Monday, March 31, 2014

Spring into action!

Dear family,

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO THE BEST DAD IN THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD TO INFINITY AND BEYOND!!! You are such a wonderful example to me in my life and you have helped me overcome so many things. Thank you for your stalwart example and constant care. I love you!

Well, I left Vienna on Wednesday. It was a sad day. After several months of serving there and really coming to love the people there, it was very had. This was my first "real" transfer to an unknown place! Luckily, all of the elders in our house (Elder Lopez, Elder Markowski, and Elder Lyman) helped me pack up and get ready for the transfer, so I wasn't up all night packing.

Elder Lyman came down with me in our Bishops' car to transfers. He is now training a new elder named Elder Baty (a Brazilian visa waiter) and is also serving with an Elder Ochsenbein. I am now with Elder [Dallin] Russo and he is training a Brazilian visa waiter, Elder [Kyle] Grajeda. Elder Russo is from Oklahoma, and Elder Grajeda is from Missouri. Elder Grajeda learned how to speak in New Jersey, however, so he has a thick New "Joisey" accent.

I am now serving in the Cave Spring, VA area. It is great! The ward here is super awesome. We live in the basement apartment of a member in the ward. We have a car and will be getting a new car this Tuesday.

The work here is pretty slow right now. It's a little discouraging, but not too discouraging. I get restless leg syndrome every day because we drive so much to where we are going to talk to people. I would much rather walk around all day in the cold. We have been talking to a lot of less-active members. I have been working on helping us shift our focus to finding new people to teach.

Neither of my companions can drive right now, so I am the designated driver. That has made me realize a few things. I am not very good at driving. I don't know if is the hiatus I've had from practicing, or I've always been bad. In either case, I am grateful for the Lord's protecting hand. :D

I am the district leader here. The district is awesome! There is another companionship of Brazilian visa waiters, so we have five total. The sister trainer leaders are in our district as well. They are so helpful and hard-working. One of them, Sister Shumway, looks and acts a lot like Sarah. It is so fun! Another sister, Sister Ostler used to live right across the road from the Bennett family in Salem and knows them really well! How great!

Sorry this email has been so brief. It's hard for me to think of what to say right now. One thing that I realized this morning is the importance it is to invite people to come partake of the blessings of the gospel. We have daily interaction with so many people. They benefit from the Spirit that we carry with us. It would be a great disservice to them if we allowed them to drink from the fountain of living water, but not tell them how to reach the fountain and drink for themselves. It is so vital and necessary that we do all that we can to lead and guide others to that source of joy that comes from Christ through the ministration of the Holy Ghost.

I love you all so much and hope that everything is going well. Please invite everyone to talk to the misisonaries and receive the blessings of the gospel in their lives. It is such a blessing to share.


Love, Elder Ayer

P.S. There are some Eliasons in the ward. I haven't met them yet, but I heard they're from California, so I'm not sure if there is any relation.

P.P.S. I will try to send some pictures your way.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

going south, but not THAT south

Dear Family,

This last week has been great!!! The transfer is just about done, and it's weird looking back and realizing that it was 3 months ago that Elder Lyman and I first met each other. Almost half of my mission so far, WOW!

