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)