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!

Friday, August 30, 2013

"There Are Angels Watching O'er the Shepherds Sheep" (8/20/13)

Dear Family and Friends,

   Another week gone...so hard to believe. I write this week with a heart full of gratitude for your prayers of safety and protection on my behalf. I know they are answered...I was in a car accident yesterday with my companion. Don't worry, everything is fine. It was more like a fender bender and we were bounced back and forth in between two other cars. We were traveling in between appointments and were just about to turn on to the highway. I was on a short phone call with our Ward Mission Leader and Sister Patterson was driving. It looked like the line of cars was moving and she would be able to go through the intersection but then line stopped abruptly and she slammed on her breaks...they locked and we skid almost running into the car in front of us but stopped in time, but then we were hit from behind, which pushed us forward to hit the car in front of us, and then we were hit from behind again. I have never been in a car accident before, so this was a new experience for me...can't say I liked it...nor the whip-lash. My poor companion couldn't breathe after...she was so shocked. We pulled over with the other 2 cars to exchange info and work everything out...and we were lucky! Our car only had a dented license plate in front and didn't really hurt the car in front of us, and we just had a few scratches on the back bumper. The guy who hit us is the only one who really had any damage. The funny thing is, as we got out to talk it all through he said, "Oh! You're Sister Missionaries...oh that is funny...I am a member...you've got to be kidding me..." Of the small population of Mormons here, it seriously was a tender mercy and a miracle that the guy who hit us was a member of the church, even a young single adult. The man in front of us was kind luckily...also a young adult...and as we were standing there I whispered to my companion, "Well, how do we make a missionary opportunity out of this situation?" ha ha! I introduced who we were and what we were here doing and he said, "This is honestly the smoothest and nicest exchange I've ever had after an accident. I've literally had people try to kick my *** before so...yeah." I struck up conversation and found out he had just moved here from Detroit and was starting his new job tomorrow. Get this, he works in marketing for music...like a musician promoter who helps get artists known and in connection with the write people and on the popular websites and things. I laughed and said, "No kidding? I'm a singer!" I talked music with him and found out he sings and plays his own songs and said, "Well maybe we were supposed to meet each other." He said, "Yeah you never know, He works in crazy ways sometimes." He told me about his religious background and I told him what we taught people. I gave him a Plan of Salvation pamphlet and a mormon.org card telling him to look my story up and also Alex Boye's. He was excited...more about looking the videos up, not learning about the Plan of Salvation = ) ...but then I told him about all our YSA activities and that since he was new in town and probably looking for a new group of friends, that he should come to our Luau we are putting on this Saturday...I talked it all up and he said, "Man, you Mormons go all out don't you?" He seemed to be pretty excited about it. I told him we'd keep in touch and I'd have to get my CD to him for him to hear. He again was very grateful we were so nice and we parted ways. What a cool story Garth is going to have someday when he tells his children how he first met the missionaries = ) Ha ha. During all of this, Sister Patterson and I were shaken up quite a bit. We were both shaking while trying to write down the info for them. Elder and Sister Holley (our sweet senior couple in charge of the fleet) came to the site to offer moral support and check out the car. They couldn't have been nicer. We had missed our teaching appointment and were needing to be on our way to our appointment we already had to get our oil changed at pep boys (ironic?). So Sister Holley drove us in her car and Elder Holley drove our car to Pep Boys. They took care of everything for us and just kept saying everything was ok and not to worry about it and Sister Holley was able to give us lots of hugs. We thought, "What would we do without our Senior couples?! We are so lucky and blessed to have them here." Sister Patterson and I sat in the waiting room. We turned off the TV and huddled together to say a prayer of gratitude to Heavenly Father for protecting us. I cried through the whole thing as I thought of how much worse it could have been, and I cried as I thanked Him for the prayers of our parents. I know that each prayer you pray is heard and that because you pray with faith for us, and because we are doing the Lord's work, He protects us along the way and sends angels to watch over His sheep. We felt off the rest of the day and it was hard to focus. We went from that to teach a recent convert...we struggled but he was understanding...we decided we both wanted a blessing and I thought of the Affleck's, another senior couple that serves with us at the Battalion, and I knew they lived close by and we love them so much. We called and asked for a blessing and they said they could come meet us in 30 minutes. When I saw them it was just like what happens when you see your mom and dad after something scary and you cry. While Sister Patterson received her blessing, I was lay my head on Sister Affleck's shoulder and put my arm in hers. I cried for a couple of minutes but then I felt all the tension leave my body and I felt peace. Elder Affleck gave me a beautiful blessing through the power of the priesthood. He spoke words that I knew only Heavenly Father would know about my experiences here on the mission, what I need to do from here, and what blessings are promised. I was promised that the highest desires of my heart would be attained...that of marriage and having children to raise in righteousness, and that I would realize that that is the highest calling I could have, and would want to have. He promised me health and strength to finish my mission and that I would have no lasting effects on my body from the accident. It was a sweet experience...and we really are so grateful for the angels that the senior couples are to us and they become our mom's and dad's, and grandma's and grandpa's while we are away from our own...and they will always be thought of as such. So....whew...that is the biggest and the latest news in my missionary life. So thankful it wasn't any worse. 

