Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Zone Conference in Oaxaca

All is good in Zapandu. The week was good and we have started to see some progress in a few investigators. If all goes really well this week there will be a baptism on Saturday or Sunday. This week we had a multi zone conference and President Leyva came and spoke with us. It was a really good experience and we learned a lot. Yesterday one of the 70s came and spoke to us in our Stake conference. The talks were mostly based on tithing, temple attendance, and topics that can help us as members have a more firm foundation in the gospel. Everything is good down here. I want you all to know how much I love you. Thank you for all that you do. I want to share my testimony that I know God lives and that Jesus Christ is our Redeemer. Our prayers are heard and answered. They have called us and continually will be calling us to assist in Their labor and remember Their purposes. I love you all. Strengthen your testimonies every day and never let go of them! Hasta Luego. Elder Millet

Eating Tamales...Yum!

Talent Show in Oaxaca

The mission is great. This week we did divisions with 3 other companionships and so my companion Elder Tovar and I were only together for 3 days. It was strange, but it was a good experience learning from the other missionaries. I met a few people that only speak zapoteco (the most common dialect here in Oaxaca) so that was pretty cool/hard. They understood a tiny bit of spanish but the majority no. We also had a stake talent show on Friday. At the last minute they asked us missionaries to put something together and so we did a little skit it was really fun. Also I gave a talk yesterday about the gathering of Isreal. It was interesting to learn about and it went well. We have an investigator(Yair) who has a date for his baptism this Sunday, and so we will see what happens. We hope that he works hard this week to be able to meet that goal. He is a young man he is 14 years old. We have a few other investigators that are progressing and are excited to work with them and find new people to talk to this week. Oh and today I bought some SWEET new sandals. They call them tecos becuase they call people from Juchitan tecos and a lot of them wear these sandals. The only downside is I can pretty much only wear them in the house... we walked through a huge market, it was really cool. I love you all. Thank you for everything you do. This week I felt very grateful for the covenants that we are able to make in the church. They are something that we can focus on and they motivate us to be better. I felt blessed to live in a dispensation where these covenants are available and that we have a prophet who guides us. Hasta luego, Elder Millet

Flower Market in Oaxaca

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Our Purpose

Hello to all!
Wow, how short on time I am! Today was a special day. As Zone Leaders, we did a big "Concilio" where we all got together with the Assistants and President Madariaga. We were able to learn about great leadership, focusing on how we must be like Captain Moroni. President told us to not stress so much about all the assignments we always receive, just to do our best and show our best effort, and then we can know that the Lord is pleased. I got to see Elder Colligan, always a blast. We played a huge soccer game with all the Zone Leaders...and of course it was awesome. I got to score some goals, it was great.
We also had Zone Conference this week. The big focus was on contacting and purely talking to everyone. I have had numerous great experiences of talking to new people and have been finding many new people by just opening my mouth and talking to them! President also talked about always having the vision of our purpose in everything we do (inviting all to receive the restored gospel), not just memorizing it, or repeating it out loud, but to really live it, feel it, strive to daily accomplish it. Not to focus on talking to someone just so you can check that off on your daily goals and move on, but to treat every contact, every lesson, every single thing on our purpose. Elder Christofferson said that our purpose is not just to warn people, but to save them. I really like that. I am trying to focus more on the Doctrine of Christ in my teaching, and to use the most powerful element I have to do that, which is the Book of Mormon.
It was late at night and we were trying to find another lesson to teach. We were walking by the house of a lady who was sweeping, so we presented ourselves, and started talking. She quickly said, "Sorry, I am not the owner of the house, so I am not very interested". Well, we kept talking and then she goes and grabs a few chairs and we sat down outside of her house, along with her daughter and nephew. We found out that she was born in Paraguay, but recently moved here with her family. She did not have a strong christian background like everyone else here, but really wanted to change her life. We testified boldly on the power of the Atonement, and of repentance. We went back to visit her and she had read in the Book of Mormon, and told us that when we went by the other day, she had lied about being the owner, that she really lives there. She said that when we got there, she had felt something different, and that what we were sharing was important. She seems interested, has some doubts on the Plan of Salvation, but it made me feel great to see the Spirit starting to work with us, even in a simple contact with someone. I hope it all continues to work out. Speaking of her, we have an appointment tonight!
We have found a few hopeful miracle baptisms for May, we are working hard so that we can reach our goal!
Love you all, the Gospel has been restored. Apply its teachings. Have faith in Jesus Christ, repent, be baptized, receive the precious Gift of the Holy Ghost, and endure to the end! What a simple, but profound doctrine. I love it.
Pray for us, we need it desperately.
Elder Babcock

