Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The Blessing- Week 78

Hello everyone!

We had another wonderful week. I cannot believe it is already time to email you again. If you want the week in detail you can check out everything below but suffice it to say that miracles abound, God's grace and love is far reaching, never ending, and always available, and the most beautiful and glorious and comforting and promising and assuring and guiding and uplifting voice and feeling is the Spirit of the Most High Father. Of these things I am a witness and beneficiary. God is great and I love His work!
-We went out with Bishop Silfies to see the Burke family; they've been investigating on and off for the last several years and just got home from a big Christmas vacation so it was the first time we were able to have a real appointment and lesson with them since the Sisters were teaching them before. Schyler, the mother, knows the Church is true and wants to join really badly but won't do it until Peter, the father, comes to the same understanding and desire. He loves the Church and said that if he believed in God and religion that he would join this Church but he is having a hard time with the aspect of faith and what that means and the implications involved for him in his life. Bishop was a great asset in our lesson and in just a brief hour and a half grew to love and demonstrate great concern for this incredible family. Peter is incredibly learned so it was really neat and fun to be able to go in depth on the gospel aspects of faith, repentance, the importance of ordinances and then Schyler was trying to help him identify times in his life when he has felt the Holy Ghost and tried explaining how the Spirit touches her. The Spirit was absolutely present in that lesson so I am confident that someday, he will recognize the truthfulness of it all and because of the manifestations of the Spirit he won't be able to deny the power and love and wisdom of God and at that point I really believe he will accept the gospel as it has been restored. I am so excited to continue to work with him and this family!
-I love the temple. It was so refreshing and uplifting and wonderful to be able to go to the House of the Lord this week. It truly is a House of grace and of love and of learning and I experienced each of those things there this week. How grateful I am for that special opportunity.
-We went out this week also with our Elders Quorum President, President Hawkins to see Brother Biglow, a less active new member, Brother Brashure, a less active member who's girlfriend is not a member, and Lisa, Lloyd and Cody, an investigating family progressing towards covenant making and keeping, the first being baptism. It was such a wonderful, spiritual night. President Hawkins is a very simplistic minded man and incredibly humble. He said some things that I really appreciated and took note on that I am now studying and looking forward to applying more fully:
"Value Added Living";
      "If it is too precious to use, then does it really have any value? Does it really add value to your life?"
"You can spend your life taking care of things or you can spend your life taking care of (people) each other."
Essentially, the idea, Value Added Living, is to simplify and always maintain a focus on the things that truly matter most, those things that really add value to your life.-Beautiful concept.
-We were going through some of our ward lists on Wednesday hoping to find more part-member families, less-active members, people we could talk to who live in the homes of members who are still on our records who have moved out, etc. that we would be able to begin meeting with regularly and teaching and helping. As we were trying this we saw a man to talk with, Travis, as he was walking his dog and pushing a shopping cart with some things in it that he was taking to his new apartment that he told us had been provided to him by the grace and goodness of God. We had a great interaction together and set an appointment to teach him the next day. We went to the address we thought he had given us and it was downtown OKC at a business so it definitely wasn't his address. We went back to the apartment and planned for our week and it was miraculous the timing of it all because as soon as we walked back out of the apartment, Elder Yamane saw and identified Travis walking down the street. We ran to him and figured out the miscommunication and went back to have a wonderful lesson with him the day after that. He is reading the Book of Mormon and we believe he will progress wonderfully, especially once he comes to church.
-We had two really spiritual visit this week with Kristy on Thursday and Saturday, both. She is going through so much and recognized God's hand. She is reading the Book of Mormon daily and finding great strength and application with what she learns. She had the greatest experience coming to church and looks so forward to being able to come again and Satan keeps throwing difficult circumstances at her but he can't win and won't stop her.
-I got to go with Elder Shira on our exchange and it was so great! We saw Chris, an investigator, the  Kinnisons, a less-active family who have Hannah and Balentina in their home as foreign exchange students, and a handful of members from our lists. We walked and biked and were able to work hard, be obedient and have fun which made for open communication and overall a spiritual and positive experience together. I really look up to him! About a year ago we were serving near each other and a comment he made has changed my prayers and in turn, has changed my life. He is such a spiritual giant it was evident that he had a close relationship with our Father in Heaven so we talked about prayer and I asked him how he has come to have such a close and personal relationship and he told me "I get on my knees and I pray until I feel sincere. I don't ever get up or close my prayer until I feel like I am being sincere." It works and it has changed my life and I love him for it.
-Stake Leadership Meeting and Conference were fantastic. The Sisters did a stellar job in the training and your added words and witness and inspiration seemed to be the whipped cream and cherry on top. We are so proud of them and grateful for you! We are so grateful that President Gray would give to us and trust us with such a great opportunity and responsibility.
-Stake Conference was magnificent. What a revalatory and spiritual experience.
-The Spear family gave us a call and asked if we could come over for lunch with them-waffles. We had a really neat experience with them and through the discussions in their home and in the car as they picked us up we could feel a tremendous amount of love and trust and gratitude from them for us and from us for them.
-We were out trying different people, walking from place to place when we saw a man walking on the other side of the street in our direction so we went over to talk to him. He was really friendly and introduced himself as Raymond and asked us what we were out doing. We told him we were out sharing our experiences with how Christ has changed our lives. So he asked us, somewhat excited, how Christ had changed our lives. Elder Yamane shared his powerful testimony of the direction and peace that has been brought to his life because of Christ and the gospel and I talked about how much more love and joy I have felt in my life and how it has affected my relationships so greatly and positively and he masterfully compared my experience to putting on a nice, new suit, and how it transforms yourself and your relationships with others as well. I slaughtered his parable but it really was masterfully done and so powerful and he thanked us from the bottom of his heart telling us that we had inspired him. He told us he would like to buy us dinner and pulled out 18 one dollar bills and despite our telling him we couldn't accept his generous offer he took my hand and put the money in it and said "You've inspired me. You can't not accept my gift." not giving us much of a choice and then begged us if we could pray with him. He gave a magnificent and beautiful prayer after which he thanked us again saying, "You've inspired me. Thank you so much for going out and sharing your experience and spirit. It is transforming. I could've been on my way to chop off my Brother in Law's head for having done something small and insignificant but through your experience in sharing the word could change everything for me." We got his number and address and set up an appointment with him and after we had parted ways, marveling at the experience we had just had, we looked back at him and there was a huge knife sticking out of his back pocket...it could be that he really had thoughts before we met of going to his Brother in Law's house to chop off his head but wether that really ever was an intention of his or not, we were able to walk away confident that the thought was now far from him and we had all walked away edified and uplifted.
-We were able to go out with one of our young men last night, Josh, and it was the first time he has ever been out with the missionaries! We didn't know that until we were with him so we were even more disappointed than we would have been before when both of our set appointments cancelled on us right before. But we went out and tried a bunch of people. It was so neat, we tried Destiny, someone we met earlier in the week who said we could come by, and she wasn't home but her boyfriend, Gray, was home. We talked with him for a few minutes and he explained his experience and relationship with God and told us we could give him a call and come by again and he would love to talk with us. Josh thought that was just the neatest thing and had such a great night! We really can't ever fail when we are doing our best on the Lord's errand. We had a great time and it ended up being a success even though it seemingly looked as though we were going to fail Josh on his first experience going out with the missionaries.

