Thursday, April 9, 2015

April 5, 2015 - Bridgewater, Nova Scotia

Dear Family,
It has been a very eventful week. Between Conference and Easter it has been quite the weekend.I have had an amazing Easter and hope you have as well. I got your Easter package just in time for Easter.So thank you for the chocolate bunny, cookies, and eggies :).By the end of conference I found myself particularly sad that it was over. This conference had a unique spirit to it different with conferences in the past. That's because it was on an Easter this time. All the messages were so good. I felt the spirit so strong throughout the weekend and can't wait until the Ensign edition of conference comes out. Then I will be able to highlight things I missed and add notes as well. As Robert D. Hales has said "The greatest blessings come after general conference." In honor of Easter, I have been reading Luke 24 where it talks about the Resurrection and Atonement of Jesus Christ. It was a good read and I would encourage you all to read it as well.
Wednesday: President Leavitt asked all the missionaries to fast for success in the next 3 months. The mission has had a very low baptismal rate this winter due to church cancellations, snow days, and bad weather. So he's wanted that to change and he wants us to do a better job at working with members, District Meeting was an hour longer then it normally is. President Leavitt standardized how to organize member books, area books, and wall maps. Before missionaries could organize them in whatever way they want; now it's standard and both set of missionaries in the area has a record for each member. President wants us to create a tracting plan by using the members. By doing so, the members will trust us and give us referrals. His big push right now is working through the members. 

Thursday I went on an exchange in Sackville with Elder Sortomme. Sackville is starting to do a games night every Thursday. They liked how that worked out for us and wanted to try it themselves. About 10 members showed up. It was decently attended. We played Charades and Contact. It was really fun.
Saturday we basically camped out at the church all day. After the first session, the sisters had a baptism. She is 19 years old. She has been going to church for 3 years now but her mother wouldn't let her join the Church. So she had to wait until she could get baptized without permission. She is a really sweet girl. Her mother was there to support her despite being against it. There were a lot of people at her baptism. All of the people who stayed for the first session stayed afterwards for the baptism. But the baptism did end on time and we had just enough time for refreshments. All of us went back into the chapel for the next session after the baptism was over. There was a potluck for all the priesthood right before the priesthood session put on by the Elders Quorum. There were a lot of priesthood that came. I actually wasn't that tired during the session; I stayed awake during the whole thing and was very attentive. I wasn't even that tired when it was over.
Some of my favorite talks from conference were Elder Bednar's talk on "Hushing our fears" through faith in Christ. It made me think of "Hushing" my anxieties, my fears and my stress by looking toward the Savior. "Jesus Christ is the only source of enduring peace" I also liked how he talked about Godly Fear being a good thing. "Godly Fear is loving and knowing that God loves us." I never really thought that much about Godly fear before so it was very enlightening. My other favorite talk was by Elder Holland. He gave a really powerful testimony of the Atonement using the story of the boys on the cliff. My favorite quote from his talk was when he said "Every fear, every discouragement, every sorrow and pain has been taken away from the Savior." It was a really powerful talk and almost made me cry. Another talk I liked was by Elder Michael T. Ringwood where he talked mainly about doing good out of the motivation of the love of God. I like the story he shared when he was a young missionary and he got a companion he knew nothing about. He had heard from the mission that this companion was hard and he wasn't given any leadership assignments so he was skeptical. But when he got this new companion he found he was faithful. He got up on time, he was on time for studies, he was out the door on time, he went out and worked every day. He wanted to tell the mission that they were wrong about this Elder; that he was a good faithful missionary. But when he spoke with his mission president he said "God knows it, the mission president knows it, you know it. Who else's opinion really matters?" Those are some of many talks I liked this weekend. Elder Oaks gave a good talk, Elder Ballard gave a good talk, President Uchtdorf gave two great talks, President Monson gave a good talk. So many inspiring talks this weekend. Some things I noticed during from Conference was that President Monson looks like he aged quite a bit.

I did a double take when I heard President Evanson's name announced as a new area seventy. He has done so much for the stake and for our family in particular with my mission situation and Ayla and Arles. Although he will be an area seventy you will still see him around :). As mom e-mailed, the new stake president has big shoes to fill. He's an amazing man and will be missed by many. I know there will be many tears this weekend. Send him my love and my thanks to him on my behalf. He is the most Christlike man I know. He will be a great area seventy. That doesn't surprise me one bit that he got called as an area seventy.

It has been a remarkable weekend. As I continue to ponder and reflect on the talks given, I pray that I will take from it what I need to and move forward with my life.
Hope you have a great week! Let me know how stake conference goes :). I'll been thinking of you and praying for you as I now will come home to a new stake president.
Have a great week!
Elder O'Brien

March 30, 2015 - Bridgewater, Nova Scotia

Path to their van

Dear Family,
Another week has gone by and Easter is in a week. We got another 10 cm of snow on Saturday. Luckily it was light, fluffy snow. Church almost got cancelled yesterday though but instead it got postponed to 1:00 so the roads could be clear. We had to shovel a path to our van in the morning. That took 2 hours to do.
Monday: We had dinner at the Nilsson's. I gave a spiritual thought on The Book of Mormon. I talked about how Joseph Smith put his life on the line to write it. I also talked about the Mormon Message "Safety for the Soul" by Elder Holland. He gave a powerful testimony. Then I testified of how I know the Book of Mormon to be true for myself.
Tuesday we got to visit an investigator. He has been reading the pamphlets, Book of Mormon, and Gospel Principles manual. He has an issue with the whole idea of a pre-existence and it being a part of God's plan that Adam and Eve disobeyed God. He said these issues won't keep him from joining the Church; he just wants to understand why that it is. We encouraged him to read the Book of Mormon and pray about it. By doing that he can know that all of it is true. After that, we had dinner at the Gidney's. We got talking about General Conference and how it's nicer to watch General Conference at the chapel with other Saints around rather than on your own at home. I agree. I enjoy watching conference with other members. It has a nice spirit.
Wednesday we had district meeting with a focus on family history, with President Leavitt's whole push on doing the "My Family Booklets." I found out that you don't have to have memories of your ancestors in order to be done. In that case, I am almost done my booklet. I just need some more dates and find out the children of my great-grandparents and then I'll be done. 

