Tuesday, January 31, 2012
It was another great week, filled with many spiritual moments and opportunities to share my testimony of the restored gospel. We were initially preparing a wedding/baptism for Carlos and Silvia, but they want to wait until February so that family from far away can come to see it. It brought in 2 new investigators, because out of nowhere, his 12 year old son wants to start listening and so does his 14 year old niece. We started teaching them and invited them to also be baptized, and they all went to church on Sunday, so we are hoping to have a big baptism. Carlos also brought up that he wants to be baptized in the river, so we are all super excited for that, it will be very special. He is such a great guy, and is already converted. We had a lesson with him about the Holy Ghost, and went with a return missionary of our branch. It was on of the most spiritual lessons of my life! I am thankful for the Spirit that was felt, and for the gift of the Holy Ghost, to be able to guide us in our lives and let us know what to do.
Yesterday in church, things went great! We had 63 people, which was even more than last week! it has been so great to see the progress of the branch, and how excited everyone is to help, and do visits! We were able to do 2 service projects, one with the branch president, which involved shoveling a pile of rocks/garbage/sewage from his back yard to the front porch. Even though it was an interesting one, we were able to see his heart soften and feel our love for him. We also served Pablo and Miriam's family (recent converts) and sweeped up their entire front yard stuff. They share the front yard with the neighbors, and the neighbors were so impressed that the next visit we had there, without having to invite her, she came out and wanted to hear more. I am thankful for service, and know that when we are in the service of our fellow being, we are only in the service of our God.
We are teaching a friend of Alex (recent convert), who has read the entire Book of Mormon, but says that he doesn't feel anything different when he reads or prays...which is impossible from my point of view. We have been working on him opening his heart, and showing God that he has the "real intent" that Moroni talks about. We had an awesome lesson with him last night, and he felt the Spirit, we committed him to fast this week and pray to know the truth.
Well this week was another monumental one, given that I started the Book of Mormon back on August 1st. I finished the Book of Mormon on Friday, and even though I had asked many times before about the book, I felt the Spirit strongly to take Moroni's promise, and to ASK. I kneeled down, and before I kneeled, I could barely even talk, the Spirit was so tangible. I have never felt so sure in my whole life than in this very moment that the Book of Mormon came about like Joseph said it did, and that its the word of God. I took that experience as a good topic for my talk in church yesterday. All the missionaries talked, and we pretty much did the restoration lesson, with me ending it about the Book of Mormon/Prayer. I shared much of what Pres. Benson shared in the talk "Keystone of our Religion", and for the first time in my mission, I had a pretty emotional moment on the pulpit. I just testified from the bottom of my heart of something that I know is true, and that thing is the Book of Mormon. I plead with all of you to just read it! Let it change your life. Let it guide you and help you resist temptations. Let it endow you with power from on high. Let it change your life like it has changed mine forever.
Love you all, keep us in your prayers! Until next week,
Sunday, January 29, 2012
This week was good. We had a really cool experience this week. We were walking to the church to practice piano--(Vanhin Rogers is really good and we are going to do a lil fireside)—and we start talking to a lady while crossing the street. She said that she has met with the missionaries when she was younger and has also read the Book of Mormon. She said that just this morning she walked past our church and was wondering how to find the missionaries again. She said that she has read the Book of Mormon before and that she believes it is true. We set up a time to meet with her and we had a great discussion about how she can know for sure that it is true. She said she would read and pray and she came to church the next day and had a great time. We have a teach with her tonight and we are really excited. It was a huge example of God putting people in our path.
The Book of Mormon is true and the gospel is true and Joseph Smith was a prophet and the church is true and it is led by Jesus Christ. I would start that sentence by saying "I know...." but the thing I realized this week is that my "knowing" fluctuates. Somedays I’m sure, somedays I’m not so sure. But that is not because it is not true, it is just that I am not smart enough to realize that it is true all the time. The world desensitizes us into doubting but every once and a while, for whatever reason we can see how simple and true it really is. If we do good things, good things will happen, and if we don’t, they wont. And the church teaches us how to do good things. So if you feel like your not getting to much out of church, put more into it. It is not a magical place that gives us what we ask for, it works on the same principles as everything else: Putting in effort = more rewarding.
I feel like I am a pokemon and I started my thinking process (pre mission) out as being a circle (basic pokemon) And then, by learning more about the gospel and gaining more experience, I am evolving into a diamond (2nd level pokemon) I know that I still have a lot to learn before I become a star (3rd level pokemon) but I can now look back and see that a lot of my previous ideas were basic. I started out as a charmander and I hope to one day become a charizard. And that is what the gospel does to people. We all still have different personalities and strengths and the gospel does not take those away, it only makes us better yet still different.
