Tuesday, August 2, 2016

August 2, 2016 - Homeward Bound

Dear Family,

The Assistants called us on Friday morning for our travel plans going home. There is 14 of us going home and 15 new missionaries coming out. 6 of us are in New Brunswick. 7 of us are in Nova Scotia. 1 in Newfoundland. That is a lot of missionaries going home and there's not enough room in the transfer van for all of us. Because of that, the 5 of us that are in New Brunswick will be traveling in 2 separate vehicles up to Halifax tomorrow morning. We'll be staying the night in Fredericton tonight with the 3 Elders going home and traveling to Halifax early in the morning. We'll be having our exit interviews with President Pratt upon arrival in Halifax. 

On Thursday we will attend the temple and then go to the mission home for a big feast. After the feast we will have a huge testimony meeting at the mission home. Tears will be shed that night. Then we will sleep, have a big breakfast Friday and then travel to the airport.

I have been having the hardest time accepting that my mission is over. You live your whole mission living for this moment and then when it gets here, you think to yourself, "Where did it go?". For the last 2 years, I have gone from area to area, from companion to companion sharing the most important message that the people will ever hear. The message of the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I have been teacher and testifier of important gospel principles. I have been sworn at, had doors slammed in my face, been mocked at and spit upon. I have been in heated disagreements with companions that later turned into a strong bond of love. I have been in the homes of the Saints of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. I've been blessed by my association with them. I served alongside fantastic missionaries that I call my family. This mission has been my family. I love each and every single of the missionaries I've served with. I have had hard days and I have had good days. I have gone through all of that just to share the gospel. That's a pretty good price to pay.

Last Wednesday was my final district meeting and I had the opportunity to give my last doctrinal discussion on a topic I feel very strongly about. I gave it on faith. You gotta have faith in order to make it through a mission. Missions aren't for the faint of heart. If you don't have faith, it will be very hard for a missionary to make it through a mission. It'll be hard to gain exaltation for that matter.

One of the biggest lessons I've learned on my mission is patience and having Christlike love for everybody. I gained patience through some companions and certain experiences with them and with the people as well. I have to come to know that God loves each and every single one of his children. I've had plenty of experiences where I have been at the right place at the right time that is in need. God loves his children. This I know to be true. 

I am so grateful for 2 loving mission presidents that loved me like a son. I'm so grateful for the opportunity I had to be a representative of Jesus Christ for the 2 years. These are stories, experiences, and lessons that I'll carry with me for the rest of my life. I can't wait to see what the Lord has in store for me.

I have loved reading your letters every Monday. They have inspired me and motivated me throughout the week. 


See you in Calgary! 

For the final time this is your son
Elder O'Brien (the older) checking out.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

July 25, 2016

Dear Family,

Another week in the book. Another week added to a 2-year book. The weather here has continued to be hot and humid with temperatures being above 30 degrees all week. We didn't do as much biking this week though so it was a nice break. We were in meetings most of the week as well so most of our time was spent inside. 

We made two trips to the hospital this week. On Thursday, I went in because I had an ingrown toenail on my left foot on my big toe that was giving me a lot of pain and was infected as well. So we got there and we waited for 3 hours by the time they took me in. They froze the toe, put some iodine on it and then removed the ingrown toenail. They sent me home with some medication and away I went. They had me come back on Saturday to check on it. When I went in the second time, I only waited 10 minutes. They took me in and said I need to constantly soak it in salt water the next couple weeks. Since then it was been difficult to walk without being in pain. On Saturday, the pain was excruciatingly. I could hardly walk at all and it still hurts to walk but I am doing better. 

Back in November at the end of the month in Bridgewater, I actually had an ingrown toenail on my right foot on my big toe removed as well.  That took 5 hours for them to take me in. So needless to say I have encountered some health issues in the last 6 months of my mission. 

Last weeks MyPlan session was "Self-Reliance." In this session it talked about the 4 principles of Self-Reliance: Have faith in Jesus Christ, Obedience, Solve problems and act for yourself, Become One with the Savior and serve others. It had me make plans for employment and make plans for education.

This week's MyPlan session was "Dating and Temple Marriage." I actually did it this morning. I usually do it on Wednesdays but I decided this week that it would be better if I did on a Monday so that I could think about more on a day where we do as much missionary work. In this session there were A TON of videos from prophets, apostles, and return missionaries. The videos talked about having faith when you're dating, personal purity, overcoming challenges, how to approach dating, and dating itself. It then had me make goals for how I'll date and personal standards of the woman I want to marry.

The final session of MyPlan next week is entitled "My Plan". I had my missionary departure interview this week with a member of the mission presidency. In this interview, we talked about continually becoming a better person after I come home, plans for a career and plans for education.  He recommended that I wait till my mid 20's to get married because he feels I'll go through experiences that will help me gain more and more confidence and that my education will be well-rounded by then and my employment. He recommended I listen to a talk called "Be your best self" by President Monson. He told me that at times I will feel that on my mission I was the best person I could be but that isn't the case. I should always feel that I am progressing and becoming a better person. 

This week, on Tuesday, we went to Calais and street contacted in the morning and then I mailed my package. In the afternoon we gave service at the hospital and then Elder Belmonte had his departing interview. On Wednesday, we were in Fredricton for the day on exchanges. In the morning, we had district meeting . The trainings were on initial contacting and commitments. I was with Elder Kelly in the afternoon. We street contacted downtown and did some knocking. We actually street contacted a tourist from BC whose friend's sister is going to the same course I'm taking in the fall and she is going to the U of L in the fall. Small world :P. On Thursday we had a special zone conference to talk more about planning. Then on Saturday the ward had a pioneer day event where they cooked hot dogs and had a bunch of food. 

With that... this week is my last full week as a missionary. Next week is transfer week and P-Day will be on Wednesday. By then all of my missionary labors and the ability to participate in missionary activities for all intents and purposes will be over. That day will be dedicated to traveling and packing. So you only have one letter left. Put in it your final thoughts on my mission as a whole and the future I have ahead of me. 

Have a good week! Hang tight!

Elder O'Brien (the older)

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

July 18, 2016

Dear Family,

Another week has passed and now here I am writing one of my last few letters. I stayed focused for most of the week... except for Saturday. Saturday was my trunky day. I kept on seeing people's faces from back home pop into my mind. Faces that I love and miss. Faces that I am so excited to see again. I thought about the reception I will receive when I get home and that gave me goosebumps. I can literally feel people's anticipation of me coming back at home. 

For last weeks MyPlan Session, the session was titled "Continuing Discipleship". In this session I set goals and made plans for a series of simple gospel habits including: Daily Prayer, Scripture Study, Service, Sabbath Day Observance, Temple Worship, Family History, and Institute. It actually had me register for institute. So I did and I am now registered for an institute class in the summer. This week's MyPlan Session is "Self-Reliance."

It has been a good week for the work. On Monday, we went to Princeton, Maine. It is a little town in the middle of nowhere. It was there that we stopped by a less active that lives in a log cabin and has a really nice view in her backyard. She says she stopped going because she doesn't believe in organized religion and doesn't like being told what to do. We bore our testimonies of the blessings of coming to church. But she said she's not interested in coming back or meeting with us.

Tuesday: We helped a less active from Fredericton that lives in St. Andrews shingle his roof. I stayed alongside the roof line because I am afraid of heights. It was 30 degrees Celsius. I took out the staples in the roof with a hammer. After we helped with this guy's roof, we traveled to McAdam which is about an hour away. When we first got there, we stopped by a part-member family. The husband who is a non-member showed us his masonry collection and after a while he opened to us about why he doesn't believe in God. He doesn't believe in God because he's seen too much bad in his life. After the part-member, we picked up another new investigator named Paul King Kade. He was a referral. He has amnesia so he suffers from short-term memory loss. After that, we ate dinner at a restaurant in McAdam. 

Wednesday: We had District Meeting in the morning and then we had lunch at Pizza Delight with Sister Lee. In the afternoon we gave service at the hospital. Then we went bike contacting for awhile. We had dinner with Sis. Graham and then we gave a blessing to Sister Johnson. 

