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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Eleventh Hour Miracles 06/20/2016

Holyyyy cow. I don't even know how to begin. How did that happen? I feel like I just closed my eyes and am about to wake up from the craziest dream of my life! Every returned missionary says that it goes fast, but you don't really believe them until you are about to be one of them. I am feeling all sorts of emotions. My mission has been such an incredible experience, and the lands of Ventura will forever hold a portion of my heart. 

The Lord is so loving and merciful. He has blessed me this last week with so many "11th hour miracles!" One of the biggest being that we found 8 new investigators. Well, the Lord placed 8 really prepared people in our path and allowed us to find them. :) This means that we met them on the street, they set up an appointment, we went and taught them, and they agreed for us to come back again. I have never had that many in a whole transfer, let alone one week! We prayed all transfer that the prepared people would be placed in our path and that angels would go before us to prepare them, as the scriptures promise. I am so grateful to have seen such a miracle to end my mission with! And to think, I was originally suppose to come home a week early. Man am I glad they pushed it back a week!!

Yesterday was also one of the most beautiful moments of my mission. Efren and Hernan were able to pass the sacrament. Another Hermano in the ward pushed Efren in his wheelchair as he did so. It was the best last Sunday of my mission present I could have ever asked for! We also went with Ursula to Young Womens (because it is in english, so we get to translate for her) and they were talking about the importance of sustaining people in the church or in our families. They asked each girl to write someone that they sustain on the chalk board. Ursula wrote, "mi papa." Then they asked in what ways the girls sustained them, and Ursula said, "Well, sometimes when my dad gets frustrated because of his illness, we give him the Book of Mormon or one of the missionary pamphlets to read, and then he is comforted." This family is such an example to me. They are already so strong in the gospel and teach all of us how to live it!

As I reflect on all of the experiences that I have had these last 18 months, I am amazed. My testimony is so much different than when I came here. I have so much more understanding, and have also realized how much I really don't know. I will forever thank Heavenly Father for the relationship I was able to build with him as He has taught me so many beautiful things here. It makes me emotional thinking about how I could not have done this without Jesus Christ. I have been changed so much, and I plan to continue to allow him to change me. I am so grateful for the gospel, and for the love of God that sustains me. It is very bitter-sweet. But so honored for the privileged I had to be here. I was no where near a perfect missionary, but my mission was absolutely perfect for me. Christ made up the rest. 

I love my Savior. I love following his teachings, and telling other people about the happiness and relief that can be found by following them. I am so grateful for the truth that families can be together forever through the restored power of Christ here on the earth. I will continue to serve him and fight for his cause.

I am excited to see all of you!! You'll have to help me stay busy! No asking me to watch any crazy movies or listen to gross songs. But I will say yes to going to Reed's Dairy, a snow cone shack (because they don't have those here for some reason), or having Pinterest parties. :) I'll try my hardest not to be an awkward returned missionary, but no promises. 

Love you all! See ya soon! :) 

We went to a restaurant with a member called, "Kyle's Kitchen." This is Kyle! He is a 12 year old boy with special needs. He is so cute. :) And the food is good too!

Ramirez family!

Thank you for the package mom!! The district loved all of the candy. :)

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Bubble Ball! 06/13/2016

Okay...this email may not be as exciting as the last couple. I don't even remember what happened this week. It is all going by so fast!!! I can't even believe it. But sorry if this is just a super random email... good luck following!

We had a really cool experience on Saturday night though. We had planned to just go contact people on one of the main streets in town at 8:30 until it was time to go home. We didn't end up getting there until about 8:50 and so we only had 10 minutes! We decided to say a prayer before getting out that Heavenly Father would place someone that needed to hear the gospel in our path. Well, the first person we talked to was named Lois! He is 22 and from Mexico. He started telling us all of these questions he had like, "Is there really a God?" "Why does God let bad things happen to good people?" "Why does God let bad people exist?" and a bunch of others that I can't remember..but the coolest part was that Saturday morning during studies, we had read in Preach My Gospel the part about how the Book of Mormon answers "questions of the soul" that are both temporal and spiritual. Each one of these questions that he had are listed in that section! The spirit is real. It guides us! So we told Lois about the Book of Mormon and  how each of these questions he has can be answered by reading it. Hopefully we will be able to teach him now too! 

