Monday, December 22, 2014

Hey Hey Hey Ho Ho Ho,

See what I did there?

Did you guys know that Christmas is this week!!!!??? Yeah me neither I just found out... Ha. Zone conference was super awesome! We watched FROZEN and played dodge ball! We also got awesome Tennessee Knoxville Mission hoodies! President gave us an awesome training pertaining to what we can know is our responsibility to focus on doing as missionaries and he also talked about how we can know that we are forgiven. He read from Alma 36 and talked about verse 21, which I talked about last week. It really made me think about the burdens of guilt that others carry. We can see when people make mistakes but we rarely know how they feel about it. I think all of us daily carry some degree of guilt since we all sin daily. A lot of people are worn down inside and it causes them to respond and act differently than one at peace would. Since I know the joy of repentance because it is something I am sharing with people every day I strive to be the person that can understand the pain of sin and how it can make people respond. I hope that I can be understanding to those in the pain of sin and help them change their lives to find the joy of repentance.

This week I went on exchanges with Sister Husted, she is from Orem and we know a lot of the same people! We had a lesson with her recent convert (she previously served here in Chattanooga, I actually replaced her here) it was really good that she was there because I felt like I didn't understand him at all. I wanted to help him want to do the right things but I didn't know how to help him be positively motivated by his love for God. He had been atheist for 14 years before he got baptized, so learning to trust God was something that wasn't going to come in a matter of days or weeks. He is still in the process of understanding God's role in his life. He was ready to commit to God and that is why he got baptized, but trusting him in every instance takes experience with the spirit. We had a good lesson and I feel like I was able to begin to understand where he is coming from. It was a great end to the exchange!  Ohh story time part 2: we had the lesson at the church and our branch mission leader came and he drove away in his car with his macbook and ipad on the roof and they flew off and broke the screens! It was so sad BUT all of his information was still on there and they are still functioning after he put screen protectors on them! Miracle!!!

I am so P-U-M-P-E-D for Christmas! It is going to be a fun day celebrating with a couple of families in the branch! I hope y'all have a wonderful Christmas! Discover the gift, embrace the gift, share the gift! The gift of Jesus Christ y'all!

Love all of y'all!

Sister Andrea Kate Merrell

Monday, December 15, 2014

Exquisitely Bitter-Sweet


This week Elder Renlund from the seventy came and visit us at a conference we had in Farragut! It was splendid. He really wanted us to understand the power of our mission calls. That we belong here as missionaries and not anywhere else. Heavenly Father personally picked eastern Tennessee for me and I am so grateful that I know that for myself. I know because he has personally picked people to come into my life that have changed me forever--my companions, members, investigators, recent converts, mission president, mission leaders, etc.

This week has been pretty rough to be honest. Our baptismal date that we set with Anna and Jessica had to be dropped because their mom doesn't want them to be baptized. She doesn't understand, we hope to be able to clear everything up this week and reset the date. We're praying hard for that to happen. We had a wonderful lesson with them and we watched the restoration DVD and talked about the Book of Mormon. Anna has such a strong testimony and is just one of the sweetest people ever. She is such a good example to Jessica and is just making the pathway bright for both of them. Her testimony will help her mom understand, I just know it. Although this week just seemed full of disappointments and failed efforts, it just makes me want to continue to strive to be a better teacher so these people can truly understand the impact that the gospel can make on them. It makes me want to be more bold so they truly understand what we are offering. Alma 36:21 really can perfectly explain my week better than I can:

 "Yea, I say unto you, my son, that there could be nothing so exquisite and so bitter as were my pains. Yea, and again I say unto you, my son, that on the other hand, there can be nothing so exquisite and sweet as was my joy."

This is how I feel about my mission. Some days are so hard and we get on like 9 buses and nobody wants to talk to us and nobody answers the door and we're just wandering around the ghetto feeling like fools. But some days are wonderful and I feel the spirit extra strong and I just know that the eternal scheme is far greater and far grander than any of those bad days. In this scripture Alma is testifying of how his sins made him understand sorrow and his repentance helped him understand joy. My sins and the sins of the people that we are trying to teach help me understand sorrow; but, the spirit, when it testifies of truth helps me understand joy.

I love y'all! Have an amazing week! Merry Christmas!


Sister Andrea Merrell

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Locked Out

So on Wednesday we drove up to Farragut and I picked up my cute new companion, Sister McDermott! She is from Morgan, UT and she is 19 years old. I am so excited to be her trainer, she reminds me a lot of myself at the beginning of my mission. She is shy but when she gets comfortable she is hilarious and is just really fun to talk to and be around. I love her. Anyways on our first day together we had a lesson with Juan (that was crazy) and then we had a lesson with Anna and Jessica. Anna and Jessica are 12 and 14 and have been coming to church for a while with their friend. We taught them the restoration and committed them to be baptized on January 10th! We are so excited! After that we headed back to the apartment and I realized I had left the keys inside... WE WERE LOCKED OUT! Hahahahaha so we called a locksmith. His name was Corey and he had met Mormons before and had a Book of Mormon in his van! Sister McDermott got his info like a boss, and we were able to refer him to the missionaries in his hood. So what if it cost 55 bucks to give him the gospel... eternal life is priceless and stuff. Hahaha. Whatever.

