Monday, June 29, 2015

One Month

Dear Family,

I love you all so much!  One month from today I will be with you all again.  That is one of the hardest things for me to imagine, which is probably a good thing.  If I can't imagine it, I can focus better on what I need to do.  This last month has to be the month where I give it my all, fight the good fight, and stay the course.  I hope that the Lord will give me daily manna to keep me going.

Anyway, this week has been very good.  It has been one of the coldest weeks as a Brasilian missionary.  Seriously, it has been REALLY cold.  I have been wearing a sweater every day and blowing hot air on my hands to keep them warm.  At night I have been wearing wool socks, sweat pants, and a sweat shirt to keep me warm.  I think I am going soft.  All of this hot Brasilian weather has made me a wimp.  Good thing that I'll be getting back in the middle of summer.

We had some really great miracles this last week.  The trouble is is that so many good things happen every day, but then we often get disappointed the next.  We find so many good people that end up rejecting the message.  Happily, we found one family that is holding on strong and it looks like they will be baptized.  We went to contact a media referral, but it looked like someone sent a fake referral.  Anyway, we kept knocking on doors around the address.  We ended up helping some person move some things from their house into a taxi.  After half an hour of service, we were ready to move on to another area to do proselyting.  The thing was that I felt that the gente (we) should keep on knocking doors in the alley.  We finished knocking and at the end of the alley we met a kid.  We talked to him and he said that we could share a message with him and his grandma.  As we shared the message, they felt very strongly the truth of the message.  The grandma said that she had been praying to know which was the right path to follow.  She said that they had gone to so many churches, but they were looking for the right one.  She became very emotional to have the Book of Mormon.  The next day we went back with a member to teach them.  When we got there the grandmother, Flavia, said that she wasn't going to visit the church with us on Sunday because of what the neighbors might say.  We stayed calm and reminded her of the powerful feelings she had had the day previous.  Luckily, Elder Ribeiro had put the Restoration DVD in his bag, so we watched it.  I was so grateful for the movie to bring back those very powerful spiritual feelings testifying of the truth of the Restoration, the Prophet Joseph, and the Book of Mormon.  Flavia was able to overcome her fears with faith.  She went to church with us and felt the spirit swell up inside of her when she saw the church spire.  That feeling continued on and on during the meetings.  It was amazing to see how much she was blessed by the message and by the visit at church.  She is a woman of faith.  She even payed tithing!

This last week I was reflecting a lot on the natural man.  The natural man is an enemy to God.  He always has been and always will be.  What is the natural man?  It's that fallen nature of our flesh that is contrary to the nature of God.  It is sensual, carnal, and devilish.  It is that part that gives every excuse to live sinfully or even somewhat erroneously.  The natural man gives excuses that in the natural world would be naturally accepted.  For example, a natural man would not fulfill his church duties because he spent the entire week at work and is tired.  It's only natural.  Unfortunately, it's only natural for the fallen man.  God expects more of us.  He made us in His image.  He expects us to be like He is.  In that effort, he will support us from moment to moment by His grace.  If we are to be like Him,we must not accept the excuses that the natural world gives us, and we must seek to be our best selves in spite of our fallen nature.  We must be born again.  We must become new creatures in Christ.  We must become as children, even saints.  Let's not accept the temptations of Satan, but let us valiantly strive for a greater expectation in spite of them.  We are never too tired to pray, we are never too sad to help another, we are never too knowledgeable to read the scriptures.

I love you all!  You are my favorite.

With love, Elder Parker Ayer

Monday, June 22, 2015

Get Me To The Church on Time

Dear family,

Happy Father´s Day, Dad!  Happy birthday to Grandpa Ayer on Thursday!

Anyway, this last week has been a little strange.  It has been good.  It was strange to leave Ubá after only one transfer.  It was weird to return back to Juiz de Fora to serve.  It is weird to be able to see the boundary of my old area and the bairros where I used to work on the hills of the other side of the city and not be able to go back there.  It has been a little strange, but good too.

