Monday, July 18, 2016

Bonne Fete Maman!!!

HELLOOOOOOO MAMA!!!!! HAPPY BIRTHDAYYYYY!!!! I'm sorry, I don't have a present for ya but I think I got the next best thing...

It's so dang weird to be thinking that I will be seeing y'all in just a couple of days!! Shoot, the time flies like crazy!! And this week has just been another example of that! It doesn't matter how little or how long of time you serve in an area as a missionary, saying goodbye is never an easy thing. We've had a lot of good exchanges with a lot of great people over the past few days - a lot of well wishing and a lot of good luck. I am extremely grateful for the time I have had here in Chapel Hill. I am looking forward to hearing about the Riviere family baptism in a month!! We are SO excited for them. Elder Bird will be coming to take my place and I will get to meet yet another grandson of mine on Wednesday!! I'll also hopefully be getting to drive the mission van just like old times for my last time to the airport. So weird - I'm used to picking up and dropping off so many people at the airport, but now one of those people is me.

I wanna share a quote by Neal A. Maxwell - "The same God that placed that star in a precise orbit millennia before it appeared over Bethlehem in celebration of the birth of the babe has given at least equal attention to the placement of each of us in precise human orbits so that we may, if we will, illuminate the landscape of our individual lives, so that our light may not only lead others but warm them as well."

That completely describes a missionary's experience right there. I have felt that for myself as I have felt the hand of God guide me through my time here in Canada as I have been led to people and experiences that will forever define my life. As we seek to make a difference in the world around us, we define ourselves in the little moments with the little things that we do. That's what being a missionary/disciple of Christ is all about- the little moments where we choose to do something that just elevates things or that brings some inspiration into our life or in the lives of others.

Sometimes as a missionary, or just in our lives in general, we reach periods to where we are just "going through the motions" - we are acting almost mechanically, as we are doing what is generally expected of us, but we are completely detached from it on an emotional and intellectual level. We don't feel it. Sometimes I feel like that is how our progression in the gospel can feel sometimes too. Have we hit a plateau? That is why I love the words of Alma in Alma 5 "Can you feel so now?" In reality, there is no such thing as a plateau in regards to the gospel - we are either moving forward or backward. Particularly for me, at a very particular time in my mission - shortly after dad's accident in 2014 when I was in Lemoyne, I was feeling very much as if I was "going through the motions". And it was through the testimony of bro Roy (who has since passed away from cancer) reading and crying his eyes out about this scripture where I was able to really realize it for myself. He was a recent convert - he spent 37 years against the church while his wife was a faithful member until one day, he had a change of heart. This is one of the most powerful examples I have seen of someone who truly experienced a "change of heart" Through what he shared with us, it completely woke me up from my passive state and it shook me to the core. In the end, I feel like we try to over complicate things - expecting some great change or some great event to happen. Or sometimes we just feel so disconnected from what we are doing. I think we just need to step back and remember how the Lord works as opposed to how the adversary works. And really, the only way for us to "wake up our souls" as Nephi would say, is to do the exact same thing that we as missionaries are trained to teach to people: TURN TO THE LORD.

To any and every current and future missionary - if you are feeling disconnected from what you are doing, wake up. We increase our Faith through invitation and action which in turn gives us more light into our lives. Invite yourself to do something more, follow through with it, and watch the Lord take you to another level. Being a missionary is one of the greatest privileges anybody can experience in mortality. Any young man who is worthy and able to go on a mission is making the biggest mistake of his life by choosing not to go.

I love my mission and I will always love my mission. I could never even begin to describe how much I have learned over these past 2 years from the experiences I have had. Easily I have learned more these past 2 years than all the years before of my life put together. The Lord is good to us - we just have to open our eyes to see it.

I LOVE Y'ALL!! Thanks for the constant love and support that y'all have sustained me with over these past two years! I will see y'all on the other side!

Love,

Elder Cody Warren Ritz

Monday, July 11, 2016

La Dernière Semaine

Well dang...

