Wednesday, December 30, 2015

December 7, 2015 - Bridgewater, Nova Scotia

Dear Family,

It has been a long grueling week. This week took a lot out of me but in the end it was good for me. Blitz week pushed me to the brink. I was very tired at night during the whole week. The sisters ended up winning the competition but the Elders were close. It was a fun week. The competition also motivated us. 

But that's not the only thing that highlighted the week. A dark cloud hangs over our mission right now. On Wednesday we got a call from the Assistants telling us that Elder Dooley was getting emergency transferred on Sunday. Another missionary in a trio in Amherst also got emergency transferred as well. We had personal interviews with President Pratt on Wednesday and he didn't seem too happy. He expressed his disappointment and his frustration as to the reason why he had to do it. I can't go into detail as to the reason behind the emergency transfer. He didn't want this emergency transfer to happen. He wanted Elder Dooley to be in Bridgewater with us. Anyway, President Pratt isn't very happy right now with some missionaries. This mission is known for how obedient it is. It was one of the most obedient missions in North America and this incident hurts us.

This is now the third emergency transfer I have been affected by. Although I have never been the cause of one. Ironically, all 3 of them have been around the time I Skype home. So at this rate I'll be a part of another emergency transfer around May :P. Emergency transfers aren't fun to be a part of. They are unexpected and they cause a domino affect in the mission. They also cause stress and it can be hard to adjust too. 

In my interview with President Pratt, he told me that when he does transfers sometimes he has his reason for it, and sometimes he just doesn't know why he does it, he just does because he feels inspired to. We also talked about Christmas and other standard questions like how my physical health is and how my family is doing. But at the end of the interview he told me that he trusts me and that he feels like we have a good relationship and then he gave me a hug. That was the first time I've seen President Pratt express himself to me in a personal way. I could tell that he meant what he said.

Tuesday: It was the day of power where we extended as many baptismal invitations as we could on that day. The approach we took went something like this "If you found these things to be true would you be baptized?" It was scary at first but once we got going it wasn't that bad. But the people I talked to wouldn't even let me make the invitation. I was having bad luck that day. Anyway, we knocked into a evangelical man that wanted to prove us wrong that day. He was very argumentative and stated that we didn't believe in the resurrection. Finally we just walked away. On the flip side we knocked into someone who let us right in and was being very nice to us. It was an older couple. They were more interested in our company than our actual message. We ended up with 40 baptismal invites by the end of the day.

Wednesday: It was creative contacting. For our creative contacting we did a survey with people. The survey was: 1) Do you believe in God? 2) Do you attend Church? 3) If so, which one? 4) What comes to mind when you hear the word Mormon? 5) Would you like to learn more? We picked up 2 potential investigators from it. One of the people we did the survey with replied to the 4th question with "blood transfusions." We think she got us mixed up with the Jehovah Witnesses.

Thursday: It was short restoration lessons. But sadly we didn't get the opportunity to teach one. But we did travel to our personal interviews with President Pratt that morning in Kentville. When we were there it made me think back to a year ago when I was in Kentville for Christmas. Those were fond memories. I remember the snow on the ground, the mini-Christmas tree we had in the apartment, and all the Christmas festivities.

Friday: It was Book Of Mormon handouts with the cap of 5. We passed out 4 and 2 of them were to less active members. 
Saturday: It was number of Church invites. We invited 26 people to come to Church. We picked up a new investigator that day. He doesn't believe in God. But he is open-minded and is willing to meet with us.

Have a good week!


Elder O'Brien (the older)

Saturday, December 26, 2015

November 30, 2015 - Bridgewater, Nova Scotia

Dear Family,
It is nearly December and the Christmas season has officially began. For us and the sister missionaries here in Bridgewater we kicked it off with a parade on Saturday. Sister Harlow organized a float for the ward. It was a nativity style float. Sister Harlow had us make invitations for the Ward Christmas Party on the 12th and attach a candy cane with them. Then she had us and the sisters walk beside the float and hand them out to people along the sides. It was a fun time. We got to wear Santa Hats for the parade. Except we were behind a dental float that was blaring hip hop music the whole time. We tried blocking it out in our minds but no matter how hard we tried we just couldn't. Admittedly all the missionaries started dancing to some of the music. But it was appropriate uplifting music so that made it a little better :). I never felt so worldly my entire mission than when we were behind that float. Overall the parade went pretty well. There were a lot of people there and we got to pass out all of the candy canes. They were mostly little kids too. The weather was nice. It wasn't too cold and it lasted for about an hour and a half. After the parade we had hot chocolate at Sister Harlows. It was great way for us to get into the holiday spirit.
We also had zone conference this week. At this zone conference we discussed the year that the mission had and this upcoming year. This year statistically for the mission was one of the worst years as far as convert baptisms go. It was annualized to be 52 for 2015. In years previous it was between 70-116 annually. But it wasn't just our mission that had a bad year. All the missions in North America had a decline in convert baptisms this year. There could be a number of contributing factors to it. So President Pratt raised some of the standards for the new year. Every week we need to have 15 hours of proselyting and 180 contacts. Originally it was 10 hours of proselyting and 140 contacts a week. The mission's goal for baptisms in 2016 is 135. In order to achieve that every companionship needs to find 1.5 new investigators a week. Each zone needs to have at least 24 new investigators a transfer.

To kick start these new standards and goals, this week we are doing a "Tour De Faith" competition between the Elders and the Sisters. We need to get 300 contacts and 30 hours of proselyting by the end of the week. Each day there is a daily competition. Today it is organizing a family home evening with a member with investigators and less actives. Tomorrow it is extending the most baptismal invitations. Wednesday it is the most creative contacting method. Thursday it is the most short restoration lessons. Friday it's handing out the most copies of the Book of Mormon. Sunday it's the number of Church Invitations. Whoever gets the most amount of contacts and hours plus the daily competitions wins a grand prize at the Christmas Zone Conference. So this week is going to be a fun-filled competitive week. It's also going to be very grueling and exhausting. But I have faith that the Elders can win :) haha. I'm excited for this competition.
Anyway, getting back to zone conference. President Pratt presented these new goals and standards to us for the year of 2016 and we all sustained him in them. I have no doubt that this mission can reach the convert baptism goal. The mission is in its prime right now and the missionaries are getting old and more experienced. 2016 is going to be a good year for the mission. These new standards/goals will also help the missionaries become more converted and will see less missionaries go home and become less active. 

At Zone Conference we also got trained on following-up. In this mission we don't follow-up as much as we need to. President Pratt said we have two measurements of time: A Transfer and A Week. It is true sadly. Sometimes we wait a week before we contact our investigators/less actives with no follow-up in between. President Pratt said we need to have daily contact. He said we should have at least 5 interactions between us and our investigators in between visits. He said it would be better if the members followed up with them.
Overall I enjoyed zone conference. I came away from it with an increased level of motivation and a better work ethic. These are inspired goals from the Lord and I know the Lord has confidence in us and is expecting big things from this mission in 2016. I fully sustain President Pratt in these.
These week we also picked up 4 new investigators. They are both couples.One I actually found when I was here the first time. We knocked on his door and he was having a really rough day. He let us in and we talked about the Atonement with him and how God loves him and is aware of his situation. He was really grateful for that visit we had with him. He said it made his day. He still remembers that and is very fond of me. He actually gave me a pocket knife as a "welcome back" gift. He is very humble and very down to earth. While we were eating dinner with them, we talked a little bit about the Plan of Salvation and some of the Restoration. But by the time we were done eating we were late to Ward Council. So when we got out of their place, we sped to get to the Church but unfortunately we got pulled over and got a $230 speeding ticket. But don't worry I wasn't driving. That was the first time I ever got pulled over on my mission. Needless to say we are being extra cautious now.
I went knocking for the first time on my mission on Saturday morning. I was skeptical of it at first but to my surprise more than half the people answered. But two of the people that we knocked into were in bath robes so that was a little awkward. But one said that we could come back. The other one said she felt uncomfortable :P.  But it went better than I expected.
We had institute on Thursday. Only one person showed up so we ended up Skyping into another institute class. At institute we talked about Matthew 8-9 and each of the miracles Jesus performed. Then the question I got asked:
1. What miracle do I need in my own life?
2. What am I going to do to get it with the Lord's will?
I have pondered that for the last few days and I still don't have an answer yet. What about you guys? I would encourage you to read those chapters and answer those questions yourselves.
Elder O'Brien (the Older)

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

November 23, 2015 - Round 2 in Bridgewater - Bridgewater, Nova Scotia

Hello Family,

I am home! On Thursday I arrived home. Bridgewater is my home! It is the closest place to home on my mission. Oh how I loved my time here before and I am going to enjoy it even more this time around. For 6 months I blossomed and flourished here. I was successful. I found new investigators every week. We had investigators going to Church. We had less actives going to Church. I was on top of the world here. It was one of the highest points on my mission.