I love you all. I hope you can make sense of some of this. Just know that I am sincere and there are things I have learned on my mission that have changed me forever. Thanks for everything. Have a good week. Read your scriptures.
Monday, January 23, 2012
Well, yesterday was the best Sunday of my mission, and I want to share it all, so I will try my best to be efficient and accurate in my explanations at the same time.
We have a family here that I have grown to love so much, that are less active. I have been fasting, praying, studying, teaching to their needs, doing everything I know to help them be active, prepare to go to the temple, magnify callings, etc. Claudio, the dad, would always tell me that he would go to church, but Sunday after Sunday I would sit there, devastated when the Family never would come. This last Thursday, we were teaching him, and he flat out told me, "Elder, I am tired of lying to you. We are not going this Sunday." It really hurt to hear it. I left so devastated, not knowing what more to do.
We got there on Saturday, and had planned on teaching him about the Doctrine of Christ. When I sat down, I felt the Spirit really strongly to talk about Captain Moroni. We sat down, and after the opening prayer, we went right in to talking about the attributes of Captain Moroni. He was a strong, powerful man. He worked hard for the well-being of his people (and for Claudio's situation, for his family). He was a strong man in the faith of Christ, and a great leader in his church and religion. We read that if we all were like Captain Moroni, the powers of hell would be shaken, and that the devil wouldn't have power over man. I asked him, quite frankly, "Hermano, would you like to become like Moroni?" and of course he said "si".
We read earlier in Alma 44 about how Captain Moroni became the man he was because of the "sacred support of his wife and children" and told him that he would never be like him without his family and their support.
We finished going to 1 Nephi 7:16-18 which talks about how Nephi was bound up tightly and stuck. I compared that to him spiritually, how at times we all fall into those bindings, and don't know what to do to get out of those bad habits, addictions, etc. Well, what did Nephi do? He prayed. He asked that the Lord would free him from the binding. And what happened? The bounds were loosed. Nephi, essentially, became free. He released all the bad things that held him back, and became one of the greatest and most obedient followers of Christ to have ever lived. I looked up and just expressed my love for Claudio and his family. For the first time in any lesson in my entire mission, I started to cry when I told him that it really hurts me to not see them in church, and in that moment, I came to realize how much pure love I really do feel for him. The Spirit was so strong. He also expressed his love and committed for church.
This story has a great ending. Sunday, right as sacrament meeting was about to start, Claudio and the whole family came walking through the front doors. I felt such a love for them, and for the tender mercies that the Lord always shows us. I came to learn something that a great missionary once taught me: "We don't discourage members, we encourage them to become great leaders and members." I know without a doubt that we can all become like the great scriptures heroes and leaders, if we just have faith and take that faith to action. I came to learn that great lesson this Sunday, and am thankful for the knowledge that the Lord has trusted in me.
Quick update, Carlos, has officially stopped smoking, and even though he has passed through many trials and temptations, he is preparing to be married to his wife who was super inactive, and be baptized this Saturday. The following Saturday, we are looking to have to more people to be baptized. The Lord is blessing us so much here that I can't even explain. A month ago, there was 25 people at church, and yesterday, there were 57. I had to stand for a while because there wasn't enough room in the chapel. I honestly can say that "I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me."
Thanks for all the support from home, next week I will send pictures I promise! Keep us in your prayers, its going to be another great week!
