Sunday, August 26, 2012

Something I need to do

We also had district meeting in Rauma. They all dared me to eat the end of a watermelon with no utensils. I fully accepted because come on, it’s a dare, you can’t say no to a dare. I went at it and they filmed it so when I send it home, it's alot more funny if you watch it on fast forward.

We found 4 new investigators which was fun.  Two of them are these super great people from China. They don’t speak English perfectly well and they have no Christian background at all, but the first teach with them went really well. We talked about prayer with them, which was a completely foreign idea. One of my favorite questions they had was "What is pray?"

About my homecoming--President Rawlings told me that the only option is going home December 18 or stay my full mission and go home February 7. These are the only options because pulling a missionary out mid way through a transfer has a lot of complications (closing a city, moving missionaries, etc.) Going home on December 18 is too early for me. I need to stay, which means I’ll be coming home February 7.  I know that if I don’t stay, I will regret it. This is something I need to do.

We got the change call this week. Elder Kääriä is leaving and I will be getting a new Swede companion. President Rawlings joked that there is something the Swedes need from being a companion with me and something I need from the Swedes. I personally think that he keeps putting with these Europeans hoping that some of their sense of style will rub off on me.  But I have been with Kääriä for 3 months and my ties are as hideous as ever. I’m still going strong.  It will be sad to say goodbye to Elder Kääriä. He has been the perfect companion and the perfect time for me. I respect the guy a lot.

Love you all,
Vanhin Merkley

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Do you believe in miracles?

Hello to all!
Last week was transfer week, always scary. So we were waiting for the phone call to get changes from the Assistants, and they said all the changes, then did mine last. He goes, "alright, your mission is about to change forever." I was pretty nervous, of course. Then, he says, "I am only going to tell you once, and I promise I am not lying...You are going to _____ with Elder Colligan." I just about died! Lets just say I did scream...pretty loud haha. I felt like when the US Hockey Team beat Russia and the announcer says "DO YOU BELIEVE IN MIRACLES!" So ya, we are totally companions right now. I will get back to there.

I said my goodbyes to my very, very special area, and to one of my best friends/examples Elder Andreasen. It was sad to say goodbyes to all the great people I had been about to teach.
Since I don't need to say much about my new companion, because the majority of you guys know him, I will explain a little bit about my area.  It is a small city, well populated, very different. Everyone here speaks Guaraní, few speak Spanish, so Elder Colligan and I are dedicating to Guaraní. It has been tough but cool. We are in a good sized branch, the chapel is huge. It was great to come in at this time, we are teaching many great investigators.
I love the mission. It is so full of excitement, experiences, changes, love, faith, Spirit, power, and more than anything, miracles! I know that as we live worthy of the Lords blessings, He blesses us with miracles. They can be big like Elder Colligan and I being companions, etc. They are mostly always small, like seeing humble people learn to pray, helping young investigators feel comfortable at church, not messing up too much playing the piano in sacrament meeting, etc. I know that God is a God of miracles, and I can only imagine the joy He feels when He blesses us with them!
Love you all! Pray for us here.
Until next week,
Elder Babcock

Treasures in Heaven

Hello to all!
I am really enjoying my time reading in 3 Nephi. I love the chapters 12-14 (which are also in Matthew), and the counsel it gives to live the "higher law" that Christ taught. I read 3 Nephi 13:19-21 on Saturday morning in my personal study, and really loved it. It says "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and thieves break through and steal; But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." When I read it, it really hit me hard. This life is a long journey that we take step by step, collecting treasures daily. It is easy to fall into the trap of collecting the "treasures upon earth" which are essentially the things that do not matter much, like fancy cars, clothes, luxury, work, sports, music (yes, I said it, Dave Matthews Band may qualify as a treasure upon earth...I cant believe i said it), etc. We spend so much time worrying about those things, when the really reward comes from collecting "treasures in heaven", the things we can take with us, like our family, knowledge, friendships, personalities, testimonies, covenants, ordinances, and all the great things that God has given us to find real joy. It really hit me hard. We visited a member who was going through a hard time, and asked us how she could better balance her work stuff, family stuff, and church stuff. We shared this scripture, and she started crying. I love the scriptures, because they are a divine source of revelation. As we read them, we can and will find the answers we are looking for. I have seen that time after time, especially once I was called to serve. I invite all of you to know them more profoundly, and to apply their teachings in your lives. You will feel the Spirit stronger, your family relationships will improve, your strength to resist temptation will increase, your love for others will be more genuine, your testimony will be more firm, and your determination to reach eternal live with become "steadfast and immovable".
We will receive transfers tonight, it will be interesting to see what happens with my good friend Elder Andreasen and I. Love you all! Keep us in your prayers!
Elder Babcock

