Monday, June 29, 2015

Week 98 - Thanks for the Memories Hawaii

Man I can't believe I'm writing my last email I'll ever send to you guys as a missionary. My mission has been the best thing I could ever hope to do and has meant so much to me. The people I've met and the experiences I've had are indescribable, I wouldn't trade it for anything. Not to say it's always been easy, but definitely worth it.
This past week was the perfect way to end my mission. Micah, Mekelah, and Makani were all able to be baptized and confirmed this past week! Then Micah got the priesthood and set apart Makani! Their baptism was amazing. There were about 80 people who showed up to support. So many that lots couldn't even see the baptism because the viewing space for the font in our little branch building wasn't big enough. So we made sure the family could see then everyone else just kind of crammed in wherever there was space. Things were also crazy right before the baptism, but it all worked out. Just like it always does. The guy that was supposed to baptize Makani said he was sick and couldn't make it, so I hurried and threw on a suit to baptize him, but I wasn't planning on it when we left home so I didn't have dry clothes or a towel. Luckily some missionaries were nice enough to miss the baptism to run back to our house and grab clothes for me. The talk I gave on the Holy Ghost was a little delayed due to that, but with the extra time to burn they invited some of the boys from the priesthood camp up to bear their testimony to the kids and say how proud they were of them, especially Micah. Perfect baptism.
Yesterday was also my Aloha Oe sunday. It was so sad for me to say goodbye to all these people I've grown to love. It's crazy how close you can become in just 6 short weeks. The leis I got made it look like I was wearing a neck brace, and the aloha kisses I got from old aunties made my cheeks red (not from blushing by the way) but I loved everything about my last sunday.
We also got the chance to help out with a graduation party luau. We went and helped prepare and cook the pig and other foods, then helped serve and eat the food the next night :) \
I love it here and don't feel like I'm ready to come home yet. I'm definitely gonna miss this place, but I'm looking forward to great things to come as well! Love you all and I'll see you soon!
With Aloha,

Elder Merrill

Monday, June 15, 2015

Week 96 - King Who Day?

Aloha again!
We had a pretty fun, exciting, and productive week here in the Honomu Branch! This past week there was King Kamehameha Day. (said like Ka-may-ha-may-ha, not said like when people go supersain in Dragon Ball Z) For those who don't know who he is, he's the guy that conquered all the Hawaiian islands and brought them under a unified rule. He's basically worshiped here because there were prophecies about him and the things he would do. Anyway, it was the __th anniversary of his birthday, so they had a big celebration with parades and all. Kind of similar to Alpine Days back home. But on Friday they had a big festival at this place called Coconut Island. Basically all these people set up tents on this island with crafts, jewelry, live Hawaiian music, etc. Some members had a spot for a genealogy booth so they invited the missionaries over and we took shifts at a commissary table talking to people that walked by at the festival! It went pretty well. We had the usual crazy people come and present the weirdest theories I've ever heard, but we also got to meet lots of cool people and give them a chance to hear about the gospel!
Another really cool thing that happened was a stake activity that they did for the young men. It's called Aaronic Priesthood camp and they had all these activities to help build faith and testimony. Like this one activity called the Atonement Walk, where they loaded these boys up with a bag full of water bottles then made them walk up a hill. They were told at the top that they couldn't enter with all the sins they were carrying, so they went to the bishop and he helped to relieve them of their burdens. Also they did an activity about holding onto the iron rod and resisting temptation. Unfortunately we didn't get to go, but the oldest of the three kids that will be baptized, Micah, was able to go! He had an amazing experience that truly converted him. On the way back the First Counselor in our branch asked two of the boys if they would share their testimonies in sacrament meeting the next day. Micah quickly chimed in, saying that he wanted to share his testimony too! He got up at church and shared what he knew to be true. He said that after that camp, he truly knows that this church is God's true church, that Joseph Smith was a prophet, and that the Book of Mormon is true! He was never the best at reading the scriptures before this, but he says he loves reading now and is going to continue reading every day! It couldn't have been more perfectly timed because it's right before their baptism. He even says he thinks he wants to go on a mission now! I'll forever be grateful to the young mens' leaders who put that camp together.
So a pretty great week. I'm loving it here and I'm not too excited to come home. It just feels like when I finally start to get the hang of missionary work they send me home. Oh well.
But hope you all have a great week. Love ya!
-Elder Merrill

1. Our booth for King Kamehameha Day
2. Waterfall Road!
3. Big Island biker gangs
4. A legit road sign

Monday, June 1, 2015

Week 94 - The Bread of Life

Iakwe Erryone!
It's been nothing but sunshine and smiles here in Hilo! Sunshine in the soul of course because it's never sunny here. It rains every day. It's so humid here that nothing's really ever dry and everything is sticky. But I love it!
We had a lesson with Micah, Mekelah, and Makani this past week. They're honestly so ready to be baptized. They've been coming to church and have had all the lessons already. We're basically just reviewing the lessons and reading the Book of Mormon with them because there's nothing really new as far as the basic lessons that we can teach them. They told us last time that their mom felt that they were rushing to their baptism, so I prayed about it and felt like we should set a date in a month and ask the mom about it. We talked to their mom and got a sense for what she was feeling, then asked her if she would let them be baptized on June 27th. She said yes! We were pleasantly surprised. Even my companion said he didn't think she'd actually say yes. So my last saturday on my mission should be a good one :)
Also something cool that our ward does here is deliver bread. They get the bread that's almost expired from one of the local grocery stores here (similar to walmart minus the clothes and toys) and give it to us to distribute to whoever we visit. It's a great way to get into people's houses because almost nobody in Hawai'i will deny food. Not a joke though, food is life here. So we went out with out of our members and he showed us around the upper part of our area (which is huge by the way). We were handing out bread like nobody's business. Muffin Man get on my level! The only problem is since the bread is a little old, it's a little hard. Comparable sometimes to a solid rock. So one of our members had a good times making jokes about the bread, how you need to build your foundation on the solid bread rock of Christ, or how it's like we're handing out the bread of life...because it lasts forever :)
Our branch is great. Small, but great. My companion and I gave talks in sacrament meeting yesterday. I still hate giving talks so it's a good thing the majority of people in our branch are old and hard of hearing anyway!
Hope y'all have a great week centered on Christ!
Elder Merrill

