Monday, June 4, 2018

My 3 Favorite Spanish Missionary Things

Hola everyone!   Another week has somehow gone by.  Only 4 more weeks 
to go - crazy!  Tuesday we had a good day.  We decided to bike and in return 
we did a lot of finding.  We visited one of our ministering families and talked 
to them for a while.  It went really well.  Then that night we went and visited 
another ministering family who lives about 30 minutes away with a member.  
It was a busy good day.  

Wednesday we had interviews with President Hansen.  He sat me down and 
the first thing he said was "the next time we do this you will be headed home." 
That was kind of a scary thought.  After our interviews I instructed our district 
meeting.  We discussed how to become preach my gospel missionary.  It went 
really well.  President Hansen actually stayed and participated in our meeting.  
That was a little intimidating but he said I did great job.  After the meeting we 
began exchanges with the Mountain View Elders.  served with Elder Jackson 
here in Batesville.  He is from Arizona and we got along great and we were able 
to teach a few lessons together. 

Thursday we did service for Habitat for Humanity which is always fun.  We have 
established a good relationship with the people who work in the store.  After our 
service we drove up to Melbourne which is about 45 minutes away to exchange 
back.  The rest of that day Elder Asay and I drove around the outskirts of our area 
contacting less active members.  It was really fun to be out in the countryside and 
drive down dirt roads in our little car.  We drove around for about three hours. We 
returned just in time for basketball night.  We found an awesome family last week 
and invited them to come play basketball and they came!  Hopefully we can start 
teaching them soon because they are basically a Mormon family already.  They 
are seriously one of the nicest families I’ve met on my mission. 

Friday we had our usual weekly planning and spent the rest of the day contacting 
people.  Saturday we served at the Methodist breakfast again and then returned 
home to continue our studies.  That afternoon we went to lunch with Brother Trayler.  
He is probably my favorite old man ever - I could talk to him forever.  He has done 
just about everything you can think of.  He has really taught me a few things about 
life. He really enjoys coming out and visiting people with us.  He took us to a nice 
Italian restaurant and bought us each a 14 ounce steak.  It was delicious!  

Sunday was a wonderful fast and testimony meeting.  I think every member got 
up and bore their testimony.  Then Elder Asay and I taught priesthood and lead 
a discussion on missionary work.  After church we went to Cave City for dinner 
with the sisters and had an awesome family home evening with the family there.  
We are teaching the father of a family who is not a member.  Our hope and prayer 
is that he will become a member soon. 

As I look back on the last 2 years of my mission my 3 favorite things about 
being a Spanish missionary in the South are: 
     1. Learning about all the different cultures here -
     2. Eating all the different amazing food -
     3. Learning that God loves all of his children equally.  

It is amazing to be able to have a conversation in an entirely different language 
and understand that the meaning is the same.  I have really come to love all of 
the people I have met and served here in the Arkansas Little Rock Mission.  I 
have been truly touched by their willingness to follow Jesus Christ.  I feel that I 
have served two different missions since I have served in both Spanish and in
English areas - the contrast is crazy.  The South is definitely a unique place and 
I have been forever blessed to serve there people here.  I will really miss it a lot.  
Thank you for everything.  Have a great week. 

Love Elder Merrill

While out finding one day we went to check this address 
and instead of finding people we found this empty lot - lol 

Elder Merrill and Elder Asay

Enjoy this little video -
Thought you would like seeing what Arkansas looks like.

Fun with the Wahlquist Family making homemade tortillas!  
Elder Merrill and Elder Asay suited up for the job

Look at Elder Merrill go!  

A hot buttered tortilla you rolled yourself....nothing better!

We loved having Elder Merrill and his new companion Elder Asay 
in our home.  I made them work for their supper again! We had 
chicken tacos, but I made them roll the flour tortillas themselves. 
Any reason to get the Elders in an apron, right? LOL!