Well, the greatest experience of this last week was Elijah. Do you remember him from last week? I think that I mentioned him, but I never knew that he would become our South-American-turned-American miracle. He's not really South American. He really is American. He also is a miracle. He was a media referral from a few weeks ago that we tried to get a hold of. We weren't able to meet with him for a while because he has a strange schedule working at Planet Fitness, and he was usually asleep when we went over. From the sounds of it, he talked to a Jehovah's Witness woman at the bus stop about a month ago. He gave all of his information to her. Then we showed up on his doorstep. I don't know what happened, but it sounds like there was a divine intervention and a JW ended up referring this golden man to us. How great! Well, last week when we met with him we invited him to be baptized at the beginning of May. This last week, we had to move it up to the beginning of April. He told us that he missed coming to Scout Sunday last week because he was up the entire night looking at everything on We were glad he did. He has now read all the way to Alma 19! What a superstar! He is married, owns his own home, has one daughter, has twins on the way, can't read very well, but remembers everything he learns about the Church and the Book of Mormon. He can't to Church this last Sunday and enjoyed it. In the opening exercises for priesthood meeting, we reported on the fact that we only get fed about once a week. We weren't complaining, we were simply reporting on how we had been bearing our afflictions with patience and were desirous for more good food. Well, our meal calendar didn't really change at all. However, Elijah did call us an hour after Church and ask us if we wanted to eat dinner with him. He is so great! After dinner, we got to teach Elijah's wife and mother-in-law. His wife, Alecia, isn't very interested (yet), but his mother-in-law, Debbie is very interested. We met with her this morning and she is planning on baptism for April 20th. They are all so cool. I never thought that I would get to see such an amazing miracle in North America. It just goes to show ya that God is a God of miracles. Where there is faith, there will be miracles. Where there is faith, there will be repentance. Where there is faith, there will be baptism. Where there is faith, there will be glorious redemption through the reception of the Holy Ghost. Elijah said that he knows what we teach is true because it makes him so happy. How true that is!

Well, here are some more highlights for the week. Wednesday we went to an interfaith breakfast that our investigator, Glenn, invited us to. There were about 100+ old, retired men there from different faiths. We thought we could quietly sneak in and sit with Glenn, but we were immediately called to by a handful of men and befriended. It was fun! It was really cool, also, when the MC for the event announced that the Mormon missionaries were joining with them. He asked us to stand and introduce ourselves. It was great! Wednesday night we were invited by our investigators, the Dougherty's, to go to their Church of Christ service. It was a contemporary service geared towards college students. Three-fourths of the time was singing "gospel" music. It really wasn't enlightening or uplifting. It was some very simple and unrefined poetry put to what sounded like the same monotonous tune. On the plus side, CofC has some wonderful singers in their congregation. They don't believe in using instruments in their services, so they have to sing well. I got to make up any harmony I wanted and sing it as loud as I wanted! It was fun, but Elder Lyman was about to blow his brains out by the time we left. I think I understand why they sing so much. Music invites the Spirit, and they need to be able to feast on something in order to feel justified in their worship.

Saturday afternoon we were walking down the road when we met an old woman sitting on her front steps. We thought she was alright, but it turned out she had fallen and hit her hip moments before we had walked past. She asked us for help. After trying to help her for a little bit, we told her that she should probably call an ambulance. She refused and said that she just wanted to get inside. This was not a frail little lady, but she was a little thicker. After about 20 minutes, Elder LYman and I finally managed to shuffle her into her house, our heads beneath her shoulders. Well, she was very grateful. We offered to give a blessing. She was very grateful once again. It was pretty awesome to be placed by the hand of the Lord in the right place at the right time.

On Sunday I sang a solo in Church as a kind of farewell to the ward. Most of the ward didn't even realize that I could sing. Weird! I sang "Savior, Redeemer, of My Soul" (the arrangement used in "17 Miracles"). It went really well. At the end, I was about to leave the stand when Brother Cordell (sitting behind me) whispered, "Dedicate it to your parents." Well, he runs the shots in this ward. :D Mom and Dad, I hope that you can feel the love from my song.

Yesterday morning we had an intense meeting with Glenn (our 87-year-old investigator). We're really not sure just what to do with him. He believes the Book of Mormon is true and that Thomas S Monson is a prophet. He doesn't feel like he needs to pray about it because he already believes it. Well, we helped him understand exactly what the consequences of his belief are. If we are led to the truth and believe it, we are held accountable to act on it. We helped guide him through a personal epiphany. He told us that he believes in the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith, Thomas S Monson, and restored priesthood authority. We asked him, "What do you have against being baptized?" He thought for a moment and said, "I'm stubborn." BINGO! hahaha He is great, but he needs to give up his pride in order to accept of the fullness of the blessings of the gospel.

Well, I'm getting transferred. The Lord is sending me down to Cave Spring, near Roanoke, VA. I will be district leader there in a tri-panionship. I will be with an Elder Russo (a visa waiter), and he will be training a state-side missionary. Crazy! I'm looking forward to using my own experience to make this a beneficial experience for the new missionary. Elder Lyman is staying in Vienna. He will also be in a tri-panionship and training a visa waiter. How great!

