Welcome to the missionary blog of Sister Ralynne Riggs. Here you will be able to follow Ralynne's experiences as she serves a full-time mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in the California San Diego Mission and Mormon Battalion Historic Site. We will do our best to keep you updated weekly and hope you will find joy in being a part of Sister Riggs' mission!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

One last time

Dear Family and Friends,

         Unbelievable...the day of my final e-mail has come! I am learning what it means to be in DENIAL! This week has been full of mental battles with the adversary trying to get me down and make me feel like a failure...and yet, full of tender mercies from the Lord that have comforted and reassured me along the way. One of those big tender mercies have been receiving all of your wonderful and encouraging e-mails today! Thank you so much! I can't express how much is helps nor how much it means to me! I have felt an outpouring of love, and from the very bottom of my heart, thank you. 
         A couple of funny stories that happened this week...we met with a young man named Matthew that was a referral from our Booth we do on campus. He is a very sweet and pure little 19 year old. As we began our lesson we were setting expectations and we asked what he hoped to learn and why he wanted to meet with us. He said, "Well, I have grown up a Methodist and go to a Methodist church with my family and I was hoping you could teach me more about what it means to be a Methodist." Ha ha...well that is an answer I have never heard before! We explained exactly who we were and what our purpose is as missionaries = ). Sister Salinas got a real kick out of it and said she just loves white people and we are so funny...ha ha. We did end up teaching him and shared an overview of what we teach and how it would apply to him and bless his life. He was very excited and said he'd love to learn more. We gave him a restoration pamphlet to read. We met with him again yesterday and he showed us three pages in the pamphlet that stood out to him and that he really liked...1) The page with Amos 3:7 "Surely the Lord God will do nothing, abut he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets." 2) The page about The Book of Mormon explaining what it is and how it testifies of Jesus Christ 3) The page that teaches how we can know for ourselves the message is true! Prepared? Yes! We taught him the Restoration using pictures and much of Joseph Smith-History...relating him to Joseph, feeling confused and being partial to the Methodist sect. I had the opportunity to hold in front of him a picture of the first vision and say those beautiful words from Joseph's account. I asked how he felt after and he said the feeling was indescribable. I am grateful I had the opportunity to teach him. He lives outside of our are so other sisters will continue on with him, but I love how the Lord prepared him. I love how our booth we set up made him curious...he paced back and forth in front of it many times...talked to us once, and the Elders another time....I have no doubt the spirit was impressing on his mind and the Lord was guiding his steps so he could find this. = )
       The other funny story that happened was Saturday when we were headed to a member's home for dinner! We walked up to the front door and as we knocked I turned to Sister Salinas and said, "Let's sing something!" We were having dinner with Gloria so I said, "We'll carol! Let's sing 'Hark the Herald Angels Sing!'" (to be funny) As we were joyously singing "Gloooooooooooria," a grumpy old man came to the door, swung it open, and yelled "What do you want!!!??" It was dark and it had been a while since I had been there and we realized we were at the wrong house! I quickly said, "Oh! We're sorry, we are suppose to be at the next door over! Is there anything we can do for you? We can sing you a song!" He said, "No thank you!" and shut the door! Sister Salinas and I laughed our way over to the right house and were so embarrassed but thought it was pretty funny. We told Gloria what happened and she had a shocked look on her face when she pointed and asked, "That house?! Oh man that guy is Mr. Scrouge!" ...Explains why he didn't like our caroling ; ).
         I am so excited to share this next miracle with you! I have been praying that I would be able to go to the temple with some of the families that I taught at the beginning of my mission and see them sealed or receive their endowment because their year since being baptized would be up. I have been checking up on my dear friends from the Fuerte ward! I was simply overjoyed with gratitude when I heard from the missionaries serving there that Tony Middleton would be having his temple recommend interview! He was Baptized November 10th last year and he had his interview November 12th, and he received his endowment on November 15th! Because I taught him, I was able to go and attend the session with him!!!! I have no words to express the sweet feelings I had throughout the night. The first time I saw him was in the session. I watched him throughout and as I did I had all of these memories come through my mind...teaching him and his wife in their apartment, the commitments he struggles with, getting him to come to church, relating to him on a musical level because he was a singer, getting bold for the first time on my mission with him and him telling me it was exactly what he needed to hear, singing "Sanctuary" with him at his baptism and seeing a recent convert baptize him, going to the temple with him (OK HOLD THE PHONE FOR A SECOND!!! I LOVE YOU ALL SOOOOOO MUCH!!! THEY JUST WALKED IN WITH THE MAIL AND I HAVE 23 LETTERS!!!! 