Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Blessing- Week 83

I, Nephi (Elder Ricks), having been born of goodly parents, therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father; and having seen many afflictions in the course of my days, nevertheless, having been highly favored of the Lord in all my days; yea, having had a great knowledge of the goodness and the mysteries of God, therefore I make a record of my proceedings in my days.
But behold, I, Nephi(Elder Ricks), will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance. (1 Nephi 1:1,20)

We met again with Lynx a couple times this week and the doctrine is all making sense to him. He is anxious to pray for truth and guidance and to read the Book of Mormon and come to church with us tomorrow. We didn't even have to ask him, as we talked with him about the Plan of Salvation, he opened up and said "Well, this all makes sense and it is obvious that I, and everyone, would want to go here (pointing at the Celestial Kingdom) and the most exciting part is here (pointing at the veil/earth life) because this is where you get to really learn and practice and do and this (pointing at the gospel of Jesus Christ-having faith, repenting, being baptized, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end) is how I can accomplish all of it so if I come to know that this is the truth then I would do all of that." [Elder Hays and I look at each other in astonishment, mike drop and walk away] The Spirit really and truly is the teacher and inpsires the Children of God to what we need to do and what to say and the Spirit was felt so strongly as He worked through Lynx in saying all of those things and committing himself to really learn of the truth himself and to act on it. 

Richard is absolutely incredible and so excited for his baptism next Saturday at noon! Before then, a member of the ward is taking him to the temple grounds to talk and meet with a member of the temple presidency and to ultimately have a spiritual experience together. We started this last week working on family history with him and he is so excited to be on this path of eternal progression and to have the opportunity to be with all of his family for time and all eternity. For him, it isn't just a matter of being baptized but a matter of working towards being a covenant making son of God and going to the temple.

We received a phone call this last week from a lady who joined the church about two years ago. She has a daughter who goes to school at OU and has seen us as we interact with people all over campus. This last week she saw us at our booth talking about Love-->the essence of the gospel, the very core of Jesus Christ and our Father in Heaven, and then the next day we were talking with a girl on campus and she was looking into the sun so we tried to shield her eyes from the sun by holding up a Book of Mormon. The daughter of the Sister who called us, Sister Crawford, saw this and was really touched by it and told her mother what had happened and how impressed she was. Sister Crawford called simply to thank us and to encourage us and let us know that we are having a much more profound impact than we ever realize or know. She let us know how much she has worked at sharing the gospel with her daughter and has been praying for her endlessly and felt that this was apart of the process of God hearing and answering her prayers on her daughter's behalf. It was such a touching and heart felt call and assured to me, once again, by the power and confirmation of the Holy Ghost that this is the truth, and that the small and simple things matter and it is how God teaches and inspires His children and helps them to learn of Him and feel His love.

There were soo many more miracles but my fingers are tired, your eyes are exhausted, and we are both out of time:) I love each of you and hope you have a wonderful week! May we all look for the hand of the Lord in the small and simple things this week is my prayer and I stand with Nephi and know that the tender mercies will happen and you and I will indeed feel of the love of our Father in Heaven and come to deepen our faith, conversion, and knowledge of His reality. 

Keep the faith,
Elder Ricks

Friday, February 24, 2017

The Blessing- Week 82

Elder Hays and I talked about how we can be more effective on Saturdays and determined that Monday's are one of the busiest days on campus and Saturdays are the absolute slowest days on campus so we talked with President Mansell about it and asked him if we could move our p-day to Saturday here and he loved the idea so we are giving it a try and I am really excited about it! 

It really has been another phenomenal week, filled with miracles and tender mercies. Some missionaries found Richard a few months ago on campus and he has been meeting with the missionaries, coming to institute and Friday forum and church ever since. He has had desires to be baptized but has felt like he hasn't received an answer. We had a lesson with him on Wednesday and decided then to talk about revelation. We had about 18-20 scriptures ready to go but only made it to three of them before he realized that he had indeed already received his answer and had, in fact, himself received revelation. We then asked him what he needed to do next, now that he knew he had received his answer. He looked at us and responded without hesitation " I need to be baptized." We hadn't mentioned baptism one time in the lesson but the Spirit touched him and taught him and inspired him through revelation what it was he needed to do next. It was such a spiritual experience as Elder Hays and James (the member who was with us) shared their powerful testimonies and experiences and asked not only inspired questions but also inspiring questions. I was grateful to be able to share some of my experiences as well and felt the power and reaffirming spirit that has so frequently testified to me of the truth of the reality of our Father in Heaven as I have felt the manifestations of His love, particularly in learning of, partaking in, and rejoicing because of His Son, Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice. I know that the Book of Mormon is another testament of the Savior and it was brought forth by the hand of God through His chosen prophet, servant, son, and friend, Joseph Smith. Richard is so excited for his baptism on March 4th and is so prepared for that sacred experience and covenant coming up in just a few short weeks. 

