Sunday, January 29, 2012
This week was a pretty fantastic week. We had a lot of marvelous lessons. We were able to teach a lot of people, we also were able to find a lot of people that seem sincerely interested to learn about the Restoration and the church. There are a lot of part member families in our area and we have started to teach some of them. It is so wonderful to teach the part members because a piece of the family already knows the truth. We have been able to find part members families in our area that are excited with what we have to share. We can share with them about Eternal Families, and how they too could become an eternal family, and be able to see firsthand the many wonders that comes with the true church. This week I did teach quite a bit. I worked with other missionaries two times this week, once with another fairly new Elder, and once with the Zone Leaders. (on a side note, there are two zone leaders in every zone. And they are companions. That is how it is done in every mission now I believe, but I know that in the past it was different.) When I worked with the Zone leader in my area, (Elder Tolman worked with the other Zone leader in their area) I was able to teach a lot. The Zone leader I worked with had a sore throat and didn't really want to talk very much. I was also the one who knew the area so he didn't know the individual needs as well as I did. He helped me a lot, but he wanted me to say all that I could before he said what he had to say. It helped me also just because of the quantity of the lessons I had to teach. He was also quite the teacher himself, I saw him say just what he needed to say in a very powerful, and very concise way. Later in the week Elder Tolman and I met with a new member family and told them about the Priesthood. It was of interest to me because as new members they were very truly interested. Sometimes less actives, or the nonmembers we teach don't really care that much. That family also really deep words. Elder Tolman didn't even know a few of the words they used. I learned a new way to say 'just a little bit', I also learned how to say summarized. I didn't catch some of the other words they said but they had a lot. All in all It has been a fantastic week. Sincerely,
Elder Nathaniel Merrill
P.S. The letter after F. doesn't work on this keyboard I had trouble tryin to phrase some thins
Monday, January 23, 2012
What is the weather like? Well right now it is hot, humid, and rainless. It is the dry season, they tell me. It has rained only a few times since I have been here, but I have seen pictures, and heard stories about the rain. When we visit some members, we will ask if they have a book of Mormon, a common response is that they lost it in a flood. Elder Tolman has a picture of him in two feet of water because the road was flooded. I don't know what time of the year is the wet season, but I know that the hot season starts in March. Right now it is usually only in the 80's. This week I went on exchanges with a Filipino Elder. It is nice to work with Filipinos because they speak Tagalog better than they speak English, I learned a lot of new words, and he taught me how to cook Adobo, which is the Philippines national dish. I also got to see the ocean. My area is near the ocean, but I have never seen it until now. I also ate some strange things with this Elder. He would go to street venders and ask me if I had tasted something they were selling, and then he'd assure me it was good and buy me some.
I previously mentioned that we contact mostly less active members. Our mission President, President Jensen, gave us a pattern to follow in our teaching less actives. The First lesson we teach is always the Atonement of Jesus Christ, then we teach them as we would investigators, and go through the missionary lessons as needed to help them return. There are a vast array of less actives. There are some who after one lesson agree to come to church and haven't missed a week since, there are some who are very bitter about the church or who don't really have testimonies. Some people just dropped inactive after marrying someone of a different faith, there are a lot of possibilities. The privilege in teaching less actives comes in the fact that we get to help people with testimonies and the light of the gospel to not fall away. Those who are baptized have greater need to stay on the right path, because with greater light is also greater condemnation. Another advantage is that we teach the Atonement of Jesus Christ a lot. The atonement is very central to the Gospel, and although every missionary will teach it, they don't always focus on it. We focus a lot of study on learning about, and how to effectively teach the Atonement of Jesus Christ. We have to help remind people of the truths that they once knew. We use the Ordinance summary record, as well as the active members to help us find less actives. President Teh had an analogy about a tree and said that first you pick the low hanging fruit. The low hanging fruit are members who have the Melchizedek Priesthood, who have been endowed, or have been on missions before becoming less active. These are the people we try to go to first. They are those who often have strong testimonies about the church despite their less active status. I am always finding a lot of good things in the scriptures. I am finding things to help me, as well as to help those I teach.
Life is good, I love you all. Love,
Monday, January 16, 2012
P.S. Also I know that the package you sent has arrived. The Zone Leaders told me that they picked it up when they were at the mission office for transfers, I just haven't picked it up from them yet. But I will get it before Valentines Day.