23!!!!! EVERYONE IS IN DISBELIEF!!!! INCLUDING ME!!! HA HA! ALL THE MISSIONARIES ARE BAFFLED! I CAN'T THANK YOU ALL ENOUGH FOR SHOWING ME SO MUCH LOVE! WHAT AN INCREDIBLE GIFT AND TREASURE THESE WILL ALL BE! I CAN'T WAIT TO READ THEM! I LOVE YOU! I LOVE YOU! I LOVE YOU!!!! I JUST HAD TO SAY THANK YOU RIGHT AWAY! YOU ALL ARE MY ANGELS!)...OK where was I??? going to the temple with him and his wife and having one of the best lessons ever...I remember I have never seen him so happy! We took pictures of them in front of the temple and got them printed and told them to keep their eyes on the temple. I waited with his wife and 2 friends from the ward in the Celestial room. He came through beaming! I shook his hand and told him how much I wish I could hug him! I just hugged my hand! I asked how he felt and he said, "Overwhelmed....but overjoyed!" I told him how proud I was of him and how happy I was to be there with him. His wife was in tears saying she couldn't believe it and it was like going through for the first time because it had been so long for her....that it was a long hard road, but it was worth it. Tony looked at me and said, "Sister Riggs, everything you told me was true." I had to laugh a little ha ha....well of course! Would I lie?! ; ) I told him to gaze around the celestial room and take in the feeling and told him it was just the tiniest glimpse of ALL that Heavenly Father had in store for him. I cannot describe the sweet sweet feeling it was to be in that moment....to have seen the whole journey from beginning to the temple! I was soaring and I felt at such peace. As we drove away I said, "I can't wait for our reunions in heaven someday! It's gonna be just like that but better!!!" What a precious gift that was at the end of my mission...and what perfect timing!
         Last little miracle....for a couple of weeks I have had a member's name in my ward on my mind and kept thinking every weekly planning session that we needed to meet with him. He sat in front of us at church and I said, "Hey!  Can we see you sometime this week?" He said he was leaving the next day for Thanksgiving in Hawaii with his brother for 3 weeks. I said, "Oh no! Can we meet with you tonight?!" He said yes. As I went through my tours at the Battalion that afternoon I was praying to know what we should share with him. This young man is amazing and 20 and would be an incredible missionary. We had met with him twice while I have been here. When I first arrived I was trying to meet with everyone on the ward list...which is when we made first contact. Didn't think much of it. Anyway...as I was on tour the Mormon message about Chris Williams came to mind. I thought, "OK why? What point do we teach of it?" (there are many...forgiveness, repentance, emulating the Savior)...nothing else came...just to show the message. So we went with it and taught by the spirit. The whole family sat in and there was a sweet spirit and a few tears...but I really didn't know if anything we shared effected the one we came for. As we left and walked out to our car, his father came running out and called after us. He said, "Sisters, I just want to thank you for what you have done for my son. it has meant more than you know. You know he will be a great missionary someday....he's just working on it very slowly and there are some things in the way right now. But the special interest you have taken in him, and coming over, have meant so much to him. Even the message you shared tonight, that video, couldn't have been more timely." He had tears in his eyes as I told him of the promptings that I felt related to his son and I testified it meant that the Lord was aware of him. I was feeling very discouraged and like a failure throughout that Sunday, and it was an answer to my prayers, and again, a tender mercy, for his father to run out and tell us that. I love my Heavenly Father so much!
          I am out of time...but know that I love you all! Know that I love the Savior! Know that I have loved my mission! How great is my calling?! Indescribable!!! I want to end with this thought:
  "My mind was drawn immediately to Nephi’s phrase “the tender mercies of the Lord,” and I knew in that very moment I was experiencing just such a tender mercy. A loving Savior was sending me a most personal and timely message of comfort and reassurance through a hymn selected weeks previously. Some may count this experience as simply a nice coincidence, but I testify that the tender mercies of the Lord are real and that they do not occur randomly or merely by coincidence. Often, the Lord’s timing of His tender mercies helps us to both discern and acknowledge them." (Elder Bednar)

