Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Luque Stake Conference​= best day ever

Monday, August 29, 2011
Hello to all!
Another great week. things are just flying by here, I am loving my new area in Aregua A. Elder Patterson and I are doing fantastic together, teaching SO many lessons. Like I said last week, I sure have a great testimony of hard work and good animo. All is well.
We are teaching a lot of people right now. Our zone has a goal of 4 baptisms for each companionship in the zone for September. It is a pretty big goal, but we are working hard to achieve it. We are teaching a man named Hugo, who the missionaries have been teaching for months, but has always been really scared to be baptized. We had a really spiritual lesson on the Restoration, and he is getting baptized this Sat.!!! I am really excited, he is a great guy and has a ton of support. Its always a blessing to see the changes in people and their desires to follow the Savior by being baptized.
On Sat. night, we had to go into Luque as a zone for a meeting with a guy in the Stake to talk about missionary work. While we were waiting there, I look up and see Christian walk in! It was soooo awesome to talk to him, he was there for the stake priesthood thing, and showed up a little early. He is great. Then, a few minutes later, Cristhian walks in...double bonus. So I got to talk to them for a few minutes, and they are doing great! Christian (the 20 year old one) has been going to institute, stake choir, going out on divisions with the missionaries, and even missionary prep, he is working hard to get ready to go on a mission. Cristhian is doing great, also doing visits with the missionaries,and him and Nelida are feeding the missionaries on Sundays!
Then on Sunday, we went to Stake Conference. I was welcomed there by tons of great friends from Bella Vista, my old area (we are in the same stake). It was so cool. No offense at all to my home ward in Utah, cuz I love them, but I felt like I was going "back home" to my home ward there. I was there for so long, and gained so many friendships. In stake conf., both Cristhian and Christian were sustained to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood, and they stood up in front of the 1000plus people. Pres. y Hna. Madariaga both talked, along with other stake leaders. Then after the conference, I was able to participate in both of them receiving the Melchizedek Priesthood in a little room in the stake center, even in the circle when Christian. I was hit with an overwhelming feeling of joy, gratitude, and love. I remember how great it felt when they were baptized, but all that magnified by a million seeing them receive the priesthood. I cant even imagine how great it will be when they all enter into the temple. They are some of the most incredible people I will ever know in my life, and I can't explain my gratitude for being able to see those changes made in their lives.
I am so thankful for the restored gospel in my life. I am thankful that the priesthood keys were restored through Joseph Smith to bless us and to help us receive saving ordinances, which are possible only through the priesthood. It was an awesome week, its been cool to look back and see the great things that have already happened in the mission. And, to be honest, it just keeps getting better and better. Love you guys at home! Keep me and the people here in your prayers.
Until next week,
Elder Babcock
ps. happy bday ash!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Changed to Aregua A! (but still in Luque)

