Sunday, December 29, 2013

Sister Ramos

Kamusta Everybody,

 This past week has gone really well! I hope everyone had a good Christmas.
 On Wednesday we had our ward Christmas party which was pretty fun! There were a lot of games, performances by the youth /single adults, and a gift exchange.  We even had a lot of investigators come. I scored big with the gift exchange, I got a pink mirror, flower shaped comb, and a baby blue polka dot face towel…It was great! Later on I noticed that one of the investigators who had came didn’t get any gifts. Luckily I found one that was perfect for her! A pink mirror, flower shaped comb, and a baby blue polka dot face towel... She was really happy with it, so i was happy too. 
 Then on Friday we had the Baptism of Sister Ramos. Her Son Jerrold baptized her and then her two other kids gave the talks. It was very spiritual and is something that I won’t forget.  During her testimony she talked about a dream she had where she saw herself with her family together and she testified to them about Joseph Smith and how that was when she knew what we were teaching her was true. 
 On Saturday the kind members in the ward even put together a Family Home evening to celebrate my Birthday. We played some fun games and it was a really good time. I didn't receive any gifts but it is one of the best birthdays I have ever had because of their kindness and wanting to do what they could to help me have a good day. 


Elder Hayden

Monday, December 16, 2013

Zone Christmas Card

Kamusta Everybody!
 This past week has flown by! We’ve had some great lessons with all of our investigators and have many are getting close to baptism. One of our investigators, Sister Ramos, will most likely get baptized on the 27th! She has been coming to church and really studying the scriptures and it has been amazing to see her transformation. Before she was really shy and didn’t like to say much but now she actively participates. She even, after a little bit of persuading, came to the Christmas devotional at the stake center!
 Our recent convert Joey has also been working with us and is becoming a contributing part of the lessons. He really enjoys sharing his newly found and growing testimony. 
 I am really excited for Christmas here, while there might not be any snow people here do their best to decorate with what they have. I saw a really neat star made out of soda bottles and paper. Most people here just enjoy the time that they get to spend with their family. 
 We have been trying in our area to help the ward missionaries that are preparing for missions to be comfortable teaching. Most of them have friends or family that we go and teach but often times they are  too "shy" to say anything. I am trying to help them understand that people can’t hear what’s in their heart unless they share it, so sharing what they know and feel will bless them and their friends and family. I would encourage you all to try and share the gospel with your friends and family! It seems scary at first but the feeling that comes when you see them come unto Christ is well worth it.  
 Sadly this week I don't have any funny stories! But I’ve attached our zone Christmas card!! It’s pretty great I think. 
 I hope everyone is doing well and has a great time getting ready for Christmas. 
 Mahal Kita
    Elder Merrill

Monday, December 9, 2013

Chickens are biting me!

Kamusta Everybody!
 This past week has been great! We have been super busy but things are going well. 
 We had the baptism of our two new converts on Saturday and they got confirmed yesterday. The service was great. The younger one, Joshua, is 14 years old. He has been waiting a long time to get baptized but because he is so young and was the only member of his family interested, we had to get his parents to attend church first. It took a lot of prayers but his Mom now is coming on a regular basis. The other one, Joey, is 17 and is one of the first people I really knew here. On my third day here, when everything still seemed a little hectic his member friend (Jerold) said to me “Elder, here is my referral". It’s been amazing to see the changes in Joey. He gave up smoking, drinking coffee, and is now going to seminary and mission prep. 
 Our other investigator, Sister Ramos (Jerold’s mom), is also doing really good. She has read a lot in the Book of Mormon and is studying the Gospel Principal book. We are trying to get the kids more involved in the teaching which has been tough, in the Philippines if somebody says “I'm shy" it is a good enough excuse, in their minds, to not have to talk anymore. We have been practicing teaching with them though and its getting better!
 Other than that I don't really have any funny stories this week! My Tagalog is getting better. The ward for Mosquito is Lamok, and the word for chicken is Manok….I had the two confused. So for the past six months I have been killing mosquitoes  saying "there are lots of chickens biting me!!" It makes me worry about what else I have said not knowing what it actually means...
  I hope everyone has a great week!

 Elder Merrill

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Dancing in the Rain

Kamusta Everybody!

