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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Vida em Brasil

Yesterday was a holiday and the internet place was closed, hence the letter a day late.

This week was just swell, with the exception of some small sicknesses.... One night, Elder David threw up more than 5 times and couldn't eat or drink anything for a day straight. And then the next day Elder Ambriz had a fever and killer headache, and was freezing even though the day was hot, so we worked fast and went home a bit earlier. When we arrived, he hit the bed and was out. But Elder David was already better, and he talked me into buying us pizza..... So we threw a party because Elder Ambriz got sick haha;)

We started teaching many more of the friends of a member, who is also friends with Alecsander and another recent convert. They are all loving the lessons, and it's so cool to watch the gospel enter their friend group. I wish we would've started teaching them sooner, because they're all stellar young men that were just waiting for somebody to invite them to investigate more. We've actually been playing soccer with most of them for months now, so we already had a friendship with them.... so cool.

Also, we're teaching Daniel, the older brother of Alecsander and Bethania, who were both baptized recently. It's so exciting to see each member of the family individually develop faith in the Savior and grow, and Daniel wants to be baptized this next Sunday! 

This Sunday we'll get the transfer call..... I don't want to leave Cohab Juscelino, but I know I will because I've been here for a long time already.... 

I learn lots every day from each of my 2 companions, and I love serving my Savior!

I love you all!

Monday, January 18, 2016

The power of 3


So this week was a lil bit different than usual. We had the pleasure of having Elder David as our 3rd companion. He's from Paraná, Brazil and has a year on the mission. He is really funny, and it's been fun to mix up the dynamic of our companionship.

The work went on. Right now, we're short of people to teach, so we've been doing lots of street contacting, which isn't the easiest or most effective (or fun) thing to do, since lots of people just kinda walk on by..... but it's all good.

January is rain month, so we've been enjoying the refreshing showers in place of the inferno sun. It also makes for some good mud roads. Here, the saying goes that the more rain you work in on the mission, the more beautiful your wife will be. I think she's getting pretty perfect right now.

I'm almost certain that I'll be transfered here in just a few weeks.... I don't want to leave, this area is my home! It's so weird to think about leaving the little part of Brazil I've loved and cared for for months and months... in fact, today marks 5 months since I arrived here. I also don't want to leave meu filho, Elder Ambriz. He is so awesome, and I know the Lord has more areas and companions prepared for me, but does it have to come so soon? I'm going to take advantage of these last few weeks, I count my blessings every day.

I love you all, and always look forward to reading your letters!

Elder Merrill

The best place to take breaks is here on a random person's roof since the view is great. 

Trio of triumph preachin in the favela...
...and through the mud

We went bowling this week for p-day

Monday, January 11, 2016

How is it possible that so much happens in one week?

Dearest family,

So some weeks pass fast because not much happens. And some weeks pass fast because it's crazy how many things come up and have to be resolved. This week was one of the latter. Here are some highlights:

We got new furniture! As you can see from the pics, it caused quite the party in our house.... here in Brazil they would say "que bagunsa!" The new beds are DIVINE. Elder Ambriz is particularly happy, since his bed was broken in the first place haha. I'll send pics next week of the clean apartment

This week we were able to participate in the baptisms of 2 awesome youth, Rodrigo and Bethania. The gospel is amazing, and I try to think about "what would happen to those people if we had decided to keep our mouths closed, and not invite them to bring something more into their lives...?" Because their futures are so bright, and there's a light of hope in them now that wasn't there before they learned the purpose of our existence. It's cool.

