Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Week 72 - Mele Kalikimaaaaaka!

Hey friends and family!
Pretty eventful week with the holidays. Just a week of service and celebrating the holidays Hawaiian style! We did service all day monday, yard work at this house for some of my members from back in Honoka'a! We pulled weeds, chopped trees, and cleared out ponds. Then we went to their taro patch and weeded that. I've never had more mosquito bites in my life. But it was a really great way to kick off the Christmas week, serving others. Jesus' whole life was devoted to serving others, so in a way it helped us to really get into the true spirit of Christmas, even though we were in 80 degree weather.
Our mission president approved Frozen for our whole mission, so after we skyped our families on Christmas day, we got together as a zone and watched Frozen! I'd have to say it's one of my favorite Disney movies of all time. I also concluded that Olaf would make a killer missionary. "Knock. Just knock. Why isn't she knocking? Does she know how to knock?" If you ask me that's the perfect attitude to have as a missionary. Not be scared of anything or anyone, especially knocking on doors.
Both Tema and Teki are still looking solid for their individual dates! We taught Tema after church yesterday and she told us that she is still just as excited as ever for her baptism, and won't let anything stop her. Her husband is also getting better and more accepting. He actually dropped her off at church yesterday after he got home from Catholic church. She told us that she told one of her daughters, who is a non-member, that she is getting baptized and her daughter just laughed and asked her why. She then told us of a dream that she had, which she interpreted to mean that this decision that she's made to be baptized is a heavy burden to bear, but she can do it. She told her daughter that she made this decision because she is trying to follow God and her heart. She said she couldn't go to church with her husband because her heart just wasn't there. We're super excited for her baptism.
We also met with these two guys who were in this kind of half-way house. They just recently got out of prison and live at this place as kind of a probation to see if they're ready to adjust back into society. One of them was a member a long time ago, but drifted from the church and made some not so great decisions. The other one is not a member, but started reading the Book of Mormon and the Bible while he was in prison and saw the difference that it was able to make in his life. He said before he was an angry person and would snap at the tiniest things, but once he had the word of God in his life it made all the difference. They were super excited and grateful for us stopping by, and said that they wanted the missionaries to come by every week!
Well I hope you all have a great new year and make resolutions that will bring you even closer to our Lord and Savior. Love you guys!

-Elder Merrill

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Week 71 - Another One on the way!

Family and friends,
Mele Kalikimaka and Aloooooha!
Had another great week here in Kona. We had another lesson with Tema this past week. She's one of our investigators that we've been working with for a while. She's been investigating the church for several years, but hasn't been baptized yet because she is waiting for her husband to be baptized. We had a lesson with her about following the commandments of the Lord, baptism being the main focus. She said she wanted to be baptized, but was scared that her husband might be angry with her. We committed her to talk to her husband about baptism before the next time we met with her and she did! When we met with her she said that when she asked her husband if she could be baptized, at first he told her all of the problems he had and things that he didn't like about the church, but then told her that he would support her in whatever decision she made! She was so excited that she set her own date on January 17th and called her son, who said he is going to fly his whole family up from Provo so he can be at her baptism and baptize her! Him and another one of her kids, who is also a member, told us that they were so grateful for what we were doing because they had been waiting for this for a long time. I guess her son went on a mission, and the day before he left the dad just cried asking what he had done wrong for his son to be doing this. It used to be so bad that her husband would tell the missionaries they were a catholic family and they were wasting their time, so he's come a long way to let us into his house, and even more so to allow his wife to be baptized!
We also had our ward Christmas party this past week. Elder Langi and I were the shepherds. We acted out the whole nativity, even had a live baby! One of the families in our ward brought this guy, Earl, and his family. They're non-members and he's a super cool guy. He even said that the missionaries could stop by his house whenever he was home! So there's lots of exciting things happening here and hopefully more on the way! I'm just so grateful this Christmas season for the opportunity I have to share the message and gift of Jesus Christ with the great people of Hawaii. He is the gift and I hope you can all remember that and remain focused on Him this Christmas season. Love you guys!
-Elder Merrill

Monday, December 15, 2014

Week 70 - Falling Down

Friends and Family Alooooooha!
I'm loving it here in Kona. The work is moving and the ward is awesome!
We had MLC this past week and Elder Johnson, of the seventy, trained us again. He taught us about the tree of life in Lehi's dream. He talked about the symbolism of some of the objects Lehi saw. The first one he talked about was the iron rod. He had us read D&C 68:4 which tells exactly what qualifies as the word of God. It's anything spoken by anyone when moved upon by the spirit. It can be the scriptures, conference talks, FHE lessons, primary lessons, and he even said a protestant minister's words, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost and truth is spoken, qualify as the word of God. He then introduced three different groups of people that Lehi sees in his dream. The first group was people who were on the path, but fell away. So people who were baptized, but later fell away and, as later learned, never caught hold of the iron rod. The second group was the group that caught hold of the rod, followed the path, made it to the tree, partook of the fruit, but then saw the great and spacious building and fell into forbidden paths and were lost. The third group was the group that did everything the same as the second group, but rather than falling away, partook of the fruit and fell down at the tree. 
Elder Johnson compared the treatment of the iron rod between groups 2 and 3. Group 2 clung to the iron rod, whereas group 3 held continually fast. He asked us what the difference was, then explained that in his eyes, clinging to is a "white knuckle experience". He likened it to white water rafting, where you hold on for dear life during the rapids, but during the calmer parts of the journey your grip loosens. He said that is why they fell away, because they weren't holding fast continually. Then he read in 1 Nephi 11 with us where Nephi desires to know the interpretation of the tree and is shown a vision of the Savior. After, he is told that the fruit of the tree is the love of God. He explained to us that the tree was our Savior Jesus Christ, and that the fruit was the atonement. I can't do it justice, but when he told us that, the spirit was so strong in the room I felt like I was shaking. He went on to explain that the reason the people in the third group fell down at the tree was because they recognized their Savior when they saw Him and fell down to worship Him. He then asked the question which I pose to each of you: Will you recognize the Savior when He stands before you? We can only come to know the Savior by striving to become like Him.
Another experience I had this past week was on a flight to Oahu. We were exchanging with the APs so I was on this flight by myself. I was placed between two people and was eager to talk to them, but was quickly disappointed. The lady on my right had a dog on her lap and was catching up on some Z's. The guy on my left had his face buried in his phone and never looked up. The spirit was telling me to talk to the guy on my left, but I rationalized that he was busy, and didn't have time to talk to me. I kept getting the prompting that I needed to talk to him, and finally took hold of the opportunity I had when the drinks were passed out. He set down his phone to take a drink and I started talking to him. We talked the rest of the flight about the church, and I found out he lives on the same street as me and my companion in Kona. He said we could stop by this week once he gets back to teach him and his wife! Guess the spirit was right.
This week was also a big week with Teki. We set him with a date for January 10 on tuesday night. He told us he wanted to be baptized, but wasn't sure if his mom would allow it. He said he wants his family to accept the gospel, but they're really strong in Siasi Tonga (the tongan methodist church). He went home for the holidays and told us that he'd talk to his mom about being baptized. He called us on saturday and told us that he asked her and she said yes! She told him wherever he can feel the spirit to go there!
Love you all and have a great week!
-Elder Merrill

