Monday, June 30, 2014

God Bless America

Dear family,

It has been another crazy week. Let me give some brief, fun, spiritual, loving highlights.

MOnday we watched the jogo of Brazil against ?(20-year-old moment) in the house of the Bishop. It was a lot of fun. They had some good party food. Among the food was something called torresmo. Everything jokes that Americans love bacon, but this was better (and more fattening) than bacon. Oh, it was so good. I looked it up in the dictionary later and found out that I tried good ol' crackling! I am glad that I can get the deep, deep, deep South experience! :D

We had an awesome week for church attendance! We brought an entire family to church. It was so great! They have six people in their family! It was wonderful (and wild)! Anyway, the family is very sweet. They love to sing together. The dad plays the guitar as the rest of the family sings (evangelical) hymns. The oldest child is named Mariah Carey (of course, they have to change the spelling in order to have it come out sounding the same). They are super awesome. It was their first time at church, and the whole world took them in and talked to them and supported them. We are going to have a family home evening with them tonight in the house of the Bishop. It is super great!

For our other investigator, Tiago, he is doing super well. He is continuing to progress. This week he has been working at overcoming his addiction to smoking. He has had some great success. One thing that has been hard is to get him integrated into the ward. He has a lot of shame about his past life following his previous tendencies and attractions. Because of this, he feels ashamed to talkl and interact with members of the ward. Some of the members are not helping because they talk about him in the sense of his personal temptations. They talk about how they have never seen someone with those tendencies make a permanent change. Some of them are afraid to interact with him because of this. Well, this grinds my gears and puts fire in my blood. When I hear this coming out of member's mouths (who should know better), I feel like getting up to the pulpit and joining Brother Brigham in the excitement of exhortation. Well, it is not my place to do that to the ward, but I still want to testify in my words and actions that anyone may change through the Atonement of Christ. To support this, I read from Alma 26. In this, Ammon talks about his and his brothers' misison among the Lamanites, a wicked and idolotrous people. When he and his brothers told the other members of the Church about this, they said that it was a waste of time to try to convert the Lamanites. The brothers were "laughed to scorn" and told that it would be better to take up the sword and "destroy them and their iniquity out of the land". Well, the sons of Mosiah did not take this counsel. Instead, they went in faith to teach the Lamanites and saw one of the greatest conversions in the history of the world. Their bretheren were loosed from the bands of iniquity and were filled with the light of the everlasting Savior. This people would be obedient unto death. These missionaries did not bring in a harvest of half-wits or half-hearts. They brought in the greatest harvest of the children of God. This is my testimony, that the Atonement can take effect in even the greatest of sinners. This is real. I challenge all of you to think of the most sinful person you know and refer them to the missionaries. Perhaps God is preparing them for a change of heart. This change of heart will only be aided by our dedication to love and support all of God's children in righteous endeavors.

Well, I love you all. I love that Sarah will be returning home for the 4th of July. I am happy for you all. I am hoping that some of the Americans in my zone and I will get together today and eat a cheeseburger (with sweet ketchup, potato sticks, and maybe an egg). Keep me in your prayers. I'll keep you in mine.

Yours always,

Elder Parker Ayer

Monday, June 23, 2014

1 year older and wiser too?

Dear Family,

A lot happened this last week. I hope that I can write it all fast enough. I actually planned out my email this week so that I will be able to write about all the things that I need to write.

Okay, I will start out with my birthday. It went well. Mom said to buy a cake for my birthday, but I really didn't feel like eating a Brazilian version of cake for my birthday. I wanted the real deal. Well, when you want something done, it's best to do it yourself. Mondy I went shopping for cake supplies. The cake itself wasn't that hard to buy. I just bought a really good cake mix. Then I had to venture out and get the frosting stuff. I had to search for a while to find some cream cheese, but I got it! Besides tasting a little too salty, it was the same thing as American cream cheese. At the end of the trip to the store, the ingredients had mounted up to about 20 US dollars, but I really wanted that cake. Monday night and Tuesday morning I baked away. I really didn't feel like being a weirdo a baking a cake for my own birthday. Luckily, another sister in our district had a birthday this last week, so I slapped her name on the cake, too, and brought to district meeting birthday morning so that we could have a party. It turned out really well! That day there was also a Brazilian match. We had to stay inside for a few hours. Also, that day was the 2 year anniversary of Elder Rodrigues' church membership. How great!