All my love and gratitude!
Signing off for the last time!
Your Sister Missionary,
Sister Riggs!!!!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

I Want to Be a Missionary Forever!!!

Dear Family,

Is this real life?! Two weeks from today I will be on the saddest plane ride I will ever take! I can’t believe how quickly time is passing. Can’t I just be a missionary forever?! After this, I will only have 1 more e-mail to write home…this…is… DEPRESSING!!! Ha ha…ok, ok…I am excited to see everyone and share my joy with you, but oh how great it is the calling to be a missionary!!! I don’t want it to end!

This week has been a full one! Lots of fun & lots of tender mercies. It started off with a visit to the Natural History Museum at Balboa Park last prep-day! I have wanted to go my whole mission! Unfortunately, there wasn’t a super cool special exhibit like horses or chocolate, but it was fun to learn about Mammoths and Mastodons a little bit. Mostly we just had a ball taking fun pictures and going around and saying, “These people are so silly! God did all of this!” Ha ha, it was wonderful to have a very present gospel perspective in our minds and look at just how amazing Heavenly Father is. He sure must have had so much fun with His creative mind as He created all the creatures and beauties of this earth.

That day was followed by one if the sweetest experiences I have had yet on my mission while serving at the Mormon Battalion Historic Site. We had just finished our preparation day and the Battalion was very slow. I was sitting at the front working on a little note and one of the senior sisters was trying to talk to a man who barely spoke English. She got him to agree to go on a tour and since it was just 1 man by himself, 2 sisters needed to go. I was asked to join Sister Rex. I was thinking a little inwardly and in my weakness I thought, “This is going to be pointless…he is barely going to understand anything.” I went and began the tour with a little bit of reluctance and not the right attitude (I know, I’m terrible). I was a little detached from the tour throughout and not very focused. Sister Rex was an incredible example of love and selflessness to me. Our friend, Felipe, was from Aracatuba, Brazil and spoke Portuguese. Sister Rex is here speaking Spanish and so for a few words that were alike, she helped him; relating Spanish to Portuguese. He was following along and although he was probably missing a lot, he was very engaged. I started to think, “You know, he may not understand the English very well, but everyone can understand and feel the spirit no matter what language they speak. We are all children of the same Father, and we can all recognize His love in the same way.” After the tour, we were talking with him in the resource room as he looked around at the artifacts. Honestly, now, I can’t even tell you how it happened or what triggered the prompting…but after we had taken his photo we were talking and asking what he thought of the story…I don’t remember what he said but something he said allowed the spirit to prompt me to go and get him a Portuguese Book of Mormon from the back. I ran and got it and came and just showed him the cover so he could understand what we were trying to talk to him about. He looked at it and confirmed he understood. We asked if he believed in Jesus Christ. He told us he knew who he was and then, in almost perfect English he testified of who Jesus Christ was to him. He told us that he knew He was real because He had helped him through the most difficult times in his life. “During my darkest days…He, He was here (gesturing to his side) beside me to help. I felt him come down on my heart (and he clutched both hands to his chest.” As I listened to Felipe, the spirit helped me realize that after struggling for English words throughout our entire 40 minute tour…as He testified of Jesus Christ, he didn’t stammer or struggling at all. His testimony was so simple, and beautiful. My heart burned…I knew immediately what He needed to read. I had him open his new copy of The Book of Mormon and read Alma 7:11-12…He began reading…
“11 E ele seguirá, sofrendo dores e aaflições e tentações de toda espécie; e isto para que se cumpra a palavra que diz que ele tomará sobre si as dores e as enfermidades de seu povo.
12 E tomará sobre si a amorte, para soltar as ligaduras da morte que prendem o seu povo; e tomará sobre si as suas enfermidades, para que se lhe encham de misericórdia as entranhas, segundo a carne, para que saiba, segundo a carne, como bsocorrer seu povo, de acordo com suas enfermidades.” As he read, my heart felt like it was going to burst and I thought to myself…as I stood there with him in the resource room and watched him set his eyes on The Book of Mormon for the first time, and heard him read about Jesus Christ and what He suffered for him in his own language…oh! How I am going to miss this. I had a moment of realization then of just how sweet and sacred this time and this calling has been. I’ve always known, but in that moment my heart swelled with gratitude and I think it literally broke a little bit realizing I won’t have those moments at the Battalion in just a couple of weeks….As Felipe stopped I asked him to read verse 13 also…he read on, “ 13 Ora, o Espírito asabe todas as coisas; não obstante, o Filho de Deus padece segundo a carne para btomar sobre si os pecados de seu povo, para apagar-lhes as transgressões, de acordo com seu poder de libertação; e eis que agora este é o testemunho que está em mim.”
As he read this verse the spirit could not be constrained. I knew he was receiving a spiritual confirmation that what he was reading was true, and although I couldn’t understand the Portuguese, I knew what he was reading was true. He looked up at me and saw me wipe away tears. He said, “That is beautiful.” I testified that I knew it was true and he said, “I do too!” What an incredible moment! I invited him to meet with the missionaries in Brazil that could teach him much more clearly than we could and he agreed to have them come. Sister Rex was by my side the whole time…as Felipe left she and I had a great big hug and I started to cry. She said, “Sister Riggs, I hope you know what a powerful missionary you are. You are exactly what he needed. He didn’t even look at me while he talked…you were able to connect with him in a way he needed and I am so glad. In the middle of the tour I had a prayer and I felt like you needed to have a special experience, so I prayed for it, and I am so glad Heavenly Father answered that prayer.” I told her it of course was not all me and that I was so undeserving of such a sweet experience after the attitude I had going on the tour. I thanked her for being so kind and self-less and told her how sweet of a moment that was and how I really needed and longed for it. I will never forget Felipe, and I will never forget the way my heart burned with the fire of the spirit.

Something I have learned to feel as a missionary is what it truly feels like to mourn with those that mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort. I felt this as we met with sweet Netta this week. As we began I could see it on her face…I asked how everything was and she started wiping away tears as she said she was just so tired…that it’s so frustrating for her to feel like every time she makes a little bit of progress, something happens and she is right back where she started again. She feels she just doesn’t have it in her anymore to try and expressed further feelings of hurt and depression. My heart ached for her as I recalled a time in my life I could relate to perfectly. She had told me a couple of weeks ago that she couldn’t stop listening to a song called “Again.” This was the very same song that I played on repeat to get me out of bed and out of my apartment when all I wanted to do was disappear. I reminded her of the words… “I trust you to lead me and show my heart where to begin. All of the pain and confusion I’m going through, I’m turning it over to you. Willing to trust it’s the right thing to do. Again and again I ask myself why, I don’t think that I have any tears left to cry. My soul is so tired and I’m longing for rest. I’m giving my all and I’m doing my best. It hurts to move on from the place I am in, but you understand where I’ve been, and you reassure me it’s time to start over again.” I promised her that there was and is always hope. That I am living proof of it. If the healing power of the Atonement were not real, I would not be here on a mission. I told her that I use to feel the same way about starting again and again or repenting again and again and feeling like I didn’t deserve and couldn’t possibly ask again and again for forgiveness or help when I had failed so many times. I shared with her the answer to my prayers from Elder D. Todd Christofferson when he said, “…repentance means striving to change. It would mock the Savior’s suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross for us to expect that He should transform us into angelic beings with no real effort on our part. Rather, we seek His grace to complement and reward our most diligent efforts (see 2 Nephi 25:23). Perhaps as much as praying for mercy, we should pray for time and opportunity to work and strive and overcome. Surely the Lord smiles upon one who desires to come to judgment worthily, who resolutely labors day by day to replace weakness with strength. Real repentance, real change may require repeated attempts, but there is something refining and holy in such striving. Divine forgiveness and healing flow quite naturally to such a soul, for indeed “virtue loveth virtue; light cleaveth unto light; [and] mercy hath compassion on mercy and claimeth her own” (D&C 88:40).” I hurt for her as we both just held her and let her cry…but she was able to feel at peace as she left and headed off to work. It is no wonder our Savior asked us to bear one another’s burdens that they may be light. How would any of us survive without the love and support we feel from one another on our hardest days?