I was also able to give a talk on the atonement yesterday in sacrament meeting. No matter what problems we are trying to help solve he atonement of Jesus Christ can always solve the problem! Hna Zurita (one of the other Hna's serving in the branch) and I had been asked to speak last minute because the other people that had been asked had cancelled. We weren't assigned a topic, but when we got to sacrament meeting, all of our talks had a common theme - that Christ can heal us and help up become better than we have the strength to become ourselves. It was really incredible to see how the spirit touched each of us to share something that everyone needed to hear. 

Also yesterday, we went to go to a "pass-off lesson" with the zone leaders, (that's when the person you met has to be taught by different missionaries because they would go to a different congregation..) and they totally backed into someone's car. They only left a little dent..but they had to leave a note because they couldn't figure out who the car belonged to. We told them to take a picture so that the lady couldn't claim more damage was done than actually was... good thing! Because this morning she called and said that they had knocked off the fender... awkward. Thanks for teaching me the ways dad! The elders are grateful. 

We also got to go to a quincenera for the branch president's daughter! That was cool. It is like a wedding! holy cow!

Oh! And last monday we played bubble ball...I will send pictures. 

I don't really know what else happened this week... we went to KFC with the Ramirez family, but I forgot to take a picture. (they're ones who got baptized last week) and they are just the cutest. Those kids are going to be such incredible missionaries! 

Pray for me this last week that we will have prepared people put in our path and that we will be able to use our time wisely! I know this message is so important, and that it is true. I am so grateful for the time I have been able to spend representing my savior, Jesus Christ. He is the way, and the only way to have happiness in this life, and in the life to come. 

Love you all!! 

<3 Hermana Ricks...

I promise it's fancier than you can tell in the picture... this is the quince!

And here is one of us at dinner last night. 

Ramirez Family Baptized!! 06/06/2016

Hello family!! This week went by so fast.

We had our family history activity where we all dressed up like our ancestors and shared stories together. That was really fun! There are a lot of pioneer decedents in the mission! It was really cool to hear all of the stories from everyone and about how much faith so many people had that came before us. 

I also got to go on exchanges to VENTURA!!! It was so good to be back! I loved that area so much. And I got to see everyone that I love! We first went and taught the Vargas family (Maria was baptized the transfer right before I got there and the Salvador was baptized the transfer after I left. They were the ones that Hna Hurley and I got to go see be married right before his baptism!) It was so exciting to see them and the change that has come upon their family. I love them so much! Something really tiny but that seemed really significant to me is that Salvador was speaking in spanish the whole time. Before he only spoke english and she spoke spanish. I don't know why, but it just felt like there was more unity in their home! They definitely have the spirit there, and they are progressing even more in the gospel. 

I also got to visit Pedro! He was baptized the first week I was there. He is the one that would always teach us instead of us teaching him. He had gone to the temple visitor's center in LA and decided he wanted to go into the temple. So he met the missionaries and got baptized three weeks later! He is still going strong and working towards his goal of entering into the temple to receive his endowments! He has already gone there to do baptisms for the dead, and took 9 family names. He is the cutest little man ever.

Then I got to visit the familia Hernandez!!! They are the best. Their son was our ward mission leader, and they were ward missionaries. So we got to know them really well. I missed all of these people so much!  I can't wait for you all to meet everyone!

