Monday, June 27, 2011

1/4 - Tie burning


1/4 ceremony - Tie burning

Matamoros 6 more weeks


Chin! (cool!) One quarter of my mission has passed me by! I can tell you one thing, either its scolding hot here or I’m getting used to the weather... It’s super interesting, it felt nice and cool one night just before going to bed, don’t get me wrong, it was burning hot... compared to the day it was fantastic... decided to check the temperature... 91 F. Yikes 91 and it felt fresh? It gets chilly in the night time, and when I look at the temperature... 87 F. ha-ha goodness its hot here. One experience I had this week that was funny, contacting and contacting, riding bikes and finally we were allowed into someone’s home. It was really cold... air conditioning (not normal) and leather seats. Well as we have all seen in old movies the grandma that heats the stones to put at the feet of the queen or whatever. After entering the house and cooling down. I pulled out my scriptures and they felt crazy hot, and didn’t loose their heat for a long time.
Another hot experience this week, as being my quarter of my mission mark, it was time for a tie burning. well there was a lot of wind so we had to do it inside, but it was still a good experience. Nice to enjoy a small moment burning a tie. It’s crazy that a fourth of my mission has passed by... really quick and interesting to look back on the things I have done. I’ll be home before I know it. I had my first major sewing job this week after a sneaky little... well big dog, while we were contacting stuck his head through the fence and bit my leg. Ha-ha, after the mom came out and we asked if her dog bites and she said "no he’s really friendly" ha-ha.... :) Thou shalt not lie? no just kiddin. Well exchanges this week, and I’m going to be here in Barrio Buena Vista II another month and a half with Elder Lopez. I’m learning a lot from him and I hope I can be a great representative of the lord. This week we had the opportunity to confirm Andres, the convert from last week, with the Holy Ghost. Times like these are when You feel great as a missionary. I was reading in the scriptures this week and found one I really liked. Its Alma 30:9

De modo que si un hombre deseaba servir a Dios, tenia el privlegio; o mas bien, si creia en Dios, tenia el privlegio de servirlo...

not exactly sure what it means in english, but here’s a rough translation

Now if a man desired to serve God, he had the privilege to do so; or rather, if he believed in God he had the privilege to serve him...

What a privilege it is to be a missionary in these times. Love you so much and continue to pray for me. Elder Shaun Rhodes

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Pictures from Elder Merkley

There aren't many, but I'm happy to get these few. Hopefully more will be posted soon...

Wow, and I thought John was tall... look at his companion!

Finnish speaking pride

June 22, 2011

This week my Finnish speaking pride has taken a few hits. In Finnish Tavata means to meet and Tappaa means to kill. Others understand how crazy the words need to change in order to make sense in a sentence. I on the other hand am still figuring this out the hard way. Instead of saying "We want to meet with you" I said "We want to kill you." Luckily it was a young guy and he just laughed and said: I think you mean Tavata. Oh man I felt stupid. I was trying to think of something clever to say back to make me look less stupid, but there was really no redeeming myself at that point.

Another blow was when I was traveling home on the metro and I decided to try my luck with a little contacting. I started a little conversation and I was feeling pretty good at first. Until I asked her the question: So, do you believe in Jesus Christ? And she answered with a: Sina puhut hounasti! Which translates to You speak poorly. Hmmm... ok, not the answer I was looking for. I took a step back and tried to recollect myself. I stepped forward again and tried to explain that I know I speak poorly but it is important to me and that’s why I am here. She responded with a: I don’t speak english. I thought Well thats good cuz I was not speaking English. I’m maybe not speaking Finnish but I’m definitely not speaking english. And at that point, I just sort of slunk away. Haha, Finns, you gotta love em.

But I got over my hurting pride. I know I can’t speak yet, but am definitely better than I was 5 months ago. When people say things like that you can take them two ways: Let them bring you down or let them push you to learn more. And, seeing as I am here for 2 years, I don’t really have a choice but to pick the latter and keep trying to learn this chaotic language. Yay for lessons learned!