It's great to hear from y'all as usual! I gotta say I am a little jealous of y'all's kyak-ing adventures this past week. you just need to go out and do it more often mom, and then you won't be as sore ;)

So.crazy. to see that Ethan is back home... dang. Reality is really starting to set in. I've been getting more and more sentimental as time has been going on - it ain't gonna be easy to leave the people of Québec/Ottawa. Trust me, I've been stockin up on souvenirs ;)

This past week for us has been great! It started off with my exit interview with president phillips - what guy! He even quoted Lombardi in my exit interview.... any mission president that quotes Lombardi in an interview has got my vote for sure. We had an awesome discussion - It definitely got me super excited for the future!! We had a great zone training meeting after that where we got to know sister phillips and three of their kids.

I got Sierra's letter in the middle of the week!! I was so excited when I saw that!

We also got invited over for lunch at this older Hungarian lady's house...I love hearing stories of people that lived in Europe from the time of world war II - she's not even a member, she just wanted to have us over, haha. It was sweet!

On Tuesday we went with Sebastian to the family history center with one of the specialists there and we got his grandfather's name which we took with us to the temple on Saturday! It was such an awesome experience!! It's so great to see the excitement people get in doing this work - it's something that definitely helps us feel the presence of the holy ghost through the "spirit of elijah" which is mentioned in the scriptures. That was basically the theme of the whole week as we were so excited to go to the temple with the youth and Sebastian. Sebastian had an awesome experience! We had a testimony meeting afterward and he stood up and talked about his whole experience - seriously, this boy has got a testimony borne on the wings of fire - no joke. He moved here from the Philippines just a few months ago with his family and looked up to the church here himself to get in contact with the missionaries. He is awesome!

At the temple I also got to see a lot of people from pretty much every single one of my old areas - they all had a hard time believing that I am going home next week. I am so grateful for the connections I have made with the people here - the mission is just an awesome experience.

I realized that I have spent more time helping people with their family history work on my mission than I have in my entire life up to this point doing my own family history work - I definitely got the feeling that I know what the next step is for me, haha. I have completely learned to appreciate the importance of family history work over my time as a missionary - it's the work of salvation, the most important work we can/will ever be engaged in. It's such a blessing to be able to participate in such a great cause that united us with our families and those around us. And it's a work that's just getting started.

It's been a great week overall and we are excited to see what the last week of the transfer has in store for us! Ya'll take care and enjoy the week! I'll talk to ya'll again next week!

Love,

Elder Cody Warren Ritz

Monday, July 4, 2016

Freedom

HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY Y'ALL!!!

It's great being here in Ottawa - it's basically like having two national holidays in one weekend! Things were absolutely crazy here for Canada Day - we had some pretty interesting weather with some storms that came in but in the end everyone got their fireworks off. It was great to hear from everyone - thanks for all the pictures/thoughts/emails! It's all greatly appreciated! It's good to see that y'all are enjoying your time as well! Glad to see that Kaitlyn and Alex are enjoying their time out in the Motherland... I'm so confused by that picture of yoda with a canadian flag... haha.

Well I'll do my best to sum up things here, as we are running out of time today.

This week I got a hold of President Patrick just to confirm some information for me applying to teach at the MTC and we ended up getting a call from Thomas (Elder Patrick) his son that just got back from Tahiti. The same missionary that taught Elder Oopa(my current companion). It was a cool experience, especially for elder Oopa. I haven't talked to him since I was in the MTC either, so it definitely brought things around full circle.

This week we helped out a family that moved into our ward boundaries - the fiancé is actually not a member and we have been keeping in touch with him as he still lives in Montréal for the time being. It was a great service opportunity and we got some great Colombian food afterwards!

ALSO REJWANE GOT BAPTIZED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Her baptism was this past weekend out in Ville Marie! I was so excited when I got the news! It's crazy to see how far she has come - I will never forget that experience we had in first teaching her about who God is as well as Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost. So stoked for her!!!

