Friday, September 27, 2013

Angels to Bear You Up

Dear fami-lami-ding-dong!

First off, I need to apologize to Sarah for not remembering her halfy birthday. I'm really not good at remembering, I'm just good at being told when to sing. I hope that it was great!

Now with that cleared up, I can recount this past wonderful week! As I said in my last email, last Friday was Elder Findley's birthday. We had a really fun birthday celebration for him that night. I'll try to attach some pictures of that if I have time. Also, I got to see Uncle Scott in the temple again. It is always so great to see someone I love! I mean, I've come to love a lot of people as a missionary, but we're talking about FAMILY here. :D Another great experience last Friday was the opportunity to teach some people in the TRC. Both of the people that Elder Findley and I taught were returned missionaries who had served in Portugal and Brazil. Let me tell you, the Portuguese accent was a little weird, but I was so happy that I could understand it! At the end of our lesson with the Portuguese-Portuguese speaker, she said that we could speak Portuguese really well. I know she was probably just being nice, but it felt great! As we taught, it was so cool to see how the Spirit directed Elder Findley and me in what we said. The best part about the TRC is that we get immediate feedback from the volunteers written out on a piece of paper. According to the returned missionary who served in Brazil, he was "slapped in the face" by the Spirit". Probably not the exact phrase I would have chosen for describing a spiritual experience, but it definitely gives a visual and a physical(?). It felt so great to know that we had brought some spiritual understanding to this man's life. We challenged him to read the Book of Mormon cada día, which was a step up from what he was doing before. By the way, are all of you reading the Book of Mormon every day? It is so important that we do! The Book of Mormon has been revealed for our time. God will hold us responsible for our study of this sacred book. It holds the answers to the "questions of the soul" and can also answer our temporal concerns. It is so vital that we read the Book of Mormon so that Heavenly Father can bless us with light, knowledge, and joy in our lives.

So, Saturday was a big day. First day of Autumn! Anniversary of the Angel Moroni appearing to Joseph Smith! Yes, a big day indeed. Let me tell you, we are really starting to feel the Autumn weather here. I've worn my sweater several days to stay warm. I kind of wish that it would stay hot and dry because then I don't think about Fall in New Hampshire with brightly colored leaves and wicked tart apples. Speaking of which, is apple season over? I can never remember exactly, but I have the biggest craving for a Cortland or Macoun(?). Is there any possible chance that you could send some apples this way? I would ask for apple pie with some sharp cheddar cheese as well, but I feel like that might be a little too messy for delivery. Besides for the exciting dates to remember, Saturday was kind of a bum day. It was my last full day of being district leader. I thought that the last day might be the day that all of the blessings flowed in, but quite the opposite. Instead, almost everyone in the district was in a crabby mood, and I could feel their emotions bearing down on me. As I was writing in my journal that night, I started to ponder about this aspect of leadership. That's when my thoughts turned towards the Savior. He is our leader and our captain. He took upon Himself all of our griefs, sorrows, sins, anguish, heart aches, back aches, and every other stress in mortal life. How did he do it all? I was ready to scream from just a few grumpy missionaries. Yet, Christ is perfect. I testify with my whole soul to the reality of this statement. In the Savior of the world, we will find peace. We may find "peace" in other forms, but they will die with us. Jesus Christ is perfect, immortal, and all-powerful. Come unto the throne of his grace and receive strength.

Sunday, luckily, was not a day of screaming or stress. I was sick physically, but I felt so good on the inside. Elder Stoker was chosen as the new District Leader. He's been doing a great job, and I've been working as hard as possible to shut up and let him take over. It actually hasn't been that hard. It's amazing to see the different experience I get to enjoy in the MTC without the leadership position. One of the highlights from Sunday was the chance that my district had to sing in out sacrament meeting. There are some tone deaf people in our district, but when we sang on Sunday, it sounded SO GOOD! We sang "I Need Thee Every Hour". We sang a cappella for the third verse, and then a Sister and I sang a duet for the beginning of the fourth verse. I could tell that everyone in the room could feel the Spirit. And believe me, the Spirit helped us. I was hearing some vocal part I had never heard before coming from the "Bass" section, and it went well with what everyone else was signing! I still have no idea what they were singing, but it wasn't the Bass, Tenor, Alto, or Soprano part. The other highlight from Sunday was getting to hear Elder Merrill J Bateman talk to us at our devotional. He talked about the spiritual powers that missionaries are entitled to if the live righteously and serve diligently. It was so awesome! He told us some powerful stories about missionaries who humbly and faithfully listened to the promptings of the Spirit to seek out and teach individuals and families. The power of the Spirit is real, and God is seeking to gather in His children.