Annnnd....THE RAMIREZ FAMILY GOT BAPTIZED!!!!!!! Seriously, one of the most beautiful baptisms I have ever seen. This family just glowed the whole. time. They are so incredible. I have never seen members be so supportive before either. The Ramirez family is bringing such unity and love into the Santa Barbara branch! Before the baptism, one of the hermanas in the branch took Ursula to buy a dress and shoes for her baptism, and then at the baptism one of the members gave Hernan the tie off of his neck. Both of the opening and closing prayers were so powerful as the members pleaded with Heavenly Father to bless this family.  Everyone looks up to them so much. I don't remember how much I have told you about them already, but they moved over to America because Efren, the dad, has a type of arthritis that is getting worse and worse. So they had to leave their mom in Mexico, and the two kids (both 14) came here with their dad to help him. They all are so humble and treat each other with so much love and respect. After they were baptized, we went into the bathroom to help Ursula, and there were two ladies in there as well just crying and talking about what good examples this family is for them. Yesterday, they all received the gift of the holy ghost, and Efren and Hernan received the aaronic priesthood. We asked them how they felt and they all said they felt so good! They looked good too. I tried to tell Efren in spanish that their faces were glowing and he said back to me in english in a super strong accent "what'd you say bout my face?" hahaha I thought it was so funny. 

Now we just need to find more people to teach! We are teaching another really amazing lady named Elida who will be baptized on July 9th. :) She is incredible. She is trying to get sundays off so she can come to church, so please pray for her! She was able to come to sacrament meeting yesterday. She really wants to be baptized! She has been taught since Hna Green was here last year, and said that she finally feels ready. So now she just needs her work to be lined up. 

Anyways, that is all I have for this week. But I have a lot of pictures to send you so I will get started on that. 

I love you all! I know that Heavenly Father has a plan for each one of us. Keep being strong! Push forward with faith and patience, and the promised blessings will come. 

<3 Hermana Trystan Ricks 

Catholic Mission in Santa Barbara. We went last week for P-Day to see the chalk drawings!

My companion decided to not look at the camera...but this is the only picture I have from the Family History activity. Sorry!

Maria and Salvador! 

And these are Mexican dresses that were given to Hna Frias for the family history activity. I've always wanted to wear one of these! :) Dreams do come true.

The Hernandez family still have the hearts on their door that Hna Griffes and I put there! :)

The Hernandez!


After Baptism

birthday party for Ursula

Monday, May 30, 2016

I've lost my way...what a pity! 05/30/2016

Hello everyone!! happy memorial day! I have so many things to share with you from this week. Hopefully I will have time to type all of them. 

So on Tuesday, Hermana Green and I went to try and contact a few people in a neighborhood before we went to go do service. A lot of little things happened to put us right in the path of a lady named Ramona! She was walking her dog. We started talking to her, and soon found out that she had talked to missionaries before and had a Book of Mormon at home. She expressed that she was Catholic but had recently stopped going to church because she just didn't agree with some things, and she felt really frustrated about religion. We explained what the Book of Mormon was that she had, and how the true church of Jesus Christ had been restored in it's fullness! We testified to her that she could pray to Heavenly Father about these things, and promised her that he would answer her prayers. She said, "Oh! You're making me all emotional! I was just going on a walk and thinking about all of these things, and then I met you two!" Hermana Green then told her how whenever she feels emotional, or a rush of hope come through her, or a feeling of peace, or something that makes her want to cry, she knows that it is the spirit testifying that something is true. Romona is from San Fransisco, but she gave us her address and number and said the missionaries could come visit her. :) It was such a miracle! Then right as she walked away, Hermana Green told me that she was praying in her head and said, "Okay Heavenly Father, I really want to talk to Ivan (guy we met a few weeks ago that we were trying to contact, but he was awkwardly sitting in his car) so if he walks out of his car in 5 seconds we will go and talk to him." So she counted to 5 in her head, and then of course - out walks Ivan! 

Wednesday was also pretty crazy, but for a much different reason. The other Hermana's car had broken down Tuesday night, so Wednesday morning we were driving them to and from the mechanic and the towing company and everything like that. Then we went to the library so that I could do My Plan, and as we went to leave I had the weirdest feeling that someone had stolen something from me! I checked in my bag and I had my wallet and everything there, so I thought. Hmm. Weird. I must be making something up. Well. We got out to the car, and Hna Green was backing me up (cause we have weird missionary rules where we can't back up without a backer upper) and I went to grab my lemonade  and saw that it wasn't in the cup holder. So I looked up, and it was all dumped into the glove box! I thought,"Pues. Hermana Green definitely did not do that." Then I realized that everything was shuffled through and thrown around, and some hooligan had tried to rob stuff from our car! I hope they took of Book of Mormon. But the incredible part is that they didn't even see the credit card we have in the glove box for gas, or Hermana Griffes GPS that she is letting me borrow that was sitting on the dash... There must have been some ninja angels in there! 

