Monday, December 30, 2013

Week 20 - Mele Kalikimaka!

Aloha everyone!
I hope you all had a merry Christmas filled with joy, and love, and Christ and such. Here, it didn't really feel like Christmas, it was sunny and 75 with no snow and hardly any lights and no Christmas tree. Christmas for me was just like the rest of the holidays, spent with my missionary family. We baked like 600 cookies the night before, then on Christmas day, after we'd all skyped our families, we went caroling and delivered all the cookies to widows in all the wards in our zone. It was cool not having to worry about presents and instead focusing on the Christlike spirit of Christmas and serving others.
One of the other sets of missionaries in our zone baptized a guy this past saturday with a really cool story. Our zone leader, a year and a half ago when he first started his mission had met this guy, Isaiah. He was the first door he knocked on his entire mission. They started to teach him, but after a while Isaiah started hiding when he saw the missionaries and eventually the elder was transferred. A year and a half later, we had a meeting and were all gathered together at the chapel of the ward he had served in. After the meeting, all the elders walked outside and saw a guy, sitting on one of the benches hungover and crying. We went over to talk to him, and the elder recognized it was Isaiah. Long story short, he told about how he wanted to change his life, and couldn't think of any other place to go. He accepted the invitation to start taking lessons from the missionaries again and was baptized three weeks later! He has such a strong testimony and completely turned his life around. Right after he was baptized, he came out of the water, and hugged his friend that had baptized him. They stood in the font embracing for a long time, but no one moved. The spirit was so strong because everyone in that room knew what he had come from and how much of a change he had to make and how much it meant to him to be baptized. He told all the missionaries how grateful he was for us and that when we get discouraged, to keep on going, because you never know what'll happen down the road. It took him a year and a half to finally realize he needed to change his life, then to recognize how much the gospel could bless his life.
I also had to give a talk yesterday in sacrament meeting. Because we have such a small ward, when someone doesn't show up to church that's scheduled to give a talk, they just ask the missionaries. I focused my talk on Christ, in the spirit of the holidays. I talked about how great it is that at Christmas time, the whole world comes together to remember Christ's birth, but now that Christmas is past, we can't just forget Christ, instead we move on in His life, in remembering what He continued to do for us after His birth. His atonement, and dying for us on the cross. I also talked about trials. How God will never try us above our capacity, so when we're faced with a trial, to look at it as a blessing and be thankful, because God is complimenting you, saying "I know you can do this, and when you overcome, you will only be stronger". I shared what a bishop in my last area told me about the refiner's fire. He said when a silver is refined it has to be put through intense heat first to break it down and purify it. The silver is finished being refined, when the refiner can see his reflection in the product. Then I related that to us, and how we need to be put through intense heat to humble and purify us, to realize we need Christ and to turn to Him. But once our trials are overcome, we better reflect our Savior and His life. I know trials make us stronger, and I hope by pressing forward, that Christ will be able to say to us as he does in 1 Nephi "I have refined you".
Happy Holidays!
-Elder Merrill

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Week 19 - Christmas!

No letter from Elder Merrill, but we were able to Skype with him!  He looks great!  Happy to be serving a mission. Here are a few Christmas day pics that he sent...

Monday, December 16, 2013

Week 18 - Brothers and Sisters....Talofa

I. Hate. Satan. He's really good at what he does, and our investigators keep dropping like flies.
Yesterday at church another one of our investigators decided she didn't want to meet with us anymore. The temple president came and spoke to our ward and of course he had to go all deep doctrine on us. He started talking about other worlds and how Jesus' Atonement applies for "aliens" as well. Our investigator had apparently gotten into anti-mormon stuff online and said that when the guy mentioned that, it was just too weird for her to continue taking the lessons. Then she started attacking and asking all these stupid, really weird questions in our gospel principles class.
On a good note, we had our ward Christmas party on friday which was awesome. For a lot of members, at least the ones here, it's pretty hard to just start talking religion with your good friend and then invite them to meet the missionaries. So the Christmas party was a really good and easy way for our members to invite their friends to a fun church activity, then once they were there, they introduced me and Elder Hill to their friends. We ended up meeting lots of new people, both investigators, and less actives we've never met before, so we're excited!
Most the crazy stuff that happened this week was to other missionaries in our zone. The sister's investigator made out with their ward missionary and now they're dating. Then a drunk homeless guy came and knocked on their door at 3am and demanded they bear their testimonies and sing hymns.
They also had a Christmas concert in the chapel of the next ward over. There was people from all kind different religions and they'd go up in groups and perform a few Christmas songs for everyone. The coolest was one of the kids from a ward in Waimea. His name's Kuha'o. He's blind, but he's like and organ/piano prodigy. There's a Mormon message about him and it's super cool how he just plays everything by ear and can't see a thing.
Something cool that we've been challenging all of our investigators and members to do this Christmas season is to think of a gift that they can give the Savior. Something that they can give up, or something they can do more to help them come closer to Christ and remember the true meaning and spirit of Christmas. It's crazy because here, even people who have nothing give all that they have to others. In ward council we shared stories about how we help bring the Christmas spirit into our homes. Many people talked about how in their families their kids will give up a toy, or they'll pick a family that they can go help have a good Christmas. Almost without fail, they said it's not that much because we don't have much to give, but it helps us focus our holiday season on the Savior.
So I'd like to leave all of you with this same challenge. Thinking of something that you can present to Christ on his birthday this year. I love you all!
Aloha, Elder Sammy Merrill

Monday, December 9, 2013

Week 17 - Aloooooooha!

