Monday, November 25, 2013

"Out in Vienna they wander, hungry and helpless and cold..."

Dear family,

I love you all so much. There is nothing greater than family. Families are a support system of love and comfort. I have sharply felt the the effects of not being able to always call on my family for help. One thing I am coming to learn is that Heavenly Father takes away comfort sometimes so that we will rely more fully on Him. I thought I knew how to do this before, but Heavenly Father is proving my ignorance through experience. I also never imagined how hard a mission could be. I was told by my missionary prep teacher that a mission will probably be the most physically, psychologically, mentally, and emotionally draining experience we will ever go through. I thought that was a bit of an exaggeration. Back then I thought that I would be able to do it. That is where my ignorance was. In life, it is never us who can do it alone. We have to humble ourselves and say that only through Christ can we perform the labor that He has called us to do.

With that somewhat dreary beginning, let me tell you how my week went. :D Well, it's been great. It's been challenging, but great.

Thursday morning I moved into the Vienna house with Elder Gadberry. The new place is not an apartment, but a house. It is pretty spacious, which is why they decided to stick another set of missionaries in the same house with us. They got there a little bit later in the day. They will be taking over the Belpre, OH area from the zone leaders (my old companions). Their names are Elder Kieran and Elder Markowski. Elder Kieran has been on a mission for 21 months now, and Elder Markowski is a brand new missionary. After talking to Elder Markowski for a little bit, I found out that he went to BYU and was in Will's ward. In fact, we would see Will a couple times a week. In fact, Will was his Sunday School teacher! Isn't that great?! His name is Colby Markowski. That was pretty fun to find out.

Friday was a long day of weekly planning. After studying for a good four hours (training and language study included) we planned out our week and kind of our plan for this transfer for another three hours. It was a long time to be inside. One bright spot on the day was that we got to go visit a man named Todd. He is golden. Elder Gadberry was on exchange a couple weeks ago when he felt prompted to knock on Todd's door. They weren't able to set up a time to meet with Todd until this week, but Todd is ready to hear the gospel. He is a 34-year-old Master Mason who believes in the Bible but doesn't belong to any Church. He used to have an addiction to alcohol, but has now been a month sober. When he was talking to us, he said that he's been wanting a spiritual awakening and he feels like it's about to happen. He's already read some of the Book of Mormon and said that he's willing to believe that it's true. It was so exciting to be there. It is interesting to see how God prepares His children to receive His messengers and His gospel. Another thing that happened today was that while we were biking somewhere, Elder Gadberry's handlebars got loosened somehow so that he wasn't able to control the bike. That means that we will be walking. That's right we have no car. If we want to get anywhere, we bicycle, walk, or bum rides from members. It's not that bad, but it has made the days exciting.

I feel like we celebrated Pioneer Day on Saturday. We walked and walked and walked. There was no reaching the Salt Lake Valley, we just walked and walked and walked. We had a couple appointments set up with people during the day. The people live pretty far away for walking, so we were calling everyone in the ward to see if someone could come with us to a lesson and drive us. No one was able to come. Well, that meant we were walking. Luckily there were quick visits that we could make with less active members on the way, so the walking wasn't a complete waste of our time. For our first appointment in the day, we walked 45 blocks to a man's house. We had scheduled an appointment with him before, but he hadn't answered his phone when we called to confirm earlier. We were still pretty sure that he would be there. It took us well over an hour to walk all the way to his house. We arrived perfectly on time, and knocked on his door. After knocking, I could hear someone inside say, "they're here". The man came to the door and opened it barely wide enough to fit his head through to talk to us. That was a bad sign. Then he told us that he had some people over, so now wasn't a good time. He didn't take any pity on us standing out there in the cold. He essentially told us that we should have known it wouldn't be a good time for him because he didn't answer his phone earlier when we called. We told him to have a nice day and that we'd try to stop by next week. I was pretty frustrated. Here we had walked all of this way so that we could come to him. We had frozen our butts off and worked our calves to get to his home and bring him the message of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ which is the only way to feel God's fullest joy in this and the next life, and he waved us off. I was ready to sit down and fume a little bit. Elder Gadberry, thankfully, kept me sane. We didn't stop a bit. We got back on the road and started walking to another home with another family. We walked for the rest of the day. As we were walking back that night, snow started falling and I could feel blisters forming on my feet. These were the challenges and trials that the Lord had called me to endure with patience. This was the experience that He wanted me to grow from. I was determined to be cheerful and positive. Elder Gadberry and I began singing the hymn, "Dear to the Heart of the Shepherd". I love the chorus because it reminds me of nights back at home when we might get a little crazy and start singing opera style. Elder Gadberry and I changed the lyrics so that it would fit our situation. "Out in Vienna they wander, hungry and helpless and cold." We thougth it was pretty funny. Usually this part of the hymn refers to Christ's lost sheep who and wandering, but I felt like that it perfectly applied to my situation as a missionary. That's when I realized that as missionaries, we have to go rescue the sheep from the situation that they are in. If they are hungry, helpless, and cold, we have to go find them where there is no path and where the environment is uncomfortable. This is what Christ did for us. He descended below all things. His Atonement is the perfect example of the Shepherd gathering His sheep from the places they wander. He experienced every sin, temptation, pain, sorrow, or sickness that we have or will ever feel. He lets us become partners with Him in His work when we help others to come unto Him and accept the gift of the Atonement. It is a wonderful opportunity that we have to serve Him, albeit difficult and uncomfortable.

Sunday is always a blessing. This Sunday was no different. There is such a Spirit when we get to partake of the sacrament. We basically do the same things on each day of the week, as missionaries, but Sunday feels especially joyous. We had our first district meeting of the transfer on Sunday as well. It went great. The district includes the Parkersburg, Belpre, and Vienna elders. Along with these missionaries, the ward has a set of sister missionaries. That means four sets in one ward alone! It's pretty amazing, and we're hoping to see some good things happen.

Well, in my studies today I got to read Alma 26. This chapter is so wonderful and tells us some great things about how to do missionary work. The verse that really hit me today was verse 27. It is kind of strange to think that the Sons of Mosiah were ever depressed in their missionary work, but they were. They had times of sadness, but they always turned to the Lord for support. When they did, they were strengthened by His voice and were commanded to bear their afflictions with patience. This is my hope and my prayer. Missionary work is super hard, but I'm trying my best to stay positive and put my whole self into loving the people here.

I love you all. I hope you know that. I had some thoughts come into my head about what I might want for Christmas, but I can't think of anything. I do need some clothes to stay warm (long johns, gloves, hat), but I'll probably get those on my own before too long because the weather is getting bitter. I would love to be home with a nice cup of spiced cider listening to some old Christmas albums, but I know that I need to be here. Be happy. Try to make those around you happy. Invite them to Church. Invite them to learn about the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. Invite them to read the Book of Mormon and come to know Christ this Christmas in a way they've never known. These things will bless them now and for eternity. It will also bless you. You're in my prayers.

Love, Elder Parker Ayer

P.S. I saw a super flattened squirrel on the road and thought about Sarah's picture with a super flattened dog. Que grande! :D

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


Dear family!

This week is transfers. In this mission, P-day is on a Wednesday the week of transfers. Thus, I am emailing today. This week has been packed with craziness. It was the last week of transfers, and it couldn't have flown by faster.

