Monday, April 27, 2015

São Thomé das Letras

Dearest family,

I am currently in a ´city´ called São Thomé das Letras.  We are passing here for our p-day festivities.  It´s a fun tourist city that sits on top of a mountain.  If I were you, I would look up some photos of the place because it really is a good-looking place.  Unfortunately, the sad thing about today is that as we were taking pictures, someone went to delete a bad photo on my camera and they wiped it clean.  That´s a very sad prospect and it is weighing very heavily in my mind since I don´t have any back-up for those photos, but I am trying to have an eternal perspective.  I will probably ask some missionaries to share their photos of the last 4 months with me.  If anyone knows some technical trick for recovering accidentally deleted photos, the advice is much appreciated.

Anyway, last Monday was a wild one.  After emails, we went to a churrasco with the youth at the Young Men and Young Women Presidents´ house.  That´s right, it´s this great couple in the branch that take care of all the youth here.  They´re great!  Anyway, that was a lot of fun.  Then someone started playing music.  That was a bad idea.  Well, one thing led to another, and before you know it, I was showing people how to do the Cotton Eye Joe.  They were blown away by the gringo-ness of it all.  That night we traveled to another area in the zone (Lavras) to go on exchanges with the Elders there.  The next day was alright.  There wasn´t anything too exciting.  There was an investigator of theirs that we visited who fell in love completely with me and my American accent.  She just had to add me on Facebook.  Luckily I was only passing through the city.

The rest of the week went by in a world wind.  A large part of the week I was dwelling on the principle of conversion.  It was a very depressing moments when were reviewing the the Area Book and saw all of the recent converts´ records from the past 20 years.  I can honestly say that there wasn´t one of their names that I recognized.  There wasn´t one of them who I had seen at church.  There wasn´t one who had stayed strong in the church to tell me the story of their conversion.  This is probably the hardest part of being a missionary.  I know, as in I am familiar with, the kind of effort, faith, and prayer that it takes to find, teach, and baptize one person.  It is a great effort.  Still, it does not hold a candle to the great struggle wrought by the Savior as he bowed down in humble submission to pay the price of mortality.  I imagined all of the missionaries who had pled to Heavenly Father to be led to the ´one´, to have the power and inspiration to teach the ´one´, and have the purity of heart to baptize the ´one´ with water and spirit.  How is it that such a heavy price could be so quickly swept under the rug of social pressures and lingering addictions and laziness?  I hate to think that all of my efforts could be simply put to the side.  I was feeling very weighed down one day when I felt like I should read a few things.  Preach My Gospel tells us that no effort is wasted.  He says that all of our efforts to bring others to Christ will have an eternal impact on others and may be the key to an eventual conversion to the truth.  What we have to do is declare the message of the Restoration to all people and all nations.  The more people we teach, the greater our success will be.  We must focus on helping the greatest number of people possible.  We will feel sad when people don´t want to accept our invitations, especially when they have received spiritual witnesses of the truth, but we must never become discouraged.  We must have faith and believe in things that are not seen but true.  It is true that we are servants of the Master and we are proclaiming the greatest message known.  Just because we do not see results immediately does not mean that the work is not true or that the work is somehow not as powerful as we were told or have experienced.  We must be converted first.  Every time we reject temptation, we will become more enabled by the Atonement of Christ and will become more converted to a divine lifestyle instead of the carnal nature.

In these last days,  we will need the power of God to combat the forces of evil.  Nephi saw this power descend upon God´s covenant people.  He said:

And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld the power of the Lamb of God, that it descended upon the saints of the church of the Lamb, and upon the covenant people of the Lord, who were scattered upon all the face of the earth; and they were armed with righteousness and with the power of God in great glory. (1 Nephi 14:14)

We must live by covenants.  As we do so, we will be changed.  We will be armed with righteousness to combat the forces around us, ´for we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.´ (Ephesians 6:12)

I love you all.  I am so grateful for the example that my parents have shown to me of conversion and personal integrity.  Mom and Dad, you have shown to me that who we are is what we do when we think no one is looking.  You have shown to me that if we are to be changed, we must sacrifice our personal wills and desires.  I pray daily that I can continue to change and become completely converted.  I pray that these people I am teaching may do the same.  If they don´t, they will not have the power to stay firm when the rain, winds, and the mighty hail beat upon them in days to come.  I know what it is like to be beaten by physical rain, winds, and hail.  Let us run to the House of the Lord so that we can find personal refuge from these furious forces.