Monday was another good day. In class we talked about the difference between living obediently and living righteously. To be obedient is good because we follow God's law and qualify for certain blessings. However, when we live righteously, we do not seek to satisfy the law alone, but we change our hearts so that we seek only after things that are good and lead us to Christ.

Tuesday was one awesome, awesome day. In the morning, the Elders in my district got to go do service at the Provo MTC West Campus (Wyview and Raintree?)  I can never remember if this is right because I think I always want to confuse it with Braintree, MA)). We were driven around in a van and went outside the main campus gates! I know it seems pretty trivial, but I was freaking out! It was also cool because that is when I realized that my duty to be a missionary is NOW. We got to serve alongside some BYU students. I know they were probably all LDS, but I made sure to give them the message to read the Book of Mormon. After all, we all need to be uplifted and strengthened by a representative of the Savior. Probably the best part of the day, however, was the devotional at night. It was given by Elder Don R Clark. It wasn't so much the message that he shared, but the message that the Spirit shared that made me so happy. In his talk, he talked about several experiences of missionaries heeding the promptings of the Spirit to find God's children to teach. In one of the experiences, he shared a story about an Elder serving in Central America who couldn't speak Spanish very well. He tried to talk to a woman on a bus, but wasn't able to say much. When he asked if they could come back to talk to her, she said that they could and that her house was the one with the little red sign. Days later, that Elder fasted and his companion and he went in search of the house with the little red sign. They passed many houses with red signs, but each time this Elder looked up to heaven and was prompted that it was not the right house. Finally they came to a house and the Elder was prompted that it was the right house. They knocked on the door to find the same woman from the bus. She was taught by the missionaries. Something else that really struck me from Elder Clark's talk was his reference to a scripture about how angels can encircle missionaries. He then said that there are angels encircled about us, willing and waiting to guide us and help us in doing God's work. As I thought about these two distinct ideas from his talk, I couldn't help but think about Grandma and Grandpa Ayer. I feel impressed that they are somehow guiding and preparing the way before Sarah and me as we serve as missionaries. They were faithful and diligent in this life, and I'm sure that they continue to be. I also look back and think about those Elders that first passed by Grandma and Grandpa's house so many years ago. They just stopped by to ask for directions, but instead returned to give directions from God. Were they prompted to return to the little red house? I know they were. Did they know the impact that they would have? I'm sure they didn't. I want to be able to go out and knock on the doors of little red houses and bring the joyful blessings of the gospel of Jesus Christ into the lives of God's children. We may not see the impact we may have now, but the children's children of those we teach will rejoice when they think of their grandparents who listened to the humble servants of God. During the meeting, I also received several promptings of people that I should contact to help support and strengthen. I want to be able to help uplift as many people as possible, and I know that will be able to if I listen to the promptings of the Spirit.

On Wednesday I got to be a host for new missionaries coming in. It was so much fun! It was so enjoyable to be able to give a happy smile to reassure mothers leaving their boys and Elders leaving their mommies. I also had a great experience in teaching. Elder Findley and I had prepared to teach about the First Vision to our investigators Romario and Patricia, but were prompted during the lesson to talk about other things. It~s interesting, but we had also kind of prepared to teach about these things during companion study, but weren't expecting to talk about them. Inspiration is real!

Yesterday was good too, but I'm just about out of time. Let's just say that each day is great, but I'm living on a new level of greatness right now. It's kind of pathetic, but it's only an okay day if I feel the Spirit a few times a day. I probably need to change my attitude and perspective. Life is great! Everything is great! Turn to Christ and find joy! Eu sei que Cristo vive. Em Cristo é todo poder, paz, e força. Leia as escrituras e receba a força de Cristo. (I know that Christ lives. In Christ is all power, peace, and strength. Read the scriptures and earn the strength of Christ.)

