Monday, August 25, 2014

Carest Thou Not That We Perish?

Dear Family,
Horse hide hat with a horse tail. Nay Verily Nay : )

This week was a bit of a whirlwind. When the winds finally settled at the end, we found that three of God's children were able to enter into the covenant of baptism with HIm. What a blessing! I will explain.

Elisabeth and Teresinha: Elisabeth and Teresinha had baptismal dates for Saturday. However, last Sunday there was an announcement in Church that almost shook them from their goal. The bishop announced a youth dance. Yes, a youth dance. You see, Elisabeth and Teresinha have been hard core Evangelicals for seven years now. That is not easy to shake. Another thing that almost shook them was a discussion last Sunday in Relief Society about baptims for the dead. That was a scary doctrinal point that only added to their fear. Well, Monday rolls in and we're having noite familiar. During the refreshment, Elisabeth started interrogating our recent convert, Vania, if she knew about the church having dances before she was baptised. Vania said that she didn't know. It's true, we forgot to teach her about the church's doctrine on dances. The next day we went to teach them, and Elisabeth was very scared that this could be something she could lose her soul over. She said that she would join the church, but that she was strictly against the idea of a dance and would never attend. That seemed okay, but still a very precarious position to be in, outrightly opposed to an activity of the restored church of Christ. Let's just say that the next hour was a very intense battle in which I had to take many deep breaths, force my voice to be low and quiet, and ask people to be courteous in our discussion. At the end, everything was quiet and settled. They sought more spiritual enlightenment, and we prepared to be baptised on Saturday as they had planned! I am so grateful for the inspiration and calming influence that comes from God. He was able to make things right. Faith in His power carried us to fulfill His designs.

Ian: Ian is the son of Vania and was baptised on Sunday. NOthing went wrong with him this week. At the end of sacrament meeting, his cousin and grandfather appeared. We've already taught them a little bit, and look forward to help them to make sacred covenants this coming week. Grandpa Antonio loved the church and wants to know more!

Nelson: Nelson is an 18-year-old who had a baptismal date for Saturday as well. At the beginning of the week, we tried many times to make contact with him, but we were unsucessful. By the middle of the week, we were desperate to talk to him and help him get ready for baptism. He had already told us about the witnesses he had received of the Book of Mormon. What was going on with him? We called him many times in a row until we were added to some sort of blacklist that could not call for him. We used a calling card to call his number from a pay phone. He answered the phone, but hung up when he heard Elder Rodrigues' voice on the other end. We were absolutely devastated about this. What happened? HOw could he have been so inspired by the Spirit in his reading of the Book of Mormon and then turn completely rude against us? More than that, he was throwing away something precious that might not be offered again to him in this life. I felt very sad. I felt more than sad. It was heart breaking.

On Saturday night, after the baptism of Elisabeth and Teresinha, we went to a devotional transmission of Elder Holland speaking in Rio de Janeiro. It was absolutely wonderful. He would say a little bit in English, and then the translator would say the same thing in Portuguese. It was very cool. I feel especially blessed because all of his powerful statements sunk into my heart twice. He talked about difficulties in this life. He talked about their purpose. He talked about the symbolism of our sacrifices. Everything in this life is symbolic of the life, sacrifice, and victory of our Savior. We experience pain in small symbolism of the ultimate pain He felt. Unlike times of old, we do not offer little lambs in symbolism of the big lamb. We offer a more spiritually mature sacrifice of a broken heart in token of his broken heart. Elder Holland said that a broken heart was the actual physical reason for Christ's death. When the centurion pierced His side, blood and water flowed out from the wound because of a burst heart, a heart that had burst from the powerful weight of the sins of the world. You can read more about this in "Jesus the Christ". It was amazing to contemplate. Elder Holland also spoke about the account in Mark 4 about the calming of the Galilean sea. This was very poignant. He said that the apostles should have trusted more in the Savior to bring them across the sea because He told them himself that they would make it to the other side before starting the journey. I'll have more to tell you about that when I get home.