Until next week,
Sunday, January 22, 2012
Saturday, January 21, 2012
"Austen Nebeker taught us a crazy good lesson in priesthood today about the spirit and missions. I loved it when he explained to us how when two years ago when he sat in one of the chairs in the corner of the bishops office with his head down he just didn't care about the gospel really, skiing was all that mattered to him and he only knew the sacrifices of going on a mission. He found out on his mission though that there are 10 times more blessings that missionaries receive than sacrifices. I have felt like he did lately when thinking about going on a mission, I mostly just know the sacrifices and hard parts of what a mission is and it doesn't seem all that great but knowing now how great of an experience a mission is from what Austen said and how much the Lord blesses missionaries i definitely feel like I want to serve a mission." (Jefferson wrote this and then Jared responded) " I would agree with what Austin said and I think most kids are that same way. You know it's the right thing to do but all you can think about are the negatives. You know for me, I was not all that excited and sometimes it's still hard to stay happy and excited but there are, like he said, 10x more blessings than trials and most of it is your attitude. You make the mission what you want it. You just can't go out expecting what return missionaries talk about right off the bat. You for sure have to work up to that point, but you can have fun everyday if you have the right attitude. You can use that as motivation, knowing that you will learn the language soon and know how to teach and not have so much to work on but day to day you just have to relax, take it as it comes and live in the moment. Learn as much as you can, do what you can when you can do it, and just let everything else bounce off of you. Well, glad to know you are thinking of a mission. It seems like you're in the prime of your life and I think most kids are but it will all be there when you get back and the two years you give to the lord will be worth it. " (That was a satisfying exchange for a mother to read between brothers who only a year or two ago finally decided to be real friends)
This last one is a short note from another one of Jared's letters "The big thing for this week was my split with Elder Cleveland. We were in the MTC together and he is awesome. We are now in the same district and see each other a lot. We did a split the other day and it rocked. We both are not that good at poruguese because we both only have three months but we didn't let that slow us down. It was so nice to be with another person for the day that is new. Not only did we have the same problems and worries but we could talk about our comps. I love Elder Toala (my comp) but I dont think he is a good trainer. Elder Cleveland's comp is great too but not that good of a trainer. Both of them and almost every other missionary in this area just are not as focused as they could be. Everyone breaks rules and rationalises it and if I hear one more person tell me I will change and 'oh, I want to see you in six months' I'm going to kill them. I get so sick of that. The kids are not bad and we get a lot of good work done but there is so much more that could be done and I hate the rules too but they must have a reason even the little ones. I set a goal this week not to change in that way and not to think it's ok to do something because others are or think there are people doing worse things. It sounds easy but it's not and there will always be worse people that make any decision look good. Cleveland also helped me get better at studying." "This next week we have 4 baptisms planned so I hope they stick and I can write you about them next week. The work is all good. The language is still coming slowly. The members still rock."
Thursday, January 19, 2012
This week was a good one. We are working hard. The work is going a bit slow here in Joensuu and a couple of our investigators have dropped off the map for a while, but we did a lot of finding and found some pretty cool potentials. We had a lot of teaching appointments and have a lot of investigators who are doing well, but not quite ready for baptism. A lot of them have addictions to alcohol and tobacco. The mission has really shown me the hideous face of these addictions. I feel really bad for people who want so badly to quit, but are at a point where they do not even think it is possible. I have heard so many say things like " I don’t even like it anymore but I just cant stop." It is terrible. The word of wisdom is absolutely from God and such a huge blessing to members of the church. The addiction path is a very very slippery slope. So, in other words " Kids, don’t do drugs."
We did a lot of tracting this week. There are always so many funny things that happen while tracting. For example: We knock on a door. A mom comes, and there is a cute little kid standing behind her. I awkwardly start the conversation by saying "Terve. Kuinka vanha hän on?" (which means: Hi. How old is she?) The girl just sort of looked and me and it wasnt until after that I realized how creeped out I would be if some random guy rang my doorbell and asked how old my daughter was. Haha. Im still trying to figure out the line of normal things to say to people.... I can now cross that one of as "not normal"
My companion and I get a long great. My companion is a great guy and we get along fine. He is one of the most hard working and obedient Elders I have met, but he also has a lot of humility which makes him really easy to get along with. I am more of the jokey guy and he is more of the serious guy so it works well together because we find the balance of both. He is just a shy nice super hard working kid and we are having all sorts of adventures. This week I hid in the bathroom and scared him really bad which was great because he screamed really loud like a girl which is way uncharacteristic of him. I was seriously laughing for 5 minutes straight after. Something else we have been doing during the in between times of tracting is talking about star wars. My companion is a big fan so I had him retell all of the original star wars to me because it had been so long since I had watched them. It took a solid couple of hours but he did a really thorough job. Now it’s really great because we can make all these funny star wars references.
That’s about it for this week. I love the city and the ward and everythings rollin along well. I will hit my year mark on Thursday. The last year has been such an interesting one, but Im so grateful to be where I am. I have learned a lot of good things and am excited for the year ahead of me.
Thanks for all the love and whatnot. I think about you guys often. Stay safe.
Monday, January 16, 2012
What a great week it was. I mean that in every sense of the word.
Saturday night, after tons of problems with baptismal clothing,
interviews, everything... Liz and Mirna were baptized. It was so
stressful, and of course if you anything about Elder Babcock, you know
he doesn't handle stress well. But lets just say many prayers were
answered, and it turned out great. Once again, they wanted me to do
the baptism, so I was able to perform the ordinance. It felt
incredible to be apart of completing a family, and see how happy they
all were. Its another Latter-day Saint family! We had a big turnout at
the baptism, and there were 42 people at church on Sunday, including 4
progressing investigators. I felt overwhelmed with the blessings that
the Lord poured upon our branch this last week, but I am thankful and
working hard to keep seeing that success. We are still working with
Carlos, who is down to 1-2 cigarettes, and once he overcomes that, he
will be baptized!
