Sunday, March 25, 2012

A Humbling Week

Well this week has been something special and very different. On Tuesday I went on exchanges with Elder Sorenson my district leader and MTC companion and awesome friend and was able to learn a lot. It was his first exchange as district leader but it went really well. It made me extremely happy to have the support of a companion and the friendship of a "brother in the lord" like Alma and the sons of Mosiah. We have grown so much since our crazy MTC experience and going on exchanges helped me even more to focus on my purpose as a missionary.

Wednesday we had our interviews with the president and his wife. I had an interesting and humbling talk with the president. I have been working and as a companionship we have been working hard, He asked me how I was feeling, I let him know that of course discouraged, but with faith like it says in Preach my gospel, is the hope of a better world, and that the lord will fulfill his part if we fulfill ours. You have to move forward with faith, hope and pure love of Christ. That is what I am here for and what I am sharing with everyone. I know that President Walker has been called of god and I have a great love for him.

Changes are on the 8th but were working hard to be able to have some baptisms before and after, who know who will stay in the area ha-ha. You asked dad about my testimony of the book of Mormon. I really do know that it is true, and that it is the keystone to our religion. I love reading it. That makes the church true and Joseph smith a true prophet. But I would like to share an experience that I had yesterday. I read Doctrine and covenants 132 and you might not want to share this ha-ha with the people that still don’t know that polygamy was being practiced and that Joseph smith had a few wives ha-ha but I really want to share this experience. In my patriarchal blessing it says that I will know that Joseph smith was a prophet. Well I think I shared my experience in the MTC with Joseph Smith, and the feelings I felt when they reenacted the scene of Josephs martyrdom and we sang praise to the man, that was amazing. But there has always been just the slightest doubt, the rock in the shoe, or the crusty booger that bothered me. The fact that Joseph smith had "Received the revelation that he could practice polygamy" and that he was receiving the revelation and commanding Emma that if she didn’t obey that she would be destroyed, I wondered if it came from God. Well I read section 132 and couldn’t let that feeling bother me. So I went to my room and prayed with my scriptures open. Well it’s a short story after thinking about it and trying to hear an answer, nothing happened. I sat up on my bed and continued my reading in Doctrine and Covenants in section 133... 134... and 135... Where the prophet was killed. While I was reading section 135 my eyes filled with tears and I had a warm peaceful feeling about what had happened. I loved the words in one “I am going like a lamb to the slaughter; but I am calm as a summer’s morning; I have a conscience void of offense towards God, and towards all men" I know in my heart that these words were true, that he had a clean conscience and clean hands. I know Joseph Smith was called of God to restore his church on the earth and bring forth the marvelous work of the book of Mormon by God the father and his son Jesus Christ. And I’m proud to be a representative of those two names at this time. I know he lives and always answers our prayers in his time.

Thanks for your support and prayers

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Baptisms/The Atonement

Hello to all!
What another great week it turned out to be. The Lord has blessed us with miracle after miracle, and I am thankful that I have been able to be an instrument in His hands. There were 2 baptisms here from our area.
One day at church this little12 year old girl showed up that I didn't recognize, so I thought maybe it was the friend of a member or something. But then she was wearing a dress, but a really old, humble dress, so I thought she might actually be an inactive member. Church started, and I never got to ask her or talk to her. We left the chapel and I saw the girl walking home and noticed she turned into our area.  That afternoon, we went back to the house. We started teaching them, they had been inactive for a really long time, but the little girl decided one morning to go to church, and no one else wanted to go, so she walked all the way there by herself. Well, long story short, we started teaching them, found out that it was a part member family, and the Spirit of the Lord brought them back to being active, and their daughter  was baptized. They are such a special family to me, and I really love them, and am proud of the big steps they have made back to being active and happy!
The other baptism .... I shared with him about Captain Moroni back then, and encouraged him a lot to get his life together and become the leader that the Lord needs of him here. That story has another good twist to it. He has been active again, and his stepson moved in with the family. We started reteaching the family all the mission lessons, and the whole family has made great changes in their lives. He was recently called as the Ward Mission Leader, and did a great job directing the baptismal services earlier in the week, as if he had been directing for years. Our big goal was to get him ready to baptize his stepson, but he always would say that I was going to do the baptism. After diligence, persistence, and I am sure the Spirit of the Lord, he decided to go ahead and accept his stepson's choice of having him do the baptism. When they came out all in white, I felt such a strong feeling of charity that I could barely hold it. I have been "blessed to be a witness" (Ben Harper song) in some of the biggest changes I have ever seen in one person. The baptism went great, they were all at church on time, and when sacrament meeting came around, he blessed his newborn daughter (his first blessing given) and did great. To top it all off, he went up and bore his testimony during the meeting, and talked about his strong believe in the church, prayer, etc. He finished, concluding with his thoughts about his favorite scripture leader, Captain Moroni, and how he isn't there yet, but is working hard to be like him. I love him so much, and can honestly say that he is a great example to me on the power of the Atonement. It really changes lives, just like it has changed mine. I love the Ferreira Family, and its been a great blessing to help them in their goal towards being an eternal family, soon to be sealed in the temple.
The whole sacrament meeting was incredible. Testimony after testimony of the great members, whose lives have changed so much, along with the changes in our branch. I couldn't hold back, and went up and told them publicly how much I really do love them. Many tears were shed, the fast and testimony meetings here are so incredibly powerful, more powerful than anywhere I have ever been. I have been here for 6 months, and don't know how much longer I will be here, but I know that the Lord sent me here for a reason, and am thankful to have been a part of the big change.
Thanks for your support, love, letters, everything! Keep us here in your prayers. I tried to send pictures, its looking like it is not working, but if they got through, great! If not, I will try again next week.
Until next week,
Elder Babcock