They got pretty good towards the end and took the recipe for tortilla 
dough home with them. My great granny Maria Nina Perea Valdez would 
be proud. She housed missionaries for 15 years in an apartment on her property. 
She took the lessons and joined the church as well. But she feed them and taught 
them all how to cook for themselves before they left her. Tortillas and beans 
all day long! Many of them even brought their wives back to have her teach 
them how to cook "real" Mexican. Carrying on the tradition generations later!
-Sister Michelle Wahlquist

Monday, May 28, 2018

The Book of Mormon is the word of God

Hey guys!  This week was great.  My new companion, Elder Asay, is pretty 
funny.  He is from Caldwell Idaho, near Boise, and has been out serving for 
about 20 months.  We have gotten to get to know each other pretty well this 
past week and get along fine.  He seems to like Batesville so far.  

Tuesday was transfers so we spent most of the day in Little Rock. When we 
got back to our area we got all settled in.  Wednesday was a good day.  We
had a lesson with our top investigator Kenny.  His baptism date is set for June 
16th and it still looks pretty promising!  We then had a correlation meeting and 
our Book of Mormon class that night.  

Thursday we went to a neighboring town called Salado.  We did service with 
Habitat for Humanity and also went to a little thrift store.  

Friday was a slow day because a lot of people just weren't home.  That night
was awesome though because we had a fun branch game night.  We played 
Phase 10.  We also had an awesome lesson with an excommunicated member.  
We hope to teach them again soon. 

Saturday morning we went and helped again at the Methodist breakfast.  That 
is seriously always a blast.  After we went and walked around and found a few 
less active members.  We are really trying to go through our entire area roster 
and clean it out.  

Sunday was a wonderful day.  We had dinner with our Branch President.  He is 
really a wonderful person.  We talked with him about going and visiting all of the 
branch members and asking them to help us with missionary work.  We are all 
missionaries in some aspect and need to share this gospel together.  

This week in my studies I focused on Alma.  That book is awesome!  Specifically 
Chapter 5 - for some reason this chapter really stuck out to me this week.  I love 
verses 45 and 46:  

45 And this is not all. Do ye not suppose that I know of these 
things myself? Behold, I testify unto you that I do know that 
these things whereof I have spoken are true. And how do ye 
suppose that I know of their surety?

46 Behold, I say unto you they are made known unto me by 
the Holy Spirit of God. Behold, I have fasted and prayed many 
days that I might know these things of myself. And now I do 
know of myself that they are true; for the Lord God hath made 
them manifest unto me by his Holy Spirit;and this is the spirit of 
revelation which is in me.

I love how it talks about how he came to a knowledge through the Holy Spirit.  
I know that this is the only way to receive a witness of the Book of Mormon. I 
have had a lot of spiritual experiences with the Book of Mormon and I can tell 
you guys it is the word of God.  So keep reading it - or begin reading it - just 
read it - everyday if you can!  I love you guys! 

Love Elder Merrill
Elder Merrill with his new (and last) companion -
Elder Asay - at the Arkansas Little Rock Mission Home

Monday, May 21, 2018

A very humbling experience

Hello from Arkansas!  Well for my last transfer I’m staying in Batesville 
as the District Leader.  My new (and last) companion will be Elder Asay 
(pronounced AC).  He is an English Elder who I have never met before 
so it should be an adventure! 

My last week with Elder Pickering was a good one!  Tuesday we helped 
out the building maintenance guy at the church with some things.  He is 
a member from Jonesboro who teaches seminary that I know pretty well.  
He is also very knowledgeable in the gospel.  We had a couple doctrinal 
questions from people that we needed the answers to.  So after working
at the church we went to lunch with him.  We basically had a companion-
ship study with him so he could help us find the answers we needed. He 
really knows his scriptures.  I’ve never met someone who can connect the 
Old Testament so well with the Book of Mormon.  It was awesome!  That
evening we had another lesson with our top investigator Kenny.  We have
set a promising baptismal date with him for June 16.  His sister is a member 
and she is moving to Batesville soon so that will be exciting!  