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A Clean Conscience

Well this week in our ward Victoria (Victory) we had the wonderful opportunity to see a family of six walk in just in time for sacrament meeting. They already know a lot of the members and are progressing extremely fast. Their baptism is for the 26th of this month. They actually even signed up to clean the chapel on Saturday :) Not even the members show up to clean the chapel ha-ha. Our ward is kinda sad... I hope they can be a pillar of strength and a flow of excitement here. They testified of the Book of Mormon and the truthfulness of the gospel. What a fun opportunity as a missionary.
Oh and our changes! I get to stay here to see their baptism and I think progression in the gospel. Elder Avila and I will stay together till Elder Avila goes home. Then I’m sure I’ll be here for another exchange to receive someone new here... and then I only have one exchange left. So looks like this might be my last area! It’s going to be another long time in the same ward. Another 9 month-er I think. Pray for me and I’ll do the same :) I said a prayer like I always do before receiving the exchanges and I promised to do all that I can do, expressed my feelings and desires and left the rest up to the boss. Well I guess our "natural eyes can’t see the designs of our God" ...yet :) I’m sure something will happen here that will serve for my good in the future and for my time in this area. I’m exited to keep being a missionary and just oh so jolly to see this family learning and applying.
Mom we kept things simple (at the Zone Conference) and tried to let the "spirit be the teacher" it’s a type of plan that elder Bednar taught us and President said that we applied the plan very well, letting the missionaries reason and understand on their own, leading them with basic gospel principles. It was pretty great. We taught on how to make and keep commitments. I just wanted to share one last thing. In my reading this week of the book of Mormon, the words and prophecies of Isaiah and the gospel of Jesus Christ, I felt something different. Every time I passed by "repent ye, repent ye" "ye that doth not repenteth shallth be thrusteth to an endless hell and woweth" and all the rest of the thousand times it says repent in second Nephi, well I guess you could say the whole Book of Mormon right? But every time I passed by one of those phrases and scriptures, I had a warm peaceful feeling, a feeling of "keep it up" and keep doing you best. Keep repenting, but nothing to do with guilt. I love reading the Book of Mormon having a clean conscience and knowing you’re doing your best. The "great comforter".
Thanks for everything Mum and Dud

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Golden Family

Well no pictures this week, but it went pretty well. On Tuesday we received a reference from another ward of a "golden family" anyway we call him up, sounded exited, and go to meet him. Well it’s a complete family of 6, five in the baptismal age, and they are progressing really fast. They’ve gone to church, he knows the book of Mormon is true, his kids like the church and are excited to keep going, and we had a get-together with the bishop and they got along really well and stayed talking with them for a pretty long time... They will be baptized the twenty-sixth of this month. But I’m thinking I’m not going to be here for it because changes are next week. My companion only has one change left so if I stay, I'll be staying here for the next nine months... or I’ll leave. I’ll do what the lord wants but I’m thinking I might leave next week. Anyway that was the great experience of the week; it’s kind of really hot here, like really really hot :) Sometimes I imagine above my head the little energy bars that are above Pokémon or like whatever action figure that tells them how much life they have left, and in the middle of the day see it dropping really really fast ha-ha We gave a training meeting in the zone conference this week and president said it was the best of all the conferences he’d been to.
Nice compliment. I’m exited to keep studying and learning. I’m on track in second Nephi 3. Sounds like a lot of people are going to be doing it. Thanks for the support

Elder Rhodes

Shaun's recent photos


E. Rhodes in Libertad

Romina's Baptism

80 Day Challenge to all

Hey THANKS for the great emails. It was definitely cool to see the lake and the pictures of Hermana Juana. that’s awesome that Connor Barlow’s coming here to this mission, it’s going to be just in time to miss him huh? Too bad, it’s a great mission, get him exited for it. There’s a lot of Mexicans here ha-ha.
We had the absolutely wonderful opportunity to have a baptism today... and writing in my journal last night I wrote "I don’t understand why, but I feel just happy" that’s definitely a good sign. Her name is Romina, she’s the girlfriend of an ex missionary and her family is really catholic, but she’s a strong person. A Paul type of convert. I’ll try sending pictures in the afternoon, I’ve been having problems with sending pics, whenever I try to put the card into the computer it says "format to continue" but I’m definitely not going to format it cause it’s got some GREAT pics... so ill figure out a way to get them to you. I’ve been getting professional at family home evenings now that were working a lot with members... I think that would be a sweet calling "stake family home evening representative"

