Monday, July 28, 2014

Faith in Every Footstep

Dear family,

I am loving life as a missionary. Sometimes, I take moments to stop and think about what it is I am doing. What a blessing!

This week was especially great. I am still recovering from excitement from the baptism last week, and I am being swept up in the exciting plans for a baptism this coming week.

Once again, I didn't really leave any time to type a real email for you all. I am so sorry. I will try to sum up quickly the joy of this last week by telling a story from yesterday.

We found out Saturday night that we wouldn't be able to use the Bishop's car to take our investigators to church. This was an extreme bummer since we were really relying on this to transport our investigators. I looked at the money I had and asked myself if I was willing to pay the price to have my faith bring our investigators to church. I decided that we would have to pay the way for all of the members of this large, poor family to get to church. Well, we had to arrive at their house earlier than usual. When we arrived, we found that no one had woken up yet. This was the first blessing of the situation. We had been inspired by the situation to get to the house earlier and were able to make sure that they went to church. Then we found out that the matriarch of the family (who has a date to be baptized this week) would not be able to go to church because she was not feeling well. That would not do. She had to go to church in order to be baptized. We entered her tiny room and found her on her bed. THe pamphlet about the gospel of Jesus Christ was on her pillow. She can't read, but told us that she had been studying the pictures, pondering and praying about baptism. She said she got an answer from God that she needed to be baptized. She said she needed to be baptized before she died. This sweet 73-year-old grandmother was filled with faith. We offered to give her a blessing of health so that she could go to church. She accepted. My companion anointed and I blessed. With chilling wonder words of power came to my mind as I commanded this daughter to arise and that generations of her family would bless her name. After the prayer, she did arise and accompanied the rest of the family to church. It was a moment of surrene and simple goodness. I am so grateful for this chance to fight against the works of darkness and to establish light in the lives of the children of God.

I love you. I am grateful for your love. May God bless this family so that no unhallowed hand may stop the work of God in the loves of those who matter most to us.

Love, Elder Parker Ayer
Scavenger's Handcart

Monday, July 21, 2014

Faith, Promises, and Covenants

Dear Family,

This was very big week for me. It was one of the best weeks of my mission. Let me quickly expain, no, let me sum up.

The baptism of Lia happened this week. She is the young lady I mentioned who came up to us in the street one day and asked to meet with us. She is also the one who I taught about the woman at the well and being made whole through the living waters and the fountain of life. This week was a miracle. She left today to travel to her mom's house for vacation. We really wanted to baptize and confirm her before she left. She made a lot of rapid and surprising progress during the week that made her ready for baptism on Saturday. It was a great tender mercy for me as well. She really is my investigator to be baptized. I was there when she was found and taught. I received revelation to teach her. I had her in my prayers. Finally, I had the great privilege of going into the water with her to perform the sacred ordinance. It was a special occasion. It was made more special for me when I realized that this was the very weekend, a year ago, that I received sacred covenants in the temple. It is a miracle. And today is the day that Grandpa Ayer passed away. I know that he and others have been guiding me on the other side of the veil to find, teach, and baptize people while enduring the rigors of the work. It is a great blessing. I know that Christ lives. I know that we can return to our Heavenly Father because of Him. I know that we will be prepared for that return through the Holy Spirit. I know this power of the spirit is real. I felt it flow through me as my companion and I laid hands on Lia's head and told her to receive the Holy Ghost. This power is real. THis work is real. Lay aside every corruptible thing and grasp those things of eternal and incorruptible weight and significance. You can find these things through the words of the prophets. I wanted to say more about faith and promises, but I don't have time. Know that a servant of God can give us no greater gift than the promise of the Lord. Begin to recognize His promises and have the faith to do the basics.

Love, Elder Ayer

Monday, July 14, 2014

To the Jew and to the Gentile

Dear Family,

This week was wonderful! Well, that is despite for the shame of the Brazilian soccer team. Yeah, I'll say a little more about that later.