My companion, Elder Wheatley, reminds me so much of my really good
friend Jared Schmidt. I was planning on writing about that, when I get
a letter from my mom, saying that Jared Schmidt and Elder Wheatley are
related...It obviously surprised me, but then again, it didn't, because
they are so much alike. Its great to be with such a great teachable
companion that works hard and has a great attitude!
So my family was talking about how they stopped eating fast food and
drinking soda for awhile. We got the message on Wednesday that the
Burger King got finished here in our small city, and lets just say I
haven't be taking apart in the fast food "fast" like my family, but
more "feasting" on it haha. Its been a long time since I have had some
greasy burgers, and I love it.
Also yesterday, I was reading my scriptures, trying to be focused and
all, when our back door swung open (it doesn't stay shut when its not
locked and the wind blows, and I see our neighbors huge pregnant cat
giving birth on the porch! What are the odds of that happening...It
was the first, and hopefully the last, time that has to happen to me.
A guy yesterday told us that "thank you" is "gracias" in English and
also in Japanese...I told him it was just English, but he was pretty
set on his ways that "thank you" is actually Japanese haha.
It was an incredible week working with members, I have been loving
working with them and helping the branch grow. Its cool to see that if
member missionary work is moving, so will the baptisms and the success
stories in the branch.
Thanks for all the support from home, keep us all here in Paraguay in
your prayers. I will send baptismal pictures next week!
Until next week,
Sunday, January 15, 2012
I’m extremely happy this week. Transfers are next week and we’ve been working really hard to prepare a few people for baptism. We found some great people that are really open to listen and learn... and put in their part to receive an answer. In the words of Ben Harper "I Am Blessed To be A Witness" With love
Elder Shaun Rhodes
Thursday, January 5, 2012
We are seeing miracle after miracle here, its been an incredible run of tender mercies, and I am so thankful to be here. First off, I wanted to wish everyone a happy New Years! Make this year the best one, spiritually, mentally, physically, in every aspect!
We had a big rainstorm that came out of nowhere. We were walking down the street, and it just hit us. A tree just split and fell right by us, due to the power of winds and water, and it became what I like to call the wettest moment of my mission, literally as if I just did a big jump of the diving board in church clothes and bag, went underwater, and swam around for a few minutes, then got out and started working. Such is the mission life!
I have a great testimony of the videos of the church. We watched the Testaments with one of our investigators named Carlos and his family, and the last part when Christ heals Helam (I think that's his name, the dad and prophet) the Spirit was stronger than any other moment with them. We went directly into 3 Nephi 11, read about what Christ taught about baptism, and invited 2 family members to be baptized. Also during this last week, we watched the Joseph Smith Prophet of the Restoration movie with the recent convert family Pablo and Mirium, with their daughters (who are preparing for baptism this weekend), and a bunch of less active members. It was so spiritual. I invite all of you to replace some of the normal junk movies with those, they are not only entertaining, but full of the Spirit, no matter how many times you have seen them.
The New Years was a lot like Christmas, tons of loud music, drunk people, and fireworks.
We saw many miracles at church. Carlos and his family went out of town, so they weren't able to attend, but we had 3 investigators there, all brought by members. It was cool to see the branch getting involved and excited.
I am loving the people we are working with here. Carlos, who as of 4 days ago was smoking 20-30 cigarettes per day for more than 8 years, is now on 4 cigarettes. Through the lesson on the Word of Wisdom, daily reading in the Book of Mormon and prayer, many prayers from our part, and a priesthood blessing, he is boldly leaving behind a grave addiction, and preparing for baptism.
I have been praying extra hard recently for charity, because for all those who know me, sometimes its hard for me to be patient with mean people, but I have been feeling the pure love of Christ starting to grow more inside me.
I love this work, the people, the church, the Book of Mormon, Preach My Gospel, my family and friends, and my Savior Jesus Christ. Keep us here in your prayers. Thanks for the love and support, have a great week! Don't forget about me, and don't hesitate to send me an email or 2, they are always great!
