Monday, August 28, 2017

Week 96: El Sol

Last week Elder Jeppsen and I saw blessings from planning our days better, and taking more time to go out and talk to people. We were tracting and trying to share family history and we met a man named Eric who wants to learn about his ancestry because he is adopted and knows nothing about his biological family. He seems very promising. He even offered to take us out to dinner and go bowling haha. I have noticed that as we strive to stick to our plans for the day by being on time to places and keeping dinner appointments to an hour, we have been placed in the right places at the right time to have people to talk to and invite to do something that will help them come closer to Christ. 

Zone conference was great. I was able to receive some personal revelation. I was reminded that I need to get out of the way for the Holy Ghost to teach people (because it is not me as a missionary that is the real teacher, but the Holy Ghost), and that I should not focus on myself, but rather about the Lord and His work, and the needs of His children.

On Saturday we got to go on exchanges with the Assistants, and I was with Elder Memmott for the day. It was great, we were blessed with so many people to talk to out in the streets and in the neighborhoods, our day worked out wonderfully! Our exchange was also Elder Memmott's last exchange of his mission (he goes home next Monday), so we made sure work hard and talk to everyone! After being with him for a day I have a greater reason and desire to open my mouth more and talk with everyone. As one of my MTC teachers said, "There's no growth in the comfort zone, and there's no comfort in the growth zone." Stake conference was great, Elder Eduardo Gavarett of the Seventy presided over the meeting. I loved the focus of getting members to the temple and doing family history. Our three recent converts were in attendance, as well as our investigator and two less-actives. We are happy to see that they made it. Yesterday evening we were trying to talk to people on the street and we ended up talking to a man named Eric on his porch, and taught him parts of the Restoration and the Plan of Salvation. He was very interested and had good questions. Hopefully we can come back and see him again.

I have been reading the Book of Mormon almost every day on my mission, and I have become a better person by applying the teachings contained within its pages. I know that no matter where you are in life or how much "free time" you have each day, I can promise you that if you take the time to read from the Book of Mormon each day, even if it's for 15 minutes, and ponder its teachings, that you will notice a difference in your life. As you read from the Book of Mormon daily, you will have the opportunity to be taught by the power of the Holy Ghost. You will find more joy in your daily life, have more patience with others and with your circumstances, and have greater direction in your life and answers to question you may have at this time. Have a good week, love you all!

Elder Ruiz

Week 95: The Prodigal Driver License...Has Returned!

I wanted to scream for joy yesterday, buuuuuuuut I couldn't because we were in church haha. Now you may inquire as to why I wanted to scream for joy and do a heel click and backflip into another dimension yesterday? And I'm here to tell you that it's because I FOUND MY DRIVER LICENSE! My prodigal driver license has returned to me!
Yes, with gratitude and a little embarassment I must admit that a few weeks ago I lost my driver license. I looked repeatedly at several places where I though I might have lost it, and I looked through my wallet several times, but to no avail. Without an authorized form of identification, I have no way of being able to fly home after my mission, so I soon started emailing with my mom about renewing my passport and using that instead. I was anxious about what I needed to do, and if there was any other possible way that I could find my license. So I fasted for a day and prayed for God to help me find my license, and if that wasn't His will for me, to at least help me find a way to fly home when the time comes. And so later that day we received a phone call from the mission office, informing me that there was a package for me that was delivered to the mission office and it said "URGENT!" on it. So the next day after our interviews with President Taylor we picked up my "URGENT!" package, and in it was my expired passport and all the paper work I needed to fill out and submit to get a new one. "Cool, thanks Heavenly Father" I thought to myself, thinking that this was an answer to my fasting and praying. I was sad that I still couldn't find my license, but I was grateful that I had some form of identification now rather than none. So, to add to my fasting and prayer, after church yesterday I picked a fast offering slip and began filling it out. Knowing that I needed to write down my Church membership number on the paper slip, I opened up my wallet and thumbed through all the cards to find my temple recommend. I was having difficulty finding that too haha, so I looked in the back of one of the card pockets hoping to find it there. "Oh, here it is!" I said to myself, thinking that I had found my temple recommend. But as I pulled it out, it was like time slowed down, and I looked more closely at the card that I was pulling out. I noticed (imagine this happening in slow motion haha) on it that there were two scanning codes on the side of the card that I saw. "Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat theeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee heeeeeeeeeeeeeck?????" I thought to myself (in slow motion), remembering that my temple recommend doesn't look like that. So I flipped over the card to look at the other side, and I saw that it was my driver license! I got all excited and I was pumping my fists in the air! That was a true miracle for me! This was another testimony builder to me of the power of fasting, and that it truly can bring about miracles! This has reinforced my belief in God; I am so grateful to Him for answering my prayers. Remember that you are never alone in your experiences in life; you can always draw on the power of God through fasting and prayer. 

