Monday, March 30, 2015

Because HE Lives

Dear family,

HAPPY 54th BIRTHDAY DADDY DEAREST!!!  Dad, you really are such a great example to me.  Thank you for your wonderful service to our family and the life you have lived in serving Christ and seeking eternal life.  You are beloved.  I was thinking about your great example this last week. I realized that in your mission you had an option of whether to end your mission at a year and a half or to serve for the full two years.  During this last week I was having a lot of thoughts about which choice I would make.  I only have four months left.  I think all the more of you for seeking to serve in the way that Heavenly Father inspired you to serve, serving more than you had to in order to serve honorably.  I will be diligent in these last four months as I seek to consecrate all of my efforts in the service of the Lord.

Well, this last week went great.  Elder Fraga and I are getting along well.  We were actually getting along great!  We had interviews this last week with President Cascardi.  I felt like I needed to tell him of the problems that we had before and how we had resolved them.  I made sure to tell him that everything was going great with us.  That´s why it came as a great shock today to hear about the transfers.  I will be staying here in Três Corações and Elder Fraga will be spending his last five weeks of the mission in Juiz de Fora as the companion of a district leader.  I know that this might sound normal to state missionaries, but here this is quite unusual.  He wasn´t too happy about that, so I am doing an exchange today with the Argentine missionary from Neuquen, Elder Sepulveda.

I really did love the opportunity to spend time with President and Sister Cascardi again on Tuesday.  It is always such a blessing to be able to talk to them, feel their warmth, and feel more and more love for them.  They are great valiant examples of faithful saints.  I got the opportunity in particular to talk to Sister Cascardi and show her pictures of my family.  I found out that she is very good friends with the President and his wife who watch over the Londrina Mission where Brittany is serving.  I am sure that they love Brittany there.

On Tuesday night we went to a lesson with Luma, the 17-year-old daughter of a 20-years-less-active woman.  When we got there, the mom, Cristiane, told us that Luma wanted to ´virar Mórmon´.  We looked to Luma and she happily explained that she felt so good when we went to her house and she felt as though we had been sent at the right time to find her and share the gospel with her.  The gospel is such a blessing.  This miracle is happening in many of the lives of our beloved investigators.

Quick thoughts with little time...

Watch the new video Because HE Lives and then read 1 Ne 19.  When I saw it the phrase `the God of nature suffers´came to my mind.

I love you all!  Read the Book of Mormon.  Treasure it in your hearts!

With great love, Elder Parker Alan Ayer

Monday, March 23, 2015

Last Names and Humility

Dear Ayer family,

Can I just tell you how much I love our name.  It may be a very hard name for Brazilians to pronounce, but I wouldn´t change it for the world.  Here there is a culture for missionaries to sometimes put their first name as their missionary name because there are so many similar surnames here.  However hard Ayer might be, I would never change it.  It´s funny because there are so many pronunciations: Ire, Eow, Ay-yare, and (my favorite) Wire.  I like to sing the Called to Serve hymn and little different: ´Chose an AYER to witness for His name`.  Anyway, why tarry, let us off to the castle...weekly report.

