I love you all so much! Lots of events that I missed. Happy Columbus Day and 25 October Lane Day! There are so many wonderful things that come from being in the mission field. There are so many wonderful reminders of what is most important in life. I think about you all often, and I pray for you. I will also join with Sarah in saying that all I want are some handwritten messages. Right now, it is starting to get really cold. I wear my long sleeve shirts and sweater almost every day. We've had to scrape ice off of our windshields the past couple mornings. Still, I think that I would rather get a note before you send me a coat. :D Thank you so much for your encouraging emails and for all of the love and concern that I can feel from your prayers. I feel so much strength every day, and I'm sure it comes mostly from the prayers of those who love me. I have had lots of other reminders throughout the week that have helped me be strengthened. Heavenly Father has been so kind to me to bless me with tender mercies that comfort me and lift me up.
Sorry about last Monday. I really meant to say more, but I had to finish up and send my email before the computer booted me off. After emailing last week, we played some basketball with other elders in our zone. Now, I usually don't look forward to playing basketball that much. I'm really not that good. Also, the only time that I ever played basketball was in 6th grade and the only basket I ever made was for the other team. I would like to report, however, that I have redeemed my reputation. i am proud to say that I enjoyed basketball very much, I was contributing to my team, and I made a basket (for my team)! This is sounding more and more pathetic as I write it. However, it is the small and simple things that really make the mission field so wonderful.
On Tuesday, we got to meet with a great couple. The wife is a member, but the husband is not. He has been talking to the missionaries and reading the Book of Mormon because he wants to better understand what his wife believes and to make their relationship stronger. When we got there, we discussed what he had been reading in the Book of Mormon. It was so great to be able to talk about and bear testimony of this special book. There is such power in the Book of Mormon. There is such strength that can be obtained from reading its pages. However, when we asked Beth (the wife) to share testimony about the Book of Mormon, she didn't really say much. She said that she has grown up with it and that she likes it. It was a little frustrating because she didn't really bear testimony about it. I don't know if she doesn't really have a testimony, or she is just worried about saying her true feelings to her husband. In any case, liking the Book of Mormon is not good enough. After all, I really like the Harry Potter series. Does that mean that I'm going to go out looking for Hogwarts and basilisks to slay? No. The Book of Mormon will not become a catalyst for change until we understand and know that it is true. It is a sacred record that speaks of prophetic warnings and divine visitations. Either it is what it claims to be, the very word of God, or it is the work of the devil. I know for certain that it is the word of God. It has been prepared since the beginning of time to come forth and save the people of our time. The people in the Book of Mormon were visited by the Savior. They were privileged to feel the engraven prints of the nails in the Savior's hands and feet. We have the privilege today to read the testimony of the Savior, translated from words engraven on plates of metal. We will come to know Him, and we will have a mighty change of heart as we read the Book of Mormon and gain a divine witness of it. We must study it every day. Later Tuesday night, we taught Tina Palmer. I don't remember whether I mentioned this, but we taught her about the Word of Wisdom last weekend. On Tuesday, we went to see her, and the first thing she said was, "I drank tea. I drank tea all day." It was so funny. I couldn't help but laugh a little bit. You're probably wondering why it was so funny, but that's because you don't know Tina. She is very simple. When she told us, it was almost like she was giddily nervous to tell us that she had had tea. She is so sweet. After discussing why she drank tea, she recommitted not to drink tea. Since then, she has been doing great, and she will be baptized this Saturday.
On Wednesday, I prayed that our companionship could be more unified. It has been a little hard to come into a companionship to become a tri-panionship. Elder Colligan and Elder Stechnij are great, but they spent the last transfer together and had already become best friends. I'm just trying to find where I can be of the best service. In Preach My Gospel, it says that missionaries should always ask themselves if they are being a blessing or a burden to their bishop. I've been applying this same principle to our companionship. I feel like I've really been strengthening and blessing the other elders, but I really just wanted to strengthen our friendship more. My prayer is definitely being answered. In so many ways, I can see us coming closer together in how we work and interact with each other. For example, Wednesday morning we had a somewhat silly but fun activity together where we discussed who our apostles would be if we were called as president of the Church. It was totally meaningless, but it did bring us closer together. Later, that day, we had a great experience teaching a woman who requested to see us on mormon.org. She had a rough childhood and never believed in God, but after a year of trials, she was searching out a church because she thinks that God will bring peace into her life. I was so amazed by her faith. Here is a woman who does not know that God exists, knows her, or loves her, but she is seeking Him out. During the lesson, she told us that she was feeling more peace than she has in a long time. It was such a great experience.
Thursday was awesome, marking one week in the mission field. An entire week! I have loved being here so much. Also, I got to go over to Brother Cordell's house for dinner. If you remember from last week, Brother Cordell is the man who approached me after sacrament meeting to tell me that he knew Grandma Ayer. Well, we got to go over to his house, and I was able to ask him some more questions. He was apparently going to school at UNH from '72 to '74 on army assignment. He described Grandma Ayer as being one of the happiest people that he knew. He didn't pay much attention to the two children that she brought to church with her, but he did say that the boy (that's you, Daddy John Bob) was very quiet. That made me laugh. One of the things that I think is interesting is that Brother Cordell mostly remembers Grandma 40 years later because of one act of kindness that she did. He called the house to ask if Grandma could pick up his wife and children and bring them to church. Grandma did it without complaining. Only later did Brother Cordell find out that she was already planning on picking up someone else very far away and that this act of kindness had been at great expense to Grandma. Grandma was so willing to serve and to love. I have been amazed as I have continued to think about this experience. Did Grandma know 40 years ago that this one act of service would become a tender mercy for her grandson in the mission field? Was it accident that Brother Cordell went to UNH, moved to West Virginia, and I was then temporarily reassigned to his exact ward in West Virginia? Do you think that it is coincidence that Brother Cordell had been less active for several years and only started coming back to church in May? Do you think it coincidence that we lived in NH, and Brother Cordell was thus able to make the connection between me and Grandma Ayer? I do not think so. There are so many factors and so many variables. I have been amazed on my mission to see how much the Lord has blessed me. He has prepared a way for us to feel His love. He has provided means whereby we realize his reality and bless others in the process. Of this I am certain. Of this I can powerfully testify. God is working a marvelous work and a wonder.
Friday was another great day.
Saturday there was a baptism for a girl named Kristen. The other elders had been teaching her for a while. I will try to include pictures.
Sunday was another wonderful day.
Know that I love you. Know that God loves you. I feel like I include this same simple testimony each time, but I have felt this more now than at any other time in my life. He lives. He loves. He guides. Let Him be your guide. Let Him be your Father. Accept the love offered to you through His Son, Jesus Christ.
Love, Elder Parker Ayer
TE AMO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :]