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

July 22, 2013

Kamusta Lahat!
  This past week wasn't too eventful, but it was still really good!
It is getting into monsoon season here so it has been raining just about every day! It’s amazing how much stronger the rain is here. After about 10 minutes the streets are already flooded. It’s tough to find people to talk to while it rains because they all go inside, but it’s also funny because all the little kids run outside and jump in the puddles. (I did however see a guy run out in just his boxers with some soap and take a shower in the rain in front of his hut, at first I thought it was strange but then decided it’s probably easier than using the bucket)
  This week my wonderful neighbors purchased several goats! And those goats really enjoy talking to each other late at night. They scream and yell for hours! It might drive me crazier than the crickets. Hopefully it drives the people who bought the goats crazy too, I am hoping that they move them somewhere else soon...
  One thing that is very different about the Philippines is that there are no addresses. People just live in areas called barangays which are about the size of a big subdivision. So when you need to find an investigators house, or contact a referral it can take anywhere from 10 minutes to hours, if you even find it. You just go around asking everyone you see if they know the person you are looking for. When you ask Filipinos for directions they usually go with you to wherever you are trying to find. It’s kind of funny actually, especially if they aren't sure because they will ask their friends. So pretty soon it’s us and 5 other strangers looking for a house. 
  Tagalog is coming along pretty well. I can teach for a little while in the lessons and can say a few things to people on the street. I love the looks that I get from people when they yell "hey man!" and I say hello, or good afternoon back in Tagalog. These two older lady's were sitting with their granddaughter outside and I walked by. The two older lady's said to the granddaughter "pogi siya"(he is handsome), thinking I didn't understand. I smiled and said salamat po (thank you) and kept going. The grandpa was sitting close by and he got a pretty good laugh out of it. (On a side note they say that all white people are good looking so it’s not just me) 
  We have some good investigators that we have found! The only issue is getting them to go to church. Usually they say that they have to work, or that they have to go somewhere. None of them came to church yesterday so my companion and I decided we have to be more bold. We went and found a few of them and just explained that they cannot be baptized unless they attend church 4 weeks in a row. So it’s up to them if they are going to be baptized or not, based on their desire to go to church. It is difficult because we can see that they believe in the gospel but they don’t yet have the faith to sacrifice the time on Sunday.
   I’m sending some more pictures this week.  One of a pineapple plantation, a rambutan fruit (which I eat a lot), my neighbor’s noisy goats, the outside of a jeepnee.  The last one is of a man, named Dante, who I helped bag coal so we could teach him and now he is an investigator.  Everyone gathered around to watch me work with him; they looked surprised to see an American getting dirty! 

I hope everything is going well with all of you! I miss you!
  Mahal Kita

    Elder Hayden Merrill

Monday, July 15, 2013

July 15, 2013 - Philippines Week 2

Kamusta (hello) Lahat (everyone),

  A lot has happened this past week, including a few funny stories!  I first have to tell you about jeep-nee drivers and how crazy they are. Here in the Philippines traffic is very different. You pass people who are slower, it doesn't matter if there is oncoming traffic, or if there are 3 other cars in front of them, you just pass them. And the thing is that people here don't seem to get mad! They are totally ok and there isn't any road rage. However, this past week we were in a jeep-nee in the town market area and it was really slow traffic because of a funeral procession. Well, our driver had places to be and riders to drop off so he decided to drive around the big sign and barrier saying "Welcome to Alaminos" and then drove in the left lane, passed the funeral procession and pulled out again in front of the hearse. It was one of the funniest, scariest driving moments I have ever experienced.

  Walking around the areas where people live is also a different experience. Everything is pretty open and people are hanging out in the street or on their porches. People here love Americans and are very generous. All of the men on the weekends are usually drinking so everywhere I go they yell "Hey Joe! One shot?”   I just say no thanks or it’s bawal (forbidden) and walk away. But this week I decided to be bold so with one guy I said "Actually I don't drink and this is why" then I gave him a Word of Wisdom packet asked him to read it and to talk to me if he wanted to know more and then I walked away! My companion was stunned but afterward we got a pretty good laugh out of it. Who knows maybe he will get baptized one day!  People here also really like American music, but only 3 songs…One by Pink, “The Lazy Song” by Bruno Mars and another one by One Direction. Everywhere you go it seems people are listening to one of those 3 songs on their phones. 

  Buying things here is also very interesting. I had to buy a side bag to use during the day so we went to the only shopping center around here. I told them I needed a side bag but wasn't sure exactly which one. I was surprised when 7 employees all went and got different side bags, stood in a line and all tried to show me what they all had to offer "how about this one sir?" or "dito has marmaring zipper"(many zippers). I found a good bag and then they all walked with me to the checkout and I bought it. It was pretty funny but very different at the same time.
  The food here isn’t too bad! Some of the stuff is weird, but I mostly eat fruits and rice. I had to eat pork liver this week and that was gross but not terrible. There are a lot of different bananas and other fruits that are really good. Every morning I have either a mango or some bananas and the other day I had a dragon fruit that was really good!

 We have several families that we have been teaching. One of them, the Giaz family, is doing really well. They have several kids and a few nieces that live with them. They seem really interested in the gospel but we are having trouble getting them to come to church. There was also are guy who just showed up at church and then said we could come teach him later on that day.  We were really excited so we went and taught him the entire first lesson, he was doing so well that I extended the baptismal challenge and he said that we would!! We thanked him and got ready to go. As we were walking out he said he was really excited to get baptized again! We stopped and asked "again?"… turns out he was confirmed a member in 1992 and has just been inactive since then!  It was funny because we were so excited to have a baptism and a golden investigator just to find out he was a less active.
I miss you all and hope you have a good week!

