Monday, November 20, 2017

This week in Monticello...

Hey guys!  This week in Monticello was good.  It was a 
week where nothing really too exciting happened but it 
was a good week.  My wrist feels better everyday. I just 
wear my brace now when we are riding bikes.   

Tuesday was just a normal day.  We just biked around 
Monticello and taught a couple lessons.  

Wednesday we went back to the little town Warren. That 
was really fun.  We were able to talk to some cool people 
and alsoprovide some service for a member.  

Thursday was another normal day around Monticello.  

Friday I’m pretty sure was just another normal day. I don’t 
really remember anything much happening.  

Saturday was cool!  We went back to the town Hermitage. 
This is the place that I told you about where people there 
have had the feeling that there will be a Spanish Branch 
there soon.  We helped the member there install a shower. 
Elder Toomer and I got to crawl underneath the house and 
do some plumbing.  That was pretty awesome - ha ha!  We 
are really learning how to do all kinds of stuff out here in the
Arkansas Little Rock Mission!    

Sunday we were able to watch the Face-to-Face broadcast.  
We saw our neighbor Ray there so that was cool!  

Sorry there's nothing really exciting to tell you this week.  We 
went bowling today for P-day.  Tonight we have been invited 
to eat dinner with a family here.  They are going to cook us 
some Texas BBQ!  Yum!  

Love you guys!  The Church is true!

Love Elder Merrill

Monday, November 13, 2017

An amazing blessing & sweet service opportunity

Hey guys!  I had an awesome week here in Monticello!   My wrist 
is doing great. I just wear the brace while we are out and about and 
then usually take it off in the apartment to get some movement and 
strength back into it.  So far it seems to be working. I figure it needs 
about one more week and it should almost be back to normal. It has 
been amazing to be able to shower normal again. 

Last week P-day was awesome.  We went to our investigator Keith’s 
house and hung out for half the day.  We played a few games of horse
shoes and he smoked some chicken for us to eat.  It was amazing!  
Then we fished on his pond for about an hour until it got dark.  Elder 
Padilla was the only one who caught a fish.  After fishing we had an 
amazing lesson with him.  He has many views on a lot of deep doctrine 
that lines up almost exactly as our church.  He is convinced that we are 
here on Earth to develop our soul and not our body.  We told him he was 
exactly right.  That is part of the plan.  He challenged us to find some 
scriptures backing this up so that will be a fun scriptural treasure hunt.  
We are going to see him again tomorrow.  We have prayed together 
that everything will go well and we will have the spirit with us when we
teach him.  

Tuesday was a pretty standard missionary day.  We biked around town 
most of the day looking for new people to teach.  Wednesday was about 
the same.  We had a really good visit with one of our home teaching 
families.  We spent about an hour and a half there with them and they 
shared their whole story with us.  They still have strong testimonies but 
were offended at church so now they don’t really feel welcome.  It is 
always so sad to see this because it usually flies both ways.  It's usually 
hard to know what the real story because each side of the story is different.  
Hopefully we can help their family return to church soon.  

Thursday was awesome.  We had Zone Conference in Little Rock so I got 
to go see Elder Giles.  I really enjoyed the conference.  President Hansen 
focused the whole day on the Book of Mormon and the new Preach My 
Gospel chapter we received not too long ago.  He also really emphasized 
electronic scripture study.  He said he was encouraged by an Apostle to 
teach us this.  After he taught us - he encouraged us to do so.  And let 
me tell you, my scripture study has improved tenfold!  Now every scripture 
that speaks to me I tag it with everything it can relate it to.  I add a note.  I 
try to link it to other similar scriptures as well.  It has truly changed my entire 
scripture study.  It really has been an amazing blessing!  

Friday was super sweet.  We went to the Elders Quorum President's house 
and built a deck for him.  He supplied the wood and instructed us how to do 
it.  We literally built the whole thing by ourselves from scratch.  He watched 
of course to make sure we did it right but it was a really super sweet service 
opportunity.  They also fed us roast ham after so that was amazing.  

This past week we had an amazing lesson with the baseball guy I told you 
about.  He has been an investigator for about six years.  His wife is a super 
strong member, he has just been struggling with some doubts.  We went over 
and were able to clear up a lot of his doubts about the Book of Mormon and 
Joseph Smith.  It got to the point that at the end of the lesson he basically said 
he just needs to decide when he is going to get baptized.  I feel that this day 
for him will be soon.  