Hey I want to start something, if you’re not already reading it, and tell tanner too, I haven’t written him but I want to read the book of Mormon once before I get home. I call it the 80 days challenge. Three chapters a day and you finish in less than eighty days. (Rachelle calculated if you read around 4-5 pages per day, you can finish prior to Shaun coming home) So you wanna read it with me? Family? Tanner? I started reading yesterday and fell in love with English and my English scriptures... Learned that sacrifice is going to come back in style, so I think next we’ll start reading the Old Testament :) Anyway I’ll try getting the pictures this afternoon to ya... love ya and tell Connor to drop his girlfriend and get ready to have fun... I can’t explain the feeling on exchanges this Saturday with a trio, we were three white guys eating in an authentic Mexican restaurant (seeing that were in Mexico)... it just doesn’t get much better than that, with the next day being a wonderful baptism.  
On Saturday I went on exchanges with a trio in another area. I’m still in a companionship, my companion just stayed in the area. I’m not in, nor will I be in a trio :) It was actually with elder Holly (the missionary I traveled with to get here, and another American Elder Sorensen who has like 14 months on the mission. I’ll try sending a pic of the trio I was with tonight with the rest of the pics. Love you family and thanks for the letters See ya  Elder Rhodes

Friday, August 10, 2012

Lighten Their Load

Everything is going well. The summer is flying by pretty dang fast. The days are already starting to get darker and darker. But the Finns all say that we have a solid month of summer left, so as for now, the short sleeve stays on.

We had splits in Pori. I learned a lot because we met with this really friendly less active man, he was really great but he was going through a hard time because he did not have a lot of confidence in himself. It made me realize that everyone in life has some sort of problem that they are trying to deal with, and the best way to lighten your load is by helping others lighten theirs. Little things can make a big difference to people. Throughout my whole mission, I have been trying to keep track of the things I want to keep doing when I get back, and looking for the small ways to give people a boost is definitely one of them. I mean the times where the voice in your head says "Hey this is a little awkward, but you should help that old lady of the bus" or whatever it may be. Those things can really help, and we never know what is in their heads. It could be doing a lot more good than we know.

Today we went and visited the Tuomio Kirkko (2nd time for me). It was really fun because we were with the sisters and the senior couple here in Turku. Afterwards we had lunch. In the mornings we have been playing frisbee with the sisters. It has been good to get out of the apartment. I am not too hot at throwing a frisbee but my main skill is running like a dog and going for the hail marys. I have not yet mastered catching it with my mouth, but all in due time.

Ok everyone. I love you and stuff. Have some fun and exciting weeks. But hey, stay safe out there.
Vanhin Merk

Angel Harp Music

Good week. We had a very nice member friend buy us tickets to the 19 year old world lacrosse here in Turku.  So we went and watched the USA play in the finals against Canada. It was really fun to watch. They were pretty dang good. Lacrosse is a really fast game and if you blink you might miss a goal, but if you’re watching carefully you can see some amazing goals. There was this one dude who ran in, dove past and over everybody and chucked it in. It was crazy athletic. US ended up winning 10-8.

We had District meeting in Pori and splits in Turku. I had splits with Elder Orr. He is the Army Ranger who was in the MTC with me. He is a really funny guy and we had some pretty great conversations. And at night, he had his guitar and we jammed together. It was pretty funny to see this big army man eating the vegetarian dinner I made. Haha he kept saying things like "Man, this is good but without meat I don’t feel full at all" but I think he liked it nonetheless.

We also had a meeting with the Mission President. The older I have gotten as a missionary, the shorter my interviews have been. This last one was basically "Hey, Elder Merkley, how ya been? Any questions for me? No. Ok, lets say a prayer." Haha they understand that at this point in a missionaries life, the main hurdle is just trying to not get trunky. Which, by the way, has not been very hard lately. I think it has somewhat to do with me not knowing exactly when I will be coming home. Which actually is something we quickly talked about and he said that getting me home for the semester should be doable, but he will know the details better a little later.