This week we had so many miraculous lessons it was so wonderful. My favorite was when we went and visited a Spanish speaking recent convert named Emilcar. She has every kind of struggle that you can think of from family to financial; she is raising 3 kids on her own. She greeted us at the door with a warm smile and we came in and begin to talk, she began to share her feelings told us she has too many problems to be happy. We read 2 Nephi 31:14-21 together and talked about enduring to the end with faith to be able to have peace during times of hardship. I felt the spirit so strongly in the most different way that I can't even describe. My heart was full of empathy and love for this woman. This lesson was completely in Spanish with no translator; although I couldn't understand every word spoken, my heart could understand the spirit that was there. We were able to communicate to her what Heavenly Father wanted her to hear. I am grateful for gifts of the spirit in times of need.

I was reading this yesterday, Alma 45:7 "Yea, I will keep the commandments with all of my heart." A lot of times throughout my life I have done things because I just want to do the right thing because I know it's right. But throughout my mission have been learning more and more that I want to do the right thing because of the love I have for my Heavenly father. I want to keep the commandments with all of my heart not all of my gut. When we do things out of love instead of a sense of duty we are able to learn the lessons that only love can teach us.

Oh guess what? We get to watch FROZEN at zone conference in 2 weeks. I AM SO EXCITED!!!!!!!! But seriously. And we're going to play dodge ball and do skits! Bahahahahah I'm so excited. I love you all. Today is a great day to be a missionary. And so is tomorrow and so is forever.


Sister Andrea Kate Merrell

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Holiday Perfection

Hello Hello!!

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving! Mine was pretty great, we spent it with the YSA branch president's family (the Wolfleys), 2 other sets of missionaries and a few YSA people! We had smoked turkey, and then normal kind and ham. But I mainly stuffed myself on the fresh pineapple and raspberries and the delicious salad. We played pool too! It was a pretty good day!

This week we had some things play out that I would definitely say were miraculous. We went to go meet a new less active couple that had moved in and they were very warm and we were able to show them the "He is the Gift" video (I'll get to that later). We left and we were in a hurry because we had an appointment across town but we saw a lady outside sweeping her porch so we stopped and talked to her. We found out that she is related to Sister Bridgette, a member of our branch! She had heard many good things about the Book of Mormon so it was a great opportunity for her to get one! She wasn't interested in having the lessons but maybe later on down the road. Anyways after we talked to her we were in even more of a hurry and we kept walking. We got to an intersection and we saw the Moores from the branch! They honked at us and we ran over and asked them if they could take us to our appointment! Perfect timing right? They dropped us off and it turned out our appointment wasn't there but we were able to talk to the neighbors and they said they were interested in learning more! We're going back on Thursday, hopefully that works out. Miracles on miracles on miracles!

Oh yes I forgot the big news, Sister Mackelprang is getting transferred on Wednesday and I am going to train a new missionary! Woohoo! I'm so excited! I hope she doesn't get scarred for life starting her mission up hurr in the ghetto!

So there is this restaurant here called the Yellow Deli and it is ran by some sort of religious group... I don't even know how to explain what they are because they call themselves a community. Anyways, we went there for lunch and when they found out we were Mormon they invited us to dinner on Friday night to celebrate ringing in their Sabbath. So we went and it was so much fun! They did folk dancing and they were all singing and we just watched but it was awesome. Then we had a traditional Thanksgiving dinner and everything was organic, home-made and DELICIOUS! We sat by this family and we basically taught them the restoration. I was sitting next to their 14 year old daughter, Shua and we got along really well. She was really cute! After dinner they taught us some of their dances. It was a fun time learning about other people's beliefs and sharing ours at the same time. I asked Shua if she would take a picture with me, she's the cutest.

We have started using pass-along cards featuring the "He is the Gift" video: This Christmas season is already off to a good start on focusing on the importance of having a Christ focused Christmas. I really have been thinking about this personally. We can embrace the gift of Jesus Christ by letting the Atonement impact how we think, what we do, and what we say. I think a great example of this is the people of King Benjamin's reaction after he has taught them, " O have mercy, and apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins, and our hearts may be purified; for we believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who created heaven and earth, and all things; who shall come down among the children of men."--Mosiah 4:2
I hope to for Christmas be a gentle reminder of the gift of Jesus Christ and that through him I can purify my heart and be a better person.

Love y'all!!

Sister Andrea Kate Merrell