Monday, January 9, 2012
Monday, January 2, 2012
I think that I will probably send some pictures of the Philippines. I am not sure when, but there is a photo shop that I can print pictures. ( Said photo shop can also take professional pictures quite cheaply and other missionaries said they are going to get pictures with their companions there as well, I don't know) Speaking of pictures, I don't have any. I didn't bring any, so the only pictures I have are pictures that people have sent to me. I wouldn't mind getting the Christmas card either, I believe you said it was the wave picture. Christmas in the Philippines was fun, but New Years was crazy. The Branch President here told me before hand that it is comparable to war. They no one has real time, they all just have personal watches, so at about 11:45 they start setting off fireworks and yelling Happy New Year. The fireworks are loud and continuous until well past midnight. There is no break in sound and it really does sound like a war, they also can use all the fireworks that are illegal in Utah. It is much louder than any New Years in Utah, and apparently that is pretty consistent all throughout the Philippines. Elder Tolman didn't wake up.
Elder Tolman and I had a good week this week. We were to meet most of our goals. We are teaching quite a few lessons each week. It's good to practice the Piano before your mission because you will be asked to play a lot. Because my companion is the district leader, we have to go to do baptismal interviews, we also usually go to the baptisms. At the baptisms, they ask me to play the Piano, every time. There hasn't been a meeting since I've gotten to Agoo that I haven't played the Piano. While I am sure there are better piano players in the Baguio mission, I am the most competent in our zone. This week at a baptism one sister wanted to do a special musical number. When she found I could play the piano, she wanted me to play for her singing. So I ended up sight reading a song for a special musical number.
We did exchanges this week and I worked with Elder Domdom. Elder Domdom is a Filipino missionary, he is about to go home and is a really good missionary. We worked in my area. Because we worked in my area I was really the leader here. He didn't know who to teach or where things were located, he also didn't know where we could go when scheduled appointments fell through. It was the first time that I really had to do everything. It was a good day, I was also a little nervous, but we got a lot done. This was also the first time that I really worked with a Filipino for an extended period of time. I worked with someone who knows Tagalog a lot better than they do English. It was a little weird though, to be with someone who wants to learn English, he wants to speak English to me to practice his English, and I in turn want his help in Tagalog. He would sometimes ask me questions about English, about the best way to say a certain sentence, it was kind of different for someone to ask me a language question. (Sometimes in the Missionary Training Center the Samoans would ask me English questions as well.) I also had an interview with the mission President, President Jensen this week. President Jensen said something to me, something that he probably says to a lot of American missionaries, but I decided I should take it to heart. He said, almost in passing, that someday in the mission I would start to think in Tagalog and it would come easily to me. A few days after that interview I was thinking about that. I was thinking about how cool it would be to eventually think in a different language, then I decided I might as well do my best to help that along. I made the decision to whenever possible, whenever words run through my head to make an effort to think in Tagalog. Obviously I can't do that completely, and of course I have to make an effort, but it has helped me. I find I become increasingly aware of words that I do not know, I also am better prepared to start speaking Tagalog if I didn't have English running through my head only a moment before. I made the rules that if I am writing in my journal, or doing personal study that I wouldn't try to think Tagalog, but any other time of day I should make that effort. (Writing because I write in English, and that would be hard indeed. Personal study because I am reading in English and it would probably detract from my reading, and slow it down a lot, and my study wouldn't be as productive) That's is what I've been doing the last few days now. Have fun in 2012! I love you all. Love,
Elder Nathaniel Merrill
Sunday, January 1, 2012
Elder Nathaniel Merrill
I thought I was going to get a Filipino companion, but it turns out my companion is from American Fork. My companion's name is Elder Tolman, he has been in the field for about a year and is also one of the district leaders in our zone. I am in a city called Agoo. We are opening a new area there. After the transfer meeting on Friday, we rode in a jeepney to Agoo. The jeepney was very crowded and it was a long ride. The first night in Agoo we didn't do too much, we found where stores were and bought food, but the next day we worked quite a bit. Because we are opening a new area, and because Elder Tolman was previously in a different zone, we didn't know any members around where we lived. We managed to find out who the branch President was and so we went and met with him. The Branch President actually speaks pretty good English, best I've heard so far. The Branch President told us about a few less recent converts and less active members we could go teach. We also met the ward clerk, who then volunteered to come with us to teach some lessons. We taught 3 lessons that night. We also gave a blessing to Sister Visitacion, a recent convert whose family we taught about temples who was sick. That first night for me was tough. I was still super tired, and a little overwhelmed by the Tagalog, so I didn't do very much in the lessons. I was still able to bear testimony about what we were teaching.
