Hermana Courtney Rippstein

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Homecoming Address

It has been difficult for me personally returning home to Texas, even though it seems like I'm just taking it by the reins and going well. I do have a job though, I start at TGI Fridays tomorrow as a server again. I didnt think I would get a job cuz I'd only be here a bit, but, miracles happen. An old manager I'd had praised me and said the guy would be a fool not to hire me. Tender mercies and blessings because of mission service I tell you. I also report that I now sport a crazy accent that developed out of no where - it started with me chatting with my old companion from El Salvador a couple times and then just comes on heavy now - the more people talk about it, the more apparent it becomes. I dont know exactly why it comes, but, its great. All the world thinks they have to make note of it as well. I have heard from a few people from my mission and my old companions are still strengthening me. I have the faith that I can make it!

We just had a lot of family over for my homecoming talk and it was awesome to see them all again.. I love my family a lot, even if I got overwhelmed cuz I didnt know what to do with them. My talk was lengthy - 30 minutes and a bit overtime. But Im sure the primary and nursery leaders were happy so it's all good. They said it was an ok talk anyways. Here is a copy of the outline/final draft -

President Howard W. Hunter counseled that the conscious effort to do ones part fully is the greatest element contributing to success. It is honestly trying to do all that you personally are capable of and working towards a goal. Everything that I share with you today are things that I know to be true.

When you serve as a missionary, you have countless opportunities to participate in miracles and to impact the lives of others – to enter into their homes, and see extraordinary things happen. One thing that impacted me personally was the perspective that one receives – you see all these different homes and families and lives and you can see how the gospel makes a difference in those lives according to their diligence and faith. It is that diligence and faith in the things that are most important that brings us to the Savior of the world.

I’ll start with Eduardo and Aura. This was a family that had been baptized a few months before I came to the area where they lived. They had heard about the gospel and it had been the answer to their prayers. They had received peace in their decision to change their lives and had desires to continue on and overcome their problems, and for awhile, they had been able to do that. Maybe life wasn’t perfect, but it was better, and they were better able to overcome the disagreements they’d had, which in itself was a miracle.

- Well, then Eduardo began to work on Sundays. And from there, little by little, other things got left behind. Difficult for Aura to go if he didn’t, and she couldn’t read well either

- It started innocent, but afterwards developed into a large problem. Too much was dropped

- As they stopped doing the things that fortified their faith in the Lord, their shields against the world dropped.

o In the Bible, Paul said that without this shield of faith, we wouldn’t be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.

- One particular time we had prayed in our studies to be able to prepare a special lesson for them. We came up with a plan. We went to their house, and the plan went out the window. As we spoke with Aura and listened to know what it was that we should share with her, ideas came to our minds that we had never thought of before and we found ourselves saying things that didn’t come from us! We wrote down 5 key things for them to put into practice and we knew without a doubt that as they would do those things they would be fine because we knew that they had been inspired by the Lord.

- As the family put those things into practice they were able to improve the quality of their lives and to overcome the problems and doubts that had made it past their weakened shield of faith.

o Nephi counseled that whoso would hearken unto the word of God, and hold fast unto it, they would never perish; neither could the temptations and the fiery darts of the adversary overpower them unto blindness, to lead them away to destruction.

o Through this family and countless others that went through the same process, I know that scripture to be true. It happened way too much for it to have been coincidence. This wasn’t just something that happened to Eduardo and Aura, this happened to any person that stopped doing the things that fortify faith such as going to church, reading the scriptures, praying and taking the high road. The gospel of Jesus Christ makes a tangible and real difference in the lives of people.

o We literally knew just by showing up at their home if they had been living and applying the gospel. You could just tell

Compare Eduardo and Aura to the next family – Wilfredo and Clara. I had the privilege to help this family learn of the gospel. We met them because we were visiting a recent convert to the church.

- If we had kept our mouths shut?

- We were always reading the scriptures with him and emphasizing the necessity to seek and receive personal guidance from the Lord. My companion and I knew from personal experience and testimony that the Lord is the only one that can answer us and the only one that can guide us perfectly, and that he can show us what to do through scripture and prayer. We didn’t want Wilfredo to just believe the words we said – we wanted him to find his own answer. Wilfredo kept every commitment that we ever gave him and was diligent in continue doing it afterwards.

