Christmas is officially over :(. It has been a tough pill for me to swallow. I got a little emotional Friday night when Christmas was ending. Last year I laid comfortably in bed knowing I had one more Christmas left; this year I laid in bed teary-eyed knowing that this was my last Christmas as a missionary. You don't get to feel of the Christmas Spirit as much when you aren't a missionary. You see clearly the symbols of Christmas and the message that it is to all the world. I enjoyed talking to you on Friday and I am so glad that the group Skype call worked and we were able to talk to each other as a family. Sorry if I kept cutting you off. Oftentimes when I'm Skyping you or e-mailing you I have all these thoughts racing through my mind that I want to get in before I have to go. I don't get to say them all by the time I'm done. Every time I Skype home it reminds of how much hasn't changed and that 2 years isn't very long.
I have thought a lot about this year's Christmas and last year's Christmas. I have decided that I liked this year's Christmas better then last years. This year we did a lot more extracurricular activities: we caroled, we were in a parade, we sang in the choir, we spent the majority of Christmas Day with other missionaries and shared the love for Christmas with each other, we had some investigators come to the Christmas Concert, we had other investigators come to Christmas Dinner at the Harlow's, we got to see more of the members this year as well. But overall I enjoyed both Christmases for different reasons.
This week has been very eventful. On Tuesday and Wednesday, the Sackville Elders and the Kentville Elders came and "blitzed" the Brigewater area. So on Monday and Tuesday night there was 7 elders in the apartment. It was a little crammed to say the least. Each of us split up and all worked in the area for the day in an effort to get the work going more. I was with Elder Heimonen on Tuesday. We went to Chester and did a bunch of finding with him. He is the zone leader for this zone. Most of the people we talked to weren't interested. One of the people we did talk to said he's seen 7 deaths in his life and didn't think it was possible for there to be a God. We tried testifying to him that God had a plan for him but he was too scared to take it. It was sad for both of us to see that man and hear of his story. That night we had an older couple let us in and dry off from the rain. They had met missionaries before but it was for education, not real interest. But they did give us some water and they were friendly.
On Wednesday I was with Elder Cox and Elder Darche. We went to Liverpool for the afternoon and did some finding as well. We stopped by a less-active family and had a nice visit with them. They are a part-member family. They also have a daughter that is a member. It was a short visit. We weren't able to share a message with them but he seemed very friendly with us and it seemed to uplift them.
For Christmas Eve: In the morning we stopped by a part-member family and wished them a Merry Christmas. Then we did family history before lunch. In the afternoon we spent the majority of the time caroling in front of Wal-Mart and then No-frills. When we were caroling in front of Wal-Mart, the Sister Missionaries came as well as many members. So it was a full crowd of church members singing carols in front of Wal-Mart. We sang a mixture of Christmas hymns and up-beat Christmas songs. Then we caroled in front of No-frills with some of them. By the end of all of the caroling that afternoon, my voice was pretty worn out. We had dinner with the Hirlte's. Their daughter was there. They fed us turkey, then we caroled around the neighborhood for the evening. After that we took all our presents with us and went to Sackville and spent the evening with them and the Kentville Elders.
Christmas Day: We all opened up our presents in the morning with the Kentville Elders and Sackville Elders, played basketball with a bunch of missionaries in the metro for a while. We also played chair soccer. Then we went back to Bridgewater and Skyped home and then we had dinner at the Oickles and then at the Harlow's. Their neighbors and another member came, two of our investigators came, the sister missionaries came. It was a full house. They had us do some arts and crafts before dinner. They gave us each a model to put together using glue. It was hard! You had to be exact with lining up the glue. After a while at the Harlow's, Christmas ended.
Yesterday, we had Sacrament meeting but then the rest of Church was cancelled because of the snow and ice pellets. It was the first Church-cancellation of the winter :P. We also found out about transfers. Last transfer I got transferred to an area I already served in. This transfer I am serving with an elder I already served with. Elder Darche is being transferred to St. Stephen. Elder Evans is being transferred here. So I will be serving with him again in a trio. It will be me, him and Elder Quinton together. One of the sister missionaries I came out with is going home a transfer early for school. Triston Barr will be serving in Woodstock with Elder Steimle and Elder Ashby.
To close, I would like to express to you how grateful I am to be a missionary. I am so grateful for the opportunity I had to be a missionary during Christmas and share the best gift this world has ever known to everyone every day leading up to Christmas. I am grateful for the areas that I have served in and for the people in each area that have helped me grow. I am grateful for the companions that I have served with and the eternal bounds I have made with them. I am grateful for the challenges I've faced on my mission that have helped me become stronger spiritually. I am grateful for my mission presidents and all their guidance and leadership. I am grateful for the passionate love they have for me. I am grateful for the members in this mission and their humility and kindness towards me. I am thankful for all the care they have provided me. I am so grateful for the opportunity to be on a mission and to be a full-time representative of Jesus Christ. I am grateful to be able to share His message of hope every day all day for 2 years straight. I am grateful that I still have 7 months to be an instrument in the Lord's hands and learn and grow. To eventually become the missionary the Lord wants me to be. I testify that He lives. I testify that the Book of Mormon is true. I testify that He loves each of us. This is my testimony and I leave that with you in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Happy New Year! Have a fun week!
Elder O'Brien (the older)