Monday, December 29, 2014

Happy Holidays from Newark Valley 2014!

Morgan is off to BYU ID



Last time nerfing with Morgan Bush!!





Love the books I got for Christmas!!!



MMMM. And sunny days in December!!
Elder Ricks and I both laughed about that bumper sticker!!

Jon Demming off to BYU
Texas Roadhouse with the Pierce family on Christmas Eve
















Mom and Dad,
This week was fantastic! Can't believe the second Christmas on the mission is already done! It's crazy how quickly time flies. It's really weird to think that Weston has only five months left on his mission!! Haha. It's crazy to hear about all the people from back home serving missions and spreading out all over the world. Christmas was great!! Really enjoyed your guys package and gifts, as well as the letters the young women and primary sent. This week was kind of slow with everyone being busy with the holidays, but we still saw some really cool miracles.  Started the week off going on exchange with Endicott with Elder Lin. He is so funny. So we now can only be on facebook for 20 minutes a day unless teaching a lesson, then we can stay on to finish the lesson. That new rule is to help the missionaries us their time online productively, rather than staying on for an hour if nothing is going on. President Wirthlin doesn't mind us staying on long, as long as we are teaching someone during that time. Elder Lin then said we will just have to set up a lot of facebook lessons so we could stay on all day, so we wouldn't have to go outside in the cold!! I laughed pretty hard. We also got to have dinner with a sweet family the Guthries. They have a tradition where the missionaries always decorate their Christmas tree that they have on the kitchen table, so Elder Lin and I got to decorate it before dinner!! Then Christmas Eve was a blast. We exchanged back, went caroling which was fun, and got to go to Texas Roadhouse with the Pierce family. The Pierce's are sweet. Their son Chase is 16 and he plays hockey. We went to dinner. Their cheesy bacon fries and steak are amazing!! I think almost everyone got a steak. It's the pierce's family tradition to take the 4 missionaries out to dinner on christmas eve. Then after dinner we came back, and Chase has a hockey net in his basement with a shooter tutor, so me and him played one on one for a bit. Man that was fun!! After family, Hockey is definitely the thing I miss most being on the mission. It felt so good to shoot the ball into that top corner again! Then Christmas day was a blast. Got to open up our presents, thanks again for the gifts and letters! Then we went down and watched the Bruno's open their gifts. We then had breakfast with the Cox's. We also had dinner with the Corwin's as well as the Cox's again. We played games with the Owego Sisters and Bruno kids Christmas night too. I won clue!! And played a few games of sequence as well!! So that was really fun!! Also got to call home and skype you guys of course, it was great to see all of your pretty faces again :)! Haha. Man Bear and Happy are huge!! After Christmas was fun too due to the miracles I get to see as I continue to serve. We picked up a new investigator named Bruce. He's sweet. His house looks exactly like a cabin, and he lives out in the country. He was a potential in the area book we just tried! He isn't sure about baptism yet. I think it might be because of the change that he would have to make in his life. But we are going to keep meeting with him. We also met with Emmy again, and had one of the most powerful lessons on my mission. When we arrived, she told us how glad she was that we had showed up because she just broke up with her boyfriend and he was the one who had our contact information, and she was worried that she had no way of contacting us. She was extremely relieved and grateful that we came back so we could get her contact info. She also talked about how interesting it was that we showed up at this point in her life when everything is going crazy and she is searching for peace and comfort. She even told us that everytime we come and leave she feels a sense of peace. So that was a great start to the lesson. We went over the 1st cornerstone (restoration) and she prayed at the end. When we asked her if she felt the spirit, she said that she felt peace and joy. We then told her she could have that more if she would enter into the covenant of baptism. She agreed and we set her with a date of February 28th. As we left, she demanded that we give her the Book of Mormon, because she had already read the Restoration pamphlet 4 times and had given the extra one we gave her to her little daughter and told her about us and the church she found. She said her daughter got all excited when she said that. The spirit was very strong, and I know that Elder Ricks and I meeting her wasn't coincidence, but rather it was the Lord leading us to those seeking for the truth. I love being a missionary and seeing how much the gospel does change and bless lives. Love you all and have a fantastic week!! 
Elder Richins



Thursday, December 25, 2014

December 22, 2014

Mom! You got an iphone?? No fair!!

Dad,
If you need me to call a specific time, just email me back. We are staying over at the knudsen's this week while they go out to Utah to see their kids. (The knudsen's are the members who live right below us). And we might be caroling as well. We also will be going to texas roadhouse with the Pierce's, another sweet member family wednesday night. (It's their christmas eve tradition). This winter has been very mild this year, especially after last year. Last it snowed the second week of December, and through February their was always snow on the ground. It was bitter cold, and it warmed up every once in a while to snow, then cooled back down. But so far this winter, there has only been 2 snowstorms, and they both melted off pretty quickly. Ok, this week was sweet!! We had a really good zone conference. The AP's trained us on how important it is to be ourselves, and not compare ourselves to others. They stressed that while it's ok to see a good attribute in another person and desire to gain that attribute, we don't need to compare ourselves to others since we all have our own unique talents, personalities, and abilities. It was way good. Then Elder Bybee and I got to go on exchange again. He's sweet. We also had the ward christmas party this week. It was awesome. We had a lot of less-actives come out to the party, including a few that we have been working with. So that was sweet. We also picked up a few investigators by showing them the "he is the gift" video. It was sweet. It's way cool to see how the spirit of christmas softens people's hearts. One of the investigators we picked up was a potential. When we first knocked on her door she hesitantly said we could come back, but she wouldn't give us her phone number and didn't seem too thrilled. So when our plans fell through, we decided to go try her and we shared the video with her, and her attitude really changed. She really liked the video, and gave us her number and seemed a lot more willing to have us come over. That same day we also started teaching a less-active. It was really cool to see. Our plans in Endicott went by a lot faster than we thought, so we had some time to come back and work Newark Valley. We tracted this street and she let us right in. We were excited that she was so willing to let us in. Then we found out she was a less-active. But her address on the ward roster is incorrect. It was so cool to see how that worked out. We found someone that no one knew where she was, and know we are teaching her the gospel. We also taught an investigator this week who was drunk during the lesson, so he said some interesting. He did say he doesn't like how the scriptures say "the love of money is the root of all evil" and then you see pastor's passing the bowl for the money around. Haha it was really funny. We also taught mike again. He's solid. We taught him about the book of mormon, and he said "man, I've got to read this." It's really cool being out here and seeing how the gospel changes lives. I love you all and can't wait to see you on Thursday!!  Talk to you then. Love you both!! 

