Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Downtown Chattanooga Adventure Begins!

What up What up!???

Yep I''ve officially transitioned to the ghetto thug life because I'm here in downtown Chattanooga! My companion is Sister Mackelprang and she is from Farmington, UT. She has been out for 3 months so yep I'm trainer breaking. She's asian!!!! HECK YEAH WE GOT SUM DIVERSITY UP IN HURRR!!! 
So I am here working in two branches, the downtown Chattanooga family branch and the YSA branch! Our branches meet in in an old civil war mansion and we live in the slave quarters just behind it.
I love it! Oh also we are a bus and walk area! Yep, so it really is the definition of crazy. I'm loving every moment so far. It's so easy to talk to people here because everyone just wants to laugh. When I smile at people their whole demeanor towards me changes. The bus is an adventure!

So let me tell you why I am meant to be here in Chattanooga. A couple of weeks ago Sister Burr and I were discussing the possibilities of where I could be transferred to. I told her my biggest fear was to go to downtown Chattanooga-- but it also seemed kind of exciting. I knew it would be the one place in the mission that would push me to grow the most. At that moment I knew I would be coming here. 

On my first evening here, we went and saw the Porters (the cutest and most in love couple I've ever met) and we ate dinner with the Scotts. After dinner we had to go catch the bus on a random street corner in the dark. As we were walking to the bus stop, I was terrified, maybe because 2 people pulled over and offered us rides and warned us of danger. I was so scared that we had missed the bus. The whole time I was thinking, "it's okay you can just cry yourself to sleep when you get home." Hahahahahahahahah isn't that awful? Well the bus came and we got home safe and everything was fine but I was still feeling extra anxious about riding the bus, being in the ghetto, etc. I did not sleep at all that night. The next day was district meeting and I just wanted to cry the whole time but my eyes were constipated. Well, luckily for me, my old friend Elder Parkinson who was my district leader in Oak Ridge is now one of my zone leaders along with Elder Sterling who was in my district a while ago in Bristol. I had some priesthood holders that I trusted to be in tune with the spirit, so I asked them to give me a blessing. It was hard for me to ask because I have a little bit of a pride problem--but I knew that now would be a good time to let go of that and to rely on God a little bit more. Anyways, I was blessed with the peace I was looking for and Heavenly Father told me He was proud of my faith in the priesthood. Also something said in that blessing was directly quoted from my patriarchal blessing. This miracle of the priesthood confirmed my faith-- and my faith is strong because I love reading the scriptures and seeing evidence of God's authority to act in His name, given to man. Whenever I see a footnote that says "priesthood authority" I feel enlightened and my understanding increases. Heavenly Father has restored His priesthood to the earth through the prophet Joseph Smith; I love that I get to teach that and also experience the blessings from it. Because God's power is here we have the blessings of salvation available to us and we can claim the power of the atonement in our lives. In reality I think that Ammon's words can better describe my feelings in this situation"

Alma 26:11-12

"11 But Ammon said unto him: I do not boast in my own strength, nor in my own wisdom; but behold, my joy is full, yea, my heart is brim with joy, and I will rejoice in my God.

 12 Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things; yea, behold, many mighty miracles we have wrought in this land, for which we will praise his name forever."

The miracle to me is the peace that I have knowing Heavenly Father is watching over and protecting me as I am doing His work. I love it here in downtown Chattanooga, it's everything I ever dreamed my mission would be and more. I am grateful that Heavenly Father trusts that I can do hard things.

Love you and pray for you all!

Sister Andrea Kate Merrell

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Bye Bye Bristol


Yup. I was right, I'm getting transferred on Wednesday. I guess in that way I'm a little bit psychic. Bahaha. It was weird going to church for the last time in Bristol yesterday. Everyone was saying bye and it was weird. I hate saying goodbye. When the parentals dropped me off at the MTC I started talking about horcruxes from Harry Potter because I didn't want to come to terms with it so I went off in an awkward ramble. Yeah yesterday was pretty much like that in a variety of settings. Hahahah it's okay everyone already knows I'm weird.

Okay now for the good stuff. Debbie got baptized! It was so awesome! Every time we saw her this week we could tell that her testimony was growing stronger and stronger. It was awesome. Her baptism went perfectly! No stress at all! It was great! Her family was there and they were so happy and excited to see this new beginning in her life! I loved it! And we went out to dinner at Cheddars after so that was awesome too. hahaha.

