Monday, March 28, 2011

So ready to go to Finland

This week was super sweet. first i will tell you this funny lil story:
There's this super cool sister here named sisar rawle. She reminds me of all my sisters mashed into one. We have had some really great/helpful conversations about gospel and life and she has really helped me understand alot of things. She is openminded about all, but also has a solid testimony about it all. It helps me a lot.
But we had this lil game going of sneaking this glue stick into eachothers desk and other places... haha. So she somehow managed to sneak it in my pillow one night ( i think she gave it to one of the other elders) and i was like: there is no way to one up that. But then an elder gave me the idea of sending it to her house and having her sisters send it in her next package... haha it worked perfectly cuz she opened it today and was way confused and had no idea how i did it. haha pretty funny.
Another great thing this week was my interview with my teacher sisar beckwith... She is really something else.. its ridiculous. I write one liners in my journal most nights, but after that interview i wrote 5 pages! haha. I was just feeling soo good about life. She wanted to simulate being in finland at the end of a tiring day so we went outside in the dark, and it was raining super hard and she had us contact each other. It was the craziest thing... It didnt seem fake. I literally felt like i was in Finland, talking to a Finn about Jesus and Love. I had this overwhelming feeling of just pure love. It was incredible. I came out of it feeling so ready to go to Finland and teach people.
So overall this week has been really good. I still have times where i question why im here and what the heck im even doing, but since being here, my desire to teach, help, and just love the finnish people has multiplied.

Vanhin Merkley

Double Cold, Knee Deep Water, and the Power of Prayer...

Monday, March 28, 2011

I had an incredible week, many great learning experiences that have helped me become a better missionary and person. To start the week off on Tuesday and Wednesday we had a special capacitation with Pres. Madariaga on the 8 fundamental principles of PMG. I learned so much on the importance of prayer, The Book of Mormon, church attendance (definitely the hardest part for the Paraguayans), and the Spirit in conversion. It was a really uplifting start to the week, got me up in spirits and excited to get out and serve. I love our mission president, he is an incredible leader, mentor, helper, teacher, president, example, everything. I had the opportunity to talk to him after and just ask him for advice and help with improving myself as a missionary, and having the Spirit with me. I have learned so much on the mission already that has forever altered my life. I have understood new aspects of the gospel that have never sunk in as deep before. I am so thankful to be here in Paraguay serving. There´s nothing on earth i´d rather do, and i´m forever thankful for the knowledge and insights i´ve gained already, and hope to understand and expound on my knowledge every day.
We were able to teach a lot of lessons this week with a lot of new people. We are teaching an awesome 16 year old named Federico. He always plays soccer at the church, and has a genuine interest in the gospel. I was able to put my first baptismal invitation with him, and he accepted it and committed to do his part (read, pray, church, etc) in order to receive an answer and be baptized. Also on Wednesday night it was late and we needed to complete all our goals, and we found a group of around 6 younger teens (around 11 to 17) all hanging out and being a little rowdy. we went over and started talking and got to know all about them. We taught one of the coolest lessons I´ve ever been apart of about the power of prayer, and were able to get the whole group to sit down, all reverently folding their arms and listening, while I said a prayer. I know that the power of prayer is real, and that He is always listening to us, and willing to help us, if we have a sincere heart and desire to know. All we have to do is humble ourselves before Him, and plead for His help, and with faith we can learn, change, and serve. I have felt the prayers from home this week, and know that I am praying for you as well. It was a cool testimony builder for me on prayer.
I was cold this week in two ways. 1. I have had a cold the last few days, nose running like crazy, which has been frustrating at times, but such is life and isn´t nearly enough to slow the work down. 2. The weather has really cooled off, and it gets nice and cold, especially in the mornings. The rain here is insane, last night I honestly felt like I was under a shower head, and definitely as wet as if I was. Its funny to see all the Paraguayans look and us and think (and say), wow those Mormons are crazy! (haha) The streets flood every time, and last night we had to cross a flooded street in water knee deep. I always thought that missionaries exaggerated the phrase "walking through water knee deep" but I quickly found out it is true.
I've been surprised in how quickly the language comes for missionaries. Ive been in paraguay a little over 2 months (wow time flies) and I feel really good about Spanish. I can practically hold my weight and have good conversations in lessons and with members. Guaraní also has a big influence here, and so I´ve been working on that too. My comp knows a lot, and taught me many phrases, including "hendy la kabejurezá" which always makes the Paraguayans laugh and think i know Guaraní. Lets just say I am slowly mastering the art of deception when it comes to understanding and speaking Spanish and Guaraní.
I had a great week, I felt the power of prayer: personal, companionship, and those from home. Thanks for everything, I appreciate the kind messages and support. Keep me in your prayers. I love this work, and wouldn´t be here if I didn´t know it was true. Best of luck and may God bless you in the upcoming week.

