Monday, June 30, 2014

Week 46 - Shaloha

Hey everyone!
Another week of long and hard work. Lani's still been coming out with us every day which helps a lot because he speaks the language, and is actually a really good teacher. Plus he's friends with a lot of our investigators so it makes the lessons mean a lot more coming from a friend that they're close to, rather than these two church kids in white shirts and ties.
We found out with Mere that there's more stopping her from being baptized than just her family can't come. She has an aunty that's from a different religion, Bahai, and doesn't think she's ready, so she won't let her sister, Mere's mom, allow Mere to be baptized. She's also threatened to kick them out of the house is she does get baptized. But we're still working with her and she's still progressing, so hopefully we'll be able to get everything worked out soon and she can be baptized!
We also had a good lesson with this investigator named Machat. He is living with a member and she has brought him to church for the past like 6 months. He's really attentive in the lessons and says he's open to hear what we have to say, but he's having a hard time getting over his previous beliefs. He was a Jehovah's Witness and was almost forced to come to this church once he started living with his girlfriend. He's glad to have us come over and teach him, but his previous beliefs are so conflicting that he's having a really hard time accepting the doctrine of the Restoration. So we keep praying and working with him.
We also had another really solid lesson with Simba. We taught him the Restoration and he said he already believed it. We gave him a copy of the Book of Mormon and asked him to read and pray about it and he agreed. He still doesn't feel like he's completely ready for baptism because of things that happened in the past, but he said in the future he really wants to become a member of this church because he loves the spirit and the love he feels every sunday.
And we set a date with Johnny, Jibas, and Monalinda, the three kids that just moved from the Marshall Islands, for the 16th. They all agreed and are really excited for every lesson that we teach. So hopefully everything continues to go well all the way up to their baptism.
Overall there's nothing to complain about. I get the privilege to do the best work in the world in one of the most beautiful places in the world. What more could I ask for right? I'm so grateful for the gospel in my life, and for the blessings it brings into the lives of others. I never really realized how much my beliefs meant to me until I came out on my mission where I've testified of them, and they've also been tested and challenged. I hope you all treasure the gift of the gospel in your lives and never forget how much it means to you. Thanks for all the love, prayers, and support. You guys are the best!
-Elder Merrill

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Week 45 - Worked to Death

Iakwe and Aloha everyone!
This week has been really crazy. Covering the island and another area can definitely get overwhelming at times. There's so much to be done and I'm so excited to see everything progressing and moving forward! We've been taking a member who's preparing for his mission out with us almost every day. It's really good for him and for us. He helps a lot and knows most of the people we're teaching.
The main person we're focusing on right now is Mere. She was supposed to be baptized last week before the other two elders got transferred, but her family couldn't make it to the baptism, plus she has an anti-mormon auntie who's threatening to kick them out if she gets baptized. But she's not scared and told us she still wants to be baptized. She's super solid and has already had all of the lessons, so we're planning on setting a date this week and hopefully she'll be baptized next week!
We're also working with this kid Simba. He told us he wants to change his life, and has come to church the past three weeks. We asked him why he randomly started coming to church, and he told us because he'd seen some of his friends change their lives and become good kids when they started going to Mormon church, and he wanted that same thing for him. We've only had one lesson with him so far, but he already wants to be baptized, and he wants his whole family to come to church so they can be baptized too!
And we're still working with most of our same investigators. The biggest problem that most of them have is church attendance. They either live too far away and don't have a way to get to church, they're busy on sundays with work or other things, or they just go to a different church.
We worked really hard this past week, trying to see and teach as many people as we could. And hope to do the same thing this week. Every day when we get home we plan, then pass out because we're both so exhausted. After coming with us for a couple days, the member, Lani, told us how he was surprised at how tiring missionary work is. He asked us how we could keep going when we were so tired and when there's so many things to get disappointed about. We just told him because it's all worth it. We're not doing what we're doing for us, and it's not our work. When you think of it as doing all you can to help the Lord out, everything just seems easier.
Love you all!
-Elder Sammy Merrill

Monday, June 16, 2014

Week 44 - The Grind

Aloha everyone!
This week we got transfer news and I found out my companion and I are staying together another transfer. After this next one that will be six months together for us. Our mission president was going to split us up, but because we were getting so many lessons he said he didn't want to. They're also condensing our branch from two sets of missionaries to just us. So we just inherited another area and now cover the whole island of Oahu. We're expected to be getting forty lessons a week, so we've got a lot of work ahead of us. But that means there's also a lot of potential in our area! At church we had one of our investigators who we haven't seen for 3 months randomly show up at church. Plus we found out three kids who have been coming to church every week that everyone thought were members aren't baptized yet, so we're gonna be teaching them. Things are really looking good. It's gonna be crazy trying to manage everything and we'll be busier than heck, but I know it'll all be worth it, because in the end the Lord's work always is!
I also wanted to share something interesting that I heard this week. I went on an exchange and we were talking to this lady in a different ward. She talked to us about how she didn't think that most people understood hastening the work of salvation like she thinks they should. She's running for political office and as part of that goes to a different church before attending her ward every week. She says that most people who have heard of our church have a lot of respect for us, but she was amazed at how many people have never talked to a Mormon before. Even people that lived on her same street. She said that in her opinion, hastening the work of salvation doesn't mean finally working up the courage to talk to one person about the gospel, then giving up when it doesn't go so well. It means talking to everyone you can and contacting as many people as possible. You don't even have to approach them about the gospel at first, but just be nice and be an example, and eventually something about the gospel will come up. Elder Holland said that everything in any person's life relates in one way or another to some aspect of the gospel. 
This lady talked about how there's lots of people in our church who don't realize that other churches are good too. Just because they don't have the fullness of the truth doesn't mean they're not good people. She said in her opinion, people in other Christian churches are a lot more christian than people in our church a lot of the time. Sure our church has service projects, but it's mostly to help other people in our church. She said these other churches plan projects to go out and just help the community, regardless of their faith. She said on the contrast it seems like many people in our church are just too busy to do the Lord's work. She'll ask ward members if they want to help out with her campaign and meet plenty of people, or if they want to come help with a community service project, but nearly every time the reply is they're just too busy or don't have the time right now.
I hope all of you aren't too busy to help the Lord. Because he's made us the promise that if we seek His kingdom first, everything else will fall into place.
Love you guys!
-Elder Merrill

