Tuesday, August 2, 2016

August 2, 2016 - Homeward Bound

Dear Family,

The Assistants called us on Friday morning for our travel plans going home. There is 14 of us going home and 15 new missionaries coming out. 6 of us are in New Brunswick. 7 of us are in Nova Scotia. 1 in Newfoundland. That is a lot of missionaries going home and there's not enough room in the transfer van for all of us. Because of that, the 5 of us that are in New Brunswick will be traveling in 2 separate vehicles up to Halifax tomorrow morning. We'll be staying the night in Fredericton tonight with the 3 Elders going home and traveling to Halifax early in the morning. We'll be having our exit interviews with President Pratt upon arrival in Halifax. 

On Thursday we will attend the temple and then go to the mission home for a big feast. After the feast we will have a huge testimony meeting at the mission home. Tears will be shed that night. Then we will sleep, have a big breakfast Friday and then travel to the airport.

I have been having the hardest time accepting that my mission is over. You live your whole mission living for this moment and then when it gets here, you think to yourself, "Where did it go?". For the last 2 years, I have gone from area to area, from companion to companion sharing the most important message that the people will ever hear. The message of the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I have been teacher and testifier of important gospel principles. I have been sworn at, had doors slammed in my face, been mocked at and spit upon. I have been in heated disagreements with companions that later turned into a strong bond of love. I have been in the homes of the Saints of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. I've been blessed by my association with them. I served alongside fantastic missionaries that I call my family. This mission has been my family. I love each and every single of the missionaries I've served with. I have had hard days and I have had good days. I have gone through all of that just to share the gospel. That's a pretty good price to pay.

Last Wednesday was my final district meeting and I had the opportunity to give my last doctrinal discussion on a topic I feel very strongly about. I gave it on faith. You gotta have faith in order to make it through a mission. Missions aren't for the faint of heart. If you don't have faith, it will be very hard for a missionary to make it through a mission. It'll be hard to gain exaltation for that matter.

One of the biggest lessons I've learned on my mission is patience and having Christlike love for everybody. I gained patience through some companions and certain experiences with them and with the people as well. I have to come to know that God loves each and every single one of his children. I've had plenty of experiences where I have been at the right place at the right time that is in need. God loves his children. This I know to be true. 

I am so grateful for 2 loving mission presidents that loved me like a son. I'm so grateful for the opportunity I had to be a representative of Jesus Christ for the 2 years. These are stories, experiences, and lessons that I'll carry with me for the rest of my life. I can't wait to see what the Lord has in store for me.

I have loved reading your letters every Monday. They have inspired me and motivated me throughout the week. 


See you in Calgary! 

For the final time this is your son
Elder O'Brien (the older) checking out.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

July 25, 2016

Dear Family,

Another week in the book. Another week added to a 2-year book. The weather here has continued to be hot and humid with temperatures being above 30 degrees all week. We didn't do as much biking this week though so it was a nice break. We were in meetings most of the week as well so most of our time was spent inside. 

We made two trips to the hospital this week. On Thursday, I went in because I had an ingrown toenail on my left foot on my big toe that was giving me a lot of pain and was infected as well. So we got there and we waited for 3 hours by the time they took me in. They froze the toe, put some iodine on it and then removed the ingrown toenail. They sent me home with some medication and away I went. They had me come back on Saturday to check on it. When I went in the second time, I only waited 10 minutes. They took me in and said I need to constantly soak it in salt water the next couple weeks. Since then it was been difficult to walk without being in pain. On Saturday, the pain was excruciatingly. I could hardly walk at all and it still hurts to walk but I am doing better. 

Back in November at the end of the month in Bridgewater, I actually had an ingrown toenail on my right foot on my big toe removed as well.  That took 5 hours for them to take me in. So needless to say I have encountered some health issues in the last 6 months of my mission. 

Last weeks MyPlan session was "Self-Reliance." In this session it talked about the 4 principles of Self-Reliance: Have faith in Jesus Christ, Obedience, Solve problems and act for yourself, Become One with the Savior and serve others. It had me make plans for employment and make plans for education.

This week's MyPlan session was "Dating and Temple Marriage." I actually did it this morning. I usually do it on Wednesdays but I decided this week that it would be better if I did on a Monday so that I could think about more on a day where we do as much missionary work. In this session there were A TON of videos from prophets, apostles, and return missionaries. The videos talked about having faith when you're dating, personal purity, overcoming challenges, how to approach dating, and dating itself. It then had me make goals for how I'll date and personal standards of the woman I want to marry.

