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