Monday, June 9, 2014

Week 43 - With Aloha

Once again aloha everyone!
This week was kind of a rough one for my companion and I. It was pretty slow and stuff just didn't seem to be going our way. We talked to our investigator Atlieson who was supposed to go with his girlfriend Nora and sign their marriage papers in Honolulu this past week, but found out that he had to pay for the house bill and then with food and everything else didn't have enough money left to pay for the marriage license, so he says it might be another couple of weeks until they can do it.
Also our investigators Trevor and Trina still don't seem like they want to come to church. They love the lessons and Trevor always asks us "When can I get baptized?" So I tell him "Once you start coming to church" And that pretty much shuts him up every time. So we're still working on getting them to see that church is about more than just getting material things.
Also this past week our mission just started something called the 40-day fast or purification process. It's where all of the missionaries pick something that keeps them from feeling the spirit as fully as they could be, and then try their hardest to abstain from that thing for 40 days.
I also read a really good talk by Elder Holland. He talked about in large part how, in life, we reap what we sow, or in other words, we get out of life that which we put in. He likened it to planting plants and said that at first you sow a little thistle, then that blossoms and seeds and there's just more and more thistle, or more and more hate, whatever the attribute may be. And the only way to get it out, is to have it rooted out of your heart. To not merely mow over the weeds, but to pull them by the roots, making sure they won't grow back. Whereas on the flip-side, if you sow flowers, you reap more and more beautiful flowers, or love, or generosity, as time goes on.
So I guess just a quick thought/reminder to count your blessings, and to strive to be Christlike in all that you do. We can't control the actions of others and we can't always control our circumstances or the things that happen to us, but we can control our actions, and how we react to the circumstances God places us in.
I feel like it's a lot like this picture attached. There's many different perspectives we could take to see different things. And we get to choose what we wish to focus on. It's the same with life. We can choose to focus on the good aspect, the bad aspect, or any number of any other aspects. But when we look for the hand of God in our life, it helps us to recognize our blessings and see that God is always with us wherever we go and in whatever we do.
I hope this week you can all strive to look for the good in life and choose to take a positive perspective.
Kon iakwe,
Elder Merrill

Monday, June 2, 2014

Week 42 - With Aloha, From HI

It's crazy how fast time is moving. I swear I just emailed you guys yesterday. Everything's going pretty good here in Hawaii. The only problem is most of our investigators would rather go to different churches than to ours. Most of them love taking the lessons and we see them multiple times every week, but because they're kids they look at sunday as another play day, and go to the church that seems like it's the most fun, where all of their friends are and where there's breakfast and the teachers take them to the gas station to buy candy. We try to tell them that they should go to church to come closer to God, not for snacks, but it's hard to convince a group of young teenagers about that.
We started teaching a new lady named Teyrose. She's living with one of our members and came from the Marshall Islands to give birth to her kid sometime this month. She probably won't be baptized because she's super pregnant and Marshallese tradition is that once a woman gives birth, she stays inside and doesn't leave the house as part of some ritual cleansing/healing process. Then once that's done she'll go back to the Marshall Islands. But our hope for her is that we get her excited about the gospel so that once she returns to the Marshall Islands she'll seek out the missionaries and continue to learn, then hopefully be baptized. But for now she's progressing great and has been coming to church every week.
We also made progress with my companion's cousin Nora and her boyfriend Atlieson. Atlieson got a new job so now he'll be able to raise the money to pay for the marriage license, which was their main concern before. She's also supposed to give birth sometime this month so we're hoping to get them married and baptize him before she's stuck in the house for a month as well.
And as some of you may know my trainer, Elder Ukenio, is serving in the same branch as I am. There's four missionaries and he's in the other set. He's going home this transfer in about two weeks, so yesterday was his last fast sunday on his mission. He got up and shared the story about his dad. He's from a small island country called Kiribati (prounounced Key-ree-bus) and his dad is a fisherman. A few months before I came to Hawaii his dad was out fishing and their boat got lost at sea. I think the engine died or something like that. Either way it was his dad, and two other men on the boat at the mercy of the elements. I don't know too many of the long details, but long story short they drifted from just south of Hawaii to off the coast of Japan and lived off rain water and fishing for 3 1/2 months. One of the three men died during the journey. From what I heard, the other man that survived was starting to doubt that they'd ever get rescued. He was from some other religion and said they should worship some material thing and the Gods would have mercy on them and save them. His dad refused and the other man tried, but nothing happened. Then his dad said he would pray to His God, and just after that they were found by a Japanese fishing boat.
Elder Ukenio talked about how he was really worried about what was happening to his dad and if he was alright, especially since his mom had died just before he came out on his mission. Then he talked about a temple trip we went to and he prayed about his dad, and just felt an overwhelming sense of peace that everything would be alright, and that his dad was okay.
Just like my mission dad, I also know that God is always aware of our situation. That he will never leave us alone, or abandoned. Sometimes He allows us to experience trials and disappointments to help us grow, but He is always with there every step of the way, through the influence of His spirit, the Holy Ghost.
Love you all and jeramman wot wiik in!
<3 Elda Merrill