The final session of MyPlan next week is entitled "My Plan". I had my missionary departure interview this week with a member of the mission presidency. In this interview, we talked about continually becoming a better person after I come home, plans for a career and plans for education.  He recommended that I wait till my mid 20's to get married because he feels I'll go through experiences that will help me gain more and more confidence and that my education will be well-rounded by then and my employment. He recommended I listen to a talk called "Be your best self" by President Monson. He told me that at times I will feel that on my mission I was the best person I could be but that isn't the case. I should always feel that I am progressing and becoming a better person. 

This week, on Tuesday, we went to Calais and street contacted in the morning and then I mailed my package. In the afternoon we gave service at the hospital and then Elder Belmonte had his departing interview. On Wednesday, we were in Fredricton for the day on exchanges. In the morning, we had district meeting . The trainings were on initial contacting and commitments. I was with Elder Kelly in the afternoon. We street contacted downtown and did some knocking. We actually street contacted a tourist from BC whose friend's sister is going to the same course I'm taking in the fall and she is going to the U of L in the fall. Small world :P. On Thursday we had a special zone conference to talk more about planning. Then on Saturday the ward had a pioneer day event where they cooked hot dogs and had a bunch of food. 

With that... this week is my last full week as a missionary. Next week is transfer week and P-Day will be on Wednesday. By then all of my missionary labors and the ability to participate in missionary activities for all intents and purposes will be over. That day will be dedicated to traveling and packing. So you only have one letter left. Put in it your final thoughts on my mission as a whole and the future I have ahead of me. 

Have a good week! Hang tight!

Elder O'Brien (the older)

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

July 18, 2016

Dear Family,

Another week has passed and now here I am writing one of my last few letters. I stayed focused for most of the week... except for Saturday. Saturday was my trunky day. I kept on seeing people's faces from back home pop into my mind. Faces that I love and miss. Faces that I am so excited to see again. I thought about the reception I will receive when I get home and that gave me goosebumps. I can literally feel people's anticipation of me coming back at home. 

For last weeks MyPlan Session, the session was titled "Continuing Discipleship". In this session I set goals and made plans for a series of simple gospel habits including: Daily Prayer, Scripture Study, Service, Sabbath Day Observance, Temple Worship, Family History, and Institute. It actually had me register for institute. So I did and I am now registered for an institute class in the summer. This week's MyPlan Session is "Self-Reliance."

It has been a good week for the work. On Monday, we went to Princeton, Maine. It is a little town in the middle of nowhere. It was there that we stopped by a less active that lives in a log cabin and has a really nice view in her backyard. She says she stopped going because she doesn't believe in organized religion and doesn't like being told what to do. We bore our testimonies of the blessings of coming to church. But she said she's not interested in coming back or meeting with us.

Tuesday: We helped a less active from Fredericton that lives in St. Andrews shingle his roof. I stayed alongside the roof line because I am afraid of heights. It was 30 degrees Celsius. I took out the staples in the roof with a hammer. After we helped with this guy's roof, we traveled to McAdam which is about an hour away. When we first got there, we stopped by a part-member family. The husband who is a non-member showed us his masonry collection and after a while he opened to us about why he doesn't believe in God. He doesn't believe in God because he's seen too much bad in his life. After the part-member, we picked up another new investigator named Paul King Kade. He was a referral. He has amnesia so he suffers from short-term memory loss. After that, we ate dinner at a restaurant in McAdam. 

Wednesday: We had District Meeting in the morning and then we had lunch at Pizza Delight with Sister Lee. In the afternoon we gave service at the hospital. Then we went bike contacting for awhile. We had dinner with Sis. Graham and then we gave a blessing to Sister Johnson. 

Thursday: It was Elder Beacham's birthday. He opened his presents in the morning and then we gave service at a food pantry. Then we had lesson with Daniel. We taught him the plan of salvation. Then we had dinner at the Devaney's for Elder B's birthday. They fed us pork and red velvet cake.

Friday: We continued to help that less active from Fredericton with his roof. Then we weekly planned and did our 10-day plan. After weekly planning, we ate supper, then headed downtown and talked to some people. Then we stopped by a less active and invited him to come to church. 

Saturday: We helped a member move some stuff out of her basement in the morning and then from 1 o'clock to 5 o'clock we were biking in 33 degree weather. It was brutal but it was worth it. We talked to a crazy college guy for 20 minutes about nature and fusion. He has some pretty weird ideas. After a long afternoon biking, we had correlation with our ward mission leader.