Anyways, about last week: We talked to an awesome potential investigator named Dwight and he said he'd bring his family to church on Sunday! Although later on in the week he informed us that they wouldn't make it due to some scheduling conflicts, but he said he'd come this Sunday! We are still working with some less-active members in the ward and they are making progress each in their own way. We've been forming a good friendship with a nonmember family, the Hickernell's, that we tracted into several months ago. They love when we come over, and in fact we had dinner with them last night and they asked us questions about the Church and being a missionary. We asked them about their family history; they said they don't know much and they got bright and excited when we told them we can help them learn more about their ancestors, so immediately we started recording down info of their parents and grandparents! This family may take a while until they are willing to hear the gospel, but family history is a great way to introduce the plan of salvation to someone. Plus their daughter is a musician, and Elder Jeppsen and I got to play her nice guitar and talk about music, it was cool.
We are working with the stake presidency to have a youth "morningside" where we can teach the youth of the stake, during early morning seminary, about how they can share the gospel with people over social media and in person and how they can strike up gospel conversations with others. It's going to be great. 

Gotta go, have a good week!

Elder Ruiz

Week 94: "It's so humid here I could take my fish out for a walk!"

So this week was pretty great. I want to start off with a little miracle. So Tuesday, we were planning on stopping by to see a potential investigator named Deborah. We had talked to Deborah twice before with not much luck, other than her not saying "Get off my porch!" Lol. So we basically knew she wasn't a member of the church, but she had a sister who lived up in Utah, and her son joined the church and was sealed in the temple. So we park, and we see a vehicle with Utah licence plates, so we get all excited. We walk up the driveway and see a young man in the garage smoking a cigar. We talk to him, and ask if Deborah was home. He said ya, just go knock on the door. So we knock on the door and get let in for the first time! We sat down and talked for a minute, then her sister from Utah came in. She's from Vernal, so all her neighbors are members of the church, and she apparently went to church for like 6 months! Her daughter is close with members, and even attended activity days for a while. After talking for a few minutes, the guy smoking the cigar walked in. He sat down on the floor, and just started talking about how he used to meet with missionaries. He loved that, and he started talking about the priesthood from Hebrews chapter 7 and went super in depth. Then he mentioned he was sealed to his spouse, and we realized who this was! It was Deborah's son, Brian! Brian lives in San Diego, and he was separated from his wife that day, that's why he was in town. He (convert of 10 years) and his wife (life long member) were active in the church together for like 10 years, then she was offended and gradually became inactive. He wasn't offended at all, in fact he loves the church, but started slowly slipping away with her for the past 2 years. During that time, he began socially drinking and smoking, not heavily. While under the influence he said things that started his marriage falling apart, which led to his current situation. He was very depressed obviously. The whole time we were there, his non-member mom, and aunt were telling him he needed to go back to church. He asked for a blessing, and we gave him one. He asked me to give the blessing, and during the blessing I was focused; focused on seeking to discern what the Holy Ghost wanted me to say. He was grateful for this blessing, and when I looked over at his mom she's was at the brink of crying. She was touched. We told him to study his patriarchal blessing, and he said he needed to start coming back to church, and that he wants to come back to church. He low key bore his testimony that the Church is true and that Joseph Smith really was a prophet, and the Book of Mormon is true and everything. It was great. We hope the best, and look forward to seeing him soon.

Other cool things that happened:
Lots and lots of contacting. We are actually really busy compared to what the area was like before I got here. We've got tons of really solid potentials, and a few investigators, which we had none of when I came into the area.

James came to church. He was the less active member we visited awhile back that we had never met before, but said he wanted to come to church. 

Thursday was MLC, which is always good.

Friday after dinner with an older active family, their less active son, Todd, invited us to play a game of pool with him. How could we say no, so we played some cutthroat, it was fun.  Later, we were invited by another companionship of elders to a concert at a members home in their ward. This member, Brother Baker, was in the band Beau Nasty back in the day. He was the bass player. Super cool guy. Heard some Led Zeppelin covers, Tesla, Rush, etc. Pretty fun.  No pyrotechnics or anything at the concert, but there were some good local rock bands that played. There was also an Elvis impersonator that came out at the end of the concert haha, we got a picture with him! I told Brother Baker I play the drums and he got super excited and said I can come back anytime and jam with him in his studio!

Surprise, we had a baptism on Saturday.. Devin, the one who got baptized, is the autistic son of a member family. He's 18. He wasn't baptized at 8 because he and his family didn't feel he was ready, but he was now. He was already taught all the lessons before I got here. He's the nicest kid ever though, and it was a happy day for him and his family.

