Monday, November 24, 2014

[The Lord] Will Deliver Them Into Our Hands

Dear family,

This week was a great one! Let me tell what happened this last week.

Monday: We were walking in the city and some man called out to us in English to go over and talk to him. In his thick Brasilian accent, he asked, ´Are you Mormons´? Yes, we were. He then said that he was a history teacher and he would like us to tell him about the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It was great! We talked to him briefly. I think he was blown away with what he heard. Relly, our church isn~t some sort of philosophical movement or ethnic revolt. It~s not a story about how a person had a great idea or underwent a great study of the BIble. It~s about the power of God working in present times as it was worked in times past. We offered the Book of Mormon to him and he asked how much it costs. I offhandedly said that it was free, our present. He then kind of half-rebuked us, saying that we shouldn~t be giving the Book of Mormon away for free because the people relly won~t value it. I thought about that for a little bit. That~s true, the book is free, but what kind of price must we pay to value it? Moroni said himself that the plates were of no worth, but the record was of great worth. That is, the record is of great worth. Maybe we all should be paying a little bit more time to read and apply the principles from the Book of Mormon. In that way, we will reap the spiritual harvest that is waiting for us.

Tuesday: We did an exchange with the zone leaders. I really have a problem with exchanges. In the past, most of my exchange experiences have been really awkward or unenjoyable or I had to do something really difficult like talk to a missionary about his obedience or work ethic. This time, the exchange was great! I~m going to throw away that old idea I had of exchanges and move forward. I went on exchange with Elder Ferrari from Beunos Aires (Big Apple). The day went great! After district meeting and lunch, we went out to contact some people who set up appointments with us. The first was the house of Viviane and Fabio. We taught a great Restoration lesson (correct that, we taught them a great Restoration lesson). At the end, the wife was completely enchanted with the message and with us. She committed (and her husband, too) to be baptized upon knowing the truth of our message. Afterwards she took a picture of us (probably to show all her girlfriends the two handsome foreigners she had in her house). :D Next, we walked down the street to another home. The mother, Cida with whom we had made the contact, wasn~t home. We started talking to her son, Cáio, and asked if we could come in and share a message. When we first talked to him, he seemed to have some personal persuasions that seemed outside of the gospel lifestyle. He also told us that he didn~t have much belief in Christ but believed in God, or a god. Still, we had a great opportunity to talk to him a little bit about his position as a son of God and how Heavenly Father wants to direct and bless him in his life. It was going really great! HIs mom showed up and we ended up teaching them the Restoration. At the end, the mom was willing to investigate a little bit more, and Cáio was very interested in reading the Book of Mormon and praying. It was a great experience. After this, we started talking to some people in the street. (Every companionship has to make at least 20 contacts every day to people on the street to fulfill the promise of Elder Ballard from a couple conferences ago). We were talking to one person when I saw another man very close by looking at us through his gate. Well, after making the contact, we went to go talk to him (he was really staring at us for a long time in a kind of strange way). In the first few moments of talking to us, he interrupted us, pointed straight at the Book of Mormon, and said, ´What is that book you have?´ Thus, President~s promise about walking with the Book of Mormon was fulfilled. We were glad to explain, and invited ourselves in to explain a little bit better. He went inside to get the key to the gate and his wife came out of their large, beautiful house to see us. She looked very skeptical and a little snotty when she said, ´We~re already Catholic and don~t want to change´. Well, I just explained to her that we wanted to increase the faith she had in Jesus Christ through the Book of Mormon. She conceded, especially when we said we would only be there ten minutes or so. Well, we got in there and explained the Book of Mormon to them (Antônio Jorge and Isis). It was amazing how forcefully the Spirit came into that room in the space of ten minutes. It was miraculous. The countenance of Sister Isis changed completely. When we asked to set up another appointment, they agreed. What a miracle! Elder Ferrari and I were very surprised as we talked a little bit more after the lesson. Really, God had led us to those people to hear the message.