   While we were waiting for the Affleck's to arrive, although we didn't feel like we could teach, we went to try to contact a less-active. We found Max, who was shocked to see us on is doorstep...said he hadn't been to the church in 10 years and wasn't planning or interested in coming back. He said he felt it never did anything for him and it wasn't really real. I bore my personal testimony of how I knew it was and he asked for our card with our number. We left and as we were driving I said, "We should have prayed with him. Why did we let him close the door without doing that?" So I turned the car around and drove back. We told him we were sorry that we didn't pray with him and couldn't drive away without doing that. He allowed it and Sister Patterson said beautiful words about not being forgotten and knowing there wasn't a single day that has gone by in the past 10 years that Heavenly Father hasn't been aware of him and his life. We invited him to our Luau too and he was very nice about everything. It is people like him that are our focus right now and why we are pulling our Branch together to do a big Rescue! I am so excited about it and know it will create miracles! This idea came to me while serving in the Fuerte Ward, and I suggested it to the Bishop and while he said it was a good idea and we should do it, nothing ever happened with it and then I was transferred...But as I was pondering how to help build this Branch and strengthen it, the idea came back to me. We have a list of about 500 YSA's in the Santee Stake that should be attending Institute and the Branch and they aren't. Many are active but attend their family wards, and some are serving missions, BUT for the majority, they are MIA. 500 members! Our Branch has about 35-40 active members right now. So, with this list, we could spend forever as 2 small missionaries trying to contact them all and it probably wouldn't be super successful; with this being our job and everything. So I thought how powerful it would be, for the President to invite and ask for help from the members to bring in those that were struggling and reach out to those that were lost. That his commission to do so would mean a lot...and then as the members leave the branch, the counselors could stand at the door with slips of 5 names each that they would try to contact either by a visit, a text, or a call, and just introduce themselves and simply invite them to something (FHE, Institute, Church, etc). We all know the power of one simple invitation...especially from a fellow Branch member. And I just imagine this great missionary spirit sparking in the ward as they reach out to help those that could be their next best friend, or the member surrounding them in the pews and in Relief Society and Elders Quorum! So we presented that idea in a lesson combined with D&C 138 to President and Sister Little. They loved it and we sat and discussed the logistics of things, how it could be organized, how to do follow-ups, and fun things the branch could do (like pizza at President's house while they all get our their phones and Facebooks and try to reach out to these YSA's!). The Spirit was strong as we discussed it all and we are filled with excitement! We presented it to Branch Council and we are having a special sacrament meeting on the 25th with talks geared toward it all and the names will be distributed after. We can't wait and we just KNOW miracles are going to come of it. I love how unified this branch and branch presidency are! They are going to have a young man who went less active and has just come back speak about repentance, and a new convert who came to the church because of an invite from a member is going to speak, I am going to sing a special musical number on the subject, and the President little will speak. There are many Max's out there and we are going to to our best to reach out and find them. "Dear to the heart of the Shepherd, Dear are the "ninety and nine"; Dear are the sheep that have wandered Out in the desert to pine. Hark! he is earnestly calling, Tenderly pleading today: "Will you not seek for my lost ones, Off from my shelter astray?" Out in the desert they wander, Hungry and helpless and cold; Off to the rescue we'll hasten, Bringing them back to the fold" (Hymn #221).

Wow, I have already written so much, but I have a few more miracles from the week:

My previous investigator in La Jolla, Jacques Du Toit, was baptized on Saturday! I was able to attend the baptism and so honored that he asked me to sing. I chose to sing "Still Believe" because Jaques has been a stalwart example of faith and believing without seeing ever since we met him. It was hard to control my emotions as I looked out into the eyes of those who attended and saw four converts I taught: Jaques, David, Christian, and Arthur...and 3 investigators I taught or am currently teaching and who have dates set for their own baptisms...7 people I have seen exercise their faith. My heart was truly touched as I sang, "Blessed are those who haven't seen and still believe that He lives, and still believe that He walked upon the earth, and though my faith is just a seed, I still believe." It was a moment I will never forget and Jaques just glowed. I know he will be a great leader in the church someday. As Sister Miller and I shared our testimonies, it was too funny because she compared him to Moroni and shared a verse from Moroni, and I had marked a verse in 1 Nephi because I compared him and his faith to Nephi = ). The Lord truly prepared him and we were taught by him many times, as we often are = ).

