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!