Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Week 62: A Good Week

Elder Hulterstrom and I had a good week! I thought district meeting was incredible. Throughout the meeting I felt the Spirit guiding me as to what I should ask and say. Everyone commented afterwards and expressed how much they enjoyed it. That made me really happy to know that enjoyed it and they were able to learn at least something from our meeting.

We were busy with service this past week. Just in this past week my love for the people has grown so much. Serving others and having the the spirit of Christmas in our hearts can be a double whammy so to speak; it just makes life so much better! On Sunday the father and son of the family we baptized two weekends ago received the Aaronic priesthood, I am glad Elder Hulterstrom and I had the opportunity to participate in that exercise of priesthood power and authority.

Also, it snowed on Friday! WOOHOO! I literally jumped and shouted for joy when I saw a thin layer of white on the ground! But it wasn't like snow back home; by the next morning most of it had melted where we live. I made sure to take a picture of the snow while we were getting gas for our truck before it melted!

Christmas is just so awesome! I'm so sad that in 1 week it will be over. But that doesn't mean we should stop thinking about the Savior every day! He is always here for us, whenever we need him, no matter what. It is just a matter of whether or not we humbly turn ourselves over to Him and ask for His divine assistance. Whether it be problems at work or school, experiencing the peace and happiness from learning about the restored gospel, repenting of sins, experiencing the loss of a loved one, feeling the Holy Ghost, having financial struggles, experiencing the joy of feeling forgiveness of your sins, serving someone, feeling alone, lost, depressed, sad or resentful, attending the temple;  He is always by your side! Never forget that! He will always love you no matter what. He is our greatest source of comfort from the trials and tribulations we will face during our life here on earth. I love the Savior so much. I love you all so much, I think of you frequently during this Christmas season. Enjoy your Christmas this Sunday.


Elder Ruiz

Week 61: Ho Ho Ho, Ho Ho Ho!

Happy Holidays everyone!

This past week was busy busy busy! As district leader I went on exchanges with Elder Rogers in the Mesa Linda Ward in Victorville. We had a great exchange; they have some rock solid recent converts in that ward. There is a lady in their ward who was texting us about how she was struggling to get through her day because she was feeling depressed and lost, feeling  by evil spirits, and she kept on texting us and expressing to us how she is feeling. She was on my mind throughout the day because I was concerned for her, and in the evening she texted us and asked us if we could give her a blessing. The problem though was that we had a teaching appointment with some  progressing investigators set for the same time she was wanting a blessing. Elder Rogers and I both weren't sure how we could work it all out, so we stopped biking and pulled over to the side of the road, took off our helmets and prayed about whether or not we should cancel our appointment so we could give her a blessing. And once we finished our prayer, I was contemplating what we should do when the words of President Monson came to my mind: "Never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved." After thinking about those words I had a strong feeling that we should give this lady a blessing, so we contacted the investigators we were going to see that night and rescheduled for the following day, and they were totally cool with it. See, it all works out! So we met up with a male member in the ward and we gave her a blessing; she specifically asked Elder Rogers to anoint her with consecrated oil, and me to seal the anointing and give her a blessing. I cannot completely put into words the feelings that were felt during that blessing, but we could all feel the power of the priesthood as we were gathered together in that blessing. It was a faith-building experience for me. I said specific things that I felt needed to be said in the blessing, and afterwards she thanked me very much for the blessing. She told me that her patriarchal blessing says that priesthood blessing will be a big part of her life, and also that in the blessing we had given her I said things that are in her patriarchal blessing. I was touched, and I was humbled to have had such an influence on her through the things I said in that priesthood blessing. It was in that moment that I truly felt like I was fulfilling my purpose as a missionary and was an instrument in the Lord's hands by helping others.  After the blessing we talked for a bit, and she discussed the trial and problems that she has in her life right now. That is an experience I will never forget. I am so grateful for the restoration of the priesthood and that through the priesthood we have access to the powers of heaven to bless our lives and the lives of everyone around us.

On Saturday we held the baptism of the Varieur family that we have been teaching. There was a good turnout from members of the ward. It was a beautiful baptism, the Spirit was strong there. We confirmed them on Monday and they are all happy. I am so happy for them and I am grateful and honored to have participated in teaching, baptizing, and confirming them. Elder Wedel and I are already planning on coming back here in a year to see them go through the temple as a family! How amazing it is to me to know that Elder Wedel and I helped them make their first few steps to eventually uniting their family for eternity!

Well, transfer calls came on Friday and Elder Wedel was told to pack up his things, then last night we were notified that he will be whitewashing into the Redhill ward in Rancho Cucamonga. I'm gonna miss this hooligan. I am very grateful for the opportunity to have served with Elder Wedel, he is a great guy.

On Sunday we were also told who are new companions will be; I look forward to serving with my new companion Elder Hulterstrom here! But we are no longer in the Victorville Zone, we are now in the Hesperia B zone, the last zone that I served in before I came to Phelan/Oak Hills.
 Now for those of you who don't know, Elder Hulterstrom and I went to the same high school back home and we were in the same stake. He also did a little percussion while I was part of the drum line and we have some common friends. Truly I have no idea as to how we got so lucky to put together as a companionship, but we are both super excited to serve together this transfer. THIS IS GONNA BE AWESOME!!!! 

 I love the spirit of Christmas, and how we have the opportunity to think about the Savior more. We had a fantastic ward Christmas Party/Program in the Oak Hills Ward Saturday night. Good Mexican food, and beautiful Christmas hymns and songs sung by members of the ward. I love Christmas; I think I've probably told you that plenty of times before though haha, but I mean it every time! Think of Christ this holiday season, and you will have peace in your heart and mind.

Love ya, I'll talk to you all next week!