Saturday was just another Saturday but we had a wonderful Sunday.  W
had a potluck dinner right after church with everybody.  There was a lot of 
good food and it was a great opportunity to get to know the members.  

This morning we got all of our cleaning and shopping done and then went 
and played tennis for about two hours.  There is a tennis court right by our 
house.  After we are done emailing we are going bowling with the sisters so 
that will be fun.  I’m getting ready to beat everyone left handed again.  
I hope you all have an awesome week.  I love you all so much!   

Love Elder Merrill
Elder Padilla, Elder Merrill & Elder Toomer

SPAM anyone?

Monday, November 6, 2017

Cutting my cast off and other adventures...

Hello everyone!  This week was really full of excitement and some 
fun adventures!  Tuesday was a pretty normal day.  We were on 
bikes and were able to visit a few people and teach some lessons. 

Wednesday we had a car - luckily - because it rained all day.  We 
drove out to a tiny town called Wilmer.  The population there is about 
1000 -probably a little less.  After visiting Wilmer we went to Warren 
which is a little bigger.  Still smaller than Monticello,  but a cool little 
town.  While we were in Warren we happened to knock on the door 
of a Pentecostal preacher.  That was a fun experience.  While we 
were talking to him his friend came up and we had a little Bible bash.  
It’s funny because every time someone tries to fight against the Book 
of Mormon they never really have a good reason.  So we shared our 
testimonies and left.  

Thursday was a fun day.  We went to a little town called McGee. While 
in McGee we taught two little kids who are going to get baptized pretty 
soon.  Their father is a less active member who is starting to return to 
the church.  After teaching the kids we returned to Monticello and had 
a correlation meeting with the mission leader.  

Friday we always have our weekly planning.  After that we ventured out
on our bikes again to visit a few people around town.  On Saturday we 
decided to map out the town with numbers.  We then prayed about which 
area we should go to.  After praying we felt impressed to pick a certain 
number.  We went to that area and stayed there for the entire day finding 
people to teach.  It was actually really cool.  We found an awesome couple 
on their porch.  We talked to a Baptist preacher and a few other people. 
What an amazing blessing it was for us to witness miracles in the area we 
chose.  To witness our missionary prayers to find people being answered.  

Sunday we had an awesome fast and testimony meeting at church. I got 
up and introduced myself to the ward, bore my testimony and shared a 
story I love called Footprints in the Sand.  Look it up and read it if you have 
never heard it.  After church we rode our bikes around the area some more 
and then had dinner at a neighbors house.  We are teaching the husband 
who is not a member.  His name is Jay and he remind me a lot of myself.  
He has played baseball his whole life and he loves hunting.  He has been 
taught by missionaries for quite awhile and we are really hoping to be the 
one to baptize him.  

Then Sunday night we had another adventure - we cut my cast off!  Elder 
Toomer did it with a kitchen knife and all went well.  My wrist actually feels 
really good - just a little weak and stiff.  We went out earlier today to buy a
brace.  The doctor said to wear the brace for a bit and especially when I'm
active.  Today we are headed out to one of our investigator's house to go 
fishing on his pond.  I am super pumped!  I will let you know how it goes next 
week.  Thanks for all that you do for me and I hope y’all have a great week! 

Love Elder Merrill
Elder Merrill biking in Monticello Arkansas

Pine Bluff District
Elder Merrill - Elder Padilla - Elder Toomer
Elder Armstrong - Elder Paopao 
Elder Brinkerhoff - Elder Skelton
Sister Minster - Sister Jensen

Monday, October 30, 2017

Always an adventure!

Hey y’all, how is ya?  This week was a good one. Monticello is awesome - 
I absolutely love it here!  It’s a pretty small town - only a couple thousand 
people or so.  We also hardly ever have wifi so definitely a change from 
the big city of Memphis.  We also attend a branch here and it is great.  

Tuesday we rode bikes around all day.  I was able to get to know my new 
area pretty well.  We were able to visit a couple people here.  That night 
we had dinner with the branch mission leader's family and also the sister 
missionaries.  They are a big hunting family with lots of guns.  It was fun 
to talk about hunting with them.  