  This past week has been really good! We’ve been super busy but that is a good thing! We taught a ton of lessons and have baptisms lined up every week for the next month!
  One of the great people we have been teaching is brother Andy. He is the father of Linmark (my convert here). He just got back from Manila and he is amazing. We taught him lesson one an Wednesday, and he said he will become a member, "where my sons are there I want to be too" is what he said. Then on Thursday he had read all the way to 1 Nephi 4, and the Plan of Salvation Pamphlet and prayed and knows the message is true. When we got there he was really studying the scriptures. He had a notebook out, a highlighter and a small New testament. Then on Friday he read to chapter 10 and the lesson 3 pamphlet and asked me is I had a bible he could have so he can use all of the cross references! I was amazed! He has been listening to us for less than a week and is already a gospel scholar. I was also really happy at church because all of our investigators attended and some of their families! We should even have a baptism this Saturday!
 Other than that not much too exciting has happened! Just long days and good memories. 
 The one funny story that I have is that on Saturday we finished teaching one of the investigator at the church and one of the young women had to go home but didn't want to go by herself because it was dark and she lives up the mountain. So we along with our investigator Joey walked her home. It had been raining all that day so it was super muddy! Ankle deep, plus it was really dark and we couldn't see. We got her home ok but then on the way back I slipped and went for a little slip and slide down the mountain... I was covered in mud but we just laughed about it and we went home. The problem was that on the way home I remembered that the water district was doing "work" and we hadn't had running water all day. We had showered that morning at the ZLs. So when I got home there still wasn't water. Heavenly Father answers our prayers and right when we got home it started to pour rain. I just hope that our neighbors didn't see the American missionary dancing around in the rain trying to clean himself off while wearing slacks and a white shirt... Luckily on Sunday the water came back on. 
 Well yun lang (that’s all) for this week! I hope everyone is doing great and you have a good Thanksgiving! 

 Elder Hayden Merrill

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Blood in the Bigas

Kamusta Everybody,

 This past week has been really busy! We’ve had a lot of lessons and found some really good investigators. I also have some pretty good stories!
 To start off the week, on Tuesday we did service at a member’s home. They have a big rice field behind there house (or bigas in Tagalog). We went there to help them harvest the rice.  To harvest you have to use a little bent knife to cut the rice stalks and then later on you sort it. Before we started all of the people told me to be careful because I might cut myself.  I told them not to worry and that I would be totally fine and that I have used sharp things lots of times before and that just because I am an American, I didn’t need any special attention. Well, I was fine right up until literally the 2nd to last stalk of rice and that’s when I cut my little finger open. I was really embarrassed and tried to hide my hand in my shorts pocket until I could go and wash it off, but then they noticed I was bleeding everywhere so we cleaned it up and then I glued it up when I got home (thank you dad for thinking to put derma bond in my first aid kit!!). So the only thing that was really hurt was my pride... 

  We also found a lot of really good new investigators this week. There are two youth ward missionaries and we sometimes teach investigators at their house. Their mom isn't a member and this past week I noticed she was reading the Book of Mormon. We offered to teach her and had a really good lesson. I think that maybe now it’s her time to accept the gospel and I am really excited to teach her. We’ve also gotten several referrals from the some of the less actives in the ward. They have been inviting their friends to family home evenings and have been attending church themselves.

 Training Elder Tagiuam has been going well. I have learned a lot about patience and also a little bit about what it might be like to be a parent. There is so much to take care of and worry about! You want them to succeed and learn things for themselves but then you also have to correct them and fix problems for them and you are only doing it for their own good but then you feel like the bad guy when they get upset because they don't fully understand a rule or why we don't loan members money or can’t teach if there isn't a man in the home... So kids listen to your parents, and parents don't worry….they will understand when they become trainers on their missions.

 I hope everyone has a great week. I miss you all.
 here is a Filipino proverb
"be ye as the rice stalk. The more grain it bears, the lower i bows."
 Mahal Kita

   Elder Merrill 

Monday, November 11, 2013

I am o.k.!

Kamusta Everybody!
 First, I want everyone to know (especially my mom) that I am perfectly ok. The typhoon hit a little ways south of me and we only got some heavy rain here.There wasn't any destruction or problems, just no power for a little while. We were still even able to work! We got 5 lessons in and it was a good day. (I did however get soaked on the way back from our 1st appointment by a semi truck driving though a puddle while I was one the back of a tricycle, the driver and I decided to laugh though instead of getting upset) 
 The past week has been really eventful. The trip down to the mission home with Elder Johnson on Wednesday was pretty fun. We got to visit one of his old areas where lots of people there speak sign language. They taught me how to say my name and they were all really nice. We also got to go the SM (kind of like a huge mall) and found Tostitos there! We were both really happy because we haven't seen any thing like them our whole missions. 
 My trainees name is Elder Taguiam. And he is great! He is very humble and is trying his best everyday. He speaks a little bit of English but we have been getting by.  It is kind of stressful to have to teach him everything about missionary work but so far it has been going really well. I have been striving my best to do all that I can to help him. I have realized that when we try to do our very best God gives us higher mountains to climb. Our first day of work together there was the Typhoon. But we where still able to teach lots of great lessons. God will give us only what we can handle. As our faith grows the trails seem to get more challenging but then it grows even more. 
 I hope you are all doing really well and have a great week! Pray for the people affected by the typhoon. I know that through our prayers they will be able to rebuild and become even stronger, many more may even accept the gospel. 
 Mahal Kita

   Elder Merrill

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Typhoon Update and Humanitarian Needs...