Monday, August 21, 2011
Hello to all!
So, the biggest and craziest news of the week was that when we received changes last Monday, my companion Elder Hatch got called to be a trainer in Laurelty, and so I got changed to a new area. Its crazy to think that I was in Bella Vista for 6 months, and Laurelty for 6 weeks. I was a little sad because we had some great investigators that were at the point of being baptized, and after a hard 6 weeks of work, I was changed. I loved Laurelty, learned a lot, and know that the Lord needed me in another place...and that place would be Aregua A. My companion is Elder Patterson from Canada, and he is awesome. He just recently completed a year in the mission, and so its been great working with somebody pretty new as well. Right of the bat we gained a great friendship and things got off great. I am in the ward in Aregua, the same ward where Elder Colligan started, which is pretty awesome. He was in a different part of Aregua, but its been cool to tell ward members about our friendship before the mission, and the people here really loved him.
On Tuesday we went around and said goodbye to all the great people I had gotten to know in my short time in Laurelty, and it was sad to say goodbye. There are some great people there, I will make sure to send pictures next week because i forgot my camera. On Wednesday, we went into Asuncion for changes, and right from the start Elder Patterson went out and taught 10 lessons in our first day! We teach really well together, and have good chemistry working with each other. The change before, there were a bunch of weird things that happened in Aregua, so we are basically reopening the area and starting from scratch. We brought a few investigators church and have a few people progressing towards baptism in September.
My companion and I were talking, and we realized that because of our great attitudes and sheer hard work, we saw more success in one week in terms of numbers than either of us have realized in our missions. It isn't that we hadn't been working hard before, but it was our positivity when approaching houses and lessons. I have a really strong testimony on the power of a strong, unified companionship, and I feel like we will do many great things in this great area.
I had a really different week, with changes and all, but I am loving the mission more than ever (I feel like I say that a lot, but its true). It feels so good to see the Spirit working through us, and to see the changes my Paraguayan brothers and sisters start to make in their humble lives. I love missionary work, and even though things crazy happen in the mission (like being changed after being in an area for a short time), I know they happen for a reason. I know that Jesus Christ is at the head of missionary work, and the Church itself. Its a great day to be alive and to be in the world in these latter-days.
Since I am still in Luque (as in the Luque zone), we have stake conference this next Sunday. And, Christian and Cristhian, who were baptized with me in Bella Vista, will be receiving the Melchizedek (?? I never wanted to admit this, but Spanish is killing my English memory) Priesthood, and I got changed back into the same stake, so I will be able to see them there. And they don't know I will be there, so its going to be an awesome surprise. I am really excited.
Well, thanks for everything, keep me and my companion in your prayers and the people here. Love you guys!
Until next week!
Elder Babcock

Sunday, August 28, 2011

You want us to teach your family?


This week was good. It seems like I start all my emails off like that.... It’s like how mom would always ask me about my day and all I could think of was good. But it’s the truth. It was not a bad week, but it wasn’t a extraordinarily amazing week, it was just good. Good is a good word. Me and my companion have been getting along well this week. I now think I know why we stayed together for 6 more weeks. I have really worked on changing my attitude towards him and the work and I realized that a lot of the problems came from my own negativity. Humans are really funny in that they always think, ok once I get a new companion, life will be good. But then they get a new companion and they find another problem like ok, now, once I get used to this area, life will be good. And they keep doing this until uh-oh! They´re dead. There is a sweet quote by the Buddha that says: There is no way to happiness, happiness is the way. And it’s true. Once you make the choice: ok screw it, I’m gunna be happy with where I am at now, you suddenly realize, hey life is way better. But, it is super hard to do all the time and I am still working on it.

Finnish keyboard has (öä) and also a little swedish (å) but nobody likes the å. Little fun fact: Finland has two national languages, Finnish and Swedish, and all the street signs are in both. Now you know!

We are teaching this Russian with a cute Asian baby that I think I have mentioned before and it is all going well. Hopefully things will work out for her baptism in 2 weeks. The new Mission Prez wants the missionaries to find families and it will be good to get a mother and child. Because the mother and child reunion is only a motion away.... No, but seriously. We have also found 2 other families who we are going to teach this next week. They both have young kids and we are really excited to meet with them. One of the families we met while tracting... On a mission you deal with a lot of rejection and sometimes when people say yes you don’t know how to handle it. This is how I felt while tracting into this family. They said they were interested in learning more and in my head my eyebrows raised and I was like: "Wait?!? Really...? You mean, your NOT a crazy person and you actually want us to teach you and your family. Woooow. Ok. Um. I don’t really know what to do, I’ve never really gotten this far before...." Of course this is a slight exaggeration, but oftentimes I really do feel so thankful and I can’t really express it well enough and I end up saying Oh... thank you so much.... over and over. It is really important to not get in a rut and to have faith in finding people, because you never know who is prepared to accept the gospel.

Winter is coming. It is still warm, but getting cooler. I miss you all. Be safe. Those of you starting school (haha suckers...), work hard.

