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Monday, September 28, 2015

Here for another six

Tomorrow is the transfer, and our district leader called Sunday to say that I'm getting transferred to another mission. Just kidding. Elder Rodrigues and I are here in Cohab Juscelino for at least another 6 weeks, which is good because I feel like I just got to know the area! I'm excited to see what experiences yet the Lord has for me here!

More firsts from this week: I knew from Mariokart that banana peels are textbook items to slip on, but I learned that orange peels are just as effective.... I nearly died, and Elder Rodrigues nearly died of laughter. I also learned that when some people don't have a collar or leash but want to walk their dogs, apparently an extension cord is a functional alternative... real thing, I saw a lady with a power cord tied around it's neck walking down the street. Who knew?

I still feel like my Portuguese isn't getting better,  but it must be because I can finally understand what people say most of the time... at least I think so... It's getting easier to know when people are talking to me or not, which was something I totally didn't know when I got here... Elder Rodrigues doesn't have to say "Elder!" as much, because I just got pretty used to assuming the conversation didn't involve me until someone got my attention because it was just so difficult to make any sense of the sounds floating in one ear and out the other haha... One thing I'm really looking forward to is when I can use humor in Portuguese.... I miss making other people laugh like I'm used to, so I've learned to cope by telling myself jokes and making myself laugh... It's semi-pitiful, but it feels good to have your humor appreciated by at least one person, even if that person is yourself heh heh...

One cool thing they do here in Brazil for people leaving on missions is called a "Bota Fora" (translated roughly to mean a "kicking-out" party). Basically it entails spiritual thoughts on missionary work and sharing of testimonies, then lots of delicious food and festivity like only Brazilians know how. It was super fun! 2 of the members from the ward are entering the CTM on October 14, which is super exciting because it's a pretty small ward. One of them, Natanael, goes out with us at least once a week, and he's been a member of the church for less than 2 years. He is so awesome, and I'm going to miss him a ton because other than Elder Rodrigues, he's the only other person I've really spenta bunch of time with while I've been here.

This weekend is General Conference, and I don't think I've ever been more excited. I want to invite everyone to think about some questions you really want answers to or reaffirmation of things you're struggling with, write them down, then go listen to the words of the living prophet of God. Seriously, don't miss this opportunity. I promise that you won't come away from Conference uninspired if you prepare this week to recieve, and then apply the teachings of Christ through His prophet, President Thomas S. Monson! 

I love you all!

Elder Merrill

Sorry it's mainly just a bunch of pictures with this kitten, it was just so cute and tiny and so now you can be jealous of the cuteness

Bota Fora de Fernanda and Natanael (that looks like my thumbs up, but it isn't haha)

Monday, September 21, 2015

Looking up


Wow, this week was full, I just will share a tiny part.

So I had corn flavored ice cream for the first time.... it was pretty good... the best way to describe it is like the buttered popcorn jelly beans but better... that just made it sound kinda gross, but trust me, it was good.

After weeks and weeks of not being able to get anyone to come to church with us, we broke the drought! We planned on going by the houses of 10 investigators that said they would come, and so yesterday morning we went on divisions to cover more ground. Every single person I and Sebastião went by was either sleeping or gone, but Elder Rodrigues and Natanael (a young man from the ward) showed up with one! Even though we weren't able to get everyone, we were blessed to have at least somebody come. It was great. We were so happy.

The coolest experience I've had here so far was on Saturday. We were able to go to the temple with the ward, but stayed outside because we brought an investigator, the dad of one of the young men who is leaving on his mission in 3 weeks. It was amazing to just be on the grounds and feel that we were in a special place, but it was more amazing still when we went into the waiting room of the temple and teach a lesson on the amazing blessing of an eternal family. He said he really wants prepare to enter and be sealed to his family one day The Spirit was so strong, and we could all just feel the power and sacredness of the Lord's holy house that we were in. It was such a sweet moment, and I know that all of us can truly enjoy that feeling every time we go to the temple, and I am immensely grateful to be truly sealed to my family for eternity.

