Monday, February 24, 2014

A wonderful and growing week

Dear Family,

This week has been wonderful. It's been a growing week, and there's nothing better than that! For real, I feel like a new person now that I have made it through this week, and I feel like I am more focused on being a missionary. One thing that has really helped has been the warming of the weather. Elder Lyman and I haven't needed to wear our thermals at all this week! It has been complete sweater weather. I can't get ahead of myself, though, because it sounds like we might have to break out the jackets again this coming week. Oh well!

Besides the weather, there have been a few things that have been good every day of this week. Last Monday, Elder Lyman and I found Fruit Gushers at Walmart and decided to splurge on a little childish snack. 36 packs later, we're thoroughly convinced that they are the best snack ever. Also, last week I was asked to speak in church this Sunday on Jesus' Parable of the Talents. As a companionship, we have also focusing part of our studies on Joseph Smith and the Restoration. The focused and extended study has really been a blessing. Later I'll share with you a little bit about what I learned.

Anyway, do you remember Glenn that I talked about last week? Well, this week we got Brother Lee to come teach Glenn with us. It went great. We talked about prophets, some organization of the church, and the Book of Mormon. At the end of the lesson, we gave him a Plan of Salvation pamphlet and I let him borrow my conference ensign. Since our meeting, he has called us several times. He told us that he read through the pamphlet, the entire ensign, and has started in on the Book of Mormon. He loves it! He said he made a little note in the ensign next to Elder Craig Cardon's talk that said, "Very Good!" In a later phone call, Glenn told us that he doesn't think Mormons are aliens anymore. Glenn is so funny and sincere. We hope that he will be able to recognize the truth to an extent that he'll realize the need to change in his old age (he's 89). The gospel is for us all, and the Lord does not give up on us.

Another family that we are teaching, the Peppers, have really opened up this week. We had a meeting with them where we were planning on reviewing the beginning of the Plan of Salvation and then emphasizing life after death. We didn't quite get there because we had a powerful discussion about the power of the Atonement. Elder Lyman and I have really been working on teaching with unity (AKA Elder Ayer needs to shut his mouth long enough for Elder Lyman to talk). We've been progressing well, and the lesson was just near perfect. We were able to build on each other's testimonies. By the end, both Ron and Crystal Pepper were on board to start utilizing the Atonement to make changes in their lives. This Sunday, Ron came to Church and said that he received an answer to prayer about the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. He believes this is the one true Church.

Mary didn't had a couple surprises up her sleeve for us this week. We continue to teach her. She isn't making very much progress, but she continues to read the Book of Mormon, pray, and come to Church. What else can she do? It is a slow process of helping her tear down walls of false ideas and beliefs. It is especially hard when she continues to build up those false ideas. The main culprit is the History Channel. That is her favorite show to watch. She believes that everything on their is researched and proven by the world's top scientists. Unfortunately, she's not the only person we've talked to in West Virginia that completely believes what they see on the History Channel. This week, Mary shared with us a few more insights. She told us that demons are most active between the hours of 3 and 4 am. She also told us that Eve wasn't good enough for Adam, so Adam demanded that he have another woman created. That's when a woman was made from Adam's rib, called Lillith, became Adam's slave, and now exists as a demon. I don't what the people from History Channel are thinking, but it's not helping. As always, the Spirit must prevail in all things and teach us from above.

We had a great zone conference this week. President Pitt told us about completely consecrating our lives (interests, hobbies, efforts, talents) for missionary work. I am slowly but surely trying to do this. I do not want to be as the slothful servant from Jesus' parable who was too distracted, lazy, or afraid to multiply his talent, but buried it instead. One really cool principle I learned from my study this week is that the Master is not entrusting us with His work so that we can multiply talents unto him. He is does it so that he can raise rulers unto himself who were once meager servants.

I love you all. I love your prayers and kindness. I love my Ayer heritage. I love my Savior, Jesus Christ, and know that we can only find salvation through his atoning sacrifice.

Love, Elder Parker Ayer

Monday, February 17, 2014

I will be your Valentine!

