boy" as Cali said and they beat me up after I swung around on the tree. We had a good time and while I messed around, Elder Dean talked with Mooney and we have a return appointment to teach her on Friday!
 Despite what you think, I really am off the ground hanging on the tree branch hahaha we had so much fun!

Monday, December 5, 2016

The Blessing- Week 70

We, of course, had a Turkey Bowl Thursday morning! As a group of us were mingling together before the games started we looked toward the parking lot and one of the missionaries said "Hey, is that Elder Sitati? We all looked and said "Nah, there's no way, but they do look pretty similar!" To our dismay, Elder Sitati came walking up in his sweats and sneakers ready to play "American Football, haha okay." (He has the cutest accent, it is so neat!) So we got to play our turkey bowl with Elder Sitati from the First Quorum of the Seventy for his first ever game of "American Football". Haha he ended up falling twice and left with this big brown dirt patch on his bum, it was really enjoyable to have him there with us. We still played like mad though so don't ever think that football isn't spiritual because I can testify that one of the most spiritual guys on the earth was there ready to play and have a good time!

Service! We were graced with an opportunity to go to the UCO campus and help with the "Edmond Community Lunch". Anyone from the community could attend and we got to clean dishes, take people's plates and dishes as they finished each portion of their meal and even serve them with their food. It was so neat and the Spirit was so strong as so many people united together with one cause, to "go about doing good" in the "service of (their) fellow beings. ..." The greatest part was being able to see the faces of children and adults alike, light up and illuminate the whole place brilliantly. I really believe I was able to see the glory of God manifest in such a setting. I loved it! 

We received a request on Thanksgiving by a member in Lawton to go to the hospital to give her non-member son a blessing. We accepted the request right away and the next moment we got we headed for the hospital. We got up there and Elder Dean gave Matt a blessing of such beauty and power and love that I have rarely, if ever heard and felt-which is saying a great deal because I have heard and felt my share of divine blessings pronounced upon others by the power of the Holy Ghost in the authority of the Holy Priesthood of God. Sister Smith thanked us emotionally as did Matt's non-member father. As we were heading for the elevator to leave, a woman in the lobby area of the elevators exclaimed, "Hi Elders!" we talked with her for a moment and she asked us to give her cousin, in ICU, a blessing. So we went marveling and thanking Heavenly Father for these opportunities and privileges He had given us seemingly out of nowhere. Once again, Elder Dean offered a most powerful and touching blessing on Rebekah's head. I am always in awe when I consider the timing of the Lord, particularly within the hallowed walls of these sacred places of care and support, and often the loss or saving of loved ones.
On Sunday night we were called frantically, again, someone from Lawton, to go to OU Children's Hospital to give their daughter a blessing. We did it and had another really powerful experience. It was the extended family of a family I knew well and loved in Lawton so that was special for me being able to be apart of it.
Friday, later in the night, I got a call from President Mansell who gave me the phone number of my Aunt Cammie saying that she and her family were in town and he told me to give them a call the next morning and set something up to see them for lunch or something like that! Well, the next morning we pull up to our apartment after having played some sports with a bunch of other missionaries and my poor family stood outside bearing gifts and warm, loving, friendly smiles:) They sang me happy birthday and took Elder Dean and I out to breakfast! It was so fun to be with them and to remind me just how much I love my family and all that all of my family has done for me over the last 20 years in supporting and loving me in all that I do. It sure did make for a special birthday:)
I could go on but suffice it to say that we had an amazing week filled with fun and miracles by the good will of our loving and merciful God!
Keep the faith,
Elder Ricks