Fishers of Men

Hello to all!
The main highlight of last week was the big trip to Asunción to Zone Conference. We heard from an Area Seventy named Elder Giovanni (I think, or DiGiovanni) from Argentina. I really enjoyed his message, on having Christ written in our countenance. He based his whole talk out of Alma 5, which is a great chapter that asks many self-reflective questions. I was able to re-read that chapter this week, and found it a great opportunity to take a step back and see how I am as a person, and not so much of how I am teaching, finding, baptizing, etc. The Assistants talked on charity, and full out loving the Paraguayan people and culture, which is something I also felt came at a perfect time. I have been getting better, but still have a lot of work to do. Then, President Madariaga preached an incredible sermon on faith, and not just your average faith lesson, but talked about the faith process. I have come to realize that faith is so much more than just believing in something. Its such a deep topic, that consists in deep conversion to being a follower of Christ and knowing that it will truly all work out. I testify that faith, with actions that follow that faith, brings miracles. President's message touched me so much that in church yesterday I decided to give my talk about how faith brings real miracles, and the people in attendance seemed to enjoy it.
I was reading in Matthew 4, which has one of my favorite bible stories. Christ is walking along the sea shore, and sees Peter and Andrew, who are fishing and I am sure they were super busy with all their work, not expecting the Savior of all mankind would walk by and ask them something. Christ then says the famous, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. What is interesting is that they immediately left their nets and followed him. In our lives, be it spiritual, temporal, financial, we get tied down to our own personal "nets" that hold us back from truly following Him, but if we follow the Savior immediately, and that may mean repentance or forgiveness or whatever it may be, if we just leave our nets, we will become great Fishers of Men. I am trying to leave behind those "nets" in my life that hold me back, and am working on being more "immediate" in my following of Christ as He calls me. I invite you all to do the same, and to be Fishers of Men as well.
Keep us all in your prayers.
I have been trying to get my district to progress and become great teachers of the gospel. One of the best way is to talk with everyone, in every situation. You never know who the Lord is preparing to receive the gospel, and without talking to them, you can never find out. We are working on getting better at talking to everyone, and just going around doing good, serving, being more like the Savior was. When He traveled with his apostles, I am sure that he did not sprint to appointments or let people pass by Him without loving, serving, and helping someone in need. I am really trying to incorporate those divine and eternal principles of faith and charity, and feel like it is and will help me become a much better missionary.
Thanks for the love and support from home, a letter here and there is always great. I love you all, keep us here in your prayers.
Until next week,
Elder Babcock

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Missionary WORK

Obladi oblada life goes on yah on and on and life goes on. Wow missionary work is work, and sometimes you don’t get your pay check :) ha-ha. We spent the whole week working as a super better companionship. Diligently studying, making specific plans, making a huge effort to have sweet lessons with members... and it all happened. Except for the whole showing up for church part. Ha-ha… For members the early church is a way to have your whole Sunday free, for investigators it’s a way to have an excuse not to go. But we had a great week and had fun together. We contacted a few references that were in the mountains, and I think there are more dogs than people, and the dogs aren’t that fond of people either - or just missionaries. But we felt like Jackie Chan and Jet Lee back to back with rocks in our hands surrounded by dogs. I’m glad my comp is a bit chunkier than I am because I think they got scared of him and we got out of it alive. If there is one thing I have learned on my mission it is to be committed.