Aloha and iakwe friends and family!
This week's been like a roller coaster. I've had some high highs, and some low lows. We had two of our investigators call us this week and tell us that their boyfriends don't want them to meet with us. They thanked us for what we had taught them, and said hopefully sometime down the road, they'd be able to start taking the lessons again. That happened within an hour of each other. Then that night, we had a lesson with our only with date, Georgia, and found out that she semi-lives with her boyfriend, so they have to get married before she can be baptized, so we have to push her baptism date. But she's doing really well. She just recovered from her illness which the doctors determined was withdrawls from her quitting smoking cold turkey. She really wants to change, and has a real desire to be baptized! So we're excited for that.
We are also teaching this couple, Kelton and Kehau (friends of Brandon from my letter last week). They've been coming to church every week and are currently living with a part member family. They're completely changing their lives around. They've given up their friends, drinking, smoking, drugs, and are completely making a change for the better! During our lesson this week we asked them what they thought the next step was in continuing to follow Christ. The boyfriend, Kelton said "I want to be baptized!" Kehau wasn't so enthusiastic, but she said she'd pray about it. We then taught the law of chastity to them and tried to help them move closer to marriage, so that they can eventually be baptized!
We also had this lady Haunani who has social anxiety disorder, so basically, she's too terrified to leave her house. She had also told us in the past how she doesn't even have a car and doesn't have a way to get to church, even if she wasn't scared of going out in public. We worked long and hard with her and finally got her to commit to coming to church. I felt like I should tell her that if she had faith and prayed for help, she would have a way provided for her to get to church. My companion and I prayed really hard that night for a miracle... The next day we got a phone call from her so excited we could hardly understand what she was saying. She told us that she had just received a check in the mail from some company had made a mistake in some situation with her in the past. She said she had enough money to pay off all of her debts and even to buy a car! She also said her son was coming to town so she had a ride to church on Sunday! It was a really cool experience.
And just yesterday we had a member bring a girl he had just met the day before to church! She stayed all three hours, accepted a book of mormon, return appointment, and is coming back on wednesday to do family history work at the church!
I guess the main lesson I've learned from this week is that when the Lord closes one door, he opens many others. We were pretty upset when we lost those two investigators, because we don't have that many in the first place. But we kept pressing forward, trusting in the Lord, and He provided a way! It's easy to get upset, depressed, and even angry when you have an opportunity taken away from you, and that's why it's so important to turn to the Savior and put your trust in Him, because he knows perfectly how to help and comfort us, and in turn, will present us with opportunities and blessings which largely outweigh those which were seemingly taken from us before. I love my Savior and am so grateful for His hand in my life!
I hope you guys have seen, and continue to see the Savior's hand in your life!

Ippen Iakwe, Elder Merrill


Monday, December 2, 2013

Week 16 - It's me, Elder Merrill

Malolelei friends and family!
I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving. Holidays out in the mission field are a lot different than back home. We don't really have friends to go cruise with or family to go see, so we just got together with our makeshift family (the missionaries in our zone) and play some football, rugby, ukulele, etc. Then we went to a member's house (I guess you could relate them to like an awkward cousin) and had dinner with them. We were fed plenty, and I had a lot of different things to be thankful for.
This week we got a with date! She's going to be just the second baptism for our small Honoka'a ward this entire year! Her story is actually really cool, so I'm gonna paraphrase it for you guys.
Her son, Brandon, joined the church a while back, and shortly after went inactive. After him and his family went through a lot of trials, they decided that they needed the Lord's help, and they needed Him in their lives, so they started to come back to church. As they consistently came to church, prayed, read scriptures (the small things) they gained the spirit in their lives and the Lord was able to lift them up. They completely changed their lives, giving up their old lives of partying, drinking, etc. They are now some of the most faithful members of our ward, and a lot of our work and investigators come from his example that he's set. Friends that he used to party with notice the change in him and how much happier he is, so they ask him about it, and he invites them to start taking lessons from us!
Anyways, relating back to his mom, Georgia. She also noticed the change in him and his wife and how much happier they seemed to be. She also wanted that same happiness in her life and started taking lessons with us. We taught her the plan of salvation this week, and it really opened her eyes as to how life continues after, and why what we do here on Earth is so critically important. She started crying and saying that she should've been the one teaching this to Brandon, and that she should've been the example of him while he was growing up, because she's his mother. But she said instead, he has been the example to her and has helped her find greater happiness. She smoked since she was 14, and for the past two weeks, hasn't smoked a cigarette! We didn't even address the Word of Wisdom yet, she just knew it was something that she needed to stop, and she knew with the Lord's help it was possible. 
Brandon's story bore testimony to me of how important it is to be that example for all those around us. He says that it's hard, at work he's like the outcast and he's not invited to go out with his friends on the weekends anymore, but he also says he's so much happier and wouldn't trade this happiness for anything. He and his wife are preparing to be sealed to their family in the temple! And he told us that his mom making the decision to get baptized on the 21st is the best Christmas present he could ask for!
So go out and be that example that Christ needs you to be always!
I love you guys and thanks for all the prayers and support!

-Elder Merrill

Monday, November 25, 2013

Week 15 - Aloha(again)

Hey everyone, 
Choke Mahalo and Aloha from Hawaii! It's just too bad you're all stuck in the freezing snow back home;) This week has been crazy. For starters, I got transferred to Big Island. I'm in a little town called Honoka'a. It's really green, and really rural. This is the first time I've seen cow pastures and green hills. It's really pretty though, just not that many people.
The work is pretty slow here as well. It's a fairly small area and there have been missionaries here for I don't know how long. Almost every door has been knocked on multiple times and a lot of houses even have notices or signs just for us like "No Mormons!" or "We are a catholic family and if you're Mormon missionaries or Jehovah's witnesses you're just wasting your time" But it's fun and the people here are super loving. There's a lot of Hawaiians and no Marshallese people, so I've been picking up pidgin in place of my Marshallese.
We had a really good stake conference this past sunday that was broadcast from Salt Lake to all of the stakes of Hawaii. Elder Uchtdorf, Bednar, a member of the 70 and the 2nd counselor in the primary general presidency spoke. It was a really good conference, almost like a personal general conference just for us. The main message seemed to be on repentance. What Elder Bednar said hit me the hardest. He talked about how a lot of people plan to sin, then repent later, at a time that's more convenient for them and after they've had their fun. He said they see it a lot in young men preparing for missions. But in the scriptures it talks about how, in order to be truly forgiven of your sins you have to repent with real intent. Then he asked the question "How can you hope to repent with real intent, when your original intent was to sin?" That really hit me and helped me realize how important it is to be a witness of God at all times and to obey his commandments at all times, not just the times that are convenient for us.]
Thanks for all you guys do!