Thursday: It was Elder Beacham's birthday. He opened his presents in the morning and then we gave service at a food pantry. Then we had lesson with Daniel. We taught him the plan of salvation. Then we had dinner at the Devaney's for Elder B's birthday. They fed us pork and red velvet cake.

Friday: We continued to help that less active from Fredericton with his roof. Then we weekly planned and did our 10-day plan. After weekly planning, we ate supper, then headed downtown and talked to some people. Then we stopped by a less active and invited him to come to church. 

Saturday: We helped a member move some stuff out of her basement in the morning and then from 1 o'clock to 5 o'clock we were biking in 33 degree weather. It was brutal but it was worth it. We talked to a crazy college guy for 20 minutes about nature and fusion. He has some pretty weird ideas. After a long afternoon biking, we had correlation with our ward mission leader.

Sunday: We had church and then we gave Austin the Sacrament. After we gave Austin the sacrament, we stopped by the Daley's to see why they weren't at church. On our way there, we picked up a turtle off of the side of the road and played with it for awhile. We finally put it back in the pond after holding it for awhile. 

Have a good week!

1 Corinthians 3:10 "According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon." I am laying the foundation for future missionaries in this mission. Every seed counts. Every day counts. 

Elder O'Brien (the older)

Friday, July 15, 2016

July 11, 2016

Dear Family,

It has been another week. It is starting to become harder to stay motivated and energetic every day. I can feel the pull to mentally check out from the work and just focus all my efforts on my future endeavors. My thoughts get consumed by future endeavors and seeing people I love again. It is not easy being a missionary and staying diligent to the end. It is a tall task. Even the best missionaries begin to lose motivation in their final weeks. This leaves me with a steep mountain to climb ahead of me. 

We had a Web-Ex meeting for all the missionaries going home (14 Elders) on Saturday. The Assistants and President Pratt hosted it. They talked about how it's important to finish strong and if we get severely trunky it will take a while for our areas to recover. A missionary going home with me commented how our time left gives him ambition to put forth his best efforts in helping this mission. Another missionary said that we all have those missionaries that we look up to and how they finished their missions. We should be an example to other missionaries that will follow us. President closed the meeting by saying Heavenly Father knew what he was doing when he put 14 men together on the same day to help him in his first year of his mission. 

Last week's session of My Plan was "My Vision and Goals". In this session of My Plan there was a video of Return Missionaries talking about goals. One of my favorite quotes from this video was "Coming home from  a mission is an excellent trajectory of what an individual can become". Then it had me create a one-year vision for myself and make 3 goals for myself.  This week's session of My Plan is "Continuing Discipleship".

I rode a ferry for the first time in my life last Monday. There is island that is a part of our area. It is called Deer Island. It's an hour and a half away from us. We went out there to see a less active. When we got there, the less active decided he wanted to see an active member with us instead. So we saw the member with him instead and had a good visit with him. But it was so cool to be on a ferry. It was almost sunset when we rode back on it too. So I got to see the ocean at night up close. It was beautiful. 

On Tuesday: We gave service at the hospital. We played bowling with the hospital patients. Right after bowling, two of our investigators called us and dropped us. We were disappointed... especially since we didn't follow up with them as much as we should have. It was hard especially on Elder Belmonte. We went biking in Woodland, Maine in the afternoon until dinner with the Corbetts.

Wednesday: We had District Meeting in Fredericton. The training was on extending the baptismal invitation out of a sense of urgency and Book of Mormon prophets. After District Meeting we traveled to McAdam's and contacted a referral. Then we contacted a couple of formers. After our time in McAdam we had a lesson in Deer Island with a new investigator. We contacted him in St. George. It turned out that Deer Island is 2 hours away so by the time we got to McAdam we only had 2 hours there. When we got to Deer Island it took us 30 minutes just to find his house. We had a member with us that had to help navigate. The investigator is 28 years old and lives on his own. He wants to serve a mission for his church. He said he just wants to meet with us for friendship so next lesson we're checking for real intent. 

Thursday, we picked up another new investigator. He lives in Maine. We met him as we were stopping by a member. He feels very strongly that God hates him. We shared a part of the Plan of Salvation but not all of it. We had a lesson with a former investigator in the afternoon. He explained to us why he dropped us. 

That's pretty much it for this week. It was a pretty mild week. 

Have a good week!

Elder O'Brien (the older)

Friday, July 8, 2016

July 4, 2016

Dear Family,

Today is Independence day in Maine. We drove through the border to Maine this morning and the line was packed with cars. I was hoping that Victoria Day would be the last holiday on a Monday I would be affected by. But that isn't the case sadly. We normally e-mail at a library in Maine but it is closed today and the library in St. Stephen is closed on Mondays. There is only one computer at the Church so today we are taking turns emailing.

This week I did the first part of the "My Plan" program.  The first section was entitled Remember and Become. It Quoted Mosiah 10:3, Helaman 5:9, Alma 5:26. There was also a video that had a bunch of returned missionaries talking about Church callings they've gotten since they got home from their missions. The section also focused on continually progressing after I get home. It had me type up 3 Christlike attributes the Lord has helped me develop on my mission along with 3 spiritual truths of the gospel that I have received a testimony of on my mission. At the end of the first section of "My Plan", it had read my patriarchal blessing and underline phrases that require me to take action, circle words that describe me, and ask myself "What kind of person does the Lord want me to become?" The second section of "My Plan" this week is Set Goals and Make Plans.

On Friday, it was Canada Day. On Canada Day me and Elder Beacham wore our Canadian ties. Elder Belmonte was left out as he didn't have a Canadian tie. We volunteered at the St. Stephen hospital in the morning. We played bingo with the patients using fancy markers. We got to wear special vests for the occasion. We volunteer at a food pantry every Friday in Maine.  The clients bag their food by themselves and we carry the bags out to the car for them. After we're done carrying their bags for them the food pantry allows us to get whatever food we want. It is really nice and the food pantry is always busy. After the food pantry we had dinner with a member in New Brunswick. She fed us burgers and hotdogs. Afterward, we street contacted in downtown St. Andrews. There were a ton of people out in preparation for the fireworks that evening. Overall, good Canada Day.

On Tuesday, we had zone training in Fredericton. It was a bittersweet for me as it was my last zone training on my mission. At the end of the zone training all the missionaries going home at the end of the transfer got to bear their testimonies. There is 5 of us going home at the end of the transfer. I gave an emotional testimony, thanking the missionaries I've associated with for teaching me so much. It was one of the hardest testimonies I've had to bear on my mission. 

On Wednesday, we had breakfast with the bishop's family. They are a fun family. They have 5 kids and the oldest is 13. The bishop is a sports fan and he told me about the new goalie the flames got in a trade. We went down to St. George and did some work down there for the afternoon. We contacted a former that Elder Belmonte was able to speak Techaloic to (the former is from the Philippines).

On Thursday, we went down to a town in Maine called Eastport. It is right by the ocean. There is a big Independence Day parade going on there today. We knocked into a man who suggested we try some of his carbonated water. We politely took some and I impulsively spit it out by accident even though I didn't mean to. He said "You must have a hole in your mouth." I responded "Haha I guess so." In my head I thought well I actually do but that's not the reason I spit it out". So when someone offers you Seltzer water don't take it. We ended up doing 5 hours of finding by the end of that day. 

On Saturday, we picked up a new investigator with the Sisters. We had a lesson with him in the morning with the Sisters and the ward mission leader. He says he wants to be baptized and he wants to find Christ. Very sincere guy.  We rode our bikes that day since it was so nice out. We gave a blessing to a less active member who is struggling with her health. We ate at a less active member's Chinese restaurant for dinner. It was all you can eat Chinese buffet. 

Sunday, a high councilmen gave a very candid and courageous lesson on anxiety in Priesthood. The lesson focused how anxiety is a form of mental illness and how we need to love and encourage people and members who have anxiety. He went through all the symptoms of anxiety and the signs that someone has anxiety. At the end of the lesson he openly admitted to the entire elders quorum that he has anxiety and got very emotional as he told how its affected him in his life. 

Have a good week!