Love you all—Vanhin John Lythgoe Merkley

Shaun's Update

Wow. This week creeped by, I think it was the bad feelings. Everything started out really well this week, I had more of a desire to learn and understand who really is my compañero. His name is Elder Calva, and it’s taken me along time to get to know him. It seems like every question I ask him I get a "well why do you want to know that" answer. But I was determined. He is twenty years old, has two older brothers and two younger sisters. He talks really slow and tries to be really spiritual. The truth is it’s a great thing to do, but for me when someone is talking softly, slowly and with big silences, I get bored. So were looking for a balance. His favorite music is metal Gothic, when asking if that was the style where they painted their nails black and used mascara... he responded, "I didn’t use mascara" haha. What an adventure. After a few days of contention, we decided something needed to be done. After two hours of talking... and when I say talking I mean heavy talking, we resolved things for a lil. Figured out that when someone does something to him, his first thought was revenge. I’m crazy grateful for a class I took in high school, Marriage and financial literacy. I’ve learned to communicate in definitely different situations. What a blessing. I’ve also learned the power of prayer in communicating and overcoming difficult situations. At times in our discussion when things got really hard for me, I was able to leave the room, kneel down and say a prayer, and ideas come up on what I could do better. A great resource and definitely useful.

So now everything is all good, kinda, and we're working to further the work in our area. Mainly contacting and disappointment, commitments and broken commitments, and invitations and rejection. Awe goodness it’s great to be a missionary. But even with all the rejection, there’s nothing I’d rather be doing. Watching someone offer their first humble prayer, and seeing the gospel and how it’s helped so many people.

I had a dream this week mom, that we were doing some sort of activity, and after when saying goodbye we hugged and yeah just wanted to tell you that, and that I love you.

Thanks for everything! Love you

Elder Rhodes

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Well, I had another good one....

Monday, August 15, 2011
Hello to all!
Well, I had another good one, they seem to always get better and better, and for a reason! my trainer Elder Olson completed his two years, and went home this last week. I was able to talk to him for a little while and say goodbye, he gave me a ton of great advice. I love him so much, he has been such a great example for me, and I have been truly blessed to have a great trainer, example, and friend. All you ladies out there, look him up! haha but seriously, after President Monson's talk he gave in Priesthood session, you will realize the importance of getting married quickly after the mission, so help him out.
I had another funny experience, I think this area is just full of them. We were walking down the street and I noticed this guy standing by his hammock, so we started walking there to try and clap his house and contact him... he quickly went and laid down in his hammock and closed his eyes and pretended to be asleep. We knew that he was of course awake so we kept clapping trying to get him to talk to us, but he kept his character and kept "sleeping". It is funny to see how fearful people are of two 19-20 year old American nerdy boys.
Unfortunately I don't have too much time this week, but I wanted to share an experience so that you guys can learn from it as well, and try not to make the same mistake. We took an investigator to church, who is progressing well, and is planning on getting baptized the 26 of Aug. She is different, and has a pretty strong personality, but is great and has already gained a testimony of the church and its
doctrine. However, during Sunday school class, the teacher also has a strong personality and started the class off with a question, and then the class discussed the question. As the teacher started to move on to a new topic, our investigator asks the teacher "So what was the answer to the question?" Then the teacher says "I already gave it, you didn't listen!" (in a really degrading tone). So after church our investigator was a little bugged about that, and seemed a little down...
The reason I share this with you is so that you guys don't make the same mistake. If there are people in your ward working on gaining, or regaining a testimony of this church, do all that you can to help them and make them feel included and loved at church. It was really frustrating, because she now feels a little different about the members, and that they are "just like the rest of the world." Today I got a letter from ....Bush, and he included a quote that I wanted to share from his letter.
"Last week at the MTC, Elder Merrill J. Bateman, emeritus General Authority, spoke and referred to Latter-day Saints being the Lord’s chosen people—chosen to do His work, teach His gospel, and minister to His children all over the world. And also chosen/blessed to have the gospel and all its blessings available to us in accordance with our faithfulness" As members of the Lords church, we are His chosen people. Let us live up to our potentials, and strive to be better members, day by day. Be good examples for those who are struggling with their testimonies! I am loving the mission more and more as the time flies by (almost 9 months now!). Keep me and my companion in your prayers. P.S. we have changes this week, I think my comp and I will stay together, but I will let you know next week!
Elder Babcock

Prayer and less actives

Hey all you family and friends.