Monday, May 25, 2015

Week 93 - Undercover Brother

What's up friends and family?!
We've had a good, but crazy week here. We replaced sisters so there's been a lot of complication and confusion that comes with that. For one almost all of the people that the sisters were working with are girls that are usually home by themselves when the sisters went to teach them so setting up appointments has been a challenge. Also neither of us know the area or really anyone in the branch so finding our way around has also been a struggle at times. But overall I really like it here. The members in the Honomu branch are super welcoming. Almost all of them came up and introduced themselves to us, as well as to anyone they didn't know. Perfect atmosphere for investigators. Also the priesthood brethren are pretty excited to be able to come out with us and do missionary work. I guess it's been about 6 years since the last time there were elders here.
Right now our investigators closest to baptism are three teenagers: Micah, Mekelah, and Makani. They were originally supposed to be baptized this past saturday, but their mom doesn't feel like they're ready for baptism yet and that they're kind of rushing into things so we're working on helping her see that baptism is just the starting point and the first step.
We're also working with this guy named Les and his wife Kina. Les is actually the father of one of the members in Honoka'a ward so I've been by before to teach him. He's come a really long way in that year and a half. Before he said our church would be the perfect church if we just didn't have the Book of Mormon, now he reads from the Book of Mormon almost every day and says that he knows that it's true! Also they've been coming to church every sunday. Word of Wisdom problems are really the only thing holding them back right now.
Something interesting and kind of funny was a talk that was given by the high councilor over missionary work in the stake yesterday in our sacrament meeting. He talked about how he saw the title for this movie a while ago called "Undercover Brother". Apparently he'd never seen the movie so he didn't know it wasn't church related at all and actually about a black cop going undercover, but his relation to the gospel was good. He asked how often do we as church members go undercover? He talked about how when he goes to the temple he used to change clothes and go shopping after, but now he just stays dressed up and people ask him why he's dressed the way he is, which then opens up an opportunity to share the gospel and a a little about the temple. So don't be an undercover brother! One of the scriptures I've come to love on my mission is Romans 1:16. It starts "For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ" Love it! Don't be ashamed of the gospel, but rather share the happiness and blessings with others!
Love you guys and hope you have a great week.
Elder Merrill

Monday, May 18, 2015

Week 92 - Big Island Boy

So for starters some crazy news: I'm getting transferred back to Big Island! Because of our small our ward and boundary is one set of missionaries are going to cover both our ward and another one of the Wahiawa wards. I'm going to Hilo zone this time, but to the Honomu branch which is right next to Honoka'a! So hopefully I'll be able to drop by and say an official goodbye to some of the awesome members I met there. But I guess I'm just one Big Island boy and they can't keep me away! I've had some good times here in Wahiawa and met some cool families, but I'm excited to experience something new. I'll be the only missionary on all of Big Island that's going home, so that's kinda weird. It's also been awkward telling people that we're leaving. They'll be like "Oh transfers is coming up yeah?" Then we'll say yes and tell them it's this wednesday. Then they find out my companion's leaving and they're like "well at least you'll still be here Elder Merrill" and that's when it gets really awkward... So it's been another bitter sweet round of goodbyes.
We had an...interesting experience while doing service for these two old ladies who apparently don't have filters. We helped them clean up their yard and afterward were leaving a spiritual message with them. We got onto the topic of talking about our missions and one of the ladies told us "This mission is like a virgin for you folks, a new experience". Probably the most interesting way I've heard a mission described... 
We also had a really great talk given in church yesterday. A high councilman talked on the talk that President Monson gave this past general conference. I just want to echo his words about how important temple attendance is and how blessed we are to have so many in the world today! I know that Heavenly Father can give us the answers and comfort we need when we frequently attend the temple. I mean what more credible source can you have than the prophet right?
Well love you guys and take care!
Elder Merrill

Monday, May 11, 2015

Week 91 - Don't Worship Llama's

Aloha and Happy Mothers' Day!
I hope all you mothers had a great mothers' day and know how much you are appreciated. We visited a less-active member that really helped me realize the importance of my own mother. His birth mother and adoptive mother have both passed on already and he told us that he'd give anything to have them back, hug them, and tell them how much they meant to him on this Mothers' Day. It really put things into perspective and made me think about how grateful I am for my own mother and how much she has done for me.
In our ward we helped hand out roses to all the mothers in the chapel and took one with us to give to a less-active member later that day. The only problem is that rose endured 3 grueling hours of church, then baked in the sun for about a good 2 hours after that, so that by the time we got to the member's house the rose was all bent and droopy. It looked like a really sad rose, but hey it's the thought that counts yeah?
We're still focusing most of our efforts on less-actives in our area. We have a few families that are pretty close to coming back, but aren't quite ready to take that step. However, we do have 2 families that have started coming back to church so that's something to be excited about! 
We found this group of kids that we've been teaching every week. They're about 8-11 years old so our lessons are pretty fun with them. We taught them the 10 commandments with hand signs. The second commandment we made like a cow head with our hands to represent no graven images, but I guess to them it looked more like a llama...So if you asked them they'd tell you the second commandment is "don't worship anything other than God, especially llamas!". We have a lot of fun teaching them, now we just have to worry about getting them and their parents to church.
I don't really know what else to talk about since I skyped my family yesterday so this email's going to be kind of short, but take care and don't worship llamas!
Elder Merrill