Wednesday night we saw a great miracle. Elder Colligan, Elder Stechnij, and I were walking around North Parkersburg. We do something called "selective knocking". This is when we walk down the street and we only knock on doors that we feel impressed to knock on. This cuts down on wasting time. It also helps us fine tune our spiritual sensitivity. We knocked on a few doors, but nothing really came of it. As we continued to walk down the street, we saw a home that was covered in Christmas decorations. It looked like a nice, cheery home with nice, cheery people inside. We obviously knocked on the door. After the first knock, we stood around for a little bit talking. We decided to knock a second time. We were about to walk away when the door was opened by a half-naked woman in a scanty nightgown, curlers in her hair, and tears streaming down her face. I was expecting her to tell us to go away. She was in hysterics. Instead, she invited us in. There were dogs jumping all around her and she was trying to pull herself together. We all came in and sat down. We soon found out that she had just gotten off the phone and had been told that her beloved niece (or cousin) would be taken off of life support. She was devastated. She was still holding the phone, and it seemed as though she had literally hung up seconds before opening the door. We were so glad to be there to support her in her time of grief. What impressed me most of all was how Heavenly Father had orchestrated this moment. He is an expert in arranging perfect times and perfect places. As the Lord's official representatives, we were able to bring the comfort of the Spirit immediately into her heart at a time of extreme need. We were able to listen to her. We were able to share our testimonies and the testimonies of Book of Mormon prophets. In this moment, I felt nothing but extreme love and concern for this daughter of God. I wanted to impress upon her mind, more than anything, that we were here to show God's love. I told her that we were not there to take advantage of her situation, force a Book of Mormon upon her, and baptize her that very night. For some reason, people have this conception of us as missionaries. What I wanted to share with her more than anything at that moment was the peace that the Book of Mormon has brought into my life. Heavenly Father also knew that the Book of Mormon was the thing that would bring her the most comfort and peace to calm her troubled heart. That is why He sent His servants. I am so grateful for the Spirit. I am so grateful for the guidance he can give us. I am so grateful that Heavenly Father trusts me enough to direct me to someone who is in real need. It was an amazing experience.

Thursday and Friday were both dedicated to Zone Meeting. Thursday I helped Elder Colligan and Elder Stechnij get everything in order for the meeting. We were planning to have a jeopardy game about Zion with a White Christmas theme. Thus, I was in charge of putting together questions about Zion and cutting out snowflakes. The other Elders kept asking me how I knew to make snowflakes so well. Thank you, Mom, for this important and very underappreciated skill. It came in very handy. Another skill that came in handy was being able to play the recorder. I don't think that I ever told you, but I found a cheap plastic recorder in my apartment. I have been playing it a few times a week and it makes me think of Sarah every time. Well, for Zone Meeting, I was in charge with making and reading the questions about hymns of Zion. Since the clues were pretty hard, I decided to also play the tune of each hymn on the recorder as an extra hint. I'm not sure if it actually helped. I haven't quite figured out how to play sharps and flats perfectly on the recorder. Everyone loved it though. The room was decked out in snowflakes and everyone got a chuckle when I pulled out the recorder. One of the blessings of being with the Zone Leaders is that I've gotten to know all of the missionaries in our zone. It has been very fun to get to know so many other missionaries. President and Sister Pitt also came to our zone meeting so that President Pitt could conduct interviews. He gave me some updates on visa stuff. First, the Church is having a very hard time getting visas because other countries are scared we are taking over the world with all of the missionaries we are sending out. Second, the Church will no longer be transferring visa waiters immediately to their foreign missions when they get their visas. If my visa comes in the middle of this transfer, I will wait until the end of the transfer to go to Brazil, which means that I will definitely be here for Christmas! President Pitt also said that I will now be serving with Elder Gadberry (another visa waiter who came out with me) in the Vienna area in the Parkersburg Ward. It is kind of crazy, but we'll be co-training each other. I am very happy to be in the Parkersburg Ward still, and I will still be able to see Elder Colligan and Elder Stechnij. I can absolutely say that I love President Pitt. He is such a loving a wonderful man. After talking to him, I felt such love and excitement to do the work.

Saturday was Elder Stechnij's 21st birthday! Thank you so much for the crepe recipe, it was great. My crepes didn't turn out very well, but they tasted good. I haven't quite gotten down the form for spreading the batter around on the pan. After crepes and studying, we went to go help set up a football banquet being held at the Church. One of the stake counselors is in our ward and is the head of the boosters for his son's football team. We were more than happy to do it because his family does so much to support us in our missionary efforts. It was also a great opportunity to expose others to the Church. What I have realized since being in WV is that I know nothing about football. That is all that my companions talk about, all that anyone else talks about, and I am clueless. I know that it's going to be even worse when I get down to Brazil because futebol is really the ONLY thing that people will talk about. Oh well, I'm learning. That night we had a mini party for Elder Stechnij. I made a cake with homemade cream cheese frosting. I didn't even use a recipe! Luckily sugar tastes good no matter what you do to it. :D

The past few days have been a blur. Everything went by so fast I can hardly remember it all. One thing has added to the craze of it all. I got a call from President Pitt asking me to serve as the new district leader of the Vienna district. I don't know what to make of it. I am happy to serve, albeit bewildered. I really do hope that the Lord qualifies those He calls! I look forward to the new transfer. I love you all so much. I think about you and pray for you. Christian, I loved your fun newspaper photo. you are awesome. Mom, Dad, Will, and Sarah are awesome, too. You're all awesome and I am so glad that we are an eternal family.