We surprisingly had an insanely AWESOME lesson with Travis and Katie this week. We had gone over there with the dismay of thinking that we would have to stop seeing them. We watched D. Todd Christofferson's talk from conference trying to convey that truth is truth whether man believes it or not. The talk didn't really seem make a difference to them BUT the member that we brought with us, Ryan, did! He was exactly what Travis needed. He explained the priesthood to him with the clarity that he needed. It was so awesome but at the same time it made Sister Burr and I feel bad that we didn't know how explain it in his terms. We both have committed ourselves to read from the Old Testament more often to get on the same level as these southerners. It was a real kick in the pants to be a better teacher and to try harder not only notice the needs but meet the needs of these humans out here in Tennessee. Anyways, Travis and Ryan ended up man hugging in the end and we're going over there again tonight! I think they are well on their way to be baptized now after overcoming that huge stumbling block. Katie has always kind of seemed to be on board with everything, she has a strong testimony and is looking for clarity and finding it slowly but surely. Too bad I'm getting transferred so I won't be here to see everything play out! Here's a pic of me, Katie, Travis, and their son Jason! They are the best!

Well that's basically my week in a nutshell! I love y'all!

Sister Andrea Merrell

Saturday, October 18, 2014

She Threw It On the GROUND!

Hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii. It's me.

This week has been pretty up and down, but hey that's missionary life right!? I hope everyone had an enjoyable Columbus Day/Canadian Thanksgiving. I'm emailing today because the library was closed.

Debbie's baptism is coming up THIS SATURDAY! This week was awesome because she threw it down with the coffee and the smoking! It was awesome! Her son-in-law gave her a blessing and then they got rid of all of her stuff! It was awesome because she was talking about how she needed to take some pill she had used last time she quit to help her not smoke; but she couldn't get in with the doctor in time to get the prescription to quit before her baptism so she wanted to move her date. We talked about having faith and relying on God and Jesus Christ to do hard things and she decided to kick it cold turkey and keep her baptism on the 18th! HOLLA!!!

We went an visited Brenda, who got baptized back in December and has been having a hard time coming to church ever since. We met her granddaughter Bethany and we got to know her and she said she wanted to learn more about the Book of Mormon so she could come closer to Christ. Uh okay awesome! So we got her contact info and we set up an appointment with her. We went to see her later on in the week and taught her the restoration. She said she wanted to be baptized so we set a date with her, we were so pumped! But then she didn't come to church and she didn't answer her door the two times that we've gone by. Ugh disappointing. But we'll get her! I'm confident in that because Brenda came to church on Sunday. A few weeks ago we put a sticky note on her fridge that had a contract on it for herself saying, "I Brenda will come to church this Sunday because I love the Lord" and then she had signed it too. Well then she didn't come because there was a mix up with her ride and then it was conference. But she finally made it! And now her granddaughter Emmy who is 4 will have an opportunity to participate in the primary program!

Well humanz I'm guessing I will get transferred but who knows. Transfers are October 22. I said bye to my friendz from the streets of downtown Bristol because I don't think we'll be able to serve dinner at the Salvation Army this week because we have zone training meeting... So a just in case kind of situation.. They showed me their Obama phones. Hahah I thought that they were pretty interesting. Anyways here's a pic of me with Dewey and Odell. They're pretty cool.

We went biking yesterday on the creeper trail again. Except this time we took a shuttle from Damascus to the top and road down (17 milez). It was all fun and games until the old man was taking us almost fell off his bike (12 ft. onto the trail). Then Sister Burr's tire exploded and could not be fixed so Sister Weight decided to ride the bike on the rim haha she wasn't too happy about it but she's adorable so whatever. We stopped at this gorgeous meadow to take pictures in the pumpkins. The fall leaves were amazing!

I love y'all! Have an awesome week!

Sister Andrea Kate Merrell


Thursday, October 9, 2014

We're Friends in High Places Y'all

Hi Folks.

Didn't y'all just love conference? Oh boy it was just the greatest! I loved being able to just sit back and receive some hardcore revelation. I really enjoyed Jorg Klebingat's talk! "By applying the atonement YOU can increase your spiritual confidence TODAY!" I can't wait to go back and read and study the talks when the ensign comes out.

On Thursday night, we stopped in to see the Johnsons. It was pretty inspired because James and Leta were there! We were able to eat dinner with all of them (James is so golden, we just know he will be baptized!) and then we inspired them to have us over for breakfast and conferenceon Sunday morning. That night, according to Sister Burr, I talked in my sleep. I said "Breakfast in Bristol! Brah Brah Brah Breakast in Brah Brah Brah BRISTOL!" So I think I was a little bit excited. As I should have been, we had french toast, MY FAVORITE!

Do you guys want to know how awesome Bobby is? He called us really excited after seeing his nephew at Walmart. He had told his nephew, Cody, that he had got baptized and he asked him if we could come over and share the gospel with him and his family! We went over and saw Cody and his wife Rachel and their daughter and now they are our new investigators! It's pretty inspiring seeing recent converts do missionary work!