Monday, May 4, 2015

Week 90 - mahALOHAwaii

That title probably didn't make much sense but I saw it on the back windshield of a car and thought it was pretty cool. Things are pretty good here in Wahiawa. It rains every day, people say the weather's like Seattle. It's weird because Hawaii's usually sunshine and rainbows, but here it's all dark clouds and rain storms. 
Like I've mentioned before we've been working with a lot of less-active members. One of the ladies we're teaching is Sister Sugai. She hasn't been to church since she was 18 and is 50 something now. Her husband is a non-member but she told us that she wanted her grandkids to come to church because they're approaching baptism age. She has word of wisdom issues so she told us that she doesn't feel like she's worthy to go to church because she keeps trying to stop, but can't seem to kick the habit. We helped her realize that church is like a hospital. Lots of people think that church is for perfect people, but really everyone at church needs help in one way or another. We go to receive help and get answers, not because we already know all the answers. We told her that if someone smells like smoke in church, what better place for them to be! Also that God doesn't care how many times we fall, it's the times that we get back up that are important to Him. She said she'd come to church this next week so we're praying that she'll come!
Another family we're working with is the Losoncy family. The dad is a non-member and the kids just got baptized about a year ago. The mom got offended by one of the members of the ward and as a result neither her nor the kids have been attending church. One night we were at dinner with them and were talking about church. Her little 5 year old son told her that they needed to go to church and she told him "mommy has a problem with some of the people at church". So I asked her who she went to church for, and she said God. Then I asked her if she was going to church for God, why was she letting people other than Him keep her from going to church. She agreed and said she'd come to church this next week!
So some good work going on and hoping for even more in the future! Take care and Aloooooha!
-Elder Merrill

Monday, April 27, 2015

Week 89 - I Don't Even Know Him...

Aloha y'all!
We had a pretty good and eventful week full of surprises. For starters we had a funeral. At 7:00am on Wednesday our bishop showed up at our house and asked us if I would give a spiritual thought and my companion would give an opening prayer for this funeral. We agreed and asked when the funeral was, he told us in 2 hours. We asked who it was for and the bishop told us "honestly, I don't even know. Some less-active guy I've never met". Great. We got to the funeral and looked at the program. I saw that I was the only person assigned to speak at all aside from the eulogy and apparently it was supposed to be a talk-length deal. I prepared like a 5 minute dinner message... And to add to it all they played a recording of a song that the guy had sung that talked about checking out girls in bikinis and illegitimate children. Really set the mood to give a spiritual thought right after that. So I got up to the podium in front of all these people I've never met speaking about a guy that I've also never met. I was like "Jimmy sounds like he was a great're all so lucky to have known him..." basically bull crapping my way through it. I thought it was a total disaster. Then to add to it we said like three simultaneous prayers at the burial ceremony. My companion said the opening prayer, then there was the dedication prayer, then I said the closing prayer. Just like that, no talks, no thoughts, nothing. But I guess the family was really touched at how much our ward was willing to do for this family that they'd never met. Hopefully we'll be able to start teaching his daughter who lives in our area and is a non member.
That's about the most exciting thing that happened in our week. Hope you guys all have a great week! Stay classy!
Elder Merrill

Monday, April 20, 2015

Week 88 - More Like a Twig...

Overall a pretty good week here in Wahiawa. We live on California Ave (right? California in Hawaii?) which apparently is the world record street for having the most churches on it. So it's always fun with all the dirty looks we get driving home. Also our ward is more like a branch, or maybe even a twig. I think the average sacrament meeting attendance is about 60, and dropping. We've got some of the main families in our ward moving out within the next couple of months, so our ward has the possibility of being dissolved into the other two wards in Wahiawa. Because of this, our bishop has asked us to focus all our efforts on less-actives. It's weird resolving concerns for less-actives because it's different almost every time. Lots of people were offended by the previous bishop in the ward, others have problems living the "Mormon lifestyle", others just like cruising on sundays and "don't have the time to go to church", and some don't even realize they're less-active. They'll talk about rescuing less-actives and not even realize that they hardly if ever come to church! The joys of missionary work.
A large chunk of our ward is military families, so the ward is constantly changing. We have a third of Scofield military base in our ward boundaries. It's hard because there's lots of less-actives that are in the military, but my companion isn't a US citizen so unless we get a pretty chill guy at the gate we have to have a sponsor for him to come in.
We also do lots of service every Saturday. Last week we chopped all the trees in this lady's yard down with machetes. That was fun. We'd see who could get through a tree in the least amount of swings, then played real life fruit ninja with the fruit that was on the trees. Also we have a weekly recurring service project with this lady named Momi. She has this house that's unlike anything I've ever seen. She was in the hospital for a while, and while she was in there her brother lived at her house. He's a major hoarder. So he bought tons of worthless stuff and put it in plastic bins all over the yard. Also the entire yard got overgrown with trees, bushes, and all kind of junk so we're helping her clear as much as she can out. It's good fun and a lot of work.
Love you guys and have a great week!
-Elder Merrill

Monday, April 13, 2015

Week 87 - Look Up!

