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.