Sunday: We had church and then we gave Austin the Sacrament. After we gave Austin the sacrament, we stopped by the Daley's to see why they weren't at church. On our way there, we picked up a turtle off of the side of the road and played with it for awhile. We finally put it back in the pond after holding it for awhile. 

Have a good week!

1 Corinthians 3:10 "According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon." I am laying the foundation for future missionaries in this mission. Every seed counts. Every day counts. 

Elder O'Brien (the older)

Friday, July 15, 2016

July 11, 2016

Dear Family,

It has been another week. It is starting to become harder to stay motivated and energetic every day. I can feel the pull to mentally check out from the work and just focus all my efforts on my future endeavors. My thoughts get consumed by future endeavors and seeing people I love again. It is not easy being a missionary and staying diligent to the end. It is a tall task. Even the best missionaries begin to lose motivation in their final weeks. This leaves me with a steep mountain to climb ahead of me. 

We had a Web-Ex meeting for all the missionaries going home (14 Elders) on Saturday. The Assistants and President Pratt hosted it. They talked about how it's important to finish strong and if we get severely trunky it will take a while for our areas to recover. A missionary going home with me commented how our time left gives him ambition to put forth his best efforts in helping this mission. Another missionary said that we all have those missionaries that we look up to and how they finished their missions. We should be an example to other missionaries that will follow us. President closed the meeting by saying Heavenly Father knew what he was doing when he put 14 men together on the same day to help him in his first year of his mission. 

Last week's session of My Plan was "My Vision and Goals". In this session of My Plan there was a video of Return Missionaries talking about goals. One of my favorite quotes from this video was "Coming home from  a mission is an excellent trajectory of what an individual can become". Then it had me create a one-year vision for myself and make 3 goals for myself.  This week's session of My Plan is "Continuing Discipleship".

I rode a ferry for the first time in my life last Monday. There is island that is a part of our area. It is called Deer Island. It's an hour and a half away from us. We went out there to see a less active. When we got there, the less active decided he wanted to see an active member with us instead. So we saw the member with him instead and had a good visit with him. But it was so cool to be on a ferry. It was almost sunset when we rode back on it too. So I got to see the ocean at night up close. It was beautiful. 

On Tuesday: We gave service at the hospital. We played bowling with the hospital patients. Right after bowling, two of our investigators called us and dropped us. We were disappointed... especially since we didn't follow up with them as much as we should have. It was hard especially on Elder Belmonte. We went biking in Woodland, Maine in the afternoon until dinner with the Corbetts.

Wednesday: We had District Meeting in Fredericton. The training was on extending the baptismal invitation out of a sense of urgency and Book of Mormon prophets. After District Meeting we traveled to McAdam's and contacted a referral. Then we contacted a couple of formers. After our time in McAdam we had a lesson in Deer Island with a new investigator. We contacted him in St. George. It turned out that Deer Island is 2 hours away so by the time we got to McAdam we only had 2 hours there. When we got to Deer Island it took us 30 minutes just to find his house. We had a member with us that had to help navigate. The investigator is 28 years old and lives on his own. He wants to serve a mission for his church. He said he just wants to meet with us for friendship so next lesson we're checking for real intent. 

Thursday, we picked up another new investigator. He lives in Maine. We met him as we were stopping by a member. He feels very strongly that God hates him. We shared a part of the Plan of Salvation but not all of it. We had a lesson with a former investigator in the afternoon. He explained to us why he dropped us. 

That's pretty much it for this week. It was a pretty mild week. 

Have a good week!

Elder O'Brien (the older)

Friday, July 8, 2016

July 4, 2016

Dear Family,

Today is Independence day in Maine. We drove through the border to Maine this morning and the line was packed with cars. I was hoping that Victoria Day would be the last holiday on a Monday I would be affected by. But that isn't the case sadly. We normally e-mail at a library in Maine but it is closed today and the library in St. Stephen is closed on Mondays. There is only one computer at the Church so today we are taking turns emailing.

This week I did the first part of the "My Plan" program.  The first section was entitled Remember and Become. It Quoted Mosiah 10:3, Helaman 5:9, Alma 5:26. There was also a video that had a bunch of returned missionaries talking about Church callings they've gotten since they got home from their missions. The section also focused on continually progressing after I get home. It had me type up 3 Christlike attributes the Lord has helped me develop on my mission along with 3 spiritual truths of the gospel that I have received a testimony of on my mission. At the end of the first section of "My Plan", it had read my patriarchal blessing and underline phrases that require me to take action, circle words that describe me, and ask myself "What kind of person does the Lord want me to become?" The second section of "My Plan" this week is Set Goals and Make Plans.

