Monday, August 10, 2015

These Are Crazy Times We Live In 8/10/2015

I can't believe I will be seeing you guys on Thursday. I don't really have much to say. Life is going to be really diffferent (with three fs) when I get back. The baptism went over really well this last week and the members put together a little farewell gathering for me.. It was pretty nice. It is going to be really hard to leave... But I guess I don't really have much of a choice. It was really exciting to hear about Mark coming home. It makes me excited, even though I am pretty nervous to speak... At least it's in English... Maybe I will just give my talk in Tagalog. I can't really think of anything else too exciting. We spend the night at the mission home tonight and tomorrow night and then we head to Manila. Crazy times!! I love you guys so much!

Alam ko na ang simbahan ni Jesucristo ng mga banal sa mga huling araw ang tunay na simbahan ni Jesucristo at na ipinanumbalik siya sa panahon natin sa pamamagitan ng isang propeta ng Diyos na si Joseph Smith. Alam ko na ang Aklat ni Mormon ay galing mismo sa ating panginoon at na maaari din nating malaman ang katotohanan ng Aklat ni Mormon sa pamamagitan ng tunay na pagsasaliksik at taos pusong panalangin.

Mahal ko kayo at excited na akong makita kayo sa Huwebes.

Magkita na lang tayo sa airport


Elder Merrill

Sunday, August 2, 2015


I have so many feelings this week. I am really starting to feel like I am going home next week. It is kind of exciting and kind of sad. I guess the biggest news is that Rose is going to get baptized this Saturday :) We are really excited for her. She is super ready! We are so glad that we met her. She is definitely an answer to our prayers. I also got to baptize one of the sisters' investigators, J. He has a super strong testimony. It was so neat to be a part of his baptism.

This week was super busy... We got to go to one of the sisters' farther away areas to interview one of their investigators, we had zone conference, and of course, we celebrated my birthday. The zone conference was actually on my birthday, so that was kind of cool. I got to see a lot of other missionaries on my birthday. We had a little celebration on Friday night at Bishop's house. I had some pizza delivered and the sisters surprised me with a cake. It was really fun :) I was really surprised that the sisters brought a cake. Some of it even got on my face as you will see in the pictures. My birthday was super awesome.

Despite all of the crazy business, we were able to find some new people to teach. The first that we found is E, an older man who we just tracted into. He is really kind and willing to listen to us. It is really refreshing. The second is actually married to a member. V's wife is a member who is super active. He just got back from doing construction work in Zambia. He seems really kind and is definitely very quiet. He has investigated the church before, but usually gets interrupted when he has to go back to work in zambia. Hopefully things will go through for him. It would be really good for their family. They are about your age (mom and dad's age) and have two kids. Our last set of new investigators were a member referral (YES! :D). One of the family members is a member's girlfriend. they are both about 17. I see good things to come for my replacement here in Pili.

We actually received some sad news from L this week as well.  He told us that he needs some time to think and that he will probably be able to make a decision about baptism in January. Kind of sad. He is willing to keep letting us visit him though. We are going to just try to read the Book of Mormon with him. I think that will help clear up his mind about things :)

That's about it for this week.
I can't wait to see you guys!
This whole mission thing went by way too fast.
Love you tons and have a good week!

Elder Merrill

July 27, 2015

The t-shirts turned out super awesome. I will send pics next week or just show it to you when I get home. :) We had a church tour/ meet the mormons viewing. It was pretty good. (before I forget, I wasn't able to get contacts. They were super expensive here. I think it might be better to get them at home). Anyway, The activity was pretty good. We ended up having a pretty decent attendance. Bishop's wife even had some meet the mormons t shirts printed. It was super stressful. We had to decorate about half of the rooms for the church tour.

We had a less successful week as far as finding goes. We got a lot of referrals from an older man last last week and finaly got around to contacting them this week. None of them were really interested... We kind of spent a ton of time with it so it was kind of disappointing, but it's ok. R is doing super great. She is completely committed to her baptism on the 8th of august. We just have to teach all of the lessons and get the zone leaders over here for an interview and she will be sitting pretty :) She is definitely an answer to my prayers and maybe yours too. It is such a miracle that Bishop's family hired her just in time for us to be able to teach her before I leave :) She always reads her assignments and does the things she needs to do to progress. She is a wonderful example of obedience. I know that as we obey God's commandments, he will bless us with knowledge about those commandments and about any of our other concerns. (John 7:17 and Ether 12:6) Commitments are a vital part of spiritual learning.

L wasn't able to make it to church this week, which was kind of sad. We still haven't been able to contact him, but we think he might have a concern about his family. We actually started teaching his son a few weeks ago (we haven't been able to teach them together because of their schedules). J (Lester's son) told us this week that he can't keep listening to us because his aunt told him that he has to stay catholic because he was born catholic. This might have affected tatay l as well. We're not really sure... kinda sad. I had a cool experience that night though... We helped a member prepare to teach a lesson on Sunday and I got to drive his padyak (pedicab) on our way home. It is harder than it looks. I ended up running into a papery kind of sign before we made it all the way to the highway... The army guy who was standing by the sign had a good laugh. After we made it through the sign we went off of the road. It was pretty funny and the padyak and my companion and the member are all ok. We all thought it was pretty funny.

