Monday, December 29, 2014

Isn´t It Weird That It Will be 2015?

Dear family,

Yes, Sarah, that subject line was just for you. After the Skype call the other day, I just kept on smiling to myself at random times during the day all of a sudden because I remembered some sort of silly thing from the call. Well, the goofy family jokes just keep coming back to mind. The sugar cone family is full of ziggidy zags and hippity hops and all sorts of things that you don´t know!

Anyway, let me sum up the week. Elder Pereira who lives in our house has been sick this last week. To cut to the thick of it, he has a hemorroid. Unfortunately some crazy astronaut stole all of our hemorroid creme and served it as microwave heated space food, so he´s been suffering quite a bit. hahaha But seriously, I had to do divisions with him and his companion so that we could work in my area and his area and help their investigator be ready for baptism this week. Fortunately, Antonio was baptized. Unfortunately, h missed church yesterday and was nt confirmed. Unfortunately as well, Elder Barbosa had to stay inside most of the time with our invalid. That means that he spent a few days just dwelling on his family and home and his call that he would make, and afterwords the call that he did make, to them. He didn´t get to do much work, work, work which is the answer to all of the ills as a missionary. Yesterday he confided in me that he almost called home to President to ask to be sent home. My heart just about broke. I really do want to be able to help him stay firm in the mission and firm in the Church. If you have any ideas please send them to me. I will also be asking for ideas from Heavenly Father. THank you for all the advice yall gave me the other day as well.

Anyway, this past week we were able to teach relatively well. Christmas Eve was a race as we taught 8 lessons, 1 being on the cmpletely other side of the city. The rest of the week was a little bit more difficult. OUr investigators want to be baptized felizmente. Unfortunately, Claudia is battling an addiction with smoking. Gleice isn´t very happy with us because of scheduling problems. Fernando and Monica are a little lazy at getting to church. The thing is that all of these people have rceived powerul witnesses of the truth and want to be baptized, but have issues that are getting in the way right now. We are going to keep praying and hoping and pleading and working so that we can bring about a marvelous work and a wonder in their lives.

I love you all so much! I hope that you look forward to our next Christmas together, as you know I am. It´s almost already 2015 and my mission has just gotten going. Fiquem firmes e fortes!

Com amor sem fim, Elder Parker Ayer

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

It´s Finally Beginning to Feel Like Christmas

 Dear family,

Yes, I know that we will be talking face to face as a man speaketh with his friend in a few days, but there is still so much to tell you. I think that I could never write an email that would be sufficient to tell you about all of the wonderful experiences that I am having here in the mission. By the way, I have programmed with a family in our branch that I will call from their house at 11 am our time here. I would check on the internet the time difference. Usually it~s just an hour difference, but I don~t know because the time got moved around here for the summer. Thank you so much dad for the music! I downloaded it. Currently, however, I discovered the lds radio online and I~m listening to Archy. :D

Anyway, this week was so great! Some highlights. Monday we went to the supermarket to get groceries. While I was buying presunto, a man came up to me and started mumbling some words to me. He seemed a little crazy and I was just frankly eager to get away from him. After a little bit, I realized that he was asking for some rice for him and for his family. Usually in the street when people ask money, I just kind of keep on walking because it~s usually not a good idea to give people money. I usually think, what are they going to do with the money? Anyway, I moved away from this man in the store and we kept on shopping. I started feeling really bad. A scripture came from King Benjamin~s discourse came to my mind, reminding me that I have been a beggar before Heavenly Father, and my petitions have not been in vain, but have been heard and answered. I realized that it didn~t really matter what my perception of this man was, I should be able to help him, especially if it was to buy some food for his family. I was glad for a later opportunity to see him in the store, standing by the rice. I went to talk to him and he asked if I could buy a large bag of rice for him. It was only 6 or 7 reais, or 3 US dollars. I felt humbled, and a little chastised, by this humble petition. It was a good lesson for me to learn. It was also a wonderful opportunity to feel some real live Christmas spirit.