Love, Elder Parker Ayer

P.S. Tender mercy from this week: getting a New Hampshire state quarter back for change. I have it in my shirt pocket next to my heart! :D

P.P.S. Yes, Mom. I do love getting surprise letters during the week! Did Christian get my surprise letter? If not, that surprise is ruined. :D

P.P.P.S. 3 Nephi 24:7 "Return unto me and I will return unto you."

P.P.P.P.S. I restarted the Book of Mormon my first week in the MTC, and I will probably finish it by Sunday! Read it! There are so many blessings! Love you!!!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Halfway there? Living on a prayer...

Oi família e amigos amados!!!

Well, this last week marked the halfway point for my training here at the MTC. This place is a paradox. Every day seems to last so long, but then everything seems to have flown by looking back in time. This week has also been my last week serving as district leader. The new district leader will be assigned on Sunday. I feel relieved and a little sad at the same time. First, relieved because it is not easy to be a district leader. I feel stressed a lot and I sometimes feel like some of the missionaries stress is directed at me when I get to tell them something passed down to me from my leaders. Second, sad because being district leader has actually been quite rewarding. Being in a position of leadership service, I have been able to receive direction and guidance from the Holy Ghost for the entire district. This has strengthened my testimony in the reality and power of inspiration and revelation. This last week of service probably had some very memorable instances of receiving divine direction.

Well, before I jump to all of the exciting stuff, let my run through my week. Last Friday, our district got our first chance to participate in the TRC. This is when people come in and volunteer to be taught by the missionaries. Unlike when I volunteered for the TRC when I was at BYU, these volunteers do not take on a role as an investigator. They simply come in as themselves, and we help them come unto Christ. On Friday, Elder Findley and I taught a returned missionary named Jason who served in Brazil. We asked him about all the stressful things in his life. I was amazed at how powerful an experience it was. He was kind of talking really fast in Portuguese, but I did pick up a lot of what he was saying. He did mention something about the temple, so I grabbed hold of that and talked about the temple. As I spoke I was guided in the words that I should say, and I bore testimony of the power and peace of the temple. It was so wonderful! Instead of trying to "figure out" what a person needs to hear, this experience helped me see that in any case, missionaries should be striving to listen to the Holy Ghost in order to invite all people to come unto Christ. I think that Jason felt more motivated to come unto Christ, and I also felt like I had come more unto Christ in that meeting.

Saturdays aren't usually that exciting. Actually, they're kind of frustrating because their right in between my two favorite days: P-day and Sunday.

Sunday was great, as usual. I began the day with a leadership training meeting and a branch council meeting. There were so many powerful spiritual moments during the meetings. What I came to realize is that missionaries must have the Holy Ghost with them whenever they teach. If missionaries teach without the power of the Holy Ghost, then they are simply inviting people closer to them. They are not inviting people closer to God. When we minister and teach by the power of the Holy Ghost, Heavenly Father is in reality ministering to and teaching His own children. HE gathers HIS children. We are simply the messengers sent from God so that He can accomplish his merciful plans. And God truly does minister to each of us individually in ways that He knows will teach us and touch us. After the meetings, I got to have an interview with a member of the Branch Presidency, Brother May. I felt such genuine love and concern, and I felt Heavenly Father ministering to me through him. One thing he told me that really helped to hear was that he said I was doing a good job. It really helped to hear this because sometimes I don't feel like I'm really living up to the image I have in my head of a missionary (AKA Paul, Peter, Alma, Ammon, etc.). That night we also had a great devotional. Well, it was interesting. The special musical number was actually a sister singing "My Kindness Shall Not Depart From Thee". She made some different musical choices, and I'll leave it at that. :D By the way, speaking of music and singing, I will be here for General Conference, but the elders will not be singing in conference. Yes, very unfortunate. However, the sister missionaries will be singing during the General Relief Society Broadcast. It's the first time in the history of General Conferences that they've had enough sister missionaries in the MTC to actually form a reasonably sized choir. Anyway, back to the devotional. Ron Tanner, the producer for "Only A Stonecutter", "The John Tanner Story" (yes, he is a descendant), and "17 Miracles" spoke to us. It was kind of interesting because he didn't give a very heavy spiritual message, but he talked about producing movies a little bit. He also showed some clips from his newest movie, "Ephraim's Rescue", which looks really good. It's about the life of Ephraim Hanks, the man who was one of the first to go and help the Willie/Martin Handcart Company. It looked really awesome. However, one of the clips was a kissing scene, which I thought was odd to show to a bunch of missionaries at the MTC. It was made even more odd when all of the missionaries (all 3-4 thousand) ooohed or ahhhed. It's amazing how weird a kissing scene can become after being a missionary for a few short weeks.