We found 3 new investigators this week, which was cool. They seem to have a lot of potential. The other day one of them texted us and said "I read the chapter you gave me, where else can I read?" It was angel harp music to our ears.

I learned a pretty good lesson this week. We were in the bus and I was just thinking about the mysteries of life (because I’m so deep and cool like that) And I thought "If this bus flipped and I died right now, would I be satisfied with who I am and what direction I was going (and I don’t mean the direction as in "back to the apartment")" Being a young person, I have the mentality that I will live forever, but I realized that if I did die right then, I would have regretted not pushing myself as much as I could have. There is much room for improvement in my life and a lot of the things I sort of put off and say I will do later. But I realized that putting things off only leads to being less than what you could be. I have hopes for me becoming a certain type of person but if I just wait for it to happen, it won’t. I feel like a cliche high school motivational speaker, but we need to do our best to reach our full potential. There is the saying that the sky is the limit, but I disagree, I say there is no limit. BOOM. Ya, you can quote that one.

Well that’s about all there is for this week. Let me know what you’re all up to.
Love you all.
Vanhin Merkley

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Don't forget what the Lord has told you!

Hello to all!
We had a fantastic week, mostly because of many pleasant surprises yesterday in church! We worked really hard, and were praying really hard to see more people attend church, especially the investigators we are teaching. Well, we had 8 of them come! And it made us feel really happy to see many new faces that had not yet come before.
So we got a referral from the mission office of a lady who has 7 kids! Last Saturday, she was wandering through the center of a city and walked past the Stake Center, coincidentally during a baptismal service! She stayed to watch and said that she felt "great" there. The Sisters invited her to come the next day to church, and she went and loved it! Long ago, someone had given her a Book of Mormon, and she read it all, prayed about it, and came to know that it was true. She even understood it well! Evidence of that is that she explained to us the lineage of Joseph Smith (being a descendant of Joseph of Egypt). We went with a Recent Convert to visit her on Saturday again, and then Sunday morning her and her 7 kids came to church!
I read in Doctrine and Covenants 6 this last week and wanted to share some thoughts before leaving. This was a revelation given to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. If I am not mistaken, it was given because of some doubts and problems with the translation of the Book of Mormon, and Oliver Cowdery had asked the Prophet Joseph to inquire of the Lord. The response is powerful. Verses 20-24 were are great reminder to me of how I personally came to know of the truthfulness of the message I share daily. The Lord says in response to Oliver and his trials/doubts, in verse 23 "Did I not speak peace to your mind concerning the matter? What greater witness can you have than from God?" When I read that, it hit me pretty hard. The Lord has blessed each of us, especially those baptized members of the church, with answers to prayers, promptings and good feelings through scriptures, leaders, family members, and has answered us when we have asked Him, be it before or after baptism. Then, when Satan comes with doubts, skepticism, trials, problems, false doctrine, it is the tendency of the natural man to easily forget that which the Lord has given us: Testimonies. I could never doubt the sure answers that the Lord has bestowed upon me, speaking "peace to (my) mind concerning the matter." I testify that God lives, that Jesus Christ is his Only Begotten Son, that through His Atonement, all mankind may be saved. I testify that this Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only true church, and I know that because through diligent study of the Book of Mormon and prayer, the Lord has contested me and spoken peace concerning the matter. I know that it is true. Remember the testimonies that you have received. Look unto Him in every thought, Doubt not, fear not. (verse 36)
Love you all! Keep us in your prayers.
Until next week,
Elder Babcock

