Monday, September 29, 2014

Faith-Trying Experiences

Dear Family,

Things are going very well. There are continually faith-trying experiences that lead to wonderful experiences if our faith is tried true. This week was no exception.

ON MOnday we had our usual family home evening with members, recent converts, and investigators. I don't think I told you, but we have been working exclusively for the past few months in a specific bairro in our area. The bairo is Sao Pedro. We have been building the area up through family home evening. Every Monday we have a family home evening in the house of a different person. Monday we had the noite familiar in the house of Antonio who was baptized at the beginning of the month. It was somewhat of a miracle because his wife is somewhat frumpy and doesn't like the idea of "another church" too much in her house. Finally, she conceded the noite familiar. It went super well! She participated in the lesson and activity. She also made a delicious cangiquinha for us. I don't know exactly how to explain this food, but it's a soup type thing that has sausage and that corn stuff that isn't normal corn. Anyway, it went super well and everyone had a good time. Tonight we are going to have the noite familiar in Lia's house (remember my first baptism here on July 19th?). It should be great!

Well, this week we were working exclusively with our investigators with baptismal dates. We had a bunch at the beginning of the week that were planned to happen Sunday. They had all gone to church a few times already and the activity with the pancakes. Unfortunately, many of them didn't actually want to be baptized, or didn't want to do what was necessary to know the truth and promise to be faithful until the end. There are always problems with this. It's really annoying when people want to talk to us because of the "blond American". Anyway, their faith and real intent was tried this week along with my faith and real patience. A few baptismal dates fell very fast. The dates that seemed most segure were for Carlos, Fabiana, and Luis. We were teaching Carlos and hoping that we could start teaching the whole family. We had already taught his mom, Roberta. She said how much she loved our message. She loved that God would speak to us again through another book, the Book of Mormon. She said how she would support her son cem percento in the church. Well, Mormon was certainly hitting the nail when he wrote these choice verses in Helaman chapter 12.

"And thus we can behold how false, and also the unsteadiness of the hearts of the children of men; yea, we can see that the Lord in his great infinite goodness doth bless and prosper those who put their trust in him. Yea, how quick to be lifted up in pride; yea, how quick to boast, and do all manner of that which is iniquity; and how slow are they to remember the Lord their God, and to give ear unto his counsels, yea, how slow to walk in wisdom’s paths! Behold, they do not desire that the Lord their God, who hath created them, should rule and reign over them; notwithstanding his great goodness and his mercy towards them, they do set at naught his counsels, and they will not that he should be their guide."

In the middle of the week we talked to Roberta again about her son's baptism. She flipped out. There was no way that he was prepared. There was no way that he would ever be able to do what was right. I felt sorry for him because of the lack of faith that this mother had in her own son to change and become better. Then entered Carlos' dad. Roberta and Carlos Sr. went to town in a screaming match that obviously involved some problems that exist outside of our influence. It didn't end to well. The next day, Carlos said that he would choose hhis own church even though he had received a witness from God of the truth. He said that he wanted to choose for himself. It made me very sad also when he finally told us that the main reason he didn't want to join the church was that he didn't want his parents to separate because of the decision. That's a hard burden for a twelve-year-old to bear. Anyway, a few days later we found out that Roberta had been talking to our other investigator, Luis, about the church, saying that it was of the devil and other ludicrous things. The children of men really are so unsteady and do not want God's wisdom to lead them.