Monday, December 8, 2014

Week 69 - A New Old Area

Alooooha friends and family!
I'm back in Kona! Back in the same zone I was in last time I was on Big Island, but on the other side of the island. Last time I was up at the very top, now I'm on like the bottom left side in Kailua-Kona, the main town. I love it here so far. We have a nice apartment, my companion Elder Langi is super cool, and the ward is just awesome. So many people in our ward are very missionary minded, and we had a meeting that helped with that even more.
On Friday we had mission tour with Elder Johnson of the Seventy. He came and talked to all the missionaries, ward mission leaders, and other auxiliary leaders from all of Big Island. He started off talking about Moses 1:39, how God's only work, out of everything that He's created and everything He has to do, is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. Then Elder Johnson talked about what made Christ, Christ was His willingness to submit to all things that the Father commanded Him. Elder Johnson then related it to the fact that we need to become more like our savior, and align our will with our Father in Heaven's. So in reality, our work and our glory should be the exact same thing, to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.
Elder Johnson had us split up into wards and had the missionaries teach a principle too all the ward members present. He told them to clear their mind and to not judge. But, he said, if they listened and payed attention to the spirit they felt during the lesson, at least one name would be given to them that the missionaries needed to teach. We were able to get lots of referrals from this one simple exercise, which we then repeated in ward council yesterday! I think a key element in this was not judging. Because God's ways aren't our ways and we never know who He is preparing. Elder Johnson talked about how there's often times when a name is given to us by the spirit, but we brush it off saying "oh he's not ready" or "we already tried her". He said how many times have we thought someone was perfect to receive the gospel. The way they were living lined them up to be the next bishop or stake president, but when they are asked to investigate the gospel they decline. He then said how many times have we seen someone come to church or be baptized who we thought was the last person we would see there. We really can't judge those people the Lord is preparing, and more importantly need to be in tune with the spirit so we can recognize those names that are prepared when they are given to us.
I wish I could put into words how spiritual the meeting was and the impact it left on everyone there to go out and do more. Its' effect was so influential that members took action almost immediately. Our 2nd counselor took us out to the Burger King drive thru after the meeting and while we were there asked for a He Is the Gift pass along card. We didn't really know why, but gave him one, and he proceeded to give it to the guy working at the drive thru window! I was sitting there like: this guy's more missionary minded than me! It never crossed my mind to pass cards out through a drive thru. And it was also incredibly easy. Nothing long or intimidating. He basically just asked the guy if he could give him a card to help him remember the reason for the season, then told him there's a link to a video on the back to help us remember Christ this Christmas season. 
Love you guys and remember that He is the gift!
Elder Merrill

Monday, December 1, 2014

Week 68 - BIGger Things

Alooooha everyone!
I hope you guys all had a great Thanksgiving full of stuffing and cranberry sauce and all those good things, because ours definitely wasn't. It was probably the most interesting Thanksgiving meal I've ever had. Turkey, rice, chop suey, and potato/macaroni salad. Our Thanksgiving day started off with a song practice for our musical fireside. We basically sounded terrible and hadn't gone all the way through the song and that was 4 days before the actual performance. So that was fun. Then after me and some other missionaries went to a member's house in the Samoan ward and played pool and ping pong. It was the most impossible game of ping pong because the table was outside. There was barely a gentle breeze, but the way the ping pong ball was going you would've thought we were playing in the middle of a hurricane. While we were there, one of the elders brought out some ghost chili peppers. I thought I was a seasoned vet when it came to spicy stuff because I grew up eating Korean food, but this pepper was something completely different. I ate it, and a few seconds later started to tear up. That's when I made the huge mistake of wiping the tears away with my chili pepper stained hands. As soon as I brought my hand down this elder gave me this look like I just told him I had cancer or something. I immediately realized what I did and ran inside to the missionaries' apartment on the side of the house and washed my eyes out with soap and water. Probably not the brightest idea because I also got soap in my eye which just increased the pain. After a while it all subsided, but a couple hours later we were getting ready for our branch Thanksgiving party and it felt like I was giving birth...to a porcupine. Apparently hot peppers aren't the best thing for your stomach because it felt like something was eating its way out of mine. But the pain went away and we had our killer Thanksgiving dinner and ice cream after! (no pie)
We also had our musical fireside last night that I mentioned we practiced for. Our whole zone sang a couple songs, along with some solos and testimonies from other members and Mormon messages. It was a really spiritual fireside and we had way more people show up than we were planning on! I had a sore throat for a couple of days before the fireside and after singing I could barely talk. I had this raspy, squeaky voice and no matter how hard I tried, couldn't talk normal. Picture Golem as a chain smoker. So it's definitely been fun whispering to everyone I talk to.
The church is also pushing this new campaign in line with the Christmas season called "He Is the Gift". It's a short video that really helps re-center our thoughts on Christ this Christmas season. It talks about how He was the first Christmas gift, a gift of love from the Father. They gave our mission 35,000 pass along cards with the phrases: Discover the gift, Embrace the gift, Share the gift. They really want us to emphasize having everybody, members and non-members share this gift as much as possible on all social media, so that everyone has a chance to receive the gift. I'd encourage all of you to do the same!
I also got a call from my mission president telling me that I'm going back to Big Island. He told me Hilo, but apparently told an elder in Kona that I was going to be his new companion, so I guess you'll find out in my letter next week!
We also went to this Hawaiian history museum called Bishop Museum so here's some pics from that. Love you guys!
-Elder Merrill

