Elder Merrill's Current Address

Elder Merrill's Current Address

Elder Nathaniel Merrill
Philippines Baguio Mission
PO Box 7 (po box for letters only)
Brgy: San Vicente East
Urdaneta City, Pangasinan 2428

Monday, February 27, 2012

Getting Transferred!!

On transfer day I got mail. I got the package that you sent with Brother Sisk, make sure to thank him for me. I haven't gotten the other package yet, but I am pretty sure you said you've sent one.
Dad asked questions about temperature and weather in Agoo. It's hot. Ok.. so it's not that hot, but I hear it will be. The temperature isn't too bad, but there is always a fan on when we are in the apartment. We always wear short sleeves, but up in Baguio some missionaries have long sleeves, and at Zone conference some even had suits. Although I doubt they wear the suits proselyting, it's probably just for show at the zone conference, but it shows that it is possible. You can get nice suits made in the Philippines, I hear a lot of Elders have them made and then wear them home. The Baguio missionaries that wore suits all had new suits made, not the ones they brought on their missions. You would never want to wear a suit in Agoo though. In Agoo I would always sleep with a fan on. And for a blanket I used the flat sheet. If you sleep without the fan, it is super hot and you would sweat a lot in your sleep.
Guess what I got transferred. Just kidding I am still in Agoo. Before my new companion came, on Friday (transfer day), I got to work with Elder Harrison. Both of our companions were transferring and he is in Agoo 1st branch so we worked together that day until our new companions came. Elder Harrison is my batch. That means he went through the MTC with me, he has been in the mission the same time as me. That is the first time I have worked with an American missionary who hasn't been here for at least a year. It was a good day nonetheless, we were still able to work well despite our obvious lackings in language skills. Elder Tolman got transfered, and I hear he became a zone leader. Before he left he was 100% sure I was going to get a Filipino companion. I also knew that I was going to get a Filipino companion after having an American for two transfers. It turns out that the Lord knew some things that neither I or Elder Tolman did. The Lord knew that my new companion was Elder Fraser. Elder Fraser is from Washington state, and I am his first American companion ever. He is about 20 months out and has spent most of his mission training or followup training, so he is very used to working with newer missionaries. He was in Mangaldan before coming here. He is also the District leader so I will get to go on a lot of exchanges. Also in Agoo zone there are some new Americans that came in. Which means... I am no longer the youngest American in Agoo zone. Although I am in my 3rd transfer, there are two new first transfer Americans in Agoo zone. Actually both of them will be in my district too. I also learned that there is a lot less in Agoo zone than other zones. Most zones have at least one grocery store. Agoo city is the biggest City in the zone and it has no grocery store. Elder Fraser was a little disappointed. I believe there are 3 malls in our mission, in Dagupan City, Baguio and Rosario, and Elder Fraser has usually been close to them. On Saturday in Agoo, there was a huge fire in our Area. It was on the very North side of our area, we actually didn't know for sure if it was in our area until Sunday when we worked near were it had been, but there were 7 firetrucks that came to put it out. We could see it from our house, and even further away. The fire caused a brown out Saturday night as well. A brown out is a black out, but in the Philippines the color is brown instead. It was dark, so on our way home Elder Fraser and I bought some candles to use for our apartment. All in all, it's been a good first few days of this transfer. I really like my companion Elder Fraser, I think we will help a lot of good things happen in Agoo. I am excited for this upcoming transfer.
Good luck to you all and have a wonderful week,