Love, Elder Parker Ayer

P.S. I don't know what I want for Christmas. Yes I do. Invite at least one friend to Church. Love you!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A week of learning

Oi familia! Tudo bem?

I sure hope that tudo is bem. All is well. I know that the scriptures warn the Saints not to get complacent and say that all is well in Zion, but "Come, Come Ye Saints" would say otherwise. There is definitely a different connotation in the hymn and the scripture. In the scripture, it talks about people becoming stagnant before God and regressing instead of progressing. The hymn is quite different as it talks about a group of people who were anything but complacent: the Mormon pioneers. They fought through so much, they gave up so much, they gained so much in coming to know God. They found solace in the words "all is well". All is well when we look towards Christ and rely on him in our affliction. He is the embodiment of the knowledge that all will be well. His gospel of reprentance and forgiveness brings us peace for today and hope for tomorrow. This idea has been on my mind for a while now. We always listen to hymns in the car, and this hymn has come up often. Please go back and listen to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sing this hymn. The tenors have a great harmony at the end when they "their rest obtain". I tried to explain this to my companions, but they don't understand. Luckily, they do appreciate good music even if they can't articulate why it's so good. :D Well, that was a long introduction, but let's get down to the nitty gritty.

Monday: We tried to take P-day easy. That was the plan at least. After getting all of our preparation stuff done, we were just going to take an hour long nap before a dinner appointment when they called us and let us know that we would actually being eating an hour earlier. Well, we didn't get the long nap, but we did get fed. I was especially grateful for the pumpkin pie. Afterwards, we went with one of the members of the family (Brother Warren Walker who is a great member missionary and dresses up like a cowboy all the time) to go visit his friend. We met with his friend and taught him about the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The friend was really in to hunting, and I had a really great metaphor come in to my mind that could help him understand the Book of Mormon better. This happens often. I don't even know what I'm saying and then something profound comes out of my mouth. Well, I compared the Book of Mormon to a lens on a scope. The Bible is the other lens of the scope. The lenses work together to focus our lives on Jesus Christ. I'm not sure if the metaphor impacted him too much, but we are going to meet with him again, which is always good. When we got to the apartment that night, we had several phone calls and a prayer that led us to decide that I would go on an exchange to Marietta for a few days by myself while the district leader there went to go help another area. Let's just say that I was a little anxious, especially because Elder Steed, who I would be with, is just as new as I am and I was going to be appointed as temporary senior companion. Yikes!

Tuesday: I was dropped off with the Vienna elders in our district while Elders Colligan and Stechnij went down to a Missionry Leadership Council meeting in Charleston. I went with the Vienna elders to help a family in our ward move some furniture out of their house. There were several pieces of furniture including a piano. However, the piano wasn't even the heaviest piece of furniture. We also had to be very tedious and slow since all of the furniture was bulky, Amish-made furniture that could easily ding walls or be dinged. We also got to go see their new house in Williamstown. It is a hundred-year-old house that house some beautiful architecture. However, the inside was a nightmare. Wallpaper. Wallpaper everywhere. Hideous, gawdy, flowery patterns covering every wall and ceiling. It was incredible. Each room had a horrendous design that contrasted with the room next to it. What was even better was that each wallpaper was textured. I was a little freaked out when I reached out and felt felt. Ahhh, it was so funny. They are doing some major remodeling and will likely not be done for five months. After helping them move, I was picked up by the Marietta elders. We drove up and did some more service for some ward members there. Then we dropped off Elder Greenwood with the Williamstown elders. This is when the reality of my situation fell on me. I was in charge of an entire area of missionary work. I was in the driver's seat...literally. I got to drive again! It felt nice to drive a car. That night we went to go visit some people. Two of the people we stopped by lived on the same street. After setting up a return appointment with one of them, we had nothing else planned for the night. We still had an hour before we needed to be back to our apartment. We said a prayer to figure out what we should. I felt like we should go down a nearby street and knock some doors. Elder Steed felt like we should go visit a woman they had met before who lived down the same street. If we tracted, we would walk down the street. If we visited the woman, we would get her address from the car and drive to her home. We both felt very strongly about what we should do. We decided to make a compromise. We would knock a few doors on the street and then keep on walking until we walked by her house. We knocked a few doors. We walked, and walked, and walked. We never passed the house that Elder Steed thought he would recognize. Well, we got to what looked like the end of the street and were about to turn and walk back when Elder Steed thought we should knock on just one more door before returning. I agreed. At the end of the street there was a house with a very cool jack-o-lantern that we decided to go to. The door was answered. I was expecting to see someone slightly ghetto in this slightly ghetto neiborhood. I was very surprised when the door was answered by a young man wearing clean clothes, a full set of teeth, and no slurred speech. He was super nice. Elder Steed was just so excited that someone answered the door; he started talking really fast. In about thirty seconds Elder Steed had invited the man (Jason) to learn more, had given him a pass-along card, and had given him a Restoration pamphlet. I topped the collection off with a good ol' Book of Mormon. We're going to go back and see him tomorrow same bat time same bat place.