- Wilfredo confided in me once of his fear that he wouldn’t be strong enough to always press on. He didn’t want to let his family down and knew the power of the adversary to drag people down, and he was aware of his own weaknesses and challenges that were still present in his life. He understood the importance of the path he was entering and of the decisions he was making.

o There is a pattern which, if followed, can ensure that once we have chosen our Fathers plan, we can stay safe; we can stay true.

o I simply asked him to profoundly study Ether 12:27 on his own and to ask the Lord if He could make it or not. I had recently received my own personal testimony in the power of that scripture.

If we come unto Christ, our weaknesses will give us a glimpse of the Saviors grace and mercy as He works with us. When you trust in the Lord, you really can do anything – even if it is really hard, because He does direct your path. Weak things really can become strong if they seek the Lord’s will. It’s not just a commitment He asks for, but for our very lives. We seek out what the Lord wishes of us, what He commands us to do, so that we can be obedient to it – because we believe that it is there that we can obtain all blessings. It is turning our hearts to Him and being willing to make sacrifices and change our lives because we have faith that the gospel does make a difference. It may be difficult and even inconvenient sometimes, but really, it is the only way. When you bring a person who is looking to give His life back to God and honor that promise, and put that together with the gospel of Jesus Christ, the end result is something beautiful and powerful. The Lord can do so much with an open heart. I think that’s what struck me most about Wilfredo.

o I wouldn’t find out till later that he received the answers to his prayers and the faith he needed through the study of that particular scripture and his continued prayers to his Heavenly Father. It is now his favorite scripture and he is dedicated to making a lasting change in his life

o He told me a few weeks ago that he couldn’t afford to miss church or even an activity in the church because the gospel was not a game for him. It is a way of life and even though it was hard it was making a difference. He could tell the difference in his life since being introduced to these things and he knew he was blessed for the changes that he made. Through his patience, diligence and obedience, he overcame key challenges in his life and put his past behind him, which hadn’t been an easy thing. He dedicated himself to church service, raising his family in the Lord, and in being a good example to others.

o As we parted ways he thanked my companion and I for helping him to find the correct path. He said he would always remember the important part we played in his life and in the life of his family. He expressed that now he had great hope for them and that his life has changed a lot and he was so happy because he had filled up the empty part of himself that he wasn’t previously aware existed. I know that he was one of the chosen people prepared for the gospel and I thank the Lord for having had the privilege to witness such a beautiful change

And thus we see that the Lord began to pour out his spirit upon the people, because of their easiness and willingness to believe in his words. It is not enough to go through the motions in life and hope that God will magically transform it and fulfill all our dreams. It is true that fairytales and miracles can and do happen, but we are the ones that with His help make those things come true. Perseverance is a positive, active characteristic. It is not idly, passively waiting and hoping for some good thing to happen. The Lord himself said that it isn’t enough just to ask for things – we’ve got to work for it. He expects us to exercise our own judgment. We’ve got to play an active part in our own existence, imagine that!

There is a quote now hanging on our wall at home that impacted me as I returned home. It says ‘Faith makes things possible, not easy’. I think it is there where we find why only few are chosen. There are few that seek personal guidance from God.

And it’s true, it is difficult to discipline yourself – to come unto Christ as they put it – because it is difficult sometimes for us to admit that maybe we don’t know everything and lasting change requires more work and it is something that is hard. It is so much easier to rationalize and go for a more convenient, easy route. It all comes down to us. In a conference of the church in April, we were reminded that desires dictate our priorities, priorities shape our choices and choice determine our actions. In addition, it is our actions and our desires that cause us to become something

I think God is merciful but I don’t believe that excuses my actions – that I can do whatever I like and it doesn’t matter. I can’t just hide behind the excuse of Ohhh im too weak I can’t change. The challenge is too difficult, I can’t do it. Well I can’t say those things because with God you can do everything – it beats the excuses. Perhaps it requires repeated attempts but there is something important about that striving. I truly believe what Paul wrote when he said ‘I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.’ I’ve seen just that in my own life and in the lives of others in and off my mission. Weak things become strong. People change. Miracles happen.

I’d like to share the story now of Walter

- Man mixed up in all kinds of bad things, who had wanted out but wasn’t sure quite how to do that.

- Began to apply gospel, and even though it took him awhile, he was able to kick very bad habits and vices and completely turn around his life. He also used to be a very quiet person who wouldn’t be able to speak almost. Now he goes around strengthening others and offering them service when they need it

- It’s been beautiful to see how his life has blossomed and changed in the year that he now has in the church, thanks to the relationship that he has now found with Jesus Christ.