Wednesday was an interesting day.  We had a district meeting and then a 
fun potluck meal after.  That evening we had a Book of Mormon class but 
only the Sister Missionaries, our Branch President and our mission leader 
showed up so we had a correlation meeting instead.  This is when things 
got a little interesting.  The sisters currently live in Newport which is about 
thirty minutes outside of Batesville.  They have been trying to find rides for 
their investigators so they can come to church.  We have discussed some 
solutions with the Branch President before but he has always seems to tell 
us we won’t be able to get people to give them a ride - they haven't before 
and you can't just get people to change. Things got a little heated while we 
were talking.  As missionaries we can not give anyone a ride so we rely on 
members to help us.  For all y’all reading this, please be willing to serve no 
matter what your calling is or what you are asked to help with.  It really makes 
everyone's lives easier if we can all just serve each other.  It has been kind of 
a struggle but we aren't going to give up.  We will continue to do our best to 
help in anyway we can.  

Thursday was good.  We had another lesson with Kenny, did some service at 
Habitat for Humanity, and had basketball night.  Friday was kind of a slow day.  
We had our weekly planning and then went out to work but not a lot of people 
were home that we tried to visit.

Saturday was an awesome day!  We helped clean the church for the baptism 
of an investigator the Sister Missionaries have been teaching.  Elder Pickering 
baptized her - it was great!  There was a good turnout for the baptism and even 
a few investigators came.  She was last member in her family not baptized so it 
was so special to witness the pure happiness.  

On Sunday I had the wonderful opportunity to confirm her.  That really was an 
amazing experience for me.  It was completely different that performing this 
ordinance in Spanish.  It is always a very humbling experience to participate 
in a saving ordinance for another person.  We also spent some of the day visiting 
people so Elder Pickering could say goodbye.   

Today we had a District P-day.  We spent a little over 3 hours down by the river 
cooking BBQ, throwing a frisbee, and playing sand volleyball.  It was really fun.  
Luckily it is a little overcast so the sun wasn’t unbearably hot.  I guess that’s all 
for this week.  Love you guys!

Love Elder Merrill 

District P-Day

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The Light of Christ

Hey guys!  It was so great to talk to you yesterday!  Happy Mothers Day 
Mom!  This week was great!  I went to Jonesboro on Tuesday with Elder 
Russell.  He is from Richmond so we talked about a couple mutual people
we know.  He is a pretty funny guy.  We got to go see the Welch Family!  
It was so awesome.  We talked for a while and caught up on life. They 
were both really happy for the Goodwin family.  

Elder Pickering and Elder Merrill in matching Walmart ties!

Elder Merrill with the Welch Family

I returned to Batesville on Wednesday.  On Thursday we headed over to 
Habitat for Humanity to do service.  After we headed to the neighboring 
town of Salado to contact a referral and find others.  It went pretty well.  
We met a lot of old people who said they would never leave the Baptist 
church.  There are always a few of those people around.  

Saturday was really fun.  We went to serve at the Methodist breakfast in 
the morning.  After serving there we went and taught a lesson in Hardee’s 
and set a baptismal date with a guy.  It was awesome!  We then went and 
knocked on some doors in a neighborhood - I think we talked to 3 people 
in almost 2 hours.  We tried......and we will try again.   

Sunday I gave a talk in sacrament meeting.  It must have been a pretty 
amazing talk because people told me after they didn’t notice that thirty 
minutes had gone by because they wanted to listen.  I talked about the 
Light of Christ.  I really enjoyed studying about his subject and learning
more about it.  Everyone is given this light when they are born.  When 
they are baptized the light grows even brighter with the gift of the Holy 
Ghost.  Then that light grows brighter and brighter until the perfect day, 
or in other words, until we have a perfect knowledge.  Good stuff!  I am 
so very thankful for that gift as a missionary.  The light of Christ helps me 
everyday!  Serving here in the South I have gotten to the point where I 
notice more when the light is gone almost more than when the light is 
present in someone's life.  I absolutely love seeing people being touched 
by the light of Christ as we share this true gospel message. 