We got caught in a rainstorm while walking between appointments and took shelter under the nearest roof. The
family who lived in the house came and said hello to us. As it turns out the owner of the house is American. He was vicious. He immediately recognized us as Mormons. I tried to start a light conversation about how he likes the Philippines. He didn't really want to talk about anything other than the fact that he thinks our religion is false. It all started when I asked him if he has ever met any Mormons and what he thinks of our beliefs. The first thing that he told us was that our religion is false. (very unfilipino heheheh). He then proceeded to tell us about all of his degrees and army experience and how we need to study more before we can teach him about anything. He told us about why the Book of Mormon is false and about the falsehood of several of our other beliefs. It turned in to a really long, one-sided conversation. It left me with a really bad taste in my mouth... He was nice enough to pray for us at the end so that we would be saved though. It makes me glad that I came on my mission here. I actually forgot to tell you guys about the two Austrian girls we met on a jeep last week. They also made me glad I am here in the Philippines on my mission. They didn't speak a lot of English, but they knew all of the bad words. Yikes. I really love the Philippines. The people here are so nice. I feel like something I have learned from the people here is to put the feelings of others above our own. It is really important that we are always kind to others even when they have made bad decisions. I just remember the Savior's example with the adulteress. It is a wonderful example of unconditional love and forgiveness. I will have to work on this maybe with the American that we met. I don't think we are going back there anytime soon though.

Hopefully that paragraph wasn't too hard to follow. I can't believe how soon I will be coming back. I am really excited to see you guys. I am really going to miss it here though... It's coming so fast!

I love you guys tons!
Have a good week.
Elder Merrill

Monday, July 20, 2015

Sorry, This Is Going to be Kind of Short July 20, 2015

I think this email might be kind of short. We are designing a t shirt for our district today and making flyers for the church activity we are planning to have on saturday. We are planning on having a short church tour and then watching Meet the Mormons. Hopefully it will go over well. It is really hard to plan things well sometimes.

This week was pretty good and not really too unusual. We just keep moving along. R was able to come to church as well as C (I'm not sure if I have told you about him, but he is a 17 yr old who has been investigating for almost a whole year.) Tatay L wasn't able to make it to church this week because he started having back problems a day or two ago. He should be able to make it next week though :) We are also teaching his son now, which is great. He is doing really well and has friends at church already.

I hope you guys have an awesome week! I love you tons! Don't have too much fun visiting family without me!

Elder Merrill

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Awesome Week July 13, 2015

Almost everyone we expected to come to church came this week. It is super exciting. Even R came. It was the first time he's been to church since we started teaching him. Pretty exciting stuff. L came too. He brought one of his children this time. I think they both had an ok time. L is really great and even participates in lessons at church. It is really cool. We think his baptism will go through a week or two before I go home. We just have to teach him all of the lessons :) We had one other investigator come to church as well. R is a referral from Bishop. She is what they call a katulong. She helps with Bishop's brand new baby. She is like a house help or something like that. She has been to church twice now. We were able to teach her last week and are going back tonight. She is a really nice lady.

We also had another exciting experience. I had the opportunity to baptize one of the sisters' investigators. There were a few problems with communication where we thought the ward mission leader was going to tell the people on the program that they were on the program. It didn't end up happening that way, so with some last minute planning, we made it to the baptism and the rest is history. I baptized brother G whose parents and older brother are members. G has a strong testimony and a desire to serve a mission. I hope he follows through on his plan to serve a mission. The mission is just a really good place to become a better you (Cheesy?). It's definitely true. I've learned so much.

We found a handful of new people this week, but none of the stories are really too exciting. We just keep doing our part to talk to everyone and the blessings come. :)

I can't really think of anything else to say. I am really nervous to go home... and excited. It is exciting to think about it, but also scary. I think Dad might regret signing me up for an economics class. (I was excited to see it on my schedule though :) ) I might end up going into a career similar to Dad's. hehehe... That schedule looks pretty exciting :) I'm going to have to get used to doing homework again... yikes. :P

Anyway, I love you tons and I hope you get to see the pics on onedrive :)
Have a good week!!

Elder Merrill
ps one of my other roommates is currently serving in tahiti. His father replied and gave me his missionary email address. He gets back around the same time as me. cool beans...

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Great Week July 6, 2015

This week was pretty great. I think the best part was our sacrament meeting. It was really nice. Bishop blessed his new baby and a lot of really neat testimonies were borne. One of the sisters' investigators even bore testimony. He talked about how he feels the Spirit when the missionaries teach, when he goes to church and when he reads the Book of Mormon. It was really neat. There were a few other recent converts that bore testimony. It was really neat to see a lot of strong recent converts. It seems like too many fall through the cracks.. One of the other highlights of the sacrament meeting was that L came to church :) He even got there before we did. We were super excited to see him. We were able to introduce him to a lot of members. He really wants to follow the commandments.

We also had some success in finding. As we continue to talk to those who are placed in our path, we are blessed to find those who are ready for our message. We actually found two families this week. It was a great blessing. We aren't exactly sure how interested they are, but they are willing to listen. It will be interesting to see how things go.

I also have some sad news to report about the family we baptized when I first got to Pili. It turns out that their address is actually in the boundaries of a different ward. We are going to go show the elders in their ward where their house is. It will actually be really good for them, because transportation will be cheaper. We will definitely miss them though.

I can't really think of anything else to add. I am planning on getting the contacts today. I am glad to hear that you guys all survived the raid bomb. I really can't wait to see you guys. But boy am I going to miss this place... It's not going to be easy to leave... good thing I have some time left here :)

That's about it for this week.

I love you tons!
Have a great week!
Elder Merrill

Monday, June 29, 2015

6 more weeks June 28. 2015

It is a pretty crazy feeling. I start my last transfer cycle in the mission today. The zone leaders didn't call this morning, which means I'm not getting transferred. I'm going to be staying here in Pili. I am pretty glad to still be here. We are going to keep working super hard and maybe we will see some miracles here in Pili :)

I don't feel like I have too much to write about. The zone leaders came and worked here in Pili on tuesday, which was kind of fun. We were able to do a ton of finding. It was really good and we have a lot more people to teach in one of our areas now. We were also able to teach R. He is doing pretty well.

