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!