We keep finding lots and lots of people, but it seems like everyone either smokes or needs to get married... NO ONE IN BRAZIL IS MARRIED, like what is the big problem? There was a couple that said they were still getting to know each other, and when we asked how long they'd been together they answered, "24 years." Satan is really sneaky in how he works, because he usuallydoesn't say to openly defy God, but to just put off doing the right things. Most people's excuse is "no, I will go to church when I feel the time is right...." But what they don't realize is that all Satan has to do to get us off the right path is to get us to do NOTHING. So everyone reading this go out TODAY and do something good; watch an uplifting Mormon Message, serve a lonely friend, go do your home teaching/visiting teaching, tell someone you love them and then follow up your words with your actions. Don't give into the temptation that you'll do it tomorrow, because chances are you won't. Use every moment as "what good can I do right now, right here, in these circumstances." I need to remind myself every day of this very thing, but I know that we really have such potential within us, and God wants life to me more than a bunch of "it might've been" moments.

Last night one of the APs called and said we'll be getting a new companion and be a trio this week, and after that he didn't know what'd happen... I hope I can finish training Elder Ambriz, it's so fun to be with him. We don't always agree, but we can resolve the conflicts when they come up. And that's part of what I love. We'll see what happens, should be fun!

Have a wonderful week!
Elder Merrill

Our super clean apartment!  ....We got new a new wardrobe, stove, fridge, washing machine, and beds, and our apartment didn't exactly have space for the new and old things....

Our wonderful study atmosphere!

Wading through a river

Meeting with our Ward Mission Leader by candle because the power went out

Cool fruit from the Amazon with a name I don't remember the name of... but it was good

We finally ate the Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans that Aunt Kristi and Uncle Mike sent..... the vomit flavor almost made us vomit. We have it all on video.

Cool service project for one of our investigators... we helped him paint part of his house. It's the biggest house in Brazil I've seen yet. It has 3 stories!
Visitor in our apartment

We had the awesome chance yesterday to have the baptism of the friend of a member, Rodrigo, and also of Alecsander (our recent-convert)'s sister, Bethania! It was wonderful!

Monday, January 4, 2016

2016: A New Start


This week was just swell. We got lots of things done that we needed to, and we just seem to be busier and busier. But most of our work is in the part of our area suuuuuuper far away, and we want more people to teach close to our house. So one thing we're starting to do is to just do a BUNCH of street contacting close to our apartment, and immediately teach or mark a specific appointment. But the most success we've found is in helping people carry their groceries, since it's service and you end up going to their house (they can't lie to you about the address) and they're a lot more receptive to hear a message since they can see that we're only there to help them, not just some other motive. So that's our main new strategy to find new people: groceries.

On New Years Eve, we had to be in at 7:00 because of obvious reasons.... We got home, planned, then just relaxed and read until bedtime, and we didn't even wake up to all of the fireworks at midnight! We treasure our rest time. New Years day for us was just a normal day, but it wasa bit hard to find people home because everyone went on vacation... but hey, what can you do?

This week gave me some time to reflect on everything that happened in 2015, and everything that I want to happen in 2016. I thought about how if exactly one year ago, somebody told me I'd be in a favela in Brazil, speak Portuguese, have every day consumed just worrying about how to best help others change their lives around but faced with plenty of dissappointment when you do everything you can, and they don't; to do all that and love it the whole time, I'd call that person nutso. I just laugh in disbelief at everything I've experienced, because even though I experienced it, so many things I think: "no.... that didn't actually happen...."

But that's really my life.

I'm a missionary of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a literal representative of my Savior. And for the entire year of 2016, I get the privilege to bear his name on my chest over my heart. It's a blessing I try to comprehend every day, but I never fully can. I know that He loves each of us so individually, even though I don't know how. I know that we must all follow Him, and that's what I'm putting as my ultimate goal for this year. 

I love you all so much, and have a great year!

Elder Merrill

On the first day of the year, I decided to start out classy rocking the SWEET new tie that Kelly gave me for Christmas. 

This is how we watch our training videos in the mornings.... with snacks.

On the way to one of our investigators houses (this is pretty uncommon, most everyone lives in the more city part (of the favela)

Thank you sooooo much Spurgeons (and Rose) for the homemade cookies!!!!! I got so excited, I ate a package before I remembered to take a picture heh heh.... They were absolutely delicious! I never thought real American homemade cookies could taste so good....