Elder O'Brien (the older)

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

June 27, 2016

Dear Family,

I am back in New Brunswick and Maine. For the first time on my whole mission I know how long I'm going to be in a area for. I will be in St. Stephen for 6 weeks definitely. Leaving Sackville was hard for me. I reached my highest peak on my mission in Sackville. My social skills were at an all time high and I took on a type of leadership role with Elder Goeders. 

In my first couple of days in St. Stephen I have been asking the Lord "How can I make an impact on St. Stephen for 6 weeks?" 6 weeks isn't long to be in an area and it's not a lot of time to get close to people. But I still want to be able to contribute something to this area. A focus for me this transfer is giving everything I have to each missionary activity. I want to have a sense of urgency. I want to be so focused on everybody that I'm not even thinking about myself or my limitations. One of the most painful symptoms of autism is self-awareness. Sometimes I feel trapped inside my own body. There was an incident last week that I felt so stuck inside my body mentally and I couldn't get out. 
Thursday: It was transfer day. We woke up at 5:30 am. The St. Stephen Elders picked me up at 1 from St. John and got to St. Stephen at 3. When I got to St. Stephen we knocked into a former who let us right in. They were an older couple. We had a quick 20 minute Restoration lesson because they were about to have dinner. I met a less active that evening.

Friday: We helped move a piano for one of our investigators. Then we had correlation meeting with the ward mission leader here Brother Murray. We also went out to a little town called St. Andrews and did some knocking.

Saturday: We stopped by a member referral that we got from Bro. Murray and picked them up as new investigators. Then we helped paint a house for one of the investigators that the St. Stephen Sisters are teaching. Then we had dinner with a recent convert. She got baptized last November. She is a very nice lady but she has Word of Wisdom issues so we needed to correct her on that.

Sunday: We had Church. I bore my testimony. The St. Stephen ward only has about 60 people. Mostly older people. They are going on a big temple trip on July 16th. So the talks were mainly based on temples. After Church we took a young man out with us. He is 17 years old and loves hanging out with missionaries.

It has been nice to have Filipino companion. Part of their culture is cooking food so Elder Belmonte is a good cook and has made us some good food. Haha.

Have a good week!

Elder O'Brien (the older)

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

June 20, 2016 One 'n Done in New Brunswick

Dear Family,
It has been an action packed week. On Sunday President Pratt came to Church and interviewed us during Sunday School. My interview went something like this:

President: "Well here you are Elder O'Brien.. your final transfer"
Me: "It's been a fun ride and I've definitely come a long way"
President: "Yes you have and my message to you simply is you've done it. You've accomplished something very hard and very challenging. You've accomplished something that not a lot people can say they've done. Completing a 2-year mission is a feat that is right up there with getting married or graduating college."
Me: "Will my last transfer feel like any other transfer?"
President: "No it won't... not only will you feel distracted about going home but you'll have to think about home. You'll have to make plans for your future and take time to do that every week. But you can find comfort in knowing that most missionaries sprint to the finish line not jog."
Me: "Okay thank you for that advice President. I'll miss you" (Gives me a hug)

With that interview in mind I am now about to begin my final transfer on my mission. Yesterday, we read the transfer letter and I am being transferred to St. Stephen, New Brunswick for my last transfer. It is right on the border to Maine once again. So I'll get to go back and forth to Maine again while living in New Brunswick. I will be in a trio with Elder Belmonte and Elder Beacham. I go home with Elder Belmonte. He is from the Philippines but is living in Red Deer, Alberta. Elder Beacham is from Utah and has a very farm town country attitude. I leave tomorrow morning.
I am sad to be leaving Sackville. This is the youngest ward I've served in and it has a lot of youthful energy in it. I got to work with a couple of great recent converts here. I got to find some new investigators here that are promising. I got to help G find names to take to the temple. I got to help O stop smoking as well as Bro. M. I accomplished a lot of good things here and it makes it hard to leave. But I intend on finishing strong in St. Stephen for my final 6 weeks.
Last Tuesday, We had an area blitz. The Kentville elders, Bridgewater elders, Bridgewater sisters, Yarmouth elders, Greenwood sisters all came to Sackville to work here for the day in an effort to help and create zone unity. I was with Elder Ray from Bridgewater for most of the day. We mainly trail contacted and knocked all day. It was raining that day so unfortunately not a lot of people were out. But we did talk to a very nice man for 30 minutes about music down at the waterfront. We had lunch and dinner with all the missionaries that were there. For lunch we had pizza and for dinner we had pizza. At the end of the blitz we had a brief testimony meeting.
Last Wednesday, I gave the doctrinal discussion in district meeting on spiritual self-reliance and likened it to the hard times on our missions when we need to rely on our testimonies to get us through. I used the Brother of Jared as an example along with Joseph Smith.  After our dinner appointment while I was backing Elder McGuire up we both weren't paying attention and he ended backing up the car over my foot. I hit the car in pain then I got in the car and checked my foot and it felt like my pinky toe was broken along with other parts of my foot. So we rushed to the Halifax Hospital to get it checked out. I first got registered then we waited for 30 minutes then they took me in to see the doctor and we waited for an hour then they took me into the doctors room and we waited an hour. Then they felt my foot and told me it was bruised but wanted to take an X-Ray. So I waited another 30 minutes; they x-rayed my foot and confirmed to me that it was bruised. We ended up being there for a total of 3 hours and didn't get home till 11 o'clock at night. It was ridiculous. The next day my foot was fine and there wasn't any bruises or anything. God protects His missionaries. God protected my foot that night.
Last Friday, we went down to Bridgewater and did an exchange there. I went with Elder Ray to Shelburne. In Shelburne we taught a part-member couple. The husband is getting baptized in July.  We taught him the Plan of Salvation. In the afternoon we proselyted in Shelburne and ended up running into a less active.
That's it for the highlights of the week. I now go forth into my last 6 weeks. I don't know what God has in store for me for my final transfer but I do know this. I will serve with all my heart, might, mind, and strength to the very end. Wish me luck in St. Stephen!

Have a good week!

Elder O'Brien (the older)

Saturday, June 25, 2016

June 13, 2016

Dear Family,

I am in a good amount of pain right now. I just had a tooth pulled and I have some gauze in it. I am praying for a speed recovery. They said it will take at least 4 months before they can replace it. They highly recommended that I get a implant as soon as possible while I'm young and still have a lot of life ahead of me.
As for the week itself, On Monday we picked up a new investigator that night. We knocked into him. He attended the Mormon Church 20 years ago with a member from Fall River. He isn't religious himself and doesn't believe in organized religion. 

TUESDAY: We received a referral from Kentville. We contacted him but there was no answer. We saw two of our investigators in the afternoon. We taught one about the Holy Ghost and we taught the other about fatherhood. After the lessons we tried to do the lemonade stand with the Sisters but unfortunately no one was out so we had to end it early.

FRIDAY: We had our normal weekly planning. After weekly planning we viewed an apartment because the mission told us to start look for a new apartment. Sadly, this apartment was really dingy and sketchy. So we don't think we'll be getting it :P.  

SATURDAY: We contacted on the Trans-Canada Trail in the morning but there weren't a lot of people out. In the afternoon we did a lemonade stand and this time it was a lot nicer. So we had more kids and young people come up and get some. After the lemonade stand we knocked. We did some family history at the library. We had games night at the chapel . We played chair soccer and ultimate Frisbee.

Next week is transfer week so P-Day will once again be on Wednesday. This transfer letter will be my last. It will be the last transfer letter with my name on it. It will determine where I will finish my mission. I don't think it would be a good idea for Elder McQuire and I to stay together another transfer. We both need to have a companion that is young and robust and will keep us going. We both go home next transfer and we are starting to get a little trunky.  We are both getting very tired and sleep deprived. I might end up doing a one and done area. Although it wouldn't be ideal for me but if it's Lord will then I will gladly do it. We will see what happens next Tuesday.

Pray that my mouth can make a speedy recovery and that I can perform the Lord's work to the highest of my ability. Pray that my teeth won't be affected by the missing tooth and that I will have no further dental issues on my mission. Pray that this won't affect my eating or speaking that much. I know that is a lot to ask for but I want to be able to effectively share the gospel with people with clarity and confidence and without any discomfort or pain.

Thanks! Have a good week!