-Elder Merrill

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Missions 'n Stuff

Aloha everybody!
We had another baptism this week! His name is Mingo (see the pic) He's Hawaiian, so his real name is like 10 names put together (Hawaiian names are novels, I swear) but everyone just calls him Mingo. It was kind of interesting, his grandpa baptized him, and while he was in the font, which is freezing cold by the way, his grandpa gave like a 10 minute speech.
There was also another baptism in our zone that has a really cool story. The missionaries taught and baptized this 16 year-old boy. They begged and pleaded with his mom for an hour until she finally agreed to come to the baptism. After the program, she went up to the missionaries and started crying. She told them the story of how at first she didn't like the elders coming over at all. When they asked if she wanted to sit in on the lessons, she replied she was busy, and would go inside. Then as time went on, she recognized they were there every tuesday and thursday, so she started to clean the house so it looked nice (even though their lessons were outside) Then after a little bit longer, she started to sit on the couch inside and listen through the window to the elders teaching. She told them she believed everything they said, and was just baptized this past week by her son!
I want to relate this story to a Marshallese saying "An pilinlin koba rej komman lome to" It basically translates to: drops of water, combined, form an ocean. This saying always reminds me of Alma 37: 6-7, which talks about how by small and simple things are great things brought to pass. One drop of water is small, and insignificant, but when thousands, or even millions are combined, they form something incredible. Just like in the story, the elders asked if she would join every time, even though they knew she would say no. But because of their diligence and faith, over time, this woman eventually made the choice to follow Christ and be baptized!
I believe that some of the things we're asked to do in this church may at first seem insignificant and unimportant. However, there is a reason for everything, and often times, God is the only one who knows or can see that reason. We're only asked to exercise our faith and trust in him, and in the end, we can see miracles, or great things, brought about in our lives.
I love watching as people take that initial step of faith and pray about the Book of Mormon. Many times, it takes a while and a lot of convincing before they'll pray about it. But once they receive that witness, that key to their conversion, that the Book of Mormon is true, they see great things in their lives, and it's truly a miracle. I'm so grateful for all of you, my friends and family, and hope that you recognize that nothing God asks you to do is small, or insignificant.
Kojparok wot im kememej Anij!

Love, Elder Merrill

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Week 12 - Yoloha

Iakwe aolep armej!
I hope you all had a good Halloween. I thought Halloween was boring when you couldn't go trick-or-treating anymore, try it as a missionary. We stopped proselyting at 5 and went to the church with our whole zone to play basketball and volleyball, and still had to be back home at 9. So basically I'm a party animal. And call me a rebel, but I was so bored I went back to our apartment at 8:45. Count your blessings;)
We had four kids from a basketball team that we taught get baptized this week! (see picture) The tall kid is their coach and just left on his mission today to Japan. Our ward had a ward family home evening for him leaving last night and everyone came up shared their testimonies to him and talked about how good of an example he had been to them. I think him leading by example was one of the main forces allowing these boys to be baptized. They all looked up to, and admired him a lot and so they did what he asked. When he invited them to church, 11 boys showed up the next day. We were trying to baptize all of them, but some of the parents weren't ok with it yet. In Micronesian culture, parents believe that you're "wasting your baptism" if you're not a good person when you're baptized. Many of these kids are, of course, sometimes disobedient to their parents, so we're still working with them, hoping to baptize them a little further down the road. At the family home evening, Justin (the coach) got up and shared his testimony, then invited all four of the boys to share theirs. They all talked about how their baptism was one of the best days of their lives and that they wanted to go on a mission, just like Justin and just like the elders who taught them.
Justin and his work here, inspired me to try and lead by a better example, and I'd invite all of you to do the same. He didn't start out thrusting the gospel on them, but instead became their friend first, showed them he cared, and then let them know he had this piece of his life that brought him happiness that he wanted to share. Because they knew he cared and saw the way he lived his life, it opened the window for us to come in and teach. So you never know who is watching what you do or when people might make important choices based on the example that you've shown, that's why it's important to always stand as a witness of Christ at all times, and in all things, and in all places, and also to follow the promptings of the spirit.
I was reading in 1 Nephi I think chapter 3, and Nephi talks about how he was led by the spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which he should do. Life's like this, especially as a missionary. There's times when I don't know where to go, who to see, or what to say, but I follow promptings from the spirit and in return am blessed. And honestly, it's kind of stupid to not heed, or just shake promptings off, because in the end, God always knows best. Our Heavenly Father is the only one who knows perfectly. He knows what's best for us, and for those around us. He knows perfectly how to best help his children. So we should always listen to His spirit, the Holy Ghost. Because he will never lead us astray.
Choke Mahalo for all of your love, support, and prayers!

Love, Elder Merrill

Monday, October 28, 2013

Week 11 - Hi from HI

Wow. missionary work. If you're wondering why I didn't email last week, it's because I was crazy busy. If you didn't notice...thanks for nothing:)
A bunch of just small random things happened this week. Our car got towed, I saw a homeless guy strip down on a corner, almost ran over a prostitute, got a black eye, and had our baptism cancelled. The other stuff doesn't really matter, but with the baptism, we had this kid who was so solid for baptism. He understood everything, wanted to be baptized, and was gonna go to the temple the week after. We had a date and time set, and even had the programs made, and he called us the night before and said his mom wouldn't let him be sucked but we're hopefully gonna baptize him in  a few more weeks!
Also this saturday we're baptizing a whole basketball team! I'm not sure if I've talked about the basketball coach who's leaving on a mission next week, but there's this kid who coaches a basketball team of middle-high school kids and he brought them all to church one day. We've been helping out with their practices and teaching them all the lessons. We have like 10 baptisms planned for this saturday from the team so he can baptize most of his team before he leaves!
We've been working hard and have like 20 baptisms for our ward planned this month! 
The Marshallese people are awesome, and the language is actually coming along a lot better ever since we started language studying with some of the Marshallese members in our ward.

Love everyone! Bye!