Anyway, last Monday was really great. We spent the day having a churrasco in the house of a great member named Geraldo. Churrasco means barbecue, but the barbecue's in Brasil are really different from American barbecues. And to be honest, I like the churrascos here more. Basically, someone keeps making really salty, tasty meat on the grill until you explode from everything that you are eating. It is really great.

After the barbecue, we had a family night with our investigator Lia. We met her the other day in the street. She came up to us and asked to be taught. :D She has been taught in the past, but moved away. She finally got around to talking to the missionaries again. Anyway, she brought a friend with her to the family night. I didn't realize until we got there that the friend was an Israeli Jew who was traveling through South America, didn't speak any Portuguese, and spoke English. How cool! Anyway, I talked to him for the whole night. It was very interesting to listen to him talk about living in Israel. He said that he hadn't ever heard the name of Jesus Christ until he was an older teenager. His mother is kosher, but he doesn't practice like she does. He is very interested in learning about Jesus Christ. Some of this interest comes from a false perception of who He is because he believes that Jesus is some person who taught others to do what they want and just love people. I thought of the talk by Elder Holland when he denounced the view of Jesus Christ as a "smooth" God, but testified of the Biblical character of Jesus Christ as someone who established the importance of commandments. I helped him understand that Jesus Christ's message is a message of love through commandments that bring us joy. He asked another interesting question about how I am different from him today because of my faith. That was an interesting question. I am continuing to think about it, but the joy of the gospel of Christ is clearly that today we have the opportunity to receive a remission of our sins and strength in our trials. It was very interesting to talk to him. At the end of our encounter, I was more than happy to give him a copy of the Book of Mormon (luckily the member had one in the house). He was very interested to read it. Interestingly, I know I can trust the Book of Mormon to clearly teach the relationship between the Jewish faith and Christianity. Jewish belief in its purity is the same thing as Christianity. The prophets in the Book of Mormon knew of Christ, and the believers were even referred to as Christians because of their belief in Christ. Abinadi taught to foolish priests that the meaning of the law was fulfilled in Christ. I know that if this Jew reads it, he will know of the importance of Christ in his life. The Book of Mormon was written to the convincing of Jew and Gentile. The only thing that made this Hebrew encounter any better was that his name was Chaim. How great! I asked him about Fiddler on the Roof, and he said that he had already seen it. Le chaim!

Also, Lia is doing very well. We taught the gospel of Jesus Christ, and it went just perfectly. We only made it to the front cover of the pamphlet. Elder Rodrigues asked if she would like to see the Bible video about the Samaritan woman at the well. I was confused why he felt like we should watch it. Despite my doubts, it went perfectly. We discussed the video afterwards. She talked about an emptiness she had felt inside of her when she wasn't being taught by missionaries. I talked about how Christ's promise to this woman was that she could have a fountain of eternal life springing up inside of her forever. Right now, Lia is coming to the well to draw water. She is meeting with missionaries to feel the joy of the Spirit. However, the promise of Christ is that through the cleansing of baptism, we can receive the gift of the Holy Ghost so that He can always dwell with us and we can receive a promise of eternal life during this mortal probation. We are empty because we have left the presence of a loving Father in Heaven. We will feel whole when we begin to accept the presence of His holy representative, the Holy Ghost, permanently inside our hearts. This is the pursuit of a lifetime. We must always live worthy of this eternal fountain. Lia was very moved by the lesson. She came to Church on Sunday and will be baptized this coming Sunday!

So, I am feeling more and more Brazilian. I can tell because I cringed during the entire game with Germany. (we were allowed to watch the match) It was really disheartening and sad. Well, afterwards we were scared of angry Brazilians. Apparently, some other American elders were threatened with death by a crazy Brazilian because they appear German. So, we took precautions and stayed inside after the jogo while things calmed down. The next day, everyone gave me weird looks and lots of people asked me if I was German. Nope, cuz I'm proud to be an American, where at least I know I'm free... (cue my patriotic music from last week). Anyway, it was really interesting.

I love you all! I am doing great! I feel your love and I am so thankful! One week left in the transfer. I am hoping for a little change. We will see!