Elder O'Brien (the older)

Saturday, June 18, 2016

June 6, 2016

Dear Family,

Today I am thankful for prophets and apostles. In D & C 52:9 we read: "And let them journey from thence preaching the word by the way, saying none other things than that which the prophets and apostles have written, and that which is taught them by the Comforter through the prayer of faith."
They travel the earth and teach us about the Gospel and the Life of Jesus Christ. Last November Julie shook hands with Elder Rasband. Last January Chris shook hands with Elder Christoffersen. Yesterday I shook hands with Elder Renlund. Within a year every one of us has had an apostle come speak to each one of us. It is a small blessing from the Lord for our family.

Yesterday morning we woke up at 5 o'clock and left for the mission office at 6. The transfer van with all the metro missionaries left at 7. We got to Sackville, New Brunswick at 9. The bi-stake conference began at 10.  We ate lunch and mingled with members and missionaries until 2. It felt like general conference when we first arrived at Mount Allison University. There were missionaries and Latter-Day Saints everywhere. It was a sight I haven't seen for a long time and certainly not on my mission. I got to see members from all 6 of my areas on my mission. It felt like I was in the spirit world. As I greeted and fellow-shipped with members that I've visited and got to know that I haven't seen in a very long time it was very edifying and fortifying. It was very special and uplifting.

In Alma 17:2 we read: "Now these sons of Mosiah were with Alma at the time the angel first appeared unto him; therefore Alma did rejoice exceedingly to see his brethren; and what added more to his joy, they were still his brethren in the Lord; yea, and they had waxed strong in the knowledge of the truth; for they were men of a sound understanding and they had searched the scriptures diligently, that they might know the word of God."

I rejoiced yesterday when I saw my fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord. Some of my favorite people on my mission all came to hear from an apostle of the Lord yesterday. As missionaries we get to visit these people in their homes and visit them often. We draw close to them and develop a special kind of bond that is meant to last forever. We help them draw closer to God. We encourage them to share the gospel with their friends. We work with them in their callings to help the people they have stewardship over. Never again will I get to serve the members in this capacity and calling. The Saints of Atlantic Canada are blessed people and I love them so much. There's no Saints quite like them. They traveled large distances to hear from Elder Renlund. Don't get me wrong, the Saints of Alberta are great too but I'm afraid I won't get to know them and serve them quite like I have on my mission. It was neat to see how much I've impacted the members in each area I've served in on my mission yesterday. Yesterday was an amazing day.

Anyway, as for the special stake conference itself. The conference started off with the stake president of New Brunswick speaking; he spoke on the Book of Mormon and how pondering is the thinking and praying of the Book of Mormon.

Sis. Gong: (Wife of Elder Gong of the Presidency of The Seventy) spoke on why we come to Church and make sacrifices to go to Church. She said that going to Church teaches us how to be the best person we can be.

Elder Gong of The Presidency of The Seventy: spoke on "Staying together". He used the analogy of penguins diving into the water together. He even made the penguin noise haha. He talked about how as youth and YSA we need to be together in transition phases. When a Aaronic Priest becomes a Elder, when a young women advances to Relief Society. We need to stay with each other.  He also spoke on seeing ourselves through spiritual eyes.

The stake president of Nova Scotia spoke on how "Affliction and "Blessing" are in the same sentence in the Book of Mormon and how an affliction will work for our good.

Sister Renlund spoke on "bedrock fundamental doctrines" that unite us. When asked the question from a border guard "What are Mormons all about?" she responded "Mormons are what we know and live." Three fundamental beliefs unite us... Our belief that God is our Father in Heaven, all the truth has been restored through Joseph Smith and our belief in continuing revelation and prophets. She also spoke on how we all desire to make covenants with God and how we have Priesthood authority.

Finally, Elder Renlund of The Quorum of The Twelve spoke. To start off he spoke on how the hymn "Be Still My Soul" originated from Finland. He talked about how the tree of life is Jesus Christ and the fruits are the Atonement. He spoke on taking offense. He started by saying "If someone hasn't made fun of your beliefs already you haven't been a member long enough." He said that it is prophesied in 1 Samuel that if we give heed to criticism we will fall away. He also said "If you haven't been offended by someone in the Church yet you haven't been a member long enough. Imperfect people run this Church; I am a testament to that." He then concluded by speaking on how God works with each one of us one-by-one. Just like missionaries guide investigators into the waters of baptism one-by-one.

The special stake conference then concluded. We all lined to shake Elder Renlund's hand. When I finally got up to him, I shook his hand then he asked me "What's your name?" I responded "Elder O'Brien." He replied "Where are you from?" I remarked "Alberta". He asked me "What part of Alberta?" Me: "The Lethbridge Area." Elder Renlund: "Good to meet you." I then walked away.

What a way to end an extraordinary Sabbath day. Have a great week!

Elder O'Brien (the older)

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

May 30, 2016

Dear Family,
It has been an eventful week. It all started on Tuesday when Elder McGuire got in a couple of heated arguments with some people finding. It didn't help that those people were disrespecting us and calling us hypocrites. One guy told us that we haven't repented and that we don't share a message about Jesus Christ and that we believe in fairy tales. Elder McGuire was getting frustrated and had enough. We finally just walked away. Cooler heads prevailed. This frustration was an accumulation of frustration built up for almost 2 years. We meet a lot of rude people on our missions but some days you just get tired of it.
On Thursday we got a call from a member in Ontario who sounded very distraught. He asked us to visit him. We thought he was from Sackville at the time. We asked him where he lived and he said Brampton then we're like "Uhh.. we're in Nova Scotia we can't really come fly to Ontario to visit you." We told him we'd track down the missionaries in Brampton and have them visit him. So we located the Brampton Elders and we actually called them on the phone and told them to go visit this guy. It was so weird to talk to missionaries from another mission. After we got off the phone with the Toronto missionaries I realized that at any given time we have the capacity to locate any missionaries around the world and call them. I could very easily find out what Chris's phone number is and call him.

It made me grateful that our Church is a worldwide church. Missionary work is the same work regardless of if you're in Nova Scotia, Texas, or Alberta. It's the same work of salvation. The gospel is also the same gospel regardless of where you go. Above all we all have the same loving Heavenly Father. It reminds me of a scripture: 2 Nephi 27:23 - "For behold, I am God; and I am a God of miracles; and I will show unto the world that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever; and I work not among the children of men save it be according to their faith."
Last weekend we agreed to help a less active that we work with move into Halifax to live with his girlfriend. We didn't think of anything of it at the time. On Thursday we got a call from the Elder's Quorum President and he basically said "Now wait a second here.. there's something sticky about this. We're helping him move to another apartment so that he can live common-law.. so in essence we're helping him break a commandment." After we got off the phone we made various phone calls to get various opinions. Our hold up from not helping him move was we were actively working with him and we already told him we would help him move. Plus we didn't want to ruin the relationship. Finally we called the mission president and he told us that we shouldn't help him move. But it wasn't for the reason we expected. He told us that in the missionary handbook it says that missionaries are not to replace the efforts of the Melchizedek Priesthood function. 

This Sunday, The New Brunswick Stake and the Nova Scotia will gather together in Sackville, New Brunswick at Mount Allison University to hear from Elder Renlund of the Quorum Of The Twelve Apostles and Elder Gong of The Presidency Of The Seventy. We will be traveling via transfer van on Sunday morning for 2 hours to be there. All of the missionaries in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Maine, and PEI will be traveling there as well. It is interesting that you also have a multi-stake conference in 2 weeks with some apostles and general authorities. 

Have a good week!
Elder O'Brien (the older)

Saturday, June 11, 2016

May 23, 2016

Dear Family,

It is a holiday once again on a p-day so all the libraries are closed. Because of that I am on a smartphone right now at the mission office. All of the metro missionaries come to the mission office on holidays to use the computers. The reason why I am on a smartphone is because the Halifax Sisters got here first and there's only 3 computers so I am using Elder Holbrook's (Senior Missionary) smartphone. I have grown to dislike holidays on Mondays on my mission :P.

In case you are wondering the new revised missionary dress guidelines that came out on Friday in lieu of mosquito-borne diseases running rampant does not affect the Sister Missionaries in this mission. Much to their delight. But it does affect the Elders in this mission in a good way. We are now allowed to wear sunglasses contacting and we are allowed to wear sun hats. 

