Monday, July 2, 2018

My last missionary letter - The Gospel of Jesus Christ is Amazing!

Hey guys!  Wow - the last missionary letter.  Crazy to believe that my 
mission has come to an end.  My last week was slow - hardly anything 
happened.  After we baptized our investigators we just didn’t have too 
many people left to teach.  We did visit Jack and Kenny a few times 
which was great.  I will always remember them.

As I look back on the past two years serving as a missionary here in the 
Arkansas Little Rock Mission so many things come to mind.  There have 
been so many ups and downs, lefts and rights, forwards and backwards.  
Having experienced both the Southern and Hispanic cultures I know I am 
better rounded person - I know I am a better person now.  There are so 
many things I have loved and learned.  Here are 10 of them: 

1. Experiencing new cultures. 
2. Eating crazy foods
3. Having awesome companions 
4. Getting to know the members in my areas
5. Witnessing people come into Christ
6. Learning a new language 
7. Learning how to see people as God sees them 
8. Realizing my parents were right about everything
9. Having two awesome mission presidents
10. Being changed by the gospel of Jesus Christ

I feel like I have changed.  The Gospel of Jesus Christ is amazing and 
it is powerful enough to change anyone who lives it.  I know that the Book 
of Mormon contains the fullness of the Gospel and if we study it everyday 
we will come closer to Christ.  I know that Joseph Smith truly saw God the 
Father and his son, Jesus Christ.  They spoke to him and ordained him a 
prophet to usher in this last dispensation.  I’m so thankful for a living prophet 
today and the twelve apostles.  They lead this church through revelation.  I 
hope that as we each continue down the path of discipleship we will continue 
to improve and push ourselves to love and serve others every day.  

I want to thank everyone for the support you have given me.  It really meant 
a lot to me.  I love you all and can’t wait to see you!

Love Elder Merrill 
RIP Elder Merrill - Good-bye ALRM


Elder Asay & Elder Merrill - SERVICE WITH A SMILE!


Elder Merrill with the Kistners
A message on Facebook from Sister Kistner
"Sweet missionary going home this week - Elder Merrill.  
You can tell by my red eyes how much I am going to miss 
him. We do so love the young missionaries.  At a time many 
young people are only thinking of themselves, they give 
themselves to serving others and teaching the gospel. 
We wish every good thing in life for him and will miss him!"

One last meal with Elder Merrill in the Wahlquist Home

Monday, June 25, 2018

Another Baptism in Batesville

Hey guys!  It was another awesome week here in Batesville, Arkansas!  
Tuesday we had some really good lessons which was nice.  We finished 
teaching the lessons to Jack in preparation for his baptism.  That evening 
Brother Traylor took us out to the nicest restaurant in Batesville as a little 
going away party for me.  I ate some of the best chicken I’ve ever had in 
my life.  I'm really going to miss that guy! 

Wednesday we held our Book of Mormon class and went on exchanges 
with the Mountain View Elders.  I spent most of the day in Mountain View 
Wednesday as well as Thursday.  It is a really fun place - it's the folk music 
capital of the world.  As you walk around in the evenings people are always 
sitting around the parks picking on their guitars.  It was fun to walk around 
and listen to all the music.  The Elder I was serving with there returns home 
with me so we had a great time talking about our missions and what we are 
going to do when we get home.  We exchanged back Thursday evening.  
That night we had Jack’s baptismal interview and basketball night.  

Friday was another good day.  We went and visited Jack and got everything 
planned for his baptism Saturday.  We also did our weekly planning.  That 
always seems to drags on forever so I'm kind of glad it was my last one. That 
evening we had a couple lessons which went well.  We also typed up Jack’s 
baptism program and made all of the copies.

Saturday was easily the highlight of the week because it was Jack’s baptism!  
Jack has been such an awesome person to get to know.  He is such a great 
example to me.  He has been meeting on and off with missionaries for the 
past five years.  He has completed all of the missionary lessons three times 
and has read the Book of Mormon almost twice.  I feel so blessed that I am 
serving in Batesville at this time - the time when Jack was prepared to follow 
our Savior Jesus Christ.  He really is an amazing person.  He has been blind
almost his entire life but he doesn't let it stop him.  He plays the guitar really 
well and has taught me some fun stuff that I'm excited to try when I get home.  
His baptism went really great.  His daughter came to support him.  She lives 
in Little Rock and is a non-member.  He was so excited that she came.  He 
now wants to send the missionaries to teach her - ha ha.  President Vaughn, 
our Branch President, baptized Jack.  After the baptism we went over to the 
Wahlquist's home to eat and hang out for a bit. I am going to miss their family.  
After all of that we did our studies for the day and contacted a few people.  

Jack was confirmed in sacrament meeting on Sunday by Brother Traylor.  It 
was really special.  We also had some really great meetings about missionary 
work and ministering.  After church we went to a birthday party for a less active 
member's son for a bit.  Then that evening we had dinner with the Simmon's 
family.  They are a new family in the branch that we met at basketball night.  
They moved here from New Jersey not too long ago. I discovered that Kinkade
served in their ward and they got to know him really well.  They thought it was 
pretty cool that I knew him and had played baseball with him.  It truly is a small, 
wonderful world in the church. 

