Monday, February 12, 2018

It's always cool to serve!

Hey guys!  This week was great.  It was a quiet week but were able to 
make some good things happen from it.  Today for P-day we went to a 
trampoline park.  A good time was had by all!  

Tuesday we helped with a sweet service project with the English Elders.  
We went down to one of the churches in the area and helped with their 
food bank.  Every Tuesday they give out a bunch of food to the homeless 
people in the area.  We went and helped them set everything up and get 
ready in the morning.  We didn’t end up passing out the food but it was 
really cool to see the church - plus it's always cool to serve!  It was so nice 
to talk to people from another church and not have them hate on us.  We 
were all just there to serve and that’s all that really mattered. 

Wednesday and Thursday were exchanges.  It was awesome because I 
got to serve with Elder Gonzalez again!  This is the first time I have been 
around him since we served together here in Little Rock about a year ago.  
It was just like old times being in our old area together.  We weren’t able 
to teach a lot of people but it was great to catch up.  Then on Friday Elder 
Anderson was sick so we stayed in.  That day was a little long for me but 
he got better so it was worth it to stay in and rest.  We worked a little on 
Saturday since he was feeling better.   

Sunday was great!  We had an awesome dinner appointment with a less 
active family.  Then Elder Anderson and I had a good talk about where we 
are on our missions and where we want to get too.  Good stuff!  It rained 
one day and I found out that my slick tires have no traction in water. I can 
basically power slide into a 180 with them.  Good times!   Love you guys! 

Love Elder Merrill

Anyone ever eaten Chicken Wangs? 

Elder Gonzales and Elder Merrill 

Elder Merrill and Elder Anderson enjoying some Southern food

Eating tacos with Edgar - a new member

Elder Anderson and Elder Merrill with the English Elders and their "sticks"

P-day trampoline park party

Monday, February 5, 2018

Read it everyday folks!

Hey guys!  We started off our week strong by teaching an awesome 
family.  This is the family we received as a referral from the English 
Elders. The mom's main question for us was what church the Savior 
will save when He comes. She had a lot of deep doctrinal questions 
for us. It made the lesson challenging but she is genuinely interested 
so we will do our best to answer all her questions.  

Wednesday we had a wonderful Zone Conference. President Hansen 
gave an amazing lecture out of the New Testament about the Savior's 
life. I really loved learning even more about my Savior.  I now have the 
goal to finish reading the New Testament before I return home.  I know 
it will strengthen my testimony to learn all I can about my Savior - His 
life and His love for me.  

Thursday was a normal missionary day - nothing too exciting.  Friday 
we had exchanges with the Zone Leaders.  I got to serve with Elder 
Brinkerhoff again.  We had a great time and were able to set a return 
appointment for next week.  The lady we found seemed interested so 
it should be good.  

Sunday was Stake Conference. We talked a lot about councils that are 
happening in the church now.  It was really long and I had to translate 
the whole thing - my voice was dead by the end of it.  The highlight was 
President Hansen's talk on how the Book of Mormon basically improves 
our lives in every aspect.  So read it everyday folks! 

Today's P-day was pretty chill.  The bike shop I purchased my bike at 
sent me a free tune-up so we took it in. They basically just cleaned and
oiled it.  It was free so that was nice.  We still ride almost everyday - it’s 
fun.  We then went shopping at Ross.  It was awesome because I found 
the best deal ever on new pants - I found a pair of Nike golf pants for $3!  
Yep - 3 bucks people - steal of the century!  I am a very happy missionary!  
I also bought a couple new ties because it’s been awhile since I’ve had a 
new one.  They are cool!  Well I sure love you guys!  Have a great week 
and read the Book of Mormon!  

Love, Elder Merrill 

 Happy P-day!   

Monday, January 29, 2018

This week was amazing!

