Monday, January 27, 2014

Walking in a winter wonderland

Dear family,

Let me tell you about this exciting week in West Virginia's winter wonderland. First of all, it snowed this week. Now, it was just about a normal snow fall for back in N'Ham'shuh, but here this could be classified as the great blizzard of '14. People aren't quite used to the "extreme" conditions. Because of them, schools were cancelled for the entire week. They were cancelled initially because of snow, but then cancellation continued because of the cold. It was pretty silly to me, but we weren't too affected by it. That is, not until Sunday. We got a call Saturday afternoon that Church would be cancelled on Sunday. Elder Lyman and I died laughing. We were pretty bummed that we wouldn't be able to go to Church. Church is one of the best times of the week. Anyway, we went about doing good trying to shovel people's driveways and such.

There were some exciting things that happened this week. Tuesday was probably the most exciting. We met someone last week who we were supposed to make Sloppy Joe's with, but he was sick when we got to his apartment. Instead we knocked doors around his area. We got a couple potentials. Then we knocked on the door of Matt Parker. You'd think I'd be excited that his last name is Parker, but it was a little annoying. He invited us in and started drilling us about all the things we didn't know. He is apparently a master theologian who has studied all the ancient texts of the Sumerians and other cultures. Elder Lyman told me later that everything he said came from a tv show called "Ancient Aliens" on the History Channel. He basically asserted his intelligence while asserting our ignorance. It was frustrating to be there. He scoffed when we bore simple and powerful testimony. The capstone to the whole experience was when he said, "Now I know I'm really going to blow your minds. Scientists have actually proven that everything in life is a computer hologram." He was completely serious. Between frustration and ridiculousness, I was ready to rofl (roll on the floor laughing). I asked if he had been watching the Matrix. It was pretty crazy. We told him to have a good day and read the Book of Mormon again (and no, an alien did not appear to Joseph Smith :D). After his apartment, the next door we knocked was opened by a family of sincere people who really wanted to hear our message and invited us back. Endure to the end.

Well, I got um pouco time to finish up. I love you all. The Church is true. When we distance ourselves from God and allow outside influences distract us from our relationship with Him, we hurt ourselves. We must reach out to Him every day. We are never too far from the reach of His care.

Love, Elder Parker Ayer

Monday, January 20, 2014

The power of families


Isn't it about...time? That's right, it's about time for my weekly email! How great! I am so happy every week to be able to read your emails and to then respond to them. There have been many wonderful things that have happened this week, and I hope that I can spell them all out for you.

First, we had an interesting experience in the laundromat last Monday after I emailed you. Elder Lyman and I started talking to a ginger Nephi-type guy (large in stature). At first he was a little intimidating, and then he started pouring his heart out to us about his conversion from atheism to Christianity. He was very passionate about his conversion and focusing everything in our lives on the Savior. After preaching his conversion to us in his non-denominational way, I brought out the Book of Mormon to share with him. As soon as I mentioned it, he said, "do we really have to bring THAT in?" Sometimes people's ignorance about the Book of Mormon can be frustrating, but it's not their fault. The frustrating part is when they actually become educated about the Book of Mormon by us, and then continue to deny it as a true testament of Christ. That's what happened in this circumstance. We told him all about the divinity and sacredness of the Book of Mormon, but he would not recognize it. We read him powerful scripture describing Christ's atoning power, but he wouldn't open up his heart. We then proceeded to read prophecies from the Old Testament about the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, and he scoffed at us that we had to turn to the Old Testament to find reference to this great and marvelous Latter-day work. Just when we were about to end with simple and powerful testimony, a woman walked over to where we were sitting and talking. She said, "Sorry, I just overheard you talking and wanted to ask a question. Do you really not think that God reveals more scripture in our day like the Book of Mormon?" I was relieved. Here was a member of the Church come to support our testimonies of the Book of Mormon. I'd never met her before, but I was relieved to hear her defend the Book of Mormon. Then I was woken out of my relaxation when she said, "I'm a sister at the local Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Do you not believe that God has more hidden scriptures that will come forth out of the Hill Cumorah or somewhere else?" WHAT THE WHAT? What were the chances that we would happen to meet an RLDS person? And what was she doing ruining our discussion about the Book of Mormon by introducing obscure ideas such as additional scriptures hidden in the Hill Cumorah? Well, it was an interesting experience to be sure. She started teaching RLDS doctrine about no need for a living prophet in our day. We quickly ended our part of the conversation and offered a free Book of Mormon. Our clothes were still a little wet in the dryer, but we took them out and decided to hang them up at home. Too funny.

