It's been another great week living the missionary life. This week has been really slow and really fast at the same time. Let me tell you why!
At the beginning of this week, I started getting really anxious about everything. I'm going to Brazil. Holy cow! I'm going to be surrounded by people who don't speak my language. Wowzers! I don't know when I'm going. Yikes! I need to focus on missionary work here. Sheesh! I've been sworn to secrecy and can't vent any of these feelings to the people around me. Mums! Anyhow, these thoughts and feelings were just a racing in my head. I spent most of my morning exercise time this week praying or thinking.
Well, I kept on getting reports from fellow visa-waiters in other missions who got their visas and were leaving this coming week. I was starting to freak out. However, President Pitt told me to keep it quiet, so I couldn't just call the mission office and ask them when I was leaving. On top of that, it sounded to me as though someone was going to call me and let me know when I was leaving. I didn't know how far in advance, but it sounded as though I wouldn't get much notice so that I would be able to focus more. Also, i had already asked President Pitt once in email how early I was leaving, and he said that he thought I would be leaving at the end of the transfer. I really didn't want to ask him again and sound like the distracted missionary I was while also distracting him from his important work. So, Thursday rolls around. We were out helping with a non-member's Eagle Scout service project when I got a call from Sister Holdstock. She is one of the senior missionaries who is in the office. She is very sweet and she is the one that you talked to before, Mom. Anyhow, she asked if we had a blow-up mattress swimming around in our apartment. I said, yes. Then she asked me if I would bring it with me when I was there "next week" (meaning this week). I said yes, but inside I was thinking "what?" So, that ruminated in my mind for a while. What is going on? I resolved that night to secretly call Sister Holdstock at some point the next day and ask her what was going on. The next day was Friday. A member of our ward, Brother Wells (he also served in Brazil and was a visa waiter in Roanoke and he's the one who sent you the pictures of me), works at a hair salon and really wanted to cut our hair, but could only arrange for a time on Friday. Anyway, we went to his hair salon on Friday. I determined that that was the time I was going to make my move. I got my hair cut first, and then made my move while Elder Russo got his chopped. I went to a corner of the salon and called Sister Holdstock on other pretenses. When I asked my initial question facade, I went in for the kill. "Sister Holdstock," I said, "do you know if President or Sister Pitt are going to call me about my travel itinerary?" She responded that she had the itinerary right in front of her. She said that President Pitt would let me know of the exact details. Then I asked if I really was leaving this week. Then I told her I didn't even know what day I was leaving. She happily filled my need to know. I am leaving for Brazil Wednesdayat about 5 o'clock in the evening!!! I drive up to Charleston tomorrow morning, and I assume that I will spend the night with the Pitts at the mission home. I will arrive in Brazil at about 5 o'clock in the morning on Thursday. Well, after I got the details, I still wasn't sure whether or not I was supposed to tell anyone. That problem was fixed quickly when we got a text message an hour later from Sister Pitt with some more details. Elder Russo read the text and flipped. He and Elder Grajeda both flipped. They felt like they had been deceived because I didn't tell them for two whole weeks. Well, they were a little mad/annoyed, but I was just happy that I could talk openly about it.
So, now I am really excited and scared about what's going to happen. One thing I do know is that it is so important to stay focused on the work. It became very easy over the past few days to become very unmotivated to work and very motivated to daydream. Well, that's no good. I'm glad I was able to catch myself doing it and then stop. This last week I had the opportunity to give my first baptismal interviews. It was a couple who has been familiar with the Church for a while and has finally had things work out in their lives so that they were ready to receive the restored gospel. Anyhow, it was a very cool experience. Their baptism was on Sunday. It was at the stake center, about 20 minutes away. Well, we decided that we wanted to go to it. I mean, it is a baptism. Isn't that what missionary work is all about? The missionaries who taught the couple were in our district, and we should lend them our support, right? Well, these were unmotivated, daydreaming words. I drove us all the way to the stake center, the whole while this feeling started to creep over me. Why are we going? By the time we got to the stake center, I had a knot in my stomach. I could feel the Spirit asking me, "How is this fulfilling your missionary purpose?" Well, the truth was that it wasn't. All that I really wanted to do was see some missionary friends, talk about going to Brazil, and not think about how much help my own area needed. Well, my companions weren't too happy with me when I told them that we were going to turn right around, not go to the baptism, and go knock some doors. We had used several of our limited miles driving to the stake center, why would we waste them by turning around? Instead I thought, "We've already wasted the Lord's miles, why would we also waste the Lord's time?" We turned around and went back to our area. We went to visit our Chinese investigator, but she wasn't home. We went up one floor and knocked on a random door. A kind older woman came to the door. We talked for a good while about church and stuff. Then I pulled out the pamphlet about the restoration of the gospel and showed her the picture of Christ appearing to the people in America. As soon as I showed her the picture, the woman commented on how she loves seeing that picture. Really? I was very surprised. How had she seen this very Mormon picture before during her time as a Protestant? Well, it didn't matter because she made a great connection with the painting. We then told her that it was a depiction from an event in the Book of Mormon. Now it was her time to be surprised. We taught her a little bit about the Book of Mormon, gave her the pamphlet, and then asked if we could come back. She said that she would love for us to come back. It was a very sweet experience. It just showed how a little applied diligence brought great blessings. Who knows what this small amount of effort on our part will work in the life of the daughter of God? It is amazing to contemplate.
Also, do you remember Elder Ballard's talk from conference? He talked about how important it is that every family have a copy of Preach My Gospel and that they study out of it. If you would, I would love to hear what you are learning from it. I will also share with you some of the things that I am learning out of Preach My Gospel. I never really had an appreciation for it before my mission, but I have grown to appreciate it. It is an inspired text. There is so much to learn from it. I study from it every morning, along with the Book of Mormon. This morning I studied chapter 7. I am so excited to learn and speak Portuguese! My favorite part from the chapter is when it talks about the gift of tongues. President Monson has a great quote. he says that all of us need to learn the language of the Spirit. This language overcomes all barriers, concerns, and misunderstandings. How I hope that each of you will be able to develop the language of the Spirit as you seek to understand how to "minister grace" to others and help them come unto Christ. As you begin studying PMG, I would suggest that you study chapter 9. It is all about finding people to teach, and that is the main missionary responsibility of the members of the Church!
I love you all so much. I am excited to go to a foreign place. I am scared to death as well. Please pray for me. Thank you for your prays to this point. Can you please talk to my high school friends who may not be getting these emails and tell them how I'm doing? I would love to hear from them. Please give them my email address or get their email address for me. I love you all so so so so so much!
Love, Elder Parker Ayer
P.S. Today is my 8 month mark. I have already completed 1/3 of my mission. Where does the time go? I've had 1/3 in the US and will have 2/3 in Brazil.
P.P.S. Last Monday we went to the Dixie Caverns as a zone. That's a lot of people to fit in one cavern tour! Anyway, it was really fun. You'll get pictures at some point (whether it's a week from now or 70 weeks from now).
P.P.P.S. I found out that one of my friends from BYU, Kirsten Webber, is from the Roanoke Zone. She is best friends with the Wells' daughter, Jessica. Super cool!
P.P.P.S. The subject line is the way it is because apparently I say those things a lot :D