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Monday, August 31, 2015


Querida Família,

Wow, there's just so much that happens here. I feel like it's been at least a year since the CTM, not 2 weeks! But I finally feel like I'm adapting a bit better to life in real Brazil.

Term of the week: da hora - used to describe something really cool, usually an object or game (literally translated "of the times")

Some quick facts about Brazil (or my area at least) - 

Everything is a hill. No joke. We are always walking either up or down or across a hill, never just flat. I'm gonna get super buff legs before I leave

I don't think there are traffic laws.... the general trend of 

Everyone here is always watching TV. It's super weird. I know people in the US watch more TV than we did (we didn't watch hardly any), but wow, it's constant. Sometimes it's really hard to teach because they don't always switch it off for lessons.

I'm most certainly gaining weight despite the walking. The members feed us every day, and I eat a LOT because it's just always soooo good. Also, I think I'm developing an unhealthy addiction to the super yummy biscoitos (cookies) they have here..... They are SO GOOD and super cheap.... Ah, I just love them too much.... I think I might have to ask Elder Rodrigues to help me through this difficult trial.

So I had a couple new experiences this past week that I never thought I'd have...

First, I got to play soccer with a bunch of Brazilians. REAL ONES. And what's more: I scored a goal. Yup. I did. It was more of an accident than anything else (I just happened to be in the right place and have a lucky kick) but that's not important. I still scored a goal. We took an investigator to play with the group of members that plays every Wednesday night at the court we have next to our chapel, and it was super fun, even though I felt severely out of place and unworthy. They are soooo good. Today I bought some soccer shoes for $20, so maybe that'll help me out... maybe.

Second, I got hugged and kissed on the cheek by a drunk, smoking old guy. It wasn't a supremely pleasant experience, but there wasn't a whole lot I could do. It was when we were leaving someone's house after a lesson, and the whole family said goodbye (because that's just what you do) and grandpa was a lil tipsy and had a lit cigarrette, but if I did anything but take it, that would be rude.... I had to change my clothes completely before we planned because I just wreaked of smoke and alcohol. Elder Rodrigues kept cracking jokes about how he wished President could come smell me, because he'd send me home for sure.

This week I started to read the Livro de Mórmon from the beginning in Portuguese, because we teach about the Livro de Mórmon every day, and I realized I needed to read it so I could strongly testify that it's true. I have a testimony of the Book of Mormon in English already, and though it's the same book in both languages and I already know it's true, I just want to strengthen my personal testimony of the Livro de Mórmon, in Portuguese. As I've read, it's been amazing to discover treasures I've never before discovered, and to feel how my day improves when I read it in a spare moment. Seriously, everyone should read it, it just helps (but I guess you don't have to read it in Portuguese if you prefer English).

We had an AWESOME first lesson with an this great investigator. We taught about the Restoration and he just was so involved, and my Portuguese was coming so much more easily than usual. When the time came, I was able to explain about Joseph Smith and recite the First Vision while looking into his eyes, and I could just see the Spirit work in him. As I testified in my simple Portugues, I felt so strongly the power and truth in those words. He closed his eyes, made a fist, and whispered fervently and joyously: "yes. yes." It was such a powerful moment, and it helped me realize how important that message is, and strengthened my testimony. I can't deny the feeling present in that room, through the background noise and chaos in the other room, that God did restore His church to the Earth in these days.

I'm so thankful for all of the words of support from all of you, you have literally no idea how much they strengthen me every day. I love you all sooooo much!

Elder Merrill

Descendência: 4 generations (dad, grandpa, and great-grandpa)
​We had to make lunch one day, so we took pictures 
..but I got a bad apple
Classic view of a regular laundry day for an Elder..... 2 weeks of black socks
Lest you think I'm going without kitties for 2 years, I'm here to prove you wrong. Cool cat at an investigator's house.
Happy Caturday!

Our apartment building feat. blurry Elder Rodrigues

With some balloons we found randomly in our apartment: "Elder Merrill, olhe..... cachorro girafa!!!" (Dog giraffe)

Tuesday, August 25, 2015


Dear family,

Culture shock.

Love, Elder Merrill

Okay, I totally copied Natalie, but it's true.

To explain the title, I will use an analogy to explain the transition from the MTC to the mission field:

You are placed into a wading pool, the water at your ankles. It's a little shocking at first, but you get used to it real fast. You have floaties, noodles, life jacket, the whole shabang. Over the course of 6 weeks, you are coaxed gradually to wade up to your knees. Occasionaly you get splashed with water, exposed slightly to more and more, but nothing much. Then, one day, someone picks you up, takes away your floaties, and chucks you into a swift, deep, cold, river, saying "good luck, remember what you learned in the wading pool!"

Seriously. my life turned completely over. I'm in Brazil. I finally had that thought in full face-slapping fruition this week. My companion doesn't speak a word of English, and that has presented some interesting challenges, but I'll learn pretty soon.

But it's been good. The hardest week of my life, yes, but good. I would honestly be nothing without the support of God, and the power of prayer.