We need always to ask what we are doing to ourselves. Is the divine within us being nurtured or do our actions prevent the spirit from becoming the predominant force in our lives? If there is something impeding that spirit or distracting us, are we willing to get it out of the way? Our heavenly Father knew that we’d have to make some decisions that are beyond our own abilities to decide correctly. . He created the way that we receive help through the guidance of the Holy Ghost. The purpose of the Comforter is to show us the truth of all things and show us all the things which we must do.

One time as we were walking to church we were passing by different houses and inviting folks to come. It didn’t look like anyone would be joining us and with 10 minutes to go we headed towards the church building. We passed this one home, a normal home just like any other. Not a house I had any particular reason to contact, nothing stood out. We actually passed this house even. But something told me we had to return. So we followed that impression and met Jacqueline and Ricardo. They had major doubts about the church, had heard many false rumors about us and actually were members of a different religion. We shared our testimonies of the Gospel and cleared up some doubts they’d had along with rumors and over time the word of God became more and more interesting and special for them.

They began to read together and attend the church together, as well as pray together. They began to understand why it was important to have living prophets in the world and why the restoration of the gospel was necessary. They began to make changes in their lives, not because we told them to but because they just felt that those changes needed to be made. My father baptized them the last weekend of my mission and they were so happy and said they were glad to get their lives into order before God. Jacqueline told me that she was so thankful for all we had done for her and her family and for helping them to find direction in their lives, for guiding us to His true gospel. She told me that God answered all of her prayers, that she read the scriptures and felt that these things were true and that she had ended the search she didn’t know she had started. And it all happened because we followed an impression given by that Comforter who guides us and knocked on their door.

As people earnestly try to grow closer to the Lord and to seek what He desires of them, He does take care of them and lead them on and He is happy to do it. I can imagine through having experienced just a little bit of it how happy the Lord must be when we seek to do His will. Perhaps we aren’t perfect, but the desire to grow and trust in our Father is there and the Lord can take that and work with it. That’s what makes us humble, moldable in His hands.

One man, William, and his wife Alma were members of another church. Actually William was a pastor. We came to his door, and we spoke of how God had called prophets to the world again to teach his doctrine in its fullness. And we spoke of how he and his wife could know if what we were saying was true. At first it was just something to listen to, a nice visit from 2 missionaries. But it developed into something great in their lives. They began to search and to investigate and to pray and study to see if the church had something that they hadn’t yet found. And because they sought what the Lord wanted of them, they were open to his guidance, they received very clear answers to their prayers. They knew that the Lord had restored His church over the face of the earth. They knew that that made a difference in life and they wanted to be a part of it as soon as possible. Almost a year ago, they were baptized at 5am that one Saturday, because they couldn’t wait any longer. William always comments on how pure and happy he felt the day of his baptism. William and Alma have not failed since they were baptized and continue to seek the will of the Lord in the service they offer within the church. William is now the president of the Elder’s Quorum and Alma teaches the youth.

We read of people like this in the scriptures – it speaks of a people that did fast and pray often, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation yea, even to the purifying and the sanctification of their hearts, which sanctification cometh because of their yielding their hearts unto God. In the Bible Mathew warned that man should not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.

That’s the whole plan of God right?

- Come to earth, have experiences that help us grow, and follow the words of God spoken through the prophets so that we can participate in the atonement of Jesus Christ and return to our Heavenly Father one day. If Christ tells me to go right, he lays it all out there for me, telling me the steps I need to take to come back, why would I go the other direction? It’s all there.

Now, those that are going to repent will do it, and those that wont, wont. But it all matters that they have the invitation and warning to do so. That’s why it's called a ‘call of repentance’. Mosiah 8:18 –God has provided a means that man, through faith, might work mighty miracles. Therefore, that man becometh a great benefit to his fellow beings. When our conversion has been real, we can’t afford to hold ourselves back from sharing it. We must conduct ourselves in a way that communicates our beliefs and declares we are saints of Christ. God accepts the humblest offering of the humbles Saint, and each of us can make a difference

- Power of pure testimony – move mountains (of doubts, of challenges, etc)

- 3N 5:13 – I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, the son of God. I was called of him to declare his word among his people that they might have everlasting life

One man was so moved by the personal testimony of another person that he tried it for himself – he too experimented to see if the Gospel was really real. Martin was a lawyer and former judge, and he had heard the missionary lessons before and had talked to many missionaries but it wasn’t until he personally felt through the testimony of someone else that maybe this was something he wanted to look into further. Something brought him to listen to us. He wanted to know what it was that 2 young sister missionaries could possibly know that he did not. We shared many, many spiritual experiences with Martin and saw a testimony grow within him.

