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

HUGE HURRICANE THIS WEEK!!! 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