This week I have seen the quote from Elder Scott over and over. " the hope-filled journey to a more glorious future." I know this to be true. It is a wonderful promise. We should look forward to ways to change, grow, and develop. I am so grateful to the Savior, Jesus Christ, for this divine opportunity.

I love you all so much! Happy birthday, Dad!!! I hope that the job interview went well. I pray for you always.

Love, Elder Parker Ayer

Monday, March 17, 2014

Once an eagle...always an eagle!

Dear Family

This week was crazy awesome! But this next week is about to get a little crazier and awesomer. You know why? Bum budda bum bum bum....THIS WEEK IS SUCH A SPECIAL ONE, IT'S BIRTHDAY TIME FOR YOU[hermana sarah ayer]! WE'D REALLY LIKE TO CELEBRATE THIS HAPPY DAY WITH YOU[hermana sarah ayer]! ZIGGIDEE ZAG AND HIPPITY HOP, THERE'S SOMETHING WE CAN DO! WE'LL SING A SONG THAT WE ALL KNOW...HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU[hermana sarah ayer]!!! yayayay!!! Happy 23rd birthday Sarah! You are the greatest sister a guy like me could ask for! I am so glad for your fun, cheer, and spirit!

Well, today is St. Patrick's Day. This happens to be one of my favorite holidays. Don't worry, I will keep myself under control. :D There is great work to be done!

This last week we really did see a lot of crazy awesome miracles. We found buckets of new investigators! They come from all over the place, and Elder Lyman and I are thrilled to be able to teach them all. We now have two people who are preparing themselves for baptism on a specific date. Ron is one. He had some concerns about tithing, but this last week we taught him all about it. We brought a recent convert with us, Sister Fletcher, who really brought a powerful, fiery Spirit to the lesson. Luckily, Ron has really prayed to know if what we teach is true. He has received a witness from God that it really is true. That has helped him overcome his concerns about tithing. What he is trying to overcome right now is an addiction to smoking. It is awful. It is so cool to see him so convinced of the truth but unable to give this one small thing up. I know that he will give it up eventually, but it will be a bit of a process before that moment. The other investigator preparing for baptism is a man named Elijah. He was a media referral. We've met with him once so far. He beleives what we say and is excited to begin reading the Book of Mormon and find out if it is true. How great!

We have several other investigators who are committed to their respective denominations but are itnerested to learn. We hope that they will eventually come to the waters of baptism as well. Tony and Laura are one couple who had us over for dinner this last week. Laura grew up a Baptist in southern West Virginia where she always thought that anyone who wasn't a Baptist was going to Hell. Then she went into the Navy and met a lot of good people who didn't seem to be on a course bent for the underworld. She's had a few Mormon friends also. They are some of the nicest people. We really love them a lot and hope that they will see the truth of the Book of Mormon. We met another family this last week, Jason and Megan. They go to the Church of Christ. When we first met them, Elder Lyman and I worried that they were going to try to start a bash with us. It was the exact opposite. They are sweet. They listened intently as we told them about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. They have good, open hearts. They invited us to come to the Bible study at their church this Wednesday. We hope that they come to our Church next week. How great!