Monday was a very cool day. Monday was a day that made me glad to be a district leader. It was the end of the day, and the district had about 20 minutes left with nothing to do. Someone asked if we could sing some hymns to end the day. I was about to say yes because I really love singing hymns, but then for some reason I said no. A thought came into my head to talk to the district about something. So I sat everyone down, and I wasn't really sure what to talk about. I started talking about what I thought I should talk about, about being better missionaries who are more focused. I was just standing there talking for a while, when I was remembered (through the Spirit undoubtedly) that a good district meeting is a discussion among the missionaries that is facilitated by the district leader. That's when I stopped talking and asked Sister Eddington a question that just popped into my head about her experience as a missionary. Once she was finished talking, the Spirit told me to ask someone else a question, going off something that Sister Eddington had said in her answer. This pattern of asking and answering continued through most of the district until I ended with asking Elder Findley a question. Really, I had thought about none of this before hand and everything came to me in the moment that I was standing in front of everyone. After Elder Findley answered, I was directed by the Spirit to say that we, as missionaries, need to focus each of our consecutive thoughts on the Savior. And that we, as missionaries need to heed the command of Christ to come unto him before we can vicariously extend that invitation to others. The Spirit was felt strongly in the room. I know that each missionary could feel it because I could see it on their faces. At the end, I said that we should have a hymn and a prayer. At this point, it was interesting to see the change in who was receiving revelation. I had no idea what hymn we should sing, but several missionaries all at the same time said that we should sing "Come Follow Me". This experience strengthened my testimony. Revelation is real. Inspiration comes through the power of the Holy Ghost. God does not leave us helpless in life. He wants to answer our questions. In coming to Earth, we died spiritually, being separated spiritually and physically from our Heavenly Father. When we pray to Him and receive His guidance through the Holy Ghost, we are spiritually reborn as we begin again to be spiritually close to Him. It is necessary for all people everywhere to pray and receive an answer to their prayers. And when we do, we must act and live according to that answer we receive.

Today was kind of tough. I was feeling overwhelmed and ineffective as a missionary, but Heavenly Father inspired me to read Doctrine & Covenants 50:40-41. It helped me a lot. We are not expected to be perfect immediately, but we are expected to grow over time as we diligently apply ourselves.

Sorry, I always spend a lot of time talking about the beginning of the week and then never really get to describe the end. Alas. The days between Tuesday and today weren't super eventful anyway. :D

Know that I love you all. Know that Christ and Heavenly Father live. They love you and know you (conhecer e saber). I would invite you to make a change in your life today. Do something today to excercise more faith in Christ. Read you scriptures more diligently, pray more fervently, write down the tender mercies that you see in your life, and lift the hands that hang down. Come unto Christ and receive His strengthening, enabling, and ennobling power. His is mighty to save. He came not to condemn the world, but to improve the world and justify us unto the Father. Eu sei que meu Redentor vive. Em o poder de Jesus Cristo, podemos tornar-nos limpos de nossos pecados. Por o poder de Cristo, vamos receber força para vencer nossos desafios. Em nome de Jesus Cristo, Amém. (I know that my Redeemer liveth. In the power of Jesus Christ, we become cleansed of our sins. By the power of Christ, we receive strength to overcome our challenges. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen)

Heading to the Temple

Enjoying classroom instruction

The Elders in my district

Com Muito Amor,

Elder Parker Ayer

P.S. Today is Elder Findley's birthday! He is 20 on the 20th!