The Riviere family here is also giving me a hard time for leaving before their baptism...They talk about how hard we worked with them and with the Bishop to make things happen and now I'm leaving them before the step is made - they are expecting me to get them a gift now since I won't be there, haha so now I have to think about that. I'm so excited for them and the ward! It's crazy to see how things have progressed - that was the big thing the bishop was excited about when we came into the ward, he was hoping to see some progression with that family and now that things are really getting underway - it's great just to see how happy everyone is. Also yesterday, Elder Oopa bore his testimony in English- he tried to do so his first time here, but ended up speaking french and yesterday he did everything in English. It was awesome. He is an amazing missionary and I have learned so much from him. In priesthood meeting the bishop got up and basically told everyone that we were witnesses of an experience of the gift of tongues - it was pretty cool. The gift of tongues is real y'all. You better believe it. I see it every day.

We also have a temple trip this weekend with the recent convert, Sebastian, and the ward!! We are getting him prepped with names to take to the temple and we are looking forward to it! It's gonna be a great experience!

And yes lastly, we now have a new mission president - President Phillips. I haven't met him yet, though I've heard he's awesome. I'll be meeting him tonight...I'm having my exit interview..............................................yeah I know, CRAZY. And then tomorrow we'll be meeting the rest of the family at our zone meeting.

My last thought is just how great it is to read through the Book of Mormon and see how many times the word "liberty" is mentioned. Especially in the book of Alma. With today being independence, I think it's an appropriate thing to do. One of my favorite quotes which I know I have said before is that "the gospel of Jesus Christ is the embodiment of liberty" - so dang true. Following Christ liberates us - which is a beautiful thing. It's a bit of a parodox too - as we live our lives in line with his teachings which encourage us to abstain from certain things or certain actions, we free ourselves. From an outside point of few, it can seem like a bunch of rules and restrictions that bind us down - but in reality, it's pretty AMAZING. Freedom is an amazing thing - and the more we follow our Savior, the more we discover things that we never knew existed before as new opportunities are opened up to us. God has a beautiful plan for us in giving us the ability to think/reason/act/choose for ourselves - in reality, His plan is based upon love and freedom. We find the most love and freedom as we follow the gospel of Jesus Christ. Nuff said.

Much love! Enjoy the day!!

Elder Cody Warren Ritz

Monday, June 27, 2016

Oh Canada

(The things they find in church parking lots.)

Happy Canada Week Yous Guys!!!!!

It's great to see that once again another week has passed and all is going well on the homefront! Haha no surprises there about Ryan's experience at scout camp - the same kind of things were happening when I was there too - some things never change.

Kaitlyn and Alex better enjoy their time out in Cambridge as well! They'll most likely come back having picked up the habit of "tea time" - you see it all around here with the people that are from the UK.

Obviously, Canada Day is this Friday so this place is definitely moving. They even have the changing of the guard now at parliament which we will probably go to check out and see next week!

This week we continued to see a lot of great things happen as people are continuing to progress! We found another Haitian family that we have started to teach - no surprises there. Ever since we came here we have just been meeting more and more Haitians - Orleans is gonna have a creole branch someday. Speaking of Haitians, the Riveres have a baptismal date for August 13th!!! They just had that confirmed last night so the ward is gonna be soo excited when they get the news!!

Also we are getting our new mission president this week! The Phillips will be getting here on Thursday of this week! We'll be meeting them next week at our zone meeting. We're pretty excited to meet him.

One thing that has stood out to me a lot this week is section 130 of the Doctrine and Covenants as it talks about knowledge and how we gain knowledge to take with us in this life and on to the next life. It's interesting how in schools today people always refer to "diligence" as being a big principle of learning -which is true. Diligent studies will produce greater success. What is interesting is how the end of the section mentions that not only is diligence a principle of learning, but it always says that knowledge is obtained by "obedience." In the world today, that is not something that you hear so much, but it's true all the same. Knowledge, as the world understands it, comes through our diligence and efforts- but there is more to it. Obedience is a principle of learning - as we are obedient, we open ourselves up to the influence of the Spirit - who teaches us of all truths in the end. As we are obedient AND diligent, we put ourselves in a position where we are able to receive more light. Light is knowledge and we know that our knowledge is something that gives us power and also liberates us. So yeah, that's about all I got for this week.

Have a great week y'all!

Love,

Elder Cody Warren Ritz

Monday, June 20, 2016

La Capitale

Bonjouuuurrrr once again to tout le monde!

Thanks again for the reminders about how little time I have left!..............