I feel your love every single day, and I love you all sooo much!

Elder Merrill

Elevator in a chapel that had a mirror.... why not take a picture?

Temple with the young men and our investigator

Sebastião, our lider da missão da ala

Parque that we went to for P-day today

Monday, September 14, 2015

Slow, but goin.

Querida família,

Other note about Brasil: the bus drivers go super fast on windy narrow roads and can text the whole time... it's a little scary, but they never crash...

This week work was kinda slow, but still learned lots. We had an AWESOME  mission conference on Thursday, and Elder Mazzagardi (2nd quórum of the Seventy) came and talked to us. I took 4 pages of notes, and really want to apply everything he taught us... But Elder Rodrigues and I got kinda lost on the way there, so it took us 2.5 hours to get there instead of 1..... oh well, we made it haha.

I'm still on and off sick, and had to stay in one day last week because I had a fever... But I think I'm getting better.

On Sunday, we had an amazing Stake Conference with a diferent Seventy, and from his message I really learned about how we need to keep a positive atitude and simply trust in the Lord through our trials. Sometimes they resolve in a day, but others take weeks, months, or years to get through. Yet through it all He is molding us, and only He knows exactly which challenges we need to become who He wants us to be. 

For everyone that sends me letters, I really try to respond within 2 weeks, but even if I don't respond, I read every letter and am thankful for every word of strength you guys give to me. I feel your love so strongly, and I love you all more and more every day.

Elder Merrill

There've been some pretty rainy days this week with EPIC thunder
Sebastião, our awesome Lider da Missão da Ala
My district (but one Elder is missing and a random Elder jumped in on the bottom left haha)

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

A vida

Dearest family,

Sorry for the letter a day late, yesterday was independence day here, so everything was closed.

Word of the Week: bárbaro - super super awesome

So this was another hard week, but I feel like I'm able to actually contribute more and more each day... It's difficult because we teach people and have awesome lessons, but haven't yet seen any results... All of the investigators that were for sure going to come to church were all asleep when we went by to pick them up on Sunday. But it's still good.

I've been battling a cough and stuffed nose for a few weeks now, which makes it especially interesting because my ears are often plugged, and it's hard enough to understand people when I have full hearing hahaha. Also just after 3 weeks I can't imagine how I used to think it was a long walk to school... We walk a lot. To resolve my cookie problem, I bought bananas instead... I've actually developed a surprising liking for bananas and various juices. I think it might be one of my blessings as a missionary, because everyone knows I've never liked fruit, but now I can eat it and enjoy it! Weird.

The language comes along bit by bit. I still feel like my Portuguese was better in the CTM than it was now, even though I know that probably isn't true. I can't always express myself very well, but I can at least understand more and more. I'll just keep chuggin along, and have faith eventually I'll be able to feel like a real person in Portuguese.

Though this week was a LOT better than the last, there still were plenty of hard times. It was a particularly hard day, I was feeling sleepy and sick and I was super hot from walking for over an hour uphill to get to an investigator's house, and when we got there, nobody answered. We tried a few more houses in the area of people we could teach, but nobody was available. I felt just awful. We stopped to use the bathroom in a recent-convert's house, and I just fell to my knees and pleaded with my Heavenly Father to help a weak and inexperienced young boy with his simple desires, just pouring out the feelings of my heart. We left the house, and I really felt like we should return to the first house we tried about 30 minutes earlier. Not only was he home, but we were able to have an awesome lesson. As we taught, I began to lose all of my previous worries and stresses and feel God's love for the boy we taught and for me. The rest of the day, every other house we tried was successful, and we were able to teach a bunch of people that really needed it. It was amazing how my day completely turned around after one simple act: sincere prayer. I know God is mindful of us and wants to hear from every single one of us. He can change our days from failures to triumphs. I'm so grateful for Him.

I love you all so much!!!!!

Elder Merrill


Steep hill


Even the cat is laughing with us

I'm thankful for my pillow tie after a long day...

Thank you Serena for the AWESOME shirt! I appreciate your humor just as much from thousands of miles away!