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Vappu and Mr. T

We had splits and had some Missionaries sleep over. Then the next day was District Meeting, so we had another pair sleep over as well. And of course we played floor hockey in the morning and it was fun as ever. The District Meeting went well. Afterwards we went to the Turku castle and ate lunch and went to the museum. I only bought a small sandwich because most of the food was straight meat. I would say I consider myself a vegetarian these days. I haven’t eaten meat (unless it is offered in a dinner appointment) in a couple months now. I just feel better so I'll probably stay like this forever. That was a strange tangent but Ill get back to telling about the castle. The museum was really fun and we had a really funny group of missionaries, which always helps during the dry parts of a museum. I will sent pictures.

This week was also Vappu. So there were tons of people in the center, all of which were getting super drunk But they also wear funny hats and jumpsuits so there is a plus side. We (the innocent missionaries that we are) needed to buy cheese and so we headed to the store with all the thousands of people in the streets. We had to be in early that day so we were trying to hurry back to our apartment, but it was hard trying to squeeze past the crowd. It seemed like we were getting even more stares than usual and at one point, some drunk guy was yelling "Drink! Drink!" haha afterwards my companion said "I would think satan would try and be more subtle...." It was a funny situation and opened my eyes to why our Mission President wanted us in early on Vappu. Drunk people are just not the most open to what the missionaries have to say.

We started teaching this really cool African lady this week. She has the cutest little black baby, and she cut his hair to look like Mr. T. During the lesson, he was crawling and chewing on everything. I gave him my planner, which was a sort of bad idea because he chewed off some of the cover.... but not a big deal. Who could get mad at that cute little Mr. T face?

The weather is great. And I am really liking the city. I’m still having a beast of a time with the language though. It just never seems to click with me, but overall, not a big deal. Things are going well here.

Love you all.  Keep holding down the fort, wherever that fort may be.
Vanhin Merkley

Summer has officially started

It seems like the summer has officially started. I’m really loving Turku and the comp is a baller. There is a big river right through the city (haha for some reason its brown... but still nice) and we live really really close to this big Tuomio Kirkko (which means judgment church—see photo)

We had some really interesting teaches this week. One guy, who had been in the hospital said that he had read the whole Book of Mormon and believes its true. We didn’t think he had read any of it but turns out he’s loving it. And then we had a crazy dinner appointment where we were right in the middle of a family issue that we probably shouldn’t have been there for.... haha but after a few hours we were able to break free which was good because we definitely weren’t helping the situation. On the bus ride back, Hoggard and I were laughing at the interesting life of a missionary and how we get all these little random peeks into peoples lives... some of which, are not meant to be peeked at.

We went to an orchestra concert. There is a less active we have been meeting with and he is second chair in the orchestra. He plays the big slanty violin but the one that is smaller than the cello.... It’s probably very apparent that I am a huge idiot when it comes to the orchestra but I still managed to have a really good time. Our friend did a great job and it was cool to see all the instruments work together. I also thought it was pretty funny to see the little conductor get really into it and start jumping around and shaking his fists. It got me thinking of how situation is everything... as a conductor, its completely acceptable. But, if he had been out on the street, he would be ”that crazy guy who jumps around and shakes his fists” haha good times.

We also started talking to a guy who said the world will end on the 20th of this month. He said it’s because of sun flares and how they are related to apocalyptic angels. So, it will be interesting to see how that turns out. He also believes that before Eve was a lady named Lily, and that perfect man didn’t have feet.... so I wouldn’t be too worried about the 20th.