Wednesday: This day ended with a big crash bang boom. We were walking home at night making contacts with people. I felt like we should talk to this one young man in the street. We introduced ourselves, and he said, ´I~m a Jay-Dub` (TJ em português). Well, he made it pretty clear to us his religious affiliation and that he knew our slang for his church (Jehovah~s Witnesses). Well, we kept on strong to share our message with him. It was going more or less until it went down very quickly. I really can~t remember who slang the first Bible verse, but it wasn~t good. He asked us sarcastically if we even read the Bible and I asked him sarcastically if he even owned the Bible (their translation wasn~t approved by the international Bible committee and has to have another name, ´As Escrituras Sagradas´). Anyway, it was a big mess-up. What made it worse was that the next day in studies, the Book of Mormon gave me a thorough rebuke. Just read 3 Nephi 3:21. ´If we should go up against them the Lord would deliver us into their hands´. I decided to not do that again.

Friday: We went to teach Tadeu. He was preparing to be baptized on Sunday. Everything was going great until this day. We got to the door and he said that he didn~t want to be baptized anymore because he was already baptized in the Catholic Church. I smelled something fishy. We went in and talked to him a little bit more. We followed up with his reading and praying. Check and check. We then went through a reveiw of things that he believes and has received spiritual witnesses of. Yes, God is our Father. Yes, Jesus is the Savior. Yes, Joseph was a prophet. Yes, this is the Restored Church. Yes, Thomas Monson is the current prophet. Yes, the Book of Mormon is the word of God. Once that we got that established, I asked about the people in his life that have a great influence on him. The first name he said was his dad. Well, his dad also just happens to be the assistant to the padre of the local paroquia. I told him about how we really didn~t want him to be in a tug-of-war between us and his dad. We told about how he had to respond to the voice of the Good Shepherd, and not another voice, in deciding the path that he needed to follow. We set up his interview for the next day and left him to pray about the subject. We began to pray, too. We then went off to Antônio and Isis´house. When we got there, Isis said that she had run home so that she could be there in time to receive us. We also got to meet one of their sons who works in Rio in a military hospital. We shared that message of the Restoration, and it went awesome. In the moment of the First Vision account, we just held them spell-bound (correct that, spirit-bound). We invited them to read the Book of Mormon to know for themselves the truth of our message. Isis told us that she had already read 3 Nephi 11 (which we marked) and the had started reading the testimonies of the witnesses at the beginning. We invited them to be baptized, and they were a little reluctant. They talked about their Catholic upbringing and social life. Thankfully, they said they would follow the Savior and His Latter-day work if they knew by the Spirit the truthfulness of the message. That was pretty great! We looking forward to helping them feel the Spirit enough to overcome the wicked traditions of their fathers.

Saturday: Tadeu showed us that he is a big fan of Harrison Ford. That is, he became a fugitive. He is now on the run from us. It is really sad, but I~m trying to keep my spirits up with the hope that he will continue to pray and will receive an answer from Heavenly Father.

Sunday: We went to look for Tadeu in the morning so that we could bring him to Church. His grandma came to the door and told us that he was sleeping. I really wanted to go in and wake him up with a glass of water, but it seemed like that would leave a bad taste in his and his grandmother~s mouths. We got to church a little late. We hung our heads in shame. We really were seeking investigators to go to church! Probably all of the elder~s quorum thinks that we just slept in a little late and bought some donuts on the way over to church since we didn~t have any investigators at church. I was feeling pretty cruddy about it all. No investigators is a major bummer, or boomer. Since we didn~t have anyone there for gospel principles, Elder Robison and I went out into the rain to invite some people for sacrament meeting. We talked to a lot of people...going to the Baptist church down the road. They have an amphitheatre full of people singing praises and munching on snacks. We have the truth in a humble home filled with 20 faithful saints. In any case, we weren~t able to bring anyone to sacrament meeting. My sadness was only dissuaged by an opportunity to bless the sacrament. It has been probably 8 months since I was able to do that. It was awesome. I was tearing up as I had the chance to break apart the symbolic bread. I thought about all of the covenants that these good people were renewing, baptismal and temple. I thought about how sacred this sacrament was. Really, we only receive temple covenants once and the sacrament is the only opportunity to re-receive the covenants for ourselves ´again´. I thought about what part I would be playing as the sacrament breaker and blesser. It made me feel very close to Heavenly Father through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ. I am so grateful for the sacrament. In sacrament meeting, I was grateful when someone gave a talk on gratitude and I thought about Thanksgiving this week. Thanks Pilgrims! #1Nephi13 Anyway, thank you family for all of the support that you~re giving me half a world away!