Wednesday: This might have been the longest day of my entire life. In the morning, I decided that I wanted to have a special fast for our exchange. Elder Steed decided to join me. We spent the day contacting people, walking up and down streets tracting, and trying to ward off the hunger pains in our stomachs. We didn't see any success the entire day. This was frustrating, but I learned a great lesson. The elders in the area hadn't really been using the members. The investigators they had were all pretty flaky. It seemed like the only interaction the members in the ward had was to deliver meals. This is not effective. A ward is full of members who have several friends and acquaintances that have been specifically prepared to receive the gospel through them. I am only one person. It is impossible for me to have an effect on anyone in an area that can equal the impact of a member friend. Members have already established relationships with others in which their friends have already been exposed to the influence of the Spirit several times. This is so critical. Each person that we know has been prepared by God to know us. Each person. Why does it matter who we invite when everyone around us is being guided by God in small and simple ways to the everlasting truth found in Christ's restored Church? Anyway, dinner eventually came. Then we got to meet with Jason. I guess I had assumed that Elder Steed would be able to teach a simple lesson about the Restoration. I hadn't realized that Elder Steed and Elder Greenwood had really not been able to teach anyone in their area during the transfer. This was Elder Steed's first real teaching opportunity, and we hadn't planned much at all. We got in the lesson, and what we said was all over the place. We were not teaching in unison. We were not sticking to the basic principles. Oh, it was terrible! When the end of the lesson came around, we didn't even finish with prayer because we were disrupted by Jason's girlfriend coming home. When we got out of their apartment, I was ready to bang my head against a wall. Elder Steed was jumping for joy and trying to fist bump me. He had just taught his first lesson! He was on an emotionally charged missionary high. That's when I had to turn my attitude around and change my perspective. It was great. The message of the Restoration is always great. Yes, there was room for improvement, but we had been able to tell one more beloved child of God the truth of Christ's restored gospel. And it was successful because Jason was still interested and wanted to learn more. Luckily, this gospel is also a gospel of second chances. :D

Thursday: We finished up our exchange today with little to no success. Oh well. I'm just glad that we worked hard and did what the Lord expecte dof us. At night, I was picked up by Elder Colligan and Elder Stechnij. It was so good to see them again and return to Parkersburg.

Friday: We had mission conference today. Our conference was graced by none other than Elder Joseph W Sitati of Kenya. It was a spirutally filling meeting. We discussed for 5 hours the meaning of our purpose as missionaries and how we can improve. After all of the spiritual instruction, I felt like I had been fasting all day. I was about to burst with the Spirit! If I typed out everything I learned, this email would be three times longer.

Saturday: We had the adult session of our stake conference this night. We were told that we are expected to go to this meeting now. It was so great! It sounds like all future adult stake conference sessions will focus on hastening the work of salvation. One thing that was most instructive about the meeting was when President Poe (stake president) said that we succeed in missionary work when we invite. That is so true. If we do our part, we cannot be disappointed. OUr duty is simply to invite our friends to hear the message of the restored gospel.

