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, March 26, 2012

People at Church

Hello Again,
I'm glad to here that Elizabeth is doing better. If her ankle is still having problems, she should do some exercises specifically that help ankle strength. I am pretty sure that squats would help for the ankle. Listen to the doctor though.
In the Philippines we watch a conference rebroadcast one week later. So we watch it at the Agoo chapel the 7th and 8th of April. I would like the Ensign, I wouldn't mind the conference CD's either although I don't think I would have much time to listen to them. We actually get the Liahona as missionaries, so we get the conference edition, but it is given one to each area not to each missionary so I appreciated having my own copy of the Conference Ensign. We actually get the Liahona in Tagalog and English.
Speaking about Tagalog, people are now often saying things like, oh you're good at Tagalog now. They like to point out that before I wasn't. "I remember when you got here you couldn't speak at all..." stuff like that. It's a good thing. Good that they consider me to be good at Tagalog. At least I am to the point that they don't consider me bad at Tagalog.
This week was a good week, we had 20 people that we are teaching come to church. They also came to all 3 hours, which is good. Sometimes people only come to Sacrament meeting, but we have been stressing church attendance lately, especially about coming to all 3 hours and it has paid off so far. It is really important for people to come to church. We have to teach them why church is so important. The other interesting thing about this week is that our efforts from previous weeks have paid off a lot. We really haven't worked harder this week, but the people that we've been teaching for a while now started coming to church. It feels like the Lord is blessing us from all our weeks of work. We worked hard with minimal success, we continue to work hard and now see greater results from it. We have been finding and teaching a lot, and now they have started to come to church.
There was this one sweet old lady that came, she was really funny. She is less active and hasn't been to church in years. We visited her for the first time this week, and when we came she told us that she knew we were coming. She said she knew we were coming this week because she wasn't at church last week. She told us she didn't go because she had no one to go with. We offered to come walk with her to church, which we did. When we went to her house on Sunday she was ready with 2 of her grandchildren to come. She then told her grandchildren, this is the first week that we go to church every week. It seems that she just needed a reason to go to church, a little push, and we provided that small means necessary for her to come back. We also have a couple of families that are attending church. Families are really good because the family is such a good support system. God established families to help strengthen each other. It's hard for someone to come without the family support. We absolutely love teaching families and are glad to have progressing families, not just individuals.
I'm also very glad that my branch is a hardworking branch. They really do their part in helping the missionaries. Elder Fraser says that some branches here really don't do much, but our members are eager and willing to do their part in helping us. They are friendly and fellowship the investigators we bring and will willingly go to visit them with us. I am very grateful to be assigned in this good area.

Good luck to you all and have a wonderful week,
Elder Nathaniel J. Merrill

Monday, March 19, 2012

Working with New Elders

Last night in our Barangay was a festival. A Barangay is kind of like a neighborhood, it's probably not possible to really explain though. Anyway there was a festival and a little parade. It was kind of funny, I don't have any idea what they were actually celebrating, and it wasn't the city, just a little area where our house happens to be. Actually the festival is a little bit sad because it hurt the church attendance, but we were glad to still have some investigators and less actives come to church. Some people who haven't been to church since I've been here came last Sunday. There was another kind of weird event earlier in the week as well. Elder Fraser and I were in a hurry so we were walking quickly, and then we noticed everything was still. The Traffic had stopped, the people on the sidewalk weren't moving, no one was talking except us. The only other sound was a loud speaker that I couldn't understand. The loudspeaker was coming from the Catholic Basilica, it was a prayer. After it ended the people all did the sign of the cross, said amen, and went on their way, but the entire area had been still moments before. They had policemen stop the traffic during the prayer. You know you are in a Catholic country if... It was a little strange.
Earlier this week I got to work with Elder Carr. Elder Carr is on his first transfer. Essentially meaning he has been here in the Philippines a lot less time than I have. It was the first time I worked with an American who has been here less time than me, it is also the first time I've worked with a missionary who is on his first transfer. Elder Carr is a good missionary, but it was a little bit hard. It was hard because if something wasn't understood I couldn't ask someone to translate. In fact, if needed, sometimes I was the translator. It was a tough day, but I feel like it's a good gauge of how much you can do. It is a real test of ability now that there is nothing to lean on. Something else that I've noticed while here is that you really begin to love these people. There are times when we have to drop investigators, we've taught them for a while, and they are not progressing. Our time would best be spent elsewhere, helping people return to church, helping people who keep commitments. We teach the doctrine the best we can, and then people use their agency to follow or reject it. Anyway, we had to drop an investigator who we'd taught for a while, who liked us to come, but didn't really progress. I realized how much I really loved this little family as we told them we couldn't come back. I pleaded with them to keep the commandments and to do what was right, not because it was my duty, but because I loved them. I knew what I was saying would help them, I knew if they followed they would be blessed and be happy. I pleaded for them to do what I said so they could receive the blessings their Heavenly Father desires for them. They were not at church yesterday.
Despite that sad ending to my letter, I am doing well and am happy.