Sunday was good. It was fast Sunday, I was asked to bear my testimony in Sacrament meeting, something I fully expected to be asked to do. It was good I was the first one to bear my testimony in the meeting. A lot of people in the Philippines desire to know English, so when they bore testimonies they would say English words in the midst of Tagalog. For the most part, they are not very good at English. I was also asked to play the piano in Sacrament meeting, I should have, but really didn't expect that. They asked me to play some songs I have never played before, so I sight read them. I made some mistakes, but the piano was a little out of tune so I don't think it was even noticed. The less active members that we talked to on Saturday also all came to church, and our one investigator as well, so it was good. My companion says we should focus on less active members, because there are a lot of Filipinos who become less active, this is true of the entire country. The district we are working in actually used to be a Stake, but there are many inactives. My companion said that as we focus on less active we will get a lot of refferals, and also find many part member families. He says it's not hard to find people to teach in the Philippines, so that focusing on the "rescue effort" we will still find many new investigators, as well as help strengthen the current members. This is the suggestion of Mission President Jensen for the entire Baguio mission. Sunday night we went and taught more lessons. We went with the Branch Presidents wife and taught some less active members. I felt a lot more at ease, and contributed more to the lessons. Instead of just bearing a testimony after my companion taught, I helped teach. I explained about the atonement of Jesus Christ and how much it blesses our lives. It seems people lose sight that the atonement blesses our lives each and every day. I was able to talk about the atonement, how it blesses our lives, and how only through the atonement can we become clean.
Every Filipino meal consists of rice, and something else. Sometimes the something else is good, other times it's not so good. That is what I've observed so far about Filipino food. My Preparation day is now on Monday, as you can probably guess by my emailing now. Life is good. It hasn't been to difficult adjusting. I love you all and will write again next week.
Thank you all for the packages I've received this week. They have been great. I now have a lot of candy and am sharing with my roommates. Also thank you for the Christmas present, I'll have you know that I have not opened it. I also haven't packed yet, so we will see how much space I have.
This week was an interesting week. It is our last full week so some things in our schedule changed. We had "In Field Orientation" yesterday, which is supposed to better prepare us for the actual mission field. It took all day. So we have Preperation day today, Saturday, instead of Friday. The other big change this week was Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is unlike any day in the Missionary Training Center or any Thanksgiving I've had. It was nice to have Thanksgiving right before leaving. For Thanksgiving there was a devotional, as well as a humanitarian aid project we worked on. At the devotional they selected two missionaries to speak, one of them was Sister Ycmat from my district. She spoke to the missionaries about tender mercies of the Lord. The other missionary spoke mostly about how thankful he was for the missionaries that found him. Following the missionary speakers, Sis. Wendy Nelson spoke. She spoke about doing things after the manner of God and not of man. She gave an example of the Nauvoo temple and how the architect wanted a different style than Joseph Smith directed, but Joseph Smith insisted on the Lords way. She also told a story about Elder Russell M. Nelson trusting in the Lord and doing the things God told him to even though it was against the wisdom of man. One of those was to leave his prominent career to become an apostle. The last speaker was her husband Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. He talked to us about giving thanks, an appropriate subject for Thanksgiving. He told us about the word Alleluia, which means Praise to God. He talked about the many hymns and shouts of praise in the scriptures. He told us of some miracles in his life, and ways that he personally gave thanks to God. He showed that everything we are is because of God and he deserves our thanks every hour of every day. He said that he does his best each day, and then thanks God for everything that has been done, because God ultimately made everything fall in place. He told us about his first few years as an Apostle, where he was new and inexperienced in his calling. He told how much each day he had to be thankful for and about some of the ways he could see the Lord each day in his life. He told us about special prayers of gratitude he has given, and that after great blessings we need to give a special thanks for them. It was really powerful. He was a very amazing and spiritual speaker.
As missionaries we did a Mission wide service project. We made relief kits for suffering people in South Sudan. My district didn't actually make them, we helped set up beforehand, take down afterwards, and during we were the human conveyor belt for the boxes to be moved. It was a good change from the normal service at the Training Center. Usually we clean classroom buildings, but this service project better helped the people of the world. We are done teaching our progressing investigators. We finished a few days ago. We took a language assesment last Monday to see how we've progressed. Because of these things we've had a lot of study time to read and learn the scriptures. Thanksgiving we didn't have any classes so we just studied. Actually we were allowed to watch 17 Miracles too, the MTC presidency encouraged us to go watch it in the gym so we did. But there was a lot of time for studying as well. From here out I have nothing scheduled at the Training Center except for "Study Time" and "Prepare for Departure". I know it won't take me long to pack, it just won't, so I have a lot of study time. I don't have too much time left, but I also want to mention that we had another awesome devotional on Tuesday and Fireside the previous Sunday. Both excellent talks. Tuesday was D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve, I wish I had time to tell you about his talk as well, but I instead I choose to talk about the Thanksgiving devotional.