This last week I was able to witness a great miracle. I am continually grateful that I get to see the Holy Ghost work wonders in the lives of those who open their hearts to Him. A week ago, we were walking down the street when a man introduced himself to us. He said his name was Tiago and that he had been taught by missionaries before. He had felt the Holy ghost testify powerfully of the Joseph Smith story and he believed the CHurch was true, but he unfortunately struggled with same-sex attraction. We set up a time to meet with him for this week. The first meeting went very well. We met in the chapel. He said things like, "Every time I walk into this building, a feel a warm feeling come over me" and "I feel like my actions have separated me from God". He really is golden. We talked to him about the importance of the family and the hope of change. He admitted to us that he couldn't imagine the day when he is able to overcome his feelings and have a family. He looked broken and destitute of hope. We told him that attraction is not sin, but action. I wanted to fill him with all the hope that I have ever felt in my life. I wanted to bear testimony of every experience I have had in which my Heavenly Father kindly reached out and strengthened me to overcome obstacles. I wanted to be like the sons of Mosiah who testified with such strength of the healing power of the Atonement because they had been redeemed from their past as the "very vilest of sinners". At the end of the lesson, he was more hopeful for the future. The next lesson, we taught the Restoration. It was one of the best lessons I have ever had. He already recognizes the promptings of the Spirit testifying of the prophetic calling of Joseph Smith. This when I explained the First Vision, the Spirit easily came into the room and gave confirming power to my mortal, fragile words. It was such a wonderful experience. The meeting was comforting and reassuring, knowing that someone who has been lost in the throws of sin can once again return and heal a broken bond. There is a balm in Gilead, it is the Atonement of our Savior, Jesus Christ. This last Sunday, he was our only investigator to come to Church. He is now doing those things in his life that will help him prepare for an eternity with his Savior. I am sincerely grateful for this experience. And I hope that everyone who reads this will know that there is a way back from a life of sin. It is in a broken heart a contrite spirit. It is in faithful observance of the commandments of a loving Father in Heaven. Stop giving place in your heart for the father of lies and misery, and begin to give place in your heart for the Father of joy and life.

Alright, now for some bullet points of fun things. Here we go!

*I saw 4 wild monkeys this week! They weren't the big kind, but were squirrel sized. How cool!
*I love doce de leite. Take it away before I get fat...ter :D 
*There are lots of types of banana here. One here is really good and has a tangy, orangy taste. 
*Capybaras live along the river here. Last Monday, I saw a huge dead one on the side of the road with flies zooming around it. UGHH!  
*We got permission from the President to watch the jogo today! Yeah! US classified! 
*I tried a coffee alternative this week called cevada. I think it might be like Postum. It was good for the first few sips, but then got gross fast. 
*I had interviews with President this week. Super great! 
*We can watch any church movie about missionary work (The Best Two Years, The Other Side of Heaven, etc) hahaha  
*These fun portugues/englishy words: shopping (mall), tutti frutti (sounds like toochy froochy), pique nique (picnic) 
*I asked someone if she has had beans every day of her life. Yep. I said I eat beans and rice like once a month in the US. She said, "what do you eat every day, hamburgers?" 
*My nickname is Elder Ai because when I get stressed out with the language, I hold my head and say, "Ai" 

Please thank Grandma and Grandpa Eliason for the card. I got it this past week. I love you all and pray for you sempre. You are the best around!

Love, Elder Ayer

Monday, June 16, 2014

Another wonderful flag day

Dear Family,

This email might be a little short. I spent a good amount of time trying to upload a video to the email. It turns out that the video is 1.3 GB and much too big to attach or upload. Anyway, the video shows me being a little goofy, laughing and smiling, saying things like "I love you," and being a very Parker-y missionary who loves his family. I hope that that makes up for the obvious lack of video. I love you!!!

HAPPY FATHER'S DAY, FATHER!!! You are a great example to me. Thank you for the encouraging words. They really do help. I refelct on your missionary stories often as a source of strength.