Friends and family Alooooha!
So this past week I arrived on Oahu. It's definitely a big change. Our area went from taking an hour and a half to drive across, to 15 minutes. Our ward had about 50 people at church yesterday. Our bishop asked us to focus our work with the less-actives to try and strengthen the ward. We don't have too many investigators right now, so we're working to try and find more people to teach. I definitely miss my old area, but am looking forward to good things in this area as well.
This past week when I was back in Kona we set a baptismal date with Kaneke! Sucks that I won't be there to see him be baptized, but I'm still excited for that day regardless. We taught him about the plan of salvation and the importance of following the example of Jesus Christ then committed him to a date. He told us he was already planning on being baptized and was wondering when we were gonna ask him. He's one of those people that's just prepared by the Lord.
A second experience I wanted to share also comes from back in Kona. We had the opportunity to clean the temple last monday. They shut it down for a couple of weeks and asked for missionary volunteers. My companion and I spent the majority of our time up in the attic of the temple painting. The first counselor in the temple presidency took us up in the inside of the roof to where the angel Moroni was. He told us we were part of a handful of people to ever see that part of the temple, so we felt really privileged! Also while we were cleaning there was this older brother cleaning the vents on the ceiling of the celestial room. He had this little lift that he would use to get up there and at one time was wheeling it across the room to clean the vents on the other side. It had a big metal beam that the basket rode on sticking up about 10 feet. While he was wheeling it he was so preoccupied with the wheels and guiding them in the right place that he completely forgot about the metal beam. He caught the chandelier and pulled the cart about 10 feet before someone noticed and frantically whispered "Brother Mahi, look up!". He recognized what was happening and got the beam out of the way but the chandelier was swinging back and forth like that viking ship ride at Lagoon. He was standing right under it with eyes as big as oranges not knowing what to do. Probably not the best place to be standing. Fortunately everything turned out alright and neither Brother Mahi or the chandelier were injured.
This experience really made me reflect. How often do we forget to look up? I feel like a lot of times in my life I get so caught up with the wheels, or smaller less important things in life that I forget to look up. When we become too busy with the small or unimportant details in life we can forget to look up to our Heavenly Father, to turn to Him and acknowledge the role He plays in our lives.
Love you all and take care!
-Elder Merrill

Monday, April 6, 2015

Week 86 - Getting transferred

Alooooha everyone!
It's been super crazy this week and I don't have a lot of time to email so sorry if this is short! First things first, I found out I'm getting transferred back to Oahu for the rest of my mission. I'll be in Wahiawa, which is pretty close to where I was in Waipahu. I'll miss it here in Kona, but I'm sure there's good times to come in Wahiawa as well.
Also conference was incredible. I really liked the talk from Elder Renlund of the 70 in the saturday afternoon session. He talked about how all that matters is where we're going. We can say "twas I, but tis not I". I think this message was so fitting with the Easter season, that Christ can continue to change our lives #BecauseHeLives! He doesn't care who we were, where we came from, or what we've done, all that matters to Him is where we are now and where we're going. I know that because He lives we can face any of this world's challenges with confidence, knowing that He will be there to help us every step of the way. Love you guys!
-Elder Merrill

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Week 85 - Killin' it in Hawaii...Literally

We had a super crazy, busy, tiring week. I fell asleep in my shirt and tie on the couch like 3 times this week before I could even get ready for bed. On Friday we did leg day with Kaneke in the morning, then helped some guy that's moving to Utah load everything in a giant container. When we got to his house we could barely walk, then found out we had to haul everything up his giant uphill driveway to where the container was parked out on the street because they couldn't back it in down the driveway. So we spent almost all day running stuff uphill and loading it. Needless to say I've had a really hard time walking these past few days. Seeing my companion and I go down stairs was hilarious.
We also flew to Oahu this week. On the flight there the guy sitting next to me wasn't interested at all. I'm pretty sure he was Jehovah's Witness, but whatever the case he wouldn't talk to me at all. So I decided for sure I was going to talk to whoever sat next to me on the flight back. I ended up sitting next to this couple and before I could even get a word in I saw movement out of the corner of my eye. I looked over and they were just making out. This continued most of the flight, so long story short I didn't end up having a good gospel conversation on either of the flights :(
We also went to teach Teki this past week. We worked it out for him to get the priesthood in Hilo! But the most interesting part of the night came right before dinner. I was talking to Teki's uncle, a member in our ward, when we both saw a flash of brown run across the counter. We concluded that it was a mouse and got geared up. Elder Gleave and I both had spatulas and Teki had a fly swatter. Brother Aholelei is apparently really afraid of mice, so he was behind the counter. We last saw the mouse climb into a basket where a bunch of bags were, so we slowly pulled the bags out one by one until they were all out of the basket and still no mouse. So me, Gleave, and Teki all looked down into the basket at the same time, and this mouse comes peeling up the side of the basket, jumps right at us, sprouts wings, and flies straight for my face, at least that's what it felt like. Then all hell broke loose. All three of us freaked out and started jumping around. In half a second Teki's all the way in the living room on top of a chair, Bro Aholelei's balancing on the counter and a kitchen chair, and Gleave and I are looking for this mouse. I guess in the chaos the mouse was hit by someone or something and was twitching underneath the overhang of the cabinets on the ground. I found it and Bro Aholelei was like "Kill it! Kill it!" So with one swift flick of the spatula I sent its' butt through its' brain and our tiny friend to the mouse spirit world. 
So all in all had a pretty eventful week. Hoping for even better things to come!
Love you guys!
-Elder Merrill