It's weird seeing all the summer pictures realizing that I will be there in such a short time. Dang. It seems like y'all have definitely been enjoying your time - especially at the butt hutt.

Glad to see the Cavs are makin history.

It's also great to see that Ryan is reppin the usual scout uniform with the scout shirt and basketball shorts.

Hope you had a great Fathers Day, Dad!!! It seems like y'all definitely had plenty of meats to put on the grill - I hope you're planning on doing the same thing when I get there as well.. ;)

Thanks for the news and thoughts y'all shared!

Our week has been pretty freakin insane...we had some awesome experiences.

We went to parliament on Monday - don't worry I'll send pictures. It was just a reminder that I am definitely not in Quebec anymore, haha. It really does have a completely different feel here.

We had an awesome experience with an inactive member - she has gone through a super difficult past and recently has been making steps to come back bit by bit. She asked us for a blessing the other week and that's how we met her. She's got a pretty difficult family situation and was also in an abusive relationship. She has finally got out of all of that and now she has started meeting with us. We had a first visit with her the other week and last week she was telling us about how everything that we said in that visit was just ringing through her ears. It was a great experience as we talked about the influence of the Holy Ghost and how he works with us. As we take steps to show forth faith unto repentance we invite the presence of the Holy Ghost more fully in our lives. As the scriptures say, we need to seek to be "in communion" with the Holy Ghost - I find that to be a pretty interesting phrase. Do we want to be "in communion" with Deity? Our Father in Heaven will show us how as we draw closer to Him. We helped give her a vision of the temple and now that is what she is working towards! It's basically like teaching a new investigator as she has been pretty inactive from a young age. What a great experience.

We also had a visit with the Riviere family - this is the family that Bishop Wagner talked to me about on the phone before I even arrived here when I was still in Ville Marie. Basically they have been investigating for a number of years and every time it seems like they have been close to taking the step of baptism something has come up to stop them. Recently, everything has been falling into place but people were wondering why they still were hesitating to take the step. We invited the bishop to join us in our visit - it turned out to be exactly what they needed. The father of the family ended up talking about a lot of things that had happened in the past that offended him - with the bishop there, they were able to set things straight - it was such a tender meeting and we could really feel the presence of the spirit there with us. In the end, the father said that he feels they are ready now and committed to being baptized in July and said he would talk to his wife about July 16th! We are so stoked! We also got two other people set up with baptismal dates this week for July as well! Also Yannique has a date for July 2nd! Right now in the ward we have about 11 baptisms scheduled for July - hopefully the majority if not all of them will follow through! We got a lot of great things going on here! It's great to be a part of it and to feel the Lord working through us despite our shortcomings.

We also had our "au revoir" meeting with Pres. and Sister Patrick and some of their family. It was a great meeting and they actually did a Q and A session as well. That is the last time I will be seeing them...until my Homecoming!!!! haha I was talking to Daniel, one of their sons who is at home right now and he gave me his word that he would be there. I am assuming pres. and sis Patrick will tag along :)))) if they're not busy, haha. Tampa ain't too far from Athens.

It's been a great week and we are working hard to end this month on a good note! Thanks for the love and support! Keep enjoying y'all's summer time!

Love,

Elder Cody Warren Ritz

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Les Miracles...et le froid

Rebonjour à tout le monde!

As always it's great to hear from ya!

It's good to see that once again, we are living in completely opposite places as far as the weather goes... this week has felt more like September or October here, as it's been at 12 C for the most part of the week...which is cold for summer, trust me. Ryan, enjoy your preparation week for scout camp!

As for the my plan program, it's going great so far! I love it and I hate it as it kinda forces ya to think a lot about the future. This week, the Patrick family will be doing their goodbye tour - we will be seeing them for the last time in the mission this Saturday, which is a really weird thought.

This week was full of a bunch of ups and downs- we had some great visits with some people that have gone through some pretty crazy life experiences- along with some more refugees. I have learned so much from my time with various refugees from various countries over my time as a missionary- I am really grateful for that.

