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