That’s about all. I love you, and have a great week.
Vanhin Merkley

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Mission Call, Dad's example

Hello to all!
Well, my old companion left last week home. I got a new companion, his name is Elder Andreasen. He is 6 weeks younger that me, and so we became one of, if not the youngest Zone Leader companionship in the mission. We immediately are clicking well and getting along great. We have been working hard and well together, and I am really excited for this opportunity to be companions! Also, Elder Wheatley, my mission "child", is in our zone! I was so excited when we got the call from the Assistants for changes, and they said his name. We played soccer today with him, it was great to catch up on everything.
We are obviously both new in the area, and are doing purely finding. Our area is super "chuchi" (fancy/rich/luxurious), so it has been hard trying to get into houses and be able to teach, but we are staying positive. We have been searching a lot, and have found some potential new people to teach, but all in all our pool of investigators is unfortunately low. We are working to turn that around, and find those many people who the Lord has prepared for us to teach!
Last Monday (it seems like all the great things happen on Monday directly after I write you guys), I got a phone call from a convert from my first area. He calls to tell me that he GOT HIS MISSION CALL! I just about died on the phone. I only knew that he was preparing, but had no idea he had turned in his papers yet! Well, he called to say he was about to open in that night, so he called again later to announce where he is going. We were all so excited. I am so proud of him and all the big steps he has made. He is such a great example to me, pure faith. No one in his family is a member (yet), he is living with his best friends family (his friend is on a mission now), and is just a stud. Since I am in his area again, we got to see each other and talk today in person. It was great to see him and talk. He is going to be a great missionary. I felt so honored to be able to have found him and taught him. He was so prepared by the Lord. I know that there are people like him not only in the current area, but all over the world. He is awesome.
Our other investigators are having a tough time going to church, so we are working on that.  With all the heart breaks we continue having within our own area, due to multitudes of members moving, investigators not progressing, baptisms not coming, I have been thinking a lot about faith. It is so easy to get down as a missionary. When everything falls, it takes all of my being to not just get down. I decided to read Ether 12 this morning, which has always been a favorite chapter. I love how it shares example after example of Book of Mormon prophets who were able to perform miracles because of their great faith. Faith is such a deep, profound doctrine that gets overlooked so easily. It has become one of my favorite topics of teaching and of studying. Faith is great.
Yesterday was Stake Conference. Elder Foster (70), Elder Di Giovanni (Area 70), and President Madariaga were all there. What stood out most was that Elder Foster was talking about families and the influence of parents. When he was a Stake President, he was interviewing a young man for his mission. The young man new all the answers perfectly, a little "too" perfectly. So he re asked him the questions, and once again, knew everything. He asked the young man one more time about all the interview questions, and once again responded flawlessly. He asked the young man, "How did you learn all of this, who taught you?" He simply responded, "my dad". The Spirit hit me like a brick. I am so thankful for my dad and his great example. I am thankful to have grew up in a house where the Priesthood was found. I am thankful for the deep friendship we have. I am who I am today, simply because my dad taught me everything. I love you dad.
Until next week! Keep us in your prayers.
Elder Babcock

Fasting brings miracles

Hello to all!
Well, the big news for this week is that my companion is going home. He just had his final interview today, and is heading out this week. It has been a different experience when someone goes home, and when you are the missionaries last companion before they go home, but it has been a good learning experience.
Our mission is focusing a lot on having more baptisms. I know, that seems like a pretty normal and obvious focus, but President is really trying to get our mission to be more dedicated, using all our tools, and consecrating ourselves to the work. He called me on the phone saying that our zone needed to pray and fast to find another baptism for this month of April. Right after that phone call, we hear the news that a couple in one of the areas in our zone decided to be married and baptized! So, that was exciting, and an answer to our prayers.
In accordance to President´s request, we fasted this week to soften the heart of a mother of a young man in our ward. Most of his family are members and he really likes it, but his mom does not like the church. She has not gave him permission to be baptized, mostly because the whole baptism situation was presented badly to her. But anyways, we, along with him and his uncle, did a fast. After the fast, we went to the uncle´s house  to figure out a plan of how we can help her understand everything and eventually let him get baptized. So, on Saturday night they went, and she received them well, and said that he has permission to attend church for now, which was progress! She also seemed more interested in the church and sounded more positive about the whole situation. It was great to see the answers to our prayers. It has not came yet as permission for baptism, but her heart is being softened and we are keeping the faith!
This week was a fun one. President wants us doing more contacts, so the mission goal is 75 contacts each missionary each week. The promise he left us was that if we get 75 per week, we will find at least 1 golden investigator....great promise right! We worked very diligently, and we found so many new, great people. I am really loving the mission, and the privilege it is to just find, teach, and see people make and keep covenants. I love it so much. It is something that you cant describe without experiencing it. So, experience it! Be a missionary, whether that means sending in those papers, giving a Book of Mormon to a friend, sharing a testimony to a co-worker, or loving a neighbor. It will bring forth the blessings of heaven as you participate and being to harvest in the field that is already white and ready.
Love you all. Keep us in your prayers.
Elder Babcock