I had a really interesting experience this week of teaching a person who speaks absolutely no english or finnish. He came to church, but nobody could translate for him... so I just took him in a room and showed him the gospel picture book. After church we google translated a few basic words and so he could understand that we are trying to find a translator for him. It felt like playing charades. With all the hand motions and body movement that was involved with our conversations. Even though it was not the most eloquent teach, he was really grateful for the effort and he is going to come again next week.

My testimony is doing pretty well. I am reading the Old Testament and for some odd reason, it is really helping with some of my questions. I’m realizing how old this church is, and also how things seem confusing on our perspective but when you look at the big picture and how God sees it, the little things that bother me do not really matter.

I also sewed something this week. Mom, thanks for teaching me. It doesn’t look great, but it definitely gets the job done....

We had a baptism of a really great guy from Africa. He has been great to teach and completely golden. I gave a talk during the baptism. It was a pretty cool experience. His name is Chigozia and he is from Nigeria. We contacted into him on the train. He has been trying to find a job and at one point, he was kicked out of his apartment and had no place to go but he still met with us and had been keeping his commitments. He came to church after sleeping only 1 hour because he found a little night job. Not only that but he also brings friends along. He is always smiling and in such a great mood. I do not know how he does it. It seems as if I learned more from him than I taught him. It is really cool to be a part of situations like these.

The days are super long, the sun is almost always out. It’s pretty great weather and I’m havin a pretty good time.

Thanks for all you do. I miss you all.

Love you

Vanhin Merkley

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Wow! Surprise Week!

This week started out just absolutely boring and normal. Thursday came around and I was thinking I really dont have anything to write mom and dad this week. What could we do. Friday started out just as normal as any other day. Went to eat at the house of a member and at about 2:30 my companion said "I think I’m going to call the secretaries, to find out if my converts have a date to be sealed." Then he said no and I told him just do it. Well he called and they called back with the information. They had a date to be sealed in the temple, which means My companion and I get to go to the Temple. Well it turns out they were going to be sealed the following day... Saturday. Okay... and the bus leaves at 4:30 for Monterrey. We biked the thirty minutes back home, threw some stuff together and left for them temple. Arived in the offices in the Mission offices in Monterrey at about ten o clock and went straight to bed. Woke up Saturday, straight to the Temple, and it was packed so we waited for our session at 1 o clock. Just happens to turn out that this Saturday our ward went to the temple too... Unexpected and nice to see the bishop and members :). Well it was absolutely fantastic. Never expected to be able to go to the temple this soon, but what a great opportunity. Took the 6:30 bus to Matamoros and on the bus I thought, when was the last time we ate? So we bought some empenadas on the bus and arrived back home a little past bedtime 11 thirty ish. Anyway what an opportunity.
The people here mom have four names, they keep their maiden names. For instance my name would be Robert Shaun Rhodes Gordon. So My companion is Baurak Ale Lopez Bañuelos Lopez is from his dad. The older generations say it differently like my name would be Robert Shaun Rhodes of Gordon. Interesting, makes it just a titch harder to memorize names :). Luckily they are all the same, Juan Jose Marie Jesus Guadalupe Conception. My favorite name that ive heard is Hermosa concepcion (Beautiful conception?) haha. Thanks for sending a package.
This week we had another opportunity to have a baptism. His name is Andres and has been an investigator since september. His girlfriend is a member and it was a really special occasion to see him be baptised. Hopefully in one year I will have the opportunity to his sealing. Anyway not too much crazy to say except that I know that the temple is true and I wished I would have gone more before my mission, and I’ve promised myself I will go more often after. Keep it real

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Soledad Baptism, the walk to Cañada Garay ...