Dear Parents,
The typhoon is passing beyond the western borders of the Philippines.  We are still getting rain and winds in our mission areas but all missionaries remain  safe and accounted for. We have received several offers of  parents wanting to send supplies to the people hardest hit.  President Peterson made a call to President Ardern of the Area Presidency regarding this.  President Ardern advised those wishing to help should make a generous contribution to the humanitarian fund on their tithing slips.  This fund is what the local leaders draw from to assist those in need to get the things they have urgent need of.  We thank you so very much for your prayers, for your generosity and for your willingness to help the Philippine people.  We know the Lord has watched over and protected the missionaries here in San Pablo Mission. Please continue to pray for those in areas south of us who were hardest hit with the effects of the typhoon.
Kindest regards,
Sister Hansen, Mission Secretary          Philippines San Pablo Mission

Typhoon Information from Mission Office

Dear Parent,
We wanted to let you know that as of Friday, November 8, 2013 6:30 PM Philippine time, your missionary is safe and accounted for.  We know you are concerned about the typhoon.  The eye of the storm is south of us but because it is so large, we are feeling the effects of heavy rains and strong winds.  All missionaries have been prepared with adequate food supplies, water, and candles to last through the storm.  They have likewise been instructed to remain in their apartments until the storm has passed.  We would welcome your prayers in behalf of all the missionaries in the Philippines.  We will update you in the morning.
Kindest regards,
Sister Hansen, Mission Secretary          Philippines San Pablo Mission

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Playing Basketball with the President

Kamusta Everybody!
 This past week has been good! It been a little bit crazy but good all the same. I started out the week by going on exchanges with Elder Harding. 
 On Thursday I traveled up to San Pablo to attend the trainers meeting.  I realized, on the 6 hour bus ride, just how far out here in the boonies I really am! It turns out that I am closer to the Naga Mission home that to the San Pablo one. I slept over at one of the Elders apartments for the night and then the next morning we called the President and played basketball with him. He played for BYU his freshman year and is really good so he obviously kicked our butts in a game of around the world. After basketball we got to eat cold cereal in the mission home (it may not sound exciting but it is the first cereal and real milk I’ve seen since I’ve been here) and then to make the morning perfect we got to take a hot shower!.
 The training meeting itself was very good. I am really humbled by the responsibility to be a trainer. I am going to need a lot of help from the spirit and need to study better, especially Preach my Gospel. After the training meeting I got on the bus to head back to the edge of the world. 
 On Saturday morning Elder Torculas (my companion) headed home so now I am working with the ZL, whose companion also headed home. On Sunday we got to teach a really powerful lesson to one of the recent converts in my area, Brother Fernando (he is the one who asks the really good questions). He has been wanting a Triple Combination really bad. He has read the Book of Mormon twice already and said he is yearning for more. When we gave him the triple I bought for him he was so happy. He cried and gave us both hugs. It was a really amazing experience. We explained to him about the Doctrine and Covenants and how to use the bible dictionary. He was so excited and said he couldn't wait to read it. His enthusiasm makes me appreciate the scriptures more. I was also really touched by what he said…. he told us that we should be so grateful for how lucky we were to have been born in the church and that we have had the scriptures our whole lives. 
 Well I hope you all have a great week! Always remember that when things get tough, look up. not down.
  Mahal Kita
    Elder Hayden Merrill

P.S.  I've attached a picture of what it looks like here...beautiful! 


Monday, October 28, 2013

A putiki in my pants

Kamusta Everybody! 

 This past week has been really good, and pretty eventful! We’ve been working with the members and have given a lot of good lessons.

 We’ve been visiting and spending a lot of time with a really great new member who was baptized a few months ago. He has so many questions because he is always reading from the scriptures and the church materials. For example he wants to know what the Brother of Jared's name is, why mountains are the temples in the Old Testament, what the Urim and Thumim looked like, and where are the three Nephites.. pretty deep stuff for a new member. With the help of the Spirit, we’ve been able to answer all of his questions and he always seems to have a firm understanding after we explain. 

 On Friday we had a Ward Missionary Family Home evening that was Halloween themed. It went really well and they all had a good time. I was in charge of coming up with the games. There aren't any pumpkins here in the Philippines so instead we used little squashes to have a decorating contest. All of the people there really liked the idea, I guess they had never done anything like it before. 

 The funniest/most memorable part of the week however happened yesterday. During sacrament meeting, while the bishop was giving a talk about being prepared for emergencies, my leg started to itch. I scratched it a bit assuming it was just a string in my pants but then a minute later I felt something again. So I scratched harder, thinking maybe there was a bug in my pant leg or something. It stopped for a minute but then started itching again so I hit my leg and rubbed it and then a little dismembered black wiggling tail fell out of the bottom of my pants!  I then realized that a putiki (a little lizard) had crawled up my pants. I must have made a gasping sound and then I started shaking my pant leg and kicked a little bit in my chair, and as I did a little tailless lizard flew out. A few of the members saw and started laughing (people here in the Philippines aren't peculiarly reverent, for example during this same meeting the bishops son was making a tower of hymn books on the steps to the podium, so laughing isn't unusual during a talk). I just hope the bishop didn't think that we where giggling about his talk and how we need to have lots of canned tuna ready in case we have to evacuate and can’t buy food...

 Well that’s about all for this week. I found out today that I will be training this next transfer! I am excited for the new challenge but at the same time nervous...I just hope my Tagalog is good enough. However, I am looking forward to being able to grow while teaching. I hope you all have a great week.