This whole week really was awesome. I could go through every day, but it would basically sound the same. A whole bunch of awesomeness. Every day this week, we were finding so many people to teach, and so many people accepted the opportunity to follow Jesus Christ by being baptized. By the end of the week, we had found 19 new investigators and 14 people with a specific goal to be baptized. It was so awesome! I have been praying so hard that the Spirit can be shed in the hearts of the people here so that we can baptize them unto repentance. See Alma 8:10 I just want to much to be able to bless these people here with the ultimate blessings of the atonement of Christ. I have been so glad to see our prayers being answered. The people seem to be paying mais attention to what we have to say. They want to know if the Book of Mormon is the word of God. We are also being led more in the words that we should say so that we can help God~s children in their specific difficulties. 

An especially good Christmas moment this last week was our branch Christmas activity. Not that many people showed up. It was really just the very faithful members of the branch that showed up, but it was great! It was designed to focus more on the Savior. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir was shown from the christmas devotional singing The First Noel. I don~t know what was so different about hearing the music this time. Maybe because it was in English after a week of only hearing Portuguese. Maybe because I was in an attitude to really hear what the spirit was singing. I thought about that little Christ child. I thought about his fragile form with his powerful spirit tabernacled inside. I thought about the miracle of life made even more miraculous by the birth of the God of Israel. I thought of the tender feelings of a mother for her child. Maybe that~s why it was so good. That day we had just finished teaching a family from the northeast of Brasil. They had a little child of four months whose name was Emanuel. That was probably it. I cannot even imagine the love that must have been there in that little stable as these two covenant parents looked on the Savior who had been prepared for them. With wondering awe they must have looked on that child as the still feelings of the spirit gave them the promise of salvation. I love Christmas!!!

Another wonderful Christmas experience happened yesterday. The mission had its Christmas Conference with the entire mission! I know that I cannot be home for Christmas, but that was about as close as I got to being home for Christmas. There were so many beloved missionaries there that I got to see and talk to. My good friends from my MTC district (8 of the 14), my several companions (especially Elder Alexsandro), and Presidente and Sister Cascardi. On top of all that, I was back in Juiz de Fora (nicknamed Manchester)! I will tell you on Quinta a little bit more about the great misison conference. 

For now I have to go. I love you all so much! I am so excited to see all of your familiar faces, hear your sweet voices, and get to know my new sister. You are always in my heart. Underneath a calus of focused hardwork, you are all there motivating me to go forward and declare this message with power. I love you all.

Love, Elder Parker Ayer

Monday, December 15, 2014

There Were a Great Multitude Gathered Together

Dear family and friends,

We will begin with some announcements. All those who can sustain Elder Ayer as a missionary, please give the customary sign (send letters, pray, don~t forget about him in the middle of the mission...). At this moment, we would like to give a vote of thanks to all those who have been doing so much (Mom, Dad, Will & Steph, Sarah, and Christian in particular). We are very grateful for the service you have rendered. Now, we know that Christmas is approaching and all the members of our family have been preparing. One the day of December 25 (ten days from today), there will be a skype exchange between Elder Ayer and the Ayer family. Please be present for that moment. There will be more announcements next week as to time. As far as next week, the normal day for communication will be postponed until Tuesday due to the Christmas holiday. Thanks to all of you for your understanding. Now we will begin with hymn 210 (or thereabouts), Angels We Have Heard on High.


Well, that was fun. Now on to our normally scheduled programming...