It has been a very exciting transfer week. I was the most excited for this transfer than any other transfer I've been a part of. In the days leading up to transfer day, it was hard for me mentally to stay focussed on Woodstock. It took a lot of energy for me to not think about going back to Bridgewater. Mornings and evening were particularly hard for me. It was a good exercise for me for when I go home. I imagine it will be 10 times harder. It will take every ounce of mental energy I've got to stay focussed during that final week. You'll be happy to know that even though it was hard for me to stay focussed I finished strong in Woodstock.

Often times when a missionary is on his last transfer he puts his arms in the air and says "Thats it, I'm done. What's the use anymore? If we find a new investigator I'm not going to teach him. Why bother?" They just lose complete and utter motivation to work. 

I don't envision myself or Chris getting like that towards the end of our missions. We will stay focussed until the end when we walk out of that airplane. We will work hard and be just as motivated as we were at the beginning of our missions. 

My final few days in Woodstock were spent by going to Island Falls on Tuesday and visiting some less actives and also doing some knocking. We had my "last supper" with the Wilkinson's Monday night. Whenever a missionary leaves the area, the Wilkinson's have that missionary over for what's called their "last supper" where they feed them a big dinner. For me it was ham and grilled chicken. It was delicious! We had a lesson with one of our investigators. He is an intense investigator. He had some intense questions for us. I got to say goodbye to some of the members before I left.

The first couple days back in Bridgewater have been great. But I was sad to learn that the work is bare right now and they have no investigators right now. That was hard on me especially since we were teaching 9 investigators when I left. It made me feel like I did all that work for nothing. I asked myself "What happened?" "What happened to all those investigators I left behind?" It was difficult for me to get over. 

I have been doing a lot of pondering and praying lately asking Heavenly Father why I got transferred back here. I haven't received an answer yet though. I have had a lot of questions come into my mind. It has been a hard week mentally for me with the excitement of going back to Bridgewater and wondering why I got sent back here. I have stressed myself out this week. When really I just need to stop questioning and just embrace the simple fact that I am serving in Bridgewater now and I will be here for Christmas. 

I had the opportunity to go to the temple on Thursday for the first time in 8 months and I loved it! As I was sitting in the Celestial room I thought of Ayla. I enjoyed the temple dedication yesterday as well. We went to the first session and I enjoyed Elder Clayton's talk as well. I liked when he talked about the power of the temple in our lives and how it can transform us. 

Anyway that's it for this week! Have a good week and wish me luck!


Elder O'Brien (the older)

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

November 16, 2015 - Craziest Transfer Ever - Woodstock, New Brunswick

Dear Family,

It has been a very interesting last couple of days. This week I had a much better week than the week before. We picked up 2 new investigators. But first, I need to tell you about transfers. I was thinking that I would be all set for Christmas in Woodstock with Elder Steimle. I also thought that if I were to get transferred it would be to a new area knowing that the possibility of serving in an old area was very slim. So sure enough I woke up to a pleasant surprise yesterday morning. I am being transferred back to Bridgewater, Nova Scotia for Christmas and I will be serving in a trio with Elder Quinton and Elder Dooley.

So I can't exactly say I saw this one coming. It is not common for missionaries to serve in an area twice on their mission and especially when they served in that area for 6 months. On top of that, the possibility of going back to an area you just left 4 months ago is very remote and unlikely. Elder Steimle described it best in a conversation we had last night. He was making a whale noise and then I said:

Me: What was that?
Elder Steimle: That was a whale in our hallway.
Me: That is very unlikely.
Elder Steimle: If it's unlikely for you to go back to Bridgewater and it's unlikely that a whale could be in our hallway, then there could be a whale in our hallway.
Me: Haha! Very true but hey I'm not the one that made this decision. 
Elder Steimle: Not only is it unlikely that you could go back to an area you already served in; it is very unlikely for you to go back to an area you just left 3 transfers ago. 

I have had all sort of thoughts run through my head ever since I read the transfer letter. "Why am I going back? Who am I going back for? Am I going back to baptize somebody I began teaching? Am I going back to reactivate a less active that I was working with? Am I going back to began teaching somebody I tracted into and said no and now they are ready for me?" It is clear to me that the Lord has a special mission for me in Bridgewater. I have prayed about this transfer and I have received a witness that this transfer was inspired of the Lord. Time will tell if I find out why I got transferred back to Bridgewater.

So for two Christmas' in a row I will be in a trio. Elder Quinton is a really nice guy. I served around him for a while at the beginning of my mission and he was actually my district leader when I was in Bridgewater the first time. So he knows that this is my second time serving in Bridgewater. He is also a really good missionary. He is a very fun-loving, dedicated, energetic missionary. I don't really know much about Elder Dooley. But from the interactions I've had with him he seems very humble. I have no doubt the three of us will get along just fine. With me having already served there already and it being a completely new area for them, I know they will be expecting a lot from me and I am preparing myself to take the lead in the area.

With transfers in general, this was a huge transfer! There were a lot of companionships affected. This was easily the biggest transfer President Pratt has done since he got here. There will be 3 trios in total of Elders and 2 trios of Sisters in the mission as of Thursday. Being in a trio can be challenging sometimes and they require sacrifices from all three. I like to compare it to the "Big 3" from the Miami Heat. All three of them are very talented but they had to sacrifice some of their playing time and some of their talents in order to best help the team win games.  It is like that with trios on a mission. Each of them has to sacrifice some of their skills and their own personal desires in order for the companionship to be united and best help the work move forward. 

Lost in all this is the fact that I am leaving Woodstock. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in this area. I have picked up a lot of leadership skills here. The work was slow-paced and frustrating at times and the area wasn't exactly the most organized area I've been in. Investigators not being able to cross the border was also a challenge. But I got through the adversity and I built character here. This was after all the bible belt of the mission and the people wanted to bash with me at times but I held my ground and testified of what I knew to be true. I have learned a lot more about the bible here.

The branch has also been good to me. Although we had few dinner appointments here, they still cared for us. Some of my favorite members have been the Seaboyers. They were like parents to me. They even made me my favorite meal for my birthday. Of course I can't forgot the time when I burned my white shirt for my one year mark. The Hann's were also great to me. I loved going over there and Brother Hann was so hilarious. They are an awesome family. Sister Hann was a native of Southern Alberta so I connected with them really well.

We went to a baptism on Saturday. It was the Sister's baptism. The lady had her name taken off the records a while back and the Sisters began teaching her again and she decided to get re-baptized. It was a good baptism. She is very out-going, very friendly. She seems very intent on staying the course this time around. We had the opportunity of taking part in the confirmation yesterday.

With transfers this week I get to go the temple for the first time since March on Thursday! I am so excited about that. Have a good week! Enjoy the Montreal Temple Re-dedication!


Elder O'Brien (the older)

Friday, November 27, 2015

November 9, 2015 - Woodstock, New Brunswick

Hello Family,

It has been a long hard week. I am glad that this week is finally over. It has just been one of those weeks I guess. We had three people drop us and the sister of an investigator told us to never come back. The other people that dropped us were an investigator that felt pressured and her sister. A less active in Island Falls told us to stop coming because her husband felt like she was being too involved with the Church. This surprised both of us because whenever we would visit she would be so welcoming and friendly.
On a positive note we have four potential investigators that we have lessons with this week. Hopefully at least one of those will turn into a new investigator. We also had the Primary Presentation yesterday and the kids in it did a great job. Although there weren't very many funny moments from it. They all were very reverent during the whole thing. None of them did anything that caught my attention or was noticeable. But they were robotic as they were doing their parts.