We've been able to talk to so many people this last week and I have really been learning about what success is in testifying of Christ and inviting others to increase their faith in Him and strive to help them along the way. Serving on campus has been so fun and such a remarkable learning experience that I will remember and cherish forever!

Keep the faith,
Elder Ricks

Friday, February 17, 2017

The Blessing- Week 81

It really has been quite the week! The Village has treated me so well and I felt so blessed with the way I was able to leave there. We were so busy and had so much fun and it was such a contrast as I reflected on my first day and week in the area. I am so grateful this is the Lord's work ad not mine because if it was my work I never would have been able to witness so many miracles and experienced so much love and support and growth. 
My last day in the Village we met three ladies (a mother, daughter, and friend) around 11:00 and rode over to talk to them and hopped off our bikes and walked with them for a couple miles to their home and had a powerful Christ centered conversation with them. We were able to talk about so many restored truths and told them we wanted to come by that night to give them a Book of Mormon Stories and Restoration DVD so we did and when we dropped it off we were able to set a return appointment for the next day and they were so excited to have the DVD that they said they would watch it that night and we could talk about it with them when we came over the next day. We also went over to David's house (a recent convert) for a lesson and the home that he lives in is also occupied by 8 or 9 other people. the owner is a member and in the last year three people from this home have been baptized and continues to be  a great place to find individuals who are prepared and wanting the gospel as it has been restored. We are teaching a man in the home, who came to church a couple of weeks ago, named Mark and on Tuesday when we went over, David was on the porch as was another lady, who has recently moved in, named Jacquie As we talked with David, she was involved with the conversation and at the end before we left we were given an opportunity to teach briefly in less than a couple minutes about the restoration and what we believe upon her request to know more from her peaked interest. As we testified the Spirit filled the porch and she asked us to come back and teach her more because she "always felt like something had been missing and this feels so right, like it may fill that void I have always had." Our Father in Heaven truly does prepare the hearts of His children through their experiences and situations and places them in the right places at the right times to receive the fullness of His blessings and joy and peace. 
OU has been such a fun and new and stunning experience!!! It is so different from anything else I have ever done as a missionary so it has taken some adjusting but I'm absolutely loving it! I'm really learning a new meaning of "success" as a missionary and coming to understand myself more fully so I am thrilled that I have been blessed with such an opportunity to get to meet and talk to so many new people and to be able to learn and grow so rapidly and in such an innovative way. I've been able to see some really neat miracles and been able to teach a lot with Elder Hays already since we've become companions.
The Sermon on the Campus (or, Ammonihah-Alma + Amulek teaching on the hill):
My first full day on campus we were walking around and all these students on campus have those hammocks that you can buy and put up basically anywhere so we went to talk with a group of four of them "hammocking" (I guess it is a verb now...) and through the conversation we all started talking about how Christ has influenced and changed our lives and what we do to continue to build faith in Him. They began asking us more and more questions about what we believe and about the Book of Mormon. Throughout the whole interaction, another three separate individuals saw all of us talking and came up to join in the conversation and also began to ask questions and to talk with us and it was so neat because they didn't know us or the initial group of four. We taught about the Restoration and as we all talked together, depending on the question or what we were talking about people would pay more or less attention and towards the end, a girl began packing up to go to class and Elder Hays recited the words of the Prophet Joseph Smith in regards to his experience in the garden praying and as he began, every single person stopped everything and dialed in on him and it was, as it appeared to me, as if the rest of campus and time stood still. I know, with every fiber of my mortal and eternal being, to the very core of my Spirit, that Jesus is indeed the Christ and He appeared with His Father and my Father, to the boy Joseph Smith demonstrating greater love than has ever been displayed with the only exceptions of Christ suffering in Gethsemane and on Golgatha and the Father preparing this divine plan of love for our happiness. It is all true, I know this and am grateful beyond description of words that I currently know.
I love this work and am so grateful to be on OU and for all of the experiences and miracles God has allowed me to witness and be apart of in His tender mercy. God is love-if one will seek out God, he will find love and if one will seek out love, he will find God. Happy Valentines (love) week! I hope and pray that we might all, this week and always, feel of and seek after God's love and to share it with others.

Keep the Faith,
Elder Ricks

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Blessing- Week 80

Elder Yamane and I had a miraculous week. God is so good and I see His hand more and more each day, for example:

Kristy has said for the last 3 weeks that she and her son Rueben would come to church but every week something has come up. She has told us so many times that all she wants is to come to church and feel of the peace and love there because she remembers the first time she went, how touched she felt at church. She is praying constantly and reading the Book of Mormon frequently.