Elder Ruiz

From left to right: Me, Scott Varieur, their daughter Scarlett, Elder Wedel, their son Logan, Vanessa Varieur, and Kole Dyerly who baptized Logan. All dressed in white!

Elder Wedel and I, the Varieur's, and the Wrightwood Sisters.

Pictures at the mission office in Rancho Cucamonga.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Week 60: Jesus wants me for a sunbeam!

Welcome to December! This last week was a busy one. We actually taught a lot of lessons to investigators, which is good. 

On Monday we had to take our truck to Victorville for some body work to be done, and we left with the memo that our truck would be ready for pickup by Wednesday. Because we didn't have a vehicle that could take us places, Elder Wedel and I had to bike to a lesson with the Varieur family at their house, and pretty much we both thought we were going to DIE! We were literally huffing and puffing our way to our appointment, uphill on dirt roads haha. And thus we see the results of not riding a bike for 4 1/2 months, and then trying to bike uphill nonstop for 4+ miles or so haha. We spent some time with the Varieur family and taught them the Law of Chastity and later in the week reviewed the baptismal interview questions with them and planned their baptismal service for this Saturday. All of us in the Phelan ward are so happy for the Varieur family and their decision to be baptized, and Elder Wedel and I are super pumped! It has literally been MANY YEARS since the last time a family was baptized, so this event is a much needed boost for the ward members!

We met with Martin on Wednesday and had dinner at his house. We had a really spiritual lesson with him and his family (his wife has been coming back to church for the past while now and has been bringing her daughters!)  about the Restoration because his daughter was wanting to know where the Church came from and how it came to be. And during the lesson I looked at Martin and he was listening intently and was teary-eyed. He asked us what the Book of Mormon actually is and what it is about, and so we explained it to him. And then he said "Wow, I should really read this book soon." BOOM! I was jumping for joy (spritually speaking, of course haha) when he said that, it totally made my night! And then Elder Wedel was bold with Martin and asked him what his holdup has been all these years. Bottom line: Elder Wedel challenged Martin to pray about everything that we have taught him and that he has learned about the Church, and if he comes to find that none of this is true, then Elder Wedel said we won't ever teach him a lesson again or ask him about baptism. Dang, that is bold! But I could feel the Spirit coming from Elder Wedel as he said those words, it was a really cool experience! 

Saturday we went up to Newberry Springs by Barstow to help a guy named Stan clean up his property. We were filthy by the end of the day, but it was worth it because we were able to help someone! 

Gotta go, I love you all! Remember the Savior, he loves you very much!

Elder Ruiz
Elder Wedel and I biking to a lesson Wednesday morning.

Week 59: Christmas songs are already on the radio?!

I hope you all had a great tasting Thanksgiving Day! Elder Wedel and I have plenty of leftovers that we haven't even tapped into yet haha. 

Last week was good; I got to go on exchanges with one of our zone leaders Elder Jarvis in the Tongan Ward. It was an amazing time; we visited a returning less-active family that was recently sealed as a family in the Redlands Temple, and I could feel the Spirit so strongly in that moment. I had never met them before, but instantly I had so much love for them and I really cared about them! I have not felt the Spirit so strong like that for quite some time. It felt good to have a surge of the Spirit. Elder Jarvis and I also visited a young lady named Cici, who is paralyzed and is in an electric wheelchair. We read a chapter out of 3 nephi with her, talking about how Christ came to "draw all men" unto Him, and she expressed her gratitude and knowledge of the Atonement. She especially has a strong testimony of the Resurrection and cannot wait for the day when she will receive a perfected body, free from illness, disease, or injury, and be able to walk by herself. We had a scripture study class that night as well in the Tongan ward, and there was a good turn out. We read 3 Nephi chapter 17, and the Spirit was so strong in that room. Several people had some tears. Even I got a little misty-eyed; I just felt so good being able to feel the presence and power of the Holy Ghost so abundantly. The Tongan ward has some great members. I don't really know any of them, yet I have a profound love for them.

Elder Wedel and our other zone leader Elder Low had a great exchange as well. They were able to pick up a new investigator named Martin, a nonmember husband of a part-member family. He has been coming to church with his family for the past month or so, has been showing up at the church Saturday mornings to play basketball, and thinks positively of the Church. They had a spritually powerful meeting with Martin at his home. They committed him to pray about whether or not the gospel is true. And the crazy part is that he would never accept commitments from any missionaries that tried to teach him in the past, UNTIL NOW!!! Miracles are everywhere! 

Thursday we woke up early to play some basketball with some members/nonmembers at the church. We had a good time, there was a good turnout of guys that showed up as well. Elder Wedel and I truly had a feast for Thanksgiving! We went to the Doss' in the Oak Hills Ward for dinner, and we all had a great time. We were stuffed! Lots of food, and lots of leftovers haha!

Friday the Wrightwood sisters invited us to attend the "lighting ceremony" of the community christmas tree (or whatever it's called) where they said there was going to be free food, which was not the case haha. There were probably more than 500 people there, a good turnout for a little town like Wrightwood I'd say. We all did the whole 10 second countdown for the tree to be lit up. Once the lights came on everybody cheered and celebrated, then the crowd quickly dispersed and I heard some guy next to me say to one of his friends "Alright, now back to the pizza and beer." Probably one of the funniest things I had heard all day.

Saturday afternoon it started raining pretty good in the afternoon, and by night there were really high wind speeds. It was cold! I guess I've finally acclimated to the desert, because this probably is nothing compared to winter back in Utah haha. It was snowing in Wrightwood, so before Elder Wedel and I headed back home for the night we drove up there to check out the snow. We were so giddy with excitement because we both hadn't touched snow for more than a year, not to mention that we both like snow sports! But it wasn't what we hoped it would be: only 2 inches fell for the day. We had a snowball fight with the Wrightwood sister missionaries anyways; I forgot until now just how cold snow is when it goes down the back of your shirt haha.