This last p-day we did a hike to a light house. Here's a picture

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Week 9 - Sup

Hey everyone!
So I don't have that much time, but we had a miracle this week. We went to a member's house for dinner, and because we shared a killer spiritual thought with him, I think we gained his trust. So he told us that one of his sons had a friend that felt the spirit when he went to the church to play basketball, just like a peaceful feeling, and he wanted to know what it was. The member talked to him about the Spirit and how he could have it if he was baptized. The kid said he wanted to be baptized and agreed to meet with us. We met him at church the next day, then taught him yesterday. He's set for baptism on the 26th and he's going to the temple with the youth on Nov. 2nd!
We also had our zone temple trip this morning. Laie temple is definitely my new favorite temple. It was super pretty plus we got to drive along the beach the whole time.
And this is our uke jamming sesh at the crazy $30 million mansion we go to every 6 weeks!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Week 8 - Talofa!

Hey everyone!
This week we got 2 more with dates! We found these two little girls who live with an inactive family. We've been teaching their whole family and committed the two girls to be baptized on November 9th!
I hope you all got to watch conference. I've never been so pumped for conference before. I really liked how some of the speakers just layed it out. They didn't sugar coat anything. Like Elder Oaks when he talked about standing up for what you know in this crazy world of constantly changing standards. I liked where he said "courage, not compromise, brings the smile of God's approval". That's really relevant to me as a missionary here because not many people, even the members choose to make church their ultimate priority. Hopefully conference was able to stir something in them.
I also found out that my companion can husk a coconut with his teeth! We had a contest between the 3 missionaries from Kiribati who could husk one the fastest. Of course my companion won. He's pretty crazy. He'll just climb coconut trees sometimes. But we have lots of fun together.
Everyone take care and stay strong!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Week 7 - Missions 'n stuff

Iakwe aolep armej!
This week was just a lot of work. We got two new with dates! They're hopefully set for baptism on the 26th. They're parents want to be baptized too, but are having a hard time coming up with the money to buy a marriage license. It's crazy how little people have here, but how happy they are at the same time.
We also found this lady who wants to be baptized so bad, but her husband won't marry her. There's a lot to do here, which probably explains why we have 10 missionaries in our ward.
Also teaching Marshallese people is difficult because they have some of the smallest attention spans I've ever seen. We have to teach things really fast and really simple, which is hard sometimes with a companion who is still learning English and doesn't know a word of Marshallese. But I figured out the best way to teach them is with object lessons. I'm kind of an object lesson freak. But it's fun for me, fun for them, and keeps them interested.
We also had the opportunity to teach primary this week. Because it was the 5th sunday, they had 2 sets of missionaries teach primary. They actually, for the most part, paid better attention than our investigators (as long as we kept them busy) I played piano and we sung songs almost the entire class. Then I, of course, showed them an object lesson. We lit a tea bag on fire and when the black part flew up at the end we said that's what happened to your spirit after you die, it goes up to the spirit world. They. Freaked. Out.
The kids here are awesome. Whenever we're tracting, we'll get swarmed by kids asking for "pictures of Jesus" We probably go through 40 cards a week. And after I pass them out the kids all come and hug my legs.
This morning we woke up at 4 and went and hiked Koko Head. It's this big mountain that used to have a military base at the top. The trail is an abandoned cart track with like over 1000 railroad ties. It took forever and everyone was dead, but we got to the top in time to see the sunrise and it was awesome.
Love you all! Kojparok wot!
kon iakwe,
Elder Merrill

Monday, September 23, 2013

Week 6 - AloHAHAHA

Aloha! A lot has happened this week. For starters our two baptisms a few weeks ago hadn't been coming to church because they didn't have a ride. We found them one this week and I got to give my first confirmation! We also had our primary program. The highlight was definitely a little girl and her mom singing love is spoken here. The girl forgot the words, sang off tune and tempo, and kept singing after the song was over, so the mom had to yank her off the stage. It was hilarious.
*Side note* I think I forgot to tell you guys, but a few weeks ago it was fast sunday, and we had the most investigators at church I've had so far. The majority of sacrament meeting was one testimony, and it was exactly the kind you don't want to be borne when investigators are there. A big samoan guy stood up at the front and said "Brothers and sisters, I stand before you to confess a transgression" I immediately thought "please say you haven't borne your testimony as much as you should" but he just went off. He told the congregation how he had "enticed and kissed another man's wife, and that the family requested he do this" (don't know what kind of family that was) And I've heard of this starting to happen in other wards, but the bishop gets up and stops it. Not in McCully ward. The guy just went off for like 30 minutes. So that was...interesting.
Also this morning for our zone activity we went to a blowhole. We were walking on the rocks right next to the ocean (not the sand cause that's against the rules) I decided I wanted to go down next to the blowhole and see it a little closer. Bad idea. A huge wave washed over, splashed off the rock, and soaked me. The AP's joked they'd set up my appointment with president so I could tell him I went swimming.
The best thing that happened this week was the General Authority visit. Elder Soares of the presidency of the Seventy and Elder Holland came and spoke to us! Elder Holland talked about how  important it is to always project the image of a missionary, even after we've returned home. We don't have the right to jeopardize someone else's choice of serving a mission or not by influencing them with our actions and example. He shared a cool insight about Moses 1:39. He put an emphasis the word "My". How this is God's work and His glory.
He also shared that the word "astonish" comes from the root word tondra which means thunder. He told us to go out and astonish people, to speak with a tongue of thunder and make their world shake. He said in the Book of Mormon, when it mentions that the earth shook, it wasn't a literal earthquake, but more of people being astonished. He said Christ could come down to earth himself and minister to the people with legions of angels, but he doesn't do that, instead he's chosen us.
He said that sometimes people ask why is missionary work so hard? He said he's convinced it's hard, because salvation is not a cheap experience. He said why should it be easy for us, when it was never easy for Him. To be a disciple of Christ means you are willing to walk where Christ would walk, say what he would say, and do what he would do. He said the road to salvation always leads through Gethsemane and up Calvary. We are allowed to feel a little of what Christ felt whenever life seems hard. It was a really powerful talk.
Well I think I've talked enough. Hope everything is going well. Love you all. Ij iakwe kom!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Week 5 - Ewor ta?

