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