P.P.S. Thank you all so much for the letters and DearElders. I got the package Mom. Thanks for the additional dried mango! MMM! Also, I finally got Sister Amanda Smith's letter that she sent a month ago. It made me so happy!!!

P.P.P.S. Sister Hannon Young, from New Hampshire and Pageant, is in my zone! She got here last Wednesday.

P.P.P.P.S. People I have seen while at the MTC: Scott Bennett, Derek Asay, Mike Mace, Jake Gong, Abby Billin, and Dani Savage. I also see a lot of other people from my BYU ward, which has been so awesome.

P.P.P.P.P.S. I LOVE YOU!!!!!!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Where Can I Turn For Peace?

Querido familia,

Como vai? Things are going great here. Sometimes it's hard to see everything that is going so well, but I remind myself so that I don't get down.

Last Friday, Preparation Day, was a great day, but not quite as relaxing as I was expecting. It is a very stressed day waking up early to get your laundry in before the mad rush of elders and sisters. Then there is the time crunch to try to make sure that you email everything you could ever possibly want to say in one hour. The best part of the day, by far, was going to the temple. The temple offers such solace in contrast to the craze and work of the MTC. I learned so many new things there than I have ever before. It is amazing to see how the Lord blesses his missionaries who are humbly seeking after Him. Along with the tender mercy of going to the temple, I was also able to see Uncle Scott there. It was wonderful to be able to get a hug from a member of my family. I think that's what I'm missing most right now, a big hug. I hug Elder Findley sometimes, but it's just not the same. What I know, though, is that God knows and cares for us. We are His children. Why wouldn't he be able to discern our needs and supply moments of kindness and mercy in our day?

Once again, Sunday was a much more relaxing day than P-day. There is such a Spirit here on Sundays. I think it also helps that we don't have any language study classes. I really do love learning the language, but sometimes it becomes overwhelming to have to decipher each word that someone is saying. I imagine that it is somewhat like when people who don't have any knowledge of God are taught by the missionaries. The missionaries come in and speak things that they have never known or understood before. I imagine that it is quite confusing to learn about Joseph Smith, gold plates, The Book of Mormon, priesthood authority, the Plan of Salvation, etc. What helps me, and what I know helps humble seekers of Christ, in understanding this new language is the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost usually doesn't speak in words, or complex doctrinal phrases. The Holy Ghost speaks in the language of our soul, bringing thoughts and impressions that guide us, direct us, warn us, and call us to repentance. When I am teaching, I rely heavily upon the Holy Ghost to guide and direct me. I know that if people will humbly listen to the divine thoughts and feelings being given to them through the Holy Ghost, they will be able to come to know the truth of the message of Jesus Christ and His restored gospel. Anyway, Sunday was great. It ended so well when all of my district went to see the movie, "The John Tanner Story'.  I cry every time I see that movie. I am always so inspired by the example and faith of John Tanner. He was wealthy as to the things of the world, and he gave all that he had, in faith, to build up the true Kingdom of God on the Earth. I think that is what I want to do. I want to be able to consecrate all that I own to God and His work. The funny thing is that we don't even own what we think we own. As it says in Mosiah, are we not all beggars before God? God has given us everything. Who are we to hold back from Him what is His? Before coming here, I always found it hard to share things. I think I'm very possessive. Since being here, I have had the desire to share what I have with the other missionaries. This may seem trivial, but I don't think that I would have shared my ties before my mission. Now I let the other missionaries look through my ties and wear whichever one they like. This sounds really lame and pitiful as I'm writing it, but it's part of the "baby steps" to total consecration.