Aloooooha everyone!
I hope all is well back home. Things in Hawaii are going great! Elder Ukenio and I have been working super hard this past week trying to find new investigators. So we've been tracting A LOT! Our mission president asked that every missionary tracts for 2 hours every day. It's hard, but it's actually been a big help. When our mission tracts we do the blessing approach.
1. We knock on the door
2. State we are representatives of Jesus Christ and ask if we can come in and leave a blessing of his peace and love in the home
3. Pray (duh)
4. Ask how they felt during the prayer and help them recognize the spirit
5. Commit to baptism.
Yeah that fast. It's really crazy, but I guess the spirit really works on some people and we have a surprising success rate.
It's been mostly work, work, work this week. I see a rainbow every day so...that's tight. I also got hit by a bird at McDonalds. I was just chilling, eating my McNuggets when out of nowhere a bird flying at at least 150 mph flew straight into the window. I guess it was super dazed and confused, and physics didn't apply, because it somehow bounced off and flew at me even faster! It hit me in the head, so I showed it what's up and karate chopped it straight out of the sky. I guess the Asian in me was just really flowing.
But nothing compared to the spiritual bird that flew into my heart? That was a really bad reference to the Holy Ghost...just forget it. But I read a really good article in the Ensign about Christ's words in D&C. Some really good verses in it that I liked are 88:50, 63, 67. They talk about how Christ is the true light in us and how when our eye is single to His glory, we are filled with His light, and that no darkness can be in us. Then it says that a body which is filled with light comprehendeth all things. I likened that to how we have a promise that if we seek to declare the word of God, our mouths will be filled and the Holy Ghost will speak for us.
Anyway it's probably starting to get cold back in Utah. That sucks cause the weather's perfect here...
Ij iakwe kom!
Love, Elder Merrill

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Week 4 - Aloooooha

We had our first two baptisms this week! We were scrambling right before the baptism because we couldn't find any child baptismal suits anywhere. We ended up just putting white pants and a shirt on the 8 year old that was being baptized and rolling them up so it looked like he was wearing floaties. The other kid who was baptized had to be baptized 6 times because he never went fully under the water. But in the end everything worked out. After the baptism, there was a dove that somehow got into the gym, which the font room is connected to, and was flying around (the Holy Ghost anyone?) As we were taking pictures after, it landed on the basketball hoop right above us. It was pretty tight.
Our zone is really pushing to meet the goal we set of 20 baptisms back to back to back, so three months in a row. It's crazy how hard everyone's working, and we go home completely exhausted every night.
There's a missionary serving in the Marshall Islands here to get dental work done, and he's staying with my companion and I. Hopefully I'll be able to speak to him and learn more about the language!
We got a new ward mission leader this week, and he's younger than my companion, only 22! I give Elder Ukenio crap about it all the time.
I also found out this week that our ward has around 1,200 members, about 150 of which show up on a consistent basis. Because of this, we just got new couple missionaries assigned to work only with the less-actives in our ward. So now our ward has 5 sets of missionaries.
We don't have a ward council, and instead have a meeting with just the missionaries and bishop once a week. Something cool he shared with us this week is about the refiner's fire. There's a scripture, I think in Malachi that talks about it. He told us that in order to refine silver, you have to put it in extreme heat, in order to get all the impurities out. You know the silver's done when the refiner can see his reflection in the product. He then related this to Christ and said that sometimes Christ wills us to go through times of extreme heat and trial. He waits until we change, and He can see His reflection in our lives.
Everything's great in Hawaii! Hope everything's great back home as well!

Love, Elder Merrill

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Week 3 in Paradise

There was a lot that happened this week. My mom (trainer's companion before you) finally left the house. Good news is I finally have a bed! My mom was kind of unorganized so we spent like 7 hours cleaning up his mess. We also got new missionaries, so I'm not the youngest one in my zone anymore!
A couple of days ago we were sitting in the tab (our church building. Look up lds tabernacle beretania st Hawaii if you have time. It's awesome) I was practicing piano for a baptism. Some Korean guy walked in and started shooting off sentences in Korean. Long story short, I calmed him down, found out what he wanted, and also found out he was baptized in Seoul by Jake Westbrook! It was crazy. He started showing me pictures of the missionaries that baptized him and I saw a picture of Jake.
Anyway, we have two baptisms this Saturday! They're cousins, Eddie and Rally. They're both Marshallese and these are my first two baptisms! I found out our mission is one of the highest baptizing missions in the world!
I also found out I like brown people a lot more than white people, at least here. (sorry to all my white friends and relatives that read this) White people are mean, but Micronesians always let us in and offer us food, even though we don't know them.
Also all the kids have in their minds that all missionaries know magic tricks. So if anyone knows any good street magic tricks, just let me know. I found out my badge can double as a whistle. Finally figured out after ten minutes why these kids were spitting into my badge...
I've never had spam before I came here, now I eat it all the time. We have spam, rice, and ketchup as a member dinner at least twice a week. The weirdest thing I've been fed so far is probably turkey tail. Also I've never been to a member dinner with an actual table, so we always sit cross-legged and I'm developing these really weird calluses on my ankles.
My companion is from Kiribati if you don't already know. He's super fob, but he's really cool. We have lots of fun together for sure. He throws lizards at me, then I'll make fun of him in Marshallese.
I'm loving it so far! I'll start looking for miracles to tell you guys about later.

