Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Week 72 - Mele Kalikimaaaaaka!

Hey friends and family!
Pretty eventful week with the holidays. Just a week of service and celebrating the holidays Hawaiian style! We did service all day monday, yard work at this house for some of my members from back in Honoka'a! We pulled weeds, chopped trees, and cleared out ponds. Then we went to their taro patch and weeded that. I've never had more mosquito bites in my life. But it was a really great way to kick off the Christmas week, serving others. Jesus' whole life was devoted to serving others, so in a way it helped us to really get into the true spirit of Christmas, even though we were in 80 degree weather.
Our mission president approved Frozen for our whole mission, so after we skyped our families on Christmas day, we got together as a zone and watched Frozen! I'd have to say it's one of my favorite Disney movies of all time. I also concluded that Olaf would make a killer missionary. "Knock. Just knock. Why isn't she knocking? Does she know how to knock?" If you ask me that's the perfect attitude to have as a missionary. Not be scared of anything or anyone, especially knocking on doors.
Both Tema and Teki are still looking solid for their individual dates! We taught Tema after church yesterday and she told us that she is still just as excited as ever for her baptism, and won't let anything stop her. Her husband is also getting better and more accepting. He actually dropped her off at church yesterday after he got home from Catholic church. She told us that she told one of her daughters, who is a non-member, that she is getting baptized and her daughter just laughed and asked her why. She then told us of a dream that she had, which she interpreted to mean that this decision that she's made to be baptized is a heavy burden to bear, but she can do it. She told her daughter that she made this decision because she is trying to follow God and her heart. She said she couldn't go to church with her husband because her heart just wasn't there. We're super excited for her baptism.
We also met with these two guys who were in this kind of half-way house. They just recently got out of prison and live at this place as kind of a probation to see if they're ready to adjust back into society. One of them was a member a long time ago, but drifted from the church and made some not so great decisions. The other one is not a member, but started reading the Book of Mormon and the Bible while he was in prison and saw the difference that it was able to make in his life. He said before he was an angry person and would snap at the tiniest things, but once he had the word of God in his life it made all the difference. They were super excited and grateful for us stopping by, and said that they wanted the missionaries to come by every week!
Well I hope you all have a great new year and make resolutions that will bring you even closer to our Lord and Savior. Love you guys!

-Elder Merrill

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Week 71 - Another One on the way!

Family and friends,
Mele Kalikimaka and Aloooooha!
Had another great week here in Kona. We had another lesson with Tema this past week. She's one of our investigators that we've been working with for a while. She's been investigating the church for several years, but hasn't been baptized yet because she is waiting for her husband to be baptized. We had a lesson with her about following the commandments of the Lord, baptism being the main focus. She said she wanted to be baptized, but was scared that her husband might be angry with her. We committed her to talk to her husband about baptism before the next time we met with her and she did! When we met with her she said that when she asked her husband if she could be baptized, at first he told her all of the problems he had and things that he didn't like about the church, but then told her that he would support her in whatever decision she made! She was so excited that she set her own date on January 17th and called her son, who said he is going to fly his whole family up from Provo so he can be at her baptism and baptize her! Him and another one of her kids, who is also a member, told us that they were so grateful for what we were doing because they had been waiting for this for a long time. I guess her son went on a mission, and the day before he left the dad just cried asking what he had done wrong for his son to be doing this. It used to be so bad that her husband would tell the missionaries they were a catholic family and they were wasting their time, so he's come a long way to let us into his house, and even more so to allow his wife to be baptized!
We also had our ward Christmas party this past week. Elder Langi and I were the shepherds. We acted out the whole nativity, even had a live baby! One of the families in our ward brought this guy, Earl, and his family. They're non-members and he's a super cool guy. He even said that the missionaries could stop by his house whenever he was home! So there's lots of exciting things happening here and hopefully more on the way! I'm just so grateful this Christmas season for the opportunity I have to share the message and gift of Jesus Christ with the great people of Hawaii. He is the gift and I hope you can all remember that and remain focused on Him this Christmas season. Love you guys!
-Elder Merrill