I love the Christmas season because it helps me remember the Savior, and why he came here to Earth! The holidays are a wonderful time to give of yourself to others and follow the example of Jesus Christ by serving others. The Church has come out with a Christmas initiative for this holiday season, called Light the World, with an inspiring video! I encourage you to check it out! You can find it on mormon.org or on lds.org. It is so powerful, I love it!

Plus, as part of the initiative:

"Every day leading up to Christmas is a chance to look at the things Jesus Christ did and resolve to do the same. To help, we'll be providing daily inspiration, suggestions, and encouragement on how we can follow the example of Jesus Christ and #LIGHTtheWORLD."

I am so grateful for our Savior, I love Him so much, and I love and appreciate you all as well! Have a blessed week!

Elder Haven Ruiz

Thanksgiving with Brother and Sister Doss!

 The Wrightwood sisters and Elder Wedel and I in front of the special tree in Wrightood.

Ride em' cowboy! Yeehaw!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Week 58: Gobble Gobble Gobble

Last week we...wow, I can hardly even remember what we did because we were so busy serving people and helping others! We stacked firewood for a single lady in the ward, we worked at the orchard again, and we volunteered at the horse stables again and cleaned out stalls. On monday we helped a member in the Oak Hills ward move furniture, and then I got a haircut so now I have shorter hair! We had zone conference and all the missionaries in the high desert got together again for that. The zone conference was really focused on working through and with members in our area. Seriously though, working with and through members is probably the most effective ways to carrying out missionary work, but it's also difficult in many areas. The Varieur family that we are teaching had a power outage during the week at about 9 at night, and our ward mission leader was able to contact a member of the ward who is an electrician. He was able to come over and temporarily fix the problem with their electric circuit. Talk about a great guy! We have been teaching them a lot to get through the lessons so they can be baptized on December 10th! They are really excited! The wife asked me to baptize her, and their oldest son asked me to confirm him. I am very honored to participate in their baptism and confirmation. Yesterday it rained, and during the night it rained even harder, and when we woke up this morning, we looked out our back window...AND THERE WAS SNOW ON THE MOUNTAINS!!!! I'm really excited about the snowfall! Thanksgiving is good, but I am so pumped for the holiday season!

We are kept busy with plenty of service opportunities around us. We are blessed as we serve others.

I think we can all be grateful for many things in our lives, especially our Savior Jesus Christ and his Atonement that he completed. I am eternally grateful for his sacrifice that he performed in behalf of us.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone, enjoy your week and have gratitude!

Elder Haven Ruiz

Week 57: "You did not choose the stud life...the stud life chose you."

Howdy! For those of you in America I hope Veteran's Day treated you well. I forgot to mention last week that I was called to be a district leader for this transfer! I'm really excited for this opportunity to learn and grow.

Elder Wedel and I participated in a variety of service opportunities this last week. We pruned trees at a member's orchard and repaired a cracked water line and flattened out some of her property with a tractor, we directed traffic and shoveled manure at a fundraiser for donkeys, helped a nonmember family move some furniture, and we operated games at a fundraiser carnival for the local Cub Scout pack. The carnival was a lot of fun, the Varieur's that we have been teaching all came to the carnival and they had a great time. Yesterday after church Elder Wedel and I participated in the baptismal services of Elias, our ward mission leader's son. We each bore our testimonies at the end and we both felt good testifying directly to Elias of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost. 

We have been teaching our investigators Scott and Vanessa, and last night we set a baptismal date with them for December 10, and also taught their two oldest children and picked them up as new investigators! They love coming to church as a family, and have already made several acquaintances with ward members. They even came to an Elder's Quorum service project in the ward on Friday and helped us clean a garden. We taught another investigator the Gospel of Jesus Christ and before we even brought baptism up to her, she expressed her interest in being baptized. She is eager to learn more about the gospel. Plus, Carrie and Vanessa are the first two people I have ever taught on my mission that actually filled out the study guide in the pamphlets we give to people we teach. It goes to show just how serious and interested they are about this! It is so great!

Yep so that about sums up last week. I am so grateful for our Savior Jesus Christ and his infinite Atonement. I am grateful for the knowledge that I have of my Father in heaven who loves me very much. Have a great week!

Elder Ruiz

Elder Wedel ad I posing for some cool photos on the tracks!

Our "work equipment" at the orchard.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Week 56: Just Serve

I hope everyone enjoyed Halloween last week! Don't get too many cavities with all the candy haha. 

So, the nonmember family that we were notified about through the referral system, the Varieur's; we picked up the mom and dad as new investigators and we taught them the Restoration on Wednesday morning. The Spirit was there, the lesson went smoothly. Later that day we taught our other new investigator Carrie (the lady that's been a friend of a member in our ward for a while now) the Plan of Salvation. She had some really confusing questions and deep doctrinal questions about the Spirit World and the Resurrection and Judgement, but we were able to resolve her concerns she had. 