Suffice it to say that there are many journeys in this life. We must listen to the voice of the Good Shepherd. He will give us the peace and hope that we need in this life. He will tell us of "white shores" and "safe harbors" and then expect us to use our faith in arriving there. Don't jump out of the boat because the storms rage. They will rage. Oh, how they will rage. Perhaps the experience will break our hearts in fear. Perhaps we will break our own hearts in humble submission to the will of God. Iin either way, God will prepare us for a better land of promise if we put it in His hands. I know these things to be true. I love you all. Stay in the good ship.

Love, Elder Parker Ayer

Monday, August 18, 2014

Be Wise

Dear Family,

I am loving the wedding shots! Thanks for including my little baby face! And yes, Dad, I think that the new "missionary on a stick" will catch on. :D

This has been a good week. It started off with Zone Conference on Tuesday. Three zones were present at the meeting from 9 am to 5 pm. This included Elder Stoker from my first MTC district who got his visa several months before I did. It was also very cool because my MTC companion, Elder Findley, arrived from his short stay at the Sao Paulo MTC. It made me remember the day 4 months ago when I arrived during a zone conference. It was great to be able to greet him at such a precariously and emotionally exciting time for him. It is strange to think that I have already been here 4 months and that I am quickly coming up on my year mark. It seems that every night I have a nightmare in which I have finished my mission and already gotten home and then I start having a post-mission crisis. Yikes! Anyway, I am working on making all of the moments here very good. At the zone conference, I also got a very wonderful piece of home in the form of some peanut butter, Fluff, Nutella, cake mix, Lucky Charms, and a letter. Thanks bunches family! I am enjoying ever moment of my homey treats. I forgot how much I like a good old Fluffernutter!

At the zone conference we also talked about baptism, obviously. Baptism is essential to our purpose as missionaries. I understand this. What leaves a bitter taste in my mouth is the reaction some missionaries have to the push to baptize. As I have been thinking about baptism, I have learned that we can have two results from baptism, or any other covenant. We can baptize unto life or we can baptize unto death. The covenant of baptism is a glorious thing that can bring many blessings into our lives. However, this heightened level of blessings also brings a heightened level of responsibility. If we do no fulfill these responsibilities, the covenant will not be a blessing unto us. As missionaries, we have a greater sense of awareness than those we are teaching. We can percieve if they are aptly prepared to enter into such a holy covenant. We need to be aware always lest we baptize someone to their condemnation. In our lives, we need to make sure that we prepare properly for covenants and then fulfill them so that we can be filled with the light and life of Christ.

It has been very exciting for me these last few weeks as my companion and I have been baptizing several people. I never saw this sort of conversion before in my mission. We are looking forward to 4 more baptisms this coming week. It is truly amazing (insert "true and amazing" ditty here) to see the power of the HOly Ghost working in the lives of others. People can change! People can be cleansed from lives of sin and false doctrine. THey can receive the everlasting light of Christ unto life. What a blessing. Last Sunday I was faced with a difficult experience when we encountered a drunk investigator who unashamedly told us all of the things that he has done in his life that he hasn't told us about. I was heart broken. I felt like sitting down on the ground and giving up. We have done so much to try to help this man, and he has so much in his life that needs to be purged from him. This was a big shock to me and I prayed that I would be able to have the faith to help him, that I would be able to have the faith believe that he was in the reach of the Atoning power of Christ. I have been studying this whole week about repentance and the power of the Atonement. I am beginning to have more and more faith in the power of Christ's ability to change us. Faith will manifest itself in the unwearying efforts we make to rescue those under the stain of sin. Let us labor with our might. I have been trying to apply this scripture this past week. Mormon 9:28

"Be wise in the days of your probation; strip yourselves of all uncleanness; ask not, that ye may consume it on your lusts, but ask with a firmness unshaken, that ye will yield to no temptation, but that ye will serve the true and living God."