I love you all.  I lied last week.  I will be able to Skype with you here in a couple more weeks.  Não vejo a hora.  Stay strong, stick the course, keep a goin´, weary not, sayonara, and all those other goodbyes.

With much love, Elder Parker Ayer

Monday, April 20, 2015

When You Only Got a Hundred Days to Live

Dear family,

As you can see by the title, I only have 100 more days as a missionary today.  These are according to some very sophisticated calculations made by the brainy and highly reputed Christian Ayer.  I want to let you know that I am not counting the days, but yes, making the days count.  Who am I kidding, I´m doing both of them.  However, I have realized the need to stay very focused these last few days of my ministry, and I am making some goals to make these last moments all the more sweet.  I hope that you will all join me in these goals.  First, I will have meaningful Book of Mormon study every day.  I will completely read the entire Book of Mormon in Portuguese.  For the port. edition, that means 6 pages more or less every day.  Second, I will make my prayers more meaningful.  This goal is a little bit harder to measure, but I will make sure that I pray for those within my stewardship and that I stay awake for the beginning, middle, and end of my prayers.  Third, I will write every day in my journal.  Just a warning, I pretty much haven´t written in my journal since West Virginia.  I am telling you now so that the ear cuffing you give me later won´t be as vicious.  Let´s  give thanks in each of our entries so that we can keep a record of our ´journeyings without murmurings´ (1 Nephi 17:2).  I invite all of you to join me in this 100 day growth so that when we see each other we will see each other as we really are, more purified by the powers of scripture, prayer, and gratitude.  Please follow up with me in the coming weeks to make sure that I am doing all that I said I would do.

Anyway, this week was great!  There were some wonderful experiences.  Tuesday in district meeting we talked about the importance of promise blessings with our commitments.  That day, we taught the law of chastity 3 times!  That was a lot of requiring commitments in one day.  It was interesting to see how the people reacted to the commitments.  I realized that we often think in terms of costs and benefits (thank you, Mr. Porusta, for the economics lesson).  We want to make sure that the cost of changing our lives and missing out on a pleasurable experience will bring a benefit that will outweigh the cost.  This is natural man thinking.  Sometimes we have to work with this thinking in others to help increase their faith and bring them to taste of the joyous fruit of righteous living.  In reality, we can see that the cost of not living the commandments is rather high.  We should review D&C 19 if we forgot what the cost of heathen living is.  That empty feeling we feel as the Spirit withdraws himself is just a taste of the bitter pain and suffering we will feel in hell if we continue on without repenting.  Our ultimate motive for obeying the commandments should stem from our desire to show our love for God and to be loved by Him (John 14:15,21).

This last week we very involved with some great families we are teaching.  We found two families that are related who are very excited about the restored gospel and baptism.  We lifted some members to their houses to teach, and oh what great spirit was felt as the members testified of the truth of the gospel and the blessings he brings.  On Sunday, the members successfully lifted our investigators to church.  We had twelve people in Church on Sunday!  It was one of the greatest miracles I have seen on my mission.  The families are preparing to be baptized on May 2nd.

This last week we helped our prime family of Fernanda, Michel, Debora, and Joel move from once house to another.  It was great to help because the step-dad, Michel, is Catholic and not very interested in the message.  I think that his heart opened up when he saw that we were willing to sacrifice our time to help his family in a critical moment.  Friday was the 16th birthday of Debora.  We were invited and attended with the pretense that we had to bring our district leader to interview Joel for baptism.  Anyway, everything went great.  Joel was baptized on Saturday.  Debora is a little crazy and not sure if she wants to be baptized.  She is feeling the spirit.  On Saturday at the baptism she said that she would be baptized if she didn´t have to use the ´white capoeira jumpsuit´ (capoeira is a Brazilian type of martial art dance, look it up on the internet because it is super cool).  Anyway, they are all being very well integrated into the branch.  We are so excited for them all to be a strong family in the church.  Even Michel showed up for priesthood meeting on Sunday (that´s the first meeting here).  They are very dear to us.