Monday, November 24, 2014

Week 67

Ro jeiu im jatu, iakwe!
This week was a killer one full of interesting experiences. For starters, we went to this building that's pink to teach one of our investigators. Strangely enough, it's called pink building. While we were there this random guy walked up to us while we were talking to this group of kids. He kind of just shimmied his way in between us and the kids and started firing off questions about Joseph Smith. He showed us this video CNN did about Joseph Smith and asked questions like "did you know this?" and "what are you planning to do about this?". We directed him to some articles on LDS.org and I bore him my personal witness about Joseph Smith being an inspired prophet chosen of God. I find it very fascinating how true Moroni's words to Joseph were that his name would be had for good and evil among all people. Also that many of our church leaders chose to speak on this very subject just a couple of months before this video came out. There were talks about how gospel principles are eternally true and they completely apply to our situation right now. It's like we get to see prophecy coming true in front of our own eyes! After we answered this man's questions, he pronounced some kind of blessing on us to find the truth, how thoughtful and kind of him, and then left as quickly as he came.
We also ran into a guy that I taught when I was in McCully ward. His name is Ronno and apparently he's about to be baptized. He told me that since the time I left, he quit smoking, and is about to be married and baptized because he knows that this gospel is true! He told me how he attends church and plans to help and strengthen his fellow Micronesians. It was really cool to see and hear about how he continued to progress and the changes that he made once he found the truth of the gospel.
We continue to teach Miko the after baptism discussions and she is doing great. She still comes to church every week, reads her scriptures every day, and even shows up on saturdays to help clean the chapel. Plus she brings her sister with her who is now active in the church! It's awesome to see people accept the gospel, and even better when those people implement the gospel in their lives to help others!
Well hope you all have a great week!
Elder Merrill

Monday, November 17, 2014

Week 66 - Aloha

Brothers and Sisters, Aloha.
This last week we had our first lesson with JR. We taught him the restoration and he accepted everything we taught him. I'm pretty sure he's about as golden as they come. The member we took with us, Takio, after the lesson told him and his girlfriend that they're going to get married. Then at church told him he's going to be baptized this next week, which actually works out perfectly because we're planning on committing them to marriage and baptism on Thanksgiving! That way we can have the entire branch show up to support them. So I'm not sure which color is associated with Thanksgiving, but hopefully for us it will be a white one!
We also committed another one of our investigators, Kaiya, with a date! At the end of the lesson we invited her to follow the Savior's example and be baptized, and she flat out told us no. So we explained to her the importance and significance of baptism, and after she said that she wanted to follow the Savior's example, we told her that baptism is the first step in following Him. She agreed, and set her own baptism date for December 31!
Last night we attended an awesome musical fireside. They talked about the power and influence of music. The keynote speaker, Nela Otuafi, gave a great talk. He was running back and forth from the pulpit to the piano and having the entire congregation join in while singing songs. Something he talked about that really hit me was the amount of influence music can have in a person's life. He first asked what happens when you put the wrong beats with the wrong lyrics together? You get a number one hit. He gave an example of if a guy were to walk up to a girl on the street and tell her "I know you love me. I know you care. Just shout whenever, and I'll be there" she'd probably slap him in the face and walk away. But what happens when you put those bad lyrics with the wrong beat? You get the number one most downloaded song in history. He then gave a counter example of what can happen when you put the right lyrics with the right beats. He then led the entire congregation in singing Love Is Spoken Here. The spirit was so strong in that room, and his point was proven perfectly. Music is supposed to bring us closer to our Heavenly Father, and when the right music is listened to it does just that. As a missionary, I can definitely testify that when uplifting music is listened to, it strengthens our relationship with Christ. Hymn lyrics themselves are considered scripture. He then challenged everyone to go through their library on their ipods and take out anything that didn't uplift. He said it didn't have to be all MoTab, but if it doesn't uplift, or have the right lyrics and right tunes, to get rid of it.
I hope you guys all have a great week!
Elder Merrill

Monday, November 10, 2014

Week 65 - Talk About Prepared

Aloooooha friends and family!
We had a fun week packed with all kinds of fun and miracles.
Yesterday at church there was this kid in our branch, Aaron, who hadn't been to church in a few months. He showed up yesterday and brought his whole family, half of which are non-members. My companion and I were like heck yeah! Let's go talk to them so we can teach them, so we planned to run up to them as soon as sacrament meeting was over. But they must've slipped out during the closing prayer or something because when we got up to go talk to them they were gone. All this time I thought I was the one with the Asian ninja blood. Aaron and his non-member sister Lani stayed though! They went to all three hours of church and Lani said she'd start meeting with us!
Also after sacrament meeting, a member came up and introduced us to one of his friends to start teaching him. Honestly I thought this guy was already a member because he comes to church almost every week and wears a white shirt and tie. We found out from the member that he even pays his tithing. When the member asked him why he wasn't baptized yet, the guy (JR) said he didn't know. So the member invited him to start taking the lessons with the missionaries and he said yes! We're going to see him on Wednesday and are super excited because he already wants to be baptized and we haven't even taught him a lesson yet!
We also went to this big Marshallese first birthday party called a kemem. There were so many Marshallese people there, a lot of which were non-members. We talked to a few people and had an awesome time seeing how crazy some of our branch members get at parties.
We also had a lesson with Kaipo. Not sure if I've mentioned him before, but he's this kid whose story is really similar to Simba's, one of my recent converts. He started coming to church randomly with one of the families in our branch, and since then has come almost every sunday. We taught him about the Plan of Salvation and committed him to a baptismal date on the 30th of this month. He didn't sound like he was super solid about being baptized on that date, but we're hoping for the best!
Our zone leaders told our whole zone that they set high goals for our zone to commit a lot of people to baptismal dates this past week. Even though we worked really hard, we still had trouble finding people to commit to a baptismal date, and even people to teach. It seemed like almost nobody was home when we tried to go see them. Compared to the past few weeks, it seemed like teaching lessons was a lot harder this week. I guess it's a prime example of Satan working his hardest when we are as well. But despite all of the seeming adversity, we were still able to teach a lot of people and set another investigator with a baptismal date!
Hope you guys remember to stick to it even though it's hard. Cause like the saying says: when the goin gets tough, the tough get goin! Love you!
-Elder Merrill