Monday night we had one of the greatest miracles of my mission. It really was a small miracle. It wasn~t a large display of godly powers in moving mountains or turning the sun back, but it was a miracle nonetheless worked by the faith of Christlike people. Last week we made a contact with a man in the street. He couldn~t meet with us in the moment, but we set up a time to come back. He asked if he could invite ather people to the appointment, and we agreed. We showed up on Monday not really remembering much about our exchange with him, but just expecting to teach the Restoration and find some new investigators. The night before, setting goals, my companion had looked at our goal for new investigators and asked if 3 would really be reasonable. Well, according to our plans it was achievable, so we marked it down. When we got to the appointment, we found Marcos and his wife Teresa. We were ready to teach the Restoration just to them, but they asked us to wait for a little bit as others would be arriving. Well, we waited. Others arrived, and others, and others, and others. Pretty soon we had a very large multitude gathered together of the entire extended family. You might say that it was a clan, as might exist in Ireland, or more specifically, Kilarney. Well, no matter, it was a meeting with ´all of the folks at home´. There were 19 people there above the age of 8, and still more children running around. It was one of the most awesome experiences I have had. Imagine more than 20 people all gathered together to hear the message of the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ! I bore my testimony about the moment yesterday in church, and I just started tearing up because of the overwhelming feelings of the spirit. We bore powerful testimony of the Book of Mormon, the First Vision, the Prophet Joseph Smith, and the Restored Church. I could not have been happier to testify. I thought of this family gathered in the sealing room of the temple to be joined together. There would not be a happier scene in this whole world. Everyone loved the message and agreed to have us come back. It was a little difficult to extend the baptismal commitment to everyone individually, so we are going to go back and teach each family that was there. At the end, one of the family members offered a prayer with many of the others giving their added ´glorias´and aleluias´. I have never been so happy to hear those words, and I felt like offering them myself. Thanks be to God for the gift of His Son. Thanks be to God for the restored knowledge of HIs Son through His Prophet Joseph Smith. I thought of several examples of the scriptures when multitudes were gathered together to hear the word of God, including the experience of Amon and Abish and the Nephite gathering at the temple in Bountiful. I only imagined that if this man, ignorant of the true joy of the message, could gather his entire family to hear our message, what should be required of us who are not ignorant of the true majesty and import of our message?

There were other great moments this week. We had interviews with President Cascardi on Wednesday. It took up the whole day, but it was good to be able to talk to him.

Saturday we had a very interesting experience. We were looking for someone and a neighbor gave us some help. After we were unsuccessful finding the person, she invited us to participate in a family prayer that they would be having in a few moments. We accepted the invitation and entered the home. We found out in a few moments that the entire family was gathered together for the birthday of the family~s patriarch, a pastor in a prominent church called ´Christian Congregation in Brasil´ (translated). There are a sect of Christianity that is a little extreme. In prayer all of the women wear veils. In the church services, the men sit on one side and the women on the other. We were allowed to enter into their home. We were told to kneel down and the birthday boy started praying. I will temper the word praying with the word shouting or the word moaning or the word louvor-ing. He prrayed in a very loud and somewhat feverish/angry voice for what must have been 10 minutes. At the same time, all of the other people around us were also involved in shouting, moaning, and making all sorts of other anguished noises in the praise of their god. My mind reflected for a moment on the priests of Baal and Elisha. After the priests prayed, Elisha asked if they had to scream and yell because their god was on a journey or was sleeping. I also thought of Alma 31. I think these people also had a false understanding of prayer and election, and their comments later proved this to be true. After 10 minutes, another voice started gritando a little louder and took over the prayer for another 5 minutes. It was quite the experience. Afterwards, we arose and were offered some birthday cake. Fortunately or unfortunately were were in jejum. Before leaving, we offered to give a prayer as well. The prayer was politely declined because the pastor thought he would be denying Jesus´ power if he had to accept an additional prayer, and that from someone of another faith. Well, I quickly reminded him of the Savior who prayed 3 times in the Garden of Gethsemenae. He told me that he didn~t study the scriptures, but waited for the Spirit to tell him what he needed to say in the exact moment. Then he proceeded to give his testimony of his own faith to be registered by the angels. Then I gave my testimony of the essential doctrines of salvation for the same registry to be presented at the great judgment day. We will see which comes out in testimony against whom.

Sunday there was another awesome experience. A few days ago, a couple in the street asked us to pray for their daughter who was very stressed out about some final exams. When offered, they also accepted our visit in their home to hear a message. Sunday we went there and taught the Restoration to them. The family is golden! They are Jalson and Patricia, and daughter Thaina. The father said that he felt that what we were teaching was the truth. We all felt it. He sincerely thanked us for going to his home to share the truth with them. THey started asking lots of inspired questions about the Prophet Joseph Smith. At the end, the dad offered a sincere prayer to know the truth and finished it off with Psalm 23. I have never heard a more beautiful recitation of Psalm 23. This man didn~t know how to prayer very well without the memorized words, but he had a sincere desire and humility. His lack of understanding was accounted unto him for a blessing. They will be baptized on January 4. We are so excited for them!