Fast forward to Friday. We were out walking in the morning, and right before we got back to our apartment we heard this man yelling, "HELP! HELP!! I'VE LOST MY WAY!" We thought, oh no...a drunk person." But we looked up and saw this cute little Chinese man way down the road in a panic! So we went over to him, and he told us in very broken English that he was visiting from china and he had gone for a morning walk and gotten lost! He said, "I was hoping you could give me a lift! I thought I would know the way but then I lost my way - what a pity!" hahahah it was so cute. He knew his address, which happened to be right down the road from the church. So we told him we could walk back with him. He was SO grateful for us and kept telling us how kind we were. He asked us if we could bring him a picture because he wanted to remember us for forever. So of course we took him a Chinese Book of Mormon that has been kicking around in our trunk ever since Hna Green was here last time. Coincidence? No. He was really excited about that too and said he would start reading it that night. :) He also gave us his address in China so that we can write him when he goes back! :) Most productive exercises of my mission. For sure. 

Saturday Efren, Hernan, and Ursula all had their baptismal interviews! (Surprise - his name is Efren - not Efrain. We've all been calling him the wrong name for the next month...awkward.) They totally passed. They are so genius. We were teaching them Friday night, and they all remember all of the 10 commandments, the name of the prophet, and basically everything. And they've only been learning for a month. 

Yesterday we had branch conference. After church, the Obispo family had invited Efren and his kids, and us over for lunch. We were planning on teaching them about what they will be doing after they are baptized, and I had felt like we should invite the stake president to the lesson with us to help explain the priesthood to Efren and Hernan. But then I quickly decided that I didn't want to invite someone else to a member's house, because they were feeding us, and thought that the Hermano Obispo can just explain it! So, we went to lunch, ate a TON, and  then right as we were about to finish up eating, guess. what. The stake president knocks on the door! Hna Obispo answered and was so excited and surprised to see him! They invited him right in, gave him, and asked if he wanted a taco. He said, "Sure! Just one." So they gave him three! Then I asked him, "How did you know to come?" He said, "I just came!" We invited him to help us teach our lesson about the priesthood. He only had five minutes, so he explained his part, and after he left Efren said," Wow. He explains things really well!" I am still so amazed by it. Heavenly Father really does love us individually, and he sends people to bless us individually! I am so glad that President Houston was so intune with the spirit to make up for a lack of following that prompting! I found out later that Hna Green had felt like we should invite him to and did the same thing I did. 

Heavenly Father loves us all and has a plan! 

I love you all too. Have a great week!

<3 Hermana Trystan Ricks 

Man from China

Efren Ursula and Hernan

Monday, May 23, 2016

La Cucaracha ya no puede caminar ay ay ay! 05/23/16

Hello Family!

I don't even know what happened this week. It just keeps going faster and faster. Like really I am sorry if this letter is super lame I can't even think of anything right now.

Oh I thought of something. We met a crazy guy! After we told him a little bit about the restoration of the church, he told us that he believed us. And in Aliens...and that he has super powers. He said that he gets a little freaked out because so many planes and helicopters fly over him and he thinks the government is watching him. We told him that it might be because there is an airport in Goleta... who knows. There's lots of crazies here in Santa Barbara. 

Efrain and his kids, Ursula and Hernan have baptismal dates! They are going to be baptized on June 11th. They are so awesome. Last night we had a dinner/lesson with them at a member's house, and they understand everything so well. The kids especially - I am so impressed! As the dad tried to tell us the story of Nephi and Laban, the kids kept correcting it haha. And we asked if they felt like they had felt the spirit, and Efrain said, "Well yeah! When I picked up the Book of Mormon I didn't feel like I could put it down!" :) 

We have another investigator that I met this week named Elida. She had an eye surgery, and so we helped her figure everything out. The office she went to didn't have translators so we had to help her read the paperwork. She ended up getting a priesthood blessing as well and she felt the spirit so strong! She said it felt like God was just right there and she could feel him. We went to help her make food the next day, and we read to her out of the Book of Mormon. Even though she was in pain and all numbed up, she understood everything! She has been through a lot of hard things in her life, but she is one of the most charitable people I have ever met. I can't wait for you all to meet these people!