The food here is amazing! The members that feed us never let us leave without stuffing us first. It's great that we walk for about 6 hours every day, because I would gain 50 kilos in the next 2 years if we didn't! 

I hate to be cliche, but I was at our first lesson and legitamately thought "this ain't the language they taught me in the MTC"

We have some amazing people that we're teaching! I want to share one experience that I had this last week. We were teaching a couple that needs to be married, and the lesson was about Eternal Marriage.  I was able to share with them my testimony of how important very important it is, so important that I would miss my own sister's wedding to come here and teach THEM. My Portuguese was terrible, and I couldn't say much, but I just tried to put my heart into those few words. I looked into their eyes, and I felt so sure and peaceful as I spoke my simple testimony, and I know that the Spirit carried the feelings of my heart to theirs.

I love and miss you all!

Elder Merrill

Hey look! I was dressed up on Friday [for Nat's wedding] and all ready, but I got called in to work
View out our apartment window
Part of my area.... yup. It's mostly favela [urban slums]

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

CAMPO (bonus: pictures finally!!)

Querida família:

Well everyone, I'm alive. And in the mission field. It was super weird this morning realizing that I was actually leaving the CTM.... it just passed so fast.

President Silcox is letting us email our families today, but my P-day will be on Monday for the rest of my mission. We also have 90 minutes for email, instead of 45 in the CTM, and I can finally start sending pictures!

I gave a talk in Sacrament meeting on Sunday! In the CTM, every missionary prepares a talk every week(in portugês, of course) and you don't know who is speaking until you get there and the Branch President announces it from the pulpit. It was super fun actually, and I feel comfortable giving talks in Portuguese now. I had a few more firsts these last few days: First time leaving an MTC, first time riding a Brazilian bus for too long, first time getting a Brazilian companion, first time running a pen out of ink. The list goes on and on, but the last I'm most proud of. I actually wrote so much with a pen without losing it to empty it. I don't think any of you appreciate how cool that is for me...

Anyways, to explain the previous. We left the CTM at about 7:20 and got to the mission office at 7:50, where we had an orientation thingy and interviewed with President Silcox. He is soooo cool! I'm so excited that he gets to be kinda like my dad for the next 2 years! After all the meetings and stuff, I met my companion, Elder Rodrigues. He's from Fortaleza, and even though he speaks only Portuguese, we're already friends. Fun fact about him: he played professional soccer before he came on his mission. Yeah. Professional. When he gets home, he's going to play for São Paulo, which is a really big team. I hope he teaches me some of his ways in the next 12 weeks. More than soccer, I'm excited to learn how to be an awesome missionary from him, because he is just ótimo, I can tell already.

So we left the Mission office and walked for a while to a bus stop, then waited for a while for the bus, then rode the bus for a really long while. I asked how much time he thought we had left once I started feeling a little carsick from the bumpy stop-go-stop-go-turn motion, and he said 10 minutes. About 40 minutes later, we finally stepped off, then walked a while to our apartment (which is on the 5th floor). It took like a solid 4 hours to get to our area, which isn't super far from the mission office. Our area is called Cohab Juscelino, and Elder Rodrigues says that it's super successful. I'm excited to be here!

On Saturday, we had our last class with Irmã Correa and it was so sad :( We surprised her by singing "Deus vos Guarde" (God be with you til we meet again), and she cried so hard. We then had a super powerful testimony meeting, and It was awesome to realize even more that I was there in the Brazil CTM to be with those people, because I learned so much about Christ from each of their examples. The love that we all developed as a District was amazing, and I know it was because we all were there for the same purpose: to bring the people of Brazil to Christ. This is the right place for me, I know it.

I love you all!

Elder Merrill
The view from our room
My candy stash
The view from our room

District pics

The view from the Campinas Temple
Cool view
Epic pic photobombed by Elder Batten
Epic pic successful

Pic with roommates
São Paulo Temple
Selfie, featuring the São Paulo Temple

District pic w/ Irmã Correa
District "limp peace" (it was one of our inside jokes)

With my awesome district. If you're wondering why all of my photos are at the temple, it's because we could only take pictures on P-day at the CTM, and most of P-day was spent traveling to the temple

We made a poster for Irmão Severo, who hurt his ankle and couldn't teach us the last week:( anyways, the paint we used for handprints didn't come off, and this was the result of minutes of vigorous scrubbing
Yay for classic missionary photos
Elder Hughes and Sister Kinsman are here in São Paulo Leste as well
Our tiny little jogging track, it's so cute
Cool garden that's in the center of the CTM. I love this place.
Poster for instructor
Diagram from our classroom on our English/Portuguese ratio that we needed to be speaking (and the consequences of each option) with Jesus lovingly reminding us "Fale a Sua Lingua" (Speak your language)

Picture with district and Sister Correa

Presidente and Sister Swenson (btw I bought that tie here, it's awesome)
LEGIT handmade leather scripture case from a guy here... It's super cool.
Look! Kevin Clive, from our Stake!
A pic of our apartment (sorry, my camera died)