Monday, February 8, 2016

My Pre-Mission Story up to August 5, 2015

Well my birthday is August 18, 1996 and after the age change from 19 years to 18 years that meant I can go on my mission earlier than I thought!  As I thought how long it will be till I can submit my papers and go serve, I realized that I could still be a senior in high school.  The summer before my senior year I turned 18.  I'm older than all of my friends so this would mean the age change wouldn't affect me at all considering when I'll be graduated and available, I'll already be 19.  It didn't really affect me at all, more time to party right!?  So the time came where I told my bishop, "I'm ready to serve my mission."  Of course, there were some things I had to do while preparing to get my papers in.  I needed to do a mission prep class.  It was really neat and a good experience.  I needed to go through the temple, and of course in preparation for that I needed to take a temple prep class. It was held by Brother and Sister Stuart, the patriarch of the stake.  You needed to take three classes but I only took two... the last one was most important and I missed it. That class was good but the better prep I had was from people telling me, "No matter how weird it is, it is all symbolic." I can't tell you how many people told me to prepare myself. Ha! So the time came for me to go through the temple. I was nervous, but I got through it and after I felt like a new man! The last thing I really wanted to do was get my patriarchal blessing. I eventually got it, and of course, it's amazing. Sort of confusing, but it will all be revealed some day. After many, many interviews, I finally got to the point where I can get my papers submitted. I put that I wanted to speak another language, and that I've taken six years of Spanish. I also put that I wouldn't mind serving in a foreign mission. I put my availability date as July 5, 2015. (So I could spend the 4th of July here.) After the final interview with President Ferry, he said, "Okay, Elder Merrill you are ready for your mission. I'll submit your papers in today." Now it was just a long waiting game. There were many rumors floating around on how long it takes to receive your letter; two weeks, four weeks, maybe six weeks. Slowly but surely my friends started submitting their papers also, some sooner than others, but we all got ours in. So, as the time comes for me to be expecting to receive my letter, I wait patiently every day for the mailman to come. Every day, I hear that sound of the mail truck, I hurry and run out to the mailbox and check. Slowly the time passes where I should "expect" my letter. It was at least four weeks past where I should expect it. So on a Sunday, I went to Bishop Taylor and said, "When should I get my call? It's been a long time." He said he will text President Ferry and ask. So he did, and after a few minutes, President Ferry text back and said something like, "Well the thing is, I forgot to click the final submit button." What the heck?! Are you kidding me President?! He said sorry and of course I forgave him, but like anyone would have been, I was a little frustrated. So now the waiting game starts again. At this point I was used to waiting, so I kind of got a little lazy and stopped checking every day. Eventually the two week mark hits, and now I'm getting anxious. It was a Friday and there was a basketball game. It was actually a really fun game, one with lots of people, we were winning; all in all a good time. Then I get a call from my mom. She said, "Guess what's here?" I immediately know. I said, "No way..." She said "Yes!!" I was sooo stoked!! Then she said, "Come home and help me clean the house." Then I got a text from my mom, it said the same thing. So I told everyone at the game that my call finally came and to be at my house that night at seven. So I go home and start cleaning and getting ready. I put my call on our fireplace and looked at it every two seconds. I put a Snapchat story and said, "Be @ my house @ 7!" 7 o'clock finally comes around and there are quite a lot of people crammed into my living room and kitchen. We had to wait for Dayna and her family so it was around 7:30 when I opened it. So here I am standing in front of my fireplace, holding my call in one hand and a knife in the other. It's over time and everyone is pretty impatient at this time. So I calm everyone down and say it's time. I tried to used the knife but it didn't work really well, so I just ripped it. At this point, I'm shaking beyond belief. I felt like I wanted to cry. But I didn't cause I'm a man. I pull out a stack of papers and start looking through them. I put down every paper that is in my hand, then I'm empty handed with no call. Everyone is like what the heck? People told me to look in the book. People told me to look again. Nothing. Then someone said, "Look in the folder!" So the last place I looked, the folder, and there it is. I pick it up feeling even more dumb and shaking even more. I cover all but the first sentence with my hand and start reading. "Dear Elder Merrill...." and so on. "You are assigned to labor in the Philippines Legazpi mission." (When I saw the first letters "Phi..." I thought, "Philadelphia... sucks man." But then I read it all.) As usual, then clapping and screaming of everyone. Luis Pena yelled, "Ya! First foreign missionary!" Because out of all my friends, I was the first foreign. In my mind I thought what the heck? Philippines? Okay, so I know that's not America. Where the heck is the Philippines? As I read the word "Legazpi" - well, actually I didn't read it, I tried. L (Dallon's wife) corrected me. So I was like oh Legazpi. Then I put the letter down and was like now what? Someone said, "Well what language?" Ha, I forgot to read the rest on what language and my reporting date. As I kept reading it, it said, "You will be speaking Ta..." I paused and was