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!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Power of FAITH (Letter on 7/16/13)

Dear Family,

It has been another week full of tender mercies. The investigators that Heavenly Father is allowing us to teach are so UNREAL!! I am taught every time we teach in a lesson and keep having moments that are so incredible! I keep thinking, "Is someone getting this on camera?! I want to remember and feel this moment for the rest of my life!" I am sure Heavenly Father's film crew got it and I'll be able to watch it again someday in heaven ; ) But really, such amazing lessons I want to tell you about...

Last Sunday I saw this couple at church that I vaguely remembered. As they walked in they walked up to me very excited and talked to me like they knew me...memories came back. I remembered this couple from one of the very first Sundays in La Jolla after I had gotten transferred (so all the way back in January). I was trying to meet everyone and immediately start helping the work in my new area. I had seen this couple and the man, Steve, sounded like a less-active member, and he introduced me to his girlfriend, Vanessa, and they said they were just coming to check it out. I remember seeing them head to the doors to leave after sacrament. My companions were talking with other ward members and I asked one, "Did you get their number or anything?" She said no so I ran to them just as they were leaving and just told them how glad we were that they came and asked if we could come by and answer any questions they had. They were resistant and said they were really busy moving. I quickly offered to help them move and said we would love it. They resisted again and I asked for their number to maybe catch up with them at another time when they weren't so busy (ha ha, I don't take a no very easily!). I think we text them and got one reply but then never heard again....so fast forward 7 months later...here is this couple back at church. After sacrament Sister Miller and I couldn't find them and felt sad to think they snuck away, but as we exited the chapel, there they were standing and waiting patiently for us to walk out. THEY then approached us and asked if they could set up a time to meet with us and learn more!!! MIRACLE! We had our first meeting with them on Tuesday night and we didn't have to do any of the talking. As soon as we sang the opening song and said the prayer, Vanessa just opened up and told us all she was feeling. She said she grew up Catholic but that they were never really practicing, and that she always knew there was a God and faith and that she needed it in her life. She came to church with Steve those 7 months ago, and said when she came in that she felt a deep peace and a warmth inside. She cried as she said she felt that same way again on Sunday and that she wants to have this in her life and is ready to learn. We came to find that Steve actually isn't a member either, but he grew up around it. His mom got baptized when Steve was 11 and he said he remembered that when she was active in the church, everything was better. He said throughout his life, any time he felt like he needed or wanted to go to church he would go to the LDS church. He cried as he recounted experiences of people being so genuine...no matter where he was in the world, when he went to church he was received with sincere kindness and it always gave him a safe feeling and a feeling of home. He then said that the Sunday they came, and I offered to help them move, that they left that day and couldn't stop thinking about it...what they felt in sacrament, and the kindness that again was shown. Over the past months they have both been having spiritual conversations and deciding together what they felt they needed and wanted...that lead them to come back. OH how grateful I was in that moment that Heavenly Father helped me notice them and that I ran to them before they left the church doors....such a simple thing...just offering to help move...but because of the experience Steve had in his life...that was exactly what God knew he needed to hear to confirm to him that this was the right place to be. They told us that they were leaving the parking lot after sacrament, and then decided they needed to turn around and come back in and make an appointment to meet with us. I have never known investigators to follow the spirit so much before even meeting with us! In our first lesson we pretty much just listened to their testimonies and cried together. I cried as I saw Steve, a pretty strong man, cry as he expressed his great desire and longing to have these things in his life. To have peace, the spirit, to be the man he was in him, to be close to God. I have never felt someone else's heart ache like that. We left them with the plan to see them the next week on their next day off and were on our way to our next appointment when Vanessa called us. She said, "Hi Sisters, we were just talking and we actually would really love to see you again tomorrow. Would that be ok? We have just felt a lot of good feelings about all of this and just want to keep going." OH MY GOOFY GUMMIES = ) So unreal! We met with them the next night and taught them the "Plan of Salvation"...again, it was pretty much an overwhelming spirit throughout the lesson and all of us were holding back and wiping away tears throughout. It was amazing to be on the teaching side of things, and see the recognition in their eyes...they just took it all in. As we talked about death, the spirit world, and resurrection...Sister Miller asked Vanessa if she had ever lost a loved one and if she had felt them close. She told us the story of losing her grandmother 6 years ago, how she was the only one she knew and was close with, and how she saw her in a dream and when she was little and how she was ok...and happy, and she was young....this knowledge of the plan of salvation, brought that experience full-circle for her. She knew what we had taught was true. My spirit was touched as hearing her experience reminded me of when I lost my Nana...6 years ago...and she also was the only grandparent I knew and was close with...and of the confirmation I received when she left, that she was ok and wasn't far. We ended by showing them "God's Plan"...because of the incredible spirit they brought to the lesson, I received a confirmation that I would indeed see my Nana again someday, and as I watched the film the warmth that filled my soul made me feel like I was going to burst. As we finished, Steve said, "I have known this...when I was a little boy I use to have this vision of my future family and what they would be like...and it was this..." We testified that he knew this because he accepted this plan when he was with Heavenly Father before he came here, and this is how He always intended it to be....wow...seriously speechless. They are not married, and Vanessa has the most beautiful little 3 year old daughter named Lucia...and I can't wait for them to be a forever family! The sad thing is, they are over 30 and belong in the family ward, so we don't get to teach them...but the missionaries assigned to that ward are about to have their lives changed by them!!! I know they will forever be a part of my life...and our interactions were NOT by accident. I can't write enough about them to describe how amazing and prepared they are.