It was also wonderful to stay to all three hours of our block meeting.  Since 
I have been singing in all of the missionary musical tributes for the past six 
weeks this was the first time I was able to stay and get to know the people 
am serving here in Batesville.  After church we went to the Wahlquist home 
for the rest of the day.   The best part of the day was talking to my family!  
Thank you so much for all of the love and support you give me each day.  
I love you guys! 

Love Elder Merrill  

We found a Batesville Facebook group community page.  We took 
some chill pictures of us in great poses with service-like tools.  We posted 
the pictures and waited for people to respond with service opportunities.  
Instead, they deleted our post......

Talking to Elder Merrill on Mothers Day!  Yay!

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Happy Cinco de Mayo!!!

from Elder Merrill & Elder Pickering
from Batesville, Arkansas

When the spirit is there - conversion will follow

Hey guys!  It was a pretty good week here in Arkansas. The weather is 
beginning to warm up so hopefully I can sweat off some weight - ha ha. 

On Tuesday not a lot happened.  It was a day where literally all of our 
appointments fell through.  We were able to see one of our investigators 
and talk for a while. They are renovating their home so we probably won’t 
be able to have a lesson with them there for awhile.  Later that day we 
went to the creepiest apartment complex I have ever been in.  It looked 
pretty normal on the outside - but the inside was like a creepy rundown 
motel.  It had super thin doors and windows that pointed into the hallway. 
It was also really dark and smelled like cigarette smoke. Needless to say 
we didn't stay there long - we didn't even find who we thought lived there.  

Wednesday we had district meeting and then went on exchanges. I stayed 
here with Elder Bleazzard.  He returns home the same time I do so it was 
fun to work with an experienced missionary and get to know him more.  We 
worked well together and found a couple new investigators on Wednesday 
and Thursday.  Wednesday night we had an awesome lesson with an ex-
communicated member about possibly being baptized again.  We have a 
follow-up lesson next Tuesday with them so we will see how it goes. 

Thursday evening Elder Pickering and I were back together.  We stopped by
to visit a couple people then headed to basketball night.  There is one young 
family in the branch with a couple kids that we play with.  They are usually the 
only ones who come but it’s always fun play and we all have a good time. 

Friday was a good day.  We started off with weekly planning and then went 
out to serve!   We went back to Habitat for Humanity and reorganized their 
entire movie section.  It looked pretty good after our work. Then that night we
went to visit our recent convert.  We had a great lesson about the priesthood.  
It went really well and we were able to answer some of his questions. 

Saturday was a busy day that began with service.  We went to Cave City, 
town about 20 minutes outside of Batesville.  We helped a part member family 
there we have been working with.  We built a dog pen for them so we spent 
about 3 hours pounding post holes.  We were pretty tired after but it felt so 
good to work.  After that we headed to dinner with another part member family. 
The couple is planning to get married soon and then the husband wants to get 
baptized.  We go over there and just read the Book of Mormon with them so 
they can gain a bigger and better testimony.  

On Sunday we went back to Memphis for our last musical tribute.  There were 
some super powerful testimonies born and the songs were perfect.  It's sad to 
think I probably won’t see any of the missionaries I know there again before I 
go home.  I guess that’s what Facebook is for.  We drove back that night and 
got back to Batesville about 10:40 pm so not too bad. 

This morning we went fishing and we all caught at least one fish!  After fishing
the family took us out to lunch to a place called Coltons.  It's kind of like Texas
Roadhouse with yummy roles.  This afternoon we are going disc golfing at the 
college so that will be fun.  