The temperature got up to 32 C on Saturday. We spent 6 hours of that day proselyting. It was a long rigorous day in the sun. By the end of the day we were both very tired and exhausted. Luckily in the evening we cooked hot dogs on a stove at church for a band practice at the Church. We got to eat some and with the band. It was a nice reliever. Plus we were inside so that helped too. 

Elder Bennett of the Seventy had zone conference with the missionaries in Nova Scotia on Wednesday. He made several remarks to us. Some of the remarks he made were on the subjects of: doing our "best", The Doctrine of Christ, contention in the work, etc. Elder Bennett is a very personable man. He is a lot like Elder Holland. He is very sincere and loving. Whenever he spoke you knew it came from the heart. Some things that stuck out to me from what he said was when he talked about doing our best. He talked about how doing our best is doing better than the day before, even when we forget something that day or slip up we are doing our best. The Lord looks on the heart not the mind. He talked about being consecrated as missionaries and we need to dedicate everything we do each day to the building up of the kingdom in the Maritimes. That includes eating, sleeping, driving, studying. Everything we do should be about the people not us. My favorite quote from his remarks on contention was: "There's no place for contention is this work Elders and Sisters.. there just isn't" and"Contention in companionships will lead to contention to marriage. Contention in districts will lead to contention in families."

He made a prophetic promise to us about asking for referrals. He also showed us how to be lovingly persistent with people. He talked about "helping" people come unto Christ. He said that we need to sincere when we're talking to people. He also talked about searching for the elect.

I could go on and on about what he had to say. But to summarize what I got out of zone conference with him was work with a sense of urgency, ask for referrals from everyone, and at the end of each day look at what you did that day and compare it to the day before. That might have been my last zone conference. Normally we do zone conferences every other transfer but with this one we had two in a row. 

Have a good week!

Elder O'Brien (the older)

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

May 16, 2016

Dear Family,

It has been an enjoyable transfer week. On Thursday I had a revelatory experience at the temple. I went to the temple with the question "What can I do in these last 2 transfers to become the missionary you want me to be?" The answer I got was during the endowment presentation. "Now is the time for you to to refine the skills you've gained and practice all the lessons you've learned so they become a part of who you are forever."

It has been interesting to see the difference between me and Elder McGuire from a year ago. For Elder McGuire, he is showing a lot more humility than a year ago. He is also more relaxed and light- hearted than a year ago. For me, Elder McGuire pointed out in our first comp inventory on Friday that "My social skills have come leaps and bounds from a year ago." That's the one thing he immediately picked up on. 

When I was set apart as a full time missionary on July 27, 2014 I said to the Lord "I am all yours for the next 2 years; you can make me who you want me to be." Into his hands I went to mold me and shape me into who he wants me to be. Transfer by transfer, week by week, day by day, area by area, companion by companion. I have experienced subtle changes and subtle growth in my countenance. These changes and growth are permanent and will be a part of who I am forever. Rest assured.. I will never be the same.

I like to liken the subtle changes and subtle growth to a scripture 2 Nephi 28:30: "For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth."

It was also stake conference this weekend. Elder Bennett of the Seventy came and presided over this stake conference. We got to go to both the adult session and the general session in person in Dartmouth. The rest of my stake conferences I've watched on a computer screen. In the adult session the first counselor in the stake presidency gave a 5 minute talk on reverence. After the talk was over Elder Bennett had members of the congregation stand up and speak of their impressions that they had during the talk. One member stood up and said she felt that God was reaching out to her and telling her that he loves her. She said she has a personal medical issue that is hard for her sometimes. Another stood up and said she felt judged when her kids were acting up in Church. Elder Bennett made some remarks how we as members shouldn't judge other people's children because the Savior loves children. He said that kids acting up at Church has never taken away from his experience at Church. He also made some remarks in response to the member that stood up and admitted her personal medical issue. He said that every human being desires a compliment. Second to a compliment human beings desire to be listened to. He suggested that next time we have a conversation with someone we should respond by saying "Thank you for sharing that with me. That's important to me because _____." Try it out sometime. In the general session he spoke about member missionary work and shared a story of giving a copy of the Book of Mormon to somebody and how it took them 30 years to pick it up and read it. He encouraged members to not be afraid of offering someone a Book of Mormon as a gift.

Throughout the weekend I saw members from all 4 of my Nova Scotia areas. I got to fellowship and visit with them. I have come to love the saints of Nova Scotia. I have made strong bonds in the wards I've served in. They are good people. 

Friday, we had our first weekly planning session back together. When we stopped by a member, his girlfriend was there and she began asking us some questions. We started answering them and we asked her if we could teach her the discussions and she said yes! In that same visit we got 3 referrals from his daughter. So we had a member presence, new investigator, and 3 referrals received all in one visit. 

Have a good week!

Elder O'Brien (the older)

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

May 11, 2016

Dear Family,
Well it was great to talk to you on Sunday. It is weird to think that that was my last Skype call home on my mission. After the Skype call was over I realized that the call was only supposed to be 45 minutes for me. Whoops :P. But on those Skype calls I go by the spirit of the law not the letter of the law. The time cap is there for missionaries who can get trunky and get homesick easily. It also applies to missionaries who get distracted by talking to their families for too long. I don't fall under any of those categories so I feel like it was okay.
We found out about transfers yesterday and I am staying in Sackville for another transfer. I will be getting a "new" companion though. Elder Goeders is going to Halifax. My "new" companion will be Elder McGuire. He will be coming from Caribou, Maine. I served with him exactly a year ago around this time in Bridgewater. We served together for 2 transfers in Bridgewater. We both go home in 3 months so it will be interesting to see if we serve together till the end and go home together. Or if I end up doing a one and done in a new area next transfer. Regardless of what happens I am excited to be with him again. So I will get to go to the temple tomorrow.
The rest of my week was a pretty good week. We contacted a potential last Monday night that hadn't been followed up on. We stopped by and we set up an appointment for this afternoon. She's a black women that is very biblical. We also contacted a referral that was given to us by the Sisters on Friday night. He is 20 years old and just graduated high school. When we called him he sounded super interested and told us that he'd bring his friend to the lesson. We set up the lesson for last night but they didn't end up showing up. We picked up two potential investigators yesterday. One was a man who walked up to us at the waterfront and gave us his address and told us to stop by to talk about Christ. The other one was a 22 year old guy that we talked to at our lemonade stand. Him and his girlfriend are having a baby in 2 weeks. He seemed interested on our perspective of eternal families.
Last Tuesday, we went bus stop contacting up to the waterfront in Bedford and then we received a phone call from the Assistants saying that President Pratt has a special assignment for us. He assigned us to have a video interview with a member in the ward to talk about the principle of "We Succeed When We Invite." 
Last Wednesday, we had Elder Quinton's final District Meeting in Sackville. In the evening we had a lot of good conversations with people. This one couple talked to us for a good 10 minutes and referred us to their neighbor. They were Catholics. Another guy we talked to was from the Middle East and was showing us all sorts of pictures. He said he wants to visit our church sometime. We talked to him for 20 minutes.
Saturday, we went trail contacting on the Trans Canada trail in the morning. We went on a Mother's Day find that whole afternoon. We stopped by investigators, less actives, and members. We got them to sign a poster and write why they love their mothers. One member wrote "Because she eats my tomatoes" haha. 
Have a good week!
Elder O'Brien (the older)

Saturday, May 14, 2016

May 2, 2016

Dear Family,

I am going on a special P-Day excursion today. One that takes us out of our area boundaries. I will be going to the iconic Peggy's Cove on the shoreline of Nova Scotia. It's famous for its view and ocean. I will be sure to send some pictures. Peggy's Cove is legendary in Nova Scotia for its unique view and scenery. Because of this I will have to write a quick letter this week but I am all good to go for Skyping home at 11:30 mountain time next Sunday. So we will have a nice family conversation with the 5 of us for 45 minutes. Hopefully you can get the logistics figured out and it all works and we can all see each-other.