Tuesday I took the bus from Ubá to Juiz de Fora.  I really was quite sad to say goodbye to my missionary friends there and some of the members, but what else is new as a missionary.  I think I get most frustrated when people say that missionaries always forget the people they met on their missions.  I think I would die before forget these people, and then I would just hang around talking to their dead ancestors on the other side.  Anyway, I got to the Juiz de Fora bus station about 2 o´clock on Tuesday and talked to all of the other missionaries there, many people I will probably not see ever again in this life because there won´t be another opportunity before I return home.  I was very happy when I got an early birthday present from the mission secretary...A PACKAGE!  I was so happy to get the package from Will and Steph.  It was full of all the most wonderful pictures and letters.  My favorite pictures were the beautiful picture of the happy couple on the big day with Steph´s hair down and the picture of the sonogram.  Little Liam has a lot of growing to do before he can be a jedi knight like his namesake, Liam Neeson (Quigonjin?).  I am sure that Liam Neeson isn´t really his namesake, but no matter who the namesake is, I love the name.  A little later, my new companion , Elder Ribeiro, came to pick me up.  We took a taxi and got to our apartment.  Then we worked a little bit.  It was good.

Wednesday was very strange.  I woke up thinking about how I am 21 years old.  (I have 21 years).  I didn´t tell anyone because I really didn´t want to be THAT missionary getting into an area telling everyone it was his birthday and demanding attention.  I told Heavenly Father that the only thing I wanted for my birthday was to be able to find an elect investigator to baptize.  That day we received several messages on our phone with some media referrals.  What a present!  We are working with the referrals and have set a baptismal date with some members of the families.  How wonderful!  We´ll see how they progress.  Despite not telling anyone about my birthday, I received several special birthday messages.  It seemed like the `Feliz aniversário´ message kept popping up all over the place.  Even during lunch the Sister received some junk letter in the mail that had a gigantic happy birthday message across the front.  It was nice to think that Heavenly Father was mindful of the day even though everyone else was oblivious.  That night President and Sister Cascardi sent a happy birthday text as is their custom.  When my companion found out, he insisted that we buy pizza.  Well, I didn´t refuse.  It was good, but we´ll have to eat Sal´s when I get home.  Sorry, I am talking a lot about going home.  It´s not because I am always thinking about it; it´s just that it´s a very real and impending truth.

The rest of the week went well.  We taught several lessons on Friday that made me happy.  Unfortunately, the lessons weren´t very effective.  I mostly just defended the Book of Mormon against all of the opposers.  Something I am still learning is to use my time wisely testifying against those who are contrary to the Church and its teachings.  We have better things to do than to worry about those who don´t want to believe in our words.  We are not sent to save them.  We are sent to call those who recognize the voice of the Savior and who want to follow Him.  They are His sheep.

Saturday there was a special activity in the Church.  We had invited and confirmed all of our investigators to go with us.  However, no one ended up going because they all went to the March for Jesus that happened downtown.  It was frustrating, but the activity was still good.  It was a special FHE type activity to celebrate the birthday boys and girls of the first half of the year.  Well, it was cool because my birthday was this last week and they sang and had cake and everything!  It was fun.

Sunday was puxado.  We got ready quickly so that we could go bring all of our investigators to church.  Well, we got to their houses and yelled and yelled, but no one responded.  Everyone pretended to be asleep.  It was really frustrating.  We did so much to bring them to Church, but they weren´t willing to do what was necessary to go.  Well, we fortunately started inviting everyone in the street and finally the neighbor of a member said that he would go to church with us.  He got a ride with the member, but we had to walk back to the church.  It was a long walk.  As we were racing to ge there, we got a call from the other missionaries that President Cascardi was there.  Usually it would be alright to get to the Church a little late here because Priesthood meeting is usually first.  However, this ward has Sacrament Meeting first.  I was really worried because I thought that we might miss the sacrament.  Also, there was the factor that Presidente Cascardi would chew our heads off.  Well, we got there at the very end of the sacrament hymn and were seated for the sacramental prayers.  I never want to think that I could miss the sacrament again.  Anyway, after the sacrament, I was witness to a very special tender mercy.  I found out that that very day the bishop had been released and a new bishop called in his stead.  They gave their testimonies, and the whole time I thought of Dad and his calling.  After church, we got to watch the setting apart of the new bishop.  When they said his name and the name of the ward and stake, I inserted: John Brewster Ayer, Laconia Ward, Concord New Hampshire Stake.  It was an emotional moment, but a very satisfying one.  I was so happy to see here what was going on in my very own ward many miles away.  Dad, I know that the Lord will support you in your new calling.  You are the same John Brewster Ayer, but now with rights, privileges, and keys as a common judge in Israel.  I think I will start counting time now according to the years of John Ayer on the ´judgment seat´.  But seriously, I love you and know that the Lord does too.  We often receive responsibilities from the Lord that seem to overwhelm us.  This very life seems overwhelming.  We look at our bodies and think, How will I overcome this carnal flesh?  How will I be able to change and be a saint?  What we seem to forget is that worlds before this, we were learning directly from our Heavenly Father as His exalted spirit children.  Now we just need to let our ´living soul´ become what Heavenly Father knows it can be.