Dear Mom, Dad, Will, Sarah, and (last but CERTAINLY not least [have you seen this boy? He's a full-grown man!]) Christian,

I love you all! I would like to officially address your dearest pleadings for me to be your Valentine. I heartily accept. Thank you for the wonderful Valentine's Day package full of punny notes and tasty treats. I have already downed my mammoth heart cookie. I was tastefully surprised when I bit into what I thought was a meat pie to find an apple pie/crisp instead. :D Nothing can compare to my Mom's cooking! The elders here think that I am some sort of master chef because I know how to make stir-fry and pancakes, hahaha.

Well, there isn't much to report since the last email. Elder Lyman and I went back to teach Kristen and Mark with Brother Walker from the ward. (I went to Brother Walker's house for dinner that first night I was in the field 4 and a half months ago). We were worried that it was going to be a disheartening lesson because of what Kristen had said to us the other day. Apparently Kristen was just having a bad day the other day and decided to spew out all of her absorbed Anti-Mormon stuff at us. They are still moving forward, but we need to help them understand why it is important to know that Joseph Smith was a prophet and then to gain that testimony. One thing that Kristen said in the lesson is that we talk about Joseph Smith all of the time and not about Jesus Christ. I was a little dumbfounded. I think she might have been regurgitating something her CofC friend said to her. The last time we talked to them about Joseph Smith was when we actually talked to them about the Restoration of the gospel. Since then we have had several lessons in which we talked about the Plan of Salvation, the Atonement, faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, and baptism. All of those things are focused on the Savior. Even our discussion of Joseph Smith is focused on the Savior; Joseph Smith is only important because his work guides us closer to the Savior.

Anyway, Elder Lyman and I had another interesting experience since I emailed last. We knocked into an 89-year-old Baptist man who invited us into his home. He knows some members of the Church, and knew us to be good people. One of the Mormon families (the Lee family) that he knows the best live only a couple blocks from his home in Vienna. We have gone over to their home several times. They are a good family; Brother Lee is a high councilman; they serve in the family history library during the week; they work in the temple every weekend. When we meet, we ask them whom they know that we could teach. Every time they say that the only people they are friends with are already members of the Church. That makes sense. They are very involved in Church activities. However, this man that we knocked into (Glenn) knows and worked with Brother Lee. Anyway, Glenn allowed us to tell him about Joseph Smith and the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He found it interesting, accepted a Book of Mormon, and set up a time for us to come back to talk to him on Thursday. Well, P-day was moved to Thursday and we weren't able to go see him. We didn't have his phone number either to contact him. Nevertheless, Glenn called Brother Lee to let us know that he was away during our scheduled appointment, but still wanted to meet with us. That was very cool. In this case, we were more flaky than the investigator. Also, Brother Lee really does know someone who has shown an interest in talking to the missionaries. We never know who will be open to learning about the restored gospel. Does that mean we invite no one? NO! That means we invite everyone until we find those who are ready and willing to accept the message. Even acquaintances are divinely appointed and prepared so that God's children may be reached in every place that they may be.

It is my testimony that God has a wonderful work going on. This work takes shape in individual hearts to strengthen families, communities, and nations. I am privileged to be the messenger to deliver Heavenly Father's personal Valentine to each one of His children. When we allow the message to change our hearts, thoughts, and actions, we say to the Father, "I will be your Valentine!"

Thank you for the strength that you give me. I pray that Heavenly Father will strengthen you.

Love, Elder Parker Ayer

Thursday, February 13, 2014

You're CofC, you're not okay

Dear Family,

First off, you may or may not remember that P-days get switched up in this mission on transfer weeks. P-day was originally supposed to be yesterday, but they had to move transfer meeting back a day due to a winter storm. Thus, P-day got moved back a day as well and is today. There's a lot to catch up on.

Second off, I never even explained my email subject line from last week. I'll explain it quickly, because it was pretty funny. Two Sundays ago was fast Sunday. There is an elderly sister in the ward here named Sister Isley. She is pretty out of it. In the middle of the sacrament meeting, she stood up and declared to the congregation, "I have a testimony!" After speaking for a little bit, she decided to grace us with a song. She sang, "I love you because you're you." Elder Lyman were dying in the pew. After a little while, she decided it was time to sit down. It was so funny.

