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Monday, December 28, 2015

I punched an investigator....

So this week I totally socked an investigator in the face.... it's not even worth explaining the story, so I'll just leave it at that.

Praying in English is SO difficult. Last week, the Irmã that was feeding us lunch asked me to bless the food in English.... before this, I literally hadn't said a prayer in English since the 3rd day in the MTC... since then, I made it a personal goal to say EVERY prayer in Portuguese to help me learn faster, including my personal prayers in the morning and night. So, I tried my best to say comprehensive phrases, and boy did I struggle through it... so many words I had to correct from Portuguese to English, and sometimes I just forgot how to phrase a certain thing.... wow, it was REALLY hard. I'm scared for when I go back to the US and have to pray in English.....

It was a little harder to teach some lessons this week, since pretty much everyone went to other places for Christmas stuff, but it was a good week nonetheless. We started teaching the sister of Alecsander (our recent convert)! She is super interested, and I can just imagine how cool it will be to help them bring the Gospel into their home!

Our Christmas Eve found us walking around in the rain, trying to find people at home to teach.When night came, we went to a member family's house that we like a lot. President let us stay out until midnight! And also told us we didn't have to wake up at a specific time, it was awesome! We got up at 10:30, and calmly got ready to go to lunch. (which was some BOMB churrasco.... mmmmmmm......) So weird to have no rush in the world to do anything on that day.

Christmas in São Paulo is nothing like Christmas in the States. I was expecting it to be pretty calm since its a family holiday, right? Nope. Apparently, its a time for lots of fluxo (parties in the street with loud music, drinking, and drug use) and fireworks. It felt like a warzone, Elder Ambriz and I were like "this isn't what Christmas feels like"

Every missionary's favorite part of Christmas is the blessed Skype call. It was so nice to hear the wonderful voices of Mom and Dad and Nat and Brad, as well as the double-video-call (Nat held her phone to the computer) with my other siblings and their adorable children! I can't wait until Mother's Day, when I get to exchange even more experiences! Contrary to expectation, nobody cried.... does that mean we're heartless? It just felt like a regular conversation to me, almost like it hadn't been more than 5 months since we'd talked face to face. It was awesome.

I love you all, and have a splendid New Year!

Elder Merrill

The family we spent Christmas Eve with (and the dessert we spent some time on)

Us feat. Christmas Tree

Best Christmas present

Our apt complex even decorated

Yay kittens! (x5)

Friday, December 25, 2015

A Very Merrill Christmas! We love our missionary!

We had the best Christmas present ever today as we had the opportunity to talk with our wonderful missionary, Elder Merrill! Here are some pictures from our conversation!

First, enjoy the picture of "Natalie." He used my (Natalie's) Skype account, but he wanted us to know that it was really him.

And now for a close-up of that nice profile picture:

Monday, December 21, 2015

Feliz Natal!


Our shower broke AGAIN but we fixed it again, so maybe it'll behave for Christmas...

We got all of our lights up on our tree!  We also bought Santa hats. We're proud of how festive we are. 

Also, enjoy our dumb Christmas video we made for all of you (see to watch the video he and his companion made).

Some bus drivers think they're in the Formula One, and don't like to slow down for anything.... this makes it super fun when you're in the back (more leverage) and they go over speed bumps... There was one bump where Elder Ambriz said I bounced over a foot into the air before slamming back down into my seat.... good times.

So we found a bunch of new people to teach this week. There was one super awesome lady who loved the Restoration and everything, but on Saturday when we returned, her husband came to the door to return the Livro de Mórmon, telling us they already had a church. We were able to get in and teach a really cool lesson about how we werent asking anything more than to ask God if it were true, but even after a powerful lesson, he used his agency to say, again, "nope." There was also a good lesson on the steet that got wrecked by an Evangelical who entered the circle and started asking question after question, all just meant to cause contention and make us mad or "fight back" (which is ironic because he was talking about Jesus, and Jesus said that contention is of the devil) So those things are always sad.

Yesterday we taught our favorite investigator (is it bad to have a favorite?), John Lennon. We got to the apartment complex and waited for someone to walk by to let us in the gate (the intercom to his apt is broken, and he does'nt have a phone) But it just opened all of a sudden, and we were like "weird" and walked in. We talked for awhile, then began to teach the 10 Commandments. Halfway through the lesson, he asked, "What's the way that you guys determine what you're going to teach me?" and we talked about how we beforehand pray and then plan who we visit and what we'll teach, and as we were thinking, the 10 commandments popped into our heads, so that's what we were teaching. He then told us about how last week, almost every day in a different location, he saw the 10 commandments.... on the way to work, in conversations with his girlfriend... more frequently than coincidence. And today, he was cleaning the apartment and just felt the impulse to push the button that opens the gate to the apartment complex, for no reason other than that.... you can't see or hear from the window, but he just was like, "I'm gonna open it." Who walks in? Us, not having seen him since last Sunday, and what do we teach him? The 10 Commandments. I'll say that's a miracle. As we talked, I didn't know exactly what he needed to hear, but I felt the Spirit there and felt as we walked home that we said exactly the things God was saying to him. I love being a missionary.

I love you all! 