Temple Trip

Hello to all!
This week had a big event that only comes around every 6 months: Temple Trip! We attended the temple this last Thursday, and it was a special experience. We fasted going into it, and I was able to expound on new revelation and knowledge while inside the temple. I am starting to really come to know more about the Atonement daily, and it has become so much more meaningful, relevant, and personal. It was great to see the temple, and to actually take part in so many sacred ordinances. I was contemplating quite a bit on my calling as a missionary, and re-read D&C 4. What a chapter, go ahead and read it prayerfully, and you will see it come to life, whatever may be your position in life!
My companion is heading home next week, and so we have been trying to work better as a companionship. I am learning by experience that communication is key to a good companionship. We had been struggling to communicate well in basically everything, be it about investigators, zone events, ward ideas, mission life, etc. We had a big talk and were able to figure out ways to be in touch better, and to really take advantage of our last 2 weeks together. We both felt a lot better after talking, and went out and saw great things happen over the weekend.
So we are in a drought here in our area, it is looking like our investigator pool has basically dropped. We had some great people that showed great desires, but when Sunday comes around, or when we follow up on commitments, or when we teach them, something has been lacking, and they just haven't done what they promised us they would do so many times! I have learned that on the mission, if you don't watch yourself, it is SO easy to get down and discouraged. But I am trying to stay positive, and open my mouth more, and spread the great news of the Restoration of the Gospel to everyone! We had interviews with the Mission President last week, and he left me a pretty big promise that if I contact, or talk to, 75 people every week, I will find at least 1 golden investigator (or family). And, knowing that he receives the revelation for our mission, following that promise, I will be able to find those who are ready to embrace the truth and follow it!
At church yesterday we were praying hard for a miracle. We had been teaching a less-active family, whose granddaughter is not a member. We had been working hard, trying to get her to go to church, progress, etc. really hard, but we hadn't found a way to "open the door" to her heart. Her birthday was last Sunday, so we decided to bake a cake and give it to her. Her family was happy and expressed their gratitude. We taught her, and committed her for church. She seemed kind of shaky to go, but said she would. We were sitting there with no investigators in church (which by the way is the worst feeling ever), when I was playing prelude music. I looked up to see her and her grandma walk in and sit down. It was, for lack of better words, a tender mercy of the Lord. I am thankful for the power of prayer, and I will keep you update with her status!
The mission has been such a great blessing for me. Like I began by saying, I have received so much light on so many incredible thoughts and feelings, and I am forever grateful for this opportunity to serve. May the Lord bless each of you in this coming week. Keep us here in your prayers.
Until next week,
Elder Babcock

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Another week and a new outlook from Brazil.

Eu esto muito bem e tivi uma semana muito bom.
      I have been on my mission for 203 days and learned a lot but I think every day I had at least one complaint if not a hundred everyday. I started out happy and just ready to jump into it but as time went on things were not what I expected and I thought I knew better. I thought for some reason that complaining and being negative and angry would help. I didn't know how to deal with those problems I ran into, but the Lord knew that and that is exactly why he gave me those problems and he has been teaching me everyday. I got to a point where day to day I did what I could and would watch and learn keeping the problems inside until I had someone to talk to and then I would unload the negative things in my head. This is why email got to be so problem centered. I started to be better day to day and learn more but I was still letting the negative things in and unloading them on people complaining every chance I had. It's so important to be positive and not complain. Life is so short and there is so much good with so little bad. Just know I'm going forward and trying to take another step towards be positive. Maybe if I learn my lesson the Lord will stop trying to teach me and I can get the perfect comp haha. Anyways, emails for now on are going to be positive because really my mission is good and I'm having fun most of the time, learning and growing and seeing others change.
      This week we had Elder Holland come and speak to us and it was awesome/ in English. He talked about really learning and remembering what we learn on the mission for afterwards and also about being converted during your mission. We are the Lord's investigators and everything we want for our investigators he wants for us. Now every time I say something in a lesson I think about it for myself and question if I've really done it in my life. He was awesome but dad,one of the Seventy at your stake Conference I'm sure was cool too haha.
     I'm learning so much in my time here. Mom and dad you wouldn't believe it but I'm all about getting up in the morning and my body doesn't even let me sleep in anymore. The other week I finished the Book of Mormon for the first time on the mission but didn't tell yall because I forgot. It was good but I didn't get that answer that 'BAM' it's true. I got more of a stop asking me you already know just look at your life and think about what you have learned.
   I wish every missionary could live in our house with mom for a month before being my comp or that she could teach every investigator a little before we got there. There are so many things she used to say that I want to yell at people. For example, we have Hosana, the crazy cat lady and she loves to listen and pick one word to twist and argue. I remember doing this to mom and her just telling me to shut up and tell her the important part of what she said. Or how about just keeping stuff clean or thinking about others haha. Thanks mom for all you taught me. I see other people that didn't have someone like you and its black and white.
    We had one more baptism yesterday. It was Marcos' sister Sara. We are teaching everyone in the family but for some reason can't baptise them all to gether haha. I think their mom and sister will be baptised this next Sunday. They are a really cool family and already stopped drinking cafĂ© and try everything we say. Only problem with the mom is she has a boy friend but he lives super far away and they only see each other like twice a year. In other words booty call haha but she knows she needs to change her life and is changing so its really cool. We also have Fransico and Ivonete still and no they didn't go to church but will this week. We have a new family that's really cool as well Hemilly and Nina. Nina is already a member but has not been to church for like 15 years but wants to come back, left her boyfriend and wants her daughter baptized. They are going thru a really hard time right now but I think we are to see some real blessings come into their lives. The work is good.
     I love yall and miss you. Hope it is all good and you're enjoying some warm weather as much as I'm enjoying some cooler weather. As always keep doing what your doing, being better everyday and rockin on.
                                         Elder Schmidt
ps: I worked out the other day just a little and I'm so freaking sore haha you change a lot on a mission.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Hola from Zapandu!

