Monday, July 31, 2017

Stayin in Memphis!

Hey guys!  Today is transfer day and I'm stayin' in Memphis 
with Elder Smalley.  So happy!  It's crazy to think that another 
transfer has gone by!  I don't have tons of time today because 
of transfers.  This afternoon we ended up going to the Pyramid 
and bowling with a bunch of people.  It was super fun!  

This past week was really good.  We helped a member of the 
branch move for two full days.  It was actually a lot of fun.  In 
between moving the guy taught us a bunch of soccer moves.  
I feel like I'm getting pretty good - you better watch out Dad.  

Remember Ricardo from Columbia that came to our English 
class?  We began teaching him this week.  He told us when 
he was at our church service he really felt like it was the church 
he has been looking for.  Miracles do happen people!  

Happy Birthday mom!  You told me that the best gift I could give 
you is sharing my testimony with you - so here goes.......... 

I have definitely come to know for myself that this gospel is 
amazing. The more I learn about this gospel the more I come 
to love it.  As have helped people become more converted to 
the gospel I have become more converted myself.  I have come 
to love repentance because without it none of us would get very 
far.  I have come to love the people I serve. It is amazing to be able 
to see someone through the eyes of God.  I want to do everything 
I can to help others feel His love for each other them.  Miracles are 
a real thing.  I am pretty sure that miracles happen right when we 
think God has forgotten us.  There is story about the refiners fire.  
It talks about how we need to get a little bit beat up before we can 
become who we need to be. I love my Savior and I know He is there 
to carry me when I can't take another step.  I have definitely come to 
know that you were always right - Ha ha - that has been kinda frustrating.  
Thanks for always being there and helping me and showing me that 
this gospel is true.  I love being a missionary!  I especially love it when 
people yell at us on our bikes.  I've heard some crazy stuff but it is all 
worth it.  I'm excited to still have a year left to serve as a missionary.  
I plan to give it all I have!  Thanks for everything Mom.  I love you! 

Love Elder Merrill
Elder Merrill in his new jersey at the Memphis Pyramid

BOWLING at the Pyramid

This 6-pack of missionaries are all happy to 
still be serving together in Memphis for another transfer.
Elder Smalley & Merrill - Hermanas Petty & Keller - Elders Anaya & Sotomarino

Handsome Elders

 -Memphis Zone - 
in their shirts they painted for their zone vs. zone battle

Companions Elder Smalley & Elder Merrill

Elder Merrill & Elder Anaya

What are they talking about? :)

Monday, July 24, 2017

Soccer star and a Miracle

Hey guys!  All is well here in the land of Memphis.  Transfers are next
week so we will see what happens to me.  I really hope I stay here - 
love Memphis!  

Thanks for the package!  I loved everything!  The ties were awesome, 
and I am wearing the Aggie shirt today #aggienation.  We made the 
Oreo pudding last night and it was delicious.  There are some cookies 
left - trying to stretch them out.  It's still super weird to think that it has 
been a year since I became a full-time missionary.  Time is flying! 

Saturday was really a super awesome day!  We played soccer with 
the Spanish Branch's team against another ward in the area.  It was 
amazing!  It was also the first time I have felt like an athlete again my 
whole mission.  Best part - we won the game 3-2.  In the last couple 
of minutes the other team got really close to scoring and tying the game.  
I was playing defender and our goalie had just dove onto the ground to 
block a kick.  Right after that the other team tried to score again so I ran 
and kinda did a jump spin and blocked it with my behind - It was amazing!  
It was so much fun but it was also really hot!  It honestly looked like some
one had dumped a gallon of water on me by the end of the game.  I actually 
drank a gallon of water.  We forgot water so after the game we went to a 
gas station to get some water and a gallon was the cheapest.  I bought it 
and pretty much drank it all!  Today my legs are super sore.  Not really a big 
surprise that I'm a little out of shape.  I feel like I am a different kind of fit now.  
can walk and ride my bike all day long without a problem....Running is kind 
of a different story - ha ha.

This week leading up to Saturday was pretty good.  Our car was still in the 
shop so we were on bikes again.  We haven't had a lot of people to teach 
for a while, so that's been kind of frustrating.  Yesterday we found a couple 
of solid investigators.  Hopefully all goes well with them.  We just keep 
looking and finding and keeping the faith.    

We did have a really amazing experience this past week - I might even call 
it a miracle!  Here is some background.  We teach an English class with the 
sisters every Tuesday and Thursday.  It is super fun.  We have about fifteen 
people that attend the class each week.  This week we had a new guy show 
up and introduce himself to us.  His name is Ricardo and he is from Columbia.  
At the end of class we invited everyone to church as we always do and then 
everyone left.  Then yesterday at church Ricardo just walks into the door for 
sacrament meeting!  We were so excited - it was so awesome to see him again!  
After sacrament meeting we started talking to him.  The sisters had given him 
pamphlet and they had told us that he wanted to talk to us.  So we took this 
opportunity at church to talk to him.  He asked us to come over and teach him.  
What?  This never happens!  Of course we said yes!  We hung out with him for 
the rest of church.  He told us God led him to the church.  I asked him to explain 
that a little more.  He said he went to a store to buy something that he has never 
gone to before.  He said he probably never would have, but that day he felt that 
he should go into that store.  While in that store he saw one of our English class 
signs.  He wrote down the phone number and called the sisters.  He asked them 
about the English class and told them that he would probably be there.  He then 
told us when we announced that we had a church service he was really happy 
because he had been feeling a desire to learn more about the Bible and Jesus 
Christ.  It was truly amazing!  This experience was a huge testimony builder 
for me.  Here we are - missionaries needing people to teach and God sends us 
Ricardo.  Goreally does bless us in our trials.  God really is in the details.  
Remember that!  I sure love you guys!  