Love, Elder Parker Ayer

Monday, July 7, 2014

Salute to Chuck Shepard

Dear Family,

Well, a lot of good things happened this week, here and abroad. I hope that more emails flood in so that I can read about my favorite sister returning to my favorite family and our favorite home. Until then, here are some things that happened while I am here doing my favorite thing, missionary work! :D

Last Monday, we had a noite familiar with our investigators. We brought them to church last week, and they loved it! THeir names are Joel and Alcione, and they have 4 children. We had a lot of fun at the Bishop's house as we played that game where you put a sticky note on your forehead with some name of a famous person. Anyway, it was a lot of fun. The next day, we brought members with us to teach the plan of salvation. THe LOrd perfectly laid the foundation of our lesson; Alcione started talking about the children she had lost and the grandchild she had lost as well. I was able to bear testimony briefly about modern revelation that gives us hope for the eternal salvation of those who have died in childhood. The Spirit immediately entered the room. There was silence, and there were tears in Alcione's eyes. We had a prayer, and commenced to teach about the mighty plan of God. Due to many talks in church about genealogy and temple work, we also taught about the temple. It was amazing to see them be filled by this profound doctrine through their simple faith. It was amazing. We talked to them about marriage and baptism. They have committed to do both! We are very excited for them, and we are working on marriage papers for them AGORA. Unfortunately, they weren't able to come to church this Sunday because Joel spent the night drinking and passou mal. It just goes to show that the vices of men always get in the way of us obtaining those things which are most dear and precious to us. Luckily, there is repentance and the ability to change. We are looking forward to their continued progression.

Lots of America this week. On Tuesday, EUA unfortunately lost in the jogo contra Belgica. However, I'm sure they were easily cheered up in the following days by singing some very patriotic songs. "Cuz I'm glad to be an American where at least I know I'm free..." Yep, as you probably imagine, that is what I did on ye olde Fourth of July. I woke up feeling a little trunky. NO watermelon. NO lake. NO blueberry pie. Well, freedom and America are a lot more than that. I started going through the hymn book and singing all of the patriotic songs to myself. Well, that was good, but I really wanted to listen to someone else sing these songs to me. At last I remembered my first area in West Virginia. There was an old war (Second World and Korea) vet in the ward named Chuck Shepard who we brought the sacrament to. He really liked to make "photoshows" about his military service with accompanying patriotic music. He had given me one of his videos. I searched through my bags, but found nothing. I said a prayer and searched some more. Finally, I found it! I put it in our DVD player and hoped for the best. SUCCESS!!! I played that video and listened to a little piece of America. Well, my South American missioary housemates were in somewhat of a mood and didn't seem to want my American spirit around. They asked, are these hymns? Yep! These are hymns in the hymnbook! I can listen to them! They grumbled a few things about America and how Brazil is better because Santos Dumont invented the first airplane and not the Wright Brothers (okay, you have the airplane and we have freedom and everything else). Sorry, this isn't meant to sound discouraging, but I was really feeling the American love that day. It was really good. Also, I started making an Americna flag from paper. All I need now are some star stickers. Also, I got to hear fireworks! It was Independence Day! Everyone was setting off fireworks because Brazil won the jogo! It was a great day.

I am loving the time here in Brazil. I am loving the people. Miracles happen every day. The spirit testifies of truth. The spirit guides us. We are being redeemed as we help in the redeeming work of others. It is a miracle. The purifying influence of the Spirit is the only thing that will prepare us for an eternity in the pure presence of our Father. Everything we do in this life should lead us and others to make and keep covenants which magnify the influence of the Spirit in our lives.

I love you. I think about you, but not too much (okay, I am working on it). It's hard, but it will bring blessings. I love you.

Love, Elder Parker Ayer

P.S. I found a place that sells waffles. You can bet I bought it and ate it!

P.P.S. All the members here refer to each other as Irmã ou Irmão (first name) without fail. This is the rule here in Brazil. No one is referred to by their last name except the missionaries.

P.P.P.S. We have a mission song. It reminds me of the Hill Cumorah Pageant song. Lots of good words mixed in together put to a tune that doesn't make much sense. It's fun to sing! (and fun to hear people try to sing it)