Hey guys!  This week was amazing!  First - we were able to teach some 
awesome lessons this week. The English Elders ran into a Hispanic family 
last P-day and got their number for us. We called them up and made an 
appointment and had an awesome lesson with them. They are a family of 
5 and told us they wanted us to come over because they want to become 
closer to God. We taught them about the restoration and are going back 
tomorrow to teach them again. Ware pretty excited!  We were also able 
to have a good lesson with the guys in the apartment complex about the 
Book of Mormon. They invited us in because they said they really like to 
talk about God. We are hoping to go back and teach them again. 

Now for the good stuff.  Elder Holland and President Uchtdorf's visit was 
amazing. We were blessed to have a meeting with just the missionaries 
Saturday morning with them. There really are no words to describe how 
amazing it was. I sat on the 4th row.  When they arrived in the morning we 
took a big group picture with them.  Then every missionary had to opportunity 
to shake their hands. That was a little intimidating. When Elder Holland spoke 
to us later her told us that the apostles used to interview every missionary in 
the world once a year. Because this is an impossible task today, they shake 
our hands and while doing so look into our eyes because they can see the 
bottom of our soul. Of course he chuckled while saying this because he could 
see we were all sweating bullets. He told us we all passed.  

All of the apostles messages were amazing ---  

Elder Klebingat from the seventy came with them. He came here last Fall to 
speak to us and it was wonderful to see him and learn from him again. He 
remembered many of us still.  His wife spoke first about being one as a mission, 
being one as the Arkansas Little Rock Mission. The key to doing this is by putting 
pride aside and sanctifying ourselves. Elder Klebingat spoke about constantly 
increasing our doctrinal love by having good personal study every single day for 
the rest of our lives. He also taught us that when we are scared to do things in 
missionary work or in life that the #1 antidote for fear is love. Love for the gospel 
and love for those around us. 

President Uchtdorf spoke next. First of all, he is a lot taller than I thought. When 
I shook his hand he was almost a whole head taller than me. His message was 
really great.  He emphasized a conference address he gave in 2008 called "Lift 
Where You Stand."  He talked about how it doesn’t matter where we are or what 
our job is - we need to lift where we stand, or in other words, we need to all that 
we can do to fulfill our calling or position we have. Heavenly Father does not think 
any more highly of any of his children, we all stand on the same level. That is why 
we must do all that we can in the position we are in. 

Elder Holland was the concluding speaker. His talk was awesome. His continued 
to build upon President Uchtdorf's talk. He also taught that there really is no vertical
movement in the church.  We should always be rising.  Always lifting.  The rest of 
his talk focused on life after our missions.  He encourages us all to try not to go 
home early and when the time comes - to return home successfully.  He then got 
a little fired up and said that we as missionaries do not have the right to damage 
the image of an LDS missionary when we return home and become less active.  
He told us to get rid of the image in our mind that we were going to go back to our 
old life when we return home - that everything would be just like it was before our 
mission.  He told us our life before our mission wasn’t really that real, we were just 
kinda living - that our lives really began the minute we became full-time missionaries 
for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  And for the rest of our lives we 
have to do what our Savior did - to always be good example and share the gospel.  
He taught that this gospel is the most important thing in our lives and that many 
people need it.  If our mission doesn't change who we are for the rest of our lives 
then shame on us.  We are out here serving our mission for two years to bring one 
convert into the gospel - and that is ourselves! 

I am so thankful I am a missionary.  My mission and this gospel have really changed 
who I am.  It hasn't necessarily changed my personality or my hobbies and interests - 
but my focus in life.  It has really shown me that things of eternal value are the only 
things we really need to worry about.  I love being able to bring this joy to others and 
to become more and more converted myself along the way.  I love you all! 