Monday, November 3, 2014

Week 64 - You Pushed Me

Yolohaaaaa everyone!
Had a grand 'ole time serving the Lord this past week! Topping off our week was Miko's baptism on saturday! You can probably read back on my emails from a long time ago and see that we've been working with Miko for a long time, ever since I got here. I think she was the investigator I've been working with the longest, so it made it that much better to see her be baptized! It's really amazing the transformation she's undergone in her conversion process. She started out as this trouble kid always getting into trouble at school and with the cops. She started to change her life by keeping the commitments we gave her, but after a while her adopted mom she was living with wouldn't allow her to be baptized or come to church. We still tried to see her, but eventually she moved away and we lost track of her. We found her almost by a miracle, started teaching her, and the Lord provided a way for her to be baptized by having her move back with her birth parents. As we taught her she attended church regularly and brought her inactive sister along with her every week. Both of her inactive parents, who I think were sealed in the temple, attended her baptism. They used to be very active back in the Marshall Islands, her dad was even a young men's president in one of the branches, but I think when they moved here they fell away. We made sure we scheduled her baptism on a day that her parents could attend, and they showed up! I guess the spirit must've worked on them because they said they felt something and told their daughters they're going to come back to church! They showed up yesterday to see Miko be confirmed and we hope they continue to come and raise their family in the gospel!
Halloween for me wasn't very eventful. Our mission president said the only costume allowed was to switch name tags with your companion, so that took most of the Halloween spirit away. Plus in Hawaii trick-or-treating isn't really a big thing. We saw probably a total of 5 families out on the streets the whole night. Even the elementary kids we saw getting out of school, hardly any of them were dressed up. Apparently the big party's in Waikiki, basically the one place we're not allowed to go, so for our Halloween we got together with a couple other missionaries and played Monopoly. Try not to be too jealous.
But we did have a trunk-or-treat at our branch night on Thursday. That seemed like an even bigger deal than the actual Halloween night was. I don't think it will ever cease to amaze me how fast you can make friends with little kids when you have candy. My companion and I were the coolest kids on the block! That is, until we ran out of candy.
We also had a really good lesson with Machat yesterday. He's been reading from the Book of Mormon and really understands the importance of baptism. We read Mosiah 18 with him this week to try and get him to commit to an earlier baptismal date. After we read he said that he felt like he should be baptized sooner, but would have to pray about it first.
Overall, just a great week. Love you guys!
-Elder Merrill

Monday, October 27, 2014

Week 63 - Mom I touched the Net

Aloooooha everyone!
This past week was full of all kinds of surprises. The first of these was we were surprised with a new investigator! Her name is Sarah. She's the grand daughter of our branch mission leader, and one day when we went to pick up a member that lives in the same house, he mentioned that Sarah wasn't a member. She comes to church almost every week so we hadn't even thought to ask if she was a member or not. She accepted our invitation to start taking the missionary lessons and seems pretty excited about learning more!
One of the more sad surprises we got came from Miko's sister Tiko. She's 17 years old and told us that she has lung cancer. She's not sure exactly how bad it is, but seems to be dealing with it pretty well. If I received that news I'd be crushed, but she's just playing it off like it's no big deal and carrying on with life as usual. I felt bad because when she told us the story neither of us really knew what to say at first. I think we were dealing with the initial shock of someone that young having cancer without ever having smoked or done anything damaging to her lungs. After a period of silence, I told her that, although we don't really know how she feels, because we haven't been in that situation, we're here to help in any way and with anything that she needs.
A few days after that meeting, we were teaching Miko and Tiko again and they invited us back to play volleyball that night with a bunch of Marshallese people. That was really interesting. It was funny because the average height of the people there, excluding my companion and I, was probably 5'3. They'd set on the second hit almost all the way back in the court, then someone else would do this weird spike from way below the net that basically rainbowed over. When they saw my companion and I (both around 6'1) I think they were terrified. Especially once we started spiking. I thought we were playing for fun, but these little brown people were serious. They called us out every time we accidentally nicked the net. Like what is this the NVA? But we had lots of fun and got to meet a lot of new Marshallese people. They're surprisingly good for people half the height of the net.
We also met with Mary and Catherine again. We actually went to see Maria, who lives in the same house, but she was sleeping. So we walked back to our car and as we were driving away we saw Mary. She waved to us as we drove away on our way to another appointment. I had this feeling that we should turn around a teach her, so I asked my companion if he wanted to go back. He said "why not?" so we flipped around and taught them the Restoration. I was really impressed at how much they remembered, considering they're 8 and 9 years old. The only thing they didn't really remember was the apostasy, but they remembered all of Christ's earthly ministry and the whole Joseph Smith story.
I hope you guys all have a great week and, like Tiko, make the best of it no matter what comes your way. Love you all!
-Elder Merrill

Monday, October 20, 2014

Week 62 - Aloha

Aloha everyone!
Well first things first we had another "hurricane" this past week. It really just rained pretty hard for a couple days. The scariest thing that happened during it was one of the elder's umbrella broke. That's about it though, pretty uneventful.
This week we had a really great lesson with Miko. She opened up to us and let us know some of that stuff that's going on with her and her family. I think it's a sign that she really trusts us because she's willing to tell us stuff she hasn't really told anyone else. We were able to help her see that even though things seem hard, and although to her it may seem that God's not there, He always is and He knows our struggles and trials. We also told her that it is to Him and our Savior that she can always turn. He is always there, waiting to help, even when it seems like nobody else is. It gave her a lot of hope.
We also met Matlynn. She is the sister of one of the members of our branch. The member set up an appointment and came with us to see her. She was baptized a long time ago, but has since then married a husband who's a set Catholic, and has been taking her kids to Protestant church. She told her brother that she wanted to change and she felt like something has been missing in her life, thankfully the member was bold enough to tell her what she was missing was the truths of the gospel, and that by meeting with us, the missionaries, she could change her life. In our lesson with her and some of her kids, she told us that she wants to change, but is scared because of the lack of support from her husband. We told her that our Father in Heaven is her ultimate source of support of support and she can always turn to Him.
We also had our ministering night, where the stake presidency came out with us and other members of our branch. I was with the second counselor and my companion went with a different member. President Farris and I went to a sketchy part of town called the Poops. (1. because all the streets start with "Pupu" 2. because is kinda smells down there) We visited a less-active member named Carmen. She told us she works on sundays, but it working on getting them off so she can come to church. We were able to have a really good discussion with her about the importance of church attendance and lovingly invite her back to church.
Hope all is well and have a great week!
Elder Merrill