Also, HAPPY FLAG DAY!!! Boy, this one was great. Actually, this is probably the best time for flag day in Brasil. During the world cup, people are patriotic here. People love football here, closely followed by God and family. Everyone has a flag hanging outside their house, hanging from their car, on their shirt, etc. The cup of the world really is super crazy. We aren't allowed to watch the games, but we see a lot of them just because all of the little stores have the games playing on a giant big screen tv. Everyone is fixated on those screens. When Brazil plays, we have to stay inside our apartment. They've only played once so far. During the game, we knew everytime Brazil scored because the entire world went crazy. Vuvuzelas, fireworks, cheers, screams, pounding, etc. It is very exciting, and makes for a good talking point when we start up a conversation with someone. The next jogo is tomorrow during my birthday! It looks like all of Brazil will be having a party just for me. :D

The work here has been going well. We keep seeing miracles. We keep being led to the people that are prepared to receive the gospel, the meek and humble who really want to seek out the truth. It is very good. We have one investiagtor right now named Wagner who is preparing for baptism. He really wants to learn English, too, which becomes a bit of a problem during lessons because he starts translating everything that we say into English and then looks at me for confirmation. It's a little funny, but really distracting, too, because I can't switch easily from English to Portuguese and back again.

Everything is going well! I am super happy to be here. I have been studying faith and how we can work miracles through our faith in the Lord. Be faithful. Seek out the promises of the Lord. Do all you can to fulfill the promises so that He can bless you. Rinse and Repeat. Sorry, everything serious has to be followed by something goofy. I better kick this before I turn 20!

I love you all! Have some yummy breakfast on my birthday. I'll be eating corn starch mash. :D (it's good, albeit strange) I love you!

Love, Elder Parker Ayer

Monday, June 9, 2014

When you are happy and you know it, clap your hands.

Dear family,

Well, I am going to be a little honest. But do not worry, the honesty has a happy ending. By the way, this keyboard only types in Portuguese, so I do not have the capability of making apostrophes, so excuse the formal language or typos. Anyway, I think that I experienced depression for the first time this week. It was the strangest feeling. It came a little bit at a time since I got to the Brazilian mission field, but really manifested itself this last week. Holy heartbreak, batman! Im not sure if that phrase really quite fits right here, but it was the first thing that came to mind. Anyway, things kind of all mounted this week. No, it wasnt any one incident that set things off. In fact, nothing out of the ordinary that made me feel so crummy. The weirdest thing was that I thought I was acting perfecty normal, and my companion kept asking me over and over again if I was sad. No, Im not flippin sad! It was frustrating. I would walk and think to myself about all that was going on, within and without the mission field. My companion would also tell me about several other American missionaries who had come to the field after waiting for visas and were sent home because of extreme depression. When we got home, I would listen to general conference talks from the apostles to try to cheer me up. It was ineffective. I read a talk by Orson Pratt (?, dont quote me on it), about the Potter and the Clay; it talked about how those who are humble can be molded in every situation by the Master Potter and live happily and cheerfully. Well, why wasnt I? I felt like the most humble of all. I, who couldnt speak. I, who had learned lots of things already but was restarting at square one. Well, the I´s had it. I believe Anne Hathaway once talked in a movie about how often we repeat the word I and dont think about others. Yeah, that was happening. One morning this week, I was reading in Preach My Gospel about how to recognize the spirit. The chapter talked about the importance of receiving personal revelation for ourselves and to help others in their progression towards Christ. I realized that I hadnt tried at all to receive revelation for myself or others. I had completely disregarded the importance of prayer, and had not been using my gift to receive direction from the Holy Ghost. At that moment, I was done with feeling crummy. I bowed my head, folded my arms, and closed my eyes. In simple terms, I told Heavenly Father about what was going on. I told Him that I did not want depressive feelings because they were not benefitting me as a missionary. I asked Him to take them away. When I was finished, I began making plans for my new life as a missionary. That day was the best day in Brazil. I talked confidently with the members we ate lunch with. I was cheerful and energetic the entire day. I talked with everyone I saw. That day, my companion and I talked with 40 people in the street, and we saw so many miracles. Since then, we have found several new people to teach. Some of them have accepted the baptismal invitation. We had a stake conference on Sunday, a broadcast from Salt Lake. Three of our investigators came. Even better, another man from our area came who we had never met before, and now he wants to learn more. There are so many things that I have been learning in my time as a missionary. We cannot sit by. We cannot be content. We cannot be things to be acted upon. We were made to act. Yes, God is at the head of this great and eternal work. That does not eliminate our personal responsibility. We can plan and directly act. In doing so, we can expect the blessings and guidance of God to follow. Make an evaluation today of what you are doing and who you are. Make a plan to improve. Promise the Lord that you will follow this plan. Act in all diligence. See miracles follow. I know that God wants to bless us greatly. We need to allow Him to by acting in faith and in all diligence. I love you all! Sorry for not responding to your questions and emails. Go BRAZIL!