Monday, June 13, 2011

Hello to all!
Well, another great week. First and foremost I wanted to give the worlds biggest thank you to my wonderful mother who sent me 2 big packages with tons of great clothes, letters, pictures, candy, food, etc! She is just the best mom in the whole world, without a doubt.
We were able to baptize again this week, her name is Soledad. She is the Soledad from the letters back in Feb-April that we were working with for a long time to get baptized. She has been going to church every week for 6 months, is 13, living with her Grandma (member) and Uncles (members), and we taught her all the lessons numerous times, and she just never wanted to get baptized, even though she knew it was all true. Coincedentally, right when Elder Olson left, she decided she wanted to get baptized, so we went back over all the lessons, and everything went well, and we had an awesome baptismal service on Sat. the 11th. Her uncle Gerraldo baptized her, he just got home from his mission. It was a really cool and spiritual service, and I know she will be a really strong member. We had a great day at church on Sunday. We confirmed Soledad and Christian as members of the church during sacrament meeting, and also Christian was interviewed by the bishop on Sat. and recieved the Aaronic Priesthood on Sunday. It was so cool, Christian is looking great, he even went to our baptism for Soledad just to watch and be with the members. Also, Christian and Nelida (our family we have been working with for a while) went to church, and are really progressing, and are planning on getting married and baptized at the end of the month. It would be really awesome to be a part of that day for them, and if they kept preparing after baptism for a year, I could go to the temple with them. They are incredible too, I love them. And to top the Sunday all off, Hermano Benitez went to church, who used to be an active member, elders quorom president, but went inactive and hasnt been to church in a really long time. We have been working with him ever since I came here, and he finally turned around and went to church. That was one major goal of mine when I came, and it was really cool to see how happy he was at church and how happy all the members were. Good Sunday.
As many of you already know, its been a rough little while with my companion. We have not always seen everything eye-to-eye, and things have been pretty low and rough. We had to walk about 40 minutes away on Friday to another area to get baptismal clothing, and so while we were walking we started talking...long story short we fixed up a lot of holes in our relationship, and even though we still have many differences, things are better. Thanks for the love, advice, support and prayers. Communication is the key for a good relationship, and I have learned a lot already from Elder Soto.
To end this letter, I wanted to bear my testimony on service. We clapped at a house and got the usual "otro dia". But we decided to be persistent, and the lady said she was leaving, so we offered to walk with her and carry her bags to her destination. Little did we know we were in for a long walk, but we got talking and built a great friendship. Instead of walking away, we were able to serve her, and along the way talk about Christ and what he has done for us, and continues to do today through a living prophet. Who knows where this story of service will lead to, but even if thats all that happens, I know that its true...When we are in the service of others, we are also in the service of our God. I am so thankful for being able to be on a mission, its the best thing thats ever happened to me. I have seen a new light in my life that I never knew existed. I am greatful for being able to be with Elder Soto, he is a great missionary and I am learning more and more every day.
Thanks for the love and support. Keep me and the people here in your prayers.
-Elder Babcock

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Sand, Cookies, Buckets, & Baptisms

Hermana Maura

Filling the Font with buckets

Mickey Mouse Gordita

Stuck in the Sand

Shadow motorcycle (No, I didn’t ride it)

The sun & Shaun

The Joy of an Electric Fan

After four months of being in the same apartment... and about two weeks of sweating 24 hours a day... Finally we got 1 Fan. Its only one... buy how great it is. I learned a few things this week. Mexican Karaoke does not sound good when trying to go to sleep, and when mixed with alcohol... imagine. Second. Never thought I would give a dog a bath :) Glad I had a little experience with that. It’s funny - my companion jokingly said "If you need any help... mop, broom, wash you dog...we are here to serve..." Yeah they accepted. My companion said "I’m not going to wash their dog".... wait..Why offer? So I washed their dog :) An experience. I also took apart the inside of a car and made emergency cookies. Cookies that with one cookie... you last the whole day without food. It was pretty fun, I never knew there was such a thing :) Most importantly this week we had a baptism. Hna Maura she is 26 years old and has a goal to read the Book of Mormon before her confirmation this domingo (Sunday). What a goal! She also expressed she would like to serve a mission. It’s something special to hear that. It was also very special to fill the baptismal font with buckets. Long story short the pump broke and the other option is buckets! She had a fear of water going into her ears.. took a leap of faith and was baptised three times! What torture :)
Something else muy special this week is it was the first time I have heard any investigator say " Hazme sentir de la veracidad del libro de mormon" "Help me feel of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon" WOW! Has been an investigator two weeks and is now reading in Enos.... I guess that’s alright. It was special this week, Jessica Barajas, recent convert of three weeks bore her testimony, something very special to be a part of. Another special part of church this week was that an hermana Ramirez and Hna Lourdes came to church. Haven’t been to church in four years! What a suprise. Its nice to see some of your work pay off.
Having just a grand ole time with my friends here in Mexico :) Love you all and am soo greatful for all that you’ve done for me. Miss you and love you. Peace
Elder Rhodes