Elder Babcock

Monday, March 21, 2011

Roller Coaster (not literally but emotionally, that would be against the rules)...

Monday, March 21, 2011

Hello to all!
This last week hasn't been the best one so far, I have had a lot of ups and downs physically, spiritually, emotionally, mentally, everything. But I am really excited for this next one, some big events are coming up in the near future that will definitely give me a boost. I have had a lot of great studying this week, best so far in the mission. Every morning I get really excited for my personal, companion, and language study. I have found out tons of great insights that have helped me improve my teaching and listening as a missionary. I have experienced some really personal, touching spiritual moments that have changed my life forever. Its just been a roller coaster ride of emotions this week, really testing me in every way. I have genuinely thought a lot about life in general this week, and the plan of salvation, and why every choice we ever make is important, eternally. I have always grown up in a great family and gone to church, which i am so grateful for. But in these short 4 months out here, my life has been forever altered. I have understood the importance of keeping the commandments, of LIVING the gospel, not just believing it, but actually proving to our Heavenly Father that we love Him through our works, and that we will do everything we can to return to Him. I have understood the importance of missionary work, and spreading His gospel around the world. I learned a new concept about missionary work, and that because we are not perfect, missionary work and service is actually part of our repentance process (James 5:20). Before the mission, I wanted to do whats right and I wanted to serve a mission. I didn't fully understand the importance of church, commandments, sacrament, faith, repentance, etc. But now, I really KNOW without a doubt the purpose of life, and KNOW what I need to do in order to return to His presence. I know that the commandments are what keep us happy, and that at times we will fall. None of us are perfect. But through our Savior, through baptism (through the sacrament for members), and through real changes in thoughts, actions, and desires, we can enjoy life to the fullest, and be FREE, in every essence of the word. At times I get really down on myself because I am not perfect, that I could have done more to be a better example to those around me, and that I cant do it, that life's too hard. But I know that my Redeemer lives, and that's all that matters. All I want to do is serve Him for the rest of my life.
I am eternally thankful for my Savior, Heavenly Father, the Spirit, family, church, mission, friends, companion, everything that I have been given. I have been beyond blessed. I love Paraguay, and the people I get to associate with every day. The mission is hard, but at the same time its really rewarding. Thanks for the messages, keep praying for me and the people here. I love you all and miss you. Best of luck this week, may God bless you.
-Elder Babcock

Some pictures for you...

Sent on March 21, 2011-

Walking down the Paraguayan streets.

After a rainstorm, flooded streets.

Me with the sunset.

My favorite pic so far- me with the tall grass, palm trees, Paraguayan setting.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Mission de Lago Blanche

Excerpts from recent letters - I would relate this part of my mission to climbing Lake Blanche by myself. I'm alone, talking does no good 'cause there is no one to listen. But I am surrounded by nature, someting I love - the people here, the food here. And while actually hiking is not particularly the fun part, you can always try and make it a fun part. Eventually you reach the top, majestic and beautiful - seeing people's eyes light up with the gospel, and serving the Lord. And I know in the end, seeing the Lake and the mountains will be worth it. I just need to work to get there and make the best of the hike. But I have help, Jesus Christ and my Father in heaven. Also, thank you for your help on this journey, you don't know how much it means to me. I'm just grateful for the opportunity to round a corner on the hike and be awed by a pretty meadow, or a pretty waterfall - seeing people's eyes and hearts lit up in the gospel and the joys the gospel has brought to families already in the church. Continue to pray for me, to continue to find the joys of the hike and to see the beauty of everything around me.
It's surprising how many can't read here or how little they have. But as long as they have their family, food and home, they are happy. And by food, I mean garbage, and by home, I mean 4 block walls with a rug on top! And they are happy. One word of advice for the people of the ward, for our family, and for everyone... Spend more time with your family. It's amazing here, 4 generations of people living in the same house, sell tamales on the street and practically have nothing. But they have a special grin on their face because they have what is most important. It's amazing how much people have in the U.S... fancy cars, big houses, lots of toys, and expensive clothes, and still are unhappy. Who okayed that? It's just a different type of world here. A world I would not like to live in, but a world I can look to for a basis of future family.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Los Perros

