Monday, February 24, 2014

Week 28 - Aloooooha

Aloha everyone! Howzit?
I'm loving my new area and my companion and I are working hard! It really helps having a Marshallese companion, and the people love it when I speak the language. I'll start speaking, and they'll say "Oh! kwolukkuun jela!" which means Oh you really know! (how to speak Marshallese) Then I'll tell them you too! And they'll laugh. I love the Marshallese people because they're so easy-going and they love to joke around just like me! All of the Islanders are so loving! For the most part they don't have that much, but they give everything that they have to the missionaries!
We set a baptismal date with a new boy for next week. He'd been investigating the church for a while and didn't get baptized when his parents did. Missionaries had tried for a long time, and my second lesson with him we got him to tell us all of his concerns which he wouldn't tell any missionaries before. His main concern was that he was worried that he would have to pay for being baptized. It was the smallest thing that was keeping him from being baptized and he was too scared to tell anyone.
Getting him to tell us his concerns really bore witness to me about how every missionary is in every area for a reason. I know that I'm supposed to be here and it reminds me of the story I read at my farewell talk about finding people you promised you would find in the premortal life. 
I also learned how important it is to follow the promptings of the spirit. Looking back on that teaching appointment, I can't remember some of the things that I said, so I know that I was just being a mouth-piece for the spirit. As long as we're in tune with the spirit God has promised us that it will be given us in the very moment that which we need to say. I know that following the spirit is key and there's a quote from an apostle that says this work can't move forward without the spirit. Without it, there would be no progress. It truly is a great gift that Heavenly Father has given us. His own spirit to lead and guide us.
I hope you all continue to stay in tune with the spirit over the course of this next week!
-Elder Merrill

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Week 27 - Ippen iakwe jan Hawaii

Aloha all!
I'm in my new area and it's crazy different. I got transferred to the only all-Marshallese branch in Hawaii and my companion is Marshallese, he's actually from Hawaii. I feel like it's a great opportunity for me to really fulfill my calling and learn the language!
The branch asked all four of the missionaries to give talks on sunday. I found an old Conference Ensign and found a talk that was perfect. It was Neil L. Andersen's talk where he shares the story about the currant bush. There's also a Mormon Message that shares the same thing and it's my favorite one. For those of you who haven't seen it, it shares the story of a gardener who purchased an old, run down farm. As he went about tending to it, he came across a currant bush that had grown 6 feet high and had yielded no berries. He pruned it back drastically to the point where only stumps remained. After he had done this, he saw a drop on the top of each stump as if the bush were crying, and thought heard it say "how could you do this to me? I was making such great progress and now you cut me down. All the other bushes in the garden will look down on me. How could you do this to me?" The gardener told him "look little currant bush. I don't intend for you to be a fruit tree or a shade tree, I want you to be a currant bush." He told him he knew what he wanted him to be and that he knew what it was going to take for him to reach that potential. Years later, that same gardener was in line for a promotion to general in the military, but it was denied him because he was a Mormon. With bitterness in his heart he went back to his tent, threw his hat on his cot, and shook his fists at heaven saying "How could you do this to me God? I've done everything to measure up. How could you do this to me? Then he heard a voice, it was his own voice saying "I'm the gardener here, and I know what I want you to become" He said the bitterness left him and he knelt down and pleaded for God's forgiveness. Now he looks up to heaven and says "thank you Mr. Gardener. For seeing my potential. For loving me enough to cut me down.
I know that this story applies to all of us. God knows what He wants us to be. He can see our potential and wants us to reach all of it and more. He knows what it takes for us to get there, and sometimes it takes correction and pruning back in order for us to grow and become what He needs. I would encourage all of you to watch this Mormon Message, and when you're faced with opposition or trials, to instead of being angry, kneel down and thank our Heavenly Father. Thank him for loving you enough to cut you down. For giving you His love-inspired correction. Love you all!
Elder Merrill

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Week 26 - Caught in the Whitewash