We got some new investigators with a lot of potential, but mostly we met with less actives. Here in Neitsytpolku (the downtown area of Helsinki) we have 300 members in our ward, but only 70 active. It is very interesting because the culture here is a lot less outgoing than in the U.S. People do not randomly walk up to new faces and introduce themselves, which is a problem when you bring a less active or an investigator to church. I want to put in a missionary plug here. When you see a new face at church, go and say hi to them. It helps them feel welcome and a lot more comfortable. It is really frustrating to work so hard to get someone to church, and when they get there, nobody notices them. Within the church we need to start viewing church as a place to help other people who may be having a hard time instead of a boring place we go to take a nap every week. Like so many other things in life, if we start focusing on what other people need, and stop thinking about what we get out of the deal, we do a lot more good and have a better time doing it. Wow. I just got missionary mode up in your face right there.

We had a mini missionary this week. He was here for only 1 week and is 15 years old and really a cool and funny kid. He reminded me of one of my bros little friends so I got along great with him and teased and wrestled and had a great time. I taught him a lot of slang words in English and also the various ways to say "fart" (Ya, sorry mom and dad I’m still pretty dang immature.) In his first teach with us we set a baptismal date with this really nice Russian lady who has the cutest Asian baby I have ever seen. She also came to church this Sunday and I distracted the baby with my keys all throughout sacrament meeting so she could listen. It was a great day at church because she came a little late, and I was worried. But the opening song was "Don’t forget to pray" and I was like, ok ok, I will pray. So I started praying and saying please help her come but if she doesn’t, then help us know how to react so that she will come. And then I looked up and she was walking in with her baby. It was humbling because sometimes I feel like the "weird super missionary-type" when I do that kind of stuff, but it was a pretty cool experience.

Love you all.

Vanhin Merkley

Photos from Mexico

Adios Matamoros

Hello Guadalupe, Mexico & Elder Calva.

Life in Las Palmas

8/8/11 - So here’s the deal, don’t have any time. :) But I’ll tell you all that I can. It was crazy hard to say goodbye to all the good friends and people we met in Matamoros. But I was excited for the change. The area has been closed for 5 months and the other missionaries in our ward have been working a little in our area, but really it was like starting from new. Were contacting like crazy and getting to know everyone. There are sooo many members here. I would say one on every street. Contacting one day we ran into the stake president, and three other families in the ward. My companion is pretty great. Definitely different, and really slow, and working in a factory before the mission didn’t help too much with the patience part. It’s interesting; I think you have every companion for a reason. My companions before have almost always done the talking... And now and still junior companion, I was expecting the same, but it turns out my comp doesn’t talk much :) definitely a growing opportunity. He has half a year left in his mission and he’s from qeretaro, originally from the D:F (District Federal or Mexico City) but looks Chinese. We arrived in barrio Nueva Aurora and there are about 700 members, but only about 200-250 attend, but that’s a ton considering I came from a ward two weeks ago with 51. IT was a great meeting and I had the opportunity to share my testimony. I really don’t have time but I’m loving serving here in the Mountains. Just lacks a lil snow and ski resorts. Peace

8/15/11- Wow. Really normal week, really couldn’t tell you too much that went down. But thanks mom for asking soo many questions cause without them I wouldn’t have written anything ha-ha. The ward is great, and it was nice again yesterday to be able to go to church. Another great turnout, there are people of all ages, I would say mostly young people, as it is a changing ward. Lots of people moving in and out, but there are definitely some people that have been here a long time. Funny dad you say you’ve been in the bishopric 7 years, cause the first counselor, of just 3 months got released - you just got to move, don’t know why we didn't think of that before. Ha-ha. So yeah still working with my compañero, things aren’t getting a whole lot better, but they aren’t getting worse, again I say it’s just a normal week. We’ve been working to find more people to teach in the area and are finding a lot. I would say with my companion I am learning more than any other companion, even though he’s not teaching me. I guess you could say he’s letting me have some growing opportunities by not participating. He’s a good person and definitely has a personality... But I’m loving the area, loving that we get to wake up to the mountains, makes me miss my mountains, but it’s nice here because although its hotter, it’s not humid, and so its super bearable. Although I do have to mention we ate in the area of our companions and walked crazy long distance in midday, my lips dried up, got a lil burnt, but it was funny cause I was imagining the movie Hidalgo, and how he saw visions when he was super dehydrated, but I didn’t get that opportunity. Tried sending you photos last week, but they didn’t send, and so hopefully you got them. Love you and thank you for your emails. Sorry if I didn’t answer all of your questions mom. But I’m having a great time learning every day.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Power of the Spirit