I love you all so much and pray for you constantly.  Know that I love you.

With so much love it is hard to contain a hundredth part,

Elder Parker Ayer

Monday, June 15, 2015

The Last Transfer

Dear family,

The subject line says it all.  This is the last transfer.  The last six weeks.  We found out today about the transfer.  Elder Goes, my good friend, will be staying here in Ubá.  We go home at the same time, so one of us had to be transferred out of the area this transfer so that next transfer the area didn´t get without missionaries.  That sentence really didn´t make sense in English, but I hope you can figure it out.  Anyway, I am being transferred to an area called Grajaú.  It´s a ward in Juiz de Fora.  Elder Kenning was serving there when I was in Manchester.  Apparently it´s a challenging area and I don´t know anything about my companion.  I am sad to be leaving Ubá after one transfer, but I am happy to be going back to Juiz de Fora.  I also think that this last situation will give me enough of a spiritual, mental, and physical challenge to keep me focused until the very end.  This is me being positive.  Baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaatizar!

This last week was a good one.  On Monday we headed over to Cataguases.  Elder Goes served in the city like 9 months ago.  We already had to do an exchange there, so we decided to pass p-day there with Elder Goes´s recent convert.  It was a good time.  On Tuesday we ate huge, delicious brownies at a restaurant owned by his recent convert.  What saudades de brownies!  Anyway, we all did exchanges on Wednesday and Thursday, but this time the other areas came to our area.  I got to exchange with Elder Kenning on Thursday, and it was great.  It was good to work with him again.

I am sorry, but I really can´t think clearly today.  My mind is all caught up by what is going to happen this last transfer.  This last week was good, but I am not remembering anything.

Let me tell you that the most important thing that we can do is seek to have the Spirit with us.  It is not Heavenly Father´s intent to chastise us.  He wants the best for us.  That´s why He gives us directions and instructions.  If we abide by these instructions, we will be blessed.  Let us have a determination to not withdraw ourselves from His presence.  Let´s be determined to not wander purposefully or mindlessly from His dwelling place.  We must be involved with the business that is realized within His home.  If we go about seeking to build up His kingdom, we will never be found outside of His kingdom and the reach of His mercy, love, and enabling power.  Seek to love those who are closest to you.  That means physically.  If you are suffering something, it is the time to look around and wonder what are the hidden difficulties of others.

I love you all.  Sorry for the lack of of letter.  Be strong and do what is right.  Also, I will be very happy to come home and eat cake with you all.

Your wayfarin´ stranger in a strange land,
Elder Parker Ayer

P.S.  Neide´s family moved to the Bahia without saying goodbye to us.  They couldn´t pay their rent, so the government payed for them to return to their home city.

P.P.S.  This last transfer, I will be repeating the conversation between Sam and Frodo.  ´Think of the [New Hamp]Shire.´  It wasn´t trunky for them, just gave them good reasons to fight until the end and get home already.  I love you!

Monday, June 8, 2015

A Sacramental Reunion

Dearest family,

What a week it was!  Let me just tell you that this week was awesome!  It started out a little rough, let me explain.

