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.