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!!!!!!

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