Since last email, many things have happened. I can't remember when everything happened, but let me tell you about everyone we are teaching.

Mary- Mary is um pouco ridiculo. This last week we met with her and her friend Sister Knight at the Walker's home from the ward. The night started out great with a meal and then we had the lesson. We've been trying to encourage Mary to forgive people so that she will be more open to the Spirit and she can receive a witness of the truth. We discussed that for a little bit. We shared a Mormon Message, bore testimony, and I was ready for us to say a closing prayer. All of a sudden, things got crazy as Mary went on a rant about the Book of Mormon. She brings up the same concerns every time we talk; I'm not sure if she's all there mentally. She's had a hard and traumatic life, so that may be why. At one point she said, "I only have one concern about the Book of Mormon. Which came first, the Lord or death?" We were so confused. How did that even relate? We tried to help her, we tried to be patient. I think she knows that the Book of Mormon is true, but she is just doing all that she can to resist the truth that she'll need to change her life for.

Okay, I was going to tell you about all of our investigators, but the same thing keeps coming back to mind. TUESDAY. Last Tuesday was a big day. Last Tuesday might have been one of the most important days of my mission. That day, I went on exchange with Elder Kieran. Elder Kieran is serving in Belpre and lives in the same house as me. He is flying home tomorrow. Elder Kieran and I were out and about talking to people. For some strange reason, good things always seem to happen on exchanges. I think that they help to stir up some excitement and energy for the work. Anyway, we had a great day. We walked all over the place. I don't think I've told you much about my walking, but Elder Lyman and I probably walk at least 8 miles a day. Anyway, Elder Kieran and I almost went to Taco Bell for dinner, but then realized that it was opening night for Five Guys next door. We went there instead. The potatoes were from Rexburg. Anyway, the food was good, but that wasn't what made Tuesday so great. After dinner, we went to go teach Kristen and Mark.

When we got to Kristen and Mark's house, something felt off. Kristen wasn't in a very good mood, and Mark's eyes were red. I could sense some tension. We had a prayer to bring the Spirit in. After talking for a little bit, Elder Kieran asked if we could sing a hymn. You have to understand Kristen and Mark. They are loud and fun. Even though I love singing, I was looking at Elder Kieran and thinking, "Why are you making us do this?" Well, we did it. We sang "Be Still, My Soul". It was a little odd for us to do a duet for them just sitting right in front of us, but it was good. The Spirit was there. After talking for a little bit, Kristen was still not acting like herself. Elder Kieran asked if she would like a priesthood blessing. She didn't know what that was and seemed a little freaked out. We explained what a priesthood blessing was. Afterwards, we administered a blessing of comfort and counsel to Kristen. Afterwards, Mark also requested a blessing. In both blessings, I experienced a powerful manifestation of the Spirit. They shared with us their feelings, and both had experienced powerful manifestations of the Spirit. It was the most miraculous moment of my mission. I look forward to being able to express this experience to you in greater detail when we are with each other in person. That experience began our meeting that night. Afterwards we talked about baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost. The experience we shared earlier laid a perfect back drop for our discussion of the Spirit. Looking back, I can see that the experience was a divine gift of mercy and love to Kristen and Mark. However, it had the same effect for me. Each missionary has authority from God to act in His name, but there are divine moments when God shows us that we really qualify for power in our calling. I know that God is our loving Heavenly Father. I know that Christ is His only Begotten Son. The Savior suffered for each of us so that we could be redeemed and brought back into the presence of the Father; first through the Holy Ghost and then through the resurrection. I know that the Holy Ghost can testify powerfully in our hearts of the truth of all things, and when we have received this divine manifestation we have a obligation to act. I know that the Holy Priesthood, the authority and power to act in God's name, was restored to the Earth through the Prophet Joseph Smith.