We had a really great experience later that night at Kirsten and Mark's house. Did I tell you about them? They are great! Monday night we went with the plan to talk about the Plan of Salvation. We were also planning on inviting them to be baptized on a specific day. When we got to their house, we started chatting, and Elder Lyman and I were wondering if the lesson was going to go anywhere. After about half an hour of talking, Kristen asked about temples. That was a perfect transition into what we wanted to teach. We had a prayer and began teaching about temples. I thought they might find it strange if we taught about baptisms for the dead, but I felt like we should anyway. When I described the procedure and purpose of baptisms for the dead, the Spirit immediately entered into the room and they were touched. Even though they had little understanding of baptism or vicarious work, they appreciated this divine act of love and concern for deceased loved ones. It was amazing to see. Then Kirsten asked a question about tithing (she had heard you had to pay ten percent of your money to get into the temple). We happily explained tithing, and they thought it was a principle as well. That's when Mark asked a question about resurrection. We were amazed! Clearly, the lesson was not being directed by us. We decided then to read about and discuss the Plan of Salvation. They understood and agreed with a pre-mortal life. One of the most powerful parts of the lesson was when we talked about the Atonement of Jesus Christ. They really had no understanding of this the most pivotal moment in all of time and eternity. When we explained the divine sacrifice, the room was absolutely still. Hearts were touched by the Spirit, and there was a deep feeling of love. Finally we described the heavenly kingdoms of glory. We were not intending to talk about eternal marriage, but since they had asked about temples, I decided to talk about celestial marriage. Celestial marriage, performed in the temples of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, are the only was for couples to be together for eternity and continue to progress after this life. Mark had kind of been on the fence about his interest in the Church, but when he heard about eternal marriage, his whole face lit up. We asked them if this was something that they wanted to do. (Mind you, they aren't even married yet.) They said that it was. We asked them when they wanted to be baptized. Mark immediately said February 2nd. Kristen responded a little shocked, like the date was too close. Mark said, "February 2nd is when I want to be sealed". They planned to be sealed next year, and baptized this year. It was such an amazing experience, Elder Lyman and I just walked out of their dumbfounded and completely happy for them. They really understand what this is about. Everything in the gospel leads us and our families to an eternal glory with our families through the merits, and mercies, and grace of Christ's atoning sacrifice. The lesson was a little bit of a time warp because we came out of their realizing that we had spent two and half hours with them! :D

We had another very inspired meeting this week with our investigator Mary. She is a pretty hardened person. She is not willing to open up her heart to accepting the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith as a prophet, but she still wants to meet with us. On Saturday we had a meeting with in which I saw her change in a way I have never seen before. The meeting started out by Sister Knight (Mary's friend) asking us to tell us a little bit about ourselves and our families. It just so happened that both Elder Lyman and I had our personal little photo albums from home. I showed pictures of all yall. Mary loved the picture of Sunkist. (As a side note, I had a dream about her last night as a little kitten. Has she died recently and returned to her youthful state?) Anyway, we both bore testimony on the importance of the gospel in our families. It was very powerful. We talked about how Mary needed to open her heart and let God answer her prayers to know if this is the truth. At the end we talked about the possibility for eternally bound families. We allowed for silence so that the Spirit could teach (something which rarely happens with Mary). We gave a closing prayer. After the prayer I began packing my stuff up when I realized Mary was crying. Mary does not cry. Mary is the type of hardened West Virginian who had to fight off abusive parents and husband. She has been through the mill and put others through the mill. I knew that this had to be a tender moment for her. After several moments of silence, I asked if she was alright and how she was feeling. She didn't respond with anything, but I knew that her heart had been touched during the prayer. We bid farewell. I hope that the Spirit can continue to teach her.

Sunday I finished reading through the Book of Mormon again. As you may recall, I have been reading through the entire Book of Mormon marking every example of mercy that I read. It has been fulfilling and enlightening. I have loved every moment of it. I was very surprised when I got to Moroni's promise in Moroni 10:3. There, he exhorts us to ponder on how merciful the Lord has been to the children of men before we ask about the truth of the Book of Mormon. When I began my study, I didn't even realize that I was building up to this moment. I have had three months to reflect on how merciful Heavenly Father has been to His children. He has given us great blessings. He has prepared us to come forth at this time, within our families, with the divine tools to help us change and become like Christ. God sent His beloved Son into the world to be smitten and killed, then to rise triumphantly all so that we could receive His divine mercy. God has given us commandments so that we may be governed in our minds and hearts so that may receive His goodness and kindness. Heavenly Father has brought forth the Book of Mormon in our time so that we might now of the goodness of Christ and the joy we can have through faith on His name. I know this to be true. As I knelt down to ask about the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, I was filled with the knowing influence of the Spirit. The Book of Mormon really is the word of God. It is true. It is good. It is enlightening. It will bring us closer to Christ than any other book. If anyone doubts this, they need only read the Book of Mormon with an open heart to know that I speak the truth.