Other than R, we have two progressing investigators. One is L. He is around 55-60 years old and is super nice. He is a night guard at an elementary school. He is super nice and always accepts commitments and reads assignments. He was even planning on going to church, but texted us on sunday morning that he was sick and wouldn't be able to come. We think he will be able to make it next week.

Our last progressing investigator is L. Her grandfather is a member who is somewhat less active because they don't have a lot of money to pay for transportation. L is about 17 years old and is a college student. (college starts a little earlier here). She is really willing to read and pray and do what it takes to get an answer to her prayers. It is just hard for them to make it to church. We are really excited for her and our other investigators.

That is about it for our week. Things are going pretty well and I am doing my best to stay focused on the work. Hopefully we can help our investigators to understand the importance of church attendance.

Love you tons :)
Have an awesome week!
Elder Merrill

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Stake Conference, Road Closures, and More June 15, 2015

This week was pretty good. and also pretty normal.

We had two lessons this week though that I would consider to be breakthrough lessons. The first was with our investigator named C. C is from an area that is pretty far away and has been taught by the missionaries for about a year. He feels like getting baptized is the right choice for him, but he doesn't feel ready and has a sister who is pretty opposed to him getting baptized... He is really good friends with a member though, which is really great because he is able to ride to church with them. We had an awesome lesson where we found out that he hasn't really been reading his scriptures lately. We read Alma 32 about the how exercising our faith is like planting a seed. We talked about all of the things that he needs to do to prepare for his baptism like praying, reading, going to church, and following the other commandments. He wasn't able to make it to church this week because of the road closure though...

They closed the main highway here in pili for a triathlon this sunday... really bad timing... It was also the day of our stake conference... I guess the stake president didn't know about it or something... The 10 or so members of our ward who actually went to the conference ended up having to get up between 4 and 5 am to make it to the church on time. (We just spent the night at the zone leaders' house on saturday.) They did end up getting a shout out from the stake president though because they cleaned up the church before everyone got there. Pretty sweet. The stake conference was pretty good though. It was actually a broadcast. We didn't get to hear the first half because we gave up our seats to members, but they finally got a tv hooked up for us in one of the back rooms towards the end of the conference and we got to hear Elder Andersen speak. It was really good. The things he suggested could definitely help the church here, but I just don't know how much the people here understood... They try really hard to understand the english.

Our other breakthrough lesson happened this Friday. We have been teaching R for a little while now. They just moved into our area from the sisters area about a month ago. He has tried a lot of different churches, but is most recently coming from the Iglesia ni Cristo. He has a lot of concerns and questions about our doctrine and really wants to know every little detail. He also hasn't ever read his assignments while we weren't there... What made our lesson so great this week was that we brought a member with us. Moises, our philosopher friend came with us and talked a lot about his conversion story. Moises was an atheist for a really long time before he joined the church. He talked about the power of the Book of Mormon and the importance of the Spirit in his conversion which was key for R to understand. He was kind of looking for evidence from the bible for every doctrine that we teach and not really paying much attention to what we said about the Spirit. It was really great and before we left, he told us that he was really going to read his assignment. YES! We were so happy to hear about that. There is just such a huge difference from looking at the gospel from an intellectual perspective to looking at it from a spiritual perspective. We just won't gain the strong testimony that we need if we only think about the gospel, we need to receive that witness from the Spirit and do the things that will help us to have the Spirit with us always.

Other than that, things seem like they are going pretty slow here... It always seems like we have so many people to visit, but never enough time to do it... and I know we need to be finding others too. It is kind of stressful, but very rewarding as well.

The greenie is doing pretty well. He Is way better off than I was during my training because he already knows the language. He is already great at teaching and fearless in finding. He just has a hard time being bold sometimes maybe because of his culture. I know he just doesn't want to hurt anyone's feelings. It is a wonderful thing to be considerate of others, but you sometimes have to ask the hard questions as a missionary. It is definitely part of our calling to call others to repentance.

Everything is going pretty ok here. I guess our area is just kinda big. That might be just about the only problem here. It is hard to get to everyone and to keep finding. We'll take care of it though :) I really like dad's advice. Love is what missionary work is all about. I know that if we really love the Savior, we will go and do everything he asks of us and will be able to work miracles.

Love you tons!
Have a great week!

Elder Merrill

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Another Great Week May 29, 2015

This week was good. We had been having some problems with just having to run all over the place all the time to get to different teaching appointments and we just couldn't find time to knock on doors and talk to people on the street. This week we were very blessed to have a lot of time on Friday to just walk around and talk to people all over the place. It was great and we got to meet a few cool new people. We are still working on contacting most of them. There was one though that was really neat.

He is really nice and was really willing to work with us on scheduling an appointment with us. We were able to teach him last night. He is about 30 years old, has three children, works as a security guard and has psoriasis. He has a really strong belief in God and prays a lot for help coping with his psoriasis. I think his psoriasis has been a blessing for him in some ways. I feel like he is really prepared for our message. The lesson started in a pretty funny way though. He brought us out some coffee to drink... We had to just put it down next to us. I could tell my comp was kinda nervous about it. He was pretty nice about us not drinking it though. We just shared a little bit of an overview of The Restoration. He was a little worried when we mentioned baptism and explained to us that he and his children were already baptized. He asked if he would have to be baptized again. He said that would be fine, but he wants to hear what we have to say before we makes any decisions about baptism. I am super excited to see where things go.