As a warning to those who seek out powerful spiritual manifestations, there is always a time of testing afterwards. Once we have received instruction and enlightenment directly from God, we will be held accountable to what we have received. I experienced that over the succeeding days. I felt restless and not at ease. Thankfully, priesthood power was able to reestablish peace in my heart by means of Elder Lyman giving me a priesthood blessing. Kristen and Mark experienced opposition as well. Since that Tuesday night, Mark's family has talked to Mark about his association with the "Mormon Church". See, Mark's family belongs to the Church of Christ. I now refer to that great and abominable church only by "CofC" since I really don't like associating the Savior with its organization or the words I use to describe it. I had never heard of this church before the mission, but it has a huge presence down here in the South (West Virginians don't consider themselves to be in the South, but they totes are). The CofC hates our church and spends much of its time tearing us apart. We have lost many investigators due to its efforts. Anyway, we found out the other day that Kristen and Mark are going to their "family church." When we asked why, Kristen fed us lines that I've heard before, the same old Anti-Mormon bull. Sorry, but it is really frustrating. The most frustrating thing is that they do it all under the assumed name of Christ. Who are they to deny priesthood power and divine revelation? Anyway, it's frustrating, but we're going to continue working to help Kristen and Mark. Please pray for them!

Well, I'll continue to be in Vienna for this coming transfer. I found out that Elder Gadberry got his visa and is probably in Brazil already. I always try to remember that I'm not waiting for my visa; I'm waiting on the Lord. The other day I realized that if I had submitted my mission papers right after the announcement came out, I would never have been assigned to Juiz de For a (the mission hadn't been created yet). I probably would have been assigned to the West Virginia Charleston Mission. I am loving it here. There are good people and there is good work to be done. The district boundaries are being changed up this transfer so that I will no longer be over the zone leaders. Instead, I will have two struggling areas of elders and an area of sisters. Things will be harder this transfer, but they are bound to be. For Him who suffered for us, things were never easy. Then why should they be for us? As Elder Holland says, "salvation is not a cheap experience." We have to be willing to give all that we have to become the Saints of God and receive the saintly blessings and all that the Father hath. Please pray for me. Please pray for Elder Lyman. Please pray for the good elders and sisters of the Vienna district. Please pray for the good children of God who I am teaching. Please remember Christ. Remember His sufferings. Remember the hard things He did for our salvation, and then push yourself to do a little bit more so we can help our dear family members and friends partake of salvation. I love you all so much. I pray for you and think about you often.

Love, Elder Parker Alan Ayer

Monday, February 3, 2014

I love you because you're you

Dear Family!

This week has been a wonderful whirlwind of a time. The word "wonderful" has really been making it big in my vocabulary as of late. However, whenever I use it I always have to accompany it with "wild". The two just go together here in wild and wonderful West Virginia.

The awesome week started on Monday. That night, we taught a woman with five children. She is married, but the husband doesn't seem too interested in hearing our message. Anyway, they are super awesome. All of the kids are under the age of 9, and they were everywhere. They thought we were so cute. It was amazing teaching the gospel with the little children. They are truly inspired. We taught the first half of the Restoration (basically teaching them what they've already learned in Catholic school). Every time they talked, their words led perfectly into the message. "I know God talks to my mom," one said. It was the greatest connection to the importance of living prophets to lead and guide God's children in our day. When we asked to say a closing prayer, one of the sons asked, "Which one should we say? Our Father?" We got to teach him that when we pray to God, we can say whatever we want to him from our hearts. It was a wonderful lesson, and we are going back tonight to teach them about Joseph Smith.

Tuesday we went on exchange with the zone leaders in Parkersburg. Elder Colligan is still serving there, and he is now with Elder Brandt. I went with Elder Brandt to Parkersburg. We met this old man named Ron who was a little louco in the cabeza from a head injury he had a while back. He was pretty skeptical of our message, but still nice enough to talk to. He asked, "How did Joseph Smith just happen to dig in the ground near a tree and find some gold plates?" We hadn't even told him about Joseph Smith and gold plates yet, so we knew he had done some research (probably from a preacher from an antagonistic sect). We responded that an angel showed him where to find the plates. "Ahah," he said, "wasn't his name Moroni? All of the angels from the Bible had names that ended in -el (Gabriel, Michael, Raphael). Why not the angel that appeared to Joseph Smith?" It was probably the strangest objection I had ever heard to the Book of Mormon. Stranger enough, I was prepared for it. Just the other day I had randomly read in the Bible Dictionary about Hebrew naming patterns and the meaning of -el suffixes and other things. I never thought that would come in handy, but somehow it did. My answer seemed to stump him because he seemed a little lost after it.