Today marks the beginning of Transfer Speculation Week. We get transfer letters on Sunday morning. All the missionaries it seems are anxious to find out where they will be spending Christmas and who they will be spending Christmas with. I personally am very excited to find out where I'll be for my 2nd and final Christmas on my mission. The results of Sunday's transfer letters will determine if I will have a Thanksgiving this year or not.

We went on exchanges this week with the Caribou Elders. I went to Caribou with Elder Alger. On the exchange we had a dinner appointment with some members in Caribou. When we got there we said a prayer before we went in. During the prayer instead of saying "Please bless us as we eat with them" Elder Alger said "Please bless us as we eat them". We both busted out laughing in the car for about 5 minutes before Elder Alger finally got through it.

Also during the exchange we went to Institute. But only 2 YSA's showed up so it was just us and them and the teacher there. The class was on Elder Holland's talk "None Were With Him" given in the April 2009 General Conference. We went to the food pantry in Caribou Thursday Morning and helped carry boxes of food to people's cars.They ended up giving us a ton of leftover food that we could take home with us including some cheesecake. We picked up a new investigator that afternoon. He was a potential that they raked leaves with that invited them to come back. We had dinner with this awesome family in Caribou. They give them a ton of referrals and are very strong in the ward.

Yesterday at church we had 3 people show up that were trying to Anti some of the members. One of members said they told her she was going to hell and she needed to be saved. They came up to us and started going into Joseph Smith and his 11 wives. It was pretty sketchy. One of them was taking recordings during sacrament meeting. President Peters ended up telling them to leave after sacrament meeting. It was pretty weird. 

Anyway I need to get going but have a good week! Have a nice Remembrance Day!


Elder O'Brien (the older)

Thursday, November 12, 2015

November 2, 2015 - Woodstock, New Brunswick

Dear Family,

Another week has gone by and it is November. Christmas is only a month and a half away. For that reason.. Me and Elder Steimle have begun listening to Christmas music to help bring in the Christmas Spirit to our days. Before you know it we will all see each other on a screen and will be talking to each other vocally. I am excited for that Skype. It'll be fun to have a group Skype.

Yesterday was daylight saving's and as much as I tried to get an extra hour of sleep in my body wouldn't let me. It kept telling me "It's 6:30 you need to wake up". I tried to tell it "No it's not you can sleep for another hour." This was disconcerting to me. It makes me wonder how my body will respond when I can actually sleep in past 6:30. But I have a while before I have to worry about that :P. At least that's what I've been telling myself. "9 months is a really long time.. I don't have to worry about going home yet."

My week was pretty uneventful. We went to Island Falls on Tuesday and tried visiting some less actives out there but some of them fell through so we ended up doing some finding instead. There is one less active in Island Falls that stopped coming to Church 7 years ago because a member that is still fully active offended him. What's even more saddening is that he has stopped reading the scriptures and praying completely because he got offended. He is a really nice guy and everything but he is just hard to talk to.

President Pratt came to our district meeting on Wednesday. It was fun having him there. He had a lot of nice input. The mission's focus right now is working with the YSA Less Actives and helping them come back. The whole reason behind this YSA push is because the active YSAs in the Maritimes are few. President Pratt want us to reach out to and help the YSA program become stronger. They are the future generation for this area of the world and they need to be treated very seriously. I personally am a huge fan of this focus. With YSAs they are our age and it is easier for us to connect with them.

We had fried chicken with an investigator this week. After dinner we had a lesson with him. We taught him the Plan of Salvation and used Jeremiah 1:5 as one of the scriptures. The lesson went well. He was very receptive to the lesson and was very involved. He had some good questions about the Pre-Earth life that we were able to answer in a simple way. He is going in for surgery today and we are hoping for a speedy recovery for him. 

On Saturday it was Halloween and it was a pretty quiet Halloween for Woodstock. Not a lot of kids were out and the streets were pretty bare. For Halloween we got into our apartment at the right time and did our weekly planning like we usually have for the evening. It was a pretty uneventful Halloween for me this year. Which is a good thing.

On Sunday we had fast and testimony meeting. The testimonies were good. There were a couple that were story-monies but every testimony meeting has those no matter where you are. After Church we had a very heart-warming dinner appointment with some members. They are a fun family. At the end of the dinner appointment, the wife got emotional and sincerely asked us to contact her if we are hungry and have nowhere to go for dinner. It really got to her that no one fed us Canadian Thanksgiving Dinner this year. She said that if it were her child she would be very upset. They are a very fun-loving family and they make me feel at home whenever I go over there. There is always those members in every area that passionately care about the missionaries and we feel close too.

Have a good week!


Elder O'Brien the older

Friday, November 6, 2015

October 26, 2015 - Woodstock, New Brunswick

Hello Family,

The weather here was cooler than last week but we didn't get any snow this week so that was a plus. One week from now it will be November and it will continue to get darker earlier and earlier. This takes me back to the good old days in Kentville last winter when we would go knocking at 6 o'clock at night and it would be really dark out already. As far as tracking at night during the winter goes, we generally knock till 8 o'clock at night. But if the houses are dark and now one's answering then we don't knock. But if the lights in the house are on late at night then we can go ahead and keep knocking.

This Saturday is Halloween. For Halloween we have been instructed to be in our apartments by 5 o'clock and stay in for the night. Instead of doing weekly planning on Friday when we usually do, we will be doing weekly planning on Saturday night instead. This makes a lot more sense to me. Rather than missionaries using that night to relax and watch movies.

This week we met with one of our investigators; I was on an exchange with Elder Stratton. Brother Seaboyer also came to that lesson. The lesson went great! The spirit was so strong during that lesson. We taught her about the Restoration and recited the first vision to her. Brother Seaboyer bore his testimony of converting from the Anglican Church to our Church. Then we asked her that when she finds out if it is true if she'll get baptized and she said yes. We met with our top investigator as well. Brother Robertson came to that lesson. We read Moroni 10 with him and then we invited him to be baptized. He said he wants a more solid confirmation before he commits himself to that. We had a good discussion about Moroni 10 and the Book of Mormon. He has a bad back and he has a hard time sitting for a long period of time. Yesterday he came to sacrament but left early because his back was in pain.

This week we went on exchanges with the Caribou Elders. I was with Elder Stratton in Woodstock. This was the 3rd time I worked with Elder Stratton for a day. He has a high work ethic and is very missionary minded. On the exchange we saw some less active members. We had 2 cool experiences when we were together. The first one was while we were street contacting and we ran into someone we talked to a week before at the Hot Chocolate Stand. So we stopped him and ended up teaching him the First Vision and the Book of Mormon to him and then we set up a return appointment for Saturday. He was very easy to talk too and very receptive. We basically had a lesson with him on the street. The other cool experience was when we were going to see a less active member in Hartland. When we walked in her grandson was there. He is 23 years old. He's not very active in his own Church (Baptist). He has met with missionaries before but he moved away when they started teaching him. Anyway he is very interested in our Church. Originally we were going to teach a lesson to the less active member but we ended up teaching the Restoration to him and he said he would ask his dad if he could meet with us. We were both really excited about that afterwards.

The branch had a Harvest Supper on Friday night and it was a great turnout! There were tons of people that showed up. It was the most people I've seen at the Church since I've been here. They were mostly less active/non-members too. We had a good fellowship with them and with the members that were there. All and all it was a great event put on by the branch.

Yesterday we had the opportunity and blessing to administer the sacrament to two less active members. Because of old age/health problems they cannot come to Church. So we were assigned to take each of them the sacrament. This was a humbling experience for me. I have had the opportunity to take the sacrament to a less active member many times on my mission. It made me think of Christ when he administered the sacrament to his disciples.

Have a good week!

Elder O'Brien (the older)

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

October 19, 2015 - Winter Round 2 - Woodstock, New Brunswick

Hello Family!

It has been a cold weekend here in New Brunswick/Maine. Yes, we had our first snowfall of the winter on Saturday :/. There was quite a bit of frost this morning on our car as well. It's safe to say that winter is back. I am grateful that you sent me my winter clothes as it looks like I got them just in time. They say that New Brunswick winters are a lot colder than Nova Scotia's and if that's the case then I am in for a long winter. It might be worse than last winter.