Luis and Fabiana are siblings. Fabiana works in the supermarket with our recent convert, Vania. We have been struggling a lot to help Fabiana and Luis. They weren't praying at all, with us or alone. The weird thing is is that they still wanted to be baptized. I was sensing some other motives for being baptized, and that scared me. There is no way that anyone can be baptized without first praying, I said to them. Wouldn't it be ridiculous to think that someone could enter into a covenant with Heavenly Father without first talking to Him? We prayed a lot for them to be able to pray, and they finally did. It was interesting to see how fast their progression went after that. They had been going along very slowly until they prayed. When they prayed, they received a witness of the truth, they realized the importance of their decision, they became participators in this important moment in their lives. We were very excited for them. After that, there were others difficulties to conquer. Fabiana is 19 and has a boyfriend. That is one major problem. We have been trying to help her understand the importance of the law of chastity. I think initially she started to receive the discussions because she met two handsome (if I do say so myself), foreign young men who were friends of her colleague. Thus, we have already heard the snickers of her friends as they have talked to us. Anyway, she finally caught the importance of the message when she started praying. However, one night we were there talking to her about the importance of chastity and her mom said something about how Fabiana will come home with me to the US. I said, "Um, no, sorry". It was weird, but it gave me a little leverage to teach the message. I said that I would NEVER date a young woman outside of the church who breaks the law of chastity. She became a little more serious after that. She still having problems, but she is improving. She wasn't baptized on Sunday, but we will work with her more to help her reach her goal.

Luis had some problems with Anti-Mormon talk before baptism (Roberta being one of the sources). Luckily, we were able to work with him and he overcame the doubts. He was baptized on SUnday, and it went great!

There were still more things that happened during the week, but so little time to tell. I love you forever and for always!

Love, Elder Parker Ayer

P.S. My ward is named Manchester because Manchester is the nickname for the city of Juiz de Fora. I think it's a great tender mercy that I get to be serving in the Manchester Mission!

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Answer to the Riddle is Cakes on the Griddle

Dear Family,

This week was another wonderful week in missionary land! Missionary Land because missionary life is like an amusement park. SOme of the rides really don't require that much courage, and really don't give that much enjoyment. Other rides require a lot of courage and leave you feeling a little pukey at the end, but still glad that you did it. This last week I felt some of those physical manifestations of missionary challenges. :D

Anyway, the week has been going great. We have several investigators who are working to be ready for baptism this week. Their names are: Fabiana, Luis, Ana Paola, Bruna, Norma, and Carlos. We will be praying a lot this week for all of them to be prepared to be baptized. We have taught them about almost everything. Some of them are having trouble understanding the importance of the comandments. It's caused a little bit of a disturbance in their preparation to be baptized. The problem is that they aren't praying fervently enough to know if our message is true. They want to follow the Savior, and they feel good at church and with us. The thing is that now they have to do exercise a little faith. If they would pray to the Father to know if our message is true, I know that they would then have enough faith to trust more in the Father's servants and keep the commandments. That goes for all of us. If we would just daily renew the firm assurance we have in things of righteousness, through the ministrations of the Holy Ghost, we would have the daily faith necessary to keep commandments and fulfill covenants. Remember, "if the Savior stood beside me, would I do the things I do?" Well, if we can feel His presence next to us and openly recognize it, we would give pause to give in to temptation.

Anyway, that is our ongoing battle with our beloved investigators. Just pray!

Like I said, I had some physical manifestations of some missionary stress this last week. This is the gross part that you don't want to read at the dinner table (if you are reading at the dinner table). It started at the beginning of the week. My shoes have been wearing down. Also, my feet walk in a funky way so that it affects my soes to conform to the funk, so that my shoes make my feet walk even more extremely to one side. Well, I have been trying to self correct it by walking entirely on the other side of the shoe. This has been a bit of a painful process as all of a sudden my left foot has been forming some of the grossest blisters and a wart/furuncle/whatever. Don't worry too much as I have been able to care for everything using first aid stuff. Also, I have had a pretty carefree attitude here so far about food. If it's there, I'll eat it. Well, this caught up to me pretty quick this last week when I ate something that started do "around the world"s with my weak American belly. That's right, the big D. It was Friday and I woke up to a horrible pain in my stomach. I rushed to the bathroom to find that I had diarrhea. Afterwards, I rushed to the bathroom several more times that morning to discover the same thing. Well, I laid down in my bed that morning watching 17 Miracles as my companion figured out some things. I have no idea why I watched 17 Miracles since crying my eyes out surely didn't relieve anything. Anyway, I got better enough to go help with a service project at the Bishop's house of sanding the walls in preparation for painting, but ended up sleeping on his couch. Then that night we had our big pancake activity at the church, the theme of which I was completely in charge of producing. Luckily my USS Constitution became ironsided enough to not need the bathroom anymore, but I was still feeling a little shaky. After running around like a crazy man, everything turned out well. Grandpa's pancakes were adored by everyone there. We also had toppings of chocolate cream, strawberries, whipped cream, and syrup. It was awesome. There were 70 people there! Only 20 less than normally come to church on Sundays, and 15 of them were our investigators! It was really awesome! I didn't eat a single pancake, but was glad everyone liked them. The next day I couldn't smell anyfood with feeling like throwing up. Happily, I am all better now, and I am feeling like your probably don't want to read anymore about my internal physical problems.