Well, Monday was good.  We cleaned the house.  It wasn´t a very thorough cleaning, but we felt like it was enough.  We were complete goofs, however, because we found out on Monday that President and Sister Cascardi would be passing by on Tuesday for interviews.  Well, we didn´t think about it too much.  That is, we didn´t think about it too much until Tuesday morning when we got a knock on the door.  That´s right, Sister Cascardi was paying a visit to our humble abode to see if everything was in order.  Well, several hours had passed between our cleaning on Monday morning to our inspection on Tuesday morning.  She already entered with a disgusted look and some curt words.  Let me just tell you that it is the worst experience to let Sister Cascardi down, especially when you felt like you had a good relationship with her.  Well, she didn´t waste time.  She assigned jobs to everyone to fazer uma faixinha and she got in on the action also.  For an hour or so we went around like wild men doing everything that she mandated.  It was an unpleasant feeling, but in the end our house was clean...a Quality Cascardi Clean!  She reminded us that like her, the Savior would also come in an instant like a robber.  The only difference is that when He comes he won´t let the wicked be cleansed with sponges and soap; the earth will be cleansed by fire.  It´s probably the hour to read Alma 5 de novo to see if I´m ready.

Anyway, we had interviews depois.  They went really well.  It was my last interview with President before the exit interview.  It went well.  I will be pushing along with all of my heart, might, mind, and strength until the bittersweet end.

This week was wonderful.  You must remember the family of Neide of whom I spoke last week.  Well, everything went well this last week.  They were perfectly prepared to be baptized.  It was really amazing to see the conversion in their lives, and the continuing conversion in the life of José, the pioneer of the family.  One of the daughters, Ana Vitória, had her 11th birthday on Friday, so the gente did a special family night that was a lot of fun.  On Saturday, they were baptized.  It was amazing to see so much white!  It was the most people I had ever seen baptized all at one time.  It was wonderful.  The water was freezing (granted, we didn´t have to chop through the ice), but the baptism was wonderful.  On Sunday, they were all confirmed as members and received the Holy Ghost.  It was one of the greatest miracles.  I was praying that they could really be able to feel the influence of the Holy Spirit of Promise sealing the ordinances.  I have noticed that the preparation for baptism makes a big difference in the special feeling that come on the day of baptism and confirmation.  When people are really prepared and repentant, the Holy Spirit of Promise has a much greater influence to seal the actuality of the covenant upon the recipients.  When people are baptized and confirmed with that powerful influence, the moment becomes an anchor in the life of the person that will never be forgotten regardless of difficulties.  Well, the prayer was effective.  Last night Neide told the gente that she and one of the girls, Evilly, felt ´stars and lights´ crossing in front of their eyes and on their backs as the confirmation was realized.  It was such a wonderful feeling to hear that.  I also found out that night that José is very excited to receive the priesthood so that he can perform vicarious baptism on behalf of his deceased father.  I was so happy to hear that, too.  They are ordinary people who look like any poor family from the ghetto.  However, they are much more than this.  They are miracles.

This last week we also found someone else very special.  After José moved to another bairro, Elder Goes and I were feeling like we [the gente] had to go back to the alley where he used to live to knock some more doors...just that we didn´t talk to each other about the strong feelings we were having.  Finally this last week we discovered that we were both having the same feeling and we went back.  We went to knock the first door past José´s old house and someone at the end of the alley started calling us.  We thought that maybe he was the dono of the house and was going to ask us what we wanted.  However, it was the man living at the end of the alley.  He said that he had watched a special report about the owner of Azul Airlines in Brasil who said that he is Mormon.  This man, Jerry, said that he really wanted to know more about us.  That was the beginning of a miracle.  The first time he talked so much about Manaus and the US that we [the gente] could only give him the Book of Mormon at the end and explain a little bit.  A couple days later, we went back to teach the Restoration.  He next invited us to dinner at his house on Sunday.  We passed by there yesterday and it was a great spiritual lesson.  He had read until Nephi 5.  We discussed the part in Nephi 3 when Nephi is commanded to kill Laban and the importance of following the susurros of the Spirit.  We then began to talk about the importance of reading and praying to know the truth.  The Spirit was so strong.  He felt it.  We felt it.  At the end, we showed him the Church´s website and some videos of the apostles testifying of Jesus Christ.  He was very impressed by their words and by the Spirit.  There was some sort of great spiritual mutual understanding that all of us left with.  We knew there was divine purpose in our meeting.  It was very interesting to feel and participate in.  We just hope that he will not let other influences extinguish or smother the true influence of the Spirit guiding him in the right path.

