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Monday, November 30, 2015

Happy (Late) Thanksgiving!

So I wouldn'tve known that Thanksgiving was last week if people hadn't mentioned it in their letters to me last monday heh heh.... It isn't celebrated here, so I decided to be festive by wearing an orange tie.... that was about the extent of all I did special.

To prevent myself from forgetting about Christmas I've been listening to Christmas music after we plan at night (because seriously I will if I don't make a concious effort). This Christmas will be a bit different.... green, super hot, and Portuguese... But it should be super fun.

Recently it's been raining almost every afternoon. Boy, when it rains here, it rains. And the thunderclaps are SO epic. It's pretty cool. 

This week we worked like a ton. Every night I collapse into bed and just conk out immediately. I'm getting behind in my journal, since we're so busy I usually have only 5 minutes a day to write! But busy is good.

On Monday, we got an address of a guy who wanted to talk to us, but we didn't know where it was. We went with Sebastião (our ward mission leader) to find it, and ended up walking on this dirt road for a while into the middle of nowhere... The view was awesome, so we were happy even if we didn't find the guy to have found the scenery... but we found the little street, and on this street found a family to teach, then a guy we talked to in the city a week earlier, but we thought he was drunk when he tried to give us his address (the houses in this area didn't have numbers). It was really cool to feel guided to find some cool people, even though we didn't find the guy we were looking for... maybe later!

I love you all a bunch!
Elder Merrill

Scenery from our adventure on Tuesday

There's this thing called Bis here, and it is sooooooo adicting. It's a chocolate covered wafer, and there are various flavors.... Elder Ambriz made a tower then ate it during study one morning

Us making Thanksgiving dinner!  .... in somebody else's house.... while they weren't there.... The member feeding us lunch just kinda threw everything on the stove then said "got to go, just close the door when you leave!" and walked out. We were like "uhhhhh, ok...." and had our wonderful feast of rice, beans, and a ground beef with pumpkin (pumpkin is festive!). So yeah, Happy Thanksgiving to us!

A video Brian sent (if you get this letter in e-mails, check out his blog to see this): "This is kinda old, but I'm just now getting around to sending it.... I love kittens!"

Monday, November 23, 2015

Wow, it's been a week?


Elder Ambriz and I have been working hard here, walking lots, and finding lots of new people to teach, some who are soooo prepared. It's not easy, but I learn so much every day, and I learn so much from Elder Ambriz! 

It's been fun to remember  my reaction to all of the new things about Brazil as I watch meu filho react to them hahaha.... wow, it makes me realize that I actually have grown...

Since we both enjoy singing, as we walk from one appointment to another or get ready in the morning, we break into song/beatbox with various hymns or other songs... it's pretty great. There's also this song the cars with gas for the stoves play over and over, and we memorized the words and created our version, complete with baseline and percussion... it's pretty sweet, not gonna lie....

I've recently discovered the merits of French Toast. It's first of all super easy (essential in the tired morning state), but its also SUPER DELICIOUS. Ah, thank you Sister Bundy and Sister Doyle (they're the american sisters in our zone)

We had Zone Conference with President and the Assistants this week! It was so awesome, I learned a ton! We got a training on planning, and how it's important to plan everything so that the Lord can put those people He's prepared into our path. But we have to plan President Silcox talked about how we have this short time to be special representatives of Jesus Christ, and how this is the only time in our lives that we will be able to have the privelege to say "você vai seguir o exemplo de Jesus Cristo, e ser batizado com quem possui a autoridade dele?" ["Will you follow the example of Jesus Christ and be baptized by someone who holds the authority of God?"] and then witness people accept the Gospel fully into their lives. It's amazing to be here. I can't wait to go out there and help more people learn about all the blessings God has for every single one of us individually.  

Wish I could write more, but so much happens I usually get paralyzed when I have to write my weekly letter hahaha If anyone has specific questions they want me to answer, shoot me an email!

Love you all!
Elder Merrill

Presidente and Sister Silcox!

Conferência da Zona Itaquera!

I liked this door so much, I had to knock on it to tell them I loved their Christmas lights, because not very many people decorate here... We were able to find and teach 4 new investigators, so yay for Christmas!

Some nights we just get home absolutely spent and want to go to bed just right then: tie, shoes, bag; doesn't even matter

Monday, November 16, 2015

Sou um pai!


This week was awesome, and probably the best one yet.

As I mentioned last week, I knew I was going to train, but I didn't know anything about my filho ("son", which is the missionary term for the missionary you train), nor did Elder Rodrigues know where he was going to go until the transfer meeting at the mission office, where all the missionaries being transfered find out their new areas and companions. It was super odd to say goodbye to Elder Rodrigues, since I've been with him literally every hour of every day for 12 weeks. 

When we got to the meeting, I found out that my new companion straight from the MTC would be Elder Ambriz, from Portugal! He's 20 years old.... I never thought I'd have a son who's older than me! His accent is sweet. And he speaks in "tu" not "você", which is cool but strange to my ears because in Brazil they don't use "tu." Although it's a bit difficult to understand sometimes (it's definitely not Brazilian haha), he speaks English super well! And since Portugueses speak correct Portugues, I'll maybe be able to better my grammar heh heh.... He's super excited to work, and super excited to be here. I'm super excited for this transfer.

It was weird to all of a sudden be a junior companion one day to being a senior companion the next... it was basically the transformation from a new, wide-eyed greenie to a new, wide-eyed trainer. I am so grateful that Elder Ambriz came so prepared, because I'm certaing that it's gonna be him that's training me these next 12 weeks. Seriously, we were able to teach some amazing lessons from day 1, and we're already seeing successes. He seems to already be adjusted super well to missionary life, and I just remember how it probably took me 6-7 weeks to get to the point he's at right now, after 6 days.