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Finally in the Mission Field

Hello everyone. This week has been pretty crazy. The flights were good, it was great to talk to everyone. Sometimes I forget that people are still at home living normal lives. Anyways, it was great talking to you. Then from the airport in Oaxaca we rode a couple of vans to Burger King which is right across from the temple. Then we went to the mission home. Then slept there it was scorching hot (and is every single night). Then the next day we pretty much did nothing they talked to us about lots of stuff in spanish that I didn´t understand that´s about it. Then we went to a restaurant buffet style place its supposedly like the best place to eat. It was alright till I threw up. Haha but I haven´t gotten sick since so that´s good. Then that night I rode a bus with 2 other Elders to Ixtapec. It was like a 6 hour bus ride but I took a dramamine before cause everyone warned me that I would get sick cause the roads are so windy. It was good though then we arrived here in Ixtapec at about 1 AM. Then the zone leaders picked me up, then I slept at their house that night. Then the next morning after taking my first bucket shower ever we went to zone conference and I met up with my Comp. Elder Lopez. He is from Monterrey Mexico. He is a really hard worker and a good teacher and he speaks english too which is great for when I cançt say it in spanish I can just ask him.

So I am in Ixtapec. It is a relatively new area to the mission and the last missionaries that were here didn't leave any leads so we had to start from scratch. We have been going around to members´ houses and meeting them and getting references. We got 14 references this week which is really good. The members all seem really cool except the thing about being here and not being able to understand is that everyone sounds the same and says the same things haha. But they seem nice and try to help me with my spanish. The food is good its almost always a piece of meat that is really thin and dry and cold with refried beans and either rice or this macaroni pasta stuff. It´s Not too bad, not good, but not bad. We actually have had a few really good meals, I guarantee mom and dad you would be jealous of some of the tacos we have had. Along with every single meal there is always a fresh huge stack of corn tortillas and I know how dad loves those. And there are always avocados and no joke the worlds best mangos. I wish I could somehow send you some for Spoon Me then business would skyrocket. The area is real hot. I have no idea what it is degree-wise but I would guess around 90 but with humidity too, and we are walking all day long. There is never a time when I am not sweating. But I am getting used to it. The people all live in shacks. Well, we in the US of A would call them shacks. Almost every house has dirt floors and just torn up walls and every house is crazy messy. I will send pictures of our apartment just as an example... sometime. And ours is really clean compared to others. Ours is filthy. We had a few lessons this week but like I said, we were talking to members most of the time. We were talking to one member who just had a son-in-law pass away it was really sad she started crying while we were talking to her. I couldn´t understand at the time what she was talking about but afterwards my comp told me. My most commonly used question by far is Qué Pasó(what happened). We will sit in a lesson for like 1 hour and I will act like I know what´s going on and smile and whatnot, then right when we leave the house i say Qué Pasó? Haha I bet it´s frustrating for my companion but he is being patient and good thing he is a great teacher. He told me that during one of our lessons the lady told me that I had eyes like Jesus haha so that´s the best spanish compliment I´ve had in my life.