We had two of the most spiritual lessons together with her this week that I have had and really that anyone can have. In one of the lessons she talked about the scriptures and said this powerful observation "I love the Old and the New Testament, especially the New Testament. But whenever I read that Mormon book, uh, the Book of Mormon, my day goes perfect. There is special power in that book and I always feel the Spirit so strong as I read it and it always relates to me." She went on to talk about the feelings she had for the Book of Mormon for a few minutes and it was such a powerful moment and reminded me of the countless times I felt the same way and had the same spiritual experiences that she was describing as I myself read and prayed about the Book of Mormon and received a testimony and witness of it's truth and power.

On Saturday we invited her to commit to God and promise Him that she would come. She then prayed with such exceedingly great faith as I have never seen or heard from anyone who is seeking for the truth to do what is right and be happy and she promised our Heavenly Father that she would come to church with "the Elders". She then proceeded to offer one of the most beautiful and touching prayers that can be uttered from the natural human tongue. Our Eternal Father heard her prayer, provided a way and she kept her end of the promise, staying committed to God, and her son Rueben both made it to church and had another delightful and peaceful and loving experience.

Kristy has the desires and is taking the steps that are necessary to live a Christ centered life having faith, repenting, and working toward being baptized and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost so that she can endure to the end when God will give her eternal life. Shikuna has the same desires and is taking the same steps with greater humility than anyone I have taught, invited and helped on my mission and is progressing to be baptized on February 25th. We are thrilled for both of them and for their families as they are involved and progressing also.

With great, bitter sweet feelings I am sad to say I have to leave Elder Yamane and the Village to go to Norman on the OU campus with Elder Hayes (he also came out with me and was actually in my MTC district and we stayed in the same room there!).

New Address:

748 Ridgecrest Ct. Norman Ok 73072 #1411

Keep the faith,
Elder Ricks

Thursday, February 2, 2017

The Blessing- Week 79

It was, as always, another wonderful week!
Elder Yamane is absolutely incredible. He is one of the many great companions I have had that knows the scriptures better than I do and I am always so, so grateful when I am blessed with a companion who is filled with a wealth of knowledge and recollection of the scriptures because I learn so much from them about the scriptures and the doctrine found within them-that has been one of the many ways I have loved learning from and with such a spiritual giant, Elder Yamane.

We met so many incredible people this week and had some truly remarkable and spiritual conversations and experiences with them. A few, among the many, were Del, Shelly, Shandon, Ryan, Rebekah, Linda, Buster, Meghan, Katelyn, Mark, and a number of people who's names I have no idea how to spell because they were from Bangladesh, Nepal, Malaysia, India and one or two more that I can't remember...:)

Elder Yamane and I found great success in our area this week in finding a few more investigators who want to learn and progress, Travis, Mark, Shikuna and Jabon and having a number of spiritual and impactful experiences with others. I love my Father and His Son. I love teaching. I love serving. I love learning.-In summation, I absolutely love the gospel and the work of sharing it!

We met Shikuna a few weeks ago when we were out biking from one appointment to another and offered him a Book of Mormon, sharing with him how it has changed and influenced or lives and how much it meant to us and he started reading it as he walked away but when we went back to see him for our scheduled appointment he wasn't there. This week we were in the neighborhood and thought we would just try stopping by and he answered and asked his uncle if we could come in and let us in. His family recently moved here from Ethiopia so his parents and uncle understand but don't speak English. He and his three siblings all speak English really well, however! We learned that he had never been taught how to pray and didn't know how to pray but how he frequently asked his friend to pray for him. We then taught him how to pray and related prayer to each aspect of the restoration. It was such a precious experience watching his expressions of joy and excitement overcome him at different times throughout our conversation as we could almost tangibly feel the Spirit in the room touching Shikuna and teaching him about how he was like the Prophet Joseph Smith and how he too could pray. We were able to sit together as he prayed for the first time and it was such a tender moment. After he prayed and we were about to leave, his uncle, who had been sitting through the entire lesson, thanked us in his native language for teaching Shikuna about God and how to pray and was so grateful and sincere, Shikuna translated for us. He and his brother, Jabon, both came to church with us yesterday and had a magnificent experience. They loved it so much and when we asked Shikuna what he had learned he simply said in his humble and sincere accented English, "I learned that I need to be baptized to go to heaven." We had never mentioned or talked about baptism with him but the Spirit is the real teacher and we promised him we would talk about it more when we come to visit with him again on Tuesday.

Keep the faith my dear family and friends,
Elder Ricks