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

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