On Friday, it was Canada Day. On Canada Day me and Elder Beacham wore our Canadian ties. Elder Belmonte was left out as he didn't have a Canadian tie. We volunteered at the St. Stephen hospital in the morning. We played bingo with the patients using fancy markers. We got to wear special vests for the occasion. We volunteer at a food pantry every Friday in Maine.  The clients bag their food by themselves and we carry the bags out to the car for them. After we're done carrying their bags for them the food pantry allows us to get whatever food we want. It is really nice and the food pantry is always busy. After the food pantry we had dinner with a member in New Brunswick. She fed us burgers and hotdogs. Afterward, we street contacted in downtown St. Andrews. There were a ton of people out in preparation for the fireworks that evening. Overall, good Canada Day.

On Tuesday, we had zone training in Fredericton. It was a bittersweet for me as it was my last zone training on my mission. At the end of the zone training all the missionaries going home at the end of the transfer got to bear their testimonies. There is 5 of us going home at the end of the transfer. I gave an emotional testimony, thanking the missionaries I've associated with for teaching me so much. It was one of the hardest testimonies I've had to bear on my mission. 

On Wednesday, we had breakfast with the bishop's family. They are a fun family. They have 5 kids and the oldest is 13. The bishop is a sports fan and he told me about the new goalie the flames got in a trade. We went down to St. George and did some work down there for the afternoon. We contacted a former that Elder Belmonte was able to speak Techaloic to (the former is from the Philippines).

On Thursday, we went down to a town in Maine called Eastport. It is right by the ocean. There is a big Independence Day parade going on there today. We knocked into a man who suggested we try some of his carbonated water. We politely took some and I impulsively spit it out by accident even though I didn't mean to. He said "You must have a hole in your mouth." I responded "Haha I guess so." In my head I thought well I actually do but that's not the reason I spit it out". So when someone offers you Seltzer water don't take it. We ended up doing 5 hours of finding by the end of that day. 

On Saturday, we picked up a new investigator with the Sisters. We had a lesson with him in the morning with the Sisters and the ward mission leader. He says he wants to be baptized and he wants to find Christ. Very sincere guy.  We rode our bikes that day since it was so nice out. We gave a blessing to a less active member who is struggling with her health. We ate at a less active member's Chinese restaurant for dinner. It was all you can eat Chinese buffet. 

Sunday, a high councilmen gave a very candid and courageous lesson on anxiety in Priesthood. The lesson focused how anxiety is a form of mental illness and how we need to love and encourage people and members who have anxiety. He went through all the symptoms of anxiety and the signs that someone has anxiety. At the end of the lesson he openly admitted to the entire elders quorum that he has anxiety and got very emotional as he told how its affected him in his life. 

Have a good week!

Elder O'Brien (the older)

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

June 27, 2016

Dear Family,

I am back in New Brunswick and Maine. For the first time on my whole mission I know how long I'm going to be in a area for. I will be in St. Stephen for 6 weeks definitely. Leaving Sackville was hard for me. I reached my highest peak on my mission in Sackville. My social skills were at an all time high and I took on a type of leadership role with Elder Goeders. 

In my first couple of days in St. Stephen I have been asking the Lord "How can I make an impact on St. Stephen for 6 weeks?" 6 weeks isn't long to be in an area and it's not a lot of time to get close to people. But I still want to be able to contribute something to this area. A focus for me this transfer is giving everything I have to each missionary activity. I want to have a sense of urgency. I want to be so focused on everybody that I'm not even thinking about myself or my limitations. One of the most painful symptoms of autism is self-awareness. Sometimes I feel trapped inside my own body. There was an incident last week that I felt so stuck inside my body mentally and I couldn't get out. 
Thursday: It was transfer day. We woke up at 5:30 am. The St. Stephen Elders picked me up at 1 from St. John and got to St. Stephen at 3. When I got to St. Stephen we knocked into a former who let us right in. They were an older couple. We had a quick 20 minute Restoration lesson because they were about to have dinner. I met a less active that evening.

Friday: We helped move a piano for one of our investigators. Then we had correlation meeting with the ward mission leader here Brother Murray. We also went out to a little town called St. Andrews and did some knocking.

Saturday: We stopped by a member referral that we got from Bro. Murray and picked them up as new investigators. Then we helped paint a house for one of the investigators that the St. Stephen Sisters are teaching. Then we had dinner with a recent convert. She got baptized last November. She is a very nice lady but she has Word of Wisdom issues so we needed to correct her on that.