Monday, October 13, 2014

Week 61

Hellooooooooha everyone!
Everything continues to go well here in Waipahu. We took a member out with us a few days this past week and he introduced us to a lot of new people. I think we had 4 new investigators and 10+ potentials just from the few hours that he was with us! A couple that he introduced us to was Donny and Maria. Donny is an inactive member and his girlfriend Maria is a non-member. We invited them to take the missionary discussions and they accepted, so the next day we went back to teach the Restoration. As we said amen to the opening prayer, I opened my eyes with my head still bowed, and saw a huge dead centipede on the ground right between my feet. This wasn't one of those tiny, inch long centipedes we have in Utah, this thing was at least 7 inches long and had bright red legs. For those of you who don't know, centipedes bite, and people here have told stories that it's more painful than kidney stones or child birth. Don't know if that's true, but bottom line is it hurts a lot. So I tried to stifle a scream, so I ended up making this weird squealing noise which unfortunately got everyone's attention, but I played it off. Then later in the lesson, as Maria was reading a scripture about the apostasy, I saw a smaller centipede crawl up onto my companion's scriptures and I guess it decided that his handle was a good place to chill. I nudged Elder Neff and pointed to his scriptures, trying to warn him, but he thought I was motioning for him to get his scriptures and help her read. So he reached for them and put his hand right on top of the centipede. I yelled "don't grab your scriptures!" and with reflexes I didn't know I had, smacked his arm and got him to let go. Fortunately I smacked my companion before he got bit. Unfortunately I got even weirder looks than I did from the squeal. Don't worry though, the lesson turned out great and spirit was strong, regardless of the influence of Satan's centipedes.
I also exchanged with one of our zone leaders, Elder Downey (like the laundry detergent). We went to contact one of our former investigators who had moved, Miko, because he visited her before when he was on exchanges with my old companion. But that was only once, so we got really lost looking for where she lived. It was one of those "turn right. Wait maybe left. No I think it's right. But straight looks so familiar too" situations. We decided to pray when we were stopped at a stoplight for Heavenly Father to lead us to her, and upon closing the prayer both felt pretty strongly that we should turn left. So we turned left, and drove a few miles down this road to a dead end. We were pretty crushed as we turned around and drove back. He was telling me that he was sure that was the turn because he remembers turning by this big building with a lot of windows. As vague of a description as that was, I saw in my mind a building like that that we had driven by just one street before, so we decided to try this last turn before we went home, having confidence that Heavenly Father wouldn't lead us astray. We turned, onto a road that was leading us the wrong way. We decided we'd just keep going, because this road took us back to our apartment. As we got to an intersection, Elder Downey recognized it as the one we had been looking for! He said "see! It's just like I said. There's four stop signs and a railroad track!" Elder Downey isn't the best at giving directions... But we turned and followed the road and found the place where Miko lives! It wasn't until we found it that Elder Downey told me the other piece of bad news, the building is locked and the only way in is if a resident lets you inside. That kind of killed my high, but determined to find her we parked the car. As we were walking toward the building, I saw her dad standing right outside the door. I asked him if Miko was there and he told us she was coming right now and to just wait, then we could study with her. Sure enough, no more than 10 seconds later, out walks Miko. She was super excited to see us and told us she'd really been wanting us to come over and teach her because she wants to be baptized really soon! We've since gone back to teach her and she has a baptismal date for October 30th!
It's incredible what kind of miracles the Lord can accomplish in our behalf as long as we're willing to do His will!
Love you and hope all is well.
-Elder Merrill

Monday, October 6, 2014

Week 60 - Aloha

Great week at conference! I hope you all got to watch it because every talk was amazing and seemed to highlight different aspects of the gospel. That's one of the amazing things about conference is that they're not assigned topics, but always seem to talk about what the church members need to hear most. Which just goes to show that these talks truly are revealed, which makes it even more important for us to heed, ponder, and apply their messages.
I really liked the talks from Elder Christofferson and Elder Bednar talking about gospel truths. They highlighted some great aspects about how essential it is for us to not only apply these truths in our lives, but share them with others.
This theme of truth was what we shared with Machat in our lesson with him this week. He watched conference with his family which was great, and he said that Elder Bednar's talk was his favorite. Which I thought was perfect because Elder Bednar was specifically addressing non-members in that talk. So we chose to elaborate more on it. We read the account of Enos, which Elder Bednar briefly read from, and talked about the importance of gospel truths and the joy that comes when we apply these truths in our lives. Many of us may start off searching, wandering, or like Enos with a hungering soul. But when we apply these gospel truths and the gift of the Atonement in our lives, there truly is no greater joy, as is demonstrated in the case of Enos.
This week we also took a member out with us to see this less-active/part member family, the Sylvester family who we had that experience with in branch council just a few weeks ago. They have three girls, which I actually worked with while I was in McCully ward in my first area. We'd tried to get into their house several times, but with no avail. We took this member with us and he got in right away. We set up for a return appointment this next week and are going back to teach their two unbaptized girls again on Thursday! Their family has a lot of struggles. Their only son, and oldest child, is in jail in Arizona, and the mom suffered a huge stroke a few years ago leaving her only able to move half of her body. But they used to be strong members in the church, and we hope to get them back.
We also met this girl named Rako. She came here from the Marshall Islands to deliver her second child, and she's only 17... But she has a great desire to learn about the gospel and change her life. She doesn't speak a word of English, so it's been a great experience for me and my son to work on our Marshallese. She's also living with her cousin who just recently got baptized so we're really excited to teach her. The only set back is she's going back to the Marshall Islands for a month to get everything worked out for her to move back here permanently. But she says she can't wait to come back and be baptized!
So just a few exciting things happening for us here in Hawaii. Hope all is well with you.
Love you guys!
-Elder Merrill

Monday, September 29, 2014

Week 59 - Wai Not Now

Aloooooooha everyone!
I hope you all had a great week. Here was just another week in paradise.
We helped Jun Jun, one of the young men in the branch that I'm really close to, start his mission papers. His whole family is members, and he has two older brothers that are less-active now and never served missions. His parents and I know it would be an awesome opportunity so we've been working really hard on getting him excited to go on a mission. We take him out with us almost every day and he really seems like he's enjoying it. Plus working with him he has a lot of family and friends that we've been able to turn into new investigators and start teaching!
We've also been working really close with his brother in law Freddy. Freddy was baptized when he was 8, but great up active in a different church. I think New Hope, or Born Again Christian, or something like that. When he married Jun Jun's older sister he started coming to church again. We've been meeting with him and teaching him the missionary discussions all the way through. I used the excuse of "practicing" the lessons with my son because he's new. He said he's never read the Book of Mormon all the way through, but was really excited about doing it. He said that as long as we text him to remind him to read, he's going to read 5 chapters every day. But he said he'll only do it if we read with him so we can go over what he's been reading and help him understand even more. So looks like we'll be reading the Book of Mormon through in just over a month and a half. We're really excited for him. He loves the lessons and we're trying to prepare him to hopefully be sealed with his wife and daughter in a few months.
There was also a big Marshallese party for one of the islands, Mille, on Saturday. We were invited by some of the members, so we go to watch some baseball, eat, and meet plenty non-members at the park.
Mary and Catherine were also baptized yesterday! We had originally planned for Saturday, but because Mille Day was an all day thing, the branch president thought it would be best to just hold the baptism after church. The baptism went really well. However, there was one of the branch members who basically lectured these two little girls for 35 minutes on the Holy Ghost. He translated basically all the church materials into Marshallese: from the Book of Mormon, to the missionary pamphlets. So he knows a lot. And he basically unloaded on these poor little girls. But he meant well and the baptism went smooth so what more could we ask for.
At the beginning of this transfer I had all the missionaries in my district vote on a district name. The name that ended up winning was the 'Wai Not Now' district. Wai (pronounced why) is because we're in the Waipahu zone, but also means fresh water in Hawaiian. And wai not now was supposed to be like our motivation to not wait to commit people to baptism. If they're progressing, then why not now? And this name/motto has held true for my district this transfer.  As a district we've had great success so far this transfer, and have been able to set more people with a date than we've had in any of the previous transfers since I've been here!
So I guess that's my message for you guys is if you're waiting to do something, then wai not now? Sometimes we wait too long for things, and before we know it the opportunity is gone. Once we've had that confirmation from our Heavenly Father that's all we really need. It's ok to walk by faith and take a few steps in the dark, because a loving Father in Heaven has promised us He will never lead us astray. So if you're waiting on or for something, whatever it may be, Wai Not Now?
Love you guys and have a great week!
Iakwe nan indeeo, Elder Merrill