    Elder Merrill

P.S.  I've attached pictures of a cool looking lizard and also what most of my area looks like.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Philippines Week 1 - Bugs and Lizards!

Kamusta Everyone!
The past week has been crazy! There is so much to write about! To start off our flight was good, it was very long but it wasn't too bad, and the layover in Tokyo was too short so I didn't get to leave the airport, but I did still get to see some Asian stuff (hello kitty everywhere). The first night we stayed in Manila and then at 4 a.m. we got on a bus and rode to San Pablo! My mission president is great and his wife is really nice. There are also several couple missionaries here who seem really nice.

I have been assigned to the Alaminos area. It is just outside of San Pablo, in the same town as the mission home. It’s pretty urban and there are always people around.  

My companion's name is Elder Valdez. He is a native Filipino but he speaks really good English so we can communicate just fine. We have taught a lot of lessons and found quite a few new investigators since I’ve been here. Everyone is open to talking to us. We have 3 investigators getting ready for baptism. However, there are a lot of inactive members here. There are 300+ members but usually only about 50 or so attend church.

Tagalog is coming along pretty well. I have learned a lot since I’ve been here. I can’t understand everything people say but I’ve been able to pick up bits and pieces. People have been impressed when they find out I have been here less than a week and can understand what they are saying. The rich people and kids here know pretty good English. And some other people can understand it, but are embarrassed to speak it, so they prefer to talk in Tagalog. If you ask them to speak in English they say no, because they will get a "nose bleed" from thinking too hard. The little kids are funny they run up and yell HI! or WHAT'S UP MAN!

There are a lot of different and interesting things here. First being that it is REALLY, REALLY humid! I am constantly hot, sticky and sweaty!!  There are also a lot of little bugs and things! I also saw the biggest spider I have ever seen in my life. It was insane and scary! There is also the most annoying bug in the world here. It is some type of cricket. It makes a sound like the ringing in your ears after you hear something super loud, like a gunshot. And it makes that high pitched ringing noise from dawn till dusk. I've attached a picture of my lizard friend. There are usually a dozen geckos that come into are apartment at night. I like them, they are harmless and eat the ants and keep away the spiders. 

The streets and transportation here is "loco loco". In Manila the driving was crazy. It seemed like the street lines were there just to look pretty, because nobody pays attention to them. The main transportation here is jeepneys and tricycles. I've attached a picture of me in a jeepney, it's a really long bus looking thing except it's made from WW2 type jeeps.  And the tricycles are just a motorcycle with a side car. 

The food here isn't too bad. There are a lot of really good fruits and I found out it is illegal now to eat dog!! Hurray! I tried a cool fruit called a rambutan that was really good. It is red and pokey on the outside but white and really good on the inside.

One quick funny story; We ran into this lady while we were walking, who sells apartments, and she wanted to talk in English with me. She wanted to know what a good name for her granddaughter would be, something unique and American. I told her Sariah Abish! She doesn't know yet that it’s a Book of Mormon name, but she seemed to like it. She wanted to know what it means so I told her it means Eternal Daughter of God.

Also if you want to send a letter, the mission office here prints from Dear Elder. SO please send mail and letters through that, I have more time to read them!

Also they told us to tell our families to NEVER ship through Fed Ex or UPS. It is really expensive for me to pick up. So just send things through USPS priority mail.

  I love and miss you all
     Mahal Kita
          Elder Merrill

Mom -
That great you got a bike! And it sound like you had a good 4th of July. Things here are very different, but it’s good. I am a little bit home sick for America. I miss hot showers (most mornings I use a bucket).

Also Happy Birthday to Mom and Dad in the next weeks. When I get the chance I will try and send a box back home with stuff in it for everyone including birthday stuff for you all!

Arrival! - July 3, 2013

Brother and Sister Merrill,
Attached is a letter and picture of your Elder with his Mission President and wife!  We love your son!  Elder Hansen and I went teaching with him and his new companion on Saturday evening and he was awesome!
He also bore a wonderful testimony in Fast and Testimony Meeting yesterday….you can be very proud!
Kindest regards,

Sister Hansen, Mission Secretary
Phillippines San Pablo Mission

8 July 2013

Dear Brother and Sister Merrill,
We are delighted to have Elder Hayden Albert Merrill with us in our mission.  He has a great spirit and we are looking forward to knowing him better.  He will be serving in Alaminos, San Pablo for the next few months with Elder Adrian Artates Valdez.
There are several things you could do to help keep him happy and successful during his mission:
- Send weekly letters.  News from home keeps spirits high and minimizes problems.  Mail and packages should be sent to the Alaminos address in the letterhead.
- Try not to mention family problems that might worry him.
- Please do not visit or telephone him without approval of the mission president.
You may call or fax us at the numbers listed below.  The Mission Office is open Monday through Friday from 9:30 to 4:00 PM.  If you have concerns about the health or welfare of your missionary, please contact the Mission Office or President Peterson directly.
Thank you for preparing and sending us this fine missionary.  We will love and take care of him.
President George E. Peterson
Sister Kathryn M. Peterson
Philippines San Pablo Mission

Brother and Sister Waite

My name is Br. Mark Waite and I have had the great opportunity to serve in the Tagalic Branch at the MTC Branch Presidency with your son, Elder Merrill. My wife and I have loved watching your son grow from a brand new missionary 6 weeks ago into a very well self confident, dedicated and spiritual missionary.

You should be very proud of him. He took it upon himself to teach me tagalic words and phrases and was always the first one to congratulate me when I spoke some tagalic. He has such a loving heart for his companion and those in his district.

Elder Merrill is a model missionary and will be one of the best missionaries that has ever stepped foot in the Philippines.

I am enclosing some photographs that we took yesterday of the district before they left today.

Rest assured that your son is well taken care of and is a very fine young man.


Br. & Sis. Waite