We are still teaching the other children in the family that we baptized when I first got here. Things have been kind of slow and they haven't been to church in a while... But nanay has been in manila for a while too, so hopefully they will come back to church when nanay comes home this week. They said that nanay is going to church there in manila though, which is good.

To answer mom's question about restaurants, there are a few in centro which are kinda more expensive like jollibee, graceland, and bigg's diner. We don't usually eat at places like that more than once a week. There are actually tons of little eateries around here though and the prices are a lot better. There are actually a bunch of new ones open around our house because school just started today. Usually you can get a vegetable dish for about 10 - 15 pesos and/or one with meat for about 25 - 35 pesos. Usually that is what we do for lunch and then we just cook our own rice at home. Good stuff. We haven't really cooked anything too exciting recently... Just squash, upo(I don't know the english of this one) and other veggies like string beans.

I can definitely testify to the importance of finding in the mission. I am not happy when I am not finding. It has caused me a lot of stress recently. I am a lot happier now :) Thank goodness for hard work.

I love you tons!
Don't have too much fun this summer without me!

Elder Benj Merrill

Monday, May 25, 2015

Another Insanely Crazy Awesome Week of Misson Awesomeness May 25, 2015

There is so much I want to say this week, but so little time to say it in... My new companion is Elder Lanuza from Cainta, Rizal. He is from right by Manila. He's actually my first companion who dosen't know another dialect from here in the philippines. He is pure tagalog. He is really nice and has a strong desire to find. And to cook... which is nice. I've kind of been lazy about cooking recently. It just takes a lot of time... Our district actually just got smaller... and it is kind of sad... There are only four of us. I really hope it gets bigger next transfer though... It is kind of lonely here with just four of us.

I've noticed here that almost all of the people want to do good things and to help others. This is a really good thing, but it can be a problem when it comes to religion. We had a really sad experience when teaching a less active family this week who went back to their old religion (I heard that they originally stopped going to church because they were offended by a member). They just kept telling us that all you have to do is keep the commandments and put the Lord first in your life and you will be saved. They just don't understand that doing good won't get us all the way there. Heavenly Father has provided us with a way to come back to his presence and if we don't follow his plan we simply can't do that. We have to have faith in Jesus Christ, repent, be baptized, receive the Holy Ghost, and Endure to the End. There's no other way. I think people just get confused when they know they are doing something good. They forget that they could be doing something better. We really have a debt to our Savior and we can't pay it back by being good. We can't cancel out our sins with our good deeds. We must follow the Gospel if we want to be forgiven of our sins.

I think this sort of confusion happens to missionaries too. They forget the fact that they promised to serve and obey and give their all... I think a lot figure that it is ok to hold back because, after all they are still finding and teaching and baptizing and that is still something good. It is good to do good, but I feel like we have a responsibility to do more than that.

Thanks for listening to all of that.

In other news, I feel like the work has been going kind of slow. Elder Lanuza and I are doing great though here in Pili. I am so thankful to be his companion. He has a great desire to find people to teach, which is exactly what our area needs. I feel like the biggest problem with our area is that the people we teach are so spread out which creates a big problem when we make plans to teach someone and they aren't home for the appointment we set. We plan on working hard to find, find, find when this happens. I'm not really too excited about the prospect of finding more people to teach in far away areas, so we are going to focus on our closer areas first. It is kind of frustrating when we walk forever to get to a teaching appointment only to find that no one is home or they are busy and things like that. I really feel like our area has so much potential. It is huge and there are a lot of places that I don't think get visited a lot by the missionaries, so that could be good.

I am super excited to see you guys in just a few months. It is going by so fast. I will definitely miss the mission too though. It is a weird feeling being so close.

Well, I hope you guys have a good week :)
Love you tons!

Elder Merrill

Monday, May 18, 2015

Crazy Week May 18, 2015

This week was really crazy... 

I guess I will start with what we know about transfers. Elder Tiongco will be leaving Pili and I am going to be training a brand new missionary. Pretty exciting, right? I also know that my new comp will be filipino because there are no foreigners coming into the mission this transfer. I think it will be a pretty cool experience to train. It also means that Pili will almost definitely be my last area. Training is generally a three month assignment, so I will probably be with my next companion for the rest of my mission. Hope he's nice :)

This week started out pretty normal... It all started when we got a text from President Reeder. He made plans to work with us on thursday. We were both pretty excited for the opportunity to have President work with us... until the sisters called on Wednesday afternoon. The sisters told me about some crazy disobedience that they heard that some elders did.... super nuts... They asked if I would talk to president about it when he came to work with us. It's just hard to tell on people or something like that.  I was able to tell President and we ended up calling the elders and asking about what they had done (I had  the joy of translating the whole thing). It is just really sad to have to be a part of discipline and correction in the mission. I wish everyone would just follow the rules...

We also had a couple of service projects this week which was alright. At one of them, we cleared out this huge field of old cassava and sweet potato plants for the patriarch who lives in our area. It was really tiring, but really rewarding and they fed us an awesome lunch. The lunch was set up like that thing we saw at the jeepney bistro before. At  our service project, there was a pile of fish, a pile of rice and a pot with vegetables (string beans and squash cooked in coconut milk), and everyone just eats with their hands. It was delicious. The other service project involved planting coconut tree saplings. 

If you can believe it, in addition to all of that other stuff, we had a baptism too. It was just another one of the crazy experiences we had this week. Our investigator (one of the children in the family that we baptized a few weeks ago) showed up over an hour and a half late... I think they just had trouble with transportation or something like that. It was a nice service and I will try to get the pictures up next week. 

