Monday, September 30, 2013

September 28, 2013

Pamilya ko,

We moved to the other MTC this week.  As to why they moved us, I think they just wanted more room at the main campus... They moved all of the missionaries who are going to the Philippines to the west campus, but I wish they would have waited a few more weeks.  The west campus isn't too bad, but in our room, we have twelve elders, but only two bathrooms. It can get pretty crazy.  I think the food is actually better at this campus though.  I am so ready to go to the Philippines!!   

In unrelated news, my kasama and I just got asked to be zone leaders, so that should be pretty interesting.  We will be getting to know all of the elders in our zone.  Did  I tell you that there are two Tagalog zones?  There are also one or two Cebuano speaking zones.  Isn't that a lot of missionaries going to the Philippines?

Do you remember Josh Wuthrich?  He was in my seminary class before Dad started teaching because he went to Hamilton Prep.  He moved to China when the Ethingtons moved to China, and now he is at the MTC.  He is going to Mandarin speaking NYC South.  Isn't that cool?  Do you remember Danny McCurdy? He is going to Independence Missouri and is from our stake in Chandler. He is here at the West Campus, so I got to see him, which is awesome.

We got our travel plans on Thursday. I will try to send a more detailed email later if I can, but we are flying from Salt Lake to Portland, then Portland to Japan (I think the name of the place in Japan starts with an N), and then from there to Manila. I am not sure exactly how we get to Naga. All I know is that it requires a ticket because of the email from president Reeder. I think we have 9 days until we are out of here. (Our first flight leaves around 11:30 on Monday).Maybe I will try to call home from Portland. I left my camera and my travel plans back at the residence, so I will definitely try to send another email later.  

I think I should tell you about the Zone Leader traditions that our zone has.  There are a few items that are passed down from zone leaders to zone leaders. These include: A toaster that all of the zone leaders sign, matching ties that all of the zone leaders sign, the sword of Laban, and the hammer of Nephi.

 Here is a funny thing about the Philippines. People who work at places (I don't know how to word this exactly) are trained to call people ma'amsir, just in case they might offend someone, because apparently there are a lot of transvestites etc sa Pilipinas... (But not after I convert them all.) Isn't that wild?

In somewhat unrelated news, I love Tagalog. I can't believe how fast we are learning it here. It really is a very neat language, and it actually reminds me somewhat of Toki Pona (The artificial language that we used to have some fun with in German class), because you can make verbs into nouns and vice versa and all sorts of similar things.  I can't wait to be in the Philippines. (Though it might take longer for your letters to come).  

Mahal ko po kayo!

Elder Benjamin Merrill

Monday, September 23, 2013

More from the MTC

Kumusta kayo?

How is everyone? On the 24th, we are going to move to the West that should be interesting.  I do not yet have my west campus address... I think I might get it on Monday.  I will let you know as soon as I can.  I think you can probably keep sending stuff to the same address. 

I hope things are going ok back home.  

We heard some crazy stories from Brother Lopez about the Philippines, and one thing from Brother Mace. Brother Mace still has clothes that he had made for him in the Philippines, and you can get custom made clothes really cheap there, but I bet Dad already knew that.  Here is one of Brother Lopez's stories about a spider.  There are gigantic spiders (like the size of my fist or maybe slightly smaller) pretty much all over. They mostly just eat mosquitoes and leave humans alone. Brother Lopez calls them house spiders.  Long story short, he and his native companion are eating at a concrete table and this huge spider goes up on the table and gives birth to like a million spider babies who crawl all over the food and stuff. The companion isn't even phased, and continues to eat the food, while Brother Lopez jumps back and lets out a short scream... Sounds nuts, right?  Also,  I just remembered, if you want to see what Brother Mace looks like, search Charlie Mace on  I am pretty sure he is the only one who pops up.  His introduction says something about making films, owning a small business, and long boarding, if I remember correctly.

I think I will be able to eat most of the stuff that I will be served in the Philippines.  We were talking to Brother Lopez, and he said that the only thing that he does't like is dinuguan (blood pudding with innards).  I think I might have trouble with that... Brother Lopez says it is really sour.

So I met another Elder Merrill. He is going to somewhere in South America, I think. We haven't had the opportunity to see an apostle yet, mostly just people from the seventy. I just finished Elder Ballard's book, Our Search for Happiness. I thought it was really good.  The chocolate covered cinnamon bears were awesome, too.  They were actually the entire contents of the welcome package that Mark had for me. 

There is  an elder from Bozeman, Montana, in my zone (He is just two computers down from me right now.) He is super cool just like almost all of the elders in my zone.

 So much great stuff here :) Here are a couple of pictures.  There is one with about half of the group that I play four square with during gym, and the other is of Luke and me.  

I am super excited, two (and maybe a half) weeks to Naga!!

Makal ko kayo!

Elder Benjamin Merrill

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Mahal ko Tagalog!

Kumusta po kayo, Pamiliya ko?

Mahal ko Tagalog!  (I LOVE Tagalog) It is almost as great as English :P It is like they pretty much wanted to make the language really simple. I think what can make it hard to learn is just how different it is from English.  I saw Luke yesterday or Thursday, and that was pretty cool :) (All of the days really blend together... We actually just had two districts in our zone leave on Monday, but it seems like it was forever ago.) I still miss you guys so much, but I feel confident that I am where I am supposed to be.  

