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