One of those experiences is that Martin was in the war when he was younger, and thanks to that he was later addicted to a sleeping pill – if he didn’t take the pill he wouldn’t be able to sleep or he would have constant nightmares that left him screaming. As the lessons with us progressed, more peace settled into his heart and he was learning why a restoration of the Gospel was needed and what it brought to the world. He learned of the power of God in its fullness was restored and that miracles still happen because Jesus Christ is a living Christ. My companion suggested that he give up on the sleeping pills. He laughed at her for that. She then told him that he should just try the Lord and see the power that He has to heal. Well… I would later find out that those words stuck with him and he meditated on them many times. Turns out that later on he did take the determination to try her words and he asked for the Lord to help him. That very night and since then he has not once taken those pills again, and he verbally thanks God for that every day. It was one of many extraordinary experiences Martin had that strengthened his faith in the Lord, as well as ours.

He said the doctrine in the restored gospel inspired the best out of him and made him want to be a better person and work for something real. He told us he was receiving the lessons so that he would be prepared to share it with other people after he was baptized – he was preparing himself to make an entire change for the future. He said that for him, once he was baptized there was no going back, and he prepared himself well. He is now serving in the church and has told me that he could not be happier. He is thankful to God having been privileged to receive the personal testimony that the lessons weren’t just lessons but actually were truths sent by God to him. I am so happy for him, not only because he was baptized but because he was able to receive a personal witness that Jesus Christ lives and loves him.

We don’t have to make it more difficult than it is. Remember what you already know and continue on with trust in the Lord and in the position that you have as His child.

Learn to love God and seek his council. Remember always that He loves you and will guide you and help you continue on if only you give him the opportunity to do it. Include him in your decisions. The final judgment is not just an evaluation of a sum total of good and evil acts – what we have done. It is an acknowledgement of the final effect of our acts and thoughts – what we have become. It is not enough for anyone just to go through the motions. –

Hel 3:28-30,

Yea, thus we see that the gate of heaven is open unto ball, even to those who will believe on the name of Jesus Christ, who is the Son of God.

Yea, we see that whosoever will may lay hold upon the awordof God, which is bquick and powerful, which shall cdivide asunder all the cunning and the snares and the wiles of the devil, and lead the man of Christ in a strait and dnarrow course across that everlasting egulf of misery which is prepared to engulf the wicked—

And land their souls, yea, their immortal souls, at the arighthand of God in the kingdom of heaven, to sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and with Jacob, and with all our holy fathers, to go no more out.

I didn’t go on a mission to receive a testimony of the church. God had already made it known to me that the church was true before. I already knew it. But I came back with a testimony more full in his restored gospel. This gospel changes lives. The knowledge that we have of the plan He has prepared for us makes a huge difference and clears up the grey areas. This particular gospel makes a real and lasting difference in the lives that it touches. I know that it is true. I had to work to achieve that knowledge not only in my brain but also in my heart. But I would not give up my testimony of the church for anything. I know that God called prophets to the earth in these days and that he works through the Bible and the Book of Mormon together to inspire us to greater action and to learn of his plan of salvation. I am so grateful for the atonement that Christ made for us to give us a chance. He is my savior and my friend and I love him. I know that applying the gospel makes a real difference and I also know that we don’t have to be perfect. We just have to do what we can do. So if you find that you feel a little incompetent for something, look for what you CAN do and do it. Ask for the Lords guidance and for His help, and go to work. And he will magnify the efforts that you take. We are not alone and Jesus Christ enables great things to happen here.

The end for which each of us should strive is to be the person that you can become – the person who God wants you to be

I share that in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Monday, December 26, 2011 5:43 PM

FELIZ NAVIDAD! My last nica Christmas :(
I’m really going to miss it. There is kind of a special feeling here especially in this season.

The tree lights were my fave colors—turquoise and orange!