December 15, 2014



Mom and Dad,
Yes we will definitely get to talk on Christmas. It will be my third call home. That is so crazy!! Anyways shoot hope Nick gets feeling better real soon!! This week was sweet though. We had some sweet experiences. We picked up a lot of new investigators this week. The work is really picking up!! Elder Ricks and I picked up quite a few new investigators this week. I had the most spiritual experience ever tracting this week. Even with the "8 step door approach" tracting isn't the most effective finding method, it's probably one of the worst and what we do as missionaries when their is absolutely nothing else to do. But you do hear stories about people who were tracted into and got baptized. So Elder Ricks and I were tracting, and we talked to this guy named Mike. We did the survey with him and he told us now wasn't a good time, but set up a time we could come back. He also gives us a coke. So Elder Ricks and I go back, and teach him the restoration. The lesson seemed like it was going ok. He was very robotic, asked us a few questions like if we were from utah and such. He knows the church headquarters are there. So we get through the lesson and I honestly couldn't tell if it was going good or bad, there was no reading this guy. But we invited him to pray to know if it was true, and as soon as he addressed Heavenly Father BOOM!! I felt the spirit so strongly. The strongest I have felt it in probably a few months. It was such a powerful spiritual experience. Elder Ricks felt it too. We actually looked up at each other as he prayed. After the prayer when we talked about what we felt, he simply said "I know Joseph Smith is a prophet of God." Turns out he got a book of Mormon from his friend 19 years ago. I was so stoked. I was certain we would set him with a baptismal date. He even initiated the baptismal commitment. He said "Guys it's a big commitment. And I know now you are going to say well if you know it is true, why won't you commit to it?" (Which was exactly what I thought of saying when he said that). He then told us he and his whole family is Catholic. And interesting thing is that he wants to meet with us in the afternoon, not the evening. Which I think might be because he doesn't want us coming over when his wife is home. (But that's my speculation). But we are going to keep reading with him. He says he doesn't have his book of mormon anymore, so we will go back and teach him the second experience. And as he reads the book of mormon, he will get baptized in his own time. No doubt. He's so sweet. He's from Sri Lanka and grew up with pet leopards and has ridden his friends pet elephants. I was a little jealous when we found that out. But what are the odds that we decided to tract that street? It's so cool being on a mission and seeing miracles like that happen so much! We also picked up  TJ this week. He is really cool. He doesn't believe in God, but is very open to the idea of God and says he will believe if the evidence (like missionaries and the book of mormon) present itself. He also has a very good fried who just got off his mission. So those were two cool experiences to see how much God is involved in his work. We also picked up another family of 9 this week named Ashley and Brandon. Don't know where that will go yet. They both said they would get baptized, but it was with a "why not, we can do it again" attitude. They will also need a ride to church. We also picked up a former pastor this week named Chad. Don't know where he will go. He is open to learning more and doesn't bash, so that is really good. We also had an interesting experience this week with bashers. They invited us in. We asked them what they thought about the Christmas message we shared with them. The first thing they asked us was "how can you believe in the Godhead?" Completely changed the subject and tried to prove to us that the Trinity exists. Haha. It's always fun to have those experiences with the people who try to teach you rather than you teach them. The weather has been really mild here. It was around 37 today. It's a lot warmer than last winter. Love you all so much and hope you all have a fantastic week.

Elder Richins

December 8, 2014

Mom and Dad,
Haha, no worries. Hope the computer gets fixed soon. So first I will answer all the questions. I haven't gotten my teeth cleaned yet, but we just stopped by the dentist and got the card to schedule appointments. I'll double check with the insurance, and if we are covered, I will schedule an appointment. We have only had one snowstorm, but it has all melted. It's been in the 30's and 40's here, but we are supposed to get a storm this week. Also, President Wirthlin has asked that we let everyone know that packages must be sent in by tomorrow to get them in for Christmas time. Don't worry about that though. It sounds like things are going crazy back home, so if it comes a little late, no worries. Well this week was honestly one of the rougher ones of the mission. Lot's of cancelled appointments, we determined we would have to stop teaching a few people, and such. But the great thing about missions is that as long as you keep going and have a positive attitude, the Lord provides miracles. This week Elder Ricks and I got to try a new tracting approach. Elder Jepsen (last companion) had a book his mom sent him called the highly effective missionary. In that book is an "8 step door approach." I copied that onto paper and brought it with me to this area. Elder Jepsen and I wanted to try it, but we never got to it because the work was going so well there we didn't have time to tract. So Elder Ricks and I gave it a shot this week. And it seemed to work. I got more people who would say we could come back tracting that street than I have ever had in my mission. Elder Ricks said the same, and we both agreed we had more success tracting that day than ever before in our missions. While tracting, we also saw a hawk fly in the bush right next to the door and catch a small songbird to eat. It was sick!! I never thought I would see anything like that in my life. While we stopped teaching a few people, we found quite a bit of new people to teach this week. We are now teaching this part-member family, the Besemers. They are sweet. Brother Besemer isn't a member, and according to the ward members, Sister Besemer has been inactive for years. We taught them the restoration, and it was so sweet. Sister Besemer says she believes in our church because it's how she was raised. We had Sister Besemer pray at the end of the lesson, and they both acknowledged that they felt the spirit. I then invited brother besemer to be baptized. He started to respond saying he was  already baptized Episcopalian, but then he stopped and thought about it, and said he doesn't know at this moment. It was really cool to see how initially he was going to say no, but as he started to, he thought more about it and the spirit he felt, and didn't immediately reject the invitation to be baptized. I am very excited to see how things turn out with them. We also picked up Evonne and Brad as two new investigators. Evonne is an older lady, probably in her 70's, and her son Brad in probably in her 30's. What is very cool is that Evonne has only one biological child, and adopted around 4 children, including Brad. As we taught them the restoration, Brad at first wasn't too open to meeting with us. Elder Ricks, myself, Evonne, and Brother Story were sitting in a circle, with Brad at the table behind us. I was determined to have him involved in the lesson. My chair was in front of the table, so my back was to Brad. I moved my chair over making him part of the circle. What truly was amazing was at the end of the lesson when we invited them to be baptized, it was Evonne who said no due to already being baptized in another church, but Brad said he would if he knew it was true. He also said not to listen to Evonne, because she apparently says she won't do something and then ends up doing it. Haha. So they are doing great. We also had a cool experience with Glenda. We went over to teach Glenda, and she isn't prepared at all.  The lesson went well until we got to the great apostasy. She thinks that the "holy spirit was never taken from the earth, that we don't need a prophet anymore today, and that Jesus was black." That actually isn't the first time I've heard that on my mission, and it probably won't be the last. Her friend Shirley who was visiting and we had no idea would be there, however, said she enjoyed the lesson. She actually looked through the pamphlet completely before we finished it with Glenda. (Glenda slowed us down a bit with her points of view). We are going to go back there to give Shirley a book of mormon before she goes back home after the holidays to ontario and try to pick her up as an investigator. How often is someone who is seeking for the truth come in contact with the missionaries through unexpected meetings and experiences. The lord truly does have his hand in this work. I'm loving this holiday season. Talking about Christmas with people is an easy way to start gospel conversations and find those seeking for the truth. We got transfer calls last saturday!! Elder Ricks and I will be staying together. Sister Stimpson, Sister John, and Elder Wilson are all going home. Sister Collette will join sister Hopkinson in Owego. Elder Wing (who came out with me so that's sweet) will be Elder Lin's new companion, and Sister Gilstrap will Train. So the new district is Elder Ricks and me in Owego, Sister Collette and Sister Hopkinson in Owego, Sister Gilstrap and whoever she trains in Vestal, and Elder Lin and Wing in Endicott. Love you all and hope you have a great week!!