Thursday we had an eye-opening experience with our investigator Mary. We've been teaching her for a while, but she just isn't humbling herself properly to get an answer to her prayers. Elder Lyman and I had a role play earlier in the morning in which we had received some pretty cool inspiration. Mary doesn't have a baptismal date right now. In fact, she makes a fuss anytime we talk about baptism. I wish I could explain her better, but email just isn't the best way to describe her. Anyway, how can she receive an answer about the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon unless she has a desire to follow through and be baptized? What is the purpose of the Book of Mormon? What does Mormon say in the title page? It is to convince people that Jesus is the Christ and the covenants that God has made with his children. The Book of Mormon is designed to bring the Spirit into people's hearts so that they know the truthfulness of the latter-day work, choose to change their lives to follow Jesus Christ, and enter into the waters of baptism. If people read without this in mind, they will not have the "real intent" required in Moroni 10:4 to receive a witness of the truth. Anyway, we didn't even get that far with Mary. As we were talking to her, we realized that there is an even greater concern standing in her way from obtaining an answer. It is her anger. Read Moroni 9:4-5. That describes us trying to teach her perfectly. Anyway, we asked her why she's not willing to let go of her anger and forgive others. She said she just wants to get revenge. She prays to God to get revenge on people. Then we asked her if she has ever prayed to have help to give up this anger. She said something very telling. She said that she doesn't want to pray about that and have an interaction with the Spirit that will tell her not to get revenge. She knows the Spirit would tell her not to get revenge, so she pushes the Spirit away! No wonder she hasn't gotten and answer. She knows that if she feels the Spirit, then she will have to change and not get revenge. She is resisting the refining and refreshing power of the Spirit. In our lives, we must give ourselves entirely over to his influence if we wish to be guided by him in righteousness. We cannot harbor secret sins or desires and still expect to be privy to the holy and sanctifying influence of the Spirit.

Friday was district meeting and interviews by President Pitt. It was such a joy to be able to meet with President Pitt. He is only filled with love, kindness, and knowledge. He is one of the best men I have ever known. I told him about some of my current challenges, and he was very understanding and helpful. Then at the end of the interview, he asked if he could have your phone number. He said that he wanted to give you a phone call. It seemed to be something very personal he wanted to do for me. As you can imagine with me and my emotional self, I broke down crying. I could only imagine you at home receiving a call to let you know that I was doing alright. Thank you for all of your support and love.

Saturday the Belpre elders had a baptism. The water heater wasn't working so the water was pretty chilly. We might as well have gone out to the Ohio River and chopped through the ice. :D

Sunday was wonderful. Elder Lyman and I had a great discussion. It is so good to have a companion that I can rely on totally. I am so sorry, but I don't think that I have talked about Elder Lyman much in my emails. He is the greatest companion I could have ever asked for! I love him so much, and he has really become my best friend. He has five brothers, two of which are unmarried and Sarah's age. We've decided that we're adding them to the queue of eligible bachelors. Also, I taught Elder Lyman how to do family history this week and we discovered that his pioneer ancestor, Amasa Mason Lyman, came over from Lyman, New Hampshire!!!!!!!!!!! No wonder we get along so great, he's got ye olde Shire blood.

I love you all so much. You are my favorite people in the whole wide world. Do you know why? It's because you're my family. I want to be with you for eternity. We sing silly songs, we play silly games, we tell silly jokes, we celebrate silly holidays, we make silly faces, but in the end we are bound by the serious and glorious truth that Jesus Christ came to this Earth to redeem us from weakness. I know he lives. Let us give ourselves over to the Holy Ghost which will prepare us for an endless eternity of progression, growth, and love.

Love, Love, Love, Elder Parker Ayer

P.S. Remember that RLDS lady from a couple weeks ago? No joke, but she's a former investigator and she invited us over last night to teach her on Wednesday. Super Crazy!