 Mahal Kita
   Elder Hayden Merrill

Monday, October 21, 2013

No Marlboro's Please!

Kamusta Everybody!
 This past week has been really good! We were able to teach a lot of lessons and  things are working really well with the ward. We even found out in district meeting last Wednesday that we actually have had the highest number of lessons in the mission for the past two weeks! We have lots of investigators who are doing really well. They read the Book of Mormon and a few even attended stake conference this past Sunday. The only trouble is that many of them need to be married before we can baptize them. In the Philippines it is really tough for people to be able to get married because they don't have their birth certificate. 

 My companion told me this past week that I have apparently been talking in my sleep pretty much every night since I’ve been out here. Recently though, I’ve been talking in Tagalog. I must be dreaming that I am teaching because my companion said that I have been bearing my testimony and then I have been  asking if anyone has any questions.  

 So I guess, my Tagalog must be getting better if I can speak it while I am asleep, but there is still room to improve. For example, this past week we were eating with our district after a meeting and so we went to the closest restaurant to the chapel and because some of us are American they decided to rack up the price. So it was really expensive and I wasn't in the mood to spend a lot of money for not very good food so I just bought a few hard boiled eggs. The problem is that I don't know what the Tagalog word is for hard boiled so when I went up to pay, the lady asked what I had and I said “three hard boiled eggs”. but in her mind she thought I had said "three Marlboro" (I suppose hard boiled and Marlboro sounds the same).  Long story short, as the rest of the missionaries walked up to the counter the lady was trying to hand me three cigarettes. I quickly clarified that cigarettes were not what I wanted and that I had said three eggs. I was super embarrassed and it took me a bit to explain to everyone how my order had gotten lost in translation. 

 We had zone interviews yesterday and a really great workshop about how to use the Book of Mormon better.  One thing that really stood out to me was that every goal that we have as missionaries during a lesson can be accomplished using the Book of Mormon. It is the most correct book in the world and if we read it’s pages, we will always learn from it. God knew what the world would be like today so he had his prophets 2000 years ago write a book of scripture that would be perfect to help us now. 
 I hope everyone has a great week and is doing really well. I heard a great quote this week that I really liked, "education means developing the mind, not stuffing the memory"

  Mahal Kita
    Elder Hayden Merrill

Monday, October 14, 2013

Picture of me and Linmark on his baptism day!


Kamusta Everybody,

 This past week has been good. We’ve taught a lot of lessons and the work here is progressing. We have been working with the ward missionaries and I have been amazed with how much they want to help. We always have at least one member with us every day, pretty much all day. Some of them, if they don't have school, will work with us from 12 to 9. We are trying to involve them more in the lessons because they are capable of much more than just bearing their testimony at the end of each lesson.
 This past week we got to watch general conference. It was absolutely amazing! It is wonderful that we have leaders on the earth who can directly tell us what God needs us to know.  They can tell us what we need to do to improve and how to deal with the challenges that we have, and the ones that are yet to come.
 Earlier today we got to have a zone p-day. We hiked up to a really pretty waterfall out in the mountains. It took a while to get there but it was well worth the walk! 
 Other than that not too much happened this past week. Time in the mission field is crazy. Weeks seem like days and if you have a good day it seems like a week. I have realized that the work in the mission field really becomes beneficial when you lose yourself. If you forget about the things that you want to do and just do what God wants you to do you will be successful and happy. I have come to understand that while teaching, if you can remove yourself from being the focus, then people really understand the gospel. If you ask the questions that the Holy Ghost tells you to ask, instead of the ones you think you should ask, then the teaching becomes easy. You teach exactly what they need, when they need it.
 I hope you all are doing great and have a wonderful week!

Mahal Kita

Elder Merrill

Monday, October 7, 2013

Out in the Boondocks

Kamusta Everybody
 This past week has been really good. I had my first baptism! Our converts name is Linmark. He is 14 years old and has a very strong testimony. I was expecting my companion to baptize him but when we asked who he wanted to do it he said that he wanted me to, it was a great experience. 
 I have gotten to know the area and the ward here a lot better. Most of the area is all mountains or in Tagalog bundok. I learned this past week that the term "out in the boondocks" comes from the Philippines. During WWII the natives would try and tell the Americans that the Japanese where out in the mountains. So the Americans would say to each other that they where going out to the boondocks. 
 For anyone who is familiar with how good I am at singing, here is a funny story for you (for those of you who don’t know my singing ability, I have none). Yesterday at church the youth were all practicing singing the Army of Helaman song for stake conference. They were having a little bit of trouble finding the right pitch so the choir director thought it would be a good idea to ask the American to show them how it sounds! And had it been any other American that might have been a good idea, unfortunately that American was me...  5 minutes, one red faced Elder Merrill, and several giggling young men later, the youth had a good idea of what a really bad sounding version of the song sounds like. 
 Well that is about all that has happened this week! I hope everyone is doing really well
   Mahal Kita
      Elder Merrill

Here is a picture of what it looks like here!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Kamusta Everybody!