Commitment starts with desire. I think the first few words I learned in Mexico were "si dios quiere." Translated is "if God wills it". God lets us choose, but we have to have the desire to choose. If I want to put on a pair of shoes, I’m not going to wait at the edge of my bed to see which shoes God puts on my feet. I’M going to put them on my feet. At first it might sound like faith "if God wills it." But I feel like it’s the opposite. God is willing to let us choose, and is happy when we choose the right, but WE have to do the choosing. I don’t want to sound like we are independent of God. That’s not the way things go, but what would Jared have done if when he asked how to have light in his boat and God responded what do YOU want... and Jared would have said "you know what God... I’ll just let you do the work."
I like the representation that a few times we have done in lessons. We ask the people if they think that with our faith we can move something in the room... they of course get way excited and nervous ha-ha, and we ask them to shut the door so no one sees, by this time they are antsy, we pick up the object and move it. Ha-ha they laugh but it shows a correct principle. In Alma 37:44 it says that "pues he aquí tan fácill es prestar atención a la palabra de cristo, que te indicará un curso directo a la felicidad" (…it is as easy to give heed to the word of Christ which will point to you a straight course to eternal bliss, as it was for our fathers to give heed to this compass, which would point them unto a straight course to the promised land). It’s talking about the Liahona in verse 43, but I love the words at the end of verse 44. It will show us a course. But it WON’T take the course for us.
Commitment can start with very small decisions, premeditated choices. And we can choose now what will happen in the future. I forget where the scripture is that says something like "if no; no, and if yes; yes" it made me laugh the first time I saw it but it’s true. We must "fix in our minds a firm resolution” Alma 47:6 and with commitment comes blessings. It has changed me completely... Instead of saying maybe or I’ll do all I can... Commitment means saying yes to what you know is right.
Even with the trial of not having investigators at church I am happy. I WAS in church, I fulfilled that commandment and I do not regret the YES that I fixed in my mind about serving a mission. I love the church and I love that I’m still here having some definite learning trials.
Mom thanks for the update. I love your letters. I actually love all the doctrinal e-mails as well; I print them all out and study them in my personal study. Thanks for everything and for all I know my companion is keeping his promise and it’s showed a bit, he helped fill out progress sheets and is dedicating himself, that’s been the success of the week. Love you.

Friday, March 16, 2012

The winter has been defeated


The new Elders name is Vanhin Ogden. He is from Provo, Utah. He likes sports and is really easy going and cool. I’m excited to be with him. He has a lot of fire and faith in the work and already a lot of good things have happened this week. He also knows how to play Pokemon... which is a plus because I have managed to get my hands on quite a few Pokemon cards. (I stole them from Elder Pope, who was a good friend in the mtc with me.) We play after planning so don’t go around thinking we are time wasters, but it has been really fun. I have noticed that there is a missionary scale. The scale is from "too much fun and not enough work" to "too serious and not enough relaxation." Being too far on either side of the scale in my opinion is a bad thing. My philosophy in mission work is that you need to focus and be serious, but you also need to have fun and relax so that you don’t turn into a stress-ball. You need to find a balance where you are working hard, but still having a good time. Every missionary is a little different, so everyone is in slightly a different spot. Finding the right balance is important because without it you are either not very effective or not very happy. This is just another little thing in missionary work (and also in life) that I have noticed. It is important to be balanced.

But, ya, we get along well. We had more teaches than we had had in a while this week. Not because we weren’t trying before. I feel like it is just that with a new missionary, they bring new ideas, which has really helped this week in Joensuu. We have been biking a lot, but it’s getting much warmer with the occasional colder day. It was great to here our branch President say: Talvi on voitettu which means "The winter has been defeated" We have also been hearing birds chirping again, which is a great sign. The weather the rest of my mission will be cakey because I only have half of a winter to go. Woo! I am really excited for summer, I hope I am in a really pretty city because the scenery is great in Finland.

Not to much more. I’m doing well. We are going to play badminton again today, which I am really excited about. I really love the city still. I’m excited to see what happens here because I feel like we have some really good potential with a lot of our investigators. It will be a good change.

