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