Ij iakwe kom!
Love, Elder Merrill

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

wiik ruo (week 2)

Really not that much has happened this week, so this might be kind of a shorter letter.
Yesterday I actually got to see Hawaii! Our zone went and had lunch at a member's house (a $38 million mansion on the beach) Literally it was their yard, a gate, then sand. It was incredible! Hawaii's such a beautiful place, and I'm way too lucky to be serving here.
Also we got stuck in an elevator last night. We had 7 elders crammed in an elevator after a dinner appointment, and the elevator stopped halfway between floors. It was like a sauna inside and we ended up releasing the latch on the doors and climbing out. Probably the weirdest thing that's happened to me on my mission so far, but now I can say I've been trapped in an elevator.
Our baptism fell through this past saturday, but we rescheduled him to hopefully be baptized the 7th, along with his cousin!
I had my first real experience with the gift of tongues! We were tracting, and found a Marshallese lady who let us in. She was super fob (fresh off the boat) and didn't really speak English. I've never been confident in my Marshallese at all, and have also had a really hard time understanding what people were saying to me, but when we were talking to her, I could understand everything she was saying, and was able to get the point across that I wanted to. The only mistake I made was saying "bok" instead of "boktok". I was trying to say "next time we'll try to bring a Marshallese person, but instead said next time we'll try to receive a Marshallese person"
A cool experience we had, started about a week ago. We were walking down the street to a dinner appointment, when a lady stopped us. She told us that we were the fourth set of elders she's talked to about getting her baby a blessing. She said that she wasn't really active, but was raised LDS and understood how important it was for her baby to receive a blessing. I wrote her name down every day in my planner so we wouldn't forget. Then when we had time, a couple days ago, we stopped by her apartment. She said that we had come just in time because her and her baby had just contracted a cold, and that they both needed blessings. I was able to give her baby, Iolani, a blessing of health, and we were also able to give her a blessing of health, as well as comfort, because she told us she was worried about being a mom and about some other things. She is living with her boyfriend, and they apparently used to have the elders over all the time for dinner. They're a super cool couple and seemed really excited to have elders back in their home again. She said she couldn't wait to come to church and have her baby blessed, and also they invited us to come over for dinners once a week, and to teach her boyfriend.
It didn't seem like much at the time, but looking back it truly was a miracle. In the MTC they told us that God was preparing people for us to teach His gospel to, but this is the first instance in which that's taken real meaning, and effect in my life.
I love you all, thanks for everything. Stay strong and try to recognize the miracles God has worked for you. And remember, they may seem small and insignificant at first, but by small and simple things, are great things brought to pass.
Ij iakwe kom.

love, Elder Sammy Merrill

Monday, August 19, 2013

First Letter from Hawaii - Sammy is in Oahu

I'm finally in Hawaii! And haven't seen the beach since I landed. The night we landed we went to the mission home and had dinner. The mission president and his wife are awesome. They're super nice and way chill. Then we opened up our "Christmas letters" which told us where we were assigned to labor, and who our trainers would be. I'm in the McCully ward in the Honolulu area. I am in a threesome for the next 2 weeks because for some reason I came in-between transfers. My trainer is Elder Ukenio. He's from Kiribati and has been out for 13 months. He's really cool, but doesn't talk that much. My other companion is Elder Wells. He's been out for about the same time. He's from Highland and apparently went to Lone Peak. He was a senior my sophomore  year, but I don't remember meeting him ever.
We're assigned to all the Micronesians except Chuukese. So we have Marshallese, Ponepeian, and Kiribati investigators. Most of our investigators are Marshallese, but they all speak English. I speak Marshallese to them, explaining whatever I can, but for the most part I don't really get the opportunity to speak the language.
Our ward is very diverse. We have Marshallese, Chuukese, Kiribati, Ponepeiian, Samoan, and White people. They have separate sunday schools for each language. I didn't understand anything the teacher was saying in Marshallese. Native Marshallese speakers talk softly, don't really pronunciate, and slur all of their words together, so one sentence just sounds like one massive word, and that's if you're close enough to audibly hear what they're saying in the first place.
Our pad (that's what our residences are called) is really small, but it's got a shower and a kitchen. Because I'm in a threesome, I'm sleeping on the floor for the next two weeks until Elder Wells gets transferred out.
The members here are awesome. We have a calendar that gets taken to Relief Society every sunday, and families sign up to host us for dinner almost every night. The members feed us so much food, and then make us take food home. It's disrespectful to decline food when it's offered to you, so we end up taking food home every night. No wonder most the elders here get fat. Last night we went to Mama Reyes' house. She's a member that always feeds the missionaries when they don't have a dinner appointment. She fed seven elders, then had us sing Chuukese songs all night.
Also the kids here are so sick. No matter where we are, the kids always run up and high five us. They're the most outgoing, scared of nothing, kids I've ever seen. One boy in Palolo Valley came running up to us and was like "hello Mr. Jesus man!"
I'm loving it here so far, and everything's going great! I love all you guys!
Elder Sammy Merrill

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Off to Hawaii and some tender mercies...

Ok, so Sammy's travel plans came in, and he is headed for Hawaii on Tuesday, August 13.  Here was his message on the 12th. "I get to call home tomorrow at the airport. We leave here at 6:15, take front-runner up, and our flight leaves at 11:57. So I'm thinking I'll call sometime around 9-9:30ish."

For any who don't know, missionaries are allowed to call home from the airport on the day they leave the MTC.  Other than that, we will only talk to him on Christmas and Mother's day.

Anyway, Sammy called home, and was talking to Carla.  Unfortunately, I was in Raleigh, and he couldn't call both of us.  So Carla was on with him, put him on speakerphone, and called me on the home phone and put the phones next to each other.  I could hear every few words, but was feeling a little sad that I didn't get to talk to him well.  I went back into meetings, when 45 min later I received a call from our friends, Steve and Sabrina Lindsley.  (Steve was one of Sammy's favorite Young Men's leaders).  I answer and Steve says "I'm standing here at the airport with Elder Merrill.  He looks great.  We are on our way to Hawaii for our anniversary and we are on the same flight with Sammy."  He then let me talk to him for a bit on his phone.  And he sent me a few pics, posted below.

Sammy talking with his Dad.

Elder Merrill and Elder Carter at Cafe Rio in the Salt Lake Airport

Sammy with Steve and Sabrina Lindsley

Sammy made it to Hawaii.  Here he is in the airport.  Steve sent this pic along with the following txt "We're here bro!  He slept the whole way.  Literally sat right behind me!"  

