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)