If we do not ask God in vain, but ask things of Him with a firmness unshaken to do what is right, He will grant strength unto us to do whatsoever is expedient in Him. I love you all. I will be thinking of Mom today as her birthday will be this week. Happy Birthday, MOM! I love you and I hope that you get my letter soon. You all are the best! I know that the power of Christ can redeem us from this "frail existence" and lift us to a more "exalted sphere."

Love, Elder Parker Ayer

Monday, August 11, 2014

Buzz Twoyear of Mission Command

Dear Family,

I love you, I honestly love you! Well, obviously Willanie and Stephiam are now married. This is very exciting. I was glad to hear about all of the exciting things that happened this week, and I am excited to tell you about all of the exciting things that happened to me this week.

Well, I will be brief. Vânia was baptized this last week. It was a definite miracle! The week was filled with trying moments and powerful experiences. MOnday night we had noite familiar in the house of a member with her. She had a concern about baptisms for the dead, which she had heard about the day previously in fast and testimony meeting. We explained a little bit, but didn't have a real chance to sit down and talk with her because of our responsibilities in the family night. We went to her house the next day prepared to clear her mind thoroughly on the subject. Well, she talked to us before we could talk to her. She had prayed a lot about the subject and wasn't worried anymore about the doctrine. Heavenly Father had spoken peace to her mind on the sbuject. We talked to her some more. During the week we got her ready for her baptism which was supposed to happen on saturday. Well, we had a surprise when she said thta Saturday wouldn't work and thta she had to be baptized on Friday. Well, that put a little stress on us trying to get her ready with an interview and everything a day earlier. HOwever, it was possible. Thrusday in the morning I felt impressed to read from my Enlgish Book of Mormon which I haven't used in a while. I started back up where I had been reading in the begining of the war chapters in Alma. I wasn't expecting much, but I received a lot. I read how the Nephite armor wasn't enough to protect them from the pure hatred of the Lamanites. However, the Nephites had a purer cause and prayed to God for support. In verse 50 of chapter 43 in Alma, it says that in the "selfsame hour that they cried unto God for their freedom, they began to stand against the Lamanites with power." That verse really hit me. Later in the day, I was hit by a lot of temptation. I had no idea why. It would have been very easy to give in despite all of the armor of preparation that I had accumulated with my scripture studies. In the moment of greatest weakness and amost defeat, I remembered this scripture and called upon God for strength and power against my spiritual enemies. I was able to overcome the feelings that were surrounding me. Afterwords, I felt very strongly that I needed to fast that day even though I had fasted the day previously during a district fast. Later in the day I found out why. We went to Vania's house to get her ready for her interview. Whn we found her, she was in a state of utter defeat. She has a problem with depression and high blood pressure, and her blood pressure had been soaring all day. When we arived, she told us that she had absolutely no desire to be baptized. We were baffled, but I wasglad that I was able to recognize the influence of Satan in the situation. I asked her about her feelings with other things. I discovered that she had no desire to stay in her house with her children, or even to live. I sat her down and talked toher about a dark moment in my own life when I had felt such depression. I told her about the need her children had of her strength. We were both crying. She said that she needed to go to the hospital, and we called for a member to pick her up. Before she left, we administered a blessing to her. During the middle of pronouncing that blessing, she stopped shaking, which she had been doing very intensely for the last little while. We closed the blessing and opened our eyes to see tears streaming down her face. Before we could say anything more, the member had arrived and taken her away to the hospital. We couldn't think of anything else the entire day and thenext morning. She was supposed to be baptized on Friday. How was she faring? We didn't have any credits onour phone to call for her or the member. In the middle of the day, the member called for us. We were so grateful to answer the phone and hear that Vania was better (still pasando mal) and wanted to be baptized. It was a miracle! That night we got to the chapel and saw her for the first time since the traumatic experience. She was interviewed and baptized. What a miracle! After the baptism, she said that she was feeling completely better. In the gospel principles class on Sunday, she bore testimony to the investigators in the class without being prompted by us to do so. It was wonderful! She is already a great member of the church. I am so grateful for the SPirit, the scriptures, the healing that comes through Christ, and the reunion we can have through Heavenly Father because of that healing. I am also grateful that I was ableto participate in this sacred covenant making experience on the day of my brother's eternal wedding, the ultimate covenant necessary for exaltation that we can make on this Earth. I love you! I tried not to thinkabout the wedding on the day of the wedding, but I'm glad thta I can now. I love all of you to infinity and beyond!

