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Monday, December 26, 2016

Busy busy busy week


This week was so stressful I had 15 new pimples break out. Yeah. But it's passed.

So Wednesday I went to Guaratinguetá (the farthest zone) for the zone conference there. But Elder Vasconcelos and Sister Doyle were in the self-reliance course at the same time, so I gave the training with Sister Rocha hahaha. For one day, I was President's companion, and she was Sister Silcox's. 

On Thursday Elder Vasconcelos went to the temple, so I got locked up in the office with the secretaries with nothing to do all day. I got cabin fever super bad. When he got back I was ready to explode because I couldn't stand so much nothing..... yeah.

Friday we ate so much at lunch, then went to the next house and ate, then at the end of the day Gustavo and Iris made us more bolivian food...

..then on saturday we ate the strangest thing I've yet eaten on my mission, called buchada de bode, which is billy-goat stomach filled with it's intestines, kidneys, liver.... I wasn't a huge fan. Also, the fried intestine was alright, but after a few bites I couldn't continue.... do not recommend for the weak or even relatively strong of stomach...... but a great cultural experience heh heh.

Then that night we ate churrasco at bishop's house, where we spent Christmas Eve. It was super fun, but we slept stuffed.

THEN on sunday for lunch there was a huge turkey, pasta, rice and beans, maionese, salad, ribs with potatoes, farofa, fruit..... oh my heck. We weren't even hungry before lunch. And later that night a member gave us like 6 desserts and sent us home with our fourth panetone (actually it was chocotone)

In short, Christmas=food. 

Cleide and Sergio were married on Saturday! It was simple, but wonderful.

Yesterday, as it was Christmas day, I got to call mommy and daddy. It was great to see your smiling faces, even though I was speaking a fair amount of portuglish haha

Elder Vasconcelos goes home tomorrow, so I'll be getting a new companion, Elder Meireles. He goes home at the end of this transfer hahahaha. I just keep killing my comps! 3rd in a row!

We had an amazing miracle this week too! So on Tuesday we visited Gustavo and Iris with the bishop and on Monday it didn't work out in the Federal Police to get their documents since it was chock full and they said there were no openings until after the new year. After a great lesson, bishop went home, opened his computer and looked on the Federal Police site to see exactly 5 vacancies (2 adults and 3 of their kids) for the next day. He called them to tell them the news that they were could resolve it the next day, and they responded saying "after you guys left, we knelt and said a prayer that we would be able to get our documents without delay so that we can be married and baptized." It took less than 2 hours for their prayer to be answered. The next day, they went and resolved everything, and their wedding is scheduled for January 7th. Their faith truly amazes me. I am so grateful that I have so many blessings in my life, and I love being a missionary.

Hope everyone had a spectacular Christmas!
Elder Merrill

Awesome tie from Elder Oberholzer
Look at the name of the street of the church... yup. "Street of the Mormons"
We matched without meaning to again!
The bishop performed the wedding in his office

Monday, December 19, 2016

Feliz Natal!


Needless to say, I'm excited for Christmas this Sunday. I love Christmas.

Our week was pretty busy. We went to 2 more zone conferences in São Miguel/Itaquera and in Guarulhos/Cumbica which ate up 2 days of our week, but tudo bem.... On the way home from one, President dropped me off to do a division in Camargo Novo with Elder Azevedo, which was super awesome. We had many miracles, including one lady in a car who stopped to ask us who we were and asked to be taught, a member who gave us a reference when we asked if she had any friends, some really cool lessons. Friday night we traded and I came back to our area. So I was only in Mooca for 2 days this last week haha.

Today bishop and Gustavo and Iris are finishing up the documents they need to be married, and so next week we'll already have a date for them!

Saturday is Sergio and Cleide's wedding! We're excited!

This is Elder Vasconcelos' last week already. So weird. This transfer flew by! We have a ton of stuff to do (finish up the zone confs, prepare for the transfer, self-reliance course, go to the temple, wedding, baptisms, Christmas, etc) and only 7 days to do it, but it'll all work out. I love life!

I love you all!
Elder Merrill

Epic selfie from Elder Bush
We had a secret Santa and Elder Botelho gave me a tie and this cool pen with my name engraved on it

I saw Santa!!!!

Monday, December 12, 2016

Esta Semana

Hello family!

This week was great, and (suprise on this part) tiring.