Well, Sunday was probably one of the best days of my mission.  It was filled with so much joy.  It was because of the four moças that we confirmed and also because of the lesson with Jerry.  Also, it was because of a very special surprise that I received at Church.  After priesthood meeting (which always comes first here) I turned around to see Geraldo and his neto, Ítalo, from Juiz de Fora.  My friends!  They led me upstairs to see Irmã Penha who came with them.  Who I was completely not expecting to see was Lia!  Some of my favorite people in the world were there to see me.  They came so long, and I saw them after so long, and I felt so happy.  I really couldn´t hold back the emotion.  I found out that Lia is putting aside her inactivity and is going to church again.  That made me so happy. It was such a good reunion.  I sat next to them in the sacrament meeting.  During the sacrament, I started pondering.  In Portuguese, sacrament meeting is reunião sacramental.  It could be interpreted as a sacramental reunion.  I thought about that.  I thought about the special reunion that I had had that very morning with dear friends.  I thought about the purpose of the sacrament.  Really, the Sunday meetings were meant to be more than meetings.  They were meant to be more than just reunions with those we love.  They were meant to be sacramental reunions.  It really is so wonderful to think that we can be reunited with God.  We are lost and fallen, and He seeks to collect us.  He comes, and oh how He comes.  It is surprising how dearly He takes us back in His arms.  We are surprised, we rejoice, and we become emotional.  We think it is too good to be true, and it is.  Just think!  Through Christ, we can be redeemed.  We can be forgiven.  We can even be filled with the same glory that brings joy to the very Father of us all.  I know that this gospel is true and that it is the only way to make our way back to Heaven and Heavenly Parents.

I long for that joyful reunion.  I long for my reunion with you all.  I love you all with a perfect love.  Be strong and diligent unto prayer and study and service.

With all my love, Elder Parker Alan Ayer

Monday, June 1, 2015

A Mighty Change

Dear family,

I love you all so much!  Let me brighten up your day a little bit more with a very cheery message.  I realized last week wasn´t too cheery, but this week will be cheerier.

There was a great miracle that we had this last week.  Do your remember how I was complaining last week about how José wasn´t confirmed in church?  Well, the miracle was that his whole family showed up for church.  After the meeting, we set up an appointment to meet with them and teach them as well.  We hadn´t ever talked to them before because José lives with his sister and brother-in-law.  His sister, Andrielly, had told us that their mom would probably never be interested in the message because she xinga (curses) a lot and her mom´s boyfriend doesn´t like a lot of people.  Well, we went there anyway.  What we found out is that José comes from a family of very elect people.  We taught the Restoration to them and José´s mom, Neide, said that she already believed that what we said was true because of the peace they felt in the Church and with us.  She said that she always left other churches with more of a headache than when she had arrived, but it was different with our church.  She said that she would always go to our church.  She had gone on Sunday with a lot of pain because of an eye infection that swelled her eye up.  She was having difficulty feeling very good.  Well, I noticed and thought that I would get a glass of water for her.  She said that when she drank the glass of water all of the pain from her eye went away and she was able to enjoy the meeting.  She said that it was blessed water.  Unfortunately, she said that she wouldn´t be able to be baptized because she was living with her boyfriend.  Her boyfriend recently traveled to their home state of Bahia to prepare the way for them to all go back there in two weeks.  Well, that was a let down, but the three daughters all wanted to be baptized before making the move.  That was a blessing.  We were still a little worried because the city they are moving to doesn´t have the Church and they would have to travel to hours every week to sacrament meeting.  That is a lot of money for a poor family.  Well, we knew the Lord would provide.  We left the Book of Mormon with them and 3 Nephi 11 to read.  We were very surprised the next day when we returned and found that all of them had read, pondered, and prayed.  These three daughters who do not have much in the way of schooling or religious instruction comprehended the chapter perfectly, giving spiritual insights that I have never thought of before.  When they prayed, each of them had their own personal experience with the Spirit.  This bolstered my testimony that the Spirit is the universal language that can speak to all of us.  The Book of Mormon is designed to speak to our souls, any soul, and bring us closer to Christ.  It was a great miracle.