This last Sunday was "Scout Sunday". Back home this was something I had only heard about. Here it is a big deal. It was probably the strangest church service I have ever experienced. So here's the breakdown of what Scout Sunday is. Every young man does not wear his suit and tie to church. Instead, he wears his scout uniform and a pair of jeans. Then, said scouts are all asked to speak in sacrament meeting while wearing their scout uniforms. I was hoping that all of their talks were going to be focused on virtues such as being trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, or reverent. Instead all of the scouts talked about their favorite experiences from campouts, what they had learned from different merit badges, and inside jokes only known among the scouts. I must say, it was a pretty hilarious meeting, but not quite was I was hoping for our sacrament meeting. Elder Lyman was pretty annoyed, so he started reading the Bible Dictionary. I followed suit and educated myself about the translation of the Bible into English. I was relieved when the second counselor, Brother Ryen, got up to announce the closing hymn and prayer. Just when I thought the insanity was over, it started up again. A somewhat hysterical and emotional voice called from the congregation, "Brother Ryen!" I looked around me to see who was making the uproar. Mine eyes beheld our good friend, Brother Bob Cordell, standing up from the pew and extending his arm towards the pulpit. He continued, "Could we please have all of the eagle scouts in the room stand. Once an eagle...always an eagle!" Poor Brother Ryen, newly called to the bishopric and anxious at the pulpit, wasn't sure what to do. He mumbled something in the affirmative and sat down. Well, no one stood up. I don't think anyone was sure what was going on. I took the opportunity to stand and relieve the tension. Brother Ryen jumped back up and asked all the eagle scouts to stand. A few people stood up. We all sat down again quickly. Finally we got to singing the closing hymn. It was the strangest thing to ever happen in a sacrament meeting. Elder Lyman and I had to stifle fits of laughter during the entire hymn. So here's my official salute to Scout Sunday. So long and farewell.

Well, I love you all. Especially Sarah, Mom, Dad, Will, and Chichy. You're in my prayers and thoughts always. Happy missionary work, interviews, work work, and school work this week! LOVELOVELOVELOVELOVE!!!

Love, Elder Parker Ayer

P.S. Brother Cordell was the Ulrich's home teacher.

Monday, March 10, 2014

On the up and ups

Dear family,

Life is swell. Let me tell you why. When something swells, it gets bigger and bigger. Well, life just gets better and better. The missionary work is going forth, and it is so great to see. We learn in Alma that when you plant a "seed", you can know it is a true or a good seed when it begins to sprout and grow. When this happens, we begin to feel a swelling motion in our chest. That is the Spirit testifying in our heart that something is good and true. Well, this missionary life is swell and it makes me swell up with joy. I know that it is the purest and truest endeavor that I can ever be engaged in. It is so good to know that. I feel bad for people who labor day after day in something that isn't pure or true. How do they even motivate themselves to get out of bed in the mornings? It is so wonderful to have the Spirit bearing me up each day to go and get to work.

This week has been another record-setting week for us. We keep teaching more lessons than the week before, and it feels great! Elder Lyman and I are really beginning to understand how to work in this area and bring God's children to the truth.

Last Monday was an interesting day. After writing emails and shopping, we went back home. I had letters to write, but instead I decided to make apple crisp. It took me way too long to make the apple crisp, and afterwards I was just annoyed with myself. We had to go right out to work. For some reason, Satan saw an opportunity to hit me with a wad of bad feelings. As we were walking to our appointment, I felt the whole world come down on me. I was worried about leading the district, helping our investigators, being a good trainer, having the energy to work, writing letters to important family members and friends, and thinking about all my favorite people back home having fun, going to work, dating, and sleeping in. It wasn't anyone else's fault; I just felt overwhelmed and ready to snap. It's been a major problem for me that I get super stressed out. Luckily, Elder Lyman is able to recognize when this happens. He started talking to me and dragging everything out of me. Pretty soon I was sharing my feelings and crying. Oh brother. Elder Lyman isn't a very sentimental guy, so this was a big, and greatly appreciated, sacrifice from him. Well, I felt a lot better after that. Just after that experience, we had an awesome teaching moment. We went to see a potential investigator. We had met the wife, Qin, before, but this time we met the husband, Qen. They are a Chinese couple and have two children. They are very nice. We sat down and talked with Qen. He told us how he met some Mormon missionaries about 15 years ago and was appreciative to them. He continues to wonder about who God is. He is not sure that he wants to commit to anything just yet, but is interested in learning so that he can find out for himself. It was such a great experience to be able to talk in basic and simple terms about the nature of God and how he cares for us. We taught Qen how to properly pray to Heavenly Father and receive answers. It was a wonderful moment. He wasn't comfortable with praying right then, but he was very grateful. The Spirit bore powerful testimony in my heart that we had taught truth. It was a great evening. We will meet with Qen again soon. Since my experience last Monday, I have been working at managing my stress. There is no point in allowing ourselves to worry. Worry gets in the way. What we need to do is act diligently. We do our best and leave God the rest. If we put our trust in Him, he will take care of those things which we have no control over.