Monday, March 23, 2015

Week 84 - Somehow They Called Me On a Mission

Alooooha friends and family,
Sorry I didn't get a chance to write last week, we've been pretty busy. Covering two wards has been crazy, but we're never short of work which is always a good thing. We still don't know too many people in Kealakekua ward, the new ward we're covering, so we were thinking of ways we could build ward members' trust. They had a chili cookoff which was also accompanied by a talent show, so we decided to embarrass ourselves and sign up for the talent show. So we teamed up with another set of elders in our zone which was hilarious because none of us have the talent of singing. We decided a few minutes before the performance on a song called "Somehow They Called Me On a Mission". It was terrible. We had fun with it though and I think the ward did too.
We're also teaching this awesome guy named Kaneke. A few weeks ago a girl came up to us and said that her husband was a non-member and had been asking her questions about the church, so we set up a time with her to meet. Like an hour before the appointment she told us that he didn't want to come anymore. We said we'd still like to meet with just her so she agreed, then a few minutes later texted us back saying that they would both be there! We had a really good lesson with him and were able to start answering some of the questions that he had. I love teaching him because he didn't grow up going to church, so us teaching him is basically the first time he's heard any of this and he's super accepting of everything we teach. We went and worked out with him this morning and compared faith to a muscle, how you have to exercise it if you want it to get stronger. He's reading the Book of Mormon and progressing great!
We also met with a girl named Momi this week. Her mom's a member and all of her kids except her oldest daughter, Momi, are as well. We met her at dinner a few weeks ago and were able to sit down with her and have our first lesson yesterday. It was kind of a sketchy lesson because her mom's a little crazy and so is she. They got in this huge argument and we weren't able to get a word in, then Momi stormed out and said she needed a breather. But at the end of it she accepted the invitation to continue meeting with us, this time at her house. She said she wants to be baptized, so we have high hopes for her as well!
We taught in Elders' Quorum yesterday about a talk from this past general conference. It was from Elder Klebingat about approaching the throne of God with confidence. I'd encourage you all to read it because he gives 6 great steps about how we can improve our spiritual confidence. I liked where he asked if you were to have a personal interview with the Savior a minute from now how would it go? Would you be ashamed and linger by the door, or walk confidently in and meet His gaze? I think being spiritually confident comes from you knowing you're doing the right thing. It doesn't mean you're perfect, because everyone screws up every now and then, but it means you're trying and putting forth your best effort. It's when you give your all, and sacrifice your will for His that you can confidently walk in to that meeting.
Love you guys and have a great week!
-Elder Merrill

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Week 82 - Lakwe

Iakwe friends and family!
This week was an awesome week. We saw the Welle's, our Chuukese investigators, three times to make sure everything was set for their baptism. All three of the kids (Aki, Lani, and Lea) were baptized on sunday! They brought a bunch of their extended family to attend the baptism. In sacrament meeting they announced the baptism right as the family was walking in, and it was like a line of never-ending small brown people. There was like 15 or more non-members that they brought with them to church and to the baptism. Everything for the baptism went great! For his closing remarks, our bishop had all of their family stand up, and then challenged them all to meet with the missionaries and receive the ordinance of baptism for themselves! He said "I'm going to speak out of love, but be bold. This is the true church and gospel of Jesus Christ and you all need to be baptized by the authority of the restored priesthood of God". Hopefully their mom recognized the spirit that she felt and bishop's words will motivate her to prepare for her own baptism.
We also met with this super cool part-member family. The mom and daughter come to church every week, but the dad never comes and is a non-member. We talked to him before and he told us to come by on saturday for service. We showed up for service and are helping him restore a special edition '64 mustang! He knows literally everything about cars. He's a professional mechanic and has been working with cars since he was a little kid. He also knows a lot about how to make cars fast. He used to race cars and told us he's had over 250 tickets in his lifetime. He also joked about how he's trying to convince his wife and daughter to put nitrous in the car "just in case". I guess they're against it though because the car is going to be for his daughter when she turns 16.
Another cool experience we had was at dinner one night. We were eating with one of the single mothers in our ward and her family and she told us that he oldest daughter hadn't been baptized yet and wanted to take the lessons! So we talked to her and she said she wanted to start meeting with us every week so she can get baptized! I'll let ya know how that goes.
But overall a great week where the Lord truly blessed us.
Love you!
-Elder Merrill

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Week 81 - Through Much Prayer and Fasting

Aloooha y'all!
Another great week has come and gone here in Kona. Last week was our first week of covering two wards. There was some shuffling of missionaries with this past transfer, and after all was said and done we found out we were covering two wards. It's been crazy trying to get everyone sorted out and find out who everyone is, but no complaints about having more work!
We also had a cool experience. We had just got out of an appointment and had about 30 minutes until our dinner. We were about to get into our car when this guy came and talked to us. He asked us to take a walk with him and we were both convinced he was going to bash with us. But instead he told us his life story of how he came to believe in God, which was a really cool experience. He told us a story of how he was going through a divorce, so he was on the way to the dealership to sell his car. He stopped at a gas station to fill up with gas and a homeless man walked up to him and asked for money. He gave him some change, but later realized that was the money he needed to pay for gas. He had no money left and didn't know what to do, so he prayed. Right after he said amen, a strange old man that he'd never met before walked up to him and told him he was sent from God and handed him a check with his name on it for $20. Then he went to the dealership and somehow sold his car and drove off with a nicer car having no money and terrible credit. On his way home the dealership called him and told him he'd overpayed $200 for his car and to come back and get a check for the money. He had a really strong testimony of prayer. I found it inspiring the level of faith he had. Basically just complete reliance and full trust in God.
Then we had a lesson with the Welle family. Up until now we were unsure if Leah, the 12 year old girl, was going to be baptized. She really wanted to, but was baptized in Catholic church when she was a baby so her mom didn't see why she needed to be baptized twice. We fasted for her mom's heart to be softened this past sunday and when we went to our lesson with them last night the mom had no problem with all 3 of her kids being baptized this coming week! Prayer and fasting works!
We had a great training in a meeting yesterday. We were trained on sacrifice, specifically the things we sacrifice to become better servants of the Lord. They shared a quote that talked about how the only thing you can sacrifice to God that's truly yours is your will. Everything else is just things he's given or loaned to you. The thought hit me that God really doesn't care about material possessions. He doesn't need money, land, or whatever else it might be. As is shown in the case of the widow's mite, he obviously doesn't care about the volume of material things we give, but rather the amount of sacrifice we are willing to personally commit ourselves to.
Well I sure love you guys and hope you have a fantastic week!