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Week 58 - Aloha

Aloha everyone!
This week wasn't too eventful. One of my recent converts in this area, Bima, hasn't been to church in a while because their car has a really bad leak in the cooling system. We've been going up to his house once a week to work on the car, but haven't made much progress. The first week we went up, Bima's dad had told us he had tools so we didn't bring anything. We got up there, looked inside his bag of tools, and found half a socket set and a broken pair of needle-nose pliers. Needless to say, we didn't get much done. The second week, we brought a pair of pliers, succeeded in getting one of the hose clamps off that we needed to, but some motor genius put the second one on upside down in the most remote, inaccessible part of the engine imaginable. People driving by on the road probably get a kick out of missionaries laying spread eagle on an engine trying to reach down and get this clamp, then after a while, with a red face and scraped up arm, we finally give up and let another one try. But with enough faith anything is possible right? I definitely hope that the Lord said that in reference to auto-mechanics.
We also had a good lesson with Machat this past week. He said he talked to his girlfriend and they set a date to be married and baptized! The only problem is that date is 8 months away... I was wrestling with the question of whether we should try and push him to an earlier date, or if we should just let him do his thing and keep encouraging him until his date. I felt like he was ready now, so he should be baptized now. He's been investigating the church for about 4 years and is finally at the point where he wants to be baptized, so why wait. I took that question to the temple and I felt like that was the right thing to do after praying about it, but I wasn't sure how to bring it up. We were able to tour the Visitors' Center after and while we were looking at the temple I had the thought to invite Machat to go to the VC, and after he'd felt the spirit on the temple grounds, we could invite him to an earlier baptismal date, and have the date that he wants as his sealing date just over a year after they're married. I'm really hoping that it works out, because it's been a long road for him. He's at the point where he wants to be baptized, and realizes the importance of it, he just needs a friendly push:)
So that's just a little of what's going on here in Hawaii. Hope all is well back home.
Choke aloha,
Elder Merrill

Monday, September 15, 2014

Week 57 - Aloha

Little bit of a slower week this week. There was a big funeral that everybody seemed to be preparing for all week long. It seemed like almost everyone we tried to visit or take out with us was busy making preparations for the funeral. And on top of that, Mary and Catherine's grandpa assumed we were going to cancel the baptism because it was scheduled the same day as the funeral, so he just went ahead and told everyone that it was cancelled without even talking to us. So we showed up at the church ready for a baptism, only to find that nobody else was... So that was a little bit of a setback, but everything should go just fine for their baptism this saturday. Hopefully no one else dies.
We also received a referral from a senior couple in the McCully Ward, my old area, to go visit a recent convert that moved to Waipahu. We stopped by her house and I knew her!  Her name is Jessitta and she used to live with one of the families that I was teaching while we were there. We started to teach her right before I got transferred out. I guess she kept taking the lessons from the missionaries and she was eventually baptized! So it was cool to reconnect with her after all that time and neat to see how the Lord's work continued to move forward after I left.
We had a really great lesson with Machat yesterday. We read Alma 32 with him, and then tied that into the verses at the end of James 2. Alma 32 talks about faith, it's where faith is likened to a seed. So we helped him understand that he has to nourish his faith in order for it to keep growing, but faith alone isn't enough. We read James 2 and talked about how we need works to go along with our faith. So we used the faith without works is dead scripture to commit him to setting a solid date with his girlfriend for marriage and baptism. We told him that we can see the faith that he has, but he needs to show his faith by his works. He told us that by next week he'd set a solid date with his girlfriend. So we're pretty excited for that.
Other than that everything is going good. We just had a new branch mission leader called, after the last one had been less-active for the past 4 months and finally moved. The new one seems excited about the work and is eager to come out with us. He also knows a lot of people so things are definitely looking up.
Love you guys and thanks for all you do! Jeramman!
-Elder Merrill

Monday, September 8, 2014

Week 56 - Aloha

Friends and family, Aloha!
This week was a great week for Elder Neff and I. We taught a lot of lessons, have investigators that continue to progress toward baptism, and are getting along great! I'm the one training him, but I feel like I'm learning just as much from him as he is from me. It's also been interesting watching him find out people in the branch that he's related to. People will find out he's Marshallese, then find out he's adopted and ask who his birth parents are. He'll tell them his mother's name, and then they'll say something like "Oh that's my cousin!" And then the next hour consists of them telling him all about his family. Too bad there's no Koreans in our branch...
We're working most closely with Mary and Catherine right now. They're both set for baptism on this Saturday, the 13th. It's incredible how much they understand, and how much they already know. I think they're more knowledgeable and teachable than almost any other investigators I've had on my mission, and they're only 8 and 9 years old! They're really excited for their baptism and they have a great support system with their mom and grandparents.
We're still working with Machat. He actually had his baby blessed yesterday at church! It was his first time back at church since his baby's been born because he's been staying home with his girlfriend to help take care of her every sunday. But he told us that from now on they'll all be coming to church every week. It was really neat, because his girlfriend's dad is like a king in the Marshall Islands, there were like 50 non-members that showed up to sacrament meeting yesterday to see the baby blessed. None of the ones we talked to seemed to be very interested in hearing about the gospel, but it was neat to see the support that everyone showed.
We also had a cool experience this past week when we went to visit this girl that was on the unbaptized child list. They have an intercom speaker to get into their apartment building and the person has to answer and buzz you in before you can enter. So we called and someone said "hello?". We replied "Hi, it's the missionaries!". I'm not really sure what happened next, but we heard a sound on the speaker like someone dropped the phone, then shortly thereafter they hung up. We tried calling back a few more times after that, but nobody answered. So we just brushed it off and kept going.
Then yesterday in our branch council meeting someone mentioned having ran into the dad of that family by some weird coincidence and talked about how they needed to get home and visiting teachers into that house to help them out. We then told how we had tried to visit that same family over the past week and our branch council discussed how we could get into the house and what people to take with us. It was a small and simple manifestation of how the Lord always provides a way when we are willing to do our part and try.
I love you all and am so grateful for the love and support you show to me.
Elder Merrill