This weekend was stake conference. The adult session and the Sunday morning session were both broadcasted to the chapel in Houlton. In both sessions, they talked a lot about Ward Councils and the importance of women speaking up and reaching out to others. Overall Stake Conference was enlightening and edifying. During stake conference, we learned that on November 22nd they will be broadcasting the dedication of the Montreal Temple to Caribou, Charlottetown, and Saint John wards. We are supposed to go to the nearest church building. So that would be Caribou for us. This took me a little by surprise. I didn't think that they would be broadcasting a dedication of another temple that's not in the Maritimes to us.
Yesterday I had a rough day. As President Straight spoke about his mission, he told a story of how good it feels that those he influenced on his mission are staying faithful. That hit home for me in a bad way because most of the people I've taught on my mission aren't staying faithful. I had a good influence on M and now she has fallen away. R in Hampton has now fallen away too. So doubt and darkness filled my mind and my heart yesterday as I began to question the impact I've made on the people I have worked with. I had some pretty dark thoughts as well. This continued until this morning when I received the impression, "They have their agency." This impression dispelled all the feelings of darkness and doubt I felt yesterday. I know it was Satan trying to put me down. He is good at making me feel inadequate. But if the Lord didn't need me on a mission then he wouldn't have called me. 

I have a funny story for you this week.. While we were knocking on Wednesday night, we walked by this house and inside we saw that they were watching the Blue Jays game. Before this we had dinner at a member's and they informed me that it was Game 5 of the series and it was the deciding game. So of course I volunteered to knock on this person's door. So I knocked on the door and did the standard knocking approach. He wasn't too receptive at first and said he wasn't interested. So I asked for a referral and he said he doesn't know anyone. Then as he was closing the door I said "Just before we go.. I noticed you were watching the baseball game and I'm an avid baseball fan myself. What is the score of the game?" Then he all of a sudden perked up and said "6-3 Blue Jays.. Bautista just hit a 3-run home run in the bottom of the 7th". He still wasn't interested after that but that seemed to have softened him up. I know we're not supposed to talk about sports with people but when I saw that he was watching the baseball game my natural man took over and I couldn't help myself but ask him what the score was. Plus it showed him that missionaries are real human beings too; we're not just there to preach at them. We are also told to be real with people. I was simply being real with him by asking him what the score of the baseball game was. I think his view of missionaries changed after that too. So that was a cool moment experience for me.

We had zone training in Fredericton this week. At zone training the first training was on the YSA. In the training they talked how the young college/university students are a lot more open minded and not set in their ways. They called them "The Millennials of the Church." The older people are more set in their ways and. Whereas Millennials are much easier to talk to and more willing to talk to you too. Each area was given the list of the YSA age members of the unit and we were instructed to pick out some of the YSA's and present them to the Bishop and discuss how we should work with them. During the training we were also to contact the local university/college and get a list of clubs/societies from them. Then plan on setting up a booth one day of the week. It is a new method of finding to implement. It helps us focus on the younger people and help them in their conversion. We were also told to get in the habit of testifying "Why?" when we're talking to them. "Why are we on a mission? Why are we giving up 2 years to do this? Why does this matter to us?" That sort of thing. When we do that our testimonies will move them and they will want to learn more.

We met with our investigator Timothy twice this week - at dinner and at a regular meeting. We talked about the Book of Mormon and The First Vision in these lessons. He read the introduction to the Book of Mormon and accepted everything very well. He even came to stake conference yesterday morning. We are planning on putting him on-date this week so hopefully all goes well with that and he will commit to baptism in the near future.

Have a good week!

Elder O'Brien (the older)

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

October 13, 2015 - Woodstock, New Brunswick

Good Morning Family,

It has been a long busy week. I'm glad I have the day to relax and let all my stresses and the pressure I've been feeling go. Today is Canadian Thanksgiving and because it's another holiday we have to take turns e-mailing at the Church. Because I am serving in a American dominated branch I will not be having a Canadian Thanksgiving meal this year. But I am thankful for my family, for my mission, for my companions, for the gospel, for the area I'm serving in, for the missionaries, for the members, and for being able to serve a mission. I have many things to be thankful for. I am also thankful for all the beautiful fall colors that are starting to come out. 

Leaving a companion that you have gotten used to and that you're familiar with is no easy task. Thankfully I have done it 8 times now so I have been through it before. Saying goodbye to Elder Evans wasn't easy. We had a lot of fun times together and I miss him already. But I have made a pretty good transition so far. Elder Steimle reminds me a lot of a former companion. He is a very focused, skilled, straight-laced, thorough, and spiritually minded missionary. We have been getting along pretty well. He is pretty easy to talk to and is very mild-mannered. I have confidence in myself and that I am on top of things here in Woodstock. I know what each investigator needs, I know what each member needs, I know what needs to get done. I know more about the area than I think I do.

Wednesday, we went to an auto-body shop to get a quote on the lining of the clips of the front left tire. We ran over a racoon on the highway and it went up and over the tire breaking the lining of the clips of the tire.

The missionary fireside on member missionary work and the internet went pretty well. 5 members came and 3 of the Sister's investigators came as well. We were hoping for more people but there was a funeral the next day. It took a little longer than expected but everything went smoothly and we each took turns talking about each slide. I think the message got across about using technology for missionary work.

We had a lesson with an investigator on who God is and introduced the Book of Mormon to him. He has doubts about the Book of Mormon only because he doesn't know much about it. He is accepting of the truths we taught him so far and I could see him being baptized in the next few months. He is a truth seeker and truth seekers are what we went. 

Have a good week! Happy Thanksgiving!

Elder O'Brien (the older)

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

October 5, 2015 - Woodstock, New Brunswick

Dear Family,

It has been quite the weekend between General Conference, My Birthday, Transfer News, and a unexpected death of a less active member in the middle of the last session of Conference. More on that later. 
For my Birthday on Friday it was like any other day. For dinner the Seaboyer's invited us over for my Birthday. They asked me what my favorite meal was and I told them. They fed us BBQ Ribs, mashed potatoes and carrots. Then for dessert we had a cake with a question mark candle on top. It was a great meal. I was so grateful for all that they did for it. They really like us. They have told us that if it weren't for the presence of missionaries in their lives they wouldn't be active. But the focus on me quickly shifted that day when all of a sudden when we were driving in the car, I got a prompting to call the Houlton Sisters and ask one of the sisters if she would like a blessing. She had been battling a bad cold all week and her voice had been getting worse. But sure enough we acted on that prompting and called her and she said she would love one. So we went over to Houlton that night and proceeded to give her a blessing of healing. This experience humbled me. Giving someone a blessing who is in need is more important to me than any birthday dinner, birthday gift, and birthday wishes. That experience was the highlight of my birthday because I followed the spirit and was an instrument in the Lord's hand.

It was a very inspiring General Conference that we just had. The sessions seemed to go by really fast though and I don't know why. That sums up how I feel about the days in general nowadays. This General Conference had a quiet reverence and respect to it. It was cool to see 3 new apostles sustained. I sustain the 3 new apostles that were called: Elder Ronald A. Rasband, Elder Gary E. Stevenson, and Elder Dale G. Renlund. They have been called of God and will be great apostles of the Lord. I thought that their testimonies were so moving. I liked what Elder Dale G. Renlund said in his testimony about how God calls the weak and simple things to serve him. Then he talked about how missionaries know this first-hand. It is about the Lord's work and doing it his way. Elder Gary E. Stevenson seemed nervous but that is to be expected of a newly called apostle. As each of them were speaking, I felt the Spirit confirm to me that the Lord has called them.

I really liked Elder Bednar's talk about the 6 apostles he's seen pass away during his time as an apostle. He gave me a powerful testimony of each of his former apostles. I loved what he said about heeding to the words of senior apostles and how following their words helps build faith inside ourselves.

I liked the emphasis on the importance of the role of women in the Church from the messages from Elder Holland and Elder Nelson. I really feel like the sisters in the Church needed to hear that. I was particularly moved by Elder Holland's talk on Women, "Behold thy Mother." The story he told of the missionary and went home 9 months in. Then after 5 years of bearing him and helping him get through his trial he went back out in the mission field. It made me think of the process I went through to go on a mission and all the discouragement and the trials we faced during that faith-testing trial. Mom "bore me" and it was hard on her. It was harder on her than it was on me. It was a very touching talk. All of the missionaries there were crying and rightly so. Our moms play a big role in us going on missions.