That is really just about all of the exciting stuff that happened this week. Transfers should be interesting. I will probably pick up my new companion on wednesday. The other elders here in pili got pulled out and their area closed because so many missionaries are going home this transfer and so few are coming in. Our district will probably get a lot bigger this transfer and we might start having district meetings in naga.

I love you all tons! 
Have an awesome week.

Elder Merrill

Monday, May 4, 2015

Pili Week 4 May 4, 2015

I thought it might be kind of interesting if I told you about some of the things I eat. I've kind of been getting into squash. It is very delicious. I discovered how delicious it is by means of pakbet. I'm not sure exactly how to describe it, but has squash, eggplant, okra, string beans, and sometimes ampalaya (bitter melon), and a little bit of pork. I don't really like the bitter melon, but it is ok if it's in there... It is super good and elder Tiongco is a really good cook. I will have to learn to make it so you can try it when I get home. 

This week was better than the past few weeks but not without turbulence. Dad's guess was correct that I am the District Leader here. It's a lot more work than I thought :P 

Sometimes it is really tough dealing with disobedience or with missionaries who just aren't focused on their purpose. Our calling is a huge thing and I think that some missionaries just don't understand it sometimes. It makes me kind of sad and worried for them and for the souls that they could be saving. I think a lot of missionaries just see a mission as two years of suffering that one must endure in order to gain rm status etc, but I really think there is more to it than that. I definitely feel a difference when I put everything into the work. It is one of the best feelings there is. Just complete satisfaction and peace. I still think often about what mom said in her email the other week about how she has to be able to look in the mirror and feel good when she prays.There are definitely a few things to work out, and I feel kind of distanced from the members here (maybe because I am the only american). Maybe things will just get better with time in that department.

This Saturday was amazing though. We went on splits so we could cover two areas in one day. I got to go with a member who is about 21 years old. He actually served a short term mission a few transfers ago, but was not approved to serve a mission because of his disability. He still carries around a white handbook and planner when he works with the missionaries. He is really willing to work hard as well. We walked forever and did some good street contacting and tracting. Through these finding efforts we ran into a man who let us right in to teach even though we had woken him up (filipinos like afternoon naps). He told us about how he and his wife had both seen us and that his wife told him that she was interested in listening to our message. Next time we are going to try and go when the wife is there. I am super excited to see where this goes. Dallin and I had a super successful day. 

I'd also like to share something I shared in our district meeting this week about obedience. It is the story of Captain Naaman getting healed from his leprosy. I'll put it in here so you can read it.
1 Now Naaman, captain of the host of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master, and honourable, because by him the Lord had given deliverance unto Syria: he was also a mighty man in valour, but he was a leper.
 2 And the Syrians had gone out by companies, and had brought away captive out of the land of Israel a little maid; and she waited on Naaman’s wife.
 3 And she said unto her mistress, Would God my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria! for he would recover him of his leprosy.
 4 And one went in, and told his lord, saying, Thus and thus said the maid that is of the land of Israel.
 5 And the king of Syria said, Go to, go, and I will send a letter unto the king of Israel. And he departed, and took with him ten talents of silver, and six thousand pieces of gold, and ten changes of raiment.
 6 And he brought the letter to the king of Israel, saying, Now when this letter is come unto thee, behold, I have therewith sent Naaman my servant to thee, that thou mayest recover him of his leprosy.
 7 And it came to pass, when the king of Israel had read the letter, that he rent his clothes, and said, Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man doth send unto me to recover a man of his leprosy? wherefore consider, I pray you, and see how he seeketh a quarrel against me.
 8 ¶And it was so, when Elisha the man of God had heard that the king of Israel had rent his clothes, that he sent to the king, saying, Wherefore hast thou rent thy clothes? let him come now to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel.
 9 So Naaman came with his horses and with his chariot, and stood at the door of the house of Elisha.
 10 And Elisha sent a messenger unto him, saying, Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean.
 11 But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the Lord his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper.
 12 Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them, and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage.
 13 And his servants came near, and spake unto him, and said, My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean?
 14 Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.
 15 ¶And he returned to the man of God, he and all his company, and came, and stood before him: and he said, Behold, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel: now therefore, I pray thee, take a blessing of thy servant.
We really need to follow the teachings of the prophets just like those found in the white handbook. I think sometimes we think we can do things our own way or the way we were used to doing them before the mission and bathe in the rivers of Syria so to speak, but we will miss out on blessings this way. We won't be cured of our spiritual leprosy. I really learned a lot from this story.

I felt like most of the missionaries weren't really listening to my message, but one of the other elders came up after the meeting and told me how much he appreciated the message which really made me feel better.
Things really are going better now though. We actually had a district activity today where we went to a resort up in the mountains. We ate, played games, and hung out with members. It wasn't too shabby. One of our recent converts came with us. I spent a lot of time talking to him. He is 29 years old and has a degree in philosophy. He really appreciates the fact that I am familiar with philosophy (thanks, humane letters....). 
I hope you have a great week,
love you tons!
Elder Merrill
ps. Happy Birthday Again to Emma!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

I'm in Pili Now! April 13,2015

I'm back in Camarines Sur. We are in the Capital. We are about twenty minutes east (I think ) of Naga. We have a ward here too, so that should be a nice change of pace from Basud. It is nice to have our own chapel. The area is really close to Isarog which is pretty cool too. I will have to get some pics. My new companion's name is Elder Tiongco. He is from Davao, one of the biggest cities in the Philippines. He is really nice.

The work seems like it is going pretty well. We have at least four baptisms lined up for April 18th. Pretty sweet. I'm excited to start finding like crazy.