Wednesday was an adventure.  We drove to Memphis for my follow-up 
appointment with the orthopedic doctor I saw last week.  The drive was 
3 hours there and 3 hours home.  My appointment took about an hour.  
I had another X-ray and met with the doctor.  He said everything looks 
great with my wrist.  He gave me the go ahead to just cut the cast off 
myself in about a week.  So we'll go to the store and get some wire 
cutters or something to see if I can can get this thing off me.  :)  
I'll need to wear a brace for a couple more weeks after the cast comes 
off and then it should be healed  Good thing I'm kind of a pro at healing 
broken bones. I guess that has been the positive in all of this.  After my 
appointment we went and got some dinner then drove home.  

Thursday was just another normal day here in Monticello.  It rained all 
day but luckily not too hard because we were riding bikes that day.  My 
wrist isn't hurting anymore at all so I felt pretty good riding.  We were 
able to visit a few people while we were out.  It was nice to see more 
white people on the streets instead of just all black people.  I know that 
sounds racist but it’s not.  I have totally grown to love black people and 
white people and Hispanic people - - I have learned to love all people 
while serving here in the South.  We are all children of God.  

Friday we had our weekly planning session.  We also discussed all the 
people they have been teaching here in the area. After the morning in 
our apartment we went out for awhile.  We taught a lesson to a lady in 
her front yard that went pretty well.  We hope to go back next week.  
Being in a small town after a big city has been a nice change.  And my 
new living space feels good.  It already feels like home.  Also serving 
with Elder Toomer feels like home. 

My new address is:
732 Old Warren Road  Apt. 6
Monticello, AR  71655

Saturday was definitely an adventure.  We drove out to a little town called 
Hermitage, Arkansas.  It is about 30 minutes away and only has about 800 
people.  They goal for us as Spanish missionaries here is to go to Hermitage 
once a week and eventually start a Spanish Branch.  The members in this 
town have had feelings and dreams and very positive promptings from the 
Holy Ghost that there will one day be a Spanish Branch in Hermitage.  It is 
really cool.  I feel so blessed to be able to be able to be a part of starting a 
branch of the church in this area.  Being in Hermitage for the first time was 
a really amazing experience for me.  While in the town I had a very strong 
and very distinct feeling that this is where I need to be right now.  I know that 
there will be a Spanish Branch there one day.  We weren't able to teach too 
many people there that day but we were able visit a couple Hispanic families.  
We had one really good lesson with an older lady.  We also received a few 
more Hispanic contacts. Our goal is to also make ourselves known in this little 
town.  We had a little trouble on our way home from Hermitage.  We had pulled 
off to the side of the road to look at directions.  We had barely been stopped for 
a minute when a 19-year-old girl slammed into our back end going 55 miles an 
hour.  Luckily no one was hurt.  We actually barely even felt the impact.  She 
completely knocked out our back left tire, including the suspension and drive
shaft.  Basically the entire wheel well was empty.  Luckily she wasn’t hurt either.  
Please don't worry - we all are fine.  Except now we don’t have a car anymore 
and are sharing with the sisters.  We rotate every other day.  

Always an adventure! 

Sunday was awesome.  It was my first time being in an English branch.  The 
Branch President is a really cool guy.  He has tons of land on his property and 
a couple private fishing ponds.  We are going fishing for a P-Day soon.  I am 
very excited about that.   

I love serving with Elder Toomer!  It really is so awesome.  We all get along 
great.  Elder Toomer and I have always joked that we would be each others 
last companion and then return home together.  I am feeling so blessed and 
excited that we are able to serve together now.  Elder Padilla is also super 
awesome.  He is from Peru and still hardly knows any English.  He is learning 
more everyday and we are helping him.  We have a really fun time together.  
It is actually a nice change being in an English area and speaking English 
more than Spanish.  I do miss teaching in Spanish though.  Luckily, in our 
companionship we basically speak nothing but Spanish so that should help 
keep up my language skills.  

Elder Merrill - Elder Toomer - Elder Padilla

Thanks for the awesome emails, I always enjoy reading them.  Today we’re 
headed bowling so wish me luck left-handed.  I hope y’all have an awesome 
week!  Love you all!  