Love Elder Merrill 

Elder Merrill, Elder Sotomarino, Elder Gonzales, Elder Anderson
with their El Libro de Mormons - excited to learn from 2 apostles

ALRM Mission picture with President Uchtdorf and Elder Holland
(Elder Merrill is right in the middle - a little towards the right)

Elder Merrill and his companion Elder Anderson

Elder Merrill with his 
grandson - Elder Anderson 
and his son - Elder Giles

ALRM Spanish Elders 
Elder Merrill - Anderson - Sotomarino - Gonzales

Elder Merrill sang in the choir at the special Stake Conference 
with President Uchtdorf and Elder Holland
They sang the "Sisters in Zion/Army of Helaman Medley"
The words were changed from 
"we will be the Lord's missionaries" to
"we are NOW the Lord's missionaries"

I am so grateful for a sweet member in Arkansas 
who didn't postpone a promoting and sent this text to me 
Sunday morning. I immediately felt the spirit and great joy! 
What an amazing opportunity Elder Merrill had this 
past weekend learning from true messengers of God.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Preparing for spiritual overload

Hey guys!  This past week in Little Rock was a great beginning 
to this transfer.  I was blessed to see some missionary friends 
again this week.  Elder Smalley and Elder Short came and stayed 
at our apartment on Wednesday for transfers.  It really was great
to see them again.   

As for our missionary work we had more lessons this past week 
than we have had in awhile.  It was great.  We found an apartment 
where about five Hispanics live together.  We knocked on their door 
and they let us come inside and share our message with them.  It 
was a cool experience because Elder Anderson and I both felt that 
one of them in the room was really listening - we just don’t which 
one it was yet.  We plan to find out.  

We received some very exciting news this week in the mission. Two 
apostles are coming to Little Rock!  Elder Holland and Elder Uchtdorf 
are coming to speak at our Stake Conference this weekend.  We are 
so blessed to be serving in this area right now to be able to attend.  
We will be in their presence Saturday and Sunday.  We are preparing 
now for a whole lot of spiritual overload.  We are super pumped!  
The church is TRUE!!!  Love you guys! 

Elder Anderson and Elder Merrill

This is Elder Dawson and I.  He’s one of the missionaries that lives 
in the same complex as us.  We are getting pretty good on the bikes. 

 I got the slick tires this past week.  I rode around on them today.  
They definitely feel good on the pavement.  Excited to try them out more. 
(Thank you to our good friend who sent these to Elder Merrill)  

Monday, January 15, 2018

Staying in Little Rock

Hey guys!  Hard to believe another transfer has gone by again!  
I'm staying in Little Rock with Elder Anderson.  We are so excited 
to continue serving together.  

This week was good.  Tuesday we went up to Sherwood to visit 
our Spanish Branch mission leader and work out a mission plan 
for the Branch.  We have been helping him a lot because he is 
pretty new in this calling.  I feel the Branch is starting to improve
but there's always room for improvement!  It is our hope and our
prayer that we as missionaries can help the people here even 
more this next transfer.  

Wednesday was fun.  While Elder Anderson went to a leadership 
conference I stayed here and did a blitz with Elder Ralph. He is an 
English missionary in the area next to ours. We had a good day and 
visited with some of his investigators.  It was fun to get to know him 
and meet some new people.  

Friday we did our weekly planning and studies.  Then we watched 
the broadcast of President Monson's funeral.  It was truly amazing.  
What an amazing example of service and love.  After the broadcast 
we went out proselyting and found a marine recruiting office. We met 
some cool guys there and had an awesome gospel conversation with 
them.  While we taught them about the gospel they taught us about the 
Marines!  It actually was a really neat experience.  We also had to take 
our car in to get an oil change and rotate the tires. That ended up taking 
forever and we didn't get to proselyte much more after that.  

Saturday we were on our bikes the whole day.  We went to an apartment 
complex we hadn’t been to before and met some really cool people. So -
some success!  We are going back next week to teach a couple lessons.  

Sunday we watched the church broadcast.  I really enjoyed the messages.  
My eyes were really opened about the atonement.  I loved reading about 
your experience with the Goodwin’s going to the temple.  I am so happy 
for their family and feel blessed to have been a small part of and witness 
Tod's conversion experience.  This true gospel can bring so much peace 
and happiness and I am so grateful and blessed to be out here sharing it!  

This week Elder Smalley is coming to stay at our apartment so that will be 
fun to see him again.  Elder Anderson and I are looking forward to spending 
another transfer together and working hard.  There is still lots of work to do 
here in Little Rock!  I love you guys!  Have a great week! 