Elder Nathaniel J. Merrill

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Sun and the Rain

This past week we had a zone conference. It was good, we had a couple missionary go home this last transfer, so now we have new couple missionaries, the Engles from Arizona. They've only been here a short time but they both shared their testimonies with us. At our zone conference we also had a visitor form the Philippines area health official. I don't know exactly what his office is called, but he is in charge of missionary health for the entire Philippines, Elder Baime and his Wife from Canada. He talked about (can you guess?) how to be healthy. He talked mostly about the importance of daily exercise. He mentioned that the missionary health guide is the best guide for health there is because it's the only health guide that the Lord has put out. He also talked about exact obedience, and that exact obedience is how to become a good missionary. President Jensen also talked to us about faith, and how to build the faith of the members. One nice thing about the zone conference is that it was up in Baguio, I didn't really notice the difference between Baguio and Agoo until I got back to Agoo. When I got back, I was hot. It is not very hot in Baguio. The missionaries there will sometimes wear long sleeve shirts. It is the coldest part of the Philippines. Baguio also happens to be the second biggest city in the country, and one of the most Americanized.
Something happened this week that hasn't really happened much before. It rained. A lot. This is the dry season right now, the other missionaries have told me that it never rains in January or February. It rained a little bit when I first got here, but until now the skies have been quite dry. There may have been a tropical storm somewhat nearby that caused our rain. Of course it still isn't the wet season, and there will be more rain at later times, but the day it rained was quite ill timed for us. We were working near the mountain. Specifically we were looking for a member who is less active, and it just so happened that she lives half way up the mountain. So we hiked up this mountain in the rain and mud in our proselyting clothes. We did find the member and we also taught a good lesson so of course it's always worth it. One advantage about the rain is that people seem more inclined to let us inside. It is somewhat easier to give a real lesson when you are already inside. This last week we did a service project to remove a huge termite mound near a members house. Four missionaries and two members helped to destroy this mound. We used shovels and pick-axes to tear apart the mound, but the interesting thing to me is that the Filipinos all wore Flip-Flops. It just shows there culture really well, they never wear shoes, even when doing yard work they were not wearing shoes. The Filipino missionaries and members all had just Flip-Flops. It surprised me, especially since we were destroying a termite mound. There are termites everywhere, and termites will bite, but yet the Filipinos still choose not to wear real shoes. The other thing about this service project is that we were outside for several hours and I got a sunburn. You may think it's strange that after being in the Philippines for this long I can get a sunburn so easily, but it isn't really. As missionaries in the Philippines we should be spending most of our time inside. We should be teaching lessons in the homes of the people, and so we don't get as much sun as one might think.
Overall everything is going quite well. We are seeing a lot of progress in this area. The ward members are getting stronger. The people we are teaching are growing in their faith. I am getting better at teaching and at Tagalog. We are enjoying ourselves here in Agoo.
Elder Nathaniel Merrill

Monday, February 13, 2012

I figured Jonathan might like the picture I am sending. Elder Tolman's dad went to Manila on business and went to the Temple and happened to run into some missionaries. One of those missionaries is Tyler Haws. Tyler Haws is in the Quezon City mission, and they go to the Manila Temple every transfer cycle. So I'd mention to dad that I am reading the Old Testament too. Actually only in the mornings while I am eating breakfast. I don't read it during study time. There are a lot of funny phrases and stories in the Old Testament. One I found in 2 Kings says 'When they awoke in the morning they were all dead corpses.' Can't really awake when your dead. Now I am in Chronicles. Probably the most boring book of Scripture ever, but I think I found 2 variations of my name in it. One being Elnathan, the other being Natheneel. I think those spellings are right. The other interesting thing about Chronicles is it sometimes tells the same story a different way, so you get more insights. For example, in Kings David asks to build a temple and is told no by the Lord. I don't remember there being a reason, but in Chronicles it gives the reason that because David has shed a lot of blood he isn't allowed to build the temple. Somewhat interesting.