A lot has happened this past week! 

On Monday we went to the hospital to check up on my companion. He has an infection in his lungs but they gave him medicine and he will be just fine.

On Tuesday I found out that I was being transferred! It was a little bit unexpected because it doesn't feel like I've been in the area for that long. So between appointments I spent a lot of time saying goodbye to members and investigators. There are so many really nice people in the Alaminos ward so it was hard to say goodbye. The families that I had become close with were sad to see me go, but hopefully because the area is right by the mission home I’ll be able to see them again when I come for meetings. 

Thursday was transfer day, my new area is Lopez 4 and it is way out here in the boonies. It is close to the edge of the island and up in a big mountain. It is really pretty here and the people are all very nice. My first area was more of a city but out here it is mostly bamboo huts, rice fields and trees. My new companion is Elder Torculas. He goes home after this cycle. He seems like a good missionary and I think we can get much good done here. People have told me that he is a bit "trunky" or lazy though because he is going home soon. He also has a bit of a history of disobedience. President Peterson told me that he is my "special assignment" so, at our first planning session, I told Elder Torculas that we are going to be exactly obedient. He agreed to it and our goal is to help him have his last interview with President Peterson to be his best. So far things have gone pretty well. We have a baptism lined up for this week. A 14 year old boy named Linmark. He seems very sincere in his desire to be baptized and is a really good investigator, I'm excited for his baptism.

While I was at the mission home on Thursday waiting to get on the bus with the other elders headed to Lopez, one of the lady's in the ward, who I visited a lot because her whole family is inactive, pulled up on tricycle. She is about 60 years old and her husband and all of her kids won’t go to church. She is the headmaster of the school in town and is super busy but she took the time to pull up and handed me a really kind letter and some snacks for the bus. It was very simple but so sincere and very sweet of her to take the time to come and say goodbye. I was really touched and was sad to have to leave. I felt bad because she is honestly so busy that she doesn't even know what year it is.she dated the letter she wrote to me, Sept 26 1993 :)
I finally got your package!  Thanks so much!!!  All of the altoids and jolly ranchers are great!  The music is also really good, I have listened to it a lot.  The letter from Brock was also wonderful..I am sending him a letter as soon as I get a chance.

I miss eating lamb on Sunday’s!! The only meat that they have here has tons of fat on it and it’s not so good.  Pinoys (slang for Filipinos) love fat on their meat.  There is a college in my new area so because of the student population there are lots of little places to eat for really cheap.  The people make dishes and you can buy a plate and eat there.  So I am eating super cheap, healthy and good.  Plus, I don’t have to do any dishes :)  which is important because in my apartment we have water from 6 a.m. to 12 p.m. and none at night! 

Well that's about all for this week! I hope everyone is doing well and has a great week! 

Mahal Kita,
  Elder Hayden Merrill

  Philippines San Pablo Mission
  Barangay San Juan, Alaminos
  4001 Laguna

What a lot of my new area looks like

My District

Me and Elder Peck (my "Indian companion"...he is waiting for his visa to India) 
with Brother Silos (the ward mission leader) and his wife, Sister Silos.

Sister Silos (a.k.a. the "bag lady" because she makes really cool bags) and her family.  Sister Silos said that I can be her adopted grandson; she wanted me to let Mom know that I'll be well taken care of in the Philippines and that you don't have to worry about me :) 

Nanny Baliwas and Sister Rachel

What people look like after taking pictures in the sun!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Kamusta Everybody

This week has been a little bit crazy. There has been a typhoon here and my companion has been sick. But its still been a good week!

On Tuesday and Wednesday my companion felt a little bit sick so we stayed in the apartment. Then on Sunday we were at a lunch appointment and he threw up blood. We had to rush him to the hospital. It all happened really fast but he is ok now and but we are going back to the hospital later today to find out what exactly is wrong.

Last week we also had zone conference which was really good. I learned a lot about the Atonement and how it applies to all of our lives. Several of the missionaries that are going home got the chance to bear their testimonies and it was a very spiritual experience.

I was also able to learn how to cook some Philippine foods and they actually tasted pretty good. I brought some of the extra pancit, that I made, to a members house and they couldn’t believe that I had made it!

Well that is about all, I know this letter is super short and I am sorry. I had to spend most of my time sending pictures this week but next week will be longer! I miss everyone and hope that you all have a good week!

