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