Lately I have been studying the Doctrine and Covenants.  I am in the sections 
where everyone is being called to go and preach the gospel.  It has been really 
amazing to read about the promised blessings they were given.  It is even more 
amazing that I have experienced some of these same things here on my mission.  
I love how it tells us that when the spirit is there - conversion will follow.  As 
a missionary I am definitely a witness to this.  Every lesson we teach I know my 
testimony is strengthened through the presence of the spirit.  It is truly an amazing 
feeling.  I love you guys! 

Love Elder Merrill

Batesville District

Monday, April 30, 2018

A really cool experience

Hola!  This week was really awesome!  Great things happened including 
a baptism!  Tuesday and Wednesday I was able to return tJonesboro for 
an exchange.  It was pretty cool to drive around the old streets and see a 
few of the members.  We had dinner with a family I got to know pretty well 
so that was really fun.  

Thursday we went and did service for Habitat for Humanity again.  They 
usually have us fix their books and move them around.  They let me have 
this sweet super old cowboy tie so that was cool.  After the service we went 
and had dinner with the Sister Missionaries at Brother Trayler's house.  He 
is so hilarious.  He is 88 years old, has never been married and lives alone.  
He has a bunch of really cool stuff in his house because he has lived in 80 
different countries around the world - so needless to say he also has a lot of
really cool stories to share.  Dinner with him is always an adventure. 

Friday was fun!  We received a Bible referral for a contact in the next town 
over so we set up an appointment and went there Friday.  When we met the
guy and talked to him we found out he was already a member.  He had been
baptized in Kentucky and had recently moved here.  When he left Kentucky 
he asked to have his records moved but he didn't know if the actually did so 
he wanted us to check.  He seems nice and really wants to start coming back 
to church.  After our visit with him we went to visit some people in the hospital.  
This really isn't my favorite thing - there is just something that sets me on edge 
when I'm around a bunch of sick people.  I told Elder Pickering the only place 
I felt comfortable in hospitals was in an Orthopedic office - haha.  We had our 
branch talent show that night which was pretty fun.  I played Hallelujah on the 
piano and Elder Pickering, Sister Gubler, and I sang it.  It was pretty awesome!  
I didn't get a video of it though so we will have to record it sometime so I can 
send it to you.  

Saturday was by far the best day of the week!  Every Saturday morning we go 
and help out at the Methodist Community Breakfast which is held at their church.  
They had asked us to give the devotional so we found a cool little story to share 
called "pushing against the rock."  They don't like us to talk about the Book of 
Mormon too much.  Elder Pickering read the story and I gave the message.  At 
the end of the story everybody was clapping and yelling "amen!"  It was really 
awesome.  I continued by sharing a scripture and ended with my testimony as 
people continued to yell "amen" every once in awhile.  The best part is that
whoever gives the devotional says the prayer.  So at the end I took off my hat,
looked out at everybody and said, "now, let us pray."  Everybody bowed their
heads and I said what felt like one of the coolest prayers of my life.  It's not that 
I worded stuff differently, but there was just something about everyone coming 
together from different backgrounds and praying together.  I felt like a Southern 
preacher - it was kind of amazing!  After the prayer we had some of the workers 
come up to us and say they had never seen everybody get so into the devotional. 
It was a really cool experience.  

Then Saturday night we had a baptism!   It was so awesome!  Elder Pickering 
had been working with the guy for a while and I have gotten to know him since 
have been here.  It was just really awesome to see him get baptized!  He is a 
father and was the only non- member in their family so that just made it even 
more special.  

Sunday we went back to Little Rock to sing in the musical tribute.  It was truly 
a great night!  David, a member from Monticello that I got to know, came to see 
us.  He is moving to Oklahoma so that will probably be the last time I see him.  
It was good to talk to him once again though.  The tribute really brings people
together and always brings the spirit!  Well I guess that's all I have for this week. 
I love you guys!

Love Elder Merrill 
Elder Merrill & Clint Eastwood

Elder Pickering and Elder Merrill

The Blessing of Baptism!  

Batesville, Arkansas District