Friday, January 2, 2015

And a Happy New Year to you! Dec. 29, 2014

Dear Family and Friends,

I hope your Christmas was merry and bright. And that you have a happy new year. It's pretty crazy as a missionary to look back on your year and see how different your life has been. Last year this time I was freezing to death in Idaho, getting ready to start a new semester in school. Now I'm living on an island, speaking Spanish....yeah I would say that's a pretty drastic change haha. But I'm grateful for all the blessing and challenges of this year that got me to this point and I'm excited for a new year! This will be the only full year of my life as a full time missionary! Weird.
 On the ferry with my companion

Thank you for your prayers! Ramon was able to get work off again to come to church! Please continue to pray for him. 

Christmas was so fun this week! Everyone was so thoughtful. We ate a lot. And laughed a lot. And taught the Gospel a lot.
 Hot chocolate with Hermana Kaiser

Presents from home and from the members!

And now we have the new year when we can think about things we would like to change and improve. President Ezra Taft Benson said: 

...forget not your noble heritage. Each of you has been born of goodly parents. You are among the choicest spirits our Father has ever sent upon the earth. You are living in the dispensation of the 
fulness of times—the greatest of all gospel dispensations.
Yours is great challenge. You are choice spirits. Forget not that each of you has been endowed with 
the priceless gift of free agency. You have been given the freedom to “choose liberty and eternal life, … or to choose captivity and death” (Ne. 2:27). You need not be the victims of circumstance, for unto you it is given to achieve and become “perfect,even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:48).
 “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.” 
May you, by following this same path, merit the same commendation. May you gain the deep and 
abiding satisfaction that comes from rendering the maximum service of which you are capable. May 
your life be enriched to overflowing as you realize the fulfillment of your fondest hopes and noblest 

I know that God lives, and His plan is one of progression. I hope we can all take time to think about the things that we want to change. I know that as we put our lives into the hands of the Savior, He makes us into something better. I know that when we bring out weaknesses to Him, He makes us strong. 

Happy New Year! 

-Hermana Ries

I've changed a lot, but "Toothless lady" is still there inside me to the delight of my nephews and family members.

Lots and lots of miracles Dec. 22, 2014

Dear family and friends, 

It has been a week of pure miracles! Up until this point in the mission I thought if I just work hard enough, and push myself enough, I will be successful. Turns out, relying on yourself is the worst idea ever. Ether 12:27 teaches: 

 27 And if men come unto me will show unto them their weaknessgive unto men weakness that they may be humble;and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will make weak things become strong unto them.

This has never been more true in my life than in the mission. When you just do what you can, and stop focusing on what you can't do then you feel happier. And just like this scripture says, when we become humble, then grace becomes sufficient. 

Anyway, here are some of the miracles we saw:

1. Ramon. 

A few weeks ago, the English sisters were biking and a guy pulled over in his car. He asked them to come teach him. They gave us a his information and went to teach him. He has had a lot of different religions come to visit him but he has a accepted a baptismal date! He loves the gospel! Anyway so, he works in the port on ships and usually he works every Sunday. We told him how important church was and he began praying. He prayed. We prayed and he talked to his boss. Ramon told us "I have faith, and God answers prayers." And guess what. He got one hour off of work to come to Sacrament meeting. He felt the Spirit and he is going to keep trying to get work off on Sundays! Please keep him in your prayers! 

2. Ward mission leader. 

We haven't had a branch mission leader in a long time, but we've been praying every day that the branch as a whole will accept callings. And on Sunday someone got called to be the ward mission leader! And he is awesome! We've worked with him a lot and he told us "I don't know a lot about this calling, but I'm going to do all I can to magnify it." Um wow. So amazing. 
3. Member presents. 

We have been working hard on getting members out to teach with us. By the way everyone should do that at least once:) Anyway, our members helped us out a ton this week. One of them told us he wanted to buy us Christmas presents and suggested a sweater with a picture of Jesus on it. It was a really sweet thought. 

4. Gift of Tongues.

I had to give the relief society lesson on Sunday. And that was crazy because I didn't know until 9:30 the night before, which means that I couldn't even read the whole lesson which was in Spanish. And then I had to speak in all Spanish. It was crazy. I'm so grateful that Heavenly Father helps us and is merciful.

Anyway, life is good and it's been warm here on the island! I hope you all have a merry Christmas! Remember He who gave His life for us. His grace is sufficient. He died for us, He lives for us. This is His gospel of love and peace and forgiveness! This is His work, to help us all feel hopeful. 

-Hermana Ries

Still LOVE the puppies!

Merry Almost Christmas Dec. 15, 2014

Dear Family and friends,

Another crazy week in the mission! This week a bird pooped on me at the ferry. I'm not going to include pictures in the group email for those of you with a weak stomach haha. But here is my companion and I before the whole incident. 

This week we were able to extend a baptismal date to one of the people we have been teaching. He is so awesome! We talked about how baptism is the gate and we continue to learn and grow, and we asked if he would prepare for the 10th of January. He then replied "okay. voy a tratar..... i try" and then he began to laugh. He loves trying to speak English and we couldn't help but just crack up too. 