The person we had set up with a baptismal date ended up dropping it which was pretty sad, but we have been finding more and more people. We had an awesome miracle as we were working in one area looking for somebody the missionaries worked with in the past. As we talked to the neighbors to see if they knew the person we ended up meeting Yannique, from Haiti. So she is here with her two kids, her husband passed away last year, and she has had a constant contact with the church for quite some time now as she has some of her family who are members of the church. When we saw her, she hesitated at first as she was looking at us through the door, but then she asked us if we were Mormon missionaries. We ended up getting to know her story a bit more - she is going through a bit of a rough time. We had a member bring her and her family to the ward activity - a spaghetti dinner/dessert auction and they came to church as well. They loved the experience and she explained how she felt that they need to be baptized as they have already waited too long to do so! It was a super awesome/touching experience and we are looking forward to working with them, the sister missionaries, and the members here help them progress towards their goals and coming closer to Christ.

The dessert auction was actually quite the event as everyone was trying to bid for us...we ended up getting in a pretty heated competition with the bishop for one dessert. Basically, in the end, we ended up with way too much dessert - we have been doing our best to spread the sugar by sharing it with people.

Yesterday at church everything went great! I got a lot of positive feedback on my talk on Hastening the Work. Basically the idea is 1. Catching the vision 2. Understanding your role 3. inspiring others. I am also really impressed with the amount of correlation and work that the members/leadership with the ward are wanting to have with us. The bishop continues to talk about wanting to take as much advantage of the time we have here before I leave - he is always asking for us to help people better understand the vision of "hastening the work" here. I really am greatly touched by the amount of respect that he gives to us. We are hopefully gonna have him come out with us this Thursday to get a family committed to a baptismal date that has been with the church for almost 5 years now - we are hoping everything goes well! He basically said that anything we feel is important or needs to get done - he'll do it.

Things are going super well here! We are excited to see how things turn out over the rest of this transfer as we are really finding our place more and more here in the ward! We are heading over to parliament today! that's why the emails are a bit early this time. Y'all have a great week!

Love,

Elder Cody Warren Ritz

Milk bag mats. Their milk comes in bags, so people recycle the bags and make mats out of them.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Le Dernier Transfert

Helllooooo Therrrreeeee,

It's good to hear from y'all as usual and great to see all the summer pictures! It definitely seems like y'all enjoyed your time with everyone! Also thanks for the school sign up helps! It's much appreciated! Now I guess we'll just wait and see what happens! It feels a bit surreal to really be thinking about all of that stuff now especially now that today is the first day of my last transfer as a full time missionary.

This past week for us was a pretty interesting one - I got hit pretty hard on Monday night with flu like symptoms and ended up sick for pretty much the whole week - it's been a while since I have been that sick which really sucked, haha. Despite all of that, we got a lot of great stuff done and have found 2 new families that we have started teaching as well! One is actually the son of a less active mother who was never baptized and the other is a family from Nepal - bit of an interesting story. I couldn't stand to stay cooped up in the apartment so we spent pretty much every day just out doing normal things - just with a lot of breaks in between. Probably not the best idea in terms of health, but hey, in the end I am back to full health now and everything is going just swell :)) looking back though I have now idea how we were able to manage our way through all of that. For the weekend, I was on exchange with Elder Woo - one of the Chinese missionaries in Ottawa and we helped out at a local fair here with a couple of our members. We basically served to promote and demonstrate something called the milk bag project. It's actually pretty cool. Basically, people donate used milk bags and from the bags people use them and make bags or mats that people can sleep on. The materials are then sent out to countries in need - I now know of a good use for milk bags. It turns out the Canadian way of thinking isn't too bad after all ;)

For our stake conference yesterday we had Elder Echohawk come and speak to us - he's of American Indian decent which is pretty cool by itself - along with that he shared some pretty neat stories that he has had in his up close and personal time with members of the quorum of the twelve - those are always the stories I love to hear the most. President Patrick always enjoys telling us the little lessons he received on the side from various general authorities - we can learn a lot from people's experiences.

This week I also start "my plan" which is basically the "adjustment back into the real world program" for the full time missionaries :))) It'll be here before we know it!

Y'all keep working hard and have a great week! I'll talk to ya next week!

Love,

Elder Cody Warren Ritz