Sunday night ended with a bang and brought everything full circle. We were walking along the street and decided to stop and talk to a lady (Elisete) at a bus stop. We started talking to her about our message. She said that the members of her church did a similar work. ´Sou Testemunha de Jeová,´ ela disse. Oh boy, not again, I thought. This was exactly what I didn~t want to get into. We stayed calm and continued to present a brief overview of our message. When she heard the part about a prophet, she asked us to tell her more. Well, I would give her exactly what she wanted. I taught the Restoration through the Prophet Joseph Smith. When I mentioned the Book of Mormon (it was raining, so we weren~t carring him), she exclaimed, ´Oh, you~re Mormons!´ Then she started her attack. She asked if we preached in the name of Jo Smith. I said that we preached in the name of Christ. We conversed a little bit more. Then she asked why we preached in the name of Jo Smith. I once again said that we were not preaching in the name of Smith. Then she asked why were presenting our message by talking so much about Smith. I reminded her that she was the one who had asked us to tell her more about the Prophet. Well, she continued on in her attack, telling us to read John 17:3, that life eternal is to know God and Jesus Christ, not the prophets. Well, we talked a little bit about the prophets. I must admit, I was getting very frustrated and it showed a little bit. She started talking about the Bible and how we should only need to approach Christ to know Him and His Father. That~s when a revelation hit me. I asked her, ´What is the Bible to you?´ She started trying to go on in the point she was trying to prove, but I interrupted her a little brusquely. ´The Bible is the writing of the prophets. You do not know Christ except for the things that you read in the Bible. You only know Christ through the prophets.´ That struck her back for a little bit, but she jumped back in to her bibilical fury. I was done. I told her very firmly that we were only supposed to talk to people with broken hearts and contrite spirits, and we weren~t finding it there. I grabbed my umbrella and started to walk off. She called for us to come back. She said she hadn~t wanted to be rude and that she really wanted to understand us better. She asked us to explain for her who God and Jesus Christ are. In a very calm voice, and with complete silence from her, I explained for a good 10 minutes exactly who God is, the Father of her spirit, and who Christ is, the Redeemer of her spirit, and what that means. She was humbled. She had felt the spirit. She apologized and thanked us. We started walking away. A few minutes later, she ran up to us with a pamphlet, asking for one in return. It felt good. It ended right. It helped that I felt like God had won. The second part of that 3 Nephi scripture says: ´We will wait till they shall come against us; therefore as the Lord liveth, if we do this he will deliver them into our hands.´ The situation was delivered into our hands, and the Spirit prevailed. We must always do that in our lives, let the Spirit prevail.

MOnday: Elder RObison is getting transferred. I~m getting a new companion (my 16th!!!). I will be training. FUN!

I love you all! Have a great Thanksgiving! Remember me when you eat the mashed potatoes and gravy and the pumpkin pie and ice cream. Love you all!!!

