Well, the reason that I put this subject line is because I usually spend WAY too much time thinking up some creative subject line. The excitement about this subject line is that I actually saw my first wild tucan yesterday. He was flying a north-northeast direction to the big city to deliver a jungle message to Ursula. Anyway, that´s a little too goofy to start off a missionary message of great spiritual stature. Anyway, it was great. This last week was also great.
Tuesday we had a great zone conference in Varginha with President and Sister Cascardi. I was asked to play the piano for the mission hymn. Actually, I was the only person in the conference with an inkling for piano playing, so I was volunteered by default. Anyway, I was very shaky. I said a prayer beforehand, and it helped. I didn´t play perfectly. There were a few dead moments when I had to take my fingers from the keys to calm down and start again. Luckily, thanks to divine help, I didn´t play any wrong note and I played while maintaining the same tempo, so it came out being alright. I think that maybe everyone thought that the keyboard had some electrical malfunction that made it cut out every now and then. Anyway, there were lots of good things from the conference. It was a good time for self-reflection. I realized that everything we do in the church, all of our activities and meetings and such, are directed to us repenting or helping others repent. We read the scriptures, pray, and have family home evening to help us feel a desire to improve and repent. We have meetings (that sometime seem unnecessary) so that we can have frequent opportunities to recognize our faults safely and correct them. That is what I feel every time that I hear President Cascardi speak. I just want to be better. I want to fulfill the Lord´s trust. I realized that recently I have become somewhat satisfied with my level of obedience. In reality, I still have a lot to improve. I have to look at myself and think, Am I really as pure as I thought? Am I really as dedicated to scripture study as I thought? Am I converted, or do I live certain patterns because of familial or missionary structures? They are hard questions that take humility to answer honestly. President Cascardi made it very clear to us that our level of obedience is more important than our number of baptisms. He also said that we will never be able to fulfill the level of obedience that the Lord requires of us. We can´t. Not that we are not permitted to, but we cannot physically do it. He then spoke of a talk by Elder Bednar that talks of the dual powers of the Atonement to purify us and then enable us. We must first lay aside the carnal man and then perfect the saint. (Mosiah 3:19) That means that all of us are in need of the power of the Atonement. This week I have felt a strong desire to be more dedicated to perfecting myself, or in other words letting the Savior perfect me.
This week has been a good week of work. It hasn´t been as good as we would have liked it to have been, but it´s been good. We have been teaching a man named André. His is a very elect young man who met the church when he read a book by a famous Mormon Brazilian and area seventy, Carlos Wizard. Anyway, he started coming to church on his own but was having trouble fulfilling the commandments because his fiancê is pregnant with their child. Anyway, we showed up there on Saturday morning and started to talk to him. Elder Nogueira only mentioned the word baptism, and it seemed like André´s complexion changed. He asked how he could set up a day for his baptism. We were thrilled. We talked to him a little bit more about the standard for baptism, and he said that he was going to live by the commandments. We were thrilled. It reminded me of that part in chapter 5 of Preach My Gospel that says that one way or another, every investigator will be backed up to the wall of faith and must resolve his own doubts. André has been reading the Book of Mormon daily and praying. He wakes up early before studying odontologia in the college so that he can learn from the scriptures. As we know, and as Alma knew, the word has more powerful effect on man than the sword. Prayer and scripture study have brought André to personally decide to lay aside every sin which easily besets him and enter in the waters of baptism as a testimony before God. It was a wonderful experience.
My most tender mercy this week was in the house of our beloved family, Fernanda, Michel, Joel (who we baptized), and Debora. Fernanda, if you don´t remember, was baptized 20 years ago in Belo Horizonte, but lost contact with the Church until recently. Anyway, this last week we were having a great discussion from the Book of Mormon. Fernanda began to tell a story about how dark her life had been when she had lost contact with the Church. As she was talking, she mentioned something about how she knew that God had not forgotten her. She said that God had made a covenant with her, and He would not forget that covenant just like He would not forget the covenant of peace that He made with Noah. When she said that, something went off inside my head. I knew those words. The words were a little different in Portuguese than in English, but I knew those words and their meaning. I flipped to 3 Nephi 22 and saw the Savior´s citation of Isaiah 54. Those were the same words that carried me into the mission field as cited in the musical arrangement of `My Kindness Shall Not Depart from Thee`. I found out that Fernanda had read those words in one of the darkest parts of her life, and it had given her comfort to continue and hold on to the promises of the Lord for her and her family. She told me that she felt as those promises were being fulfilled now with her family being taught by the missionaries, going to the True Church, and being baptized. I felt a quiet and powerful spirit testify to me that this experience with this family was divinely appointed, for a mutually tender mercy. I know that the scriptures have a powerful effect on us. This family I have taught has brought some of the greatest joy to me as a missionary.
I want you all to know that the Book of Mormon is true. He has a power to heal our hearts. He has a power to open our eyes. He teaches of the path that leads us back to the Holy One of Israel. I am grateful for the Savior and His teachings. I am grateful for the Atonement. I am grateful for a Father in Heaven who has planned our redemption and exaltation from the beginning. He has even planned a way for those who He knew would never accept the Savior´s sacrifice. He never will forget us. If we don´t forget Him, we can return to His presence. Let´s return together as a family! Let´s repent and improve and have our hearts knit together in ties that no unhallowed hand can break. I love you all. That love is stronger than the bands of death.
-Elder Parker Ayer
P.S. I am being transferred to Ubá. It was one of my dreams to serve there. I will probably end my mission there. I do not know what plans the missionaries have made there to skype with family. It will be after 2 o´clock probably (Brazil time). That´s after church and lunch. I will make sure to call after church your time. Stay ready to receive the call! I love all y'all!