Last Monday kinda took it out of us because we didn't really have much rest on our p-day with bolivian consulate and meeting with president and district meeting and appointment that night with a member, but it all worked out.

On Tuesday we spent the morning trying to figure out what we were gonna do for our zone conference training and didn't finish, so us and the sister liders went to our areas for lunch, worked the afternoon, and came back at 7 to finish. It was tiring, but I think it turned out well. The first conference was on Wednesday and it was super fun. We've got 2 more this week and 1 the next. Go team.

We did another division this week and I spent the day with Elder Capener, who is from Boston. It was awesome, but it's always weird when I walk on the street with an american because I'm just so unaccustomed to being with people that aren't Brazilian or Hispanic. 

Gustavo and Iris, the bolivian couple we're teaching made us bolivian food one night. We ate bisté and chuño.... not really sure how to describe it, but it was good! They're just the sweetest!

Yesterday there was an area Brazil conference (like a stake conference, just to everyone) and Elder Maynes and Elder Holland were some of the speakers. It was so good! I loved how everything was directed specifically to Brazil, it brought a special spirit. I love this work. I know God really loves and cares about each one of His children.

I love you all!
Elder Merrill

Presidente e Sister e a gente
Elder Hughes and I Spider-manning at the Christmas Zone Conference
Found ginger ale.... so good....
Elder Dantas ripped his pants..... it's not that bad
Today for P-day Alecsander and Nito came and visited! I played soccer in the rain in my shirt and tie with them just to relive good times from Cohab Juscelino

Monday, December 5, 2016

Milagres acontecem

Hey fam!

So this week was awesome! We were able to get lots done and I am absolutely pooped.

On Tuesday we spent the whole morning and afternoon planning our training and making the PowerPoint for the council with the Sister Leaders, which was super tiring but a great experience. I hate and love preppin for the councils because it is a ton of work but I end up learning a bunch more than those who receive the training. We talked about leadship as being a stewardship and the importance of ministering to other missionaries by elevating, inspiring and blessing them. I felt many things I need to be better at in my personal ministry. Every time the Lord gives us a calling, it's a chance to influence others for good, and we will surely be held accountable for how we handle the trust he gives us by how we bless those entrusted to our care.

Thursday was the day of service for everyone in the world (December 1st) and we had a great painting service project lined up, but on Wednesday the member called and said he'd already painted and that we didn't need to go anymore. -_- Good thing we had another project for Saturday morning which didn't fall through. Still counts, right?

Friday was the council and it was super good. It was amazing how our training went perfectly with Sister Silcox and President's, since he didn't give us a topic to talk about. We just prayed and went with what we felt was important for them to hear. I felt the spirit super strongly and was quite uplifted. But when we got home we collapsed and went to bed early. Drained.

On Saturday, our awesome bishop went to the cartório and was able to move the wedding date up for Cleide and Sérgio, so now bishop will perform the wedding on December 24, and Elder Vasconcelos is now able to be there! Woo!

This morning (yeah, p-day) we woke up early and went with Gustavo and Iris to the Bolivian consulate to get the documents they need to be married. I was going to escort them to make sure they didn't miss any important details, but right when we were entering behind the front desk the secretary dude yelled at me in spanish that it was "bolivians only!" Sorry. My bad. Chill bro. First time in my life in a Bolivian building, and got kicked out because I'm white. Anyways, they are so sweet and have such a strong desire to live the gospel, it was touching to see their gratitude for us helping start the process with them, and I was grateful everything went smoothly. Next week another document will be ready and then they'll have to go to the Federal Police to get another and then we'll be able to schedule their wedding at the cartorio and then it'll all be set... good thing our bishop is quite on top of things and knows people, so we'll see if we can resolve all of this within the month. I have faith it'll all work out.

I love you all!

Elder Merrill

Sometimes you get home and collapse on your bed and fall asleep without even taking off your bag...

Everyone who hasn't visited and watched the Christmas video needs to repent and do so right now!​
In Liberdade today for p-day! It's like a Chinatown in São Paulo
A themed Bradesco bank!

Monday, November 28, 2016

Só na boa

Querida gente-

Posso só escrever em português para vocês? Seria bem mais fácil. Vocês precisam aprender mesmo para me entender quando chegar. ugh. Sometimes words are difficult. [Can I only write you in Portuguese? It would be much easier. You will need to learn to understand me when I arrive.]