Love, Elder Parker Ayer

Monday, November 17, 2014

Donuts...and other fun things

Dear family,

Whelp, this week became very different very fast. Last Monday Elder Kenning and I returned home from sending emails and started relaxing. We slept a little, played some coin soccer, ate some food, and then the phone rang. THE ASSISTANTS. I let Elder Kenning get it since he~s pretty good friends with one of the assistants. Well, it turned out that they were calling to let Elder Kenning know that he was getting emergency transferred to the other side of the mission. It~s because a group of American missionaries who received their visas finally got to the mission, and President Cascardi had to switch some missionaries around so that there would be a place for the new missionaries. Anyway, Elder Kenning was pretty happy to be transferred and finally be called as a senior companion. He~s finishing the training of another American. That should be fun for him. Well, I got a surprise, too! I got one of the Americans that was arriving! And guess who it was? It was none other than Elder Robison from my MTC district in Provo. He~s been serving in the Colorado, Colorado Springs mission for the last 14 months, and finally got here! It~s been pretty fun. We have a lot of mission story swapping to do, and he~s very excited to be down here and have so much work to do. It~s been a little strange, too, because now he~s the one learning Portuguese, and I~m the ´expert´ on speaking and understanding the language. Yikes! Anyway, we~re doing great, and he doesn~t get stressed out that he~s not understanding or speaking that much. It~s been pretty fun to do contacts now. We walk up to someone, introduce ourselves, and Elder RObison starts talking a little bit about our message. When the people give a weird look like they didn~t understand that well, we laugh, and I start summing up everything that Elder Robison just said. It~s been great!

On the investigator front, things are going well. We had a little bit of difficulty working this week because of the emergency transfer, but we are definietly going to work better this coming week. Unfortunately, Matheus was not baptized this last week. He works for a distributor to supermarkets, and they are gettign ready to open a new supermarket this week. Anyway, he didn~t have any time this last week to meet with us. HOwever, it proved to be a miracle in finding other people to teach. We got there one day, and he wasn~t home when he said he might be home. His aunt let us in so that Elder Robison could use the bathroom. She was getting ready to leave for São Paulo. I asked her who she was going to visit. She said that she was going to visit her dead husband~s brother. I didn~t hear it exactly, so I thought she said she was going to São Paulo for the funeral of her husband~s brother. I said something like ít~s hard´. She responded about how after 4 years it still is hard (I realized what she had really said before). She then began to talk about how she lost both of her parents and her husband within a few months of each other and how it was the hardest part of her life. I decided it was the perfect time to start a gopsel conversation. I pulled out Mosiah 16:7-9 and shared it with her. It was amazing how the spirit entered the room. The moment was perfectly created. We began to talk about the hope of resurrection and of eternal families. We also talked about the temple and marriage sealing. We bore testimony about the truth of the restored church and restored gospel. The spirit was so setly penetrating in the space. There was something very sublime about the moment. We asked to set up a return appointment to share a message with her, and she accepted readily. It was a great thing. Because of Matheus being gone, we also got the chance to talk to his brother, Tadeu. It was so cool. Tadeu is 20 years old, but a lot less confident than his brother. At the end of the Restoration lesson, we invited him to pray about the Prophet Joseph Smith. It was so cool because he said the exact same thing that Matheus said, that he already believed Joseph Smith was the prophet he said he was. We invited Tadeu to be baptized this next Sunday with his brother Matheus. It will be great!

Well, I have been thinking a lot about progress this last week. I have thought about how much more I want and need to progress on my mission and in this life. I also thought about how I don~t know exactly to help this district progress and achieve higher goals and successes. If anyone has any ideas for me, that would be great! I love you all!

Love, Elder Parker Ayer

P.S. I found out today that my trainers, Elder Colligan and Elder Stechnij, are now serving together again as Assistants to the President in WV. How great!

PPS THis last week a local padaria came out with a new line of confections...DONUTS!!! Let~s just say we bought them while we could. YUM!!!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Another Great Week!

Dear Family,                                                                                                 

This week was great! We had the baptism of Diogo! He~s the 31-year-old who~s almost a full-grown man! Anyway, we had some difficulties this last week with his parents, but in the end he told them that what he wanted to do was to be baptized. It was really cool to see how excited he became about baptism. He was interviewed on Friday and the zone leader said that he was completely elect. We were having a little difficulty getting the baptism planned for Saturday because practically all of the members (all 25 of them) live pretty far away. For example, the branch president lives two and a half hours away by car! Anyway, we were so grateful when one family from the ward showed up. They had to travel an hour on the dad~s only day when he doesn~t have to drive and arrived with cake and soda in hand! It was so wonderful to have that small but significant support from the members of the branch. I was asked to perform the ordinance, and we baptized Diogo in a small tiled tub behind the branch building. It was pretty awesome baptizing in the open area, especially since it was startingt o get a little rainy!

