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Monday, October 26, 2015

What a week

Wow, this week was probably the best one yet. We had so many awesome experiences, but I can't do it justice. Even my journal only has a part of them.

But before I get to a few, I thought I'd share that Elder Rodrigues and I are developing some sweet abilites of throwing small objects at the lightswitch to turn the light on from our desks... It's a useful life skill.

I also learned a new definition of "livre arbitrio" (agency). We were teaching the Plan of Salvation to a lady (the same one who conversationally sang to us) and I asked "o que a senhora entende sobre livre arbitrio?" (what do you understand about agency?) to which she responded "É o Pai, e o Filho, e o Espírito Santo." (It's the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost). Elder Rodrigues began to explain that agency is our power and abilitly to make choices, and she interrupted him by saying "Por isso eu falei o Pai, e o Filho, e o Espírito Santo." (That's what I said, the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.) He glanced at me and I at him, and he couldn't hold in a tiny burst of a laugh. I only was able to remain together by moving on to a different part of the lesson. It was quite amusing.

We had the amazing opportunity to go to the temple as a mission on Tuesday! (We almost missed our session.... We left our apartment at 5:45 for the 9:00 session, and got there at 8:55.... that was the fastest I've ever changed hahaha) It was wonderful. I love the temple

So we were able to teach some really cool lessons, where the Spirit was soooo strong. I'm so excited for the future here. We've been focusing on less-actives recently, and with one lady we read 2 Nephi 31, invited her to church, and then asked her to say the closing prayer. As she prayed, we both could feel that it was the first prayer she'd said in a looooong time, and she choked up in the middle, then bawled as she finished. It's a beautiful thing to witness someone speak with God after years of silence, and remember the relationship that they used to cherish, but had simply abandoned. There was also an entire family that came to church on Sunday, and they said they realized they had missed it and are back to stay!

Also one of our investigators went to church alone! We were on our way to get her, but then we saw her walking in the distance in front of us and followed her.... we caught up to her at the bus stop and accompanied her the rest of the way, but we were so happy she was already going to go on her own! The difficulty now is to get her to quit smoking.... Thanks to the Atonement, it's more than just possible.

I love you all a bunch!!!!

Elder Merrill

Monday, October 19, 2015

A vida

Dearest family,

More and more, i'm adapting to the swing of things here, and enjoying more and more the life of a missionary in Brazil.

We've been struggling to get people to church still (yesterday that was partly due to the time change to horario de verão (one hour earlier), so everyone we went by was asleep), but we've found lots of new people to teach that are awesome! This has also brought some interesting experiences as well, such as the one lady who in the middle of the lesson starting singing to us conversationally.... little odd, but hey, some people just approach things differently than us, including talking. Also when I said "amen" at the end of the opening prayer, she launched into this elaborate chanty-prayer thingy. Elder Rodrigues and I peeked at each other, shrugged, and let her finish..... new things every day. 

I had my first experience with tear gas.... it was awful, I don't recommend it. We were walking to an appointment yesterday and all of a sudden hundreds of people starting flying down the hill on foot, by bike, and in cars as fast as they could. We heard people saying stuff about "polícia," and sure enough when we got a little further, we saw the police firing tear gas grenades to break up a huge fluxo (fluxo is basically a party with blasting funk (the horrific music everyone here listens to) and lots of drugs). They were in a line marching down the hill firing gas and people were scattering every which way...the wind blew just a tiny bit of gas to us, but it was horrific, I felt like my nose and eyes were on fire..... it was like a movie. I tried not to appear particularly shocked by what was happening (difficult when affected by tear gas as well), since I already look American enough haha. It must have been interesting to watch as all the people were fleeing the fluxo, but there the missionaries were, just walking calmly up the hill through it all, business as usual.

My Portuguese continues to improve week by week. I can tell because I read things and part way through forget if it's english or portuguese. There was this Japanese man on the bus who started speaking to me in English because his Portuguese isn't very good, and for the life of me I couldn't respond in straight english. He asked if I spoke english, and I replied "eu falo" and he didn't understand so I persisted "eu falo! eu falo ingles!!!" and eventually figured out how to say "I speak English" haha  But perhaps my favorite indicator of my portuguese happened when one morning Elder Rodrigues asked me what I dreamed about. I said I remembered it was something about our investigators, and then he informed me that in the middle of the night, he was awakened by my voice. When he looked over, my head was off the pillow, and I was introducing Kesley (an investigator) to my cousin, then proceeded to teach a lesson, complete with hand motions... all in Portuguese. He now sleeps with a camera nearby for when it happens again hahahaha

One of my favorite blessings of being a missionary is people giving us food just because we show up. There was this one investigator we stopped by to just use the bathroom, but before we knew it she had made us a full banquet in like 10 minutes.... People here just give everything they have with love, even if they barely have enough for their families. It's cool.