Elder Richins

December 1, 2014

Mom and Dad,
The holidays on the mission are always so much fun! It's crazy to think that was my last thanksgiving. Anyways. This week had some ups and some downs. The downs are that quite a few people we have been teaching we will no longer. Cylvia is moving to a friends house since her place doesn't get heat. And George and Nancy Hoffmier, who are the sweetest investigators in the area, moved down to Florida. They are snowbirds so they live up here in the summer and move down to Florida for the winter. We will send the missionaries in Florida down there, but I'm sure going to miss teaching them. George is way funny though. He loves to laugh and joke around. Nancy is way sweet to. They gave us some venison from the deer they shot yesterday. I'm going to miss them. But there were some ups to the week as well. We picked up a really sweet investigator named Nancy. We just talked to her while she was raking leaves, and then we burned them with her around her campfire and taught her the restoration. It was so awesome. She is so prepared for the gospel too. Her Husband passed away last April, and you can tell that she has questions and is looking for answers. She also told us we could come over in the summer whenever we wanted and roast marshmallows on her campfire!! We also had a sweet thanksgiving day. We started the day with a meal appointment at the knudsen's (the members who live right below us). They are so sweet. We ate there with the Owego Sisters (Sisters Stimpson and Hopkinson). Then after that we went straight to the Corwins. And we were stuffed. I was already way full from the Knudsen's, and Sister Corwin is Italian. Italians always cook a freaking ton of food. We were so stuffed. I barely finished my plate there, and everyone was seeing who could eat the most food. Both of them had regular turkey and smoked turkey. Smoked turkey is really good. And the pie was amazing. We were so dead after. We also had a snowstorm this week with about 8 inches. Elder Ricks and I were messing around with each other. It was sweet. We also had dinner with the pierce family. Their son Chase is sweet. He is a Hockey guy. He loves the Rangers, and went to game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final. Just in case you were wondering, tickets were $1100 each. Crazy. But I'd love to go to the Stanley Cup final someday. So naturally he and I talked Hockey quite a bit. We also saw Brother Hartjen again. He's doing ok. He didn't read because he didn't have time. But he's sweet and really wants to know the answers that the plan of salvation answers. The problem is he won't pray because he doesn't believe God is there. He needs to gain that faith. We also had some really good lessons with a less acitve this week. This less-active member loves the gospel but doesn't feel like she can come to church due to some stuff she's gotten into. But she's so close to coming back. She said she would come yesterday, but didn't show, so we need to figure that out. She did schedule an appointment with Bishop Knudsen, so that is sweet. We also started teaching another less-active member Sarah Holt. She's so sweet. We taught her about the book of mormon. She says she prays everyday, but doesn't read the book of mormon. So we went through the introduction with her and committed her to read it everyday. She also says her non-member husband is willing to meet with us, so that's exciting. We also had a sweet district activity today. A nerf gun war and taco bar in the church. (Chapel and bathroom were off limits of course). It was so much fun.  I'm so excited that it is Christmas. It's a great way to get people talking about the Savior and the gospel. I hope you guys use the Christmas Season to share the gospel with those around you. That's weird to think you guys didn't have any turkey on thanksgiving. But Denver sounds sweet. I loved going on trips with the family. I love you all and have a fantastic week.

