Monday, August 25, 2014


NASCAR in Bristol Tennessee/Virginia

Hey hey y'all!

11 months of being a missionary today! Weird to think about! It's weird to imagine my life if I hadn't come on a mission, I can't imagine missing out on all of the experiences that I've had. This week has been absolutely insane due to the NASCAR race at the motor speedway; 185,000 fans were there! There was so much traffic and when we had to drive passed the stadium (about 5 times) people would just dart into the middle of the road. It was crazy!

We saw Travis and Katie early on in the week and followed up about church. They told us how they weren't really "feeling it" at church and that they feel the spirit more strongly in their church. It really made me think about how we are converted. We obviously are converted when we approach God with a humble heart and he touches us with his spirit. So how do we approach God? By reading The Book of Mormon and praying to know it is true! I love the introduction, it's an instruction guide to be converted:

"We invite all men everywhere to read the Book of Mormon, to ponder in their hearts the message it contains, and then to ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ if the book is true. Those who pursue this course and ask in faith will gain a testimony of its truth and divinity by the power of the Holy Ghost. (See Moroni 10:3–5.)Those who gain this divine witness from the Holy Spirit will also come to know by the same power that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world, that Joseph Smith is His revelator and prophet in these last days, and that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s kingdom once again established on the earth, preparatory to the Second Coming of the Messiah."

When we read, ponder and ask we can understand Christ and his atonement, know Joseph Smith is the prophet who restored the priesthood to the earth, and that being Mormon is the best way to be prepared for the second coming of Christ! We hope that Travis and Katie can understand this and find their answers.

We taught Bobby this week and oh boy was it a treat! We brought Brother Craft, he the most hilarious 85 year old that I have ever met! He assured Bobby that the ward would take care of him and then he took all of us up to the 10th floor of apartment complex so he could introduce Bobby to Brother Collins and arrange for Bobby to drive Brother Collins to church. Hahaha it was so awesome.
We had a good lesson with Andrew and he is still on for his baptism on September 13th! We were able to talk about temples and it was a really great lesson!

We went to go see Brenda, a recent convert that hasn't been active since her baptism back in December. We taught her the Plan of Salvation with our newly made visual. She really understood as we taught simply. She felt loved, which is something that she doesn't feel to often due to her unfortunate circumstances. We taught the lesson and then we helped her clean her kitchen. She didn't know how to act, it seemed like no one had ever helped her before. Yesterday, Sister Richard gave a talk in sacrament meeting about happiness and she shared this quote by Dr. Seuss:

"Unless someone like you, cares a whole awful lot, it's not going to get better, no it's not." 

This quote made me think about Brenda. My love for this woman has been increasing each time we meet with her and it's not because we relate well or have exciting conversation when we go. It's because she is someone that God has asked me to love. I want things to get better for her, and the best way for that to happen is for her to have a strong testimony of the gospel and an understanding of Christ's atonement. The best way for that to happen is to have support. We have been bringing Sister Tedrick with us to see Brenda, and she is that amazing support because she is a huge example of charity.

Well I wish I had time to write more, but I don't. Ha. I love all of you!

Sister Andrea Kate Merrell  

Thursday, August 21, 2014

**His Work**His Way**By His Power**

Hey Y'all!!
This week has been miraculous. That's the only way that I can put it. It started out with an amazingly inspired zone conference in Kingsport. Our President has given our mission a new theme: 
**His Work**His Way**By His Power**
I absolutely love it. In only a few words is shows where our focus should be:
-We aren't serving our missions for ourselves, but for God
-We can only accomplish the work we are doing by having the spirit with us
-The changes that happen in these peoples' lives only come through Heavenly Father's love

Zone Conference left us with feelings of determination. I wish I had time to write more!

We saw Travis and Katie early on in the week. We talked about the Book of Mormon and how it helps us understand and apply Christ's atonement personally to us. We ended the lesson with a commitment invitation to come to church. Travis said, "I don't make promises I don't keep... and I promise that we'll be there." We were so anxious to see if they would show up on Sunday.

We received a referral from a member that lives in the Kingsport ward. We were a little bit nervous about contacting it because Bobby lives in some ghetto apartments, but when we knocked on the door there we found a humble and God-loving man. We taught the restoration and invited him to join us for church on Sunday.

I don't know if I've talked about Andrew yet, he is awesome. He was referred by Graham, our assistant ward mission leader. Graham is from England and joined the church when we came here and met his wife. He was baptized but went inactive and struggled with drinking and smoking. Through the ARP program he was able to free himself from his addictions through the power of Jesus Christ. Now he's a missionary and sharing the gospel with his co-workers, like Andrew. Andrew has committed to be baptized on September 13th. We are so excited!

On Sunday we had a great meeting with the ward council as we came prepared with our new-found skills from zone conference. The needs of our investigators were addressed with willingness and we felt the spirit as we discussed the rescue list. We left the meeting with feelings of inspiration. Travis, Katie, and Bobby all came to church! We were so enthused and we were even more excited as ward members were reaching out to them and helping them feel loved. 

We had so many successes this week but there were many feelings of discouragement as well. When we called Don to make an appointment with him during our weekly planning sessions he told us that he wanted to take a semi-permanent break from our weekly meetings. I felt like my heart was breaking, but I knew that it was what needed to happen. Don was running circles as we tried to teach him the things we know are true. He needs to learn them on his own through experience. We won't lose contact with him though! Don is not out of our lives forever!