Love Elder Merrill

Elder Merrill loves Memphis!

Elder Merrill & Elder Smalley with Luis.

Luis was baptized this past February and recently broke his leg.  
He asked the Elders if they could hang out and take him to the park.  
Elder Merrill said they had a wonderful day serving on of their friends.

The Spanish Branch soccer game

Elder Merrill said the following about this jersey-

"I bought a little present for myself with the 20 bucks that was in my 
package from Grandpa and Grandma.  There is a little Spanish mall 
here that sells jerseys for 15 bucks and then puts whatever number you 
want on it for free.  Real Madrid was the closest thing I could find to 
Real Salt Lake.  And of course - my number 20.  I think it is pretty sweet!"

Monday, July 17, 2017

Missionaries at the Memphis Pyramid

Hey guys!  Sounds like the Merrill Reunion was awesome!  Glad to 
know that people still remember me - ha ha.  That's so fun you got 
to go to the Bees baseball game.  I miss baseball a lot.  It's was 
probably weird not having tons of baseball games to go to this year.  
Thanks for always coming to every game and supporting me.  

This week was a tough one.  We talked to a lot of people everyday 
but weren't really able to teach a lot of lessons.  It really was a slow 
week.  The work here has kind of started to slow down in our area.  
We are working really hard to change things!  

This past week we were on bikes again.  When we got the car from 
the Sisters it had been crashed into in a parking lot so we got the 
opportunity of taking it into a shop for repairs.  So whaven't had 
it since last Tuesday and hope to get it back today or tomorrow.  

Elder Smalley is a great companion.  We get along really well and he 
is the biggest wanna-be cowboy I have ever met.  He's pretty funny.  

Going to the Memphis Pyramid last P-day was amazing!   We were 
able to go with an investigator and the opportunity kinda came out of 
nowhere.  He took us to the restaurant at the very top of the Pyramid 
where I ate some yummy elk chops.  We were then able to go out onto 
the decks at the top.  I took some pictures and it was amazing!  

Today for P-day we went to a place called the Main Event.  We enjoyed 
unlimited bowling, laser tag, pool, shuffle board, and a ropes course.  We
spent most of the day there.  It was nice after this past week.  

It's so crazy that this Wednesday I hit my year mark of being a missionary!  
I love being a missionary more that I ever thought I could.  Time actually 
needs to slow down but I'm going to make the most of every day.  I hope you 
all do the same.  I love you guys!  Have an awesome week!

Love Elder Merrill

Elder Merrill on the top deck of the Pyramid

Elder Smalley and Elder Merrill

Elder Smalley & Elder Merrill 
Hermana Petty & Hermana Keller 
Elder Anaya & Elder Sotomarino

Monday, July 10, 2017

President Hansen has arrived!

Hey guys!  We had a pretty average week here in Memphis.  
Nothing too exciting happened.  We had the car this week so 
that was good.  We were finally able to get back in contact with 
our top investigators.  We haven't been able to see them in 
while so it was really great to see them again.  

We got to meet President Hansen on Thursday.  He is awesome! 
I am really excited to get to know him more.  He pronounced a 
blessing upon all of us missionaries that was incredible!  

We are headed out to the pyramid today so I will send pictures 
next week!  Sorry this email is kinda you guys!

Love Elder Merrill

President & Sister Hansen

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

President Taniela B. Wakolo

President Wakolo left the Arkansas Little Rock Mission 
this past week.  The following are 2 favorite stories of him.  

The story of the two blue books.  

"When President Wakolo was new as the ALRM Mission President, he was at a restaurant.  His blue Book of Mormon was on the table right by him.  A stranger came up, grabbed his Book of Mormon, threw it on the ground, and with anger yelled, 'Blasphemy, Blasphemy, y'all don't believe in Jesus Christ!' President Wakolo was shocked and didn't want this situation to happen to any of his 18 and 19 year old missionaries.  He wanted to better prepare his missionaries.  A lot of thought and prayer went into coming up with a solution that he would feel comfortable with and what the Lord would be comfortable with.  President Wakolo decided then, back in 2014, that his missionaries would carry both the Bible and the Book of Mormon.  He ordered hundreds of Blue Bibles for his missionaries to carry along with their Blue Book of Mormon.  He then teaches the missionaries Ezekiel 37:14-20, 'The Book of Mormon is the stick of Ephraim and the Bible is the stick of Judah and they should be one in our hand, always carry them together as one in your hands, so that you can testify both of the Bible and Book of Mormon together.'  So the missionaries in the ALRM have carried both a Book of Mormon and the Bible together, 
everyday, everyday, everyday "