The hardest day so far this week was Tuesday. I was fine in the morning, but then I had a sudden wave of depressive and sad feelings come over me in the afternoon. I couldn't tell why. I was kind of annoyed because I am such a positive person. I thought a lot through the day about it. I think it's because Satan is in opposition to what I am doing here. He fights against the work of God. Everything that is good and wholesome he seeks to destroy. As I am striving to be an ambassador of the Lord Jesus Christ, he is striving to tear me down and make me feel worthless. I know that "as to my strength I am weak", but "I can do all things through Jesus Christ which strengtheneth me". Even after thinking about this for awhile, I was still feeling down. That night was devotional, and I have been participating in the choir that sings for the devotionals. That night we were singing, "Where Can I Turn for Peace?" Brother Eggett (dad of one of my BYU friends) always gives spiritual thoughts during our rehearsals. That night he told us that the song reminds him of a discussion between an investigator and a missionary. He made the point that as ambassadors of Christ, who know of and cherish the restored gospel, we should be the most peaceful people there is. Despite anguish and pain, we should be examples of positivity. Another thing I realized is that we all may feel anguish and pain. What we must realize is that our perspective and our outlook is changed through the lens of the Savior. When we accept the gospel of Jesus Christ and are baptized, we should see with His eyes. he brings into focus those things that are eternally important. We forget about present cares and present worries when we see clearly the infinite power of the Atonement. The Atonement is as a fountain of water springing within us unto eternal life. Our peace should be as a river, because our God fills our cup to overflowing.

In my efforts to stay positive and to consecrate my time and talents, I decided to audition to sing in a devotional. Yes, I auditioned with "My Kindness Shall Not Depart From Thee". I was originally thinking that I would switch it up and sing something else. I was actually really not interested in being that one guy who sings the same song all the time. However, I felt the Spirit tell me that I should sing that song. The song is powerful and direct. God loves us. He watches after us. He will direct us if we seek Him. After all that can be said about the gospel, this is the ultimate message. Everything that Jesus Christ did pointed to His Father. The Savior draws all men unto Him so that he can bring them unto the Father. I also think that I am singing this song because I know that I can sing it. I hope that I can be the means of helping someone feel the love of their Father. Anyway, I auditioned yesterday (Thursday). I was expecting to just be auditioning for the sister that manages the music library, but I actually auditioned for the wives of the MTC presidents. I was a little intimidated. My knees were shaking all over the place, but luckily my voice was able to do what it needed to do. (Another tender mercy: my voice was able to hit all of the notes even though I don't have any time to rehearse) After the audition, Sister Nally (President Nally's wife) told me that my voice was "lovely". She also told me that I was a "definite yes". However, she did ask me if I had acting experience because apparently I was moving my hand a little bit and I was "too" expressive. I guess that's what happens after years of goofy acting on stage. :D Anyway, I am excited to be able to share the gift that God has given me with the rest of the MTC.

I love you all so much! Thank you for your support. I pray for you every day. Eu amo meu Deus. Ele ama todos seus filhos. Quando somos obedientes aos mandamentos de Jesus Cristo, Deus nos abençoes. Eu sei que O Livro de Mórmon é verdadeiro. Lendo O Livro de Mórmon vai traz paz e alegria a nossas vidas.  (I love my God. He loves all his children. When we are obedient to the commandments of Jesus Christ, God will bless us. I know that the Book of Mormon is true. Reading The Book of Mormon will bring peace and joy to our lives.)

Com muito amor, (With much love,)

Elder Ayer

P.S. Yes, I do receive DearElder messages the day you send them.

P.P.S. Thank you for sending DearElder messages!

P.P.S. I don't know how I want to go about sending out my emails. Maybe post something on Facebook asking for people to post their emails if they want to be on the mailing list?

Friday, September 6, 2013

I'm in the MTC!!!