There is an Elder from our branch that just left on a mission. Elder Villanueva from Agoo 3rd Branch is going on a mission to Hawaii. He is worried because he has to learn English. I find it funny, because he speaks the language I need to know, and is worried about learning the language I already know. It's kind of weird seeing the other side, seeing a Filipino learning English. Yesterday (Sunday), our Branch President invited us over for dinner, he also invited one of our progressing investigator families. It was good for the family. There is a food in the Philippines called Balot, or maybe Balut, I've heard it pronounced both ways and seen it spelled both ways. The branch president said next time we eat at his house he is going to get me some. Balot is essentially a rotten duck egg. The members in our branch are very active in supporting the missionaries. They are very willing to help us with the work. We work with members all the time. The Rescue effort in the Philippines is going well, we heard that so far in the Philippines there have been 3000 returned less actives. That is an entire stake. We have a zone conference tomorrow, so President Jensen may talk more about that. The zone conference is actually a tri-zone conference. Which means I get to go to Baguio tomorrow. Other missionaries say that Baguio is the Mission shopping center. If you really need something American, you can find it in Baguio. Also, here in Agoo, something that a lot of members seem to be excited about, is that they are building a Makdo soon. (pronounced "Mack-dough") Makdo is just how the Filipinos say McDonald's. I don't know when that will be built, probably not until after I transfer. McDonald's is also really expensive, especially in the Philippines. Elder Tolman and I kind of discovered a new part of our area this week. We had the name of a member who was inactive. We kept asking people where we could find this person and they would tell us to keep going farther. They would say Doon, which means over there. We went past where we thought our area ended, and then kept walking even further. Our area is mostly bordered by the Zone leader's area, but there is a small portion bordered by the elders in the Tubao area. We were right next to their area, really far away from our home, and we found some members that lived there. That was miles away from our home. There were some really cool houses there too. It was a little in the mountains, and had really cool, but still very simple bamboo houses. When we got back we looked at a map of Agoo to figure out exactly where we had gone. Missionary work is pretty fun, it's not easy, but it's fun, and I am happy. I hope you all keep doing well, I'm sorry to hear about those who are not doing so well. Until next time,
Elder Nathaniel Merrill

Monday, February 6, 2012


Hello again everyone,
It has been a good week in the Philippines. I think I was asked about getting letters and packages. I have so far received one package, and haven't received regular letters, only Dear Elders. That's ok though, if you wrote letters regularly I will eventually begin to receive them regularly, if you didn't write regularly, well that's alright too.
The house that we live in has been painted this week. They painted the outside bright yellow. It is really easy to give directions to trike drivers now because we just need to tell them the big yellow house by the highway. And yes, we live right on the highway. We have been trying really hard to get to work well with the members. When the members are involved everything becomes easier. One highlight this week is we got to work with a former Baguio missionary. There is a missionary who married a girl in the ward we live in and he and his wife came and worked with us one day. He has only been home for about a year, I actually met one of his former companions. One fun thing about working with him is that he knows how to be a missionary, which some members do not. He also sees the importance of the members, and that the missionaries can't do everything. He also speaks really good Tagalog. Since we are really focusing on Less Active and Part Member families, the members are even more important. They are often already friends with these people. They can invite the less actives to do things that the missionaries just don't have time for.

This last Sunday I was asked again to give a talk. (Not fast Sunday, the week before.) This time I wrote my talk in English. I would simply write the main points of my talk, and then I could say what I wanted in Tagalog as I gave the talk. It was nice to have enough confidence to be able to give the talk that way. It also really helps my talk to be good because it is hard when you are reading from a paper, especially a different language. Also with respect to language, after I gave the closing prayer in a lesson with a recent convert this week, she told me "You're good at Tagalog, you didn't mess up in yyour prayer" Actually she said it in Tagalog, but that's what it meant. It's good. The way it was said it seemed to say that usually I do mess up, but that doesn't matter. I find that people know what you are trying to say. In the Philippines it is hard to tell when people don't understand. Which of course can sometimes be problematic. Filipinos will often just go along with what you say. That's why we have to ask them good questions in our lessons. Questions bring out how they really feel. The investigators really begin to grow as they answer questions as well. I think it is because when they put it in their own words it really sinks in. After we taught about prayer to an investigator we asked why prayer was important, and then she told us that through prayer we can learn if things are really true. She then told us that of course she was going to pray about the Book of Mormon, because thats how we learn the truth. This investigator has dropped out of missionary discussions multiple times, and she told us it was because she was always confused before. The Gospel message really is very simple, but sometimes we complicate it. In Preach My Gospel, every doctrine is presented simply enough that anyone can understand it. The Scriptures too are not overly complicated. As missionaries all we have to do is teach the doctrine simply, as it is found.