Elder Merrill with his Blue Book standing beside President Wakolo

"The Church is True - The Book is Blue"

Brother Wakolo’s Disciple’s Soul by Spencer Condie
While serving in the South Pacific, I received a letter from the First Presidency with an assignment to travel to Fiji and deliver a letter to Taniela Wakolo, president of the Nausori Fiji Stake. After I handed the letter to him, he read aloud the call from the First Presidency to serve as an Area Seventy, and tears flowed freely from his cheeks and those of his lovely wife, Anita.
After discussing with him the nature and duties of his new calling, I observed the tattoo on Brother Wakolo’s large right hand. Now, tattoos are very common throughout the South Pacific, and long before he joined the Church, Taniela Wakolo had the back of his hand tattooed with a large, garish design.
I said: “Brother Wakolo, in your new calling as an Area Seventy, you are going to be speaking to the youth on many occasions. I would suggest before such meetings that you put a large Band-Aid on the back of your hand to cover your tattoo. It’s hard to discourage our youth from getting tattoos when the speaker has one himself.”
He smiled a broad smile, and with a radiant expression he said, “I’ll take care of it. I want to be a good example.”
A few weeks passed, and the next time we met, his hand was heavily bandaged as if he were preparing for a boxing match. I asked, “What in the world happened to you?”
He smiled with glistening eyes and said, “I followed your counsel and had the tattoo removed.”
“Was it laser surgery?” I asked.
“No,” he replied with a big smile, “they don’t remove tattoos with lasers in Fiji. I had it surgically cut out.”
A month later Elder Wakolo and I were assigned together to reorganize a stake presidency in American Samoa. As we met at the airport, I immediately noticed an unsightly scar on the back of his hand where the surgeon had removed several square inches of skin and then very crudely sutured the gaping wound closed. This had not been performed by a plastic surgeon.
I apologized for having been the cause of the large scar on the back of his hand. He responded with a radiant Christlike countenance: “Not to worry, President Condie; this is my CTR ring. Now the Lord knows where I stand! I’ll do anything the Lord asks of me.”
Elder Wakolo has become a disciple who keeps his covenants and strives to do good continually.
His scarred hand represents his obedience as a disciple of Christ.  

Now he can bless this lives of  many members of the Church of 
Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints as a General Authority Seventy.

Elder Merrill with President and Sister Wakolo 
the day he arrived in the Arkansas Little Rock Mission.  
His life has been blessed by them forever!  


Monday, July 3, 2017

Another week "in the wonder that is Memphis!"

Hey guys!  Wow, this week was...yes...long...interesting.  This week was 
bike week so it was full of adventures.  We no longer have a car full-time.  
On Tuesday, Elder Smalley popped his bike tire and we had to walk a 
ways back to our apartment.  When got back to our apartment we called 
member to give us a ride to our appointment.  He ended up taking an
hour to get to our apartment so not a lot got done that day.  Then - on 
Wednesday I popped my bike tire so we had to once again walk back to 
our apartment.  Luckily it was towards the end of the day and we decided
to just stay in for the night.  Then on Thursday and Friday Elder Smalley 
was sick with food poisoning so we couldn't leave the apartment.  I almost 
went insane!   As a missionary you can only do so much.  Needless to say 
those were 2 very l-o-n-g days.  But Saturday was a good day.  We were 
finally able to get out of the apartment that afternoon and visit with a recent 
convert.  That evening we had dinner with the 1st counselor in the Branch.  
Saturday dinner is always fun at his house because all of the English Elders 
in the area come too so there is usually 3 sets of companions there.  

Yesterday was a good fast Sunday.  I was able to translate the meeting.  I 
have really started to enjoy translating now.  Elder Smalley and I wore our 
cowboy boots to church and the first counselor wore his as well - So of 
course we had to take a picture!  It was pretty funny.

I love hearing about everything going on back home.  Sometimes I want to 
be there but then I think - Nope - I get the honor to live another day in the 
wonder that is Memphis.  I don't think I will ever get bored of this city.  There 
is always a new adventure.  

We don't really have any plans for the 4th yet.  We are hoping a member will 
invite us over for some festivities or something.  Today we are having a zone 
P-day.  We are going to paint shirts for our mission zone civil war.  We are
having a battle, or a civil war so to say, between us and another zone for 
independence.  Basically how it will work is that for the rest of the transfer we 
will get challenges from our zone leaders everyday.  We will be awarded points
based on completing the challenges they give us.  For example - a challenge 
could be talk to everyone you see wearing headphones, and stuff like that.  It
should be pretty fun.  After we make shirts we are going to head to the Nike 
clearance store hoping to catch some awesome deals!  
I truly love and miss you all but being a missionary is the best!  
hope you have an awesome week!

Love Elder Merrill

Elder Merrill, Branch 1st Counselor, Elder Smalley
wearing their cowboy boots to church!  

Elder Merrill by a Buddha statue