I feel a lot of pressure to make this blog entry a good one since it will be one of the last ones posted here.. But really as I try to think about summing my whole mission up the only thing that I can think of is that this continues on. It isn’t just for right now. Life goes on and so does the plan and mission of God. It will only change slightly as I return home. My work has continued up till the end - we were able to baptize and confirm an 18-year-old named Josué this Sunday. Talk about a great gift to give the Lord for His birthday - entering into the waters of baptism!

Josué had been coming to church for a little bit, going to activities with the youth and stuff and then he began asking which of the 6 missionaries would be coming to his house to prep him for baptism. Josué had kind of a rocky adolescence but he came out of it and had begun to think about getting his life into order because it had been all over the place. He wanted to get into religion so that he could make something of himself and try to fix the mistakes that he has made. His friend introduced him to the church and he said that although he did not know hardly anything about God before that, now he has felt something fill up within him that he didn’t know needed to be filled. He is always punctual for his appointments with us and has kept his commitments. That was one indication to me that he was serious about a change in his life - we have the promise that if we ask with a pure heart, believing that we will receive an answer, we will. The spirit will make all things known unto us. He was nervous his baptismal day but so happy to have made the change in his life - he was baptized by a man who is preparing himself to serve a mission starting in a few months.

The baptism of Josué—he´s a special kid.

The cool lights here in Nagarote.

I love nica Christmas..

President and his family singing for us.. it was beautiful. I love that they share that as a family.. they are very united and a great example to me.

We came together to eat the most delicious turkey feast ever along with REAL mashed potatoes... sooo delicious.. I was very happy with my secret Santa gift, as well. We were told we had to use a certain amount of money, and my person was totally uncreative and just gave me the money. And I could not have been happier!!!

Some wacky Elders - the one in the middle is the guy that’s helping us out with my parents coming.

Elder Denton - we found it hilarious that his dad is subscribed to my blog and decided it was just necessary

to take and post a photo to celebrate it!

Hna. Watson - she had been my companion earlier in the change.

Bus ride back to León with the zone.

Pics from when Martin and Walter - converts - came to visit me to do a wedding that I needed to have done. It was really great seeing them and talking to them. They have made a lot of progress in this year - Martin is even the ward missionary leader now which he is super happy about because he loves missionary work.

In church Sunday we had a great attendance and a lot of people that haven’t been coming showed up. I gave the last talk I would ever give in Nicaragua in my service as a missionary and it was bittersweet. It was cool during church just to look around and see the faces of dear friends and practically family. I would see them and think of the progress that they had made in just the short time that we have been here. It’s hard to say what’s in store for them individually - one looks at where they’ve come from and then imagines what could be ahead. I think of where I’ve been and I see an immense journey ahead of every person that I’ve ever met. But in all this uncertainty and ups and downs there is one constant, which is Christ.

My two faves and I - My “daughter”, Hna. Garff, and my dear Hna. Decoursey. They weren’t going to be at the conference but I am so happy that they were. It was soo good to talk to them and also to Sister Barret, who is new here in the mission.

In the Christmas Conference I was filled with complete happiness and at the same time a good amount of sadness. I couldn’t stop smiling but at the same time I just wanted to cry—hahahaha. It’s so funny what the last change of the mission does to a person. I didn’t know what to feel but it overall was a positive feeling - a feeling that despite the sadness is one that I would give anything to feel all the time. This was one of the best Christmases I’ve ever had. This is a special place, these are special people, and I think most of all if I could share anything with you all it would be my gratitude because that’s what I most feel right now. It has been very difficult for me to be in this weird transitional-ish stage that they call the last change. It plays tricks with your mind! Although I’ve got the good intentions and desires to stay though, I know that it is time for me to go. The Lord needs me somewhere else in some other kind of mission. I am so thankful to God for giving me this opportunity to get to know Jesus Christ and His plan and His way a little bit more. I am so thankful for all the things the Lord has blessed us with as a family and for the way I have seen Him bless those that I have met here in Nicaragua. I will always miss this place - next week is going to be very difficult! My whole world will be turned upside down! But I know I will be alright because I know in whom I have trusted. I can honestly say that this has been the best year and a half of my life so far! Thanks for sharing it with me!

My final comp, Hna. Dávila, the president and his wife (my momma & dad), and I. I am going to miss them and their example dearly. President has said that he will never stop being a part of our lives. I couldn’t be happier to hear that.