Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Week 41 - The Book

Aloha everyone!
This week we had a really good week. My companion and I led the zone in lots of different categories including investigators with a baptismal date, with member lessons, total lessons, and RCLAs. There's honestly no greater joy than the one found in sharing the gospel.
We had a super solid zone conference yesterday. We had really good trainings about the importance of companionship unity, and how to better introduce the Book of Mormon to investigators so they get interested in the story line and actually want to read it. Our mission president pointed out that the Book of Mormon is just like a story book. That it contains the journeying, sorrows, and joys of a family. There's romance, bloodshed, betrayal (sounds like a chick flick to me). But too often as missionaries we don't give the Book of Mormon the respect that we should. We just give them the book and say read it.
Our president helped us understand yesterday how we can better give our investigators a desire to read, and by doing so, build their faith and testimony. Our zone leaders in their training asked the question "Why is the Book of Mormon so powerful?" One of the answers that I came up with was because it's written for us today. That every story and every verse is put in there just for us.
I then shared the story of one of the less-active members in my last area that we were working with, Nick. He felt like because of his sins in the past, he wasn't worthy to come to church anymore. We tried to teach him about the atonement and how it can cleanse all sins,  but it just didn't work with him. One day me and my companion were talking about him and I said his story is kind of similar to Alma the Younger's. So we decided to read that story with him our next lesson. I feel like he was able to relate to that story because Alma was kind of a punk when he was a kid. But we then pointed out that even though Alma was one of the worst kind of people imaginable, an anti-Christ, he was still forgiven of all of his sins, and nothing was more exquisite than his joy. We told Nick that he could have this same joy, that the Savior extends the same invitation to everyone. To repent and come unto Him.
The Book of Mormon is so powerful. The prophets have said it's the keystone of our religion, and that a man will come closer to God by abiding by its' precepts than by any other book.
It's also said that the Book of Mormon has the answer to every question or hardship, and I've found that to be true. The Book of Mormon can help with anything in our life. No matter our past or current situation. And I'm just grateful that God loves us enough to give us such a great tool to help us come closer to Him and understand His ways more fully. I hope you all follow the counsel of the prophets and read from the Book of Mormon every day. Love you guys!
-Elder Merrill

Monday, May 19, 2014

Week 40 - Just another week in paradise

Aloha everyone!
So this week we definitely made progress in our work compared to the depressing news of last week. We sat down and had a good talk with VinVin about how if he didn't want to be baptized, that we didn't want to keep driving down and waste our time and his. At the end, he told us he still wanted to be baptized and would do better with the lessons and coming to church.
We also committed my companion's soon to be cousin in law to a marriage and baptism date. It's kind of weird having a companion from Hawaii, especially one who's Marshallese because he either knows, or is related to almost everyone we talk to. So we've been working with his cousin's boyfriend. She is pregnant and they've been living together, so this past week we sat down with them and their parents and discussed marriage and baptism. The parents gave their consent so we're planning on marrying and baptizing them on the same day this coming month!
We also found new investigators that seem very promising so things are really looking up in our area.
And as for a spiritual thought, we just got our conference ensign issues this past week which is like Christmas all over again to missionaries. So I was reading through the conference talks again and came across Elder Uchtdorf's talk from priesthood session. He shared the story of Rip Van Winkle and how he slept through the American Revolution, one of the most exciting and monumental times in the world's history. He then likened it to the Restoration of the gospel and urged us not to "sleep through the restoration" which is the most exciting time in the history of the world. We are so blessed to be born into this time, where the gospel, with all of its' powers and ordinances have been restored to the earth, and it's all for us! I hope we all recognize the significance of that and do all that we can to be active in this restoration, rather than sleeping through it.
I love you all and thanks for all that you do for me!
-Elder Merrill