Wayne Burrows is a stud, he has a wonderful family! He is from South Africa (he's white), and him and his family are investigating the church in a different ward in Upland, but they are friends with the Robbins in our ward. And the Burrows family know my mom and stepdad and my neighbors in Provo as well! They had stayed in Provo for a few weeks this summer next door to my parents, so they got the chance to experience Mormon culture and attend church. Their daughter even went to girls' camp, how cool is that? We had breakfast on Saturday with them at the Robbins' and afterwards we all tried to answer his doctrinal/Church history questions. He's got some hard questions, but the fact that he's asked these exact same questions to several other LDS people before meeting with us makes me question his sincerity when he said he's looking for spiritual truth. 

Yesterday we stopped by our chapel to do something and there were two teenage boys sitting in the church parking lot talking to each other. We said hi to them and went inside. As we were coming out of the church building we asked them if we could give them a pass-a-long card, and they said only if we'd let them see the inside of the building. So, we had a little impromptu church tour! It was cool! 

We have been listening to Joseph Smith the Prophet, by Truman G Madsen on tape in the car, and we are halfway through and it's only been a week. It's 6 hours long, but so far it has totally been worth it. It has strengthened my testimony. I know this is Christ's church, and that Joseph Smith was indeed called by God to be a prophet and to restore Christ's Church to the earth. I know the Book of Mormon is the word of God, and it has brought me much closer to God and my Savior. I love this gospel. And I love you all, have a fantastic week!

Elder Ruiz
Quick pic on a couch out on the street that was for sale.

Week 93: MIRACLES!!!!

Last week was amazing, so many miracles!! We were able to pick up two new investigators and teach them both the Restoration! One of them was a service referral named Sam that was given to us from member of the Upland 1st Ward. He is a strong Catholic but has a few questions about the Church ever since his son joined the Church some time ago. He is very set in his ways, so we are not very sure how far this will go. But, we are glad we were able to get in his home and share the message of the Restoration with him! 

The other person was an optimistic agnostic named Rick that we tracted into two weeks ago. He had some good questions about life and the nature of God that we were able to answer, it was awesome. 

We have been tracting a lot, trying to meet a lot of people. We were so blessed to have 2 less-actives stay for all 3 hours of church on Sunday! We met with one of our other investigators and showed him a conference talk by President Uchtdorf about repentance. After showing him the video we committed him to repent of his sins, and he said he would. I could see in his face that he understood the importance, what a blessing it was to see him have been taught by the Holy Ghost.

All of these blessings we have experienced last week I know came from our inreased diligence, faith, and obedience to God's commandments and to our mission rules. And I am never more happier than when I am doing those things! 

On Saturday we thought it would be fun to go and see Tupperware Man again (long story about how we gave him the name, ask me later). He says he loves Mormons but hates the Mormon Church, Joseph Smith, and strongly disagrees with our interpretation of the Bible. He kept telling us how foolish we were to be living as a Mormon, and that we should leave the Church. "Over my dead body!" I told him. He was dumbfounded at my (apparently) audacity to say that.  Elder Jeppsen and I testified to him of the Prophet Joseph Smith and the Restored Gospel It took him a few seconds to find some words to say. He was firing away at us, trying to rip away our faith from us and prove us wrong. But it didn't work. In fact, Elder Jeppsen and I both thought he was funny. He is not searching for truth in the world and a better relationship with God; instead he is searching for the faults and flaws of religion, but specifically the LDS church. He says he gets all his information from "experts", when in reality they are just people who are against the Church. Sure, I have been raised in this faith, and people raised in the Church tend to take a lot of things in the Church for granted. But I cannot deny the experiences that I have had in my life that have witnessed to me that there is a God. I have no doubt that the Book of Mormon is the word of God. I proclaim that Joseph Smith was a prophet. I add my testimony to Elder Jeffrey R. Holland's of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles:

I testify that one cannot come to full faith in this latter-day work—and thereby find the fullest measure of peace and comfort in these, our times—until he or she embraces the divinity of the Book of Mormon and the Lord Jesus Christ, of whom it testifies....I ask that my testimony of the Book of Mormon and all that it implies, given today under my own oath and office, be recorded by men on earth and angels in heaven. I hope I have a few years left in my “last days,” but whether I do or do not, I want it absolutely clear when I stand before the judgment bar of God that I declared to the world, in the most straightforward language I could summon, that the Book of Mormon is true, that it came forth the way Joseph said it came forth and was given to bring happiness and hope to the faithful in the travail of the latter days.

Elder Ruiz