Love Elder Merrill

Elder Padilla and Elder Merrill

Elder Merrill was blessed to sing in another Missionary 
Musical Tribute Fireside.  The performed in Monticello
the Sunday after he arrived in his new area.  He sang in 
the fireside the 2 previous Sundays in the Memphis area.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Crossing the River to Monticello Arkansas

Hey guys - It's transfer day!  I'm crossing the river again and heading to 
Monticello, Arkansas -- and my companion will be Elder Toomer!!!  I
am so pumped!  I will be finishing up training his Greenie with him so
we will be in a trio.   I’ve heard many good things about Monticello so 
I'm excited to serve there.  The area was opened last transfer so I'm not 
sure how much Spanish there will be but I'm excited for the change.  
have mixed feelings about leaving Memphis because I have been there 
for so long.  I have really grown to love the Spanish Branch there.  It was
sad to say goodbye to a few people.  I am looking forward to being back
in Little Rock for today.  I am hoping to see a few former companions - 
maybe Elder Giles.  I'm also sad to say goodbye to a few missionaries 
leaving today.  You may remember Elder Donahoo?  He is headed home 
tomorrow.  We have become pretty good friends.  I feel so blessed to have
met so many wonderful people here in the Arkansas Little Rock Mission.  

I am currently riding in the transfer van on my way to my new home for 
at least the next 6 weeks.  I am seriously so excited to serve with Elder 
Toomer!  I can't believe it has been 15 months since we boarded a plane
together to head to the Mexico MTC.  I have to go back to Memphis on 
Wednesday to get another x-ray and check-up on my wrist.  Do you like
my camouflage cast?  Sorry I don't have a lot of time to write today with
everything going one.  I love you guys.  Have a great week! 

Love Elder Merrill
                                                      Love that SMILE!  

Memphis Spanish Missionaries
Elder Smalley & Merrill, Hermana Robles & Keller, Elder Park & Sotomarino

 Just look for the Elder in the cast

Monday, October 16, 2017

Today was a huge answer to prayers

Prayers have been answered!  After x-rays last Monday I was put
in a splint.  I then had a CT scan on Thursday and put in a light 
fiberglass blue cast.  Today I saw an orthopedic specialist to review 
the scan and find out what was next.  It was good news!  

"All good news.  No displacement of the fracture so no surgery and 
they are applying a new cast.  Re-check and re-xray next week and 
the doctor is confident I will heal well.  Four weeks in a cast.  Yea!"  

Today was a huge answer to prayers.  Thank you so much to all
who have prayed in my behalf.  I was pretty concerned about the
possibility of going home if surgery was needed so I definitely know
I'm still here for a reason.  

I know that God will always answer our prayers and those 
answers will always coincide with His plan.  

I'm super excited to be staying and serving!  I'm also excited to see 
where the Lord will send me next because I know that I am leaving 
Memphis next week (Mysterious music plays)! 

I've learned being a missionary with a cast isn't too bad.  The worst 
part this past week was having to walk instead of bike so we weren't 
super productive.  We were able to have a couple lessons so that was 
good.  I know that the Lord will give me strength and help me endure 
4 more weeks in a cast.  I do have a little experience in this area.  :)

Thanks again for all of your prayers.  I love you all!   

Love Elder Merrill
Elder Merrill in his blue cast 
waiting to see the Specialist at the Campbell Clinic

Sporting a new camouflage cast  

Shout out to Elder Smalley for taking care of Elder Merrill -
and to everyone else who has helped!  THANK YOU!!!

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Prayers for Elder Merrill

Elder Merrill broke his right wrist roller skating on P-day.
He had x-rays at an instacare and was sent to orthopedics.
He will have a CT scan on Thursday and meet with a specialist Monday.
Please pray that this injury can be healed with a cast.  

At times like these I wish I could just give him a big hug.  

I find it comforting that he wrote these words in 
his weekly email yesterday just before the accident:
"I know that if we have faith in God, nothing 
can discourage us and we will always be happy"

This has also made me think about Elder Donald L. Hallstrom's General 
Conference address he just gave called "Has the Day of Miracles Ceased?"

"While it is good to pray for and work for physical protection and 
healing during our mortal existence, our supreme focus should be on 
the spiritual miracles that are available to all of God’s children."

We all pray for the safety of our missionaries every day - but life still happens.  
We know Elder Merrill is in good hands in the ALRM.  
Thanks to everyone who has helped him.
And thank you for your prayers.  

Monday, October 9, 2017

The gospel brings happiness!

Hey guys!  It was a great week and Memphis continues to be awesome!  
Tuesday we had a district meeting.  After the meeting we went and helped 
a family move into a new home so that took awhile.  I always enjoy serving 
others so it was good.  Then that night we taught our English class.  