Anyway, lots of things are going great in this area. We are preparing Matheus to be baptized on Saturday. He went to church last week for the first time. He found out that one of his online friends from Manila is a member of the church and she has been giving him parts from the Book of Mormon to read. It has been pretty cool to see how he has become so completely converted to the restored doctrine and gospel of Christ. He is very excited for his baptism. On Sunday morning, one of the pipes in his house burst and starting leaking water into his house. He fixed the leak as quick as he could, and then did everything so that he could get to church. It really is amazing to see how he has been changed to have such a desire to receive the blessings of the gospel. Any normal person would use the burst pipe as an excuse to not go to church, but he was seeking something at church! I hope that I can use him as an example to to not sit back and relax and wait for God to bless me. We can not be casual about our salvation. We need to be proactive and seek that which is good.

I know that Heavenly Father loves us. I know that my Redeemer lives and that only through Christ we can return to the Father~s presence. I know that the Book of Mormon is a blessed tool to help us know Christ. I know that Joseph Smith knew Christ as His revelator, prophet, and seer. I know that Thomas S Monson still guides us closer to Christ, and thus, to the Father. I love you all! Stay well!

Love, Elder Ayer

Monday, November 3, 2014

Book of Mormon Battles

Dear family,

I was thinking about Sarah~s emails and how she would call us ñaño/a, and I was thinking what sort of cultural equivalent I would use to call all yall. I don~t know if there is really an equivalent here. When I talk to people in the street here, I usually call them amigo or irmão. Here it really isn~t weird for the people to call each other brother or sister. There is a kind of strange practice that people have here of calling other people ´meu filho´ (my child) or ´meu querido´ (my dear/beloved). It~s a little strange, but its all good. Usually Elder Kenning and I have to hold off all of the old ladies here who call us filho/querido/menino and want to pinch our little white cheeks. It~s pretty fun walking around with another American and getting a lot of attention. The first thing people ask us is where we are from. When we tell them we~re American, they start calling all of their family members over to see us. It~s good for getting into people~s houses to teach them, but bad for weeding out the elect from the un-elect.

This last week we had a little bit of a hard time with our investigator Ellasandra. She~s the one who ran away from us and then said that she still wanted to be baptized. We tried to see her again this week, but she wasn~t at home again when she set the appointment with us. We waited around 45 minutes, and she didn~t show up. We really wanted to teach her, but right now she isn~t making this a priority. I have decided that I really don~t like flakes. However, what~s even worse than a flake is a Frosted Flake. Frosted Flakes are the people who fain (feign/fein/fane ?) real interest and have real spiritual experiences, but are just flaky. Along with them in the unsavory cereal family are Grape Nuts, Brasen Rands, Marshmallow Mates, and others just to name a few. Hahaha, this isnt really any important commentary, just some funny thoughts I was having this last week. Alright, back to the real deal.

THis last week we had an awesome zone conference in the city of Petropolis. Petropolis is a pretty cool city; it~s very touristy, and the chapel there has to be the only one of its kind in the whole world. It~s three stories high with the parking under the building on the ground level. Anyway, the meeting was really awesome. I started thinking about all of the things that I need to start doing directly to be the best missionary I can be. I always have really big ideas for my missionary service, and I need to take the risk of a little extra, hard work to accomplish all that I want to do. Another great thing from the meeting was some training we got on the importance of the Book of Mormon. President Cascardi gave us the idea of walking around with the Book of Mormon in hand. I love the Book of Mormon, but I usually just keep it in my bag for when I need to use it in a lesson. HOwever, Elder Kenning and I started walking around with the Book of Mormon in hand, and it~s starting to work great miracles!