Love Elder Merrill 

Our district

The Marines

We love Guillermo!

Monday, January 8, 2018

Read your Patriarchal Blessing

Hey guys!  This past week has definitely been interesting.  We started 
the week off with a solid day on Tuesday by taking our car into the shop 
to get fixed.  This meant we were on full bike the whole week.  But all is 
well because Elder Merrill is losing some weight!  We tried to contact a 
few referrals on our way back from the shop but we were unsuccessful.  
We went to Wendys for dinner and to do some online proselyting.  Shout 
out to Aunt Mardi for the Wendys gift cards - they have definitely gone a 
long way and blessed my life.  :)

Wednesday we had district meeting which is always great. After this we
were able contact a few people and teach some lessons.  After this we 
went down to the church and taught a Book of Mormon class that went 
really well.  There were a few investigators there which was awesome!   

Thursday is when things started to get weird.  We ended up doing a lot 
of things that were necessary to do but it limited our time and we weren't 
able to visit anyone or teach.  Friday we went to get the car back.  I took 
forever because stuff got messed up with the payments.  Since that took
way longer than we expected that experience was pretty much our day.    

Saturday was a crazy day.  Our zone leader, Elder Brinkerhoff, was on 
splits with us.  We were riding bikes that day and at one point were on a
sidewalk on a hill.  We came upon a  tree in the middle of our path - Elder 
Anderson and I swerved around just fine but Elder Brinkerhoff didn't make 
it.  His bike did a front flip and he became Superman.  saw the whole thing 
go down and it was crazy.  I rode up to him and asked him if he was ok and
he said, "no man."  I felt really bad for him.  We took him to the hospital in 
the back of the AP’s mini van.  After x-rays we all learned that be broke his 
collar bone.  The doctor referred him to a specialist.  We are hoping and 
praying everything turns out alright for him.   

Now for some spiritual stuff.  As a district we have been trying to read our 
patriarchal blessings every day this transfer.  It has been a really cool and 
amazing experience.  I have been able to find new things when reading my
blessing each day.  I'm also now realizing parts that I thought I understood 
may not be what they seemed as before.  I get really excited to be a part of 
all that my Heavenly Father has in store for me.  Everyone should definitely 
read their patriarchal blessings often because I have learned every time we 
read them we can see our worth in Heavenly Fathers eyes.  Our Father in 
Heaven loves us so much and has many things in store for all of us. 
I hope you guys have an awesome week!  Love ya! 

Love Elder Merrill 

Elder Anderson and I took shopping carts back to Kroger that 
were outside our apartment for service one night.  It was fun!  

Monday, January 1, 2018

Happy New Year!!!

Hey guys!  Happy New Year!  We decided to celebrate the New Year 
with a little extra sleep so it was definitely a relaxed celebration. It was 
great. I don’t think I have ever loved sleep more than on the mission.  

This week was pretty good.  I got sick Christmas night so we stayed 
in the next day.  My body ached and I had chills.  We had interviews 
on Wednesday with President Hansen.  He gave me a blessing and 
I know that really blessed me and helped my get over the sickness.  
It was awesome.  The power of the priesthood is real.  

This week was pretty slow so I really don't have too much to report.  
We spent all day Friday and Saturday biking around trying to find 
people to talk to.  We didn't have too much success but we will try 
try again.  Sunday was awesome.  All three English wards combined 
as well as our Spanish Branch for a special meeting.  All the English 
ward boundaries were rearranged.  None of these changes will affect 
the Spanish Branch but it was really cool to witness.  It is amazing to 
witness the progression of  the church to the point where they need to 
make room for more people.  I had the opportunity to translate this 
meeting for our Branch because I’m the best Spanish speaker in the 
district.  It was fun.  I really enjoy translating.    

Last night we were invited to a New Year's Eve party at a member's 
home in the Benton ward.  It was great and we ate a lot of cookies. 
Love you guys! 

Love Elder Merrill

from the Little Rock Spanish District

Shooting some pool in the Mission apartment clubhouse