Wednesday was just a normal day.  We watched a bunch of videos to learn 
more about proselyting on Facebook.  That took a good chunk of time.  We 
then tried out some of the things we learned and were able to have a few 
conversations over Facebook messenger.  That evening we went to dinner 
and rode way out of Memphis, ok - not way out - but we left city limits and 
visited with some former investigators.  It was actually a pretty fun bike ride. 
When we got there they were just about to leave but we were able to talk to 
them.  They said they wanted us to come back so that is awesome.  We then
rode back closer to our apartment and visited a couple people there.  

Thursday we went and did some service at the library.  After that we had an 
awesome lesson with one of Elder Spencer's former investigator so that was 
cool.  She was actually really happy we came over and invited us back the 
same day next week.  After that lesson we went and visited a less active crazy 
Cuban named Rene.  While we were there some of his friends showed up.  He 
invited them all to church so they could find some good wives.  Elder Smalley 
and I just laughed because we really didn't know what to say after that.  Then 
that night we taught our English class again.  

Friday was amazing!  We spent most of the day in the presence of a General
Authority - Elder Klebingat.  We arrived about 8:45 am and the meeting began 
at 9:00.  It was a really relaxed meeting.  Elder Klebingat told us he didn’t really 
have an agenda and hadn’t prepared anything but he was prepared to answer 
all our questions.  We had a wonderful question and answer session.  Every 
question that was asked he answered.  He instructed us for about 5 hours on 
the fly.  It was really quite amazing.  We also discussed some really deep doctrine 
about the plan of salvation.  It was incredible.  He had forgotten his phone so he 
told us he was just going to call on us to read the scriptures - but he seriously 
rattled off reference after reference.  It was very impressive.  We really dove into 
what life was like with our Heavenly Father and the pre-existance and preparing 
to come to Earth.  We talked about how our world is the most wicked one that He 
created so that is why Christ came here.  This was a very scary thought to me but 
also so cool to think that our Heavenly Father trusted us enough to come here.  
Through his entire instruction I felt impressed to write down all the scriptures he 
referenced.  Most of them were about pre-Earth life.  This was very interesting 
and helpful to me because if you remember my patriarchal blessing talks about a 
lot about my pre-mortal life.  After his pre-mortal life instruction we had lunch.  Then 
during the afternoon we focused on how to improve our missionary skills.  He also 
really hit hard on the Book of Mormon.  The best part of to me was that he helped 
me see such simple principles taught in such a deep manner.  I don’t know if that 
makes sense but that is what it was like.  He also talked about the art of pondering 
along with our daily Book of Mormon study.  He instructed that part of our study time 
should be set aside for pondering so we can allow God to really talk to us.  I loved 
that thought.  It really was a wonderful day.  

During my personal study on Saturday I read my patriarchal blessing again and 
studied all the scriptures I wrote down the day before.  During this study time I 
received the coolest personal revelation that I have ever received my whole life!
Definitely the most amazing study experience I have ever had as a missionary.  
I am so grateful for this. 

Saturday night we had dinner with the wonderful Benitez family.  On Sunday 
we only had sacrament meeting because we combined with the English ward 
and had a linger longer after to break our fast.  Elder Klebingat was definitely 
the highlight of the week.  Being in his presence was such a huge testimony 
builder for me.  I know that the plan of salvation is essential knowledge for us 
to have to understand our purpose in life.  I also know that the Book of Mormon 
contains the steps we need to fulfill our purpose here on Earth.  
The gospel is so amazing!  

"So that those who believe in God may have the firm hope of a better
world, yea, even a place to the right hand of God; and this hope comes
by faith, provides an anchor to the souls of men And makes them secure
and firm, always continue in good works, being driven to glorify God."
-Ether 12:4

This is one of my favorite scriptures. We live in a crazy world. I know I can always 
find peace in the words of the prophets. I know that if we have faith in God, nothing 
can discourage us and we will always be happy.

The gospel bring so much happiness to people.  I have decided that being happy is 
way more fun than being sad.  And if we have nothing else to make us happy we will 
always have our foundation in the gospel. That’s the amazing thing about this plan.  
I love it and I love you all!  

Love Elder Merrill

Hermana Robles & Keller, Elders Merrill, Sotomarino, Short, & Smalley 

Elder Klebingat & President Hansen
Elder Merrill arriving to be inspired by Elder Klebingat