Dear loved ones,

I am in the Provo Missionary Training Center! It has been a wonderful 10 days so far, with some challenges, but mostly many joyful experiences. Grandma and Grandpa Eliason dropped me off at the MTC on August 28 at about 12:15 pm. There were a lot of emotions, but I was mostly just anxious and excited (plus a little amazed that I am a missionary). I'm still very amazed that I am a missionary! When I was dropped off, there was a missionary there to help me get all of my things in order. They processed me through several "registry" desks, let me drop my stuff off at my bedroom (shared with five other missionaries), and then brought me to my classroom. That's where I got to meet all of my district and my teacher! There are eight sister missionaries and six elder missionaries (including me) in my district, and we're all assigned to the Brazil Juiz de Fora Mission! I also met up with my missionary companion, Elder Findley. It was kind of a weird experience meeting up with the person that I will be spending almost every moment of my life with for the next six weeks. It was a little strange being forced to get to know someone, but it's definitely turned out well. Elder Josh Findley is from Texas (luckily he doesn't think that his state is better than everyone else's state :D ). He is very hard working. A lot of the time I go crazy with all of the studying and focusing that we do, but he keeps my head screwed on straight. Well, the first day was a little overwhelming. Our teacher, Brother Gessell, who served in Brazil as well, talked only in Portuguese to us. It was really surprising because some of the people in our district have no background with foreign language. I'm definitely feeling the blessings of studying Spanish for so many years and trying to study Portuguese before coming here! And even with my background, I have to work hard to learn Portuguese. It amazes me to see the success and progress of the other missionaries at learning Portuguese, but I know that it is because Heavenly Father is blessing them (and me) to learn quicker. Despite the excitement and intensity of Wednesday, Thursday was even more intimidating and emotional. The slogan for new missionaries here is "Make it to Sunday". That was kind of our district's mantra. It is hard to be pressed to learn and grow in the short amount of time that we have here. Thursday we continued in our Portuguese and spiritual study. All of a sudden during class, I felt this overwhelming sense of stress. It was emotional knowing that we had to teach the gospel, and on top of that, teach it in Portuguese. Our teacher also let us know that we would be teaching a lesson completely in Portuguese on Friday. Isn't that crazy? We had been there less than two days, and we would all be teaching a complete 20 minute lesson in a language that we did not know before. At that moment I became really overwhelmed, and I was pretty sure that I was going to break down crying. Luckily, our teacher was able to sense our stress and our needs. He kind of gave us a pep talk. It is pretty easy to give a pep talk to missionaries because Heavenly Father has promised so many blessings to His servants. He has called us to do this great and noble work, and He wants to bless us. He wants us to be guided in our lessons; He wants us to be able to speak Portuguese; He wants us to feel His Spirit because we are completely dedicating our lives to His service. One thing that I have realized while in the MTC is that it is so important to completely devote myself to this work. Outside worldly influences just get in the way. When my mind is completely focused on His work and His word, I feel the Spirit so strongly and I am more able to be an effective missionary. It has been hard removing all worldly media influences, but I have seen the blessings of completely giving my life over to Heavenly Father. Remember, he who seeks his own life will lose his life, but he who loses his life for Christ's sake shall find it. Thursday night was a confirmation and deliverance from all of the emotions that I had been feeling during the day. The two new districts in our zone met with the Branch Presidency (the men that watch after the zone, similar to a mission presidency). Each missionary stood up, introduced themselves, said why they were serving a mission, and then bore their testimony. I could feel the Spirit so strongly. In the scriptures it says that the Spirit will burn in our bosoms, and my bosom was BURNING! It was a sensation that I have never quite felt before. What I know is that this gospel, this message that I am preaching, is the true and everlasting gospel restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith. No one can tell me otherwise. Or if they do, I will never believe them. The Spirit has testified powerfully in my heart in the most personal, intimate, and powerful way. How can I deny the witness that comes directly from God? After the meeting, the Branch Presidency met with all of us to interview us and come to know us a little bit better. Then, the Branch Presidency extended leadership assignments. I have been assigned to serve as District Leader for my district. It has been a great joy to serve in this capacity. I really do love all of the Elders and Sisters in my district. They love me (or hate me :D ) because I have to collect and distribute their mail to them. So, on to Friday. Friday we taught a lesson in