We had the blessing of adding a new investigator this week. He was a referral from our mission president! Yeah, no pressure! He told us a member called from Alaska and that a friend of his son was here for a couple of months going to flight school and was feeling anxious and lonely. He said he had a bit of contact with the church through the family and that he loved basketball! Welp! Great! We were able to meet with him and Mason is wonderful! He told us how he wrote his buddy on a mission every week! What a loyal friend! He said he just knew if he contacted the church here he would have people to turn to so he wouldn’t feel so alone. What a tender heart! He said he was feeling like he was in a dark place and just wanted to have peace and get away from the path he was going on. I opened to John 14 and had him read 26, 27, & 18…
“26 But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.27 Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
18 I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.”

He looked up and said, “Yeah I need that…I feel like this is exactly what I need right now.” We were SO HAPPY to hear that! He is being a little timid about coming to church and activities, but we know the Lord has sent him here for more than just flight school and we are excited to help him receive the restored gospel and see the light of the spirit glow in his eyes as he finds what he’s looking for.
We had some fun with our branch decorating the San Diego Temple with Christmas lights on Saturday! We did some good with wrapping the trunks of trees exactly 2 fingers apart the whole way down = ). It was such a sweet experience to be at the foot of the temple and putting up lights to draw visitors and add extra beauty to the Lord’s house!

I sang at my last Mission President’s Fireside on Sunday. What a night that was! The chapel and overflow were filled and as I stood to sing, what my last testimony in song would be, my heart leapt as I looked out and saw several members, investigators, and recent converts that I had taught and worked with and seen baptized in La Jolla and Santee. I couldn’t believe it! I had my dream song come true thanks to Sister Breckenridge and Sister Sadleir…two amazing women from my Stake who came together and helped me make a fully orchestrated song with an 8 part harmony choir part into a piano and organ duet. The song says, “Gloria! My Savior Lives!” and I couldn’t think of a message or anything better that I would want to leave in the mission than that. It felt incredible to sing such an anthem of praise. Two of my recent converts, Kelsey and Jackie, also spoke and shared their conversion stories and testimonies and I sat and listened in amazement, remembering the sweet experience it was to see their faith and testimonies grow and to now see had steadfast and firm their testimonies are! Ahh! I love being a missionary! To top it all off, I had the incredible honor to stand and sing “When He Comes for Me” with 5 of the most elect women I will ever know…Sister Rasmussen, Madsen, Miller, Davies and O’Neill stood at my side as we sang together with all of our mission experiences behind us. We all entered the MTC together, and we will all depart together in 2 weeks. I have been companions with 3 of these 5 and we have all served here at the Battalion and have been through everything you can imagine together. What a sacred and powerful moment. I hope you enjoy the video of it. I felt the same spirit of joy while I was up there with them that I felt on my drive home after I had told Bishop Mills that I wanted to start my mission papers!! No greater JOY!! The best part about it all, was when President Clayton stood up after with an unexpected comment. He said, “I just have one thing I need to say after watching the missionaries down here in the front row…and that is, Elders…lock your hearts!!!” There was quite the outburst of laughter for about 30 seconds before President Clayton was able to continue! Ha ha…too funny. I saw many faces from the past months of my mission. Many who wondered if I remembered them…many who heard I was singing and said they wouldn’t miss it…many I didn’t even know but told me how much they were going to miss hearing me sing. What a tender mercy for the Lord to allow me to see some of the fruits of my labors!

I got to see that in an additional way last night. The La Jolla YSA came to the Battalion for FHE and requested that I and Sister Miller take their tour. It was a great turnout of 38 people from the ward and so wonderful to see so many I loved and worked with. During the tour I leaned over and whispered to Sister Miller, “Doesn’t this just feel like home? I love these people so much!” We were in heaven! When we finished the tour, Randilynn got up and said they wanted to be there and requested us specifically because they wanted us to know how much they loved and appreciated us…that we had touched their lives and hearts and made such an impact. We both wanted to cry but then felt so much joy we couldn’t! I told them that they were the people we would one day tell our children about when we spoke of our missions and how I couldn’t wait to show my children pictures of them and tell them how I had served among them and they had changed my life. They had cake afterwards for us and cards of love! I have never felt so special! I love these people more than I can express!
Well…those were the most precious moments of my week! It has been amazing and I can’t wait for all that will come this week as I go and do!!! I got to record in a “home studio” today and it was a blast! Once in a lifetime chance to record a song about the atonement as a full-time missionary! Sister Salinas and I also recorded a little missionary shout out that I will always treasure!

I love you all! Can I ask a favor?! I would love to get mail on my last P-Day!!!! I’d love to hear from you! You’d need to mail it by Friday to get here in time! 7404 Armstrong Place, San Diego, CA 92111!!!

Until next week!!!
Sister Riggs

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

November Whaaa???

Hey All!

Happy Halloween and Happy November!!! Actually...not happy November! I can't believe the my final month is here! This is just crazy! It's official though = ( I have been given my flight plans and I will be arriving in Phoenix on Tuesday November 26th at 12:11pm! What a terrible day! I hope you can all join me in it ; ) Ha ha! I would love to see as many of you at the airport as can make it! It will be a once in a life time moment for sure! 

I have been loving the opportunities I have had to teach the Restoration! It has taken me back to the beginning of my mission and reminded me of the fire and excitement that comes when you share of the miraculous vision that opened the final dispensation and was the beginning of truth being restored to earth again and Heavenly Father's work rolling forth! We taught one of our new investigators, Ashley, the Restoration on Tuesday night, and I had the chance to share Joseph Smith's words. As I invited her to listen closely to what I would say and testified that I knew the words were true, I said those humble words... 

"I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me...
When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. 
One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!" 

As I finished we just let the spirit speak. Ashley, wide-eyed, said, "Wow....that was really deep." I felt my heart burn, just as I did the first time I taught this lesson to Sean Penala last July when I first came on my mission...and just as I have every time throughout. I know that this is true and that it really happened. I know this work is real! Ashley knew too! We invited her to pray and ask if what we had shared was true and she replied, "I don't need to pray about that, I already know it is!" Amazing!