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Week 55 - The Joys of Parenthood

Aloha all!
I hope you all had a great Labor Day Weekend. We spent the day at a party for the Tongan Ward. There was plenty food and volleyball. In fact, I probably looked like I swallowed a volleyball after we were finished eating. I guess dropping the pounds after pregnancy is a lot harder than I thought;)
I also got my son this week! His name is Elder Neff. He's from Holladay, UT. He's Marshallese and was born in Majuro, but was adopted when he was 5 and raised in Utah. It's been fun so far. It's definitely not the easiest thing to raise a kid (I guess my parents were right) but we've had a lot of great experiences already. Hyrum, the 12 year old boy that we've been working with, was baptized this past thursday! I was able to arrange for Elder Neff to baptize him so I think that was a really great experience for both of them. Hyrum starting a new chapter in his life of following Christ, and Elder Neff to experience first-hand the joy and our purpose as missionaries his very first day in the mission field.
Our main investigators that we're working with are the same. Mary and her sister Catherine are both looking solid to be baptized on the 11th. They came to church again and loved it. We also met with Machat again this past sunday. He's definitely progressing and I feel like the more we read from the Book of Mormon with him, the stronger his testimony grows and the closer he becomes to entering the waters of baptism. This past week we read Alma 7 with him and taught how that chapter illustrated the importance of baptism and how essential that ordinance really is. The spirit was really strong and I know it touched him. He said he doesn't know if the marriage and baptism will happen on the 18th,  but he'll talk to his girlfriend and set a date that they both feel comfortable with.
We also had our first lesson with this girl named Jolena. She is the girlfriend of a less-active member. The boyfriend's parents and most of his siblings are active in the church, but he sort of fell away. They both came to church this past sunday and we shared the message of the Restoration with her that night. I didn't think she'd be that interested because of the way she hesitantly accepted our invitation to take the lessons when we met her last week, but she actually seemed very interested, paying close attention and telling other people to shut up when they got too loud.
I've been in Waipahu for 7 months now. It's been a long time, but I still love serving here. There's always work to do and people progressing. Just when our teaching pool starts to dwindle, there's someone we meet that's unbelievably prepared to hear the message we have to share. I can truly testify that the Lord is hastening His work because I see it every day.
Love you guys and hope you have a great week!
Elder Merrill

Monday, August 25, 2014

Week 54 - We're Expecting!!!!!!

Aloha everyone!
You're probably getting tired of hearing this, but it was yet another great week here in Hawaii. I guess the biggest news we got is that my companion and I will both be training this coming transfer. We're gonna be a big, happy family with two beautiful baby boys;) I'm staying in Waipahu so that means that by the time I'm done training I'll be in this area for 10 months. They're both called Marshallese speaking just like me so I'm really looking forward to the next few months.
We also have a baptism planned for this week. This boy named Hyrum is set for baptism on thursday. His little brother just got baptized about a month ago in Kauai and moved back with his family so he's been a really good example for him. 
We also met these two girls, Mary and Catherine. Their grandparents are members in our branch, and their mom is a less-active member. Their grandparents wanted both of them to be baptized, so they told us about them and gave us the mom's number. We went and taught them and set them both with a baptismal date for Sept. 11th! They, along with their mom, have been coming to church every week for the past 3 weeks now. They're really solid and actually know a lot for little girls. They seemed to know all the answers already, and remembered almost perfectly everything that we taught them.
And we're still working with Machat. We've been going over every sunday after church and reading the Book of Mormon with him. It's really helped him develop a testimony of the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith as a prophet, which was a big hold up for him because of his Jehovah's Witness background. But we set him with a date for Sept. 18th to be married and baptized!
We've been having great success, and hopefully have a lot more coming. I'm so excited and grateful to be able to serve the Lord in this beautiful part of His vineyard.
Love you all and thanks for everything that you do!
-Elder Merrill

Monday, August 18, 2014

Week 53 - Rings

Iakwe and Aloha y'all!
Had a super great week. First and foremost Simba was baptized!!! Everything went perfect, just as planned. We had the highest turnout at a baptism since I've been here. We wanted it to be a special and memorable occasion for Simba, so we really focused on getting as many people there as we could, members and non-members. We invited every kid we saw that lives in his same building to come to the baptism, and most of them showed up! We were also able to get a lot of new investigators out of it because they felt the spirit and we were able to ask them if we could come and teach them so that they could eventually be baptized as well.
Simba's been a great strength and example to both his family, and the other members of the branch. For right now, he's the only member in his family, but he already wants, and is working on the rest of his family coming to church and being baptized. He's also a great influence on his friends that he's living with right now. He reminds them to read their scriptures and pray, and makes sure that they all go to seminary together! He says he wants to serve a mission and I'm super excited to see him continue to progress.
My companion and I worked really hard this past week in trying to hit our goals. We taught a lot of lessons and made a big effort to teach as many lessons as we could with a member present. The members really are the key in missionary work. They help so much in the finding and conversion process in providing a friend in the church. One that doesn't come and go like the missionaries tend to do. In my first area one of my friend shared a story with me about members and missionary work.
He's from the islands and his dad is a fisherman. He said that back home, when they'd go fishing, his dad would drive out onto the water and then stop the boat and wait, looking up at the horizon. He said at first his was confused because the fish are under the water, not up in the sky, and if they wanted to catch fish they needed to drop their lines. But his dad sat there patiently waiting. Until he saw a flock of birds. He would then drive to where the fish were, and my friend and his dad would start pulling up fish left and right. He was looking for the birds to lead him to the fish, because they knew where to find them.
This is a lot like members in missionary work. The members are the birds. Sure they could've caught a few fish with out them, but when they worked together they were able to catch plenty.
We also had a great fireside last night up in Laie with a guest speaker, Vai Sikahema. He's an incredible guy, and took time out of his vacation to come and speak to all the missionaries on Oahu. He talked about a lot of things, but the one that I liked the most was a story he shared about a ring. He was a good football player at BYU before his mission and ran back a punt return in the miracle bowl to kick start their comeback victory. He took his championship ring with him on his mission, justifying that it could be a conversation starter and help him talk about the gospel. He said for months, both members and nonmembers would ask him about his ring and his past life as a football player. He wore the ring to an interview with a general authority, one who had previously played for the BYU basketball team, hoping to make a connection with him. The general authority told him that if he was Vai, he'd send the ring back home. He said he was devastated by this advice, but prayed and fasted about it to see if it was something he should do. The answer he received was yes, and he boxed his ring up and send it home. He said that once he sent it home, it completely changed his mission. He hadn't noticed before, but the majority of the time when he would have conversations with people, it was about him and football, rather than about the Savior, the gospel, or the restoration. He said that his mission completely changed once he made that decision. He then asked all of the missionaries if we had "rings", something that we were holding onto from our life before our mission. He said it doesn't matter who you were before, or where you're going after, right now all that matters is that you serve the Lord with all you've got. Really great and spiritual fireside.
Anyway hope you all have a great week. Attached are pictures of Simba's baptism, and me and my companion wearing my previous companion's shirts.
Love youes!
-Elder Merrill