I also liked the follow-up on Sabbath day observance from some of the speakers. I liked what President Uchtdorf said about making discipleship more difficult than it really is. I liked how he said it is simple and leaders need to protect the simpleness of it. I also enjoyed the talk he gave in the priesthood session about Daniel and Babylon.

My favorite talks were from Elder Oaks and Elder Andersen. I liked how Elder Oaks went into every affliction that he could when he talked about the Atonement. I enjoyed Elder Andersen's illustration of the flame and our faith.  "Faith comes by choice not by chance."

I was seriously concerned though about President Monson during his talk in the Sunday Morning session. He started out fine but he kept on sinking lower and lower and his voice was getting really low. It looked like he was about to pass out. But sure enough he didn't give up and he was able to give the rest of his talk. 

During the last session of Conference we were sitting peacefully for the first 2 speakers when all of a sudden a member walks in and asked us "Do either of you know Brother B?" I didn't but Elder Evans did. Anyways it turns out that Brother B was standing on his roof during lunch and he slipped and hit his head on the concrete. He wanted us to be with his family and say a prayer with them. So we rushed over to the hospital and saw Brother B all bandaged up on life support. We were able to spend some time with the family for about 20 minutes and said a prayer with them. He passed away an hour later. There was a quiet peace in that room. It was sacred. I could sense angels surrounding him. It made me think of Ayla in her bed as she was passing away. I never met this man but Elder Evans said he was a very spiritual man and the sisters worked with him quite regularly. Elder Evans said that in his last visit with him he talked about how he didn't fear death and that he wasn't afraid of dying. It's like he knew what was coming. The Houlton Sisters were quite shaken up by this though.
So we missed the majority of the last session.

Yesterday morning we received transfer news. I am staying in Woodstock and Elder Steimile will be my new companion. I came out with him. He is very sincere and a really good guy. This will be the 3rd companion that I've served with that I came out with. I was saddened to learn of the transfer news. Me and Elder Evans have gone through a lot together. Sure we have had our rough patches but we had good times together. He was the heart and soul of Woodstock and I will miss him a lot. I think it's safe to say that he has been the most energetic companion that I've had. Some of his energy even rubbed off on me. I have grown close to him and I have been pretty emotional about it too. We shared a lot of cool experiences together. Elder Steimile will be coming from Newfoundland so I'm sure he'll have a lot of stories to share.

Have a good week! Keep me in your prayers!

Elder O'Brien

Thursday, October 15, 2015

September 28, 2015 - Woodstock, New Brunswick

Dear Family,

A year ago I was still settling in to Hampton and Elder Bodine. A year later I am completely settled into Woodstock with Elder Evans.
Not very many missionaries can say that 3 apostles have died on their mission. I'm sad to say that I can. I was sad to hear of the passing of Richard G. Scott on Tuesday. He was a very humble and spiritual man. The world has lost another apostle but the spirit world has gained another valiant spirit.

It is beginning to get very chilly in the mornings. It was the coldest on Saturday. I almost needed my winter coat. There was a "fall farmer's market" that afternoon in downtown Woodstock. A lot of people had their coats on and their kids were all bundled up. Fall has officially begun and winter isn't that far away. We did a hot chocolate stand with the Houlton Sisters that day. We had quite a few children come up and ask us for some free hot chocolate. 

It is going to be a busy weekend for us. My birthday is on Friday, then general conference is the next 2 days. Then we get transfer letters on Sunday morning. There is a pizza party for all the priesthood before the Priesthood Session Saturday night.

I am excited for this upcoming General Conference. This will be my 3rd General Conference on my mission. This conference should be an interesting one with 3 apostles passing away and the Supreme Court's ruling in the summer. It will be interesting to see if they address it. It will also be interesting to see how President Monson's health is doing. It is saddening that after this General Conference is over I only have 1 more left on my mission. To make General Conference even more exciting one of our investigators will be attending a session of General Conference.

Last Monday while I was e-mailing you, the man sitting across from me said "Uhh, I know this a library but I've lost the Lord in my life and I want him back." He proceeded to write down all his contact information and handed it to me. Then he said "I also have some Word of Wisdom issues that I want you to help me overcome." This took me by surprise. I certainly wasn't expecting to run into a man at the library to want to meet with us. So we met with him on Saturday and it went really well. He is a very down-to-earth, humble, sincere, spiritual man. He has met with missionaries before and was on-date to be baptized but got really sick and couldn't meet with them anymore. He knows there is a God but doesn't know what he is. He has a basic knowledge of our beliefs. He knows about the Book of Mormon, and about the three kingdoms of glory. He also mentioned he is lonely and wants friends. He said that he's not sure if he will be baptized but he'll see if that's where our visits take him down the road. He said that he is missing a spiritual piece within him and he took it as a sign of seeing us at the library that we can help him find that piece. It was a super cool experience. We committed him to come to the Saturday Session of General Conference and he said he will be coming. He actually came to part of sacrament meeting yesterday. For only 5-10 minutes though. He couldn't stay for long because he had to go somewhere but he was there! We are really excited about this guy.

From training at District Meeting, I learned that I need to teach with more emotion and bear my testimony more. At the end of District Meeting I was invited to bear my testimony at random. It felt really good. I bore my testimony on having confidence in our message and I talked about how our efforts as missionaries are never wasted. I testified of prophets and apostles. I testified that we have the best message in the world to share with people. I felt the spirit as I was testifying and I felt confident as well. One of my favorite parts about being a missionary is being able to bear my testimony so frequently. I love it! 

Well that's about it for my week. Hope you enjoy conference and have a "revelatory expercience" while your watching it. Let me know what your thoughts are. Thank you in advance for the Happy Birthday Wishes and the Birthday Package!

Have a good week!

Elder O'Brien (the older)

Sunday, October 11, 2015

September 21, 2015 - Woodstock, New Brunswick

Elder Perkins and Elder O'Brien

Hello Family,

It has been a very eventful week. There has been a cold bug going around lately and Elder Evans and I seemed to have caught it. We are both feeling a little under the weather right now. It started on Saturday and it hasn't gotten any better. The temperature is beginning to drop here. Right now it is 11 degrees Celsius. This week the highest it will get is 23 and the lowest will be 17. More signs that the fall is coming and winter isn't that far away.

Well this week we had Zone Conference with Elder Perkins and I loved it! To start off this special Zone Conference when him and his wife walked into the room we all stood up in reverence and respect and he shook all our hands and we  introduced ourselves to him. I had a lot better view of him this time around. It was much nicer to see him up close rather then 100 feet away in a conference center with 20,000 men in it. Elder Perkins started off zone conference by talking about revelation. He said that we should replace the word "meeting" with "revelatory experience."  He says that will improve our attitude towards a church meeting. Telling people that they are going to a "sacramental revelatory experience" sounds a lot better than "I'm going to a sacrament meeting today." He said that "Agent's act, objects are acted upon", "If you want revelation, you need to ask for it." Then he had us each write down 2 questions (1 personal and 1 missionary orientated). He invited us to have those questions in mind throughout zone conference. That really set the tone for the rest of zone conference. Then he shared his testimony that we have been called of God and that he knows President Pratt has been called of God.

He shared a story of when he got to assign missionaries to a mission with Elder Hales. He said that they only had 22 seconds to assign every missionary to a mission. They did this for 3 hours straight one time. He said he doubted himself and doubted he could receive revelation that fast. But when one missionary popped on the screen, the words "Chinese Taipei" came into his mind and then 2 seconds later Elder Hales said "Chinese Taipei."From that moment on he didn't doubt himself. He said that some missionaries are assigned to a mission for the mission president, some are assigned to touch a soul in that area. He said that sometimes  missionaries never learn why they got called to a mission but some do. He told us that once a member of the Quorum of The Twelve assigns a missionary to a mission the prophet can reassign that missionary to a different mission if it doesn't feel right to him. So when you get your call you don't really know if it had been reassigned by the prophet or not. Then he closed his morning remarks by saying "I may not know which Quorum of the Twelve assigned you, I may not know if the prophet changed your call or not but I do know you have been called of God!"