Hello from Zapandu! Yeah, Im back in the isthmo just as I suspected. I left the city today at 12 30 after eating my last dominos pizza for breakfast (they only have it in the city) and got here around 6. My companions name is elder Tovar he is mexican which I am happy about to be able to improve my spanish. I am really excited to be here. The city was good, but I was starting to miss the street drunks and jacked up taxis. I love Oaxaca. The week was good, we left the area with some good investigadors and the area I just arrived to has lots of work to be done. Its a good ward and has a really nice chapel and we live in a comfy house with just the 2 of us (in my last area we were 4 and it was a bit crowded). So im happy about that. Our shower is missing the shower head and so its just a little hole in the wall. My companion described it as a manantial (spring) haha. How was the DR? Thats funny hearing about the language thing. It was for sure hard getting to mexico and not understanding much, but I consider it a huge blessing being able to learn the language and feel blessed that it didnt take too long for me to start understanding. With the mothers day call... Mothers day here is the 10th of May, however I believe that the president has authorized us to call on any day from the 10th to the 13th. I will confirm everything with you next monday but right now I think the best plan is that I will call you on skype on Sunday the 13th around 4 pm our time. But this week I will check everything and on Monday get you some more solid info. Could you send me my skype information again? I forgot my username and password... The mission is going really well, I am content to say the least. I like the quote from George Washington dad. Really the key to success in the mission boils down to 2 things... Obedience and diligence. Like was said in the past conference (By Thomas Monson I think) Do your duty is the best, leave to the Lord all the rest. I love you guys. I love this Gospel and this opportunity to serve. I thank you all for guiding me here. Stay strong in the gospel and nourish your testimonies. Hasta luego. Love Elder Millet

Oaxaca es bueno

Hello family, This week we continued to enjoy the chocolates from the package and last night had pancakes and watery root beer with the mix you sent (we couldnt find dry ice so we just made it with normal ice haha). But this friday we are going to make it again with carbonated water and hopefully it will turn out better. Oaxaca is good. The coming week is the last week of the change, its gone by super fast and we feel good about what we have been able to do this change. THis week was really good. The work had been slowing down a bit but this week went really well and we found lots of people that listened to us. We invited a few people to be baptized the 6th of May and they all accepted. The bad news is that I will most likely not be here any more. One of the Elders that lived in our house got special changed this week and went to another area, and Elder Carrasco moved into the house on Tuesday. It is a lot more calm now because the Elder who lived here before was loco. I am trying to write lots of letters by hand today so Im a bit short on time. But basically that was the week haha it was really good and the work is progressing well. We will see what happens next week with changes... wish me luck. I have a feeling that im going back to the Isthmo where I started the mission. I love you all. I love this gospel. I know that God lives and that Christ is His living Son. We are all in a continual process of learning, and building our testimonies. I love the principle of faith and know that if we have and show faith in Christ, everything will work out well. One of the most helpful councils that I have received in the mission was from the Liahona from last october. It had a quote from one of the prophets of these days and said something like... do not trust yourselves, but study the best books, the Bible and the Book of Mormon. Then cleanse yourselves from all unrighteousness and all will work out... I believe those words and am sure of where that path will take us. I am grateful to be on the mission and for the support that you give to me. Thank you for everything familia. I love you. Elder Millet