Elder Richins

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Exchanges

Hey everyone!! This week has been great. It flew by. Probably because Elder Ricks is the district leader so we went on two exchanges this week, and I left the area for both of them. Tuesday, I left to go on exchange with Elder Lin, who is companions with Elder Wilson. I worked with him in Endicott. It was way sweet and cold. And they share a car with the Johnson City Elders, and they didn't have the car that week. So we got to walk around, and it was very cold that day. Really windy and didn't get above 25 degrees. But Endicott is a sweet area, and Elder Lin is way funny. We taught their investigators Rose and Vern, as well as Lisa. Rose and Vern are interesting. They told me they feel the spirit everytime they come to church, but they aren't sure if the book of mormon is true or not and have had bad experiences with joining other churches in the past. But they were really nice. Then we taught their investigator Lisa, who is sweet. She has already read the book of mormon once, and is in Alma rereading it. She knows the church is true and loves it, but her catholic grandma who initially loved the missionaries apparently got really anti when Lisa got really involved. Elder Lin is from Hong Kong to, so I tested my chinese with him. I only remember hello, goodbye, thank you, and a few other phrases. But he said Hong Kong is very warm. Warmer than Arizona. And he didn't like the cold. I didn't really either. It would be great if I could play hockey on the ice and go inside like back home (the ponds have already started to freeze over, although not quite ready to skate on). But having to work in it all day outside makes me miss fall. Fall is definitely my favorite season here in New York. The months of September and October are very nice. Very mild climates and not too much rain either. Anyways the next morning Elder Lin and I had all of our appointments fall through. Then we went to zone conference with Elder Kacher of the seventy. Which was way sweet. Elder Kacher actually spoke in this last general conference. He started his training by asking us what we wanted help with. We then told him our zone's concerns. Lessons have gone up increasingly in the mission, but not investigators at sacrament meeting. Our member present lessons also haven't been where we would like them to be. So Elder Kacher taught us about making invitations to read, come to church, etc, be a spiritual experience and as he put it "activating their agency." It was way cool. He also showed us some sweet ideas to work with members and get them more involved in missionary work. Which was sweet. I've loved how much I've been learning the past few months about member missionary work and how important members of the church are in hastening the work of salvation. Then after zone conference, I went straight to Elmira to work with Elder Bybee, our zone leader. He's sweet. We taught 4 or 5 lessons together. I scared him pretty bad too. There apartment is way nice. I think it's nicer than the albany zone leaders. And it had lots of hiding places where I could jump out and scare him. One of the lessons we taught was to a less-active member named sister baldick. We read the book of mormon with her, and I asked her how she knows the book of mormon is true. She said "well I know it's true. It is right here." That doesn't mean it is true. There is plenty of literature out there that "is here." That doesn't mean it's true. Elder Bybee and I had a good laugh about. We also had a good laugh about the member we brought with us. He works at wendy's and I asked him how much beef they sell a day. I just wanted a rough estimate, but he went into all the details. How much the patties weigh, how much are sold a day etc, It was kind of weird. Oh the things that happen in mission life. Elder Bybee and I went with Elder Oloapu and Elder Ward to the gym early in the morning for exercise. It was so sweet. I miss working out at the gym. We also ate buffalo wild wings for lunch with them later that same day. (Elder Oloapu and Elder Ward were on exchange to, Elder Oloapu is serving in the Elmira ward with Elder Kunzler). Elder Oloapu was wearing Elder Wards brand new sweater, and spilled chocalate syrup all over it. Elder Ward got some cake and ice cream since it was his birthday. It was a sweet exchange. Then finally I got back to Owego with Elder Ricks Thursday night. The work here is going ok. We have dropped two investigators this week, and are really focusing on working with the ward members and part-member families. It's going to pick up. The church has a "He is the gift" initiative that focuses on Jesus Christ and the Christmas season, so that will definitely help us build our teaching pool. We picked up a very interesting investigator named Staci, who believes in God but not Satan. And doesn't believe in praying over the food or to start a church meeting etc,. So it will be interesting to see how things go. Love you all and take care. Have a great week.

Elder Richins









Buffalo Wild wings  






Elder Wards new sweater!! 
 Zone Leader Elder Bybee!!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Shirt Burning!







One Year Mark....
Burning of the shirt!
Mom and Dad,
This week was good. Can't believe I am already halfway done with the mission. It doesn't seem that long. I did burn the shirt though. Things are picking up in Owego although it is definitely getting cold. It has snowed the past 3 nights in a row, although it melts by the end of the day. This week flew by!! We  played volleyball last week on preparation day after email with the missionaries of the binghamton ward, the greene branch, and a member named brother butts. We are probably going to go play again today. We were able to see some progress in Brother Mercer. He has been trying to quit for years, and once he quits, he will be baptized. But he says it is so hard to do. He said that the Lord has never taken away his desire to quit, which frankly will never happen. He will always have the temptation, but the Lord will allow him to resist it as he puts his effort in. But the temptation will still be there. We taught him this week about the priesthood, and then it was my privilege to give him a blessing of counsel on how to quit smoking. He seemed a bit hesitant the first time we brought up the idea, but after the blessing, he said it was a good one and he felt like it worked. I can't remember the words exactly, but I do know that he will quit if he acts. That's one of the lessons that I have learned repeatedly here. Is that God respects our agency and ability to choose and act for ourselves. He doesn't make things happen for us. The less-active member Tom Thomas asked us to stop visiting. He says he can't believe in the Book of Mormon as the word of God, and we will probably have to drop our investigator Valery. She was showing progress, but she has gotten caught up with deep doctrine and won't let it go. She said a few weeks ago she couldn't find any fault with the mormon church, and know it seems she is using the deep doctrine as a reason to find fault with the church. Oh well. We are going to visit her one more time and see if she can drop the issue. If not, we won't be able to keep wasting our time. We taught her about how she has to have faith and stay true to what she knows to be true and not let her doubts get in the way. But she doesn't seem to be able to do that. But sometimes that's what happens.  You can't make people accept the truth. We did pick up Caleb this week. He is the husband of Amber, one of our investigators, and they have a little baby. It's going to be sweet. Teaching families is awesome!! We also started teaching a less-active named Brother Hartjen this week, the son of the active brother hartjen from Schoharie. He is very interesting. He told us that once he truly believed, and how he wanted to go on a mission, but then things happened, and now he doesn't even believe in God or Jesus Christ, but he is open to the fact that they exist. He also says that he "wants to believe the Mormon Church, because of how perfect it is. Every question and concern can be answered, you can live with your family forever, etc.," I then asked him  if he had ever read the book of mormon and prayed to know if it is true. He said that he had read parts of it, but never the whole book, nor did he ever pray about it and receive an answer from the Holy Ghost that it was true. And so We talked naturally about how important the witness of the truthfulness of the book of Mormon is. Hopefully he will read and pray about it. Because everything comes down to the truthfulness of the book of mormon. If it isn't true, then everything in the church falls with it. It is always cool to be reminded of that truth and the great blessing it is to me that I have a testimony of the book of mormon. I also went on exchange with Elder Wilson this past week, and during that exchange, I had some crazy experiences. A 14 year old that I taught in my last area  but stopped teaching messaged me about how the Jehovah's witnesses stopped by the door and she told them off by showing them the bible we gave her. I then asked her about Elder Bond (the new missionary with Elder Jepsen in Schoharie) and tried to get her to commit to meet with them. Out of nowhere she sent me pictures of her boyfriend and told me how they have been together for four months. It was so random and I had no idea what to do. Then a less-active who apparently threatens she is going to commit suicide texted us about that (and I at the time didn't know she often threatened that without ever doing it) so that was interesting. We do have thanksgiving dinner planned out. We will have it with the Knudsen's, who are the members that we live with. (Our apartment is part of their upstairs). We also went to two baptisms this week. One for the Vestal Sisters, and one for the Owego Sisters. Our district includes the Owego Elders (us), the Endicott Elders, the Owego Sisters, and the Vestal Sisters. This week will be good. I get to go to both Elmira and Endicott on exchanges!! Since Elder Ricks is the district leader and I'm his companion. Oh and happy birthday Mom!!! I love you so much and am so grateful for your incredible example and all that you have done for me. Take care and I love you all. Have a great week.