In the afternoon Elder Perkins talked about the difference between tools and instruments. Instruments need to be tuned and calibrated. Instruments are precise. He likened it to us. He shared Mosiah 23:10 with us. The Lord is tuning us and calibrating us into the missionaries he wants us to become. 

Then he talked about Preach My Gospel for a while. Preach My Gospel explains 1. Who we are, 2. How we work, and 3. What we teach.

He told us that in order to find people to teach we need to be Christlike. In his own words "The more Christlike we are, the more people will be attracted to us." It takes more then skill to find people to teach. 

Then he went on about how our purpose is the center of missionary work. Everything we do comes back to our purpose which is to invite others come unto Christ. Our purpose as missionaries is the center of Preach My Gospel. He talked about our area books. "Keeping an area book is an accounting of the people for the Lord"

He shared how you can tell which prophet wrote a chapter in Preach My Gospel. For example Richard G. Scott had a large influence on Chapter 2. President Monson had influence over Chapter 9. President Uchtdorf had influence over Chapter 6.  If you look at other chapters you can take a good guess as to who wrote it. 

Then he explained the doctrine of faith:  Faith - Belief - Action - Testimony- Power (Remove doubt & fear).

What stuck out to me was faith being a power. He explained it as having faith that you'll find someone to teach, having faith that your investigators will keep commitments . Faith can be a power within us if we allow it to. We just need to remove doubt and fear.

The he talked about the section where it says "No effort is wasted." He shared a story of a missionary who knocked on someone's door and they said no. But 15 years later this person met with missionaries and got baptized. He said that that missionary who knocked on that person's door 15 years ago doesn't know that they got baptized. So our efforts are truly never wasted. Sometimes we won't even see the fruits of our labors but rest assured, "No effort is wasted"

He had us write down the Restoration in 10 words: "God has restored his gospel once again through the Prophet Joseph Smith". That is the Restoration in one sentence. "The simpler we teach the more powerful it is." He said that one time he was traveling with Elder Scott and they were doing role plays all day long with missionaries. Elder Scott was the one role-playing with them. He jokingly said "I saw a lot of stressed missionaries."

He said he shares an office with the junior apostle and he sees Elder Nelson quite often. He told us lately Elder Nelson has been jokingly saying that he is the President of The Quorum of The Eight. Referring to the fact that Elder Hales and Elder Scott are sick.

He closed zone conference by doing a Q & A session for 30 minutes with us. One of the questions was "What the process was calling a new apostle." He answered by saying each apostle submits 2 or 3 names of who they think should be called to the prophet and the prophet prays about it and makes the final decision. Whoever the new apostles are, Elder Perkins will share an office with the new Junior apostle. He referred us to Acts 2. It talks a little more about that process.

We picked up a surprise investigator on Friday. We were at the Church doing weekly planning when all of a sudden a man from Paris, France walks into the Church. So we walked over and he said that the Salvation Army sent him here. So we got confused. Then he asked us what he has to do in order to become a Mormon. We were caught off guard. We told him we would teach him a series of lessons and then he would decide for himself, Then he got very fascinated by the paintings in our Church. He was taking pictures of them with his camera and he was in awe. We proceeded to give him a tour of the Church and ended up teaching him most of the Restoration. He asked us about coming to Church with his family. He is going to come with his family to our Book of Mormon study on Thursday. We got his phone number and his address and everything. It definitely caught us by surprise. We weren't even proselyting at the time. He fell right into our laps. It was definitely a tender mercy of the Lord. 

There was a Harvest Festival in Houlton on Saturday that we went to. It was a great way to talk to lots of people. There were a bunch of booths set up including a Amish tent with homemade doughnuts . We weren't able to get any potential investigators from it but we did talk to a lot from people.

Elder O'Brien

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

September 14, 2015 - Woodstock, New Brunswick

Dear Family,

The leaves on the trees are falling to the ground and the leaves are changing colors. The signs of fall are here. I remember how beautiful last fall was and now I can hardly wait for this fall. The fall reminds me of how beautiful God's creations are. It is also evidence that there is a God. One of the scriptures I use when explaining the creation is Alma 30:44 when Alma is speaking to Korihor. Korihor was asking for a sign that there is a God. Then Alma says "Have ye not signs enough?." Then Alma proceeds to tell him to look around ... that is evidence enough. What more evidence do you want? The beauty of fall is just one of many evidences that there is a God.

My week has been pretty uneventful. But we did do an interesting exercise at district meeting. Elder Thompson gave a training on  adversity. In part of his training he showed us his "5 personal steps to overcoming adversity." Then he had each of write down our own 5 steps to overcoming adversity. I did that and I would like to share with you what my own 5 steps to overcoming adversity are:

1. Acknowledge
2. Have hope
3. Pray
4. Eternal Perspective
5. Endure

What are yours? How do you overcome adversity personally? It is different for each of us. I would encourage you to think about that and write it down. This exercise was really thought-provoking.

We had a cool experience the other day. It was on a Saturday afternoon. We were going to go street contacting but there was no one on the streets to talk to at the time. So we got back in the car. Our backup for street contacting was stopping by former and potential investigators. So we started driving to a potential investigator's house. But as we were driving, I felt a prompting to stop at one of our investigators. So I told Elder Evans  that and we drove to this investigator. We got there and we found out she had been going through a really rough time and that she was living off low income. Her boyfriend had moved out and they are going through a separation. They have 2 kids together. He provided most of the money for them and now that they are separated she has really low income. So we told her that the Church could help her pay for some of her groceries. We told the branch president about the situation yesterday and now the branch is getting her some groceries. If I hadn't of received that prompting and acted on it who knows if the Church would have been able to help her on time. She was going to go to the food bank on Friday. But now she doesn't have to anymore.

There have been so many experiences I've had like that on my mission. Where we've been at the exact right place at the exact right time. It is humbling to a part of those experiences and it's one of my favorite things about being a missionary. I LOVE those experiences. We have them all the time and it's such a great feeling knowing that I was an instrument in the Lord's hand.

We had the opportunity to watch the CES devotional last night at the Church in Houlton. There was a couple of minutes where the devotional wasn't working completely. But from what I did see from it, I liked the story he shared of the garden in Vancouver. How that took 25 years for it to blossom and it all started from a tiny little plant. Then he compared it to beatifying our lives and how it takes time. I also enjoyed the story of the flower pot at this house and how it grew through different seasons. We also have different seasons in our lives. My favorite quote from his talk was "Behold the man!".

We were able to meet with one of our investigators this week that we haven't been able to meet with in a long time. She has a lot of health issues. The previous elders had just finished the stop-smoking program so now we're trying to get her in a teaching situation. We talked about prayer and how that helped her stop smoking but we weren't sure how to run with that.

We went to member's house after District Meeting on Wednesday. We were supposed to be helping him move some firewood. But right as soon as we're starting, a thunderstorm came. So we ended up not helping him. But they still fed us dinner though. On our way to District Meeting in Caribou, we got pulled in at the border for a "random inspection". We went into the border office and they did a thorough inspection of our car. They had us fill out a US customs declaration sheet while were in there. It ended up taking 15 minutes by the end. They let us go and we didn't get any extra trouble. I was a little nervous in the beginning but I could understand why they did that because 9/11 was only 2 days away.

On Thursday, we got a call to help move some new pews into the Houlton Chapel. So we did that. The pews were really heavy :P. I actually couldn't handle them and got another man to help carry it with Elder Evans instead of me helping him. Elder Evans said he could see the vein in my brain starting to pop out as I as trying to lift it. We also continued working on the PowerPoint presentation for the missionary fireside on October 9th. It is coming along nicely. We got a good chunk of it done this week and the mission leader likes what he sees so far.

We picked up a new investigator on Saturday. He is a Haitian man and a teacher. He is a little older. He is Christian and is open to learning about other religions.

J was at Church again yesterday. He asked us for a blessing. So we did that. He is taking things a day at a time. He recognizes that going to church will help him through his trials.

We met with one of the sister's investigators this week that is trying to quit smoking. He asked us for a blessing to give him to strength to quit smoking. In a separate meeting, we taught him the law of chastity. He had no issues with it and is living it honorably.

We have got zone conference with Elder Perkins on Wednesday. I am getting really excited for that. It is not very often that a general authority comes to our mission. I am looking forward to hearing what has to say. I will be sure to get a picture with him while I'm there.