In the afternoon Thursday we street contacted. We talked to this one lady who is a Christian. She said she prayed for God's presence and then she saw us. She felt like her prayer was answered. She was on her way to give sleeping bags to homeless people. She wasn't interested in our message but was very thankful that she saw us.  She was really humble. At dinner we got into the topic of forgiveness. How some people get offended at Church because of something someone said about them. We go to Church not for the people but for ourselves spiritually. The only opinion that matters about us is from God and Jesus Christ. We need to just ignore those people who speak ill of us. 

Sunday was a busy day. Sister Rawding and Sister Whiting gave the two talks. They talked about how we shouldn't try to change someone just to fit our comfort zone and how we are all God's Children. It was a combined relief society and priesthood. Bishop gave a lesson on Ministering then realted it to home-teaching. Atfer Church we just stayed there because we had dinner at the Rawding's at 5. They said they invited some of their friends to the Easter Concert. After dinner we rushed back to the church for choir practice before the Easter Concert. It ended up being well attended, There were some non-members there, and some less actives as well. It was a good mix. There were a number of beautiful songs sung. I felt the spirit throughout the performances. We ended having too many songs in the program though. It was supposed to be an hour but it ended up being an hour and 40 mins. It was a great way to kick off Easter.

I am so excited for General Conference this weekend. At the end of Conference I would encourage you all to answer these 3 questions. 

What did you learn? How did you feel? What are you going to do about it?

Happy Easter/General Conference
Have a great week!
Elder O'Brien

March 23, 2015 - Bridgewater, Nova Scotia

Hello Family,
This week we have got more cold weather. On Wednesday we got another 20 cm of snow. We were snowed in that day. But it looks like that we will get warmer weather this week. Yesterday it was -8 with a windchill of -20. It was really cold. But we had Church this week. So that was nice. People around her have been saying that this is the worst winter they've gotten in years. It is going to take a couple months before all the snow will be gone unfortunately. I don't want it to warm up dramatically though. That would cause flooding and wouldn't be good.
On Tuesday, we were supposed to meet with quite a few people but they ended up falling through. So instead we tried visiting members but none of them were home. Then we did some street contacting in downtown Mahone Bay. We contacted a couple of people but not many. Then we had dinner at Brother Freemen's which we do every Tuesday. We met with Lisa with President Wentzell after dinner. She had no questions about the Restoration or the video. But there was a language barrier. So we went over parts of the Restoration again and she said she has a hard time reading the mandarin Book of Mormon. So we showed her how to read them online on by zooming in. It's been a slow process with Lisa but we're continuing to work with her and be patient with her.
Thursday, things were back to normal. We helped shovel Sister Dorey's driveway out. She couldn't even open her door after the snowstorm and we actually helped shovel her on Tuesday as well.  We visited with Brother Chase and he seems to be doing alright. Norma is in the hospital right now so he is worried about her. 

We had our Skype interviews with President Leavitt after. He actually forgot about them so we had to text him to remind him. It was actually a really short interview this time.He asked me if I was being obedient and If I had any worthiness issues. I have been obedient and no worthiness issues. Then he said "That's great.. keep it up." That was the end of the interview.At night we shovelled a less active's pathway to her car.
Friday was a busy day. We planned for the upcoming week in the morning then in the afternoon we visited a sister. It was supposed to be an hour but it ended up being a two hour visit. We both agreed that that was longer than what it needed to be. Some Maritimers just love to talk so we need to do a better job at cutting them off.Later we headed off to the church for Games Night. We played an intense game of spoons. 

Saturday, we got called to help shovel the church roof. The person in charge of the church buildings in the stake called the bishop wanting us to shovel the roof because they were calling for rain Saturday night; they were afraid that with all that snow on the roof that with the rain coming, it would cave in. So we did that for two and a half hours. They weren't done by the time we left either. By the end I was exhausted.
Sunday, Church was back. It didn't seem like it rained that much either. The focus for sacrament meeting was the Atonement and Our Saviour's love for each of us. Sister O'Hearn (Which by the way is related to Laura Dunford) gave a personal experience of their daughter (Emma) almost dying when she was younger. That made her rely on the Lord a lot. She gave a really heartfelt and emotional talk on the Atonement. We went home-teaching with Brother Tupper in the afternoon. One sister has been dealing with divorce. It made me think of Julie and how we dealt with that. It was hard but we used the Atonement to help us overcome it and we now have a better understanding of the Atonement. We went knocking in the evening. One of the people we knocked into it told us "Why would you believe in Jesus Christ?" "There's no proof of Him ever existing." He said he believes in the bible though but doesn't think that has any proof. We testified of the Book of Mormon, but he wasn't really receptive. 

Have a great week!
Elder O'Brien