It snowed twice this week. It began snowing Tuesday mid-afternoon into the evening. It snowed again Wednesday morning to the afternoon then stopped. I had to wear my winter jacket both times. I guess winter's not going down without a fight.  For the weekend it was above 15. It was 20 yesterday.

The Sister's in Sackville had a baptism on Saturday. She was a member referral from a young family. The baptism was at 10 am in the morning so that her father could come. All of her family was in attendance. There was about 15 members that showed up. The spirit was there in rich abundance. The talks were lengthy but they had a good spirit with them. There was some technical difficulties but we overcame them. There was a beautiful musical number by two young girls that fellowshipped Katelyn. After the baptism we had some refreshments and some fellowship. Yesterday she got confirmed and as they were confirming her I was reminded of when I confirmed a new member in December 2014. That is one of my favorite experiences on my mission.

Last P-Day we spent the day at the mission home playing in a ping-pong tournament with the metro missionaries. President & Sister Pratt even squared off against each other. It was President Pratt's birthday last Monday and that's how we celebrated. We also had nice hot apple pie and cherry pie. It was one of the most fun P-Day's I've had on my mission.

President & Sister Pratt were at Church yesterday. They weren't able to come to the baptism on Saturday so they wanted to make up for it by coming to the confirmation. Throughout the meetings I was able to see the lighter side of President Pratt. It took me a while to warm up to him but now I love him and I have an emotional attachment to him. He was being very light-hearted and humorous yesterday. He just got back from a mission president's seminar in Washington, DC. 

We went out to Windsor this week and saw a couple of members one who we home teach. They don`t come because of the distance and work makes one too tired to come in the morning. We like to got out there to reach out to those members who can get forgotten because of the distance and the circumstances. It helps them feel remembered.

We picked up a new investigator this week. He stopped investigating because his wife was holding him back. He reads his scriptures constantly and tries to be as active as he can in the gospel. They have a 7 month old baby. His wife was very unsupportive before but her heart is softening and she actually joined in on the last 10 minutes of the lesson. 

We had Games Night on Saturday and more people showed up this time. We played volleyball again and a lot of the younger kids joined in. It was a good family activity. I accidentally hit our ward mission leader in the face though :P.

Next week is transfer week. So next Wednesday will be P-Day instead of Monday. This transfer is very significant and will likely determine where I spend the rest of my mission. It is jump ball if I stay or not. I would love to stay here to the end. This is a very fun-loving ward but at the same time if I leave I will be ready and willing.

See you on Sunday! I`m off to Peggy`s Cove!

Have a good week! Last Skype home!

Elder O`Brien (the older)

Saturday, April 30, 2016

April 25, 2016

Dear Family,

It was a slightly better week. At the beginning of the week I came down with a bad cold that took a lot out of me. That cold turned into a cough and it has gone away for the most part but there are still some lingering effects. On Friday it was 23 degrees and I got to wear my short-sleeved white shirt for the first time since last summer. It was a beautiful day that day! But the next day it was cold and rainy :P. Nova Scotia weather is very inconsistent but come next transfer we should have nice stable sunny weather for the entire transfer. I find that sunny hot weather is the most enjoyable to proselyte in and work in. Something about the sun and the heat just makes the work so much more joyous and fun. 

For the latter part of the week I have been uptight and on edge. I told you before that my anxiety has diminished but it's only diminished to a point. There are still anxiety symptoms that linger. I have been stressed lately over things that I'm powerless over. President Pratt is aware of this and is concerned about me. He asked me what I usually do to manage my stress and I suggested talking it out really helps soothe me. He wants to help in anyway that he can. In my personal study on Friday I heard a voice say to me "I just need you to relax your body and enjoy yourself today, kay bud." I also felt the Lord patting me on the shoulder saying "I'm here for you.. you're gonna be okay." That's exactly what I did that day and it was a really good day. I was back to being light-hearted and humorous and I felt good. We had 2 member presence that day, a visit with a recent convert, and a dinner appointment with the Bishop's family. 

I guess you could say I have been squeezing my scriptures too tight lately. I have turned into a bit of a workaholic on my mission. One trait that has developed in me is mentally thinking of things that need to get done and if we don't do them then the whole world is gonna fall apart. There are pros and cons to that. I just need to find a balance between being a workaholic and enjoying myself. 

TUESDAY: We went on exchanges with Bridgewater in Bridgewater. I was with Elder Quinton for the day. Me & Elder Quinton are both going home soon. He goes home this transfer and I go home in 2 transfers (not including this one). So we had some conversations about ending our missions soon and what that will be like. He also gave me some suggestions on how to get ready for that. It was nice to spend the day with him. On the exchange we gave service at a food bank. We stopped an investigator I found and taught. 
WEDNESDAY: We had District Meeting. One of the trainings was on praying in adversity. We talked about the storms in missionary work that we face and how our leaders are there to give us guidance and help us along. But ultimately nothing will happen until we get on our knees and pray for help. It hit home for me for obvious reasons. 
FRIDAY: We had a lesson with our new investigator. Brother Kang came with us to that lesson. We answered her question about examples in the bible of seeing God face to face then we went into prayer and the Book of Mormon. The spirit was really strong in that lesson. Brother Kang bore a powerful testimony of the Book of Mormon and she was getting emotional. 
SUNDAY: It was Sister Pratt's Birthday yesterday. All of the metro missionaries gathered together at the mission home to throw her a surprise birthday party.

This scripture gives me a lot of encouragement in times like this - D & C 121:7-9

" 7 My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment;
 8 And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes.
9 "Thy friends do stand by thee, and they shall hail thee again with warm hearts and friendly hands."

Have a good week!

Elder O'Brien (the older)

Saturday, April 23, 2016

April 18, 2016 - Lower Sackville, Nova Scotia

Hello Family,

It has been a better week. Today it is 10 degrees Celsius. The signs of spring are here. We did get a snowstorm Friday morning but the snow cleared up by noon. We received news yesterday in church that Elder Renlund of the Quorum of The Twelve Apostles and Elder Wong of the Presidency of The Seventy are coming on June 5th and are speaking at a university in Sackville, New Brunswick. This will be a bi-stake regional conference. All of the missionaries will be traveling to that regardless of where they are. President Pratt is flying in all the missionaries in Newfoundland too. No one really knows why they're coming and why they're speaking at a tiny university in the middle of nowhere. We just know that they're coming for a special reason. I am looking forward to that. All of the members are also encouraged to travel there.

It has been a rough weekend for my companion and I. It all started on Saturday morning. My companion was being very quiet and seemed discouraged. We went contacting and he just kind of treated it like a chore. Then we had a lesson with a member and he was dead quiet in the lesson. We had lunch and he still didn't say anything. He reached his boiling point when we went contacting again and he had a disgruntled look on his face. He let two people walk by him without talking to them; then I asked him why he didn't talk to them and he said because "I'm tired of talking to people.. it's pointless". I then went into the bathroom and phoned President Pratt. He talked me through it and advised that I do all the talking. So I came back and we began contacting again. All of a sudden my companion turns towards the car and says "Why do we even come here? It's always the same people." I told him I wanted to talk to this one guy behind us so I did and I then I just talked to people like crazy and just took over everything. I worked like a motor. Then we went knocking and I knocked the first 4 doors; then the zone leaders called and cheered him up. After that he was fine. But he was tense in the evening. Then yesterday him and the Sisters got into an argument about an investigator we are teaching over the phone. 
So I have a struggling companion right now and I am feeling kinda stressed about it. I am concerned that I am going to have to carry a load by myself while he is working through his problems. I am also concerned about our relationship with the sisters. An accumulation of stresses have added up this week and I am not feeling very good about it all.

It's ultimately going to come down to how I want to end my mission. It is completely in my control. I really don't want to end my mission on a sour note. But I am going to need help from my leaders to help ease the burden I am feeling. I can't take all this on by myself. I'll do all I can in my power.

I feel bad for writing letters this but I need to open with you guys. I need to be completely honest with you and how I'm doing emotionally. I'm sure you want me to be open too. The thought came to my mind while I'm writing this that you would jokingly say in your head "You've got 3.5 months left, just deal with it... son". Haha. "As long as you come home August 5th we don't care how you do it just make it home in one piece".