Alicia, our recent convert, has had miracles of her own. Ever since she has decided to be baptized she has been praying for her father's heart to be softened...that they could be able to talk to each other like they use to and that he would open his heart to the gospel. She shared with us her joy as she told of how the trials she had been going through were apparent to her dad. He could tell she struggled. So, she took him up to a mountain where many hike so they could talk. She let everything out and he talked with her like the friend he has always been. She had to go in to the hospital because of a high fever and she asked her dad if they could pray and they both prayed together. She said they came to an agreement, that while he may not agree on religion, he will always be her father and she can go to him for anything and he had seen the great changes in her and was happy she was happy. Faith is always rewarded with blessings from heaven! 

Thank you for the Halloween cards and package! It was a pretty fun day! We spent the day doing regular ol' missionary things with a Halloween twist! We were all finishing our exercise when our Battalion Director, Elder Seegmiller, came riding up on his bike saying there was an emergency and needed to go to their apartment! The Seegmiller's surprised us with a bagel and egg breakfast! We studied and weekly planned and had district meeting. We then had a shift at the temple...it was quite slow, but we did get one referral! Then, we had to be in our apartments at 7pm for safety and updated our area book and studied D&C 84.....all while enjoying some candy here and there ; ) I was thinking of all of you and wondering what fun you were about! Hope you enjoyed the pictures!!! 

We had a sweet experience with another recent convert, Kelsey. Kelsey is incredible...a rock for so many already even though she has only been baptized for a little over a month. We planned to teach her a lesson about Enduring to the End. As we said the opening prayer, the list of Mormon Messages we had on our disc was going through my mind and I had thought to show her a different one....but then "Good Things to Come" by Jeffrey R. Holland came to mind. My mind was stuck there so I decided we better show her that one. As it ended I turned to look at Kelsey and saw tears streaming down her cheeks. We both quickly moved to her side to hug her and just let her cry. She said she didn't have the words....that that was exactly what she needed. We testified of God's love for her...that He knew her heart and was listening to her prayers and how the message was from Him because He prompted us to change it in that very moment. We testified of our calling..."to represent the Lord in this area" and that we were there at her side to help just as Christ would be. It was a sweet moment....one of those where I just thank Heavenly Father for helping us do His work and trusting us with promptings so we can help His children's testimonies and faith in Him grow. She felt a huge weight lifted in knowing she was not, and never is, alone. 

Last night we had another sweet experience...we were at dinner with a couple of wonderful members and one asked, "What has been one of your greatest experiences you've had on your mission that you will never forget?" I answered with a couple of stories where I learned how much God knows and loves each of His children and how He worked out the details for us to cross paths and for them to find the truth. Sister Salinas shared of those miracles she'd seen also, and then our members (both converts) shared the miracle of how they met the missionaries....we left that with a sweet feeling and were driving to the church and I looked and saw a car pulled over with hazard lights on and 3 girls sitting on the curb. I flipped a U so we could go and see if we could help! It was 3 girls - 12, 18, and 19, and one of the girls father's...they were Spanish. Sister Salinas started talking to the dad, Juan, in Spanish and found out he was from the exact same city in Oaxaca Mexico!!! While they talked, I got to know the girls and found they were students at Grossmont College. I told them about and invited them to the institute. One of them was wearing a Disney sweater and so I told her I use to sing at Disney World. They wanted to hear a song from the show so I sang a little of "We Rock" = ) They loved it and I invited them to come hear the Mission President's Fireside and they said they'd be there! All the while Sister Salinas found out the life story of Juan. He is looking for a church and said that everything Sister Salinas shared was what he needed and applied to him and his situation with his family. They were all very excited to come to the musical fireside Sunday and to meet with missionaries....no small miracles with Heavenly Father!!! I love how much He loves us!!!

I bore my testimony for the last fast and testimony meeting on my mission...it was one of the greatest experiences of my mission to stand before this branch I have come to love with all of my heart and testify of Heavenly Father's love for them. I felt like my heart would burst as I looked into their faces. As I looked into each one, I could remember moments teaching them, comforting them in the the church, in the homes, at the institute, and moments I was on my knees in their behalf and felt Heavenly Father's direction in what they needed. There were many tears in the room and I will never forget that sweet moment as the Lord showed me the great work I have been about. 

Love you all!

~Sister Riggs

How great is our calling! Built upon a rock!

LOVE the crashing waves!
There was a seal just chillin! I promise it was alive! = )
As close as I could get ; )
Yep! This is where I serve my mission! Typical CA scene!
So between the two baby pumpkins we got...mine was un-carvable! I almost cut my finger off trying to cut a lid! There was no carving this thing! I literally threw it on the counter and it bounced back like a basketball...Sister Salinas' carved no problem...which was good because it was her first time EVER carving a pumpkin!
So I ended up using my sharpie markers and coloring on my pumpkin! ...a crown of course ; )
In honor of a Missionary Halloween!
We know how to have fun!
Dinosaur hats from the dollar store our Elders bought = )
We had the cutest Missionary Trick-or-Treaters! (Sister Miller, Sister Wells, Sister Huang, and Sister Wang) our Mandarin sisters! And me with my Vampire teeth = )
Me with Sister Rasmussen, Sister Madsen, and Sister Davies....all in our Halloween Orange! Each of these Sisters have changed my life and been a huge part of my mission!
Sister Huang cracks me up...she begged me to do her hair like mine...with my famous poof = )

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Heavenly Father knows!‏

Happy Halloween My Spooktacular Goons!