Portuguese for the first time. We were allowed to write some notes and use them during the lesson. The man we taught is named Nerivaldo. He is really just a returned missionary acting as a non-member so that we can practice our lesson and language skills. The lesson went pretty well. Elder Findley has a little bit of a problem pronouncing and speaking Portuguese, so he read off of his notes. I really wanted to stretch myself a little. I tried to improvise in speaking Portuguese. I was amazed by how much I could speak. Nerivaldo commented on my speaking abilities at the end of the lesson. What I know is that they are not my abilities. I know that I was not able to speak that much Portuguese before I went into that room, and I know that God gave me support. He knows that the lesson was not a "legitimate" lesson, but He wanted to let me know that He knows me and cares for me. God is wanting to confirm to our minds and hearts the love that He has for us, and He does. What is most important that we look around us in order to see those witnesses of love. He will support us in every righteous action. Saturday wasn't much different from Friday except for the fact that we got GYM TIME! This was such a blessing. We had had to sit in a classroom for hours on end, and we were finally able to go and stretch our legs. Elder Findley's knee got kind of messed up before coming here, so he's been trying to rehabilitate it on the bike. I really just felt like running. I have been running every day that we have gym time (5 times a week). I also use some of the machines that they have in the gym. On top of that, I also have been playing FOURSQUARE! Yes, that sixth grade playground game that doesn't seem very intense but IS very intense. It has been good to be a little competitive while having a lot of fun and getting to know some other Elders and Sisters. Gym time is especially important because the food here is heavy, and there is a lot of it. I've been trying to eat the healthy stuff because people keep telling me about gaining a lot of weight while being at the MTC. One of my favorite things to eat is a wrap. They make them right in front of you with whatever you want. I usually get a lot of guacamole and the mango habanero sauce. So good! Well, we were pushing for it, and Sunday finally came. It was definitely worth the stress. Sunday was the best day so far. It was especially good because it was a Fast Sunday. We had a mission conference with the rest of the MTC. It was so awesome to hear 6,000 other missionaries singing the hymns of Zion. It was also so awesome to hear the messages of the MTC leaders. They are so inspired and so sweet. After that meeting, I know with a surety that this missionary cause is so inspired and directed by God. I feel it in everything that we do here. That day we also had a testimony meeting with our Zone. I bore my testimony and I just felt so GOOD! These feelings can come from nowhere other than that heavenly being who is full of love and peace. That night we also had a devotional that was very good. After that, we watched a video recording of an MTC devotional by Elder David A Bednar. It is entitled "The Character of Christ" and it is so wonderful. Basically Elder Bednar said that the natural man is like Cookie Monster ("Me want cookie NOW!" {yes, he said it in cookie monster voice}). In contrast, the character of Christ is to turn out in love. When things get hard for us, we need to follow the example of Christ and turn outwards instead of in. If we do, then we will be truly converted and have the blessings of heaven. After Sunday, things have been pretty much the same every day. We go to class, learn, study, and then teach. We finished teaching Nerivaldo, found out that Brother Gessell would no longer be our teacher because of his school schedule, and found out that Nerivaldo (now Brother Vanwagoner) would be our new teacher. So funny and so awesome. We have also taught a woman named Amanda who has also transformed into our teacher named Sister Connell. I love them both so much. I love the Lord most of all. I am so grateful to be here in the MTC. Eu sou grato por o Espirito Santo. Eu sei que o Espirito Santo vail testificar em nossos coracaos e em nossas cabecas do verdade. Eu testifico que Jesus Cristo é o filho de Deus. Jesus Cristo suffreu por nossos pecados. Em o expiação de Jesus Cristo, podemos ter paz e felicadade. Em nome de Jesus Cristo. Ámem. (I think this is what Parker said in Portuguese: I'm thankful for the Holy Spirit. I know that the Holy Spirit testifies in our hearts and in our minds about the truth. I testify that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Jesus Christ suffered for our sins. Through the atonement of Jesus Christ, we can have peace and happiness. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.)

Love, Elder Ayer

P.S. Happy Birthday Will!!!!!

P.P.S. Do you remember Elder Eddington from when we first moved to Gilford? His youngest sister is in my district. I wrote him a letter that she is going to send him. SO COOL!!!

P.P.P.S. Thank you so much for sending the Dear Elder letter. Please keep them coming! I love you and need your support. :D

P.P.P.P.S. Did you get my letter?

P.P.P.P.P.S. I'll send pics next week when I have time. Sorry!

P.P.P.P.P.P.S. 2 Nephi 25:24-25 and 2 Nephi 33:10-11 Believe in Christ and read his words. They are true and will give you power unto deliverance and great joy.