I am so excited for Christmas and to see all of you. I close this email with all of my love and my testimony in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Love, Elder Parker Ayer

Monday, December 8, 2014

What? No Subject?

Dear Family,                                                           
Elder Barbosa e eu

Some big things happened this week! First off, let me tell you what~s been happening on the home front that passed through my mind this week. Two of my friends, Amanda Smith and Cami Anderson returned from their missions. Chris Weeks had his 21st birthday. We celebrated Pearl Harbor Day. And yes, there are big things coming up this week, too. Here~s my official shoutout to the Howells. Happy 14th of December! (it only comes once a year, you know) And there~s my lead in to missionary work. :D It is weird to think that every day now I will be experiencing for the last time on my mission. Today is the last 8 of December I will ever experience as a missionary (a fora da possibilidade que eu vou servir como idoso). That just makes the time even that more precious. Thank you, Howells, for showing us that we really should cherish (and work real hard on) those days that only come once a year. Let us review. I did follow-up with the zone leaders yesterday, but I hope that I can also present a week to all of you that is worthy of all acceptation.

Monday, we returned home after emails. The days leading up to P-day, I always want to write letters to people, too, but I really just get really depressed about it all and put it off. Sorry! Instead, I did something constructive by setting up the advent calendar I got last year for Christmas. Unfortunately, I don~t have all the little pieces of paper anymore, but it looks nice and I~ll try to buy some bonbons to fill it up. After, I cut out a bunch of snowflakes and made a paper chain with green, red, and white to decorate our room. It was fun, but I felt like I would have rather taken a nap afterwards.

Tuesday, we had to cut a few investigators who aren~t progressing. Viviane asked us if we could come back in 15 days to talk to her again because of her busy work schedule. We agreed to wait for her appearance at church. It really is for the best because she likes to have 2 hour long lessons with us, and we~re on the Lord~s time! We also had to cut Caio, a young man who seemed to be very interested. The problem is that he is interested in having religious conversations and enlightenment, but isn~t as interested about getting up early on Sunday mornings to go to Church. It is always so hard to let investigators go because our love for them grows so much, but sometimes it has to be done for the good of the work and the good of the investigator. They are tricking themselves if they think they can receive the eternal blessings of heaven through our visits and not through any efforts of their own. As the scriptures say, we must work out our salvation. Not to say that any effort we make will grant us salvation, but our efforts will show to the Lord that we may receive His atoning grace in our lives. We must pray to know eternal truths. We must apply eternal truths in our lives through pray and change, resulting in repentance. We must promise to obey eternal truths through baptism to receive eternal promises, or the Spirit of Promise. We must apply the eternal truths until the end of our lives to retain an eternal remission of our sins.

Wednesday, we had zone meeting. It was a lot of fun! I got to see Sister Hope from my MTC district. It was the first time seeing her in a year and 2 months. The meeting was great. The only down side was that it took a large chunk of work out of our day the size of Alaska. We got home in the mid-afternoon and didn~t have much success the rest of the day. We got to talk to Antônio and Isis finally. It makes a week and a half that we haven~t seen them. Antônio avoided talking to me at the front door and sent his wife to do the dirty work. She said that they didn~t believe in ´our book´. I reminded her of the very powerful spiritual feelings we had all been witness to. She remembered, but still wasn~t interested in leaving her Catholic roots. It made me very sad to leave her front door, but she had the opportunity to choose, and I was glad we had given her the best opportunity she could have gotten.

Thursday, I started realizing what a pit we were in. Half the week had passed, and we had barely gotten any work done! It was actually really frustrating. We were able to find one new investigator who seemed promising. He was our first new investigator in the whole week! I was getting pretty upset about it. That night, we set a goal to find 5 new investigators the next day, and i promised the Lord that I would not return home until we had found all five of those new investigators (1 Nephi 3:15).