Baptism of José
In this moment, the Mom told us what José hadn´t told us: his personal conversion.  José is a timid young man who doesn´t share a lot of his feelings.  We had noticed a change in him, but we hadn´t known the whole story until his mom told it to us.  Apparently, he used to hear voices in his head.  He never liked to visit churches, but he felt different when he visited The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  The voices in his head started to go away.  The day he read and prayed about the Book of Mormon, we went out into the street and said that everything looked new to him.  He saw all of the old shops, houses, and streets in a new light.  He didn´t know how to explain it very well, but everything was made new to him.  His eyes were changed, and he knew that he was feeling like God was answering his prayer.  I was awestruck when I heard that conversion story.  He is a normal rapaz who had an extraordinary experience.  We started to talk to him about serving a mission.  He is very shy, but I am excited for him to serve!

Anyway, there were lots of things happening in the life of José´s family.  Apparently, Neide´s boyfriend cheated on her while he was bumming around in the other state and that was the last straw for her.  She dumped him and will now be baptized with her children!  They are very excited and will all be baptized this Saturday!  It is amazing to see the change that is taking place in their lives.  It is a change that is taking place in the whole family.  I couldn´t be happier for them.

Let me tell you that I know that the Book of Mormon is true.  This last week we had an unfortunate encounter with our supposedly elect media referral.  He and his wife were taught a couple weeks ago.  This last week we had the opportunity to talk to him for the first time since the last encounter because he apparently traveled.  I don´t know if that´s true, but what I do know is that he didn´t keep any of the commitments that we left for him the last time.  He definitely didn´t read the Book of Mormon, definitely didn´t pray about its truthfulness, and definitely didn´t visit the Church.  What he did do was he definitely read a mountain of anti-Mormon trash, he definitely prayed to uncover our heresies, and he definitely paid a visit to his church to talk to his pastor.  We got there and he tried to start out all sneaky.  He asked if we thought the Book of Mormon was more important than the Bible.  He made it seem like he was being all sincere.  Then he asked about Joseph Smith.  The questions got progressively more aggressive.  After a while he was showing us video testimonies of ex-Mormons.  These are REAL Mormons, he told us.  I looked at him like the fool he was, and said, ´And we are REAL Mormons and REAL representatives of the Church!´  In one of these attempts to convert us with false videos, I saw on his smartphone that he was recording our conversation.  In all that I had said, I was glad that I said what was right.  I was glad that I had been found defending the Book of Mormon and the Prophet Joseph Smith, and consequently defending the Savior Jesus Christ.  It is one of my greatest joys to be able to defend these keystones of our faith.  The greatest fool in this world is the fool who has the tenacity to look me in the eye with a freely gifted copy of the Book of Mormon produced with the sacred tithing funds of the Church and say that the Book of Mormon does not testify of Christ or seeks to undermine His divinity.  Fools spend hours searching for things that testify against the Book of Mormon, when they hold the very proof of its divine authenticity in their hands.  A simple reading of one chapter of the Book of Mormon takes 10 minutes, and a humble prayer another 5 minutes.  I have seen this simple recipe followed in the lives of many people.  Those who do so are enlightened, illuminated, and feel at peace.  Those fools who take the other course are irritated, enraged, possessed by the spirit of the evil one, and feel nothing but confusion.  Let us turn to the light and find truth in that light.  I know by the light of God´s love that the Book of Mormon is true and will always be true, no matter what anyone says or supposedly discovers contrary to that.

I love you all.  I hope you feel the effect of that light and love.  I will seek to be diligent in my missionary efforts.  Until our reunion in a few weeks.

I tried to do a wheelie and hurt my back, ouch!

Love, Elder Ayer