Elder Richins

Monday, November 10, 2014

Milking of the Cows!







And the Milking of the
Cows!!!! 


Oh. We got to hold Tom Thomas's rabbits too!! And Remember Brer Rabbit? 
Brer Rabbit!
Mom,
This week was good. Now that I have been here in Owego for a full week, I've got a bit more of an idea of what I like about the area and what I don't.  And I just got to sending that package today actually.So you guys should get it this week And I did hear about your surgery. Everything will go well!! And don't worry about it. Take your time!! I'll try to give them a call this week as well. Now for Owego. I'm serving here with Elder Ricks. He is from Pleasant View, Utah, and is really into motorcycling/fourwheeling.  He has been out since April of 2013, so we neither of us are very new. When I got to the area, we didn't have many investigators of less-actives we were teaching. It felt a lot like when I got to Schoharie. And like Schoharie, the teaching pool is going to increase. The investigators and less-actives we teach here seem to have the same concern. They all are mad at God and don't understand why trials are in this life. So Elder Ricks and I taught the Plan of Salvation a few times this week. So the place we live is called Newark valley. And the area is a lot like Schoharie. Rural with lots of hills and the big Susquehanna river running right through Owego. All the leaves are gone now to, so it looks pretty dead here. Owego is a bit busier, but that is the Sisters area, so we don't go there. I do cook quite a bit more in this area than others, which has its pros and cons. We visited a few times with our investigator Valery this week. She's sweet and very funny. She will just make unusual connections with what we are teaching her and blurt them out. Haha. But at least she is listening to what we have to teach her. She has a testimony of the book of mormon, and is scheduled for baptism in January. She asked Elder Ricks and I quite a few questions, so we decided to start from the beginning with her. We taught her the restoration/1st cornerstone experience, and it pretty well. It got off to a rough start because when we asked her what she saw in the 1st picture of the restoration pamphlet, she told us that Jesus was just going to sacrifice that lamb later, and jumped right into the mosiac law. (She reads the old testament quite often). That was interesting. She lets details from the old testament hang her up a lot, especially since she doesn't have the Joseph Smith translation. I'm so grateful that we have the Joseph Smith translation. It clarifies understanding from the bible so much. Luckily Brother Cassin (the member present) was able to maneuver the lesson back on track after that rough beginning. She prayed at the end and said that there was no doubt with what we were teaching her. It was awesome. We also taught her the 1st half of the plan of salvation this week. Again she got hung up on the nature of God, and it is hard to keep the Spirit in the lesson when your investigator has some hard feelings towards God and voices them in the lesson. Spirit goes right out the door. But we will keep working with her. She will turn around. I know it. We are also teaching a less-active member named Tom Thomas. He's way sweet and very funny. But he has a daughter who has some sort of mental/emotional or physical health issue that she was born with, and he doesn't understand why God allows that stuff to happen. He doesn't seem to have a testimony anymore, but he is willing to meet and find out if its true, so I'm excited to see what happens with both him and Valery. Starting this week, one of the new things President Wirthlin wants the Owego zone to keep track of his how many active member lessons we teach. It's really important as a missionary to visit with members to help them feel the spirit, gain trust in us as missionaries, and help them do missionary work. We've been teaching a lot of active members the new teaching method and how to use facebook to share the gospel. We had some very interesting experiences with a member who I will call brother Joe (it's not his real name). First we went over to his house and showed him how to share media from church websites on facebook. Then he turned on his TV, and showed us all the foreign channels he likes to watch. I didn't watch, but asked him if he could understand anything they were saying. He said they didn't, and realized I was thinking to myself "then why does he watch it." Apparently he likes to see what foreign countries think of America. Then he came and taught Brandon Hill, our recent convert with us. We read 3 nephi 19 with him. And when we read verse 18, which reads "and behold, they began to pray, and they did pray unto Jesus calling him their lord and their God." Brother Joe then goes on to explain to Brandon that we pray to Jesus because it is through him that we communicate with the Father...Elder Ricks and I just looked at each other. I just was thinking what the heck could we say to get this false doctrine out of the lesson without making brother Joe look bad. I then said that is why we pray to the Father in the name of Christ, because is our advocate with him. And that is what we do. Pray to him directly in the name of christ. After I said that, Brandon just said that makes sense. I was so relieved haha. It's always interesting when experiences like that happen with members who come teach with you. We also picked up a few new investigators this week. I had a unique experience with facebook. We scheduled to teach Stacey Eddy, a less-active member over facebook. She invited one of her friends to join in on the chat with us. She actually texted us in advance to make sure it was ok. Of course it was. So we picked up Jacklyn without meeting her in person yet. Sister Eddy said after our lesson she wants to feed us this week with Jacklyn and another one of her friends. It was really cool to see that and how facebook and technology can be used to further the work of salvation. We also taught a lady named Amber on her porch. We got to the Apostasy in the Restoration pamphlet, but she had to cut us short due to her baby crying. It was dark outside. Hopefully we will meet with her today and finish it. We also picked up an old lady who goes by Peg. She's sweet. She has pictures of Jesus all over inside her house and actually had a restoration pamphlet standing up on her microwave. It collected quite a bit of dust though. She cancelled our return appointment though, so we will see how that one goes. Nothing really changed with the Mercers this week. Oh the Hoffmiers. They are the people we get to milk cows for. We had a pretty good lesson with Brother Hoffmier. We read Enos with him. He left the TV on though so he could look at the cute girls. And he's like 60 or 70. I was laughing so hard and jokingly said amen to that and I would enjoy it to. But then everytime my eyes seemed to go to the TV he called me out on it.... We also went over to milk the cows this week. And when Nancy Hoffmier showed us how to handmilk them, I asked her if she could shoot the milk into the cat's mouth (like in TV). She tried but the cat ran away. Then she squirted me in the face. It was pretty funny and gross. Well I love you all and have a great week!!!

