Christmas time is here. Happiness and cheer. Something, something, something, children call the greatest time of year. If I could insert some little musical notes, I would, but I can't. As Christmas gets nearer, all sorts of emotions are increasing. I feel so glad to be a missionary. There is so much joy that all people feel during this season. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the source of all this joy, and it's what I get to talk, sing, and think about all day! I also start thinking about all of our Christmas traditions. This makes me happy and a little homesick, but mostly just happy. I got to watch Mr. Kreuguer's Christmas the other day, and it made so happy. I think it mostly reminds me of the fun, happy, musical atmosphere of our home. I've been so happy to have the advent calendar to remind me of you all every night. I am so glad to hear about all of your many Christmas joys including snow, snow, SNOW! We've had many cool experiences this last week to be joyful about.
Elder Gadberry and I were out knocking doors the other night when we ran accross a gem of a home. The home is completely decked out in Christmas lights. What's greatest about it is that every night, from 7 to 8 pm, the family puts on an automated music and lights show. Some electrical engineer must live there because the lights are completely coordinated with the music. It was the coolest thing every, just tucked away into a neighborhood. Since then, we've been able to walk past the house to go knock other doors, and each time it is so fun to see. We were so excited when we discovered it. Each night there are a few cars parked outside watching.
This last week, under the authorization of our mission president, all of the missionaries in our ward set up a free hot chocolate stand. There wasn't too much preparation that went into it, so we were caught off guard a little when we were told that we would have to get permission to set up anywhere near a business. As the son of a town employee, I should have known better. We probably also needed some vender permit, but who actually does that? :D Anyway, we went to the mall, to Walmart, to Little Ceasar's (we thought we had a pretty good relationship with them), to anywhere wwe could think of trying to set up a free hot chocolate stand where we could hand out some cocoa and cards. Well, we finally were accepted by some random shoe store to set up outside. We set up our stand, posted a big sign, sang some carols with no luck. The few people who walked into the store weren't really too interested in getting free hot chocolate. It was the wierdest thing. One lady who accepted hot chocolate insisted that we take her 3 dollars. What's the deal? Why won't people accept a little toasty token of love? Well, we packed up our stand and drove over to the house with the light show in Vienna. We passed out cocoa to all of the cars parked around the house. Then we proceeded to carol to all of the surrounding houses and pass out hot chocolate to them. It was a little bit of a role reversal having carols give hot chocolate to the warm people in their houses, but it was a lot of fun and was so spiritually uplifting. Our voices weren't quite as melodic as the Stephenson clan's, but it was great nonetheless.
This last week we had been trying to contact one of our investigators. Do you remember me talking about Samantha, who had been found under divine circumstances and who had apparently read through a quarter of the Book of Mormon? Well, we tried calling and texting her this whole week and she never responded once. We were scared. She had cancelled a lesson with us before, also. We were worried that she had decided to close herself off to the truth. Well, we decided to go over yesterday to see her. We knocked on her door, hoping for the best but ready for the worst. She inched the door open and peeked at us. After seeing who it was, she opened the door wide and smiled. We asked how she was doing, and she said she was great. We relieved to find out that her phone was broken. After chatting for a little bit, we asked how her Book of Mormon reading has been coming. Guess what? In the past two weeks, she has already read half of the Book of Mormon! We were stunned. This is a woman who has difficulty reading, and she has been able to read the same amount in 2 weeks as I was able to read in the MTC in 2 weeks. That is amazing. The Book of Mormon is so important. I know that it is true. I have studied it, been blessed by it, and have gained a divine and sure witness that it is true.
Also this week I got to go on exchange with the Elders in Parkersburg. We see each other all of the time, but it was good to be able to be in Parkersburg again. Elder Stechnij worked with Elder Gadberry in Vienna, and I worked with Elder Colligan in P-Burg. It was so great. All three of them are missionaries that I love and respect greatly.
The greatest miracle this week happened with Amy. Do you remember Amy? She is the woman that I talked about last week that we met in Dairy Queen and then saw later at Taco Bell. Well, we had an appointment to meet with her on Tuesday, but that didn't work out. We went to see her again on Wednesday, but that didn't work out either. Then we arranged for an appointment on Thrusday. Thrusday we were able to meet with her and her daughter at the Dairy Queen next to her house. The only other person there was the man behind the counter. It was a surprisingly great setting; I don't even think the music was playing. We had a great discussion. We could feel the Spirit so strongly. When I retold the First Vision account, she began to cry. She told us that just before I told the story, the Spirit had reminded her of an experience she had when she prayed as a young adult. She also told us that she had had a complete change of heart during the lesson. She had anticipated coming in there and telling us that she wasn't interested, but the Spirit had born testimony to her during the lesson. Before we had even invited her to read the Book of Mormon, she told us that she was excited to read it. It was such a wonderful and uplifting experience. I could feel the Spirit whispering in our hearts of the truthfulness of what we spoke. I know that the Book of Mormon is true. I know that Joseph Smith saw Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ in a grove of trees because he humbly sought the question of his soul in prayer. God answers prayers. If each of us seek out to have our own sacred grove experience, we will be blessed from on high with manifestations of God's power and moving answers to our questions.
Well, I love you all so much. Thanks for the well wishes of halfy birthday. I'll try to whoop it up. :D There is so much joy to be had this Christmas season, don't be afraid to spread it around a little bit. There is no reason to be ashamed of inviting someone to partake of the bounteous blessings that we have in the gospel. Just because they don't know how they will be blessed doesn't mean that we shouldn't invite them to learn and know what we know. There may be friends of mine who will read this email and think that it is nice for Parker to have something that he believes so much in. It is nice, but it is more than nice, too. I know with absolute surety that God lives and is our loving Heavenly Father. I know that through the sacrificial, atoning power of Christ we may be forgiven of our sins and perfected. I know that through the covenant of baptism, and its preparatory steps, we can come to receive the blessings of Christ's atonement. I know that Joseph Smith was and is a prophet of God. I know that the Book of Mormon contains the words of Christ and His true gospel, and it will lead us to Christ in a way that no other book can because it leads us to a witness of the restoration of God's true church. There is so much joy to be had in the gospel of Jesus Christ. I love you all. This Christmas, find one way to help bring yourself and another person closer to Jesus Christ. Therein lies happiness.
Love, Elder Parker Ayer
P.S. A couple weeks ago, President Pitt received an update on my visa status. Church travel only included two words on my report: "not close". hahaha
P.P.S. I don't know if I will be able to call in the morning on Christmas. We have to go to a member's house in order to skype you. I don't know if any of the members in the ward will want us in their house right in the think of their festivities.
P.P.P.S. You can't send me any sound bytes this year of "Christmas in Killarney" or "Dominique the Donkey", but know that I'm singing them in my heart. :D