Monday, December 15, 2014

Week 70 - Falling Down

Friends and Family Alooooooha!
I'm loving it here in Kona. The work is moving and the ward is awesome!
We had MLC this past week and Elder Johnson, of the seventy, trained us again. He taught us about the tree of life in Lehi's dream. He talked about the symbolism of some of the objects Lehi saw. The first one he talked about was the iron rod. He had us read D&C 68:4 which tells exactly what qualifies as the word of God. It's anything spoken by anyone when moved upon by the spirit. It can be the scriptures, conference talks, FHE lessons, primary lessons, and he even said a protestant minister's words, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost and truth is spoken, qualify as the word of God. He then introduced three different groups of people that Lehi sees in his dream. The first group was people who were on the path, but fell away. So people who were baptized, but later fell away and, as later learned, never caught hold of the iron rod. The second group was the group that caught hold of the rod, followed the path, made it to the tree, partook of the fruit, but then saw the great and spacious building and fell into forbidden paths and were lost. The third group was the group that did everything the same as the second group, but rather than falling away, partook of the fruit and fell down at the tree. 
Elder Johnson compared the treatment of the iron rod between groups 2 and 3. Group 2 clung to the iron rod, whereas group 3 held continually fast. He asked us what the difference was, then explained that in his eyes, clinging to is a "white knuckle experience". He likened it to white water rafting, where you hold on for dear life during the rapids, but during the calmer parts of the journey your grip loosens. He said that is why they fell away, because they weren't holding fast continually. Then he read in 1 Nephi 11 with us where Nephi desires to know the interpretation of the tree and is shown a vision of the Savior. After, he is told that the fruit of the tree is the love of God. He explained to us that the tree was our Savior Jesus Christ, and that the fruit was the atonement. I can't do it justice, but when he told us that, the spirit was so strong in the room I felt like I was shaking. He went on to explain that the reason the people in the third group fell down at the tree was because they recognized their Savior when they saw Him and fell down to worship Him. He then asked the question which I pose to each of you: Will you recognize the Savior when He stands before you? We can only come to know the Savior by striving to become like Him.
Another experience I had this past week was on a flight to Oahu. We were exchanging with the APs so I was on this flight by myself. I was placed between two people and was eager to talk to them, but was quickly disappointed. The lady on my right had a dog on her lap and was catching up on some Z's. The guy on my left had his face buried in his phone and never looked up. The spirit was telling me to talk to the guy on my left, but I rationalized that he was busy, and didn't have time to talk to me. I kept getting the prompting that I needed to talk to him, and finally took hold of the opportunity I had when the drinks were passed out. He set down his phone to take a drink and I started talking to him. We talked the rest of the flight about the church, and I found out he lives on the same street as me and my companion in Kona. He said we could stop by this week once he gets back to teach him and his wife! Guess the spirit was right.
This week was also a big week with Teki. We set him with a date for January 10 on tuesday night. He told us he wanted to be baptized, but wasn't sure if his mom would allow it. He said he wants his family to accept the gospel, but they're really strong in Siasi Tonga (the tongan methodist church). He went home for the holidays and told us that he'd talk to his mom about being baptized. He called us on saturday and told us that he asked her and she said yes! She told him wherever he can feel the spirit to go there!
Love you all and have a great week!
-Elder Merrill