Monday, May 12, 2014

Week 39 - Bar Lakwe

Aloha everyone!
Another solid week in Hawaii has come and gone. Had its' share of disappointments too though. We basically had to drop our two most solid investigators. Miko was the one closest to baptism. I think every single person except her and her little sister are less active members, so we've been working on teaching her and trying to reactivate the family, but they don't seem too interested in hearing what we have to say. We tried talking to the mom about Miko being baptized, but she won't even talk to us, so we'll keep trying, but for now we have to stop teaching her. Sucks when people abuse their agency.
The other investigator we had close was VinVin. He's pretty much the opposite story. We talked to his parents about him being baptized and even though they're all protestant, they're fine with it and even encouraged it. But he's not too stoked about it. He said that because church is so long it takes time away from his playing time on sunday. He just wants to play basketball and call of duty all day and doesn't really understand keeping the sabbath holy or putting God first in his life.
Now if only there was some way that we could combine them then we'd have the perfect baptism that could've happened a month ago.
Our main focus now has switched to Trevor and Trina. They're another part-member less active family. Their mom and older sister are both less active members, but we've been teaching them and they've been coming to church. We had a really good discussion this past week about baptism. We sat down with the mom and sister and asked if it was okay if Trevor and Trina were eventually baptized. Their mom actually shared her testimony about baptism and how it was a lifelong commitment. How once they're baptized they can't just go to another church, or dog out on responsibilities. Funny how she understands that but can't seem to live it herself.
I feel like for some reason in Hawaii there's a lot of people like that. And it might even be the same case all over the world. For some people it seems like they just don't have a strong enough foundation for their testimony to withstand when trials hit. With others it's that what the world has to offer seems more fun than living the gospel standards. Whatever it may be, the one common thing I've noticed with these people is that none of them seem to be that happy. Just more evidence that the world's happiness doesn't even come close to the Lord's happiness. Real happiness comes from God. The confidence that through him you can do all things, and through him you can be with those you love forever it what brings happiness that won't fade away. I know it's hard cause Satan's convincing and good at what he does. He's had thousands of years to master his trade, but God's had countless more than that. So all we have to do to find happiness is trust in God and if we do that He's promised us that we cannot fall.
Hope you all have a good week. Aloha and Iakwe!
Elder Merrill

Monday, May 5, 2014

Week 38 - Priesthood Power

Aloha everyone!
So this week has had its ups and downs. The girl that we have closest to baptism is being held back by her mom, who's a less-active member. We went to her house yesterday to make sure she was coming to church, but her mom wouldn't even let her come out of the room because she said that her daughter was going to New Hope church with her... It's just hard because the daughter wants to come to church and get baptized so bad, but her mom won't let her.
All four of the missionaries in our branch also got assigned to teach the youth class for sunday school. Our old branch president used to do it, but since he moved there's nobody to teach so they asked us to do it until they can find a teacher. So that's been crazy and fun.
But yesterday at church we had a Marshallese member come up to us and give us shocking news. A couple of weeks ago he went in for a checkup at the doctor and they found cancer. He didn't tell us what type, or where it was, but they asked him to come back in a couple of days for additional testing. The day before he went back he asked my companion and I to come give him a blessing. He then told us yesterday that when he went to the doctor's office they couldn't find any sign of his cancer. They checked and re-checked, but it just wasn't there and they couldn't explain it.
This got me thinking how lucky we are to have the priesthood in our lives. It's literally God's power that he's given to his children on earth so that all of them might be blessed by it. I feel like even though I hold the priesthood, I too often take it for granted.
An example is a couple of weeks ago I was sick with the flu. For like four days I just popped pills, and felt miserable. It wasn't until I finally humbled myself enough to ask for a priesthood blessing that finally got better.
It's so incredible that God has enough trust in us, his fallen children, to trust us with His power. The same power by which the world was created, the same power by which Christ healed lepers, raised the dead, and made blind men see.
A church movie I like to watch tells the story of one of the early church members, John Tanner. His leg had contracted some incurable disease that would soon overtake him and lead to the loss of his life. He went to every physician and tried everything, but nothing worked. When he happened upon the elders they began to come to his house and teach him. They invited him to follow Christ's example and be baptized, but he replied he couldn't. Because of his leg he couldn't endure baptism. Then one of the elders stood up and asked him if he believed that Christ had healed the sick man at the Waters of Bethesda and that His apostles, Peter and John, had raised up a man to walk who was lame from birth. He replied that he knew these instances  to be true. The missionary then asked him, if these instances are true, and those people were healed by the priesthood power, wouldn't that same power be found in Christ's church once again restored to the earth today? He then asked if John Tanner had faith to be healed. He replied yes, and was then commanded in the name of Christ and by priesthood authority to walk. His leg was instantaneously healed and he was baptized that night.
We really have a marvelous gift given to us by God, and should do all we can to treasure the significance of this.
Thanks once again for all you do for me.
Choke aloha,
Elder Sammy Merrill