Monday, August 11, 2014

Week 52 - Hurricane Survivor

Or...at least there was supposed to be, but I guess it never came? Some of you might have heard the news of the hurricanes that were supposed to hit Hawaii. People boarded up their windows and sand bagged their doors, they even had all the missionaries stay inside all day as a safety precaution, but the storm never really hit hard here on Oahu. Honestly I was kind of disappointed because I was planning on some John Groberg level stuff, like saving kids from houses being torn apart. But life goes on as usual. The only effect the storm had was delaying our baptism. We had Simba set to be baptized this past Thursday, but due to the storm, they cancelled all church activities Thursday night and Friday, meaning his baptism had to be pushed back. But he's set for baptism this Thursday and everything looks like it should go smooth with that.
We actually kind of had a miracle this past week with him. It was the day of his baptismal interview, and before he could get interviewed his parents had to sign the baptismal record saying that they gave permission for him to be baptized because he's only 17. We thought his dad was a less-active member, but apparently neither of his parents are members and his dad doesn't like church, especially our church. He told us that as we were heading to his house so our hopes were basically dashed to pieces. All I could think was here was another kid I've worked with that wanted so badly to be baptized, but would be held back because of his parents. He said he wanted to talk to his dad alone, so we waited in the car. As he got out, I told him everything would be alright. As long as he trusted in God it would all work out. We said a prayer while we were waiting that Simba would have the courage to say what his dad needed to hear, and that his dad's heart would be softened to allow him to sign the baptismal record. After that prayer, I had this overwhelming witness from the spirit assuring me that everything would be ok. And it was! A few minutes later he came back to the car smiling and showed us his dad's signature at the bottom of the paper. He said his dad even congratulated him on his decision to be baptized and might come to the baptism!
They don't call me Elder Merricle for nothing;)
Love you guys and hope you have a great, hurricane-free, week!
Love, Elder Merrill

Monday, August 4, 2014

Week 51 - I Believe in Miracles

Man had such a good week!
I got my new companion, Elder Freeman. He just came from Lana'i, an island with only 2 missionaries serving on it. He's from Lehi and has been out 18 months. I'm really looking forward to this next transfer because we've already worked good in just the short time that we've been together.
Things have been kind of crazy because they just put another set of elders into our branch, so I have to show them their area and all of their investigators, plus try to cover our side and get my companion familiar with everything that's going on. Plus none of them speak Marshallese so it's been an interesting past week. All good tho!
I guess the highlight of this past week was the miracle baptism that we had! The first night of the transfer our dinner cancelled so I was calling around frantically trying to find dinner for all of us and I called our go-to family, the Anitoks. They told us to come over and while we were eating we talked about how there was 2 child of record baptisms the next day. I asked him who they were and one of the kids that he said was the son of one of our former investigators that we'd been trying to get a lesson with. The kid is 8 years old and his grandparents, as well as all of his aunties and uncles are members, but when the rest of his family joined the church, his dad didn't. He's been through countless missionaries and has heard all of the lessons multiple times, but he has something that's holding him back.
Anyway we found out that neither of his parents are members and that means that he's a convert baptism. So the first thing next morning we drove out to his house and asked his parents if we could teach their son the lessons before his baptism that night. We gave him a crash course on all of the lessons in about an hour and a half, then he was baptized that night. Everything went smooth and I couldn't have asked for a better first day of the transfer!
There was another miracle baptism in our mission. 200 people from mainland China came on a business trip to Hawaii and went to the visitors center at the Laie Temple. They gave away over 100 copies of the Book of Mormon. Out of those people, 10 said that they wanted to take the missionary discussions and be baptized before they returned to China in 2 days. So the next day our mission's first missionary from mainland China went and taught all 10 of them, then they were all baptized that night.
These stories illustrate how the Lord is truly hastening His work, just like He promised. We had a meeting about this yesterday and one of the things they talked about was how the Lord was going to hasten His work regardless of whether we're on board or not. So the question isn't a matter of whether He's going to hasten it, it's a question of whether we'll be on His side helping Him when it happens. And the time is now. There are so many people being prepared and I've been blessed to find a few of them and bring them to the gospel. This is the greatest work in the world and I hope that we're all on the Lord's side helping him accomplish it!
Really love you guys!
-Elder Merrill

Monday, July 28, 2014

Week 50 - Splits

Friends and family, Aloha!
This week has been another week of hard work. My companion's getting sent to a new mission in Washington, so we've been split with the zone leaders this past week. It's been a really great experience because I got to work in a different area (which was a nice change) and learned a lot. I really got to see a different side of missionary work. Instead of the missionaries finding the people, it was mostly the members. They had splits set up with members almost every day, and their members were the ones that took the lead in inviting people they know to take the missionary discussions. It was really neat to see how successful the work is, and how much more work can get done, when the members really get involved. Because hearing the gospel, something important to you, means a lot more coming from a close friend than it does two weird kids dressed funny.
The highlight of the week was probably on Saturday. The area I was in had two baptisms, and our zone had four more. Our zone has been averaging about 4-5 baptisms every week this past transfer. We're leading the mission by far in just about everything. It's been really cool to see the transformation because when I first came to this zone it was dead. Almost nobody was baptizing and nobody wanted to be here. I was actually really mad when I found out that I was being transferred here to Waipahu. But as we've strived to seek out those people prepared for us, as well as getting the members more involved, our zone has transformed into one of the zones that everyone wants to come to because they know in Waipahu, we baptize.
We also got introduced to a new program in the church called JustServe. The church has set up a website where anybody in the community can post community service projects that they need help with and then different people and groups in the community come together to complete the projects. The focus isn't really proselyting, as much as it is just offering Christlike service. Missionaries will be doing service projects almost every day during the less-productive hours in the middle of the day. They said that they've already tried it out in a few places in California and it's been really successful. In the San Jose mission they don't even tract, but find most of their investigators while they are offering service in their community. So we're really excited, it sounds like a really good and effective program. We get to meet a lot of people, plus give the church good publicity and correct any misconceptions some people may have about our church.
Love you guys and thanks for all your support!
-Elder Merrill