Elder Merrill

Monday, February 23, 2015

Week 80 - It's Laining

This week we had the opportunity to go up and teach my recent convert from Honoka'a, Haunani. She started crying when she saw me and in my mind I was like "this is supposed to be a happy time". She's doing pretty well. She told us that she comes to church most weeks, whenever she can get a ride, and has read through the bible and Book of Mormon almost twice in the past year. She loves the gospel and told us about how she shares her beliefs to all of her friends! We committed her to prepare to go to the temple. Unfortunately she has some things to work through right now before she can get there, but she promised me that she'd do everything she can to get there!
We also had a flood (or as some of the fob asian missionaries say, floord) of one of the areas in our district. Basically everyone in our district went to this one ward area and just tracted to help find new investigators. I was with one of the missionaries in my zone who's still being trained. We found 3 people that seemed pretty interested in just an hour of knocking doors! So I guess you could say in our floord we made it lain! Awesome considering knocking doors in Hawaii usually has a pretty crappy turn out. I guess the Lord blesses us for our sacrifices. Our mission mom gave us a quote from President Hinckley that talked about what seems to be a sacrifice now, will indeed prove to be the greatest investment.
We also found these two new kids to teach. We were trying to see one of our recent converts, but they weren't home. So we talked to these kids who lived next door to them that were playing outside. One of them is 15 and the other is 10. We taught them about faith and they seemed decently interested. Their step mom is actually a less-active member that we've been trying to visit.
Also the Welle family came to church again this past week, and they brought one of their cousins who's also a non-member. They're looking solid for their baptismal date and hopefully we'll be able to teach their cousin as well.
Hope you all have a happy and blessed week! Sure love you guys!
-Elder Merrill

Monday, February 16, 2015

Week 79 - Birth for dayzzz

Aroha friends and fam!
We had a fan freaking tastic week here in Big Island. Definitely one of the best weeks on my mission as far as work goes. We taught an all-time high of lessons since I've been in Kona and set a whole family to a baptismal date! The family we set was the Chuukese family I talked about last week, the Welle family. We taught them the restoration and then committed the kids and the mom to a baptismal date and they accepted! Then all the kids showed up to church yesterday. The mom wouldn't come though, so we'll keep working with her and hopefully the Lord will soften her heart to baptism. The grandma told us that it was a huge step that she was letting her kids be baptized. We're excited for their date of March 8th and will continue to pray for all of them.
We also had a lesson with these former investigators in our area, their names are John and Jamboree. They're about our age and have two kids, which always trips us out b/c that could be us without the gospel. They're kind of stoners, but we try to catch them in the morning when they first wake up so they're in a state of mind to hear the gospel :) John seems to be pretty into the lessons and I think the spirit works on him when he listens to what we have to share. Jamboree on the other hand likes the lessons, but is kind of opposed to being baptized or coming to church. We enjoy teaching them though, really anyone that will hear our message.
I had probably one of the best birthdays of my life. Just another day of missionary work devoted to serving others. We saw several people, including a recent convert named Kekai. He's a 12 year old kid so we stopped by to teach him a lesson and invite him to church/scouts because he hasn't been in a while. He liked the lesson, but his dad who is a non-member sat in on the lesson and kind of discouraged him from coming to church. He likes the church, but thinks it's more important to study and spend time with his dad, than for him to go to church on sundays. At the end of the day we went to one of the senior couples' house and all the missionaries in the south district had a surprise birthday party for me. Pizza, cake, presents, the whole 9 yards. I'm so blessed to be where I am and with the missionaries I'm serving around. Thank you guys for all the birthday wishes and love!
Take care and aloha!
-Elder Merrill

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Week 78 - Sticks and Stones

What's up good friends and family?!
This week we had a killer week with finding new investigators, especially through member effort! We taught a great lesson with Naahun, the guy from Honduras. We brought a member with us who served his mission in Panama, so he was able to teach in Spanish which really helped Naahun's understanding. He still wants to be baptized and believes that God placed us in his path to help him get there. He works some sundays which is really the only problem we have with him.
The same member that helped us teach also gave us a referral to a family. Our member is the vice principal for the local elementary school and I guess he got a complaint that a girl was hitting kids with a stick on the bus, so he went over to talk to the mom. He said he talked to them and they said he could stop by with us. Talk about standing as a witness of Christ at all times. They're a Chuukese family. The grandma is a member and just moved from Magna, UT to here to stay with her daughter and grand children. Her daughter and her three children aren't members and our member that came with us committed them to take the missionary lessons and they showed up to church yesterday!
We also contacted this referral of a less-active member living with his girlfriend and their newborn son. They were super cool and really receptive. We taught them about eternal families and it really seemed to hit home with their new son sitting right there. They said we could come back and continue to see them on a weekly basis!
We've also been working with this guy named Gordon. His wife is a member and has been for her entire life. He comes to church almost every week with her and loves it. He prepares for the gospel doctrine lessons, had stake conference marked on his calendar for the past couple of months, told us he's trying to do a better job in finding us people to teach, is already looking forward to general conference, and even has a favorite general authority (President Uchtdorf). The only problem is he's suuuper Catholic. He loves our church, but is pretty set in his ways as a Catholic. We asked him if he's ever prayed about our church, and he said that would be hypocritical, because he already knows the Catholic church is the true church. I'm hoping his heart is softening right now because of their daughter's health situation. She has terminal cancer and has recently returned to Hawaii from the hospital. Gordon and his wife told us it's really just a matter of time until she passes and they're just waiting for the call which could come any day now. I really feel for them because you can tell how much it's paining them. They both had priesthood blessings to be able to bear up their burdens and seem to be dealing with it pretty well. 
We've got a lot of people we're working with, but not very many close to baptism, so that's our focus right now. I'm loving this ward and especially how helpful the members are with missionary work. We have some good things going and are looking forward to even better things to come!
Elder Merrill