Definitely a tender mercy to have him escorted over there and for us to know that he made it safely there.  Now we wait until next week to hear where he's at and what's in store for Elder Merrill.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Sammy's final (?) letter from the MTC - August 8

Hey guys!
Jina im jema (mom and dad) If you have like the pronunciation for God be With You Till We Meet Again in Korean, that would be incredible. We're singing it in all of the languages that we know the day before we leave. We have Tongan, Fijiian, Bislama, French, Spanish, Samoan, Hebrew, and hopefully Korean! Also I am now thoroughly disappointed you never taught me Korean as a kid. SMH.
We got our travel plans this past week and I leave from the MTC on tuesday at 6:30. We take the frontrunner up to the Airport and our flight leaves at 11:57. We fly direct to Hawaii along with all the people going to the Marshall Islands (they stay the night in Hawaii). I don't even know how to describe how I feel. It's like leaving home all over again. I'm excited to go, but it's sad to have to say bye to all my friends I've made here.
During our devotional on Sunday one of the messages the speaker shared was the power of bearing a testimony. He said that bearing testimony allows the Spirit to speak to our investigators and causes them to re-remember truths they already know. He told us that when an investigator hears our lessons they think "hey that sounds familiar" and that's because it is. They have already known the truth of our message, we just need to help them re-remember. By leading others to see what we see, know what we know, and feel what we feel our investigators can receive that witness which will bring them unto Christ.
Stories and legends are a big part of Marshallese culture, so I'm going to share one that our teacher told us. There were 10 brothers who were all vying to be Irooj, or chief/king, of this atoll. They asked their mother how they would decide who among them would be a king, she decided to hold a canoe race from one island to the other (about 20 miles) and the winner would be the king. Right before the race was about to begin, the mother went to the oldest son and asked if she could ride in his canoe. She was holding a big jaki (mat) bundle and he told her that he didn't need any extra weight holding him back, but that his younger brother would take her. All of the brothers continued to say this same thing, until she came to her youngest son, Jebro. He figured he was going to lose the race anyway, so he agreed to let her come on. The race started and Jebro quickly fell behind. Once he could no longer see any of his brothers, his mother told him "you helped me, so now I will help you". She unrolled the jaki and began to pull ropes and beams out. She told him to tie ropes to certain places and put beams in others. He replied he didn't have time for that and that he needed to be paddling to try and catch his brothers, but she told him to just trust her. He did as she said, tied a rope here, and placed a beam there. He thought the work useless until he pulled on one rope and it raised the sail. He sailed past all of his brothers, but when he got to his oldest brother who was at the front, his brother accused him of cheating. He demanded the sail, so Jebro's mother gave it to him, but not the rutter. He sailed off in the wrong direction and Jebro won the race and became Irooj.
Marshallese people tell this as the first story of someone to sail in history, but I want to relate it to the gospel. First, we must let the Lord in. He doesn't force himself upon us, but simply asks if he can come with us. We may feel hesitant at first to take upon us the Lord's burdens or "unneeded weight" in our canoes. This added weight will, at first, hold us back. It may get to the point where we feel all hope is lost, until we can no longer see our brothers, but it is at this time of our greatest despair that the lord will help us. He will guide us subtly, but constantly by the power of the Holy Ghost. We may want to keep going on our own, to tell Him that "we don't have time for this and we need to keep paddling" However, when we turn to Him and allow him to step into our lives, that is when we see miracles. But, he will not simply do everything for us. He will provide us with the necessary tools and instruct us every step of the way, but will never do the work himself. The steps taken individually may not make any sense, but when the project is completed and the big picture is seen, we find that the Lord has helped us immensely in ways that we couldn't even have imagined. By obeying His advice, these burdens may become our greatest strengths. In our flawed state we truly have no hope, but with the Lord's help we can become Irooj ro (kings and queens).
Hope this message will brighten your day when you feel weighed down.

Elder Merrill

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Sammy's Letter from August 1

I got to say goodbye to Gavin, Mac, and Dawson before they left the MTC on Monday. It's so weird knowing so many people here because I see familiar faces all the time just walking around the MTC campus. It honestly feels like a more spiritual Lone Peak.
We had a killer devotional on Tuesday.  The speaker talked about how there will come a day out in the field when you feel helpless, terrible, and alone. This is because Satan doesn't want us to be serving in the mission that we're in. He knows the power and purity of the message we carry, and the effect it can have on the people we teach. Then he shared a clip from Jeffrey R. Holland given to a group of missionaries. He said that there may be times when you start to question. When you ask "why can't every investigator see the truth in this gospel and the happiness and help it can bring into their lives? Why do people ever choose to reject the gospel? Isn't it all true?" He then goes on to say, of course it is! He said that missionary work is not easy, because salvation is not a cheap experience. Salvation is not easy, nor is it supposed to be. The part that hit me the hardest was what he said next. He told all of the missionaries, "how can we expect it to be easy for us, when it was never easy for Him?" Then he explained how, as representatives of Christ, we are allowed to experience a few of the Savior's moments of agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. How we are afforded to walk a few of the steps up to the summit of Calvary. But no matter what we have to sacrifice, it's only a portion of what he had a give, for he suffered all. He told of how the atonement will carry us as missionaries, more than it will our investigators. Because someone greater and grander once asked "isn't there another way? Nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done" Christ knows about all of our sorrows and disappointments, because he has experienced the exact same thing. The only way is through Him. Then he shared a quote from Winston Churchill about how in every man's life there will come a time when he is figuratively tapped on the shoulder, and asked to perform a task that will later prove to be the greatest moment in his life. And how much of a tragedy it would be if we were unprepared or unqualified to answer that call.
During this talk was the first time I can remember crying solely because of how much I felt the spirit. 
But the MTC isn't all spiritual highs all the time, we also do fun/crazy things (not that feeling the spirit isn't crazy fun) But we take paper cups and cut out the bottom, then tape them up onto the chalkboard, draw a backboard, and play horse with little balls of tape. And the guys on my floor are crazy. We also played a prank on the new elders (by the way we just got 54 new missionaries in our branch, 2 Tongan districts and 2 Fijian districts, so we're almost at 100 missionaries) But we'd plug a fake phone into the wall, pretend it was the MTC president, and they'd freak out, timidly whisper "hello?" and then we'd all bust up.
That's about it for this week. The language is coming great and I'm still loving my experience here.
Anij bam mae iien jan bar lo doon,
Elder Sammy Merrill

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Sammy's letter home, July 27, 2013 - good story of the power of prayer