Love, Elder Parker Ayer

P.S. When you are a 20-year-old who looks like a 16-year-old, don't get a buzzed haircut that makes you look like a 12-year-old just because it's a dollar cheaper! :D hahahaha

Monday, August 4, 2014

Tracted into Bruce Willis and Baptized Mariah Carey

Dear Family,

No, I did not tract into Bruce Willis, but yes, I did baptize Mariah Carey. Let me tell the story. On Saturday were the baptisms of Gloria and Mariah Carey; they are the mother and daughter of Joel who we have been teaching for a month or so. It was wonderful! Mariah (named after the famous singer who her dad loves) had some doubts during the middle of the week, but we were able to clear things up. One doubt she had was that she thought she was too young to know exactly what she was doing. She didn't want to make the wrong choice and regret it later. I was amazed by the maturity of the doubt, clearly she was old enough to make this decision for herself. We asked her why she was excited for baptism. She said she didn't know why, she just felt good about baptism. That was very interesting. We explained to her that the Holy Ghost brings these peaceful, reassuring feelings to us about things we may not know for sure. It was a very happy moment Saturday when they were baptized. It was a very exciting moment because the water for the baptismal font has some problems. Anyway, the baptism was delayed a little bit as we carried buckets of water to fill the font. I was mostly scared for Irmã Glória because she is an old woman and the water was not warm. Elder Rodrigues baptized her because she was convinced that he had the physical stamina to lift her from the water (she is scared of water). It went great, and afterwards she said that she didn't even notice the temperature of the water because she felt so good. I had the privilege of baptizing Mariah Carey. When I began the prayer, I tried saying the name with a Portuguese accent. That kind of tripped me up, and then I fumbled some of the other words. Before I restarted the prayer, one of the witnesses told me to say her name like an American. It was pretty funny as I said Mar-r-r-r-riah Car-r-r-r-rey with my hard American r's and then finished her name with Gonçalves Assumpção.

We have another baptism planned this Saturday for a woman named Vânia. It was very interesting to see all of her progression this week. Last Sunday we mentioned something to her about having a family night in the house of a member. Afterwards we didn't remind her about it at all or provide any more details. Monday night we were trying to help Joel's family go to the family night, but it was raining and the kids were acting so crazy that we couldn't get them out the door. We didn't end up going to the member's house for family night. Later we found out that Vania decided to go to family night in the pouring rain with her son and niece without any missionary help. WOW! The next day she also talked with the member about the father of her children who has been returning to her house to break the law of chastity. She recognized that this was something she could not be doing if she wanted to be baptized, and she turned to the member for help. We were able to talk to her as well. She really wanted to stay with this man, but she wanted to do what was right more. She talked to him about her need to follow the commandments, but he did not repect her. She decided to tell him to get lost because she would rather be baptized. It really was a miracle to see this woman's faith overcome the false pleasures of sin. She will be baptized this weekend and her son will be baptized in the coming weeks. What a blessing!

Well, those are the awesome highlights of this week. I'm sorry that I don't have more to say. I already wrote some lengthy letters that kind of drained me of things to say. I love you all! I love being a missionary!

Love, Elder Ayer
Excitement for the wedding of his brother.
Who is that and what is he doing?

Parker in the wedding tie that Will and Stephenie sent.