This week was another challenging week.  I will just come out and say it, my companion was driving me CRAZY!!!  On Monday we were cleaning the house and I was getting agitated.  Everything I cleaned had to be touched up again.  Everything I had put in order had to be put in a completely different order.  I got to the point when I cracked.  He told to move my laundry basket to a different place and after arguing for a bit, I said that I would think about it.  Well, the friction and tension were rising.  That night we taught a lesson that was not effective.  I felt the complete lack of the Spirit.  After, we went to give a blessing to the father of our elect family who underwent knee surgery.  As we laid our hands on his head, the words from Doctrine and Covenants 121 came to my head, `Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man´.  Obviously, the Lord was trying to communicate something to me.  On Tuesday morning I studied about humility.  During district meeting, our leader told us that there were some problems the district needed to resolve through obedience, humility, and good companionship.  I felt as though that was directed directly at me.  Wednesday morning I studied again about humility and effective communication, using Elder W Craig Zwick´s talk from conference of May 2013 entitled What Are You Thinking?  It was a good study, but I had to apply it to be of any effect.  Well, in companionship study, I talked calmly about the problems at hand, recognized my faults, asked forgiveness, and offered some ideas for how we could improve.  It was a very controlled and deliberate conversation.  The key was delivering myself completely up in a nice little package containing 100%, naturally produced, well-fermented, ´carnal man´.  My deliverance was regarded with an assumed authority that did not reflect my attempts at humility.  Luckily, I controlled my breathing and accepted the directives I received.  Afterwards, the situation improved drastically.  We are working together a lot better as of now.  We have the spirit in our work.  We also are more balanced in our efforts.  I realized in the end that the one who assumes the authority and dominion does not always control the situation.  I had controlled the situation.  The only challenge now is to continue with the efforts.

We are having great success in our missionary efforts.  Those prayers we made to find families are still being answered.  Yesterday in Church we had two families with father, mother, and child.  It was a great feeling.  They all are preparing to be baptized.  We had still more families who were not able to attend yesterday but are excitedly preparing for baptism as well.  Their names are André and Desirré, Apriggio and Claudinea, Celso and his daughters, Felix and Amanda, and some other individuals who have accepted the baptismal invitation.  I am more excited than ever to baptize these people unto repentance.  We are so happy and so are they to be knowing the true restored gospel.  I love being a missionary.  I can´t wait to continue diligently for these next 4 months and then go strong afterwards in being the best member missionary that ever existed.  Have faith that the Book of Mormon will answer the silent and heart-felt prayers of all of your associates and then go forward to answer those prayers with power.  I love you all!  You are one of the greatest gifts the Savior has conceded to me through His Atonement, and I pray for you always.

Love, Elder Parker Ayer

P.S. Happy 70 years, Grandma and Grandpa Ayer.

Monday, March 16, 2015

I am not Jean Val Jean, so who am I?

Dear family,

First off, happy pie day.  I was walking around in circles the whole day.  Happy Ides of March/death of Julius Cesar.  Happy Saint Patrick´s Day.  But most importantly, Happy Birthday Sarah!  I really wanted to make some special musical recordings for you, but there really wasn´t time to do it.  The main recordings of the album were going to be some of our all-time hits (H-A-B-I-T and We Laugh and We Cry).  I know that you know what I´m talking about, so I´ll just let you sing them to yourself and laugh at the hilarity of it all.

Well, this week went great.  When I say great, I really mean that there were some really challenging moments that I look back on in this blissful email moment and think about how much I love being a missionary.  One of the interesting things that was running through my head this week was the question of ´Who am I?´  I have been trying to understand really what it is that makes me me, you you, him him, her her, and so on and so forth.  I think when I try to think of myself, I try to think of my most prominent attributes.  The problem is that I try to compare these things to others.  I try to think of myself like ´I am a really good singer`or ´I have more common sense than another person´.  I have been finding that this is an indicator of pride.  Why should I be a summation of the personal attributes that excel others´?  Also, I have been wondering what is permanent and eternal about me that will never change.  What are the things that changed when I came to this fallen world?  What are the things that haven´t changed?  How can I pinpoint exactly what is particular to me?  You might say that I am going through a mid-mission crisis, just that I am a little closer to the end.  Anyway, I read a lot about the pre-mortal existence and the conditions of this life.  True to the Faith speaks very well that in our pre-mortal life we personally developed our own identity.  We learned to love the truth.  We decided who we were and would be by important choices, the principal choice being to follow Christ and the Father´s plan.  We all fought in a war to come here.  That defines all of us who came to this earth.  Principally, all of us are children of a Father and seekers of eternal glory.  I am still looking for key indicators of who I am in particular, but the Lord is helping me see more clearly what He wants me to become.