Well, I got to go.  I will leave you all with one last thought.  1 Nephi 8:34  The wording in Portuguese is a little bit more direct and exact.  It says that all who gave attention to the mockers were lost.  Do not give attention to those who mock the Church, the Book of Mormon, the gospel, Christ, church leaders, or you will be lost.  I love you all.  Be strong and faithful.  I know that this work is truly the work of God here on the earth.

With all of my love until we meet again, Elder Parker Ayer

P.S. 100 days until we meet, but only 2 more weeks until Skype!

Monday, April 13, 2015


Dear family,

This week was a wonderful experience!  It´s another week in wonderland.  I really can´t adequately express the love I feel for my missionary experience, or my love for you for that matter.  I pray that I can live worthily of the Savior´s name and of our family name.

Anyway, This week started out great with a trip to Juiz de Fora, as I mentioned in my email last week.  After visiting one of the families Elder Nogueira taught in the city, we went to the bairro of São Pedro to see my beloved friends there.  We went to the home of Irmã Penha, but no one was home.  We went to Lia´s home, but no one was home there either.  Then we went to the house of an older couple I didn´t know too well.  It was a good visit and they appreciated the visit.  I was still very anxious to see my favorite family of Irmã Penha.  We went back there and there was happily a light on in the home.  When I called the family´s names, people came running out to open the gate.  It was one of the happiest reunions I have ever had.  Irmão Geraldo fried up some terresmo and mandioca for us to snack on.  I really couldn´t have asked for a happier night in my favorite place in Juiz de Fora.  Unfortunately, I find out that all of the people I baptized there are now less active.  Luckily the members and missionaries are still working with them to help bring them back.  The principle of prayer will have to be applied.

I slept in the home of the Manchester missionaries with all of the others that would be there for the mission counsel.  It was wonderful to be able to be with the other missionaries.  The next day was wonderful also as we met in counsel to talk about the needs of the mission and how we can continue reaching our goals.  The month of March the mission was able to reach 111 baptisms and confirmations, so Presidente Cascardi took us all out to eat churrasco.  Unfortunately, our zone was the weak zone and I was feeling pretty lame about that.  We were determined to contribute more this month.  Our zone since being split off from another zone hasn´t been able to reach more than 5 baptisms in a month.  That´s mostly because the missionaries think that the zone is the armpit of the mission, which is a great big lie.  We´re right next to a zone that´s always baptizing 20 or more.  Anyways, we are raising the faith of our zone with a goal of 13 baptisms in the month of April.  Our theme is 13 já!  (which means 13 already!)  During the zone meeting, everyone became very excited and determined to be able to reach our goal.  It was wonderful during those two days of inspiring meeting to be able to feel the spirit of excitement, determination, and repentance that came into my heart.  There was nothing I wanted more than to be able to declare the gospel to every creature and bring them unto Christ through the waters of baptism.  Now what we have to do is to live in a way that will sustain that kind of continuous excitement and repentance.

Well, this past week we were preparing Karoliny and Loren to be baptized.  Unfortunately, Karoliny had to undergo surgery on her breast to remove a nodule.  Fortunately, the surgery went well and she will probably be able to recover and be baptized by the end of this month.  Her sister Loren had a wonderful baptism on Sunday.  It was great to hear from her baptismal interviewer that she bore a very sincere and powerful testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith.  Until then, she hadn´t expressed her feelings much on the subject, but the Spirit has taken hold upon her heart.

I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet.  I know the Book of Mormon is Christ´s word.  I know that the commandments lead us to joy that doesn´t end.  I know that if we exercise a particle of faith in obeying a commandment, God will immediately bless us and we will see the truth.  Let the Spirit have full sway in your heart and you will begin to feel a changing sensation inside of you.  This is one of the most precious feelings that I know.  We can change.  We can be perfected in Christ.  I love you all.  Be diligent in prayer and scripture study and we will one day be brought together in white to worship God in righteousness.  I can´t wait for that day.  It is my most long-awaited day.