Monday, December 8, 2014

Week 69 - A New Old Area

Alooooha friends and family!
I'm back in Kona! Back in the same zone I was in last time I was on Big Island, but on the other side of the island. Last time I was up at the very top, now I'm on like the bottom left side in Kailua-Kona, the main town. I love it here so far. We have a nice apartment, my companion Elder Langi is super cool, and the ward is just awesome. So many people in our ward are very missionary minded, and we had a meeting that helped with that even more.
On Friday we had mission tour with Elder Johnson of the Seventy. He came and talked to all the missionaries, ward mission leaders, and other auxiliary leaders from all of Big Island. He started off talking about Moses 1:39, how God's only work, out of everything that He's created and everything He has to do, is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. Then Elder Johnson talked about what made Christ, Christ was His willingness to submit to all things that the Father commanded Him. Elder Johnson then related it to the fact that we need to become more like our savior, and align our will with our Father in Heaven's. So in reality, our work and our glory should be the exact same thing, to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.
Elder Johnson had us split up into wards and had the missionaries teach a principle too all the ward members present. He told them to clear their mind and to not judge. But, he said, if they listened and payed attention to the spirit they felt during the lesson, at least one name would be given to them that the missionaries needed to teach. We were able to get lots of referrals from this one simple exercise, which we then repeated in ward council yesterday! I think a key element in this was not judging. Because God's ways aren't our ways and we never know who He is preparing. Elder Johnson talked about how there's often times when a name is given to us by the spirit, but we brush it off saying "oh he's not ready" or "we already tried her". He said how many times have we thought someone was perfect to receive the gospel. The way they were living lined them up to be the next bishop or stake president, but when they are asked to investigate the gospel they decline. He then said how many times have we seen someone come to church or be baptized who we thought was the last person we would see there. We really can't judge those people the Lord is preparing, and more importantly need to be in tune with the spirit so we can recognize those names that are prepared when they are given to us.
I wish I could put into words how spiritual the meeting was and the impact it left on everyone there to go out and do more. Its' effect was so influential that members took action almost immediately. Our 2nd counselor took us out to the Burger King drive thru after the meeting and while we were there asked for a He Is the Gift pass along card. We didn't really know why, but gave him one, and he proceeded to give it to the guy working at the drive thru window! I was sitting there like: this guy's more missionary minded than me! It never crossed my mind to pass cards out through a drive thru. And it was also incredibly easy. Nothing long or intimidating. He basically just asked the guy if he could give him a card to help him remember the reason for the season, then told him there's a link to a video on the back to help us remember Christ this Christmas season. 
Love you guys and remember that He is the gift!
Elder Merrill

Monday, December 1, 2014

Week 68 - BIGger Things

Alooooha everyone!
I hope you guys all had a great Thanksgiving full of stuffing and cranberry sauce and all those good things, because ours definitely wasn't. It was probably the most interesting Thanksgiving meal I've ever had. Turkey, rice, chop suey, and potato/macaroni salad. Our Thanksgiving day started off with a song practice for our musical fireside. We basically sounded terrible and hadn't gone all the way through the song and that was 4 days before the actual performance. So that was fun. Then after me and some other missionaries went to a member's house in the Samoan ward and played pool and ping pong. It was the most impossible game of ping pong because the table was outside. There was barely a gentle breeze, but the way the ping pong ball was going you would've thought we were playing in the middle of a hurricane. While we were there, one of the elders brought out some ghost chili peppers. I thought I was a seasoned vet when it came to spicy stuff because I grew up eating Korean food, but this pepper was something completely different. I ate it, and a few seconds later started to tear up. That's when I made the huge mistake of wiping the tears away with my chili pepper stained hands. As soon as I brought my hand down this elder gave me this look like I just told him I had cancer or something. I immediately realized what I did and ran inside to the missionaries' apartment on the side of the house and washed my eyes out with soap and water. Probably not the brightest idea because I also got soap in my eye which just increased the pain. After a while it all subsided, but a couple hours later we were getting ready for our branch Thanksgiving party and it felt like I was giving birth...to a porcupine. Apparently hot peppers aren't the best thing for your stomach because it felt like something was eating its way out of mine. But the pain went away and we had our killer Thanksgiving dinner and ice cream after! (no pie)
We also had our musical fireside last night that I mentioned we practiced for. Our whole zone sang a couple songs, along with some solos and testimonies from other members and Mormon messages. It was a really spiritual fireside and we had way more people show up than we were planning on! I had a sore throat for a couple of days before the fireside and after singing I could barely talk. I had this raspy, squeaky voice and no matter how hard I tried, couldn't talk normal. Picture Golem as a chain smoker. So it's definitely been fun whispering to everyone I talk to.
The church is also pushing this new campaign in line with the Christmas season called "He Is the Gift". It's a short video that really helps re-center our thoughts on Christ this Christmas season. It talks about how He was the first Christmas gift, a gift of love from the Father. They gave our mission 35,000 pass along cards with the phrases: Discover the gift, Embrace the gift, Share the gift. They really want us to emphasize having everybody, members and non-members share this gift as much as possible on all social media, so that everyone has a chance to receive the gift. I'd encourage all of you to do the same!
I also got a call from my mission president telling me that I'm going back to Big Island. He told me Hilo, but apparently told an elder in Kona that I was going to be his new companion, so I guess you'll find out in my letter next week!
We also went to this Hawaiian history museum called Bishop Museum so here's some pics from that. Love you guys!
-Elder Merrill