The other night after our planning, I don't know why, but I just started singing hymns by myself at my desk. The first hymn I opened to really struck me. It was number 165, "Abide with me, 'tis eventide". The lyrics really comforted me. It just reminded me that I'm never alone even though I am all the way here in the Philippines in a new place with new people around me.

1. Abide with me; 'tis eventide.
The day is past and gone;
The shadows of the evening fall;
The night is coming on.
Within my heart a welcome guest,
Within my home abide.

O Savior, stay this night with me;
Behold, 'tis eventide.
O Savior, stay this night with me;
Behold, 'tis eventide.

2. Abide with me; 'tis eventide.
Thy walk today with me
Has made my heart within me burn,
As I communed with thee.
Thy earnest words have filled my soul
And kept me near thy side.

3. Abide with me; 'tis eventide,
And lone will be the night
If I cannot commune with thee
Nor find in thee my light.
The darkness of the world, I fear,
Would in my home abide.

I thought a lot about the second verse and about how God's "earnest words have filled my soul and kept me near [His] side" during general conference. I felt so comforted to know that I'm not alone.

I just have one short thing to say about what I liked from general conference. I really liked "The Music of the Gospel" by Wilford W. Andersen. I really feel like there have been times in my life where I've been just dancing without hearing the music. I don't really know how to explain it, but I just felt like this talk was so profound. We really need to follow the commandments and fulfill all of our responsibilities not just because it is our responsibility, but because we love our Heavenly Father or because of who we are. It was really wonderful to me.

That's all for now. I hope you all have an awesome week.

I love you tons!

Elder Merrill
 Ben's new district in Pili

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Transferred!! April 6, 2015

Can you believe it? My time in Basud has come to an end... It's been 24 weeks which makes for just less than 6 months if I am correct. We have a lot of great things coming up in Basud, so it will be hard to leave. We are continuing to see a lot of progression from our 7th day adventist family. It is really amazing to see the atonement work in someone's life like that. I am kind of sad that I won't be here for the baptism, but I know that they will be in good hands. Sister wasn't able to go to church this week because of a family reunion, but she should be able to go over the next few weeks. Bishop also filled out this travel info sheet thing that the area presidency requested. Hopefully we will be able to get a group going here soon. It is really hard to not know where my next area will be...

I really don't know what else to say. I am really super nervous to find out where my last area will be. I think this email might have to be a short one. Work was really weird this week because we had curfews everyday from wednesday to saturday because of holy week. Filipinos make easter a week-long celebration, which is pretty cool. (Probably just the catholic tradition) There were tons of little crosses set up all over basud and little scenes from the Savior's life. That is definitely something that I really apprieciate about the people here. Even if many of them really aren't sure what they believe in as Catholics or whatever they are, they all believe in Christ.

If you haven't seen it already, I highly recommend the Church's easter video, Because He Lives. We have been showing it to our members and investigators here and it has been a really effective way to share the gospel.

Here's some links: if you want it in English.

or if you are feeling adventurous.

I know that our Savior lives and loves us and that He will help us to overcome our weaknesses if we are humble and do our best.

Love you tons!

Elder Merrill

Another Crazy Week in Basud March 29, 2015

The work was ok this week and our adventist investigator couple came to church again. We were really happy to see them there, and the fellowshipping was actually really good. Brother said that he felt really welcome at church.

Our adventist investigators are really awesome though. They told us that they thought the meeting was ok and their youngest daughter got stuffed super full of treats and thought that the church was her new school. That was pretty funny. We are very thankful for all of the wonderful people that the Lord has put in our path.

Finding is going kind of slow. There are just a lot of people that aren't willing to give us time to share the Gospel with them. We are just moving along though. I just think no good can come from getting discouraged.

Elder Romanovitch and I are actually like two peas in a pod now. He was just as into Pokemon as I was before the mission if you can believe it... And loves Supertramp. Pretty cool, right?

Next week we will know who is going to stay in Basud (I'm pretty sure I'm going to be out of here, but I guess it isn't over until the APs sing) I'm definitely going to miss this place.

Have an awesome week!
Love you tons!

Elder B. Morris Merrill

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Chairless in Basud March 22, 2015

This week was pretty crazy. Tuesday afternoon, we went to Naga and stayed the night. In the morning, we got on a plane to Manila. It was way cool because my whole batch and all of the other batches around mine were all there. I got to see Elder Snyder, Elder Green and a bunch of others. It was really fun. After getting off the plane in Manila, we got in vans and spent like half an hour in traffic on our way to the immigration place. We then waited in line for a long time, and when that was over we packed back into the vans and headed for Moa (Mall of Asia). Moa was awesome. We got to eat subway which was great and then went bowling. It was completely insane. It was way too much fun and I even got a turkey once. I got a good amount of gutterballs too, so I ended up bowling like a 126 or something like that that time. After that, we went and got Jamba Juice. (Can you believe they have that in the Philippines?) It was way fun, but as it turns out we weren't supposed to go there. President had given us permission, but what happened was that the area presidency called President after we were already at moa and told him that we weren't even supposed to go there at all... Oops. I just feel bad for the next group of missionaries that head up to Manila because they definitely won't end up being able to go. We ended up making it back to the hotel around 7pm and just hanging out there. We flew back early Thursday morning and I got kinda airsick. I am very happy not be in that plane right now. I totally hope that I get to see all of these cool missionaries again. After we got back to Naga, we ate lunch and then took the 3 hour bus ride back to Basud... Super long... I was so tired when we got back that I almost fell asleep in the middle of saying something during a lesson. I'm doing fine now though :)

About the Chairless thing...