The BOok of Mormon really is the word of God. I don~t have any hesitation saying that it really is the clearest, purest, best, most important, and most powerful book that has ever been brought to light. It is amazing. It is a power-packed book, filled with great spiritual light and learning from 1000+ years of experience. It was written and translated by prophets, declared and protected by angels, and testified of by the very Son of God himself. Now it has been read by millions, changing their hearts forever and guiding them to the work of the Lord in these last days. 

Anyway, we had a lot of miracles this last week. One night we were desperately looking for our frosted flake. We were standing in the middle of the road (deserted road) and some man came up to us and asked us if we were from ´that church in São Paulo`. We were a little frustrated, and I didn~t really feel like talking to the man. We had been fasting that day and been through a lot of challenges. I quickly explained to him the church we represented and I felt prompted to show him the Book of Mormon in my hand. He said that he already had the book, read, loved it, and had already passed it on to several other people in the city. I was flabbergasted and started tearing up. This was the miracle that we almost missed. The Lord had already been laying the foundation of a great work to be done here. Unfortunately, he didn~t remember the names our addresses of the people he gave the book to, but we are going to preach and teach the Book of Mormon until we hunt out every last Vincenzo di Francesca and bring him to the gateway of which the Book of Mormon is the keystone.

Another great experience this last week. We were teaching a very Evangelical lady. She started talking about how we have to pray to God to ask what is right; we have to study it out. It was a perfect set up for the second half of our Restoration lesson. We told her about the Prophet Joseph and the Book of Mormon. She did not brush off the story, and she did not accept it right away. She told us that she would pray about it. Her sincerity about it shocked me. She really wanted to know. With us, she got on her knees and prayed to Heavenly Father sincerely for orientação to find and follow the truth. She said that she will read the entire Book of Mormon and will pray. Unfortunately, the only thing in her way is that she takes care of a deathbed-bound old lady every Saturday and Sunday. We are praying for a way to be made for her to visit the church.

Another cool thing this week. We didn~t have time to teach one of our contacts, Matheus, on Saturday, so we passed by his house as we were going home to invite him to church. Before we could even finish reminding him of the name of the church, he said that he would go to church with us. We gave him the Restoration pamphlet, the Book of Mormon, and we met him at the church the next day. It was prbably a bit of a shock for him the next day starting out in priesthood meeting learning about all the ordinances of the gospel, but he took notes. He listened intently in gospel principles as I taught about the Restoration. He said amen as he listened to testimony meeting. At the end I invited him to pray to God about the reality of the prophet Jospeh SMith. He said he would pray for a confirmation, but that he already believed that he was a prophet. It was amazing! We are going back this week to teach him.

Diogo had us going this week. During the middle of the week, he decided that he wasn~t ready for baptism. We resisted, but said that we could prepare him for a later date. I never like doing that because I know what a procrastination circle is like. Anyway, the other day we visited him briefly and left Alma 7 with him to read. I underlined the part in verse 15 where Alma invites the reader to enter the waters of baptism TODAY. Well, we meant to pick up Diogo for church, but he wasn~t there. We were very shocked during priesthood meeting when he showed up at church with a white shirt, white pants, white socks, and white shoes! It was super funny. I was dying of laughter! He decided he wanted to be baptized after all. Unfortunately, we still need to help him with a couple things and he should be baptized next Sunday! 

Being a missionary is great. It~s a dream being fulfilled. I would like to be a missionary forever, oh wait, I can! You can, too! Is~nt this gospel great? Let~s do all within our power to spread the good news we have. We~re not spreading around old news, but new news. We have it! Come and get it! God lives! Christ lives again! We have a living Prophet! We have the true and living Church! Come unto the living waters and be satisfied. I love you all so much!

Love, Elder Parker Ayer

PS HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHRISTIAN!!! I made a voice recording for you, but the computer isn~t taking it. grrr, but I love you and good luck in the show this Friday! Muah!

Our Halloween party with sparkling passion fruit juice and some lame candy.  YEASH!