I love you all. I love the support you have given to me. I know that families are central to the Father's plan for His children. I know that joy in the gospel comes through families and that joy in families comes through the gospel. Stay strong and know that I love you!

Love, Elder Parker Ayer

P.S. I have submitted all the stuff for the FBI clearance. Don't worry about that unless they call you or when you get it in the mail. Also, the driving record is for the mission' purposes and isn't for the FBI clearance.

P.P.S. Elder Lyman likes the Broncos. Sorry if you haven't finished yet, but the Broncos beat the Patriots. Love ya!



Elder Ward, Elder Colligan, Elder Lynman, Elder Stechnij, Elder Gadberry, Elder Ayer

Monday, January 13, 2014

Exclamation Point!

Dear family,

I love you all so much! This week has flown by. It has been a wonderful week. Let me tell you about it.

Monday- We had P-day. I got a haircut which I desperately needed, and now I kind of look like a hipster. It is still respectable though. :D That night Elder Lyman and I went to teach a woman and her boyfriend. They are super awesome. They are super funny, and I feel like we can relate to them in a way that we can't relate to our other investigators. The boyfriend, Mark, reminds me of Fred Randell from Rocketman. They look and talk similarly. Anyway, it was a great meeting. Kristen was taught ten years ago, so during the lesson she was kind of explaining to mark why we are the true church. It was really awesome!

Tuesday- We had to go do visa stuff for Elder Lyman. The Brazil consulates just changed policy so now everyone has to get an FBI clearance before they can get their visa. Since I haven't gotten my visa yet, it seems as though my small town police letter of good behavior isn't quite going to cut it. Tuesday was frigid. Beyond frigid. Tuesday was bitterly cold. As it turns out, we had no appointments planned for Tuesday. That meant knocking on doors all day. We bundled up as good as we could and braved the below zero temperatures and wind. We had some pretty funny experiences. One lady wasn't interested, but she let us in to defrost (or is it de-thaw? :D). When I asked her if she went to a church around here, she said she didn't and that she was a secular humanist. Well, I didn't know much about that, so I asked her how she came to live the life of a secular humanist. She told us about her educated parents and her father who participated in the socialist party. Well, I then tried to assert my intelligence by using big words that I used in college. If there is one thing that bugs me, it is the idea that a disbelief in God is more educated than belief in a divine being. I know that it is ultimate wisdom to know that we are not the most intelligent life, and that we must subject ourselves to that Father who has given us life and sustained us from day to day. Despite her views, she was very nice and served us some hoity toity hot chocolate that left a bitter taste in my mouth. As we were leaving, I said "God bless you" to her, despite her disbelief. She responded with a disheartening, "And humans bless you." Elder Lyman and I had a good chuckle about that.

Wednesday- We were knocking doors again. We went to go visit a woman we met the other day. She told us to come in and see her. We only meant to stay for a minute to set up a return appointment, but she started telling us some very sad stories about her family and her life, and we felt like we needed to stay and share a message. Jerry Springer was on tv, so we asked her if we could turn it off and invite the spirit in. We talked to her about the Book of Mormon and got the audio set up on her laptop because she can't read very well. We asked if we could come back during the week and she said we could because most of the time she just sits, plays games on her computer, watches tv, and sleeps. We encouraged her to use some of her time during the day to listen to the Book of Mormon. Really, there is nothing in our life that can compare to the importance of reading the scriptures, praying, and coming to know of our divine potential as spirit sons and daughters of God.

Thursday- We had some great plans for Thursday night. We had been planning a critical lesson for a week to teach to the Turner family to encourage them to come to Church. That is really the only thing holding them back from being baptized. They were first taught by the missionaries 5 years ago, and they never came to church in all of that time. When we went to go see them, no on answered the door. We could tell that they were home, but no would answer loud knocks or telephone calls. We decided to go try to see some other people in the area. We were able to talk to an investigator we haven't seen in a long time. When we were done, we went back to the Turners and they let us in when we knocked this time. Apparently, they had all been taking naps earlier when we knocked and had completely forgotten about our appointment. It was a little disheartening, but we scheduled to come back Saturday. It is so hard for some people to make the thing that will bring the greatest joy in their life the greatest priority in their life.