Jacques De Toit continues to be amazing. We taught him the Word of Wisdom this week and were taken back by his faith. He said he understood the no alcohol, tobacco or drugs, but he was a little frustrated with no coffee or tea....but even before we had finished explaining and teaching...he was looking down at the pamphlet and said, "Well I get the other stuff but I have literally always had coffee and tea....but I guess I won't be drinking them anymore." Sister Miller and I looked at each other with big eyes! Couldn't believe his faith...he didn't put up a fight at all! We taught him that when it comes down to it...if we love God and trust Him, we will follow His commandments no matter what they are and no matter if we understand all the reasons or not. We know He loves us and would never ask us to do something that wasn't for our good. We read, Mosiah 4:9  "Believe in God; believe that he is, and that he created all things, both in heaven and in earth; believe that he has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth; believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend." He loved that scripture and said that explains it all. He went on a voyage on the Yacht he works on for the weekend and we told him it'd be a perfect test of faith....he said it's be a perfect chance to drink a lot of water and hot-chocolate = ). Jacques is unreal!

We had one of the most incredible experiences with Victor. We really felt like we wanted to have a lesson that would just change him....that would help him see the importance of all of this and sense the urgency and increase his desire to learn more and keep going...yeah no pressure...we taught him the first half of the plan of Salvation and felt prompted to share "Look to Light" Mormon message that's about many that were in dark places but as they called upon the Lord they were changed. It almost didn't happen because we had to teach him outside and his lap top wasn't playing the DVD. He said he'd just watch it next time, but we decided to have him watch it while we stood at the door (since it is a rule that another adult female has to be present to be inside)...but then his wi-fi worked just outside his apartment...so there we all were in the hall as he watched this....he was touched by the video, but we didn't realize how much until we heard him say his the closing prayer. Victor began to pour his heart out to the Lord and shortly after beginning, he paused....then he broke down crying...and his pleas just came....he repented and told the Lord how sorry he was, he thanked Him for all that as happening in his life and he promised he was changing...he said, "I promise you God that I'm not going back, I ain't never gonna look back...I'm gonna be something big...I'm gonna follow you...I promise I am gonna be something great..." I opened my eyes, as I was astonished, and I looked at him, just kneeling there, hands clasped, eyes closed, and head straight forward...tears streaming down his cheeks...this 21 year old pouring his heart out....what a sacred moment. After he finished he pulled the neck of his shirt up to his eyes and kept crying....he sighed and said, "I've been holdin' that back for a long time....a long time....man that was heavy....this is so heavy...." Our prayer was answered...Victor's heart was definitely changed that day. He wanted to know what website we showed him that video on. We told him about Mormon.org and then also how to listen to the scriptures online...cause he's not a reader. At our next lesson, he said he watched 15 of the Mormon Messages! We asked if he had read from the Book of Mormon and he said no. We felt sad and then perked right up when he said, "I listened to it online and I am done with the Nephi's." WHAT?!! Miracle!!! As he told us the things that he liked from the Mormon Messages we noted that everything was with family. We asked him about his and learned that his father was