We saw some amazing miracles this week, and every day had so many things that simply just worked out that usually don't.... like, sooo many, too many for it to have been accidental. We've gotten a bunch of references, found a bunch of new people to teach, people were home when we went to teach them, investigators came to church on their own yesterday.... I could go on and on about the things Elder Rodrigues and I struggled with for 12 weeks, that just fell into place this week. It's truly the Lord working ahead of us.

I can't imagine being anywhere else but here, it's so great and I can't wait to see what more will happen this week!

I am so grateful for your love and prayers! Love you!

Elder Merrill

Meu filho, Elder Ambriz! [My son, Elder Ambriz!]

Cool bug that I thought was a leaf

Pai e filho [Father and son]

Monday, November 9, 2015

Something a lil' different....

Querida família-

I experienced eating chicken foot for the first time.... it tasted like chicken, but the texture was super odd (it's not meat, it's just skin I think) and I couldn't get over the supremely uncomfortable and indesguisable fact that I was eating nothing less than the foot of a chicken..... I couldn't do it. After 2 bites I tagged out. Luckily the investigators who made it weren't offended, just supremely amused.

This week was just great. About 2 months ago, Elder Rodrigues told Maria, an investigator, that he wanted to see her stop smoking before he left this area... well, when we showed up last week one day, she said "you can leave now, I've quit. For good." and she really did! Super cool. Raimunda, a great lady we've been teaching for a little bit now is finally taking steps to stop smoking, which is huge because at the beginning she didn't actually take any initiative. According to an Irmã in the ward she hasn't really smiled since her mom passed away a few years back, but since we've been teaching her, she gives us the biggest grin when we show up... the Gospel really is amazing.

Elder Rodrigues and I have found our groove as companions. We teach super well together, we've been studying well together, we've had times of laughter and of disappointment, but our unity is at its best right now... naturally its time for change. 

We got the transfer call yesterday. Since Elder Rodrigues has already been here for 6 months, it wasn't a surprise to hear "Elder Rodrigues vai sair (will be transferred)." But when our district leader said "Elder Merrill vai treinar (will be training a new missionary)", I waited for him to say just kidding, it was a joke. But he didn't say that; he hung up. I walked around the apartment for like 15 minutes saying "sério...... sério............. seeeeeeerio...." (*note: for all unfamiliar with how "training" and such works, a new missionary in the field is trained for their first 2 transfers (12 weeks).) I know Elder Rodrigues started training me when he only had 3 months in the mission, but he speaks Portuguese fluently! The Lord must have a lot of trust in me, because I sure don't feel ready to train! I feel like I barely got here and barely just started speaking Portuguese. Though I've improved a LOT, I still have moments where I totally miss what someone says to me and definitely struggle to express myself. I know I'll be doing LOTS of praying in this next week (not too different, since I already have to pray a lot to just get through some days). I'm excited, but I'm also scared out of my socks a lil' bit. So yup. We'll find out how it's going next week.

I love you all sooooo much, have a great week!
Elder Merrill

Some Jello dad would be proud of... purple and braces!

The Sisters in my Zone gave Elder Bush and I some maple syrup, so I attempted making pancakes.... they were a little flat, but still edible

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Happy November


Once again, there was a holiday on p-day and so all the internet places were closed. Hence, the email today!

Happy late Halloween! This year I decided to be a missionary, and I thought my costume was pretty convincing. But nobody gave me candy, so I bought some biscoito to make up for it.

No more tear gas, but some more new things... like me learning that I've gained almost 5.5 [about 12 pounds] kilos heh heh..... in one meal, I weighed myself before and after, and it was a 1.3 [about 3 pounds] kilo difference, and that's what the average meal looks like. I'm just accepting my destiny to be fat.

I'm also our ward's pianist, as the previous one left on a mission a few weeks ago.  Thank you mom and dad for forcing me to learn how to play piano, because it's a great blessing to share that ability with the humble saints here in Cohab Juscelino.

As always, some days were better than others this week.... sometimes you walk around all day as almost everything you planned falls through, and then others you get to talk with some amazing people and teach them about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

On Sunday, we had another miracle! We went allllll the way to the end of our area to pick up an investigator for church. We got there, then (in the rain, mind you) we waited.... and waited.... and waited a little more.... We called him, but his phone was off. We knocked but his house was back really far, so you can't hear the front door. While standing there, I prayed that we would be able to take him to church, because we've had a really difficult time getting people to church.... Eventually, when we couldn't wait anymore without arriving late, we turned and started walking in the cold morning rain, back to the bus stop. Not 10 steps later, a car pulls up beside us, and our investigator puts his head out the window and yells "get in!" As if it couldn't be any better, I climbed in and found myself next to his daughter and her son, who we have also been teaching for over a month (they live in a different house), but she always makes excuses for not coming to church, so we didn't even invite her this week. Not only was my prayer answered to bring him to church, but it was exceeded with the blessing of the rest of the fam. And on top of that, a free ride. God is real, and cares for His children. 

I love you all!
Elder Merrill

I kinda failed at this picture..... What counts is I tried, and it was outside a 5th floor window

Our Zone Leaders

While wating for the bus, it started pouring out of nowhere.... I had an umbrella, but Elder Rodrigues had to take shelter across the street.... I love this pic because he just looks so sad about forgetting his umbrella hahaha

Yay for street rivers! I had to pour water out of my shoes

Zona Itaquera! Last Zone meeting of the transfer!