Our district has the BEST teachers at the MTC.  I don't know if you remember my first investigator, Felix, but the teacher that played him, Brother Mace is actually a convert and he told us a really neat story about his conversion.  It turns out that he actually is/was Felix.  His parents were always very anti-religion, but he had a best friend who was a member all through high school. His friend was always telling him about the church, and he (Brother Mace) often shared anti-Mormon literature/stuff/etc. with his friend.  One day after a church youth basketball game that his friend invited him to, he went up to his friend's step-father who reffed the game and told him that he had done a good job.  The ref said "Would you like to serve a mission, I'll pay for it?" And this completely shocked Brother Mace.  Brother Mace ended up staying in the gym at that church for like half an hour after the game was over and that's when he knew that there is a God. Isn't that amazing? And so he served a mission in the Philippines San Pablo mission (next to Naga, I think).

 It really is so neat to be here, although I can't wait to get into the field.  I got an email today from President and Sister Reeder who said a few things about the mission, including how we will be flying to Naga from Manila (Can you believe there is an airport in Naga??). I apologize that I don't remember all of the questions you guys asked me in your letters, I put down everything I want to email home about in a notebook, but I forgot the notebook today... oops.  

Jessie's party sounds like it was off of the hook.  I can't believe all the presents! I'd also like to say thanks for all of the packages you have sent me :) I hope that you didn't have to take out a second mortgage on the house to send them to me :P I will maybe try to get a letter on its way to Chandler with more interesting stuff in it.  I wish I had remembered my notebook. 

It has been raining here almost every day this week, and it has been so wonderful! I also found out that they have mosquito nets in most of the missionary apartments in the Philippines now too, so that will be super nice.  I really am so excited to teach real people and to experience a new culture. I am especially excited to ride on a Jeepney.  It is going to be sooooo great.  To answer mom's question about how often I can get on a computer on pday, we can really email whenever we want, and as many times as we want, but we are only supposed to email for one hour.  It used to be 30 minutes, but for some reason, they changed it.  I usually email while my laundry is in the wash, and it looks like my clothes are done, so I will have to continue in a letter or email next week. Thank you so much for all of the letters. They really make my day every day :)
Mahal ko po kayo!!
Elder Benjamin Merrill  

Monday, September 9, 2013

Life in the MTC

Magandang araw!

We finally started doing some grammar... It is a pretty different grammatical structure from English.  They use markers in Tagalog like I've heard that they do in Korean.  Does Korean have focus? They told us that people used to have to be in the MTC for 9 weeks to learn Tagalog, but they somewhat recently switched it to 6 weeks. 

First, my schedule.  We get up at 6:30, get to our classroom around 7:05, study a little and then we go to breakfast. At 8:00 we either take turns teaching an investigator or have class until 11:00. At 11:00 we have personal study until lunch at 12:10 (I feel like all we do is sit and eat :P). Then we have language study from 12:55 until 2:10 when we have more class until dinner at 5:10. We use the time between dinner and gym to get changed. Then gym from 6:20 until 7:10. We then have until 7:50 to get showered and back to a computer lab to do TALL (technology assisted language learning) which ends at 8:50. Then we take about half an hour to plan the next day and go to the residence at 9:30 where we have an hour of personal time before bed. That is our Monday Wednesday schedule. Tuesdays are different because we have devotionals on Tuesday nights, and then things are just in a slightly different order on Thursday and Friday, and then Saturday is P-day and Sunday we have church (almost all day...). Pretty exciting, (and a total run on) right.

Actually, I love my companion!    I think it would be so great if you came to the Philippines. I am just going to let you know that there is no toilet paper in my mission and our mission president said we aren't allowed to drink the soda... I guess the health standards at the local coke bottling plant are not very high...  

This is kind of interesting, they give everyone who is going to the Philippines a water bottle with a filter in it, so though I can't drink the soda, :( I don't have to boil my water :). All of the elders from Kiribati are really funny.  It is really great, :) and they all like to drink red creme soda from the vending machines.  We really haven't learned very much about the culture yet.  I really liked the Lorenzo snow quote from mom that talked about that Godliness can't be given, but must be acquired.  Thank you so much for the packages and letters, and all of the great food :)I suppose that you figured out from my letter that my estimated departure date is actually the 7th of October.  Thank you so much for all the mail.

 It turns out that your investigator becomes your teacher. It was supposed to be a surprise, but  some of the other Elders told us about it, but it was still pretty cool. So Felix's real name is Brother Mace.  So basically our teachers alternate, so usually If we have Brother Mace in the morning, we will have Brother Lopez in the evening.  Brother Mace speaks Tagalog really fast :P Brother Lopez was telling us about how including the spirit in your lessons should come first and then the language, and I agree with that.  I hope Mark is doing well in Germany. I am so jealous that he gets to be out in the field already.

Magmahal ako po ninyo!
Elder Benjamin Merrill

P.S.  I still wish our name tags were in Tagalog. But I guess there is some guy who broke away from the church in the Philippines and started his own church with the same name, and so our church uses the English name of the church on our name tags.  In Tagalog, the name of the church is: Ang Simbahan ni JesuCristo ng mga Banal sa mga Huling Araw.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

First Letter from the MTC!

Hey Everyone!

The MTC has been great so far!  My kasama (companion) is awesome.  His name is Elder Snyder.  He is from Farmington, Utah.  The other companionship of elders in my district is made of Elder Atchley from Gilbert, AZ, (He lives on Elliot and Greenfield.) and Elder Teitawana from the island of Kiribati.

I really miss you guys, but I know everything is going to be ok here and back home.

I actually saw Mark three times, but I haven't had a chance to give him anything from home but the hug from his mom.  I hope you guys all made it home safe and that everything is going well.

Good luck with your first volleyball games for the girls!

I can't wait to learn more Tagalog.  My teachers are great too.

I love you guys so much!

Elder Benjamin Merrill

P.S.  I forgot to mention the sisters in my district.  We have four of them.  I can't remember their names because I haven't spend as much time with them.

P.P.S.  My whole district is going to Naga.