I have been loving my time here in West Virginia. I hope that I can quickly bundle up all of the awesome experiences that I have been having here as a missionary!
Tuesday: I know I got to call you from the airport, which was great! Unfortunately, half of my talk time was apparently taken off when I called you that first time, so there was no time left for me to call you when I got to the Dallas airport. However, know that I love you!!! Flying into West Virginia was such a great feeling. The airport is on top of a hill, and it was such a weird sensation having the ground come up to meet us as we descended to it. Anyway, the leaves haven't turned color here yet, so I am so excited to get to see them change. There are so many things here that remind me about New Hampshire. I love it so much! The things that are different are very apparent. I'm loving the accent they have down here. Tuesday night we went to the mission home and had a devotional with President and Sister Pitt. We were the largest group that they've received so far: 19 elders and 11 sisters. The elders stayed the night at their home, and the sisters stayed at a hotel.
Wednesday: All of Wednesday was spent in training at the stake center nearest us. It was somewhat of a long day, especially because I feel like I just done with 6 weeks of 24/7 training and I was ready to get to the field. One of the really great things that we talked about is our "White Christmas". It goes right along with Elder Ballard's talk from conference. Elder Ballard asked that each and every member (not family, member) of the Church work on helping one person come closer to Christ by talking to the missionaries before Christmas. I would ask that each one of you do that. Missionary work is so vital. How can the people of the earth be blessed by the gospel of Jesus Christ if they aren't introduced to it? Our responsibility is to help others come unto the throne of grace so that they can decide for themselves whether or not they will work to qualify for that grace. Please follow the direction of an apostle of the Lord and focus on one person that you can help during the next few months come closer to Christ. There are great blessings in store. After training, we spent the night at the Pitt's home again.
Thursday: Blessed transfer day! We went to the stake center again to finally find out where and with whom we would be serving. Before this, I had been trying to guess where I would be serving. In the MTC, I had been able to look at a map of the mission. I was immediately drawn to the city of Parkersburg (for obvious reasons). I kind of gave up on the chance that I would be sent there. However, when trainers and areas were announced, I found out that I was going to the Parkersburg South area!!! I couldn't believe it. It is so awesome. I am being trained by the two zone leaders for the Parkersburg Zone. That's right, we're in a tri-panionship, but it's been great. My companions' names are Elder Colligan (from Sandy, UT) and Elder Stechnij (from Gilbert, AZ). They are awesome! Both of them having been serving for less than a year, making them some of the youngest Zone Leaders in the mission. I have been so blessed to be with such great leaders and good examples. It does get difficult once in a while because they have a lot of things that they have to do as zone leaders that makes me feel like we're not doing anything. Also, we don't actually start doing missionary work until noon because I have language study and new missionary training as well as all the other study that we do in the morning. Anyway, Parkersburg is a great place. It's probably one of the wealthiest parts of West Virginia. There are three sets of missionaries in our ward boundaries. There are some other really cool things about this area. Before coming here, I had only ever met one person that was from West Virginia. Her name is Rachel Newell, and I was her home teacher at BYU. Well, Thrusday night we went over to a family's house in the ward, the Walkers. At the dinner table, they were talking about the ward, and I heard them mention the name Newell. It's the same Newell family! They moved to Texas a couple months ago, but everyone in the ward (and stake) knows the family. Brother Newell was the stake president here before they moved. Well, it felt great to be in a family's home again. After that, we were called by the sister missionaries in the ward and asked to give a priesthood blessing to one of the ward members from their area. When we got there, I was asked to give that blessing. I felt so blessed to be the means whereby God could bless his children. As I spoke, I could tell that the Spirit was guiding me in what I was saying. At the end of the blessing, Sister Fletcher (who was receiving the blessing) thanked me and said that she could feel the Spirit very strongly at the end of the blessing give her the comfort and peace that she needed. It felt so wonderful to serve in that way.
Friday: The beginning of Friday was somewhat slow. We had studying all morning and the Elders Colligan and Stechnij had to call all of the districts in the zone and discuss what each districts goals are for this week. I was a little disheartened just because I was ready to go out and start knocking on doors. Eventually, we went out for lunch at 2 o'clock to Bob Evans where we got biscuits and gravy and all-you-can-eat hotcakes. Wow, that was a lot of food. I was stuffed. After that, I was so relieved when we finally got to go out doing some tracting. It felt good to knock on doors and walk around. We didn't see any results from our labors, but I do want to be able to show Heavenly Father that I am trying and working and am anxiously engaged in doing his marvelous work. On Friday, we also got to teach Tina, an investigator who has a baptismal date set for the 26th. She lives in an apartment right next to the church building. She is hard to describe. She is somewhat of a slow learner, but she is so sweet and sincere in her desires to understand the gospel and everything that we have to teach. She also says some of the funniest things. That night, we had a miraculous experience. Without planning to, we decided to go visit a sister from the ward, Sister Allen, to see how she was doing. She met us on her front porch and I think she only wanted to talk to us outside, but then I saw a family history fan chart hanging up in her house. When I asked her about it, she answered me and then decided to let us in to talk. Once we were inside, Elder Colligan went immediately to play the piano. After sitting and talking for a little bit, Elder Colligan volunteered me to play something on the piano for them. I went to the piano, assuring them that I really couldn't play that well, and decided to play one of the only things that I know how to play, "Be Still My Soul" from the hymnbook. After playing this powerful and poignant hymn, Sister Allen opened up to us. She said that that was exactly what she needed to hear. She told us about how she had been having some very confusing thoughts recently, and she couldn't tell if they were from God as a warning or from some other source. I then told her about a similar experience that I had had in which I asked Dad to give me a blessing to help me feel better. I then asked her if she would like us to give her a blessing. After thinking it over, she accepted the offer and asked if I would give her that blessing. I did, and I could feel that similar and wonderful power again as the Spirit directed my words according to our faith. After the blessing, she told me that she had received some understanding from the Spirit during that time. As I thought about the experience more, I was amazed. A seemingly simple chain of events unfolded that evening that led us in the right to direction to allow God to be able to comfort His child. As I have been here, I keep looking for those ways that God has prepared me to serve here. It has been wonderful.
Saturday: This day was a lot more eventful than the past days. We got to go teach several lessons. At the end of the day, I was once again asked to give a priesthood blessing to one or the sister missionaries. This whole series of experiences has baffled me. There are things that Heavenly Father is trying to show us if we will but look.
Sunday: Sunday was so great. In our ward here, this Sunday was fast Sunday. I bore my testimony and told everyone in the congregation that I was from New Hampshire. Afterwards, a brother Bob Codrell came up to me and asked if I was related to Alice Ayer from Durham. I couldn't have been more surprised. Apparently, Brother Codrell worked at UNH in the 70's and went to the Portsmouth Ward. At first I wondered why he didn't ask about Grandpa. That's when I realized that he probably never knew Grandpa because Grandpa wasn't baptized yet. I don't think you were baptized yet either, Dad. Could you please send me a full account of that whole experience with dates and such? That would be great to know. Well, there's a lot to say, but the computer's counting down the second now. I love you!!!
Love, Elder Parker Ayer
p.s. we have a ping pong table