Lesson learned this week: Kick harder. So i haven't really had any major problems with dogs here, a few chase us, a few try and bite us... until i bought my bike. The dogs here, and like i said before, there are more dogs than there are people, LOVE bicycles. And by love i mean love attacking people on bicycles. On Tuesday i was riding, and a dog ran chasing us... got closer, and i kicked... and he got a hold of my shoe... he didn't really want to let go... eventually he did and everything was good... but the lesson learned, Kick Harder. Haven't had a problem since. I feel bad but like i always said as a child, they (my brothers) started it. Life is good here, went on exchanges with our zone leader, super awesome, its super great to take a break. Anyway really not much to say this week, really normal. It was a little discouraging, cause out of the three families we invited to church and accepted, no one showed. My companion said... Bien Venidos a la mission, nadie a la reunion sacremental! (Welcome to the mission, no one comes to sacrament meeting) Well I'm enjoying it here, it has been great weather and I'm having an adventure! A member took us out to lunch and asked what we wanted, my companion said burgers! Nothing like reminding you of home... But the hamburger tastes like bland sausage... But ketchup is the same here and it turned out all right. So if you could mom, can a Hires big H, or Salt city burger and ship it to me, thanks...
(Sometimes when Shaun starts his email, we can ask questions to him and have him reply. Question from Rocky - What is your bike like?) Its pink and purple, little kids bike, front brakes don't work, gears don't work, back brakes kinda work, seats falling apart, but it was super cheap, like twenty bones... cant complain. You better be riding my bike... Its the difference between wiping with a thorn bush and eating a dove chocolate. You better be riding my bike!
My favorite part of the day is studying the scriptures, history of the church and Jesus the Christ. The night is fun too when we visit recent converts and families we are working with. Contacting is just alright. Its fun when you get in with a family that is super ready to hear what we have. It's definitely an adventure, what i wanted, and I'm doing pretty good. Really the only thing i wish was better was Spanish, hopefully it will come, love you so much and got to go. :) Going to play soccer at the stake center with the rest of the missionaries... love the Mondays and the Sundays.
Elder Rhodes

The Sunday Miracle...

Monday, March 14, 2011
buen dia a todo

My week was not the best one, except for sunday. So, I will be focusing mostly on the good news, because I like to look at the glass half full. We have been working with this lady named Gabriella, who is awesome. She has 2 kids, but her boyfriend abandoned them and her kids are pretty crazy and disrespectful. Her parents are members, and she has a sister on a mission. She has had a really chaotic life, and things have been really bad recently, so her father asked if we could come over and teach her. We taught her the restoration and it was really spiritual. She even came to church this week which was a big deal. In Paraguay, church is a big struggle for the people. My comp says someone would get baptized before going to church, which is funny but at the same time not because its true and frustrating. But she is our main investigator right now and the highlight of our days is teaching her.
Speaking of church, we had so many miracles happen. The family Gaona came to church for the first time in 3 years. He used to be in the bishopric and also worked as the cleaner for the church. Their family was the heart and soul of Bella Vista. And then the church cut the job (around the whole area, maybe world not positive), and also the wife was excommunicated for something, and so they never came back to church. From what I know it was a really big deal, them going inactive. We have been visiting them often and trying to gain some friendship/trust with the missionaries and the members. And this week they came. He even said the opening prayer and it was so spiritual, and he says he is so happy to be back and wants to go and help us with investigators and inactives in the ward. It is a miracle, and I was really happy to be there on Sunday. Also, we have been visiting tons of inactive people in the ward, and at least 6 families that hadn't been to church in a long time came this last sunday, along with 2 investigators.
Sunday night also was a baptism for the other 2 elders in our ward. The two converts are incredible, one is Maria who is around 60 and is the lady that will for sure be a temple worker in a year from now. The other is Eduardo who is around 20, which its safe to say that hes the coolest person I've met so far in Paraguay. Great testimony already, made me cry when he bore his testimony at the baptism. President Madariaga and Hna Madariaga came to the baptism as well, it was so spiritual. About 60 people came and saw. I think our ward is about to explode with missionary work, one of the members told President "at last we have missionaries in bella vista that are working", so he is really happy with us. Its cool to see the blessings that follow when you are obedient. to be obedient, its "so hard to do, so easy to say" (Ben Harper quote). But its true, obedience leads to happiness. I think thats one of the most important things I've learned so far in the mission, how obedience isn't restrictions, its what protects you and allows us to be happy, now and forever.
I love the mission, I love being here in Paraguay. At times I get "trunky" because I miss my family and friends so much, but being a missionary is the best decision I've ever made, and I am already seeing the blessings of serving.
Thanks to you all, I love you and miss you. Keep writing me and keep me in your prayers, I really appreciate it.
Elder Babcock (va-coh is how a paraguayan would say it)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Taylor's Farewell