Anyway, things are going marvelously! I love my companion, I love my calling and my assignment, I am feeling very capable language-ly, I love our ward members, and I love learning more about the gospel of Jesus Christ. To add to all of that love, I love you! What a great thing! Be grateful, smart, clean, true, humble, and prayerful!

Love, Elder Parker Alan Ayer

"You dream of me, and I'll dream of you"

Monday, September 15, 2014

Run and Not Be Weary, Walk and Not Faint

Dear family,

This week may have been the most work-filled week of my mission. It was awesome! It just feels so good to get to a P-day and have your mind filled with all of the miracles, challenges, and fun things of the week. I know I have been fulfilling my call to serve the Lord!

I don't really know exactly how to go about writing this email, so I'll write in a rambling fashion as things present themselves to me.

First, we had lunch this last week with the family that has helped us the most so far in this ward. I really love them all! This is the family that you have seen in practically all of the baptism pictures so far. They have basically adopted Lia, my first baptism here. THey are all so great! Well, we were at their house a few weeks ago for noite familiar and in passing conversation that night I said that I don't like sardines. I'm not really sure if I ever ate sardines in the US, but maybe it's just that stigma that sardines have. However, the people here love sardines. Well, lo and behold, that night the refreshment was a savory torta with sardines. I laughed off what I had said earlier and got a plateful. I decided for myself that night that I did not like sardines. Well, Irmã Penha is a little sneaky and was just waiting for an opportunity to stump me. So, ate lunch the other day she said that we would be eating fish. She fried some fish and we ate. It didn't seem really weird. It tasted fishy, maybe too fishy. Well, after finishing my first fry, she happily told me that I had eaten sardines as if she had caught my American tastebuds in a trap. Well, it turned out funny in the end, but I think I'll keep on with something a little more tame, like salmon or tilapia.

During the middle of the week, there was a special forum on religious liberty that was being directed by the stake president here. He had arranged for the two zones o missionaries in the stake to sing at the meeting. We found out about this after we had already planned some lessons for that night. Well, we really didn't want to miss out on teaching. We had to be at our house at 6:00 so that we could walk to the building to arrive early for a rehearsal of the hymn to be presented. However, we were teaching really great lessons, and when we finished, we looked down at our watches and saw that it was already 6:10. We were in a neighborhood far from our house, where it usually takes 30-40 minutes of walking to get home. Well, that couldn't happen. Oh, I had also been told that I would be the one conducting the choir. I looked at my thin, fit companion and then looked at me. Well, it was up to me. I turned to him and said that we would be running. Yeah, I definitely wasn't conditioned for that. I picked up my side bag in my arms and we started off. We ran on the trail through the woods behind the favela, we dodged drunken German-festival-goers, and sped past the statues of the virgin mother. As I was running, I thought of my own lack of ability and then kept repeating in my mind that revelatory promise, "you shall run and not be weary". When we arrived at home, it was 6:30 and we were drenched in sweat. We changed quickly and headed out the door 10 minutes later. We arrived at our destination at exactly 7 o'clock. I was still drenched in sweat. I was a little disappointed when we got there and waited 30 more minutes without rehearsing and I found out that my conducting services would not be needed. The extended effort which had seemed so necessary before turned out to be very unnecessary. I still felt good that we had kept our commitment to be there ready on time. I was also grateful that the Lord had been able to show me through the extra exertion that He would strengthen and support us. Well, that continued to prove itself true. I never knew that a few minutes of running would kill me and my companion for the rest of the week. We didn't run any more the rest of the week, but continued to walk. Up a morro (hill) and down a morro. Up the escadão (stairs that lead up a hill) and down the escadão. I then had the opportunity to repeat the rest of that revelatory promise, "you shall walk and not faint". It was interesting to see how the Lord had sustained us in the action of faith, but how we were required to pay for the exercise of that faith. I think I would have preferred to pay for my faith before through some proper training. :D

