This first part was added by Robin, Andy's mom:
This is the last email from Elder Merkley. Such mixed emotions. I'm mostly excited, but just a little sad that I'll no longer wake up to these wonderful, spiritual emails. Unbeknownst to him, we get to meet him at the train station when he arrives in Munich on Thursday. I'll be wearing a big smile and waterproof mascara, especially since I'm crying now as I write this. Thank you for your love and support of this wonderful missionary. We'll be home just after midnight, Wednesday, May 22nd and you're welcome to come over that afternoon. If you can't make it then, his homecoming will be Sunday, June 15 at 9 AM at the stake center of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2121 E Route 66, Glendora. We love you!
This is a pretty surreal feeling. Knowing that I am writing you an email as a missionary for the last time makes me really ask myself where all the time went. We'll get to that later.
The weather here has been a little temperamental. The last couple of days have been a little bit cooler, and if you are standing in the shade then it was a little bit chilly. For the most part though I have been wearing short sleeves for the last week and a half, and it has been very enjoyable.
You will definitely be able to meet Elizabeth. She knows when we are coming to Klagenfurt, and she should be there in Church on that Sunday. If she isn't there for some reason I know where she lives, so we could get a hold of her. I think she will be fine. She is forming good connections with the ward, and yesterday she made me give her Radu's number, because she told me that she had felt something good in him, and that even though I was going she wasn't going to give up on him. She is really converted.
We actually just taught Ulrich today, and it was definitely a better lesson. We really focused on talking about prayer, and then at the end of the lesson he said a really short memorized prayer, and we all said Amen, and were about to leave, but then I just had the feeling that he needed to pray again, and speak it from his heart, and so we stopped and asked him to pray one more time, and to try it in his own words. He did it, and I think that will be a major step for him as he continues to study and pray about the Gospel.
We haven't had an appointment with Magnus since the last time I wrote, but we did make a lot of progress with him, too. We invited him to the baptism on Saturday, and he came, and then afterwards we were invited to a member's house for a barbecue, it was a very select group of people there, but Magnus was invited too, and it was a ton of fun. There was another young member, one of the only YSAs in our ward, and her boyfriend, who is not a member, that were there, and then Lukas, the 24 year-old who was baptized. I was looking at the four of them, two of them nonmembers, and I just could see the future of Klagenfurt. If those other two were to get baptized the young single adults of this branch would become so much stronger and more solid.
We're trying to focus more and more on preparing Elder Dickson to take over the area, but I am slightly concerned that he doesn't know it well enough. We'll see what happens. Taking over areas is a lot more complicated than in some other areas of the world, because not only do you need to know the members and investigators well, you have to know where they live, how you get there with the bus or train, including when and where they go from, what the name of the stop is, etc, and you have to know about buying tickets, language, and all sorts of other things. Sometimes it can get a little bit stressful, and I know that Elder Dickson is feeling it. I have seen a ton of progress in him though, and I know that he is a lot happier than he was when he first came. I am looking forward to staying in contact with him throughout the rest of his mission, until he comes back to BYU to become a track star.
Yeah. I'm not super proud of the teaching pool I will be leaving behind. There are a few solid investigators, but not nearly as many as I would like to have left. Had I left before the Great Recession of Investigators that happened about two and a half months ago, then I would have been proud of it. As it stands though I am happy with the work that I have put in, with the relationships that I have built up, and with the people I have helped come closer to Jesus Christ. I feel like I gave my best, and I will continue to work hard for what is left of my time.
Also, Mom, the word I used to describe my mission/what I learned was love. I learned to love people, I learned to love myself, I learned to love the Lord more, and I learned to love my mission. Love I think is something that describes my mission very well, although I still feel like I have miles and miles to go before I reach any point at which I could say that I was charitable.
Also, I know you like a record of my studies, and so I'll tell you about what I studied this week. I was privileged to give a talk at the baptism on Saturday, and I talked about the Gift of the Holy Ghost. I really was just so happy for Lukas that he was going to be able to receive this gift, and as I talked about it I realized what a marvelous gift it was, and how he can really guide us and help us to make good decisions in our life, and also help us to help others on the path. I'm very grateful for his influence in my life.
Well. I kind of feel like a part of me is dying. I'm really excited to come home and see you all, but I also relate with what you were writing, Dad. I just feel like part of my identity is going to die, and that I'm taking off a major part of my armor against the Adversary. I know that I will still study the scriptures and pray, but I also know it won't be the same. I'm going to miss the Spirit of the Mission, and I have been really drinking it in recently, and trying to live in it as much as possible.
I love you all. I know the Church is true, and that Jesus Christ lives. He loves us. I also know that being really sad about ending my mission might indicate a lack of faith, because I also know that God has a lot of good things in store for me. I'll see you on Friday!