Taylor's farewell is coming up in 2 weeks! Here is the address to the church and also the address to our house. We hope to see you at both.

Church: 2115 E. Creek Road (Merkley's and Rhodes old chapel)
Time: 9:30 A.M.
Date: 3/27

Our home: 2230 E. Pine Creek Circle

See you soon!


So there's nothing like the feeling of love, and there is no feeling of love than someone wanting to be with you! Luckily for us that was on Tuesday morning... A small amigo decided to join us in the night. We named him Picosito "Lil Spicy"... and he lived in our couch for three days until yesterday we moved him into the trash! It was surprisingly easy to sleep with a mouse in our room, but he didn't understand how to use the bathroom, and he found his way into my clothes drawer... had to let the little guy go. So Mexico is just getting better, honestly i haven't seen the improvement in my Spanish like i would have wanted at three weeks in Mexico, so I'm going to try with all of my might this week to learn. I feel like I'm paying attention way good and then i lose track and realize i haven't heard a word they have said, and other times i feel like I'm anxiously involved in the conversation and can speak fluently. Its crazy here. I think the craziest thing here is the people. I absolutely love em. Its super crazy... get ready for it Taylor, there are people riding around on their bikes all day selling PAN. It costs three pesos, or a quarter, and you can have any sort of doughnut... cake... random breads with sugary buttery spreads... its absolutely fantastic... too fantastic. I carry three pesos every day to treat myself with a piece of this heaven.
My day starts at six thirty with a wake up and exercise for thirty minutes, followed by a icy shower [I gave up on heating the water with those stick things, it was too much work, i would rather just take an icy shower. Its actually kinda nice, it wakes you up super good. Then hour of personal study, hour of companion study where we practice lessons and an hour of language study. Leave the house at eleven. We contact and follow up on appointments, which almost always fall through, and eat a mountain of food for lunch at two with members. Continue with work the rest of the day, get to the house nine to nine thirty and lights out at ten thirty. We are super obedient, follow all the rules. Anyway Mexico is pretty good, i was bearing my testimony to a guy on a bench, when i look to my left and there is a cloud of dust, trash, and dark clouds. Take note it was almost perfectly tranquil before, and then it hit, and hurt. Lot of dust, and we couldn't do anything but just keep on working. What an adventure! Desserts are fruits or cakes or ice cream or flan cakes. Really everything. Really here is almost exactly like Ecuador Guayaquil. There are rich people, usually the bad people... people that get by alright, and the dirt roads one room. There are big supermarkets and nice car dealerships, and people living practically in a box. Its definitely an adventure and definitely an opportunity. Its strange, really hard, but I'm not sure i would want to do anything else. Peace.

Elder Rhodes

Monday, March 7, 2011

Fish Brainz and the villa policía . . .

Monday, March 7, 2011

Hello to all!