This morning we went to visit Jack.  He gave me a gift - a ukulele.  He noticed 
that every time we were at his house I would pick up one of his ukuleles up and 
play it so he thought I would enjoy taking one home.  I was really touched by his 
kindness.  I will always remember Jack.  I will always remember so many people 
who have changed my life for the better while serving as a missionary.  I feel so 
blessed to have served here in the Arkansas Little Rock Mission.  It's really hard 
to believe it will all be over in 10 days and will return home and take off the tag.    

Thanks for sending pictures of the boys in their baseball uniforms.  I actually miss 
playing sometimes.  I’m excited to take them over to the park when I get home and 
play some ball!   Well I can’t wait to see y’all!  Love you!

Love Elder Merrill
Elder Merrill with his gifted ukelele

Elder Asay & Elder Merrill with Jack

Monday, June 18, 2018

The Lord was saving the best for last!

Hey guys!  The past couple weeks have been so great.  We have been 
really busy teaching.  I think we have taught a sit down lesson everyday.  
It has been so awesome!  We also had dinner with a member here who 
made us some amazing Mexican tacos. I have been missing Mexican 
food so it was delicious! 

Last Tuesday we went to Memphis for Zone Conference.  Elder Perkins 
of the Seventy came to visit.  We had an awesome meeting.  It was quite 
different than many of our other meetings with General Authorities.  He 
taught us some great missionary skills I will be able to use my last two 
weeks here AND after I return home.  He also gave us some really good 
returning home from our mission advice.  He told us that it is a lot easier 
to stay in spiritual condition than to get back into it.  For some reason that 
really hit home for me. It makes me sad when missionaries say that they 
need to take a little break when they return  home.  Serving a mission has 
made me super excited to serve in the church.  

Wednesday was an awesome missionary day!  We finished the lessons 
with Kenny in preparation for his baptism Saturday.  We also had a visit 
with Jack.  That night we taught one of our best Book of Mormon classes 
and I typed up baptismal program. 

Thursday we began exchanges with the Zone leaders and had Kenny’s 
baptismal interview.  I served with Elder Murdock.  He was in Memphis 
when I was there and it was fun to serve with him again.  We had a good 
exchange in Batesville together.  We ended up getting a Bible referral for 
a homeless guy.  We met with him in the local park and had a 45 minute 
lesson that went really well.  We don’t really know what the policy is with 
teaching homeless people and need to find out. 

Friday we exchanged back and Elder Asay and I did our weekly planning.  
We then went to visit Jack again.  Jack called us a couple weeks ago and 
said he wanted to meet with us. He has been through all the discussions 
twice and read the Book of Mormon once.  He didn’t get baptized before 
because he found some anti stuff against the church.  Our first lesson we 
had with him he told us he wanted to get baptized for real this time so we 
set a date for this Saturday.  It has been really amazing to work with him.  
We have taught him all the lessons and are having his baptismal interview 
this week!  We are super excited. 

Saturday was definitely the highlight of our week thanks for Kenny baptism.  
Everything went great.  He has a sister that is a member who lives in Little 
Rock at the moment but she is moving to Batesville in about a week.  We 
called and asked her to speak on baptism.  She did a great job and she was 
so excited to see her brother get baptized!  I baptized him and it was a really 
special experience for me.  He is the first person on my mission that I have 
taught every lesson to and then baptized.  It really was a special day that I 
will always remember.  I still think it is funny that we had our very first lesson 
at Hardees (the Carl’s junior of the south).  From that moment on he just ate 
everything we said up.  He loved every minute of learning the gospel.  It has 
all just been a really awesome experience. 

Sunday we confirmed Kenny.  There was such an amazing spirit.  He was so 
excited to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.  After church we had our monthly 
potluck that was delicious.  

Batesville has been a pretty special place for me and I will be sad to leave. I 
have had more success here than in any other area of my mission.  I guess 
the Lord was saving the best for last!  I definitely have a strong testimony 
now of enduring to the end.  Sometimes we might not be able to see it, but 
there will always be a blessing waiting for us at the end of the tunnel.  
I love you guys!  I’m excited to see you in a couple weeks! 

Love Elder Merrill 

Elder Asay and Elder Merrill 
at Zone Conference in Memphis

Zone Conference lunch

Elder Smalley & Elder Merrill

Kenny's Baptism!  
I gave Kenny this tie for his baptism

I feel like you would only see this in the South - ha ha

Zone P-day in Jonesboro today!

Monday, June 11, 2018

Batesville Missionaries go Spelunking!

Due to Elder Merrill's spelunking adventure today we got the following
short message.   

Hey guys - Sorry I don't have time to write a longer letter today.  We had
an amazing outdoor and underground adventure at the Blanchard Springs 
Caverns in Arkansas today for P-day!  They are located in Mountain View 
Arkansas.  It was awesomely beautiful and a ton of fun.  I'm so grateful I 
had the opportunity to experience one of the most interesting Arkansas 
attractions!  I promise to write more next week!  

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