Mom and Dad,

 I don't really have that much to say that I didn't already say in the email.
Me, Ackley (from Hawaii) Tu'itutou (from Australia), and elder Luke stayed up talking and telling stories last night.  Luke told us a story that happened to one of  his church leaders on his mission.
There was a bishop on one of the outer Samoan islands that let the church tear down his house to build a chapel on his land.  The local chiefs came up to him and set a date where if the church wasn't torn down by then, they would tie him to a cross and burn him alive.  The date came and the man refused to tear down the church.  He said he would rather die bearing witness of and pleasing his Lord, than live and reject Him.  The chiefs came, took the man, and brought him to the top of the hill.  He said only "at least I get to enter the presence of my god on a sunny day."  As he was raised up on the cross, he was surrounded by all the saints and the pair of missionaries, all kneeling and praying for his deliverance.  Luke's leader said he had never prayed harder in his life.  As they set the brush around the bottom of the cross on fire, a giant rainstorm came out of nowhere.  Right as the flames were about to touch him, they were put out by the tremendous downpour of rain.  It testified to me of the power of prayer  He also said after that, they had several hundred baptisms due to this miracle.
I love and miss you guys so much, but at the same time I've never been happier.  Just know that I'm doing great and don't worry about me.
Love, your son,
Elder Sammy Merrill

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Letter #4 - July 25, 2013

Iakwe in raellep! Sorry I didn't write you last week, I was super busy getting everything done.
As for my companion, we're getting along a lot better now. Our teachers have commented on how much our companionship unity has improved. Our lessons have improved drastically, and ever since I've fasted, everything that bugged me before I am now able to push aside.
We have 17 missionaries in our district now. me and my companion going to Hawaii, Elder Ackley(from hawaii) and his comp going to Iowa, 2 to Oklahoma City, 1 to Spokanne Washington, and the rest to the Marshalls. our branch is our Marshallese district, two Samoan districts, and one Kiribati district. Everyone's super chill and easygoing. Our branch president has a glass eye, but he's a nice guy. His two counselors take turns falling asleep during each of our sunday meetings. Our zone leader is Kuresa, the backup QB for BYU.

An elder from New Zealand in my zone just taught us how to play coin rugby. It's basically the paper football game with a quarter. It was a really great way to pass the time during laundry cause it gets crazy boring.

We have this thing called TRC where we'll have either returned missionaries that speak the language, or native speakers come in and we teach lessons to them. They're not pretending to be an investigator so it's really centered around getting to know them and teaching a person not a lesson. My comp and I had an elder that just got back from Hawaii. He told us that he was so excited for us and that it was honestly the best mission in the world. Since we are the first missionaries going to Hawaii called to speak Marshallese he told us we might be teaching only in Marshallese. He told us how he got his call to Hawaii speaking english, then the night he got to the mission home, his mission president told him he was going to be learning Marshallese.

During our tuesday devotional the speaker talked about how, as missionaries, we needed to not contend about the Lord, but to contend for the Lord, and to never give up. He said "the only way to get the best of an argument, is to avoid it".  Then he told a story about how a trainer that decided to follow the mission rules and tract for just 30 extra minutes before returning home changed one young elder's mission. The missionary later wrote his trainer a letter and expressed his gratitude for setting such a great example. He said that principle that he instilled in that young missionary of enduring to the end had a great impact on this young elder. In the letter he said that his trainer could add him to his convert column. In our district meeting after I bore testimony of how important it was for us to become converted to Christ on our missions. That through inviting others to come unto Him, we grow closer to Him ourselves. Above all else I want to come closer to my Savior by the end of my mission. I want to truly come to know him and stand as a witness of him at all times, and in all things, and in all places.

I was hesitant to tell this story so don't let it freak you out, but here goes. Last week, one of my good friends in my branch, Elder Luke, suddenly woke up in the middle of the night. In the corner, at the foot of his bed, he saw the shadow of a man, stooped over and holding his legs. He tried to move, but couldn't. So he tried to call out to his companion for help, and couldn't speak. He sat there unable to move as the figure slowly moved towards his face. Suddenly he heard a thud and was able to snap out of it and grab his flashlight, and when he shined the light, the figure disappeared. (Side note) A minute before he woke up, his companion also woke up and had the impression to go look for something on the other side of the room. He realized while he was over there that he had no clue what he was looking for, so he went back to his bed. However, as he was looking, he bumped something, the same bumping noise that snapped Luke out of whatever was happening.

So that day we were talking about similar stories that other missionaries in our district had of being bound(which we probably shouldn't have been doing in the first place, but who doesn't love a good ghost story) So as we went to bed I had a bad feeling and those thoughts lingered with me. I had a dream that I was standing over my head while I was sleeping, and I could see someone standing on the side of the bed lurking over me. I could see myself trying to move and call out for help, but I was bound. I woke up from my dream and still had that same bad feeling. I curled up in a ball, closed my eyes as tight as I could, and started to pray. I had that weird feeling where you know someone was watching you. I knew that if I opened my eyes I would see someone or something standing over me. I've never felt so scared or alone in my life. My companion was literally 5 feet away from me, but I felt completely hopeless and abandoned. I prayed for what seemed like an eternity, but nothing happened. As I sat praying in the feedle position with my eyes closed tight, I received the most distinct impression of my life. I remembered that as a misisonary I had the power and authority to call upon the ministering of angels. I asked God to send down angels to deliver and protect me. I never opened my eyes, but I saw a vivid vision of angels, clothed in white with gold cords and armed with swords, surrounding my bed. After this happened I felt an immediate wave of peace and comfort rush over me. It was like I could feel the Lord's arms holding and comforting me. After this happened I was able to fall asleep instantly.

But now I'm good. The MTC is incredible and the greatest experience. The spirit is so strong, and I've never felt the Lord help me so much in everything I do. I love you all.

Iakwe, Elder Sammy Merrill

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Sammy sends some pics from the MTC - July 18

No real letters this week, but Elder Merrill did send some pics...

"my nametag"
this is my companion elder carter

we're bros. me, ackley, and tu'itupou

My district at the temple

District selfie

I'm walking up the wall