So cool news this week was that I am staying in Bella Vista A another change. It was a great relief because I really like my area, its a place I could see myself living in...don't worry after my 2 years I will be coming back to the United States, the point is that i really like it here. Like I mentioned the week before Pres. Arnold of the Seventy came to our mission and basically we cant do anything anymore. Some of the bigger rules were: no more zone activities (therefore no more big soccer games with other missionaries), guitars (which surprisingly I am happy about, because having a guitar in our house was distracting, because I would always want to play it), no soccer with members (basically no soccer at all ever), no leaving our area no exceptions. thats the hardest rule because our cyber is awful, and we only have one place for food which is tiny and only has bare essentials. We´ll see what happens there. Overall the mission is going to be different, but for the better, and I am excited to see the success that will follow because of our obedience!
I had a fun experience on a collectivo this week. My comp knows a lot of Guaraní and has taught me a bunch of useful phrases so that I can "fake" it. I had a solid fake conversation with this awesome bus driver, all in Guaraní. he was convinced that I knew Guaraní and ended up giving me back some of the money for getting on, just because I was talking Guaraní with him. I felt really cool haha.
I also had an awful experience on a collectivo this week. Many of the members had been warning me that the police were doing random checks on buses to make sure that people were carrying their ID. I had been meaning to start carrying it, but I kept putting it off. Yesterday we visited the bishop and he also told us to carry it. So I made a note saying right when I get home I am putting my info in my bag. Knowing my luck the bus taking us home, directly after that visit, the police stops our bus and checks everyone for ID...Olson and I were in the middle of the bus, and the cops came in from both sides. One of them asked for Olson's and he had his. Then after, the other cop asked for mine... not knowing what to and trying to avoid getting thrown into prison, I told him that the other cop had my papers. It was pretty dang scary, but the guy kept going and eventually the bus pulled away and all was well. Definitely dodged a bullet there. And just so you know, I am now carrying all my information necessary.
So I ate fish brains this week. Without a doubt, the nastiest thing here so far. The fish here is supposedly not too good to eat, because the rivers are super polluted, let alone the brains of the fish, but it was a fun adventure and made a cool story. It is now sitting comfortably at the number one spot of worst foods eaten yet.
However, I am really loving Paraguay, it is such a unique country and culture. At times, I can honestly say that I like Paraguay more than the US. The language is coming along really well, I can practically hold my weight now and convince people i know whats going on. How glorious the day will be when I can just chat and understand, but until then, I live and learn.
Thanks for the emails, I love hearing from you all. Pray for me and the people here. Until next week, best of luck to all!
Con amor,
Elder Babcock

Sunday, March 6, 2011

La Mission

Really keeping up with the same things, falling asleep to rap, and waking up to the screeching of a bus and the noise or cars! I don't know if a single car here has a muffler, Its like putting my ear up to a blow horn at all times! But hey what an experience! So This week went a lot a bit better than the last, i am noticing just a little bit of improvement with my Spanish, i wish my companion would correct me more, but it will come eventually! I'm studying hard and walking long. I haven't bought my bicycle yet, but that's probably a good thing, cause they feed us sooo much here and i need the exercise! Yesterday i ate at a members house, she served one of her favorite items... Its fried fat, like skin and fat fried to a crisp, like it kinda hurts your teeth to eat it, and we put it in a tortilla with avocado, crema... also very fattening, and salsa. I think the salsa is there so you cant taste anything, your mouth is just on fire, but that's the way they like it! And it had its consequences after.... if ya know what i mean! :) And they give you like four of these tacos, with a mountain of rice, once you finish, if they don't automatically give you seconds, when they ask you have to say yes. If you say no they say you don't like it, or your a tiny eater and although they don't get mad, its just not the culture to eat one serving. (which is really like 5) They almost always feed us dessert which is awesome. I figure that if i don't eat breakfast, or dinner i will be okay, even though i have gained weight, maybe four or five pounds. So yeah what a culture, i like the people, i like the food, and the experience is not bad. We have running water, but its freezing, I'm sick of filling up the bucket every morning and heating it up, so I'm just taking ice showers now. The water runs for like two minutes really fast and then stops for like three minutes, kinda weird but not bad. The bed bugs are okay, i washed my sheets today and I'm going to spray some raid on the mattress, maybe it will work! but not too bad. We cook for ourselves breakfast and dinner, if we want, eggs, cereal, which is never crisp cause of the humidity, kinda like eating a mush. I am sending a letter here soon, there are few members that go to the US to study every day and I'm going to drop it off with them. Anyway what an experience, I'm doing a lot better this week, its definitely still a struggle a lot because i miss you all soo much. We have some fechas bautismal the thirteenth of march i think they will follow through! Anyway take care i love you all!

Elder Rhodes