Tuesday, January 3, 2012
Hey I’m going to have to say a big sorry, and a big thanks. Today has been crazy, we wanted to hike to the waterfalls in our area so that my companion could see them, and ended up climbing the whole mountain... with no regrets, cause it was a once in a mission opportunity, like the scriptures say "He fell for the loss of blood". I got really tired, and I was wearing shorts so my legs look like someone cheese grated them. I learned a big lesson... Don’t trust on trees for support, sometimes they have thorns... and when you’re the first one climbing... watch out for the thorny plants that wrap around your ankles. Moral of the story, be happy :) anyway it was a great adventure I’ll try to get the pictures off next week, the truth is I have to be in our district meeting in fifteen minutes... I’m so happy and exited and stoked to be a missionary. Keep it real... And tell Brandon he told me anything I wanted he would do it... so I’ve decided what their marriage song will be Bonnie Tyler’s, “Total Eclipse of the Heart." ...Brandon said anything and I’m not sure there’s a better song for a reception. And the song I sang was “Your Still the One I Love”. Hey and I’ve thought about it... I’ll go to BYU for the first semester of January, to be with Tanner, and then change to Utah after. But do whatever you want... I’ll be feliz. I didn’t get to read your letter I’m going to print them out to be able to read them... when are they going to get married? Maybe you answered that in your email. Bye love you!
***During Jared's Christmas phone call we asked Jared where his first area was and he said he had no idea. Sao Paulo is a huge sprawling city but we hope he figures out some coordinates or directions soon. It was great to talk to him and made us chuckle when he was so surprised that after close to an hour we were ready to hang up, I guess as Elder Merkley said, the phone calls never last long enough.
¡Feliz Año Nuevo! (you almost had it haha)
How was the new year? Me and my companion celebrated on the roof with grilled cheese sandwiches and soda and lots of candy haha it was great.Well the first week in the city flew by. My companion is Elder Wittwer, hes about 6 foot 4 and went to Skyline High School, and has been here in Mexico for about 7 weeks. We both have a very limited knowledge of the area, because there used to be 4 missionaries here, in 2 different areas, but they merged the 2 into this area, so we have lots of space to cover. The city is great. Now dont go thinking its a city like the states, but its really cool. The weather is perfect, I use my pajamas and 2 blankets at night I absolutely love it, then during the day I just use my short sleevers and dont sweat at all. Its absolutely perfect, I didnt think I was going to be in a place like this till after my mission. We have few investigadors and most of them are new, there is lots of work to be done. I am super excited to be here and to do my best I can to help the district. We are a very small district, 4 missionaries in total. And the other 2 are the zone leaders (one of them, Elder Outsen, went to Brighton but graduated a year before me, I think I told you about him before as he was my zone leader before also) so its a really relaxed district leader position haha, but Im excited.
To answer some of your questions... We take our shirts to a laundromat here and wash our garments in the back yard. My suit is holding up fine, we only use it on Sundays. My shirts are all good and I have a good amount of ties, thanks for checking and worrying about me haha.
As far as my responsibilities as district leader, I have lots but to sum it all up its to make sure everyone is working well, that they are ok mentally, physically, spiritually, and to be an example. Like I said, we are only 4 missionaries and the other 2 are zone leaders and so the responsibility is not overwhelming, its a good start and Im grateful and humbled to be able to be called.
I love you all. Thank you for your faithfulness, for your testimonies, and for your love. Your faith is strengthening to me and I hope that I can communicate that same feeling to others. I love you all, talk to you next week.
. So we had Interviews, conference, our branch christmas party, and a few other small things like family nights. It was a packed week. On christmas eve, we ate at a members house with 2 other missionaries, and the family gave us piña rellena (filled pineapple) It was half of a pineapple hollowed out and filled with this vegetable salad shtuff and seafood (shrimp, octopus, fish) and melted cheese on top. THey also served it with tostadas (hard tortillas) and there is this soda here that tastes exactly like sparkling cider that they gave us. It was unreal. Best meal Ive had on my mission no doubt. Ill send you a picture next week. Supposedly they sell for about 300 pesos each (about 25 bucks). Then, yesterday we only had the one hour of church and then went to a members house for lunch and had pasta salad, mashed potatoes, and fried chicken. It was good then we made some of the peanut butter cookies you sent to give to some families. Then after that we helped a member move her stuff to her moms house (Is it okay to help move stuff on Sunday?). Her moms boyfriend was helping us move everything, and him and I were carrying the stove out, and he told me, subalo! (put it on my shoulder...) and so I was like, alright... so I helped him get this entire stove up on his shoulder and he started carrying it and looked a little wobbly but hes super strong so I just let him go. Long story short, he forgot about all the clothes lines in the yard and the stove caught on one and he dropped it and fell backwards. He was fine, and nothing happened to the stove, it was just ridiculously funny haha. It was a strange Christmas but I was grateful to be with such humble people, and sweating all day haha. Changes came today, and I am headed to an area called La Hacienda (near the city of Oaxaca... I think...) and I will be a district leader there. Im a little nervous but also excited. It was great talking to you guys on Saturday, I love you all. Thanks for your love and support.