So I'm tired. We did two divisions this week, and it helped us cover lots more ground lots more quickly. I passed one day with my dad, Elder Rodrigues! It was fun to teach together again, and to think that one year ago he left me in Cohab Juscelino. The next day I stayed with Elder Chalampuento, who had come about a month ago to do a division with me. 

We had a miracle this week! On Wednesday we were visiting a less active for the first time who hadn't had a missionary visit in 14 years when the member who was gonna give us lunch the next day called and said they wouldn't be able to feed us anymore. So I turned to the irmã and said "have you ever given lunch to the missionaries before?" She said yes, and I said, "would you like to have the opportunity again... tomorrow... to feed 4?" She accepted, and the next day we had an awesome lunch. Look how the Lord's timing is perfect. 

On Friday an exciting thing happened. We went to the cartório to mark a date for Cleide and Sergio's wedding! The soonest available was January 7, which is sad that Elder Vasconcelos won't be here for it, but he'll be able to Skype in from home. I'm so happy for them! It's amazing to see people taking the necessary steps to change their lives and accept the gospel. That's the joy of the mission. I love it.

I love you all!

Elder Merrill

P.S. Everyone who hasn't yet seen this year's Christmas video, it is PHENOMENAL and you all need to go watch it:

Last week we all color coordinated without meaning to!
I made chicken one day but it wasn't sufficiently dead... jumped right off of the counter and broke one of our plates....

Eu e meu Pai!
Família Cleide and Sérgio
Elder Chalampuento studying hard.... poor tired guy, I woke him up by pouring water on his face hahaha

Monday, November 21, 2016

New Transfer

Hello everyone!

This week went wonderfully! 

Elder Vasconcelos got to the office at about 10:30pm on Monday, and then President gave us a ride home because it was so late. Then we got up early to return to the office and didn't go home until late again, but we were able to teach a lesson to an awesome family we're working with and it was cool to get right in the groove where we left off 6 months ago (we were companions in Itaquá, in case you forgot)

I'm addicted to cuscuz nordestino (its like a corn flour that you cook with steam in a special pot then can eat with egg or meat or other things... google it) and eat it like every single day. It's super cheap, and super good.

I also tried cake made with ginger, pimenta (spicy pepper) and strawberries. I don't know how one makes such a cake, but it was good. Interesting, but suprisingly tasty.

We got to work and are already settling in for an awesome transfer. There are many wonderful people we're teaching and that are really progressing, so I feel super motivated to make this transfer one of the best of my mission! Things aren't always perfect, but that's impossible. We just have to make the best of whatever God gives us.

I love you all!

Elder Merrill

We were helping some Sisters with their bags during the transfer, and the wheels to all of their suitcases broke... at the same time... so on to the back it went (I'm on the right) Also, this random nice guy (center) helped us. T'was an adventure.
Thanks for the goodies Mike and Kristi!
Christmas planejamento [planner] that Juliana (a recent returned missionary in our ward) made for this transfer for me haha

Monday, November 14, 2016

Week of the death

Dear fam,

Well, I'm currently companionless. I got up at 5:45 to go with Elder Millaqueo to the airport, put him on the plane, and came back. So sad. He was kinda depressed the whole week since it was his last, but the mission just can't last forever... it's gotta end sometime. He was the first missionary I killed (missionary jargon that means being the last companion). But I know who my next companion will be.... Elder Vasconcelos. De novo! If you don't remember, we were companions one transfer from April to the end of May in Jardim Odete, and we'll be together for just 6 weeks since he dies (finishes his mission) at the end of this transfer. Which also means I'll probably stay for 2 more transfers here. I like this area, so I'm chill with that.

Being the last week, Elder Millaqueo had a Self-Reliance course one day and went to the temple another, so I got to spend a little bit of time with my dad on the mission, Elder Rodrigues! (His comp went home today too) It was fun to get together for a lil spurt.

We did a division in Vila Lavínia with the Zone Leaders there. I spent the day with Elder Patson, who was my first District Leader when I was in Cohab, and it was cool to relive some great memories. I still feel like he's my District Leader, I learned a ton from him in that one day we spent together. He's awesome.

Starting with the first Sunday of this month, we started singing Christmas hymns in sacrament meeting, it made me so happy.

Also last sunday I played the piano, gave a talk, gave the Gospel Principles lesson (which we've been giving for about 9 weeks now, the teacher was released.... our preparation is stellar, we get to the class, open the manual to see what the lesson is, then just go hahaha. This last week was about the Gathering of Israel, which was a little harder to do on the fly, but we managed:)

I'm tired, I'm happy, and I'm excited for this next transfer. Should be awesome.