Sunday: Today was stake conference. Another filling day of spiritual enlightenement. Tongiht we watched 17 Miracles. I obviously cried as I saw the example of all those faithful pioneers.

Monday: We played football with a young man in our ward and some of his football friends. I felt pretty silly and useless. Luckily you don't have to have much skill to block people. I even caught the ball once. It was great.

I love you all so much. Know that. I love you more than the world.

Love, Elder Ayer

P.S. Amanda Smith, I hope you are okay in the Phillipines!

P.P.S. I taught my companions the difference between melody and harmony.

Monday, November 4, 2013


Friends, Mormons, countrymen,

Lend me your ear. This is an auspicious day. This is a heralded day. This is a day of pomp. Christian *Ayer, the son, rises* from a state of childhood to a state of manhood. For on this day of joy and gladness, he begins his seventeenth year, which is to say that upon this noble day he has attained to the amount of sixteen years. Yea, verily, yea. Let the earth break forth into song. Let the women cheer. On this day he presents himself as an available single, which is to say that he will allow himself to honor young ladies of untarnished reputation to partake in dating events with him. HAPPY SIXTEENTH BIRTHDAY CHRISTIAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Okay, that took me ten minutes to write. I hope that fulfills all of your wildest birthday wishes. I have been thinking about you a lot. I love you and I hope that you enjoy your sweet 16.

I also love all the rest of you. There is not a day that goes by that i don't thank Heavenly Father for my loved ones. Just the other day, Elder Colligan was playing some sacred music before we went to bed. He said something about being so grateful for the music of the Church and how it helps him so much to connect to the Spirit. I immediately thought of our family. I imagined us gathering around the piano, Sarah at the keys. I thought of us singing our all time favorite hymns and then venturing out into strange waters with some unknown hymns. I imagined not being able to hear the melody because we love the harmony parts so much. I imagined us singing opera style when the hymn got a little intense and very zealous. I remembered these inspiring, instructional moments. Thank you for the love of the gospel that was developed in our home. Thank you for the Spirit that we felt through music. Thank you for these experiences that have developed a love of family, but also a love of God. I do not think that we could ever be as close as we are if we hadn't pursued a closeness with Heavenly Father. Through the power of Jesus Christ, we bind our hearts together as we rely upon each other for strength in overcoming challenges and pursuing righteousness. I have seen many kinds of families on my mission. Usually, we don't get to visit the families that make me feel warm and fuzzy. It always makes me feel great when I do get to visit these families, but that is not what I have been called to do. I have been called to go among families that are in disrepair and need the repairing power of the Savior. It is heartbreaking to see homes where children are considered a nuisance. It is heartbreaking to see homes where the Church is present, but the gospel is not. It is heartbreaking to see homes where there is no care for self, situation, or sanctity. It is heartbreaking, but we follow the example of the Savior. He came not to go among the righteous, but to go among sinners. It is such a blessing when we get to cheer up troubled children and bring the Spirit into hollow homes.

I do not have enough time to retrace each day, but know that I love you. Know that I think about you. Know that I wonder what my parents would do in the situations I am in. I often think how my mother would react in the midst of challenging days and disheartening times. Would she give up? Would she put in the towel? No, she would pick herself up, see her duty and do it. She would finish a job despite weary hands, and she would make it a masterpiece. I often think of my father's continuing conversion to the gospel of Jesus Christ. I use this great heritage of conversion to help guide others and myself in learning and living the principles of the gospel. I am everlastingly grateful for my parents. Thank you. I love you all. Continue to improve and come unto Christ. Help others improve and come unto Christ. When we surrender ourselves to God's work, we are given guidance to do His work in His way.

Love, Elder Parker Ayer

P.S. Biscuits and gravy are big here. I have had them multiple times from breakfast and dinner. For example, someone in the ward dropped off dinner for us last night. Between the three of us, we ate 15 biscuits and a bucket of gravy. Yum!

P.P.S. rabbit rabbit

P.P.P.S. A guy named Will Long, from the ward here, just got called to the Santa Rosa California Mission speaking Spanish. I'm going to show him a picture of Elder Stephenson.

P.P.P.P.S. I heard the Red Sox won the World Series. Hurrah for Israel! :D