Elder Richins

Monday, November 3, 2014

New Companion...Elder Ricks!





Susquehanna River





Me and my new companion
Elder Ricks!







Mom,
I love the Sissons!!!!! They are so funny and cool!! Elder Jepsen and I love them. I want to go hunting with him when I get off the mission. Did he show you pictures of his house, or talk about Ambit energy at all or the Brigham beard? Haha I miss them so much!! Leaving schoharie was bittersweet. Monday and Tuesday Elder Jepsen and I tore it up. We picked up a few new investigators and taught 9 lessons in those two todays, and monday is pday. Then I went to transfers in Utica. It was sweet because I got to get a picture with President Wirthlin and see a lot of good old friends. It's weird that Elder Lords, my zone leader who was 13 months into his mission when I came out went home. I miss Schoharie and Elder Jepsen a lot. We had so many adventures there. But Elder Ricks (my new companion) is really cool and I'm excited and confident for the new adventures that await me here in Owego!! So I will start with the apartment. It is actually part of the upstairs of Bishop and Sister Knudsen's house. They are awesome. We are located in Newark Valley and cover Newark Valley, Candor, Berkshire, and part of Owego. The Owego sisters cover most of Owego, Apalachin, and Nichols. We get to do laundry at their place and use their computer and ipad for facebook. I scared Sister Knudsen pretty badly today. Bishop and her both leave for work really early in the morning. Elder Ricks was loading laundry and I was by the fireplace, and Sister Knudsen came back in for something and didn't know we were there. I just said morning and she jumped pretty bad. I must admit I've had really nice apartments on my mission. I'll hit a year without ever having to use a laundromat. Anyways, the ward here is smaller than Schoharie. Only about 80 people attend each week. I also forgot what it was like to share a ward with another set of missionaries. I can't remember if I told you Elder Jepsen and I were the only two missionaries in the Schoharie ward or not, but we were. Now we share the ward with Sisters. So naturally we get fed a lot less here. But I'll live. Halloween was sweet. We got permission from President Wirthlin to watch the Saratov approach on halloween with the Knudsen's and the Owego Sisters. It was so fun!!! We aren't teaching a ton of people here, but that will change real soon. My testimony that there are people ready to receive the gospel was strengthened so much in Schoharie. I got there and we had one investigator and maybe one less-active we were teaching by my 2nd week there. And when I left we had gotten up to 15 investigators and 8-10 less-actives. And I look forward to doing the same thing here!!! And the few people we are teaching here are really awesome. We have an investigator named Brother Mercer, whose wife is a member who joined a couple of years ago. They are so sweet. We just need to get Brother Mercer confident enough to quit smoking, then He will be baptized. They have pretty bad health problems too, so it is hard for them to come to church. He used to love horseback riding though!! Elder Ricks and I decided to start over with the lessons for him, and he mentioned in the lesson how one 24 hour day to Heavenly Father is 1,000 years for us. I'm pretty sure he is the only investigator I have who will ever say something like that in the lesson and knows that much about the gospel. We are also teaching a lady named Valorie. She is interesting. She's sweet on her good days, but she has bad days too. When Elder Ricks and I went over there the first time, I was able to meet with her. We didn't have a male with us and she lives alone, so we thought we could meet with her real quick on her porch. Elder Ricks said that they had done that before in similar weather to what is was that day, but she didn't remember, because she wasn't too happy. So we rescheduled for the next day, and she was a completely different person. So we will see. I asked Elder Ricks if she is bipolar, and he said he wasn't sure, but he wouldn't be surprised. We are also teaching a sweet recent convert named Brandon Hill. I didn't realize before my mission how much some missionaries are involved in working with less-active members and recent converts. But he's way solid. His mom was also recently reactivated, and the rest of their family isn't active, yet. We also have these investigators, the Hoffmiers, who are farmers and taught me all about cows and the difference between a cow, 2nd heffer, and 1st heffer. We also milk their cows for them for service, so that will be sweet. It's getting chilly here. Snow can come anytime now. Also yesterday at dinner with the Richardson's I got to dish out everyone their chicken. We were starving since it was fast sunday, and I gave Elder Ricks the smallest piece. It was so funny!!  Love you all and hope you have a great week.
Elder Richins

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Brother Ed and Sister Joan Sisson in Utah!



Our family had the privilege of meeting Brother and Sister Sisson from the NYUM!!!

They came to church with us.  Brother Sisson bore his testimony about how important missionary work is and how grateful he is for the elders that taught him and his family the gospel.  He told of the day the missionaries collected all the sap from his maple trees during

the day so
that when he got home from work that evening he would be able to spend time with the missionaries listening to their message rather than collecting the sap.  He said his life would never be the same after that and that he loves this gospel and missionary work!




Brother Sisson has gone on many splits with Elder Richins and says he is doing an amazing work.  He says he has seen Elder Richins grow immensely over the past 4 months and that we will not even know him when he gets home because of the amazing change.  Sister Sisson has fed him well and loved to spend time with him while Elder Richins worked on her deck and helped cut and hammer their new home being built.


Our family is forever connected to the Sissons and we are so grateful for such amazing people in the NYUM that watch over and love our missionaries there!