Have a blessed week. I love you dearly!

Keep the faith,
Elder Ricks

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Blessing- Week 77

Time has gone by so fast the last few weeks with Elder Yamane! Speaking of time, I'm about out of it but we are having a blast and seeing so many miracles together. 
Gray received the Aaronic Priesthood last Sunday and it was so neat to be apart of that. He is absolutely amazing. To be able to witness the miracle of conversion in such depth, and love, and at such an accelerated pace has been absolutely stunning. There was a youth temple trip to do baptisms for the dead last Tuesday and Gray received his temple recommend so we got to go with him. The Spirit was so powerful and testified and confirmed to me, yet again, the truth and the power and the sacredness of the temple, of the Church, and of the love that God, our Heavenly Father possesses for each one of us. It was so tangible, you could feel it and knew it with every fiber of your being. 
I love Gray, my companion, I love these people, these friends, these brothers and sisters, and I love my Brother, Jesus Christ, and our Eternal Father. I marvel at the beauty of it all and thank my Maker everyday for such opportunities and experiences. I love you and pray for you and hope you have a wonderful week!
Keep the faith,
Elder Ricks

Monday, January 9, 2017

The Blessing- Week 76

It was such a wonderful week, I wish I had the finger strength to type fast or the time to share how bountifully the Lord blessed us this week but I simply don't have either of those things!