We had another opportunity this week to meet as missionaries of the stake in a service project. The church here has been working on a huge project to deliver wheelchairs to those who need them in the community. This Saturday was the culmination of the project. We helped organize and distribute 308 wheelchairs to chosen recipients in one of the chapels of the stake. It was amazing to see the happy faces of children receiving desperately needed wheelchairs. It was such a great experience! It was made a litle more fun when some gentile came up to me in the midst of it all and asked if I would do an interview for him. Sure! I was a little scared, but the words came tumbling out just right. I spoke about how the Savior had helped the lame walk. I talked about the joy of missionay service. I also talked about the tradition of missioary service in my own family and how dear they are to me. I don't know exactly for whom he was doing the interview, but maybe you'll find someting if you google "Elder Ayer" and "cadeira de rodas".

This week we had been working a lot to contact all of the people who would receive a wheelchair. The church gave us their information so that we could deliver some important information and share the message of the Restoration with them. The success was amazing! We had many miracles sharing the gospel with these people. We were able to find 17 new investigators, bring 6 people to church, and mark 9 baptismal dates. It is amazing to see how such Christ-like service has led people to hear about the restored gospel!

In Gospel Principles on Sunday, we talked about developing talents. Elder Alexsandro said some nice things about me, including my talent to sing. Then more people started saying nice things about me, too. It felt great! I'm not going on in boasting, but it made me think about how important it is to say nice things to others. It's been about 4 months now that I've been in the ward, and I have felt such joy and love in serving along with these people. Of course, this story has a funy side, too. After gospel principles class, we had sacrament meeting. We were talking to lots of people and trying to work some things out, so we did not arrive early in the chapel to prepare for the meeting. Well, I walked in and someone asked if I play the piano. Before I thought about why they were asking, I said that I played a few hymns. Well, that was enough to have me assigned on the spot to play for sacrament meeting due to the absence of the usual pianist. I hadn't practiced recently and my nerves were enough to send me into shock. The effect was humorous for me. My fingers were so jumbled that nothing came out right. My only consolation was that the congregation wasn't singing the right notes either. :D It was enough to send me back into humility after the great class and consider burrying this "talent" a little deeper. :D 

Well, there is more to tell but not enough time to say it. I love you all to the moon and back. That's not just for those of you who are now living, or have lived, in Moon Apartments, but that's for all of you. You are the best a guy could have. Even more, you're the best a missionary could have. Stand by your covenants. Trust in the promises. Be willing to run when you don't have the strength and you have commitments to fulfill, and the Lord will prove himself herewith in opening the windows of heaven for you. I love you!