This past week we had a little bit of a struggle with one of our special families.  I won´t say who it was because the details are a little personal.  We needed to talk to the dad alone because of a touchy subject.  In the past weeks we have noticed that he has the clear signs of being a marijuana user.  That is clearly opposite to God´s laws and the laws of the land.  Well, we got our chance this last week.  We went to his house.  We started out by talking to him about the baptism of his children.  It seemed that he wanted to end at that point, but in my mind I was thinking ´We are not leaving this house until I talk to him about the issue of marijuana´.  Well, I was a little scared, but fought it back with faith.  Just at the moment when I began to introduce the subject, the dad´s friend arrived and stood waiting for his friend outside of the door.  We have already dealt with this other man, and have been suspecting him as the source of the drugs.  That just made the situation all the more strained.  I swallowed my heart again and approached the subject.  The moment I mentioned marijuana, my companion said that he thought he would die.  Our investigator did not looked pleased at all.  He also looked very intimidating in his muscle shirt with his large arms.  After saying my bit.  He looked at me very seriously and asked me in a very low voice who had told us.  Well, we explained to him that we could sense things on our own without the help of others.  We talked to him more and told him that we were his true friends.  At the end of our conversation, the druggy friend outside the door got back into his car and drove away.  We said a prayer and our investigator seemed very calm and determined to overcome his addiction.  It was a great victory that only came because the Spirit supported us and we denied fear with our faith.  It was a great moment!

Well, that´s my great story for this week.  There is a lot more to tell, but that will have to wait.  I love you all.  I know the Book of Mormon is truly the word of God.  I know that Joseph Smith is the Prophet of God.  I know that Jesus Christ is our Savior and the Son of God.  I know that God is our Father who loves and protects us eternally.  Be good and safe.  Saying be careful means that I love you, I DO!

Love, Elder Parker Ayer

P.S. Through my studies of premortal wars and this life, I started thinking a little bit more about that beloved song ´What Do You Do With a General When He Stops Being a General`

Monday, March 9, 2015

Be Thou Humble

Dear family,

This week has been a challenge, but a blessing.  There is nothing like opposition to help you form a fresh view of yourself, God, and the world.  That sounds an awful lot like repentance.  Well, it hasn´t been repentance of sins.  Even harder than that, it´s been trying to cope with situations where no one is sinning but there is a lack of mutual understanding or agreement.  There are lots of opportunities to learn when you spend 24 hours with someone else.  With my companion, we are learning humility, patience, and charity.  I am learning that there doesn´t have to be someone to blame, but I can make a change in my nature to cope better with the nature of others.

Well, that was a heavy start.  I probably should have said happy most progressive day of the year or something like that (this year it was so progressive that I didn´t even notice it was going by until the next day).

Anyway, at the beginning of this week we did divisions in São Lourenço.  It´s a very nice little city with cobble stoned roads.  Look it up, dad!  Anyway, the morning of the exchange, I was studying about humility, pride, and selfishness.  I feel that sometimes I try to use people and their spiritual experiences unfairly in an effort to get them to accept the gospel and be baptized.  I realized that I need to help people be touched by the Spirit so that they can make the choice of following Christ and His restored gospel.  Anyway, I had a great opportunity to apply the principle.  We visited a young woman (Joane) who had been investigating the Church for a year.  Unfortunately, she had a bad experience with an elder that tried to coerce her into being baptized by saying that if she wasn´t baptized, the people at Church wouldn´t talk to her anymore.  Well, that had a terrible effect and she really didn´t want to be baptized after that.  In our meeting together, I found out that she really had a testimony of the gospel and wanted to be baptized, but not right then.  She wanted to be baptized in the Lord´s timing and her timing.  I explained to her that she had fulfilled the Lords requirement to be baptized, she was prepared.  I then said that she was only waiting on her personal timing.  I told her that the elders were going to have a baptismal service this month on day 21.  I asked her if we could pray together on bended knee to ask Heavenly Father if she should be baptized on that day.  We knelt down.  I said a prayer out loud.  Afterward she said a prayer silently.  She told us when she had finished.  The Spirit was a warmly powerful influence in the room.  I asked her if she felt that she should be baptized this month.  She said yes.  It was a great experience and all of us felt the spirit confirm the same thing to each of us.