Feliz Natal!
Elder Merrill

We play soccer every other P-day with some young men from the ward and their friends... it's awesome! But last week we burned soooooo badly (and yes mom, I even used sunscreen) because the sun is super strong here.... For a few days, it was pathetic as we cried when we put our ties on because our necks were killing us... next time, we'll use LOTS of sunscreen haha

One of our investigator has 8 dogs.... and her "yard" is puny

The clouds here are awesome every day

When you buy an umbrella for less than one dollar, it doesn't last very long... Yesterday Elder Ambriz was strugglin as piece by piece his umbrella dissolved into the falling rain

Oh yeah, I resoled my shoes with the rubber they use in airplane tires... it was $5. Aw yeah.

Mom and Dad, I got your Christmas present and Elder Ambriz and I are enjoying our Mac and Cheese! Mmmmmm..... Thank you!
Feliz Natal a todos! Sempre lembrem que é uma epoca para estar juntos com aqueles que nós amamos para comemorar o nascimento de nosso Salvador. Eu amo todos vocês!

Monday, December 14, 2015

At last


This week was so chock full, and was so great.

Last Tuesday we had our Christmas Conference for our mission. and a talent, show afterwards... it was great! President Silcox even sang!

I'll just share a tidbit from what I wrote in my journal about Thursday, one of the weirdest days of my life: "As we took the bus to Alecsander's house, I thought 'Ok. This morning I took a cold shower because we don't know how to fix our shower (and don't know if it'll electrocute us because of the broken part); we don't know if we'll sleep in our house tonight.. as we were leaving the house, Elder Ambriz asked if I had the keys, and I remembered exactly where they were... on my desk, inside our locked apartment... after some phone calls we realized we had to go all the way to the mission office to get the copy of the key; Right now we're on a packed packed packed and hot and humid bus, going to get the authorization from Alecsander's mom (who's super catholic, so we didn't know if we'd get it), so we can quickly return and go to the mission office (2 hour journey), buy the part for our shower somewhere along the way, and try to get home on time.....  And in the middle of all this, we bought a Christmas Tree and lights for our apartment, but had to store it at a member's house because we couldn't get into ours..... I still don't believe I'm in Brazil'" It goes on, but that's a sliver of a day in the life.

We finally got to have a baptism. Alecsander is the friend of a recent-convert, and he's just soooooo awesome. After all the work we've put in this area, we finally saw a result, and it's amazing to be a part of helping someone literally change their life. I love being here, and I'm so excited for this next transfer (its a 7-week one, because this one was 5 weeks, but we're both staying), and I love you all!

Elder Merrill

Us and the Sisters sang a song in the talent show during the Christmas Conference for the missionaries.. it was pretty sweet.

So my new nametag that I've been trying to order for months now finally got here.... All excited, I grabbed it, then looked-- yup. For reals. They forgot the last L.... using a pen, paper and tape, I fixed it. :)

I changed!

...So did my companion!

Hot water tanks aren't a thing here, so this thing heats the water for our shower. Last week it broke so we had to take cold showers for a little bit because we didn't know how to fix it. But one night, we got fed up with cold water and became master mechanics....

Our decor thanks to my AWESOME Uncle Mike and Aunt Kristi. Merry Christmas! 

Tower of things we made at an investigator's house (it didn't fall)

Ward Christmas Activity on Saturday... it's still so weird to be super hot in December


Eis aqui, o Livro de Mórmon

Sometimes it rains too much before we can get our umbrellas out, and then it gets to the point where it doesn't matter... this was one of those times. Didn't even need to take a shower.

Look closely, the car in the middle died... as the bus went through this lake, water started coming in the doors haha

Here in Brazil, some interesting things happen... like this lagarta that died in the baptismal font....

Celestial Lizard

Alecsander e nós... He's so awesome

Yay for our Christmas tree!
"(no caption)"

Monday, December 7, 2015

Hurried week


Basically the way I determine what to include in these letters goes something like this: We get to the Lan House (place we use internet) super excited to read our emails and everything exciting that's going on with everyone, and I realize that I didnt make an outline of what i wanted to write, even though thats what I always plan on doing.... There just isn't a gap in our schedule to sit down and think about "what would be good in the letter....." it's usually just go go go (Elder Ambriz has learned that one of my more used mottos is "só vai" which means "just go". One way I coped with the Brazilian culture and how everything just works here was to just prepare as well as you can before obviously), but once you've gone, just go, because nothing stands still here... if you sit still too long, you won't be able to do anything.) Anyways, so I get here to the computer and sit, overwhelmed with the impossibly large number of notable things that happen throughout a week, and usually just have enough time to write something lame and make it seem much less exciting. So when you read something in here and think "why did he write about this... it wasn't very exciting," now you know why.

So our week was pretty swell, we're working hard, seeing great things! The entire time Ive been here it's been pretty difficult to find people who keep committments and really progress. So it's really easy to feel like Ive been putting in lots of work for nothing.... but recently, things have begun to change little by little, and we are finding people that we really think will progress to baptism. I'm excited to tell y'all about more things next week, because Im out of time and didn't plan what I was gonna say... oops.

I love you all, and have a wonderful week!

Elder Merrill
This little dude enjoyed serenading us with legit music... I think he knows more songs than I do

We did a service project, which entailed remove a swath of jungle in this guy's yard (note: the first person with a yard I've seen here... since everyone is sooooo jam packed, nobody has anything but concrete... it didn't feel like we were in our area)

....There were also turtles

Yay for the service crew!

I forgot to take a before picture, but it was waist-deep in just thick weeds, grass, small trees, and LOTS of bugs