Mahal Kita

Elder Merrill

Monday, September 16, 2013

Witch Doctor

Kamusta Everybody,
 This past week has gone really well! We’ve had some of really good lessons with investigators. One lady named sister Wilma is amazing. She been reading the Book of Mormon and understands everything she reads. She wants us to teach her every day.  She also has no word of wisdom issues, she doesn't even drink coffee! 
 There is another family we are teaching the Layrente's  who are really interested in our message. They all came to church and said they had a great experience. The crazy thing is that the father is 60, the wife is 38, and then their kids are 21,19,12,6, and 2... but they want to get baptized so I suppose huge age gaps don't matter!  
  We went to contact a referral we had received, from a member, the other day and so once we found him, we taught a short lesson. At first it seemed like it was going well but about halfway through the lesson the old man we were teaching started to tell us really weird stories about visions he had had, and that while he prays he floats across the world.  My companion got really anxious and said that we had to go but asked the guy if he would pray before we left. The odd thing was that the old man prayed in Latin. After he finished my companion practically ran out of the man’s porch and yard.  When we got outside he explained that in the Philippines witch doctors use Latin and that that guy was a member of a really weird cult. It was definitely a different lesson. Now we just have to tell the member that he sent us to witch doctors house.... 
 Earlier today we had zone P-day and went to this neat restaurant called Isdas, it was amazing. There were huge statues all over the place that we took lots of funny pictures by them. There is a gorilla that is 50ft tall! I’ll have to send pictures in my next email because the computer I am using today is super slow. 
 That about all for this week! 

 Mahal Kita
   Elder Merrill  

Monday, September 9, 2013

If You're Happy and You Know It :)

Kamusta Everybody!
  This past week has been really good. I have some funny stories and we got to teach a few really good lessons. 

  It was tough at the beginning of the week because one of our progressing investigator found a job in Qatar. He got the job on Tuesday and left on Thursday for 5 years. I was super disappointed but then realized that everyone is on their own timing and maybe Heavenly Father put him in my path so that he can hear some of the Gospel now and be ready for baptism some day down the road. 

  We have also spent a lot of time working and visiting some of the members in the ward. We have reactivated 2 families and have visited many more. I have been trying to put the Family Proclamation in every part member home and have been giving the Book of Mormon Story Book to the families who have kids. I have also learned that a lot of the members know a little bit of English but want to learn more so I have been trying to set up with the Bishop an English class that we will have every Saturday.  This past week I also met one of the councilors for Alaminos, Brother Abu. He spoke perfect English and also was pretty funny. He took a picture with us so hopefully we don't end up in some campaign poster in a few years...

 Last Monday after I emailed we hopped on a jeepnee to head to the store where we get our groceries. The driver insisted on filling the cab so there was about 30 people in a jeepnee made for 20. We were packed in so tight that nobody could really move. Then the driver turned on the music and the song playing just happened to be.. “If You’re Happy and You Know It”... it was really random but also pretty funny and ironic because everyone was visibly irritated and nobody was happy, and they knew it. Even if they were happy we were all to squished to clap our hands! It was funnier in the moment, but I thought you all might like to hear about it.

 On Saturday we went and gave service to the Silos Family in our ward. We painted their house and they wanted us to move some piles of dirt into bags. The problem was that when we started shoveling the dirt 3 queen fire ants came out of the pile. Not thinking I squished them and kept going. Then all of the sudden out of the pile, (which turned out to be a huge fire ant hill) came a billion angry ants. They crawled up my shoes, into my sock and up my pants.. I literally had ants in my pants. So the Silos family and all of their neighbors watched as the crazy American danced around smacking his legs and kicking his shoes off trying to kill the fire ants.They all thought it was a riot,and laughed for while then finally someone got some kerosene so I could light the ant hill on fire. 

 Well that's about all for this week, I miss you all. 
   Mahal Kita
     Elder Hayden Merrill

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Kamusta Everybody! 
 This past week hasn't had too much happen because my companion has been sick.  But it did finally stop raining!! 
My temporary companion and I have been doing pretty well as far a work goes. We have gotten a lot of referrals and so we've found several really great investigators.  There is one guy named Jun who is really progressing. He has a strong testimony and teaching lessons to him is great, he asks the perfect questions. His family is Catholic but he says that he just wants to do what God wants; and he feels that God wants him to join our church. 
 I also found out this week that in the Philippines Christmas starts in September.... which is insane. I used to complain in America when they would put up decorations after Halloween.  But on the bright side hopefully the members will invite us to Christmas dinners!
 Well that's about all for this week! Next week I'll write more! 
  Mahal Kita
   Elder Merrill

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Kamusta Everybody!
  This week has flown by! Time on your mission is weird, the days seem like they last a week and the weeks seem like they last a day.
 I have still been on splits this whole week because the Indian elders haven't received there visa's yet. My temporary companion, Elder Peck, is really nice and we get along well. There has been lots of flooding this week in the Philippines but my area hasn't been bad. It only flooded one day and was only up to our ankles.
 This past week we taught a lot of members of the ward and less actives. We received more referrals than I could have ever imagined so we and will go and contact them all this week.
 One funny thing that happened is that I decided we should go and meet with the Bishop to see what we can do to help the ward. We found out, unlike in America, that here there isn't much discretion about sharing information about people's problems and callings. Going into the meeting I just wanted to know what families we should visit but now I know what families to visit, who is having problems, who does a bad job at their calling, who is getting released soon. and who will be called soon. Much much more information than I needed or wanted to know but I think the bishop enjoyed sharing what was going on with the missionaries so we sat there and listened. 
  I also saw a really funny monkey that posed for the camera when I took his picture!
I hope everyone is doing great and i miss you all!
 Mahal Kita
    Elder Merrill

Monday, August 19, 2013

Flushing Money Down the Drain, "He said he is asleep", Bong and Coconuts!