I am in awe as I look at the calender and see November just around the corner....if that's not scary I don't know what is! Knowing I only have four weeks left has weighed on my shoulders as we have had some terrible struggles this week and as I teach and come to love people and realize I won't be here to see things through with them! Ugh! Heartbreaking! But the Lord blessed me with an amazing miracle this week at the Mormon Battalion that reminded me of His awareness of ALL of His children... So I walked up to the front of the Battalion just in time to be asked to take the next tour. Sister Patterson came with me and we began our journey with our group. There was a couple from Arizona and they mentioned something about a temple and I said, "Yes! The temple being built in Gilbert! Have you seen it?" They said they had and it was beautiful! I told them to watch for the dates so they could go and walk through. We then went on with the tour...these two were so into the tour...particularly the husband and he was just having a ball and making everyone laugh as I dressed him as as our soldier. Sister Patterson and I whispered to each other in agreement that they were so prepared! At the end of the tour I stayed at the camera to take the family photos. When I walked out to gold panning the member couple from Colorado that were on my tour were standing there with this man and were explaining about the Book of Mormon to him. The wife looked at me and said, "Could you please get this man a Book of Mormon?" I looked at her a little bewildered and said, "Sure!...I'll be right back!" I came back and handed it to him and continued to listen to these amazing member missionaries bear their testimony on the spot to this man about the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. The man, Armando, then said, "I have been looking for something. I just need something. I lost my daughter 2 years ago." The member looked at me and said, "Do you have a Plan of Salvation pamphlet?" I said, "We sure do!" She said, "This Sister will take good care of you!" I walked back with him and as we talked and he told me of his loss and his search I thought of how the temples mean families can be together FOREVER....then I thought: "Wait! The Gilbert temple open house is in January! I will be home! I can take him and his wife through the temple open house!" I turned to him and told him my desire to do so and he said he would LOVE that! THEN, as I was getting his phone number, I asked where in Arizona he lived....He said, "Chandler." I said, "Oh me too! What part?" ...."Oh on Gilbert and Riggs Rd." I stopped him in astonishment as he told me of the neighborhood he lived in by Alberston's and I said, "Armando, you did notice my name was Sister Riggs right?....you know one block up on Gilbert and Chandler Heights where the Bashas and CVS Pharmacy are? (He nodded) ...and that random farmhouse on the corner? (yep!) That's my family!!! You literally live less than a mile away from my house!" He stared at me speechless and we just said "Wow!" I told him that it always amazes me when things like this happen! He said he knew it was no coincidence and he would never forget this day! I told him then that I would personally keep in touch with him and his wife and then I said, "You know what! Will you call my dad and ask him if you can go to church with him this Sunday?" He said, "Wow! Really? I would love to go to your church!" I gave him my dad's number and told him he'd love to go with him! Ha ha sorry dad! I volunteered you because I know you are a perfect friend for him! = ) Armando was so grateful and knew without a doubt he was lead to the Battalion that night. All this time, Sister Patterson was talking to his wife and learned that their son was diagnosed with cancer at age 14 and beat it....then, not many years later, their daughter was diagnosed and it took her life 2 years ago. The wife has become a bit hardened because of it and the husband has been softened. I left that experience on Cloud 9! Alma 26: 37 "Now my brethren, we see that God is mindful of every people, whatsoever land they may be in; yea, he numbereth his people, and his bowels of mercy are over all the earth. Now this is my joy, and my great thanksgiving; yea, and I will give thanks unto my God forever!" So true! I am so excited to have missionary work to continue with this sweet man and his wife when I get home! Until then, Dad! You and the missionaries got this!

Well, I also mentioned some struggles this week. I can't say much, just that Satan must not be very happy with the strengthening, unity, love, and rescuing that has been happening in our branch over the past few months. His opposition was seen and felt this week and I experienced one of the most difficult days of my mission on Friday. Praying for the power of Paul in my speech and for the gift of discernment....having to stand up and be bold and even rebuke a little bit....then comfort, heal and try to save those who were hurt. All I have been thinking is that I have been living a Book of Mormon story this week. All the times when the scriptures say there was peace in the land and no contention and then someone comes to stir up the hearts of the people and there begins to be divisions among them. Or like in Alma 12:3 "Now Zeezrom, seeing that thou hast been taken in thy lying and craftiness, for thou hast not lied unto men only but thou hast lied unto God; for behold, he knows all thy thoughts, and thou seest that thy thoughts are made known unto us by his Spirit;

And thou seest that we know that thy plan was a very subtle plan, as to the subtlety of the devil, for to lie and to deceive this people that thou mightest set them against us, to revile us and to cast us out

Now this was a plan of thine adversary, and he hath exercised his power in thee. Now I would that ye should remember that what I say unto thee I say unto all.
And behold I say unto you all that this was a snare of the adversary, which he has laid to catch this people, that he might bring you into subjection unto him, that he might encircle you about with his chains, that he might chain you down to everlasting destruction, according to the power of his captivity."

It has broken my heart to have all of this happen in my last few weeks...but there must be opposition in all things....Friday night I came home and in my prayers I felt prompted to open my scriptures. I told Father in Heaven that I needed comfort, then I stuck my thumb in my scriptures and opened to these verses. 2 Nephi 4:  1 "And now, Jacob, I speak unto you: Thou art my firstborn in the days of my tribulation in the wilderness. And behold, in thy childhood thou hast suffered afflictions and much sorrow, because of the rudeness of thy brethren.
Nevertheless, Jacob, my firstborn in the wilderness, thou knowest the greatness of God; and he shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain.
Wherefore, thy soul shall be blessed, and thou shalt dwell safely with thy brother, Nephi; and thy days shall be spent in the service of thy God. Wherefore, I know that thou art redeemed, because of the righteousness of thy Redeemer; for thou hast beheld that in the fulness of time he cometh to bring salvation unto men.
And thou hast beheld in thy youth his glory; wherefore, thou art blessed even as they unto whom he shall minister in the flesh; for the Spirit is the same, yesterday, today, and forever. And the way is prepared from the fall of man, and salvation is free.
And men are instructed sufficiently that they know good from evil.
For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my firstborn in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad..."