Sunday: We had Church. I bore my testimony. The St. Stephen ward only has about 60 people. Mostly older people. They are going on a big temple trip on July 16th. So the talks were mainly based on temples. After Church we took a young man out with us. He is 17 years old and loves hanging out with missionaries.

It has been nice to have Filipino companion. Part of their culture is cooking food so Elder Belmonte is a good cook and has made us some good food. Haha.

Have a good week!

Elder O'Brien (the older)

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

June 20, 2016 One 'n Done in New Brunswick

Dear Family,
It has been an action packed week. On Sunday President Pratt came to Church and interviewed us during Sunday School. My interview went something like this:

President: "Well here you are Elder O'Brien.. your final transfer"
Me: "It's been a fun ride and I've definitely come a long way"
President: "Yes you have and my message to you simply is you've done it. You've accomplished something very hard and very challenging. You've accomplished something that not a lot people can say they've done. Completing a 2-year mission is a feat that is right up there with getting married or graduating college."
Me: "Will my last transfer feel like any other transfer?"
President: "No it won't... not only will you feel distracted about going home but you'll have to think about home. You'll have to make plans for your future and take time to do that every week. But you can find comfort in knowing that most missionaries sprint to the finish line not jog."
Me: "Okay thank you for that advice President. I'll miss you" (Gives me a hug)

With that interview in mind I am now about to begin my final transfer on my mission. Yesterday, we read the transfer letter and I am being transferred to St. Stephen, New Brunswick for my last transfer. It is right on the border to Maine once again. So I'll get to go back and forth to Maine again while living in New Brunswick. I will be in a trio with Elder Belmonte and Elder Beacham. I go home with Elder Belmonte. He is from the Philippines but is living in Red Deer, Alberta. Elder Beacham is from Utah and has a very farm town country attitude. I leave tomorrow morning.
I am sad to be leaving Sackville. This is the youngest ward I've served in and it has a lot of youthful energy in it. I got to work with a couple of great recent converts here. I got to find some new investigators here that are promising. I got to help G find names to take to the temple. I got to help O stop smoking as well as Bro. M. I accomplished a lot of good things here and it makes it hard to leave. But I intend on finishing strong in St. Stephen for my final 6 weeks.
Last Tuesday, We had an area blitz. The Kentville elders, Bridgewater elders, Bridgewater sisters, Yarmouth elders, Greenwood sisters all came to Sackville to work here for the day in an effort to help and create zone unity. I was with Elder Ray from Bridgewater for most of the day. We mainly trail contacted and knocked all day. It was raining that day so unfortunately not a lot of people were out. But we did talk to a very nice man for 30 minutes about music down at the waterfront. We had lunch and dinner with all the missionaries that were there. For lunch we had pizza and for dinner we had pizza. At the end of the blitz we had a brief testimony meeting.
Last Wednesday, I gave the doctrinal discussion in district meeting on spiritual self-reliance and likened it to the hard times on our missions when we need to rely on our testimonies to get us through. I used the Brother of Jared as an example along with Joseph Smith.  After our dinner appointment while I was backing Elder McGuire up we both weren't paying attention and he ended backing up the car over my foot. I hit the car in pain then I got in the car and checked my foot and it felt like my pinky toe was broken along with other parts of my foot. So we rushed to the Halifax Hospital to get it checked out. I first got registered then we waited for 30 minutes then they took me in to see the doctor and we waited for an hour then they took me into the doctors room and we waited an hour. Then they felt my foot and told me it was bruised but wanted to take an X-Ray. So I waited another 30 minutes; they x-rayed my foot and confirmed to me that it was bruised. We ended up being there for a total of 3 hours and didn't get home till 11 o'clock at night. It was ridiculous. The next day my foot was fine and there wasn't any bruises or anything. God protects His missionaries. God protected my foot that night.
Last Friday, we went down to Bridgewater and did an exchange there. I went with Elder Ray to Shelburne. In Shelburne we taught a part-member couple. The husband is getting baptized in July.  We taught him the Plan of Salvation. In the afternoon we proselyted in Shelburne and ended up running into a less active.
That's it for the highlights of the week. I now go forth into my last 6 weeks. I don't know what God has in store for me for my final transfer but I do know this. I will serve with all my heart, might, mind, and strength to the very end. Wish me luck in St. Stephen!

Have a good week!

Elder O'Brien (the older)