I am trying to apply these principles more in my life.  I want to be someone who cares about others enough that I don´t try to coerce others into doing what I want.  The Book of Mormon (Moroni 7:45) speaks very well of charity. `And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.` Really charity has to suffer.  It doesn´t seek what it wants, but seeks what is best for others.  Charity is hard, but is the most important of all of the Christlike attributes.

We had a great experience with our investigators in Church on Sunday.  A member had visited our four principle investigators with us on Friday and Saturday.  She brought a very powerful influence of the Spirit to the lessons.  On Sunday, she brought two of them to Church with her.  All of the investigators were very happy at Church and felt the Spirit abundantly.  Karoliny and Lorem (daughters of our family in which not all are members) told me afterward that they feel they are making their own family at church.  It was such a good thing to hear.  I want you all to know that the influence of a member in the life of a non-member investigator is immense!  Please do all that you can to help those who are coming into the church feel of your spiritual strength, love, and commitment!

I love you all.  I will probably be coming home a month early because of how transfers worked out.  That means that my flight home will probably be July 28!  That means that my return just krept up all of a sudden.  I would like to go the Boston temple with you as an elder.  Do you think that I could fly into Boston and then we could do a session afterwards?  I would love that!  I want so much to be with you all again in the temple as a family.  Family is the only thing that will ever last in this world or the world to come.  I love my family!

With Still More Love, Elder Parker Ayer

PS  I sat in as another missionary gave Spanish lessons this last week.  I did some conversation practices with another person as an example.  I really have difficulty now to speak Spanish.  Everyone was laughing at me because I speak Spanish like dear Mom, moving my head and eyes a lot as if I was in a Mexican soap opera. jajajajajaja  :D

Monday, March 2, 2015

You Can Make the Pathway Bright

Dear Family,

I really could not be happier.  Yesterday and today I just woke up really happy.  I spent the morning singing.  I don´t know if you´ve all been praying extra hard or what, but it´s working!  It really is so great to be a missionary.  There are little bumps along the way as a missionary or in this life, but all we need to do is kneel down in prayer for a little bit and realize that we are on the glorious path that leads to an eternally joyful future!  This is the path of happiness that we are on.  If we stay the course, we will be happy.  Maybe the opposition in this life has power to bump or bruise us, but we are eternally stronger than any momentary difficulty if we stay the course.

There were some great experiences this last week.  On Tuesday night, a member in the ward drove us to Juiz de Fora to take part in the mission counsel.  I got to talk to some of my favorite missionaries, which was great.  Unfortunately we didn´t get to visit any members or recent converts in the area.  On Wednesday, we had the counsel meeting and it was awesome!  We decided some things for the mission.  At the end, President Cascardi started to share 3 Nephi 17 with us, his favorite chapter.  He got emotional when he read about the powerful words the Savior had used in praying for the Nephites.  I thought a lot about why he would get so emotional.  I came to the conclusion that he must know what it´s like to pray so fervently for another, including us missionaries.  I am so glad that I began praying for Sister and President Cascardi before the mission.  I feel like right now I am harvesting the blessed feelings of respect and love for them.

We are working a lot with our wonderful part-member family.  They are doing great.  They went to church yesterday and just loved it!  The dad is feeling like he really wants to make a change in his family so that they can stay firm in the church.  It is such a blessing.  Yesterday we talked to him about the Priesthood.  It was such a blessing to be able to talk him about the joy of having a father that holds and exercises the Priesthood.  I love you all and am ever so grateful for the strength you give me.  I love you!

Love, Elder Parker Ayer

PS  I met the missionary son of Peter Schillemat from Cabo Verde.  His name is Marcos Joao Araujo.  It was cool.