Wednesday, February 26, 2014


Maybe I will give you the latest low-down on a  family we are working with first this week. We went to their house to teach a short lesson about obedience to Heavenly Father's commandments (in preparation to teach the other commandments). The lesson went really well for a long time. All up until Nanay came in with three cups of coffee. This is one of the poorest families that we teach, and they spent what little money they had to buy coffee for us.  They had had a lesson on the word of wisdom in gospel essentials a few weeks ago, but we hadn't taught it yet... Elder Nebeker and I both agreed that it is the most tempted either of us had ever been to break the word of wisdom. It was a really crazy situation, and Tatay understood why we couldn't drink it, but we aren't sure if Nanay did, because Tatay didn't come to church this week and we haven't been able to teach them since. They just haven't been home. We did see Tatay on his padyak the other day, and went and said hi though. Definitely a tough situation.

I'm glad to hear that things are going pretty well at home. I'm actually kind of sad that I missed the gun show. (and definitely the pizza too). I am excited to try out those exploding targets though, that sounds pretty sweet. I really miss pizza though. Hopefully we will be able to make it to Shakey's (a pizza place in Naga) sometime soon.

We actually bought a pineapple the other day and put it in fried rice. Eating the part that we didn't put in the rice was one of the best experiences of my life. That pineapple was so good. It almost brought me to tears. The rice was good too.

I really like the distorted prism of pessimism quote. That is really true. If we expect things to be bad, they probably will be. It is really tough to get out of the pattern of pessimism. It really just is a vicious cycle of negative thoughts and negative happenings.

The seminary pie object lesson sounded really neat too. That is really true about eating the pie off of the floor. It is really sad when people are so willing to eat the pie off of the floor so to speak. That is a really powerful analogy.

I feel like I don't really have much more to say. We are just pushing along here, and continuing the work. I hope everyone there has a good week.
I love you guys tons!

Ben with a coconut


I'm sorry to say that I haven't gotten the package yet... I will definitely be able to get it when we have our next zone training the first week of March, or if we have a reason to go to the office before then. The mail is just pretty slow getting here... I am super excited to get the mail though. I will have to let you guys know if there is anything else that I would like in the next package. Thank you so much for sending me stuff. I really, really appreciate it.

I'm glad to hear that everyone is doing pretty well there. It's too bad how hot it is there already, though it is getting pretty hot here too. You just have to pray for appointments in the early afternoon or do language study then.

Valentines day is actually bigger than you might think here. We were in Naga to withdraw that night, and we actually saw a lot of couples with flowers and stuffed animals etc etc.

I have started the Old Testament, but I have been somewhat more focused on studying specifically for our investigators lately, so I haven't made too much progress there. I will let you know about anything interesting I come across for sure though.

The main referral we got last week has invited us back, and she seems like she is really going to progress. She hadn't yet prayed about Joseph Smith when we last visited her, but she says that she really likes what she has heard/ read about our church (from our pamphlets etc). She actually prayed for us while we were there last time too, so I think that will make her more likely to read and pray on her own. I really felt the Spirit when she prayed though, and I think she even cried a little bit as she was praying. I know she felt it too. I am so excited to see how she progresses. She also told us that she is going to need a dictionary to be able to read through the Book of Mormon. Just goes to show how deep the Tagalog is that they use in it. I will keep you updated on her story.

I am super excited for the new temple!  I can't believe how many people were there. That is so neat.
I think we are still stuck halfway through lesson 1 in the manual... Elders Quorum here just goes slower, I guess. That sounds like a neat lesson though. I will look forward to it. I really love the role of families in Heavenly Father's plan. The family has been around as long as we have, all the way back to Adam and Eve. I just love their story. It always makes me happy to think of the decisions they made so that we could come to Earth. They must have been really good people. Then, to think about how long our family relationships will last is also amazing. I forget where the verse is exactly, but it is in the D&C, and it says something to the effect that the same relationships that we have with others here on Earth will be the ones we have with them in heaven.

I hope you guys all have a really good week this week. I might try to get a letter off in the mail for you guys in the next few weeks if that's ok. 
                                                                                     A beach in Calbanga

Sunday, February 16, 2014


It is really starting to get hot here, and I mean hot. March and April are supposed to be the worst, so I am really looking forward to that.
I figured out the Ether Moroni thing when I was reading in Ether (I think that was the one I was reading at the time). It seemed like Moroni talked for a long time about how he was supposed to be the one to translate the Jaredite plates etc. and so I couldn't help but wonder why he talked about it for so long. It then hit me how similar their situations really were, and how that must have been the reason, di ba? (right?)
Buko juice is the juice from a buko. It is coconut water. Buko is the word for the young green coconut. It is quite an honor to be told I am "bikolano now." Maybe we will find you and Dad some sili (hot peppers) to eat when you come pick me up and you can become honorary Bikolanos too.

It is great to see Elder Snyder a lot. We are really good friends now. He is a really good missionary.. His companion is a Filipino. There are definitely a lot of different churches here, but I haven't really run into many Muslims.
I am glad to hear that everyone liked the pics :) and that everyone agrees that I have lost weight. Elder Snyder and I were looking at old pics today and he said the same thing. It must be true. Rats and spiders are definitely very yucky.
The only fruits that I have seen growing around are coconuts and bananas, but I don't really see bananas that often. I know that kids like to find sugar cane and eat that (or rather suck out all of the sugar). That is pretty good stuff actually. (My guess is that that doesn't count as fruit though.) We usually just buy fruit from the palengke (sp) (market). You can get just about any kind of fruit: apples, oranges, pineapple, coconut, mango, calamansi, all the regulars... I also walk past countless ricefields every day too.
I really liked the thoughts you shared from your RS lesson. It really is true that if we put Heavenly Father first, then we will love him, and therefore keep his commandments. The John 14:15 scripture kind of puts a reverse spin on 1 Nephi 11:17. We know that He gives us commandments because he loves us, and we should show our love back to him by keeping them.
I have kind of a neat story about how everything worked out with a lady who was  a referral. We planned on just going over to her house to meet her for the first time and share a message about the restoration of the gospel. When we got to her house, she had about seven of her friends there to listen to our message too. It was really amazing that she was willing to invite a bunch of her friends to listen to us. I think that really is the power of working with members. People are so much more likely to trust or even just to be comfortable with the missionaries when they have a friend there that they trust. I'm not really sure how much all of her friends will progress. I have hope for some of them, but I really have a lot of hope for the referral herself. She really likes what we have shared with her so far, and is going to continue to let us teach her. I am really excited to see how this works out.