I love you all and hope you have a wonderful week!

Elder Merrill

Some service on Saturday

We always get invited to members' birthday parties, and I love it because we get free cake!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Algumas milagres

This week we saw some really cool things. I'll just share a few.

We've been working with a list of all the less-active members of the ward, and have found how outdated it is... so many people have either moved or died, so we're working through it to update all the information, reactivate those fallen away, and find more people and families to teach. At one of the first houses we went to, the lady outside said the person we were searching for was her mom that passed away a few years ago. W expressed our condolonces and then used the opportunity to teach the Plan of Salvation to her, so that she could know that she'll see her mom again. It was really cool, and we've since returned and taught, she already came to church, and accepted to be baptized! 

At an apartment complex, the apt number we were looking for didn't exist... so we knocked the closest number to it, and found a lady who joined the church 20 years ago, but fell away and since moved, so we didn't even have her records. She didn't exactly tell us a ton about her story, but was welcoming and said we could return... So we'll go back and hopefully be able to teach her and her family and get em back! Interestingly, later I found out that the number we were searching for was just backwards (the real apartment number was 54, not 45) but I can't really believe it was an accident that we knocked on the door we did...

We were in a section of our area where we'd never been before, on a ridge that had a killer view. We went to a little outreach to take a photo, but as we were looking out, we heard this "Olha, os Elderes!" and looked down and saw that outside of this house were some people that called us down. We went and found a woman who was baptized 5 years ago but recently stopped going to church. She told us that the night before, she saw her Livro de Mormon sitting on a shelf, picked it up, read some pages and prayed that if God sent her 2 missionaries, she'd return to church..... We showed up the next day. It was a humbling experience that even when I feel like some days we just walk around from one person to the next without really much purpose, the Lord places us exactly where we need to be. I love it.

I love you all sooooo much!

Presidente e Sister Silcox (everyone appreciate my sweet new tie)

For P-day yesterday, we played soccer and had a churrasco (brazilian barbecue) at our chapel... it was SWEET

Monday, October 5, 2015

Conference Cheer


This week was rather swell. We got permission from Presidente to accompany Natanael (the young man who is leaving to serve in Brasilia in under 2 weeks) through the temple as he recieved his endowment, since he's the only member in his family. It was soooo amazing. I was amazed to realize and feel deeply once again the eternal importance of the temple, and why we do missionary work-- to help everyone we can get to recieve the marvellous blessings of the temple!

I was praying hard all week that I'd be able to understand the talks in General Conference because, well, we're in Brazil and they speak Portuguese here, and I'm not exactly fluent yet but really REALLY needed to have some questions answered by the words of our living prophet and apostles, I didn't expect my prayer to understand would be answered so overwhelmingly that I understood every single word perfectly, just like it was English.... because some nice person set up conference in a different room in English for us American missionaries haha! Not the answer to prayer I was expecting, but I'll take it. It was so fun, because the Sisters brought American candy and we got to watch and eat and be uplifted together. In the breaks, we got to tell each other jokes that we actually understood, and it felt so good to be with a group of people that understood each other....  I hope that conference for all of you was at least half of what it was for me. I was SO inspired and uplifted, I don't think I've ever come away so full and so excited to read all the talks in a month when they come out in the Liahona! (or Ensign, for all you wierdos in America). All of my questions were answered in the first talk of the first session by President Uchtdorf, (EVERYONE go watch or re-watch it) and the rest of the time additional answers just piled on and on. I know that we have Apostles and a Prophet, and that the Lord guides His church in these days just as much as He did anciently. God loves us, His children, and wants the our happiness now, and for eternity.

I love you!!!!!!

Elder Merrill
How we watched Elder Scott's funeral last week

One of our awesome investigators (by Elder Rodrigues) is moving :( But she's going to meet with the missionaries there and continue preparing to be baptized!

A poor photo of my recurring food baby (the picture doesn't do it the gross justice it deserves)

Natanael, Fernandinha, and her friend at the temple

Picture from under the water up, because why not if your camera is waterproof?

Horray for Conference in English! Sister Bundy, Sister Doyle, Elder Bush and I had the best setup

Got my hands on a selfie stick from another Elder 

The Zone leaders brought this strange-looking package, and I was so confused how it got here with just a note that had my name... Is the mail system getting more sophisticated?

...But then I opened it and found out it was from the absolute best cousin-in-law ever! Thank you Carlos!!!!!!