Kamusta Everybody!

  This week has been all over the place. There has been a typhoon most of the week so it has been awhile since I have seen the sun. And I’ve been able to lead because we have been on splits!
 To start the week we got a huge water bill! It was 1200 pesos! (or a little over $20) that doesn't seem like much but usually it is 170 pesos (or $4). We tried to figure out if there was a leak somewhere but we couldn't find one. We eventually found the issue and it turns out my companion had adjusted the pump on the toilet and didn't realize that he made it so that it was flowing 24/7. I told him that he really brought new meaning to the term "flushing money down the drain" I thought it was funny but he didn't get it...

  I also have started to really understand Tagalog more. One thing that is funny about the language is that people don't realize that what they are saying is a blatant lie. For example when you are repeating something a person said like "he said he is busy" you use the word "dou". So when we go to appointments and a person goes to see if the investigator is home, they will often come back with an answer like "tulog dou" or in English "he said that he is sleeping", or wala dou " he said that he isn't here".... I always want to ask them "if he is asleep or isn't here, how did you talk to him?" But apparently that's rude so we just let them know we will try back later. 

 For most of the week we have been on splits with two elders from India who are waiting on their visas. And they don't speak any Tagalog. So I have been essentially the senior companion for the week. Heavenly Father has definitely helped me. It has been amazing. All of the people that we have talked to understand me and I understand them! I speak simply but it works. We have found several new investigators and taught quite a few lessons. We had a really great spur of the moment lesson with one of the less active members named Bong. He was sitting in a little hut on the road to get out of the rain so we decided to go visit him. His friend named Wilbert is an investigator and is interested but is really shy. We explained to Bong about how he would feel if he could baptize his friend and it got him really excited. He said that next week he will bring Wilbert and his whole family to church.

  It has been tough the past week to talk to people on the street though because there has been a typhoon. It hasn't stopped raining since Tuesday. Some of the smaller back roads are flooded and the gutters are overflowing, which is really nasty. There is trash and all sorts of nasty things all over the roads and grass. But this week I got to try some really good foods! Discovered that young coconut is really good! You go to these people on the street and buy a green coconut from them and they cut a piece off the top. You drink all the milk inside (which is really good) then when you are finished they cut it in half and cut a piece of the outside that you use as a scooper to dig out the meat. It’s really cheap and a neat all in one snack! 

  That’s about all for this week! I hope everyone is doing great! I miss you all!
   Mahal Kita 
      Elder Hayden Merrill 

P.S. Congratulations to my cousin Brock on getting married this week!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Fruits coming out of my eyeballs!

Kamusta Everybody!
  This past week has been great! We taught a few really good lessons and I have a few funny stories.
  We found one investigator who is great! His name is Roswell and we met him while he was playing basketball one day. He asked us if we had a Book of Mormon because the one he used to have he lost. We taught him a few lessons and he has been progressing really well. He reads an amazing amount every day, and during the last lesson he said that he was ready to go to church. He said "when I go to church, you will know that I really believe this stuff". I almost laughed because that is almost exactly what it teaches in Preach my Gospel. 
 We also have gone on exchanges a few times the past week because there are Elders whose companions have gone home that need somewhere to go while they wait for transfer day. There was one Elder from New Zealand who really helped me figure out how to study the language better. Next week we will have 2 elders from India stay with us for a few days while they wait for their visas. I am a little bit nervous because I have only been here a month and I will have to lead. The Indian elders also speak no Tagalog, so hopefully I can teach a majority of all the lessons coherently. We'll just have to see how it goes...
  I have also been learning that people here are very direct and don't really seem to think about what they say, but it’s kind of funny. I got a bit sunburned last Monday and my face was red. We got into a Jeepnee and right when I sat down the lady across from me said "why do you look like an apple?" She didn't mean to be rude; she just thought it was funny that I was so red. 
   Also this week we had a huge Gecko (Picture included!) in our apartment, usually the lizards a few inches long but this one was a good foot and a half! My companion hates lizards and when he saw it he screamed like a little girl! He made me chase the lizard out of the apartment while he waited upstairs. I needed Budgy here to chase it down.
   Answers to Questions: 
    I think that’s funny about the fair in Idaho Falls.  I haven't eaten any monkey and they definitely don’t sell them here on a stick for $2 but I have fruits coming out of my eyeballs. There is a lady in our ward who owns a farm. We went and helped her last week and she gave us a whole thing of bananas off of one of the trees.  (Picture included)!   
   Showering with the bucket is not very fun. It is cold and you have to keep your mouth closed while you wash your head. A sister 2 days ago got an amoebae that was very unpleasant. She is fine now but the doctors said she probably got it while showering. 
 Well that's about all for this week, I love and miss you all and hope everyone is doing great!
  Mahal Kita

     Elder Hayden Merrill

Monday, August 5, 2013

Spider Investigator!