All the Elders and Sisters in my district are really excited, and nervous, and scared about going to the Philippines. I don't remember exactly what my new mission address is. It should be in my call packet, which I'm pretty sure is at home and available for you to look up. If you can't find it, I will send you a letter from the Philippines anyway and you can get it then. Be sure to tell everyone what it is when you get it.
This past week there have been a couple really good devotionals. We had Tad R. Callister come and speak on Tuesday. I think Elder Callister gave a good talk in the most recent general conference as well. Elder Callister spoke to us very plainly about the apostasy of the gospel. He went through and gave 10 reasons why we know there was an apostasy. It was very informative, and he also brought the Spirit. I am going to mention two of the points he brought up. He brought up the fact that the manner of prayer has been altered since Christ's time on the earth. He pointed out that Christ showed how to pray, and said to pray to the Father in His name, not through patron saints or anyone else, but always through the name of Christ. Elder Callister also brought up the fact that prayers shouldn't be memorized as this is insincere. He told us that in war the enemy will try to break the line of communication from the soldiers to the General. Likewise in our day Satan has tried to corrupt the true order of prayer such that we don't pray to our Father in heaven. It reminds me of the scripture in 2 Nephi 32 that says we must pray always, for the evil spirit teaches us not to pray. The second point I really liked from Elder Callister was that Christ's church bears his name. He showed that no church on the earth had the name of Christ in 1829. The first church since the time of Christ to bear his name was in 1830 when the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was organized. It reminded me of another scripture in 3 Nephi where they are disputing what to call the church, and Christ tells the 12 apostles to call it the Church of Christ. An interesting point Elder Callister brought up was that Martin Luther told his followers they were to be called Christians, and not Lutherans. Martin Luther wanted his followers to understand that they follow Christ, and that Luther was just another man. Because we follow Christ, our church is called the Church of Jesus Christ. Everything we do is in his name, not the name of any prophet or man, but in the name of Christ the Son of God.
On Sunday there was another wonderful speaker. Richard Heaton, who oversees missionary work and preparation at the Missionary Training Center, spoke to us. Brother Heaton spoke about tithing. He spoke about tithing because he was asked to by the leaders of the church. He said too often missionaries do not teach effectively the law of tithing. He made a very bold statement about tithing. He said "The best way to tell if someone is enduring to the end is if they are full tithe payers" Brother Heaton said tithing is not a principle of giving money, but rather a principle of faith. We need to have the faith to pay our tithing. He quoted Malachi 3:10 which says we will be given more blessings than we can receive if we faithfully pay our tithing. Part of the reason I include this in the letter home is because as a missionary I don't pay tithing. I will need to teach it to investigators, but don't need to pay it. It is you, my family and readers of this letter that need to pay tithing now. Brother Heaton told us that we should want to pay tithing, and be glad we get to, not dread it or see as something we have to do. He also made the statement to us missionaries that we need to marry someone who is fully committed to paying tithing so that we can better endure to the end.
I have a great Branch Presidency here at the Missionary Training Center. My Branch President is President Stott, he is a great man, he is very spiritual and knowledgeable about missionary work. What is funny is that neither he, nor his counselors speak Tagalog. We do our Sacrament talks in Tagalog and the Presidency doesn't understand us. Our talks are for our benefit to practice Tagalog, and for the benefit of other missionaries in the congregation. I spoke for a while with Sis. Stott, and she said that she knew Grandma Merrill. She asked if my Grandma was a teacher and if she was Mrs. Merrill. I guess Sis. Stott worked at the school or something, I don't completely remember what she said. Anyway I thought it was a neat connection and decided to mention it.
This week I got my travel plans. Most missionaries going to the Philippines fly to Hong Kong and then to Manilla, but I am flying in through Seoul South Korea instead. I am going to leave on Nov. 28th. It is so very exciting to be leaving the training center. It will finally be real. I am so excited, the church is true and I know it. I can't wait to share the gospel with people in the Philippines.