We were able to go on exchanges with Elders Brisk and Adams this last week on Friday and with the snow, all the vehicles were grounded so we were able to go with a member to get shovels and cookies and to work around the neighborhood asking if we could clear their drive way and cars and walks and give cookies and pass-along cards to people. It was a great day to be able to serve and I was so grateful the Lord provided a way to serve in that capacity that day!
There were several people who gave us hot chocolate throughout the day and one family, a father Blake and daughter Micah, invited us in and we were able to have a great conversation with them which led to sharing our stories and testimonies and love of Christ and to talk of the gloriousness of the gospel restored on the earth. They said we could come back anytime and they would love to have us over again for dinner or to just talk more about the gospel. I am reminded of Preach My Gospel "There are many honorable ways to find those that are being prepared for the gospel."

Have a blessed and safe week everyone, I love each of you.:)

Keep the faith,
Elder Ricks

Sunday, January 8, 2017

The Blessing- Week 75

What a week it has been!

What a special treat it was for me to have been able to talk with my family on Christmas.

Michael and Xander were both baptized last Tuesday and confirmed on Sunday. What a special. special ordinance and step of conversion that I was able to witness for the two of them. When each of them came out of the water, Xander was just beaming with a grin from ear to ear with a little giggle for joy and Michael couldn't hold back the feelings and emotions of love, forgiveness, peace, joy, light, and magnificent glory that entered his heart and swept over him entirely. There were so many things that made this so special but one of the greatest things about it was the fact that it was 8:00-9:15 on Tuesday night-that was Elder Dean's last hour doing missionary work and he was able to baptize both Michael and Xander. It was such a tender moment and I will never forget this powerful lesson of how merciful the Lord is to those that love Him and follow Him and make Him the center of their life in every aspect, simply living the doctrine after the manner of Christ. I learned so much from Elder Dean and rejoiced with him in this wonderful miracle.
It has been an incredible busy week and I am loving Elder Yamane as my new companion!! We are having a blast and working hard and we are expecting it to be another fantastic transfer:) We were teaching this wonderful family this week and they told us that their New Years resolution, their only goals and hopes for this year, is to get Lisa divorced from her husband (they've been separated and out of contact for several years now) so that she and Loyd can be married together so that they can be baptized and become members of the Church. Cody, Lisa's son, wants so desperately to also be baptized but has no restrictions and can't wait to be baptized on February 4th. They have been prepared just like Gray, and Michael, and Xander all were and just can't wait to begin covenant making and keeping with our Father in Heaven and to receive all of the blessings the gospel in it's restored fullness have to offer.
I love my God, our Eternal Father who lives in heaven above, I love these people, I love my companion, I love the scriptures, I love this work, and I love the personal conversion that has taken place and continues to do so in my own life. Jesus Christ lives and is the author and finisher of the mighty change that has been wrought in my heart and will continue to be so until the day shall come when I have a perfect brightness of hope and receive an assurance of perfection and glory in eternal life with my Savior and Redeemer by the power of the Holy Ghost.
Keep the faith,
Elder Ricks