When we got to the barangay hall for our sacrament service this week, the barangay people had only left us like 6 chairs... Super crazy... We ended up having a lot of people sit on tables... Super crazy... And on top of all of this, our seventh day adventist investigators came to church this week. Fortunately, they really enjoyed the meeting despite the lack of chairs. We were so glad to see them. It turns out that they are friends with one of the other members. They ended up giving them a ride home after the service. It was great. I'm so thankful that the Spirit can still be there in our little barangay hall. We rearrainged their baptismal date for May 2. I probably won't be around for it, but I think they will be in good hands and that they will really be ready by then. We are really excited for them. We are working like crazy and talking to everyone, but haven't really found anyone with tons of potential yet. There are definitely a few people with some pretty good potential.

Next week, we will be in Daet for church, so that will be nice. We don't plan on having a shortage of chairs.

I have one thing that I would like to share from my personal study this week too. It is from Helaman Chapter 5.

6 Behold, my sons, I desire that ye should remember to keep the commandments of God; and I would that ye should declare unto the people these words. Behold, I have given unto you the names of our first parents who came out of the land of Jerusalem; and this I have done that when you remember your names ye may remember them;and when ye remember them ye may remember their works; and when ye remember their works ye may know how that it is said, and also written, that they were good.

7 Therefore, my sons, I would that ye should do that which is good, that it may be said of you, and also written,even as it has been said and written of them.

8 And now my sons, behold I have somewhat more to desire of you, which desire is, that ye may not do these things that ye may boast, but that ye may do these things to lay up for yourselves a treasure in heaven, yea, which is eternal, and which fadeth not away; yea, that ye may have that precious gift of eternal life, which we have reason to suppose hath been given to our fathers.

I really like how it says that we should do good not so that we can boast, but that we should keep our focus on laying up treasure in heaven and gaining eternal life. I think it can be tempting, especially in the mission to brag about numbers of lessons, baptisms, and things like that. The better thing to do is keep our focus on the souls that we are bringing to our Heavenly Father.

I don't really know how to get the formatting back to normal, but I love you tons and have a great week!

Elder Merrill

March 16, 2015


This email might have to be kinda short. We are actually going to manila on wednesday and thursday this week for immigration stuff that needs to be done. I am actually pretty excited for it. I think it will be fun. I heard that they usually let missionaries go to the Mall of Asia and stuff like that. 

This week, the finding has been kind of tough. We have just been finding a lot of people who aren't that interested... We were able to find one guy though who was taught by the missionaries several years ago and is really interested in the church (a lot because he is catholic, but believes that he shouldn't worship saints). He is super nice, and we found him when we saw him playing his guitar outside of his house and we just talked to him. That is probably the biggest finding success we saw this week. He is a really neat guy though. We are also working with the members a ton in order to get referrals from them. I think that will probably yield some good results.  

London looks really awesome. 

I really thing things look very hopeful for Basud, though it does have it's obstacles. I hope we can work through them.

Love you tons! Let me know if there is anything specific that you would like to know more about how I'm doing from week to week.

Elder B. Morris Merrill

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

I Can't Believe We Are Already a Week Into March March 8, 2015

In other news, we had a meeting with our stake  president and bishop this week. By the end of the meeting, the stake president decided to put in the papers for Basud to become a group. I think it is exactly what this place needs.  It was a great meeting and I feel pretty impressed with President Abao. He was really inspired to come to the chapel at the same time that we were there. He was originally planning on just talking to Bishop about Basud (our area), but when he saw that we were there, he invited us to join. I am really excited for the group thing to go through because, if it does, we will finally be able to rent our own meeting house and hopefully it will be close to centro. I think it will make the work skyrocket when we have our own meeting house. 

Other than that, I think the work is going pretty well. We have a few new families and a couple of older ones that we are teaching. We have one really neat family that we are working with that are 7th day adventists. They are really trying to find out for themselves if the Church is true. It is just kind of tricky for them to make it to church because they aren't really that active in their own church. Needless to say, we had a much lower turn out among investigators at sacrament meeting than what we expected. 

I still feel pretty good about the work because I feel like it is really headed in the right direction. I am excited to see what the future holds for Basud. 

Love you tons!
Hope you have a wonderful and gluten-free week. 
Elder Merrill

Thursday, March 5, 2015

March 2, 2015 This Might Be a Short One

Here is a little story I read and really liked about the importance of fulfilling our callings etc. I think it is pretty great. I hope you like it too. It is from Elder Marion D. Hanks.