Monday, February 2, 2015

Week 77 - Fightin' Fires

Had another killer week here in Kona. We taught this guy from Honduras named Nahuun. We met him one day while we were walking down the street. He was out by his truck, so we decided to go out and meet him. We didn't see him for a while, but were driving by this past week and saw his truck outside, so we decided to stop in and teach him. We found out his brother that is living with him is a less-active member. Then we taught him the Restoration. When we got to Christ's Earthly Ministry, he said "I need that, I haven't baptized yet". We told him we could help him with that, then invited him to church. He had to work this past sunday, but told us he'd be there for sure this next week!
On a sadder note, there was a family in our stake that had a fire in their house and lost two of their sons (6 and 11 I think). The whole stake has rallied together to support them. The mom and all of the extended family bore their testimony yesterday. She talked about how the gospel brings her peace in trying times like this. One of her sons that passed away gave a talk last week in church and after his death, the news published it all over Hawaii. His talk was about families and the plan of salvation. It's really cool to see how his young testimony is blessing so many.
We were talking about it in ward council, and the high priests' group leader, who has been a firefighter for 40 years, shared a really neat insight. He told us that 95% of firefighting is prevention. Or in other words, the best way to fight a fire is to never have one. He related that to the gospel and said the same thing about our spiritual safety. It's better to take precautionary measures to protect your spirit beforehand, rather than waiting for disaster to strike. It goes along perfectly with the saying "an ounce of prevention is better than a ton of cure". 
We've also been working with these less-active sisters in our ward. They didn't come to church for like 30 years. Then they started coming back last year, but fell away again. We've been meeting with them every sunday and they've come to church the past two sundays!
Please keep praying for missionary opportunities and the courage to recognize and act on them when they come! Love you guys.
-Elder Merrill

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Week 76 - More Mur'cles

Aloooha y'all.
Another great week, with great experiences, great people, and in a great place has come and gone. On tuesday my comp and I trained our zone on miracles. We set high goals for with dates for our zone because we just had a lot of baptisms the past few weeks and our with dates were struggling. We read a scripture in Helaman 8 that kind of poses the question of "If God could work miracles like parting the Red Sea, why can't He work miracles in my life?". We talked about how with God all things are possible, and He only requires the faith necessary to perform miracles. If we truly believe and know that God works miracles today just as He did in times of old, we can see His hand so abundantly in our lives.
We actually had a few small miracles this past week. We got a new unbaptized members' list and were going through it this past sunday. We found a name that wasn't on the old one and felt like we should go to visit her. Right as we parked outside her house, a car drove into the driveway. We decided to talk to whoever was getting out of the car and it turned out to be her! She seemed happy to see us and invited us back for breakfast this week! Then she asked if we were just visiting random people, and we told her that we saw her name and felt like we should visit her. She was quiet for a little, then said "and on today of all days". We didn't really want to press the issue, but I guess we stopped by on some significant day that she really needed a visit from the missionaries!
Another miracle we saw was on the plane ride back from Oahu yesterday. I was sitting across the aisle from this guy who kept staring at me and my badge. After a few awkward times of me catching him staring, then him hurriedly looking away, I struck up a conversation with him. We talked for the rest of the plane ride and I found out that he was a less-active member who hadn't been to church in over 20 years. He is also cousins with some of our ward members. He has a wife and kids that are all non-members and he accepted my invitation to be taught! It was kind of an answer to our prayers in a way because my companion and I had been praying to find a family that we could teach. We're planning on setting up something with his cousins and hopefully they'll start coming to church and eventually be baptized!
Hope you all have a great week and continue to see miracles and the Lord's hand in your life!
Elder Merrill

Monday, January 19, 2015

Week 75 - Aloha

Shaloha friends and family!
Had another great week living it up on Big Island! The highlight of my week was Tema's baptism. She's been ready and waiting for this for a long time. She even said that she was already a member and just waiting to be baptized! Her husband, who wouldn't even step foot on church grounds (parking lot included) showed up to support Tema! I think it's the first time he's ever been inside of a church building. He was initially opposed to her being baptized and hinted at the fact that he wouldn't be there, but I think with prayer the Lord really softened his heart and he actually asked her and talked to her about her baptism. Everything went perfect for the baptism. No problems, not rushed, and stress free!
Transfers were this past week, so we had about half of the zone change. I was sad to see my companion leave because we got along and worked really well together, but my new companions good too. We were friends before, so it wasn't hard for us to get along as companions. 
We had a good week of service projects as well. We helped Tema's son cure a dutch oven and clean out a chicken coop. I think I could have a future in herding chickens because I killed it in getting those chickens back into their coop. We also helped out in a service project up in Honoka'a, one of my old areas. We helped this guy out on his farm chopping down trees and clearing out farm plots. 
We also had a really great lesson with Teki yesterday. We talked about still getting him to progress after his baptism by setting goals. He told us that he wanted to serve a mission! So we helped him set goals to get him there. He's been reading the Book of Mormon and is loving it.
We've also been working with these less-active sisters, the Kahanu's. They hadn't been to church for a long time, but started coming back at the beginning of last year. They kind of fell away, so we've been visiting them every sunday. We had a really good lesson with them about keeping the commandments. We shared a scripture in Mosiah 2 about how blessed the people are that keep the commandments. We then asked them if they loved the Lord, and if they did what they would be willing to do for Him. If we truly love the Lord we'll do anything for Him, including keeping the commandments. I hope you guys all ask yourselves that question, if you really love the Lord with all your heart, mind, and soul like you're supposed to, what are you willing to do for Him?
Love you guys and have a great week!

