That's right, this week has been a week to riff, rip, and burn it up. I don't know if I already used this classic "Called to Serve" line in a previous e-mail, but it's just so good that I could probably use it over and over again. Anyway, let me describe the wondrous events of this past week, and what is about to come in this coming week/transfer.
Monday was really wonderful. We we had our usual noite familiar in the house of Irmã Penha. We unfortunately didn't have any investigators there, but we did have two recent converts there, Teresinha and Elisabeth, who have been struggling a little bit to become accustomed with the change in churches. Elder Alexsandro and I both felt impressed to talk about the Book of Mormon. It was truly inspired. We got there and started talking about the Book of Mormon. At first, the recent converts didn't feel much like saying anything. As we got started talking about the Book of Mormon, they couldn't stop talking. In particular, Teresinha bore a powerful testimony. Of the two sisters, she always seemed to be the spiritually weaker of the two; Elisabeth had spent much more time reading the Book of Mormon and other Church publications. It was interesting to see how more important than our academic knowledge and study of the church doctrine is the heed we pay to the spirit. Teresinha bore testimony about how she looked in the index one day to learn more about "Mormon", She didn't read anything about the prophet, but studied Mosiah 18 that talks about the waters of Mormon. She was touched greatly by the spirit as she remembered how she had been taught by the missionaries at these waters. She declared to everyone there that she would never desist from the Church. It was a very "proud" moment in my missionary life, and an answer to many prayers.
Tuesday we had a fun gift exchange in our district meeting. It was a secret Santa type thing. I got my best friend Elder Alexsandro. He's the pardo, favela type, so I got a pretty sweet hat for him that he can turn to the back or the side (cue the dad-cringe). Well, another Elder pulled my name. He's the jokester type. He had been pretending the whole past week that he got the name of a sister, and he bought some very expensive soap from a sister in the ward who sells beauty products. Let's just say that now I'm smelling very good and have baby soft skin.
We had some great success this week with setting baptismal dates with investigators. It is wonderful to be able to see how the spirit can touch the hearts of people to the point that they are willing to make a commitment to change their lives. After extending the commitments to know of the truthfullness of our message in a lesson this last week, I asked the investigator (Jose Alexandre) what this would mean to know of the truth of these things. He said that he would know that God had given permission to this church to act in His name. It was an inspired answer. I then asked if he would be baptized in this Church. He said, "Claro". It was a cool moment to see how the spirit was able to reveal the simple truthfulness of this to him.
One of the great fire-y moments this week was a lesson with a 25-ish-year-old man named Marcelo. We made contact with him a few weeks ago when we attempted to contact a referral. She wasn't there, but he passed us by in the stair well of the apartment complex a few times as if he wanted to talk to us. Well, I stopped him and we started to talk to him. We weren't too excited that first time when he seemed to be one of those strangely theoretical minds that liked getting in young missionary's faces to ask them deeply probing questions about ethereal concepts. I thought he was very proud, would be interesting to talk to, and any future lesson would probably end in a Bible bash. Even though he seemed like a weak contact, we kept him in the back of our minds as someone that we could teach. Since that moment, we hadn't had any time to talk to him until this last week when we were walking near his apartment complex with shaky plans for the last hour of the night. We came up with some finding ideas, but we really wanted to teach someone, and Marcelo had told us that he is usually at home at night. With this in mind, we went to his apartment. After buzzing us into the complex, we said a quick prayer to have success and patience and to have all the right scriptures come to our minds. We were effectually preparing for a Bible bash. When we knocked on his door, he let us in. We talked for a couple minutes about his life and his para-gliding hobby. When I was about to ask another question to him about his hobby, he asked us what our message was about for the night. Well, apparently he had been reading the investigator manuel "Learn My Gospel" in the section on How to Begin Learning. (For those less acquainted with modern missionary work, an RM can explain this joke more fully to you.) It was very interesting. The moment we started teaching the lesson, there was a spiritual sort of silence that surrounded the voice of who was speaking. I don't know if I explained that very well. It was as if the spirit was guiding every person in the room to pay strict attention to the words of him who was speaking, and no other noise made any sort of distraction. I only remember experiencing this feeling as powerfully one time before when I testified for my high school US History class of Joseph Smith's first vision. Elder Alexsandro and I explained the first lesson of the Restoration in a way that we have never explained it before. We usually say generally the same words, but this time was completely different. We completely established the nature of God as a loving Father. Elder Alexsandro was clearly impressed to talk very specifically about the doctrine of the Atonement in the earthly ministry of the Savior. During this time, I was looking at him. When I began to speak, I looked back to Marcelo to see that he had tears in his eyes. I talked about the importance of Christ's Church in a way that I have been struggling to understand and was finally made clear to me. The Church is the earthly guardian of eternal, redeeming truth, built upon the authoratative revelation of prophets and apostles. This doctrine of "organized religion" was something that Marcelo belittled in our last encounter, but this time I could see him accept the truth. After we explained Joseph Smith, the Restoration, and the origins of the Book of Mormon, Marcelo thanked us for coming at the right time when he had been prepared to be humble enough to recognize the importance of our message. I don't know exactly what happened with him, but it was a miracle. I don't know exactly what happened with us, but it was a miracle. We invited him to be baptized, and he wrote the date down on a piece of paper so that he could remember it. It was the best experience I have ever had teaching the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I am so grateful to have been able to experience it. I really do know that the things of which we taught and bore witness are true. Thanks be to God for the miracle of revelation, without which none of us could inherit any degree of eternal glory. (see "Revelation" in the Bible Dictionary)
Well, that was the best fire-y experience this last week. There were other, more temporal, ones as well. This week it hit 41 degrees Celsius in our area. That's about 106 degrees Fahrenheit. Put on your sunscreen, wood chuck chuckers. It's still spring, wood chuck chuckers. The six more weeks of winter have long passed, wood chuch chuckers. Anyway, it's hot hot hot (oh baby, it's hot, hot, hot). Another fun experience this week was a spicy lunch. There is a brother in our ward who has some very hot hot sauce. Actually, it's not hot sauce or pepper sauce. It's pepper extract. I told the other elders that the stuff was really good (they had never eaten there before), and they loaded it on. I felt guilty because I lied to them and I'm really the only one who likes the stuff, so I loaded it on, too. WOW! The lunch only got more fun when Elder Alexsandro dared us to drink 10 pure drops of the extract. Well, we did and it was funny. Elder Alexsandro and I both died. It was definitely not the best thing to eat right before starting a fast. Let's just say that we didn't feel too well after that.
Well, more fire-y experiences are coming. It's a new transfer, and I'm being transferred to the south of the mission to the state of Rio de Janeiro, the Barra de Parai area. I'm going to be district leader again. I will be serving with Elder Kenning, a missionary from Maine (who I recognized from EFY) who also served in the West Virginia Charleston Mission. It's going to be great. It gets wicked hot down in that area, and we are going to make it hotter with the baptism of fire. I'm sad to leave my best friend and companion after six weeks, but there are more great things to do!
I love you all so much. i hope you enjoyed the lengthy email. You are all the best. Know this work is true and be faithful to it. Do your part and the Lord will do His. I LOVE YOU!!!
|My gift-wrapping with an apostate newspaper from the Universal church.|
Love, Elder Parker Ayer