Love, Elder Parker Alan Ayer

Monday, September 8, 2014

That Pita Pocket is Not a Tortilla

Dear Family,

Many wonderful things happened this week. It was really exciting. Monday we had a churrasco with our beloved Ward Mission Leader, Geraldo. He has a sweet terrace above his house where he does churrasco and we play pool. Basically a churrasco consists of eating salty, delicious meat until you're ready to burst. It is a wonderful Brasilian tradition. Tuesday I bid adieu to Elder Rodrigues. I have enjoyed my time with him for the most part, but it was time to have a change. I was really worried about the transfer because I will continue as junior companion, and everyone hears all the stories about getting a power-hungry companion who is a tyrant. I don't really understand this because I feel like I'm just a "nice guy" (insert an image of Gilligan from Gilligan's Island). Anyway, I was worried. We got to the bus station so that I could drop off Elder Rodrigues and pick up an Elder Alexsandro. All of the other missionaries being transferred were there. I got to talk to Elder Findley (my companion from the provo MTC who arrived a few weeks ago) and meet Elder Atkinson (a good friend of Elder Lyman [the Elder I trained in WV] who is from Parker, CO). Finally it was time to meet up with my companion. Ever since that moment, missionary work has been going great! Elder Alexsandro is from the same city (Aracaju, SE) as Elder Rodrigues. He is super funny and has helped me turn around some of the bad feelings I've been harboring the last few weeks. The day of the transfer, I took the attribute assessment activity at the end of chapter 6 in Preach MY Gospel. I really had to question myself when I came to the section about hope. Usually my scores in this section are very high because I am very positive, but they had taken a toll over the last few months. I was a little sad when I got to the part that says, "I am confident that I will have a happy and successful mission". I realized that this was not my feeling at all. I expected my mission to be pretty painful, frustrating, and fruitless. That was not the correct view to have. I am grateful that now I have been able to turn my thoughts around and think of my mission in an optimistic way. Hooray! Elder Alexsandro has a sense of humor that is very similar to mine. It kind of caught me off guard that first day when he joked about something and it seemed like I was remembering some sense of humor I had forgotten. Anyway, this isn't supposed to be a love letter about my great new companionship, but it is a testimony of the blessings that can come through other people.

Sunday was a wonderful day. We had a baptism! Antonio, the father of Vania, was baptized. He is a very sincere and good old man. He is decreasing a little bit in his mental capacity, but he is very pure and good. The other day, we had to say probably 20 times that Joseph Smith was a prophet because he could not for the life of him remember who Joseph Smith was. Even after two minutes he needed help to remember that Joseph Smith was a prophet. Well, everything turned out right. He was finally able to remember the prophet. He is such a sweet man. He didn't want to be baptized this week, but after explaining the importance of following the promptings of the spirit promptly, he just asked us what hour the baptism would be. He still doesn't know much about the Book of Mormon, church history, and many things, but he wanted to be baptized because he trusts the messengers of God and feels a sublime peace when we talk to him. Everyone at church loves him because he is so sincere and good. It has been really wonderful to see his faith in action.

I know that if we follow our faith, we will be rewarded. If we follow our faith, we will find knowledge. If we follow our faith, the windows of heaven will be opened unto us. Because of experiences of faith followed by miraculous revelation, I know that the Book of Mormon is truly the word of God. I know that Joseph Smith is the Prophet of God and His Christ. I know that Christ is our ever faithful Redeemer. I know that we are children of the Most High God with a divine heritage. I love you all. Be true to that knowledge which you have received and that faith which led to its reception.

Love, Elder Parker Ayer

P.S. I made tacos for the other elders the other day only to find that the tortillas we bought are really thin pita pockets. Weird combination!

P.P.S. Also, the tortillas have the brand name of "tenda Arabe" with the emblem of a mexican.  How does that work?  :D

Monday, September 1, 2014

As You Wish

Dear family,
First off, HAPPY BIRTHDAY WILBUR RABBIT RABBIT! (had to include that)

I don't have much time. I have about 3 minutes. Let me tell you that I am learning to be patient. I am learning to be humble. I am learning to rely on the Lord. This week I got a great reminder that the Lord's promises shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled. Sometimes we forget, but we He will never forget. He will bless us in our forgetfullness. What a blessing. ONe great thing to learn to do in this life is to say, "As you wish," to our Heavenly Father. When we say that, what we really mean is, "I love you". He has the plans. He is the planner. We must give way to Him so that we may know true happiness. I love you all. I know that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord's gathering place for His children. Let us let HIm gather us.

Love, Elder Ayer

ps I ate 20 pieces of pizza for my year mark :D