Love you all!

Elder Merrill

Distrito Elite!
Sunrise in Mogi das Cruzes
Pop Rocks with papai! (Elder Rodrigues)
Pizza Hut to say goodbye to Elder Millaqueo with Kelly, Juliana, and Marquinhos... mmmmmmm so good

​Tchau Elder Millaqueo! I love this lil bud.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Tacos, Testemunhos, and Tranquilidade

Querida família-

Today our p-day was awesome. It was Elder Millaqueo´s last (next Monday he goes home), so we had to make it count. There was no meeting this morning, so we were able to deep clean the house. Then we went to a shopping (mall) and ate TACO BELL. Yup. 1 year and four months, on the other side of the world it's still the same. I know some of y'all are Taco Bell haters, but you can't deny the coolness of eating at one of the first Taco Bell establishments in the country of Brazil... not to mention my supreme deprivement of any mexican food (even americanized mexican). Anyways, as we were finishing up, I saw across the food court what appeared to be another mexican food establishment. Naturally I had to buy a taco from it. It reminded of Café Rio, suuuuuper good. Oh guacamole and pico de gallo how I'd missed you. Afterwards we took a stroll through the big and super nice mall... it was mainly just stuff for rich people, so we didn't even think about buying anything except for a R$269 (like $84) tie... lol psych. We left and went to Brás to buy R$11 (less than $3,50) ties hahaha 

Our area is still going pretty well, but we have cut a few people from our teaching group and are trying to find new people. Lots of street contacting, but that's the missionary life. Oh yeah, and even though Cleide isn't a member, she talked with the Relief Society presidency to give us lunch Saturday! So. Cool.

It was leadership councill week, so the usual correria that comes with it. We gave a training on how to help people make and keep commitments better because people can only show fruits of repentance as they do those simple things like reading, praying, and changing their lives to live the commandments. It went well, I thought. Sister Silcox gave a cool training on having the faith to find people prepared to receive the gospel and how that needs to affect our planning. Elder Millaqueo bore his testimony since it was his last council, it was so sad... I love the lil' guy. I've learned a ton from him. He is such an example of humility and pure desire to help others, two things I really need to work on. How great it is we have companions that always show us our weak points and how we can always be better.

Açaí rocks
Açaí selfies rock
Kitties rock
..until the member family puts 6 kittens on your back and they all dig in their claws
We knocked the door of a lady and started teaching the Restoration, and when we pulled out the Book of Mormon her eyes lit up and showed us this copy she got 20 years ago from some Sister missionaries... cool.
Elder Webster after a long hard day on tour....
"Yo quiero Taco Bell!" ....check.
...and then appeared another taco establishment, so naturally I went, purchased, and of it also partook.

Monday, October 31, 2016

A vida

Happy Halloween! This year, I decided to be a missionary again... it's pretty scary for some people apparently..... maybe more people should try it.

We did three divisions this week, which took the wind out of me a lil bit. On Tuesday and then on Wednesday, we divided with 2 sets of zone leaders. Divisions are good because you get to learn from other missionaries and can do twice the work in your own area, but it is tiring because you have to plan two days at the same time and then figure out how to work in the appointments both duplas scheduled and share the important information about what you've gathered working with the missionary, then plan how you're gonna help them in the future... Then do it all over again with another set of missionaries. On Friday we went to Bela Vista to do a division, which was Elder Millaqueo's first area. It was cool to work in another area (get back to the favela, since Mooca doesn't have favela.... I miss it) and be able to do a division that we didn't have to plan everything haha

Last night we had a good meeting with the stake president, President Silcox, all the missionaries, and all the ward missionaries in the stake, and we set goals for 2017... We felt inspired to better certain specific things here in Mooca, so we'll see if things improve in the future... t'was good.

Our area is going great, life is going great.... I'm happy!

Love you!

Elder Merrill

I made snickerdoodles! They were soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo good!
How many missionaries does it take to screw in a lightbulb...?
Only two!
We tried taking a picture in the super hard rain because we were soaking wet, but the rain didn't want Elder Millaqueo to appear.... so we ended up with this.....
I put up my hammock in our house and it is wonderful....
The couple from the picture in the Chastity pamplet (in portuguese at least) is in our ward!