Have a good week!


Elder O'Brien (the older)

Friday, September 18, 2015

September 7, 2015 - Woodstock, New Brunswick

Hello Family,

Today is Labor Day and because it's Labor Day everything is closed including the library that we normally e-mail at because one of the computers at the church is broken. So because of that, I don't have as much time to e-mail as I normally do today. I apologize in advance.

At zone conference we found out that Elder Perkins of the First Quorum of the Seventy is coming to tour our mission next week. So we will be having another zone conference a week from now with him and his wife. Ironically Elder Perkins gave a talk at the Priesthood session that me, Chris, and Dad went to three years ago. He was the one that gave the talk "Beware Concerning Yourselves"

Last Tuesday we had zone conference in Moncton. I really enjoyed it. Each zone conference is unique in its own way. I come away from every zone conference with a different message. At this zone conference, I got the impression that I need to study better. We stayed with the Fredricton Elders the night before and then woke up early the next morning and drove 2 hours to get to Moncton. Zone conference began with 5-minute talks from Sister Lowry and Elder Lerminex. Sister Lowry spoke on having confidence in our message and Elder Lerminez gave a talk on being a "Preach My Gospel" missionary. Then Sister Pratt spoke to us on faith. She said that faith is a choice. If we don't choose faith, we are choosing doubt. The lives of the people in our church are a symbol of our faith. 

Then we received a medical training from the Breathgate's. They are a senior couple in charge of the the medical stuff for the missionaries in the North America Central area. They talked about stress and how to deal with it. They talked about eating healthy and having a exercise program. My favorite quote was "Give it to God and go to sleep". They also talked how smiling relieves stress. 

After the medical training, we received a training from Brother Cartier. He is the CES director for the mission. He is a very knowledgeable man and knows a lot about the gospel. He trained us on how to study. He began his training by asking us "Why we study?" and "What aspects of studying do I feel I need to improve?" Then he had us ponder those two questions for a minute. Then he said that there is a price to be paid to gain spiritually knowledge. He answered the first question for us by saying "I go to the scriptures to be changed through the Atonement. I go to the scriptures to obtain the light and truth that will save me, my family, and everyone around me, according to the plan of God." He then showed us a talk that was given to all CES teachers at a conference. In the video the director of CES said "There is a hierarchy among truths and learning to discern this hierarchy will bless us and our students." Brother Cartier related teaching our investigators to become spiritually self-reliant rather than giving them the answers. Then Brother Cartier spoke on separating the details from the principles in a scripture passage. "Scriptural knowledge will increase our knowledge of the curriculum." I could go on and on about this training but to summarize I learned that I need to separate the details and principles in a scripture passage and look for Christ in all the scriptures. 

In the afternoon President Pratt trained us on member presence. He said that member presence is an issue for this mission and he suggested talking to 7 members before we go to a lesson by ourselves. He wants 75% member presence in the mission. I took a lot of notes if you couldn't already tell.

This week we got taken out to Chinese food on Friday. We saw all our less actives in Island Falls on Wednesday. We got to see M on Thursday. She was asking us a lot of good questions about the bible. We helped paint a church on Thursday as well. I went on an exchange in Caribou with Elder Stratton on Saturday. I got to train him on extending commitments while I was with him. I thought of Chris as I was doing that. It was a cool experience and it felt good.

Happy Labor Day!

Elder O'Brien, the older

Friday, September 4, 2015

August 31, 2015 - Woodstock, New Brunswick

Dear Family,

Another week has gone by and summer has almost come to a close. This summer has gone by fast. But nowadays time seems to be going by fast in general. All the days seem to blend together. Some days it feels like I am stuck inside a dream for 2 years. It's a weird feeling. Some days it feels like I am in a fantasy. My mission seems to be going so fast. I now have only 11 months left.. That's scary.

Tomorrow is zone conference in Moncton. I am getting pretty excited about this zone conference, This is the first zone conference we've had since President Pratt first arrived. In preparation for zone conference, we were all asked to read a talk by Richard G. Scott called "Acquiring Spiritual Knowledge." It is a talk given at BYU Education Week. In his talk he talks about how it is a struggle to gain spiritual knowledge. He talks about 5 principles when receiving spiritual knowledge. It must be understood, valued, used, remembered, and expanded. It is a really good talk and I am looking to forward to seeing why he had us read that talk. We were also asked to read pages 96-98 of Preach My Gospel.

On Wednesday, we had a mini-district meeting with just the Houlton Sisters and us. We went over a training given by the legendary Elder Torrie a while back called the "7 Principles of Companionship Unity." In it he lists 7 principles that will help make a companionship be unified. President Pratt is making a big emphasis on companionship unity. I think it will help me be more self-conscious of unity with my companion. After the mini-district meeting, Sister Deberry asked for a blessing from me because she was feeling nervous about training a new missionary from the MTC. She wanted a blessing to help her feel strength so I did that and she was very grateful. She was in tears after the blessing was over. After the blessing, we visited a man in his 30's who is less active. He works for the army and is very busy. He has some very interesting doctrinal views and he likes to talk about deep doctrine.
Our day was a mess Thursday. Our van has been due for a oil change for a long time now so in the afternoon we dropped it off at the car dealership. They gave us the options of dropping it off or just waiting till it was done. We told them we would just wait. Anyway it ended up taking two and a half hours to get the oil changed. During that time we were stuck there waiting. So all our plans that afternoon went up in flames. It was a very long stressful afternoon. It would be stressful for anybody. Just imagine being a missionary and waiting that long. I thought of Dad as we were waiting. Just imaging how he would have handled it.

While we were tracking on Saturday, we knocked on this one house who had German shepherd but no one was home. When we were walking away the German shepherd was following us. It had its head  and ears down. Elder Evans went to pick up a stick and while he was picking it up, it almost ate Elder Evan's hand. It came really close to him. So we were getting pretty scared. Elder Evans kept on picking up sticks and throwing it to distract it. Finally he found the last stick he could find and threw it as far as he could then we both sprinted to the car. It was a close call. 
On the way to church in the morning while we were in line at the border there was a man in his car in front of us that was Muslim. He kept on waving his hands in the air and looked very confused. So he got out of his car and went up to the next car and asked them "Toronto?" and Brother S told him "No.. United States" So this man went back into his car and did a U-Turn right in front of us in line at the border and he almost backed into us. Then he drove on the grass to get out and sped off. Right after that happened a border guard came running down the line to see what was going on. Then the border guards were on the intercom and another border guard came out. So that was my excitement at the border yesterday.

Have a good week! Hope you have a good conversation with Chris tomorrow!

Elder O'Brien (the older)

Monday, August 31, 2015

August 24, 2015 - Woodstock, New Brunswick

Dear Family,

After I posted that picture of our family on Facebook, I have been receiving comments from the members here on what a "good-looking family I have." I have told quite a few people that Chris just went on a mission and that our family won't have been together for 3 years by the time he gets home. People recognize the happiness in our family and that was very humbling. It made me really grateful for our family.

It has been a long week. This week it was the hottest it's been all summer with temperatures getting up to 30 degrees Celsius. On Thursday we spent most of the day in the sun. In between street contacting and knocking for an hour and a half, I felt out of breath so we took a 10 minute break just to get some liquids in us and I took some Ventolin as well. I guess Chris is going to have to get used that type of weather where he's going. The big difference is he'll have to deal with dry heat where I have to deal with wet heat. 

So yesterday we received transfer letters and I am staying in Woodstock with Elder Evans for another transfer. This didn't come as a surprise to me but I can never feel completely secure. The only time I'll feel totally comfortable going into a transfer will be when I go home :P. As for the Houlton Sisters Sister Trouter is being transferred to Amherst and Sister Deberry is staying in Houlton and will be training a new missionary from the MTC. My birthday will fall a week (6 days) before transfers next transfer.  This upcoming transfer will consist of: a CES devotional, zone conference, general conference, and my birthday so it should be a pretty eventful transfer. 

Wednesday we had district meeting in Caribou. We got trained on district unity and holding each other accountable. Each companionship had their own goals for the week and Elder Thompson had us follow-up on each other with each of our goals. After District Meeting we went knocking in the backwood's of Island Falls. There were a bunch of nice cabins there and none of the people were really receptive and didn't feel like they needed the gospel when they already have a beautiful view and a nice cabin. So that ended up being ineffective.