Friday- We go to go to mission conference in Charleston to listen to Elder S Gifford Nielsen speak to us. It was awesome. I performed a duet with another elder. We sang "I'll Go Where You Want Me to Go." I feel like that applies to me specifically because I'm in West Virginia even though I thought I would be serving in Brazil. It is okay because I love being here and I know that God has a plan for me here! Elder Nielsen had some great things to say, and really brought in the spirit of love and encouragement into the meeting. You can read the email President Pitt sent out if you want some further details on what he said.

Saturday- There was a funeral for a young man in the ward who committed suicide. It was so sad to be there. It reminded me of my own experience with that tragedy when I was a freshman in high school. I just wanted to reach out in love and support to all of the mourners there and help them feel the joy of the restored gospel. later, we were able to have a meeting with the Turners. It went just as we had hoped. The Spirit was so strong there. They dedicated themselves to coming to Church the next day.

Sunday- We were very sad because the Turners didn't come to Church. We went back to talk to them and will be giving them some time to decide when they will be ready to make the changes in their life required for baptism. It was hard, but necessary. We hope that they will see the need for change in their life, and set their priorities so that they will receive the happiness and strength in their lives that God wants them to have.

Well, I love all of you. Know that God reaches out in love and care to everyone of us. In my studies this morning I came across Ether 3:18. "And all this, that this man might know that He was God". God loves each of us and reaches out in love and care so that we can know of His divinity and His love for us as His children. God does care. He does live. He will guide us in rightesouness if we are willing to do what must be done to obtain the blessings. I love you all!

Love, Elder Parker Ayer

Monday, January 6, 2014

Holiday Fever is Over

Dear family,

Well, holiday fever is over but winter is coming in full force. Tonight it's supposed to get down to about -20 degrees with the windchill. I don't know if we'll be able to walk around in that, but if we do we'll need to bundle up out there because it's cold woodchuck chuckers! Whenever someone we knock into tells us to be careful in the cold, I tell them that the Spirit keeps us warm. It's a little cheesy, but it's true! The Spirit is really what sustains me throughout this entire experience, and experiences that fill me with the Spirit are the reason why I do what I do.

Anyway, the last few days have been a little crazy. Wednesday night and Thursday morning I was super anxious. Who was I going to train? How was I going to train them? Was I cut out for it? Did I know enough to continue the missionary work well in Vienna? What if my trainee didn't like me? What if he didn't talk? What if he talked too much? What if he didn't like rules? On and on my thoughts flew around. I should have been following the counsel of Elder Holland to put our faith first before our concerns, or the counsel of Elder Holland to doubt our doubts. Well, I was a little worried. This transfer felt like a bigger change than all of the other transfers. Anyway, we got to the transfer meeting and there were only 8 new missionaries. 8! That is a significant decrease in the number of missionaries coming in, but I also started to wonder why, out of 200+ missionaries in the mission, I was asked to train a new missionary. I'm a baby in missionary terms! Well, it was interesting to try to understand the trust that the Lord had placed in me compared to the trust I had placed in myself. Anyway, it was an exciting meeting. Drum roll please. I am now serving with, and training, Elder Christian Lyman! He is from PARKER, Colorado! Isn't that awesome? Well, I certainly think so. He is an awesome missionary. He really wants to get out there and get things done. I have been humbled by his work ethic. He isn't afraid to share what the Spirit tells him, which has really benefited our growth as missionaries and a companionship.

Our first few days together have been exciting ones. We had a great meeting his first night here with two older women that we recently started teaching. The next day, Friday, was weekly planning. It was a chore, but had to be done. We spent five hours completely filling him in on the work here and planning out this week. After that, we were ready to get moving. On Saturday, we had a great day planned. We were supposed to have a record high of six teaching appointments. All of them but one fell through. Sunday was great for him to be introduced to the ward. We look forward to this coming week when we hope that many great things will happen. We are teaching 15 people right now, which is wonderful. We really look forward to the choices they will be able to make in the next several weeks that will bring them closer to Christ and His joy.

As we have met with people, it has amazed me to see how they have been prepared to receive the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. It has also amazed me to see how certain missionaries have been prepared to serve in certain functions throughout the mission. The Lord has His hand in this work. I know that to be true. I am so grateful for this new year and new transfer to serve Him more faithfully, diligently, and effectively. We should all strive to make the sacrifices in our lives that will bring us closer to Him. Remember, "sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven".

Love, Elder Parker Ayer

P.S. Elder S Gifford Nielson visits the mission this Friday!

P.P.S. I'll be singing a duet at the meeting with the general authority!!!