Love, Elder Parker Ayer

Monday, June 2, 2014

Abride with Me

Dear family!

I love being a missionary, it is so great!

There are a bunch of stories and things that I need to tell you.

First, a miracle story from last week that I forgot about. We were walking along the street and I saw a sign for Churros (shu-hus). Well, that was exactly what I felt like eating, so we stopped and I offered to buy some for my companions also. Well, the lady cut up the dough for the churros, and I was like, "that is the most pathetic churro I have ever seen. I can buy one 3 times as long as that for 1 dollar at Costco!" Well, my doubts were soon pacified when the woman then took the churro and filled it with leite condensado (sweetened condensed milk) and chocolate (chocolate). Oh my goodness, that churro was out of this world! Anyway, we were standing there eating our churros and I started talking to the lady about the Church. I wasn't able to pay yet because another car drove up and the lady had to start making more churros. Well, a man got out of the car and stood there waiting for his churros as we talked more about the gospel. The man hadn't even said a word, but when the lady finished his churros, he asked if he could pay for our churros as well! What a blessing! Nephites still walk the earth, and the Lord is fulfilling his promise to his servants that they shouldn't worry about what they should eat or drink because they will be provided for. :D

Second, the greatest contacting story of my mission. We stopped by a church waiting to cross the street. As we waited, I look around and noticed that there was a wedding in the Church. And what do you know, the bride was sitting in the car. As I thought more and more about the situation, that weird feeling started bubbling up inside of me that I was going to do something crazy and irrepressible. I consulted with my companion; he advised that I not. And yet there was that nagging feeling. I did it quickly before I could think too much about how ridiculous it was. I walked up to the car, extended my hand through her open car window to shake her hand, and said, "Parabens, nossa presente para voçê," (Congratulations, our present for you) and gave her a copy of the Book of Mormon. I couldn't think of anything else to say, so I walked quickly back over to where my companion was. Once we walked across the street, I looked back and noticed some things I hadn't realized before. The church was the Assembleia de Deus, a church which despises our church. I also noticed that the bride was no longer in the car. I had given the Book of Mormon to her in the most likely most terrifying few moments previous to the beginning of the ceremony! Well, I know that she will now always remember the Mormon missionaries, and I hope that our encounter helped calm some of her nerves. :D

Also, that breakfast stuff is called mingau. Apparently there are several ways to prepare it. I learned about one way this past week. Heat 1 cup of milk, two tablespoons of corn starch, and 2 tablespoons of sugar in a pan over the stove and stir until it thickens. There might be more steps, but that's the basic gist of it!

Also, musical ability is really lacking here. Most people can't sing the melody of hymns very well, and no one sings the harmony. Well, yesterday in Church, the singing was sounding pretty stable and intune. I decided to venture from my position of support and test out a harmony. It was great! I felt so good to sing a little harmony again. Well, Brazilians don't mince words. Later, my companion told me that it was annoying to other when I sing the "other notes". hahaha Now I'm supposed to sing hymns they way they're supposed to be sung. OOPS! :D

Can I just tell you that I love the rules? I love obedience. Here, there is a culture of disobedience. It's been a little hard to be patient with this. I can just tell you that obedience is so freeing. When we obey, we have the promise of the Lord that He will bless us. He WILL! How can we hope to affect the lives of others for eternity if we don't have the faith to be obedient? I love the words of the Savior from hymn number 185. "Be obedient, I implore. Prayerful, watchful, evermore. And be constant unto to me that thy Savior I may be." We allow the Savior to save us when we are obedient. I love you all. There is so much I want to say, but so little time. I only have an hour for email. I love you!

Love, Elder Parker Ayer