Basically it's pretty weird living on a tropical island during Christmas. This last week the most clothing I've had to wear is a cardigan and scarf at night. If I wear more than that during the day I get sweaty. Weird. Really weird. I hope you all aren't freezing up north! The Gulf of Mexico is super nice! This is my warmer outfit below.

As we get close to Christmas I hope all of us can remember the true meaning of Christmas. I know He lives and loves us. I invite all of you to think about what you can give to the Savior this Christmas. I know that the small things matter most. Maybe just committing to really pray to our Heavenly Father can be your gift to our Savior. Whatever it is, I know He will be so happy with us! He appreciates even the smallest efforts. 

I hope you all have a restful week before Christmas. 

-Hermana Ries

ps my companion snapped this picture from behind. Biking all day every day:) 

The Christmas Devotional was really good. Dec. 8, 2014

Dear Family and Friends,

Christmas devotionals areeeeee ...really good.- skitells (if you don't know what I'm referring to here, it's okay.) 

This week has been another crazy one! I have a new companion. Her name is Hermana Allen. She's from Utah and has been out just over a year. She's been here from 2 days and I've been here for under 3 weeks so we're both pretty fresh to the area! It'll be fun! 

I also had to say goodbye to Sister Johnson, which was sad because we both liked to be silly at times as you can see from the second picture!

Anyway, like I was saying, the devotional was amazing! We were trying to figure out where we would watch it because on bikes our options are a little limited. We tried a few people and then we felt like we should call one of the members (she's from Guatemala and I LOVE her.) So we went to watch it with her. All of us were crying. At the end we thanked her so much to opening her home up to us and letting us watch it with her. She began to cry and said (in spanish) "I was baptized 15 years ago, and I've never watched a devotional until now." It was such a blessing. I had felt so loved and at home in her house, but she had the opportunity to watch the devotional and have her faith in Christ grow. God has it all planned out. 

We also had another huge miracle this week. We were biking and talking to everyone we could, with little luck, when a guy yells to us "Hey do yall do the Jesus thing?" My companion was a little hesitant, but I was not passing up this opportunity. I figured it would be a funny conversation. I pulled my bike over and said "What is the Jesus thing?" He then said "You know, like yall go like visit people and talk about Jesus and stuff right? do I set up an appointment?" Well, Hermana Johnson and I start teaching him just there on the street. And we extended a baptismal date for the 20th of December. He accepted! He speaks English so we turned him over to the English sisters, but he came to church on Sunday! 

Also, I know God really cares about missionaries who ride bikes because we had finished a lesson and I realized my chain was broken. I turned to my companion and said something like "okay, now what?" Just as I said that, a hispanic guy rides up on his bike and asks me how I've been because apparently he met me 7 months ago. And then he asks me if I need help with my bike. What? How did he know? Also, get this, he is from Guatemala. I hope I get to live there someday. Anyway, it turns out his friends are members of the church, but he lives outside our area:( But the Elders will teach him! So cool!

This week I just want to share a quick part of a talk that I read this week that really helped me understand how God loves us: 

God uses another form of chastening or correction to guide us to future we do not or cannot now envision but which He knows is the better way for us. President Hugh B. Brown, formerly member of the Twelve and counselor in the First Presidency, provided personal experience. He told of purchasing rundown farm in Canada many years ago. As he went about cleaning up and repairing his property, he came across currant bush that had grown over six feet (1.8 m) high and was yielding no berries, so he pruned it back drastically, leaving only small stumps. Then he saw drop like tear on the top of each of these little stumps, as if the currant bush were crying, and thought he heard it say:
“How could you do this to me? was making such wonderful growth. And now you have cut me down. Every plant in the garden will look down on me. … How could you do this to me? thought you were the gardener here.”
President Brown replied, “Look, little currant bush, am the gardener here,and know what want you to be. didn’t intend you to be fruit tree or shade tree. want you to be currant bush, and someday, little currant bush, when you are laden with fruit, you are going to say, ‘Thank you, Mr.Gardener, for loving me enough to cut me down.’”
Years later, President Brown was field officer in the Canadian Army serving in England. When superior officer became battle casualty,President Brown was in line to be promoted to general, and he was summoned to London. But even though he was fully qualified for the promotion, it was denied him because he was Mormon. The commanding general said in essence, “You deserve the appointment, but cannot give it to you.” What President Brown had spent 10 years hoping,praying, and preparing for slipped through his fingers in that moment because of blatant discrimination. Continuing his story, President Brown remembered:
“I got on the train and started back … with broken heart, with bitterness in my soul. … When got to my tent, … threw my cap on the cot. clenched my fists, and shook them at heaven. said, 
‘How could you do this to me, God? have done everything could do to measure up. There is nothing that could have done—that should have done—that haven’t done. How could you do this to me?’ was as bitter as gall.
“And then heard voice, and recognized the tone of this voice. It was my own voice, and the voice said, ‘I am the gardener here. know what want you to do.’ The bitterness went out of my soul, and fell on my knees by the cot to ask forgiveness for my ungratefulness. 
“… And now, almost 50 years later, look up to [God] and say, ‘Thank you,Mr. Gardener, for cutting me down, for loving me enough to hurt me.’”5
I know that when it is hard, it's just because He trusts us to grow into something much better. I hope you all have a great week! 

-Hermana Ries