Friday, we picked up a new investigator. He is 23 years old and is the owner of a bookstore in downtown Woodstock. He isn't religious but is very open minded, He has a old copy of the Book of Mormon in his bookstore. He is really cool and super nice. We taught him the Restoration and felt like the lesson went well. 
Saturday, we decided to mix things up a bit and do a Popsicle stand instead of a lemonade stand with the Sisters. It worked out pretty well. More people came and talked to us so it was nice.

Sunday we had a really cool experience in the evening. After we had dinner, we decided to go see a sister because she had another surgery today. So we went there and she was sleeping so we didn't end up seeing her. Then the thought popped into our heads "Maybe we should visit this other family so we went by their house and all their lights were off. So we decided to drive around the block and call and make sure it was okay for us to stop by. We called and they told us we could come by. So we did and when we got there the wife told us that her son who is about 5 years had been in pain not wanting to move and had been lying in bed all day. So she wanted us to give him a blessing in his bed. After we give him a blessing, he started playing with his toys. She said he was in so much pain before that he didn't want to play. She was amazed. He was still in a lot of pain and was favouring his right arm. Her husband was still in Saint John so they had no priesthood in the home. It was a strong testimony to me of the power of the priesthood. It was a very humbling experience. 

Have a good week!

Elder O'Brien (The older)

Thursday, August 20, 2015

August 17, 2015 - Woodstock, New Brunswick

Dear Family,
On a sunny Monday morning I write my final letter to you as the only Elder O'Brien in the family. I was excited to find out that Chris has his visa and that his mission won't be delayed. After Wednesday, there will only be 3 family members at home. It is a new chapter in our family's life. Both sons have grown up and gone on missions. It will be an emotional day on Wednesday and it will be hard to let go but the experiences Chris will have and the blessings you'll receive will make it worth having us both gone. When you drop off Chris at the MTC I won't be there, but when you pick up Chris from the Airport I will be with you with you waiting for him in the terminal with my arms wrapped around you bracing ourselves for an emotional reunion and we will be together as a family. Remember that on Wednesday. 

It has been a long week. A week of labour and emotional times. 
So on Saturday the entire district painted a lady's house. She has special needs and she's not able to paint the house herself. She told a member of the church she wanted someone she could trust and Sister P told her she knows exactly who she can trust. So she got us, the Houlton Sisters, the Caribou Elders, and the Presque Isle Sisters to come and help paint her house (The lady we helped). She lives in Madawasqua, Maine. It was two and a half hours away and we had to get permission from President Pratt to go. It is right on the border to Quebec. I'm not kidding; Quebec was only 16 kilometers from where we were on Saturday. It was on the very tip of our mission boundaries. So Sister P told us that it would last for 3 to 4 hours. But it ended up taking 7 hours to paint the whole house. I was pretty exhausted by the end of the day and I was sore yesterday. I had never done a district service project before that. It was a good time. We all had fun and we got to bond as a district. I was on the ground painting most of the time. While other members of the district were 20 feet in the air on the ladder, I stayed put on the ground. On the way there the GPS took us from Maine to Canada and back to Maine. Apparently it was faster so we did and the border was very hard on us. So on the way back, we just went from Madawasqua to Caribou and then back to Woodstock. We went through Edmunston, New Brunswick on the way there. When we got to Edmunston, it felt like we were in Quebec because everything was in French. We could tell that Quebec wasn't too far away. So that was the labour side of the week.
So there's this couple in the branch named J and L. They are a younger couple. The wife is very active but J is not. J had a rough upbringing as a child. They are polar opposites of each other. L is very clean and active in the gospel while J isn't active and isn't very committed. The other week on the phone J lied to her about where he was. L caught him on that and was upset with her thinking, "If he's lying to me about this what else is he lying to me about?" So now they are separated and L wants to get a divorce. She is tired of living with him and having to deal with his issues. Last Monday night, J asked us to give him a blessing to help him get through this. So we did and it was a really powerful blessing. After it was done, we were all crying. So on the weekend J wanted to meet with us and he told us his life story and everything that happened with him and his wife. J is similar to Elder Evans' brother and he feels very close to J because he reminds him so much of his brother. This hits home to me for me too. L reminds me so much of Julie and J is similar to her ex-husband. But J is a lot more humble about the situation and he acknowledges his weaknesses and the issues that he has. We are J's only sources of support right now and he is attached to us and we are attached to him. It is hard for me to be around L because I flashback to Julie when she was going through a divorce. I feel drawn to talk to L and use my experience with Julie going through a divorce to help her. I feel like they're the reason I'm in this area right now. So that has been the emotional side of the week.
After lunch on Friday we street contacted in Houlton and the first two people we talked to we picked up as potential investigators. It was a surprise to me and Elder Evans. That rarely happens. 
Had a good week! Good luck Chris! Have a fun trip!

Elder O'Brien

Friday, August 14, 2015

August 10, 2015 - Woodstock, New Brunswick

Food Portions at Grammys
Hello Family,
Let me start off my letter by saying "Happy Birthday, Dad." Hope you have a nice birthday filled with a day full of relaxation and peace like you deserve. There is a famous ice cream place in Houlton called "Houlton Dairy Farms and Ice Cream." They are known to have very good ice cream. We will be going there today in honour of your birthday. 

It has been a very interesting week. They say that this is the Bible Belt of the mission and that was evident this weekend. While we were knocking on Friday, we knocked into a man. He opened the door and we told him we were missionaries. Then he said "I have a few issues with you guys, first of all you are too young to be an elder, second of all you don't have credentials to be a representative of Jesus Christ." He explained to us that Jesus was a lawmaker and a fisherman. We then asked him if his disciples had any credentials; he responded by saying "It is unfair and not right for you to be asking me questions." We tried testifying but he cut us off. The conversation ended by him telling us "to do our research and go home, you are doing the wrong thing, you have been indoctrinated." Then he slammed the door in our face.
So this week I got a strong impression that I should talk to a lady I helped baptize but I was afraid to. I didn't know how she would react to me after her decision to quit coming to church. So eventually I sent her a message on Facebook telling her that I felt like I should talk to her and I just asked her how her and her family are doing. She responded to me saying that they are doing good. She asked me how I was doing. It was just a really good friendly conversation. This conversation I had with her just showed me that she still wants to be friends with me and it showed her I still want to be friends with her. As long as were still friends there is still hope for her. This impression gave me a glimmer of hope. 

Last Wednesday, we had District Meeting in Houlton. Elder Thompson talked about how we need to let ourselves become the missionary the Lord wants us to become and he quoted a scripture in Mosiah that says our afflictions and our trials will be but a small moment. It was a good reminder that everything I go through is for my benefit. After District Meeting, we went as a district to a Catholic food pantry and helped move some boxes. Over the last 3 weeks of me being here, I have noticed that this is a very close-knit district. This is the closest district I've ever been a part of. We all love each other and we all want to work hard for each other. There is a good spirit of unity in this district that I love. For dinner, the Lee's took us out to Grammy's. It is a restaurant exclusive to Maine. It is known for its large proportions of food. The slogan for the restaurant is "Grammy's... Where you get more then you expect!" Elder Evans had been telling me that I'll get the most served to me in my entire life. Of course I didn't really believe him at the time and doubted that. So I ordered roast beef with sweet potatoes. When they came out with my dinner, I was shocked at how much they gave me. I definitely wasn't expecting that much food. I ended having to take leftovers home. 
On Saturday, we went on exchanges with the Caribou Elders. Elder Evans went to Caribou with Elder Thompson and I was in Woodstock with Elder Stratton. Elder Stratton is a brand new missionary from the MTC. He has been in the mission field for about 3 weeks now.  He was supposed to come out with me last year but when we got to the MTC, he decided he wasn't ready so he worked for a year and saved money. So he came back out this transfer. He is a good new missionary. It was a good exchange. I was able to be a mentor to him and teach him a few things. On the exchange, we had lessons with two investigators. With both of them, we taught them about the Book of Mormon. One investigator has been smoke-free for a week now. In both lessons I was able to take the lead. So that was a good experience of me taking the lead. 
Have a good week!

Elder O'Brien