On Saturday afternoon we were asked by the sister missionaries in Wrightwood if we could come and help an older Korean lady move out of her house. So Elder Wedel and I drove up there, and boy there was a TON of stuff that was in that house! Her name is Krista and she is not a member of the Church, but a member of the Wrightwood ward was told by a friend that Krista need help moving out of her house because she had to be out by Tuesday this week, so that member contacted the sister missionaries, who in turn asked us to help them with the moving. Anyways, Krista was diagnosed with cancer some time ago and has undergone chemotherapy, and so she is not physically capable of doing all the moving by herself in time before Tuesday. She was a fashion/interior designer before she was diagnosed, so she had A LOT of nice women's clothing and accessories, as well and very expensive lotions and topical creams. One cream that she has is used by the Queen of England! And she has a lot of kitchen equipment (very expensive kitchen knives and glassware), even though she told us she is not very good at cooking haha. She even gave a $6,000 German kitchen knife set to the Wrightwood ward mission leader (he is a chef) for 50 cents! Talk about a good deal! So we packed up her clothing and belongings until 9:00 at night or so, by which time we had to go home for curfew. But we weren't even close to being finished with the packaging and moving! So Elder Wedel and I contemplated about coming back on Sunday to help finish packing up her belonging. He told me an experience he had about helping someone on the Sabbath, and basically what he was saying was "We can either do the right thing and go to church, or we can do the right thing and serve someone." That was a really powerful statement. And if you think about it, Jesus Christ healed a person on the Sabbath, and that is what helped me decide to help this lady. So we went to sacrament meeting in the morning to partake of the sacrament, then we immediately went up to Wrightwood to help with the packing. And it was worth it! We gave Krista a Book of Mormon in Korean that we just happened to have in our truck, and she was more than happy to have missionaries come see her at her new home. So we are going to send her in as a referral for the missionaries that are serving where she is moving. And Krista said I am good-looking and look like Matt Damon! I've never heard that one before haha. 

Sunday we taught the Varieur's again, but this time we brought a member with us, and the lesson was AWESOME! Overall, the week went well.

Have a great week everyone!

Elder Ruiz

Thursday, November 3, 2016


Last week was filled with miracles! First off, Elder Wedel and I have been trying harder to be even more obedient (not that we are apostate or heathens or anything of that nature haha), and for some reason on our Tuesday was practically perfect! We got to our morning studies on time, and we made it to district meeting on time for once! The meeting was really spiritual and powerful for all of us. After district meeting that afternoon we received a referral from Church headquarters for a nonmember family that moved into our area from Riverside, the Varieur's, and they had been taught the Restoration by missionaries down there who saw that they needed some extra hands to help them load their moving trailer. During district meeting we had talked about referalls and how important it is to try and contact them within 24 hours, so we were quick in our attempt to call the Varieur's and contact them. During the time that we were going to call them, we were at our ward mission leader's house, and when he heard we were about to call this family, he told us he would talk to them. Now technically missionaries are supposed to contact the referral, but Elder Wedel and I felt completely fine with him doing that, so we let gave him the listed number and he called them. Turned out it was the mother's cell phone, Vanessa, and she answered. And as our WML and her conversed over the phone, we were blown away by the fact that he was telling her just what she needed to hear at that time; mainly that we had people in the ward who could provide them with dinners for the week (they hadn't brought a fridge with them and were keeping their perishable food in a little cooler) and that Elder Wedel and I would go and ask around for a washer and dryer (they didn't have those either). Miraculously, just the day before, Elder Wedel and I helped an elderly member of one of our wards move an old washer and dryer out of her garage because she was going to give them to DI, but she said that if there was anybody in the area that need a washer or dryer we could give them to those who needed them. How cool is that, that we just happened to have a washer/dryer set that was being given away for free by a member, right when someone needed them most! WOW! We helped them Varieur's move in to their new home, and they were in need of a fridge so we delivered a fridge that was donated to them from another family in the ward. This family is ready to join the church! They have been looking for a church to join, "a church that we feel is the one that's for us", and they feel like our Church is the church for them! They enjoyed church services yesterday, and they have been reading the Book of Mormon since they first met the missionaries down the hill. They are a family with good values, and they want to take the lessons, so we will be starting the lessons this week with them and teaching them twice a week! 

We also were blessed with another new investigator! This lady has been a friend of a member in our ward for some time now, and after 4 years of continued fellowshipping she now is wanting to learn more about what we believe. We met with her and her member friend on Wednesday and taught the Restoration. She was quite receptive and had many questions, and we scheduled another appointment with her for this Wednesday! Elder Wedel and I are very grateful for these new people that we have been blessed with that we have the opportunity to teach. We both felt that these blessing are attributed to our desire and efforts to be more obedient. I look forward to getting to know them better. 

This morning Elder Wedel and I went on a hike in the mountains with some other missionaries and a member of our ward. It was beautiful, I love the mountains! 

Happy Halloween and have a great week! 

Elder Ruiz

Our humble abode.

Week 54: RAIN!!!!!

Last week I got to go on exchanges with our District Leader Elder Robbins, who served in the same zone as I did in Chino. We were able to tract for a few hours in Phelan and help a member with some fall cleanup. 

Nothing big happened last week. We were able to teach our investigator Kari the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and after praying about a baptismal date for a few weeks now she feels like she should give it some time before being baptized. We talked to her and her husband Tommy about the Atonement. The Holy Ghost was definitely present during that lesson. 

 We are keeping ourselves busy with plenty of service to do. 

And yesterday after church...IT RAINED!! Well actually it sprinkled but all of last night it rained and the thunder and lightning was awesome! But yeah it was my first time experiencing rain here in the high desert so I was pretty excited about that!

I love being a missionary, and I am grateful for the knowledge that I have that I have a Father in heaven who loves me very much! 

Talk to you next week! 

-Elder Ruiz


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Week 53: Serving Non-members

Last week Elder Wedel and I hiked to the old mine again, but this time with our ward mission leader and his family, and a nonmember family that are good friends with them. We all had a great time! The weather has been getting colder at night, and the winds are picking up! 

So, the nonmember family that we hiked with: Elder Wedel and I have been serving, befriending them for a few months now. They are a wonderful family; great kids! They have great Christian values and are such a wonderful family; we love them. Anyways, the wife was giving us haircuts at her hair salon, and we were able to strike up a Gospel conversation with her. Later on we talked about eternal families, and she said something along the lines of "I wonder what happens to my family after I die?" and instantly Elder Wedel and I said "We have an answer for that.", to which she said "Really? You guys actually have an answer?" The Holy Ghost was definitely there during that conversation. By the end of the conversation, we asked her if she would be interested in learning more about what we believe. She said she would pray about it. Wow, she basically just committed herself to praying about whether or not she should learn more about the Gospel! It was a cool experience. It was a testimony builder for me to have been able to participate in that informal teaching moment.

The part-member family whose orchard we were cleaning up invited us to a family get-together that they were having in celebration of their anniversary. It is cool to see how much our service efforts have softened his heart towards us and the Church. He is quite intellectual and really enjoys talking to us now! 

I love you all, have a good week! 

Elder Ruiz
Our silly picture for the hike haha.

Week 52: 545D New Holland

Last week we spent most of our time clearing a fruit orchard of weeds and sanding a dresser down for a part member family. The wife is a member and she is really nice. We met her nonmember husband, and he was super grateful for how much serve we were able to accomplish. What would have taken them 2 or more months, we finished in several days. What  tender mercy it was for us that his heart was opened up to us a little and we were able to have great conversations with him. Elder Wedel was able to use his tractor operating skills to clear the weeds out of the orchard with a backhoe. How cool is it that a missionary is able to use talents learned from back home to bless the lives of people that he serves while on his mission? Elder Wedel and I bore our testimonies at church, and we both felt a strong presence of the Spirit during the rest of the day. One night last week we were driving back to our house, when we saw a lady with her Mini Cooper pulled over on the side of the road with her flashers turned on. Elder Wedel and I both felt it would be good to ask her if she need help, so we pulled over and talked to her for a second. She told us that she ran out of gas, and she was trying to drive to her home several miles away. Naturally, we would have just driven her to the local gas station and filled up a gas tank for her. But as missionaries we are not supposed to give other people a ride in our cars, and neither of us had a gas tank to take to the station to fill up, so that was not an option. We thought of towing her car to the nearest gas station with our truck, but neither of us had tow straps or rope. So, our final option was to push her car to the gas station. And that's exactly what we did: we pushed her Mini Cooper up an incline, in the dark, for what had to be at least 800 yards. We were panting and breathing heavily, our legs were becoming exhausted and were beginning to cramp as we were pushing the car up the hill, and it was disappointing to watch as several drivers drove past us, not even caring to slow down and offer assistance or ask if we needed help. I even pulled out the ol' hitchhiker's thumb, but to no avail. But still we pushed on, pushing the car as fast as we could so it could have enough speed to make it over the entrance ramp and to the gas pump. And we made it! Elder Wedel and I were panting and coughing, as well as the lady, but she expressed her immense gratitude .

I was talking with Elder Wedel one day and I talked with him about how the missionary work in our area is slow when compared to other areas in our zone and in our mission, because most of our time we spend giving service to others. Not to mention we hardly wore our proselyting clothing during this last week because we were serving and getting dusty and dirty so much haha! He told me that it could be the Lord preparing us for our lives after our missions, when we won't be wearing a nametag, teaching lessons, baptizing and preaching; when we will no longer be wearing a dress shirt and tie. And after thinking about it, it totally makes sense! I mean, what are recently returned missionaries going to do with their daily lives when they don't have to do missionary work anymore? Of course we can go to school, get a job, go on dates, but there is more to life than just those things. If there is one thing that I have learned, it is that you can always give service, and service IS missionary work! One cannot simply evaluate or measure the success of missionaries just by looking at how many lessons they teach a week, our how many people are baptized each year. There is more to it than just numbers. When you serve others, people's hearts are softened towards you, the Spirit, and the gospel. It is through service that Elder Wedel and I have seen beautiful tender mercies from the Lord and miracles take place. I love the simple yet profound Gospel teaching and commandment to just serve others. We can all serve! We all have talents and abilities that we can use to serve others. And I know that as we serve others in any way, we are honoring and keeping our baptismal covenants, to mourn with those that mourn, comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times, and in all things, and in all places. What would Jesus do? I believe he would serve others. 

For P-Day last week us and several other missionaries woke up early in the morning and climbed Mt. Baden Powell. It was a beautiful up the mountain, but very windy, and by the time we reached the top none of us could feel our fingers we all had runny noses! Some elders didn't think to bring any water or jackets, so as soon as we got to the top we took a few pictures and raced back down the mountain where it was warmer haha.

God is good, He loves all of us. What a beautiful world He has created just for you and I! Enjoy the rest of your week! 

-Elder Ruiz
​A picture of the Inland Empire from the saddle of Baden Powell. 

​This tree is supposedly more than 5,00 years old!

 Quick picture at the top...then hustle back down to the parking lot!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Week 51: General Conference

Wow, I was really inspired by General Conference during the weekend! What a wonderful blessing it is to be able to learn from a prophet of God who receives modern revelation for our day! I really enjoyed the talks that were given. I am very grateful for the gift of the Holy Ghost, because the Holy Ghost taught me and reminded me about things that I can improve on. He can do the same for all of us. I observed that repentance, the Atonement, missionary work, and the sacrament were topics that were repeatedly brought up. We must remember that a testimony of these things come as we live them in our own lives.

I know, and as an authorized representative of the Lord Jesus Christ, I promise you, that as you study the teachings of the prophet, apostles, and general authorities from General Conference, you will feel the companionship of the Holy Ghost more abundantly in your daily life, and you will feel a confirmation from the Holy Ghost that what you are doing is right. You will be happier, your testimony strengthened, and your love towards others increased. You will be less selfish, and more selfless. You will be another step close to becoming like our Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ.  
Mosiah 2:41 :
 41 And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness. O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it.

Elder Wedel and I are still looking for ways to serve those in the local community. It is a wonderful experience to be able to give of our time to help those around us. When we are serving others we are serving God, pretty cool!

I love you all, and I hope you enjoyed General Conference over the weekend. Talk to you next week!

-Elder Ruiz

Elder Wedel and I with Brother Doss after some service

Week 50: Team Rubicon...AND I'M A YEAR OUT!

This last week Elder Wedel and I served many hours helping ward members. We cut down some cyprus trees with a chainsaw, dug out massive boulders with a skidsteer again, and built a chicken coop. But our biggest service opportunity of the week was a cleanup project for people's homes/property that was destroyed/burned/affected by the Blue Cut Fire six weeks ago. It was organized by a volunteer group called Team Rubicon, and boy were they organized and structured! This was a big service project, but not a lot of people came and signed up to volunteer, so the fact that almost all the missionaries in the high desert (80 +) came and volunteered both morning shifts on Friday and Saturday basically saved the entire operation haha. We all had a great time, and the local residents were very appreciative and grateful for our service. We did a lot of demolition, tearing down walls and shoveling debris into waste bins until nothing but the foundation was left. Very very dusty, hot, and sometimes stinky and gross. But it was worth it. I would do it again in a heartbeat. We were told by Team Rubicon that about 105 houses were lost because of the fire. We were only able to clean up 6 houses total during the weekend, but we left a positive impact on those whose homes we cleared out. When Elder Wedel and I finished each evening, we would take off our safety glasses and masks and we looked like chimney sweepers haha.
Giving all this service during the weekend has made me think a lot about the Savior's earthly ministry and how He dedicated His life to helping and serving others. He performed miracles of healing, spent time with and showed His love for those that were looked down upon or rejected by everyone else. He even gave His own life, that mankind may be saved from sin and death.

On Sunday one of our investigators came to church. And in our second ward, a Korean lady came to sacrament meeting, wanting to learn more about the Church and what we believe. Elder Wedel and I were supposed to attend a temple prep class with a member, but our WML asked us to teach the Plan of Salvation during Gospel Principles, telling us that a Korean lady name Anna  was at church and she could potentially become an investigator! So Elder Wedel and I taught the Plan of Salvation, focusing on her during the class. She does not have very good English, but all of us in the class could understand what she was trying to say. The Spirit was definitely there during that lesson; I could feel it, and I could see the Spirit's influence on Anna. She told us throughout the lesson that she felt very good inside, and that she understood everything that we were saying and teaching to her. She said that during sacrament meeting she started to cry when we all sang "Choose the Right" for our closing hymn. After class our WML came up to us and told us that right before we started the lesson he said a personal prayer and asked Heavenly Father to bless Anna, Elder Wedel and I with the gift of tongues, that Anna might understand what we were saying and teaching., that the three of us could communicate clearly with one another. And during the lesson even Anna told us all that she was very surprised that she understood practically everything we said! What a miracle! Miracles can and do happen! I have seen many miracles and tender mercies from the Lord while I have been serving a mission. I know that our Lord Jesus Christ is mindful of us each and every day. He knows us personally and individually, and loves us so much. I am so grateful for the knowledge that I have of the Restored Gospel. I love my Savior and my Heavenly Father. I love y'all, take care and I'll see you next week!

-Elder Ruiz

Week 49: Elder Dube!

Last week our mission had the  opportunity to have Elder Dube come and take a tour of our mission! On Friday all the missionaries in the high desert met in Victorville and we got to learn from and talk to Elder Dube! I am grateful for the opportunity to learn from Elder Dube, what a great experience it was. It is neat to be able to learn from a humble man like him, but also to be able to learn from, and by, the Holy Ghost.

Elder Wedel and I had a member-present lesson with two young women during the week. The Spirit was really strong during that meeting and they really enjoyed it. We've been staying really busy serving members in the area. We even helped a nonmember family move out of their home, and they were very appreciative of our assistance. The service we have given varies far and wide this transfer. We've done yard work, constructed a hair salon, moved people in and out of their homes, moved firewood, built fences, and most recently this last week, dug up VERY large boulders in a horse corral (we had to dig around the boulders, then Elder Wedel used a skidsteer to lift them out of the ground). Serving here in Phelan and Oak Hills has taught me to have patience (more than I thought I had haha) with those we are working with. Fellowshipping others to the gospel and into the Church can be a slow process, but when we truly love and care for those people, it becomes easier to us to fellowship them.   

On Sunday we had a cool experience. We were driving to our dinner appointment when we passed a man that was pulled over on the side of the road, trying to fix something with his engine. We continued to drive along the road, and instantly I received a prompting to turn around and see if this man needed help. We still drove on as I contemplated the prompting, then I finally asked Elder Wedel if we should turn around, and he said sure, so we turned around and pulled over to see if we could help this man. He was grateful that we came to help him. Elder Wedel was quick to relate to him by talking about cars and mechanics and stuff, and pretty soon he asked this man about his religious background. The man said that he has a lot of trials and it is hard for him to believe in God. Elder Wedel bore a simple but firm testimony about Jesus Christ; it was a neat experience. Soon after, the man was able to get his truck started, and after saying goodbye and going our separate ways, I asked Elder Wedel if we could offer a prayer of gratitude for that positive experience. I still feel so good and am so grateful that I acted on that prompting I received from the Holy Ghost. Our investigator came to church on Sunday, and she has some questions about temples that she got from the Relief Society lesson on Sunday, so Elder Wedel and I will prepare to teach her about temples and eternal marriage this Thursday. I am very excited to teach her and her family! I feel like I learn something new each week, if not every day; it is wonderful! God is good! Talk to y'all next week!

Elder Ruiz
Here is a picture of all the missionaries in the desert part of our mission, with Elder Dube.

Elder Wedel and I in front of the Redlands Temple after our temple trip 2 weeks ago.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Week 48: Faith precedes miracles

Elder Wedel and I had a terrific week; we had some fun and were blessed with a miracle and several tender mercies during this last week!

On Monday morning, because it was Labor Day and most people were out of town, we drove with a member up into the San Gabriel Mountains near Wrightwood to take pictures of a sunrise, and then we hiked to the abandoned Big Horn Mine. This place is a popular hiking attraction in the area. The pictures that are included in this email don't come close to how amazing it really is up there. We explored the mine entrance and the remaining structure, and took a walk in the mine tunnels. No one was injured haha. On our way back to the car however, Elder Wedel was walking on the trail and a young rattlesnake slid across the trail right in front of his foot, yikes! But fortunately the snake paid no attention and just slithered on its way into a bush.

On Thursday we went to the Redlands Temple as a zone. I really enjoyed it. I learn more and more each time I go to the temple, it's awesome! Regular temple attendance can give us strength against temptation and trials that we may have, answers to our questions, and is a powerful reminder of the covenants we promise with our Father in heaven to honor and keep. Because missionaries of the Rancho Cucamonga Mission only attend the temple five times on their mission, I have gained a greater appreciation for the temple, and have a strong desire to attend it frequently when I get home. 

Later in the week we dug a grave for a nonmember's dog that was bit by a Mojave Green rattlesnake, and we buried their Boxer dog. It was pretty sad. Another dog had practically mauled the rattlesnake, so it was dead and in pieces by the time we got there. Twas my first time I beheld a Mojave Green with my own eyes.  

On Friday a less-active member of the Oak Hills ward randomly texted us and told us that he wanted us to come over sometime soon and meet with him and his family. His wife is not a member and they have a toddler, but we all had a great conversation with them over dinner. When it came time to share our dinner thought, we asked her if she knew anything about the Church, and she said no. So instinctively we taught the Restoration. But soon Elder Wedel felt that it was not the right thing to teach, because she talked about her grandma who passed away, as well as some really crazy things that have been going on in their lives recently. The fact that Elder Wedel changed the topic to the spirit world was just what she needed. I felt strongly impressed to give her a blessing of comfort as we taught her this and I as I observed her receptivity to our words. It was amazing to see how intently focused she was on what we were saying to her, despite her little son sitting on the couch with us playing loud games on her smartphone and being a little ball of energy. She said yes to receiving a blessing, and so we explained the priesthood and we were able to teach the rest of the Restoration lesson. Elder Wedel invited her to be baptized as she was crying with tears of peace and gratitude, and she nodded in affirmation. I asked her how she felt, and she said she felt really really good, and that she hadn't felt that way in a very long time. Those words she said to me were such a testimony builder to me of the power of the priesthood, the reality of the Holy Ghost, and of our Heavenly Father's love for us. We committed her to read the Book of Mormon and she happily said yes. The Holy Ghost's presence was very strong during that lesson; it had to be one of the most powerful lessons I have ever participated in. We even gave the husband and their son blessings as well. As soon as we finished with a closing prayer I had a strong desire to say a prayer of gratitude to Heavenly Father for the tender mercy and blessing we had just received in that moment. Elder Wedel felt exactly the same way, and once we got in our truck we both turned to each other and at the same time said that we should say a prayer of gratitude haha It was such a wonderful experience.  They said they would come to church, and they stayed for all 3 hours on Sunday. She seemed to enjoy it and was seemed happy the whole time. The ward members were friendly to her. I am so grateful that through our continued efforts to love and serve Heavenly Father's children, we were blessed with a new investigator, especially someone who has been touched by the Spirit and now wants the blessings of the Gospel for her and her family. We gave a lot of service this week. We spent two days at a less-active, part-member family's home, building a fence for a goat pen that they needed, and Elder Wedel got to use his welding skills to weld some pieces of metal together for the fence. We got to know the nonmember husband well, and by the end of the day he told us he wants to come over for dinner sometime.

Saturday and yesterday I have been thinking about the missionary work here in our area, in our mission, and across the world. Every mission carries out different forms of missionary work, but we teach the same doctrine. Carrying out missionary work doesn't just mean that you are teaching and baptizing. That is one thing that I have learned from my awesome companion Elder Wedel. He's a humble and funny countryboy from southern Idaho, who works hard and cares about people. He loves to give service to others. A difference that he pointed out is that his older brother served his mission on the east coast in the United States and would frequently go street contacting by riding the subways when people were going to work. But here in the high desert we don't have that luxury haha. Forget about tracting in Phelan; it would probably take my whole mission, if not more time, to tract here due to how spead out this town is.  No subways. No metropolis here. It makes me think of how missionary work is carried out in places of the world where there are big cities and missionaries interacting with a lot of people every day. Now compare that to a mission that covers a sparsely populated area, where a missionary might not even see more than 10 different people each day. Not to mention how difficult it is now for missionaries in Russia to proselyte due to the recent regulations by the Russian government; I have much respect for them. I have a testimony of my mission call. As cool as I think it is to go to Europe or South America to serve my mission, I would not want to be in any other mission right now. I know that it is by revelation that the leaders of the Church assign missionaries where they will go. I know I was meant to be here, serving God's children here specifically. 

The Restored Gospel is true; it's as simple as that.
 I'll talk to y'all next week!

-Elder Ruiz

Here are some pictures that were taken of Elder Wedel and I by a ward member who drove us.

 Me on left, Elder Wedel on right.
 Wedel on left, me on right.

 The Big Horn Mine
The main tunnel of the mine

Monday, September 12, 2016

Week 47: Service, Service, and more Service!