“Let’s use the name Donna to designate [a] sweetyoung lady who left her home for nearby biggercity for employment. She had great desire toattend a church university and needed funds tohelp her achieve her ambition. She failed to findworin the big city, and as time went by shebecame more and more discouraged. Then,through a series of incidents, she came into theinfluence of an unscrupulous and designingperson whtook advantage of Donna’s lonelinessand youthfulness and the discouragement of herinability to find work and led her into an immoralexperience.
“The experience was horrifying to Donna, and shereturned homwith broken heart to tell hermother and, after time, her bishop of thetragedy.
“There was counsel and compassion, admonitionand direction, prayer and blessing. Donna wentback home to make her adjustments and to beginto learn the sorrow of remorse of consciencandthe blessing of gratitude for the graciousness andgoodness and mercy of God. Then one day shehad to counsel again with the bishop, to report tohithat through this one fragmentary, tragicexperience it was now apparent that she was withchild. Now different situation existed, and therewas additional counsel and an effort tmeet thisnew situation. Therwas consideration of theRelief Society Social Service program, whichprovides for such situations, and otherpossibilities were considered; but the decisionwas finally made by Donnthat she would remainat home in her small town to wait her time. Someefforts were made adissuasion in view of theproblems this course involved, buDonna decidedthat, under the special circumstances of herwidowed mother’s illness and otherwise, shewould remain there.
“Donna stood up in the next fast and testimonymeeting and explained her condition. Sheacknowledged her fault and asked the forgivenessof her people. She said to them, ‘I would like towalk the streets of this town knowing that youknow and that you have compassion on me andforgive me. But if you cannoforgive me,’ she said,please don’t blame my mother—the Lord knowsshe taught me anything but this—and please don’thold it against the baby. It isn’t the baby’s fault.’She bore testimony of appreciation for her bitterlywon but dearly treasured personal knowledge ofthe importance of the saving mission of JesusChrist. Then she sat down.
“The man who told me the story reported thereaction of the congregation to this experience.There were many tearful eyes and many humblehearts. ‘There were no stone throwers there,’ hesaid. ‘We were full of compassion and love, and Ifound myself wishing that the bishop would closethe meeting and let us leave with this sense ofappreciation and concern and gratitude to God.’
“The bishop did rise, but he didn’t close themeeting. Insteahe said, ‘Brothers and sisters,Donna’s story has saddened and touched us all.She has courageously and humbly accepted fullresponsibility for her sorrowful situation. She has,in effect, put list of sinners othe wall of thechapel with only her name on the list. cannot inhonesty leave it there alone. At least one othername must be written—the name of onwho is inpart responsible fothis misfortune, though hewafar away when the incident occurred. Thename is familiar one to you. It is the name ofyour bishop. You see,’ he said‘had fullyperformed the duties of my calling and acceptedthe opportunities of my leadership, perhaps Icould have prevented this tragedy.’
“The bishop then told of his conversation withDonna and her mother before her departure forthe big city. He said that he had talked with someof his associates. He had talked with his wife,expressing concern for Donna’s well-being. Heworried about her lack of experience and herloneliness. He had talked, he said, with the Lordabouthese things also.
“‘But then,’ he said, ‘I did nothing. didn’t write anote tthe bishop or to the brethrein Salt LakeCity. didn’t pick up the telephone. didn’drive afew miles to the big city. just hoped and prayedthat Donna would be all right down there allalone. don’t know what might have done, but Ihave the feeling that had been the kind of bishopmight have been, this might have beenprevented.
“‘My brothers and sisters,’ he said, ‘I don’t knowhow long I am going to be bishop of this ward. Butas long as am, if there is anything can do aboutit, this won’t happen again to one of mine.’
“The bishop sat down in tears. His counselorstood up and said, ‘I love the bishop. He is one ofthe best and most conscientious human beings Ihave ever known. cannot leave his namthereon the list without adding my own. You see, thebishop did talk with his associates. He talked withme about this matter. think that he thought thatbecause travel occasionally in my businessthrough the big city, might find way to check onDonna. might have done, but was hurrying tothis meeting or that assignment and didn’t takethe time. too talked with others. mentioned myconcern to my wife. aalmost ashamed to tellyou talked to the Lord and asked him to helpDonna. And then dinothing. don’t know whatmight have happened had done what thoughtto do, but have the feeling that might haveprevented this misfortune.
“‘Brothers and sisters,’ he said, ‘I don’t know howlong will be serving in this bishopric, but wantto tell you that as long as am, if there is anythingcan do about it, this will not happen again to oneomine.’
“The president of the [Young Women] stood upand told similar story. The bishop’s counselor incharge of this auxiliary organization had talkedwith her. She had had some moments of thoughtand concern but had done nothing. She added hername to the list.
“The last witness was an older man who stoodand added two names to the list—his own andthaof his companion ward teacher. He noted thatthey were assigned to the home in which Donnaand her mother lived and that they had failed insome visits and made no effective effort to be thekind of teachers that the revelations of God hadcontemplated.
“‘I don’t know how long will be ward teacher,’ hesaid, but as long as am, will nomiss anotherhome another month, and will try to be the kindof teacher that the Lord seemed to have in mind.’
“The meeting ended, and the wonderful man whoshared this great experience with me said,Brother Hanks, think we coulnot have moreclearly understood the importance of the officesand officers and organizations in the Church if theLord himself had come down to teach us. thinkthat if Paul had come to repeat his instructions tothe Corinthians that “the eycannot say unto thehand, have no need of thee: nor again the headto the feet, have nneed of you. Nay … themembershould have the same care onforanother. And whether one member suffer, all themembers suffer with it; or one member behonoured, all the members rejoice with it” (1 Cor.12:21–22, 25–26.)—I think we could not haveunderstood the point more clearly.’
“A number of years ago Brother Joseph Andersonand had the privilege of driving with PresidentJ. Reuben Clark, Jr., to solemn assembly in St.GeorgeOn the way related to him this story, ithaving recently happened then. He thought longtime and had tear in his eye as he said, ‘BrotherHanks, that is the most significant story everheard to illustrate the great importance of ourfilling our individual obligations in the Church.When you have thought about it long enough,pass it on to others.’
“I have thought about it long and often. believe itillustrates powerfully and humblingly thepurposes of the Lord in establishing his kingdomand permitting us the blessing of individualservice therein. now share it with you and prayGod tbless us all to understand its implicationsand to act on them, in the name of Jesus Christ.Amen.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1966, pp. 151–53.)
I can't think of anything too exciting that happened this week. 

Sacrament meeting was ok. Our 16 year old investigator (grandson of the American man that we met) went with us to sacrament meeting. He told us that he wants to become a member of the church and that he liked the meeting because he felt like he could really understand everything. It was really great and one of the sisters in the ward was really nice and explained everything to him and why the church is the way it is. It was really neat.

My mind is about ready to explode with college decisions, etc, so I might have to leave it there. 

Love you tons!
The future looks bright!

Elder Benjamin Merrill