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, 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