I love you all. Thanks for the support and whatnot. Keep being cool.

--Vanhin Merkley

Starving and being humbled



We got a change call last Saturday. Vanhin Rogers will be going to Laapenranta and I will be staying here. My new Comps name will be Vanhin Ogden. I will be sad to say goodbye to Rogers though. He is a super good guy and really easy to get along with. The last two changes have just been really cakey and full of funny memories (many involving star wars references).

This week we were in Kuopio on splits for a bit. Me and Rogers noticed a funny thing about missionary work--that whenever we go on splits, we are usually pretty hungry the whole time. The reason being that we stay over night at the other missionaries apartment and often it is not always free game to snack on whatever like we can at our own apartment. Sometimes it’s just that they don’t say "Ya, eat whatever you want..." which makes you unsure if you actually can eat whatever. And even if they do say eat whatever, I always feel a little guilty still. The best way I have found to not feel like a mooch is by drinking a lot of water.... because although its tasteless, at least you don’t feel like a jerk for eating all their food. I am grateful to be out here, learning the tricks of the trade.

Lately, I have been really frustrated by the language. I am the type of person that does not like something if I am not good at it. I am naturally better at some thing and worse at others, but the things I’m naturally worse at, I usually stop doing. But, I have realized, that I am not naturally good at speaking Finnish. Some missionaries are dang machines, but for me it has always been pretty hard. It has been really humbling lately to realize that I need to keep working and studying at something that I am not very good at. I feel really low in my ability, but that has led me to study better and pray harder. We are called were we are for many reasons. And this is definitely one of them for me, I am learning to really stick with something although it is not natural to me. Its been frustrating, but a good learning experience. The mission is great for that kind of stuff.

Thanks. I love you all. Keep up the good work.

Vanhin Merkley

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Elder Bednar is coming, yea!

Well the way sweet news of the week is that we had a capacitation by President Walker and it was fabulous. My compañero got super stoked to hear the President and I Think he’s got a few renewed desires. Then he got sick and he had to rest for a few of his study hours in the morning. It was a small flu or something like that. In fact we were planning on how to have more lessons with members... and he asked me what the level of excellence is, its fifteen lessons with members, and right now we have been having like 7-10 each week. He got stoked and wanted to do a ton of work with members and I asked him how we could accomplish it. I asked him how it was we were having lessons with members and he realized that while I’m calling and setting up lessons with members... he’s always writing his girlfriend. And realized that to be able to work as a team and dedicate himself to the area, at have more lessons with members he may have to write her less. I got super exited for him and I’m trying to support him in all of his decisions. One of the things he committed to do was not write her with e-mail for this whole transfer! I’m happy for him and exited to be able to hopefully see a change. The other good news is that Elder Bednar is coming In April to talk with us... I’m crazy exited.

As far as activities go mom, our president has told us that as missionaries our duty is to teach and not to set up activities. We can support the ward in their activities but we can’t plan them. We have to do our work through our ward mission leader. I have suggested and even planned many activities and presented them to our mission leader... but he does nothing. Flight 409... What we did as a ward... a contacting night... putting a church stand and giving things away to get references... I’m not just training my compañero but also the ward mission leader... and to be honest there isn’t much missionary work going on in this ward. Most of the people blame not doing missionary work on everything else. The truth is missionary work comes after testimony, cause you can’t lift someone to a ground that you don’t stand on. So we thought we need to help the ward with the basics... and it really hurt when I asked an active member where he is reading in the book of Mormon and he replied "I’ve already read it" ha-ha I couldn’t stop laughing and crying on the inside. The ward just split and so there will be more need to branch out. The stake president made some good promises to the ward and I’m hoping there’s a renewed energy. I’m happy to be here. The other two missionaries left and the President said that its cause a ward that’s not working in the missionary work doesn’t deserve two sets of missionaries. So now we have a huge area and it requires a lot of planning. I’m learning more and more every day and thank you for your fast, take care and thanks dad for your letter, actually I love the talk given by Thomas Monson Vivir la vida abundante, I’ve shared it a few times with some investigators and I really like the poems he cites. Love you

Elder Rhodes

Friday, March 9, 2012

Vanhin Merkley photo update

Here is a handful of the latest photos from Vanhin Merkley:

John.... and, a train...