Transfered to OWEGO!!!!! Lots of Goodbyes in Schoharie

Mom and Dad,
Yes I am going to Owego, right down by the susquehanna river!! It's crazy to think I will be right by the river that Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were baptized in. Well, this week was good. I'm very sad to be leaving Schoharie. Probably because I wasn't expecting it. I mean, I was in Scotia 7 and a half months, so I was sure I would not leave. But I was just finishing my 3rd transfer here, so I wasn't sure about Schoharie when calls came on Saturday. I wanted to stay one more with Elder Jepsen. He has been great. We get a long so well.  We work hard and have fun while doing it. I honestly don't think I have laughed more on my mission than these last 12 weeks with him. The members here are hilarious too. I can't wait to come back here someday. Elder Jepsen will be training a brand new missionary. This is a great place to start off the mission. I get to go to the transfer meeting in Utica on Wednesday. I am very excited. You don't always go to the transfer meeting in Utica when you get transferred. It wouldn't make sense for me to have gone when I came here from Scotia, since they are literally right next door to each other. But anyways, I'm going to miss this place a whole lot. We had some pretty sweet lessons this week. The Kargs are doing, ugh. They didn't come to church yesterday. Last week they didn't come because of Brother Kargs knee, but I'm not convinced that was the case yesterday. Sister Karg is doing great. She's totally getting reactivated. She posts so much stuff about the church on her facebook. And she wasn't when we first started meeting with her. She has really progressed. Brother Karg (the nonmember of the family) has a testimony of the priesthood. He can't read real well though, so I'm not sure how he will gain a testimony of the book of mormon. He will get baptized someday though. We have made more progress with them than any other missionaries ever have. Brother Karg told us that himself. We have become such good friends. I will miss them. Bill Sherling is doing great. He will be considered reactivated soon. He came again yesterday for the full 3 hours. That's two weeks in a row. We have seen such great progress with him. In addition to that, we picked up a couple of new investigators this week, both on exchange with Elder Buck. Elder Buck (like Elder Jepsen) is also from Lehi Utah. He struggles in the morning. I just tried to help him improve. We picked up a college student named Cathryn who goes by Cat. She was sweet. She asked us what our difference is from the catholic church, lutheran church, etc., She's way prepared. We couldn't teach as much as we wanted because her friend came up the porch while we were teaching and told her it was time to study for their big test tomorrow. It was dumb. Oh well. We also picked up Jalissa, the 12 year old daughter of our investigator Nancy. We scheduled a return appointment with Jalissa, and when we came back we crashed a halloween party. But when we saw we were the missionaries, they said Nancy loves it when we stop by, so that is really exciting. We also saw our investigator Constance this week. She is sweet and prepared. Her son Xavier has some form of autism, and he is like 4 years old. So it was really hard to focus during the lesson. She is very sincere. We have seen a lot of progress in the members of the ward to. Elder Jepsen, Brother Bryant (the Ward mission leader), and I have really been focusing on helping the members get more involved about missionary work, and we have seen so much more involvement. It's one of the great lessons I learned here. As a missionary, you can't just expect a referral, you have to work with the members to get them by helping the members know how they can share the gospel with their friends in a non threatening way. But Elder Jepsen and I have seen miracles. In this area, I went from teaching less than 10 lessons a week to teaching more than I ever have. There are people ready for the gospel no matter where you go, it just takes faith and hard work on our part. Also visited George Pynn, another less-active we have been started meeting with. It was interesting. We went over at like 7 (he lives in an old folks home complex) so he opened the door and had already gone to bed. So whenever I asked him a question during the lesson, he would just say "I can barely breathe right now." He was way tired. It was funny. Yesterday I started saying goodbye to everyone. It's sad. I love this area. Also got to see a less-active, Kevin Sisson yesterday. He's sweet. He's the one who had the deer that Elder Jepsen and I helped put on his wall. Elder Jepsen and I aren't sure why he's inactive, because he has a testimony and showed us how some prophecy Brigham Young made about the last days had recently been fulfilled. So he knows the gospel and has a testimony. He served a mission to, but that doesn't matter if you don't endure to the end. His son just put in his mission papers, and his girlfriend isn't a member, so there is tons of potential there. As we said goodbye, he looked at us and told us it was no coincidence that Elder Jepsen and I were serving together and crossed paths with, that it was meant to be and we influenced his life for the better. Chills went down my spine when he said that especially because him and I really connected. He knows  about (and I think has some connection ) to fairview and mt. pleasant, so I told him about our cabin and we really connected and he just opened up. I know the Lord calls us to go where we need to go. So Owego, here I come. My new companion will be Elder Ricks. Have a great week family. Love you all and take care.
We saw a fox and this is our district this past transfer!!!

The Coyers, another great member family


 The Cooper family and Elder Jepsen and myself
 Victor is the recent
convert we have been working with who wants to go on a mission!
Me and Victor messing around.





 Ed and Joan Sisson and their dog! (they are coming to Utah and may stop by...I gave them your contact info)
Joe and Phyllis Sisson 
The Vanderwerken family (one of them)

Kevin Sisson, me and the deer we hung up!!!