On our way to district meeting on Friday we got a flat tire. We called the Elders and they came and put the donut on for us. Then after district meeting, while everyone else went out for district lunch at Burger Bar (aka puke central) we went to Sears to get our tire fixed. It took like 3 hours but we were able to talk to some cool people from North Carolina and the guy showed us his prosthetic leg. It was funny, we referred them to some missionaries in Ashville.

We went on a crazy hike today with the Ronquillos. We drove around for forever and then we got lost, and then we decided to go on a different hike. Anyways by the time we got there I was car sick and ticked off but then the hike was way fun and there was a radio tower that Sister Weight and I were adventurous enough to climb to the very top! It was freaky because it was so windy! Then we drove back to the church and on the way Dan bought us yummy burgers that tasted like in-n-out! Heck yeah!

The leaves are starting to change color and it is really beautiful! I'm glad that I get to be up here in the wannabe mountains for fall! We were driving around bluff city this week to visit some part-member families that we've never met it was awesome. We met George, who's wife is a member and he just so happens to be a baptist preacher! He was super friendly and we talked for a long while. His beliefs  that he preaches are headed in the right direction so we were thinking that we should basically go convert his whole congregation. Hahaha.

Anyways I hope that y'all reflect on the things that touched you from conference, and if there was nothing go read/listen again! Look up the cross references and find ways to change your life from "good to better"! Read Carlos A. Godoy's talk if you want more insight on that! 

Love y'all!

Sister Andrea Kate Merrell

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The 4th Time is the Charm

Hola Familia!

This week was just packed with activities that made it go by so fast! We had zone conference on Johnson City and it was just awesome. President started it off with his amazing spirit and then left to start interviews. For the rest of the time we practicing delivering a message tailored to the needs of the people we talk to when we are out and about. We need the spirit to know their needs. For all of this time, when I talk to people I feel as if I'm trying to convince them that we're normal and that Mormons are normal. In reality I'm not normal, I'm a servant of the Lord; the members of the ward are the normal ones. Asking questions that are thought provoking aren't something that I should shy away from when I meet people on the street. The way we practiced was kind of intimidating. They would pick someone in the audience to role play in front of everyone else and then everyone would commentate and say what was good and what could be better. I was chosen (the curse of being friends with the AP's), but it ended up being a really good experience. I learned a lot.

On Thursday we went to a funeral for a lady in the ward who I had never met. I think she had been too sick to come to church. Anyways I was on the program to say the closing prayer because bishop had asked me earlier in the week. I was pretty nervous (and also it was kind of funny to me--so sorry) because I had never met this woman before. I didn't want anyone to be offended by that and also the majority of the congregation weren't members so I was hoping they would feel the spirit as I prayed that they would find comfort in the Plan of Salvation. After it was over, a few people came up to me and thanked me for my prayer and we were able to give a couple of them Book of Mormons. We got their information and the Abingdon sisters are going to head on over this week! Whoop whoop! We did a good job applying the skills that we learned in zone conference!

We did some service for Don and then him and his wife made us delicious curry! It was great to spend some time with my favorite honorary grandpa. He came to church on Sunday too because it was fast and testimony meeting. So awesome!

We set a baptismal date with Debbie for October 18th! We are so excited! She came to the general women's broadcast and I think she really enjoyed it because her head was nodding in agreement for a lot of the time (I was sitting right behind her haha). I loved the entire meeting because it helped me have more clarity in understanding my temple covenants. I wish I could have gone to the temple more before my mission, but oh well I have the plans of going a million bajillion times when I get home, that's for sure. I seriously loved Elder Uchtdorf's talk! My favorite part was when he said, "True disciples of Christ notice needs." I agree wholeheartedly. When we are focused on following Christ, the spirit will help us notice the tiny details that will be answers to other people's prayers. We will do all that we can to serve and help others feel His love.

Last but not least, let me talk about Bobby. The night before we went over to have a final lesson, he was just so prepared for his baptism. We were talking about how he has felt as he has been making changes to his life and he said, "I don't want to sin anymore, I don't want to do anything that'll break my faith." I really felt the spirit from his testimony. Bobby is what humility looks like. His baptism was pretty awesome, Rick had to baptize him 4 times until he got it right hahaha but it was a fun. Rick was really funny about it. It was pretty neat. Also Ron, the guy from Kingsport who referred Bobby to us to teach (in the pic with Rick and Bobby), was able to confirm Bobby in sacrament meeting on Sunday. It was such a spiritual meeting.

We went hiking today with Dan and Bryan in our matching Tennessee shirts! It was fun! Then we went back to their house and started our own band and ate burritos. We're kewl.

Love y'all!!! Enjoy conference this weekend!! Take notes and receive some inspiration. AND DON'T FALL ASLEEP OKAY!?!?!??!?

Sister Andrea Kate Merrell