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!!

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