Monday, August 8, 2011

Hello to all!
I had an incredible week here in Laurelty. To start things off, I always feel like the craziest stuff happens on P-day night, right after I write you guys. For example, Monday night we went out and did some visits, and this 11 year old kid named Gaspar that loves the missionaries really wanted to leave with us, so we took him and made some great visits. It was getting late, about 8:15 at night, and it was really dark, and we went to do one more visit. We crossed a sketchy bridge (nothing new here in Paraguay) and turned the corner, and about 50 yards in front of us we saw about 8 young men walking towards us, yelling, laughing, up-to-no-good. I felt the Spirit really strongly that we shouldn't keep walking, that we should immediately turn around and run. At first, I tried to fight off the thought, and that it wasn't anything, but it came again, even stronger. So I told my comp and Gaspar to stop, and that we need to turn around and run. At this point the guys are a little closer, and they started yelling "come here! pass through here!" so we just started running...after a few seconds I looked behind me and noticed the guys were running after us too. I was really worried because we had the little guy with us, and it was late, but I knew it would all turn out alright. We crossed the bridge, and I remember that the bishop lived no too far away, so we hurried there and hid in his house. Long story short, everything turned out fine, no one was hurt. I am so thankful for the Spirit and its guide in my life. I will get back to that later.
I did a division this week with Elder Christen from Mapleton(Elder Miner my MTC comps trainer), He taught me so many great things, had a lot of advice for me as a missionary. He always carries a Book of Mormon in his hand, for quick references, to be able to give away, and to keep himself focused throughout the day mentally. I am putting that principle into practice, and have noticed the difference in my focus and spirit.
The other night, we went to visit an investigator, and when we showed up at the house, we saw this guy trying to break through the lock on the investigators gate. Once he noticed us, he did the weirdest body movement I have ever seen, kinda like "the worm" but standing up (haha use your imagination). He was looking super suspicious, and we definitely scared him to death. He turned and walked toward us and said that they were family friends and that they were all sleeping. I am pretty sure he thought we were police or spies of some sort (which we always hear). We were pretty worried for the family, so we clapped at the house and the lady came out. We told her about the guy, and so I think it all turned out alright, but it was kind of a funny/weird moment.
We had fast Sunday yesterday, and we haven't been having too much success lately in our area. We are working hard, and being obedient, but its been tough. We fasted with the purpose of finding people to bring to church so that we can baptize soon (hopefully by the end of the month), since we haven't really had anyone since I have been here. I felt the Spirit really working through me this week, maybe more than ever in my mission. We were a little disanimated when before church we walked really far to try to bring an investigator to church, but she wasn't there. We we showed up to church, to our surprise, we had 3 investigators that showed up, all 3 brought by member friends that we have been working with. And during the meeting, a young man right outside the chapel signaled towards me to come out, and I was greeted by another investigator that had come a little late, even though she said she wasn't planning on going, making that 4 people in church. It was such an awesome Sunday, I felt an overwhelming joy sitting in sacrament meeting, seeing all 4 of them enjoying the meeting and feeling the Spirit. I felt the Spirit so strongly that I had to go up and share my testimony. I know that the Lord is always preparing people for us as missionaries, and that if we follow the Spirit, we will find them. I love the mission so much. Even though my family writes me about all the incredibly cool things they are doing at home right now, undoubtedly I am having the time of my life here, and wouldn't change this experience in Paraguay for anything in the world.
Love you all, pray for me and the people here.
Until next week,
Elder Babcock

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Cambios for Shaun - Hello Guadalupe