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The Blessing- Weeks 73 & 74

Merry Christmas Everyone!!!
It's been a phenomenal week! On Monday Gray was baptized and that entire process was a miraculous and terrific experience to witness and be apart of. 
Look at the timeline of this miracle: 
Dec.7 WednesdayWe meet with Gray for the first time. He teaches us most of the lesson, we fill in a couple gaps and details he asks about and realize that we just need to do everything we can not to get in the way of his progression. He was already reading and had already prayed about it. 
Dec.11 SundayGray's girlfriend, Shantel, a returned missionary, speaks in two different Sacrament meetings in Arizona that Gray attends (2 times of Church). 
Dec.13 TuesdayGray gets back into town, we meet with him for the second time. We have a church tour/lesson. In the lesson we cover all of the doctrine-Plan of Salvation, the faith, repentance, baptism, the Holy Ghost, enduring to the end, the Priesthood, baptisms for the dead, temple work, etc. He sets his own date for the 19th, 6 days later... Elder Dean and I looked at each other in awe and decided to go over the baptismal interview questions to gage where he was at to see if that was even possible. We go over it and he answered everything with near perfect understanding. Since the last time we had met with him he had even done some studies on the Word of Wisdom and committed within his own heart to live it and had started doing it already. We were absolutely shocked and looked at each other trying to find some possible reason why he couldn't get baptized and finally, after no success, realizing he was ready and that was indeed possible, we complied and set his baptismal date for the following Monday, December the 19th. We knew that the only thing that we would have to hammer out of the park was fellowship for Gray into the ward so that he was welcomed in with loving arms to our ward family. 
Dec. 14 Wednesday: 
We made calls, and calls, and calls. We called President Mansell to make sure this was something we could do and after relaying to him the story and our experience, he assured us it was absolutely something he supports and that was definitely okay as long as he was fellowshipped and welcomed into the ward. We had talked to Bishop Silfies the nigth before, after our lesson with Gray, and he was on board and excited for it all. Shantel called us, slightly dismayed by the whole thing and so we talked with her about it all and the plan of action and by the end of the conversation she was on board and excited for him (she was always on board and excited but a little nervous, as anyone would be, about how quickly it was all happening). We then proceeded to call handfuls and handfuls of members. 
Dec.15 Thursday: 
Shantel gets in town to visit. They go over to the Wilson's to build friendships. 
Dec.16 Friday: 
We had our ward Chirstmas party. They got to see lots of the ward members but had to leave early to make it to his work party as well but just to show his dedication even further, he went a half hour late to his work party so that he could make it to at least the beginning of the ward party. I'm quite impressed with this man. 
Dec.17 Saturday: 
We met at the Church that morning and our Elders Quorum President came. Then we went and saw a the baptism of two youth in Edmond so Gray could see what he would be experiencing in a few short days. We went to lunch at Chic-fil-a with them and went straight over to our Stake President, and His wife's home. We had a great experience there with President and Sister Gray and they share their conversion story as well and expressed their love and excitement and asked if they could attend his baptism. 
Dec.18 Sunday: 
Church- President Mansell was so blown away by this guy's story that he came to our ward for church to meet him! Gray met everyone, had a meeting with Bishop Silfies and had a wonderful experience-the ward just soaked him, and Shantel, right in. Right after church Gray had his baptismal interview. 
Dec.19 Monday: 
Shantel's mother flew in, and Gray was baptized and confirmed, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. From the first day we met him to the day he was baptized was a collective total of 12 days. Elder Dean baptized him, President Gray confirmed him, and amidst the whole thing there was a tidal wave from the baptism causing the water to go over the wall, under the glass soaking the carpet so that was exciting and the cherry on top of this whole unusual and spectacular conversion.Then End. Amen.

Crazy extension to this story: (written by Elder Ricks' family)
We went to Phoenix for Christmas this year.  We didn't tell Braeden until about a week before we went.  As soon as he found out he said, "That's where Gray and Shantel will be for Christmas.  You guys should get together!"  He ended up giving them our phone numbers and they did call us.  We were able to meet them at the Mesa Temple (we wanted to go see the lights) on Christmas!  It was a fun experience for us to be a part of!
                                                       Meeting Gray and Shantel in Arizona:
Christmas conference was this last week and we had such a great time! We received some exciting news there also! Our mission is expanding east, now covering Tulsa and Bartlesville! We are receiving 3 stakes from that area. The Arkansas Bentonville Mission covered a lot of area and didn't have enough missionaries to cover all of the units in their mission (a set of missionaries per branch/ward) but in our mission, many units had 2-3 sets of missionaries serving. With this new change, there will be 31 areas closed from what we already have and those missionaries are being taken to cover the new 31 units we have received from those three stakes. It is some really exciting news! President Mansell was serving in this mission 25 years ago when the mission split Tulsa from OKC and now he is back serving here again when they are brought back together! I'm so excited and I am thrilled that I get to be apart of so many changes!
Elder Dean is going home:(. I've absolutely loved his companionship and guidance and experience and knowledge but most of all, his friendship. I'm excited for his next step in life, he's amazing! My new companion is going to be Elder Yamane! He actually came out with me and he's spectacular! I am so excited to get to serve with him!
I love you and I love the Lord and this sacred experience and opportunity to serve him.
Keep the faith,
Elder Ricks
                                                                   Talking on Christmas: