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 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.

Week 45: Once again, "We didn't start the fire..."

Hi again, another week has passed and so has another wildfire. It started sometime on Tuesday in the mountain. Really really smoky, which made it look a lot bigger than it actually was. But it did burn a lot of acres, and for a while it was 0% contained by firefighters because they could not get close to it because it was in a canyon or something like that, so they had to wait until it was more accessible. And from where our house is, we could only see a portion of the fire, so we weren't able to see the actual size of the area.

 By Tuesday evening they announced an evacuation of Oak Hills, Phelan, Wrightwood and Pinion Hills. It was a tender mercy from the Lord that the homes of all the members of the Oak Hills, Phelan, and Wrightwood wards were not harmed (Pinion Hills is in the Phelan ward). Many prayers of gratitude were said yesterday at church. Our mission president called Elder Wedel and I to pack clothes for a nights stay, leave our home and stay with other elders in Adelanto. So we did. It was crazy to see everything that was going on in the high desert because of the fire. Firetrucks and ambulances were racing east to the fire in the mountains, with their sirens and horns wailing and blaring loudly. Lots of police officers with breathing masks were barricading streets in our area so that people could not get any closer to the fire. At the local food market  there were many people that had parked their camping trailers in the parking lot and were living there for the time being. They all looked like they were gathering together for a Nascar race haha.  And many trucks were leaving the evacuated area with their horses and horse trailers, trying to spare their animals. So because our mission president evacuated us out of our area, we pretty much did no missionary work in our area for most of the week. 
So what did we do during this time?
We built a hair salon.
That's right, we built a hard salon! Our ward mission leader in the Phelan ward is good friends with a nonmember family, the Thurber's, that live in the area, and they needed help finishing their unfinished hair salon in Victorville. What a perfect fellowshipping and service opportunity! So he recommended us to the Thurber's to help them. And by the end of the week we all knew each other well, and enjoyed being with each other.We were even able to talk about the Gospel and religion at times too. Plus on Saturday we had a cool spiritual experience. Mrs. Thurber asked us questions about the Church, and Elder Wedel answered her questions and bore his testimony to her. The Spirit was definitely there, it was cool! 
Yesterday an area Seventy, Elder Maskins (I think that's how it's spelled) attended the ward conferences for both Phelan and Oak Hills and had an open Q&A session with the congregation during one of the meetings. He asked us about the fire and how it strengthened our testimony/brought families closer together, etc. It was a good meeting. 

So in short, this was an interesting first week here, but glad that all the missionaries and members here are okay. Love you all, talk to you next week!

Elder Ruiz

very smoky.

very very smoky.