The Lord keeps showing me I am right where I need to be and among those I can help most. We met with a less-active this week who is a 20 year old young man in the military and found out that he has Type 1 Diabetes and celiac's disease. We changed out whole lesson as I talked with him about diabetes and health challenges and how I shared one of the same challenges. I asked him what he had learned in the past 10 years of being diabetic. He clearly understands the physical blessings, but as I asked Him what the Lord has taught Him through it, how He had come to know the Savior through it, and the spiritual benefits, he didn't really have any answers. I shared with him what I have come to know and he said, "Wow, I have never thought about it in that way."  We have also been approached by a few sisters in our branch wanting us to tell them how we decided to come on a mission because they were thinking about serving. As we have both shared we have seen how our specific experiences have helped them and been what they needed to hear. I also feel a calling here to help encourage those with talents to develope and use them. We have met with 2 sisters now who are less-active who both love to sing (Disney especially ; ) ) and as I heard them sing hymns in our lessons they have beautiful voices and need to use them, but they are too shy or uncomfortable...they both said they would sing with me though and I promised to help them! It is wonderful to me how very tailor maid our missions...and our LIVES even are for us. It reminds me of a quote from a wonderful talk about missions: 
"While many of these experiences and lessons may be common to missionary service, each mission is unique, with challenges and opportunities that stretch and test us according to our particular needs and personalities.
Long before leaving our earthly home to serve a full-time mission, we left heavenly parents to fulfill our mortal mission. We have a Father in Heaven, who knows us—our strengths and weaknesses, our abilities and potential. He knows which mission president and companions and which members and investigators we need in order to become the missionary, the wife and mother... we are capable of becoming.
Prophets, seers, and revelators assign missionaries under the direction and influence of the Holy Ghost. Inspired mission presidents direct transfers every six weeks and quickly learn that the Lord knows exactly where He wants each missionary to serve" ~ Elder Waddell 
I know this is so very true!

Ok last miracle...it was really a whole day of miracles at the Mormon Battalion. My companion and I were feeling like we weren't having special experiences at the historic site lately and prayed with faith that we would experience some. Well, my companion's prayers are always answered so immediately! We both took a tour and I noticed a foreign family...my guess was they were from Germany. I struck a conversation with them and found out they were from Luxembourg. I also found out they were touring with a men's choir and I was talking to the pianist. I got all excited and told him that I was a singer and studied opera so we made those connections and I told him I would love to hear him play! He confidently said, "Do you have a piece with you? Bring it and I will play." I don't have any arias on me here but I grabbed my most difficult piano pieces that I haven't been able to sing because they are hard to play. He sat down and started playing a memorized piece and WOW! I was blown away by this young virtuoso and people started coming to the door of the room wondering what was happening. He accompanied me, FLAWLESSLY sight-reading "Gloria, My Savior Lives" by Rob Gardner, and "How Great Thou Art" arranged by Marvin Goldstein! I was in HEAVEN! I haven't been around musicians like that in so long! His mother cried as I sang and his dad hummed along. He later asked me, "What are you doing HERE?" I bore my testimony of music and why I had come here to serve a mission. He was amazed and asked if I had ever thought about a professional opera career in Europe. I said yes and told him about my experience in Austria. He told me he could get me in contact with the right people and opera studios in Europe. We exchanged information and said we'd keep in touch. His family was adorable and we became fast friends = ) All the while, Sister Patterson was talking to another one from the same party in gold panning and he was a writer and journalist and Sister Patterson was an English major and history minor and loves books! Heavenly Father lead us to exactly 2 people we could connect with. Then right after I took a 23 year old girl from China on a one on one tour. I sang for her in Chinese and had a sweet experience throughout the tour as I got to talk to just her and she kept hugging me and saying she loved me afterward, ha ha..I gave her a Chinese Book of Mormon and she loved it and was so grateful. Then right after that a man came in with 2 more people from China...one was getting baptized (happened yesterday) and the other said she hadn't come to know if this was true yet. We had a few extra minutes so I sang "Mo Li Hua" to them and they were amazed. I then told them I wanted to sing a very special song to them and sang "I Am a Child of God" in Chinese. They both began to cry. Sweet Dong xiu xiu (the one getting baptized) tried to hide it but said he felt something so special in his heart. I then was able to testify to his friend Nancy that what she was feeling in that very moment was the spirit...and that all of this was true! It was such an amazing day!!! 

I love being a missionary and I love you all!

Your Favorite Sister Missionary,
Sister Riggs
Me and Jaques at his baptism

We had to say goodbye to the Days = ( They finished their mission and we will miss them so much!!!