-Elder Merrill

Monday, January 12, 2015

Week 74 - All is Well, All is Well

Friends and family, Malo lelei!
Another great week topped off with a killer baptism! Teki was baptized and confirmed this past saturday and the service was awesome. We actually had a miracle in getting him to the waters of baptism. He had his baptismal interview the day before everything was planned out (kind of bad procrastination on our part) and had something that he needed to talk to the stake president about. It was threatening his baptism going through the next day which everyone was already planning on. We called our mission president and he said we'd probably have to push the baptism back because he had nobody to interview Teki and didn't know where the Stake President was. We begged him and he told us he'd call the Stake President to see if there was any way he could do an interview. He called us back almost immediately and told us that the Stake President had just pulled into the temple parking lot which was about 100 yards from where we were. It was honestly a miracle and testimony builder for me that the Lord is always aware of our situation. He placed our stake president in the right place at the right time. Teki was interviewed after and cleared for baptism!
His whole family drove down from Hilo on the other side of the island to be there for his baptism. A couple of nights before the baptism, Teki and his uncle (a member of our ward) drove down to ask for his mom's blessing and invite her to the baptism. She kept asking him questions like "why do you want to be baptized? Do you feel pressured because you're living with uncle Oke right now?" But he just told her that no one was making him do this. It was his decision and he wanted to be baptized because he could feel that it was true. He told her that he knew that families could be together forever, and that that's what he wants for their family, especially with the recent passing of his dad. She gave him her blessing and he was baptized a few days later. His mom even came to church with him the next day, and after sacrament rather than going back to Hilo (which is what they had planned) she told him to stay for class. I think she really felt the spirit and we're hoping we can get the missionaries over in Hilo to stop by their house and start teaching them too! I'm so proud of Teki because he's already being a missionary. He doesn't really recognize it, but he shares the gospel with basically everyone he comes in contact with!
We also got some sad news. One of our investigators that we were working with just passed away. His name was Sumio. He was a 93 year old Japanese man and was very excited about the gospel. He couldn't wait to be baptized, but unfortunately his health started failing him. We went over to give him a blessing when we heard that he got moved to a care home. We basically gave him a blessing of comfort out of this life, rather than of healing. He passed away the next day, so I guess it was just his time to go. I'm really grateful for the temple in situations like that.
Love you guys and have a great week!
Aloha, Elder Merrill

Monday, January 5, 2015

Week 73 - Don't Look Back!

Aloha friends and family!
I hope you all had a great new years. I think New Year's Eve could be the biggest holiday in Hawaii. People spent thousands of dollars on fireworks so, it was crazy. We had a big bonfire on the rocks by the ocean with some of the missionaries, but had to be in our appartments by 9:30. We got back to our apartment to get some rest, but were woken up to the sounds of what sounded like a million firecrackers going off. Our neighbors had tied a ton of chinese firecrackers onto their wooden playset (Hawaiian ingenuity at its finest) and the things were super loud. Right after that started it turned 12 so all of our neighbors were popping off illegal fireworks. We just sat at our window and watched all the fireworks going off all around us.
Then the next day, we went to drive up to Mauna Kea to see the first sunrise of the year from the highest point in Hawaii, but apparently there were hurricane force winds up at the top up to 150 mph so it was closed. Instead we went to the chapel and had a water balloon fight, followed by a flour fight (sticky, crusty flour not a good idea) then we played capture the flag. Not too eventful compared to the crazy new years stories we heard from other people, but still had fun as a zone.
Yesterday Teki came to church and is super ready to be baptized this saturday! He got up and bore his testimony! He talked about the happiness and comfort that the gospel has brought him especially after his dad passed away just a few months ago. He also made the whole congregation laugh by saying he was enjoying the missionaries' "speeches" and also by telling everyone jokingly that they better come to his baptism. We're meeting with him every day this week and he's so ready for baptism. His whole non-member family is supposed to be attending his baptism, as well as his girlfriend. She's a non-member and he said he gave her a Book of Mormon and downloaded the Mormon Channel app on her phone. He told us "don't worry guys, it's just a matter of time before she comes around".
The message that we've been sharing with people with this new year comes from a Mormon Message about New Years. It shares the story of Lot and how his wife was turned into a pillar of salt for looking back. Personally, I feel that it wasn't the physical act of looking back that the Lord punished her for, rather that she wasn't fully committed to obeying with exactness the commandments of the Lord. Maybe she missed her house, her friends, or whatever it was that caused her to look back. But that really is perfect advice for this new year. So many people that we teach carry around these unnecessary burdens because they're so caught up on things that happened in the past. I heard a quote that said :the past is to be learned from, not lived in. That's really that attitude that we should have with this coming new year. Rather than focusing on our regrets, look forward to our opportunities. The Lord commanded Lot to "get to the mountain and not look back". Often times in the scriptures, the mountain symbolizes a temple or a holy place, so in addition to not looking back, we should make sure that our path looking forward will be one that brings us closer to God, knowing that where we're going will be better than where we've been as long as we put our full trust in Him.
Love you all!
-Elder Merrill