Friday, We went out determined to find the 5 new investigators. We found 6. I was glad that we had been so determined to find all of them. We showed the Lord that we were not joking around with our goals, that we really wanted to achieve what He had commanded us to achieve. This is what we must do in our lives if we are to get anything done. That is, set and achieve goals. This topic has been occupying my mind for a long time now. I am more determined than ever before to achieve what the Lord requires of me and what He sees in my potential. We must do this in our lives. We must work and wear out our lives in our service to Him. We must lay the foundation of a great work. We must realizar the great work. We will if we are strong like unto Moses (1 Nephi 4:1) and all the other holy prophets who have come before us and still lead us today. Let us work out our own salvation and the salvation of many others. I love you all and hope that you all have a great week. Remember the 14th!

Love, Elder Parker Ayer

ps. I took a great picture this last week next to this British phone booth looking thing that was a box for people to enter to send christmas wishes to ^Heavenly Father CHristmas^. It was pretty great. I love you! Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Giving Thanks

Hellooooo minha família!

This week has been a week! A week is a series of seven days, consisting of the English names Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, now standardized in our Gregorian calendar system. If you would like more information on this subject, refer yourselves to the one hit wonder ´It~s Friday´ performed by Rebecca Black or that other song performed by the Black Eyed Peas. Anyway, sorry for that really useless detour from this spiritually enlightening email. Just in case you were wondering, the slightly cooky Parker is still here.

But seriously, this was another week for the memory books! I ended my last email saying that I got the call that Elder Robison would be transferred and I would be training. Well, it happened. When I got the call, I seriously was a little bit more excited about returning to Juiz de Fora to get my greenie than anything else. It~s hitting me now that I actually have a new missionary who I need to train. For more information on this subject, refer yourself to the animated favorite, ´How to Train Your Dragon´, or the children~s favorite animated story, ´Are You My Mother?´ Hahahaha, the cookiness is building. Anyway, Elder Robison went away early Tuesday morning, and I got stuck in wild anticipation for a day in trio with Elder Pereira and Elder Romario (who I live with). I left that afternoon for Juiz de Fora, alone. Luckily, no one tried to attack me or kiss me, so I was safe. I got there that night and got to chat it up with Elder Alexsandro. He~s doing great, and the area is, too. My recent convert, Lia, introduced her friend, Ruth, to the missionaries, and she got baptized! Also, they are going to baptize Marcello who Elder Alexsandro and I found together. That night was particularly special because I got to talk to Irmão Geraldo. He was my ward mission leader in Manchester. He came by that night because the missionaries had been at his house and he was dropping them off. I spent 10 minutes or so talking to him. He said a lot of really nice things about how he thinks very highly of me. He was saying that he and his family still pray for me. In that moment, he got a little emotional, and so did I. I am so grateful for the chance to meet such good people here, to love them and to feel their love in return.

The next day we went to the stake center to get some training on how to be good trainers. Elder Kenning was also there. Then we met the greenies. One of the greenies was an Elder Wolfgramm who also went to Salem Hills HIgh School. We found out who we will be training. I am now training Elder Barbosa from Fortaleza, Brasil. He is a small, skinny elder who is 22-years-old. He is willing to work and walk at my pace. His legs are hurting now, but I~m sure that they will get better. We have been working hard in order to help God~s children. I forgot how hard training can be. I am trying to improve myself personally so that I can assure a very good experience for Elder Barbosa in these first few months in the mission field.

I read in 3 Nephi 18 this morning. It was great! One verse that really stuck out to me was verse 25. Realmente, we can come unto Christ. HE invites us to come and feel and see. This invitation pertains especially to the Book of MOrmon. Come unto Christ, feeling and seeing your way through the words of the prophets and the influence of the HOly Ghost. I love you all. Stay strong. Stay faithful.

Love, Elder Ayer

PS I didn~t do much for Thanksgiving in the way of food. In fact, it was my first THanksgiving fast. We were fasting for a brother in the ward who was supposedly undergoing surgery. When I asked how it went on Sunday, he told me that he didn~t even have an exam, hahaha. Oh well, I was glad to be able to show my gratitude to God through my willingness to sacrifice for his children. :D