The bold parts where exactly what I needed to hear and I was comforted as the spirit spoke to me through the scriptures and Heavenly Father answered my prayers. This is a real battle out here! And Satan is hard at work!
D&C 10:24 "Yea, he stirreth up their hearts to anger against this work."

Through all of this though, Heavenly Father blessed us with a new investigator!There is a girl who has been coming to church with her cousins who isn't a member and I am PRAYING fervently to have another baptism before I leave and I have asked her about meeting with us before...but I have 4 weeks left and this is it! After Sacrament meeting I just started another conversation with her and basically said, "you have followed the example of your cousins in coming to church....do you like what you have learned and felt here? (yes) Do you believe it's true? (yes) Then will you follow the example of Jesus Christ and be baptized?" She said she has been thinking about it but wants to learn and understand more...I said, "Well will you let us do our job and teach you?!" We added her and are meeting with her tonight for the first time = ) I hope she accepts our invitation for baptism on Nov 23rd...the weekend before I go home. That'd be the best gift ever!

Love you all so much! Have a happy and safe Halloween! Send pictures!!!

Sister Riggs

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Sheep Herding

I wanted to share this amazing talk that Scott Sadlier gave in our branch a few weeks ago. He had an amazing experience sheep herding for a summer and learned much about the Savior...it changed my life and I wanted it to change yours! 

The talk made me think of these great scriptures!

Alma 5:

37 O ye workers of iniquity; ye that are puffed up in the vain things of the world, ye that have professed to have known the ways of righteousness nevertheless have gone astray, as sheep having no shepherd, notwithstanding a shepherd hath called after you and is still calling after you, but ye will not hearken unto his voice!

 38 Behold, I say unto you, that the good shepherd doth call you; yea, and in his own name he doth call you, which is the name of Christ; and if ye will not hearken unto the voice of the good shepherd, to the name by which ye are called, behold, ye are not the sheep of the good shepherd.

 59 For what shepherd is there among you having many sheep doth not watch over them, that the wolves enter not and devour his flock? And behold, if a wolf enter his flock doth he not drive him out? Yea, and at the last, if he can, he will destroy him.

 60 And now I say unto you that the good shepherd doth call after you; and if you will hearken unto his voice he will bring you into his fold, and ye are his sheep; and he commandeth you that ye suffer no ravenous wolf to enter among you, that ye may not be destroyed.

 -Sister Riggs

Good Morning,

I was asked to talk to you today about sheep.

In April of this year I left for Idaho to attend BYU for the spring semester. However when I got up to Idaho my plans quickly changed and I found myself accepting a job on an old potato and sheep farm in a small town called Hamer. I had no idea what I was getting myself into…
During my time on the farm I was taught how to do many things that I never thought I would do, some fun and some were pretty much just gross. But as time went on I learned to love it all. One of my responsibilities was to take care of a small group of about 300 sheep. I was expected to feed them and water them and clean up after them and sometimes even help them give birth… For about a month I lived on the farm spending time with these sheep desperately trying to better understand what sheep were all about. One day while working I remembered that when I first arrived on the farm I was told that this farm was home to over 7000 sheep and I began to wonder where the rest of the sheep were and why I only ever saw these same three hundred. This is when I learned about sheep herding…

I was informed that for about 8 months out of each year all of the sheep were divided into herds of about 900 and were then shipped out to the wilderness to feed on the wild grass. Each herd was watched over by one man, “the herder” and however many dogs he may have. I had no idea that such a thing even existed and the more I learned about it the more I became interested in whether or not I would be able to do something like this during my time on the farm. I was told that if I truly wanted to understand the sheep this would be the route to take.  I discussed this interest with the farmer and he seemed very pleased with my desire and told me that they were in need of a herder and that I could leave in two weeks if I wanted to.

So two weeks later I found myself in the middle of nowhere with the same three hundred sheep from the farm, some of which were still laden with child, and I of course had no idea what I was doing. I had at my disposal a horse, a trailer constructed to house a very small Peruvian man and of course my new sheep herding pup named Ammon. I felt very much like a missionary again being dropped of in an unfamiliar area with no experience and a great responsibility to care for my Heavenly Father's sheep.

The next couple of months were hard to say the least but very rewarding. My herd eventually grew from 300 sheep to 700 and I was also given a couple more experienced dogs to help me along the way. I spent all of my time with the sheep and grew to love and appreciate them. As I would watch them my mind would often turn to thoughts of the Savior; especially in my moments of frustration and weakness. I would think of him and how much he loved me and how patient he is with me when I am slow to hear his voice or heed his commands.  The more I thought of the Savior the more I realized how much like sheep we truly are. I began to view the sheep's time in the wilderness as our time here on earth and saw many similarities in the trials and experiences that we face. For my talk I would like to focus on a couple of the trials that I saw the sheep endure that reminded me of my own life.