As for the week, it was a pretty mild week. We helped Gary with his family history for 2 hours. We found his parents, grandparents, and great-grandpa for him. He also has a brother who died a crib death when he was 6 weeks old. Sadly we weren't able to find his brother. 

Thursday was a service day. We played bingo at an old folks home. The guy I helped won one game. He got a stuffed animal. We also gave service at a food bank for two hours. It was really busy. I filled out some orders and some people didn't claim them. That never happens at that food bank :P.

As for Saturday and Sunday. It was a rough weekend but we did pick up a new investigator in Enfield. She is a former. She has some issues with the Book of Mormon but she's very inquisitive and is a truth seeker.

Have a good week!

Elder O'Brien (the older)

Saturday, April 16, 2016

April 11, 2016 - Lower Sackville, Nova Scotia

Dear Family,

We got 5 cm of snow yesterday morning. Most of the members weren't there because they didn't want to brave through the snow. But by the time Church started the sun was out. Winter is on its last breaths. Saturday it was 10 degrees and beautiful. I am hoping that a month from now I can send all my winter clothes home and be done with winter once and for all. 

It has been a rough week here in Sackville. I have been getting discouraged over the lack of new investigators we have been getting and the lack of less actives we are meeting with.  It felt like almost every day things fell through and we found ourselves not knowing what we should do. In the words of Elder Holland in speaking of Peter and Jesus`s apostles: 

But something happened. It’s early morning, they fished all night, they’ve caught nothing. They fish at night on the Sea of Galilee. They’ve caught nothing. Zero. Zilch. Nothing. Nada. No fish. And in the distance, because the sight is quite clear on a lake, and the sound is very good across the surface of a lake, they see a figure, who has made a little fire. And he calls out to them and says, “How’s your fishing gone?” And they said, “Lousy. It’s been terrible.” (You’re going to have days like that.) They said, “It’s been a disaster. We haven’t got anything.”

We had a couple days like Peter had when he went fishing. We didn't catch anything. Missionary work is a joyous thing full of good times and happiness. But missions aren't all full of sun, daisies and lollipops. Missions are hard and it can take its toll on you. Missionary work can become a burden too hard to bear some weeks. Missionary work can become discouraging and depressing.

Luckily, I am a seasoned missionary and I know those hard times are what makes the good times. I remember vividly a couple weeks in Woodstock where we weren't having any success for about two weeks. Then we walked into the chapel and there we saw a black man who asked how to become a Mormon. The following Monday while we were at the library the man sitting across from me said that he had lost God in his life and he wants us to help him find him again. Those 2 experiences were tender mercies from the Lord after we worked tirelessly the previous couple of weeks.  

I can think of other examples on my mission of having down weeks then having small little miracles fall into our lap. Missionary work really comes down to faith and diligence. If you have faith and work consistently, everything will be okay and the Lord will bless you for your efforts.

TUESDAY: We dropped by one of our investigators in Bedford. He almost dropped us but he let us in and we told him how we can help him find peace in his life. He accepted our offer. We aren't sure to what extent we can help him progress towards baptism but rather help him with his issues.

WEDNESDAY: We had Nova Scotia Zone Conference in Dartmouth. In the morning the CES director for the mission gave a training on the doctrine of Christ. He talked about knowing what the best is that we can ask for. He also talked about how the Savior lived his life asking "What is the will of the Father?" He talked about Mark 4:37-41 and how Peter had faith but didn't keep his eye on the Savior. The main thing he emphasized was seeking the will of the Father in our work. In the afternoon the Bridgewater missionaries gave a training on a new member missionary work program "Gatoraid". The program consists of selecting 3 families and training them on how to do member missionary work. President Pratt came up with this initiative and he has high hopes for it. Zone Conference wrapped up with a final testimony by Elder Quinton. In his testimony he said something very profound "Keep Pushing!". That simple statement has stuck with me since Zone Conference. Every time I feel down or worn out I think of that statement. I enjoy the fellowship with the other missionaries that comes from zone conference. It makes me feel like I am not alone in this work. I am sad I only have 1 zone conference left.

Have a good week!

Elder O'Brien (the older)

Saturday, April 9, 2016

April 3, 2016 - Lower Sackville, Nova Scotia

Dear Family,

Well I must say it has been quite the spiritually edifying week. This is a bittersweet time for me. This weekend was my last time watching general conference as a missionary. One of my fondest memories of General Conference as a missionary was in October 2015 in Woodstock. The evening before we decided to stop by one of our investigators in Woodstock. We told her this weekend God's servants would be speaking to us. She gasped "Huh.. you mean to tell me God's prophets will be prophesying to us. How do I watch it?". We proceeded to tell her how; the look of excitement on her face was priceless. She couldn't wait to watch God's prophets speak to her. Another fond memory I have of conference was in April 2015 in Bridgewater. In between the Saturday Sessions, we attended the baptism of a sister. As we watched her get baptized a strong spirit filled the room.

I have had many choice memories of general conference as a missionary. One of my favorite parts has been having a potluck with the priesthood brethren at 8 o'clock at night; then staying up and watching the priesthood session till 11 o'clock at night. Good old Atlantic time. I'm gonna miss it :(. 

Conference this weekend was very inspiring. I thought Elder Rasband responded beautifully and was lovingly bold at the same time to the person who yelled "No!" during the sustaining of the prophets. "Don't dispute latter-day revelation", "Follow your leaders. They are called of God". I enjoyed Elder Andersen's talk on children who have no gospel support in their family. It was a topic that needed to be addressed and he did it beautifully. As he was speaking I thought of a child of record in Bridgewater whose parents wouldn't allow her to be baptized until she was 12. From President Owens talk in the priesthood session I learned that I already am a leader because I am a dedicated follower. I invite others to come unto Christ.

Throughout the weekend as they were talking about marriage and families, I felt the spirit compelling me to start preparing myself spiritually for marriage. I especially enjoyed President Uchtdorf's talk in the priesthood session. I liked what he said about not looking for the perfect one and looking for someone who you can trust your children's happiness with. I loved his Chewbacca example :P. I loved Elder Holland's talk on the aftermath of General Conference. "Don't give up if you don't measure up to the messages this weekend", "The great eternal truth is that God loves you." What a powerful talk he gave and a powerful general conference.

I liken Conference to Mosiah 2 when King Benjamin is addressing a multitude of people: 

"And it came to pass that when they came up to the temple, they pitched their tents round about, every man according to his family, consisting of his wife, and his sons, and his daughters, and their sons, and their daughters, from the eldest down to the youngest, every family being separate one from another."

The rest of the week was also spiritual. From Sunday to Thursday Elder Sortomme was put in a trio with us until he went home on Friday. During those 4 days I witnessed a missionary in his final days as a missionary. As I was with him I saw myself in my final few days on my mission. His mindset was the same, he was motivated, he treated those couple days as regular days. I couldn't even tell he was coming home shortly. He ended his mission with honor and respect. He set the perfect example for me when I go home of how to end my mission. On Wednesday he was distraught but that's normal.

It was emotional for me as I read the transfer letter Tuesday evening and saw that Elder Steimle was leaving. I got close to him and we worked extremely well together. We worked the same way and we were both very sincere and dedicated. He knows me better than any other companion. He was a companion that I was the most unified with. I am so grateful that I was able to serve with him twice. President Pratt was very inspired when he made that decision. 

On Thursday I got to go to the temple. As I walked into the celestial room Elder Beckman greeted me and said to me "This will probably be the last time you'll be seeing me." That hit me hard. With each passing transfer as I see missionaries come and go, I am beginning to wonder.. "Will I ever see that missionary again?", "Will I get to say goodbye to that companion before I go home?" I have made a lot of friends out here. They are friends I made in the service of God. 

Then I sat down and opened the Book of Mormon. When I opened it up I read 3 Nephi 17:25 "And the multitude did see and hear and bear record; and they know that their record is true for they all of them did see and hear, every man for himself; and they were in number about two thousand and five hundred souls; and they did consist of men, women, and children." Change the men to "Elders", and Women to "Sisters". A powerful feeling of love came over me for every single missionary in that celestial room. I then began to get emotional. Every single missionary I have served alongside has affected me. I love these missionaries <3. It was a very emotional day.