Ya so this week has been pretty crazy. First of all, I forgot to study my "what words to memorize if you go to a fish restaurant" in the morning, so I had a very interesting experience. I just told my companion ill have whatever you have. It was called "Vuelve a la Vida." The first time I’ve ever eaten a cocktail, but it wasn’t normal, camarrones (shrimp), ostion (clam)... I think. At first I thought they were eyeballs or fish snot, but it turns out they are not that bad. As long as you don’t look at them for too long, or leave them in your mouth too long, they don’t taste bad, I wouldn’t say they taste good, but hey it was a 1st. Another first this week was Cambios! I’m headed after 6 months in the same area to estaka los Angeles in Guadalupe Monterrey. I’m super stoked to have some mountains, in fact I’m the closest you can be to the well known "saddle mountain." I will be opening an area with my companion Elder Calva, if I’m not wrong he’s from d.f and he’s super positive. I’ve been on splits with him for two days. I know it’s going to be a little hard to have everything change... members companions... new area... walking... and starting things from new. Its also hard to leave behind what you’ve made, relationships con members, investigators, and converts, but as my companion always says and its stuck with me "por algo pasan las cosas" I’m super stoked and hope to have some success. I’ll let you know more about it next week. This week was filled with painting roof tiles with the relief society, family home evenings, and our district got permission to watch toy story 3. After we were comparing everything spiritually and with missionary work, which I thought was cheesy, but hey it was a killer movie. My favorite thing that happened this week was during a family home evening, An investigator was saying their first prayer and starts "Dear heavenly father... we thank thee for... (short pause while she was thinking) and Carlitos, six years old, son of Carlos recent convert Whispered to the investigator who is like 30 yrs old "For this day" hahaha we couldn’t help but laugh a lil. Anyway have fun and enjoy everything. -- Elder Shaun Rhodes

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Some Pictures for you....

Fry Sauce

Monday, August 1, 2011

Hello to all-
Another fun week in the Lord's work. After I sent last weeks email, I went into Asunción for interviews with President Madariaga. We have interviews with him every 3 months to check up on everything and see how we are doing. It was a great interview. It was great to talk to him about the mission, life, everything. Since he speaks English also, the interview was in sheer Spanglish. We would be talking in English, then he would switch to Spanish suddenly, and then switch back haha. So I ended up responding in whatever language he asked me the question in haha. He is an incredible man. He has a strong spirit about him, I look up to him so much, and am thankful for people like him in my life, there to always help me.
It was another pretty average week with the work. We are kind of in a funk right now, having a tough time finding people to teach and bring to church. Keep us in your prayers, so that we can find those that God is preparing for us. I would really appreciate it, and so would my companion.
We were walking down the street one night, and I saw this little hamburger/french fry stand. I thought the fries looked good, so I ordered some. While waiting, I was checking out all the sauces, and I looked at this pinkish sauce, and asked the guy what was in it. He said "mayo and ketchup"....in that moment, I realized that there was even fry sauce in Paraguay! So I ended up having a nice thing of fries with fry sauce...who would've thought it.
There has been a lot of ups and downs lately here. I have noticed the Spirit working through me stronger than ever. On the other hand, we tried to do a family home evening with a less active family, and their little girl of about 4 years was spitting on me, climbing up and putting her dirty feet on my shirt, yelling, crying, and everything in between. Meanwhile, the oldest daughter was getting in a fight with her boyfriend, then kissing him, the mom not paying attention, and the other daughter just laughing at what the little one was doing to me. This area has been a good trial of my patience, literally with the people, and also with how slow the work has been. But I am loving the mission just the same. Its the downs that always come before the ups, and even when we have rainy Sundays, which make it so that "only the strong (members) survive" and go to church, I still have a smile on my face.
I am so thankful for the mission. Today I found an old bookmark of when Pres. Hinckley challenged everybody to read the Book of Mormon by the end of the year. So, I started today Aug. 1st to read it (in English this time) and am following the plan to finish it on Dec. 31. I am having a great time here in the mission, and miss everybody a lot. I would love to hear from you guys through email, letters, etc. Keep me and the people here in your prayers.
until next week,
Elder Babcock