like... "Uh-ohhhh." Everyone laughed. Tag-a-log. Tagalog? What the heck is Tag-a--log. Then L laughed at me and said, "It's pronounced 'Tagalog.'" Ohhh.... Well what help does that do me? I read that I will report on August 5, 2015. I looked up and saw my mom wasn't crying, but my dad was? That's unusual? Everyone was so happy for me and I probably took about 500+ pictures that night with everyone, maybe got about 100+ hugs. Then the party calmed down and people slowly started leaving. It was a Friday night so we went and hung out. I went with Parker and Derrick to Costa Vida, then we went mudding in Parker's car, then went to Jake Glover's house and watched football. I was on my phone all night looking up the Philippines country and Legazpi. The first picture was of the Mayon Volcano. It all looked like a touristy exotic island. I was so stoked. But it was just a normal night for everyone. Everyone who hasn't received their call wouldn't know how I felt. That night I wrote in my journal for the first time. I went over the experience but in very little detail. After that life kind of proceeded as normal, except the fact that I had a lot of doctor-dentist appointments. I got my top two wisdom teeth out and it was all good until I realized there was a hole from my mouth to my nose. After time, it got infected and I had really bad headaches. I went to the doctor and got an antibiotic. It didn't help. Later I went to another doctor and got another antibiotic. That didn't help either. So for a third time I saw another doctor. This time he says I'm going to need surgery. Now this was about three or four weeks before I was supposed to leave and they said that the recovery is fairly quick but sometimes the surgery isn't always successful the first time. They said it could possibly delay my departing date so I was kind of worried. So I proceeded to get the surgery. It sucked and it hurt but it wasn't that bad. I also had very bad breath... :| The doctors told me to be careful and not do anything too straining or hard... They also told me not to go swimming or get in any water. What did I do that any other boy would do with his last three weeks with his friends in America? ...Everything that required me to strain or push myself. I went to a rope swing a couple of times, I went swimming, I wasn't going to miss out on nothing my last few weeks in my own country! So eventually I healed. It was long and probably could have taken less time if I would have relaxed but nah. So now the time has finally come for me to start packing, buy last minute things, and say my goodbyes. It didn't really hit me 'til about the third night when I was laying in bed and realized I'm not going to be able to sleep here for another two years! I started getting sad/anxious/excited all at once. Then the day finally came, August 4th, 2015. I was set apart as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. It was an amazing experience. Of course, I didn't feel like a missionary yet, but I felt different. When I came home, there was already some of my friends in my house waiting for me. This is the worst night, basically saying goodbye to everyone you know before all my buds, all my chica friends, even some people I cared less for. Ha. Usually you turn off your phone after you're set apart but nah, not me. I had my Clash of Clans base that needed me 'til the very last second. At the end of the night, I was a little anxious to get everyone out so I could be with my family. Eventually they all left except Weese, Scoffield, and Cheyenne. I said goodbye to them last, then they left. After that the house was silent. My thoughts were racing but at the same time I was really calm. After I pulled myself together I did my last minute packing, then I talked with my family, said goodnight, and went to bed. I fell asleep fairly quickly, which was odd considering I can't sleep at all on Christmas Eve. The night flew by and the next day my alarm went off, I woke up, and realized this is it. My last time doing everything in my house for two years. I showered, got dressed in my shirt and tie, then just sat there. No tears, which was nice, but I was shaking. We packed my stuff and the fam in the car, picked up Gma Merrill, and headed to Provo. The drive was probably the longest and also the shortest ride of my life. Me and Taylor made a really long chain of toy crocheting loops, and Madison just kind of sat there. We were all just kind of quiet. Then I saw the road sign "Provo, Utah." As we pulled into Provo, the IHOP has a free meal for new missionaries. We ate and had a good time. My last meal with my family was peach pancakes. It was really good. My dad taught me a quarter trick in the parking lot after we ate and I figured I'd use that a lot with the little Filipino kids. Then we got in the car for the last time together. The drive to the MTC was slow traffic, but that was okay with me; the more time with my family the better. Then we saw the MTC. "Dang it," I thought. "It's actually time." We parked in the temple parking lot and walked to the temple and took a few pictures, then we hugged in the parking lot before we started to the MTC. We pulled up and one elder said, "Elder, welcome to the MTC." We got out, got my bags, and I said goodbye one last time. I knew I could start bawling but I held my ground and didn't, maybe I got a little teary, but didn't cry. I turned around and now my mission begins...

Removing wisdom teeth.

Temple Day

Forgot to pack black socks.

Peach City after the temple with Grandpa & Grandpa Merrill and Julie & Rob.  Madison and Taylor came for the dinner.

Sinus surgery pre-op.

Sinus surgery post-op.

Illegal farewell picture.

Farewell luncheon.

On his way to be set apart as a missionary.

At the church to be set apart.

The night before he leaves.

Saying good-bye.

Driving to Provo.


Provo Temple

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