Owner of My Effort

Hello to all!
Wow, I am very short on email time so I will be quick and to the point.
This last week was pretty great. Elder Andreasen and I wrote a sweet duet of "I Hope They Call Me On A Mission/I Want To Be A Missionary Now", all nice and jazzy, and we were able to perform it at a District Meeting to try to spark some excitement in their district. It was awesome. My companion is beyond good and so I just play some cool things up high on the piano.
I was able to do a division with Elder Wheatley in his area. It was so exciting to be with him. He is a great missionary. We went to visit one of their investigators that they had been teaching for a while, and we had a really spiritual lesson with her, in which we read in Alma 32 and 34. I have been praying really hard for her, and hope that she can make the right decision, and be baptized in July.
I also was able to do again a "40 day fast" of behaviors that distract from the spirit, and when I started it (last Tuesday), I felt a new power come into my teaching. It felt great to feel such a strong Spirit in the lessons. I am hoping to only improve.
We had Zone Leader Council today, it was great. I learned many new things on finding new investigators, and giving more effort. A great quote of President Madariaga was "We aren't the owners of success, but we are the owners of our efforts." Sometimes in the mission, it gets frustrating when things don't go as planned. I cannot complain, my mission has been full of huge blessings of success, but it is true. The Lord is in charge of success, not us. We are, however, 100% in charge of effort. I have decided to put an extra emphasis on my effort, and leave it all on the table. I love the mission.
Sorry so short, remember us in your prayers!
Until next week,
Elder Babcock

Baptisms, temple, testimony of Joseph Smith

Hello to all!
Sometimes when I come to write my emails, I start to try to gather my thoughts and think, "How can I possibly put all my thoughts, events, feelings, and events into one simple email?" This last week was, for lack of better words, one of the best ones of my life, if not the very best one. Let me tell you why.
On Tuesday, we organized a special District Meeting that E. Andreasen and I prepared about the example of the Prophet Joseph Smith, basing our part out of a talk by Pres. Thomas S. Monson. We each shared a scriptures about a Christ-like attribute, shared facts of Josephs life, and then applied it to missionary work. I was so impressed by the life of Joseph Smith, and his love for missionary work. We both at the end bore our strong testimonies of the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the priesthood authority that came with it. Then we played a duet of "Praise to the Man", which was very powerful and moving. Then, President Madariaga (Mission President) came prepared to share his thoughts/testimony. He read a great talk to us, titled "Profile of a Prophet" by Hugh B. Brown. After his message, while trying to hold back tears, bore his solemn testimony that he knows that Joseph Smith really was and is the Prophet of the Restoration. The Spirit of the Lord instantly flowed without resistance into each and every one of our open hearts, and strengthened each of our testimonies. President never shows emotion, and he, with much emotion, bore his sure testimony. I will never forget how I felt sitting in the chapel, hearing his humble, but authoritative testimony. I testify that the Prophet Joseph Smith saw God, the Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ. I know that he was called of the Lord to restore the truths of the gospel that were lost during the Great Apostasy. I know that the Book of Mormon is a true, sacred record of the ancient inhabitants of the Americas, that it contains the fullness of the everlasting gospel, and that it was translated by power from on high. I know that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is exactly was it declares itself to be: The one and only true Church of Jesus Christ. I am thankful for the testimony that I have received, I feel it burning in my heart every time I share it. I feel it touch the hearts of the people that I contact. I love this Church and testify with all that I have, to all within reach of this letter, that it is His divine Church, and that salvation comes only through Christs Atonement, receiving all the ordinances in His church, and obedience to those covenants.
Friday night was an incredible one. Many members came to attend (the baptism) and participate in the service, including President and Hermana Madariaga. We played a special number of "Teach Me to Walk" that everyone absolutely loved, I think it was the first time that anyone there had heard such a great musical number as a duet.  The ward is so excited for them and have welcomed them into the fold with arms wide open and smiles. They love the church, and E. Andreasen and I really love them. They are a special family. I feel privileged to have been here in this special time of their lives, and to have been a part of their conversion process.
Saturday afternoon, Elder Andreasen and I headed to attend the temple with Christian. He received his mission call, and was there to receive the temple endowment. We had a quick lunch, and then while he was talking to the Temple President and getting ready, we were able to help out in the baptistery, where I ran into a couple of temple workers who knew Bruce and Susan (they say hi!), Grandma and Grandpa (they say hi), and another couple. They all were so excited for Christian and for me to be there with him! I was right by his side the whole way through. I couldn't help but feel a profound happiness. Words cannot describe the feeling of being in the temple with someone who, just a year ago, was a lost teenager, without direction in his life. He was looking for the truth, but didn't know where to find it. And, by divine intervention, we were guided to his house and found him. My joy is great. I could not feel more happy for him.  It was another moment that I will never be able to forget.
We have received so many blessings that I feel overwhelmed with the help from the Lord we have had. I love this work, the Church is true. Don't doubt, be believing! Love you all, keep us in your prayers.
Until next week,
Elder Babcock