Yesterday we were at one of the churchs (we are in 2 wards) and I was kinda sleeping a tiny bit for just like 1 minute and I looked up and 4 people were staring at me and I looked to the side and there is a guy who knows some english (he is a really funny guy) and he wrote on a piece of paper ¨Do Not Sleep. ¡Please!.¨ Haha it was pretty embarassing but come on give a guy a break. But now I can´t sleep at church even for 2 minutes.

I am happy to be hear, I know it is for the right reason. I look forward to the time when I am better with the language.


Thursday, June 9, 2011

Christian´s Baptism, and working through the differences ...

Monday, June 6, 2011

Hello to all!
First and foremost, I wanted to wish a happy birthday to both my parents, who within the past 2 weeks have had birthdays, so congrats to the best parents in the world!
Well, where do I begin? Such a crazy and eventful week, with so little time...But I`ll do my best to say as much as a can with this little time I have. Christian, our investigator that we have had for the last 2 months, more or less, was baptized last night. It was an incredible night, definitely one of the most spiritual moments of my life. Throughout the week, as he was preparing himself for baptism, many doubts began to come up, a lot of temptations for him, loss of support from his family (his dad left him when he was young, and his mom lives in Argentina). However, he made it to this special day, and it was a truly incredible experience. Elder Morgan, who is a missionary in our ward, but not our area, baptized him. To conclude the baptismal service, I asked Christian if he wanted to share his testimony, and he did. He went up there, and bore the strongest testimony I may have ever heard. He testified on overcoming trials, on friendship, on the truthfulness of this church, the love and support of the ward, etc. And to end his testimony he said to all the people there, translated of course, "I am excited to become one of you friends, brothers, member of the true church, and a future elder." That was about the point where the Spirit really hit me, and the pure joy I felt in being blessed enough to be one of the missionaries to find such a prepared person to accept the true gospel. He brought me to tears when he talked about his desires to serve a mission, that would just be too awesome. He is a great kid with a rock solid testimony. He was disapointed when we told him the waiting period from membership to a mission is at least 1 year, because he wants to get out and serve now. If all works out well with him, I could be able to go to the temple with him in a year. I guess going out an doing visits with us will have to do for now :). I think its safe to say, it was the best moment of my mission.
Things are going well here... With my companion, we are working hard to find similarities and let the missionary work solve our differences. It has been a good trial for me, and I try to look on the bright side instead of the negatives. For example, my Spanish is getting great!
Thanks for the messages, prayers, and support from home. You guys are great, keep me, my companion, and the people of Paraguay in your prayers.
Love you guys,
Elder Babcock

Some Pictures for you...

Friday, June 3, 2011

I have no idea what you just said

All is well here. Not to much to report.... We do have a baptism this friday and i am going to be the one to actually baptize her. haha. It will be in Finnish so its a little sketchy though. The lady is from Russia and super golden. She has had absolutely no problems and has fully embraced everything so far. We always teach at this older members house... I love the member. I can get her crackin up pretty hard when i give one of my "I have absolutely no idea what you just said" looks... haha. She is really great.
Me and Vanhin Gamblin have been ridiculously late this week. It is really hard to be organized in this city which some missionaries call "the jungle" but we are doing a little better than we were. haha man, we have had some slightly intense moments. But mostly, we get along pretty well and get a lot of things done.
This week we taught this guy who we met by him talking to us... Later we found out that he had a feeling to leave his work and walk down this random road which led him straight to us.. pretty wild. He is super solid and we hope to set a baptisimal date with him next teach. Finland is doing really well with missionary work... Im excited to see what the new prez is like. Our current Prez leaves in a month.
I went to a thrift store today and bought some dope pants and a coin purse... Im totally european these days.
A mission is a roller coaster. And it sucks sometimes but other times, you see the powerful affect this can have on people. In foreign countries it is easier to see the power. Not everyone is a mormon. Some people travel way far to get to church. Some only sleep for an hour before the leave for church. And you realize that they love and cling to this gospel, the same gospel that we have always taking advantage of. We are preaching a pretty great thing...
Love you all and stuff.