For the last 4 days I have been getting used to Elder Goeders. He seems very shy and timid around me. He seems very easy going and "go with the flow kind of missionary." Sometimes when missionaries come into new areas, they want to make all these big changes. That hasn't been the case with Elder Goeders. He is letting me do my own thing with the area and not asking a lot of questions. Which is good and bad. Good in the sense that he's letting me do what I want with the work here. Bad in the sense in that he's not offering a lot of suggestions or input. I'm hoping once he gets comfortable, he'll offer more suggestions.
Elder O'Brien (the older)

March 30, 2016 - Lower Sackville, Nova Scotia

Dear Family,
I get to go to the temple tomorrow! I'm so excited! I haven't gone since the end of November when I got transferred back to Bridgewater. Sorry if I threw you off by not e-mailing you on Monday. When President Pratt came into the mission, everything stayed the same. No immediate changes were made. The first significant change didn't come until a transfer later. As time has gone on, President Pratt has made a lot of steady changes to this mission. This is just one of many changes he has made in the last 6 months. Nonetheless, I sustain him and support these changes. These changes are inspired and they are made for a reason. New mission presidents aren't called to keep things the same as they were before. They are called because they have unique ideas and unique perspectives. It is going to be the same way with Chris when he gets a new mission president this summer. He probably won't make immediate changes when he first comes in but over time he will make gradual changes.
Anyway, we found out about transfers last night and Elder Steimle is going to Halifax. I will be staying in Sackville and my new companion will be Elder Goeders. Elder Goeders is from Port Moody, BC. I have heard a lot of good things about him and I think we will do well together. It has been a while since I have had a brand new companion. I have only interacted with Elder Goeders once and I don't know much about him. For the last little while I have served with old companions; now I get to have a clean slate to work with again. I was grateful that I had the opportunity to serve with Elder Steimle again. 
A while ago I told you that this new transfer would be a 5 week transfer and the MTC schedule change didn't affect my release date. But it looks like I misread the transfer schedule. This transfer will be a regular 6 week transfer and as a result my mission is being extended a week. My release date is now August 5th.
My favorite account of the Savior's Resurrection is Matthew 28:1-9. To me Matthew 28:9 is very powerful and uplifting. "And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshiped him."

The 30 minutes of additional study are now up. One of the things that stuck out to me was how Jesus is the good Shepherd and he knows each of us and we know him because of his Atonement. Another thing that stuck out to me was how the Atonement can turn the effects of the Fall into positives instead of negatives. There's a lot of things about the Atonement study I learned that I loved.
For Easter Sunday we sang in the ward choir during sacrament meeting. After Church we visited Gary and then we had Easter Sunday dinner on our own.

Tuesday and Thursday were really rough work wise. All of our appointments fell through on Tuesday and we ended up doing lots of finding instead. We did have apartment inspections that day and we passed with flying colors. The senior couple that did it were super easy to please. Our finding was stagnant that day and nothing seemed to be going right. But the one bright spot of that day was a potential we knocked into. He said he wants to learn more about us. Thanks to our positive attitudes and our upbeatness we got through that day.

After dinner Wednesday we went knocking and we knocked into this lady who told us that she has tried praying to God and leaning on him to help her get through the loss of her daughter but felt like he wasn't there for her. We testified of the power of prayer but she declined. We knocked into another man who lost his wife and daughter within the past year. We told him that God is there for him and wants to help but he told us he'll get through it on his own. Those two people broke our hearts that night and it was hard to hear them say that.

For the last few days we have been traveling on foot or by bus. Someone backed into our car a couple weeks ago and it is being repaired right now and we won't have it back till Friday. It is a nuisance but it is good exercise. We have been talking to people on the bus as we have been traveling. For the last few days we have also had Elder Sortomme with us. He is going home on Friday but you wouldn't be able to tell by working with him. His mindset is the same and he's just as willing to work. He finished strong and set a good example for me when I end my mission.

This morning I was reading in Alma 13 and I felt God sending a message to me. I read Alma 13:28,
"But that ye would humble yourselves before the Lord, and call on his holy name, and watch and pray continually, that ye may not be tempted above that which ye can bear, and thus be led by the Holy Spirit, becoming humble, meek, submissive, patient, full of love and all long-suffering;" I have been praying on what I need to do to get myself through these last 4 months and the answer I got from this verse was that I need to pray consistently to rise above distractions that I cannot bear. I also need to submit everything to the Lord and be patient every passing day, every passing hour, every minute of every day. My mind is begging to cave in on me and I have fight to not think about home. There is a force out there that is working on me and wants me to throw my hands in the air and be done. Tough times lie ahead. It's going to be a long 4 months.

Have a good week! Happy Conference Weekend!

Elder O'Brien (the older)

Friday, April 1, 2016

March 21, 2016 - Lower Sackville, Nova Scotia

Hello Family,

It's officially the first day of Spring and as we speak it is snowing outside and it's supposed to be snowing all day today. The snow began at 11 o'clock last night and it hasn't stopped.  We have a dinner appointment tonight so I am hoping that we don't get grounded. 

Salt Lake City was in town this week. The Missionary Department came and spent a couple days here observing President Pratt and observing the mission. They held a big leadership meeting in Moncton on Thursday for all the zone leaders in the mission and all the sister training leaders. The Missionary Department made some changes by the end of it all. But it was just some minor changes. They tweaked the way we do our nightly planning sessions and they tweaked the way we do our companionship studies. They also emphasized the difference between "planning" and "scheduling". They were referring to how when we are planning we shouldn't be making phone calls or making jokes. We should be seeking inspiration on where we need to be and what we need to do.

For the Atonement Study this week there were 2 things that stuck out to me. The first thing was the talk by Elder Scott on Thursday "He Lives! All Glory to His Name!". The part that stuck to me in his talk didn't even have to do with the Atonement to be honest. It is when he was talking about how parents need to teach fundamental truths in the home. He said "In time we will be released from all other assignments we receive but not from that of father and mother." 

The second thing that stuck out to me was the reading of Mosiah 3-5 yesterday. I really like the last verse in Mosiah 4 after King Benjamin warns the people of the consequences of denying beggars and not repenting.

Mosiah 4:30 - "But this much I can tell you, that if ye do not watch yourselves, and your thoughts, and your words, and your deeds, and observe the commandments of God, and continue in the faith of what ye have heard concerning the coming of our Lord, even unto the end of your lives, ye must perish. And now, O man, remember, and perish not."

I like how blunt he is in his address. He doesn't mince words and says it like it is. I like the phrase "O remember". Remember my warning and my promise. That to me is just very powerful.

It is Easter this weekend and the weekend following is General Conference. I am happy to be spending Easter here in Sackville and grateful for the chance I have to share this Easter with the members in Sackville. I didn't have a turkey dinner at Thanksgiving in Woodstock. The Pineau's are feeding us Easter Dinner on Saturday. That should be a fun time.

A week from now is transfer week. As for me and my situation, I told you about the impression I received a couple weeks back about becoming a zone leader. As to when and where and who I wasn't told so I really don't know when it is going to be. But it has been awhile since I have had a transfer with no changes. But whether changes come or not I'm just gonna continue to do my thing in Sackville :).

As for the week itself, it was a fairly good week. We went on exchanges with the Bridgewater Elders on Tuesday. On Wednesday we had District Meeting in Sackville. The trainings were on Accountability to God and obedience to the mission rules. 
Other than that I was feeling woozy and light-headed Thursday afternoon. I told Elder Steimle I needed to lie down and I did. After 2 hours I was fine and ready to work again. We had St. Paddy's Day dinner. 

On Friday we attended basketball in the evening. I am teaching Elder Steimle the tips and tricks of basketball. He appreciates my knowledge of the game and skill level. He feels inadequate whenever we're playing but he is a really speedy defender to his credit. 

Have a good week! Happy Easter Weekend!

"He is risen! He is risen!
Tell it out with joyful voice.
He has burst his three days' prison;
Let the whole wide earth rejoice.
Death is conquered; man is free.
Christ has won the victory."

Matthtew 28: 6 "He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay."


Elder O'Brien (the older)