With Such Great Love, Elder Parker Alan Ayer

Monday, April 6, 2015

I Care About Easter, and General Conference Is Not a Bore

Dear Family,

I love you all so much!

This last week was so wonderful.  It was wild and wonderful.  That´s on more of a `He is Risen` scale and not just a West Virginia scale.

Anyway, there were so many wonderful experiences this last week.  Most of them came at the end of the week, but the whole week was good.  First off, my companion got shipped off.  Right when we started working well together, he had to get going.  But that´s always how it is, we just have enough time to learn what we need to learn and then we´re off on to our next lesson.  The night before we had gone to a member´s house for a family home evening.  They made feijoada, a delicious bean dish that has every porky part of the pig you can imagine.  Well, it is a very fatty dish and I ate a lot.  It´s something that gringo´s aren´t used to, especially 8 o´clock at night.  Let´s just say the next day I was hurting.  It´s still one of my favorite dishes here and I really want to make it for you all when I get home, I just won´t include things like ears, snout, knees, and all the other things.  Anyway, Elder Fraga left on Tuesday and I got a temp companion for the day, Elder Pereira.  He lived with me in the Bara do Piraí.  I like him a lot more when I don´t have to live with him every day.  Anyway, we taught a great lesson (that´s right, just one, it was a really slow day).  That night my new comp got there, Elder Nogueira.  He is an awesome elder who is likable and just wants to work, so things are going great!  I couldn´t ask for a better companion.

The week went great.  We are teaching some wonderful people.  On Thursday we did a service project.  I went in my shorts with my wicked white legs showing.  Everyone was laughing at my legs.  After the project of moving a bunch of sand from one place to another, I got laughed at even more when everyone noticed that my legs had suddenly turned very red.  It wasn´t just the legs.  The sun was super hot that day and burned everything!  I will show you a classified picture that I took of myself.  It´s hilarious!  Don´t worry, I am taking care of myself to not get skin cancer.

Friday was wonderful.  I decided to fast between Thursday and Friday.  I knew that it was a Catholic practice to hold in reverence Friday as the day of Christ´s crucifixion.  I thought that it would be good to do a Brazilian fast from lunch on Thursday to lunch on Friday seeing as the greatest part of Christ´s sacrifice would have taken part on Thursday night in the garden and concluded Friday midday on the cross.  I will tell you that I was so glad that I fasted.  When I woke up on Friday, I felt such a great peace.  I read about the sacrifice of the Son of God, and I felt so strongly in my heart that really He did what He did and what no other human being could do.  I really do know that Jesus Christ paid this price.  Because of Him, we have the power to choose who we will become, even the sons of God.

Lately I have been studying a lot about WHO we are, what our essence is.  There were some big questions that I took with me to general conference.  They were all answered so wonderfully.  I was shocked as every single talk seemed to talk about our eternal potential, our premortal heritage, and the importance of personal choice in our destiny.  I was profoundly impressed by the talks on Saturday morning.  As I listened I felt so strongly that I had prepared for eternities to be a exemplary father and husband.  That is who I am.  I am not even married, but there is something that tells me that that is my identity.  Satan would tear down the family and everything that it means.  There is nothing that can get in my way of having my own family.  There is no other purpose in life than this.  Family is the basic and only unit of order in the life to come.  It is system of government and happiness.  I am so grateful for my family.  I am grateful for the physical characteristics that I inherit from dad and mom.  I am grateful for the habits, traditions, and joys that we share.  These are things that have carried us to be together in this life and will carry us to be together in the next life.  This is our greatest identity.

I love you all so much!  I pray for you always.  I tried to include a recording, but it didn´t work.  Be true and faithful.

With much love, Elder Parker Ayer

P.S. I was sad not hear President Monson much in conference or Elder Scott at all.  Where was he?  He is one of my favorites.  :D

​It was early in the morning, and I was a little tired.

​The ´chocolate-flavored´ Easter egg I got from a member.