killed when he was 9 months old so he never really knew him....and that when he was 9 years old, his Uncle came over and several other cousins and he was wondering what was up. His uncle took him to a church and sat down with him and said, "Something bad has happened, and your mom and your brother aren't going to be with us anymore." They had been killed in a car accident...he was brought here illegally to the states and raised by his sister, whom he refers to as "mom". Wow....no wonder his life has been dark, and that he made the choices he made. How glad we were to share the rest of the plan of salvation with him. As I prayed for him in the lesson, I felt to say that his family loved him, and that they have been preparing for their baptisms, just like he is now preparing for his, and he will be the one to help bring them together forever as he goes to the temple in their behalf someday. I also felt to say they were close. What an amazing experience and I was so grateful to be able to reassure him he would see them again, and they would be perfect...no matter the state their body was in when they left this life (Alma 40:23). Victor went to his manager and asked for his schedule to be changed on Sundays so he could come to our ward at 11:30! FAITH!!!

We taught Katie again this week and she seemed a little off because she was having some doubts and fears. As we left our lesson, after teaching Baptism, Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end....she continued to talk over Skype with her best friend in New Zealand (who is a member). Katie text us 2 hours later and apologized and said that she talked through things with her friend and she has realized that she needs to stop listening to Satan's voice and that she wants to move forward with this comittment to be baptized August 3rd. We saw her Sunday and she was bubbly and happy and she said, "I am just crazy because I'm tired because I quit drinking coffee!" We haven't even taught her these things, but we had shown her a list of the things she had left to learn to be ready for baptism and she looked them all up on lds.org and started living them all!!!! WHAT?!!! FAITH!!! MIRACLES!!! 

One last sweet experience I wanted to share was meeting the most Christ-like man who is truly enduring to the end. We were on our way to an appointment and saw on the side of the road a man, probably in his mid to late 80's, in his scooter chair...he was struggling to get out...we noticed he had a bag of food in his hand and was slowly walking over to a homeless man sleeping under a tree. Sister Miller said that made her want to cry and I said, "Do you want to turn around and go help him?" So we did. We stopped this sweet man and asked if he had just given the homeless man food. He said, "I did! I do every week when I come by to eat down the street. He always accepts it and is always grateful." He was wearing a veteran's hat and American Flag suspenders. He had a bag full of bread that he mentioned he gets to take to a few families that don't have enough food. He said he has a family living in his home because they lost theirs. He also offers a reading program that helps teach children how to read and it costs $350...but he shared a story of how the program had helped a child to read and he cried...his heart is so tender that just the thought of a child knowing how to read made him cry....he looked at our name tags and said, "Oh, I am a Mormon too!" Sister Miller and I were so humbled and grateful that we pulled over to meet this incredible disciple of Christ. This picture is of us = ) I want to be like that someday. What an example of becoming like our Savior and devoting our lives to doing the works that He would do. We could all be a little more like Milton.

Have miracles ceased? No....Has faith ceased? No! I love these people so much!

Have an amazing week! And see what miracles come through YOUR faith!

Sister Riggs