Sporting the parka

In John's words: "... show Asher the Spiderman one. We were in a thrift store and I saw a Spiderman costume and tried to get (Elder) Rogers to buy it for me, but he said it was way too small and so I tried it on, and it turns out, he was right."

In John's words again: "The comic is something I drew and sent to the APs in hopes that they would put it in the mission newsletter (they do one every change and its called the suomen valo) haha they probably won't do it but it was just a funny idea me and V. Rogers had... What the grandma is saying is "Take more, if it tastes good" (which unfortunately is a real phrase people say all the time, no matter how full you are... haha)"

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Moving week in Oaxaca...Fun, Fun

Pues, good week. Elder Stradling and I have been working well. We recently had to pass one of our baptisms because he lives outside of the area. It was really the first person in my mission that I actually started to teach and is going to get baptised. Oh well. I did a few baptismal interviews on saturday and all 3 were baptized yesterday. Tomorrow 2 new elders will come into the area and we will be splitting the area. But, Elder Stradling and I will stay companions for at least the next 3 weeks. We spent a good part of the week looking for a house, because our contract ends this Thursday and the owner wants to sell the house so we need to move out. We finally found a good one, but are just waiting for the permission of President Leyva to get the contract done and get moved in. The house is right across the street from the house we live in right now.

Elder Stradling said something this week that really sums of the difference of the living style between here in Mexico and in the states. He said that people here work to live, but people in the states work to vacation. Haha. Although not true in all situations, I think it sums it up really well.

The work is good here in Oaxaca. A little slow for the time being but we plan on working hard this week. This Saturday Elder Richard G. Scott will be visiting the mission for a conference with all the misionaries, and Sunday he will be presiding the Stake Conference. Out of all of Oaxaca, he chose to come to our stake. Its really awesome and Im really looking forward to it. Although, most members say that he's coming to planch us (planchar is a verb that means both iron like to iron clothes, but in this sense means to bash or rail) haha.
Thank you for your prayers, testimonies, and faithfulness. I love you all and am continually grateful for your love and support.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Running for the train

This week was pretty interesting. Vanhin Rogers had Kieli Koulu (a missionary class for people who have been in the country for 6 months) so we headed down to Lahti to stay the night. When we got there, there was a note on the elevator saying something like "Be alert Marines" and from that point on it just got weirder and weirder. We got to their floor and there were 2 nerf guns and a recorder. We played the recorder and it made a sound like some sort of Halo game, where we needed to take the guns and go shoot the aliens (the missionaries). At that point, I was just hoping nobody would see us. We open the door and they flip the lights off and then all at once we are getting shot at by one missionary, while the other missionary had a bike helmet over his face and was running around us making piggy squeals. After the shootout we turned the lights back on and made slightly awkward comments like "Wow. That was... cool." The missionaries were really nice though and we had a good time. It turns out that the missionary from Missouri is quite a nerf player. He had about 5 or 6 expensive looking nerf guns, which looked sweet but then again.... its nerf, come on. There are so many interesting characters you meet as a missionary. Haha I love it.

The next night we slept in a place called Laapenranta. (I’m pretty sure it was Steve Harris first city.) In the morning though, we were walking to the train station with all our bags and supplies and Vanhin Rogers noticed that he had left his ticket. We had to make a mad dash back to the apartment at which time we only had 15 minutes to get to the train. The only way we could make it was if we ran. We ran almost the whole way (which was way chaotic because of all our stuff) and right when we got to the parking lot, the train pulled away. If we were only 30 second faster we would have made it. But, I don’t think that would have been possible because after, Rogers told me that if we went any faster, he would have passed out. Haha It was a bummer to miss the train, but we caught the next one (3 hours later.)

We also had some funny incidents tracting: A lady answered but didn’t have a man at home so we said we would come back. But she was a bit drunk so she kept trying to trick us into coming in. She kept saying things like: Boys, come here. Come, come on. We will talk about Jesus, come. Come now. Haha Eventually we had to gently ease the door shut and run away.

Another one was a russian lady who found out we didn’t believe in the trinity. The rest of the conversation she did say anything but "misled, misled boys, oh, misled boys....." The conversation was like this: Us- "So would you like to meet with us and discuss about this?" Her- "Misled, oh, your misled" Us- "Ok, thanks anyways" Her- "misled boys, oh, your misled..." Us- "Uh... ok. Thanks" Her- "misled, misled, misled...." and so on. Haha Good memories though.

Thanks for everything. I love you guys. Have a good week.

Vanhin Merkley