Last week Elder Wedel and I put in a lot of service hours! For all of Friday afternoon and evening, and Saturday morning and afternoon, we hauled firewood in our little Nissan Frontier. By the time we our necks felt like leather, I swear. We were smart and we didn't put on sunscreen! We are geniuses. ;)

On Tuesday last week we went on exchanges with our district leader and his companion. Our district leader is Elder Broadhead, who I served around when we were both in Chino, and we were also in the same MTC departure group. It was nice being able to catch up on life and bike around again. We had a tender mercy that day: we contacted a potential investigator named Larry, and he was nice to us and was very open to learning more about our message about Jesus Christ. He owns most of the radio towers that you see on a mountain top if you are headed north on I-15 going through Victorville, particularly the biggest radio tower on the mountain peak. But you wouldn't even know he does, because he's pretty humble about it. What a great guy! 

On Saturday morning we attended a sword-fighting class that was put on by a member of the Phelan ward, Brother Price. He's basically Chuck Norris, except he is LDS...and he is not a redhead...and he doesn't have a beard haha. He is a highly trained martial artist, and is very skillful and knowledgeable in sword fighting and hand to hand combat. It was cool learning how to use a sword in fighting. Afterwards we helped transport animal feed to a member's home.

The work in our area is slow, but I am grateful that it is, because I feel that it gives my companion and I the opportunity to grow spiritually, and to learn that we have to work harder if we want to see results. We have been giving a lot of service this transfer and by doing so have strengthened our relationship with members and nonmembers. It has helped me to have more charity towards others. I am grateful for the many things that I have experienced on my mission.

I am emailing today because the libraries were closed for Labor Day, and our P-day was moved to today because we went to the Redlands temple  this morning. Buuuut I'll save the best for later and talk about that next week! Until then, enjoy the rest of the week, and do good continually! 

-Elder Ruiz
Here's another picture of just some of the fire damage that occurred from the Blue Cut fire a few weeks ago.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Week 46: Miles and miles and miles, oh my!

Okay, so NOW that I sent that other email, I can now talk about last week haha. Last week was pretty slow, not a lot of work going on in the area, but we were able to stay busy and carry out some assignments given to us by bishops from the two wards we cover. On Thursday we had zone conference in Victorville, it was great. President and Sister Taylor focused a lot on chapter 9 of Preach My Gospel, which is about finding (people to teach). It was also nice to see other missionaries from other zones that I haven't seen in a while. 

Saturday morning we played ultimate frisbee/basketball with several nonmembers and 2 less-actives. It was a lot of fun, and the nonmembers already like us. We don't even share a spiritual thought or anything like that. We do not want to shove the restored gospel down their throats; they have to be befriended and fellowshipped first, in this kind of situation. 

At 11 that morning we drove to Hesperia to attend the baptism of Julie Chistiansen, the lady I was teaching while serving in the Ranchero ward in Hesperia. The Spirit was so strong there! I baptized Julie; it felt good to be able to exercise God's authority to baptize Julie for the remission of sins.
She said afterwards that she felt peaceful, and that she hadn't felt that way in a long time. The ward mission leader Brother Knox asked me to bear my testimony to those in attendance. I was more than happy to do so. As I bore my testimony, I took a deep breath, exhaled, and just talked at a calm, slow pace. It was amazing to be able to experience the Holy Ghost working within me. It was as if the Spirit was putting thoughts in my head and words in my mouth so that I knew what to say. I have learned to slow down and listen to the Spirit when I teach or testify, because how can we hear promptings from the Spirit or discern them if our minds are racing at 100 miles an hour and are preoccupied with other things? 

That evening we had dinner at the Price's. Brother Price is really cool; he served his mission in the Midwest, is a retired sherriff, and is really into martial arts and weapons and stuff. He's got swords and axes and knives and daggers displayed all throughout his home! And he is very skilled with martial arts/self defense; he has even trained with masters in Japan and has legitimate certificates from them of how good he is. He even got to hang out with Chuck Norris back in the day! He offered to teach us how to throw tomahawks sometime and how to use a sword. To Elder Wedel and I it seemed like a good fellowshipping activity. We could invite nonmembers, investigators, and less-active guys to the activity. 

Saturday evening we attended the adult session of the Victorville stake conference. It was splendid, I definitely had several impressions/ideas come to mind from the Holy Ghost. Sunday morning we got a ride from a member to stake conference...IN BARSTOW!!!! I was pumped to go to Barstow because I have never been in that part of the mission while I have been serving my mission. Missionaries often say it's the armpit of the mission, nobody really looks forward to going there. But I didn't think it was too bad. Definitely hotter though; up there it is 10-15 degrees warmer than in Hesperia or Oak Hills. And more windy too. But is was worth going there; stake conference was good; a lot of statements were made by those who spoke that caused me to think about a lot of things: my mission, my companion, my testimony, marriage after the mission, raising a family. It was a neat experience to be able to experience the Holy Ghost affecting me like that. It's interesting how the Holy Ghost works differently with each of us.

During the week Elder Wedel and I tracted a dirt road...it was barely even a road. It was very hot and we were smart enough to not bring water with us haha. It was adventurous trying not to provoke the big dogs in people's yards haha.

The Holy Ghost is very real. My mission experience so far has been one of the happiest times of my life, and it wouldn't be possible without the Holy Ghost. And to have Him as a constant companion (known as the gift of the Holy Ghost) is one of our Heavenly Father's most precious gifts that He has given to His children. I consider it an infinite blessing to be blessed with the gift of the Holy Ghost. The richest man in the world who has the most possessions will not be truly happy and feel peace when compared to the poorest person in the world who has the Holy Ghost in their life.

I love this gospel so much. I know it to be true. The Lord's work and His church will continue to spread to the four corners of the earth, that all of Heavenly Father's children will have the opportunity to hear of and learn about the restored Gospel. 

I love you all, have a great week and a great Labor Day next Monday.

-Elder Ruiz
Julie and I at her baptism.

This is the "road" that we tracted.