The big race at the Bristol Speed way is this week! Hopefully we survive driving through all of the traffic! Haha! I hope all of y'all have an amazing week! I love you all so much!


Sister Andrea Kate Merrell

PS Sometimes when we have to wait 15 minutes for the Ronquillos to come home we drive down the street and have hipster photoshoots. Enjoy!

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Burden of Those Called to Bear the Messianic Message

Heyyyy Y'all!!!

Coming at ya live from ABINGDON, VIRGINIA! Yep we came up here to spend P-day with my precious trainer Sister Weight and her companion Sister Cox! It's been great so far. We're going to have a good day. We passed a creepy cool cemetery on the way here so I'm going to make sure we check that out. I'm weird. I know.

So I wanted to start out this email with a quote from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland's most recent conference talk because it really has been coming to my mind so often that it has become my theme for my outlook of the work in Bristol:

"Here we have the burden of those called to bear the messianic message. In addition to teaching, encouraging, and cheering people on (that is the pleasant part of discipleship), from time to time these same messengers are called upon to worry, to warn, and sometimes just to weep (that is the painful part of discipleship)."

This week we have had many of the pleasant parts of discipleship. We taught Rocky our investigator from Guatemala. He barely speaks English so we have taken on the challenge of using our rusty Spanish skills to teach him in his native language. We read from El Libro de Mormon in 3 Nefi. He read out loud in Spanish while we followed along in English. We understood a lot of what he was saying so it wasn't too hard. As Rocky said the closing prayer I picked out the words "saber estas cosas es verdad" or something like that...(to know these things are true). I loved it.

We were able to come back in contact with our investigators Travis and Katie. We talked about having real intent. Travis admitted that he was struggling to find real intent because he was comfortable with the nondenominational church they currently attend. Travis told us that he enjoys when we come over because there is always so much soul searching and he can feel it. Gosh, isn't the spirit so great?

At dinner last night we were able to talk with Brother Ronquillo about how he grew up in the church. We asked him if he still believed the Book of Mormon to be the word of God. He told us that he is still Mormon and always will be. He still has a testimony. This was an answer to prayers because we had been struggling to understand where he was at. He told us he can feel the spirit when we come around. I was so humbled to hear that. I am grateful that he could feel God's love through us. We now feel more comfortable to share the doctrine of Christ from the Book of Mormon when we join them for dinner every Sunday evening.

The painful parts of discipleship also were also experienced this week. We went to visit Don and we showed him this Mormon message that we felt really related to his experiences of struggling to know God:
As we watched the message, we saw tears come to his eyes. We saw him feel the spirit. It was such a tender moment. Afterwards when we began to discuss his thoughts, Don told us that he knew a divine power existed but he didn't think it was a loving Heavenly Father. I began to cry; which was weird. I never cry in lessons. I don't cry in front of people, that is so weird. But there I was crying because I consider Don to be part of my family. I didn't want him to feel alone and like God wasn't designing a path specifically for him. It is so hard for me to understand how someone so Christ-like can feel like he doesn't know God or Jesus Christ. Regardless, we will continue to help Don feel the spirit and hopefully he will continue to make progress. He's still reading the Book of Mormon every day!

I love being a missionary. I love it here, even though it's the hardest thing I have ever done. The pleasant parts are wonderful and spiritually uplifting, and the painful parts help me understand the suffering that Christ felt for each of us. I want to stay in Bristol forever. Saturday we were going a lil' bit crazy because we spent the day trying to track down some of our 125 less-active members on our ward roster. We took a break and walked through a cemetery and evidently saw the grave of the inventor of Dr. Pepper (I'm not sure if it's the for real guy but a lady that we met at the cemetery told us that so we'll take her word for it).

Have an amazing week!


Sister Andrea Kate Merrell

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Out With The Old, In With The New


Sister Neil is home with her family! Weird stuff. "Killing her" was such a blessing because I got to see who she was at the end of her mission. I didn't know her before but I know that she is a great young lady! I love her guts!

I got my new companion! Her name is Sister Burr and she is from Cedar Hills. She is 20 years old. I love her so much we are going to have the best transfer ever! We're already hooked on Russian accents and it's only day 5! We do the insanity work out dvds every morning so we're going to have beach bodies by the end of this transfer. #bristolbabes Also she's super humble and just a really good person so it's great to get to hang out with her all day every day.

We had a great week! I got to see Don twice because Sister Neil went to say bye to them before she left and Sister Burr and I went to go see him. I LOVE THAT MAN. We had a good lesson on desire-believe-know and how those are the steps we have to take to know that Jesus is our Savior and that God loves, knows, and cares about us. It was good. He also gave us Burrungas which are his own creation. Burrito+Chimichanga=Burrunga ME GUSTA THAT AMIGOS.

Guess what home dawgs? My mother, SISTER WEIGHT, is in my district now!! Isn't that awesome! We get to see each other like 3 times a week! WE ARE THRILLED. SO MUCH LOVE UP HERE IN BRISTOL, TENNESSEE/VIRGINIA!

Our assistant ward mission leader referred us to his friend Andrew. He came to church yesterday and we are having a lesson with him on Wednesday. Member missionary work is the BEST. He already has a support system and a friend that he can ask questions to. We are so pleased.

Well I LOVE Y'ALL! Have the best week ever! Keep on keeping on!


Sister Andrea Kate Merrell

PS last night at the Ronquillos house for dinner I was holding their rabbit and it literally POOPED ON MY FINGER AND ON MY SKIRT. It was disgusting. I disapprove of that rabbit and I always will.