I am sorry this is a lame email...this week just went by so fast. But I am so grateful to be here! Hna Green and I have been trying to contact as many people as we can, and we have met a lot of interesting people! We really like street contacting together. It is fun working with her. She goes home a transfer after I do. So on August 2nd. But I know that this is a true message that we share! I am so honored to be here, and I am excited to see all of you soon. :) 

Love you!

<3 Hermana Trystan Ricks 

Oh... We also ran into a huge cockroach. And got to stand on a staircase by the ocean to take a picture. :)

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Miracles!! Miracles all week. 05/16/16

It all started out on Monday - the last night I was in Camarillo! Hna Hemingway and I were going to visit someone, and we decided to try and go talk to some random person we saw. Well, that random person went back inside, but we ended up seeing someone else that was unloading bags of cement from their truck! His name was Hector. So we went to go ask if we could help, and he told us we could come help paint his house the next day. When we said, "Okay!" He was really surprised. We set up a time to come and then he said, "Do you want to come in for dinner?!" We excitedly accepted because we hadn't eaten anything, and we would get to meet the family! (P.S. I love latinos. Seriously, who else would randomly invite some strangers in for dinner?) So we got to teach him, and we soon realized that he was a super hilarious person. The whole family was all staring at us and he said, "These are the Hermanas and they want to eat! Seriously - make room for them!" He asked what church we were from and we said, "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints." He said, "Oh good! We are from the First Days." haha except it was in spanish so it was funnier. Anyways, we ate tostadas with them, and got to know their family. They are catholic. Like everyone. But Hector is open to learning! As we left we talked about how perfect the Palma family would be for them who lived on the next street over. Then we got into our car, and there was a message from our dinner coordinator telling us that we had dinner with la familia Palma the next day! No way! So we called to ask if we could invite Hector to dinner too, and she said, "Of course! We can come help paint as well if you want!" MIRACLE. I don't know what happened after that though cause I left... I'll have to ask Hna Hemingway!

Now for Santa Barbara! We have a really amazing investigator named Efrain. He has two kids and they all love the church! They have been coming for a few weeks and are just the most humble people in the world. We taught them the Restoration last night, and they understood it really well. They are member referrals. He has a wheelchair, I'm not sure why, and his kids are 13 and 14. The last Hnas here said they read the BOM during lunch at school. :) You can definitely tell when an investigator truly desires to follow Jesus Christ! They are true seekers. We are hoping to set them all with a baptismal date next week. 

We are also teaching another person named Edgar who is a member referral. (He is the boyfriend of the branch president's daughter.) He is another person that really understands the docterine we teach him! We would have set a baptismal date with him last week, but didn't get to teach him a second time because he is grounded. This week. Other than that, we are just trying to get some more solid investigators! Hna Green and I are expecting miracles to happen this transfer. 

We had another miracle on Wednesday with service! We went to go visit a potential investigator, and we were just about to get into our car and drive to see someone else when we noticed a lady come out of her upstairs apartment and limp down the stairs with a crutch to go talk to the mail man. After the mailman left, we got out and went to ask her if we could come in and wash her dishes or do anything because we figured it was hard the way her ankle was. She started crying, and said that we could come do her dishes. She immediately took it back and said, "No it'll be fine - I just bought a stool so that I could do the dishes, so I can do it." But we were persistent and kept telling her we wanted to come help! She finally let us come in, and she was just crying the whole time. She eventually told us that she had just barely received a really rude text from a friend, and she was going through a really hard time. She was SO grateful that we would come and do that for her. We were able to testify to her of the love that Heavenly Father has for her and knowing that she needed that at that specific time. 