Thursday was another crazy day. We spent the first 4 hours of the work day serving our Bishop. After that, we had weekly planning. Another surprise was thrown in there when I received an envelope containing important documents that I had to sign and FedEx back to Salt lake for my visa. I got it all done. I think that is the last of the things that I need to do for my visa re-application.

Ron Pepper, one of investigators, is doing great right now. He has accepted a baptismal date for the day before transfers. It has been amazing to teach him and see him accept the gospel. He has had the chance to ask God questions and have them answered. He knows the Book of Mormon is true, that Joseph Smith was a prophet, and that he needs to be baptized. It is so great to see. The only thing that stands in his way are the smokes, and we'll be working hard at helping him overcome those.

Friday we had zone meeting. Afterwards I went on exchange with a disobedient missionary in my district. He is a nice guy, but that's the problem. he's acting like a guy and not a missionary. He has less than 3 weeks left on his mission. He really doesn't see the point of obeying rules as long as he teaches people the gospel. It is really frustrating to see. On top of that, I'm scared of conflict. Everyone says that I'm too loving and nice. That's one character flaw I'm not too ashamed of. I need to learn how to be direct in calling people to repentance. The rules are important. Obedience to law is liberty!

Well, I love you all so much. I am glad that you fill me in on all the news. I'm trying on staying focused and worry free. Life is good, life is great, life is swell!

Love, Elder Parker Ayer

Monday, March 3, 2014

Large Print

Dear family,

This week was a joyful week. Lots of good things happened. Here is a brief recap on some satisfying things: achieving goals, witnessing people change, being spiritually reassured of what you know to be true, developing friendships, and having fun. Those are things that make me happy! [Elder Lyman has pointed out how we do a lot of forced laughter when people tell us things they think are funny. In contrast, these things make me happy enough to give a genuine Parker-type chuckle. :D ]

First off, we set a goal this week to have 4 lessons with members present. We also made a goal to have 3 other lessons. This was a stretch for us in this area and with our teaching pool and our walking situation. I really wasn't sure if we could do it. However, we pushed ourselves, and by the end of the week we had accomplished all that the Spirit had told us we could do. What a great feeling! We still had cancellations, but we were able to overcome those with determination. It just feels so good. This is the point when Mom would say, now doesn't that just make you feel good to look back and see what you did? Yes, it does! You'll be happy to know that I'm beginning to understand the principle of planning and goal setting. You'll also be happy to know that my skin begins to crawl when I see dishes in the sink, dishes on the counter, clean dishes in the dishwasher, or anywhere else that dishes aren't supposed to sit happily waiting their usage. I also attack the microwave and stove with a vengeance when it starts looking grimy. :D

Anyway, enough about that. It is such a blessing to see people beginning to change. Mary has experienced a softening of her heart. Our prayers have been answered. We got her a large print Book of Mormon and she says that she will finish it in a few days. Once she receives an answer, she will be baptized. We are teaching a 14-year-old girl, Lucila, who is the daughter of a less active member, but knows nothing about God or religion. She is fairly interested and willing to do what it takes to find out about God and His restored Church. We are also teaching a man named Ron, his ex-wife Crystal, and their son Aaron. Ron says he knows that the Book of Mormon is true and that Christ's Church has been restored. He does have a smoking problem and concerns about tithing. He has also committed a serious crime. They are a good family. We are also teaching an 89-year-old Baptist Sunday School teacher, named Glenn, who has been familiar with Church members all his life. He likes how we live and what we teach. He agreed to be baptized if he receives a witness from God. The only things holding him back are his obligations to his church and family. His dead wife and son are buried next to his Baptist church.

Sorry, that was the Reader's Digest version, but great things are happening! Yesterday Elder Lyman fasted together to be strengthened in our testimonies. I feel very confident in saying that Jesus is the Christ, Joseph Smith is his prophet, the Book of Mormon is Christ's word, and Christ's priesthood power has been restored to the earth. What a blessed knowledge!

I love you all. Sorry this was short. May the love you feel be long lasting. :D

Love, Elder Parker Ayer