Sunday, September 18, 2011

Strawberry Expo, John 21

Hello to all!
We had an awesome week, as usual. Right after sending my weekly email last week, we went to grab a bite to eat in Luque, and met up with the missionaries there. While we were sitting there waiting, we see the 2 missionaries walking towards us, accompanied by Christian.
We had lunch with him, and since he wasn't planning on doing anything for the rest of the day, he went out to Aregua with us to the Expo de Frutilla (the strawberry festival). Aregua is supposedly famous for their strawberries, so we went and checked it out. We were expecting a big festival, because it is known all over Paraguay. However, we showed up to a little group of tents along the main road. I shouldn't have been surprised, we are in Paraguay. But it was really sweet, we bought tons of strawberries...a basket-ful, chocolate-strawberry cake, strawberry "chupa-chupa" (its like an otter-pop, but instead of ice and flavoring, it was real strawberries frozen), pie, juice, smoothie...lets just say we went "strawberry wild".
Still focusing on food, this week we bought a bunch of materials to make Mexican tacos for lunch on Thursday, and they turned out amazing. Who would've thought, there is such thing as spicy food here (though NOBODY here likes it.).
On Thursday we were walking down the road and noticed a big neighborhood activity going on. We kept walking, and noticed a huge festival, with a merry-go-round, rides, trampolines, food, everything! We asked to see what they were celebrating, and of course, it was a big parade/holiday for the Virgin (Maria). I don't know if i have mentioned before, but this country is really catholic, and are all about the virgin. Just about every other week they are celebrating something about her. Its a little sad, but its part of the country. 
On Monday, we visited Manuel and Soledad, our family we have been working with for a while. Soledad has been to church a few times and wants to get baptized, but Manuel's family is really catholic, and wont let him do anything (even though he is 28...with a family...). He used to study to become a catholic deacon, but he got really depressed with all the bad things in the world and stopped attending any church for about 10 years. He has progressed a lot, but on Monday night he told us he will never go to church nor be baptized, even though he knows its true. We were a little bummed about that, so we made a few phone calls, and President Madariaga was interested in doing a visit with us to try and help. Let it be known that President Madariaga is an incredible example to me, along with his wife. They came and we had the most spiritual visit of my life. His presence along changed Manuel. Pres. challenged him to pray about it all, and to be baptized and go to church. I am thankful for a great mission president, along with his incredible wife, and for their willingness to help us in the work. We were really disappointed to see that, even though they committed themselves to go to church, they didn't go. Sometimes people aren't ready, and even though it hurt us, we haven't lost the faith.
I gave a talk yesterday in church about "retaining the knowledge that Christ has given us". It went a lot better than i could have hoped, I talked about John 21, the story at the Sea of Galilee (spelling ?). Christ commanded the apostles, before He was crucified and killed, to go out and preach, to baptize, to spread His message, etc. However, Peter didn't quite fully understand it all, along with the other apostles, so they did what they were doing before Christ came..they went fishing. The story is incredible, you should read John 21 today, it might be my favorite Bible story. Christ asks Peter 3 times "do you love me?"..."feed my sheep". I talked about how when Christ called them to be His apostles, it was forever. In the MTC, Elder Holland gave a similar talk, and it touched me so much, so I had to share it at church, and for you guys. I know this letter is super jumbled, but Christ has called us to serve him FOREVER...not just when its convenient, not just when we are baptized, not just when we are missionaries, but FOREVER. Elder Holland said, "you cannot go back. For if you do, you will break my heart and the heart of God Himself."
Its my prayer that we can keep the faith, keep going until the end. Because if we go back, we are going back on Him. If we love Him, we will keep His commandments.
Love you guys, keep me and the people here in your prayers,
Elder Babcock

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