Elder Benjamin Merrill

Friday, February 7, 2014


Dad's Chinese New Year themed email reminded me of my Chinese New Year's Day. We actually started off the day with a service project for one of the sisters' recent converts. We dug out a garden for them and planted some kamote. I am not really sure if it has another name in English or not. That is what we call it here. It is kind of like a potato. Wikipedia tells me it is the same as a sweet potato, but I disagree. Basta, we ended up spending most of the day there, because the sister who we did the service for kept cooking us more and more food. (Which was really good, I might add. We had one chicken and papaya thing, then jackfruit, and finally pansit.) We also got to chew sugarcane and drink buko juice, and eat sili peppers (that's hot stuff). One of the people who we did the service for said to me, "Bikolano ka na!" when she saw me in pain from the pepper I ate. It really was hot. That means, 'you're Bikolano now', by the way. After that, we had to hurry home and then back to Naga to withdraw. The really cool thing was that while we were in Naga, they were shooting off a bunch of fireworks for New Year's. It was really cool.

I also got to go on exchanges with Elder Snyder this week. It was really cool to work with him again. He is a really hard worker and loves the work.

I think I will tell a little story of one of our investigator couples. I'm not 100% sure how exactly we got in contact with them, but I think they just came to church one week or something like that. Pretty cool, right? The husband is 85 years old, and the wife is of similar age too, so they are super old, but still really active and have lots of questions for us. I think they have come to church about every week I've been here, so they are ready to be baptized in that regard, but they still go to church at the Iglesia ni Cristo... We don't think they really have any intention of leaving their old church right now either. I think that the Spirit will soften their hearts eventually, especially because they are so willing to come to church and to hear our message. 

Maybe I will give you a little background on the Iglesia ni Cristo now too. I'm not exactly sure what they believe, but I know that it was started by a man who used to be a member of our church. The story goes that he graduated from BYU and then he wanted to be made prophet, which of course didn't happen. He then proceeded to create his own church with some of the beliefs of our church and some other beliefs. Their churches are all over the place. They are definitely great and spacious buildings. 

On a happier note, I wanted to talk about another one of the connections I made while I was reading the Book of Mormon this time around. It is from Ether. There is a part where Moroni talks about how no one was allowed to translate the Jaredite plates until his time (or something like that), and so I had to wonder why that was. I think the reason is that it was a great blessing for Moroni to be able to be the one who translated the plates. I think this because of the similarities between his story and that of Ether. They were both hiding from their own wicked, warring people, and hiding in places like the cavity of a rock, etc. I think it must have been neat for Moroni to read the story of someone in such a similar predicament to his.

I love this work, and I know that it is our Heavenly Father's work here on the earth. Mahal ko yung trabaho ko dito sa Pilipinas, at alam ko na ito ang trabaho ng Diyos dito sa Mundo. Alam ko na mahal Niya tayo, at na sa pamamamagitan ni Jesus Christ at Kanyang Pagbabayad-sala, puwede tayong makabalik sa piling ng Diyos pagkatapos ng buhay na ito. Sobrang nagpapasalamat ako para doon.

I love you guys!

Elder Benjamin Merrill


Everything  has been pretty normal this week. We made some really good chicken adobo. We also went to the beach as a district too. The beach was really pretty here, there were millions of seashells there. I think the girls would have really liked that, plus, we were like the only people there, so that was cool. We spend most of our time playing a really fun card game called pasuwedos (I really don't know how to spell that one), but it is really fun. We also played a game that was basically Old Maid. Here they call it Unggoy-Unggoy (Which means Monkey-Monkey), because instead of the loser being called an old maid, they are called a monkey.

I also finished my reading of the Book of Mormon this week. It was really neat to read the whole thing though in such a short time. I think it is wonderful that we get so much time to study the scriptures here in the mission field. It really strengthened my testimony, and I made so many connections that I hadn't made before.  I plan to read through the whole Bible next and then the Doctrine and Covenants.
I hope you are ready for me to come back a chef. (I already know how to cook rice.)

Love you all!
Elder Benjamin Merrill


I was just informed that we are going to have to leave for a dinner appointment in like ten minutes or so, so I am really sorry that this email is going to have to be so short. We do use the same book as you guys do for Elders Quorum and Relief Society. I am super excited for you guys and the temple open house. I think it will be a really neat experience for the girls.

 I think I will tell you about the rats in our house. We actually caught like three of them in the last two and a half days. One was almost as big as both of my fists put together. We burn them with our alcohol that we use for cleaning our hands. 

The work is going really well in this area too, and I love my district. The activity up at the falls was amazing. I had the opportunity to baptize someone for the first time too, which was really neat. I really felt like almost out of time, like away from the whole concept of it. I am so thankful for the opportunity to serve the people here. I hope everyone at home is doing well. I miss you guys tons and I love you so much. I apologize again for the short letter.

Love you all tons!!
Elder Benjamin Merrill