The first occurred on almost a daily basis. Each morning and every evening the sheep would wake up and move together as a herd swiftly across the areas surrounding my camp, feeding on the grass as they went. As they did so they were faced with many dangers that came in many forms; including predators, poisonous plants disguised with beautiful tasty looking flowers, and sudden extreme changes in the terrain. As I would watch the sheep each day I noticed that for the most part the sheep were very cautious and would often lift their heads to scan their surrounding, making sure that they were safe and not too far from the rest of the herd. This made me very happy to see and made my job a lot easier to do; however I also began to notice somewhat of a pattern as the days went on. Every once in a while one of the sheep or sometimes even a small group of the sheep would wonder off and get lost. As a result I decided to mark a few of these sheep hoping that I could keep a closer eye on them. I was able to watch them carefully and discovered that the sheep who got lost almost always were the same sheep that never looked up to see where they were or in which direction they were headed. They would become so consumed with eating the wild grass that they would disregard the warning calls coming not only from me but from their fellow herd members.  This would cause me to become very frustrated at times and as I would guide them back to the herd I would exclaim “why cant you just listen!” almost every time I would speak these words I would hear the voice of Heavenly Father saying to me “Now you know how I feel!” and then I would feel very small and apologize to the sheep…Since then I have often reflect on how well I am listening to the voices of warning around me. It is so easy for us to become distracted and even consumed by the world around us. We are so blessed to have Prophets and Apostles on the earth to warn us and guide us through the wilderness but how often do we follow their council? Are we doing the simple things that we are asked to do, like reading our scriptures and praying each night? Are we fulfilling our church callings and doing our home teaching each month? Or are we allowing ourselves to become distracted and slowly drift away? Almost every less active or inactive member that I ever visited on my mission became that way because they stopped doing the simple things. Sometimes these things can seem harmless to us, we may not even realize we are in danger, but when the moment comes and our testimonies are put on the line we must be sure that we are spiritually prepared to hear the warning voice of the spirit.

One of the first warnings that I received from the farmer before I was dropped off with the herd was to beware of the wolves. I was told to shoot on sight; that it wasn't uncommon for a herd to lose 40 or more sheep to the jaws of a hungry wolf. I remember thinking to myself “I'd like to see one try!”….Well try they did and unfortunately they succeeded on many occasions. After losing the first few sheep I began to wonder how this was possible. I hadn’t heard or even seen any sort of dramatic attack like I had expected. They didn’t rush in and make a big scene or anything like that. They were subtle and slow, quietly lurking right through the middle of the herd looking for the weakest, easiest kill they could find. One of the saddest things I ever saw was a mother calling for her lamb, not even realizing that her baby had been taken away. After this I was determined and I swore that I would never lose another lamb again. I came up with all kinds of ways to make sure that they couldn’t sneak in and for a time I thought I had them beat. Until one night as I lay in bed I heard the blood chilling cry of a wolf pack ready to hunt. I wasn’t prepared for this at all. There was nothing I could do. I woke up the next morning feeling a little discouraged. I called the farmer and explained to him my situation. I was surprised when he told me that they had expected this to happen and that they would be sending me a "secret weapon" in a few days. When the day came and the truck arrived I was pumped. I saw a large cage resting in the bed of his truck but couldn’t see what was inside until, he open the door and out jumped the biggest whitest dog I had ever seen! He told me that from now on this dog would live with the sheep and that he would protect them with his life. That night when the wolves came yelping through the woods their sudden silence told me that they were not expecting to hear echoing through the mountains in return the deep bark of good ole Betty White, who did not hesitate to make herself known. She was fearless. I never once saw her deviate from accomplishing her mission to protect the sheep. It was inspiring for me to watch her each day.

As I did the words of the savior would often come into my mind, “I am the Good Shepherd: the Good Shepherd giveth his life for the sheep”. Watching this faithful dog over the next month or so helped me to appreciate how blessed we are to have a Good Shepherd watching over us. We cannot comprehend the love that the savior has for us but greater love hath no man that this that he layeth down his life for his friends. The wolves in our lives will never give up. But we can take comfort in knowing that we have a friend, a brother, a savior who has given his life in our stead so that we may live again.

At the end of my journey with the sheep I was told to herd them into a large coral and then to wait until the farmer came. With the help of a few hands we released the sheep one by one through the coral gate counting them as they went. As I watch the number of sheep in the coral shrink I couldn’t help but reflect on the last few months and all the experiences I had had. I had truly come to love these sheep. I was not looking forward to knowing how many I had lost and I was broken hearted to learn that 30 of my sheep were missing from the herd. It was difficult for me to accept, especially after all we had done to try to save them.

When our journey here on earth is through many of our brothers and sisters will have been lost or eaten because of the temptations of this world. Perhaps some of us here in this room are at risk of becoming lost ourselves. In Isaiah 53:6 it reads, “and he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace is upon him and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way and the lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” We will all at some point or other make mistakes but no matter how lost we may be we can always be found, all we have to do is repent.

And as members of the fold of God it is not only our responsibility to repent but also to invite our brothers and sisters to repent as well by sharing with them the gospel truths that we have come to love. Luke has accepted this challenge. Soon he will be spending every day of his life in search of lost sheep that are in need of being rescued. Because of his decision to serve many of the lords sheep will soon be found.

As a part of my team in the wilderness I was blessed with three very loyal sheep herding dogs. Unlike Betty white they did not live with the sheep and they were not expected to give up their lives in order to protect them. Their job was to keep the herd in line and to make sure that none would fall behind. They would stay focused on constantly looking for any signs of the herd becoming scattered.  And when necessary they would provide little friendly reminders like gently nibbling on the legs of the distracted sheep until they would move and keep up. I was amazed to see how well these dogs preformed this task. I was grateful to have them on my team. In a very like manner the lord has called each of us to be missionaries on his team. We have the responsibility to look out for one another. In this very branch we have been able to witness the fruits of these labors. I feel strengthened every Sunday as I attend church with each of you. At times I am in need of little friendly reminders to help me along the way. There are also many of our brothers and sisters who are not here today who need our help. I am grateful for this branch because we have committed to each other to not let these people slip by unnoticed. We are a team and together we can rescue many of our brothers and sisters here in this area.

I am grateful for the gospel in my life….Testimony. Amen