Good luck to you all and have a wonderful week,
Elder Nathaniel J. Merrill

Monday, March 12, 2012

Half Day Mission

This has been another good week in the Philippines. We worked hard this week and made it good. One thing I've learned in the time I've been here is the importance of Temple Marriage. If we get married in the Temple our lives will be much better. Almost every Less Active in our branch was not married in the Temple. More specifically they usually married non-members. If the goal is to get married in the Temple, we wouldn't marry non-members. It is so much harder to keep covenants without support, which is why there are very few here that do. It is not without hope though, we have one very active lady whose husband has always adamantly refused the missionaries, but then again, one out of hundreds is not a great statistic. The Temple is the only way to go.
Last Saturday we had a good experience. We had a half day mission for our branch. We asked for leaders and active members to volunteer to help us, and a lot showed up (even a few inactive members, funny actually). What we did is we made small groups and had them go out and contact less actives in our branch. We had them update the individual ordinance summary for the people they found and also to share a spiritual thought and invite them to church. It is useful to have the branch do this because they know the area better than we ever will. We found out that some of the less actives have not been visited in a long time. We found out that one had died back in 1999. 13 years without any church visit. (That means you should probably do your Home Teaching... Every Month) We are cleaning up the files in the branch, something we shouldn't need to do, but the fact that we are will ultimately help the work here.
We taught some interesting people this last week, interesting can mean good, bad, or just sad. We met one less active that speaks very poor Tagalog. Luckily for us we had invited a few branch members to come with us, because we don't speak Ilocano. In all reality she probably spoke better Tagalog than I do, but she really didn't want to speak it. It was alright though, we had to ask her to speak Tagalog instead, and when she didn't or couldn't our members told us what she had said. We actually often have investigators that speak Tagalog, but don't feel comfortable praying in Tagalog. I have learned enough Ilocano to recognize key words in prayers. Words such as "Thank you" or 'Ask for". Some missionaries spend all their time in Ilocano areas, while some spend all their time in areas with other dialects, and some have many different throughout their mission. While on exchanges we taught a less active who studied at MIT in America. So he is a smart guy, and good at English, although he still spoke Tagalog he could speak good English as well. Another person in our area that we found is a returned missionary. We learned that this returned missionary went less active after being stabbed and almost killed. They couldn't go to church for a while because they couldn't get around very well. We further learned that after being stabbed she has amnesia as well. She remembers her mission, she generally knows the Gospel, but she has been home less than a year and can't remember many Book of Mormon stories and mission experiences. She has forgotten a lot, it is really sad. But I think she still knows what she should be doing, and that the church is true, so we hope she will come back. Her family is good as well, so we are pretty confident she will return to church.
This last week was Zone interviews as well. I got to speak with President Jensen. I talked with him about our area and asked him some questions. President Jensen is a very wise and loving man. I am so very glad to have him as my mission president. Sister Jensen is great too, she brought the missionaries cookies, something that we don't have the capacity to make seeing as we have no oven. That having been said we were very grateful. I am very grateful for both President and Sister Jensen.

Good luck to you all and have a wonderful week,
Elder Nathaniel J. Merrill

Monday, March 5, 2012

This has been another good week. This has also been a week of American food. Our neighbor has a daughter abroad in Canada that always sends her packages. She sent them a lot of oatmeal, and they didn't really like it so they gave it to us. It was Quaker oatmeal and I didn't think too much of it, but then when I ate it I realized it was way better than the oatmeal here. American food. I also sometimes eat for breakfast Honey Nut Cheerios, I use powdered milk, but it's a very American breakfast. Then Elder Fraser and I found a little meat shop in Agoo. They had boneless chicken. I haven't had boneless meat since being in the Philippines, so we went for it. We made fried chicken, and then we decided to make mashed potatoes to go with it instead of rice, a very non-Filipino meal indeed. It was so good. But now of course it's back to rice and Filipino food, which is less expensive anyway. Oh, we also found a Japanese restaurant and ate there. Not American, actually it was pretty close to Filipino. I think Japanese restaurants in America are a little bit more like American food, and likewise the "Japanese" restaurant here was more Filipino than one would be in America. It was good though.
It's been a little different this week. It's a little bit hard to adjust to teaching lessons with a new person. Just different teaching style and expectations in lessons. It's good though, you see different ways of doing things and see that there are many effective ways to teach people. Also this week we began organizing the IOS or Individual Ordinance Summary records in our branch. It's probably barely a problem in Utah, if at all, but here the records are way messed up. Many active members don't even have addresses, it just says they live in Agoo. So we spent time with the ward clerk fixing errors that have been made. We carry the IOS with us and when we find less actives we update their records. We have had some people that have died years ago that still have records, and once we find out we can have there record removed from our branch. It's a unique problem that I think is pretty exclusive to areas like the Philippines. The work in the Philippines is going great though. It's interesting as a missionary here because priorities are a little bit switched. Our focus is to bring back less Actives, which makes the teaching a little bit different. The advantage is though that we find and return less active members, and then their unbaptized children get baptized. So we build the foundation of the ward. The Philippines also has a very weak priesthood membership. Usually there are far more women and children than men in the branch, so we are working very much on the family. We want the whole family to come, especially the father. We try to find less active families with Melchizedek Priesthood holders to try and bring back. We also try to never baptize families without the Father. We do our very best to invite the fathers in. The Priesthood builds the foundation of the church, which is what we need before the church can really flourish. It's fun, It's interesting, It's hard, but It's so good.
Good luck to you all and have a wonderful week,
Elder Nathaniel J. Merrill