Friends and Family, Aloha.
This week's been really crazy. We just got the news that both Elder Hill and I are going to be transferred out of our area. Here we call it whitewashing when both missionaries are taken out and two new ones are brought in. If you don't remember, my last area I was in was whitewashed when I came here to Big Island. My new area is back on Oahu, in Waipahu. I'll be serving in the all-Marshallese branch with a Marshallese companion, so hopefully my language skills will pick up.
I'd been praying for Heavenly Father to give me more opportunities to use Marshallese because I hardly get to use it in Honoka'a, but this isn't really the answer I was looking for. I've come to love the people here so much and don't wanna leave, and the members feel the same way about us. We had almost everyone in the ward come up to us after they sang Aloha Oe and thanks us and tell us how much they're going to miss us. 
When I first came into this ward there was basically nothing. There hadn't been a baptism in who knows how long, we had no with dates, and almost no investigators. But my companion and I worked hard, got a baptism, built our teaching pool, and got the ward members to start coming out with us to teach! It still amazes me how close you can become with people you met only a few months ago.
The hardest person to say goodbye to was our recent convert Haunani. She hates seeing people she cares for leave and could barely stand the thought of one of us leaving (which we thought was going to happen) Then when she found out both of us were going, she said she cried all night. And although it's hard, the important thing is that her conversion is to the gospel, not to us. While she loves and respects us, she has a deeper love for God and recognizes that when she puts her trust in Him, He'll provide, and that everything will work out in the end.
One of the speakers in sacrament meeting yesterday talked about how important it is to hold fast to that conversion when you face opposition in your life. He talked about how he didn't receive his conversion until 19 years after his baptism. It wasn't until then that he developed that true love for, and relationship with Christ and His gospel.
And I feel like I can relate in a lot of ways. Especially growing up in the church, I feel like I often took the gospel for granted in my life. I can honestly say, I don't feel that I received a conversion until I came out on a mission. Nothing has strengthened my testimony more of the truthfulness of this gospel and the blessings it brings, than testifying of it every day and seeing the blessings first-hand. And even now, my conversion is still an ongoing process. We can never become too close to God, or too converted. And that's why it's important to always keep pushing forward and stay true to what we know.
I love you guys and I'll let you know next week how things are back on Oahu. Ofa lahi atu!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Week 25 - The Dunk

We had a baptism!!!!!
So a baptism's kind of a big deal, but for our ward, it's a huge deal. Like I said, we've had a baptism drought in Honoka'a for the past roughly eight months. We had our investigator Haunani that I talked about get baptized this week and it was awesome!
Pre-baptism miracle. So Hauanani was supposed to be baptized a few weeks ago, but postponed her baptism because she wanted her parents to be there, but they were staying in their house in Hana, Maui (a different island). We worked and worked with her, and she finally agreed that this was her day, and that the most important person to be there was her, because this day is all about her and her choice to follow Christ. So she agreed to be baptized, and move forward with it regardless of whether her parents would be able to be there or not. So we had everything all set for the baptism, and the day before she went to the next town over to do some shopping for white clothes. While she was there, she ran into her dad, who didn't even tell her he was coming to Big Island! He asked her if she wanted to come watch the super bowl with him on sunday, and she replied no, and that she was going to be at church. She also told him she had her baptism tomorrow and invited him to come. He accepted and said he'd love to be there to support his daughter. He showed up at the baptism and supported her through it all!
We've also been meeting with this guy Ted. He has such a profound love for Christ, one I haven't seen in a lot of members, but he tells us he's looking for the truth and can't seem to recognize when it's right in front of him. He keeps going to all these different churches, but seems timid about giving ours a try. We invited him to Haunani's baptism and he said he'd love to be there to support anyone who's taking a step to bring them closer to Christ. He showed up and had the best experience. He called us after and told us that he thinks he's finally found what he's been looking for! He loved how Christ-centered, loving, and caring the members were. He told us he felt the Holy Spirit witness to him that this is the place he needed to be going. And on top of that we introduced him to Haunani after, who was glowing, and they just talked briefly, but she ended up telling him "hopefully you'll be able to get baptized soon too!" And he agreed.
Everything went perfect and Haunani couldn't stop smiling the rest of the day. After the ordinance of the baptism, she gave her testimony to everyone there. She was so full of the spirit and showed and told everyone how much she loves and respects Christ. It was great for her dad and Ted to see how much happiness and fulfillment the gospel has brought to her life. The spirit was crazy strong. And I love how in Hawaii they give leis after big events. She had leis up to her eyes and I don't know how to describe it other than she was just so happy.
She told us that after the baptism was over and everything was cleaned up, she got home at around 2:30. She fed her dogs, and then went right to sleep because she wanted it to beSunday already so she could get the Holy Ghost! Her excitement about the gospel is just what our ward needs, and she's already begun to make a difference and boost people up! After I gave her the Holy Ghost in sacrament meeting she was crying, and again just so happy.
I love this work and seeing the change it brings about in people. I, along with Haunani, know the blessings that come from this gospel and I thank my Heavenly Father every day for the chance I have to be a part of it.
Ij iakwe kom!
-Elder Sammy Merrill