Leaves are almost gone! :(

Mom,
Thank you so much!! I did get the birthday package!!! It was so sweet!!! I loved the ties, the candy, the sweaters, everything was so great!! I didn't get more pumpkin pie, but we had delicious brownies and fresh-baked apple pie with the karg family yesterday!! It was so sweet. The kargs are doing well. Sister Karg is on fire. She is totally going to be re-activated. She's keeping commitments real well. She even posts things about the church and stuff from mormonchannel.org and lds.org on her facebook page all the time. It is so cool to see how much the gospel can change lives. And it looks like I got the vial for oil just in time. Brother Karg messed up his knee, so they couldn't come to church yesterday. But we gave Brother Karg a blessing of healing. Elder Jepsen anointed the oil and I sealed it. My testimony of God's love for each of us individually and the power of the priesthood is strengthened every time I give a blessing. The words just come to you and you know it is the spirit. We asked Brother Karg what his thoughts were on baptism. He said he isn't ready yet. We did have him pray at the end of the lesson, and he prayed that he and his family would be able to make it to church though. He will definitely get baptized, it's just a matter of timing. We have seen so much progress in them already. We also had zone training meeting this past week. It was on the book of mormon and how we could use it more effectively in our study. The zone leaders set up an activity where we wore blind folds and were taken outside the church. Then we had to hold onto a string (the iron rod) in order to get back in the church. On the path there were rocks and logs we had to hop over, and other missionaries who would try to get us to let go of the string. When we got to the end, we took off our blind folds and pondered the scripture 1 Nephi 15:24. It was really cool to see how important the book of mormon really is to each of us. There was one part of the training I was disappointed about though. We didn't get any fruit or similar thing at the end of the activity. But it was way cool. We also had to practice reading the Book of Mormon with our investigators and less-actives and using it to answer their questions and resolve concerns. Since we want them to read the whole book of mormon from front to cover rather than just skipping all over. And I found that wherever we were in the Book of Mormon, we can have our questions and concerns answered. I also got to go to Hudson again this week. Elder Jepsen and I this transfer will go on 5 exchanges. I got to work with Elder Davis this time. He's cool. He goes home in January. (He came out with Elder Johnson). We visited with a lot of less-actives again. We got some cheesecake from sister szepezzy. It was really good. Elder Jepsen pointed out today that in 2 months we will be making our 3rd call home of our missions. Time flies!! Elder Koyle goes home in about 7 weeks. Crazy!! Bill Sherling and his 7 year old son Nick (Bill is another less-active we work with) came to church and stayed the whole 3 hours!!! Brother Sherling is making really good progress!! We also picked up a new investigator name Jeanette this week. Elder Jepsen and I tracted into her. It was such a tender mercy. She definitely felt the spirit. After the lesson she explained how she couldn't meet with us anymore because she lives with her boyfriend's parents, and she didn't think they would like us coming over. She actually said that we were lucky to catch her when she was home alone and she could actually take the time to listen to us. Then we offered to teach her over facebook, and she was very open to that and we gave her a book of mormon. I realized after the odds of us knocking on that door at the only time she could have accepted our message and thus allowing us to make contact with her. The lord is very aware of us, and my testimony of the gospel has been strengthened so much by serving a mission. Oh, and the cold is setting in. We had some rain this week that has taken a lot of the leaves off the trees, and yesterday was about 40 degrees. The winter is definitely coming. So I was very grateful for the sweater. Love you all so much and have a great week.

Elder Richins

PS.

Transfers are a week from this wednesday, and the call comes this saturday. So the next time I email, I'll know if I'm staying in Schoharie or not. Today we just cleaned our apartment and car, and got our flu shots. It took forever for them to figure out the missionary medical insurance. And elder Jepsen hit his head at walmart and had to fill out an accident report. Everyone wanted to make sure he was ok and asked him if he needed anything. He asked for a water bottle and they gave him the nicest water bottle, ice-cold for free. Oh Brother!! He conned them!!

 More Fall and me with Elder Davis and Elder Jepsen....Most of the leaves have fallen off!

Monday, October 13, 2014

District Activity and Thatcher Park



Pumpkin patch!! 
And
District Activity!! 



                                                            Exchange in Albany!!
                                                                 With Elder Child!!





I took a legit bubble bath!!











We went to Thatcher Park today. Here are a lot of the pictures!!





Mom,
First off. Thank you so much for the birthday package!! I actually got to have pumpkin pie today!! Haha. And I'm loving the experiences on my mission. It does have its challenges and hard times and attitude is everything, but the blessings are so real. I've changed so much. And fall colors out here are amazing. Better than anything I ever saw growing up. We need to visit the mission again, and it needs to be at this time of year. It's beautiful. So this week was amazing!! Elder Jepsen and I are still tearing it up. This week flew by!! I got to go on exchange with the zone leaders again. The albany zone leaders still have that amazing apartment, and after planning at night I took a legit bubble bath!! I also got to teach Sister Gies once. She is so prepared. She has already given up tea and coffee, and she is reading the book of mormon. She said the closing prayer at the end, it was pretty long, but very good. Also had lot of cool experiences with investigators and less-actives in my area too. We taught the Karg family a few times this week. Brother Karg isn't a member, and sister karg is less-active. They have really been progressing, but they haven't made it to church yet, and brother karg still isn't set with a baptismal date. They came to stake conference on Sunday!! In fact they drove us there!! It was so sweet. It was sweet!! Then we introduced them to President Wirthlin, and he invited him to be baptized right then and there!! It was so sweet. He's totally getting baptized. We are going to follow up with them on that. We also had a sweet experience with Sister Payne. She went less-active when I got here at the end of june, and she had been a member for only a couple of years. We heard she got hostile to the church. But she has always loved the missionaries. I messaged her on Facebook and she says that she would like us to start teaching her online again. And then she showed up at stake conference!! It was so sweet. Stake conference was legit. The was member missionary work and temple work!! Larry S. Kacher, who just spoke in this last October conference, was there and spoke both sessions on the importance of example. We also had the temple president there, who bore a powerful testimony of the temple. That's one of the things I miss the most. Haha. It was also great to see everyone from the glenville/schenectady wards again. We picked up Nancy as an investigator, and she is very prepared. I was in Albany when Elder Jepsen taught her the book of mormon, but she loves reading and is going to read it. We also have been sharing videos with Devan frommormonchannel.org on facebook. She is an investigator we picked up last week. She loves it and we are going to meet with her this week. She even already asked where a church is in this area. The work here is truly hastening. And I'm so grateful to be a part of it. Schoharie is sweet. It's beautiful here. Have a great week mom!! Love you so much!!

Elder Richins

Monday, October 6, 2014

Fall 2014 Pics



Me and  a chinchilla

Here are a few fun 
Pics from the 
Fall in New York
Utica Mission!
Ed Sisson's pipes used to make maple syrup




Me holding a bird! (bird whisperer)








Beautiful Fall Here in 
New York!



The freaky cat museum in Catskill.

Most Awesome
Man Cave EVER!



Elder Neus and I in front of Rubbin Butts restaraunt (above). And Elder Jepsen and I (below) at Justine's with Ed and Karen Horhung for our birthday dinner!! His birthday is September 30th, so they met in the middle for both of us!!