So on another note - my zone leader got me sick. He shook my hand at transfers without knowing he was sick..I found out a few days later when we both were sick! Rude. However, I ended up receiving a preisthood blessing because of it, and it was such a miraculous experience. On Thursday we had stayed in, and on friday I still felt really weak and unable to stand for long periods of time. After district meeting, the elders gave me a blessing. I had been praying that I would have the faith to be healed so that I could go out and work that day! Literally, as soon as they placed their hands on my head, I felt different. It didn't go away completely, but I felt strengthened. I was able to stand and walk around for the rest of the day just fine! I am still sick and congested, but it was such a miracle of the priesthood. I am so grateful for that. It is such an incredible blessing to know that the power of God really is restored to the earth today, and we have the ability to access it. God loves us so much. 

I love you all so much! I hope you have a wonderul week! Expect miracles, and they will come! :)

<3 Hermana Trystan Ricks 

Here is the only picture we took this week: we did service at a charity place and they have this on the wall. It basically explains the life of a missionary at all times. 

Friday, May 13, 2016

ey we just met you and this is crazy but, do you wanna play volleyball? 05/09/2016

Hello everyone! I don't have too much time left, sorry if this email is short. But luckily I got to talk to you all yesterday as well! :)

For all those I didn't talk to, here is transfer news!

I will no longer be and STL, but will be transferred to Santa Barbara to work with Hna Green for my last transfer! I am super excited. Hna Johnson will be coming here to take my place. State street here I come! ;)

It was so wonderful serving here in Camarillo with Hna Hemingway. It was a slower area, but it made us work harder and appreciate all of the miracles that we saw! The Lord really does have a plan. The new ward is on fire about missionary work.

We had a funny experience on Saturday.. So we are allowed to have a sports activity during the week once a week with investigators and or members, and so ours is Saturday afternoon. We had a lesson right before, and on our way to the lesson we met this 17 year old named Gilberto that doesn't speak English. We started talking to him and asked if he wanted to come play volleyball with us after we finished talking to his neighbor. When we came back outside he was all weird and kept saying weird things to try and through us off like, "I talk to the devil." We just ignored it and said, "So are you gonna come play volleyball?" Well, he ended up coming, and he followed us in his car. It was suppose to take 10 minutes to drive there, but there was a ton of traffic, and so it took about 30 minutes. I think he was annoyed about that...and then when we walked in, and other 8 missionaries introduced themselves. A all of them said, "I'm Elder ..." I just laughed because he was probably wondering why they're all named elder. Despite the fact that we were all super nice, I think he thought we were weird, and he just left... hahaha

Then we had to practice a the song, "We are all enlisted" so we could sing it for sacrament meeting, and I taught the elders how to harmonize! They were like little boys getting trucks on christmas. They were so excited. It was funny because we could hear them singing it down the hall, in the bathroom, in the gym..they loved it! And it's even funnier because the base line of that song has like three notes. But they were just so excited that they knew how to sing harmony. I even had a dream of that base and tener lines being sung that night. hahaha

The song went pretty well yesterday. All of church was really good! Ialso got to share my testimony with the ward, and that was really cool! I told them how I had started my mission in that chapel about a year and a half ago, and now I am going to SB to finish it off! I shared that I have had seen so many miracles, and experienced the atonement so much since then. I love all of them! I can't wait for you to meet them. :)

Obispo Nunez has been spending so much time getting everything in order with the new ward, and he still takes the time to tell us he wants to go with us to lessons. The last bishop - obispo Quesada is the ward mission leader. So basically, many miracles are yet to come! Maybe they'll have to split the ward again back to how it was. haha. But really it is so huge now!  

I learned so much from Hermana Hemingway! She is probably the most patient and humble companion I have ever had. She really leads by example. I will miss her! And I'll miss eating cereal on our beds together and telling each other stories. Cause that was like a weekly endeavor. It's weird - every transfer there is a food that I eat every day. This transfer it was cereal. Pictures to follow.

I love you all! I hope you have a great week! :)

<3 Hermana Trystan Ricks

PS sorry mom - I know you requested that I keep sending lots of pictures, but we didn't take like any this week... But here is our weekly cereal extravaganza on our beds!