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