P.P.P.S. You said that you mounted a tv by the fireplace. Did you change moosey into a picture-picture? :D


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Natal e Ano Novo

Dear Family,

I love you muito!!! I am emailing today because it is transfer week. Isn't that crazy? That just means that we have our P-day on Wednesday and we email today. Well, HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! Rabbit Rabbit. Sarah, isn't it so weird that is actually 2014? Well, weird but true. I really don't feel like I have much to say today because I just talked to you a week ago from today. That's okay, I'll fill you in on the nitty gritty.

Christmas Day was wonderful. We spent much of the time at members' homes. I ate way too much food, but it was good. Thank goodness Christmas is only one day, however. By the end of a day being spent with members celebrating Christmas, I felt like I was ready to hop into my pajamas and spend the week doing Harry Potter movie marathons. Well, not so. That just doesn't happen as a missionary. I was so glad to get back to work the next day.

We had some very interesting experiences this last week. We think it's because it's the additional faith of Elder Ramirez joining us. :D Well, in this past week we found four new investigators. That may not seem like much for those of you who have served in South America, but that's big news over here in WV! There were some particular individuals that really have been on my mind.

Colt isn't actually an investigator yet, but he is on his way. We were knocking doors in his apartment complex when we found him. He opened his door in his boxer briefs and gave a look at us like we were a bunch of wack jobs. We started talking to him about our message. He was giving us a hard time. We pressed on until he finally said, You know I'm drunk, right?" Yes, we could tell. He was soused. Then he said, "well, do you want to come in?" We were a little apprehensive as we looked at each other. He laughed at us and said, "you're not scared, are you?" No we mostly definitely weren't. We went into his house and sat down on his couch. In his drunken way, he interrogated us about why we were doing what we were doing. How could we possible believe what we believed. He decorated his language with very colorful words. After talking for a little while, he told us about how he was an alcoholic. He used to have a stable job and a happy family, but he lost it all because of his addiction to alcohol. I wanted to reach out to him with the love of the Savior and help him see how he could change and repair his life. Interestingly, the spirit entered into the room despite the circumstances. He then told us that just before we got there he had said a prayer to ask God to help him stop drinking beers. That was when we had showed up. It was a real testament to me of the love and mercy of Heavenly Father. He really knows each of us. We had to go (it was the end of the night), so we said a prayer with him and said we would come back to see him. As we were walking away down the street, he opened his door again and yelled at us to come back. We returned and he asked us for a copy of the Book of Mormon. He said that he really wanted to read it, starting that night. He had some sort of overwhelming feeling that he needed to read the book. We gave him our phone number also and said that he could call us anytime he needed help. It was a wonderful experience and we are gong to return soon.

The next man I want to talk about lives a few doors down from Colt. His name is Tim, and we knocked into his door a few days later when we decided to finish the complex. He opened the door and he wasn't happy to see us. He told us that God had deserted him, so he was deserting God. It was heart braking to see.I felt like we couldn't let him go before letting him know how much God loved him. I bore simple testimony of this. He continued to talk to us, even though it seemed like he was going to slam the door on our faces. He started crying as he told us about how his life had been spiraling downward. He told us that he viewed God as a powerful being who made us worship him just so that he could drag us around and punish us. This was really upsetting to me. I wanted to help him out of his situation so much. I asked if we could at least have a prayer with him before we left. That's when he let us inside his home and so commenced the battle for his soul. We were there for more than an hour as he told us about every terrible trial ever experienced in his life and his disillusioned view of deity. He kept on apologizing to us for spitting on our beliefs, but I really only felt love for this man and a desire to bring him back to God. After talking for a long while, we found out that within the hour before we had gotten there, he had made the decision to turn his back on God. He had taken his beloved Bible, spat upon it, and hid it in the farthest corner of his apartment. He recognized that it was only an act of God that could have brought us to his door at such perfect timing. After calming him down a little bit, we introduced him to the Book of Mormon. He was very apprehensive. He said that he was a Baptist and he would go to Hell if he ever became a Mormon. We told him that wasn't what we had invited him to do. We had invited him to read the Book of Mormon and pray to receive an answer as to its truth. Well, he decided that wouldn't get him cast off forever. After an hour of talking, he had already begun to be reconciled with God. We had a prayer with him, and he was very much at peace. As we were walking out of the door, he told us that he was going to begin reading the Book of Mormon right then.

Well, I would like to tell you more, but I don't have much time left. I know that God directs His work. He loves His children, so he sends us to bring them the true and everlasting gospel of Jesus Christ, restored through the prophet Joseph Smith. I know the Book of Mormon is true and brings happiness and strength to our lives. I love you all so much!

Love, Elder Parker Ayer

P.S. the recorder is great and sounds much better than the cheap-o one. I love it! :D

P.P.S. Elder Gadberry and Ramirez are leaving. I am training a new missionary. Crazy!!!