Kamusta Everybody!
  This past week has been great! Time is really starting to fly by. There is this great family that we have been teaching named the Lastimosas. They have two kids and seem genuinely interested in our message. During one of our appointments we taught them the Plan of Salvation and I was supposed to teach the majority of the lesson. I was teaching about our life on earth when out of the corner of my eye, I saw something fall from the ceiling behind Brother Lastimosa. Then while my companion was teaching I saw what that something was… The BIGGEST spider I have ever seen in my whole life! And it was just kinda walking around in the back of the room.  I decided I probably couldn’t stop the lesson and get up and go and try to kill it or ask one of them to kill it so I just tried to ignore it.  After my companion finished teaching and it was my turn to teach again I had to look the investigators in the eye so I lost sight of the spider which meant it could be anywhere…like above me on the ceiling, or behind me on the couch! I was very happy when the lesson was over and I could go outside. The funny part was that afterwards my companion mentioned that I don't need to look up if I am trying to pray about what to say.... I was a little confused and he said he saw me looking up at the ceiling often. I laughed and explained I wasn't looking up to pray, I was checking for the spider!

  This week we also got to go on exchanges with the the district leader and I learned a whole lot about about Filipino culture and laws, in particular trespassing. There was a big area with lots of houses where we were tracking and lots of people outside.  There was big open gate on the street where we were walking and it seemed inviting, so I said to the DL, "Let’s go talk to these people!"  I walked in and suddenly everything and everyone stopped and looked at me... I could tell something was wrong but I was already invested and decided to talk to them anyway, I figured maybe they were just looking at me because I am white. I went to shake one of the dad’s hands and introduce myself when my companion ran up and apologized and told me we needed to leave. It turns out that the area is a called a compound or like a gated community in America. A compound is usually composed of extended families and it is very illegal to trespass there, even if the gate is open! The DL thought it was pretty funny and said that I would be safe from getting sued because they understood I didn't know but said it would be smart to not do it again.  

   On Thursday we also found a new investigator! We ran into him while he was working on his car and he said we could teach it him. It turns out that his wife is an inactive member and that he has had the discussions three times before. During the lesson he told us that he was ready for a change in his life and he felt that we were the elders to baptize him!! It was great experience and showed me that God really does prepare people and even if investigators don’t work out now they may later on down the road. 

  I hope you all have a great week!  Happy Birthday to my cousin Cole in Columbia and Congratulations to my cousin Megan who’s getting married this week!

Love you!
Elder Hayden Merrill

Philippines San  Pablo Mission
Brgy San Juan, Alaminos
4001 Laguna


Sunday, July 28, 2013

July 29, 2013

Kamusta Everybody!

This week has been good! I had some fun experiences and taught some great lessons. I feel like I am starting to figure out how things work as a missionary here.

The first story is about a man names Elisho. He is 80 years old and we met him because we had an appointment with his wife but when we showed up she just had us go and talk to him. It turns out that he is a member of the church but got baptized a long time ago. At least that is what the ward list and records say, he denies being a member and refers to it as my church. Implying he isn't associated with it. When we began to talk to him he told us that we are going to speak only English! Hurray!! He said he is getting old and doesn't want to forget his English and that he would just like to discuss things about his life with us. We have visited him a few times and I really enjoy talking with him. It is quite funny. The most recent time we met with him, he was really excited to see us so when we got to his gate he yelled, "My American Friend!! Come in, let’s discuss!!" He wanted to talk about America. He said that he refers to us as “Father America”. When the Spanish were in control of the Philippines they kept the people ignorant. But when the Americans arrived we taught the Filipinos and educated them. He said because of that all Americans are heroes in Filipinos eyes and that more geniuses are American that any other nationality. I was very proud to be an American while he was talking, it was humbling and made me appreciate how blessed we are to be born in the United States. It was also funny because he refers to my companion as my "assistant" we explained that we are companions, and that he is actually training me. But Elisho doesn't seem to care and continues to refer to Elder Valdez as my assistant. While we "discuss" Elisho sometimes will say "now let’s hear from your assistant, hopefully he will share something fruitful, and take longer than 2 minutes to do so." He also makes him speak in English. After the visit Elder Valdez said "It is really hard to talk in English for a whole lesson!".... I wanted to say "now you know! welcome to my world" but I just held my peace and said he did a really good job (especially for an assistant).

We also had a great lesson at a member’s house. She teaches English at the high school close by her house and when we arrived there to teach her husband (who isn't a member) about 10 of her students where there hanging out. It is very different from America; the students know this sister on a first name basis and spend a lot of their free time at her house. We asked if we could teach her husband but he wasn't home. However, the students were curious about who we were so we decided to teach them all instead. It was a really great lesson about the Restoration of the Gospel. Most of them wanted to learn more and now 3 of them are new investigators.

Other than that not much has happened exciting. The traffic here is still crazy. I see something insane most every week. This past week we were stuck in a lot of traffic and I looked out of the jeepnee and there was another jeepnee who decided that it would be faster to drive on the curb which was half dirt and concrete. Well that’s about all for this week! 

Mahal Kita!
Elder Hayden Merrill